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BJP’s growth in Tripura due to ‘false campaign and our weakness’: CPI(M)

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The ruling CPI-M in Tripura has said the BJP managed to increase its vote in the recent bypolls in the state taking advantage of “our organisational weakness and by luring people with false assurances.” “The results of the recent two by-elections held for two Assembly seats and by-polls in panchayat seats show that the BJP managed to increase their votes,” Party Secretary Bijan Dhar told reporters last night.”All these things happened due to our organisational weakness and due to their alluring people by giving false assurances,” he said.”Taking advantage of being in power at the Centre they also misused money to woo voters,” Dhar said. He alleged that RSS, Bajrang Dal and BJP have brought their activists from outside the state for trying to build up a political base for the party.”Those activists are indulging in false campaign against the Left Front government and organising demonstrations in front of the residences of ministers, government offices and roads by raising false issues,” Dhar said.”We have asked the administration and common people to remain alert about the activities of the BJP activists,” he said.He said the opposition Congress has become “very weak” due to split in their party and the breakaway faction who formed Trinamool Congress in the state also could not be certain about their political future in the state.The Left Front has been in power for the last 23 years in Tripura.

Hope stalled work expedited under new LG: Arvind Kejriwal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday said he is hopeful the works that have come to a standstill in the national capital will be expedited under new Lt Governor Anil Baijal.Baijal (70), a former Union Home Secretary, took over as the Lt Governor of Delhi today. “I am very hopeful that in the future, we all – MLAs, Delhi government, people of Delhi – will work with the Lt Governor for development of Delhi. “In the last few months, some works of Delhi government have come to standstill. I hope that these works will be expedited,” Kejriwal said.Baijal’s predecessor Najeeb Jung and the Delhi government have been at loggerheads on a range of issues including transfer and posting of officers since AAP came to power. On being asked about his relationship with the AAP government after taking oath, Baijal said, “This is a speculative thing and I don’t know how the relationship will improve. We will sit together and talk.” Baijal was administered the oath of office and secrecy of Lt Governor by Chief Justice of Delhi High Court G Rohini.Apart from the Chief Minister, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, judges, Delhi Chief Secretary M M Kutty, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, Water Minister Kapil Mishra, New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi, Opposition leader Vijender Gupta and other two BJP MLAs O P Sharma and Jadgish Pradhan, senior bureaucrats attended the oath-taking ceremony. Baijal, a 1969 batch IAS officer, had served as Union Home Secretary under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, besides holding key positions in other ministries.He had retired in 2006 as secretary of the Urban Development Ministry. He was also the vice chairman of Delhi Development Authority. Baijal was actively associated with the designing and roll-out of Rs 60,000 crore Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) launched by the Manmohan Singh government. The former bureaucrat was also on the executive council of the think-tank Vivekananda International Foundation, several of whose former members have been appointed to senior positions by the Modi government including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

I carry Amma in my soul, says Sasikala after taking reigns of AIADMK

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pledging to take forward the legacy of Jayalalithaa, AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala on Saturday asserted that none other than party founder MG Ramachandran, Dravidian ideologue C N Annadurai and ‘Amma’ will be given prominence in the party.In her first formal address to functionaries after formally taking charge as party chief here, she said the AIADMK will continue to be run in the same way as during the time of Amma when it was administered with a level of “discipline as seen in the Army”.It will continue to follow in the footsteps of these great leaders who looked beyond caste and religion, she said. Her assertion comes against the backdrop of some murmur of protests against her taking over the post.Heaping encomiums on Jayalalithaa, she said, “let us follow like Vedas our Amma’s political lessons and her footsteps,” adding “this movement (AIADMK) which was shaped up by Amma is a people’s movement, this is people’s government, our journey will be in the path laid by Amma.” She said the “yardstick” followed by Jayalalithaa for elevation of cadres in the party organisation will continue to be the same and “we will not diverge even an iota from it.” Hailing Jayalalithaa for her courage, she said the late leader had stormed the male bastion of politics that has given confidence to women. “Today as a woman, if I have come forward to lead the party, a very important reason for it is the faith that crores of brothers and sisters will support me.” She said “no one can fill her (Jayalalithaa) vacuum even in another thousand years.””I carry Amma in my soul,” she said adding “we have assembled here to guard the confidence of Amma that it will be the AIADMK which will rule the State even for 100 more years …she was everything for me and for us all.” Thanking party leaders for unanimously naming her as party general secretary, Sasikala said she humbly accepted it out of a sense of duty. For the first time she publicly spoke on the death of Jayalalithaa amid demands for a probe by Opposition DMK.Sasikala said she had firmly believed that the former AIADMK chief would recover. “Although Amma’s health improved that facilitated her shift from Critical Care Unit to a private room, she had unfortunately passed away.”It was not thought of even in my dream and it was like a thunderbolt falling on one’s head(when she died)”, Sasikala said, adding her only wish had been Jayalalithaa’s well-being.

Demonstration against Sasikala’s appointment as AIADMK chief

Sat, 31 Dec 2016-04:04pm , Cuddalore , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A small group of AIADMK cadres and supporters of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s niece, Deepa Jayakumar, on Saturday staged a black flag protest here against appointment of VK Sasikala as party General Secretary.The protesters alleged that Sasikala was chosen to the top post against the party’s rules and regulations. No arrests were made, police said. Sasikala formally assumed charge as the AIADMK general secretary today.

Emotional Sasikala takes charge as AIADMK Gen Secy, says she’ll sacrifice life for party & people

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>VK Sasikala Natarajan, 54, a close aide of late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, took charge as General Secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) on Saturday at the party’s headquarters in Chennai.AIADMK party members had in a unanimous resolution adopted at the party’s general council meeting earlier this week, appointed Sasikala to the post.Chinnamma addressed AIADMK cadres at the party Head Quarters. She began by thanking her supporters for choosing her to be the next General Secretaryafter Jayalalithaa’s death.Breaking down with tears, she said that the despite Jayalalithaa’s demise party under her leadership will continue to rule the state. “Amma is not with us now but our party will rule here for the next 100 years,” she said.Sasikala said that she had dedicated her life to serving Jayalalithaa. “For Amma party was life and for me Amma is my life.We have tried our best to safeguard Amma; but unfortunately she passed away.”She reminded party workers to be loyal and committed towards the party to fulfil Jayalalithaa’s dream for the state. “Amma always expected loyalty and true work from all cadre and functionaries. I will sacrifice my life for my party and the crores of people. Amma’s dream will continue for Tamil Nadu,” she said. “This government is people’s government. We will follow the path shown by our Amma. If we stand united, future is ours,” she said. “In those days Indira Gandhi was the only woman leader in politics but Amma broke the tradition and made history,” said Sasikala about Jayalalithaa’s ascension to power as a woman. Sasikala also promised grand celebrations for entire year in 2017 for the centenary of AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran. “Centenary of AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran will be celebrated in a grand manner throughout the year,” said the new AIADMK General SecretaryAhead of taking charge, Sasikala paid tribute to Jayalalithaa.The AIADMK in its general body meeting passed a resolution to work under the leadership of Sasikala on Friday. The resolution was accepted by Sasikala, the confirmation of which was posted on the party’s Twitter handle. The close aide of late Jayalalithaa first garlanded the statue of party founder MG Ramachandran at the AIADMK headquarters after she arrived in the midst of tight security. She then proceeded to pay floral tributes to the portrait of Jayalalithaa. Sasikala formally assumed charge by signing papers after which she addressed the gathering outside.Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam handed over a copy of the resolution to Sasikala.En route to the party office, she was given a rousing welcome by party leaders, functionaries and cadres who had gathered in large numbers. Party activists had lined up on both sides of the road from the Poes Garden residence to the party headquarters at Royapettah to welcome her.Sasikala, clad in a light green saree with a pink border, greeted them with folded hands. Party flags, banners and festoons sporting bright images of Jayalalithaa and Sasikala were put up on roads, all along from Poes garden to Royapettah. Banners and hoardings hailed Sasikala as Chinnamma everywhere.After Jayalalithaa died, the party had announced that Natarajan would replace her as the chief of her party even though she is not technically qualified. The general secretary has to have completed five years as an active member. Jayalalithaa who passed away on December 5 evening after suffering cardiac arrest was the party’s general secretary from 1989 to 2016. With PTI/ANI inputs.

Pakistan seeks US support on implementation of Indus Waters Treaty with India

Islamabad: Pakistan has sought support of the US on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with India, as Secretary of State John Kerry called for an amicable settlement of the issue by New Delhi and Islamabad, media reported on Saturday.

The development came after Pakistan was irked by the World Bank pause in mediation to resolve differences over construction of two water projects by India.

The Express Tribune reported that Kerry made a phone call to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday night and discussed the row over the IWT implementation and the role of the World Bank (WB), which had brokered the treaty in 1960.

After Kerry’s call, US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale also met Dar in Islamabad at the Finance Ministry.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The back-to-back contacts highlight the importance of the water issue, which can potentially endanger regional stability if the situation slips out of control, according to sources at Finance Ministry.

“The US would like to see an amicable solution to this (water) issue,” a Finance Ministry statement quoted Kerry as saying.

Kerry told Dar that the WB president had informed him about Pakistan’s complaint against India on the IWT.

The water dispute has catapulted the US back into Pakistan’s economic picture.

The American civilian and military assistance to Pakistan has drastically come down in recent months and its implications on Pakistan’s fiscal situation have started emerging in the shape of a larger-than-anticipated budget deficit.

Independent analysts argue that Washington may not play an effective role in resolving the water dispute, as the Obama administration is preparing to hand over the White House to Donald Trump next month.

“Senator Dar indicated that the US support on the principles and legal position of Pakistan will be greatly appreciated,” stated the Finance Ministry.

Early this month, the WB had announced a pause in playing its legally binding role of mediator in the IWT implementation.

In October, Pakistan had approached the WB seeking appointment of the Chairman of Court of Arbitration to resolve a dispute over construction of two mega hydropower projects by India in violation of the IWT.

The Finance Minister told Kerry that the IWT was an international commitment and it was the WB’s responsibility to make sure India honoured the treaty and the water rights of hundreds of millions of Pakistani people were protected, said the finance ministry.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 13:03 IST

Pakistan seeks US support on Indus Waters Treaty

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has sought the support of United States on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with India.US Secretary of State John Kerry had a telephone conversation with Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday. Kerry said that the World Bank President had recently informed him about Pakistan’s complaint against India on the subject of Indus Waters Treaty. Kerry urged for an amicable solution of the dispute between the two countries. “The US would like to see an amicable solution to this issue,” he was quoted as saying.Dar said that the Indus Waters Treaty is an international commitment and it is the responsibility of the World Bank to make sure that India honours this treaty and the water rights of hundreds of millions of people of Pakistan are protected. He said that the Court of Arbitration is a legal requirement and appointment of the Chairman of the Court of Arbitration must be fulfilled by the World Bank.Dar said that the World Bank President had been in touch with him in writing and also on telephone during the current month. He indicated that Washington’s support on the principles and legal position of Pakistan would be greatly appreciated. Kerry also appreciated the improvement in the economic indicators of Pakistan and congratulated Dar on the economic recovery brought about by Islamabad.Dar said that the government after having achieved macro-economic stability is now focused on achieving higher sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Kerry also recalled his association with Senator Ishaq Dar went back to the days when he was Leader of Opposition in the Pakistan Senate.The Finance Minister also warmly acknowledged his association with Secretary Kerry.

Akhilesh Yadav chairs meeting with all SP MLAs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Expelled Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav chaired a meeting of Samajwadi Party MLAs at 9 am on Saturday at his official residence.Mulayam Singh yesterday expelled Akhilesh and National General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav from the party for six years over indiscipline late on Friday night. “I solely founded the party, what is their (Akhilesh and Ram Gopal) contribution? They are destroying the party,” he said. “To save the party, we have expelled both Ram Gopal and Akhilesh Yadav for six years from the party. No one has the right to call for a national executive meeting other than the party chief, and by doing this, you (Akhilesh and Ram Gopal) have hurt the party’s interest,” Mulayam told media here. “I will decide as to who will be the chief ministerial candidate of the party,” he insisted.This move comes after Akhilesh had released a list of 235 candidates out of the total 403 seats for upcoming state assembly elections on Thursday, rejecting the list announced by Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday. “We have declared a list of 325 candidates for the 2017 assembly polls; 78 seats still remain. Names of the candidates for the rest of the 78 seats will be announced soon,” Mulayam had said on Wednesday. Akhilesh’s name did not figure in the first list. Mulayam said his son being the chief minister, can contest from any assembly seat he wishes to.

Madhya Pradesh plans to develop 1100 ‘climate-smart’ villages

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Madhya Pradesh has embarked on an ambitious plan to develop 1,100 ‘climate-smart’ villages with an aim to prepare farmers to manage the climate change risks timely and ensure good productivity.”The government has been planning to develop 1,100 villages as climate-smart villages in a period of next six years,” state Farmer Welfare & Agriculture Development Department Principal Secretary Dr Rajesh Rajora told PTI.He said 100 villages in each of the 11 agro-climatic zones of the state would be taken up under the plan, which would incur a cost about Rs 150 crore every year. “The work is being taken up under the National Agriculture Development Programme (NADP) and Indian National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture,” he said.In these villages, the farmers would be encouraged to go for short duration variety of crops, in addition to using drought-resistance seeds. “The focus would be on integrated agriculture, which comprises animal husbandry, fisheries, in addition to traditional farming. Agro-forestry would also be adopted in these villages,” Rajora said.Agro-forestry conserves and protects the natural resources as it helps water retention and stops soil erosion. He said integrated nutrients management would also be implemented to help in soil fertility and plant nutrients supply through optimisation of all possible sources of organic, inorganic and biological components.”In addition, the integrated pest management, zero tillage, raised bed gardening techniques and micro-irrigation would also be introduced in the climate smart villages. This would help farmers to increase the productivity amid all challenges of climate change,” he said.Zero tillage technique is a way of growing crops time and again without disturbing the soil through ploughing, another agriculture expert said. “The micro-irrigation systems like drip and sprinklers would not only reduce the water use but also lessen the use of fertilisers and energy,” he said. Rajora said the state government would seek help of International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), an international NGO working in the field of agriculture, and Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a global agriculture research partnership.”The Centre has set ICRISAT, the UN organisation, as nodal agency for developing the climate-smart villages. We would also seek expertise from scientists of two agriculture universities at Jabalpur and Gwalior in addition to state government’s scientists in various district headquarters,” he said.According to agriculture department officials, various equipment and sensors would also be used in these villages to help the farmers.The state government has already announced to open a soil testing laboratory at the block level. A plan is also on the anvil to provide soil health cards to farmers under state government’s efforts to double farmers’ income in five years.To ensure sustainable agriculture growth, MP has also constituted a ‘Krishi (agriculture) Cabinet’ for the purpose.The cabinet includes ministers of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries, cooperatives, water resources, Narmada valley development, energy, panchayat, rural development and SC/ST welfare departments.MP had also received Krishi Karman award for 2014-15, the fourth during past five years, for increasing the food grains production and productivity by 254 lakh tonnes and 1,719 kg per hectare, respectively.The state government also claimed to have increased the irrigated agriculture area to 40 lakh hectares from 7 lakh hectares in 2003.

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

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

UP IAS officer Sanjeev Dubey allegedly commits suicide in Lucknow

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Senior IAS officer Sanjeev Dubey on Thursday committed suicide by hanging himself at his residence in Lucknow, police said.His body was found by his family members at his 14, Gautampalli residence in Lucknow.The 1987-batch Uttar Pradesh cadre officer was posted as Principal Secretary in the Home Guard department and had held several important posts.Dubey has left behind a suicide note highlighting health problems as a reason behind his extreme step, police sources said, adding he was suffering from several painful health conditions like osteoporosis Sources close to him said he was under depression for past several months due to illness.Police said the matter came to light when he did not open the door of his residence till late in the day. Meanwhile, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav condoled Dubey’s demise even as senior officials, including DGP Javeed Ahmed and Chief Secretary Rahul Bhatnagar visited his house.

DNA Morning Must Reads: Jarnail Singh vs Parkash Badal in Punjab, train derailment in Mumbai & more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>AAP announces Delhi MLA Jarnail Singh as candidate against Punjab CM from home turf LambiAfter declaring MP Bhagwant Mann as candidate from Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal’s constituency Jalalabad, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced Delhi MLA and Sikh rights activist Jarnail Singh as candidate to contest in the electoral battle against Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal from his home turf Lambi in Muktsar district. Read detailsMumbai: Five coaches of Kurla-Ambernath local derail, services on Kalyan-Karjat line suspendedFive coaches of Kurla-Ambernath local train derailed between Kalyan and Vithalwadi railway station, on Thursday morning. According to initial information, the incident took place at 5:50 am. However, no person has been injured, but services on Kalyan-Karjat line have been suspended. Read moreUP Assembly Elections | ‘No alliance with anyone’: Mulayam snubs son Akhilesh, leaves Congress in the coldSamajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav not only poured water on the dream of stitching together a grand alliance with Congress and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), but also snubbed his son, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, by announcing 325 candidates out of total of 403 for the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Read moreSasikala likely to be elected as AIADMK General Secretary todayVK Sasikala, former chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s aide, has not revealed her cards yet but she is expected to be elected the AIADMK General Secretary on December 29 as thousands of party executives, with their supporters, flooded Chennai today. Sasikala herself is expected to stay away while the party executive committee and general council will formally elect her as the leader. Read moreDemonetization: 600 tonnes and counting, IAF on mission cash liftIn a bid to help the common man with the demonetization process, the government has been pressing the Indian Air Force (IAF) into action. From assisting in the functioning of currency printing presses 24×7 to airlifting cash, the IAF has already transported 610 tonnes of currency and will continue to do so over the next few days. Read more

No more ‘Jung’ as Anil Baijal becomes Delhi’s L-G

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former IAS official, Anil Baijal on Wednesday replaced Najeeb Jung as Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor. Jung resigned from the post last week.Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that the decision was taken by President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday after he accepted Jung’s resignation.External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj took to Twitter to congratulate Baijal. “I welcome Shri #AnilBaijal as the Lt.Governor of Delhi, (SIC)” Swaraj tweeted.Baijal, a 1969 batch IAS officer, had previously served as Union Home Secretary under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and has held the several key positions in other ministries.Officials said that while Baijal’s name was recommended by the MHA, the papers reached the President’s office on Tuesday evening.Baijal had retired from service in 2006 as Secretary, Urban Development Ministry and has served as the former Vice-Chairman of Delhi Development Authority.He is also credited with the designing and roll-out of the Rs 60,000 crore Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) which was launched by the UPA government.Jung’s sudden resignation had come as a surprise to many including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “I spoke to Najeeb Jung over the phone and he said that he has resigned for personal reasons. We wish him all the best for future and look forward to working with the new L-G,” media reports quoted Kejriwal as saying.Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain, who was at loggerheads with Jung over a host of issues — including the foreign visits by AAP ministers, also met the outgoing LG on Wednesday.Jung became Delhi LG in July 2013, replacing Tajender Khanna, another IAS officer. A former IAS official of 1973 batch, he was initially posted in Madhya Pradesh and was last associated with Jamia Millia Islamia, where he was the vice-chancellor from 2009-2013.The former L-G had constantly been in the news for the past two years for his confrontation with the AAP’s Delhi Government and Chief Minister Kejriwal. He had also formed the committee chaired by VK Shunglu on August 30, to examine 400 files on decisions taken by the Kejriwal regime.

Search panel reconstituted on orders of PMO for AIIMS director job

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

No indication of contest for party’s gen secy post: AIADMK

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amidst demands for appointing late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s confidante Sasikala as the AIADMK general secretary ahead of Thursday’s crucial General Council meet, a senior party leader on Wednesday said there are no indications of any contest to the top post.Asked if any candidate has filed nomination for the coveted post held by Jayalalithaa, AIADMK spokesperson C Ponnaiyan told reporters that “so far there is no indication of a contest”.The General Council is “empowered” to take any decision on the matter relating to the election of the General Secretary, the only agenda of Thursday’s meeting, he added.Ponnaiyan said various organs of the party besides many of its senior leaders have been pitching for Sasikala to take over as General Secretary. When asked if Sasikala will participate in the meeting, he said the General Council can elect a General Secretary, irrespective of whether any contestant attends it or not.On the violence outside the party headquarters earlier in the day, he said, “If someone enters your house and creates problems, there is a consequence–an action has got a reaction.” “However, we don’t justify the violence as this movement, launched by MGR (MG Ramachandran) and taken forward by Amma, does not condone violence,” Ponnaiyan added.On former Chief Secretary P Ramamohana Rao’s contention that Income Tax raids would not have had happened at his house and office if Jayalalithaa was alive, Ponnaiyan said the raids were not conducted by the state government but by a central department.Responding to a question on various conspiracy theories doing the rounds over Jayalalithaa’s health and her subsequent death, Ponnaiyan said he categorically dismissed them.

Rahul- Mamata demonetization bonhomie leaves Bengal Congress and Left clueless about future

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> With the TMC and the Congress cosying up to each other on the issue of demonetization, the political equation in Bengal has taken a new turn with the CPI(M) and the state unit of the Congress clueless about how to respond to the development.The recent bonhomie between Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee has ignited a fresh debate within the state Congress leadership which is opposed to the TMC in Bengal. Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury said, “The state Congress is not a separate entity. It is a part of the AICC. In Bengal, the (pre-poll) alliance (with the Left Front) was forged under instructions from the AICC. So, now it is for them to decide what will be our political line in the state.” Chowdhury, however, added that the TMC could never be a “reliable ally” of the Congress in its fight against demonetization.”The party whose top leadership is a prime accused in the chit fund scam can never be a reliable ally of the Congress,” he said. In an indication at emerging political equations, Banerjee today extended her warm wishes and greetings to the members of the Congress on the party’s 132nd foundation day. The CPI(M), which had faced the ire of its Left Front partners and several factions of the Marxist party itself for forging a pre-poll alliance with the Congress, was left red-faced after yesterday’s joint press conference in New Delhi. The CPI(M) leaders, however, tried to put up a brave face by saying, “you should not read too much”.”There is nothing to read too much into it. Earlier, we have seen Mamata Banerjee marching to Rashtrapati Bhavan with the Shiv Sena. So, does that mean she will forge an alliance with the Shiv Sena? Political alliances are not forged on the basis of press conferences,” CPI(M) politburo member Mohammed Salim said. Asked if the Left-Congress alliance would continue in the days to come, Salim said, “I can’t comment on it.” The Left allies went hammer and tongs against the CPI(M) and said it should learn lessons and stop ignoring its time-tested allies.”This is what you get when you ignore your age-old allies for a foe-turned-friend of three months. This joint press conference of the Congress vice-president and the TMC chief is a tight slap on the face of the CPI(M) and it should take lessons from it,” RSP state secretary Kshiti Goswami said. The alliance between the Left Front and the Congress had failed to create much of an impact in this year’s Assembly polls with the TMC winning a whopping 211 seats, while the alliance managed to bag 76.

DNA Evening Must Reads: Anil Baijal likely to be new Delhi LG, Mulayam rules out alliance with any party; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Union Home Secretary Anil Baijal likely to be new Delhi LGCareer bureaucrat Anil Baijal looks set to become the next Lt Governor of Delhi, a post which has fallen vacant after sudden resignation of Najeeb Jung. Read more here. Uttar Pradesh assembly elections: SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav rules out alliance with any partyAmid speculations, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of an alliance with any political party for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Read more here. Kalmadi defers Life President post of IOA, Sports Ministry issues showcause noticeFaced with a barrage of criticism, scam-tainted Suresh Kalmadi declined the position of the Indian Olympic Association’s Life President even as the Sports Ministry issued a showcause notice to the IOA for its controversial decision. Read more here. Cabinet clears ordinance: Face jail time, Rs 50,000 penalty for holding old notesThe Cabinet on Wednesday approved promulgation of an ordinance to impose a penalty, including a jail term, for possession of the scrapped 500 and 1,000 rupee notes beyond a cut-off. Read more here. Scrap cash withdrawal limit, reveal how much black money recovered post demonetization: Rahul to ModiUpping the ante on the government’s demonetization drive, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sacrificed the common man in ‘yagna’ against black money. Read more here. Shocking: Ram Gopal Verma SLAMS Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan!Ram Gopal Verma took to Twitter to post a series of tweets, giving a thumbs up to Aamir’s brilliant performance. But while doing so, he took a serious jibe at the other Khans- Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. Read more here.

Chit fund row: CBI summons 2 Trinamool MPs in connection with Rose Valley scam

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>CBI has issued summons to two MPs of Trinamool Congress, Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Tapas Paul, in connection with the alleged Rose Valley scam, one of the cases being probed by the investigating agency as part of the umbrella chit fund scams.Both Bandyopadhyay and Paul have been asked to appear at the CBI office here on December 30. CBI sources said Bandyopadhyay was called earlier also but he had cited ongoing Parliamentary session to seek exemption from personal appearance. Now the agency has again asked the Member of Parliament to appear before its investigation team to be questioned in the connection with the chit fund scam related to Rose Valley group, the sources said.When contacted in Kolkata, Bandyopadhyay told PTI, “I will appear in the first week of January.” “I will go because I want to know what are the exact charges that they have levelled against me. I feel that it is better to sit face-to-face rather than talking over phone,” he said. Recently, there was speculation that Bandyopadhyay may be questioned by CBI after which Trinamool Congress had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was using central agency to scare the party because of its opposition to demonetization. “By pursuing political vendetta you can’t stop Mamata Banerjee and TMC from protesting against demonetization. You are using CBI and other central agencies to scare us. But you won’t succeed,” TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee had said.”You feel you and your party are saints and all of us thieves. But the fact is you are the biggest thief,” he had said. The CBI had filed its charge sheet in the Rose Valley Group chit fund scam naming Kundu and three others in a special court in Bhubaneswar on January 7. The firm was charged with defrauding depositors of Rs 17,000 crore from across the country of which Rs 450 crore was received by the ponzi firm from Odisha alone.In its charge sheet, CBI had claimed that it was still probing the role of “influential people” in the scam. Besides role of regulatory authorities, money trail and larger conspiracy hatched by the accused persons to cheat the public are still under probe of the agency, they said.The sources said that CBI, in its charge sheet, has named Kundu, the then Managing Directors Ashok Kumar Saha and Ram Lal Goswami, besides Rose Valley Real Estate and Constructions, Rose Valley Real Estate and Land Bank, and Rose Valley Hotels and Entertainment. CBI has alleged that these persons and companies were allegedly responsible for running “illegal” ponzi scheme in violations of the norms of RBI, SEBI and Registrar of Companies. The agency alleged that they kept running the schemes “knowing fully well” that these were “commercially unviable” and continued cheating people by keeping them associated with the group.

Tamil Nadu: CM should respond to Rama Mohana Rao’s claim that he is Chief Secretary, says DMK

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>DMK on Tuesday demanded an explanation from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam over former Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao’s insistence that he continued to remain on the top post despite being replaced following Income Tax raids at his residence and office.DMK Treasurer and Opposition Leader M K Stalin said he had sought an explanation from Panneerselvam when the raids were being carried out at Rao’s house and office last week.”If the former Chief Secretary is in a position to claim that he is the Chief Secretary, then only the Chief Minister has to respond to that,” Stalin told reporters here.Rama Mohana Rao, who is under I-T scanner, had earlier in the day said that the copy of the transfer order on his removal as Chief Secretary has not been handed over to him yet, and that therefore he continued as the topmost official of the state government.The state government had last week appointed Girija Vaidyanathan in his place, a day after I-T sleuths raided Rao’s Anna Nagar residence and chamber at the state Secretariat.Asked if the BJP government at the Centre was “behind” the raids, Stalin said it was up to the central government, BJP and I-T officials to clarify it.

AgustaWestland case: Why arrest SP Tyagi and let babus, politicians go scot-free?

It isn’t funny that a ‘CBI special court’ has virtually ‘slapped’ the CBI while granting bail to Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi (retired) in the AugustaWestland probe. While the CBI had arrested Tyagi accusing him of receiving kickbacks illegally in the VVIP helicopter deal, the CBI special court has observed that the CBI had failed to show when and how much of the alleged bribe was paid to him, even though the investigation had gone on for almost four years. Special Judge Arvind Kumar also pointed out that the allegation that Tyagi’s properties were linked to the alleged illegal gratification was not investigated in over three-and-a-half years despite the CBI having seized the documents regarding his properties in 2013, but more than three years and nine months later, no investigation was conducted in this regard.

File image of SP Tyagi. PTI

File image of SP Tyagi. PTI

It may be noted that CBI was given four days custody following his recent arrest, however, the Bureau had it extended. The CBI special court made following important observations: Tyagi retired in 2007 and the CBI’s view that he influenced witnesses does not hold water; the present case is based on documents; the accused joined the investigation as and when called by the CBI and has also been interrogated in custody; allegations of whether he received kickbacks, and in what manner he was connected in the alleged conspiracy, can only be looked into during the trial stage; he has been in custody for 18 days. No purpose will be served by keeping the accused behind bars. CBI counsel and additional solicitor-general Tushar Mehta opposed Tyagi’s bail plea, arguing that they had found “new” evidence to build the case against Tyagi. Here the question is why this “new evidence” could not be shared with the CBI special court, or is it based on the hope that some “new evidence” will crop up with the Italian court reopening the case?

So now the question is that if the CBI did not have sufficient evidence against Tyagi, why was he arrested at this point of time and kept imprisoned for 18 days? Was this a fake “earthquake” warning for the UPA akin to the Congress vice-president’s threat to rock the Parliament? What a terrible shame that despite having exceptionally strong assistance from the Italian courts, who have virtually handed India the case on a plate, only Tyagi and two other accused are questioned and jailed while the bureaucrats, the politicians and the then SPG director involved are not questioned. As someone remarked on social media, “Just imagine what is going to happen to all the other UPA scam cases in the hands of CBI/Supreme Court where there is no external court assistance — actual culprits are going to get off scot-free.”

In the AugustaWestland probe, the following facts already public can hardly be ignored:

One, the helicopters in question were required by the SPG to fly VVIPs.

Two, the requirement of helicopters from eight to 12 was increased by the PMO.

Three, IAF had insisted since 1988 that service ceiling of 6,000 metres was an operational necessity to access all border areas, also reiterated to the defence secretary in January 2004.

Four, under instructions issued by the NSA in March 2005, fresh supplier quality requirements were evolved in consultation with PMO and SPG; a meeting chaired by the defence secretary in May 2005 decided to lower the service ceiling to 4,500 metres. This was obviously later approved by the defence minister — facilitating the purchase of AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopters which fly only up to 4,572 metres.

Five, there is no way Tyagi could have lowered the flying ceiling of the required helicopters without the indulgence of MoD, NSA, SPG and PMO.

Six, the then director, SPG (who used to accompany the Congress president during her foreign visits) was present during the so-called trials abroad on ‘representational helicopters’, based on which the deal for importing AugustaWestland helicopters was signed.

Seven, middleman Guido Haschke’s diary revealed the jotting of apparent beneficiaries.

So logically, the then defence minister, NSA, defence secretary, SPG director and officials of the PMO and Ministry of Defence should have been probed by now along with Tyagi, but no move has been made on this front as yet. Significantly, on 14 December, the Supreme Court ruled in another case that was just based on uncorroborated evidence of statements and records of hawala dealers or corporate diaries that investigations can’t be undertaken, never mind prosecution. So, hasn’t Tyagi been arrested because of similarly frivolous reasons — statements by middlemen?

The million dollar question is: Will the government of the day take up the gauntlet to smash what is generally referred to as the ‘Hamam‘?

The 1993 NN Vohra Committee Report while establishing the nexus between governmental functionaries, political leaders and others with various mafia organisations and crime syndicates, enabling the development of significant muscle and money power to operate with impunity, had finally opined that “leakage about the linkages of crime syndicates, senior government functionaries or political leaders in the states or at the Centre could have a destabilising effect on the functioning of government”. So there was no follow-up to this report.

Of the scores of defence scams since Independence, how many politicians and bureaucrats were probed, arrested, prosecuted? Of course, VK Krishna Menon had the distinction of initiating the first one — the Jeep Scandal of 1948, wherein he as India’s High Commissioner to the UK signed a deal with a company in England to supply 200 jeeps (bypassing all government regulations) for the Army costing Rs 80 lakh, but only 155 jeeps were supplied. The case was closed in 1955 and Jawaharlal Nehru appointed Menon as defence minister. And despite the ignominy of 1962, we have a Krishna Menon Marg in his name in the heart of the Capital.

On a different wavelength but hardly surprising, Francois Gautier writes on Facebook:

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 15:51 IST

Railways asks West Bengal govt to take charge of all ongoing & new projects

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Railways has sent a letter to the West Bengal government stating that from now on the state has to take responsibilities of all ongoing and upcoming projects of the suburban system as well as Metro Railway.According to a highly-placed source at the state secretariat Nabanna, the letter addressed to the Chief Secretary, the Transport Secretary and the Urban Development Secretary, was sent last week from the Railways Works Planning Directorate.It stated that the Railways, in the last few years had incurred losses of around to Rs 15,000 crore due to delay in projects including Metro Rail projects, which were either delayed or stalled because of various hindrances.In the letter, the Railways has asked the state government to take responsibilities about removal and rehabilitation of encroaches on its land, feasibility study of any proposed project and so on, the officer said.It has also proposed the state can utilise funds meant for urban transport projects or can levy different forms of taxes and development fees to releasing project costs, he said.Incidentally, a couple of months back the Centre had verbally given similar proposals to the state government, which the latter had dismissed, the officer added.

Removed after IT raids, Rama Mohana Rao says, I am Chief Secy of Tamil Nadu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tamil Nadu’s top bureaucrat P. Rama Mohana Rao who was removed after tax raids at his home and office on Tuesday, said that he is still the Chief Secretary of the state, and claimed that his life was in danger.Speaking to the media, Rama Mohana Rao said, “I will hand over to you the panchanama of what income tax department has found in my house. I was under house arrest. It is an unconstitutional assault on the office of Chief Secretary. I am still the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu.”After the raids, senior IAS officer Girija Vaidyanathan was appointed as the Chief Secretary of the state on Thursday (December 22), replacing Rao.Stating that when the CRPF entered his house, his name was not there in the search warrant, he added, “The search warrant had name of my son. They have found nothing, no incriminate documents were found, no secret chamber.””At gun point, CRPF entered my house, my son’s house. Why did they do? I may be a big hurdle for many. I am being targeted. I have fear, my life is in danger,” he said.Rama Mohana Rao also said that they (government) had no guts to serve him with the copy of transfer order.Questioning where the state government was and who gave the CRPF the go-ahead to enter his house, he asked, “If madam (Jayalalithaa) had been alive, would this happen to Tamil Nadu? What about people’s security?”

Political parties relying on dubious sources of funding: report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a debate on ways to crack down on alleged dubious funding to political parties has been welcomed, the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had skirted the issue, despite a committee making many suggestions on the issue.The report, a copy of which DNA has accessed, was commissioned by the then Finance Ministry through the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) in 2011 and it was submitted in 2013. It clearly stated that major political parties were heavily relying on black money through unaccounted political donations. The report never saw the light of day during the then government’s tenure.The two-volume, hardbound blue-covered report, titled “Study of Unaccounted Income of India,” by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) grimly stated the scale of the problem.“In the case of one party, the entire income from such donations is in tranches below Rs 20,000. In seven other cases, it is over 80 per cent. This implies that large amounts are being credited by these parties in their book of accounts as coupon sales or cash donation received from anonymous or unknown sources.” it said.“Cash donations or coupon sales below Rs 20,000 is an open avenue for political parties to introduce any amount into their books of accounts, and also avail exemption from tax with no question asked. This is a venue open to serious misuse and the introduction of black money,” the report said.Such damning findings beg two questions: why did the then government not take cognisance of the report? What was the role of the Election Commission (EC) in this regard?The report also pointed out that though the EC had taken steps to standardise audit reports of parties, little action had been taken and even if implemented, “they were unlikely to put any real check on introduction of black money through these opaque sources (black money avenues).”The report was vetted by 20 officials of the CBDT, which included KV Chaudhry (current CVC), Enforcement Directorate, Director of Revenue Intelligence, Financial Intelligence Unit, Election Commission and the then revenue secretary Sumit Bose.Asked to comment on the report, SY Qureshi, then Chief Election Commissioner of India, confirmed its findings. “Currently, almost 80 per cent of funds to parties are being seen as cash collections from unknown sources and the EC has been protesting about it for a very long time. We would like total transparency and we have to ask that every political party be audited annually by an independent auditor and the audit report be put on the party’s website.”Currently, the regulatory control of EC on the financial affairs of political parties is minimal, once the election period is over.There is evidence that a very large number of registered parties are not filing their contribution reports or audited statment of acounts with the EC.The proforma of return form ITR 7, which political parties are required to submit is the same as that prescribed for ​​Trusts and Section 25 companies. However, t​his is, for the most part, irrelevant to the type of information needed for the proper assessment of the income of political parties. Such a system does not require the particulars of contributions above or below Rs 20,000 to be reported separately.​As the report points out, “there is no mechanism to know as to which political party has not filled the contribution statement (form 24A) under Section 29C of the Representation of People’s Act (RoPa) with the EC, or even its returns of income.”The report also points out that lack of proper investigation by the Income-Tax (I-T) department suggests that parties are able to cover up funds that may be dubious.“Although copies of election affidavits are forwarded by the EC to the I-T department, our discussions brought out that such actions rarely lead to any effective investigation or verification.The main reason is that while the election affidavits have been designed as a statement of wealth of a candidate and his dependents, declaring the market value of the assets on a given date, the data available with the I-T department even in respect of those candidates who are assessed pertains to annual incomes,and not wealth,” the report said.​Not surprisingly, the contents of this report, has put political parties on the defensive. While former finance minister P Chidambaram refused to comment, other parties were vocal.Speaking to DNA, BJP’s national spokesperson GVL Narsimha Rao had this to say: “I am sure the report is in possession of the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which has been constituted by our government and not by the UPA. Given that such information is under the possession of the SIT, it is entirely in its realm to use that report and decide on it. Our government does not have any role to play.”Other parties insisted that a thorough probe was needed. Brinda Karat, CPM politburo member said the matter was under discussion between the EC and parties: “The EC has put this issue on the agenda of their discussions with parties.Such donations should form only a small percentage of the income, but at present there is no such limit and parties take donations from corporates. My party does not take any money from corporates. Our coupon donations are all recorded. Our mass collections form a very small part of our income,” she said.HOW TO REFORM POLITICAL FUNDINGSeparate return form for political parties. Special rules to check the opaque sources of funding, such as coupon sales. Returns of political parties and candidates must be made available for public scrutiny by making appropriate amendments in Section 138 of I-T Act. All parties and electoral trusts may be assessed centrally at the headquarters of Directorate-General of Income Tax (Exemption), Delhi. Parties should not receive any donation/contributions/Fees etc by whatever name from a single person or entity called exceeding Rs 10,000 in a year except through account payee cheques. THE REPORT STATES…In the case of one party, the entire income from such donations is in tranches below Rs 20,000.In seven other cases, it is over 80 per cent.
Cash donations or coupon sales below Rs 20,000 is an open avenue for political parties to introduce any amount into their books of accounts, and also avail exemption from tax with no question asked.
This is a venue open to serious misuse and the introduction of black money. MONEY MATRIXTotal income of parties from unknown sources for FY 2014-15 is Rs 1,131 cr.
60% of party incomes are from unknown sources.
Section 13A of the I-T Act, 1961, confers tax exemption to parties for income from property, income from voluntary contributions, capital gains and other sources. Only income under the head ‘salaries and income from business or profession’ are taxed.

Delhi: Reach office by 9.45 or face strict action, says state government

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cracking the whip on lax officers, Delhi Chief Secretary MM Kutty has warned babus of strict action for not observing punctuality in attending their offices and directed them to come to office by 9.45 AM. This is the first strong message to officers from the Delhi’s top bureaucrat after he found that a large number of babus are not coming to office on time.Kutty has directed Secretary (GAD) to keep a watch on the attendance of officers and officials working in Delhi Secretariat and and also ensure that they mark their attendance in biometric attendance system by 9.45 AM.Kutty, a 1985-batch IAS officer, had taken charge as Delhi Chief Secretary on December 1, replacing Keval Kumar Sharma who has been transferred as OSD in the Union HRD Ministry. “Principal secretaries and secretaries ensure punctuality in their departments and if an officer/official is habitual late corner, then action may be taken against him or her as per rules,” he told officers, as per the official minutes of the recently-held meeting.He had been the Principal Secretary to former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. He has also worked with the AAP government as the Finance Secretary. Delhi Secretariat houses offices of several important departments – Transport, Urban Development, Power, PWD, Finance – besides offices of all ministers, including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.In the meeting, the issue of decline in collection of trade and taxes, excise and revenue departments was also raised and that, the Delhi Chief Secretaries has directed principal secretaries and secretaries to improve the same as they are the major source of generating revenue.

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

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

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

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

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

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tamil Nadu: DMK General Council meet on January 4

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

India-Pakistan ties on a downward path one year after Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore

On Christmas 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave one of the biggest surprises in India’s diplomatic history, when he chose to have a stopover at Lahore to personally wish his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his 66th birthday and also attend his granddaughter’s wedding at his palatial house at Raiwind. Exactly a year later, all that Modi did to wish Sharif was a tweet:

The tweet may be an indicator of the deterioration in the bilateral ties between the two countries. Soon after the surprise visit last Christmas, the Pathankot Air Force station was attacked on 2 January. In a gunbattle with security forces, four militants, who allegedly entered the area in army fatigues, were gunned down. The Indian Air Force lost three of its personnel. United Jihad Council claimed responsibility for the attack.

India later nailed ISI’s hand in the attack, while Pakistan denied the accusations. However, after initially promising to allow a National Investigation Agency team to visit Pakistan to probe the attack, Islamabad backtracked. This was after an ISI probe team visited Pathankot, which was criticised by the Opposition.

While Pathankot probe was underway, Kulbhushan Yadav, an alleged Indian Navy officer, was arrested by Pakistani authorities on charges of spying. With this Balochistan came into the picture in the India-Pakistan bilateral ties. While India claimed he was a businessman, Pakistan alleged he was spying on the behalf of RAW in Balochistan and Karachi.

The decline in the bilateral ties hastened after Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter in Kashmir. His killing led to widespread unrest across the valley, with the security forces imposing curfew which remained enforced till October. It gave Pakistan a chance to raise the issue of India’s alleged human rights violations in the state.

On 10 August, Sharif held a cabinet meeting to discuss the Kashmir unrest, with the cabinet deciding to internationalise the issue. The meeting observed that “Kashmir remains an unfinished agenda of the United Nations and accordingly India must realise that Kashmir is not its internal matter, rather it is a matter of regional and international concern”.

PM Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on 25 December 2015. PTI

PM Narendra Modi and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on 25 December 2015. PTI

With the unrest in Kashmir, Modi invoked the alleged human rights violations in Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan during his Independence Day address to the nation. The reference made Pakistan to claim that this proved its contention that India has been allegedly “fomenting terrorism” in the province.

Sharif chose to hit back at India during his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Sharif said, “Peace and normalisation between Pakistan and India cannot be achieved without a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. This is an objective evaluation, not a partisan position.”
“Our predictions have now been confirmed by events. A new generation of Kashmiris has risen spontaneously against India’s illegal occupation — demanding freedom from occupation. Burhan Wani, the young leader murdered by Indian forces, has emerged as the symbol of the latest Kashmiri Intifada, a popular and peaceful freedom movement, led by Kashmiris, young and old, men and women, armed only with an undying faith in the legitimacy of their cause, and a hunger for freedom in their hearts.”

Rebutting Sharif, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told the gathering at the UNGA that Pakistan had been ignoring the human rights violation in Balochistan. “In the last two years, in exchange of our friendship, we got Pathankot, Uri, Bahadur Ali. Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and it will remain so, she added.

India strongly condemned the reference to the slain militant and criticised Islamabad silence over the recent Uri attack. Speaking at the UN, India’s First Secretary Eenam Gambhir, called Pakistan a host to the “Ivy League of terrorism” and urged the world community to declare Pakistan a “terrorist state”.

Uri attack, which India referred to after Sharif’s speech at the UN, took place on 18 September. Heavily armed militants stormed a battalion headquarters of the Army in North Kashmir’s Uri town in the wee hours, killing 17 jawans and injuring 19 other personnel. Four militants were also neutralised. Fingers were pointed once again at Pakistan.

With the clamour for avenging Uri, India conducted “surgical strikes” over terror launchpads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The strikes — refuted by Pakistan, which even sent journalists to the area where the attack allegedly took place — escalated tensions on the border, with Pakistan even capturing an Indian soldier.

Three months after the attack by India’s special commandos, cross-border firing between the two countries is still going on.

Meanwhile, India decided to turn on the heat on the diplomatic front. Modi called Pakistan the “mothership’ of terrorism” during his address at the Brics Summit at Goa in October.

In the Goa Declaration, the five member countries of Brics asked all countries to prevent terrorist actions from their soil. It called for expeditious adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) by the UN to tackle the problem and step up practical cooperation against terrorism.

The member countries also condemned the recent attacks against some Brics countries, including that in India. “We agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating international terrorism both at the bilateral level and at international fora,” the Goa Declaration issued at the end of the summit said.

India also pulled out of the Saarc Summit, which was scheduled to be held in Islamabad. The refusal to participate, along with several other member-states, citing Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism, led to it being delayed indefinitely.

The Modi government took another step to rein in Pakistan, threatening to abrogate the World Bank- assisted Indus Waters Treaty. Modi is reported to have told a meeting convened on this issue, “Blood and water can’t flow together”. Pakistan reacted to this news sharply.

“India set to wage war against Pakistan,” screamed a headline of a Pakistani newspaper, The Nation

Shireen Mazari, former journalist and leader of Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf party, went to the extent of saying that India’s “suspension of the treaty” was the first step towards declaring (a real) war against Pakistan. Speaking in Pakistan’s National Assembly on Monday, she demanded an immediate response to India from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The Indus Waters Treaty has now become a major bone of contention between the two countries now, with the World Bank urging both countries to sort out their issues through alternative means.

Clearly, it seems relations between the two nations have gone downhill in the last one year. With a new army chief in Rawalpindi and India acting tough on terrorism post the surgical strikes, relations might remain tense in 2017.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 13:48 IST

Florence Nightingales of the army sing discrimination

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two officers in the Military Nursing Services (MNS), the only all women corps of the army, have challenged discriminatory practices by the army in the Supreme Court (SC) and have sought restoration of their status, dignity and service conditions as officers of the Regular Army.In their petition, MNS officers Lieutenant Colonel Uma Kaushik and Captain Harpreet Kaur sought parity with officers in the army on various grounds. In their prayer, the officers have listed at least 13 grounds where discriminatory practices were observed. They include orders where nurses of senior ranks would not be saluted by junior ranked officers. Hence, though a MNS officer may be a Major General in uniform, a jawan will not salute her.The petitioners are of the opinion that the core consideration of the case stems from the prejudice they face, based on an obsolete and backward notion that nurses are inferior to other professionals. In their petition, they said they believe the heart of the matter is that doctors and male officers find it unpalatable that they are required to treat nursing officers in accordance with their status and rank.This petition is similar to a 2015 writ petition filed by Major General (Retd) Usha Sikdar on behalf of Military Nursing Service Corps Association in which a notice was issued to the army. It is interesting to note that since hearing in December, 4, 2015, the matter has not come up again in the top court.Known as the Florence Nightingales of the Indian Army, MNS officers have been seeking redressal for over a decade now. The petitioners believe that discriminatory practices were introduced after a 2003 SC judgement in Jasbir Kaur’s case, where an unfortunate one line observation made by the Bench stated, “That the Indian Military Nursing Service is a separate class, sui generis even though an auxiliary force of the Indian Military, is an undeniable fact.”Over the years, the nurses allege that they were discriminated against on at least 13 grounds that included discontinuation of arms training, change in uniform, stripping of stars and flags from vehicles and verbal instructions to stop saluting MNS officers among others.According to the petition, the Army, vide letter no. B/42706/MNS/AG/CW-1 09.02.2004, changed the olive green shirt and pants (like other officers in the Army) worn by the officers in the MNS to safari style beige colour uniform. This, the officers allege, was discriminatory and a grave gender injustice.IN 2005, the Chief of the Army Staff (CoAS) disallowed the display of star plates and flying of flags by officers in the MNS of the rank of Brigadier and Major general on their official vehicles. In 2008, the CoAS wrote to the Cabinet Secretary against granting the same pay band and grade pay to officers in the MNS as for the other service officers as recommended by the 6th Central Pay Commission.After 2004, MNS officers have been denied membership and access to exclusive army clubs and institutes and accommodation has been segregated. The 6th Pay Commission recommended parity in time-scale promotions, a notification that has not yet been implemented.In their petition, the two officers further allege that there has been an attempt to take away their commissioned rank. In her blog titled Fall of Nightingales – the tale of a losing battle, Maj Gen Sikdar wrote that a 10-member committee, headed by then army director-general of discipline, ceremonial and welfare, Lt Gen MG Girish recommended that MNS ranks be changed to Sister, Senior Sister, Matron, Deputy Principal Matron, Deputy Nursing Superintendent and Nursing Superintendent from Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lt Colonel, Brigadier and Major General, respectively. However, medical officers got to retain their ranks, Sikdar noted.

Coimbatore: AIADMK cadres want Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa to take over the mantle

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid calls from party cadres for Deepa, niece of former chief Minister Jayalalithaa,to take on the mantle of AIADMK General Secretary, a huge cut out has been put at Kurichi area here by her supporters. The cut out said that people are ready to accept the leadership of Deepa, “who has the blessings of Jayalalithaa.” Meanwhile another poster of Jayalalithaa’s long time aide Sasikala in Sundrapuram area was found blackened by some miscreants, police said, adding it was removed.Posters hailing Sasikala and urging her to take over the reins of the party and some in support of Deepa had appeared all over the state about two weeks back. The posters had described Sasikala as “Chinnaamma” as she is called by party workers and requested her to take up the leadership of AIADMK and guide the party.Those supporting Deepa had described her as “Kulavilakku” (guiding lamp of Tamilians) and “Aala Pirandavale” (born to rule), incarnation of Amma, as Jayalalithaa was known among party cadres.Sasikala, 60, had been a close aide of Jayalalithaa for three decades and was always seen as a power centre in AIADMK.

Rahul’s attack on PM Modi loses edge as Sheila Dixit junks Sahara documents

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With Rahul Gandhi targeting the Prime Minister over ‘Sahara diaries’ bribery issue, a controversy erupted after Congress put out a list linked to it on Twitter in which a reference to its leader Sheila Dikshit also allegedly figured, prompting her to junk the documents. BJP immediately latched onto the issue, saying there cannot be double standards and that Rahul was “whipping a dead horse” as the apex court has already cleared the matter while parties like JD(U), RJD and NCP demanded that everyone mentioned in the diaries should be probed.Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who is also Congress’ chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh, strongly denied the charges and trashed the documents, saying the Supreme Court has already made its observations on them.”There is no iota of truth in the allegations. I totally reject these allegations,” she said. Asked about Congress putting out the “list” publicly on its twitter handle, she told PTI, “It surprised me”. She, however, said she has nothing to do with the issue and refused to speak further saying the matter is sub-judice. Sources close to her said she may take up the matter with the party.”The list has so many names. Then why are you focusing on Sheila Dikshit. I don’t even remember anything like this. There are names of other chief ministers. Why don’t you talk about them? Why only Sheila Dikshit?” she said. BJP national Secretary Siddharth Nath Singh said, “There cannot be double standards but Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and their spokespersons are making stupid mistakes time and again. A horse has died and his death has been certified by the Supreme Court.”Taking a dig at Rahul Gandhi, he said the Congress leader “should have gained wisdom by now, he is no more a child”.JD(U) leader K C Tyagi said, “I want that the Sahara diaries should now be made public and all the people named in it should be questioned.””There are accusations against Sheila Dikshit, Raman Singh and Shivraj (Singh Chouhan) and some other leaders that they have received money from Sahara and that is why we demand that the entire list should be made public,” he alleged.RJD leader Manoj Kumar said irrespective of who has been named in the list, immediate action should be taken and a probe by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court ordered.”Because we don’t want to target an individual, rather we don’t want the Prime Minister’s position losing its credibility in front of the entire world and this is our priority,” he said.Majeed Memon of NCP said, “It does not matter if the person is from Congress or BJP or is a PM or a former CM. “If someone has committed a crime and he/she is being accused, then he/she should be dealt with in accordance with the law.” Just days earlier, Rahul Gandhi had alleged that Narendra Modi as Gujarat Chief Minister had taken money from Sahara and Birla groups and demanded an independent inquiry into it, a charge rejected by BJP.The ruling party had said that the “baseless, false, shameful and mala fide” allegations were an attempt to divert attention from the AgustaWestland probe as names of Congress leaders and the “family” are coming up.

Dhulagarh riot: BJP central team stopped from entering violence-hit village

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A team of central leaders of BJP were stopped from entering the village at Dhulagarh, Howrah on Saturday afternoon, where communal clashes erupted last week.The Howrah (Rural) district police officials put up barricades to prevent the BJP leaders and supporters from entering the violence-hit area of Dhulagarh.”Section 144 has been imposed in the area, hence outsiders are not being allowed to enter. This is to prevent any law and order situation in the area. Currently, the situation has retuned to normal and is peaceful. However, though the locals are allowed to enter their homes inside the village,” said a senior police official.The central BJP team comprised of two MPs Dr. Satyapal Singh and Jagdambika Pal was accompanied by BJP state president Dilip Ghosh and national secretary Rahul Sinha to take stock of the situation and meet the victims of communal clashes.

Tamil Nadu: After I-T raids, ex-chief secretary Rama Mohana Rao admitted to ICU

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tamil Nadu’s ex-Chief Secretary P. Rama Mohana Rao, whose premises was raided by the income tax (IT) department was this week, has been admitted to the Ramachandra hospital .Rao was admitted to ICU after he complained of chest pain.The IT Department had on Wednesday raided his office and residence.Rao, has been chief secretarys in June 2016, and also holds additional charge as Vigilance Commissioner and Commissioner of Administrative Reforms.

Kerala: CPI(M) govt says UAPA Act should be slapped only against terror suspects

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Apparently distancing itself from police for taking into custody and slapping sedition charges against a theatre artist and activist, ruling CPI(M) in Kerala today made it clear that the LDF has its own declared policy and no action violating it should be happened from the side of police personnel.In an article in party mouthpiece ‘Deshabhimani’, party state Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said as per the policy of LDF government, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) should be slapped only against persons involving in terrorist activities.He also accused the previous Congress-led UDF government of widely misusing the UAPA and sedition charges (124A). The Act was even slapped against CPI(M)’s party workers during its tenure, he alleged.”LDF government has its own declared police policy. It is not akin to the policy of either Narendra Modi government at the Centre or that of the previous UDF government in the state. There should not be any act violating our declared policy,” he said.Balakrishnan’s article came at a time when the LDF government and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who holds the home portfolio, were widely being criticised for the police action against artist Kamal C Chavara over showing disrespect to national anthem and activist Nadeer Gul Mohammed for his alleged Maoist links.In the article, Kodiyeri said the slapping of 124(A) against Kamal amounted to send a wrong message.”But, letting him off after taking into custody was an appropriate action. The LDF government has always intervened strongly and punished those guilty when there was violation of state police policy and Police Act,” he said.In Nadeer’s case, a case was registered under UAPA on March 3, 2016 during the tenure of the previous government.Though police had taken him into custody earlier this month, he was later let off when the charges were found baseless, he said.”Police should be ready for a legal re-examination even in the UAPA cases wrongly slapped by the previous government,” he said.The leader also criticised the controversy over the arrest of some people for allegedly disrespecting national anthem during the time of recent International Film Festival of Kerala.It was during the tenure of the previous UDF government that three youths were arrested from a local theatre here for not standing up while playing national anthem and 124 (A) was slapped against them by police, he said.But, during the time of this IFFK, police took some people into custody for maintaining law and order but later let them off on station bail, he said.”This indicates that LDF government’s policy is not that of UDF,” he said.Balakrishnan also pointed out that Chief Minister himself had warned that stringent measures would be taken against those who violate the government policy.Attempts to destroy the morale of police in the name of some isolated incidents were going on in the state, he added.

Arvind Kejriwal meets Najeeb Jung, says he resigned due to personal reasons

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after Najeeb Jung resigned as Delhi’s Lt Governor, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal met him at Raj Niwas here.Kejriwal reached the LG’s official residence around 8 AM and the breakfast meeting lasted for nearly an hour.Asked why Jung quit, Kejriwal said, “He resigned due to personal reasons.”Yesterday Jung’s office, without citing reasons for his sudden exit, said, “he would be returning to academics”.Jung’s decision had taken political circles by surprise.
ALSO READ LG v/s AAP: A timeline of the battle between Najeeb Jung and Arvind KejriwalSources close to him had said that his resignation has nothing to do with his acrimonious relationship with the AAP government over matters of jurisdiction and he was contemplating to quit for last few months.The Chief Minister was in Ranchi on Thursday when the news of Jung’s resignation broke.
ALSO READ Home Secretary met Najeeb Jung two days ago, was unaware of his resignation”Sh Jung’s resignation is a surprise to me. My best wishes in all his future endeavours,” he had tweeted.Meanwhile, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju has criticised the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress for “doing politics” over the resignation of Jung.”I don’t know what problems do the AAP and Congress have. When Jung was working, they were demanding resignation.

DNA Morning Must Reads: Modi laughs off Rahul’s charges; Najeeb calls it quits, speculation over new ‘Jung’; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. Now he has spoken, there will be no quake, PM Modi mocks Rahul, criticises Manmohan, ChidambaramHe also attacked the Opposition for stalling Parliament over the currency ban, by alleging that they were trying to “rescue the corrupt”. Read more.2. Najeeb calls it quits, speculation over new ‘Jung’ beginsJung’s sudden resignation caught everyone unawares. Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi claimed that the LG had given no indication of his plan to resign two days ago when he had a meeting with him. Read more.3. No need to go on defensive, Amit Shah tells party leadersAmit Shah is understood to have cautioned his party against going on the defensive or allowing political opponents to set the agenda. Read more.4. World No.1, aiming for that: PV SindhuRio Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu has set her eyes upon going for the numero uno ranking. Read more.5. Saifeena’s baby has fans going crazyWhile the speculation continues, the family has neither accepted or denied the authenticity of the images — the latest being of the parents and the baby. Read more.

Najeeb calls it quits, speculation over new ‘Jung’ begins

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Lieutenant Governor (LG) Najeeb Jung on Thursday submitted his resignation to the Centre, sparking speculation who could be the next incumbent.Jung’s sudden resignation caught everyone unawares. Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi claimed that the LG had given no indication of his plan to resign two days ago when he had a meeting with him. Even officials in the LG’s office and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed their surprise.On his part, Jung said he would now join his first love – academics. Sources said that the front runners for the post include former IAS officer Anil Baijal, former Delhi police commissioner BS Bassi, current LG of Pondicherry Kiran Bedi, former IAS officers GK Pillai, VK Duggal and DM Sapolia, and BJP leader Jagdish Mukhi.Sources added that while the appointment of the new LG may be politically influenced, it is highly unlikely that a politician would be anointed. “The Delhi LG is the top administrator. Therefore, a politician has never been appointed. However, the political leanings of the official may play a major factor in the decision,” said a source in the LG’s office. He added that the current decision taken by the LG may have been influenced by the Union government.There are also rumours that Delhi may see its first woman LG. Meanwhile, Kejriwal and Deputy CM Manish Sisodia tweeted their surprise at the sudden announcement. The two wished Jung the very best for his future endeavours.”I spoke to Najeeb Jung over the phone and he said that he has resigned for personal reasons,” reports quoted Kejriwal. Jung had been constantly in the news for the past two years for his confrontations with the AAP government. He had formed a committee, chaired by VK Shunglu on August 30, to examine 400 files on decisions taken by the Kejriwal regime.Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari said that the party appreciated Jung for the work he did in Delhi and asked Delhiites to respect his decision. The Congress, however, attacked the Modi government for Jung’s sudden exit and questioned the timing of his unceremonious exit.”The PM should explain if there was any deal between him and Kejriwal behind the exit of Jung. The Congress will come out to the streets and protest if an RSS-connected or RSS-supported person is appointed as LG,” said Ajay Maken, Delhi Congress chief.Jung became LG in July 2013, replacing Tejendra Khanna, another IAS officer. Jung was initially posted in Madhya Pradesh and was last associated with Jamia Millia Islamia, where he was the Vice-Chancellor from 2009-2013.”The LG’s resignation will be submitted to the President of India through the Ministry of Home Affairs. However, till the time a new LG is appointed Jung will continue to occupy the chair, in case any emergency arrives,” said SK Sharma, former Secretary of Delhi Assembly.Earlier in the day, Jung issued an official statement, thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the people of Delhi and Kejriwal for their support over the past three years.Possible SuccessorsAnil Baijal, a 1969-batch IAS officer, served as home secretary in the Vajpayee govt. Believed to be close to the RSS.GK Pillai, a 1972-batch IAS officer of the Kerala cadre. Served as Union home secretary.BS Bassi, former Delhi Police Commissioner. Accused by political parties as a BJP spokesperson for his antics towards the end of his tenure as the commissioner. Currently a member of the UPSC.Kiran Bedi, initially associated with India Against Corruption and a close associate of Arvind Kejriwal. Parted ways after the inception of the Aam Aadmi Party. She later contested election on a BJP ticket, and was projected as the Delhi CM candidate. Currently Governor of Pondicherry.Jagdish Mukhi. A senior BJP leader, he is currently the Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Rumoured to be close to the RSS.VK Duggal, a 1968 batch IAS official. Was Governor of Manipur during UPA regime in 2013. Stepped down in 2014 after the BJP came to power.Sapolia, a 1979 batch IAS official. Appointed by the Centre as the Delhi chief secretary, after removing SK Srivastava, who was rumoured to be close to Arvind Kejriwal.

No need to go on defensive, Amit Shah tells party leaders

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At a time when demonetization overshadowed the debate inside and outside Parliament, BJP chief Amit Shah is understood to have cautioned his party against going on the defensive or allowing political opponents to set the agenda.In a meeting with leaders of various departments of his party recently, Shah, according to sources, asked the party to go on the offensive and flaunt the Modi regime’s achievements such as OROP, Jan Dhan yojna and the fight against corruption through demonetization. He said the BJP should be setting the agenda while expressing concern that “despite all the work done by the government”, it was the rivals who were managing to do that, the sources said.He is believed to have said that the BJP had a resounding majority in Lok Sabha, an ideology and a strong organisation while Congress, with just 45 MPs in the Lower House at present, had none of these. Despite that, the Congress had managed to stay in power for decades, he said.The government-Opposition face-off over a debate on demonetization in Parliament had stalled the Winter Session, which was mid-way when Shah held the meeting. He, along with General Secretary (Organisation) Ram Lal, was taking stock of the progress made by the 19 departments he had announced around a year ago.After the assembly elections in UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab early in 2017, Shah and Ram Lal are likely to spend three days in every state to take stock of the functioning of the various departments, the sources said. Shah has been emphasising on strengthening the organisation,as part of a long-term political strategy. He said with some election or the other every year, the party should be battle-ready to face them.Shah told the media department to ensure positive coverage by generating a debate on burning issues. He asked how many editors or senior journalists it had interacted with after government took major steps like OROP. He said literature, data and fact sheets should be prepared so that the media is kept informed, according to the sources.Turning to the legal cell, he said despite several corruption cases surfacing in Congress-ruled Karnataka, it had not filed any PIL, according to sources. He said the members should find out what was happening on the ground and accordingly respond.The party president, who had been monitoring the functioning of the various party departments and getting regular feedback, however, said the intention of the exercise was not to criticise anybody.

Unprecedented acrimony marks Jung’s tenure as Delhi LG

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The tenure of Najeeb Jung as the Lieutenant Governor saw Delhi’s complex administrative structure stretched to the limit with unprecedented rancour marking his relationship with the elected Aam Aadmi Party government. The Arvind Kejriwal dispensation, having won a brute majority in the February 2015 election, repeatedly accused Jung of “stalling” governance and acting at the BJP government’s behest and as the “agent” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.But, Jung steadfastly maintained that he was merely following the constitutional provisions in letter and spirit and asserted at one point that “in respect to the NCT (national capital territory) of Delhi, the government means the Lieutenant Governor of the NCT of Delhi”. Earlier this year, the Delhi High Court’s verdict came as a shot in the arm for Jung as it stamped his primacy as the city’s administrative head. However, the ruling AAP has challenged the order in the Supreme Court.The die was cast during AAP’s 49-day-stint spread across 2013-14 as the dispensation had clashed with Jung over his objection to the tabling of the Jan Lokpal Bill in the Delhi Assembly. The party also referred to Jung’s stint with business house Reliance to caste aspersions on his decisions.
ALSO READ AAP v/s LG: Najeeb Jung’s sudden resignation leaves bete noire Arvind Kejriwal ‘surprised’In AAP’s second term, the first stand-off occurred within days of Jung appointing senior bureaucrat Shakuntala Gamlin as acting Chief Secretary of the city government in June 2015, notwithstanding strong reservations by Kejriwal who termed the decision as “unconstitutional”.Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) became another sticking point with the body being headed by two simultaneous heads at one point, LG-appointed MK Meena and the other, SS Yadav, authorised by the AAP government. As matters came to a head over the appointment of Swati Maliwal as Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief in July 2015, Jung proclaimed, “In respect to the NCT (national capital territory) of Delhi the Government means the Lieutenant Governor of the NCT of Delhi.”
ALSO READ LG v/s AAP: A timeline of the battle between Najeeb Jung and Arvind KejriwalA fresh round of confrontation started in December 2015 once Jung, in his communication to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), questioned the legality of a Commission of Inquiry set up to probe alleged irregularities in Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), an issue over which the AAP was training its guns on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, demanding his resignation.In September last year, Jung had directed all officers, including IAS and DANICS, not to follow the Delhi government orders which were declared by the Centre as “null and void”. This year, soon after the verdict of the Delhi High Court, Jung set up a panel to examine over 400 files pertaining to the AAP government’s decisions.
ALSO READ Home Secretary met Najeeb Jung two days ago, was unaware of his resignationThe panel headed by former CAG VK Shunglu submitted its report last month. According to sources, it pointed out many discrepancies in decisions. The report has not been made public yet. Terming the Delhi High Court verdict as “historic”, Jung had then said, “When we get elected, it doesn’t mean we are rulers and instead we will have to work and confine ourselves to our roles and jobs which are in the framework of the Constitution.” The genesis of the confrontation, in many ways, lies in the ambiguity of powers of the elected government as Delhi continues to be a Union Territory while enjoying a special status with a Legislative Assembly.

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

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

UN Chief Ban Ki-moon asks India, Pakistan to resolve differences through dialogue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon has asked India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue and exercise restraint as he maintained his concern over the increase in tensions between the two neighbours along the Line of Control in recent months.The Secretary-General, whose 10-year tenure at the world organisation’s helm will end this month, has had a “very consistent position” on the situation in Kashmir, his deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters on Wednesday in response to a question on tensions between India and Pakistan.”All I can say is the Secretary-General has had a very consistent position. One fact we expressed even just last month, which is to say that he is following with concern the increase in tensions along the Line of Control and that he urges the Governments of India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and encourages them to continue their efforts to resolve their differences peacefully and through dialogue,” Haq said.When asked by a Pakistani reporter that the Secretary- General has been “very reluctant” throughout his term to talk about the Indian-Pakistan conflict, Haq said he disagrees with such assessment. “I would disagree with you on that. We’ve had statements, including on the situations between India and Pakistan and on specifically on Kashmir. There have been statements and notes to correspondents. The last one was just a few weeks back, so I would just refer you back to those,” Haq said.In a statement issued last month, Ban had expressed deep concern about the “deterioration” of the situation along the Line of Control in Kashmir and called on all involved to prioritise the restoration of calm and stability in order to prevent any further escalation and loss of life.Ban has said that his good offices are available to India and Pakistan if “accepted by both sides”.Throughout the year, Pakistan brought up the Kashmir issue at various UN fora but its attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue did not find resonance among the rest of the 191 member states of the UN.

India and Pakistan should resolve their differences through dialogue: Ban Ki-moon

United Nations: Outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon has asked India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue and exercise restraint as he maintained his concern over the increase in tensions between the two neighbours along the Line of Control in recent months.

A file photo of Ban Ki-moon. ReutersA file photo of Ban Ki-moon. Reuters

A file photo of Ban Ki-moon. Reuters

The Secretary-General, whose 10-year tenure at the world organisation’s helm will end this month, has had a “very consistent position” on the situation in Kashmir, his deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters here yesterday in response to a question on tensions between India and Pakistan.

“All I can say is the Secretary-General has had a very consistent position. One fact we expressed even just last month, which is to say that he is following with concern the increase in tensions along the Line of Control and that he urges the Governments of India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and encourages them to continue their efforts to resolve their differences peacefully and through dialogue,” Haq said.

When asked by a Pakistani reporter that the Secretary-General has been “very reluctant” throughout his term to talk about the Indian-Pakistan conflict,Haq said he disagrees with such assessment. “I would disagree with you on that. We’ve had statements, including on the situations between India and Pakistan and on specifically on Kashmir. There have been statements and notes to correspondents. The last one was just a few weeks back, so I would just refer you back to those,” Haq said.

In a statement issued last month, Ban had expressed deep concern about the “deterioration” of the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and called on all involved to prioritise the restoration of calm and stability in order to prevent any further escalation and loss of life. Ban has said that his good offices are available to India and Pakistan if “accepted by both sides”. Throughout the year, Pakistan brought up the Kashmir issue at various UN fora but its attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue did not find resonance among the rest of the 191 member states of the UN.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 11:27 IST

Jagannath temple reform panel gets final submissions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Gajapati Maharaj of Puri, Dibyasingha Deb, has submitted an affidavit before Justice BP Das Commission of Inquiry suggesting reforms in rituals and management of Shree Jagannath Temple. The Commission Secretary collected the copy of the affidavit from Deb’s residence in Bhubaneswar today, which was the last date for submission of affidavits. The Puri district administration through its Collector and Shree Jagannath Temple Administration through its Chief Administrative Officer too submitted their respective affidavits before the Commission during the day. The Shankaracharya of Gobardhan Peeth at Puri had earlier conveyed his suggestions to the Commission on the reforms for Shree Jagannath Temple. A whopping 10,344 affidavits collected from across the state were submitted to the Commission on Monday. Hundreds of holy men and devotees under the aegis of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) marched in a massive rally and submitted these affidavits at the Commission’s office here. The holy men also submitted a seven-point proposal for reforms in the temple. The Commission had extended its deadline for submission of affidavits twice, the last one being on December 3. The Commission had then claimed that it was extending the deadline since it had only received 350 affidavits.The judicial Commission had been instituted by the state government to suggest measures for better security of the temple, safety of the visiting devotees, timely conduct of temple rituals, and welfare of deities and servitors.It was set up in July this year after the Niladree Bije fiasco which took place at the concluding ritual of the nine-day Rathayatra festival this year when the servitors allowed devotees to climb the chariots defying a ban by Orissa High Court. The state government had announced the formation of the one-man judicial commission in September after the Puri Collector Arvind Agarwal was manhandled by servitors during the incident when the matter reached a tipping point.Television cameras had zoomed in to show a young girl climbing down the chariot of Lord Balabhadra, in the last leg of the Rath Yatra 2016 at Puri. Moments later a few servitors got into an ugly scuffle with the district collector of Puri and other media personnel. The Jagannath Temple has since become a battle ground for control between the servitors, the political class and the temple administration.Rath Yatra, the annual chariot festival is the most prominent religious temple festival of India, and holds a special place in the hearts of the Odia people. At this year’s Rath Yatra, major deviations in rituals resulted in a ruckus in full glare of TV cameras, angering millions of devotees. After a prolonged debate last year and intervention by Odisha High Court, the climbing of devotees atop chariots was banned. A similar diktat was issued by the Shankaracharya and an understanding between Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) and servitors to ensure the ban was reached. However, a few relatives of the servitors defied the ban. When Arvind Agarwal, district collector of Puri intervened, servitors manhandled members of district administration and media personnel. The ritual of Niladri Bije, that of the deities returning to their temple after a nine-day-long sojourn at their aunt’s place, was delayed causing anguish to many devotees. Following legal action, some servitors were suspended; others arrested. The state government, whose law minister, Arun Sahoo was present on the occasion, constituted a one-man judicial commission, headed by retired judge of Odisha High Court, Bimal Prasad Das, to suggest reforms in management of Sri Jagannath Temple, Puri. On July 25 it was alleged that the state government paid Rs 2 crore to servitors as compensation for the loss that prevention of taking devotees atop chariots brought about to honour the Odisha High Court verdict. There are nearly 6,000 servitors in 119 categories that help run the Jagannath Temple.

Demonetization: Mamata dares PM Modi to ‘arrest her’, BJP dubs her ‘queen of corruption’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ramping up her voice against the Centre, Mamata Banerjee looked to strike an emotional pitch as she asked the Centre to ‘arrest her’. She said at a public meeting: “You (PM Modi) don’t have to touch anybody. You arrest me. I challenge you, if you have the guts you arrest all of us, nothing will deter us from raising out voice against demonetisation. Demonetisation is a big scam. We want to know what is the deal. We will say it thousand times.””We must win the battle as people are with us. As long as I live, I shall fight alone if required,” she said. Meanwhile, the BJP hit back by dubbing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as “queen of corruption” after she criticised the I-T raid at the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary’s residence, BJP alleged that the TMC supremo was not interested in fighting corruption but shielding it and asked her to not undermine the process of law.Taking a dig at her, BJP National Secretary and the state’s co-incharge Sidharth Nath Singh said the TMC chief seemed too “worried” and wondered if she wanted to shield her own officer as he raked up corruption cases involving TMC leaders.Singh also accused her of “misleading” the people by referring to only non-BJP ruled states where Central agencies had acted against officers, noting that a senior Rajasthan officer, where BJP is in power, was acted against by CBI as well.”She is queen of corruption. She needs to answer on Saradha, Narada and Rose Valley scams. She is trying to undermine the process of law by politicising the I-T raid.Being in the constitutional process, she should understand the law. She is not interested in fighting corruption but is shielding it,” he told reporters.Banerjee today criticised the I-T raid at the residence of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao, saying such a “vindictive and unethical” act by the central agencies devalues the institution of head of the civil service.The Income Tax Department today carried out searches at over dozen places in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh against the son and some relatives of P Rama Mohana Rao during which they claimed to have seized Rs 18 lakh cash and gold bars.The I-T action was conducted in connection with the case related to biggest cash haul of new notes post demonetisation after the department raided some sand mining operators of Tamil Nadu here.Asked about her comments as to why such raids were not being carried out against BJP chief Amit Shah, Singh said such a “irrelevant” question coming from the “queen of corruption” did not merit a reply.With inputs from agencies

NEET to be held in eight languages from 2017 onwards

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission in medical colleges will be held in eight languages- Hindi, English, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu- for the academic year 2017-18. Also, the candidate qualifying NEET will be eligible for all India quota and other quotas under the State governments and Institutes irrespective of the medium taken by candidates, subject to other eligibility criteria, the Union Health Ministry said in a statement.In May, Union Health Minister JP Nadda had held a meeting with the Health Ministers and Health Secretaries of 18 states/Union Territories towards implementation of NEET across states. Joint Secretary, Medical Education, AK Singhal said, “The collaborative efforts of Central Health Ministry with the state health ministries have lead to this decision so as to bring parity for the students who have taken the State Board exams.”NEET has replaced AIPMT and has been made mandatory for admissions in all-India medical/dental colleges which means no other state can conduct its separate medical entrance.

DNA Evening Must Reads: Rahul Gandhi’s allegations against PM Modi, Sunny Leone sizzles in ‘Raees’, and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rahul Gandhi claims PM Modi took bribes from Sahara and Birla, BJP laughs off allegationsRahul Gandhi alleged that Narendra Modi as Gujarat Chief Minister had taken money from Sahara and Birla groups and demanded an independent inquiry into it, a charge BJP rejected as an attempt to divert attention from the AgustaWestland probe in which the names of Congress leaders and the “family” were coming up. Read more hereIncome Tax raids on Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary: BJP rejects Mamata’s criticism, denies any ‘vindictive action’Rebutting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s criticism of the Income Tax raids on Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Ramamamohana Rao, BJP said Wednesday’s raids prove the agency was working without any discrimination and had carried out a “usual procedure.” Read more here After backlash, RBI amends Rs 5000 deposit order, says KYC account holders won’t be asked questionsAfter facing huge backlash, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday amended its order on deposit limit of Rs 5,000 and said that KYC account holders will not be asked questioned. Read more hereWatch: Dramatic video footage of Mexico fireworks market fire that left 31 dead, several injuredA series of massive explosions destroyed a fireworks market outside the Mexican capital on Tuesday, killing at least 31 people, injuring dozens and leaving the market a charred wasteland. Read more hereWatch: Sunny Leone sizzles in ‘Laila Main Laila’ song from Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Raees’The much awaited dance number from ‘Raees’ is finally out and we’re completely digging it. Read more here

Foodgrain output in the country may scale peak next year

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The agriculture sector is all set to bounce back leaving two years of drought behind and may well pull off record foodgrain output of 270 million tonnes in 2016-17 on good rains, but farmers’ woes may continue due to adverse impact of notes ban and low sales realisation.The farm growth is estimated to rise at over 5% this fiscal, from 1.2% in the previous year, on the back of record kharif foodgrain production at 135 million tonnes (mt) and likely bumper output in the ongoing rabi season, helped by good monsoon in most parts of the country.”The agriculture sector has done well during the year. We received good monsoon after facing the drought year. Kharif in general was very good and rabi sowing has been brisk. We are hopeful of bumper production this year,” Agriculture Secretary Shobhana Pattanayak said in an interview.Although agri-experts have raised concerns about impact of demonetization on rabi crops and the likely effect of forecast of warm winter on wheat crop, the secretary said the government is not “downgrading” the target for 2016-17 crop year. “Our target is to achieve foodgrain production of 270 million tonnes while our last peak production was 265.04 mt in 2013-14 crop year (July-June),” he said.”Agriculture sector growth was lower last year because of drought. But from that level, we will move higher.” On farm sector growth, NITI Aayog Member Ramesh Chand said: “It will be spectacular growth after facing two drought years. We are expecting a growth of 5.5% this year.” The growth rate of agriculture and allied sectors will be 5.3% even if wheat productivity throughout the country is lower by 3% due to rise in temperature, he said.Asked about adverse impact of demonetization on farmers, Pattanayak said there is not much impact as the credit system has been strong in rural areas and farmers have become more resilient over the years. “Our farmers have witnessed very strong drought in last two years and yet they have bounced back. I don’t think it has really impacted,” he said. However, farmers’ organisations as well as former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar have expressed deep concern about impact of demonetization, saying farmers are unable to buy quality seeds and fertilisers for their rabi crop and are also facing problems in selling crops for want of demand.Despite record kharif production this year and expected good crop in the rabi season, farmers’ conditions continue to be grim due to lower sales realisation, with domestic and global commodity prices staying depressed. The demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes has also affected the domestic demand of fruits and vegetables, forcing farmers to sell their produce at throwaway price.About farmers’ woes, agri-economist Ashok Gulati said: “This year, production is likely to bounce back and therefore, much better than last year. However, farmers are already under debt. And prices of cotton, basmati rice and, with demonetization, many fresh fruits and vegetables are depressed. Because of that, despite higher production levels, farmers have not gained much.”2016 began on a sticky note as the country’s overall foodgrain output remained flat at 252 mt in 2015-16 crop year due to second straight year of drought. Pulse output fell to 16.5 mt resulting in high prices for most part of the year that kept the government on its toes, which took various steps to cool prices and bring relief to consumers.The measures like domestic procurement and import to boost local supplies helped ease the prices of tur and urad from about Rs 200 a kg, but chana continues to rule high. As per the official estimate, wheat output rose to 93.55 mt, from 86 mt, but FCI’s procurement fell sharply and domestic prices of wheat and its products began to rise towards the end of the year. The government scrapped import duties on wheat to boost domestic supply. To provide relief to farmers hit by the cash crunch, the government has given them an additional two months to repay their crop loans due in November-December and said prompt repayment will be eligible for the extra 3% interest subsidy.The government had earlier allowed farmers to buy seeds through old Rs 500 notes from central and state-owned seed companies as well as from ICAR and central varsities. It had also asked fertiliser companies to sell soil nutrient on credit basis to farmers. To check food inflation, import duties on palm oils and potatoes were reduced. Stock limit on sugar mills were also imposed to check prices although improved domestic rates helped industry clear arrears to farmers.The year also saw the successful rollout of the landmark National Food Security Act (NFSA) across the country. Programmes like new crop insurance scheme and eNAM to link all 585 mandis on an electronic trading platform were announced to augment farmers’ income.In this year’s budget, the government raised agri-credit by Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 9 lakh crore for the current fiscal and levied 0.5% Krishi Kalyan cess on all taxable services to fund farm initiatives. Eminent scientist M S Swaminathan hailed the new schemes, but stressed on proper implementation. He also wanted the government to pay farmers 50% more than the production cost as part of the minimum support price (MSP).Expressing concern over poor implementation of agri schemes, Gulati, the former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, said: “The government should focus completely on agriculture and try to implement some of the programmes properly.”The year also witnessed the government fixing the maximum retail price and royalty for cotton seeds, including Bt cotton, based on its order issued at the fag end of 2015. The move was opposed by biotechnology firms while the domestic seed manufacturers were in favour of the decision.Global biotechnology major Monsanto threatened to re-evaluate its India business. It plans to introduce new products, besides entering into the legal battle against this order. However, NCP supremo Pawar recently attacked the NDA government for taking such a move, saying “Indian agriculture is being brought back to licence and control raj which is detrimental to the growth of the sector”. “The government of the day should not have hostility to improve systems and technologies,” he said, adding that the government is overly “cautious” on the technology front. In May, the agriculture ministry had come out with a notification to regulate the cotton seed market with provisions for compulsory legislations and capping of royalty rates at up to 10% of the retail price. But it was forced to withdraw this notification amid protest from biotech companies.Genetically modified (GM) mustard, developed by the Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, was in news throughout the year as regulatory body GEAC was vetting the proposal for commercial cultivation amid strong protest from green activists as well as RSS-backed Swadeshi Jagran Manch.Amid uncertainty over the government’s likely stand on GM crop cultivation, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Director General Trilochan Mohapatra said: “From the research side, the transgenic crop which we have developed should be ready, irrespective of whether the government will release them for commercial cultivation or not.” Five transgenic crops — brinjal, tomatoes, banana, castor, shorgum — are ready for large-scale field trials (BRL1), he said, and many GM crops are ready for confined trials.It will be interesting to see the government’s approach in the new year towards allowing cultivation of GM crops, particularly in food crops. At present, the government has allowed commercial cultivation of Bt cotton and there is moratorium on Bt brinjal due to protest from green activists.In 2017, the ongoing legal battle involving global MNC Monsanto, the government and the domestic seed industry will be keenly watched as the outcome will shape the future of regulations for selling GM seeds.

After another flip-flop, Rahul Gandhi compares Modi govt to ‘confused traffic signal’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Modi government is behaving like a “confused” traffic signal exhibiting different colours at the same time, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said on the ‘repeated’ changes in the rules regarding deposit of old currency notes in banks. He posted the picture of a huge traffic signal showing red, yellow, blue and a few other colours at the same time, on Twitter with the caption, “Government orders after demonetisation.”The Congress leader had yesterday likened the repeated changes in the rules to Modi’s changing of “clothes” and had said that the message going out was that the Prime Minister’s words were “hollow”.He was commenting on the new decision of the government under which an amount more than Rs 50,00 in scrapped currency can be deposited only once per account till December 30.Earlier, the Prime Minister, while announcing the demonetization decision on November 8, had said old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes could be deposited in banks till December 30 without any questions asked. Party chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala was equally critical of the latest order, with him giving RBI the sobriquet of “Reverse Bank of India.”In a series of tweets, he said, “Unfortunately, Reserve Bank of India has become ‘Reverse Bank of India’!” Surjewala also posted two cartoons stating “the rules of RBI are like weather, which keeps on changing and therefore, requires hourly bulletins to inform people.” “Daily ‘headline management’ is the norm for Modi Govt.If Ind. owner has a choice to pay in cash or cheque, futile to amend the Wages Act,” he said in response to the government bringing an ordinance to amend the Payment of Wage Act for allowing business and industrial establishments to pay salaries through cheques or by using electronic modes.”2ndly, it reflects massive shortage of currency with Modi Govt. Instead of admitting it, it is forcing daily wage earners to stand in bank queues,” he said.Surjewala also latched on to the remarks of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who after supporting demonetisation initially, did a volte face and said the move has created many troubles for the common man.”AP CM, NDA ally & head of #DeMonetisation Committee is breaking his head over the mess. Do u need more proof Modiji?”, he said.Ahmed Patel, Political Secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, was equally caustic.”50 days, 60 rules #DeMonetisation,” he said in a tweet.

Demonetisation: Bank officer’s union to protest investigative role being thrusted on banks

New Delhi: All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC) has registered a protest to RBI on bank officers being assigned investigative role for customers depositing in excess of Rs 5,000, and demanded complete withdrawal of the order as the staff are facing public wrath.

Even as RBI partially modified its deposit guidelines, the union will be holding demonstrations all over the country in front of Reserve Bank of India offices later on Wednesday to press for withdrawal of the notification.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The RBI on Wednesday modified guidelines saying KYC compliant account holders can deposits more than Rs 5,000 in old currency notes without being questioned by bank officials.

Earlier this week, the RBI issued a notification directing banks to conduct due diligence of customers who wish to deposit more than Rs 5,000 in old currency till 30 December.

“The credit in such cases shall be afforded only after questioning tenderer, on record, in the presence of at least two officials of the bank, as to why this could not be deposited earlier and receiving a satisfactory explanation,” RBI had said.

“The instructions issued vide the RBI communication dated 19 December must be withdrawn forthwith as the banker shall not carry out the duties of CBI/ED/IB at the busy counters,” AIBOC General Secretary Harvinder Singh said in a representation to RBI Governor.

No accountability should be fixed on the bank officers in this respect as they are thrust with a role not expected of them, it added.

“Having demanded this, we strongly feel that withdrawal of the instruction itself will only confirm the Prime Minister’s statement to the public on November 8 and improve public confidence in the banking system and reduce the hardships faced by the officers at counters,” it said.

Pointing out that the banking system itself is losing credibility because of frequent changes in RBI/Government policies, Singh said customer dissatisfaction is increasing because of chaos and confusion created in implementation of the scheme.

“Bank Officers are being subjected to the anger, anguish and wrath of customers or general public due to short supply of currency notes to the banks, particularly to Public Sector banks,” it said.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 14:53 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

Ahead of Assembly polls, Goa BJP to send 2 vehicles to receive suggestions on manifesto

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a novel method to elicit public opinion for drafting its manifesto for upcoming Assembly polls, the Goa BJP has decided to send two vehicles, with a box, in north and south parts of the state to receive grass-root level suggestions.”The first meeting of the manifesto committee was held yesterday. Now it has been decided to appeal people to give their suggestions about the manifesto through e-mails,” Goa BJP General Secretary Sadanand Tanawade said.”As an unique initiative, BJP will also ferry two vehicles, in North and South District respectively, mounted with a box to accept suggestion from the voters,” he added.”We want voters to put up their suggestions in that box so that we can consider their points while drafting the manifesto,” said Tanawade.The BJP manifesto committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza had a preliminary discussion on the draft of the manifesto. “The date for release of manifesto is yet to be decided. The thrust of the manifesto would be to make Goa a model state. We want to deliver people-centric manifesto,” said Tanawade.Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar is also a member of the committee. “The party cadres in all the constituencies would be asked to approach the voters to pull in suggestions from them,” Parsekaer told reporters.”We managed to fulfil 90% of the 2012 poll promises. Wherever required administrative decisions are taken, infrastructural works are complete, while few are in pipeline. The balanced promises would be fulfilled during our next tenure,” he added.

Nexus of traffickers, terror networks dangerous, should be urgently addressed: India at UN

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India has described the nexus between organised traffickers and terrorist networks through illicit financial linkages as a “dangerous phenomenon” that should be urgently addressed using counter-terrorism financing tools and sanctions regimes.”The nexus between organised traffickers and terrorist networks through illicit financial linkages is a dangerous phenomenon,” India’s Deputy Permanent Representative Tanmaya Lal said at a UN Security Council debate on ‘Trafficking in Persons in Conflict Situations’, here on Wednesday.Lal said the low rates of conviction for crimes of trafficking across countries needs to change.”The persistence of this transnational organised crime and its links with terrorist networks despite the various collective efforts of the international community is a challenge that requires a stepping up of our efforts, more effectively using the existing counter-terror financing tools and mechanisms and sanctions regimes in this regard,” he said.Lal also voiced concern that situations of armed conflict provide fertile ground for trafficking in persons especially from the vulnerable groups, including women, children and refugees for sexual slavery and forced labour or as fighters.He said that in recent times, heinous actions of terrorist groups such as ISIS or Boko Haram specifically targeting women and children in situations of armed conflict as a deliberate tactic of war add an even more serious dimension to such crimes as such groups continue to act with impunity.”The primary focus of the Security Council is to address threats to international peace and security. While increased focus on addressing trafficking in persons and its linkages to terrorism and armed conflicts is timely, we must strengthen international collaboration to better implement the various existing mechanisms, including through more effective coordination of the various entities at the UN,” he said.While the Security Council should retain its focus on situations of armed conflict, Lal said broader mechanisms should be more fully utilised to strengthen national capacity building including in criminal justice capacities, regulatory frameworks of banking and financial institutions to disrupt illicit financial flows and improve regional and inter-regional cooperation.Outlining the measures taken by India to address issue of trafficking, he said India unveiled a comprehensive draft legislation this year aimed at prevention of trafficking and protection and rehabilitation of trafficked persons.India also continues to work closely with UN agencies including UN Women and the Office on Drugs and Crime.UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, highlighting the plight of victims of human trafficking, underlined at the debate the need to ensure justice for victims and accountability forperpetrators, as well as to address underlying factors by focusing on human rights and stability.”If conflict gives oxygen to traffickers, human rights and stability suffocate them,” Ban told the Security Council at its ministerial-level meeting on trafficking.Ban said there is need for strategic leadership in ending war and also in preventing conflicts and sustaining peace, noting the UN’s commitment to supporting its member states in early action and in preventive diplomacy.

Goa Assembly Election 2017: AAP’s Elvis Gomes is in for a tough but not impossible fight

Arvind Kejriwal, the Aam Aadmi Party (APP) supremo and incumbent Delhi chief minister, would not be what he is if did not indulge in theatrics. A modest crowd that had gathered at a ground near the Cuncolim bus stand in South Goa on Monday, were hardly amused when Kejriwal anointed AAP’s Goa state unit convenor Elvis Gomes as his party’s chief ministerial face for the upcoming state legislative assembly elections midway through his public rally.

The real theatrics lied in selection of the venue and date of Kejriwal’s second Goa rally after his May rally in North Goa. It was one incident that took place on another Monday some 433 years back that etched Cuncolim’s name in golden letters of Goa’s history when 73 years after Portugal had colonised Goa in the early years of the 16th century, a revolt took place and local villagers killed 20 persons on 25 July, 1583, including five priests in protest against destruction of Hindu temple and their forced conversion to Christianity. It was later to be termed as Goa’s first war of independence, though the actual liberation had to wait for another 378 years when Indian armed forces set foot on Goa and made the Portuguese surrender on December 19, 1961.

Team Kejriwal thus zeroed down on Cuncolim for their supremo Kejriwal to kickstart AAP’s herculean task of coming to power in the upcoming elections on the day Goa was celebrating 55 years of its liberation. His clarion call, expectedly, was to liberate Goa now from the alleged corruption perpetuated over the years by the national arch-rivals Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress party. Ironically, Kejriwal named Gomes, a fellow bureaucrat-turned-politician, as the AAP torchbearer, though Gomes himself is embroiled in a corruption allegation when he served in the past as Director of Tourism in a land scam.

File image of Elvin GomesFile image of Elvin Gomes

File image of Elvis Gomes

Kejriwal, however, would have none of it in his single-minded pursuit of replacing Narendra Modi as the Indian prime minister when the next general elections are held in another two and a half years. Unseating BJP from power in Goa is an integral part of Kejriwal-led AAP’s national dreams that came a cropper in 2014.

Kejriwal, a political greenhorn in 20114 Delhi elections, had then decided to take huge risk of his life by contesting against the incumbent Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit in her New Delhi assembly constituency and emerged successful. Unlike Kejriwal, Gomes has not been pitched against the Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar from his Mandrem constituency. Gomes is seeking to enter the Goa legislative assembly from his home constituency Cuncolim where he was born and brought up and is expected to lock horns with BJP’s sitting state lawmaker Subhash alias Rajan Naik.

Gomes, 53, may or may not come out of the land corruption taint in his otherwise impeccable record as a Goa bureaucrat who opted for voluntary retirement in July this year after an FIR was filed against him and the former Goa tourism minister Nilikant Halarnkar. It, however, did not prevent him from declaring that one of his first acts as the Goa chief minister would be to construct the unfinished wing of newly constructed Colvale prison so that the corrupt Goa politicians belonging to the BJP and the Congress party are jailed there.

Gomes was serving as Inspector General of Prisons with additional charge of Urban Development Secretary when he quit as a bureaucrat even while he was in line for promotion as an IAS and joined AAP shortly thereafter.

A Goa civil services officer, Gomes has served Goa in various posts and capacities. He is generally admired for his upright approach including his role in promoting responsible and clean tourism and ensuring jobs for locals in the tourism industry.

It may appear that despite sharing a common bureaucrat-turned-politician background, Kejriwal and Gomes need each other. Bereft of any reliable name and a crowd-puller, Kejriwal needed to piggy ride Gomes’ popularity to power in Goa while Gomes in return needed a platform to nurture his political ambitions that he had successfully kept under wraps until he joined AAP on 5 October this year.

Their mutual roles were already fixed. While Kejriwal went hammer and tongs after Modi – attacking him over the recent demonetisation and yet unsubstantiated allegation of Modi receiving bribe in the past as the Gujarat chief minister. Gomes on his part trained his guns on the Goa BJP and Congress party leaderships.

Gomes, in his address, reminded people of various scams that Goa has witnessed and said that BJP came to power in the state promising corruption-free governance. He criticised BJP turning a blind eye on corruption and adding more to the existing list of scams in Goa, in almost screeching voice matching that of Kejriwal.

Since AAP cannot be separated from corruption, the focal point of Monday rally was corruption. AAP was born out of anti-corruption nation-wide movement of social reformist Anna Hazare, rode to power in Delhi with astounding victory by winning 67 out of 70 seats on offer and itself is now facing charges of getting involved in corruption charges.

Kejriwal was accompanied by all 33 AAP nominees for Goa polls, expected to be held in February-March next year and announced that all of them were free from corruption charges, as he had done even before Delhi polls, though by now many of his party lawmakers are either lodged in prison or facing police cases.

He further announced in his trademark dramatic style that AAP would pull out of the contest from any particular constituency if any of the AAP nominees are proven corrupt even at the eleventh hour. He, however, did not explain why and when AAP would name its candidates for the remaining seven constituencies. Speculations are rife that AAP is unable to zero down on suitable candidates and may nominate political turncoats who have joined the party in the run-up to the state polls. Manny of them enjoy a far from clean image.

For Gomes, the fight has just started. Kejriwal has given him the AAP baton in Goa by making an exception and officially naming him its chief ministerial face, unlike in other poll-bound states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Gomes has to fight against odds like lack of funds and workers, ignite dreams of corruption-free administration and deliver Goa on a platter to Kejriwal while fighting his own corruption taint and ensuring his own victory. By all considerations, it may sound tough, if not an impossible call for him.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 10:15 IST

Centre seeks info on violence outside banks

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

CBI calls senior TMC MP, Mamata says ‘vendetta politics’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said her fight against demonetization would continue and accused the Narendra Modi government of resorting to “vendetta politics” after TMC parliamentary party leader in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay was called by the CBI.”Why is BJP govt doing vendetta politics? Our party LS leader got 3 calls from CBI. Nothing will deter us from fight against #DeMonetization”, the Trinamool Congress supremo said in a statement. She further said, “I read that new rules were announced today also. Every day a decision is changed it means this is an unstable government”. “Imagine the situation in an area where there is no bank! There is cash crunch as well as bank crunch”, she added. Bandopadhyay told PTI that he has received three calls from CBI.”I called them (CBI) back. They said you have to come to our office,” Bandopadhyay, who is also the chairman of Railway Standing Committee, said. Refuting the TMC’s charge of vendetta politics, BJP asked why is TMC afraid of CBI investigation if it has done no wrong and urged it to cooperate.”CBI is an autonomous body. Bandopadhyay should cooperate with CBI investigation. It is TMC’s duty to do so. Instead of crying vendetta politics to gain sympathy, the party should cooperate with the probe,” BJP national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh said.

Government to check misuse of tax exemptions by political parties: Arun Jaitley

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Government plans to set a threshold criteria for political parties to enjoy tax exemptions to check money laundering by outfits that do not contest elections, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Tuesday.He said the Revenue Secretary has been asked to look into the issue in the wake of Election Commission’s recommendations in this regard. Jaitley’s remarks at a Times Now event assume significance in the context of the Election Commission’s recommendations to the Government to amend laws to bar tax exemption to parties that do not contest elections and win seats in Lok Sabha and Assembly polls and to ban anonymous donations above Rs 2,000 to political parties.”I can point out one is invisible donation which Election Commission says is anonymous and the second is when political parties got exemptions. There are about 40/50/60 political parties which effectively contest elections in Centre and the states, (but) you have a large number of political parties which got registered not for contesting election but for availing tax exemption. “Now this part is easier to tackle. I have already asked the Revenue Secretary to look into this and therefore we will have to put a threshold criteria so that we are able to eliminate those which are not real political parties but only for money conversion which have come in,” Jaitley said.He said many political parties do not contest elections but only accept donations and convert money. “I have already told the Revenue Department to look at them and therefore some threshold criteria could be fixed and number of these could be eliminated,” Jaitley added. Jaitley underlined the need for making political funding as transparent as possible, saying donations must be smaller in size but huge in number. “Political funding is necessary, it should be smaller in terms of denomination but larger in its spread. And therefore not creating a quid pro quo and it should be absolutely transparent,” he said.And eventually it may be worthwhile to try and make efforts only for genuine political parties to get those benefits then start moving towards donations predominantly in the manner, he said regretting that electoral reform initiated during Vajpayee Government were not followed up by the UPA. He further said that once the country transforms into a less cash economy, the donors of the political party won’t have the kind of money in future to donate. “And they are going to straight away tell the political parties you are the ones who brought this change and therefore don’t expect us to give any invisible funding. We will fund you but we will fund you by cheque. And that’s how it should be,” he said.

BJP slams Uttarakhand govt for declaring special 90-minute Friday break for Muslim employees

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP on Monday slammed the Uttarakhand government for declaring a special 90-minute Friday break for Muslim employees, saying it will set a wrong precedent and accused the Congress of “communalising” the state’s politics ahead of the assembly polls.Accusing the Congress of pursuing a divisive agenda in its greed for power, the party said few people will be left working in the government offices if Hindus, who observe different forms of pujas across the month, are also given a similar concession. BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma told reporters here that Congress has a history of “dividing” people on communal lines in its greed for power and what it has done in Uttarakhand is an attempt to hide the Harish Rawat government’s failures.”There is no issue with people of different faiths offering prayers of their choice. But this decision will set a wrong precedent on the matter of principle. From Monday to Saturday, faithfuls in our culture worship different Gods and offer prayers. “If everybody is to be given a favour like this, then who will work in government offices. It is an attempt to communalise the state’s politics ahead of the polls as the government has failed on all fronts. It has nothing to show to people for its work and is attempting to hide its failures under its communal agenda,” he said.Congress has given communal colour to terrorism in its greed for power, Sharma alleged, claiming that the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had gone on to say that minorities have the first right to the nation’s resources. For BJP, the poor have the first right, he claimed. The Uttarakhand government has announced a special 90- minute break will be given to the government employees from the Muslim community in the state for Friday prayers.

Uttarakhand: BJP slams Congress for 90-minute Friday prayer break for Muslims

New Delhi: BJP on Monday slammed the Uttarakhand government for declaring a special 90-minute Friday break for Muslim employees, saying it will set a wrong precedent and accused the Congress of “communalising” the state’s politics ahead of the assembly polls.

Accusing the Congress of pursuing a divisive agenda in its greed for power, the party said few people will be left working in the government offices if Hindus, who observe different forms of pujas across the month, are also given a similar concession.

Representational picture. AFP

Representational picture. AFP

BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma told reporters in New Delhi that Congress has a history of “dividing” people on communal lines in its greed for power and what it has done in Uttarakhand is an attempt to hide the Harish Rawat government’s failures.

“There is no issue with people of different faiths offering prayers of their choice. But this decision will set a wrong precedent on the matter of principle. From Monday to Saturday, faithfuls in our culture worship different Gods and offer prayers.

“If everybody is to be given a favour like this, then who will work in government offices. It is an attempt to communalise the state’s politics ahead of the polls as the government has failed on all fronts. It has nothing to show to people for its work and is attempting to hide its failures under its communal agenda,” he said.

Congress has given communal colour to terrorism in its greed for power, Sharma alleged, claiming that the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had gone on to say that minorities have the first right to the nation’s resources. For BJP, the poor have the first right, he claimed.

The Uttarakhand government has announced a special 90-minute break will be given to the government employees from the Muslim community in the state for Friday prayers.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 18:45 IST

‘Impossible’ to implement SC order on shifting liquor shops : Odisha govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Odisha government on Monday said it was “impossible” to implement the Supreme Court order to shift liquor shops to at least 500 m away from national and state highways.”It is impossible to move liquor shops 500 metre away from the highways. There are usually villages, temples, mutts located 500 m away from the highways. People will object to liquor shops there. How can one open liquor shops? These kind of issues will come up in large numbers,” Excise Minister Damodar Rout said. Rout, who had earlier said that total prohibition was an “impractical” idea, said, “It may so happen that most liquor shops won’t apply for licenses under such a condition,” he said. Meanwhile, Odisha Liquor Sellers’ Association decided to convene a meeting of its managing body to discuss the subject.”We will call a managing body meeting over this issue,” secretary of the association Prabhat Das said.Excise officials said the state’s excise revenue collection would be “severely hit” if liquor shops are shifted 500 m away from the highways. While the excise collection in 2015-16 was Rs 2,568 crore, the state government expected an additional Rs 800 crore in the ongoing fiscal. Besides, demonetization has already made a visible impact on liquor sales across the state, they said.Hotel and Restaurant Association of Odisha has said it will be difficult to shift the liquor shops.There are above 500 such liquor shops across the state located within 500 m from the highways, official sources said.

Next US secretary of state Rex Tillerson had advised India to explore for oil globally

Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson flew into balmy Goa a little over a decade ago, his giant aircraft carrying loads of Evian mineral water his office had advised him to drink during his maiden India visit. But Tillerson — now US president-elect Donald Trump’s choice for the post of secretary of state — didn’t display the sort of stiff attitude expected from a person of his stature but politely asked a butler at the Taj Exotica hotel to remove stacks of Evian bottles from his table and walked across the dinning hall to pick up a Himalaya bottled water for “the perfect Indian feeling”.

Saudi Aramco chairman, Abdullah Jumah, sitting close, smiled, describing to a friend Tillerson’s choice of water as “a noble gesture” because Exxon Mobil chairmen rarely break company advice and protocol. Within seconds, he had earned the warmth of the staff of the hotel, with many appreciating his refrain of “Thank You” for the smallest of deliverances.

His keynote address at the World Oil and Gas Assembly (WOGA) — considered by many as one of the finest oil and gas conferences in Asia organised by a Norwegian media outfit — offered the best worldview for India’s beleaguered hydrocarbon sector that left many completely baffled in the ballroom, heads of Indian oil and gas companies describing Tillerson’s speech a virtual eye-opener. “He told Indian companies to boldly explore oil and gas across the world rather looking inwards,” says Narendra Taneja, a top energy expert and WOGA convenor.

File image of Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson. AP

File image of Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson. AP

Once the speech was over, those in the room were in awe of Tillerson, one of the organisers timed the standing ovation a little over three minutes. A speaker, who had had read in US journals that Tillerson’s expansive desk in the Exxon Mobil headquarters at Irving, Texas is called “God’s Own Pod” because of job’s importance, asked Tillerson if he lived in a palace like all rich Americans.

Tillerson, laughed, and said he lived with his family in a ranch outside Dallas in rural settings. “I stay in a log house, not palace, close to nature. That’s my style,” Tillerson replied.

By then, he had already told his staff how he was liking Goa and it’s beaches, the brick and mortar of the Taj hotel did not interest the world’s most powerful executive. But he made queries about the Taj Mahal in Agra and some destinations in Rajasthan, including the tiger jungles of Ranthambhore, and top tourist destinations like Jodhpur and Jaipur.

In his special meetings with Indian tycoons like Reliance Industries head Mukesh Ambani, the then petroleum secretary BK Chaturvedi (who later became the cabinet secretary in Dr Manmohan Singh’s regime) and the then ONGC chairman Subir Raha, Tillerson talked about the Indian economy, people and poverty. “He found India a fascinating country and told the richest Indian that all political parties must work together if this great nation has to make a global impact,” says Taneja, a spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Tillerson, described by his friends and foes as “Mr Perfectionist”, was once disrupted when his assistant played out a slide even before the Exxon Mobil chairman had finished making his point. “A cursory glance at the technician (a member of Tillerson’s team) was enough to freeze him in his seat,” laughs Taneja.

And before the start of the conference, Tillerson’s staff — three advance teams had done background checks of the coastal state, its facilities and security arrangements — had told their boss that his maiden visit to India could be cut short because his aircraft had given jitters to the Indian Navy which had no space for the huge plane. Interestingly, the only available space taken up by India’s liquor baron Vijay Mallaya who refused to shift his plane. Eventually, the aircraft was sent to a parking bay at the Mumbai airport. It was a clear cut deviation because as per company rules, the Exxon Mobil boss cannot stay in a city in which his aircraft is not parked.

Before landing in Goa, Tillerson had a two hour stopover in the Indian Capital where he met the then petroleum minister Ram Naik — conversation details not revealed by the minister’s office, nor by the Exxon-Mobile communications team.

Tillerson, whose close ties with Moscow as Exxon’s main man in Russia, was also instrumental in pushing the state-owned ONGC-Videsh to strike a deal with Russian national oil company, Rosneft, to acquire a 20 percent participating interest in the Sakhalin-1 offshore project in north Pacific’s freezing waters. The deal, when signed was estimated at $1.7 billion, ONGC-Videsh’s largest ever overseas investment in 2001. Sakhalin-I has proven reserves of approximately 2.3 million barrels, its current output 250,000 barrels per day.

But the deal was not easy to sign. Many raised concerns about the project’s commercial viability and the Congress, then in opposition, called it dubious and economically disastrous. But the NDA government went ahead, defending the deal in Parliament in August 2001.

The criticisms fell silent when in 2006, New Delhi’s first share of Sakhalin-I crude docked at the Mangalore port in a Russian tanker berthed at New Mangalore port with VLCC (very large crude carrier). In a quick change of stance, the Congress hailed the project — virtually as its own — and pushed images of the then oil and gas minister Murli Deora receiving a bottled sample from the Russian ambassador in the Indian Capital.

Tillerson, true to his reputation, had the farsightedness needed by the Indian companies scouting for overseas acquisition.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 15:24 IST

Wary of increasing Chinese activity in neighbourhood, India to revive Special Service Bureau

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Becoming wary of increasing Chinese activity in India’s neighbourhood, especially in Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and along the international border, the Centre has decided to revive the Special Service Bureau (SSB), the erstwhile avatar of the Sashastra Seema Bal.Sources said that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has shot a missive to Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) chief RN Ravi and Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, asking them to work out the revival plans of the SSB.The SSB was constituted in 1963, immediately after the 1962 war debacle, to act as a bulwark to keep the Chinese manoeuvres in the region at bay by recruiting local foot soldiers in large numbers.Organised for winning over the border population in Arunachal Pradesh and Bangladesh, Nepal and even Jammu borders to serve as the eyes and ears of the security forces, the Bureau played a key role in gathering intelligence along the border and in neighbouring countries on Chinese designs.The move to revive the Bureau, in addition to a dedicated Mountain Corps and deployment of the Brahmos missiles along the Indo-China border, has been taken by the top securityestablishment in view of the increasing footprints of China in the neighbouring countries and along the international border, sources told DNA.The recent Chinese manoeuvres (Belt and Road Initiative) of opening up new rail and road trade route with Nepal linking Guangdong, Tibet and Kathmandu, the under-construction Shigatse-Gyirong rail link, that would leave Kathmandu merely 84 km away, and the plan to build a tunnel under Mount Everest have made the Indian security establishment very apprehensive of Chinese designs.Besides, China is also increasing its footprints in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Bangladesh recently showed keen interest in increasing Chinese FDI and support for developing infrastructure. During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit, the two countries signed 28 MoUs and deals.The Chinese dominance can also lead to change in dynamics of relations with neighbouring countries and it is important for India to prepare for future threats, said sources. Moreover, Pakistan’s ISI is also trying to make India’s eastern borders active and use them to fuel disturbance. The role of SSB will come in very handy in countering these threats, sources said.The SSB had thousands of locals — well trained in intelligence-gathering, firearms and combat role — spread out in the border areas, who not only served wonderfully well by way of penetration and intelligence-collection but also by countering the propaganda that Chinese tried to feed near the border areas and in neighbouring countries.In its new avatar, the SSB will have to undergo sophisticated training and deeper penetration, said sources. It would take quite some time to put the plan on the ground as the SSB has lost touch with much of its old assets after it got into the new mould.

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