Newsletter April 30, 2018






With electricity reaching Manipur’s Leisang on Saturday evening, the Central Government has announced the completion of electrification of all villages in the country. Leisang in Senapati district, with 19 families, now joins the other 5.97 lakh inhabited villages that have been officially connected to the national grid.

“Leisang village in Manipur, like the thousands of other villages across India has been powered and empowered!” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted Sunday.

According to the Government’s 2006 rural electrification policy, a village is deemed “electrified” if basic infrastructure, such as a transformer and distribution lines, have been set up in the inhabited locality, which is includes a “Dalit basti”. According to norms, at least 10 per cent of households of such a village should have access to electricity through the basic infrastructure established.

While the task of “village electrification” may have been accomplished, an estimated 3.14 crore rural households are still without any access to electricity — about 17 per cent of the total 17.99 crore rural households.

“All the remaining un-electrified households are targeted for electrification by March 31, 2019,” said a senior official.





Addressing his party’s Jan Aakrosh Rally at the Ramlila ground in a 32-minute speech, Congress president Rahul Gandhi launched an all-out attack on Modi, taking his name 38 times while referring to him as Prime Minister and chowkidar 13 times — the second reference being to Modi frequently describing himself as a watchman guarding the people.

Referring to “minorities” in the context of “atrocities against various sections”, he said, “Atrocities are being committed against Dalits, minorities, tribals in every state…And the Prime Minister does not utter a word.”

Gandhi also spoke about senior party leader Salman Khurshid who told students at Aligarh Muslim University last week that there was “Muslim blood on the hands of the Congress” in reference to communal riots during the party’s rule. Gandhi claimed that there are different opinions in the Congress unlike the BJP where there is only one ideology and thinking.

In a significant reference to his own beliefs, Gandhi made an unusual request to party workers. “Two-three days ago, we were going to Karnataka. We were in the flight. And the plane suddenly went down… by 8000 ft. I thought the plane would crash. Then it came to my mind that I should go to Kailash Mansarovar. So I need 10-15 days leave from you after the Karnataka elections (on May 12) so that I can go to Kailash Mansarovar,” he said.

Taking on Modi over corruption, Gandhi referred to the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in Karnataka and said, “With (B S) Yeddyurappa, their chief minister who had gone to jail on one side and four ministers who had also been to jail on the other, Modi says I am fighting against corruption.” Referring to allegations against Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, BJP chief Shah’s son, the Rafale fighter jet deal and the banking scam involving billionaire Nirav Modi, Gandhi said the “Prime Minister did not utter a word” on any of these issues.

“You were forced to stand in queues. You were told that there is a fight against black money… And some months before, it came to light that the money of the people went straight from the banks to Nirav Modi’s pocket. And Nirav Modi fled to London. You tell me, did the country’s chowkidar who fights against corruption, did he say a line, a word about Nirav Modi?” he said.

Gandhi also sought to take on Modi on the issue of nationalism in the context of the PM’s weekend visit to China. “The Prime Minister and the Chinese President enjoyed tea and held a ‘no agenda’ discussion. The Chinese Army is in Doklam. They are building helipads, extending their airport…their Army is there and the Indian Prime Minister is holding discussions without any agenda. Our PM did not utter a word about Doklam in China,” he said.

Referring to the unprecedented press conference held by the four most senior judges of the Supreme Court to raise questions about the functioning of the Chief Justice of India, Gandhi said, “For the first time in India in 70 years, the judges of the Supreme Court come before the people with folded hands and say they are seeking justice from the people of India. And Modiji is silent,” he said.

Accusing the Government of destroying institutions, he said, “Whether it is courts, election commission… IITs, IIMs, educational institutions…the people of the RSS are raiding them, one after the other… And Narendra Modi is silent.”





Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday revived his attack on the ruling dispensation, saying the democracy of the country is in danger with the Modi government consistently undermining its constitutional institutions. “The manner in which the Modi government is functioning, it can also pose a threat to democracy in the country. In the last few days, what happened in Indian Parliament is before the people of the country (to see),” Singh said while addressing the ‘Jan Akrosh Rally’ at Ramlila Maidan.

He accused the Modi government of thwarting the Opposition’s ‘No Confidence Motion’ in Parliament and said it did everything possible and conspired to stop it from being taken up in Parliament.

“It is clear from this that if the Parliament does not function, it can pose danger to the democracy in the country,” he said.

He also endorsed Rahul Gandhi as PM candidate for 2019 elections.  “The time has come that we support Rahul Gandhi in making this country a better place,” he said.






North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he would move the country’s clocks 30 minutes forward to unify with the South’s time-zone as a conciliatory gesture after Friday’s inter-Korean summit, Seoul said Sunday.

The two countries on the divided peninsula have had different time-zones since 2015 when the North suddenly changed its standard time to 30 minutes behind the South.

But Mr. Kim promised to change the time-zone back during the historic summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Mr. Moon’s spokesman said.

Mr. Kim said he found it “heartbreaking” to see two wall clocks hanging at the summit venue showing different times for the two neighbours, the spokesman Yoon Young-chan said.

“Since we were the ones who made the change from the standard time, we will go back to the original time. You can announce it publicly,” Mr. Yoon quoted Mr. Kim as saying.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s pledge to shutter its nuclear test facility next month and allow unprecedented access to the site drew praise — and skepticism — from experts who cite Kim Jong Un’s history of bait and switch on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s spokesman said Sunday that Moon and Kim agreed to give notice when North Korea dismantles the northern test site, allowing security experts and journalists to view the process.


Washington’s new chief diplomat lashed out at Iran on Sunday as he met Saudi leaders and landed in Israel to rally opposition to Tehran and brief US allies on President Donald Trump’s threat to quit the Iran nuclear deal.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who set off on his first diplomatic trip within hours of being sworn in, met on Sunday with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh, after dinner on Saturday with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Pompeo flew on to Tel Aviv to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then head to neighbouring Jordan, wrapping up a weekend of talks with some of Iran’s most fervent foes in the region.

After the meetings in Riyadh, he accused Iran of destabilising the Middle East, including through its support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and for Shiite rebels in Yemen.


Russian Twitter accounts pumped out messages in support of the opposition Labour party in an attempt to influence last year’s British election, according to new research.

The research by Swansea University and The Sunday Times found about 6,500 automated accounts sent messages praising the opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his policies in the closing stages of the election.

They also attacked Prime Minister Theresa May for refusing to take part in televised election debates and criticised her for cutting police numbers in the wake of the Manchester bombing.

The study found nine out of 10 messages from the accounts about Labour backed the party. In contrast, nine out of 10 tweets about the Conservatives were hostile.

“These new revelations are extremely concerning,” the culture minister Matt Hancock said in a statement. “It is absolutely unacceptable for any nation to attempt to interfere in the democratic elections of another country.”

The British government has accused Russia of meddling in elections around the world and planting fake stories in the media, but has denied Russia has successfully interfered in British elections.





Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh made emotional pleas to the UN Security Council on Sunday for help to return safely to their homes in neighbouring Myanmar and for justice over the reason they fled — accusations of killings, rapes and arson.

During a visit to an unclaimed strip of territory between the two states dubbed no-man’s land, several tearful women and girls threw themselves at British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce as they recounted what had happened to them.

“It shows the scale of the challenge as we try as a Security Council to find some way through that enables these poor people to go home,” Pierce said. “The sad thing is there’s nothing we can do right today that will make their distress any less.”

The Security Council envoys, who will travel to Myanmar on Monday and meet with its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, also visited a refugee camp that housed many of the nearly 700,000 Rohingya who fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state.









A day before the much awaited Cabinet reshuffle, Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh on Sunday stepped down from the post on the directive of the BJP high command. Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Kavinder Gupta is to be the new Deputy CM of the PDP-BJP coalition headed by Mehbooba Mufti.

Dr Nirmal Singh is likely to be appointed as Speaker. “I have resigned as the Deputy CM. A fresh face from the BJP will be taking over,” Dr Singh said.

In a dramatic development, the Deputy CM was asked to reach Delhi by Sunday morning to give final touches to the names of ministers to be inducted. Within an hour after Dr Singh reached Delhi, the BJP high command also summoned Speaker Kavinder Gupta.

“Throughout the day, discussions were on over the fate of the Deputy CM as a faction within the Sangh Parivar and party was opposing his continuation owing to ‘close proximity’ with the PDP leadership,” sources said, adding that the “BJP high command had taken serious note of the failure of party ministers to carry forward the nationalist agenda”.

At present, there are 22 ministers in the state, including CM Mehbooba Mufti. Of the three vacancies, two are of the BJP. The PDP vacancy had arisen due to the unceremonious exit of Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu.

The PDP can have 14 ministers and the BJP 11. At present, the PDP has 13 and the BJP eight.

Governor NN Vohra will administer oath to the new ministers on Monday.





Members of a Dalit family who were allegedly assaulted by ‘cow vigilantes’ in Una, in July 2016, converted to Buddhism on Sunday, along with around 300 members of the community from various parts of Gujarat. The ceremony, organised in Mota Samadhiyala village near Una town of Gir Somnath district, was attended by BJP Dalit MLA Pradip Parmar.

Not believing in Hindu gods and goddesses was among the 22 resolutions that the converts made. The conversion will be recognised only when registered with the district collector, as per the Gujarat Freedom of Religion law.

Head of the family, Balu Sarvaiya, said: “I feel relieved and empowered today. Today I junked blind faith forever. This is so liberating. After I was assaulted and humiliated, I realised that these things were burdening me. Now that I have thrown them out of the window, there will be a revolution. Now no god or goddess will prevent us from doing what we want to do. We shall study, educate ourselves and choose suitable professions.”




Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reported to have “summoned” Biplab Kumar Deb to New Delhi on May 2 after a string of random remarks by the Tripura chief minister left his party colleagues red faced and his rivals in splits.

Some BJP leaders have moved the party leadership asking for Deb to be reined in, lest his remarks adversely impact the party in poll-bound Karnataka.

The chief minister attracted media attention over the last two weeks with his speeches , starting with the one in which he said there was internet and satellite communication during the age of the Mahabharata.

He followed it up with a personal attack on former beauty queen Diana Hayden’s looks, and with some unsolicited career advice to mechanical engineers that they should not opt for a career in the civil services.

Deb crowned it with advice to educated youth – in a state where BJP just won an election attacking the former Left government’s poor track-record in creating employment – that they should open paan shops or milk cows instead of chasing government jobs.




Promoters of large companies that stumble on debt repayments and compound the bad loan crisis in the banking industry must learn to jettison the old-world notion that they have a “fundamental birthright” to manage the affairs of the enterprises they created.

In an interview, State Bank of India chairman Rajnish Kumar said “existing promoters need to come out of the mindset that existed prior to the implementation of the insolvency and bankruptcy code (IBC) whereby they believed they have a fundamental birthright over an enterprise”.

Kumar’s statement takes on a significance as the clock starts to wind down on the 270-day deadline for bankruptcy resolution at the 12 large corporates that were referred to the national company law tribunal in July last year.

“You have a right of control over the enterprise till such time as you manage it well. If there is proof that you cannot manage it well, then you cannot continue to assert your fundamental right over the enterprise. That is the situation today and you need to accept that reality,” he added.

Although the SBI chairman took no names, the blunt comment from the straight-talking banker is a sort of coded message to the Ruias – owners of Essar Steel – who have been desperately trying to fight off rivals circling the stricken steelmaker like Lakshmi Mittal of ArcelorMittal, Anil Agarwal of the Vedanta group and the Jindals.





Confused about different ex-showroom prices of a car in your city and another one? Well, that is soon going to become a thing of the past.

One nation-one price for cars is happening as mass segment players have started shifting to a single ex-showroom price for cars, more than three quarters after the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST), which subsumed all local taxes.

Last Wednesday, Toyota’s India arm announced prices of its new mid-size sedan Yaris. “The Yaris comes at an introductory price in the range Rs 875,000-1,407,000. Toyota has decided to keep the prices the same across the nation,” the company said.

This is the first instance of uniform pricing by the carmaker in India. The on road prices of the Yaris may still vary between states/cities due to a lack of uniform road tax and registration charges.




Sunrisers Hyderabad’s bowlers yet again bailed out the side after an under-par batting performance as they defended a moderate 152-run target to beat hosts Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur yesterday.

After defending 118 and 132 in their last two matches, the Sunrisers bowlers again had to step up after their batsmen stuttered to 151/7.

Rajasthan Royals seemed to be cruising at 72/1 in the 10th over with opener Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson having built a 59-run partnership. But the fall of Samson and Ben Stokes within the span of five balls put the breaks on their innings. Even though skipper Rahane remained unbeaten, he could not get his team across the line.

In the second match yesterday, in Bengaluru, Kolkata Knight Riders were back to winning ways with a comfortable six-wicket win against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Batting first, Mumbai amde 175/4. Kolkata reached teh target with 5 balls and 6 wickets to spare. After 29 matches (out of 56 in league stage). the 8 teams are placed thus:

(Standing, Team, Wins/Matches)

1 Sunrisers Hyderabad 6/8;  2 Chennai Super Kings 5/7;  3 Kings XI Punjab 5/7; 4 Kolkata Knight Riders 4/8; 5 Rajasthan Royals 3/7;  6 Mumbai Indians 2/7;  7 Royal Challengers Bangalore 2/7; 8 Delhi Daredevils 2/7




Lewis Hamilton celebrated one of the luckiest wins of his career on Sunday after a crash-strewn and chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix that catapulted him into the lead of the Formula One world championship.

The surprise victory, after teammate Valtteri Bottas suffered a puncture with three laps left while leading, ended a six race drought for the four times champion dating back to last October. It was the first victory of the season for champions Mercedes.

In a race where the safety car again played a major part, with a series of crashes and smashes, Kimi Raikkonen finished second for Ferrari while Mexican Sergio Perez was third for Force India.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who had led the championship before Baku and looked to be on course for a 50th career win and third out of four this season, started on pole position but finished fourth. Hamilton now has 70 points to Vettel’s 66.




Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots. – Victor Hugo


A man was on his way home with a new car, which was absorbing all his attention, when it struck him that he had forgotten something. Twice he stopped, counted his parcels, searched his pockets, but finally decided he had everything with him. Yet the feeling persisted.

When he reached home his daughter ran out, stopped short, and cried, “Daddy, where’s Mummy?”

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