Online news channel!

Tag: ms-

Demonetization: PM Modi criticises opposition for ‘openly protecting the dishonest’, slams Manmohan Singh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday accused the Congress leadership of “desperation” in the face of his “tough” demonetization 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 demonetization 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 opponents, 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 demonetization 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 demonetization, 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. On Manmohan Singh’s attack, Modi said, “it is interesting that the words ‘monumental mismanagement’ come from a leader who has been at the helm of India economic journey for around 45 years.”His reference to ‘organised loot’ was perhaps a reference to the unending string of scams under his leadership, from the coal scam to the 2G and CWG scams. Demonetization on the other hand is an unprecedented step to confiscate the loot of the corrupt.” Asked whether demonetization will end corruption in the political system, the Prime Minister said “decisive ways” were required for that. “There is a need for reforms in the political system,” he said. He said before the Winter session, he had suggested that there should be discussion in Parliament on reform of the political system and electoral reforms but this could not happen due to disruptions.Rejecting criticism that the demonetization decision was political, it was taken not for “short-term windfall gains” but for long-term structural reforms. “Earlier the Income Tax department used to shoot in the dark. Now people have voluntarily come forward and deposited money. Now the Income Tax department has specific information,” he said. Asserting that his government has “zero tolerance for corruption”, Modi said the dishonest will be punished and the taxes collected from them will be routed for welfare programmes.He said the demonetization will deliver a “multiplier effect” to clean up the economy in the long term. “Black money is now traced. It will not remain anonymous anymore… The dishonest have only a few days to hide…The government the time, means, and most importantly the will to seek them out,” he said. Regarding the frequent modifications after demonetization was announced on November 8, the Prime Minister said, “one must be able to distinguish between ‘niti’ (policy) and ‘ran- niti’ (strategy) and not put them in the same basket.”The decision of demonetization, which reflects our ‘niti’, is unequivocally clear, unwavering and categorical. Our ‘ran-niti’, however, needed to be different, aptly summarised by the age-old saying of ‘Tu Daal Daal, Main Paat Paat’ (keeping pace with the adversary). We must take two steps ahead of the enemy.”He said when problems are identified, “we respond promptly and take necessary steps. Far from indicating poor implementation, this speaks of our agility in responding quickly and keeping up with the evolving situation.” “I know many will prefer if we issue one guideline and then allow them to walk roughshod over it. Let me assure them that no such thing will happen.”Issuing the “most dire warning” to black marketers and the corrupt, Modi said, “if the enemy runs, we will chase them. If they change their tactics, we will change ours. When the corrupt find new methods of cheating, we will identify new methods to clamp down on the same.”

Researcher found security holes at smartphone-only bank N26 | Reuters

By Eric Auchard
| HAMBURG

HAMBURG German fintech company N26, which made its name mocking traditional banks, has found itself on the receiving end of criticism after a security researcher proved its smartphone apps exposed users to potential account hijacking.N26, previously known as Number26, has expanded rapidly since it launched in early 2015 as a smartphone-only bank with no local branches, with the backing of major global investors including Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel.     Vincent Haupert, a research fellow and PhD student in the computer science department of the University of Erlangen-Nuernberg, told the Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg how he and two colleagues found N26 security defences riddled with holes that could have been used to defraud thousands of users.     “They say you can open a bank account in just eight minutes,” Haupert said. “As it turns out, you can lose it even faster.”    In a statement, N26 thanked Haupert for alerting the company to “a theoretical security vulnerability” and advising it on fixes, which N26 said it completed this month.    N26 offers a range of online banking and other financial services to 200,000 customers in 17 European countries through a banking licence granted earlier this year by German financial regulator Bafin.    N26 executives have been the most outspoken among new fintech players in arguing traditional banks are failing to serve customers more directly by relying on antiquated local branch relationships instead of modern, phone-based services.

    “I don’t see banks at all as my competitors. They just can’t move fast enough,” N26 Chief Executive Valentin Stalf told Reuters last year.    Haupert told the Chaos conference, Europe’s biggest annual gathering of hackers, how his team had found numerous ways to attack N26 banking apps to hijack individual customer accounts.    “With such a strategy, fintechs squander the trust that banks established over years,” he said.For example, Haupert said he compared data from a leak of 68 million account credentials from online file sharing company Dropbox with information on N26 users he was able to request from the company’s own software feed to identify 33,000 N26 user credentials – without being thwarted by N26 anti-fraud systems.

From there, he said it would have been simple to send a phishing email to these N26 customers that could potentially have allowed him to break into their accounts.     “Don’t worry, we didn’t do this,” Haupert said. “My professor had legal concerns.”    Instead, Haupert disclosed his research findings to N26 on Sept. 25.

    In response, N26 said in a statement it had made customer accounts more secure by reducing and encrypting data transfers, by blocking brute-force attacks in which hackers can quickly guess user credentials, and fixing voice-recognition security weaknesses in its app for the newest Apple mobile devices.     “At no time during these scenarios was personal data of our customers available to third parties,” the statement said. “No N26 customer was impacted by the demonstrated vulnerabilities.”    It added: “We have fully addressed and closed all vulnerabilities promptly and completely” and quoted Haupert as saying earlier this month that all vulnerabilities he had uncovered appeared to have been fixed.  Still, Haupert said regulators needed to take a closer look at the security of banks. “It was Bafin that granted a banking license to N26 only six months ago,” he said, adding that security weaknesses at that time were rampant.A spokesman for the financial regulator declined to comment.  (Reporting by Eric Auchard; Editing by Mark Potter)

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

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 23:34 IST

Demonetisation countdown to day 50: Banks want cash curbs to stay beyond 30 Dec

Banks have asked the government to extend the curbs on cash withdrawal beyond the deadline of 30 December as there is not enough currency notes in the system yet to meet the demand from customers.

After the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes 8 November, there has been a cash crunch in the country as printing of replacement notes at the government and RBI-owned presses have not been able to keep pace with the demand. The demonetisation had sucked out about 86 percent of the currency in circulation.

In order to help banks, the government had restricted the withdrawal at Rs 24,000 per account per week from the branch and Rs 2,500 per card at ATMs. According to a report in The Indian Express, now the banks want the curbs to stay until there is sufficient currency notes available in the system. The government had earlier indicated that the limits will be revoked after 30 December, when the deadline for depositing old currency notes with banks ends.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The report says there is a growing consensus among bankers that the restrictions would have to continue even in the New Year so as to maintain orderly working at the banks. According to a banker quoted in the report, these restrictions are necessary as otherwise the public might flock to the ATMs and banks to withdraw cash, while there is no currency notes available. “That will become a problem,” the banker has been quoted as saying in the report.

The Indian Banks’s Association (IBA), however, has said it has not given any written representation to the government on this.

Earlier PTI haad reported that the restrictions are likely to continue beyond 30 December.

Banks at many places are not in a position to disburse even the current limit of Rs 24,000 per week due to cash crunch and are rationing the valid currency depending on cash availability. If this limit is withdrawn for individual and businesses from 2 January, it is unlikely that banks would be able to disburse the higher demand for valid currencies given the current cash position.

“Most of us think that the withdrawal limit would not be completely withdrawn. It is a possibility that it could be relaxed if the cash situation improves,” said a senior public sector bank official.

At a time when banks are struggling to meet the demand of individual customers, it would be impossible to service MSME and big corporates which requires cash in large quantity, the official said, the practical way would be to relax it gradually.

Recently, SBI Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya had also indicated that restriction on withdrawals cannot be lifted entirely unless more cash is made available to banks.

After the demonetisation of high value Rs. 500/1000 notes, the government has fixed a limit of Rs. 24,000 per week on withdrawal from bank accounts and Rs. 2,500 per day from ATMs in view of the currency crunch that followed.

The government and the RBI has not specified when the restrictions will be withdrawn. Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa had said the withdrawal cap would be will be reviewed after December 30.

Even bank unions are also of the opinion that the restrictions cannot be done away with in one go.

All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC) General Secretary Harvinder Singh had also said that in all likelihood the restriction on withdrawal would continue for some more time in the best interest of banks as well as customers at large.

The situation of currency supply is known to everyone and it would be difficult to lift the limit from January 2, Singh said, adding that SME and small businesses are waiting for cap to go so that they can withdraw as per their requirement.

Reserve Bank of India has infused Rs. 5.92 lakh crore in the banking system between November 9 and December 19 against Rs. 15.4 lakh crore of scrapped notes.

According to RBI, banks had got deposits of Rs. 12.4 lakh crore defunct notes by December 10.

(With PTI)

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 10:03 IST

BJP seeks headcount of illegally staying Rohingya, Bangladeshi Muslims in Jammu

Jammu: Following the outcry in Kashmir Valley over providing the identity certificates to the Hindu West Pakistani refugees, BJP MLAs have now slammed their own government for being lax in allowing the settlement of over 6,000 Rohingya Muslims in Hindu dominated Jammu region even as they have the got the work permits from the government of India to carry out different jobs in the state.

The saffron party members have also asked the state government to take measures to “stop” the illegal settlement of Bangladeshi Muslims.

Representational Image. ReutersRepresentational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

As per government figures, there are over 6,000 Rohingya refugees who are living in different areas of the Jammu city, a predominately Hindu majority area and are settled there for more than six years now. Over 1,200 Burmese refugee families comprising nearly 6,000 people are settled in some of the congested areas of Jammu city including Narwal. Inspector General of Police, Jammu range, Danish Rana, said that the Rohingya Muslims have been given the work permits by the government and are not “living illegally in Jammu areas”. “The number of people is over 6,000 and they are staying legally here. They have the work permit which has been issued by the government of India. They are Rohingya Muslims from Burma and are settled here due to the differences with Buddhist population in their own country.”

He said that the Rohingya Muslims started coming to Jammu region over six years back and “over a period of time their number has increased”. “They are mostly doing odd-jobs and are rag-pickers and even do begging to eke out a living,” Rana said.

However, the BJP MLAs have now demanded that the state government should spell out a policy on “whether Rohingya and Bangladeshi Muslims can stay in the state.” BJP’s Nowshera MLA, Ravinder Raina, said that the matter will be taken up in the upcoming budget session of the state assembly which is beginning in Jammu from 2 January.

“The government should spell out a policy on Rohingya Muslims. It is a very serious matter and the government should find out how have they come to the state. They are living without permission and could be a threat to the security of the state. We will ask the government to be serious about the issue and clear its policy,” Raina said.

BJP’s Ram Nagar MLA, Ranbir Singh Pathania, said that those Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslims who are living illegally here should be dealt sternly. “Thos who are living illegally shall be dealt as per the law,” Pathania said.

Police officials, however, admit that many of the Bangladeshi nationals are living illegally. “Yes there are many who are living illegally,” said Rana. He said that there are many who are overstaying the period for which they have been permitted against valid travel documents adding there “were others who have entered illegally by crossing the border.’’ A senior police official said, “Since many of the Bangladeshi nationals having entered clandestinely there is a difficulty in having an exact record of those who are settled in the state.”

Legislator Raina demanded that a head count of the people who are residing in the state should be done. BJP MLAs have sought a clear policy even as the New Delhi has advised the government of Myanmar that “communal harmony” should be maintained in the Rakhine state of the country where the Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims have shown frequent differences. As per government documents, “the developments in the Rakhine state of Myanmar including the importance of maintaining communal harmony has been taken up by GOI (government of India)with the government of Myanmar.”

The government records reveal that the number of foreign nationals including those from Bangladesh who have been deported to their countries was significantly lesser in Jammu and Kashmir than other states. The number of those who have been deported from Delhi in the year 2009, 2010 and 2011 was 1,645, 989 and 161 respectively. However, from Jammu and Kashmir, the number per year has remained between one to three only.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 16:03 IST

Mumbai: Fire destroys Sydenham Management Institute’s library

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The library of Sydenham Institute of Management Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship Education (SIMSREE) was destroyed after a fire broke out at the College building in Churchgate on Sunday morning.Books, wooden furniture, and computers on the third floor of the Institute were destroyed. The fire spread rapidly because of books and wooden furniture​. Though the exact reason for the fire is not known yet, a short-circuit is believed to have caused the fire.“The entire floor will have to be cordoned off for some time. Students are on a term break at present, but once classes begin on January 2, we will need to find classrooms. We are yet to assess the total damage,” an official from the college told Hindustan Times.Official said that the restoration work will take time.“We received a call at 5.21 am and the blaze was doused by 7.30 am. As it was a holiday, crowd management wasn’t a problem.” said an official from the fire department.Four fire tenders and seven water tankers were sent to the spot. Fire officials suspect that a short-circuit may have caused the fire, but it is yet to be confirmed.

Lucknow: Chikankari weavers say business hit, blame it on note ban

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The famous chikankari and zardozi business in Lucknow city has taken a beating following demonetization, weavers complain.The usually over-crowded markets like Ameenabad and Chowk are witnessing much less footfall for past one and a half month. Ameenabad and Chowk are the hub of chikan clothes while Hazratganj has many grand showrooms. Zardozi workers are mainly found in the area between Akbari gate and Gol darwaja in the walled city.While chikankari is a traditional embroidery style from Lucknow believed to have been introduced by Noor Jahan, the wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir, weavers use gold and silver threads in zardozi work.Lucknow zardozi products are manufactured in areas in Lucknow and six surrounding districts of Barabanki, Unnao, Sitapur, Rae Bareli, Hardoi and Amethi.B K Rastogi, owner of the over six-decades-old ‘Bhagwat and Sons’ shop at Chowk area, says sales have dropped by 40% due to demonetization. “70% of contractual workers are struggling and there are difficulties in circulation. The worst affected are kaarigars (weavers) who are not getting enough work. We supply to cities like Mumbai and Delhi but there is around 40% drop in sales,” Rastogi said.”The process of chikankari includes designing, engraving, block printing, embroidery, washing and finishing and for every step we hire kaarigars who are paid in cash. It is difficult for businessmen as there is a withdrawal limit post demonetization. We can’t pay them through Paytm or cards,” he adds.Zafar Ali, who has been handling his ancestral zardozi business at Shahi Shafakhana Chowk, says the note ban has made their lives very difficult.”There are 12-13 kaarigars working on daily wages here. We purchase raw material in cash and it is difficult now due to lack of cash. Normally we get orders from big showrooms but there are not enough orders these days. Forget about profit, it is getting harder even to retrieve the cost,” he adds.Ali says now nobody in his family is willing to take up this business. “Zardozi is an art but we don’t have many artisans nowadays. Not many kaarigars are left in the city now and my family is not unwilling to take this business forward,” he rues.The owner of Kailash Chikans at Bhootnath Market in Indirapuram is only hoping that business gets back on track soon. “Though this (demonetization) decision was taken in the interest of country’s economy, it has affected our business adversely. We are now praying that things become normal,” he says.Another attraction of Lucknow which no one likes to miss when on a visit to the city is Tunday Kababi at Ameenabad.The over-a-century-old outlet which serves mouth-watering galawati kebabs is also witnessing reduced footfall since November 8, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetization decision. “We don’t use Paytm and since our shop is situated at the basement, there is problem with the mobile network. We deal in cash only and the biggest issue is change. On normal days, our outlet remains crowded but now there has been a drastic drop in footfall,” says Mohammad Usman, the owner of the outlet.

DNA Morning Must Reads: Rahul’s info on ‘PM’s corruption’ turns out to be old I-T diary notings; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rahul’s info on ‘PM’s corruption’ turns out to be old I-T diary notingsThe information on Prime Minister Modi’s “personal corruption” which Gandhi finally let out after days of suspense related to the account books of Sahara and Birlas seized by the Income Tax Departments. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told a press conference that Gandhi had brought out nothing new as he had tabled the Income Tax Department’s appraisal reports of both Sahara and Aditya Birla Groups in the Assembly showing the bribes allegedly paid to Modi in 2013 during his tenure as the Gujarat Chief Minister. Read more here.Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary in I-T net, dept recovers Rs 48 lakh in new currency notesThe search of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao’s home unearthed an estimated Rs 18 lakh in cash and gold bars. Investigators have so far recovered Rs 48 lakh in new currency notes and 17 kg gold from the premises of Rao and his relatives. Read more here.China sticks to its stand on JeM chief Masood Azhar despite NIA chargesheetIndia’s move to charge sheet Masood Azhar in the Pathankot terror attack appears to have not made much impact on China as Beijing on Thursday said any move by New Delhi to bring about a UN ban on the JeM chief must be in line with rules and procedures laid down by the Security Council. Read more here.Watch: YouTube star Adam Saleh says kicked of Delta flight for speaking ArabicA Yemeni-American YouTube star from New York, Adam Saleh, called for a boycott of Delta Airlines after charging he was removed from one of its flights on Thursday for speaking Arabic. Read more here.The reason Pakistan lifted ban on Indian filmsAs the Pakistani government has not yet given a green signal to renew the import of new Indian films, Pakistan’s movie theatres have only resumed the screening of old Bollywood films. Indian censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani has an explanation for the lift of the ban. Read here to find out more.

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

By Rajesh Kumar Singh
| NEW DELHI

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demonetization: Mamata dares PM Modi to ‘arrest her’, BJP dubs her ‘queen of corruption’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ramping up her voice against the Centre, Mamata Banerjee looked to strike an emotional pitch as she asked the Centre to ‘arrest her’. She said at a public meeting: “You (PM Modi) don’t have to touch anybody. You arrest me. I challenge you, if you have the guts you arrest all of us, nothing will deter us from raising out voice against demonetisation. Demonetisation is a big scam. We want to know what is the deal. We will say it thousand times.””We must win the battle as people are with us. As long as I live, I shall fight alone if required,” she said. Meanwhile, the BJP hit back by dubbing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as “queen of corruption” after she criticised the I-T raid at the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary’s residence, BJP alleged that the TMC supremo was not interested in fighting corruption but shielding it and asked her to not undermine the process of law.Taking a dig at her, BJP National Secretary and the state’s co-incharge Sidharth Nath Singh said the TMC chief seemed too “worried” and wondered if she wanted to shield her own officer as he raked up corruption cases involving TMC leaders.Singh also accused her of “misleading” the people by referring to only non-BJP ruled states where Central agencies had acted against officers, noting that a senior Rajasthan officer, where BJP is in power, was acted against by CBI as well.”She is queen of corruption. She needs to answer on Saradha, Narada and Rose Valley scams. She is trying to undermine the process of law by politicising the I-T raid.Being in the constitutional process, she should understand the law. She is not interested in fighting corruption but is shielding it,” he told reporters.Banerjee today criticised the I-T raid at the residence of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao, saying such a “vindictive and unethical” act by the central agencies devalues the institution of head of the civil service.The Income Tax Department today carried out searches at over dozen places in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh against the son and some relatives of P Rama Mohana Rao during which they claimed to have seized Rs 18 lakh cash and gold bars.The I-T action was conducted in connection with the case related to biggest cash haul of new notes post demonetisation after the department raided some sand mining operators of Tamil Nadu here.Asked about her comments as to why such raids were not being carried out against BJP chief Amit Shah, Singh said such a “irrelevant” question coming from the “queen of corruption” did not merit a reply.With inputs from agencies

Tamil Nadu: Shredded Rs 1000 notes thrown in dustbin creates flutter in Tiruchirappalli

Sun, 18 Dec 2016-08:25pm , Tiruchirappalli , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shredded 1,000 rupees notes, thrown away in a dustbin in Tiruchirappalli, created a flutter on Sunday with the currencies flying in wind when a ragpicker tried to pick junked items. Soon, curious men and women passers-by assembled in the vicinity at Woraiyur here and tried to find out if there were uncut notes lying in the dustbin, police said. “The notes of Rs 1,000 denomination were fully cut and these scrapped notes were lying in the dustbin. When a woman ragpicker was trying to pick up some junk items, the notes began to fly in the wind,” a Woraiyur police official said.The incident led to curiosity among the locals who gathered there, he said. “The value of the total notes found could not be much…we are inquiring into the scrapped cash dump,” the official said.

Maha Forest dept plans to tinker with tiger sex ratio

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Faced with low tiger occupancy in the Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR) in Vidarbha, the Maharashtra Forest Department is planning sex ratio manipulation — by releasing more males or females, as need be in the habitat — to boost breeding and numbers. This will be the first such experiment in the state.Spread across five protected areas of Bhandara and Gondia district, the tiger reserve covers a core habitat of 653.67 sq kms. However, despite its linkages with rich tiger bearing areas like Tadoba, Pench, and even Kanha in Madhya Pradesh, the resident tiger population in the habitat is as low as only seven wild cats, as per the last survey, conducted in 2015“We are planning sex ratio manipulation in NNTR,” Shree Bhagwan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, and Maharashtra’s Chief Wildlife Warden, told DNA.NNTR was recently notified as the fifth tiger reserve of Maharashtra. It comprises five protected areas including Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary (152 sq km), New Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary (151 sq km), Navegaon National Park (133 sq km), Navegaon Wildlife Sanctuary (123 sq km) and Koka Wildlife Sanctuary (97 sq km).During the late 1990s and early 2000s, sighting of tigresses with cubs was common in the Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary, but it has since declined.“After conducting the sex ratio census, we will decide whether to introduce more male or female cats to manipulate them for breeding. Presence of two to three tigresses with cubs can sustain any any tiger reserve,” said Bhagwan.Meanwhile, the Chandrapur landscape in Vidarbha, which covers the Tadoba-Andhari tiger project and the neighbouring Bramhapuri forest division, is packed with tigers beyond its carrying capacity, which leads to man-animal conflict, and tiger deaths in territorial fights.Like NNTR, the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve, which covers parts of Western Maharashtra and Konkan region, also suffers from lack of adequate tiger numbers — it has just five to seven tigers — and officials are mooting the need for translocating tigers from Tadoba. However, Bhagwan said they would first examine the prey base in the reserve before taking a decision. The Sahyadri ti er reserve is spread over the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary and the Chandoli National Park covering a 1,165.56 sq km area including a 600.12 sq km core and 565.45 sq km buffer in four districts.

Exploring the oldest school in Delhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sadiq Saifi, 15, takes an auto ride till the main bus stand and an hour long bus ride to reach his school in Ajmeri Gate from Ghaziabad, every day. Ask him if he would like to study at a school near his home and he will refuse. Ubaid Alam, 17, came from Sambal district in Uttar Pradesh to study at the only Anglo-Arabic school in the country, stays with his uncle here, and does not want to return to the old school in his village.A little walk away from the New Delhi Railway station takes you to a sprawling campus of the Anglo-Arabic Senior Secondary School. On entering you get the feel of entering a bygone Mughal era, as the large courtyard, the red sandstone gateway, and the long silent corridors give a nostalgic sight to anyone entering the building.It thus comes as no surprise to learn that the school’s premises have served as a perfect Mughal/Colonial era setup for some renowned movies. The famous Jallianwala Bagh scene from Ben Kingsley-starrer Gandhi, 1982, was shot in the school football field. Scenes from The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Dil Se, and Saat Uchakke were shot here too.The double-storeyed building was built by Nawab Ghaziuddin, father of the first Nizam of Hyderabad, in 1692, as Madarsah Ghaziuddin, and is the oldest living educational institution in North India that represents the Mughal era Madarsah. The school which still preserves its original design, started as a place for giving spiritual education to the elite class of the walled city. However, with the weakening of the Mughal Empire, the Madarsah closed in the early 1790s, but with the support of local nobility, it stood again as a centre for oriental literature, science, and art in the year 1792.The school houses a mosque and an elegant tomb (maqbara) of Nawab Ghaziuddin himself enclosed within lattice screens made of marble (jaali). The maqbara of this Delhi noble is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), while the school building is maintained by the heritage department under DDA. There are a few other unknown tombs and a Sufi shrine, that lies in an underground cellar, and thus has earned the name of ‘Taikhane wale baba’.The school also has a prominent Alumni, the list includes — Liaquat Ali Khan, first PM of Pakistan, Maulana Qasim Nanautwi, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (famous pragmatist and philosopher of the 19th century) among others.Commenting on the makeup of the students, current principal Mohammad Wasim Ahmed reveals that while a majority of students are within Delhi, there are a few coming in from other states like Bihar, Rajasthan, and Eastern UP. For these students, there is a hostel facility within the premises.The school currently has 1,800 students out of which five per cent are non-Muslims. The admission process is the same as any other government school in the country; the classes are from 6th to 12th. This is the only school in the country that teaches Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Hindi as well as English. Unlike other schools in Delhi that focus on Science, Commerce and Arts as streams, Sociology, Geography, Engineering drawing are also taught as main subjects here. The school completes its 325 years early next year.On the question of women students, the school has 74 women studying here after they opened its gates to female students in 2012. In certain cases, women students have left other institutions in order to study here. Nitika Yadav, 16, is a case in point. She joined the school early this year in Class 11 to study subjects realted ot her field Commerce, leaving behind a good private school education to study here. Her reasons: she wanted to focus on the ideal discipline, along with non-theoretical knowledge.Apart from students, students have earned distinct fame in arts and sports. The football shield has been won by them year after year. As for other activities the principal proudly says, “We have been the best in co-curricular activities and even won the first prize in the National Qawwali competition last year and came second this year.”Certainly, there’s a lot to celebrate here.

The holy saint of taverns

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Wit that disarms with simplicity, words that leave one in awe, awe of the sublime rhymes, of words that have more than one obvious meaning, laced with veiled irony and then the awe of the deeper truth that finally dawns upon us. Nothing contrived, no advice, just a graceful conversation with the self, as life unfolds and presents itself. And it did harshly for Ghalib, who was born as Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan at the end of the Mughal era.Ghalib left us a treasure of verses that are no less philosophy than they are the highest form of poetry to the ears. Poetry so sublime that any language if it were a sentient would covet to be its medium. Urdu was the chosen one and Ghalib brought it to life.Ghalib’s spiritual views were well earned. A struggle for living where existence was a challenge. Debt ridden and the loss of all seven children, Ghalib’s words seem ethereal, addressing and questioning life’s existence. The prison of life and the bondage of grief are one and the same, Before the onset of death, how can man expect to be free of grief?Those who knew him well were in complete awe of his talent. They would immediately hand him a paper and a quill as soon as he pulled a shayari out of thin air, or his spoken word would be lost forever like thousands of his unrecorded gems.Ghalib was a devout Muslim and a large part of his poetry did praise Prophet Mohammed. To Ghalib, purity of belief and faith help in seeking God and is more important than religious practices, which he thought were enslaving a man’s need to be free to seek the divine on his own terms. He was wary of religious leaders and their interpretations of the scriptures. He often addressed them in his works.Look deeper, it is you alone who cannot hear the music of his secrets. Ghalib believed that religions were just different paths to a common spiritual goal. He believed in a secular society and had a high regard for Hinduism.Once on receiving barfi on Diwali his friends pointed out on how could he enjoy a Hindu sweet. In humor, he started a discussion to ascertain the religions of various other sweets. “In the Kaaba, I will play the shankh (conch shell), In the temple I have draped the ahraam (Muslim robe),” he said.Though Ghalib never intended to be a Sufi, but his couplets draw inclination towards it and we see Sufism in his writing, where all boundaries dissolve as seen in the Indian text Vedanta, very similar to the Sufi philosophy of Wahdat-al-wajood (Unity of Being). What we have often seen is that Ghalib wandered through life in search of its meaning.Similarly, one of the famous or known Sufis of all times Rumi, a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet was a great source of spiritual wisdom, his unique philosophy softens the harshness of living. “Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form,” Rumi said.Ghalib is a treat for the senses, he sets you on a journey of discovery of seeing the deeper meaning of life. He is also probably the more popular one and can be quoted in most situations. Sooner or later one comes around to Ghalib and discovers the beauty and simplicity of his thoughts and writings. He is no less a mystic or saint.Yeh Masail-e-Tasawwuf..Yeh tera bayaan Ghalib,Tujhe hum wali samajhte,jo na baadakhwaar hotawhich translates in english to (the way you talk of philosophy ..the mystical way in which you explain it.. You would have been considered a saint or God himself…If only you did not drink so much.)(The writer is a filmmaker lost in the process; he is currently trying to find the meaning of life through the couplets of Ghalib and Kabir)

Demonetisation, cashless economy: Covering up the fiasco with a new trick means more trouble

Making a virtue of one’s mistake to escape embarrassment is an old childish trick, but if a central government indulges in it, it does say something about the character of the country.

What began as a sure-fire “surgical strike” on black money has mysteriously metamorphosed into a campaign for digital economy and cashless life. Despite the unprecedented man-made financial and economic disaster, which has no parallel in the world, imposed on the country’s poor and the middle class, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s midnight adventure purged no black money. Almost all the black money estimated to be in circulation has found its way into the banks and by the time the 50-day deadline ends, what might have been cleansed would, be at best, a pittance.

By then, the country would have had to endure all this costly madness — Rs 12,000 crore plus for printing new notes, unestimated transaction costs, about Rs 1.28 lakh crore of immediate loss to the economy and irreversible damage to various sectors and the lives of people — for practically nothing. A pilot study in wishful thinking when the premise itself had been rejected by skilled and experienced technocrats.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

That’s when the same eccentric idea gets dressed up as cashless economy and digital payments. By covering up the monumental fiasco with a new trick will lead India to more trouble, because the fundamental problem with the premise is, as Rahul Gandhi said, all cash is not black money and all black money is not in cash. The nationwide experiment of demonetisation so far has proved it beyond any reasonable doubt, and there’s no point in giving it a new spin.

If all cash is not black and all black money is not held in cash, how does petty cashless transactions prevent black money? In the best case scenario, it it will create enormous physical hardship for people and a lot of money for companies that make POS instruments and mobile and online payment firms. Does the nation or the people gain at all if people do their daily shopping using bank transfers and cards? Is it where most of the black money gets generated in India? If it’s about tax evasion by small-time vendors, wouldn’t the new GST-IT infrastructure handle it?

The government hasn’t made a cogent argument for such a move at all. All that it’s trying is to do is to cover up its failure and lack of cash because it thought of printing replacement currency only after killing 86 percent of it. After demonetisation, it’s another blunder that the government is getting into because more than 80 percent of the people are cash-dependent. It cannot be changed through a decision provoked by a distress.

It’s alright if the government had a policy on cashless/digital economy and is now rolling out a constitutionally valid process. If there was any such plan, it should have been discussed in Parliament, because some studies do suggest considerable cost in handling cash, ideally made into an Act, and implemented after framing the rules and putting an appropriate ecosystem in place. This is not a ship that can be built while sailing it.

Playing with most of the economic transactions in India without a master-plan and appropriate pilot studies before implementation is fraught with risks that might be more unforeseen than had been evident during demonetisation. Any simplistic move to address it will be like those Chinese grand idiocies (the sparrow story, the blood-plasma transfusion in Henan and Chairman Mao’s giant leap) or the social engineering experiences of Hitler (eugenics) and Sanjay Gandhi (family planning).

If the issue is really black money and if the intent is genuine, the way to go about is to implement the recommendations of the SIT on black money. In its fifth report, it does talk about curb on cash transactions, not at the grocery stores or petty shops, but at places where the money involved is big. It wanted the government to put a cap on cash transactions at Rs 300,000.

And guess what, the SIT wants it to be done through an Act. And that’s how it should be — not through knee jerk decisions or late night announcements. Did the government do anything on that? The SIT also said that government should make cash holding illegal beyond Rs 15 lakhs.

In fact, based on the experience of Indian ingenuity that was visible during the demonetisation, the government should raise the bar of stringency. Probably bring the Rs 300,000 limit to Rs 50,000 or even less. If only one percent of Americans use big dollar bills, the chances of the poor and middle class getting affected by such a cap in India must be negligible. This is the biggest transformative step the government could take, the real drive for cashless economy. An auto-driver or a beggar swiping cards is good only for WhatsApp.

Among other recommendations, the SIT wanted action on the generation of black money in education, charities and religious institutions and misuse of exemption from capitals gains tax. And probably most important of them all, it wanted transparency in participatory notes (P-notes), which are misused for whitening black money through round-tripping. Reportedly, the total value of P-note investments in India is 2.75 lakh crores with nearly a third of it coming from a tiny Cayman islands with 55,000 population. The Modi government is right — bulk of it came during the UPA regime. If you want to hit at the UPA, do it through policy.

Knowingly putting the cart before the horse defies logic, particularly for a G20 country. When there is a set of proposals from a committee of experts reporting to the Supreme Court suggest steps, why does the government drag its feet if it’s really serious about black money and black economy?

And it doesn’t hurt to admit that demonetisation was a mistake although the intent was genuine. It would make more sense if the failure is presented as a learning experience (unarguably the biggest monetary pilot in the world) on the entire range of issues related to the use of money that can help frame future policies, than being dressed up as a precursor to another pointless exercise.

It’s time to count one’s losses and move on.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 17:01 IST

Sushma Swaraj is recovering well, confirms AIIMS: Messages of ‘speedy recovery’ pour in on Twitter

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who underwent a kidney transplant three days ago, was shifted out of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at AIIMS on Tuesday and was recovering well, reports said. The 64-year-old minister is likely to be discharged in another seven to ten days, senior hospital officials told PTI.

“The minister has been shifted out of the ICU to a private ward of the Cardio-Neuro Centre. Her post-surgery recovery is on the expected lines,” AIIMS Director Dr M C Mishra was quoted as saying by PTI.

File photo of Sushma Swaraj. PTI

File photo of Sushma Swaraj. PTI

He said her recovery is being closely monitored by a team of transplant surgeons, physicians (endocrinologist, nephrologist, cardiologist and pulmonologist) and anaesthesist besides critical care expert, physiotherapist and transplant specialists. “She is likely to be discharged in another seven or 10 days,” Mishra added.

Swaraj had undergone a kidney transplant on Saturday with the organ being harvested from a living unrelated donor. According to Mishra, the woman who donated her kidney to the minister is also in the process of being discharged.

“During transplant surgeries, the recipient is put on Immunosuppressants in order to lower the body’s ability to reject a transplanted organ.

“That is the reason why the minister, after the transplant, was shifted to ICU and kept in isolation to avoid any infection,” a senior doctor at AIIMS said.

Messages for Swaraj

The political fraternity and many eminent personalities wished speedy recovery to the external affairs minister. Considering Sushma’s Twitter presence and her efforts to use the medium to do good, Twitter India made this video for Sushma:

AIIMS earlier had stated that the surgery of Swaraj was successful and uneventful.

Swaraj’s nearly six-hour long surgery was performed by a team of 50 personnel led by Dr Mukut Minz, former head of the department of renal transplant surgery at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) and Dr V K Bansal from AIIMS. Minz is currently with Fortis, Mohali. A team of transplant anesthesiologists, nurses, technicians and other support staff assisted them.

On 16 November, Swaraj herself had posted on Twitter that she was in AIIMS because of kidney failure. Swaraj, who has been in and out of the hospital for last few months, was admitted to AIIMS on 7 November. After Swaraj made her health conditions public on social media, several people had offered their kidneys to her.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 15:45 IST

Great news: Sushma Swaraj recovering well after successful kidney transplant

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who underwent a kidney transplant three days ago, was today shifted out of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at AIIMS and was recovering well. The 64-year-old minister is likely to be discharged in another seven to ten days, senior hospital officials said. “The minister has been shifted out of the ICU to a private ward of the Cardio-Neuro Centre. Her post-surgery recovery is on the expected lines,” AIIMS Director Dr M C Mishra said.He said her recovery is being closely monitored by a team of transplant surgeons, physicians (endocrinologist, nephrologist, cardiologist and pulmonologist) and anaesthesist besides critical care expert, physiotherapist and transplant specialists.”She is likely to be discharged in another seven or 10 days,” Mishra added.Swaraj had undergone a kidney transplant on Saturday with the organ being harvested from a living unrelated donor.According to Mishra, the woman who donated her kidney to the minister is also in the process of being discharged.”During transplant surgeries, the recipient is put on Immunosuppressants in order to lower the body’s ability to reject a transplanted organ.”That is the reason why the minister, after the transplant, was shifted to ICU and kept in isolation to avoid any infection,” a senior doctor at AIIMS said.AIIMS earlier had stated that the surgery of Swaraj was successful and uneventful.Swaraj’s nearly six-hour long surgery was performed by a team of 50 personnel led by Dr Mukut Minz, former head of the department of renal transplant surgery at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) and Dr V K Bansal from AIIMS. Minz is currently with Fortis, Mohali. A team of transplant anesthesiologists, nurses, technicians and other support staff assisted them.On November 16, Swaraj herself had posted on Twitter that she was in AIIMS because of kidney failure. Swaraj, who has been in and out of the hospital for last few months, was admitted to AIIMS on November 7.After Swaraj made public her health condition on social media, several people had offered their kidneys to her.

Demonetisation has broken people’s back, worse than natural calamity: P Chidambram

Former finance minister P Chidambram hit out at the Narendra Modi government on Tuesday for its “mismangement” of the demonetisation drive, saying that the move has broken the back of the people, and will have long-term effects on the Indian economy.

“Demonetisation is the worst attack on the poor. It has caused more pain than natural calamity. The Prime Minister should go out and see for himself the real picture before ATMs. People are angry, but they have no choice but to stand in queues,” he said, adding that demonetisation has affected the livelihood of 45 crore people in the country who depend on daily wages.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambram. AP

The congress MP also said that by keeping the District Cooperative Central Banks out, the government has punished farmers and villagers as well. “Because of this, the farmers are suffering, there is no money to buy seeds, to hire labour or buy fertilisers. There’s no money even to buy supplies,” he said.

The Narendra Modi government had demonetised old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 in a televised announcement on 8 November in order to curb down black money, corruption, fake currency and terror financing.

Chidambram also said that the government has been shifting the goal of the move. “First it was black money. They have now found a new goal called cashless economy. But you can’t go from 3 percent cashless to 100 percent cashless in a month. Where are the machines? Where is electricity?” he said.

Terming the drive a case of “khoda pahad nikli chuhiya“, the senior Congress leader alleged that unlike what the government claims, “the move has actually helped bring more black money into the system”.

Referring to the recent arrests were the authorities found people with lakhs of new notes, the former chief minister called demonetisation the “biggest scam of the year and that it must be investigated”. “I cannot get Rs 2,000 note. How crores in Rs 2,000 notes found their way to individuals being raided all over the country?” he said.

Answering a question on whether the reduction in interest rates will help the economy, Chidambram said while in a normal economy interest rate going down is good, but it’s not the same for India.

“This is not a normal situation. India is going through a very bad period of tepid growth. Credit growth is lowest in 20 years. The aggregate demand is low; demonetisation has made it even lower. There’s no green investment either. These are the numbers that are relevant. Any government must look at these figures.”

As for inflation, he said that low demand has helped control inflation but the economy won’t surive a long period of low demand. “If there’s no demand, it will affect production. Some factories have already started laying off people,” he said.

The senior Congress leader also attacked the government and it claims that the situation will normalise post 30 December. “The government has withdrawn 23,000 crore notes from the market. To print that many notes, it will need at least seven months time,” he said, adding that the cash crunch will continue.

Chidambram also asked the Reserve Bank of India to release the minutes of the meeting that took place before the 8 November announcement of the move by Prime Minister Modi, saying that it would give the nation a clear idea as to who said what about the move.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 13:17 IST

Demonetisation is biggest scam of the year, must be investigated: P Chidambram

Former finance minister P Chidambram demanded a special investigation team to probe the arrests involving huge amounts of new currency notes while adressing the press on Tuesday. The senior Congress leader also hit out at the Narendra Modi government saying that the move has broken the back of the people and will have long-term effects on the Indian economy.

Referring to the recent arrests were the authorities found people with lakhs of new notes, the former finance minister called demonetisation the “biggest scam of the year and that it must be investigated”.

“Demonetisation is the worst attack on the poor. The Prime Minister should go out and see for himself the real picture before ATMs. People are angry, but they have no choice but to stand in queues,” he said, adding that demonetisation has affected the livelihood of 45 crore people in the country who depend on daily wages.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambram. AP

The congress MP also questioned the government’s decision to keep District Cooperative Central Banks out of the move. “Because of this, the farmers are suffering, there is no money to buy seeds, to hire labour or buy fertilisers. There’s no money even to buy supplies,” he said.

The Narendra Modi government had demonetised old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 in a televised announcement on 8 November in order to curb down black money, corruption, fake currency and terror financing. The announcement has led to a cash crunch in the country.

Chidambram also said that the government has been shifting the goal of the move. “First it was black money. They have now found a new goal called cashless economy. But you can’t go from 3 percent cashless to 100 percent cashless in a month. Where are the machines? Where is electricity?” he said.

Terming demonetisation as a case of “khoda pahad nikli chuhiya“, the senior Congress leader alleged that unlike what the government claims, “the move has actually helped bring more black money into the system”.

Answering a question on whether the reduction in interest rates will help the economy, Chidambram said while in a normal economy interest rate going down is good, but it’s not the same for India.

“This is not a normal situation. India is going through a very bad period of tepid growth. Credit growth is lowest in 20 years. The aggregate demand is low; demonetisation has made it even lower. There’s no green investment either. These are the numbers that are relevant. Any government must look at these figures.”

As for inflation, he said that low demand has helped control inflation but the economy won’t surive a long period of low demand. “If there’s no demand, it will affect production. Some factories have already started laying off people,” he said.

The senior Congress leader also attacked the government and it claims that the situation will normalise post 30 December. “The government has withdrawn 23,000 crore notes from the market. To print that many notes, it will need at least seven months time,” he said, adding that the cash crunch will continue.

Chidambram also asked the Reserve Bank of India to release the minutes of the meeting that took place before the 8 November announcement of the move by Prime Minister Modi, saying that it would give the nation a clear idea as to who said what about the move.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 13:17 IST

States to steer future suburban network?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It seems the railway ministry has finally had enough of running suburban systems. In a draft policy issued a couple of days ago to all state governments by the Works Planning directorate of the ministry, the latter has put all responsibility of conjuring up new suburban systems in cities on the respective states. State governments have been asked to give their feedback in the next fortnight.The catalyst for the ‘hands-off’ policy, according to officials, is the bleeding status of its seven current suburban railway systems. According to the CAG report tabled in June this year, the cumulative losses from the suburban systems of Central, Eastern, South-Central, South-Eastern, Southern, Western and Kolkata Metro for the period 2010-15 stands at a whopping Rs 13,631 crore. During this period, the Railways carried a total of 3,054 crores, of which suburban passengers accounted for 2,225 crores or 72 per cent of all passengers.According to the draft policy released this week, “feasibility studies for suburban projects, duly considering the technical requirements, site feasibility and operational requirements, shall be carried out by the state government at their own cost.” Another criteria is that, “the complete cost of land acquisition, leasing of railway land and resettlement and rehabilitation shall be met by the states, by providing interest-free subordinate debt to the Special Purpose Vehicle or from its own resources.”Going further, the draft states that “guarantees for the loans to be taken by the SPV shall be provided by the state government.” The future sustenance of the suburban system has been given to the state government. The draft statement states that “state government would set up a dedicated urban transport fund at state level and city level through levy of dedicated taxes, levies, betterment tax, impact fee, development charges and higher floor area ratio in the influence zone of proposed railway stations to create a pool of resources for part financing the project’s capital cost, replacement of assets and providing operational subsidies.”

Exclusive – SWIFT confirms new cyber thefts, hacking tactics | Reuters

By Tom Bergin and Jim Finkle
| LONDON/BOSTON

LONDON/BOSTON Cyber attacks on the global banking system have continued – and succeeded – since February’s heist of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank, underscoring the continuing vulnerability of the SWIFT messaging network, a SWIFT official told Reuters.The network, which handles trillions of dollars in transfers daily, has warned banks of the escalating threat to their systems, according to a SWIFT letter obtained by Reuters. “The threat is very persistent, adaptive and sophisticated – and it is here to stay,” SWIFT said last month in a letter to client banks, which has not been previously reported.Client banks been have been hit with a “meaningful” number of attacks – about a fifth of them resulting in stolen funds, said Stephen Gilderdale, Head of SWIFT’s Customer Security Programme. Gilderdale’s comments are the first confirmation of new thefts involving the SWIFT network since the February heist.The revelations provide fresh evidence that SWIFT remains at risk of copycat attacks nearly a year after the massive theft from a Bangladesh Bank account at the New York Fed. The unprecedented cyber heist prompted regulators around the globe to tighten bank security requirements.

SWIFT’S letter to customers warned that hackers have refined their methods for compromising local bank systems. One new tactic, the letter said, involved using software that allows technicians to access computers to provide technical support. “We unfortunately continue to see cases in which some of our customers’ environments are being compromised” by thieves who then send fraudulent payment instructions through the SWIFT network – the same kind of messages used to steal Bangladesh Bank funds.

On Monday, a top investigator in Dhaka told Reuters that some Bangladesh central bank officials deliberately exposed its computer systems and enabled the theft. The comments by Mohammad Shah Alam of the Dhaka police are the first sign that investigators have got a firm lead in one of the world’s biggest cyber heists. Arrests are likely soon, he said.SWIFT’s Gilderdale declined to provide further details about more recent attacks or to name victims or amounts stolen. Asked how many heists had been attempted, he said only that it was “a meaningful number of cases.” The intrusions had been detected in a variety of ways, Gilderdale said. In some cases, anti-virus software had identified malware. In one case, a financial supervisory body had notified SWIFT of an attempted attack.

The additional attacks SWIFT disclosed to Reuters do not include others that have already come to light since the Bangladesh Bank heist.Thieves stole $250,000 from Bangladesh’s Sonali bank in 2013. More than $12 million was stolen from Ecuador’s Banco del Austro in 2015. Vietnam’s Tien Phong Bank said in May that it foiled an attempt to steal money via SWIFT. (Reporting by Tom Bergin and Jim Finkle; Editing by Brian Thevenot)

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

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 21:57 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Public holiday declared in some parts of Tamil Nadu on December 12

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the wake of the upcoming danger posed by cyclone Vardah in Tamil Nadu, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has deployed five teams in Andhra Pradesh and six in Tamil Nadu as a precautionary measure. “NDRF has taken adequate precautions to pre-position its teams. We have pre-positioned five teams in Andhra Pradesh, one in Tada, one in Sullurupeta, one in Ongole, one in Chittoor district, and six in Tamil Nadu,” said RK Pachnanda, Director General, NDRF.Stating that NDRF is in constant touch with the concerned authorities monitoring the situation, Panchnanda said the NDRF battalions would be ready to move to any place at short notice. “The NDRF is in close touch with state government authorities and agencies like the Indian Meteorological Department. We have been monitoring the situation very closely,” he said.With Cyclone Vardah presently lying 450 km approximately North East of Chennai and all set to make a landfall north of Chennai on Monday evening, the state has been put on high alert. The government had also declared public holiday on December 12 in Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur, Chennai & coastal Talukas of Villupuram, apart from issuing advisory to private undertakings and establishments to permit their staff to avail holiday or work from home. Educational institutions in Thiruvalluvar and Kanchipuram districts will also remain close on Monday.
ALSO READ Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh brace to deal with Vardah as it makes landfall near Chennai tomorrowOn the other hand, Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority met on Sunday under chairmanship of CM O Panneerselvam to review preparedness. The CM issued instructions to make arrangements for evacuating people in low lying and vulnerable areas. TANGEDCO (Electricity Board) was also asked to take all precautionary measures, including disconnection of power supply to ensure safety of people.

Swaraj undergoes kidney transplant, condition stable: AIIMS

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj “successfully” underwent a kidney transplant at AIIMS in Delhi on Saturday and her condition is stable. Swaraj, 64, was shifted to the Intensive Care Unit after the nearly six-hour-long surgery by a team of 50.AIIMS sources said the kidney for Swaraj was donated by a woman who is in her 40s and not related to the External Affairs Minister. A team of senior doctors has been monitoring the minister’s condition round-the-clock. “The surgery was successful and uneventful. She is admitted in the ICU and her condition is stable. Her condition is being closely monitored by a team of doctors. The donor voluntarily donated her kidney to the Minister,” AIIMS Director MC Mishra said when contacted.As no suitable donor was available in the immediate family, the transplant was done with the kidney from a living unrelated donor, sources said, adding the clearance for it was obtained from the Authorisation Committee of AIIMS. Mishra said the surgery was carried out at the cardio-thoracic centre by a team of 50 personnel including transplant surgeons, transplant anesthesiologists, nurses, technicians and other supporting staff.
ALSO READ Sushma Swaraj undergoes kidney transplant at AIIMSThe team comprised Mishra, surgeons VK Bansal and V Seenu, nephrologist Sandeep Mahajan and Cardio Thoracic and Vascular Surgery (CTVS) chief Dr Balram Airan among others. “The surgery started at around 9 AM and ended at 2.30 PM following which the minister has been shifted to the ICU. First, the organ was harvested from the donor which took one-and-half hours and then it was transplanted,” Mishra said.Living, unrelated donor could be anyone who is emotionally attached to the recipient, such as a friend, a relative, a neighbour or an in-law. A large number of people including Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit wished Swaraj speedy recovery. “We wish MEA Sushma Swaraj Sahiba speedy and full recovery,” he tweeted.Swaraj has been suffering from diabetes for quite sometime and after it was found that she had renal failure, she was put on maintenance dialysis. On November 16, Swaraj herself had tweeted that she was in AIIMS because of kidney failure. Swaraj, who has been in and out of the hospital for last few months, was admitted to AIIMS on November 7. After Swaraj made public her health condition on social media, several people offered their kidneys to her.

NSG bid is developmental aspiration, don’t give it political colour: FS Jaishankar to China

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Calling for respecting each other’s legitimate aspirations, India on Friday said China should not give a political colour to New Delhi’s efforts to access civilian nuclear technology, in reference to Beijing’s opposition to its NSG bid.In his address to India China Think-Tanks Forum, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar also pitched for bilateral cooperation in dealing with “fundamentalist terrorism”, expressing dismay over the two countries not being able to come together on the issue at critical international forums. His remarks are seen as a reference to China opposing India’s move to get Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar designated as a global terrorist by the United Nations.Jaishankar also said, “At a time of change, we should obviously pay great attention to strategic communication. This could help avoid misunderstanding and promote greater trust and cooperation.”Without mentioning India’s NSG bid, Jaishankar said there was a need for broad-basing the nuclear technology control group and stressed on deeper Indo-China cooperation on major global issues like implementation of the Paris climate agreement.”In India’s case, predictable access to civilian nuclear energy technology is key. The broad-basing of the nuclear technology control group is also helpful to a more representative international order.”Keeping in mind this solidarity of major developing states, it is important that China view this as a developmental aspiration and not give it a political colouring,” he said. Seeking deeper bilateral engagement, he said “Let us at least respect each other’s strong sense of independence and legitimate aspirations while seeking accommodation and building trust.”Talking about threat of terrorism, he said “As diverse and pluralistic societies, we both face threats from fundamentalist terrorism. Yet, we do not seem to be able to cooperate as effectively we should in some critical international forums dealing with this subject.” The Foreign Secretary, without elaborating, also said “Even on sovereignty, surely there can be more sensitivity and understanding.” In an apparent reference to China not supporting India’s bid for permanent membership of the UNSC, he said, “Though we have a commitment to a more democratic world order, our actions in respect of the reform of the UN Security Council are in contrast to our approaches to usher in a more equitable international economic order through reform of the existing multilateral institutions.”Jaishankar said there was need for greater convergence between the two sides in dealing with various regional and global issues and that both should not see each other as a competitor. “There are few precedents for the near-simultaneous rise of two major powers, that too in close proximity. When these powers have a tangled contemporary relationship, the process becomes even more complicated,” he said, adding “look at the similarities between ‘India as a Leading Power’ and the ‘China Dream'”.Jaishankar said a narrative that both the countries have always been distant from each other was successfully created by western powers which had an interest in doing so. “Although India was among the earliest governments to establish ties and promote cooperation with the People’s Republic of China, the three lost decades compel us to still play catch up with relationships that came very much later.”Viewed from the perspective of our bilateral ties, the progress in the last 28 years since we have normalised ties has been commendable,” he said. He said there has been peace and tranquillity at the Sino-India border while both sides agreed on political parameters and guiding principles for settlement of the boundary question. “Inevitably, challenges that emanate from differential logistical capabilities and a lack of commonly agreed line of actual control continue. But hopefully, as these gaps narrow, we will see a greater stability that would be helpful towards arriving at a final boundary solution,” he added.Talking about bilateral trade, he said there has been efforts to bridge the trade deficit which is in China’s favour. The Foreign Secretary said in recent years, Sino-India ties were projected and analysed by some quarters in primarily competitive terms. “This is an imbalance picture, if only because it ignores the substantive cooperation that we have so painstakingly developed in so many fields,” he said adding, “one obstacle to developing greater common ground is an undue attachment to the concept of balance of power.” “Major powers have to work with each other even if their interests diverge on some issues. Those powers who have more distance between them will be at a disadvantage in such a situation. It is in the mutual interest of India and China not to be in that predicament,” he said.The Foreign Secretary said policy changes on the Indian side have significantly improved the investment conditions for Chinese companies in India. “In fact, the sharpest change in FDI commitments since 2014 has been by Chinese companies a testimony, in equal measure, to their confidence and our openness,” he added.

SC modifies National Anthem order, exempts differently abled from standing

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The Supreme Court on Friday modified its order on the National Anthem and exempted physically handicapped persons from standing before screening of a movie in cinema halls across the nation.It also clarified that doors of theatres need not be bolted when the National Anthem is played. The order was passed by a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy, which agreed to hear the plea seeking recall of its order mandating playing of the National Anthem before films. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi informed the apex court that the Centre will issue guidelines within ten days from today on how physically challenged persons should show respect to the National Anthem.The court, however, said that physically disabled must show “some such gesture” to express their respect for anthem. As the guidelines are going to be issued, we clarify, if a physically challenged person or physically handicapped person goes to the Cinema hall to watch a film, he need not stand up, if he is incapable to stand, but must show such conduct which is commensurate with respect for the National Anthem…”Another aspect needs to be cleared. When we said that the doors shall be closed, we did not mean that the doors shall be bolted as mentioned in the case of Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Delhi vs. Uphaar Tragedy Victims Association and Ors. …but only to regulate the ingress and egress during the period while the National Anthem is played,” the bench said. The matter is now fixed for hearing on February 14, 2017.The clarification came after an organiser of an international film festival in Kerala moved the apex court seeking exemption from the November 30 on the ground that it would cause inconvenience to its 1,500 foreign guests.In a bid to “instil committed patriotism and nationalism”, the top court had ordered cinema halls across the nation to mandatorily play the National Anthem before screening of a movie and the audience must stand and show respect.The apex court had said that “love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the National Anthem as well as to the National Flag”. The court’s directions came on a PIL filed by one Shyam Narayan Chouksey seeking directions that the National Anthem should be played in cinema halls across the country before a film begins and proper norms and protocol be fixed regarding its playing and singing at official functions and programmes where those holding constitutional office are present.

Demonetization: Mamata Banerjee slams ‘dictator’ PM Modi for man-made financial emergency

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday alleged that demonetization is a manmade disaster of financial emergency caused by a dictator and said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi must clarify the situation and take responsibility for the chaos created in the last one month.Continuing her outburst against the ruling dispensation, Mamata alleged that the rule of the BJP-led NDA regime is the darkest period in Indian democracy. “What is the hidden agenda and who is the beneficiary? Beneficiaries are only the Prime Minister and his people. Parliament is liable to the people. That was not taken into account,” she said.The Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo also used the occasion to launch a frontal attack on Prime Minister Modi and said that he didn’t care about the people but instead looted everybody’s money. “Many Prime Ministers assumed office, but nobody did this what Narendra Modi has done. It is public money, but the Prime Minister is acting as if all of this is his own. Where is the black money? This is public money that you have taken, the tax payers’ money,” she added while lambasting him for not consulting anybody before taking the decision.The TMC also questioned RBI Governor Urjit Patel’s silence on the matter. “Under the leadership of the current Prime Minister, the government is derailed completely. The RBI Governor is silent on the entire matter. Nobody is giving details on the currency notes. He (Prime Minister Modi) thinks as if he is a tiger, and the only one who is right. Everything is done in huge secrecy as if he is some Ali Baba. He should realise he is occupying a constitutional post,” said Mamata.”The RBI Governor is also with Modi ji, he should be playing his own role. People don’t know what will happen tomorrow. The Prime Minister just doesn’t respond… no reply. He only gives speeches, not answers. Prime Minister Modi must take responsibility for the chaos created in the entire one month,” she added.The West Bengal Chief Minister earlier vented her ire on Facebook, saying no black money has been recovered so far but the white money of the common people has been snatched away. “One month of harassment, pain, hopelessness, financial insecurity and utter chaos. That is all that the common people has got after the black decision on demonetization announced a month back on 8th Nov, 2016. No black money has been recovered. Only white money of the common people has been snatched away,” Mamata wrote.”Even no black money has been recovered from foreign countries. In the name of recovery of so called black money, the ruling party at the Centre has created assets in the form of land, bank deposits, gold, diamond and have become more and more capitalists. All the common people are helpless,” she added.Mamata further wrote that immediate action is necessary to restore the trust and confidence of the people on the banking and financial sector of the country. “People must have hassle-free access to their own money and feel secure that their money is safe with banks and financial institutions,” Mamata shared.”We have raised the issue repeatedly in Parliament and in different other platforms. Leading economists have criticized this mindless demonetization. But there is no response yet. PM must clarify the situation to the nation and take entire responsibility,” she added.Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi has praised the nation for supporting the demonetization decision which he termed as ongoing yagna against corruption, terrorism and black money. In a series of tweets, he said that the government’s decision has several gains for farmers, traders, labourers, who are the economic backbone of the nation.Prime Minister Modi further said that though the government’s measure will bring a degree of inconvenience, this short-term pain will, however, pave the way for long-term gain.Meanwhile, both houses of the Parliament were adjourned for the day as an united opposition cornered the government over the demonetization move.

Demonetization: One month of harassment & financial insecurity, Modi must clarify situation, says Mamata

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Claiming that people have been subjected to harassment and financial insecurity in the one month since demonetization, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said the Prime Minister must clarify the situation to the nation and take entire responsibility for it.She also claimed that 90 people have died due to hardships following demonetization of high value notes.”One month of harassment, pain, hopelessness, financial insecurity and utter chaos,” Banerjee said in a statement.”That is all that the common people has got after the black decision on demonetization announced a month back on November eight,” Banerjee, who has been the most vocal against demonetization of high value notes, said.”PM must clarify the situation to the nation and take entire responsibility,” Banerjee said.Claiming that no black money has been recovered, the Trinamool Congress supremo said, “Only white money of the common people has been snatched away.”The TMC MPs have been staging protests in both houses of Parliament since the winter session began.”Even no black money has been recovered from foreign countries. In the name of recovery of so called black money, the ruling party at the Centre has created assets in the form of land, bank deposits, gold, diamonds and has become more and more capitalist,” Banerjee, who has led an unrelenting attack on the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over demonetization, said.”One month since demonetization was announced. More than 90 lives lost. How many more Modi babu?” Banerjee said on twitter.She said in her statement, “Production has nosedived, agricultural activities have been shattered, buying and selling is down drastically, the economy is in shambles – the entire country is passing through an unprecedented financial emergency.”Untold sufferings have come down in the lives of farmers, labourers, workers of unorganised sectors, tea garden, beedi and jute workers, employed class, students, sick, old and infirm people,” the chief minister said in her statement.”The common man is helpless. Mothers and sisters have been forced to give away their small personal savings to run the family in the face of serious cash crunch.” “No one knows when this unfortunate ordeal will end.No one knows when good senses will prevail to stop this mindless harassment and sufferings of common people. No one knows what good has happened to the country and its people with this big, black decision,” the chief minister said.Calling for immediate action to restore trust and confidence of the people on banking and financial sectors, Banerjee said, “People must have hassle-free access to their own money and feel secure that their money is safe with banks and financial institutions.””We have raised the issue repeatedly in Parliament and in different other platforms. Leading economists have criticized this mindless demonetization. But there is no response yet,” she added.

Nation still facing problems courtesy ‘monumental mismanagement’: Congress on demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress Party on Thursday dubbed demonetization as a monumental mismanagement on part of the ‘frustrated’ BJP-led government at the Centre and said the opposition is observing black day as the nation is still facing problems even a month after the decision.Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, said the growth rate has decreased and the problems of the people have increased post demonetization. “The people must get relief from this problem. We are observing black day because it’s been a month since the implementation of demonetization and still the people are facing problems. Earlier, the Prime Minister asked for five days then five weeks and now 50 days. This isn’t right as not even 50% of the situation got better in one month,” he said.”Our image has also ruined at the international platform due to demonetization. Everyone is affected due to this monumental mismanagement and all are worried. They have failed in this regard,” he added.Highlighting BJP veteran Lal Krishna Advani’s concern with regard to repeated disruptions in the Parliament, Kharge alleged that the NDA regime at the Centre is frustrated. “We want debate and discussion. Don?t know how much impact LK Advani’s statement had on the government, but we have been trying to carry on with the debate,” he added. Advani yesterday expressed his ire over the repeated disruptions in Parliament post the government’s demonetization drive while holding both the ruling dispensation as well as the opposition responsible for the deadlock.Advani, who put forth his concerns before Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar, said both the government and opposition benches are party to the repeated disruptions in Parliament.He demanded that action should be initiated against those lawmakers responsible for the continued deadlock in both the houses. He also demanded that there should be a cut in their salaries for their adamant attitude.In the three weeks since the Winter Session began, the opposition parties have paralysed the Parliament’s functioning by cornering the government over the move, which has caused the economy to tailspin in the short-term and has created a liquidity crunch that has hit common citizens hard.A united opposition has decided to observe a black day today to mark the completion of one month since Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the surprise demonetization announcement on November 8. The members of Parliament from opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha as well as the Lok Sabha wore black bands and held a protest at the Gandhi statue in Parliament to highlight the consequences of the severe liquidity crunch on the poor and in the informal sector which runs on cash.

Demonetisation in Kashmir: Why the state experienced no mayhem at banks, ATMs

If there is one place in the country where demonetisation had little to no effect, it is in Kashmir. Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes ceased to be legal tender in the wake of the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — as part of an effort ‘to weed out black money from the economy’. And while the rest of country is grappling with the cash crunch with serpentine queues outside ATMs, such mayhem has not been witnessed in Kashmir.

Experts say that although the ongoing unrest is partially responsible for this phenomenon, there are other factors that have contributed to demonetisation having a limited effect in the state. When the armed insurgency erupted in the Valley in the early 1990s, there were widespread allegations of money being looted by forces as well as militants from the homes of people, said noted businessman and economist, Shakeel Qalender.

“Rather then keeping money in their homes during the turmoil, it became a habit for people to deposit it in banks,” Qalender said.

Although in the three initial days of demonetisation, a mild rush was witnessed in banks across the Valley and in Jammu, the Jammu and Kashmir Bank was quick to issue a notification, asking officials to deal in available cash for the time being, something to which they happily agreed.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“All employees are being credited salaries online and new schemes like NREGA and others also credit money into people’s accounts. Contractors get their money deposited into their accounts through online mechanisms. Most people in Jammu and Kashmir have banks accounts,” Qalender said.

Jammu and Kashmir has a working force of an estimated 42.5 lakh (out of the total population of 1.34 crore); a third of this is associated with agrarian activities while the rest is in the public and private sector. The state has around 2,000 bank branches which means one bank branch for every 6,500 people. In the first few days after the demonetisation announcement, one branch was dealing with at least 2,000 customers, besides having post offices and other financial institutions. Nearly 1,200 branches are operated by the Jammu and Kashmir Bank and the rest by other public and private sector banks. A majority of the state’s banking business — at least 65 percent — is conducted by the Jammu and Kashmir Bank while another 10 to 20 percent is with other public sector banks.

Outside the state, many people, including Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, had said that because of demonetisation, stone-throwing incidents in Kashmir had reduced. Government figures and the measures taken to control the protests suggest otherwise. “But,” said Irshad Ahmad, a PhD student of economics at Kashmir University, “The number of stone-pelting incidents came down drastically in September, not due to demonetisation, but following a general pattern of weariness and the crackdown on protesters.”

In fact, the data released by the government shows that there was a general declining trend in the incidents of stone-pelting in Kashmir following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. In July, when Burhan was killed, the Valley witnessed 820 incidents of stone-pelting incidents which came down to 747 in August.

In September, the incidents further reduced to 535. From September to October, the number of stone pelting incidents decreased from 535 to 157, witnessing a 41.53 percent fall. Today, there has been an overall decrease of 87 percent in such incidents since July.

Former member of the board of directors, Jammu and Kashmir Bank, and noted economist, Professor Nisar Ali said the state’s economic activity in terms of routine transactions had been put on hold for several months due to the ongoing unrest. He said consumers had deferred their expenditure because shops were not open and choices were not available.

“Black money has already been converted into assets here. First, it is the land that is why land prices in Kashmir are higher than in Mumbai. Most of the black money got into the hands of the land mafia. The second is the real estate and the third is gold. So the liquidity with a black money-holder wasn’t enough to generate panic,” Ali said.

The ongoing conflict in the Valley is the reason that people with black money were able to evade the law for decades. Although in recent years, tax collection has significantly increased in the state, during earlier years, a majority avoided paying taxes.

During the 2015-16 Financial Year, the Commercial Taxes Department’s collections alone stood at Rs 5,515.96 crore. Ali, however, is not impressed. “How may times have I-T people carried out raids here? Not a single instance in the past two decades. The function of such organisations is literally zero here”.

“Now the money, which you keep at your home as a safety cushion, has been spent because of the five months of unrest. The money ended and it circulated from retailers to wholesalers and distributors. It went into the banks much before demonetisation forcibly brought it there,” Ali said.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 08:54 IST

Demonetisation: Not the most effective tool to weed out corruption, eliminate black money

The currency demonetisation scheme of 2016 has invalidated approximately Rs 14,180 billion worth of high value currency, which is almost 86 percent of the total currency in circulation (31 March 2016: total currency in circulation Rs 16,454 billion).

The immediate effects of the demonetisation scheme are significant and manifold. The banks are raining deposit collections, which will eventually have a positive cascading effect on the economy as a whole. However, the unexpected and sudden announcement of the ‘demonetisation scheme’ has had a ‘knee jerk’ reaction on the level of economic activity in the country. All the cash dependent consumption led sectors, such as retail, wholesale, jewellery, hospitals, healthcare, diagnostics, trading, restaurants, transport, logistics are severely affected. Real estate/construction transactions, which are partly done in cash, have been affected jeopardising millions of construction jobs. A large proportion of the country’s labour force is employed in these sectors collectively. Therefore, the biggest concern of the demonetisation exercise is it’s far reaching consequences on India’s cash economy.

Cash economy
India is a cash intensive economy with a whopping 12 percent of GDP existing in the form of currency notes and coins in circulation. The ratio of money held in currency notes and coins to the

ReutersReuters

Reuters

amounts held in bank deposits is 51:49. Indian citizens and businesses still prefer cash to other modes of payment. Cash transactions are free, final, irrevocable and instant. Cash is the preferred mode of payment due to habits, poverty, illiteracy and most importantly, lack of easy access to the banking system. Most Indians lack the means to use non-cash payment alternatives due to the low penetration of banking facilities in the country.

As per the World Bank estimates, approximately 35 percent of the Indian population above the age of 15 years have an account with a bank. Population having debit/credit cards are way below 10 percent of the total. These ratios further go down in case of ‘rural’ population and ‘female’ population segments. Within the 35 percent having an account with the bank, many are dormant accounts as the distance to travel to the bank branch; the travel time and the cost thereof are significant.

Year 2015 statistics suggests that 87 percent of the total transactions in India were in cash. This just suggests that we have sucked out most of the cash from the economy, leaving the cash economy gasping for breath.

Not all transactions in cash have a colour. It acquires colour only when cash is exchanged for illegal or contentious transactions or for undisclosed factor income (mostly to evade taxes). The cash economy, although highly susceptible to transforming into black, is extremely low cost and efficient and thus vibrant. The beauty of cash economy is in its speed and resiliency. Much of the rural and semi urban India thrives on cash economy, which gives them extremely efficient options of earning their livelihood despite lack of infrastructure. For example, the key source of cash transactions in India is its 10 million plus retail outlets. A very small percentage of these retailers have ‘Point of Sales’ (PoS) systems. Much of them neither have internet connectivity nor can they afford the transaction fees of operating the financial cards and hence prefer cash as a mode of payment.

Effects of demonetisation
The question is, can we risk putting the cash economy on a halt, although temporarily, in view of the fact that significant amount of labour force is employed therein and does not have access to banking services? If we are depriving the tiny retail stores, roadside vendors, low paying job workers without employment contracts, of currency and demanding them to undertake minuscule transactions through financial institutions on digital media, we are taking away their source of daily income and slowing down the economy significantly making it highly inefficient. Are we ready for a digital transformation? Even if our political ambition says we are, it will take a very high amount of time and costs to get them all on the digital banking platforms and educate them on the transactions, which may far exceed the benefits. Also, there are no alternative arrangements for the survival of the population.

The administration has claimed that the demonetisation scheme is intended to combat tax evasion, counterfeiting, wide spread corruption and the resultant black economy. But what quantum are we talking about?

As per the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, counterfeit currency in circulation is estimated to be Rs 400 crore, 0.028 percent of the demonetised currency. As per the World Bank estimates, India’s black economy is in the range of 21 percent to 23 percent of its GDP (World Bank estimate 2007: 23.2 percent). In present GDP terms, the black economy could be approximately Rs 6,800 billion (2016 3rd quarter estimate of GDP Rs 29,628 billion). However, approximately 70 percent of the black assets, Rs 4,800 billion are estimated to be parked overseas, leaving approximately Rs 2,000 billion in the country, of which 5 percent to 6 percent are held in cash (data compiled from Income Tax raids).

Through ‘demonetisation’, we have targeted the minuscule of the big whole, disturbing the natural flow of the cash economy in the country, which is very much a part of the main economy. We also need to understand that currency demonetisation is a monetary tool, which will drain off existing stock of counterfeits and cash hoardings at one time but is incapable of targeting the structure and source of corruption and counterfeiting. As widely understood, black money is not equal to corruption; it is the result of corrupt activities, which are very wide in nature.

Demonetisation will not prohibit people from undertaking corrupt activities unless the tendencies and opportunities are rooted out. Corruption will continue with resultant assets merely changing their form and destination. Therefore, demonetisation of the currency at the cost of cash economy is not the most effective strategy to eliminate or control black economy. Instead, the Government should consider establishing infrastructure to track large financial transactions in key sectors, create a robust mechanism to identify and arrest tax evasion and focus efforts on penetration of the banking infrastructure in the country along with proper education. The key is to reduce the cash intensity of the economy not to suffocate it!

(The author is Partner ASA & Associates LLP. Views are personal)

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 08:32 IST

RBI policy offers Urjit Patel a chance to clear air on demonetisation; will he live up to it?

That the Reserve Bank of India will most likely cut interest rate today is now almost a foregone conclusion. Economists are mostly betting on whether it will be 25 basis points or 50 bps.

The key reason being cited is that the central bank will have to cut rate to boost growth as the government’s demonetisation move is slowing down consumption and economy.

Two-thirds of the 60 economists polled by Reuters said they expected a cut, with 31 of 56 respondents expecting it to be 25 bps, while six predicted a deeper 50 bps reduction. One said the RBI would slash rates by 75 bps.

Urjit Patel, Reserve Bank of Governor. ReutersUrjit Patel, Reserve Bank of Governor. Reuters

Urjit Patel, Reserve Bank of Governor. Reuters

“Given the concerns about demonetisation and the slowdown it is likely to generate in sectors that have traditionally been cash dependant, such as consumption goods, the RBI will try to cushion the blow with a rate cut,” said Shilan Shah of Capital Economics in Singapore has been quoted as saying in the Reuters report.

A rate cut seems to be the only pill that the central bank can administer at present to boost the economic growth and the consumer confidence.

The government on 8 November announced its decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes and replace them with new ones, in a bid to curb black money generation, fake currency usage and terror funding. The unexpected move resulted in a cash crunch as the RBI was not prepared to meet the demand for new notes. The demonetised notes formed 86 percent of the currency in circulation by value.

In this context, here are the key aspects you should watch out for in the policy statement today.

About demonetisation

Ever since the demonetisation, the central bank and governor Urjit Patel have both come under criticism for keeping mum about the steps taken. The two times Patel spoke – interviews to PTI and Quint – he just made a customary assurance that the central bank is doing everything to reduce genuine customers’ pain. That was hugely insufficient to calm given the difficulties faced by not just the general public but also the bank staff. Bank unions have written to the finance ministry explaining the various hardhsips faced by their members. According to the union, the central bank has been saying there is enough cash and it is being dispatched to the banks while banks are getting only limited cash. Due to repeated assurances given by the RBI, customers feel that the banks are rationing the cash to them for no reason and this is resulting in tension. Again, they also have raised a suspicion that the RBI is preferring private sector banks to public sector ones while disbursing cash. The policy review today is a chance for Patel to clear all these charges. Will he speak up? Will he reveal the status of currency printing in its presses? How much rupee notes have been printed? How much more have to be printed to completely replace the demonetised currency? When does he think the situation will normalise?

About deposit amount banks got

This number is important. In the absence of regular details from the central bank, there are many numbers doing the rounds. The RBI just twice put out releases on this data and the last one was on 8 November. According to the latest numbers available through sources, as much as Rs 12 lakh crore worth old currency has returned to the banking system as deposits. This is against the government’s estimate that it would get back Rs 10 lakh crore and the rest will be extinguished. There was expectation that this will result in a windfall for the central bank which could have been transferred to the government by way of special dividend. This is as of now a speculation. The government and the RBI have neither denied it nor have they clarified. So also the case of fake currency. A report in The Times of India has said 20 days after demonetisation only 3.4% of all notes returned were counterfeit. Both these, according to many, mean that the scheme has failed in its objective. Worse still is the speculation that the rich and wealthy have already laundered their money. A report in The Indian Express noted that from tiffin service to dental implants, everybody has tried to beat the system and swap old notes. What is the RBI’s thinking? Is the suspicion that the rich and wealthy are gaming the system that forced the authorities to change the rules every other day?

Growth?

As of now, India is the fastest growing economy. It grew 7.3 percent in July-September, better than the previous quarter’s 7.1 percent. However, with demonetisation curbing the spending power

of the RBI, various agencies and brokerage houses have slashed their growth estimates. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh has said he expected the GDP to fall by 200 basis points. What is the RBI’s take? Its estimate for the current year is 7.6 percent. Most probably the central bank will give out a revised estimate for the current year. Watch out for that.

Inflation or deflation?

Inflation is already trending downwards due to the favourbale monsoon that has improved the productivity of food items. In October, the retail inflation was 4.21 percent, lower than 4.39 percent in September. The food inflation, meanwhile, stood at 3.32 percent compared with 3.96 percent in the previous month. The corresponding figure for July 2016 was a higher 8.35 percent. The slower demand induced by demonetisation is seen further pressuring the prices down. There is even a view that the entire process is deflationary. If it is indeed so, this would do more harm to the economy. The RBI is bound to give some clarity on this, including a revised estimate for inflation. Look out for the number.

One could easily argue that the central bank need not clarify all of these. But given the grand scale at which the demonetisation is being rolled out and the way it is impacting the general public, there is a need for more transparency on the workings of the central bank. But, ironically, the RBI has gone into the opaque mode.

This has seriously dented the image of the central bank. Bank officers’ confederation has even sought the resignation of Patel taking moral responsibility for the havoc in the financial system.

Today’s policy review is a chance for the central bank and its governor to clarify and bring back the integrity of a democratic institution, which has always refused to genuflect before the political bosses in Delhi. The question is will Patel live up?

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 08:25 IST

Jayalalithaa dies at 68: A person who had no one, leaves seven million in tears

An unparalleled life has come to an end.

Losing her father at the age of two — an age at which she probably would not have even remembered his face, she never hesitated to share her opinion about his extravagant lifestyle leading them to financial troubles, even though it would all have been based on hearsay. That was J Jayalalithaa aka Amma for millions of Tamilians. She was made of contradicting opinions, but ones she held fast to and fought like a tigress to defend. A scholarly student and a rank-holder in school, Amma probably was at peace holding such opinions to herself and transporting herself to imaginary worlds through her reading.

But then it was destined that a nation had to cry one day.

A reluctant actress, a consummate one at that, Jayalalithaa was a more than a man in a world of men. Her real character showed in certain nuances of any role she played, although the script drafted as her the typical woman who will ultimately walk the path behind her leading man. Paired against MG Ramachandran in as many as 28 films, the scripts of which were always templated, Jayalalithaa stood out in that in defying the man as against the weepy, clingy heroines who were otherwise casted in his other films. No wonder the girl caught the eye of the clairvoyant he was to be. MGR brought her into the ugly world of politics which was only worse than the one in which she participated earlier.

Politics is cruel and thankless and here she was with dovey eyes hiding a steely determination inside. There were friends who turned foes and there were foes who later became slaves. None of her previous scriptwriters could have imagined such a script. Cinema is an illusion, but even to them, such magic was something beyond their realms of thought. She trusted and failed. She doubted and was punished. But the woman inside was only growing stronger.

When she lost her only patron and had to stand beside his body for two full days without food or water — showing no discomfort or pain from physical abuse, she would not have thought the person inside her was going to fight all these adversities in her own way and come to rest in the same place one day.

File image of J Jayalalithaa. AFP

File image of J Jayalalithaa. AFP

Her politics is debatable, her vengeance was legendary, her spirit was indomitable but no one can deny the fact that she was a force Tamil Nadu could not have done without. She was a constant thorn in the flesh of her enemies whether she plotted her downfall or outthought them with simple populist measures. She cultivated sycophancy, orchestrated mass hysteria, remained an enigma and source of many a rumour of how her life behind those tall black iron gates of Poes Garden. But the tears that we see are genuine now. Without her rhetoric of whether people will stand behind her and do things for her, lying in state, she now knows that they will. She need not ask. She always gets.

Leading a very mysterious life as a spinster and always guarding herself alone, the enigma had no trusted shoulders to cry on. Lived a life of extreme loneliness, but beaming on the hoardings and water bottle labels, Amma was just omnipresent and most times omnipotent too. Breaking every conceivable glass ceiling and leading a Dravidian party that turned on its head and ate Mansoru (a ritual in Tamil Nadu where people pray to God seeking a wish and eat food from the mud floor). She is the idol every one of us should look up to on the good side. Not just women. She is a hero for all genders. The incomparable MGR founded and managed the party for 15 years and Jayalalithaa did it for almost double that period. It is time we saw her as an independent towering figure than through the prism of MGR.

She has now bid adieu as privately as she lived her life and when we see her face, tears naturally well up in the eyes.

A person who had no one for her, leaves seven million people crying.

Farewell, Iron Lady. Rest in that elusive peace at least in death. When we come up there, we know that we can easily find you there. Someone would have put up a cut-out in heaven. And you will be smiling in that, and at last, we will wipe our tears.

The author is a Chennai-based entrepreneur and the author of MGR: A Biography

First Published On : Dec 6, 2016 09:38 IST

Group fights gender gap in water use in Rajasthan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The mores of a patriarchal society make themselves evident in a number of ways —from rules about the conduct of women to gender imbalance in boardrooms. Women in Rajasthan, however, are battling a very different set of problems, one that concerns the use of water.A precious commodity in the desert state, water is first given to the men in the family to use, followed by household chores, even though it’s mostly women who fetch it after walking for kilometres. So much so that some women have to go without a bath in the arid region for days on end.Centre for Social Research (CSR), a non-profit organisation from Delhi, has been attempting to change that dynamic through its Water Conservation and Climate Change Training Programme for rural Rajasthan. The programme is being conducted across different villages in Sanganer, Bhimwal, and Sirohi, among other areas.The programme targets all orders of the hierarchy — from housewives to women representatives, including panches and councillors — to spread awareness regarding the connection between water and gender equality. The idea was the brainchild of CSR head Ranjana Kumari and Hanns Seidel Foundation, which is funding the project.Launched in 2013, the project has young members, all in the age group of 22-30 years, who cover more than 300 houses and over 30 clusters.“We came across some shocking facts during our need assessment surveys involving tribal women. For instance, even though they were the ones fetching water for the entire family, men would be given preference, followed by household chores. Some even confessed to going without a bath for days,” said Project Coordinator Ritika Bhatia. This imbalance spilled over into their personal hygiene and health as well, she added.During the course of the programme, the team also found that the women were not too forthcoming about the hardships they suffered. “They were visibly embarrassed. But they said that walking endlessly to get some water was a natural part of their lives,” said Bhatia, who further said that discussing this disparity was the project’s first step.The women were made aware of their rights and how they were equal shareholders in water consumption, limited quantity notwithstanding. The approach, however, was kept subtle and friendly, involving elders and elected representatives of the community. The four-module programme then moved on to the necessity of water conservation and the issue of climate change, with videos on health and hygiene interspersed in between.The efforts are already showing results, breaking down not only gender but caste barriers as well, claimed another team member Pratishtha Arora. “They have become more assertive in their demands for water. I clearly remember how a tribal woman forced the Gram Sabha to bring a water supply near her house, something which is not usual in Rajasthan, given their sharp caste dynamics and repressive environment,” she said.Almost three years into the project, the group said they have become more aware of the sheltered and privileged life they themselves lead. “We take so much for granted till we come across those who have nothing. I have realised how blessed I am after meeting these women and hearing their stories,” Arora said.WATER FOR ALLThe programme is being conducted across different villages in Sanganer, Bhimwal, and Sirohi, among other areas.It targets housewives to women representatives, including panches and councillors. The project has young members all in the age group of 22-30 years

RIP Amma | From PM Modi to President Mukherjee: India bids adieu to J Jayalalithaa

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayaraman Jayalalithaa, popularly addressed as ‘Amma’ by her supporters and party cadres, died of cardiac arrest at 11.30 p.m. at the Apollo Hospitals here on Monday evening after a prolonged illness. She was 68. Announcing her demise at 12.13 a.m., Apollo Hospitals in a statement said, ‘The Chief Minister suffered a massive cardiac arrest on the evening of the December 4, even while our intensivist was in her room. She was immediately administered resuscitation (CPR), and provided ECMO support within the hour, which is the most advanced treatment currently available internationally. Every possible clinical attempt was made to sustain her revival. However, despite our best efforts the Chief Ministerm’st underlying conditions rendered her unable to recover and she passed away at 11.30 p.m. today.’ Her body will be kept at Rajaji Hall for people to pay last respects. Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government has declared three-day holiday for schools and colleges. President Pranab Mukherjee tweeted, ‘Heartfelt condolences on the sad demise of Ms. Jayaram Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. One of India’s most charismatic & popular leaders, Ms. Jayalalithaa was a visionary & able administrator. Her life was dedicated to the socio-economic transformation of Tamil Nadu and its people. In her passing away, the nation has lost an icon who was loved and admired by millions.’Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, ‘Deeply saddened at the passing away of Selvi Jayalalithaa. Her demise has left a huge void in Indian politics. Jayalalithaa ji’s connect with citizens, concern for welfare of the poor, the women & marginalized will always be a source of inspiration. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Tamil Nadu in this hour of grief.’ Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted, ‘Deeply saddened to learn of the demise of Tamil Nadu CM,Selvi Jayalalithaa. She was a powerful voice for the weaker sections of the society. I pay my heartfelt tributes to the departed soul. I also appeal to the people of Tamil Nadu to remain calm in this hour of grief.’

Major faux Pas from Pak media, declares J Jayalalithaa dead

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan media has, it seems, declared the Chief Minister of India’s southern Tamil Nadu state J Jayalalitha dead, even, while doctors in state capital Chennai say that she is alive but in a very critical condition.”Two of Pakistan’s largest Urdu papers this morning reported that Indian politician Jayalalitha had died (she’s alive),” Senior Pakistan journalist Omar R Quraishi said in a tweet on Monday.In another tweet he said, “Dear Express, Geo and Nawa-I-Waqt: Jayalalitha is alive.”Releasing a fresh update on the health status of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, the Apollo Hospital on Monday announced that her condition was ‘very critical’, adding that she has been put on Extracoporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) and other life support systems. “The Honourable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu who suffered a cardiac arrest yesterday evening, continues to be very critical and is on ECMO and other life-support systems. The Honourable Chief Minister is being treated and closely monitored by a team of experts,” the hospital said in a statement.Yesterday night, the Chief Minister suffered a cardiac arrest after which she was rushed to the hospital. Meanwhile, the Indian government swung into action, as the Centre’s top brass got in touch with the state governor C. Vidyasagar Rao and assured complete central assistance. Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu spoke to the Governor and state Chief Secretary P. Rama Mohana Rao enquiring about her health and will also fly down to Chennai to assess the situation.Also, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also spoke to the Governor in regard with the law and order situation in the state given the tense state of affairs regarding Jayalalithaa, and was assured that the situation was under control. Union Minister Kiren Rijiju also assured Tamil Nadu government that the Centre is always willing to help if they require extra force in regards with maintaining law and order.The special team of doctors from the All India Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi reached Chennai. Security has been stepped up across the city to attend any eventuality and buses plying out of Chennai have been reduced and security in the capital has been tightened. Tamil Nadu is in ripples after the news of Jayalalithaa’s cardiac arrest broke out as there are rituals, prayers etc being performed across the state.

Arjuna awardee shooter booked on rape charge

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Arjuna awardee shooter Sanjeev Rajput has been booked on rape charges following a complaint by a fellow shooter in the Capital’s Chanakyapuri police station on Sunday.The victim, in her complaint, accused 35-year-old shooter of raping her last month on the promise of marriage. She has claimed to know the Olympian shooter for the last two years. She alleged that Rajput spiked her drink with sedatives before raping her.The victim belong to Uttar Pradesh and as per the police “her medical examination has confirmed rape”. Going by the victim’s account, Rajput had offered her a sedative-laced soft drink after paying her a visit on the occasion of her birthday last month. She further alleged that it was only after she fell unconscious that he raped her. After the incident, Rajput refused to acknowledge the promise of marriage and even stopped answering her calls.“He even refused to acknowledge the promise of marriage and threatened to kill her with a rifle and make it look like an accident.Rajput was part of the Indian 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympic teams. And he also got an Olympic quota for 2016 Rio in the men’s Rifle 3-Position but National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) decided to use his quota for trap shooter Kynan Chenai.It was Sports Authority of India (SAI) which came to Doha Asian Games bronze medallist rescue at this critical point of his career and offered him a coach’s job. Rajput, who left his Indian Navy in 2014, finally joined SAI in August.

No scope for interference with Muslim Personal Law: Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind to SC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prominent Islamic organisation Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind today told the Supreme Court there is no scope for interference with the Muslim Personal Law in which triple talaq, ‘nikah halala’ and polygamy are well rooted and stand on much higher pedestal as compared to other customs. In its counter affidavit, the Jamiat stated that the Muslim Personal Law has an element of certainty and is not local or regional in operation.”There is no scope for interference with the Muslim Personal Law, which is based on primarily the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, explained and applied by various scholars of great antiquity and authority after thorough research,” it said. “The protection of peculiarities in personal laws is necessary for securing freedom of religion and bringing uniformity by removing those peculiarities shall be enforcement of Uniform Civil Code by the judicial process, which shall be against the constitutional bar,” it said.Relying on various apex court judgements, it said that Fundamental Duties as in the Constitution does not not touch upon the personal laws of the parties.”In personal laws, new concepts of modern times should not be evolved by the courts and it should enforce the law as derived from recognised and authoritative sources of personal laws except where such law is altered by any usage or customs or is modified or abrogated by statute,” the Jamiat said.In its counter affidavit, the Jamiat has also said “the Muslim Personal Law stands on a much higher pedestal when compared to customs or practices because the former has element of certainty and is not local or regional in operation.”Referring to Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, the affidavit said that it has highlighted that Muslim women should be allowed to be governed by Muslim Personal Law instead of local customs and practices because the Muslim Personal Law treats “women with greater dignity”.The Muslim body further said women who have approached the apex court on the issue should approach regular civil courts seeking adjudication of validity of divorce granted to them in the light of the law already settled by the Supreme Court. The affidavit further said, ‘nikah halala’, which is surrounded by various misconceptions and when the talaq becomes absolute and irrevocable then the former husband and wife immediately fall in prohibited degree and they cannot remarry each other. “However, if subsequently she enters into marriage with another man and the said marriage is also dissolved by any mode prescribed by Islam only then she can marry her former husband by way of fresh nikah,” it said.The affidavit said, “Muslim women enjoy greater freedom as there is no compulsion on the wife to remarry the same man or to contract any further marriage at all”.Earlier, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) had rubbished the stand taken by the Centre that the apex court should re-look these practices as they are violative of fundamental right like gender equality and the ethos of secularism, a key part of the basic structure of the Constitution.Government, for the first time, had opposed the practice in the apex court and said, “The issue of validity of triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy needs to be considered in the light of principles of gender justice and the overriding principle of non-discrimination, dignity and equality.”

#NotePeCharcha Episode 2: Queues get longer at banks; distressed villagers greet our reporters at Kasara

While the effects of demonetisation on urban India are visibly apparent to those with access to mainstream English media, its impact on rural lives is so far vague. We travelled into the interiors of Maharashtra to examine the depth of the impact.

Firstpost sent out Apoorv Mishra, who was accompanied by his friends — Tahir Alimansoor and Kush Shah, into rural Maharashtra with an iPhone, a couple of mics, a GoPro and no institutional monetary support – they had borrowed money from friends and withdrawn all the cash permitted under prevalent restrictions.

Their journey began on a train from Mumbai to Kasara, where they heard progressively worsening tales of woe as they moved further away from Mumbai. If you missed it, you can catch that “>episode here.

The trio arrived in Kasara on 18 November and spent some time talking to the people and documenting their daily struggles in a post-demonetised India.

Kasara only has two banks and four ATMs. Being a small village that primarily relied on cash transactions, this was enough. Following the demonetisation move, however, the situation appears to have dramatically worsened.

“We have to stand for hours in line just to get a small amount of money,” said one lady. “People are falling unconscious in the heat,” said another.

One man tells Mishra that he’s been standing in line since 8 am (it’s 2 pm at the time our reporters speak to him) and that he hasn’t had a chance to either eat or drink since. An old man complains that he’s been in the line since 8 am and that his knees are aching.

Local businesses have also been hit hard. An owner of a sabzi mandi (vegetable stall) ranted about the drop in earnings. “I used to make Rs 4,000 – Rs 5,000,” he says, adding, “Now I only make Rs 500 to Rs 1,000.” He also complained that it’s not worth going to the bank for money, “My whole day would be wasted.”

Some people have seen opportunity in demonetisation. Certain stores are reportedly charging a Rs 100 premium on old notes, others have set up stalls that charge illiterate people a fee for filling bank forms. The fee might be meagre –  Rs 10 – but as we later found out, that fee might amount to 10 percent of someone’s daily earnings.

Amid these tales of hardship are also rare tales of hope. Those who can afford it are giving out goods on credit. Others, like Trimbakutal Shinde, a retired policeman, is housing the physically challenged and offering water to those who want it.

Despite their hardships, the people still seem to be largely in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s move. Their only complaint, in fact, is that demonetisation should have been planned better.

“You don’t see the rich standing in line, do you?” is the common refrain.

Firstpost broadcasted Mishra’s road trip on our live blog and our Facebook page. It is now releasing the videos in the form of a series of documentary shorts.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 20:17 IST

Congress alleges Twitter hacking part of ‘predetermined conspiracy’ to curtail free speech

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress on Thursday dubbed as “predetermined conspiracy” and systematic attack on free speech and right to disagree the hacking of its Twitter account and of Rahul Gandhi and raised questions on the safety of the entire digital payment network as also of privacy.”Every right thinking Indian is shocked by such despotic and vulgar attempts, which reflect the extremities of a growing intolerant culture around us that resorts to abuse and insult every time it lacks answers to the questioned raised by those who disagree with their point of view,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a statement. He said, “It is a systematic attack on free speech and right to disagree in our country.”He also put out a tweet saying “24 hours after hacking of @OfficeOfRG & @INCIndia, Twitter accounts of other Congress leaders being targeted with impunity as Modi Govt looks on.” Noting that time has come for the government to ponder over susceptibility of entire digital financial platforms, the Congress leader raised questions over the safety and security of all electronic transactions and digital financial data.
ALSO READ Is this real truth of digital India? Congress questions Modi after account hack “Time has come for Modi government, which speaks of cashless economy, to ponder over these important imponderables that have exposed the susceptibility of the entire digital financial platforms. We sincerely hope that Modi government will provide the relevant answers to people of India,”he said. Surjewala also asked if conversational platforms like Twitter can be hacked so “unabashedly” by hackers, what is the safety of entire digital payment network? “Does it not prove the inherent cyber security risks that exist for all electronic transactions and payment gateways?” he wondered.The Congress leader said within seconds, an entire “licenced army of trolls retweeted and reposted the hateful and reprehensible comments and statements of the hackers indicating that they were acting in concert and collusion in pursuance of a predetermined conspiracy”. He said the “brazen hacking attempts” also raise serious questions on the digital safety and privacy of millions of Indians using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, as not only conversational platforms but also for exchange of ideas and dissemination of information. He said the truth is that every Indian’s privacy is similarly under attack and the onus lies upon the Modi government to do suitable course correction for protecting privacy of everyone who is on social media.On the complaint filed by Congress, Surjewala said the party sincerely hope that the government will move expeditiously to not only probe and punish the guilty but will also revisit the issue of digital safety. He also said extreme elements have attacked the Congress ideology over last 132 years in different manifestations, both by spoken words and physical violence. “Congress has always dealt with such hatred and animosity with Gandhian compassion and tolerance. Truth is that totalitarian and authoritarian ideas are an anathema to India’s inclusive democracy,” he said.

From Vicco ads to crying babies: 5 other issues SC needs to tackle in theatres after national anthem

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>We ought to be thankful that we live in a country where the apex court of the land is always at hand to hand out important judgements that affect citizens. Despite a shortage of judges, which has led to a passive-aggressive ‘don’t cross the Lakshman Rekha fight with the Centre’, an SC bench was at hand to hand out a landmark judgement ordering all theatres to screen the national anthem before films. The SC bench also added that all present must ‘stand up in respect’ till it ended. They felt that the practice would ‘instil a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.’ There was also a purely existential moment when Justice Mishra remarked: “People must feel this is my country. This is my motherland… Arrey, who are you? You are an Indian first. In other countries, you respect their restrictions. In India, you do not want any restrictions?”Now as grateful as one is to the SC for being the cheerleader for pre-screening nationalism, one must hope that SC will also take cognizance of the other atrocities that take place in an Indian movie theatre, even the ones they call multiplexes. Here are some of them:Exorbitant ticket prices and cost of snacks How can we call ourselves a democracy when a Sidharth Malhotra film like Baar Baar Dekho can set an individual back by Rs 400? Isn’t it enough that one has suspended all disbelief and acknowledged that Sid is a genius mathematician? Surely, this isn’t why the Army is defending the nation at the border?And while we’re at can anyone explain how a tub of popcorn, even with a smidgen of cheese and caramel on it costs Rs 300. No economist worth his salt (which barely exists in the popcorn tub) has ever been able to explain the exorbitant price, and one must conclude that the only reason for this is that all theatres are money-laundering fronts. Vicco Turmeric cream ads While we’re on the subject of pre-movie videos, perhaps we need to talk about the other videos that are thrust upon us before the main event starts. They usually consist of insurance ads, smoking cautions and a Vicco turmeric spot which haven’t changed since Independence. Honestly, how is Vicco turmeric still a thing in 2016? Phone overuse during show times And that brings us perhaps to the most heinous type of filmgoer around – the phone-user. The esteemed court must have noticed that cell phones are now more ubiquitous than toilets, and the average human is unable to go 30 seconds without checking his phone. While understandable, none of this excuses the constant interruptions and the SC must figure out a way that a patriotic movie-goer’s experience isn’t ruined by these modern contraptions.Nepotism in BollywoodNow this isn’t a purely theatre-based problem, but since the judiciary has a deep understanding of the nepotism problem, perhaps they can help us with the end product that is vitiating our movie-going experience. How many times must we endure Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra, simply because they were born in the wrong family? How many years do we give Varun Dhawan before he does an Alia, and can show a semblance of acting skills? Now before some smart-aleck reader points out that I’ve the choice, to not go to watch them, the SC order has made it clear, that in the theatre, a man’s gotta do, exactly what a man’s gotta do.People making out and crying babies And the last point of contention is reserves for those unruly elements who feel that just because they’ve shelved out the money, they can do anything in a theatre. Surely, there’s someone who can put an end to this tonsil hockey game. And while they’re at it, might they also consider the case of individuals who like to show off they’ve had coital relationships by bringing their new-borns to movie theatres.Now one barely agrees with social media enthusiast and US President-elect Donald Trump, but there’s a time and place for babies, and a rally, just like a movie theatre is not one of them. One is extremely hopeful that the country’s judiciary will take my complaints as seriously as they did Shyam Narayan Chouskey’s complaint who got the ball rolling in 2001 when he complained that audiences didn’t stand up when the national anthem played during Karan Johar’s Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham! Bharat Mata Ki Jai. Jana Gana Mana… (hope you’re standing).

Demonetisation: Why the cash crunch may not end anytime soon

“For us, 33000 ATMs are currently dispensing cash. More will come up as day proceeds. You need to talk to RBI (Sic),” said SBI chairman, Arundhati Bhattacharya on Wednesday, when asked how long the cash-shortage will last in ATMs and how well the banking system is ready to face the week when salaries get credited to employee accounts and people rush to ATMs/ branches to draw money.

A file image of people standing at an ATM queue. ReutersA file image of people standing at an ATM queue. Reuters

A file image of people standing at an ATM queue. Reuters

Presently, SBI has about 49,000 ATMs. If 33,000 ATMs are dispensing money, that means about 67 percent of the ATMs of the country’s largest lender (by assets) are dispensing money. Let’s assume that rest of the banks too have managed to fill in cash in at least 50-60 percent of their teller machines. Things must have improved. But, then you can’t fool your eyes. A good number of the 2 lakh ATMs in the banking system continue to remain cash-starved even after three weeks of demonetisation announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and there are still stories of pain in daily lives.

Even after 21 days, there are still no visible signs of pain easing significantly, especially in rural areas if one goes by reports (read here, here, here and here)

The problem of Rs 500 notes

Both the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government have been assuring the public that there is enough cash in the banking system and there is no need to panic. Then why do we still see continuing cash shortage on the ground?

The reason is simple. There isn’t enough lower denomination notes (Rs 500 and below) to go around. The government mints have been aggressively printing Rs 2,000 notes, whereas the printing of Rs 500 notes, which is more handy to the common man for daily transactions, is a scarce item. Bhattacharya too attributed to the continuing cash crunch to the shortage of Rs 500 notes.

“The current availability is more of higher denomination notes. People want lower denomination notes, especially Rs 500. It takes time to change printing queues. Initially printing was concentrated on Rs 2,000 so as to provide bulk,” Bhattacharya said.

How long more should it take before banking system gets enough Rs 500 notes? “Talk to RBI,” Bhattacharya replied. The RBI has not provided any details about the printing of Rs 500 notes. A detailed questionnaire sent to the spokesperson of the central bank on the details of cash shortage remained answered till the time of writing this copy.

The 50-day promise

On 13 November, PM Modi had sought 50 days from the public to tide over the hardships post the demonetisation. But, can the PM keep his promise? At this stage, it looks doubtful. Most bankers, economists and financial sector experts said that the cash crunch could last at least until March (three more months beyond what the PM sought) for things to return to normal. A recent report in the Quint, says that the printing of the new Rs 500 note has come to a near-halt at the government’s Nashik and Dewas mints.

The report, which quoted RBI sources, attributes a series of errors on the new Rs 500 notes and the low printing capacity of Nashik and Dewas presses as the reason that promoted the RBI and the government to call off printing of Rs 500 notes. Firstpost hasn’t verified this information independently. But, if indeed this report is true, we are looking at even more delay for the Rs 500 notes coming in sufficient numbers to the rescue of common man. But one need to wait and watch how the scenario unfolds.

“The situation is pretty bad. It shall take 5-6 six months before we reach normalcy,” former RBI deputy governor KC Chakrabarty told Firstpost.

Indeed, the government’s hurry to print the stock of Rs 500 notes and the lack of preparedness while doing so was evident when two versions of Rs 500 notes appeared in the public. There were printing errors on certain features like the shadow of Mahatma Gandhi’s picture, placement of the national emblem, colour shade and border size. This shows noting but lack of preparedness by the central bank as far as Rs 500 notes are concerned.

Salary rush and hoarding

In the coming days, the scenario could turn even tougher for banks given that salaries will get credited to employee accounts and to draw this money, there could be long queues before ATMs and bank branches.

Evidently, there isn’t enough lower denomination notes to go around, which means some of the state governments will find it tough to give salaries. One example is Kerala government, which has already written to the RBI citing the lack of availability of currency to give salaries. The state has sought about Rs 1,200 crore worth notes to give salaries and pensions from the RBI, according to reports in local newspapers.

What will likely add to the pain is the hoarding tendency of people till the time cash withdrawal limits stay. As of now, there is a weekly withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000 at branches and Rs 2,500 daily limits at ATMs. Even Jan Dhan account withdrawals have been capped at Rs 10,000 a month, as a temporary measure. All this would mean that the public who draw cash at ATMs and bank branches would be hesitant to spend it except for basic necessities. When the speed of the circulation of the money is slow, that will add to an artificial cash shortage. That is even the money printed out of mints wouldn’t return to the system fast.

This, in other words means, banks will struggle to fill up their ATMs and permit higher withdrawals. Even now, most banks are seeking the KYC details of their own customers who come to the counter to withdraw money, to ensure the person is the account holder and the need is genuine. But, beyond a point, banker at the counter cannot keep doing this. Until the government presses churn out sufficient number of cash units into the system, the RBI would not be in a position to remove withdrawal restrictions for public. More withdrawal restrictions, such the current one on Jan Dhan accounts, signal danger to the common man and tell him the problem persists and he needs to be cautious with the cash in hand.

For now, the most optimistic assessments show the cash situation to turn normal only by March at the earliest, that is if the four government printing presses work in full capacity in three shifts. Until the time Rs 500 notes are available in plenty, there is an issue. The Rs 2,000 notes repel the average user as there is no change out there. One should hope that the RBI and the government prove these predictions wrong.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 13:59 IST

Demonetisation: Cash crunch unlikely to end soon; PM Modi’s 50-day promise may fail

“For us, 33000 ATMs are currently dispensing cash. More will come up as day proceeds. You need to talk to RBI (Sic),” said SBI chairman, Arundhati Bhattacharya on Wednesday, when asked how long the cash-shortage will last in ATMs and how well the banking system is ready to face the week when salaries get credited to employee accounts and people rush to ATMs/ branches to draw money.

A file image of people standing at an ATM queue. ReutersA file image of people standing at an ATM queue. Reuters

A file image of people standing at an ATM queue. Reuters

Presently, SBI has about 49,000 ATMs. If 33,000 ATMs are dispensing money, that means about 67 percent of the ATMs of the country’s largest lender (by assets) are dispensing money. Let’s assume that rest of the banks too have managed to fill in cash in at least 50-60 percent of their teller machines. Things must have improved. But, then you can’t fool your eyes. A good number of the 2 lakh ATMs in the banking system continue to remain cash-starved even after three weeks of demonetisation announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and there are still stories of pain in daily lives.

Even after 21 days, there are still no visible signs of pain easing significantly, especially in rural areas if one goes by reports (read here, here, here and here)

The problem of Rs 500 notes

Both the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government have been assuring the public that there is enough cash in the banking system and there is no need to panic. Then why do we still see continuing cash shortage on the ground?

The reason is simple. There isn’t enough lower denomination notes (Rs 500 and below) to go around. The government mints have been aggressively printing Rs 2,000 notes, whereas the printing of Rs 500 notes, which is more handy to the common man for daily transactions, is a scarce item. Bhattacharya too attributed to the continuing cash crunch to the shortage of Rs 500 notes.

“The current availability is more of higher denomination notes. People want lower denomination notes, especially Rs 500. It takes time to change printing queues. Initially printing was concentrated on Rs 2,000 so as to provide bulk,” Bhattacharya said.

How long more should it take before banking system gets enough Rs 500 notes? “Talk to RBI,” Bhattacharya replied. The RBI has not provided any details about the printing of Rs 500 notes. A detailed questionnaire sent to the spokesperson of the central bank on the details of cash shortage remained answered till the time of writing this copy.

The 50-day promise

On 13 November, PM Modi had sought 50 days from the public to tide over the hardships post the demonetisation. But, can the PM keep his promise? At this stage, it looks doubtful. Most bankers, economists and financial sector experts said that the cash crunch could last at least until March (three more months beyond what the PM sought) for things to return to normal. A recent report in the Quint, says that the printing of the new Rs 500 note has come to a near-halt at the government’s Nashik and Dewas mints.

The report, which quoted RBI sources, attributes a series of errors on the new Rs 500 notes and the low printing capacity of Nashik and Dewas presses as the reason that promoted the RBI and the government to call off printing of Rs 500 notes. Firstpost hasn’t verified this information independently. But, if indeed this report is true, we are looking at even more delay for the Rs 500 notes coming in sufficient numbers to the rescue of common man. But one need to wait and watch how the scenario unfolds.

“The situation is pretty bad. It shall take 5-6 six months before we reach normalcy,” former RBI deputy governor KC Chakrabarty told Firstpost.

Indeed, the government’s hurry to print the stock of Rs 500 notes and the lack of preparedness while doing so was evident when two versions of Rs 500 notes appeared in the public. There were printing errors on certain features like the shadow of Mahatma Gandhi’s picture, placement of the national emblem, colour shade and border size. This shows noting but lack of preparedness by the central bank as far as Rs 500 notes are concerned.

Salary rush and hoarding

In the coming days, the scenario could turn even tougher for banks given that salaries will get credited to employee accounts and to draw this money, there could be long queues before ATMs and bank branches.

Evidently, there isn’t enough lower denomination notes to go around, which means some of the state governments will find it tough to give salaries. One example is Kerala government, which has already written to the RBI citing the lack of availability of currency to give salaries. The state has sought about Rs 1,200 crore worth notes to give salaries and pensions from the RBI, according to reports in local newspapers.

What will likely add to the pain is the hoarding tendency of people till the time cash withdrawal limits stay. As of now, there is a weekly withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000 at branches and Rs 2,500 daily limits at ATMs. Even Jan Dhan account withdrawals have been capped at Rs 10,000 a month, as a temporary measure. All this would mean that the public who draw cash at ATMs and bank branches would be hesitant to spend it except for basic necessities. When the speed of the circulation of the money is slow, that will add to an artificial cash shortage. That is even the money printed out of mints wouldn’t return to the system fast.

This, in other words means, banks will struggle to fill up their ATMs and permit higher withdrawals. Even now, most banks are seeking the KYC details of their own customers who come to the counter to withdraw money, to ensure the person is the account holder and the need is genuine. But, beyond a point, banker at the counter cannot keep doing this. Until the government presses churn out sufficient number of cash units into the system, the RBI would not be in a position to remove withdrawal restrictions for public. More withdrawal restrictions, such the current one on Jan Dhan accounts, signal danger to the common man and tell him the problem persists and he needs to be cautious with the cash in hand.

For now, the most optimistic assessments show the cash situation to turn normal only by March at the earliest, that is if the four government printing presses work in full capacity in three shifts. Until the time Rs 500 notes are available in plenty, there is an issue. The Rs 2,000 notes repel the average user as there is no change out there. One should hope that the RBI and the government prove these predictions wrong.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 13:59 IST

Report claims Ramdev invested in Nepal without government approval

Kathmandu: Yoga guru Ramdev has landed in a controversy in Nepal after a media report claimed that Patanjali Ayurved group invested more than Rs 150 crore in the country without official approval.

The Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act requires any foreign investor to get permission from the Investment Board Nepal or the Department of Industries before investing in Nepal. The report in Nepal’s largest selling newspaper Kantipur Daily said Ramdev failed to seek such mandatory permissions.

Ramdev. ReutersRamdev. Reuters

Ramdev. Reuters

Meanwhile, Ramdev has denied the allegations in a statement released on Monday, saying his company has not flouted any local law while conducting activities in Nepal.

The statement, signed by Ramdev, said the proposed investment from Patanjali Ayurved Limited will flow into Nepal only after completing all due legal process. According to Ramdev, Patanjali Yogapeeth of Nepal has not attracted any sort of investment from India.

“Entire investment in Patanjali Yogapeeth in Nepal has come from Upendra Mahato, a Nepalese businessman and his wife Samata. When we invest in the company in future which we plan to do, we will follow the prevalent laws of Nepal and take approval from the concerned government authorities,” reads the statement.

He said that proceeds from that company will not be distributed to the investor but “will be spent on philanthropic activities,” according to the statement. “I have devoted my entire life fighting corruption, black money and financial misappropriation, and I am committed to financial transparency. So, there is no possibility that I would be involved in any kind of illegal investment in Nepal,” Ramdev said.

Speaking at a press meet on 23 November, Ramdev had announced that he has invested Rs 150 crores in Ayurvedic factory in Nepal and is planning to further invest Rs 500 crore in the future. He had also announced to invest billions of rupees in Nepal to create 20,000 jobs in the country as by launching a new venture to produce organic medicine and other items.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari on 24 November inaugurated Ramdev’s Patanjali factory in southern Nepal’s Bara district which will produce organic medicine and other items. Minister for Agriculture Gaurishankar Chaudhary was also present on the occasion.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 14:35 IST

Nagrota attack: Strike near 16 Corps HQ shows proxy war is only just starting

The proxy war attack close to the Indian Army’s 16 Corps headquarters in the Jammu region has several lessons for us. The most obvious of these is that a lot more violence lies ahead.

Just the other day, a top officer rued the fact that the Centre still does not seem to realise the seriousness of the challenge in Jammu and Kashmir. We are already in the middle of another proxy war. The ‘surgical strikes’ did absolutely nothing to halt Pakistan’s unfolding war plans. There have been major attacks in Baramulla, Srinagar and now at Samba (again) and Nagrota (where the Corps is headquartered). Like those other attacks, this one has gone on far longer than it would have in the very worst phase (1999 to 2001) of the earlier proxy war. Three army men had been killed at Nagrota in the first five hours of the attack on Tuesday.

Army personnel take position during the encounter after militants attacked an army camp in Nagrota on the outskirts of Jammu on Tuesday morning. PTI

Army personnel take position during the encounter after militants attacked an army camp in Nagrota on the outskirts of Jammu on Tuesday morning. PTI

Such attacks will not only continue, they will get much worse — probably next summer, when we can depend on one trigger or another to cause public demonstrations in tandem with the attacks. It is a multi-pronged war, with fronts at the Line of Control and at any point where militants decide to strike.

And these attackers typically have far more sophisticated military training than most of the militants who operated in Kashmir in the early and mid-1990s.

Another thing that has become clear over the past couple of years is that this proxy war is being engaged across the Kashmir and the Jammu regions, and neighbouring districts of Punjab such as Gurdaspur and Pathankot too.

For a while a couple of years ago, Pakistan had tried hard to stoke the fires of the Khalistan movement afresh. That did not catch, but this has not deflected Pakistan from its war effort in the north.

Indeed, a very senior member of the Jammu and Kashmir government expressed what is unfolding in dire terms. Pakistan wants to turn Kashmir into ‘another Afghanistan’, he said — referring to the violence and chaos that has become commonplace in various parts of that country over the past three decades.

In this context, those who crow over the ‘return of normalcy’ in Kashmir are shameless propagandists trying to conjure a fool’s paradise.

Taking a cruise or other vacation to celebrate ‘peace’ not only highlights how little has been learnt over the years about how things unfold in Kashmir, we are witnessing deep cynicism. For, those who allowed the situation to deteriorate when it could have been controlled in the second half of July ought to be working in overdrive now to sort things out at the ground level, when they have a (probably brief) window of opportunity.

One of the factors that those who claim peace have pointed out is the change in guard in the Pakistan Army. They say it is a positive sign, having seized on a remark of the new army chief, General Javed Ashraf Bajwa, that extremism is a more serious threat to Pakistan than any threat from India.

The fact is that he is only stating the obvious.

It does not mean he intends to suspend militant operations in Kashmir. A senior Indian Army officer pointed out that the apparently less aggressive mien of Pakistan’s new army chief did not mean that the basic anti-India institutional disposition of the Pakistan Army has changed.

Analysts will get nowhere unless they focus on the fact that we are already in the middle of a  proxy war. We have been for some time now. Indeed, things have been gradually unfolding towards the strategic challenge for the past eight years.

With apologies to propagandists of various hues, one must acknowledge the unfortunate fact that the near future seems very bleak.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 12:57 IST

Opposition protest, confusion runs supreme

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amidst utter confusion, whether there is call for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ or ‘Jan Aakrosh Divas’, Opposition parties on Monday hit the streets across the country to protest against scrapping of high-value notes. While the Congress said that there is no call for a strike and call was only for protests, the Left parties enforced a 12-hour bandh in West Bengal. It was, however, not supported by the ruling Trinamool Congress which is most vocal against the note ban. Taking advantage of confusion, the ruling BJP members also hit the markets, launching ‘Jan Abhaar Divas’ – a day to express gratitude to people for ignoring strike. At many places, they offered sweets and flowers to traders, who had not closed shutters. Further Nitish Kumar’s abstention robbed the ‘nationwide protests’ its strength.The state-wide 12-hour strike called by the Left parties to protest demonetization failed to evoke much response in West Bengal. It evoked a partial response in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. In Bihar workers of RJD, Congress and Left parties disrupted train services at many places, but offices and schools registered normal attendance. In Kerala, the shutdown called by Kerala’s ruling LDF on Monday was total. The protest affected the functioning of both the Houses of Karnataka Legislature, but the state remained normal.In Delhi, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad clarified that the Opposition parties had never called for any strike, as it would have caused inconvenience to people. “We had called for Jan Akrosh Divas and not Bharat Bandh,” he said. He claimed that lakhs of angry and anguished people participated in the protests. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee threatened to demonstrate outside Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence against demonetization, vowing to dislodge him from the seat of power if the scrapping of high value currency notes is not withdrawn. “The entire country is suffering. There is no money in banks, ATMS. So far 80 people have died due to the hardships caused by demonetization. But Narendra Modi is having a sound sleep and giving lectures on taking the country towards cashless economy,” she told a rally in Kolkata.Congress party chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala told a press conference that the ruling alliance was not able to fathom the pain and anger of 125 crore. More than 20,000 beating ‘thalis’ thronged a march organised by Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken in the evening from the Mandi House to Jantar Mantar. Surjewala released a list of rules and directives on demonetization changed 105 times in the last 19 days to point out how the entire country has left the country confused.He said entire informal sector comprising of 90% of India is in deep distress. There are only 2.4 crore credit card holders and 9 crore debit card holders in and many these are held in multiples by one person. As per the RBI figures of June, 2016, there were 48 crore transactions worth Rs2293 crore through these cards. While mobile wallets have grown by 500%, after the demonetization, the amount transacted has been only Rs11,000 crore, a miniscule figure compared to the cash withdrawn, Surjiwala said.In supportNotwithstanding, the Opposition protests, Nandan Nilekani, who was head of previous UPA government’s Aadhaar project, supported the government’s ban on high-value notes. He said while the credit for creating the Aadhaar system goes to the UPA government, Dr Manmohan Singh, he was grateful to PM Modi for taking it forward. “A lot will depend on the next three months. If they accelerate digitization… long-term, it will be a very good development,” he said.

Nabha jailbreak: Punjab DGP Suresh Arora admits to lapses, conspiracy

Nabha: Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) Suresh Arora on Sunday admitted that “conspiracy, connivance and lapses” led to the Nabha jailbreak, in which two suspected Khalistani terrorists and four dreaded gangsters escaped.

“There are lapses. There is a conspiracy, as we can see. We will investigate everything. We will look into connivance (angle too),” Arora told media persons outside the maximum security jail where 10-12 armed men barged in earlier on Sunday to free the six high-profile prisoners after firing indiscriminately.

Nabha jail. PTI

Nabha jail. PTI

As jail security failed to respond to the attack, the DGP said: “We will look into why our firing was not effective.”

He said the escapees as well as those who helped them break free drove towards Haryana, about 30 km away.

“Their location is being traced,” Arora said.

The DGP said that 30-35 rounds were fired during the jail-break even as eyewitnesses claimed at least 100 rounds were fired.

“They (attackers) made the excuse that they have come to drop a prisoner. The sentry opened the gate. They were carrying small firearms. Six criminals, namely Harminder Mintoo and Kashmir Singh (both terrorists), and Gurpreet Sekhon, Vicky Gounder, Amandeep Dhotian and Neeta Deol (all gangsters) escaped,” the DGP said.

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also holds the home portfolio, tweeted: “Pak(istan) desperate to revive terror post-surgical strike. Could be behind jailbreak.”

“We will uncover the conspiracy behind terrorist-gangster Nabha jail-break at all costs,” he said in another tweet.

The jailbreak has put a question mark on security in Punjab ahead of the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference in Amritsar on 2 and 3 December, in which top leaders from various countries are expected to participate.

First Published On : Nov 27, 2016 20:57 IST

Zakir Naik denies misuse of funds by his NGO, says ban on IRF politically motivated

Mumbai: Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik on Sunday claimed that there has been no misuse of funds by his banned NGO and rejected all allegations of involvement in terror-related activities.

Remaining non-committal on returning to India, where he has been booked for hate speech and under anti-terror law UAPA, the 51-year-old televangelist, who is currently abroad, said he has repeatedly offered his cooperation to NIA.

Facing heat over charge of inspiring some of the Dhaka attackers through his speeches, he said the moment someone resorts to violence, he ceases to be Islamic and loses his support.

“It is wrong to imply that a few miscreants who joined terror groups were influenced by me. So if I was really spreading terror, wouldn’t I have made a few lakh terrorists by now? Not just a handful.

Zakir Naik. ReutersZakir Naik. Reuters

Zakir Naik. Reuters

“In a fan following of millions, there may be a handful of anti-social elements who will go astray and take up violence. But they are surely not following what I’ve told them. The moment they pick up senseless violence, they cease to be Islamic and they surely lose my support,” Naik told PTI in an e-mail interview.

Asked about the legal steps he would take to challenge the ban on his NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), he said his legal teams in Mumbai and Delhi were looking into the issue and would move the Court soon.

The Centre recently banned the IRF for five years and declared it as an unlawful association.

Naik said the ban on IRF was politically motivated.

On allegations of money laundering by IRF in the funds received from abroad, he said the Rs 47 crore in question came from his personal account in Dubai to his personal account in Mumbai in the last six plus years.

“It was duly declared by me in the returns and used for lawful activities, including giving gifts and loans to my family members. I don’t know where is the problem in that.

“IRF received about Rs 14 crore in the FCRA account over the past 15 years. Of this, about Rs 4 crore was from NRIs living abroad. Only about Rs 10 crore was received from foreign donors in the last about 15 years. All of this was duly declared to the MHA, including the amounts, the names and the addresses of the donors. So, where is the question of money laundering?” Naik asked.

Asked why was he not returning to India, Naik said he has repeatedly offered his co-operation to government agencies in their investigations but till date, no agency bothered to contact him, ask him questions, or send him any notice.

The physician-turned-preacher claimed he was invited twice before May 2014 to address IPS trainees at the National Police Academy in Hyderabad.

“Do you mean to say that this prestigious Institution invited a person who promotes terrorism to address the IPS officers?” he asked.

Naik said he was positive the NIA and other agencies, after doing thorough research for more than four months would have surely realised he was far away from promoting terrorism, but they have no choice but to give in to political pressures.

“More unfortunately, it is also indicative of the grim state of affairs existing in my beloved homeland since the Modi government took over two-and-a-half years ago,” he said.

“Till date there’s been no contact and only an FIR has been lodged against me. They (agencies) have not provided a single proof to substantiate their claims. That’s because none exist, and all that agencies are claiming are chatter and nothing else.

“What I’m doing now is the same work I’ve been doing for 25 years. Do you really think my so called “terrorist activities” would have been hidden from multiple intelligence agencies for so long?” he said.

Early this week, Naik released an open letter in which he said ban on his NGO was timed with the demonetisation move to avert resistance to action against the outfit and divert media attention, and alleged it was “an attack on Muslims, peace, democracy and justice”.

First Published On : Nov 27, 2016 19:56 IST

Demonetization to have gains in long run: Chandrababu Naidu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Demonetization problems are temporary but the gains in the long run will be fruitful, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said as he enlisted the steps taken by his government to help the people in this situation. The Andhra government has adopted several innovative ways to solve the problems of the people and become a role model state in the country in cashless transactions, he said.The steps taken by the state government include setting up of four committees to oversee cashless transactions, arrangement of 19,000 e-PoS (Point of Sales) machines involving students and self-helf women’s groups and starting a mobile application ‘AP Purse’. “The demonetization problems are temporary but the gains in the long run will be fruitful,” he said.The Chief Minister urged the people to endure the currency crisis for some more time to come and asked them to face it in a challenging spirit.To overcome the problems post scrapping of the high value currency of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, the Andhra government is planning to distribute free mobile phones to people, particularly the economically-backward classes to undertake cashless transactions, Naidu said. Naidu, who has been holding teleconferences with bankers and officials to ensure that problems of people are minimised, has announced the decision to set up four committees to oversee cashless transactions, Jan Dhan bank account and Rupay dealings and overall expenditure.The state government is also planning to start ‘AP Purse’ to provide short term, middle term and long term benefits to the people. While terming as unfortunate that the demonetization problem has prolonged, he lauded the people for having patience by being in such long queues at banks and ATMs. He asked the people to make effective use of mobile currency, online transactions and debit and credit cards and Rupay cards.He has written to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, seeking more funds of smaller denominations to the state to ease out the problems of people. The Chief Minister said the state government had received an additional Rs 2,000 crore, of which Rs 400 crore is in the denominations of Rs 100. He hoped that this would bring some relief to the people. Naidu said he had requested the Centre and RBI to send Rs 5,000 crore to the state. He suggested that out of this, at least Rs 1,000 crore should contain smaller denominations like Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 and Rs 100.He added that the state government had earmarked Rs two crore to each of the districts, which would be of great help to small businessmen to continue their business transactions non-stop.

Raveheart

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Aplace where powerful thumping bassline is accompanied by a cacophony of treble riffs, and the strange rhythmic beats that seduce your ears from underneath the apple trees is an ideal place for those seeking ‘inner peace’. This is a place which, as you go deeper into the forests, shows you the picture perfect range of snow-capped mountains in the background, and lush green flora-fauna in the surroundings. This is Himachal Pradesh—where the easy availability of the best quality charas has made it a favourite among revelers from around the world; a place chosen by some to get lost (and find themselves all over again).Not all who wander are lost“Follow the music! A brisk trek and maybe a few blocks down, you’ll start seeing these ravers—the party freaks—with their tents parked everywhere and their clothes off. They are easy to spot!”, said a local who grinned at me while conjuring the way to reach the rave haven.Many of the ‘adventure’ seekers come here to forget their worries, to get lost in nature. The North-Indian states, closely guarded by the Himalayas, provide a perfect landing spot for such escapades. Himachal Pradesh—a place bringing nature, music, drugs, and the revelers together—is slowly becoming one of the favorites. The current Indian generation is undergoing a social transitional phase. Locals in the area often join in and contribute by organizing parties that serve the psychedelic needs of the wandering souls. The cheap living standards and a favorable environment to grow and consume cannabis is an ideal location to stay and party for the adventure seekers.One such party was recently organised by a group of young locals and some members of a visiting Israeli group. Hallucinogens were easily available and the entire valley danced in a state of trance.We live in a strange world. The definition of freedom—the difference between what’s right and wrong is subtly dictated through age-old social conditioning. The wandering souls, seeking the unknown are often labeled as outsiders, rebels, mavericks or outcastes.What might be labeled as hedonistic drugs for some, many use it as mere mind expansion tools to seek the mystical; the unknown. Humans are psychologically wired to give meaning and derive explanations from the world around. The rave scenes offer a perfect setting for the mindful experiments. For many wanderers, getting lost in the labyrinths of their mind loops is the only possible way to unravel the treasured eternal truth.Imagine: three days and two nights of carefree-intense dancing to hypnotic-ground thumping music, the sun and the moon in beautiful alterations, the clouds overhead playing hide and seek, the beautiful hugs and the laughter, the surrounding pine trees, the occasional flow of rainfall and the ubiquitous drugs! The days are spent laughing at the previous night scenes, mingling with the new ‘like-headed’ friends and preparing for the next night. It is a common sight to find the party lovers at the local cafes rolling joints during the daytime. As night sets in, the entire valley ruptures into an ecstasy!Peace sells, but who’s selling?“The usage of charas—consumption and cultivation—is normal for the locals, mafias, and distributors. People want to compromise and thrive peacefully. But the police? The authorities? God! Live and let live!,” said one of the party visitor, distastefully summing up his insights about the ironical rave situations in the mountains.Some allege that organisers of such rave parties often seek permission from the district administration under the pretext of ‘cultural’ music and dance programs. The go-ahead comes with a warning to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines on noise pollution, against collecting money and drug-use. But all the rules are openly flouted when the permission is granted. In many cases, the excessive indulgence comes at a cost of harming a peaceful and balanced ecosystem. A huge pile of scattered rubble, damaged flora and fauna, and erratic sound levels are some of the common remnants of such high-octane parties.However, it solely lies in the hands of the attendees to decide the fate of any party. A sensible or mature crowd rarely indulges in obscenity, rather, they take initiatives to unify with the surrounding and contribute towards a collective evolution. Our actions define the reactions we get.Many localities blame the outsiders for the evident changes in their surroundings. The Israelis are the most blamed lot. Maybe it is their practices that differ from the mainstream Indian culture or their omnipresence in several silent mountain valleys. Some parts of scenic Himachal Pradesh are virtually turning into Jewish settlements, with a large number of Israeli tourists coming in and settling here. Signboards in Hebrew are a common sight in these areas.The beliefs have, however, always been dual sided.For a major section of the local people, such events are one of the major sources of revenue. Lack of industries or companies makes tourism one of the most reliable source of income. Many bamboo-walled establishments can be seen housing popular Israeli cafes with mattresses on the ground, clean sheets and packaged and bottled goodies. Such appealing, hippie-looking cafes have become an attraction for many Indian tourists too. Collectively, these have helped sustain an entire generation of Himachali localities, who have learned to thrive on the mass tourism earnings of a few months. An empty cafe is rare during the peak season. One of the major reasons for the ongoing backlash by the government authorities is the involvement of drugs—the craze, the allure, the abuse, the bounty and the intricate business nuances. With the recent boom in social media, an irresistible imagery about the unknown, unheard-of mountain scenes has been etched in the minds of the people, drawing more crowd, who want to experience and answer the mountains’ call.Expensive proportionEven as the police deny thier existence, allegedly, the Russian and Israeli mafia have taken over cannabis cultivation here, because of the high-quality produce in these areas. The illegal durgs from Himachal Pradesh reach Goa, from where they are smuggled to other countries around the world.The foreigners have the option to rent a piece of land for as less as $100 (Rs 6,900 approximately) and cultivate high-grade charas (hash) in large volumes. This high-quality charas is then transported to different parts of the world. A tola (10 grams) of charas in India would cost around $30 (Rs 2,100 approximately) whereas, in Amsterdam—also a dry haven for Europe—the same quantity can easily earn up to $80 (Rs 5,500 approximately). Not only are the drugs cheap, but accommodation in remote villages of these Himalayan valleys is also easy on the pocket. A basement of a villager’s house can be rented at as little as Rs 500-Rs 1,000 a month. Since the foreigners prefer such kind of accommodation, it becomes difficult for the police to track them down. Hence, such towns become the ideal locations for rave parties.Records of Israeli, Russian, Italian, Japanese and Nigerian tourists show that many of them first reach Goa and then plan their trip to Delhi, Manali, and Dharamsala. Most of the foreigners staying in these towns often arrive on a multiple-entry tourist visa which allows them to stay in India for a certain time period at a strecth. Upon expiry of the stay, the tourists travel to the neighbouring countries (preferably Nepal), spend a week or two there and re-enter India with a renewed stay period. This network of drug peddlers has ensured stringent narcotic laws and task forces to fight the never-ending war on drugs.The lureWhat would be better than experiencing the charas induced trance in a lush green forest without having to deal with the dreaded Indian summer? The cheap and high-quality cannabis continues to hold an enduring appeal for foreigners.Some would argue about an invasion of personal space and right to experience and experiment with one’s mind. The current laws are going to prevail as long as a socio-economic factor is involved in this alluring business. Elaborate chains of drug smuggle are always going to sneak up right under the nose of narcotic authorities. People are always going to find an alternative for such elusive experiences. A vicious loop indeed.As an Israeli youth sitting outside one of these cafes summed up a conversation in his coarse voice. “After all, each of the outcomes, our future, the planet’s destiny—depends on the choices WE make—on the sides WE choose!” A dense cloud of smoke from his long chillum hit, slowly clear to reveal the words ‘RAVEHEART’ imprinted across the center of his T-shirt.

Asexuals join Delhi’s Pride march

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>When the LGBTQIA hits the streets of Delhi in all their colourful finery for the ninth time in a row, there’s is a first — walking alongside them is arguably India’s only asexual community. “This is the first time that the community has come forward formally to be a part of pride,” says Rituparna Borah of the Delhi Queer Pride Committee, adding that asexual individuals have been a part of the Pride over the years informally. The lack of a cohesive organisation was the stimulus. Grace, a 28-year-old professional from Delhi, needed to form one. “I would search on the Internet and not find any community representation or organisation,” she says. In 2014, she formed a Facebook group called Indian Aces. After a brief inactive phase, she revived the page in 2015 and now has 500 members. There’s also a secret group accessible to 150 people asexuals living in the Capital.“Invisibility is one of the community’s biggest problems. Even within the LGBTQIA community, we are invisible,” says Grace. If invisibility is one problem, dismissal is another. Globally, studies have shown that 1 per cent of the world population are asexuals. It is not a surprise that there are no official estimate in India.“We are facing what the homosexual community was facing back in the day,” says Grace. A large societal pressure for Aces, one that Grace is facing from her family right now, is to get married.“If it a travesty for a homosexual to get married to a heterosexual individual, it is one for us to get married to sexually active person. We cannot live up to their sexual expectations,” she says. This need to find like-minded people to get married to led to the establishment of a dating platform called Plantonicity. “We received almost 300 responses and then halted for the season,” Grace says adding, “A website is in the pipeline.”

Seeking divine intervention amidst boardroom battle? Mistry visits Shirdi, Shani Shingnapur

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid his boardroom battle with Tata Sons, industrialist Cyrus Mistry said on Saturday “everything will be fine” as he visited the famous Saibaba and Shani Shingnapur temples to offer prayers. Accompanied by his wife, Mistry, who was ousted as Chairman of Tata Steel on Friday, arrived in Shirdi by a helicopter this morning and had ‘darshan’ of Shri Saibaba at the temple, where tight security arrangements were made in view of his visit.Mediapersons, including photographers, were not allowed near the shrine during the short visit of Mistry, who was last month ousted at the chairman of Tata Sons – the holding company of Tata Group firms. Temple spokesperson Mohan Yadav confirmed Mistry’s visit to the popular shrine dedicated to Saibaba, a 19th century saint revered by people across communities.From there, Mistry and his wife went to the renowned Shani Shingnapur Temple. The shrine, dedicated to Lord Shani, who personifies the planet Saturn in Hindu belief, is located at a short distance from Shirdi in this Western Maharashtra district.
ALSO READ Mistry ousted from Tata Steel, hits back saying ‘erosion of core Tata values damaging brand’Keeping with the tradition followed by devotees, Mistry and his wife poured oil on an idol of Lord Shani. They, however, did not go up to the ‘chabutra’, or the sanctum sanctorum, as it was closed on Saturday. When reporters asked him about the ongoing boardroom brawl over control of the Tata Group, Mistry said, “Everything thing will be fine (sab theek ho jaega).” The 50-year-old businessman was abruptly ousted on October 24 as Chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the diversified Group. He was later removed as Chairman of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

Zakir Naik’s IRF ban: SP leader Abu Azmi claims RSS-VHP creating ‘negative perception about Islam’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Backing Zakir Naik’s claim that he is being unnecessarily targeted by the Centre, Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi on Saturday said the imposition of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against the former’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) is wrong and alleged that the right wing organisations like the RSS and VHP were creating a negative perception about Islam.Azmi told ANI that a conspiracy was being hatched to link Naik’s NGO to terrorist activities.’Zakir Naik was neither given notice nor was he summoned. I reckon that a conspiracy is being created to link Zakir Naik’s foundation to terrorist activities. I have been reiterating from the beginning that Naik, who has been working for the past 25 years in this field, cannot be associated with such anti-national activities. And if he has somehow provocated any other religious community’s sentiment then there are relevant sections which can be used against him. However, imposing UAPA against him is uncalled for,’ he said.However, BJP leader G.V.L Narasimha Rao described Zaik as a ‘national threat’ and said that various government agencies were tracking his NGO for several months.’This government takes initiative only after ascertaining all facts. Zakir Naik doesn’t really have anything to support his claims. His NGO, the IRF, was under scrutiny of the government and various agencies of the government for several months. And only after a thorough inquiry and probe, decision has been taken to ban this organisation under Unlawful Activities Act,’ Rao told ANI.Naik, yesterday, criticised the Centre’s decision to declare the IRF as an ‘outlawed organisation’ under the anti-terror law for its alleged terror activities.Naik yesterday cried foul over the latest developments and said that the entire investigation was completed without any agency asking him a single question about his ‘so-called wrongdoings’.’Not a single chance. No notice, no summons, no calls and no contact ever made with me to get my side of the story. I kept offering my help in investigation, but it wasn’t taken. The entire investigation was completed without any agency asking me a single question about my so-called ‘wrongdoings’,’ read a statement issued by Naik’s office.Expressing his resolve to fight the ban, the Islamic preacher said that he would approach the judiciary.’I have no choice left but to answer them only through the legal system and not personally. Their agenda is open and clear: implicate me by hook or by crook, which I will fight,’ the statement added.Naik’s counsel Mobin Solkar said earlier this month that the case filed by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) against his client under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is illegal, as the Supreme Court had earlier granted a stay in a similar case and hence any fresh complaint on the same grounds would stand void. Solankar maintained that from 2012 till date, Naik has not given any lecture which can be a cause of action for filing a fresh FIR against him.He, however, conceded that the investigative agency is entitled to search and visit the premises of the IRF owned by Naik and the organisation would comply with all investigative processes carried out by the NIA.Earlier, the authorities blocked the websites of IRF for allegedly spreading objectionable contents, speeches and videos. As per reports, the NIA will also raise the issue of suspension of videos on YouTube and Facebook pages with the U.S. since the servers are located there. The NIA had earlier on November 19 carried out searches at 10 premises of the banned IRF in Mumbai after registering a case against its founder Naik and others under an anti-terror law.

India’s dance bar owners confident Supreme Court will end decade-long ban | Reuters

By Roli Srivastava and Suchitra Mohanty

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Owners of scores of illegal dance bars in India’s financial capital Mumbai said on Friday they were confident a ruling by the top court would finally end a decade-long ban which has left up to 75,000 bar dancers, singers and waiters without jobs.The government of Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is located, in 2005 suspended the licenses of bars and hotels where young women were employed to dance to racy Bollywood tunes for male customers, claiming they were a bad influence on society.But after several appeals over the years by dance bar owners and workers against the ban, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that bars could once again apply for licenses to the government. “Now there should be no hurdle. The court has said all new applications will be processed as per the old set of conditions the government had laid,” said Bharat Thakur, president of the Dance Bars Association, which represents 150 bars in Mumbai.Mumbai’s famous dance bars made a lucrative business before 2005. Frequented by middle class business men as well as a meeting point for the city’s mafias, the bars provided work for thousands of young poor migrant women from across India.

But local authorities, as well as some women’s rights organisations, said the thriving sector was not only corrupting moral values, but was also a front from human trafficking rings where girls and women were bought and sold into sexual slavery.Some of the bars continued to operate under police patronage for many years, but most have now gradually shut down, with bar and hotel owners and workers fighting the ban in the courts.The Supreme Court in March ordered the ban to be lifted, but the Maharashtra government disagreed, saying bars would have to comply with numerous conditions – including a prohibition on the sale of alcohol and a closing time no later than 11:30 pm.

The bar owners challenged this and in September, the top court said three bars could apply for licenses without following the new conditions. This was extended to other bars on Thursday.”We are waiting for the court order to be uploaded and then we will meet the concerned authorities for the licenses,” said Adarsh Shetty, president of the Indian Hotels and Restaurants Association.But Shekhar Naphade, lawyer for the Maharashtra government, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the court order was not final, and another hearing will take place on Jan. 11.

“Some bar owners had approached the Supreme Court seeking licenses to be provided to them on old norms. To this, the court asked them to file their respective applications and responses,” said Naphade.Police in Mumbai also said that they would treat all dance bars as illegal until they had received a directive from the Maharashtra government.”We will wait for the Supreme Court’s directions in writing and for the state government’s directive before we proceed on this matter,” said Pradeep Sawant, Deputy Commissioner of Police in Mumbai. (Reporting by Roli Srivastava in Mumbai and Suchitra Mohanty in New Delhi. Writing by Nita Bhalla, Editing by Ros Russell)

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

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 21:19 IST

Poll Results: Over 78% DNA readers don’t support Opposition’s agitation against demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>PM Modi’s decision on 8th November to scrap Rs 500, Rs 1000 notes to counter the problem of black money took the nation by surprise. The opposition parties too were initially clueless about how to react. Soon however, some of the prominent opposition parties including Congress, TMC, AAP sharpened the rhetoric against PM Modi’s demonetization scheme. While some opposed the concept of demonetization, others alleged that the decision was leaked to prominent businessmen beforehand and is akin to economic emergency. We asked our readers: Do you support the Opposition’s agitation against demonetization? The result given below provides some clues to prevailing mood among the urban class regarding demonetization. The opposition have called for a Bharat Bandh on November 28 to protest the decision. Rahul Gandhi describing it as the world’s “biggest impromptu financial experiment” has asked for a JPC to probe the scam. Mamata Banerjee has asked the PM to apologise to the nation for demonetization. She was quoted as saying, “I can challenge that no one will vote for BJP. If I were you (PM), I would have apologised to the public. Why you are so egoistic? You have branded everyone in the country a black marketeer and have yourself turned into a saint.” Kejriwal too have amped up the rhetoric trying to highlight the plight of the poor people. Hpwever, surveys seem to suggest that the opposition may be missing out a trick in this issue. A C-Voter survey found that 80-86% support PM Modi’s war on black money and believe that the inconvenience caused by the demonetization is worth the effort of combating black money.DNA poll on demonetization asking readers if they supported the Opponent’s agitation found an overwhelmingly positive response for PM Modi’s move. 78.39% said that they did not support the Opposition’s agitation against demonetization. Meanwhile, 13.7% support the Opposition’s agitation and 7.68% said that while they didn’t support the agitation, they believe that the implementation was faulty.Data split 79% of our respondent were from India. 8% residing in USA also took part in the poll. In India, respondents were from major metros like Bengaluru, Mumbai, New Delhi. 31% of the voters were in the age group 25-34. 24% from 35-44 and 13% of the respondents were above 65. Here are some selected comments from our readers:RaviImplementation faulty? I have nothing to do with BJP or government, but common sense do you expect operation of this scale to be perfect with no trouble to anyone? Is this even feasible? Think a bit my dear.Dr Arpit BrijwasiSorry By mistake i vote Yes. I apologize.????????????Venkat Instead of demonetization Mr. Modi can take steps to get back the non-payable bank loan of Rs. 8 Lakhs crore in total,he can move steps to bring back black money from swis banks which is his election promise .Demonetization does not going to bring dramatical change as he think for which people paying.Ashok JainThis is an excellent move. People at large are very happy and ready to face some difficulty. As far as queues are concerned, our generation was habitual of this. We spend hours in kerosene line, ration line, Vanaspati Ghee line and many more. Waiting period for telephone was 10 years, for two-wheeler also it was the same position. In a nutshell, public has no problem. Problem is being faced by only two category politicians and corrupt Government employees. They do not know what to do with this money. When on TV channel these people say that only 6% black money is cash by giving the reference of IT raids conducted. But major black money is with the corrupt Govt people and in the form of cash, gold, jewels and benami properties.UmeshIn my view opposition shall support the move in larger perspective and set an example like Nitish is doing.Jaya Support this initiative but the dependencies could have been managed well to avoid this painful inconvenience to common people. This black money surgical has to continue in other illegal incomes …(Gold , Immovable properties, accounts in foreign countries)JaganIt is now or never. Every day you don’t get a bold and well meaning PM. After the support and success of this operation he will definitely hop full length and extract the black money in all its ugly forms. Evidently he had already set in motion the Road Roller to crush all those bad elements cornering the legitimate wealth of the nation by illegal means. The necessary legislation is already in place. They shall smell their own sh… Jai bharat Jai Hind.With inputs from agencies

Ban on IRF is an attack on Indian Muslims, peace, democracy and justice: Zakir Naik

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Terming the five-year ban on Islamic Research Foundation as an attack on “Muslims, peace, democracy and justice,” controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik on Friday said the ban was timed with the “demonetisation fiasco” to avert resistance and divert media attention.The central government has recently banned the IRF and declared it as a terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for five years. In an open letter, Naik, 51, who is abroad, said he will pursue all legal options to get the ban repealed and that the judiciary will fail the Modi government in its ‘plans’. Naik has been booked along with unnamed IRF officials under section 153-A of IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) beside various sections of UAPA.”Before investigations were done, even before reports submitted, the ban was already decided. IRF was to be banned. Whether it was owing to my religion or some other reason, does not matter. What now matters is that my work of 25 years completely lawful work has been banned. And that is the most unfortunate thing for this country,” Naik said in his letter. “From the government’s point of view, the timing itself could not have been better. The decision to ban IRF was taken in the middle of the demonetisation fiasco, as the country reeled under the self-imposed cash crunch. I won’t be surprised if this ban was meant to distract media from what was going on in the country. For the public that is starved for cash, for trade and basic amenities, one cannot expect much of resistance,” he stated.Talking about UAPA, Naik said, “The law does not seem to apply to the likes of Rajeshwar Singh, Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Prachi who continue to make inflammatory speeches aimed at inciting communal hatred for mere political mileage.” “Leave aside legal action, the government has neither condemned their actions nor reprimanded them. Is this draconian law mainly meant for Muslims? Does the UAPA now exist mainly to silence minority groups?” Naik asked.”Let us not be gullible to think this was just an attack on me. It is an attack on whom I represent, the Indian Muslims. It is an attack on peace, democracy and justice. I will pursue all legal options to repeal this ban,” the IRF founder said.Criticising the five-year ban on IRF, Naik said: “This must be the most unique ban to be applied in the history of India, because not a single time was I questioned or given a chance to explain. Not a single chance. No notice, no summons, no calls and no contact ever made with me to get my side of the story. I kept offering my help in investigation but it wasn’t taken.” He said his participation in the investigation process would have cleared up the air and exonerated him.Naik said if the bank account of Islamic International School, run by IRF, is frozen it will not be able to meet its daily expenses and future of hundreds of school children will be in jeopardy. He also said he has complete faith in the judiciary and the government will fail in its “plans”. “The country’s democratic fabric is under attack. People’s lives are being played with. Governments are misusing their authority on people they’re supposed to protect. This needs to change,” Naik said.Notably, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had yesterday asked three banks to freeze 25 accounts of Naik, his family members and IRF. In addition to it, NIA has handed over a list of over 12 people including Naik, his family members, close friends and organisations, to all 72 scheduled commercial banks to check whether these people had any account in these financial institutions.The NIA has also written to Union Home Ministry for banning the website run by the IRF and as well as suspending its online activities which includes videos of speeches on social networking sites, sources had earlier said, adding that the request will be forwarded to Information Technology ministry.

Note ban: Steps to boost spending needed on urgent basis, waiting till budget may prove futile

Demonetisation is not just causing hardships for the common man it is also shifting the focus of the economic policy maker from the future to the near term. Finance Ministry officials are reacting almost every day to address the demonetisation challenges. In the process, they may be losing the plot on economy front.

As I had pointed out on 20 November column it is the RBI that should be responding to these issues. While the RBI governor continue to be unavailable to address concerns of not just the citizens but also investors, mandarins at finance ministry continue to douse daily fires. The challenge will get tougher by the day for that the financial budget is scheduled on 1 February, 2017. The Budget date has also been advanced as the country is trying to synchronise financial year with the calendar year.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The challenge is that in the short-term demonetisation is likely to have an impact on spending, trade, tourism, logistics, real estate. This needs to be addressed immediately and the government shouldn’t wait till budget to fix the problem. Technically the process of demonetisation is expected to get over by 31 December this year. The impact of it on some sectors like real estate, gold and tourism will continue in the January-March quarter as well. Therefore, at the least two crucial quarters of the year will surely get adversely affected by demonetisation if necessary steps are not taken immediately.

Some short-term measures have to be announced to accelerate spending and boost the sectors that have witnessed irreparable damage. These measures can’t wait till the budget as any delay will lead to further damage. For instance, secondary market deals in the real estate sector have crashed in last fortnight, especially after the demonetisation move. The unorgainsed segment of the sector will be hit hard as experts believe the sector generates black money vitually in every transaction. The black component in old currency notes has led to the collapse of transactions. It may recover but the impact on real estate prices is real, which is good by itself as it makes housing affordable. But deals may still not happen due to high circle rates. As the prices come down circle rates have to adjust downwards for these deals to happen. This is something only the state government can do if it wants to bring back the liquidity in the real estate market.

The central government can tinker at the most with some FDI norms. What it can do is provide for a higher income tax exemption on home loan payment to push the retail market to borrow and buy homes. But this subsidy can only come in the budget, or can it be announced now and made actionable in the budget. Such steps will help in bringing back the momentum in growth that has been lost due to poor implementation of demonetisation. As an announcement has the ability to boost sentiment.

Informal, unorganised or the MSME sector, which is the largest employer in the country, too, has been hit by demonetisation. The impact on their business has been due to the loss of liquidity or squeeze in spending in the supply chain, which means the issue is more complex for a single step that could help it directly. Consumer behavior after demonetisation indicates that people have curtailed discretionary spending to save cash. This is a serious issue because the huge of black money in the sytem in the past majorly contributed towrards the high item sales. High value items that used to be bought with unaccounted money has also vanished. To replace unaccounted money spend and discretionary spend, the government will have to take measures in the short term and not leave it till the budget.

This is one more reason for the mandarin to step out of the line of fire on demonetisation and focus on these immediate short-term measures. It is one reason too many for the RBI Governor to start responding to implementation issues. The former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh criticised the government on implementation but also polarised the issue with his statement on plunder and legalised loot. His estimate of a drop of 2 percent in GDP also seems to be strange, especially, without any explanation on how he arrived at this magic figure.

But the impact of demonetisation on the economy is real in the short term as I have pointed in the past. Therefore, it is important that officials think of some immediate steps. Any delay because of being mired in solving implementation failures is going to have a much bigger impact on the real economy.

The writer is a policy commentator based in New Delhi. He tweets @yatishrajawat

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 17:12 IST

LGBTQ: ‘Straight’ forward voices of Generation Z

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two years ago, Article 377, which prohibits all same sex activity, or so called ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature,’ caused an uproar in the country. According to the section, same-sex activity is punishable by either life imprisonment or a 10 year imprisonment for less severe offenses.I feel Article 377 is unfair, because everyone deserves a chance to be who they are without being afraid of being jailed. Being homosexual is as normal as being heterosexual, and I think India should also work towards making it legal, and provide them with the protection they need.—Anushka Shah, 18, MumbaiI know I may sound very archaic, but I believe that homosexuality is against the order of nature, and makes people more prone to diseases such as HIV. I don’t necessarily have a problem with homosexuals, and I don’t think they should have such a severe consequence, but I don’t completely agree with the idea either.—Sharan Damodaran, 18, CochinIt is completely okay to belong to the LGBTQ community. I am actually quite disappointed that India has progressed in so many ways, but hasn’t opened itself up to abolishing this article yet. It is sad that transgenders are still considered ‘hijdas’ who walk around the road begging, but cannot just be considered human. I think Indians should really change this mindset and accept that there are gender preferences outside ‘only male’ and ‘only female’.—Aarti Khanna, DelhiThe LGBTQ issue in India is a controversial one, but for the most part I don’t agree with the article. I think it’s bizarre that they concentrate so much on homosexuals, because at the end of the day, they are two adults consenting to be in a relationship. It doesn’t really affect anyone else at all, and so I think they shouldn’t be penalized.—Rhea Chavda, 19, AhmedabadI don’t think Article 377 is fair, and people shouldn’t be imprisoned for being LGBT, but I don’t exactly agree with the idea of homosexuality. I don’t think it’s natural and it does increase the amount of sexually transmitted diseases. It does not fit in with the human anatomy, and I don’t advocate it.—Ikram Nagani, 18, PuneTo be honest, the LGBT community has fought long and hard, and after all this time, it is embarrassing that they still don’t have rights like the rest of us. I cannot understand India’s prejudice against them, because they are accepted in so many other countries. Why not here? We need to be more open.—Alizeh Mehta, 14, MumbaiI am actually quite indifferent to the concept of LGBT, but I feel people should be able to do exactly as they please. We can’t really call India a forward-thinking, free country until we can accept everyone under the umbrella of secularism. I don’t personally have any views on the community, but I just think that they shouldn’t be harmed or hindered in any way because of their sexual orientation, and this applies to all other minorities as well.—Joshua John, 17, MaduraiI think that the LGBTQ community deserve their own rights. There is no reason to be ‘homophobic’, because at the end of the day, we’re all just human. India is a developing country, and we need to be more open to newer values and change, and I think embracing the LGBTQ community is a big step in doing so.—Ananya Tuli, 19, MumbaiIndians should definitely have a broader perspective when it comes to the LGBTQ community, because we are still stuck with our orthodox mentality. If India really wants to become a superpower as our presidents and prime ministers want, we need to change our mindset.—Ravleen Kaur, 19, IndoreI am very supportive of the LGBT community, and I feel very sad that they have to fight so much for the same rights that the rest of us have. I have LGBT friends and I think at the end of the day, they are just as human as me. India really needs to give some attention to these matters, rather than only concentrating on monetary problems. The happiness of the citizens is also extremely important.—Thea Mehta, 19, Mumbai