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Newsletter 08 Aug, 2018





Muthuvel Karunanidhi, a titan of contemporary Indian history, whose 75-year career — as five-term CM of Tamil Nadu and DMK president for 50 years — deepened the idea of federalism and inspired regional assertion and self-respect in politics, passed away Tuesday evening. He was 94.

The announcement of his death last evening triggered mourning across Tamil Nadu, and among the hundreds of DMK workers who had gathered outside the hospital since June 27 when Karunanidhi was admitted for treatment following a dip in blood pressure.

Leading the tributes to the veteran leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Karunanidhi as “one of the senior most leaders of India”. Posting a series of pictures of himself with the DMK chief, the Prime Minister wrote: “Kalaignar Karunanidhi stood for regional aspirations as well as national progress. He was steadfastly committed to the welfare of Tamils and ensured that Tamil Nadu’s voice was effectively heard.”

President Ram Nath Kovind said Karunanidhi was a “doyen of our public life, as a contributor to the development of Tamil Nadu and of India he has few peers. Our country is poorer today”.

Officials in Delhi said Modi will be travelling to Chennai Wednesday to pay his last respects to Karunanidhi.

In Chennai, the Tamil Nadu government announced a seven-day mourning and declared a day’s holiday Wednesday for the final rites. The central government announced a day’s national mourning, cancelled meetings of key cabinet committees slated for 1 pm and said that Karunanidhi will be accorded a state funeral.

Wheelchair-bound since 2009, and retired from politics since October 2016, Karunanidhi was known for his Dravidian ideology and assertive politics built on a rationalist and atheist base. For most of his early political career, he straddled the world of cinema, too — as a script writer, he wrote screenplays for at least 75 films amid a busy political life.



Reprimanding Assam coordinator for National Register of Citizens Prateek Hajela and Registrar General and Census Commissioner Sailesh for giving statements to the press on the NRC process, the Supreme Court Tuesday warned them that they could face contempt action and time in jail.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman said it was sparing them further action, keeping in mind that they still have a lot of work to do to bring out the final NRC. The bench said the statements by the two officials were “highly improper” and told them to be “cautious in future”.

Justice Gogoi referred to the reports and statements made by Hajela on the documents to be submitted for claims and objections. “On the one hand, we are asking the government to submit the Standard Operating Procedure… On the other, you are saying any document may be included,” he said.

Hajela apologised and said that he had discussed with the Registrar General and was told that if there are any apprehensions among people, they should be allayed. He told the bench that he will not speak to the press on the subject again.


With OBC reservation politics on the boil in different parts of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday told BJP MPs that his government has brought in “August Kranti”, in reference to the passage of two Bills to empower people from backward communities, and Dalit and tribal background.

Modi, who hailed his government and each party MP for Parliament’s approval for the Bill seeking constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), asked party leaders to work hard to take credit for the “move that had not been done by four generations in the past”.

Pointing out that the government was quick in bringing the legislation to strengthen the law to prevent atrocities against Dalits, Modi told party MPs during BJP Parliamentary Party meeting that the ongoing Monsoon Session will be remembered for steps taken by his government for social justice.

Calling the session “historic”, Modi is learnt to have urged party leaders to observe August 1-9 every year as the social harmony week to commemorate the BJP-led government’s initiatives for OBCs and Dalits.



There is a “rising tide of anger” against the Narendra Modi government — and its four years marked by corruption, economic failure, incompetence and spread of social divisiveness — and people want the Congress and its allies to give them an alternative to Modi’s “bogus achche din” promise, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday.

Addressing a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party, Rahul signalled that the central theme of the party’s 2019 campaign will be “failure of the Modi government” to implement promises made before 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the alleged controversial Rafale fighter jet deal, bank frauds, agrarian distress, and the economic and job situation.

There has been a “systematic attack” on institutions ever since the “BJP and the RSS” have come to power, the Congress chief maintained. “In modern India, these institutions were called temples of democracy. Today, the RSS is intent in destroying every single one of them,” he said. “Every single institution is being penetrated by their people and the nature of institution itself is being changed.”

He claimed that the “crisis of governance” in India is at its peak under the Modi government. “There is a rising tide of anger against the ruling dispensation. That calls upon all of us to work very hard to give the people of India the alternative they deserve — an alternative to the bogus promise of Modi-ji’s achche din.”

Rahul said, “In 2014, when he was elected, Modi-ji said India had been a slow ‘passenger train’ for 70 years after Independence……Four years of Modi Rule later, sadly, India today looks more like a train that is being driven to disaster by an autocratic, incompetent and arrogant driver, who does not care what happens to passengers,” he said.





US President Donald Trump pledged on Tuesday that firms doing business with Tehran would be barred from the United States as new US sanctions against Iran took effect in spite of pleas from Washington’s allies.

Iran dismissed a last-minute offer from the Trump administration for talks, saying it could not negotiate while Washington had reneged on a 2015 deal to lift sanctions in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme.

“These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the US. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Monday Iran’s only chance of escaping sanctions would be to take up an offer to negotiate with Trump for a tougher deal. “They could take up the President’s offer to negotiate with them, to give up their ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs fully and really verifiably,” Bolton said.

The sanctions that took effect on Tuesday target Iranian purchases of US dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and its auto sector.




The unprecedented protests by the students demanding better road safety laws in Bangladesh on Tuesday fizzled out, with thousands of protesters returning to their classes after a nine-day stir that paralysed the country and left 150 persons injured in clashes with riot police.

The agitation prompted Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Cabinet to approve a tougher transport law and launch a crackdown on reckless driving.

Students were seen managing Dhaka’s traffic and checking whether drivers of cars and buses have valid licences. Thousands of students of schools and colleges took to the street on July 29, demanding strict implementation of road safety rules, following the death of two students by a speeding bus.




Struggling to address the problem of an ageing population, China has signalled the possible scrapping of its two-child policy and relaxing birth restrictions. And it started with the unveiling of a new postage stamp — showing a happy family of pigs with three piglets.

China Post unveiled the Year of the Pig stamp for 2019 Monday and commentators see the imagery used as an indication of China planning to abandon birth restrictions and a likely announcement to this effect by the end of the year when the country celebrates its 40th anniversary of reform and opening up.

There is also a precedent. China Post had released a similar stamp in 2016 — the Year of the Monkey — which showed two baby monkeys. Subsequently, the Chinese government had announced that the one-child policy had been abandoned.

The mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, People’s Daily, had carried an opinion piece the same day the stamp was released, saying that China’s continuing low birth rate was increasingly affecting Chinese society and economy. It also said that raising the birth rate required a systematic national solution. “China’s demographic dividend is dwindling, labour costs are rising and social security pressure is large,” the paper said.





Four soldiers, including a gallantry award winning Major, were killed in a fierce encounter with infiltrators close to the LoC in Gurez sector of north Kashmir’s Bandipore district on Tuesday. Two unidentified militants were also killed.

This is the first major infiltration bid and encounter along the LoC in Kashmir after the conclusion of parliamentary elections in Pakistan and comes just days ahead of Imran Khan being sworn in as Prime Minister.

While the massive counter-infiltration operation was still under way last evening, the Army suspects more militants may be hiding in the area. It has pressed into service a team of specialised forces to search for militants in the dense forest area. The Lashkar-e-Toiba claimed its men were involved.

The slain soldiers were identified as Major Kaustubh Prakash Kumar Rane, 29, of Thane, Maharashtra; Grenadier Vikramjeet Singh, 25, of Ambala, Haryana; Rifleman Mandeep Singh Rawat, 26, of Kotdwar, Uttarakhand, and Rifleman Hameer Singh, 28, of Dunda, Uttarakhand.

Major Rane, who was attached with 36 RR, was recently promoted and awarded the Sena Medal in May 2017 for his role in the same sector.



At least three fishermen were killed while nine are missing from a collision involving a merchant vessel and a fishing boat in the early hours of Tuesday, off Kochi.

The incident took place around 3.30 am when the fishing boat Oceanic from the Munambam fishing harbour was hit by an unidentified vessel, about 27 nautical miles away.

Indian maritime authorities were unable to confirm which among the four merchant vessels present in the area were responsible for the incident.

According to police, all the persons on board, except one, was sleeping when the mishap occurred happened. The ship hit the boat from behind, breaking it into two and throwing all the fishermen into the sea. It’s not clear if the vessel even realised that it had been involved in the collision.


An unseemly dispute over a burial site for DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, who died in Chennai Tuesday, reached the Madras High Court late in the day for a decision on whether the former chief minister can be laid to rest near the iconic Anna Samadhi on Marina beach or at the Gandhi Mandapam in Guindy.

Till late night, the court was hearing an urgent plea by the DMK’s lawyers.

The tussle over the site started hours before Karunanidhi was declared dead, when his son and DMK working president M K Stalin met Chief Minister E K Palaniswami to request that his father be buried near Anna Samadhi, the memorial of DMK founder C N Annadurai. Stalin was accompanied by his elder brother M K Alagiri, sister and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, and other senior party leaders.

However, DMK sources said, Palaniswami refused to grant the request. Instead, sources said, the AIADMK government offered two acres of land at Gandhi Mandapam. “The government told us initially that they couldn’t give permission on Marina beach as Karunanidhi was not a sitting chief minister. Later, they cited legal hurdles and raised vague arguments,” said a senior DMK leader.

The Marina site occupies a revered space in Tamil Nadu’s political history — Dravidian leaders such as C N Annadurai, M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa were laid to rest here. On the other hand, prominent state leaders from the Congress, such as former CM K Kamaraj, were laid to rest at Gandhi Mandapam.

Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi asked the AIADMK government to be “magnanimous in this time of grief”. “Like Jayalalitha ji, Kalaignar was an expression of the voice of the Tamil people. That voice deserves to be given space on Marina Beach. I am sure the current leaders of Tamil Nadu will be magnanimous in this time of grief,” he posted on Twitter.



In the wake of allegations that scores of minors were sexually abused in shelter homes at Muzaffarpur in Bihar and Deoria in Uttar Pradesh, the Centre has ordered a social audit of all 9,000 institutions in the country for children who are abandoned, orphaned or rescued. The audit reports are to be submitted within the next two months.

Union Minister for Woman and Child Development (WCD) Maneka Gandhi Tuesday said: “I have asked the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to ensure that the social audit is completed for all child care institutions within the next sixty days. I have designed the proforma for it.”

She said that the new proforma for the audit will go beyond the usual checklist of just the number of children, beds, and other facilities but will also include questions for a complete background check of those running the homes as well as the condition of the children.




Seven months after India found itself among the bottom five countries on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2018, the Union Environment Ministry on Tuesday said that “changes made” to the index, which saw India drop 36 points from 141 in 2016 to 177 this year, “have not been explained or backed by scientific arguments”, and seem to be “arbitrary.”

The ministry also said that the report “relied on data gathered by NASA satellite in place of actual monitored data”, and “has not been peer-reviewed.”

The biennial report by Yale and Columbia universities, along with the World Economic Forum, ranks 180 countries on their performance.

Overall, the report put India (at 177) and Bangladesh (179) near the bottom of the rankings, with Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nepal rounding out the bottom five.




Amazon may be getting brickbats globally for its not-so-friendly employee policies, but in India the world’s largest online retailer is trying to build a different image as it looks to motivate the workforce ahead of the challenge of taking on Walmart.

In an email sent to senior team members this week, Amazon India head Amit Agarwal has asked employees to allocate enough time for themselves apart from work and maintain a healthy “work-life harmony”.

The email says employees are not expected to take calls or respond to emails after working hours and no business decision should be made between 6 pm and 8 am. Situations that require urgent response would be left to an individual’s judgement, he added.

“We will have occasions and commitments that require us to actually want to be engaged at odd hours, and even over multiple days. That is what owners do – step up and do what it takes. But by not making this our normal day, we will actually enjoy these moments,” he wrote. He went on to ask employees to be more sensitive while making comments such as ‘half day leave’ about someone who might be taking early leave. Moreover, he asked them to steer away from forming negative perceptions around employees availing of flexible working hours or work-from-home. When someone is taking ‘time off’, he or she should ensure that they make it a proper ‘time off’ as it isn’t “cool” to respond to emails while on leave, he said.



MS Dhoni cleared the air about his international future making it clear that he is going nowhere till the 2019 World Cup in England.

There were rumours about his retirement when TV cameras spotted him asking for the match ball after the final ODI which India lost to England last month.

“(I took the ball) to see why we are not able to get enough reverse swing. Because we will be playing the World Cup in England, we have to (ensure) that we get reverse swing going… Because it is something that is very important. “If the opposition is getting it, we should also get it, at some point or the other,” Dhoni elaborated. After 50 overs, the ball is useless to the ICC, so I requested the umpire ‘can I get the ball and gave it to the bowling coach?’

“We need to work on it as to how we can get it more scuffed up so that we can get a bit of reverse swing going, that will in turn help the fast bowlers get those yorkers or wickets in and around the 40th over mark.”


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It is an established maxim and moral that he who makes an assertion without knowing whether it is true or false is guilty of falsehood, and the accidental truth of the assertion does not justify or excuse him. – Abraham Lincoln



A woman phones up her husband at work for a chat.

HIM “I’m sorry dear but I’m up to my neck in work today.”

HER “But I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you dear.”

HIM “OK darling, but as I’ve got no time now, just give me the good news.”

HER “Well, the air bag in our car works.”

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