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New draft proposal may pave way for India’s NSG membership, no such luck for Pakistan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A new draft proposal circulated among Nuclear Suppliers Group member states early this month could pave the way for India to become a member of the elite club, but this is unlikely to happen before the end of the Obama presidency next month.The American push for India to become a full-fledged member of the NSG would now have to be pursued by the incoming Trump Administration as the outgoing Obama Administration is unlikely to fulfill its promise made to the Modi Government before its term expires January 20, informed sources said. A draft formula for NSG membership to countries like India and Pakistan that are not a signatory to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was submitted by Rafael Mariano Grossi, the former NSG Chair, who prepared the report on behalf of South Korea, the current NSG chair.According to Arms Control Association (ACA), a Washington-based think-tank who has been a fierce opponent of India-US civil nuclear deal and India’s membership to NSG, the two-page draft formula proposes “nine general commitments” that non-NPT countries like India and Pakistan “would need to make” in order to receive the “fullest” atomic trading privileges. Slamming the draft proposal for “lowering the bar”, Daryl G Kimball of ACA observed that this could pave the way for India becoming a NSG member as it already fulfills all these nine criteria outlined in the draft proposal, which was informally discussed by NSG members in Vienna this month.Informed sources in the US Government told PTI that the current “time-line” does not ensure India’s membership under the Obama Administration, for which it had tried hard, but for the Chinese “resistance” in this regard.As such, India’s NSG membership, an unfinished agenda of the India-US relationship of the outgoing US President would now have to be taken up by his successor Donald Trump. While the civil nuclear deal was an initiative of a Republican Administration, George W Bush, the incoming Trump Administration has not made any public comment in this regard.The issue is, however, believed to have come up for discussion during the initial phase of contacts that top Indian officials have established with the presidential transition team. Revealing details of the nine-point formula for non-NPT States to become a NSG members, ACA says that interested countries should have implemented and have brought into force a clear and strict separation of current and future civilian nuclear facilities from non-civilian nuclear facilities in non-NPT applicant and have provided and maintain a declaration to the IAEA that identifies all current and future civilian nuclear facilities in non-NPT applicant.It seems applicant countries to have in force a safeguards agreement with the IAEA covering all declared civilian facilities in non-NPT applicant, and all future civilian facilities which the IAEA and non-NPT applicant determine are eligible for safeguards and have in force with the IAEA an Additional Protocol covering the identified civilian nuclear facilities, which together with a safeguards agreement, allows the IAEA to detect the diversion of safeguarded nuclear material and to ensure that safeguarded nuclear material is used exclusively for peaceful purposes.The draft-guideline seems a commitment from applicant countries not to use any item transferred either directly or indirectly from a NSG Participating Government or any item derived from transferred items in unsafeguarded facilities or activities, a commitment not to conduct any nuclear explosive test and a clear description of non-NPT applicant intentions plans, and policies in support of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty upon becoming a Participating Government.It also seems a commitment to support and strengthen the multilateral non-proliferation and disarmament regime by working towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons and enhancing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and an understanding that due to the unique nature of the non-NPT Party applications, non-NPT applicant would join a consensus of all other Participating Governments on the merits of any non-NPT Party application.””The formula outlined in Grossi’s draft note sets an extremely low bar on NSG membership and its wording is vague and open to wide interpretation,” said Kimball, who is considered as a non-proliferation czar. “This formula would not require India to take any additional nonproliferation commitments beyond the steps to which it committed in September 2008…,” he wrote. “For example, the proposed criteria for membership would simply require that India or Pakistan describe their plan for separating civilian and military nuclear facilities, which is a step that does not necessarily guarantee civil nuclear technology transfers will not benefit the military sector, and it is a step India has already taken,” he alleged.According to Kimball, the draft proposals takes into consideration a hypothetical Indian opposition to Pakistan’s NSG membership, which is also pending before it. The draft note proposes that one non-NPT member state “should reach an understanding not to block consensus” on membership for another non-NPT member state. “However, Pakistan still has grounds to object to the formula outlined by Grossi because it would require Pakistan to meet the same criteria for membership but, to engage in civil nuclear trade with NSG states, would have to win a separate NSG exemption from the full-scope safeguards requirement,” Kimball said.While the draft formula is not country-specific, as it lays down the membership criteria for non-NPT States, Kimball notes “India could theoretically claim that it has already undertaken all of the steps necessary for membership, which could then lead to a decision on membership for India, while still leaving Pakistan in a different status.”

Anger in Afghanistan at female pilot’s U.S. asylum bid | Reuters

KABUL There was an angry reaction in Afghanistan to news that the first female fixed-wing pilot in the country’s air force was requesting asylum in the United States after completing an 18-month training course.The Afghan defence ministry confirmed on Sunday that Captain Niloofar Rahmani, 25, had sought asylum after the Wall Street Journal quoted her as saying that she feared her life would be in danger if she returned home.A recipient of the U.S. State Department’s “Women of Courage” award in 2015, Capt. Rahmani had been a symbol of efforts to improve the situation of women in her country, more than a decade after the fall of the Taliban regime.Mohammad Radmanish, a defence ministry spokesman, said the government hoped that her request would be denied by U.S. authorities who have spent billions trying to build up Afghan security forces.”When an officer complains of insecurity and is afraid of security threats, then what should ordinary people do?” he said. “She has made an excuse for herself, but we have hundreds of educated women and female civil right activists who work and it is safe for them.”

Capt. Rahmani, who graduated from flight school in 2012 and qualified to fly C-208 military cargo aircraft, had been in the United States on a training course and had been due to return home on Saturday.In a conservative country notorious for the restrictions placed on women, Rahmani’s story stood out as a rare example of a woman breaking through in areas normally reserved for men.

Her success came at a price, however. The citation for the “Women of Courage” award said she and her family had received direct threats not just from the Taliban but also from some relatives, forcing her family to move house several times.However, there was little sympathy on Afghanistan’s active social media networks, which were replete with comments criticizing Rahmani, accusing her of wasting government money spent on expensive training and avoiding her responsibilities.

“Niloofar Rahmani took a million dollars from the pockets of the people of Afghanistan to pay human traffickers to get to America to seek asylum,” one Facebook user wrote in comments typical of others.Dozens of Afghan troops receiving training in the United States have gone missing over the past two years, and at least one has been detained while trying to cross the border to Canada. (Reporting by Mirwais Harooni, writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 18:11 IST

GST council talks on but states, Centre remain divided

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Loose ends continued to hang even after two days of deliberations by the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council.Despite long hours of discussions on Friday, the council, which comprises officials and ministers from states and the Union finance ministry, could not approve or clear for introduction in the Budget session any of the four draft pieces of legislation – Central GST, State GST, integrated GST and Compensation Act.It remained split over the compensation to states for the revenues losses from GST rollout, administrative control of taxpayers and a host of other issues. It, however, discussed each clause of CGST separately and discussed them threadbare and agreed that the states would be compensated for revenue losses every two months instead of every quarter as decided earlier.The next meeting will be held on January 3 and 4.Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who heads the council, told the media that the council was “making reasonable headway”.”I am trying my best. I am not going to bind myself to anything. Our effort is to do it as quickly as possible and I think we are making reasonable headway,” he said.Rakesh Bhargava, Director, Taxmann, said it was “unfortunate” that the council could agree on dual control.”It is very unfortunate that the GST Council failed to agree on dual control. In the next meeting, IGST Bill and this issue will be taken up. We hope there will be an agreement,” he said.Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, Minister for Finance and Planning, commercial taxes, Andhra Pradesh, vehemently opposed the Centre’s suggestion to levy cess on some goods to compensate for states’ losses. He proposed that the Centre should fund the states’ dip in revenues from the Consolidated Fund of India.He welcomed the inclusion of fisheries in the definition of agriculture and agriculturists, which will keep fishermen out of the ambit of GST. Bhavna G Doshi, Senior Advisor, KPMG, said that the Centre would have to address the concerns of states on adequate reimbursement.”States are feeling that the cess may not be adequate. That is the point (West Bengal Finance Minister Amit) Mitra raised – that this year is not going to be good, and even the first quarter may not be good. The state may need more compensation as businesses have been hit (by demonetization). His concern was whether there would be adequate funds available (with the government for compensation),” she said.Doshi suggested that the government could consider a “special contingency fund”. Apparently, Mitra has pointed out that in the light of demonetization, resources required for compensation could go up. The government was working on compensation, based on estimated losses of Rs 50,000 crore to states.This, the KPMG expert said, may see more goods and services attracting cess than before. Doshi believes that if the council is able to thrash out all issues in the next meeting, the government may call a special session of Parliament to pass the GST Bills.MS Mani, Senior Director, Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP, feels the whole compensation discussion was very “hypothetical”.”The assumption is that revenues do not grow in GST, but past experience has shown that revenues will definitely grow under GST. The way I look at compensation is that it is more like underwriting. So, it is not necessary that compensation risk comes true. The compensation may not be as critical as it is being made out to be. I would say that the larger gains from today’s meeting is that on many issues they seem to have achieved consensus,” he said.Mani, however, feels that dual control could be a “difficult issue”. Even Pratik Jain, partner and leader indirect tax, PwC India, believes that the “most contentious issue was the dual control or cross empowerment”.

India can avoid tag of being accident capital of the world: Supreme Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The year 2014 alone witnessed 2.37 lakh road accidents on national and state highways across the country which had left at least 85,462 people dead and 2.59 lakh injured.These were the sensational findings in official statistics placed before the Supreme Court, which noted that as per 2009 data, India had reported the highest number of road accident fatalities in the world which clearly indicated that a road accident occurred every four minutes.India can avoid the tag of being the “accident capital of the world”, was how the apex court reacted on scanning the figures of vehicular deaths over the past several years while stressing on the need for “proper enforcement” of law preventing drunken driving.
ALSO READ Accident deaths: Tamil Nadu roads get dubious reputeThe apex court said proper enforcement of law was needed for a nation like India, which is on the cusp of economic development, to protect precious human lives from road mishaps specially due to drunken driving.The remarks were made by the top court in its December 15 judgement by which it ordered a ban on all liquor shops on national and state highways across the country while making it clear that licenses of the existing shops will not be renewed after March 31 next year.
ALSO READ India loses Rs 4 lakh crore annually due to road accidents: UN study”Human life is precious. As the road network expands in India, road infrastructure being an integral part of economic development, accidents profoundly impact on the life of common citizen. For a nation on the cusp of economic development, India can well avoid the tag of being the accident capital of the world,” a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said.The bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, took note of the statistics placed before it by the government agencies, according to which total number of persons killed in road accidents on the national highways was 48,768 in 2012 which shot up to 51,204 in 2015.
ALSO READ Health Ministry to review emergency road accident careIn 2014, there were 1.24 lakh accident cases resulting in 46,110 deaths and 1.35 lakh persons injured in mishaps on the national highways while on state highways, the figure was 1.13 lakh accidents in which 1.24 lakh people were injured and 39,352 had been killed.”The expressways witnessed 4,208 accident cases, 4,229 injured and 1,802 deaths. Figures are also available of the distribution of road accidents by causes during 2014. 1.38 lakh persons were injured in road accidents involving dangerous or careless driving and 42,127 deaths occurred.”Injuries caused in accidents due to over-speeding stood at 1.81 lakh while there were 48,654 deaths. 7,307 accident cases involving driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol were registered resulting in 7,398 injuries and 2,591 deaths,” the bench noted in its order.The apex court further said that on December 1, 2011, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, in an advisory issued to Chief Secretaries of all the States and Union Territories, had noted that India had reported the highest number of road accident fatalities in the world and data of 2009 indicated that a road accident occurred every four minutes.It said that in the advisory, it was said that drunken driving was a “leading cause” of road accidents as 27,152 road accidents was caused under the influence of alcohol in 2009.The bench said that in another advisory of March 18, 2013, the ministry had stated that in 2011, 1.42 lakh people were killed in 4.9 lakhs road accidents and 24,655 accidents were caused due to drunken driving resulting in 10,553 deaths and injuries to 21,148 persons.Referring to another advisory of May 2014, the apex court said that in 2012, 1.38 lakh people were killed in 4.9 lakh road accidents out of which 23,979 accidents were caused due to drunken driving resulting in 7835 deaths and injuries to 23,403 persons.The bench observed that availability of liquor along the highways is an “opportunity to consume” and there are alarming statistics on the occurrence of road accidents which have claimed human lives and caused debility and injury.”The figures which are available on the record indicate that the occurrence of a large number of road accidents is neither a phenomenon confined to national highways nor is prevalence of road accidents, including fatalities, confined only to the national highways.”Both the national highways and state highways share a common experience of an unacceptably high number of road accidents, the prevalence injuries and fatalities; drunken driving being one of the major causes,” it said.The bench observed that highways and expressways provides seamless connectivity and unheralded opportunities for growth of trade and industry and for the movement of goods, persons and capital and are the backbone of the freedom of trade and commerce guaranteed by Article 301 of the Constitution.”Our highways are dotted with sign boards warning of the dangers of combining speed and alcohol. Together, they constitute a heady cocktail. The availability of liquor along the highways is an opportunity to consume.”Easy access to liquor shops allows for drivers of vehicles to partake in alcohol, in callous disregard to their own safety and the safety of others,” the apex court said.The bench also said it was conscious that policy to discontinue liquor vends on national highways may not eliminate drunken driving completely.”The law on preventing drunken driving also requires proper enforcement,” it said, adding, “The existence of liquor vends; advertisements and sign boards drawing attention to the availability of liquor coupled with the arduous drives particularly in heavy vehicles makes it abundantly necessary to enforce the policy of the Union government to safeguard human life”.The apex court passed a slew of directions, including that all states and union territories shall forthwith cease and desist from granting licences for the sale of liquor along national and state highways and all signages indicating availability of liquor shall be prohibited on the highways.It said that no liquor shop shall be visible and directly accessible from the highways and it should be situated within a distance of 500 metres of the outer edge of the national or state highway or of the service lane.”All States and Union territories are mandated to strictly enforce the above directions. The Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police shall within one month chalk out a plan for enforcement in consultation with the state revenue and home departments,” it said.

Trump and Silicon Valley look to smooth over frictions | Reuters

By Dustin Volz and David Shepardson
| WASHINGTON

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump meets Silicon Valley elite after mutual mistrust in campaign | Reuters

By Gina Cherelus
| NEW YORK

NEW YORK U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Silicon Valley executives met at his Manhattan tower on Wednesday to smooth over frictions after both sides made no secret of their disdain for each other during the presidential campaign.The meeting may skirt the numerous disagreements the tech industry has with Trump — including on immigration, the trade relationship with China and digital privacy — in favour of a focus on shared priorities, sources said. “There’s nobody like the people in this room, and anything we can do to help this go along we’re going to do that for you,” Trump told the executives gathered in a conference room on the 25th floor of Trump Tower. “You call my people, you call me, it doesn’t make any difference. We have no formal chain of command,” he said. Three of Trump’s adult children — Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka — sat at the head of a large rectangular table as the meeting began. Their attendance may fuel further concern about potential conflicts of interests for the president-elect, who has said he would hand over control of his business empire to his children while he occupies the White House.Vice President-elect Mike Pence was also in attendance. The tech luminaries, including Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) Tim Cook, Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) Sheryl Sandberg and Tesla Motors Inc’s (TSLA.O) Elon Musk, met with Trump as U.S. corporations worry about his challenges to long-established policy toward China, a key market for Silicon Valley.A senior Chinese state planning officials told the China Daily newspaper Wednesday that Beijing could slap a penalty on an unnamed U.S. automaker for monopolistic behaviour, a warning that came days after Trump questioned acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China.” The tech summit is being billed as an introductory session, said sources briefed on the talks.Other expected participants include Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Amazon.com’s (AMZN.O) Jeff Bezos, Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O) Satya Nadella, and Ginni Rometty from IBM (IBM.N), sources said. Cook and Musk will join Trump for a smaller meeting after the other technology executives leave, a spokesman for Trump’s transition team said.

The CEOs of Airbnb and Uber were invited but are not attending. Uber’s Travis Kalanick will instead be traveling in India all week, according to a person familiar with his plans. ‘SOME HESITATION’
Trump clashed with Silicon Valley on several issues during the campaign, including immigration, government surveillance and encryption, and his surprise victory last month alarmed many companies that feared he might follow through on his pledges. He has said that many tech companies are overvalued by investors.

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

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

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

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

Maratha morcha: Give quotas or face poll debacles, community warns Devendra Fadnavis

Nagpur: Maratha Kranti Muk Morcha met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday and warned him that if the state government fails to accommodate quotas for the community an electoral rout might be a possibility.

Shiv Sena MLAs and MLCs at the Maratha Morcha in Nagpur on Wednesday. Sanjay Sawant/FirstpostShiv Sena MLAs and MLCs at the Maratha Morcha in Nagpur on Wednesday. Sanjay Sawant/Firstpost

Shiv Sena MLAs and MLCs at the Maratha Morcha in Nagpur on Wednesday. Sanjay Sawant/Firstpost

This is for the first time that the morcha established a direct contact with the chief minister despite holding over 40 silent rallies all over Maharashtra since 9 August this year seeking reservations.

“The chief minister is the highest authority of the state. So please don’t send us back empty handed. If you fail to give reservation to Maratha Community then we will teach you a lesson but not through bullet but ballot in the next election,” a delegation member of the Maratha Kranti Muk Morcha apparently told Fadnavis during the meeting in Nagpur.

The delegation sought to know from the chief minister when Prime Minister Narendra Modi could implement a decision as big as demonetisation overnight why the state can’t give reservation to the Maratha community in a speedy manner. The delegation made it clear that it wants a resolution to the issue in a time-bound manner.

Upon suggestion from state Education Minister Vinod Tawde, Fadnavis assured the delegation that a panel would be formed with experts as members from different fields to discuss the Maratha reservation issue threadbare.

The Nagpur edition of the Maratha Morcha started by 12 noon from Yashwant Stadium and ended at Moris T point at 3 pm on Wednesday in which over 1.50 lakh people from all age groups and varied professions participated. More than 150 all-party MLAs, MLCs and ministers were part of the rally.

Three senior ministers of the state government Chandrakant Patil, Vinod Tawde and Deepak Sawant personally took Morcha delegates — Rutuja Mohite, Ankita Bhandwalkar, Himani Bhaltilak, Sanjana Wanapur, Jayashree Bhuiwar and Vaishnavi Daph — to the chief minister.

Apart from reservations, other major demands of the Morcha included the amendment in Atrocities act, capital punishment to the accused in the Kopardi rape case and the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations.

Among the political participants in the rally Maratha leader from BJP Chandrakant Patil, minister Vinod Tawde, MLC and opposition party leader Radhakrishna Patil, MLA Nitesh Rane, NCP MLA Shashikant Shinde, MLC Narendra Patil, MLC Vidya Chavan, BJP MLA Aashish Shelar and MLC Pravin Darekar were prominent. From the Shiv Sena, Cabinet Minister Eknath Shinde, Minister of State Dada Bhuse, Ravindra Waikar, Sanjay Rathod and MP Sambhaji Raje Bhosle were persent.

Several schools and colleges and business establishment remained shut in Nagpur although no incidents of violence were reported.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 20:11 IST

Indian defence forces to be under ‘US scrutiny’: CPI(M)

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indian defence forces and defence production would be “open to scrutiny” and “control” by the United States which will make India its “junior ally” following finalisation of the ‘Major Defense Partner’ designation, CPI(M) has alleged.Noting that the US has placed the details of ‘Major Defense Partner’ designation for Senate approval as part of FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the party said the Narendra Modi government “has not even made a statement in Parliament about such a significant deal.” “The country can see the US side of the deal by reading the 2017 NDAA, but remains ignorant of the Indian commitment as a ‘Major Defense Partner’ of the United States,” CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said.In a letter to the Prime Minister, he referred to Paragraph (E) of Section 1292 of 2017 NDAA, “which talks of ‘mechanisms to verify the security of defense articles, defense services, and related technology, such as appropriate cyber security and end user monitoring agreements’ for items and technologies sold to India. “Paragraph (F) thereafter states that India will align its ‘export control and procurement regimes with those of the United States’.”Yechury further said, “Paragraph(I) of Section 1292, 2017 NDAA makes the facts amply clear. It explicitly highlights enhanced ‘defense and security cooperation with India in order to advance United States interests in South Asia and greater Indo-Asia-Pacific regions’.” “This is, sadly, a commitment by your government to become a junior ally of the US in our own neighbourhood. This represents the final nail in the coffin of India’s independent foreign policy,” Yechury said in his letter to Modi.He said, “These are significant concessions made by your government which will make Indian defence forces open to American scrutiny, and Indian defence production under the control of the United States of America.” “Serious apprehensions arise about your government compromising India’s sovereignty and strategic autonomy,” the CPI(M) leader said, quoting the US statement as saying that the ‘Major Defense Partner’ designation was a status unique to India” and brings “India to a level at par with that of the United States’ closest allies and partners”.”This is a significant departure from India’s long- standing policy on defence relations and it has been done without taking Parliament into confidence,” Yechury said.

China launches WTO complaint against U.S., EU over dumping rules | Reuters

China launches WTO complaint against U.S., EU over dumping rules | Reuters

Dec 12, 2016 21:09 IST

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By Ben Blanchard
| BEIJING

BEIJING China said on Monday it had launched a complaint at the World Trade Organisation over the approach used by the United States and European Union to calculate anti-dumping measures against Chinese exports.When China joined the WTO in 2001, its accession terms allowed other WTO members to treat it as a non-market economy when assessing dumping duties for 15 years. That gave trade partners the advantage of using a third country’s prices to gauge whether China was selling its goods below market value.But part of that clause expired on Dec. 11, which China says means trading partners must drop their use of such surrogate pricing.U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in November the time was “not ripe” for the United States to change the way it evaluates whether China has achieved market economy status, and there was no international trade rules requiring changes in the way U.S. anti-dumping duties are calculated.China’s Commerce Ministry said in a statement on its website that 15 years on, all WTO members had an obligation to stop using the surrogate country approach.

“Regretfully, the United States and European Union have yet to fulfil this obligation,” the ministry said.The European Commission said it had received the request for consultations, the first step in a WTO dispute.”We regret that China is launching this dispute now despite the fact that the Commission has already made a proposal to amend the legislation in question,” a Commission spokesman said.

The Commission proposed last month a new way of treating China, but its plans await approval from the EU’s 28 members and the European Parliament.Last week it angered Beijing by launching an anti-dumping case under the old system – using the prices of a third country – just days before the Dec. 11 deadline.Separately, a Chinese ministry official said in another statement a U.S. investigation into what it regards as Chinese dumping of plywood products launched last week amounted to abuse of emergency trade relief measures.

The United States and European Union are some of the biggest levellers of anti-dumping measures under this process against China. The measures have seriously affected exports and employment for Chinese firms, the ministry added.”China reserves the right under WTO rules to resolutely defend its legal rights,” it added, without elaborating.The United States has repeatedly argued that China’s market reforms have fallen short of expectations, especially in aluminium and steel, where state intervention has led to overcapacity, threatening industries around the world. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels and Beijing monitoring team; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel)

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

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 21:09 IST

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Does Jayalalithaa’s death signal the fall of federalism in Indian democracy?

The death of J Jayalalithaa, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and supremo of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), calls for an assessment of her and the party’s political role in her times. AIADMK has always been considered to be “softer” on federalism, compared to its parent party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). For starters, the words ‘All India’ as part of the party name marks it out to be a party that while claiming the legacy of DK and DMK situates itself somewhat apart from that strain of Tamil politics that till the early 1960s had an independent Tamil Nadu (Dravida Nadu in its maximalist form) as part of its political programme. CN Annadurai and his DMK gave up this demand on Nehru’s request as well as the rising Indian nationalist jingoism in the wake of the Sino-Indian war.

J Jayalalithaa led the AIADMK for a period longer than the party founder M.G.Ramachandran did. Thus, the political programme of the AIADMK has a huge imprint of J Jayalalithaa herself. AIADMK has always been considered the party that grew out of Dravidian politics but went on to become a party of technocratic and welfarist governance where the Tamil nationalism plank was much subdued in iconography and rhetoric, compared to the DMK. However, such is the hold of Tamil nationalism, for which Indian analysts use the sanitized term “Dravidian politics”. On deciding the relationship of Tamil Nadu with the Indian Union, J Jayalalithaa’s political life and times bear a testimony to a commitment to federalism that may fall short in certain Tamil standards but more than surpasses much of what goes under the name of federalism in the rest of the Indian Union, in its conviction, consistency and steadfastness. An assessment of the role of J Jayalalithaa in Indian Union’s political space has to have federalism as the central axis in the light of which we will realize how important AIADMK has been to the rest of us — non-Tamils in non-Tamil lands. Very often, in the face of Union government’s steamrolling of state rights and grave assaults of the federal structure from New Delhi, the DMK or AIADMK government of Tamil Nadu has protested and stopped New Delhi’s anti-federal designs in its tracks when our own state governments have been muted at best and in a mode of groveling surrender at worst. For any non-Hindi state in the Indian Union, the stance on the question federalism is an important proxy about how much the politics and resource of a state are safeguarding the interest of the constituent ethno-linguistic nationalities of the Indian Union, and how much they are simply in on offer on plate in the service of the New Delhi establishment. Were they a voice of Delhi in their state or were they the voice of the state when speaking to New Delhi? As stated in the basic structure of the Indian Union, just like democracy and secularism, federalism is fundamental.

A woman walks in front of a portrait of Jayalalithaa, a former film actress and now head of the state opposition party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), in the southern Indian city of Chennai March 2, 2009. India will hold a general election between April 16 and May 13, election officials said on Monday, kicking off a mammoth process in which 714 million people will be able to cast their votes. ReutersA woman walks in front of a portrait of Jayalalithaa, a former film actress and now head of the state opposition party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), in the southern Indian city of Chennai March 2, 2009. India will hold a general election between April 16 and May 13, election officials said on Monday, kicking off a mammoth process in which 714 million people will be able to cast their votes. Reuters

A woman walks in front of a portrait of Jayalalithaa, a former film actress and now head of the state opposition party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), in the southern Indian city of Chennai March 2, 2009. India will hold a general election between April 16 and May 13, election officials said on Monday, kicking off a mammoth process in which 714 million people will be able to cast their votes. Reuters

Ever since the transfer of power on 15th August 1947, the rights of the states have been continuously eroded. This has been done by continuous encroachment of the Union in state affairs, through legal and illegal methods. The favourite legal method has included constitutional amendments that have converted state list subjects into concurrent list subjects (thus giving the Union an upper hand in conflict situations), most infamously during the Emergency, when things as vital and grassroots based like education were snatched away from the state list through governments pliant and subservient to Indira Gandhi. Those changes have not been reversed. On the other side, there is not a single instance where something has been moved from the Union or concurrent list to the state list. In the extremely adverse atmosphere for federalism, against a unitary New Delhi that wants to amass power and reduce state governments to local implementation agencies for Union government policies, federalist parties (disparagingly called “regional” parties in certain media parlance, never mind that most of these “regional” parties have bigger support bases than most ruling parties of most independent countries worldwide) have always faced an uphill task. The difficulty of this task has been compounded by the fact that many “national” parties have state branches that are run by diktats from New Delhi and not by the opinion of the people of the state. New Delhi also plays a divide and rule game by giving preferential economic treatment to some federalist forces, so that a united front for federalism never emerges. This also reduces the engagement with the federalist temperament and ideology in these parties – jockeying for closeness to a “national” party that can disburse goodies becomes the principal aim. The sad situation of the Akali Dal (now the Shiromani Akali Dal), one of the original torchbearers of federalism being reduced to a BJP appendage that rarely barks and never bites, is a case in point. It is in this context that J Jayalalithaa’s contributions to federalism, has to be evaluated because it is not easy to do federalist politics in the Indian Union. All undemocratic lobbies like big media and big corporate money is stacked against it.

When the UPA 2 tried to erode state rights of law and order maintenance by its infamous National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) plan, J Jayalalithaa, along with Mamata Banerjee was in the forefront in the defence of federalism, calling out the violation of state rights that NCTC entailed. She put it succinctly, “There can be no uniform pattern in policing in the country as each state has its own distinct cultural, communal, social and economic aspects. Trying to intimidate and browbeat the states through top down structures particularly when ‘Police’ is a state subject is not acceptable. In other words, there are continuous veiled attempts by the Centre to weaken the states with too much interference which is detrimental to the national interest. Endeavoring to encroach on state powers either by creating parallel authorities monitored from the Centre or vicarious operations of state police powers through creation of Centre monitored caucuses within the states, as was envisaged in the Railway Protection Force, National Counter Terrorism Centre etc., to say the least, are contraventions of the constitutional provisions which accord the ‘Police’ priority status in the state list. The way things are evolving with the creation of the NIA and NCTC and the proposed amendments to the RPF Act and the BSF Act, we seem to be headed towards an autocracy consisting of a government of the Centre, by the Centre, for the Centre”. Its an alarm that is still relevant and we can chose to ignore it at our own peril.

Tamil Nadu is probably the worst sufferer of centralized powers of the Union government when it comes to economic matters. This industrial powerhouse produces huge revenue, much of which is grabbed by New Delhi, which then uses it to subsidize Hindi states as well as Afspa states. Almost 3 decades ago, J Jayalalithaa pointed out this undue suffering of Tamil Nadu and other Dravidian states which all suffer similarly in the hands of New Delhi as a Rajya Sabha MP as thus, “Where the northern states of India are concerned, whichever political party has been the ruling party in power at the Centre has also been the ruling party in those states all along. If no industries have been started in those northern states all these years, certainly Tamil Nadu or any of the other southern states cannot be blamed for this deplorable state of affairs. If no industries have been developed in so many districts of the northern states, that is entirely due to the gross inefficiency and glaring acts of omission of the governments of those states. Why should Tamil Nadu have to pay the penalty for this gross negligence and maladministration on the part of those north Indian state governments? Indeed, why should all the four southern states be penalised for no fault of theirs?”

In 2014, just one day after taking power in New Delhi, BJP went overdrive with its ideological Hindi imposition game plan. The Union Home Ministry passed a directive that said that officials of all ministries, departments, corporations or banks “should use Hindi” in all social media platforms. The directive said that Hindi and English can both be used but Hindi has to be “written above or first.” This slyly makes Hindi compulsory and English optional and is a naked case of Hindi imposition on non Hindi people. J Jayalalithaa, as premier of Tamil Nadu, wrote to Narendra Modi, protesting this. M Karunanidhi also lodged a strong protest. Faced with leaders who would call a spade a spade on issues of Hindi imposition, Union Home Ministry hurriedly issued a clarification that the order only applied to Hindi states. Time and again, Union ministries, especially those associated with education like MHRD and their agencies like UGC pass directives that seek to impose Hindi on non-Hindi people. In these dark moments of assault on non-Hindi people’s culture, language and identity, J Jayalalithaa has stood as a watchdog, often lodging the first protest and making sure that these Hindi imposition schemes are thwarted in her own Tamil homeland. These powers of MHRD stem from the fact that education was moved to concurrent list from state list during Emergency. In the 2016 Inter State Council meeting, J Jayalalithaa sent a note that demanded the return of education into the state list. The dangers of ‘Hindi-isation’ and ‘CBSE-isation’ of education in the Indian Union is a danger that was brought forth by the recent debate around NEET where J Jayalalithaa batted for linguistic equality, Tamil rights and for state boards.

J Jayalalithaa has on and off voiced support for a sovereign Tamil Eelam, though there has been good amount of inconsistency on this issue. One must not forget that the draconian Article 356 was imposed on the DMK government of Tamil Nadu in the wake of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and the AIADMK did not really protest the imposition of Delhi rule on Tamil Nadu. If at all, it supported it. Nonetheless, J Jayalalithaa has made important signals for the greater Tamil nationalist cause – signifying that the Tamil national identity is something that is not limited by the confines of the Indian Union. For example, she famously declared that all seven convicts serving life sentences for their role in the conspiracy leading to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination would be eventually released. It is probably true that these stances came from the urge to cash in on the huge surge in anger against the DMK for their inaction during the Government of India assisted decimation of the Tamil national resistance in Sri Lanka by the Sinhalese Army. Still, these were important steps that make pan Tamil solidarity politics mainstream again. Till her death, she disallowed any sports event in Tamil Nadu that had the Sri Lankan team as participant. She showed time and again that in a multi-national federal union, specific state realities have to be taken account in terms of foreign policy. This is an important lesson for the future.

During the present regime at New Delhi, she opposed the coercive federalism being practiced by the Union government when it came to implementing the National Food Security Act (NFSA) or joining UDAY (Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojna). During her long illness this year, with O.Panneerselvam and bureaucrats in charge, the Tamil Nadu government chose to bend on both NFSA and UDAY. These are ominous signs of days to come and might explain the chemistry that Jayalalithaa-less AIADMK leadership seems to be developing with the BJP.

As her final stamp on the question of federalism and state rights, she dictated Tamil Nadu’s position on GST. Tamil Nadu not only stood to lose revenue, it was also a matter of principle since after GST is implemented, a state cannot raise its own tax rates according to its own fiscal and economic realities. J Jayalalithaa rightly saw this right to change tax rates and hence change revenue generation as part of the basic structure of the constitution is so far as federal structure is a basic structure of the constitution, unchangeable by the Union parliament. Which is why, in the Rajya Sabha, the AIADMK did not vote for or against the GST bill. They walked out. Before they did, the AIADMK MP A Navaneethakrishnan said, “I would like to humbly submit that this Constitution (Amendment) Bill is not valid. It is not Constitutional because it violates the States’ fiscal autonomy….Sir, my humble submission is that democracy and federalism are the basic features of the Indian Constitution. Now, this Bill violates the basic structure of the Constitution; particularly, it encroaches upon the right of Tamil Nadu Assembly to pass laws with regard to levy of taxes. So, it is unconstitutional…My humble submission to this august House is that the Constitutional Bill is not a validly enacted law because I am of the view that this Parliament, this Council of States, has no jurisdiction or the legislative competence to enact this Constitutional Bill as it violates the federal structure of our Constitution…So, now, the proposal by the Central Government is unfair, arbitrary, unconstitutional and illegal”. That was J Jayalalithaa’s will and opinion voiced through her party MP. With the demise of J Jayalalithaa, we have lost a voice that posed a fundamental critique of the state of affairs and the state of association called the Indian Union.

First Published On : Dec 10, 2016 17:34 IST

India, US destined to be strategic partners in future: Ashton Carter

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Terming India a “rising military power” and a “major defence partner”, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has said the country is destined to be America’s strategic partner in future as both the nations have a lot in common.”I believe it is an important stop because I believe India and the United States are destined to be strategic partners in the future. It is a large country, it’s a rising military power, it is a democracy with which we share many common values and approaches to the world,” Carter told reporters travelling with him to New Delhi from Japan yesterday. “The concourse between our peoples is very strong. We’re both multicultural societies, but nevertheless, hold together extremely well. So we have a lot in common, both strategically and in terms of who we are,” he said.Carter described India a “major defence partner” and the relationship between the two countries in recent years as strategic handshakes. “This is a relationship that we’ve all watched for a long time, but it has grown by leaps and bounds just in the last few years, as measured by – I’m speaking now of the defence relationship – the pace of joint activities that we do between our two militaries, including exercises, which one of our largest programmes of exercises, their extension in scope, including two trilateral exercises as well as bilateral exercises,” he said.He said there were a lot of projects that are underway under Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) where the two countries are working out technical and sometimes economic details of them. “I think one of the things I’ll be discussing with my Indian counterparts tomorrow is the major change we’re about to make in our export regulations as regards the status of India; a major defence partner,” he said.The significance of that is, first of all, it’s unique to India. It permits the US to do things with India that have never been possible before. It creates a presumption of approval for transactions with India, he said. “We are encouraging India, and again, India has some desire to increase its pace of exercises. The extent to which those exercises are not just US-India exercise, but US-India-Japan exercises, US-India-Australia exercises, things that show that spreading of that network I have been talking about,” he added.

Climate change crisis is a spiritual crisis: Deane Curtin

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>What is the relevance of spiritualism at a time when science and politics are being manipulated to distort the reality of climate change? Why isn’t the mounting scientific evidence not enough to prod us towards greener lifestyles?This is why spiritual ecology is so critical today. In a world filled with delusion and distortion of what we know in our deepest selves to be true, spiritual ecology calls on us to return to the truth. The climate crisis is fundamentally a spiritual crisis. It reflects back to us, if we will only look, the truth of our human greed, aversions, and ignorance. Many people are adopting green lifestyles. There is hope in the Paris Agreement that the world is finally taking this crisis seriously, although whether seriously enough still hangs in the balance. I’m heartened that after the disastrous election results in the United States many countries have stepped up to assume global leadership. This will strengthen the movement. I think, however, that there are aspects of climate science that make it difficult for non-specialists to understand. Unlike other great environmental crises like the ‘ozone hole’, climate change is nonlinear. It’s unpredictable. We always have difficulty living with not knowing, but this kind of open attention is what the climate crisis calls for.How do the Buddha’s teachings help us as individuals to deal with the reality of climate change?My conviction is that all true spiritual perspectives encourage radical de-centering. They encourage a much broader perspective than the narrow self-serving human perspective. In Buddhism our commitment is to ‘all sentient beings’. When we practice this commitment we begin to see that an ‘individual practice’ is another delusion. When I ask, ‘What can I do?’ it’s probably the ego speaking. A better question is, ‘What does the planet need today?’What are the ecological values that Buddhism espouses?Interconnectedness. Humility. The courage to live fully while not knowing what the future will bring. Like all great crises, the climate crisis offers an opportunity to value what we are about to lose.You spoke of ‘ecosattvas’ and ethical life practice. Can you elaborate on this idea?A bodhisattva is a being who vows to practice as a ‘lotus in the middle of the fire’, in the words of Vimalakirti. I use the word ‘ecosattva’ to emphasize that the climate crisis is the spiritual crisis of our time. It combines all sources of dukkha into one and puts the very existence of all sentient beings into question. We are fortunate to have ecosattvas among us, practitioners of all faiths who call on us to dig down radically to the true causes of our suffering. My hope is that we will listen, and act wisely.Religious pontiffs like the Dalai Lama and the Pope are increasingly talking about climate change. How important is this, and how effective in the long run?Because of recent events we all know how easy it is to get caught in the narrow self-interest of political rhetoric and lose sight of the broader, deeper truth. Real teachers of any spiritual tradition point to this deeper truth. We should show HH the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis the respect of listening to what they teach.On December 9, Curtin will be conducting a day-long workshop on Buddhism and climate change at the Department of Philosophy, Mumbai University.

Jayalalithaa’s demise: US Ambassador to India Richard Verma condoles Tamil Nadu CM’s death

Jayalalithaa’s demise: US Ambassador to India Richard Verma condoles Tamil Nadu CM’s death

Chennai: US Ambassador to India, Richard R Verma, on Tuesday condoled the death of AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa.

File image of US ambassador to India Richard Verma (right). AFPFile image of US ambassador to India Richard Verma (right). AFP

File image of US ambassador to India Richard Verma (right). AFP

“Chief Minister Jayalalithaa will be remembered for her years of public service to Tamil Nadu and as a supporter of closer ties between the United States and India. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Tamil Nadu during this time of sorrow,” he said in a statement.

Jayalalithaa, hospitalised since 22 September and who had suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday, passed away on Monday night at 11.30.

First Published On : Dec 6, 2016 08:09 IST

Demonetization: Where is the data that GDP will shrink, asks Nirmala Sitaraman

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitaraman on Friday wondered from where critics are getting the data that the economy will shrink and job losses will take place following demonetization.”I am surprised that these assumptions are being made without any substantive data. The Chief Statistician of India has already stated that the data on the impact of the policy will be ready only by next year,” she said.She was speaking to WION-DNA.The Congress and regional parties had attacked the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying that demonetization has hit the rural sector and caused grave inconvenience across the country.The Centre has also come under criticism that the Finance Ministry tweaks policies on a daily basis. “We are responding to the feedback from the ground. It doesn’t mean tweaking policy. We are mitigating pain based on the reports we receive,” said the Commerce Minister.Asked about the negative experience of demonetization in Russia and Myanmar, she said: “Our economic situation is different. When advanced countries can do with minimum cash transfer and maximum credit push, India can also do it,” she said.On the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and its rollout, she said that she doesn’t agree with the view that demonetization will derail it. The issue was raised by West Bengal’s Finance Minister Amit Mitra, who also heads the GST Council of States. The Opposition had attacked the government “for launching a policy with massive consequences without preparation” in the Parliament.”It is a huge step by the Centre. It was our commitment to the people. We have kept it. If the Opposition is so serious about the merits and demerits of it, they should debate it in the Parliament. Instead, they are stalling the Parliament,” Sitaraman countered.To a question why demonetization is being promoted as a panacea for black money, she said: “I disagree. PM Narendra Modi had launched multiple schemes before this to curb black money. Demonetization is part of a larger effort. This scheme has to be understood in that context.”She said that she understood the concerns of the public, but assured that very soon the system would reach an equilibrium. Curbing out black money is a commitment the BJP had made during elections and it is committed to that promise, she said. “We are taking all steps to root out black money and ensure that the economy shifts from a cash-based system to a credit-based system, which is where the future lies,” she said.

Pakistan should introspect on why relations with India are tense, says Arun Jaitley

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Blaming Pakistan for having an uneasy relationship with India, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said it is for Islamabad to introspect as to why there are tensions between the two neighbours.”It is a serious situation. Right from the day this government had been formed and even prior to that, India has taken one step after another honestly trying to improve relations with Pakistan,” he said at HT Leadership Summit here.”Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a lot of initiatives including unconventional ones but then the response was Pathankot or Uri attack, prompted by Pakistan. This cannot be normal as far as Indo-Pak relationships are concerned. If there are tensions, its for the Pakistan to introspect really why there are tensions,” he said.Asked about impact of change in regime in the US, Jaitley said the relationship between the two country is expected to strengthen further. “I have not the least doubt that India’s relations with the United States would continue to be on the same plank as it was, probably growing and maturing almost by the day,” he said. Further adding “This was unusual election as far as the US was concerned.When one world’s most powerful democracies through a fair electoral process takes a decision, we have to accept the decision.”

National anthem file should be attached in movie torrents: Twitter mocks SC verdict

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court t directed that cinema halls across the country must play the national anthem before the screening of a film and people should stand up as a mark of respect. The court also directed that the national flag should be shown on screen when the anthem is played. “People must feel this is my country and this is my motherland,” a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said while stressing that it is the duty of every citizen of the country to show respect to the national anthem and the flag. “At the root of protocol for national anthem, is respect for national identity, integrity and constitutional patriotism,” the bench said while directing the Centre that the order should be given effect in a week’s time and be circulated to all States and Union Territories through chief secretarie Twitter had a field day mocking the judgment which many strongly disagreed with.Remember the time you illegally downloaded a movie?Caramel popcorns are heavenly though. No comments. Jab dhai kilo ka hat girega Vicco Turmeric ads- Good ol’ DD days May well become reality UN anthem? Yeah…quarter time zaroori haiRemember the outrage about Hindi? Demonetization post effect? Justice Lodha may get a chance to head a committee again With agency inputs

Callers for dollars: Inside India’s scam call centers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In late September, a woman in National City, California, received a voice message on her phone saying she was in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over “tax evasion or tax fraud”Panicking, she rang the number and told a man who said he was from the IRS: “I can pay $500,” half the sum demanded. “I could do a payment plan. I just can’t pay all of it at once.””Ma’am, you can pay $500 today itself. You can do that?” the man asked, adding that lawyers would look at her accounts and work out a monthly payment plan, but she had to pay half now.
ALSO READ Indian call centres stole $300 million from Americans: Homeland Security In transcripts of the conversation that investigators shared with Reuters, the man told her to keep the phone line open and drive to a nearby grocery store, where she bought $500 worth of iTunes gift cards and gave the ‘agent’ the redemption codes.She had just been scammed – one of at least 15,000 people the US Justice Department says lost more than $300 million in an “enormous and complex fraud” running since 2013. The department last month brought grand jury charges against 56 people in India and the United States for “telefraud” scams run from fake call centers in India.
ALSO READ Call centre scam: Kingpin fled to Gulf during police raidInvestigators have arrested 20 people in the United States, and Indian authorities have made 75 arrests following October raids on three premises in the Thane suburb of Mumbai. Charges include conspiracy to commit identity theft, impersonation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud and money laundering.Indian police say they are looking for Sagar Thakkar, a man in his early 30s also known as Shaggy, who they believe masterminded the scam. Thakkar was also among those named by the US Department of Justice. Reuters was unable to contact Thakkar for comment; he is not known to have a lawyer, and police believe he fled to Dubai last month.
ALSO READ Call centre scam: People info sites were used to trap victims”We are trying to complete the procedure to issue a red corner notice for Thakkar,” Parag Manere, a deputy commissioner at Thane police, told Reuters, referring to an Interpol arrest warrant.Police said Thakkar led a lavish lifestyle, frequenting 5-star hotels and driving expensive cars with proceeds from the scam. He gave one, a 25 million rupee ($365,000) Audi R8, to his girlfriend. “We have seized an Audi car, and are trying to find other assets of Thakkar,” Manere said.The FBI, which is involved in the investigations, declined to comment. The Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment for this article. At a news conference last month, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said the US would seek the extradition of suspects in India, and warned others engaged in similar schemes they could face jail terms.In interviews before the US charges were filed, police, suspects and call center workers in India told Reuters how the scam was run.Training materials and taped conversations, which investigators believe were made by call center instructors for training purposes, shed some light on an operation aimed to exploit the aged and gullible.”TAUGHT TO BE TOUGH””The revenue was unpredictable. Some days were good, some were bad,” Haider Ali Ayub Mansuri, who said he managed operations at one fake call center, told Reuters as he was returned to jail in India last month after a court extended his custody. He is among the 75 arrested by Indian police.”On a good day, we extracted as much as $20,000 from a single US citizen,” he said.In India, the sheer scale of the operation surprised many. For months, hundreds of young men and women worked nights at several call centers in Thane. Callers posed as IRS officers and threatened their victims, often newly-arrived immigrants and the elderly, into paying fictitious tax penalties electronically – sometimes by buying gift cards and turning over the redemption codes, Indian investigators said.”They used to blast out pre-recorded messages to thousands of citizens who were asked to call back. When they called back, there was a center just like this,” said Manere at Thane police. Acting on a tip-off, police raided premises in early October as call center workers settled in for their shift. The buildings housed seven call centers, and over a few days more than 700 people were detained. Most have since been released, but told not to leave the city.Callers bullied their victims with the threat of arrest, jail, seized homes and confiscated passports.”There was one instance where an old lady was crying,” because she didn’t have the money to pay, said a former call center worker who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “But we kept insisting on the money. We were taught to be tough,” he told Reuters.On a follow-up raid in Ahmedabad, 500 kms (310 miles) north of Mumbai, police uncovered what they believe was “a nerve centre for these centers,” said Manere. “A lot of money has been transacted. It’s been going on for a few years.”The police raids found little in the way of documentation, beyond some training materials. Another former worker said this was likely because call center managers stopped employees from bringing pens and phones to work.Reuters was unable to independently confirm the accounts provided by call center workers.WEEKLY INCENTIVESAnother former worker, an economics graduate, told Reuters she took a job without knowing what the center did. The 12,000 rupee ($180) monthly salary was well below the going rate for a graduate, she said, but it was a job, and “people aren’t hiring.”She said several of her colleagues looked as though they had just left high school.Her first week was spent in training with floor managers. While callers spoke to their victims, she said dozens of trainees squeezed in around the room, and had to memorise pages of dialogue for use on calls.Another former employee said his instructors told him his work was illegal, but there was “nothing to worry about.”Callers made “fast money”, another former caller told Reuters. In comments confirmed by investigating officer Mukund Hatote, the worker said: “For every dollar you brought in, you were given 2 rupees (around a third of a US cent).”People wanted to leave rather than be involved in something they suspected was illegal, he said, but carried on because managers offered weekly incentives, such as cash or gadgets, for meeting their targets.($1 = 66.7200 Indian rupees)

Callers for dollars – Inside India’s scam call centres | Reuters

By Rajendra Jadhav, Euan Rocha and Rahul Bhatia
| MUMBAI

MUMBAI In late September, a woman in National City, California, received a voice message on her phone saying she was in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over “tax evasion or tax fraud”.Panicking, she rang the number and told a man who said he was from the IRS: “I can pay $500,” half the sum demanded. “I could do a payment plan. I just can’t pay all of it at once.””Ma’am, you can pay $500 today itself. You can do that?” the man asked, adding that lawyers would look at her accounts and work out a monthly payment plan, but she had to pay half now.In transcripts of the conversation that investigators shared with Reuters, the man told her to keep the phone line open and drive to a nearby grocery store, where she bought $500 worth of iTunes gift cards and gave the ‘agent’ the redemption codes.She had just been scammed – one of at least 15,000 people the U.S. Justice Department says lost more than $300 million in an “enormous and complex fraud” running since 2013. The department last month brought grand jury charges against 56 people in India and the United States for “telefraud” scams run from fake call centres in India.Investigators have arrested 20 people in the United States, and Indian authorities have made 75 arrests following October raids on three premises in the Thane suburb of Mumbai. Charges include conspiracy to commit identity theft, impersonation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud and money laundering.Indian police say they are looking for Sagar Thakkar, a man in his early 30s also known as Shaggy, who they believe masterminded the scam. Thakkar was also among those named by the U.S. Department of Justice. Reuters was unable to contact Thakkar for comment; he is not known to have a lawyer, and police believe he fled to Dubai last month.”We are trying to complete the procedure to issue a red corner notice for Thakkar,” Parag Manere, a deputy commissioner at Thane police, told Reuters, referring to an Interpol arrest warrant.Police said Thakkar led a lavish lifestyle, frequenting 5-star hotels and driving expensive cars with proceeds from the scam. He gave one, a 25 million rupee ($365,000) Audi R8, to his girlfriend. “We have seized an Audi car, and are trying to find other assets of Thakkar,” Manere said.The FBI, which is involved in the investigations, declined to comment. The Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment for this article. At a news conference last month, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said the U.S. would seek the extradition of suspects in India, and warned others engaged in similar schemes they could face jail terms.In interviews before the U.S. charges were filed, police, suspects and call centre workers in India told Reuters how the scam was run. Training materials and taped conversations, which investigators believe were made by call centre instructors for training purposes, shed some light on an operation aimed to exploit the aged and gullible.

“TAUGHT TO BE TOUGH”
“The revenue was unpredictable. Some days were good, some were bad,” Haider Ali Ayub Mansuri, who said he managed operations at one fake call centre, told Reuters as he was returned to jail in India last month after a court extended his custody. He is among the 75 arrested by Indian police.”On a good day, we extracted as much as $20,000 from a single U.S. citizen,” he said.In India, the sheer scale of the operation surprised many.For months, hundreds of young men and women worked nights at several call centres in Thane. Callers posed as IRS officers and threatened their victims, often newly-arrived immigrants and the elderly, into paying fictitious tax penalties electronically – sometimes by buying gift cards and turning over the redemption codes, Indian investigators said.

“They used to blast out pre-recorded messages to thousands of citizens who were asked to call back. When they called back, there was a centre just like this,” said Manere at Thane police.Acting on a tip-off, police raided premises in early October as call centre workers settled in for their shift. The buildings housed seven call centres, and over a few days more than 700 people were detained. Most have since been released, but told not to leave the city.Callers bullied their victims with the threat of arrest, jail, seized homes and confiscated passports.”There was one instance where an old lady was crying,” because she didn’t have the money to pay, said a former call centre worker who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “But we kept insisting on the money. We were taught to be tough,” he told Reuters.On a follow-up raid in Ahmedabad, 500 kms (310 miles) north of Mumbai, police uncovered what they believe was “a nerve centre for these centres,” said Manere. “A lot of money has been transacted. It’s been going on for a few years.”The police raids found little in the way of documentation, beyond some training materials. Another former worker said this was likely because call centre managers stopped employees from bringing pens and phones to work.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the accounts provided by call centre workers.WEEKLY INCENTIVES
Another former worker, an economics graduate, told Reuters she took a job without knowing what the centre did. The 12,000 rupee ($180) monthly salary was well below the going rate for a graduate, she said, but it was a job, and “people aren’t hiring.”She said several of her colleagues looked as though they had just left high school.Her first week was spent in training with floor managers. While callers spoke to their victims, she said dozens of trainees squeezed in around the room, and had to memorise pages of dialogue for use on calls.Another former employee said his instructors told him his work was illegal, but there was “nothing to worry about.”Callers made “fast money”, another former caller told Reuters. In comments confirmed by investigating officer Mukund Hatote, the worker said: “For every dollar you brought in, you were given 2 rupees (around a third of a U.S. cent).”People wanted to leave rather than be involved in something they suspected was illegal, he said, but carried on because managers offered weekly incentives, such as cash or gadgets, for meeting their targets.($1 = 66.7200 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav, Euan Rocha and Rahul Bhatia; Writing by Rahul Bhatia; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

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

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 23:05 IST

‘Viva Fidel!’ – Tens of thousands pay last respects to Cuba´s Castro | Reuters

By Nelson Acosta and Sarah Marsh
| HAVANA

HAVANA Tens of thousands of Cubans, some wrapped in red, white and blue Cuban flags, paid final respects in Havana on Monday to Fidel Castro, who led a leftist revolution, ruled for half a century and resisted the United States throughout the Cold War.Castro died on Friday at the age of 90, a decade after stepping down due to poor health and ceding power to his brother Raul Castro. While he had been retired as an active leader, his death removed any impediment on his brother to pursue deeper relations with Washington if U.S. President-elect Donald Trump warms to the idea of improved ties. Castro was admired by leftists and people of the developing world who saw him as a revolutionary champion of the poor, but vilified by those who viewed him as a dictator who oppressed Cubans and ruined the economy through socialism.”Long live Fidel! We can hear him, we can feel him, he´ll always be here,” a crowd gathered near Havana’s Revolution Square chanted, holding up a banner that read “We are Fidel”.The government invited people to the square for a two-day commemoration that started with a 21-gun salute heard throughout much of the capital.While some world leaders have sent admiring messages of condolences, Castro has been condemned by critics, including Trump, who in a weekend statement called him “a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people.”Before Castro’s death, Trump had threatened to reverse President Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba, which has included restoring diplomatic ties, increasing trade and pressing the U.S. Congress to end years of economic embargo.The Republican Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, reiterated that on Monday, saying in a Twitter message he would end the U.S. “deal” with Cuba if the government in Havana did not reciprocate with “a better deal for the Cuban people.” He did not give details of what this might entail.Castro was cremated on Saturday and the government has declared a nine-day period of mourning. His ashes will be carried in a cortege to a final resting place in Santiago de Cuba, the city in eastern Cuba where he launched the revolution.While many Cubans report a certain pressure to attend the government’s many staged events and Castro was hated by many who fled for Miami, he was also widely loved and people appeared to shed genuine tears on Monday.

“I’m devastated because it’s as if my own father had died, he was like my second father. Everything we have, my education as a doctor, it’s thanks to him,” said Maria del Carmen, 57, who had been standing in line since before dawn, and who gave only her first name.Some people arrived as early as 4 a.m. to be at the head of one of three lines of mourners entering a square that has been central to Cuba’s recent history, and where Castro gave many of his rousing, lengthy speeches.Each of the lines of people paraded by a photo of a young Castro dressed in military fatigues, with a rifle and pack slug over his back. At each station, a military honour guard and some civilians standing at attention flanked the photo and an arrangement of white flowers.Among the mourners was Belkis Meireles, a 65-year-old civil engineer who arrived two hours before the start.”I am very sad. I came to pay homage to our father, friend, commander,” Meireles said in a hushed voice. “He was a man who freed us and sent doctors and teachers everywhere around the world.”

Political opponents stayed away or kept quiet, allowing admirers to say goodbye to a man who elevated the island to the world stage during the Cold War by forging a communist-run state just 90 miles (145 km) from Florida and then resisting Washington’s long efforts to force change.”He wasn’t perfect. Nobody is,” said Roberto Videaux, a 72-year-old retiree who was nonetheless proud of Castro. “Fidel was a teacher, a patriot.”OBAMA’S DETENTE THREATENED
After decades fighting what he termed the “empire to the north,” Castro was distrustful about the rapprochement his brother achieved with Obama, publicly expressing his reservations in columns published in the Communist Party newspaper.

Obama, a Democrat, began the opening to Washington’s old Cold War foe after he won his second term in office, and has brought about his policy change through executive actions, including allowing scheduled commercial airline flights. A scheduled flight from the United States landed in Havana on Monday for the first time in more than 50 years: an American Airlines plane that made the hop from Miami. Scheduled service from U.S. airports to the Cuban provinces restarted in August.The only Cuba-focused stock fund in the United States rallied more than 13 percent Monday, a sign investors expect detente to prosper despite Trump´s rhetoric.Given Castro was no longer in office and the mixed feelings abroad over his legacy, Tuesday’s ceremony in Havana was likely to attract only a scattering of world leaders.The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin would not attend as he was preparing for a major speech, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also skipping after warm comments he made about Castro triggered a backlash.Brazilian President Michel Temer was also not attending. But Robert Mugabe, the 92-year-old president of Zimbabwe, was expected to arrive.North Korea called for three days of mourning and said it would keep flags at half mast to honour Castro, its state news agency said.Cuba’s rich variety of music, a soundtrack on the streets of Havana, has been muted since Friday night and the government has also temporarily banned alcohol sales and suspended the professional baseball season. (Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow, Tony Munroe in Seoul, William Mallard in Toyko, Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Simon Gardner and Frances Kerry)

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

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 03:04 IST

Rajnath Singh to lead Indian team at Fidel Castro’s funeral

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Home Minister Rajnath Singh will lead the Indian delegation at the funeral of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.The delegation is likely to include leaders from various political parties like Congress, CPI(M), CPI and Samajwadi Party.The team will leave for Havana tomorrow and is expected to return on Thursday evening, official sources said The composition of the delegation is still being worked out by the Prime Minister’s Office in consultation with the Ministries of the External Affairs and Home.After two days of commemorations in Cuba’s capital Havana, Castro’s ashes will go on a four-day island-wide procession starting Wednesday before being buried in the southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba on December 4.Castro died on November 25 at the age 90, after defying the United States during a half-century of iron-fisted rule and surviving the eclipse of global communism.Castro, whose 1959 revolution toppled a dictatorship with the promise of bringing justice and equality to his Caribbean island, was a major 20th century figure.

Demonetization will help BSP in UP: Mayawati

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati launched a direct offensive against the BJP and Samajwadi Party on Friday but kept Congress out of the firing line, thus hinting that she may not have closed her options to engage with it before UP elections.”BJP and SP are fighting and vying for a distant second spot. BJP knows that it will be wiped out because of demonetization that has made the life hell for 90% of people. The move will surely send BJP into exile (Vanvas) SP does not stand a chance as it is still engaged in family feud. Congress is on Oxygen and nowhere in the race,”said the former chief minister, who herself was embroiled in several cases of disproportionate assets and corruption.Congress and BSP sources, however, said small window of alliance is still open and back channel talks are on between the two parties.Rebutting BJP top brass claim that demonetization has hit BSP the most, Mayawati alleged the ruling party settled its black money days before announcing demonetization and said the “half baked and immature” move of Prime Minister Modi will hurt it badly not only in Uttar Pradesh but the other four other states as well where elections are due.She claimed PM Modi took the decision in a hurry because of political interests. Alleging that BJP is number one in corruption, Mayawati said BSP is the only party in the country which has no ill-gotten money.She said when PM Modi himself said that demonetization took 10 months of secret preparations, then let there be an inquiry to find out how much money came to all the political parties during these 10 months.Claiming that people’s patience is fast running out, Mayawati alleged there are fears that BJP-ruled States may unleash repression to quell building up unrest among people.Trying to en-cash apprehensions among Muslims, Mayawati cautioned them not to waste their vote either on Congress or on SP, whose own vote would get divided between the two factions.

High-tech CCTV network to make life tougher for criminals

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Wanted criminals, undertrials and convicts from other states may soon find it tough to get a safe haven in Mumbai. The state government plans to integrate their photographs in the picture intelligence database of its newly commissioned CCTV-based surveillance network. The software will also have details of criminals, convicts and undertrials from Maharashtra’s jails.This will be the first video analytics and facial recognition system assimilating databases of criminals from other states across India. It will also contain integrated sound analytics to detect sounds of gun shots or breaking glass and generate an alarm.In October, Maharashtra government operationalised its Rs949 crore project which includes a network of 4,797 cameras at around 1,510 locations in Mumbai.”We will feed 30,000 photographs of prisoners in Maharashtra’s 54 jails, wanted criminals, suspects and undertrials in the database of the picture intelligence unit (PIU)… after which wanted criminals and prisoners from other states will be assimilated in it,” KP Bakshi, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), told DNA, explaining how criminals could be tracked down using facial recognition software.He added that the PIU would ensure that these people, including convicts who have jumped parole, could be tracked down and nabbed. “If other states ask us to search for them, we can do so in Mumbai,” Bakshi noted, adding that this would be the first-of-its kind system in India.The automated facial recognition system, whose algorithms can throw up matches from stored feeds in seconds, will have a capacity for one lakh pictures, said Bakshi, adding that the solution was scalable. He said that this would be the first of its kind surveillance system in India.A home department source said 15,000 photos from the prisoners’ database had been taken and the testing of the integration was on. Another 15,000 photos would be added soon. “Then, we will work on integrating photographs from other states and police stations in the facial recognition and video database,” he said, adding that they also planned to integrate the video surveillance networks in other cities in Maharashtra like Pune with the PIU.”However, people can be tracked only in a controlled environment… where their faces can be seen clearly. This cannot cover images captured in crowded locations,” the official said, adding that the analytics system would be present on around 500 cameras to be shortlisted by the police. “But, this can be extended to other cameras to ensure that at any given point of time, 500 cameras are covered under video analytics,” he noted.Bakshi said the CCTV system was being fine-tuned and was expected to stabilise by December 31. The service level agreement (SLA) would come into effect from January 1.The project includes fixed box cameras, PTZ cameras (which can be remotely controlled and rotated at 360-degree angles, tilted and zoomed in) and thermal cameras for the coastline.Floated after the 26/11 terror attacks for surveillance at sensitive spots and faster response due to real-time streaming, the system includes network connectivity to 102 public and private establishments. It covers high-value targets like malls, hospitals, Railway stations, schools and hotels for the police to tap into their CCTV networks based on requirements and worst-case scenarios.Though the Mumbai CCTV project initially planned to establish 6,020 remotely-controlled, high-definition quality IP cameras in the city, the number of cameras was reduced due to an increase in the number of poles at the sites.The project includes two control rooms at the police commissioner office and traffic police headquarters and a disaster recovery room at Kalina. It also consists of two data centres, 10 mobile vans with mounted cameras to help control rooms monitor the ground-level situation through live feeds and a picture intelligence unit and facial recognition software. GPS-based tracking of 1,000 police vehicles, integration of the city’s spatial information with a GIS system for a shorter response time and a vehicle tracking system with automatic number plate recognition are also included.The plan to install an average of 14 cameras per sq km was bid out July 2011 onwards but faced repeated hurdles. The successful bidder was blacklisted in January 2012 and, in September 2012, the bidder defaulted on bank guarantees. An open tender got no response in November 2013 and, in July 2014, one of the two bids received was disqualified in technical evaluation. Finally, an L&T-led consortium consisting of MTNL and CMS Computers Limited, was awarded the contract.

Bypolls takeaway: PM Modi emerges stronger from demonetisation purge

Conducted 10 days after the demonetisation drive and held across six states and one Union Territory, the bypolls were seen largely as a referendum on Prime Minister’s daring move. The results succinctly explain the high frustration levels of opposition parties who seem at their wits’ end to stop the Narendra Modi juggernaut.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. APPrime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Some of the outcomes for 14 seats (four parliamentary and 10 Assembly) are still being updated but enough information has already emerged to draw the outline of the story.

And the story is that BJP continues to be a party on the rise. If the by-elections were a gauge of public mood on demonetisation, it seems to be firmly behind the party. And if the polls were a personal test for Modi, he has started on the right note.

In BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, the party retained Shahdol Lok Sabha and Nepanagar Assembly seats at the cost of Congress. According to news agency PTI, BJP’s Gyan Singh defeated Congress candidate Himadri Singh of Congress in Shahdol by a margin of over 60,000 votes. In the Nepanagar Assembly seat, BJP’s Manju Dadu defeated Congress rival Antar Singh Barde by a margin of 42,198 votes. The Shahdol Parliamentary seat fell vacant after the death of BJP’s Dalpat Singh Paraste.
In Assam, another BJP-ruled state, the party bagged both the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats. According to PTI, Pradan Barua retained the Lakhaimpur LS seat, defeating Congress’s Hema Prasanga Pegu by a massive 1,90,219 votes. The seat was vacated by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. BJP’s Mansing Rongpi, who had deserted the Congress in July, won the Baithalangso Assembly seat beating nearest Congress rival Ruponsing Ronghang by 16,600 votes.

In Arunachal Pradesh, BJP-backed Dasingu Pul, wife of former chief minister Kalikho Pul who committed suicide in August, won the Anjaw assembly seat by 944 votes beating Independent candidate Yompi Kri.

In Tripura, the CPIM-led Left Front retained one seat and wrested another from the Congress. CPM’s Biswajit Datta defeated TMC’s Manoj Das by 16,094 votes in Khowai while in Barjala, CPM youth leader Jhumu Sarkar defeated BJP’s Shista Mohan Das by 3,374 Votes.

In West Bengal, Trinamool Congress retained the Tamluk and Cooch Behar Lok Sabha and Monteshwar Assembly seats by huge margins, prompting Mamata Banerjee to say that the results were “a revolt against demonetisation”.
The Bengal CM’s comments are a stretch because if we look at the vote swing, as psephologist and CVoter founder Yashwant Deshmukh demonstrated on Twitter, the BJP with 21 percent votes has registered a positive swing of 10 percent relegating CPM, who suffered a massive downswing of 21 percent, to a miserable third place. Notwithstanding Mamata‘s bluster, BJP seems to have gained in Bengal.

But the story of the day came from North-East, where the BJP officially replaced the Congress as the dominant national force. Even as Tripura became Congress-mukt, despite failing to register a win the BJP gained a massive footprint with 20 percent positive swing.

BJP’s North-East conquest had started with a win in Assam where it unseated the Tarun Gogoi government and kingmaker Himanta Biswa Sarma showed he has not lost his touch. Lotus is blooming in both Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The BJP has not only taken in its stride a hugely disruptive socio-economic step, it seems to have blossomed in spite of the inconveniences and hardships that have been unleashed due to the currency ban. That points to a deep-seated trust between the electorate and Modi, who had positioned the insanely risky manoeuvre as a morality test against corruption.

The result will relieve the PM. If a poll that took place within the most disruptive period brings such heartening results for BJP, Modi would be well within his rights to hope for a better political dividend in the long run.

The results proved that the lotus is now a truly pan-Indian force and enjoys the kind of momentum the Congress once did at the height of its popularity. The BJP is breaking new grounds, creating footprints where none existed and consolidating position where it had the advantage.

Democracy isn’t instant coffee, however. It would be churlish to interpret bypoll results solely through the prism of demonetisation.

The forces that worked behind BJP’s stunning rise are still at work. What should simultaneously please the party and worry its opponents is that Modi has hit such a sweet spot, he can afford to take even more risks. Economist Jean Dreze, a known critic of Narendra Modi, has slammed demonetisation as shooting a bullet at the tyres of a booming economy. If the PM manages to steer the economy to a path of growth and reap political dividends even with a flat tyre, the opposition will be left chasing his shadow.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 19:42 IST

Demonetisation: Actual long-term solution for black money is abolishing personal income tax

While monetary policy measures like demonetisation may go someway in trying to curb the parallel economy, the real way to increase the amount of income that is subject to taxation will be a change in the taxation policy itself.

Every month most employed people in India get a salary slip that shows them all the deductions that are made to their salaries before they get what they call “in hand”. These deductions usually are their tax deducted at source, contribution to their provident fund, contribution to their health insurance plans etc.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

These are deducted in order to ensure that these amounts are indeed paid. Had it been voluntary, most of them may not. So it makes sense to deduct these payments up front. This is called a structural solution to fix a problem.

They didn’t have to change the EPF or the tax or the idea of health insurance. They just needed to change how they were collecting it.

The same comes with when you try to get 1.2 billion people to pay income tax. Income tax by its very nature has its own share of mixed incentives that will cause you to lose lot of tax-payers from Day One. It calls for people to declare their income and calculate their own tax liability. Only in some cases there is already tax deducted at source to their account.

Most individuals if they take money in cash do not need to declare this income, leading to evasion and resulting in generation of black money. Then suddenly you need massive demonetisation efforts, like the government has currently undertaken, in order to catch people possessing this black money.

But in the next financial year, most of us are going to do exactly the same thing, fill out a voluntary return again, self-declare our income. There are 1.2 billion people in India and there aren’t obviously enough income tax officers to go after them to ensure each one is tax compliant. Strangely enough of the 1.2 billion people, in the year 2012-13 only 2.87 crore filed their tax returns and out of that 1.62 crore paid no tax at all. In other words, just around 1.25 crore paid their taxes.

This definitely doesn’t mean that causing inconvenience to the rest of the country is the smartest way to go about to tackle tax evasion problem. It’s quite clear, the personal income tax is not the smartest cookie when it comes to tax collection from a large and extremely populous country like India. What ever is the tax structure, it’s possible that some unscrupulous elements will always evade it. When it comes to corporates, it’s slightly different. The government keeps tab on them with annual filings anyway. But for individual people, income tax is just extremely complicated to enforce and implement.

Consumption and transaction taxes though are much easier as they can be recovered directly from the manufacturers of the products and services. For example, when you buy a loaf of bread you pay the central government, say, a 2.5 percent tax. This tax is not collected by your shop-keeper or the middle man who brings bread from the bakery to the shop. But by the baker who is a manufacturer when he applies the MRP to the bread. This reduces the chances of tax revenue being lost.

The problem with consumption and transaction taxes though is that they make things more expensive for the poor. Under the Income Tax, only those who make a certain amount of income will have to pay tax, but under a nationwide consumption and transaction tax system, everyone ends up sharing a portion of the additional tax burden.

But the solution to that would be actual market-based social welfare for the poor. A food stamp programme on the lines of SNAP in the United States, tax credit subsidies for below poverty line families. While earlier when we used to examine these options they seemed unimplementable in India but today they do not seem to be impossible. With massive Aadhaar enrollment and a National Payments System creating the RuPay payment network, India can pioneer the abolition of the personal income tax.

That would be the actual long-term solution to the problem of black money, as the income tax is inherently problematic and will always result in evasion. Short-term solutions like demonetisation may have fantastic political effect but they will not kill the disease. Only a rationalisation of the tax system will. To implement a nation-wide transaction tax it will take severe political will to restructure some very fundamental centre-state relationships which would then push us one step ahead of the GST.

May be the government can start taking concrete structural steps to improve the amount of income under taxation instead of starting some mad schemes.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 11:14 IST

Trump cloud looms over main segment of Marrakech talks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After a week of negotiations, some of them heated, on laying down rules to implement the Paris Climate agreement, the business end of the Marrakech International Climate conference is going to begin November 15, as heads of states and environment ministers will join the conference.Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Anil Dave, is slated to speak at the conference on Wednesday. The high-level segment will proceed under a cloud of uncertainty regarding the Paris deal’s future as Donald Trump, who has publicly called for pulling out of the deal, was elected the next President of the United States of America.In the first week of the conference, which began on November 7, sessions were held to discuss issues such as climate finance, reporting of climate action and accounting of climate finance. The conference will conclude on November 18.According to sources present at the Marrakech conference, the first week has seen differences emerge over funding for adaptation and the mood is gloomy after Donald Trump’s election. Climate adaptation is about taking measures to reduce the adverse impact of climate change, especially in Island countries and coastal towns, which are some of the worst affected due to climate change induced natural calamities and freak weather events.In meetings on adaptation funds, developed countries have hinted that they do not want to continue with this fund, even as it was clearly mentioned in Paris treaty that this fund will continue.”This fund is functioning very well. NABARD is a member and is able to receive money from it. Smaller projects are being funded. But developed countries don’t seem keen on extending that. There were also discussions on loss and damaged mechanism and they did not go in the right direction,” said Harjeet Singh, Global Lead on Climate Change, Action Aid.Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network, South Asia said, “Developed countries want to only take care of mitigation and not adaptation. They do not want to know challenges involved in adaptation. Since the term compensation was dropped from the Paris treaty for loss and damage due to climate change, developed countries do not want to discuss finance issues. But developing countries are fighting hard to keep it on board.”Though no country has put out any official word on scepticism regarding Paris treaty’s future, there is palpable concern that even if Trump does not cancel the Paris agreement, he may push non-implementation. “Theoretically, there is a lock-in period of four years before US is able to pull out of the treaty. Despite the anxiety, countries are not letting it affect the agenda at hand,” added Singh.”The US has committed $3 billion for the Green Climate Fund over the next three years and if Trump decides to not finance it, who will fill the void?, added Vashist.

Delhi pollution: In a first, NGT passes orders to tackle ’emergency’ like situation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a significant order to crack down on air pollution in case of an ’emergency’ like situation, the National Green Tribunal’s chairperson bench has issued specific actions that Delhi and neighbouring states should follow. This is the first time that the NGT or any court issued directions for emergency situations. The directions will be applicable to Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. It has also passed a series of other directions to tackle air pollution.According to the NGT order, whenever pollution of PM10 and PM2.5 (particles smaller than 10 micrometers and 2.5 micrometers diameter) reaches a severe level of 431 and 251 respectively, the following measures should be taken. 1. Helicopters should sprinkle water in the Delhi-NCR region, especially in those areas where pollution levels are in excess of prescribed standard limits.2. States shall immediately provide happy seeders or other such machines in agriculture fields for removal of agriculture residue and incentives should be provided to farmers to sell their paddy straw to biomass plants, industries and board making unit.3. State governments shall issue orders to all companies, plants and public undertakings to discharge CSR responsibilities and collect agriculture residue from farm fields by providing farmers with monetary support and financial incentives.4. In emergency situations, stone crushers should be directed to shut down.5. If thermal power plants, hot mix plants and brick kilns are found to be emitting pollution more than prescribed standards during an emergency situation they should be shut down temporarily till they reduce level of emissions.6. In emergency situations, all construction and demolition activities and transportation of construction material should be halted temporarily.7. Government schools and municipal schools should be provided air purifiers.8. NGT has ordered constitution of an interstate Central committee and also state committees to enforce their orders on vehicular pollution, dust pollution, solid waste burning and paddy straw burning. The Central committee has to prepare an action plan for environmental emergency as well as prevention and control of pollution.9. Each state committee in their first meeting has to notify one district where land use of agriculture is high and make it a model district for implementing orders to stop crop burning.10. All the five state governments have to begin vacuum cleaning of roads to prevent dust pollution and mixing of dust and vehicular pollution. Gradually, states should completely move towards mechanical cleaning of roads.11. NGT also ordered that Delhi should strictly enforce their existing order on deregistering diesel vehicles older than ten years and petrol vehicles older than 15 years. Other states have also been ordered to consider ban on old diesel and petrol vehicles.

Looking for greatness again

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The triumph of Trump has been the biggest surprise of the decade. As Trump took to the stage along with his family, he promised to deliver a stronger America. He has reiterated the corruption of the system in the United States and he hopes to clean that out with his administration. Many confess that they were scared to say out loud that they were Trump supporters. If they did, they would be targeted. An Indian-American attorney, Anand Ahuja, who was at the victory party as Trump gave his speech said, “I was scared to put a sticker on my car and leave it in the parking lot because my car would be vandalised.” Shalabh Kumar, an Indian-American businessman has worked hard for 18 months in the lead-up to the vote on November 8. He says that the relationship between India and the US is going to get stronger. Kumar also talked about how the US State department needs to be overhauled. He says the Democrats have created foreign policy that is not in the interest of the US people. The US needs better relations with India. “With Trump sarkar in the US and Modi sarkar in India, the relationship between the world’s leading democracies will usher in a new era of prosperity for all,” he said. But the biggest group of Trump supporters were the silent majority who make up 72 per cent of the voting public – white, rural voters. They were not loudly gathering in rallies and were often dismissed by pollsters, since they have traditionally decided not to go to the voting stations or engage with the election process. These voters are looking to Trump for change, a return to the old America. His slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ caught the imagination of this disenfranchised white group who has felt long left out and forgotten from politics. They will expect him to make good on his promise of a wall between Mexico and the United States. It is a potent symbol of America pulling up the drawbridge and protecting the homeland. The challenge will be for Trump to not just physically build an expansive wall, but also hold true to his assertion that he can get Mexico to pay for it. Before he builds the wall, his supporters are also looking to him to remove the 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States. These voters are the first generation to be financially worse off than their parents. They often perceive these illegal immigrants as people who come into their country to take their jobs, which they themselves could have had. Rounding up and returning these immigrants to their countries of origin will be a monumental task. But perhaps his greatest challenge will be making good on his acceptance speech promise. Uniting a divided country that has gone through a nasty and toxic election campaign and fighting for the rights of all Americans.

SC pushes for equal sex ratio, gives directions to prevent female foeticide

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Female child is entitled to enjoy equal rights that a male child is allowed to have,” the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday, passing a slew of directions, including maintenance of an all-India database of new borns to curb female foeticide.The apex court said the menace of female foeticide corrodes human values and decreases the sex ratio, which is a sign of “colossal calamity” that cannot be allowed to happen. The bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said the constitutional identity of a girl child “cannot be mortgaged to any kind of social or other concept that has developed or is thought of”.Holding that there is no room for any kind of compromise, the bench also, comprising Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, said the Constitution only permits affirmative steps and “the question of any kind of condescension or patronisation does not arise”.The bench passed 16 directions to ensure immediate and effective implementation of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act and the Rules framed there under.”All the States and the Union Territories in India shall maintain a centralised database of civil registration records from all registration units so that information can be made available from the website regarding the number of boys and girls being born. The information that shall be displayed on the website shall contain birth information for each District, Municipality, Corporation or Gram Panchayat so that a visual comparison of boys and girls born can be immediately seen,” the bench said in its 43-page verdict.The apex court also directed that the states and UTs which do not have any incentive schemes for the girl child shall frame the same. “If there has been violation of any of the provisions of the Act or the Rules, proper action has to be taken by the authorities under the Act so that the legally inapposite acts are immediately curbed,” the bench said, adding that the courts dealing with such complaints “shall be fast tracked and the concerned High Courts shall issue appropriate directions”.It said that courts dealing with such complaints shall hear these matters “in promptitude and submit the quarterly report to the High Courts through the concerned Sessions and District Judge”. The apex court requested the Chief Justices of all the High Courts to constitute a Committee of three judges to periodically oversee the progress of these cases. “The judicial officers who are to deal with these cases under the Act shall be periodically imparted training in the Judicial Academies or Training Institutes, as the case may be, so that they can be sensitive and develop the requisite sensitivity as projected in the objects and reasons of the Act and its various provisions and in view of the need of the society,” the bench said.It directed the authorities concerned to carry out awareness campaigns on this issue and asked the State Legal Services Authorities to give emphasis on these campaigns. “The Union of India and the States shall see to it that appropriate directions are issued to the authorities of All India Radio and Doordarshan functioning in various States to give wide publicity pertaining to the saving of the girl child and the grave dangers the society shall face because of female foeticide,” the bench said.Dealing with the issue of female foeticide, the apex court observed that “when a female foetus is destroyed through artificial means which is legally impermissible, the dignity of life of a woman to be born is extinguished. It orrodes the human values. The legislature has brought a complete code and it subserves the constitutional purpose.” “Female foeticide is conceived by the society that definitely includes the parents because of unethical perception of life and nonchalant attitude towards law. The society that treats man and woman with equal dignity shows the reflections of a progressive and civilized society.”To think that a woman should think what a man or a society wants her to think tantamounts to slaughtering her choice and definitely a humiliating act,” it said.The court said that decline in sex ratio is a sign of colossal calamity and it cannot be allowed to happen and concrete steps need to be taken to increase it.”The present generation is expected to be responsible to the posterity and not to take such steps to sterilize the birth rate in violation of law. The societal perception has to be metamorphosed having respect to legal postulates,” it said, adding that the “dropping of sex ratio still remains a social affliction and a disease”.Earlier, the apex court had passed a number of directions on the issue including the need to form a statutory board for strict implementation of law prohibiting sex determination as well as setting up of a State Board.The court passed the verdict while disposing of a PIL by NGO Voluntary Health Association of Punjab urging it to intervene in the matter in view of decreasing number of girls-boys ratio in the country.

An open letter to NDTV: Pentagon Papers have a lesson for our media and government

To

Radhika Roy,
Chairperson,
NDTV

I must, at the outset, express my highest regard for you as a journalist. I also hold in high esteem the television channel you co-founded with your husband, Prannoy Roy, another journalist of formidable repute. I am an admirer of both of you since the World This Week days.

. It has been known as the voice of sanity. One could say, with confidence, that NDTV has had the courage of conviction to speak truth to power for years, rather decades.

No wonder then that you have had frequent run-ins with those in power. The government’s decision to take your channel off air for a day on 9 November is symptomatic of the vindictiveness of the ruling elite. If you do not toe their line, they will get at you in whichever way possible. Incidentally, when the Ministry for Information & Broadcasting passed the order “to prohibit transmission or re-transmission of NDTV India channel for one day on any platform throughout India with effect from 00.01 hrs on 9 November 2016 till 00.01 hours of 10 November, 2016”, it gave out the reason that your broadcast “revealed strategically-sensitive details”.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

As you know, you were served a show-cause notice way back in January; the notice said that NDTV India had revealed sensitive information such as location of the ammunition depot and residential areas during its coverage of the Pathankot attack which could have been used by the terrorists in causing loss of life of citizens and security forces, apart from collateral damage to physical assets.

Your plea that most other channels did similar reporting went unheeded. You were singled out for punishment for your repeated offence of showing the government in bad light. But the bigwigs of the ruling party and the government kept saying that you are being punished as your action compromised India’s security.

All hyper-nationalists have supported the government action against your channel because they think that the freedom of the media must end when the security concerns of the country begins.
But then what involves the country’s security and who decides it? Our ultra-nationalists will argue that the decision must lie with the bureaucrats, and by extension, with the politicians. And the media must fall in line.

I, and people like me, always thought that you and your channel would refuse to be browbeaten by this brand of faux nationalism and carry on the task without fear or favour. But I must say with consternation that you rather chose the softer option to appease these aggressive nationalist forces.

Please recall the incidents last month.

After the big splash in our media about India’s successful surgical strike in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Pakistan pooh-poohed the Indian assertion and took a retinue of international journalists to the affected region to convince them that India was making a false claim. That is when some Opposition political leaders insisted that India should release the evidence of the strike to call Pakistan’s bluff. In fact, the government should have done it on its own to destroy Pakistan’s credibility in the world media. But, surprisingly, the government agencies went about pressurising the media houses to play down the demand for release of the evidence of the surgical strike.

Your decision to drop P Chidambaram’s interview on the issue was taken just about that time. Please remember that the interview had been done by one of your star anchors, Barkha Dutt, who has been in an editorial leadership position for far too long to know what responsible journalism is all about. Chidambaram is no revolutionary leader that he would spew venom against the Indian state. He is a mainstream politician who espouses the Congress position from time to time.

Your channel ran the promo for the interview throughout the day on 6 October, but dropped it in the evening apparently to avoid politicisation of army action (but you had no qualms about telecasting that day’s press conference held by Amit Shah, who hailed the surgical strike).

In a strong reply to the criticism over this decision, you said: “…We are driven by editorial and journalistic integrity and the belief that the political mud-slinging regarding the surgical strikes without a shred of evidence was actually damaging to our national security. We do not believe that we are obliged to carry every shred of drivel that has now come to pass as public discourse.”(Was it that what Chidambaram said was drivel but what Shah said were pearls of wisdom?)

But, if ‘evidence’ really mattered to you, you would have taken the lead in demanding evidence of our surgical strike in Pakistan (which our government claimed without any corroborating evidence). Was it that the consideration of security, or rather, patriotism, or sheer political blackmail, that prevented you from performing the role befitting a highly-acclaimed media house?

I am surprised that seasoned professionals like you and Prannoy forgot that famous lessons from American history about the freedom of the media vis-à-vis the security of the country. I want you to recollect how The New York Times had the temerity to publish the classified documents of the Vietnam War, leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst, who worked for the Ministry of Defence.

Former president Richard M Nixon, like most of our ruling politicians, invoked the security concern. His attorney-general, John N Mitchell, shot off the following letter to Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times: “I have been advised by the secretary of defence that the material published in The New York Times on 13 and 14 June, 1971 captioned ‘Key Texts from Pentagon’s Vietnam Study’ contains information relating to the national defense of the United States and bears a top secret classification.

“As such, publication of this information is directly prohibited by the provisions of the Espionage Law, Title 18, United States Code, Section 793.

“Further publication of information of this character will cause irreparable injury to the defence interests of the United States.

“Accordingly, I respectfully request that you publish no further information of this character and advise me that you have made arrangements for the return of these documents to the Department of Defence.”

The New York Times had revealed, for sure, strategically-sensitive details that would compromise the US security in Vietnam. This revelation was not inadvertent; it was deliberate. The newspaper believed that as a professional media organisation, it owed it to the citizens of the US to tell the truth about the government’s shenanigans. The journalists were, no doubt, thrilled when the publisher of The New York Times wrote back to the Justice Department saying that it would not comply with the ‘request’.

The Times must respectfully decline the request of the attorney-general, believing that it is in the interest of the people of this country to be informed of the material contained in this series of articles”, said Sulzberger.

This response was a direct slap in the face of Nixon who then sought an injunction in the court against further publication citing serious threat to national security.

But the Supreme Court of the US held that even if the threat to US security was real by the revelation of the documents, the US citizens had a right to know and that right did override the security concerns. The court made it a point to stress that the state must not overemphasise the security threat so as to suppress open debate on public policies and censor dissent or disagreement under the pretext of protecting national security.

I hope you will agree that The Pentagon Papers episode has a lesson for you, and I am sure that it has a bigger lesson for our government and its harebrained cheerleaders who want complete secrecy in the name of our security.

(Firstpost is from the same stable as CNN-News18 which competes with NDTV)

Woman’s fearless response to cyber bullying goes viral online

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Mumbaikar Taruna Aswani was recently the victim of online harassment, but her fearless response to the harassment soon went viral online. Aswani, who currently lives in Maryland in the United States, posted her experience on Facebook, but not before she alerted the US police about her harasser.The man, identified as ‘kevin john’ in his email, wrote a series of mails to Aswani, threatening to make public some intimate pictures and videos she had on her cloud account. “I have access to your all your friends/social media and family and co-workers (NMS healthcare and heritage inc) contacts that you have and I think some will be happy and some embarrassed to see it but if you have a thick skin then it shouldn’t worry you,” he wrote in the email.In addition, the blackmailer threatened to put up the pictures in case she reported the incident to the police.Not one to be intimidated, Aswani wrote a Facebook post on Saturday that has so far been shared over 2,200 times. In it, she says, “I am posting this and emailing you individually as my online identity has been compromised. I have in the last 24 hours received 2 emails from someone that claims to know me that has hacked into my Google cloud back-up,” she wrote.While speaking of the videos, Aswani said that as embarrassing as the videos may be, she chose to stand up to her cyber attacker. “I do this so that other women may take a lesson to stand up to bullies and low life’s like this and may get the confidence to stand up as well in case he is known to us and is targeting all of us, but we’re either too scared, ashamed or clueless in how to manage or handle such situations,” she said.Her appeal has not only garnered shares on social media, but it has also resulted in a number of comments – most of which are supportive. Both men and women have lauded Aswani’s bravery and have hoped that the bully is nabbed soon.Cyber bullying isn’t common in India. According to a study done by the Microsoft Corporation in 2012 in which 25 countries were surveyed, India came third after China and Singapore for online harassment. A 2015 survey conducted by National Crime Records Bureau suggests that between 2010 and 2013, registered cases of cyber crime were up 350%, from 966 to 4,356.

Battle ground GST Council: Proposed additional cess may queer the pitch at meeting today

As the first day of its meeting concluded on Tuesday, the GST Council managed to arrive at a consensus on how to compensate the states for the losses they incur on account of the tax reform that subsumes various state and central levies.

However, the council has not yet arrived at a conclusion on the crucial GST rate structure. According to finance minister Arun Jaitley who briefed reporters, the proposal for a four-tier structure was discussed.

The discussion will continue today.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

Here’s a round-up of what happened on day one and what lies ahead:

Consensus on compensation for states

This is definitely good news. The Council has decided on the issue of compensation for states. “One main issue in today’s (Tuesday) agenda was to calculate the compensation for states and this matter was concluded in the discussions held,” Jaitley told reporters.

The base year for calculating the compensation is 2015-16. One of the basis for calculating revenue in the first five years, which is the compensation period, will be the secular rate of growth in revenue. This has been arrived at as 14 percent, which would be treated as a possible growth rate. The Centre has promised to compensate the states for revenue losses for the first five years after the implementation of the GST if the states’ revenues come down under the new tax regime.

Commenting on the development, MS Mani, senior director – Indirect Tax, Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP, said, “Now that consensus has been reached on the revenue compensation and the base year, states can focus more on the steps required to enable GST in each state, including stakeholders consultation.”

Rate structure

The basic structure: The Centre on Tuesday proposed a four-slab GST tax structure – 6 percent for essential goods, 12 percent for merit goods, 18 percent standard rate and 26 percent for demerit goods. However, there is also a proposal to impose an additional cess.

Food items will continue to be exempt from tax. As much as 50 percent of the common use goods will either be in the exempt category or lower band. Also, 70 percent of the items is proposed to be governed by 18 percent of lower GST rate. However, ultra-luxury items such as high-end cars and demerit goods like tobacco, cigarettes, aerated drinks, luxury car and polluting items would attract an additional cess on top of the 26 percent GST rate.

On gold, the GST rate suggested was 4 percent. FMCG and consumer durable products would attract 26 percent GST rate, against the current incidence of around 31 percent.

Taxation of services would, however, be only in the 6 percent, 12 percent and 18 percent range, with the higher rate being 18 percent.

The merits of the structure: The biggest thing could be that inflation is likely to be contained. Remember, one of the concerns many experts have raised with regards to GST implementation has been that the new tax reform may push up inflation rate as services are likely to get a higher tax. A report in The Indian Express, however, says the overall impact on the consumer price index is likely to be (-)0.6 percent. This is the claim made by the Centre at the GST Council meeting on Tuesday.

Estimate of inflation impact on health services is 0.56 percent, fuel and lighting 0.05 percent and clothing 0.23 percent, transport (-)0.65 percent, education (-)0.08 percent and housing (-)0.09 percent, according to the IE report. It also says the Centre’s estimated revenue collection is Rs 8.72 lakh crore as per this structure.

The proposal to impose a cess will help create a fund of Rs 50,000 crore, which can be used to compensate the states. At least that is what the Centre has said.

According to revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia, the Rs 50,000 crore pool that would be created out of cess on demerit goods would be used to compensate the states for revenue loss. Of that, Rs 26,000 crore is expected to be garnered from clean energy cess and the remaining from tobacco and their items.

The demerits of the proposal: First of all, will the Congress agree to this kind of structure? The party has been arguing for capping the GST standard rate at 18 percent, which it says is the “appropriate rate”. With the new structure proposal capping the rate at 26 percent and also adding a cess on top of it, this is unlikely to pass the muster.

The cess is already attracting opposition.

A report in the Mint newspaper says the meeting today is likely to start off on a wrong note.

“It is likely to emerge as a key point of disagreement between the centre and the states as the latter have always opposed levy of central cesses that are excluded from the divisible pool of taxes,” the report says.

Not just politicians, experts also feel this is likely to add to the tax burden. Bipin Sapra, tax partner, EY, says, “The maximum rate of 26% for demerit or luxury goods may harbour more goods than initially envisaged which will make them costlier. Also since cesses would be outside the GST, the present cascading may continue raising the tax burden.”

Kerala’s Thomas Issac has also told PTI that his state wanted the highest rate to be fixed at 30 percent so that common man’s use of daily items can either be exempt or levied with lower rates.

Reacting to the proposal, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) suggested that to check inflation and the tendency to evade taxes “the merit rate should be lower and the standard rate reasonable”.

“As per the current indications and reports, goods will be categorised as being subject to merit rates (12 per cent), standard rates (18 per cent) and de-merit rates (40 per cent),” FICCI said in a release following a meeting in New Delhi with the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers.

Given the likely sharp differences that are emerging, it is very unlikely that a final decision on rate will be taken today. Already, Jaitley has said there are five proposals on the table. Given the diverse problems each states face with the GST, an early resolution is doubtful.

(With inputs from PTI, IANS)

Shashi Tharoor’s bill for presidential-type city govts likely to come up in Parliament’s Winter Session

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A private member’s bill tabled in the Parliament in the last session by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor seeks to empower local municipal bodies by bringing about a Constitutional amendment to allow presidential-type elections. The bill, tabled in the parliament, is now with the business advisory committee and will most likely come up for discussion in the coming Winter session of the Parliament.The bill aims to reform and restructure city governments by directly voting a mayor to power, who becomes answerable to the people directly. The idea took root with editor Bhanu Dhamija’s book Why India Needs the Presidential System, which had a foreword by Tharoor and Kuldip Nayyar. Through the bill, Tharoor proposes for a system that is similar to those in cities under the US presidential system. A mayor is directly voted to power with a fixed term. The mayor will have no vote in municipality meetings but will have the crucial power to veto decisions of the municipality. The mayor will be given a council made up of members who are elected by direct voting and will be different from the existing presidential system where there is a separation of executive and legislative powers. The bill, thereby, empowers local municipal bodies by providing them with autonomy, making them self-sufficient, and compelling the state governments to give them powers by restructuring their constitution. There were previous attempts to do something similar— the 74th amendment to establish local municipal bodies, and in 2014, BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy asked the Rajya Sabha to pass a resolution for ‘direct elections for chief executive at the Centre and States’, by separating the executive and the legislature.

India among more than 150 countries to agree on historic deal to cut greenhouse gases

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Nearly 200 nations hammered out a legally binding deal to cut back on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners, a Rwandan minister announced to loud cheers on Saturday, in a major step against climate change.The deal, which includes the world’s two biggest economies, the United States and China, divides countries into three groups with different deadlines to reduce the use of factory-made hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases, which can be 10,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as greenhouse gases. “It’s a monumental step forward,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said as he left the talks in the Rwandan capital of Kigali late on Friday.As Rwanda’s Minister for Natural Resources, Vincent Biruta, began spelling out the terms of the deal shortly after sunrise on Saturday, applause from negotiators who had been up all night drowned out his words. Under the pact, developed nations, including much of Europe and the United States, commit to reducing their use of the gases incrementally, starting with a 10% cut by 2019 and reaching 85% by 2036. Many wealthier nations have already begun to reduce their use of HFCs.Two groups of developing countries will freeze their use of the gases by either 2024 or 2028, and then gradually reduce their use. India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and the Gulf countries will meet the later deadline. They needed more time because they have fast-expanding middle classes and hot climates, and because India feared damaging its growing industries. India will reduce the use of HFCs by 85% over the 2024-26 baseline.”We cared for our development, industrial interest and at the same time the interest of the country,” Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave, who attended the high-level segment of the conference in Kigali said.Developed countries have also agreed to provide enhanced funding support to developing countries. Unlike the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Montreal Protocol amendment is legally binding.Hailing the role played by India reaching the deal, Indian climate experts said India went with a clear strategy and a proactive agenda to enhance the overall environmental ambition of the deal and to protect the nation’s economic interests. “The amendment finally agreed to not only protect India’s economic interests, but also doubles the climate benefit compared to the previous Indian proposal. It will avoid HFC emissions equivalent to 70 billion tonne of CO2,” Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said. “Last year in Paris, we promised to keep the world safe from the worst effects of climate change. Today, we are following through on that promise,” said UN environment chief Erik Solheim in a statement. GAINING MOMENTUMThe deal binding 197 nations crowns a wave of measures to help fight climate change this month. Last week, the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb climate-warming emissions passed its required threshold to enter into force after India, Canada and the European Parliament ratified it. But unlike the Paris agreement, the Kigali deal is legally binding, has very specific timetables and has an agreement by rich countries to help poor countries adapt their technology.The United Nations says phasing out HFCs will cost billions of dollars. But a quick reduction of HFCs could be a major contribution to slowing climate change, avoiding perhaps 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) of a projected rise in average temperatures by 2100, scientists say.Environmental groups had called for an ambitious agreement on cutting HFCs to limit the damage from the roughly 1.6 billion new air conditioning units expected to come on stream by 2050, reflecting increased demand from an expanding middle class in Asia, Latin America and Africa.The HFC talks build on the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which succeeded in phasing out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), widely used at that time in refrigeration and aerosols.The aim was to stop the depletion of the ozone layer, which shields the planet from ultraviolet rays linked to skin cancer and other conditions.

US rules out treaty alliance with India, says that era is over

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The US has ruled out any kind of treaty alliance with India, saying the 21st century is not an era of alliances and a mutual agreeable concept of major defence partner is a very apt description for India.”21st century is not an era of alliances. It is an era of identifying interest, common values and working together in solving all those problems. I do not think that anyone in the United States Government or the Indian Government has any compulsion at all to form a treaty alliance,” said Peter Lavoy, Senior Director for South Asia at the National Security Council (NSC), White House.He was responding to a question at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a top American think-tank.”Why have that shackle (of being a treaty alliance). I think, the friends that benefit from that are probably satisfactory. I would highlight a phrase that should not be underestimates Major Defence Partner (with India),” he said.”There was an understanding, growing perception that we have been doing so much together that we have expanded, deepened the boundaries of co-operation. But there was no brand or phrase or some term that qualified what this relationship is about. I think, the mutual agreeable concept of major defence partner is a very apt description,” he said.”It was largely driven by the extent of deepening co-operation. India achieves success rate of 99 per cent in licenses applied for. That is really astounding. Other kinds of technology is being transferred much more easily and readily than ever before. So there are very significant changes to our own policies and rules and procedures that enabled this defence partnership,” Lavoy said.Lavoy said even before India places a request for something, the United States is ready and prepared.”Well before a challenge arise, we are already working with India to try to prevent the things from occurring,” he said.”Each of the (US) departments have installed in them the critical importance of this partnership and have internalised thinking about India’s interest, thinking about our joint interest as a driving force and how we do business.That is completely transformational. That was not the case even in the beginning of the Obama Administration,” he said.

PM Modi’s Lucknow speech shows he is peerless in the art of political messaging

The discussion around Narendra Modi‘s Dussehra speech has expectedly revolved around two related pressure points. One, whether the Prime Minister was “owning” a military offensive for political gains from a religious podium in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. Two, whether in uttering ‘Jai Jai Shri Ram’ at the end of his address he signaled a deviation from his development plank to a return to BJP’s core Hindutva agenda.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi performs aarti of artists enacting Lord Rama and Lakshman during Dussehra celebrations at Aishbagh Ram Leela in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday. Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Ram Naik and the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh are also seen. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi performs aarti of artists enacting Lord Rama and Lakshman during Dussehra celebrations at Aishbagh Ram Leela in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday. Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Ram Naik and the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh are also seen. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi performs aarti of artists enacting Lord Rama and Lakshman during Dussehra celebrations at Aishbagh Ram Leela in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday. Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Ram Naik and the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh are also seen. PTI

To take up the first point, let us ascribe the context. Whether or not the surgical strikes across LoC will discourage Pakistan to use terrorism as a state policy remains to be seen. Though a terror-ravaged world is increasingly sympathetic to India, it does not automatically follow that Pakistan will face crippling economic sanctions or even be designated as a state sponsor of terror. Foreign policies are built on the bedrock of mutual interest, not ethics or morality.

Hence Pakistan will not let go of the cheap leverage against India unless the cost of pursuing such a strategy becomes less rewarding. For that to happen, many extraneous factors must fall in place. Not the least among them is India’s resolve to stay the course. For the new, aggressive counter-terrorism policy to even moderately succeed, the government of the day must show political will and tenacity to fight the good fight.

Inherent in this question is the assumption that at the end of the day, it is the government at the Centre that must decide the course of action. The Army might be ready and even chomping at the bits but the green signal must come from the Prime Minister.

Speaking at an event in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar wasn’t far from the truth when he said: “Credit goes to our armed forces, but the Prime Minister’s decision-making and planning also deserve major credit.”

For better or worse, the decision to send the special forces across LoC to destroy terror launch pads was the PM’s. If it had gone horribly wrong resulting in major casualties for our armed forces or an escalation of hostilities between two nuclear-armed nations, Modi would have been roasted over domestic and international fire.
By owning a covert operation, a major deviation from UPA’s policy of ‘strategic restraint’ (if we take their claims over similar strikes seriously), Modi also took a huge gamble.

Clandestine strikes like the one carried out by the army on 29 September are rarely acknowledged because they are aimed at a specific purpose. When that purpose is met, there is space for plausible deniability. Modi’s move to go public with it and sharing information with the Pakistan Army, therefore, was as much a strategic decision as a political one.

Strategically, the acknowledgement was a memo to global powers in general and Pakistan in particular that India henceforth cannot be expected to suffer in silence. Politically, it was a message to voters of his ‘iron will’, a shtick that he rode to power in 2014. Modi was living up to that promise. If the Prime Minister was strong-willed enough to order a strike, resolute enough to own it, it’s only fair that the fallout (if any) or capital (thus accrued) should be credited to his account. When US Navy Seals took down Osama bin Laden in Abottabad, it wasn’t George W Bush who was feted for it.

Modi’s political rivals have an unenviable task. Congress, for instance, can’t decide whether to blame Modi for ‘khoon ki dalali’ or claim belated credit for what it asserts were similar operations in the past. Both SP and BSP have blamed Modi for running away with credit that they claim are due only to the army.

“The pyre of jawans who lost their lives in the Uri attack has not yet died down, but the Prime Minister is coming to Lucknow to celebrate Dussehra for his political motives,” BSP chief Mayawati said recently at a rally.

SP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia told ANI that Modi’s Lucknow visit “is nothing but opportunistic politics only for the sake of votes.” The comments are an open acknowledgement of Modi’s renewed political capital post-Uri and their own insecurity at not being able to do anything about it.

Modi’s speech at Aishbagh maidan was a study in the art of political messaging. He steered clear of referring to surgical strikes or taking Pakistan’s name but by using Ravana to denote terrorism and stressing on the need to triumph over those who harbor him, he said all that needed to be said. He was not politicizing the surgical strike beyond the point that it already has been the moment details were made public. Modi can hardly be blamed for being the master communicator that he is.

The second point, on whether Modi is signaling a return to BJP’s core agenda, is equally interesting. As Ajay Singh writes in Firstpost: “…there was a marked difference in war cry of ‘Jai Sri Ram’ of LK Advani’s time and Modi’s chanting of the same words in a different context.”

If Modi was pandering to his core Hindutva agenda and sending a not-so-subtle message to BJP and RSS cadres ahead of what promises to be a tough fight in the Hindi heartland, he took care to mask it well.

He used all the props at disposal — Hanuman’s gadaa, Krishna’s sudarshan chakra and used characters from Ramayana on a Ram Leela event to send multiple messages of social inclusiveness, the need to stand guard against terrorism, save the girl child, strive for a cleaner and corruption-free India and remain united in the face of provocation. In effect, while urging us to triumph over inner Ravanas and social evils, the address to Hindutva sentiment was clear.

But it was done in such a way that much like the surgical strikes, the purpose was met and yet there was enough space for plausible deniability. There was no triumphalism, unlike some of his party peers, but he still managed to set the stage for BJP’s poll campaign. It was a commanding performance from an orator at the top of his game.

Willing to discuss ‘possibilities’ with India on Nuclear Suppliers Group, says China

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>China is willing to discuss ‘possibilities’ with India on its bid to become a fully fledged member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday, holding out an olive branch ahead of a summit in IndiaIndia last month said it had held ‘substantive’ talks with China on its attempt to join the NSG, a 48-member grouping of countries that trades in civil nuclear technology.Prime Minister Narendra Modi is campaigning to join the NSG to back a multi-billion-dollar drive to build nuclear power plants in partnership with Russia, the United States and France, and reduce India’s reliance on polluting fossil fuels.Yet his bid to win accession to the group, founded in response to India’s first atomic weapons test in 1974, has failed to win over strategic rival China, which enjoys a de facto veto because it operates by consensus.Speaking to reporters ahead of a visit to India this week by Chinese President Xi Jinping for a summit of the BRICS group of emerging nations, Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong said new NSG members needed to be agreed upon by all existing members.”These rules were not set by China,” Li said.”On the issue of joining the NSG, China and India have all along had very good communications, and (China) is willing to have further communications with the Indian side, to increase consensus,” he said.”On this, China is willing to jointly explore all kinds of possibilities with India, but this must accord with the charter of the NSG, and certain rules need to be respected by all sides,” Li said, without elaborating.The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) recognises the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – as nuclear weapons powers but not others.India has ruled out signing the NPT but says its track record of non-proliferation should entitle it to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. India was granted an NSG waiver in 2008 that allows it to engage in nuclear commerce, but deprives it of a vote in the organisation’s decision making.Backers of India’s NSG bid, who include the United States, hope a deal can be reached despite a setback at the group’s annual meeting in Seoul in June.Xi will also visit Bangladesh and Cambodia on his Asian trip.The BRICS group of emerging nations include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

ICJ rejects Marshall Islands suit against India on nuclear disarmament

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The International Court of Justice on Wednesday rejected a suit filed by the tiny Marshall Islands against the world’s nuclear powers that sought to force them to do more to disarm.In its ruling in the country’s case against India, the first to be decided, the court said it had accepted Indian arguments that the ICJ, also known as the World Court, should not have jurisdiction in the case.The Marshall Islands, population 53,000, whose territory was used for dozens of atomic-bomb tests by the United States after World War Two, had argued that nuclear powers weren’t doing enough to adhere to the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal commits to uplift tea community

Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal commits to uplift tea community

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Guwahati: Assam is committed to working for the economic and social security of the tea community, including the small tea growers as they constitute a sizeable human resource, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal
said.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. TwitterAssam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Twitter

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Twitter

“The state government is committed to bolstering all round development of the tea community including small tea
growers.The state government is also working to create a conducive atmosphere so that the tea tribe community can work to their optimum potential,” Sonowal said while addressing the 20th Annual General Conference of All Assam Small Tea Growers Association in Chabua on Monday.

He lauded the contribution of the small tea growers to the state economy with 50 percent of the total tea production being contributed by them.

The state government will take steps so that the small tea growers get the right price for their produce, he said.

The Chief Minister said the government would give Rs 1 crore for the construction of the ongoing small tea growers association head office at Jorhat.

He said the government would do everything needed for a state-of-the-art museum in Dibrugarh so that the rich
heritage, as well as the unparalleled contribution of the tea tribe, can be preserved and documented.

The Chief Minister also called upon the people to extend their full support to the government and work with it
to wipe out corruption from the system as only then the poorest member of the society would be able to live with respect and dignity.

Do you really understand your pet’s language and its idiosyncrasies?

Many years ago, I saw an American documentary film called Unusual Pow­ers. The film crew had travelled all over the world interviewing psychics, spoon benders, mediums, the Philippine doctors who operate without instruments.

One of the interviewees was a girl who talked to animals. She worked with vets in the United States and since diagnosis is the hardest part of veterinary medicine, hundreds of animals were brought to her daily and they communicated their symptoms to her.

In the documentary, a little boy brought his newly-acquired grass snake, which he complained, refused to eat. The snake saw the girl and virtually leapt onto her shoulder. A few minutes later, she told the boy that the snake only ate white mice and not the grey ones he had been trying to feed it.

The next in queue was a sceptic. He had brought his ram. This ram, he said, was given to him by a friend who said it was unma­nageable. But with him, it was perfectly docile.

Representational image. Getty images.

Representational image. Getty images.

‘Can you tell me why?’ he asked. The girl laughed. ‘He’s in love,’ she said. ‘You have a female goat whom he fancies greatly and he is on his best behaviour so that he doesn’t get given away again.’

In a newspaper, I read a tragic piece about a dolphin whose tail fins had been cut off by a boat. She couldn’t come to the surface to breathe. Her mate propped her up with his head and carried her hundreds of miles to the nearest human settlement by the sea looking for help. He found a boat and circled it until the fishermen understood his plight. But, by then, it was too late because she was dead.

All forms of life communicate with man. It’s just that we don’t understand them. Even a plant, that needs more sun, shows you this by stretching itself out to the light. Have you seen how the birds cluster around some small children? There is communication there, which we lose as we grow older.

Do you ever understand what your dog is saying to you? Of course, you expect it to understand your language and moods automat­ically. When you desire quiet, it should be still. When you want to romp it should be ready for play!

If you love animals, it is not good enough for them to understand you, (which, I would think, makes them superior to you.) Think of how lonely it must get for your dog when it has nobody to under­stand what it is trying to say. Try improving your relationship. Here are a few simple pointers that I have picked up over the years:

1. Urine is used for territorial marking— ‘This belongs to me.’ It is accompanied by vigorous scratching on the ground. This is to mark the area even deeper. Sometimes when you get new things in the house — new curtains, a new stereo system, the dog will immediately urinate over it. This is his way of appropriating a strange thing and making it his. Sometimes, if a bitch on heat is lying in the house, the dog will urinate on an object close to her. This is also marking her off as his property. If there are two dogs in the house, you will often see the second dog urinat­ing in the same place as the first—overmarking it as his terri­tory instead. Both males and females do it.

2. Dogs will eat more if fed in groups than if fed singly.

3. Boredom is an important problem. It can result from being a single dog — the dog being a social animal, it needs interaction with its own kind.

4. I am completely against bringing in a new puppy when the dog you have is old or ill. I have noticed that the old/ill dog just gives up his will to live and dies much sooner. If you must get another pup, do it before the first one is three years old. Instead of bringing it straight into the house, try introducing the pup on neutral territory so that the older one does not feel that his territory has been violated. Let him tolerate the young one and then bring it home. Give the older dog lots of attention, or he may become aggressive or depressed if he feels that his relationship with you is threatened. Allow him to growl and dominate the young pup up to a point.

5. Dogs have as peculiar stress responses as humans. New homes, new people, being left alone while the owners go on holiday – all these can cause stress. There is only one cure to all these –talking to the dog gently and often, giving it lots of love and reassurance, spending time with it the way you would with a sick child.

6. Nibbling is an important part of the canine social interaction. Dogs nibble each other as a form of intense greeting, even love. Male dogs courting females will do a lot of nibbling. Sometimes the nibbling will extend to you — nibbling your ears or a hand when you are asleep. It means affection.

7. Dogs dream. You can see a dog deep in sleep growl, whimper, make muffled barks. His legs make running movements, the tail wags.

8. When a dog is reprimanded he may look away and raise one forepaw. This is not a handshaking attitude but a signal of his intention to roll over. In effect, the dog is indicating absolute deference and saying — I’m sorry, now stop scolding.

9. Raising the upper lip to show the sign of teeth is a sign of hostility.

10. All dogs respect each other’s personal distance. When a subordinate dog attempts to enter the sphere of the alpha dog, he will crawl on his belly but at the same time will wag his tail and attempt to lick the alpha’s face.

11. Dogs have a large repertoire of facial expressions and body postures. Erect ears and tail are a sign of alertness and con­fidence. When one dog meets the other, both lower the ears and tail to show that no attack is intended. If from this posture the dog draws back and bares its teeth, it is frightened and defensive. If, after that, it extends its head forward, it may attack. A dog that is aggressive, and not frightened, looks quite different. It raises its hindquarters, places its front legs wide apart, holds its neck and ears erect, raises the hair on its neck and spine and bares its teeth. The same posture, without the raised hair and bared teeth, is an invi­tation to play and this is usually followed by a gentle nibble on the tail of the other dog, or by standing side-on to show the lack of hostility.

One of the oddest incidents that happened in our house recently was my dog’s interaction with wasps. While I was poking around in the garden accompanied by Sabra, the alpha dog of the house pack of 12, we came across a small wasps’ nest. Sabra smelt it and two wasps came flying out. She took one look, put her tail between her legs and literally flew into the house and under the bed. Now, here is a dog that has never seen a wasp before, has never been bitten or seen anyone bitten — how would she know?

Could it be a genetic memory?

To join the animal welfare movement contact [email protected], www.peopleforanimalsindia.org 

US lauds PM Modi’s leadership for ratifying Paris climate deal

US lauds PM Modi’s leadership for ratifying Paris climate deal

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New Delhi: In joining the Paris climate agreement, India has taken a bold and decisive step in combating climate change, the US has said.

“We commend Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership and thank all those who have worked on the Agreement over many years,” US Ambassador Richard Verma said in a statement on Sunday.

A file photo of Narendra Modi. AFPA file photo of Narendra Modi. AFP

A file photo of Narendra Modi. AFP

India’s ratification provides indispensable political momentum to securing entry into force of the Paris Agreement this year, sending an enduring and irreversible market signal that low-carbon development is 21st century development, which will yield tremendous benefits not only for producers and consumers in India, but for those around the world.

We look forward to continuing our close friendship with India and furthering our work together on climate change and clean energy, so that we may provide future generations a world to be proud of and treasure, the statement said.

PoK residents take to streets to protest against atrocities committed by Pakistani Army

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Kotli residents in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) recently took to the streets to protest against the atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).The agitation was launched against extra-judicial killings, fake encounters and brutalities committed on pro-Azadi leaders, who disagree with the Pakistan State.The angry mob raised slogans such as “Butcher of Kashmiris, Pakistan Army”, “Dogs are more loyal than ISI”.The protesters demand an independent investigation into the murder of Arif Shahid, a major Kashmiri nationalist leader, chairman of the All Parties National Alliance (APNA), and president of the Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Conference (JKNLC).Shahid fought tooth and nail against Pakistan’s oppression in PoK before he was shot outside his residence in Rawalpindi on May 14, 2013. He was 62.Investigation into Shahid’s murder is still inconclusive, and there is no closure in the cold-blooded murder, so far. The ISI is blamed for conspiring and executing Shahid’s murder.According to an estimate by the All Party National Alliance based in Muzaffarabad, more than one hundred pro-freedom political activists have been killed by the ISI over the past two years.There is growing resentment among PoK residents over the killings as well as the continued army clampdown.Earlier, PoK witnessed a series of protests by residents against rigged polls that saw Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), coming to power.The United States’ State Department has recently also expressed concern over human rights violation in PoK, maintaining that it has always been urging parties in Pakistan to settle their differences “peaceably and through a valid political process”.US States Department spokesperson Mark Toner said he could not agree with the view that nobody knew about human rights violations in PoK before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted that in recent times. “Sure. Well, I would respectfully beg to differ. We do have concerns about the human rights situation there, have reported it for several years in our Human Rights Report, and we’ve obviously – are always urging all parties in Pakistan to work out their differences peaceably and through a valid political process. And with respect to Kashmir, our policy there is well known,” he said.

US soldier apprehended at Indira Gandhi International Airport for carrying ammunition

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A US soldier has been apprehended at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here for allegedly carrying three live bullets in his baggage. Officials said the incident was reported at around 10:00 PM yesterday when a group of US nationals reached the airport to take a flight to New York and one of them had three live bullets and four empty cases in his baggage which was detected by airport staff.According to the officials, the person, identified as P A Tyler, said he was a soldier in the US army and explained that he had come to India to participate in a joint defence exercise and had due authorisation from United States authorities for keeping the bullets.Tyler said that he did not have any idea about Indian rules and regulations that bar fliers from carrying bullets in the aircraft baggage. He was offloaded from the flight and the matter was handed over to Delhi Police which took custody of the soldier and later approached the US Embassy in Delhi. Further proceedings are on, the officials said.

Can’t always be recipient of terror attacks: Hamid Ansari hails surgical strikes across LOC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Vice President Hamid Ansari on Saturday said action against Pakistan was necessary as India can’t be the recipient of terror attacks all the time and do nothing about it.Talking to reporters on his return from his two-nation visit of Nigeria and Mali, he said, “The prime minister had said ‘we will do it and do it in the time and method of our choosing’. “How you do that is something left to the judgement of the government and the professionals in charge of this.” Ansari said, you “can’t be the recipient of terrorist attacks all the time and do nothing about it. Government has stated very clearly why action was necessary, terror launch pads were identified and taken care of”.He said both the African countries he visited also expressed their resolve in fighting terrorism. “Both Nigeria and Mali have seen very serious terror attacks, many of which crossed national borders,” he said.He also said that India wants restructuring of the legal framework by adopting a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.On the role of members of Organisation of Islamic States (OIC) when it comes to pronouncements on Jammu and Kashmir, he said it is a strange kind of organisation and not much importance should be given to it.Both Nigeria and Mali are members of OIC. Ansari said the Malian leadership apprised him that the West African country will not be party to any anti-India stand.During his address to the National Defence College in Nigerian capital Abuja too, Ansari had stressed on the need for societies that stand for peace and humanism to increase their cooperation and strengthen efforts to prevent supply of arms to terrorists, disrupt terrorist movements, and curb and criminalise terror financing.

US strongly objects to Pakistan’s nuke threats against India; conveys displeasure

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The United States has strongly objected to threats of nuclear warfare made by Pakistan against India and has conveyed its displeasure to that country in this regard.”We made that (American objection on nuclear threat) clear to them (Pakistan). Repeatedly,” a senior State Department official said.The official who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, would not reveal the level at which the message was conveyed to Pakistan.”It is very concerning. It is a serious thing,” the official said when asked about Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s assertions, twice in the last 15 days, that his country could use nuclear weapons against India “We will destroy India if it dares to impose war on us,” Asif had told a Pakistani news channel in his latest interview. “Pakistan army is fully prepared to answer any misadventure of India.””We have not made atomic device to display in a showcase. If a such a situation arises we will use it (nuclear weapons) and eliminate India,” Asif had said.The statements raised eyebrows in the Obama Administration and is seen as “irresponsible” behaviour by top Pakistani leadership.In a tacit acknowledgement that it has concerns over the safety of nuclear weapons in Pakistan, the official said the US is closely monitoring the safety and security of those weapons of mass destruction.”The safety of these weapons is always a concern for us. So we are always monitoring it, regardless of what they said on this particular occasion,” said the State Department official.Meanwhile, Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at his daily news conference that nuclear-capable states have “a very clear responsibility to exercise restraint regarding nuclear weapons and missile capabilities”.

Pak should take effective steps against terrorists: Russia backs India after surgical strike

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It seems like Pakistan is running out of friends fast. The latest to hit out is Russia whose foreign ministry blasted Pakistan in a strongly worded statement. Speaking about the LoC incident, the Russian Foreign Ministry put out a statement saying: “We are concerned with the aggravation lately of the situation along the line of control between India and Pakistan. We are calling on the parties not to allow any escalation of tension and to settle the existing problems by political and diplomatic means through negotiations. We stand for decisive struggle against terrorism in all its manifestations. We expect the government of Pakistan to take effective steps in order to stop the activities of terrorists’ groups in the territory of the country.” Other world powers, who seem to side with India over the surgical strike include the USA who said terrorist attacks like Uri obviously escalates tensions. “Obviously, an (terrorist) attack like that (in Uri) escalates tensions. What I don’t want to do is try to get into, you know, some sort of broad characterisation one way or the other but obviously an attack like this is horrific and…”, the State Department Spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters.The spokesperson was interrupted by a reporter mid-way that her question was about India’s response to the September 18 Uri attack. “But the Indian response is that — is that the kind of escalation that Secretary Kerry was warning against?” the journalist asked referring to the telephonic conversation between the Secretary of State John Kerry and the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj earlier this week.Kirby was quick to clarify that he was referring to the Uri terrorist attack. “Oh, I thought you were talking about the Uri attack,” the spokesman said.On September 27, Kerry spoke with Swaraj. For technical reason, the conversation was spread over two separate calls. “I can confirm for you that the secretary spoke with — on the 27th, so earlier this week, with Indian External Affairs Minister Swaraj and reiterated his strong condemnation of the September 18 Uri attack. He condemned terrorism in all its forms and he cautioned against any escalation intentions,” he said.Responding to questions, Kirby called for de-escalation of tension between the two countries. “We’ve seen those reports (of Indian surgical attack), we’re following the situation closely as I think you can understand. We also understand that the Indian and Pakistani militaries have been in communication,” he said. “We believe that continued communication is obviously important to reduce tensions. We’ve repeatedly expressed our concerns regarding the danger that terrorism poses to the region and we all know that terrorism in many ways knows no border,” Kirby said.”We continue to urge actions to combat and de-legitimise terrorist groups like LeT, and Haqqani Network, Jaish-E-Mohammed. So, this is something that we’re obviously keenly focused on,” Kirby said in response to a question.Counter-terrorism co-operation, he said, is something that the United States is always working at with its partners in the region. “We’re always trying to get better at combating terrorism in the region. There are many ways you can do that, you know, through information sharing regimens and increasing communication between all parties involved,” he said.But he refused to entertain question on if there was any co-operation between India and the United States on the latest Indian operation. “I don’t have a specific laundry list here to read out to you because, frankly, it’s something that we’ve been constantly working at with our partners in the region,” he said. Kirby said America’s message to both sides has been the same in terms of encouraging them to increase communication to deal with this threat and to avoid steps that escalate the tensions.”I think I’m not going to get into characterising each and every step along the way there. “But obviously, what we want to see is increased cooperation against what is a very shared common threat for both countries, and to see steps being taken to deal with it by all sides,” Kirby said. Meanwhile the US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, who was in Washington DC has rushed back to New Delhi.”As far as I know, he’s returning to New Delhi. My understanding is that he believed that it was, appropriate for him to go back.”He has got a big job. There a lot of responsibilities that come with it. And, obviously it’s a very dynamic situation and he felt it was prudent to go back. We support that,” Kirby said.Earlier, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India, Shaida Mohammad Abdali applauded New Delhi for ordering counter terrorism operations across the Line of Control (LoC) on Wednesday and Thursday. ‘I applaud Prime Minister Modi for his boldness and his seriousness to fight terrorism more effectively, and all other countries should support him, so that we can be free from terrorism,’ Abdali said. Condemning the countries giving refuge and support to terrorist organisations, the Afghan envoy said should be should be dealt with strongly and taken out from wherever they exist.On Islamabad’s consistent rejection of the charge that it was harboring terrorists, Abdali said ‘Deniability has a limit. This cannot be denied if there are facts on the ground on how they exist and how they operationalise their activities.’ South Korea also supported India’s stance against terrorism emanating from Pakistan as Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan apprised its President Park Geun Hye about the surgical strike carried out by the Indian army at the terror camps across the LoC. The issue came up when Mahajan, who is leading a Parliamentary delegation, called on the President.During the discussions, the Speaker informed the Korean President about the “strong action” taken by India against terrorism, said a statement issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat, referring to the cross-LoC surgical strike.Apprising Park about the continuous terrorist activities being carried out from the territory of Pakistan, Mahajan told her that “India believes in non-violence and peace, but it will not hesitate to use its retaliatory power to safeguard its interests,” the statement said. “While supporting India’s strong views on terrorism, Park condemned terrorism of every type,” it added. The President said India and South Korea stand together against terrorism.With agency inputs

Following India’s lead, Sri Lanka becomes 5th country to pull out of SAARC summit in Pakistan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Asserting that it condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, Sri Lanka on Friday pulled out of the 19th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit, scheduled to take place in November. Sri Lanka is the fifth country after India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan to pull out of the summit. In an official communication, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry told SAARC chair Nepal, ‘Sri Lanka regrets that the prevailing environment in the region is not conducive for holding the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad on 9th and 10th November 2016.’The statement added that the general provisions of the SAARC Charter require that decisions at all levels shall be taken on the basis of unanimity, and this applies to the convening of meetings of Heads of State or Government of SAARC Member States as well.Maintaining that peace and security are essential elements for the success of meaningful regional cooperation for the benefit of the people of South Asia, the statement said that ‘ As a founding member of SAARC, committed to regional cooperation, Sri Lanka hopes that the steps required to ensuring our region’s peace and security will be taken to create an environment that is conducive for the pursuit of regional cooperation.’The statement said that Sri Lanka condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and stresses in this regard, the need to deal with the issue of terrorism in the region in a decisive manner.The SAARC summit cannot take place even if one of the eight members withdraws.India on Tuesday announced that it would not attend the summit conveying the current SAARC Chair Nepal that in the prevailing circumstances, the Government of India is unable to participate in the proposed Summit. ani

Maharashtra to step up intelligence cells to curb liquor smuggling

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In order to control smuggling of duty-evaded liquor into Maharashtra, the state excise department will set up specialised intelligence cells for the states which border Maharashtra and account for this illegal inflow of booze. This will enable the department to crackdown on such activities through co-ordinated raids and seizures with authorities from its neighbouring states.Maharashtra follows a high excise duty regime which leads to high retail prices of liquor. As the state excise department is the third-highest contributor to the state’s coffers, this smuggling bleeds the monetary resource of the state. Maharashtra, also serves as a transit point for the liquor being transported to neighboring Gujarat, which is a dry state.According to the state excise commissioner V Radha, this move will enable them to tighten the borders and launch co-ordinated action with agencies in other states to check smuggling. The department is also looking to work with other agencies like the Konkan Railways to stop smuggling from states like Goa. Radha says, “This will allow for specialisation for every border.””Since the duty rates in states like Goa are lesser than those in Maharashtra, the valuation and the MRP of liquor is also lower. So, this leads to this cheaper-priced booze being smuggled to Maharashtra for local sale due to the higher premiums involved,” said a senior official from the department, adding that the move will also ensure better co-ordination with authorities from other states for better vigilance.Liquor and black jaggery (used for hooch) is also brought in from Karnataka into Maharashtra, especially in border districts like Solapur while Chandrapur, which was the third district in Maharashtra where prohibition was imposed after Wardha and Gadchiroli, has liquor being clandestinely brought in from Telangana.”Today, our enforcement and vigilance is of a centralised nature. We are now looking to decentralise it further to help us know about those involved in smuggling liquor into Maharashtra, sites where it is stored and the modus operandi. We can cultivate sources in those states and take preventive action with help from the authorities there,” said another official.Maharashtra follows a policy of discouraging liquor consumption through high prices and low sales and has one of the highest excise duty regimes in India. However, neighboring states and union territories like Goa and Daman have comparatively liberal policies and the cheaper costs of liquor there lead to a huge incentive for smugglers and bootleggers to smuggle in the brew to Maharashtra. With neighboring Gujarat under prohibition, Maharashtra has also become a transit point for transporting liquor from states like Haryana and Madhya Pradesh to the dry state.In May, the state excise department also cracked a case involving smuggling of duplicate liquor from Goa, by making one of its first recoveries outside the state. However, officials involved in cracking such cases note that at times, local authorities in other states did not extend necessary co-operation to them.

Pakistan is a terror state: Sanctions won’t work as long as it enjoys support from China

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s address to the United Nations on Monday was candid and categorical about Pakistan belonging to a group of nations “that still speak the language of terrorism, that nurture it, peddle it, and export it.” However, many in India, including the principal opposition Congress party, are disappointed that she, or for that matter the Modi government, has not been brave enough to declare Pakistan “a terrorist state”. In fact, the Congress now demands a special session of parliament to discuss the security situation, minimise interactions with Pakistan and declare Pakistan a terrorist state.

Meanwhile, parliamentarian Rajeev Chandrashekhar has written to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari giving notice to introduce a Bill to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. The Bill – titled Declaration of States as Sponsor of Terrorism Bill, 2016 – aims at withdrawing economic and trade relations with Pakistan, imposing economic and travel sanctions on Pakistani citizens and punishing any resident or citizen of India if he or she violates the new law on Pakistan with imprisonment for a term extending to five years in prison, or fine, or both.

What is equally notable is that fact that it is not only India where law makers want Pakistan to be declared a terrorist state. Last week in the United States (22 September), two lawmakers, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism Ted Poe and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, moved a bill in Congress seeking designation of Pakistan as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’. Terming Pakistan as an “untrustworthy ally” that “has also aided and abetted enemies of the US for years”, they want President Barack Obama to issue a report within 90 days of passage of the bill detailing whether or not Pakistan has provided support for ‘international terrorism’, thirty days after which “the Secretary of State must issue a follow-up report containing either a determination that Pakistan is state sponsor of terrorism or a detailed justification as to why Pakistan does not meet the legal criteria for designation.”

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

There is even a petition on the White House website asking for Pakistan to be declared as a state sponsor of terrorism. It is gathering massive support from netizens. According to The Times of India, created with a goal of 100,000 signatures on 21 September, there have been over 82,000 signatories in less than five days. The petition states that declaring Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism is “important to the people of United States of America, India and many other countries which are continuously affected by Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.”

Incidentally, this was not the first time that there are voices in the US demanding punishment to Pakistan. There have been occasions when the US lawmakers have curtailed and suspended economic and military aid to Pakistan for its duplicity on the front of fighting terrorism. In fact, in 1993, there was an equally powerful move in the US to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. Once designated a terrorist state, Pakistan or for that matter any other country, the designation triggers unilateral sanctions by the US that include “a ban on weapons exports and sales; the imposition of financial and other curbs, as well as a ban on economic assistance; and restrictions on the exports of items that can be used by the country to enhance its military capability or its ability to support terrorism.”

With the removal of Cuba from the list in April this year, North Korea in 2008, Libya in 2006 and Iraq in 1982 (that time the US was supporting Sadam Hussain), there are at present three countries designated as terrorist states under US laws : Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Coming back to Pakistan, the pertinent question is: Does Pakistan really deserve to be a terrorist state? If so, then why has it not been so designated so far?

None other than a former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, has written in his book, Magnificent Delusions, about how his government, through its army and intelligence agencies (ISI in particular), aids and abets the murder of civilians by terrorist organisations. Carlotta Gall , a journalist with the The New York Times and the author of The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2014, has described in details how Pakistan facilitated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda offensives and gave shelter and protection to Osama bin Laden till his death in 2011. So much so that in 2012, a Pakistani court brought down a guilty verdict against the Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, who helped the CIA locate bin Laden in May 2011 for “treason” and convicted him of 33-year prison sentence.

In fact, though a Western ally in the war on terrorism, Pakistan does more to enable the jihadis than fight them. As has been pointed out by a former US diplomat, Peter Tomsen, who served in the region, Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, has actively supported militant groups in Kashmir (and the rest of India and Afghanistan). Though three of those groups — Harakat ul Mujahidin, Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-I Mohammad — are on the US State Department’s list of terrorist organisations, Pakistan supports them. On the Afghanistan front, the ISI assists on the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and the Hekmatyar outfit (which has just reached a compromise with the Afghan government). “It becomes plain that Pakistani spooks effectively are co-coordinating a horizontally diversified terrorist empire spanning three nations (India, Pakistan and Afghanistan)”, writes Tomsen.

Incidentally, the LeT and its leader Hafiz Saeed are proscribed by the United Nations under UNSC Resolution 1267 that requires member-states to impose asset freezes, travel bans and arms embargos. But for Pakistani ISI, Saeed is its most treasured asset against India. So is Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar, the mastermind behind the recent Uri-attack. Similarly, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, moves freely around Pakistan and regularly visits the Pakistani intelligence headquarters of the Afghan campaign in Rawalpindi. Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the new leader of the Taliban, guides his military campaign from his base in near the Pakistani town of Quetta. And, Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan in the southwestern corner of Baluchistan.

In his book Deadly Connections: States That Sponsor Terrorism, Daniel Byman points out how Pakistan’s funding, arming, training and diplomatic support of varied terrorist groups active in Kashmir have emboldened the terrorists all over the world. So close is the tie between the Pakistani state and these outfits that its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) “selects targets, including civilian ones and knows about major attacks in advance”, writes Byman. And what is worse, it is the Pakistani Army that is “Islamicising” Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba. “Pakistan also inserted foreign fighters from the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to boost the sagging fortunes of these movements from time to time”, Byman adds.

In fact, Pakistani territory is now being used to nurture global terror, particularly in Europe and the United States. All major terror incidents have invariably some Pakistani link or the other. The bombings that injured 29 people in New York early this month was done by one Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalised US citizen born in Afghanistan, who was trained in Pakistan in 2014. Similarly, the aborted bomb attempt at New York’s Times Square in May 2010 was by Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani-American, who had close links with the Jaish-e Muhammad (JeM) and LeT.

Pakistan has produced the CIA shooter Mir Aimal Kasi; the 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents); 11 September attacks (9/11) mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapper, Omar Saeed Sheikh; and three of the four men behind the July 2005 train and bus bombings in London. And as the Wall Street Journal columnist Sadanand Dhume points out, “the list of jihadists not from Pakistan themselves — but whose passage to jihadism passes through that country — is even longer. Among them are Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohamed Atta, shoe bomber Richard Reid, and John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. Over the past decade, Pakistani fingerprints have shown up on terrorist plots in, among other places, Germany, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands.”

As I have invariably argued, since its establishment as a separate country based on religious ideology in 1947, Pakistan has attempted to use religious extremism and terrorism as tools, in addition to its military forces, to ensure its continued existence. Pakistan has established more madrassas than schools with the objective to empower, train and recruit people for the jihad in various parts of the world. A recent study says that it has more than 150,000 religious schools (madrassas), most of whom are training recruits in extremism and violence under the name of Islam.

Despite all these clinching evidences, if Pakistan has not been declared a terrorist state by the countries that matter in the world, it is essentially because of geopolitical imperatives. Pakistan is exploiting its geographic location of connectivity to West Asia, Central Asia and South Asia to the fullest. The US has been dependent on Pakistan for logistical support in its Afghan war. Secondly, Pakistan is successfully blackmailing the rest of the world for more indulgence, lest it will be active in nuclear and missile proliferations. Thirdly, it enjoys the support of China, which behaves now as the ultimate super power of the world. No sanctions against Pakistan will work as long as it, like North Korea, enjoys the Chinese military and economic support. On the other hand, with sanctions, one will lose whatever leverage one has with Pakistan and thus will be entirely at the mercy of China (as is the case now with North Korea) to control the Pakistani misdemeanors, a highly dangerous proposition.

RS MP moves Bill to declare Pak a terrorist state

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka and a member of standing committee on defence Rajeev Chandrashekhar on Saturday submitted a private member’s Bill in the Upper House of Parliament seeking to declare Pakistan a terrorist state in the wake of the Uri attack.He has proposed to introduce the Bill – Declaration of States as Sponsor of Terrorism Bill -2016 – in the coming winter session of Parliament.Following the Uri attack on September 18 on an Indian Army Brigade headquarters, a new bill has also been moved in the US House of Representatives to designate Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism by the Republican party members Ted Poe from Texas, who is also the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Dana Rohrabacher from California.In his eight page Bill draft, Chandrashekhar has said that “certain states be declared as the sponsor of terrorism and that economic and trade relations with the states be withdrawn.””The Islamic Republic of Pakistan propagates and harbors agents of international terror who have repeatedly attacked the territory and the people of the Republic of India and there is an urgent need to co-ordinate activities at the international and national level to ensure the best response to protect the interests of the Republic of India and its citizens,” he has proposed.The MP told dna that “it was high time Parliament passed such a bill as even the international community has now come out against Pakistan’s pro terror agenda.”He has sought through the Bill, a prohibition on any financial aid to Pakistan and from tarde with any individual or entity or corporate in India.The Bill also seeks to prohibit Pakistani aircraft from flying over the geographical boundaries of India.

Kaziranga national park: A vortex of eviction drive, politicisation and hapless animals in Assam

Efforts to free the Unesco-World Heritage Site Kaziranga National Park in Assam from encroachments has put the BJP-led state government on a collision course with its arch-rival Congress as the latter claims it was haphazardly done.

The Assam government was initially praised for its intent by going ahead with the eviction drive on Monday as ordered by the Gauhati High Court in October last year. After stiff resistance from the squatters which led to the death of two people, including a woman and leaving 19 injured, the political tension over the move is quietly brewing.

Villagers take part in the funeral procession of the two people who were killed during the clashes with police, in Kaziranga on Tuesday. PTIVillagers take part in the funeral procession of the two people who were killed during the clashes with police, in Kaziranga on Tuesday. PTI

Villagers take part in the funeral procession of the two people who were killed during the clashes with police, in Kaziranga on Tuesday. PTI

“The government of Assam is not serious about Kaziranga. They have acted against a very small portion of the area which is affected by encroachments while implementing the Gauhati High Court order. They have completely mismanaged the process of resettling the people living in these demolished villages who were actually willing to relocate against adequate compensation,” Congress MP from Kaliabor Lok Sabha constituency in Assam Gaurav Gogoi told Firstpost.

“There was no notice in writing prior to the eviction. Nobody from the government has visited the evicted people. So disproportionate was the use of force that a huge police force of 1,800 was used against 300-odd families,” Gogoi said.

“Despite their huge numbers, why did the police have to fire directly at the civilians? This resulted in the loss of two lives. We condemn it. The eviction was carried out in a marginal area but the government did not act against the resorts and the well-connected influential people. They acted only against the poor,” he said.

However, it is worth mentioning that the encroachers in the three villages refused the compensation that was offered by the Assam government.

Significantly, the high court order that was passed on 9 October, 2015 — when the Congress was in power in the state — had directed that the eviction had to happen within a month. The Sarbananda Sonowal-led BJP government came to power on 25 May this year.

“The Deputy Commissioners of Golaghat, Sonitpur and Nagaon are directed to take expeditious steps to evict the
inhabitants in the second, third, fifth and as well the six additions of the Kaziranga National Park, including Deurchur Chang, Banderdubi and Palkhowa, within one month,” the high court had said.

Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi tweeted, “The BJP-led State Government has failed to take necessary measures before carrying out the eviction drive at Kaziranga. Removing people from land by resorting to firing is condemnable. High Court had given a ruling but there is a process to ensure its adherence.”

Pertinently though, the former chief minister kept mum on why his government failed to prevent encroachment in its 15-year-long tenure.

Taking on the former chief minister, Assam Minister for Education, Health and Finance Himanta Biswa Sarma also rejected Gogoi’s stance that they had plans to go to the Supreme Court to challenge the high court order.

Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. PTIAssam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. PTI

Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. PTI

“The apex court had already rejected the SLP (Single Leave Petition). Even the Gauhati High Court rejected the petition to review its order when the eviction drive was on. What Tarun Gogoi is saying is not correct. The previous government had actually not honoured both the Supreme Court and the high court. They even built a colony in the area where eviction was ordered,” Sarma said in a press conference on Tuesday.

“What is shocking is that deep inside the park there was also construction of a road going on under the PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana), an Anganwadi school was set up and even electricity was provided. The school was a voting centre in the last polls. Our government had stopped the construction of the road,” the minister said.

Sarma pointed out that “demographic destabilisation is the larger plan to benefit those who want to win polls with their votes”. The minister said the Congress was in the process of securing their voter base by increasing the population of a particular community right up to Upper Assam which is now a BJP stronghold.

“Vote bank politics is not a big thing. But this was in complete violation of court order,” he said.

A total of 331 houses were demolished on Monday and around 35 families had pattas. A patta is a legal document issued by the government in the name of the actual owner of a particular plot of land.

Giving details of the eviction drive, the minister said, “Total of 175 families in Banderdubi, 115 in Deurchur Chang and 12 in Palkhowa were evicted. The swathes of land under encroachment in Banderdubi was 2,244 bighas, 126 bighas in Deurchur Chang and 42 bighas in Palkhowa.”

As per the measuring system followed in Assam, one bigha is equal to 2,880 square feet.

The Congress MP, however, did not quite agree with Sarma.

“The boundary of Kaziranga National Park is periodically revived and expanded to accommodate the increasing animal population. These villages were initially outside the park before. So it is quite natural that they obviously had public infrastructure and facilities before. There are so many families who were living there for 50-60 years. And what about the infrastructure built there when Sarma was a Congress minister? Wasn’t he the education and health minister?” the Kaliabor MP asked.

Although the Congress opposition to the eviction was a relatively muted one owing to the fact that it was a court order, Gaurav did raise the issue of pattas in a Facebook post.

“Kaziranga has special place in everyone’s hearts. Even in the hearts of the people who were evicted by the recent HC order. They were always willing to move even though many had legal papers dating to the old AGP government.
The only request they had was that are poor and needed financial aid from the government,” Gaurav said.

The high court order had though dealt with the issue of patta-holders. Magicbricks.com explains patta as “a legal document that defines the ownership of a property”.

“The acquisition and eviction of human habitation is being done for protecting the wildlife which is exposed to rampant poaching. The authorities have complied with all the formalities…. In the face of the Constitutional obligations on the part of the State with a corresponding duty on the part of the citizens it would be highly untenable on the part of the petitioners to take technical pleas and expose the wild life to a great danger of extinction,” the Gauhati High Court observed in its order.

Kaliabar MP Gaurav Gogoi taking a tour of the area near Kaziranga National Park where an eviction drive was acrried out. Image courtesy Gaurav Gogoi's Facebook pageKaliabar MP Gaurav Gogoi taking a tour of the area near Kaziranga National Park where an eviction drive was acrried out. Image courtesy Gaurav Gogoi's Facebook page

Kaliabar MP Gaurav Gogoi taking a tour of the area near Kaziranga National Park where an eviction drive was acrried out. Image courtesy Gaurav Gogoi’s Facebook page

The parliamentarian questioned Sarma’s claim that it was no longer an issue of mere encroachment but a something that had connection with jati (identity), maati (land) and bheti (base).

“The government’s slogans of jaati, maati and bheti are questionable. When they have given away oil fields in auction where is the question of bheti? When their central govt have given away land to Bangladesh then where is the question of maati?” Gaurav asked in his Facebook post.

However, the then Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi was also on board when the land swap issue had made progress. In April 2013, Gogoi had on record spoken in favour of the land swap with Bangladesh.

“As per the agreement, Bangladesh will retain possession of 267.5 hectares of the land while we will get the remaining 397.5 hectares. Assam will not lose anything. May be in map, we will lose but on the ground we will gain,” Gogoi had said then.

While analysing the impediments affecting the eviction process, the CAG report in a detailed report in 2014 pointed out politicisation among others as one of the major hurdles. The reasons it cited are:

“(i) Protracted litigation due to cases filed by encroachers in various Courts, some of them are still pending; (ii) Strong resistance from the encroachers assisted by poachers and criminal elements taking shelter in the encroahed areas and chaporis; (iii) Indirect political interference during eviction drives.”

The political mud-slinging or rather the blame game which has already started only adds weight to the CAG viewpoint.

“Right now the Kaziranga has gone to the background. The government is seeking publicity as it so far failed to manage the affairs in the state. This is a tactic to divert attention. Hasn’t Australia and UK cautioned their citizens against travelling to Assam in an advisory over the prevailing situation?” Gaurav asked.

Questions are also being raised at some quarters that if the people evicted were of doubtful citizenship. The Gauhati High Court in a July 2015 order had directed that “The Superintendent of Police(Border), Nagaon shall also make verification of the Nationality of the encroachers in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th Additions. The compliance report to be submitted by 12-08-2015.”

“If the government is doubtful about the citizenship why not identify the illegal ones and deport them?” Gaurav said.

With most of the evicted families belonging to a particular community, there was an undercurrent of tenseness although Sarma said that there was “no communal issue in Kaziranga”.

The Lok Sabha MP did not deny that there is an underlying concern although it was largely a political take.

“BJP is a party that is run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The fear is that the affiliate organisations of the RSS might create a communal disharmony,” Gaurav said, adding, “Had we been in power we would have prepared a much smoother way to implement the order. We won’t have made people refugees in their own state.”

NIA to seek help of IB, RAW and Army in Uri attack probe

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the terror attack in Uri Sector of Jammu and Kashmir, will be seeking the help of the Army, Intelligence Bureau and RAW to get identities of the terrorists verified.The agencies will be asked to provide the NIA with intercepts of the last two to four months in the region.As per sources, Kashif Jaan, who had escorted the Pathankot terrorists till the border, could also have been the handler of the slain terrorists in Uri.The NIA sources say that the Uri attack may have been masterminded by Kashif Jaan, Rauf Asgar and Masood Azha.The NIA on Tuesday filed an FIR in the Uri terror strike case and a six-member team will soon visit the site of the attack to collect the evidence in the matter.According to sources, NIA will collect the blood samples and finger prints of the four killed terrorists in Uri.The army is set to handover all items recovered from the killed terrorists including weapons, navigation maps to the NIA for further investigation.The NIA will also send the GPS and icon satellite set to the United States for forensic investigation to find out what route the terrorists chose and when and how they entered Indian territory.In one of the worst attack in recent times, at least 18 soldiers lost their lives and over 20 others got injured post the terror strike on an army camp close to the headquarters of the 12th Brigade at Uri in Baramulla district.Director General of Military operation Lt. Ranbir Singh has said that the four terrorists, who attacked the military base in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri, belonged to Pakistan’s banned terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Speedo USA ends Ryan Lochte sponsorship | Reuters

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Petrol prices cut by 89 paise, diesel by 49 paise a litre

New Delhi:  State-run Indian Oil Corp (IOC) has cut the price of transport fuel effective on Friday by under a rupee each, of petrol by 89 paise a litre and of diesel by 49 paise, both at Delhi with corresponding decrease in other states.

Representational image.

Representational image.

Making its previous fortnightly revision in fuel prices on June 16, IOC had hiked prices of petrol marginally by 5 paise a litre, and of diesel by Rs 1.26, both at Delhi, with corresponding increase in other states.

Petrol per litre from Friday costs Rs 64.76 in Delhi, Rs 67.79 in Kolkata, Rs 69.32 in Mumbai and Rs 64.24 in Chennai.

Similarly, diesel costs Rs 54.70 in Delhi, Rs 56.89 in Kolkata, Rs 60 in Mumbai and Rs 56.25 in Chennai.

Amid the recent fluctuation in global crude oil prices the Indian basket of crude closed trade on Thursday at $46.48 a barrel, as per official data.

India clears deal to buy 145 artillery guns from BAE Systems

India’s defence procurement agency has cleared a proposal to buy 145 M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzer artillery guns from BAE Systems in a deal worth an estimated $750 million, a defence ministry source said on Saturday.Under the deal, 120 of the 145 guns will be assembled in India, said the source, who asked not to be identified in line with defence ministry rules. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to upgrade the country’s military hardware by replenishing its range of artillery weapons after years of delays in ordering new equipment.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>But Modi wants deals with foreign companies to include the setting up of factories and plants in India to boost the local industry. BAE said in February it had chosen Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group to build a plant for the assembly of Howitzer artillery guns it hopes to sell to India. The source said the proposal would soon be communicated to the United States, where BAE manufactures the weapons.

NSG membership: PM Modi to meet Xi Jinping on June 23 to win support for India’s bid

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday (June 23) in Uzbekistan capital Tashkent in an attempt to win Beijing’s support for India’s membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).Prime Minister Modi will be meeting President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit meeting that is currently on in Tashkent. The SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and military organization which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Highly placed sources told ANI that the meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping would be an exclusive one-on-one discussion, where the top agenda would be to seek China’s support for India’s membership in the NSG.
ALSO READ Ahead of Seoul meet, White House asks NSG members to support India’s bidChina, till now, has been playing the role of a dampener on the issue of clearing the way for India’s admission to the NSG, by repeatedly stating that it is not on the agenda of the grouping which began its plenary session in Seoul, South Korea, yesterday.On the other hand, the United States has called on the participating governments of the NSG to support India’s application for membership.
ALSO READ Pak NSG bid: Pakistan only hurdle to Indian ‘hegemony’ in South Asia, says Sartaj Aziz State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in a press briefing that Washington has not changed its stand regarding India’s application for membership to the elite group.”Well, as you know, during Prime Minister Modi’s visit, the President (Barack Obama) welcomed India’s application to join the NSG and reaffirmed that India is ready for membership. We continue to call ? and nothing’s changed about our position. We continue to call on the participating governments of the NSG to support India?s application at the plenary session this week in Seoul,” he said.
ALSO READ China pours cold water on India’s NSG hopes, says issue not on agendaThis statement came as a backhand to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s optimistic statement earlier, that China is not blocking India’s entry to the NSG but is only talking about ‘criteria and procedures’.”The NSG entry is crucial for India’s energy policy. China is not blocking India’s entry to the NSG. It is only talking about criteria and procedures. I am hopeful that we would be able to convince China to support our entry to the NSG,” Swaraj said in a press briefing.Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar made a two-day trip to China on June 16 and 17 to discuss India’s NSG membership with his Chinese counterpart.China has maintained that more talks were needed to build a consensus on which countries can join the 48-nation NSG following the United States’ push to include India in the elite group.The countries, who oppose India’s membership, argue that its inclusion in the group would further undermine efforts to prevent proliferation and also infuriate New Delhi’s rival Pakistan.Islamabad, which enjoys the backing of its close ally China, has also responded to India’s membership bid and asked for its admission as well.The decision on Indian membership will only be decided at the NSG plenary meeting in Seoul scheduled on June 23 and 24.India claims that 21 of 23 nations back its bid. The NSG works on unanimity and even one “no” vote can scuttle India’s bid.The US has strongly backed India’s bid and so have Britain, Russia and Switzerland.

NSG to take up Pakistan, India’s membership requests this week

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) 2016 annual plenary which begins in Seoul on Monday, will take up membership requests from both India and Pakistan on June 23-24.According to Dawn, Pakistan submitted its membership application on May 19, a week after India, which applied on May 12.With massive global support, India stands as a favourite to join the 48-nation group, with an active support from the United States, Russia, Britain, France and other world powers.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>China, however, stands as an obstacle to India’s application, arguing that it would enhance a nuclear competition in South Asia by isolating Pakistan.China wants NSG to admit Pakistan as well, pointing out that both India and Pakistan possessed nuclear weapons and had not signed the NPT.While China may not force the NSG to admit Pakistan, it can block India as new members are admitted with a consensus of the existing members.Pakistan reportedly fears that joining the NSG would increase India’s access to nuclear technology, which could also enhance its weapons programme, even if indirectly.After a June 7 meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House, US President Barack Obama welcomed India’s application to join NSG, and re-affirmed that New Delhi was ready for membership.Earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry sent a letter to the NSG members, saying they should ‘agree not to block consensus on Indian admission’.India, though not a member, enjoys the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG rules for its atomic cooperation deal with the US.The NSG is one of the main tools for controlling the exports and proliferation of materials that could potentially be used in making weapons of mass destruction. It also tacks the black market trade of nuclear technologies.

‘Anarchist’ Kejriwal liable for appointing 21 AAP MLAs: Congress

Coming down heavily on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Congress Party on Saturday said if bureaucrats had warned the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener of the situation where office of profit would be one of the issues, the former was responsible for deliberately appointing 21 party MLAs as parliamentary secretaries.”When the bureaucrats have warned him of a situation where office of profit would be one of the issues involved, and essentially these were secretaries who were appointed to assists the ministers, whereas it is only meant for the Chief Minister as convention has had it. Now, the fact is that they were appointed to assist the ministers, but they were actually operating as Ministers of States, because they had overriding powers to enter into portfolios,” Congress leader Tom Vadakkan said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said wherever the 21 AAP MLAs went, they had additional empowerment and have been using the office, the Government of India telephones and a variety of facilities that were given to them.”This is a standard example of what an anarchist can do despite warnings coming in from bureaucracy. If he has done it, he is liable and his ministers and the parliamentary secretaries will have to pay a price for it,” he added.Amid ongoing furor over Kejriwal’s appointing 21 AAP MLAs as parliamentary secretaries, former Delhi chief secretary Omesh Saigal has admitted that he was ‘aware of the danger in which the MLAs were being put into’ and that is why ‘he had written to Kejriwal after his government issued a notification that the MLAs would be using staff cars’.”I did not warn Kejriwal, but it was a friendly kind of note, which I wrote to my IIT batch mate. I did not warn Kejriwal. When they declared that the 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries, I did not apply my mind because the government had already applied its mind,” Saigal told ANI.”But when they issued another notification in newspapers that they would now use staff cars, then I did send a mail that it is not right, because I had earlier filed an application before the President, who had referred it to the Election Commission against one health minister, who was ex-official of AIIMS and he was also using this car,” he added.President Pranab Mukherjee refused his assent to a Delhi Government’s Bill seeking to exclude the post of parliamentary secretary from the office of profit, raising a question over the fate of 21 AAP MLAs, who have been appointed to the posts. The AAP Government had sought an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997 through which it had sought ?retrospective? exemption for the parliamentary secretaries from disqualification provisions.Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung forwarded the Bill to the Centre, which in turn was sent to the President with comments.

States have resolved to provide 24X7 power by March 2019: Piyush Goyal

Panaji: Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday said all the states had resolved to provide round-the-clock power supply to every household by March 2019.

Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal. Image courtesy: PIB

Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal. Image courtesy: PIB

“All the states agreed to provide 24×7 power to all the people by March 2019 or earlier,” Goyal said in Panaji after attending a two-day conference of power and mining ministers of states and union territories.

“Besides, all the states except Left-Wing-Extremism-affected ones, also resolved to electrify all the remaining unelectrified villages by December 31, 2016,” he said.

In a landmark development, all the states resolved to procure only ‘smart meters’ which are tamper-proof and communication-enabled, Goyal said.

“The cost of these smart meters has been brought down by sixty percent from Rs 8,000 to Rs 3,223 per unit as a result of central procurement, and the endeavour is to go for only such metres in the future for Rs 25 crore consumers in the country,” the Union minister said.

Goyal also announced launch of the helpline ‘1912’ for consumer complaints redressal across the country.

“Hydro-power policy was also discussed and the meeting sought to work out ways of reviving small hydro-power projects with cooperation from the states,” he said, adding that a committee set up for this purpose will submit its recommendations by 30 September.