ADVERTISEMENT

National

India, Cyprus agree to take bilateral ties to new level

India and Cyprus on Friday voiced their strong commitment to take their bilateral engagement to a new level and discussed ways of giving a new direction and depth to their partnership.

 
India, Cyprus sign four agreements to strengthen ties
India and Cyprus today voiced their strong commitment to take their bilateral engagement to a new level and discussed ways of giving a new direction and depth to their partnership.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visting Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades held detailed discussions on the full range of the bilateral relationship here and also exchanged perspectives on important global and regional issues of mutual concern. 
 
"Cyprus and India enjoy close economic ties. Cyprus is the eighth largest investor in India. Last year, to boost our capital and investment linkages, we have revised the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement. The President and I agreed that India offers excellent investment opportunities for Cypriot entrepreneurs," Mr. Modi said at a joint media interaction with Mr Anastasiades after their talks.
 
"The industry and business in our two economies can shape attractive partnerships through the flagship programmes launched by my Government. The beautiful landscapes of Cyprus and the wide horizons of ‘Incredible India’ can be a source of tourism promotion in both our countries," he said.
 
This is Mr. Anastasiades' first state visit to India. Mr. Modi said India enjoyed a special place in the heart of every Cypriot President and almost all of them had visited India.
 
"So, it is indeed an honour for me to welcome such a great friend and strong supporter of India. Cyprus and India share rich legacies of ancient civilizations and, our civilizations have influenced each other through millennia. In modern times, our relationship goes back to the pre-independence era, when our founding fathers supported the freedom struggle of Cyprus. And, Cyprus too has always reciprocated with its warmth and friendship. India has always stood by Cyprus on all crucial issues. In 1974, India took a firm stand in support of the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus . India has contributed personnel to the UN Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus. Three force commanders from India served in this capacity, and it is heartening for me to know that all of them are fondly remembered in Cyprus," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said he was aware of Mr. Anastasiades' initiative for resolving the Cyprus issue. 
 
"You have led from the front in trying to bring a new era of peace, development and security. Not just for Cyprus, but for the whole region. We wish you every success in your efforts. Under your leadership, Cyprus has successfully overcome its recent financial and banking challenges. And, recorded one of the highest growth rates in the Euro zone in 2016. Excellency, we commend your vision and leadership for taking your country out of this crisis and on to the path of economic prosperity," he said.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
He noted that India and Cyprus shared the common objective of bringing about an early reform of the United Nations Security Council. 
 
"Both of us believe that a reformed Security Council, reflective of the world as it is, and not as it was, is necessary to address the range of complex challenges facing the world today. Excellency, in this context, I deeply appreciate your support for India’s claim for a permanent seat in an expanded UN Security Council. The President and I also discussed ways to strengthen our partnership in other inter-governmental organizations and regimes," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said that, given its location, Cyprus appreciated the threat that terrorism posed to the global peace and stability.
 
"India itself has been battling cross border terrorism for decades. We agreed that there is an urgent need for all countries to decisively act against those states who generate, support, shelter and sustain these factories of violence in our regions. The President and I discussed the need for creating a comprehensive global legal framework, particularly through early conclusion of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism," he added.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

Parrikar quits as Defence Minister, to be sworn in as Goa CM on Tuesday

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Manohar Parrikar on Monday resigned as the Defence Minister and will be sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Goa on Tuesday at the head of a BJP-led coalition government that will be formed by the party with the support of regional outfits and independent legislators.

Manohar Parrikar
Manohar Parrikar
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Manohar Parrikar today resigned as the Defence Minister and will be sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Goa tomorrow at the head of a BJP-led coalition government that will be formed by the party with the support of regional outfits and independent legislators.
 
"The President of India, as advised by the Prime Minister, has accepted the resignation of Shri Manohar Parrikar, from the Council of Ministers, with immediate effect, under clause (2) of Article 75 of the Constitution," a press communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
 
Further, as advised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Pranab Mukherjee has also assigned the charge of the Ministry of Defence to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in addition to his existing portfolios, the communique added.
 
Mr. Jaitley held the Defence portfolio as an additional charge in the initial months after the Narendra Modi government assumed office at the Centre in May 2014. He relinquished the charge in November 2014 when Mr. Parrikar, who was Chief Minister of Goa, was shifted to the Centre as the Defence Minister.
 
The Congress had emerged as the single largest party in the elections to the Goa Legislative Assembly, polling for which was held on February 4 and votes counted on March 11, with 17 seats in the 40-member house. 
 
The ruling BJP ended up with 13 seats, with Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and many of his Cabinet colleagues losing their seats. However, the BJP has managed to get support from two regional outfits -- the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward Party -- which won three seats each as well as two of the three independents. 
 
ADVERTISEMENT
The 13 BJP MLAs and the other eight legislators met Governor Mridula Sinha yesterday evening and she later invited Mr. Parrikar to form the new government.  
 
Mr. Parrikar will have to be elected to the State Assembly within six months in keeping with the Constitutional requirements. He is currently a member of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Parliament, from Uttar Pradesh.
 
For Mr. Parrikar, 61, this will be his third time as Chief Minister of Goa, having first served in that position from October 2000 to February 2005 and then from March 9, 2012 till Novemer 9, 2014. He had also served as Leader of the Opposition in the Goa Legislative Assembly from June 1999 to November 1999 and from June 2005 to March 2012. In all, he was elected six times to the Goa Assembly since 1994. 
 
He has a B.Tech. in Metallurgy from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai and was the first IIT alumnus to serve as the Chief Minister of a state.
 
NNN
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

Assembly elections: Counting of votes to be taken up on Saturday

Counting of votes will begin on Saturday morning in the crucial elections to the State Legislative Assemblies of five States -- Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa -- and most of the results are expected to be out within a few hours after that.

ADVERTISEMENT
Counting of votes will begin tomorrow morning in the crucial elections to the State Legislative Assemblies of five States -- Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa -- and the keenly-awaited results are expected to have far-reaching implications for national politics.
 
The elections in five States have taken place mid-way through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and just weeks after the sudden decision of the government on November 8 to demonetise Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 banknotes.
 
Polling in Uttar Pradesh -- India's most populous state -- was held in seven phases between February 11 and March 8, while Manipur had polling in two phases on March 4 and 8. Punjab and Goa had single-phase polling on February 4 and Uttarakhand had single-phase voting on February 15.
 
The terms of the Goa, Manipur and Punjab assemblies are due to normally expire on March 18, Uttarakhand on March 26 and Uttar Pradesh on May 27.
 
The Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly has 403 seats, including 84 reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and two for Scheduled Tribes. Punjab Assembly has 117 seats (34 SC), Goa 40 (1 SC), Uttarakhand 70 (13 SC, 2 ST) and Manipur 60 (1 SC, 19 ST).
 
The Election Commission will give out counting trends and results of the elections through its website from 8 am tomorrow.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Among other things, the website will give details such as the number of votes secured by the candidates round-wise and constituency-wise and political party-wise and candidate-wise trends.
 
The website can also be accessed through the main website of the Election Commission of India.
 
For the first time, the Commission will also provide analytics through interactive dashboard in the form of clickable infographics. Users can download data, crosstab, PDF and images for analysing the elections further at their end. It will include comparative analytics between 2012 and 2017. 
 
An official press release said users will get constituency analysis with respect to participation of electors (constituencies with more female electors, constituencies by slabs of voter turnout, turnout by poll days) and candidates (gender wise participants, winners and major competitors). To assess performance of political parties, analysis on seats won by them, the percentage vote-share in the State and the profile (age and social category)of candidates fielded by them have been included. Candidates have been mapped to their constituencies and the votes polled in their favour, it said.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

Mukherjee says tragic to see universities caught in vortex of violence, disquiet

Declaring that there should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday that the country's premier institutions of higher education must resound with creativity and free thinking.

President Pranab Mukherjee delivering the 6th K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘India@70’ at Kochi in Kerala on March 2, 2017.
President Pranab Mukherjee delivering the 6th K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘India@70’ at Kochi in Kerala on March 2, 2017.
Declaring that there should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian, President Pranab Mukherjee today said the country's premier institutions of higher education must resound with creativity and free thinking.
 
"Those in Universities must engage in reasoned discussion and debate rather than propagate a culture of unrest. It is tragic to see them caught in the vortex of violence and disquiet," he said while delivering the 6th K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘India@70’ in Kochi.
 
"India was a world leader in the field of education when our Universities like Nalanda and Takshshila were at the height of their glory. Nalanda and Takshshila are not mere geographical expressions but representations of the idea for free thought which flourished in these great Universities of the past.  Our premier institutions of higher education are the vehicles on which India has to propel itself into a knowledge society.  These temples of learning must resound with creativity and free thinking," he said.
 
"There should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian.  India has been since ancient times a bastion of free thought, speech and expression.  Our society has always been characterized by the open contestation of diverse schools of thought and debate as well as discussion.   Freedom of speech and expression is one of the most important fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution. There must be space for legitimate criticism and dissent," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee began by speaking about Kerala, which has been the gateway to India for traders and religious missionaries from different parts of the globe. He said the people of Kerala were known for their progressive thinking and the State's impressive achievements in the field of literacy, education, health, gender equality, tourism and culture had brought it global acclaim.
 
Turning to the topic of the lecture, India@70, he said that for 50 years before independence in 1947 the economic growth rate of India was 0% to 1%. "In the fifties, our growth rate rose to 1 – 2%, the sixties 3 – 4% and in the 90s, with economic reforms, to 6 to 7%.  In the last decade, our growth rate has averaged around 8%, making us the fastest growing large economy of the world," he said.
 
"India’s population in 1950 was 360 million. Today, we are a 1.3 billion strong nation.  Our annual per capita income has gone up from Rs. 7,500 at the time of independence to over Rs. 77,000. GDP growth rate has risen from 2.3 percent to 7.9 percent in 2015-16.  Poverty ratio has declined from over 60 percent to less than 25 percent.  Average life expectancy has gone up from 31.4 to 68.4 years. Literacy rate has gone up from 18 to 74 percent. Food grains production has gone up from 45 million to an estimated 272 million tonnes in 2016-17," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee spoke about the progress achieved by the country in the field of food and industrial production, as well as in areas such as space, information technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. He said that, in the last 70 years, India had transformed itself from a poor, under-developed nation into the third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.
 
He said equally important was India's success in consolidating the unity of its nation and democracy in the midst of extraordinary challenges and tremendous diversity.  
 
"We have firmly established within our country the rule of law, an independent judiciary and vibrant media as well as civil society.  We have also created strong institutions like the Election Commission and the CAG who stand as pillars of our political system.  Every known religion in the world, over hundred different languages used in everyday life, 1600 dialects and multiple cultures are united under one flag and one Constitution. Around 553 million people voted in the 2014 General Elections, an exercise matched in scale and scope by none else in the world," he said.
 
The President said the most important legacy bequeathed to the nation by its founding fathers was its Constitution.
 
"A Constitution is a charter for the governance of a nation. The notion of what is good governance must be defined by the need of the times and enriched by the experience of the decades. Yet, the Constitution enshrines certain timeless values that should never be compromised. It is against the touchstone of these values that we must constantly measure our performance," he said.
 
"The Preamble records the resolve of the people of India to secure to all citizens justice - social, economic and political as well as liberty, equality and fraternity.  It also establishes the principle of secularism. Justice - social, economic and political - is in the life of any nation a journey more than a destination. To achieve social justice requires not mere governance but a recasting of mindsets and the transformation of social ethos.  That is the job not just of the legislature, the executive or the courts, but of each one of us.
 
"The ultimate goal of any democracy is the empowerment of the individual, irrespective of his economic, religious or social standing. This may appear to be a utopian dream for many, but the strength of a system lies in its capacity to ceaselessly work for its accomplishment.  The goal of political justice requires the continuous empowerment of marginalised sections of our society. We owe ourselves to create a system in which access to politics is not limited to a privileged few but an average Indian also feels empowered enough to contribute," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee said economic development was vital to good governance but stressed that this must be imbued with the principle of equality on which there could be no compromise.
 
"An egalitarian society can only be created when growth is inclusive. It is important to ensure that there is justice and equality of opportunity and the state does not create conditions in which the privileged few gain at the cost of the multitudes who suffer endemic poverty. A sustainable society can only be based on the principles of equity and justice," he said.
 
He said democracy required constant nurturing and at no cost should the exploitation of fault lines be allowed. In this context, he underlined the importance of protection and safety of women and children.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Mr. Mukherjee said the country's leaders and political activists must listen to the people, engage with them, learn from them and respond to their needs and concerns. "Our law makers must never take the people for granted. They must focus on the fundamental task of law making and raising of issues of concern to the people as well as finding solutions to their problems," he said.
 
"Legislation is the first and foremost responsibility of a Parliamentarian. It is most unfortunate that time devoted towards legislation has been gradually declining in our Parliament," he said, citing figures for time lost due to interruptions and adjournments.
 
"No one who holds any elected office has been invited by the voters to occupy that office.  Each one has gone to the voters and pleaded for their votes and support.  The trust placed by the people in the political system and those elected should not be betrayed. Our Legislatures and Parliament must not turn into arenas for combat.  Floor tests are not meant to be muscle tests.  The opportunity to represent the people is not a right or entitlement but a moral obligation and duty.  Our elected representatives owe it to the people of our country to act as models of exemplary conduct," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee said Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies were central pillars on which the edifice of democracy   rested. 
 
"They are the supreme institutions comprising of members directly elected by our people.  It is through them that governments are held accountable by the people.  If they become dysfunctional, it results in not just paralysis of those institutions but creates an adverse impact across the system.  The debate and discussions which ought to take place in the open in the House of Parliament and Assemblies cannot be replicated elsewhere.  When they cease to function effectively, issues spill out onto the streets.  The very basis of our democracy gets undermined," he said.
 
The President said the time had come for collective efforts to re-discover the sense of national purpose and patriotism that alone can lift the nation on to the road of sustained progress and prosperity.
 
"The nation and the people must always come first.  Let us strive to arrest the moral decline in our society and ensure that our core civilisational values find firm root.  Let us exert ourselves to strengthen India’s pluralism and diversity.  Let us be uncompromising in rooting out violence, prejudice and hatred.  
 
"Let us strive for rapid progress but even as we do so, ensure that the benefits of economic progress percolate down to the poorest of the poor and those living in the furthest corners of our country.  Let us make the poorest in our land part of the story of a rising India.  Let us embrace education, skill development and innovation which will enable us catapult India into the future and build a knowledge economy, riding the technological wave of the 21st century.
 
"I see a very bright future for India. Our Constitutional values, young population and entrepreneurial abilities as well as capacity for hard work provide us the fundamentals required for rapid progress as well as the building of a caring and compassionate society. India has changed dramatically in the last 70 years.  I am confident that in the next ten years, we will see even greater progress as we steer our nation, focused on further strengthening our open, democratic and inclusive society," he added.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

Modi urges youth to lead fight against black money by pushing digital transactions

Stating that digital transactions in India are witnessing a very rapid surge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday urged the youth to become ambassadors of schemes in this regard and lead the movement against corruption and black money.

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Stating that digital transactions in India are witnessing a very rapid surge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today urged the youth to become ambassadors of schemes in this regard and lead the movement against corruption and black money.
 
"Take it further as it has a very major and prominent role in the fight against corruption and black money. To me, each and every individual involved in this mission constitute a new anti-corruption cadre in the country. In a way you are a soldier in the cause of cleanliness and purity," he said in Mann Ki Baat, his radio address to thenation.
 
"You know that this scheme will complete its 100 days on 14th April, the birth anniversary of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, a truly memorable day. There is going to be a very big draw of prizes worth crores of rupees on 14th April. There are still about 40-45 days left for that. Can you do one thing in the memory of Babasaheb Ambedkar? We have recently celebrated 125th birth anniversary of Baba Saheb Ambedkar. Remembering him, you teach at least 125 persons about downloading the BHIM App. Also teach them about the procedure of making transactions through this App; teach this specially to small traders in your neighbourhood. 
 
"Give special importance to Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s birth anniversary this time and the BHIM App. For this, I would like to say that we have to strengthen the foundation laid by Dr. Baba Saheb. We have to go from door to door associating everybody in order to place the BHIM App in 125 crore hands. Since its beginning about two-three months ago, this movement has had a clear impact and has been a very big success in many townships, villages and cities," he said.
 
Mr. Modi spoke at length on the recent launch of 104 satellites in one mission by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and an interceptor missile by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
 
"Our scientists have brought laurels to the nation, witnessed by the whole world. And we know that over the last few years, ISRO has accomplished various unprecedented missions with flying colours. After the successful mission of sending Mangalyaan to planet Mars, recently ISRO scripted a world record in the arena of space. In a mega mission, ISRO has successfully launched 104 satellites simultaneously into space. These satellites belonged to various countries such as America, Israel, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Switzerland, UAE and, of course, India. India has created history by becoming the first country to launch successfully 104 satellites into space at one go.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
"This is a historic achievement for not just ISRO but for all of India. This cost effective, efficient space programme of ISRO has become a marvel for the entire world; the world has admired this success of Indian scientists of India whole-heartedly," he said.
 
"In the field of defence also, India has successfully test fired the Ballistic Interceptor Missile. During its trial, this missile, based on interceptor technology, destroyed an enemy missile at an altitude of about 100 km above the surface of the earth and thus marked its success. This is a significant, cutting edge competency in the arena of security. And you will be happy to know that hardly four or five countries in the world possess this capability. India’s scientists have demonstrated this prowess. Its core strength lies in the fact that if, even from a distance of 2000 km, a missile is launched to attack India, our missile can pre-emptively destroy it in the space itself," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the country needed more scientists who could become catalysts for enduring change.
 
Turning to agriculture, he said all indications were that farmers had helped achieve record foodgrains production this year. He also thanked the people for the support for the cleanliness drive and for the Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao movement.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

OPS gets boost as more AIADMK bigwigs back him in power tussle with Sasikala

Tamil Nadu caretaker Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam received a major boost in his open power tussle with ruling AIADMK General Secretary V. K. Sasikala when one of her key supporters and State Minister K. Pandiarajan and party spokesman and former Minister C. Ponnaiyan crossed over into his camp on Saturday.

 
TN Education Minister Pandiarajan backs OPS
Tamil Nadu caretaker Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam received a major boost in his open power tussle with ruling AIADMK General Secretary V. K. Sasikala when one of her key supporters and State Minister K. Pandiarajan and party spokesman and former Minister C. Ponnaiyan crossed over into his camp today.
 
As Ms. Sasikala moved quickly to keep her flock together amidst reports of growing desertions, three Lok Sabha members, V. Sathyabama of Tiruppur, Ashok Kumar of Krishnagiri and P R Sundaram of Namakkal also threw in their lot with Mr. Panneerselvam today.
 
Ms. Sasikala, on the other hand, voicing concern over the delay by Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao in responding to her claim to form the next Government in the state, wrote to him again today, seeking an opportunity to parade before him the MLAs supporting her.
 
Mr. Pandiarajan, the state Minister for School Education and Sports and Youth Welfare, arrived at Mr. Panneerselvam's residence, bringing cheer to the large crowd camping there and which has seen its support base growing slowly in the past few days.
 
The decision of Mr. Pandiarajan, one of the founders of well-known recruitment and consultancy firm Ma Foi, to switch loyalties is significant, given the fact that he was one of Ms. Sasikala's most ardent supporters during the past several days of political crisis in the state.
 
An indication of his impending shift was available from a "tweet" he posted on micro-blogging site Twitter this morning.
 
"Will surely listen to the collective voice of my voters & decide in a way to uphold the dignity of Amma's memory & unity of AIADMK!" he said.
 
Mr. Ponnaiyan said Mr. Panneerselvam was capable of leading the party with discipline and of running a corruption-free government.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam's Twitter handle said that state Rural Industries Minister P. Benjamin would shortly visit him to extend his support to him.
 
In her letter to the Governor, Ms. Sasikala noted that she had written to him on February 5 and February 7, seeking an appointment with him.
 
The Governor met her and nine Tamil Nadu Ministers in the evening of February 9 when she formally informed him of her election as the leader of the AIADMK legislature party last Sunday.
 
O. Panneerselvam
O. Panneerselvam
"... I submitted my elaborate presentation to invite me to form the Government as I have absolute majority. Original letter and true copy of the resolution were also handed over to Your Excellency," she said.
 
"Thus, as it has been seven long days since the Chief Minister Thiru. O. P. Panneerselvam submitted and Your Excellency accepted his resignation, taking the urgency of the situation at hand, I would like to seek an appointment with Your Excellency by today along with all MLAs who extended their support to me regarding further course of action to form the Government," she said.
 
"I believe Your Excellency will act immediately to save the sovereignty of the Constitution, democracy and the interest of the state," she added.
 
Ms. Sasikala addressed her supporters outside Veda Nilayam, the Poes Garden residence of the late Ms. Jayalalithaa, and said, "Amma has given me 1.5 crore party brothers and sisters.When they are with me,the sinister intentions of many will not  harm me."
 
"Amma is confident that I will look after AIADMK with all care," she said.
 
She said the relentless work done by Ms. Jayalalithaa had made AIADMK the third largest party. "Amma is with us now. Our Amma is now showing us the betrayers of our party," she said.
 
"People who think they can separate our party which has 1.5 crore people will only face defeat. Amma won over the hurdles, we are facing the same situation,we will also win over it. I believe in justice and democracy," she added.
Later, Ms. Sasikala drove in a motorcade to the resort where about 120 AIADMK MLAs have been staying for the past few days and met them for discussions on their future course of action.
 
"After meeting the party MLAs, I feel happy," she said. "All the party MLAs are fine and happy."
 
She said the "created time lag", in inviting her to form the government, appeared to be intended to create a split in the party.
 
Ms. Sasikala said she and her supporters were "waiting patiently" till now for a response to their claim, adding that "necessary measures will be taken".
 
Mr. K. A. Sengottayan, who has been appointed as the new chairman of the AIADMK Presidium, told journalists at the resort that all the MLAs there would remain with Ms. Sasikala till the end. "Our only aim is to make her the Chief Minister," he said.
 
However, there has been no indication whatsoever from Raj Bhavan in the past few days on when and how the political stalemate would be ended.
 
Even as the two rival groups continued to swipe and snipe at each other, Raj Bhavan clarified yesterday that the Governor had not sent any report to the President or the Ministry of Home Affairs on the political situation in the state.
 
The clarification came after media reports which said that Mr. Rao, who is the Governor of Maharashtra and is holding additional charge as the Governor of Tamil Nadu, had sent a report to the Centre after his meetings with Mr. Panneerselvam and Ms. Sasikala.
 
"Thiru Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, Governor of Tamil Nadu has not sent any report either to the Ministry of Home Affairs or to the President of India, as reported in some of the media," a statement from Raj Bhavan said.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, had submitted his resignation last Sunday after Ms. Sasikala, 60, a long-time aide of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, was chosen by AIADMK MLAs as the new leader of their legislative party and, therefore, his successor. The Governor accepted his resignation on Monday and asked him to continue in office till alternative arrangments were made. 
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had been sworn in as the Chief Minister in the early hours of December 6, 2016 shortly after the death of Ms. Jayalalithaa, who was both the head of the government and the party supremo.
 
The usually reticent and self-effacing Mr. Panneerselvam made a surprise visit to the memorial of Ms. Jayalalithaa late in the night last Tuesday and then told waiting newspersons that he had been forced to resign and that he was willing to continue as Chief Minister if the people and the party so wished.
 
Ms. Sasikala was widely expected to be sworn in on Tuesday, but the Governor has not yet taken a final view on the situation confronting the state. Mr. Rao, who reached here from Mumbai on Thursday afternoon, met ten-member delegations led by the rivals, Mr. Panneerselvam and Ms. Sasikala, later that day.
 
While Mr. Panneerselvam told the Governor that he was forced to quit as Chief Minister and that he should be allowed to continue and take a floor test in the Assembly, Ms. Sasikala submitted to Mr. Rao a list of about 130 of the AIADMK's 135 MLAs and staked claim to forming the next Government.
 
The Governor is understood to be consulting legal and Constitutional experts and weighing his options.
 
Yesterday, Mr. Rao met State Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan and Director General of Police T. K. Rajendran as well as Chennai Police Commissioner S. George amidst complaints by the Panneerselvam camp that the Sasikala group was holding about 120 MLAs at a nearby resort, many of them against their will.
 
V. K. Sasikala
V. K. Sasikala
DMK working president and leader of the Opposition M. K. Stalin met Mr Rao yesterday and submitted a representation in which he said the state administration could not be allowed to drift any further. He urged the Governor to take steps to ensure that a democratically and Constitutionally valid government was in place at the earliest through a free and fair floor test.
 
Meanwhile, Ms. Sasikala yesterday expelled AIADMK presidium chairman E. Madhusudanan from the primary membership of the party, a day after he threw in his lot with Mr. Panneerselvam. Mr. K. A. Sengottayan has been appointed as the new chairman of the presidium.
 
Mr. Madhusudanan, on his part, wrote to the Election Commission stating that Ms. Sasikala's election as General Secretary of the party was in violation of its rules and urging it to reject her claims in this regard.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had said on Thursday that he would issue orders to convert Veda Nilayam, the Poes Garden residence of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, into a memorial for her. The announcement assumes significance in view of the fact that Ms. Sasikala is functioning from that house.
 
To take this a step further, his camp has launched a signature campaign outside his residence on the proposal.
 
Two days after Ms. Sasikala removed him from the post of AIADMK treasurer, Mr. Panneerselvam on Thursday also wrote to banks asking them to not allow any one to access the party funds without his written permission. He said his removal from the post of treasurer was illegal.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam has been always regarded as a trusted lieutenant of Ms. Jayalalithaa and had stood in for her as Chief Minister twice when she faced crises.
 
Among those who have openly come out to support Mr. Panneerselvam is AIADMK Rajya Sabha member V. Maitreyan and former Tamil Nadu Assembly speaker P. H. Pandian.
 
There has been opposition to Ms. Sasikala's elevation from a section of the public, in social media and from the Opposition in the state. They point to the fact that she has never contested any election and has no administrative experience. They also point to the fact that an appeal against her acquittal in a two-decade-old corruption case is pending before the Supreme Court and its verdict could be delivered as early as next week.
 
Ms. Sasikala and two others were co-accused with Ms. Jayalalithaa in the case, in which they were all acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015. The two others are her nephew Sudhakaran, who is Ms. Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and her close relative Ilavarasi.
 
The Karnataka High Court had allowed Ms. Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore. The special court had sentenced Ms. Sasikala, Sudharakan and Ilavarasi  also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
Ms. Jayalalithaa was admitted to the Apollo Hospital here on September 22 and died on December 5 after a sudden cardiac arrest. Doctors who treated her had told a press conference here on Monday that the AIADMK leader had been treated for septicemia and a host of other medical problems.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam was Finance Minister in Ms. Jayalalithaa's Cabinet and was also handling all the portfolios held by her after she was hospitalised on September 22.
 
He had stood in as Chief Minister for Ms. Jayalalithaa twice in the past. On September 29, 2014, he took over the position when Ms. Jayalalithaa resigned after being sentenced to four years in prison by a special court in Bangalore in a corruption case. Ms. Jayalalithaa returned to office on May 23, 2015, twelve days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old corruption case.
 
He had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Ms Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms. Sasikala's control over the party was in evidence in the manner in which she carried out Ms. Jayalalithaa's last rites and then took hold of the reins of the AIADMK a few days later. Since then, there has been a clamour from a group within the AIADMK that, after being chosen as the new General Secretary, she should also take charge of the Government. Ms. Jayalalithaa held both the posts and they argued that it was better if the same person held both positions.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 

Panneerselvam's resignation accepted, Sasikala likely to be sworn in on Tuesday

Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao on Monday accepted the resignation of Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers and his successor, Ms. V. K. Sasikala, a long-time aide of late AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa, is expected to be sworn in on Tuesday.

V. K. Sasikala
V. K. Sasikala
Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao today accepted the resignation of Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers and his successor, Ms. V. K. Sasikala, a long-time aide of late AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa, is expected to be sworn in tomorrow.
 
The Governor requested Mr. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers to continue to function until alternate arrangements are made, a press release from the Raj Bhavan said.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, had resigned from office yesterday after the ruling All India Anna Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) legislature party met here and chose Ms. Sasikala as its new leader.
 
Ms. Sasikala, 60, is expected to be sworn in as the new Chief Minister of the State tomorrow morning at a function at the Madras University auditorium. 
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had been sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state in the early hours of December 6, succeeding Ms. Jayalalithaa who passed away at a private hospital here late night on December 5.
 
"Chinnamma elected as the AIADMK Legislature Party Leader," the AIADMK had said on micro-blogging site Twitter yesterday. Ms. Sasikala is referred to as "Chinamma" by party workers, just as Ms. Jayalalithaa was called "Amma".
 
It said Mr. Panneerselvam himself, known to be a long-time Jayalalithaa loyalist, had proposed Ms. Sasikala's name as the new leader of the AIADMK legislature party leader.
 
"Chinnamma all set to become the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu," the party said.
 
Ms. Sasikala had then made a brief appearance in the balcony of Ms. Jalayalalithaa's residence in Poes Garden here, dressed in a green saree and blouse, the AIADMK's colour, and greeted the crowds gathered outside with a "namaste" and then the "V" sign.
 
She later drove to the AIADMK headquarters where she said that it was Mr. Panneerselvam who had urged her first to take charge as General Secretary of the party and it was he who insisted, first, that she become the Chief Minister of the state. Ms. Sasikala has never held any position in Government before nor has she ever contested any elections.
 
She assured the people that her government would always work for the welfare of the people. "Tamil Nadu Government will follow the principles of Amma," she said.
  
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, was Finance Minister in Ms. Jayalalithaa's Cabinet and was also handling all the portfolios held by her after she was admitted to the Apollo Hospital here on September 22.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had stood in as Chief Minister for Ms. Jayalalithaa twice in the past. On September 29, 2014, he took over the position when Ms. Jayalalithaa resigned after being sentenced to four years in prison by a special court in Bangalore in a corruption case. Ms. Jayalalithaa returned to office on May 23, 2015, twelve days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old corruption case.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
He had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Ms Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms. Sasikala's control over the party was in evidence in the manner in which she carried out Ms. Jayalalithaa's last rites and then took hold of the reins of the AIADMK a few days later. Since then, there has been a clamour from a group within the AIADMK that, after being chosen as the new General Secretary, she should also take charge of the Government. Ms. Jayalalithaa held both the posts and they argued that it was better if the same person held both positions.
 
Ms. Sasikala, along with her nephew Sudhakaran, who is Ms. Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and her close relative Ilavarasi , were  co-accused with Ms. Jayalalithaa in an 18-year-old corruption case, in which they were all acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015. An appeal against the acquittal is pending before the Supreme Court and its verdict in the matter is awaited.
 
The Karnataka High Court had allowed Ms. Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore. The special court had sentenced Ms. Sasikala, Sudharakan and Ilavarasi  also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 

Sasikala Natarajan set to be new CM of Tamil Nadu

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) General Secretary Sasikala Natarajan, a long-time friend and companion of late party supremo J. Jayalithaa, is all set to become the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after the party's MLAs met in Chennai and chose her as the leader of its legislature party.

 
Sasikala Natarajan appointed legislative party leader of AIADMK
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) General Secretary Sasikala Natarajan, a long-time friend and companion of late party supremo J. Jayalithaa, is all set to become the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu after the party's MLAs met here today and chose her as the leader of its legislative party.
 
She will succeed Mr. O. Panneerselvam, senior leader of the ruling AIADMK, who was sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state in the early hours of December 6, succeeding Ms. Jayalalithaa who passed away at a private hospital here late night on December 5.
 
"Chinnamma elected as the AIADMK Legislature Party Leader," the AIADMK said on micro-blogging site Twitter. 
 
Ms. Sasikala, 60, is referred to as "Chinamma" by party workers, just as Ms. Jayalalithaa was called as "Amma". It said Mr. Panneerselvam had proposed Ms. Sasikala's name as the new leader of the AIADMK legislature party leader.
 
"Chinnamma all set to become the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu," the party said.
 
Ms. Sasikala made a brief appearance in the balcony of Ms. Jalayalalithaa's residence in Poes Garden here, dressed in a green saree and blouse, the AIADMK's colour, and greeted the crowds gathered outside with a "namaste" and then the "V" sign.
 
Ms. Sasikala later drove to the AIADMK headquarters where she said that it was Mr. Panneerselvam who had urged her first to take charge as General Secretary of the party and it was he who insisted, first, that she become the Chief Minister of the state. Ms. Sasikala has never held any position in Government before nor has ever contested any elections.
 
She assured the people that her government would always work for the welfare of the people. "Tamil Nadu Government will follow the principles of Amma," she said.
 
She is expected to meet Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao in the next day or two and stake claim to form the next government in the state.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, was Finance Minister in Ms. Jayalalithaa's Cabinet and was also handling all the portfolios held by her after she was admitted to the Apollo Hospital here on September 22.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had stood in as Chief Minister for Ms. Jayalalithaa twice in the past. On September 29, 2014, he took over the position when Ms. Jayalalithaa resigned after being sentenced to four years in prison by a special court in Bangalore in a corruption case. Ms. Jayalalithaa returned to office on May 23, 2015, twelve days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old corruption case.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
He had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Ms Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms. Sasikala's control over the party was in evidence in the manner in which she carried out Ms. Jayalalithaa's last rites and then took hold of the reins of the AIADMK a few days later. Since then, there has been a clamour from a group within the AIADMK that, after being chosen as the new General Secretary, she should also take charge of the Government. Ms. Jayalalithaa held both the posts and they argued that it was better if the same person held both positions.
 
Ms. Sasikala, along with her nephew Sudhakaran, who is Ms. Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and her close relative Ilavarasi , were  co-accused with Ms. Jayalalithaa in an 18-year-old corruption case, in which they were all acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015. An appeal against the acquittal is pending before the Supreme Court and its verdict in the matter is awaited.
 
The Karnataka High Court had allowed Ms. Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore. The special court had sentenced Ms. Sasikala, Sudharakan and Ilavarasi  also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
NNN
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

Punjab, Goa go to the polls to elect new legislative assemblies

Punjab and Goa went to the polls on Saturday to elect new state legislative assemblies -- the first two of five states holding crucial elections midway through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and two months after the November 8 demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 bank notes.

 
Voters queue to cast their votes amidst tight security
Punjab and Goa went to the polls today to elect new state legislative assemblies -- the first two of five states holding crucial elections midway through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and two months after the November 8 demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 bank notes.
 
Voters began queueing outside polling stations in both states from early morning and their numbers were steadily increasing as the day progressed. 
 
Voting, which began at 7 am in Goa and at 8 am in Punjab, will end at 5 pm in both states.
 
Polling also took place today for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, which fell vacant after the resignation of Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh.
 
The Punjab Assembly has 117 seats and the Goa Assembly 40 seats and both states have single-phase polling today.
 
Uttarakhand will have single-phase polling on February 15, Manipur will have polling in two phases on March 4 and 8 and Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state, will have polling in seven phases between February 11 and March 8.
 
Counting of votes in all the five states will be taken up on March 11 and all the results are expected by late evening that day.
 
The terms of the Goa and Punjab assemblies are due to expire on March 18.
 
The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements for smooth, free and fair elections in both the states.
 
Punjab has a total of 19879069 voters, including 10503108 males and  9375546 females. There are 1145 candidates in the fray, including 81 women and one of the third gender. The Election Commission has set up 22,615 polling stations across the state.
 
In Goa, there are a total of  1110884 electors, including 546742 men and 564142 women. A total of 251 candidates, including 19 women, are in the fray.  The Commission has set up 1642 polling stations across the state.
 
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making a determined effort for another term in office in Goa, while the Congress is hoping to come back to power in Goa. The three-party alliance forged by Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Goa Suraksha Manch and Shiv Sena is the other major player in the state.
 
Similarly in Punjab, the Congress is trying to wrest power back from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine, which has been in office for a decade.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the ruling party in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, has gone all out to emerge as the alternative to the established players in both the states.
 
In Punjab, SAD leader and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, 89, is seeking re-election for the sixth time. He will face Capt. Amarinder Singh, the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress, in the Lambi constituency. The Congress leader is also contesting the elections from his traditional seat of Patiala, where his opponent is former Army chief Gen J J Singh, a candidate of the SAD.
 
The Chief Minister's son Sukhbir Singh will face AAP's Bhagwant Mann, MP, who is his party's likely chief ministerial candidate, in Jalalabad.
 
Former Indian Test cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, who joined the Congress weeks ahead of the polls, is contesting from Amritsar East, a part of the Amrtisar Lok Sabha constituency that he represented in Parliament as a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for two terms.
 
Prominent candidates in Goa include Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar (BJP) and five former Chief Ministers -- Ravi Naik, Digambar Kamat, Pratapsinh Rane and Luizinho Faleiro (Congress) and Churchill Alemao (NCP). There have been indications that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar might return to Goa as Chief Minister if the BJP retains power.
 
NNN
ADVERTISEMENT
 

Jayalalithaa's condition remains "grave" after suffering cardiac arrest on Sunday

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, remained in a "grave situation" at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai, where she has been undergoing treatment for a chronic lung infection and other medical problems since late September.

 
Jayalalithaa remains in critical condition at Apollo Hospital in Chennai
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who suffered a cardiac arrest yesterday evening, remained in a "grave situation" at the Apollo Hospital here, where she has been undergoing treatment for a chronic lung infection and other medical problems since late September.
 
"Despite our best efforts, our beloved CM remains in a grave situation," a statement from the hospital said today.
 
"I can confirm that everything possible is being done to give her the best chance of surviving this shocking event," Professor Richard Beale of London, one of the doctors being consulted, said in a statement.
 
"She is being cared for by a highly expert multidisciplinary team, and is now on extra-corporeal life support.  This is the most advanced level of support available, and is an approach that best centres internationally would take in this situation. Madam has received exceptional care from the Apollo and AIIMS Teams, which are the equal of any in the world," he said.
 
"Our team of expert doctors continue to closely monitor and treat the Honourable Chief Minister. However her condition remains critical," Apollo Hospital said.
 
It said a large team of doctors from Apollo and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi continued to provide all life saving measures.
 
"Our prayers are with her and we hope she will recover soon. We request all of you to pray for her good health and well being. The Hon'ble CM is the beloved leader of the masses. Please join us in praying for her speedy recovery," the hospital had said in a series of posts on micro-blogging site Twitter yesterday after confirming that Ms. Jayalalithaa, who was believed to be on the road to recovery, had suffered a cardiac arrest.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Tamil Nadu Governor Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao, to inquire about Ms. Jayalalithaa's heath.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Mr. Rao, who is the Governor of Maharashtra and is holding additional charge of Tamil Nadu since August 31, flew in to Chennai late last night and drove straight to the hospital where he was briefed on Ms. Jayalalithaa's health situation by a team of doctors. He also held a meeting with senior Tamil Nadu officials.
 
Hundreds of workers of Ms. Jayalalithaa's party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) have been camping outside the hospital after hearing about the deterioration in her health.
 
Police stepped up security arrangements outside the hospital as well as elsewhere in the city and the state as a precautionary measure.
 
Earlier in the day yesterday, the AIADMK had said that Ms. Jayalalithaa would soon decide when she would leave hospital and return home after doctors had declared that she had fully recovered.
 
The hospital has said several times in the past few weeks that the Chief Minister, called "Amma" by her supporters, was well enough to return home whenever she wanted. Her party said she was involved in taking government decisions and also speaking on occasion to those who were allowed to meet her.
 
Ms. Jayalalithaa was admitted to the hospital on September 27 for treatment of dehydration and fever. Later, there were reports that she was also being treated for a chronic lung infection and that she had been put on respiratory support. Specialist doctors from London and Delhi had been flown in to monitor her condition.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa suffers cardiac arrest in hospital

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who has been undergoing treatment at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai for the last three months for a lung infection, suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, the hospital said.

 
Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa suffers cardiac arrest
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who has been undergoing treatment at the Apollo Hospital here for the last three months for a lung infection, suffered a cardiac arrest this evening, the hospital said.
 
"The Hon'ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nau who is undergoing treatment at Apollo Hospitals, Greams Road, Chennai, suffered a cardiac arrest this evening," the hospital said in a statement late tonight.
 
"She is being treated and monitored by a team of experts, including Cardiologists, Pulmonologists and the Critical Care Specialists," the statement added.
 
The hospital said Ms. Jayalalithaa was on extracorporeal membrane heart assist device and was being treated by a team of expert doctors and critical care specialists.
 
The hospital said Dr Richard Beale from London had also been consulted and he had concurred with the line of treatment by its cardiologists and pulmonologists.
 
"Our prayers are with her and we hope she will recover soon. We request all of you to pray for her good health and well being. The Hon'ble CM is the beloved leader of the masses. Please join us in praying for her speedy recovery," the hospital said in a series of posts on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Tamil Nadu Governor Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao, to inquire about Ms. Jayalalithaa's heath.
 
Mr. Rao, who is the Governor of Maharashtra, is holding additional charge of Tamil Nadu, since August 31 following the end of the tenure of Mr. K. Rosaiah. He told Mr. Rajnath Singh that he would leave for Chennai tonight.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Hundreds of workers of Ms. Jayalalithaa's party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), her supporters and leaders of the party began converging outside the hospital after hearing of the news of her cardiac arrest. Police stepped up security arrangements outside the hospital as a precautionary measure.
 
Earlier in the day, the AIADMK had said that Ms. Jayalalithaa would soon decide when she would leave hospital and return home after doctors had declared that she had fully recovered.
 
The hospital has said several times in the past few weeks that the Chief Minister, called "Amma" by her supporters, was well enough to return home whenever she wanted. Her party said she was involved in taking government decisions and also speaking on occasion to those who were allowed to meet her.
 
Ms. Jayalalithaa was admitted to the hospital on September 27 for treatment of dehydration and fever. Later, there were reports that she was also being treated for a chronic lung infection and that he had been put on respiratory support. Specialist doctors from London and Delhi had been flown in to monitor her condition.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

Parliament paralysed for seventh day as demonetization woes continue

Parliament remained paralysed for the seventh day on Friday and both Houses were adjourned without transacting any substantial business as the Opposition continued to create a ruckus over the Government's November 8 decision to demonetize Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes and related issues.

 
Their problem is they couldn't prepare before demonetisation: PM Modi on critics
Parliament remained paralysed for the seventh day today and both Houses were adjourned without transacting any substantial business as the Opposition continued to create a ruckus over the Government's November 8 decision to demonetize Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes and related issues.
 
Opposition parties continued to demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologise for remarks he made against them earlier in the day.
 
They alleged that Mr. Modi had accused them, while speaking at a function, of holding black money.
 
Congress, Trinamool Congress, SP, BSP and Left in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, took strong objection to Mr. Modi’s comments that “some people” were criticising demonetisation because “the government did not give any time to them to make any preparation (to convert black money into white).” 
 
In the Rajya Sabha, as soon as the House met for the day and mourned the death of its former member Dipen Ghosh, BSP leader Mayawati was on her feet saying the Prime Minister had this morning “wrongly accused opposition of holding black money” and demanded that he should apologize for his remarks.
 
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad asked how Mr. Modi could allege when former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others had clearly said that the Opposition was against black money. Opposition leaders said the Prime Minister was making allegations that the Opposition was against demonetization outside the house but did not have the courage to do so inside Parliament.
 
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the House twice following noisy scenes with Opposition members trooping into the well. The same scene prevailed in the Rajya Sabha which saw repeated adjournments.
 
The Opposition has been demanding the Prime Minister's presence in Parliament, besides admission of adjournment motions with voting to discuss demonetization. The Government has rejected the demands.
 
Meanwhile, the Government stopped the exchange of old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes across the counter at banks. People will now have to deposit these notes in their bank accounts before the deadline of December 30.
 
There have also been reports that the Government was considering amendments to the Income Tax Act in Parliament to allow people to deposit their unaccounted money in their bank accounts and pay 50% tax and penalty on it. There may also be a provision for lock-in of the funds for about five years, the reports said.
 
Meanwhile, reputed rating agency Fitch said demonetisation would have a negative impact on India's GDP growth in the short run but, on the positive side, it may improve the fiscal position. 
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Thomas Rookmaaker, Director in Fitch's Asia-Pacific Sovereigns Group, said macroeconomic effects of cash crunch due to demonetisation include a temporary delay of consumption and investment, disrupted supply chains, farmers being unable to buy inputs, and some loss in productivity due to time lost to deal with cash issues, according to media reports quoting him.
 
“There are many elements to demonetisation, which make it difficult to quantify the impact on real GDP growth and explains the wide range of forecasts by different analysts,“ he was quoted as saying. 
 
Fitch felt that the impact on GDP growth depended to a large extent on how long the cash crunch is going to take to ease. A significant decline in growth number for this quarter is highly likely, but for the fiscal year as a whole the decline may still be relatively moderate.
 
Despite demonetisation, Fitch still expects India’s GDP growth to trend higher than China’s in the medium term. In India it expects GDP growth to accelerate in FY2018 on the back of reform implementation, monetary easing of the past year and infrastructure spending, while in China a continued increase in leverage in the broader economy is more and more becoming a burden for growth.
 
The rating agency said beyond the immediate policy issues of managing the cash crunch as best as possible and trying to mitigate the worst side-effects, it would be interesting to see what further steps the government will take to formalize the economy and structurally generate higher government revenues, the reports added.
 
NNN
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

Demonetisation: Long queues continue at ATMs, govt. tries to ease farmers' woes

The Opposition continued to block proceedings in both Houses of Parliament for the fourth day on Monday, demanding a discussion under a rule that entails voting, even as long queues continued at ATMs, 13 days after the Government suddenly demonetized Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes on November 8 as part of its fight against black money.

 
ATMs out of cash, residents face tough time making ends meet
The Opposition continued to block proceedings in both Houses of Parliament for the fourth day today, demanding a discussion under a rule that entails voting, even as long queues continued at ATMs, 13 days after the Government suddenly demonetized Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes on November 8 as part of its fight against black money.
 
The Government, meanwhile, tried to address farmers' woes by allowing them to purchase seeds with the old Rs. 500 notes from Central or State Government outlets and agriculture universities as part of efforts to support them for the current Rabi crop.
 
An official press release said this was in addition to the decision taken earlier for making cash available with the farmers by permitting them to draw up to Rs.25,000 per week from their KYC-compliant accounts subject to the normal loan limits and conditions apart from the other facilities announced on 17.11.2016.
 
"The Government is committed to ensure that the farmers are suitably facilitated during the Rabi season," it added.
 
Farmers can now purchase seeds from the centres, units or outlets belonging to the Central or State governments, public sector undertakings, national or state seeds corporations, Central or State agricultural universities and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), on production of proof of identity.
 
In Parliament, a united Opposition led by the Congress and Trinamool Congress raised their level of attacks on the Government on the after-effects of demonetization, leading to adjournment of both Houses several times.  In the Lok Sabha, Congress and other parties insisted for a debate under rule 56 which provides for voting and suspension of all other business by allowing adjournment motions. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said the government was prepared for any discussion but under rule 193 that did not entail voting or passage of any resolution. 
 
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the Rajya Sabha on Monday that the Opposition did not appear to be ready for any debate but was merely inventing newer techniques to disrupt the proceedings of the House. As the House assembled , Congress wanted to raise what it termed the alleged illegality in the introduction of new Rs 2,000 notes.
 
The Opposition was also unrelenting in its demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi reply to the discussion in Parliament and address the concerns of the members on the issue that had inconvenienced the general public and small merchants. If the Prime Minister can speak at rallies, why not in Parliament, the opposition asked. 
 
With commercial banks opening for the week after a day’s break for the first time since demonetization, people turned up in large numbers to  exchange old invalid notes and withdraw cash. Even after two weeks since demonetization, people still had to sweat it out in long queues for hours as most ATM machines either ran out of cash or were yet to be recalibrated for the new notes.
 
Media reports from different parts of the country suggested that people were frustrated with banks running out of cash, leading sometimes to arguments with the staff. Despite the Government's concession to families hosting weddings to withdraw about Rs 2.50 lakh, such people could not withdraw the money as the banks turned them away for lack of  operational guidelines from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in this regard.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
To prevent exploitation of the situation by currency mules, depriving others of a chance to withdraw money, banks at many places have started using indelible ink to prevent them from queueing up again to exchange defunct notes.
 
India’s rural economy depends mainly on cash transactions, and a large percentage of the rural population is yet to be connected with the formal banking system. Glitches in the last mile delivery of new currency notes has left rural India virtually scrambling for cash. Farmers and rural folk have also suffered because because the RBI did not allow gramin banks or local cooperative banks to exchange or deposit the defunct notes by the farmers who had accounts in them. 
 
Taking into view the sufferings of the rural folk, the government has issued orders to ease the burden on the cash strapped agrarian economy. Apart from announcing the relaxation in buying seeds, the government had on Thursday increased the withdrawal limit for farmers to Rs. 25,000 apart from allowing them a 15-day grace to pay their crop insurance premia. 
 
The state governments have mobilized their efforts on a war-footing to ease the pressure on the agro economy, ahead of the sowing season. While the Uttar Pradesh government has asked the district magistrates to ensure cash availability in their respective regions, Punjab government decided to provide fertilizers and other farm inputs in kind to farmers for sowing of the Rabi crops, media reports trickling from different states suggest. 
 
The Himachal Pradesh government , according to reports , deployed helicopters for dispatching Rs 2,000, Rs 100, Rs 50 and other small denomination notes to far-flung, remote and tribal areas of the state to ensure adequate supply of valid currency.  
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

97 dead, more than 120 injured as Indore-Patna Express derails near Kanpur

At least 97 people died and more than 120 others suffered injuries when 14 coaches of the 19321 Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh in the early hours of Sunday in one of the worst rail disasters in the country in recent years, official sources said.

 
63 dead as Indore-Patna Express derails near Kanpur
At least 97 people died and more than 120 others suffered injuries when 14 coaches of the 19321 Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh in the early hours of today in one of the worst rail disasters in the country in recent years, official sources said.
 
Senior railway and police officials said the injured had been taken to hospitals in Kanpur.
 
They said the death toll could rise further as rescue teams cut through the mangled and twisted steel of the remaining one of the two worst affected coach.
 
Rescue and relief personnel had evacuated all the other affected coaches of the train, they said.
 
The two coaches and turned turtle and telescoped into each other and a crane and gas cutters had to be used to reach the victims trapped inside them. One of the coaches had climbed onto the other, crushing the coach below, they said.
 
The mishap occurred around 3.10 am between Pokhrayan and Malasa stations on the Jhansi-Kanpur section of North-Central Railway, about 60 km from here, at a time when most passengers were fast asleep, official sources said.
 
Accident relief trains and medical teams rushed to the spot and scores of ambulances were deployed to rush the injured to hospitals, the sources said.
 
Personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Army also reached the scene to help in the rescue and relief efforts, in which scores of local people joined.
 
Senior district administration, police and railway officials rushed to the scene to oversee the rescue and relief efforts. 
 
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and senior Railway officials also left for the spot.
 
"All rescue relief work on to deal with unfortunate accident. All medical and other help rushed. Enquiry ordered. Situation monitored closely," Mr. Prabhu said on micro-blogging Twitter said.
 
"Strictest possible action will be taken against those who could be responsible for accident. All possible mobilisation for relief initiated," He said.
 
"Enquiry team will start investigation for cause of accident immediately All necessary assistance provided to the  affected, We r taking care," he said.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
The stranded passengers were moved in buses from the site to Malasa station, from where a special train was arranged to take them to their destinations.
 
The Ministry of Railways has announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 3.5 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who died in the accident, Rs. 50,000 to those with grievous injuries and Rs. 25,000 for those with simple injuries.
 
This is in addition to the compensation which will be available through the Railway Claims Tribunal.
 
In addition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2 lakh for the next-of-kin of each of those killed, and Rs. 50,000 for those seriously injured from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF).
 
The Railways have also promised to provide the best possible medical treatment for the injured.
 
Mr. Modi expressed his shock and grief over the loss of lives in the acident. "Anguished beyond words on the loss of lives due to the derailing of the Patna-Indore express. My thoughts are with the bereaved families," he said on Twitter.
 
"Prayers with those injured in the tragic train accident. I've spoken to @sureshpprabhu, who is personally monitoring the situation closely," he added.
 
Traffic on the section, which has only a single line, has been affected and several trains have been cancelled or diverted. Efforts are being made to restore normal traffic at the earliest, sources said.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to the Director General of NDRF and instructed him to rush NDRF teams to the scene of the tragedy.
 
An official press release said five search and rescue teams of NDRF had been mobilized to Kanpur. One team, comprising 35 responders, rushed to the spot from the Regional Response Centre (RRC) of NDRF at Lucknow, reached the spot at 0810 hours. Two more teams, comprising 79 responders left the NDRF Base at Varanasi and two additional teams of 75 responders were airlifted from HIndan Airbase at Ghaziabad, near Delhi.
 
NDRF teams comprise trained responders equipped with state-of-the-art disaster management gadgets and medical components.
 
NDRF DG R. K. Pachnnda also left for the site from Delhi, the release said.
 
The Railways have set up the following helplines for the benefit of passengers and their relatives:
 
Indore- 0731 1072, Ujjain 0734 2560906, Ratlam 07412 1072, Jhansi 0510-1072, Orai 05162-1072, Kanpur 0512-1072, Pokhrayan 05113-270239, Patna 0612-220 2290, 220 2291, 2202292
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

Long queues continue outside banks, Govt. takes fresh steps to ease crisis

Thousands of people stood for hours in serpentine queues outside banks across India for the sixth day on Tuesday to withdraw cash, after the sudden demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes on November 8 even as the Government announced fresh measures to ease the crisis.

 
Indelible ink to be used to prevent cash exchange frauds
Thousands of people stood for hours in serpentine queues outside banks in cities and towns across India for the sixth day today to withdraw cash, after the sudden demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes on November 8 even as the Government announced fresh measures to ease the crisis and allay fears among the public.
 
People lined up outside banks and ATMs long before dawn and the lucky ones were able to exchange their old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes for the maximum permitted limit of Rs. 4500, while others were able to withdraw cash of upto Rs. 2500 from the ATMs before the cash ran out, leaving thousands of others in the lurch everywhere. 
 
The rush was more today because banks were closed in many parts of North India yesterday, but it appears that it will be several days, even weeks, before normalcy returns.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the situation about the supply and availabiity for the second consecutive day late yesterday.
 
The meeting decided, among other things, to continue give the highest importance to ensure convenience for the public.
 
A major decision taken was to use indelible ink, normally used in elections, to ensure that the same people did not turn up repeatedly to exchange their old currency notes.
 
The meeting, which went on till about midnight, was attended among others by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Minister of Coal and Power Piyush Goyal, Mr. Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Dr. P. K. Mishra, Additional Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Cabinet Secretary P.K.Sinha, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit R Patel, Secretaries from the Finance Ministry and other officials from the Prime Minister's Office.
 
A detailed review was made with regard to the steps that have been taken for smooth distribution and dispensing of cash through various channels of disbursement, an official press release said.
 
The release said efforts would be made to avoid long queues in branch branches and at ATMs. Already, separate queues for senior citizens, divyang persons, and so on, have been announced. The drawing limits against bank accounts and from ATMs and over the cash disbursement have also been increased. 
 
The meeting noted that one of the primary reasons for long queues was that the same persons were visiting bank branches and ATMs repeatedly. It was also noted that certain unscrupulous elements are using the services of poor and innocent people to convert their black money into white. 
 
To prevent such misuse of the facility and enable larger number of persons to draw cash, indelible ink used during elections shall be used for over the counter exchange against old Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes. This is not applicable in the case of withdrawal from or deposit into accounts, the release said.
 
Cash disbursement points, especially bank branches, will be advised to put up notices outside their branches advising people to avoid exchange of old notes over the counter multiple times. 
 
Already instructions have been issued permitting District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs) for cash withdrawal from existing accounts, subject to limits applicable in the case of banks. Arrangements have been made to enhance the availability of cash with the DCCBs. 
 
Arrangements have been made to make available adequate cash to the Postal Department for their use including the branch Post Offices. There are 1.3 lakh branch Post Offices having wide coverage in the rural areas. Availability of adequate cash with the branch Post Offices will ensure wider coverage of the rural areas, it said.
 
The release noted that contributions are made in hundis and separate boxes in places of worship. Such establishments have their accounts with the bank branches. Bank branches have been advised to approach the concerned authorities in these establishments to obtain the currency notes, especially of lower denomination and put them back into circulation. This will help in improving the circulation of lower denomination currency notes. 
 
ADVERTISEMENT
The Government has also received information of a sudden spurt in the quantum of deposits in several Jan Dhan accounts. There are also reports of unscrupulous elements using Jan Dhan Accounts of poor and innocent persons to convert their black money into white.
 
"Such spurt in deposits will be looked into closely. Jan Dhan Account holders are requested not to allow their accounts to be misused by anyone. Further, it is also clarified that Jan Dhan Account holders will not be put to any kind of inconvenience for carrying-out their legitimate activities," the release said.
 
Old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes are accumulating in Post Offices and Bank branches. Special efforts will be made to shift such notes and create space in the Post Offices and Bank branches to receive new notes, the release added.
 
A high level Task Force consisting of representatives from various agencies is being set up to monitor movement and receipt of fake notes in vulnerable areas. This Task Force will also make special efforts to monitor black money being deposited into Bank/Postal Accounts, especially under fictitious and other names. 
 
A technology team is being set up to popularize the use of e-wallets. Government is closely monitoring the supply of essential commodities. 
 
A coordination group chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and including representatives of various Departments and major banks is holding regular meetings to monitor the implementation of all the steps. 
 
NNN
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

Demonetisation: Cash crunch continues, Govt. moves to ease situation

As thousands of people queued up outside banks in cities and towns across India for the fifth day on Monday to withdraw cash, after the sudden demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes on November 8, the Government has announced a series of measures to ease the crisis and allay fears among the public.

 
India seeks to quell public anger by raising bank cash withdrawal
As thousands of people queued up outside banks in cities and towns across India for the fifth day today to withdraw cash, after the sudden demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes on November 8, the Government has announced a series of measures to ease the crisis and allay fears among the public.
 
Among other thing, the Government has increased the limit for exchange of the old notes at banks and post offices from Rs. 4000 to Rs. 4500.
 
With banks closed in parts of North India today and many ATMs still not functional yet because they are awaiting recalibration, people continued to face difficulties with regard to availability of cash in hand for daily necessities, leading to anger and frustration among those in the queues at several places.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the situation regarding the supply and availability of currency notes at a high-level meeting here late last night, following which the Government announced various decisions to  further activate the dispensing of cash through the networks of Banking Correspondents (BCs), Post Offices, ATMs, Banks and E-payment systems 
 
The meeting, which went on well past midnight, was attended by, among others, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Urban Development and Information & Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal.
 
The Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, all Secretaries of the Ministry of Finance and senior officials from the Prime Minister's Office were also present.
 
An official press release said banks would increase the cash holding limit of BCs to at least Rs.50,000 each.  Banks will also allow higher limits in appropriate cases. Banks will replenish the cash with BCs multiple times in a day as per requirement of the BCs. BCs have wide presence in the rural areas.  Totally there are 1.2 lakh BCs in the country. 
 
These decisions are expected to facilitate wider reach in the rural areas for exchange and withdrawal of cash from bank accounts.
 
The Government also decided to enhance the supply of cash to the 1.3 lakh Branch Post Offices in the country to facilitate cash withdrawals from Postal Accounts.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
With 1.2 lakh BCs and 1.3 lakh branch Post Offices getting further activated, a total number of 2.5 lakh points in rural areas will be available to disburse cash and facilitate cash withdrawals from bank accounts, the release said.
 
To expedite the process of recalibration of ATMs, a Task Force is being set up under Deputy Governor, RBI consisting of representatives of banks and the Finance Ministry.  This Task Force will draw up an action plan and ensure its implementation for quick recalibration of the ATMs to enable them to dispense new bank notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 2000.
 
In the meantime, Micro ATMs will be deployed to dispense cash against Debit/Credit cards up to the cash limits applicable for ATMs.  The handheld Micro ATMs have the facility of mobility and deployment at the required places. 
 
The withdrawal limit of Rs. 20,000 per week has been enhanced to Rs. 24,000.  The withdrawal limit of Rs. 10,000 per day has been removed.
 
The limit of Rs.4000 for over the counter exchange against old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes has been increased to Rs. 4500.  This will enable the banks to give lower denomination notes for Rs. 500 while dispensing the remaining Rs. 4000 through Rs. 2000 notes.
 
The ATMs are progressively getting recalibrated.  As and when they are recalibrated, the cash limit of such ATMs will stand enhanced to Rs. 2500  per withdrawal.  This will enable dispensing of lower denomination currency notes for about Rs.500 per withdrawal.  Other ATMs which are yet to be recalibrated, will continue to dispense Rs. 2000 till they are recalibrated. 
 
Business entities having Current Accounts which are operational for last three months or more will be allowed to draw Rs. 50,000 per week.  This can be done in a single transaction or multiple transactions.  This will enable the small business entities to pay wages to their workers and make sundry payments.
 
Adequate cash will be made available with District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs) to facilitate withdrawal from existing accounts.  The cash withdrawal limits for Banks will apply in case of DCCBs also.
 
These measures would substantially enhance the reach of the banking system to exchange notes and facilitate cash withdrawal from bank accounts, the release said.
 
All Central Government Departments and Public Sector Enterprises are being instructed to use the method of e-payments to the maximum extent possible.
 
RBI has advised National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to waive its transaction charges on transactions settled through National Financial Switch(NFS) till 31st December, 2016. Banks are also being advised to waive similar charges currently levied by them.
 
The release said banks had been advised to arrange separate queues in their branches for senior citizens and divyang persons; customers for transactions against accounts held with the bank; and exchange of notes.  There will, therefore be, three or more separate queues in every branch.
 
Pensioners are required to submit Annual Life Certificate during the month of November.  This time limit has been extended up to 15th January, 2017.
 
The existing exemptions for acceptance of old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes for certain types of transactions are being extended beyond 14th November, 2016 midnight up to 24th November, 2016 mid night.
 
"There is enough cash in the system to meet the requirement.  Members of the public are, therefore, advised not to have any sense of panic," the release added.
 
NNN
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

India, New Zealand agree to strengthen cooperation against terrorism, radicalization

India and New Zealand on Wednesday agreed to strengthen their security and intelligence cooperation against terrorism and radicalization, including in the domain of cyber security.

 
Modi, New Zealand PM John Key hold talks in Delhi
India and New Zealand today agreed to strengthen their security and intelligence cooperation against terrorism and radicalization, including in the domain of cyber security.
 
"Terrorism remains one of the greatest challenges to global peace and security," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a joint media interaction with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key after their bilateral talks.
 
"Today, the financial, logistical and information networks of terror span the entire globe. The barriers of geography do not safeguard against the threat of radicalization and terrorism. Nations who believe in humanity need to coordinate their actions and policies to counter this threat," he said.
 
Mr. Modi began by saying that it was a particular pleasure  to receive Mr. Key in India during the festive season. "I am told that it is now a regular feature for the New Zealand Parliament to celebrate the festival of Diwali and, you yourself have participated in several of these festivities. So, it is a particular pleasure to receive you in India during the festive season," he said.
 
He said Mr. Key and he had met several times on the sidelines of multilateral summits and it was an honour for India to welcome him on a bilteral visit.
 
"In a little while from now, our cricket teams will take the field in Ranchi for the fourth One Day International. In many ways some of the cricketing terminology reflects progress in our bilateral linkages. In our ties, we have moved from fielding at Long Off to taking a fresh guard at the batting pitch. Defensive play has given way to aggressive batting," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said Mr. Key and he had had "detailed and productive discussions" on all aspects of their bilateral engagement and multilateral cooperation.
 
He said trade and Investment ties had been one of the key areas of their conversation.
 
"We both recognized the need for greater economic engagement in order to effectively respond to the growing uncertainties in global economy and, agreed that expanding business and commercial ties should continue to be one of the priority items of our partnership. I am sure that the large business delegation accompanying Prime Minister Key will not only witness firsthand the investment opportunities on offer in India’s growth story. Their interactions will also build new commercial partnerships between our two countries. I would like to mention food processing, dairy and agriculture, and related areas in their supply chain as some of the areas of particular potential for bilateral cooperation. New Zealand’s strength and capacity in these sectors can combine with India’s vast technology needs to build partnerships that can benefit both our societies," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said they also agreed that actions by both governments should also promote greater business connectivity, including through movement of skilled professionals, between their two economies and societies. In this regard, they agreed to continue to work closely towards an early conclusion of a balanced and mutually beneficial Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
He said that, alongside extensive bilateral engagement, their close cooperation also extends to the global arena. 
 
"On regional issues, we have agreed to enhance our cooperation, including in the East Asia Summit process. The reform of international governance institutions is a shared priority for us both. We are thankful for New Zealand’s support to India joining a reformed UN Security Council as a permanent member. As we make our own contribution to the developmental efforts of the Pacific Island countries, we will continue to consult closely with New Zealand to complement and supplement each other’s efforts.
 
"I am also thankful to Prime Minister Key for New Zealand’s constructive approach to the consideration of India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group," he said.
 
"The people of New Zealand have expressed their confidence in your leadership time and again and, I can see why. I thank you for your personal commitment to take our bilateral partnership forward, and to strengthen the bonds of friendship and people to people relations between our countries," he added.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 

Modi underlines need for vibrant ecosystem for international arbitration

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday creation of a “vibrant ecosystem” for international arbitration was one of the foremost priorities of the government and major amendments had been made recently in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.

 
India is experiencing a digital revolution: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said creation of a “vibrant ecosystem” for international arbitration was one of the foremost priorities of the government and major amendments had been made recently in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.
 
Delivering the valedictory address at the international conference on National Initiative towards Strengthening Arbitration and Enforcement in India, Mr Modi said this had made the arbitration process easy, timely and hassle-free.
 
“Our law is based on the UNCITRAL model law. The objective is to ensure tha,t in normal circumstances, arbitral tribunal makes its award within 12 months. In case of a fast track procedure, such award can be given in 6 months.
 
“Even the appointment of the arbitrator has to be decided by the court within a period of 60 days. The impediments encountered earlier in the grant and process of award have been removed,” he added.
 
Further, as per the new law, any application challenging the award is to be disposed of by the court within one year. The enforcement of award can be refused by the courts only as per international practices, the Prime Minister said.
 
“These amendments have brought our arbitration process in tune with global best practices. This has given us an opportunity to emerge as a leading arbitration jurisdiction,” he added.
 
However, great opportunities pose great challenges. These challenges include: Availability of excellent quality and globally recognized arbitrators; Observance of professional conduct, ensuring neutrality, and timely completion of proceedings; and, Cost effective arbitration proceedings, Mr Modi said.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 “Our Government has been working on a strategy for convergence of existing tribunals. This will help transform the existing complicated tribunal system into a simpler structure,” the Prime Minister said.
 
“We need to simultaneously facilitate a vibrant ecosystem for alternate dispute resolution, including arbitration, mediation and conciliation. This will provide additional comfort to investors and businesses. More importantly, it will also ease the case-load on Indian courts,” he added.
 
Today, corporates and financial institutions want legal experts who can help close business deals and transactions without any disputes and litigations.
 
If a dispute arises, corporates want to resolve them quickly through arbitration, without going to courts. For this, they require specialized arbitration lawyers. Alternative dispute resolution processes also preserve personal and business relationships that might otherwise be damaged by the adversarial process.
 
“Recent trends indicate that Asian centres like Hong Kong and Singapore have emerged as preferred arbitration destinations. As popular business hubs, they also rank high in the levels of ease of doing business,” Mr Modi said.
 
“Thus, availability of quality arbitration mechanisms is an integral component of Ease of Doing Business, to which our Government is committed,” he added.
 
NNN
ADVERTISEMENT
 

13 killed, 15 injured as terrorists open fire near Kokrajhar in Assam

At least 13 people were killed and more than 15 others suffered injuries when a group of terrorists opened fire at a crowded weekly market near Kokrajhar town in Assam on Friday afternoon.

 
13 kiled in terror attack at Kokrajhar in Assam
At least 13 people were killed and more than 15 others suffered injuries when a group of terrorists opened fire at a crowded weekly market near Kokrajhar town in Assam this afternoon.
 
Sources said the three or four masked gunmen, wearing Army-style fatigues, struck at Balajan Tiniali near the town, about 220 km west of Guwahati, around noon, leaving at least 12 civilians dead.
 
The gunmen arrived in an autorickshaw, hurled grenades and then opened fire indiscriminately in the market before fleeing from the scene.
 
Security forces managed to shoot down one of the militants and have launched a manhunt for the remaining men, who are believed to have escaped into a nearby forest.
 
The attack has taken the security forces as well as the Assam Government and the Centre by surprise. Media reports quoted top police officials as saying that they suspected the militants were part of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijit (NDFB-S) faction.
 
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who was in Delhi, told journalists that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Narendra Modi had been in touch with him and had promised all help from the Centre to tackle the situation. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met Mr. Sonowal to discuss the latest developments.
 
Condemning the attack, Mr. Sonowal said the state government was committed to ensuring protection of the lives and property of the people of Assam. He said the security forces would deal strictly with the situation.
 
He said the Director General of Police (DGP) of Assam and other senior officials were rushing to the scene of the incident.
 
Mr. Sonowal announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 5 lakh for the next-of-kin of those killed in the attack and Rs. 1 lakh each for those who suffered injuries. He also appealed to the people of Assam to maintain peace and harmony. 
 
The Chief Minister said senior Minister Hemanta Biswa Sarma had left for Kokrajhar.
 
Reports said additional columns of the Army and teams of para-military forces had been moved to the area. Police officials said an AK-56 rifle and some grenades were recovered from the scene.
 
The injured persons were rushed to nearby hospitals for treatment even as security forces cordoned off the area and launched a combing operation.
 
In Delhi, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju described the incident as "unfortunate" and said it had taken place at a time when peace was returning to the state. 
 
“This incident has given us a shock and it is unfortunate so many people have lost their lives," he said, adding that the elements behind the "dastardly" attack would have to be identified.
 
This is the first major incident of violence in Assam since Mr. Sonowal assumed office as the head of the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the stte on May 24 this year.
 
NNN
ADVERTISEMENT
 

Switzerland backs India's bid for membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group

In a significant development, India on Monday won Switzerland's support for its bid to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the 48-member group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

 
Economic links between India, Switzerland are strong, vibrant: Modi
In a significant development, India today won Switzerland's support for its bid to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the 48-member group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
 
"We have promised India support in its efforts to become a member of NSG," Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann said at a joint media interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi after they met for talks in Geneva.
 
The Swiss President also said that India and Switzerland were making considerable progress in fighting tax fraud and evasion.
 
"I am also thankful to the President for Switzerland's understanding and support for India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group," Mr. Modi said.
 
"Combating the menace of 'black money' and tax evasion is also our shared priority. We discussed the need for an early and expeditious exchange of information to bring to justice the tax offenders. An early start to negotiations on the Agreement on Automatic Exchange of Information would be important in this respect," he said.
 
India has been trying to join the NSG for the last few years and moved a formal application on May 12. The application is expected to come up at NSG's plenary meetings on June 9 in Vienna and June 24 in Seoul.
 
Mr. Modi said India and Switzerland also shared a commitment to reform international institutions in line with current global realities. "We have both agreed to support each other for our respective bids for the non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council," he said.
 
Mr. Modi began by saying, "I feel the weight of history, standing here with you in this truly international city-Geneva. And, not just international, but a city with a humanitarian soul. After all, it is home to the Red Cross, and headquarters of several international organizations devoted to serving mankind."
 
He said India and Switzerland had both been the voices of peace, understanding and humanitarian values in the world. 
 
"In the last seven decades, our friendship has consistently seen an upward trajectory. Today, President and I reviewed our multifaceted bilateral ties. We also held detailed discussions with Swiss CEOs," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the economic links between the two countries were strong and vibrant.
 
"Many Swiss companies are household names in India. Ties of collaboration in trade, investment, science and technology and skill development benefit both our societies. India has affirmed its readiness to resume FTA talks with EFTA. We are all aware of the strengths of the Swiss economy. But, India too is undergoing profound transformations. We are today the fastest growing economy in the world. 
 
"But, that alone is not enough. I want the Indian economy to be driven by smart and sustainable cities, robust farm sector, vibrant manufacturing and dynamic service sector. And, its engines to run on world class network of rail, roads, airports and digital connectivity. Where a home for everyone, and electricity in every home is a reality. And, its 500 million plus youth is skilled and ready to meet the global needs of manpower. President and I agreed to build on the Swiss Vocational and Educational Training system suited to India's needsYesterday we observed World Environment Day. In tune with its objectives and India's civilizational ethos an economically prosperous India will also be friendly to the planet and our environment. Reliance on renewable energy, rather than on fossil fuels would be our guiding motto," he said.
 
Pointing out that there was a perfect connect between India's development needs and Swiss strengths, Mr. Modi invited Swiss companies to avail of the great opportunity to be a key partner in India's economic growth. "Ultimately, the economic prosperity of 1.25 billion plus would also benefit the entire world," he said.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Mr. Modi said strong ties between the people of their two countries were an important base and benchmark of their linkages. 
 
"Thanks to the Indian film industry, we are very familiar with the enchanting beauty of the Swiss landscapes. But, we are also keen to welcome larger number of Swiss visitors to India. For this, we have opened the facility of e-Tourist Visa for Swiss nationals earlier this year," he said.
 
"There are many success stories of our relationship. One that has been making waves in the Grand Slams of the tennis world is the partnership of famous Swiss player Martina Hingis with Sania Mirza and Leander Paes of India. I am confident that our common commitments and values, people to people links and a strong and growing economic partnership will take our relations to new heights," he added.
 
Mr. Modi, who reached Geneva last night on the third leg of a five-nation tour that first took him to Afghanistan and Qatar and will now take him to the United States and Mexico also met Swiss CEOs there today.
 
The focus at the meeting was on deepening the economic ties between the two countries. Those present at the meeting includedthe CEOs, including ABB, Lafarge, Novartis, Nestl, Rieter and Roche.
 
Mr. Modi said India's economy was growing rapidly and the coming together of India's development needs and Swiss strengths could be beneficial for both countries.
 
Expressing happiness that the economic linkages between the two nations were strong, he said India was not just a market of 1.25 billion, but it also had skills and a government which is open to business. He added that India wanted to have manufacturing of global standards and hence the Swiss model of skill development was very relevant to it.
 
A group of Indian scientists and students at CERN also met the Prime Minister in Geneva today. 
 
Mr. Modi later left for Washington on a two-day bilateral visit to the United States at the invitation of US President Barack Obama.
 
NNN
ADVERTISEMENT
 

16 dead, 14 injured in major fire at ammunition depot in Maharashtra

At least 22 defence personnel died and 14 others suffered injuries in a major fire that broke out in the early hours of Tuesday and triggered huge explosions at one of India's biggest ammunition depots at Pulgoan in Wardha district of Maharashtra.

 
16 dead, 14 injured in ammunition depot fire in Wardha
At least 16 people died and 14 others suffered injuries in a major fire that broke out in the early hours of today and triggered huge explosions at one of India's biggest ammunition depots at Pulgoan in Wardha district of Maharashtra.
 
Wardha district officials said the injured had been admitted to hospitals in Wardha town, about 30 km from Pulgaon, for treatment, official sources said.
 
The massive fire and the explosions that followed lit up the night sky in the town, located about 100 km from Nagpur.
 
The fire broke out in the Central Ammunition Depot around 1.30 am today and was brought under control by around 6 am today, they said.
 
The cause of the fire could not be immediately ascertained and would be established only after an inquiry, they said.
 
The sources said families living in accommodation near the depot were evacuated to safer places as a precautionary measure.
 
Fire brigade personnel worked throughout the night to bring the blaze under control.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the loss of lives in the fire.
 
“Pained by loss of lives caused by a fire at central ammunition depot in Pulgaon, Maharashtra. My thoughts are with the bereaved families," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter
 
"I pray that those who are injured recover quickly," he said, adding that he had asked Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to rush to the spot and take stock of the situation. 
 
Chief of Army Staff Gen Dalbir Singh is also rushing to Wardha for an assessment of the situation, the sources added.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

Proclamation on President's Rule in Uttarakhand revoked, Rawat to return as CM

President Pranab Mukherjee has revoked the proclamation imposing President's Rule in Uttarakhand, paving the way for Congress leader Harish Rawat to assume office again as Chief Minister of the hill state after a gap of more than six weeks.

File photo of Harish Rawat
File photo of Harish Rawat
President Pranab Mukherjee has revoked the proclamation imposing President's Rule in Uttarakhand, paving the way for Congress leader Harish Rawat to assume office again as Chief Minister of the hill state after a gap of more than six weeks.
 
"The President of India on 11th May, 2016 revoked the Proclamation issued under the Article 356 of the Constitution on 27th March, 2016 in relation to the State of Uttarakhand," a press release from the Ministry of Home Affairs said here today.
 
Earlier yesterday, the Supreme Court had announced that Mr. Rawat had won the floor test conducted in the state legislative assembly on May 10, more than six weeks after the Centre imposed President's rule in the hill state on March 27.
 
The floor test in the assembly was held on Tuesday on the direction of the Supreme Court though the official result of the exercise to determine the legislative strength of the various parties in the house was declared only yesterday by the apex court.
 
The outcome is a major setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government at the Centre, which had imposed President's Rule in the hill state, stating that the Congress government headed by Mr. Rawat had lost its majority and was continuing in office illegally.
 
The Union Government's role in the entire affair was seen as an effort by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre to topple the Congress government in the state and try and replace it with a BJP-led government.
 
The Supreme Court had allowed Mr. Rawat to seek a trust vote in the Assembly on Tuesday after lifting President's Rule for a few hours to enable the exercise to be conducted as the latest chapter in a high-stakes political drama which began in early March when nine members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) belonging to the Congress rebelled against Mr. Rawat's leadership.
 
The nine MLAs were later disqualified by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Uttarakhand High Court on Monday made it clear that they could not vote in the floor test. The nine MLAs approached the Supreme Court within hours on Monday itself but failed to get any relief from the apex court, too.
 
The Supreme Court formally announced the result of the floor test after perusing the papers related to the proceedings in the assembly.
 
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi urged the court to modify its order of April 22 to enable to the Union Government to take steps for revocation of the proclamation of President's Rule in the state. The court had earlier restrained the Centre from revoking President's Rule until the next date of hearing.
 
The court also said that, after President's Rule is revoked, Mr. Rawat could assume the office of the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand.
 
"Keeping in view the prayer made by the learned Attorney General, we vary the order by granting liberty to the Union of India to revoke the proclamation of President's Rule in the State of Uttarakhand in course of the day. Needless to say, after the Presidential Rule is revoked, the 1st respondent can assume the office of the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand," the court had said yesterday.
 
"Two aspects we intend to clarify. One, the issue of justifiability of the proclamation of President's Rule that was made on 27.03.2016 which has been annulled by the impugned order passed by the High Court will remain alive, for the High Court has ascribed many a reasons to arrive at the conclusion that the said proclamation was not tenable in law. It required to be scrutinized whether within the scope of judicial review, such a finding could have been arrived at or for that matter whether the opinion arrived at by the President of India to proclaim the President's Rule at the relevant point of time was justified or not. 
 
"We may hasten to add, we have directed for floor test on concession of the parties and we had varied the order today on a prayer being made by the Union of India.
 
"The second aspect that deserves mention is that nine members of the Legislative Assembly have been disqualified. Their disqualification which has been upheld by the High Court is under assail before this Court in the special leave petition no.14140 of 2016. This Court has declined to grant interim prayer for stay of the impugned order against the disqualified MLAs in the special leave petition on 09.05.2016. The said matter has been adjourned to 12.07.2016. What will be the effect, if in the ultimate eventuate case the disqualification is set at naught would be a matter of debate. We say nothing on that score at present. For the purpose of production of the order of revocation, let the matter be listed on 13.05.2016. On that date, a day shall be fixed for hearing of the special leave petitions on merits," the order added.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
After the disqualification of the nine MLAs, the Uttarakhand assemby had an effective strength of 62. While the Congress has 27 members in the House, the BJP has 28. The PDF has six members, including two belonging to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The UKD has one member and three are independents.
 
Earlier, the Supreme Court had, on April 27, kept in abeyance an order of the Uttarakhand High Court quashing the imposition of President's Rule in the hill state and restoring the government headed by Congress leader Harish Rawat back in office.
 
The Uttarakhand High Court order, which was seen as a major embarassment for the Modi government, was delivered on April 26 by a division bench headed by Chief Justice K. M. Joseph, which also asked Chief Minister Rawat to prove his majority in the state legislative assembly by taking a floor test on or before April 29.
 
President's Rule was imposed in the state on Sunday, March 27, just a day ahead of a trust vote that Mr. Rawat was scheduled to seek in the assembly on Monday on the direction of Uttarakhand Governor K. K. Paul.
 
The Centre had justified the imposition of President's Rule in the state, saying the state government was functioning in violation of Constitutional principles.
 
The Rawat government was pushed into a crisis when nine legislators of the ruling Congress rebelled against his leadership in early March.
 
The Union Cabinet had discussed the situation in the hill state at a meeting in Delhi late on March 26 night and decided to recommend the imposition of Central rule in the state to the President.
 
Briefing newspersons in New Delhi on March 27, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Cabinet had taken into account the developments in Uttarakhand during the past nine days and come to the conclusion that Constitutional principles were being violated by the state government and that the state government could not be run in accordance with the Constitution.
 
He said the Assembly had "passed" an Appropriation Bill through a voice vote on March 18, even though as many as 35 of the 67 members present (not counting the Speaker) had sought a division. They had written to the Speaker and the Governor ahead of the sitting of the Assembly on that day and had also informed them later that the Bill could not be considered to have been passed in the circumstances.
 
Mr. Jaitley said video recordings of the day's proceedings in the Assembly showed that the Appropriation Bill had actually "failed", which implied that the State Government was not authorised to incur any expenditure from April 1 onwards.
 
He said Mr. Rawat should have resigned on March 18 itself on the "failure" of the Bill and the continuance of his government after that date was "unconstitutional".
 
Mr. Jaitley said the state Governor had, in his reports on the situation in the state, said there were serious doubts about the proceedings of the Assembly on March 18.
 
He also said the Governor had advised Mr. Rawat to seek a vote of confidence in the House without much delay, but the latter had decided to convene the Assembly only on March 28 for the purpose. He alleged that the time in between had been used for "allurement and horse-trading". He said the video of an alleged sting operation, released on March 26, had provided evidence of this.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 

Parliament to meet from April 25 to complete financial business

Parliament will meet from April 25 to address the financial business related to the General and Railway Budgets for the financial year 2016-17.

Parliament will meet from April 25 to address the financial business related to the General and Railway Budgets for the financial year 2016-17.
 
An official press release said the session was scheduled to last till May 13, subject to the exigencies of Government business.
 
The ensuing session of the Lower House  will be the 8th Session of the 16th Lok Sabha  and that of the Upper House the 239th Session of Rajya Sabha since the previous sessions of the Parliament were prorogued in March this year, after both the Houses were adjourned on March 16 for meetings of Department Related Standing Committtees.
 
Financial business including discussion on demands for grants of various ministries in the Lok Sabha and working of some ministries in the Rajya Sabha, consideration and passing of the Railways Appropriation Bill, 2016 and Finance Bill, 2016 constitute the main agenda of this session of Parliament, the release said.
 
The release said the Lok Sabha would take up discussion on Demands for Grants of the Ministry of Railways and the related Appropriation Bill for 2016-17 on April 26. This will be followed by discussion on Demands for Grants of the Ministries of Development of North-Eastern Region, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Social Justice and Empowerment and Civil Aviation.
 
The Rajya Sabha will discuss working of the Ministries of Health & Family Welfare, Human Resource Development, Finance, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and External Affairs. 
 
Thereafter, Finance Bill, 2016 and application of guillotine will be taken up, the release said.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
According to it, other legislative agenda likely  to be taken up in Lok Sabha include:
 
1. Consideration and Passing of the Sikh Gurudwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2016 as passed by Rajya Sabha (listed for April 25);
2. Consideration and Passing of the Regional Centre for Bio-technology Bill,2016 (listed for April 25);
3. The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014 (Standing Committee submitted its Report);
4. The Electricity Amendment Bill, 2014 (Standing Committee submitted its Report);
5. The Lok Pal and Lok Ayuktas and other related laws (Amendment) Bill,2014 (Standing Committee submitted its report);
6. The Merchant Shipping Bill, 2015 (Standing Committee submitted its Report);
7. The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Amendment) Bill,2015 (Standing Committee submitted its Report);
8. The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015 (Standing Committee submitted its Report);
9. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code,2015 (Report of Joint Committee awaited);
10. The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2015 (Report of Standing Committee awaited);
11. The Consumer Protection Bill, 2015 (Report of the Standing Committee awaited);
12. The Companies (Amendment) Bill,2016 (Report of the Standing Committee awaited); and
13. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Second Bill, 2015 (Report of Joint Committee awaited).
 
The legislative business likely to be taken up in  Rajya Sabha include:
 
1. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill,2016 as passed by Lok Sabha;
2. The Appropriation Acts (Repeal) Bill,2016 as passed by Lok Sabha;
3. The Repealing and Amending (Third) Bill,2016 as passed by Lok Sabha;
4. The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill,2016 as passed by Lok Sabha;
(The above four Bills listed for April 25)
5. The Constitution (One twenty second) Amendment Bill relating to introduction of GSG as passed by Lok Sabha and reported by the Select Committee of Rajya Sabha;
6. The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill,2016 as passed by Lok Sabha and referred to Select Committee of the House;
7. The Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill,2015 as passed by Lok Sabha;
8. The Indian Trusts (Amendment) Bill,2015 as passed by Lok Sabha;
9. The Industries (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill,2015 as passed by Lok Sabha;
10. The Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 1987 as reported by Joint Committee; and
11. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 as passed by Lok Sabha and referred to Joint Committee.
 
During the 15 sittings of the session, besides ratification of Presidential Proclamation in Uttarkhand under Article 356 of the Constitution, two Ordinances -- The Uttarakhand Appropriation (Vote on Account) Ordinance,2016 and The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Second Ordinance, 2016 -- are also on the agenda.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 

Mukherjee says pluralism is hallmark of India's civilization

President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday stressed that pluralism and tolerance had been the hallmark of India's civilization and that it was a core philosophy that must continue undeterred, because the country's strength lay in her diversity.

President Pranab Mukherjee delivering the Arjun Singh Memorial Lecture in New Delhi on April 9, 2016.
President Pranab Mukherjee delivering the Arjun Singh Memorial Lecture in New Delhi on April 9, 2016.
President Pranab Mukherjee today stressed that pluralism and tolerance had been the hallmark of India's civilization and that it was a core philosophy  that must continue undeterred, because the country's strength lay in her diversity.
 
"In a pluralistic democracy, it is important that the values of tolerance, respect for contrary views and patience are inculcated amongst the citizens particularly the youth," he said in the Arjun Singh Memorial Lecture at the Nehru Memorial Museum here.
 
Mr. Mukherjee pointed out that India was a multi-faceted nation of 1.3 billion people, 122 languages, 1600 dialects and 7 religions.
 
"Diversity of our country is a fact. This cannot be turned into fiction due to the whims and caprices of few individuals. Plurality of our society has come about through assimilation of ideas over centuries. The multiplicity in culture, faith and language is what makes India special. We derive our strength from tolerance. It has been part of our collective consciousness for centuries. It has worked well for us and it is the only way it will work for us. There are divergent strands in public discourse. We may argue. We may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Otherwise, a fundamental character of our thought process will wither away," he said.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
Mr. Mukherjee said the harmony of faiths in India stood out as an important moral example in a world where several regions had been torn apart by sectarian conflicts.
 
"We must continue to lead by example. We must work towards maintaining the continuing goodwill amongst different communities. At times, communal harmony will be put to test by vested interests. We must therefore remain alert to communal tensions rearing its ugly head anywhere. Rule of Law must form the sole basis for dealing with any challenging situation. It is our democratic underpinning that must prevail at all times," he said.
 
The President underlined that democracy was not all about numbers but also called for consensus building.
 
"A phenomenon seen in recent times is the way the common man is engaged with affairs of the nation. While we must wield no space to anarchy, efficient democratic machinery must have the means and wherewithal to absorb public opinion for formulation of sound policies," he said.
 
He said the late Arjun Singh, a former Union Minister, was one leader whose heart and mind were rooted to the ground. 
 
"He never lost his simplicity to power, nor did he lose his concern for the common man. He dedicated himself to the building of a strong nation based on the values of secularism and democracy which he dearly cherished. He held important positions in the Congress Party and was an able political organizer. He had a deep understanding of political issues and their undercurrents, which was an asset while dealing with any political situation," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee spoke at length about Mr. Singh's long and distinguished career as a political leader, starting with his days as a legislator, Minister and then Chief Minister in Madhya Pradesh and about his stints as Union Minister and as Governor of Punjab.
 
"On his demise in March 2011, Arjun Singhji left behind a rich legacy of administrative acumen, political statesmanship and a lifetime spent in championing the cause of weaker sections," he said.
 
He said that Mr. Singh had had the longest tenure as Human Resource Development Minister after Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. He said this peiod was marked by rapid expansion in the higher education sector.
 
Mr. Mukherjee stressed the need for Indian institututes of higher learning to improve the quality of education and emerge as world-class institutions.
 
"The role of educational institutions goes beyond mere pedagogy and classrooms. It is incumbent on them to mould students into responsible human beings. They have to instill in the students the civilizational values of love for motherland; performance of duty; compassion for all; tolerance for pluralism; respect for women; honesty in life; self-restraint in conduct; responsibility in action; and discipline," he added.
 
NNN
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 

Heavy turnout of voters in first phase of Assembly polls in West Bengal, Assam

More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security on Monday.

More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security today.
 
Polling was by and large peaceful in both the states, with no major untoward incident reported from anywhere, official osurces said.
 
In West Bengal, voting was held today in 18 constituencies in Phase IA of polling. They include six seats in Paschim Medinipur, nine in Purulia and three in Bankura district.
 
These constituencies have a total electorate of 40,09,171 voters, including 20,47,202 men and 19,57,453 women. There are 4500 service electors in these constituencies.
 
There were a total of 133 candidates in these constituencies, including 11 women.
 
The Election Commission had set up 4945 polling stations and made elaborate arrangements to ensure a smooth poll in these constituencies.
 
As many as 65 constituencies went to the polls in the first phase of voting in Assam. There were 566 candidates in all, including 44 women. Prominent candidates in the fray included Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress, who is seeking a fourth conseccutive term, and Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the chief ministerial candidate of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
NNN
ADVERTISEMENT
 
Syndicate content
© Copyright 2012 NetIndian. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of NetIndian content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of NetIndian Media Corporation. Write to info[AT]netindian[DOT]in for permission to use content. Read detailed Terms of Use.