Newsletter July 25 2018





The Congress on Tuesday gave separate notices in Lok Sabha and sought permission to move privilege motions against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, contending that they “deliberately misled” the House on price of Rafale fighter jets. The notices, signed by Mallikarjun Kharge, M Veerappa Moily, K V Thomas, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Rajeev Satav, referred to the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister’s statements on the Rafale deal during the debate on the no-confidence motion on July 20.

The Congress referred to Modi’s statement that the demand for revealing the purchase price of Rafale jets was against the country’s interest.

The party argued that the “government of France in its statement had nowhere contradicted what was demanded in the House by the Opposition, which is to disclose the purchase price of Rafale jet fighters. It had merely referred to the 2008 Confidentiality Agreement.

The Congress stated: “The 2008 agreement does not state, that ‘Commercial Costs’ of Procurement of Defence Deals cannot be revealed. Article 1 of the 2008 agreement clearly defines ‘Classified Information and Material’ as ‘material which requires protection…in the interest of national security….’ It is not specific to Rafale jet fighters, and nowhere prohibits disclosure of purchase price to Parliament.”

The Congress called Modi’s remark that the acquisition was fully transparent as “factually incorrect, untrue and deliberately made with the intention to mislead the House.”

As for Sitharaman, the notice said her statement — that commercial cost of the aircraft cannot be revealed due to the confidentiality agreement — was “absolutely false.”




Corruption cases will be decided within two years under the provisions of a new anti-graft bill passed by Parliament on Tuesday, Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Jitendra Singh said. He said there was a refrain in the society that corruption cases are lodged against public servants and they carry on for years together, sometimes even after the officer has retired or may have even passed away.

“Fixing a two-year timeline for deciding corruption cases, will not only expedite the decision-making process but would also avoid unnecessary harassment or ordeal that an affected officer or a public servant had to undergo in the past,” Singh said.

The Lok Sabha passed the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill on Tuesday after a four-hour debate. The Rajya Sabha had approved it on July 19.

The bill also has a provision to punish bribe-givers, who are not covered in any of the domestic anti-corruption legislation.

It proposes a ‘shield’ for government staff, including those retired, from prosecution by making it mandatory for investigating agencies like the CBI to take prior approval from competent authority before conducting any enquiry against them.

The bill, however, states that such permission shall not be necessary for cases involving arrest of a person on the spot on the charge of accepting or attempting to accept any undue advantage for himself or for any other person.




As momentum builds up for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress on Tuesday played safe on the issue of prime ministerial candidate of the Opposition alliance saying the decision would depend on “how the dice falls” and who gets the numbers. The party said that it would be open to backing anyone so long as he/she is not supported by the RSS.

This thinking comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacking Congress president Rahul Gandhi for “lusting for power” and accusing him of being arrogant about the issue of leadership of the alliance.

A top Congress functionary said on Tuesday, “The conversation the Opposition is having now is: Let us all get together to defeat the BJP. So, for now, that is the goal. Let us see how the dice falls. It will determine who the prime ministerial candidate will be. But we want to leave as little space as possible for the BJP and the RSS to play.”

The openness in the party comes as a surprise, considering top leaders in the CWC had on Sunday endorsed Rahul Gandhi as PM candidate of a joint Opposition alliance. Party’s media head Randeep Surjewala had said: “The party will be leading an alliance and the Congress chief will be the only face that will be projected…”




Opposition leaders’ demand for raising the issue of lynching incidents, a day after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced formation of a committee of secretaries and a Group of Ministers (GoM) to look into the issue, left Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan agitated on Tuesday. She said the same topic cannot be discussed every day in the House.

“Do not politicise every topic. The Home Minister had given a statement on this yesterday. If you want again, I will ask him to give a statement,” Mahajan said.

As one opposition member remarked that lynching incidents were taking place every day, thereby justifying another discussion, Mahajan, still unimpressed, said, “What can we do if it is happening every day? Something is being done from here too…whatever can be done. Now you will say punish them, but that is the court’s job.”

Kharge demanded that along with the committee and GoM announced by the Home Minister to look into these incidents, there should also be an investigation by a sitting judge of Supreme Court.

In reply, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the government is taking the issue seriously. He said this is not about the last two to four years, but such incidents have been taking place for years. He reiterated that the biggest cases of lynching in India were during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.




The Union Home Ministry on Tuesday avoided a direct reply on whether an inquiry was conducted into the recent incident in which External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was trolled on social media. The ministry said that an investigation is ordered in such cases (only) on receipt of a complaint. Trinamool Congress MP Prasun Banerjee had submitted a written question in Lok Sabha on whether the government had conducted any inquiry into the incident, and if it had, whether the standard protocol was followed.

In a written reply, Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said, “On receipt of complaints from affected persons, law enforcement agencies require social media platforms to remove such content or block them from viewing and take up investigation and other action as per law against the culprits.”




India’s multi-billion dollar military equipment market coupled with its dexterous handling of simultaneous relations with the US and Russia has helped it secure a waiver against sanctions that Washington had threatened to impose.

A committee of the US Congress last night (early this morning in India) okayed a country-specific waiver for India to escape punitive sanctions over its military deals with Russia. A US legislation, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), says sanctions must be imposed against those dealing with Russia.

A waiver has been granted to India, Indonesia and Vietnam — the trio using Russian military equipment and all vital for the US’ Indo-Pacific outreach.

Matters were clear that India was not going to back down under US threat as Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on July 13: “We told the US Congress delegation (that visited India) this is a US law, and not one of the UN.” Aware the US could ill-afford to lose the multi-billion deals, Sitharaman said the S-400 missile deal with Russia would go on as per plan.








Over 3.7 lakh troops have been deployed across Pakistan for Wednesday’s General Election, the largest military deployment on a polling day in the nation’s history, amid concerns over the powerful army’s interference after it was granted magisterial powers.

The Pakistan Army has said it would deploy 3,71,388 troops at 85,000 polling stations for the election. This would be the largest deployment for any election in the country’s history.

The countrywide election campaign, marred by a string of terrorist attacks, came to an end on Monday night, as political parties culminated their poll campaigns. Armed soldiers stood guard as election officials in the capital distributed ballot boxes and voting material at polling stations across the city. The troops along with local security agencies will provide “a safe and secure environment” for voting, the military said.

Security forces have also warned that leaders of mainstream parties and certain candidates face serious security threats. This has also affected the traditional election fervour.

In the run-up to the election, the country was hit by a series of terror attacks on candidates and campaign rallies, including one that killed 151 persons in Balochistan province on July 13. Questions have also been raised about the role of the military after reports that it was given magisterial powers. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was also criticised for deploying the army both inside and outside polling stations.





Nine Australians involved in rescuing 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand have been awarded bravery medals for putting their lives in danger during the treacherous ordeal. Governor-General Peter Cosgrove said anaesthetist Richard Harris and his dive buddy Craig Challen have been awarded the Star of Courage, the second highest civilian bravery decoration in Australia. Six police and a navy diver received the lesser Bravery Medal.

Meanwhile, 11 of the 12 boys had their heads shaved in a ceremony yesterday as they prepared to be ordained as novice Buddhist monks, in a gesture to honour their rescuers.They will leave the monastery and return to civilian life after nine days. One of their teammates is a Christian and instead attended a local church to perform a separate ceremony.







Mumbaikars are facing bandh today after large-scale violence marred a state-wide protest on Tuesday by Maratha outfits demanding reservations for the community in Maharashtra, where a constable died and nine other policemen were injured amid a suicide attempt by three agitators.

As the stir for reservations in jobs and education intensified, the Maratha Kranti Morcha, which is spearheading the agitation, is taking its battle to Mumbai where it has called for the shutdown. Another outfit, the Sakal Maratha Samaj, called for a bandh on Wednesday in Navi Mumbai and Panvel as well.

Quotas for Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 per cent of the state’s population, has been a hugely contentious issue.


A judicial inquiry has been ordered into the death of Haryana resident Rakbar alias Akbar, 31, who was allegedly caught by cow vigilantes and handed over to the police, even as Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria and Director General of Police O P Galhotra reached Alwar on Tuesday to take stock of the situation. There are allegations that he died of beatings while in police custody.

The decision comes after a visit by police officials under Special DG of Rajasthan Police, NRK Reddy, to Alwar on Monday. Reddy had said there was an “error in judgement” by policemen of Ramgarh police station as they didn’t take Akbar to hospital right away.

Ramgarh police reached the spot of the alleged assault in Lalwandi after 1 am, after being informed by VHP leader Naval Kishore at 12.41 am. However, the records at the local CHC showed that Akbar was brought into the health centre only at 4 am. In the meantime, arrangements were made to transport cows to a gaushala.

Kataria, who reached Alwar on Tuesday, said, “From evidence collected, it seems the death was custodial death, because he was with us and because the Community Health Centre is 300 metres away (from the police station) and hence it has automatically qualified for a judicial inquiry.” He added, “This is a highly condemnable incident… We will carry out an investigation with honesty and perfection. After their investigation (of team under Reddy) it is almost proved that they took cows to the gaushala first. The first thing they should have done is take him to the hospital.”




Amid the growing outrage and changing narrative around the killing of Akbar Khan, which is now a big political issue, senior RSS and BJP leaders have condemned the “lynching” but added that such incidents would cease if people stopped eating beef and the cow was declared “rashtra mata” — mother of the nation.

RSS leader Indresh Kumar said cow slaughter was banned across religions like Islam and Christianity. So while mob lynching was condemnable, cow-slaughter was also a sin across religions.

“Jesus was born in a cowshed that is why they call it the ‘Holy Cow’. Cow slaughter is banned in Mecca and Medina. We should make it a resolution to rid humanity of this sin. If humanity gets rid of this sin, society would get rid of this problem (mob lynching),” senior Sangh leader was quoted as saying.

He was supported by senior BJP leader and union minister Giriraj Singh, who called Kumar a “mature” man who said what he had after “proper thought”. Former BJP MP and Hindutva poster boy Vinay Katiyar also termed the Alwar incident highly condemnable but counselled people from the Muslim community to refrain from touching cows and provoking Hindus.

Meanwhile, a BJP MLA from Hyderabad T Raja Singh Lodh also declared he did not want any “khoon-kharaba”—bloodshed—on the issue but if it has to stop cow should be declared “mother of the nation”.





The EC said to be struggling to meet the deadline it committed to Supreme Court for procuring 16 lakh voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines for the Lok Sabha elections due next year.

On April 24, 2017, the EC filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, promising to introduce VVPATs in all polling stations for the 2019 general elections. It also committed that the two manufacturing PSUs — Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) in Bengaluru and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) in Hyderabad — will deliver the requisite paper trail machines by September 2018.

As on June 19 this year, almost 14 months after the EC placed orders for 16.15 lakh VVPATs with BEL and ECIL, the poll panel had received 3.48 lakh units — in other words, meeting only 22 per cent of the target three months before the deadline.

This has a direct bearing on the debate and speculation over early general elections. Given the current shortfall in the VVPAT numbers, any move to advance Lok Sabha polls will have to deal with logistical challenges.

A VVPAT produces a printout of the vote cast using an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), which can be shown to the voter to dispel doubts. This printout is then deposited in a box and can be used to resolve any dispute regarding the poll results.

The introduction of the paper trail system is crucial for the EC to maintain public faith in EVMs whose accuracy, lately, has been questioned by Opposition parties.





Reliance Jio, which is set to disrupt the fixed broadband as well as media and content delivery platform segments with the launch of fibre-to-home (FTH) services, will invest Rs 500 billion on last-mile connectivity of 50 million homes with fibre over the next two to three years.

A team of around 10,000 people was being put in place for the FTH roll-out, with the company claiming that this would be one of the largest and fastest deployments of FTH broadband services anywhere in the world.

Jio’s target is to ensure that customers use an average of 500 GB a month, nearly 200 times more data than they currently use on their mobile devices. The network will offer customers speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. The commercial launch of these services, though not officially announced, could happen by the end of this year. At present, India has 18 million fixed broadband homes and only 1.25 million are connected with fibre broadband, though it has over 180 million TV households. On the other hand, China has over 120 million homes connected with fibre broadband.

Jio will woo consumers with new products as well as technology, offering them quadplay services — TV, data, voice and mobile — seamlessly working across the platforms, with a single bundled offer and just one bill.





India’s four-day practice match against Essex was reduced to three days due to the prevalent “heatwave” in England. The visitors claimed that the curtailed game would give them an extra day to rest and recover ahead of the Test series starting August 1.

After some speculation over the reasons behind shortening the match, it was stated that heat is the reason. The outfield was devoid of grass and the Indian support staff was seen having elaborate discussions with the ground staff after getting a glimpse of the green wicket for the match.

An Essex county representative maintained that the Indian team “was happy with practice facilities”. When asked about the rugged outfield, and whether that could have been a reason to make it a three-day affair, the representative declined to comment any further.





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If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars. – Rabindranath Tagore


Dukandaar ek aurat ko kapde dikha dikha kar thak gaya.

Aakhir bola, “Mujhe afsos hai ki aapko koi kapda pasand nahin aaya.”

Aurat: “Koi baat nahin. Main to vaise bhi bas sabji lene market aayee thi.”

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