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Jung not over? LG Anil Baijal non-commital on fixing relationship with Kejriwal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former bureaucrat Anil Baijal took over as 20th Lt Governor of Delhi and struck a cautious note on where the LG’s office will stand in repairing the fractured relationship between the Centre and AAP government which had hit rock bottom under his predecessor. 70-year-old Baijal, who had served in a number of key positions at the Centre including as Union Home Secretary, was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Chief Justice of Delhi High Court G Rohini, 10 days after Najeeb Jung’s abrupt resignation as the LG.Baijal said addressing key challenges like women’s safety, pollution, traffic congestion and strengthening infrastructure will be his priority areas.The oath ceremony was attended by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Delhi Chief Secretary MM Kutty, leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta among others.On being asked about tussle between previous LG Jung and the city government on a range of issues including administrative control over the bureaucracy, Baijal said, “This is speculative. I don’t know why and how the relationship will improve. We will sit and talk and then you will get to know.”Welcoming Baijal’s appointment, Kejriwal said he was hopeful that under the new LG, governance in the national capital will see new momentum overcoming the past hurdles.”I am very hopeful that in the future, we all – MLAs, Delhi government, people of Delhi – will work with the Lt Governor for overall development of Delhi. “In the last few months, some works of Delhi government have come to a standstill. I hope that these works will be expedited,” Kejriwal said at an event at Delhi Assembly complex.Baijal said he will put his best efforts in improving law-and-order situation, women’s safety, traffic congestion besides strengthening infrastructure and civic amenities in the city.”Delhi is a megapolis which has several problems like women safety, law and order, huge population, infrastructure, civic agencies and congestion. We all know about these problems. We will work with elected government to solve them,” he told reporters. Baijal also thanked President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for giving him the responsibility. A 1969-batch IAS officer, Baijal had served as Union Home Secretary under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government besides holding key positions in other ministries.He was actively associated with the designing and countrywide roll-out of Rs 60,000-crore Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) launched by the Manmohan Singh government. Baijal had retired from service in 2006 as Urban Development Secretary. He had served as vice chairman of Delhi Development Authority and is known to be well versed with the city administration.The former bureaucrat was also on the executive council of think-tank Vivekananda International Foundation, several of whose former members have been appointed to senior positions by the Modi government including NSA Doval.Baijal, known to follow the rule book, will have to take a series of important decisions including on the report of Shunglu committee, set up by Jung to examine over 400 files pertaining to decisions taken by the AAP government in the last two years.The Shunglu committee has reportedly pointed out “irregularities” in some of the Kejriwal government’s decisions.His immediate task will also include appointing a new chairman of Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) which has been headless since November after the appointment of incumbent Krishna Saini was turned down by Jung.Jung and the AAP dispensation had clashed over a range of issues including transfer and posting of bureaucrats, setting up of enquiry commissions and among others.There was a running battle between L-G office and Kejriwal government with the latter constantly challenging the former’s supremacy in the city administration.Jung had won the court battle as the Delhi High Court had stamped the primacy of Lt Governor in the affairs of Government of NCT.However, AAP government had approached the Supreme Court challenging the high court verdict and during a recent hearing in the case, the apex court had said the elected government should have some powers.

Jharkhand mine collapse: Death toll rises to 13, as rescue operations continue

Godda (Jharkhand): The death toll climbed to 13 in the coal mine collapse at Lalmatia open cast coal mine of Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL), with the recovery of two more bodies on Saturday.

RR Mishra, officiating CMD of ECL, a Coal India subsidiary told PTI, “We have recovered two more bodies. We are carrying on the rescue operation in a systematic manner so that the situation does not aggravate as the debris is too much and it should not fall.”

Thirteen bodies have been recovered from the collapsed mine in Jharkhand. AFPThirteen bodies have been recovered from the collapsed mine in Jharkhand. AFP

Thirteen bodies have been recovered from the collapsed mine in Jharkhand. AFP

Danger zones have been declared around the place of incidents to restrict the entry of people there. Moreover, the district commissioner has also stationed police and CISF officials to restrict entry of people in the danger zone, Mishra said. “We have also called experts from outside to help us in the rescue operation. We have fully ensured that the rescue operations are done with proper safety measures. We have also come up with standard operating procedures which would help us in proper operations so that there is no loss to lives.”

Heavy machinery was deployed as rescuers, including those from the NDRF, toiled through the day extricating bodies and looking for survivors. Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDIL), the consultancy arm of Coal India Ltd, has deployed magneto meters along with imaging system for locating magnetic and conductive material up to a depth of 80 metres, the statement said.

Mishra said the incident occurred at around 7.30 pm on Thursday, when excavators were working there following which rescue operations was launched immediately. Senior officials of Director General of Mines Safety (DGMS) have arrived at the site and launched an inquiry.

Thirteen excavators and dump trucks which were swamped under the debris have been recovered. The All India Trade Union Congress has condemned Ministry of Power and Coal India for ignoring mine safety norms in open cast mine of ECL in Godda district.

This is the first big open coal mine disaster due to utter negligence of safety norms, it said. The mining was being operated by a contractor to whom Coal India had outsourced mining operations of the area, the union added. AITUC has demanded thorough inquiry and adequate compensation to the families of killed workers and observance of proper safety norms.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 19:00 IST

Hope stalled work expedited under new LG: Arvind Kejriwal

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

Will continue to support the rights of West Pakistani Refugees: BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> BJP on Saturday condemned Hurriyat and other political parties for opposing the grant of domicile certificate to the West Pakistani Refugees residing in Jammu and Kashmir and said it will continue to support the rights of the WPRs.”Hartal called by Hurriyat and other separatist groups yesterday to oppose the grant of domicile certificate to WPRs is very unfortunate, unwarranted and uncalled for. BJP strongly opposes the efforts of these pro-Pakistan elements to politicise a humanitarian issue,” BJP state spokesperson Brig Anil Gupta (retd) said. He condemned the attitude of Hurriyat and political parties who are opposing the grant of domicile certificate to the WPRs residing in the state and said what was more discomforting is that these people belong to economically backward segment of the society and have been denied the growth opportunities due to no fault of theirs.”It is very unfortunate that a section of society living among us is termed as refugees and denied basic rights on the plea that they are not the state subjects and have migrated from West Pakistan at the time of partition,” he said. Even after 70 years of independence they are being given this treatment in their own country due to the “parochial outlook” of the majority community in the state is tragic, Gupta said. “It is the influx of illegal Bangladeshi and Burmese migrants that has resulted in the demographic change and ironically they do not raise any voice against them but welcome them.”This highlights their communal outlook. Our Party will continue to support the WPR and ensure that justice is delivered to them,” he said. Taking a dig at the National Conference’s stand, Gupta said political parties like NC are misquoting history and trying to mislead the people of Jammu using the name of late Maharaja Hari Singh. “Their contention that State Subject laws were enacted by the Maharaja to safeguard the interest of Dogras is being quoted out of context.”The State Subject Act was enacted by the Maharaja in 1927 to protect the rights of its citizens when J&K was an independent state. “It was the Maharaja only who had acceded the state with India in 1947 and it was his desire that his state should be a part of Union of India,” he said. He said, “All citizens of J&K are now citizens of India.” Had the Maharaja been alive he would have himself ensured that any law that keeps his state away from rest of the country should be “abrogated”, the spokesperson said.”He would have ensured that these helpless people are given all rights immediately and they would not have to suffer this humiliation for 70 years,” he said. It was surprising and unfortunate that parties which had included this issue in their election manifestos in the past were now opposing the issue of the domicile certificate. “The statements of Ambika Soni in Jammu and Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal in Srinagar clearly show that the Congress was only exploiting them for narrow political gains and now that their plight is being improved by the present BJP government they have joined hands with the Hurriyat and others to oppose the same,” he said.”Issue of domicile certificate will enable the WP refugees to seek central government jobs including in the armed forces.There will be quota for them in the 5 IRP Battalions being raised under Prime Minister Special Package for J&K,” he said. The contention that it is an attempt to change the state’s demography, Gupta said it is not understood as to how it will affect the demography of the state since they have been staying here since 1947. “The State Subject Act was enacted by the Maharaja in 1927 to protect the rights of its citizens when J&K was an independent state.”It was the Maharaja only who had acceded the state with India in 1947 and it was his desire that his state should be a part of Union of India,” he said. He said, “All citizens of J&K are now citizens of India.” Had the Maharaja been alive he would have himself ensured that any law that keeps his state away from rest of the country should be “abrogated”, the spokesperson said. “He would have ensured that these helpless people are given all rights immediately and they would not have to suffer this humiliation for 70 years,” he said.It was surprising and unfortunate that parties which had included this issue in their election manifestos in the past were now opposing the issue of the domicile certificate. “The statements of Ambika Soni in Jammu and Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal in Srinagar clearly show that the Congress was only exploiting them for narrow political gains and now that their plight is being improved by the present BJP government they have joined hands with the Hurriyat and others to oppose the same,” he said.”Issue of domicile certificate will enable the WP refugees to seek central government jobs including in the armed forces. There will be quota for them in the 5 IRP Battalions being raised under Prime Minister Special Package for J&K,” he said. The contention that it is an attempt to change the state’s demography, Gupta said it is not understood as to how it will affect the demography of the state since they have been staying here since 1947.

Demonetisation Day 50: Still too early to call it an ‘utter flop’ or ‘glorious success’

Maine sirf pachaas din maange hain… 30 December tak mujhe mauka dijiye…  Agar 30 December ke baad, koi meri kami rehjaye, koi meri galti nikal jaye, koi mera galat irada nikal jaye, aap jis chaurahe mein mujhe khada karenge, main khada hokarke desh jo saza karega, wo saza bhugatne ke liye taiyyar hoon (I have only asked for 50 days. Give me time till 30 December. After that, if any fault is found in my intentions or my actions, I am willing to suffer any punishment given by the country).

That’s what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Goa on 13 November five days after he demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. And three days before the 50-day period he sought was up, he delivered a judgement on himself when he said at an election rally in Dehradun on 27 December:

 “Through the note ban, in one stroke, we destroyed the world of terrorism, drug mafia, human trafficking and underworld...

 In an interview with India Today this week, he went a step further when he said:

 “Black money has all been forced out into the open, whomsoever it may belong to — whether it is corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen or professionals.”

Modi wants us to believe that he has delivered what he promised in the 50 days, and that his “safai abhiyan” (clean-up campaign) will go on.

I have no problem in confessing that I am not an economist. But I am aghast at the way some, like Modi himself, have concluded that this demonetisation is a huge, rip-roaring success that will rewrite the economics textbooks. On one hand, we have those who are singing paeans to Modi in praise of his “bold” war against black money. On the other hand, there are others who, at the very first sight of a long queue before an ATM, rubbished the whole thing as the stupidest thing any prime minister had ever undertaken on the planet since the invention of currency.

Most of those who resorted to the premature song-and-dance were obviously the so-called bhakts of Modi.

And most of those who wrote a political obituary for the prime minister hardly a day or two after 8 November were bhakts of another kind: Left-leaning or Congress-supporting Modi baiters. It is likely that, if Modi hadn’t gone for demonetisation, they might have questioned why he hadn’t, to make good on his poll promise of ferreting out black money. If, after demonetisation, the ATMs functioned smoothly with a copious flow of the new Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes, they would have asked why there weren’t enough Rs 100 notes.

If Modi sneezed, they would ask why he wasn’t coughing. If Modi coughed, they would wonder why he wasn’t having hiccups. They are that sort of people. They must be disappointed that the ‘cash riots’ that they were hoping for, haven’t broken out on India’s streets.

On Friday, the two sides will once again deliver their predictable judgments, ignoring the fact that it is the last day for swapping old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes for the new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 currency. With all its good and bad effects, the demonetisation churn will continue for some more time, and perhaps it will be several months or even a year before we can arrive at a considered judgment as to whether it did any good, and whether whatever good it did, was worth the terrible things that it has so far inflicted on the people and economy of India.

File iamge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

File iamge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

So far, we have seen only the bad effects of it. Dozens have died in queues, and millions have lost jobs. Lack of cash led to a sharp fall in spending, which in turn led to a crash in business in virtually every sector. Fathers couldn’t get daughters married the way they wanted. In some places, farmers dumped their produce on the roadside because it was not worth selling at the rock-bottom prices.

In other places, farmers had no money to buy seeds to grow fresh crops. Not a day passed after demonetisation without a moving tale of woe being reported from one part of the country or another. The picture of a former jawan weeping in a bank that went viral summed up best the agony India went through.

All these problems of demonetisation were a direct result of the woefully slow process of remonetisation. The humongous goof-up in ensuring availability of enough cash after the scrapping of 86 percent of the currency (in value) in a country where 87 percent of the transactions are said to be in cash, is all too clear. Enough has already been said about it by friends and foes of Modi, and those who are neither.

Questions that Modi must answer now

The question upfront now is: What is the country getting in return for all that misery that India was made to go through?

It’s now reasonably clear from official data that the cash windfall that the government had expected from demonetisation — black money that hasn’t been swapped or deposited in the banks which would drop into the government’s kitty — will hover around Rs one lakh crore.

Of the total of Rs 15.4 lakh of cash in the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that were demonetised, Rs five lakh crore was estimated to be black. So if only some Rs one lakh remains unclaimed, what happened to the rest of the Rs four lakh crore? How much of it has been burnt by its holders? How much of it has been turned into white by illegitimate means? How much of it has been seized in income tax raids? And how much has been declared under the voluntary disclosure schemes?

These are questions that are not difficult to answer. So Modi must answer them.

This is not to suggest that the absence of a huge cash “windfall” in terms of “extinguished money” means that the demonetisation is a total, miserable failure. Despite claims by Modi baiters, the effect of scrapping the high-value notes on counterfeiters, terrorists, Maoists and drug-traffickers cannot be underestimated, at least in the short term. But the questions that will take more time to answer are the ones related to the expansion of the tax net, additional resources that will be available to the government for job-creating schemes and the effect on  GDP — key aspects that will determine the ultimate success or failure of Modi’s adventure. It will be a while before we can judge these after-effects.

Although you can depend on the Union Budget that will be presented on 1 February to throw up some real and artificial clues, Modi must answer all the questions that he can right now — without delay, and without hysterics and histrionics.

The author tweets @sprasadindia

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 13:27 IST

Sasikala takes over Amma’s mantle, nominated gen secy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>VK Sasikala, who was denied a party post all along by Jayalalithaa, was on Thursday unanimously nominated as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary in the name of the departed Amma.Her nomination will be followed by a formal election at a general council (GC), but the die has been cast. Party seniors do not expect any other nomination for the post.The general council, which met at Vanagaram in suburban Chennai, was attended by over members, and nominated Sasikala as the interim leader till she is formally elected.Sasikala, as was expected, did not attend the meeting. Chief minister O Panneerselvam, who, along with senior leaders handed over the resolution to Sasikala, said she had accepted the request of the party.The council resolved that Jayalalithaa should be given the Bharat Ratna, the Magsaysay Award, and that her statue should be unveiled in Parliament. However, the focus was not on Jayalalithaa but her aide, Sasikala.Party presidium chairman E Madhusudhanan and former minister C Ponnaiyan were among those who spoke briefly on the resolutions. Ponnaiyan said there will be no contest for the post of general secretary.The elevation of Sasikala has come as a well-orchestrated puppet show, with her family members pulling all the strings in her favour. The Poes Garden will continue to be a power centre in Tamil Nadu, Amma or no Amma.At the moment, Sasikala is sitting pretty, having assumed all the powers of the general secretary. The next few steps would now be easier for her now that she is in full control of the party apparatus.With all district units, ministers and MLAs supporting her election, it is clear that her writ will run.However, on the day of her elevation, a shocker came from the Madras High Court, as a Bench observed that there were many unanswered questions surrounding the death of Jayalalithaa, which was a “mystery”. “The state government has failed to clear the doubts even after her death. Should her body be exhumed to know the truth?” they asked.Justice S Vaidyanathan and V Parthiban were hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition seeking the appointment of a commission comprising three retired Supreme Court (SC) judges to probe into the “mysterious” death of Jayalalithaa.The Bench ordered notice to the Centre, the Prime minister’s Office and the Tamil Nadu government, and censured the Union government for not revealing any information on the ”mystery” surrounding her death.”Representatives of the central government visited the hospital. Counsel for the Union government claims to know the details of the incidents. But still the authorities have not conveyed or brought out anything to the people, for reasons best known to them,” the petition of PA Stalin, a primary member of the AIADMK, said.He referred to the precedent of the Calcutta High Court in 1999, directing the constitution of a one-man commission of a retired apex court judge to probe into the death of Netaji Subhash ChandraBose.Stalin also wanted the court to pass interim order to the state authorities and the Apollo Hospitals calling for all official and other relevant records and documents in connection with the death.The judges referred to doubts mentioned in the media over the death of Jayalalithaa.”After the demise, everybody has a right to question. I personally have a doubt,” Justice Vaidyalingam said, adding, “One day it was told that she is walking, another day you said that she will come out and suddenly what happened. Even with regard to the health of late Chief Minister MGR, a video was released,” Justice Vaidyanathan said.When a special mention was made by senior counsel K M Vijayan, advocate general Muthukumaraswamy said there was no mystery in the death. The Bench referred the PIL to the Chief Justice to list the plea in an appropriate Bench.On a day when Sasikala assumed control of the party, the observations of the bench must have come as a shock to the Sasikala family.

India didn’t lobby for better ratings from Moody’s: Venkaiah Naidu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday denied reports that the government is trying to influence a credit rating agency to improve its sovereign debt ratings. A recently published report showed that India had criticised Moody’s rating methods and pushed aggressively for an upgrade, but the U.S.-based credit rating agency declined to entertain citing concerns over the country’s debt levels and fragile banks.”At the end of the day rating is done by them. So, there is no question of the government trying to influence anybody. We are trying to place facts before them. Like the World Bank and other agencies, they have now increased our rating in various aspects of governance, including ease of doing business, including the periodical review,” Naidu told media. The report further alleged that the finance ministry questioned Moody’s methodology, saying it was not accounting for a steady decline in India’s debt burden in recent years. It said the agency ignored countries’ levels of development when assessing their fiscal strength. Moody’s rejected those arguments saying India’s debt situation was not as hunky -dory as the government maintained and its banks were a cause for concern.

‘How can you just forget her,’ ask parents of December 16 Delhi gangrape victim

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The parents of the December 16 gangrape victim on Thursday voiced their displeasure in no uncertain terms with the government naming the “one-stop” crisis centres for women ‘Sakhi’ instead of Nirbhaya, alleging it was a bid to erase the memory of their daughter from public discourse.”Initially, the Women and Child Development Ministry had announced setting up one-stop crisis centres across the country and name them ‘Nirbhaya centres’. But as the project rolled out, they named them ‘Sakhi’. It’s not done!” said Asha Devi, mother of the victim.”What happened with my daughter had sent a message to the society and government that crimes against women has crossed all boundaries and that we need to wake up and act. How can you just forget her,” she asked the government.Nirbhaya centres, or Sakhi centres, are a one-stop crisis centre for women in distress and are funded by Union government. They are to be set up in all 640 districts and 20 additional locations across the country.The programme to launch such centres was conceived as a tribute to the victim of the December 16, 2012 gang-rape case.But Asha Devi alleged the government was trying to wipe off the account of their daughter’s sufferings. “Government and society can forget her, but how can I? Her face flashes before my eyes the moment I close them, and then I look deeper in her eyes and I could feel the pain she endured on that fateful night and I wake up with a soul-shattering chill.” The victim’s father, Badri Singh Pandey, rued that the Nirbhaya Fund, a corpus announced by Union government in 2013 budget, was not being “properly utilised” and that there still were several dark spots in the city, which needed to be lit.”A substantial amount of Rs 500 crore from the Nirbhaya Fund is being used on installing CCTV cameras at railway stations, but that should have been done by the Railways. Tell me, how many victims of rape have been benefited by the fund,” he said.The parents visited ‘Gandhi Samadhi’ on Thursday to remember their 23-year-old daughter, who died on December 29, 2012, at a hospital in Singapore where she was airlifted from Delhi.Four of her six rapists have been lodged in jail as they have appealed against their death penalty. One committed suicide and another, a juvenile at the time of the crime, was released after spending three years at a correctional home.According to Delhi Police statistics, 2,199 rape cases were registered in the capital in 2015 and till November 30 this year, 1,981 cases of rape have been reported.As per National Crime Records Bureau, Delhi has highest rate of crimes against women among all cities in India. Last year, the total number of cases of crime against women in Delhi was 17,104.

Working to address safety issues in train travel: Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Indian Railways is working on a comprehensive strategy to make train travel safe and comfortable, making it a preferred mode of transportation for all, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Thursday. Therefore, we are working on a comprehensive strategy for creating safe, comfortable, convenient, affordable train journey for the people of India, Prabhu, who inaugurated several railway initiatives at the Secunderabad railway station here from New Delhi, said in his address. Noting that there have been a number of inadequacies in the railway system that need to be rectified, he said the Railways is working on plans to address safety and other issues to make train travel safe and comfortable in 2017.But we will definitely make sure that we succeed in this mission of ensuring that railways will become a new preferred mode of transportation for everybody, he said. The initiatives inaugurated by Prabhu included Commissioning of 500 kWp Grid Connected Solar System at Secunderabad station; commissioning of LED based lighting at MMTS stations; inauguration of Renovated MMTS Booking office on Platform No.6/7 at Secunderabad station; inauguration of Additional Foot over Bridge at Hyderabad Station; launching of Hi-speed Wi-Fi at Secunderabad and Hyderabad stations and Extension of Karimnagar-Lingampet Jagityal DEMU service up to Morthad.The South Central Railway is headquartered at the Secunderabad railway station here. Expressing happiness over the inauguration of the new initiaitives, Union Labour Minister and Secunderabad Lok Sabha member Bandaru Dattatreya said the FOB at Hyderabad station was proposed by him 12 years ago during his earlier tenure as Union Minister. Some other initiatives inaugurated today were proposed earlier but could not be completed due to shortage of funds and other problems, he said.The Narendra Modi government is taking steps for expeditious completion of different initiatives, he said. Describing the Multi Modal Transport System (MMTS) in Hyderabad as his dream project, Dattatreya said he could complete the first phase of MMTS during his earlier tenure and that the second phase needs to be completed. The state government needs to release its share of funds for the projects and that he is pursuing with the Railway Minister for implementing different initiatives in Telangana.State Home Minister N Narasimha Reddy and others were present on the occasion.

Struggling since four years, Nirbhaya’s parents await justice

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The parents of December 16 gang-rape victim on Thursday expressed their anguish over the country’s justice system and said it is extremely unfortunate that tough legal action has not yet been initiated against the convicts despite four years after the incident.”We have been struggling for four years, but still the convicts are alive,” said Asha Devi, the victim’s mother, while hoping that the Supreme Court would very soon pronounce a favourable judgement.She also expressed her ire at the BJP-led NDA Government for renaming the ‘Nirbhaya Fund’ as ‘Sakhi’.”It was announced that Nirbhaya crisis centre would be set up in every district with the funds collected so far, but now we get to know that the name of this fund has been changed to Sakhi,” she added.She urged Union Women and Child Development Minister Meneka Gandhi not to change the name of this fund named in honour of her daughter.”I will not get anything from the crisis centre, but the government by doing so is actually suppressing the voices of the rape victims. I want to ask the government why the name ‘Nirbhaya’ has been removed,” she said.The victim’s mother further called for a change in mindset to ensure that such unfortunate incident never ever takes place with any ‘Nirbhaya’.”We all must join hands to bring a change in society for the better. We all must learn to respect women,” she added.

Grenade hurled at Union Minister Rajen Gohain’s house, didn’t go off

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A grenade was lobbed at the house of Union Minister Rajen Gohain in Nagaon town, but there was no casualty as it did not explode.A police official said that eye witnesses had claimed that two motorcycle-borne miscreants hurled the grenade post midnight at the house of Union minister of state for railways.No one was injured as the grenade did not explode, the official said.Security forces, which rushed to the spot, later defused the grenade.The miscreants immediately fled the scene after hurling the grenade.Gohain and his family were not in Nagaon and only security guards were posted at the house.Police have launched an investigation to find if any militant group is involved in the attack.

JNU missing student: AMU students seek CBI probe

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>AMU Students’ Union demanded a CBI inquiry on Wednesday into the mysterious disappearance of JNU student Najeeb Ahmed, who has remained untraced for 74 days. In a memorandum sent to President Pranab Mukherjee, the union alleged that instead of trying to trace Ahmed, police was harassing the family of the missing student and shielding criminals.Ahmed, an MSc Biotechnology student, went missing on October 15 after a scuffle, allegedly with ABVP affiliated students at his hostel inside the JNU campus. His mother Fatima Nafees and sister Sadaf were detained by police when they along with scores of agitating students tried to take out a protest march to India Gate in New Delhi on November 6. Fatima was virtually dragged into a bus by police along with other students.The memorandum said the same forces which had compelled Dalit student Rohit Vemula to commit suicide in Hyderabad earlier this year were behind Ahmed’s disappearance. AMU students led by their union president Faizul Hasan held a demonstration in Aligarh on Tuesday and threatened to intensify their stir if government did not fulfil their demand.Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) has also asserted that they will continue with their protest on the issue. Delhi Police has announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for information about Ahmed, while the Crime Branch is trying to trace him without any success so far.

No political interference in Rama Mohana Rao’s matter, law to take its course: Venkaiah Naidu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dubbing as “irresponsible statements” the charges levelled by sacked Tamil Nadu chief secretary P Rama Mohana Rao over the Income Tax raids against him, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu said on Tuesday there was no political interference and the law will take its own course in the matter. “I do not want to react to irresponsible statements (made by Rao). He is known to me as well. I advise him not to make any unnecessary political statements and further complicate the issue,” he said.Naidu was responding to queries from reporters on the sidelines of the platinum jubilee celebrations of diversified business conglomerate KCP Ltd here. “If there is nothing found in his (Rao) house, law is there. He can take recourse to it. The Government of India has not removed him. I read in newspapers that somebody (Girija Vaidyanathan) has been appointed in his place. “Our interest is to see that the system functions. It is functioning. And if there is any problem, the chief minister will talk to the Centre,” said the Union Urban Development Minister.When asked about Rao’s remark that IT raids at his home and secretariat office were a Constitutional assault on the top office, Naidu shot back saying, “That does not require any response (from me) at all. Law will take its own course. The government has no role in this. There is no political interference.”
ALSO READ Removed after IT raids, Rama Mohana Rao says, I am Chief Secy of Tamil NaduAddressing a press conference here earlier in the day, Rao described the IT raids as a “Constitutional assault” on the top office and claimed that he was kept under “house arrest” by the CRPF during the raids last week. On demonetization and the problems being faced by the people due to the shortage of cash, Naidu said, “When there is a transformation in the system, there will be temporary pain. But, it will be a long-term gain. “When you are ill for a long time, you need to take a bitter pill. That is what is happening. Things will improve. After 50 days, they will start improving slowly,” he added.The pain of the honest would be “reduced” and that of those who have violated the law “will increase”, Naidu said in an indication of more steps against black money.

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

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

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

Representational Image. AFPRepresentational Image. AFP

Representational Image. AFP

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

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

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

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

8 students suspended from JNU for disrupting Academic Council meeting

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The JNU administration has suspended eight students and withdrawn their hostel facilities for allegedly disrupting an Academic Council meeting, a move protested by the students’ union of the university. The meeting was chaired by VC Jagdesh Kumar on Monday. The university administration has also identified two former students who were allegedly involved in the incident.”Eight students who were identified to be involved in disruption of the meeting have been suspended and their hostel facilities have been withdrawn with immediate effect. A proctorial inquiry has also been instituted in the incident,” a JNU official said.The JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) “condemned” the move saying it will “resist” the suspension orders at all costs. “JNUSU condemns the suspension order against students. It will resist at all costs the suspension orders,” said the students’ union.Notices have been sent to the accused students by the proctor, the university official said, adding that action was taken as per preliminary findings and it will remain in effect till the inquiry is completed. A group of students was protesting outside the room where the Council meeting was underway. They allegedly “broke open the latch of the meeting room door” and came inside and “shouted at” the VC, the university said in a statement.The students belonged to Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA), Democratic Students’ Union (DSU), Students’ Front for Swaraj (SFS) and United OBC Forum. They were demanding that the Academic Council reconsider its decision to “adopt” a UGC gazette notification, dated May 2016, whereby interviews became the sole criterion of admissions to MPhil and PhD admissions. Earlier, JNU administration had suspended three students including Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and Mujeeb Gattoo for their involvement in a February 9 event on the campus where alleged anti-India slogans were raised.

Mamata vs Centre: WB Police asked not to send report directly to Home Ministry

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The West Bengal government has instructed the police not to send any report directly to the Union Home Ministry on the law-and-order situation in the state without getting it vetted by the state secretariat.”This is a practise where the Home Ministry sends a letter to the state police headquarters seeking a report on the law-and-order situation every year and replies are sent directly to it without seeking the opinion of the secretariat,” a highly-placed source at the state secretariat told PTI. But this year, the report from the police headquarters requires a nod from the secretariat, before being sent to the Centre, he added. The source said the letter from the Centre, which was sent recently to the state police headquarters (Bhawani Bhawan), sought information on law-and-order in the backdrop of the arrest of several persons having links with terror outfits such as the JMB and IS, unearthing of an international child-trafficking racket and seizure of fake currency notes.He said an “internal circular” was issued from the top echelons of the state police that “no statistics would be sent to the Home Ministry without the consent of the state secretariat”. The circular stated that henceforth such queries from the Home Ministry, seeking any report on law-and-order, should be forwarded to the state Director General of Police. From now on, no official at the police directorate will be allowed to send any report to the Home Ministry directly. The DGP will go through the Centre’s queries following which top officials of the administration will meet to decide whether to answer them or not. In certain cases, the chief minister’s opinion could also be sought, the source said.In 2013, the state had not sent any statistics to the National Crime Bureau (NCB). The decision of the state government came in the wake of deterioration in the Centre-state ties over a number of issues such as the deployment of army at toll plazas “without taking the state’s permission” and CRPF personnel accompanying income tax officers during a search operation in the state. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had described the two developments as a move against the spirit of the federal structure.

Demonetisation: Four things Narendra Modi should do to take the economy out of the mess

For the Narendra Modi government, which stormed into power in May 2014, to come out of the demonetisation mess unhurt isn’t an easy task. This is despite what it promises to achieve in the future –an economy free of black money, corruption and fake notes, and no matter how good the latter-stated objectives are (including a shift to a cashless economy). And certainly not in the manner it has gone about scrapping 86 percent of currency in circulation all of a sudden on the night of 8 November throwing the economy into a crisis. The consequences so far have been disastrous — corporate profitability has taken a hit, lakhs of jobs have been reportedly lost in the informal sector, consumer ability to spend has been curtailed, farmers affected as prices have crashed, services and manufacturing sectors have been impacted and there is skepticism globally on the rationale behind Modi’s currency ban.

Not surprisingly, both government and private forecasters are competing to show lower India GDP numbers for fiscal year 2017. The estimates range from 7.1 percent (Reserve Bank of India) to an extremely pessimistic 3.5 percent by Ambit Capital, a private brokerage firm.  The available data–advance tax payments by corporates, PMI numbers, auto sales and slowdown in service-oriented sectors confirm the fear of a deeper impact to the economy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFPPrime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

Most economists have ruled the third quarter as a miss, but the real danger comes if the cash crunch-woes spill over to the fourth quarter since then there will be a cascading impact in the economy.

According to data from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), unemployment rates fell to less than 5 percent in the week of 27 November, but has since risen to 6.1 percent in the week of 4 December to 6.6 percent in the week ended 11 December and then to 7 percent in the week ended 18 December. The impact comes with a lag and we need to wait for fresh numbers.

Need of the hour

There are a few critical tasks before the Modi-government that should be done urgently:

First, refrain from populist, non-productive expenditures such as promising the poor that the gains on black money will be distributed to them and that farm loans will be waived. The government should focus on boosting the capital base of banks on an urgent basis so that bank credit flow to productive sectors doesn’t suffer, and sell off the loss-making banks or consolidate a few if there is synergy amongst them. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has a good opportunity in the 2017 Union Budget slated for 1 February to announce some bold measures to take the reform process ahead in the public banking sector.

Presently, state-run banks are severely undercapitalized and the problem is worsened with their non-performing assets (NPAs) hitting the roof (nearly Rs 6 lakh crore as on September, 2016 or nearly 8 percent of the total bank credit), and total chunk of stressed assets (bad loans and restructured loans together) jumping to 12-13 percent of the total bank credit. Under the government’s Indradhanush plan, of the Rs 1.8 lakh crore capital needed by banks under Basel-III, the government has offered to infuse Rs 70,000 crore over four years till 2018-19 and wants the government banks to fend for themselves for the remaining Rs 1.1 lakh crore from the market. This is not enough. Also, it is almost impossible that weak state-run banks will find takers. This compounds the problem. So far, there is not much progress on the reform front. That is why the government, the majority owner in these banks, will have to think about infusing them with higher chunks of capital and push the reform button.

Two, offer a fiscal boost to the economy by ramping up infrastructure spending. A section of economists agree that the economy is in need of a strong stimulus to get back on track. This is warranted because several layers of economy have taken a hit post-demonetisation. One of the expectations from the demonetisation exercise was to get a ‘windfall’ of Rs 4-5 lakh crore provided that kind of money doesn’t return to the system as black money hoarders run for cover. The government was expecting to garner around Rs 10 lakh crore of the Rs 15.44 lakh crore demonetized on 8 November. But, that hasn’t happened yet. This, coupled with the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) clarification that there is no possibility of a transfer of surplus from the central bank to the government on account of reduced currency liability, has ruled out any immediate tangible gains for the government. Instead, the exercise has resulted in considerable damage to the economy.

Third, Jaitley should also announce reliefs to both individuals and corporations in Budget 2017 by offering substantial direct tax reductions to tide over the difficult phase. This will work in three ways—to make India still an attractive destination for companies when US president-elect Donald Trump’s administration rolls out massive tax cuts, reverse the negative mood on account of the artificially imposed cash-crunch and put more money into the household kitty to keep the consumption story going. Corporate tax incentives should be over and above the ongoing plan to bring down corporate tax rates to 25 percent over a period and gradually remove exemptions. But this hasn’t found much appeal in the industry since the effective rate is only about 23 percent after exemptions. This is the reason the marginal tax cut in the last budget hasn’t received much response. The government will have to act to regain losing momentum by offering industry a temporary stimulus.

Fourth, it is even more critical now to resolve the cash crunch as fast as possible and bring things back to normalcy. The government can’t expect a miraculous shift to digital payments in a few months replacing a world of cash. Estimates are that 70 percent of the economy still transacts in cash. Pulling out 86 percent cash in one go in a country like India and then facing a cash shortage could be compared to an act of removing blood out of a healthy human body to filling it again with better quality blood, only to realize that there is not enough stock!

Until 19 December, the RBI has infused only Rs 5.92 lakh crore into the banking system as compared with deposits worth Rs 12.44 lakh crore in old Rs 500, Rs 1,000 currencies. Of the total 22.6 billion pieces of notes of various denominations infused, only 2.2 billion belonged to higher denominations of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500. It is not clear how many of the 2.2 billion is in Rs 2,000 notes and how many are Rs 500 notes. Herein lies the problem. The ongoing cash crunch, according to bankers, is mainly due to shortage of the new Rs 500 notes. An end to the current cash crunch is possible only when there is enough Rs 500 notes coming out of the government mints.

But the tricky part for the Modi government will be to find the fiscal space to spend more simultaneously keeping the fiscal roadmap intact. It needs to meet a 3.5 percent fiscal deficit target for the fiscal year 2017. Given that demonetisation itself is unlikely to give any major fiscal boost, the only hope is for the taxmen to dig out substantial chunks of illegal cash from the system from the funds that reach bank accounts either through the black money declaration scheme or raids contributing to the exchequer. Handling a bigger budget, including that of the Railways, is another challenge. “There is a big monster called the Railway budget coming as part of the general budget this year. This can sharply spike numbers on the expenditure. How will the government handle the new situation is worth watching,” said Devendra Pant, chief economist at India Ratings and Research. The expected boost to tax kitty from more number of digital transactions will come, but only at the beginning of the next year.

The short point here is about balancing Union Budget 2017 with the much-required economic stimulus while keeping the fiscal deficit roadmap intact. This will be a trial by fire for the Modi-government.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 13:42 IST

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

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

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

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

ReutersReuters

Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Father Thomas Uzhunnalil abduction: Sushma Swaraj responds to plea of Indian priest

On Tuesday, Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs responded to an appeal made by an Indian Catholic priest abducted from Yemen this year who through a video asked Pope Francis and the Union government to secure his release from his captors.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday morning, Swaraj said she has seen the video sent by Father Tom Uzhunnalil and that her department will spare no effort in securing his release.

In the video appeal, Father Uzhunnalil explained his deteriorating condition and sought help.

“If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously. I am from India. I am perhaps not considered as of much value,” said priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil in a weak voice in the video, aired by news channels in Kerala.

“Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father please take care of my life. I am very much depressed. My health is deteriorating,” he said in the video, a day after Christmas.

Father Uzhunnalil, who looked very weak, appeared to be reading out from a text placed before him.

The veracity of the video, which was uploaded from YouTube and Facebook, could neither be independently verified nor was the period when it was shot known.

Father Uzhunnalil, who hails from Kerala, was abducted in March by terror group Islamic State which attacked an old-age home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in southern Yemeni city of Aden.

He claimed his captors have made many contacts with the Government of India — president and prime minister.

“I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard,” he said.

He said reports had said everything has been done to get his release, “but in reality nothing” has been done.

Father Uzhunnalil said a news reporter abducted in the Middle East was released as she was from France.

“I am from India and not considered. Dear people, I pray you all, ask you all, beg you all to do your might to help me to save my life. I need hospitalisation soon. Please come to my help quickly,” he said.

The Union government has said efforts are being made to secure Uzhunnalil’s release, but such attempts take time.

Earlier, Swaraj had informed Parliament that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has spoken to various countries through which contacts can be established in Yemen.

Swaraj had said it takes more time to secure release of people who are held captive and asked the MPs to keep “faith” in government’s efforts to trace the abducted priest.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 10:29 IST

Will spare no effort to secure Father Tom’s release from IS captivity, says Swaraj

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday said that she will spare no effort to secure the release of abducted Indian priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil.Swaraj’s reaction came after the Indian Catholic priest abducted from Yemen this year appealed to Pope Francis and the Union government through a purported video to secure his release from his captors.”I have seen the video from Fr Tom. He is an Indian citizen and the life of every Indian is most precious for us,” Swaraj said in a series of tweets.Stating that the government managed to secure the release of Father Alex Prem Kumar and Judith D’Souza, she added, “We have spared no effort and we will spare no effort to secure Father Uzhunnalil’s release from captivity.”In the video, aired by news channels in Kerala, Father Uzhunnalil said, “If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously. I am from India. I am perhaps not considered as of much value.””Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a Father please take care of my life. I am very much depressed. My health is deteriorating,” he said in the video.The veracity of the video, which was uploaded from YouTube and Facebook, could neither be independently verified nor was the period when it was shot known.Father Uzhunnalil, who hails from Kerala, was abducted in March by terror group Islamic State which attacked an old-age home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in southern Yemeni city of Aden.He claimed his captors have made many contacts with the Government of India — President and Prime Minister.External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had informed Parliament that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has spoken to various countries through which contacts could be established in Yemen.(With agency inputs)

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

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

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

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

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With PTI

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

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

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

India, Bangladesh border to be completely sealed by mid 2018: Rajnath Singh

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

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

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 19:20 IST

Watch: Father Tom, Indian priest abducted from Yemen, appeals to Pope, Centre to secure his release

Kochi: An Indian Catholic priest abducted from Yemen this year appealed to Pope Francis and the Union government through a purported video to secure his release from his captors.

“If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously. I am from India. I am perhaps not considered as of much value,” said priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil in a weak voice in the video, aired by news channels in Kerala.

“Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father please take care of my life. I am very much depressed. My health is deteriorating,” he said in the video, a day after Christmas. Father Uzhunnalil, who looked very weak, appeared to be reading out from a text placed before him.

The veracity of the video, which was uploaded from You tube and Facebook, could neither be independently verified nor was the period when it was shot known.

Father Uzhunnalil, who hails from Kerala, was abducted in March by terror group Islamic State which attacked an old-age home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in city of Aden in southern Yemen.

He claimed his captors have made many contacts with the Government of India — President and Prime Minister.

“I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard,” he said.

He said reports had said everything has been done to get his release, “but in reality nothing” has been done. Father Uzhunnalil said a news reporter abducted in the Middle East was released as she was from France.

“I am from India and not considered. Dear people, I pray you all, ask you all, beg you all to do your might to help me to save my life. I need hospitalisation soon. Please come to my help quickly,” he said.

The Union Government has said efforts are being made to secure Uzhunnalil’s release, but such attempts take time. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had informed Parliament that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has spoken to various countries through which contacts can be established in Yemen.

Swaraj had said it takes more time to secure release of people who are held captive and asked the MPs to keep “faith” in government’s efforts to trace the abducted priest.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 18:31 IST

Demonetization: Delhi govt to adhere to Centre’s orders on electronic payments

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi government has asked all its departments to make electronic payments to suppliers, contractors and institutions if the order value exceeds Rs 5,000.The Finance Department of the Delhi government has issued an office memorandum deciding to implement the recent order of the Union Finance Ministry in this regard to promote e-payments. In the memorandum, the department has asked that payments should be made to contractors, suppliers and institutions through Real-Time Gross Settlement Systems (RTGS), National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) and Electronic Clearing Service (ECS). “It has been decided to implement the instructions (of the Union Finance Ministry)…in the departments, autonomous institutions, public sector undertakings and Corporations of Government of NCT of Delhi.”Accordingly, all payments to the suppliers, contractors, grantee/loanee institutions etc. above Rs 5,000 may be made through electronic mode i.e RTGS, NEFT and ECS with immediate effect,” the Finance Department said in the memorandum. The city administration’s move comes in line with the Centre’s decision to promote digitisation of payments following the announcement of demonetization of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes on November 8.Earlier this month, the Centre had lowered the threshold for making such payments from Rs 10,000 to Rs 5,000, a move that was aimed at attaining the goal of complete digitisation of government payments.

Delhi govt to make digital payments for transactions above Rs 5,000

New Delhi: The Delhi government has asked all its departments to make electronic payments to suppliers, contractors and institutions if the order value exceeds Rs 5,000.

The Finance Department of the Delhi government has issued an office memorandum deciding to implement the recent order of the Union Finance Ministry in this regard to promote e-payments.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

In the memorandum, the department has asked that payments should be made to contractors, suppliers and institutions through Real-Time Gross Settlement Systems (RTGS), National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) and Electronic Clearing Service (ECS).

“It has been decided to implement the instructions (of the Union Finance Ministry)…in the departments, autonomous institutions, public sector undertakings and Corporations of Government of NCT of Delhi.

“Accordingly, all payments to the suppliers, contractors, grantee/loanee institutions etc. above Rs 5,000 may be made through electronic mode i.e RTGS, NEFT and ECS with immediate effect,” the Finance Department said in the memorandum.

The city administration’s move comes in line with the Centre’s decision to promote digitisation of payments following the announcement of demonetisation of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes on 8 November.

Earlier this month, the Centre had lowered the threshold for making such payments from Rs 10,000 to Rs 5,000, a move that was aimed at attaining the goal of complete digitisation of government payments.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 15:22 IST

Protesting on 100 ft high mobile tower since last 50 days, Punjab teacher finally climbed down

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Around 50 days after he climbed a 100-ft high mobile tower near Punjab Chief Minister, Prakash Singh Badal’s residence in Chandigarh to demand a government job, Deepak Kumar, 35, an elementary school teacher from Fazilka in Punjab finally called off his protest and got down from the tower after he was given the appointment letter on Saturday.Kumar, 35, had climbed the tower in Sector 3, Chandigarh on November 3, along with another teacher, Rakesh, 31, from Gurdaspur and had been atop the tower ever since. Both the teachers had passed the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) conducted by the state government to fill posts of elementary teachers for Class 1 to 5, but were not shortlisted for the jobs.Over 300 such teachers under the banner and ETT Pass Unemployed Teachers Union had been protesting in various parts of Punjab, including Bathinda and Jalalabad demanding jobs. However, the government asserted that TET was an eligibility test and did not guarantee a job. The posts which are left vacant are those of reserved categories including that of ex-servicemen quota and freedom fighters, but the protesting teachers demanded that the seats be de-reserved and they should be hired.As others continued the sit-in protest on ground, Kumar sustained on a minimal supply of food and water on the tower, and bore the winter chill as temperatures dropped during the night. He sat determined, not to get down until he was given the appointment letter. Various attempts by the police to convince him to get down had failed to deter him.On Saturday morning, when the government issued a joining letter, he agreed to climb down.”Deepak has called off the protest after he was given an appointment letter by the government. But, there has been no decision on the other 360 teachers who are still waiting for jobs. We have decided to continue our sit-in protest till our demands are met,” said ETT Union President, Amarjit Singh Kamboj from Bathinda. The teachers have been demanding that all the candidates who had qualified the TET during 2011-16 be given government jobs.

Union minister Manoj Sinha undergoes surgery for fracture at AIIMS

Sun, 25 Dec 2016-12:15am , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union minister Manoj Sinha on Saturday underwent a surgery at AIIMS Trauma Centre for a fracture he suffered in the upper left arm in a road mishap in Gorakhpur.”The minister was operated on a fractured left upper arm. His condition is stable and is being monitored closely by a team of experts from critical care, anesthesia and orthopedics,” said a senior doctor at AIIMS Trauma Centre. The 57-year-old was involved in an accident that took place around 7.15 PM yesterday on the Tapti river bridge when he was coming to Gorakhpur from Barabanki.Sinha, who represents Gorakhpur in Lok Sabha, was initially admitted to Apollo Hospital and later shifted to the Lalit Narayan Mishra Railway Hospital. According to sources, the accident took place when the vehicle ahead of the minister’s car in the cavalcade suddenly applied brakes to avoid hitting a man. The car carrying Sinha hit the vehicle from behind and in the impact, the minister sustained the injury.

Kannada excluded from NEET, political fight breaks out

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A political blame game has erupted between ruling Congress and opposition BJP in Karnataka over non-inclusion of Kannada among the languages for holding the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for admission in medical colleges for the academic year 2017-18.As Chief Minister Siddaramaiah sought to put the onus on the Centre, Union Minister Ananth Kumar hit back citing the state government had written to the Centre suggesting that the exam be held in English.”Our government had written a letter stating that NEET exams should be held in Kannada also, still it has not been done. I have asked the Chief Secretary to write a letter,” Siddaramaiah said.Speaking to reporters in Mysuru, he said, “It is wrong. We have written a letter, but what are our BJP ministers (at the Centre) and MPs doing? Don’t they have the responsibility? They have won from Karnataka… what are they doing?” The Union Health Ministry on December 21 had said NEET exams for admission in medical colleges will be held in eight languages – Hindi, English, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu.Taking strong exception to Kannada being left out, the Chief Minister said, “Omitting Kannada… is a wrong thing, we are writing a protest letter also.”However, Ananth Kumar held the state government responsible for it. Speaking to reporters in Delhi, he said, “When the Centre asked the states about the language for NEET exams in their respective states in November, Karnataka government’s medical education department had clearly said in writing that the exams be held in English.””It is only three days ago that they have awakened and sought that the exams be held in Kannada,” he added. The Kannada Development Authority (KDA) has called the move to exclude the language a “great injustice” to seven crore Kannadigas. Karnataka is considered to be the home for highest number of medical colleges in the country.

Manipur blockade | ‘This is humanitarian crisis’: Centre asks state govt to end ‘worrisome’ conditions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre on Friday reviewed the situation in Manipur in the wake of the crippling economic blockade of a highway, with Union Minister Kiren Rijiju asking the state government to end the “worrisome” conditions that have triggered a “humanitarian crisis”.At a high level meeting attended by the Union Minister of State for Home Rijiju, Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh and senior officials of the central and Manipur governments, the situation in the state was discussed threadbare.Rijiju, who is on a day-long trip to Manipur as a central emissary, stressed that the Manipur government must discharge is “constitutional duties” by ending the blockade and bring back normalcy in state.The blockade on National Highway 2 by United Naga Council (UNC) has been continuing since November 1 crippling normal life in the landlocked state.The UNC has been protesting against the creation of seven new districts in the state.”This is a humanitarian crisis. We want that the Manipur government end the blockade as early as possible. Whatever assistance from the central government is required, we will give,” Rijiju said.”There is a constitutional duty of the state government to bring back normalcy and they should ensure that there is no blockade along the highway,” he told PTI.The Minister of State for Home Affairs, said the ground situation in Manipur continues to be worrisome and the Central government wants that law and order prevail in the state.”I will talk to the state government and will try to find out a solution,” he said.Rijiju said the prices of essential commodities have gone up due to the economic blockade and people have been suffering a lot.So we want the problem to resolves as early as possible, he added.Home Minister Rajnath Singh had on Thursday told Manipur Chief Minister that there has been extremely distressing situation caused by the continuous blockade of National Highway-2, which has caused an acute shortage of essential and other goods in Manipur and breakdown of law and order.The landlocked state has been experiencing severe hardship in supply of essential items since November 1 after United Naga Council (UNC) imposed an indefinite economic blockade on the two national highways that serve as lifeline for the state.

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

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

Demonetisation: Narendra Modi govt makes cashless salary mandatory, amends 80-year-old law

In a further push to cashless economy, the Central cabinet has approved the ordinance for paying wages via electronic means — which means that the government has given its nod for cashless salary. Accordingly, the government approved to amend Section 6 of the Payment Of Wages Act. The new ordinance will be applicable to public sector, with the private sector coming under the purview of the new move later, CNN News 18 reported.

“The Union Cabinet today approved the ordinance route to amend the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, to allow employers of certain industries to make payment through the electronic mode and cheques,” a source said. Employers will also have the option to pay wages in cash, the source added.

As per practice, the government introduces ordinance to amend laws for immediate implementation of new rules. An ordinance is valid for six months only. The government is required to get it passed in Parliament within that period.

According to CNN-News18, companies can pay their employees only through cheque or through electronic means. All wage workers, who earn less than Rs 18,000 will be come under the new ordinance. However, the specific sectors where the rule will be applicable will be notified later.

The state government will additionally have the discretion whether to pay employees via cheques or electronic transfer. According to reports, the government aims to check under-reporting of salaries, bring transparency in transactions and end exploitation of wage workers.

However, the Opposition lashed out at the government for the ordinance. “Nothing can distract people from the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have failed. Government should trust people and they cannot move without proper infrastructure”, the Congress party said.

“It will create a problem for the employees as withdrawal from the banks is difficult. Cashless society is not possible. We will move amendment in the Parliament,” Gurudas Dasgupta, CPM leader told CNN-News 18.

Wages, as opposed to salaries, have traditionally tended to be cash payments. The Payment of Wages Act covers employees whose wage does not exceed Rs 18,000 per month. The new procedure will serve the objective of “digital and less-cash economy”, the Bill stated. Introduced by Bandaru Dattatreya in the Winter Session of Parliament, the passage of the Bill was disrupted as the government and opposition clashed over demonetisation.

It will also allow state governments to specify industrial or other establishments that adopt cashless modes for salary payments. The new procedure will serve the objective of “digital and less cash economy”, the bill states. Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Kerala and Haryana have already made provisions for payment of wages through cheque and electronic transfers after making state-level amendments to the Act.

The original Act had come into force on 23 April 1936, providing for payment of wages in coin or currency notes, or in both. At present, with the written authorisation of an employee, wages can be given through cheque or transferred to his or her bank account.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 12:59 IST

Odd-even cannot be implemented in one day, will happen after adequate preparations: Delhi govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi government made it clear on Tuesday that the third phase of odd-even scheme will only happen in the city with prior adequate preparations and awareness to the people as Transport Minister Satyendar Jain conveyed it in the NCR Planning Board meeting chaired by Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu.Jain has asked the Centre to give the city administration sufficient time before asking it to implement the next round of car-rationing scheme as part of anti-pollution emergency measures. The main focus of the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) meeting was on the rising pollution level in the city.Earlier this month, the Centre had submitted in the Supreme Court its action plan to tackle the menace of air pollution and recommended slew of measures including ban on construction activities and implementation of odd-even scheme in the national capital. “In the NCR Planning Board meeting, I have requested the Centre to give us sufficient time before implementing the odd-even scheme so that we can sensitise people and generate awareness among the masses about it.”I have no objection on the next round of odd-even scheme. If Centre today says that odd-even will be implemented tomorrow, it cannot happen in one day. We need sufficient time before implementing the scheme,” Jain told reporters here.The minister also urged the central government to think about the livelihood of lakhs of labourers before banning construction activities as it has come to the notice that due to this move, labourers go to their native villages. “When the construction activities were recently banned in Delhi, most of labourers had gone to their villages. In view of this, I have requested the Union Minister to consider about their livelihood before taking any such decision,” he added.Jain said that during the meeting the report of IIT Kanpur on the city’s air pollution was also discussed, according to which there should be ban on power plants within radius of 300 km of Delhi. Apart from this, the report has also recommended controlling dust pollution through vacuum cleaning. “I raised both the issues in meeting and the Union Minister assured us to look into into,” Jain said, adding he also highlighted the delay in completion of three Urban Extension Roads being constructed by Delhi Development Authority (DDA).”There has already been a delay in completing these roads built in Outer Delhi. DDA has been constructing them for 15 years, but it is yet to complete them. “I have requested the Union Urban Development Minister to direct the agency to construct it as soon as possible so that there is no traffic congestion in Delhi,” he said.The Delhi government has also requested the Centre to construct Eastern and Western peripheral expressways at the earliest so that non-destined vehicles do not enter the city.

No construction in 10 km area around the Corbett National Park: Uttarakhand HC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>To check devastating forest fires, Uttarakhand High Court has issued a slew guidelines including ban on construction in 10 km area around the Corbett National Park and other protected areas, even as it directed the Centre to formulate National Forest Policy within next three months.A division bench of justices Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh, which was hearing a PIL on forest fires in the hill state, ordered employing 10,000 fire watchers in the coming year to curb incidents of forest fires. The court directed that an area of 10 km around Corbett National Park and such other parks be declared as eco-sensitive zone and no construction be allowed there.It directed the Gujjar people staying in the forest areas to vacate the land. “The state government is directed to formulate a policy to compensate the farmers who suffered loss due to forest fires,” the court said in its order on Monday.It also ordered erection of a stone wall around Corbett Park, provision of fire proof dress to fire fighter forest employees, and stern action against DFO, Conservator and other officials in case fire is not controlled within stipulated time. In addition, the court also gave various directions to preserve wildlife in Uttarakhand.The bench said that in the year 2016 itself 922 forest fires were reported which ruined flora and fauna across 1890.75 hectares of land. It was argued that not only do these fires threaten human life but are also a threat to wildlife as well as the environment.To combat the problem, the court directed the Union of India to formulate National Forest Policy within the next three months. Such policy must be directed towards forest management, conservation and increase in forest cover, it said.The court directed that no animal, be it tiger, leopard or panther, can be declared man eater within the state of Uttarakhand. The decision to whether an animal is a threat to human life will be taken by a high powered committee comprising Principal Secretary and Principal Chief Conservator of forest. “Even then no pictures of the body of the animal will be released to the media. Nor must a local hunter be engaged to kill any animal,” the court said.If an animal is captured, it must be returned to its natural habitat, it said. The Railway has been directed to dig up trenches around electric poles and insulate the same so as to prevent animals from being electrocuted.

Islamic State recruit from Mumbai deposited money into brother’s account for air travel

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>To facilitate his and friend’s journey to Egypt, ISIS recruit from Mumbra Tabrez Tambe had deposited Rs 5.17 lakh in his brother’s bank account before leaving the country in January, ATS officials said on Monday. Tambe had had left in January along with his friend Ali Al Shahri, a Saudi national. Tambe was detained in Libya recently.Few days before his journey to join the terror group, Tambe had deposited Rs 4.20 lakh on January 5 and Rs 97,000 on January 8 in his brother Saud Tambe’s account with a private bank.The money was meant for their ticket fare for Mumbai to Cairo, Cairo to Dar-E-Salaam and back, Cairo to Khartoum and back, according to the officials.Tambe was to undertake the Cairo to Khartoum journey alone as Ali was to travel separately.ATS is investigating whether the duo undertook their planned journeys or not.Ali, who was Tambe’s friend since they worked together in Saudi Arabia, had indoctrinated Tambe and also visited India later. It is also revealed that Ali had sent Rs 26,883 to Tambe through Western Union Money Transfer in November 11 this year. ATS is investigating the purpose of the transaction.Investigation is conducted into visa applications (of Tambe and Ali) for Egypt which were made through a Delhi-based travel agency and ticketing done by a famous travel company which has its office in Gurgaon (and) regarding transaction through Western Union Money Transfer, ATS officials said in a press statement.

Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi reaches out to minorities urging them to go cashless

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The inaugural ‘cashless chaupal’, an initiave of the Centre aimed at helping minorities connect with cashless economic system post demonetization, was organised in Moradabad on Monday with Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi pitching for Muslims to join the campaign against “cancer of corruption”.During the chaupal, held in the district’s Dalpatpur tehsil, the Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) informed the attendees about benefits of digital transactions, propagating it as an “effective mission” to establish transparent economic system to fight black money.Bank officials helped people present at the event in downloading various mobile applications related to digital payment, net and mobile banking and also made presentation on digital payment system, a statement said. “Digital transaction campaign is aimed at establishing an economic system which is based on less cash and maximum digital payment.”Na nakad na udhar, karen digital len den aur karobar (neither in cash nor on credit, let’s do digital transactions and business),” he raised the slogan while lauding the system, according to the statement.”The Muslim and other sections should join this campaign and help eradicate the cancer of corruption,” Naqvi said, adding the weaker sections of the society will benefit from the government’s decision.Stating that electronic voting system could attain 100% success in world’s largest democracy, Naqvi exuded confidence that digital transaction, online and mobile banking too will be successful. He claimed that cashless system will help farmers and small traders as he averred that e-payment and mobile banking can be helpful in places where banking system is not available.Citing example of direct benefit transfer (DBT) system used by the Minority Affairs Ministry to dispense scholarships to students from minority communities, Naqvi emphasised that digital system can help remove middlemen and ensure benefits reach the deserving individuals. He said the Minority Affairs Ministry has so far disbursed scholarships worth Rs 6,715 crore to 3 crore students into their bank accounts through DBT. The Union Minister said digital transactions will strengthen taxation system as more people will become part of it.Stating that several countries such as Sweden, France, Canada, Britain and Australia have become cashless economy, Naqvi said such a system can be implemented in India “easily”.In India, there are about 103 crore mobile phone users, 50 crore internet users, 144 crore bank accounts (figures include multiple accounts held by one person) and 25 crore Jan Dhan accounts. Besides, there are over 14 lakh Point of Sale (PoS) machines and 73 crore credit/debit cards in use, he claimed. However, the statement quoting the Union Minister, did not mention source of the statistics.The second edition of the chaupal will be held in Delhi on December 21.

IAS, DANICS officers meet Rajnath over resolution against ‘misbehaviour’ by Delhi govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>IAS and DANICS Officer associations, which passed a resolution last week against “misbehaviour” by Delhi government political executives, has met Union Minister Rajnath Singh and handed over the resolution to him.”We met the Union Home Minister yesterday and handed over our resolution passed last week against ‘misbehaviour’ by political executives in the Delhi government and other issues,” a member of the associations claimed. Both the associations had expressed “anguish and pain” at the alleged “misbehaviour by political executives” and appealed to the Kejriwal government not to resort to “misdemeanour, unfounded allegations, mis-information” campaign against officers, under any circumstance, according to the resolution which was adopted jointly by the Associations of AGMUT cadre IAS and DANICS officers. Ministry of Home Affairs is the cadre-controlling authority of AGMUT cadre IAS and DANICS officers.In the resolution, IAS officer Association and DANICS (Delhi, Andaman Nicobar Island Civil Services) officer Association had allegedly voiced against “injustices” of any kind by the political executives of Delhi government meted out to the officers working under it. Following the Associations’ move, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had alleged that IAS officers working in the Delhi government were being “threatened” and “provoked” by PMO and Lt Governor to revolt against him.In January, all DANICS officers’ association had gone on a one-day mass leave after the city administration had suspended two of their colleagues.

BJP-ruled Rajasthan tops list of states with highest atrocities against SC/ST; UP close second

New Delhi: BJP-ruled Rajasthan has reported the highest number of cases of atrocities against SCs and STs during 2013-15, followed by poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, a new government report said, even as the Centre on Monday flagged the issue of poor conviction rates in such cases.

Rajasthan has registered 23,861 cases under the amended Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act, while UP and Bihar registered 23,556 and 21,061 cases respectively, according to the agenda papers for a meeting of a committee to review the implementation of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 held in New Delhi on Monday.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. Reuters

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. Reuters

Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil and Gujarat reported 14,016, 9,054, 8,084, 7,565, 6,546, 5,131 and 3,969 such crimes respectively during the years. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment observed that during 2013-15, only 43.3 percent of the total cases registered (13,8077) were disposed of by courts and 25.7 percent of total cases disposed of by courts (59,779), ended in conviction.

“In certain states, i.e. Andhra Pradesh (6.3 percent), Gujarat (3.1 percent), Karnataka (3.5 percent), Maharashtra (7.6 percent), Odisha (4.3 per cent), Tamil Nadu (7.5 percent), Telangana (7.5 percent) and West Bengal (3 percent), the conviction rate was in single digit,” the agenda note read.

The committee headed by Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot sought action taken report from state governments to improve the disposal and conviction rates in such cases.

During the meeting, Gehlot pointed out that only 14 states have set up exclusive special courts for speedy trial of cases registered under the PoA Act.

However, he rued there was no information about formation of such courts by 22 states and Union Territories including Delhi, Punjab, Jharkhand, Haryana, Goa, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam etc and urged them to do the needful.

Section 14 of the amended PoA Act provides for establishing of exclusive special courts for one or more districts and where number of cases under this Act is less, specification of Court of Session as a Special Court, with powers to take direct cognisance of the offences under the PoA Act.

The Committee also wanted to know if the relief amount, that has been raised and made between Rs 85,000 to Rs 8,25,000 depending upon the nature of offence, is being given within seven days to the concerned persons as specified in the PoA Rules amended on April 14, 2016.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 15:44 IST

Atrocities against SC, ST: BJP-ruled Rajasthan tops list, UP follows

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP-ruled Rajasthan has reported the highest number of cases of atrocities against SCs and STs during 2013-15, followed by poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, a new government report said, even as the Centre today flagged the issue of poor conviction rates in such cases. Rajasthan has registered 23,861 cases under the amended Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act, while UP and Bihar registered 23,556 and 21,061 cases respectively, according to the agenda papers for a meeting of a committee to review the implementation of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 held here today. Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil and Gujarat reported 14,016, 9,054, 8,084, 7,565, 6,546, 5,131 and 3,969 such crimes respectively during the years.The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment observed that during 2013-15, only 43.3% of the total cases registered (13,8077) were disposed of by courts and 25.7% of total cases disposed of by courts (59,779), ended in conviction. “In certain states, i.e. Andhra Pradesh (6.3%), Gujarat (3.1%), Karnataka (3.5%), Maharashtra (7.6%), Odisha (4.3%), Tamil Nadu (7.5%), Telangana (7.5%) and West Bengal (3%), the conviction rate was in single digit,” the agenda note read.The committee headed by Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot sought action taken report from state governments to improve the disposal and conviction rates in such cases. During the meeting, Gehlot pointed out that only 14 states have set up exclusive special courts for speedy trial of cases registered under the PoA Act.However, he rued there was no information about formation of such courts by 22 states and Union Territories including Delhi, Punjab, Jharkhand, Haryana, Goa, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam etc and urged them to do the needful.Section 14 of the amended PoA Act provides for establishing of exclusive special courts for one or more districts and where number of cases under this Act is less, specification of Court of Session as a Special Court, with powers to take direct cognisance of the offences under the PoA Act.The Committee also wanted to know if the relief amount, that has been raised and made between Rs 85,000 to Rs 8,25,000 depending upon the nature of offence, is being given within seven days to the concerned persons as specified in the PoA Rules amended on April 14, 2016.

Govt toughens guidelines for social media use in CAPFs, stipulates legal action on violations

New Delhi: With smart phones making huge proliferation in ranks of security forces, the government has issued fresh guidelines for regulating sharing of secret operational and service data on such platforms involving troops and officers of central paramilitary forces, violation of which will invite “strict legal action”.

The three-page guidelines, issued by the Home Ministry recently and notified to Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) headquarters in New Delhi, speak specifically of instances where force personnel have used personal cell phones to click pictures of an ongoing or concluded ambush or operation which later finds it way on media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram and others.

The directives state that these are a reiteration and enhancement of the existing directives in this regard, but address some specific issues.

Representational image. Reuters.Representational image. Reuters.

Representational image. Reuters.

The latest order by the Union Home Ministry said there was a “strong need” to issue the do’s and dont’s afresh as it “has come to the notice of government that there have been instances where mobile phones and cameras of force personnel have been used for operational coverage and sensitive material was uploaded on social media without official permission.”

The fresh directives stipulate legal action against defaulting personnel.

“Any such photo, video, among others are meant strictly for official use only and any unauthorised disclosure of confidential operations related information by uploading operational material onto social media sites is a serious breach of rules and may lead to charges being laid against offending force employees,” the guidelines, accessed by PTI, said.

However, senior officials in these forces pointed out a loophole in this directive, saying in a number of operations multiple agencies like state police and army are involved and as these guidelines are not applicable on them, there could still be chances and instances of an information breach and subsequent sharing of multimedia on Internet-based social media platforms.

The guidelines add that “divulging” of such information on social media without permission of competent authority is “against National Information Security Policy and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and government”.

The brief guidelines do not make it amply clear what is to be released and what is to be held back during operations and even what construes to be an operational activity, officials said, citing an instance mentioned in the new directives which state that videos of training drills of these men and women “discloses methodology” of forces which “directly compromise safety of officers and men in operations.”

The guidelines have also mandated that the respective chiefs (Directors General) of these forces like the Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Central Industrial Security Force, Sashastra Seema Bal and the National Security Guard (NSG) will be the authorities mandated to clear release of pictures, videos, text and other information on “operations and other service matters” on social media either via the official handles of these forces or directly to the media (journalists).

The guidelines, framed after a number of meetings were held between senior officials of these forces and the Union Home Ministry in the last few months, stipulate that only official force cameras and recorders should be used to capture any picture or video of a captured or neutralised terrorist/militant and seizures of arms and ammunition made by them.

It adds that in case when official cameras or recorders are not available at the encounter spot and private cameras or cellphones are used in the aftermath of an operation it”should immediately be surrendered to the appropriate authority for official use with clearances of appropriate levels and then thereafter ensured that the same has been deleted from the private camera/smartphone among others.”

The new guidelines conclude that any violations of these points or any other standing order in this regard will invite “strict action against defaulters under the existing laws and rules.”

All the CAPFs, except NSG, now have their Twitter and Facebook handles and they post general information about the activities in their respective domains after obtaining clearances from the top command.

Officials estimate that over 75 percent of troops in these forces now have smartphones which can capture pictures and videos with good clarity.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 16:17 IST

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

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

Parliament passes Disabilities Bill; universal identity card to help differently-abled

New Delhi: Keeping aside the acrimony over demonetisation issue which paralysed the Winter Session, Parliament on Friday passed the Disabilities Bill which stipulates up to two year jail term and a maximum fine of Rs five lakh for discriminating against differently-abled people.

The Lok Sabha passed the bill within two hours after a short debate on the last day of the Session with the treasury and Opposition benches, who have been at loggerheads over demonetisation and other issues, joining hands to clear the legislation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House during the passage of the bill.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Rajya Sabha too had witnessed similar bonhomie for passage of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Replying to the debate, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot announced that a scheme of ‘universal identity card for the disabled’ is on the anvil and an agency has already been finalised for the purpose.

The proposed card would also be linked to the Aadhar card to help the disabled all over the country in a seamless fashion, he said.

Gehlot said the universal identity card is being acted upon to overcome the problem of disability certificate being faced by those affected.

He said the government has joined hands with German and British firms for making available state-of-the-art limbs to the disabled wherever possible.

The Lok Sabha witnessed a division on an amendment by Congress and TRS members seeking to raise the reservation in the bill from four to five percent. It was defeated by 121 to 43 votes. KC Venugopal of the Congress who had given the amendment pressed for the division.

Members from both sides supported the bill but suggested certain changes to improve the measure.

Interestingly, the bill had been originally moved in 2014 in Rajya Sabha by then Union Minister Mallikarjun Kharge who is now Leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha.

The bill, which aims at securing and enhancing the rights and entitlements of disabled persons, also gives effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and related matters.

It provides for imprisonment of at least six months up to two years, along with a fine ranging between Rs 10,000 and Rs five lakh for discriminating against differently-abled persons.

Moving the bill for consideration and passage on Friday, Gehlot said out of 82 recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, 59 were accepted by the Government.

The bill, he said, has increased the number of categories of disabled persons to 21.

The Union Cabinet had earlier approved these amendments to the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (RPWD) Bill, 2014, that had replaced the 1995 Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act.

In the bill, disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept and the types of disabilities have been increased from existing seven to 21. The Centre will have the power to add more types of disabilities to it.

The types of disabilities now include mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions.

It also strengthens the office of chief commissioner and state commissioners for Persons with Disabilities which will act as regulatory bodies.

The bill was examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee last year. Then, a Group of Ministers, headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, examined its provisions and sent their recommendations to the Prime Minister’s Office.

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

Tarun Gogoi’s terms withdrawal of his NSG cover as ‘political decision’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre has decided to withdraw the NSG cover of former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and include incumbent Sarbananda Sonowal in the category. Gogoi alleged it was a “political” decision as he often criticises the Narendra Modi government for its “anti-people policies”.The decision to withdraw NSG security cover to Gogoi was taken after a review meeting held on Wednesday, official sources said.The NSG has informed Gogoi about the decision and the state government will be communicated in due course of time, the sources said.They said the NSG cover was meant for the chief minister of the sensitive northeastern state and since Gogoi lost power, it would be extended to the incumbent in view of the threat perception.Assam Police will be asked to look after Gogoi’s security as per requirement, the sources said, adding the veteran Congress leader will no longer be on the central list of protectees. The NSG is, however, yet to take over the security of Sonowal.”Last night I received a communication from the Union Home Ministry about withdrawal of National Security Guards personnel. No reason was mentioned. The letter was forwarded to me by the Chief Minister’s Office,” Gogoi told PTI in Guwahati. He said when he contacted the DGP and the Additional DGP (Special Branch), they were not aware of the development. “As per rule, a feedback goes from the state government.But the government is saying it does not know. How can it be possible that the intimation was forwarded by the CM Office and nobody knows about it?” Gogoi asked.He, however, said the commandos were still with him as they have not got any further orders. “I have never seen in my life that security cover was withdrawn from a former chief minister within just six months of demitting office. I am constantly criticising the anti-people policies of the Modi government and the BJP-led government in the state. That is the only reason for withdrawing my security. Except politics, I don’t see anything,” he said.He cited example of another former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, who also enjoys security by NSG personnel. “I was CM for 15 years and the UPA was in power for 10 years. We never did this to Prafulla Mahanta and he still enjoys the NSG security… Everybody knows how I controlled insurgency or jehadi problems in the state. How is it that till yesterday, I had threat and today not?” Gogoi said.Asked if he will appeal for a review, he said he will take a decision in a day or two.

Congress adopting ‘spit and run’ tactic to divert attention from real issues in Parliament: Naidu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Blaming the opposition for disruptions in Parliament, Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said on Thursday that the Congress was adopting “spit and run” tactic to divert attention from the real issues. “Everybody is sad. The way Parliament is not being allowed to function, every countrymen is sad. We are also sad. But what to do if some people deliberately and continuously not allowing Parliament to function. It is a known fact who is rushing to the Well of the House,” Naidu told reporters outside Parliament.He was asked to comment on BJP veteran LK Advani’s comment in the Lok Sabha, “I feel like resigning”, after a virtual washout of the winter session of Parliament over the demonetization issue. “Being a senior party man, Advaniji is also feeling like that,” Naidu said.On the AgustaWestland chopper scam, the Union minister said, “It is a serious issue and should be discussed in the House. Many MPs have given notices in both Houses for discussion on the issue because it is related to the nation’s security. But Congress is not ready. They are bringing new issues to divert the attention from this.” On Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s claim about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged corrupt practices, Naidu said, “If your allegations have substance, then discuss it in the House. It is a spit and run tactics. One day PM’s name, next day Kiren Rijiju.”The opposition targeted Union Minister of State for Home Affairs for his alleged involvement in a Rs 450 crore scam in a power project in Arunachal Pradesh. Accusing the opposition of indulging in “dirty political tactics”, he said, “Before this, they have made allegations against Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje Scindia, MP CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan. Now Prime Minister. These are all dirty political tactics. There is no substances in it.””From day one, we are saying let’s have debate. We also said PM will be present and intervene in the discussion and FM will offer solutions. Debate started in the Rajya Sabha. Three Congress MPs spoke, Left also participated. JD(U) also participated,” he said.”Now they are saying discuss farmers’ plight. Who stopped you from discussing on the farmers issue all these days? I wanted to ask BSP and Sharad Yadav (of JD-U) that since the last 20 days why you did not raise farmers issue. Since elections are round the corner, you remember farmers now. All countrymen are watching it and people are not taking them seriously because of their strategy is to spit and run,” he said.

Ban sale of liquor on all National, State Highways from 1 April: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a ban on all liquor shops on national as well as state highways across the country and made it clear that licenses of existing shops will not be renewed after 31 March next year.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur also directed that all signages indicating presence of liquor vends will be prohibited on national and state highways.

The bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao said the existing licenses of liquor shops across the highways will not be renewed after 31 March, 2017.

Last week, the apex court had expressed concern over 1.5 lakh fatalities every year in road mishaps, saying it may direct closure of liquor vends on national and state highways across the nation, besides removal of the signages indicating their location.

The apex court, while reserving verdict on 7 December on a batch of pleas seeking a direction to amend excise laws to ensure that no liquor is sold alongside highways, came down heavily on the Punjab government for seeking relaxation and permitting liquor shops near highways if they are “elevated” ones and the vend are under or near it.

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

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Reminding the state government of its constitutional obligation to prohibit liquor sale, the bench had asked the state to do something for general public considering that nearly 1.5 lakh people were dying every year.

The bench had also expressed unhappiness over alleged inaction by various states in removing liquor shops alongside roads which give rise to drunken driving and consequential fatalities.

It had said that revenue generation cannot be a “valid reason” for a state or a Union territory to give licence for liquor shops on highways and the authorities should adopt a positive attitude to remove the menace.

The bench had also rapped the Centre for not doing anything concrete for the last 10 years forcing the court to “step in”.

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

Several pleas have been filed on the issue including the one which referred to the 2015 report of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and said almost five lakh accidents occurred last year in India, killing 1,46,000 people and leaving thrice the number injured.

It was alleged that despite recommendation of a committee to ban of sale of alcohol on state and national highways, states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were sticking to their prevailing excise policies under which licences were being issued to liquor shops along the highways.

“An analysis of road accident data 2015 reveals that around 1,374 accidents and 400 deaths take place every day on Indian roads, resulting in 57 accidents and loss of 17 lives on an average every hour.

“India being a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration, it is imperative that policy guidelines are framed to control road accidents. Also, the excise policies of Indian states and Union territories should be amended to conform to the spirit of Article 47 r/w Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” one of the pleas had said.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 13:00 IST

‘Self reliance’ must for ensuring ‘foolproof’ internal security of country: Rajnath Singh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday pitched for providing incentives in defence manufacturing saying foreign companies are not only interested in investing in India but also ready to transfer technologies.Singh said ‘self reliance’ was a must towards ensuring ‘foolproof’ internal security of a country while underlining the need to reduce dependency on other countries, especially in the defence sector. “Israeli and Chinese companies seek to come to India and make investment for the purpose of defence production. They are not only ready to make investment and production, but also ready to even transfer technology to India if needed. We should consider giving more incentives in manufacturing in defence sector,” Singh said during a conference on ‘Defence Production’ organised by trade body ASSOCHAM.Singh said defence production has not been encouraged in the past, “although previous governments may have tried. This triggered corruption instead of increasing competitiveness in defence orders,” he said. “As far as the question of purchasing defence equipment is concerned, I can say that decisions to purchase defence equipment are now being taken fast as compared to past and their implementation is also ensured. If we can make ‘Mangalyaan’ in a fraction of cost, then why should we depend on import on other nations,” Singh said.He said that India was emerging as a global hub in Research and Development as well, especially in manufacturing and engineering R&D through ‘Make in India’ initiative. “Even in defence sector, indigenous defence production has been encouraged through ‘Make in India’ and the government wants to take it forward,” Singh said.”Securing internal and external security of a country cannot be imagined unless it becomes self-reliant. Even if a country is not fully self-reliant, it will have to make sure that its dependence on other nations should be less,” the minister said.

Congress guns for Rijiju over Rs 450-crore ‘scam’, minister says ‘I am not connected with the audio tape’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Setting the scene for a showdown with the Modi government in Parliament, the Congress on Tuesday demanded Union minister Kiren Rijiju’s resignation on account of an “audio proof” and documentary evidence which claimed that he facilitated a Rs 450-crore scam embedded in a huge hydro-electric project in his home state of Arunachal Pradesh.Congress alleged that Satish Verma, the Chief Vigilance Officer with North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ld (NEEPCO), had said in a report that the government was in danger of being swindled of nearly Rs 450 crore because it was being presented with inflated and fictitious bills. These bills were for the removal of large stones and boulders in trucks for the construction of a dam in Rijiju’s constituency.Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed that an audio recording of Verma’s conversation with the minister’s relative Goboi Rijiju revealed that the official is about to be promoted. In the audio tape, Goboi Rijiju also offered: “Sir, if there is anything that my brother can do, please do let me know.”
ALSO READ Not a crime to help poor tribals, all payments made during Congress regime, says under-fire Kiren Rijiju Coming back hard on the Congress for “malicious” intent, Rijiju reacted, “Those who are planting this news, if they come where we are, they will get hit with shoes. Is it corruption to try and help your people?”Backing Rijiju strongly, the BJP said, “Satish Verma is a charge-sheeted officer with a dubious track record and continues to work as a political fixer for the Congress party. The entire contract works were allotted when the Congress party was in power.Later, a much sober Rijiju told DNA, “It is the Congress that should apologise to the nation. I don’t have any brother. All works allotted and payments made were during Congress rule. I am not connected with the audio tape.”To bolster his claim that there was no wrong doing, Rijiju also posted on Twitter the letters he had written to Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal, the latter’s reply to him and the representation by local residents of his constituency West Kameng bearing ten signatures.Besides, the ministry of power also came out with a long clarification on the government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) website questioning the intent of wild allegations made in the media along with the copies of correspondence.Putting across the facts, the clarification said, “The letter written by Hon’ble MoS Home Affairs has no bearing on any payments released by NEEPCO as the payment had already been released before his letter under authorization of Shri Verma. NEEPCO is a Mini Ratna company and the government does not interfere in the operational matters of PSUs. No instructions or directions by the Government were given to NEEPCO at any time for making any payments. Thus, the allegations made are baseless, totally false and seem to be motivated by the charge sheet issued against an officer for violation of CVC instructions and service conduct rules.”Congress insiders from Arunachal Pradesh, however, conceded that allegations of corruption on Rijiju and demands for his resignation will not stick and the party is looking only for political gains.”Rijiju is a title of Miji tribe which has only 37,000 people spread out in the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. In West Kameng, the Miji population is much less and in Arunachal it is normal for a minister to get representation from people and forward it to ministry concerned with a request for expediting the work. Every minister writes such letters in hundreds. There is nothing extraordinary in Rijiju’s letter,” conceded a local Congress leader from Arunachal.

Demonetization: Naidu says PM Modi will be present in Parliament, slams MMS and Chidambaram

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be present in Parliament for the remaining three days of the winter session and accused the Opposition of “changing goalpost” to disrupt functioning of both the Houses.”The Prime Minister, except when he was out, is in Parliament every day. He is the first man to come to the Parliament and the last man to go. He is sitting in his room and watching all that is happening. As and when there is a request, he comes to the House,” Naidu said.When asked specifically if the Prime Minister will be present in Parliament for the next three days, he said,” He will be.”Naidu’s remarks come in the background of Opposition’s demand for Modi’s presence in the House during the debate on demonetizationand discussion under a rule which entails voting.The winter session of the Parliament has witnessed almost complete washout since it began on November 16. It will resume tomorrow and conclude on December 16.Stressing that the government wants to have a debate on the demonetizationissue, Naidu accused the Opposition of “changing goalpost”, saying the Speaker had allowed the discussion under rule 193 and now it is being disrupted by the Congress-led Opposition.After the discussion started, the Opposition realised that they “don’t have anything to say” and suddenly started demanding that Prime Minister be present in the House.”You want Prime Minister to come to House and listen to all the abuses. Who are they (Opposition) to decide and dictate. There is rule 193 and the speaker has already accepted (a debate under it),” he said. Naidu assails Manmohan, Chidambaram for criticising note ban Hitting out at former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ex-Finance Minister P Chidambaram for criticising the government’s demonetizationdecision, Senior Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu today accused them of not having done anything to curb the menace of black money and instead allowed “loot and plunder” through various scams.Asserting that Modi has shown “political courage” by taking demonetizationdecision, the minister said there may by temporary pain but it was for long term gain. It is a “strong pill for a long time ill caused by Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram and his party,” he added.Referring to Singh’s allegations that demonetizationis a “monumental management failure” and case of “organised loot and legalised plunder”, Naidu alleged, “Manmohanji loot and plunder happened in your regime. You presided over the loot and plunder of 2G, 3G and CWG…Congress has no moral right to criticise the Prime Minister.”Accusing Singh of not having done anything to stop “parallel economy”, Naidu said,”I challenge Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh to come out with one single instance where they have shown the intention of fighting (the menance) of black money.”He said Modi government had to take the gigantic step of demonetizationas chemotherapy to fight the “cancer of corruption”. “And like there are side effects of chemo, this also has temporary effects,” he added.He also said that the government was advocating “less cash or minimum cash economy and not advocating cashless economy”.

RPI will help BJP get Dalit votes in UP, will field Rakhi Sawant against Mayawati: Ramdas Athawale

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Vying to contest in Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, BJP ally RPI’s chief Ramdas Athawale said the saffron party needs his support as it can’t come to power in the state without Dalit votes. The RPI president and Union Minister also announced that he will field actress Rakhi Sawant, who heads the party’s women wing, against BSP supremo Mayawati.Claiming that his party has substantial presence across Uttar Pradesh, Athwale said its support will be vital for BJP to capture power in the politically significant state.”BJP can’t win Uttar Pradesh assembly elections without Dalit votes. RPI can get them these votes. Therefore there should be alliance between the two parties and I will approach and request both BJP president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the same,” he said.Informing that he would be happy with at least 15 to 20 seats from BJP, Athwale said, “If BJP doesn’t agree for alliance, then RPI will contest on more than 200 seats, but will continue to be part of NDA.””BSP has taken our elephant, the Dalit votes in Uttar Pradesh originally belongs to our party. RPI was in power in the state in 1967,” he claimed.”I will campaign in the state and request people that they have given a chance to their sister (Mayawati) now its time to give chance to their brother,” the Union minister said.RPI, which came into being in the late 1950s, has its roots in the Scheduled Castes Federation led by Dr B R Ambedkar.It has considerable influence among the Dalits of Maharashtra. The party split into different factions. Athawale succeeded in bringing together all these factions under the banner of RPI(A) with the exception of the group led by Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar.

Qatar’s new labour law won’t stop abuses of migrant workers, say rights groups | Reuters

By Ed Upright

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – – Qatar’s labour law reforms won’t end the abuse and exploitation faced by migrant workers in the country – and may even make it worse, human rights groups said on Monday.The Qatari government said a new law coming into effect on Tuesday will replace the controversial “kafala” or sponsorship system that forces foreign workers to seek their employer’s consent to change jobs or leave the country.Rights groups say the kafala system has forced workers to live in squalor and toil under dangerous, sometimes fatal, conditions which amount to modern-day slavery.Qatar is spending billions of dollars on infrastructure related to the World Cup it is hosting in 2022 and has imported hundreds of thousands of construction workers from countries such as India, Nepal and Bangladesh for ambitious building projects.The reforms won’t lead to significant changes on the ground, however, according to an Amnesty International report which says workers will continue to need their employer’s permission to change jobs and will still require exit permits to leave the oil-rich Gulf state.”This new law may get rid of the word ‘sponsorship’ but it leaves the same basic system intact,” James Lynch, deputy director for global issues at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“FIFA [football’s governing body that organises the World Cup] its sponsors and foreign governments seeking business ties with Qatar cannot and must not use this reform to claim that the problem of migrant labour abuse has been solved.”According to Amnesty, abusive employers can also withhold workers’ passports under a new loophole – something that wasn’t allowed under the previous laws.The International Trade Union Confederation told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that despite the new laws, “Qatar remains a slave state”.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “This is just new labels on old laws. The exit permit system still remains a fact of life. This is just a relabelling of an extremely exploitative system.”The Qatar government on Monday said the reforms would make it easier for migrant workers to change jobs and leave the country, bringing “tangible benefits”.”The new law is the latest step towards improving and protecting the rights of every expatriate worker in Qatar,” Labour Minister Issa al-Nuami said in a statement.

“We urge the international community not to draw any definitive conclusions until there has been time to see the new law in action.”The Qatari embassy in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Amnesty report on Monday.Bangladeshi labour activists said on Friday they had joined a lawsuit in Switzerland against FIFA for allegedly failing to use its influence to ensure people working on World Cup facilities in Qatar are treated fairly.The suit, filed in FIFA’s home city of Zurich with the backing of the Netherlands’ largest labour union, calls on FIFA to force Qatar to adopt “minimum labour standards” for migrant workers preparing for the tournament. (Reporting by Ed Upright; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 00:24 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Home Minister Rajnath Singh assures Tamil Nadu of all help

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday assured the Tamil Nadu government of extending all help to the state in the wake of cyclone ‘Vardah’.”Singh called up Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and enquired about the situation in the aftermath of cyclone Vardah crossing the districts of Chennai, Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur,” a government statement said.”The Union Home Minister assured the Chief Minister that the Centre would extend all help required by the State Government in this regard,” it added.Panneerselvam told Singh that the state’s administrative machinery is kept in readiness in all respects to face the cyclone, even as senior IAS Officers have been posted in the affected districts to oversee rescue and relief operations, it said.He also informed the Home Minister that NDRF and SDRF teams have been deployed and that the armed forces, besides the Coast Guard, have been kept on alert.The State machinery has been pressed effectively for rescue and relief work undertaken on a war footing, Panneerselvam was quoted as telling the Home Minister.Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu government said a total of three persons have lost their lives in the cyclone “Vardah” related incidents in the state and announced a solatium of Rs four lakh each to the next of the kin of their families.”Three persons have lost their lives in the Cyclone Vardah related incidents”, Chief Minister O Pannerselvam said in a statement here.Expressing deep condolences to the bereaved family members, the Chief Minister said “a sum of Rs four lakh each will be given from the State Disaster Relief Fund”.

Demonetization leaves a trust deficit, consensus eludes GST

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the trust between the government and the Opposition parties at a low ebb, thanks to feud over demonetization, the crucial Goods and Services Tax (GST) seems to be headed for a delay, that could well see it missing the April 1, 2017 deadline.This was apparent from the lack of consensus at the GST Council meeting—represented by ministers and officials of Union and state finance departments—on Sunday, and the decision to call off Monday’s sitting.The Council was looking to pass four proposed laws—Central GST (CGST, state GST (SGST), integrated GST (IGST) and Compensation Act—in the ongoing winter session that ends on December 16.With Finance Minister Arun Jailtey informing that the discussions on the legislations were initiated but would require more time and that the next meeting would be held on December 22 and 23, these Bills can now be presented only in the Budget session.“The discussion is moving quite satisfactorily. Hopefully, in the next meeting we will be able to clear them. Next sitting was tomorrow, but some of the states’ representatives wanted to return in view of the Eid,” said Jaitley.On whether postponement and failure to finalise the draft Bills would result in the government missing the April 1 deadline, Jaitley said: “The Budget session starts in January. Our target is April 1. If April 1 is the first possible date when it can be implemented then the last day is also constitutionally defined as September 16, 2017. We don’t have the luxury of time because after five months and 16 days, curtains will be down on the old taxation powers”.Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said it was demonetization which had “eroded the mutual trust and the cordial environment”.“I come from Kerala, where the Centre’s demonetization is destroying its entire cooperative structure. Co-op sector accounts for more than one-third of bank deposits in Kerala and you (Centre) expects me to come and have a handshake on GST. So well, it’s their (Centre’s) own making,” said Isaac.MS Mani, senior director, Deloitte India, believes April 1 date for implementation of the proposed unified indirect tax was not completely ruled out by the outcome of Sunday’s meeting but it did point to a likelihood of its delay.He said that in all the discussion on date, the Council seems to have forgotten classification of goods and services under different rate brackets, which have been finalised. “Trade and industry are eagerly waiting not only for the date of introduction of GST but also for the rate application to the products and services manufactured by them,” he said. The Deloitte tax expert said it was sad to see an important economic and tax reform being swept by the political storm caused by demonetization.“Political reasons are determining the fate of GST, which is not the correct thing, because ideally GST is an economic and tax reform, and economic and tax reforms should not be dictated by political compulsions,” he lamented.

Kerala CM takes a dig at Jaitley, expresses doubts on his role in economic policies

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking a dig at Arun Jaitley, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday expressed doubts whether the Union Finance Minister has any “role” in determining key economic policies, like demonetization, of the BJP-led NDA government.Recalling his meeting with Jaitley to discuss the crisis in the Kerala’s cooperative banking sector in the wake of demonetization drive, Vijayan said during the conversation the finance minister could generate a feeling that the issue would be resolved very soon.”When we met him we had a feeling that the issue would be resolved very soon. Such was his response to our grievances on the state’s cooperative sector. But when we came out of the meeting, it was realised that the cooperative sector was again thrown into deep troubles,” Vijayan said, addressing a convention on Cooperative Banks in Kochi attended by leaders from CPI(M)-led LDF and Congress-led UDF. Describing Jaitley as a “gentleman” who never talks unwanted things, Vijayan said during the meeting, the finance minister said everything will be solved but just opposite to his assurance had happened.The Chief Minister recalled his meeting with Jaitley at his office in New Delhi seeking bank status for Kerala’s 3,000 primary cooperatives to accept old Rs 500 and 1000 currencies towards exchange or deposit. “But when we came out of the meeting what we heard was that the Reserve Bank of India issued a new direction banning even District Central Cooperative Banks from carrying out such operations,” he said. Vijayan said Kerala had to face some unpleasant experiences from the finance minister which no other state would have experienced. “Many people who had met the finance minister on behalf of the Kerala state had such experiences from him,” he said.”It is being said that three people are taking major economic policy decisions (like demonetization). But more clarity is required to ascertain whether he (Jaitley) has any role in taking such decisions,” Vijayan said, taking a dig at the senior BJP leader holding the key portfolio in the Narendra Modi government. Vijayan described as “wrong” the BJP-led government’s decision to demonetize high value Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. “Some centres in the government took a decision (to demonetize the high valued currencies). Now it is being imposed on us,” the Chief Minister said. He said the attempt to destroy Kerala’s cooperative sector would be defeated at any cost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tamil Nadu: First Cabinet meeting with new CM O Panneerselvam today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>New Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu O Panneerselvam, who assumed office following the demise of J Jayalalithaa, will hold a Cabinet meeting on Saturday at the State Secretariat.The meeting will begin at 11.30 am as per the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party sources. Panneerselvam is expected to adopt a resolution to accord formal sanction for a suitably impressive memorial for Jayalalithaa. Meanwhile, the Chief Minister is yet to formally take his seat in his office at the Secretariat.Earlier, the Union Cabinet met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and condoled the death of Jayalalithaa who passed away on December 5 at Chennai’s Apollo Hospital. Panneerselvam took oath as the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa breathed her last at 11.30 pm last Monday at Apollo Hospital in Chennai. The oath taking ceremony took place at Raj Bhawan. Panneerselvam served as the Leader of Opposition during the DMK government in 2006. He has previously held the portfolio of Finance in every AIADMK government.

Hyderabad building collapse: 11 bodies retrieved, building owner arrested

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Eleven bodies were recovered from the debris of an under-construction building which collapsed in Hyderabad on Thursday night, while a woman and her son were rescued. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) said that four bodies had been retrieved on Friday night.The rescue operation continued well into the night. ANI reported that the owner of the building was arrested by the police.The seven-storey building at Nanakramguda in the Cyberabad zone came crashing down on Thursday night. On Friday, Cyberabad police commissioner Sandeep Shandilya had told PTI that Rekha, around 35-year-old, and her son (4), who hailed from Chhattisgarh, were pulled out alive from the crash site. The woman and her son were admitted to a hospital for treatment, he said.All the victims of the tragedy are workers who lived in the basement of the building. Except one family, all others belonged to Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh. The state government has arranged for sending the bodies and family members of the deceased to their native places in Andhra Pradesh through the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC), the GHMC said. Telangana Municipal Administration Minister KT Rama Rao visited the spot and announced ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of those killed. The state government would take tough action against the building owner for alleged violation of construction rules as well as the civic officials “who looked the other way”, he said. A family member of the building’s owner had been detained and two GHMC officials had been suspended, the Minister said.Andhra Pradesh Housing Minister K Mrinalini, who hails from Vizianagaram, also visited the site and spoke with K T Rama Rao and others. The Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), Hyderabad, has been asked to investigate the cause of the collapse. A preliminary report in this regard was expected tonight, the GHMC said.The state government has also requested the secretary of Municipal Administration Department to examine the relevant issues and suggest systemic improvements to prevent such incidents in future, it added.Meanwhile, Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya met Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao who was in Delhi and discussed the incident with him. Dattatreya also directed Labour Ministry officials in Hyderabad to provide necessary help to the victims, a release from the Union Minister said. Telangana Congress president N Uttam Kumar Reddy and other party leaders visited the site.In an apparent reference to Rama Rao, Reddy said the “head of the department (Municipal Administration and Urban Development) should take the moral responsibility” for the tragedy and quit. NDRF personnel along with local civic workers handled the rescue operations which were difficult and time-consuming as the collapsed building was narrow.

Most of the 1,400 tourists evacuated from Andaman islands

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A fleet of seven ships and six helicopters evacuated most of the 1,400 tourists stranded in two islands of Andamans due to cyclonic weather since Monday, officials said on .As the weather cleared in the morning, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and union territory administration started a joint evacuation drive and brought back most of the stranded tourists to Port Blair from Havelock and Neil islands. “The remaining tourists will be shifted by tonight. All are safe and were taken care of,” an official of the Andaman and Nicobar islands said.He said three Mi-17V-5 military transport helicopters from the Air Force and three Pawan Hans helicopters of the Union territory administration besides seven ships from Navy and administration have been regularly plying between islands for the operations.Located about 40 km from Port Blair, Havelock and Neil are the most popular tourist attractions in the Andamans where the tourists were stranded since Monday due to torrential rains, choppy seas and heavy winds as neither aircraft nor ships could operate.The cyclonic storm ‘Vardah’, which was lying 250 km west-northwest of Port Blair, is very likely to intensify into a severe cyclone later in the night, according to the MeT department.Lt Governor of the islands Jagdish Mukhi said there was no untoward incident and no loss of life or property due to the inclement weather. “We are sending all tourists back home from Port Blair according to their flight timings. We have also made arrangements for their stay here,” an official said.

Expedite release of drought relief funds: Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah to Centre

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Friday called on Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, and requested them to sanction at the earliest drought and flood relief funds of over Rs 5,000 crore to the state. Siddaramaiah met the two Union ministers separately.State minister TB Jayachandra and special representative of the Karnataka government in New Delhi, Appaji CS Nada Gouda were also present.According to sources, Siddaramaiah updated the Home Minister about the impact of drought and floods on agricultural crops as well as the farming community, and urged him to take action at the earliest to release the central aid. The Chief Minister had also sought an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but he failed to get it.In the meeting with the Union Home Minister, the Chief Minister informed that the state had already submitted a memorandum seeking a central aid of Rs 4,702 crore for drought-hit farmers in the 2016 kharif season and Rs 386 crore to take up relief works in flood-hit areas of the state.A central team, which visited the state last month to assess the situation, has already submitted the report and based on which the Agriculture Ministry has prepared a note.In a separate meeting with the Union Agriculture Minister, Siddaramaiah raised concerns about delay in releasing central aid to drought-hit farmers in the state.According to the sources, the Home Minister is expected to soon call a meeting to decide on the quantum of relief funds to be released to Karnataka from the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF). Karnataka is facing drought for the sixth consecutive year and has declared 110 talukas of 25 districts as drought-hit during the 2016 kharif season. Siddaramaiah also met Congress President Sonia Gandhi and conveyed birthday wishes to her.

Parliamentary Committee recommends increase in retirement age, fixing minimum tenure for CJI

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As the government and the judiciary exchange barbs over rising vacancies in courts, a Parliamentary committee on Thursday recommended increasing the retirement age of Supreme Court judges and fixing a “minimum tenure” for the Chief Justice of India and chief justices of high courts to ease shortage.In its report tabled on Thursday, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Personnel was critical of the government and the judiciary for not sticking to timelines to fill up vacancies in high courts. Seeking to make the present system of appointment of judges more transparent, the committee said the SC Collegium should inform the candidates whose name it has rejected on a particular ground.It said the government also rejects the recommendations of the collegium “without furnishing cogent reasons…such practices are against the principles of natural justice and leads to opaqueness in the appointment process”. On the issue of hiking the retirement age of SC judges from the present 65 to 67 years, it said the retirement age has remained unchanged since India became a Republic. The retirement age of high court judges was increased fro 60 to 62 in 1963.Referring to the short tenures the CJI and chief justices of high courts often have, the panel said in the last 20 years, 17 Chief Justices of India have been appointed and out of those, only three had tenure of more than two years. “Many of them had tenure of even less than one year,” it observed.It said chief justice of high courts in most cases get appointed for a less than two years term. Some of the chief justices also get elevated to the bench of Supreme Court, further shortening their tenure in high courts. “In many cases, the post of Chief Justice are not filled-up simultaneously and acting Chief Justice, appointed as a stop-gap arrangement, does not often take decision about names to be recommended to the Union Government/Supreme Court collegium for filling-up of vacancies in that High Court,” the panel said taking a grim view.It said that ensuring a minimum tenure may resolve the issue and asked the Law Ministry “to consider ways so that a Chief Justice in the High Courts and in the Supreme Court remains in position for a certain minimum tenure”. It also said that instead of five, a minimum of 11 judges of the Supreme Court should hear cases involving the validity of a Constitutional amendment. It also recommended the cases involving the interpretation of Constitution should not be heard by a Bench of less than 7 judges.

Demonetization: After lavish weddings, BJP urges caution

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Amid reports of the lavish wedding of Union minister Nitin Gadkari’s daughter in Nagpur, a BJP spokesperson said public representatives need to be “little cautious” when common people are facing inconvenience, apparently in the wake of demonetizationof high value notes. “As I have said, whether it is a minister, a businessmen, an employee..as long as they use accounted money, there is no question to be asked. But yes, at a time when people are experiencing inconvenience, generally we expect all public representatives to be little cautious,” GVL Narsimha Rao, National Spokesman of the BJP said responding to a query on the wedding of Gadkari’s daughter. Referring to the controversy surrounding the wedding of former Karnataka minister Janardhan Reddy’s daughter last month, Rao said Reddy is not part of the BJP anymore. Ketki, youngest of three children of Gadkari, tied the knot with Facebook professional Aditya Kaskhedikar on December 4. A galaxy of political leaders, including Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu, BJP president Amit Shah, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had attended the function. Rao said, “Let me make it clear that there is no ban on anyone’s spending genuine, hard earned money on any event. Somebody has lot of money no one questions it. But if people are using money through illicit means or unaccountable manner, this is the matter of concern and this has already been taken (up).”Congress had alleged crores were spent on the wedding of Gadkari’s daughter and demanded BJP should make public details of expenses made.When asked about the pompous marriage of Reddy’s daughter in Bengaluru last month, he said, “He (Reddy) is not part of party anymore…you are referring to big fat wedding that happened in Karnataka…It has already been raided..Inquiry is on…anybody who dares to spend unaccounted money in this manner is only inviting troubles for themselves.”The ostentatious marriage marked by opulence has raised a firestorm of controversy against the backdrop of cash crunch, and allegations of money laundering are flying thick and fast. On the scrapping of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month, the spokesman said, “In this country, any move which is a pro-people measure instantly gets public support and anything which you consider anti-people definitely results into electoral disaster.” Dismissing speculations that demonetizationexercise will hurt the saffron party in the upcoming elections, Rao said, “demonetizationhas greatly helped the poor and poor people today believe and the honest people believe that it pays to be honest and cost to be corrupt.” He conceded that the surprise move has caused “inconvenience” to people.”This had to be a surprise move and not meant to be announced in days or months in advance with preparations.Therefore people are supporting it despite the inconvenience they are facing because they have understood the spirit of it and they have understood why the PM took this bold move, and they are blessing it,” Rao added.

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