Newsletter Sept 21, 2018




 The Modi government on Thursday said that Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan’s newly elected government will meet in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next week. The last formal engagement between the Foreign Ministers took place in December 2015 in Islamabad, which was followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden visit to Lahore.

This meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in New York has been scheduled after Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan proposed a meeting between the two ministers in a letter to Prime Minister Modi.

Swaraj and then Pakistan Foreign minister Sartaj Aziz had decided to resume the comprehensive bilateral dialogue process in December 2015, which was interrupted in January 2016 after the Pathankot terror attack.

The relationship, which had seen some bright prospects after Modi’s visit to Lahore to wish then Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, nosedived after the Pathankot attack. And, while back-channel communication between National Security Advisors Ajit K Doval and Nasser Khan Janjua continued, the capture and subsequent death sentence of former Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav in March-April 2016 marred ties.

The chill deepened with Uri terror attack in September 2016 and retaliatory surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by the Indian armed forces.



In a direct attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi who called himself as nation’s ‘chowkidar’, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday took a dig at him saying a slogan is now popular everywhere as “gali gali mein shor hai, desh ka chowkidar chor hai”.

“After becoming prime minister, Modiji told the nation that he is just a ‘chowkidar’ to take care of every citizen, but all his moves to eradicate black money by demonetisation, imposing GST as ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ on small and medium traders, waiving off Rs 12 lakh crores NPA of banks caused by 15 big business tycoons, and allowing Vijay Mallya to flee the country have established that Modiji is no more a chowkidar,” Rahul said while addressing a gathering of tribal people ahead of assembly polls in Rajasthan.

The Congress also demanded the resignation of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for saying that public sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Limited did not have the capacity to produce Rafale jets, which was a reason why the deal didn’t mature under the UPA.

Rahul Gandhi and his party cited the statement of former HAL chief TS Raju who said to a section of media that the defence PSU had the capability of manufacturing Rafale fighter jets in India.

Accusing Sitharaman of “trashing a PSU under her own ministry in a highly irresponsible and cavalier manner,” Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said the statement of former HAL chief had blown Defence Minister’s assertion out of the water. “The chief of HAL, who retired on September 1, 2018, after spending a lifetime in HAL, has made an extremely pertinent point that absolutely demolishes the case that the NDA-BJP government from the PM downwards has been trying to build,” Tewari said.



 Finance Minister Arun Jaitley launched a scathing attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi calling him “clown prince” and that he was “lying” about Modi government waiving Rs2.5 lakh crore of loans of 15 industrialists.

Taking to a Facebook blog to reply to Rahul’s charges made during his political rallies, Jaitley said not a single rupee of any debtor has been waived by the BJP government. Loans to the country’s 12 defaulters were given prior to 2014 and it was only the present government that was making recoveries, he said, adding that defaulters were losing their companies and assets as they were being auctioned to recover dues.

“You lied on the Rafale deal, you lied on NPAs. Your temperament to concoct facts raises a legitimate question – do people whose natural preference is falsehood deserve to be a part of the public discourse… The world’s largest democracy must seriously introspect whether public discourse should be allowed to be polluted by the falsehood of a ‘clown prince’,” he said in a blog titled “Falsehood of a Clown Prince”.



Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Thursday his government would continue to take tough decisions and expressed hope that the size of the Indian economy will double to $5 trillion in the next five-seven years.

The contribution of manufacturing and agriculture would be $1 trillion each, he said, while laying the foundation stone of India International Convention and Expo Centre (IICC) in New Delhi.

“I want to assure you that in the public interest, we have taken tough decisions and this will continue,” he said, adding India’s economy is gaining strength despite global challenges. Modi further said the government had recently taken a decision to merge Dena Bank, Vijaya Bank with the Bank of Baroda.

“What is the need of dozens of public sector banks. We have been listening to this debate for years but no one took steps in that direction,” the Prime Minister said, adding the government has also merged banks with SBI and has now decided to merge three more state-owned banks.


Moving to placate protesting upper caste groups in his poll-bound state, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan Thursday announced he will ensure that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is “not misused” and no one will be arrested before an investigation. The announcement flies in the face of a concerted move by the Centre to nullify a Supreme Court ruling in March this year which angered the SCs and STs because they saw it as a dilution of the law meant for their safety. That ruling allowed provisions for anticipatory bail to an accused, a preliminary enquiry before registration of a case under the Act, and prior sanction by a superior officer before effecting an arrest.

In August, ahead of a Bharat Bandh called by angry SC/ST groups and after protests by even NDA Dalit MPs who met at Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s house, the Union Cabinet approved amendments to the Act to nullify the Supreme Court order and remove any room “for interpretation by the courts”.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “Narendra Modi government cares about the development of our Dalit and Adivasi brothers and will strive in that direction. We have done that before and will do so going ahead.” The amended Act was passed by Parliament within days.

On Thursday, as upper caste protesters gave a call to gherao the Chief Minister’s residence, Chouhan took to Twitter to announce: “MP mein nahi hoga SC-ST Act ka durupyog, bina jaanch ke nahi hogi giraftari (MP will not allow misuse of the SC/ST Act, no one will be arrested without an investigation).” Earlier, he told reporters that everyone’s right will be protected in the state.





EU leaders refused to give ground to Britain’s Theresa May yesterday, warning that her Brexit plan is unacceptable. EU Council President Donald Tusk and French President Emmanuel Macron tore into May’s plan for economic ties with the EU after Brexit, saying it simply “will not work” and was “not acceptable”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said there was “a lot of work to do” before the bloc could agree a political declaration on trade, which Britain wants as part of the final Brexit divorce.

They were speaking after meeting without May at a summit in the Alpine city to discuss their approach to the final stretch of negotiations ahead of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU in March.

“We are today at the hour of truth,” Macron said, saying the bloc’s remaining 27 leaders expected “new British proposals in October.”



 North Korea’s Kim Jong Un wants a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump soon to hasten denuclearisation, but a key goal is declaring an end this year to the 1950-53 Korean War, the South’s President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday.

Moon said he and Kim spent most of a three-day summit discussing how to break an impasse and restart nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington, which are at odds over which should come first, denuclearisation or ending the war.

Kim, who recently proposed another summit with Trump after their unprecedented June talks in Singapore, said the North was willing to “permanently dismantle” key missile facilities in the presence of outside experts, and the Yongbyon main nuclear complex, if the U.S. took corresponding action.

The joint statement from the summit stipulates his commitment to a “verifiable, irreversible dismantlement” of the nuclear programmes, and ending the war would be a first U.S. reciprocal step, Moon said.





 Several passengers on a Jet Airways flight from Mumbai to Jaipur suffered nose and ear bleeding on Thursday after the crew “forgot” to turn on a switch that controlled cabin air pressure, officials said.

“During climb, the crew forgot to select the bleed switch due to which cabin pressurisation could not be maintained. As a result, oxygen masks got deployed,” the official at aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), said.

The Boeing 737 aircraft returned to Mumbai due to “loss of cabin pressure” and the pilots had been taken off duty pending investigation, a Jet Airways spokesperson said. “Out of 166 passengers on board, 30 passengers are affected…some have nose-bleeding, a few have ear-bleeding and some are complaining of headache,” he added.

There were 166 passengers and five crew members on board flight 9W 697.

The Jet Airways spokesperson expressed regret for the inconvenience caused to passengers and said alternative arrangements were being made for the passengers.

Television footage of a video apparently taken by a passenger showed oxygen masks hanging from overhead compartments and passengers breathing through them.

The official said all affected passengers were being attended to by doctors at the airport.



In a setback to the Congress’s plan to bring all anti-BJP parties together, BSP chief Mayawati on Thursday announced an alliance with Ajit Jogi’s party in Chhattisgarh and released a list of 22 candidates for poll-bound Madhya Pradesh. The move threw a spanner in the Congress’s efforts to clinch an alliance with the BSP in Madhya Pradesh and cast a shadow on the bid to project a grand alliance in Uttar Pradesh for the Lok Sabha elections.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi had been claiming that like-minded opposition parties would come together to defeat the BJP in the 2019 elections. But Mayawati had given indications that all was not well some days ago, when she declared that the BSP would be compelled to go it alone if it does not get a “respectable” number of seats in the anti-BJP alliance that was taking shape. She reiterated that message on Thursday as well.

According to the seat-sharing formula announced by Mayawati for Chhattisgarh, the BSP will contest 35 seats while Jogi’s Chhattisgarh Janata Congress will contest the remaining 55 seats in the 90-member Assembly. Jogi would be the chief ministerial candidate.

While the BSP has only one seat in the Chhattisgarh Assembly, it has 4.27 per cent of the vote share. The difference between the Congress and BJP vote share last time was just 0.7 per cent. Mayawati said she would soon hold a joint rally with Jogi.



 Extending support to flood-ravaged Kerala, the Centre has proposed that the GST Council should explore the possibility of a national cess to help the state find resources to rebuild its infrastructure, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said yesterday.

The Centre will also tweak rules to allow the state to borrow beyond the mandated limit, Isaac said.

Isaac said he was informed during a meeting Thursday with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley — the first after the state was hit by floods — about the “problems” in changing GST laws to permit the state to levy a cess for mobilising resources, as it had demanded earlier.

“He (Jaitley) pointed out that there are two problems. One, a cess for a particular state goes against the principle of a single tax. Also, the present software may not accommodate such a cess,” Isaac said.

Describing their meeting as “fruitful and cordial”, Isaac said Jaitley agreed “in principle” to allow Kerala to borrow beyond its limit during the process of reconstruction. “He has been mediating discussions on borrowing from World Bank and ADB, as well as other international agencies. The key issue is whether additional borrowing should be above the normal borrowing of the state. No state has been given permission for it,” Isaac said.

The state government, which has appointed KPMG to “projectise” its ideas for rehabilitation and reconstruction, has calculated it would need Rs 30,000 crore to rebuild — Rs 20,000 crore for capital expenditure and Rs 10,000 crore for revenue expenditure.



 The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order on a petition by historian Romila Thapar and others seeking a special investigation into the arrest of activists Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha by Maharashtra Police in the course of investigation into the Bhima Koregaon violence. A bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud asked the police to hand over the complete case diary. The police, meanwhile, produced more letters to establish alleged Maoist links of the arrested accused even as the petitioners described it as cooked-up evidence.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra Police, took the court through letters which he said were exchanged between Surendra Gadling, a lawyer who was arrested in June along with five others, and Varavara Rao. These letters, he said, had references about seeking logistical help to avoid road-opening parties of security forces in Maoist-affected areas.

Mehta said that Rao, in one of the letters, scolds the lawyer for not sending money to the cadre and the lawyer replies that this was because of difficulties in sending cash post-demonetisation and that security had also been stepped up. One of the letters to Rao said that force deployment was less in six areas, the ASG pointed out, adding “of these, four were ambushed later”.



The government has mooted an ambitious plan to digitise health records of all Indians by 2022. A new paper by National Institute for Transforming India speaks of creating a national digital health framework usable by the Centre and states across government and private sectors, a framework resting on two pillars — national health registry and personal health records.

Entitled “National Health Stack: Strategy and Approach”, the paper has a message from VK Paul, Member, Health, NITI Aayog, who says, “The National Health Stack (NHS) represents a holistic platform that supports a multitude of health verticals and their disparate branches.” The Aayog says the immediate use of NHS is to provide financial protection of Rs 5 lakh annually to 10.74 crore poor families under PM’s National Health Protection Scheme but adds it will gradually go beyond NHPS to enable healthcare provision and data sharing digitally.



 Amazon has launched a slew of Alexa-powered smart devices at an event in Seattle, as the company bets on the future of home automation. The new product range includes Echo Speakers, Subwoofer, Amplifiers, Microwave, Wall Clock, and more. The company has also introduced new ways for third-party developers to develop skills for Amazon Alexa.

As expected, the company focused a lot on a new range of its Echo-branded speakers. The most affordable out of them is the all-new Echo Dot, priced at Rs 4,499 and is available for pre-orders. Amazon says the compact smart speaker will start shipping to India next month.

Amazon will also start selling a Microwave oven, the company’s first-ever mainstream home appliance. It is priced at $59.99 and it will ship later this year in the US.

The e-commerce giant also announced the Echo Wall Clock, which will be compatible with any Echo device. It has a ring of LEDs around the clock face to show active timers. It will cost $29.99 when it launches later this year.



 In their first match, on Sep 17, Afghanistan had registered a huge win over Sri Lanka to force the islanders out of the tournament. Batting first, Afghanistan had then scored 249 and had bowled out Sri Lanka for 158, in 41.2 overs.

Rashid Khan has done the job with the bat and the ball during the IPL and more of that was witnessed in Abu Dhabi last night, In Afghanistan’s match against Bangladesh. Rashid produced the goods in all areas to prove to be the difference – his 31-ball fifty propelled Afghanistan to a confident 255 run total from a position of mediocrity. In reply, Bangladesh never really took off and lost wickets at regular intervals. They were bowled out for a mere 119, in 42.1 overs.

The remaining fixtures:

Sep 21 – Bangladesh vs India  & Afghanistan vs Pakistan

Sep 23 – India vs Pakistan   & Afghanistan vs Bangladesh

Sep 25 – Afghanistan vs India  &  Bangladesh vs Paksitan

Sep 28 – Final



(Indian Stock Markets were closed yesterday on account of Moharram)

Nasdaq 8,028 (+78) Dow 26,657 (+251), S&P 2,931 (+23)

US$-Rs. 71.74 GBP-Rs. 94.83, Euro-Rs. 84.15, UAE Dhm-Rs.19.53, Can$-Rs. 55.56, Aus$- Rs. 52.18

GBP 0.75 /US$, Euro 0.85 /US$, Jap.Yen 112.30 /US$, Aus$ 1.37 /US$, Sing 1.36 /US$, Bang Taka 83.10 /US$, Can$ 1.29 /US$, Mal Ring 4.13 /US$,

Pak Re 123.32 /US$, Phil Peso 54.00 /US$, Russian Rouble 66.47 /US$, NZ$ 1.49 /US$, Thai Baht 32.31 /US$, Ukraine Hryvnia 27.93 /US$

Bitcoin – USD 6,387

Dollar Index 93.49 Brent Crude 78.71 BDI 1373

Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,209 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 3024 / 2936, Silver (Rs. Per KG) 40,100



 Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. – William Shakespeare



In a sociology class, the students were instructed to write down answers to some questions the professor was asking.

“Next question,” said the professor. “How would you like to be seen by the opposite sex?”

A boy turned to the student next to him and asked, “How do you spell ‘intellectual’?”

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