2019, March, Newsletter

India Newsletter Mar 15, 2019





Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday blamed Prime Minister Narendra
Modi after China again blocked a move by the United Nations Security Council
to designate Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad’s chief Masood Azhar a global
terrorist. “Weak Modi is scared of Xi,” he said in a tweet. “Not a word
comes out of his mouth when China acts against India.”

Gandhi also took a jibe at Modi’s diplomacy with China, which he claimed
included sitting with Xi on a swing at Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Ashram in 2014
and hugging the Chinese president.

“With China having blocked our bid to designate Masood Azhar a global
terrorist, the question on every Indian’s mind is, what was the use of all
the swinging with Modi and President Xi,” the Congress said on its official
Twitter handle. “A terrorist responsible for such bloody murders is let off
the hook again by the BJP.”

Reacting to Gandhi’s tweet, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad inquired
why the Congress chief felt happy when the entire country was in pain.
Prasad asked whether Gandhi had written a similar tweet when China in 2009
had also used a technical hold to defeat a bid to designate Azhar as a
global terrorist. The Congress-led UPA was in power back then.

Prasad claimed that the current government was “undoing all mistakes” of the
Gandhi family. “China wouldn’t be in the UNSC had your great grandfather not
‘gifted’ it to them at India’s cost,” he said, referring to former Prime
Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. “India is undoing all mistakes of your family. Be
assured that India will win the fight against terror.”

National Conference leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar
Abdullah, meanwhile, addressed Prasad and claimed it was the BJP-led
government that had given Pakistan “a big victory” by failing to hold
Assembly elections in the state. “If anyone is giving Pakistan a reason to
celebrate, it isn’t Rahul Gandhi,” Abdullah said in a tweet. “Look closer to
home sir.” Abdullah claimed that Modi had surrendered to China on Azhar and
capitulated to Pakistan and its proxies by delaying elections in Jammu and
Kashmir. “How can the BJP claim to have been tough on internal security and
tough against terror?”

Later, Finance minister Arun Jaitley also took to twitter. “The original
mistake, both on Kashmir and China, was committed by the same person,”
Jaitley tweeted. “Pandit Nehru’s infamous letter to Chief Ministers’ dated
August 2, 1955 states ‘Informally, suggestions have been made by the United
States that China should be taken into the United Nations but not in the
Security Council, and that India should take her place in the Security
Council. We cannot, of course, accept this as it means falling out with
China and it would be very unfair for a great country like China not to be
in the Security Council.” “Will the Congress President tell us who the
original sinner was?”

Congress also released a video poking fun at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s
‘hugplomacy’, saying foreign leaders seem to be running away because of the
prime minister’s hugs.


Congress national spokesperson and a key aide of UPA chairperson Sonia
Gandhi, Tom Vadakkan joined the BJP on Thursday, claiming he was “hurt
deeply” by the Congress’ reaction to the Pulwama attack.

“I left the Congress because when Pakistani terrorists attacked our land, my
party’s reaction to it was sad,” he said at a press conference at the BJP
headquarters in Delhi. “It hurt me deeply when you questioned the integrity
of the armed forces. At a time like this, it is not right to engage in such
commentary. If a political party takes such a position that is against the
country, then I’m left with no option but to leave the party.”

Vadakkan’s defection is the latest major loss to the Congress in the past
week. Just earlier in the day, senior Trinamool Congress MLA Arjun Singh
joined the BJP. On Tuesday, Sujay Vikhe Patil, the son of Leader of
Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, joined the
saffron party. Last week, former Biju Janata Dal leader Jay Panda joined the

BJP’s latest high-profile entrant had held several top positions in the
Congress. Vadakkan, who joined Congress in the 1980s, was the national
spokesperson when he jumped ship on Thursday, and earlier, he was a
secretary in the All India Congress Committee and a convenor of the AICC
grievance cell.

Although Vadakkan claims he left Congress for questioning the timing of the
Pulwama attack, the “deep hurt” he felt didn’t stop him from retweeting
tweets that were critical of the government or its handling of the situation
after the JeM strike.

He was one of the saffron party’s most vocal critics till just a few days
ago. “Once you join the BJP all your crimes are cleansed” was just one of
his many gems.


The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will decide first on the preliminary
objections raised by the Centre and then go into the facts of the Rafale
fighter jet deal case.

The top court asked the petitioners seeking review of its order to focus on
the preliminary objections regarding admissibility of the leaked documents.
“Only after we decide the preliminary objection raised by the Centre, we
will go into the facts of the case,” said the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan
Gogoi, Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.

At the outset, Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre,
claimed privilege over documents pertaining to the Rafale fighter jet deal
with France and told the Supreme Court that no one can produce them in the
court without the permission of the department concerned. Venugopal referred
to Section 123 of the Evidence Act and provisions of RTI Act to buttress his
claim. He told the top court that no one can publish documents which relate
to national security as the security of the State supercedes everything.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, one of the petitioners seeking review, opposed
the submission and said the Rafale deal documents, which AG says are
privileged, have been published and are already in public domain.

Former Union minister Arun Shourie, who is one of the review petitioners,
submitted that he was thankful to the Centre and the Attorney General for
saying in their affidavit that these are photocopies, proving the
genuineness of these documents.




UK Prime Minister Theresa May enjoyed a rare good day in Parliament,
fighting off her opponents and winning the endorsement of British
politicians to seek to delay Brexit day. The result on Thursday means her
Brexit plan – which has twice been rejected by huge majorities in the House
of Commons – is still in play.

The House of Commons voted 412 to 202 to support May’s motion, which sets
out how she will ask the European Union to extend the Brexit deadline from
March 29 to June 30, if a deal can be reached by next Wednesday.

The motion also opens the door to a potentially much longer postponement. If
no Brexit agreement is passed in another parliamentary vote by March 20,
more time will be needed to find a solution and the UK will have to take
part in European Parliament elections in May, it says. This is aimed at
encouraging opponents to back her deal.

Thursday’s votes represent a welcome piece of good news for the British
leader, after a bruising three days in which her political authority
appeared to drain away. It means that her strategy to put her deal back to a
vote in the Commons by March 20 remains on course.


The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cited new satellite data and
evidence from the scene of Sunday’s crash near Addis Ababa for its decision
to join Europe, China and other nations in suspending 737 MAX flights.

The crash was the second disaster involving the 737 MAX, the world’s
most-sold modern passenger aircraft, in less than five months.

The new information from the wreckage in Ethiopia and newly refined data
about the plane’s flight path indicated some similarities between the two
disasters “that warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared
cause,” the FAA said in a statement.

The acting administrator of the FAA, Daniel Elwell, said he did not know how
long the U.S. grounding of the aircraft would last. A software fix for the
737 Max that Boeing has been working on since a fatal crash last October in
Indonesia will take months to complete, Elwell told reporters.

The single-aisle 737 is central to Boeing’s future in its battle with
European rival Airbus SE. The new variant of the 737, the fastest-selling
jetliner in Boeing’s history, is viewed as the likely workhorse for global
airlines for decades.

Boeing, which maintained that its planes were safe to fly, said in a
statement that it supported the latest FAA move. “Boeing has determined –
out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of
the aircraft’s safety – to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of
operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft.” The crash
involving a Boeing 737 MAX in Indonesia killed 189 people. Passengers have
been spooked by the two disasters. U.S.




Five persons were killed and 29 injured after a major portion of a foot
overbridge near a train station in south Mumbai collapsed on Thursday
evening, officials said.

The bridge connected the bustling Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus
railway station with the Azad Maidan Police Station. The bridge has two
landings – one outside Anjuman Islam school and the other at BT lane that
heads towards the back of Azad Maidan police station and Cama hospital.

The incident took place around 7.30 pm when a major portion of the bridge
caved in. Some motorists who were passing beneath the bridge when it came
down, were among those injured.

This particular bridge had been declared “fit for use” in a structural audit
report submitted just six months ago. The tragedy has led to questions being
raised over the quality of the survey exercise itself. Over two years,
contractors appointed by the municipality had audited all the 314 bridges,
subways and skywalks in Mumbai.

A red signal at a traffic junction proved lucky for a large number of
motorists who were waiting for it to turn green. Without the red signal, the
motorists would have passed under the ill-fated bridge when a part of it
came crashing.


The Supreme Court will today hear a plea by leaders of 21 political parties
seeking a direction to the Election Commission to randomly verify at least
50 per cent votes using voter verifiable paper audit trails (VVPATs) in the
upcoming elections. The matter has been listed before a bench headed by
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

The plea also sought quashing of the EC guideline, according to which
verification will be conducted for VVPAT paper slips of only one randomly
selected polling station of each Assembly constituency in case of Assembly
polls and each Assembly segment in case of Lok Sabha elections. It demanded
that the court direct the EC for random verification of at least 50 per cent
votes cast through EVMs using VVPAT per Assembly segment.

“A 50% randomised verification in each assembly constituency/assembly
segment is a reasonable sample size to both (a) allay the fears of the
general public with regard to EVM tampering and; (b) be a statistically
significant sample size to ensure that EVMs are working properly,” the plea

The plea said the apex court had in its 1975 judgment in Indira Nehru Gandhi
vs Raj Narain held that free and fair elections were a part of the basic
structure of the Constitution.

The petitioners include Chandrababu Naidu of TDP, Sharad Pawar of NCP,
Congress leader K C Venugopal, TMC leader Derek O’Brien, Sharad Yadav of
Loktantrik Janata Dal, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, Satish Chandra Mishra of
the BSP, DMK leader M K Stalin, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal of AAP and Farooq
Abdullah of the National Congress.


An ‘apolitical’ meeting between Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Jyotiraditya Scindia
and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad added some fresh elements to the
otherwise stale pre-election narrative in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the Lok
Sabha election.

It squarely put Congress back in combat mode against the SP-BSP alliance,
after it wasted a lot of time trying to woo those parties for an umbrella
alliance against the BJP. Secondly, it brought to the fore Mayawati’s
discomfiture with the rise of a 31-year-old Dalit icon, who has managed to
grab eyeballs in national media, and some degree of respect, especially
among Dalit youths.

Mayawati has earlier called Chandrasekhar’s organisation a fringe outfit,
and a BJP stooge acting to weaken the BSP and malign the Dalits.


Senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit said in an interview that former Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh was not as tough in dealing with Pakistan during his
tenure in 2008 as Narendra Modi is now.

When asked in a CNN-News18 interview about the Indian Air Force strikes in
Balakot last month held during Modi’s tenure, Dikshit said, “Manmohan Singh
was not as strong and determined as Modi to tackle terror. But, there is
also a feeling that he is doing it all for politics.”


The Supreme Court on Thursday asked former promoters of Fortis Healthcare,
Malvinder Mohan Singh and Shivinder Mohan Singh, to come up with a concrete
plan by March 28 as to how they planned to pay Rs 3,500 crore to Daiichi

“You were the flag-bearers of the pharma industry and it doesn’t look good
that you are appearing in court,” CJI Ranjan Gogoi said, adding if they
submitted a concrete plan on March 28, it could be the last time they were
appearing in court.

Malvinder tried to explain his position, he was cut short by the CJI.
Addressing the younger sibling, the CJI observed while he understood
Shivinder had “renounced the world and left business” to his elder brother
to manage, he also needed to find a solution to pay back the decree amount.
“If you are renouncing the world, it may be good for you.it is not good for
us. You can’t renounce the world when there is a decree against you,” the
CJI told the younger brother.


WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton does not share a good relationship with
Facebook, the firm he sold WhatsApp to for $19 billion in 2014 and he has
been quite vocal about it in the past.

Acton who was invited as a guest speaker at his alma mater, Stanford,
criticised Facebook for making money by trading user privacy for revenue.

Both Acton and fellow WhatsApp co-founder, Jan Koum, had hoped they would
charge users $1 a year that would support a model of privacy and security.
They thought, with enough users, it would be profitable. “It (WhatsApp) was
not extraordinarily money-making, and if you have a billion users . you’re
going to have $1 billion in revenue per year,” Acton said. “That’s not what
Google and Facebook want. They want multibillions of dollars.”

Acton said that the decision to sell WhatsApp wasn’t really up to him. “I
had 50 employees, and I had to think about them and the money they would
make from this sale. I had to think about our investors and I had to think
about my minority stake. I didn’t have the full clout to say no if I wanted
to,” he said.

The WhatsApp co-founder earlier stated in a report that he was under
pressure from CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg to monetise
WhatsApp. As a result, Facebook wanted to weaken the encryption to lay the
groundwork to show targeted ads to help with commercial messaging on


Former India international Sanjay Manjrekar has slammed Vijay Shankar and
raised concern for the team’s middle order in the upcoming world cup after
they slumped to a 3-2 ODI series defeat at the hands of Australia at home.

The Indian side had started the five-match ODI series in stupendous form,
easing their way to comprehensive wins in the first two games in Vizag and
Nagpur. However, their displays subsequently unraveled as they lost the
following three matches in Ranchi, Mohali and Delhi to seize the series to

Shankar, who earned plaudits for his displays earlier in the tournament,
drew flak from Manjrekar. The former Bombay batsman took to Twitter to slam
Shankar’s approach in the 35-run defeat to Australia in Delhi, and wrote
that the 28-year-old should play to his limitations. He also didn’t hold any
punches in berating Rishabh Pant.

“Really disappointing with Pant and Shankar today, what a great chance to
show their ability. Shankar may have the big shots but he is no Pant, must
learn to keep the strike rate up by hitting more along the ground just like
his captain does”, Manjrekar tweeted.

He applauded Australia’s displays and termed them a “likeable team”.
“Delighted for Australia! Exceptional series win! Their country must be so
proud, this is what they wanted, a winning team that’s also a very likeable

In an ominous warning to the Indian side, Manjrekar further added that the
struggles of the middle order could undermine India’s chances in the 2019
World Cup.


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If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the
courage to live it. – John Irving


This was told to me by our neighbour who is a professor, wears thick glasses
and whom I never associated with sports of any kind. “The biggest thrill a
man can have is when your son takes after you. That happened when my son
played for his school cricket team. He really showed me something. He was
out on a duck in both the innings and while in the field he missed every
ball that came his way. His teammates were throwing things at our car and
swearing at us as we drove off. Gosh, I was proud.”

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