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

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

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

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

Prime minister Narendra Modi. File photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jharkhand coal mine death toll rises to 16, some still trapped | Reuters

BHUBANESWAR, India The death toll in a coal mine collapse in Jharkhand rose to 16 on Saturday and could rise further, officials said, as some people are still feared trapped at a coalfield run by state-owned Coal India Limited.The accident occurred on Thursday evening at the Lalmatia mine, one of the country’s largest, which is owned by Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL).”At night (on Friday), the rescue operation was slow due to fog,” R.R. Amitabh, a senior officer at ECL, told Reuters, adding that about 30 percent of the collapsed mine waste had been removed.Coal India has a poor safety record, with 135 accidents reported last year, killing 37 people and injuring 141, the company said in a report.

Operations at the mine in Godda district, about 280 km (175 miles) from the state capital, Ranchi, have since been stopped, Amitabh said.The state police spokesman R.K. Mullick said the number of people still trapped may be less than the nearly two dozen assumed earlier, based on the number of families who were searching for their kin.

The mine has an annual capacity of 17 million tonnes and accounts for about half of ECL’s coal production. Last month, ECL accounted for about 9 percent of Coal India’s total production of 50 million tonnes.

The federal coal ministry has ordered an investigation and announced some cash compensation to the families of miners who died in the accident. (Reporting by Jatindra Dash; Writing by Malini Menon; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 18:12 IST

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

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

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi rules out resignation, offers support to new army chief Bipin Rawat

Kolkata: Putting to rest all speculation about his resignation, Eastern Army Commander lieutenant general Praveen Bakshi assured his full support to General Bipin Rawat, who took charge as the new army chief superseding him.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

“I convey my best wishes and full support of Eastern Command to Gen. Bipin Rawat on having taken over as the Chief of Army Staff,” Bakshi said on Saturday. He also made it clear that he was not resigning, and even called the new army chief on the phone to congratulate him on taking over the reins of the army, an official said.

Speculation that he may seek premature retirement from service gained ground after he met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on 21 December and then proceeded on leave after Christmas.

Bakshi was initially the frontrunner for the post of army chief. However, keeping aside the trend of seniority, the government appointed vice-chief of army, lieutenant general Bipin Rawat, a batch junior to Bakshi, as the new chief.

The army commander requested that speculation in media and trolling on social media should stop and everyone should focus on contributing their best to the betterment of the army and the nation.

At a function here on new year’s eve, he greeted all ranks of Army’s Eastern Command and said he would continue to lead the Command with full professional sincerity. He, however, continues to be on leave for the next few days.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 16:48 IST

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

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

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

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

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Reuters

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

Demonetisation: RBI ups ATM withdrawal limit to Rs 4,500/day from 1 Jan

The Reserve Bank on Friday late night increased the withdrawal limit from ATMs to Rs 4,500 per day from the current Rs 2,500 from 1 January. However, there has been no change in the weekly withdrawal limit, which stands at Rs 24,000, including from ATM, for individuals (Rs 50,000 in case of small traders).

“On a review of the position, the daily limit of withdrawal from ATMs has been increased (within the overall weekly limits specified) with effect from January 1, 2017, from the existing Rs 2,500 to Rs 4,500 per day per card,” the central bank said in a notification.

atm-queueatm-queueFollowing demonetisation of old Rs 500/1000 notes from 9 November, limits had been imposed on withdrawal of cash from banks as well as ATMs.

The Reserve Bank’s notification further stated “there is no change in weekly withdrawal limits” and such disbursals “should predominantly be in the denomination of Rs 500”.

Earlier in the day, the RBI had permitted White Label ATM Operators (WLAOs) to source cash from retail outlets.

Most of the White Label ATMs are running dry since demonetisation as the operators were facing difficulties in sourcing cash from their sponsor bank(s).

Friday was the last day to deposit the invalid currency notes in banks. However, people still have time to exchange the currency notes at designated RBI counters till March 31 after giving valid reasons for not depositing defunct notes in their accounts by December 30.

However, it remains to be seen whether the relaxation in cash limits will be of any help to the customers as, according to media reports, banks do not yet have enough cash to supply to the ATMs.

A report in The Indian Express on Friday said only 40 percent of the 2.2 lakh ATMs in the country have cash to serve the public.

The report quotes Ramaswamy Venkatachalam, managing director, India and South Asia, Fidelity Information Services (FIS), as saying that banks are not meeting the “full cash requirement” to operate ATMs round the clock.

The RBI and the government also seem to be clueless about when the cash situation will return to normalcy, though they insist there is enough notes to dispense.

Even on the 50th day of demonetisation they have not been able to provide the update the details of the new currency issued and also the deposits of old notes received.

The last press release on the cash situation was on 21 December from the RBI. As of 19 December, the banks have issued Rs 5.93 lakh crore to public either over the counter or through ATMs. That is a nearly 40 percent of the cash sucked out of the system on 9 November, when the demonetisation came into effect.

In this backdrop, while the public and the authorities are remain clueless about when the cash situation will improve, the increase in withdrawal limit from ATMs would mean little for the customers.

With PTI

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 09:41 IST

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

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

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

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

Firstpost is one such outfit.

The Firstpost newsroomThe Firstpost newsroom

The Firstpost newsroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demonetisation was single biggest case of total mismanagement, says Chidambaram

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

P Chidambaram. PTIP Chidambaram. PTI

P Chidambaram. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One civilian killed in cross-border firing at J&K’s Poonch sector

Jammu: One civilian was killed, as Pakistani Army indulged in heavy cross-border firing, targeting Indian positions and civilian areas along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch sector, prompting the Indian side to retaliate.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“Pakistani troops targeted the Indian Army posts and civilian areas along the LoC in Poonch sector with small arms, automatic and mortars at 16:55 hours,” an army officer said. He said the army was retaliating strongly and effectively to the ceasefire violation.

One civilian has been killed in the ongoing firing, a senior police officer said.

On 16 December, Pakistan had violated ceasefire by targeting Indian positions along the LoC in Balakote sector of the same district. That had come after a lull of over three weeks, after the Indian troops had launched a counter-offensive on 23 November against the killing of three soldiers in the Machhil sector of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

In the cross-LoC attack by suspected Pakistani terrorists, three Indian soldiers were killed on 22 November, with body of one of them being mutilated. Following the incident, the Indian Army had vowed a heavy “retribution”.

The 2003 India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement has virtually become redundant with over 300 incidents of firing and shelling along the LoC and IB in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops.

Over 26 people, including 14 security personnel, have been killed in ceasefire violations since the surgical strike on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 19:32 IST

Jammu and Kashmir: Yasin Malik detained ahead of protest march

Srinagar: JKLF chairman Yasin Malik was on Friday detained at Pulwama as he led his supporters to stage a protest march against Jammu and Kashmir government’s decision to issue identity certificates to West Pakistani Refugees.

Separatist Yasin Malik. AFP

Separatist Yasin Malik. AFP

Malik was detained along with several of his supporters. They were taken into preventive custody, a police official said.

Separatists groups had called for protests on Friday against the government decision to issue identity certificates to West Pakistan Refugees living in the state since partition in 1947.

The state government has decided to issue identity cards to the refugees and had to issue clarification after protests from opposition parties and separatists against the move.

Initially, reports had said the opposition was against the government move to issue domicile certificates, but the state government said it was issuing identity certificates.

Other political organisations, including BJP and Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, have slammed separatists for opposing the issuance of certificates to the refugees.

The refugees, settled in Jammu and Kashmir, are citizens of India and have the right to vote in parliamentary polls.

However, they are not permanent residents of the state in terms of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. They do not enjoy voting rights to the state assembly and local bodies.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 18:50 IST

China blocks proposal at UN to list Masood Azhar as terrorist; India dismayed at ‘double standards’

New Delhi: China on Friday finally blocked India’s proposal to list Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief and Pathankot mastermind Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist by the UN, triggering a sharp reaction from New Delhi which termed it as “unfortunate blow” and a step that confirms prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism.

With China blocking India’s proposal, which was submitted in February to the 1267 Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council, New Delhi has to make a fresh listing request for Azhar to be banned by the global body, officials said.

After its submission, China twice imposed “technical” hold on the Indian proposal.

File photo of Azhar Masood. Reuters

File photo of Masood Azhar. Reuters

However, India said it will continue to push forward with resolute determination “through the use of all options available with us to bring perpetrators of terrorist violence to justice”.

Asserting that its submission received the strong backing of all other members of the 15-member Sanctions Committee, External Affairs Ministry said, “We note with concern China’s decision to block the proposal to list Masood Azhar…”

The international community is aware that the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed which is proscribed by the United Nations, has been responsible for innumerable terrorist attacks on India including the Pathankot Air Base attack.

“The inability of the international community to list its leader Masood Azhar is an unfortunate blow to the concerted efforts to effectively counter all forms of terrorism, and confirms prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism.”

MEA Spokesperson Vikas Swarup also said the decision by Beijing is surprising as China itself has been affected by the scourge of terrorism and has declared opposition to all forms of terrorism.

“As a consequence of this decision, the UN Security Council has again been prevented from acting against the leader of a listed terrorist organisation. We had expected China would have been more understanding of the danger posed to all by terrorism and would join India and others in fighting the common challenge of terrorism,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 18:10 IST

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee denies rioting in Dhulagarh, blames social media

Kolkata: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday denied any incident of rioting at Dhulagarh in Howrah district and alleged that “wrong information” was being given on social media.

“In the last 15 days, social media is running wrong information on an incident which did not take place at all,” Banerjee said at a programme in Kolkata, in an apparent refernce to the reports of violence in Dhulagarh, which is barely 20 km from the state secretariat.

“In order to break a news one must not act irresponsibly. If something has really happened then you (media) have every right to report but I think a field survey must be conducted,” she stated.

File photo of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI

File photo of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI

Her remarks came even as a senior government official had said on Thursday that strict actions were taken against those involved in the Dhulagarh violence and the process of giving compensation to the affected had started. The state government, Banerjee said on Friday, is the first to help a family when their home is damaged or they are affected.

“If there is an accident, we immediately take steps to help the family…. We do it on humanitarian grounds but we do not do any publicity.”

It was learnt from sources that the state government was paying compensation of around Rs 35,000 to families whose houses were damaged in the incident.

District police said inhabitants are wary of returning to their homes at Dhulagarh.

Delegations of BJP, CPI(M) and Congress were stopped from visiting the troubled areas of the district and police superintendent of Howrah (Rural) Sabyasachi Raman Mishra was transferred in the wake of violence in less than a fortnight of his appointment.

BJP has hit out at Banerjee over the Dhulagarh incident claiming that Hindus have been targeted in the violence. “This is height of the politics of appeasement. I want to ask those intellectuals, who cried over 2002 riots in Gujarat and then intolerant India, that when are they going to Kolkata,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 16:52 IST

DMK seeks probe by sitting high court judge into Jayalalithaa’s death

Chennai: A day after a Madras High Court judge expressed doubts over the circumstances leading to the demise of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, DMK on Friday sought a comprehensive probe by a sitting HC judge into the death.

Former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa. AFP

Former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa. AFP

“A comprehensive probe must be done by a sitting judge of the High Court and people should be told the truth,” DMK Treasurer MK Stalin said.

Against the backdrop of the court raising questions, he said it was imperative for the government to come out comprehensively on the medical treatment provided to the former AIADMK chief.

In a statement in Chennai, he said complete medical bulletins, video footage and photos of her getting treatment at the hospital should be released.

Citing Justice Vaidyanathan’s observation on Thursday that he may consider ordering exhumation of the body of the departed leader, he said, “it is imperative for the government to release comprehensive information.”

Stalin, who had earlier sought a white paper on the treatment given to Jayalalithaa, said there was no statement from the government ever since she was admitted to the hospital on 22 September.

He said the Centre and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam had a duty to answer questions related to the treatment provided for the late leader. Doctors from Delhi’s AIIMS too had treated her, he said.

If the ruling regime had explained the “true (health) status” of Jayalalithaa and released pictures of her getting treatment, the issue could not have reached the doorsteps of court, he said.

He recalled a statement of his party chief Karunanidhi seeking release of pictures of Jayalalithaa being treated and said, “had the ruling side not viewed it from the prism of politics, the issue would not have come to such a pass”.

Only such activities has cast a “cloud, giving room for suspicion,” among the people, he said, adding it was the right of the people to know about the treatment given to her and the circumstances leading to her death.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 14:52 IST

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

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

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

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

Senior journalist Ravish Kumar. Screengrab from YouTube video

Senior journalist Ravish Kumar. Screengrab from YouTube

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

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

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

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

Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia’s office burgled: Documents, computers allegedly stolen

New Delhi: Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s office was burgled late night on Thursday, the city police said.

File photo. PTI

File photo of Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. PTI

“There was a robbery at the Patparganj office of Deputy CM late night on Thursday. The exact time is not yet known,” deputy commissioner of police (East) Omvir Singh said.

“The district forensic team has lifted finger-prints from the crime scene,” Singh said.

“The office was being shifted and most of the articles were already moved. However, some documents and two computers were stolen,” he added.

Aam Aadmi Party worker Pankaj Singh told IANS that the lock of the office was broken and some documents, including letterheads as well as CPUs of two computers, were missing.

“The burglers also turned away the CCTV cameras and took away the DVRs that had the recordings,” Upendra Kumar, who is in-charge of the party office, said. The police, along with a dog squad, came to Sisodia’s office on Friday morning to investigate the theft, he added.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 12:21 IST

Demonetisation not politically motivated, says PM Narendra Modi ahead of 50-day deadline

With just a day left for the 50-day deadline for demonetisation’s benefits to show, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has claimed that the move has forced black money, whether belonging to corrupt politicians or bureaucrats, out in the open.

In an interview with India Today magazine, excerpts of which in text form were telecast by a group news channel, Modi said counterfeit Indian currency notes available with the enemies were instantly neutralised.

“Black money has been forced out into the open, whomsoever it may belong to, whether it is corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen or professionals,” said Modi on the outcome of his 8 November sudden move to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes.

“Counterfeit notes, which our intelligence agencies have reported to be available in big volumes with our enemies, have been instantly neutralised. Similarly, cash held by terrorists, Maoists and other extremists has also been neutralised. There has been a crippling impact on dangerous and highly damaging illegal activities such as human trafficking and the narcotics trade as well,” he added.

PM Narendra Modi. File photo. PTI

PM Narendra Modi. File photo. PTI

“One must be able to distinguish between neeti (policy) and rann neeti (strategy) and not put them in the same basket. The decision of demonetisation, which reflects our neeti, is unequivocally clear, unwavering and categorical,” the prime minister said.

“Our rann neeti, however, needed to be different, aptly summarised by the age-old saying of tu daal daal, main paat paat. We must stay two steps ahead of the enemy. When problems are identified, we respond promptly and take necessary steps,” he added.

Modi said it speaks of the government’s “agility in responding quickly and keeping up with the evolving situation”.

“I know many will prefer if we issue one guideline and then allow them to walk roughshod over it. Let me assure them that no such thing will happen,” Modi said.

The prime minister also clarified that the objective behind the decision was to clean up the economy and curb the menace of black money.

“Our objective was to clean up the economy and society of the menace of black money, purging the distrust, artificial pressures and other ills that came with it,” he said.

“The revenue collected will be used for the welfare of the poor, downtrodden and the marginalised.”

Modi also urged citizens not to regard digital transactions as a short-term substitute for cash payments.

“Digital transactions should not be viewed as a short-term substitute for cash payments,” Modi told India Today magazine in an interview.

“Digital transactions facilitate formal accounting and sizing of the economy,” he said.

“They also deliver greater tax compliance,” he added.

On former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Modi said, “Regarding Manmohan Singh ji, it is interesting that the words ‘monumental mismanagement’ came from a leader who has been at the helm of India’s economic journey for around 45 years.”

“His reference to organised loot was perhaps a reference to the unending string of scams under his leadership… From the coal scam, to 2G and CWG scam. Demonetisation on the other hand is an unprecedented step to confiscate the loot of the corrupt,” he said.

“I pity a few of our opponents, especially the Congress leadership, for the desperation they have been exhibiting. Congress leaders are entirely preoccupied with only one thing — elections. There is nothing political in the demonetisation,” Modi said.

The prime minister said: “It was a tough decision taken to clean our economy and our society. If I were guided by short-term electoral politics, I would have never done so.”

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 21:32 IST

Year in Review 2016: E-commerce rode on mobility, digitisation, demography

Kolkata/Bengaluru: The increasing use of digital technologies in buying and selling merchandise for convenience and mobility pushed e-commerce in India to an inflection point in 2016.

The rapid growth of smartphones and internet connectivity across the country, especially in tier-II and III cities, has given greater access to virtual shopping and e-tailing for the tech-savvy generation and millennials.

Even as e-tail behemoths Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon vied for a greater pie of the growing e-commerce market, enterprises and businesses in diverse sectors have joined the bandwagon to hard-sell their products by leveraging digital technology.

“E-commerce in India is at an inflection point, thanks to robust growth in consumer demand. Mobile penetration and increasing use of smart phones have led to the emergence of m-commerce, which accounted for about 40 percent of the sector’s sales this year,” Tata CLiQ Chief Executive Officer Ashutosh Pandey told IANS.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

According to a study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI), transition to mobile shopping is faster in India, which overtook the US this year in terms of active mobile users (220 million) and next only to China in user base.

The emergence of the Omni-channel model in e-tailing has also enabled netizens shop across e-portals, web sites, apps and in stores as per their convenience.

“As a result, e-commerce players are looking at seamless integration of online and offline stores to offer consumers a unique shopping experience in the virtual and real worlds,” Pandey asserted.

With digital payments increasing through multiple gateways for online and offline buying, the push for cashless transactions in the aftermath of the November 8 demonetisation has driven more and more consumers to e-shopping and m-shopping.

Greater use of cloud computing, data analytics and artificial intelligence has made e-commerce players not only competitive and smart in retaining their mass user-base but also map shopping trends and predict purchasing patterns to consolidate their dominant position for sustaining growth.

“The sector, however, continues to face a trust-deficit and last-mile delivery issues persist despite having robust logistics networks and partners. Lack of trust in online transactions makes many shoppers prefer cash on delivery, which is risky and time consuming,” Pandey lamented.

The sector is also bedevilled by infrastructure woes across cities and towns, increasing operational cost for timely delivery and expanding the customer base.

Though demonetisation has impacted the retail sector due to the cash crunch, digital transactions have enabled e-commerce firms to weather the crisis.

Growing at about 40 percent cumulative average growth rate (CAGR), the country’s e-commerce market is projected to touch a whopping $38 billion this fiscal (2016-17), with the online travel segment alone accounting for 70 percent, followed by e-tailing, financial services, classifieds, job searches and matrimony.

“The key drivers of the sector’s growth have been increased internet penetration, growing acceptability of online payments and an increase in per capita income,” a Snapdeal spokesperson said.

Favourable government policies and improving infrastructure have also contributed in connecting consumers and sellers across the country.

“The start-up ecosystem has gone through a phase of consolidation, indicating maturity in the sector for achieving scale, building capabilities and increasing the market share,” the spokesperson explained.

Given the demographics and rapid adoption of the internet, it’s advantage for all the stakeholders to grow and consolidate.

Global audit firm KMPG’s e-commerce partner Sreedhar Prasad said demonetisation had impacted the sector with a 30 percent dip in sales and, as a result, the annual growth may not show a big spike.

“The cost of business, including that of supply chains, remains a challenge. Unless the cost is regulated, profitability will be difficult in the sector,” Prasad added.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 13:04 IST

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

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

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

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

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

PM Narendra ModiPM Narendra Modi

PM Narendra Modi

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

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

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

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

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

Demonetisation ordinance explained in seven points: Here’s how it will impact you

In a bid to discourage holding of old denomination currencies beyond 31 March, 2017, the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved promulgation of an ordinance to impose a penalty, including a jail term, for possession of the scrapped 500 and 1,000 rupee notes beyond a cut-off.

Any currency note issued by the government is legal tender and the RBI has a legal obligation to make payment for the amount stated on the note. However, the ordinance does away with that legal obligation on the part of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

1) If you possess banned notes in Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denominations, you can only exchange it at select branches of the Reserve Bank of India.

2) If you hold over 10 notes of the banned currency after 31 March, 2017, you could be fined Rs 5,000 or worse, sent to jail for four years. If you transact in these notes, you could likely attract a penalty of Rs 5,000.

3) If you possess banned notes in denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 beyond March 31, 2017, you could be fined amounts in multiples ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000. You also have to give a declaration stating why you could not submit the money in the stipulated time frame until 30 December, 2017.

4) Just in case you cannot go physically to an RBI branch to deposit the banned notes, you can still do it by sending the money through insured post. You still will have to provide the aforementioned declaration on why you could not deposit the money.

5) If you have kept banned notes in hand for souvenirs, you can keep up to 10 notes and for numismatics upto 25.

6) Any citizen who is outside the country may authorise in writing enabling another person in India to deposit the notes into a bank account. The person so authorized has to come to the bank branch with the specified bank notes, the authority letter and a valid identity proof

7) Any payment towards tax, surcharge, penalty and deposit under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) can be made in old bank notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000. However, this can be done only until December 30. The PMGKY which began on 17 December, is open for declarations till 31 March, 2017

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 11:02 IST

Demonetisation: RBI now gives borrowers additional 90 days to repay loans

In further relief to people hit by demonetisation, the Reserve Bank on Wednesday gave borrowers another 30 days over and above 60 days for repayment of housing, car, farm and other loans worth up to Rs 1 crore.

“On a review, it has been decided to provide 30 days, in addition to the 60 days provided (on November 21),” the RBI said in a notification.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

So, borrowers together get 90 days breather from getting the account classified under non-performing asset (NPA) category.

The above dispensation will apply to dues payable between 1 November, and December 31, 2016, it said.

The surprise announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 November to scrap Rs 500 and 1,000 notes resulted in a cash crunch in the market leading to slowdown in business. As a result, the repayment capacity of the borrowers were impacted and there was fear of loan default rising.

The demonetisation of higher value currency notes has affected normal banking activities including clearing of cheques. Besides, borrowers are unable to get payments from their creditors due to various restrictions including cash withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000 per week, limiting their options to repay their dues.

According to the RBI notification, running working capital accounts or crop loans with the sanctioned limit of Rs 1 crore or less would be eligible for this benefit. Besides, it said, “Term loans for business purposes, secured or otherwise, the original sanctioned amount whereof is Rs 1 crore or less, on the books of any bank or any NBFC, including NBFC (MFI). This shall include agriculture loans.”

The apex bank further said that all regulated entities are permitted to defer the downgrade of an account that was standard as on 1 November, but would have become NPA for any reason between November and December by 90 days from the date of such downgrade.

The additional time of 90 days will only apply to defer the classification of an existing standard asset as sub-standard and not for delaying the migration of an account across sub-categories of NPA. Dues payable after 1 January, 2017 will be covered by the instructions for the respective entities.

Last month, the RBI had provided additional 60 days for repayment of loans worth up to Rs 1 crore. Separately, the central bank came out this special dispensation for farm loan earlier this week.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 07:48 IST

Ratan Tata makes surprise visit to RSS headquarters in Nagpur, meets Mohan Bhagwat

Nagpur: Locked in a bitter boardroom battle with ousted Tata group chairman Cyrus Mistry, industrialist Ratan Tata made a surprise visit, his first, to the RSS headquarters here on Wednesday.

Ratan Tata. ReutersRatan Tata. Reuters

Ratan Tata. Reuters

Accompanied by BJP spokesperson Shaina NC, the septugenarian corporate leader visited RSS headquarters Hedgewar Bhavan at Reshimbaug in the afternoon.

Earlier, he was received by RSS functionaries on his arrival at the airport.

Tata, currently the interim chairman of Tata Sons, the country’s biggest conglomerate, had a 20-minute-long meeting with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, a senior Sangh functionary told PTI.

What transpired at the meeting was, however, not known.

Before proceeding for the RSS headquarters for talks with Bhagwat, 79-year-old Tata paid his tributes to its founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar at a memorial to him in the city.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 22:41 IST

Dollar stirs from slumber as yield gap yawns | Reuters

By Marc Jones
| LONDON

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

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

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

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

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

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

FCRA licence of 20,000 NGO’s cancelled: Here is what the govt actually said

The government, on Wednesday, said that it has cancelled the FCRA licence of close to 20,000 of the 33,000 NGOs operating in the country after they were found to be flouting certain norms laid out in the Foreign Contributions Registrations Act, 2010.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

The FCRA or Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 is nothing but a regulatory act formed to keep a check on civil society bodies that may be receiving foreign funds in an illegal manner. Therefore, the cancellation of an FCRA licence means that the NGOs in question can no longer take funds from a foreign contributor but they can continue to work on donations given by Indian companies and individuals.

Home Ministry officials said after cancellation of the FCRA licences of around 20,000 NGOs, only 13,000 NGOs in the country are legally valid now to receive foreign funds.

The exercise of reviewing the working of the NGOs was started about a year ago and the process is still continuing, official sources said.

Among the 13,000 valid NGOs, around 3,000 have submitted applications for renewal while Ministry of Home Affairs received 2,000 new applications for registration under the FCRA for the first time.

An additional 300 NGOs are currently under prior permission category but not registered under the FCRA. This means that although these NGOs don’t hold a FCRA licence, they can accept funds from foreign sources by taking prior permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The FCRA licences of around 16 NGOs were renewed by the Home Ministry under the “automatic” route and all the cases were reviewed thoroughly and except in two cases, 14 NGOs have been put under the prior permission category, while papers of two other NGOs are under examination.

As per FCRA, if an NGO is put under prior permission category, it is barred to receive foreign funding from abroad without taking permission from the Home Ministry.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 19:12 IST

India to liberalise visa rules for Bangladeshis to promote tourism

Dhaka: In a bid to ease the procurement of Indian tourist visas for Bangladeshis, India will now allow those with confirmed travel tickets to submit their visa applications directly without prior appointments.

“As part of ongoing efforts to streamline, liberalise and ease the process of securing Indian visas, the High Commission of India will allow all Bangladesh travellers with confirmed air, train or bus tickets to submit their tourist visa applications without e-token or prior appointment dates from 1 January 2017,” the Indian High Commission here said in a press release on Wednesday.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The date of journey should be after seven days but within one month of submission of the visa application form,” it said.

The Indian Visa Application Centre in Mirpur will receive walk-in tourist visa applications from confirmed travellers and senior citizens from 1 January.

Those who already have appointment dates can continue to submit their tourist visa applications in centres at Gulshan, Uttara, Motijheel, Mymensingh, Barisal, Khulna, Jessore, Rangpur, Rajshahi, Chittagong and Sylhet.

The mission also said that its pilot project started in October for allowing walk-in visa application facility for women travellers and their immediate family members has been “very successful”.

The Mirpur visa application centre will start taking those walk-in applications from 1 January instead of the centre in Uttara, it said.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 18:39 IST

Demonetisation ordinance passed: Holding old notes a criminal offence post 31 March

The Cabinet today cleared promulgation of an ordinance to penalise persons holding demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes after 31 March, when the deadline to deposit these notes at the RBI window ends.

As per the ordinance named the Specified Bank Notes Cessation of Liabilities Ordinance, holding these notes after 31 March deadline would be a criminal offence.

According to government sources cited by CNBC-TV18, those who hold old notes after 31 March is likely to face 4-year jail term and also those who transact in old notes is likely to face a penalty of Rs 5,000.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The ordinance will extinguish the liability of the government and RBI towards the promise to pay the bearer of these notes their value because of a statutory requirement.

In 1978 a similar ordinance was issued to end the government’s liability after Rs 1,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 notes were demonetised by the Janata Party government under Morarji Desai.

A PTI report citing sources in the government said the ordinance is being brought as it was found to be necessary to prevent future litigations against the government for junking Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

Seeking to prevent harassment and any ambiguity, a proviso would be added to ensure that certain category of people can still deposit the old notes in RBI branches between 31 December and 31 March next, said the report.

The government had, while announcing the demonetisation of the old currency on 8 November, allowed holders to either exchange them or deposit in bank and post office accounts.

While the facility to exchange the old notes has since been withdrawn, depositors have time till Friday to deposit the holding in their accounts.

With PTI

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 13:04 IST

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

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

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

Rahul Gandhi. Reuters

Rahul Gandhi. Reuters

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

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

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

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

Demonetisation was a move towards formal economy, says Arvind Panagariya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Economists favour cut in income tax rate; harmonisation of custom duties

New Delhi: Simplification and reduction in personal income tax rates and harmonisation of customs duties to global levels in a bid to boost economic activities were favoured by economists at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Niti Aayog.

The meeting, which comes ahead of the Budget slated to be held in early February, did not go into the impact of demonetisation on the economy while the aspect of digitisation to make it a less cash economy figured. “Tax simplification figured quite a lot…on the direct taxation, both corporate and personal income tax on simplifying, reducing exemptions, bringing down tax rate and
aligning tax system to make India competitive with international destination,” Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya told reporters. He was briefing the reporters about the outcome of the meeting on “Economic Policy: The Road Ahead”.

Representational Image. AFPRepresentational Image. AFP

Representational Image. AFP

About the inverted duty structure, it was suggested to harmonise the tariffs to resolve the issue. “One of the issues that came up (for discussion) was tariff inversion whereby tariff on component and inputs are higher than the final products so that undercuts the incentive to produce the final product,” Panagariya said. “So the suggestion (on this issue) was to harmonise the tariff to single rate to 7 per cent or so,” he added. Besides, suggestion was made for listing of PSUs and increase use of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to subsidy expenditure.

Farm sector experts suggested incentivising states to undertake market reforms, create corpus fund for promoting farm mechanisation and micro irrigation, and provide interest subvention for term loans so that income of farmers are doubled by 2022. Experts also suggested that there is a need to invest in the tourism sector which has potential to generate high paying job and making Indian universities world class. Pulak Ghosh IIM Bangaluru professor said that India need to collect large volumes of data so that data driven policy can be formulated.

Among others, the meeting was attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Panagariya and various other senior officials from the Union Government and Niti Aayog. The economists and experts who were present include Pravin Krishna, Sukhpal Singh, Vijay Paul Sharma, Neelkanth Mishra, Surjit Bhalla, Govinda Rao, Madhav Chavan, N K Singh, Vivek Dehejia, Pramath Sinha, Sumit Bose and T N Ninan.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 08:13 IST

Home ministry cancels FCRA licences of 20,000 NGOs for violating norms

New Delhi: FCRA licences of around 20,000 of 33,000 NGOs have been cancelled by the government after they were found to be allegedly violating various provisions of the FCRA, thus barring them from receiving foreign funds.

This was conveyed to Home Minister Rajnath Singh during a review of the Foreigners Division of the Home Ministry in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTIUnion Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Giving a detailed presentation, home ministry officials said after cancellation of FCRA licences of around 20,000
NGOs, only 13,000 NGOs in the country are legally valid now to receive foreign funds.

“The exercise of reviewing the working of the NGOs was started about a year ago and the process is still continuing. The cancellation of the FCRA licences of the NGOs done over a period of one year,” a home ministry spokesperson said.

Among the 13,000 valid NGOs, around 3,000 have submitted applications for renewal while home ministry received 2,000 new applications for registration under the FCRA for the first time.

An additional 300 NGOs are currently under prior permission category but not registered under the FCRA.

However, FCRA licences of around 16 NGOs were renewed by the home ministry under the “automatic” route and all the cases were reviewed thoroughly and except in two cases, 14 NGOs have been put under the prior permission category while papers of the two NGOs are under examination.

As per FCRA, if an NGO is put under prior permission category, it is barred to receive foreign funding from abroad without taking permission from the home ministry.

A home ministry official said on Tuesday of the around 33,000 NGOs registered under the FCRA, 27,000 were due for renewal this year.

Of these 27,000 NGOs, around 19,000 NGOs have submitted applications for renewal under the FCRA.

And of the 19,000 NGOs, FCRA licences of 15,500 NGOs were renewed.

Among the total 27,000 NGOs, 8,000 have time till February for renewal of their licences under FCRA.

The official said just FCRA licences of just 222 NGOs were cancelled in recent past.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 22:44 IST

Gujarat govt takes custody of 220 fishermen released by Pakistan

Vadodara: The officials of the fisheries department of Gujarat Government took custody of 220 fishermen who were handed over by Pakistan to Indian agency, late on Monday night, a senior official said.

“These fishermen were released from the Landhi jail in Karachi on 25 December as a goodwill gesture and were handed over to the Border Security Force (BSF) at the Wagah Border on Monday,” Ashok Patel, superintendent of the fisheries department of the Gujarat government told PTI.

“The team (of fisheries department) has been camping in Amritsar to make arrangements for bringing these fishermen back to Gujarat,” he said.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Talking to PTI from Amritsar, Ramesh Makwana, one of the released fisherman, who hails from Tad village in Una taluka of Gir Somnath district, said, “We never expected release of 439 fishermen by Pakistan at one go and it came as a surprise for all of us. Another batch of 219 fishermen will be released on 5 January, 2017.”

“The Edhi Foundation a Karachi based non government organisation made arrangements for bringing us to Lahore from Karachi by a special train,” said the released fisherman.

He thanked Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani among others for taking up the issue for their release with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in turn took up the matter with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

Makwana, while describing the harsh conditions in which they stayed in Pakistani jail, said, “They had to face lot of hardships as about 100 fishermen were kept in a single room in the prison and had to face mosquito menace.”

He said they realised that they had entered into enemy territorial waters only after Pakistani Marine Security Agency (PMSA) nabbed them. “Most of us are sole bread earners of our family,” said Makwana.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 19:07 IST

Karnataka quota row: High time to think about reservation in private sector, says Siddaramaiah

Bengaluru: Days after his government unveiled plans to introduce 100 per cent local quota for blue-collar jobs, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Tuesday said it is high time to think about reservation in private sector and it should be achieved through debate and dialogue.

“It is high time to think about reservation in private sector. It should be achieved through debate and dialogue,” he said at the Ninth National Conference of the Indian Association of Lawyers Bengaluru.

The Siddaramaiah government has kicked up a row inviting criticism from various sections of society over its plans to give 100 per cent reservation for Kannadigas in all private sector industries, barring IT and biotechnology firms, which avail concessions under the state industrial policy.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. PTI

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. PTI

Several industry captains have pointed out that introducing reservations could create hurdles in growth due to dearth in skilled labour and hurt chances of attracting investments in the state.

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

Siddaramaiah also said the need of the hour was to provide education, secure employment, housing and health facilities for the oppressed and underprivileged classes, without any further loss of time.

“Our government has realised the same and taken various positive steps in this direction,” he added.

Siddaramaiah said his government took the decision to conduct door-to-door social and educational survey of people of the state in January 2014.

“The same is executed by the State Commission for Backward Classes. The data is awaited from the Commission. This exercise is the first of its kind since 1931,” he said.

He said the idea behind the survey was to collect the current demographic data and various aspects relating to living conditions of people and accordingly configure developmental policies and programmes to achieve an egalitarian society through socio-economic justice.

“On several occasions judicial pronouncements by our respected judiciary also pointed out the need for collection of updated empirical data by conducting survey of the entire populace to decide whether the reservations in favour of OBC groups are proportionate or not,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 17:02 IST

Budget 2017: Brace for higher short-term capital gains tax, dividend income

The Union Budget 2017 is still over a month from now but the stock market is known to exhibit wild swings in the weeks before the D-day. While investors take a view about various sectors and what budget could mean for the industry, this time they need to be more worried about their own backyard if things are anything to go by.

According to a Business Standard report, the government is looking at the possibility of increasing the short-term capital gains tax or STCG on profits made on sale of shares in less than a year.

Currently, the short-term capital gains tax is fixed at 15 percent, but the BS report suggests that the rate could be increased to 20 percent during this year’s budget announcement.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

With regard to long-term capital gains tax on shares sold after 12 months which at present is nil, the government is mulling with the idea of increasing the period to 36 months i.e. an investor can enjoy tax exempiton, if shares are sold only after 3 years and not the current one year period, the BS report said.

Further, based on the tax slab, the government may even look at taxing the dividend income. Currently, companies pay dividend distribution tax, and individuals earning more than Rs 10 lakh as dividend income in an financial year are taxed at 10 percent. This tax rate may go up to 30 percent for individuals coming under high-tax bracket.

As it is, stock market players are already dealing with securities transaction tax (STT) and any move to increase tax rate on short-term capital gains could severely dent the sentiment, caution investors.

For several years, capital market industry experts are lobbying the government to completely abolish the securities transaction tax, but the government has not paid any heed to their demand. The government collects Rs 7,400 crore as STT every year.

Recent developments indicate that government could take stern measures in next year’s budget to increase tax rate on returns made by stock market investors.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday in a veiled threat indicated that the government may look at investors deriving huge income from stock market returns.

Calling for wider inclusion, Modi had said our markets must show that they were able to successfully raise capital for projects benefiting the vast majority of our population, particularly related to infrastructure.

“The true measure of success (of the stock markets) is in its impact in villages, not on Dalal Street or Lutyens Delhi. Sebi should work for closer link between spot markets like e-NAM and derivatives markets to benefit the farmers,” Modi urged.

A day after the PM’s statement Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley clarified on Sunday that there is no plan to impose long-term capital gains tax on securities investments, after a statement by prime minister raised such a suspicion.

“This interpretation is absolutely erroneous. The Prime Minister has made no such statement directly or indirectly. I was present at the function in which this speech was given. I wish to absolutely clarify that there is no occasion or opportunity to anybody to reach such a conclusion because this is not what the Prime Minister said nor is it the intention of the government as has been reported in some section of the media,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 13:14 IST

Norway authorities should return Indian child Aryan to natural parents: Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi: Ahead of its Ambassador’s meeting with authorities in Norway involving the custody of a child of a Indo-Norwegian family, on Tuesday India made it clear that it wants the five-and-a-half year boy united with his natural parents.

Taking a hard stance, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said she refuses to accept that foster parents can take better care of the child than natural parents.

In a series of tweets, Swaraj said, “Our Ambassador in Norway is meeting the Norwegian authorities today regarding Aryan. I refuse to accept that foster parents can take better care of the child than the natural parents.

“The foster parents are totally ignorant of the Indian culture and our food habits. We want restoration of Aryan to his natural parents.”

Sushma Swaraj. PTISushma Swaraj. PTI

Sushma Swaraj. PTI

Indian national Gurvinderjit Kaur and her husband, who is a Norwegian national, have alleged that authorities in that country have taken away their son, also a Norwegian national, on a frivolous complaint of abuse.

Kaur had also written to the Ministry seeking help in getting back her son, who has been taken away by the Norway Child Welfare Services.

This is the third case since 2011 when children have been taken away from their Indian-origin parents by the authorities in Norway on the grounds of abuse.

In 2011, a three-year-old and a one-year-old were separated from their parents, prompting the then UPA government to take up the issue with Norway.

The Norwegian court later allowed the children to be reunited with their parents.

In December 2012, an Indian couple was jailed on charges of ill treatment of their children, 7 and 2 years. Later, they were sent to their grandparents in Hyderabad.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 11:07 IST

Ahead of Budget 2017, Arun Jaitley says India needs globally compatible tax rates

Ahead of the Union Budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley has pitched for a lower level of taxation that is globally compatible. This, according to him,  is necessary if the country has to have a broader base of economy.

He said gone are the days of the philosophy that high taxation will bring greater revenues and that since 1991 the course of economy has altered itself.

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

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photo

“… What you need is a broader base of economy for which you need a lower level of taxation. You need to manufacture products and provide services which are more competitive in character and therefore your taxes have to be globally compatible,” Jaitley said while inaugurating the professional training of IRS officers.

The comments have raised speculation that the government may cut tax rates in the Union Budget for 2017-18 to be presented in Parliament on 1 February.

However, in a later tweet he also indicated that any such interpretation of his speech may be inaccurate.

Ever since the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, there has been speculation that the government may resort to some direct tax cuts to lessen the pain inflicted on the common man. A cut in income tax rates will placate the middle class, a key political constituency of the ruling BJP.

As far as corporate tax are concerned, Jaitley had laid out a road map for cuts in rates and exemptions in last year’s Budget.

In the speech on Monday, Jaitley also said competition is not merely domestic but global and therefore in the last two-and-a-half decades, the governments have been guided by these principles.

Tracing the behaviour of people in the last 70 years, the finance minister said there has been an impression if avoidance could be done of government revenue, there is nothing “improper or immoral” about it.

This was, he said, considered to be “commercial smartness” and of course some people were visited with very serious consequences.

He told the young revenue service officers that in coming future decades they should see that voluntary tax compliance has to increase in India.

“And the mindset of the tax payer (should be) that payment of legitimate taxes is a responsibility and then it should be reciprocated by you with a confidence in the tax payer. The tax payer is to be trusted, except when it’s proven otherwise.

And therefore only in those select cases, very objectively selected, you go in for a wider audit or a wider scrutiny itself,” Jaitley said.

With PTI

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 08:35 IST

Income tax raids: Black money holders may have to pay up 137% in tax, penalty

There is more pain on the way for black money holders. The income tax department on Monday said they will have to bear taxes and penalties amounting to as high as 137 percent if they do not admit to or fail to explain the source of undisclosed income after being raided.

However, the total levy can touch 107.25 percent if the undisclosed income is admitted during search operations and that income substantiated, the department said in a release, adding the tax dodgers can come clean by paying 50 per cent on bank deposits post demonetisation.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

If one fails to admit his unexplained income during the course of search and in case, taxes are not paid and he does not substantiate the manner in which income is earned, then the tax incidence will be 137.25 percent, the tax department said in a release.

However, if undisclosed income is admitted during search, taxes are paid and return is filed before the specified date declaring this income and assessee substantiates the manner in which income is earned, then the tax rate will be 107.25 per cent, the release added.

“We are asking people to declare their undisclosed cash deposits in banks, post offices which have not been subject to tax earlier under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna, 2016 (the scheme),” Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (NWR) Rajendra Kumar said in Chandigarh on Monday.

This scheme which has come into effect on 17 December shall remain open for declarations up to 31 March, 2017, he said.

If the income is not admitted during search and the assessee is not able to substantiate the earning, it will attract 60 per cent tax, 60 per cent penalty, 15 per cent surcharge, 3 per cent education cess surcharge — amounting to 137.25 percent.

In case, the income is admitted during search and the assessee is able to substantiate the earning, it will attract 60 percent tax, 30 percent penalty, 15 per cent surcharge, 3 percent education cess surcharge — totalling to 107.25 percent.

The Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Act, 2016 has amended the penalty provisions in respect of search and seizure cases, the release said.

The existing slab for penalty of 10 per cent, 20 percent and 60 per cent of income levied under section 271AAB has been rationalized to 30 per cent of income, if the income is admitted and taxes are paid. Otherwise, a penalty at the rate of 60 per cent of income shall be levied, the department said in the release.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 07:42 IST

Demonetisation: Govt mulling ordinance to penalise those holding junked notes beyond 30 December

New Delh: The government is understood to be mulling an ordinance to impose penalties on anyone possessing the junked Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes beyond 30 December when the deadline to deposit them in banks expires.

There was no official word on the move which is likely to come up before the Cabinet on Wednesday but sources said penalties may be imposed on anyone holding more than 10 notes each of the old currency after 30 December.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The ordinance may also extinguish the liability of the government and RBI towards the promise to pay the bearer of these notes their value because of a statutory requirement.

In 1978 a similar ordinance was issued to end the government’s liability after Rs 1,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 notes were demonetised by the Janata Party government under Morarji Desai.

The government had while announcing the demonetisation of the old currency allowed holders to either exchange them or deposit in bank and post office accounts. While the facility to exchange the old notes has since been withdrawn, depositors have time till Friday to deposit the holding in their accounts.

For those depositing any accounted funds, or black money, it has offered them an amnesty provided they paid 50 per cent of it as tax and penalties and parked a quarter of it in a zero-interest bearing deposit for four years. Reports said that there could be a cap of holding no more than 10 notes of each after December 30 and violation of the rule could draw a fine of a minimum of Rs 50,000 or 5 times the amount in question — whichever is higher, but there was no confirmation.

Holders of such currency have an option to deposit them in RBI by March 31 but even that period may be curtailed, they said.

Out of the Rs 15.44 lakh crore worth of 500 and 1000 rupee notes in circulation on November 8, close to Rs 13 lakh crore have been deposited in accounts or exchanged for valid currency.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 21:50 IST

Demonetisation: Farmers to get 60 additional days for repayment of crop loans, says RBI

Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Monday said that in view of demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, farmers, whose short term crop loan repayment date falls between 1 November and 31 December, will get an additional 60-day grace period.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“In view of the constraints faced by farmers for timely repayment of loan dues on account of withdrawal of legal tender status of Specified Bank Notes (SBNs), it has been decided by the government to provide an additional grace period of 60 days for prompt repayment incentive of 3 percent to those farmers whose crop loan dues are falling due between 1 November and 31 December,” RBI said in a notification.

Currently, according to the existing crop loan interest rebate scheme for 2016-17, apart from the two percent annual rebate, an additional interest rebate of 3 percent is also provided if the farmer repays the loan up to the actual date of repayment or the date fixed by banks for repayment, whichever is earlier.

This benefit does not accrue to those farmers who repay after one year of availing such loans.

If the farmers, whose crop loan repayment date falls between 1 November and 31 December, repay the crop loan within 60 days from their loan repayment date, the additional three percent interest rebate will continue to apply, it said.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 20:56 IST

‘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

Committed to sealing border with Bangladesh in next year and half, says Rajnath Singh

Guwahati: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said the security of the more than 200-kilometre-long Indo-Bangladesh border was a priority for the BJP government and it will be completely sealed in next one and a half years.

“We are committed to sealing the 223.7-km Indo-Bangladesh border and the process is on. It is expected to be completed within the next year and a half,” Singh said addressing BJP workers in Guwahati.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

“Bangladesh is our neighbouring country and we share a good and warm relation, which we will continue to pursue and remain committed to in the future,” he said.

The Union minister, without referring to the issues of illegal migration and granting of citizenship to Hindu refugees, assured the people of Assam that BJP was committed to protect the interests of the indigenous population of the state as per Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

“We are committed to Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and will protect it even if we have to amend the Constitution,” he said.

Referring to the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, Singh said the process is underway and the state government should complete it soon.

The Union minister said the Centre will make no compromise on the issue of insurgency as he claimed that violence has considerably come down in the state.

“If any people or group have any grievances, problems or issues, we are ready to talk to them. We are ready to embrace them and talk. But if there is violence, there will be no compromise,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 16:59 IST

Kerala: Opposition demands resignation of LDF minister MM Mani charged in murder case

Kochi: Stepping up its attack against Electricity Minister MM Mani after he rejected Opposition’s demand to quit following a court’s refusal of discharging him from a 34-year-old murder case, Congress on Monday alleged that his presence in the CPM-led LDF government would weaken the trial into the charges against him.

“Mani is an accused in a murder case. He must quit. It is necessary to ensure proper justice in the case,” KPCC Chief V M Sudheeran told reporters here.

He alleged that Mani’s presence in the government would help him “pressurise” witnesses and Investigating Officers.

“We strongly believe that there will be efforts to influence the witnesses,” Sudheeran said.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Mani has rejected opposition Congress and BJP’s demand that he quit after a court in Thodupuzha refused to discharge him as an accused in the 34-year-old murder case, saying he would fight the case both “legally and politically”.

Noting that Mani is the second accused in the case related to the murder of Youth Congress leader Anchery Baby in November 1982, Sudheeran said that his continuation in the Ministry raises “moral, ethical and legal” questions.

“So the chief minister should seek his resignation from the Ministry or he should be sacked,” the KPCC president said.

Sudheeran also asked the CPM central leadership to explain their stand on the issue.

The state unit of CPI(M) heading the LDF regime, has rallied behind Mani, saying the demand for his resignation was “politically motivated”.

“The demand is politically motivated. The case existed when Mani contested the state Assembly elections. There is nothing new in the court verdict. The demand for his resignation has no basis and he can continue as Minister,” CPM State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had said, soon after the verdict on Saturday.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 15:54 IST

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

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

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

ReutersReuters

Reuters

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

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

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

The reasons for this aren’t difficult to understand. Until 19 December, the RBI has infused only Rs 5.92 lakh crore into the banking system as compared with deposits worth Rs 12.44 lakh crore in old Rs 500, Rs 1,000 currencies. Of the total 22.6 billion pieces of notes of various denominations infused, about 20.4 billion pieces belonged to smaller denominations of Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 and Rs 100, while only 2.2 billion belonged to higher denominations of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500. It is not clear how many of the 2.2 billion is Rs 2,000 notes and how many are Rs 500 notes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NRI couple in Norway lose child’s curtody: Mother writes to govt; MEA to take action

New Delhi: The Indian woman, whose son has been taken away by the Norwegian authorities, has approached the Indian Embassy in Oslo seeking government’s intervention, following which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it will now chalk out the future course of action in the case.

Gurvinderjit Kaur has approached the Indian government with the “formal written” request in this regard, BJP leader Vijay Jolly said.

Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. File photo. AFPUnion External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. File photo. AFP

Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. File photo. AFP

Kaur and her husband, who is a Norwegian national, have alleged that authorities in that country have taken away their 5-year-old son Aryan, also a Norwegian national, on a frivoulous complaint of abuse.

Confirming that Kaur has approached the government, MEA officials said they were now “empowered” to pursue the matter with the Norwegian authorities and they will chalk out the future course of action in the case.

The Indian couple had first sought Jolly’s help in getting back the custody of their child, after which he wrote to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who had said that India will provide them help.

In its response, the Norwegian Embassy here had asked for “restraint” in the case, assuring that it is being handled with “complete sensitivity and awareness”.

According to Jolly, the Indian Ambassador “is slated to meet highly placed Norwegian officials in Oslo on 27 December”.

Jolly also maintained that according to the mother, the child is being “daily served porridge and bread while he is fond of Indian food”.

This is the third case since 2011 when children have been taken away from their Indian-origin parents by the authorities in Norway on the grounds of abuse.

In 2011, a three-year-old and a one-year-old were separated from their parents, prompting the then UPA government to take up the issue with Norway. The Norwegian court later allowed the children to be reunited with their parents.

In December 2012, an Indian couple was jailed on charges of ill treatment of their children, 7 and 2 years. Later, they were sent to their grandparents in Hyderabad.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 21:37 IST

Pakistan releases 220 Indian fishermen in goodwill gesture, expects India to ‘reciprocate’

Pakistan released 220 Indian fishermen on Sunday as a goodwill gesture aimed at easing tensions with its neighbour, officials said.

The men were arrested more than a year ago, accused of entering Pakistani waters in an area of the Arabian Sea where the border is unclear.

An image from August 2015, when another batch of Indian fishermen was released from prison, in Pakistan. Reuters

An image from August 2015, when another batch of Indian fishermen was released from prison, in Pakistan. Reuters

India is also holding Pakistani fishermen for the same reason and Pakistan hopes its gesture — on the birthday of the nation’s father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which coincides with Christmas Day — will be reciprocated.

“We have total of 518 Indian fishermen out of which 220 are being released today as a goodwill gesture of the Pakistan government. In the next phase, 219 fishermen will be released on 5 January,” Shunail Husain Shah, a police assistant superintendent, told Reuters.

Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours have been more fraught than usual since a crackdown by Indian forces on dissent in Indian-controlled Kashmir began in July. In September militants killed 18 soldiers at an Indian army base, an attack New Delhi blamed on Pakistan.

“We appreciate Pakistan’s goodwill gesture of releasing Indian fishermen, but we expect a similar reciprocal move by India, 156 Pakistani fishermen including 13 children are languishing in Indian jails,” Muhammad Ali Shah, president of Pakistan Fisher Folk, a fishermen’s rights body, told Reuters.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea states that fishermen who cross territorial waters can be warned and fined but not arrested, and Shah called on both countries to respect that.

One of the fishermen being released, who goes by the single name Naresh, told Reuters: “I am very happy, looking forward to meet my family back in Gujarat. We were treated nicely here, I will request the Indian government release the detained Pakistani fishermen as well.”

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 21:28 IST

Kerala: Stampede in Sabarimala temple amid heavy rush; 40 injured, 3 critical

Sabarimala : At least 40 pilgrims were injured, three of them seriously, in a stampede at the Sabarimala temple on Sunday night after a barricade gave way in the huge rush, authorities said.

Due to the heavy rush, a rope barricade between ‘Sannidhanam’ and ‘Mallikapura’ snapped and the pilgrims, who were leaning on it fell on each other, Pathnamthitta District Collector R Girija told PTI.

According to ANI, Ayyappa Dharma Sena President Rahul Easwar has said that the situation has been brought under control.

The injured were initially taken to the Sannidhanam hospital of which two seriously injured were shifted to Kottayam medical college hospital and three others to Pamba hospital, she said.

The two grievously injured pilgrims have suffered head and rib injuries but they are conscious, she said. There was a heavy rush of pilgrims today, the penultimate day before the culmination of 41-day ‘mandala pooja’.

According to the temple authorities, with Monday being a key day in the two-month-long Sabarimala festival, there was an unprecedented rush of devotees on Sunday and the incident occurred when the sanctum santorum of the temple was opened late Sunday evening.

The stampede occurred just as the holy ‘Thanga Angi’ procession carrying ornaments worn by Lord Ayyappa on Mandala pooja on Monday had reached the temple this evening.

The procession starts from Aranmula Sree Parthasarthy temple four days before the Mandala pooja.

To control the crowd, police had set up barricades but on account of the huge rush, the barricade broke and caused a stampede, in which the pilgrims got injured.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said there was heavy rush of pilgrims at the shrine when the ‘thanga angi’ procession arrived.

He was at the temple shortly before the stampede and had left the shrine after the ‘deeparadhana’ (evening prayers) with the Thanga Angi.

The minister said he was on his way to the hospital. He later said the situation has been brought under control.

Police are restricting the movement of pilgrims from downhill Pamba to Sannidhanam because of the heavy rush.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 20:32 IST

Pakistan releases Indian fishermen in bid to ease tensions with Delhi | Reuters

By Syed Raza Hassan
| KARACHI, Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan Pakistan released 220 Indian fishermen on Sunday as a goodwill gesture aimed at easing tensions with its neighbour, officials said.The men were arrested more than a year ago, accused of entering Pakistani waters in an area of the Arabian Sea where the border is unclear. India is also holding Pakistani fishermen for the same reason and Pakistan hopes its gesture – on the birthday of the nation’s father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which coincides with Christmas Day – will be reciprocated.

“We have total of 518 Indian fishermen out of which 220 are being released today as a goodwill gesture of the Pakistan government. In the next phase, 219 fishermen will be released on Jan. 5,” Shunail Husain Shah, a police assistant superintendent, told Reuters.Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours have been more fraught than usual since a crackdown by Indian forces on dissent in Indian-controlled Kashmir began in July. In September militants killed 18 soldiers at an Indian army base, an attack New Delhi blamed on Pakistan.

“We appreciate Pakistan’s goodwill gesture of releasing Indian fishermen, but we expect a similar reciprocal move by India, 156 Pakistani fishermen including 13 children are languishing in Indian jails,” Muhammad Ali Shah, president of Pakistan Fisher Folk, a fishermen’s rights body. told Reuters.The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea states that fishermen who cross territorial waters can be warned and fined but not arrested, and Shah called on both countries to respect that.

One of the fishermen being released, who goes by the single name Naresh, told Reuters: “I am very happy, looking forward to meet my family back in Gujarat. We were treated nicely here, I will request the Indian government release the detained Pakistani fishermen as well.” (Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 19:44 IST

Demonetisation: Money deposited in banks has lost its earlier anonymity says Finance minister Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Describing the currency being deposited in banks following last month’s demonetisation of high-value notes as money that has lost its earlier “anonymity”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said these funds now available with the banks have strengthened the Indian banking system.

File photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

File photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

“The money that is being deposited in cash form after demonetisation, now the anonymity of that money is gone,” Jaitley said at the DigiDhan Mela event here to promote cashless transactions.

“When this money comes into the system, the banking system becomes stronger and there are funds available for rural development, social welfare programmes,” he said.

“Money in the system becomes part of the taxation system too.

The long-term benefit of this move is that the shadow, the parallel economy, which was not taxed, of which there was no accounting, which was not answerable, that is now becoming part of the economic system,” the Finance Minister said.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 18:21 IST

Pune: 23-year-old woman techie hacked to death metres away from her office

Pune: A 23-year-old woman software engineer working with an IT firm in Pune was hacked to death by an unidentified assailant barely some metres away from her office on the outskirts of the city.

Antara Das, who hailed from West Bengal, was attacked with a sharp-edged weapon at around 8 pm on Friday night when she was returning home from work near Tathwade area, a senior police official of Dehuroad Police Station said.

“Das was rushed to a nearby hospital. However, she was declared dead on arrival,” he said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

According to the officer, robbery angle has been ruled out as the valuables the woman was carrying were intact.

A case was registered in this regard, police said, adding a probe was underway.

According to a statement given by her company Capgemini to the police, Das left the office at 8 pm on Friday night and decided not to travel by the office cab.

The woman mentioned in the office register that she would be taking an auto to get back home, police said.

The attack took place barely some metres from her office and she was rushed to hospital by passers-by.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 15:24 IST

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

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

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

Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DRI sleuths seize Rs 2.60 crore in cash, 95 kgs of gold and silver from Noida-based firm

New Delhi: A total of Rs 2.60 crore in cash and 95 kg of gold and silver have been seized and four persons have been arrested by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in connection with its probe into alleged diversion of duty free gold worth about Rs 140 crore, imported under a special concession scheme, by a firm operating from a Noida-based SEZ.

Representational image. APRepresentational image. AP

Representational image. AP

The DRI sleuths from Lucknow zonal unit carried out the searches for two days on the premises of M/s Shri Lal Mahal Limited and the residences of company officials as part of their anti-black money operations after demonetisation, the agency said in a
statement.

Four people associated with the firm were arrested late evening after questioning, a DRI official said. “It is found that the unit has illegally diverted and sold 430 kg (valued at about Rs 140 crore) of duty free gold in the market. Cash amounting to Rs 2.60 crore (Rs 2.48 crore in old currency notes, and Rs 12 lakh in new notes) has been seized.”

“80 kg of unaccounted silver was found in the factory. Further, 15 kg of gold jewellery has been seized from the premises of the firm,” the statement added.

The DRI alleged that the firm had also “transferred huge amounts of money through RTGS (funds transfer through banking
channels) to a firm operating from their premises to purchase gold coins or bars of 24kg after 8 November (the day Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes were demonetised) from MMTC, India’s largest public sector trading body, also to sell in the market for old
demonetised currency”.

Earlier, the agency had said that directors of the firm were either admitted to the hospital or were avoiding investigations, and as a result, two persons had been detained for questioning.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 21:49 IST

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

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

The government is willing to pursue it till the end irrespective of the difficulties it may face in dealing with the after effects of this massively disruptive exercise and what the critics say. “Let me make one thing very clear: This Government will continue to follow sound and prudent economic policies, to ensure that India has a bright future in the long run. We will not take decisions for short term political point scoring. We will not shy away from taking difficult decisions, if those decisions are in the interest of the country. Demonetisation is an example. It has short-term pain, but will bring long-term gain,” Modi said at the inaugratin of the NISM campus.

Narendra-Modi-in-New-Delhi4_PTI

Narendra Modi. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

Modi also hinted at tweaking laws concerning gains from capital market gains. “Those who profit from financial markets must make a fair contribution to nation-building through taxes. For various reasons, the contribution of tax from those who make money on the markets has been low. To some extent, it may be due to illegal activities and fraud. To stop this, SEBI has to be extremely vigilant. To some extent, the low contribution of taxes may also be due to the structure of our tax laws. Low or zero tax rate is given to certain types of financial income.”

Similarly, the mention on reinventing the derivative product segment to benefit farmers is a message to the market regulator, SEBI to think of ways of working on new products. “People say that derivatives can be used by farmers for reducing their risks. But in practice, hardly any farmer in India uses derivatives. That is the fact. Unless and until we make the commodity markets directly useful to farmers, they are just a costly ornament in our economy, not a useful tool…SEBI should work for closer linkages between spot markets like e-NAM and derivatives markets to benefit farmers,” Modi said.

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

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

Demonetisation: Currency racket busted in Kerela, Rs 39.98 lakh in 2,000 notes seized

Malappuram: Busting a currency exchange racket, police have seized Rs 39.98 lakh in Rs 2,000 denomination notes at Tirur area in the district and arrested a man, already facing a hawala case, in this connection.

Representative image. PTI

Representative image. PTI

While Rs three lakh was seized from 63-year-old Shoukath Ali at the bus stand in Tirur, Rs 36.98 lakh in Rs 2,000 notes was recovered from the residence of a businessman, police said, noting the seizure and arrest were made yesterday.

Ali, hailing from Palakkad district, was produced before a magistrate’s court and remanded in judicial custody today, police said.

A search was on for businessman Shabir Babu, who had allegedly given the Rs three lakh to Ali to exchange scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

Babu had also allegedly distributed new currency notes to nine other persons in exchange for scrapped notes, they said.

Ali had been arrested six months ago on charges of hawala transactions and is out on bail, police added.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 16:21 IST

Income Tax Department’s investigation wing: Deployment of CRPF personnel during search operations are as per law

Kolkata: The investigation wing of the Income Tax (IT) Department on Friday said the deployment of CRPF personnel during searches is as per the law, which West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has termed as “unconstitutional and illegal”.

File photo of West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC Supremo Mamata Banerjee addresses media after her party's win in the Assembly elections at her Kalighat residence in Kolkata on Thursday. PTI Photo by Swapan Mahapatra(PTI5_19_2016_000262B)

File photo of West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC Supremo Mamata Banerjee. PTI

“The number of search operations being carried out now have increased manifold and this is why we are taking help of CRPF personnel,” a senior official of the IT investigation wing told PTI.

To a query, he said the investigation wing was also getting cooperation of West Bengal Police.

“As per law, we are authorised to seek the help of paramilitary forces, Customs, PSU banks and CISF personnel during search operations,” the official said.

“This is nothing new and we are doing it everytime.

“It is well known that we are carrying out such action day-in and day-out. So it is necessary to take the help of other central agencies besides the state police,” he said.

Mamata Banerjee on Friday objected to the Centre’s move to deploy CRPF personnel for providing security to Income Tax officials during search operations in the state and has also shot off a letter to Home Minister Rajnath Singh demanding withdrawal of the decision.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 22:35 IST

CBI asks Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat to appear for preliminary enquiry to probe sting operations

New Delhi: CBI has asked Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat to appear before it on 26 December in connection with a probe into the purported sting operation involving him.

This is the second time that Rawat has been summoned by the CBI on a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) registered by it in last seven months. He had earlier appeared before the agency on 24 May during which he was questioned for nearly five hours.

The agency had registered a preliminary enquiry in connection with the alleged sting operation on April 29 purportedly showing Rawat offering bribes to rebel Congress lawmakers to support him during a floor test in the Uttarakhand Assembly.

This may be a unique case where a sitting Chief Minister has been summoned by the CBI during its probe of a PE.

The PE is the first step during which the agency verifies the facts in the complaint received by it. During a PE, the agency usually only “requests” a person “to join the probe” and does not summon him, carry out searches or make any arrests.

File photo of Harish Rawat. PTI

File photo of Harish Rawat. PTI

If verification of facts shows need of further probe, it may register an FIR or else close the PE.

The CBI probe focuses on Rawat’s relations with the owner of a news channel, alleged bribe proposal made to one dissident MLA by him and a minister in his previous cabinet, besides his claims on the purported sting video.

The reason for summoning him against, according to the sources, was because Rawat had not furnished full and complete details on many issues.

The case was registered on the reference received from the state government (during President’s rule) and subsequent notification from BJP-led central government.

Rawat has denied the allegation and called the video fake after it was released by the rebel Congress legislators but later admitted that he was on camera in the sting operation.

After Rawat’s victory in the floor test, the state cabinet had met on 15 May and withdrawn the notification recommending a CBI probe into the sting operation involving him.

Instead, the state cabinet decided to constitute a Special Investigating Team to probe the case as it was a state subject.

CBI had said the notification was rejected after taking legal opinion, which said there was no ground for its withdrawal and it was “not legally tenable”.

The chief minister had failed to get a reprieve from Uttarakhand High Court also which had refused to quash the ongoing CBI probe into the sting operation.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 21:29 IST

Demonetisation deadline: Does govt has no plan to get back crores of NRI ‘white money’?

Despite all the love sprayed on NRIs and those multiple Pravasi Divas conventions held in various parts of the country for various ministers to iterate their love for Indians abroad the week of good cheer is a bit soured.

With good reason. As airlines hike up the cost of tickets by nearly 250 percent (from the Gulf for sure) and families largely opt to stay home there is also a tangible sense of loss from the enormous vat of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes lying around the diaspora.

Awash in cash? PTIAwash in cash? PTI

Awash in cash? PTI

Assessed officially at 30 million people but probably higher by another five million with about Rs 5,000 being taken as the modest average lying with each person it comes to a sizeable Rs 15,000 crore and running.

Most of us keep a reasonable amount in high denomination notes with Rs 25,000 being the outer limit as per law to avoid delays at Indian airports in making foreign exchange and simply pull out the wads that have been lying under shirts and saris or used biscuit and chocolate tins to take a cab home and, in case banks are closed, have enough for Day One and Two.

The stories of long queues and no money and cards not working have made for a change in touching the base.

Relatives in the home country already stretched to breaking point are also not too keen to having us descend upon them en masse.

Rumours and half-truths that the government is listening to last moment pleas from community representatives for a delay in the 30 December deadline for these notes to be vacuumed in don’t seem to have much grounds and the odds are the Not Required Indian will stay not required. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things the sum from NRIs is not astronomical but why lose it.

The Customs form allows us to bring in Rs 25,000 though most of us carry less on each visit. And we do not take back much, just the leftover financial debris of the holiday.

This year the stress level has a different texture to it. For one, there is this fear that carrying banned notes might cause hassles at points of entry. No one wants to be taken aside because they are carrying six or seven crumpled notes. There is no logic in the fear but it exists anyway…there have been enough scare stories on the social platforms to make everyone a little concerned…and hugely confused.

And it does not make sense spending Rs 30,000 per passenger and more for a Y class ticket to make the end of the year deadline when such a low cast carrier ticket usually goes for Rs 10,000 or thereabouts. The situation as it stands is that these Rs 150 billion will be consumed by the clock. Come to think of it, the total is probably much more.

That these crores are going to be largely lost to the exchequer seems to be of no concern to the authorities. Even blue-collar labour has a note or two, often placed in their wallets for good luck by tearful parents sending their sons and daughters to foreign shores when they leave home…a kind of ‘shagun’ that has now lost its meaning.

You would think that one of the mandarins in the Ministry of Overseas Affairs would say, uh oh, that is a lot of money let’s create a blueprint for getting it back and instruct all banks to allow these monies to be sent by courier to the accounts up to Rs 25,000 and let it be accepted.

After all, look at the delicious irony. It is not black money. it is bright, shiny, pristine white money that people want to return.

Allowed to be in our possession by law. So why are NRIs being penalised indirectly for not breaking the law. Echo answers who?

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 19:37 IST

Najeeb resignation: Wanted to quit earlier but PM Modi asked me to continue, says Jung

New Delhi: Najeeb Jung on Friday called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a day after springing a surprise by tendering resignation as Delhi’s Lt Governor even as he said that he had wanted to quit earlier but was asked by the PM to continue.

Jung reached the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) at South Block here around 11.30 am and spent a little over an hour inside. Sources said it was a courtesy meeting. On Thursday, in his brief resignation statement, Jung had thanked Modi for his help and cooperation.

Rejecting speculation that he quit as pressure was mounting on him, Jung was quoted as saying by NDTV that there is no politics behind his decision and that he wanted to quit earlier as well.

“I had offered to resign as I had been appointed by the previous UPA government, but the PM asked me to carry on. After three years, I requested the PM to relieve me but he asked me to carry on,” he said.

“After three and a half years, I requested the PM again on Tuesday that I would like to resign on personal grounds,” Jung was quoted as saying. Jung also said that he would like to write a book.

File photo of former Delhi Governor Naseeb Jung. Reuters

File photo of former Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung. Reuters

Over the last two years, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has time and again taken on Jung over his perceived closeness to Modi.

Earlier in the day, Kejriwal had an hour-long meeting with Jung over breakfast during which the latter reminisced their nearly two-year-long association in governing the city besides discussing other issues.

The Delhi chief minister said he was invited by the Lt Governor for the breakfast meeting that came a day after Jung’s sudden resignation from the post. Sources said Jung and Kejriwal spoke about the bitter- sweet times and spent some light moments.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia also called on Jung. Asked why Jung quit, Kejriwal said, “He resigned due to personal reasons.” Though publicly Kejriwal had made stinging attacks on Jung on many occasions, both of them are known to share a cordial relationship at personal level.

Asked about his meeting with Jung, Sisodia said, “We had a very good chat. He shared memories of the last two years and also of his days as a bureaucrat. He said that he was mulling quitting over the last one year.

“He wants to spend time with his family and focus on academics. He said that he could not quit due to things like chikungunya (outbreak                                                                                                              in the city).”

Sisodia said he shared a “good rapport” with Jung and thanked him for his cooperation especially in areas of education. “We will work for the people if Delhi irrespective of circumstances be that easy or tough.”

On who could be next LG of Delhi, the Deputy Chief Minister said many names are doing the rounds but nothing official has come up.

Sources close to Jung had said yesterday his resignation has nothing to do with his acrimonious relationship with the AAP government over matters of jurisdiction and he was contemplating to quit for last few months. The Chief Minister was in Ranchi yesterday when the news of Jung’s resignation broke.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 19:09 IST

Former Kerala CM Oommen Chandy on solar scam: ‘Charges on role wrong; committed no crime’

Kochi: Holding his ground on the solar panel scam, which had rocked Kerala during the Congress-led UDF rule, former chief minister Oommen Chandy on Friday said that he had not committed any crime. “I have already rejected all the charges. I am fully confident that I have not committed any crime,” he said while deposing before a judicial commission probing charges in the solar panel scam, allegedly linked to his staff.

In his second deposition before the commission, headed by retired High Court judge Justice Sivarajan, the senior Congress leader claimed that all the charges levelled against him were legally proved wrong.

“Many things which had been said targeting me (in the solar scam) have already been proved wrong legally as also in the minds of the public,” he said during the cross-examination.

The commission had directed Chandy to be present for the cross-examination today.

He was cross-examined by the commission in January last in Thiruvananthapuram, when he was the Chief Minister.

Former CM of Kerala Oommen Chandy. AFP

Former CM of Kerala Oommen Chandy. AFP

During his deposition today, Chandy maintained that he had not interfered in the police probe into the case when he was Chief Minister.

Noting that no changes were made in the police team probing the case by the newly formed LDF government, which came to power seven months ago, Chandy said this suggested that police had been carrying out a free and fair probe even during UDF rule.

“The new government has not expressed any doubts about the approach of the probe team (appointed by the then UDF government),” the former Chief Minister said.

“I have not interfered in any stage of the investigation. In this case and other cases also. I have never done so. Free and fair investigation should be carried out in all investigations,” he said.

On being asked whether he had received telephone calls from a lawyer representing main accused (in solar scam) Saritha S Nair during the peak of the controversy, Chandy said he had not attended any of his calls.

The state government had appointed Justice Sivarajan to head the one-man commission on October 23, 2013, to probe the scam pertaining to alleged duping of investors by one Biju Radhakrishnan and his partner Saritha S Nair, who allegedly collected crores of rupees for a solar power project.

The two had allegedly canvassed the business by using top-level names, including that of Chandy.

While Saritha was granted bail after remaining behind bars for about nine months, Radhakrishnan is still in jail in connection with the alleged murder of his wife.

Chandy also rejected allegations by his former gunman Salim Raj that solar scam prime accused Saritha S Nair and the former CM used to talk to each other using his mobile phones.

Deposing before the panel, Salim Raj, a controversial police officer who was part of Chandy’s security, had alleged that a majority of calls from Saritha to his two phones were to talk to the then Chief Minister.

Chandy also rejected Saritha’s allegations that he had taken a bribe from her to set up solar projects, and said he had not taken bribe from anyone in his 50-year-long public life.

During her deposition before the panel, Saritha had alleged that she had paid a bribe of Rs 1.90 crore to Chandy through his personal aides to set up mega power projects in Kerala.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 18:51 IST

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

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

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

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

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

File photo of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

File photo of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China urges India to accept Pakistan’s ‘olive branch’, join CPEC

Beijing: China will strongly oppose any attempt to label Pakistan as “supporting terrorism”, Chinese official media said on Friday and suggested India to accept the “olive branch” extended by a top Pakistani military General to participate in the $46 billion economic corridor.

“Surprise aside (over General’s call), New Delhi should consider accepting the olive branch Pakistan has extended in a bid to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” said an article in the state-run Global Times.

The comments came after Lt Gen Riaz, Commander of the Pakistan’s Southern Command which is based in Quetta, this week reportedly said India should “shun enmity” with Pakistan and “join the $46-billion CPEC along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits”.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Such an opportunity could be transient. There is a possibility that the open attitude toward India joining the CPEC will quickly be overwhelmed by opposition voices from Pakistan if New Delhi does not respond in a timely manner to the General’s overture,” the article said.

“The best way to reduce hostilities is by establishing economic cooperation based on mutual benefits to put aside what cannot be reached by a consensus,” it said.

It said that India could boost its exports and slash its trade deficit with China via new trade routes that would be opened up by the CPEC. In addition, the northern part of India bordering Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir will gain more economic growth momentum if India joins the project, it said.

Another article in the same daily said “Riaz’s invitation, which came as a surprise to New Delhi, is mainly intended as a gesture. While he hinted at India’s intervention in the CPEC, he welcomed India’s participation in the project, demonstrating Pakistan does not want to exclude India.”

At the same time, it said, “if any country wants to label Pakistan as ‘supporting terrorism’ and discredit the country, then China and other countries who uphold justice will oppose such behaviour strongly”.

The article said that since President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan in April, 2015, the CPEC has advanced considerably.

“However, some international forces, and India in particular, are accustomed to look at the CPEC and the One Belt and One Road initiative from a geopolitical perspective.

On one side, this is relevant to the geopolitical competition mindset they insist on, on the other, this is because of their excessive speculation on the strategic implications of the CPEC and the Belt and Road,” it said.

“To ensure the smooth advancement of the CPEC, it is necessary for Pakistan to have a stable and peaceful domestic and periphery environment and a favourable profile,” it said.

On anti-terrorism, the Afghanistan peace process, and the peace and stability of Kashmir, Pakistan is making efforts to show international society its wish to pursue peace, it said.

“The CPEC is not only a bilateral cooperation, but also a multilateral project in the long-run, which aims at regional economic integration. So it’s open and inclusive, and China and Pakistan hope India, Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian countries can participate and become stakeholders,” it added.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 13:32 IST

India-Pakistan ties: 439 Indian fishermen to return to home in January

Mumbai: Despite a complete halt to bilateral talks between India and Pakistan, 439 Indian fishermen languishing in Pakistani jails will return home in two batches, a pressure group said on Friday.

The move would bring good cheer to the fishing community as the first batch is scheduled to be home on Christmas.

Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) spokesperson Jatin Desai said that while 220 fishermen would be back on Sunday, the remaining 219 would return on 5 January 2017.

“The release is important as there is no bilateral talks and there is complete pause on the dialogue,” he added.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Desai said the PIPFPD has even urged the Indian government to reciprocate by releasing Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian prisons.

Currently, there are 516 Indian fishermen nabbed and put in Karachi jails, while 80 Pakistani fisherfolk were put in prisons in Gujarat.

“The India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners (IPJCP), set up in 2008 must meet urgently,” Desai said pointing out that both countries must pursue a ‘No Arrest Policy’ as far as fishermen were concerned.

They should also release all the confiscated fishing boats as it was their only means of livelihood, he added.

The IPJCP used to meet regularly every six months, but did not meet since the BJP-led government assumed power, Desai said.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 13:32 IST

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