Newsletter Sept 06, 2018




 The Modi government on Wednesday dismissed the Congress demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal with France saying: “… to satisfy the ego of an ill-informed gentleman (Rahul Gandhi) it was not an option”.

With the government under attack from the Opposition on the issue, the top security brass briefed the Union Council of Ministers on the fighter aircraft deal, saying its cost was based on equipment and weapons that would be integrated into the jet.

The presentation was made in a bid to provide the leaders with facts to counter the allegations of favouritism and corruption being levelled against the government by the Opposition.

A senior government functionary said National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and the Secretary, Defence Production, Ajay Kumar, highlighted various aspects of the deal at the meeting which lasted more than two hours. The ministers were informed that it was a deal between two governments involving no private party, leaving little scope for corruption.

The Opposition led by the Congress has been attacking the Modi government over the deal, alleging that it was struck at an exorbitant price and had benefited an Indian businessman at the cost of the government-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The charges have been denied by the government.

Taking a dig at the Congress, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said questioning the deal was the “biggest ignorance”. He said cost escalation and currency variations between 2007- 2016 had to be considered. “The 36 jets will come in a fly away condition and not even a bolt will be fitted here … during UPA (rule), they did not believe in transfer of technology but preferred to buy (hardware) from foreign buyers …,” he said.



 On the eve of the hearing on a petition challenging the arrest of five activists, the Maharashtra Police on Wednesday filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court justifying the arrests in connection with Bhima-Koregaon violence and sought their custody for investigation.

The affidavit asserted that the activists were arrested not because of their dissenting views or ideology and that there was sufficient evidence to dispel the claim. In a pan-India crackdown on August 28, poet Varavara Rao was arrested in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad and Chhattisgarh and civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha in Delhi for suspected Maoist links.

Filed in response to a petition by historian Romila Thapar and four other prominent intellectuals challenging the arrests, the affidavit said evidence suggested they were active members of banned outfit CPI (Maoist). It accused the activists of being involved in planning and preparing for violence. They were also in the process of creating large-scale violence, destruction of property resulting in chaos in society as per agenda prepared by CPI (Maoist), banned since 2009, the affidavit stated.

The police questioned the locus standi of petitioners — Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociologist Satish Deshpande and Commonwealth human rights initiative senior adviser Maja Daruwala — describing them as “strangers” to the case.

The police said the arrested activists were not being indicted in the FIR for the first time but some had past “criminal antecedents” and were imprisoned. The whole process of search of the activists in June, including Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale and others had been videographed, police said. The raids were part of a probe into a conclave — Elgar Parishad — held in Bhima-Koregaon, near Pune, on December 31, 2017, which had allegedly triggered violence the next day.



Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Wednesday that the upheaval in oil prices and the rupee was due to global factors, and the government will not take any decision out of panic that could be misconstrued as a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction.

Jaitley was addressing a press conference – his first after his recovery from a kidney transplant surgery – after a meeting of the Union Cabinet. His comments come even as prices of petrol and diesel have reached a record high and the rupee has touched a lifetime low of 71.97 versus the dollar.

“If you look at the domestic economic situation and the global state of affairs, there’s virtually no domestic reason that can be attributed to the fall in the rupee. The reasons are global. We must bear in mind that in the last few months, the dollar has strengthened against every currency. As far as the comparison with other currencies is concerned, the rupee has always strengthened or remained within range,” Jaitley said.

When questions were asked on global crude oil prices and their impact on petrol and diesel prices, Jaitley said: “We are net buyers of oil and if by creating a shortage oil prices are temporarily raised, that adversely impacts us. That’s an external factor. We are not in the trade war business, but when countries neighbouring us devalue their currencies, it has a corresponding effect on us.”

“Eventually the inherent strength of the Indian economy has to play a very important role. The Reserve Bank of India is doing whatever is necessary to deal with the situation. I don’t think there’s any need for the world’s fastest-growing economy to react adversely,” he said, while replying to questions on the fall in rupee.



Conscious of the apparent rural backlash ahead of the three state Assembly polls and the General Election, the government on Wednesday relaunched the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) with enhanced incentives. It made the “world’s largest” financial inclusion scheme, launched in August 2014, an open-ended scheme.

Briefing the media after the Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, keeping in mind the success of the scheme under which “so far 32.41 crore accounts have been opened”, the government has decided to extend the programme with the “open-ended time frame”.

“At present, as the scheme was for four years (ended on August 28), only households were targeted to open accounts. But now, the individuals will be targeted with enhanced incentives,” the minister said, adding that the age limit for availing of overdraft, which has been increased from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000, has been revised from 18-60 years to 18-65 years.





 President Donald Trump and his aides reacted with indignation Wednesday to an unsigned opinion column from a senior official blasting the president’s “amorality” and launched a frantic hunt for the author, who claims to be part of a secret “resistance” inside the government protecting the nation from its commander in chief.

The extraordinary column, published anonymously in the New York Times, surfaced one day after the first excerpts emerged from Bob Woodward’s new book, in which Trump’s top advisers painted a devastating portrait of the president and described a “crazytown” atmosphere inside the White House.

Taken together, they landed like a thunder clap, portraying Trump as a danger to the country that elected him and feeding the president’s paranoia about who around him he can trust.

Trump reacted to the column with “volcanic” anger and was “absolutely livid” over what he considered a treasonous act of disloyalty, and told confidants he suspects the official works on national security issues or in the Justice Department, according to two people familiar with his private discussionsTrump questioned on Twitter whether the official was a “phony source,” and wrote that if “the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”

In a column titled, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” the person whom the Times identifies only as a “senior official”describes Trump’s leadership style as “impetuous” and accuses him of acting recklessly “in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.”

The column, which published midafternoon Wednesday, sent tremors through the West Wing and launched a frantic guessing game.



US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday and pressed him “to do more” to rein in terror groups operating from the country’s soil. Pompeo, who was on his first visit to Pakistan as the top American diplomat, told Khan that he was “pleased” with his meeting with foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi earlier in the day.

But at the same time, Pompeo asked Khan “to do more” at the meeting, which was also attended by Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and foreign minister Qureshi, media reported.

This was US’ first high-level dialogue with Pakistan since the new government assumed office after the July 25 elections and comes days after the US cancelled military aid to Islamabad for “not doing enough” against terror groups active on its soil.

Qureshi later said Pakistan’s perspective was presented to the US delegation. “We tried to understand their wishes and put forth our own expectations and concerns… Ice has been thawed,” Qureshi said. “Today, we felt that we have created an atmosphere to reset our relations, and the lack of trust that was present has been broken which is a very positive development.”

Pompeo later joined Defence Secretary James Mattis in New Delhi for Thursday’s “2+2” Dialogue.





Sacked DMK leader M K Alagiri’s rally, billed as a “massive show of strength” to press for his re-induction, was a tame affair on Wednesday with the usually abrasive son of M Karunanidhi sparing party chief MK Stalin any criticism, a move seen as extending an olive branch to his younger brother.

Alagiri, a former Union Minister who was expelled from the party by his father and then DMK boss Karunanidhi in 2014 at the height of the siblings’ tussle for supremacy, was expected to breathe fire and brimstone at the rally ostensibly called to show his strength but the event ended not with a bang but a whimper.

Days ahead of the rally, Alagiri, locked in a running feud with Stalin over succession, had made a climbdown and said he was ready to accept his younger sibling as his leader if the party re-inducted him. “When we desire to be inducted into the party, we must then accept the (Stalin’s) leadership. Isn’t it?”Alagiri had said.


“A writer should have free play with words, like a painter has it with colours,” said the Supreme Court on Wednesday rejecting a petition seeking ban on certain portions of Malayalam novel “Meesha” for its controversial portrayal of priests and young girls.

“We must remember that we live not in a totalitarian regime but in a democratic nation which permits free exchange of ideas and liberty of thought and expression. It is only by defending the sacrosanct principles of free speech and expression… and by safeguarding the unfettered creative spirit and imagination of authors, writers, artists and persons in the creative field that we can preserve the basic tenets of our constitutional ideals and mature as a democratic society where the freedoms to read and write are valued and cherished,” a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said.

Delhi resident N Radhakrishnan had sought a direction to delete certain paragraphs of the novel by S Hareesh on the ground that it “defamed” temple-going Hindu women. He had particularly objected to a dialogue between two characters in the novel, which he contended, insulted Hindu women.


ICICI Bank’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Chanda Kochhar, facing allegations of conflict of interest and non-adherence to the code of conduct, has denied the charges levelled against her by markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).

In her reply to a show-cause notice issued by Sebi, Chanda Kochhar said she was not aware of the business dealings between husband Deepak Kochhar, promoter of NuPower Renewables, and Videocon group promoter Venugopal Dhoot.

“The interest of the Videocon group directly or indirectly in the company owned/managed by Deepak Kochhar was never brought to the notice of the MD and CEO, since both had their professional life and were bound by respective confidentiality clauses,” she is said to have told Sebi.


In what could persuasively change the brick-and-mortar retail model in India, a bunch of techies from Kerala have teamed up to open the country’s first autonomous retail store in Kochi.

Branded as ‘Watasale’, the store, inaugurated last week at a popular mall in the city, does not feature any salespersons or cashiers manning the counters. Instead, it offers shoppers a unique ‘checkout-free’ experience using a combination of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, sensor fusion and computer vision.

The shopper can pick and choose whatever he/she wishes to purchase before coolly walking out of the store. Within five minutes of exit from the store, a detailed bill will arrive on the shopper’s phone for which payment can be done through mobile wallets, debit and credit cards.

“Right now, we have kept it open (where customers can pay later). Going further, we will have wallets where the customer will store a certain amount of money which will get auto-debited once he/she leaves the store. We are also adding an auto-debit feature from a credit card,” said the company.


The plastic trays that passengers put their hand luggage in at airport security checkpoints harbour the highest levels of viruses, even more than toilets, a study warns.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham in the UK swabbed a variety of surfaces at Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland during the winter of 2016. They set out to identify and quantify the respiratory viruses on frequently-touched surfaces in airports.

The team found evidence of viruses on 10 per cent of the surfaces tested and most commonly on the plastic trays that are circulated along the passenger queue at the hand luggage X-ray checkpoint.

The study, published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases, concludes that hand washing and careful coughing hygiene are crucial to the control of contagious infections in public areas with high volumes of people passing through. The findings add weight to previous studies showing that microbes are commonly found on surfaces in public transport vehicles and will strengthen public health advice in preparation for future flu pandemics, researchers said.



India might have lost the Test series in England but coach Ravi Shastri believes that the current crop of players are travelling much better than the teams of the last 15-20 years.

“If you look at the last three years, we have won nine matches overseas and three series (against West Indies and twice in Sri Lanka),” Shastri said while addressing the media on Wednesday.”

“I can’t see any other Indian team in the last 15-20 years that has had the same run in such a short time, and you have had some great players playing in those series. So the promise is there, and it’s just about getting tougher mentally. You have got to hurt when you lose matches because that’s when you look within and come out with the right kind of answers to combat such situations and get past the finishing line. One day you will if you believe,” Shastri said.

Emphasising the need of mental fortitude the Indian head coach said, “I think you have got to get tough mentally. We have run teams close overseas and we have competed. But now it’s not about competing (any longer). We have to win games from here onwards. Now the endeavour is to understand where you made the mistakes, take it head on and try to correct it.”

“The scoreline says 3-1, which means India, have lost the series. What the scoreline doesn’t say that India could have been 3-1 or it could have been 2-2, and my teams knows it. They would have been hurt and rightly so after the last game. But this is a team that will not throw in the towel,” Shastri remarked.


Naomi Osaka became the first Japanese woman in 22 years to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam on Wednesday when she defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-1 in the last-eight of the US Open, admitting she was “freaking out” inside.

Osaka wasn’t born when compatriot Kimiko Date made the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1996 but now the 20-year-old has the opportunity to go one better by reaching a first Grand Slam final.

In the men’s quarter finals, Novak Djokovic beats John Millman 6-3,6-4, 6-4

Kei Nishikori defeated Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4


Sensex 38,018 (-140), Nifty 11,477 (-43), Trading Value NSE (Rs.crores) 37,075

Nasdaq 7,995 (-96) Dow 25,975 (+23), S&P 2,889 (-5)

US$-Rs. 71.55 GBP-Rs. 92.12, Euro-Rs. 83.02, UAE Dhm-Rs.19.47, Can$-Rs. 54.28, Aus$- Rs. 51.41

GBP 0.77 /US$, Euro 0.86 /US$, Jap.Yen 111.53 /US$, Aus$ 1.39 /US$, Sing 1.37 /US$, Bang Taka 82.94 /US$, Can$ 1.31 /US$, Mal Ring 4.14 /US$,

Pak Re 123.22 /US$, Phil Peso 53.60 /US$, Russian Rouble 68.22 /US$, NZ$ 1.52 /US$, Thai Baht 32.75 /US$, Ukraine Hryvnia 28.28 /US$

Bitcoin – USD 7,133

Dollar Index 95.12 Brent Crude 77.08 BDI 1513

Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,110 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 2977 / 2889, Silver (Rs. Per KG) 39,500


Tell me who admires and loves you, and I will tell you who you are. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery


An Italian boy and a Jewish boy are neighbours. The Jewish boy is the son of a Jeweler and the Italian boy is the son of a hit man. Oddly enough, they have the same birthday. For their 12th birthday, the little Jewish boy receives a Rolex watch and the little Italian boy receives a 22 Beretta. The next day, they are out on the street corner comparing their presents and neither is happy, so they switch gifts with each other. The little Italian boy goes home to show his Father the watch and his Father is NOT pleased.

“What are you, nuts? Let me tell you something, you idiot! Some day you’re gonna meet a nice girl, you’re gonna wanna settle down and get married. You’ll have a few kids, all that stuff. THEN one day, you’re gonna come home and find your wife in bed with another man. What the hell ya gonna do? Look at your watch and say – ‘Hey, how long you gonna be?'”

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