Newsletter Aug 28, 2018




All major parties barring the BJP pushed for a cap on election-related expenses by parties, saying only this can ensure a level playing field.

The issue of funding of political parties and whether there should be a limit on the amount of money that parties can spend during an election reportedly became one of the key discussion points at an all-party meeting organised Monday by the Election Commission of India.

In a statement, the BJP said “ECI may moot for better transparency than limit the expenses”.

The Congress, though not as vocal as smaller and regional parties, did not object to spending caps. Congree leader Mukul Wasnik said his party supports the idea, but for it a “formula can be worked out on how this can be done”. Later in the day, the party issued a statement saying it “wholeheartedly welcomes” the proposed amendment to limit “party expenditure by maintaining an overall party expenditure ceiling by multiplying the per candidate expenditure ceiling with the number of candidates fielded”.

Other parties were more vocal, pointing out that unlimited spending by parties distorts the level-playing field during elections. More than 40 parties, including seven national parties, were present at the meeting.

The EC said it would provide a “satisfactory solution” to the concerns raised on the infallibility of electronic voting machines as the Congress-led Opposition demanded return to paper ballots for the 2019 General Election.

Several participants from the Opposition block raised the issues of voting machine tampering and technical glitches in the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) system.

Noting that nothing final had yet been decided on the issue, a senior EC official, however, said: “One way to allay fears could definitely be to increase the number of constituencies where EVM and paper trail machine results are matched.”



 With barely a month to go for elections in Maldives, tension between New Delhi and Male has escalated following a tweet by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, calling for “invading” the island nation if the polls are “rigged”.

Maldives Foreign Secretary Ahmed Sareer summoned Indian High Commissioner Akhilesh Mishra Sunday and conveyed Male’s “displeasure” at Swamy’s tweet. The Maldives government has also submitted a demarche to the Indian government, where it expressed shock at the statement.

On August 23, Swamy had tweeted: “India should invade Maldives if rigging of election takes place”. The tweet included a link to a Maldivian news report on a meeting between Swamy and former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed in Colombo the previous day.

On August 22, Swamy had tweeted that Nasheed was apprehensive of “gross rigging” in the elections and that India cannot allow that to happen as a neighbour. “We need an action plan,” Swamy said, adding the “current usurper” Maldives President Abdullah Yameen has “humiliated Indians”.

Responding to a query on Swamy’s tweet, the Ministry of External Affairs’s official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “The opinion expressed by Dr Swamy in his tweet is personal. It does not reflect the views of the Government of India.”

Suspicions in Maldives on Delhi’s role has intensified after India expressed concern over the announcement of elections without allowing democratic institutions, including Parliament and the judiciary, to work in a free and transparent manner. India had said that it wanted “credible restoration” of the political process and the rule of law before the elections are conducted. Swamy’s tweet is being viewed in the Maldives as an indication of Indian strategy and a “provocative” statement from the ruling party in Delhi.


Stating he was “happy” Congress president Rahul Gandhi has made it clear he was not driven by prime ministerial ambitions, NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Monday said the aim should be to vote out the BJP and that any party in the Opposition getting the maximum seats after the 2019 polls could claim the top post.

“And I am happy that the Congress leader (Rahul Gandhi) has also said he is not in the race for the prime minister’s post,” he said at a party meeting in Mumbai.

Pawar pressed for forging alliances of anti-BJP parties at state level and favoured picking up the prime ministerial candidate after the election results, as happened after the 1977 and 2004 General Elections.


The commercial use of drones (unmanned aircraft) across sectors such as agriculture, health and disaster relief under new regulations will come into force from December 1, but delivery of payload, including food items, would not be allowed as of now, the government said on Monday.

All civilian drone operations will be restricted only during day time and flying will be restricted within visual line of sight which usually would be 450 metres, the regulation says.

Except nano drones and those owned by National Technical Research Organisation and central intelligence agencies, the rest  would be registered and issued Unique Identification Number (UIN).

The regulation prevents the drones from flying around airports, near international border, near coast line, state secretariat complexes. Besides, they cannot operate in strategic locations, vital and military installations.




 Myanmar’s army commander-in-chief and five other generals should face trial in an international court for genocide against Rohingya Muslims and for crimes against humanity, UN investigators said on Monday after a year-long inquiry.

The panel levelled the most serious charges – “genocide” and “genocidal intent” – over the ferocious campaign unleashed by the Buddhist-majority security forces against Rohingya Muslims a year ago. That campaign, in the state of Rakhine, sent more than 700,000 fleeing across the border to Bangladesh. At least 40,000 have escaped to India, too.

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief, is one of six generals named as priority subjects for investigation and prosecution in a report detailing military campaigns involving atrocities that “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law”.

The UN panel – known as the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar – blamed the country’s de facto civilian leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to use her “moral authority” to protect civilians.

Her govt “contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes” by letting hate speech thrive, destroying documents and failing to shield minorities from crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The report also criticised Facebook for allowing its network to be used to incite violence and hatred.


Iran on Monday demanded that the UN’s top court order the US to suspend nuclear-linked sanctions against Tehran, but Washington vowed to “vigorously” fend off the legal challenge.

The Islamic Republic launched a suit at the International Court of Justice over US President Donald Trump’s decision to re-impose sanctions that were lifted in a landmark 2015 accord.

Trump says the sanctions are needed to ensure Iran never builds a nuclear bomb. But Iran’s representative Mohsen Mohebi branded them “naked economic aggression”. His team of lawyers told the court in The Hague that the measures were already devastating Iran’s economy and threatening the welfare of its citizens. “The US is publicly propagating a policy intended to damage as severely as possible Iran’s economy and Iranian nationals and companies,” Mohebi said. “Iran will put up the strongest resistance to the US economic strangulation, by all peaceful means.”





In flood-hit Alappuzha, filmmaker Dhanya Rajagopal is cleaning houses. At Tripunithura, Dr Shibu KP skips his morning consultations and drives past Kochi to work as a plumber-electrician in Paravur. Further north near Thrissur, AT Jaya is spending the Onam break with her college students — all of them carrying buckets and brooms.

A consumerist state known for its burgeoning immigrant labourers, Kerala’s elite are quietly doing manual work for those affected in the August deluge, for free.

In upstate Malappuram district, M Usman of the Parappanangadi municipal council is overwhelmed. “Engineers, CAs… holding a brush and washing toilets… We never expected such a response.”

Around Aluva, where Kerala’s longest Periyar river wreaked havoc, film actor Tovino Thomas has joined volunteers, gunny bags on his shoulders. A more popular Malayalam hero, Indrajith, is at a suburban Kochi camp for similar efforts.

Dhanya, an assistant director for a Mammootty-starrer, says he is cleaning up Kuttanad “because it’s in a real bad shape”.  It is to this low-lying area that Chennai-based radiologist Smitha Makkat took a train once rail traffic was restored. “Seeing the local residents’ optimism as I helped them out, I became cheerful,” she says.

Prof Jaya of Prajyothi Niketan College in Pudukad is making ravaged houses liveable.  “Emptying a house of its furniture before cleaning the mud requires manpower. Once that is done, there is a huge sense of relief,” she observes.

Assisted by his son Krishnanunni K, an MBBS student, Dr Shaju, a homoeopathy practitioner, fixes water taps and power connections.  “I always had an interest in repairing faucets and rewiring. I have the tools for the tasks too,” he says, working on a pressure cleaner. “Never thought they would come in handy this way,” Dr Shaju adds, pensively.


Unhappy over Congress chief Rahul Gandhi comparing it to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, the RSS plans to invite him along with other prominent politicians to a three-day lecture series it is hosting next month.

RSS national media chief Arun Kumar said Rahul had himself admitted he was trying to understand India. “Someone still trying to understand India can’t understand RSS. Rahul Gandhi should first learn what Muslim Brotherhood has been doing in different countries. Had he known what Muslim Brotherhood is doing, he would not have compared the RSS with it,” Kumar said.

He added all parties would be invited to attend the lecture series so that they could get an insight into what the RSS stood for. The lecture series, ‘Future of Bharat: An RSS Perspective’, will be held in Vigyan Bhavan from September 17 to 19.


Thirty-seven years after an Indian Airlines plane with 111 passengers and six crew on board was hijacked to Lahore on its way from New Delhi to Srinagar, a Delhi Sessions Court on Monday acquitted both accused.

Additional Sessions Judge Ajay Pandey said in the absence of identification and description of specific role of each accused by witnesses, the prosecution “miserably failed” to prove the charge of waging war against the State against accused Satnam Singh and Tejinder Pal Singh.

The two accused had already served life term in Pakistan for hijacking Indian Airlines Flight No. IC-423 to Lahore on September 29, 1981.


Major Leetul Gogoi, whose use of a human shield in Kashmir fetched him an award from the army chief, has been indicted by a court of inquiry for indiscipline in a scandal involving a Kashmiri girl. He is likely to face a court martial.

Gogoi had booked a room at a Srinagar hotel in May this year and arrived there with territorial army man Sameer Mala and a teenaged Kashmiri girl. Gogoi and Mala allegedly scuffled with hotel staff when they, seeing the girl, refused to let the major use the room.

Police, called by the hotel, had registered an FIR and recorded the couple’s statements before handing Gogoi over to his unit. An embarrassed army brass had ordered an internal inquiry.

“Orders have been issued to initiate disciplinary action against Gogoi,” an official at army headquarters said on Monday. “The court (of inquiry) has held him accountable for fraternising with a local (against service rules) and for being away from his place of duty while in an operational area. He is likely to face a court martial.”



A blend of oil from jatropha seeds and aviation turbine fuel propelled the country’s first ever bio-jet fuel powered flight on Monday between Dehradun and Delhi.

The 43 minute flight was operated by SpiceJet’s Bombardier Q-400 aircraft with 20 officials and five crew members onboard.

A blend of 25% of bio jet fuel and 75% of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) was carried in one of the two engines of the plane, while the other engine carried only ATF. International standards permit a blend rate of upto 50% bio fuel with ATF.

“Today’s flight was a technological demonstration that bio jet fuel can be used in flights. It has the potential to reduce fuel costs by 15-20%,” SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director, Ajay Singh said after the flight landed at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport.



 A Japanese rail company has defended a safety exercise that requires employees to sit beside tracks in tunnels as bullet trains speed by at 300 kilometres an hour.

JR West said it has no plans to alter the exercise despite complaints from employees.

About 190 staff working on safety maintenance for Japan’s famed Shinkansen bullet train have undergone the training, a company spokesman said. “The training aims to teach our maintenance staff the importance of every part of their jobs,” he said.

“We will continue this training while ensuring it serves a purpose and is done safely.” JR West introduced the training in 2016 after an accident in August 2015 in which part of the bullet train’s exterior fell off, the spokesman said.

The purpose of the drill was reportedly to impress on the staff how fast the train moved and therefore how seriously they needed to take their jobs.

But it has proved unpopular. “It was a horrible experience,” an employee told a daily. Another described it as “just like a public flogging”.



Neeraj Chopra scripted history by becoming the first man from India to win a gold medal at the Asian Games in javelin throw. Gurtej Singh was the last Indian man to win a medal in this discipline — a bronze at the 1982 Asian Games.

Chopra could have won the gold today with any one of his four legal throws. His first throw was 83.46 metres that put him in the lead straightaway. He recorded a foul throw next and then improved on his first throw with a massive effort of 88.06m. The throw bettered his old national record of 87.43m that he had registered at the Doha Diamond League earlier this year.

His numbers dipped in the next throw when he registered 83.25m, followed by an improved effort of 86.36m. His last throw of the evening was a dampener. But he had done enough to see the national anthem played at the main stadium.

China’s Liu Qizhen finished second with a best of 82.22m while Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem won bronze with a throw of 80.75m.

This was Chopra’s second big win in four months after his gold at the Commonwealth Games in April. The double makes him the only man to complete the double after the legendary Milkha Singh, who had won back-to-back gold medals at the Cardiff Commonwealth Games and Tokyo Asian Games in 1958.

Dharun Ayyaswamy became the first Indian to run the 400m hurdles in less than 49 seconds as he finished second behind Abderrahman Samba to win silver.

Dharun was trailing Japan’s Takatoshi before the last hurdle but pipped him to second spot with a timing of 48.96 seconds. In the process he bettered his own national record of 49.45s that he had registered during the Federation Cup early this year in Patiala.

Also making a podium return at the Asian Games was 2010 steeplechase gold medal winner Sudha Singh. Sudha finished three seconds behind Bahrain’s Winfred Yavi to settle for silver.

Neena Varakil was the third Indian to win a silver medal on Monday. Her fourth attempt of 6.51m ensured her a place on the podium in women’s long jump. The gold medal was won by Bui Thi Thu Thao of Vietnam whose first attempt of 6.55m was the best for the night.



PV Sindhu is one step away from making history. After breaking the 36-year-old wait for an individual medal along with Saina Nehwal, she went a step further as she defeated Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi in the women’s badminton semifinals. Sindhu beat the world No. 2 Japanese 21-17 15-21 21-10 to enter the final – she will take on world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying from Chinese Taipei, who tamed Saina Nehwal in the first semifinal.

Sindhu won the first game on a canter and then conceded the second despite taking the lead, before finishing off her opponent in the third.

The hopes of an all-Indian final were dashed in the first semifinal as Saina was well beaten by Tai Tzu-ying 21-17 21-14. Saina had to use every ounce of her energy and experience just to keep herself in the match. Tzu-ying’s superior net play, her deceptive drops had Sania under extreme pressure early on.



The Indian men’s team did the unthinkable by beating fancied Japan 3-1 in the quarterfinals to assure the country its first-ever medal in table tennis in the history of the Asian Games.

World No. 33 Kamal beat world No. 19 Kenta Matsudaira 11-8 12-10 11-8 in the only singles he needed to play. Rising star G Sathiyan, ranked 39,  delivered on the big stage, winning both his singles against 28th ranked Jin Ueda and Matsudaira.

Sathiyan hammered Ueda in straight games and took four games to get the better of Matsudaira.

Winning the quarterfinals against a strong opponent like Japan was a mighty feat, considering the team had played two pool matches, against Macau and Vietnam, earlier today.  The men had lost to Chinese Taipei 2-3 yesterday to finish second in the group.

Earlier, in the women’s team event, India lost to Hong Kong 1-3 in the quarterfinals.



Truth comes as conqueror only to those who have lost the art of receiving it as friend. – Rabindranath Tagore


A young man was a very slow worker and subsequently found it difficult to hold down a job. A well-wisher however gets him a job at the local zoo.

When he arrived for his first day, the keeper, aware of his reputation, told him to take care of the tortoise section. Later, the keeper dropped by to see how the young man was doing and found him standing by an empty enclosure with the gate open.

“Where are the tortoises?” he asked.

“I can’t believe it,” said the new employee, “I just opened the door and whoosh, they were gone!”

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