Newsletter Sept 11, 2018




 Bharat Bandh called by the Congress to protest rising fuel prices evoked mixed response across the country amid reports of violence from some states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

The Congress said the bandh had been successful and the united protest by the Opposition parties had sent out a strong signal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that people were now “going to teach him a lesson”.

Although the Congress had given a clarion call to the entire Opposition to join the bandh, the BJD, TRS, and AIADMK did not participate in the shutdown, the SP and the BSP were missing from a joint protest in the national capital. The AAP made a surprise appearance. The Left organised a separate protest.

Representatives of 16 Opposition parties joined Gandhi first at Rajghat where they paid tributes and then in the walk to Ram Lila Grounds, where the assembly later staged a sit in.

Addressing a gathering of Opposition leaders comprising his mother Sonia Gandhi, former PM Manmohan Singh, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Loktantrik Janata Dal president Sharad Yadav, Gandhi said a united Opposition would unseat the BJP.

Launching a comprehensive attack on the BJP, Manmohan Singh also urged all Opposition parties to sidestep their narrow differences and interests and unite to dislodge the BJP in the larger interest of democracy and unity.

Gandhi later took the attack on Modi forward, saying: “The entire Opposition is gathered here in a strong message to the PM. We promise you from here that together we will defeat the BJP.

He accused the BJP of dividing India. “Modi says nothing has happened in 70 years. Indeed what he has done in four years has never happened in 70 years. Wherever you see, one Indian is fighting against the other. Wherever you go, they divide people. One religion against another, one caste against another and one state against another,” he said.



 Terming Bharat Bandh a “failure”, the BJP sought to turn the tables on the Congress and participant parties, accusing them of “creating fear through violence to hide their frustration over lack of support from common people”.

Though the BJP had also led several such protests during the regime of the Congress-led UPA, the party attributed the rise in fuel prices to global factors “out of the control” of the Centre.

When reminded of their demonstrations as an Opposition, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said protests were an essential part of democracy and theirs had never been violent. “They (common people) know it (increase in prices) is momentary trouble and out of the hand of the government,” Prasad claimed, assuring that “the BJP was standing with the people and also trying to find a solution”. People, he said, understood the government’s point of view and had refused to support the call given by the Congress and other Opposition parties.

Two senior Finance Ministry officials emphasised that the government is conscious, worried and vigilant about the falling value of rupee but is not alarmed, and said that markets need not panic about the depreciating rupee. The Sensex and Nifty registered huge falls yesterday.

Petrol price in Delhi hit Rs 80.73 per litre Monday while that of diesel touched Rs 72.83 a litre.

As calls for a cut in taxes imposed by the Centre and States grew louder, in an informal media briefing, a senior government official said that the cut in excise duty will impact fiscal math and dent revenues. “I do not blame the states, even their fiscal situation is precarious. Even states like Bihar, Kerala and Punjab are not in a position to cut state levies on petrol/diesel,” the official said.

Another official raised concerns over implementation of development projects if the Centre and states reduce taxes.



The Delhi High Court Monday dismissed pleas by Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi against the Income Tax department’s decision to re-open their tax assessments for the financial year 2011-2012 in connection with the National Herald newspaper case.

Reacting to the ruling, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra described it as a “victory of the common man”. He alleged that ‘Bharat Bandh’ call given by the Congress was to divert the people’s attention from the hearing involving its “corrupt” leaders.

The Congress hit back and dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fight a “political battle” with Rahul Gandhi instead of seeking “petty revenge”.

The income tax probe against the Congress leaders stems from an investigation into a complaint filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy before a trial court in connection with the National Herald case.

The complaint accused Sonia, Rahul and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds. It alleged that Young Indian (YI), which was incorporated as organisation in November 2010 with a capital of Rs 50 lakh, had acquired almost all shareholdings of Associate Journals Lts (AJL), which ran the National Herald newspaper. In this process, it was alleged, YI also acquired AJL’s debt of Rs 90 crore. YI is a not-for-profit organisation.

The tax department had said that the shares Rahul has in YI would lead him to have an income of Rs 154 crore and not about Rs 68 lakh, as was assessed earlier.


Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu focused on Hinduism’s respect for all people and religions at the final day of the World Hindu Congress in Chicago. The conference was held to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekanada’s speech at the World Parliament of Religion.

“Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava. We respect all religions. Does not mean condemning any religion for sake of votes. That is the spirit of this land. We should ensure that this behaviour is enforced,” Naidu said.

Naidu listed out several essential elements of the Hinduism “way of life”, drawing heavily from Vivekananda’s teachings. He stated that “the only country that accepts all religions is India” and that Hindus must “prove to the world how Hindus are different”. “How you are different cannot be explained in words and theories and other things. It should be through your actions. Ideal behaviour is more important than ideology,” he said.

Naidu said that India could spread its spiritual teachings across the globe. Even though we have so much strength, we never attacked anyone in history,” said Naidu.





 The US announced Monday it will shutter the Palestinians’ mission in Washington, adding further pressure on them to enter into peace talks with Israel. State Department spokeswoman Heath Nauert accused the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) of refusing to support negotiations while a Palestinian official called the move a “dangerous escalation” of tensions in the region.

“We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians,” said Nauert.

“However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” Nauert added.


 Sweden faced political deadlock on Monday after the far-right made gains in legislative elections whose result makes it tough to form a functioning government.

Neither Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s centre-left bloc nor the centre-right opposition garnered a majority.

The far-right Sweden Democrats, with roots in the neo-Nazi movement, solidified their position as third-biggest party with 17.6 per  cent, up almost five points from the previous election-though they have yet to shake their pariah status.

The Social Democrats won 28.4 per cent of votes, down 2.6 points from the 2014 elections and their worst score in a century. Lofven has extended an invitation to the opposition to break the deadlock. The four-party Alliance has so far rejected his offer, urging him to step down and make way for them to form a government. “This government has had its chance. It has to resign,” Alliance opposition leader Ulf Kristersson said.

Far-right parties have gained strength in several European countries, including Germany and Italy. Far-right leaders in Austria, Italy and France hailed the Sweden Democrats’ results.



 The UN’s new humanitarian chief warned on Monday that a large-scale military operation against the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib could create “the worst humanitarian catastrophe” of this century.

“There needs to be ways of dealing with this problem that don’t turn the next few months in Idlib into the worst humanitarian catastrophe with the biggest loss of life in the 21st century,” Mark Lowcock told reporters in Geneva.

His remarks came as Syrian troops, backed by Russia and Iran, massed around the northwestern province ahead of an expected onslaught against the largest rebel-held zone left in the country.

Idlib is home to some three million people — around half of them displaced from other parts of the country.





The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Monday announced it would not take part in the local body elections scheduled for October-December, a week after the National Conference said it was boycotting the elections until the Centre clarified its stand on Article 35-A.

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said instead of holding elections, the Jammu and Kashmir Government must focus on confidence-building steps.

“The party urges the government to review its decision to hold local elections at this juncture against the will of the people and instead focus on confidence-building measures so the state is assured of the inviolability of the constitutional guarantee that makes it a special part of the Union of India,” she said.


The Republican Party of India (A) has decided to approach Supreme Court to challenge the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s advisory to replace the word Dalit with Scheduled Caste.

Minister of State, Social Justice and Empowerment, and RPI (A) president, Ramdas Athawale, says: “My party has taken a decision to approach the Supreme Court to ensure that the word Dalit is not replaced with Scheduled Caste. It is not only unjust but also undemocratic.”

The RPI (A) plea is to ensure that the earlier order is stayed so that there is no restriction on the use of the word Dalit by individuals or organisations, he said. Athawale’s party is an ally of the NDA at the Centre and in Maharashtra.

Conceding that all government records use Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, he said: “The word Dalit has a larger socio-economic significance. It is not a word coined to depict any caste, community or religion. But it incorporates and accommodates the larger socio-economical backwardness, beyond an individual’s caste, community and religion. Therefore, it has to be perceived through the social spectrum.”



The BJP scored an own goal on Monday with a graphic on oil prices that sought to show the UPA government in poor light but got called out for lying, misrepresentation and a schoolboy howler.

The BJP posted a graph with the tweet “Truth of hike in petrol prices!” which was re-tweeted by at least two ministers, Ananth Kumar and M.J. Akbar.

The graph mapped the percentage rise in petrol prices over 14 years, but visually represented the increase from Rs 71.41 on May 16, 2014, to Rs 80.73 on Monday as a 13 per cent fall, inviting ridicule. It also showed a rise of 20.5 per cent across the tenure of the UPA’s first government, and a 75.8 per cent jump during the term of its second.

It’s possible that the BJP wanted to highlight that the rise of 13 per cent was lower than the UPA II-era rise of 75.8 per cent, but the design of the graphic ended up creating an impression visually that a price of Rs 80.73 is lower than one of  Rs 71.41, triggering hoots of laughter in the Twitter world.

Also, the BJP omitted to mention the prices of international crude on the same dates. The Congress quickly filled in the blanks, tweeting: “There! Fixed it for you.”

The Congress’s graphic  showed that the crude prices had dropped by 34 per cent between May 16, 2014, and Monday while the price of petrol had risen 13 per cent.

It also showed that the rise in petrol prices during UPA rule was outstripped by a sharper rate of increase in international crude prices.


HDFC Bank vice-president Siddharth Sanghvi, whose body was found in Kalyan early Monday, sustained at least 13 stab injuries.

Postmortem examination was conducted on Sanghvi’s body at KEM Hospital in the afternoon. Findings indicate suspicions that his throat was first slit from behind, following which, he was stabbed multiple times.

Forensic experts suggested his murder seemed well-planned.


Over optimistic bankers, slowdown in government’s decision-making process and moderation in economic growth mainly contributed to the mounting bad loans, former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan told a parliamentary panel.

“A variety of governance problems such as the suspect allocation of coal mines coupled with the fear of investigation slowed down government decision making in Delhi, both in the UPA and the subsequent NDA governments,” Rajan said in a note to the chairman of estimates committee Murli Manohar Joshi.

Project cost overruns escalated for stalled projects and they became increasingly unable to service debt, he said, adding the continuing travails of the stranded power plants, even though India is short of power, suggest government decision-making has not picked up sufficient pace to date.

He further said a larger number of bad loans originated in the period 2006-2008 when economic growth was strong and previous infrastructure projects such as power plants had been completed on time and within budget.

“It is at such times that banks make mistakes. They extrapolate past growth and performance to the future. So, they are willing to accept higher leverage in projects, and less promoter equity. This is the historic phenomenon of irrational exuberance, common across countries at such a phase in the cycle, he said.

On malfeasance and corruption behind the NPA problem, he said, “Undoubtedly, there was some, but it is hard to tell banker exuberance, incompetence and corruption apart”.


An NGO has urged the Centre to set up a national commission for men and exhorted all men to vote Nota (none of the above) in the next general election in protest at governments’ and political parties’ indifference towards their plight.

The Bangalore-headquartered Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (Crisp) claims there’s a rise in male suicides because of domestic violence and the denial of child custody rights to fathers after divorce.

A statement released by Crisp president Kumar Jahgirdar on the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day, which falls on September 10, says India has become the unofficial world suicide capital. “We have been seeing (a) lot of fathers committing suicide since they are not able to meet their children, added to domestic violence at home,” the statement says.

It says its objective is “to create awareness of the problems faced by men in general and with demands to defend their human rights as citizens of this country”.

The NGO claims that scores of men commit suicide every year because of false cases filed against them under penal code sections 498A (cruelty by husband or in-laws) and 304B (dowry death).

It says the Supreme Court has described the abuse of these laws by unscrupulous women as “legal terrorism”.


Alastair Cook marked his 291st and final Test innings in fairytale fashion with a century as England closed in on victory over India on the fourth day of the fifth Test.

The 33-year-old scored 147 in a third wicket partnership of 259 runs with skipper Joe Root as England moved on from 114/2 to 423/8 declared.

Cook was given numerous standing ovations from the crowd who flocked to The Oval, the longest and loudest when he completed his 33rd Test century before lunch. His 286-ball knock helped Cook climb to fifth on the all-time list of Test run scorers. Root weighed in with 125 from 190 balls as he returned to form with his first Test century for a year.

Root and Cook were dismissed in consecutive balls by part-time off spinner Hanuma Vihari and a flurry of wickets went down as England looked to top up their total for a declaration.

Set a notional 464 for victory India lost their first three wickets for two runs with James Anderson removing Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara lbw in his second over. When Stuart Broad removed Virat Kohli for a golden duck India were in disarray.

Anderson, 36, needs one more wicket to surpass the 563 of Australia’s Glenn McGrath and become the most successful fast bowler in Test history. India, looking demoralised as their hopes of salvaging a consolation victory from a losing series evaporated, steadied the ship somewhat to end the day on 58/3.

Opener KL Rahul played some attractive shots to reach 46 at the close with Ajinkya Rahane on 10. Despite Anderson’s late burst, the day belonged to Cook and the final overs were played out to a chorus of fans chanting the name of England’s most prolific batsman.

Scores at end of day 4: England 332 & 423/8 declared; India 292 & 58/3


Sensex 37,922(-468), Nifty 11,438 (-151), Trading Value NSE (Rs.crores) 33,574

Nasdaq 7,924 (+22) Dow 25,857 (-59), S&P 2,877 (+5)

US$-Rs. 72.40 GBP-Rs. 93.92, Euro-Rs. 83.82, UAE Dhm-Rs.19.70, Can$-Rs. 54.96, Aus$- Rs. 51.50

GBP 0.77 /US$, Euro 0.86 /US$, Jap.Yen 111.06 /US$, Aus$ 1.40 /US$, Sing 1.37 /US$, Bang Taka 83.13 /US$, Can$ 1.31 /US$, Mal Ring 4.14 /US$,

Pak Re 123.44 /US$, Phil Peso 53.83 /US$, Russian Rouble 70.16 /US$, NZ$ 1.53 /US$, Thai Baht 32.79 /US$, Ukraine Hryvnia 28.12 /US$

Bitcoin – USD 6,284

Dollar Index 95.11 Brent Crude 77.48 BDI 1482

Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,194 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 3011 / 2923, Silver (Rs. Per KG) 39,800


The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights. – Muhammad Ali


The old man had passed away. A wonderful funeral was in progress and the country preacher went on and on about the good traits of the deceased, what an honest man he was, and what a loving husband and kind father he was.

Finally, the widow leaned over and whispered to one of her children, “Go up there and take a look in the coffin and see if that’s really your pa.”

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