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Newsletter May 14, 2018










Dust storms and thunderstorms accompanied by gusty winds wreaked havoc on Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi-NCR, killing at least 41 persons and leaving behind a trail of destruction.

Uttar Pradesh bore the brunt of the thunderstorm that left at least 18 persons dead. At several places in North India, including Delhi, high-velocity winds uprooted trees and affected road, rail and air services. Operations at the Delhi airport came to a halt. At least 70 flights were diverted as the dust storm reduced visibility,

The devastation comes 10 days after storms hit UP, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttarakhand and Punjab, killing 134 and injuring more than 400.





Targeting former finance minister P Chidambaram, BJP on Sunday termed income tax cases against his family members the Congress’s “Nawaz Sharif moment”.

At a press meet at BJP headquarters, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman targeted Chidambaram over the I-T department filing chargesheets in a Chennai court on May 11 against his wife Nalini, son Karti and his wife Srinidhi under Section 50 of Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015.

“The parallels cannot be missed out in this case. I am wondering if for Congress party in India, we are seeing the Nawaz Sharif moment,” said Sitharaman. Pakistan’s Supreme Court has disqualified Sharif from holding office owing to non-disclosure of assets and income earned abroad.

Sitharaman alleged that Chidambaram and his family members held illegal assets in 14 countries and 21 foreign bank accounts worth three billion dollars.

BJP chief Amit Shah too targeted Chidambaram and the Congress. “This explains why despite Supreme Court’s orders Sonia Gandhi, former PM Dr Manmohan Singh & then FM P Chidambaram dragged their feet on the formation of SIT, one of the first decisions taken by Modi govt, to fight Black Money! How could they indict their own selves?” Shah tweeted.

Lashing out at Sitharaman’s remarks, Chidambaram tweeted, “The buzz in Delhi is that Ms Nirmala Sitaraman will be removed as Defence Minister and appointed as the lawyer of the Income-tax department. Welcome to the bar, Ms Sitaraman.” Targeting Shah, he said in a subsequent tweet, “The president of the richest political party in India is dreaming of billions of dollars! Bring the money back and put Rs 15 lakh in the account of every Indian as you promised.”

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said at a press meet that the I-T department is a caged parrot of the BJP-led government and asserted that allegations against Chidambaram are baseless. “The investments in question were made through bank remittances. They were duly disclosed in the returns of income filed under section 139 of the Income Tax act for the relevant assessment year… The returns of income are a complete answer to the baseless allegation,” he said.

Targeting Sitharaman, he said, “You have been made the Defence Minister to protect and defend the country. Half the time you are defending your cabinet colleagues who are facing allegations and the rest of the time you are busy attacking Congress leaders.”





Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday dubbed as a “serious disclosure” Pakistan’s ousted PM Nawaz Sharif acknowledging that militant organisations were active in his country and said it proved India’s position that the handlers of Mumbai attack were in Pakistan.

For the first time, Sharif also questioned Pakistan’s policy to allow the “non-state actors” to cross the border and “kill” people in Mumbai.

“It is very serious disclosure. India’s position has been that the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack operated from Pakistan. We strongly believe that the handlers of the attack were in Pakistan,” she said. “It (Sharif’s remarks) only proves that India’s stand has been right all the way,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan PM has convened a high-level National Security Committee meeting on Monday to discuss the “recent misleading media statement” by Sharif, officials said in Islamabad on Sunday.





In what will be a significant step towards India’s ‘Act East policy’, India and Vietnam will conduct their first bilateral naval exercise later this month, marking the continued upswing in relations.

The exercise will be conducted in Vietnamese waters in May-end. The exercise will be conducted in what China’s considers its backyard. To put it in perspective, it’s like the navies of China and Bangladesh practising in Bay of Bengal.

A flotilla of three Indian warships — INS Shayadri, INS Kamorta and INS Shakti — is on its way to Vietnam, sources said while confirming the first-ever bilateral exercise at sea. Two of these ships on Sunday reached Thailand on a separate visit and one reached Malaysia.

The naval exercise comes just four months after the armies of the two countries conducted their first-ever land–based exercise in January-end this year at Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh.









A family of six, including girls aged 12 and 9, launched suicide attacks on Christians attending Sunday services at three churches in Indonesia’s second-largest city of Surabaya, killing at least 13 people and wounding 40, officials said.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has seen a recent resurgence in home-grown militancy. Police said the members of the family that carried out Sunday’s attacks were among 500 Islamic State sympathisers who had returned from Syria.

The husband drove the car, an Avanza, that contained explosives and rammed it into the gate in front of that church.

The wife and two daughters were involved in an attack on a second church.

At the third church, two other children rode the motorbike and had the bomb across their laps.

The two daughters were aged 12 and 9 while the other two youngsters, thought to be the man’s sons, were 18 and 16, the police said. They blamed the bombings on the Islamic State-inspired group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah.





US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that Washington will agree to lift sanctions on North Korea if the country agrees to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program, a move that would create economic prosperity that “will rival” South Korea.

Speaking on several Sunday morning talk shows, Pompeo said the United States would not be willing to invest taxpayer dollars to help the country, but was willing to “lift sanctions” to pave the way for private American investment in North Korea’s energy, agriculture and infrastructure sectors.

Pompeo’s comments come ahead of a planned June 12 meeting in Singapore between North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, the first such meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.

“What Chairman Kim will get from America is our finest – our entrepreneurs, our risk takers, our capital providers…They will get private capital that comes in. North Korea is desperately in need of energy…for their people. They are in great need of agricultural equipment and technology,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”





China’s first indigenously-developed aircraft carrier began sea trials on Sunday, official media reported, a historic step in the country’s quest to modernise its military and bolster its naval presence in the disputed regional waters.

The 50,000-metric tonne vessel left a shipyard with assistance from several tugboats, before navigating into the sea using its own propulsion, state-run China Daily reported.

The vessel will become the country’s second aircraft carrier, and the first to be entirely built and designed inside of China, when it joins the navy sometime before 2020.

Reports said China is already building its third aircraft carrier in Shanghai. China reportedly plans to have four aircraft carriers by 2030 to beef up its navy as it asserts its claims in the disputed South China Sea. Some reports said China is also planning to build a nuclear powered aircraft carrier.









Sripur in South 24 Parganas district is among the 66 per cent gram panchayats which will see polling in Monday’s elections in West Bengal. The Trinamool Congress has won 34 per cent of the seats uncontested, a figure large enough to invite the Supreme Court ire, which has withheld announcement of their results.

To ensure that the remaining panchayats are not similarly won by the TMC uncontested, in Sripur panchayat and many others in South Parganas, the opposition members and Independents have come together. While in the 2016 Assembly elections, there was a ‘People’s Alliance’ between the Left and Congress, in Monday’s elections here, it will be the TMC versus everybody else.

There are 15 gram panchayat seats in Sripur and three panchayat samitis. A stronghold of a Left party, SUCI, till 2012, it went to the TMC in 2013. In this election, the SUCI has eight candidates, the Congress four and CPM three. Five of these candidates are however not contesting on their party symbols but either on the symbol of boat, chosen for those representing all other parties in the fray (barring the BJP), or of mango, which all the Independent candidates are running on.

“Even though we don’t have an alliance with the BJP, at the grassroot level we have an understanding with them. If their candidate is strong in a booth, our people will endorse that our people vote for the BJP. If our candidate is strong, then BJP workers have gone out and endorsed our candidate,” said a CPM worker.





Two days before the Karnataka election results, Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah Sunday said that he was ready to step aside and make way for a Dalit chief minister in the state if the Congress high command wanted.

“I have no issues. If the high command says they want to appoint a Dalit as CM, I will say go ahead. I am not opposed to anybody,’’ he said at a press conference at his home in Mysuru. He was asked if the Congress favoured the appointment of a Dalit CM in Karnataka.

“The MLAs also have to give their opinion is it not? You cannot force it also. The MLAs have to give their opinion and the high command has to also clear it. You cannot run the government by force… In my five years of rule, there has been no instance of dissident activities. All the MLAs have cooperated.”





The Ministry of Law & Justice is giving final touches to a draft Bill on DNA technology, which is aimed at creating DNA data banks both at the national and state level to store profiles.

The draft Bill was being prepared on the basis of a law commission report that was submitted recently. The national and regional DNA data banks will be set up for maintaining a national database for identification of victims, accused, suspects, undertrials, missing persons and unidentified human remains.

The Department of Biotechnology was also consulted by the law panel before finalising its report. “The Law Ministry is now finalising the official draft before it goes to the Union Cabinet for final approval,” a senior official said. The proposed law has a provision that those who leak the DNA profile information to people or entities not entitled to have it “will be punished with a jail term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh”, he said.

Similar punishment is also prescribed for those who seek information on DNA profiles illegally. The govt had recently informed the Supreme Court that a Bill for DNA profiling to enable maintenance of records of unidentified and unclaimed dead bodies or missing persons was likely to be brought in the forthcoming session of Parliament.





Amid a row over Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s portrait at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Haryana’s Finance Minister Captain Abhimanyu Sunday said the university should be renamed after Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh, who “donated land for the university for education of Hindus as well as Muslims”.

“What can be more sad than the fact that no image of Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh has been displayed in the university. He donated land for the university without any hesitation and with an objective of education to all, irrespective of religion, but there is a portrait of Jinnah who divided this country,” Abhimanyu told a gathering at the foundation-laying ceremony of Jat Dharamshala in Rewari.

“This is the need of the hour: that the university be renamed after him. And this is possible only if a united demand is made,” Abhimanyu added. “I don’t see anybody from the angle of caste and religion. Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh had worked for the unity and integrity of the country. Singh fought for Independence of ‘Akhand Bharat’ and worked for ‘Manav Dharam’. It will be most befitting to name the university after such a great personality of modern India.”





India will not need to go through the standalone Foreign Medical Graduates (FMG) test in 2019.

The Ministry of Health is considering merging the FMG exam with the National Exit Test (NEXT), proposed to assess the quality of MBBS passouts in the final year of the medical under-graduation course.

The NEXT proposal is contained in the National Medical Commission Bill, 2018, which is likely to be passed in the monsoon session of Parliament. The ministry recently amended the draft law in line with the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health. “We propose to merge FMG with NEXT so the Indian and foreign graduates are tested against the same yardstick and a uniform standard of quality of practising doctors is ensured,” a Health Ministry official said.

In another major reform, the ministry has brought in changes to eligibility rules for Indian students going abroad to study medicine and returning to practise it.

According to the new rules notified this month, students going abroad would no longer need eligibility certificates from the Medical Council of India if they want to study abroad and later return to write the FMG test and practise medicine.

These certificates were issued to any student attaining 50 per cent marks in Class XII. On an average, 12.5 per cent of the students writing the FMG test would pass.





Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) has asked the telecom ministry to take “severe action” and levy “strictest of penalties” against rival Bharti Airtel for allegedly violating licence conditions by using a network of nodes based abroad to offer its services on the latest Apple watch, which could lead to a security breach.

In a letter to the department of telecommunications (DoT) dated May 11, Jio alleged that Airtel has not set up “eSIM provisioning node in India and the node being used to provide Apple Watch Series 3 is currently located outside India in gross violation to the licence terms”. The Mukesh Ambani-owned telco alleged that this may lead to a national security breach and is a “deliberate and gross violation” of terms and conditions of unified licence.

Airtel has denied Jio’s accusations, saying it is “another frivolous complaint by a desperate operator, whose sole aim appears to have a monopoly over everything that they do”. “All information relating to customers, network nodes, etc. is hosted in a fully secure manner by Airtel India, along with provision for lawful interception,” the country’s top telecom operator told ET in an emailed response. “We will be happy to share more details with the DoT as and when required,” it said.





Opener Ambati Rayudu smashed his maiden century in the IPL as Chennai Super Kings coasted to an easy eight-wicket win over Sunrisers Hyderabad to virtually seal a play-offs berth in Pune yesterday. Rayudu remained unbeaten on 100 (off 62), as CSK chased down 179 with one over to spare.

The CSK win also snapped Sunrisers’ six-match winning streak this season.

Rayudu and his opening partner, Shane Watson, showed scant respect to the Sunrisers bowlers, touted as the best in this IPL.

Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan and captain Kane Williamson continued their top form as the duo struck fluent half-centuries to take Sunrisers to 179/4.

In the second match yesterday, play at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, in-form Jos Buttler (94) hit his fifth successive half-century as Rajasthan Royals thrashed Mumbai Indians by seven wickets in a key clash to stay alive in the play-offs race.

Royals chased down 169 on a difficult Wankhede wicket, with Buttler batting with a lot of poise and responsibility. He added 95 runs for the second wicket with captain Ajinkya Rahane (37 off 36) as he carried his side past the finish line.


Team / Matches Won / Matches Played (so far)

Sunrisers Hyderabad  9/12; Chennai Super Kings 8/12; Kings XI Punjab 6/11; Kolkata Knight Riders 6/12;

Rajasthan Royals 6/12; Mumbai Indians 5/12; Royal Challengers Bangalore 4/11; Delhi Daredevils 3/12





Young forward Navneet Kaur fired a hat-trick as India began their title defence at the women’s Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament in an emphatic fashion, registering a 4-1 win over Japan , Donghae City, South Korea.

Navneet starred in India’s win with goals in the 7th, 25th and 55th minutes. Anupa Barla (53rd) was the other goal-scorer for India, who were playing their first match under head coach Sjoerd Marijne’s in his second stint with the women’s team.

Aki Yamada scored a consolation goal for Japan in the 58th minute.





Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix in a commanding Mercedes one-two on Sunday to stretch his Formula One lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel from four to 17 points.

The victory, from pole position in a race that stayed dry despite the threat of rain, was the Briton’s second of the season, 64th of his career and third at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Finland’s Valtteri Bottas was second, a hefty 20.5 seconds behind, with Dutch 20-year-old Max Verstappen completing the podium for Red Bull and Vettel fourth.

Hamilton now has 95 points to Vettel’s 78 after five rounds of the 21-race championship.





Make the most of your regrets. . . . To regret deeply is to live afresh. – Henry David Thoreau





To impress his date, the young man took her to a very chick Italian restaurant. After sipping some fine wine, he picked up the menu and studied it with an appraising eye.

“We’ll have the Giuseppe Spomdalucci,” he said finally.

“Sorry, sir,” said the waiter. “That’s the owner.”



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