Newsletter Sept 24, 2018




 Describing it as one of the biggest schemes ever implemented for change in the life of the common man, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday launched the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), under the Ayushman Bharat umbrella, which aims to provide an annual health cover of Rs 5 lakh to over 50 crore beneficiaries across India.

The PMJAY will cover beneficiaries identified on the basis of the Socio Economic Caste Survey (SECC) 2011 from 10.74 crore families in 444 districts of 26 states, and provide reimbursements for bed charges, and drugs and diagnostics two days before, during, and 15 days after hospitalisation.

Dedicating the scheme to the “service of the poor”, Modi hit out at previous governments of “30-50 years ago”, saying that policy makers in the past never tried to empower the poor, but only paid lip service to their cause in the hope of getting their votes.

Continuing on the same vein, Modi said: “They committed a fundamental mistake in their understanding of the poor. They thought that the poor always ask for one thing or the other….just give them those as freebies…this was the biggest fault in their thinking……you didn’t have a scale to measure the amount of self-respect a poor man has.”

Elaborating on the scheme, Modi said: “The number of people to be benefited under the scheme is around the same as that of all of the European Union… or all of the population of the US, Canada and Mexico.” He pointed to how ‘Lancet’, the reputed journal of medical science, had taken note of the scheme.

“No one needs to register for the initiative. A health card will be provided to the beneficiaries for availing the benefits. A toll-free number will be made available to the people for finding out more about the scheme,” the Prime Minister said.

According to Modi, as the scheme progresses, there will be many more job opportunities as around 2,500 hospitals and healthcare facilities would come up in tier-II and III cities requiring professionals from the core health sector, besides IT professionals, managers, paramedics and call-centre executives.



 In what is the first rebuttal to former French President Francois Hollande, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, through a Facebook post on Sunday, termed his statement as ‘questionable’ and added that ‘circumstances and facts’ demolish the claims.

Two days ago, Hollande had said Reliance Defence’s ‘partnership’ with Dassault Aviation was entered at the suggestion of the Government of India. Since then, the Congress and the BJP have been engaged in a war of words. Jaitley’s Facebook post is the first rebuttal to Hollande and his claims.

“A controversy is sought to be created on the basis of a statement made by former French President Francois Hollande,” Jaitley said in his post. He questioned Hollande, saying “Truth cannot have two versions”.

The minister said Hollande had stated that the Indian Government suggested Reliance Defence for ‘partnership’ with Dassault Aviation. In a subsequent statement, the former President has sought to suggest that Reliance Defence emerged on the scene after the agreement with the Indian Government was entered into. Hollande, in another subsequent statement, reported by international news agency AFP, said he was ‘not aware’ if the government ever lobbied for Reliance Defence and that ‘the partners chose themselves’.

Jaitley goes on to question Hollande saying “it may be mentioned that the former French President, Hollande, is countering a statement made against him with regard to a conflict of interest in his (own) dealing with Reliance Defence”. Jaitley was indirectly referring to media reports that Anil Ambani’s companies funded the film production of Hollande’s partner Julie Gayet.

The French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, also commented yesterday. He said that Hollande’s statements “render no service to France”.

Lemoyne told Radio J in France, “I believe that this small observation made abroad concerning the important relations between France and India does not do anyone any service, and certainly renders no service to France.” He added, “”As one is no longer in office, one is not best placed to reflect on a situation about aspects of the strategic partnership between India and France that have clearly aroused controversy in India.”

Lemoyne was in the opposition when Hollande was the French President from 2012 to 2017, before becoming a minister in President Emmanuel Macron’s Cabinet in 2017. His statement is likely to generate more heat on the Rafale controversy in French politics.



The Congress on Sunday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of violating the oath of office he had taken, suggesting nobody else could have tipped off Anil Ambani about the revised Rafale deal.

“Anil Ambani’s firm, Reliance Defence, was incorporated on March 28, 2015 — 13 days before the Rafale deal was announced in Paris,” Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said at a news conference.

“The agreement between Dassault Aviation and HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) was alive at that time. How can anybody know the Prime Minister is going to reverse the deal and buy 36 aircraft only, cancelling out HAL?” He added: “The entire defence establishment, the foreign secretary, the Indian ambassador to Paris, Dassault didn’t know of the plan. The cabinet committee on security (CCS) didn’t know. Only the Prime Minister knew.

“Who could have tipped off Ambani? This is violation of the oath of office. He (Ambani) gets his firm incorporated 10 days before leaving with the Prime Minister for France and gets the contract.

Sharma added: “It is a conspiracy not to tell anybody about the plan to cancel the contract decided through due process and inform one industrialist. The minutes of the CCS should be seized. The Prime Minister took post-facto approval for his personal decision. There will be an inquiry in the future and criminal cases will be filed.”

Anil Ambani has contradicted the Congress charge that Reliance Defence was set up 13 days before the deal was announced in France. At a news conference in Mumbai, Ambani had said: “The Reliance Group announced its decision to enter the defence manufacturing sector in December 2014-January 2015, months before the intention for purchase of Rafale aircraft. In February 2015, we informed the Indian stock exchanges of the companies we have incorporated.”



Eight months and 10 days after its decision acquitting AgustaWestland officials of corruption charges in the VVIP helicopter deal with India, an Italian appeals court in Milan last week gave its judgment detailing the reasons for finding no evidence of graft.

“There is, conclusively, no evidence of the corrective agreement stipulated according to the imputation, with the foreign public official, just as it requires the incriminating law,” the court said in its 322-page judgment. The detailed judgment was released last Monday by the court, although it was supposed to be issued within 90 days of the order in January.

The court also said that the allegation that the operational ceiling limit for flying the helicopter was changed on illegal payment to the then IAF chief was not chronologically possible as per the evidence submitted. Former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi (retd) has been alleged to be one of the beneficiaries of corruption in the case.

On January 8, the Italian court had acquitted former Finmeccanica president Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini on charges of illegal payment of 560 million Euros in the deal to sell 12 AW101 helicopters to India.

The publication of the detailed judgment is likely to lead to final closure of the case in Italy. There is little chance of any further appeal being passed in this case as it has already gone through a first-degree trial, two appellate trials and a Supreme Court ruling in Italy.





 Opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won the Maldives’ presidential election, results showed Monday, a surprise defeat for President Abdulla Yameen following a campaign observers said was rigged in the strongman’s favour.

Results released by the Elections Commission early Monday morning showed Solih had secured 58.3 percent of the popular vote.

Celebrations broke out across the tropical archipelago with opposition supporters carrying yellow flags of Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and dancing on the streets. There was no response from Yameen after results were announced.

Solih had the backing of a united opposition trying to oust Yameen but struggled for visibility with the electorate, with local media fearful of falling afoul of heavy-handed decrees and reporting restrictions.

There were also no other candidates at Sunday’s election held with all key dissidents either in jail or exile.


Britain’s opposition Labour Party prefers a new election to a second referendum on Brexit, its leader said on Sunday, heaping pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May whose plans for a deal with the EU have hit an impasse.

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has so far resisted calls to back a “People’s Vote”, or new referendum on the decision to quit the EU.

But the political landscape has changed since May was ambushed by the European Union on Thursday over her plans for Brexit, the biggest shift in British policy for more than four decades.

Corbyn, a veteran eurosceptic who in 1975 voted “No” to Britain’s membership of the then-European Community, said while he would listen to a debate about any possible second vote on Britain’s membership, he preferred a snap election if May failed to get a deal that Labour could support in Parliament.

“Our preference would be for a General Election and we can then negotiate our future relationship with Europe but let’s see what comes out of conference,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, saying Labour was ready to vote against any deal.

“We would vote it down if it didn’t meet our tests in order to send the government, if it is still in office, straight back to the negotiating table and if there is a general election and we are in office we would go straight to the negotiating table.”





 Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar will continue in his post, BJP president Amit Shah said today as he announced that a reshuffle of the state’s ministers would take place soon. The BJP chief said so in a tweet following a discussion with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s core group team from Goa.

“It has been decided during a discussion with the Goa BJP core team that Manohar Parrikar will continue to lead the Goa Government. There will soon be a reshuffle of ministers and their portfolios,” he said.

Parrikar’s poor health has sparked speculation over his continuation as the Chief Minister of Goa, and Shah had recently sent a team of central party leaders to the coastal state to speak to the allies and take stock of the political situation there.



 BJP president Amit Shah today said the “grand alliance” stood no chance against the Modi-led NDA government in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as it “lacks a leader, policy and ideology”.

Slamming the Opposition camp over the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC), he asked Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to make their stand clear on illegal migrants (Rohingya and Bangladeshis), besides accusing them of indulging in “vote-bank” politics.

Meanwhile, Kejriwal challenged Shah for an open debate at Ramlila Maidan on the performance of Narendra Modi government versus the Delhi Government.



CPI (Maoist) rebels on Sunday shot dead a sitting Andhra Pradesh lawmaker and a former legislator, both from the ruling Telugu Desam Party, ending a long lull in violence since the banned outfit decided to lie low after a bruising encounter two years ago.

Police said the rebels attacked MLA Kidari Sarveswara Rao and former MLA Siveri Soma when the two tribal leaders had gone to Lippitiputta village in Araku, Visakhapatnam district, for a “grama darsini” (village visit) programme.

According to an eyewitness account, 50-60 Maoists surrounded the MLA’s car. They snatched the weapons from the PSOs and tied the MLA’s hands with a rope. They ordered three other people travelling with him to get off and took them away to a distance. Then they shot the MLA dead, one of the security officers told television channels.



CJI Justice Dipak Misra will retire on October 2, a little over a week from now. In the last two decades, no CJI has headed as many constitution benches as CJI Misra and worked ceaselessly to decide intricate constitutional questions touching the political, personal, religious and economic life of the nation, its cultural mosaic and social beliefs.

A CJI-led five-judge constitution bench has already delivered a landmark verdict decriminalising Section 377 of IPC to legalise gay sex. The next nine days, of which only six are working, will see different benches led by the CJI pronounce judgments on several important issues.

From Aadhaar to Ayodhya, composition of different benches delivering judgments in as many as eight issues will involve 10 SC judges — CJI Misra and Justices Kurian Joseph, A K Sikri, R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, S Abdul Nazeer and Indu Malhotra.



Officials at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited on Saturday rebutted defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s claim that their facility lacked the “required capability” to assemble Rafale jets.

Sitharaman was explaining why the UPA government’s negotiations for a Rafale deal fell through and had to be reworked by the Narendra Modi government, with the offset contract going to a company owned by Anil Ambani’s Reliance group.

“We have the spare capacity and technical capability to make up to 30 Rafale aircraft a year. The number can be increased once our existing orders for other aircraft are fulfilled,” an official said.

Former HAL chief T. Suvarana Raju was recently quoted as saying HAL could have built Rafale fighters in India had the government succeeded in closing the original negotiations with Dassault Aviation.

The official who spoke to this newspaper cited how HAL used to make 12 to 13 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets and 16 to 18 Hawk trainers a year.



Adding a twist to an ongoing tussle between CBI Director Alok Verma and the agency’s second seniormost officer Rakesh Asthana, it has emerged that besides filing complaints against Verma, Asthana has also complained about his junior colleague, Joint Director A K Sharma. Sharma happens to be the lead investigator in the internal inquiry being conducted by the country’s top investigative agency against its Number Two, Asthana.

The CBI is probing Asthana in as many as six cases of alleged corruption. These are part of different ongoing cases in the CBI, where Asthana’s name reportedly cropped up during the probe. The CBI statement also said Asthana was maligning the Director’s image and trying to “intimidate” officials by sending a “frivolous” complaint to the Central Vigilance Commission against Verma.

In his complaint, apart from allegations against Verma, Asthana also levelled serious allegations of corruption against Sharma. He alleged that Sharma’s family members were running shell companies.



 Isro has assured that by 2019, the country will get high internet speed with the launch of four heavyduty communication satellites.

Isro chairman K Sivan says, “The launch of four highthroughput satellites will provide India broadband connectivity of over 100 Gbps by next year. Gsat-19 was launched last year, Gsat-29 will be launched by November and Gsat-11 will be launched from French Guiana by December. The launch of Gsat-20 is scheduled next year.” He said, “Together, all these satellites will provide high-speed internet connectivity, especially in rural areas.”

The satellites are special as they use multiple spot beams (a special kind of transponder that operates on a high frequency) that will increase internet speed and connectivity. With 500 million internet users, India has the world’s second largest internet user base after China. But India still ranked 109th in mobile internet speed and 76th in broadband speed, as per Ookla’s last November speed index. The country’s average mobile speed was 8.8Mbps and broadband speed was 18.82 Mbps.



An on-song Indian opening combination of captain Rohit Sharma (111 not out) and his deputy Shikhar Dhawan (114) literally toyed with the Pakistan bowlers to make a no-contest of a target of 238 in the Asia Cup Super Four tie in Dubai yesterday. India overhauled teh atrget in 39.3 overs, with 9 wickets to spare.

The nine-wicket victory, with Dhawan perishing thanks to a run-out, also meant that India will feature in the final on Friday, irrespective of its last Super Four clash against Afghanistan on Tuesday.

Afghanistan yet again came close to a win against a top-Asian team but faltered in finishing, losing the plot in the last 10 overs of the chase. They needed eight runs off the final over but experienced paceman Mustafizur conceded only four and also dismissed dangerous Rashid Khan (5). Afghanistan looked well in control with Hashmatullah (71) and captain Asghar Afghan (39) going very strong after losing three wickets. They stitched a 78-run partnership for the fourth wicker but Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza dismissed both to puncture Afghanistan hopes. Mohammad Nabi (38) and Samiullah Shenwari (23 not out) produced a quick-fire 46-run stand for the sixth wicket but that was not enough as they ended with 246 for seven, while chasing 250.



 Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it. – Publius Syrus



A lady walks into the drugstore and asks the pharmacist for some arsenic.

“Ma’am, what do you want with arsenic?” “To kill my husband,” she says.

“I can’t sell you arsenic to kill a person!”

The lady lays down a photo of a man and a woman in a compromising position. The man is her husband and the woman happens to be the pharmacist’s wife.

He takes the photo, and nods. “I didn’t realize you had a prescription!”

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