Newsletter 23rd May, 2018





A day before JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy is sworn in as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, his party and the Congress hammered out a final deal on the 34-member Cabinet which will comprise 12 JD(S) ministers and 22 from the Congress.

The JD(S) also agreed to state Congress president G Parameshwara as Deputy CM and Congress leader K R Ramesh as Speaker.

After initial disquiet over power-sharing, the newly formed JD(S)-Congress coalition will take office Wednesday and names of the ministers in the Cabinet will be announced a day after the new government clears a trust vote on May 24, Kumaraswamy said Tuesday.

The top JD(S) leadership – H D Devegowda and Kumaraswamy – Tuesday denied reports of differences between the coalition partners on Congress MLAs like D K Shivakumar and M B Patil for ministerial posts. “We are not interfering in any way with the Congress’s choices. It is left to the Congress to decide who it wants in the ministry,” Devegowda said.

According to sources in the JD(S), “There are not many concerns in the JDS about the appointment of ministers but there are concerns of dissidence in the Congress if ministers are picked before the trust vote.”

HD Kumaraswamy had made a pre-poll promise of waiving all farm loans “within 24 hours of taking oath.” Yesterday, he said that his promise was conditional to JD(S) getting “full majority”, and since it had not done so, he would now discuss it with coalition partner Congress.

The state farmers have outstanding loans totalling Rs 53,000 crore. It is one-third of the state budget.





Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday sent out a strong message to Pakistan over the continuing spate of unprovoked ceasefire violations along the border in Jammu and Kashmir saying the government will never seek answers from security forces on “how they chose to retaliate” to such actions.

Delivering a keynote speech at the Border Security Force’s 16th investiture ceremony at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi, Singh in a veiled reference to Pakistan said it was an “irony” that even when India wanted peace with its neighbours, a particular country was not “mending its ways”.

“This (Pakistan’s unprovoked ceasefire violations) can be a subject of research and these activities of the neighbour are hard to understand,” the Home Minister said. Singh also commended the BSF for giving a “befitting reply” to the unprovoked firings along the border in the Jammu region for the last few days.

He said that while the government has directed the BSF and other security forces on the border, like the Army, to never fire the first bullet, “no one will ask them how they chose to retaliate”. “If you (the BSF) are fired upon, then you have to decide what is the best course of reaction or action. You have done this with remarkable responsibility in the past,” the minister said.

Over 700 incidents of shelling and firing along the IB and the LoC has been reported in Jammu and Kashmir this year, which have left 39 people, including 18 security personnel, dead and scores injured.





With his remarks that India is “witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere” and the community should begin a “prayer campaign” ahead of the 2019 general elections triggering a controversy, Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto said on Tuesday that his comments were not aimed at the BJP-led government.

Criticising Couto, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said there was “no discrimination against anyone”, while BJP president Amit Shah said “polarising people in the name of religion” was “not appropriate”. Meanwhile, opposition leaders like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury supported Couto.

In a letter dated May 8, titled ‘prayer for our nation’, which was sent to parish churches, Couto wrote: “We are witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere which poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution and the secular fabric of our nation. It is our hallowed practice to pray for our country and its political leaders all the time, but all the more when we approach the general elections.”

Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Couto’s statement reflected a “prejudiced mind”, while his colleague K J Alphons said “godmen”should refrain from making political comments. “The prime minister’s commitment to development without discrimination should be seen. As long as you have a prejudiced mind, you cannot look at this progress,” said Naqvi.

TMC leader and West Bengal CM Minister Banerjee agreed with Couto. “I think whatever he has said was correct. It is a fact,” she said. “We have great regard and respect for all communities, caste and creed. We respect all archbishops in the country,” she added.

Pointing out that Couto was calling people for prayer, Yechury said: “His spokesperson has also said that the call for this annual prayer has always been given. For the minorities in India, the only guarantee they have is the Constitution that promises them equality.” Father Robinson, secretary to Couto, said the letter was sent on May 8 and had already been read out at all the parishes. “This is a two-week old letter. It invited people to pray for the elections, country and all the political leaders. There is nothing wrong in it,” he said.





A day after BJP president Amit Shah accused the Congress and JD(S) of having entered into an “unholy” alliance in Karnataka and claimed that the “mandate of the people” in the Assembly polls was “anti-Congress”, the Opposition party hit back on Tuesday, saying that the BJP’s hypocrisy and double standards were exposed in Karnataka and that it has neither the moral authority nor credibility” to question the Congress and the JD(S) now.

“The BJP as a party stands exposed for its political opportunism and naked pursuit of power…The voters’ verdict was for formation of a coalition government. Congress and the JD(S) are natural allies…It was wrong on part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah to claim victory… They neither had the numbers nor the popular vote,” senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said.

He said Shah needs to be reminded that the Congress got more votes than the BJP and together the JD(S) and the Congress got 21 per cent more votes than the BJP. “We need no sermons from Shah or the BJP… The BJP has in state after state stolen mandates. They have cobbled artificial majority in Goa and Manipur and stolen the government in Arunachal Pradesh. “There are many unholy alliances…which Shah would be unable to explain….look at the embrace of Nitish Kumar and Modi after what they had said to each other,” he said.









US President Donald Trump warned Tuesday his landmark summit with Kim Jong Un may be delayed, but insisted the North Korean leader is “serious” about denuclearization.

Hosting South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House, Trump did little to quell speculation about the wavering prospects of a historic first summit between US and North Korean leaders.

“It may not work out for June 12,” Trump said of the Singapore meeting, adding in a now familiar non-committal riff “if it does not happen, maybe it will happen later.” “There are certain conditions we want to happen. I think we’ll get those conditions. And if we don’t, we won’t have the meeting.”





Iran poured scorn on threatened US sanctions on Tuesday and told European powers to step up and salvage its international nuclear deal — though Germany signalled there was only so much it could do to fend off Washington’s economic clout.

Senior Iranian military and political figures queued up to issue defiant statements a day after Washington threatened “the strongest sanctions in history” if Iran failed to make a series of sweeping changes.

“The people of Iran should stand united in the face of this and they will deliver a strong punch to the mouth of the American Secretary of State and anyone who backs them,” Ismail Kowsari, a senior commander with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said.

European companies say they are worried about getting caught up in the new US sanctions, given the extent of Washington’s global reach, and some have already started pulling out.





Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg apologised to EU lawmakers on Tuesday for a massive data leak, in his latest attempt to draw a line under a scandal that has rocked the world’s biggest social media network.

In his opening remarks, Zuckerberg said it had “become clear over the last couple of years that we haven’t done enough to prevent the tools we’ve built from being used for harm as well”. “Whether it’s fake news, foreign interference in elections or developers misusing people’s information, we didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibilities. That was a mistake, and I’m sorry.”

His comments echo an apology last month to US lawmakers. But questions remain over how Facebook let the leak happen and whether it is doing enough to prevent a recurrence.

Zuckerberg’s appearance in Brussels comes three days before tough new EU rules on data protection take effect. Companies will be subject to fines of up to 4 per cent of global turnover for breaching them.









At least nine people were killed in police firing in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday morning when a protest – fuelled by long-simmering pollution fears – against the country’s largest copper smelter spun out of control.

The police said they opened fire after the protesters torched 30 vehicles and vandalised the collectorate at Thoothukkudi (Tuticorin).

Stertlite Copper is owned by Vedanta, one of the world’s largest natural resources companies. The plant provides 10 per cent of Tuticorin port’s cargo and employs 1,300 workers.

The state pollution control board had on April 9 denied the 20-year-old Sterlite Copper plant’s application for a licence renewal and it had stopped operating. But the protesters, agitating since February, feared this was a temporary stoppage and were demanding it be shut down permanently.

More than 20,000 people, including a large number of fishermen, marched towards the collectorate on Tuesday, alleging the factory was causing illness and had contaminated the groundwater, affecting farming within a 50km radius.

When some of the marchers started throwing stones, the police responded with a baton charge. That provoked some of the protesters into torching vehicles and vandalising the collectorate’s ground floor. The police fired tear gas and bullets, causing nine deaths.

Chief minister E.K. Palanisamy pleaded for calm, saying the plant would be shut down permanently.

Fisheries minister D. Jayakumar defended the police action saying it had become “unavoidable”. “How is it fair to attack the collectorate and how can the police keep quiet?” he asked.





Bats could have been hosting the deadly Nipah virus that killed three persons of a family at Perambara in Kerala’a Kozhikode with fatalities rising to 10 yesterday even as two others were critical. Visiting central experts from the National Disease Control Centre said they found bats infesting the well from where the family was drawing wate

“Since all contacts are under observation and steps to avoid exposure through animal vectors like pigs have been taken, there is no reason to panic,” the Health Ministry said. The WHO has described it as an emerging infectious disease of public health importance in South-East Asia region.

The Nipah virus derives its name from Malaysian village where it was first discovered. So far, it has infected 477 people and killed 252 since 1998 with outbreaks in Bangladesh, India and Singapore.

Symptoms are similar to influenza — fever and muscle pain. Inflammation of the brain can occur, leading to disorientation or coma. Even Encephalitis can happen. MRI of the brain helps differentiate Nipah encephalitis from other encephalitis. Treatment mostly focuses on managing fever and neurological symptoms; severely ill need to be hospitalised.

Human-to-human transmission has been reported in recent outbreaks, demonstrating a risk of transmission from infected patients to healthcare workers who need to wear protective equipment.





Congress party is facing a financial crisis that could undermine its ability to wrest power from the wealthy BJP in 2019.

For the past five months, Congress leadership has stopped sending the funds required to run its offices in various states, say several media reports. To overcome the crisis, Congress has urged members to step up contributions and asked officials to cut expenses, they said.

Led by Rahul Gandhi, the party’s steady flow of money from industrialists has all but dried up, leaving a cash crunch so serious that it’s been forced to crowd-fund for a candidate.

“We don’t have money,” said Divya Spandana, who leads the Congress Party’s social media department. Compared with the BJP, she said her party is not getting much funding via electoral bonds — a new method for cash donation to political parties — which may force Congress to opt for more online crowd sourcing to raise money.

Big business has steadily migrated away from the Congress, said Milan Vaishnav, a senior fellow for South Asia at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. “Headed into 2019, the BJP has a decisive fundraising advantage, not least because the Congress and other key regional parties are seen as less business-friendly.”





In a comforting piece of news for air passengers, the government on Tuesday proposed abolishing cancellation charges for domestic flight tickets if the cancellation is made within 24 hours of booking. However, the proposed rule won’t apply if the tickets are booked less than 96 hours (four days) before the scheduled departure time of the flight.

During this 24-hour “lock-in period”, passengers would be able to make a correction in name or amend the travel date free of cost, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha told reporters while unveiling the draft air passengers charter here.

“No cancellation charges will be levied if the tickets are cancelled within 24 hours of booking, provided the ticket is booked 96 hours before flight departure,” said Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Aviation.

“If a flight is cancelled and it is the airlines’ fault, then the passenger has to be compensated or ticket has to be refunded. If a flight is delayed, the passenger will be compensated in various ways,” he added.

The charter has been placed in public domain and consultation process will be open for 30 days. The changes could be notified in two months after the consultation process, the government said.





The government has as yet not received any bids from any airline for ailing state-run Air India and is having second thoughts on going ahead with the sale, especially as hardliners within the Sangh parivar have made it clear they will object to any strategic sale of PSUs.

Throwing hints at the thought process within the government, civil aviation secretary R.N. Choubey on Tuesday said: “The government retains the right to sell or not to sell Air India, if the bid price is found to be inadequate.” It has sought bids for the sale of a 76 per cent stake in the airline.

The initial round of bidding by the potential buyers for the Maharaja is set to close by end-May 2018, and till now no major airline has made any offer.

A floor price for the airline is being worked out by merchant bankers and this will determine the eventual eligibility of the bids. Besides, there are a host of conditions, which include taking on a huge debt burden of Rs 33,392 crore and Air India be run “on a going-concern basis” and “on an arms-length basis from its (confirmed selected bidder’s) other business” as long as the Indian government continues to hold a stake in the airline

These conditions which have put off many airlines and business groups, with Indigo and the Tatas indicating they may not participate.





It was a pretty iffy-nervy sort of a game where both teams – Chennai Super Kings and Hyderabad Sunrisers – spluttered around with the bat. In the end, it seems the mental choke-hold that Chennai have against Hyderabad (they have triumphed all the three times this IPL) proved the difference.

Batting first, such were Hyderabad’s batting woes that if not for no. 7 batsman Carlos Brathwaite looting Shardul Thakur, Hyderabad would have barely crawled past 100. In the end, they got to a little respectable 139/7

In turn, Chennai stumbled against quality bowling performances from Rashid Khan, Siddharth Kaul and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and looked out of the contest at 62/6 (in 12.3 overs), or even at 92/7 (in 15 overs), but the opener Faf du Plessis (67 not out, off 42) wasn’t done yet. Needing 43 off last 18 balls, he helped the team cross the line with 5 balls to spare.

So Chennai are through to Sunday’s final while Hyderabad get a second chance – they will now play against winner of the match between Kolkata and Rajasthan.

This would be Chennai’s 7the final appearance, in 9 IPL seasons. The team missed the 2016 & 2017 seasons.





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Do not wait; the time will never be ”just right.” Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along. – Napoleon Hill





Two mice live in a movie studio warehouse and are looking for food. Suddenly one hears the other chewing.

“What did you find?” he asks.

“I am not sure,” comes the answer. “It looks like a film. Let me see…Ah, yes. It is  ‘Gone with the Wind’.”

“And how is it?”

“Nothing great. The book was better.”

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