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What will define citizenship in India and the world in 2017?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As 2016 draws to a close and many of us are emotionally spent lamenting events that we consider undesirable, citizenship has emerged as one of the murkiest ideas of the last year. Who is a citizen? What does citizenship entail? What should be expected of citizens and what is owed to them? Where does the writ of the state end, vis-à-vis rights and privacy? Every major event of 2016 has raised one or more of these questions. ComplianceIn India, demonetization has put the spotlight on compliance. Introduced suddenly and executed shoddily, those struggling to cope have found their situation exacerbated by what seemed like daily changes in regulations. The on-the-ground reality of cash shortages and non-functioning ATMs have plunged countless Indians into crisis. The broadcasting style of the government—they pronounce, we scurry, no questions asked—has left Indians helpless. We must comply because we have no way to challenge or defy.The absence of large protests was offered the other day on television as evidence of the success of this move. The reality is that most of us have been too busy trying to figure out withdrawals and deposits to organise! Most beleaguered are bank staff who have gone in fifty days from making patriotic noises to lamenting their choice of career—to ordinary account-holders, they are the face of this arbitrary government and the recipients of public ire. We are all complying because we have no choice.“Compliance” is not a bad thing—laws, rules and regulations are presumably intended to benefit us. Citizens should obey them. But should we obey blindly and should we be expected to obey without debate? ‘To comply’ means to conform, to follow along, to observe, to submit—and in the absence of debate, discussion, questioning and accountability, all these words are inimical to democracy. Compliance achieved by enforcement suggests that there is no consensus on the appropriateness or utility of a regulation. And if there is no consensus, that means the law or rule has not really been discussed adequately.Parliament sessions are listed on the calendar but how many days do Parliamentarians actually do any session-time work—debates, questions and answers? All Indian parties are responsible for this breakdown but governments—all governments—have turned it into an opportunity to govern by ordinance. This is a windfall for anyone seeking to push their will through to the public. That makes enforced compliance of rules-never-debated sinister. Yes, Indians are past-masters at flouting rules. But stressing compliance over an understanding of the spirit of a law or regulation is not the answer; it suggests that the government is keener on making us obey than creating a climate in which we engage with and together fashion the frameworks of our lives.In 2017, what I want to know is, will my citizenship be measured solely and entirely—by government and fellow-citizens—in terms of my willingness to comply without question? I suspect so, given the tendency to cry ‘anti-national’ when faced with any debate or questions. Judging by the last two months, I would suggest that we have definitely entered a phase in which citizens are expected to be subjects of a state that knows best.Embed from Getty ImagesCredulityPolitical smarts, when I was growing up, involved questioning the actions of the state. Being interested in politics meant asking before obeying, challenging before accepting and endlessly debating. Being apolitical was manifested by finding the loopholes and generally believing that it made no difference who was in power or what they did. Both poles kept the rhetoric of political leaders in their place—“Nice to see you, but no one really believes what you say.”This is quite a different moment. We now desperately want to believe in our political leaders. We crave strong paternalistic leaders who will tell us what to do—whether or not they actually know. We are okay with being ruled by people who give directions to places they have never heard of. We just want them to sound confident. We want to be children and subjects who are led into a better future. We ask no questions. We have obliterated from our minds every historical memory and so we have no fear of a return to other fascist ages. We have no interest in political agency—we would even like to vote by SMS as if life were a reality show—and so we surrender it to strong men who know (always men, by the way!). This seems to be a worldwide phenomenon.We are content to swallow the dreams these strong men articulate, the road-maps they outline even if they keep shifting, their self-assessment as successful and visionary (this is after all, the age of self-nomination for awards and LinkedIn visionary leaders!) and their choice of a range of coercive measures. We accept with faith everything we are told about those who challenge them—human rights workers usually, who do their work in the face of great danger. Around the world, human rights NGOs are being charged with non-compliance—but it is becoming hard to distinguish whether it is non-compliance with rules and regulations or non-compliance with the government’s line that they are being framed and punished for. We have to remember that today it is them, but tomorrow, it could be any of us.Targeting dissenting elements in civil society is not unique to the present Indian government, to be fair. However, what has changed in the state-civil society equation is that citizens are stepping forward to sweep away any obstacles or rubble in the path of the state juggernaut. Nobody is asking questions. Most are not asking questions because they have chosen to live as subjects of a paternalist state that shows tough love for their own good. Some are not asking questions because they are afraid of being crushed by the juggernaut. A very small number are picking their battles so that they can outlast this moment. The fate of the handful of truly brave Indian citizens, who are undeterred in the face of government pressure and persecution and unsupported in this moment of absolute credulity on our parts, hangs in the balance. Will we ensure they survive 2017?ConvictionThe word ‘conviction’ is now associated more with being found guilty and punished than with having strong unassailable beliefs. Many of us around the world are proud of living in democratic political systems—in fact, those of us that occasionally ask questions are reminded that democracy involves accepting (unconscionable?) points of view and the outcomes of due process elections. Fair enough!This pride does not however seem to translate into much else. In an age when information is ubiquitous, democratic citizenship remains confined to expressing opinion and not seeking to have an informed opinion. This is why, on the morning after the Brexit vote, Google reported that the most-searched term of the day was “What is the EU?” Not knowing the answer to something, no longer precludes our having an opinion on it—that is democracy 2016-style. Democracy is about giving everyone a voice. The US presidential election suggests this is how we understand it: feeling alienated and excluded from the political and social changes of the last few decades, we can seek to exclude and alienate others. Democracy is not about inclusive and enabling processes but a tug-of-war about who is in and who is out. There are shades of this view of democracy to be found all over the world, including India and other parts of South Asia. We sway with the prevailing wind, giving uninformed opinion the clout of conviction. If someone comes to us sounding confident about what they are saying, we are convinced and do not find it necessary to question values, logic or facts. This is why “post-truth” was selected by the Oxford Dictionaries as the word of the year.Embed from Getty Images‘Conviction’ is a beautiful word. To say of someone that they are a person of strong convictions is to pay them a compliment. But should our convictions be so rigid that they cannot accommodate the experience of others? More critically, when we are talking about democracy and citizenship, should the strong men to whom we have handed over our agency be allowed to impose their convictions upon us?I want to know where we stand. As 2017 begins, I want to understand what we believe in—individually and collectively. Citizens of democratic states and societies around the world need to think about this and find ways to express themselves. Our casual submission betrays our values. Our silence emboldens those who would disregard our citizenship.Do we truly believe in democracy? If we did, our societies would not be as divided, our public debates replaced by monologues and tweet-binges and our ability to converse with each other so badly impaired. Our everyday engagement with politics seems confined to ‘who started it’ and ‘who said what to whom.’ Our so-called democratic convictions stop short of understanding citizenship and our own relationship with states. We see the purpose of government as ‘control’ (as reflected in many school civics lessons)—and so we submit to that control uncritically. Citizenship is naturally about compliance and credulity, rather than a conviction-driven engagement.CourageIn 2017, conviction-driven engagement will take even more courage than usual. We have lowered our defences everywhere to such a degree that every small thing—including writing a cheeky response to the requirement that we explain our deposits—appears bold. To say that we will not get Aadhaar cards (which, please note, are not mandatory) and we will not use a digital wallet now seem like volunteering to face bullets. What will we then do when the real lathis and bullets come?Where citizenship is expressed by over-eager compliance and utter credulity (really, rolling over and playing dead), then the work that is done by the groups like the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group is astoundingly brave. To understand how the politics of implementing demonetization ties in with the way that the government wants to suppress dissent, take this development. Shalini Gera, a lawyer from this group, travelled to Bijapur for a case and was told that a complaint had been filed against her for “exchanging old Rs 1,000 notes worth Rs 10 lakh for the Maoists.” Is this true or is this not true? Do we care enough to find out? The chances are we don’t. We are happy to believe that all human rights activists are engaged in nefarious activities involving anti-national elements. Because the government would never lie to us, would it? But people like Shalini Gera—or any of the many other human rights activists targeted by the government through tax probes or FCRA challenges—have the courage of their convictions. They stay the course. Thankfully.Right or wrong, every accused person has the right to due process and a legal defence. All citizens have the right to ask questions and get answers. The constitution of India gives us the right to ask what has happened to missing people; to expect that governments will do their work without exceeding their mandate and jurisdiction and to understand by what authority governments act. Citizenship is not an entitlement or a legal status alone; it is a privilege, and one that you exercise through agency, when political agency requires courage. Citizens—in India and other democratic countries—enjoy civil and political rights, but in 2017, we will get to see whether they have the conviction and the courage to reclaim and exercise them.CompassionIn 2016, political discussions hit a new low. At the good end, we had uncivil, uninformed and ad hominem discussions. At the bad end, we had trolling, cyber-bullying and hate speech. Sometimes, it was hard to tell the two ends apart. Nothing however, highlighted the absence of compassion from our public lives as much as the Syrian crisis and demonetisation.The world has been grappling with a Syrian exodus for a couple of years. As nearby states have quietly absorbed large numbers of refugees, this has precipitated an identity crisis and cultural debates in Europe and North America. To the extent that various European countries have taken in refugees and tried to help them settle down, this has become an issue in domestic politics. But even as we watched elections around Europe and discussed political trends there, news kept emerging from Syria about the deteriorating ground situation. People tweeted photos and blogged stories. We liked, favourited, shared and retweeted, and maybe signed petitions. What history will record is that we did nothing. More than a century since we began looking for collective security, we have not found a way to channel our compassion into action that strikes a good balance between interference and intervention, between helping and handling.Embed from Getty ImagesThe other, closer to home, is how middle-class Indians have responded to demonetization. When faced with questions about implementation and concerns about impact, I have been saddened by the things I hear people say.“Don’t worry about the poor! They have lots of cash.” “Do you think the street vendor is poor? He or she has other sources of income. And by the way, they don’t pay tax.” “See, everyone should have a bank account.”“What’s the problem? Soldiers fight on the front, we can’t stand in queues?” (Never mind the old, the frail, the arthritic and the diabetic, who stood for hours to maybe get a small portion of their money.)“It’s so easy to use digital if you have a smartphone.” (IF you have a smartphone, electricity and decent connectivity.)“Small businesses like tailors will take a hit but everything will be alright in the long run.” (“In the long run, we are all dead,” wrote Keynes.)Middle class resentment about those better-off seems logical. What has emerged is our resentment about those worse off than us. It is as if they are secretly better off. As we have palmed off our stashes of old notes to them, we have not considered that they might be accountable too. We do not consider whose who work in our homes and offices to be human, leave alone citizens. I have been alarmed by the payment in advance of salaries—does that portend a new version of bonded labour that ties the honest worker to the dishonest employer for an indefinite period?A government that appears callous and a credulous citizenry that seems to lack compassion—this is a lethal combination that is now in evidence worldwide. The likelihood that 2017 will redefine citizenship as a web of compassionate relationships seems non-existent, but because we cannot afford that pessimism, I list compassion here anyway.***What will we make of our citizenship in 2017? Wherever we live, it will be a year in which, consciously or unconsciously, we mark our place on the spectrum between credulous compliance and courage of conviction. Wherever we live, the experiences of others and our compassion for them will need to colour our political choices—if only because, in this political climate, any one of us could be the next person to need that support and compassion. As we countdown to this new Gregorian year, I wish you courage.Swarna Rajagopalan is a political scientist by training.

Nuke club NSG draft rule may allow India in, leave Pakistan out: Report

Washington: A draft proposal for accepting new members into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) paves the way for India’s entry but leaves Pakistan out, says a US-based arms control organisation. The Arms Control Association (ACA), Washington, also warns that relaxing membership rules will undermine non-proliferation.

Last week, the US media reported that Rafael Mariano Grossi, a former chairman of the NSG, had prepared a two-page document, explaining how a non-Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) state, like India and Pakistan, could join the group. Grossi was acting on behalf of the current chairman, Song Young-wan of South Korea, and his document enjoys a semi-official status, Dawn reported.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

To prevent India from blocking Pakistan from joining the NPT, Grossi’s draft note proposes that “one non-NPT member state should reach an understanding not to block consensus on membership for another non-NPT member state”.

But ACA’s Executive Director Daryl Kimball warns that “Pakistan still has grounds to object to the formula outlined by Grossi”.

He explains that the document will require Pakistan to meet the same criteria for membership as India “but, to engage in civil nuclear trade with NSG states, it would have to win a separate NSG exemption from the full-scope safeguards requirement”.

India is seeking membership of the NSG on the strength of the fact that it is already doing business with NSG members.

The 48-nation NSG is a nuclear technology control organisation formed in 1975 in response to India’s first nuclear weapons test, which used plutonium produced with nuclear technology from Canada and the US. The NSG seeks to prevent similar future misuses.

Current NSG membership rules require a state to sign the nuclear NPT before joining this exclusive club. India remains one of only three countries, with Israel and Pakistan, never to have signed the NPT. Earlier this year, India formally applied for membership and was followed by Pakistan. The US, and a host of other powerful western nations, back India’s application, but China and half a dozen other nations are blocking India’s membership, which requires a consensus of all members.

India hoped to join the group during NSG’s last plenary session, held in Seoul in June this year, but the meeting ended without taking any decision on New Delhi’s application.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 11:18 IST

Economy in year 2016: Brexit, Trump victory, demonetisation turn conventional wisdom around

Year 2016 was a fairly turbulent year for both the world economy and India not so much because there were any great surprises in terms of economic events or extraneous shocks but on accounts of forced developments which will have a long lasting impact.

When the year started, the question really was as to when the world economy would turnaround as there were differing signs emanating from different countries. The direction of movement of the Federal Reserve was more or less known while the ECB was to continue to maintain status quo while Bank of Japan was to reflate. The world economy has been moving along expected lines and the Chinese recovery was also almost on course. Therefore there did not seem to be any perverse sign to think otherwise.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Two major developments however have changed the perception not so much from the point of view of things going wrong this year, but more from a futuristic perspective. These are the BREXIT followed by Donald Trump’s victory, which though unexpected has been convincing with the Republican Party having a majority in the Congress and Senate. BREXIT is symptomatic of the world turning towards becoming more closed and the dictum of free trade and investment is being questioned seriously today. While the referendum in Britain could have termed a ‘one off case’, similar undercurrents prevail also in France and Italy where public opinion is veering towards movement away from the Union and probably at some time from the euro currency.

Countries have started thinking more of isolationism as it is believed that globalization progressively impedes growth as the benefits could be leaning more towards the rest of the world. USA for example believes that the major challenge today is jobs and that they are being lost to outsiders at both the unskilled and skilled levels. This was probably one reason why Donald Trump succeeded. When dealing with the strongest economy, there is always a case of the weaker countries benefiting more than the former, and this perception has led the Americans to believe that they have been losers. This has given a shot to pro-protectionist policies.

BREXIT does not mean the end of ties with the EU but Britain no longer has to accept the goods and people of the continent based on these water tight agreements. Quite clearly conventional wisdom is being turned around now and while presently no singular action has been taken, the future of the world economy is going to be far from normal once these ideologies are implemented. In fact, even the progress made by the WTO which is always a conflict between developed and developing countries will be questioned within the former set of nations as they compete with one another. The latter would also tend to be reinforced through trade barriers once it is realized that they are disadvantaged on the basis of restrictions in export of services.

Closer back home, the growth story had been building quite firmly with even the second quarter corporate results giving one the impression that things were turning around. The consumption story was being told rather convincingly with the pre Diwali sales laying the road of optimism. This was when the government embarked on the big demonetization exercise. While the entire nation has welcomed it unequivocally, there have been doubts raised in terms of the economic impact and it is almost certain that growth will slow down and that it will take two to three quarters for recovery – which will be mid 2017 at the earliest. While the objectives of dealing with black money and forcing the public to be technology-savvy are localized issues, from the point of view of the economy, things have been pushed backwards.

The impact on growth has been debated and while the numbers are a matter of subjective conjecture, the fact is that jobs have been lost and consumption buffeted mainly due to absence of currency which still dominates 90 percent of our transactions. Arguably, the impact would, be of a temporary nature as money is only a means of payment and is a facilitator rather than a commodity on its own. Therefore the production processes will continue as before once normalcy steps in. However, specific industries have taken a major blow like real estate, consumer goods, automobiles, tourism, transport, hospitality to name a few. The timing of the bounce back will vary but for sure will take a couple of quarters.

Hence, we too are ending the year on an uncertain note, though there is the feel good factor that black money has been slayed or at least an attempt has been made to do so. This would, also be an interesting phenomenon to watch out for in the New Year whether we change, what the economist Alfred Marshall have said, our ordinary business of lives.

The major concern however, for the entire world is the decision taken by OPEC to cut back output. Presently it does not seem to be an issue, but given that the last two to three years have been very hospitable as oil prices have been depressed, this may be a warning. It is still uncertain whether the OPEC nations will stick to their targets as there are signs of desperation as these countries which run only on oil may be tempted to ‘cheat’ to improve their incomes which could make this decision self-defeating. This can be a defining event for the world in 2017 as higher crude prices have always pressurized economies in terms of higher inflation and lower growth prospects. As most countries are on the anvil of such a turnaround, higher oil prices can delay the process.

Hence, the world will have to look at what the European countries do and what Donald Trump actually does when he becomes President. Will he drive immigrants out or dilute the free trade agreements and turn fully protectionist? It is hoped that what he has promised is political rhetoric and would get moderated along the way. But the dollar has become stronger as have the stock indices which mean that the markets are positive about these outcomes. Back home in India, the final numbers of growth will tell the story but for sure the deferment of the certainty of high growth due to the twist in tale on account of demonetization will remain a contentious issue for discussion.

(The writer is Chief Economist, CARE Ratings. Views are personal)

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 07:32 IST

Indus water dispute: Pakistan’s FM talks to World Bank chief, objects to pausing arbitration process

Islamabad: World Bank President Jim Yong Kim called Pakistani Finance Minster Ishaq Dar on phone to discuss the Pakistan-India water dispute, an official said on Tuesday.

The phone call on Monday was in relation with the latest dispute concerning two hydroelectric power plants — Kishan­ganga and Ratle — that India is building on the Indus river system, Dawn online reported.

Dar earlier wrote to Kim requesting him to help settle the water dispute between the two neighbouring nations.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

He said that delaying arbitration would seriously prejudice Pakistan’s interests and rights under the bilateral Indus Waters Treaty which was signed in 1960.

The letter explained that Pakistan was not withdrawing its earlier request to the bank to appoint the chairman of the Court of Arbitration and since this process had already been “inordinately delayed”, Islamabad wanted the bank to appoint the chairman as soon as possible.

Pakistan believes that further delay would hurt the country’s interests as India was working on completing the two projects. Dar said that once the projects are completed, it will be difficult to undo them.

The treaty distributed the Indus basin rivers between the two countries, giving India control over the three eastern rivers of Beas, Ravi and Sutlej, while Pakistan has the three western rivers of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.

The treaty empowers the World Bank to arbitrate any water dispute between India and Pakistan.

Last week, Kim in a letter to the Finance Ministers of India and Pakistan, said he had decided to “pause” the bank’s arbitration and urged the two neighbours to decide by the end of January how they wanted to settle the dispute.

Pakistan asked the bank to appoint the chairman of the Court of Arbitration while India demanded the appointment of a neutral expert.

Kim said he was “pausing” arbitration to protect the Indus Waters Treaty, which has successfully resolved previous disputes between the two neighbours.

Tension over the water dispute intensified in November when Prime Minister Narendra Modi post the Uri attack which claimed the lives of 19 soldiers, said: “Blood and water cannot flow at the same time.”

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 14:35 IST

Indus water dispute: Pakistan FM gets a call from World Bank President

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim has called Pakistan Finance Minster Ishaq Dar to discuss the latter’s request to help settle the Indus water dispute, sources said.The development comes after the Pakistani Minister wrote a letter to Kim on December 23 urging him to move ahead with the appointment of a chairman of the Court of Arbitration, reports the Dawn.The letter written by Dar was in response to the World Bank President’s letter of December 12 and their decision to pause the process of empanelment of the Court of Arbitration.Dar, said in his letter, that this decision of the World Bank will seriously prejudice Pakistan’s interests and rights under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960. The letter said that the matter of appointment of a chairman of the Court of Arbitration has been inordinately delayed.It urged the World Bank to execute its obligations under the Indus Waters Treaty. The Finance Minister noted that the pause proposed by the World Bank President will merely prevent Pakistan from approaching a competent forum and having its grievances addressed.Earlier this month, the World Bank asked both India and Pakistan to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements over the Indus Water Treaty Dispute 1960.The bank said it is temporarily halting the appointment of a neutral expert as requested by India, and the chairman of the Court of Arbitration, as requested by Pakistan, to resolve issues regarding two hydroelectric power plants under construction by India along the Indus Rivers system.

Year in pictures 2016

A selection of the most compelling news photographs from around the world, taken over the past year.

2016 in review: Do you have what it takes to go for this really really really difficult Firstpost quiz?

2016 in review: Do you have what it takes to go for this really really really difficult Firstpost quiz?

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From Modi’s demonetisation politics to Rio Olympics, how closely have you been following news this year? Test your knowledge here.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 17:32 IST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With inputs from agencies

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

Fake news in review: Here are the top 10 forwards Indians (almost) believed in 2016

By Alison Saldanha

From currency to salt–very little escaped the reach of fake or fabricated news in 2016. Rumours spread from WhatsApp and other social media into the mainstream media. Institutions such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had to step in and tell us what was true. Even Facebook and Google, two of the world’s biggest Internet companies, sat up and took notice.

Such news can have widespread reach: India is one of the biggest markets for several social media and communication companies–it has 160 million of WhatsApp’s one billion-plus monthly active users, 148 million Facebook users, and over 22 million Twitter accounts.

The potency of fabricated news came into focus after the 2016 US presidential elections. In the run-up to the ballot, fake news on the elections drew more engagement on Facebook than top-performing stories from major news outlets such as The New York Times, CNN, NBC News, or The Wall Street Journal, this BuzzFeed News analysis found. Other countries witnessed the rise of fake news too, according to this Guardian report, rendering it a global phenomenon in 2016.

Here are some of the most popular Indian fake news stories of 2016:

Unesco declares PM Modi best Prime Minister

Unesco has been one of the primary alleged sources of fake news in India. In June 2016, fake news broke out on WhatsApp groups, and other social media, that the UN cultural agency had awarded Prime Minister Narendra Modi the title of best prime minister in the world.

That rumour is still circulating on social media:

World billiards champion Pankaj Advani shared the news on Twitter congratulating PM Modi.

After media organisations pointed out the news was a hoax, Twitterati trolled Advani leading him to post this rebuttal:

Unesco declares Jana Gana Mana best national anthem

Another favourite Indian rumour involving Unesco is the claim that India’s national anthem–Jana Gana Mana–has been declared the “Best National Anthem In The World”. The fake news started in 2008 through email and then caught the UN agency’s attention. “We are aware of several blogs in India reporting this story, but can assure you that Unesco has made no such announcement concerning the anthem of India or any country,” a Unesco official told India Today in 2008.

Circulation of the rumour peaked around India’s Independence Day in 2016:

Unesco declares new Rs 2,000 note best currency in the world

Another fake Unesco certificate for India touched upon the notebandi crisis, as messages claimed the organisation had certified the new Rs 2,000 note as the “best currency in the world”. The message, shared widely on WhatsApp, claimed “Dr. Saurabh Mukherjee, head of cultural awareness department of Unesco announced this to media.”

The rumours caught the eye of the BBC, which reported that “thousands” of Indian WhatsApp users had “forwarded the message along with joyful emojis”.

New notes have a GPS chip to detect black money

Another notebandi rumour proliferated when PM Modi announced the withdrawal of old Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes on 8 November, 2016. In less than an hour, rumours circulating on WhatsApp of a nano geo-positioning system (GPS) tracking device embedded in the new Rs 2,000 notes gained traction. This chip, the messages said, would alert authorities if black money was hoarded .

The nano-GPS chip does not need any power source, the forward said, according to this Firstpost report. “It only acts as a signal reflector. When a Satellite sends a signal requesting location the NGC reflects back the signal from the location, giving precise location coordinates, and the serial number of the currency back to the satellite, this way every chip-embedded currency can be easily tracked & located even if it is kept 120 meters below ground level. The NGC can’t be tampered with or removed without damaging the currency note.” Mobile currency-scanner apps emerged claiming the app can scan new notes and have these authenticated by RBI, according to this Firstpost report.

The RBI has clarified the new notes contain security features such as latent images, coloured strip security threads, watermarks etc, but they do not have a chip installed, according to this The Hindu report.

Still, rumours are rampant. Recent news of authorities tracing hoards of illegally-held new notes seems to have further fanned rumours, and more YouTube videos explaining the placement of chips in the new notes are circulating on social media.

New notes have radioactive ink

Notebandi provided more fodder for fake news. Earlier this month, rumours began circulating that the RBI was using radioactive ink to print new Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes. The new notes include a “radioactive isotope of phosphorous (P32), which has 15 protons and 17 neutrons”. The fake news claimed the income-tax department was using the isotope to trace large quantities of cash held at a particular spot. The trace amounts of radioactive isotope employed in this exercise were not harmful to humans, according to WhatsApp messages, as FirstPost reported.

Even some banks fell prey to notebandi-related rumours, and were called out on Twitter.

WhatsApp profile pictures can be used by IS for terror activities

A WhatsApp forward, supposedly sent by the Delhi police commissioner, requested “moms” and “sisters” to delete their WhatsApp profile pictures for security purposes. These pictures were supposedly vulnerable to misuse by the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS), whose hackers had access to citizens’ details and could easily steal their virtual identity, according to the forwarded message. The message further claimed that WhatsApp’s CEO had requested users do this for 20-25 days, while their team worked on enhancing the messaging application’s security features.

The message was signed off by an AK Mittal, who claimed to be Delhi’s police commissioner, but the phone number mentioned in the message had since been marked as “blacklisted” in Truecaller, which a caller identification application, according to this Indian Express report.

A Reddit thread discussing the WhatsApp message is here.

 RBI declares the Rs 10 coin invalid

Months before notebandi was announced, the message that the RBI had declared the Rs 10 coin invalid spread through WhatsApp, particularly to areas in Agra, Delhi and Meerut.

This confusion led shopkeepers, kiosk-owners, auto-rickshaw drivers and vendors to refuse the coins, according to this Hindustan Times report from September 2016.

In June 2016, the RBI had issued a new Rs 10 coin. At that time, rumours had spread that the old coins would now no longer be valid. WhatsApp messages made other claims too–two kinds of counterfeit coins have flooded the market, and that the RBI was phasing the coins out because of widespread circulation of fake currency–according to this Business Standard report. The RBI stepped in and clarified that the coins were indeed legal tender and those refusing to accept the currency could face legal action.

After the withdrawal of Rs 14 lakh crore–the value of bank notes withdrawn on November 8, 2016–the rumour resurfaced in Odisha, spreading panic and adding to the currency chaos as vendors refused to accept the coins, according to this NDTV report from November 2016.

Jayalalithaa’s ‘secret daughter’ and heir lives in the US

Soon after the death of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, fake news and photos of a secret daughter went viral on WhatsApp and social media. The message alleged that the woman in the photograph was Jayalalithaa’s daughter, who lived somewhere in the US in anonymity.

As it turns out, the woman in the photograph was not connected to Jayalalithaa and lived in Australia, according to popular singer and TV show host Chinmayi Sripada, who took to Facebook to dispel the rumours.

“She belongs to the family of renowned Mridangam Vidwan V Balaji,” wrote Sripada. Musician Trivandrum V Balaji also clarified that the woman in the photo was his sister-in-law.

Salt shortage in India

WhatsApp messages of a salt shortage (despite a 7,517 km coastline) in November 2016 triggered panic buying at markets past midnight, and caused a four-fold price-rise in some parts of the country. Western Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra and Hyderabad were particularly affected by this bit of fake news, said news reports. The subsequent chaos to stock up on the essential commodity led to the death of a woman in Kanpur, while police baton-charged crowds and stopped mobs from looting grocery shops, according to this India Today report.

The government issued a clarification denying any shortage of the commodity. “We monitor the prices of 22 essential commodities on daily basis. As per the prices reported by centres from across the country, there has been no increase in price of salt whatsoever,” the department of consumer affairs said in a statement, as quoted in this The Times of India report.

Speaking at an event in Goa, PM Modi claimed the fake news was being circulated by “vested interests hurt by demonetization”, according to this IANS report. The prime minister’s claim is unverified.

“Nehru Govt has stood like a Banyan Tree”: Mark Tully

Fake news claiming former BBC India bureau chief Mark Tully called for support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, while describing India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s government as standing “like a banyan tree, overshadowing the people and the institutions of India”, went viral on social media earlier this month. “Nothing grows under the banyan tree,” the message added.

The fake Facebook post reads: “For a year or so we may witness more of Dadris, more of Kaniyahas, more of Owaisi style shouting but finally if the *Society keeps its cool, acts maturely* and continues to perform we will sail through and the old forces will die a natural death.” The post claimed Tully made these statements while discussing “changes happening in MODI’S regime” in his new book, No Full Stops in India.

Tully rebutted the claims of the post in this Hindustan Times column, though the post still appears to be in circulation. Not everyone believed the statements were authentic but some did ask for confirmation, he wrote: “But some did think they were authentic, a few even congratulated me. The fact that people could believe such obvious fakes were genuine indicates the power of fake news…If the reports had been more credible, less absurd, my credibility would have been severely damaged.”

Indiaspend.com is a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit

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First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 09:28 IST

Pakistan wants World Bank to ‘fulfil its obligations’ regarding the Indus Water Treaty

Sun, 25 Dec 2016-09:08pm , Islamabad , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has asked the World Bank to “fulfil its obligations” regarding the Indus Water Treaty as it objected to the body pausing two concurrent processes related to Indo-Pak dispute over Kishenganga and Ratle project.Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in a letter to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the Treaty does not provide for a situation wherein a party can “pause” performance of its obligations under the accord. Dar said the World Bank’s decision to pause the process of empanelment of the Court of Arbitration will seriously prejudice Pakistan’s interests and rights under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960. “It (the letter) strongly conveys that the matter of appointment of a Chairman of the Court of Arbitration has been inordinately delayed. It urged the World Bank to execute its obligations under the Indus Waters Treaty,” Radio Pakistan reported.Dar said the “pause” will merely prevent Pakistan from approaching a competent forum and having its grievances addressed. The letter is a response to Kim’s letter of December 12 in which he announced this pause to “protect the Indus Waters Treaty and to help India and Pakistan consider alternative approaches to resolving conflicting interests under the Treaty and its application to two hydroelectric power plants”.India had taken strong exception last month to the World Bank’s decision to set up a Court of Arbitration and appoint a Neutral Expert to go into Pakistan’s complaint against it over Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir.

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

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

Mann Ki Baat highlights: Narendra Modi announces lucky draw schemes for digital payments

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday wished the nation on Christmas and said it was a day of service and compassion.

“I wish you all a Merry Christmas. It is the day when people should serve with compassion,” Modi said in his monthly radio addres ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

Modi said Jesus not only did serve the poor but he “has also appreciated the service done by poor, this is real empowerment”.

Lucky draw schemes for digital payments

He announced lucky draw schemes for people who use digital payment methods including e-banking, mobile banking and e-wallets.

In his monthly radio address to the nation ‘Mann Ki Baat’, Modi on the occasion of Christmas said 15,000 people who use digital payment modes will be given a reward of Rs 1,000 each by a lucky draw. This amount will be transferred to their accounts.

File image of PM Narendra Modi. PTIFile image of PM Narendra Modi. PTI

File image of PM Narendra Modi. PTI

“This scheme will last for 100 days (from Sunday). As such lakhs of people will get crores of rupees,” Modi said.

The Prime Minister said there will be one big draw every week with winning price in lakhs.

“On the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti — April 14 2017 — we will be conducting a bumper draw in which the winning price will be in crores.”

Thanks people for enduring demonetisation ‘pain’

Modi thanked people for enduring the “pain” caused by the government’s November 8 decision to spike 500 and 1,000 rupee notes that has caused an unprecedented cash crunch across the country.

“I congratulate people for not only enduring pain but also for giving appropriate answers to those who were trying to mislead them,” Modi said in his monthly radio address to the nation ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

The Prime Minister said people faced hardships and inconvenience but “answered back those who publicly tried to mislead them”.

The move to recall 86 percent of the total currency in circulation was ostensibly aimed at to curb corruption and black money in the country.

However, it has led to people in large number queuing up to withdraw or deposit cash in overcrowded banks and ATMs.

Lauds India’s sportsmen, sportswomen

He also lauded the country’s sportsmen and sportswoman who have “made us proud”.

Modi praised the Indian cricket team for its performance in a recently concluded Test series against England. “It has been phenomenal this year, congratulate the team for beating England 4-0.”

He also congratulated the junior hockey team of India for winning the hockey World Cup. “After 15 years, our junior hockey team has won the world cup. I congratulate all the young players.”

“Our sportsmen and sportswomen have made us proud,” Modi said in his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 12:27 IST

Christmas 2016: Celebrating birth of an impoverished migrant has a message for today’s world

An evocative line-drawing did the rounds of social media in the days leading up to Christmas. It showed an open stable with a bright star over it, fir trees on either side, and only a cow, a sheep and a donkey around an empty manger inside the stable.

A comic depicting the nativity scene. Image Courtesy: Joanna Wieruszewska, Marek Wieruszewski

A comic depicting the nativity scene. Image Courtesy: Joanna Wieruszewska, Marek Wieruszewski

The caption was thought-provoking: “A nativity scene without Jews,  Arabs,  Africans or refugees.”

Scenes commemorating the nativity (birth) of Jesus normally show an infant in the manger, surrounding by Mary, Joseph, shepherds and three ‘wise men from the East,’ — who are often depicted as Africans but could very well have been from India.

Amid the bright lights, presents, parties and decoration-festooned shopping splurges, it is easy to forget that Jesus’ parents were impoverished travellers who had been given shelter in a cattle shed, where he was born.

He remained poor through his life. Yet, without influence, social standing or political ambition, he resisted the rich and powerful. One of his most striking teachings is that it is tougher for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

That is reminiscent of the Prophet Mohammed’s claim that ‘poverty is my pride.’ It also brings to mind Guru Nanak’s mendicant ways, Buddha’s insistence on begging, and the Jain emphasis on abnegation. The birth legends of Jesus and Krishna have some parallels too: both were predicted to be dangerous for tyrannous regimes.

Indeed, Jesus met a gruesome death, by crucifixion, partly owing to his trenchant criticism of the established clergy of his time. Accusing them of having turned the temple into a den of thieves and gamblers, he broke up a normal day’s gathering of the movers and shakers of his time in Jerusalem’s grand temple. He taught inclusivity, and privileged the poor and socially marginal.

Modern concerns

Amid the pomp and pageantry of religious practice, it is easy to forget the nature, values and attitudes of the man whose birth Christmas celebrates. But it is worth focusing on what Jesus actually represented, especially at a time when impoverishment, xenophobia, racism and refusal to give refuge, have become very potent issues — as that recent sketch on social media highlighted.

The issue of poverty came into prominence in the middle of the 20th century too, when the Western Church faced a lot of soul-searching.

The World Council of Churches, established by several leading Protestant and Orthodox Churches in 1948, pressed for social responsibility, environmental conservation and fraternal relations not only between different Church traditions but also different faiths. They grappled with apartheid, hunger, gender discrimination, and human rights in Latin America and elsewhere. ‘Justice,
Peace and the Integrity of Creation’ became the Council’s watchword around the 1970s and 1980s.

For the Roman Catholic Church too, the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were a period of wrenching turbulence. Given its size and influence, that was of huge historical import. After Pope John XXIII called for a rethink of the Church’s modern agenda, a pro-poor, culturally ‘indigenised’, inclusive vision emerged.

Difficult journey

By the time the Vatican Council ended in 1965, a new pope was in office. Uneasy about rocking the boat, he sought to ease in changes moderately. But the election of the little known John Paul as his successor in 1978 jolted the establishment. This short-lived pope resisted traditional royal pageantry at his installation, and made it clear he wanted to clean out the system in the Vatican.

John Paul did not last. And, under Pope John Paul II and his lieutenant, Cardinal Ratzinger (who succeeded him as Pope Benedict XVI), the liberal, inclusive, gender-sensitive and pro-poor vision that the Vatican Council had set out were put aside.

Many observers thought that those two popes had erased the liberal legacy of the Vatican Council through their appointments of cardinals and bishops in the 35 years from 1978 to 2013. Indeed, among the electors in even 2005, only one cardinal other than Ratzinger had been appointed before 1978.

And yet, the spirit of the Vatican Council remained alive. It is clearly visible in Pope Francis — almost as if John Paul were back.

Like John Paul, Pope Francis has faced resistance to his efforts to change the ethos of the prelates who run the Church. For the third year running, he has complained about this publicly during his Christmas speech to Vatican prelates. Christmas is “the feast of the loving humility of God, of the God who upsets our logical expectations, the established order,” he told them on 22 December.

Indeed, a leaf out of Jesus’s life can upset those who thrive on fear and prejudice — those who are becoming today’s ‘established order.’

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 08:46 IST

Narendra Modi inaugurates NISM campus: Full text of PM’s speech

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a day-long visit to Maharashtra, once again stressed that his government won’t make any decision for “political gains”. The BJP-led government at the Centre has been crticised by opposition parties for its decision to demonetise high value currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations, and it has caused a lot of public inconvenience. But, speaking at the inauguration of the National Institute of Securities Markets (NISM) campus on Saturday, he stressed upon the need for greater vigilance in the securities and exchange markets. Modi also spoke of the need for markets to work for the benefit of the agriculture sector.

Here’s the full text of his speech:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

It is a pleasure for me to be here today to inaugurate this new campus. This is a time of slowdown in the global economy. Developed countries and emerging markets are both facing slow growth. Against this background, India is being seen as a bright spot. Growth is projected to remain among the highest in the world.

India’s place as the fastest growing large economy has not come about by accident. To see how far we have travelled, we should look back to 2012-13. The fiscal deficit had reached alarming levels. The currency was falling sharply. Inflation was high. The current account deficit was rising. Confidence was low and foreign investors were turning away from India. India was considered the weakest of the BRICS nations.

In less than 3 years, this government has transformed the economy. We have cut the fiscal deficit target every year, and achieved it every year. The current account deficit is low. Even after the redemption of loans taken under the special currency swap in 2013, foreign exchange reserves are high. Inflation is low, running at less than 4 percent compared to double digit inflation under the previous government. Public investment has increased largely, even while the overall fiscal deficit has been cut. A new monetary policy framework has been introduced by law with an inflation target. The Constitutional Amendment on Goods and Services Tax had remained pending for years. It has been passed and the long awaited GST will soon be a reality. We have made progress on improving the ease of doing business.

As a result of all these policies, foreign direct investment has reached record levels. By claiming that demonetisation has stopped a fast moving car, our critics too have acknowledged the speed of our progress.

Let me make one thing very clear: This government will continue to follow sound and prudent economic policies to ensure that India has a bright future in the long run. We will not take decisions for the short term political point scoring. We will not shy away from taking difficult decisions, if those decisions are in the interest of the country. Demonetisation is an example. It has short term pain but will bring long term gain.

Financial markets can play an important role in the modern economy. They help in mobilising savings. They channel the savings towards productive investments.

However, history has shown that financial markets can also do damage, if not properly regulated. It is to ensure good regulation that the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) was established by the government. SEBI also has a role to promote the development of healthy securities markets.

Recently, the forward markets commission has been abolished. SEBI has been given the task of regulating commodity derivatives also. This is a big challenge. In the commodity markets, the spot market is not regulated by SEBI. Agricultural markets are regulated by states. And many commodities are purchased directly by the poor and the needy, not by investors. Hence the economic and social impact of commodity derivatives is more sensitive.

For financial markets to function successfully, participants need to be well-informed. I am happy to note that the National Institute of Securities Markets is performing the role of educating various participants and providing skill certification. Today, our mission has to be a ‘Skilled India’. Indian youth should be able to compete with their counterparts in any corner of the world. This institute has a vital role to play in such capacity building. I have been told that around one lakh fifty thousand candidates undertake NISM examinations every year. More than five lakh candidates have been certified by NISM till date.

India has earned a good name for its well-regulated securities markets. The spread of electronic means of trading and the use of depositories have made our markets more transparent. SEBI as an institution can also take pride in this.

However, there is still a long way to go for our securities and commodity markets. When I see the financial newspapers, I often read about the success of IPOs and how some smart entrepreneur has suddenly become a billionaire. As you know, my government is very keen to encourage start-ups. Stock markets are essential for the start-up ecosystem. However, it is not enough if the securities markets are considered successful by international investors or financial experts. Wealth creation is good, but for me that is not the main purpose. The real value of our securities markets lies in their contribution:
• to the development of the nation,
• to the improvement of all sectors, and
• to the welfare of the vast majority of citizens.

So, before I can consider financial markets to be fully successful, they have to meet three challenges.

Firstly, the primary aim of our stock market should be to help in raising capital for productive purposes. Derivatives have a use in managing risk. But many people feel derivatives are dominating the markets and the tail is wagging the dog. We should ponder as to how well the capital market is performing its main function of providing capital.

Our markets should show that they are able to successfully raise capital for projects benefiting the vast majority of our population. In particular, I am referring to infrastructure. Today, most of our infrastructure projects are financed by the Government or through banks. The use of capital markets for financing infrastructure is rare. For infrastructure projects to be viable, it is very important that the borrowing should be of long duration. It is said that we do not have a liquid long term bond market. Various reasons are given for this. But surely this is a problem which the financial brains in this room can solve, if you really put your minds to it. My call to you is to find ways to enable the capital markets to provide long term capital for infrastructure. Today, only the Government or external lenders like World Bank or JICA provide long term money for infrastructure. We must move away from that. Bond markets must become a source of long term infrastructure finance.

You are all aware of the huge capital requirements for improving urban infrastructure. This government has launched an ambitious Smart Cities programme. In this context, I am disappointed that even now, we do not have a municipal bond market. There will be problems and difficulties in creating such a market. But the true test of an expert innovation is when it solves a complex problem. Can SEBI and the Department of Economic Affairs ensure that at least 10 cities in India issue municipal bonds within one year?

Secondly, the markets must provide benefits to the largest section of our society — namely our farmers. The true measure of success is the impact in villages, not the impact in Dalal Street or Lutyens’ Delhi. By that yardstick, we have a long way to go. Our stock markets need to raise capital in innovative ways for projects in agriculture. Our commodity markets must become useful to our farmers, not just avenues for speculation. People say that derivatives can be used by farmers for reducing their risks. But in practice, hardly any farmer in India uses derivatives. That is the fact. Unless and until we make the commodity markets directly useful to farmers, they are just a costly ornament in our economy, not a useful tool. This Government has introduced e-NAM – the electronic National Agricultural Market. SEBI should work for closer linkage between spot markets like e-NAM and derivatives markets to benefit farmers.

Thirdly, those who profit from financial markets must make a fair contribution to nation-building through taxes. For various reasons, the contribution of tax from those who make money on the markets has been low. To some extent, it may be due to illegal activities and fraud. To stop this, SEBI has to be extremely vigilant. To some extent, the low contribution of taxes may also be due to the structure of our tax laws. Low or zero tax rate is given to certain types of financial income. I call upon you to think about the contribution of market participants to the exchequer. We should consider methods for increasing it in a fair, efficient and transparent way. Earlier, there was a feeling that some investors were getting an unfair deal by using certain tax treaties. As you know, those treaties have been amended by this government. Now it is time to re-think and come up with a good design which is simple and transparent, but also fair and progressive.

Friends.

I know that financial markets attach a lot of importance to the budget. The budget cycle has an effect on the real economy. In our existing budget calendar, the authorization of expenditure comes with the onset of the monsoon. Government programmes are not active in the productive pre-monsoon months. Hence, this year, we are advancing the date of the budget so that expenditure is authorized by the time the new financial year begins. This will improve productivity and output.

Friends.

My aim is to make India a developed country in one generation. India cannot become a developed country without world class securities and commodity markets. Therefore, I look forward to a growing contribution from all of you in making the financial markets more relevant to this new era. I wish the NISM all success. I also wish everybody a merry Christmas and a very happy new year.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 14:30 IST

India-Pakistan ties: 439 Indian fishermen to return to home in January

Mumbai: Despite a complete halt to bilateral talks between India and Pakistan, 439 Indian fishermen languishing in Pakistani jails will return home in two batches, a pressure group said on Friday.

The move would bring good cheer to the fishing community as the first batch is scheduled to be home on Christmas.

Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) spokesperson Jatin Desai said that while 220 fishermen would be back on Sunday, the remaining 219 would return on 5 January 2017.

“The release is important as there is no bilateral talks and there is complete pause on the dialogue,” he added.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Desai said the PIPFPD has even urged the Indian government to reciprocate by releasing Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian prisons.

Currently, there are 516 Indian fishermen nabbed and put in Karachi jails, while 80 Pakistani fisherfolk were put in prisons in Gujarat.

“The India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners (IPJCP), set up in 2008 must meet urgently,” Desai said pointing out that both countries must pursue a ‘No Arrest Policy’ as far as fishermen were concerned.

They should also release all the confiscated fishing boats as it was their only means of livelihood, he added.

The IPJCP used to meet regularly every six months, but did not meet since the BJP-led government assumed power, Desai said.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 13:32 IST

Demonetisation: Rising discomfort between banks, customers could spoil Modi’s well-intentioned move

Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna (PMJDY) announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi from ramparts of the Red Fort on 15 August, 2014 was by all measure the most ambitious financial scheme launched post Independence. Goalpost set up by the Prime Minister was simple: bring the entire unbanked population under formal banking net by opening at least one bank account for each household in the country.

The initial target of opening 7.5 crore new accounts through regular brick-and-mortar branches was met before the deadline. In January 2015, in less than five months, 11.5 crore accounts were opened under Jan Dhan Yojana. The figures fetched the government Guinness Book of World Records entry for opening the maximum number of bank accounts in the shortest possible time.

But along with this motivating figure, serious concerns were also raised over the non-operational or zero balance accounts. Out of the total 11.5 crore accounts opened only 28 percent were operational.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

At that time Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while speaking on the issue of zero-balance accounts, had said that direct benefit transfer would ensure that non-operational accounts will be made opeartive in coming times.

That happened to a great extent. Although several accounts were made operational, the usage of core banking services were not instilled to a major extent among the people at large.

As of now under the scheme 25.98 crore accounts were opened till 14 December. According to official statistics 100 percent household coverage in majority of the states have been achieved.

Now consider this: According to an official data 23.22 percent of the accounts are still having zero balance. The problem with these large number of zero-balance accounts was mainly due to lack of constructive communication among bankers and its new clients.

As stated by the vision document of the PMJDY the plan envisaged “universal access to banking facilities with at least one basic banking account for every household, financial literacy, access to credit, insurance and pension facility. In addition, the beneficiaries would get RuPay Debit card having inbuilt accident insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh”. Another additional feature in the scheme was Rs 5,000 overdraft facility for Aadhar-linked accounts.

The reason for the persisting existence of the zero-balance accounts is simple: people still lacked banking habits and the government and bankers to a greater extent stressed on additional benefits PMJDY provided in the form of accident insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5,000 overdraft facility.

Talking to host of beneficiaries it became evident that in most of the cases they opened the bank account with an intention of getting additional benefits. Benefits being part of the formal banking structure was hardly a motivation in most of the cases. And to the greater extent it was in the manner in which bankers choose to motivate people for opening the bank accounts.

In the post-demonetisation period the same lack of communication and miscommunication is creating confusion among people. And it is being accentuated by the repeated change in rules regarding deposit and withdrawal of the demonetised currency notes.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in a circular on 19 December said in the remaining days of this month, one can make deposits in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in excess of Rs 5,000 only once per account and if anybody wants to deposit cash in the banned currency in excess of that amount, he will have to explain in the presence of at least two officers on why didn’t he do it earlier. Even if the deposits are made in small amounts multiple times, and add up to the magic number of Rs 5,000, the person stands exposed to questions.

A day after the RBI circular, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley clarified that no questions will be asked if any amount of old currency is deposited in one go, but repeated deposits may provoke queries.

The Business Standard report quoted Jaitley saying, “If they go and deposit with bank any amount of currency no questions are going to be asked to them and therefore the 5,000 rupee limit does not apply to them if they go and deposit it once. But if they are going to go everyday and deposit some currency, same person, that gives rise to suspicion that where is he acquiring this currency from. In that event a person may have something to worry about. Therefore everyone is advised whatever old currency you have please go and deposit it now”.

In spite of this clarification in many places banks are refusing to accept any amount exceeding Rs 5000. A report published in Business Line states, “Consumers across the country were complaining that banks were refusing to take deposits even after giving detailed explanations. The new rules say that banks should accept the demonetised notes in excess of ₹5,000 only once and that too after the depositor has been questioned by two officials”

Since the demonetisation banks across the country are defying the orders issued by the RBI. In many smaller towns and cities, banks were seen categorically rejecting the cheques even with the permissible Rs 24,000 withdrawal amount. Arbitrary rationing was a common place in banks. The exception that Rs 2.5 lakh could be withdrawn by the families organising a wedding, was in many cases not honoured by the banks.

While the launch and successful meeting of set targets under PMJDY was commendable, mistaking it for a resilient and robust banking system was a fallacy that lays exposed in the current demonetisation process. In PMJDY the opening of crore accounts was made possible because largely people saw it as a dole out, where they did not have to incur any expenses. The fact that business correspondents (BC) and bank branches through camps and awareness drive reached out to people in large number that helped PMJDY achieve its target. But then the lack of communication between the bankers and their new found clients rendered the entire exercise futile to a greater extent as majority of the people were not using their accounts as reflected in the large number of zero-balance accounts.

For any financial decision to succeed it is required that people understand its intent and its procedural implementation. In the current demonetisation drive while the intent is clear to any objective observer, it is its implementation that is creating confusion which in turn is getting accentuated due to lack of communication between bankers and its clients. Communicating in clear terms is the only way that post-demonetisation confusion can be tackled. Any miscommunication fails the very purpose of the most well-intentioned move as implementation of PMJDY proves.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 12:05 IST

State, Railways yet to form joint venture firm for rail projects

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>State, Railways yet to form joint venture firm for rail projectsOver a year after railway minister Suresh Prabhu and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis met in New Delhi to discuss rail infrastructure and the modalities of forming a joint venture (JV) firm or special purpose vehicle (SPV) to fast-track Maharashtra’s rail projects, a Right to Information plea by DNA has shown that no such JV or SPV has as yet been formed.In its RTI reply signed by VS Dahiya, joint director (Works), Railway Board, the railway ministry stated, “The ministry of railways and the Government of Maharashtra are in process to form a joint venture company for the development of rail infrastructure in the State of Maharashtra. GoM has communicated their willingness to sign a JV with MoR. Neither any JV agreement has been signed, nor any SPV has been formed as yet.”According to railway officials, the SPV or JV will streamline the construction of rail infrastructure in the state as a dedicated team would work to carry out various legal processes to kick-start a project. “It would be like the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC), a SPV between the state and the railways, that has been overseeing Mumbai’s rail projects and has been acting as a bridge between the state, the railway ministry, Western and Central railways, and the World Bank. It has increased the pace of work since the early 2000s,” explained an official.During the Delhi meeting between Prabhu and Fadnavis on November 4 last year, it was mutually agreed to form a SPV with Prabhu, even asking the state government to finalise a funding model for the SPV.According to officials, work on the SPV should be expedited as Maharashtra has got Rs 4767 crores for rail projects this year, a 206 per cent increase from the average of Rs 1171.4 crores received by the state between 2009-14. “When the funds are in, the work shouldn’t suffer,” said an official.Earlier, in a statement released on November 30 this year, the railway ministry had said that as of now five state governments — Chattisgarh, Haryana, Gujarat, Kerala, and Odisha — had formed joint venture firms with the railways. A total of 16 states had also decided to share costs in 43 projects, the total cost of the projects at current prices being Rs 62,379 crores.

World War Two ‘remains’ found in India

A US team in India recovers possible remains of soldiers who died in a crash during World War Two.

A miracle rice that saved India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Today Indians are forcibly standing in queues as cash is rationed; 60 years ago Indians were also standing in queues as food was rationed.Staple food like rice and wheat was in short supply; people had to stand in serpentine queues to buy a few kilograms of food grains. Life indeed was tough.In fact most of Asia was on the brink of starvation in the 1950s, then came a miracle plant developed by scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines that experts say “changed the world”.This small rice plant called IR-8 doubled the yields and it led to a farming revolution that saved millions of lives.After the World War II and the horrible great Bengal famine that killed nearly 2-3 million people, a miracle was required to save the lives of starving Indians. Then came this blade of new grass that helped slowly propel India into a new era of food self-sufficiency.Rice in the 1950s was a tall plant that gave few grains and was very prone to lodging or falling over and hence a lot of grain used to get spoilt. The need was to have a short robust plant that had many tillers or grain bearing stems.Scientists at IRRI married two strains of rice one from Indonesia and one from Taiwan and thus was born a plant that saved the world called ‘IR-8’.Gurdev Khush, a plant geneticist and till recently the chief rice breeder at IRRI, who played a huge role in making IR-8 the ‘miracle plant’ says usual plant breeding offered incremental small one to two per cent increases in yield but IR-8 offered an astronomical doubling of the yield.According to IRRI, “The IR8 was the first offspring of these intense breeding efforts. It was a semi-dwarf rice and was the result of a cross between Peta, a tall vigorous variety, and Dee-geo-woo-gen, a dwarf variety.”M S Swaminathan, dubbed as the father of the Indian green revolution and former director general of IRRI, says, “IR made global history as the yield ceiling was broken,” adding it is the Indian farmers who were the real saviour as they were always willing to learn and adapt to new technologies.This ‘miracle rice’ were widely distributed free of cost. The plant was immediately lapped up by the farmers in East Asia.PTI

Need to concentrate on some states lagging behind in education: Prakash Javadekar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> There is a need to concentrate on states like UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, MP and Rajasthan which are lagging behind in the education sector when compared to the other states, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Saturday. Inaugurating the 29th All India Urdu Book Fair at the powerloom town of Bhiwandi in the district, the Minister said “As far as education is concerned, statistics reveals that Muslim, Hindu and other community members progressed in states of Kerala, TN, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat while it was not so in other states. There is a dire need to pay attention to this.” He said that the present government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken up several measures to promote Urdu language and various steps have been taken in this direction.The minister, who praised Urdu as a lovely language and the script as nothing but an example of calligraphy, said the Urdu Academy and Council have come out with several publications. Even the Wikipedia has an assistance in Urdu which was not there previously. On standard of education in government schools and on issue of dropouts, the Minister said, “The government has decided to take several measures to ensure that the standard of education in the government schools in the country improves and the issue of dropouts is addressed.”He appreciated role played by various educational institutions, universities, research centres in addition to the NGOs in promoting Urdu language. He said plans are afoot to go in for online teaching of Urdu where every one can take education in their spare time. The Minister said the World Urdu Conference will be held in Delhi in March 2017. On the occasion, Javdekar gave slogan — ‘Sabko Siksha, Aachi Siksha’. “If the ‘Talim’ (teaching) improves everything improves and the country makes progress,” said Javdekar.

Pakistani atrocities during Bangladesh liberation war akin to Nazis, says VK Singh

New Delhi: Drawing parallel between atrocities of Pakistani army in then East Pakistan and those by Nazi forces, Union Minister VK Singh on Friday said Pakistan army’s actions were against humanity which led to its downfall in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war.

The day of 16 December for all those who took part in the liberation war of Bangladesh evokes emotions and nostalgia, the former Indian army chief said.

“The type of atrocities which went on in Bangladesh (before liberation) is something which probably the world has forgotten,” Singh said during a seminar on ‘1971 India-Pakistan War and the Liberation of Bangladesh’ organised by India Foundation at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.

Union Minister VK Singh. PTI

Union Minister VK Singh. PTI

“I do not think the people of Bangladesh of that period have forgotten, but the coming generations, probably have founded easier to put it somewhere in the corner and forget.

“Those who have probably read some of those accounts (atrocities) they defy or belittle what the Nazis did during their period,” the Minister of State for External Affairs said.

“There was a race improvement camp (in Bangladesh). I do not think we have heard of such a thing after the Nazi period but it was there. How can we forget such atrocities.

“How can we forget that a so-called professional army which was till 1947 a part of British Indian army could turn around in a manner which nobody does in the world,” he said.

Singh said the 1971 war is important for India in many ways.

“One, it changed the geography of south Asia in a manner in which the political lines were drawn.

“Second, it was proved that the two-nation theory was wrong and when you talk of military history in the world, there is no other country which achieved so much militarily in such a short period of time.

“I feel that we need to not only remember the sacrifices of our people, we also need to remember that there was an army which went on a rampage which did things which were against humanity and that was a reason for their downfall. If 93,000 people surrendered, it was because they had lost the will to stand up,” Singh said.

The 13-day war was the greatest in military history of the world in many ways, the minister said.

“This kind of victory was achieved in the shortest possible period… when there was a big power which was ensuring that we do not liberate a country which was oppressed for so many years,” Singh said.

This was a war which saw political and military leaderships rise to the occasion to combine their intellect to ensure that the victory was achieved in the shortest possible time, he said, adding that “I salute all the veterans who were participants of the war”.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 16:48 IST

VK Singh compares Pakistan army with Nazis for Bangladesh atrocities

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Drawing parallel between atrocities of Pakistani army in then East Pakistan and those by Nazi forces, Union Minister VK Singh on Friday said Pakistan army’s actions were against humanity which led to its downfall in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war.The day of December 16 for all those who took part in the liberation war of Bangladesh evokes emotions and nostalgia, the former Indian army chief said. “The type of atrocities which went on in Bangladesh (before liberation) is something which probably the world has forgotten,” Singh said during a seminar on ‘1971 India-Pakistan War and the Liberation of Bangladesh’ organised by India Foundation at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.”I do not think the people of Bangladesh of that period have forgotten, but the coming generations, probably have founded easier to put it somewhere in the corner and forget. “Those who have probably read some of those accounts (atrocities) they defy or belittle what the Nazis did during their period…,” the Minister of State for External Affairs said.”There was a race improvement camp (in Bangladesh). I do not think we have heard of such a thing after the Nazi period but it was there. How can we forget such atrocities. “How can we forget that a so-called professional army which was till 1947 a part of British Indian army could turn around in a manner which nobody does in the world,” he said.Singh said the 1971 war is important for India in many ways. “One, it changed the geography of south Asia in a manner in which the political lines were drawn. “Second, it was proved that the two-nation theory was wrong and when you talk of military history in the world, there is no other country which achieved so much militarily in such a short period of time. “I feel that we need to not only remember the sacrifices of our people, we also need to remember that there was an army which went on a rampage which did things which were against humanity and that was a reason for their downfall. If 93,000 people surrendered, it was because they had lost the will to stand up,” Singh said.The 13-day war was the greatest in military history of the world in many ways, the Minister said. “This kind of victory was achieved in the shortest possible period… when there was a big power which was ensuring that we do not liberate a country which was oppressed for so many years,” Singh said.This was a war which saw political and military leaderships rise to the occasion to combine their intellect to ensure that the victory was achieved in the shortest possible time, he said, adding that “I salute all the veterans who were participants of the war”.

Indus Waters Treaty is bilateral issue between India, Pakistan: Vikas Swarup

New Delhi: India on Thursday reiterated that the Indus Waters Treaty is a bilateral issue and technical questions and differences should be resolved bilaterally.

“India has always believed that the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty, which includes the redressal of the technical questions and differences, should be done bilaterally between India and Pakistan,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in his weekly media briefing.

“There are examples available where such matters had been successfully resolved bilaterally within the Permanent Indus Commission (such as the height of the freeboard for Kishan Ganga) or between the two governments as seen in the Salal Hydro Electric Project in 1978,” he said.

Vikas Swarup. File photo. Twitter @MEAIndia

Vikas Swarup. File photo. Twitter @MEAIndia

Earlier this week, the World Bank Group, which had brokered the 1960 treaty, announced a pause in the separate processes initiated by India and Pakistan to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.

According to a statement issued by the World Bank, the announcement temporarily halts the appointment of a neutral expert, as requested by India, and the chairman of the Court of Arbitration as requested by Pakistan, to resolve issues regarding the two power plants under construction by India along the Indus rivers system.

Following the 18 September cross-border terror attack on an army base at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers, New Delhi, which blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, said that it would consider revisiting the Indus Waters Treaty, under which India has control over three eastern rivers — Beas, Ravi and Sutlej — all flowing from Punjab and Pakistan, controls the western rivers of the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum that flow from Jammu and Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir has been demanding a review of the treaty as it robs the state of its rights to use the water of the rivers.

The current processes under the treaty concern the Kishenganga (330 MW) and Ratle (850 MW) hydroelectric power plants, being built by India on the Kishenganga and Chenab rivers respectively.

“Given the will to address these matters through the appropriate mechanisms provided for in the Indus Waters Treaty, there is no reason why the technical design parameters on which Pakistan has raised objections cannot be sorted out by professional, technical experts from both sides,” Swarup said.

“We had advised the World Bank not to rush for initiating two parallel processes simultaneously and hold more consultations,” he said.

“It is a matter of satisfaction that this point has now been recognised by the World Bank. We believe that these consultations should be given adequate time.”

The Indus Waters Treaty was seen as one of the most successful international treaties and has withstood frequent tensions between India and Pakistan, including conflict.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 19:17 IST

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

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

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

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

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

The Federal Reserve building in Washington. Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRUMP IMPACT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Provide jobs to youth to prevent unrest and disturbances: President

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>President Pranab Mukherjee said on Wednesday that government and industry should work together to provide jobs to youth to avoid unrest and disturbances.”India’s population is 130 crore. Half of this population is below 25 years of age, and in working age group of 15-59 years, this population is 62 per cent. If you keep these numbers in mind and think for a while what would happen if such magnitude of people do not have their vocation and opportunity of maintaining their livelihood in a decent way,” Mukherjee said. The President was speaking at annual day celebration of CII’s skill training centre here.He said that the agriculture sector is over saturated now and it can support very low number of people. “These workforce is going to be an asset to us … but if we cannot provide job to them what will happen. There will be unrest, there will be frustration. There will be difficulties, disturbances,” Mukherjee said. He said that there are 36,000 colleges producing graduates but a large number of passouts are unemployable. It is estimated by the World Economic Forum that two-thirds of children who now enter a school will work in jobs that cannot be imagined right now.Mukherjee said India will have the scope for employment generation but lacks skilled workforce. The President said that a Skills Development Council was created in 2010 and target was fixed by 2020 to create large number of skilled workforce. “Unfortunately not much progress was made in that direction. As a result in 2014 with change of government, when new Prime Minister came he established to focus on this issue with Department of Skill Development. “A minister was entrusted with the job to focus and a programme was created over a larger period of time that by 2030 at least 500 million people are provided appropriate skill so that they get job anywhere in the world,” he said.The President said more than 60 lakh people are working in West Asia and Gulf countries alone which are sending large number of remittances back home which is helping India build foreign exchange reserves.He said that the average age in Europe and North America is increasing and India has the opportunity with its young population. “That (skill development) is the reason I have come to Chhindwara for fifth time and why I am participating in the programme of CII to celebrate their annual day of skill development. This is the programme that country needs the most,” Mukherjee said.He lauded efforts of local MP Kamalnath for setting up skill development centres in his constituency. CII President Naushad Forbes said that the industry body has not been able to set up skill development centres in any part of the country like the ones set up here. He said that CII in coming days will make effort to set up such centres in all districts of the country.

Murray, Kerber named ITF players of the year | Reuters

Murray, Kerber named ITF players of the year | Reuters

Dec 13, 2016 22:21 IST

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LONDON Briton Andy Murray and Germany’s Angelique Kerber were named ITF World Champions on Tuesday, capping stellar years for the men’s and women’s world number ones. Murray, whose brother Jamie was named doubles World Champion along with Brazil’s Bruno Soares, won Wimbledon in July before becoming the first player to win two Olympic singles gold medals when he retained his crown in Rio de Janeiro in August.He won nine titles in a milestone year that ended with him beating rival Novak Djokovic to win the ATP Tour Finals and seal the year-end rankings top spot.

“It means a lot to me to be named ITF World Champion. I have had such a memorable year,” Murray said in a statement. Kerber enjoyed an equally impressive season, winning the Australian and U.S. Open titles as well as an Olympic silver medal in Rio.

She becomes the first German to win the award since Steffi Graf claimed the last of her seven in 1996.

(Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 22:21 IST

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World Bank ‘pauses’ Indus treaty processes of India, Pakistan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a significant development, the World Bank has paused the separate processes initiated by India and Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.”We are announcing this pause to protect the Indus Waters Treaty and to help India and Pakistan consider alternative approaches to resolving conflicting interests under the Treaty and its application to two hydroelectric power plants,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said.The pause was announced by Kim in letters to the finance ministers of India and Pakistan. It was also emphasised that the Bank was acting to safeguard the Treaty.Pausing the process for now, the Bank would hold off from appointing the Chairman for the Court of Arbitration or the Neutral Expert — appointments that had been expected on December 12 as earlier communicated by the Bank.India had taken strong exception last month to the World Bank’s decision to set up a Court of Arbitration and appoint a Neutral Expert to go into Pakistan’s complaint against it over Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir.Surprised at the World Bank’s decision to appoint a Neutral Expert, as sought by the Indian government and at the same time establish a Court of Arbitration as wanted by Pakistan, India had said proceeding with both the steps simultaneously was “legally untenable”.Both processes initiated by the respective countries were advancing at the same time, creating a risk of contradictory outcomes that could potentially endanger the Treaty, the Bank noted.”This is an opportunity for the two countries to begin to resolve the issue in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty rather than pursuing concurrent processes that could make the treaty unworkable over time. I would hope that the two countries will come to an agreement by the end of January,” Kim said.The current processes under the treaty concern the Kishenganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts) hydroelectric power plants. The power plants are being built by India on, respectively, the Kishenganga and Chenab Rivers.Neither of the two plants are being financed by the World Bank.The bank said the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960, is seen as one of the most successful international treaties and has withstood frequent tensions between India and Pakistan, including conflict.In September, the World Bank, which had mediated the Indus Water Treaty, had said it was approached by India and Pakistan and it is “responding in its limited, procedural role as set out in the treaty”.”India and Pakistan have informed the World Bank that each has initiated proceedings pursuant to the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 and the World Bank Group is responding in its limited, procedural role as set out in the Treaty,” it had said.The Treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers, known as the Permanent Indus Commission which includes a commissioner from each of the two countries.It also sets out a process for resolving so-called “questions”, “differences” and “disputes” that may arise between the parties.

Children’s rights unite Nobel laureates, world leaders in Delhi summit

On a nippy December morning, a mild fog floated over the road curving towards the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s ceremonial hall. Around a water fountain, women in stiff sarees and men in suits manned the gates. Once the guests entered the hall, there was passionate fire in their words that quickly livened up the winter morning. The Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit is a first-of-its-kind congregation of global leaders to address the cause of children’s rights.

The two-day summit began on Saturday with opening remarks by Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi. “India is a land of compassion, love and humility. Today, only and only the cause of children can unite the world and a united future is urgently needed,” said Satyarthi whose powerful efforts through the Bachpan Bachao Andolan have drawn the world’s attention towards the problems of child labour, slavery and issues arising from stolen childhoods.

summit

Left to Right: Former President of Timor-Leste and Nobel Peace Laureate José Ramos-Horta; Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan; The Dalai Lama, President Pranab Mukherjee, Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, Princess Charlene of Monaco and Princess Laurentien of Netherlands at the opening of the Laureates and Leaders Summit for Children 2016. Firstpost

Children are not the ones responsible for war, yet they are the worst affected by violence. They are denied education and die of preventable diseases. It is time that solutions that are bold and transformative are put in place, he said. These include holistic policy for children, science and technology that is substantive and making children the beneficiaries of growth and development. “Moral, political and intellectual voices need to come together and turn the tide in favour of childhood, which is in danger,” he said, urging the potent minds in the room to bend the arc of history in favour of the children. In the spirit of ‘building the legacy we want to leave behind’, the summit took off.

President Pranab Mukherjee then addressed the summit which was attended by the Dalai Lama, Princess Charlene of Monaco, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, Unesco pecial Envoy on Literacy for Development and Jose Ramos-Horta, former president of Timore-Leste and Nobel Peace Laureate.

The President reminded the audience that 10 December is Human Rights Day and it is only education that neutralises disadvantages and equalises opportunities. What is required are pro-active policies that place children’s issues in the centrestage.

“We are all the same,” said the Dalai Lama. Asserting that the universality of kindness as a source of mental peace, he pointed out that if man has created violence, it is his responsibility to earn back his peace. “A healthy body and a healthy mind have a cross-connection. The basis of inner peace is warm-heartedness,” he said and hoped that those born in the 21st century strive to make it a century of peace and not strife.

While some children die a slow death due to preventable diseases, others lose their lives to accidents. Princess Charlene of Monaco drew the attention of the audience to the fact that the biggest accidental killer of children is drowning. The World Health Organisation estimated that 372,000 people drowned worldwide in 2012. More than 40 fatalities every hour and more than half the victims are under the age of 25 and children under the age of five are the most affected. In case of a non-fatal drowning, often the victim is left with severe after-effects, in particular neurological. Not just formal and moral education, but life skills need to be imparted to children. She reiterated Mandela’s words on ‘owing our children a bright future’.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein spoke about the thousands of refugees his country hosts and how a majority of them are children, who are victims of rape, prostitution and are forcible relocated. As of November 2015, UNHCR reported that there are 4,289,994 Syrian “persons of concern” of whom 630,776 are registered as refugees in Jordan. There are about 1.4 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, only 20 percent are living in the Za’atari, Marjeeb al-Fahood, Cyber City and Al-Azraq refugee camps. “There is a deficit of hope and dignity,” he spoke, in a language most people seem to immediately understand.

Kerry Kennedy, president, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Centre, told Firstpost that protecting the dignity and safety of the human rights defenders is important because it motivates others to take up the cause. The Speak Truth To Power curriculum developed by her foundation is based on the UN’s principles of human rights education and taught to millions of students around the world. Using the stories of human rights defenders in an innovative, flexible manner, lessons are designed to fit any subject, teaching students that they too can learn to self-identify as a human rights defender and have a role to play in the global fight for justice.

Amid world leaders like Julia Gillard, former prime minister of Australia; Gilbert Houngbo, former prime minister of Togo; Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate; Jeffrey Sachs, director, The Earth Institute; Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate; Angel Gurria, secretary-general, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development; was a young boy named Imtiyaz Ali. He was trafficked from Bihar at age nine and made to work in a garment factory for Rs 50 a day. After being rescued by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan, he said his life has found a goal. If one man’s conviction can change thousands of lives, imagine if each one present in this hall (let alone the country) thought like him, how many lives will be saved? he added.

The summit featured sessions on ‘Circles for Freedom: Lend Voices to our Children’, ‘Children’s Freedom’, ‘Creating Better Lives: Healthy & Educated Children’ and ‘Changing Our Children’s Future: The Ripple Effect’; ‘Building collective wisdom for our children’. These voices that are raised were in favour of humanity, and not for political or economic gain. And, even those millions who have been nearly deafened by roars of violence and injustice are waiting to hear them.

First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 15:21 IST

Mehbooba Mufti says J&K safest for tourists, invites people to visit state

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Days after separatist groups invited tourists to the Valley, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday called upon the people of the country to visit the state and enjoy its hospitality, saying that it was the safest place in the world for tourists.”Jammu and Kashmir is the safest place not only in the country but the whole world for tourists and especially for women. You can move around here without any fear even during nights and nothing untoward will happen to you,” Mehbooba said while speaking at a function in Srinagar.She said that women face many hardships in other places in the country but her government would not let them face any hardships in the state. “We get to know what happens to women in broad daylight in other places, compared to that women can come here either by themselves or in groups. We will take good care of them and would not let them face any hardship,” she said.The chief minister said that her government would offer exciting packages to the tourists and invited them to visit the state along with their families. “The atmosphere here is also very good, the place is picturesque and then snowfall is in the offing and I would like to invite all the people of the country to visit Kashmir and enjoy our hospitality. Kashmir is calling you all. We will offer exciting packages. We will organise a snow festival at Gulmarg in January, so I request the people of the country to visit Kashmir along with their children,” she said.Mehbooba’s invite comes days after separatists made an appeal to tourists to visit the Valley, saying tourists and pilgrims from the world, including India, who intend to visit Kashmir were most welcome. “From centuries, Kashmiris have been safeguarding and providing exemplary hospitality and safety to tourists and Yatris from the world, including India, as we have been taught hospitality, humanity and safeguarding the rights of guests by our great religion.”Tourists and Yartris from the world, including India, who intend to visit Kashmir are most welcome,” the separatists said in a statement on December 6.Since the agitation broke out in July, tourism-related activities have come to a standstill in Kashmir.

Independent MLA Sheikh Abdul Rashid detained for leading protest march

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Police detained independent MLA from north Kashmir’s Langate constituency, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, as he tried to lead a protest march to the office of State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on the occasion of World Human Rights Day on Saturday.Rashid, along with many supporters of his Awami Ittehad Party, assembled near his residential quarters at Jawahar Nagar here and marched towards SHRC office, a party spokesman said.He said as soon as the march reached near Zero Bridge, Rajbagh, police swung into action and detained Rashid as well as dozens of his supporters. Rashid has been lodged at Police Station Rajbagh, the spokesman said.A police official said the party had no permission to assemble or take out a march, so Rashid and some of his supporters were detained.

Kailash Satyarthi writes for Firstpost: From India a strong voice for children will rise

On 10-11 December 2016, a new page in the history of child rights is set to unfold. Two powerful constituencies — Nobel Laureates and world leaders — will unite in India for the well-being of children.

Why laureates and leaders for children? Because, while these luminaries are doyens in their respective fields, they also hold a moral authority in the world. I remember, after receiving my prize in Oslo, I was invited to address laureates of other disciplines. I spoke to them briefly about my 35 years of struggle and the cause we fight for.

Robbing away their childhood. Getty ImagesRobbing away their childhood. Getty Images

Robbing away their childhood. Getty Images

I told them that there are 168 million child labourers in the world; that 5.5 million children are still bound in shackles of slavery. I told them how children have been sold for as little as a cigarette pack. I described to them the condition of children in mines, fields, brick kilns and carpet looms.

Most of my audience was taken aback, and you could hear the snuffles. They had never known that this is a reality that children face every day. A few said, “Is it happening today, Kailash?” “Didn’t slavery get abolished in the 19th century?” “Can we do something about this?” they asked me, expressing an earnest desire to do something for children. I could sense the compassion in their voices and started thinking of ways to give them a way to help.
That was the moment when the idea of channelising the less harnessed power of Nobel Laureates for the cause of the most deprived children came to my mind.

An incident in Lindau, Germany last year reaffirmed my faith in this power. I was invited to speak at a summit in Lindau where other Nobel Laureates mostly from the sciences were present. I got 14 of them to sign a letter to the UN Secretary-General demanding an increase in global investment in education. Just a few days later, the Secretary-General referred to it while announcing a declaration at the Oslo Financing for Education Summit and launching a new international committee for financing education. My trust in the strength of the laureates in bringing important social change was validated.

Another thing I want to challenge is the extreme contradiction that exists in the world today. While contradictions have been inherent in human history, when the contradictions become so severe that innocent children have to pay its cost, it is time to halt and think.

I am talking about contradictions in today’s realities. Many laws and safeguards exist but millions of children are enslaved; technology and knowledge exist but it lies in the hands of a privileged few. Globalisation has expanded but global citizenship has narrowed.

The Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit will be a platform that bridges over these contradictions with their moral strength. Dalai Lama, Princess Charlene of Monaco, the First Lady of Panama Lorena Castillo de Varela, former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F Kennedy Human Rights, Senator Tom Harkin (retired) and Nobel Peace laureates José Ramos-Horta, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman are some of the guests joining in. Apart from the 25 laureates and leaders, 250 other thought leaders and eminent persons from business, academia, arts and sports will participate in the summit.

Like in any other initiative in my struggle, former child slaves — who are now child leaders in their own right — will also be an integral part. The summit will begin with a youth session where children leaders from over 15 countries will discuss solutions to children problems from their lens. These young sparks will fuel the summit itself, by bringing their perspective to every discussion with the laureates, leaders and other dignitaries.

On 11 December, the President of India, together with the Nobel Laureates and leaders in the presence of 6,000 children, will flag off history’s most ambitious youth campaign.

At the end of the summit, we’ll emerge with a strong and clear commitment for children – a commitment that builds common solutions towards a common future, with compassion.

Despite segmented efforts made by governments, corporates and civil society for children in the past, a strong unbiased voice for children was missing till now. The Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit are poised to be that missing link. It is a matter of pride for me as an Indian, that this missing link will emerge from the land of peace, wisdom, and compassion — India.

To know more, log on to www.laureatesandleaders.org. Join the conversation at #willforchildren.

First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 16:22 IST

India doctor to operate on ‘500kg’ Egyptian woman

An Egyptian woman, said to weigh 500kg, is to be airlifted to India for weight reduction surgery.

Jayalalithaa dead: How Amma’s populist policies left a debt bomb ticking in TN

The word, ‘Amma’ (mother) is used six times in Tamil Nadu’s 2016-17 budget document, presented by finance minister O Panneerselvam on 21 July, the adjective Puratchi Thalaivi is used once and references to ‘chief minister’ 31 times.

Just like the verses of scriptures typically begins with a prayer to the cosmic force, Panneerselvam, appears to offer prayers to the AIADMK supreme leader often in the budget speech, thus making the whole 86 page budget document a humble submission at the feet of his and his party men’s supreme ‘mother’.

File photo of Jayalalithaa. PTIFile photo of Jayalalithaa. PTI

File photo of Jayalalithaa. PTI

A quick glance through Panneerselvam’s 2016-17 budget document reaffirms Jayalalithaa’s iconic, cult status. Terms like, “unparalleled”, “unflinching” “historic”, “infinite love”, “affection” are used to describe Mother Jayalalithaa, who died on Monday night at Apollo hospital in Chennai, while serving her sixth term as the chief minister.

Perhaps, in these times, there is no other Indian state as TN where political leaders enjoy blind devotion of their followers, mostly the poor strata of the society. For most part of her life, Jayalalithaa carried the stature of a demigod, first as an actress and later as a politician, universally admired by her followers as ‘mother’, before whom they never shy to prostrate. For them she was never human.

Most of the social welfare schemes in TN are named after her — ‘Tamil Nadu Village Habitation Improvement’ (THAI) scheme (‘Thai’ in tamil means mother), “Amma Unavagam” (subsidised food), Amma Kudineer (drinking water scheme), Amma laptops, ‘Amma Baby Care Kit’,‘Amma Magapperu Sanjeevi’ and ‘Amma Arogiya Thittam’. There are a number of such schemes that carry her name. People adore those products/services as mother’s blessings, thus melting the thin line between political populism and insane, often blind personality-driven politics.

The populist bandwagon

How did Jayalalithaa win the hearts of poor? To say the least, she was also the ‘mother’ of all freebie schemes that ensured the support of middle and lower-income class in multiple areas. To be sure, some of these were transformative in nature in the areas of education, housing and aiding small entrepreneurs.

Certain examples include the World Bank-aided ‘Pudhu Vaazhvu Project launched in 2005.  Under this scheme, which the government claims to have given job-oriented skill training to 3.27 lakh youth. The THAI scheme, so far implemented in 71,126 habitations pertaining to 9,511 village panchayats and the housing scheme under which in the last four years, the Tamil Nadu Housing Board has constructed 10,059 units at a cost of Rs 565.92 crore, including 2,293 houses for the low income group.

‘Amma’ is also known for her investor-friendly approach, which explains the reason why the state is home to more industries and employment than any other Indian state, according to IndiaSpend research. TN is also home to a small-sector movement with the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector providing employment to 63.18 lakh persons.

No doubt. Jayalalithaa has been an able administrator. This is evident from the progress made by the state in the areas of poverty eradication, social welfare, investor-friendly measures and overall economic numbers. TN’s Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), which fell to 3.4 percent in real terms, during 2012-13, was reversed to 7.3 percent towards 2013-14 — higher than the national average growth rate of 4.7 percent of that period.

The state recorded a GSDP growth rate of 8.8 percent in 2015-16 as against the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 7.6 percent, based on the 2011-12 constant prices. The gross fixed capital formation, which indicates the investment activity too has improved significantly, touching Rs 34,091 crore in the fiscal year 2014 compared with Rs 23,054 crore when her predecessor, M Karunanidhi left office in 2010-11.

A TN debt-bomb in making?

But, in the process of rolling out freebies, she also built a debt bomb for the state. At this point, TN’s debt is over Rs 2 lakh crore. But, according to an IndiaSpend analysis, TN’s debt has witnessed a 92 percent increase over five years ending 2015. According to the Reserve Bank data, TN registered the highest gross fiscal deficit among all states in 2015-16 at Rs 31,830 crore. For current fiscal the TN government pegged its fiscal deficit at Rs 40,534 crore or  2.96 of GSDP.

state debt tablestate debt tableIn the last five years, when Jayalalithaa was in office, the debt level of Tamil Nadu has risen 105 percent from Rs 1.14 lakh crore to Rs 2.35 lakh crore. This is the sharpest increase in debt levels by a large state.

Of all Indian states, only Haryana has beaten TN with a 141 percent rise in public debt. It is needless to say most of this debt is the consequence of Jayalalithaa’s populist bandwagon aiming at the poor of the state. Other large industrial states like Maharashtra and Gujarat have seen their debt level increasing by a relatively better 64.5 percent and 60.3 percent in the same period.

There is no impressive trend in tax revenue correspondingly. According to 2016-17 TN budget, the tax revenue is estimated to increase to Rs 90,691.87 crore in revised budget estimates for 2016-2017 from Rs.86,537.70 crore as per the revised estimates 2015-2016.

For TN, ‘Amma’ leaves an era of political populism and a debt bomb in making. Amma’s presence will still be felt in the TN cabinet meetings through her image and the memories of her charismatic leadership. But, the task of dealing with the debt bomb in making is up to her trusted lieutenant O Panneerselvam and his AIADMK colleagues.

(Kishor Kadam contributed to this story)

First Published On : Dec 6, 2016 15:08 IST

Mumbai-Ahmedabad rail corridor: Need boring leader who gets basics right; not one who dreams of bullet trains

I am writing this column from my family home in Surat, one of India’s oldest and largest cities. Unlike some of the other big cities, like Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai and even New Delhi, Surat was not built by the British. It was built by Indians and it has a recorded history going back centuries.

It was already a city in the period of the Delhi sultanate and it was the largest provider of tax revenue on the subcontinent in the Mughal period. In 1608, the British first landed here, when it was famous as a big and successful port and trading centre under emperor Jahangir. Three centuries later, though the port shifted to Mumbai, it was still large and famous enough across the world for Leo Tolstoy to write a short story called ‘The coffee house of Surat’. Today Surat is the world’s largest diamond polishing centre (about two thirds of all diamonds found anywhere in the world have passed through Surat). And it is one of the world’s largest textile centres. It has a population roughly the size of London and it has the highest per capita income of any city in India.

A file photo of Narendra Modi, Shinzo Abe. PTIA file photo of Narendra Modi, Shinzo Abe. PTI

A file photo of Narendra Modi, Shinzo Abe. PTI

I am saying all this because it has become almost impossible for me to visit my hometown. From Bangalore, where I now live, there is no flight to Surat. This is because Surat has an airport that is dysfunctional. No private airline flies to the city. Shortly after this government took over, a buffalo walked into the Surat airport and an airplane crashed into it, damaging its jet engine. This flight, the only private one connecting Surat to Mumbai and Bangalore, was discontinued.

Narendra Modi‘s minister for civil aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the beast had come in through a gap in the fence which he ordered would be walled up. But this has not inspired any confidence from the airlines and so they have avoided Surat for the last two years. To get here, I had to first fly to Mumbai and then drive for five hours. The distance is 300 kilometres and the road is part of India’s best highway network, the golden quadrilateral, which connects Mumbai to Delhi. So why does it take five hours to cover this distance? Because just outside Mumbai there is a broken or cracked flyover near a place called Fountain Hotel. It is unsafe to have traffic from both sides go over it together and so automobiles from one side are made to wait, often for over an hour, while the other side is let through. This is a heavily used highway, perhaps the busiest in India, and so the halted cars and trucks form a line many kilometres long.
I asked the man driving the taxi how long this had been the case and he said at least four months, and work on repairing the flyover had not yet begun. When I reached Surat I noticed that another flyover which had collapsed the last time I was visiting, killing 11 people, had still not been rebuilt. It was a brand new structure and two years ago one section of it fell down after the supporting scaffolding was removed. For two years this single piece had not been fixed rendering the flyover, on Surat’s most important road, Athwa Lines, unusable.

This, to at last get to the point I am trying to make, is the same route that India’s bullet train is taking. The high speed rail network starts at Ahmedabad and comes to Surat, which is about mid way, and then to Mumbai. There is no demand from Gujaratis for a bullet train. What they want is airports that are functional. Where animals are not permitted to walk around. They want national highways which have flyovers which are strong enough to carry normal traffic. They want city infrastructure that does not break down before it is built and which is not left unfixed for two years.

What is required is boring leadership that ensures that the basics are right and not genius leadership that dreams of bullet trains. It is remarkable to me that there is such a casual attitude to the development of a historical city that is, as I said earlier, the size of London.

A successful city with India’s highest per capita income (over Rs 4.5 lakh per household in 2008). A city with such poor connectivity, that it is more difficult for me to reach it from Bangalore than it is to fly to London.

First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 08:43 IST

Aadhaar has ‘tremendous potential’ to foster inclusion: UN

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India’s unique identification programme Aadhaar is a “critical” step in enabling fairer access to government services and has “tremendous potential” for fostering inclusion, according to a UN report. “The decision of India in 2010 to launch the Aadhaar programme to enrol the biometric identifying data of all its 1.2 billion citizens was a critical step in enabling fairer access of the people to government benefits and services,” the 2016 Report on the World Social Situation, released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said.The report, released on Thursday said, programmes such as Aadhaar have “tremendous potential to foster inclusion” by giving all people, including the poorest and most marginalised, an official identity. “Fair and robust systems of legal identity and birth registration are recognised in the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an important foundation for promoting inclusive societies,” it said.The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has already issued more than 108.27 crore Aadhaar numbers to the residents of India. The report includes key new findings about persisting inequalities in education and economic opportunity and, challenges the international community to work harder to break down barriers to participation.It said global social progress, while unprecedented, has not been evenly experienced. Some 40% of the world’s population does not have access to education in a language they understand. Children of ethnic minorities and those who are disabled are much less likely to finish their primary and secondary educations, it added.The theme of this year’s report is ‘Leaving No One Behind The Imperative of Inclusive Development’. It examines key causes of social exclusion and identifies social, economic and political disadvantages that some groups face as a result.The report concludes with concrete policy recommendations that are central to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. “The Sustainable Development Goals recognise that development will only be sustainable if it is inclusive,” said Wu Hongbo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development, adding: “Pursuing development grounded in social justice will be fundamental to achieving a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable future for everyone”.The report adds that in order to promote social inclusion, barriers to participation must be broken down by revising laws, policies, institutional practices, discriminatory attitudes and behaviours, and taking steps to ensure that participation is easier.

World AIDS Day: Beyond condoms, India must protect generic drug industry

Over the last one decade India has emerged as the pharmacy of the world. Nearly 17 million people in developing countries receive low-cost medicines from India. It’s a very good thing, but unfortunately, one facing constant threats.

After India joined the World Trade Organisation in 1995, it signed several trade agreements with it and the member nations including the US and the European Union, both of which have constantly been pressuring India and lobbying for strong intellectual property rights through free-trade (FTAs) and bilateral agreements.

Representational image. Courtesy: Agencies

“And while it opened new markets for India, in hindsight, it also allowed them ways to pressure India to change its intellectual property rights (IPR) rules, thus threatening India’s generic drug market,” says Loon Gangte, regional coordinator of International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), South Asia. ITPC works towards enabling people in need to access optimal HIV treatment.

India has always been at loggerheads over foreign governments over patent issues and is quite assertive about its rights, as Firstpost writer Shreerupa Mitra-Jha explained earlier this month.

What’s the connection between drugs and IPR

A patent on a drug allows a company to get exclusive license to manufacture and sell a drug at a price it seems fit, for 20 years, according to TRIPS agreements signed between the WTO members.

But, Gangte, who is one of the founding members of the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), and has been working with people with HIV/AIDS at the grassroots level through his other organisation for the past 19 years in not against patents.

“A patent as such is not a bad thing. And, why should a company who spend billions of dollars in research be forced to sell a medicine at a loss? However, lately drug companies have been making small changes in their medicines and re-applying for fresh patents thus extending their control on a drug. They also charge exorbitantly for the drugs. This is wrong and must be stopped. Certain essential medicines, especially those that can save millions of lives, should be made available at as low a cost as possible,” adds Gangte.

So, far the Indian government has been very strict with its stand of not letting these external forces affect the Indian generic drug industry, but with the Narendra Modi government pushing India as the next manufacturing hub, India’s IPR rules are likely to  change in order to attract more MNCs. Our stand is changing. And how long will India manage to retain its stand remains unclear.

A crucial example is how Gilead managed to get the patent to manufacture its anti-Hepatitis C drugs sofosbuvir (Sovaldi©). In 2015, the company applied for a patent to manufacture sofosbuvir in India, but it was rejected because of the high prices of the pill. It costs $1,000 a pill in the US.

But in 2016, India’s patent office, reportedly under pressure, approved the patent to make Sovaldi, right before US president Barack Obama was to visit the country. Mandakani Gahlot and Vidya Krishnan has an interesting account on how the patent was won in an article on The Caravan.

“We are fighting the patent award in court,” says Gangte, adding, “Currently with generic drugs the cost for an 84-day treatment comes to be around Rs 20,000. With Gilead’s patent for Sovaldi, it will become very expensive, not just in India but across the world. They are already charging $1,000 a bill in the US, which brings the cost for an 84-day course to $84,000. It’s very expensive.”

Not to mention, the company had signed a deal with seven generic drug companies licensing them to sell generic versions of sofosbuvir and ledipasvir in 91 low income and least developed countries while preventing them from exporting the medicine to countries like China (30 million people with HCV), Brazil (2.6 million), the Philippines (1.9 million), Turkey (1.5 million), Thailand (1.4 million) and Mexico (1.1 million) and developed countries.

India’s HIV amendment bill has a crucial loophole

Patents, however, not the only problem that is worrying people with HIV/AIDS, and the organisation fighting for their rights. The government of India earlier this month introduced some crucial changes through the HIV Amendment Bill 2016, offering more privacy to people with HIV/AIDS. However, it left a crucial thing out: a guaranteed treatment.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Though the bill states that the state governments and the Central government will work towards creating an infrastructure offering diagnostics services while towards prevention of HIV/AIDS and offer treatment, the bill doesn’t make it mandatory on the government. And that, says Gangte, is worrying, especially when People with HIV/AIDS are heavily dependent on ARV drugs.

Currently, there are more than 30 different types of ARV — a first line, second line, and so on — and, the treatment changes constantly as the virus keeps developing resistance to the medicines. There are more than 1 million people receiving free medicine through ART centres in India, and without any guarantee to receive treatment, there’s a constant fear among those with HIV/AIDS.

“If you say that we will provide medicine as far as possible, you retain the right to withdraw treatment. This bill offers a legal loophole for the government and politicians to wash their hands off at any time. It is supposed to protect the people, but instead, it’s protecting the politicians and the government. The government must accept and confirm that it won’t live us half-way. People with HIV/AIDS don’t need the treatment for just a month or a year, but through their lifetime. Once you start, you must continue, or you don’t start at all,” says Gangte.

India’s weak intellectual property rights rules are termed as one of the reasons why foreign companies are not willing to come to India. But should trade take priority over lives? Especially, when they are already battling an incurable virus is a question worth pondering.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 12:52 IST

Dialogue only viable option to resolve Palestinian issue: India at UN General Assembly

United Nations: India has said that dialogue is the only viable option for a durable and comprehensive peaceful solution of the Palestinian issue, as it voiced concern over the deteriorating security situation in the region.

“Regrettably, the security situation continues to deteriorate. The imperative need is of restraint and moderation,” India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Tanmaya Lal said on Tuesday at the General Assembly annual debate on the ‘Question of Palestine’.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Lal said India firmly believes that dialogue is the only viable option in the search for a just, durable and comprehensive peaceful solution of the Palestinian issue.

“We hope that both sides will demonstrate the necessary political will to return to the negotiations,” he said, adding that New Delhi is hopeful of the early resumption of a peaceful dialogue between the two sides.

He cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s message on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in which he reiterated India’s support for the cause of Palestine and solidarity with the Palestinian people for their struggle for a sovereign, independent state living side by side and at peace with Israel.

Lal said Modi reaffirmed India’s continued support to the development and nation-building efforts of Palestine by extending technical and financial assistance.

India recently enhanced its contribution to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to USD 1.25 million.

India also contributed USD four million to the National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza, with the Indian government helping set up two vocational training centers in Yatta and Hebron.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 10:52 IST

New Pakistan army chief General Qamar Bajwa promises to improve situation at LoC

Rawalpindi: General Qamar Javed Bajwa, an expert in PoK affairs, on Tuesday took over as Pakistan’s new army chief succeeding Gen Raheel Sharif and promised to improve the tense situation at the Line of Control soon.

Gen Raheel handed over the command of world’s sixth-largest army by troop numbers to 57-year-old Bajwa at a ceremony held in the Army Hockey Stadium, close to the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday appointed Bajwa as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) by elevating him to the rank of a four-star general.

Raheel in January had declared that he would not seek extension. There was speculation that the PML-N government would give him extension at the eleventh hour citing reasons that he was needed by the country to lead the war on terror. The post of the army chief is the most powerful in Pakistan.

After taking charge as the COAS from Raheel, Bajwa spoke to reporters.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa. AP

General Qamar Javed Bajwa. AP

“The situation at the LoC will improve soon,” he was quoted as saying by Geo News.

Bajwa sought support from the media to play a role in the keeping the morale of troops high. He said he had a heavy responsibility on his shoulders. Bajwa took over the command of the army in garrison city of Rawalpindi, where outgoing military chief Raheel handed over the symbolic baton at an impressive ceremony.

Several high level military and civilian officials attended the ceremony during which national songs and war anthems were played by traditional military bands.

His appointment coincides with the rising tensions and heavy exchange of fire at the LoC. Analysts believe Bajwa’s announcement that the LoC situation would improve might be a reconciliatory gesture towards India.

However, General Raheel was not so conciliatory in his final speech as the army chief, as he cautioned India against adopting an aggressive stance in Kashmir. Raheel, 60, said in recent months “India’s increasing terrorism and aggressive stance” in Kashmir have “endangered” the region. “India should know that mistaking our policy of patience for weakness would be dangerous,” he said.

“This is reality, that in South Asia, lasting peace and progress is impossible without solution of the Kashmir issue. For that, international community’s special attention is necessary,” he said. He also stressed the need for institutions to work together for the nation’s progress.

“It is important that all institutions work together against external threats and internal threats. For this, we will need to follow the National Action Plan in letter and spirit,” General Raheel said.

“The army will remain alert to threats, whether external or internal,” Raheel said.

For regional peace, he said, issues should be resolved politically. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a major factor in ensuring regional peace, he said.

“The departure of the first cargo from Gwadar port has shown this journey cannot be halted now,” he warned. “The time is here now that the enemies of CPEC stop working against it and become a part of it.”

Bajwa was eariler serving as Inspector General of the Training and Evaluation and also commanded the famed 10 Corps, the army’s largest, which is responsible for the area along the Line of Control (LoC).

As a major general, Bajwa led the Force Command Northern Areas. He also served in the 10 Corps as lieutenant colonel. He also served with a UN mission in Congo as a brigade commander alongside former Indian army chief Gen Bikram Singh, who was also there as a division commander.

The new army chief has wide experience of LoC affairs due to his extensive involvement with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and northern areas.

According to reports, General Bajwa’s “pro-democracy credentials” and his low-profile influenced the Prime Minister to appoint him to the powerful post of army chief superseding four top generals. The military has been in charge of the country for more than half of Pakistan’s nearly 70-year history since independence from Britain.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 08:55 IST

Amid Kashmir unrest, two kids from the Valley clinch gold at international championships

With over four months of shutdown, curfew and civilian killings, the tormented Kashmiris have something to cheer about as two players from the Valley have clinched top titles at two separate international championships recently.

On Tuesday, a seven-year-old boy from north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, who represented India in the Asian Youth Karate Championship, has clinched the gold medal after beating his Sri Lankan rival.

Hashim_825

Hashim Mansoor receiving gold medal at Asian Youth Karate Championship.

Hashim Mansoor, a resident of Nadihal village in Bandipora district, represented India in Sub-Junior category in the championship, which saw the participation of 19 countries, at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi.

Hashim had defeated his Bhutanese and Malaysian opponents before reaching the finals.

Mansoor Ahmad Shah, Hashim’s father, said that he has been encouraging his child to pursue Karate since he was five. “It is a wonderful feeling. I hope he gets the necessary support in future to continue his journey and I am sure he would excel.”

Ghulam Nabi Tantray, president of J&K Youth Karate Federation, said: “Mansoor had been performing extremely well in recent matches and his win was only possible because of the hard work put by his coach Fasil Ali Dar.

“He is a gifted child and I hope we would produce more champions from all the three regions of the state,” Tantray said.

Tajamul Islam with J&K Cheif Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Tajamul with J&K Cheif Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Earlier, an eight-year-old girl from the same district, Tajamul Islam, daughter of a driver, battled all odds and went on to clinch a gold medal at the World Kickboxing Championship in the sub-junior category.

Tajamul, who made the history by winning the gold in the sub-junior category at the World Kickboxing Championship in Italy, is likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 10 December in New Delhi.

The political turmoil of last 27 years has dealt a blow to the plans of the state’s hugely talented players who often fail to make a mark at national and international level due to the lack of infrastructure back home. The peace prevailing in the last decade brought out some known faces from the state, like Pervaiz Rasool, who went on to play for team India in international cricket matches.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 19:22 IST

Avenge beheading of Indian soldier by hitting Pakistan where it hurts: The pocket

The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand sparked the First World War. I am not saying we start the First World War, but the beheading of an Indian soldier in the Machil sector of Jammu and Kashmir with the complicity of the Pakistani-backed Border Action team (read terrorists) cannot be simply bypassed as ‘one of those things’.

The Geneva Convention forbids such acts of cowardly violence against prisoners of war or against those in uniform.

So, we must show that it is not acceptable. In a strong and tangible manner.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Do not rush to the home of the next of kin, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal. No one needs that sort of nonsense. Get serious.

Do not make pious laden speeches, Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley and Manohar Parrikar. Make promises you can keep. Don’t sell Indians dross.

Do not simply make a flurry of noise, all the Opposition parties. This calls for a total sense of togetherness beyond party lines, not scoring brownie points.

A beheading is a deliberate and horrific act against the human body and in that, the soldier was the symbol of the nation. They went for India.

Can this vilification go unanswered?

It is not enough to say that we condemn this sort of act. On the contrary, this soldier’s beheading is to be seen as an act of hostility in the extreme.

If the commander-in-chief of the Northern Command has gone on record that there is concrete evidence that Pakistani forces were involved in this grisly act one has to accept it as prima facie evidence.

What is unbelievable is that the code of honour which exists between men and uniform was so easily ignored and that if proven beyond a shadow of doubt Pakistani soldiers allowed this dastardly act to take place in their presence, it is a matter of profound shame. Not just to the individual but to the honour of his regiment or battalion and its history.

For us, in India, it is a time to wake up from this absurd slumber that Pakistan wants to extend a hand of friendship.

Get over this dream. They do not.

Let’s get this straight. They will provoke us at every opportunity. And they really do not care about a couple of surgical strikes which now have blunted their edge because there was no follow up.

It cannot be assumed that these were the only seven or eight launch pads… that is naïve and the fact that after the first assault we were too busy patting ourselves and letting the rope loose till that much vaunted surgical strike has become passé.

The cruel fact is that we do not grasp the nettle and see Pakistan for what it is. Not unless we hurt it in the pocket and send out a loud and clear message that it cannot be assumed there will be no retribution for this death so wait for it. Will we stop returning to the backfoot?

By the same token let’s stop depending on the United States and Britain for support. They will never back us against Pakistan.

Even Donald Trump will do nothing once he is swallowed by the system and like a stallion, tamed by the Hill.

For one day, our prime minister must put aside our relatively trivial travails over the demonetised currencies and speak out against Islamabad and this atrocity. In terms that have no ambiguity and are bound by time limits.

We have to act like this neighbour does not exist for us.

Do we have the moxie to do this?

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 08:21 IST

After Sindhu pulls out, Saina to lead India’s charge in Macau

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal will lead India’s charge in the Macau Open Grand Prix Gold badminton tournament which begins after three-time champion P V Sindhu pulled out of the event to prepare herself for the Dubai Super Series Finals. The Rio Olympics silver medallist, Sindhu, who is the defending champion here, was originally scheduled to take on China’s Yue Han in the opening match of the tournament on Wednesday. But Sindhu, seeded second, has withdrawn from the USD 120,000 event at the last moment keeping in mind the Dubai Super Series Finals as she wanted to be fresh after playing back-to-back tournaments — China Open and Hong Kong Open.”She had originally planned to play at Macau Open but after she qualified for Dubai Super Series Finals, we have decided to skip the event as otherwise she will get not enough time to prepare for the Dubai event,” Sindhu’s father P V Ramana told PTI. “Winning or losing is not important but at least she should prepare well to compete in such a high-level tournament,” he added.The Dubai Superseries final will be played from December 14-18 where only the world’s top eight players make the cut.Sindhu had recently clinched her maiden Super Series Premier title at China Open and then reached the finals at the Hong Kong Super series in the last two weeks.In Sindhu’s absence, compatriot and top seed Saina, who is slowly and steadily getting back her bearing after recovering from a serious knee injury which affected her Olympic campaign three months back, will spearhead India’s campaign in the women’s singles event.After undergoing a knee surgery in August, followed by a rigorous rehabilitation and training under the watchful eyes of her coach Vimal Kumar, Saina made a comeback at China Open but lost in the opening round. She competed at the Hong Kong Open before losing closely in the quarterfinals.The former World No. 1 Indian, who will take on Indonesia’s Hanna Ramadini in the opening round, will be eager to add this title to her name to boost her confidence ahead of the new season.In the men’s singles, national Champion Sameer Verma, who hogged the limelight after reaching the finals at Hong Kong last Sunday, will also hope for another steller performance when he opens his campaign against Czech Milan Ludik.It would be a sort of comeback for Commonwealth Games P Kashyap, who had taken a break after the Denmark Open.”After Dutch Open I was not feeling that fit and though I played Denmark, I decided to take a break to get back my full fitness and make some changes to my game. So I got around 4-5 weeks and I worked hard with Gopi, so looking forward for a good week ahead,” Kashyap told PTI.If Kashyap surpasses Malaysia’s Guo Zheng Sim, he is likely to take on compatriot and seventh seed H S Prannoy, who will open his campaign against Chinese Taipei’s Chun-Wei Chen.Third seed Srikanth got a bye in the opening round, while B Sai Praneeth will face local shuttler Lam Hou Him.Among others, third seeds Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will face Hong Kong’s Chan Alan Yun Lung and Li Kuen Hon in men’s doubles, while Jwala Gutta will start her new partnership with Manu Attri, taking on Indonesian pair of Satrya Aditha and Aprilsasi Putri Lejarsar Variella in the mixed doubles.

Theresa May wants ‘free trade’, but unfair visa rule upsets deal for Indian students

Prime Minister Theresa May’s first official trip to India took place in the backdrop of Brexit talks. The Prime Minister was pinning her hopes on a good deal with India to shore up post-Brexit hopes. But her efforts to win the support of Indians were dashed when Modi and his top team insisted changes in visa rules for highly-skilled Indian professionals and students.

May arrived in Delhi with one agenda in the kitty — trade. But Indians on the other side were ready with a list of issues in the agenda to discuss and get a deal. Trade deal with Britain was secondary for India. Technically, UK is just one among the 28 European Union countries and India is monitoring the developments in the UK and the Eurozone. Besides Brexit, more troubles are brewing, like the rise of the far right in France, the forthcoming German elections and the Italian referendum.

As cross-border terrorism spoils the peace in Kashmir, India was looking for a strong ally in Britain to end the issue forever. They were also looking for support from the former colonial master for a firm action against fugitives hiding in Britain. India, one of the fastest growing economies, is also looking for avenues for its young population to upgrade their skills. A fair deal for it highly-skilled professionals to work in the United Kingdom is also on agenda. Indians were looking for a package, but what May put on the table was a one line agenda — trade.

Britain Prime Minister Theresa May. ReutersBritain Prime Minister Theresa May. Reuters

Britain Prime Minister Theresa May. Reuters

The British Prime Minister also annoyed Indians by telling them to take back illegal immigrants to get a fair visa rule. Indians are not looking for any favours from Britain. Australia, America and New Zealand are now favourite destinations for Indian students. UK’s loss in America’s gain. The number of Indian students studying in the US has gone up to over 1,65,000 during the academic year 2015-16, a growth of 25 percent over the previous year. According to the 2016 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, there are 1,65,918 students from India, making it the second leading country of origin among international students in the US. India accounts for one out of every six international students in the US.  Approximately three-fifths of Indian students are at the graduate level and three-fourths are in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was pleading for May to relax rules for Indian students.

“Education is vital for our students and we will define our engagement in a shared future. We must therefore encourage greater mobility and participation of young people in education and research opportunities,” Modi told May during the inauguration of Indo-UK Tech Summit. But May was firm on her strategy, which was formulated during her Home Office days. The decision to put Indian students in the net migration bracket dearly affected British universities. The rise in tuition fees, the troublesome paperwork to get visa, besides the lack of post-study opportunities deter Indian students. Their numbers are almost half now. Just 20,000 from the earlier figures of 40,000 plus.

Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, and other members of the academic brigade in the delegation were gobsmacked and furious when May and her core team defended the visa policy instead of uttering anything to please the Indian press or the politicians.

“She just wants free trade with India,” Sir Keith wrote in a blog. “Free trade means free trade, she says, good for all and nothing to do with students. She even insists that students should be labelled as migrants, which is completely potty. Even Nigel Farage didn’t want that. In any case, Indians feel doubly insulted by this position.”

India is a country with 65 percent of the population below 35 years and 50 percent of the population below 25. They are global citizens of the new world and ambitious to explore and attain new skills. Families will sacrifice their precious savings for the education of their children. That is why young Indians are flocking at embassies to seek visas to fulfill their parents’ dreams. Some may stay abroad, but the majority will return. Who can withstand the lure of 7 plus GDP rate? When the western economies are hovering over 1 percent and 2 percent, Indians are aiming a double digit growth. They want the right skills to fuel the economy. They are looking towards Britain to acquire that because of the cultural bond and the language. They want to follow the paths of Gandhi, Nehru, Sardar Patel, Ambedkar, Ramanujan… But May and her team are letting them down.

Sir Keith and other are campaigning against this. He is co-founder of the #WeAreInternational campaign to welcome and value international students, staff and research. Over 100 UK universities are supporting the campaign.

“I will not speak of the real harm that these policies will do to cities across the UK, where students are vital drivers of the local economy. Others can speak of that. But what I want — what I need — to emphasise is how we are destroying hard-earned goodwill with a huge proportion of the world’s population. You should care about this. Your children’s jobs in the future could depend on it. So I’m going to work hard to make our education the very best for potential Indian students, and make the welcome as warm as possible in Sheffield.

“Sheffield students, leaders and I founded the #WeAreInternational campaign. I am damned proud of the students and staff across the UK who have joined us to show that we are still the nation that India can be friends with. And I will be working to make clear that the vast majority of Brits welcome students from India and don’t think of them as migrants – 91 percent, in fact, in a recent survey. I will work to build collaborations with Indian universities and companies. We will continue to work together on cures for diseases and inventions that will help to make our planet more sustainable. But I must beg, and I do beg. Please listen to India before it is too late.”

The British Prime Minister also annoyed Indians by telling them to take back illegal immigrants to get a fair visa rule

Sir Keith, Lord Karan Billimoria, Modi… people are appealing. But these appeals are falling on deaf years. As the world becomes a global village, mobility is a issue for global citizens. We cannot separate free movement of people from free flow of goods, services and investment.

May defended the UK’s stance by insisting that the UK already had a ‘good system’ for applications from India. “The figures show that we issue more work visas to India than [to] the US, Australia and China put together,” May said. “Nine out of 10 visa applications from India are already accepted. So we have, I believe, a good system.”

A good system? Britain is going to pay for that “good system”. Universities are already on the brink of collapse.  Trade will not help Britain to mend those faults. While Britain is barred from signing bilateral trade deals with third countries until it has left the EU, May said that there were steps that can be taken immediately to “break down barriers and make it easier to do business”.

Britain and India need to “identify what more we can do now to unleash our businesses, industries, exporters and investors”, she said, adding, “this does not need to wait for us to leave the EU”.

In summary, the visit inks business deals worth £1.2 billion and creates 1,370 jobs. The visit also formulates a ministerial level committee to look into extradition and immigration issues. A new India-UK Urban Partnership to develop ‘smart cities’ was also announced.

Among initiatives to foster trade, Indian tycoons and their families are to gain access to the GREAT Club programme which provides assistance with visa-processing, while an estimated 10,000 executives are to benefit from a Registered Traveller service to speed their way past queues at UK airports. A benefit to 10,000 people in the country with a population of 1.3 billion.

May’s first mission to India contained a business delegation of 33, besides decision-makers from the government. The absence of Priti Patel, the Indian-origin International Development Secretary, was noticed by many. The charismatic ever-smiling Brexit poster girl could have opened new avenues for discussions.

During the Cameron era, the British machinery was fully geared up to engage with the Indian platoons on trade, diplomatic and cultural relations. It is always a mela time for journalists and there is no dearth of stories to file. How many stories you can file on trade and Brexit on a busy foreign mission? May is not Cameron and she has her own views and policies.

Dealing with India needs lots of preparations. Money is not a crucial factor for India or Indians, but relations are. Indian leaders, especially the present government, believe in karma. They want to do good karma for the youngsters. They will go an extra mile for that. The route to enter the heart of India is not through airports or seaports with huge cargo, but a simple candy to please the new generation.

India never lets its partners down. They are the largest democracy and they respect friendship. May missed that opportunity in her first mission. There are many lessons to learn from recent history. Even Cameron failed to convince Modi to sign a multi-billion deal for Eurofighter Typhoon jets. Modi enjoyed English hospitality at Chequers Court, but chose France’s Rafael for Indian Air Force.  Because India believes in liberty, equality and fraternity. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Viva la friendship.

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

Demonetisation: Critics unaware of govt programme, says Niti Aayog member Bibek Debroy

New Delhi: Hitting out at economists for criticising demonetisation, Niti Aayog member Bibek Debroy has said that critics are unaware of the government’s financial inclusion programme and their understanding of the situation is based on views expressed in English language newspapers.

Bibek-Debroy_ForbesIndia

Bibek Debroy. ForbesIndia

“The economists living abroad base their understanding essentially on reading English newspapers. Otherwise, how would they know? English language newspapers understood many things wrongly,” Debroy told PTI when asked to react on comments of former World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu and other economists who have criticised demonetisation.

“Where does Dr Basu work now? He is based in US. I have a great deal of respect for him…That someone who is away from India may not necessarily be aware what is happening in India,” he added.

The eminent economist said Basu will probably react to things like financial inclusion on the basis of data that is three years old, adding, “He does not know what happened as a result of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY).”

Under PMJDY, 25 crore bank accounts were opened. Basu, who was also Chief Economic Advisor in Ministry of Finance, had on November 11 said that Modi government’s decision to demonetise high denomination currency notes is not ‘good economics’ and the collateral damage of demonetisation is likely to far outstrip the benefits.

Lawrence ‘Larry’ Summers, a former chief economist of the World Bank and ex-economic advisor to the US President had described the Indian government’s demonetisation steps as the “most sweeping changes in currency policy in the world in decades.

This step is ‘unlikely to have lasting benefits’ and that it has resulted in ‘chaos and loss of trust in the government’,” Summers was quoted                                                                                                            as saying.

First Published On : Nov 27, 2016 12:18 IST

China terms Modi’s demonetisation “very bold”, calls it a gamble

Beijing: Terming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation move as “very bold”, China’s official media said it was a “gamble” that would create a precedent irrespective of whether it succeeds or fails and China will draw lessons from its impact on corruption.

“Modi’s move is very bold. We cannot imagine what would happen in China if the country bans its 50 and 100 yuan notes,” said an editorial in the state-run Global Times titled ‘Modi takes a gamble with money reform’. 100 yuan is China’s highest currency note.

“To prevent a leak of information jeopardising the implementation of the demonetisation reform, the roll out of the plan had to be kept confidential. Modi is in a dilemma as the reform aims to render the black money useless but the process goes against the governance principle of winning support of the public before initiating a new policy,” the editorial said.

asean-modi-afp

Narendra Modi. AFP

“As more than 90 per cent of transactions in India are made with cash, banning 85 per cent of the currency in circulation brings a lot of trouble to people’s daily life” sparking fierce criticism including from “former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who termed it as organised loot”, it said.

“Demonetisation can crackdown on corruption and shadow economy but it is obviously unable to solve the deeper social and political issues that help breed the aforementioned problems,” the editorial said.

However, it stated that as far as the root causes of corruption exist, the problems will always resurface. “In other words, the Modi government wishes to turn a long and arduous reform into a one-off deal,” it said.

“Demonetisation is a gamble for Modi. He bet on both the execution ability of the government and the tolerance level of the Indian society, hoping that the benefits of this reform can outrun the negative social impacts and low morale,” the editorial said.

It asserted that the “Western-style” democratic system of India allows little room for such bold moves.  “However, he is really carrying it out, and will create a precedent no matter he succeeds or fails,” it said.

“Reform is always difficult and requires more than just courage. Modi’s demonetisation came with good intention but whether it can succeed depends on the efficiency of the system and the cooperation of the entire society.

More and more people are growing pessimistic about the ability of Modi’s government to control the process,” the editorial said. Noting that China’s reform and opening-up has been going on for nearly 40 years, the editorial said it had ups and downs but remained largely stable.

“Its success is based on broad public support,” it said. “The strong execution capabilities of the Communist Party of China are built on the consensus of the entire country. By observing India’s reforms we will draw lessons, which would in turn help us understand our own reforms,” it said.

First Published On : Nov 26, 2016 18:39 IST

India won’t forget for generations if Pakistan launches surgical strikes: Raheel Sharif

Islamabad: Upping the ante, Pakistan on Thursday warned India that its “battle hardened” military is capable of responding to any aggression, with army chief General Raheel Sharif saying if ever Pakistan launched surgical strikes India would not be able to forget it for generations.

“If Pakistan were to launch surgical strikes, India would not be able to forget it for generations to come,” General Sharif said just days before his scheduled retirement.

“India would be teaching its children as part of syllabus what a surgical strike means if Pakistan launched such strikes,” he said.

File image of Raheel Sharif. ReutersFile image of Raheel Sharif. Reuters

File image of Raheel Sharif. Reuters

He also dismissed India’s assertion that it had carried out surgical strikes in Pakistan. He said that Pakistan army was capable of teaching Indian forces a lesson.

Addressing tribal elders after inaugurating a cricket stadium named after flamboyant cricketer Shahid Afridi in Khyber tribal region, the General confirmed he will be retiring on 29 November after a three-year term, as scheduled.

He said he would dedicate his life after retirement for the welfare of the families of martyrs of the armed forces.

Earlier, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan will not tolerate “deliberate targeting” of civilians particularly children and women, ambulances and civilian transport.

“Pakistan has exercised maximum restraint despite continuing ceasefire violations from Indian security forces along LoC,” he added. “We will not tolerate the deliberate attack on innocent civilians.”

Air Force chief Marshal Sohail Aman also said Pakistan is not worried at all about any threat from India and its “battle hardened” military is capable of responding to any aggression.

“We are not worried about India at all,” he said, speaking at the 9th International Defence Exhibition and Seminar in Karachi. He said it is better if India showed restraint and solved the Kashmir issue to prevent escalation of tension.

“India should show restraint and instead solve the issue of Kashmir as that would be better for them,” he said.

Aman said that Pakistan does not want war but cannot ignore this kind of pressure. “We are well capable of responding in the face of any aggression,” he asserted.

He said Pakistan had “readied all of its (battle) plans following threats from India” after the Uri terror attack.

Meanwhile, Pakistan naval chief Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah on Thursday termed as “unusual” the alleged effort by an Indian submarine to enter into its territorial waters and warned of retaliation if such effort was made again.

“If India does something like this again, Pakistan Navy will respond to protect our sovereignty,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of the 9th International Defence Exhibition.

Pakistan Navy last week claimed an Indian submarine was pushed back after being detected near its territorial waters.

India, however, strongly dismissed the charge as “blatant lies”, saying the Indian Navy did not have any underwater movement in the said waters as claimed by the Pakistani Navy.

The remarks by top civil and military leadership came a day after Pakistan claimed that Indian forces targeted a passenger bus in PoK killing at least nine people.

First Published On : Nov 26, 2016 11:23 IST

Fire at West Bengal hospital raises interest on Ronald Ross who discovered malarial parasite

The devastating inferno that rattled both patients and physicians in West Bengal’s SSKM Hospital last week, thankfully, left out an important slice of world medical history.

A living room sized laboratory where British medical doctor, Ronald Ross, researched painstakingly for over a decade and received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1902 for his work on transmission of malaria, becoming the first British Nobel laureate, and the first born outside of Europe.

The laboratory was saved, so was a small sized memorial instituted in the name of the legendary doctor in 1927.

Firefighters at SSKM hospital and Nobel Prize winner physician Ronald Ross. Image courtesy: PTI and Nobelprize.org

Firefighters (left) at SSKM hospital managed to save a laboratory where Nobel Prize winner, physician Ronald Ross (right), discovered the malarial parasite. Image courtesy: PTI and Nobelprize.org

Sir Ross’s discovery of the malarial parasite in the gastrointestinal tract of a mosquito proved malaria was transmitted by mosquitoes, which laid the foundation for the method of combating the disease.

The blaze originated on 22 November in a newly constructed library on the sixth floor of the Ronald Ross building, which houses several departments of the hospital, in the morning. The floor, which houses the male and female plastic surgery wards and a nurse station, was immediately evacuated. As many as 19 fire tenders brought the blaze under control.

“We incurred damages in some of the wards but ensured the fire did not reach the Ross laboratory. Like human lives, this one was also extremely important for us,” Dr Nimal Majhi, a physician who works closely with the state’s government hospitals, said in an interview.

“It was a great relief, the fire was precariously close,” said Dr Majhi, adding that efforts are already on to set up a building for research in the name of the legendary doctor, who was also an amateur artiste and poet. He published several novels and composed songs as well. “The state government is contemplating constructing an auditorium in his name in Kolkata,” he added.

The fire at the state-run SSKM Hospital was doused after two hours. Around 150 people, including patients, visitors, staff and bystanders, were evacuated but the accident set off an alarm because it was the second such incident in the hospital in two months.

Dr Tamanesh Bhattacharya, a seasoned physician, said he was happy authorities at SSKM — known as Presidency General during the colonial days — managed to save what he considered one of the most important legacies of world medicine.

“Ross is back in news, and it is good that the state government is trying to preserve an important legacy. His work saved millions lives across the world, including soldiers of the two World Wars. Let’s not forget malaria was nightmarish for almost three decades before Ross made the breakthrough. He should always be remembered,” said Dr Bhattacharya.

There is another tinge of history in the life of the doctor, though. The eldest of ten children of Sir Campbell Claye Grant Ross, a general in the British Indian Army, and Matilda Charlotte Elderton, Ross was born in Almora (now in Uttarakhand) in 1857, the year of the Sepoy movement that historians consider India’s First War of Independence, or the Great Rebellion.

“His work was phenomenal, so was his love for people in India, especially Kolkata where he regularly interacted with writers, poets and actors, often acting in stage shows,” says Kolkata’s seasoned politician and historian, Nirbed Ray.

Ray said he felt happy that the state government plans to preserve the legacy of Ross. “It should have been done earlier, the memorial came up in 1927, and he was even present to inaugurate it,” said Ray.

The doctor achieved a breakthrough in August 1898, when he managed to culture 20 adult “brown” mosquitoes from collected larvae, and then successfully infecting the mosquitoes from a patient (named Husein Khan) for a price of 8 annas (one anna per blood-fed mosquito). And after blood-feeding, he dissected the mosquito and recovered a “circular cell” from its gut. It was on 20 August 1898 that Dr Ross confirmed the presence of the malarial parasite inside the gut of the mosquito, and the following day he confirmed the growth of the parasite in the mosquito.

Ray said Dr Ross, overjoyed, even composed a poem for his discovery and posted it to his wife in faraway Liverpool. It read:

This day relenting God
Hath placed within my hand
A wondrous thing; and God
Be praised. At His command,
Seeking His secret deeds
With tears and toiling breath,
I find thy cunning seeds,
O million-murdering Death.
I know this little thing
A myriad men will save.
O Death, where is thy sting?
Thy victory, O Grave?

Almost 84 years later, the legacy of the famed physician is being resurrected in the city where he found ways to counter what was then one of the world’s biggest medical crisis.

“Never mind if a fire rekindled our memories, better late than never,” said Ray.

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 16:42 IST

India WhatsApp users fall for ‘UN’ hoax on new rupee note

Some Indians believe Unesco has declared India’s new currency note the “best in the world”, but it’s not true.

Donald Trump may bring fresh ideas to combat terrorism: Ram Madhav

Washington: US President-elect Donald Trump seems to have a friendly perspective towards India, a senior BJP leader has said and expressed hope that he would bring “fresh ideas” to combat terrorism and establish the rule of law.

Ram Madhav. CNN-News 18

Ram Madhav. CNN-News 18

Summarising the current state of Indo-US relationship, Ram Madhav, the general-secretary of the ruling party, said the ties reached a new peak under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama.

The relationship is likely to march ahead under the Trump administration, he said.

“Going by his pre-election statements towards India, the president-elect seems to have a friendly perspective towards India. He does not seems to be a run-of-the-mill politician, hence we expect him to bring fresh ideas to counter-terrorism, and establish the rule of law,” he said.

Madhav is the first senior leader of the ruling party to have addressed on India-US relationship after the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

He said India has earned a tremendous trust from its neighbours in the significantly important Indo-Asia Pacific region.

At an event organised by the Federation of India and Indian Diaspora Studies, Madhav said India assumes the responsibilities — along with its neighbours — to establish peace and “law and order” in the region.

But, he said, India expects the US to continue its pivotal role in the region instead of slowing trade and military engagement in the region.

“The regional powers will have to take a leading role with America playing a supportive role. That is perhaps the way forward,” he said at the event on Friday in the suburbs of Washington DC.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 12:42 IST

Demonetisation resulted in chaos and loss of trust in govt: Larry Summers

Describing the Indian government’s demonetisation steps as the “most sweeping changes in currency policy in the world in decades”, a top global economist today said without new measures, this is “unlikely to have lasting benefits” and that it has resulted in “chaos and loss of trust in the government”.

“Like everyone else, we were surprised by the dramatic action taken by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demonetise the existing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.

Larry Summers. FirstpostLarry Summers. Firstpost

Larry Summers. Firstpost

“This is by far the most sweeping change in currency policy that has occurred anywhere in the world in decades,” Lawrence ‘Larry’ Summers, a former chief economist of the World Bank and ex-economic advisor to the US President, said in a blog.

In his blog written jointly with Natasha Sarin, Summers said most free societies would rather let several criminals go free than convict an innocent man.

“In the same way, for the government to expropriate from even a few innocent victims who, for one reason or another, do not manage to convert their money, is highly problematic,” the blog said.

Moreover, the definition of what is illegal or corrupt is open to debate given the long-standing commercial practices in India, Summers added.

He and Sarin said there are also questions of equity and efficacy.

“We strongly suspect that those with the largest amount of ill-gotten gain do not hold their wealth in cash but instead, have long since converted it into foreign exchange, gold, bitcoin or some other store of value.

“So it is petty fortunes, not the hugest and most problematic ones, that are being targeted,” Summers wrote.

“Without new measures to combat corruption, we doubt that this currency reform will have lasting benefits.

“Corruption will continue albeit with slightly different arrangements,” said Summers, who in the past had advocated a similar measure for $100 and 500 euro currencies.

“On balance, nothing in the Indian experience gives us pause in recommending that no more large notes be created in the United States, Europe and around the world.

“We were not enthusiastic previously about the idea of withdrawing existing notes from circulation because we judged the costs to exceed the benefits.

“The ongoing chaos in India and the resulting loss of trust in the government fortify us in this judgement,” Summers wrote.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 08:20 IST

On World Toilet Day, 200 families hope to get their respect back

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Living on the periphery of the high rise buildings in Dwarka, a group of close to 300 families still rely on the nearby forest to address nature’s call.The families, mostly ragpickers and daily scavengers, have been living in Nasirpur village along the periphery for more than 15 years now. Although, these people have now found some hope in the form of an activist group, on World Toilet Day.Call it lack of resources or education, the residents have continued to suffer due to the absence of a proper toilet facility in the area.”Imagine the kind of condition we live in. There is no supply of water, leave alone a hygienic way to relieve oneself. Our houses are less than 200 meters away from forest area, where we are forced to relieve ourselves,” said Shashtri, 35.Neglect from government authorities and senior leaders, has also added to the woes of the residents.”We’ve been living here for the past 15 years, have been actively participating in elections. The politicians also never forget to visit our area during the elections, however, they never hear our pleas after the elections,” said Manoj Kumar, the area community leader.Apart from drunkards, the area is often infested with animals, whereby making the area dangerous for small children.”We have little girls in the family, and they are always accompanied by someone whenever they go out to relieve themselves. The nights are the scariest part, even the women of the family are scared to go out after dark,” said Geeta,However, a citizen activist group, along with the members of Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) on Saturday, launched a campaign called #where2pee on the World Toilet Day, whereby giving these people a respectable way to lead their life.”For over 150 families who live in the area, there is not a single toilet. Women, children, men, elderly and disabled, all of them have to go out in the open and defecate. However, we have now approached the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board to help us,” said Indu Prakash Singh, Leader – Urban Knowledge Activist HubAccording to DUSIB officials, while the process to construct and establish a toilet will soon be initiated, the department has now sought no-objection-certificate (NOC) from land owing agencies.”Being a slum area, we can’t directly construct a toilet with the permission of the land owing agency, which in this case is the DDA and the Gram Sabha. Although, we have written to the agencies asking them to grant us permission. Once the permission is acquired, the area will be laid with a proper sewer and water system to ensure hygienic toilet facilities for the area people,” said AK Gupta, a member of the DUSIB

‘Goes against statutory law’: India opposes United Nations’ resolution on moratorium on death penalty

United Nations: India has opposed a United Nations resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, saying it goes against Indian statutory law and the sovereign right of every country to determine their own legal system. But it supported an amendment reaffirming sovereign right to develop domestic legal systems.

India’s representative Mayank Joshi said every state had a sovereign right to determine its own legal system, which was why he had voted for the amendment. But the counsellor at India’s UN Mission said he had voted against the resolution “because it contravened statutory law in India.”

The resolution was, however, adopted with 115 votes in favour to 38 against, with 31 abstentions following an “intense discussion,” said a statement on the UN website. The amendment was passed by 76 votes in favour, 72 against, 26 abstentions. Explaining India’s stance on the issues, Joshi said: “In India, the death penalty is exercised in the ‘rarest of rare’ cases, where the crime committed is so heinous as to shock the conscience of society.”

Reuters

Reuters

He said Indian law provides for “all requisite procedural safeguards, including the right to a fair hearing by an independent court, the presumption of innocence, the minimum guarantees for the defence, and the right to review by a higher court”.

He said the resolution “sought to promote a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.” “My delegation therefore, has voted against the resolution as a whole as it goes against Indian statutory law,” he said.

Death sentences in India must also be confirmed by a superior court and an accused has the right to appeal to a High Court or the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of India has adopted guidelines on clemency and the treatment of death row prisoners and that “poverty, socio-economic, psychic compulsions, undeserved adversities in life” constituted new mitigating factors to be considered by courts in commuting a death sentence to life imprisonment, he added.

The President of India in all cases, and the Governors of States under their respective jurisdictions, have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence.

In the past 12 years, only three executions – all of them of terrorists – have been carried out in India.

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 18:09 IST

India should speed up commitments in Chabahar port as China renews interest

During his recent visit to Japan, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe welcomed the prospects of cooperation between the two countries for promoting peace and prosperity in South Asia and neighbouring region such as Iran and Afghanistan.

President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani (R), Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (L) and President of Iran Hassan Rouhani (C). Getty Images  (Photo by Pool / Iran Presidency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani (R), Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (L) and President of Iran Hassan Rouhani (C). Getty Images  (Photo by Pool / Iran Presidency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani (R), Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (L) and President of Iran Hassan Rouhani (C). Getty Images
(Photo by Pool / Iran Presidency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

This, as agreed upon by both the countries, would be done through bilateral and trilateral cooperation, inter-alia, in the development of infrastructure and connectivity for Chabahar, the port in southeastern Iran, directing their officials to expeditiously work out details for such a cooperation.

The trilateral engagement between India, Iran and Afghanistan during the visit of PM Modi’s visit to Iran in May 2016 was historic, expanding avenues of trade for India with Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Russia through the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC). Chabahar is Iran’s only oceanic port and consists of two separate ports named ‘Shahid Kalantari’ and ‘Shahid Beheshti’, each of which has five berths – overall 10 berths. India and Iran first agreed upon plans to further develop ‘Shahid Beheshti’ port in 2003, but India was deterred by sanctions against Iran. Under the Indo-Iranian agreement of May 2016, India would refurbish one of the berths at ‘Shahid Beheshti’, and reconstruct a 600-meter long container handling facility at the port. The bilateral agreement between India and Iran gives India the right to develop two berths of the Chabahar port as agreed in 2015, allowing them to be operated for 10 years by India Ports Global, which is a joint venture between Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Kandla Port Trust, in partnership with Iran’s Aria Banader.

Along with the development of Chahabar port, India is also to construct a railway line linking Chahabar with Zahedan on the Iran-Afghanistan border, which beyond Zahedan will be linked to the Iranian Railway running west and then north close to the Iran-Afghanistan border, avoiding the volatile Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

India’s development of Chabahar will be at a cost of $85 million over the course of 18 months. Upon completion of upgrade works as agreed to in May 2016, Chabahar’s capacity will be increased to 8 million tonnes from the current 2.5 million tonnes capacity. India’s investment is supplemented with a $150 million credit line to Iran through Exim Bank of India. India has also offered to supply $400 million worth of steel towards the construction of the rail link Chabahar-Zahedan.

Chabahar port and the INSTC give India the strategic access for trade with Afghanistan and Eurasia, faced with denial of the land route by Pakistan. Recent operationalising of Gwadar port, as also the CPEC, makes this even more significant. Gwadar port has been leased for operations to a Chinese company (read China) for 49 years. In December 2011, regional Pakistani newspapers reported Chinese military taking over Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan considering leasing Gilgit-Baltistan to China for 50 years. In all probability, this would have happened secretly, what with Chinese digging 22 tunnels in this area capable of housing strategic weapons.

Though China wants India to join CPEC, it gives advantage India without opening the land access to Afghanistan. Conversely, such a move would raise the enormous India-China bilateral trade balance even more in China’s favour. Recent reservations shown by Pakistani senators against India joining CPEC could well be ruse to lure India joining the CPEC, thereby legitimising Chinese presence and projects in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is Indian territory.

It is not just blockading India’s NSG membership, protecting Masood Azhar at UN or denying visa to India’s badminton team manager on grounds he hails from Arunachal Pradesh, the Chinese stance indicates constraining India at every opportunity. India may feel there is enough space for both India and China to grow economically but China doesn’t feel that way at all, as demonstrated time and again by her. Iran’s recent refusal to accept the proposal by ONGC Videsh to develop Iran’s Farzad-B oilfield at a cost of $10 billion doesn’t bode well. This agreement was to be signed in October 2016. The 12.8 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves named Farzad-B was discovered by a consortium of OVL, Oil India Ltd and Indian Oil Corporation in 2008. Though India is still hopeful of pulling off the deal by February 2017, Iran’s action may have been influenced by China.

In 2011, Beijing and Tehran signed a deal giving China exclusive rights to multiple several Iranian oil and gas fields through 2024, including rights to build necessary infrastructures. In return, China promised to treat any foreign attack against these regions as attacks against its own sovereign territory, and defend them as such. China needs no prior permission from the Iranian government to maintain and increase its military presence in Iran and will control the movement of Iranians in and out of these territories. According to Green Experts of Iran, this agreement was the basis for PLA’s General Zhang Zhaozhong stating, “China will not hesitate to protect Iran even with a third World War.” China and Iran aim to increase bilateral trade to $600 billion within the next decade, even though economists feel it is not attainable.

Prior to the Indo-Iranian agreement on Chabahar, Iran had offered the same project to China and Pakistan also in addition to India, with China, Pakistan not responding. But lately Iranians at international forums have been conveying: India agreed to develop Chabahar in 2003 but despite the US being amenable to India doing so, India remained complacent. There are no plans to link Chabahar and Gwadar by road or rail, and China and Pakistan are now evincing interest in developing Chabahar. The implication of this should be very clear. There may be multiple reasons why India refrained from developing Chabahar after agreeing to do so in 2003, but it did emerge in 2015 that there were problems in clearing backlog payments for imported Iranian oil even through European banks because of the sanctions.

The US House of Representatives has now voted to renew the Iran Sanctions Act for an additional 10 years. The act is scheduled to expire by year end, barring its renewal. As of now, there is no word on when the US Senate intends to vote on the extension. However, Iran maintains that even non-nuclear sanctions, particularly the prohibition on Iranian access to the American financial system and use of the dollar discourage foreign companies from investing in Iran, subverts the economic rewards it expected from the nuclear agreement. When India physically commenced developing Chabahar and how much has been completed is not known, but there is clearly need for speed, in addition to quality.

Early leveraging the Indo-Japanese partnership into the project and ironing out problems of fiscal investment, if any, on account of continuing sanctions (of whatever form) is the need of the hour. Considering that the development work by India was to be completed in 18 months, we should actually aim to deliver it by September 2017.

The author is veteran Lieutenant General of the Indian Army.

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 15:54 IST

More air pollution deaths in India than China: Report

New Delhi: India has overtaken China in terms of the number of deaths due to ambient (outdoor) air pollution with the country witnessing 50 deaths more than China reported per day in 2015, according to Global Burden of Disease project.

Recent data show that in 2015, India witnessed 3,280 Premature Deaths (fatalities due to Ozone concentration and particulate matter concentration) per day, whereas China had recorded 3,230.

Representational image . AFP

Representational image . AFP

In 2010, the number of Premature Deaths in India were at 2,863, whereas in China it was at 3,190. Similarly, in 2005 India was at 2,654 and China at 3,332.

So, while Premature Deaths have increased by 23 percent in India over the last decade, China has reversed the trend and recorded a decline of three percent.

Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project has been compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.

As per the study, the rate of Premature Deaths in India has been increasing at an alarming rate, and from 2,140 deaths per day in 1990, it has reached to 3,280 in 2015.

This is nearly 53 percent increase in premature deaths in the last 25 years, a much sharper increase than in China, which has seen 16 percent increase over the corresponding period as it managed to reverse the trend 2005 onwards.

According to a press statement issued by Greenpeace India separately, these findings corroborate a study it carried out earlier, which showed that for the first time this century, the average particulate matter exposure was higher for Indian citizens than that for the Chinese.

Activists have called for immediate action. “It clearly indicates that China’s strong measures to
tackle pollution have contributed to the year-on-year air quality improvement on record, while in contrast, India’s pollution levels have increased over the past decade.

“This study must be taken seriously as this a testimony of deterioration of ambient air quality in India and immediate actions must be taken by the concerned authorities,” says Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India.

Also, Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) for India and China analysed from NASA satellite imagery depicts air pollution levels rising and intensifying across India while in China there is a reduction in pollution levels from 2005 to 2015

Given the severity of air pollution levels in the country, Greenpeace India has decried plans to ease timeline for implementing the notified emission standards for coal-fired power plants.

“There are sufficient scientific reports to establish that thermal power plants are one of the key contributors to air pollution, yet the government seems comfortable ignoring public health and appeasing the polluters by easing the norms,” Dahiya said.

Greenpeace has also urged for a national clean air action plan and adopting a comprehensive approach similar to China, which includes coal consumption caps, emission controls at power plants and industry, tackling the transport and construction sector, checking demolition, and curtailing biomass burning.

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 12:13 IST

Over 100 tigers killed and trafficked each year: Report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With fewer than 4,000 left in the wild, tigers are on a precipice – yet more than 100 of the big cats are still killed and illegally trafficked each year, according to fresh analysis published on Wednesday.The latest estimate comes as experts and dignitaries, including Britain’s Prince William, gather in Vietnam’s capital for an international wildlife conference which kicks off on Thursday.The two-day meet joins governments, NGOs and activists to combat illegal wildlife trade and is being hosted in a country that has become a nexus for smuggling and consumption.Traffic, which campaigns to protect endangered animals and help governments catch those who trade in their parts, published a new analysis looking at 16-years of tiger seizure data from across the globe.They estimate an average of 110 tigers became victims of the trade each year since 2000.The study also illustrates the growing role breeding centres play in fuelling the trade, especially in Southeast Asia.Researchers singled out Thailand, Laos and Vietnam as among the world’s top countries for tiger farms.”These countries have clearly made little meaningful progress in controlling this source of supply,” Kanitha Krishnasamy, a co-author of Traffic’s report said in a statement.”Any further stimulation of demand could have a more disastrous impact on wild tigers.”Around 30% of tiger parts seized between 2012 and 2015 now come from captive tigers compared to just two percent between 2000 and 2003.Animal rights groups argue that by keeping demand for tiger parts going, farms simultaneously perpetuate the destruction of tigers in the wild.Laos recently announced plans to close its tiger farms while Thailand has initiated investigations after a long tussle with a controversial Buddhist “tiger temple” that for years had been at the centre of allegations of complicity in the trade.But both countries have a long history of corruption and policing crackdowns that rarely result in permanent successes on the ground.Animal rights groups hope the Hanoi conference will pile pressure on governments to redouble efforts to stem the trade and close down farms.”Ending tiger farming would ease the pressure and help law enforcement agencies focus on the poachers and traffickers of wild tigers,” Michael Baltzer, from the World Wildlife Fund said.

Effects of demonetisation: Tea sales go up, but country’s sugar levels are in the dumps

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20 nations sign framework agreement of International Solar Alliance

Marrakech: Over 20 countries, including Brazil and France, have become signatories to the framework agreement of the International Solar Alliance — an initiative that is the brainchild of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The framework agreement of International Solar Alliance (ISA) was opened for signatures here yesterday on the sidelines of CoP22 with Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave saying that with this legal framework in place, the ISA will be a major international body headquartered in India.

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

Over 20 countries, including Brazil and France, became signatories to it soon after the process began, an Environment Ministry official said.

Indian climate experts termed it as a “good” initiative which will aggregate demand, improve quality and reduce the cost of solar energy in developing countries but cautioned that achieving these objectives will require countries to have “confidence” in ISA.

“The Framework Agreement of ISA was opened for signature in Marrakech on the sidelines of the CoP22 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This will make ISA an innovative, action-oriented and sui generis international and inter-governmental treaty-based organisation that will be registered under Article 102 of the UN charter,” an official statement said.

ISA was jointly launched by Prime Minister Modi and French President Francois Hollande at the CoP21 in Paris last year where representatives from around 70 countries including more than 30 Heads of the States and government participated.

ISA is an initiative by India where an alliance of 121 solar resource-rich countries lying fully or partially between the tropic of Cancer and tropic of Capricorn, have come together.

The Framework Agreement will be kept open as many more countries are expected to join the ISA in the coming weeks, the statement said.

During the ceremony, Dave thanked the countries for their continued support for concretising the concept of ISA and reaching Wednesday’s milestone in the shortest possible time.

“Within 11 months of launch, ISA activities have increased significantly, and many initiatives are under implementation. With legal framework in place ISA will be a major international body headquartered in India,” he said while thanking the French government.

He said creating common buyers’ market for solar finance, technology, innovation, capacity building and others will lead to higher quality, lower costs, products better tailored to needs, collaborative innovation and technology ownership.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 15:29 IST

Demonetisation, ATM chaos LIVE: Use of old Rs 500, Rs 1,000 notes for key exemptions extended

Firstpostimage

May in India

What effect has Theresa May’s visit to India had on relations between the two countries?

Let’s wake up India: Donald Trump will do exactly what he threatened to do

Now that the world has figured out they are not going to wake up from the nightmare and that Donald Trump is actually President-elect of the US let’s get a few of the more important ducks in a row.

US President-elect Donald Trump. APUS President-elect Donald Trump. AP

US President-elect Donald Trump. AP

Many of us(myself included) have been dishing out scenarios these past three days where the crass, coarse clown suddenly enters the office and is imbued with a choirboy halo, soaked in good sense and turning into an overnight statesman.

Which is all very fine but what stops him from doing exactly what he said he would do?

There is no doubt he will dismantle Obamacare and bring it to a screeching halt. That it might make him unpopular loses out to toppling the Obama legacy, something he will do with determination and a certain rage which perhaps began when he was made the butt of biting satire at the White House Press Corps dinner not once but on three different occasions.

He may well order the building of a wall between the US and Mexico and send the bill to President Enrique Peña Nieto and also begin proceedings against 11 million Mexican illegals whom he believes are the fundamental cause of drugs and crime in the country, this being integral to a $166 billion ‘America for Americans’ package.

By the same token, he can up the ante against the Daesh and generate a miasma of fear and distrust against the Muslim community. What makes us think he will grasp sanity and differentiate between terrorists and a whole global entity.

The fact that his official website uploaded the call for a ban on the community from entering the US after it had been taken off for the better part of a day is an ominous sign.

We can hope he will not do it but hope is a weak and fragile defence and one should be ready to face the fact that he won on a platform of polarisation and divisiveness and he is not likely to see any further into the future than keeping his ‘so called’ election promises.

Yes, Indians and other Asians will be paying the price of their call centres being padlocked and if he takes the sledgehammer of immigration and locks the doors despite the long-term price he might have to pay in terms of intellectual loss and isolation there is no guarantee he will not bring maximum jobs back to America any which way.

Failure to deliver on the job front is something he cannot afford and he will make that the most important arrow in his quiver.

Getting into a university for Asians will be more difficult. Indians can keep kidding themselves that they are exempt from new rules but don’t put your money on it.

The one major advantage Indians have is they are not dependent on the US…not in deals where they have offered military bases, not in the purchase of arms that make them hostage to repairs and spare parts, not even in allowing US corporations over-leverage on Indian soil. As the two largest democracies in the world the possibility of Stand Up India and Start Up India have huge merit but will Trump see that…cannot be sure.

Indeed, locking horns with China in business and trade terms is very much on the cards. Beijing will be his first target. With him and Vladimir Putin best buds, there is a huge vacuum in the cold war sector and China is best suited for being the proxy.

You watch as he links up with Putin to create that ‘safety zone’ in Syria to stop the flow of refugees. There might even be boots on the ground and a pro-Assad agreement to which he will give a nod.

With Moscow, the first test of a newly reworked US policy will be reflected in Trump lifting sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis. If he does that you can safely conclude the Big two are one.

He will definitely put the screws on the US companies that stash away $2.1 trillion to avoid taxes and tax those who manufacture through cheap labour abroad and sell their goods in America. Over 3,000 major companies are listed to be farming jobs abroad or getting work done in third world countries and saving on overheads.

Nafta is also on the ‘crushing’ list and cheap American grain moving to Mexico might just be the first commodity halted. We could also safely say that Nato may not retain its present shape for long and the Washington-Russian nexus would be sufficient military safeguard. If the other members don’t step up and cough up then the US won’t either.

The Trump administration will be inward looking and for a while, domestic policies will eclipse the role of global policeman. While that might be a relief since the expedient foundation of American foreign policy has ensured it has never been much of a success for nations who have unreservedly expected Washington to ride to their rescue when in peril may find themselves stranded and isolated.

Revenge is a dish that tastes best when served cold and Trump is likely dole out lashings of it.

There is also concern about his personal stands on social issues like the LGBT community, on abortion and racism including his now legendary status as a President whose ‘respect’ for women is suspect.

On all these issues he has dithered and swung more widely than a pendulum. He has been pro-choice (1999) anti-abortion (2016) anti-gay marriages (2011) then more conciliatory but still prejudiced (2016), pro-gun control (2000) and against further ‘check’ codicils (2015) so it is not easy to know what exactly he believes in at a specific moment.

Which is the scariest part of all? How do you make the meal if you don’t know which persona is coming to dinner?

First Published On : Nov 12, 2016 16:33 IST

India, Japan sign landmark nuclear deal; Narendra Modi, Shinzo Abe seek to step up ties

Tokyo: India and Japan on Friday signed a landmark civil nuclear cooperation deal after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Shinzo Abe, a move that will boost bilateral economic and security ties and facilitate US-based players to set up atomic plants in India.

The two countries had reached a broad agreement for cooperation in civil nuclear energy sector during Abe’s visit to India in December last year, but the deal was yet to be signed as some issues were yet to be worked out.

Tokyo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his ceremonial welcome in Tokyo on Friday. PTI Photo by Shirish Shete  (PTI11_11_2016_000123B)

Tokyo: India and Japan sign historic nuclear deal. PTI

“A landmark deal for a cleaner, greener world! PM @narendramodi and PM @AbeShinzo witness exchange of the landmark Civil Nuclear Agreement,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted on Friday.

The deal would allow Japan to export nuclear technology to India, making it the first non-NPT signatory to have such a deal with Tokyo. It would also cement the bilateral economic and security ties as the two countries warm up to counter an assertive China.

There was political resistance in Japan – the only country to suffer atomic bombings during World War II – against a nuclear deal with India, particularly after the disaster at the Fukushima  Nuclear Power Plant in 2011.

Japan is a major player in the nuclear energy market and an atomic deal with it will make it easier for US-based nuclear plant makers Westinghouse Electric Corporation and GE Energy Inc to set up atomic plants in India as both these conglomerates have Japanese investments.

Other nations who have signed civil nuclear deal with India include the US, Russia, South Korea, Mangolia, France, Namibia, Argentina, Canada, Kazakhstan and Australia.

First Published On : Nov 11, 2016 17:05 IST

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