Newsletter April 23, 2018









In an attempt to complete the “reset” of bilateral ties with China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet at an “informal summit” in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province on April 27 and 28.

The informal summit was the key takeaway after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met in Beijing Sunday on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) foreign ministers meet.

Modi’s visit — a month-and-half before he is scheduled to visit Qingdao in June for the SCO summit — is being perceived as a reach-out to Beijing, as New Delhi does not want a repeat of 2017 — when ties between the two countries were strained — particularly in an “electorally sensitive year”.

The informal summit will also mark Modi’s fourth visit to China since he assumed power in 2014 and a second bilateral visit. He made the first bilateral visit in 2015 followed by a visit to Hangzhou to take part in the G-20 summit in 2016 and BRICS summit in Xiamen last year.

The announcement caps a two-month-long process of rapprochement with China, which started on February 22 when the government sent out a note asking senior leaders and government functionaries of the Centre and states to stay away from events planned to mark 60 years in exile of the Dalai Lama. Then, Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale had underlined that it was a “very sensitive time” for India’s relations with China.

Wang, who was recently elevated to the position of State Councillor, announced the “informal summit” — rare between India and China — and said, “The two leaders will exchange views on over-arching long-term and strategic matters concerning the future of China-India relations.” “We will make sure that the informal summit will be a complete success and a milestone in China-India relations. We see socialism with Chinese characteristics entering a new era and India acts as a crucial stage in its development and revitalisation. It is against this backdrop that President Xi and Prime Minister Modi have decided to hold the informal summit.”





Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu cut short his visit to Telangana and returned to Delhi Sunday to start consultations on the notice submitted by MPs from seven Opposition parties on a motion for the impeachment of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.

Naidu, who is also Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, returned to the Capital after some of the experts he wanted to consult conveyed their availability on Sunday. Naidu is learnt to have spoken to Attorney General K K Venugopal, former Supreme Court judge Justice B Sudershan Reddy, former attorney general K Parasaran, former secretary general of Rajya Sabha V K Agnihotri, former secretary general of Lok Sabha Subhash Kashyap, former law secretary P K Malhotra, former legislative secretary Sanjay Singh and senior officials of the Rajya Sabha secretariat.

There’s speculation that the press conference held by the MPs to announce their move may have violated the provisions of the ‘Handbook for Members of Rajya Sabha’, which says any notice submitted to the chairman should not be given advance “publicity”.

But some Rajya Sabha officials are of the view that the handbook contains guidelines that are not binding on members, and that it is the Rules of Business that counts in such matters.





With crucial state polls around the corner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday cautioned BJP MPs and MLAs against making needless remarks, which he said gave the media “masala”, damaged the party’s image and the nation.

In an interaction through the Narendra Modi mobile app, he asked party MPs, MLAs and leaders to let those “responsible for comments” do their work. “It may sound bitter, but it is important for me to say this to you. Sometimes our workers criticise media, but we have to think if we committed mistakes and gave masala to the media,” Modi was heard saying in a video.

“We consider ourselves experts and intelligent, so we tend to give comments whenever we see cameras. Then the media takes bits and pieces of it, according to what they want, and use it.” Modi also said he had spoken to some MPs who initially “had the habit of making comments on everything”. “If everyone keeps commenting on it, the issue will change and it will damage the nation. It also affects our image,” he said.  “It (their silence) did not affect our party at all. Don’t blame the media. They are doing their work. You don’t need to stand before the TV cameras to guide the nation. Those who are entrusted with that work will do it,” he said during the interaction.

In recent months, several BJP leaders have drawn criticism for controversial remarks. On April 17, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb had said that the Internet and satellite communication existed in the days of the Mahabharata; on March 17, Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan claimed British cosmologist Stephen Hawking had “said that on record that our Vedas might have a theory which is superior to Einstein’s theory of E=mc2”; and on January 19, Union Minister of State for Education Dr Satya Pal Singh had termed Darwinian evolution as invalid because no one had seen an ape turn into a human.





The Congress on Sunday appealed to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra to withdraw himself from judicial work until the impeachment motion pending against him is disposed of.

“The Chief Justice should introspect. He has to decide how to participate in the court. We entreat him to withdraw from functioning as a judge. The Chief Justice of India is a very big post. It rests on credibility and trust. He should withdraw till he earns that trust again,” the head of the Congress legal department, Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha, told a media conference.

“Justice Misra should voluntarily submit himself to an independent probe. It is not personal; the allegations against him have put the entire country’s prestige at stake. If there has been an atmosphere of suspicion, it has to be brought to a logical conclusion.”

Tankha addressed the media along with senior advocate and Rajya Sabha member K.T.S. Tulsi, Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala and Rajya Sabha member and Gujarat High Court lawyer Amee Yagnik.

Yagnik echoed the sentiment: “Litigants look at the CJI as God. There are questions about his conduct and the entire country is waiting for answers…. If fingers are pointed at the CJI, we can’t continue like that. We request the CJI to take a decision himself, keeping in mind the action he would have taken if any other judge had faced an impeachment motion.”

Tankha said the MPs were carrying out the onerous duty with a heavy heart and rued that the BJP was treating this as a partisan matter.

The Congress also addressed the perception that the Opposition had violated rules by discussing the impeachment attempt with the media before the Rajya Sabha Chairman had admitted the motion. Some news reports suggested the House secretariat saw this as a violation.

Tankha said: “The Chairman performs a quasi-administrative act to see whether the motion is in order, whether the required number of signatures is there. He also sees whether there is any prima facie case of wrongdoing. There is no rule saying you can’t go to the media. They say the handbook says so. The handbook is not a rule, it is merely a guideline.”









Israel released details on Tuesday about what it described as an Iranian “air force” deployed in neighbouring Syria, including civilian planes suspected of transferring arms, a signal that these could be attacked should tensions with Tehran escalate.

Iran, along with Damascus and its big-power backer Russia, blamed Israel for an April 9 air strike on a Syrian air base, T-4, that killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) members. Iranian officials have promised unspecified reprisals.

Israeli media ran satellite images and a map of five Syrian air bases allegedly used to field Iranian drones or cargo aircraft, as well as the names of three senior IRGC officers suspected of commanding related projects, such as missile units.

The information came from the Israeli military, according to a wide range of television and radio stations and news websites. Israel’s military spokesman declined to comment.





A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a voter registration centre in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday, killing at least 52 persons and wounding more than 100, in the most serious attack yet on preparations for elections scheduled for October.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on a project of key importance to the credibility of President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which has been under international pressure to ensure long-delayed parliamentary polls take place this year.

President Ghani issued a statement condemning the attack and said it “cannot divert us from our aims or weaken this national democratic process”.





Britain threatened on Sunday to draw up new laws to regulate Facebook and other social media giants if they don’t do more to protect young people at risk.

Health Minister Jeremy Hunt didn’t say what kind of legislation the UK might impose, but gave the companies an end-of April deadline to come up with ways to tackle cyber bullying, age verification and the amount of time young people spend online. The National Bullying Helpline receives 1,000 inquiries about cyber bullying every day.

The UK’s chief medical officer has also been asked to review how technology impacts the mental health of children, with an eye to recommending daily screen time limits.









In the biggest-ever success in its anti-Maoist operations, Gadchiroli Police killed 16 ultra-left rebels near Kasnasur village in Tadgaon area of Maharashtra’s Bhamragad tehsil on Sunday.

Among those killed were 51-year-old Srinu alias Vijendra Ramlu, a member of the divisional committee (DVC) of the South Gadchiroli division of the CPI (Maoist), and Perimili Dalam commander Sainath alias Domesh Atram, 34, who was said to have been recently elevated to the divisional committee.

This is the first time that two DVC members have been killed in a single encounter in Gadchiroli. While Srinu had 82 serious offences registered against him, Sainath was allegedly involved in 75 separate crimes, including ambushes of police parties, blasts, hit-and-run attacks through action teams, and killings of alleged police informers.

The operation was carried out by a 64-man team, comprising mostly local tribals, of the Gadchiroli Police’s elite C-60 commando unit.





Sitaram Yechury on Sunday returned as the CPM’s general secretary with his hand slightly strengthened in the politburo and the central committee, which continue to weigh in favour of the hardliners who had tried to derail his second chance by propping up former Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar.

Sarkar’s name was proposed by politburo member S. Ramachandran Pillai (“SRP”) but the former chief minister backed out when Yechury said it would be a bad move politically to shift him from Tripura at a time when the rank and file there needed him the most.

Yechury’s election was not unanimous, with three central committee members said to have abstained from voting after they and another member spoke against his return as general secretary. They were from among the 11 who had opposed the change in the political line when the outgoing politburo on Friday decided to factor in Yechury’s pragmatic approach on working with other parties, particularly the Congress.

Apprehensive that the effort to oust Yechury may not work just two days after his political line won overwhelming support from the delegates at the 22nd party congress, the hardliners decided to back off. But by all indications, the divisions within the party are too deep to be papered over.





VHP Working President Alok Kumar, who took over from Praveen Togadia recently, has said that in case the Supreme Court gives “adverse” ruling on Ram Temple, they will ask the Centre to step in, as the temple “has to be constructed at Lord Ram’s birthplace”.

“We are looking forward to the court decision. We expect it soon and we will win.” But, he added, in case the verdict is “adverse”, since Supreme Court is treating it as a “land dispute”, Parliament has the power to make adequate laws to acquire the property and give it for Ram Temple. “We have merit in our case and we hope to win. But assuming an adverse order, people of this country will ask the government to legislate.”





India’s doctors have deplored certain remarks by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in London that they see as an attempt to make them “scapegoats” for the problems of the country’s healthcare system that successive governments, including his own, have failed to address.

In his speech last week, circulated through YouTube, Modi had alluded to doctors’ foreign trips to attend pharmaceutical company-sponsored conferences, appearing to imply a nexus between them.

“You probably know that doctors’ conferences are held sometimes in Singapore, sometimes in Dubai. They don’t go there because people are ill there; they go because the pharmaceutical companies need them to,” Modi had said.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Association of Medical Consultants (AMC) said that tarring the entire medical community with the same brush was not expected of the Prime Minister.

An IMA statement said Modi’s “unfortunate remarks” had “brought disrepute to Indian doctors and India”, and that “the goodwill and trust invested in you by Indian doctors stand diminished”. “The health system of the country from where you commented on Indian doctors would collapse without Indian doctors,” the statement said. “The onus of the mess in healthcare squarely falls on successive governments, including yours.”

IMA office-bearers said the Prime Minister’s remarks had evoked widespread anger.

“When the Prime Minister says something like this, it damages the doctor-patient relationship which is already at its nadir in this country,” said Ravi Wankhedkar, senior surgeon and national president of the IMA. Wankhedkar said 99 percent of doctors worked honestly. “Now, if I write three medicines for a patient, I could be suspected of writing a medicine that is not required,” he said. “If I go on vacation with my own money, I could be suspected of being sponsored by a company.”





A post by a man that he cancelled an Ola cab because the driver happened to be a Muslim, has triggered a huge debate on Twitter. Abhishek Mishra, who claims to be linked to Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has a few big names among his over 14,000 followers on Twitter — defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan and minister of culture Mahesh Sharma.

On April 20, he announced that he cancelled the cab because he did not want to give money to “Jihadi People”. He enclosed a screenshot of the cancellation, which showed the driver’s name — Masood Alam.

Many on Twitter asked Ola to ban Abhishek Mishra.

Responding to his tweet on Saturday evening, Ola cabs said, “Ola, like our country, is a secular platform, and we don’t discriminate our driver partners or customers basis their caste, religion, gender or creed. We urge all our customers and driver partners to treat each other with respect at all times.”

Abhishek Mishra’s Facebook profile says he is from Ayodhya and works as an IT professional in Lucknow. He claims he is an active member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal – both affiliates of the BJP’s ideological mentor RSS – and “holds responsibility” of the IT cell of the VHP.





Dwayne Bravo bowled consistently in the block-hole in a tense finish as Chennai Super Kings prevailed over a weakened Sunrisers Hyderabad by four runs to consolidate their position at the top. Sent in to bat, CSK were well served by Ambati Rayudu’s smashing 79 off 37 balls and Suresh Raina’s 43-ball 54 as they posted a challenging 182. The visitors then stopped the hosts at 178/6, with medium-pacer Deepak Chahar (3/15) doing the bulk of the damage.

Needing 33 runs in the last two overs, Yusuf Pathan and Rashid Khan blasted a six each off Shardul Thakur in the penultimate over. Given the final over with Hyderabad requiring 19 runs, Bravo was hit for a six and a four by Khan to bring down the equation to six off one. The West Indian, however, managed to get the last delivery in the block-hole, and Khan could score just a single off it.

In the seciond match yesterday, played in Jaipur, hosts Rajsthan Royals scripted a thrilling win over Mumbai Indians.

The hosts were chasing Mumbai’s 167/7/

Krishnappa Gowtham produced a blistering knock of 33 in 11 balls to see Rajasthan home from a position where they looked down for the count. Jasprit Bumrah had just bowled a terrific 17th over, conceding a single run and getting rid of Sanju Samson for a classy 52 and Jos Buttler in consecutive deliveries. That left the Royals needing 43 off the last 3 overs. Heinrich Klassen fell off the first ball of Mustafizur Rahman’s next over, bringing the no. 8 batsman Gowtham to the crease. The tall off-spinner finished that over off with a big six over mid-wicket and an edged four. The match was still Mumbai’s to lose with Bumrah with an over to go.

Mumbai’s ace finisher with the ball, who’d just bowled the stingiest over of the match would then go on to deliver the costliest in more ways than one, conceding 18. Gowtham was responsible for 10 of those, smashing two fours, leaving 10 required of the last over.

Gowtham crossed over to the striker’s end as Jofra Archer skied a catch off Hardik Pandya’s first delivery. Off the next ball, he played the most audacious of ramp shots to a full and wide delivery over two in-fielders. He then refused a single before walloping a short ball over deep mid-wicket to turn himself into a household name overnight.

Rajasthan won with 2 balls and 3 wickets to spare.




One must find one’s dream, then the path becomes easy. – Hermann Hesse





Police asked the thief: Why did you go to steal three times in the same store?

“Sir, I stole one dress for my wife and went to change it twice! Women, u know.”



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