India Newsletter

14th Aug 2019

As the security lockdown and communication blockade entered the ninth day Tuesday, senior officials at the Centre and in Jammu and Kashmir underlined that it was up to the local authorities to assess the situation and take a decision on lifting restrictions. "The choice is between inconvenience of restrictions and loss of lives. Our concern is to ensure safety of citizens in Kashmir," said a senior official of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). In Srinagar, the J&K administration said the curbs would be relaxed in parts of the Valley in a phased manner, based on the assessment of local authorities. Addressing a press conference, Principal Secretary and government spokesperson Rohit Kansal said Jammu region was "almost entirely" free of restrictions. "Restrictions, however, do continue in parts of Kashmir," he said. "We are hopeful that once the full dress rehearsals for Independence Day being carried out in various districts of J&K and Ladakh conclude, there will be further relaxations," he said. "We are conscious and sensitive to the difficulties being faced by everybody as a result of these restrictions. But I do wish to emphasise that reasonable restrictions may sometimes be necessary to prevent mischief mongers from carrying out any untoward incident," he said. Asked about plans to unfurl the national flag on August 15 at various places, including Lal Chowk in Srinagar, Kansal said: "Independence Day celebrations have a certain system. It is a national festival and will be celebrated with respect and grandeur," he said. He said the three-day Global Investment Summit would also be held as per schedule - the inaugural session will be held in Srinagar onOctober 12. In Jammu, Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce, Navin K Choudhary said: "The administration is inviting nearly 2,000 dignitaries from industry and commerce." PAK ADMITS GLOBAL SUPPORT OVER J&K 'NOT EASY' Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has asked his countrymen not to live in a "fool's paradise" as he highlighted that it will not be easy for Islamabad to get the support of the UN Security Council as well as from the Muslim world against India's decision to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir's special status. Addressing a press briefing in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on Monday, Qureshi asked Pakistanis to "wage a new struggle" to get the support of the UNSC members. "You (people) should not in live fool's paradise. Nobody will be standing there (in the UNSC) with garlands in hands...Nobody will be there waiting for you," he said. Without naming any Muslim country, Qureshi also said the "guardians of Ummah (Islamic community)" might also not back Pakistan on the Kashmir issue due to their economic interest. "Different people in the world have their own interests. India is a market of (over) billion people. A lot of people have invested there (India)," he said. NOT AIRCRAFT, WE NEED FREEDOM TO TRAVEL AND MEET THE PEOPLE: RAHUL GANDHI TO J&K GOV Governor Satya Pal Malik onTuesdayasked the Jammu and Kashmir administration to examine if they can accept Rahul Gandhi's request received via Twitter to visit the state. But Malik's office also has made it clear that it believed the former Congress president had imposed too many conditions. Rahul Gandhi had surprised Raj BhavanTuesdayafternoon when he took up Governor Malik on his invitation to visit the state to see the ground situation for himself. The invite was a dart that Satya Pal Malik had hurled at Rahul Gandhi for claiming onSaturdaythat there had been violence in J&K and "things were going very wrong". Malik told reporters that he could send an aircraft to bring Rahul Gandhi to Jammu and Kashmir so that he could observe the situation and then speak. Gandhi tweeted his response to the governor on Tuesday, accepting what he described as a "gracious invitation" to visit J&K and Ladakh. The former Congress boss said he and other opposition leaders wouldn't need an aircraft but "the freedom to travel and meet the people, mainstream leaders and our soldiers". The government had earlier turned back opposition leaders from national parties who had landed at Srinagar airport over the last few days. Raj Bhavan responded several hours later, accusing Gandhi of "politicizing the matter by seeking to bring a delegation of opposition Leaders to create further unrest and problems for the common people. "He has put forth many conditions for visiting J&K, including meeting mainstream leaders under detention," the Governor's office said in a statement. Scores of separatists and leaders of mainstream political parties have been under detention including two former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. "As Hon'ble Governor had never invited him with so many pre-conditions, he has referred the case to the local Police and administration to examine the request further," Raj Bhavan's statement said. It also accused Rahul Gandhi of responding to fake news about violence possibly spread from across the border about the situation in Kashmir, "which is peaceful with negligible incidents". SC REFUSES TO PASS ORDER ON LIFTING CURBS IN J-K The Supreme Court has refused to pass an order on a Public Interest Litigation filed by activist Tehseen Poonawalla seeking lifting of prohibitory orders in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of abrogation of Article 370, saying the situation in the state was "very sensitive". "The situation is such that nobody knows what exactly is happening there. Some time should be given (to the government) for bringing back normalcy," a three-judge Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said adjourning the matter for two weeks. "The government's endeavour is to restore normalcy. That's why they are reviewing the situation on a day-to-day basis. If tomorrow anything happens in Jammu and Kashmir, who will be responsible? Obviously, the Centre," it noted. The Bench-which also included Justice MR Shah and Justice Ajay Rastogi-said pros and cons of the issue had to be looked into before passing any orders. "We are with you on the issue of right to liberty of the people. But we should have a real picture before us. "Wait for some time. Let us wait for normalcy to return," the Bench told senior counsel Menaka Guruswamy who represented Poonawalla. At the outset, she said the government can restrict freedoms but it can't impose complete ban on their freedoms. Her arguments were countered by Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta-who said the ground situation needed to improve before prohibitory orders were lifted and communication networks restored. INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS ====================== US TO DELAY SOME CHINA TARIFFS UNTIL STORES STOCK UP FOR HOLIDAY SHOPPERS President Donald Trump on Tuesday unexpectedly put off new tariffs on many Chinese goods, including cellphones, laptop computers and toys, until after the start of the Christmas shopping season, acknowledging the effect that his protracted trade war with Beijing could have on Americans. He is facing mounting pressure from businesses and consumer groups over the harm they say the trade conflict is doing. The US stock market soared after the announcement, following weeks of volatility driven by fears that the standoff between the world's two largest economies could hamper global economic growth. Trump also threatened on Tuesday to pull the US out of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if conditions are not improved. "We know that they have been screwing us for years and it's not going to happen again," he said. Trump has made the WTO the target of many previous attacks, and threatened before to withdraw, claiming unfair treatment toward the US and saying Washington does not have to abide by WTO rulings. He is especially critical about the terms granted to China when it joined the organization, given US complaints about Chinese theft of American technology. HONG KONG AIRPORT HALTS CHECK-INS Flights leaving Hong Kong were disrupted for a second day on Tuesday, plunging the former British colony deeper into turmoil as its stockmarket fell to a seven-month low, and its leader said it had been pushed into a state of "panic and chaos". The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also urged Hong Kong to exercise restraint and investigate evidence of its forces firing tear gas at protesters in ways banned under international law. Ten weeks of increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters have roiled the Asian financial hub as thousands of residents chafe at a perceived erosion of freedoms and autonomy under Chinese rule. China this week condemned some protesters for using dangerous tools to attack police, calling the clashes "sprouts of terrorism". They present President Xi Jinping with one of his biggest challenges since he came to power in 2012. Check-in operations were suspended on Tuesday, a day after an unprecedented airport shutdown, as thousands of black-clad protesters jammed the terminal, chanting, singing and waving banners. US LEARNING 'MUCH' FROM RUSSIA MISSILE TEST BLAST, SAYS TRUMP President Donald Trump on Monday said the United States is learning "much" from a deadly blast during a Russian missile test that caused elevated radiation levels. "The United States is learning much from the failed missile explosion in Russia. We have similar, though more advanced, technology," Trump wrote on Twitter. "The Russian 'Skyfall' explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!" the President tweeted. Experts have linked the blast--which killed at least five people--to the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, known by NATO as SSC-X-9 Skyfall and touted by President Vladimir Putin earlier this year. Trump's assertion that the US had similar technology was quickly challenged by American expert Joe Cirincione. "This is bizarre. We do not have a nuclear-powered cruise missile programme," Cirincione tweeted. "We tried to build one, in the 1960s, but it was too crazy, too unworkable, too cruel even for those nuclear nuts Cold War years," he wrote. THE REST ======== BJP NOW MAIN OPPOSITION IN SIKKIM AS 10 SDF MLA'S JOIN PARTY The BJP on Tuesday emerged the principal Opposition party in the Sikkim legislative Assembly after 10 legislators of the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), led by former chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, joined the BJP. This has brought the BJP closer to forming the government in Sikkim. The SDF MLAs met BJP Working President J P Nadda and joined the party in the presence of its General Secretary Ram Madhav, who is in charge of the party's affairs in the Northeast. The MLAs - 10 of the 13 - who joined the BJP include five-term MLA Dorjee Tshering Lepcha, who served as a minister in the Chamling government for three terms, and three-term MLA Ugen Gyatso. Lepcha said they were impressed with the Look East policy of the Narendra Modi government. "We want lotus to bloom in Sikkim," he said, referring to the BJP's election symbol. The party's immediate challenge in the state will be the by-elections to three seats. The BJP had failed to win a single seat in the Sikkim Assembly polls, held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections, and secured an abysmal 1.62 per cent of the votes polled. WHY CBI DOES A GOOD JOB WHEN THERE IS NO POLITICAL OVERTONE TO A CASE: CJI Observing that the CBI is being used as a "political instrument", Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Tuesday asked, "why is that whenever there is no political overtone to a case, the agency does a good job". The CJI added that efforts should be made to "delink crucial aspects" of the CBI from the overall administrative control of the government. "The CBI should be given statutory status through legislation equivalent to that provided to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)," Gogoi said while delivering a lecture at the 18th annual D P Kohli memorial. He asserted that the legal mandate of the nodal investigative agency must be strengthened by having comprehensive legislation addressing deficiencies relating to organisational structure, charter of functions, limits of power, superintendence, and oversight. MP GOVT ENDS 10-YEAR I-DAY PRACTICE, WON'T FETE EMERGENCY DETAINEES The Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has discontinued the decade-long practice of felicitating those detained during the Emergency, under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) and Defence of India Rules (DIR), on Independence Day. In 2008, the then BJP government had introduced a monthly pension of Rs 6,000 for MISA and DIR detainees and started felicitating them in Bhopal and at district headquarters. It later hiked the pension twice to make it Rs 25,000, on par with the amount given to freedom fighters. Two weeks after Chief Minister Kamal Nath took oath in December 2018, the Congress government put the pension on hold. The government also ordered physical verification of beneficiaries while claiming that many did not exist and others had availed the benefit fraudulently. However, after months of verification, most beneficiaries have started getting the pension again. Criticising the state government for its latest decision, the Opposition BJP has asked its district units to hold the felicitation in their ffices. "It's the politics of revenge. The Kamal Nath government has a problem honouring people who are very old. It does not have a problem with the Emergency or letting Article 370 continue in Kashmir,'' said Rakesh Singh, state BJP chief and Jabalpur Lok Sabha MP. CLOSE TO 300 AUTO DEALERSHIP OUTLETS SHUT IN 18 MONTHS Vehicle sales numbers in July, the worst in 19 years, have reaffirmed the downturn in the automobile sector, coming on the back of over 286 dealership outlets downing their shutters in the last 18 months and at least 15,000 job losses estimated over the last quarter. Industry players say the worst is still to come and that the of consumer demand and the liquidity crisis - could get prolonged as automakers compulsorily transition to new technologies, rendering their products more expensive. Sales across categories, including passenger vehicles and two-wheelers, was down nearly 19 per cent at 18,25,148 units in July 2019, according to data released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) Tuesday. Automakers expect a respite this festival season. However, that could be a temporary relief and may not result in a trend reversal in the near future, given that prices are headed upward. The mandatory upgradation of products to meet the Bharat Stage-VI emission norms by April 2020 will push companies to hike their prices. Then there's the growing used-car market that saw the sale of 40 lakh vehicles in 2018 to overtake the volumes for new cars at 36 lakh in the same year. In value terms, this market clocked almost two-thirds the business recorded for new cars last year. This year, the used car market is expected to be even bigger. START REGISTRATION OF AMRAPALI HOMEBUYERS OR FACE JAIL: SC TO OFFICIALS The Supreme Court on Tuesday came down heavily on Noida and Greater Noida officials and asked them to immediately start registration of the homebuyers of Amrapali group projects, failing which the officers could be sent to jail. Observing that the court was not merely a "paper tiger", a two-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said that there should be no delay on part of the authorities in handing over the possession of flats. Noida and Greater Noida officials had, in their submissions, told the two-judge bench that a special cell with dedicated officers had been created for the homebuyers of Amrapali. On July 23, the apex court had in its judgment cancelled the Real Estate Regulation and Development Act registration of Amrapali group companies for defrauding homebuyers, diverting their money and failing to complete projects on time. At the time, the two-judge bench had also directed Noida and Greater Noida Authorities "to execute the tripartite agreement within one month concerning the projects where homebuyers are residing and issue completion certificate". The top court had also slammed the banks, as well as Noida and Greater Noida authorities, and said that while the debt-laden Amrapali group had diverted funds meant for the projects, the officials had "acted as a mute spectator". AITA WANTS TIE AGAINST PAKISTAN TO BE POSTPONED OR SHIFTED The All-India Tennis Association (AITA) has written to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to either shift the Group I tie against Pakistan or postpone it for a later date. They have also requested for a meeting with the ITF board where they think they will be able to explain the ground situation. This development comes on the same day when ITF said that they were satisfied with the security situation. AITA believes that the growing tension between the neighbouring countries in the aftermath of Indian government's decision to revoke Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir poses a security risk to its travelling party. INDICATORS Sensex 36,958 (-624), Nifty 10,926 (-184), Trading Value NSE (Rs.crores) 37,258 Nasdaq 8,016 (+153) Dow 26,280 (+373), S&P 2,926 (+43) US$-Rs. 71.02 GBP-Rs. 85.70, Euro-Rs. 79.48, UAE Dhm-Rs.19.33, Can$-Rs. 53.64, Aus$- Rs. 48.12 GBP 0.82 /US$, Euro 0.89 /US$, Jap.Yen 105.87 /US$, Aus$ 1.47 /US$, Sing 1.38 /US$, Bang Taka 82.89 /US$, Can$ 1.32 /US$, Mal Ring 4.19 /US$, Pak Re 159.81 /US$, Phil Peso 52.10 /US$, Russian Rouble 65.26 /US$, NZ$ 1.55 /US$, Thai Baht 30.77 /US$, Ukraine Hryvnia 24.90 /US$, Norway NOK 8.90 /US$ Bitcoin - USD 11,139 Dollar Index 97.59 Brent Crude 60.68 BDI 1774 Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,501 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 3760 / 3582, Silver (Rs. Per KG) 48,500 THOUGHT FOR THE DAY You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need. - Vernon Howard OFF TRACK After Sunday mass in the church, Suzie Smith stood and walked to the podium. She said, "I have praise for prayers answered. Two months ago, my husband, Tom, had a terrible accident and his scrotum was completely crushed. The pain was excruciating and the doctors didn't know if they could help him. We prayed as the doctors performed a delicate operation, and it turned out they were able to piece together the crushed remnants of Tom's scrotum, and wrap wire around it to hold it in place." You could hear a muffled gasp from the men in the congregation as they imagine the pain that poor Tom must have experienced. "Now," she announced in a quivering voice, "thank the Lord, Tom is out of the hospital and the doctors say that with time, his scrotum should recover fully." All the men sighed with unified relief. Then a man stood up and walked slowly to the podium. He said, "I'm Tom Smith." The entire congregation held its breath. "I just want to tell my wife the word is sternum, not scrotum."

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