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Wall Street recedes and Dow 20,000 slips further away | Reuters

By Noel Randewich

U.S. stocks fell on Thursday as investors stepped back from a recent rally fuelled by optimism that President-elect Donald Trump will invigorate economic growth.The dip pulled the Dow Jones industrial average further away from the 20,000 mark after it nearly breached the level this week for the first time. Following a sharp rally since the Nov. 8 U.S. election, the Dow is up about 14 percent for the year and the S&P 500 is 11 higher on bets that the economy will benefit from Trump’s plans for deregulation and infrastructure spending.Some investors believe that recent gains may have made stocks too expensive, and that Congress may water down or prevent major infrastructure spending or tax cuts proposed by Trump.”There are issues hanging over the market,” said Donald Selkin, chief market strategist at Newbridge Securities in New York. “You need to digest these gains, and once he becomes president, we’ll see what is actually going to get passed.” Billionaire investor Carl Icahn, tapped by Trump on Wednesday as a special adviser for regulatory issues, said in an interview on CNBC that he was concerned about the stock market in the short term following its recent surge.

A report earlier showed that the U.S. economy grew faster than initially thought in the third quarter, notching its best performance in two years. Gross domestic product increased at a 3.5 percent annual rate instead of the previously reported 3.2 percent pace, the Commerce Department said.Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose 0.2 percent in November, below the estimated 0.3 percent gain.The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was last down 0.07 percent at 19,928.76 points and the S&P 500 .SPX had lost 0.15 percent to 2,261.79. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 0.36 percent to 5,451.49.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the consumer discretionary index’s .SPLRCD 0.94 percent fall leading the decliners. The discretionary sector was weighed by a 0.57 percent drop in Amazon (AMZN.O) shares.The S&P telecommunications index .SPLRCL led the gainers with a 1.08 percent rise.Apple (AAPL.O) fell 0.74 percent after Nokia (NOKIA.HE) said it had filed a number of lawsuits against the iPhone maker for patent infringement. The stock was the biggest drag on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq.

ConAgra (CAG.N) rose 3.30 percent after the packaged foods maker’s quarterly profit beat estimates.Red Hat (RHT.N) slumped 12.6 percent after the Linux software distributor’s quarterly revenue missed estimates.Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.26-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.55-to-1 ratio favored decliners.The S&P 500 posted 11 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 100 new highs and 43 new lows. (Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 23:38 IST

Mumbai police bust baby trafficking racket amid fears more children at risk | Reuters

By Roli Srivastava

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Mumbai police have arrested a gang of six people accused of stealing babies or convincing single women to sell their children in the latest bust in a series of baby trafficking rackets.A police spokesman said the group, which included five women, sold the infants to childless couples in various states across India.The arrests followed the rescue of five children – four boys and one girl – aged between four months and one year in the states of Goa, Gujarat and Karnataka, and came less than a month after a similar trafficking racket was busted in West Bengal.Officers are now investigating if the couples that purchased the babies, for between 200,000 to 400,000 rupees ($3,000-6,000), were aware that the children had been kidnapped or bought from their biological parents.”The gang was operating for the last two to three years. We are still investigating the number of children they may have kidnapped and sold,” senior police inspector Naresh Kasale told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”We suspect more people are involved in the racket.”The police spokesman said one child has been reunited with its biological parent but the others were at a rescue home.Local media reported that police were looking into whether the group was linked to cases of kidnapping in hospitals.

‘ALARMING TREND’
Kasale said police first uncovered the racket in early December while investigating the case of a missing child in Sathe Nagar slum in Mankhurd, eastern Mumbai.They found a woman from that slum was also missing and tracked her by her mobile phone to Goa where she was detained.

She told police she had sold the child and gave them details of the racket.”She had told the couple that it was her own child and that her husband was dead and she wanted to remarry. We rescued the child and have reunited him with his parents,” Kasale said.Last month, 13 babies were rescued and the remains of two other infants discovered in a series of raids in West Bengal in what police suspect is an international child trafficking racket.Eighteen people, including doctors, midwives and the owners of charities and clinics, were arrested, suspected of taking babies from women immediately after they had given birth and telling them their children were stillborn.

Adoption experts said that two gangs busted in quick succession is indicative that baby trafficking is becoming a widespread and organised crime in India.”This is an alarming trend,” said Sunil Arora, president of Federation of Adoptive Agencies. Arora said there are laws in place for women to give up their children if they are unable to keep them but single mothers are often unaware of these processes and, fearing social stigma, may hand over children to trafficking gangs.Reports of human trafficking in India increased by 25 percent in 2015 to about 6,877 compared to the previous year. More than 40 percent of cases involved children being bought, sold and exploited as slaves, according to government data.($1=68.0181 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Roli Srivastava, Editing by Ed Upright.; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 18:44 IST

Manipur economic blockade: Mary Kom urges PM Modi to intervene, resolve crisis

New Delhi: Distressed by the economic blockade that has crippled her home state Manipur, five-time world champion boxer and Rajya Sabha MP MC Mary Kom has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and resolve the crisis.

File photo of Mary Kom. AP

File photo of Mary Kom. AP

The blockade has been imposed by United Naga Council to protest the state government’s decision to form seven new districts. The UNC claims the districts in the Naga-dominated hill areas will affect land holdings of Naga tribes settled in these areas.

The blockade which has surpassed 50 days now has crippled normal life in Manipur with scarcity of essential goods being a major concern apart form violence.

In a letter to Modi, Mary Kom, an Olympic bronze-medallist, urged him to try and resolve the issue at the earliest.

“It is to bring to your notice that the state of Manipur is going through the toughest of time with unrest situation. The whole section of communities, both in hills and valley, residing in Manipur are suffering due to the economic blockade and counter-blockade and have now turned into ugly consequences of greater destruction and if not intervened in time, there are possibilities of untoward happenings and the people are so insecure,” she wrote.

“Irrespective of the causes and reasons, I strongly recommend and request you to consider this prevailing situation in Manipur a serious matter and kindly intervene at the earliest for peaceful solution and the state be brought back to normalcy. This act will remain a great achievement and the people will remain in owe towards your kind intervention,” she said.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 15:32 IST

Tamil Nadu: IT sleuths raid chief secretary residence, office; recover Rs 30 lakh, five kg gold

Chennai: In perhaps the first case of a top bureaucrat being raided, the house and office of Tamil Nadu chief secretary was on Wednesday searched by Income Tax officials who claimed to have recovered Rs 30 lakh cash in new notes and five kgs of gold besides getting “disclosure” about Rs five crore of unaccounted income.

With about 35 personnel of CRPF providing security, around 100 Income Tax sleuths, launched the raids as early as 6 am at 15 places, including the office and the residence of Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao, his son Vivek and some relatives in Chennai and Chittoor in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, IT sources said.

A top Income Tax official said Rs 30 lakh in cash in new notes and five kgs of gold were recovered during the raids.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“Disclosure” of Rs 5 crore of unaccounted income allegedly by Vivek was also obtained, he added.

Rao or his son could not be contacted for their comments.

The IT action came in connection with a case related to the biggest cash haul of new notes post demonetisation after the department raided some sand mining operators of Tamil Nadu in Chennai.

“We proceeded (to carry out the raids) on the basis of evidence which includes documents, notings and others pointing to receipt of income by Rao and his son to the tune of about Rs 16 crore to Rs 17 crore,” the Income Tax official said.

The search locations included the residence of Rao here, his kin and associates, besides his chamber at the Secretariat, he said.

The searches, top IT sources said, were launched against Rao’s son Vivek Papisetty and his relatives, including his father-in-law based in Chittoor.

To a query on the type of evidence they had, the official said, “We have lots of evidence, otherwise, how we can conduct searches.”

He referred to the recent seizure of Rs 135 crore in cash and 177 kg of gold from sand mining baron Shekar Reddy and Srinivasulu and said “through that (operation) too we have evidence”, without elaborating.

Reddy and and his associate K Srinivasulu were on Wednesday arrested by CBI and remanded to judicial custody by a Chennai court.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 22:41 IST

India overtakes United Kingdom, economy ranks fifth in the world

India’s economy for the first time in more than a century has overtaken that of the United Kingdom, Forbes magazine reported.

Akshay Shah, a researcher at Tsinghua University, who wrote the article adds, “This dramatic shift has been driven by India’s rapid economic growth over the past 25 years as well as Britain’s recent woes, particularly with the Brexit.”

While India’s economy was expected to overtake the United Kingdom by 2020, the weakening of the Pound Sterling speeded up the process, the report said.

It is interesting to know that the UK-based policy group, Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), had predicted in December 2011, that India would become the fifth largest economy by 2020, but it has already crossed the landmark, The Times of India reported. 

According to Foreign Policy, the country’s economy now ranks fifth in the world. “India may have a large population base but this is a big leap,” Foreign Policy quoted Minister of State Kiren Rijiju as saying.

The Forbes report noted that the latest milestone implies the arrival of India on the world stage and might significantly change the power dynamics between New Delhi and the West.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 21:54 IST

Modi-Sahara bribery allegations: SC yet to probe documents, says Prashant Bhushan

New Delhi: Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who has filed a petition in the apex court demanding a probe into bribery allegations against Narendra Modi from the time he was Gujarat chief minister, said the court has not yet examined many documents.

Prashant Bhushan. PTI file imagePrashant Bhushan. PTI file image

Prashant Bhushan. PTI file image

Rejecting the corruption charges levelled by Congress vice-president against Prime Minister Modi as “baseless, shameful, and mala fide”, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad had said “even the Supreme Court has observed that these are no allegations”.

Reacting to these remarks, Bhushan said he has procured more documents following the the apex court observations to come up with “better material” to support the allegations.

“The douments recovered by the Income Tax department are a part of its appraisal report. The Supreme Court has not seen many documents presented by us. There are more documents that we have got subsequently,” Bhushan said.

Bhushan has filed a PIL in the apex court seeking a probe by an SIT into alleged recovery of documents by the IT department in connection with raids on two business houses here in 2013-14 which purportedly showed computerised inventories containing designations of top people allegedly having received money.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 20:58 IST

Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi meets Manohar Parrikar, officials term it ‘courtesy call’

New Delhi: Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, who was superseded along with another senior officer in selection of the new army chief, met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday, amid speculation that he may seek premature retirement or will be given a new role by the government.

Defence Ministry officials termed the meeting as a “courtesy call”.

They said the meeting was sought by Lt Gen Bakshi, contrary to initial claims by army sources that Parrikar had sought the meeting. Lt Gen Bakshi also met with Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag after meeting Parrikar.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Dalbir Singh is set to visit the Eastern Command in Kolkata shortly as part of his farewell tour. The army chief will hang his boots on 31 December.

A section of military experts feel that Lt Gen Bakshi may seek premature retirement. However, the process may take a month or two, sources said, adding that during this period he may go on leave.

Lt Gen Bakshi was initially the front runner for the post of the army chief. However, keeping aside the trend of seniority being the lone criteria, the government appointed Vice Chief of Army Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, a batch junior to Lt Gen Bakshi, as the new chief.

Lt Gen Rawat, an infantry soldier, was found best suited among three officers to deal with challenges like cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the situation with Pakistan, both areas which the government felt will be under focus for the next two-three years.

Another section of military experts claimed that Lt Bakshi may become the new Chief of Defence Staff, a post that has been hanging fire for the last many years.

While the creation of such a post is in “active consideration” of the government, it is unlikely that it will happen soon, they claimed.

The Centre had on 17 December appointed Lt Gen Rawat as the new army chief superseding his two senior officers — Lt Gen Bakshi and Southern Command Chief Lt Gen PM Hariz.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 20:11 IST

Mainpuri: Woman molested, assaulted along with husband in public view in SP bastion

In a shameful manifestation of public apathy and the influence of local thugs in Uttar Pradesh’s Mainpuri district, a woman was reportedly molested and later beaten up along with her husband in broad daylight as bystanders stood and watched, while some even chose to film the assault.

The video, which has gone viral on social media, since Tuesday shows a group of men brutally caning a woman and a man while a pack of bystanders watched the incident. The woman was seen bleeding from the head, yet no one from the crowd intervened.

According to reports, the couple’s young daughter was also present when the incident took place, however, the attackers fled the scene before the police arrived, according to a report in Jansatta.

The main culprit, identified as Anand Yadav, a resident of Kishani, Mainpuri district, was nabbed on Wednesday morning based on the video and eyewitness account and a case has been registered against him and two unknown miscreants, according to Dainik Bhaskar.

According to a report published in Patrika, Vandana Tiwari and Ashwin Tiwari were asking for directions to an address in Kishani Bazaar area when a local resident tried to grab the woman’s neck scarf and grope her. The couple tried to resist, after which they were badly beaten up.

Another report in Zee News,  said Vandana and Arvind have registered a complaint with the local police and threatened to shoot themselves if the culprits were not arrested soon.

Meanwhile, this is not the first incidence being reported from the area. In another shocking incident from July this year, a Dalit couple was murdered by a local shopkeeper after a spat because the couple owed him Rs 15. In August, two labourers were reportedly beaten to death by some local cops as they refused to give bribe at a checkpoint.

Mainpuri is just 20 km away from Saifai, the hometown of the ruling Akhilesh Yadav family. With Assembly elections nearing, a gruesome incident of attack and molestation in the Samajwadi Party bastion could hamper UP Chief Minister’s claims of an improving law and order situation.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 17:43 IST

Demonetisation effect: Railway station cashier in Mumbai forced into money scam by senior

Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s 50-day deadline is fast approaching. Despite Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) repeated assurances that there is enough currency stock to last beyond 30 December, the queues outside ATMs and banks are not going away. With the government flip-flopping on demonetisation rules, whether the cash crunch will stabilise after the 50-day period is a matter of conjecture.

The Income Tax department stepped up its crackdown on black money but reports of seizures of new currency notes have also emerged. In a letter to the vigilance department, a senior cashier at CST station, Mumbai revealed that she was forced by a senior to give Rs 50, Rs 100 notes in exchange of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, reported Mumbai Mirror.

The report added that the CBI has booked assistant commercial manager KL Bhoyar based on the cashier’s letter. She alleged in the letter that between 13 and 17 November Rs 7.3 lakh was exchanged from her counter.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Mumbai Mirror reported that the CBI suspects that Bhoyar has used the same modus operandi and have exchange amount that could amount to ” a few crores of rupees”.

Meanwhile, the RBI did a U-turn on customers depositing demonetised notes over Rs 5,000 till 30 December by making it clear that there will be no questions asked either in case of one-time or repeat deposits if the accounts are KYC-compliant.

Such customers will also not be questioned by bank officials on why they had failed to deposit the old notes earlier.

The RBI turnaround came as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s assurance on Monday night and on Tuesday that there will be no questions asked to customers who would make one-time deposit above Rs 5,000 failed to persuade bank officials who insisted that there should be fresh circular from RBI so that customers will not be harassed. However, customers with non-KYC accounts will be subject to stiff conditions imposed by RBI on 19 December for deposit of junked notes.

The decision follows widespread criticism of the guidelines, with people saying the Prime Minister as well as
the finance minister have asked people not to throng the banks as they have time till 30 December to deposit invalid notes in their accounts.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 17:07 IST

Jayalalithaa’s supporters immortalise her with a 68-kilogram idli tribute

Late Tamil Nadu chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s supporters continue to pay tribute to her, after her demise on 5 December. A group of supporters made a 68 kilogram idli, a south Indian delicacy, with Jayalalithaa’s face on it.

The 68-kilogram idli, was displayed at Chennai’s famous Marina Beach, where she was buried. The pictures of the idli went viral on the internet and Twitter users, expectedly, reacted to it. Much to the amusement of many, this was an unusual way of expression of love and support.

Amma’s supporters have always taken the bizarre route. Earlier, fans and supporters got themselves inked with tattoos of Amma on their bodies. Another supporter volunteered to nail himself to a cross demanding that Amma be reinstated as the state’s chief minister.

AIADMK claimed in its release that at least 597 supporters died out of grief upon hearing the news of Jayalalithaa’s demise.

The Tamil Nadu government, now led by O Panneerselvam, has declared a relief package of Rs 3 lakh to the families of those who died of grief.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 15:25 IST

Gujarat liquor ban: Govt hopes to get Governor nod for new stringent rules

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Government on Tuesday said Governor OP Kohli has given a “positive” response to granting approval to an ordinance that seeks to tighten rules against sale and consumption of alcohol in the State and enhance punishment for offenders.

The ordinance, seeking to make necessary amendments in the Gujarat Prohibition Act, was approved by the Cabinet on December 15 and sent for the Governor’s nod. The decree proposes stringent action against bootleggers, tipplers and unscrupulous officials.

Representational image. AFP.

Representational image. AFP.

Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja told reporters at Gandhinagar that Raj Bhavan is very “positive” about the ordinance and it was likely to be signed and returned to the Government with approval by Wednesday.

“As the Government is keen to implement the new Act as early as possible, Raj Bhavan has shown a positive view on the ordinance and conveyed to us that the Governor would sign it and return to us by tomorrow.

“As soon as the ordinance gets approval, the new Act will come into force with immediate effect,” said Jadeja.

Some of its key provisions include a significant increase in the penalty as well as jail term for those involved in the purchase, sale and transportation of liquor in Gujarat, where total prohibition is in force.

Under the proposed law, accused in such cases would face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of Rs 5 lakh instead of the three-year punishment under the current Act, an official release said.

Similarly, the liquor den operators, as well as those helping them, would face imprisonment up to 10 years. In another major amendment, people who create ruckus or harass others in inebriated condition would face a jail term of not less than one year and up to three years.

Currently, the punishment for such behaviour is just one to three months in jail and a fine of Rs 200-Rs 500.

As per the ordinance, officials found guilty of helping bootleggers escape raids would attract a punishment of seven years in jail and Rs one lakh fine.

For effective implementation of the new Act, the Government would form a ‘Monitoring Cell’, which will have a toll free number.

Using that number, people can inform police about any illegal activities related to liquor trade or consumption, said Jadeja.

Additional Chief Secretary (Home) MS Dagur along with DGP PP Pandey on Tuesday held a video conference with all District SPs and Range IGs to make them understand new provisions as well as powers given to police, said the release.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 13:55 IST

I-T raids uncovered Rs 3,185 Crore of undisclosed income since demonetisation

New Delhi: Over Rs 3,185 crore of un-disclosed income has been detected while Rs 86 crore worth new notes have been seized by the Income Tax department as part of its country-wide operations against black money hoarders post the demonetisation of two high value currencies by the government.

Official sources said the taxman carried out a total of 677 search, survey and enquiry operations under the provisions of the Income Tax Act since the note ban was declared on 8 November, even as the department has issued over 3,100 notices to various entities on charges of tax evasion and hawala-like dealings.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The I-T department, they said, has seized cash and jewellery worth over Rs 428 crore during the same period even as the new currency seized (majorly Rs 2000 notes) is valued at about Rs 86 crore.

“The total undisclosed income admitted or detected as part of this action, till 19 December, is more than Rs 3,185 crore,” they said.

The agency has also referred over 220 cases to its sister agencies like the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to probe other financial crimes like money laundering, disproportionate assets and corruption as part of their legal mandate.

Officials said various tax offices in the country and it’s policy-making body Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) are also coordinating with banks and their regulator RBI as part of these investigations, being carried out to check tax evasion and illegal profiteering leading to black money.

Meanwhile, the headquarters of these probe agencies have issued orders to all their field formations to deposit the new currency, being seized by their officials in operations, in bank accounts rather than keeping it in strong rooms.

“This way the new currency can come into circulation and help banks dispense it to the public,” they said.

The I-T department has also asked its field formations to coordinate with local police, also making huge cash and jewellery seizures, to understand the complete modus operandi of black money generation post demonetisation.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 22:32 IST

Are Hindus least educated? Pew study has its biases, but report is a necessary jolt

When we were young, we were taught to first confirm before saying something — whether it was kind, true or necessary. For some reason, this is the thought that came to mind when reading about a recent study by Pew Research Centre that is widely being quoted and circulated in newspaper and website write-ups, both within and outside India.

The finding by the Pew Research Centre is that Hindus are the least educated religious group in the world and that 41 percent Hindus have no formal education whatsoever. That these findings have been accepted eagerly and are being publicised verbatim is surprising. One would have thought that anyone with an innate sense of secular decency would refrain from being the cause of humiliation to an entire religion in this manner. Unless of course, the truth in this is established beyond doubt and can be used to improve the situation. Let us analyse the Pew Findings in this context.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

On the kindness parameter, the published articles are overtly and unapologetically unkind. They insinuate extreme backwardness in the religion, both in terms of absolute statistics and also highlighting gender gaps.

What about the “true” aspect? The Pew Study says it based its study on surveys in 151 countries. Surely they must have a reason to say so. One is not equipped to do a similar study to confirm the situation, but perhaps certain facts and statistics are in order here to reconcile the findings as well as to dispel the disillusionment and despair that they would have caused or reinforced.

Since the Survey states that most Hindus (94 percent) live in India, we restrict our analysis to India.

First, to say that Hindus are the least educated and that 41 percent of them have no formal education is a difficult conclusion to arrive at given that there are no exclusive Hindu schools. Admissions to schools in India is secular — with there being no segregation on the basis of religion — both in rural and urban areas. Data is also, thus, not available religion-wise. One wonders, therefore, about the nature of the sample in the survey and its size.

Next, a quick glance at some statistics available on the website of Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development’s reveal the following:
The gross enrolment ratio (the number of children enrolled in schools divided by the number of children of the corresponding school enrolment age) at the elementary level (6-13 years) stands at 96.9 in 2014-15, compared to 81.6 in 2000-01 and 67.5 in 1980-81.

The number of recognised educational institutions has doubled in the primary level, quadrupled in the upper primary level and tripled in the senior secondary level, compared with 1971. The number of females enrolled at the primary, upper primary and secondary levels are 93 percent, 95 percent and 91 percent in 2014-15, up from 78 percent, 69 percent and 63 percent respectively in 2000-01, and 63 percent and 49 percent (secondary level figures not available) in 1980-81. The average dropout rate in 2013-2014 stood at 4.3 percent in the primary level, 3.77 percent in upper primary level and 17.86 percent in secondary level.

One can juxtapose these figures against the religion-wise population figures from census 2011, according to which there are 79 percent Hindus, 14.2 percent Muslims and 6 percent people belonging to other religions like Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainsim, etc.

Going by these parameters, the conclusion of 41 percent Hindus having no formal education does seem like a mistake.

The survey also claims that Hindus outside the Asia-Pacific region are more highly educated. The important fact to note here is that most of the Hindus outside the Asia-Pacific region went there after completing their higher education in India. This is based on a May 2015 report of Migration Policy Institute, a think-tank based in Washington DC. It says: “Indian immigrants tend to have much higher educational attainment compared to both the foreign- and native-born populations. In 2013, 76 percent of Indian immigrants (ages 25 and over) had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 28 percent of all immigrants over 25 and 30 percent of native-born adults. Notably, among college-educated Indian immigrants, more than half had a graduate or professional degree.” Also the fact that India exports its engineers and doctors, but does not import any is indicative of its comparative educational adeptness rather than backwardness.

Finally, after statistics and common sense, we examine this at another level. Is there something within Hinduism that is inherently prohibitive of education in general, and particularly so for its women? A series of surveys carried out by officials of East India Company in the early 19th century revealed that education was, in fact, widespread in every village in India. Thomas Munro, governor of Madras Presidency, noted in 1826 that there were 12,498 schools with 1,88,650 students out of a total population of 1,28,00,000. In Bombay Presidency, Governor Elphinstone found 1,705 schools with 35,153 students out of a population of 46,81,735. William Adam reported from Bengal Presidency that there were 1 lakh schools in Bengal and Bihar for a population of roughly 4 crore. Typically, these were free schools, used slates and chalk, had no government control, and both boys and girls studied together. This is as far back as the 1800s.

Thus, the problem lies elsewhere not with the religion per se. That this gets reflected in religious segregation is a function of the fact that unlike Muslims and Christians who mostly belong to the rich countries with lower populations and money-backed developed education systems, Hindus mostly live in India.

That said, there is no doubt that the present day education system in India is lacking in quality and is discriminatory. Students have to choose between expensive private schools and ill-equipped government schools. Even if the numbers don’t exactly point to it, surely the lack of effective channelisation of planning and resources by the government into the Indian education system leads to an overall quality of education that begs improvement. It is in that spirit that the present government must look at the Pew Survey. Kind and true it might not be, but it has given the necessary jolt for introspection.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 16:06 IST

No homo? Bar’s refusal of entry shows all-access spaces for the LGBT are still a dream

A couple of years ago, I received a call from my friend, Suzette, late at night. She was screaming on the phone, so much that I had to keep the receiver away. She had been denied entry into a restaurant called Ginger in Kolkata. The reason – because she was the ‘park street rape victim’. She was told on her face that she couldn’t enter because she is the ‘Park Street Rape Victim’. The eatery owner had the audacity to say that she had visited the place with other men before and had created a ruckus — further maligning her character. Suzette told me that she felt raped again.

If you’re going to say that she should have been okay with it and should have gone to to more accepting places, spare me the thought. That’s not how equality works in this country. Every citizen has the right of dignity.

Representational image. APRepresentational image. AP

Representational image. AP

In January this year, a good samaritan in Pune decided to take a kid from the streets to McDonalds. The kid was not allowed. The kid was thrown out and was not allowed to buy his fanta. Because, may be, poor children spoil the look of McDonalds? Or what else could be the reason? And why should this be tolerated?

Even if you were not from Mc Donalds you would have felt really angry. You would have shared this Firstpost article on Facebook. But how do you treat your house help? How do you treat your lowest-ranking staff in your office? Do you mind him or her or her eating with you? How do you treat your house help? Wouldn’t it be a good practice to look into your own prejudices before you give us your sermons on Facebook?

Recently when I was at The Bar Stock Exchange at Lower Parel in Mumbai with a male friend, I was told at the entrance that only “couples could enter,” I quickly responded saying “we are a couple”. The staff first giggled and then said that couple meant “men and women”…all these episodes came to my head. A similar incident had happened in Shiro’s — a pub in Worli, Mumbai where a gay person was denied an opportunity to ring in the new year with his loved one from his own gender. Soon, DNA carried a story and suddenly everyone was speaking about it.

Shiro’s offered a response after being tagged many:

Dear patrons,
We extend our sincere apology on behalf of our management for the miscommunication that has gone up in the media. We strongly disagree with the accusation and we do not discriminate between people on the basis of race, ability or sexual orientation.
As a matter of precautionary measure of our female guests on the occasion of New Year and to avoid any misbehavior or unwanted issues at the restaurant where men posing a couple to gain entry, the management decided that a man can be accompanied with a couple(s) or two men can enter with a lady .
We strive to provide the best possible experience to our guests and will continue to do so.

Regards,
Shiro Management

I am also urging people to re-evaulate their Zomato reviews of Bar Stock Exchange.

We should be careful; such behaviour percolates from the management. The people, at the counter, at the door, the waiters, have been told that the meaning of couple is “man and woman” and they in-turn must be feeling that as long as there is regular influx of women, the place will be safe. We all know, how women are used as a trophy to make venues, not more accessible, but also lot more ‘attractive’. If you get the drift? Also, with so much prejudice, I haven’t seen any straight man fake his sexuality as gay, put his arms around his male friend romantically to just gain entry to a bar. If we lived in a world where this was happening, maybe, we would be in a more liberal world.

My friend Bhuvan Narang from The Little Door says “We have a ‘come as you are’ policy. We don’t care about people’s sexuality or gender. If you are drunk and behave nasty, we will kindly see you off the little door. If you are nice, we will be nice. And we will not brand all women or all men or all trans people who come to our place because of one episode or one person. That’s not how businesses work. And more importantly, that’s not how humanity works’.

Nothing will change if we don’t go to Shiro’s in Worli or the Bar Stock Exchange in Mumbai. The ‘Guysexual’ of Firstpost will still be doling out his homo gyaan. The earth will still revolve around the sun. And these little cosmic particles of homophobia will and we still will be kicking some real mean ass. That’s us. What to do. We are like that only. We don’t take insults lying down. We will not bear any cruelty against our people. Poor, rich, Dalit, Muslim, Brahmin, gay, lesbian, woman, man, trans irrespective.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 12:33 IST

Demonetistion: Sudden spurt in queues at bank branches as new deposit rules kick in

New Delhi – Unnerved by new set of guidelines announced by the RBI, people rushed to bank branches to deposit the now defunct Rs 500/1,000 notes in their accounts.

Many branches witnessed sudden surge of customers for deposits on Monday, a day before the new rules kick in.

The Reserve Bank on Monday imposed stiff restrictions on depositing more than Rs 5,000 in the scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, mandating that it can be deposited only once per account till December 30, that too after explaining to bank officials the reasons for not having done that so far.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Stipulating that restrictive conditions will also apply on the cumulative deposit of such notes in a single account when it exceeds Rs 5,000, RBI said that defunct currency up to any amount can be deposited under the new black money amnesty scheme PMGKY.

Under PMGKY, black money holders can deposit unaccounted cash in account which will be subject to 50 per cent tax and 4-year interest free lock-in for the remaining 25 per cent of the amount.

The RBI said old notes in excess of Rs 5,000 into a bank account will be received for credit only once during the remaining period till December 30, 2016.

Even after 39 days after the demonetisation of old Rs 500/1,000 notes, banks are still struggling to manage long queues as cash starved customers throng branches to get valid currency notes.

To meet the demand, branches are resorting to cash rationing as they are getting less than their requirement from currency chests.

However, the situation seems slightly better at many ATMs with increased cash availability.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said everyday RBI is injecting a large amount of currency into the banking system as part of its remonetisation exercise.

“Significant amounts are going to be injected in next three weeks which are gradually bringing the pressure down. As more and more new currency comes into circulation, the recirculation itself in the banking system and ATMs will make more currency available,” Jaitley had said.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 08:49 IST

Chennai: Madras HC bans ‘Sharia’ court in mosque, directs Tamil Nadu govt to ensure implementation

Directing the Tamil Nadu government to curb unauthorised ‘Sharia’ courts, the Madras High Court on Monday, declared all sharia courts working out of mosques as illegal, reported ANI.

The High Court made it clear that religious places are meant to be used only for religious purposes.

The High Court bench comprising of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sundar also ordered the Tamil Nadu government to file a status report within four weeks, The Times of India reported.

The court passed the order after hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Non-Resident Indian (NRI), Abdur Rahman, senior advocate A Sirajudeen told IANS.

The petitioner, an England-based NRI had first sought the intervention of a Shariat Council functioning from the Makkah Masjid in Chennai to reunite him with his wife. However, the Council forced him to divorce his wife following which he decided to approach the High Court.

The litigant’s senior counsel, however, said that the PIL was filed to in larger public interest to safeguard the interests of large number of Muslims who suffered due to the Islamic courts, according to The Times of India. 

The Makkah Masjid is located on Anna Salai, Chennai’s main arterial street.

With inputs from IANS

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 18:23 IST

Less tax for small traders on digital transactions: Govt

New Delhi: In a bid to promote less cash economy, the government today said small traders and businesses with a turnover of up to Rs 2 crore will pay less tax if they accept payments through banking and digital means.

A customer performs a transaction on an ATM at a branch of Hungary's largest lender OTP Bank in central Budapest July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh (HUNGARY - Tags: BUSINESS) - RTX11X2YA customer performs a transaction on an ATM at a branch of Hungary's largest lender OTP Bank in central Budapest July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh (HUNGARY - Tags: BUSINESS) - RTX11X2Y

Reuters

Under the existing Section 44AD of the Income-Tax Act, 1961, in case of certain assesses (an individual, HUF or a partnership firm other than LLP) carrying on any business having a turnover of Rs 2 crore or less, the profit is deemed to be 8 percent of the total turnover for taxation.

“…it has been decided to reduce the existing rate of deemed profit of 8 per cent under section 44AD of the Act to 6 percent in respect of the amount of total turnover or gross receipts received through banking channel/digital means for the financial year 2016-17,” the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said in a communication.

The decision has been taken to achieve the government’s mission of moving towards a less cash economy and to incentivise small traders/businesses to proactively accept
payments by digital means, it said.

“However, the existing rate of deemed profit of 8 percent referred to in section 44AD of the Act, shall continue to apply in respect of total turnover or gross receipts received in cash,” the tax department added.

Legislative amendment in this regard would be carried out through the Finance Bill, 2017, the CBDT added.

Following decision to demonetise old Rs 500/1000 notes, the government has taken several measures to encourage digital payments to promote less cash economy.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 17:37 IST

JNU missing student case: Delhi Police search university campus for Najeeb

New Delhi: Police on Monday reached the sprawling Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus in search of a student who went missing over two months ago.

Crime Branch personnel searched different parts of the campus with sniffer dogs in a desperate bid to find out what happened to Najeeb, whose disappearance had led to unending protests in the university.

Representational image. CNN-News18Representational image. CNN-News18

Representational image. CNN-News18

A police officer said Najeeb’s hostel, classrooms, rooftops and other deserted places were scanned.

“A search operation is on in various parts of the JNU campus to get clues which can help police locate Najeeb,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Ravindra Yadav said.

The search began as police have been unable to get any trace of the missing Najeeb, who went missing on 15 October following a scuffle the previous night with members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad (ABVP). The ABVP has denied any involvement in Najeeb’s disappearance.

Police have raised the reward amount for providing information that could help locate Najeeb from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.

The Delhi High Court has directed the police to scan the entire JNU campus.

The court said the police were also free to search Jamia Millia Islamia where Najeeb was reportedly dropped by an auto-rickshaw driver after he left from JNU campus.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 16:11 IST

Indian Railways cancels 78 trains till 15 Jan due to fog in northern India

New Delhi: Railways have decided to cancel 78 trains till 15 January next year in view of dense fog in many parts of north India reducing visibility.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Sealdha Express, North East Express, Begumpura Express, Lucknow Double-Decker Express, Gorakhpur Weekly Express, Jaipur-Chandigarh Express and Mau Express are among 78 trains which will remain cancelled till 15 January, said a senior Railway Ministry official.

Out of 78, there are 34 train services in Northern zone which include Chandigarh-Amritsar Express, Rohtak Intercity, Varanasi-Dehradun Express, Lichchavi Express and Unchahar Express which will remain non-operational till mid-January next year.

“Since the visibility has been reduced due to dense fog situation, we have taken precautionary measures by announcing cancellation of these trains in advance,” he said.

Regular announcements are being made to inform passengers about the train positions. Help desks have also been set up at various stations to guide people to avail train service for their destinations.

Loco drivers have been given strict instructions to drive slowly during the foggy weather.

About 34 Delhi-bound trains are running late by several hours on Monday due to bad weather.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 15:40 IST

Demonetisation: Cashlessness sting still painful on day 41

New Delhi: There was no respite in sight for cash-strapped people on Monday as queues outside banks and ATMs for withdrawing money continued across the city with rising anger and pain.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

An IANS correspondent who visited about 10 banks and ATMs across the city, found over 150 people outside Punjab National Bank and State Bank of India in Kalkaji area of south Delhi.

Similar conditions were witnessed outside the Indian Overseas Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank in Preet Vihar area in east Delhi.

Jaswant Sharma, a security guard with a law firm and resident of Kalkaji extension, told IANS: “Since the day I got my salary I am looking for an ATM to withdraw some cash. Three of my attempts have gone in vein as the ATM machine runs out of cash before my turn comes.

Asked if he supports the government’s move of scrapping the old Rs 500 and 1,000 notes, Sharma said: “I have nothing to do with the government decision, I just want to withdraw some cash as I am left with only Rs 10 in my pocket. Cash is the necessity.”

“I have borrowed the bicycle from one of my friend to reach here,” he rued.

There were around 300 people outside the Yes Bank and HDFC ATM kiosk in Kalkaji area around 12.30 a.m. which was dispensing cash till early morning.

Balkishan, a lawyer who had arrived at the ATM to withdraw cash with his 12-year-old son, told IANS: “At most of the places people in the queues do not allow withdrawal from multiple cards. So I have come with my son to withdraw money from two cards.”

“We cannot stand in bank or ATM queue everyday, what comes in mere Rs 2,500,” he asked.

However, similar situation was witnessed outside the banks on Monday morning, which opened after Sunday. Hundreds of people were seen waiting for their turn.

Balwinder Singh, a resident of South Extension Part II who was standing outside Punjab National Bank in south Delhi, told IANS: “It is completely mismanaged show.”

“The government has made the middle and working class people suffer. Today I have skipped my office for the third time since demonetisation to withdraw cash.”

“Is government going to pay me for the days I have skipped my office to withdraw some cash?” he said.

Echoing similar opinion, Neha Sharma, an IT professional working with an MNC in Noida, said: “We cannot skip office everytime by giving the excuse that we need to withdraw some cash.”

“The government has set the limit of Rs 24,000 a week, but the bank officials are only giving Rs 4,000,” she rued.

“How do we manage our expenses for whole month in just Rs 4,000,” she asked.

Serpentine queues have been witnessed across the country after the government’s November 8 decision to spike higher currency notes to curb “black money and corruption”.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 12:32 IST

Kerala: Five accused of ragging college student surrender

Kottayam: Five of the seven students accused in the ragging case in government polytechnic, in which a first year student suffered kidney damage, have surrendered before police, police said on Monday. The five senior students surrendered before the Deputy Superintendent of Police at Changanassery near here last night.

According to police, there are a total of seven accused in the case and two are still absconding.

On the night of 2 December, eight first-year students of the polytechnic at Nattakom here were allegedly subjected to brutal ragging by a gang of senior students at the men’s hostel of the college.

Two students — one hailing from Irinjalakkuda in Thrissur district, and another from Cheranallur in Ernakulam district — were seriously injured in the incident. They have been admitted to hospitals in Thrissur and Ernakulam respectively.

Representational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

The student from Irinjalakkuda has been hospitalised with kidney damage, police said.

He was put on dialysis after doctors diagnosed him with kidney damage. The victim underwent dialysis three times after his admission in the hospital 11 days ago.

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

The accused were absconding after police booked them for allegedly ragging their juniors in the hostel.

They have also been suspended from the institution.

Two cases have been registered against the accused based on two separate complaints by the two students, police said.

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

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 12:00 IST

Demonetisation effect: Delhi man assaulted for criticising PM Modi for note ban

New Delhi: A 45-year-old man was allegedly attacked with cricket bails after he blamed the prime minister for the serpentine queue outside a bank in southeast Delhi’s Jaitpur area, police said on Monday.

According to complainant Lallan Singh Kushwaha, he was on his way to buy a television set on 15 December, when he passed an ATM and noticed the long queue, they said.

He said ‘Modiji ki wajah se line lagi hai’ (queue is because of Modi), following which a man named Atik came out of the crowd and started beating him.

Kushwaha alleged that the accused also took away Rs 6,000 from him, police said.

The matter is being investigated, they added.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 11:07 IST

Bipin Rawat as next Army Chief: Superseding three army commanders sets an ugly precedent

Superseding three active General Officer(s) Commanding-in-Chief of three ‘armies’ has never occurred since 1947, so let’s stop talking about precedents. That is complete nonsense. Why are we so nice about the mishandled manner in which the new army chief (Bipin Rawat) was announced with 14 days to go instead of the customary 90 days? The only one precedent was the clumsy bypassing of Lt Gen Mani Sinha in place of Lt Gen Vaidya and General Sinha did what Generals do — he put in his resignation. As a protest. Hardly a high-water mark in the annals of military history, the way he was set aside.

Which is exactly what Lt Gen PM Hariz, Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Lt Gen BS Negi will do — either retire or simply put in their papers.

Bipin_Rawat_380_GettyBipin_Rawat_380_GettyConsequently, we will have three top commands in Southern, Eastern and Central armies without leadership around the same time since none of these officers will serve a junior at this high level.

In army lexicon they have been bypassed, period. They will go home. Has anybody figured out that between these three Generals — who have not been made chief — commanded 70 percent of the active forces in the Indian Army? If they were so average, why were they in charge?

Yes, the government has the right to do exactly what it wishes in the selection, even if others find fault with it. In the ranks of this government is a former chief who fought hard to stay in the job by making an issue of his age thereby setting the most shabby precedent in the Indian armed forces.

The fact that the new chief is in South Block and his three seniors are in active command indicates a definite flaw. The vice chief like the Vice President is a goodbye gift. No one knows what he does. The job is largely a sinecure. So how exactly did he stand out?

To supersede three Generals commanding your armies is either an act of arrogance or such incredible military insight that even the famous strategist Sun Tzu would have been impressed. How do you, and why do you bypass three Generals in active command of your armies?

Not only does this cause dismay, it jump-starts the domino principle with at least 50 potential three-star Generals and two-star aspirants reworking their career paths thanks to this announcement. We suddenly have three degrees of separation and several three-star officers looking at retirement will now look at the possible fourth star and realign their priorities.

You cannot really believe for a moment that between bureaucrats and politicians, they have a clue as to how effective or of what calibre these three sidelined officers are. You have to be naïve to think they know who suited them most or was of the highest calibre. To put it bluntly, as a fellow Gurkha officer incumbent General Suhag probably advocated his brother officer’s cause — the fact that General Rawat was in Delhi gave him access or at least presence in the capital while attending meetings in these troubled times also helped. He was relatively familiar.

Unlike his three seniors who are commanding active armies. Compare their career records — all first rate.

All this said, the government exercised a right. Will it change the dynamics of the Indian army? For sure. The government has found a trump card to keep its top echelons pliable, pliant and obedient and, oh yes, politically non-ambitious. Today, the fourth, tomorrow who knows? (Maybe the ninth).

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 20:31 IST

Demonetisation: ‘48.63 lakh in unorganised sector could lose jobs,’ claims Ajay Maken

New Delhi: As many as 48.63 lakh workers in the unorganised sector in the national capital may become unemployed due to “faulty implementation of demonetisation” and they have already started going back to their home states, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken claimed.

A march will be held on 24 December from Jantar Mantar to Parliament House by Delhi Poorvanchal Congress, in association with Delhi Parvatiya Congress and Delhi South Indian Congress, to highlight the plight of migrant labourers due faulty implementation of demonetisation, he said.

“48.63 lakh unorganized/informal workforce in Delhi consist of first-generation migrant labour. After faulty implementation of demonetisation, reverse migration has begun in Delhi,” Maken alleged.

File photo of Delhi Congress Chief Ajay Maken. Reuter

File photo of Delhi Congress Chief Ajay Maken. Reuter

“Lakhs of labourers have already returned to their homes, and around 15,000 labourers are returning to their homes from Delhi every day, which is stalling development works in the national capital,” he claimed.

The Delhi Congress chief said he had written a letter to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on 9 December to draw his attention towards this issue and had asked him to take steps to stop reverse migration of this informal workforce.

Claiming that he has not received any reply from the Chief Minister, Maken said the Delhi Government has not taken any steps to implement his suggestion that Rs 5,000 be given to these labourers as monthly unemployment allowance, which is nearly 50 percent of minimum wages.

“Major projects in Delhi have come to a standstill as labourers are not getting their daily wages due to the cash crunch. The daily earning of rickshaw pullers have also come down sharply. “If steps are not taken immediately to stop reverse migration of the informal workforce, it will take a long time for Delhi to come back to its normal routine,” he claimed.

Quoting a survey on employment by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), Maken said as per the 68th Round, between 2011 and 2012, the working population of Delhi was 57.06 lakh. “The data of Directorate of Employment, Delhi Government reveals that the total                                                                                                              number of workers in the organised sector was 8.43 lakh in 2009. This figure has remained almost consistent in the last one decade,” he                                                                                                              said.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 19:13 IST

Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba to visit Japan to expand maritime relations

New Delhi: To consolidate and expand the maritime relation between New Delhi and Tokyo, India’s Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba will visit Japan from 19 December, a statement said on Sunday.

During the visit, Admiral Lanba will hold discussions with the Japanese Navy chief, the Defence Minister and the Chief of Joint Staff besides other senior officials and dignitaries.

Defence cooperation between India and Japan is primarily focused towards maritime cooperation, the statement said.

The Navy is waiting for the government’s approval to purchase 12 US-2i amphibious aircraft from Japanese aircraft maker ShinMaywa for Rs 10,000 crore.

This will be the largest defence purchase from Japan after it ended its five decades old self-imposed embargo defence export. The deal is stuck since 2013.

Sunil Lanba. CNN News 18Sunil Lanba. CNN News 18

Sunil Lanba. CNN News 18

Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force has participated in the Malabar naval exercise in 2007, 2009, 2014 prior to being included as a regular member in the exercise since last year.

The force participated in Malabar 15 and 16 held respectively in the Bay of Bengal and Western Pacific.

Japan was in 2014 included as an observer in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, a maritime cooperation construct conceptualised and pioneered by the Indian Navy in 2008.

The aggressive posturing of the Chinese Navy in East Asia and South China sea has compelled both India and Japan to formulate a joint maritime strategy.

India and Japan share similar maritime challenges such as long coastline, extensive exclusive economic zone, coastal security, large coastal shipping and fishing fleet, and both navies have opportunities to learn from each other’s experiences.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 18:16 IST

Uttarakhand government employees to get 7th Pay Commission hike from 1 January

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat. File photo. PTIUttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat. File photo. PTI

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat. File photo. PTI

Dehradun: Ahead of the Uttarakhand assembly elections next year, the state government has decided to implement recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission from 1 January, official sources said.

The decision, which will benefit around 2.5 lakh government employees and pensioners, was taken in the state cabinet meeting headed by Chief Minister Harish Rawat on Saturday.

The government employees will get the benefit of the 7th Pay Commission from January 1 next year, they said. The arrears for this year will be paid after the finalisation of the procedure for the same.

As a result of the cabinet’s decision, the treasury will have to bear a burden of Rs 3000 crore, they said. The decision to implement the 7th Pay Commission recommendations for government employees of corporation and public venture will be taken by their board and Finance Secretary Amit Negi has been assigned responsibility in this regard.

Dehradun-Haridwar-Rishikesh have been declared metropoliton cities and a consent to make a detailed project report for metro has been given to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).

The state government also posed a penalty of Rs 2 crore and Rs 2.5 crore for PG doctors for violating bond of 5 years with the state for essential service.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 17:10 IST

Cyclone Vardah relief: Tamil Nadu CM O Panneerselvam to meet PM Modi

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

File image of O Panneerselvam. PTI

Chennai: Days after he urged the Centre to grant Rs 1000 Crore for cyclone relief operations in the state, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday to press the demand.

He will also urge the Centre to posthumously confer “Bharat Ratna” on former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and also put up her life size bronze statue in Parliament complex, an official release said.

The first Cabinet meeting chaired by Panneerselvam on 10 December had adopted a resolution in which the twin matters of the highest civilian award and a statue for Jayalalithaa figured.

On 13 December, a day after the cyclone wrecked havoc in the state, Panneerselvam had urged Modi in a letter to sanction Rs 1,000 crore from the National Disaster Response Fund to the state for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Panneerselvam will also give a memorandum on several other demands of Tamil Nadu to the Prime Minister, the release said adding he will return to Chennai the same day. After he took over as Chief Minister on 6 December, it will be the first visit of Panneerselvam to the PM in Delhi and he is expected to follow up on the previous memorandums submitted to Modi by his predecessor Jayalalithaa.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 15:41 IST

Axis Bank MD says embarrassed over conduct of few employees, orders forensic audit for more safeguards

New Delhi: “Embarrassed and upset” over the conduct of a handful of employees bringing the organisation into disrepute, Axis Bank MD and CEO Shikha Sharma on Sunday said the bank has hired KPMG to conduct a forensic audit for enhanced due diligence and building more safeguards.

Assuring that the fundamentals of the bank is on a “solid footing’, Sharma said in a letter to Axis Bank customers that the bank is tracking sudden surge in account activity and have ‘proactively identified potentially suspicious accounts”.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The recent media reports around the conduct of a few of our employees have left me embarrassed and upset. We have fallen short of your expectations because a handful of people did not follow our fully compliant and robust processes. We have taken the toughest action against such employees and we will do so in every case of divergence from our Code of Conduct.

“I regret that the misdeeds of a few people have eroded the hard work of 55,000+ employees, who have been at the front end beyond working hours, displaying extraordinary patience and commitment to their responsibilities,” she said in the letter.

The Income Tax Department had last week conducted a raid at an Axis Bank branch in Noida and unearthed Rs 60 crore from the accounts of 20 shell companies.

Sharma said the bank has proactively identified suspicious accounts and has given inputs to regulatory authorities for further investigation.

“I would like to reassure you that the bank has always been committed to the highest standards of operational control and continues to fully cooperate with the authorities. We have been tracking sudden surges in account activity and have proactively identified potentially suspicious accounts.

“This proactive identification has been one of the inputs in investigation by the regulatory authorities, who are visiting some of our branches to seek out information. Further, we have hired KPMG to conduct a forensic audit for enhanced due diligence and building more safeguards,” she said.

Thanking customers for the support and understanding since the demonetisation initiative, Sharma said it has been a challenging time and the bank has tried its “level best” to make it easier for customers.

“We have made every effort to ease the transition by making special arrangements for senior citizens and differently abled people at our branches, using micro-ATMs to deliver cash to BSF personnel, ensuring salary disbursement to government and corporate employees across the length and breadth of our country,” Sharma wrote.

“I assure you that the fundamentals of the bank, built painstakingly over the last 22 years, focused on serving its retail and corporate customers are on a solid footing… We will always safeguard your interests because your trust matters the most. I look forward to your continued confidence in making us a safe, strong bank that is always focused on you,” she said in the letter.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 15:32 IST

Demonetisation: ED registers case against Noida Axis Bank branch for forging customer identity

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has registered a money laundering case in the alleged forging of a customer’s identity to conduct huge illegal transactions in an Axis Bank branch in Noida for conversion of black funds into white post demonetisation.

The individual, identified as N Paswan, in his complaint filed with the police has claimed that his identity has been forged and a current and a savings account were opened in his name in the said branch which were allegedly used to launder crores of rupees post demonetisation.

Officials said the ED registered a criminal complaint under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) taking cognisance of the police FIR on a complaint filed by Paswan, a resident of Delhi’s Pitampura area.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

They said while the bank branch, in sector 51 of Noida, is already under scanner by the Income Tax department owing to alleged dubious transactions using shell companies, the ED has come into picture to probe proceeds of crime which were generated through use of various fake accounts which also have “fake or weak” KYC (Know your customer) details.

They said the amount under scanner of the central probe agency is over Rs 60 crore.

Officials added that the agency is probing more than two dozen accounts in the bank here which could have been used to perpetrate the crime of money laundering, in the wake of the scrapping of Rs 1,000/500 notes.

Meanwhile, the ED also conducted searches on the premises of four bullion traders in Mumbai on Friday in a similar probe.

The agency has also sought freezing of few bank accounts of these traders as part of its probe, they said.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 19:10 IST

Demonetisation is good, for many reasons: Surat CA’s video explaining velocity of money goes viral

A chartered accountant from Surat, who penned an open letter to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal explaining Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s demonetisation move using two imaginary, but interesting scenarios, is back with another video on note ban.

Mehul Shah in the video, produced by Tax Origin, explains how the decision to demonetise will increase ‘velocity of money’. Velocity of money denotes the number of times a unit of money in an economy changes hands during a certain period. Shah says that cash is not supposed to be hoarded because it is not a commodity, instead, cash is meant to be used as a “medium of exchange” for goods and services to be received. “A single note of Rs 1,000 is worth Rs 10,00,000 if it passes through 1,000 citizens across the country in a year and is worth only Rs 1,000 if it is kept idle in a locker. This is called the velocity of money.”

Asserting that demonetisation will increase veloctiy of money, Shah adds a rider.

“It is true that the economy may surely be benefited if the velocity of money increases and theoretically the move of demonetization and move towards cashless economy should help to increase the Velocity of Money but it cannot be proved with certainty because we never knew the velocity of money in parallel economy because those transactions were never captured in accounts or public records.”

The video strictly advises people not to sell notes at discounted prices or deposit cash into benaami accounts in fear of penalty. Shah further tells not to claim any bogus expenses or bogus loss to gain more trouble. “Do not manipulate accounts by creating bogus cash on hand. Be sporty and pay tax honestly to buy peace of building capital.”

Even though Shah’s blog is ridden with jargons, the video will help you understand the concept and benefits of a cashless economy better. If we had to cut through the jargon and explain the concept in a gist, it would be this:

Since cash leaves no trails and it is hard to pinpoint black money hoarders in a parallel economy, a cashless economy is probably the best way to cut through all the corruption.

“…the task of the Government as well as citizens is not going to be easy because as I said earlier, Cash leaves no trails. Hence it is in the interest of the Government as well as we common man to adopt to cashless means of doing business and encourage everyone to use banking route as much as possible.”

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 16:28 IST

Jaitley hints not all scrapped notes will be remonetised, digital currency will fill gaps

New Delhi: On SaturdayFinance Minister Arun Jaitley hinted that not all of the Rs 15.44 lakh crore worth of currency junked will be remonetised through issuance of new notes as he said digital currency will fill the gap.

Calling the scrapping of old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes as “a courageous step”, he said the government could do it as India today has the capacity to take such decisions and experiment boldly.

The move will create a new Indian normal as the one that existed for the past seven decades is “unacceptable”, he said, adding that demonetisation will help rid the economy of high cash circulation that had led to tax evasion, blackmoney and currency being used for crime.

Arun Jaitley. PTIArun Jaitley. PTI

Arun Jaitley. PTI

“One of the efforts of this exercise has to be that even though a reduced cash currency could remain, our conscious effort… (is) to supplement the rest with a digital currency,” he said while addressing annual general meeting of industry chamber FICCI.

As many as 17,165 million pieces of Rs 500 denomination and 6,858 million pieces of Rs 1,000 banknotes were in circulation on 8 November when the government made the surprise announcement.

Jaitley further said: “The whole process of remonetisation is not going to take very long time and I’m sure very soon the Reserve Bank by injecting currency daily into the banking and postal system will be able to complete that.”

Also, the push to use the digital mode to make payments has been gaining ground. “The manner it has taken place in the last five weeks is indeed commendable. Only a section of Parliament seems unaware of what is happening,” he said.

Once the remonetisation process is complete, it will mark “the creation of a new Indian normal because the normal that existed for 70 years is an unacceptable normal,” he added.

“The 70-year normal had become a way of life for almost every Indian. It was not merely a fact that you had a lot more cash currency, far larger cash currency as part of your GDP… the economic and social consequences of that are extremely adverse.”

He made a point that dealing in that cash currency had led to a lot of aberrations in terms of tax non-compliance, currency being used for collateral purposes like crime, escaping the tax net and not getting into the banking system.

The government took “a somewhat courageous step” of withdrawing high demonetisation currency and went in for a large currency swap.

“The fact that India today has the capacity to take these decisions and capacity to enforce them, to experiment boldly even when at a time when the world is looking more inwards, marks an exception as far as India is concerned,” the finance minister asserted.

Jaitley also spoke of the country’s “stamina” to sustain a decision like demonetisation, which has “clear long-term gains even at the cost of short-term inconveniences”.

“Therefore, once we have that stamina notwithstanding fringe positions taken by national parties, one would always be able to implement these extremely successfully. Long-term benefits of these are going to be absolutely clear even if we bear the short-term pains,” he said.

He seemed confident that the existing almost 75 crore debit and credit cards in the market, besides e-wallets, will help increase digital transactions. He also made a pitch that these transformations will have to be carried to their logical conclusion.

“There are, of course, even as we reform, domestic trends which are being visible on digitization of payments,” Jaitley said, adding that the government has clarity of direction as well as a broad shoulder and stamina to sustain these decisions.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 12:31 IST

AgustaWestland scam: Italy’s highest court suspends Finmeccanica ex-boss’s corruption sentence

Rome: Italy’s highest court has suspended a sentence handed earlier this year to the former boss of aerospace and defence group Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, for false accounting and corruption in connection with the sale of 12 luxury helicopters to India, Italian media reported.

Reuters

India cancelled the deal with AgustaWestland in January 2014 amid allegations that the company paid bribes to win the € 556-million ($753 million) contract. Reuters

The Friday decision came after both the defence and the prosecution had requested a suspension, on grounds that the Milan appeals court’s sentence in April differed too greatly from an earlier ruling. In April, Orsi was sentenced to four-a-half-years years in jail for false accounting and corruption. Also handed a four-year jail term on the same charges was Bruno Spagnolini, former head of AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica.

The pair had been sentenced to two years in prison in October 2014 for false accounting. The court of cassation has referred the case back to the appeals tribunal. Italian media believe that the case will be closed when the statute of limitation expires in March 2017.

The case against Orsi and Spagnolini resulted from an investigation launched in 2012 into the sale of 12 luxury helicopters to the Indian government. Orsi was arrested in 2014 and resigned as chief executive of the aerospace group a short while later.

India cancelled the deal with AgustaWestland in January 2014 amid allegations that the company paid bribes to win the € 556-million ($753 million) contract. The aborted deal was a severe setback for Finmeccanica, having already been hammered by the global financial crisis.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 09:50 IST

Pakistani troops violate ceasefire, target army posts, civilian areas in Poonch

Poonch (J&K): After a lull of over three weeks, the ceasefire on the LoC was violated again with Pakistani army on Friday, resorting to heavy cross-border firing at Indian posts and civilians areas in Balakote sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district.

“Pakistani army violated ceasefire, targeting Indian positions along the Line of Control in Balakote sector. The firing started at 0900 hours continued till 1000 hours. Our soldiers gave a befitting reply,” an army official said.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The ceasefire breach comes after a lull of over three weeks. Two BSF jawans were injured in shelling by Pakistani troops along the LoC on 23 November, a day after three Indian soldiers were killed and the body of one of them was mutilated in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

A senior police officer said shells fired by the Pakistani troops landed in civilian areas in the sector. However, there was no report of loss of life or injury to anyone.

The Pakistani army said one civilian was killed and four school children were injured on their side in the exchange of fire.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 15:41 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Tamil Nadu govt ‘prepared’ for vector-borne diseases in three affected districts

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government on Friday said it has put in place preventive measures in the three Cyclone affected districts of Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur towards ensuring public health, including steps to prevent spread of vector-borne diseases.

File photo. Reuters

File photo. Reuters

Chief Minister O Panneerselvam reviewed the measures taken by the Health and Family Welfare Department to prevent spread of contagious diseases, the government said in a release.

As part of disease-prevention measures, the government has set up 161 mobile health units, pressed into service 119 numbers of Ambulance services, 50 each food protection and chlorination teams and 51 units to handle mosquito menace.

These steps were aimed at delivering health services to people of the affected areas, addressing emergency situations, ensuring safe and protected drinking water supply and prevention of vector-borne diseases by addressing mosquito menace, it said.

While 3,000 personnel had been employed in implementing these activities, the government has also stocked Rs 90 crore worth medicines and drugs, it said.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 15:39 IST

Nusli Wadia files defamation suit against Tata Sons, seeks Rs 3,000 cr damages

Mumbai – Industrialist Nusli Wadia on Thursday filed a defamation suit against Tata Sons in the Bombay High Court, seeking damages for harming his reputation while proposing to remove him as an independent director of three of Tata Group companies.

The suit is expected to come for hearing in due course, according to the HC website.

According to media reports, Wadia has sought Rs 3000 crore in damages. A report in The Economic Times said Wadia has sought compensation from the Tatas for the accusations the group has levelled against him without giving any valid reasons.

Nusli WadiaNusli Wadia

Nusli Wadia

The suit comes in the wake of the special notice seeking removal of Wadia as independent director of three Tata companies. Wadia has claimed the notice was defamatory to him.

Earlier, Wadia had served three legal notices to Tata Group, seeking to initiate criminal and civil actions against Tata Sons and its directors for his proposed removal.

No immediate reaction was available from Tata Group.

On Wednesday, four minority shareholders of Tata Group firms had moved the HC challenging proposed removal of Wadia.

The three Tata companies, on a direction of Tata Sons, have called EGMs to remove Wadia from their boards under the section 169.

Last week, another group of minority shareholders of Tata companies moved the High Court claiming damages from Tata Sons interim chairman Ratan Tata and others for losses suffered by investors after shares of group companies fell following Mistrys sacking.

With PTI

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 08:57 IST

Demonetisation and NITI Aayog’s boost: We need real economic incentives, not casino sops

Is India entering a new era where crony capitalism of the rich is being replaced by casino capitalism of the poor? That seems like it after the NITI Aayog in its latest gambit — or should that be gamble ? — to promote cashless transactions, on Thursday introduced a lottery system for digital transactions, a week after rolling out other concessions to sweeten digital transactions.

The bounty of Rs 340 crore available in the sweepstakes seems too small in a nation that has 23 crore Jan Dhan Yojana accounts. This is like putting Rs 15 into each account but in a nation that loves one-day cricket matches and the adrenaline of victory, the small amount by national standards may appear like a big bounty up for grabs among the millions.

But seriously, such artificial props are needed because some fundamental issues are not yet resolved in Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s quest to build a “less-cash” society in order to combat black money.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

First, bank deposit rates have almost always been well behind the retail price inflation for decades. This means that apart from exposing your money to the taxman’s snoop, your rate of return on deposits are below traditional investments such as real estate. It is true that real estate has been in a slump in India over the past three years or so and returns slipped below fixed deposit rates in recent months. But can long-term trends be reversed in a short span? The jury is still out on that.

Secondly, there is an understandable debate on whether mobile wallet companies such as Freecharge, PayTM and Mobikwik and credit/debit card issuers such as Visa and Mastercard will make money on transactions that do not necessarily benefit users except when they are under a compulsion to do so. It is important to remember that all the waiver of merchant discount charges by public sector companies and sops offered by financial service providers are temporary in.

E-wallet sops on now are aimed at building up market share for competing brands. Where is the underlying sustainable value addition? PayTM’s losses quadrupled to Rs 1,549 crore in the last fiscal year, and this year’s number is bound to be a multiple. They do have an e-commerce spin behind the payment game, but “It’s complicated!”

In fact, the CEO of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), AP Hota, was moaning on national TV last weekend that he has all the things that mobile wallet companies have, except the marketing budget. He has a point. NPCI is championing the Aadhar-linked Universal Payments Interface (UPI) for confidential transfer of money through mobile numbers without the fuss. We need a real economic logic to understand how so many players will thrive in digital transactions.

Trying to promote middle entities through artificial incentives is a bit like paying people to use a courier service to hand over a packet of milk to a neighbour.

A joke on WhatsApp says you now need a smartphone, a data pack, a net banking ID and an app to pay for a packet of bread. This is an exaggeration but not without substance in a nation where cash transactions ensure economy, liquidity, ease and confidentiality — and this does not necessarily mean tax evasion. Certainly not for poor workers whose life is easier with cash.

Last but not the least, issues linger on adaptability and cybersecurity. In a world where even highly educated desktop computer users need technology support and guidance on virus and phishing issues, forcing the pace of cashless transactions involves a high risk. And I am not even talking about bandwidth issues. Cyclone Vadrah in Chennai this week proved even electricity is vulnerable to shutdowns. Can wireless links be good enough?

Both basic technology and economic barriers stand in the way of India becoming a “less-cash” society. There is no doubt that people will keep up digital options in mind to avert the kind of uncertainties they have faced after the 8 November demonetisation. Also, a growth in digital transactions may bring down the charges per transaction through technology-based platforms.

However, we might have to wait till the next budget to see some real tax incentives that might make digital deals worth it — and this should be accompanied by an inflation management and interest rate policy that adds economic logic to doing more deals through electronic means.

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

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 08:07 IST

Two dead in Uttar Pradesh, as cold wave sweeps across north India

New Delhi: Cold wave conditions continued in parts of north India, with two lives lost in Uttar Pradesh, although the capital Delhi experienced pleasant weather.

Cold wave persisted throughout the country. AP file imageCold wave persisted throughout the country. AP file image

Cold wave persisted throughout the country. AP file image

The national capital witnessed a pleasant day, with a minimum of 10.4 degrees and maximum of 24.3 degrees Celsius, a notch above the season’s average. However, shallow foggy conditions in the morning led to cancellation of 13 trains. Flight operations remained normal at the Indira Gandhi International airport.

Two persons died, allegedly due to cold in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki district while shallow to moderate fog continued at a few places in the state. According to the met department, night temperatures fell in Agra and was appreciably below normal in Lucknow and Gorakhpur, and remained normal in remaining divisions of Uttar Pradesh.

Fog also played spoilsport in parts of Punjab and Haryana, disrupting normal life, even as minimum temperatures hovered above normal levels in the region.

Amritsar was the coldest place in the two states registering 6.8 degrees Celsius; Chandigarh settled at 9.9 degrees, three above normal; the minimum temperature at Karnal was 10 degrees.

Rail, road and air traffic were affected due to poor visibility in the states, officials said. The northern state of Rajasthan also reeled under cold wave conditions, with the minimum temperature dipping to 6.9 degrees Celsius. The capital city of Jaipur recorded a minimum of 11.2 degrees Celsius, a fall by 3.5 degrees from the previous day. The met said a further dip in temperature is predicted in the state in next 24 hours.

Bihar, meanwhile, experienced a warm day with the sun shining bright as both maximum and minimum temperatures increased.

Meanwhile, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said global warming was responsible for milder winter in the northern parts this season. “With temperatures being recorded above normal levels in several parts of north India, global warming is one of the major reasons for a milder winter this season,” it said.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 20:28 IST

Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurveda gets fined but he remains India’s best known Baba as well as Lala

Nobody can point out the precise moment when Baba (ascetic) Ramdev made the transition to Lala (trader) Ramdev. When he graduated from being a humble yoga guru to the one-stop solution to every conceivable, or inconceivable, malady.

Sexual dysfunction. Vyakti ki shakti kam parna, as he puts it lyrically. Tick.

Hairfall, alopecia (a communicable disease, he claims) and baldness. Tick.

Can’t conceive. “When mata-behen have to go to pakhandis out of desperation,” he prophetically claimed. Shivlingi Putrajeevak, tick.

Think of a problem — diagnosed, undiagnosed, imagined, perceived, anything — Baba Ramdev had a solution for it. And soon he turned Patanjali into a global brand and himself into a tireless brand ambassador of everything Indian, its great heritage of healing diseases through roots, leaves, seeds and, well, anything that grows on this great land. So much so that an average Indian would start his morning with Patanjali toothpaste and end the day with natural contraceptives suggested by the venerable Baba.

Turns out, everything that is sold in saffron robes is not gold.

According to news reports, a Haridwar court has fined Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurveda for “misleading advertisements and misbranding.” Patanjali Ayurveda was fined Rs 11 lakh because the products being shown by the company as produced at its own units were in fact manufactured somewhere else.

Baba Ramdev. File photo. PTI

Baba Ramdev. File photo. PTI

Details of the case are sketchy, and understandably so considering Baba’s clout and brand value. But, prima facie, it seems Patanjali Ayurveda was selling outsourced products as its own and lying about it.

Whether they failed on quality standards is not clear. According to The Indian Express, a case had been filed in 2012 by the District Food Safety Department after samples of mustard oil, salt, pineapple jam, besan and honey produced by Patanjali had failed quality tests at Rudrapur laboratory. The products were found to be in violation of Sections 52-53 of Food Security norms and Section 23.1 (5) of Food Safety and Standard (packaging and labelling) regulation.

But, in the past, questions have been raised about Patanjali’s claims and its products. In April this year, aata (flour) noodles (Swadeshi meets Chinese) sold by Patanjali were found to be sub-standard since they contained three times more ash than the acceptable limit. Before that, desi ghee sold by Patanjali was found to contain artificial colour.

Marketing is the art of selling someone a trip to hell but making it look like an all-expense paid vacation in Switzerland. Often, what people buy is based more on the trust they have in the person selling it, instead of the qualitative assessment of the product. So, it is indeed an ode to Ramdev that he has become both India’s best known Baba as well as Lala. It shows, Indians have implicit faith in him and the cures and products he hard sells.

The Indian mindset, of course, is primed to help any Baba turn into a marketing guru. In a country that believes — in some cases rightly so — our ancient wisdom and prescriptions were far more superior to borrowed medicines and lifestyle lessons, it is easier to sell cleverly incorporating swadeshi, vedic, Hindu, shuddh in the marketing campaign.

Also, Ramdev has positioned himself uniquely in the Indian mindset that is already conditioned to equate anything saffron with sacred. Though there have been several instances of religious leaders assimilating political power — of politics flowing from the seat of religion — Ramdev is perhaps the only instance of artha (money), dharma (religion in this case), kama (pursuit of power) and moksha (the nirvana he sells) coming together to produce a Baba who is both a Lala (trader) and a neta (politician). Ramdev is indeed unique, perhaps a symbol of our times where all margins have been blurred.

It is precisely because Ramdev wields so much power and influence that his company’s indictment for violations, breach of laws and marketing principles is a great tragedy. And a reminder that when gullible buyers shop in the marketplace of baba-bhakti and rashtrabhakti, they invariably return with what Kapil Sharma famously describes as Babaji ka thullu.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 17:16 IST

LK Advani fighting for democratic values within BJP, says Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi: After LK Advani’s outburst in the Lok Sabha over frequent disruptions, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said the veteran leader was “fighting for democratic values” within his BJP.

File photo of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

File photo of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

“Thank you Advani ji for fighting for democratic values within your party,” tweeted Gandhi, who had earlier accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being “autocratic”.

His comment came after Advani expressed his anguish in the Lok Sabha saying, “I feel like resigning”, after a virtual washout of the winter session of Parliament over the demonetisation issue.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said Advani is “clearly berating his own party” and not Congress, as being “twisted” by BJP.

“Advani is an extremely senior parliamentarian and BJP is deliberately, consciously twisting these things to suggest that his angst and anguish is against Congress. It is ridiculous. Advani is clearly berating his own party. The positive proof is that you have seen today, yesterday and Monday and some other days,” he said.

“How can any party in the world with 323 majority (out of 543) in the Lok Sabha stand up with placards and ask a question, whether it is Agusta (chopper scam) or anything else, before the opposition which is asking for a debate? The Vice President of the opposition party (Congress) says we are desperate of a debate…and you are clearly avoiding it,” he said.

Advani vented out his pain and anguish soon after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the House for the day amid trading of charges between the government and the opposition on smooth functioning of proceedings.

The veteran BJP parliamentarian, who remained seated in his front seat, first narrated his feelings to Union minister Smriti Irani, who in turn drew the attention of Home Minister Rajnath Singh standing nearby.

Advani was heard telling the Home Minister to convey to the Speaker that she should ensure the House runs tomorrow to have a discussion on note ban.

The veteran parliamentarian has been seen in a pensive mood in Parliament during this session, unhappy over the frequent disruptions that have become order of the day.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 17:09 IST

Demonetisation: War on black money won’t be complete unless the top sharks are prosecuted

Are we now scraping the bottom of the barrel? A couple of crores in some old lady’s apartment. A relatively small sum in a hotel raid… all these are probably customary ‘finds’ based on snitches and inside information. A larger sum in Axis Bank in 20 false accounts, whatever those are… and if banks themselves are a string in the fiddle, what chance is there of winning this war?

Nowhere near the last month’s grandeur of so many lakh crores and 10 zeros and talking in trillions. Now, it is all common garden variety stuff, so does it mean the unearthing is largely over? Have all the ill-gotten gains been discovered and is black money a thing of the past?

Since no one can really put a finger on the figure of the parallel economy it is difficult to assess exactly how much has been dredged and who got away.

Suffice it to say that over these seven decades, corruption and the hoarding of wealth has been intrinsic to our lifestyle and our value system. It will come as no surprise to discover that the political-gangster-middleman-launderer-banker-underworld nexus is so well-entrenched that it will bounce back.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

I think it was Khalil Gibran who said if you have an enemy be sure that the blow you give breaks his back or else every blow will only strengthen it.

Black money and corruption have been twin enemies. The two inseparables have been given a blow, but has it broken their backs? That is a question that demands to be answered and as we wind down the ‘collection’ or the ‘uprooting’ or whatever you wish to label, it is necessary to ask what exactly have we gained, all of that mutually exclusive from anointing Prime Minister Modi for his courage or criticising him for his questionable execution of the master plan.

By that very token forcing a zipping of Rahul Gandhi‘s cavalier dismissal of the 8 November exercise and telling him to stop it, for heaven’s sake, at least some action was taken. Likewise, the Opposition parties who simply are against the demonetisation because they cannot be for it.

That not a single politician or high-profile businessman or leader of the gangster pack was apprehended is also a cause to be concerned about. One would have thought that just like the Chicago mobsters were targeted by Bobby Kennedy and decimated, the black market would have been raided in India and kingpins brought to book. In the thirties, they took down Al Capone and wiped out organised crime. In the eighties, the feds indicted the dreaded Joseph ‘Dove’ Aiuppa who allegedly planned the murder of Sam Gianca. In 2005, 14 bosses in the mob were locked up. ‘The Outfit’, as it was called, was mortally wounded.

A fed report says: A series of successful federal prosecutions over the years put many bosses behind bars and have forced mobsters and their associates into much lower profiles, practically destroying the mafia.

As far back in the 1920s Mussolini did the same in Italy and today the closest we see to the human element in the ‘clean up’ being placed on centrestage is the assault by President Duterte of the Philippines whose unprecedented war on drugs has him announcing that he has personally killed drug lords.

In comparison, not that one advocates that extreme, even nutty attitude, we have netted tiddlers and the tadpoles and no big fish.

The operation is still largely anonymous and we are no wiser who manipulates the strings of our black economy.

If they get away and the powerful nexus closes ranks then will this effort be a back-breaking exercise or one that simply replaces the old evil system with a fresh one?

It would be naïve in the extreme to assume that the bad guys are on the run. There is not just enough concrete evidence of that; more rhetoric than reality. By the same token so deeply ingrained is the chai pani to ‘kick back’ and ‘mark up’ concept that we must be conscious of an emergency plan the crooked have and one that is already in operation. The wall may have crumbled a bit but has it collapsed?

To ensure that the chapter is closed we need prosecutions of the top sharks, we need fast track convictions and we need to know that the underworld system is being dismantled and it’s back being broken.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 16:28 IST

Uri attack: Pakistan High Commission asked to take detainees home, claims diplomat

The Pakistan High Commission was asked to take two Uri detainees home, a report by The Indian Express, quotes a Pakistani diplomat.

Two people — Faisal Husain Awan from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Ahsan Khursheed from Muzaffarabad (also in PoK) — figured in a list given to the Pakistan High Commission of detainees could be sent home, The Indian Express report said, adding that the two were also accused by the Indian government of guiding terrorists in the Uri attack on 18 September. However, the Indian government did not confirm the same.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

As many as 19 soldiers were killed in a terror attack at an Army camp in Uri on 18 September. Ten days later, the Army carried out surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC). Bilateral relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated following the two incidents.

A PTI report in October had observed that the four Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorists, who carried out the attack had used a ladder to scale the electrified fence at the LoC.

Two days after the Uri attack, the National Investigative Agency (NIA) had registered a case and began the probe by collecting evidence available with the Indian Army formation in Uri. Arms and ammunition were recovered as were two mobile sets belonging to the four terrorists of JeM apart from two Global Positioning System (GPS) devices.

According to an NDTV report, the Indian government had handed over the proof of Pakistan’s involvement in the attack and said that the two guides who were arrested mentioned that they belonged to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and they indeed served as guides to the Uri terrorist attack.

It was on 8 December that two Pakistanis were arrested for being “terror guides” the JeM terrorists who carried out the Uri terror attack and it came to light that they were Class 10 students, who had strayed across the Line of Control (LoC).

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 13:54 IST

Supreme Court directs ban on sale of liquor on all National Highways

A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur on Thursday directed to ban liquor on all National Highways. The apex court in its order said all the licenses of liquor shops in and around the National Highways in all the states would be closed.

A week ago, concerned about the over 1.5 lakh fatalities every year in road mishaps, the Supreme Court said it may direct closure of liquor shops on national and state highways across the country, besides removal of signages indicating their location.

The apex court, while reserving verdict on a batch of pleas seeking a direction to amend excise laws to ensure that no liquor is sold alongside highways, came down heavily on the Punjab government for seeking relaxation and permitting liquor shops near highways if they are “elevated” ones and the vend are under or near it.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Look at the number of licences you (Punjab) have given. Because the liquor lobby is so powerful, everyone is happy. The excise department is happy, the excise minister is happy and the state government is also happy that they are making money. If a person dies due to this, you give Rs one or 1.5 lakh. That is it. You should take a stand which is helpful for the society,” the bench headed by Thakur had said earlier.

Reminding the state government of its constitutional obligation to prohibit liquor sale, the bench, had said, “You are speaking the langauge of liquor vendors. Is this your endeavour to seek prohibition? Nearly 1.5 lakh people die every year. We are asking you to do something for the general public.”

The bench also expressed its unhappiness over alleged inaction by various states in removing liquor shops alongside roads which give rise to drunken driving and consequential fatalities. It said that revenue generation cannot be a “valid reason” for a state or a Union Territory to give licence for liquor shops on highways and the authorities should adopt a positive attitude to remove the menace.

The court also rapped the Centre for not doing anything concrete leading it to “step in”. “The Government of India is now saying that the liquor shops (on the national and state highways) should be removed. For the last 10 years, nothing has happened and that is why we have stepped in,” the bench said.

Earlier, the court had sought the response from the Centre, states and Union Territories on the pleas seeking a direction to amend excise laws to ensure that no liquor is sold alongside highways.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 11:19 IST

Mumbai building collapse: Three killed, 12 injured in Mankhurd

Mumbai building collapse: Three killed, 12 injured in Mankhurd

Three people were killed and 12 injured in a building collapse in the Mankhurd suburb of Mumbai on Thursday, ANI said on Twitter.

According to reports, the incident took place in the early hours on Thursday in Maharashtra Nagar, Mankhurd.

Per a report published on NewsX, two firefighting vehicles and two ambulances were rushed to the spot to take care of the casualties.

However, the reason for the collapse of the building is still not known. The local authorities are further investigating the matter, the NewsX report added.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 11:01 IST

Najeeb Ahmed missing case: JNUSU promises full cooperation to police search in campus

File image of the JNU campus. JNU websiteFile image of the JNU campus. JNU website

File image of the JNU campus. JNU website

New Delhi: The Jawaharlal Nehru Students Union (JNUSU) on Thursday promised “full cooperation” to police search on the campus to trace MSc student Najeeb Ahmed who went missing two months back after a scuffle allegedly with ABVP affiliated students.

“JNUSU will extend its full cooperation in finding Najeeb. Delhi High Court’s direction to the Delhi police to search the university campus accommodation, ad-block, and the green areas using sniffer dogs, has long been a demand of JNUSU,” president of the students union Mohit Pandey said in a statement.

The Delhi High Court today directed the police to “scan” the entire campus, including hostels, classrooms and rooftops, of the varsity by using sniffer dogs. The court also asked Delhi Police to take all necessary steps without further loss of time to trace Najeeb, saying there has been delay in recording statements of some students suspected of thrashing him a day before his disappearance. Pandey said that, the Delhi police should have done this right in the beginning when they could not find Najeeb.

“JNUSU has been pointing out this lapse on the part of Delhi police even in its submission to the petition in the Court. We appeal to everyone to please cooperate with the High Court directions and in our struggle to find Najeeb” he said. Najeeb disappeared after scuffle with alleged ABVP students at his hostel.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 09:11 IST

US Federal Reserve lifts rates, sees faster pace of hikes in Donald Trump’s first year

Washington – The U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter point on Wednesday and signalled a faster pace of increases in 2017 as the Trump administration takes over with promises to boost growth through tax cuts, spending and deregulation.

The rate increase, regarded as a virtual certainty by financial markets in the wake of a string of generally strong economic reports, raised the target federal funds rate 25 basis points to between 0.50 percent and 0.75 percent.

U.S. bond yields moved higher and the dollar rose against a basket of currencies after the Fed’s unanimous policy decision. U.S. stocks were trading marginally lower, but selling picked up speed during Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s subsequent news conference.

The Federal Reserve building in Washington. ReutersThe Federal Reserve building in Washington. Reuters

The Federal Reserve building in Washington. Reuters

Yellen indicated the central bank was, at the margins, adapting to Trump as “some of the participants” on the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee began shifting fiscal policy assumptions.

“We are operating under a cloud of uncertainty … All the FOMC participants recognise that there is considerable uncertainty about how economic policy may change and what effect they may have on the economy.”

Partly as a result of the anticipated changes, the Fed sees three rate hikes in 2017 instead of the two foreseen in September. Yellen called that a “very modest adjustment” driven by strong job gains, evidence of faster inflation, and the expected impact of Trump’s policies.

But she also said Wednesday’s rate increase should be “understood as a reflection of the confidence we have in the progress the economy has made.

In addition to its policy statement, the Fed issued fresh economic forecasts that indicated the current once-a-year pace of rate increases will accelerate next year. Markets and the Fed appeared to be close on their rate outlooks, with Fed futures markets pricing in at least two and possibly three hikes in 2017, up from one to two prior to this week’s meeting.

With President-elect Donald Trump planning a simultaneous round of tax cuts and increased spending on infrastructure, central bank policymakers shifted their outlook to one of slightly faster growth, lower unemployment and inflation just under the Fed’s 2 percent target.

The Fed’s projected three rate increases next year would be followed by another three increases in both 2018 and 2019 before the rate levels off at a long-run “normal” 3.0 percent.

That is slightly higher than three months ago, a sign the Fed feels the economy is still gaining traction.

“They didn’t mention the fiscal stimulus but typically their aggressiveness does indicate that there’s a little more confidence that they can get away with three hikes next year,” said Aaron Kohli, interest rate strategist at BMO Capital Markets.

The Fed continued to describe that pace as “gradual,” keeping policy still slightly loose and supporting some further improvement in the job market.

It sees unemployment falling to 4.5 percent next year and remaining at that level, which is considered to be close to full employment. The economy is projected to grow 2.1 percent in 2017, up from a previous forecast of 2.0 percent.

TRUMP IMPACT

US bond yields had already begun moving higher following the Trump’s 8 Nov victory and as expectations of the Fed rate increase solidified. By the start of this week, trading in fed funds futures assigned a greater than 95 percent likelihood to a rate hike, according to data compiled by the CME Group.

All 120 economists in a recent Reuters poll had expected a rate hike on Wednesday. In the weeks following the election, Fed policymakers have said Trump’s proposals could push the economy into a higher gear in the short run.

Even though the details of the Republican businessman’s plans remain uncertain, Wednesday’s statement marked a rare case in the post-crisis era in which the Fed moved its interest rate outlook higher.

Risks to the outlook remain “roughly balanced” between factors that could slow or accelerate the economy beyond what the central bank anticipates, the Fed said, no change from its assessment last month.

The rate increase was the first since last December and only the second since the 2007-2009 financial crisis, when the Fed cut rates to near zero and deployed other tools such as massive bond purchases to stabilise the economy.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 07:40 IST

Bengaluru: Flat guarded by elderly woman yields Rs 2.89 crore in new Rs 2,000 notes

Bengaluru: On a tip-off, the investigation wing of the Income Tax (IT) department found and seized Rs 2.89 crore in unaccounted cash, mostly in new Rs 2,000 notes, from a flat in Bengaluru, an official said on Wednesday.

“Unexplained cash of Rs.2.89 crore, including Rs 2.25 crore in Rs 2,000 notes, was found during a search in a flat at Yeshwantpur (in the city’s northwest suburb) on Tuesday,” said Alex Mathew, spokesperson for the IT department, in a statement.

RS 2000 NEW NOTERS 2000 NEW NOTE

The new Rs 2,000 note. PTI

Though the IT sleuths got information on Monday that a huge amount of cash was lying in an apartment, occupied by an old woman and guarded by two fierce dogs, they could not enter the premise to search, she was not cooperative and refused to tie the dogs.

“We had to take the help of local police and other inmates in the building to enter the premises where one room was found locked. On opening the room, the cash was found stashed in boxes,” said Mathew.

When a survey operation revealed that a person was visiting the flat in the early hours, the sleuths summoned him and asked him about the cash source. As his claims were found to be incorrect, he admitted it was unaccounted income.

“We have been active and successful in the post-demonetisation investigations as evident from seizure of Rs 29.86 crore in cash, 41.6 kg of bullion and 14 kg of gold jewellery since November 9,” income tax commissioner Rati Menon told IANS.

Of the total cash haul, Rs 2.22 crore was in new currency of Rs.2,000 notes.

“In the process, the directorate general of IT (Investigation) in Karnataka and Goa has unearthed unaccounted income in excess of Rs 1,000 crore from 36 cases,” added Menon.

In another case in Goa, Rs 67.98 lakh in Rs 2,000 notes were seized from a person on Tuesday when IT sleuths approached him as decoy customers in desperate need of hard cash. “The seizure was made at a place called Banda on the Goa-Maharashtra border,” said Mathew.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 21:26 IST

Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls: SP-Congress ‘tie-up’ sign of weakness, says Mayawati

New Delhi: Taking a jibe at Samajwadi Party over its possible tie-up with Congress, BSP supremo Maywati on Wednesday said that “only weak needs support” and that the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led party’s keenness for an alliance shows its poor condition.

Mayawati‘s remarks came at a time when the prospects of a poll alliance between the ruling Samajwadi Party and Congress appeared to be brightening.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in a gathering had said that the alliance between the two parties can win more than 300 out of 403 seats in upcoming Assembly election.

File photo of BSP Supremo Mayawati. PTI

File photo of BSP Supremo Mayawati. PTI

Replying to a question on reports about alliance between Congress and SP, the former UP Chief Minister said, “Only weak needs support, they (Samajwadi Party) are in power and got clear majority also. They could have done a lot and now they are keen on an alliance. It shows the poor condition of the ruling party in the state.”

She said that the SP has accepted defeat and that the party is in a bad shape in the state.

Speaking on the issue of demonetisation, Mayawati said the government was not prepared for the move and it is a “hasty decision”.

She also attacked the prime minister over this issue and said he is speaking everywhere except in Parliament as he lacks strength to address the House.

Replying to a question on reports about sting operation in which a BSP member was found allegedly accepting black money, the Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh termed the operation as “pre-planned” to defame the opposition.

However, she said, if anyone from BSP is found indulging in money laundering, strict action will be taken against him or her.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 18:51 IST

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

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

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

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

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rahul Gandhi, Congress Twitter hacking: Delhi police seeks info from 5 nations

New Delhi: The Delhi police have sought information from five countries to help them trace the group which hacked into the Twitter accounts of the Congress party and its vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi's Twitter handle was hacked on 1 December. PTIRahul Gandhi's Twitter handle was hacked on 1 December. PTI

Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter handle was hacked on 1 December. PTI

The hacking group ‘Legion’, which claimed responsibility for the act, is still a mystery for internet service providers. The Delhi police is probing the case after it received a complaint from Congress members.

Accounts of two journalists — Barkha Dutt and Ravish Mishra, both from the NDTV group — were also hacked, but their complaint was yet to be received by the cyber cell.

During its preliminary enquiry, the police could trace IP addresses from five countries — Sweden, Romania, the US, Canada and Thailand — in the hacking job. Investigators want to know if the hackers used the servers in these countries from somewhere else, or if they were physically present there while breaking into the microblogging sites.

“We have got the IP logs from Twitter. The details of IP logs were sent to the internet service providers in five countries after a thorough examination. We are yet to get the details of hacker’s account and address,” deputy commissioner of police (cyber cell) Anyesh Roy told IANS.

Asked if the act was done by Legion, Roy said the group “is itself taking responsibility for hacking these microblogging sites but we don’t as yet have any information about the real hackers. The case is under investigation”. He said the police was also taking help of Twitter officials in Bengaluru to identify those responsible.

The cyber cell is probing the case after two FIRs under Section 66(c) of the Information Technology Act were filed. Randeep Singh Surjewala, a senior Congress leader, had filed a complaint with the Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi police on 1 December after the two accounts were hacked and a string of abusive messages posted on their Twitter handles.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 15:56 IST

Home Ministry goofs up: Greenpeace India’s FCRA licence renewed erroneously

The Union Home Ministry renewed Greenpeace India’s registration under the Foreign Contributions Registrations Act, (FCRA) 2010 after permanently cancelling its licence in September 2015.

Greenpeace India’s executive director Ravi Chellam, speaking to The Times of India said that they had applied for the renewal of the licence in March 2016 and it was renewed with effect from 1 November, 2016.

Representational image. Image Courtesy: Greenpeace.orgRepresentational image. Image Courtesy: Greenpeace.org

Representational image. Image Courtesy: Greenpeace.org

The Islamic Research Foundation’s licence, Zakir Naik’s organisation was also mistakenly renewed in August because the FCRA software doesn’t have a provision to flag pending inquiries or adverse intelligence reports against NGOs under scanner. According to The Times of India, the ministry only noticed the erroneous renewal of Greenpeace India’s licence after 1 November, 2016.

The organisation was under the ministry’s scanner which cited that Greenpeace India was receiving “mixed foreign and domestic funds” and had “not disclosed the movement of funds properly,” according to a report in The Indian Express.

The Times of India report said that Greenpeace India had cancelled the licence on grounds of affecting public interest and economic interest.

The report added that the MHA had suspended the registration of the NGO saying it had violated norms, alleging that Greenpeace India had opened five accounts to use foreign donations without disclosing it to the relevant authorities. The NGOs bank accounts in IDBI, ICICI and Yes Bank were frozen. Greenpeace India had challenged the decision calling it arbitrary and it was granted relief by the court on 27 May, 2016.

The NGO has always maintained that the suspension was government’s way of controlling dissent. Vinuta Gopal quoted in The Indian Express after the suspension said: “The cancelling of our FCRA registration is the government’s latest move in a relentless onslaught against the community’s right to dissent. It is yet another attempt to silence campaigns for a more sustainable future and transparency in public processes.”

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 15:32 IST

PM Modi targets investors, claims India sans corruption will be an attractive destination

New Delhi: Against the backdrop of his government’s demonetisation decision, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said cleaning the system of black money and corruption is “very high” on his agenda amid a push towards employment generation and self-employment opportunities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters file imagePrime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters file image

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters file image

“India is currently witnessing an economic transformation. We are now moving towards a digital and cashless economy,” he said, while addressing the ‘Economic Times Asian Business Leaders Conclave 2016’ in Kuala Lumpur along with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak via video conferencing.

“Presently, cleaning the system from black money and corruption is very high on my agenda,” Modi said, against the backdrop of his 8 November decision to scrap notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination.

He said the economic process in India is being geared towards activities which are vital for generating employment or self-employment opportunities. The Prime Minister told the gathering that a number of steps have been taken to attract greater FDI and listed the various steps taken in this direction.

He also mentioned that amendment to the Constitution to pave the way for Goods and Services Tax (GST), which will overhaul the indirect tax system in India, has been cleared by Parliament and “this is expected to be implemented in 2017”. “We welcome those who are not in India so far. India is not only a good destination. It’s always a good decision to be in India,” Modi said.

“We have opened up new sectors for FDI and enhanced caps for existing sectors,” he said, adding the government’s concerted efforts on major FDI policy reforms continue and conditions for investments have been simplified.

Total FDI inflows in the last two and a half years have touched $130 billion, Modi said. “The positive change in policy, regulatory and investment environment in India is recognised by both domestic and foreign investors,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 15:23 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Oppn in RS demands special financial package for Tamil Nadu

New Delhi: Opposition Congress, Left and DMK on Wednesday sought immediate sanction a financial package to provide relief to cyclone ravaged Tamil Nadu, a demand which Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said will be considered by the government.

Jaitley said the government shares the concerns over the devastation caused by cyclone Vardah in Chennai and surrounding districts. “It is serious crisis.”

While some advance preparation was done by moving the NDRF teams and deploying army columns, the Centre will do whatever is needed to provide relief, he said.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“I have heard the members. I will take into consideration their suggestions and the government will decide on relief after consultations with the concerned authorities,” he said.

Earlier, former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the Centre should immediately respond to Tamil Nadu government’s request for financial aid.

State government usually ask for more and central government gives less, he said adding the Centre must announce the package today itself.

Chidambaram said it should be ensured that ATMs and bank branches are replenished so people can draw their own money.

D Raja (CPI) said the cyclone has devastated many districts of Tamil Nadu including Chennai, leaving a number of people dead, uprooting thousands of trees, snapping telecommunication lines and plunging several cities into darkness.

The tragedy has been compounded by demonetisation, leaving no cash with the people to buy necessities, he said asking the government to reconsider its decision to junk old 1000 and 500 rupee notes.

Raja said the Centre should not delay in agreeing to provide Rs 1,000 crore sought from the National Disaster Fund.

Tiruchi Siva (DMK) said 24 persons have so far been reported killed in the cyclone. Because of demonetisation, there is no cash with the people, he said, adding “a litre of milk is being sold at Rs 200.”

He put commercial loses at Rs 8,000 crore and demanded that a central team be sent to assess the damage.

TK Rangarajan (CPM) and Subramanian Swamy (BJP) demanded that crisis management teams be sent to Tamil Nadu to access the damage.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 13:16 IST

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

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

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

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

RBI_scam_bikramRBI_scam_bikram

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

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

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

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

We volunteer it.

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

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

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

Demonetisation impact: Arun Jaitley hints at tax rate cuts “at some stage”

New Delhi – Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday hinted at lower direct and indirect tax rates in the future as demonetisation results in higher tax revenues from unaccounted wealth coming into system.

He also warned of a “very heavy price” that unscrupulous elements will have to pay for amassing large amounts of cash unlawfully, saying agencies are keeping a close eye on cash accumulations.

The 8 November announcement by the government to demonetise high value notes has in one stroke junked 86 percent of the currency in circulation and holders of the discontinued notes can deposit them in banks before the end of the year and withdraw money in new currency.

Arun Jaitley. PTI file photoArun Jaitley. PTI file photo

Arun Jaitley. PTI file photo

The money being deposited has to be accounted for and taxes paid – 50 percent on voluntary disclosures of unaccounted money and 85 percent for any failures.

“So much money…operating as loose cash in the system has today come into the banking system,” he said. “It has to be accounted for. Where taxes have not been paid will now be recovered.”

Jaitley said future transactions would be substantially digital as India moves towards a less-cash society.

“Once they are substantially digital they get caught in tax net,” he said. “Therefore the future taxation level would be much higher than what is currently being collected. This would also enable the government at some stage to make taxes more reasonable which will apply to both direct and indirect taxes.”

Demonetisation together with other reforms, particularly the GST and the restrictions on cash spending subjected to PAN declaration, will bring down the levels of corruption in
society, he said.

“It is going to bring down cash transaction in society and it’s going to bring down levels of evasion as far as taxation is concerned,” he said.

Jaitley said it has come to the notice of the government that some unscrupulous people, including some in the banking system and others, have been trying to subvert the system once again and have accumulated large amounts of cash unlawfully.

“Obviously there is a breach of law in this and this is a step which hurts the economy. And therefore all agencies have an eye on this. They will investigate this matter and all those who are indulging in this malpractices will have to pay a very heavy price for what they are doing,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 08:43 IST

Crime Patrol actor Kamlesh Pandey commits suicide

Television actor Kamlesh Pandey, who played the role of a police officer in Crime Patrol, a show known for recreating real-life criminal cases through dramatisation, committed suicide on Tuesday night.

File image of Kamlesh Pandey. Twitter @firstposthindiFile image of Kamlesh Pandey. Twitter @firstposthindi

File image of Kamlesh Pandey. Twitter @firstposthindi

According to a DNA report, the actor, in a drunken frenzy, shot himself  in the chest in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. The reason behind the suicide is not known yet, but the report cites personal reasons behind the act.

According to Firstpost HindiPandey got into an altercation with his family members before shooting himself.

When the police arrived after being contacted by Pandey’s family, he was already dead, reports ABP. A police investigation is now underway.

Kamlesh is survived by his wife and two daughters.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 08:13 IST

TCS EGM: Cyrus Mistry claims moral victory even as shareholders vote to oust him

Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) shareholders voted to remove Cyrus Mistry, the ousted chairman of Tata Sons, as a director, according to the results of an extraordinary general meeting on Tuesday.

About 93 percent of TCS shareholders, who cast their vote, were in favour of removing Mistry, TCS said in a regulatory filing.

Cyrus Mistry. ReutersCyrus Mistry. Reuters

Cyrus Mistry. Reuters

His ouster comes as no surprise given Tata Sons majority stake in the company, about 73 percent as of September end, according to Thomson Reuters data.

TCS, India’s biggest technology services firm by sales, contributes the bulk of the group’s revenue and profit.

About 43 percent of TCS’s institutional holders who voted were against the removal of Mistry, according to the filing. Interestingly, 78 percent of voting shareholders who were not promoters or institutional holders were against Mistry’s ouster.

The divisions within the minority shareholders on the contentious issue were out in the open with a few minority shareholders voicing support for Mistry. As many as 38 shareholders spoke at the 150-minute long EGM. Even though a bulk of them voiced support for Tata, those handful who affirmed their support to Mistry were applauded.

Mistry’s office, meanwhile, issued a statement late in the night, claiming moral victory.

“Almost 20 percent of shareholders of TCS that accounts for more than 70 percent of non promoter shareholders supported Cyrus by voting against the resolution or abstained (expressing their disapproval of the promoter actions),” said the statement.

In a bitter boardroom coup in October, Mistry was ousted as the chairman of Tata Sons, the holding firm for the $100 billion steel-to-software conglomerate, and group patriarch Ratan Tata returned to the helm temporarily.

A public power struggle has since ensued between the two sides. Mistry, however, still sits on the boards of several group companies. Tata Sons has called shareholder meetings at these companies over the next few days to vote on his removal.

Indian Hotels Co Ltd, Tata Steel and Tata Motors will hold their shareholder meetings next week.

“The fight is a matter of principle rather than facing the foregone outcome (of this meeting),” Mistry said ahead of the TCS shareholder meet in an indication that he had expected to be ousted given Tata Sons’ majority shareholding in TCS.

“The very future of TCS hinges on good governance and ethical practices. In the past several weeks, we have seen good governance being thrown to the wind in every sense of the term, replaced by whims, fancies and personal agenda,” he said.

Since his ouster from Tata Sons, Mistry has attacked the group’s corporate governance standards several times, saying that his efforts to establish stronger guidelines contributed to his removal.

“Whatever be the decibel level of the voice that would drown your vote, I call on you to vote with your conscience and send a signal that catalyses a larger discussion on governance reforms,” Mistry said.

Independent director Aman Mehta, who officiated the meeting after interim chairman Ishaat Hussain recused himself, said Mistry had lost “the trust and confidence” of the promoter group (Tata Sons and Tata Trusts) which had nominated him and it was in best interest of TCS that he leave now.

Asserting that the core issue goes far beyond the “performance or competence”, Mehta said, “It seems to me that the real issue here is one of trust and confidence of the promoter group in its nominated chairman.”

“Independent directors of TCS have met separately and have reviewed the whole issue in some details. It is clear to all of us that the current issue can have some materially negative effect on the functioning of the company,” he said.

With Reuters and PTI

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 07:45 IST

Demonetisation: BJP distributes ladoos to people standing in queues, Twitterati reacts

On Tuesday, Delhi BJP unit came up with an unique way of appreciating Indians who have patiently stood in lines outside ATMs, ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation drive on 8 November. The newly appointed Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari instructed cadres to give a laddoo to every household in Delhi for their ‘patience’, reported The Indian Express.

“Modi has launched this revolutionary step to tackle black money. Despite facing some inconvenience, people supported the move. Now, it is our turn to thank them and show our appreciation and respect for their patience,” the daily reported the actor-turned-politician as saying.

However, this new move by the BJP ensured Twitterati had a field day.

Singer-music director Vishal Dadlani was at his sarcastic best!

Then there was a change in narrative too.

Sarcasm anyone?

Laddoos in the age of Digital India

Some food for thought!

Fake Rahul Gandhi trolling Union Minister Nitin Gadkari!

This would be heart-breaking!

A path breaking idea!

Pun intended!

So was it a hoax?

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 18:28 IST

Preserve CCTV footages to spot currency hoarders: RBI to banks

Mumbai: RBI has asked banks to preserve CCTV recordings of operations at bank branches and currency chests to help law enforcement agencies in identifying people engaged in hoarding of new notes post demonetisation.

The Reserve Bank, in a notification issued today, said banks should “preserve CCTV recordings of operations at bank branches and currency chests for the period from 8 November to 30 December, 2016, until further instructions”.

The central bank said the move will “facilitate coordinated and effective action by the enforcement agencies in dealing with matters relating to illegal accumulation of new currency notes”.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Earlier in October, the RBI had asked banks to cover the banking hall/area and counters under CCTV surveillance and recording and preserve the recording to help identify people abetting circulation of counterfeit notes.

After demonetisation, there have been reports of hoarding of new currency notes by unscrupulous elements at various bank branches across the country.

The Income-Tax Department is carrying out raids across the country on a regular basis since demonetisation to nab new currency hoarders and several people, both individuals as well as bank officials, have been booked so far for carrying out such illegal activities.

The government has said abolishment of these high denomination banknotes is intended to bring back unaccounted money into the system, curb fake currency circulation as well as to deter terror financing.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 17:38 IST

Seventh pay commission: UP govt approves recommendations, 24 lakh employees to benefit

The Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh has approved the recommendations of the seventh pay commission, and said it will be implemented from 17 January. According to a report on CNN News18, the entry salary of a person joining at the lowest rung will be around Rs 18,000, while pay for highest office of chief second will be around Rs 2.25 lakh.

The move comes just months before the key political state goes in for Assembly elections, and Yadav was confident of electoral success. “We will win, and if the alliance happens, we will cross 300 plus seats,” he said, referring to a possible alliance with the Congress party.

The decision to hike salaries was taken after a committee, headed by retired bureaucrat GB Pattnaik, submitted its interim report to Yadav on 7 December, reported The Pioneer.

File image of Akhilesh Yadav. PTI

File image of Akhilesh Yadav. PTI

It could mean that state government employees will get at least a 20 percent hike in their salaries, which would bring about parity between state and central government employees.

As per statistics, the state government will incur an additional burden of Rs 26,573 crore annually in the first year of implementation while in the second year, the expenditure would come down to Rs 22,778 crore annually. Presently, the state government spends around Rs 95,000 crore annually on salary and perks for state employees, the publication noted.

Yadav, while speaking to CNN-News18, claimed that the pay hike is a people friendly move and will help more than 24 lakh employees.

The Central Cabinet gave its nod to the seventh pay commission recommendations in June 2016, allowing an overall 23.55 percent hike in salaries, allowances and pensions of central government employees. The pay panel, in November last year, had recommended a 14.27 percent hike in basic pay at junior levels — the lowest in 70 years. The previous 6th Pay Commission had recommended a 20 percent hike, which the government doubled while implementing it in 2008.

The seventh pay commission’s recommendations will have bearing on the remuneration of nearly 50 lakh central government employees and 58 lakh pensioners. This is estimated to put an additional burden of Rs 1.02 lakh crore, or nearly 0.7 percent of the GDP, on the central government.

The process to introduce the latest pay commission began in January this year, when the central government set up a high-powered panel headed by Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha to process the recommendations.

However, after the government approved the recommendations, there were widespread protests by employees, with many unions threatening to go on strike. Even RSS affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and other trade unions rejected the recommendations, contending that it would increase disparity between the minimum and maximum pay. To placate the grievances, the central government promised to set up a high level committee to look into the issues.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 17:14 IST

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