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Newsletter 17 Aug, 2018




Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full term in office at the head of a coalition he stitched together with his moderate politics and charismatic appeal, died of multiple health complications at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi Thursday. He was 93.

He will be accorded a state funeral Friday afternoon and the final rites will be performed at the Smriti Sthal on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi.

He had been in AIIMS since June 11. From the AIIMS, his body was taken to his residence on Krishna Menon Marg in New Delhi for people to pay their last respects.

President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in paying tributes to the departed leader as the government announced a seven-day state mourning. Several state govts have declared a holiday today.

Leaders across the political divide mourned the passing away of Vajpayee, a Bharat Ratna, and many showed up in New Delhi from different parts of the country to pay their respects.

President Kovind said: “Atalji, the gentle giant, will be missed by one and all.” He said Vajpayee’s “leadership, foresight, maturity and eloquence put him in a league of his own”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “speechless… in a void” with a “welter of emotions” swirling at the passing away of Vajpayee. “Mein nishabd hoon, mein shunya mein hoon, lekin bhavnaon ka jwar umad raha hai. “India grieves the demise of our beloved Atal Ji. His passing away marks the end of an era,” Modi said.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee, writing to Vajpayee’s foster daughter Namita, said: “A democrat to the core, Atalji dominated the Opposition space like a titan and led the government with aplomb. An inheritor and practitioner of the best traditions and qualities of leadership, in his demise the nation has lost a great son. An era that will forever be fondly remembered has passed away.”


UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday led the Congress in paying rich tributes to Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Sonia said she was deeply saddened by his death. “Vajpayee was a towering figure in our national life. Throughout his life, he stood for democratic values and demonstrated this commitment in all his acts, whether as a parliamentarian, a cabinet minister, or Prime Minister of India. He was a spell-binding orator, a leader of great vision, a patriot to the core for whom the national interest was paramount,” she said.

But above all, she said, “he was a man with a very large heart and a real spirit of magnanimity. One saw that in all his interactions — with other political parties and their leaders, with foreign governments, with coalition partners, and indeed with his own political colleagues, whom he always treated with respect and courtesy.”

Former PM Manmohan Singh said “Vajpayeeji was a great patriot and was one of the greatest leaders of India. He stood among the tallest leaders of modern India who spent his whole life serving our country….Vajpayeeji was a great statesman and he proved his ability both on national and international level, by improving our relationship with all the countries, especially with our neighbouring countries,” he said.

Former Union Minister P Chidambaram remembered Vajpayee as a man of great wisdom, tolerance and compassion. “He led his party to its first victory in national elections and established the credentials of the BJP to run the central government. He will be remembered for many things, but above all for his genuine efforts to resolve the decades-long hostility between Pakistan and India. As long as he was at the helm, he resolutely anchored the BJP close to the middle and did not allow the party to swing to the extreme right of the political spectrum.,” he tweeted.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad says: “He was not inimical to other parties or their leaders. He would differ with the leaders of other parties on policies, programmes and ideologies, but he was never inimical to any other leader or party. That was his greatness which is why even when he was the Prime Minister of India, the other parties were assured that the Prime Minister and his government will not be revengeful. He may differ with them but will not take any revenge. That is a quality which made him ever-endearing.”



Low-lying areas look like turbulent lakes, midlands house an array of refugee camps and hilly tracts further eastward report repeated landslides, as monsoons pounded Kerala with renewed vigour on Thursday, taking the toll to over 100.

The spectre of rising floods effectively eclipsed the “Great Flood of 99”, which had been the biggest rain-triggered catastrophe the coastal land had suffered in recent history. That happened almost a century ago, in 1924 (in 1099 going by the Malayalam calendar), but that largely affected what now comprises the south-central half of the state. Unlike that, Kerala today has all its 14 districts under water for a week, wreaking massive havoc that has prompted the state to declare a red alert across the territory and the Centre to join rescue operations.

All but four of the state’s 39 dams have opened shutters, while 41 of Kerala’s 44 rivers are flowing above the danger mark.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan called Prime Minister Narendra Modi yet again on Thursday, seeking additional help. The Army, Navy and Air Force are already helping the state’s police, rescue operators and disaster management teams.

The Cochin international airport, which caters to two-third of Kerala’s air traffic movement, was closed on August 15. Sources said its operations are likely to remain suspended till August 26.

The weather department has predicted more rains, especially over the weekend, owing to the formation of a low-pressure trough.


Congress president Rahul Gandhi said on Thursday that any other leader describing India as an elephant that had been sleeping and had woken up only in 2014 would be declared anti-national but Prime Minister Narendra Modi got away with it.

Addressing the “Sanjhi Virasat” convention that resumed on Thursday after a long break, Rahul said: “Yesterday I heard the Prime Minister’s speech on Independence Day. Sharad Yadavji, had you said India is an elephant and it was sleeping till 2014, the RSS-BJP would have declared you anti-national. They would have questioned your wisdom.”

Rahul added: “But the Prime Minister said India was sleeping, all of you were sleeping, you did nothing. Whatever happened, Modiji did after 2014.”

The Congress president declared that the Opposition would remain united and thanked veteran leader Sharad Yadav for organising the Sanjhi Virasat programme that was attended by parties such as the NCP, DMK, JDS, RJD, CPI, CPM, Trinamul Congress, JMM, RLD and the National Conference.

Rahul said: “I saw an interesting thing at the Independence Day function. Children were clapping as Modi spoke. Clapping on every point. Then I noticed teachers were standing in front of them and they clapped to indicate to the children what to do. The message is that everything is a show, complete drama.”




Pakistan on Thursday condoled the death of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, describing him as a renowned statesman. Incoming PM Imran Khan said his death had left a void in South Asian politics. “Vajpayee contributed to bringing a change in India-Pakistan relations and remained a key supporter of SAARC and regional cooperation for development,” Pakistan Foreign Office said. Khan said: ” We stand with India in this difficult time.”



Hundreds of US newspapers on Thursday launched a coordinated defence of press freedom and a rebuke of President Donald Trump for denouncing some media organisations as enemies of the American people.

The Boston Globe and the New York Times took part along with more than 350 other newspapers of all sizes, including some in states that Trump won during the 2016 presidential election. Each paper ran a coordinated editorial on the issue.

Trump has frequently criticised journalists and described news reports that contradict his opinion or policy positions as fake news.

He lashed out again on Thursday, tweeting: “The fake news media is the  opposition party. It is very bad for our Great Country….But we are winning!”

The New York Times editorial said it was right to criticise the news media for underplaying or overplaying stories or for getting something wrong in a story. “News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job,” it said. “But insisting that truths you don’t like are ‘fake news’ is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the ‘enemy of the people’ is dangerous, period.”

The coordinated editorials were criticised by some in the media, including a CBS News commentary that described them as a “self-defeating act of journalistic groupthink”. “Seriously — Who’s going to be persuaded by this effort, or be impressed that a few hundred newspapers can hum the same tune?” the commentary asked



 In a dramatic escalation of tensions between the White House and conventional security strategists of the country, President Donald Trump revoked the security clearance of the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), John Brennan. Senior intelligence officials routinely retain their access to classified information and Mr. Trump’s decision to block Mr. Brennan was widely seen as unprecedented.

Mr. Trump and the country’s security agencies are at loggerheads over American strategy. The President has questioned the record of America’s intelligence organisations, particularly the unfounded declaration that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, paving the way for the invasion of the country in 2003. Mr. Brennan was Deputy Executive Director of the CIA then. He has been a severe critic of Mr. Trump. “It was nothing short of treasonous,” he said of the President’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July.





In a statement that indicates a new beginning, India on Thursday said the Pakistan army has given an assurance to take prompt action against hostile elements in the proximity of the LoC and respond to information shared by India.

The Director Generals of Military Operations spoke over the hotline mechanism that connects the Indian Army Headquarters at South Block with the Pakistan army headquarters at Rawalpindi.

Officials read three messages in this. One that Pakistan has promised action, two that Pakistan is agreeing to respond to information shared by India and three, that Pakistan will help in anti-terror operations. All the three aspects looked impossible to achieve.

DGMO Lt Gen Anil Chauhan told his counterpart that infiltration attempts by terrorists was a major cause for concern. “Pakistan must institute measures to prevent infiltration from the launch pads,” he told his counterpart. DGMO talks were conducted at the behest of Pakistan.



The Supreme Court on Thursday sought to know if the creamy layer concept would apply to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) so that the backward in these sections get benefits of reservation. The Centre replied that this was not possible as there was a legal presumption of their backwardness and once the entire SC and ST population had been identified as backward and provided benefits, it would not be open to withdraw these.

“Should those who have come up in life continue to enjoy the benefits of reservation,” asked Justice Kurian Joseph who was part of a five-judge Constitution bench set up to examine whether the apex court’s 2006 decision in M Nagaraj and others Vs Union of India case on reservation for SCs and STs in promotions requires reconsideration.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, also comprised Justices R F Nariman, S K Kaul and Indu Malhotra. Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that “once identified, to deprive them of these benefits saying they have crossed a threshhold, it is not open”. He added, “only President after due inquiry can decide whether they have crossed the level of backwardness and only Parliament can do that.”



Refusing yet again to give a voice sample in a case of threatening an IPS officer, Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav has finally admitted that it was his voice in the clip submitted by IPS officer Amitabh Thakur, who had accused the former CM of intimidating him over the phone in 2015.  “Investigation is on. The court will finally decide,” said the SIT head while responding to a question about the implication of the senior Yadav’s admission.

The matter dates back to July 10, 2015, when the 1992-batch IPS officer, Amitabh Thakur, had lodged a case of criminal intimidation against Mulayam Singh Yadav for allegedly threatening him over the phone.

The 2 minute 10 second conversation between the IPS officer and the SP leader is heard asking Thakur to “mend his ways” or face a repeat of an incident in 2006. The tape had gone viral on the social media.

In his complaint, Thakur had recalled the 2006 incident when he was posted as Superintendent of Police at Jasrana in Firozabad district. Thakur had complained that he had been assaulted by the local SP MLA and his henchmen at a public function in the presence of Mulayam and his clan for reportedly not catering to the undue demands of the MLA who was a close associate of Yadav.



The Supreme Court on Thursday sought views of various stakeholders on the draft Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) drawn up by the Centre to deal with claims and objections to the final draft National Citizens Register (NRC) even as it remained non-committal on the proposal for two months time to receive the claims and objections.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman gave the Assam Public Works, Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha — an indigenous people’s organisation — National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Progressive), Indigenous Tribal People’s Federation, All Assam Bhojpuri Parishad, Joint Action Committee for Bengali Refugees, All Assam Minority Students Union and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind time till August 25 to submit their views.

The court also asked Assam NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela to submit in a sealed cover by August 25, “the percentage of the population in each district (district-wise) who have been left out of the final draft NRC”. It also asked Hajela to make available copies of the final draft NRC in all panchayat offices and such other places so as to provide easy access to it.

Allowing the stakeholders to submit their views, the court, however, made it clear that it will not hear political parties.



Regarded by some as the father of second generation economic reforms, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was decisive and pursued his reforms agenda with vigour without getting ruffled by criticism.

Modelled loosely around the National Highway System of the US, he in 2001 launched the Golden Quadrilateral and the North-South and East-West Corridor projects to build 4/6 lane highways between four top metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata and from Srinagar to Kanyakumari and Porbandar to Silchar.

His idea was simple: construct arterial roads that could spur development just like what was witnessed in the US. Subsequent governments have only expanded on that theme.

But arguably the biggest reform of his tenure was the privatisation drive, which saw 32 state-owned companies and hotels being sold to private firms in five years.

For the first time ever, a Department of Disinvestment to process privatisation candidates was created and a Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment formed to accord expeditious approvals.



Although it has come late, India head coach Ravi Shastri did admit that the team management had erred by going in with an extra spinner in the form of Kuldeep Yadav for the second Test at Lord’s despite conditions being overcast.

“In hindsight, it (selecting an extra spinner) was an error. We should have gone, seeing the conditions, with an extra seamer. It might have helped.

India badly missed the extra seamer at Lord’s, where they were clobbered by an innings and 159 runs by England, who now lead 2-in the five-match series.

Braving the current situation, Shastri prefers to remain optimistic, saying there’s “no negative bone” in the current Indian side. “Just believe in your self. That’s what the players have to do. You have been in this position a couple of times before and you have responded. “One thing for sure in this unit is that there is no negative bone, inspite of what happened in the last Test match. Conditions favoured England and that is no excuse whatsoever. As I said, we are here without a negative bone and wanting to play to win, as simple as that,” Shastri emphasised.

Virat Kohli and his teammates have to be prepared to look “ugly and dirty” in order to deal with the conditions, Shastri said. “Conditions have been tough as you have seen right through this series.


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Real strength is being able to carry on when times are hard. – Miep Gies



A lawyer and an engineer were fishing in the Caribbean.

The lawyer said, “I’m here because my house burned down, and everything I owned was destroyed by the fire. The insurance company paid for everything.”

“That’s quite a coincidence,” said the engineer. “I’m here because my house and all my belongings were destroyed by a flood, and my insurance company also paid for everything.”

The lawyer was quite puzzled and asked, “How do you start a flood?”

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