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PM Modi’s announcements will pave way for ‘cleaner and bigger GDP’: Arun Jaitley

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The slew of measures announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will enhance economic activities and pave way for “cleaner and bigger GDP”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said today. In a series of tweets, Jaitley said: “PM’s announcements will enable a cleaner & bigger GDP…PM’s announcements will enhance economic activities”.Referring to the sops announced for different sectors, he said agriculture, MSME and housing segments will get a fillip.The Finance Minister, who will be presenting the budget for 2017-18 in February, also said the government is committed to cleansing political funding.On the announcement of fixed 8 per cent interest rate on 10-year deposits up to Rs 7.5 lakh for senior citizens, Jaitley said it is “great news”.In his address to the nation, Modi said home loans in urban areas up to Rs 9 lakh and Rs 12 lakh will receive interest subvention of 4 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively. Also, in rural areas home loans up to Rs 2 lakh will get interest rebate of 3 per cent.Modi also said government will bear 60-days interest burden on farm loans taken for rabi crops and also doubled Nabard funding corpus to Rs 41,000 crore.All 3 crore Kisan Credit Cards holders will be given RuPay debit cards, he added.

Modi speech: Farmers’ fitting reply to critics as rabi sowing up, claims PM; announces sops

New Delhi – In a bonanza to farmers post demonetisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced that government will bear interest for 60 days on crop loans taken by farmers from district cooperative banks and primary societies for sowing operations this Rabi season.

In his national address on the eve of the New Year, Modi also announced that the 3 crore ‘Kisan Credit Cards’ would be converted to RuPay Card within three months to help farmers purchase various inputs anywhere. Nabard will be given an additional Rs 20,000 crore to finance district cooperative banks and societies.

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

Prime minister Narendra Modi. File photo

“In the last few weeks, an impression was sought to be created that agriculture sector has been destroyed. Farmers themselves have given a fitting reply to those who were doing so. Rabi sowing is up by 6 per cent when compared to last year. Fertiliser offtake is up by 9 per cent during this period,” Modi said.

The government has taken care to ensure that farmers do not suffer for want of access of seeds, fertilisers and credits, he added.

“Now, we have taken some more decisions in the interest of farmers. Farmers who had taken loan for the Rabi crop from district cooperative central banks and primary societies will not have to pay interest on such loans for a period of 60 days,” the Prime Minister said.

Farmers who have paid interest during the last two months will get this amount back directly in their bank accounts, he said.

Arrangements are being made to provide farmers better access to loans from district cooperative banks and primary societies, Modi said.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 21:55 IST

Modi speech: PM thanks Indians for standing by demonetisation, rewards them with sops

Amid the celebrations to mark the beginning of a new year, what caught the fancy of the people in different parts of the country and kept them glued to their television sets and radios was Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s address to the nation.

The prime minister’s speech comes 52 days after his announcement of demonetisation, made in a similar address to the nation on 8 November.

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

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

On Saturday evening, Modi thanked 1.25 billion Indians for the resilience they showed in bearing the problems that came with his demonetisation drive, and doing so with much dignity and patience.

Lauding Indians with a couplet “Kuch baat hai ki hasti mitti nahi hamari“, Prime Minister Modi said, “People of India have lived and proved this adage. What India has done will find no parallel in the world.”

Repeatedly thanking and applauding Indians for supporting the demonetisation decision, calling it a “shuddhi yagna”, Modi said that the evils of corruption and black money compelled even honest people to bend in despair, and made him feel “suffocated”. Modi said that these people wanted relief from such suffocation.

Dwelling more upon the resilience of the people, Modi said that on numerous instances — be during the Indo-China war or the Kargil war with Pakistan — people of India have displayed immense sacrifice and resilience. He added that they were all fights with outsiders, but after demonetisation, people were fighting to kill their inner evil, which was comparatively more difficult.

Talking about how people reacted positively to demonetisation, Modi said that a time will come when the country’s intelligentsia will discuss the fight shown by people in defeating their inner demons and deformities. He said the resilience shown by the people in the last 50 days was an epitome of sacrifice to defeat what was wrong.

“The events of 8 November told us how 1.25 crore Indians took the trouble and made the efforts to prove that honesty and virtuosity are most important,” Prime Minister added.

Accepting the pain that people have to face because of demonetisation, Modi said, “I know that to withdraw your own money, you had to bear pain. People shared their pain with me. But I realised that you considered me your own. You showed that you don’t want to be left behind in this fight against corruption.”

He added that the government’s top priority will now be to normalise the functioning of the banking system. Modi said that there will be renewed focus on every aspect of the sector, and especially on making things normal in rural areas.

Stressing on the fact that tax evasion has now become all-pervasive in the country, Modi said that as per official records, only 24 lakh people claim to be earning more than Rs 10 lakh, which is unbelievable given the opulence that is on display in most of the cities.

Sending a clear message to the “corrupt and dishonest” citizens of the country, Modi said that is very obvious now as to what will happen to them. “The law will take its own course. But government’s priority will be to ensure how the honest can be helped and be supported,” he said.

While lauding the efforts of the banking sector, who “worked really hard” in the last 52 days, he also made it amply clear that the people, including government officials, who have indulged in fraudulent practices, will not be spared.

Apart from stressing on demonetisation warning wrong doers, and applauding the honest, Modi also announced a slew of reforms and schemes to benefit the rural poor. Some of them were: An eight percent interest rate will be guaranteed on deposits of upto Rs 7.5 lakh for 10 years for senior citizens; interest will be paid monthly. Modi also announced a 4 percent interest rate cut against home loans of up to Rs 9 lakhs, and 3 percent against home loans upto Rs 12 lakhs for the year 2017.

While there will be detailed analysis of the reforms, the prime minister has sent out a clear message in his New Year’s Eve address: While the honest can expect ache din, it will surely be bure din (tough times) for the corrupt.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 21:30 IST

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’s speech a balm for demonetisation pain, PM doles out sops for weaker sections

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced interest rate subsidy for housing of the poor and also waived off interest rate for farmers, in an effort to address the pain endured by the weaker sections of the society following his demonetisation decision. However, Modi did not provide any clarity on the note ban exercise or its impact on the economy.

Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses the nation on New Year's Eve, PTINarendra Modi gestures as he addresses the nation on New Year's Eve, PTI

Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses the nation on New Year’s Eve, PTI

In a televised address on Saturday evening, Modi praised the spirit shown by Indians and their sacrifice in fighting black money. “The problems which the people have faced for the betterment of the country is an example in itself,” Modi said, in the speech aired all over the country.

The demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes from 9 Novmeber — as much as 86 percent of currency in circulation — created a cash crunch in the country, as the government and RBI were not ready with the replacement currency.

Even after 51 days, banks and ATMs are still not replenished with enough cash to meet the demand from the customers. The non-availability of cash in hand has resulted in a slump in the economy, as scores of informal sector jobs have been lost and consumption declined.

The sops announced on New Year’s Eve may come in this context.

In an effort to balance out the pain for the poor, who have been the worst-hit, the prime minister announced two new housing schemes. According to the first scheme, for home loans up to Rs 9 lakh in urban areas, an interest rate subsidy of 4 percent will be given, and for loans up to Rs 12 lakh, the subsidy will be 3 percent.

Secondly, for the rural poor, Modi announced a 3 percent interest subvention for loans up to Rs 2 lakh.

Apart from this, for farmers, the government will bear a 60-day interest for loans taken from primary credit societies and district cooperative banks.

The third scheme is the increase in the credit guarantee for the small traders to Rs 2 crore from Rs 1 crore. The note ban has broken the MSMEs as the sector has witnessed a decline in business post the demonetisation announcement. The increase in the credit guarantee is an effort to address their pain.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 20:56 IST

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

Dec 31, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With inputs from agencies

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

Mamata so engrossed with chit funds,she can’t think beyond lotteries: Piyush Goyal slams BHIM criticism

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hiting back at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for criticising the new BHIM app launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi , Power Minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday said she should think beyond her ‘own narrow interests.’Banerjee described the new Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) as a lottery app, named after BR Ambedkar by the Centre. Goyal urged the West Bengal Chief Minister to understand that this is for the benefit of the poor and the deprived section of the society. “I urge her to go beyond her own narrow interests and consider it at the national interest for a change,” he added.The Minister said the app has nothing to do with the Lucky Grahak or DigiDhan Vyapar Yojanas and explained that BHIM app, which was launched by Prime Minister Narenda Modi yesterday, is for digital payments.Banerjee had said that the app is a reflection of crude mentality of the Centre and it insults the backward classes. “This app has nothing to do with the Lucky Grahak or DigiDhan Vyapar Yojanas. Mamataji is so engrossed and involved with lotteries and chit funds that she cannot see beyond lotteries,” Goyal told PTI.The Minister was of the view that the app will strengthen the digital payments infrastructure in the country. The UPI & USSD modes of payment for transacting business, and for paying for goods and services, will be made simpler, more robust and secure through this app, he said. “We are delighted that Bharat Ratna Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar’s name has been associated with this app,” he added. Elaborating further, Goyal said: I do hope that Mamataji will get out of her phobia of attacking everything that Prime Minister does for sensationalising things”.

Will continue to support the rights of West Pakistani Refugees: BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> BJP on Saturday condemned Hurriyat and other political parties for opposing the grant of domicile certificate to the West Pakistani Refugees residing in Jammu and Kashmir and said it will continue to support the rights of the WPRs.”Hartal called by Hurriyat and other separatist groups yesterday to oppose the grant of domicile certificate to WPRs is very unfortunate, unwarranted and uncalled for. BJP strongly opposes the efforts of these pro-Pakistan elements to politicise a humanitarian issue,” BJP state spokesperson Brig Anil Gupta (retd) said. He condemned the attitude of Hurriyat and political parties who are opposing the grant of domicile certificate to the WPRs residing in the state and said what was more discomforting is that these people belong to economically backward segment of the society and have been denied the growth opportunities due to no fault of theirs.”It is very unfortunate that a section of society living among us is termed as refugees and denied basic rights on the plea that they are not the state subjects and have migrated from West Pakistan at the time of partition,” he said. Even after 70 years of independence they are being given this treatment in their own country due to the “parochial outlook” of the majority community in the state is tragic, Gupta said. “It is the influx of illegal Bangladeshi and Burmese migrants that has resulted in the demographic change and ironically they do not raise any voice against them but welcome them.”This highlights their communal outlook. Our Party will continue to support the WPR and ensure that justice is delivered to them,” he said. Taking a dig at the National Conference’s stand, Gupta said political parties like NC are misquoting history and trying to mislead the people of Jammu using the name of late Maharaja Hari Singh. “Their contention that State Subject laws were enacted by the Maharaja to safeguard the interest of Dogras is being quoted out of context.”The State Subject Act was enacted by the Maharaja in 1927 to protect the rights of its citizens when J&K was an independent state. “It was the Maharaja only who had acceded the state with India in 1947 and it was his desire that his state should be a part of Union of India,” he said. He said, “All citizens of J&K are now citizens of India.” Had the Maharaja been alive he would have himself ensured that any law that keeps his state away from rest of the country should be “abrogated”, the spokesperson said.”He would have ensured that these helpless people are given all rights immediately and they would not have to suffer this humiliation for 70 years,” he said. It was surprising and unfortunate that parties which had included this issue in their election manifestos in the past were now opposing the issue of the domicile certificate. “The statements of Ambika Soni in Jammu and Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal in Srinagar clearly show that the Congress was only exploiting them for narrow political gains and now that their plight is being improved by the present BJP government they have joined hands with the Hurriyat and others to oppose the same,” he said.”Issue of domicile certificate will enable the WP refugees to seek central government jobs including in the armed forces.There will be quota for them in the 5 IRP Battalions being raised under Prime Minister Special Package for J&K,” he said. The contention that it is an attempt to change the state’s demography, Gupta said it is not understood as to how it will affect the demography of the state since they have been staying here since 1947. “The State Subject Act was enacted by the Maharaja in 1927 to protect the rights of its citizens when J&K was an independent state.”It was the Maharaja only who had acceded the state with India in 1947 and it was his desire that his state should be a part of Union of India,” he said. He said, “All citizens of J&K are now citizens of India.” Had the Maharaja been alive he would have himself ensured that any law that keeps his state away from rest of the country should be “abrogated”, the spokesperson said. “He would have ensured that these helpless people are given all rights immediately and they would not have to suffer this humiliation for 70 years,” he said.It was surprising and unfortunate that parties which had included this issue in their election manifestos in the past were now opposing the issue of the domicile certificate. “The statements of Ambika Soni in Jammu and Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal in Srinagar clearly show that the Congress was only exploiting them for narrow political gains and now that their plight is being improved by the present BJP government they have joined hands with the Hurriyat and others to oppose the same,” he said.”Issue of domicile certificate will enable the WP refugees to seek central government jobs including in the armed forces. There will be quota for them in the 5 IRP Battalions being raised under Prime Minister Special Package for J&K,” he said. The contention that it is an attempt to change the state’s demography, Gupta said it is not understood as to how it will affect the demography of the state since they have been staying here since 1947.

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

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

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deadline to deposit banned notes ends today. Here’s a list of flip-flop in norms by Centre post demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The deadline to deposit old Rs. 500 and 1,000 currency notes ends on Saturday. However, the people will still have time to exchange the currency notes at designated Reserve Bank of India (RBI) counters till March 31 after giving valid reasons for not depositing defunct notes in their accounts by December 30. From today, it will be illegal to have the banned notes and one could be fined heavily for carrying them according to a new law.One can deposit old notes only in select branches of RBI after today’s deadline. Furnishing wrong information while depositing the old currency between January 1 and March 31 will attract a fine of Rs 5,000 or five times the amount. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to address the nation this evening, and according to reports, is expected to spell out the post-demonetization roadmap. This will be his second address to the nation since his announcement to scrap 1,000 and 500 rupees notes on November 8. While announcing the landmark decision, he had asked the people to give 50 days for demonetization and getting accustomed to a cashless economy. In a television address to the nation on November 8, Prime Minister Modi said, “The magnitude of cash in circulation is directly linked to the level of corruption. Inflation becomes worse through the deployment of cash earned in corrupt ways.” He said to break the grip of corruption and black money, the government has decided that from midnight Rs. 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes will cease to be legal tender. Till date, the government has made several changes to the norms.After reports on crop sowing taking a hit due to no availability of cash, the government allowed the farmers to buy seeds with old Rs 500 currency notes. A November 17 announcement allowed the farmers to withdraw up to Rs. 25,000 per week from their KYC-compliant account.Following reports on abuse of Jan Dhan accounts, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) capped the withdrawal limit to Rs 10,000 per month.On November 17, the government made more modifications to the existing rules. Families could now withdraw up to Rs. 2.5 lakh for weddings. The currency exchange limit was reduced from Rs 4,500 to Rs 2,000 per person.The traders in agricultural mandis were permitted to draw up to Rs 50,000 in cash per week to pay for sundry expenses like wages.Also, government employees up to Group C could draw Rs. 10,000 salary in advance in cash.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 through his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio programme.Making an emotional appeal at an event in Goa on November 13, Prime Minister Modi asked the “honest” people of the country to bear the hardships for another 50 days.Exactly two weeks later on November 27, the Prime Minister urged the farmers and small traders to go cashless at his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ address. “The common man will be trouble free if they are made aware of the digital financial transaction options,” he said asking the youth to lead the change.The opposition cornered the government during the Winter Session of Parliament over the inconvenience faced by the nation post-demonetization.

India-Singapore tax treaty amended, ‘reasonable burial’ to black money route, says Jaitley

India will start imposing capital gains tax on investments coming from Singapore from April and fully withdraw exemptions in two years as the two countries agreed to amend a decade-old treaty after New Delhi rolled back similar concessions to Mauritius and Cyprus earlier this year.

With the amendments, announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday, investors based in Singapore will no longer benefit from tax exemptions on capital gains taxes.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photoFinance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photo

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photo

Changes to the treaty with the Asian financial centre had been widely expected after India this year similarly re-drafted a 33-year old tax treaty with Mauritius. The tax treaty between India and Singapore had a provision that any changes in the Mauritius treaty would automatically apply to the one with the Asian country.

The move to tighten tax treaties is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s anti-corruption drive, which includes tightening loopholes for firms or rich individuals setting up a presence in jurisdictions with tax exemption treaties.

Regulators have long suspected rich Indians were routing cash through these tax jurisdictions, and channeling money back to India in a practice known as “round tripping”.

“We are able to give a reasonable burial to this black money route,” Jaitley told reporters at a news briefing. Capital gains tax will be imposed on investments from Singapore that are made from April onwards. The tax rate will be half the prevailing Indian rate for the next two years and rates will then be equated by April 2019. Jaitley said.

Singapore has been an increasingly popular source of foreign investment into India.Foreign direct investment flows from Singapore stood at $50.6 billion between April 2000 and Sept 2016, contributing more than 16 percent to total capital inflows during that period, second only to Mauritius.

According to Abhishek Goenka, partner, direct tax, PwC India, the renegotiation of the tax treaty with Singapore marks the culmination of a long process of renegotiation of the three key treaties that India had which provided exemptions from capital gains tax, ie, Mauritius, Cyprus and Singapore. Due to this the final outcome with regards to the Singapore treaty is not a surprise and most investors were expecting that it would mirror the new Mauritius treaty, which is what it is as far as capital gains is concerned.

However, he said the press release lacks clarity on some of the key provisions.

“It remains to be seen whether the existing limitation of benefits clause will continue to apply for the 2 year phase out period, or whether there will be a somewhat diluted requirement. The press release does not have details on whether there is also a reduction in the rate of withholding tax on interest to 7.5% as in the case of Mauritius. This will be a critical aspect before there can be complete parity between the two treaties,” Goenka said.

With Reuters

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 10:15 IST

Demonetization will cause 1.5% GDP loss

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

Apologise for ‘blunder of demonetization’: Kejriwal attacks PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tender an apology to the people during his address to the nation on New Year’s Eve on what he said was a “blunder of demonetization”.Kejriwal, also the national convener of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which governs Delhi, said Modi has committed a blunder by demonetizing high-value notes and pushed India into a deep economic crisis.”Modi had demanded 50 days to implement the exercise, but there’s no sign of people recovering from its after shocks,” he said and demanded a roll back, suggesting that Modi should make an announcement in this regard in his address on Saturday.”There’s no solution other than rolling back demonetization,” the former Income Tax department official told reporters. Alleging that the RBI was “tight-lipped” on the amount of money demonetized or black money recovered, he asked the prime minister to explain how much of illegal wealth has returned and what amount of money was being pumped into the system.Initial estimates by RBI suggest Rs 14 lakh crore (in high-value notes) was in circulation, which has returned to RBI, but only Rs 4 lakh crore of new currency of Rs 2,000 notes was available for circulation, said Kejriwal, who had criticised the drive soon after it was launched on November 8.Financial experts all across the world have spoken against demonetization, he said, but only BJP president Amit Shah and “his team of sycophants” were hailing the decision. He also challenged the prime minister to order “any probe” against him. “I am not scared of Modi threats and open to any probe of my accounts by any central agency,” he said.Kejriwal maintained that Modi accepted bribes from big corporates such as Sahara and Birla.Modi had taken Rs 40 crore from Sahara on October 30, 2013 and Rs 25 crore from Birla group on November 12, 2013, he claimed, adding that the IT department has seized relevant documents from Sahara and Birla offices but no notice was issued to Modi.He said under the IT Act section 132(4A), any document recovered during raid is deemed to be true unless proved wrong by the party accused. “Not even a notice was issued to Modi and all Income Tax Commissioners dealing with the case were transferred,” he said.

Chhattisgarh: BJP registers victory in municipal council polls

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP on Friday registered victory in the Bhilai-Charoda municipal corporation and Sarangarh municipal council polls putting to rest speculation that demonetisation would impact party’s prospects in the recently held civic elections in Chhattisgarh.”BJP’s nominee Chandrakanta Mandle won the mayor’s seat in Bhilai-Charoda, defeating Congress candidate Jyoti Banjare by a margin of 4922 votes,” a state election official said. Mandle received 27,184 votes followed by Banjare in the second position of the tally with 22,262 votes, he added.Likewise, BJP’s Amit Agrawal defeated Congress’ Suraj Tiwari for the post of president of Sarangarh Municipal Council by 1096 votes. Agrawal secured 6221 votes, while Tiwari got 5125 votes.BJP put up a good show in Bhilai-Charoda winning 16 out of 40 wards (for corporators) while the main Opposition Congress managed to get 13 and remaining 11 went to Independent candidates.Besides, BJP also won byelection held in four wards for corporators and Independent candidates emerged victorious in 2 wards (by-poll).”The victory clearly indicates that it is peoples’ stamp of approval for demonetisation decision of Prime Minister. It is also a signal that people of the state will bring BJP to power for the fourth consecutive time in the next 2018 assembly election,” state BJP chief Dharamlal Kaushik told reporters.The victory that came on the 50th day of demonetisation brought cheer to Chief Minister Raman Singh led BJP who had suffered a setback in the urban body election for 10 municipal corporations held in 2014-15.Congress had won four out of 10 corporations then while the ruling BJP was reduced to four, two less from previous time in that election.Besides, rest of the two seats were won by Independent candidates.

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

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

Total mismanagement and administrative collapse: P Chidambaram flays PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Friday took a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying since 50 days of the demonetization drive are over, all restrictions should be removed and normalcy should be restored.’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. It is fair to expect that the bank branch will pay out the money written on the cheque and not direct the drawer to write another cheque for a smaller amount,’ Chidambaram said while addressing media.Chidambaram sarcastically said that only the Prime Minister can provide an assurance on the removal of restrictions after 50 days of demonetization as the opposition has been dubbed as supporters of black money hoarders and tax evaders by him.’I wish I could hold out assurances on the matter (demonetization), but none of us in the opposition can, because the government has dubbed all of us in the opposition as supporters of black money hoarders and tax evaders,’ he said.Condemning the government for implementing a currency ban without prior planning, Chidambaram reiterated his opinion of demonetization being a case of total mismanagement.’I had also cautioned that the test of demonetization lies in the manner in which it will be implemented. It is now abundantly clear that the whole exercise was undertaken without forethought and planning; without consulting key officials; without understanding the crucial role of money in circulation’ Altogether, the whole exercise has been a case of total mismanagement, administrative collapse and widespread corruption,’ he said.Pointing towards government’s changing stand on the announcement, Chidambaram called it an absurd and undesirable goal. ‘The government has tried to change the narrative from black money and corruption to a cashless economy. No economy can become — or has become – totally cashless. We support encouraging high-value transactions to adopt the digital mode, but to insist that even low-value transactions should go cashless is an absurd and undesirable goal,’ he said.The minister also put forward his two demands and urged the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to make it public- 1. The Agenda note and the minutes of the meeting of the Board of Directors of RBI held on November 8, 2016; and2. The Note for Cabinet on demonetization placed before the Cabinet on November 8, 2016.Prime Minister Modi is all set to address the nation on New Year’s Eve regarding the same issue of demonetization, which marked its 50 days on Friday.

Congress in Gujarat may project a CM face for 2017 polls

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki has not ruled out the possibility of the party projecting a chief ministerial face in 2017 assembly polls to take on BJP, which has been in power in the state for nearly two decades.Claiming that the Congress is well equipped to take on BJP in the Prime Minister’s home state, Solanki dubbed Vijay Rupani as a “rubber stamp” Chief Minister and claimed the change of guard earlier this year did not help the ruling party which has been grappling with Patel quota and dalit stirs.The Congress has not fought elections projecting a chief ministerial candidate in the last 20 years in Gujarat.With the exit of Modi from Gujarat political scene leaving a leadership vacuum in BJP, Congress is hoping to make a mark in the 2017 elections.”Though it (the leadership question) will be decided by the high command, after Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, we cannot rule it out. Let’s wait and see,” Solanki told PTI in an interview.Congress has named former Delhi CM Sheila Dixit as its chief ministerial candidate for Uttar Pradesh.In a direct attack on Chief Minister Rupani, who replaced Anandiben Patel, Solanki said he is a “rubber stamp of BJP president Amit Shah.””By changing chief minister,the BJP has lost on both fronts. Replacing a Patel and a woman Chief Minister by Rupani has not impacted the administration in a positive way. Things have gone from bad to worse,” he said, when asked if the change of guard will prove disadvantageous to Congress.The Congress, after remaining in opposition for last 20 years, is hoping for a revival, as the BJP is facing tough challenges in the form of Patel quota agitation and Dalit protests after the Una flogging incident.”Gujarat’s political scenario has changed due to two agitations – Patel quota movement and Dalit agitation. Come what may, both the communities have decided to defeat BJP in the 2017 elections,” Solanki claimed.

Demonetisation broke the myth that the powerful cannot be harmed: Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Bhopal: Terming the demonetisation decision as “historic”, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister 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.”

File image of Shivraj Singh Chouhan. AFP

File image of Shivraj Singh Chouhan. AFP

“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 demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes,” he said.

“The decision of demonetisation is historic in a way that it surprised everyone and this is the distinct feature of it. India has seen decision of demonetisation 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.

The Congress and other political parties say that demonetisation has wrought havoc on farmers and they could not sow on time.

In Madhya Pradesh, this year already sowing has been done on 105 lakh hectare so far as compared to a total of 108 lakh hectare last year. The sowing will further go up to 115 lakh hectare. It is clear that sowing has not been affected, he said.

“Those who opine that cashless transaction is not possible in this country, are challenging the wisdom and capacities of the 120 crore people of the nation without testing it. This is injustice to the people. The last two months have witnessed an impressive 77 percent increase through internet banking in the Central Bank of India in Madhya Pradesh alone,” said the chief minister.

Referring to VAT, he said “Another benefit of cashless transaction is also very clearly perceptible. In December the VAT revenue has increased 14 per cent whereas there was a fall in revenue from other taxes.

“This makes it amply clear that the tax evasion that took place in cash transaction has reduced in cashless transaction. This will improve tax collection and the state governments will be able to spend more on welfare schemes.”

“I have always believed that the people are wise enough to know what is in their interest. They are fully aware that the Prime Minister’s step of demonetisation is a masterstroke against those indulging in amassing black money, anti-national activities and circulating counterfeit currency in the market.

“The people very well understand that this is a step in the interest of the country and are extending wholehearted support to promoting cashless economy. This will definitely help India catch up with the most developed nations,” he added.

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

Demonetization: Cash crunch making some in BJP & allies fear poll prospects in several states

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cash shortages weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to abolish large currency notes is making allies and members of his ruling party anxious, with some distancing themselves from the move ahead of a series of state elections.Modi removed 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, worth around $7.50 and $15 respectively, on Nov. 8, billing it as an attempt to root out corruption, end terror financing and move the country into the age of digital payments.He promised to replace all old bills with enough new currency notes by the end of this month. But his government has struggled to do that, leading to long lines at banks and a slump in economy activity. Nearly 90 percent of transactions in India used to be in cash.
ALSO READ Demonetization broke the myth that powerful can’t be harmed: Shivraj Singh ChouhanInterviews with six lawmakers from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a senior leader of the party’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), show his party cadre is starting to worry that the cash crunch could hurt their prospects in several states that go to the polls next year.Some parliamentarians said that while they thought Modi’s decision was good, its execution had been botched and they were faced with constituents who were increasingly upset.
ALSO READ Demonetization: Jaitley misleading people with his statements, says Congress”There is no doubt that it is difficult to convince voters that everything will be fine,” said Santosh Gangwar, the junior finance minister who is leading the BJP campaign in western Uttar Pradesh.”Every candidate who will be contesting polls is nervous because they feel people may not vote for the BJP … There is tension and we cannot deny it,” he said.
ALSO READ Demonetization: PM Modi criticises opposition for ‘openly protecting the dishonest’, slams Manmohan SinghOf the BJP’s 71 MPs from Uttar Pradesh, 28 have been to BJP President Amit Shah and the finance minister’s office to seek solutions for the cash crunch, said a senior finance ministry official.BJP EXPECTS “BIG VICTORY”BJP spokesman GVL Narasimha Rao said that despite temporary difficulties, the prime minister continued to enjoy overwhelming support.”Party cadres are highly enthused about a big victory in upcoming elections, and if a few are apprehensive, they will realise the reality soon,” Rao said.Disquiet within the BJP underscores how Modi’s unprecedented bet is turning into a test of popularity, and could go some way to determining his political future.It has become a central issue in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, where the outcome of elections early next year will be key for Modi’s expected bid for a second term in 2019.The opposition, led by the Congress party, has joined forces, mocking the government for being ill-prepared for so-called “demonetization” and blaming it for hardships faced by the poor as a result. It has called for Modi’s resignation.The senior RSS official said they had counselled Modi days before the move to take time to prepare the ground for such a massive exercise, including setting up two new mints and expanding the banking network, and to roll it out in phases.But the prime minister decided to press ahead, and he alone would bear responsibility for its failure or success, the official added.Earlier this month, N. Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of the southern state Andhra Pradesh and a political ally of Modi, abruptly distanced himself from the move.Modi and senior members of his cabinet defend demonetization. In an interview with India Today magazine on Thursday, Modi said it would give the economy a boost and provide long-term benefits, including forcing the country’s vast shadow economy into the open.”GRIM SITUATION”Modi’s announcement enjoyed popular support at first, with many people prepared to endure hardship as long as others were forced to give up ill-gotten wealth or pay tax.But shortages of new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes have caused tempers to rise as millions queue at banks and ATMs to draw money.Last week, more than three dozen BJP lawmakers, many of whom came from states that go to polls next year, met with Shah to demand that the government sends more cash to their constituencies, and quickly.The MPs told Shah about severe cash shortages and hardship to local businesses and ordinary people, according to several lawmakers who attended the meeting.They told the BJP president that they did not have the courage to hold election rallies at a time when people still had to stand in line, sometimes for hours, to get money. Some said they had not started door-to-door campaigning.”The situation is grim, and we cannot ignore it,” Jagdambika Pal, a BJP lawmaker from Uttar Pradesh who attended the meeting, told Reuters. “It is a challenge for every BJP lawmaker to manage the situation, but we cannot do anything if there is no money in the banks.”

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

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday accused the Congress leadership of “desperation” in the face of his “tough” demonetization decision and said it was the first time that a concerted effort was made by the Opposition to “openly” protect the dishonest through disruptions in Parliament.He also slammed Manmohan Singh, who had described demonetization as a “monumental mismanagement” and an “organised loot”, and sarcastically said that his predecessor might have been referring to the “unending string of scams” like 2G, CWG and coal block allocation “under his leadership”. Modi said while the honest will not be harassed, those with black wealth have “only a few days to hide” and will not be spared.”I pity a few of our opponents, especially the Congress leadeship, for the desperation they have been exhibiting …Congress leaders are entirely pre-occupied with only one thing – elections.”There is nothing political in the demonetization decision…It was a tough decision taken to clean up our economy and our society. If I were guided by short term electoral politics, I would have never done so,” he told India Today in an interview. With regard to the washout of the recent Winter session due to disruptions over demonetization, the Prime Minister said the government tried its best to keep Parliament functioning.”I was keen to speak in both Houses. Yet, there was a concerted attempt by the Congress to derail the functioning of the Houses rather than have a proper debate. While opposition in Parliament is understandable, this is the first time it is being used to protect the dishonest and that too so openly,” he said. On Manmohan Singh’s attack, Modi said, “it is interesting that the words ‘monumental mismanagement’ come from a leader who has been at the helm of India economic journey for around 45 years.”His reference to ‘organised loot’ was perhaps a reference to the unending string of scams under his leadership, from the coal scam to the 2G and CWG scams. Demonetization on the other hand is an unprecedented step to confiscate the loot of the corrupt.” Asked whether demonetization will end corruption in the political system, the Prime Minister said “decisive ways” were required for that. “There is a need for reforms in the political system,” he said. He said before the Winter session, he had suggested that there should be discussion in Parliament on reform of the political system and electoral reforms but this could not happen due to disruptions.Rejecting criticism that the demonetization decision was political, it was taken not for “short-term windfall gains” but for long-term structural reforms. “Earlier the Income Tax department used to shoot in the dark. Now people have voluntarily come forward and deposited money. Now the Income Tax department has specific information,” he said. Asserting that his government has “zero tolerance for corruption”, Modi said the dishonest will be punished and the taxes collected from them will be routed for welfare programmes.He said the demonetization will deliver a “multiplier effect” to clean up the economy in the long term. “Black money is now traced. It will not remain anonymous anymore… The dishonest have only a few days to hide…The government the time, means, and most importantly the will to seek them out,” he said. Regarding the frequent modifications after demonetization was announced on November 8, the Prime Minister said, “one must be able to distinguish between ‘niti’ (policy) and ‘ran- niti’ (strategy) and not put them in the same basket.”The decision of demonetization, which reflects our ‘niti’, is unequivocally clear, unwavering and categorical. Our ‘ran-niti’, however, needed to be different, aptly summarised by the age-old saying of ‘Tu Daal Daal, Main Paat Paat’ (keeping pace with the adversary). We must take two steps ahead of the enemy.”He said when problems are identified, “we respond promptly and take necessary steps. Far from indicating poor implementation, this speaks of our agility in responding quickly and keeping up with the evolving situation.” “I know many will prefer if we issue one guideline and then allow them to walk roughshod over it. Let me assure them that no such thing will happen.”Issuing the “most dire warning” to black marketers and the corrupt, Modi said, “if the enemy runs, we will chase them. If they change their tactics, we will change ours. When the corrupt find new methods of cheating, we will identify new methods to clamp down on the same.”

Have not spoken to son for 4 years, lament parents of Mumbai engineer languishing in Pakistan jail

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Love and desperation drove Mumbai engineer Hamid Ansari to illegally cross over to Pakistan from Afghanistan in late 2012 leading to his arrest and subsequent imprisonment.Four years later, the desperation to hear a word from their son has prompted Hamid’s parents — Fauzia Ansari and Nehal Ansari — to pitch a tent in the city’s protest hotspot, Jantar Mantar, and knock on the Prime Minister’s door.”The last time I spoke to him was on November 10, 2012 when he told me that he will be back in Mumbai by November 12 and was looking forward to take up a teaching assignment,” Fauzia said.Little did she know that, “egged on by a group of people in Pakistan who may have trapped him”, Hamid’s false bravado would plunge the family in a state of despair, with virtually no glimmer of hope.During this period, Fauzia has written to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, met Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj five times, so much so that “she recognises me even from a distance”.”Allow Hamid to talk to us from prison. We have not spoken to him for over four years now. Please allow him consular access denied to him till date,” reads her letter to Sharif.”Sushmaji has been extremely cooperative. Our last meeting was in August this year. She assured us that the government was pursuing the case,” Fauzia said, adding that the family would submit a memorandum to the PMO.Hamid, 31, had entered Pakistan to reportedly meet a girl he had befriended online, who was being “forcibly married” off to someone by her family, said Fauzia, a lecturer with a Mumbai college.It was only in January this year that Fauzia and Nehal came to know from Pakistan government’s submission in the Peshawar High Court, responding to Habeas Corpus petition, that Hamid was in military custody.He was arrested soon after he entered Pakistan and was tried by a Pakistani military court, which awarded him three years of imprisonment.”Since he has been in jail since 2012, he has served this sentence already. But there is no clarity about when he will be released. What is intriguing is that a woman Zeenat Shehzadi, who tried to help Hamid, seems to have been targeted by agencies there. She has gone missing,” Fauzia said.

Demonetisation: Prime minister Narendra Modi to address nation on 31 Dec evening

Prime minister Narendra Modi will address the nation on the New Year eve, said media reports. The address is likely to be at 7:30 in the evening.

Though it is not immediately known what the speech will be about, speculation is rife that it will be a stock taking of the demonetisation announced on 8 November.

The prime minister had announced the government’s surprise decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in a stated aim to curb the fake currency, black money generation and terror funding.

The decision has deeply impacted the economy and normal lives of millions as it resulted in a severe cash crunch, which still continues.

PM Narendra ModiPM Narendra Modi

PM Narendra Modi

As the impact of the decision to replace about 86 percent of the currency in circulation unfolded on various sectors of the economy, the prime minister in a speech sought 50-day time period to deal with the situation. The deadline ends on 30 December.

The lack of preparation of the RBI and the government to deal with the evolving situation was evident as the printing of replacement currencies was slow and failed to keep pace with the rising demand for cash. Also even as the requirement was of more smaller denomination notes, the government released Rs 2,000 notes which did little to ease the crunch situation.

Frequent changes in rules regarding the withdrawal of cash and deposit of banned old notes added to the confusion of the public.

Ever since the pains heightened, there has been wide speculation that the prime minister will announce some sops for the rural and urban poor who have been hit badly as jobs dried up due to the sudden economic slowdown.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 11:55 IST

Demonetisation: Prime minister Narendra Modi to address nation on New Year eve

Prime minister Narendra Modi will address the nation on the New Year eve, said media reports. The address is likely to be at 7:30 in the evening.

Though it is not immediately known what the speech will be about, speculation is rife that it will be a stock taking of the demonetisation announced on 8 November.

The prime minister had announced the government’s surprise decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in a stated aim to curb the fake currency, black money generation and terror funding.

The decision has deeply impacted the economy and normal lives of millions as it resulted in a severe cash crunch, which still continues.

PM Narendra ModiPM Narendra Modi

PM Narendra Modi

As the impact of the decision to replace about 86 percent of the currency in circulation unfolded on various sectors of the economy, the prime minister in a speech sought 50-day time period to deal with the situation. The deadline ends on 30 December.

The lack of preparation of the RBI and the government to deal with the evolving situation was evident as the printing of replacement currencies was slow and failed to keep pace with the rising demand for cash. Also even as the requirement was of more smaller denomination notes, the government released Rs 2,000 notes which did little to ease the crunch situation.

Frequent changes in rules regarding the withdrawal of cash and deposit of banned old notes added to the confusion of the public.

Ever since the pains heightened, there has been wide speculation that the prime minister will announce some sops for the rural and urban poor who have been hit badly as jobs dried up due to the sudden economic slowdown.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 11:55 IST

Search panel reconstituted on orders of PMO for AIIMS director job

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The search-cum-selection committee, tasked with shortlisting names for the AIIMS director’s post, has been reconstituted following orders from the Prime Minister’s Office and it would be headed by the Health Secretary instead of the Union Health Minister.The new five-member panel will be led by Health Secretary C K Mishra as the chairman. The committee will include Principal Scientific Adviser to PM R Chidambaram, Secretary in Department of Health Research Soumya Swaminathan, Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Jagdish Prasad and Vice Chancellor of the Delhi University Yogesh Tyagi.The PMO last week had ordered reconstitution of the search panel based on DoPT guidelines amid allegations of nepotism against some members of the panel. “We had recommended the names for the search-cum- selection committee which has been approved by the DoPT and the order has come today,” a senior official in the Health Ministry said.Also, antecedents of applicants will be verified thoroughly before finalisation of names, sources in the Union Health Ministry said.As per rules, the search-cum-selection committee selects a name from the list of candidates which is then sent to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) headed by the Prime Minister for final approval.It is learnt the move came after some applicants for the AIIMS top job accused some members of the panel of conflict of interest as they have close relationship with a particular candidate. They have also raised the issue of eligibility of promotee professors for the director’s post.Earlier, a search-cum-selection panel under the chairmanship of Health Minister J P Nadda was constituted to select the new Director of AIIMS. “The PMO had ordered the reconstitution of the committee after certain issues concerning members of the panel were raised. Also, DoPT had sought opinion of the PMO regarding AIIMS president J P Nadda chairing the panel,” a source said.According to sources, 53 eminent doctors, including 35 candidates from outside AIIMS, have applied for the post and the screening of applications is complete.The main contenders for the top post include V K Paul, Head of the Department (HOD) of Paediatrics, Randeep Guleria, HOD of Pulmonary Medicine and Sleep Disorders and Alka Kriplani, HOD of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.Current AIIMS director M C Mishra is set to retire on January 31 next year.

Congress should introspect its contribution to ills like corruption and black money: BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Hitting back at Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi over his criticism of demonetization, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the opposition party should “introspect” its contribution towards ills like corruption and black money.Attacking the Congress, the Union Information and Broadcasting minister said the the party which has ruled India for the maximum time should give answers as it has all along “patronised” black money and corruption.He said that as the Congress celebrates its Foundation Day and it is only appropriate that the issue of black money, corruption etc, are “haunting” it.Referring to Rahul’s comments earlier in the day, Naidu said that the Congress Vice president had expressed unwisely his “vicarious pleasure” over what he thought that note withdrawal is a big failure in terms of unearthing black money. “This clearly shows that his party is with those who all along lived by black money and corruption….One of the objectives of note withdrawal has been to see that high value currency notes reach the system.”Whatever does not reach banking system obviously could be taken as unaccounted for money. It does not necessarily mean that all the currency that reached the banking system is white money,” Naidu said.One would have known by now that December 30 is not the last day of efforts for unearthing black money, he added. Claiming that spit and run won’t work, Naidu posed five questions to Rahul and Congress. He asked them to explain whether they believe that there is no black money and corruption in the country and there was no need for any measures to tackle them?If Congress believes that there is a problem of black money and corruption, why did it’s governments not take effective measures against them, he asked. Naidu also asked why Congress government brought the Benami Property law before Parliament in 1988 but did not subsequently notified it? Why some major opposition parties are refusing to join hands with Congress in its anti-note withdrawal campaign? he asked Naidu asked.Why Congress Government didn’t act on Supreme Court s directive for setting up SIT on black money, was Naidu’s fifth question. Referring to Congress Vice President’s remarks earlier, Naidu claimed that “Rahul’s smile and body language today clearly indicated that there is not much of black money in the country.”Then why don’t you muster courage and openly say so if his party’s assessment is that there is not much of black money, Naidu said. Everyone knows the close link between black money and corruption, Naidu said adding that if Congress says there is no black money in our economy, obviously, there is no place for corruption in our system. “Is this the stand of the Congress?” he asked. Naidu said that Congress is in panic and trying to create confusion. He claimed that Congress is worried as nobody was taking Rahul seriously, whether it is the people, opposition leaders or his own partymen. That is why the opposition leaders’ distanced from the meeting, Naidu claimed.Naidu said that Congress and communists are disappointed as the people have continued to support the crackdown on black money. Only some political parties which have been beneficiaries of the loot appear to be shaken, he claimed.When asked about the demand by Mamata Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi that the Prime Minister should quit, Naidu said that it was people’s love that had made Modi the Prime Minister and not the pleasure of these opposition leaders. Asked about the criticism by opposition regarding the use of Ordinance route by the Government, Naidu said that Congress has itself issued hundreds of ordinances.Responding to another question about West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Naidu said that she should first set her house in order.He added that secularism has been made to mean talking about only the minority. He said what is happening in Bengal is “disturbing.”In a question related to the happenings at the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Naidu said it was a wrong decision and therefore the government had taken appropriate steps.Attacking the Congress, he said that rather than asking questions to the government, it should explain why it encouraged such people.

If Narendra Modi’s demonetisation drive isn’t successful, it’s down to our cynicism

It’s misplaced, but it exists. We have this inordinate cynicism about the removal of corruption. With the central government’s demonetisation drive about to complete its second anniversary next month, the army of doom and gloom is increasing its numbers.

We hear people saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot eliminate corruption, and how his whole exercise is not worth a spit in the wind, because the crooks and the charlatans, the hundis and the hawalas, the gangsters and the hoarders will all be back collecting bribes in a couple of months, just wait and see.

The “wait and see” is said with a certain ill-concealed glee, as if we would be disappointed in case the fruits from the poisoned tree were actually squashed.

Narendra Modi. AFPNarendra Modi. AFP

Narendra Modi. AFP

I am not pro-Modi or anti-Modi, but I have just been thinking, what the heck, why are so many of us detracting from the herculean effort? No one else ever did it.

Though there are many hiccups and flaws, and we can point to all of them and exult in the mess, the fact is that the man has gone out on a limb and done something. Look at it this way: World War II lasted five years; many a battle was lost before the Allies pushed the Axis powers into a corner; many strategies were changed mid-way, campaigns reworked, troops repositioned. Nothing happened according to some preordained master plan.

Often they bumbled along, hoping for a break. England was one night away from considering surrender after the brutal Battle of Britain, Rommel thought his Afrika Korps would singlehandedly destroy the Allies, Japan blasted Pearl Harbor and let the US into a war it did not want to enter.

Modi too is at war. In a way, all of us are the troops. It is a massive undertaking and he needn’t have done it at all. But he has set the ball rolling and it is gathering speed.

That his PR machinery is weak and rickety and totally eclipsed by the mainstream media is a tragedy. Large sections of this mainstream media has found comfort in projecting Modi’s mission as having failed. If the prime minister has failed at anything, it’s in his inability to share the message effectively with the public. When you do something so drastic, you don’t put timelines on it. That was the one big mistake, because it was easily exploitable. Every time a correction has been made or a deadline reworked, we have screamed foul and mocked this as evidence of the BJP frontline groping in the dark.

“They do not know what they are doing, they have changed the deadline again!” This is now a mantra.

No one second guessed when the Vietnam War would end. Nobody in 1971 said we will have Pakistan surrender in the East by 16 December.

But we are doing the death dance over the 31 December deadline and getting all pointy fingered again.

Be fair. Public suffering and long queues have reduced; the discomfort is abating. Even at the worst of times, Indian resilience kicked in and the poor whose suffering has been sculpted into a sledgehammer hung in there. The anger that we, the media, showcase is only triggered by our highlighting scuffles. If things were indeed that bad, there would have been riots across the board.

The public took it on the chin; they are nowhere near being stirred into a rebellion, so lets not exaggerate their rage.

Point two: Millions of jobs have been lost. Really? Greedy bosses may have closed down their small scale and cottage industries and not paid their labour force by shrugging and claiming no cash, but they are going to open doors again and the slack will be pulled in because now that the cash flow has commenced, there is no cause to shut the companies. So, millions of jobs are not lost, just temporarily frozen.

Finally, point three: The filthy rich are happy bunnies. They have escaped the net. Not true. They may not confess it or even show it, but the underground is hurt, mortally hurt. The rich have been slapped in the fiscal face. This money did not fall from the skies, it belonged to someone who had concealed it. Hidden wealth has been discovered, so let’s not make it less than it is.

Oh, these guys are so smart they will make it again? Fine, let them start from zero, and if you want the truth, they can get going if you and I let them get going. If we become customers to the corrupt, what price on Modi or anyone else winning the war?

He will lose. Thanks to us.

Like I said, why are so many of us so confident that corruption is in our DNA and why do we speak of it with such misplaced pride.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 17:54 IST

As Congress turns 131, Rahul Gandhi accuses BJP of ‘spreading anger’ across India

Just a day after Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad poked fun at Rahul Gandhi for his lack of maturity, the Congress vice-president hit back at the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central stating how the BJP has formed a rigid view of everything, and that Prime Minister Narendra is spreading anger across India.

Juxtaposing BJP’s ideology with that of Congress, Gandhi, speaking to Congress party workers on the 132nd foundation day of the Indian National Congress, alleged the BJP of following a rigid stance similar to its ideological head, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Rahul Gandhi. Reuters

Rahul Gandhi. Reuters

Gandhi said: “Congress is not just a party, it’s an idea. Congress means being open to a second viewpoint. It means listening to you. It means listening to others. It doesn’t have a single rigid point of view.”

Gandhi also alleged that the Modi-led government is following on the footpath of RSS and is spreading anger in the country, and called on his party workers to fight against this politics of anger. “Congress has to stand with the poor, the middle class, the labourers and the small traders. We have to go to the people. I am sure you will do this. And fight against this RSS ideology of spreading anger,” he said.

Gandhi also mocked the Narendra Modi government’s decision to demonetise the old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 on 8 November. He said that the government has sacrificed the people. “The prime minister said he is performing a yagya against black money and corruption. The yagya of demonetisation is being performed for the one percent super rich. And just like a sacrifice made in a yagya, the prime minister has sacrificed the common people,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 11:02 IST

Rahul is obsessed while Mamata is biased on demonetisation: BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday has said that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s seeking a reply from Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the government’s demonetisation drive is ridiculous and added that the former is obsessed with demonetization.”Rahul Gandhi is obsessed with demonetization scheme may be his party is deeply hurt with this move. Seeking reply from Prime minister is ridiculous because in every public meeting, Prime Minister is addressing, he is raising the issue and giving clarification to the people of India. It is more important to speak to the people than to these discontented elements,” said BJP leader S Prakash.He further said that more than Rs. 5 lakhs crores scandals were exposed by the CIG and other independent authorities during the Congress regime, but Rahul did not speak a word on any of scams adding,”Now when, there is no scam and only demonetization is taking place, commenting on the same issue repeatedly will not convince the people.”Congress vice-president, earlier in the day, escalated his attack on Prime Minister Modi, saying the goal of his ambitious demonetization drive has completely failed as people are continuing to suffer.Addressing the media after an anti-demonetization meeting which was attended by all the opposition parties except the Left, Janata Dal (United) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Gandhi said,”Demonetization has done absolutely nothing against corruption. What it has done instead is to leave people without any money.”Prakash also took dig at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who also went all guns blazing at the Prime Minister over his decision to scrap Rs. 500 and Rs. 000 currency notes and said that Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief?s demand is irrelevant and her crusade against demonetization is highly biased.”I think she should more focus on Saradha chit fund scam’s accused as her own MP is still in jail, may be, she has forgotten or dumped him. Let her stable it first and then look at national aspirations,? Prakash said.”Unfortunately, Mamata Banerjee’s mind is totally clouded with biased opinion over demonetization. I hope after December 31 she will realise her mistake and the benefit of demonetization will certainly be known to the people of India in coming days,” he added.

Demonetisation is only part of clean-up of economy: Bibek Debroy tells Firstpost

Much before economists like Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya weighed in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies as Gujarat chief minister, Bibek Debroy stirred a hornets’ nest by praising the Gujarat development model. Debroy was then working in the Congress’ think tank — Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies. Needless to say, Debroy had to quit. But that did not stop him from speaking his mind. Debroy drew close to Modi prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and played a critical role in shaping up his economic policies. He was drafted as a member of the Niti Aayog after the extinction of the Planning Commission. In the mean time, he was tasked with reviewing the functioning of the Indian Railways.

At the moment, Debroy wears many hats — one of them as a defender of demonetisation. He has been valiantly defending the government’s move to make currency notes of the denomination of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 illegal tender. He says that it is just a beginning to clean up the entire economic ecosystem. In a wide-ranging interview, Debroy explains the rationale and long-term impact of the move.

Here are some edited excerpts:

Since the demonetisation drive is coming to a close, can you explain for us the objectives, benefits and travails that the exercise entailed? As an economist and policy analyst, how do you sum it up?

One should not look at 8 November (the date on which Modi declared currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 as illegal tender) in isolation. The reason I am mentioning this is because there are various other things that have happened outside 8 November and will continue to happen outside 8 November. And the day should be considered from this broader perspective. Let me give some example of that. The creation of this new black income and I am deliberately using the phrase ‘black income’ because we are talking about specifics. And there is wealth which from an economist’s point of view is stock, and there is income which is of flow.

So far as the issue of creating fresh black income is concerned, 8 November was not meant to address that. There are other instruments to take care of that, like negotiating and re-negotiating agreements with Mauritius. This has already happened. Take for instance the restriction on cash transactions above Rs 20,000. Take something like the Real Estate Bill, which among other things promises that it would transform the real estate sector from unorganised to organised. It will not happen overnight but over the period of time. The prime minister has already indicated that many such measures will be introduced. And remember in the background of this the income declaration scheme has already happened.

File image of Bibek Debroy. Image credit: Forbes India

File image of Bibek Debroy. Image credit: Forbes India

There was a greater scrutiny of people who might have had black income. So when people are criticising the demonetisation it should be understood that there are other measures which are meant to check the creation of new black income and nobody is saying that this is the only way all the issues can be addressed.

Let’s take a new target and let me define the term ‘black’. There are two different uses of the term black. They are not quite the same. The first is when the activity is illegal like crime or drugs. The other type of black is when the activity is not illegal. So the income generation is perfectly illegal but the tax that ought to be paid was not paid. Nobody is denying that black exists in non-cash forms like gold or property. There are instruments that have been introduced to tackle this and will continue to be introduced. Just because the substantial part of this black income is in other forms does not mean that it (the matter of black cash) should not be addressed.

Let’s take the third point. In India, cash is used substantially. And it is obvious as India is not a developed country. No one is expecting the use of cash in India to disappear overnight. But look at the ratios. The GDP-cash ratio in India even till last year was 13 percent. Some 15 years ago it was nine percent. Someone needs to explain how this ratio increased from nine percent to 13 percent. Even if I assume that we need cash, it should be understood that when a country develops, the use of cash reduces. Then how and why did we witness this increase?

I look at countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. What is the GDP-cash ratio in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka? It is five percent or three percent. Even in Pakistan, it is nine percent. So let us accept that there is too much cash around. Let us also accept that there have been deliberate compulsions to use cash. Take for example the Payment of Wages Act. Section 6 of the Act, which has been there for years, has said you must pay wages in cash unless you have concurrence from the employee not to do so. Who will do so? Why should we have such a rule in this age? It is only now that things have changed; it should have been done years ago.

And take for instance the high fees on non-cash modes. Someone should have objected to the rates they charge. So let us also recognise that there have been disincentives not to use cash. Let us also remember that Jan Dhan Yojana accounts have already been made. So we have now more than 260 million accounts and many have RuPay cards. But sadly for them it is just a piece of plastic that will be used at ATMs as they have not been still educated and convinced that these RuPay card can be used for something else also.

Someone will come along and say, “Look at the unbanked population in India” and add that he doesn’t believe in Jan Dhan figures. So my response is that you shouldn’t believe in these figures. But here is the survey conducted in August — not by the government, but by a private institution, and it states that 97 to 98 percent of both rural and urban populations have bank accounts. Now, if one says that all of them are not using bank accounts, I may agree. But don’t say that they don’t have bank accounts.

How much exactly do the currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 account for in the economy? And how much of it have we got back?

There is a lot of confusion around as people are using two different bases. One is the RBI balance sheet figure which is slightly old and which puts the number at Rs 14 lakh crore. The other one is the figure on 8 November. It is the latest figure and it puts the number at almost Rs 16 lakh crore. Let’s stick to the Rs 16 lakh crore base. Now out of this how much was black? How much is going to come back into the system? To the best of my understanding, no one in the government has predicted or projected anything.

How much has already come in? We don’t really know. There are all kinds of figures floating around. These figures may not always be final.

Let’s take the example of fake currency. The fake currency check goes through three different layers. Once it has gone through all three it is very unlikely that it will be deposited in the banking system. But today when you are looking at the figures it is perfectly possible that fake currency was deposited earlier. Alternately, you go and take old notes at petrol pumps. It may be showing up in the accounts that petrol pumps maintain with the bank. It may also be showing up with the report that BPCL is giving to the government. So until the figures are final, one really does not know.

But the last figure I have is Rs 12 to 12.5 lakh crore. Which means, I personally think, that most people who were going to deposit it have already done so. Even if I accept that Rs 14 lakh crore comes in by the end of the month, the remaining Rs two lakh crore is not the indicator of success. A lot of criticism is happening that only Rs two lakh crore will be left. To the best of my knowledge, no one in the government has said that it is the criterion of success. And that’s because the money that is coming to the system has not become white. It will invite taxes and penalties if required and will have deeper scrutiny. Just because it is in the banking system does not mean it is legitimate.

I mentioned earlier that people who are holding cash are being dissuaded to do so. So it is good that it comes into the system. I think it is a success as people are realising that this initiative is a serious one. So there is not much point in my hanging on to cash. To my understanding, it is an attempt at cleaning up the entire system. So if I look at it narrowly just from an economist’s point of views, I am missing the true picture. This is the beginning of an attempt to clean up the gold market. I am not talking about jewellery market, which is different. It is also an attempt to clean up the financing of capital market transactions and real estate. And also, one has got electoral reforms as part of the debate agenda.

I am not saying that something substantial has happened, but it is part of the discourse. It should be seen as part of the broader process. You can dispute the survey figures. One survey says that 60 percent of the people are supporting you, another says that 80 percent back you. What you find across all surveys is that a large number of people are supporting the measure and it is because, I feel, they have realised that 8 November was just a small piece in the process.

My last point is when you are doing something like this you can plan perfectly. But when you do plan perfectly, it becomes impossible to preserve secrecy. To preserve secrecy, I may take some decisions, you in the same position may take some other decision. It cannot be the case that my decision will be perfect as I may not be able to assess all eventualities. But if you are in my place, you might also take decisions that might not have been perfect.

Obviously, there was inconvenience.

Let me divide it into different parts. One, the task was to get enough new notes to banks; two, naturally when there is a shortage there will be rationing. So in this scenario it is decided to take smaller denomination notes to rural areas; and three, it is one thing to get the notes to the bank and it is another to take it to ATMs. As a government you do not have much of control on how the banks take the money to the ATMs because it is outsourced. So there is a problem with banks and ATMs. I think, purely anecdotally as there is no data, that bank problem has decreased day-by-day even in Delhi and Mumbai. ATMs? Yes, there are still problems. I have no idea how long it will take.

From where did the word “windfall” gain currency in this entire exercise?

Right from the beginning, I have followed what the finance minister and the finance ministry have been saying. I have seen that there was a recognition that there are three different channels through which money will come. One is the money that does return. This reduces the liabilities of the RBI. When liabilities of the RBI are reduced that is not automatically the money that in any fraction has gone to or will go to the government. It is for RBI and finance ministry to take decisions. Today, sitting here we do not know how this part will be handled.

The second part is that there will be some money that will come into the banks, mostly public sector banks. It will ease their stressed assets problems and to that extent, it enables them to lend better. But again, the banks, even if they are public sector banks, are not the government. The third is the money that actually comes into the consolidated fund of India through taxes, penalties and other means.

Now I have two things to say on this. First, I have already mentioned the income declaration scheme. Over and above this, action has been taken by the income tax department. It has resulted in a lot of money coming in. Second, when I declare Rs 100 as additional income then those Rs 100 are not revenue to the government. Only the taxes and penalties are revenue to it. It is this money that the government can use for different purposes. How the government chooses to use it we will know partly on 1 February (Union Budget). I said ‘partly’ because we will not know the figure till the end of March, which is when the window shuts. As far as windfall gain is concerned, I don’t think the government has ever used this word.

When the prime minister announced demonetisation, he laid down certain objectives: Eliminating black money and fake currency, and tackling terrorist activities. But over time it seems that goalposts have changed.

No, I don’t think they have changed. There were multiple objectives. I will give you an example. On this issue, I have been giving interviews to different people. Somewhere, I would have said something to one person responding to specific questions and I would have said something different to another, but that does not mean that my focus changed. You see it is not a single objective. Lot of people are only referring to what the prime minister said after 8 Novembe. My request is that you look at what he has been saying earlier in his monthly radio broadcast Mann Ki Baat. This has been figuring in his speeches for quite some time. It is not fair to say that goalposts are changing.

Take the case of fake currency. I don’t think that the issue is absolute amount of fake currency. In 2014, the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) put the number at Rs 400 crore. There is an Intelligence Bureau (IB) figure of Rs 2,400 crore. It is not about what the exact value of fake currency is, but to understand that it does not take a lot of money for a terrorist attack with a lot of undesirable consequences. Even Rs 10 crore is good enough to cause enough damage. If I am destroying the counterfeit apparatus today there is no surety that it will not reappear in future. It has to be a continuous process.

So you are saying in a way that this talk of changing goalposts is not valid.

I think so. I have been listening to Modi. I think the most important objective here was to clean up the system.

Now the next strike in all probability will be on benami property. How do you think the government will be able to do this? How much impact will it have on real estate? Is there any assessment?

People have been complaining that real estate sector has been destroyed because of demonetisation. I ask what has been destroyed. Is it the value of the property? Is it the registered value of the property? There is a big difference between the two. Is it the black component or the white component? And the invariable reaction of anyone I speak to on this is that what has been destroyed is the black component. In Delhi, 50 percent of transactions use to be in black and 50 percent in white. Right now the system is in shock but I am certain that when it is stable, it will no longer be 50 percent black and 50 percent white. All of it may not go, but the amounts will reduce. Whenever the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is introduced, it will bring a lot more into the net. So it is part of the entire thing and not just 8 November.

The political part — the elections etc — requires a debate. It is not easy. And you have to also see that because of this a lot of poor people have started using non-cash means. So what I am seeing, though it is difficult to get it quantified, is that in many ways middle men are getting eliminated from the system.

How do you think it will impact the tax base?

Indirect tax will increase because of GST. There is a difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Tax avoidance is legal whereas tax evasion is illegal. So to broaden the direct income tax net, you need to take care of exemptions. Today, when a chartered accountant is not paying his taxes it is not always the case that he is evading. Rather he might have legitimate exemptions of which he can avail. I have a feeling that in future there will be a greater degree of enforcing that for certain transactions you cannot pay in cash. The segments that will be then made more accountable will be lawyers, chartered accountants and doctors.

There is another difficult issue that is linked to it: Taxing people in rural areas. Technically taxing agricultural income is a state subject but taxing non-agricultural income of the farmer is not a state subject. There is an issue there that is more about enforcement. So part of it is broadening the base, but also simultaneously ensuring that tax department, both direct and indirect, does not unnecessarily cause harassment to honest tax payers and I feel that we will see something on this line in the budget.

How do you react to reports of people illegally exchanging money? Do you feel that banks did not behave in the manner they were suppose to?

One of the channels that was misused quite a bit was exchange, which is really an RBI thing. I think there were three problems with banks. First, they were not very vigilant about the functioning of the ATMs. They were talking about whether the ATMs were calibrated, but I am talking about how many ATMs were working. Second, from the second day we knew from newspapers that bank officials, though they worked really hard, connived. How do we know that they connived? Because they have been caught. So there is a positive way also to look at this.

I am a little confused about the third as there is lack of information about it. There is a shortage of notes. When there is a shortage, there is a certain principle on which distribution is done. What is the principle that RBI follows in distributing notes to different banks and what is the principle that banks follow in distributing to different ATMs? I don’t have any information about this but I don’t think that this was done in a very rational kind of way. If a bank like SBI has many ATMs then the bank should have information on which ATM is used to what extent and the distribution should have taken place accordingly. Am I (as a bank) doing this with efficiency? I don’t think so.

Even in case of honesty, I am not very sure that it was very efficiently followed. But this is my analysis and is purely anecdotal. I often take this route between Khelgaon and Aurobindo Marg (in Delhi) and there are roughly 20 ATMs. Two days ago I found that 10 of them were working. If there is a general shortage then all should not be working. So I think it should be probed how they allocate money.

But there were so many news reports about how old currency was exchanged for a commission of 10 percent and 15 percent, which later came down to five percent.

If they have got less money, there is some destruction. There has been some tracking of this at aggregate level. Initially, when it happened, it was happening at 35 percent. It has not come down to five percent. It has come down to a 10 or 14 percent level. There is still destruction.

How do you react to the opinion emerging from the world around on demonetisation, some of them are calling it an ‘immoral act’?

I don’t understand what is immoral here. Let us get the principles clear.

Your money is in bank. No one said that you cannot use that money. All that has been said is that there is a limit on withdrawal.

You want to pay through cheque, you can do that freely. You do digital transactions, you are free to do that. So the first principle of criticism that I am being deprived of my property is factually incorrect. Please understand that someone who is based abroad does not know what is happening on ground here. They are forming their opinion on what you people are writing here in the Indian media.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 09:40 IST

Uttarakhand: PM Modi lays foundation stone of Chardham project

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday laid the foundation stone of an ambitious project for all-weather roads to ‘Chardham’ saying he wanted to drive Uttarakhand to new peaks of development so that lack of job opportunities does not force its youths to leave the state.”There is an old saying in the hills of Uttrarakhand which means the waterbodies and youths of the mountains are not able to serve the land where they originate. “I have decided to prove this wrong. “I want to take Uttarakhand to new peaks of development where people are not forced by circumstances to leave their homes in the Himalayas and spend their lives in the dirty streets of cities in search of work,” Modi told a ‘Parivartan Maharally’ at the Parade Ground here after the foundation laying ceremony.The 900-km Chardham Highway Development programme will entail an investment of Rs 12,000 crore. The project will ensure uninterrupted all-weather safe journey for pilgrims to the four Himalayan shrines- Badrinath, Gangotri, Yamunotri and Kedarnath, which bore the brunt of the 2013 natural calamity. Promising people that he was going to drag Uttarakhand out of the “bottomless pit of corruption in which it was languishing under the present regime”, the PM said the state needs a double-engine, one at the Centre and the other in the state capital to pull it out of its woes.Making a reference to the alleged scam in relief funds in Uttarakhand, he said even a scooter with a capacity of five liters of oil could drink 35 liters of it. “Five or 50 people cannot drag Uttarakhand out of the bottomless pit of corruption it is in. “It needs a double engine of the BJP for the huge effort, one in Delhi and the other in Dehradun,” he said, asking them to install a BJP government in the state after 2017 elections and give the party an opportunity to build an Uttarakhand envisioned by Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had created it.Terming the project as a tribute to the thousands of devotees from all over India, who perished in the 2013 natural disaster in Uttarakhand, Modi said the all-weather roads will not only generate new employment opportunities for the youths in the hills but also enhance the sense of security of people coming to visit the chardham. Modi said it will give a boost to tourism by removing all fear from the minds of visitors bound for the Himalayan shrines about their safety along the disaster prone route in all sorts of weather.He said the project has been conceived with the help of international consultants so that there is no disruption along the route in any season.Explaining the delay in launching the project, Modi said he wanted to do something real for the development of the state and was not interested in doing politics or putting up a false show in the name of inaugurating development projects as was being done by some political parties.He said a lot of preparation and study in consultation with international experts has gone into working out the blueprint of the all-weather road project to the four famous Himalayan shrines located in the state. The Prime Minister highlighted the steps taken by his government to provide free LPG connections to poor BPL households and helping women lead a healthy smoke-free life in the remote hill areas of the state. He also spoke of what he had done for the implementation of OROP and his campaign against corruption and black money and sought the blessings of the people of the state in his fight against graft.

Demonetization: Sushil Modi attacks Lalu for his remarks against PM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Launching a scathing attack on RJD supremo Lalu Prasad for his “chauraha” comment against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi on Tuesday said people would prosecute hoarders of black money at the public square after December 30.”People are standing solidly with the prime minister on his decision to scrap high value currencies and they are ready to prosecute hoarders of black money who would be unmasked at the public square after December 30,” he said in a statement. Prasad had asked Modi to choose a “chauraha” (roundabout) where people can punish him on demonetization and December 30 marks the end of 50 days after the scrapping of high value notes when, according to the PM’s assurance, the situation would ease.Sushil Modi said the RJD dharna against demonetization here tomorrow would meet the same fate as that of Bharat bandh and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s dharna against it.”The deposit of Rs 104 crore in BSP bank account has exposed the reasons behind protests by Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee and Lalu Prasad against demonetization,” he said.”Does Lalu Prasad, who has been convicted by court in a corruption case due to which he has been debarred from contesting any election have the moral right to talk on black money to fight against which the PM took a decision to scrap Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes?” he asked. “Lalu Prasad is the first such leader of Bihar who has been sentenced to five year punishment by Supreme Court in the Rs 700 crore fodder scam, due to which he cannot even fight election for even a mukhiya post,” he added.

Demonetization has destroyed terror funding and human trafficking: PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hitting back at Rahul Gandhi’s charge of helping big corporates and the rich, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government is focused on working for the poor and asserted that demonetization has destroyed in one stroke black money, terror funding as well as human and drug trafficking. Targeting parties who are opposing the note ban, he claimed some people are upset as his decision has struck the “ring leader of thieves”. Addressing BJP’s ‘parivartan maharally’ in poll-bound Uttarakhand, Modi appeared to rebut Rahul’s charge when he said that while the UPA government’s move to raise the number of subsidised cylinders from 9 to 12 was projected as momentous, his government gave gas cylinders to five crore people below poverty line. “18,000 villagers were living in 18th century without electricity… in thousand days, we have electrified 12,000 villages. Work on remaining 6,000 is on. Is this working for rich or empowering the poor,” he said.With the decision to demonetize Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, the black money stored in cupboards and under mattresses is now coming to banks and to the people, he said, adding he is fulfilling his duty of a ‘chowkidar’ (watchman) to get rid of black money and “dark hearts” which have ruined the country. “In some, corruption is in the blood. They used back door to convert the money and thought Modi cannot see.”But we knew and now they are being caught,” he said referring to various raids by law enforcement agencies on black money hoarders. Describing note ban as a “cleanliness drive”, he thanked the people for standing by him. He also said the move is aimed at empowering the people and to give them a bright future. “I am fighting to make the honest empowered,” Modi said adding that his November 8 decision has dealt a devastating blow to black money and terror funding. The decision is not being liked by some people as he has struck directly at the “ring leader of thieves” (choron ka sardar), the Prime Minister said. Referring to the demands for ‘One Rank, One Pension’ by personnel of the armed forces, Modi said the party and the family which has ruled the country for over 40 years did nothing on the issue till the eve of 2014 Lok Sabha elections.Uttarakhand is among the various states which sends thousands of youth to serve in the armed forces. He said ahead of the general elections, UPA allocated a mere Rs 500 crore “fearing that Modi, who has a special love for soldiers, may come up with something”. The PM said the OROP entails an expenditure of Rs 10,000 crore plus which his government readily gave in installments.He said the personnel understood his plight that giving the entire sum in one go was not possible and they agreed to take it in installments. Noting that development was his government’s only objective and he was working consistently towards that goal, he said the fight against corruption and black money launched on November 8 with demonetization was a step towards empowering the country’s honest people. “Did you give me the huge mandate in 2014 to cut ribbons and lighting ceremonial lamps only at inauguration ceremonies? “Didn’t you vote me to combat and end corruption. Shouldn’t we fight the evil with all our might?” he asked.

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.

Ball in PMO’s court, will PM Modi come clean? Sheila Dikshit on ‘Sahara diaries’

With Dikshit’s name figuring in the “Sahara diaries” bribery case, stoking a controversy, there could be uncertainty over her continuation as party’s chief ministerial face in Uttar Pradesh, party insiders feel. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit has denied reports of withdrawing her name as Congress chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Earlier, it was reported that the former Delhi chief minister may withdraw her candidature after her name appeared on 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. She also said: “I have said what I had to. The ball is in court of PMO & others now. Will he respond & come out clean?”With the Congress vice-president 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. Dikshit, who is the Congress’ chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh, strongly denied the charges and trashed the documents, saying the Supreme Court has already made its observations on them.

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.

Demonetisation countdown to day 50: Why are govt, RBI so secretive on the whole affair?

Indications are that cash withdrawal curbs imposed after the demonetisation announcement will not end fully by 30 December, 2016 the deadline promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end the pain of the common man. According to two senior bankers, cash curbs will continue beyond 30 December though some withdrawal relaxations are likely to be announced for businesses.

Also, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) might ease some restrictions on ATM withdrawals, but curbs on high value cash withdrawals are likely to stay for a longer-than-expected period.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

“It will take some more time and only gradually,” said one of the bankers quoted earlier. But it is clear that the government will ease some restrictions, to save its face in the backdrop of the promise made by PM Modi to the common man. In his last Mann Ki Baat telecast of 2016 on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi aggressively defended demonetisation. His line of attack on his critics was that it is the corrupt and black money hoarders who are finding fault with his government’s 8 November surprise move. Also, Modi justified the frequent changes in note ban rules saying it was being done only because the government is sensitive to the problems of the people. Since note ban, the Modi government’s stance has been that demonetisation is for short-term pain and long-term gain.

But, none of these excuses would suffice to justify the gross inconvenience caused to people from all walks of life owing to the cash crunch that isn’t over even now. Even after a month and a half, people are allowed withdrawals of only Rs 24,000 per week from their banks and Rs 2,500 per ATM. India isn’t facing an economic emergency to face such prolonged restrictions on normal banking transactions. Even by the current limits, banks are unable to honor it simply because there is not enough cash in the banking system despite the repeated assurances from the Reserve Bank of India and finance ministry.

Hence, Modi’s reasoning that only the corrupt and fraud oppose demonetisation isn’t fair. Only five days are left for Modi’s 50-day deadline to come to an end. That’s the time he sought to end the ‘temporary’ pain of the people on account of demonetisation-induced artificial cash crunch. But, it is likely that the PM will fail to make good of his promise in its entirety.

The reasons for this aren’t difficult to understand. 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, about 20.4 billion pieces belonged to smaller denominations of Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 and Rs 100, while 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 Rs 2,000 notes and how many are Rs 500 notes.

Here is where the problem lies. The ongoing cash crunch, according to bankers, is mainly due to shortage of new Rs 500 notes. The government pulled out 86 percent of total currency in circulation on 8 November. According to an RTI response, the RBI had only 4.95 lakh crore in the new Rs 2,000 notes on 8 November and not even a single Rs 500 note on that day. The printing of Rs 500 notes only began later. That means, the government and RBI started on Day One with less than a fourth of stock of new currency, that too Rs 2,000 bills, which caused a cash crunch. So far, neither the government nor the RBI has given any clarity on the breakup of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes infused since demonetisation. Chances are that Rs 500 notes issued are only a small fraction.

PM Modi’s justifications for demonetisation or finance minister Arun Jaitley’s clarifications cannot wish away the fact that the Modi government started blind on a massive gamble in public life and economy. It was totally unprepared and decided matters on the go. That explains the endless number of rules, sharp U-turns and the 60 circulars from the Reserve Bank in just a month.

The government had an excuse of secrecy for making an abrupt start but that excuse no longer holds after a month and a half. The entire exercise lacks transparency even at this stage. According to reports (read here), the RBI has refused to make public the details of the board meeting that discussed demonetisation saying “it would lead to disproportionate diversion of resources of the organization.”

It has thus refused to disclose its recommendations to the government to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes. This response isn’t satisfactory since there has been tremendous pain in the lives of the common men during the exercise and the very role of RBI in demonetisation has been questioned by many. On Friday, the Hindustan Times reported that the decision to scrap high-value notes was cleared by the bank’s board hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision on national television on 8 November.

Given that the excuse of secrecy isn’t valid any longer, the common man deserves to know a) how the demonetisation plan emerged in the first place, b) who were part of the decision-making,  c) how many new currency of Rs 500 has been printed so far, d) how long will the cash crunch last, and e) what is the actual quantifiable cost to the economy on account of demonetisation (economic loss, cost of roll out and estimated job losses).

If people have begun hoarding legitimate cash withdrawn from branches and ATMs post demonetisation, that’s because the trust of public with the banking system is shaken and there is considerable uncertainty on the road ahead. The Modi government still draws considerable support from a good number of the 125 crore Indians on the demonetisation gamble, the pains of which is likely to last beyond the short-term and the likely gains (on black money, wider direct tax base and checking fake currency and terror) will only be visible in the long-term. It is only just that both the government and the RBI take the common man fully into confidence and be transparent about the whole affair.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 11:27 IST

Fake news in review: Here are the top 10 forwards Indians (almost) believed in 2016

By Alison Saldanha

From currency to salt–very little escaped the reach of fake or fabricated news in 2016. Rumours spread from WhatsApp and other social media into the mainstream media. Institutions such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had to step in and tell us what was true. Even Facebook and Google, two of the world’s biggest Internet companies, sat up and took notice.

Such news can have widespread reach: India is one of the biggest markets for several social media and communication companies–it has 160 million of WhatsApp’s one billion-plus monthly active users, 148 million Facebook users, and over 22 million Twitter accounts.

The potency of fabricated news came into focus after the 2016 US presidential elections. In the run-up to the ballot, fake news on the elections drew more engagement on Facebook than top-performing stories from major news outlets such as The New York Times, CNN, NBC News, or The Wall Street Journal, this BuzzFeed News analysis found. Other countries witnessed the rise of fake news too, according to this Guardian report, rendering it a global phenomenon in 2016.

Here are some of the most popular Indian fake news stories of 2016:

Unesco declares PM Modi best Prime Minister

Unesco has been one of the primary alleged sources of fake news in India. In June 2016, fake news broke out on WhatsApp groups, and other social media, that the UN cultural agency had awarded Prime Minister Narendra Modi the title of best prime minister in the world.

That rumour is still circulating on social media:

World billiards champion Pankaj Advani shared the news on Twitter congratulating PM Modi.

After media organisations pointed out the news was a hoax, Twitterati trolled Advani leading him to post this rebuttal:

Unesco declares Jana Gana Mana best national anthem

Another favourite Indian rumour involving Unesco is the claim that India’s national anthem–Jana Gana Mana–has been declared the “Best National Anthem In The World”. The fake news started in 2008 through email and then caught the UN agency’s attention. “We are aware of several blogs in India reporting this story, but can assure you that Unesco has made no such announcement concerning the anthem of India or any country,” a Unesco official told India Today in 2008.

Circulation of the rumour peaked around India’s Independence Day in 2016:

Unesco declares new Rs 2,000 note best currency in the world

Another fake Unesco certificate for India touched upon the notebandi crisis, as messages claimed the organisation had certified the new Rs 2,000 note as the “best currency in the world”. The message, shared widely on WhatsApp, claimed “Dr. Saurabh Mukherjee, head of cultural awareness department of Unesco announced this to media.”

The rumours caught the eye of the BBC, which reported that “thousands” of Indian WhatsApp users had “forwarded the message along with joyful emojis”.

New notes have a GPS chip to detect black money

Another notebandi rumour proliferated when PM Modi announced the withdrawal of old Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes on 8 November, 2016. In less than an hour, rumours circulating on WhatsApp of a nano geo-positioning system (GPS) tracking device embedded in the new Rs 2,000 notes gained traction. This chip, the messages said, would alert authorities if black money was hoarded .

The nano-GPS chip does not need any power source, the forward said, according to this Firstpost report. “It only acts as a signal reflector. When a Satellite sends a signal requesting location the NGC reflects back the signal from the location, giving precise location coordinates, and the serial number of the currency back to the satellite, this way every chip-embedded currency can be easily tracked & located even if it is kept 120 meters below ground level. The NGC can’t be tampered with or removed without damaging the currency note.” Mobile currency-scanner apps emerged claiming the app can scan new notes and have these authenticated by RBI, according to this Firstpost report.

The RBI has clarified the new notes contain security features such as latent images, coloured strip security threads, watermarks etc, but they do not have a chip installed, according to this The Hindu report.

Still, rumours are rampant. Recent news of authorities tracing hoards of illegally-held new notes seems to have further fanned rumours, and more YouTube videos explaining the placement of chips in the new notes are circulating on social media.

New notes have radioactive ink

Notebandi provided more fodder for fake news. Earlier this month, rumours began circulating that the RBI was using radioactive ink to print new Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes. The new notes include a “radioactive isotope of phosphorous (P32), which has 15 protons and 17 neutrons”. The fake news claimed the income-tax department was using the isotope to trace large quantities of cash held at a particular spot. The trace amounts of radioactive isotope employed in this exercise were not harmful to humans, according to WhatsApp messages, as FirstPost reported.

Even some banks fell prey to notebandi-related rumours, and were called out on Twitter.

WhatsApp profile pictures can be used by IS for terror activities

A WhatsApp forward, supposedly sent by the Delhi police commissioner, requested “moms” and “sisters” to delete their WhatsApp profile pictures for security purposes. These pictures were supposedly vulnerable to misuse by the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS), whose hackers had access to citizens’ details and could easily steal their virtual identity, according to the forwarded message. The message further claimed that WhatsApp’s CEO had requested users do this for 20-25 days, while their team worked on enhancing the messaging application’s security features.

The message was signed off by an AK Mittal, who claimed to be Delhi’s police commissioner, but the phone number mentioned in the message had since been marked as “blacklisted” in Truecaller, which a caller identification application, according to this Indian Express report.

A Reddit thread discussing the WhatsApp message is here.

 RBI declares the Rs 10 coin invalid

Months before notebandi was announced, the message that the RBI had declared the Rs 10 coin invalid spread through WhatsApp, particularly to areas in Agra, Delhi and Meerut.

This confusion led shopkeepers, kiosk-owners, auto-rickshaw drivers and vendors to refuse the coins, according to this Hindustan Times report from September 2016.

In June 2016, the RBI had issued a new Rs 10 coin. At that time, rumours had spread that the old coins would now no longer be valid. WhatsApp messages made other claims too–two kinds of counterfeit coins have flooded the market, and that the RBI was phasing the coins out because of widespread circulation of fake currency–according to this Business Standard report. The RBI stepped in and clarified that the coins were indeed legal tender and those refusing to accept the currency could face legal action.

After the withdrawal of Rs 14 lakh crore–the value of bank notes withdrawn on November 8, 2016–the rumour resurfaced in Odisha, spreading panic and adding to the currency chaos as vendors refused to accept the coins, according to this NDTV report from November 2016.

Jayalalithaa’s ‘secret daughter’ and heir lives in the US

Soon after the death of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, fake news and photos of a secret daughter went viral on WhatsApp and social media. The message alleged that the woman in the photograph was Jayalalithaa’s daughter, who lived somewhere in the US in anonymity.

As it turns out, the woman in the photograph was not connected to Jayalalithaa and lived in Australia, according to popular singer and TV show host Chinmayi Sripada, who took to Facebook to dispel the rumours.

“She belongs to the family of renowned Mridangam Vidwan V Balaji,” wrote Sripada. Musician Trivandrum V Balaji also clarified that the woman in the photo was his sister-in-law.

Salt shortage in India

WhatsApp messages of a salt shortage (despite a 7,517 km coastline) in November 2016 triggered panic buying at markets past midnight, and caused a four-fold price-rise in some parts of the country. Western Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra and Hyderabad were particularly affected by this bit of fake news, said news reports. The subsequent chaos to stock up on the essential commodity led to the death of a woman in Kanpur, while police baton-charged crowds and stopped mobs from looting grocery shops, according to this India Today report.

The government issued a clarification denying any shortage of the commodity. “We monitor the prices of 22 essential commodities on daily basis. As per the prices reported by centres from across the country, there has been no increase in price of salt whatsoever,” the department of consumer affairs said in a statement, as quoted in this The Times of India report.

Speaking at an event in Goa, PM Modi claimed the fake news was being circulated by “vested interests hurt by demonetization”, according to this IANS report. The prime minister’s claim is unverified.

“Nehru Govt has stood like a Banyan Tree”: Mark Tully

Fake news claiming former BBC India bureau chief Mark Tully called for support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, while describing India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s government as standing “like a banyan tree, overshadowing the people and the institutions of India”, went viral on social media earlier this month. “Nothing grows under the banyan tree,” the message added.

The fake Facebook post reads: “For a year or so we may witness more of Dadris, more of Kaniyahas, more of Owaisi style shouting but finally if the *Society keeps its cool, acts maturely* and continues to perform we will sail through and the old forces will die a natural death.” The post claimed Tully made these statements while discussing “changes happening in MODI’S regime” in his new book, No Full Stops in India.

Tully rebutted the claims of the post in this Hindustan Times column, though the post still appears to be in circulation. Not everyone believed the statements were authentic but some did ask for confirmation, he wrote: “But some did think they were authentic, a few even congratulated me. The fact that people could believe such obvious fakes were genuine indicates the power of fake news…If the reports had been more credible, less absurd, my credibility would have been severely damaged.”

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First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 09:28 IST

Sonia Gandhi intervenes to revive Opposition unity over cash ban

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress is once again parading leaders of 16 political parties on Tuesday, in order to once again show a united opposition face against the demonetization.Facing flak that on the last day of the winter session of Parliament, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi had dented the 20-day Opposition unity, by going alone to meet the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the current move is aimed at to revive unity.The exact contours of the joint campaign will be announced at a press conference on Tuesday after the meeting of all leaders. The Opposition unity had gone for a toss on December 16 after the main Opposition parties the Left, the DMK and the AIADMK, the SP and the BSP took exception to Rahul’s decision to go alone to meet Modi and also to fix an appointment with the President Pranab Mukherjee on this own name, instead of the united Opposition.The Congress sources said that after this gaffe Sonia Gandhi had intervened and contacted all the leaders personally. She also preferred not to hold the meeting with these leaders at the Congress headquarters as some parties may have reservations nor does she want to project the Congress leading the new campaign.Those who have already consented to attend the meeting include West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress President Mamata Banarjee, who announced in Kolkata that she would be in the national capital for the launch of the new campaign against Modi’s ulterior motives behind the demonetization.On Tuesday, she will be addressing a joint press conference with not only Sonia Gandhi and Rahul but also the Left party and leaders of other political parties.Ahead of the joint drive, Rahul has convened a meeting of the party leaders in the Congress war room at Rakabganj Road here on Monday to brainstorm on the kind of actions that the party should propose in the meeting with all Opposition leaders.While the Congress would suggest that workers of all Opposition parties jointly take the agitation against the note ban to every corner of the country, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party may not agree for any such joint action in Uttar Pradesh in view of the impending assembly elections in the state expected to be announced next week. It is believed that parties will adopt a different strategy in five states, including UP, Punjab and Goa, going to the polls by incorporating the anti-demonetization drive in their respective poll campaigns.Also discarding the age-old policy of no personal attacks or character assassination in the political discourse which was strictly being adhered by Sonia Gandhi, Congress Vice-President has decided to go for a sustained personal attack on Modi. The decision stems from a realisation that nothing would dent his popularity so long as people believed that he is a man of impeccable integrity.”Instead of attacking the BJP or his government, the party leaders have been asked to mount similar personal attack on Modi across the country,” a Congress leader said.

Sports ministry does U-turn as yoga no longer a sport

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After prime minister Narendra Modi first proposed to observe June 21 as Yoga Day in the future during his September 27, 2014 speech in the United Nations General Assembly, the sports ministry swung into action and immediately decided to included yoga in the list of sport. However, it the decision has been reversed now.Around 14 months ago, when yoga was included as a ‘sport’ and taken away from the ‘performing art’ category, it was expected to create millions of jobs around the country. Backed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the sports ministry was even contemplating to include different age-group yoga competitions held at the future National Games apart from recognising the Yoga Federation of India soon.But all that proved to be short-lived joy for those yoga practitioners as the sports ministry has now decided to change its decision, which means that yoga can’t be termed as a sport any more.The decision was taken after a review meeting of the sports ministry on yoga was held earlier this month that was attended by sports minister Vijay Goel. In a communique sent to Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and other related departments on Wednesday, it has been said that the “de-recognition” had the approval of the sports minister and would come into force with immediate effect.”Yoga will continue to be handled by Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy),” the letter said.What were the reasons that such a drastic change in decision was taken in merely 15 months?”It is the ministry’s lack of vision and its inability to hold national championships that forced it to drop yoga as a sport,” a senior source in the sports ministry said. “We failed to realise before including yoga as a sport that there was no way we could have held a national championship with so many aasnas involved.”It has been learnt that ministry did discuss the issue with a number of yoga experts before concluding that “it would be nearly impossible to hold Nationals in yoga”.Moreover, there were not many genuine people coming forward to form a federation and to add to that, whoever was showing interest was only looking for government funding.Modi, on the other hand, has been leading the charge in spreading awareness on yoga for the last two years.

Gandhi vs Modi: Joint opposition meeting on Monday to discuss charges of ‘personal corruption’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress is striving for uniting the opposition on the issue of Rahul Gandhi’s charges of “personal corruption” against the Prime Minister and plans are afoot for a joint press conference by its President Sonia Gandhi and other opposition leaders on December 27. While there is no formal word from Congress about the initiative or the press conference, reports from Kolkata said West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee will be attending a joint opposition meeting on December 27. She is scheduled to arrive in Delhi on Monday. Leaders of Left parties said they have been approached by Congress but are not aware of the details. They also remained non-committal about their participation in the meeting. Sources said NCP, JD(U) and some other opposition parties have also been approached by Congress for the joint meeting to step up the attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.The sources said NCP leader Tariq Anwar, CPI leader D Raja and Mamata Banerjee have been approached, besides some other leaders. Congress is working towards projecting a united opposition to dispel the impression that cracks developed in the opposition ranks on the last day of the Winter Session of Parliament on December 16 when some parties backed out at the last minute from an opposition delegation to meet the President.Congress’ move comes close on the heels of Rahul Gandhi targeting the Prime Minister on his home turf of Mehsana in Gujarat last week in which he made the allegations against Modi. BJP leaders have dismissed the charges levelled by Rahul. The Prime Minister too had mocked Rahul, who in turn, hit back at Modi saying that the PM could make as much fun of him as he can but he should say whether the charge of corruption is correct or not. The Congress Vice President had also emphasised on an independent probe.A TMC leader said, “Our party supremo will go to Delhi tomorrow and will attend the meeting of opposition parties on December 27. In that meeting, the next line of action will be discussed.”Besides this, Banerjee is likely to hold a separate meeting with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. She will also be meeting some other leaders. The just-concluded Parliament session had seen several opposition parties getting their act together as a united force by holding daily meetings to strategise their plans to target the government. This was for the first time that such meetings to strategise opposition plans took place since Modi took charge as the Prime Minister.Meanwhile, a senior Congress leader, who declined to be identified, has raised doubts over the strategy, saying that the plan to step up attack on Modi might not hold ground as former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s name has also allegedly figured in the same documents. She has junked the charges.

Bollywood music composer duo Sajid-Wajid join BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Bollywood music composer duo Sajid and Wajid Ali joined BJP in the presence of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The two musician brothers joined the saffron party at a programme organised by BJP’s youth wing on the occasion of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday. “There is only one promise we can make ourselves on Atal-ji’s birthday, to make India corruption-free. Atal-ji worked hard all his life to enhance the nation’s capabilities and (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is only fulfilling Atal-ji’s dreams,” Fadnavis said at the event. “I ask every youth present here to teach ten people how to conduct trade in cashless way and help fulfil Atal-ji’s dream of corruption-free nation,” Fadnavis said. “During his tenure (as the PM) Atal-ji brought immense repute to the country in the international arena,” he said and added that whatever BJP is today is because of Vajpayee.

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

War on black money: After demonetization, PM Modi promises to go after ‘benami properties’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Vowing to carry forward the war against corruption and black money post-demonetization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government will soon operationalise a strong law to effectively deal with ‘benami’ properties and this was just the beginning. Making his last monthly address this year in his “Mann ki Baat” programme, he defended the frequent changes in the rules of demonetization, saying these have been done to reduce the people’s problems and defeat such forces who are out to thwart his government’s fight against black money and corruption.Modi sought the cooperation of public in making the “war on corruption” a success and said the wrongdoings of some are being caught only with the support of common people who are coming forward with concrete information about hoarders.”I assure you that this is not the end. This is just the beginning in our fight against corruption. We have to win this war against corruption and black money. There is no question of stopping or going back in this fight,” he said.The Prime Minister also lamented the logjam in Parliament that evoked displeasure from the President and the Vice President besides all-round public indignation and ire, saying he wanted a good discussion on this campaign as well as on political funding, had both Houses run properly.He said some people who are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all concessions and exemptions “are wrong and all are equal before law” and they have to abide by it.”It was my earnest wish that the ongoing campaign against corruption and black money, including the realm of political parties and political funding, be discussed extensively in the Parliament. Had the House functioned properly, there would have been comprehensive deliberation.”Some people are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all kinds of concessions. These people are absolutely in the wrong. The law applies equally to all. Whether it is an individual, an organisation or a political party, everyone has to abide by law and one will have to,” he said, adding that people who cannot endorse corruption and black money openly resort to searching for faults of the government relentlessly.Giving a push to his plea for cashless economy, Modi also launched two new schemes for traders and customers that will dole out 15,000 prizes every day to those making digital transactions. Defending the frequent changes being made in rules afterdemonetization, Modi said “the government, being a sensitive government, amends rules as required, keeping the convenience of the people as its foremost consideration, so that citizens are not subjected to hardships.”Terming this war against corruption as “an extraordinary one”, he said the forces involved in “this murky enterprise of perfidy and corruption” have to be defeated as they are devising new tactics to thwart government’s efforts every day.”To counter these new offensives, we too have to devise appropriate new responses and anti-dotes. When the opponents keep on trying out new tactics, we have to counteract decisively since we have resolved to eradicate the corrupt, shady businesses and black money,” he said.Lauding the public for their support in exposing the wrong-doings of some, who are devising “newer wily ways and means” to counter the fight against corruption, the Prime Minister sought more public support.”Everyday many new people are being taken into custody, currency notes are being seized, raids are being carried out.Influential persons are being caught. The secret is that my sources of such information are people themselves.”Information being received from common citizens is many times higher than that being obtained through government machinery,” he said, adding that people were taking risks to expose such elements. He asked them to share such information on e-mail address of the government as also on the MyGov App.Modi also talked about the Benami Property law that came into being in 1988, but neither its rules were framed, nor was it notified and laid dormant for years.”We have retrieved it and turned it into an incisive law against ‘Benami Property’. In the coming days, this law will also become operational. For the benefit of the nation, for the benefit of the people, whatever needs to be done will be accorded our top priority,” he said.The Prime Minister, however, lauded both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for passage of the DisabilitiesBill to secure the rights of disabled and also their honour and dignity. The new law, he said, is in consonance with the spirit expressed by the United Nations.He also wished the people on Christmas and remembered former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on his birthday while wishing him good health and long life.Modi also congratulated the Indian Cricket team for its emphatic 4-0 victory over England, as also the performances of some young players like Karun Nair who scored a triple century, K L Rahul for scoring a brilliant 199, besides the leadership provided by Captain Virat Kohli and off-spin bowler R Ashwin. He also complimented the Junior Hockey Team for lifting the World Cup and the Indian Women’s Hockey Team that won the Asian Champions Trophy.

Thank you for supporting demonetization: Full text of PM Modi’s Christmas special Mann Ki Baat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Modi said many people had written to him and some had praised the government’s move to demonetise Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes. However, they have also spoken about the problems they faced due to demonetization, he said.‘Many are writing to me- ‘Modi ji thak mat jaana, ruk mat jaana aur jitna kathor kadam utha sakte ho uthao’. The people wrote to me about the problems they faced during recent times, some praised demonetisation and how it is an effective step in fighting corruption. Gurumani on MyGov app have appreciated government’s effort to curb black money, his sentiments are shared by rest of the country. I thank the people as they not only went through hardships but also answered back those who tried to mislead them,’ he added.‘Lot of questions are being raised on frequent change of rules, but I want to say that I have decided to take those indulging in corruption,’ he said. Prime Minister Modi said black money hoarders are being nabbed across the country. ‘Secret is that information by common people enables us to do it,’ he added.Assuring the nation that this is not the end but the beginning of his government’s endeavor to fight against corruption, Prime Minister Modi said, ‘It is our priority to do whatever it takes for the betterment of our nation. People are spreading rumours that political parties are exempted, this isn’t true.’Regretting the washout of the Winter Session of Parliament, Prime Minister Modi said, ‘If Parliament would have functioned there would have been fruitful discussions.’Read the full text below: My fellow countrymen, Namaskar, many felicitations and season’s greetings to you on the occasion of Christmas. Today is the day to give importance in our lives to service, sacrifice and compassion. Jesus had said – “The poor do not need our favours but our acceptance with affection.” In the Gospel According to Saint Luke, it is written that – “Jesus not only served the poor but also praised the service done by the poor,” and this is what real empowerment is. A tale associated with this incident is also very popular. It has been mentioned in that story that Jesus was standing near the treasury of a temple; many rich people came and donated bountifully; then a poor widow came and parted with only two copper coins. Now just two copper coins really do not amount to much. Thus it was natural that there was a lot of curiosity in the minds of the disciples gathered there. Then, Jesus declared that the widow was the greatest of those donors because while the others had donated substantially, that widow had given away all she possessed. Today, 25th December, is also the birth anniversary of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviyaji, who kindled resolve and self confidence in the psyche of the Indian people and gave a new direction to modern education. My most sincere and heartfelt tributes to Malviyaji on his birth anniversary. About two days ago, I had the opportunity to launch many a developmental work in Banaras, the sacred workplace of Malviyaji. I also laid the foundation stone of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya Cancer Centre in BHU at Varanasi. This Cancer Centre is going to be a boon for the people of not only eastern Uttar Pradesh but for the people of Jharkhand and Bihar also. Today is also the birthday of Bharat Ratna and former Prime Minister Venerable Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ji. This country can never forget Atalji’s contributions. Under his leadership, the country proudly grew in stature in the field of nuclear power also. Whether in the role of a party leader, Member of Parliament, a minister or the Prime Minister, Atalji always established an ideal. I salute Atalji on his birthday and pray to God for his good health. As a party worker I had the privilege of working with Atalji. Many memories emerge before my eyes. This morning when I tweeted, I shared a video, in which you can see for yourself how as a small party worker one had the fortune of having affection showered upon him by Atalji. Today, on Christmas Day, as a gift the countrymen are going to get the benefit of two schemes. In a way it is the beginning of two new schemes. Throughout the entire country, be it villages or towns, the educated or the illiterate, there is an atmosphere of curiosity as to what is cashless, how cashless business can take place, how can one make purchases without using cash! Everybody wants to understand and learn from each other. To encourage this trend, to strengthen mobile banking and to inculcate the habit of making e-payments, the Government of India is launching from today encouragement schemes for consumers as well as traders. To encourage customers, the scheme is ‘Lucky Grahak Yojana’ and to encourage traders the scheme is ‘Digi Dhan Vyapaar Yojana’. Today, on 25th December, as a Christmas gift, fifteen thousand people will get rewards through a draw system, whereby each of the fifteen thousand winners will have one thousand rupees into their accounts and this will be not for today only; starting today this scheme will continue for the next 100 days. Everyday fifteen thousand people are going to receive rewards of one thousand rupees each. In the next 100 days, lakhs of families are going to receive crores of rupees as gift, but you will be entitled to this gift only if you make use of mobile banking, e-banking, RuPay Card, UPI, USSD – such means and methods of digital payment. The draw for rewards will be done based on your use of such digital payment methods. In addition, there would be a grand draw once every week for such customers in which the prize money will be in lakhs of rupees and three months later on April 14th, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar, there would be a mega bumper draw where rewards would be in crores of rupees. ‘Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojana’ is mainly for traders and businessmen. Traders should adopt this scheme themselves and should encourage their customers too in order to make their business cashless. Such traders will also be rewarded separately and there would be thousands of these rewards. The traders will run their business activities smoothly and will also have an opportunity to win rewards. This scheme has been designed keeping all sections of society in mind, with a special focus on the poor and the lower middle class segments. Therefore only those will get its benefits who make a purchase worth more than 50 rupees but less than three thousand rupees. Those who make purchases of more than three thousand rupees will not be entitled to rewards under this scheme. Even the poor people can use USSD on simple feature or ordinary mobile phones to buy and sell goods as well as make payments and thus all of them can also become prospective beneficiaries of this reward scheme. In rural areas too, people can buy or sell through AEPS and they can also win rewards. Many will be surprised to know that now there are about 30 Crore, i.e. 300 million RuPay Cards in India, out of which 200 million RuPay Cards belong to poor families which have ‘Jan Dhan’ accounts. These 300 million people can immediately become part of this rewards scheme. I have confidence that the countrymen will evince interest in this system and if you enquire from the young people around you, they would surely be aware of these things and on your asking will tell you about these. Come on, if there is a child studying in 10th or 12th standard in your family, he or she will also be able to teach you well about this. It is as simple as sending WhatsApp messages on the mobile. My dear countrymen, I feel delighted to learn that the awareness about how to use technology, making e-payments, making online payments is spreading very fast. During the past few days, the cashless transactions, or cashless trading has increased by 200 to 300%. To give cashless trading a big impetus, Government of India has taken a very major decision. The business community, our traders can well comprehend how momentous this decision is. Those businessmen who adopt digital transactions, who develop online payment process instead of cash transactions in their trade activities will get Income Tax rebate. I congratulate all the states and union territories, who have promoted this campaign in their own way. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Chandrababu Naidu is the head of a committee which is considering various schemes under this. However, I have seen that the governments also have initiated and implemented many schemes. I’ve been told that Assam Government has decided to grant a 10% discount on property tax and business license fee if payments are made through digital transaction. The branches of Grameen, that is, Rural Banks there getting 75% of their customers to make at least two digital transactions between January and March will get 50 thousands rupees rewards from the government. They have announced that under the ‘Uttam Panchayat for Digi-Transaction’, rewards of 5 lakh rupees will be given to villages doing 100% digital transaction till 31st March, 2017. Assam Government has decided to reward 5 thousand rupees to the first 10 farmers as ‘Digital Krishak Shiromani’, who will buy seeds and fertilizers entirely through digital payments. I congratulate Assam Government and also all those state governments who have taken such initiatives. A number of organisations have also successfully carried out many experiments to promote digital transactions amongst the rural folk and poor farmers. I have been told that GNFC or Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals Limited, which primarily manufactures fertilizers, has installed a thousand PoS machines for sale of fertilizers for the convenience of farmers and in just a few days 35 thousand farmers were sold 5 lakh sacs of fertilizers on digital payment and this was accomplished in only two weeks! And the interesting fact is that compared to last year the fertilizer sales of GNFC have gone up by 27 percent. Brothers and sisters, the informal sector occupies a major segment in our economy and in our pattern of life and mostly these people are paid wages for their labour and hard work in cash. They are paid their salaries in cash and we know that due to this, they are exploited also. If they are to receive 100 rupees, they get only 80 rupees, if they are to be paid 80 rupees, they are given only 50 rupees. They are deprived of facilities like insurance and those associated with health sector. But now the practice of cashless payment is being adopted; the money is being directly deposited into banks. In a way, the informal sector is getting converted into the formal sector, exploitation is coming to an end, the cut, which had to be paid earlier, has stopped now and it has become possible for the worker, the artisan, such poor persons to get their full amount of money. In addition, they are also becoming entitled to the other benefits due to them. Our country is blessed with the maximum number of young people. Thus, we are favourably placed for using technology. A country like India should be ahead of everybody else in this field. Our youth have benefitted quite a lot from ‘Start-Ups’. This digital movement is a golden opportunity for our youth. They should impart to this as much strength as they can with their new ideas, technology and processes. But we must also connect with the drive to rid the country of black money and corruption with all our might. My dear countrymen, I request every month before ‘Mann Ki Baat’ that you please give your suggestions, share your thoughts; and of the thousands of such suggestions received this time on MyGov, on NarendraModiApp, I can definitely say that 80 to 90% suggestions were pertaining to the war against corruption and black money, there was mention of demonetization. After I examined all the suggestions, I can say that these can macroscopically be roughly divided into three categories. Some have written in detail about people facing difficulties and encountering inconveniences. The other group of correspondents have stressed that this is such a good work being carried out for the welfare of the country, such a sacred task but they have also noted that in spite of this there are many scams being committed and new avenues of dishonesty are being explored. The third group is the one which has, while wholeheartedly supporting the action being taken, clearly stressed that this fight must be carried forward; corruption and black money must be completely destroyed and if this requires even more tough steps to be taken, those must be taken. We have many people writing this most emphatically. I am thankful to the countrymen for helping me by writing these innumerable letters to me. Shriman Gurumani Kewal has written on MyGov – “This step of reigning in black money is praiseworthy. We citizens are facing some difficulties, but we are all fighting against corruption and we are happy that we are making a contribution in this fight. We are battling corruption, black money etc on the lines of Military Forces.” The sentiment behind Gurumani Kewalji’s text is being echoed in every nook and corner of the country. All of us are experiencing it. When the people face problems, undergo hardships, rare will be a fellow human being who will not empathise. I feel as much pain as you do. But when a task is taken up with a noble objective, to realise a lofty intent, with a clear conscience, the countrymen stay firm courageously amidst all these trials and tribulations. These people are the real Agents of Change, pioneers of transformation. I thank people for one more reason. They have not only braved hardships, but have also powerfully given a retort to those limited few who have been trying to mislead them. So many rumours were spread, even the fight against corruption and black money was sought to be tainted with shades of communalism. Somebody spread a rumour that the spelling on the currency note was faulty, someone said salt prices had spiraled, someone proclaimed that the 2000 rupee note would also be withdrawn, even 500 and 100 rupee denominations notes were rumoured to be on their way out. But I have seen that despite rampant rumour mongering, citizens have stood firm with their faith intact. And not just that, many people came to the fore and through their creativity and intelligence, exposed the rumour mongers, brought out the falsity of the rumours and established the truth. I salute this great ability of the people also from the core of my heart. My dear countrymen, I am experiencing one thing every moment. When a hundred and twenty five crore countrymen are standing by you, nothing is impossible. The people represent the will of the Almighty and their blessings become His blessings. I thank the people of this country and salute them for participating in this Mahayagya against black money and corruption with utmost zeal. It was my earnest wish that the ongoing campaign against corruption and black money, including the realm of political parties and political funding, be discussed extensively in the Parliament. Had the House functioned properly, there would have been comprehensive deliberation. Some people are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all kinds of concessions. These people are absolutely in the wrong. The law applies equally to all. Whether it is an individual, an organisation or a political party, everyone has to abide by law and one will have to. People, who cannot endorse corruption and black money openly, resort to searching for faults of the government relentlessly. Another issue which comes up is this. Why are rules changed time and again? This government is for the sake of the people. The government continuously endeavours to take a feedback from them. What are the areas of difficulty for the people? What are the rules that are creating hindrances? And what are the possible solutions? The government, being a sensitive government, amends rules as required, keeping the convenience of the people as its foremost consideration, so that citizens are not subjected to hardships. On the other hand, as I’d said earlier, on the 8th to be precise, this drive, this war is an extraordinary one. For the past 70 years, what kind of forces are involved in this murky enterprise of perfidy and corruption? How mighty are they? When I have resolved to wage battle against them, they too come up with new tactics everyday to thwart the government’s efforts. To counter these new offensives, we too have to devise appropriate new responses and antidotes. When the opponents keep on trying out new tactics, we have to counteract decisively, since we have resolved to eradicate the corrupt, shady businesses and black money. On the other hand, many people have mentioned in their letters all kinds of wrongdoing which are going on; how newer wily ways and means are being devised. In this context, I offer my heartiest salutations to my dear countrymen for one very remarkable thing. These days you must be seeing on T.V. and newspapers, everyday many new people are being taken into custody, currency notes are being seized, raids are being carried out. Influential persons are being caught. How has all this been made possible? Should I let out the secret? The secret is that my sources of such information are people themselves. Information being received from common citizens is many times higher than that being obtained through government machinery. And we are by and large being successful in our operations on account of the awareness and alertness that the people have displayed. Can anyone imagine the level of risk, which the aware citizen of my country is taking to expose such elements! The information received has largely proved to be fruitful. For those of you wanting to share such information, you can send it on an e-mail address set up by the government for this purpose. You can also provide it on MyGov. The government is committed to fight all such wrongdoings and maladies. And when we have your active support, this fight becomes much easier. Thirdly, there is another group of letter writers, also existing in large numbers. They say – Modiji, do not feel exhausted, do not stop and take the most stringent measures that you can. Now that you have chosen this path, the journey should culminate at its intended and logical destination. I specially thank writers of such letters, since their writing exudes a certain confidence, fortified with blessings. I sincerely assure you that this is in no way going to be a full stop. This is just the beginning. We have to win this battle and the question of feeling exhausted or stopping simply does not arise. Armed with the good wishes of a hundred and twenty five crore countrymen, there is no question of a retreat. You are possibly aware of a Law about Benami Property in our country which came into being in 1988, but neither were its rules ever framed, nor was it notified. It just lay dormant gathering dust. We have retrieved it and turned it into an incisive law against ‘Benami Property’. In the coming days, this law will also become operational. For the benefit of the Nation, for the benefit of the people, whatever needs to be done will be accorded our top priority. My dear countrymen, I had mentioned in last month’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ that even amidst these hardships our farmers toiled tirelessly and broke last year’s record in sowing. It is a sign of good times for the agricultural sector. The diligent hard work by this country’s workers, and farmers, and youth has scripted a new chapter of success with flying colours. Recently India proudly inscribed her name in various sectors of the global economic scenario. It is solely on account of the tireless exertions of our countrymen that on myriad indicators, India has charted an upward trajectory in global rankings. India’s ranking has gone up in the Doing Business Report of the World Bank. We are trying our best to raise the level of the business practices in India to match the best practices in the world on equal footing. And we are succeeding in that. In the World Investment Report released by UNCTAD, India’s position has risen to third in the Top Prospective Host Economies for 2016-18. In the Global Competitive Report of the World Economic Forum, India has made a big leap upwards by 32 ranks. In the Global Innovation Index 2016, we have moved up 16 rungs and in the Logistics Performance Index 2016 of the World Bank, we have risen by 19 ranks. There are many reports whose evaluation indicate that India is taking rapid strides ahead. My dear countrymen, this time the session of Parliament became the object of ire of our countrymen. Indignation was expressed everywhere about the activities in the Parliament. The President and Vice President also explicitly expressed their displeasure. But even in such a situation, sometimes good things also take place which create a sense of satisfaction in the mind. Amid the din in Parliament, an excellent task was accomplished, which has not attracted due attention of the country. Brothers and sisters, today with pride and joy I would like to mention that a bill in connection with my government’s mission on Divyangjan, that is, differently or specially abled people was passed in Parliament. For this, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. On behalf of millions of Divyangjan of the country I express my thanks. Our government is committed to the welfare of Divyaangs. Personally too, I have strived to lend momentum to this campaign. My intention was to ensure that the Divyangjan secure their due rights and also the honour and dignity that they are entitled to. Our efforts and our trust were fortified by our Divyaang brothers and sisters when they returned with 4 medals from the Paralympics. With their triumph, not only did they do the Nation proud, they pleasantly surprised many people through their capabilities and prowess. Our Divyaang brothers and sisters are an invaluable heritage, a precious endowment, just as every citizen of the country is. Today I am immensely delighted that the passing of this Law for the welfare of the Divyaangjan will open up additional avenues of employment for them. In government jobs, the extent of reservation for them has been enhanced to 4%. Special provisions have been provided for in this Law for their education, facilities and also for grievances. The extent of sensitivity of the government towards the Divyaangs can be assessed by the fact that during the last two years, the central government set up 4350 camps for Divyaangs, spent 352 crore rupees for distributing implements to 5,80,000 Divyaang brothers and sisters. The government has passed the new law in consonance with the spirit expressed by the United Nations. Earlier there were seven Divyaang categories; now adding fourteen new categories this has been expanded to twenty-one categories. Many such new categories of Divyaangs have been included thereby providing them for the first time justice and opportunities. For example, categories like Thalassemia, Parkinson’s, or for that matter Dwarfism have been included. My young friends, during the last few weeks, news items coming in from the world of sports have made all of us proud. Being Indians, it is but natural for us to feel elated. In the cricket series against England, India has triumphed 4-0. In this, the performance of some of the younger players deserves a special word of praise. The young Karun Nair scored a triple century and K. L. Rahul played a brilliant 199 run innings. Test captain Virat Kohli batted extremely well and also provided inspiring leadership. Indian Cricket team’s off-spin bowler R. Ashwin has been declared ‘Cricketer of the Year’ as well as ‘Best Test Cricketer’ by the ICC for the year 2016. My heartiest congratulations and many good wishes go to all of them. After a gap of 15 years, there was good news, in fact grand news from the hockey arena too. The Junior Hockey Team lifted the World Cup. This festive occasion came to us after fifteen years as the Junior Hockey team won the World Cup. Heartiest congratulations to these young players for this grand feat. This achievement is a very good omen for the future of our Hockey team. Last month our Women players too won laurels. Indian Women’s Hockey Team won the Asian Champions Trophy and just a few days ago in the under-18 Asia Cup, Indian Women’s Hockey Team secured the Bronze Medal. I congratulate all our Cricket and Hockey team players from the core of my heart. My dear countrymen, may 2017 be a year full of joy and enthusiasm; may all your resolves be crowned with success; let us scale newer heights of progress; may the poorest of the poor get an opportunity to lead a better and fuller life of happiness and contentment; may 2017 be like this for all of us. For the year 2017, my best and brightest wishes to all my countrymen. Many, many thanks.

Watch: PM Modi’s flashback video captures Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s warmth and simplicity

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished veteran BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his 91st birthday, praising his exemplary service and leadership. “Wishing our most beloved & widely respected Atal ji a happy birthday. I pray that he is blessed with good health and a long life,” he said in a series of tweets. “Atalji’s exemplary service & leadership has had a very positive impact on India’s growth trajectory. His great personality is endearing.Modi also tweeted an old video of him meeting former Prime Minister Vajpayee when the former was a ‘karyakarta’ of BJP. “See what Atal ji does when he meets a party Karyakarta. This simplicity and warmth of Atal ji we all cherish,” he captioned the video. The Prime Minister also wished freedom fighter and educationist Madan Mohan Malaviya on his birth anniversary. “I bow to Mahamana Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya on his Jayanti. He has left an indelible contribution in the history of India,” he said.

PM Narendra Modi greets Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on 66th birthday

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday greeted his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his 66th birthday.

Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. PTINarendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. PTI

Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. PTI

“Birthday wishes to Pakistan PM Mr. Nawaz Sharif. I pray for his long and healthy life,” Modi tweets.

The Prime Minister wished Sharid, right after greeting the nation on the ocassion of Christmas.

“Merry Christmas! We remember and celebrate the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. His message of peace, unity and compassion inspires us all,” the Prime Minsiter said in his Christmas tweet.

Modi then wished Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the occasion of his 91st birthday in a series of tweets along with a video of the two leaders together.

“Wishing our most beloved and widely respected Atal ji a happy birthday. I pray that he is blessed with good health and a long life,” he tweeted.

“Atal ji’s exemplary service and leadership has had a very positive impact on India’s growth trajectory. His great personality is endearing,” Modi added.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 12:01 IST

Modi sounds poll bugle with remote control button

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Eyeing ensuing elections, including the one to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday underlined the importance of development and warned that history would not forgive those who have destroyed the country for the last 70 years. With UP elections in mind, the Prime Minister also focused on the war against black money and development. The annual budget of the BMC is Rs 37,000 crore.Addressing a function to mark the foundation-laying ceremony of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj memorial in Arabian Sea, Modi said that development is the only solution to many present-day problems.He also laid the foundation for Metro II B, Metro IV, Kalanagar flyover, Mumbai Trans Harbour Link and the elevated corridors between Kurla and Vakola.The Prime Minister laid the foundation stones of all these projects by pressing a remote control button and told the audience that projects worth Rs 1.06 lakh crore have been kicked off with this one button.He said that increasing the pension of 3.5 million people to Rs 1,000, providing domestic gas connections, generic medicine shops and access to electricity to 18,000 villages showed that the focal point of his government was development.Stating that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was not only a great warrior but also a multi-faceted visionary, he cited the establishment of a strong navy during that era by Shivaji as an example. Shivaji Maharaj realised the importance of sea, coastal security, and provided a strong water supply system, which is inspiring to even present-day engineers, Modi said. The Prime Minister’s address lasted for 36 minutes.Earlier, Modi, along with Maharashtra Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the proposed site of the Arabian sea memorial and performed the Bhoomipoojan and Jalpoojan at the site. He travelled to the site on a Coast Guard hovercraft.Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Piyush Goyal, Subhash Bhamare, state ministers Chandrakant Patil and Vinod Tawde accompanied them.Later, Fadnavis took the cue from Modi and gave examples of his government’s development drive. He said that his government would create additional capacity to carry millions via metro and other projects. This is unprecedented, he claimed.Like the US, which is known for its statue of Liberty, India would be known for the proposed Shivaji Maharaj memorial, Fadnavis said. He said that the previous (Congress-NCP) government could not avail permissions for the project and only made announcements, but his government procured all permissions. Fadnavis said that his Government would createThackeray requested the Prime Minister to hand over the forts of Maharashtra to the state government, so that the state would not be required to approach the Archeological Survey of India for even small works.History comes aliveA cultural show depicting greatness of Shivaji Maharaj was performed before arrival of prime Minister. Descendants from almost 100 families from the lieutenants of Chhtarapati Shivaji Maharaj were invited for the function.The entire Maharashtra cabinet was present and audience chanted Modi, Modi time and again during the programme. Fadnavis had to intervene during Chandrakant Patil’s welcome speech to pacify the crowd and shouted “Shivaji Maharaj ki Jai”, which received a huge response.

Narendra Modi’s highly advertised project launch is a poll stunt: Gurudas Kamat

Mumbai: Former union minister Gurudas Kamat on Saturday slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s highly “advertised” launch of projects in Mumbai as a “poll stunt”.

“The launch of projects by Modi is a poll stunt. But for the sake of Mumbai and Mumbaikars the party hopes that these projects will be completed on time,” Kamat, general secretary of AICC, said in a statement here.

The statement made by Kamat assumes significance in the backdrop that polls for the Mumbai civic body will be held in early 2017.

Gurudas Kamat

Gurudas Kamat

The Congress leader said, “It was because of my efforts that then former Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee cleared proposals to launch 15 coach trains, an extension of harbour line from CST to Goregaon and modernisation of three suburban stations of Andheri, Jogeshwari and Goregaon.”

“Also the new railway station at Ram Mandir Road which was inaugurated by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu recently is part of the follow-up,” the release quoting Kamat said.

The Congress leader said that it was in his speech at a function where Mamata Banerjee was present that he had proposed elevated railway to be considered on Central and Western railway lines to alleviate the problems of suburban commuters and to reduce congestion on city roads.

“All of these proposals were accepted by Banerjee. She held a series of meetings with Railway Board members on this and had cleared all the projects for the city,” said the release.

All technical clearances and support of the Central Government were obtained during the UPA tenure for the launch of elevated railway on both Central and Western railway lines, but the matter was held up at the state government level for FSI of five demanded by the Railways.

“It is surprising though as clearances for these initiatives have happened and many of them launched and completed, the Churchgate to Bandra Elevated Railway Extension seems to have been mysteriously dropped by the BJP Government,” said Kamat.

After completion of Metro-I, the second phase of the metro was also launched by the then President Pratibha Patil. The Dahisar to Mankhurd stretch which was already planned and approved is today being relaunched by the Prime Minister. However, instead of running from Dahisar, the project will now be between DN Nagar to Mankhurd.

Kamat hoped that BJP led Central and State Government will acknowledge efforts taken during the regime of UPA Government for making these initiatives a reality.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 17:16 IST

Narendra Modi in Mumbai: Demonetisation isn’t the final big-bang, PM promises more

The key takeaway from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the National Institute of Securities Markets (NISM) campus near Mumbai on Saturday is his reiteration that the NDA-government doesn’t think that demonetisation is an accident.

The government is willing to pursue it till the end irrespective of the difficulties it may face in dealing with the after effects of this massively disruptive exercise and what the critics say. “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 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,” Modi said at the inaugratin of the NISM campus.

Narendra-Modi-in-New-Delhi4_PTI

Narendra Modi. PTI

This is a clear message to his political opponents and critics that the government wouldn’t go back from what it has begun on 8 November. PM Modi’s comment comes not long after severe criticism on demonetisation from known global names such as Steve Forbes called it an “immoral and sickening move” and “a massive theft of people’s property” and Wall Street Journal, which dubbed demonetisation “India’s bizarre war on cash” and essentially cautioned the government that it shouldn’t force cashless transactions on its people.

Modi has faced criticism at home as well. But, his speech on Saturday tells us that the prime minister isn’t perturbed with any of these. He is willing to risk the after effects of the note ban including a severe cash crunch that is persisting even after a month and half of the currency ban, negative impacts on the economy and reported job losses in the informal sector, as well as signs of public patience diminishing faster than in the initial days.

As the prime minister said in his speech, the government is willing to face the risks and is betting big on the long-term gains of the demonetisation. The prime minister’s statement isn’t difficult to understand given that he has invested too much of personal and political goodwill in the decision to pull out 86 percent of currency in one go on 8 November. There is no going back from this decision since it can become the admission of a political defeat.

Since 8 November, the note ban has been presented as a bold, personal political move to the public by the prime minister rather than as an economic reform originating from the government or the central bank, Reserve Bank of India. But, the other side of this is that by not admitting the serious flaws in the implementation of a well-intentioned move and harping on a 50-day deadline to end the pain of demonetisation, the PM is also running a risk of inviting more public anger should he fails to keep his promise of 50-days and keep ignoring the ground realities.

The fact is that there is still considerable pain on the ground which might last very well beyond the “short-term”. No one, including RBI, seems to have a clear idea of how long will the cash crunch last. Till now, the RBI has managed to infuse only a fraction of the Rs 15.4 lakh crore currency demonetised by the scheme. It might take a few more months before things turn normal. As Indiaspend points out in this article, Modi’s 50-days deadline is likely to fail. Here, instead of repeating that the pain is only for short-term, the prime minister would have done well if he admitted that the impact of currency ban will probably last longer than the government had initially anticipated, thus giving a realistic assessment of the current situation. Such a move would have helped him gain more public support.

In his speech Modi also touched upon some crucial, but long-discussed, issues concerning capital market reforms such as deepening the municipal corporate market, routing long-term funds from the bond market to fund long-gestation infrastructure projects and ways to translate the growth in capital markets to gains for rural India. The remark on deepening the municipal bond markets should be seen in the backdrop of government’s smart city programme, which requires large revenue sources one of which is tapping the municipal bond market.

Modi also hinted at tweaking laws concerning gains from capital market gains. “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.”

Similarly, the mention on reinventing the derivative product segment to benefit farmers is a message to the market regulator, SEBI to think of ways of working on new products. “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…SEBI should work for closer linkages between spot markets like e-NAM and derivatives markets to benefit farmers,” Modi said.

The prime minister yet again made it clear his idea of reforms when he said that his “aim is to make India a developed country in one generation”. In other words, what this means is that his government believes in massive disruptions to bring about large changes in the country rather than following the method of gradual transformation. It tells us that one should expect more big bang announcements in the remaining two and half years of his tenure. For sure, demonetisation wouldn’t be the last surprise.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 16:46 IST

PM Modi in Mumbai today to lay foundation stone of Rs 3600-crore Shivaji memorial

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be on a day’s visit to Maharashtra on Saturday, where he will lay foundation stone for the grand memorial of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the metro rail projects in Mumbai and Pune.Modi will land in the metropolis at 11.30 AM and leave for MIDC Patalganga in neighbouring Raigad district where he will inaugurate the newly-built campus of the National Institute of Securities Management.The PM will then reach Raj Bhavan and later move towards Girgaum Chowpatty for the Shivaji Memorial event.He will 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.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 at the Agriculture College ground there. 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.

BJP defends J&K government’s decision to issue domicile certificates to Pakistani refugees

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Amid snowballing row, Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh defended the decision of Jammu and Kashmir government to issue domicile certificates to West Pakistan refugees and slammed those opposing the move to address the matter which has been lingering for 70 years.Singh, a senior BJP leader from Jammu, said the country owes it to them since they have been living in the state for last 70 years and have been languishing without jobs and proper livelihood since Independence.Kashmiri separatists have criticised the move by the Jammu and Kashmir government to give domicile certificates to West Pakistan refugees, saying it was an attempt to change the demography of the state.”This has absolutely nothing to do with citizenship right per se…those who are trying to make an issue out of it or oppose this should first address the issue of some foreign nationals who have settled down in the suburbs of Jammu,” Singh said.”They (refugees) don’t have the citizenship right and State Subject certificate in absence of any identity proof as a result they can not apply jobs. Therefore, the state government in consultation with Union Home Ministry devised a mechanism where each of them could be provided proof of identity to ensure them a dignified means of livelihood,” the minister said. Singh noted that the counterparts of such refugees like I K Gujral and Manmohan Singh, who settled in other parts of the India, rose to occupy the office of Prime Minister.JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik attempted to stage a protest demonstration in Srinagar today against the move, saying it was a bid to change Muslim-majority character of the state.An Independent MLA of the state Sheikh Rasheed also launched a 48-hour protest outside the residence of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today against the decision.

Amazon starts flexing muscle in new space: air cargo | Reuters

By Jeffrey Dastin
| ALLENTOWN, Pa.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. A cargo plane emblazoned with “Prime Air” descended from an empty sky at Lehigh Valley International Airport on Tuesday, ninety minutes from the bustle of New York City, loaded with crates of goods during the peak holiday shopping season.It’s one of 40 jets leased by Amazon.com Inc for a new cargo service to meet delivery demand from the retail giant’s customers. Exclusive payload data reviewed by Reuters and interviews with airport officials around the country show that Prime Air planes are flying nearly full, but with lightweight loads, taking away valued business from FedEx Corp and United Parcel Service Inc.Expanding into transportation, from trucks to planes, is one of Amazon’s most important endeavors as it strives to lure new customers with fast shipping while keeping costs under control. The world’s largest online retailer is sending more packages, more often, and later in the day to serve its estimated 35 million to more than 50 million U.S. members of Amazon Prime, a service that promises two-day shipping for $99 per year. Bulky boxes with goods once purchased in stores, like toilet paper, are a revenue driver at UPS and FedEx. That’s in part because they now are charging customers increasingly by boxes’ volume rather than weight. Shipping its own big, light packages is helping Amazon dodge those rising fees.To date, Amazon has only said it leased the planes to speed up shipping and to backstop cargo partners during the holiday season. FedEx and UPS have delivered items late for Christmas in recent years.”Our own delivery efforts are needed to supplement that capacity rather than replace it,” Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman told Reuters. She declined to comment on eluding cargo airline fees.Amazon’s planes fly to at least 10 airports across the United States, supplying its warehouses nearby. Officials at four airports said Amazon’s flights are operating near capacity but landing with lower-than-average weight — meaning it is placing low-density shipments inside the jets. [For graphic-click tmsnrt.rs/2hZ8uZp]Amazon aircraft on a monthly basis handled only between 37 percent and 52 percent of their maximum loads by weight, according to an analysis of cargo, capacity and landing data from the four airports, with supplementary information from tracking website FlightAware.com. By contrast, FedEx and UPS were at 53 percent and 56 percent capacity, respectively, according to U.S. Transportation Department data for the year ended September 2016, excluding weight carried for free.”You’re dealing with cargo that’s big in dimensions, but in pure weight it’s light,” said an airport ramp manager in California.

Airports in Tampa and Charlotte reported similar payload data for the carriers contracted by Amazon, but they did not specify whether the flights were full by volume or whether they were operated on Amazon’s behalf. A seventh airport outside Chicago said the planes were not full, though daily flights only started in October 2016, and Amazon likely is learning the market, transport experts said.The remaining airports did not comment.FedEx declined to comment. Steve Gaut, vice president of public relations at UPS, declined to comment on Amazon’s airline but said customers commonly handle parts of their logistics in-house.Reuters could not determine the extent to which, if any, Prime Air had an effect on the bottom lines of FedEx or UPS to date. Reuters could also not determine how much Amazon has spent on aircraft leases so far, key to whether the fleet has cut its costs overall.The payload figures Reuters reviewed do not include November or December, when contractor ABX Air, a unit of Air Transport Services Group Inc, paused flights for Amazon after a pilot strike.

FLYING LATER
Flight data shows another way that Amazon is departing from cargo companies’ road map in an attempt of its top goal: rapid delivery.Using FlightAware.com and similar websites, Reuters tracked the schedules of Amazon contractors and verified with airports which flights were on behalf of the retailer.

Many of the company’s eastbound flights leave the states of Washington and California unusually late at night: its flight from Stockton to Wilmington, Ohio departs close to 2:00 AM Pacific Time (10:00 GMT), for instance. FedEx instead schedules most eastbound service no later than 9:00 PM (5:00 GMT) to ensure arrival at its Memphis, Tennessee hub in time for sorting packages overnight.The difference is that cargo airlines stop at airport hubs so they can fill up planes easily with boxes from many origins. Amazon does this much less.But flying without a stopover is faster, helping Amazon cut shipping times from Prime’s two-day standard, to a day or even hours. Scheduling later departures has an advantage, too.”Most people have a tendency to order packages when they’re home” from work, said Brian Clancy, managing director of advisory firm Logistics Capital & Strategy LLC. Amazon is “waiting for the orders.”Amazon also saves time by flying to remote locations like Lehigh Valley, which are near cities and its warehouses but have little traffic. Expectations are for Amazon to stretch well beyond Lehigh Valley and the existing airports Prime Air serves. “We’re just seeing the beginning of this,” said Marc Wulfraat, president of logistics consultancy MWPVL International Inc. “We could see Toronto. We could see Denver.”They’re going to need a lot more planes,” he said. (Editing by Peter Henderson and Edward Tobin)

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

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 20:44 IST

Demonetisation: PM Modi looting poor and serving the rich says Rahul in Almora rally

Almora: Escalating the attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi on Friday said his note ban decision is not a fight against black money or corruption but is an “economic robbery”.

Addressing a public rally at the University Campus College Grounds here, the Congress vice president said the Prime Minister has put “99 percent people” in the country to hardships and not targeted the “1 percent super rich” who “held all the black money”.

He said his party wants to eradicate corruption and if “Modiji takes any step against the menace, Congress party will lend its hundred percent support”.

“But this note ban step is not a decision against black money and corruption. This note ban is an economic robbery. It is an attack on the pooor of the country,” he said.

File photo of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

File photo of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Gandhi asked the Prime Minister to name those “thieves” who own the black money stashed in Swiss banks.

“The Swiss government has provided the list of all black-money holders to the Modi government. Why does he not place the list of thieves before the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha? We want to know who are these thieves. You should put their names before the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,” he said.

“Why didn’t you bring back (Vijay) Mallya and Lalit Modi from London?” he asked.

Gandhi accused Modi of snatching away the hard-earned money of the country’s poor and giving them to banks to write off bad loans. He said demonetisation was introduced to waive Rs 8 lakh crore loans the “super rich” owe.

“Gareebon ka paisa kheencho, amiron ko seencho. 99 percent imaandaar ka paisa kheencho, 50 pariwaron ko seencho. Yeh hai notebandi ki sachhai, (Take away the money from the poor and help the rich. Take away the money from the 99 percent honest people and help the 50 super-rich families. This is the truth of note ban).” he said.

He used an Amitabh Bachchan song to attack Modi and said his motive is “Ram naam japna, garibon ka maal apna”.

“Suck the poor and serve the rich – this is the reality of the suit-boot wali sarkar,” he said.

He also accused the central government of being callous to people’s suffering and claimed the Opposition was not even allowed to mourn the “death of 100 people due to demonetisation”.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 18:44 IST

PM Modi to launch Chardham Highway Development programme in Dehradun

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch a 900-km Chardham Highway Development programme in Dehradun on Tuesday, with an investment of Rs 12,000 crore.Modi will also lay the foundation of those road projects under the programme that have already been sanctioned, a road ministry official said. “The Prime Minister will launch the Chardham Highway Development programme (Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna) on December 27, at 12:30 pm in Dehradun,” the official said.”Out of the Rs 12,000 crore, around Rs 3,000 crore projects have already been sanctioned and tendered. The connectivity to Chardham has been disrupted, especially after the devastating floods in Uttarakhand, hence the programme,” he said. “So, there are various problems identified. A team of experts was appointed, including consultants from IIT and other various places, to identify these bottlenecks. They have identified various zones,” he said.There are a few zones that are landslide prone, which come across as a major bottleneck for connectivity in Uttarakhand, he added. “So, the programme envisages building of tunnels, viaducts, bridges, and bypasses,” he explained.Throughout the entire state, way-side amenities will be developed, including helipad for emergency evacuation, proper parking facilities and the like, he added.Earlier in the year, Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari had announced that the Centre will build a 900-km road linking the four Himalayan shrines of Uttarakhand also known as chardham.

PM Modi afraid of Rahul Gandhi’s ‘earthquake’ revelations: Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress Party on Friday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is afraid of Rahul Gandhi’s earthquake-like revelations, otherwise he would have accepted the challenge and ordered an inquiry into the claims made by the latter.”Definitely, to us, there is an earthquake and that earthquake took place in the minds of all BJP workers. The common people have started thinking that our Prime Minister is not a clean personality; otherwise, he would have accepted the challenge given by Rahul Gandhi. The Prime Minister is afraid of Rahul Gandhi, that is why, he could not say that he is ready to face the enquiry,” Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya said.Addressing the Banaras Hindu University faculty and students on Thursday, Prime Minister Modi said, “They (Congress) have a young leader (Rahul Gandhi). He is learning to speak. From the time he has learnt to speak, there is no end to my joy.””If he had not spoken, this country would have had to bear a huge earthquake, but it is good he has started to speak, because now, we know there is no chance of an earthquake,” he added.In reply, the Congress vice president said, “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.”Gandhi further 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 practises.

Now he has spoken, there will be no quake, PM Modi mocks Rahul, criticises Manmohan, Chidambaram

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday mocked at Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, saying that the latter was “learning how to make speeches”. He was speaking in Varanasi on Thursday, his first tour of his parliamentary constituency in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, since demonetization. His speech was closely watched, since it came a day after Gandhi accused him of accepting kickbacks from corporate houses when he was Gujarat Chief Minister.Modi, without naming Gandhi, replied to the allegations with sarcasm, saying: “It is good that he has started speaking. In 2009, you couldn’t even tell what is in this packet. Now we are finding out…Since the time he has learnt how to speak, I am the happiest,” the Prime Minister said. “There would have been an earthquake had he not spoken… good that he has started speaking, we now know that there’s no chance of an earthquake,” he chuckled to his audience. We now know that there is no chance of an earthquake.” Modi didn’t even spare his predecessor Manmohan Singh, and referred to him by name.”Look at Manmohan Singhji. Do you know he has been in the core team of those in charge of the country’s economy since the seventies? Even he says that in the country where 50 per cent people are poor, how can all these digitisation happen? Now is this his report card or mine? Whose legacy am I dealing with?” he said.”They have a youth leader; he is learning how to speak… Since the time he has learnt how to speak, I am the happiest,” the Prime Minister said. “There would have been an earthquake had he not spoken… good that he has started speaking, we now know that there’s no chance of an earthquake,” he chuckled to his audience.He also attacked the Opposition for stalling Parliament over the currency ban, by alleging that they were trying to “rescue the corrupt”. He even drew parallels between Pakistan providing cover fire to terrorists to cross the border with the Opposition opposing the note ban to protect kala dhan (black money) as well as kale mann (ill-intentions) of many. “Many people say I had not taken into account the consequences of this huge step. In fact, the only thing that I could not take into account was the brazenness with which many political parties and leaders will come to the rescue of the corrupt. But I am happy that this drive, aimed at eliminating kala dhan has exposed so many kale mann,” Modi said.Taking on former finance minister Chidambaram over his assertion that online transactions could not find wide acceptance in India since nearly half its villages were not even electrified, PM Modi said: “Whose faults are he pointing at? Did I uproot electric poles or snap cables in villages which had electricity?”.Referring to Gandhi’s assertion at a public meeting in Gujarat on Wednesday that payments through cards, online transfers etc., would face hurdles in the country due to low literacy levels, the PM ridiculed the previous Congress governments for keeping people illiterate.”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.” Calling himself Kashi ka bachcha (a child of Kashi), Modi said: “I am, nonetheless, delighted to see that the power of this holy land has made me work and forced detractors to admit, even if unwittingly, their failures,” he concluded.

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.

PM likens Congress to Pakistan, says note ban will expose ‘kala dhan’ and ‘kala mann’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a scathing attack on opposition for stalling Parliament over demonetization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleged on Thursday that they were trying to “rescue the corrupt” like Pakistan gives cover fire to terrorists to cross border and said the note ban will expose the ‘kala dhan’ (black money) as well as ‘kale mann’ (ill-intentions) of many. “Many people say I had not taken account the consequences of this huge step. In fact, the only thing that I could not take into account was the brazenness with which many political parties and leaders will come to the rescue of the corrupt.But I am happy that this drive aimed at eliminating ‘kala dhan’ has exposed so many ‘kale mann’,” Modi said. The Prime Minister, who was on his first tour of his Lok Sabha constituency after Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes were demonetized on November 8, was speaking at a function organised inside the Benares Hindu University campus.Charging the opposition parties, who have been attacking the government over demonetization, with “brazenly standing in support of the corrupt and the dishonest”, Modi compared their stalling of parliamentary proceedings during the latest session to “firing at the borders by Pakistan in a bid to provide cover to infiltrators”.
ALSO READ After PM Modi mocks Rahul’s ‘earthquake’, Congress VP says ‘answer me’He also hit back at former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and P Chidambaram, saying their argument that promoting cashless economy was futile due to poverty, illiteracy and electricity not reaching villages in the country “exposes” their own report card. Reacting to his predecessor Manmohan Singh’s assertion in the Parliament that a cashless economy was not feasible for the country where nearly 50% of people were poor, the Prime Minister said, “I wonder whether he was giving his own report card by admitting the dismal situation. After all, he has not just been the Prime Minister for two terms and a Finance Minister previously. Since the 1970s he has been holding key positions”.Taking on former Finance Minister Chidambaram over his assertion that online transactions could not find wide acceptance in India since nearly half of its villages were not even electrified, Modi said “whose faults is he pointing at. Did I uproot electric poles or snap cables in villages which had electricity”.
ALSO READ Manmohan Singh exposing his own misdeeds, says PM ModiHe also took potshots at Rahul Gandhi’s assertion that payments through cards, online transfers etc. would face hurdles in the country due to low literacy levels, saying, “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 realized that he has admitted the failure of the long reign of his own party.”Calling himself “Kashi ka bachcha” (a child of Kashi), Modi said, “I am, nonetheless, delighted to see that the power of this holy land has made me work and forced detractors to admit, even if unwittingly, their failures”. Urging the people to have patience in the face of the inconveniences which have ensued demonetization, Modi said, making use of a metaphor, “The stench of a garbage heap becomes unbearable when a cleanliness drive starts. But if we persevere and remove every bit of filth, we can build a beautiful garden on the clean spot”.
ALSO READ Rahul Gandhi hits back at Modi, says mock me, but answer questionsReiterating the need to move towards a “cashless economy”, Modi said “once black money is eliminated from the system, it is essential to ensure that fresh black money is not generated. Net banking, mobile banking and payment through cards is the way forward”. Earlier, the Prime Minister laid the foundation stones for a cancer research centre and a super specialty hospital and stressed on the need for “not just health insurance but also health assurance wherein the poorest of the poor have access to the best possible treatment and medicines”.Modi, who also interacted with artistes performing a stage play “Chanakya”, hailed the political and economic thought of the ancient Indian strategist saying “so many ideas have come and gone but he remains as relevant as ever”. Offering words of appreciation for the ongoing “Rashtriya Sanskritik Mahotsav” (national cultural festival at BHU), Modi said, “Art must be a part of our life and artistes must get due respect since it is art alone that can prevent human beings from becoming like robots which have intelligence but no sensitivity.”The Prime Minister was speaking in the presence of Union Ministers Mahesh Sharma and Anupriya Patel.

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