India Newsletter

FRONT PAGE NEWS
2 January 2020

MODI WISHES ASIAN LEADERS, SKIPS IMRAN 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday called up leaders of neighbouring 
South Asian countries, but not Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, to wish 
them a happy new year as well as discuss with them further steps in 
bilateral ties. The PM spoke with leaders of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, 
Bhutan and Bangladesh. 
In all his telephone calls, he emphasised India's commitment to 
'Neighbourhood First' policy and the vision of shared peace, security, 
prosperity and progress for all of India's friends and partners in the 
region, said an official news release. 
In his conversation with Nepal Prime Minister KP Oli, Modi specifically 
noted the completion of Motihari (India)-Amlekhgunj (Nepal) petroleum 
products pipeline in a record time. 


NO TO CAA: PRASAD TELLS STATES TO SEEK BETTER LEGAL ADVICE, PINARAYI HITS 
BACK 

Political acrimony over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act intensified 
Wednesday with Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad reading Constitutional 
provisions to state governments, saying they would have to implement the 
Act. 
A day after the Kerala House passed a resolution demanding the scrapping of 
the CAA, Prasad cited Constitutional clauses and asked state governments to 
get "better legal advises". "It's surprising that the governments that have 
taken oath on the Constitution are talking anti-Constitutional that we will 
not implement the CAA. It's passed by Parliament. Laws passed by Parliament 
will be implemented throughout the country. Subject to the provisions of the 
Constitution, Parliament may make laws for the whole or any part of the 
Union of India," Prasad told reporters. 
Reacting to BJP MP G V L Narasimha Rao's move write to Rajya Sabha Chairman 
M Venkaiah Naidu to initiate breach of parliamentary privileges and contempt 
proceedings against him over the resolution, Vijayan said in 
Thiruvananthapuram: "State assemblies have own privileges. Such actions are 
unheard of anywhere. But we cannot rule out anything in the present 
circumstance as unprecedented things are happening nowadays in the country." 
The assemblies, he said, have their own special protection and that should 
not be violated. He said Kerala has become the first state to pass a 
resolution against a law which has been violating the fundamental principles 
of the Constitution and it has great significance. 
The state assemblies have in the past too passed resolutions against laws 
passed by Parliament. In 2014, the assembly of undivided Andhra Pradesh had 
passed a resolution rejecting the Central government's Bill to create 
Telangana - the Congress was in power, both at the Centre and in the state 
then. However, the central government went ahead with the bifurcation of the 
state. 
In 2016, when the Supreme Court had ordered release of Cauvery water for 
Tamil Nadu, the Karnataka legislature had adopted an unanimous resolution to 
use the Cauvery water only to meet drinking water needs and not to provide 
it for any other purpose. 
In 2018, the Delhi assembly, in which AAP has a brute majority, passed a 
resolution demanding that Bharat Ratna awarded to former Prime Minister 
Rajiv Gandhi be withdrawn over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. 


WE DON'T OPPOSE ANY STEP BY GOVT TO STRENGTHEN SECURITY: CONG 

The Congress yesterday distanced itself from the questions party 
spokesperson Manish Tewari raised in respect of the appointment of Chief of 
Defence Staff on Tuesday and said the Congress never opposes anything done 
to boost national security. 
"I will not comment on the personal remarks made by any leader. All I want 
to say is that the appointment of CDS is a decision of the government and we 
hope the CDS will discharge his duty to the nation. The Congress does not 
oppose any government decision taken to strengthen national security," 
Congress spokesperson Sushmita Dev said today when asked whether the 
Congress agrees with what Manish Tewari said yesterday. 
Dev, however, said: "General Bipin Rawat is a newly appointed CDS. I think 
actions speak louder than words. Soon we, the country and all political 
parties will be able to see how the CDS works - in national interest or how. 
It would be improper to comment on the issue before that." 


PEACE ALONG CHINA BORDER CAN LEAD TO EVENTUAL SOLUTION: ARMY CHIEF 

A day after he said India reserves the right to pre-emptively strike at 
sources of terror in Pakistan, new Army Chief General M M Naravane expressed 
confidence that maintaining peace and tranquility along India's border with 
China will set the stage for an "eventual solution" to the boundary dispute. 
Speaking to mediapersons Wednesday after receiving his first guard of honour 
as the Army Chief, General Naravane said operational readiness and 
modernisation will be among the top priorities of the Army under his 
leadership. 
"While we have been paying attention in the past to the Western front, 
Northern front also requires equal attention. It is in that context we are 
going for capability development and enhancement of our capacitors in our 
Northern borders including the North-East part of the country," he said. 
"The border question is yet to be settled. We have been able to maintain 
peace and tranquility along borders and I am sure that situation will 
prevail. By maintaining this, we will be able to set the stage for the 
eventual solution," he said. 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in Twitter posts, said: "I am delighted that 
as we begin the new year and new decade, India gets its first Chief of 
Defence Staff in General Bipin Rawat. I congratulate him and wish him the 
very best for this responsibility. He is an outstanding officer who has 
served India with great zeal." 

CARLOS GHOSN'S HOUDINI ACT LEAVES RED FACES IN JAPAN 

The former head of Nissan Motor and Renault SA, who was awaiting the first 
of two trials in Tokyo, somehow evaded almost round-the-clock manned and 
video surveillance and heavy restrictions on his freedom of movement to flee 
to Lebanon. 
Soon after he resurfaced in Lebanon, the internet lit up with unconfirmed 
reports and theories of how Ghosn, now an international fugitive, pulled off 
an escape befitting a Hollywood thriller - one that will be very hard for 
Japanese authorities to live down. There are still more questions than 
answers. 
In one speculative account, which cited no sources, Lebanese television 
station MTV reported that Ghosn smuggled himself out of Japan in a large 
musical instrument box after a Christmas band visited his residence in 
Tokyo. He was then shipped out of the country and later entered Lebanon from 
Turkey on a private plane. 
Ghosn's getaway followed weeks of planning, the Wall Street Journal 
reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. A team of 
accomplices assembled last weekend to carry out his exfiltration, and his 
wife, Carole, played a major role in the operation, the newspaper said. 


BRITAIN INTRODUCES HETEROSEXUAL CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS 

A couple that went to Britain's highest court to win the right to legalise 
their relationship without getting married were among the first in the 
country on Tuesday to celebrate a change in marriage laws. 
The change means that from the last day of 2019 men and women in Britain are 
able for the first time to join hands in civil partnerships as an 
alternative to getting married. 
British media reported on Tuesday how Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan 
celebrated their civil partnership with a ceremony at the Kensington and 
Chelsea Register Office in London. 
Steinfeld told journalists it was their personal wish to form a civil 
partnership which came from a personal desire to formalise their 
relationship in a more modern way, with a focus in equality and mutual 
respect. 
The change means couples will be able to access the same tax benefits, 
pensions and inheritances as those available to married couples. 


CHANDRABABU NAIDU JOINS AGITATION AGAINST THREE-CAPITAL PLAN OF ANDHRA GOVT 

Farmers of 29 villages between Guntur and Krishna districts of Andhra 
Pradesh, who gave land for the proposed Amaravati capital region, courted 
arrest and blocked main roads on Wednesday in protest against the state 
government's proposal to make Visakhapatnam the executive capital. 
TDP chief and former CM N Chandrababu Naidu, whose government had started 
the Amaravati capital project, participated in the protests. 
The YSRCP government has proposed to make Visakhapatnam the executive 
capital where the Secretariat and the Chief Minister's Office will be 
located. Amaravati has been proposed as the legislative capital and Kurnool 
as the judicial capital. 
Speaking at the protest venue, Naidu called upon TDP leaders and cadres to 
abstain from New Year Celebrations and donate the money they would have 
spent on celebrations to the Amaravati Parirakshana Samiti, which represents 
the protesting farmers. 
"These are devastating times for Andhra Pradesh. Instead of solving existing 
problems, the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government is creating new ones, 
compounding the misery of people. The three capitals announcement has thrust 
the state into chaos. Thousands of farmers, women and children from all 
sections are protesting. With hope in their hearts, they gave away land 
towards construction of Amaravati. Their futures must not be jeopardised," 
Naidu said in a statement. 


AMID TIGHT SECURITY, LAKHS OF DALITS PAY TRIBUTE AT BHIMA-KOREGAON WAR 
MEMORIAL 

With the Maharashtra government cracking down on hardline Hindutva elements 
in and around Pune, the 202nd anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle 
passed off peacefully. 
After externing hardline Hindutva leaders like Sambhaji Bhide and Milind 
Ekbote, the administration also suspended mobile Internet at Bhima-Koregaon 
and surrounding areas to prevent any untoward incidents. Since Monday, the 
cybercrime cell of the state police had gotten in touch with admins of more 
than 200 WhatsApp groups linked to right-wing groups and cautioned them 
against sharing posts which could spark violence in society. 
On Wednesday, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Union Minister 
Ramdas Athawale and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi leader Prakash Ambedkar were 
among prominent leaders who paid homage to the soldiers of the East India 
Company who lost their lives in the battle. 
Police said around 5 lakh people arrived throughout Tuesday and Wednesday at 
the victory pillar, which Dalits view as a symbol of their pride. 


DECEMBER GST KITTY CROSSES RS 1 LAKH CRORE, SECOND MONTH IN A ROW 

AFTER two consecutive months of contraction in September and October, Goods 
and Services Tax (GST) collections in December (for November sales) rose 
over the Rs 1-lakh crore mark, a growth of 8.9 per cent year-over-year. In 
November too, the GST mop-up had topped Rs 1 lakh crore, but December 
figures were keenly awaited since the November collections were largely 
attributed to higher festive sales. 
Until December 31, as many as 81.21 lakh GSTR 3B (monthly summary returns) 
were filed, 4.3 per cent more than 77.83 lakh in November. Also, a cap on 
input tax credit at 20 per cent of the eligible credit for businesses 
effective October helped in higher collections. This cap, which was only for 
buyers whose suppliers did not upload invoices, prevented fraudulent claims 
and revenue leakage, said tax officials. 
The input tax credit has been further curtailed to 10 per cent in the GST 
Council meeting on December 18. 


BANKS ALLOWED TO UTILISE MALLYA'S MOVABLE ASSETS TO CLEAR DEBT 

A special court here has permitted a consortium of 15 banks led by the State 
Bank of India (SBI) to utilise movable assets of former liquor baron Vijay 
Mallya towards repayment of his debt. 
Former liquor baron Vijay Mallya, accused of money laundering by the 
Enforcement Directorate, fled India in March 2016 
The assets, comprising financial securities like shares of the United 
Breweries Holdings Limited (UBHL), were attached by the special Prevention 
of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in 2016 when it declared Mallya a 
proclaimed offender. 
The consortium of banks earlier filed an application before the special 
court, seeking release of Mallya's movable assets to utilise them for 
repayment of loans given to him. 


14K NEW MBBS SEATS THIS YEAR 

The New Year has dawned on a record note for India's medical education 
sector with 2019 witnessing the highest ever addition of new MBBS seats in 
any given year over the past 63 years. 
The increase of 14,863 MBBS seats in 2019 is the highest ever in the history 
of the Medical Council of India (MCI) which was created under the Indian 
Medical Council Act, 1956. 
At the start of the New Year, the country has 75,543 MBBS seats in 529 
medical colleges. 
Between 2018 and 2019 academic sessions alone, there was 24.5 per cent 
increase in the sanctioned intake of MBBS students - from 60,680 in 
2018-2019 to 75,543 in 2019-2020. 
The number of new medical colleges to be set up also increased at a record 
rate with the MCI Board of Governors taking control of the medical education 
sector last year after the government dissolved 
India now has 529 medical colleges, up from 456 in 2016-2017 when the MCI 
was conducting medical education. Of these, 269 are government colleges and 
260 are private. 


FATHERS OF ALL THREE CHIEFS SERVED IN IAF 

The fathers of the three chiefs - Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Admiral 
Karambir Singh Nijjer and General Naravane - served in the IAF. The fathers 
of Admiral Nijjer and General Naravane retired as Wing Commanders. The 
father of Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria retired as Honorary Flying Officer. 
Notably, Admiral Nijjer, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria and General Naravane 
are from the same course (56th) at the National Defence Academy. They had 
passed out in 1980. This information came on the Twitter handle of the 
Indian Air Force carrying a small message "Join Air Force". 


INDIA LEAVES CHINA WAY BEHIND IN BIRTHS ON JAN 1: UNICEF ESTIMATE 

On New Year's day, January 1, an estimated 67,385 babies were born in India 
- 17% of the estimated 392,078 babies born in the world that day, according 
to Unicef. 
India and seven other countries accounted for at least half of total global 
births. The other countries are: China (46,299), Nigeria (26,039), Pakistan 
(6,787), Indonesia (13,020), the United States (10,452), Democratic Republic 
of Congo (10,247) and Ethiopia (8,493). 
The United Nations (UN) World Population report released in June last year 
says India is projected to overtake China as the world's most populous 
country this decade - by 2027. 


NEW TV CHANNEL PRICING: TRAI MANDATES PROVISION OF 200 CHANNELS AT RS 153 

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has released amendments to 
the New Tariff Order (NTO), in which it has directed cable operators to 
provide 200 channels for Rs 153. It has also reviewed the pricing of channel 
bouquets compared to a la carte ones. 
The regulator has now set January 15 as the deadline for broadcasters to 
announce their new pricing structure. 
At present, direct-to-home (DTH) or cable TV operators provide only 100 
channels for a network capacity fee (NCF) levy of Rs 153 (Rs 130 excluding 
taxes). 
According to the NTO that was released last year, consumers were given the 
option to pay only for the channels that they chose to watch, at the maximum 
retail price (MRP). Earlier, they were offered pre-set channel bouquets. The 
NTO was expected to bring monthly bills down, but it was the opposite that 
happened. 
In order to address the huge discounts offered for bouquets, vis-a-vis the 
sum of a la carte channels, Trai has set two conditions to ensure the 
pricing of a-la carte channels does not become illusionary. First, the sum 
of the a la carte rates of pay channels forming part of a bouquet is not to 
exceed 1.5x the rate of the bouquet of which such channels are a part. 
Second, the a la carte rates of each pay channel, forming part of a bouquet, 
are not to exceed 3x the average rate of a pay channel of the bouquet of 
which the channel is a part. 


INJURED SUSHIL KUMAR TO MISS OLYMPICS QUALIFICATION TRIALS, REQUESTS 
POSTPONEMENT 

Two-time Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar has opted out of Friday's selection 
trials for next month's Asian Championships and the continental Olympic 
qualifying event to be held in March. 
Sushil said he was yet to fully recover from a shoulder injury and submitted 
a medical certificate to the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on 
Wednesday. The 36-year-old has requested that the trials for 74kg category 
be postponed. Although it is likely that the federation will accept his 
request, WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar said a final call on the issue 
on Thursday. 
After the Rio Olympics fiasco, in which India went unrepresented in the 74kg 
category despite having a quota, Sushil started competing in major events in 
2018. He won the CWG gold but made early exits at the Asian Games later that 
year and also the 2019 World Championships - the first Olympic qualification 
event. 
Friday's trials are significant from the point of view of the Tokyo 
Olympics. The WFI had announced the winner would make the team for three 
crucial tournaments: the year's first ranking series in Rome from January 25 
to 28, the Asian Championship in Delhi from February 18 to 25 and the 
Olympic qualification tournament in Xi'an, China, in March. 
Of the four Olympic quota winners, only Bajrang Punia (65kg) has been 
exempted from competing in the trials because of his consistent 
performances, according to WFI. The rest - Ravi Dahiya (57kg), Deepak Punia 
(86kg) and Vinesh Phogat (53kg) - will take part in the trials despite 
earning Olympic quotas and winning World Championship medals. 

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