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

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

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

By J.R. Wu
| TAIPEI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mine roof collapses in Dhanbad

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

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

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

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

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

Can Viral Acharya, RBI’s new deputy governor solve Mint Street’s communication block?

It’s been only a few hours since his name was announced as the new deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in charge of monetary policy, but Viral Acharya is already a star. Media reports describe him as ‘Poor man’s Rajan’, picking the phrase from one of his old interviews, while some wrote about how the cricketer, singer and poet Acharya also has a music album to his credit.

The newfound stardom and fanfare accompanying Acharya in Indian media reminds one the initial days of Raghuram Rajan, former RBI governor, who was often called as a ‘rock star’ governor of Mint Street and James Bond who’s put the “sex” back into the Sensex’. At 42, Acharya, is the youngest deputy governor of the RBI. One needn’t be surprised if he morphs into a ‘junior rock star’ in media.

Viral Acharya - RBI Deputy Governor. Image courtesy - NYU-Stern.Viral Acharya - RBI Deputy Governor. Image courtesy - NYU-Stern.

Viral Acharya – RBI Deputy Governor. Image courtesy – NYU-Stern.

But once the welcome party is over, there is a trial by fire awaiting Acharya, who is entering the RBI at a time when the economy is fighting a self-imposed demonetisation crisis and the central bank itself is fighting a major trust deficit and credibility crisis, due to the way it has handled the Modi government’s decision on the evening of 8 November to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.

Acharya needs to hit the ground running making the RBI’s voice heard in the monetary policy committee (MPC) on the course of interest rates in a challenging economic scenario. Since there is already an MPC with experts in place, Acharya’s task wouldn’t be too tough as in the old days when the monetary policy was solely the central bank’s responsibility.

Nevertheless, there is likely to be pressure from the ruling political dispensation for steeper rate cuts in the backdrop of a sharp decline in economic growth due to the demonetisation-induced cash crunch.

The RBI itself has lowered the GDP forecast for the fiscal year 2017 to 7.1 percent from 7.6 per cent while forecasters have gone even more pessimistic forecasts (one even predicted 3.5 percent for current year).

Acharya isn’t a big fan of ultra-loose monetary policies though. He believes such a policy stance ,when introduced in a weak banking system, can turn out to be disastrous. In an interview given to Bloomberg Quint, Acharya had said, “We are yet struggling to figure out what the global economies are from the ultra-loose monetary policy. Whereas, now we are seeing emerging evidence of the unintended consequences that these policies have had. So, the biggest problem that I worry with low interest rates is when parts of your banking sectors aren’t healthy; it’s a recipe for disaster.” This was in the global context, but applies to India as well.

On the bad loan issue, one of the big headaches for India’s policymakers, Acharya had made two important remarks in the same interview.

First, to hive off bad loans into a separate entity. Acharya had said that Indian banking system need to create a bad-loan bank to separate the good assets from the bad. “I am absolutely proposing, either explicitly or implicitly, that we separate the unhealthy parts of the troubled banks from the healthy parts,” Acharya said.

Secondly, he warned that taking profit from the RBI and using it for the recapitalisation of state-run banks is a solution to the capital problems of India’s PSU banks.

“I don’t think half-baked solutions like taking the RBI’s profits and putting them into public sector banks is the way to go. I think that is just like putting on a band aid and actually it’s a pretty bad band aid in my opinion, because it, kind of, distances the fiscal authority from the monetary, it reduces the distance of the two. It, kind of, almost says that central bank should generate profit because you have to recapitalise the public sector. Everything smells wrong about it.”

Interestingly, one of the thought processes within the Modi government when it announced demonetisation was that the exercise will create some fiscal boost in the form of a ‘windfall’ profit from the RBI when its currency liability goes down.

The idea didn’t work since most of the money demonetised returned to the banking system and RBI governor Urjit Patel clarified that there is no such plan to transfer a one-time surplus to the government on the cards. India’s PSU banks are reeling under heavy bad-loan burden (totalling Rs 6 lakh crore as on September) and need huge capital to meet their Basel-III credit requirements, credit expansion needs and bad loan provisioning.

In a research paper co-authored with Krishnamurthy V. Subramanian of Indian School of Business — State intervention in banking: the relative health of Indian public sector and private sector bank — Acharya had said that many of the problems faced by Indian public sector banks are due to their lack of efficient human resources (he cited the P J Nayak committee report here), their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing technology and the issue of dual regulation of these banks by both the RBI and finance ministry. In the paper, Acharya strongly advocated that in the due course some of the public sector banks will have to by privatised.

“Over the long run, some of the public sector banks can be privatised or their assets reallocated. Some of them could be acquired by the relatively well-capitalised private sector firms; the ones with worst asset quality could be wound down; and, greater entry of smaller and newer banks can be enabled to yet maintain healthy levels of competition,” Acharya said.

As Patel’s deputy in charge of monetary policy, there is no clarity whether Acharya will have a say in the bad loan resolution issue. But, if he continues to argue for some of the above recommendations in the past, he may run into trouble with the government, especially on the issue of using RBI profit to recapitalise state-run banks.

But, beyond these two issues — monetary policy and banking sector NPAs — what one needs to watch is whether Acharya can offer a solution to the communication block the Reserve Bank is suffering ever since Patel took over as RBI governor. Over the years, especially during the tenure of Raghuram Rajan, the RBI has taken serious efforts to improve the central bank’s communication to the public also using public engagements of the RBI top brass to converse and clarify key policy decisions with various stakeholders. This was done with the assessment that effective communication is equally critical for a central bank as much as taking policy decisions.

But, arguably, the RBI under Patel has been a failure to carry forward this effort, especially during the demonetisation rollout. Former RBI deputy governor, Usha Thorat, in a column in The Indian Express, criticised the RBI for not communicating to the desired extent on certain critical aspects of demonetisation. “The RBI top management must communicate more through the media and speaking opportunities. This is necessary in the interest of transparency and credibility. It generates confidence that the RBI believes in honest communication,” Thorat said. Governor Patel’s prolonged silence since 8 November, despite uncertainty on cash crunch gripping the public, had attracted strong criticism.

Can Acharya, an articulate academic, fill the void of the effective communicator in the central bank? “Perhaps he can,” said Gaurav Kapur, an independent economist. “ Not just on the demonetisation issue, but on other policy decisions as well. Acharya can be the person to communicate the RBI’s policy decisions more effectively, which was largely missing during the demonetisation episode,” Kapur said.

Over to you Mr Acharya.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 12:38 IST

Hyderabad bizman arrested over Rs 98 crore ‘black money’ deposits in banks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A city-based businessman was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly cheating and generating ‘fake and fictitious’ advance payment receipts to deposit “black money” to the tune of Rs 98 crore in banks following demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 tenders last month.Besides Kailash Chand Gupta (65), his kin and others have also been booked by the police under various sections of IPC for their alleged role in the “conspiracy”.Central Crime Station, a wing of Hyderabad Police, arrested Gupta for his alleged involvement in cheating and manipulation of records for illegal gain post demonetization.Another businessman Naredi Narender Kumar (59), MD of a private firm and brother-in-law of Gupta, was also arrested for abetment and hiding Gupta from police.Gupta runs three jewellery and bullion firms with his two sons, a daughter-in-law and another woman as directors.After demonetization, Gupta, along with his sons Nitin and Nikhil, daughter-in-law Neha and others, conspired and hatched a plan to convert their black money by depositing it with banks by generating fake and fabricated receipts for wrongful gains which caused loss to Government of India, stated a release from Hyderabad Police.Accordingly, the accused persons generated fake and fictitious advance payment receipts, purported to be acquired from about 3100 customers, for an amount of Rs 57.85 crore in name of their firm Musaddilal Gems and Jewelers Private Ltd.They also allegedly produced fictitious advance payment receipts for Rs 40 crore in name of another firm, Vaishnavi Bullion Private Ltd, claimed to be acquired from about 2100 customers, and issued computerised receipts for the same, police said.”All the said receipts were shown to have received between 9 PM and 12 midnight on November 8, and they subsequently got the amounts deposited at SBI, Panjagutta branch and Axis Bank, Banjara Hills branch respectively,” it said.

Jammu & Kashmir cabinet approves draft of Governor’s address

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir cabinet on Wednesday approved the draft of the address, to be delivered by Governor N N Vohra, to the joint sitting of the State legislature on January 2 next year.The cabinet, which met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, approved the draft of the address, to be delivered by the Governor to the joint sitting of the State legislature on January 2, 2017, an official spokesman said.Legislative Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta issued the provisional calendar for the fourth Session of the 12th Legislative Assembly.As per the provisional calendar, starting from January 2, with the Governor’s address to Legislature, the House sittings would continue till February 4, 2017.According to the calendar discussion on motion of thanks on the Governor’s address and reply thereto will be held on January 3 and 4.The annual financial statement of expenditure for 2017-2018 and presentation of supplementary statement of expenditure for 2016-2017 will be held on January 9, 2017.The general discussion on budget will be held on January 10 and 11 ending with reply thereto.As per the calendar, the demand for grants for various departments would be taken up from January 12 to January 27 and the Appropriation Bills will be taken up on January 28.There shall be government business on January 30.Private members resolutions will be taken up on January 31 and February 2 and private members bills on February 1 and February 3.There will be government business on February 4, if any, the calendar issued read.

Viral Acharya, ‘Poor man’s Rajan’, new RBI Deputy Governor

New Delhi: Government today appointed Viral V Acharya, a New York University economics professor who once called himself ‘poor man’s Raghuram Rajan‘, as new Deputy Governor at the Reserve Bank of India.

The 42-year-old Acharya’s appointment for a three-year tenure was cleared by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. He is taking over at a time when the central bank is facing criticism for repeated changes in the rules related to deposit and withdrawal of money, post-demonetisation.

He will fill the post that fell vacant after Urjit Patel was made RBI Governor to succeed Rajan with effect from 4 September. The existing three Deputy Governors of RBI are S S Mundra, N S Vishwanathan and R Gandhi.

Viral Acharya - RBI Deputy Governor. Image courtesy - NYU-Stern.Viral Acharya - RBI Deputy Governor. Image courtesy - NYU-Stern.

Viral Acharya – RBI Deputy Governor. Image courtesy – NYU-Stern.

Like Rajan, Acharya also comes from an academic background and has also co-authored in the past at least three papers with the former RBI governor. These papers included ‘Sovereign debt, government myopia, and the financial sector’, ‘The Internal Governance of Firms’ and ‘Government Myopia and Debt in a Dynamic Setting.

Acharya has often praised Rajan for his works and once said “Raghu has been a great source of inspiration for me”. While giving a Deutsche Bank Prize in Financial Economics plenary lecture in 2013, Acharya had narrated an incident when someone asked him on a flight whether he was Raghuram Rajan, after seeing him, an Indian, with papers on banking and crisis.

He quipped that was the day when he realised that if he had Rajan as a “role model” and could get even 5-10 percent of him, he could have easily passed off as “poor man’s Raghuram Rajan” on flights.

Just like Rajan, Acharya has also been a strong votary of the independence of central banks and favoured them being “democratically accountable, yet be operationally independent from political influence”.

Acharya is known for his research in theoretical and empirical analysis of systemic risks of the financial sector, its regulation and genesis in government-induced distortions, according to the profile on the NYU website.

The research areas also span across credit and liquidity risks, agency-theoretic foundations as well as their general equilibrium consequences, it says.

Acharya is the C V Starr Professor of Economics in the Department of Finance at the New York University Stern School of Business (NYU-Stern).

An alumnus of IIT, Mumbai, with a degree of Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science and Engineering in 1995 and PhD in Finance from NYU-Stern in 2001, Acharya was with the London Business School (2001-08) and served as the Academic Director of the Coller Institute of Private Equity at LBS (2007-09) and a Senior Houblon-Normal Research Fellow at the Bank of England (Summer 2008).

He has also served as Director, NSE-NYU Stern Initiative on the Study of Indian Capital Markets, and has been a member of Sebi’s International Advisory Board.

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

Hyderabad: Conmen rob finance firm of 40 kg gold after posing as CBI officials

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A group of four persons posing as CBI officials struck at a private finance firm branch in neighbouring Sangareddy district of Telangana and made away with huge amount of gold, police said.Around four persons entered the branch at RC Puram area at around 9.30 am and posing as CBI officials they told the staff they are checking money exchange and later threatened them on gun point and robbed gold before fleeing away in a four-wheeler, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Madhapur Zone) Vishwa Prasad said.Preliminary reports said around 40 kg gold was robbed from the finance branch. However, police said they are in the process of collecting more details from the staff.”We are verifying…the exact quantity has to be ascertained,” Cyberabad Joint Commissioner Stephen Raveendra said. Further probe is underway.

Kerala: 38 students injured after bus overturns in Kozhikode

Tue, 27 Dec 2016-04:02pm , Kozhikode , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At least 38 people were injured after a private bus of Attingal Government College turned turtle in Kerala’s Kozhikode on Tuesday.The untoward incident took place in the wee hours when the students were returning to their college from Mysore.The injured students were rushed to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. Two students have sustained serious injuries and are reportedly in a critical condition.Further details are awaited.

‘National Herald’ case: Subramanian Swamy loses battle for documents in court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A trial court on Monday dismissed BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s request for documents claiming it to be “nothing but a fishing enquiry which is not permitted under the law.” Metropolitan Magistrate Loveleen dismissed the application a year after Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi were summoned to court in the National Herald case.The court added that by seeking the financial documents Swamy seemed to “enlarge the scope of the present proceedings.”The court observed that documents sought from the Income Tax department were not relevant to the proceedings and hence could not be ordered to be summoned. With respect to the documents sought from the Congress party—at least 10 types of documents, the court rejected the claim observing that Swamy had not yet submitted his list of witnesses in the case whom the BJP leader proposed to examine in the pre-charge stage.While requesting for documents Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), primarily to check the legality or otherwise of the loan taken from the Congress Party and to check whether the AJL was complying with the provisions of the Companies Act at the relevant time, Swamy used the terms ‘verify’, ‘see’, ‘investigate’. The court observed, that by using these terms, Swamy himself was “not aware of the contents of the said documents.”The court however, allowed Swamy a last opportunity to submit the list of his witnesses in this case and fixed the matter for February 10 to hear arguments on framing of the charges.In a complaint filed by Swamy, the BJP leader has alleged that Sonia, Rahul and others conspired to cheat and misappropriate funds. Swamy accused the Gandhis of misappropriating Congress party funds by paying Rs 50 lakh through which Young Indian Pvt Ltd (YIPL) obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore from Associate Journal Private Limited (AJPL). This, Swamy felt was fraudulent not only to the party donors but also to the State Exchequer by claiming tax exemptions.The defence led by senior advocates RS Cheema, and Rebecca John along with Ramesh Gupta among others argued that the complainant is under an obligation to file a list of witnesses and examine them before seeking documents. The defence further submitted that Swamy was trying to collect and prepare an archive of documents through the present application. The application was omnibus in nature and the documents sought to be summoned were neither relevant nor necessary.

‘Internet connectivity still out of reach for 950 mn Indians’: Assocham-Deloitte study

New Delhi: India may have the world’s second largest internet user base, but connectivity remains out of reach for nearly 950 million citizens, a report said today.

“Even with the internet data plans in India being among the cheapest in the world and the average retail price of smartphones steadily declining, connectivity is still out of the reach of nearly 950 million Indians,” according to the Assocham-Deloitte joint study. India currently has about 350 million internet users, second only to China.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Internet penetration is increasing in India and the access to affordable broadband, smart devices and monthly data packages are required to spread digital literacy to make their ends meet, the study titled ‘Strategic national measures to combat cybercrime’ said.

Existing government infrastructure assets should be further leveraged for provision of digital services at remote locations, it said.

The study added that digital literacy needs to be increased by providing institutional trainings in schools, colleges and universities. It pitched for accelerating
partnerships with global technology leaders and using the workforce trained under Skill India to impart trainings.

An integrated approach between Digital India and Skill India needs to be constructed to design programmes and impart training, it said.

The report called for incentivising private sector players for developing infrastructure, providing services and promoting digital literacy as part of the Digital India programme.

“Start-ups should be involved to create and customise apps to local needs to increase adoption of digital technology,” it said adding that a framework needs to be defined for participation of private sector in skill development programs defining their role, expectations in terms of investments, content and job guarantees.

Besides, integration of local language and technology is also required to drive digital literacy.

The report said fear of cybercrime and breach of privacy have been deterrents in adoption of digital technologies in the country.

In order to encourage people to switch to digital means, it is important to provide awareness and education on cyber security, risks and safeguarding of information on the internet, it said.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 19:31 IST

Tamil Nadu: DMK General Council meet on January 4

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>DMK announced that its General Council meeting on Monday, which was deferred in view of M Karunanidhi’s hospitalisation, would be held on January 4, 2017.DMK General Secretary K Anbazhagan said that the General Council, originally slated on December 20 under its President M Karunanidhi, will now be held next month.The General Council was earlier scheduled on December 20 amidst an increasing chorus from Stalin’s supporters for his elevation.Stalin, also leader of the opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, was expected to be appointed working president of the party in the General Council, the powerful decision-making body of DMK.However, the meet was deferred following Karunanidhi’s hospitalisation due to lung and throat infection.Karunanidhi was discharged from the private hospital on December 23.

Delhi: Kathputli Colony residents fear relocation will kill their art

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Artistes have to shift to one-room tenements, which they say are too small to store their artworks; they are also concerned that new neighbours may object to their late-evening rehearsals.”We clearly told them to go back. We are not going to let them encroach upon our land,” says Rashmi Singh, 25, a resident of India’s largest artistes’ ghetto — Kathputli Colony, literally meaning the Puppet Colony.The 3,000-odd families in the locality have been living in constant fear of losing their homes to Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) bulldozers since last week, when DDA officials, accompanied by policemen, asked them to vacate the area and shift to a transit camp at Anand Parbat, till the colony is redeveloped.The residents of the colony include puppeteers, magicians, acrobats, storytellers, folk singers, dancers and painters, among others. Almost all the families, originally from different parts of the country, settled here nearly 45 years ago.”My grandparents, who were puppeteers, moved here from the Alwar district of Rajasthan. Since then, we have been living here. How can the DDA ask us to leave our homeland?” Rashmi asks.On Friday, Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain extended his support to Kathputli Colony residents, and wrote a letter to Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, stating that residents were being “forced” to leave the area.The colony was the first slum taken up for in-situ redevelopment by the DDA in 2009, in collaboration with private firm Raheja Developers. As per the plan, families will have to move to single-room temporary houses in a resettlement area in Anand Parbat, till the construction of their permanent houses in the Kathputli Colony is completed.Nearly 500 families had moved to make-shift homes in 2013, while rest of them refused to do so, saying the DDA should give them written assurance that every family would get a house, and also sought to know the time it would take to build their permanent houses. Prabhat Singh, 52, says demolition of Kathputli Colony will also demolish their art. “Can you imagine fitting in artworks of half-a-century in a single-room flat?”he asks.He adds: “The resettlement will affect our freewheeling lifestyle. Once the artistes start living in expensive flats, their lifestyle will change and egos will inflate. We live like gypsies. Our day starts in the evening, when we start practicing, and it goes on till late in the night. Will the new neighbours allow us to organise our rehearsals?” Puran Bhatt, a resident who had been spearheading protests against the DDA, says: “The residents of Kathputli Colony have represented the country throughout the world. Even the government calls us to perform when a foreign delegation visits. But when it comes to our rights, it turns mute.”

NGT asks Delhi govt to shut hazardous industries in East Delhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Noting that functioning of industrial units in residential areas is harmful, the National Green Tribunal has directed the Delhi government and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to take action against all such units operating without consent.A bench headed by Justice UD Salvi pulled up BSES Yamuna for supplying electricity to industrial units located in Vishwas Nagar area here and directed it to immediately snap electricity connections to them.”As of today, it is evident that several industrial units are being run unauthorisedly without consent to operate being obtained from the competent authority in accordance with law in Vishwas Nagar, Delhi. Obviously, their operations are deleterious to the environment generally and in particular to the area of Vishwas Nagar…”We direct the Delhi government and authorities concerned to take action against all the industrial units operating without consent to operate granted by DPCC in accordance with law,” the bench, also comprising Expert Member Ranjan Chatterjee, said.Advocate Balendu Shekhar, appearing for the East Delhi Municipal Corporation, told the bench that several industrial units in Vishwas Nagar were being run unauthorisedly in gross violation of the provisions of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act and directions of the Supreme Court.However, the association of Vishwas Nagar Small Scale Manufacturing and Traders told the NGT that Vishwas Nagar has more than 70 per cent plots under manufacturing activity and according to the physical surveys carried out by the Delhi government, the area deserves to be declared as an industrial area.The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by local resident S N Rohatgi, who had approached green panel against industrial units operating in the area seeking their immediate closure on the ground that these industries were causing air and noise pollution.Rohatgi claimed that Vishwas Nagar was residential area where 70,000 residents reside and there were 13 schools besides Chartered Accountants Institute and several private coaching institutes.

PM Modi has done firebombing on poor, farmers and labourers: Rahul Gandhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Escalating the attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over demonetisation, Rahul Gandhi today accused him of dividing the country between the rich and the poor and dubbed the move as “firebombing” on cash economy and farmers and labourers.Addressing a public rally here, the Congress Vice President said the Prime Minister with his note ban decision has removed the “hat” of Himachal Pradesh as it has hit hard the state’s horticulture, agriculture and tourism sectors. “Himachal’s brave soldiers carried out the surgical strikes, but Modiji thought of launching a new drama. He launched the surgical strike on corruption.”On one side the brave give away their blood and life, but here he did surgical strike on black money and corruption.Modiji this is not a surgical strike on black money and corruption. This is a firebombing and economic-bombing on the poor, farmers and labourers,” he said. Accusing Modi of dividing the country between the rich and the poor, Gandhi said, “Modiji you have tried to divide India into two parts.” “On one side are the one per cent rich comprising 50 families who have private aircraft and big buildings and on other side, there are 99 per cent honest people of India — the farmers, labourers and the middle class who built this country with their sweat and blood. You tried to divide the people of the country,” he said.He said that in the Second World War, a new way was evolved to do firebombing in 25 minutes and more people died in Tokyo firebombing than in Hiroshima bombing. “The same way Modiji has done firebombing on the poor, farmers and labourers. You have done firebombing on India’s cash economy. Not on 94 per cent of black money where it was to be done. Not on one per cent people possessing black money, but on 99 per cent poor people of the country,” he said.Showing the traditional Himachali cap, Gandhi accused Modi of putting it down and destroying it. “Modiji you have removed the Himachal’s ‘hat’ through the note ban — horticulture, agriculture and tourism. Note ban has caused a major dent on horticulture, agriculture and tourism. You have burnt the fields of honest Himachal farmers, and you did so with a smile on your face. “This note ban step was against all of you, against the honest people of India. In two-and-a-half years, the Modi government has attacked the poor of the country,” he told the crowd. Besides Gandhi, the Congress rally was addressed by Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and other state leaders. Himachal Pradesh goes to Assembly polls in the latter part of 2017.

DMK supremo Karunanidhi discharged after undergoing tracheostomy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi was discharged from a private hospital here after a week-long treatment for breathing difficulty caused by throat and lung infections, with doctors advising him complete rest.The course of antibiotics for the 93-year-old DMK chief has been completed and he has “recovered well” from breathing difficulty due to throat and lung infections, Executive Director of Kauvery Hospital Dr S Aravindan said.Karunanidhi was hospitalised on the night of December 15. The next day, he underwent tracheostomy to optimise breathing and the hospital had declared him as being stable.Dr Aravindan, in a statement today, said, “Doctors have advised him complete rest and restriction of visitors.” He said Karunanidhi needs tracheostomy tube for a few more weeks and added that medical and nursing care would continue to be provided at his home by the hospital.The DMK patriarch was given a warm welcome by senior party leaders and cadres when he arrived at his Gopalapuram residence. Earlier soon after his hospitalisation, there was a marked improvement in his condition and he even watched Rajinikanth blockbuster “Batcha” on his laptop.Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, former Union Minister P Chidambaram, AIADMK leaders M Thambidurai and D Jayakumar, among several other leaders, had visited him during his hospitalisation.Karunanidhi was in the same hospital between December 1 and 7 for drug allergy treatment.On October 25, DMK had announced that Karunanidhi was suffering from allergy “caused by a medicine he has been using” and advised rest by doctors. Though active for his age, the veteran DMK leader is not seen regularly in public and has been reacting to key issues and developments through his statements.The DMK general council meet scheduled for December 20, where party treasurer M K Stalin was expected to be declared working president, had to be cancelled in view of Karunanidhi’s hospitalisation.The DMK chief also had to skip campaigning for the November 19 polls to three constituencies in Tamil Nadu and instead appealed to voters through a statement to vote for his party.

Income tax officials raid Kotak Bank branch, bank denies fake accounts

The Income Tax Department on Friday questioned the manager of a Kotak Mahindra Bank branch here in connection with two of its customer accounts, officials said.

According to a police official, a “raid” was conducted in the morning on the Kasturba Gandhi Marg branch in the heart of Delhi.

Rohit Rao, official spokesperson of Kotak Mahindra Bank, said in a statement: “IT department has visited the bank’s branch in connection with survey of two of its customers and their related accounts.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

“No KYC deficiencies were noted in these two customers. The IT department did question the Branch Manager and no adverse report has been submitted to the bank so far.”

Rao said the bank had a “robust system of regularly and proactively filing necessary reports with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) for all large transactions.

“The bank denies that there were any fake accounts. The bank is extending full cooperation to the investigating authorities.”

Another private sector bank, Axis Bank has been in news after income tax department and enforcement directorate have detected illegal activities at some of its branches after the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

The bank’s Ahmedabad branch was raided on Thursday and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) put transactions worth Rs 89 crore under scanner. The raid was conducted at Mayamnagar branch of the bank and the ED scrutinised 19 accounts.

The ED had earlier registered a money laundering case in the alleged forging of a customer’s identity to conduct huge illegal transactions in the branch of Noida for conversion of black money into white post demonetisation.

The bank, according to a PTI report, had suspended 24 employees and 50 accounts after the I-T raids unearthed such illegal activities.

With IANS

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 15:19 IST

Homoepathy Council chief Ramjee Singh gets bail in graft case

New Delhi: President of Central Council of Homoeopathy (CCH) Ramjee Singh, arrested on 22 October for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs 20 lakh for giving clearance to a college in Gujarat, was granted bail on Friday by a special court in New Delhi.

Special Judge Parveen Singh also granted the relief to suspected middleman Harishankar Jha, who was arrested along with Singh by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The court granted bail to both the accused on a personal bond of Rs two lakh each and one surety of like amount.

court-representational-ibn-380 copy

The probe agency recently filed a charge sheet against the accused for the alleged offences of criminal misconduct by a public servant, receiving illegal certification and criminal conspiracy under the IPC.

The CBI had arrested Singh, who also runs GD Memorial Homeopathy Medical College in Patna, and Jha on 22 October.

According to CBI, Jha was allegedly receiving the bribe amount, which was a part payment for the total amount agreed upon, from a hawala operator in Karol Bagh area.

A CBI official had said that a private university based in Rajkot (Gujarat) had applied for setting up a new Homoeopathy college.

“It was alleged that…the vice president of the said University was in regular contact with both the president of CCH and a private person for getting inspection carried out by such team of inspectors of CCH who would give favourable inspection report,” the agency had said.

Others named in the FIR include RD Patel, assistant director, Homeopathy Department, Gujarat Government; Denish Patel, vice president of RK University, Bhavnagar, which was setting the Homoeopathy college; members of inspection team comprising Jabalpur-based Professor Rahul Shrivastava; Ashok Konar of National Institute of Homeopathy, Kolkata; and Ashwini Arya of JR Kissan Homoeopathy college in Rohtak.

It said RK University wanted to set up the homeopathy college for which mandatory clearance was needed from CCH, a statutory body for regulating education in the field, which accords it after inspection and deliberation among its various committees.

It was alleged that Denish Patel roped in RD Patel to get this done. RD Patel in turn approached Singh through Jha.

Singh allegedly deputed a team — comprising Shrivastava, Konar and Arya — which conducted the inspection in September, the agency had said.

The president of CCH had demanded illegal gratification and the part amount of which Rs 20 lakh was to be delivered in New Delhi and the same was to be collected from a hawala operator, the FIR alleged.

Jha had obtained an alleged bribe of Rs 20 lakh on behalf of the then president of CCH, CBI alleged in the FIR.

“Searches were conducted at Delhi, Rohtak, Gurgaon, Rajkot, Gandhinagar, Jabalpur and Kolkata, including (at) the official and residential premises of accused persons and others which led to recovery of incriminating documents.

“A sum of Rs 21.5 lakh (approx) was also recovered from the residence of a private person in Gurgaon,” the agency had said.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 14:16 IST

Home Secretary met Najeeb Jung two days ago, was unaware of his resignation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The sudden resignation of Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung seems to have caught the Home Ministry unaware with Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi saying Jung had given no indication two days ago when he had a meeting with him. “The LG met me day before yesterday but he did not give any indication of submitting his resignation. Another meeting of mine with the LG is scheduled for tomorrow (Friday)… I have come to know about his resignation only from the media,” Mehrishi told reporters as soon as the news flashed in TV channels.Delhi being a Union Territory, the LG looks after the Delhi Police and he reports to the Union Home Ministry. Jung regularly meets senior Home Ministry officials for various official works and in his recent interactions he had given no clue about his impending resignation from the post. Official sources said whenever the political leadership of the Central government wants to remove a Governor or LG, the onus of conveying the message, asking the incumbents to put in their papers, usually rests with the Union Home Secretary.In the case of Jung, Mehrishi had not conveyed any such message, sources said. It came as a surprise for the Home Ministry officials that Jung has decided to put in his papers without giving any hint in advance. In fact, sources said the LG had intimated the Home Secretary that from December 25 to January 1 he will be visiting Goa on a private tour.
ALSO READ Despite bitter-sweet experiences, we did a good job in Delhi with Najeeb Jung: Manish Sisodia Sources said there is no fixed tenure for a LG of any of the Union Territories even though a Governor is normally appointed for a period of five year or till further order “whichever is earlier”. The LG is appointed without specifying any tenure, sources said.

CISF to get 37,000 more troops to boost airport, metro security

New Delhi: Augmenting the manpower of CISF guarding critical infrastructure like airports and
assets in the nuclear domain, the government has sanctioned raising the strength of the force with 37,000 more troops in order to bolster security at these facilities.

A CISF personnel. Reuters.A CISF personnel. Reuters.

A CISF personnel. Reuters.

The force has been seeking enhancement of its manpower, from the existing 1.45 lakh, for quite some time now as it is being increasingly entrusted with security duties like with the expansion of the Delhi Metro network in the national capital and transfer of more civil airports and private sector units under its cover.

The Union home ministry recently approved raising the strength of the force to 1.80 lakh, by having 35,000 more
personnel, with sanctions to raise two more battalions (about 2,000 personnel) once the new strength is achieved fully in about two years time.

“This has come as a shot in the arm for us. Our tasks are increasing gradually and the enhancement in our strength will act as a great boon to ensure better operational preparedness, faster promotions and effective supervisory control,” CISF Director General OP Singh told PTI while confirming the development.

He added the force will soon begin recruitments to fill up these sanctioned numbers.

“We are also going for a full cadre review of the force. The new strength will also help in undertaking a better
organisation of posts and services,” the DG said.

Central Industrial Security Force officials said that with the government making clear its intention of entrusting more and more civil airports to it and an increasing task in the domain of VVIP security, the force required more numbers.

While the CISF guards 59 civil airports in the country as of now, it also has an elite VVIP security wing under its command called the Special Security Group (SSG).

At least 3,000 personnel, they said, are only required to cater to the security needs of the transport lifeline of the national capital, the Delhi Metro, which is not only expanding its network but is also witnessing an increasing passenger load from the current about 27 lakh commuters per day.

Some manpower is also required to beef up security at sensitive aerospace and nuclear installations in the country and the new manpower when raised, will also be sent to these locations.

After it was tasked to secure vital infrastructure in the private domain post the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, the
forces’ role in this domain is also increasing with eight facilities already under it command and manpower for the ninth is set to be deployed soon.

Early this year, the government had ordered deployment of about 35 CISF personnel to guard Baba Ramdev‘s Patanjali Food and Herbal Park Private Limited in Haridwar.

The other seven private sector units being guarded by CISF are: Electronics City in Bengaluru and Infosys campuses in Bengaluru, Mysore and Pune, Reliance Refinery and Petrochemicals in Jamnagar, Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd project executed by the Tata group in Mundra and the Tata Steel project based in Odisha’s Kalinganagar.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 22:27 IST

Karnataka: Congress govt mulls 100% job reservation in private sector for Kannadigas

Bengaluru: The Congress government in Karnataka is mulling 100 percent reservation for Kannadigas in all private sector industries in the state, barring IT and biotechnology firms, which avail concessions under the state industrial policy.

The draft amendments to the Karnataka Industrial Employment (Standing orders) Rules, 1961, providing for 100 per cent “horizontal reservation” for Kannadigas has been thrown open to the public for objections or suggestions.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddharamiah. PTI

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddharamiah. PTI

Also, the draft amendments call for providing not less than five per cent of employment to persons with disabilities to get government incentives.

“Every industrial establishment which has obtained  concession of land, water, electricity or tax rebate or  deferment of tax as per state industrial policy shall provide  horizontal reservation of 100 per cent in employment to local people (Kannadigas) in case of workmen classified in sub- clause (a),(b),(c),(d),(e),(f) and (g) and above,” the  notification on the draft rules read.

“Every industrial establishment shall provide not less than five per cent of employment to persons with disabilities in case of workmen classified in sub clause (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f) and (g) and above in order to get incentives from government,” it added.

Official sources, however, said IT/ITeS/BT/start-ups/ knowledge-based industries are exempted from the applicability of Karnataka Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Rules for five years.

According to the notification, local people or Kannadiga means any person born in Karnataka or who has lived in the state for not less than 15 years and knows to read, write, speak and understand Kannada.

A person with disabilities means any person with disabilities as defined in the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

The rules that may be called Karnataka Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) (Amendment) Rules, 2016 shall come into force from the date of their final publication in the official gazette.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 16:42 IST

Ex-coal secretary HC Gupta, others put on trial in coal scam case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Coal Secretary HC Gupta, facing prosecution in coal scam cases, was on Thursday put on trial by a special court along with four others including two public servants for alleged offences of cheating and criminal conspiracy in the JICPL case.Besides Gupta, Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar also framed charges against senior public servants K S Kropha and K C Samria, JAS Infrastructure Capital Pvt Ltd (JICPL) and its Director Manoj Kumar Jayaswal for the alleged irregularities in the allotment of ‘Mahuagarhi Coal Block’ in Jharkhand to a private firm.After the charges were framed, the accused pleaded not guilty and claimed trial in the case.The court has put up the matter for further hearing on April 17, 2017.While ordering to put the accused on trial, the court had on December 7, said, “The facts of the present case prima facie show that accused H C Gupta, K S Kropha and K C Samria entered into a criminal conspiracy with company M/s JICPL and its director Manoj Kumar Jayaswal so as to procure allotment of a coal block in favour of M/s JICPL”.”The acts alleged against the accused public servants Gupta, Kropha and Samria are such that if questioned they cannot claim that they were acting in discharge of their official duties,” the court had said.In a surprising move, the former Coal Secretary had on August 16, told the court that he intended to “face trial from inside the jail” and withdraw his personal bond to secure bail due to financial issues. However, he later withdrew his plea.The court said prima facie charges for alleged offences under sections 420 (cheating), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act are made out against the accused. Around eight different charge sheets have been filed against Gupta and proceedings are going on individually. The Supreme Court had recently dismissed his plea seeking joint trial in all these cases.Some of the cases in which Gupta was summoned as accused by the court include those relating to alleged irregularities in allocation of Thesgora-B Rudrapuri coal block to accused firm Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL) and allocation of Moira and Madhujore (North and South) coal blocks in West Bengal’s Raniganj area to Vikash Metal and Power Ltd.He is also accused in a case of alleged irregularities in the allotment of the Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block to two companies of Jindal group and allocation of Brahmapuri coal block in Madhya Pradesh to accused firm Pushp Steels and Mining Pvt Ltd (PSMPL).The court had on July 31 last year issued summons to the accused after taking cognisance of CBI’s final report. The court had earlier refused to accept the probe agency’s closure report filed in the case and had directed it to further investigate the matter.It had noted that it was prima facie clear that officers of the Ministry of Coal or the screening committee had acted in a manner which was “detrimental” to public interest and they had allowed JAS Infrastructure and Power Ltd (JIPL), now known as JICPL, to “misappropriate” nationalised natural resources.The agency had earlier filed a closure report in the case in which it had lodged an FIR against the firm, Jayaswal and others for alleged irregularities by JIPL in acquiring the coal block.The FIR was lodged on the allegation that the company had not disclosed to the Ministry of Coal that it was already in possession of a coal block.

Demonetisation: Concerns on farm output minimal, but rural demand may feel the heat amid cash crunch

The impact of demonetisation on agriculture is an indirect one. There are two cropping seasons in India. The monsoon crop, which is kharif, was in the midst of harvesting while the winter crop, or rabi, was in the first stages of sowing when the announcement was made. A good monsoon ensured that the kharif crop across all commodities was good, while the moisture retention meant that the rabi crop would follow suit. The demonetisation exercise began on 8 November, which was at the confluence of these two phenomena and had implications for both the activities.

The kharif crop requires labour for harvesting and has to be supported by the logistics structures in the form of transportation and storage to the final selling point which is the mandi. As every link in this chain is almost entirely settled in cash, the absence of currency in the system has affected the overall post-harvest activity. Hence, while the harvest has been very good which will get reflected in the production numbers, the products have often been sold at a very low price thus affecting the incomes of farmers which in turn impacts spending power. The RBI did react to the situation once the impact was assessed and gave priority to the supply of cash to the rural areas with the limits being enhanced for these purposes. The problem was hence addressed to an extent.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The rabi crop has gotten impacted to begin with due to the non-availability of currency to buy seeds and fertilizers. While the use of kisan cards is fairly satisfactory, a substantial part is still dealt with cash as the kharif income is used for purchase of seed for the second season. Second, the logistics support in rural India has come to a standstill as while the RBI intervention has led to an easier flow of cash to the farmers, the same has not happened for the support services. Transport operators in particular were affected. Third, employing labour for sowing has also been a challenge for crops like wheat, chana and mustard, which are the main rabi crops. This has raised some concern on the future prospects of the crop.

The area under cultivation under rabi crops is higher at 519 lakh hectares compared with 490 lakh hectares at the same point last year. For all the three main crops, wheat, oilseeds and pulses, area under cultivation this year so far till 16 December has been higher and would not under normal circumstances provoke concern. However the non-availability of currency for these transactions has raised some apprehension even though the final sowing numbers would be better than last year.

In particular wheat prospects have been monitored quite closely as it is expected that with the absence of rains in winter the progress of the crop will be affected. This in turn can affect the final output, which is a problem considering that private estimates have put the output for 2015-16 to be lower than 2014-15 thus leading to decline in stocks. The official numbers put 2015-16 output higher by 7 million tonnes though procurement was 5 million tonnes lower, which is unusual. This is one reason as to why the government has withdrawn the duty on import of wheat so that overall stocks are augmented.

The farm sector was to witness a turnaround this year on account of a good monsoon with growth of around 5 percent expected after two years of drought. The story had been progressing according to plan but the distortion caused by demonetisation, which meant the drying up of cash in the rural economy, has cast a cloud over this optimal situation. While overall growth will definitely continue to be high at probably between 4-5 percent which is only marginally lower than expectation, the lower value of the crop due to lower prices for kharif output in case of pulses and horticulture would impact the income of farmers.

It may also be pointed out that it was expected that the rural spending contribution to growth would be significant after two years of negative growth. Now, the cash crunch has compounded the problem as it has resulted in lower realisations for farmers as they have received lower prices on account of distress sale at the mandis. The implication is that there will be a hiatus between rural and urban spending and the lag can be one or two quarters.

The demonetisation scheme has affected agriculture and linked activities not just in terms of affecting output at the margin, but also lowering potential income as this sector is almost fully cash driven. Until such time that the situation normalises, which will take between 3-6 months before cash is freely available, the farmers would be under stress. This will show not just in consumption demand for industrial goods but also linked activity like transport, packing, labour used in planting and harvesting. There would hence be a multiplier effect on income and consumption.

The writer is chief economist, CARE Ratings. Views are personal.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 10:55 IST

Government corks booze hologram row, ropes in CNP Nasik

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The liquor bottles that will be sold in the state will have holograms printed at the government-owned Currency Notes Press (CNP), Nasik, and not that of any private printing press.According to senior officials, the state government, in order to eliminate duplicate and spurious liquor from the market, had asked the Excise department to make it mandatory for all liquor bottles to carry a hologram and barcode—with embedded covert and overt features. The barcode will enable the consumer to know when and where the liquor was manufactured and when it was sent from the distillery to the wholesaler and further to the retailer and if it is an original or a fake.”There were controversies over allotting the hologram printing contract to a private firm. Besides, there were no guarantee that the hologram printed by the private firms will not be tampered with. Therefore, we decided to print the hologram at CNP, Nasik,” said the official requesting anonymity.”We visited many states and studied their model. Most of them are printing the hologram at the government currency printing presses. So why should we allot the tender to private firms,” he asked.When contacted, Excise Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankude was not available for comments.Stressing that the government’s intention is to bring in foolproof security features to end adulteration, the official said: “We will ensure that the hologram printed at CNP will have security features more advanced than those on currency notes.””To check whether the liquor is genuine or fake, all one will need is to scan the barcode on the bottle with a mobile phone,” the official said.He said the vehicles carrying the raw materials for the liquor distilleries will also be fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) and will be tracked round the clock. “The move will also fetch the government more revenue,” he said.What’s special about hologram?Security holograms are replicated from a master hologram—which requires expensive, specialized and technologically advanced equipment—and are difficult to forge. They are used widely in high denomination banknotes and are also used in passports, credit cards and other quality products.

CBSE brings Class X board exams back, makes three Indian languages compulsory

The dreaded Class X exams are back. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Tuesday approved a proposal to reintroduce compulsory Class X board examination from the 2017-18 academic year. And, apart from English and Hindi, students may also have to study another Indian language, according to reports.

The decision was taken during a meeting of the CBSE governing body in New Delhi, sources said, adding that the first exam will be conducted in 2018.

Back to exams

The Class X board examination for CBSE schools was made optional by the Congress government from 2011 under the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) system mandated by the Right to Education Act. The exams were replaced with year-round tests and a grading system to reduce pressure on students. Though students preferred the CCE as school exams are considered easier than the board exams, the schools reportedly were against it as couldn’t be implemented well.

File photo of students giving exams in Chennai.

File photo of students giving exams in Chennai.

“A large group of principals, teachers and parents favour the board exam. The CCE provided a chance identify a student’s talent but that required skilled teachers which many schools could not get,” said Ameeta Mulla Watta, a school principal in New Delhi, told Hindustan Times.

According to sources, in the Class X board exams, 80 percent weightage will be given to the marks scored in the examinations while 20 per cent weightage will be given to school-based evaluation, India Today said.

Earlier, Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar had announced making the CBSE board exams compulsory from the academic session 2017-18.

Three language formulae up to Class X, eligibility tests for principals
In the meeting, the highest governing body of the CBSE also resolved to make it compulsory for all schools affiliated with the board to introduce the three-language formulae up to Class X, a source said. Currently, schools are meant to follow this up from Class VI to Class VIII.

Officials added that the board also favoured sending a recommendation to the Centre that those languages which are listed in schedule VIII of the Constitution should be taught under the ‘three language formula’, while languages which are “purely foreign” should be taught as a “fourth language as an elective subject.”

“The National Education Policy and NCERT’s National Curriculum Framework clearly suggest that the three-language formula should be implemented in secondary education and, hence, the decision is in line with that. Private schools currently offering foreign languages will have to treat it as a fourth language, but the three-language formula has to be followed strictly,” said a member of the governing body told The Indian Express.

However, according to Hindustan Times, schools aren’t very happy with the decision, stating that it’s not in line with the demands of the age of “globalisation” and that “if someone wants to take up a foreign language, that should be allowed too”.

The three language formulae was first implemented in 1968, and reiterated in the 1986 and 2005 education policy. However, most schools continued to ignore the directives. In 2014, it emerged into a major controversy when the HRD ministry-run Kendriya Vidyalayas (KV) discontinued German as a third language, and replaced it with Sanskrit. The decision was taken by the ministry under the leadership of Smriti Irani.

The governing body also introduced an eligibility test for principals of all its schools.

The decision of the governing body will be conveyed to the government for its approval. And after the proposal is cleared by the Ministry of HRD, all schools affiliated with the CBSE will have to carry out the proposals including the Class X exams.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 09:39 IST

Centre seeks info on violence outside banks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Facing mounting pressure from opposition parties, who continue to blame demonetization measures for the prevailing chaos at banks and ATM facilities, police departments in states and Union Territories have been asked to urgently send comprehensive details of ‘violent incidents’ that have occurred since November 8.The development comes days after the Winter Session of Parliament was washed out amidst protests by opposition parties which accused the Central Government of creating a chaotic situation resulting from demonetization measures announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.A communication to the effect was sent by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to Directors General of Police (DGPs) and Commissioners of Police (CPs) on December 19. It asks the police chiefs to treat the matter most urgently. The communication, accessed by DNA, says, “Personal attention to DGPs and CPs from Special Secretary. Please intimate the number of violent incidents along with details occurred since November 8, 2016, ie after demonetization at ATMs and banks or any cash outlets (.) Kindly send the details by return fax to MHA control room.” The development comes more than a month after the PM announced demonetization measures under which old notes of 500 and 1000 denomination were taken out of circulation. The move subsequently resulted in a shortage of currency as 500 and 1000 rupee notes formed close to 86 per cent of the total currency in circulation.As a result, banks – both private and government – as well as ATM facilities had seen massive number of people queuing up to either exchange old 500 and 1000 notes in their possession or to simply withdraw money for daily expenses. The deadline to exchange the old currency notes , as per the guidelines issued by Reserve Bank of India, was set to December 30.Official government sources told DNA on Tuesday that the move to ask for details of violent incidents was due to reports emerging from multiple states that indicated a breakdown of law and order.There have been a number of violent incidents reported from outside banks that includes pelting of stones by bank customers, lathi-charge by police forces. Last month, more than a hundred people were booked for pelting stones and clashing with the employees of a bank in Sujru village in Uttar Pradesh over exchanging of old currency notes. While violent incidents outside banks have grabbed the news headline, opposition leaders had forged a union during the Winter Session of the Parliament attacking Modi government for the move.

Punjab farmer commits suicide outside state FM Dhindsa’s residence

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hours before he consumed poison on Monday, Malerkotla farmer Darshan Singh, 50, had brought together nearly hundreds of other farmers from the region for a demonstration outside Punjab Finance Minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa’s residence in Sangrur district.Even as the farmers were sharing their financial woes and highlighting their demands, Darshan, who hailed from the Saddopur village near Malerkotla, consumed poison. He died in the hospital later in the evening.He is survived by his wife and two children. Led by as many as 13 farmer and labour unions, farmers across the state had organised protest demonstrations outside the homes of many Punjab Cabinet Ministers to demand a debt waiver and compensation for families of farmers who committed suicide.“Darshan had taken a loan of nearly Rs 15 lakh from some private money lenders and banks. He invested the money in a rice mill that was not successful. The banks had been pressing upon him to repay the loan,” said Joginder Singh, leader of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), Ugharana.According to a report tabled in the Parliament in May, Punjab is second only to Maharashtra in the number of farmer suicides in 2016. In 2015, 495 farmers had allegedly committed suicide in the state, the report stated.Professor Gian Singh, Agriculture Expert at Punjabi University in Patiala, who had conducted a survey titled ‘Indebtness Among Farmers and Agricultural Labourers in Rural Punjab (2014-15)’ as part of an Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) research project, said 80 per cent of the sampled agricultural labour households were grappling with debt.“Apart from loans from co-operative and private banks, a large number of farmers are dependent on private money lenders. On an average, a farmer has a loan burden of at least Rs 6 lakh, even for the smallest of land holdings. There is frustration among farmers that pushes them to take such drastic steps,” said Jagmohan Singh, General Secretary, BKU, Dakonda, Patiala.Ahead of the Assembly elections, the issue of farmer suicides in the state that is largely dependent on agriculture has also become a major poll plank for political parties.Punjab Congress Chief Captain Amarinder Singh has announced to waive off farm loans, if the party comes to power, and said that over 33 lakh farmers across the state have signed the debt-waiver forms.At the same time, SAD-BJP is flagging how it has provided power subsidy to farmers and has lambasted the Congress for luring farmers with the promises of providing debt relief.

7.98 crore rupees recovered from 15 bank lockers in Pune, CBI registers case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Had it not been for credible intelligence received by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), smooth but illegal transactions taking place in the Parvati Towers of Parvati Gaon in Pune would have taken quite some time to get noticed.The probe agency on Monday registered a criminal case against Sudhir Puranik, director of Worldwide Oilfield Machine (WOM) Pvt Ltd, a multinational companywith its headquarters based in Houston, Texas and other unknown officials of the Bank of Maharashtra (BOM) for allegedly obtaining new currency notes to the tune of rupees 7.98 crores.Interestingly, the WOM office as a BOM branch is located in the same compound and the alleged exchange of new currency notes had been taking place smoothly since November 8, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonitization measures. The lid finally blew off when the Income Tax department conducted a raid on the Parvati branch of BOM and recovered a whopping 7,97,95,500 crore rupees from 15 lockers maintained in the name of WOM.Among other accused in the case are Mangesh Annachhatra the Chief Executive Officer of WOM and Satyen Gathani of the Ishaniya Hyundai Motors.The WOM, as per official company records,is a private limited company incorporated on December 19, 1985 with a registered address as 6th floor of Parvati Towers. The multi-national company deals in manufacture of special purpose machinery, such as gate valves and has facilities in Aberdeen, Scotland, Dubai, UAE and Singapore.Gathani, too is a designated partner in Pune-based Ishanya Motors Llp, a company dealing in sale,maintenance and repair of motor vehicles and retail sale of automotive fuel.According to the CBI, Sudhir, Annachhatra and Gathan, along with unknown bank officials, entered into a criminal conspiracy to obtain the note including the newly introduced 2000 and 500 rupee notes. Sources in the probe agency said that Gathani had obtained the notes from various other banks and had been handing over the same to Sudhir who filled the lockers with the same.According to CBI, the accused were booked under IPC sections 420 (cheating) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy) as well as other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Demonetization breathes life into ‘zombie’ accounts

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>About 72,000 dormant accounts in public and private banks came to life in the first 17 days of demonetization with more than Rs 2,000 crore cash deposited in them. Topping the list was India’s largest public sector bank State Bank of India (SBI) with deposits of Rs 586 crore, reveals official data.The average deposit in the 72,000 accounts is Rs 2.79 lakh, a notch above the Rs 2.5 lakh limit specified by the government, according to the Financial Intelligence Unit, a specialised agency that works under the Finance ministry.Tasked with monitoring suspicious bank transactions, FIU had closely scrutinised accounts in the period between November 8-25 and found that dead accounts—those that had not been active for the last two years—had suddenly sprung to life after the government withdrew high currency notes.Almost every bank, public and private, had accepted such deposits, reveals the data accessed by DNA.While SBI heads the list, Punjab National Bank (PNB) follows second with Rs 230 crore being accepted in dormant accounts. UCO Bank (Rs 154 crore), Bank of Baroda (Rs 116 crore) and Bank of India (Rs 105 crore) are the others in the top five. Amongst the private banks, ICICI is at the top with Rs 51 crore followed by Axis Bank (Rs 36 crore) and HDFC (Rs 9 crore).The largest dormant deposit was found to be in Surat where one individual deposited Rs 3 crore in HDFC. Amongst the other stand-out transactions that have come to light is that of a garment trader depositing Rs 1 crore without quoting a PAN number in the Tirupur branch of PNB.The main intent behind declaring an account dormant or dead is to reduce the risk of frauds. Segregating these accounts leads to bank staff getting alerted to the risks involved and the due diligence needed.But after demonetization, some people are allegedly depositing unexplained cash in these zombie accounts, an expert explained.Recently, in a high profile meeting of tax officials, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) took note of 500 suspicious accounts where more than Rs 15 lakh cash was deposited.The government has started analysing where the higher-than-expected deposits came from and how they got into the system. Banks and their staff could face intense scrutiny, and possible penalties if irregularities are found, an official said.The banks did not respond to emails and repeated messages.

Kerala: Student brutally ragged in Kottayam Government Polytechnic College, suffers kidney damage

Kottayam : A first year student of the Government Polytechnic College in Kottayam has been hospitalised with kidney damage after he was brutally ragged by eight senior students, police said on Sunday.

Police said the student has been admitted to a hospital in Thrissur and was put on dialysis after doctors diagnosed him with kidney damage.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The accused allegedly forced the victim to consume liquor mixed with some harmful powder following six hours of brutal ragging which included hard physical exercises like push-ups.

The eight students of the institute at Nattakom in the district are absconding after police booked them for allegedly ragging their juniors in the hostel.

The students, accused of ragging first year pupils in the hostel attached to the polytechnic, were booked early this month. They have also been suspended from the institution.

The victim underwent dialysis three times after his admission in the hospital 10 days ago, police said.

Police in Chingavanam in the district is probing the case.

Meanwhile, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy visited the student at the hospital in Thrissur. Chandy urged the government to bear the expenses of the student’s treatment.

Earlier, in two separate complaints lodged with police, two students, including the one currently undergoing treatment at the Thrissur hospital, had alleged that they were subjected to brutal ragging by their seniors at he institute.

The other pupil is admitted to a private hospital in Eranakulam, police said.

The accused in the two incidents are members of the same group. Two cases have been registered against them, police said, adding that investigation is underway.

Meanwhile, the state human rights commission has sought a report from the education department on the alleged ragging incident.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 18:29 IST

Pakistani cinemas to resume screening of Indian movies from tomorrow

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

Sonia Gandhi prefers ‘non-polluted’ Goa over Delhi: Rahul Gandhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said on Saturday that his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi preferred Goa over Delhi, as she felt that there was “no pollution” in the state and the people were “very good”.”Goa me akar mujhe bahot khushi hui hai…kuchh hi din pehle Congress president bhi yahan aayi thi. (I feel happy being in Goa. Few days back Congress president had also come here),” Gandhi said while addressing an election rally last evening at Fatorda village, around 30 kms from here.”Jab Delhi wapas aayi to maine unse puchha ki kaisi hain aap, to kehti hai mai Goa wapas jana chahti hu. (When she returned to Delhi, I asked her how she was and she said she wants to go back to Goa),” Rahul said at the beginning of his speech.”Unhone kaha, mujhe Goa ki hawa achhi lagi, Goa me koi pollution nahi hai…Goa ke log bahot achhe hai. (I like Goa’s air. There is no pollution there and people of Goa are very good),” he said.Mid-November, Sonia Gandhi visited the coastal state, where she lived in a starred resort in South Goa. During the stay, she has paid a visit to private museum without any security hassles. The Congress president had also visited a temple at Fatorpa village, 30 kms away from Margao.

Rahul Gandhi meets Karunanidhi, says DMK chief is doing well

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday called on DMK patriarch Karunanidhi, who is undergoing treatment for lung and throat infection at a private hospital here, and said the leader was doing well.”I just met him, I wanted to personally wish him a speedy recovery. I was very happy to see that he is doing well and the doctors told me that he is going to go home pretty soon and that is good news,” he told reporters.Flanked by senior party leaders including Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president Su Thirunavukkarasar and DMK treasurer M K Stalin, he hailed Karuananidhi as a “leader of the Tamil people, leader of Tamil Nadu, so I thought I would come and wish him personally.”To a query, he said, “Yes I met him (Karunanidhi), I said hello to him and he is doing well hopefully he will be out (of the hospital) soon and Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) has also sent her regards to him.”The 92-year-old Karunanidhi was admitted to Kauvery Hospital here on the night of December 15 following complaints of difficulty in breathing due to throat and lung infection. Yesterday, he underwent tracheostomy at the hospital to optimise breathing and later the hospital said the DMK chief’s condition was stable. Last night, after the tracheostomy procedure, his condition improved and even he watched a Rajinikanth starrer ‘Batcha’ on his laptop.This is the first visit that Rahul Gandhi is paying a visit to Karunanidhi in last many years. Even during his several previous visits to Tamil Nadu Gandhi he did not call on the nonagenarian leader though Congress and DMK are allies. Weeks ago, when he had visited Apollo Hospitals here to enquire about the health of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, there were expectations in the DMK camp that he could pay a visit to party patriarch Karunanidhi as well. However, he did not visit the DMK chief then Rahul Gandhi was accompanied by senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh during his brief visit. After visiting Karunanidhi, Rahul Gandhi immediately took a flight to Delhi from here. Former Union Minister and Rajya Sabha MP, P Chidambaram, TNCC president Thirunavukkarasar, Congress Legislature Party leader Ramasamy received him at the airport and also later saw him off.

China upset as Dalai Lama meets President Pranab Mukherjee | Reuters

BEIJING China expressed dissatisfaction on Friday after exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama met President Pranab Mukherjee, saying it hoped India would recognise the Nobel Peace Prize winning monk as a separatist in religious guise.Mukherjee hosted the Dalai Lama and other Nobel Peace laureates at a conference on children’s rights at the presidential palace on Sunday.Those who attended, and spoke, included Princess Charlene of Monaco and the former president of East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta.The Indian government had ignored China’s “strong opposition and insisted” on arranging for the Dalai Lama to share the stage with Mukherjee, and meet him, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing in the Chinese capital. “China is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed to this,” he said, adding that the Dalai Lama used the guise of religion to engage in separatist activities and China opposed any form of official contacts with him.

China wanted India to recognise the “anti-China, separatist essence of the Dalai Lama clique and take steps to banish the negative impact of this incident” to avoid disrupting ties between the Asian giants, Geng said.While the Dalai Lama has had private meetings with Indian leaders, Sunday’s conference was the first public event, said the political head of the Tibetan government in exile based in the hill town of Dharamsala. “There are many European governments shying away from hosting His Holiness,” he told Reuters. “Here you have the president of India hosting His Holiness. I think is a powerful message to the world, and particularly to Beijing.”

China regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist, though he says he merely seeks genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland Tibet, which Communist Chinese troops “peacefully liberated” in 1950.The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

China also expressed displeasure with India this month over the visit to a sensitive border region of another senior Tibetan religious figure, the Karmapa Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s third-most-senior monk, who fled into exile in India in 2000.India is home to a large exiled Tibetan community. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 16:29 IST

India-US defence partnership: Industries, not governments, can make it a success

In a recently-held national seminar (14 December) on the status of defence industry in the country, which was attended by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, some panelists did point out, cursorily though, the significance of India being granted the unique status by the United States as its ‘Major Defence Partner’ (MDP). The partnership, if pursued both in letter and spirit, will boost Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India” programme in the defence sector so that India could not only become self-reliant in arms but also emerge as a major exporter of arms. However there remains the question of big “if”, upon which this analysis focuses.

The MDP status to India needs to be seen against the backdrop of the development of the US military industrial complex (MIC). Incidentally, the term “military-industrial-complex” was coined in the US by then president Dwight Eisenhower during the Cold War to welcome the emergence of what is said “the second era” of the American MIC. During the first era, which lasted from 1787 to 1941, the defence sector in the United States consisted totally of the government-owned arsenals and shipyards. However, with the US participating in the Second World War, Franklin Roosevelt established the “War Production Board” by conscripting the major private industries, particularly those in the automobile sector, into wartime service. But after the war ended, not only did these private companies, such as Boeing and General Motors stay and consolidate their involvement in the military sector, they were also joined by others like AT&T, General Electric and IBM.

One of the important features of this second era was that the Pentagon financed the private sector, which, in turn, created world class technologies that were for use by not only the military but also by ordinary citizens. One can cite in this regard the examples of drone, night vision goggles, GPS in cars, and most important, the internet.

File image of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with Defence Secretary Ash Carter at a joint news conference at the Pentagon. News18

File image of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with Defence Secretary Ash Carter at a joint news conference at the Pentagon. News18

The end of the Cold War in the 1990s saw the emergence of the “third era” (and this prevails at the moment), whose important features are as follows.

First, the industry shifted from diversified conglomerates and was managed by defence-only firms.

Secondly, the contribution of the Pentagon, both financially and technologically, has been declining, thanks to the shrinking defence budgets. As a result, and this is the third feature, the American MICs are increasingly buying commercial technologies (either buying or giving these technology providers shares) such as cloud computing, cyber security, nanotechnology and even smart phones. Just see how Google acquired Boston Dynamics that had created BigDog, a four-legged robot that can support soldiers in rough terrain.

However, these features are increasingly proving insufficient to sustain the US defence industry. Although it is courting commercial companies, it prefers the American ones. It is not globalising itself properly, shunning the option of co-producing products abroad with allies and friends the way the Japanese and Koreans are developing their technologies and manufacturing brands in foreign countries, from where they are exporting them to various parts of the world. America’s F-35 example, by distributing the burden of the development cost of the fifth generation fighter plane with some Nato allies, is said to be insufficient.

No wonder William J Lynn III, a former US deputy secretary of defence argues for starting a new fourth era in which the Pentagon must take a more active role in recruiting outside companies, “keeping in mind that their futures are inextricably intertwined”. According to him, “The United States has the opportunity to look beyond its borders to turn this fourth era to its advantage. Since the Second World War, the country’s technological advantages have protected its national security. To maintain that advantage, the United States must adapt to — and ultimately embrace — the trends that will come to define its future”.

Can India fit into this scheme of things, particularly when Modi’s much-repeated calls to ‘Make in India’ continue to remain in the headlines? The US thinks that India can. The MDP status is a logical conclusion of this trend. In essence, it paves the way for India to be treated at par with America’s closest allies — Nato partners and countries with security treaties — such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea on defence-related trade and technology transfer.

In fact, the idea of the MDP was agreed upon during the summit meeting between Modi and President Barack Obama in June this year. “Noting that the US-India defense relationship can be an anchor of stability and given the increasingly strengthened cooperation in defense, the United States hereby recognises India as a Major Defence Partner,” the joint statement of the June meeting had stated.

However, this accorded status to India by Obama required the subsequent Congressional approval as per the American laws.

Although the House of Representatives endorsed the idea, the Senate sought more clarifications. It was not that the Senate was against granting the unique status to India; it was apparently not happy with “the definition of ‘major defence partner’ designation that had been left a little unclear and vague by the administration.” Accordingly, the differences were reconciled and a separate section on ‘Enhancing defense and security cooperation with India’ (Section 1292) was added in “The National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2017 (the US military’s budget for next year), which was passed by the House of Representatives first and then in the Senate. The NDAA, likely to be signed by Obama within a week’s time for legal enforcement, ensures the continuity of the MDP status to India under the future governments as well.

Section 1292 of the NDAA asks the secretaries of defence and state to take steps necessary to recognise India as America’s major defence partner of the U.S. and asks the administration “to designate an individual within the executive branch who has experience in defence acquisition and technology to reinforce and ensure, through inter-agency policy coordination, the success of the Framework for the US-India Defence Relationship; and to help resolve remaining issues impeding US-India defence trade, security cooperation, and co-production and co-development opportunities.”

It also calls for “approval and facilitation of transfer of advanced technology, consistent with US conventional arms transfer policy, to support combined military planning with India’s military for missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-piracy, freedom of navigation, and maritime domain awareness missions, and to promote weapons systems interoperability.” Further, it seeks “collaboration with India to develop mutually agreeable mechanisms to verify the security of defence articles, defence services and related technology such as appropriate cyber security and end use monitoring arrangements consistent with US’ export control laws and policy.” In fact, it asks the secretaries of defence and state to submit within 180 days of the passage of the Act to the Congressional Defence Committees and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives “a report on how the US is supporting its defence relationship with India”.

File image of Narendra Modi and Barack Obama. AP

File image of Narendra Modi and Barack Obama. AP

It was against this background that US defence secretary Ashton Carter visited India last week to meet Parrikar (their seventh interaction in the past two years). They finalised India’s designation as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ of the US. As the joint statement issued after their meeting (8 December) said, “The designation as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ is a status unique to India and institutionalises the progress made to facilitate defense trade and technology sharing with India to a level at par with that of the United States’ closest allies and partners, and ensures enduring cooperation into the future.” In concrete terms what it means is that India now can get access to “99 percent of the US defence technologies” as the export hurdle of high-tech US military hardware and technology to India is removed. India will also receive licence-free access to a wide range of dual-use technologies in conjunction with steps that India has committed to take to advance its export control objectives. The US government will inform the review of requests to export defence articles, defence services, or related technology to India under the Arms Export Control Act, and inform any regulatory and policy adjustments that may be appropriate.

American officials say that the MDP status is in support of India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative towards the development of robust defence industries and their integration into the global supply chain. The United States will facilitate the export of goods and technologies for these industries through joint ventures, meaning thereby that the US is now more than willing to transform its defence cooperation with India from “simply buying and selling” to “co-production, co-development, and freer exchange of technology”.

However, one has to become a little cautious with regard to actual progress of the India-US defence industrial partnership. When one talks of US investment in the Indian defence sector, it should be realised that the ability of the American government to be a source of investment is quite limited. It simply does not have enough investible reserves. Instead, the investible resources are in the US private sector, which, in turn, make their own judgments of where to invest, depending on the recipient country’s infrastructures, legal regime, administrative machinery, and above all broad political consensus on liberalisation of the economy. There is then another limiting factor of the present inabilities of India’s arms industries to absorb the technologies that foreign companies are prepared to transfer. It may be noted in this context that if India and France were not able to fructify the original Rafale MMRCA deal, it was due to as much monetary factor as the lack of absorptive capability for the licensed production of the Rafale.

Unfortunately, the Modi government has a lot to do on all these fronts.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 13:53 IST

Karunanidhi hospitalised again with lung infection, breathing difficulty

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>DMK President M Karunanidhi was admitted to a private hospital in Chennai late Thursday night for treatment of cold and indigestion, party sources said. The 93-year-old former Chief Minister was admitted to Kauveri hospital late tonight, they said. Karunanidhi’s admission in the same hospital comes about a week after he was discharged from there after undergoing treatment for drug-induced allergy. The DMK supremo’s daughter Kanimozhi told media persons outside the hospital, “He had some lung infection and breathing difficulty, he is much better.’Meanwhile, the hospital said Karunanidhi was readmitted with breathing difficulty due to throat and lung infection. “Treatment has been initiated to clear his infection. He is stable and is being treated by a team of doctors”, said Dr S Aravindan, Executive Director, Kauveri Hospital, in a statement.

SC dismisses Katju’s plea to quash Parliament resolution against him

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the plea of former apex court judge Justice Markandey Katju seeking quashing of a resolution passed by Parliament condemning his remarks made in a blog on Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose.A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said the plea is being dismissed on merit.The bench also comprising Justices P C Ghose and U U Lalit rejected preliminary objections that the plea was not maintainable.Justice Lalit, who pronounced the judgement on behalf of the bench, said, “We have held that the plea is maintainable. We have dismissed the plea on merit”.Justice Katju had on June 29 last year moved the apex court seeking quashing of resolutions passed against him by both Houses of Parliament for calling Mahatama Gandhi and Subhash C Bose as British and Japanese “agents” respectively.The former judge, in his Facebook post, had said both Houses of Parliament condemned him for his statements “calling Gandhi a British agent, and Subhas Chandra Bose a Japanese agent” without even giving him a hearing.A former chairperson of Press Council of India, Justice Katju had sought quashing of resolutions passed against him by Lok Sabha on March 12 and Rajya Sabha on March 11.He had also sought a direction to Lok Sabha Speaker and Chairman of Rajya Sabha that he be heard personally or through his duly designated lawyer(s).His plea had alleged that both Houses of Parliament lacked “competence” to condemn him.”Because, Parliament lacks the competence and authority to pass the impugned resolutions condemning the act of the petitioner, who is a private person.”They (LS and RS) are not competent to take cognizance of expressions of free speech of a private person like petitioner as power under Rule 171 of Lok Sabha Rules provides that the resolution must relate to act of Government. Thus Impugned Resolution does not fulfill the jurisdictional requirement and necessary jurisdictional facts are lacking,” it said.The plea also referred to the reasons behind the alleged posts against Gandhi and Bose.”That, the post in respect of Gandhiji in short made the point that by constantly using religious symbolism in politics for several decades, Gandhiji, in effect furthered the British Policy of Divide and Rule by alienating the Muslim population of the Indian sub-continent away from the national movement.”That, the post in respect of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, in short made the point that through his actions knowingly or unknowingly, he ended up perpetuating Japanese imperial interest in the Indian sub-continent,” the plea stated.

Hand baggage tags not necessary in airports; CISF does away with security feature

Mumbai: It has been announced that hand baggage will not need tags at seven airports — four metro cities, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad — from Thursday as part of trials to scrap security stamping procedure.

The move follows a decision by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which handles the security at airports, to do away with stamping of cabin baggage tags. “We have taken a conscious decision of doing away with the process of stamping handbag tags from Thursday. We have this system of stamping boarding pass and hand baggages (since 1992). This is an unique system only in India,” director general of CISF OP Singh told reporters.

The security stamping indicates that the baggage was thoroughly checked and is safe to be carried into the aircraft cabin.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“Aviation sector is expanding and we are set to become the third largest in aviation by 2020 and may be the largest in 2030. So in order to make it more hassle free and convenient for passengers and without compromising on security, we will have a trial run for a week or ten days, at six metro airports and Ahmedabad,” Singh said.

Besides Ahmedabad, the other airports where the trial will be conducted are Chennai, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.

Singh, who was in the city for the first time after becoming CISF DG, said, “If the experiment is successful, we will go in for the second phase and do away with the system of stamping boarding pass as well.” “We are protecting vital installations whether it is shipping sector or coal sector or aviation. Only yesterday the government has sanctioned 35,000 more personnel for the agency,” he said, adding, two new battalions have also been sanctioned by the government.

The official said CISF is undertaking various steps to make airport security fool-proof and one such step is installation of full body scanner at Delhi airport. “We have installed a full body scanner at Delhi airport. However, since there can be questions related to privacy we are doing it on a voluntary basis. Over 3,000 people have been subjected to the full body scan as of now,” he said. “You don’t have to go through exhaustive check. It just takes four seconds to scan the body. This is a parameter of international security standards,” the DG added.

“One issue that we have deliberated upon, but haven’t come to conclusion is implementation of one person, one hand baggage rule. I am not committing, but in due course of time we may have to go for that, looking at the volume of traffic that airport handles,” he explained.

Singh said CISF also provides services to eight establishments in private sector and have received over Rs 132 crore in this regard. “Right now, we are giving security to eight private sector undertakings, including Reliance and Infosys. We have got over Rs 132 crore for services provided to them,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 11:14 IST

Mukul Sangma accuses PM Modi of being ‘brand ambassador’ of corporate houses

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma on Wednesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being a “brand ambassador” of corporate houses promoting their businesses through the demonetization exercise.”I have analysed it (demonetization) and I have seen that the main agenda of this government and the Prime Minister is not to fight corruption or black money or so-called funding of terrorist organisation. The whole agenda now seems to be in promoting some particular business benefiting some limited corporate houses,” Sangma told reporters here.”I have not seen anybody in the world where a Prime Minister starts acting as a brand ambassador for products monopolised by a few corporate houses,” he said, referring to Modi for being part of advertisements of some private companies, which he did not name.
ALSO READ CISF has seized Rs 70 cr cash, 170 kg gold from airports post demonetization”This is something which is not in sync with the rhetoric.What you see today is he (Modi) was in a hurry to please those business houses and this is how I can interpret,” Sangma said.The Chief Minister criticised the demonetization move saying it had “completely dislocated the whole momentum of economic activities at all levels. This (demonetization) has been done without due diligence and the worst hit are the marginalised farmers.””They (farmers) are not finding buyers because cash is not there. There is a short circulation of cash. With the Rs 2,000 notes, both the buyer and seller are equally helpless,” he added.

After wasting 18 days, RS gets into Act, clears Disabilities Bill

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After wasting 18 days in pandemonium on demonetization, the Rajya Sabha finally conducted its first legislative business of the Winter Session on Wednesday, unanimously passing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016.The exhaustive Bill, containing 119 amendments, had 59 suggestions from the Standing Committee that were accepted by the government.Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Thawar Chand Gehlot, said: “All the standing committee recommendations have been accepted. The number of categories of disabled are to be increased for physical as well as mental disabilities.”CPM leader Sitaram Yechury asked the government to remove the clause “this does not apply to posts that require people who are not disabled” and sought that the “reservation should be based on cadre strength, not on number of vacancies meant to be filled” to which Gehlot said he would ensure this is incorporated in the Rules later.To another issue raised by Yechury on the competent authority who will define certain disabilities, Gehlot said the medical board will decide on the definition as well as what disabilities are.Congress MP Viplove Thakur raised the need to extend the provision of disability pension to people below 18 years of age. Genhot replied that the benefit was not provided in the laws.The Bill was introduced by the UPA government in 2014, and an independent body of experts, The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), was set up in 2010 under activist Sudha Kaul to draw up the Bill and also to monitor policies regarding disability.While the Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, identifies blindness, low vision, leprosy-cured, hearing impairment, locomotor disability, mental retardation and mental illness as disability, the 2016 Bill extends that to over 21 disabilities. These include autism spectrum disorder, blindness, cerebral palsy, locomotor disability, low-vision, leprosy cured persons, hearing impairment (deaf and hard of hearing), dwarfism, intellectual disability, mental illness, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions, specific learning disabilities, multiple sclerosis, speech and language disability, thalassemia, haemophilia, sickle, cell disease, multiple disabilities, survivors of acid attacks, and Parkinson’s disease.The 2016 Bill is also compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified by India in 2007, adding for the first time, punitive action against those who discriminate against the disabled. While first-time offenders are now punishable for a 6-month jail time, and a fine of Rs 10,000, repeat offenders will be punishable of a jail term of up to 2 years with a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.The Bill also makes those with over 40 per cent disability to state benefits, including reservations in employment, education, railway tickets, etc., and increased the existing reservation quota of three per cent to five per cent, adding one per cent each for those suffering from mental illnesses and multiple disabilities.Guardianship of two types have been introduced by the Bill, including limited guardianship wherein the differently-challenged person takes joint decisions with the guardian, and plenary guardianship, where the guardian can take decisions on behalf of him/her.The Bill also extends the definition of “establishment” to include private bodies, and requires all existing public buildings to be made accessible for persons with disability, within five years.Another Standing Committee recommendation the Bill will adopt is the introduction of a sub-section on the rights of women and children with disabilities, which will help women and children access rights of equality and empowerment.While lauding the inclusiveness of the Bill, Dr Indumathi Rao of the CBR Network said that one of the drawbacks of the Bill is that it does not include infirmity due to old age, which is a crippling worry for many. “The government needs to follow this up by an increase in the budgetary allocation. And, since disability is a state subject, a massive awareness campaign to let people know about the new amendments is needed,” she said.Vikas Sharma of Disability Helpline India says that the Bill also ignores demands for the inclusion of political reservation for the disabled. “If we are looking at equity, we need to extend that to the highest echelons of the government,” he said.The government is expecting to table and pass the Bill in the Lok Sabha in the last remaining days of the Winter Session.

Trump and Silicon Valley look to smooth over frictions | Reuters

By Dustin Volz and David Shepardson
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Silicon Valley executives have a chance to smooth over frictions when they meet at his Manhattan tower on Wednesday, after both sides made no secret of their disdain for each other during the presidential campaign.The meeting may skirt the numerous disagreements the tech industry has with Trump — including immigration, trade relationships with China and other nations, and digital privacy — in favor of a focus on shared priorities, sources said. “If he can reform the tax code, reduce regulation, and negotiate better trade deals, the U.S. technology community will be stronger and more competitive than ever,” Oracle Chief Executive Safra Catz, who will attend the meeting, said in a statement. The tech luminaries, including Apple Inc’s Tim Cook, Facebook Inc’s Sheryl Sandberg and Tesla Motors Inc’s Elon Musk, will meet with Trump as U.S. corporations worry about his challenges to long-established policy toward China, a key market for Silicon Valley.A senior Chinese state planning officials told the China Daily newspaper Wednesday that Beijing could slap a penalty on an unnamed U.S. automaker for monopolistic behavior, a warning that came days after Trump questioned acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China.”The tech summit is being billed as an introductory session, said four sources briefed on the talks, all of whom requested anonymity to discuss a private meeting.Other expected participants include Alphabet Inc’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft Corp’s Satya Nadella, and Ginni Rometty from IBM, sources said. Cook and Musk will join Trump for a smaller meeting after the other technology executives leave, a spokesman for Trump’s transition team said.The CEOs of Airbnb and Uber were invited but are not attending. Uber’s Travis Kalanick will instead be traveling in India all week, according to a person familiar with his plans.

‘SOME HESITATION’
Trump clashed with Silicon Valley on several issues during the campaign, including immigration, government surveillance and encryption, and his surprise victory last month alarmed many companies that feared he might follow through on his pledges. He has said that many tech companies are overvalued by investors.”You look at some of these tech stocks that are so, so weak as a concept and a company and they’re selling for so much money,” he told Reuters in an interview in May.

Those concerns have not been assuaged in recent weeks as Trump has threatened to upset trade relationships with China and appoint officials who favor expanded surveillance programs. “For some of the companies, there was some hesitation about whether to attend” because of sharp political and personal differences with Trump, one tech industry source said.More than 600 employees of technology companies pledged in an open letter on Tuesday to refuse to help Trump’s administration build a data registry to track people based on their religion or assist in mass deportations.Silicon Valley enjoyed a warm rapport with President Barack Obama and heavily supported Democrat Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.

Schmidt was photographed on election night at Clinton headquarters wearing a staff badge, and Musk said in interviews before the election that Trump’s character reflected poorly on the United States.Despite those tensions, Trump named Musk to a business advisory council that will give private-sector input to Trump after he takes office on Jan. 20. Uber’s Kalanick was also appointed to the council.From the employees of the 10 largest Fortune 500 tech companies, Trump raised just $179,400 from 982 campaign donors who contributed more than $200. Clinton raised $4.4 million from the employees of the same companies, with more than 20,400 donations, a Reuters review of contribution data found. Trump publicly bashed the industry during the campaign. He urged his supporters to boycott Apple products over the company’s refusal to help the FBI unlock an iPhone associated with last year’s San Bernardino, California, shootings, threatened antitrust action against Amazon and demanded that tech companies build their products in the United States.Trump has also been an opponent of the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules barring internet service providers from obstructing or slowing consumer access to web content. Two advisers to his Federal Communications Commission transition team are opponents of the rules, as are the two Republicans on the FCC. Last week, the two Republicans on the panel urged a quick reversal of many Obama policies and one, Commissioner Ajit Pai, said he believed that net neutrality’s “days are numbered.” (Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan, Grant Smith, Heather Somerville, Steve Holland and Jim Finkle; Editing by Peter Cooney and Alistair Bell)

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

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 23:31 IST

Demonetisation: Going cashless can give rise to online scams; we need to stop volunteering data

Sweet are the uses of adversity. And for most people in the country the slow start to the week in being reunited with their money has left them vulnerable to scamsters of all types. Despair does that, makes you reach out and cling to anything even though your mind tells you it is a lot of rot.

The latest one doing the rounds is a letter on an RBI letterhead ostensibly signed by Urjit Patel informing you that a sum of 5,00,000 pounds will be sent to your bank account if you fill in the form. It even has a dotcom address.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

It is a pretty neatly done piece of nonsense and in the current mood where there is this mental photoplay in the public’s mind that the Rs 2.5 lakh crores unearthed is supposedly going to fall like confetti into their hands and end poverty, the gullibility factor rises exponentially.

One would imagine it is a deft and swift way to create a database or get into something more insidious like using the details provided to create false accounts, copy credit cards and whatever other fiscal thievery one can engage in.

For the middle class that still falls for such stuff in considerable numbers, the need to believe intensifies when the survival factor kicks in. Gone is the first month’s warmth and togetherness and the neighbourly feelings. “We will overcome”, is being replaced by the sentiment, “we cannot take it any more”.

After the three holidays, the absence of enough notes prompted by the return of the snaking queues and a lower, much lower, patience level has people wondering what’s going on. Add to all this the information that the printing press cannot print enough notes for 195 days and that we have not even reached 25 percent of the target and we begin to wonder if the nation hasn’t been dug into a hole.

As I said earlier, the filthy rich don’t seem to be particularly unhappy. The underworld hasn’t yet been yanked off to face the consequences and the gap between Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 is just too large to make things viable in a 98 percent cash-oriented society.

RBI_scam_bikramRBI_scam_bikram

A screenshot of the RBI letterhead supposedly signed by Urjit Patel.

More scams are likely to depart from social platforms. If it wasn’t for the princely sum and the fact that it is not Indian currency, this scam would have been a lot more convincing. Imagine if you, in your intelligence, had received such a well-crafted letter with all the bells and whistles attached to it, and it said Rs 20,000 was being deposited into your account as a government dividend out of the interest accrued from the unearthed black money, would you not be tempted to provide your details?

The ‘half a million pounds’ is a reflection of the contempt in which these scam artists hold the masses. If one could trace the source of this effort you would find that several thousand people would still have cheerfully handed over their details.

We are not yet trained to keep our details confidential. Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who exposed the US invasion of privacy into the man on the street, would have had a very easy time in India obtaining private data.

We volunteer it.

The government is duty-bound to inform the nation that no money is being placed in anyone’s account with reference to the black money hunt or the demonetisation initiative.

Till then do not send your information to anybody. That is the next big problem we will face. As the supporters of the cashless e-school tom-tom their online world, most of us won’t know the difference between a genuine document and a con.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 12:16 IST

Aarey helicopter crash: After pilot, passenger succumbs to injuries

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ritesh Modi (35) who suffered from severe brain injuries following the crash of the helicopter crash at Filter Pada areas of Aarey Colony in Goregaon was declared dead at 9.10 pm on Tuesday night, his doctors said. Ritesh was being treated at the Seven Hills hospital in Marol and was on a joy ride along with his wife Vrinda when the crash occurred on Sunday. His condition was critical condition since the crash and he was on life support system.While the pilot of the private helicopter Praful Mishra (53) was brought dead to thehospital, both Ritesh’s wife Vrinda (34) and the technician Sanjeev Shankar are stable and out of danger.Earlier in the day on Tuesday a plastic surgeons evaluated Vrinda who had suffered around 35-40% burns and carried out a debridement in which the damaged tissue or foreign objects are removed from a wound. She has suffered superficial burns on her neck, hands, palms and back the hospital said.Sanjeev is out of the ICU but has suffered displacement and small fractures which will not need any surgical intervention. He will be treated conservatively with Plaster of Paris cast.

Great news: Sushma Swaraj recovering well after successful kidney transplant

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

Cyclone Vardah: O Panneerselvam survives the storm with the right political optics

In his first week as third time chief minister, O Panneerselvam has impressed. It helped that expectations from him were very low. For a government known for its opacity, the fact that the AIADMK dispensation found a voice and communicated effectively in the run-up to Cyclone Vardah and through it, was commendable. All forms of social media were extensively used to ensure the messaging reached far and wide.

Once it was clear that the cyclone was headed towards north of Chennai and not between Kakinada and Nellore in Andhra Pradesh as it was initially predicted, work on warning people began 24 hours before 12 December. The first advisory asked people to stay indoors. Experience in other cities like Hyderabad during the 2016 floods and Visakhapatnam during the 2014 ‘Cyclone Hudhud’ has shown human misery can be minimised to a great extent by ensuring citizens did not venture outdoors. It was also ensured that those living in the low-lying areas were moved to safer locations and vigil posted on the Marina to keep an eye on any fishermen who tried to venture into the sea.

Area-wise groups were created on Whatsapp by the Chennai police, the city corporation and even some MLAs to disseminate information on real time basis. The Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority used its Twitter handle to keep a two-way communication going, informing people about the movement of Cyclone Vardah and asking people to send information about blockades and uprooting of trees in their areas. Electricity minister Thangamani was giving updates on when power will be restored in Chennai. Amma Canteens were kept open to serve food, free of cost.

File image of O Panneerselvam. PTIFile image of O Panneerselvam. PTI

File image of O Panneerselvam. PTI

The Tamil Nadu Public Relations department also was putting out information about what its ministers and bureaucrats were doing to tackle the devastation caused by the cyclone. Photographs of Panneerselvam at review meetings and distributing relief material were shared. As did the AIADMK twitter handle, which focused on reaching out to people in distress rather than scoring political brownie points.

Disaster management expert WG Prasanna Kumar says the government’s response was effective. “Northeast monsoon increasingly throws these challenges. Regular preparatory drill is a must. Chennai, in the long run, needs effective community-based disaster risk reduction management system where local communities along with local bodies should be able to alert and support each other,” says Prasanna Kumar.

Contrast this with December last year, when Jayalalithaa was at the helm of affairs. Barring the Chennai municipal commissioner who was drafted to be the face of the government and defend it, the political administration was clueless and completely absent. AIADMK spokespersons tried every trick in the book to ensure the buck did not stop with Poes Garden, even suggesting that it was because of Amma that Chennai was not devastated.

The distribution of relief material was largely a private affair, with several citizens including film stars, pitching in as volunteers. But overenthusiastic AIADMK cadre stopped several vehicles carrying relief material and allegedly pasted photographs of Jayalalithaa on the packets containing food, water, medicines, blankets and so on. That left a bad taste in the mouth.

AIADMK paid the price for this crass behaviour. In several localities of Chennai, the anger against the AIADMK representatives was so much they many were booed away after they made an appearance after the waters had receded. The people of Chennai showed their anger on the EVM in May this year, when 10 of the 16 AIADMK candidates in the Chennai constituencies lost.

But it is not as if the response to Cyclone Vardah was perfect. The AIADMK leadership was still in mourning after former chief minister Jayalalithaa’s demise on 5 December. And till Saturday, it was obsessed more with requesting Sasikala to take over the reins of the party as the next general secretary.

Chennai-based social activist Chandramohan points out that the city would not have lost more than 500 trees if the Corporation had planned for a stormy and wet December. “Common sense would suggest that when a cyclone approaches with over 100 kilometres per hour speed, the best way to deal with it is by trimming as many trees as you can so they do not get uprooted in the manner so many have in Chennai,” says Chandramohan.

Given that the cyclones frequently ravage the Andhra and Tamil Nadu coast, Vishakhapatnam and its experience with Cyclone Hudhud should be a template. A centralised control room that branches out to disseminate information to people, media and other agencies is critical to keep losses to the minimum. It will take several years for Chennai to replace the kind of green cover it has lost to Cyclone Vardah. Fortunately, human loss was kept low, unlike last December, when over 500 people were killed.

The sight of Chennai airport going under water each time the city faces rain fury is terrible advertisement for a metropolis. It urgently needs to ensure against flooding of the runway so that unless visibility is very low, the airport can still be operational. Last December saw Chennai airport cut off for close to a week, this year, the closure will be for a shorter period.

Chennai on Tuesday morning is picking up the pieces. It is a city ravaged with streets lined with uprooted trees, smashed cars, broken windowpanes and blown away hoardings. Life will return to normal soon but hopefully it has learnt its lessons and will better its response the next time a system in the Indian Ocean decides to test it.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 12:31 IST

PV Narasimha Rao’s son Rajeswara Rao passes away

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s son and former MP PV Rajeswara Rao passed away in Hyderabad on Monday. He was 73. Rao had been suffering from heart-related complaint and he passed away at around 4 PM on Monday at a private hospital in Hyderabad, his nephew and Telangana BJP spokesperson NV Subhash said.Rajeswara Rao was Congress MP from Secunderabad here during the 1990s. He was also an accomplished singer and shuttle badminton player. Condoling the death of Rajeswara Rao, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao recalled his association with him.The departed leader had deep interest in public service, music and literature, the Chief Minister said, according to a release from his office. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu also mourned Rajeswara Rao’s demise. Chandrababu, in a message, extended his condolences to the bereaved family.YSR Congress president YS Jaganmohan Reddy too expressed grief over Rajeswara Rao’s death. “Rao was active in literary and cultural fields,” Jagan recalled in a statement.

Cyclone Vardah: Storm moves further, expected to make landfall near Chennai

Chennai: Chennai and its suburbs continue to receive rains since Sunday night with severe cyclonic storm set to cross close to the coast here on Monday afternoon, said weather department.

According to the meteorological department, the cyclonic storm Vardah over Bay of Bengal moved further at a speed of around 13 kmph.

It lay centred over west-central and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal about 150 km east-northeast of Chennai and 290 km east-southeast of Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, the weather department said.

“The system is very likely to move nearly westwards and cross north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts, close to Chennai with a wind speed of 100-110 kmph gusting to 120 kmph by Monday afternoon,” a bulletin issued by meteorological department said.

IMD_1IMD_1

The MET department has predicted rainfall over south coastal Andhra Pradesh, north coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry over the next 36 hours (till Wednesday).

The rainfall intensity would increase gradually becoming heavy to very heavy rainfall (7-19 cm) at a few places and isolated extremely heavy rainfall (less than equal to 20 cm) over Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh on December 12.

The weather department has warned of squally winds speed reaching 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph along and off Andhra Pradesh and adjoining north Tamil Nadu coasts becoming 100-110 kmph gusting to 120 kmph during the time of landfall along and off Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh.

The tidal wave of about one metre height above the astronomical tide is very likely to inundate the low lying areas of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore districts of Andhra Pradesh during the time of landfall.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government has taken necessary steps and precautions to meet the situation that may arise due to the cyclone.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Sunday reviewed the preparedness with ministers and officials.

District administrations and all field officers were put on high alert.

Similarly Army, Navy, Air-force and Coast Guard were also geared up to lend a helping hand when required.

The government declared a holiday for all government, government-aided private schools, colleges and other educational institutions in Chennai, Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur districts.

The Tamil Nadu government has also advised private sector organisations to allow their workers to avail holiday or work from home.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 10:04 IST

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

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

Mumbai: Chopper crashes in Aarey Colony in Goregaon, 4 injured

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A helicopter caught fired after it crashed in the jungles of Aarey Colony in Goregaon (East) in Mumbai on Sunday afternoon. Four persons inside the chopper ‘Robinson R44’ were injured in the mishap and have been hospitalised, officials said.According to the fire brigade officials, the incident occurred around 12:15 pm near at Jambli maidan, Filter pada, near Stable no. 21 & 22.”Three fire engines and ambulances were rushed to the spot as soon as we are informed about the mishap. The fire has been doused,” said a fire brigade official. He added that four persons were injured and were rushed to the hospital by the police before the fire brigade arrived.”We are investigating how the mishap took place,” said a police officer.According to ANI, the 1992 made ‘Robinson R44’, which was originally with Pawan Hans, was later sold to a private aviation company which used it for joy ride after repairing it.

Committed to provide reservation to Maratha community: CM Devendra Fadnavis

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Blaming the previous Congress and NCP led governments for failing to protect the interests of the Marathas, Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a slew of measures aimed at placating the community, which along with the Kunbis is estimated to form around a third of Maharashtra’s population. He was speaking in the state legislative assembly on Friday. The Marathas have organised a series of silent protests across Maharashtra for demands like quotas, amendments to the Atrocity Act to prevent its misuse and death sentence for the youth who raped a girl from the community. Fadnavis questioned former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan for the decision to grant quotas (for Marathas and Muslims) only after the Congress-NCP lost 42 of Maharashtra’s 48 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. “While taking such an important decision, a special session should have been convened and a law must have been framed… An ordinance can enforce the law but the court gives more importance to a law,” he said, referring to the high court striking down the quota decision. The BJP-led government will also present a strong case in the apex court to press for Maratha reservations. Fadnavis also praised the silent marches being organised by the Maratha community and added that the state would seek the death sentence for the accused in the Kopardi rape case, which had triggered the protests. Pointing fingers at the erstwhile Congress and NCP governments for neglecting the Marathas, Fadnavis said the community was removed outside the quota ambit in 1965 without sound reasoning. The state had also not contested the contention of the Mandal Commission which had ruled against classifying Marathas as ‘other backwards’. “I do not want to blame anyone. It is a question of giving justice to the community,” said Fadnavis. He pointing that while some were trying to give the issue a political twist, it was the opposition which was in power when these developments took place. He also raised questions on the erstwhile Congress- NCP government’s move to include Dalit intellectual and author Raosaheb Kasbe in the backward classes commission just two months before it submitted a report ruling against classifying Marathas as backwards. Kasbe had opposed the demand in the commission. “I am not making an allegation against the government but an inquiry is needed into the design,” said Fadnavis, adding that the Congress-NCP had also failed to present before the court, the evidence gathered by the committee under then minister Narayan Rane. Fadnavis pointed to the scheme launched by the government which will provide financial aid to students studying for professional courses. Noting that Maharashtra had just 6,000 seats in government engineering and polytechnic colleges, he said that the number was as high as 1.5 lakh in the private sector. Hence, even if 15% quotas were provided to Marathas, they would account for just 900 seats, far less than the demand. “I will not go into whom these educational institutions belong to, whether they take donations and why the fees are steep,” said Fadnavis, in a reference to education barons from the Congress and NCP, adding that the state had dragged its feet on a fee regulatory authority for 15 years. The state has also announced a scheme in the name of ‘Bhausaheb’ Punjabrao Deshmukh to provide Rs 30,000 annually for Maratha students to finance their stay in large cities for education, and an amount of Rs 20,000 would be paid in smaller towns. “Hostels will be made available for the stay of youth in all districts. We are ready to help out organisations with funds and aid,” he declared. He noted that since one of the reasons behind Maratha backwardness was the condition of agriculture, it was necessary to mechanise it and boost productivity and investment. The state will also collect information about the misuse of the Atrocity act, Fadnavis said.

CBI files charge sheet against Dayanidhi, Kalanithi Maran for forgery

Fri, 9 Dec 2016-06:42pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>CBI filed a charge sheet on Friday against the then Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanithi on among others for allegedly using 764 high-speed data lines at the former’s residence which were used by a private TV channel causing loss of Rs 1.78 crore to the exchequer. The charge sheet has been filed in a Special Court in Chennai under IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and forgery and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, CBI said.The agency has alleged in the charge sheet that altogether 764 telephone numbers were provided to Dayanidhi for which no bills were raised causing a loss of Rs 1.78 crore to BSNL, Chennai and MTNL, Delhi. CBI also named the former minister’s brother Kalanithi Maran who was Managing Director of Sun TV Network Limited, two the then Chief General Managers of BSNL, two executives of Sun TV network and an aide of Dayanidhi in the charge sheet.

CBI files chargesheet against Dayanidhi Maran for causing 1.78 crore loss to the exchequer

New Delhi: CBI on Friday filed a charge sheet against the then Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanithi among others for allegedly using 764 high-speed data lines at the former’s residence which were used by a private TV channel causing loss of Rs 1.78 crore to the exchequer.

The charge sheet has been filed in a Special Court in Chennai under IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and forgery and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, CBI said.

The agency has alleged in the charge sheet that altogether 764 telephone numbers were provided to Dayanidhi for which no bills were raised causing a loss of Rs 1.78 crore to BSNL, Chennai and MTNL, Delhi.

File image of Dayanidhi Maran. AFP

File image of Dayanidhi Maran. AFP

CBI also named the former minister’s brother Kalanithi Maran who was Managing Director of Sun TV Network Limited, two the then Chief General Managers of BSNL, two executives of Sun TV network and an aide of Dayanidhi in the charge sheet.

In a statement, CBI spokesperson Devpreet Singh said the charge sheet has been filed on the allegations of installing a number of high end telecommunication facilities having PRA/BRA/ISDN/Leased Line etc at the residence of Maran in Chennai, illegally under service category for which bills were not raised for 2004-07.

“It was alleged that during the period from June, 2004 to December 2006, 364 (approx) telephone numbers/lines were installed at Gopalapuram, Chennai residence of the then Union Minister and during the period from December, 2006 to September 2007, 353 number (approx) of telephone lines were installed at 1st Avenue Boat Club Road, Chennai which was the new residence of then MoC and IT,” the spokesperson said.

She said it was further alleged that 10 post-paid mobile connections (approx) with vanity numbers in respect of nine numbers were given to a private television channel as per the verbal orders of then Minister and that these connections were given under “service category” and no bill was raised. “There was huge data transfer which included voice, video and audio through these telephone connections and all these facilities were allegedly used for the benefits of said television channel network, owned by his brother,” she said.

The spokesperson said it was further alleged that no payment was made for installation charges as well as for rentals of these telephone connections which included High end facilities Iike ISDN-PRA-BRA, broadband, leased circuits with OFC laying connecting both the residents.

First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 18:10 IST

Cold wave in North India: Multiple flights cancelled in Delhi due to fog, 16 dead in 24 hours in UP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As cold wave sweeps over North India, nine international and 15 domestic flights were delayed in Delhi due to poor visibility resulting from fog. Dense fog cover was also reported in Amritsar, Punjab.In Uttar Pradesh, 16 people have died in the last 24 hours due to cold wave, ANI reported.In view of intense cold condition and fog, authorities in Gautam Buddha Nagar and Ghaziabad districts have ordered all private and government schools to change timings. Gautam Buddha Nagar District Magistrate N P Singh today ordered change of school timings for Nursery to Class VIII with effect from December 9. District Inspector of Schools (DIOS) Muneesh Kumar said, “New timing of schools are 9.30 AM to 3 PM. It will be effective till next order is issued by the DM.” Meanwhile in Ghaziabad, District Magistrate Nidhi Kesarwani order that instead of 8 AM, now schools will open at 9 AM.For Friday, the Met Department has warned of shallow to moderate fog at isolated places over Assam and Meghalaya, Nagaland-Manipur-Mizoram-Tripura, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi, Punjab, north Rajasthan and north Madhya Pradesh.

Will debate on demonetization fallout take place, finally?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The question whether the parliament finally will have a conclusive debate on the fallout of demonetization or not, remains a riddle even as the winter session inches towards the end.Caught in the web of their own making, the Opposition parties, especially the Congress and TMC, are looking at ways to have at least some debate on the fallout of demonetization. “We have prepared extensively and are equipped with facts to put the government on the mat. We want the debate anyhow,” said a young Congress MP.Moreover, President Pranab Mukherjee’s strong rebuke of their disruptive behaviour has also put the onus on the opposition to get into the debate instead of get into a no holds barred slugfest with the treasury benches. But the problem that opposition parties may encounter is that with Monday and Tuesday declared as holidays by the Speaker, they barely have four days at hand. Bulk of time on December 9 and December 16, both being Fridays, will be spent on Private members bills that leaves only two working days in hand. And with treasury benches not ready to climb down on either of their demands – presence of Prime Minister throughout the debate and discussion to be held under Rule 184 that entails voting – the opposition is now working out how to engage in the debate without being seen as giving up their hard stand. The opposition parties, apparently, had raised the stakes to not to allow debate in the initial phase of demonetization as they wanted the ill effects of cash crunch to cross the threshold to make the most of public ire. Some opposition parties, particularly the Congress and the Left, are also apprehensive that the government may prorogue the session sine die on December 15 itself as it now is feeling the heat of demonetization and wants to scuttle the debate.However, some informed sources said, a via media has been worked out for the debate to take place in Lok Sabha, according to which the Speaker on Friday will agree to start the debate without any preconditions and the opposition parties will take back their notices to have the discussion under Rules that entail voting.But how the logjam will be broken in Rajya Sabha still remains a riddle.

30 days of demonetisation: Parliament comes to standstill but not the nation

A week is a long time in politics but a month is not in the relatively laid back and rarified world of economics. Yet, demonetisation of high currency notes on 8 November 2016 has elicited a flurry of comments and analysis on completion of a month of its announcement given perhaps the short time– -50 days—the government gave itself to smoothen out the rough edges inevitably expected to be left by it.

That 86 percent of the currency notes in terms of value were rendered useless in commercial transactions gave rise to the apprehension that the economy will come to a standstill given the fact cash lubricated large parts of the economy especially the unorganised sector or SME and farming. No less an authority than the Apex Court darkly hinted at the approaching apocalypse– – there would be riots in the country if cash was not made available. The former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while terming the exercise as monumental mismanagement also discounted its long term importance.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Yet, nothing catastrophic has happened. If anything, the nation has, by and large, accepted it as something in its long term interest. Indeed the nation has braved the small pinpricks in anticipation of larger gains in the long run. The RBI announced on 7 December 2016 that as much as Rs 11.5 lakh crores of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 demonetised notes have found their way into the banking system as against Rs 14.8 lakh crore believed to be in existence at the beginning of the exercise.

Detractors call this a single most failure of the scheme. Their index of success was the smallness of such notes entering the system so that the notes not entering the system by 30 December 2016 would go up in smoke. In other words, a large chunk of black money would have ceased to exert its pernicious influence on the economy. This is a pessimistic worldview. The optimistic one is a large chunk of the black money has entered the mainstream that would have a multiplier effect leading to greater GDP in years to come.

The catalogue of beneficial effects of demonetisation is:

1) Breaking the back of terrorists organisations especially the Pak backed ones that thrived on counterfeit Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes minted in Pakistani official mints;

2) Surge in bank deposits that would mainstream the economy like never before. Many bank branches are witnessing frenetic deposit of the demonetised notes often on the back of opening of fresh accounts. Indeed the unbanked are having no choice except to fall in line;

3) Surge in swiping machines on the retail landscape with 10 lakh such machines all set to get added to the system by 31 March, 2017 against the existing 14 lakh such machines. This too would mainstream the economy;

4) Leg up to digital and mobile banking. Mobile banking and e-wallets have registered a quantum jump in registration and activity since the announcement of demonetisation; and

5) A stiff price would be extracted from the black money deposited. The government is all set to notify a partial amnesty scheme under which those voluntarily admitting to having deposited black money would be let off with a 50 percent tax plus penalty as opposed to 85 percent on recalcitrant ones when caught.

Like they say the catalogue cannot be one sided. But the flipside is all about inconvenience and hardships some of which are:

1) Rural India experiencing cash crunch. But reports says this has not affected rabi sowing activity;

2) People having to idle away their time by standing in long and serpentine ATM queues. This was inevitable in an operation of this scale but the queues are shortening by the day and hopefully should be back to normal. Already Rs 4.5 lakh crore of fresh notes have been put back into the system according to the RBI in a month;

3) Private hospitals turn away patients not paying in cash unless they have insurance. This genuine concern indeed could have been addressed by permitting banks to release the amount on production of genuine hospital proforma invoices; and

4) Cassandras are predicting a 2 percent fall in the GDP in the current fiscal year. Without quibbling about the percentage, one can take heart from the heightened economic activity the surge in bank deposits are going to lead to in none too distant a future.

What is lost in swings would be more than made up in the roundabouts.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 17:50 IST

Chhagan Bhujbal’s hospital stay: JJ Hospital Dean appears before PMLA court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dean of JJ Hospital TP Lahane on Thursday appeared before a special PMLA court here amid allegations that senior NCP leader and money laundering case accused Chaggan Bhujbal had “misused” the court order and stayed put at various hospitals. Bhujbal, an accused in the multi-crore money laundering case registered against him by the Enforcement Directorate was yesterday discharged from the Bombay Hospital and sent to the state-run facility after his stay there since November 2 prompted criticism that he was receiving “preferential treatment”. Lahane today told the court that he does not have anything to add than what is mentioned in his reply, which he had submitted during the last hearing in this connection. In his reply to the court, the Dean had said that JJ doesn’t have any role in the stay of Bhujbal at the Bombay Hospital, where he had checked in for a medical test (thallium scan).The senior doctor had also asserted that the hospital has not misused the court order.This came after AAP activist Anjali Damania moved the court through an application where she alleged it was ‘sheer negligence of duty’ by JJ Hospital and Arthur Road jail that Bhujbal has been in Bombay Hospital since November 2.She had also alleged that court orders were misused as the Thallium scan does not require admission into a hospital. The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court was recently informed that the former Maharashtra deputy chief minister continued to remain in the private hospital over a month after he was admitted there for the medical test.On October 27, Special Judge P R Bhavake had allowed Bhujbal to be taken to a private hospital after he was told that a Thallium scan, one of the three tests recommended to him, was not available at the government hospital. On October 28, prison authorities took Bhujbal to JJ Hospital for other two tests. He was then transferred to Bombay Hospital.The court is likely to hear the matter later in the day.

Karunanidhi discharged from hospital; advised rest

Thu, 8 Dec 2016-12:16am , Chennai , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>DMK chief M Karunanidhi was discharged on Wednesday from a private hospital in Chennai after a week-long treatment for nutritional and hydration support.The 93-year-old former Tamil Nadu chief minister was admitted to the Kauvery Hospital on December 1 after being treated at home for a drug-induced allergy. “After medical treatment, he has improved substantially and was discharged from the hospital today,” Kauvery Hospital Executive Director Dr S Aravindan said.In a statement, he said the DMK chief’s vital signs and bio-chemical parameters have normalised now. “He has been advised rest and Kauvery Hospital will continue to assess and provide necessary medical and nursing care to facilitate his recuperation at home,” he said. The drug-induced allergy has virtually kept Karunanidhi out of public activities for the past one month.

At least 36 dead in plane crash in Pakistan mountains | Reuters

By Jibran Ahmed and Asad Hashim
| PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD, Pakistan A plane carrying about 40 people crashed on the slope of a mountain in northern Pakistan on Wednesday, with witnesses at the site of the flaming wreckage saying there were unlikely to be any survivors.The military said 36 bodies had been recovered and rescue efforts involved about 500 soldiers, doctors and paramedics.Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said its plane lost contact with the control tower en route to the capital, Islamabad, from the northern region of Chitral. The airline said the plane crashed at 1642 local time (1142 GMT) in the Havelian area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, about 125 km (77 miles) north of Islamabad. The region is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Pakistan.”All of the bodies are burned beyond recognition. The debris is scattered,” Taj Muhammad Khan, a government official based in Havelian, told Reuters.Khan, who was at the crash site, said witnesses told him “the aircraft has crashed in a mountainous area, and before it hit the ground it was on fire”.Images shown on Pakistani TV channels showed a trail of wreckage engulfed in flames on a mountain slope.Irfan Elahi, the government’s Aviation Secretary, told media the plane suffered engine problems but it was too early to determine the cause of the accident.PIA said the plane was carrying 48 passengers, including five crew members and a ground engineer. But Sohail Ahmed, a PIA official in Chitral, said there were 41 people on board, while the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) put the number at 47.

A local trader at the site of the crash said the fire was still burning nearly two hours after the crash.”They are removing body parts,” Nasim Gohar told Geo TV.The military said it had sent in troops and helicopters.A PIA spokesman said the dual turboprop engine plane lost contact with the CAA at about 4.30 p.m. “PIA is doing everything possible to help the families of passengers and crew members,” the airline said in a statement.

POP STAR
Junaid Jamshed, a well-known Pakistani pop star turned evangelical Muslim cleric, was on board, according to Ahmed, the PIA official in Chitral.Jamshed, a singer in one of Pakistan’s first successful rock bands in the 1990s, abandoned his singing career to join the Tableeghi Jamaat group, which travels across Pakistan and abroad preaching about Islam.In his last tweet, Jamshed posted pictures of a snow-capped mountain, calling Chitral “Heaven on Earth”.

According to the flight manifest, there were three people on board with foreign names.Plane crashes are not uncommon in Pakistan and safety standards are often criticised. In recent years, media have reported on multiple near-misses as planes over-ran runways and engines caught fire.In 2010, a passenger plane crashed in heavy rain near Islamabad, killing all 152 people on board. Two years later, a plane operated by a private Pakistani company, with 127 people on board, crashed near Islamabad. All on board were killed.PIA has also suffered major disasters in the past. In 1979 and 1992, PIA jets crashed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Kathmandu, killing 156 and 167 people, respectively.In 2006, a PIA plane crashed near the central city of Multan killing 45 people. (Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Amjad Ali in ISLAMABAD and Gul Hamad Farooqi in CHITRAL,; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 21:04 IST

Demonetisation: CBI arrests bank official, 2 businessmen for fraudulent exchange of old notes

New Delhi: CBI on Wednesday arrested a senior manager of Central Bank of India and two owners of a firm in Bengaluru for allegedly violating RBI guidelines on scraping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The agency had registered an FIR against senior manager and branch head of Central Bank of India’s Basavanagudi branch S Lakshimnarayana and Directors of Omkar Parimal Mandir — S Gopal and Ashwin G Sunkur — on Tuesday and carried out searches at various places.

The three were called for questioning at the CBI office in Bengaluru this morning and placed under arrest after they allegedly failed to answer many of the questions, the CBI said in Delhi.

The agency has booked them under sections of IPC dealing with criminal conspiracy and cheating as well as abuse of official position under the Prevention of Corruption Act. During the searches carried out yesterday at Bengaluru which included the residence of bank officials and private persons, the agency claimed to have recovered incriminating documents, including bank vouchers, counterfoils, DDs, property documents, hard disks and Rs 5,91,500 cash in old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

In its FIR filed in the designated CBI court in Bengaluru, the CBI alleged that from 15 November to 18 November, the bank manager had issued 149 demand drafts for amounts less than Rs 50,000 in favour of a Pune-based finance company in violation of RBI guidelines.

The total value of the demand drafts was Rs 71 lakh which the branch manager accepted in demonetised notes from the owners of the company, the agency said.

The amount was staggered and 149 DDs were issued for less than Rs 50,000 which was allegedly done by the accused fraudulently to convert the demonetised notes.

The firm’s owners subsequently cancelled the drafts and encashed the amount thereby clandestinely converting old notes into valid bills, the CBI alleged.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 16:09 IST

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

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

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

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

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

Urjit Patel, Reserve Bank of Governor. Reuters

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

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

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

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

About demonetisation

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

About deposit amount banks got

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

Growth?

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

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

Inflation or deflation?

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

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

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

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

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

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