Newsletter 4th June, 2018




Jammu & Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday urged separatists to respond to the ceasefire for Ramzan and the offer of talks by the government, saying “such an opportunity does not come every day”.

Addressing a convention of workers of her party PDP in Srinagar on Sunday — a rare political meeting in the Valley in the past three years — Mufti made an appeal to separatists to respond to the Centre’s gestures. “There are (political) parties which are not in the mainstream. If they want that bloodshed should stop, they have an opportunity. I request them to come forward and talk. We can’t force them, we can’t dictate to them, we can only request them,” Mufti said. “…Today you have an offer of dialogue. They (the Centre) are saying come and talk to us. I think if J&K has to emerge from this difficult time, then all of us — be it the mainstream parties or separatists — have to come forward and use this opportunity. Such an opportunity does not come every day.”

With two more BSF personnel killed on Sunday in border firing, nearly a week after the DGMOs of India and Pakistan agreed to implement the ceasefire pact of 2003 in “letter and spirit”, the CM also asked the two director generals of military operations to talk again, and put “an end to the bloodshed in the state”.

Referring to the death of a youth who came under the wheels of a CRPF vehicle during protests on Friday, the CM said, “He was an orphan but why take to stonepelting? Why not give them (the youth) a way out of this morass?”

Putting the onus on separatists, Mufti said, “We, mainstream parties, gave you unilateral ceasefire and an atmosphere for talks, now it is up to you… The Home Minister of this country is saying they want to embrace Kashmiris and are ready for talks. If we lose this opportunity, nobody will support us tomorrow. We always say that there has to be a political solution to Jammu and Kashmir. The Army or CRPF or police cannot resolve it… There is an offer of dialogue, I request all stakeholders to come forward to save Jammu and Kashmir and its economy.”




The Congress on Sunday accused the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh of electoral misconduct by including the names of 60 lakh “fake voters” in the voters’ list and requested the Election Commission (EC) to remove all such entries from the electoral rolls of the 230 Assembly constituencies in the state. Following which, the EC formed four teams to look into the allegation. The teams will start their probe on Monday and submit report by June 7.

A delegation of the party, led by Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath, met EC officials and alleged the BJP government in the state had included the names of 60 lakh fake voters in the electoral roll.

“We have given proof to the EC that the voters’ list of Madhya Pradesh is fraudulent. Sixty lakh fake voters have been enlisted in it. We have conducted our own enquiry in 100 constituencies.

“We have given proof to the EC as regards how one voter has been enlisted in different constituencies with the same name, address and father’s name. This cannot be any mistake, it has been done deliberately by the present Madhya Pradesh government,” Nath told reporters after meeting the EC officials.




Nitish Kumar-led JDU, in a message to BJP, has said that Kumar should be the “face” of NDA in Bihar during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The alliance would fare better given the CM’s popularity in the state, JDU said.

It appears that JDU is eyeing a “respectable” seat-sharing formula for the general elections, while retaining its claim to fight on more seats than BJP in the next assembly polls.

“It is established that Nitish is the biggest leader of the alliance in the state and NDA would do well by using his popularity and good governance image in the 2019 elections. We are the big brother of the alliance in Bihar. There is no conversation yet on seat-sharing arrangement. I am sure we and BJP will sit and resolve this matter,” JDU spokesperson KC Tyagi said.

But a state BJP leader said the reality cannot be ignored that JDU currently has just 2 MPs in Bihar. “BJP will obviously get the largest chunk of the 40 seats as we have 22 MPs,” this leader said.




The attachments of over 780 benami assets, worth crores, risk being invalidated because of the government’s failure to create a designated adjudicating authority in the 19 months since enforcing a stringent law against black money and corruption.

The Centre had amended the Benami Property Transaction Act of 1988 and enforced the tighter version on November 1, 2016, days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi demonetised 1,000-rupee and 500-rupee notes. Section 7 of this law prescribes seven years’ jail and a fine up to 25 per cent of the market value of a benami property – one held by a real or fictitious person on behalf of another who has actually paid for it.

But the law also requires the government to create an independent, three-member adjudicating authority that is to decide the validity of any attachment of a property by the income-tax department under this law.

In the absence of such an authority, the government has entrusted these cases as a “transitional” arrangement to the already short-staffed and overburdened adjudicating authority for the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Official records show that while the income-tax department has sent over 860 such cases to this authority, only about 80 have been adjudicated on, leaving about 780 cases pending. Many of these cases involve properties worth crores, associated with high-profile businessmen, politicians and bureaucrats.

Since the attachments of benami assets have to be confirmed within a year, there’s concern that these sensitive cases might get “time-barred” or invalidated.







US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday North Korea will receive relief only after it takes clear and irreversible steps to end its nuclear programme, adding it would be a bumpy road to a summit between US and North Korean leaders.

The comments sought to address concern the US may be rushing to strike a breakthrough in the unprecedented summit between the two leaders after US President Donald Trump put the meeting back on track for June 12 in Singapore.

“We can anticipate, at best, a bumpy road to the (negotiations),” Mattis said at the start of a meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of Shangri-la dialogue in Singapore.





China warned the U.S. on Sunday that any agreements reached on trade and business between the two countries will be void if Washington implements tariffs and other trade measures, as the two ended their latest round of talks in Beijing.

A short statement, carried by the official Xinhua news agency, made no mention of any specific new agreements after U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. It referred instead to a consensus they reached last month in Washington, when China agreed to increase significantly its purchases of U.S. goods and services.

“The achievements reached by China and the United States should be based on the premise that the two sides should meet each other halfway and not fight a trade war,” Xinhua said. “If the United States introduces trade sanctions including raising tariffs, all the economic and trade achievements negotiated by the two parties will be void.”




During the weeklong trip across India in February, Canada’s First Family dominated headlines in national and international media for their highly-posed group photos – often in bright, colourful Indian outfits – outside various monuments, their hands pressed together in namastes. Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah even called out their “choreographed cuteness” on Twitter.

In a speech to journalists and politicians in Canada’s capital Ottawa last week, Mr Trudeau joked he had “repressed” the entire India trip but his team thoughtfully put together a slideshow showcasing the highlights. “Despite the blaring, negative wall-to-wall international ridicule, it was a pretty good trip,” said Mr Trudeau optimistically.

In a light-hearted manner, Mr Trudeau spoke about being received at the Delhi airport by Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Shekhawat. “Apparently you people don’t get this… this is a very big deal,” he said to a round of applause. Political commentators pointed out Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not receive him at the airport (as he has done for other world leaders). It was seen as a snub that PM Modi did not tweet a welcome to Mr Trudeau as he usually does (though he eventually did, five days in) and did not accompany the Canadian leader to his home state, Gujarat.

Next up, a photo with Infosys Chairman Salil Parekh, “a company that, for the record, announced new investments in Canada during the course of this trip.” Mr Trudeau berated journalists: “But you guys didn’t report on it because I was wearing a suit and tie. Boring!”

In Mumbai, he was photographed standing next to Shah Rukh Khan, dressed in a golden sherwani while the actor wore a black shirt and jacket. “Wow! One of us is seriously underdressed,” Mr Trudeau remarked, looking at the photo. “How embarrassing for him!”

“That was India, ladies and gentlemen,” concluded Mr Trudeau. “The trip to end all trips.” “Seriously, I told my team I’m not going anywhere ever again,” he joked.





Clashes between stonepelting protesters and security forces continued for the fourth straight night in Shillong on Sunday, with teargas shells fired in the area where the standoff had begun.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma told reporters that “certain people” were funding the unrest in the city and added that evidence of alcohol and money being supplied to protesters had been found. Sangma also stressed that the clashes were not “communal” and were limited to a “particular locality”.

Shillong has been on the boil since Thursday following a clash triggered by an altercation between a Khasi boy and a Sikh woman in a Punjabi settlement with around 350 households in Them Iew Mawlong, popularly called Punjabi Lane.

On Sunday, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced he was rushing a four-member team led by Cabinet minister Sukhjinder Randhawa to Shillong. A government statement said the team would make a ground assessment of the situation in the troubled areas and extend all possible help to the Sikh community there.


Civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday said average airfares dropped by 18 per cent last year, while the number of passengers who flew by domestic carriers recorded a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19 per cent in the financial year 2018 over FY14. In a series of tweets, with the hashtag #SaafNiyatSahiVikas (Clean intent, right development), Prabhu also said his ministry was working on a blueprint for domestic production of aircraft under the government’s “Make in India” project.

“Average airfares fell by 18% in 2017 over average air fare in 2015, making air travel more affordable for everyone,” he said in a tweet.

The Narendra Modi government had launched the slogan “Saaf Niyat, Sahi Vikas” on its fourth anniversary on May 26, listing its various achievements in a range of areas.



Files pertaining to absconding jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi besides several others wanted for economic offences have been destroyed in a major fire in Mumbai that broke out on the premises of the Income Tax Department on Friday.

The fire, which broke out at the heritage Scindia House building in South Mumbai’s Ballard Estate area around 5 pm on Friday evening, raged on till early Saturday.

Cooling operations were completed only by Saturday afternoon and officials of the Income Tax Department and the Debt Recovery Tribunal, whose offices were completely gutted, managed to enter the premises only late in the evening to assess the damage.

Sources in the Income Tax Department said files pertaining to Modi and Choksi apart from some documents relating to the Essar Group were also in the premises. All of them are undergoing investigation for fraud or facing bankruptcy proceedings. They, however, added that it will take them a few days to actually assess the damage caused by the blaze.

RTI activist Anil Galgali, who has obtained a number of documents under the sunshine law, told reporters that the fire may have been deliberately caused by vested interests.

On the other hand, Income Tax officials felt that the fire would only cause some delays in investigations and files lost in the fire will take time to be reconstructed.




The Union health ministry has denied 82 existing medical colleges permission to accept students for the 2018-19 academic session, blocking at least 10,430 of the estimated 64,000 MBBS seats available nationwide.

It has also rejected proposals to approve 68 new medical colleges, including two in Bengal and four in Bihar, which would have added 9,000 MBBS seats for the 2018-19 academic session.

The decisions, announced on Thursday, were based on recommendations from the Medical Council of India (MCI), the apex regulatory body for medical education that assesses whether colleges have the required infrastructure, faculty and number of patients.

The regulators cited “deficiencies” in the colleges and highlighted how a scarcity of resources was challenging India’s ambition to expand medical education.


German second seed Alexander Zverev claimed his third successive comeback win at the French Open to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal on Sunday, edging Russian Karen Khachanov in five sets. The 21-year-old played some stunning tennis in the closing stages of a dramatic 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 fourth-round victory and will next face Dominic Thiem who reached a third successive quarter-final in Paris by seeing off Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-2, 6-0, 5-7, 6-4.

“Well, I’m young, so I might as well stay on court, get some practice and entertain you guys,” smiled Zverev, who is bidding to become the first German man to win the French Open since 1937.

Novak Djokovic reached the quarterfinals for the 12th time on Sunday as he subdued feisty Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco 6-3 6-4 6-2. The Serb, seeded 20 after a well-documented slump, was given a ferocious fight in the early stages with the opening three games lasting 29 minutes. But what looked like being a long evening for the 12-times Grand Slam champion ended up being a reasonably comfortable one as he generally called the shots.

Unheralded Italian Marco Cecchinato stormed into quarter-finals by upsetting Belgian eighth seed David Goffin 7-5, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 on Sunday. World number 72 Cecchinato, who had never been past the first round at a Grand Slam, will next take Novak Djokovic.


The FIFA World Cup trophy arrived in Moscow on Sunday carried by Germany’s Lothar Mathaus, following its biggest global tour in the tournament’s history, with less than two weeks to go before the 2018 edition kicks off. Mathaus, who helped West Germany win the tournament in 1990, unveiled the 6.1 kg, 18 carat solid gold trophy in an event held near the Kremlin. The trophy will be exhibited at Gorky Park and Pushkinskaya Square. On June 7, the trophy is scheduled to arrive in Luzhniki stadium, where it will remain until the final.

The Group Stage matches begin on June 14 and will go on till June 28. A total of 32 teams are divided in 8 groups, and each team plays every other team in its group once.

Top 2 teams from each group, i.e. 16 teams in all, will qualify for Knock-out stage.

The final will be played on July 15.

GROUP A – Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay

GROUP B – Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran

GROUP C – France, Australia, Peru, Denmark

GROUP D – Argentina   , Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria

GROUP E – Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia

GROUP F – Germany, Mexico, Sweden, Korea Republic

GROUP G – Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England

GROUP H – Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan


On December 3 last year, 12,000 fans gathered at a venue in New Delhi to watch a football match; in Mumbai, another 5,000 got together to watch the same match that day. Yes, these 17,000-odd fans were watching a match on giant screens; they were fans of Barcelona FC and Real Madrid, the Spanish giants who played their La Liga match that day.

This Friday in Mumbai, 2,569 fans turned up at the ground to watch India beat Chinese Taipei 5-0 in the first match of the Intercontinental Cup.

These numbers make one fact very clear: The Indian football fans — fierce supporters of Barcelona or Real Madrid or Manchester United — are not too keen about the Indian national team.

India, ranked 97th in the world, beat Chinese Taipei 5-0 on Friday, captain Sunil Chhetri scoring a hat-trick. He was delighted with his performance and the win, but he was very upset, too. After the game, he practically begged fans to “come out and watch us”.

“To all of you, who have lost hope or don’t have any hope in Indian football, we request you to come and watch us in the stadium,” Chhetri said. “It’s not fun to criticise and abuse on internet. Come to the stadium, scream at us, shout at us.”


England bounced back from their first Test humiliation at Lord’s to rout Pakistan by an innings and 55 runs in the second Test at Headingley on Sunday and square the two-match series 1-1. The victory halfway through the third day was as comprehensive as Pakistan’s triumph had been at Lord’s, with England looking a completely different team from the one which had subsided to a nine-wicket defeat.

Joe Root’s side responded to the heavy criticism they received with a virtuoso all-round performance. In the morning, Man of the Match Jos Buttler finished unbeaten on 80 as England extended their overnight total to 363, a lead of 189 runs, before Pakistan were bowled out for 134 in their second innings.

Scores: Pakistan 174 and 134; England 363


Belief is not a matter of choice, but of conviction. – Robert Green Ingersoll


An Irishman said to his wife, “Guess what I heard in the pub? They reckon the milkman has slept with every woman in our road except one.”

And she said, “I’ll bet it’s that stuck-up Phyllis at number 23.”

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