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J&K: Partition refugees deserve domicile status, but this is not the time to play with fire

It is enough to make one want to scream!

Just five months ago, various sections of the ruling class seemed to be at the end of their tether with regard to Kashmir. Enraged teenagers held large parts of the Valley to ransom for several months. During that time, India’s Parliament humiliated itself by knocking on various leaders doors, only to be rebuffed. The army was called out in Kupwara and right across south Kashmir – although that last resort that was not used even when there was a greater rage on the streets in 2010.

Unrest in Kashmir Valley. ReutersUnrest in Kashmir Valley. Reuters

Unrest in Kashmir Valley. Reuters

There is every reason to believe that the unrest of 2016 has only subsided; it is not over. Anger still simmers. Indeed, many observers within Kashmir not only predict more unrest in 2017 but that it will surface much earlier in the year than it did in 2016.

And yet, various sections of what pass for political leaders have been playing short-term politics of the sort that prioritises expected advantage to one’s party over the national interest or the objective of long-term stable peace.

Even National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah did it in early December. And Mehbooba Mufti’s government did it in July.

The latest is the controversy over granting domicile certificates to those who are called ‘West Pakistan refugees’ in the state. These are the about 100,000 descendants of those who, during the murderous mayhem of the 1947 Partition violence, scrambled across the border from Pakistani Punjab into areas around Jammu.

Many of them are of Dalit background and have little political or economic clout. Ergo, they need positive discrimination from the state more than others.

The ‘West Pakistan refugees’ are distinct from those who fled that horrible year from Mirpur and Muzaffarabad areas on what are now Pakistan-controlled parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Large numbers of them and their descendants too live in Jammu – with all the rights of state subjects.

Several states, including Himachal, deny domicile rights to those who are not, or are not descended from, longtime residents. However, the denial of domicile rights — which basically boils down to access to state educational institutions, state government jobs and ownership of freehold property — to those who have been residents of the state for 70 years is clearly unjustified.

There can be no doubt that, owing to the special circumstances of their migration to the state, and the length of these families’ stay, they deserve the domicile status they were given a few days ago.

However, this is an inappropriate time to grant it. For, that grant has been resisted for decades by Kashmiri Muslims who fear that domicile status could be a first step towards their getting full citizenship of the state. That, they fear, could dilute their own demographic and political domination.

Explosive situation

I have pointed out before that the Kashmiri uprising of 2016 was different to the uprising of 2010 or 2008. One, Pakistan has been in far greater control this year than it was, particularly in 2008. Two, India does not face Pakistan alone on the battlefield that Kashmir has become. It is a Sino-Pak axis now. Three, the challenge may only have begun to emerge. Worse lies ahead than we experienced in 2016.

Of course, the BJP feels pressure to fulfill the poll promise it made to the refugees. Politically, it touches more than the 100,000 persons it directly affects, for the issue strikes a chord among many in the Jammu-Samba-Udhampur-Katra heartland of Hindu identity consciousness. So the BJP would fear an electoral backlash if its promise remains unfulfilled.

And yet, the dangers inherent in implementing this at this point are huge. Intelligence analysts may have advised that the beginning of the peak of an extraordinarily cold winter was the safest time to do it. Energy is low as people across the Valley try and cope with the cold and power outages.

Yet, anger over the issue has gathered steam. Hartals and stone-pelting demonstrations have begun again over the past few days. Independence leaders such as JKLF chief Yasin Malik and Bar Association president Abdul Qayoom have been given a fresh lease of popular support to demonstrate against the domicile status.

Once again, Pulwama has been a hub of unrest. The generally well-informed Ghulam Rasool Pandit had predicted to me that the unrest would revive again in 2017. “Why do you talk about summer?” he asked. “It could begin much sooner.” When I asked him about spring, he smiled laconically and asked why I did not consider January. Pandit is well connected on both sides of the conflict. His son, Naseer, became one of the best-known and popular militants of the area after he left the police to take up the gun. Naseer was killed last spring.

At that time, the police and government had made much of having demolished the insurgency with arrests and ‘kills’ of militants. A couple of months later, they seemed to be at the end of their tether in the face of mass rage.

The move to give West Pakistan Refugees domicile status may be entirely deserved on the face of it, but it stems from a similar sense of misplaced complacency. The nation may have to pay a huge price for such complacency and narrow political calculations.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 19:07 IST

Linear projects: A rising threat to our forests and wildlife: Fauna

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier this month, on December 5, locals at Hojai in Assam’s Nagaon district witnessed a distressing incident. A speeding Kanyakumari-Dibrugarh Vivek Express rammed into three elephants, killing them. It included two pregnant elephants, who delivered stillborn calves. Only 12 days later, two adult elephants and a calf were killed when a train hit them 125kms away from Guwahati, again in Nagaon district. These two accidents along with another one on December 6 took the life of eight elephants in December alone.The accidents in Assam and the rise in proposed linear projects such as highways, railway line doubling, power transmission lines and canals once again bring to attention how perhaps certain developmental projects pose the biggest threats to our forests and wildlife. A deeper look into projects that have been both, proposed and cleared, reveals that they will pass through some of our most dense forests that are home to rich biodiversity, varied wildlife and are precious sources of freshwater in fast warming climate. In 2016, some crucial linear projects that will fragment our forests, were cleared or have made their way towards being cleared.Wildlife corridors under threatFor instance, in March, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), chaired by the Prime Minister, cleared conversion of the 227-km long Gondia-Jabalpur line from narrow gauge to broad gauge. Of this 227km, 77km will pass through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, considered one of the most crucial in the country for it allows tigers from two different source populations and gene pools to move to newer territories.In Eastern India, the Indian Railways has approved expansion of the 156km long Sambalpur-Angul railway line, that already fragments Satkosia-Ushakoti-Badrama elephant and tiger landscape.Conservationists and wildlife activists have argued that while large linear projects should be avoided in forests and wildlife habitats, there is also an acute lack of standardized environmental safeguards.Lack of willIn the case of National Highway – 7 widening, that will pass through the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor and the Pench tiger reserve, the National Highway Authority of India was dragged to court to have them construct environmental safeguards such as underpasses and overpasses for safe wildlife passage.The NH-7 case illustrated that government agencies were unwilling to initiate expenditure on environmental safeguards to prevent wildlife casualties, until courts ordered them to. Following this case, the union ministry for environment, forest and climate change commissioned the Wildlife Institute of India to prepare guidelines on incorporating environmental safeguards in linear infrastructure. The ministry also commissioned this report with a view to ensure speedy clearances for linear projects.The guidelines were made public in October and suggested minimum engineering solutions such as elevated ramps and sections should for wildlife to cross highways and fencing in case of railways. The guidelines though, do not have to be followed mandatory, as they have not been notified.Environmentalists have also questioned these guidelines. “I don’t think these guidelines will be followed because the project developers always try to go for safeguards that will be least expensive. We need to put in place a conservation fund for linear projects and project proponents ought to involve environmental experts at the start of the project and not at the clearance stage. These projects are fragmenting and damaging valuable forest resource,” said Anish Andheria,, President, Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-profit organisation working in 110 protected areas across 19 states.Other conservationists said that the current dispensation has junked an earlier decision of the environment ministry to stop new roads in protected areas. “The NBWL, in its previous term, had recognised linear infrastructure as one of the major threats to forests and wildlife. This prompted formulation of guidelines that said that no new roads will be constructed in protected areas. Why were those guidelines junked? asks Prerna Bindra, conservationist and former member of NBWL standing committee.Upcoming projects passing through forests and protected areasProposed linear projects waiting for wildlife and forest clearance:Dedicated freight corridor passing through Gautam Buddha Sanctuary, home to leopards, bears and chitalCasterlock-Kulem railway line doubling and Tinaighat – Castlerock railway line doubling in Dandeli wildlife sanctuaryHubli-Ankola railway line will pass through Western Ghats forests, Bedthi conservation reserve at Yellapur and buffer region of Anshi Dandeli Tiger ReserveBarkhera-Budni third railway line construction in Ratapani wildlife sanctuary. Project will take up 104.75 hectares of the sanctuary

Demonetisation: 56% of Kerala’s economic activity in doldrums, finds govt panel

The NDA government’s surprise demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes has hit both leading and struggling sectors of the Kerala economy hard, pulling the state’s economy down and affecting potential resource mobilisation, a study by a panel has found.

The committee, set up on 23 November, is headed C P Chandrasekhar of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning of the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

“Cash-intensive sectors such as retail trade, hotels, and restaurants and transportation account for over 40 percent of the Kerala economy, and the primary sector accounts for another 16 percent of the economy. Thus, 56 percent of the economic activity of Kerala is immediately affected by the withdrawal of specified bank notes,” an interim report submitted by the five-member committee has said.

According to the report, the impact of demonetisation in terms of the cash deficit and its consequences has been particularly severe in the state also because of the distinct character of its banking sector, where the cooperative sector and the primary agricultural cooperative societies (PACS) play a central role.

Prime minister Narendra Modi on 8 November announced the decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, sucking out about 86 percent of Rs 15.44 lakh crore currency in circulation. As the RBI was not ready with the replacement currency, this resulted in a cash crunch, which has negatively impacted the daily lives of common people across the country and in turn the economy.

People have been given time until 30 December to deposit their old notes at banks and RBI counters. The government had also allowed exchange of these notes during the period, but did a U-turn and withdrew the facility from 25 November.

According to the Kerala government panel’s report – the first study on demonetisation and its impact – the notifications issued by the RBI, particularly the one that was issued on 14 November, which kept the cooperative banks and societies out of the note exchange process, were particularly damaging for Kerala.

The study estimates that there are about 14,000 co-operative societies in the state, including the state co-operative bank, the state agricultural and rural development bank, district co-operative banks, urban banks, primary agricultural and rural development banks and primary lending societies. These institutions are central to financial intermediation and inclusion in Kerala, the report has said.

Around 60 percent of all deposits are in the co-operatives in the state, according to the report.

Rolling out the figures, the report said besides not being allowed to exchange the notes, the access of PACS to currency was cut off. This forced these institutions to shut down their operations.

As far as the fisheries sector is concerned, cash crunch has hit the payments for fish auctioned at the point of landing, payments of wages by boat owners, supply to wholesalers and retailers, etc.

“As business has declined, workers get less work and lower earnings, and have had to get into debt to meet their daily expenses,” the report said.

In the tourism sector, the report estimates that the domestic tourist arrivals in November fell by 17.7 percent on year and foreign tourist arrivals by 8.7 percent. In October, the tourist arrivals had seen 5.2 percent and 6 percent increase respectively.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 15:48 IST

IndiGo, SpiceJet aircraft came face to face at Delhi Airport: Human error, says AAI

New Delhi: So the government has now confirmed it was ATCO (Air Traffic Control Officer) error which lead to a scare at the Delhi International Airport yesterday, when two aircraft allegedly came “face to face” and pilots of both had to apply brakes. The ATCOs are overworked, said a source, as not enough of them are available at any given time. He also said the concerned ATCO has now been de-rostered and future course of action will be clear after aviation regulator DGCA completes its enquiry into the incident. This source went on to clarify that at no time was the life of passengers aboard the two aircraft in any danger and that this was an instance of human error on a day when fog delays had anyway made more work for ATCOs. In fact, the SpiceJet flight which came close to the IndiGo aircraft had been holding departure for a long time due to low visibility.

In a rare statement, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) – which houses ATC function – said this evening that human error lead to a traffic conflict situation but there was no risk to passengers. “Indigo Airlines flight No 6E-769 from Lucknow to Delhi, after landing on runway-28 was taxing via Taxiway ‘E2’ for parking stand 12 as advised by ATC. Departing flight of SpiceJet Airlines No SG123 was not able to take-off from runway 28 due to poor visibility i.e. weather being below minima and therefore was waiting to return to Apron for parking.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Accordingly the Controller instructed SG123 to taxi via taxiway C” and hold short of the taxiway ‘E2’ so that Indigo flight 6E-769 and SpiceJet flight SG123 would not conflict with each other. The traffic density being high and complex, the Air Traffic Controller inadvertently gave instructions to SG123 (the SpiceJet flight) to continue taxi via E to stand 130, mixing its location with the location of SG263 (another SpiecJet flight) which was holding on another taxiway ‘E’ for departure. However, SG123 also did not question the incomplete ATC instruction for taxing. These human errors resulted into traffic conflict situation. However, both aircraft stopped at safe distance and there was no risk to aircraft or passengers.”

The AAI further asserted that continuous efforts are being made by it to offset such human errors through Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), recurrent training to the controllers and introducing technology. “It may be noted that safety record of ATC provided by Airports Authority of India at Indian airports has been very good and comparable to best in the world.”

Yesterday, there was another incident at Goa airport which also made headlines. Early morning, 9W 2374 Goa-Mumbai Jet Airways’ flight “veered off the runway while aligning for takeoff”, the airline tweeted. It later said 12 passengers had sustained injuries and still later, it said all but five have been discharged. This incident made Goa’s Dabolim airport unoperational for a few hours.

A regulatory source had told Firstpost yesterday that the Goa incident is being treated as an accident and a team from Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) will reach Goa by the evening to begin inquiries. This person also said a preliminary idea about what caused the aircraft to turn 180 degrees will be there only by Thursday. And Civil Aviation MInister A Gajapathi Raju tweeted that “thorough time-bound investigation and corrective action shall be ensured. Action will also be taken in case there is violation of procedures”.

The government knows that overworked ATCOs and the ‘human error’ factor could prove costly for aviation safety. Remember, India was downgraded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States in 2014 for failing to have enough safety personnel and a restoration of the rating took many months.

The Air Traffic Control (ATC) is still short staffed. Sources tell us the manpower need is 3600 personnel and only about 2900 have been recruited till now. “These positions are being filled,”said an AAI official. A short staffed ATC apart, this story from Bloomberg quotes data from India’s safety regulator DGCA to say that air safety incidents which prompted regulatory action reached 280 this year till August, beating the 275 all of last year. It went on to predict that “At this pace, the number may rise to more than 400 by the end of 2016, making it the worst in three years for aviation safety”.

India is one of the fastest growing aviation markets across the globe and any increase in safety related incidents is obviously a cause for worry. DGCA officials say there is no cause for worry and incidents sometimes happen due to the “human” factor. They also add that the country is following all internationally mandated safety protocols.

Earlier this month, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her party TMC had created a furore by alleging that an IndiGo flight carrying the CM was not allowed priority landing at Kolkata airport despite the pilots seeking emergency landing due to a fuel shortage. This was stoutly denied by the airline, which said there was probably a miscommunication between the flight crew and the ATC about how much fuel the flight was left with. Instead of seeking an explanation from the ATC personnel, aviation regulator DGCA grounded IndiGo pilots in this case.

According to data provided by MoS Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha in Lok Sabha earlier this month, there were 409 safety violations by the crew of scheduled, non-scheduled and general aviation aircraft in the last three years.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 18:57 IST

Shelling-proof bunkers to protect civilians in Jammu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India is constructing underground bunkers in the border villages of Jammu as a life saving measure for the civilians to duck the Pakistani shelling.The move comes amid Pakistani forces’ new tactics of shelling in the civilian areas to instill fear among the local population. More than 12 civilians have been killed and over 80 others have been injured in Pakistani firing and shelling on the border villages in the Jammu division since the Indian army carried out surgical strikes on the terror launch pads in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir on September 29. Around 18 soldiers have also been killed by Pakistan army and Rangers along the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir since surgical strikes.More than 87 critical villages have been identified along the LoC and the IB in Jammu district where the government has put the construction of the shelling-proof underground bunkers on fast track.”All the 87 critical villages have been given at least one bunker. We need at least five bunkers in one critical village. In the second round two more bunkers will be given to each critical village”, Simrandeep Singh, district development commissioner, Jammu, told DNA.Constructed at the cost of Rs 4.5 crore under two different government projects, the underground bunkers are being built in such a manner that those could withstand the shells and mortars fired by Pakistani forces.”These are shelling proof bunkers constructed inside the villages. They have double RCC slab which is covered with lot of earth. Each bunker can accommodate 20 people. During the recent cross border shelling 80 people had taken shelter in one bunker,” said Singh.Jammu and Kashmir government has set January 20 deadline for the completion of the bunkers in the first phase. “Around 97 bunkers are to be constructed under two projects, of which 80 have been completed so far. Rest of the 17 bunkers will be completed by January 20”, said Singh.Figures reveal that there are 35,000 to 40,000 people living in the villages which are the worst affected by the shelling from Pakistan. “During shelling, some of the villagers flee their homes for safety. However, some stay back to look after their cattle and other property. Those who stay back can use these bunkers. It is a safety measure because their houses may not be shelling proof”, he said.

Centre launches anti-cancer crusade

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Criticising the Delhi Government for its inability to implement laws on tobacco ban, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Minister of Health and Family Welfare on Monday said that the capital needed to step up its actions for tobacco control.“Sale of tobacco has been banned in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. In Delhi though, the ban on tobacco reflects only on papers,” he said at an event on Monday, where he launched, ‘Cancel Cancer’, a cancer awareness campaign.According to the latest data available with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, between April 2012 to September 2015, at least 13 states, including Delhi, didn’t issue any challan or fine for smoking in public.Speaking at the event held at the Lady Hardinge Medical College, he said, “Tobacco products are easily available at every nook and corner of our country and are being consumed mainly by the youth, specially school-going kids of the middle and poor class.” As part of the campaign on cancer, they aim to raise awareness on the lethal effects of tobacco, how it causes cancer and measures to control it. “Among other things, the campaign aims at educating people against the hazards of tobacco that is the root cause of cancer. The government supports this cause,” Kulaste said.According to a report released in 2013 by the Central Government one in every five person under 21 years of age is addicted to tobacco. The report also mentions that out of 2 crore homeless children in India, 40-70 per cent come in contact with some or the other form of intoxication.The Centre recently issued a complete ban on sale of food products containing tobacco and nicotine across India. These would include Gutka, Paan Masala, Zarda and tobacco-based flavoured mouth fresheners. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has directed all states to issue strict directions for banning the production, promotion and sale of these food products.

PM Modi reiterates govt’s move to push cashless economy, unveiled two schemes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Reiterating his government’s push for moving towards a cashless economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled two schemes—Lucky Grahak Yojana and Digi Dhan Vyapaar Yojana—during 2016’s last Mann ki Baat, his radio talk, on Sunday. These schemes will reward consumers and traders for making e-payments and using digital transactions through a lucky draw.Reminding the nation that Jesus not just served the poor but also appreciated the service done by poor, Modi said: “This is real empowerment.” As a Christmas gift, the PM said as many as 15,000 people will receive rewards of Rs 1,000 each over the next 100 days. To be eligible, consumers and traders will have to use mobile banking, e-banking, RuPay cards, Unified Payments Interface and USSD modes of payment.”These schemes have been designed keeping all sections of society in mind, with a special focus on the poor and the lower middle-class segments. Therefore, only those who make a purchase worth more than Rs 50 and less than Rs 3,000 will benefit,” said Modi.The Prime Minister lavished praise on the people for the encouraging response to the Centre’s push for cashless transactions in its fight against black money. “During the past few days, cashless transactions or cashless trading has increased by 200-300 per cent,” he said.Modi also spoke about other incentives for traders using digital payment modes. “Those businessmen who adopt digital transactions, and those who develop online payment process instead of cash transactions in their trade activities will get Income-Tax (I-T) rebate,” he added.During his talk, Modi also sought to justify the Centre’s frequent rule changes for deposit and exchange of old currency notes following demonetization. “This government is for the people. The government continuously endeavours to take feedback. What are the areas of difficulty? What are the rules that are creating hindrances? And what are the possible solutions? This government, being sensitive towards the common man, amends rules as required, keeping the convenience of the people as its foremost consideration, so that citizens are not subjected to hardship,” said Modi.Responding to letters written by citizens detailing their hardships and suggestions, the PM said that he appreciate the pains they are taking, calling them the “real agents of change” and “pioneers of transformation”.Referring to the multiple raids by the I-T department to recover hoarded new currency, the PM said: “I offer my heartiest salutations to my dear countrymen for one very remarkable thing. These days you must be seeing on TV and newspapers everyday that many new people are being taken into custody, currency notes are being seized, and raids are being carried out. Influential persons are being caught. How have all these been made possible? Should I let out the secret? The secret is that my sources of such information are the people themselves.”

Modi launches schemes to boost cashless economy: Full text of 2016’s final Mann Ki Baat

Vowing to carry forward the war against corruption and black money post-demonetisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said the government will soon operationalise a strong law to effectively deal with ‘benami’ properties and this was just the beginning.

Making his last monthly address this year in his “Mann ki Baat” programme, he defended the frequent changes in the rules of demonetisation, saying these have been done to reduce the people’s problems and defeat such forces who are out to thwart his government’s fight against black money and corruption. While on one hand, Modi noted the hardships faced by the common man due to the cash crunch, he also defended his government’s move and reiterated the benefits of a cashless economy.

The Prime Minister appeared hopeful that the nation will soon adapt to the digital mode of payment. With an eye on cashless economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also unveiled two schemes — Lucky Grahak Yojana and Digi Dhan Vyapaar Yojana — for customers and traders alike to promote mobile banking and e-payments.

Here’s the English rendering of the full text of Prime Minister’s 2016’s final Mann ki Baat address.

My fellow countrymen, Namaskar, many felicitations and season’s greetings to you on the occasion of Christmas. Today is the day to give importance in our lives to service, sacrifice and compassion. Jesus had said – “The poor do not need our favours but our acceptance with affection.” In the Gospel According to Saint Luke, it is written that – “Jesus not only served the poor but also praised the service done by the poor,” and this is what real empowerment is. A tale associated with this incident is also very popular. It has been mentioned in that story that Jesus was standing near the treasury of a temple; many rich people came and donated bountifully; then a poor widow came and parted with only two copper coins. Now just two copper coins really do not amount to much. Thus it was natural that there was a lot of curiosity in the minds of the disciples gathered there. Then, Jesus declared that the widow was the greatest of those donors because while the others had donated substantially, that widow had given away all she possessed.

Today, 25th December, is also the birth anniversary of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviyaji, who kindled resolve and self confidence in the psyche of the Indian people and gave a new direction to modern education. My most sincere and heartfelt tributes to Malviyaji on his birth anniversary. About two days ago, I had the opportunity to launch many a developmental work in Banaras, the sacred workplace of Malviyaji. I also laid the foundation stone of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya Cancer Centre in BHU at Varanasi. This Cancer Centre is going to be a boon for the people of not only eastern Uttar Pradesh but for the people of Jharkhand and Bihar also.

Today is also the birthday of Bharat Ratna and former Prime Minister Venerable Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ji. This country can never forget Atalji’s contributions. Under his leadership, the country proudly grew in stature in the field of nuclear power also. Whether in the role of a party leader, Member of Parliament, a minister or the Prime Minister, Atalji always established an ideal. I salute Atalji on his birthday and pray to God for his good health. As a party worker I had the privilege of working with Atalji. Many memories emerge before my eyes. This morning when I tweeted, I shared a video, in which you can see for yourself how as a small party worker one had the fortune of having affection showered upon him by Atalji.
Today, on Christmas Day, as a gift the countrymen are going to get the benefit of two schemes. In a way it is the beginning of two new schemes. Throughout the entire country, be it villages or towns, the educated or the illiterate, there is an atmosphere of curiosity as to what is cashless, how cashless business can take place, how can one make purchases without using cash! Everybody wants to understand and learn from each other. To encourage this trend, to strengthen mobile banking and to inculcate the habit of making e-payments, the Government of India is launching from today encouragement schemes for consumers as well as traders. To encourage customers, the scheme is ‘Lucky Grahak Yojana’ and to encourage traders the scheme is ‘Digi Dhan Vyapaar Yojana’.

Today, on 25th December, as a Christmas gift, fifteen thousand people will get rewards through a draw system, whereby each of the fifteen thousand winners will have one thousand rupees into their accounts and this will be not for today only; starting today this scheme will continue for the next 100 days. Everyday fifteen thousand people are going to receive rewards of one thousand rupees each. In the next 100 days, lakhs of families are going to receive crores of rupees as gift, but you will be entitled to this gift only if you make use of mobile banking, e-banking, RuPay Card, UPI, USSD – such means and methods of digital payment. The draw for rewards will be done based on your use of such digital payment methods. In addition, there would be a grand draw once every week for such customers in which the prize money will be in lakhs of rupees and three months later on April 14th, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar, there would be a mega bumper draw where rewards would be in crores of rupees.
‘Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojana’ is mainly for traders and businessmen. Traders should adopt this scheme themselves and should encourage their customers too in order to make their business cashless. Such traders will also be rewarded separately and there would be thousands of these rewards. The traders will run their business activities smoothly and will also have an opportunity to win rewards. This scheme has been designed keeping all sections of society in mind, with a special focus on the poor and the lower middle class segments. Therefore only those will get its benefits who make a purchase worth more than 50 rupees but less than three thousand rupees. Those who make purchases of more than three thousand rupees will not be entitled to rewards under this scheme.

Even the poor people can use USSD on simple feature or ordinary mobile phones to buy and sell goods as well as make payments and thus all of them can also become prospective beneficiaries of this reward scheme. In rural areas too, people can buy or sell through AEPS and they can also win rewards. Many will be surprised to know that now there are about 30 Crore, i.e. 300 million RuPay Cards in India, out of which 200 million RuPay Cards belong to poor families which have ‘Jan Dhan’ accounts. These 300 million people can immediately become part of this rewards scheme. I have confidence that the countrymen will evince interest in this system and if you enquire from the young people around you, they would surely be aware of these things and on your asking will tell you about these. Come on, if there is a child studying in 10th or 12th standard in your family, he or she will also be able to teach you well about this. It is as simple as sending WhatsApp messages on the mobile.

My dear countrymen, I feel delighted to learn that the awareness about how to use technology, making e-payments, making online payments is spreading very fast. During the past few days, the cashless transactions, or cashless trading has increased by 200 to 300%. To give cashless trading a big impetus, Government of India has taken a very major decision. The business community, our traders can well comprehend how momentous this decision is. Those businessmen who adopt digital transactions, who develop online payment process instead of cash transactions in their trade activities will get Income Tax rebate.

I congratulate all the states and union territories, who have promoted this campaign in their own way. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Chandrababu Naidu is the head of a committee which is considering various schemes under this. However, I have seen that the governments also have initiated and implemented many schemes. I’ve been told that Assam Government has decided to grant a 10% discount on property tax and business license fee if payments are made through digital transaction. The branches of Grameen, that is, Rural Banks there getting 75% of their customers to make at least two digital transactions between January and March will get 50 thousands rupees rewards from the government. They have announced that under the ‘Uttam Panchayat for Digi-Transaction’, rewards of 5 lakh rupees will be given to villages doing 100% digital transaction till 31st March, 2017. Assam Government has decided to reward 5 thousand rupees to the first 10 farmers as ‘Digital Krishak Shiromani’, who will buy seeds and fertilizers entirely through digital payments. I congratulate Assam Government and also all those state governments who have taken such initiatives.

A number of organisations have also successfully carried out many experiments to promote digital transactions amongst the rural folk and poor farmers. I have been told that GNFC or Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals Limited, which primarily manufactures fertilizers, has installed a thousand PoS machines for sale of fertilizers for the convenience of farmers and in just a few days 35 thousand farmers were sold 5 lakh sacs of fertilizers on digital payment and this was accomplished in only two weeks! And the interesting fact is that compared to last year the fertilizer sales of GNFC have gone up by 27 percent.

Brothers and sisters, the informal sector occupies a major segment in our economy and in our pattern of life and mostly these people are paid wages for their labour and hard work in cash. They are paid their salaries in cash and we know that due to this, they are exploited also. If they are to receive 100 rupees, they get only 80 rupees, if they are to be paid 80 rupees, they are given only 50 rupees. They are deprived of facilities like insurance and those associated with health sector. But now the practice of cashless payment is being adopted; the money is being directly deposited into banks. In a way, the informal sector is getting converted into the formal sector, exploitation is coming to an end, the cut, which had to be paid earlier, has stopped now and it has become possible for the worker, the artisan, such poor persons to get their full amount of money. In addition, they are also becoming entitled to the other benefits due to them.
Our country is blessed with the maximum number of young people. Thus, we are favourably placed for using technology. A country like India should be ahead of everybody else in this field. Our youth have benefitted quite a lot from ‘Start-Ups’. This digital movement is a golden opportunity for our youth. They should impart to this as much strength as they can with their new ideas, technology and processes. But we must also connect with the drive to rid the country of black money and corruption with all our might.

My dear countrymen, I request every month before ‘Mann Ki Baat’ that you please give your suggestions, share your thoughts; and of the thousands of such suggestions received this time on MyGov, on NarendraModiApp, I can definitely say that 80 to 90% suggestions were pertaining to the war against corruption and black money, there was mention of demonetization. After I examined all the suggestions, I can say that these can macroscopically be roughly divided into three categories. Some have written in detail about people facing difficulties and encountering inconveniences. The other group of correspondents have stressed that this is such a good work being carried out for the welfare of the country, such a sacred task but they have also noted that in spite of this there are many scams being committed and new avenues of dishonesty are being explored. The third group is the one which has, while wholeheartedly supporting the action being taken, clearly stressed that this fight must be carried forward; corruption and black money must be completely destroyed and if this requires even more tough steps to be taken, those must be taken. We have many people writing this most emphatically.

I am thankful to the countrymen for helping me by writing these innumerable letters to me. Shriman Gurumani Kewal has written on MyGov – “This step of reigning in black money is praiseworthy. We citizens are facing some difficulties, but we are all fighting against corruption and we are happy that we are making a contribution in this fight. We are battling corruption, black money etc on the lines of Military Forces.” The sentiment behind Gurumani Kewalji’s text is being echoed in every nook and corner of the country. All of us are experiencing it. When the people face problems, undergo hardships, rare will be a fellow human being who will not empathise. I feel as much pain as you do. But when a task is taken up with a noble objective, to realise a lofty intent, with a clear conscience, the countrymen stay firm courageously amidst all these trials and tribulations. These people are the real Agents of Change, pioneers of transformation. I thank people for one more reason. They have not only braved hardships, but have also powerfully given a retort to those limited few who have been trying to mislead them.

So many rumours were spread, even the fight against corruption and black money was sought to be tainted with shades of communalism. Somebody spread a rumour that the spelling on the currency note was faulty, someone said salt prices had spiraled, someone proclaimed that the 2000 rupee note would also be withdrawn, even 500 and 100 rupee denominations notes were rumoured to be on their way out. But I have seen that despite rampant rumour mongering, citizens have stood firm with their faith intact. And not just that, many people came to the fore and through their creativity and intelligence, exposed the rumour mongers, brought out the falsity of the rumours and established the truth. I salute this great ability of the people also from the core of my heart.

My dear countrymen, I am experiencing one thing every moment. When a hundred and twenty five crore countrymen are standing by you, nothing is impossible. The people represent the will of the Almighty and their blessings become His blessings. I thank the people of this country and salute them for participating in this Mahayagya against black money and corruption with utmost zeal. It was my earnest wish that the ongoing campaign against corruption and black money, including the realm of political parties and political funding, be discussed extensively in the Parliament. Had the House functioned properly, there would have been comprehensive deliberation. Some people are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all kinds of concessions. These people are absolutely in the wrong. The law applies equally to all. Whether it is an individual, an organisation or a political party, everyone has to abide by law and one will have to. People, who cannot endorse corruption and black money openly, resort to searching for faults of the government relentlessly.

Another issue which comes up is this. Why are rules changed time and again? This government is for the sake of the people. The government continuously endeavours to take a feedback from them. What are the areas of difficulty for the people? What are the rules that are creating hindrances? And what are the possible solutions? The government, being a sensitive government, amends rules as required, keeping the convenience of the people as its foremost consideration, so that citizens are not subjected to hardships. On the other hand, as I’d said earlier, on the 8th to be precise, this drive, this war is an extraordinary one. For the past 70 years, what kind of forces are involved in this murky enterprise of perfidy and corruption? How mighty are they? When I have resolved to wage battle against them, they too come up with new tactics everyday to thwart the government’s efforts. To counter these new offensives, we too have to devise appropriate new responses and antidotes. When the opponents keep on trying out new tactics, we have to counteract decisively, since we have resolved to eradicate the corrupt, shady businesses and black money.

On the other hand, many people have mentioned in their letters all kinds of wrongdoing which are going on; how newer wily ways and means are being devised. In this context, I offer my heartiest salutations to my dear countrymen for one very remarkable thing. These days you must be seeing on T.V. and newspapers, everyday many new people are being taken into custody, currency notes are being seized, raids are being carried out. Influential persons are being caught. How has all this been made possible? Should I let out the secret? The secret is that my sources of such information are people themselves. Information being received from common citizens is many times higher than that being obtained through government machinery. And we are by and large being successful in our operations on account of the awareness and alertness that the people have displayed. Can anyone imagine the level of risk, which the aware citizen of my country is taking to expose such elements! The information received has largely proved to be fruitful. For those of you wanting to share such information, you can send it on an e-mail address set up by the government for this purpose. You can also provide it on MyGov. The government is committed to fight all such wrongdoings and maladies. And when we have your active support, this fight becomes much easier.

Thirdly, there is another group of letter writers, also existing in large numbers. They say – Modiji, do not feel exhausted, do not stop and take the most stringent measures that you can. Now that you have chosen this path, the journey should culminate at its intended and logical destination. I specially thank writers of such letters, since their writing exudes a certain confidence, fortified with blessings. I sincerely assure you that this is in no way going to be a full stop. This is just the beginning. We have to win this battle and the question of feeling exhausted or stopping simply does not arise. Armed with the good wishes of a hundred and twenty five crore countrymen, there is no question of a retreat. You are possibly aware of a Law about Benami Property in our country which came into being in 1988, but neither were its rules ever framed, nor was it notified. It just lay dormant gathering dust. We have retrieved it and turned it into an incisive law against ‘Benami Property’. In the coming days, this law will also become operational. For the benefit of the Nation, for the benefit of the people, whatever needs to be done will be accorded our top priority.

My dear countrymen, I had mentioned in last month’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ that even amidst these hardships our farmers toiled tirelessly and broke last year’s record in sowing. It is a sign of good times for the agricultural sector. The diligent hard work by this country’s workers, and farmers, and youth has scripted a new chapter of success with flying colours. Recently India proudly inscribed her name in various sectors of the global economic scenario. It is solely on account of the tireless exertions of our countrymen that on myriad indicators, India has charted an upward trajectory in global rankings. India’s ranking has gone up in the Doing Business Report of the World Bank. We are trying our best to raise the level of the business practices in India to match the best practices in the world on equal footing. And we are succeeding in that. In the World Investment Report released by UNCTAD, India’s position has risen to third in the Top Prospective Host Economies for 2016-18. In the Global Competitive Report of the World Economic Forum, India has made a big leap upwards by 32 ranks. In the Global Innovation Index 2016, we have moved up 16 rungs and in the Logistics Performance Index 2016 of the World Bank, we have risen by 19 ranks. There are many reports whose evaluation indicate that India is taking rapid strides ahead.

My dear countrymen, this time the session of Parliament became the object of ire of our countrymen. Indignation was expressed everywhere about the activities in the Parliament. The President and Vice President also explicitly expressed their displeasure. But even in such a situation, sometimes good things also take place which create a sense of satisfaction in the mind. Amid the din in Parliament, an excellent task was accomplished, which has not attracted due attention of the country. Brothers and sisters, today with pride and joy I would like to mention that a bill in connection with my government’s mission on Divyangjan, that is, differently or specially abled people was passed in Parliament. For this, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. On behalf of millions of Divyangjan of the country I express my thanks. Our government is committed to the welfare of Divyaangs. Personally too, I have strived to lend momentum to this campaign. My intention was to ensure that the Divyangjan secure their due rights and also the honour and dignity that they are entitled to. Our efforts and our trust were fortified by our Divyaang brothers and sisters when they returned with 4 medals from the Paralympics. With their triumph, not only did they do the Nation proud, they pleasantly surprised many people through their capabilities and prowess. Our Divyaang brothers and sisters are an invaluable heritage, a precious endowment, just as every citizen of the country is.

Today I am immensely delighted that the passing of this Law for the welfare of the Divyaangjan will open up additional avenues of employment for them. In government jobs, the extent of reservation for them has been enhanced to 4%. Special provisions have been provided for in this Law for their education, facilities and also for grievances. The extent of sensitivity of the government towards the Divyaangs can be assessed by the fact that during the last two years, the central government set up 4350 camps for Divyaangs, spent 352 crore rupees for distributing implements to 5,80,000 Divyaang brothers and sisters. The government has passed the new law in consonance with the spirit expressed by the United Nations. Earlier there were seven Divyaang categories; now adding fourteen new categories this has been expanded to twenty-one categories. Many such new categories of Divyaangs have been included thereby providing them for the first time justice and opportunities. For example, categories like Thalassemia, Parkinson’s, or for that matter Dwarfism have been included.

My young friends, during the last few weeks, news items coming in from the world of sports have made all of us proud. Being Indians, it is but natural for us to feel elated. In the cricket series against England, India has triumphed 4-0. In this, the performance of some of the younger players deserves a special word of praise. The young Karun Nair scored a triple century and K. L. Rahul played a brilliant 199 run innings. Test captain Virat Kohli batted extremely well and also provided inspiring leadership. Indian Cricket team’s off-spin bowler R. Ashwin has been declared ‘Cricketer of the Year’ as well as ‘Best Test Cricketer’ by the ICC for the year 2016. My heartiest congratulations and many good wishes go to all of them. After a gap of 15 years, there was good news, in fact grand news from the hockey arena too. The Junior Hockey Team lifted the World Cup. This festive occasion came to us after fifteen years as the Junior Hockey team won the World Cup. Heartiest congratulations to these young players for this grand feat. This achievement is a very good omen for the future of our Hockey team. Last month our Women players too won laurels. Indian Women’s Hockey Team won the Asian Champions Trophy and just a few days ago in the under-18 Asia Cup, Indian Women’s Hockey Team secured the Bronze Medal. I congratulate all our Cricket and Hockey team players from the core of my heart.

My dear countrymen, may 2017 be a year full of joy and enthusiasm; may all your resolves be crowned with success; let us scale newer heights of progress; may the poorest of the poor get an opportunity to lead a better and fuller life of happiness and contentment; may 2017 be like this for all of us. For the year 2017, my best and brightest wishes to all my countrymen. Many, many thanks.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 18:02 IST

Thank you for supporting demonetization: Full text of PM Modi’s Christmas special Mann Ki Baat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Modi said many people had written to him and some had praised the government’s move to demonetise Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes. However, they have also spoken about the problems they faced due to demonetization, he said.‘Many are writing to me- ‘Modi ji thak mat jaana, ruk mat jaana aur jitna kathor kadam utha sakte ho uthao’. The people wrote to me about the problems they faced during recent times, some praised demonetisation and how it is an effective step in fighting corruption. Gurumani on MyGov app have appreciated government’s effort to curb black money, his sentiments are shared by rest of the country. I thank the people as they not only went through hardships but also answered back those who tried to mislead them,’ he added.‘Lot of questions are being raised on frequent change of rules, but I want to say that I have decided to take those indulging in corruption,’ he said. Prime Minister Modi said black money hoarders are being nabbed across the country. ‘Secret is that information by common people enables us to do it,’ he added.Assuring the nation that this is not the end but the beginning of his government’s endeavor to fight against corruption, Prime Minister Modi said, ‘It is our priority to do whatever it takes for the betterment of our nation. People are spreading rumours that political parties are exempted, this isn’t true.’Regretting the washout of the Winter Session of Parliament, Prime Minister Modi said, ‘If Parliament would have functioned there would have been fruitful discussions.’Read the full text below: My fellow countrymen, Namaskar, many felicitations and season’s greetings to you on the occasion of Christmas. Today is the day to give importance in our lives to service, sacrifice and compassion. Jesus had said – “The poor do not need our favours but our acceptance with affection.” In the Gospel According to Saint Luke, it is written that – “Jesus not only served the poor but also praised the service done by the poor,” and this is what real empowerment is. A tale associated with this incident is also very popular. It has been mentioned in that story that Jesus was standing near the treasury of a temple; many rich people came and donated bountifully; then a poor widow came and parted with only two copper coins. Now just two copper coins really do not amount to much. Thus it was natural that there was a lot of curiosity in the minds of the disciples gathered there. Then, Jesus declared that the widow was the greatest of those donors because while the others had donated substantially, that widow had given away all she possessed. Today, 25th December, is also the birth anniversary of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviyaji, who kindled resolve and self confidence in the psyche of the Indian people and gave a new direction to modern education. My most sincere and heartfelt tributes to Malviyaji on his birth anniversary. About two days ago, I had the opportunity to launch many a developmental work in Banaras, the sacred workplace of Malviyaji. I also laid the foundation stone of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya Cancer Centre in BHU at Varanasi. This Cancer Centre is going to be a boon for the people of not only eastern Uttar Pradesh but for the people of Jharkhand and Bihar also. Today is also the birthday of Bharat Ratna and former Prime Minister Venerable Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ji. This country can never forget Atalji’s contributions. Under his leadership, the country proudly grew in stature in the field of nuclear power also. Whether in the role of a party leader, Member of Parliament, a minister or the Prime Minister, Atalji always established an ideal. I salute Atalji on his birthday and pray to God for his good health. As a party worker I had the privilege of working with Atalji. Many memories emerge before my eyes. This morning when I tweeted, I shared a video, in which you can see for yourself how as a small party worker one had the fortune of having affection showered upon him by Atalji. Today, on Christmas Day, as a gift the countrymen are going to get the benefit of two schemes. In a way it is the beginning of two new schemes. Throughout the entire country, be it villages or towns, the educated or the illiterate, there is an atmosphere of curiosity as to what is cashless, how cashless business can take place, how can one make purchases without using cash! Everybody wants to understand and learn from each other. To encourage this trend, to strengthen mobile banking and to inculcate the habit of making e-payments, the Government of India is launching from today encouragement schemes for consumers as well as traders. To encourage customers, the scheme is ‘Lucky Grahak Yojana’ and to encourage traders the scheme is ‘Digi Dhan Vyapaar Yojana’. Today, on 25th December, as a Christmas gift, fifteen thousand people will get rewards through a draw system, whereby each of the fifteen thousand winners will have one thousand rupees into their accounts and this will be not for today only; starting today this scheme will continue for the next 100 days. Everyday fifteen thousand people are going to receive rewards of one thousand rupees each. In the next 100 days, lakhs of families are going to receive crores of rupees as gift, but you will be entitled to this gift only if you make use of mobile banking, e-banking, RuPay Card, UPI, USSD – such means and methods of digital payment. The draw for rewards will be done based on your use of such digital payment methods. In addition, there would be a grand draw once every week for such customers in which the prize money will be in lakhs of rupees and three months later on April 14th, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar, there would be a mega bumper draw where rewards would be in crores of rupees. ‘Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojana’ is mainly for traders and businessmen. Traders should adopt this scheme themselves and should encourage their customers too in order to make their business cashless. Such traders will also be rewarded separately and there would be thousands of these rewards. The traders will run their business activities smoothly and will also have an opportunity to win rewards. This scheme has been designed keeping all sections of society in mind, with a special focus on the poor and the lower middle class segments. Therefore only those will get its benefits who make a purchase worth more than 50 rupees but less than three thousand rupees. Those who make purchases of more than three thousand rupees will not be entitled to rewards under this scheme. Even the poor people can use USSD on simple feature or ordinary mobile phones to buy and sell goods as well as make payments and thus all of them can also become prospective beneficiaries of this reward scheme. In rural areas too, people can buy or sell through AEPS and they can also win rewards. Many will be surprised to know that now there are about 30 Crore, i.e. 300 million RuPay Cards in India, out of which 200 million RuPay Cards belong to poor families which have ‘Jan Dhan’ accounts. These 300 million people can immediately become part of this rewards scheme. I have confidence that the countrymen will evince interest in this system and if you enquire from the young people around you, they would surely be aware of these things and on your asking will tell you about these. Come on, if there is a child studying in 10th or 12th standard in your family, he or she will also be able to teach you well about this. It is as simple as sending WhatsApp messages on the mobile. My dear countrymen, I feel delighted to learn that the awareness about how to use technology, making e-payments, making online payments is spreading very fast. During the past few days, the cashless transactions, or cashless trading has increased by 200 to 300%. To give cashless trading a big impetus, Government of India has taken a very major decision. The business community, our traders can well comprehend how momentous this decision is. Those businessmen who adopt digital transactions, who develop online payment process instead of cash transactions in their trade activities will get Income Tax rebate. I congratulate all the states and union territories, who have promoted this campaign in their own way. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Chandrababu Naidu is the head of a committee which is considering various schemes under this. However, I have seen that the governments also have initiated and implemented many schemes. I’ve been told that Assam Government has decided to grant a 10% discount on property tax and business license fee if payments are made through digital transaction. The branches of Grameen, that is, Rural Banks there getting 75% of their customers to make at least two digital transactions between January and March will get 50 thousands rupees rewards from the government. They have announced that under the ‘Uttam Panchayat for Digi-Transaction’, rewards of 5 lakh rupees will be given to villages doing 100% digital transaction till 31st March, 2017. Assam Government has decided to reward 5 thousand rupees to the first 10 farmers as ‘Digital Krishak Shiromani’, who will buy seeds and fertilizers entirely through digital payments. I congratulate Assam Government and also all those state governments who have taken such initiatives. A number of organisations have also successfully carried out many experiments to promote digital transactions amongst the rural folk and poor farmers. I have been told that GNFC or Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals Limited, which primarily manufactures fertilizers, has installed a thousand PoS machines for sale of fertilizers for the convenience of farmers and in just a few days 35 thousand farmers were sold 5 lakh sacs of fertilizers on digital payment and this was accomplished in only two weeks! And the interesting fact is that compared to last year the fertilizer sales of GNFC have gone up by 27 percent. Brothers and sisters, the informal sector occupies a major segment in our economy and in our pattern of life and mostly these people are paid wages for their labour and hard work in cash. They are paid their salaries in cash and we know that due to this, they are exploited also. If they are to receive 100 rupees, they get only 80 rupees, if they are to be paid 80 rupees, they are given only 50 rupees. They are deprived of facilities like insurance and those associated with health sector. But now the practice of cashless payment is being adopted; the money is being directly deposited into banks. In a way, the informal sector is getting converted into the formal sector, exploitation is coming to an end, the cut, which had to be paid earlier, has stopped now and it has become possible for the worker, the artisan, such poor persons to get their full amount of money. In addition, they are also becoming entitled to the other benefits due to them. Our country is blessed with the maximum number of young people. Thus, we are favourably placed for using technology. A country like India should be ahead of everybody else in this field. Our youth have benefitted quite a lot from ‘Start-Ups’. This digital movement is a golden opportunity for our youth. They should impart to this as much strength as they can with their new ideas, technology and processes. But we must also connect with the drive to rid the country of black money and corruption with all our might. My dear countrymen, I request every month before ‘Mann Ki Baat’ that you please give your suggestions, share your thoughts; and of the thousands of such suggestions received this time on MyGov, on NarendraModiApp, I can definitely say that 80 to 90% suggestions were pertaining to the war against corruption and black money, there was mention of demonetization. After I examined all the suggestions, I can say that these can macroscopically be roughly divided into three categories. Some have written in detail about people facing difficulties and encountering inconveniences. The other group of correspondents have stressed that this is such a good work being carried out for the welfare of the country, such a sacred task but they have also noted that in spite of this there are many scams being committed and new avenues of dishonesty are being explored. The third group is the one which has, while wholeheartedly supporting the action being taken, clearly stressed that this fight must be carried forward; corruption and black money must be completely destroyed and if this requires even more tough steps to be taken, those must be taken. We have many people writing this most emphatically. I am thankful to the countrymen for helping me by writing these innumerable letters to me. Shriman Gurumani Kewal has written on MyGov – “This step of reigning in black money is praiseworthy. We citizens are facing some difficulties, but we are all fighting against corruption and we are happy that we are making a contribution in this fight. We are battling corruption, black money etc on the lines of Military Forces.” The sentiment behind Gurumani Kewalji’s text is being echoed in every nook and corner of the country. All of us are experiencing it. When the people face problems, undergo hardships, rare will be a fellow human being who will not empathise. I feel as much pain as you do. But when a task is taken up with a noble objective, to realise a lofty intent, with a clear conscience, the countrymen stay firm courageously amidst all these trials and tribulations. These people are the real Agents of Change, pioneers of transformation. I thank people for one more reason. They have not only braved hardships, but have also powerfully given a retort to those limited few who have been trying to mislead them. So many rumours were spread, even the fight against corruption and black money was sought to be tainted with shades of communalism. Somebody spread a rumour that the spelling on the currency note was faulty, someone said salt prices had spiraled, someone proclaimed that the 2000 rupee note would also be withdrawn, even 500 and 100 rupee denominations notes were rumoured to be on their way out. But I have seen that despite rampant rumour mongering, citizens have stood firm with their faith intact. And not just that, many people came to the fore and through their creativity and intelligence, exposed the rumour mongers, brought out the falsity of the rumours and established the truth. I salute this great ability of the people also from the core of my heart. My dear countrymen, I am experiencing one thing every moment. When a hundred and twenty five crore countrymen are standing by you, nothing is impossible. The people represent the will of the Almighty and their blessings become His blessings. I thank the people of this country and salute them for participating in this Mahayagya against black money and corruption with utmost zeal. It was my earnest wish that the ongoing campaign against corruption and black money, including the realm of political parties and political funding, be discussed extensively in the Parliament. Had the House functioned properly, there would have been comprehensive deliberation. Some people are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all kinds of concessions. These people are absolutely in the wrong. The law applies equally to all. Whether it is an individual, an organisation or a political party, everyone has to abide by law and one will have to. People, who cannot endorse corruption and black money openly, resort to searching for faults of the government relentlessly. Another issue which comes up is this. Why are rules changed time and again? This government is for the sake of the people. The government continuously endeavours to take a feedback from them. What are the areas of difficulty for the people? What are the rules that are creating hindrances? And what are the possible solutions? The government, being a sensitive government, amends rules as required, keeping the convenience of the people as its foremost consideration, so that citizens are not subjected to hardships. On the other hand, as I’d said earlier, on the 8th to be precise, this drive, this war is an extraordinary one. For the past 70 years, what kind of forces are involved in this murky enterprise of perfidy and corruption? How mighty are they? When I have resolved to wage battle against them, they too come up with new tactics everyday to thwart the government’s efforts. To counter these new offensives, we too have to devise appropriate new responses and antidotes. When the opponents keep on trying out new tactics, we have to counteract decisively, since we have resolved to eradicate the corrupt, shady businesses and black money. On the other hand, many people have mentioned in their letters all kinds of wrongdoing which are going on; how newer wily ways and means are being devised. In this context, I offer my heartiest salutations to my dear countrymen for one very remarkable thing. These days you must be seeing on T.V. and newspapers, everyday many new people are being taken into custody, currency notes are being seized, raids are being carried out. Influential persons are being caught. How has all this been made possible? Should I let out the secret? The secret is that my sources of such information are people themselves. Information being received from common citizens is many times higher than that being obtained through government machinery. And we are by and large being successful in our operations on account of the awareness and alertness that the people have displayed. Can anyone imagine the level of risk, which the aware citizen of my country is taking to expose such elements! The information received has largely proved to be fruitful. For those of you wanting to share such information, you can send it on an e-mail address set up by the government for this purpose. You can also provide it on MyGov. The government is committed to fight all such wrongdoings and maladies. And when we have your active support, this fight becomes much easier. Thirdly, there is another group of letter writers, also existing in large numbers. They say – Modiji, do not feel exhausted, do not stop and take the most stringent measures that you can. Now that you have chosen this path, the journey should culminate at its intended and logical destination. I specially thank writers of such letters, since their writing exudes a certain confidence, fortified with blessings. I sincerely assure you that this is in no way going to be a full stop. This is just the beginning. We have to win this battle and the question of feeling exhausted or stopping simply does not arise. Armed with the good wishes of a hundred and twenty five crore countrymen, there is no question of a retreat. You are possibly aware of a Law about Benami Property in our country which came into being in 1988, but neither were its rules ever framed, nor was it notified. It just lay dormant gathering dust. We have retrieved it and turned it into an incisive law against ‘Benami Property’. In the coming days, this law will also become operational. For the benefit of the Nation, for the benefit of the people, whatever needs to be done will be accorded our top priority. My dear countrymen, I had mentioned in last month’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ that even amidst these hardships our farmers toiled tirelessly and broke last year’s record in sowing. It is a sign of good times for the agricultural sector. The diligent hard work by this country’s workers, and farmers, and youth has scripted a new chapter of success with flying colours. Recently India proudly inscribed her name in various sectors of the global economic scenario. It is solely on account of the tireless exertions of our countrymen that on myriad indicators, India has charted an upward trajectory in global rankings. India’s ranking has gone up in the Doing Business Report of the World Bank. We are trying our best to raise the level of the business practices in India to match the best practices in the world on equal footing. And we are succeeding in that. In the World Investment Report released by UNCTAD, India’s position has risen to third in the Top Prospective Host Economies for 2016-18. In the Global Competitive Report of the World Economic Forum, India has made a big leap upwards by 32 ranks. In the Global Innovation Index 2016, we have moved up 16 rungs and in the Logistics Performance Index 2016 of the World Bank, we have risen by 19 ranks. There are many reports whose evaluation indicate that India is taking rapid strides ahead. My dear countrymen, this time the session of Parliament became the object of ire of our countrymen. Indignation was expressed everywhere about the activities in the Parliament. The President and Vice President also explicitly expressed their displeasure. But even in such a situation, sometimes good things also take place which create a sense of satisfaction in the mind. Amid the din in Parliament, an excellent task was accomplished, which has not attracted due attention of the country. Brothers and sisters, today with pride and joy I would like to mention that a bill in connection with my government’s mission on Divyangjan, that is, differently or specially abled people was passed in Parliament. For this, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. On behalf of millions of Divyangjan of the country I express my thanks. Our government is committed to the welfare of Divyaangs. Personally too, I have strived to lend momentum to this campaign. My intention was to ensure that the Divyangjan secure their due rights and also the honour and dignity that they are entitled to. Our efforts and our trust were fortified by our Divyaang brothers and sisters when they returned with 4 medals from the Paralympics. With their triumph, not only did they do the Nation proud, they pleasantly surprised many people through their capabilities and prowess. Our Divyaang brothers and sisters are an invaluable heritage, a precious endowment, just as every citizen of the country is. Today I am immensely delighted that the passing of this Law for the welfare of the Divyaangjan will open up additional avenues of employment for them. In government jobs, the extent of reservation for them has been enhanced to 4%. Special provisions have been provided for in this Law for their education, facilities and also for grievances. The extent of sensitivity of the government towards the Divyaangs can be assessed by the fact that during the last two years, the central government set up 4350 camps for Divyaangs, spent 352 crore rupees for distributing implements to 5,80,000 Divyaang brothers and sisters. The government has passed the new law in consonance with the spirit expressed by the United Nations. Earlier there were seven Divyaang categories; now adding fourteen new categories this has been expanded to twenty-one categories. Many such new categories of Divyaangs have been included thereby providing them for the first time justice and opportunities. For example, categories like Thalassemia, Parkinson’s, or for that matter Dwarfism have been included. My young friends, during the last few weeks, news items coming in from the world of sports have made all of us proud. Being Indians, it is but natural for us to feel elated. In the cricket series against England, India has triumphed 4-0. In this, the performance of some of the younger players deserves a special word of praise. The young Karun Nair scored a triple century and K. L. Rahul played a brilliant 199 run innings. Test captain Virat Kohli batted extremely well and also provided inspiring leadership. Indian Cricket team’s off-spin bowler R. Ashwin has been declared ‘Cricketer of the Year’ as well as ‘Best Test Cricketer’ by the ICC for the year 2016. My heartiest congratulations and many good wishes go to all of them. After a gap of 15 years, there was good news, in fact grand news from the hockey arena too. The Junior Hockey Team lifted the World Cup. This festive occasion came to us after fifteen years as the Junior Hockey team won the World Cup. Heartiest congratulations to these young players for this grand feat. This achievement is a very good omen for the future of our Hockey team. Last month our Women players too won laurels. Indian Women’s Hockey Team won the Asian Champions Trophy and just a few days ago in the under-18 Asia Cup, Indian Women’s Hockey Team secured the Bronze Medal. I congratulate all our Cricket and Hockey team players from the core of my heart. My dear countrymen, may 2017 be a year full of joy and enthusiasm; may all your resolves be crowned with success; let us scale newer heights of progress; may the poorest of the poor get an opportunity to lead a better and fuller life of happiness and contentment; may 2017 be like this for all of us. For the year 2017, my best and brightest wishes to all my countrymen. Many, many thanks.

IITs may hold ‘Inter-IIT Tech Meet’ every year

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) may hold an ‘Inter-IIT Tech Meet’ every year where the brightest minds from these prestigious institutions will compete and participate in a variety of events.While many of the IITs hold their tech fests, a proposal to hold a joint technology meet was discussed in a meeting of directors of these institutes held at Kanpur campus earlier this month, sources said. It is learnt that while the directors were enthusiastic about the idea, the funds and logistics involved were also factored in, they said. “The directors felt that at the moment holding a separate stand-alone meet may not be feasible but as a pilot project the idea should be taken up. The idea is that an inter-IIT meet can clubbed with the annual tech fest of one of these institutions,” a source said.It is learnt that initial phase the inter-IIT tech fest may be clubbed with the fests held by one of the older IITs.”The inter-IIT Tech fest may be held each year in rotation by expanding the tech-fest by one more day in which all IITs may participate and compete like the inter-IIT sports meet,” the source added.

Children of single mothers can finally get passports made, but what took this long?

By Ila Ananya

“Madam, you haven’t filled in the father’s name in your daughter’s form.”

“We are not together, she doesn’t need it.”

“Oh. You must just add his name and get his permission then.”

“She has never seen him; there’s no reason for his name to be on her passport.”

“Madam, naam hi toh hai. Father ke naam aur permission ke bina kya hoga? Kuch nahin. (Madam, it’s just a name. What can happen without the father’s name and permission? Nothing.)”

My aunt’s friend had this conversation with the man at the passport office in Bangalore 10 years ago. She got married when she was 20, and now she’s 33. When her daughter turned three, they decided to go to London. But the trip never happened because passport officers demanded that her daughter have her father’s name on her passport — after they got his permission to issue it to her in the first place — a man she had never seen or heard from.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

My aunt’s friend hadn’t known the man very well when married him. Everyone told her parents he was a nice guy — good business, so he will be a good husband, they said — and the first few times they met, he seemed alright. But when she got pregnant a year into the marriage, he told her he was in love with another woman and left. He never returned.

Now, 10 years after she tried to get her daughter a passport without her father’s name (she still doesn’t have one), the Ministry of External Affairs has finally passed new rules meant to ease the application process. The new rules state that the name of only one parent is enough, especially if the applicant requests that only one name be used. When I told her about it, my aunt’s friend only mumbled, “That took a while.”

These new passport rules come a few months after the Delhi High Court had ruled that single mothers can apply for passports for their children without the father’s signature. There’s no such demand regarding the mother’s signature from single fathers — it’s only for the ladies.

Ever since the court’s ruling, I’ve received two petition emails from change.org — both from single mothers trying to get their children’s passports without their father’s name on it. Priyanka Gupta’s petition came in October: Her ex-husband had abandoned them when she had a baby girl. The second petition came earlier this month: Juveria Patni said she is the single mother of a 10-year-old boy. She’d been married to an abusive man whom she managed to leave three months into her pregnancy — the same man who then filed for custody of the son in a long-drawn court case that lasted six years. When she applied for a passport for her son, the officers demanded that she first get permission from the father.

In each of these cases, there has been no standard demand from the passport offices. Some women are asked to get permission from their ex-husbands, others are simply asked to fill in names even when they don’t want to. Some have been told that the system just won’t accept forms without the father’s name. Either way, they are all expected to establish contact with men who have abused them, men who have disappeared, or just men they have divorced — to get “permission” — as though, so far, they haven’t been responsible for themselves or their children.

This isn’t even as surprising as it is ridiculous. When I was headed to Hong Kong last year, I was asked by the officer at Bangalore Airport Immigration about travelling alone. “Akeli ladki? (A girl alone?)” he asked me. In my head I saw Kareena Kapoor’s face from Jab We Met when the station officer tells her, “Akeli ladki khuli tijori ki tarah hoti hai (A girl alone is like an open vault)” — and this was followed by a statement that I didn’t pay much attention to then, “Father ko toh pata hai na? (You father knows about this, right?)”

My colleague told me about a woman she knew who didn’t get a visa to Chile because she needed a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from her husband. Of course, this isn’t an official demand and isn’t written on any website, but travel agents ask for NOCs because, apparently, men are responsible for their wives just like my father must know exactly where I, even as an adult, am travelling to. “No, it’s only for the ladies,” the women say they are told when they question this.

It isn’t only visas and passports. In Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian film A Separation, Razieh comes to work at Nader’s house, telling him that her husband, who has just lost his job and is in a lot of debt, doesn’t know she is working there. I thought of this moment when I read an extremely disturbing piece of news: An unnamed app that helps provide domestic workers with jobs and sends a text message to their husbands every time they go to work in another house, so that they know where they are at every moment. It’s like brothers, fathers, boyfriends always want to know where the women they know are. Because “Safety ke liye important hota hai (It’s important for safety),” as my friend’s boyfriend tells her. How hard is that to understand?

The passport officer had told my aunt’s friend, “What can happen without the father’s name and permission? Nothing.”

What, then, does it mean that single mothers can now easily apply for passports for their children without being forced to bring permission letters? Women are constantly told that they need permission to do things, to go someplace, to work somewhere — never mind that they’ve been raising a child on their own or that they’re earning their own money (a thought that’s just so unbelievable for visa agents, apparently).

It wasn’t enough when women said they should make these decisions, it wasn’t even enough when the Delhi high court ruled in their favour. Now, after all this time, perhaps this will be enough.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 21:14 IST

Rahul Gandhi alleges Modi took money from Sahara; why is PM afraid of probe, asks Congress

In response to the BJP’s defence of the corruption charges leveled by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala questioned as to why Modi is hesitant to come clean and issue a clarification.

Earlier in the day, Rahul had raked up the Sahara and Birla papers that reportedly have entries of some payments made to Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.

A file photo of Randeep Surjewala. CNN News 18

A file photo of Randeep Surjewala. CNN News 18

The Income Tax Department had raided Sahara Company on 22 November, 2014. Rahul said as per the records, Rs 2.5 crore was given to Modi on 30 October, 2013; Rs 5 crore on 12 November, 2013; Rs 2.5 crore on 27 November, 2013; Rs 5 crore on 29 November, 2013. He added that entries showed Rs 5 crore given to the prime minister on 6 December, 2013; Rs 5 crore on 19 December, 2013; Rs 5 crore on 13 January, 2014; Rs 5 crore on 28 January, 2014, and Rs 5 crore 22 February, 2014.

To this, Surjewala added another entree recovered by the I-T department in a raid at the Birla office, where he claimed that a note was added that said, “Rs 25 crore paid to Guajarat CM, rest??.”

Basing his case against the ruling disposition on these reported pieces of evidence, Surjewala wondered why the BJP was rattled and hurling abuses at the Opposition when all that it had to do was to order an independent probe.

Surjewala said that Rahul and the Congress party respect Modi and the office he holds, and they too want him to come out unscathed of these allegation. He added that the prime minister’s credibility and integrity are at stake.

Surjewala asked that why, between 2014 and 2016, has the CBI or I-T department not once summoned Modi and interrogated him.

“If such allegations were leveled against ordinary citizens, wouldn’t the investigating agencies at least question them,” Surjewala asked.

He said that nine incriminating entries have been found in a computer in the Sahara raids, whether they are true or not is the only question that the Opposition asks.

Surjewala also invoked an incident pertaining to BJP veteran Lal Krishna Advani in order to corner Modi. He said that only a mere dairy entree had cropped up incriminating Advani in graft charges and Advani had at the time offered to leave politics and resign from the Lok Sabha if the charges were proved. “So what is Modi ji afraid of?,” Surjewala asked.

Surjewala further added, “Vipaksh ka kaam hai rajneeti ki Ganga ki safai ka. and Vipaksh k taur pe hum sarthak sawaal puch rahe hain. isliye na khije na tilmilayein aur saaf saaf bataein (It is the responsibility of the Opposition to cleanse the Ganga of politics and that is what the Congress party was doing. We are asking pertinent questions. It is not something that should perturb them.)”

“We want an unbiased probe by an agency that the nation trusts. Credibility and honesty of the prime minister is at stake… Modi ji should come clean and not hide behind his cronies and clarify whether these proofs are true or not,” he said.

Invoking Modi’s popular election time slogan, which he also used to justify his demonetisation move, “Na Khaunga, Na Khane Dunga,” Surjewala said that it had become all the more important that the prime minister goes through this “test.”

“These allegations are not based on hearsay or political mudslinging but two pieces of evidences with the investigation agencies. Modi ji has been sitting on it for months. He should come clean about it. Why is he not ordering an independent probe,” Surjewala said.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 19:16 IST

India to fine airlines for ‘dropping’ poo

Airlines in India will be fined if their planes release human waste from toilets in the air.

Coast Guard apprehends 26 Pakistani fishermen on five boats off Gujarat coast

Mon, 19 Dec 2016-10:52pm , Ahmedabad , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Coast Guard on Monday apprehended 26 Pakistani fishermen and seized their five fishing boats off Gujarat coast near Kutch as they crossed the Indian territorial waters.These Pakistani fishermen on five boats were held when they were inside Indian territory, said a release by Defence PRO.”The ICG vessel C-419 apprehended five Pakistani fishing boats with 26 crew members on board in Indian waters. These boats and the crew are being escorted to Jakhau port for further investigation,” it added.This is the second such apprehension in recent times by the Coast Guard off the Gujarat coast.Earlier in October this year, ICG ship ‘Samudra Pavak’ seized a Pakistani boat and apprehended 9 crew members onboard, off Gujarat coast during patrolling.

The long road for Talgo

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>What exactly is the deal with the Talgo train from Spain that the railways tried on its tracks- with massive media hype- between May and September? The truth is that we are as far as buying a Talgo train now as we were when the trials had not even started. On December 2, replying to a query in Parliament, minister of state for railways Rajen Gohain said it in as many words. His exact words- ‘the trial was limited to assessment of timing and detailed technical assessment with regard to complete compatibility with Indian Railway’s fixed infrastructure and other requirements was outside the scope of the trial. No decision has been taken for the purchase of these coaches.’The Railways, after all the hype and hoopla, has tied itself in more than a few knots when it comes to the purchase of these Spanish trains.Parliament’s nod for aluminium trains:The Talgo rakes are made of aluminium, a completely new material to make rakes as far as India is concerned. We in India make rakes with corten steel- used in the older Integral Coach Factory Chennai coaches- or stainless steel, used in the new LHB coaches made mainly in the Rail Coach Factory Kapurthala.The usage of aluminium will require a fresh sanction from Parliament and also a detailed study of how the material would perform in Indian conditions, especially the varied climatic conditions in which our trains run. Both of these could take time, said officials in the know.The tender question:Moreover the purchase of these rakes would require the railways to call a tender as buying it from a single firm without giving others a chance might give rise to accusations the railways could do without, said officials. “Calling of tenders itself could take a lot of time because these would be tenders running into several hundred crores. They will have to be vetted by various departments and the criteria involved will have to be such that other train manufacturers also get a fair chance if they want to participate. There can be no custom-made tender for Talgo trains,” explained a retired top railway official. To get things into perspective, a contract won in Spain by Talgo on November 28 this year will see the first of its trainsets coming into service only 38 months later.The maintenance muddle:The other hitch is that it would be almost impossible for the railways to buy these Talgo rakes off-the-shelf because the Spanish firm generally sells rakes with a clause that it maintains the rake exclusively for the remainder of its life. This, according to railway officials, would almost certainly be rejected because the railways has so far been learning new technology by maintaining stock from manufacturers as diverse as Alstom, Bombardier, Siemens and EMD.However Subodh Jain, former Member Engineering said that currently the worldwide practice is that manufacturers provide scheduled maintenance. “Daily examination and cleaning is done by the operator (the railways). We maintain our stock because we manufacture it,” Jain added.The need for Indianisation:One of the biggest dilemmas the railways is facing in the purchase of these rakes pertains to the speed of operations. What is the point of buying a 200kmph rake when the track isn;t good enough for anything over 150kmph at best? As reported by DNA in its November 9 edition, the railway ministry has formed a three-member committee to study the modalities of buying rakes from Spanish train manufacturer Talgo. The three members of the committee would be Additional Members of the Civil, Mechanical and Budget stream of the Railway Board. Officials DNA spoke to maintained that the train which was tested was not conducive for running on Indian Railways under current conditions as the rake was slimmer and lower than what is ideal for platforms in India. “The width of long-distance trains in India are 3250mm and suburban trains running in Mumbai have a width of 3660mm,” said one official.High speed trains, low speed tracks:It is a question that railway officials are asking for the Talgo as well as the Rs 5000 crore plan to purchase high-speed trainsets to replace Rajdhanis and Shatabdis. As reported by DNA in its November 11 edition, the railway board is divided on the purchase of trainsets over speed.While a section of officials believe that buying expensive 200kmph trainsets now and running them at lower speeds till our tracks are upgraded to 200kmph would be a financial folly. These officials believe that by the time the tracks are upgraded- which might take anything between five to eight years- it would be possible to get better tachnology trainsets at the same cost or lesser. The railway ministry had earmarked Rs 2952 crores for the current fiscal to buy 15 such trainsets.”It applies for the Talgo as well. If you buy them now, they won’t be able to run at their full potential at least till another 5-10 years,” was the chorus from several officials. They said that this ‘back to the drawing board’ move for the trainsets was made after going through the trials of the Talgo.Despite having a top speed potential of 200kmph, the maximum speed the Talgo could achieve during the trials was 117.5 kmph when it made the trip between Delhi-Mumbai on September 11 in 11 hours and 48 minutes.”This was because our tracks, many of then having a top capacity of 160kmph, cannot support trains beyond a certain speed due to curves, age and other geological problems. So unless tracks are not upgraded, buying expensive trainsets or even the Talgo of 200kmph might not be a good idea,” said an official.Changing gauge: Advantage or disadvantage?One of the biggest advantages that the Talgo has over several of its bigger railway manufacturing competitors is a technology called the Automatic Variable Gauge System (AVGS). Tis system allows the Talgo to change gauge even in motion as it makes its way from tracks of a particular width to another. The alternative way is to use two different rakes and asking passengers to shift from one train to another, which in turn is a messy time-consuming affair. This is a huge advantage when the Talgo makes its way around Spain- which has 3 different gauges like India- or when it makes the cross-border routes like between Spain and the rest of Europe as well between the CIS countries and the rest of Europe.However, as officials pointed out, this advantage is nullified. “Though we have three different gauges- broad, metre and narrow- none of these stations intersect. Moreover narrow and metre gauge routes are now confined to small stations in rural areas and none of them are on high-end routes that the Talgo will ultimately be used for,” said the official.The tilting advantage:The construction of the Talgo is such that it allows the rake to tilt in such a way that it can make corners and curves on tracks at higher speed. While manufacturers like Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens also have these tilting mechanisms, officials said the Talgo mechanism is by far the better one. “However whether this tilting really plays a huge part in India will have to be seen as out track curves come with varying speed restrictions that have been place for years,” said the official.The Talgo RTI:A Right to Information plea filed by DNA on the Talgo came up with these answers:1) No Make in India as of now.2) Cost of trials was footed by the railways3) There was no agreement between railways and Talgo on testing the rake4) There is assured purchase agreement between railways and Talgo.Talgo wins in Spain:On November 28, the Spanish Ministry of Development announced that Talgo had been selected for a 786 million euro contract to supply 15 high-speed trainsets to government operator RENFE and maintain them for 30 years. Talgo is expected to put the first of its Avril trainsets in service as part of this contract in 38 to 42 months. These trains have a top speed of 330 kmph and are to have 416 standard and 105 business class seats. The company claimed that it had spent 50 million euros to develop the Avril high-speed train concept.

Demonetisation: Will Narendra Modi’s decisive style of working prove his decision successful?

In April 2014, just before the general election, the man who would become prime minister was interviewed at length on camera by the activist and writer Madhu Kishwar.

Narendra Modi, who was then chief minister of Gujarat, revealed some things about himself and his style of working that I found interesting. I took some notes as I was watching and this is what he said. He had changed the work culture of the chief minister’s office in Gujarat. Before he took charge, chief ministers would show up at 12 pm. But Modi was always punctual and in office by 9.45 am. I know he is very particular about time and each time I have met him it has been at the exact minute of the appointment.

Another important thing he revealed was how he actually worked. Modi said he doesn’t read files. This I found to be unusual in someone who is so decisive because one needs full control over the subject if one is eager to take big decisions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. ReutersPrime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

But Modi says he cannot govern through “academics studies (sic)” and instead asks his officers to summarise all issues for him, and brief him orally. They are expected to go through the file and tell him, as he put it, “yeh masala hai kya“. He said he had the capacity to figure out the delicate contours of these issues without actually reading about them. He said this is because “mera itna grasping tha”. Modi also revealed that he was a ‘good listener’ and was able to absorb what was being said to him well.

When I heard him say this I thought it made him vulnerable to the bureaucrats he was trusting because he is dependent and can be fed as much or as little as the officer wants him to know. In the style of working as Modi describes it, a complex matter that occupies dozens and perhaps hundreds of pages in files is reduced to an oral summary. It is possible that because of lack of time or because the issue is overly complex, the oral summary is simplistic.

On the basis of this summary, Modi takes a decision and this is then executed through the administration. This style seems to have worked well for Modi because he is thought of as being a good chief minister in his 12 years in Gujarat. These days, however, I have been again thinking about Modi’s style of taking input in this form when making decisions.

That is because the Supreme Court is asking critical questions about the way in which the demonetisation policy was rolled out. The court wants to know if the policy was planned properly, or a decision was taken “just like that” when Modi scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on 8 November. The court wanted to know why the government was announcing withdrawal limits but the banks were unable to give this to the citizens. Why did things appear like they had not been thought through?

The Centre has pushed back strongly to assert its independence and said that monetary policy could not be made up by courts. I think the government is right on that count, and I hope that the issue is resolved in the government’s favour.

To return to the subject, I think Modi’s style of working might have some advantages. For example, where quick decisions need to be taken or where the issue is not complex. Modi has a very good eye for what is visually appealing and I suspect that things like the ‘Make in India’ logo, which is excellent, have come because Modi has personally approved them.

But what happens when the issue that is being decided on is vast, complex and needs to be studied thoroughly and personally by the individual who is taking the decision and who is ultimately accountable for it? Then I suspect things get more problematic. Not everything can be reduced to oral summaries.

Modi’s style is the exact opposite style as Manmohan Singh, who was detail-oriented as you would expect an academic to be. Singh has written that he fears demonetisation will end up as a mammoth tragedy over the next few months. Modi on the other hand has told us that we will enter a different and better world in January. Both men cannot be right and we will know which one of them is wrong quite soon.

First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 08:59 IST

Jain monk Sagarchandra Sagar Suri Maharaj explains ‘Updhan tap’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>All happiness is dependent on people, relationships, car, houses, money and so on; which in turn is dependent on other people and things. But in reality, the happiness that is within us, which is also called ‘atma’ is independent of anything or any person.To understand more about it and practise it, we have initiated something called ‘updhan tap’. Up means ‘something that is within us’ and dhan means assimilate. And tap means discipline. This tap or course is divided into three different time durations under which the participants are expected to stay at the temple, follow a routine of activities and adhere to several rules and regulations. Some of the rules include eating once in only 48 hours, drinking only boiled water, should abstain from harming any form of life, should not use lights, fans, air-conditioners and mobiles; cannot wear shoes, can’t access motorised vehicles, have to sleep on a cot without a mattress, cannot keep or spend money, cannot bathe throughout the tap course, allowed to keep only two pairs of clothes and cannot wash these clothes.When it comes to food, only the consumption of pulses is allowed. Apart from these, the participants are allowed to meet their family members only once a week.Having proposed this, we opened it for registrations and received 110 entries and 70 of them are undergoing the ‘updhan tap’. These courses are divided into three time frames, one of 47 days, 18 days and 28 days. We’ve had participants as young as 11-year-old and the oldest is 82-year-old. Their day starts at four in the morning and ends at 10 in the night.The schedule involves sessions of meditation, chanting, prayers and discussion with the monks. It also involves fasting the whole time and eating pulses only once in two days and drinking boiled water only few times a day. The intention here is to make them understand that to find happiness, a person doesn’t need to indulge in various things of life. This happiness that is derived from these sources are short lived and in its absence, people tend to look, again, for other things or depend on more people to be happy. This, is a cycle and keeps on going on till we die. This tap, gives a chance to think and experience what it is to live without all the things and people. It helps them to calm themselves and test if at all, we can still be happy in spite of nothing.Since these participants are sort of isolated and have to live in an ascetic way, it makes them mentally tough. It helps them understand that emotional dependence on people and things can be reduced and the learning to be happy without a lot of things and people is achievable. This in the longer run moulds them to face life and its adversities with greater understanding.It also helps these participants to maintain inner calmness despite all the social chaos and conflicts. A live example of how this tap helps people is that while the course was going on, demonetisation happened. The participants here were informed about the discontinuation of the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes and it didn’t affect them in the slightest way. This is the idea behind the tap.(As told to Pooja Patel)

Demonetization | Govt made it easier to generate unaccounted wealth with Rs 2000 note: Manmohan Singh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After his speech in the Rajya Sabha on demonetization, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh elaborated on his comments on its effects in a column in The Hindu on Friday.Singh wrote that in the attempt to crack down on black money, the government had made it easier to generate unaccounted wealth with the introduction of a Rs.2,000 note. “This brazen policy measure has neither tackled the stock of black money holistically nor has it stemmed the flow of it,” he opined.In his column, Singh acknowledged the intentions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to crack down on fake currencies and black money, calling them “honourable” and deserving of whole-hearted support. However, the former PM derided “the false notion that ‘all cash is black money and all black money is in cash’”. “This is far from reality,” he wrote.Asserting that 90% of the country’s workforce still earned wages in cash, Singh said that “cash is the bedrock of the lives of these people.” Singh said that seeing long lines of poor Indians standing to withdraw money for basic sustenance was “heartbreaking”.Singh wrote that consumer confidence had taken a hit because of the sudden note ban and that this could lead to “severe economic ramifications”. “The macroeconomic impact of this decision of the government is likely to be hazardous,” he said. The former PM warned of tough times in the next several months as the “ripple effects” of the demonetization decision would be felt on GDP growth and job creation.Speech in Rajya SabhaOn Nov 24, in a speech in that Parliament, Singh had termed the roll out of demonetization as “monumental mismanagement” and a case of ” organised loot and legalised plunder.”Singh, who was fielded by the Congress to take on the government made an uncharacteristically hard-hitting speech in the Rajya Sabha in the presence of Modi. The economist- politician said the drive will result in a decline of 2% in GDP and went ahead to warn that it could be an “under estimation”.”These measures convinced me that the way the scheme has been implemented, it’s a monumental management failure. And, in fact, it is a case of organised loot and legalised plunder. It is not my intention to pick holes what this side or other side does. But I sincerely hope that the PM even in this late hour will help find us practical and pragmatic ways to provide relief to the suffering of the people of this country,” a usually reticent Singh said, attacking the Modi dispensation.Singh claimed agriculture, the unorganised sector and small industries have been hit hard by demonetization and people were losing faith in the currency and banking system.”My own feeling is that the national income, that is the GDP of the country, can decline by about 2 percentage points as a result of what has been done. This is an under estimate and not an over estimate. Therefore, I feel the Prime Minister must come with some constructive proposal on how we can implement the scheme and at the same time prevent the distrust that has been caused to the common people,” Singh said.The BJP later hit out at the former Prime Minister, saying he “lacks credibility” for such an attack as he himself headed the most “corrupt regime ever”. “Manmohan Singh attacking this government for fight against black money lacks credibility. He himself in his 10 years’ regime, had not only failed in tackling black money, but is seen as heading the (most) corrupt regime ever in this country. He was responsible for accumulation of black money,” BJP General Secretary said on December 4.

Demonetization: A month later cash-crunch continues, people affected

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A month after the demonetization decision, people across the metropolis and adjoining areas are still struggling to lay hands on cash, adversely affecting their monthly payments and businesses. The main reason behind these hardships, according to people are the dysfunctional ATMs that continue to remain dry even a month after the government scrapped notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 on November 8. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is appealing to everyone to adopt cashless methods to make small or big deals. Going by this, why do we need so many ATMs across the country? Uproot them. These are not useful anyway. These ATMs have gone cashless,” said an irked Kalpesh Jain, a cloth trader in suburban Ghatkopar here.Even this morning, Mumbaikars and people living on the city outskirts were seen queueing up outside banks and ATMs to meet their monthly payments. Many were upset about banks also refusing payments to customers due to cash shortage. Waris Sheikh, a professional working in Lower Parel area said, “Since last two days, a bank branch in the Kamla Mill compound has stopped giving cash. There is a board outside the office saying we are taking deposits only.”A homemaker from neighbouring Thane district, Vimala Tripathi, who also sounded frustrated, said, “One month has gone by but there has been no significant improvement in the circulation of money. We still have to stand in long queues in banks and ATMs where there is no cash.”
ALSO READ 30 days on: PM Modi calls demonetization a ‘yagna’ against corruption, Mamata and Rahul Gandhi cry foulAnother homemaker, Sunita from suburban Bhayandar said, “The latest gift by the government is the Rs 2000 note which cannot be used to buy milk, bread, fruits or vegetables. One month time was enough to wipe out the shortage of lower denomination notes in the market.”Traders also complained that their business has suffered by over 40 to 50% as demonetization has badly hit the purchasing power of the people even as government continues to make a push for cashless options.
ALSO READ Demonetization: Congress likens PM Modi to Roman Emperor NeroA restaurant owner in Ghatkopar said, “Unfortunately, people have not been so enthusiastic to pay by Paytm or Freecharge or whatever. Many of them come at my restaurant with a Rs 2000 note, whom we have to turn away. However, there are some who are still hopeful that all these troubles would end soon as promised by Modi who had urged people to cooperate with the government till December 31.” “Modiji had sought 50 days, and now 30 days have passed. We should give him 20 more days and hopefully wait for the situation to improve. But the sad part is that even after 30 days there is hardly any improvement,” a tea-seller from suburban Andheri said.
ALSO READ 30 days post demonetization: Arun Jaitley announces slew of incentives to promote cashless transactionsMeanwhile, the queues before toll nakas have considerably reduced with toll operating agencies taking to e-toll system. Jayant Mhaiskar, MD of Mumbai Entry Point (MEP) Infrastructure, the only toll collection firm at all five entry points to Mumbai, said, “Our firm has expedited all infrastructural arrangements to collect toll at all the entry points in the city, including setting up RFID tag, selling smart cards besides putting PoS machines for debit and credit card holders.” On an average, about 2.20 lakh motorists pass everyday through these five entry points.

Call centre scam: Tailor-made script used to con US citizens

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”If you think this is a scam than wait for next 30 minutes, let the sherrif come in and get you arrested than you will come to know it’s a scam or not (sic),” — this is what operators posing as Internal Revenue Service officials were instructed to tell US nationals while extorting money from them.DNA has exclusively accessed the over 6,000-page charge sheet filed by the Thane Police in the Mira Road call centre scam. Among the evidence cited against the accused is an elaborate 18-page “script” that was given to the operators to follow as a standard operating procedure while baiting US nationals.According to the charge sheet, the accused listed at least 20,000 US nationals as their target, and when the victims were contacted, the operators introduced themselves as employees of the Department of Internal Revenue Services (IRS).”We called to inform you about a legal case filed under your name by IRS under which you are listed as a primary suspect. Now I want you to grab a pen and paper with you so that I can provide you with your case ID number……,” was just the start of a lengthy conversation laid out in the “script”.It went on, “I would like to read out the affidavit to you so that you will come to know what is your case all about. But when i read the affidavit to you, please do not interrupt me in between because the lines on which we are right now is been federally monitors and recorded so if you have any doubts any questions ask me once I am done reading it. Let me also notify you that we work throughout a computer management system, so as soon as this call is hung up, either by my side or your side, your case file will be active to the local police department and your warrant will be issued, which means that the police along with the IRS investigation officer will be coming at your door step or work place within 30 minutes and they can keep you under custody for next two months.”As per the script, the caller would also inform the victim that the “IRS is pressing 3 serious criminal allegations on your name”. These were purportedly “violation of federal tax regulation, willful misrepresentation of information to the government organisation and theft by deception”.The operator would inform the US national that an IRS audit of his tax returns had found “miscalculation involving your income credited” and that IRS records and tax returns filed by the victim did not tally.”The IRS has decided to put you on the IRS radar by putting the money deeming it to be stolen by you starting enforcement actions against you and levy on your assets, which would include your bank account and investment funds, if any. The IRS will report this to all the credit agency (sic),” the script dictates.The so-called IRS officer would then inform the victim that the pending amount was as much as 2,875 dollars and it could be solved through only one process — Out of Court Restitution or OoCR.The operator would also inform the victim that if they failed to opt for OoCR, then a warrant would be issued against the person and no one could bail the person out for the next two months. Furthermore, the IRS would mark a lien on the citizen’s assets, his/her driving license would be suspended, and a report would be sent to the department of public safety to freeze his/her bank account.”They will inform this to the department of labour so the current job you are working, you will gonna lose it. And you won’t be able to get any legal jobs in US for the next 7 years (sic),” is the next threat the script makes, before warning of the victim’s passport being seized.A typical conversation would end with the warning, “If its a scam, I would suggest you not to pay any of the amount to us. I will promise you you will gonna lose everything what you have and you will end up paying bills to IRS to your rest of your life. (sic).”

Axis Bank suspends two managers arrested by ED in money laundering racket

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Axis Bank suspended two of its managers on Monday after they were arrested by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case for their alleged involvement in settling of unaccounted money. The accused officials will be produced before the Tees Hazari court at around 2 pm on Monday for further interrogation.Both managers had allegedly taken gold bricks as bribe to convert Rs 40 crore black money into white. Money from three bank accounts was transferred to jewellers via RTGS mode of payment to buy gold. The ED is probing the case and has initiated an investigation into the matter to unmask the other people involved in the corruption.Old high denomination currency notes, which ceased to be legal tender from midnight of November 8, 2016, were laundered using the banking channels by a set of hawala and entry operators in connivance with bank officials.On the basis of specific information received on November 22, 2016, Delhi police intercepted three persons carrying around Rs 3.7 crore in old denomination notes in front of Axis Bank’s Kashmere gate branch. The case was then handed over to Income Tax department for investigation. After preliminary investigation, Delhi Police registered an FIR on November 29, 2016. On the basis of FIR, Enforcement Directorate registered a case under PMLA, 2002 on November 30, 2016, and initiated investigations.During the investigation by the ED, the following modus operandi was revealed:After demonetization of the high denomination currency notes, certain persons having old currency notes were looking to convert their old currency notes into gold even at inflated rates. Such persons were contacted by the jewellers who collected the cash from these parties as advances against gold to be sold at high prices ranging from Rs 45,000 to Rs 50,000 per 10 grams. The cash so collected was laundered through banking channels with the help of money launderers who are professionally qualified Chartered Accountants and managing several dummy/shell companies. Finally, payments from such shell companies were made through RTGS to Bullion dealers and the physical gold so purchased at market rate of Rs 31,000 to Rs 32,000 per 10 grams was handed over to the persons from whom advances were received. The Enforcement Directorate broke this modus operandi in the case of one group of Rajeev Kushwaha CA, Devendra Kumar Jha and Raj Kumar Sharma. Various shell companies, namely, Sunrise trading company, Himalaya International, RD Traders etc, who have bank accounts in Axis Bank’s Kashmere Gate branch, were used to deposit cash to the tune of Rs 39 crore between the period November 10 to November 22, in close connivance with the bank managers Vinit Gupta and Shashank Sinha. These cash deposits were in the installments of Rs 90 lakh to Rs 99 lakh so as to avoid detection or reporting to government agencies. In several instances, more than one such cash deposit in a day were made into these accounts. These cash deposits were then further transferred by way of RTGS to M/s Beagle Marketing Pvt. Ltd. on the same day, which is another shell company managed and controlled by Rajiv Singh Kushwaha by way of dummy directors.Upon investigation, it was found that one of the director of Beagles Marketing, Ram Charan, was found to be a petty labourer working for daily wages and staying in a slum at Anna Nagar Jhuggi Camp, New Delhi. Ram Charan expressed ignorance about the existence of the company. It was found that directors of the other shell companies were also persons of no means. On the instructions of the jewellers and Rajiv Kushwaha, the funds were further transferred by way of RTGS from the account of Beagle marketing to various Bullion Traders named Aadi Traders, Siddhi Vinayak Jewellers, Tushar Jewellers etc in lieu of purchase of gold bars. Though invoices were raised by these bullion dealers in the name of Beagle Marketing Pvt. Ltd., the physical delivery of the gold was given to jewellers. The gold purchased by these jewellers was further sold to various buyers at Rs 45,000 to Rs 50,000 per 10 grams.While interrogating the middleman, it was revealed that the bank officials agreed to this modus operandi in exchange for commission or bribe of 2% of the amount deposited in cash in these accounts. This gratification was given to bank managers Vineet Gupta and Shobhit Sinha in the form of gold bars (at 1% each). One of the gold bars has been recovered and seized from Lucknow using information received from Sinha’s statement. Another two kilos of gold bars have been seized from one of the jewellers.During the interrogation of the bank managers, it was revealed that huge amounts of cash was also exchanged in the initial three days without following due procedure prescribed by RBI. For this bulk exchange, forms and unverified identity documents were received from certain customers along with old currency notes which were exchanged by giving them new currency notes amounting to several lakhs. The directorate has arrested both bank managers for their connivance and further investigations are in progressReacting to the arrest, an official spokesperson of the bank said, “The bank is committed to following the highest standards of corporate governance and has zero tolerance towards any deviation on the part of any of its employees from the set model code of conduct. In this particular case, the bank has suspended the erring employees and is cooperating with the investigating agencies.”

Indian Embassy in US to hold open house on visa-related issues from January

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Indian Embassy here and its five consulates in the US will hold an open house every fortnight starting from January to address the grievances of people on issues related to visa, passport and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card. “I would like to announce an initiative today. We would institute from the first week of January next year an open house in the Indian Embassy,” Indian Ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna, said yesterday at a reception held in his honour by top Indian-American community organisations of greater Washington DC area.Addressing several hundred Indian-Americans from in and around Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia, Sarna said “the Open House would be held every fortnight wherein people with their grievances related to passports, visas and OCI cards can simply walk in and the senior embassy officials would address them. We would put out on the website once a fortnight, a designated day and a time where somebody who may have put in his papers and is not getting a response; somebody who actually have a particular problem which he wants to come and discuss with some body at the Embassy; somebody who is facing a problem in communication; somebody who does not have a paper for OCI, but still wants to have it; they would be able to come and we will have the our senior officers and the nodal officers will meet them and attend to their problem,” he said.”We will also institute a similar arrangement in all our consulates in the United States,” the Indian Ambassador said.His announcement was welcomed by the community leaders present at the reception, who also felicitated the outgoing Deputy Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, who now heads to Colombo as the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.In his second stint to the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, Sarna acknowledged that problem persists despite best of the efforts and improvement in the system. “I know one place where we always go wrong is passport, visa, OCI. No matter, how, where we do, we outsource it, we monitor it and this is the nature of the beast, nobody’s fault… no matter how efficient the machinery is this is ultimately a human error… there will always be a problem when you rang and nobody picked up the phone,” he said.”When you actually send the passport and for some reason they are stuck in the post, where you actually wanted to use the electronic visa system, and they did not accept your card. “These happens, because these are new systems. These are being put through the teething problems. They need to be improved upon. In a couple of years, I can assure you will laugh at these problems,” he said. ‘In his remarks, Sandhu highlighted the role of the Indian American community in strengthening India US relationship. Among other things, he stressed on the need to involve second generation Indian Americans in community activities and strengthening India US ties.

Samba attack: Focused research is necessary for detection of underground infiltration

Pump a rat with narcotics from both ends and see how it burrows through the mud like a mole, rabbit-eared bandicoot bilby, or an inebriated chipmunk. It is no surprise that the three terrorists who were killed near Chamliyal on 29 November carrying AK-47s, 8mm pistol, 20 grenades, GPS set, chained IED, explosives and food items, had according to DG BSF KK Sharma, ‘probably’ crawled through an 80 metre-long cross-border tunnel that was detected by the BSF along the International Border (IB) the next day — on 30 November.

Sharma said there might more tunnels and the matter would be raised with Pakistan. He also said there is no technology to trace tunnels easily and that the BSF is in touch with several countries, including Israel, and institutions like IIT-Delhi to look for solutions.

Speaking to the media, Sharma made the following points: The three terrorists killed in Samba, Jammu on Tuesday (November 29) might have crawled through an 80 metre-long tunnel under farmlands to cross the IB. After the operation in Samba at the Chamliyal border outpost, no breach of the border fence was found; on Wednesday (30 November) morning, a small 2×2 metre tunnel was found in a field where farming is done and the soil is soft; the tunnel is about 75-80 metres from the IB and about 35-40 metre from the fence. By the end of 2017, the BSF will have a patrol-less, multi-layered smart fence along its borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh as 20 big global firms are undertaking a technical evaluation for the same.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

It will be prudent to examine the following in the above context: One, taking up the issue with Pakistan is routine procedure but amounts to asking a confounded terrorist if he believes in violence; two, breaching the border isn’t simply cutting through the border fence – breach also implies getting across via the underground tunnel. In this instance, the IB was very much breached; three, this is not the first time that Pakistan has infiltrated terrorists through tunnels – there have been such occurrences in the past, and; four, a “patrol-less smart fence” is Utopian considering that the opening of this tunnel was 75-80 metres on our side of the IB.

Patrolling can’t be just along the fence especially when infiltration at times is assisted from the Indian side, even if for smuggling narcotics. Besides, traitors can always orchestrate ‘temporary technical failure’ of particular section of the smart fence. So, there can’t be any shortcut to patrolling. Smart fence is only a more powerful force multiplier.

Tunneling for operations, terrorism, smuggling is a global phenomenon. North Korea is estimated to have dug some 103 tunnels under the heavily guarded and well-fenced demilitarised military zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea. Two have been discovered and opened for public viewing. These are large enough to push a brigade-sized force across in one hour with small vehicles. These were discovered by chance when a farmer observed smoke coming out of the ground. Properly fortified and lighted, these tunnels are meant for military offensive by North Korea. Israel suffers similar menace of multiple tunnels made by Hamas from the direction of the Gaza Strip. These are for terror attacks and to escalate conflict, but if the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) enter Gaza, they would encounter a network of tunnels, which implies the problem of first locating individual tunnel and then destroying it. So Gaza Strip has both offensive and defensive tunnels.

After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and Hamas seized control in 2007, the tunnels became a weapon that Hamas could deploy at will. The tunnel system branches beneath many Gazan towns and cities, running some dozens of kilometres within the Gaza Strip. They are used for hiding weapons and ammunition, facilitating communication, plus concealing and deploying militants, rocket teams and mobile anti-tank missile teams, making detection from air difficult. Hamas used cross-border tunnels to capture Gilad Shalit in 2006 and many times during the 2014 conflict. In July 2014, it was Hamas’ use of a tunnel near Sufa that spurred Benjamin Netanyahu to launch a ground operation in Gaza. During 2014, the IDF went in to neutralise 32 of these tunnels, 14 of which crossed into Israel. The IDF estimates Hamas spent around $30-$90 million, using 600,000 tons of concrete to build 36 dozen tunnels, some individually costing $3 million to construct.

Many tunnels dug from the Pakistani side have been discovered in India in recent years for smuggling and terrorism, including targeting urban areas. These include: March 2016, 10 feet underground tunnel, 3×4 feet diameter, 30 metre inside India in RS Pura sector to target Jammu. The tunnel was 200-300 metre inside Pakistan; 2014, 50 metre tunnel discovered near Pallanwala in Jammu sector, 10 feet underground, 3×4 feet diameter; 2014, 23 metre tunnel discovered in Chillyari in Samba district; 2012, 400 metre long and 20 feet deep tunnel with ventilation discovered near Pathankot; 2012, 540 metre long tunnel found dug into the Indian side cutting through Pakistan from the zero line. In 2009, a tunnel was found near Chakkla post along the LoC when it caved in due to heavy rains; 2008, tunnel found in Rajasthan’s Barmer sector probably meant for smuggling; March 2001, tunnel found in Gurdaspur area running 135 metre into India.

In Pakistan’s case, it is not the terrorist-rodents that are nurtured by the military, but also is assisted by godmother China and China’s second protégé – North Korea. Pakistan-North Korea nuclear nexus is well-known and goes as far back as the mid 1990s, North Korean technicians and engineers were developing missile silos in Pakistan. China is presently developing some 22 tunnels in Gilgit-Baltistan where the locals are denied entry. Some of these obviously would house strategic weapons. With China’s expertise in tunneling including the Metok tunnel, China may well be assisting Pakistan in establishing a tunnel network in PoK to surprise Indian forces against any offensive in case of conflict. Tunnels also have strategic significance if a weapon of mass disturbance (if not destruction) can be smuggled through it. The fact that some of the tunnels discovered could not have been dug without machinery and are proximate to Pakistani posts along the IB/LoC prove they are part of the offensive plan of the Pakistani military at sub-conventional level. We must also acknowledge that more our border fence is strengthened, making it smart, more would be the Pakistani effort towards tunneling.

In August 2014, the IDF announced they had successfully tested a system that could be used to detect tunnels, using combination of sensors and special transmitters to locate underground tunnels. The IDF expects development to cost up to NIS 1.5 billion. However, Amir Oren, senior correspondent with Haaretz wrote on 26 April, 2016, “In another two years, perhaps Israel will have perfected its response to the tunnels”. This is one area that must become priority in India-Israel cooperation, in addition to research within India. Tunneling affects our security and should not be treated as the baby of the BSF alone. The MoD should be looking at this seriously including developing a concept for our armed forces – both defensive and pro-active. In addition, we must have 24×7 satellite surveillance of our borders. Where Isro is helping chart the underground course of Saraswati river below the Thar desert, perhaps focused research could lead to detecting underground infiltration.

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

First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 14:44 IST

Shun stones, focus on careers… counsels police

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir Police have embarked on an arduous journey to counsel stone throwers in a bid to wean them away from the path of violence in the valley.Thousands were arrested while more than 90 people have been killed and over 13,000 injured in the unrest since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani’s killing on july 8. More than 1,100 people, mostly teenagers, have suffered injuries in their eyes when security forces fired pellets to quell the violent mobs.Come December, the police are adopting a humane approach to help the youth shun violence and concentrate on career building. To start with, police on Friday organised a counselling session for the youth of Baramulla town and adjoining areas who were involved in violent activities for the past few months.“The session was aimed at creating an understanding so that ways and means are found to prevent recurrence of such violent incidents in future. Many parents and respectable citizens of the town also joined,” said a police spokesman.Senior Superintendent of Police Baramulla Imtiyaz Hussain impressed upon the youth to concentrate on career building and work hard to make up the loss they have suffered in the past few months.“These youth should not to fall prey to the propaganda and, instead, should channelise their energy in constructive and positive pursuits,” he said.“Peace is must for developmental activities and law enforcing agencies have a major role to lead the State towards tranquility and prosperity,” said K Rajendra Kumar, Director General of Police.

Cashless economy: UPI apps provide ease of use and freedom to transact

Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s message in the latest Mann Ki Baat program on All India Radio was loud and clear. He exhorted the nation to start transitioning from less cash to cash less economy. This sounded like a big boost to the cards and digital wallet industry. In fact, this may not be true. India may soon not only be moving to cashless economy but might be moving towards card less economy. Digital wallets tied to specific banks or provided by specific merchants too may soon be history.

Dealing a deadly body blow to the card industry and proprietary digital wallet industry are two indigenous innovations. One is the purported move to have Aadhar chip embedded in smart phones which support Iris scans. And the other is the launching of Unified Payment Interface (UPI) by National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI).

In current scenario, when a purchase is made using a card it is swiped on the point of sale machine and a pin is entered to authenticate the card. This affects money transfer from the customer’s bank to the account of the merchant. In cases where money has to be transferred using a digital wallet, it is done using the digital wallet app. Money from one digital wallet can be transferred to another digital wallet provided they subscribe to the same provider ie PayTm, HDFC Chillr etc. This scenario is now set to change.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Iris scan supported Aadhar card enabled smart phones provide for authentication through the mobile phone. Process is simple. If a transaction has to be made once the Iris is scanned, Aadhaar chip embedded in the phone will communicate with Aadhaar servers and provide instant authentication. Once the authentication is done, money transactions can be done. There will be no need of either a point of sale machine or a card for the purposes of transaction.

Alongside proposed Aadhaar enabled mobile phones, UPI, launched by NPCI with Reserve Bank of India is revolutionising the way digital wallets get used and transactions are made. Using UPI app, people can create their digital wallets and have a virtual private address. This virtual private address could either be the Aadhaar card number of just the mobile phone number of the person.

In case of any transfer to be affected, it can be done from one VPA to another without the restriction of these digital wallets being of the same bank or the same provider. Money in case of UPI enabled wallets always remains with the banks and transactions involving transfers are free. This is unlike the current digital wallets where money gets out of the banking system and in case money has to be sent to the bank there are charges for the same. With this ease of use and freedom to transact across participating banks it’s only a matter of time that UPI enabled apps will replace proprietary digital wallets.

UPI is also enabling person to person (P2P) transactions besides person to merchant (P2M) transactions. In P2P,  people transact among themselves using UPI enabled digital wallets. Once this happens even the 2.1 lakh ATMs may become redundant. Each mobile will become a payment device both accepting and making payments.

Making this a reality, are the current 371 million mobile internet users (35 percent of the population as of June 2016) in India, and approximately 108 crore Aadhaar card holders (as per UIDAI). These numbers coupled with an estimate 50 Million internet users getting added each year; Narendra Modi‘s wish for a cashless economy may well get realised much sooner than anticipated.

The author is Currently Additional Director General Home guards, Mumbai and former Controller, Legal Metrology, Maharashtra.

First Published On : Dec 3, 2016 11:28 IST

‘It took 20-25 years for US to go cashless, but that’s not an excuse to wait’

Jack Ringquist, global leader, consumer products, Deloitte, was recently in Mumbai. Firstpost spoke to him on the likely impact of demonetisation on consumers and India’s switchover to cashless economy.

Ringquist talks about how the US took time to go fully cashless and the changes it brought about in the economy and consumer behaviour. He also points out that it the next generation that finds it easy to adapt to change than the generation that witnesses the shift in economy and the pains that go with it.

Edited excerpts from the conversation:

What was the experience of the US in adopting cashless mode of payment?

Jack RingquistJack Ringquist

Jack Ringquist, global leader, consumer products, Deloitte

It took a long time for the US in terms of penetration and comfort to accept other modes of payments than cash. This switchover takes time. To be honest, even I generally pay cash towards everyday purchases. I use credit cards and debit cards typically only when I have to. But my children pay through credit card or through Paypal. So it’s a generational issue mostly. What I am talking about is the technology and consumer behaviour. Sometimes it can take a generation or two.

How do you see the present Indian situation?

My perspective is that all these changes are very positive signs. Despite the likely slowdown after the move, India is still the bright spot. Look at the rate of growth you have. It is still in high single digits and the rest of the world is in low single digits. India is doing well. You have the youngest population and a growing population of consumers. That also helps the growth of your nation. All the companies will see that potential. These are all challenges, but are also good steps going forward. What I hear from clients is that there is conversations happening between the businesses and the government today. The government is ready to hold discussions and work together. That will help the country tide over challenges like these and the future challenges like GST.

Is there a deflationary tendency for demonetisation?

I might assume in the short-term, there may be. When these kinds of changes happen, or when there is uncertainty, consumers decide to save and wait. But in the medium to longer-term, as the policy uncertainties become clear, typically the younger generation will be all for the new economy.

E-commerce companies like Flipkart had stopped cash on delivery after the demonetisation announcement. But then they restarted it. How do you see this development?

Cash will be there because for businesses it is important that they don’t lose their customers. Not everybody is a saint. The mistake here is to say that there is a tipping point when a country switches to cashless economy. Change happens in waves. The technology is being developed as we are speaking. Over time people become more comfortable to use technology. As generation evolve, they adapt. In the US, it was a 20-25 year journey. But that is not an excuse to wait to begin. It important to begin begin now. There are sizeable benefits even if it is only the cities that are adapting now. Eventually, the consumer behaviour will evolve. The true benefits of electronic payments is that you will see over time greater upticks as consumers become more educated.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 16:43 IST

Demonetisation: Rs 10,000 limit set for Jan Dhan withdrawal to prevent misuse

The Reserve Bank of India, on Wednesday, set a limit of Rs 10,000 per month for withdrawals form the Jan Dhan Yojana accounts.

“Fully KYC compliant account holders can withdraw up to Rs 10,000 from their account in a month. The bank managers may allow further withdrawal beyond Rs 10,000 within the current applicable limits only after ascertaining the genuineness of such withdrawals and duly documenting the same on the bank’s records,” the directive said.

Non-KYC compliant account holders can withdraw only up to Rs 5,000 from their Jan Dhan Yojana account.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The move is aimed at protecting innocent farmers and rural account holders of the PMJDY from activities of money launderers and legal consequences under the Benami Property and Money Laundering Laws, the RBI release said.

These accounts had witnessed a sudden surge in deposits after the demonetisation, which was announced on 8 November, raising doubts that tax evaders are using the poor to park their ill-gotten money in them.

According to the government, total deposits in these accounts stood at Rs 64,252.15 crore as of 16 November. Bank officials in Odisha had admitted to PTI that they smell foul play in the rapid spurt in the quantum of deposits in several of these zero-balance balance accounts in Kendrapara district.

“There has been impressive growth in cash deposits in Jan dhan accounts. We obviously smell foul-play. Though a ceiling of Rs 50,000 deposit has been fixed in these accounts, we have come across accounts exceeding maximum deposit limits. The accounts with excess deposit would lose PMJDY classification. These would be converted into general savings accounts,” an official told the news agency.

Prime minister Narendra Modi, in his Mann Ki Baat on Sunday, had urged people to not make use of these accounts to whiten the black money they have.

With PTI

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 11:09 IST

Narendra Modi’s ideas are grand break from the past, but when will we see results?

It was said about the French leader Valéry Giscard d’Estaing that the idea of a European Union thrilled him but the details bored him. I have often suspected that this attitude is to be found in many of the things that are taken up by this government.

Over two weeks have gone by since Narendra Modi‘s grand strike against black money and it is fair to say that two things need to be acknowledged. First, that the wide popular support for Modi is holding despite the inconvenience. Second, that the evidence of an economic problem caused by the shortage of cash is piling up through reports.

A file photo of Narendra Modi. PTIA file photo of Narendra Modi. PTI

A file photo of Narendra Modi. PTI

The reports are similar, whether from Surat or Ludhiana or Moradabad, all manufacturing centres. They speak of units either running under-capacity or shutting down because of lack of demand, and of raw materials being unavailable because of cash shortage. Another common factor is the reluctance of the units to keep labour and migrant workers being laid off or told to return home for now. We will have to wait for proper data to come in but if the anecdotal reports are indicators of something larger going on there is trouble ahead in December and the new year.

What explains the support for Modi which, and this cannot be denied, is wide and popular despite the uncertainty deliberately produced? Let us look at it since this period has also brought the Modi government to mid point. The unique thing about Modi’s time in office so far is his launching of magnificent schemes and major announcements. These launches and announcements capture the imagination of the country, certainly, they capture the attention of the media.

Make in India, bullet train, Smart Cities, Swachch Bharat, surgical strike, demonetisation. All of these and other initiatives of Modi share a pattern. They represent a grand break from the past. They promise to rip away the old and decayed and replace it with something new and better.

Do they achieve this to any extent? What are the real consequences? These we will know only in time. Let us look at one example. The surgical strike after the attack on Uri was meant to be a response to violence being sent from across the Line of Control. It has been reported that since the surgical strike, the Indian army has lost 20 soldiers. This happened mainly because the LoC, which was previously relatively peaceful under a ceasefire, has been aflame after the surgical strike.

The defence minister now says that the ceasefire is holding again but meanwhile 20 Indians are dead. So was the surgical strike a good decision? It is anti-national to answer that question in any way but one so we will leave it there. I should say however that the Indian soldier is worshipped and expected to martyr himself. There is only a sort of reverence for his contribution and no real respect for his life.

This theme of grand announcement leading up to something whose benefits and damage we are not certain of can be said about many announcements. The surgical strike against black money will, of course, take a little longer to show its real effect. But what about the bullet train, on which we are spending about Rs 1 lakh crore? What about expending diplomatic energy and the prime minister’s personal goodwill on the pursuit of a position in the nuclear suppliers group?

Have the consequences been analysed with the rigour that is expected? I am not questioning the intention here, and I have no doubt that the government means well. I am merely curious to know whether my suspicions of it being enthusiastic about shooting first and aiming later are unfounded.

Modi is our most credible politician. No other leader could have led the nation into such turbulence with confidence that he would carry the day. He will remain popular for the rest of his remaining two and a half years and will be very difficult to beat in 2019. Many of the consequences of his actions will be stand revealed before that and I hope for his sake and for ours that he has been as interested in the details as he was thrilled by the grand idea.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 08:04 IST

When wings weave a tale

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Every naturalist dreams of witnessing some of the greatest natural history moments on the planet, such as the wildebeest migration, glowing seas or the northern lights. The greatest animal migrations are one of these natural history moments, during which animals migrate together in unimaginable numbers, covering incredible distances across continents every year. The annual Amur falcon migration, from Russia and China to the east African coast via India, is one such sought-after spectacle.Although I’ve had a preview of these huge congregations in Northeast India in the past, it was only this year, in early November that I planned to witness this miracle at its best at the Doyang reservoir in Nagaland, where an estimated 50,000 birds blanket the entire sky.Named after the Amur region of Southeast Russia and Northeast China, Amur falcons breed there in the summer before undertaking the longest recorded sea crossing of 22,000 km to east and south Africa, passing through the Himalayas within a few weeks. A large number of these birds make a quick stop around water bodies, such as in Doyang reservoir in remote Nagaland where roughly two lakh birds must be stopping over a 2-3 week period every year. When they first started showing up in Nagaland, these birds were hunted by the locals. At the time, I played a small role in the Amur falcon conservation project that kicked off in 2013, following reports of these mass hunts in 2012. Pangti village and Doyang reservoir became globally known when within a year the mass hunting stopped entirely thanks to the effort of several organisations.This year, soon after Diwali, I set off for Nagaland with a couple of friends. We had to arrive in Doyang, a tiny village nestled in the hill, the same day as the flight landed in Dimapur to be able to watch the spectacle. We started early the following morning to reach the congregation roosting sites near the beautiful Pangti village. Even before reaching the site, where villagers have built watch towers and tourist reception centers, Amur falcons had already started coming off the roosts and filling up the sky. We were overwhelmed at the sight—hundreds of birds dotted the sky. Soon, we were flabbergasted when we went slightly downhill to a watchtower; the sheer numbers of falcons had taken over every bit of available tree branch and the sky was full of specks of these birds. It took us a while before we returned to our senses and started clicking pictures and shooting videos in a frenzy. A few hours later, we had a delicious local meal while watching the falcons feasting on termites and other insects. After about an hour of feeding, around 50,000 birds returned from all directions by the time it was almost dark. The overwhelming numbers of these falcons, and this once-in-a-year spectacle is enough to stun any person.(The writer is a Mumbai-based naturalist who travels the expanse of India’s pristine wildlife habitats)

Jan dhan accounts flush with cash in Odisha, officials smell foul play

Kendrapara: The hitherto dormant Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) accounts in nationalised banks have now sprung to life and are flush with cash in several parts of Odisha, thanks to demonetisation drive.

The post offices are also witnessing sudden upsurge of deposits of scrapped notes with inoperative accounts being made operational by account holders in a hurry.

Demonetisation has seemingly provided a lease of life to these accounts which were literally dead. Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts account for 3.75 lakh Jan dhan accounts, officials said.

In Odisha, the highest percentage of 59.50 per cent of the households in Kendrapara avail banking facilities followed by Jagatsinghpur with 58 per cent, they said.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

With PMJDY account holders virtually making beeline at bank counters to deposit money and activate the accounts, there has been rapid spurt in the quantum of deposits in several of these zero-balance balance accounts. While bank personnel acknowledge activation of such dormant accounts in large numbers and the rise in deposits, they preferred to remain tight-lipped on reports of huge cash flowing into such accounts.

An official of a nationalised bank said, “There has been impressive growth in cash deposits in Jan dhan accounts. We obviously smell foul-play. Though a ceiling of Rs 50,000 deposit has been fixed in these accounts, we have come across accounts exceeding maximum deposit limits. The accounts with excess deposit would lose PMJDY classification. These would be converted into general savings accounts.”

Deposits in the accounts are largely in demonetised high-value currency notes, giving suspicion that unscrupulous elements might be using the accounts of poor and gullible to convert black money into white. We are reparing detailed list of such accounts which were inactive since day of operation. However, cash flowed into it after demonetisation. The list of ‘suspicious’ accounts would be submitted to the competent authorities, the official said.

These accounts occupied less than one per cent of the total deposit base. However, it has shot up to 3 to 4 percent since cash began flowing into them.

Post the Centre’s demonetisation step on November 8, most Jan Dhan accounts are subjected to their first-ever transactions ever since they were opened. There are instances of these accounts being switched to general savings accounts. Some account-holders have also resorted to tactics depositing Rs 49,000 to avoid PAN card submission, the officials said.

Several deposits of Rs 49,000 were found out to have been made in such replenished accounts, said the head of a nationalised bank in Paradip.

Like Jan dhan, misuse of mini-accounts, which could be opened in banks without furnishing KYC and the deposit limit of which should not exceed Rs 50,000 at any point of time, looms large. The aggregate of all withdrawals and transfers in a month should not exceed Rs 10,000 from such accounts, said officials.

The customer service points of nationalised banks are entrusted with opening mini-accounts. Of late, applications for conversion of these accounts into general savings accounts are being received. Deposit of demonetised notes appears to be the sole cause for upgrading such accounts. The bankers are also keeping a tab on these accounts, they said.

There is every possibility that account-holders are being lured on monetary consideration by agents of rich people to lend their accounts to stash their ill-gotten cash. In all likelihood, those working in Paradip industrial belt as labourers and contractual labourers are becoming the soft target of these agents and middlemen. Most of these working classes have their Jan dhan accounts in banks in Paradip, said a banker requesting not to be quoted.

The post offices from both the district are also overflowing with cash in savings accounts. Dormant postal accounts, not subjected to monetary transaction since past three years, have been made operational by the account holders. Demonetised notes have also sneaked into such accounts, said an official of department of post in Kendrapara.

Three days ago, over 57 deposits amounting to Rs 75,000, all in demonetized Rs 1,000 scrapped notes were made in the head post office, said an official of Kendrapara head post office Kendrapara.

First Published On : Nov 27, 2016 15:19 IST

Militant activities in Meghalaya hit the hardest following demonetization: Police

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Militant groups and small criminal gangs operating in the Garo Hills region in Meghalaya have been hit the hardest following demonetization, police said. Suddenly there is an unusual silence and there is no report of any kind of kidnapping and extortion and this is all because of the demonetization effect which has become a boon for small time traders, businessmen and even farmers, they said.”It gave them no way to push the money back into the banking system given that deposits are being fully monitored by all teams, including Income Tax, police and the like.Militancy has been depressed by the sudden announcement of the prime minister,” said South Garo Hills (SGH) police chief, Anand Mishra. South and East Garo Hills are both known as militancy hotbeds with the dense forest cover of Durama Hills providing natural shelter for them.The Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) and ASAK groups are the most active in the region and have been at the heart of all militant activities in the region, though splinter groups have also done their bit. It is widely suspected that more than 500 crores lies in the hands of militant groups, mostly with the GNLA “This is a body blow for them as they have to bring out the money they stashed meaning a fear of exposure. We are also keeping a very close tab on amounts being deposited and have identified dozens of sympathisers and over ground workers of the group. Come January and we may fall short of jail space,” added SP Mishra.Banks in all districts have been asked to provide information on suspicious deposits as was confirmed by banks when contacted. Meetings between police teams and banks have now become aregular feature to ensure that all attempts by militants to convert blood money is thwarted. “We had information of a huge amount of money being brought into the district but the scrutiny involved ensured they didn’t even get into the line. We have identified many sympathisers and are keeping a close tab,” said Mishra.Recently a raid on the house of the GNLA chief, Sohan D Shira’s house saw 27 bank passbooks being seized and the accounts frozen. In another incident, three people were arrested while they were bringing more than Rs 36 lakhs allegedly belonging to the GNLA for conversion. “These passbooks belonged to family and relatives of Sohan and were to be used for conversion of hidden stash. We are keeping a very close watch on things,” said Davies NR Marak, Superintendent of Police, EGH.Police sources said militants are seeking “money mules” and approaching villagers, even through coercion to turn their money white through the use of their (villagers’) accounts. “The heyday of militancy is over in Garo Hills. To recover it will take decades and even then they may fail as more people move into the banking system. If what is being predicted is right, we will be able to ensure they never receive the kind of money they did and certainly impact movement,” said Mishra.

Black money rampant in educational institution, real estate: Govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tax department has unearthed Rs 32,000 crore through searches in last three fiscals and found that use of black money is rampant in sectors like real estate and educational institutions, government said today.”The data indicates that the main sectors in which black money is rampant include real estate, finance, trading, manufacturing, educational institutes and services,” Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha. During 2015-16, the I-T Department conducted 445 searches which discovered undisclosed income of Rs 11,066 crore. Total assets seized were Rs 712.68 crore.Also 545 searches conducted in 2014-15 have led to admission of undisclosed income worth Rs 10,288 crore. Total assets seized amounted to Rs 761.70 crore.Besides, 569 searches in 2013-14 saw admission of undisclosed income of Rs 10,791.63 crore and asset seizure of Rs 807.84 crore. This takes the total undisclosed income which was admitted during searches to Rs 32,146 crore. Analysis of the searches by the Income Tax department during the last three financial years indicates that the persons searched were involved in multiple activities in varied sectors, Gangwar said.He said the government has taken several measures to effectively tackle the issue of black money. These include prohibition of acceptance of payment/advance of Rs 20,000 or more in cash, enactment of benami transaction law and mandatory quoting of PAN for transaction above Rs 2 lakh.In reply to another question in the Lok Sabha, Gangwar said that between April and October, the Enforcement Directorate registered 109 cases under FEMA involving Hawala transactions. During 2015-16, 138 such cases were registered under FEMA, while in 2014-15 it was 104 and in 2013-14 it was 75. “The above cases may include a few cases relating to illegal activities and terrorism also,” Gangwar said.

Note ban impact: Hyderabad’s famous chicken biryani industry hit, poultry farmers in state of crisis

Since 9 November, boards have been hung outside chicken and mutton shops of Hyderabad and other smaller towns of Telangana. These boards scream in Telugu – “No Change”.

In Hyderabad, customers of Bawarchi at RTC Cross Road and the famous Paradise restaurant in Secunderabad, renowned for their biryani and kebabs, were in for a shock. The managements of these hotels issued tokens instead of change. “Bring change for better service,” said boards at Paradise. These tokens could be exchanged at any of their outlets in Hyderabad itself. Other popular biryani restaurants – like Minerva, Shadab Bahar and Madina – soon followed suit with the token system.

“We used to sell over 1.5 lakh biryani packets on weekdays and about 2.5 lakhs on weekends, but since 8 November, our sales have gone down by over 50 percent,” lamented Mohammed Azeezuddin, owner of Bawarchi restaurant. “We are underpricing our products to meet the running costs,” he added. Bawarchi, which is usually open from 11.30am to 11.30pm, was open for only a few hours in the first few days following the announcement of demonetisation.

With buyers on the decline, poultry farmers put up their own retail stalls on highways and offered the meat at almost 50 percent of the market cost. Representational image. Reuters

With buyers on the decline, poultry farmers put up their own retail stalls on highways and offered the meat at almost 50 percent of the market cost. Representational image. Reuters

Poultry farmers on the roads

The sudden cash crunch and change crisis left many roadside enterprises wringing their hands. With buyers on the decline, poultry farmers put up their own retail stalls on highways and offered the meat at almost 50 percent of the market cost. “Just like the tomato glut scene in Andhra Pradesh, it was tragic that poultry farmers of Medak, Ranga Reddy and Nalgonda, along with their families, lined up on highways to dispose of their stocks daily,” said Telangana Animal Husbandry Minister Talasani Srinivas Yadav.

Demonetisation has been disastrous to the poultry industry whose products are perishable. Distress sales of their products across the Maharashtra – Chhattisgarh and Karnataka border has only led to high transport costs, but returns are minimal. There are no takers for eggs, even when offered at rock bottom prices of Rs 2.90 per egg as against the market rate of Rs 4.10 per egg since 8 November. Out of a daily production of 1.5 crore eggs in the state, only 50 lakhs were sold and the rest either thrown away or given away as charity to old age homes, orphanages and social welfare hostels to students. “For poultry, November to February is the peak demand season in view of festivals. The change crunch in this season has brought disaster. To reduce losses, the only way is to cull the birds which will impact on our investment and manpower,” said V Harshavardhan Reddy, vice-president of the Telangana Poultry Breeders Association.

“We have just sold one crore kilograms of chicken meat in the last 20 days as against our monthly sale of 3.5 crore kilograms,” said D Sudhakar,  Telangana Poultry Federation leader. Poultry farms are crucial to Telangana, a semi-arid area, where crops fail often and water is scarce. Chicken and eggs business here is a predominantly cash-driven enterprise, bringing in important parallel income for marginal and big farmers who raise only one crop a year.

Many farmers in Telangana take high-cost loans from microfinance companies to start small poultry businesses, mortgaging their dry lands in the hope of quick returns. “We ventured into poultry last year and made good profits until now, but the currency ban has hit us like a thunderbolt and is driving us to bankruptcy,” said Banti Mahipal, a small poultry farmer based in Govindapet, Armoor mandal of Nizamabad district.

It was nightmarish for us as almost 90 percent of our enterprise is made in cash and not through bank transactions,” said Sammaiah, a big egg and chicken dealer of Lakshminarayanpet in Jangoan district

The poultry industry, recently hit by high cost of finance and bird feed besides bird flu, had begun to show signs of coming out of the red in Telangana. The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) government had, in 2015, given the poultry industry the much sought-after ‘agriculture’ recognition and thereby made it eligible for easy loans from cooperatives and banks and also made possible claims for input subsidies from the government. “By recognising poultry as an agricultural activity, KCR (Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao) had also given us relief from Income Tax issues,” said Errballi Pradeep Rao, president of Telangana Poultry Farmers’ Federation.

Poultry retailers take a hit

From the farmers, the crisis trickled down to the small vendors in Hyderabad city, the biggest market in Telangana for poultry products. Once the vendors refused to accept demonetised notes, the queues vanished. “We were losing Rs 41 for every kilo of chicken and 95 paisa on every egg we sold, but we had to keep selling even at these rates, as the product would be garbage by nightfall,” said Mohammed Osman of Osman Chicken Stalls at Yakutpura.

When demand dropped, vendors tried innovations. ‘Chicken Melas’ were organised in Old City  and Secunderabad, offering biryani, fried chicken, chicken kebabs and tangdi kebabs at very nominal rates. Prominent political leaders were invited to participate in these melas in order to get publicity. The NECC (National Egg Coordination Committee) also organised exhibition-cum–sale outlets across Hyderabad and Secunderabad, hoping to lure customers with omelettes, boiled egg, egg curry and grilled egg sandwiches. “Such gimmicks are good for a few days only but the daily chicken eater was still left high and dry,” said S Sailaja Rangachari, a school teacher of Nallakunta in Hyderabad.

Poultry: Crucial industry in Telangana

The Indian poultry industry employs over 25 million people and feeds millions more. Telangana’s 31 districts account for one-third of the Rs 95,000 crores industry in the country. Telangana has nearly 10,000 recognised poultry farms and along with the unrecognised small farms, accounts for almost 100 million broiler birds (70 million in the recognised sector). Poultry Federation sources said that almost 70 percent of the sector is dominated by small and medium farmers. Big corporate names in the poultry industry like Venkateswara Hatcheries, Sneha, Ram Reddy and Arunodaya have already diversified into the fast food retail market and put up agencies for poultry equipment. These big businesses, therefore, did not feel the pinch of the change crisis.

The high cost of soya and maize – bird feed – had hit the industry in 2013 but since 2015, after recognition of poultry as an agricultural activity, the state government has provided input subsidy as well as free power.

“We should also get all concessions in deposits and also withdrawals just like the farmers,” demanded Tirupati Verma, a poultry farmer in Ranga Reddy district who has 25,000 birds . He wants the Centre to also declare a moratorium on loans from microfinance groups and other NBFCs as well for the poultry sector in Telangana.

Poultry farmers and chicken retail vendors of Hyderabad say that normalcy would not return to their trade unless the new Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes are issued. “We are having difficulty in giving change for Rs 2,000 notes as we do not have enough Rs 100 notes,” said Mohammed Shafiullah, another chicken and egg retailer at Masab tank in Hyderabad.

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 15:27 IST

How Narendra Modi’s survey limits the range of feedback that can be provided by user

The government has faced increasingly targeted attacks by the Opposition and the public on the merits of the demonetisation move carried out a fortnight ago. In an attempt to placate this ire and to create a feedback loop that directly engages with the public, the government has decided to conduct a mass survey to gauge public perception. The survey is hosted on the Narendra Modi mobile application that can be found on the Android and iOS app stores. This article will attempt to analyse the mobile application by looking at the design principles followed in the survey and the scope given to survey takers to express their true opinion of the demonetisation move.

At the time of writing, 90 percent of respondents expressed the feeling that the government’s move was ‘brilliant/nice’. However, one must look into the merits of the survey and its limitations to understand the true value and nature of the results of the survey.

The first step required in order to take the survey, is downloading the application itself, which forces the user to automatically grant access to Contacts, Phone and Storage functions of their phone. While there are ostensible reasons for these permissions, (sharing the data from within the application, storing downloaded information, etc.) unless the user is running Android 6.0 or above, the user doesn’t have a choice in giving these permissions. This leaves the application with the potential to collect the entire phone book of the user as as well as access any files stored on the user’s device. This is independent of the survey and provides a large scope for massive data collection from any user just choosing to install the application in the first place. It is easily possible to create a version of the application that carries out a vast majority of its current functions without these permissions and the government (along with the application developer) should endeavour to do so at the earliest. In the alternative, they should have a clear and distinct privacy policy that informs users of the data collection and its possible use.

The second major step required to take the survey is the long and tedious registration process, which requires all sorts of details with massive privacy implications. This includes the name, email ID, phone number, residency details, profession and interests, all of which are compulsory fields. Why all of these details are necessary to take a supposedly simple survey and what possible use this information can be put to by the government is both unclear and problematic. It is also possible to register using Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites where there is a varying standard of equally private and unnecessary information that is being collected by the application from these websites. There are no privacy notices or consent forms that govern this information collection nor is their any indication of how this information will be put to use beyond the scope of the survey. The generic, standard form privacy policy (less than 10 lines long) on the Narendra Modi website is hidden at the bottom of the application download page (not in the application itself) and leaves a lot to be desired to safeguard user interest.

Once the registration is complete, the user is presented with the survey, which has a total of 10 questions of 3 broad categories. 6 of these questions have multiple choice answers, 3 of them have a sliding rating meter and 1 question has general comments/suggestion page.  The article will now look at these categories and analyze the design of the questions, the extent of the choice they give to the users and finally if the survey has a coercive or limiting effect on the feedback that can be given by the user via the application regarding the demonetisation move.

Choice limiting multiple choice questions.Choice limiting multiple choice questions.

Choice limiting multiple choice questions.

The first category of questions, the multiple choice questions (MCQ), have varying degree of choices that the user can select from. However, regardless of the extent of the choices, their exact nature is severely limiting and makes it almost impossible to express a truly negative opinion of the survey. This is done in two ways, first the explicit restriction of choices and second the more subtle negative colouring of responses by cleverly phrasing questions. An example of the explicit restriction of choices can be seen in Question No 7. “Demonetisation will bring  real estate, higher education, healthcare in common man’s reach” which has three options, “Completely Agree, Partially Agree and Can’t Say.” There is no option to disagree with the paradigm set by the question and neither is there an option for the user to further explain or elucidate upon the answer, if he/she choose Can’t Say as an option. This also means that there will be no answers that will have “No” as an answer to the fairly open ended question, which can have a myriad of responses. The same can be said for Question No. 6 regarding the demonetisation move’s effectiveness in curbing illegal activities to which, once again, “No” is not an answer, with “Don’t Know” being the best a user disagreeing can do with the survey question.

The second, more subtle aspect of the MCQ questions are questions that serve as bait to demand a positive answer, which can be used to later bolster the survey’s results in a positive light. For example, Question No. 1 reads “Do you think Black Money exists in India” and Question No. 2 reads “Do you think the evil of Corruption & Black Money needs to be fought and eliminated?” both of which have simple “Yes” and “No” as the only two possible responses. These rhetorical questions, which demand a positive answer, provide almost no aspect for the user to subtly or explicitly disagree with motivating factor behind the demonetisation move. The placement of these questions and the lack of choice in responses that can be given to them leaves huge potential to tilt the survey results in the favour of the government’s move. For example, you can’t simultaneously agree that black money is a problem and think the demonetisation move is a bad idea, simply because you can’t express that view in a single question within the survey.

Positive bias driven multiple choice question.Positive bias driven multiple choice question.

Positive bias driven multiple choice question.

The other two categories of questions do not suffer from the overt problems of encouraging positive bias that the MCQ questions do but leave a fair bit to be desired in their outlook towards individuals who disagree with the move. In the sliding rating meter questions, there are strong visual cues that hint that disagreeing with the demonetisation move is a negative, undesirable idea. They do so by using a large, danger red frown as the icon for Question No. 5 that asks for the survey takers opinion on the ban on old 500 and 1000 rupee notes. The same goes for Question No. 3 that deals with the general moves of the government to tackle black money. This makes any opinion or answer that disagrees with the validity of the move an answer that is portrayed in a negative light. Similarly, the general comments/suggestion section in Question No. 10 is the only place for anyone to express a negative or non-concurring opinion, which there is no way to measure statistically in the overall survey results and will mostly likely not be counted in the final survey results.

Visual cues.Visual cues.

Visual cues.

All of the above points clearly show that the design of both the Narendra Modi mobile application and its survey have huge potential for coercing a biased viewpoint upon any  survey taker and ensure that it is almost possible to express a stark, negative opinion against the demonetisation move via the survey. This can and should be remedied by the government to allow for a more open, conducive and critical discourse to take place regarding the move among the public. It is only when such opinion is allowed to exist in the first place, that the government can understand, engage and respond to the various valid critiques of the move. The chilling effect that would take place in the current form of the survey would be counterproductive to the original intent behind its creation, which was to create a direct constructive feedback loop between the public and the government.

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 11:37 IST

GST Council meet postponed to 2-3 December

New Delhi: With several states suggesting changes in the model GST and compensation laws, the GST Council meeting scheduled for November 25 has been postponed to 2-3 December.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The officers’ committee of both the Centre and states, however, will meet on 25 November to finalise the three draft legislations — CGST, IGST and compensation law. These will be placed in public domain for stakeholders’ comments.

The Centre proposes to introduce these legislations as money bills to ensure they are not stuck in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling NDA does not have a majority.

Sources said that since the legal changes in the draft laws would take some time, it was decided to postpone the 25 November meeting of the all-powerful GST Council.

“The states have suggested certain changes relating to returns procedures in model GST law. Also, they have asked for changes in wordings in compensation law. We will finalise the three draft laws at the 25 November meeting,” a source said.

The source, however, added that Centre is on track to introduce the legislations in the ongoing Winter session of Parliament, which ends on 16 December.

The officers committee would not discuss the issue of cross empowerment to avoid dual control as it would be decided at the ministerial level.

Centre had on November 16 circulated the draft legislation among the states. The officers committee in their meeting on 21-22 November discussed the issue, with states giving their views.

The Central GST (CGST) will be framed based on the model GST law. The IGST law would deal with inter-state movement of goods and services.

Also, the states will draft their own State GST (SGST) based on the draft model law with minor variations incorporating state-based exemption.

These laws deal with returns, registration and refund process as well as where GST will be levied.

The compensation law will list out how states will be compensated in the initial five years for revenue loss on account of GST rollout.

The Centre plans to create a Rs 50,000 crore fund for GST compensation by levying cess on demerit and luxury goods.

At its last meeting, the GST Council agreed on a four-slab structure – 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent — along with a cess on luxury and ‘sin’ goods such as tobacco.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 17:07 IST

Indian journalist Malini Subramaniam honoured with International Press Freedom Award

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indian journalist Malini Subramaniam has been conferred with the International Press Freedom Award for her reporting from the Naxal-infested Bastar area, one of the four journalists felicitated by the annual award for their commitment to a free press.She was honoured by the Committee to Protect Journalists along with El Salvador’s Oscar Martinez and Turkey’s Can Dundar. Jailed Egyptian photographer Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, was given an award in absentia.Subramaniam, a contributor to the news website Scroll, has reported on abuses by police and security forces, sexual violence against women, the jailing of minors, the shutdown of schools, extrajudicial killings, and threats against journalists in the Bastar region in Chattisgarh, the CPJ said in a statement.”She has been interrogated, surveilled, and harassed by police and members of a pro-police vigilante group in connection with her critical coverage of human rights abuses and politics. Police have attempted to malign her and label her as a Maoist agent,” it said.Martinez was forced to flee El Salvador for three weeks after receiving death threats over an investigation into the killings of eight gang suspects by police.Dundar was another honoree. He was arrested on November 26, 2015, after publishing an article alleging the government intelligence service sought to send weapons to Syrian rebel groups. He was charged with disclosing state secrets, espionage and aiding a terrorist group and was sentenced to five years in prison. He remains free, after spending 92 days in jail, while his appeal is considered.Zeid has been jailed since August 14, 2013, on charges of weapons possession, illegal assembly, murder and attempted murder, the charges levied against hundreds of protesters in the clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. “These four brave journalists have risked their freedom–and their lives–to report to their societies and the global community about critical news events,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.”CPJ is proud to honour these journalists who, in the face of repression and violence, continue to bring us vital news.” CPJ executive director Joel Simon said threats against journalism are increasing around the world.

Demonetization biggest scam in India under pretext of patriotism: Kejriwal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Keeping up with his tirade against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has termed demonetization as “the biggest scam” of Independent India, accusing him of “benefiting” the rich industrialists at the cost of poor under the pretext of patriotism.Aam Aadmi Party volunteers protesting over demonetization of high value currency notes, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi today distributed pamphlets of Kejriwal’s letter to the countrymen alleging that demonetization involved a scam of Rs 8 lakh crore. “These billionaires have usurped Rs 8 lakh crore until now, of which the government has waived off Rs 1.14 lakh crore.”The government estimates that deposits worth Rs 10 lakh crore would be deposited in banks. This will be used to waive off remaining seven lakh crores. Five days after the demonetization, the government has already waived off Rs 6000 crores of 63 billionaires,” Kejriwal’s letter alleged. “This is cheating. The whole country is being fooled. Poor, middle class, traders, farmers, housewives and workers are depositing their hard earned money in the banks and the government is doling it out to the billionaires,” the letter reads.He said in the letter that people are now asking if “attacking” black money was intended then why the big billionaires were not caught who have black money.” Kejriwal also alleged that the country was being “looted” in the name of patriotism and the money deposited by people in the banks will be “doled out” among millionaires. “People are also saying let the elections come and we will take revenge for each minute spent in the queues,” he added.

Demonetisation: Narendra Modi risks too much by triggering a crisis for cooperative banks

If there is any immediate casualty to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation exercise, announced on 8 November, that will be country’s cooperative banks, which are struggling to stay afloat. Besides damaging the health of this sector, PM Modi also risks losing political goodwill if he chooses to let these institutions die as they primarily deal with people at the bottom of the pyramid.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Though inefficient, cooperative banks are still critical for the last mile in rural India. This will continue for at least the next 5-10 years till larger banks/payment banks/small finance banks take firm hold in rural India.

Cooperative banks are particularly important for farmers and lower income groups who want small ticket loans in less time in relation to larger banks. Their banking correspondents (BCs) system hasn’t worked well so far though. Banking correspondents are agents of banks who operate in areas where there are no bank branches. The BCs collect deposits and offer loan products on behalf of the banks.

Post demonetisation, the cooperative banking sector is gasping for breath on account of a severe liquidity crisis. Soon after the demonetization announcement, cooperative banks were asked not to accept the old Rs 500, Rs 1,000 currency note deposits or exchange those notes with the new currency notes. This meant that these lenders could only deal with permissible denominations of Rs 100 and below or take deposits in new currencies that are hardly available in the system.

This has effectively left many smaller cooperative banks with a few thousand rupees of funds. “There is practically no business in the bank for last one week or so. It is going to be tough,” said an official with one of the primary cooperative banks in Kerala, a state where cooperative banks play a crucial role in taking the banking services to the last mile.

According to data from Nabard, there are 32 state cooperative banks, 370 district central cooperative banks as on 31 March 2015. The number of primary agricultural credit societies (PACS), the smaller ones, as on 31 March 2014, stood at 93042, as per the latest data available.

Why cooperative banks were restricted?

There are a couple of reasons why the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) did not allow cooperative banks to accept or exchange old notes for the new currency.

First, the checks and balances at these banks aren’t perceived to be strong enough to counter efforts to push black money into the banking system. Staffers, too, aren’t trained well. These banks aren’t as tightly regulated as scheduled commercial banks. Most of these banks are indirectly controlled by politicians or local businessmen. Hence, there is, of course, reason to worry to let these banks participate in such a massive exercise.

But, by choking funds to cooperative banks and prolonging the crisis (it has already been more than 10 days), can inflict significant damage to the health of several cooperative banks, which are already on the verge of closure. The tiny ones are more vulnerable.

Why cooperative banks should matter to us?
Cooperative banks have been the trusted centres to bank for millions of farmers and middle, low-income people for long. Despite all their negative sides, these institutions are known to offer them easier loan and deposit products and hence is the favourite institution for the poor. Restricting them to conduct business, as happened post-demonetization, will have major impacts on these banks: It damages the business of cooperative banks and their financial health.

The cooperative sector has largely been a failure on account of the accumulated losses, etc, but that situation is beginning to change after an overhaul initiated by the RBI and NABARD in 2010. Many inefficient corrupt banks have been shut and the remaining are good enough to continue.

Consider this: State cooperative banks across the country have deposits to the tune of Rs 1,02859 crore as on 31 March 2015 as against Rs 1,04369 crore as on 31 March 2014. They have a total loan outstanding of Rs 1,14545 crore as on 31 March 2015 with an impressive loan recovery percentage almost 95 percent.

On the profitability front too, the sector has done relatively well, of late. Of the total, 29 state cooperative banks posted total profit of Rs 1,105 crore during 2014-15 as against Rs 926 crore by 27 state cooperative banks during 2013-14. Their NPAs stood at 5.02 percent of their total loans and advances outstanding as on 31 March 2015 as compared to 5.53 percent as on 31 March 2014.

In absolute terms, their NPAs stood at Rs 5,746 crore during 2014-15 as against Rs5699 crore during 2013-14. Also, these banks’ accumulated losses decreased to Rs 617 crore as on 31 March 2015 from Rs 696 crore as on 31 March 2014.

Similarly, primary agriculture credit societies (PACS) too have an impressive record of deposit-lending operations, at least in recent years. Total members of PACS as on 31 March 2014 aggregated Rs 13.01 crore of which, borrowing members at Rs 4.81 crore constituted around 39 percent. On the deposit side, these banks mobilized Rs 81,895 crore as on 31 March 2014, indicating a growth rate of 34 percent over the previous year. Currently, all these banks are under stress on account of severe cash crunch and most of them are not functioning.

As mentioned earlier, following restrictions, there has been hardly any business in cooperative banks across the country. Also, since there are no new funds, their lending operations and even ATM services have been it hard. Even large multi-state cooperative banks, like Mumbai-based Saraswat cooperative bank are struggling to get funds for routine transactions of normal customers. The bank sent a text message to its customers on Friday saying, Dear Customer, There is an inadequate supply of currency notes. Hence, we may not be able to allow cash withdrawals in part or full depending on the availability of cash at a particular branch. The situation is likely to improve soon. We request your kind co-operation – Saraswat Bank.

Second, the whole chaos will takes away the trust of common man from cooperative banks. Customers will think twice again before depositing their hard-earned money or taking a loan against their property from a local cooperative bank.

The question is: What does Narendra Modi-government want to do with these banks and how does it plan to restore normalcy in the sector? The current cash crunch in the sector will likely continue for at least a few weeks, if not months since the government is struggling to execute demonetization even within the commercial banking sector. Or is that the government just does not care about the crisis in cooperative sector triggered by its own policy action?

In states like Kerala, there have been massive protests already. Besides giving a major jolt to the cooperative banking sector, the PM will also risk the wrath of millions of common people – customers, who have deposited money in these banks.

As far as the crisis is concerned, the situation is precarious since most of these banks (especially PACS)  are left with very few funds in acceptable denominations.  Their credibility has also taken a hit since people will now be scared to park their money in future in these banks due to uncertainty.The current crisis could take the shape of a permanent impairment if cash crunch continues for a few months. It will take a long time for them to recover.

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 10:43 IST

Fact vs Fiction: Here’s a comprehensive debunking of panic-creating rumours on demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>One mega announcement, 9 days, and thousands of hours spent waiting in a gigantic queue later, the demonetization dust seemed to have settled a bit. And just when the Indian population was slowly and gradually accepting the inconvenience for that amorphous idea of the ‘greater good’, social media happened.While the common man was struggling to keep up with his demonetized currency notes, trying to exchange/deposit/withdraw – whatever seemed possible at the time – some gossip mongers were going around painting the town red with baseless rumours. These rumours soon gained a life of their own, metastasizing through various messaging and social media platforms, creating unprecedented panic among citizens.Some were more sinister than others. For example, a memo from the All India Motor Transport Congress that warned of distress in the transport sector started being shared as a call for a national strike by transporters that would cripple all distribution networks, particularly vegetables, fruit, milk, and similar essential goods. Another set off panic buying – and opportunistic profiteering – when it claimed that salt and sugar prices had risen multiple times their regular price. This, of course, led to long lines at kirana stores, some of whom decided to make the most of the opportunity. But as with all things, it is critical to separate the fact from fiction. Because no, your new lilac coloured Rs 2,000 currency note is not going to bleed pink or purple, and neither does it have a nano GPS chip to track in which part of the world it’ll be spent. DNA busts some more rumours and myths about the demonetization as well as the new currency note. File photo of traders holding packets of edible salt (Right) and a screen grab showing a Rs 2,000 note bleeding colour (left)Rumour: The new Rs 2,000 note is equipped with a trackable nano chip.Truth: The Reserve Bank of India dismissed these rumours on November 16, 2016. Alpana Killawala, spokesperson for the central bank, said: “Such a technology does not exist at the moment in the world, then how can we introduce such a feature?”Rumour: Many netizens took to Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp forwarding messages and posts about a nation-wide strike by the transport industry because of demonetization.Truth: Ministry of Road Transport and Highways clarified in a tweet dated November 12, 2016, saying, “No call for strike by AIMTC. Please do not believe in rumours.”Rumour: Some decided to spread a rumour about how the salt prices have increased due to demonetization, again largely via digital platforms.Truth: Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry tweeted on November 11, 2016: “No shortage in the supply of edible salt. Baseless rumours being spread. Salt Commissioner & Jt. Secretary Shri Raghavendra monitoring the situation. Asst. Salt Commissioners reporting from the field. No shortage. Monitoring will be on-going. Feedback maybe given #mociseva”Another clarification was issued by Shaktikanta Das, Economic Affairs Secretary, on November 15, 2016. “Have enough stock of salts; no reason for temporary surge in price or shortage; supply of essential commodities being closely monitored,” he said.On November 11, 2016, Delhi Police also issued an advisory for the same, stating, “Reports have been received regarding spread of rumours about shortage of salt and other essential food items in Delhi and adjoining states. These rumours are false and baseless. Citizens are advised to not fall for such rumours and discourage their spread. Action as per law will be taken against rumour mongers found indulging in such mischievous acts.”Rumour: After the demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the Prime Minister will again address the nation and declare Rs 50 and Rs 100 currency notes as demonetized.Truth: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) tweeted on November 16, 2016, saying, “This is baseless and there is no intention of cancelling the legal tender status of any other denomination of notes.” Rumour: The colour is rubbing off the new Rs 2,000 note and it is of poor quality.Truth: MIB, in a series of myth busting posts on Twitter on November 16, 2016, tweeted: “Currency notes have a security feature called intaglio printing. The first test for a genuine currency note is to rub it with a cloth which creates a turbo-electric effect, transferring the ink colour onto the cloth.” Rumour: Reports of violence outside banks and ATMsTruth: Sanjay Beniwal, Special Commissioner of Police (Operations) said, “We received over 4,000 calls today (before 6pm on November 12, 2016). There were sporadic incidents of violence reported from the city but there were no reports of any grievous injury.”Simultaneously, was another clarification was issued by Delhi Police on the same issue. “Delhi Police received a large number of PCR calls mostly informing about long queues, long wait, crowding, etc. at banks/ATMs.Adequate police arrangements in this regard were already in place at banks/ATMs. All these PCR calls were attended to promptly. It is clarified that almost none of these calls were regarding violence. In fact, there was only one instance of minor scuffle at a bank branch in Sabzi Mandi area of North Delhi.”Rumour: Certain corporates and party members were in the know.Truth: Another MIB tweet clarified: “Complete secrecy was maintained and there was no leakage of the government’s intention in any section.”Rumour: Many Indians believe that the end does not justify the means, referring to the inconvenience caused because of a sudden decision to discontinue the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes. Since Monday (November 9, 2016) morning, 12 hours after the announcement was made by the Prime Minister, people have been queuing up in front of banks and the ATMs to withdraw cash and get as many currency notes of Rs 100 as possible. Truth: “The parallel economy corrodes and eats into the vitals of the currency’s economy adversely affecting the poor and middle classes more than others,” MIB said in a statement.Rumour: Those dealing in black money will find other ways of doing so, therefore the demonetization drive is ultimately futile.Truth: MIB’s tweet said, “Necessary watch is being maintained by enforcement apart from amendments in the Benami Transactions Act, 1988 and information sharing agreements done with the foreign governments. Rumour: The next step to curtail dealings in black money will involve sealing bank lockers and freezing jewellery. Truth: MIB categorically rubbished such rumours. “This is baseless. There is no such proposal for sealing bank lockers or freezing jewellery,” it tweeted. Rumour: In Delhi, another very interesting rumour had made the rounds on social media. Individuals claimed that money could be withdrawn from RBI after getting the official stamp from the area DCP.Truth: Delhi Police had to issue an advisory to rubbish such rumours, saying “These rumours are false and baseless. It is advised that citizens should disregard such rumours. They are being spread by mischievous elements.Action as per law is being taken against such rumour mongering. Citizens should only rely and act upon information provided by authentic and verified government websites and press releases.Most importantly, though, those spreading such rumours are also at risk of facing legal action. Delhi Police issued an advisory on November 11, 2016, for such mischievous elements. “Those mischievous elements spreading baseless rumours are warned that their actions may lead to prosecution under Section 153 & 505 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) along with relevant sections of Information Technology Act. All citizens are advised to disregard such rumours and false information being spread over social media. Citizens are also advised to report to the police about any individual engaged in spreading rumours and causing fear & alarm in the general public.

Demonetisation: Printing units need 6 months to replenish Rs 500 notes

New Delhi: Will new notes which replace the demonetised currency find itself in circulation soon? Unlikely, if the capacity of all the currency printing presses in the country is taken into account.

The latest calculation, based on capacities of the currency printing presses, shows that replenishment would take around six months. This is particularly true for the new Rs 500 notes, whose printing, presumably, started after 10 November. Till those are replenished in adequate numbers, the “currency pain” would not go away since Rs 2,000 notes are difficult to exchange for lower denominations.

However, enough of the new Rs 2,000 notes may already have been printed, calculations show.

The central government had demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes on 8 November, sending the whole nation into a tizzy. Long queues outside banks have been a daily occurrence since then because enough currency notes are not available with them.

New information gleaned from public sources show that the government may be too optimistic in claiming that “adequate amount” of money would soon be in circulation.

That’s because of the limited capacity of the printing presses in the country for such a sudden, huge job.

Rs 500  Note

There are four currency presses — one each in Nashik (Maharashtra), Dewas (Madhya Pradesh), Salboni (West Bengal) and Mysuru (Karnataka).

The first two are owned by the central government through the Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Ltd. According to information available in the Finance Ministry’s latest annual report, the yearly currency printing capacity of these two presses is around 40 per cent of the total in the country.

The other two presses — in Salboni and Mysuru — are part of the Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Pvt. Ltd. (BRBNMPL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). These two, comprising 60 per cent of the total capacity, can print 16 billion notes in two shifts per year, according to information available on BRBNMPL’s website.

In essence, it means that total capacity in the country would be 26.66 billion notes in two shifts. If all three shifts run, as the government says is happening now, the four presses would be able to print 40 billion notes a year, irrespective of the denomination.

Now, according to the government, the total money in circulation — before Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were declared illegal — was Rs 17.54 lakh crore or Rs 17,540 billion. Of this, 45 percent was in Rs 500 denomination — equivalent to Rs 7.89 lakh crore or Rs 7,890 billion and 39 percent in Rs 1,000 notes amounting to Rs 6.84 lakh crore or Rs 6,840 billion.

In other words, there were 15.78 billion notes of Rs 500 denomination in circulation and 6.84 billion notes of Rs 1,000. But if they are going to print Rs 2,000 notes equivalent to value of the Rs 1,000 notes declared illegal, that is, worth Rs 6.84 lakh crore, they would have to print only half, or 3.42 billion notes.

If the printing started in early September, as has been claimed by some printing press officials, they would need only a little over two months to meet the full requirement, even at 50 per cent capacity. In other words, they should have printed all the replacement needs of Rs 2,000 notes till now.

Further, how long will they need to print Rs 500 notes, now that the machines would not be printing Rs 2,000 notes? Assuming an 80 per cent run (remember Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 comprised 84 per cent of all currencies), the time taken for the new Rs 500 notes, which began printing, presumably, on November 10, would be: 5.9 months.

The rest of the 20 per cent capacity could be used for the lower denomination notes from Rs 5 to Rs 100. So, by April-end, one would presume, all the new notes would be in circulation. And, of course, the pain would be longer than the 50 days that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has mentioned.

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 18:33 IST

Demonetisation: Two numbers show how currency ban treats India’s rich and poor

In the chaotic days after the surprise announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, two figures have caught public attention nationwide (at least at this stage). The first is 47 and the second 550.

What are these numbers?

Well, 47 is the latest count of reported deaths across India that have been linked to the demonetisation chaos — mostly, it was elderly people died waiting in the queues to draw money from their own bank accounts, or to exchange their own old Rs 500, Rs 1,000 notes. The actual death count may be higher or lower since there is no accurate estimate other than media reports.

The second number, 550, refers to the fancy figure of Rs 550 crore.

That’s the amount Karnataka-based politician and mining baron, G Janardhana Reddy, spent to arrange the wedding spectacle for his only daughter, Bramhani, on Wednesday — a wedding attended by politicians from both the BJP and the Congress. Reddy recreated a palace to surprise his daughter.

There aren’t any examples better than these two numbers to depict how the rich and poor in this society have been treated by Modi’s historic demonetisation exercise. Those 47 who died from exhaustion and trauma in long queues and the Reddy wedding are two ends of this society in which we live. These figures tell us how the ‘rich and the powerful’ couldn’t care less about the cash crunch and how it is the common man, the janata janardhan, who is the actual sacrificial goat.

File image of G Janardhana Reddy. PTI

File image of G Janardhana Reddy. PTI

Reddy is only a symbol of a club of the rich and politically-powerful in this country, who are immune to the general rules that apply to the janata in this country. This club never bothered about Modi’s currency ban.

The Reddy show

How did Reddy manage Rs 550 crore for his daughter’s marriage extravaganza? If this entire sum was plastic currency or electronic currency, Reddy holds the answer to how to turn India’s deeply-locked cash economy into a cashless one in a matter of days — he should be made the Union finance minister or Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor, as the incumbents in these positions are struggling to achieve this goal.

Or else, even if a fifth of the money Reddy spent was in cash and if we assume that all of these aren’t Rs 100, Rs 50 and Rs 10 notes that Reddy had stored in his secret chamber before the currency ban, then the following question arises: How did Reddy manage to get new currency (to the tune of Rs 100 crore or more when common man is forced to  stand in queues for hours before so much as a glimpse of new currency notes or even the old Rs 100 note?

Did some banker or a childhood friend in the government help Reddy to get what was required to pay for the Rs 550-crore wedding gala?

The answer should come from the Income Tax Department, the police, the financial intelligence unit and ultimately, the Narendra Modi government. And it isn’t limited only to Reddy; all similar cases should be identified and investigated. The guilty should be brought before the law of the land.

It’s true that Reddy is known for the abundance of his wealth. He has every right to conduct the wedding ceremony in whichever way he wants. Nobody has any right to sneak into an individual’s private life and then analyse his personal affairs. But the current scenario warrants a closer look.

All of us — the salaried, the small traders, the vegetable vendors, the safaiwallahs, the chaiwallahs, the school teachers, the bank clerks and the taxiwallahs — have money in our bank accounts, although the figures may not be even a fraction of Reddy’s fortune.

But, logic says that the difficulties that apply to the common man should apply to Reddy as well, if the rules are same for every citizen. Right?

If that is the case, we need the government to tell us how the ‘pain of child birth’ is so different for two ends of society? Yes, all of us are eagerly waiting to see the baby and still curious to know why the double standard?

What the two figures — 47 and 550 — tell us is that the ones who are supposed to be taken care by the political establishment — the aam aadmi — are left to die near ATMs and bank branches, while life is much the same as before for the highly privileged in society.

The Reddy wedding is a case that needs to be investigated thoroughly. But, the big irony is the failure of the Modi government in governing the whole exercise. It’s ironic because the government itself agrees that it was planning the demonetisation exercise for some six months. That’s a lot of time to plan and make the contingency measures ready.

But, still the super-brains in the government couldn’t visualise what would happen to the order of life among the majority of common people, when the decision was finally rolled out. Perhaps they expected an ideal situation whenin every citizen practiced self-discipline and drew only the bare minimum from ATMs. But, what the government failed to understand was mob psychology.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The government should have thought through the process and realised that that people would withdraw the maximum possible amount each time (Rs 2,500 as of now in certain ATMs) and the machines would run dry in matter of hours, if not minutes. It failed to see that people will hoard their own legitimate money anticipating bad days ahead, further complicating the matter.

There are people still, mainly senior citizens, office-goers and housewives, who haven’t been able to withdraw money in the past eight days and have cut short their expenditure to the maximum extent possible, while on the other hand the wealthy like Reddy still have a magic wand to get their cash and spend it for their ‘humble’ needs.  Just to understand the picture let’s assume that a bank fills around Rs 2 lakh in an ATM at a time.

The amount Reddy spent — Rs 550 crore — would fill 27,500 ATMs across the country. While the Reddy gala took place in Karnataka, there were many fathers who committed suicide across the country, as they couldn’t buy groceries or to meet other expenses for their daughters’ weddings. The loss of lives cannot be treated as a temporary pain; the issue is very serious.

A death count of 47 or so — as is being reported — happens only when there is a natural calamity or a vehicle mishap or a bomb blast, not when a “well thought-out” economic reform gets implemented by a government. No matter the long-term benefits of the demonetisation exercise, the Modi government is answerable for the difficulties and loss of lives the common man has faced in the days since the announcement.

The two figures — 47 and 550 — should be an eye opener to Modi and his ministers.

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 12:04 IST

Increase in crimes against senior citizens in Chennai forces them to shift to retirement homes

When her husband died 10 years ago, 70-year-old R Padma made a decision to live by herself. She hired a watchman to stand guard outside her house, shifted the bulk of her jewellery to the bank and stayed on in the house in Mylapore where she lived for over five decades. All that changed three months ago when her house was robbed.

Padma had gone to visit her children in the US. She had locked her house, and made sure that the watchman would stay there with his wife to take care of the belongings. When she came back, however, she was shocked to find that her house had been burgled, and her watchman and his wife were nowhere to be seen. “That was when I realised that I would never feel completely safe in my home, and I moved to a retirement community,” Padma says. She now lives in a large senior citizen retirement home. “This was never something I ever considered, but I also do not want to live in constant fear for my life and my belongings,” she explains.

Like Padma, a number of senior citizens feel vulnerable in their own homes. “Recently, there were three senior citizens who were murdered in their homes. At least two of them were done for gain, which makes me glad that I moved to a retirement home where I feel a lot safer,” Padma says.

Representational image. News 18

Representational image. News 18

Recently, the Chennai police have nabbed a security guard and two other men in connection with the murder of a senior citizen, Shanthi, who was found dead in her house in T Nagar on 31 October. Shanthi was one of three senior citizens who were murdered that took place in the space of a week in Chennai.

While these three murders stood out, they are by no means the only crimes against senior citizens in the state. Tamil Nadu has one of the highest populations of senior citizens in the country, with 6.88 lakh senior citizens living alone, according to the 2011 census. In Chennai, 8 percent of the population is over the age of 60. Police estimates reveal that around 6,500 senior citizens live alone in the city. According to National Crime Records Bureau data for 2015, Tamil Nadu accounted for nearly 10 percent of the crimes against senior citizens reported in the country, with 1,947 cases reported. The state also has the second highest number of attempted murders of senior citizens, with a total of 71 cases. Together, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra account for 49.8 percent of all the attempted murders of senior citizens in the country. There have also been 192 cheating cases, the fourth highest in the country. These statistics, along with regular media reports of crimes against senior citizens have resulted in many senior citizens feeling unsafe in the state.

“The recent murders have resulted in a lot of panic among senior citizens.We are all unsure of what we should do,” V Chandrashekhar from the Besant Nagar Senior Citizens Group says. Chandrashekhar says he has also faced problems from people who are attempting to take over his house. “There are six flats in my building, and my wife and I are the only owners who still reside here. We have been facing a number of offers and threats to leave our apartment, but we have stood strong,” he says.

While the police have stepped up their vigilance, senior citizens are unsure of their effectiveness. Recently, Chennai police commissioner S George announced that all police stations had been directed to collect information about locked houses, and people living alone. Beat officers would then be given a list of places they needed to focus on. “The police would also follow a patta book system to keep track of individuals living alone,” he announced at a press meet. The police have also encouraged senior citizens to register with their local police station through the 1253 senior citizen helpline.

One thing that senior citizens need to be careful about is hiring domestic help. “In many cases, we find that it is the servants and security guards that provide important information about the residents. As much as possible, it is important to conduct some kind of background check before hiring new staff,” a senior police officer said added.

Since the commissioner’s announcement, the 1253 helpline has received around 20 calls a day from senior citizens who wish to register with their local police stations. So far, over 4,600 senior citizens have registered with their police stations. “We are in the process of sending the information to the stations, and verifying that the details are authentic. We will soon send police officers to these houses to collect signatures at least thrice a week,” the officer said.

The senior community, however, say that these police initiatives may not be enough. According to P Somasundaram, an 80-year-old from Santhome, he had registered with the local police station around six years ago. “Initially a beat officer would come every day for my signature, but that stopped within three or four months. Since then, there has been nobody visiting my house,” he says.

According to Sarah Paul, who runs the Cornerstone retirement community in Neelangarai, safety is one of the main reasons for people to join retirement homes. There has been an increase in the number of these homes in the past couple of years. “There is a constant bustle of activity in these retirement homes, with security guards, maids, nurses and other staff wandering around the facility,” she says. Many of the people opt to move out of their homes because it is easier when there are more people with needs similar to theirs. “We also insist that there is no money or jewellery kept on the premises, and we will always lend our residents money in case of emergencies,” she says.

Apart from the feeling of safety, 83-year-old MK Venkatnarayanan says a retirement community has a number of advantages. “Diet restrictions, safety and medical needs are all taken care of, and there is a constant sense of companionship with people your age,” he says. He lived for seven years at a retirement village in Perungulathur before moving in with his son. “Many of my friends have moved into retirement homes in Kanchipuram, Coimbatore and other places outside the city,” he says.

Instead of waiting for the police to take action, various senior citizen groups need to start their own initiatives, R Muthukrishnan, senior manager, HelpAge India says. “Many senior citizens are not willing to come forward for registration, but even for those who do, they cannot only rely on the police for protection,” he says. HelpAge India has been encouraging seniors to form groups among themselves, and to also become part of residential associations in their areas. “Even if it is a group of three or four people going for a walk every day, they will be able to look out for each other,” he says.

“We also advise elders living alone not to keep any valuables in their house, and only keep enough money for their day to day activities, so they do not become targets for robbery and theft,” he says.

In a few areas, senior citizens groups have found ways to try and ensure their safety. The Besant Nagar Senior Citizens’ Group has also started a campaign to request for volunteers to help elders in emergencies. “We have started enrolling volunteers from around the area who will be available for senior citizens during an emergency,” Chandrashekhar says, adding that these volunteers would be necessary in case of medical emergencies or even natural disasters like last year’s floods.

In other areas, senior citizens associations have found other ways to help each other out. According to 75-year-old Rama Rao from the Nanganallur Senior Citizens’ Association, they have joined hands with the Lakshmi Nagar Residential Association to start night patrolling by residents. “For the past 20 years, the residents have been volunteering to patrol the area in groups of three or four. The residents then alert the police in case there is any suspicious activity, and question strangers walking around the area in the wee hours. I believe our neighbourhood is one of the safest to live in,” he says. Their association also plans to conduct periodic meetings with the local police to discuss safety issues.

Although there are a few active senior citizen groups in Chennai, not everyone actively participates in these activities. “These are the people who are most vulnerable, and they need to ensure that they have some kind of social interactions outside their house on a regular basis,” Muthukrishnan says.

Until there is increased vigilance and more active participation from the residents, it is difficult to stop crimes against senior citizens, the police say.

(The author tweets at @Kavita_Kishore)

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 09:28 IST

19 million Rs 100 denomination dispatched

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After the announcement of demonetization 19 million notes of Rs100 denomination were dispatched from the Currency Note Press (CNP) in Nashik late on Wednesday.The Currency Note Press in Nashik pressed to meet the increasing demand of the currency, the staff at press is working in two shifts to produce currency notes.A consignment of 19 million notes of Rs 100 denomination was sent to RBI in Mumbai on Wednesday.Earlier on Monday and Tuesday consignments of 37 million pieces on each day were dispatched. These included notes of denomination of Rs 500, Rs 100 and Rs 20.A total of 74 millionwere sent to Mumbai in the these two days and included 13 million pieces of Rs 500 denomination, 31 million pieces of Rs 100 deomination and 30 million pieces of Rs 20 million.Earlier to this till Sunday, 10 million new design notes of Rs 500 denomination were dispatched.The currency Note Press in Nashik is working relentlessly to meet the short fall of notes.

Demonetisation: Rs 5 cr cash, gold seized at major airports by agencies

New Delhi: Over Rs 5 crore of cash and gold have been intercepted by agencies at country’s few major civil airports post the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes by the government last week.

Officials said a special surveillance was launched by the CISF and the air intelligence units of the Income Tax department and the interceptions have been made at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Guwahati airports from 10 November.

Representational imageRepresentational image

Representational image

“The total cash and gold intercepted since November 10 is about Rs 5 crore. While the currency is all in the scrapped denomination of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, the gold detected as suspicious is about 15.62 kilogramme,” they said.

They added that while the interceptions were largely made by the officials of the Central Industrial Security Force, the cases were later handed over to the I-T department for further investigations.

“These figures and instances are under investigation and we are looking if there is a tax evasion angle to it,” a senior tax department official said.

The Finance Ministry had recently written to police and paramilitary forces to check the movement of huge cash, particularly of the demonetised 500 and 1,000 rupee notes at civil airports, Delhi Metro, railway stations and bus stations and hence the special vigil has been launched.

The CISF, tasked with security of 59 civil airports and Delhi Metro, has also enhanced vigil after the Finance Ministry directive.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 21:27 IST

Demonetisation has boosted digital payments, says Freecharge’s Govind Rajan

While announcing demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated how the cash economy of India has been fuelling the growth of black money and corruption. And while it has been causing a lot of inconvenience to citizens, the move seems to have boosted digital modes of payments in India, says Govind Rajan, CEO, FreeCharge, who dropped by Firstpost on Wednesday to discuss how the demonetisation move has impacted the traditional, cash-based transaction system.

Rajan, who joined FreeCharge in 2015 tells us that Modi’s announcement on demonetisation has given digital payments a huge boost, adding that the move to digital payments is good for everyone, especially customers.

The main advantage, in his view, is a more efficient economy. Yes, the announcement did cause great inconvenience to a large number of people, but he’s happy that it’s also shifted the focus to a more secure payment platform.

Speaking of FreeCharge, an e-commerce website and digital wallet service all rolled into one, Rajan says that the number of transactions on their platform has gone up by 10 times.

“What we’re actually seeing is that the average value of the transaction is coming down. Customers are making smaller purchases, which is reflective of a daily purchase habit,” says Rajan.

Originally starting out as a quick means of recharging essential services, FreeCharge has since moved on to support electronic payments both online and offline. FreeCharge was acquired by Snapdeal in 2015.

FreeCharge isn’t the only player in this and it’s far from being the largest one. At last count, rival digital wallet service and e-commerce platform, PayTM, claimed 75 million daily transactions to FreeCharge’s 7 million.

Trust and inertia

Rajan places special emphasis on the word “inertia” when describing digital wallets. He believes that customers and merchants are only sticking to cash-based transactions because they’re comfortable with it.

He says that people have been using cash for so long that they’ve built up a level of trust and comfort with it. That whole experience of feeling the cash come and go feels more familiar than the relatively detached, virtual world of digital wallets.

In his own words, for some, “the transition is as drastic as switching from only oiling your hair to only shampooing it,” he says. You’re essentially doing the same thing, taking care of your hair, but the method is different. There’s a perceived security to the familiar.

“Not carrying cash on your person is in itself a big advantage in terms of security. Digital transactions are traceable and fraudulent transactions can’t be reversed. This is not possible with a cash transaction,” says Rajan.

On security
Digital transactions are inherently more secure because they use modern technology, says Rajan. FreeCharge alone performs over 500 security checks on every transaction. If there’s even one red flag, the transaction is cancelled. As an example, Rajan says that FreeCharge has a list of bank IFSC codes that are responsible for a lot of fraud and the company can simply blacklist those codes. You can’t do this with real cash.

Wallets store notes and these notes have some value, digital wallets do the same, except that the notes are virtual. You can also reverse digital transactions, track locations to prevent fraud and so much more. The RBI also has very strict guidelines in place and “the same mechanisms that authorise the cash in your wallet are behind digital wallets anyway,” he says.

While digital transactions are inherently more secure than cash transactions, they’re not perfect. The recent data breach, which compromised over 32 lakh debit cards is scary and unless digital wallet services follow stringent security protocols, there’s nothing stopping such a breach from happening again.

When asked about his thoughts on this, Rajan admitted that security was always a concern. However, he’s quick to point out that “the incidence of such fraud in India is half of what it is in the US and other western, developed countries.” He attributes at least part of this to the higher security standards, like two-step authentication, that’s been mandated by the RBI.

“There is a sense of fear, but people will overcome that once they experience the comfort and reliability of a digital transaction,” he adds. “These fears, part of them are rational, but part of them are because of inertia when you move from one product to the other.”

Rajan had a great deal more to say on Snapdeal’s acquisition of FreeCharge last year, the importance of design and the payment structure in the country. To learn about all this and more, watch the interview embedded above.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 21:19 IST

India sees first fall since 2010, death toll due to terrorism in 2015 at 29,376

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Nearly half of all terror attacks in 2015 occurred in four countries, including India and Pakistan, according to an annual terrorism index which also said India last year had the highest number of attacks since 2000. The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2016 published by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) found that 29,376 people died from terrorism in 2015, down 3,389 on the previous year and the first fall since 2010.India was named among the four countries where nearly half of all terrorist attacks occurred in 2015, besides Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. “Improvements continued to be recorded in India, which historically has had high levels of terrorist activity. In 2015 India had the highest number of attacks since 2000, whilst paradoxically it had the second lowest number of deaths for a single year since 2000,” the report says. “75% of attacks in India had no fatalities, compared to 44% globally…The country had 797 attacks that resulted in 289 deaths, compared to 764 attacks with 418 deaths the previous year,” the report said.Pakistan was also named among the five countries with the highest impact from terrorism, besides Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Syria. These five countries accounted for 72% of all deaths from terrorism in 2015. “Pakistan continued to see declines in its levels of terrorism due to infighting within the largest active group, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, as well as to the operations of the Pakistan Army in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas,” the report said.The index also shows that the ISIS is now officially the deadliest terrorist group in the world, overtaking Boko Haram, after claiming responsibility for 6,141 deaths through attacks in more than 250 different cities in 2015. And the number of countries in which ISIS has carried out attacks more than doubled, from 13 in 2014 to 28 in 2015.Steve Killelea, executive chairman of IEP, said: “This year’s GTI report highlights the most complex set of dynamics in global terrorism in the last 16 years. While on the one hand the reduction in deaths is positive, the continued intensification of terrorism in some countries and its spread to new ones is a cause for serious concern and underscores the fluid nature of modern terrorist activity. “The attacks in the heartland of Western democracies underscore the need for fast paced and tailored responses to the evolution of these organisations.”Though the index identifies 274 distinct terrorist groups around the world, between them ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and the Taliban were responsible for 75% of all terror-related deaths, the report said. The index suggested there were lessons to be learned, such as the fact that only 0.5% of terrorist attacks occurred in countries which have no involvement in foreign conflicts and low levels of ‘state-sponsored terror’ – extra- judicial deaths, torture and imprisonment without trial. It said terrorism cost an estimated US $89.6 billion in 2015, down 15% on the previous year.

Demonetisation scheme: Does democracy benefit the citizen or political parties?

Very recently, in a demonetisation scheme, Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes were banned in a swift and well thought out operation by the Narendra Modi government. The print and visual media focused on reporting the ‘hardship’ to the ‘common man’ – there has been little focus on the larger issues involved in this major economic step ushered in by the government.

Many thinkers have analysed that the fundamental problems afflicting our economy and society relate to the existence of a parallel monetary economy/widespread corruption, along with lack of recognition of the importance of education and public health in our democracy. Many economists do not appreciate the disruptive and corrosive role played by the phenomenon of widespread ‘corruption’ – indeed many refer to bribery as a ‘domestic transfer payment’, dismissing its deleterious impact on quality of governance, indeed on GDP.

It is now recognised that a country cannot move forward without clean and transparent governance, for which a corruption-free society is a basic requirement. Does any country figure in the top 50 of the Human Development Index, which has a significant amount of corruption? Isn’t the correlation between a genuinely welfare society, with appropriate attention to education and public health, and the absence of corruption well established by empirical evidence. The fact is that corruption distorts and disrupts the distribution system with great violence, is inimical to the fostering of excellence, and has its prime adverse impact on the poorest segments of the population. We need to note that nearly seven decades of independence, 70 percent of the population is in distress, leading a hand-to-mouth existence, large segments not knowing where the next meal is coming from – with abominable health standards and primary education levels, among the worst in the world. Much of this malaise is traceable to widespread corruption and existence of a parallel black economy. Many economists predict that cleaning up of the system will add substantially to the Per Capita GDP – Ambit’s Saurabh Mukherjea, the eminent analyst has predicted that within 3 years this move could lead to an increment of 3 percent in the annual growth rate.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The major step taken the other day is the signal that the government recognises the need to clean up the system, and usher in a climate where the country can move forward and take its rightful place. This is a decisive blow for democracy to move forward. Anyone who does not recognise the larger significance of what has happened has no comprehension of how nations grow big, strong and powerful – this is the first step in 70 years to make ‘Bharat great again’. The occasion should not be trivialised to make brownie political points, or to pursue narrow partisan interests without understanding the larger national needs.

This step could lead up to the cleaning up of our electoral process, which is dominated by black money and which thrives on a cycle of large black investments, capture of power through foul means, use of political strength to amass private wealth – all with disdain of the citizen. No wonder the regional parties in UP strongly oppose the move – at one stroke the large cache of ‘war-chest’ black money hoards, intended for use in the forthcoming crucial elections has been neutralised. It does not matter if this indeed has been the primary purpose of this major economic manoeuvre if it cleans up the forthcoming UP elections, indeed the election scenario for the future – this is a major step to clean up the system, and to bring in accountable governance.

A lot has been made of the distress to the ‘common man’ by this ‘Tuglaqui Farman’. The fact is that there will be some inconvenience for a short period of time in access to short term expenditure funds. No honest citizen will lose his savings, nothing will get confiscated – there may be a temporary inconvenience to some segments of the population. Do not forget that the political forces which focus on the ‘distress’ to the common man are precisely those who have unconscionably and fostered corruption, generation of black money and misgovernance deliberately over the decades, leading to widespread attack on the interests of the common man. The citizen now well recognises the role of the conventional politician, who only makes wild promises come election time has no intention of fulfilling any of them, he is a congenital liar and obfuscator, whose only interest is in winning elections, amassing wealth each time to cover ten generations, and investing again in winning elections once again – this is the vicious cycle that is being perpetuated – the common man now sees this with clarity.

Surely last week’s step is not the end of corruption or the black economy. Many follow up steps need to be taken to consolidate on this major seminal thrust on revamping the economy. The fear has to be put in the minds of the people to ensure that systematic transgression of the laws will lead strong punishment. The relevant judicial processes, systems and procedures need to be revamped. While the administrative apparatus at the Centre is being cleaned up, major attention to widespread corruption in the implementation phase in the states needs to be addressed. The war for good governance has started, it needs to be followed up with vigour.

Recall that Aadhaar has been a great success. Jan Dhan programme, in association with over one lakh bank branches and 2,50,000 post offices outlets will provide a major fillip to move away from the cash economy, gradually and steadily, through to other channels. Digital India needs to be strongly pursued and made a reality in the next two or three years. All these are imperative, to minimise inconvenience to the citizen, reduce transaction costs, usher in transparency, and to sharply increase ease of business. One hopes that government will see these as work in progress, and bestow adequate attention.

Let us not see the momentous recent events in a trivial light. Let us not over-estimate the short-term adjustment cost – the Indian citizen is used to hardship – he has longed for a better future over the decades. The recent major decision gives hope that the two other fundamental areas of reform – education and public health, now will come into the forefront of policy making. Hitherto there has been no evidence that the Central Government understands the criticality of these two areas in the life of the common man in a democracy – hitherto the attitude has been one of playing politics, business as usual, mouthing platitudes, and providing ‘band-aid’ cosmetic solutions – one hopes the realisation will come that major reforms in these two sectors are now imperative, and brook no delay. These are important sign posts on the road to lead to greatness.

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

Narendra Modi in Goa: Give me 50 days to fight black money, emotional PM exhorts nation

After demonetising high-value notes to curb blackmoney, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that he has “more projects” in mind to rid the country of corruption and was ready to face the consequences as forces are “up against me” with  70 years of loot being in trouble.

“This is not an end. I have more projects in mind to make India corruption-free… Cooperate with me and help me for 50 days and I will give you the India you desired,” Modi said, after laying the foundation stone of Mopa greenfield airport and launching work on electronic city project in Goa.

“We will take action against ‘benami‘ property; This is major step to eradicate corruption and black money… If any money that was looted in India and has left Indian shores, it is our duty to find out about it,” he said.

“I know that [some] forces are up against me, they may not let me live, they may ruin me because their loot of 70 years is in trouble, but I am prepared,” Modi said in a speech which saw him getting emotional a few times.

He said the people voted against corruption in 2014. “I am doing what I was asked to do by the people of this country and it had become clear from the very first meeting of my Cabinet when I formed the SIT [on black money]. We never kept the people in dark.”

Hitting out at previous governments, the Prime Minister said they “neglected this… we took a key step to help honest citizen to defeat the menace of graft.”

PM Modi teared up in his emotional appeal to the public for support of the scheme. He said, “I was not born to sit on a chair of high office. Whatever I had, my family, my home-I left it for nation.”

He said, “Why do we have to put the future of our youths at stake? Those who want to do politics are free to do so.”

Hitting out on the Opposition, he said that those who want to do politics an those who want to ‘loot’ the country, they are the ones making the allegations, not the honest Indians. He sought the support of the people for the next 50 days.

In light of the recent reports of violence and the inconvenience faced by people, standing in queues, he said, “Yes I also feel the pain. These steps taken were not a display of arrogance. I have seen poverty & understand people’s problems.”

Reiterating that he is prepared to fight his critics for the success of his ‘abolish black money plan’, he said, “I know the forces up against me, they may not let me live,they may ruin me because their loot of 70 years is in trouble, but am prepared.”

Addressing the rumours on scarcity of salt, he said, “One day they spread the rumour of scarcity of salt, they do this because they know that they are losing their money.”

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Nov 13, 2016 14:23 IST

Maharashtra: Former AG Shrihari Aney’s pro-Vidarbha party to contest civic polls

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Maharashtra Advocate General Shrihari Aney on Saturday said his outfit, Vidarbha Rajya Party (ViRA), would contest the upcoming municipal council elections in Wardha, Gondia, Hinganghat, Arvi and Sakoli.He also announced the names of the candidates. These civic elections would be contested on the plank of demand for separate Vidarbha, he said.Aney was forced to resign as the Advocate General of Maharashtra after he publicly supported the demand of separate statehood for Vidarbha and Marathwada in March. Subsequently, he set up VidarbhaRajya Party to push the demand.Recently, he met leaders of smaller parties including BSP, Trinamool Congress and AAP to lobby for separate Vidarbha in New Delhi.Aney said separate state could be achieved only if the movement for it became a political force.His party was not averse to entering into tie-ups or seat distribution arrangement with like-minded parties or pro- Vidarbha organisations, he said.Ruling BJP and opposition Congress had betrayed the people of Vidarbha, he said, adding that supporters for separate Vidarbha, from any party, would be welcome to join ViRA.

Pollution affecting your skin? here’s how you can fix it

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The excess amount of pollution not only threatens our health, but also our skin, causing premature ageing, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, dark patches and spots.Chemical pollutants in air disrupt the normal balances of the skin and scalp, leading to problems like dryness, sensitivity, rashes, acne, irritative or allergic reactions, dandruff and related conditions. They also make the skin and hair dull, lacking vitality. Beauty expert Shahnaz Husain, bringing in a ray of positivity to the whole scenario, said that some home remedies and keeping some plants at home can actually help you to get back your glow and also purify the air around.Skin is the first to bear the brunt of air pollutants, which not only attack the skin surface, but also lead to an accumulation of toxins. There are both long and short term effects of pollutants. Firecrackers also add to the chemicals in the air, which are potent skin irritants. Skin cleaning is quite important to get rid of the impurities and pollutants that are deposited on the skin. If you have a dry skin, use a cleansing cream or gel; for oily skin, cleansing milk or face wash may be used. Shahnaz Husain further asked to look out for products with ingredients like Sandalwood, Eucalyptus, Mint, Neem, Tulsi and Aloe Vera when buying cosmetic products. The anti-toxic and tonic properties of such ingredients help in clearing skin congestion and eruptions that result from exposure to chemical pollutants.Aloe vera, for example, is a powerful moisturizer, relieving dryness and making the skin healthy and soft. So are ingredients like apricot kernel oil, carrot seed, wheatgerm oil, etc. Anti-pollution cosmetics help to provide protection and reduce the damage caused by pollutants. These are basically ‘cover creams’ that form a barrier between the skin and pollutants.Sandalwood protective cream is very useful for this purpose as it forms a transparent protective cover. It even soothes the skin and protects it from irritative reactions and eruptive conditions. It suits all skin types and increases the skin’s moisture retention ability too. Not just your skin, but the pollutants collect on your scalp as well.For this, try the following remedy. Mix one teaspoon each of vinegar and aloe vera gel with one egg. Massage the mixture lightly into the scalp. Leave on for half an hour and then wash the hair. Rinse well with water or give hair hot oil therapy. Heat pure coconut oil and apply on the hair. Then dip a towel in hot water, squeeze out the water and wrap the hot towel around the head, like a turban. Keep it on for 5 minutes. Repeat the hot towel wrap three to four times. This helps the hair and scalp absorb the oil better. Leave oil on overnight and wash hair the next day. The impurities and pollutants can also affect the eyes, causing burning or redness. The eyes should be washed with plain water several times. Soak cotton wool pads in chilled rose water or green tea and use them over the eyes as eye pads. Lie down and relax for fifteen minutes. This really helps to remove fatigue and brightens the eyes. Pollutants in the air are making our cities increasingly hostile to our good health and well-being.Respiratory and lung problems have become real health hazards. Indoor air pollution has also been causing headaches, burning eyes, nausea.In fact, the primary concern of governments and scientific research agencies is the reduction of pollution to safer levels. NASA has also recommended keeping specific house plants to purify the air and remove toxins, making the air safe for us and specially our children. Research has shown that many of such plants actually absorb harmful gases and clean the air inside our homes.Plants not only give off oxygen, which purifies the air, but also cleans the air of dust, paint and building materials. One of the plants, mentioned by NASA, is Aloe Vera, which is actually easily available in many homes. It is also an antioxidant and prevents oxidation damage. It is said to release considerable quantities of oxygen, while it absorbs carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, as well as formaldehyde; this making the air much cleaner and purer.Another plant, which is said to be very handy and easy to maintain is Ficus. It also helps to purify the air. The Spider Plant is also recommended by NASA, as it absorbs toxins from the air.The other plants that purify the air and remove toxins, as identified by NASA, are the Areca Palm, English Ivy, Boston Fern and Peace Lily, which are easily available in India. These remove a variety of toxins from the air. Some are said to clean the air within a few hours of keeping them in a room.

Gujarat: Long queues continue at banks, ATMs and POs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Panic-stricken citizens queued outside banks, post offices and ATMs across Gujarat on the second consecutive day to get new currency notes in exchange of their now defunct bills following Centre’s move of demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.People in dire need of lower denomination currency and new banknotes to pay for their daily expenses started rushing to the ATMs, which began functioning today after a break of two days, since early morning. Since ATMs were supposed to start dispensing cash from today, many decided to queue up outside ATMs hoping to get easy cash rather than visiting banks and POs.However, many ATMs ran out of cash within hours while many others did not open at all, thus adding to the frustation of people. “I came to ATM to withdraw Rs 100 notes as I failed to get cash yesterday from my bank due to heavy rush. However, the ATM was closed within few hours as it ran out of cash. This was the only functioning ATM in my area,” said Rakesh Desai, a resident of Chandlodia area.Meanwhile, police personnel were deployed at the banks in anticipation of large crowds as people flocked banks and post offices to exchange the now-invalid Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes with the new notes.Depositors are complaining about the “time-consuming” procedure they have to undergo in order to exchange their cash at the banks. “These forms are not easily available, which forced us to get them copied. We also need to attach copies of our ID proofs, such as Aadhaar card. On an average, it takes almost 2-3 hours for the entire transaction,” said Shirish Shah, a resident of Ghatlodia.

FICN network hit as agencies seize Rs 200 crore in fake notes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over the last six years, investigation agencies have seized close to 42 lakh fake currency notes worth about Rs 200 crore from different parts of the country, dealing a crucial blow to the FICN (Fake Indian Currency Note) network. Official sources say the strong efforts made by the Ministry of Home Affairs to fight the menace of counterfeiting currency since 2010 has borne fruit, as the number of fake currency notes seized has been falling from 2013.These numbers, they add, further dipped in 2014, and reached an all time low in 2015. These officials believe the reason for this is that the number of fake notes being produced by counterfeiters is falling. Government figures confirm this trend. In 2010, 54,962 notes were seized followed by 6,01,219 in 2011, and 9,27,789 in 2012. After that, the figures show a huge fall with 8,47,184 notes in 2013, 7,09,551 notes in 2014 and 4,66,657 notes in 2015 (till September). The battle to fight the menace of fake currency has been a long and interesting one for investigating agencies. However, investigating officials dealing with the international FICN syndicate say there was one instance which served as an eye opener.The instance goes back to May 14, 2009 when the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra police received information that two men, named Ravi Dhiren Ghosh and Nuruddin Islam were to meet and hand over counterfeit currency to their associates, identified as Mohamad Samad and Mohamad Aijul Shaikh near Star Cinema at Barrister Nath Pai Marg in Mazgaon, Mumbai. The ATS laid a trap and seized the notes from the four accused. But on examining them, they found that there was however something different about these fake notes. “The FICN were of very high quality and the denominations were in Rs 1000. This was crucial because in all cases before 2009 all the seized notes was hardly ever in such a high amount and these fake notes were top class forgeries. There were hardly any mistakes in them,” a senior ATS official told DNA. He added, “As soon as police realised this, the Central government was informed and the case was then handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).” Soon after the seizure, a special FICN Co-ordination (FCORD) group was formed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to share intelligence amongst the different security agencies of both the state and Centre. This was done to counter the problem of circulation of Fake Currency Notes in the country. Then, a terror funding and fake currency cell in NIA was constituted to investigate Terror Funding and Fake Currency cases.A subsequent probe into the 2009 FICN Mumbai case however revealed more than the government was expecting. According to NIA documents, the notes were sent to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in Mumbai and Currency Note Press (CNP) in Nasik for expert opinion. The RBI analysis, according to NIA documents, suggested that, “many covert features of genuine Indian currency had been successfully imitated. These features can be achieved only through highly sophisticated machinery which is sold only to sovereign governments as revealed in the examination.” Investigating agencies pointed the finger of suspicion at Pakistan.Subsequently, security agencies began a nation-wide crackdown on the networks which according to the MHA, “originates in Pakistan and spreads through South and South East Asian Region for infusing FICN into India via. Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the UAE.”

Two years of Prabhu Rail, some hit, some fail

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Operationally yoursIt might be one of the areas where Prabhu has done well. In the last two years, the railways has managed to increase the number of confirmed berths annually on its trains from 37.1 crore in 2014 to 44.7 crore in 2016. This is a jump of over 20 percent. To put matters into perspective, the 44.7 crore berths are greater than the population of all countries in the world except China and India itself. Statistics available with the railway ministry show that over the last two years, it ran 70,000 special trains, introduced 308 new trains, extended 99 trains, increased the frequency per week (fpw) of 188 trains and permanently added 1610 coaches to various trains. The railways ran a little over 2.5 lakh extra coach trips in the past two years, ministry data shows. While the Ganesh Chaturthi rush in Maharashtra and Diwali rush nationwide were among the densest traveling cycles anywhere in the world, Prabhu’s two years at the helm have seen a dip in the usual stampede at the ticket counters and the sardine-like commute in general compartments. “The railways ran 200–odd Ganesh Chaturthi specials between Mumbai and Konkan which in terms of seats is almost 2 lakh seats. That is game-changing,” said an official.Industrial, manufacturing arms of the railwaysThis is a sector where the legacy of the past three decades trips Prabhu. The last three decades saw manufacturing of rakes, introduction of new designs or even research into newer rolling stock losing pace when compared to international trends. Countries like China, apart from usual suspects like Japan and Europe, hit India out of the park.”The real dawn for railway’s manufacturing units is when we will be good enough to export a substantial range of our products and bring in foreign exchange for the country. However, thanks to low emphasis on manufacturing, we are not even a player in the international market. Forget foreign countries, the railways wouldn’t be able to win a metro rolling stock (trains) contract within the country- save Kolkata which is owned by the railways- even if it tried its best,” explained a senior official.In July this year, the railway ministry asked all its production units (PU) to prepare a plan to market at least 10 percent of their products to firms or countries outside the ambit of the Indian Railways. It had asked these units to partner with agencies like the Research Design Standards Organisation (RDSO) to develop products for export to foreign countries. For the purpose of exports, the ministry clarified, that these units could make product in gauges generally not found on the Indian railway network, like Standard Gauge. It has also emphasized on building modern three-phase Metre-Gauge locomotives and diesel-electric multiple units (DEMU) as both these products have a high potential in certain foreign markets. The task is daunting. According to a senior railway official, all the production units put together earn about Rs300 crore from selling products to firms and countries apart from the Indian Railways, something the railways calls ‘non-fare revenue’. Currently one of the biggest export orders with the railways is the construction of 120 LHB coaches for Bangladesh Railways. These coaches are being built at Rail Coach Factory- Kapurthala in Punjab. The plan is to get all the production units under the Indian Railways to have an export target of at least Rs500 crore including coaches for metro railway systems in India. All the talk of new trains like Tejas, Humsafar, Uday and the like also have to be taken with a pinch of salt, agreed officials, several of whom have been associated with these moves in the past. “None of the design changes are out-of-the-box. They are something that you expect in every decade as part of natural progression for transport systems,” said the official. The money spent by the railways on researching on fresh designs in the past few years tells the story. “While no specific allocation is made for research on re-design of coaches, under Plan Head Railway Research, around Rs2.81 crore were allotted by Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) in the last three years, (2013-14 to 2015-16) for development of various design related projects,” minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha had told Parliament in reply to a query on May 4, 2016. The last major change the railways brought about in design was the introduction of the LHB coaches — the kind seen in the Rajdhani and Duronto rakes — under a Transfer of Technology (ToT) from Alstom-Germany, the first rake being introduced in 2002.It might be an inheritance but Prabhu, by allotting low sums to Make in India projects like the indigenous 200kmph LHB rake being built at Kapurthala, is not gaining him brownie points either.Construction and pace of projects”The pace has improved under Prabhu” is the consensus among officials DNA spoke to. Under the new mechanism, projects are being taken up after the completion of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) and detailed surveys are being carried out before approaching the Prime Minister-chaired Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) to get approval. Powers for tenders are now with the general manager of railway zones in most cases and the time taken for project approval, the railway claims has come down from 2.5 years to nine months. The railway ministry said that of the more than 8,800km of doubling was included in Railway budget 2015-16, 7,425km projects have already been sanctioned by the government.Thanks to funds of Rs1.5 lakh crore expected to flow in over the next five years from the Life Insurance Corporation of India, the allocation for projects to states has also increased. For example, Maharashtra has got Rs4,767 crore for the year 2016-17, which is 206 per cent more than the average allocation during the UPA’s reign between 2009-14. Similarly Andhra Pradesh for this year has got 148 per cent more, Chattisgarh 275 per cent, Jharkhand 238 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 354 per cent, Odisha 292 per cent, and Uttar Pradesh 207 per cent.”The truth of these allocations will come out in a couple of years. Allocating money is one part but what is more important is to facilitate the work so that it can be completed in a particular time. That is still a grey area. Look at the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. Its geo-technical preliminary works is expected to begin in December, which is a complete year after the MOU was signed between the railway ministry and Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). In several other projects land acquisition and the like have played spoilsports. These have been bugbears that have not changed a bit from the times of the UPA government to the NDA government,” explained a retired Indian Railway Service of Engineers official.The railways claims to have commissioned 2,828 kilometres of tracks in 2015-16, the highest ever, against an average of 1,528kms in the UPA period between 2009-14. It completed electrification of 1,730 km of tracks in 2015-16 when compared to an average of 1,184km between 2009-14. However as an official cautioned, “These numbers can be misleading. Sometimes a slew of projects might get stalled during a particular period and then start getting completed in a particular period. That year would look very good in the books. However consistency is the key and if the railways can manage it for say another 3-4 years, then to say that the railways has picked up speed under the NDA would be justified,” said an official. The frontline, the face of the railwaysIf the number of tweets about cleanliness at stations is anything to go by, then possibly Prabhu’s is getting it right here. Some other out-of-the-box ideas like having young Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS) officials as station directors of the 75 A-1 stations – the biggest of the stations on the network- is a smart move. “The aim is to have one pointsman for everything at a railway station much like an airport. Inside trains, there will be similar posts called the product manager and train superintendents. It is a beginning so that credit must be given to Prabhu. The test would be to see if the incumbents can actually cut through the strict hierarchy as well as departmental silo mentality and increase passenger comfort,” said a top-ranking official.Getting the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation to partner with private firms to upgrade and manage retiring rooms- most of them rundown at the moment- at stations is another positive step. Thanks to the exploding app world,smartphones and better network coverage, the railways — through IRCTC — has managed to bring better branded and better catering right at your seat. “It will only get better as the e-catering process gets streamlined and more stations and trains come under its ambit,” is the chorus at IRCTC. In the past two years, 240 trains have on-board housekeeping services (OBHS) as well with the aim to bring all important mail and express trains under the OBHS scheme in the next few years.Upping the speedAnother feather in the cap is the Mission Raftaar which aims at increasing the average speed of trains on the all-important Mumbai-Delhi, Delhi-Howrah, Howrah-Chennai, Chennai-Mumbai, Delhi-Chennai and Howrah-Mumbai routes. These six routes carry 58 per cent of freight traffic and 52 of all passenger trains despite having a share of only 15 of the track network, railway statistics show. To increase speeds on these six routes, the railways plans to use 1,048 faster Mainline Electrical Multiple Units (MEMU) trains and 136 Diesel-Electrical Multiple Units (DEMU) trains and replace several slower conventional trains. To achieve this target in three years, action plan has been drawn out to ramp up the production of MEMU rakes to 400-500 per year in next three years as against the present level 190 per year at present. It would be one of Prabhu’s biggest challenges, but the start is a healthy one. The pilot project on the extremely congested Ghaziabad-Allahabad- Mughalsarai route has been successful. Nations like Japan, Spain, China, France, Germany Russia among others nations have been sounded for expertise. A new Directorate in the Railway Board to monitor shows minister’s intent, point out officials.Indian Railways is among the slowest in the world when it comes to major railway networks. While the maximum speed of passenger trains has increased up to 130kmph-160kmph, the average speed is hovering around 45kmph. While the maximum speed of freight trains has increased up to 75kmph-100kmph, but the average speed is hovering around 24kmph. In fact, the average coaching train speeds have declined by 1kmph in last five years and average freight train speeds have declined by 2kmph in last five years.The Talgo experiment, heavily backed by Prabhu, might have been good for the papers but it doesn’t mean much on the ground, say officials. “The Talgo is a rake that can run at speeds of upwards of 200kmph but managed only an average of 117.5 kilometres in its last trial on September 11. We have the LHB that can run at speeds of 160kmph. So there isn’t much there between the two. What counts is how many of our tracks are fit for semi-high speed and high-speed. What we require is capacity addition in terms of faster tracks and faster trains in the next five years,” explained an official.

PM Modi’s financial strike will hit Pakistan’s ISI hard

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise announcement will not only disrupt the existing stockpile of black money stashed illegally and put an end to counterfeit money, but will also completely disrupt funding for terrorist activities and money trails to separatist movements across the country.To sources here told DNA that the decision largely owed its origin to a report submitted by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), concluding that 15% of black money or suspicious transactions were finding their way to financing terrorism or extremist movements. Quoting figures, they said that between 2011 and 2016 that circulation of Rs. 500 notes had grown to 76% and Rs. 1,000 notes to 109%. They also quoted from intelligence reports which stated that a movement of some Rs 100 crore had been recently detected in Jammu and Kashmir, coinciding with the current unrest — implying that someone was financing it.After exhausting both diplomatic and military options, by isolating Pakistan globally, and launching surgical strikes across the LoC, the Indian strategic community believes the latest step will help to complete the dismantling of the terror support system within the country. This, they believe, can only be achieved by choking their funds.While investigating the Mumbai terror attack of November 26, 2008, the Intelligence Bureau had reportedly concluded that approximately Rs1,17,37,820 were spent by the Pakistan state sponsored terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba for the execution of these attacks.It is estimated that nearly Rs5,000 crore of Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) have been pumped in India by Pakistan’s ISI to fund terror activities and destablise the Indian economy. According to a study by the Indian Statistical Institute, almost 250 currency notes out of 10 lakh are fake and minimum of Rs70 crore FICN enter the Indian market every year.Colonel (retd.) Vivek Chadha, deputy director at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) says that a major part of funding for terrorism from external sources comes through counterfeit currency, drug trafficking, charities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and finally as a result of state sponsorship by Pakistan. He believes that terror activities require funding for a wide range of stores, training, logistics, explosives, arms and ammunitions, surveillance, communication gadgets, setting up training camps, acquisition of inflammatory jihadi materials, day to day and post death payments, travel etc.But since the groups themselves require a considerable amount of money for their sustenance, Chadha believes that the current announcement will come a long way to ensure a peaceful India.But there are others, who say, that terrorists don’t require a lot of money to conduct strikes. Figures quoted by intelligence agencies around the world at a global anti-terror conference stated that the 1993 World Trade Centre bombings needed just Rs9 lakhs (US$19000), Madrid bombing Rs8 lakhs (US$16000), and the Bali bombing just Rs. 7 lakhs fifty thousands (15,000 US dollars).From India’s point of view intelligence agencies suspect that Pakistan’s ISI has been raking in an annual profit of around Rs 500 crore by circulating FICN in India. They say that the ISI is estimated to be making a profit of 30-40% on the face value of each FICN produced in Pakistan.“There have been over one hundred seizures outside Indian since 2011. Interrogation details confirm Pakistan’s direct involvement as in 55-60% cases we could establish their involvement. But this also means that by conservative means a major portion of the rest of Rs. 3000 crore is in circulation and waiting to be used for terror activities,” said an intelligence official.The total fake notes that came into India in 2010 alone from abroad was pegged at Rs 1,600 crore that puts the ISI’s total profit at Rs 500 crore.Despite tough steps by the Reserve Bank of India, the government so far has not been able to weed out FICN as Pakistan has been printing good copies of original currency notes, which is discernible only to trained eyes.As a result, the government, sources said, has made arrangements to make new currency notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 2000 denominations. They will enter the market from November 10 and will be virtually impossible to copy. These notes will have highly advanced and sophisticated security features that cannot be reproduced easily by Pakistan.

Cash is now the new trash

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement about the discontinuance of 500 and 1,000 rupee denomination notes has come as a shock. Though the Prime Minister’s inner circle knew of the intentions, most did not believe it would be implemented so quickly.Reasons for the decisionThere are multiple reasons behind this move. First, the exponentially increasing back economy of India was crippling it from within. A white paper by the Government of India published in 2012 puts $2.1 billion as the total amount of India deposits in Swiss banks. Curbing black money was a major promise of the NDA government during its 2014 election campaign. Last year, the government had rolled out a scheme that allowed people to disclose foreign assets and pay a tax of 30 per cent on the disclosed amount. This year in March, the income disclosure scheme allowed citizens to disclose unaccounted income after paying a tax of 45 per cent. However, these schemes were unable to make a significant dent in the black money economy and received tremendous criticism. Secondly, India is facing a mammoth problem of fake currency in circulation largely due to the neighbouring states of Pakistan and Nepal. This decision is likely to cut the flow of money that funds terrorism. It is a far-fetched deduction but may help in India’s fight against terrorism.Impact on peopleA move like this will hit hoarders with large stashes. They won’t be able to exchange such huge amounts, which will hold no value now, at banks. People who disclosed income in this year’s scheme will be relieved at being better off for having saved at least 55 per cent of their illicit money. Cash is now the new trash, at least for the people who have earned it by dishonest means. The decision has done justice to the hard-working, salaried middle class who always paid taxes. Every penny added to the mountain of black money is revenue lost by the government. With not enough money to run the economy, the government increases taxes. It is the honest, hardworking citizens who bear the brunt and also end up subsidising the black economy. This decision can go a long way in being fair and just to those true to tax compliance.Part of the strategyThe move comes soon after the government introduced Goods and Services Tax, that would unify the country under common tax brackets. These are not easy changes to make and will involve some pain but once in place may take India in the direction it deserves to go. However, there is a little skepticism in the decision. The RBI has announced that it will be introducing new 500 and 2,000 rupee denomination notes. The current move may remove black money from the economy for once. But the introduction of the new high currency notes, in few years, may start contributing to a fresh pile of black money if the circulation of such high currency notes goes unchecked.

From Bhopal encounter to NDTV India ban: Is India heading towards dictatorship?

India to many is a land of paradoxes. This was again on display in the events that occurred last fortnight — ban on NDTV India, Bhopal encounter, the crackdown on opposition during Orop protests, and insensitive handling of Najeeb’s mother — which make one wonder if or not the Indian democracy is actually as deep rooted as we often believe it to be.

While our political leanings dictate our reading of these happenings that dominated public discourse in the past fortnight, I would like to argue that in many fundamental ways they expose besetting ills of our democracy, beyond political divisions. Below I have discussed what are these ills and how these incidents reveal them.

The NDTV India Ban — increasingly vulnerable freedom of press and speech

The now-stayed directive to ban NDTV India for a day was disconcerting at multiple levels. Its justification for the ban on the grounds of national security was quite flimsy. Its contention that NDTV India had aired information that adversely affected Pathankot operation was clearly short on facts.

NDTV-India

Firstly, NDTV India didn’t air anything that the terrorists may not have already known. In fact, there’s more detailed information available online. Secondly, as the Indian Express reported, the two terrorists, who are said to have benefitted from this information, may not even have existed.

Thirdly, if NDTV India indeed endangered security with its broadcast, why only NDTV‘s Hindi channel had been acted against when its English version too broadcasted the same information.

Finally, why did the government stay the ban when faced with Supreme Court hearing and protest ? If it actually believed its case had merit, backtracking does not make sense.

The apparent absence of merit in the government’s case and its subsequent backing down strengthens the apprehension that this was nothing more than an attempt to send a signal to the media house to resist from being critical of the government.

It is no secret that many among the ruling regime have no love for NDTV India, which they believe is hostile to the Modi Government. There have already been social media campaigns that were organised with NDTV as the target. While even such organised social media campaign would make anyone who values freedom of the press, wary, the use of government’s coercive power in the pretext of national security to get even with a media house that may not tow the government line is clearly abundant with dangers.

Firstly, it has a chilling effect on the freedom of press and expression. These media houses operate commercially, and a fear of getting entangled in legal tussles with the government can be a strong deterrent to them being able to offer information that can help the public make informed choices about their government.

Secondly, using national security as a pretext is even more disturbing, especially since those in power assume that anything done in the name of national security can be shielded from public questioning and will be readily accepted. This is detrimental to a democracy’s ability to question the government, which is the bedrock of democracy.

Bhopal Encounter — fraying confidence in Rule of law

If the NDTV India ban undermined the freedom of the press, the Bhopal encounters have brought to fore a diminishing commitment to law both among the ruling regime and the public.

The audio-visual material that has emerged in relation to the Bhopal encounter suggest conclusively that the encounters were fake right from the video of cops shooting an unarmed SIMI activist lying injured, to SIMI activists trying to surrender along with confessions of senior officers that the SIMI activists were unarmed, or the audio clip with instruction from control room to stage fake encounters.

Police at the encounter site at the hillocks of Acharpura village after the STF killed 8 SIMI activists. PTI

Police at the encounter site at the hillocks of Acharpura village after the STF killed 8 SIMI activists. PTI

While fake encounters in themselves are worrying, what is even more disturbing is that there is near total support for these encounters right from the bottom to the top. The entire state apparatus, which is supposed to uphold the law of the land, seems to be not just upholding the flagrant violation of law, but also appears to be celebrating it. There is no concern as to how such encounters criminalise the police force, or how their thirst for blood can lead to a destructive spiral that may kill many innocents.

One can sympathise with the frustration that is born out of a slow pace of justice, but if we are going to respond by legitimising kangaroo justice, then the rule of law — another essential feature of democracy — may not have a future. This is why when the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tried to justify the encounter, it revealed to me his loss of faith in the rule of law. It makes me worry about our democracy.

Crackdown on Opposition’s protest on Orop — muzzling political expression

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi talking to media at Tilak Marg Police Station. PTI

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi talking to media at Tilak Marg Police Station. PTI

The suicide of a decorated soldier frustrated at government’s failure to implement Orop (One rank one pension) in it’s purest form was understandably worrying for the government as it threatened to derail its ambition to milk nationalistic fervour. But what one couldn’t fathom was its indiscriminate crackdown on the opposition rank, simply because they were trying to make political capital out of the government’s embarrassment.

Using police to detain opposition leaders and denying them their democratic right to politicise the issue, is dangerously bordering on dictatorial conduct. It is fine for a government to counter the politics of the opposition with its own politics, but to unleash police to muzzle oppositions’ political expression, is undemocratic. Besides, our silence about it has made me more worried.

If the government can so brazenly swoop down on the opposition and suppress the opposition’s right to dissent and disagree with the regime of the day, without inviting widespread backlash from citizens, then it speaks lowly of the commitment of the citizenry to protect our political rights.

Mishandling of Najeeb’s mother — insensitive and brazenly partisan administration

The pictures of the missing JNU student Najeeb Ahmed’s mother being dragged caused much consternation in the opposition’s rank. But politics aside, the indifferent attitude of the police towards its search for Najeeb and dealing emphatically with his family has lead many to feel that the police is denying Najeeb his constitutional right to equal protection of law both due to his identity (a Muslim and student of JNU) and his actions (being hostile to ABVP).

Also, it is inexplicable as to why has the Modi Government not tried to reach out to Najeeb’s family. Consoling a bereaved citizen is the least any sensitive government could do.

Representational image. Image courtesy: News18

The wide loss of confidence in the administration in securing the basic rights of its citizens is corrosive for democracy. It undermines public cooperation with an administration. The incident also raises doubts on whether justice exists for all in India or is it reserved only for those in the good books of the administration.

In conclusion, the last fortnight has indeed been worrying for Indian democracy from multiple perspectives. The ignominious conduct of the regime made it resemble dictatorship more than democracy. Hopefully, this will prove to be an aberration instead of a trend. And, if it makes us more cautious, it can, in fact, enrich democracy since eternal vigilance of actively involved citizens is the greatest strength of a democracy.

From hinterlands to high-rises: Satellite cities emerging as magnets of urban convergence

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Thousands of young professionals making a short commute to their technology-driven jobs for a globalised market with residential spaces designed for their needs living nearby in residential structures that come furnished for a lifestyle that suits their newfound status.’ What sounds like an urban planner’s dream, something right out of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin or La Defense in Paris, is a scene one can easily find in any satellite city in India. Originally conceptualised as counter-magnets to decongest metropolitan cities, the country’s satellite cities have not only emerged as vibrant, self-sustaining urban centres but are also poised to be hubs for future growth and development. Even as old cities like Mumbai and Delhi grapple with legacy issues and the prospect of urban decay, these satellite cities are attracting investments and new talent, which in turn drives their growth. Navi Mumbai alone has generated over 2,50,000 new jobs since the turn of the century, and, according to the the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) is tipped to generate another half a million jobs in the next decade. This is the Navi Mumbai we planned for, says Ramakant Jha, who was the chief planner at CIDCO 20 years ago, and is now the key man behind PM Narendra Modi’s dream project Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT). Emulating the success of satellite cities like Navi Mumbai, new smart cities are in coming up across the country, with the eventual aim of creating systematic and sustainable urban development across India.From releasing land for development and planning infrastructure projects, to giving connectivity and creating living spaces, satellite cities allow phase-wise progress and the scale can be ramped up as the city develops, says Jha, adding that unlike old cities where implementing a new infrastructure project can be a huge challenge, green-field cities can develop at a much faster pace.Urban renewal As Indians aspire for a better life they contribute to increased urbanisation thus stressing the infrastructure and saturated resources of major cities. If things go on their present trajectory they will neither be able to accommodate new citizens nor enhance the lives of their extant populace. “To be able to continue with the required momentum, India would need at least 100 new cities over the next ten years. These cities would essentially be greenfield entities adjacent to existing city spaces, built around economic drivers like industrial clusters, special economic zones (SEZ) and transport nodes,” says Shubhranshu Pani, Managing Director Strategic Consulting, JLL India, adding that these cities will be developed with a high-grade urban planning. The dynamic changes in physical, economic and technological environments across the globe have resulted in cities using smart elements to improve the quality of life of their citizens. In developed countries, a smart city is one where existing infrastructure is augmented, monitored and controlled, leading to highly sustainable development. “But in the Indian context, the approach is different in the sense that our cities lack basic infrastructure, institutional frameworks and proper governance,” says Pani, adding that the Indian smart city initiatives will primarily involve provision of basic civic requirements and then making the infrastructure scalable.The early years The vision for Navi Mumbai, 40 years ago, was to create a new city with a combination of 14 nodes, each to be connected through well-designed roads, rail networks and metro systems. After working on on industrial development for generation of jobs from 70s to mid-90s, CIDCO shifted its focus towards the infotech industry in early-1996. Realising that the information technology (IT) industry was their best bet, CIDCO lobbied hard to get a Software Technology Parks of India office in Navi Mumbai to enable the infrastructure and incentives, which opened the floodgates for the arrival of IT companies to the satellite city. It took a good 20 years but Navi Mumbai made the journey from industrial belt to knowledge corridor. Today, IT firms occupy 76 per cent of the office spaces in Navi Mumbai. Around the same time, some four decades ago, Noida was set up as an industrial town to encourage small industries and as a way to counter Delhi’s lack of space for industrial areas. The idea was to create a wider urbanised sprawl to support the growing needs for space in the national capital which had come about due to increase in inwards migration and spiralling development levels. At the time, few had envisioned that it would become one of the fastest-growing cities and an engine for growth for the state of Uttar Pradesh—and a vital cog in the National Capital Region’s development wheel.A similar growth pattern was followed by other satellite cities such as Pimpri-Chinchwad and Gurugram that slowly made the transformation from hinterlands to high-rises. A testimony to the success of these cities is that not only has there been a decline in the number of workers commuting from satellite areas to the main city there has in fact been a reversal. “For Navi Mumbai and Gurugram, there is now significant commuting from areas in Mumbai and Delhi respectively, reversing the image of the bedroom satellite city, not to mention the substantial population that lives and works in Navi Mumbai and Gurugram,”says Partha Mukhopadhyay, Senior Fellow at Centre for Policy Research, adding that a key difference between Navi Mumbai and Gurugram is that the intensity of transport links with Mumbai is weaker, given its geography across the creek, as compared to Gurugram’s Delhi connect.“In Gurugram, private developers played a key role in adjusting their strategy in response to market demand. While initially conceived as a residential development, Gurugram responded rapidly to the boom in office space demand for back office operations, subsequent to the initial investments by GE. It also responded equally rapidly by offering apartments to suit younger buyers and a growing housing loan industry,” says Mukhopadhyay.The good lifeWide concrete roads, adequate water supply, open spaces and green patches thanks to a planned approach to urban dynamics, the quality of infrastructure in satellite cities is considerably better than in most metropolitan cities. For instance, despite its fast growth, Navi Mumbai continues to be defined by a spatial openness which cannot be found anywhere else in Mumbai. Even given its high growth rate and burgeoning population size, the population density in Navi Mumbai is a mere one-third of Mumbai’s and other neighbouring cities, giving its citizens an unmatched quality of life. The success of satellite cities can be largely attributed to the efficient integration of economic activities and infrastructure. While in some cases, like Navi Mumbai and Pimpri-Chinchwad, even before the development of the city, there were major industrial clusters in existence. In other cases the cities were built from scratch, such as Gurugram and Noida. All these economic nodes were integrated with the residential nodes by way of road and railway networks, and a good public transport system. Today, each of these satellite cities boasts of many new-economy anchors in IT parks and SEZs. Navi Mumbai alone has at least half a dozen SEZs including two Mindspace complexes in commercial dormitory of Airoli alone, with another ten in the pipeline.Future perfectThe satellite cities with a head start are now poised for the next stage of transition, which is likely to be by way of expansion of the services sector. These cities already have most key ingredients like human capital, infrastructure and land availability to become strong service sector hubs.Pani states that technology evolves faster than a city, and there must therefore be options to adapt as technology changes or become obsolete. “A green-field city must be built in phases on the basis of real demand, and demand should drive investments beyond the basics. Otherwise, we will wind up with infrastructure rich ghost cities with no takers,” says Pani adding that as a rapidly developing economy aspiring to meet global standards, smart cities can take India onto a major leap forward in the race of development.

From selling newspapers to conquering IIT: This UP girl’s story is making us feel inadequate

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>These days the word ‘inspiring’ is used extremely liberally but then and now, we come across stories that evoke awe. Shivangi, a girl from Deha village in Uttar Pradesh who used to sell newspapers cracked the IIT and went on to get a cushy job to support her family and truly break the glass ceiling created by poverty and patriarchy. The girl used to attend a government school, and studied when she got some free time. That’s when she came across a story about Patna-based super IIT coach Anand Kumar’s Super 30 and approached him and was selected. She would then go on to IIT, Roorkee and lifted her own family from the poverty trap. In an emotional Facebook post, Super-30 founder Kumar shared Shivangi’s story. He mentioned that once she had joined the coaching institute, she had become like family. When Kumar’s mother fell ill, Shivangi even took care of her. When Shivangi was set to leave for IIT, Anand Kumar’s family became emotional and said they felt like their daughter was leaving them. He added that Shivangi still keep in touch and the entire Kumar family was thrilled for the girl. Shivangi’s story is a reminder to us all that if we are willing to work hard, then perhaps we too can achieve our goals. Read the full Facebook post below:

S&P affirms India ratings at BBB-, says upgrade unlikely this year or next

S&P Global Ratings has retained retained India’s sovereign ratings at ‘BBB-‘ with a stable outlook but said it does not expect to change the rating for this year or next.

“The stable outlook balances India’s sound external position and inclusive
policymaking tradition against the vulnerabilities stemming from its low per
capita income and weak public finances. The outlook indicates that we do not
expect to change our rating on India this year or next, based on our current
set of forecasts,” the rating agency said in a press release today.

The rater has said a rating upgrade is possible if the government’s reforms markedly improve its general government fiscal outturns and also the level of net general government debt so that it falls below 60% of GDP.

Meanwhile, a downward revision is likely if growth disappoints “perhaps as a result of stalling reforms” or if the new monetary council is not effective in achieving its targets or if the external liquidity position of the nation deteriorates more than we currently expect.

s&ps&p

The rater has termed low per capita GDP as a key rating constraint

The agency has termed the low per capita GDP of the country estimated at US$1,700 in 2016 as a key rating constraint. Another constraint is the country’s debt load and overall weak public finances.

“We believe domestic supply-side factors will increasingly bind economic performance, and the government has little ability to undertake countercyclical fiscal policy given its current debt burden,” it has said.

According to the rating agency, the country’s fiscal challenges reflect both revenue underperformance and constraints on expenditure. “India’s general
government revenue, at an estimated 21% of 2016 GDP, is low among rated
sovereigns. Its expenditure constraints are mainly related to subsidies (about 2% of 2016 GDP) for food, energy, and fertilizers,” it has said.

It does not expect the government to meet the revenue targets and also sees subsidy cuts getting delayed. The improvement in the country’s fiscal performance is possible as revenue rises on account of the implementation of GST. The government has set a target date of 1 April 2017 for the rollout of the tax reform.

However, S&P has credited the NDA government for making progress in building consensus on passage of laws to address long-standing impediments to the country’s growth.

“These include comprehensive tax reforms through the likely introduction in the first half of 2017 of a goods and services tax to replace complex and
distortive indirect taxes,” the rater has said.

Apart from GST, the other measures that S&P has mentioned include strengthening the business climate by simplifying regulations and improving contract enforcement and trade, boosting labor market flexibility, and reforming the energy sector.

Also the country’s external position is considered a credit strength.

In September, Moody’s had also described muted private investment and NPAs as speed-breakers amid slow reforms for a rating upgrade of the country. Moody’s has a ‘Baa3’ rating with a positive outlook.

It too said evidence of policymakers working towards a faster fiscal consolidation, reducing the debt-GDP ratio and addressing infrastructure and monsoon volatility challenges will determine an upgrade, going forward.

How West Bengal became an easy transit point for terror outfits

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal with its porous borders has turned into an easy transit point and secure hideout for the agents of terror outfits like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Pakistani secret service ISI.”West Bengal’s border is porous and this was used by militant groups to get an entry into the country and spread to other states. This is nothing new. The state has became a safe and secure shelter for them,” a top CID officer said. Militant outfits like JMB, IS and ISI operatives are recruiting agents and training them here, he added. A special task force of Kolkata Police had arrested six top JMB militants, including four wanted, in connection with the 2014 Khagragarh blast case, from West Bengal and Assam in September.”Taking advantage of the unemployment situation, the agents have been recruiting people with ease. These groups also have recruitment cells which look for possible youths either studying in senior schools or looking for job as their possible targets,” the CID official said, adding social networking sites have played crucial roles in this connection. “Now one can scan through anybody’s profile sitting thousands of kilometres away in another country to choose a possible candidate. Then the message goes to the outfit’s local agent to do the needful to get the person under its umbrella,” he said.The officer cited the arrest of 18-year-old student of a private polytechnique college in Durgapur in Burdwan district, Ashik Ahmed by NIA for his links to the ISIS in March. Ashik, who was trying to build an unit of ISIS in West Bengal, was the second youth to be arrested from the state after Mehdi Masroor Biswas, for his links to the Pakistani agency. A senior officer of Kolkata Police told PTI that the state’s strategic location along the international border and the slack security arrangement at a few places have made such incidents possible through the last decade or more.In December last year Kolkata Police STF had arrested one labourer, a couple of passport agents, a college student and a bartender for alleged links with ISI. The arrest of the bartender from the central part of the city had revealed that a network of ISI agents were working in the state, he added. The officer said, “Specific roles were given to each of these agents by ISI. Some are here to recruit agents, some others to collect information from areas where either the Navy, Army or the Air Force have their base.” “There are people who smuggle in high quality fake Indian currency notes and spread them here with the aim to devastate the economy,” he said. Intelligence sources here said JMB and the IS have spread their network in Howrah, and North and South 24 Parganas districts.”They have set up organisational bases in districts like Murshidabad, Nadia, Burdwan and Birbhum and we are probing whether they have spread into other states like Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya etc,” the officer said. “The ISI agents first bring outsiders into the country through Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan and help them settle by providing fake passports, fake voter identity cards, Aadhar cards and ration cards,” the CID officer said.The cultivation of illegal poppy in the state and smuggling it to other parts even across the border to foreign lands has become one of the principal source of funds for terror outfits like ISIS and JMB. Districts like Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum, Burdwan and Bankura have seen a spurt in illicit poppy cultivation mainly because of the easy way of producing it, he added.

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