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

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

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

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

Modi speech: Here is a list of all schemes announced by the PM

Modi speech: Here is a list of all schemes announced by the PM

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New Delhi – Following is the list of sops that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced during his speech on the eve of the New Year.

1) For the poor: Two new schemes under PM Awaas Yojna. Home loans for poor and middle class people up to Rs 9 lakh will get 4 percent exemption on interest and 3 percent for up to Rs 12 lakh loans.

Prime minister Narendra Modi. File photoPrime minister Narendra Modi. File photo

Prime minister Narendra Modi. File photo

2) For farmers: Sixty days interest waiver for farm loans taken from from district co-operative banks and co-operative societies.

3) For senior citizens: 8 percent interest up to Rs 7.5 lakh deposit by senior citizens in banks.

4) For small businesses: Credit guarantee for micro small and medium enterprises to be raised to Rs 2 crore from current Rs 1 crore.

5) For women: Pregnant women across India will be given Rs 6,000 in their bank accounts to take care of initial medical needs.

6) For farmers: The government will convert 3 crore Kisan Credit cards to RUpay Credit cards.

7) For small businesses: Banks have been asked to raise cash credit limit for small businesses to 25 percent from 20 percent.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 21:05 IST

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

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

Amid demonetization row, Rahul Gandhi leaves country to celebrate New Year

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to various media reports, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has reportedly left the country to celebrate New Year in London. The Congress VP tweeted: “I will be traveling for the next few days. Happy New Year to everyone, wishing you and your loved ones success & happiness in this coming year.”Rahul Gandhi has been in the thick of the action in recent times, as he has criticised PM Modi for the demonetization move and also alleged that he had information of PM Modi’s personal corruption.Recently, Rahul Gandhi targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi by posing five questions including the amount of black money recovered since November 8 and the number of jobs lost due to the dramatic decision. The Congress vice president took to Twitter asking the Prime Minister as to whom had he consulted before taking the decision and wondered as to why were “experts, economists and RBI not consulted”.His questions have come a day ahead of the Prime Minister’s address to the nation. Rahul sought to know as to who all deposited more than Rs 25 lakhs in bank accounts in six months preceding November 8 note ban decision.”With 50 days over since demonetisation, India is waiting for your answers to these five questions, Modiji. Amount of black money recovered after 8 November 2016? Economic loss to the nation and numbers of jobs lost? How many people died due to demonetisation? Has the compensation been paid? “Whom all did PM consult on demonetisation? Why were experts, economists, RBI not consulted? Who all deposited more than (Rs) 25 lakhs in bank accounts in six months preceding 8th November 2016?”

On his last day as Army Chief, Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag pays tribute to martyrs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>General Dalbir Singh paid tribute at Amar Jawan Jyoti on his last day as Army Chief on Saturday. He will be replaced by Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat as new army chief.General Singh inspected the guard of honour on his last day as Army Chief. “I salute our martyrs who made supreme sacrifices in upholding honour of the nation,” he said. He also thanked the Centre for granting One Rank One Pension to the armed forces.He also thanked PM Narendra Modi and the Centre “for their full support and giving free hand in conduct of operations”. Gen Dalbir Singh praised the Indian Army saying ,”Indian army delievered that in the last 2 and a half years. Indian Army is fully prepared and well trained to tackle any challenges be it external or internal. I strongly believe that actions must speak louder than words.” “In 2012, we had killed 67 terrorists, 65 in 2013 & killed 141 terrorists alone in J&K this year,” said General Dalbir Singh on his last day as the Army Chief. (With ANI/PTI inputs)Lt Gen Bipin Rawat’s appointment as the new Army Chief had created a controversy as it superseding seniors Lt Gen Bakshi and Southern Army commander Lt Gen PM Hariz. It had also sparked a fierce political row between a section of the Opposition and the government.

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

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

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

PTI file photoPTI file photo

PTI file photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newsroom diaries 2016: Marathwada, elections, Olympics, demonetisation and how we covered them

This past week Facebook has resounded with plangent laments about the year that will not end.

Most timelines are lengthy dirges punctuated with cries of cashlessness, Aleppolessness, musiclessness and Baracklessness. Annus horribilis is the Latinate of choice.

There hasn’t been a better year for journalism in recent history. The sordidness of 2016 has presented our estate with sufficient opportunities to peel open and consider the human condition. It has allowed us to recount such stories that newsmen and women don’t often get to tell. This is especially true for a band of journalists relaying reports, opinion and analysis from a newsroom freed of the constraints that tie down a print publication — no curbs on article length, supporting media, revisions and improvements, narrative possibilities, and so on.

Firstpost is one such outfit.

The Firstpost newsroomThe Firstpost newsroom

The Firstpost newsroom

Four stories we’ve reported in the past year should serve to showcase the breadth of material (and digital reporting opportunities) 2016 has provided the Firstpost newsroom.

The first came early when a visiting former chief minister of Maharashtra told us of the seriousness of drought conditions in Marathwada. We dispatched three writers to the region, each equipped with a small camera — none had used one in the course of reporting — to record the extent of damage. The series that resulted from their month-long journey, encrusted as it was with rich media, helped set the general course of debate on state intervention and the failure of successive governments in instituting any lasting solutions to address water scarcity in Marathwada.

In preparing for elections held to elect members to five state Assemblies, in May, we resolved to replicate a television newsroom online; in-studio political analysts, an anchor, multiple video and audio feeds from the five states, data visualisation, combined with on-ground reportage, gathered by writers applying — many of them for the first time — the fundamental tenets of print journalism to digital storytelling methods.

Soon after, the sports desk — frugally peopled — came up against the Rio Olympics, which afforded them the chance to run one of the lengthiest live blogs Firstpost has operated thus far, spanning 16 days, book-ended by the two ceremonies at the Maracana Stadium.

The fourth story is a biphonic texture of two stories that occurred almost simultaneously, over the course of 24 hours, beginning 8 November: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise announcement that 86 percent of currency in circulation would be rendered invalid in 50 days‘ time, and an election in the US that advanced the likelihood of an orange-haired real estate huckster with tenuous grasp of policy occupying the Oval Room.

Both offered Firstpost the occasion to set off a lengthy, live, accretive discourse drawn from analysis that combined text, video and audio; we hadn’t embedded such a large volume of fragmentary opinion pieces in live blogs until then. The election allowed us to build on what we’d learnt in May — we ran an eight-hour broadcast on the website, with commentators weighing in live from Toronto, New Orleans, New York, Delhi, Dubai and Mumbai.

And from all accounts, those last two stories have yet to coil themselves to a close.

The fading days of 2016 could well serve as prologue for the year before us.

A newsroom is made not by the technology or resources at its disposal, but by those who inhabit it. For a more personalised view on the experiences of various members of the Firstpost newsroom while covering specific stories, check out the following accounts:

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 08:51 IST

Demonetisation was single biggest case of total mismanagement, says Chidambaram

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

P Chidambaram. PTIP Chidambaram. PTI

P Chidambaram. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demonetization broke the myth that powerful can’t be harmed: Shivraj Singh Chouhan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Terming the demonetization decision as “historic,” Madhya Pradesh CM, Shivraj Singh Chouhan said Prime Minister, Narendra Modi with his “courageous” call broke the myth that powerful people can’t be harmed in the country.”India witnessed a historic decision on November 8, 2016. This day has given a meaningful reply to the queries raised by the people at large on the style of functioning of governments. “Often allegations are levelled against the governments that they can not take tough decisions under pressure. They fear to take decisions that could harm powerful people,” Chouhan said in his blog on the issue on Thursday evening.”Our PM has broken the myth with his courageous decision to demonetize Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes,” he said. “The decision of demonetization is historic in a way that it surprised everyone and this is the distinct feature of it. India has seen decision of demonetization twice in the history of 100 years but those decisions gave ample time to the people having black money in the form of currency to change it.”Thus the main objective of the decision was partially met. This time, however the decision did not give any time to people with black money,” the Chief Minister said. Those criticising the decision say that it could have been taken with better planning and people should have been given ample time. It is beyond my comprehension as to whom these critics are referring to when they talk of giving time to people, he wrote in the blog.”Who are those about whom critics say time should have been given to them. It is obvious that they are favouring those who had black money in the form of currency,” Chouhan said. The decision of the Prime Minister to encourage cashless transaction is to transform the country from a developing nation to a developed one. All the aspects should be examined before criticising such a move, said Chouhan.

Demonetisation Day 50: Feudal nature of criticising Modi is truly rotten, says NDTV’s Ravish Kumar

While it is true that demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes may not have led to the rosy picture which the central government had been painting till now, some of the criticism against the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is truly rotten. And journalist Ravish Kumar hit the nail on the head in this op-ed piece in NDTV, where he writes about the feudal nature of the punishment which a section of people think the prime minister should face.

There have been a considerable number of cheap posts on social media which directly or indirectly talk about throwing shoes at the prime minister.

Kumar pointed out how wrong it was to use such language against any person by explaining how this was linked with casteism.

Senior journalist Ravish Kumar. Screengrab from YouTube video

Senior journalist Ravish Kumar. Screengrab from YouTube

“Hitting someone with a shoe is in principle anti-Dalit. If you investigate stories about hitting someone with a shoe, you will find that this sort of language was used only by those who were upper-caste. And this was done only against the Dalits or weaker sections of society. Hitting someone with a shoe is the language of hate. I hate the language of hate as much as I hate the politics of hate,” Kumar wrote in the article.

Kumar, the senior executive editor of NDTV India, added that it was also true that the prime minister may have himself encouraged mob mentality when he said that he would “willingly stand at any public square you select, and accept any punishment the country decides to give me…”

Ravish Kumar’s article raises a pertinent point: Criticism, even in its most severe form, is essential for democracy but any criticism which encourages violence, whether against the prime minister or the common man, is uncalled for.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 14:19 IST

Demonetisation Day 50: Still too early to call it an ‘utter flop’ or ‘glorious success’

Maine sirf pachaas din maange hain… 30 December tak mujhe mauka dijiye…  Agar 30 December ke baad, koi meri kami rehjaye, koi meri galti nikal jaye, koi mera galat irada nikal jaye, aap jis chaurahe mein mujhe khada karenge, main khada hokarke desh jo saza karega, wo saza bhugatne ke liye taiyyar hoon (I have only asked for 50 days. Give me time till 30 December. After that, if any fault is found in my intentions or my actions, I am willing to suffer any punishment given by the country).

That’s what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Goa on 13 November five days after he demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. And three days before the 50-day period he sought was up, he delivered a judgement on himself when he said at an election rally in Dehradun on 27 December:

 “Through the note ban, in one stroke, we destroyed the world of terrorism, drug mafia, human trafficking and underworld...

 In an interview with India Today this week, he went a step further when he said:

 “Black money has all been forced out into the open, whomsoever it may belong to — whether it is corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen or professionals.”

Modi wants us to believe that he has delivered what he promised in the 50 days, and that his “safai abhiyan” (clean-up campaign) will go on.

I have no problem in confessing that I am not an economist. But I am aghast at the way some, like Modi himself, have concluded that this demonetisation is a huge, rip-roaring success that will rewrite the economics textbooks. On one hand, we have those who are singing paeans to Modi in praise of his “bold” war against black money. On the other hand, there are others who, at the very first sight of a long queue before an ATM, rubbished the whole thing as the stupidest thing any prime minister had ever undertaken on the planet since the invention of currency.

Most of those who resorted to the premature song-and-dance were obviously the so-called bhakts of Modi.

And most of those who wrote a political obituary for the prime minister hardly a day or two after 8 November were bhakts of another kind: Left-leaning or Congress-supporting Modi baiters. It is likely that, if Modi hadn’t gone for demonetisation, they might have questioned why he hadn’t, to make good on his poll promise of ferreting out black money. If, after demonetisation, the ATMs functioned smoothly with a copious flow of the new Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes, they would have asked why there weren’t enough Rs 100 notes.

If Modi sneezed, they would ask why he wasn’t coughing. If Modi coughed, they would wonder why he wasn’t having hiccups. They are that sort of people. They must be disappointed that the ‘cash riots’ that they were hoping for, haven’t broken out on India’s streets.

On Friday, the two sides will once again deliver their predictable judgments, ignoring the fact that it is the last day for swapping old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes for the new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 currency. With all its good and bad effects, the demonetisation churn will continue for some more time, and perhaps it will be several months or even a year before we can arrive at a considered judgment as to whether it did any good, and whether whatever good it did, was worth the terrible things that it has so far inflicted on the people and economy of India.

File iamge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

File iamge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

So far, we have seen only the bad effects of it. Dozens have died in queues, and millions have lost jobs. Lack of cash led to a sharp fall in spending, which in turn led to a crash in business in virtually every sector. Fathers couldn’t get daughters married the way they wanted. In some places, farmers dumped their produce on the roadside because it was not worth selling at the rock-bottom prices.

In other places, farmers had no money to buy seeds to grow fresh crops. Not a day passed after demonetisation without a moving tale of woe being reported from one part of the country or another. The picture of a former jawan weeping in a bank that went viral summed up best the agony India went through.

All these problems of demonetisation were a direct result of the woefully slow process of remonetisation. The humongous goof-up in ensuring availability of enough cash after the scrapping of 86 percent of the currency (in value) in a country where 87 percent of the transactions are said to be in cash, is all too clear. Enough has already been said about it by friends and foes of Modi, and those who are neither.

Questions that Modi must answer now

The question upfront now is: What is the country getting in return for all that misery that India was made to go through?

It’s now reasonably clear from official data that the cash windfall that the government had expected from demonetisation — black money that hasn’t been swapped or deposited in the banks which would drop into the government’s kitty — will hover around Rs one lakh crore.

Of the total of Rs 15.4 lakh of cash in the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that were demonetised, Rs five lakh crore was estimated to be black. So if only some Rs one lakh remains unclaimed, what happened to the rest of the Rs four lakh crore? How much of it has been burnt by its holders? How much of it has been turned into white by illegitimate means? How much of it has been seized in income tax raids? And how much has been declared under the voluntary disclosure schemes?

These are questions that are not difficult to answer. So Modi must answer them.

This is not to suggest that the absence of a huge cash “windfall” in terms of “extinguished money” means that the demonetisation is a total, miserable failure. Despite claims by Modi baiters, the effect of scrapping the high-value notes on counterfeiters, terrorists, Maoists and drug-traffickers cannot be underestimated, at least in the short term. But the questions that will take more time to answer are the ones related to the expansion of the tax net, additional resources that will be available to the government for job-creating schemes and the effect on  GDP — key aspects that will determine the ultimate success or failure of Modi’s adventure. It will be a while before we can judge these after-effects.

Although you can depend on the Union Budget that will be presented on 1 February to throw up some real and artificial clues, Modi must answer all the questions that he can right now — without delay, and without hysterics and histrionics.

The author tweets @sprasadindia

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 13:27 IST

Demonetisation Day 50: Pain from ‘Mahayagna’ eases in India, but not in Bharat; what have we gained?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called demonetisation a ‘Mahayagna’ in his speech on the evening of 8 November when he scrapped Rs 500, Rs 1,000 currency notes asking citizens to ‘stand up and participate’ in the exercise to make it a grand success.

The note ban was initially sold as a war on black money, fake currency and terror funding and later as a project to create a cashless economy. Everyone, including Modi’s political rivals, lauded his intention behind note ban — cleansing the economy from illegal cash and fake currency and make each rupee floating in the banking system accountable to tax scrutiny — but in the same breath criticised the way the government and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) handled the implementation.

PM Modi asked for 50 days to end the common man’s pain. Post 50-days, let’s take a look at what has happened since the demonetisation announcement.

Prime minister Narendra Modi. PTI file photoPrime minister Narendra Modi. PTI file photo

Prime minister Narendra Modi. PTI file photo

To begin with, there were a series of flip-flops in rules that could have been avoided had there been a proper plan. More than 60 circulars were issued in just one month confusing both bankers and customers. Promises made by both the PM and RBI were broken adding to confusions.

Promises broken

Look at these statements: In his speech, Modi said “you will have 50 days to deposit your notes and there is no need for panic. Your money will remain yours. You need have no worry on this point. After depositing your money in your account, you can draw it when you need it. Keeping in mind the supply of new notes, in the first few days, there will be a limit of ten thousand rupees per day and twenty thousand rupees per week. This limit will be increased in the coming days.”

True, money in their bank accounts belonged to the citizens but Modi’s promise that people can withdraw as per their need wasn’t fulfilled since banks struggled to fill their ATMs and branches to meet the increasing customer demand. This was on account of three reasons: 1) the government mints couldn’t churn out enough new notes to meet the demand; it was beyond their capacity even after working in three shifts; 2) the fresh lot of new currencies that arrived were mostly Rs 2,000 notes; there were not enough change to go around; 3) people who managed to draw money started hoarding it as curbs on cash withdrawals created panic.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley refused to acknowledge even a single case of ‘unrest’ during the 50 days of demonetisation.

But, what about the ruckus at the banks and ATMs causing inconvenience to the public reported from across the country linked to demonetisation? Surely, all of it can’t be fake.

During his parivartan rally in Moradabad, UP, Modi asked Jan Dhan account holders not to withdraw the black money deposited in their accounts and promised that he will find a way for them to keep that money. This wasn’t in good taste because he was effectively offering a reward to the benami account holders for abetting a wrongdoing.

In his 8 November speech, Modi assured the citizens that they don’t need to panic and can exchange their old currency till 30 December. “From 10th November till 24th November the limit for such exchange will be 4,000 rupees. From 25th November till 30th December, the limit will be increased.”

But, the government, in fact, chose to advance the deadline much before the promised date. Lastly, there was a 19 December circular from RBI restricting deposits above Rs 5,000 only once, which was later withdrawn. Here again, a promise made initially was broken.

Lack of preparedness, transparency

The point here is both the government and the RBI were not prepared to face the rush for cash as evident from the frequent change in rules in the days following the demonetisation announcement. Even though the RBI promised a weekly withdrawal limits of Rs 24,000 (hiked from the initial Rs 20,000) and Rs 2,500 from recalibrated ATMs (from Rs 2000 initially), banks were unable to give even this amount to customers, often leading to altercations between staff and customers.

After 50 days, the cash situation has improved for sure, but only mildly. The situation has indeed turned better in metros, where ATM queues are now shorter. But, in rural areas the situation hasn’t improved much. As this Indian Express ground report states: since most farmers maintained accounts in cooperative banks, they continue to be in a spot. The informal economy, which offers employment to millions of workers, has been shattered. It will take a long time before small entrepreneurs recover from the shock. The cooperative banking sector, which plays a prominent role in rural India, is struggling to survive.

The RBI’s reluctance to communicate effectively and lack of transparency in updating information in public domain, added to confusion. An end to the cash-crunch isn’t in sight yet. Till 19 December, the RBI has infused Rs 5.92 lakh crore in the banking system as against the Rs 15.44 lakh crore demonetised. Given the physical constraints of four mints run by the RBI and government, it is unlikely that cash situation will return to normal before March 2017, according to bankers. This means, the cash curbs will stay longer.

Economy impact

Demonetisation is sure to have short-term impact on the economy which is predominantly dependendent on cash transactions the signs of which are already visible. The RBI has lowered the GDP forecast for the year to 7.1 percent, so have most private forecasters. The consumption story has taken a hit. The services sector PMI sharply fell to 46.7 in November from 54.5 in October — that is the biggest monthly drop since November 2008, just two months after the global financial crisis hit the economy following the US investment bank Lehman Brothers going bust in September.

Similarly, the manufacturing PMI too has fallen with the index shrinking to 52.3 in November from October’s 22-month high of 54.4. data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), unemployment rates fell to less than 5 percent in the week of 27 November, but has since risen to 6.1 percent in the week of 4 December to 6.6 percent in the week ended 11 December and then to 7 percent in the week ended 18 December. The impact comes with a lag and we need to wait for fresh numbers. The full impact of the demonetisation resulted cash crunch will only unfold in the next few months. If the cash crunch prolongs, things can get worse.

RBI fighting a trust deficit

Another highlight of the 50-day period was the fall of the RBI, which faced criticism for giving up its autonomy and credibility. The RBI appeared clueless how to take the demonetisation process ahead from the beginning and faced criticism from former central bankers including Usha Thorat and K C Chakrabarty. According to a Bloomberg report, the RBI board approved demonetisation less than three hours before Modi announced the decision in a televised address to the nation.

Information on how many members favored or opposed the move isn’t “on record,” the RBI said in response to queries from Bloomberg News under the Right to Information Act, the report said.

The report also cited Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s comment to lawmakers on 16 November that it was RBI’s 10-member board that came up with the idea of note ban. Was the RBI forced to approve the idea of demonetisation is something only time will tell.

Demonetisation gains

Will demonetisation deliver its originally stated long-term gains of demonetisation — winning black money, killing fake currency and terror? Long-term gains are hard to predict at this stage. The tangible gains of demonetisation will dependent up on how much illegal cash is unearthed at the end of this exercise. Demonetisation as a trigger for Indians to shift to a digital world of finance is a far-stretched idea since such a change can’t happen overnight and should be gradual. As of now, only pains are visible.

True, in the long term demonetisation may prove to be beneficial when more people come in the tax net. This coupled with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rollout can reboot the economy. But, that point is still away. Adjusting to the loss to the economy and the pain suffered by common man that isn’t quantifiable, what will be the net gain to economy from demonetisation is a question PM Modi will have to answer with support of evidence when he once again face the electorate in 2019.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 12:01 IST

Gujarat: Results for 2891 gram panchayats out; BJP, Congress claim win

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The results for 2,891 out of 8,624 gram panchayats in Gujarat, which went to polls on December 27, came out on Thursday, following which both BJP and opposition Congress claimed their respective victories.As soon as the results stared tricking in, at least two incidents of clashes were reported between groups of rival candidates in Vadodara and Banskantha districts.While the ruling party has hailed their “win” in the aftermath of demonetization and attributed it to the “village development policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” the Congress dismissed it as “tall claims” of BJP and the “victory of Rahul Gandhi over Modi”.Gram Panchayat polls are not fought on party symbols as candidates need to fight on their personal capacity and each voter is required to cast two votes, one to elect sarpanch and another for electing panchayat member for his ward.Votes are being counted manually as EVMs were not used in polls. “Till evening, counting is over for 2,891 gram panchayats, both for members as well as for (the posts of) sarpanch. Since counting is done manually, the process would go on till late night,” a State Election Commission official said.BJP has claimed “80%” of elected representatives are associated with the party. “Out of those elected till now, 80% representatives have the BJP’s support. In coming days, BJP will organise ‘sarpanch conclaves’ across state to establish better coordination,” state unit BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said. He said the poll outcome is the “victory of BJP after demonetization and of policies of village development adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.Congress said “70%” elected sarpanchs are associated with the party some way or the other. “Around 70% sarpanchs elected today were directly or indirectly associated with Congress and its ideology. It’s very clear that BJP has lost this election. We are surprised about BJP’s tall claims,” state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki said at a press conference. He said rural voters are not happy with BJP, mainly because of the Centre’s demonetization move.”It was a fight between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi and it was Rahulji who came out victorious. Rural voters rejected BJP mainly because the note ban decision, which has crippled rural economy,” he added.In the polling held in 8,624 village panchayats across for the election of members as well as sarpanchs on Tuesday, about 80.12% voter turnout was recorded.Around 1.20 lakh candidates were in fray for 53,116 wards, whereas 26,800 candidates contested 8,527 seats of sarpanchs. The counting process is being held at 252 places across Gujarat with the help of more than 17,300 polling staff.As per State Election Commission, total registered voters for the polls stood at over 1.65 crore, including 79.6 lakh women.Meanwhile, a clash broke out at Polo Ground in Vadodara as one Kanubhai Rabari was declared winner.Kanubhai, who won as sarpanch of Kotali village, was allegedly attacked by his opponent Jagdish Rabari who lost. “As Kanubhai’s supporters were celebrating, they were attacked by a group led by Jagdish Rabari with iron rod and stick,” a Navapura police official said, adding Kanubhai was rushed to city civil hospital in a critical condition.An FIR was lodged against six persons, including Jagdish, under various sections of IPC including 307 (attempt to murder). No arrest has been made so far.A similar clash took place at Jorapura village in Banaskantha district when candidates belonging to Thakor community attacked each other.At least three persons, including two women from rival groups, were injured in the incident, police said. “Two groups of candidates who had contested Gram Panchayat polls clashed with each other after the result was announced, leaving some persons of both the groups injured including two women who sustained fracture,” said Banaskantha SP Neeraj Badgujar. He said an FIR was filed against 15 persons under various sections of IPC.

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

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

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

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

From setback in Kashmir to finalising Rafale deal: Mixed year for armed forces in 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Signing of long-pending deals including one for Rafale fighters, a logistics agreement with the US, new blacklisting and defence procurement policies besides induction of indigenous nuclear submarine were some of the achievements of the defence ministry in 2016, which was a mixed year for the armed forces.The high point for the military was the daring surgical strike carried out by the special forces on terror launch pads across the LoC it lost a number of soldiers during the year. Jammu and Kashmir alone saw over 80 security personnel being killed while countering Pakistan’s proxy war. The army managed to eliminate about 160 militants in the state including the poster boy of militancy Burhan Wani.Many security personnel were also killed fighting armed insurgency. Deadly attacks on the Pathankot air base, and army camps in Uri and Nagrota were a setback that led to the loss of several lives.The armed forces also had a mixed year when it came to administration and compensation issues. While the government drastically increased the ex-gratia for the armed forces, the 7th Pay Commission recommendations and a controversial letter on parity with their civilian counterparts for administrative duties left a bad taste.The decision of the government to bypass the long-followed principle of seniority when it came to selecting an army also led to lot of heartburns in the military especially the Armoured Corps. But one thing that the armed forces seemed to be most happy with was Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s push for modernisation. Even as the government brought in a new defence procurement policy emphasising on ‘Make in India’ and a blacklisting policy offering a mixture of heavy fines and graded punishment rather than blanket blacklisting, the Ministry moved fast on procurements.A lot many deals pending for years were cleared by the Defence Ministry besides giving nod to many other proposals. The biggest deal to be struck during 2016 was the one for 36 Rafale fighter jets for 7.8 billion Euros. The file for a medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) was first moved in 2000. The Narendra Modi-led government had in 2015 agreed to go in for 36 Rafales in a direct deal with France while terminating the original tender for 126 MMRCA. The aircraft, equipped with latest weapons including the 150 KM range beyond visual range missile ‘Meteor’, can even carry nuclear bombs, will add to the strategic assets of the country. Another big move was the induction of the indigenously developed nuclear submarine Arihant. The government has still not officially announced the induction.The understanding between India and Russia to lease a second nuclear submarine was another important strategic move. The terms and conditions are still being worked out. The Inter-Governmental Agreement on the purchase of S400 Triumf air defence system is also a big development even though the nitty gritty are yet to be worked out. The decision to finally induct the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas was also a big move. India and Russia restarted talks on the fifth generation fighter aircraft programme after a hiatus of about a year.The contract for the purchase of M777 light weight howitzers was also welcomed by the army which will deploy most of them along the borders with China. The M777 was the first artillery deal cleared by the Indian government since the Bofors scandal of late 1980s. To ensure better deployment of these guns, the ministry also struck a deal for 15 heavy lift Chinook helicopters.Giving the IAF yet another fillip to its strength, 2016 saw signing of a deal with the US for 22 Apache attack helicopters. The signing of the much-debated logistics agreement with the US was also an important development. The UPA government had refused to sign it but Parrikar went along after the US rewrote the agreement as per India’s conditions. Even though the Defence Ministry was not directly involved, investigating agencies carried out raids against a number of defence middlemen while cases were registered against some staying abroad in connection with alleged corruption.Another big development that came towards the end of 2016 was the successful fourth test of the indigenously developed inter-continental nuclear capable missile Agni V that has a range to cover entire China. The missile is now ready for user trials and eventual induction into the Strategic Forces Command.

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

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

Demonetisation: 56% of Kerala’s economic activity in doldrums, finds govt panel

The NDA government’s surprise demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes has hit both leading and struggling sectors of the Kerala economy hard, pulling the state’s economy down and affecting potential resource mobilisation, a study by a panel has found.

The committee, set up on 23 November, is headed C P Chandrasekhar of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning of the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

“Cash-intensive sectors such as retail trade, hotels, and restaurants and transportation account for over 40 percent of the Kerala economy, and the primary sector accounts for another 16 percent of the economy. Thus, 56 percent of the economic activity of Kerala is immediately affected by the withdrawal of specified bank notes,” an interim report submitted by the five-member committee has said.

According to the report, the impact of demonetisation in terms of the cash deficit and its consequences has been particularly severe in the state also because of the distinct character of its banking sector, where the cooperative sector and the primary agricultural cooperative societies (PACS) play a central role.

Prime minister Narendra Modi on 8 November announced the decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, sucking out about 86 percent of Rs 15.44 lakh crore currency in circulation. As the RBI was not ready with the replacement currency, this resulted in a cash crunch, which has negatively impacted the daily lives of common people across the country and in turn the economy.

People have been given time until 30 December to deposit their old notes at banks and RBI counters. The government had also allowed exchange of these notes during the period, but did a U-turn and withdrew the facility from 25 November.

According to the Kerala government panel’s report – the first study on demonetisation and its impact – the notifications issued by the RBI, particularly the one that was issued on 14 November, which kept the cooperative banks and societies out of the note exchange process, were particularly damaging for Kerala.

The study estimates that there are about 14,000 co-operative societies in the state, including the state co-operative bank, the state agricultural and rural development bank, district co-operative banks, urban banks, primary agricultural and rural development banks and primary lending societies. These institutions are central to financial intermediation and inclusion in Kerala, the report has said.

Around 60 percent of all deposits are in the co-operatives in the state, according to the report.

Rolling out the figures, the report said besides not being allowed to exchange the notes, the access of PACS to currency was cut off. This forced these institutions to shut down their operations.

As far as the fisheries sector is concerned, cash crunch has hit the payments for fish auctioned at the point of landing, payments of wages by boat owners, supply to wholesalers and retailers, etc.

“As business has declined, workers get less work and lower earnings, and have had to get into debt to meet their daily expenses,” the report said.

In the tourism sector, the report estimates that the domestic tourist arrivals in November fell by 17.7 percent on year and foreign tourist arrivals by 8.7 percent. In October, the tourist arrivals had seen 5.2 percent and 6 percent increase respectively.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 15:48 IST

PM Modi likely to address nation on New Year’s eve, may speak about roadmap post demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the 50-day period for depositing of demonetized notes expiring tomorrow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to address the nation before the dawn of the New Year.”Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to address the nation before dawn of the New Year,” sources said.However, it was not clear as to whether he would address the nation on Friday or Saturday.In his address, the Prime Minister may speak about the roadmap post the demonetization period especially on the steps likely to be taken to ease cash flow that has been a major problem ever since demonetization took place.He may also speak on the steps to deal with the problems the economy faces after the demonetization was announced on November 8.The Prime Minister in his public meetings in the last few weeks has been urging the people to bear with the pain following the government’s decision and that it would start easing gradually once the 50-day period is over.On Tuesday, Modi met economists and experts at a meeting in Niti Aayog to discuss the current economic situation.

India has taken up movement to embrace digital transactions: PM Modi

Wed, 28 Dec 2016-11:55pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> India has taken up the movement to embrace digital transactions with “unprecedented vigour”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday night while commenting on DigiDhan Mela organised in Goa.”Today’s #DigiDhanMela in Goa saw widescale participation. Colleagues @manoharparrikar, Shri Shripad Naik & CM Parsekar also took part,” Modi tweeted. “India has taken up the movement to embrace digital transactions with unprecedented vigour. My gratitude to people of India,” he added.The Prime Minister said every DigiDhan mela is “a fine way of learning about digital payments & even inspiring others to use digital means.”

Rahul dares PM Modi to reveal names of Swiss account holders

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of protecting black money hoarders and demanded that the names of Swiss account holders be revealed to the nation.”He (Modi) said he is going to reveal the names of those who hold Swiss accounts. The Swiss Government has given the list to Narendra Modi ji. When is he going to bring the list in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha” We want to know who the corrupt are. He should also tell why he is trying to protect these defaulters,” said Gandhi. Gandhi also continued his outburst against the government”s demonetization move and demanded answers from the Prime Minister.”Since November 8, how much black money has been recovered” How much economic loss has the nation faced” How many people became unemployed” How many people lost their lives due to demonetization and if the government has provided compensation to them and if not then why. When the PM took this decision whom did he ask, name the experts whose advice did he take” PM should give the names of those who deposited more than Rs. 25 lakhs two months before November 8,” he said.Terming the decision to ban high-denomination currency notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 as a yagna, Gandhi demanded proper compensation for those affected post this decision. “The PM has performed the yagna of demonetization for 50 families. The Congress is demanding the way compensation should be made. The limit of Rs. 24,000 should be withdrawn. By putting this limit, you are snatching away the financial independence of the people. Secondly, loans of the farmers should be waived off and bonus on 20 percent MSP should be given. Every women of the BPL family must be given Rs. 25,000. The daily wages of the MNREGA workers should be doubled,” he said.Gandhi’s fresh outburst against the ruling dispensation came a day after the anti-demonetization meeting, which was attended by all opposition parties except the Left, Janata Dal (United) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Taking on the opposition for raising objections to the demonetization drive, Prime Minister Modi yesterday described the move as a ‘safayi abhiyan’ aimed at curbing black money and corruption. Addressing a parivartan rally in Congress-ruled Uttarakhand, the Prime Minister said that the country has suffered in the past not just because of black money but also due to leadership with ‘malicious heart.’

Demonetization: Rahul Gandhi puts forth demands, seeks white paper from PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Seeking a white paper on demonetization, Congress posed several questions to the Prime Minister on Wednesday including how much black money has come in and put forth a charter of demands including lifting all restrictions on money withdrawal and compensation to farmers, traders and the poor who have “suffered” due to note ban.Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi also demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should double the MNREGA wages and the number of days each labourer can work, besides giving 50% rebate in Income Tax and Sales Tax to shopkeepers and 20% bonus on MSP for Rabi crops to farmers and waiving their loans. Coming out with the “Charter of Demands” before the media, he sought a list of all those who have deposited above Rs 25 lakh before demonetization was announced and sought relief to those badly affected including provision of Rs 25,000 to at least one woman of each BPL family.”We want that the Prime Minister should explain some things to the country. After November 8, how much black money has come out and how much economic loss has the country suffered due to demonetization. How many people lost their lives and whether any compensation has been paid to them. “The Prime Minister should also tell whom he consulted before taking the decision and spell out the names of experts consulted. The Prime Minister should also provide a list of all those people who have deposited Rs 25 lakh or more in their accounts before demonetization,” he told reporters.
ALSO READ Scrap cash withdrawal limit, reveal how much black money recovered post demonetization: Rahul to ModiAs part of the demands, Rahul Gandhi said all restrictions on withdrawal of money be lifted with immediate effect and till the time these restrictions are in place, a special interest at the rate of 18% per annum be given to all. He also sought that all charges on digital transactions should be abolished forthwith, adding that the charter of demands was “on behalf of the people of India”.Gandhi said the price of of ration distributed under the PDS system should be halved for the period of a year under the provisions of the Food Security Act and a special one-time bonus of 20% should be provided over and above the MSP of all Rabi crops. “That Rs 25,000 should be deposited in the account of at least one woman belonging to each BPL family as compensation for the immense suffering caused to women due to demonetization,” the demands charter said.
ALSO READ Demonetization: Rahul and Mamata slam Modi, BJP calls opposition meet a ‘flop show’Gandhi also said that an Income Tax and Sales tax rebate of 50% should be given to small shopkeepers and businesses. The central government should compensate state governments for loss of revenue incurred on account of this exemption,he said. The Congress Vice President also demanded that the number of guaranteed work days and the wage rate under MGNREGA should be doubled for a period of one year.He also demanded that government should organise a special drive to identify and register those who lost their jobs since November 8 and provide them compensation at the applicable minimum wage rate for a period up to March 31. Lashing out at Modi, the Congress leader alleged that the Prime Minister did this demonetization ‘yagya’ for only 50 families while the poor and small shopkeepers have suffered and government should provide compensation to these people.
ALSO READ Demonetization: Tejaswi Yadav backs Mamata’s ‘super emergency’ assertionHe said the money deposited in banks is that of the people of the country and the limit imposed by him on bank accounts should be withdrawn immediately to help restore their financial independence. “The farmers have been hit hard. He should waive their loans and provide 20% bonus in MSP to farmers,” he said, adding that small shopkeepers be also compensated by providing 50% rebate on sales tax and income tax. “The Prime Minister has to tell the country why he caused pain to the poor people and snatched their financial independence.”Narendra Modi should answer when he will present the list of all Swiss bank holders before the lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the list that has been provided to him by the Swiss government. We want to know who are these thieves and why is Modi saving them,” he said.In the questions posed to the Prime Minister, Gandhi asked, “What was the process of consultation and preparedness followed prior to the implementation of demonetization? Why were experts, economists or the RBI not consulted before unleashing this draconian policy upon the people?.” He also asked the government to place the names of all persons, institutions and entities that deposited Rs 25 lakh or more in bank accounts in six months preceding November 8.

IIMC faculty sacked for allegedly backing Dalit labourers, objecting to appointment of course director

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An academic associate at Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) was terminated by the institute allegedly for raising voice against the sacking of 25 Dalit labourers working at the campus and against the recent appointment of a course director. The institute has also debarred him from entering the campus premises, saying it would “vitiate” the peaceful atmosphere.According to Narendra Singh Rao, who was working as a contractual employee at the institute from 2012, he had been abruptly thrown out of the institute while he was on medical leaves. “I have been victimised for raising voice against the sacking of 25 Dalit employees working at the campus. Also, I objected the illegal appointment of a course director as she was neither qualified nor experienced for that post,” Rao told DNA.The institute, however, denied the allegations saying Rao’s termination was completely based on clause 1 of the service contract, which says that “services of the employee can be terminated at anytime without assigning any reason”.“Shri Rao while accepting appointment had duly put his endorsement on the terms and conditions of his appointment,” the institute said in a statement.A letter issued to Rao by the institute on December 21, said that his services were terminated with “immediate effect” under clause 1 of the contract signed by him on September 23, 2013. It, however, stated that he would be paid salary of one month in lieu of the notice period.According to sources at IIMC, the administration had received complaints against Rao, accusing him of propagating indiscipline at the campus. “As many as ten written complaints were received against Rao for misbehaving with his colleagues and trying to disturb the peaceful environment at the campus,” they said.This is the second incident of its kind in a year, where a faculty member has accused IIMC of curbing voices of dissent on campus. Earlier this year, an associate professor at IIMC, Amit Sengupta, had also resigned from the institute after he was transferred to Odisha, for allegedly supporting students of JNU, FTII and speaking about the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula at HCU.“IIMC has turned into a playground for right-wing forces where any voice other than that is being silenced,” Sengupta said. According to him, Rao has also become a victim for raising voice against the right-wing forces prevailing on campus. “Because of his academic qualification and his immense popularity among students, he had become a thorn in the flesh of an institute which is driven by the utter mediocrity,” he said.Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) is one of India’s premier institute for journalism. Besides Delhi, it has five other branches in Odisha, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala.

Demonetization: Maharashtra Congress to launch statewide stir from January, says Ashok Chavan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Ashok Chavan on Wednesday said the party will launch a state wide stir from first week of January to protest against demonetization since the hardships of the common man continued even after the end of the 50-day window.Chavan was addressing party workers at a function here to mark the 132nd foundation day of the Congress.”Fifty days have passed since demonetization and despite assurance from Prime Minister Narendra Modi that people’s hardships will ease, the ground reality is different,” Chavan said.Attacking the Prime Minister, Chavan charged he should answer the questions posed by party Vice President Rahul Gandhi regarding allegations of bribery.Escalating his attack on Modi over note ban in the last couple of days, Rahul had said that demonetisation was not a surgical strike on corruption and black money as projected by the Prime Minister and his ministers but was an “economic robbery” and “firebombing on India’s poor”.Rahul says the Prime Minister has put “99 per cent people” in the country to hardships and not targeted the “1 per cent super rich” who “held all the black money”.According to him, five per cent of every online transactions in a cashless economy will go to “those 50 families”.The Congress VP has also been reiterating his charge of “crores of rupees” allegedly being paid to Modi by big business houses on different occasions when he was Gujarat Chief Minister and has sought the PM’s reply to the charges.

BJP attacks Rahul, asks who benefited from ‘mota maal’ in VVIP chopper scam

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday asked Rahul Gandhi to answer as to who benefited from the ‘mota maal’ in the VVIP Chopper scam and the coal scam.”Rahul Gandhi is trying to mislead people and helping the frauds. We can understand Rahul’s frustration. He has been exposed and is trying to hide his failure and deviate people by blaming government,” said BJP leader Shrikant Sharma .Sharma further said there is a difference between what Rahul says and what he does, adding “Rahul does not have any evidence if he had he would have shown that in parliament. He does not let parliament function.””We don’t do politics on deaths, Congress has this trait. Rahul talks about deaths caused due to demonetization what about farmer’s death caused in Congress regime,” he added.Labelling the Congress party as the ‘most corrupt party’ the Bharatiya Janata Party earlier on Wednesday said that the former’s vice-president Rahul Gandhi, pitches for ‘gareebi hatato’ but has never worked for the poor.Upping the ante on the government’s demonetization drive, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi earlier in the day said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sacrificed the common man in ‘yagna’ against black money.”Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he is performing a yagna against black money and corruption. As animals are slaughtered in yagnas, similarly Prime Minister Modi has sacrificed the common man in yagna against black money,” said Gandhi.He further said that demonetization ‘yagna’ is aimed at benefitting the rich and was performed for 50 families.The Congress vice-president’s fresh outburst against the ruling dispensation came a day after the anti-demonetisation meeting, which was attended by all opposition parties except the Left, Janata Dal (United) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Gujarat government extends a helping hand, takes 220 fishermen released from Pakistan in custody

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The officials of the fisheries department of Gujarat Government took custody of 220 fishermen who were handed over by Pakistan to Indian agency, late on Monday night, a senior official said. “These fishermen were released from the Landhi jail in Karachi on December 25 as a goodwill gesture and were handed over to the Border Security Force (BSF) at the Wagah Border on Monday,” Ashok Patel, superintendent of the fisheries department of the Gujarat government said. “The team (of fisheries department) has been camping in Amritsar to make arrangements for bringing these fishermen back to Gujarat,” he said.Talking from Amritsar, Ramesh Makwana, one of the released fisherman, who hails from Tad village in Una taluka of Gir Somnath district, said, “We never expected release of 439 fishermen by Pakistan at one go and it came as a surprise for all of us. Another batch of 219 fishermen will be released on January 5, 2017.” “The Edhi Foundation a Karachi based non government organisation made arrangements for bringing us to Lahore from Karachi by a special train,” said the released fisherman.He thanked Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani among others for taking up the issue for their release with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in turn took up the matter with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.Makwana, while describing the harsh conditions in which they stayed in Pakistani jail, said, “They had to face lot of hardships as about 100 fishermen were kept in a single room in the prison and had to face mosquito menace.” He said they realised that they had entered into enemy territorial waters only after Pakistani Marine Security Agency (PMSA) nabbed them. “Most of us are sole bread earners of our family,” said Makwana.

Indian diaspora can now apply for OCI cards till June 30, 2017

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre has extended for six months the last date for applying for conversion of Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards to June 30, 2017 from December 31, 2016.It has been decided, with the approval of the competent authority, to extend the date for submission of the application for registration as OCI card holder by the erstwhile PIO cardholders till June 30, 2017, an official notification said. This was for the third time the date for conversion of PIO cards to OCI cards has been extended since March 31, 2016.The PIO card was first implemented in 2002 as a benefit to foreign nationals who could establish at least a third generation tie to Indian origin. The PIO card was valid for travel, work, and residence in India for a period of 15 years. The OCI card was implemented in 2005, carried more expansive benefits than the PIO card, and was valid for the holder’s lifetime.Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced in 2014 that the PIO and OCI cards will be merged and the Indian diaspora will be given maximum possible benefits. Simultaneous existence of PIO and OCI cards led to confusion among People of Indian Origin residing abroad, officials said.

Demonetisation: Four things Narendra Modi should do to take the economy out of the mess

For the Narendra Modi government, which stormed into power in May 2014, to come out of the demonetisation mess unhurt isn’t an easy task. This is despite what it promises to achieve in the future –an economy free of black money, corruption and fake notes, and no matter how good the latter-stated objectives are (including a shift to a cashless economy). And certainly not in the manner it has gone about scrapping 86 percent of currency in circulation all of a sudden on the night of 8 November throwing the economy into a crisis. The consequences so far have been disastrous — corporate profitability has taken a hit, lakhs of jobs have been reportedly lost in the informal sector, consumer ability to spend has been curtailed, farmers affected as prices have crashed, services and manufacturing sectors have been impacted and there is skepticism globally on the rationale behind Modi’s currency ban.

Not surprisingly, both government and private forecasters are competing to show lower India GDP numbers for fiscal year 2017. The estimates range from 7.1 percent (Reserve Bank of India) to an extremely pessimistic 3.5 percent by Ambit Capital, a private brokerage firm.  The available data–advance tax payments by corporates, PMI numbers, auto sales and slowdown in service-oriented sectors confirm the fear of a deeper impact to the economy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFPPrime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

Most economists have ruled the third quarter as a miss, but the real danger comes if the cash crunch-woes spill over to the fourth quarter since then there will be a cascading impact in the economy.

According to data from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), unemployment rates fell to less than 5 percent in the week of 27 November, but has since risen to 6.1 percent in the week of 4 December to 6.6 percent in the week ended 11 December and then to 7 percent in the week ended 18 December. The impact comes with a lag and we need to wait for fresh numbers.

Need of the hour

There are a few critical tasks before the Modi-government that should be done urgently:

First, refrain from populist, non-productive expenditures such as promising the poor that the gains on black money will be distributed to them and that farm loans will be waived. The government should focus on boosting the capital base of banks on an urgent basis so that bank credit flow to productive sectors doesn’t suffer, and sell off the loss-making banks or consolidate a few if there is synergy amongst them. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has a good opportunity in the 2017 Union Budget slated for 1 February to announce some bold measures to take the reform process ahead in the public banking sector.

Presently, state-run banks are severely undercapitalized and the problem is worsened with their non-performing assets (NPAs) hitting the roof (nearly Rs 6 lakh crore as on September, 2016 or nearly 8 percent of the total bank credit), and total chunk of stressed assets (bad loans and restructured loans together) jumping to 12-13 percent of the total bank credit. Under the government’s Indradhanush plan, of the Rs 1.8 lakh crore capital needed by banks under Basel-III, the government has offered to infuse Rs 70,000 crore over four years till 2018-19 and wants the government banks to fend for themselves for the remaining Rs 1.1 lakh crore from the market. This is not enough. Also, it is almost impossible that weak state-run banks will find takers. This compounds the problem. So far, there is not much progress on the reform front. That is why the government, the majority owner in these banks, will have to think about infusing them with higher chunks of capital and push the reform button.

Two, offer a fiscal boost to the economy by ramping up infrastructure spending. A section of economists agree that the economy is in need of a strong stimulus to get back on track. This is warranted because several layers of economy have taken a hit post-demonetisation. One of the expectations from the demonetisation exercise was to get a ‘windfall’ of Rs 4-5 lakh crore provided that kind of money doesn’t return to the system as black money hoarders run for cover. The government was expecting to garner around Rs 10 lakh crore of the Rs 15.44 lakh crore demonetized on 8 November. But, that hasn’t happened yet. This, coupled with the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) clarification that there is no possibility of a transfer of surplus from the central bank to the government on account of reduced currency liability, has ruled out any immediate tangible gains for the government. Instead, the exercise has resulted in considerable damage to the economy.

Third, Jaitley should also announce reliefs to both individuals and corporations in Budget 2017 by offering substantial direct tax reductions to tide over the difficult phase. This will work in three ways—to make India still an attractive destination for companies when US president-elect Donald Trump’s administration rolls out massive tax cuts, reverse the negative mood on account of the artificially imposed cash-crunch and put more money into the household kitty to keep the consumption story going. Corporate tax incentives should be over and above the ongoing plan to bring down corporate tax rates to 25 percent over a period and gradually remove exemptions. But this hasn’t found much appeal in the industry since the effective rate is only about 23 percent after exemptions. This is the reason the marginal tax cut in the last budget hasn’t received much response. The government will have to act to regain losing momentum by offering industry a temporary stimulus.

Fourth, it is even more critical now to resolve the cash crunch as fast as possible and bring things back to normalcy. The government can’t expect a miraculous shift to digital payments in a few months replacing a world of cash. Estimates are that 70 percent of the economy still transacts in cash. Pulling out 86 percent cash in one go in a country like India and then facing a cash shortage could be compared to an act of removing blood out of a healthy human body to filling it again with better quality blood, only to realize that there is not enough stock!

Until 19 December, the RBI has infused only Rs 5.92 lakh crore into the banking system as compared with deposits worth Rs 12.44 lakh crore in old Rs 500, Rs 1,000 currencies. Of the total 22.6 billion pieces of notes of various denominations infused, only 2.2 billion belonged to higher denominations of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500. It is not clear how many of the 2.2 billion is in Rs 2,000 notes and how many are Rs 500 notes. Herein lies the problem. The ongoing cash crunch, according to bankers, is mainly due to shortage of the new Rs 500 notes. An end to the current cash crunch is possible only when there is enough Rs 500 notes coming out of the government mints.

But the tricky part for the Modi government will be to find the fiscal space to spend more simultaneously keeping the fiscal roadmap intact. It needs to meet a 3.5 percent fiscal deficit target for the fiscal year 2017. Given that demonetisation itself is unlikely to give any major fiscal boost, the only hope is for the taxmen to dig out substantial chunks of illegal cash from the system from the funds that reach bank accounts either through the black money declaration scheme or raids contributing to the exchequer. Handling a bigger budget, including that of the Railways, is another challenge. “There is a big monster called the Railway budget coming as part of the general budget this year. This can sharply spike numbers on the expenditure. How will the government handle the new situation is worth watching,” said Devendra Pant, chief economist at India Ratings and Research. The expected boost to tax kitty from more number of digital transactions will come, but only at the beginning of the next year.

The short point here is about balancing Union Budget 2017 with the much-required economic stimulus while keeping the fiscal deficit roadmap intact. This will be a trial by fire for the Modi-government.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 13:42 IST

MoS Finance Arjun Meghwal responds to ex-TN chief secy Rao’s ‘political vendetta’ charges, says all are equal before law

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Responding to Tamil Nadu’s top bureaucrat P Rama Mohana Rao who was removed after tax raids at his home and office, Arjun Ram Meghwal, MoS Finance said on Tuesday that anyone who violates the law will be punished. “Everyone is equal before law, whosoever does wrong will be punished,” Meghwal said.Speaking on the topic on demonetization, he said that the government is keeping a close tab on the present situation post demonetization, adding the nation is backing Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this move to end corruption and black money menace. “Things will get better. After my field visit to smaller villages, I can say that things will very soon get better. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has understood the pulse of the public. The people want to end black money and corruption. They are in the support of the government,” he said.Meghwal claimed that despite facing hardships due to demonetization, the people are giving their full support to the government.
ALSO READ Removed after IT raids, Rama Mohana Rao says, I am Chief Secy of Tamil NaduOn the other hand, the Congress Party has called for an anti-demonetization meeting today. The meeting will be followed by a joint press conference to be addressed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is also expected to join.The meeting is seen as an attempt on the part of the grand old party to paper over the cracks that developed when several opposition parties skipped the joint march to Rashtrapati Bhawan on December 16 over demonetization.Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is in New Delhi for the meeting. The DMK, RJD and others are also expected to participate. With input from agencies .

UP polls: Sheila Dikshit ‘amused’ to see speculations

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit on Tuesday rubbished reports suggesting that she has withdrawn her name as the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.The former Delhi chief minister said that she was amused to see speculations that she has distanced herself from the Uttar Pradesh polls.Meanwhile, Dikshit also threw light on her upcoming visits to various places in the politically crucial state in the run up to the assembly polls. “Aligarh was not on my schedule. I will be in Barabanki tomorrow,” Dikshit tweeted.Earlier, it was reported that the former Delhi chief minister may withdraw her candidature after her name appeared on the Sahara list.The report said that Dikshit is unhappy with her name being surfaced in the recent Sahara diary leaks and Twitter fiasco following the same.With Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi over ‘ Sahara diaries’ bribery issue, a controversy erupted after the grand old party put out a list linked to it on Twitter in which a reference to Dikshit also allegedly figured.ikshit strongly denied the charges and trashed the documents, saying the Supreme Court has already made its observations on them.

JD(U) cautions Centre on application of new benami property law

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Janata Dal (United) has cautioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government to reassure the people on the after effects of demonetization and on the proposed issue of cracking down on benami properties.”The JD(U) has always supported the decision of the Centre on demonetization, but our party believes that a sense of immaturity was shown by the Centre in bringing out a big step like demonetization, because of which, the entire nation is standing in queue in front of ATMs. We don’t want the same thing happening in connection with the benami properties,” JD(U) leader Rajiv Ranjan said.”Prime Minister Modi and his government should totally assure the common people that they won’t face any problems due to this move against benami property holders,” he added.On Sunday, Prime Minister Modi warned that he would soon operationalise a law to deal with ‘benami’ properties as part of his government’s crusade against corruption. “You are possibly aware of a law about benami properties in our country which came into being in 1988, but neither was its rules ever framed, nor was it notified. It just lay dormant,” he said.A new Benami Act came into effect from November 1. It prohibits illegal benami transactions and those violating this act, can be sent to jail for up to seven years and also be asked to pay a penalty.

PM Narendra Modi to unveil Char Dham development programme in Dehradun

Tue, 27 Dec 2016-09:27am , Dehradun , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Tuesday launch the 900-km-long Char Dham Highway Development Programme in Dehradun with an investment of Rs 12,000 crore.The road once constructed will ensure round-the-year, hassle free travel to these shrines and the famous Sikh shrine Hemkund Saheb also.The Prime Minister will also address a public rally at the city’s Parade Ground.Following the Prime Minister’s visit to the state, security arrangements have been beefed up.

Incumbent upon Rahul to substantiate corruption charge against PM: NCP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has said it is incumbent upon Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to substantiate his corruption claims against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”It’s a political strategy adopted by Congress. In fact, the Congress is supported by several opposition parties, including the JD (U), SP, Left and CPM and TMC. In the last session the opposition was completely united and in that context Rahul has some names, evidences about the involvement of Prime Minister personally. He will have to substantiate it now,” NCP leader Majeed Memon said.He was speaking ahead of a united opposition meeting to devise a strategy against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on demonetization.
ALSO READ Ball in PMO’s court, will PM Modi come clean? Sheila Dikshit on ‘Sahara diaries’Memon also said that this meeting assumes significance as the Prime Minister’s 50 days deadline to ease the cash crunch is coming to an end.”This meeting by the opposition is now to draw a strategy because 50 days are closing now. Now that 50 days are coming to close, the Prime Minister is changing his goal posts. Now, he is saying that the trouble of the poor people is gradually starting to diminish. That would mean that it will continue indefinitely for some longer time, so, his comment has been blighted,” he added.
ALSO READ PM Modi pure as Ganga, no one takes Rahul seriously: BJP on Sahara-Birla bribe allegationsThe meeting, called by Congress, will be followed by a joint press conference by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is also expected to join.However, its attempt to unite opposition parties against demonetisation has suffered a severe jolt with the Left, Janata Dal United JD (U) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) expressing their inability to attend.Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has arrived in New Delhi to take part in the meeting. The DMK, RJD and others are scheduled to participate.

Special arrangements made in Bihar for Prakash Parv

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A total of ten trains and 300 buses will take devotees from Punjab to Patna for on January 5. The Punjab govt has made elaborate arrangements for the devotees who will travel free of cost to Patna for the ‘Prakash Utsav’. The state govt has also co-ordinated with Bihar govt for providing a free stay to thousands of devotees who would attend the celebrations.“In all the trains, one compartment will be reserved for women. The trains departing from 3 Takhts Sri Amritsar, Sri Anandpur Sahib and Sri Damdama Sahib will have one coach each for Nihang Sikhs (an armed Sikh order)” said Punjab Education Minister, Dr Daljeet Singh Cheema, adding that the Punjab Government has made arrangements for free travel and free meals.Over 25,000 devotees from Punjab are expected to take part in the event, which will be held in Takht Sri Patna Sahib, in Patna, also the birth place of the tenth Sikh guru. Thousands of devotees have already reached the venue.Dr Cheema further divulged that residents of every constituency would be fetched in 10 special trains as per the coaches apart from 3 buses operating from each constituency taking the total to 300 buses. Punjab government had earlier organized two functions at Sri Anandpur Sahib and New Delhi in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also present.

President Mukherjee, PM Modi congratulate DRDO scientists on Agni-V test

India successfully test-fired its nuclear-capable, inter-continental ballistic missile Agni 5, that has a range of over 5,000 km. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi today congratulated the DRDO scientists on the successful test-firing of nuclear-capable intercontinental missile Agni-V, saying it will add tremendous strength to the country’s strategic defence.”Congratulations DRDO for successfully test firing Agni V. It will enhance our strategic and deterrence capabilities,” Mukherjee tweeted after the test-firing of India’s most lethal missile from Abdul Kalam island off Odisha coast.The Prime Minister credited it to the hardwork of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and its scientists.”Successful test firing of Agni V makes every Indian very proud. It will add tremendous strength to our strategic defence,” he said.It is the fourth developmental and second canisterised trial of the missile, which has a range of over 5,000 km.

PM Modi’s Black money hunt: From religion to cricket, there are many missing links in the battle

Three speeches over the weekend within barely 24 hours, two by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and one by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley sandwiched between the two, appear to give contradicting signals on the war against black money. Does this mean that South Block and North Block are working at cross purposes? Certainly not, in principle, but there are finer details that would make it appear that like the demonetisation drive that Modi launched on 8 November, there may be holes in the process that may invite more criticism than praise.

Modi said on Saturday at a function organised by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), the capital markets regulator, that those who gain from capital markets must contribute to nation building. Jaitley was forced to clarify that this was not a hint that long-term capital gains taxation, which currently stand at zero for equities, was set to be raised or strengthened.

File photo of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters.File photo of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters.

File photo of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters.

Then again, on Sunday in his weekly “Mann Ki Baat” speech, Modi officially declared a war on “benami” property — assets held in the name of front persons or fictitious persons — citing a 1988 law given fresh lease of life earlier this year through suitable amendments.

It is quite possible that both these gentlemen are ignoring not one but quite a few elephants in the room.

The first is that the illegal act of tax evasion may be only a small portion of the legal business of tax avoidance in which de-facto evasion takes place without much of a fuss. This happens through religious and charitable trusts or seemingly public entities. The most glaring one in the public’s eyes has been the case of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that merrily lords over hundreds of crores of rupees. Efforts were made during the UPA rule in 2009 to check this, but it is worthwhile to ask whether there has been any progress on the issue. On the face of it, it doesn’t seem so as illustrated by how temples and charities abuse donations to game the system.

Sadly in India, God is drawn in as an accomplice in tax evasion and money laundering. It seems more than a coincidence that Tamil Nadu business baron J Sekhar Reddy, from whose premises income tax officials unearthed more than Rs 100 crore in cash, was also a prominent member of the Tirupati temple board.

Between cricket and religion, India’s most popular activities, there is a lot for the taxman to worry about. Add to this the complicated abuse of family trusts, which the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy has discussed at length, the game becomes murkier.

Now, long-term capital gains are also an easy way to launder money for many. India did this year sign a double taxation avoidance agreement with Mauritius, which has been for years a source for money laundering but the changes take only prospective effect from 2017 in a limited way. Nothing can be done about the laundering that has been legitimised for decades through what is called “round-tripping” of local black money.

Without going into such international routes — which usually helps only foreign investors and the big boys of crony capitalism — even the local exemption from long-term capital gains tax can be used smartly to avoid taxes. Curbing the use of penny stocks to evade tax has been discussed within the government but Jaitley’s clarification over the weekend suggests nothing can be done about it or is being done about it. Indeed, there are serious issues on how penny stocks can be seen as a separate category for tax computation. Price-rigging — very easy when one person sells shares to another in a volatile market, is the key issue and it is not an easy one to police for the government.

In essence, we could say that the government faces a benami tsunami — and a lot of the measures taken by the NDA government can at best check prospective tax evasion. Maybe Sebi can crack the whip on some transactions but it is not an easy game. Modi’s war cry is welcome, but what he faces is not a battlefield but a labyrinth. When wars are announced from the South Block but battles have to be fought from across the street, the game is complicated.

(The author is a senior journalist. He tweets as @madversity)

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 14:49 IST

‘Frustrated’ BJP using central agencies for Congress, SP alliance in UP: Mayawati

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati on Monday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Centre with the help of Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax (IT) Department and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is building pressure on Samajwadi Party boss Mulayam Singh Yadav to form an alliance with the Congress for next year’s assembly polls.Mayawati told the media here that Prime Minister Modi also made false promises like Mulayam and said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won’t be victorious in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.”It is being said that Congress and Samajwadi Party will form an alliance. The final call will be taken when it is realised that BJP will benefit from the alliance. Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance will materialise only after final approval from the BJP,” Mayawati said.?Like Mulayam Singh, Prime Minister Modi has made many false promises just before the elections. Despite all these, they are not going to get success in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP was weak when the BSP was in power and it is strong when the Samajwadi Party is in Uttar Pradesh. This proves they have been colluding,? she added.Asserting that not even one-fourth of the promises made by the BJP during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections have been fulfilled till date, the BSP chief said the people are frustrated with the saffron party as a result of which the Amit Shah-led party has realised that they stand no chances in Uttar Pradesh.The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister also reached out to the Muslim community, saying they must be careful so that the BJP is not successful in desperate attempt to conquer the throne of Lucknow. “In order to tilt the situation in its favour, the BJP included some selfish people on its side and did a lot of advertisement,” she added.Mayawati alleged that demonetisation is an inappropriate decision to benefit the rich and said that the BJP has now realised that this drive has become a bone of contention. “90% of the people have not overcome the obstacles post demonetisation. The people will teach them a lesson,” she added.Asserting that the BSP has always worked with honesty and in a transparent manner for welfare of the people of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati alleged that the Samajwadi Party, BJP and Congress have several records to their credit of causing, supporting and not stopping communal riots. “The Samajwadi Party Government ran bulldozer over the houses of over one lakh communal riots victims’ house. The party is known for supporting ‘gundaraj’ and their record with communal peace is not good either,” she added.Escalating her attack, Mayawati further stated that the Samajwadi Party cannot make the next government in Uttar Pradesh even by joining hands with the Congress, as the feud between the Yadav family will not let them regain power in the state. “The Samajwadi Party is at the verge of breaking in two camps, which can push Muslim votes towards the BJP. The Bahujan Samaj Party is the only party, which can stop the BJP from coming to power in Uttar Pradesh,” she added.Uttar Pradesh will go to polls next year and there have been reports of the Congress and Samajwadi Party mulling over forming an alliance ahead of the elections.The BJP is pinning its hopes on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity to win maximum number of seats in the upcoming polls.

People will teach BJP a lesson in UP polls: Raj Babbar on note ban

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the demonetization decision to “benefit a few of his friends”, causing distress to people who will teach BJP a lesson in the upcoming Assembly polls.Addressing a rally at Purkazi town in the district last evening, he said the entire nation is in distress because of the note ban and every section of the society is facing the brunt of it.”Prime Minister is changing rules on demonetization as if he is changing clothes. A man wearing suit worth Rs 10 lakh cannot call himself a fakir,” Babbar said.State congress vice president Imran Masood also hit out at Modi during the rally, saying, “Narendra Modi has failed to fulfill his promises and caused problems to people after demonetization”.

PM Modi eyeing BMC polls, misled people about Rs 1.06 lakh crore Mumbai projects: Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid foundation stones for projects worth over Rs 1.06 lakh crore in Mumbai, Congress today alleged that he “misled” about the cost of the projects which was actually much lower.”The PM announced various projects with an eye on civic polls including several Metro projects the cost of which is not more than Rs 44,000 crore,” Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam said.”By saying the total cost of projects is over Rs 1 lakh crore, the PM has lied and the statement was made only with an eye on the coming BMC polls,” he said.BJP-led Maharashtra Government had no concrete plan of action nor had it arranged funds for the projects, he said. Nirupam also said that police’s action against Congress workers yesterday created “an atmosphere of terror”. Congress workers had no plans to disrupt the PM’s rally at BKC (Bandra-Kurla Complex) but the police detained them on Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s orders, he alleged.Modi laid foundation stones for many key infrastructure projects worth over Rs 1.06 trillion in the megapolis, including the country’s longest sea-bridge and two Metro lines. “Developmental works of over Rs 1.06 trillion are getting started in a single city at a single event. This will be a big milestone in the city’s history,” the Prime Minister said at his rally. PTI MM KRK

Does Good Governance mean increasing troubles? Yechury slams Modi Govt’s ‘policies of anarchy’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury took a swipe at Modi Government, asking whether observing ‘Good Governance Day’ meant increasing the troubles of people as has happened post demonetization.With the 50-day deadline on demonetization set to get over by next week, Yechury claimed none of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stated objectives including those of combating corruption and black money have been achieved until now. “…the troubles for people (post demonetization) are only mounting further, not easing. The lines at the ATMs and banks are becoming longer.”None of the objectives that the Prime Minister set out to achieve have been achieved. If this is good governance, we all need to question,” Yechury said in a video posted on twitter.The government celebrated former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday as ‘Good Governance Day’. The Marxist leader insisted the country needs “better governance” than good governance as it moves into the next year and called for redoubling resolve to improve lives of people against government’s “policies of anarchy which do not seem to be ending soon”.”And that is a challenge all of us need to meet,” he added.

Mann Ki Baat highlights: Narendra Modi announces lucky draw schemes for digital payments

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday wished the nation on Christmas and said it was a day of service and compassion.

“I wish you all a Merry Christmas. It is the day when people should serve with compassion,” Modi said in his monthly radio addres ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

Modi said Jesus not only did serve the poor but he “has also appreciated the service done by poor, this is real empowerment”.

Lucky draw schemes for digital payments

He announced lucky draw schemes for people who use digital payment methods including e-banking, mobile banking and e-wallets.

In his monthly radio address to the nation ‘Mann Ki Baat’, Modi on the occasion of Christmas said 15,000 people who use digital payment modes will be given a reward of Rs 1,000 each by a lucky draw. This amount will be transferred to their accounts.

File image of PM Narendra Modi. PTIFile image of PM Narendra Modi. PTI

File image of PM Narendra Modi. PTI

“This scheme will last for 100 days (from Sunday). As such lakhs of people will get crores of rupees,” Modi said.

The Prime Minister said there will be one big draw every week with winning price in lakhs.

“On the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti — April 14 2017 — we will be conducting a bumper draw in which the winning price will be in crores.”

Thanks people for enduring demonetisation ‘pain’

Modi thanked people for enduring the “pain” caused by the government’s November 8 decision to spike 500 and 1,000 rupee notes that has caused an unprecedented cash crunch across the country.

“I congratulate people for not only enduring pain but also for giving appropriate answers to those who were trying to mislead them,” Modi said in his monthly radio address to the nation ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

The Prime Minister said people faced hardships and inconvenience but “answered back those who publicly tried to mislead them”.

The move to recall 86 percent of the total currency in circulation was ostensibly aimed at to curb corruption and black money in the country.

However, it has led to people in large number queuing up to withdraw or deposit cash in overcrowded banks and ATMs.

Lauds India’s sportsmen, sportswomen

He also lauded the country’s sportsmen and sportswoman who have “made us proud”.

Modi praised the Indian cricket team for its performance in a recently concluded Test series against England. “It has been phenomenal this year, congratulate the team for beating England 4-0.”

He also congratulated the junior hockey team of India for winning the hockey World Cup. “After 15 years, our junior hockey team has won the world cup. I congratulate all the young players.”

“Our sportsmen and sportswomen have made us proud,” Modi said in his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 12:27 IST

UP elections 2017: ‘Congress to fight polls alone, no alliance talks with any party,’ says Azad

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Saturday that the party is ready to contest the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, due next year, on its own for now. “Congress is prepared to fight the Uttar Pradesh polls alone for now and there is no talk of an alliance with any party,” Azad said while addressing Congress workers in Meerut before leaving for Bijnore. He urged the party workers to get into battle mode for the upcoming polls.Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Azad said the demonetization decision will ruin the country and its people and claimed that every person is troubled by it. “The Centre took the decision without any preparation and this will affect their performance in the UP polls. People who faced problems after demonetization will take revenge from BJP by not voting for them,” Azad said. “Neither does the Prime Minister speaks in the Parliament, nor does he talk to the poor or the media,” he said. “Prime Minister is not at all concerned about the problems of common man and he only cares for a handful of country’s people. Rahul Gandhi is continuously raising the farmers’ issues and demonetization among the people. Congress is highlighting these issues,” he added.Azad was accompanied by party leaders Meem Afzal and PL Punia. Afzal said the public will not be influenced by any gimmicks of BJP and will teach it a lesson in the coming elections.

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

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

LIVE: Narendra Modi lays foundation for Shivaji Memorial in Mumbai, arrives at BKC

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    PM Modi talks on demonetisation ​PM Modi assures that the government will take sound economic decisions, will not shy away from difficult decisions which are in the interest of the country. He said, “Demonetisation is an example. It gives short term problems but long time gains.” He said, “India is been seen as bright spot. To see how far we’ve travelled we should look back to 2012-13 when the currency was falling sharply.”

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Mumbai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be on a day’s visit to Maharashtra on Saturday, where he will lay foundation stones for the grand memorial of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the metro rail projects in Mumbai and Pune.

Modi will inaugurate the newly-built campus of the National Institute of Securities Management in MIDC Patalganga in neighbouring Raigad district.

He will then proceed to the site in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai coast, where the state government is planning to build a mega memorial for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

The Prime Minister’s visit assumes political significance as the high-stake elections to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are just a few months away.

Narendra Modi. PTINarendra Modi. PTI

Narendra Modi. PTI

The main feature of the Shivaji memorial, slated to cost Rs 3,600 crore, will be a 192-metre-tall statue of the iconic Maratha king. The site is a rocky outcrop, roughly 1.5 km from the Raj Bhavan shore.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis recently said the ‘Shiv Smarak’ will not only be the tallest memorial in the country, but in the entire world. He had thanked Modi for “making it possible.”

Later, Modi will address a public function at the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) ground in suburban Bandra, after laying foundation stone for two Metro rail projects, Elevated Rail Corridors Project and Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL).

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, whose party is an ally of ruling BJP, is expected to share the dais with Modi at the MMRDA event.

The PM will then leave for Pune, where he will lay the foundation stone of the Pune Metro Rail project. NCP leader Sharad Pawar will share the stage with Modi at this event.

The memorial project has been facing stiff opposition from fisherfolk and environmentalists, who have alleged that it would affect marine life and ecology of the Arabian Sea.

A rally was flagged off at Chembur on Saturday, where representatives from various districts gathered with collections of sand and soil from Chhatrapati Shivaji’s forts across the state.

The rally led by a ‘Shivaji chariot’ will conclude at the Gateway of India, where the Chief Minister will receive the vase carrying water and soil from all districts of the state. This will then be handed over to the Prime Minister and carried to the memorial site.

For the MMRDA event, the government has sent out invitation to over 3,000 VVIPs and dignitaries, including members of the royal family and Shivaji historians.

Ever since it came to power in Maharashtra in October 2014, BJP has been quietly trying to usurp the near-monopoly that bickering ally Shiv Sena has held over the 17th century Maratha king for the last many years.

Ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly election in 2014, BJP had used the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji for electoral gains, with a famous tagline seeking to evoke Shivaji’s blessings.

The government and BJP are trying to make the memorial event a success with hoardings at important places of all districts and also through campaigns in print, TV and social media.

Meanwhile, an official said those who would accompany Modi in the hovercraft to the jalpujan and bhumipujan venue off Mumbai coast, will include Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, Chief Minister Fadnavis, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, NCP’s Satara MP Udayanraje Bhosale and BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP from Kolhapur Sambhaji Raje Bhosle.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 16:03 IST

Narendra Modi inaugurates NISM campus: Full text of PM’s speech

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a day-long visit to Maharashtra, once again stressed that his government won’t make any decision for “political gains”. The BJP-led government at the Centre has been crticised by opposition parties for its decision to demonetise high value currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations, and it has caused a lot of public inconvenience. But, speaking at the inauguration of the National Institute of Securities Markets (NISM) campus on Saturday, he stressed upon the need for greater vigilance in the securities and exchange markets. Modi also spoke of the need for markets to work for the benefit of the agriculture sector.

Here’s the full text of his speech:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

It is a pleasure for me to be here today to inaugurate this new campus. This is a time of slowdown in the global economy. Developed countries and emerging markets are both facing slow growth. Against this background, India is being seen as a bright spot. Growth is projected to remain among the highest in the world.

India’s place as the fastest growing large economy has not come about by accident. To see how far we have travelled, we should look back to 2012-13. The fiscal deficit had reached alarming levels. The currency was falling sharply. Inflation was high. The current account deficit was rising. Confidence was low and foreign investors were turning away from India. India was considered the weakest of the BRICS nations.

In less than 3 years, this government has transformed the economy. We have cut the fiscal deficit target every year, and achieved it every year. The current account deficit is low. Even after the redemption of loans taken under the special currency swap in 2013, foreign exchange reserves are high. Inflation is low, running at less than 4 percent compared to double digit inflation under the previous government. Public investment has increased largely, even while the overall fiscal deficit has been cut. A new monetary policy framework has been introduced by law with an inflation target. The Constitutional Amendment on Goods and Services Tax had remained pending for years. It has been passed and the long awaited GST will soon be a reality. We have made progress on improving the ease of doing business.

As a result of all these policies, foreign direct investment has reached record levels. By claiming that demonetisation has stopped a fast moving car, our critics too have acknowledged the speed of our progress.

Let me make one thing very clear: This government will continue to follow sound and prudent economic policies to ensure that India has a bright future in the long run. We will not take decisions for the short term political point scoring. We will not shy away from taking difficult decisions, if those decisions are in the interest of the country. Demonetisation is an example. It has short term pain but will bring long term gain.

Financial markets can play an important role in the modern economy. They help in mobilising savings. They channel the savings towards productive investments.

However, history has shown that financial markets can also do damage, if not properly regulated. It is to ensure good regulation that the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) was established by the government. SEBI also has a role to promote the development of healthy securities markets.

Recently, the forward markets commission has been abolished. SEBI has been given the task of regulating commodity derivatives also. This is a big challenge. In the commodity markets, the spot market is not regulated by SEBI. Agricultural markets are regulated by states. And many commodities are purchased directly by the poor and the needy, not by investors. Hence the economic and social impact of commodity derivatives is more sensitive.

For financial markets to function successfully, participants need to be well-informed. I am happy to note that the National Institute of Securities Markets is performing the role of educating various participants and providing skill certification. Today, our mission has to be a ‘Skilled India’. Indian youth should be able to compete with their counterparts in any corner of the world. This institute has a vital role to play in such capacity building. I have been told that around one lakh fifty thousand candidates undertake NISM examinations every year. More than five lakh candidates have been certified by NISM till date.

India has earned a good name for its well-regulated securities markets. The spread of electronic means of trading and the use of depositories have made our markets more transparent. SEBI as an institution can also take pride in this.

However, there is still a long way to go for our securities and commodity markets. When I see the financial newspapers, I often read about the success of IPOs and how some smart entrepreneur has suddenly become a billionaire. As you know, my government is very keen to encourage start-ups. Stock markets are essential for the start-up ecosystem. However, it is not enough if the securities markets are considered successful by international investors or financial experts. Wealth creation is good, but for me that is not the main purpose. The real value of our securities markets lies in their contribution:
• to the development of the nation,
• to the improvement of all sectors, and
• to the welfare of the vast majority of citizens.

So, before I can consider financial markets to be fully successful, they have to meet three challenges.

Firstly, the primary aim of our stock market should be to help in raising capital for productive purposes. Derivatives have a use in managing risk. But many people feel derivatives are dominating the markets and the tail is wagging the dog. We should ponder as to how well the capital market is performing its main function of providing capital.

Our markets should show that they are able to successfully raise capital for projects benefiting the vast majority of our population. In particular, I am referring to infrastructure. Today, most of our infrastructure projects are financed by the Government or through banks. The use of capital markets for financing infrastructure is rare. For infrastructure projects to be viable, it is very important that the borrowing should be of long duration. It is said that we do not have a liquid long term bond market. Various reasons are given for this. But surely this is a problem which the financial brains in this room can solve, if you really put your minds to it. My call to you is to find ways to enable the capital markets to provide long term capital for infrastructure. Today, only the Government or external lenders like World Bank or JICA provide long term money for infrastructure. We must move away from that. Bond markets must become a source of long term infrastructure finance.

You are all aware of the huge capital requirements for improving urban infrastructure. This government has launched an ambitious Smart Cities programme. In this context, I am disappointed that even now, we do not have a municipal bond market. There will be problems and difficulties in creating such a market. But the true test of an expert innovation is when it solves a complex problem. Can SEBI and the Department of Economic Affairs ensure that at least 10 cities in India issue municipal bonds within one year?

Secondly, the markets must provide benefits to the largest section of our society — namely our farmers. The true measure of success is the impact in villages, not the impact in Dalal Street or Lutyens’ Delhi. By that yardstick, we have a long way to go. Our stock markets need to raise capital in innovative ways for projects in agriculture. Our commodity markets must become useful to our farmers, not just avenues for speculation. People say that derivatives can be used by farmers for reducing their risks. But in practice, hardly any farmer in India uses derivatives. That is the fact. Unless and until we make the commodity markets directly useful to farmers, they are just a costly ornament in our economy, not a useful tool. This Government has introduced e-NAM – the electronic National Agricultural Market. SEBI should work for closer linkage between spot markets like e-NAM and derivatives markets to benefit farmers.

Thirdly, those who profit from financial markets must make a fair contribution to nation-building through taxes. For various reasons, the contribution of tax from those who make money on the markets has been low. To some extent, it may be due to illegal activities and fraud. To stop this, SEBI has to be extremely vigilant. To some extent, the low contribution of taxes may also be due to the structure of our tax laws. Low or zero tax rate is given to certain types of financial income. I call upon you to think about the contribution of market participants to the exchequer. We should consider methods for increasing it in a fair, efficient and transparent way. Earlier, there was a feeling that some investors were getting an unfair deal by using certain tax treaties. As you know, those treaties have been amended by this government. Now it is time to re-think and come up with a good design which is simple and transparent, but also fair and progressive.

Friends.

I know that financial markets attach a lot of importance to the budget. The budget cycle has an effect on the real economy. In our existing budget calendar, the authorization of expenditure comes with the onset of the monsoon. Government programmes are not active in the productive pre-monsoon months. Hence, this year, we are advancing the date of the budget so that expenditure is authorized by the time the new financial year begins. This will improve productivity and output.

Friends.

My aim is to make India a developed country in one generation. India cannot become a developed country without world class securities and commodity markets. Therefore, I look forward to a growing contribution from all of you in making the financial markets more relevant to this new era. I wish the NISM all success. I also wish everybody a merry Christmas and a very happy new year.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 14:30 IST

Harish Rawat bribery case: Unfortunate the way Centre treats CBI, says Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress party on Saturday accused the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and his government of misusing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to corner Uttarakhand Chief Minister, Harish Rawat on alleged and unproven bribery charges.’There is some role of the institutions in a democracy, but it is wrong to misuse it. They (Centre) are just perturbed by the allegation put forth by Rahul ji,’ said Congress leader, Husain Dalwai. ‘It is unfortunate the way CBI has been treated’, he added.CBI has asked Uttarakhand Chief Minister, Harish Rawat to appear before it on December 26 in connection with a probe into the purported sting operation involving him.
ALSO READ CBI summons Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat again in sting CD caseThe CBI had registered the preliminary enquiry on April 29 to probe a sting operation that purportedly showed Rawat offering bribes to rebel Congress Member of the Legislative Assembly​ (MLAs) to support him during the floor test. The agency had summoned Rawat for examination on May 9, but he had sought more time.The case was handed over to the CBI​ when President’s Rule was imposed in the state. The notification was withdrawn immediately after Rawat proved his majority in the assembly and his government was restored.

PM Modi should stop ‘ridiculing’ Rahul Gandhi, admit demonetization was a ‘mistake’: P Chidambaram

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Taking a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for ridiculing Rahul Gandhi’s remarks, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said though he too could ridicule him, he will not do that and said Modi should rather answer the questions posed.”He (Rahul) says mock me but answer the questions of the people, the duty to respond to the question… lies with the Prime Minister… however he is ridiculing and acting (mocking Rahul),” Chidambaram said.Stating that he too knows how to mock and poke fun, the former finance minister said, “I can also talk like Prime Minister… and ridicule…, however, I will not do that because he is India’s Prime Minister.”Chidambaram said though Modi belonged to “another party” and “propagated several policies that we cannot accept, I respect him as he is India’s Prime Minister. I will not ridicule him or poke fun at him, I only ask questions, he should answer the questions.””Why are you (the Centre and Modi) punishing people like this (by demonetising) and what sin have they committed? Why are you harassing people and the farmers… what is the reason…I would like to ask,” he said.He said Rahul Gandhi is addressing people in several states, including Gujarat, on demonetisation and related issues.”The Prime Minister addresses meetings, Rahul Gandhi is also doing it and the media is giving equal importance to his speeches like they do for the PM and I welcome it. However that is not enough,” he said and described the claims of BJP government regarding demonetization as “falsehood.” Corruption is happening black money is being hoarded by using Rs 2,000 notes, he claimed and said party workers should apprise people on such “false claims.””I bow my head before the people for their patience,” Chidambaram said, adding people are perhaps waiting for the Prime Minister’s December 30 deadline for things to get normal.”No government or Prime Minister has the authority to inflict so much pain and harassment on the people. They did not vote for them (BJP) for this,” he said. Chidambaram said the Prime Minister should have accepted that he had taken a wrong decision. “He (Modi) is a big (magnanimous) man… had he said that I made a mistake, had Modi sought forgiveness, he would have been a big man,” the senior Congress leader said. He said Indira Gandhi had generously admitted that promulgation of Emergency in 1975 was a mistake as it had led to suffering of people (not in Tamil Nadu) and promised to never do it again till such time she was Prime Minister. “That is why she continues to live in the hearts of people as a towering leader though she passed away 32 years ago,” he said.”There is nothing wrong in accepting one’s mistake…there is nothing wrong in saying that I have done a mistake.” Chidambaram said if Modi had admitted he had taken a “wrong decision based on wrong advice” and he was not told of the quantum of currency that will be scrapped, it would have been generous.If Modi had said he was not apprised about the note printing capacity and how many months it would take to print such notes and on the duration of ATM recalibration, he would have been magnanimous, he said.Modi should have admitted that he had not taken into consideration the fact that people would be hit and daily wage earners would be affected, Chidambaram said.

Indus Water Treaty: PM chairs Inter-Ministerial task force meet

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The inter-ministerial task force, set up by Modi government to look into strategic aspects of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) with Pakistan, discussed ways to fast-track hydropower projects of 8500 MW-capacity in Jammu and Kashmir during its first meeting held here today.Chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s principal secretary Nripendra Mishra, the meet was attended by NSA Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa and Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar as well chief secretaries of Punjab and J&K. “The issues of fast-tracking implementation of hydroelectricity projects in Jammu and Kashmir were discussed during the meeting. We discussed what will be the ways of financing and structuring of the projects,” top sources said.These projects including Tulbul Navigation, intended at developing India’s rights over both eastern and western rivers, will require consent of government of Jammu and Kashmir, which is expected to get back to the task force next month on the issues discussed, they said. “We will take it forward only when there is consent of the Jammu and Kashmir government. The state’s representative did not have mandate. So, the representative will speak to their Chief Minister (Mehbooba Mufti) and after that we can take the implementation forward,” they added.India has identified setting up hydroelectricity projects of a total of 18,000 MW capacity. Of these, 3000 MW have already been established. The Centre now intends at further development of 1800 MW capacity projects including Ratle (850 MW) in the first phase. In the second phase, 5500 MW capacity projects are expected to be developed.”These projects are on both the Eastern (Beas, Ravi and Sutlej) and Western rivers (Indus, Chenab and Jhelum). We will develop capacities in accordance with our rights under the water distribution pact,” the sources added.Meanwhile, on asked about the government’s meeting with World Bank expert to discuss Pakistan’s objection over Kishenganga (330 MW capacity) and Ratle projects being constructed in Jammu and Kashmir, the sources said a communique to this regard is “awaited”. Pakistan had in September approached World Bank, flagging concerns that the design of the Kishenganga project was not in line with the criteria laid down under IWT. It had then demanded the international lender to set up a Court of Arbitration to look into the matter. Refuting the claims made by Pakistan, India had asserted that the project design is “well within parameters” of the treaty and urged the World Bank to appoint a neutral expert as the issue is a “technical matter” as suggested in the treaty.The international lender had then set up two separate mechanisms of COA as well as the neutral expert, which India objected to. The mechanisms were then “paused” by the Bank in view of the objections. The inter-ministerial task force was formally formed last week, nearly three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a review meeting on the 56-year-old water distribution pact with Pakistan in the aftermath of series of cross-border terror strikes including Uri attack.In that meeting, it was also decided that India would exploit to the maximum water of Pakistan-controlled rivers including Jhelum.Under the Indus Waters Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960 and to which the World Bank is also a party, the global body has a specified role in the process of resolution of differences and disputes.

Demonetisation: Narendra Modi ‘wants to destroy farmers’, says RLD chief Ajit Singh

Demonetisation: Narendra Modi ‘wants to destroy farmers’, says RLD chief Ajit Singh

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Muzaffarnagar: Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh in a rally on Thursday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s motive behind the demonetisation decision was to destroy farmers.

File photo of RLD chief Ajit Singh. PTI

File photo of RLD chief Ajit Singh. PTI

“Demonetisation has created great problems for farmers and comman man. Modi’s policy is anti-farmers and he wants to destroy the farmers,” Singh said while addressing an election rally in Charthawal area of the district on Thursday evening.

Modi first failed to fulfill his promise of bringing black money from abroad and then came up with demonetisation. “And now has scrapped import duty on wheat to destroy the farmers,” he said.

Singh alleged, BJP was tring to divide farmers on communal lines and creating communal tension to get benefit in polls.

He appealed the people to beat BJP in UP assembly polls next year.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar, JD(U) leaders Sharad Yadav and K C Tyagi also addressed the rally and attacked the NDA government’s policies.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 14:46 IST

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Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung meets Narendra Modi; govt puts resignation in abeyance: Reports

Najeeb Jung, who resigned as Delhi’s lieutenant-governor on Thursday, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. However, various TV reports suggest that the government has kept his resignation in abeyance.

Speaking to NDTV, Najeeb Jung claimed that he wanted to quit in 2014, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged him to carry on. He added that he requested the prime minister to relieve him after three years as Delhi L-G.

The meeting comes hours after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and met Jung after the latter’s resignation. The ex-Jamia Milia Islamia vice-chancellor put in his papers about 18 months ahead of his scheduled end of term. The move surprised many, triggering off a war of words between the ruling AAP, BJP and the Congress.

Meanwhile, media reports say that the Centre is already searching for Jung’s replacement. According to The Tribune, two former home secretaries, Anil Baijal and GK Pillai, are the frontrunners to replace the ex-IAS officer.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 13:28 IST

Lalu calls Narendra Modi ‘Uncle Podger’, lends support to Rahul Gandhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>RJD chief Lalu Prasad demanded the Prime Minister reply to charges of alleged corruption against him levelled by Rahul Gandhi on Thursday, even as he compared Narendra Modi to ‘Uncle Podger’ for “messing up economy” by his demonetization move. Demanding the charges be probed under supervision of the Supreme Court, the RJD chief said, “The allegations levelled by Rahul Gandhi against Narendra Modi of receiving huge money is even a bigger quake than talked about. He gave details of sum of money with dates on which payments were made.” “The Prime Minister should reply to the accusation and if the allegations are wrong why does not he file a defamation suit against Rahul Gandhi?” he said. “The Prime Minister should announce a high-level probe under supervision of the Supreme Court into the allegations,” he added.Launching a blistering attack on the Prime Minister for “ill-planned” demonetization, Prasad mockingly described Narendra Modi as ‘Uncle Podger’– a bumbling character from Jerome K Jerome’s ‘Three Men in a Boat’– for “messing up economy” and “pushing it towards anarchy”. “Demonetization has flopped and those raising voice of people over anarchy caused by it are termed as traitors,” he said as a retort to PM’s comment on rivals at Varanasi.Prasad whose party has already announced a dharna against scrapping of notes in district headquarters of Bihar on December 28 said later a rally would be held at Gandhi Maidan in Patna. He said he would tour the state before the rally.
ALSO READ Rahul Gandhi is now trying to be new Kejriwal: BJPPrasad claimed support of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and said Kumar has also dismissed plea of converting the country into cashless society. “Nitish Kumar has said he would review demonetization after December 30…there is no difference in the grand alliance…we are strongly united,,” Prasad, whose party RJD is running coalition government with JD(U) and Congress in Bihar, said. He also supported Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s assertions that “only 5-6 big families close to PM are eating into the wealth of the country”. The RJD chief said the PM had sought 50 days from people for ending the problems caused after demonetization out of which only few days are left now. “This (demonetization) would also end up as ‘jumla’ like promise to give Rs 15-20 lakh to every citizen out of black money brought back home from abroad,” he said.

BJP using Shivaji memorial event to market PM Modi, CM Fadnavis: Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress on Thursday accused the BJP-led Maharashtra government of trying to derive a political mileage from a scheduled foundation stone laying ceremony of Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial, which will be performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”Government is spending Rs 18 crore for publicity of the event. The money is being used for marketing Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image.”Instead of wasting money on marketing the two leaders, the amount should be utilised for construction of the memorial,” Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Ashok Chavan told reporters.Against the backdrop of the BJP touting the project as “vachanpurti” or fulfilment of their electoral promise, Chavan said it was the Congress which had made the commitment for the construction of the memorial in their poll manifesto.”When we assured this in our manifesto the BJP never spoke about it. We even made the budgetary provision for the project. BJP is politicising the event. Fishing community has some reservations and the government should resolve them,” he added.

Was there a deal between Congress and BJP? Kejriwal asks why Rahul didn’t speak earlier

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Attacking Congress over Rahul Gandhi’s recent charges of corruption against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal asked why the opposition party had not raked up the issue earlier.In a video shared on Twitter, the Delhi Chief Minister also asked if Congress and BJP had entered into a deal ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls due to which the UPA major did not highlight the issue earlier.”The (offices of) Birla were raided on October 15, 2013. At that time, Congress was in power at the Centre. The documents recovered during the raid had Modi’s name mentioned. At that time, Modi was not yet the PM,” he claimed. “Why Congress did not highlight the issue earlier’ Why did it not tell the country then’ It is a big question: was there was a deal between Congress and BJP’ This needs to be given a thought,” Kejriwal said.Addressing a rally in the Prime Minister’s home state Gujarat yesterday, Gandhi had alleged that in the Income Tax records there are notings of Sahara officials’ claims that they had paid Modi nine times between October, 2013 and February, 2014. Similarly, as per documents with the Income Tax department, the Birla group also paid Rs 12 crore to Modi when he was the Chief Minister, Gandhi had alleged. Rahul Gandhi on Thursday slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making fun of him and taking a pot-shot at him, the Congress vice president quoted Mirza Ghalib ‘ ‘har ek baat pe kahte ho tum ki tu kya hai. Tumhi kaho ye andaz–eguftagu kya hai.’Gandhi, who was addressing a Jan Akrosh Rally in Bahraich, said ‘make fun of me as much as you want, but at least reply to my questions’. ‘I have to quote Ghalib to reply to that: har ek baat pe kahte ho tum ki tu kya hai. Tumhi kaho ye andaz–eguftagu kya hai,’ said Gandhi.‘Make fun of me as much as you want, but answer the questions of the youth of the country. Everyday our farmers are committing suicide; we went to the PM with these problems, but he did not say even a word,’ he said.Gandhi claimed that not a single rich person is standing in the queue, and only one percent of rich have black money. The illicit money is not with the people standing in queues, but stacked in real estate.Gandhi accused Prime Minister Modi of aiding the loan defaulters in escaping the country by bringing forth the name of Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya, who both absconded due to indulgence in corrupt practices.‘How many black money holders have been put in jail by Modi’ Not even one. He instead made (Lalit)Modi and (Vijay)Mallya run away,’ he added.Gandhi also tweeted asking Prime Minister Modi to explain what was in those nine packets which were mentioned in the Income Tax Department’s documents from 2012-2013.Referring to Gandhi, Prime Minister Modi had said since 2009 no one knew what was in this packet and now at least we knew what was in it.Gandhi returned the jibe on Twitter reiterating the corruption charges against Prime Minister Modi he had levelled during his speech at a rally in Gujarat yesterday.Accusing the government of not allowing him to speak in Parliament, Gandhi had earlier said that ‘an earthquake will come’ if he speaks.Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Modi took potshots at Gandhi’s assertion that payments through cards, online transfers etc. would face hurdles in the country due to low literacy levels.‘I hope he does not say that I had indulged in some sort of black magic to make illiterate those who knew how to read and write. He never thinks before he speaks and he may not have realised that he has admitted the failure of the long reign of his own party,’ the Prime Minister said. adding his detractors have been forced ‘to admit, even if unwittingly, their failures’.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lalu Yadav backs Rahul Gandhi, demands SC-monitored probe against PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav has backed Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s assertion that corporates paid crores as bribes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2013-14 and demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the same.Lalu said that Prime Minister Modi, who is now completely trapped, owes an explanation to the nation.”Rahul Gandhi has alleged Aditya Birla and Sahara Group had given Rs. 40 crores to Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister is completely trapped and now he will have to give an explanation. If any BJP spokesperson comes up with justification on his behalf then that would be unfair,” he added.The RJD chief further stated that the Congress vice-president wouldn’t have made such allegations against the Prime Minister without any proof.”Without proof, Rahul Gandhi won’t say this…or any leader won’t accuse the Prime Minister of this. It proves that the Prime Minister was involved in corruption. I demand a Supreme Court-monitored probe in this regard,” he added.Speaking in Gujarat’s Mehsana yesterday, Gandhi alleged that in the records with the Income Tax, there were notings of Sahara officials? claims that they paid Prime Minister Modi nine times between October 2013 and February 2014 and that the total amount was Rs. 40 crore.He also alleged that according to documents with the IT department, the Birla Group too paid Rs. 12 crore to the Prime Minister.Seeking an independent inquiry, Gandhi said that he was raising the issue ‘on behalf of the country’.

Modi govt is like Mohammed bin Tughlaq regime: Congress leader Kharge

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Likening Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Sultan Mohammad bin Tughlaq, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has said every new announcement on demonetization has created confusion in the minds of the public.”It is like Mohammad bin Tughlaq’s government, as everyday they are creating confusion among the people and the public is harassed, particularly by the issuing of new orders without thinking or any vision,” he said.”Ultimately, the people of this country are suffering and the government has failed to implement its policies. They are perturbed and are issuing such orders,” he added.Kharge said government is confused and former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh rightly pointed out that demonetization is a case of monumental mismanagement.Tughlaq, who ruled over Delhi in the 14th century, acquired notoriety for controversially shifting the capital of the Sultanate from Delhi to Daulatabad and for introducing non-precious metal currency, which backfired on him.In a huge U-turn, the Reserve Bank of India withdrew its rule issued Monday that imposed restrictions on deposits of old notes worth more than Rs 5,000 before December 30, after being vilified for it. Now, deposits more than Rs 5,000 in old notes will be allowed until December 30, but only to KYC-compliant accounts, the RBI said.

Modi graft charge: Rahul Gandhi warns of a quake but survey shows it might be a tremor never felt

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had warned last week, as Parliament was going for its winter recess, that he would drop a bombshell regarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi if allowed to speak in the House. A survey of 1,235 people has revealed that his grandiose statements were a little too weak to cause an “earthquake”, as he threatened would happen.

According to a CVOTER survey, conducted on 19 and 20 December in 24 states, 57.7 percent of the total respondents believed that Gandhi’s allegations about Modi’s corruption were baseless. This group of respondents refused to trust Gandhi, the survey said.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTICongress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The survey was conducted to find out what the nation thinks about Gandhi’s claims that he would expose Modi’s graft.

Rahul Gandhi‘s charges came at the end of a stormy week in Parliament, which also saw many sharp and personal attacks from both sides. They were all reactions to the demonetisation exercise announced by the Modi government on 8 November. While the Centre attempted to weed out black money from the country, logistical bottlenecks and shortsightedness in implementing the scheme meant the country was pushed into an unprecedented cash flow situation, with banks running out of currency within a night. The ensuing confusion caused by a plethora of announcements, both written and verbal, and a slew of contingency measures came too little too late, and allowed Modi’s political opponents, particularly the Congress, to go out all guns blazing against the prime minister and his party for maximum political mileage.

CvoterCvoter

However, despite all the aggression from the Congress camp, it didn’t quite succeed in hurting the BJP or the prime minister’s image. The CVOTER survey said the advantage enjoyed by the BJP was quite clear, and cutting across demographics.

Among the 57.7 percent who did not believe Rahul Gandhi’s allegations, 62.8 percent respondents were in the age group of 45-60, while 56.5 percent were below 25 years of age and 57.9 percent were between the age group of 25-45. When looked from a locational break-up, 53.3 percent were from an urban background and 67.6 percent from a semi-urban set-up; 58.8 percent of respondents came from rural India, and refused to believe the Congress’ second-in-command’s claims on Modi.

Ironically, even among those who thought Rahul Gandhi to be trustworthy enough, a huge majority of respondents didn’t back his claims about Modi; just 7.6 percent of people thought there was substance to his claims. Finally, only a paltry 9.8 percent among Gandhi’s supporters thought that his claims on Modi’s alleged corruption are true, while another 3.9 percent backed these arguments though they don’t necessarily support the Congress party.

The survey, which covered 419 Lok Sabha and 897 Assembly constituencies respectively, also covered different income groups to get an impression of what they reckon about the Congress leader’s assertion.

In the higher income group, 81.9 percent respondents in the middle-income group, 78 percent and in the lower income group, and 86.2 percent respondents in the higher income group considered the corruption against Modi are baseless.

In contrast, the CVOTER survey said, 18.1 percent respondents in the higher income group and 22 percent among the middle-income group thought the corruption charges against the Prime Minister are serious. In the lower income group, 13.8 percent of the respondents believed that the charges against Modi are grave.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 22:12 IST

Income Tax raids on Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary: BJP rejects Mamata’s criticism, denies any ‘vindictive action’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rebutting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s criticism of the Income Tax raids on Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Ramamamohana Rao, BJP said Wednesday’s raids prove the agency was working without any discrimination and had carried out a “usual procedure.” BJP state President Tamilisai Sounderrajan said I-T authorities had been conducting searches in the state of late, with lot of seizures being made from a private contractor, Shekhar Reddy.”And today, searches are being conducted at the Chief Secretary’s residence. This is a usual procedure undertaken by the Income Tax department. So how is it acceptable if those like Mamata Banerjee call it vindictive action,” she said.”The taxmen raid a place on suspicion or on information of ‘movement of money’ and “they will say there was nothing (incriminating available) if that is the case,” she told reporters.”The raids are done to see if any (illegal) cash is present. If there is nothing (incriminating available), they will say it. Therefore, I completely deny that this is vindictive action,” she said.Today’s searches were also proof that the I-T department was “working without any discrimination”, she said and pointed out that cash, gold and documents had been seized in earlier I-T searches in the state.Recalling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement, she said ‘honest people need not fear’ as the tax evasion and black money probe was targeted against those indulging in irregularities. “Therefore, today’s searches is an action in support of people,” she added.Mamata Banerjee had criticised the I-T raid at the residence of Rao, saying such a “vindictive and unethical” act by the central agencies devalues the institution of head of the civil service.”Why this vindictive, unethical, technically improper action? Is it only to disturb the federal structure? Why do not they raid Amit Shah and others…” she said in a statement.Responding to Banerjee’s charge that why BJP leaders were not being raided, Sounderrajan said that the tax sleuths just don’t go about conducting searches but gather all relevant information before doing so.

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