Newsletter 29th May, 2018





Leaders from Samajwadi Party, Congress and RLD approached Election Commission Monday, claiming that a large number of EVMs developed snag during the bypoll to Kairana (UP) Lok Sabha seat. Snag in voting units was also reported during bypolls to Bhandara-Godiya and Palghar Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.

The EC has said news reports alleging large-scale failure of voting units were “exaggerated projection of reality”. An EC spokesperson said “extreme heat” in some areas could be a factor behind the snag.

Earlier, SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav, RLD’s Ajit Singh and Congress’s R P N Singh met EC officials and claimed that “160 EVMs had broken down in Kairana constituency and 113 developed snags in Muslim majority areas in Noorpur.” They also alleged that the units that developed snag were not replaced quickly. “It seems the administration is deliberately indulging in wrongdoing,” their petition to EC read. They demanded re-poll in areas where “faulty” EVMs had not been replaced quickly. Alleging anomalies in use of EVMs, AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad said in Lucknow that all parties should jointly boycott use of EVMs.

The EC said in a statement, “news reports surfacing in the media alleging ‘large scale’ failure of EVMs and VVPATs in the ongoing by-elections and interruption of poll in the States of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are an exaggerated projection of reality…replacement of defective EVMs/VVPATs during actual polls is a normal process and does not vitiate the integrity or credibility of the poll process in any way.”





The Tamil Nadu Government on Monday issued an order directing the state Pollution Control Board to seal the Vedanta group’s copper plant and close it down “permanently” following last week’s violent protests during which 13 persons were killed in police firing.

The government order (GO) said it endorsed the recent closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, and also asked the TNPCB to “seal the unit and close the plant permanently”.

The document cited the Constitution’s directive principles of state policy (Article 48-A) enjoining protection of environment and provisions of the Water Act, 1974, to order the permanent closure of the copper factory “in the larger public interest”.

Chief Minsiter K Palaniswami said the government had issued the GO in deference to the sentiments of the people.

The locals had been protesting for the closure of the factory for 99 days. The turned violent on May 22, the 100th day of their stir, and 13 persons were killed in police action last Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Closure of Sterlite Copper plant is an unfortunate development, especially since, we have operated the plant for over 22 years in most transparent and sustainable way, contributing to Tuticorin and (the) state’s socio-economic development. We will study the order and decide on the future course of action”, Vedanta Limited said in a statement on Monday.

Vedanta plant accounted for a 40 per cent share in India’s annual copper production of 10 lakh tonnes. The closure could have a downstream impact on around 800 small and medium units in the electrical sector. The shutdown is also likely to impact India’s copper exports as around 1.6 lakh tonnes of Tuticorin plant’s production is sold internationally.





Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj Monday ruled out dialogue with Pakistan saying “terror and talks can never go together”. While asserting that talks on terror were needed, Swaraj said that while comprehensive bilateral dialogue was on hold, talks at other levels, including NSA-level discussions would go on.

Referring to Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018, which aimed to incorporate the region as a fifth province, Swaraj said India had summoned Pakistan’s High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah Sunday and registered its strong protest over the move. India had stated that any action to alter the status of the region, which is under its “forcible and illegal occupation” has no legal basis.

“Pakistan tries to teach us history and geography. It is one country which does not believe in rule of law and I would just say one thing to their answer ‘look who’s talking’,” she said.

Highlighting her ministry’s successes in her tenure, Swaraj said India had reached out to 186 out of 192 UN member nations through minister-level visits and plans to reach the remaining six were being finalised. “No Indian minister had ever been to many of these nations before,” she said and added that India has also become a member of three of the four global export control regimes.

Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship schemes, Swaraj said India got technical expertise and investment from countries across the world, which brought in over Rs 14 lakh crore between May 2014 and February 2018.

According to Swaraj, the MEA has increased the number of passport seva kendras from 77 to 227 across the nation and more than 90,000 Indians have been brought back safely by the Indian government, including hundreds in jails, and some facing the death penalty.

Modi, she said, has had informal summit meetings with leaders of China, Russia and Germany, which is a new and unique “dialogue mechanism”. She clarified that status quo at the face-off site at Doklam is “continuing” and there hasn’t been any change in “the situation” since August when both China and India agreed to withdraw their troops after months of a stand-off.

Swaraj also hit out against the Congress party, which had claimed that she is only active on Twitter, while the Ministry was being run from the Prime Minister’s Office. She said that she has tried bridge foreign policy with public policy, and that the Opposition would realise the advantage of her use of Twitter “jis din koi inke ghar ka phasega (the day one of their own gets stuck).”





Two days after sailing through a floor test in the state assembly, Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy Monday said that his party did not have the mandate of all the people of the state and that his government was at the “mercy of the Congress”.

Under pressure over farm loans in Karnataka and on the day that the Opposition BJP called for a state-wide bandh, Kumaraswamy suggested that he could not waive farmer loans because of opposition from his alliance partner. The JD (S) and Congress are also still locked in a tussle over the allocation of portfolios in the state.

After his remarks drew sharp criticism from the BJP, Kumaraswamy clarified: “What I said is that I must consult the Congress on all matters since we are in a coalition. The BJP is going around saying things that I am not willing to waive off the loans at all. I have said I will waive the loans. I cannot do it overnight. You need to give me some breathing room.”

After his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi Monday, he said he would unveil plans drawn up by his new coalition government for farm loan waivers in Karnataka. “I have said I will resign if cannot waive off the loans. Why don’t you wait for a couple of days? On Wednesday I will announce my move to waive off the loans and how I will go about it,’’ he said.

The waiver of farm loans has been at the centre of political discourse in the state since Kumaraswamy was sworn in as CM on May 23 on account of the divergent positions taken by the JD (S) and Congress on the issue in the run-up to polls.









Pakistan’s former chief justice Nasirul Mulk was on Monday named as the country’s caretaker prime minister for a two-month period, ending the political wrangling between ruling PML-N and the Opposition ahead of the General Election on July 25.

The announcement was made by Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah at a press conference here which was also attended by incumbent Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq.

Mulk, 67, is likely to be sworn in on Friday, June 1. The present government will complete the tenure on May 31 and the caretaker government will remain in office until a new government is set up through elections. Shah expressed hope that Mulk will successfully conduct free, fair and impartial elections in Pakistan on July 25.

The announcement came after weeks of deadlock between the PML-N and the Opposition over the name of the caretaker prime minister.





The US and North Korea on Sunday kicked off an urgent, behind-the-scenes effort to resurrect a summit meeting between their two leaders by June 12, racing to develop a joint agenda and dispel deep scepticism about the chances for reaching a framework for a lasting nuclear agreement in so little time.

Technical and diplomatic experts from the US made a rare visit to North Korea to meet their counterparts, American officials said on Sunday. Before any summit meeting, the American team, led by Sung Kim, a veteran diplomat, is seeking detailed commitments from Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, about his regime’s willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

In a tweet on Sunday night, President Trump confirmed the meetings in the North Korean part of Panmunjom, a “truce village” in the Demilitarised Zone that separates the two Koreas. He also expressed his administration’s newfound optimism about the meeting, further embracing the conciliatory language both sides have used since he cancelled the planned meeting in a bitterly worded letter to Kim on Thursday.

“I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial Nation one day,” Trump wrote on Twitter after a second straight day of golf at his Virginia club. “Kim Jong Un agrees with me on this. It will happen!”









Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav Monday approached the Supreme Court, seeking “sufficient” time to vacate bungalows allotted to them during their tenure as chief minister.

Akhilesh requested the court to “grant” him “sufficient time to make arrangements for suitable alternative accommodation, taking into consideration the security of the petitioner and his family members”, while Mulayam sought relief citing the “security of the petitioner, age and ill-health”.

Mulayam and Akhilesh had earlier moved the state estate department, seeking two years’ time to vacate the bungalows.





Former president Pranab Mukherjee’s reported decision to be the chief guest at an annual RSS event at its headquarters in Nagpur has surprised many in the Congress. But with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi out of the country, and their view on the matter not known immediately, many party leaders refrained from airing their views publicly.

According to the RSS, Mukherjee will be the chief guest at its valedictory session of the ‘Tritiya Varsh Varg’ or the Third Year Course on June 7.

Several top party leaders, including A K Antony, declined to comment, saying that they were unaware of Mukherjee’s programme. “He is an intelligent person. He has been the President of India. He is secular minded. So there will be no change in his behaviour by going there. He will remain the same,” former Union Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said.





“I don’t care about the tests. I have no will to live. All I pray is death,” Sunanda Pushkar wrote in an email to her husband and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on January 8, 2014 — nine days before she died in a luxury suite at the capital’s Hotel Leela.

The Delhi Police has named Tharoor as an accused in the case, and charged him under IPC sections 498 (A) (husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty) and 306 (abetment to suicide) in a chargesheet filed on May 14. Under Section 498A, the maximum punishment is up to three years of imprisonment, while a jail term up to 10 years is prescribed under Section 306.

The chargesheet has dropped the murder charges. Initially, an FIR was registered by the Delhi Police on January 1, 2015, against unknown persons under IPC Section 302 (murder).

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal fixed June 5 to decide whether or not he will take cognizance of the chargesheet. Police said that Pushkar had died within four years of her marriage with Tharoor.





Around 1 million bank employees will go on a two-day strike this Wednesday as the conciliation efforts by the Union government failed to convince bank unions to call off protests against the proposed low wage hike. Additional Chief Labour Commissioner Rajan Verma met the bank unions, under the banner of the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), finance ministry officials and bank management, represented by the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) in an effort to avert the strike.





Rajesh Goel, senior vice-president and director (sales & marketing) at Honda Cars India, wants to keep the new Amaze away from buyers in the taxi- and fleet-segments.

In a similar way, Tata Motors has discouraged sales of the two latest cars — the Tigor and Tiago — to the taxi segment. Carmakers have turned cautious and no longer want to drive personal-segment buyers away from a product in their pursuit of commercial sales.

“This is a beautiful, new model. I would like to keep selling this to personal buyers. I don’t intend to sell to fleet owners to begin with,” said Goel. The new Amaze was launched on May 16. The outgoing Amaze had catered for taxi- and fleet-segment buyers and that in some way also affected personal-use buyers’ preference for it.

While there is no rule to stop a buyer from putting a car to commercial use, manufacturers prefer to discourage sales of select models to them.

The top two carmakers in the country — Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai — have put in place a strategy of distinct badging for some car models. The same car brand can go to the taxi segment but as a differentiated product to keep intact the interests of personal-use buyers.





Novak Djokovic launched his campaign for a second French Open title with a moody victory over Brazilian qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva on Monday, winning 6-3 6-4 6-4. In his quest to become the first men’s player in the Open era to win each of the Grand Slams twice, Djokovic, who underwent surgery on his elbow after January’s Australian Open, looked unhappy even when he was stroking winners past his opponent.

Last year’s runner-up Stan Wawrinka was beaten by big-hitting Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-2 3-6 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3 in the opening round match which lasted three and a half hours. Wawrinka, who won the French Open title in 2015, suffered a second loss to Garcia-Lopez in Paris after losing at the same stage four years ago.

Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka struggled for rhythm in a 7-5 7-5 defeat by Czech Katerina Siniakova.





By orchestrating team’s title triumph, Chennai Super Kings’ seasoned players in 30s have confuted the critics, who harp on packing the side with youngsters. After the auction, Super Kings were criticised for picking nine players in their 30s, including Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu, but they proved to be instrumental in the team’s triumph after coming back from a two-year ban. Rayudu (602) and Watson (555) were among top-five run-getters this IPL.

“We talked a lot about age but what matters is the fitness. Rayudu, for example, is 32; he’s someone who is fit, covers a lot of ground. Even if he plays a few games where he spends a lot of time in the ground and in the field, he never complains. So, it is the fitness that really matters more than the age aspect,” said the 36-year-old skipper MS Dhoni after the win over Sunrisers Hyderabad.

“What captains want is players who move well in the field. It doesn’t matter which year a player is born in, whether you are 19 or 20 — you have to be agile. You have to accept your shortcomings.

“For example, if I push Watson to stop a single; there is a very good chance that he’ll burst his hamstring and won’t be available for the next game. So, what you tell yourselves is that they have to commit and try, but there’s no point getting injured for a single,” said Dhoni.





Argentina captain Lionel Messi has urged his compatriots to be realistic in their World Cup expectations, warning that other teams heading to Russia are better.

“People need to know that we are not going to Russia as favourites, but we have a group of very good players and we are ready to scrap,” Messi said. Asked if Argentina could win the World Cup, Messi swerved between hope and realism. “I believe so, I have faith in this team,” he said.

“We have players with talent and experience. We cannot send the message that we are the best because that’s not true. Quite a few squads are better,” he said, singling out Brazil, Spain and Germany.

Argentina struggled in the qualifiers, needing a Messi hat-trick to beat Ecuador as they booked their place in Russia in their final match. Their poor performance in qualifying, coupled with a 1-6 defeat to Spain in March.





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It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it. – Joseph Joubert





The best illustration of the value of brief speech was given by Mark Twain. His story was that when he had listened for five minutes to the preacher telling of the heathen, he wept, and was going to contribute fifty dollars… after ten minutes more of the sermon, he reduced the amount of his prospective contribution  to twenty-five dollars…after a half hour more of eloquence, he cut the sum to five dollars.

At the end of an hour of oratory when the plate was passed, he stole two dollars.

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