India Newsletter

16th Aug 2019

In his first Independence Day address after returning to power with a bigger mandate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff to spearhead the three services, called for measures to check 'population explosion' and gave a fresh push to the idea of 'one nation, one election'. Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Modi pitched abrogation of Article 370 as a step towards 'one nation, one Constitution', saying a new approach was needed as the special provision for Jammu and Kashmir failed to yield the desired results in 70 years. His 95-minute-long address was marked by a host of significant announcements as the Prime Minister said his government in the second term would work towards fulfilling the people's aspirations and dreams after meeting their needs in the last five years. Modi also touched upon a host of other issues, including tackling terrorism, corruption, poverty, environment and ease of living. With his government facing criticism for increasing taxes for the affluent class, Modi sought to assuage them, saying those creating wealth must be respected as wealth distribution could happen only when wealth is created. In his sixth consecutive Independence Day address, Modi also announced roll out of 'Jal Jivan' mission to provide piped drinking water to all households and said his government would spend Rs 3.5 lakh crore for it. The Prime Minister said his government had taken several key steps since coming to power less than 10 weeks back and cited the law against instant triple talaq, making stringent provisions in law on sexual crimes against children and reforming the medical education sector. "If we can take steps against 'Sati' custom, female foeticide, child marriage and dowry, then why not against instant triple talaq," he asked justifying the decision. On revoking provisions of Article 370 and Article 35(A) in Jammu and Kashmir, he said, "We neither nurse problems nor let them fester." Raising the issue of simultaneous polls for Lok Sabha and assemblies, he said discussions should now be held on 'one-nation one-election' as it is imperative to make the country "great". Voicing concern over "population explosion", the Prime Minister said it led to many difficulties and there was need for the Centre as well as state governments to launch schemes to tackle it. Modi said people should be more aware about the issue and ensure that they are able to fulfil the needs of the children they are bringing to this world. Modi said his government would invest a massive Rs 100 lakh crore on developing modern infrastructure that would aid in nearly doubling the size of the Indian economy to USD 5 trillion in the next five years. He said reforms would continue to be ushered in to help India break into top 50 countries on the 'ease of doing business' ranking. IN HIS SPEECH, PM MODI DOESN'T MENTION PAKISTAN AT ALL The Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan addressed his nation on Wednesday in state assembly of Narendra Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). In his speech he referred a lot to PM Modi, Kashmir, RSS. On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not mention Pakistan even once in his entire 92 minutes speech. In fact, PM Modi gave his wishes to Afghanistan, which is going to celebrate its 100th Independence Day on August 19. Pakistani PM Imran Khan's Independence Day speech mostly centred around Kashmir and his angst against Prime Minister Narendra Modi also came out. The most frequent word in Imran Khan's speech was 'ideology'. Khan mentioned this word 23 times. 'Kashmir' followed 'ideology' where Imran Khan mentioned it 20 times. Apart from mentioning Kashmir, Imran Khan also targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the RSS and compared their ideology with the Hitler's Nazi government. This is why, India was mentioned 11 times, very close to the times Imran Khan mentioned Pakistan. RSS finds 10 mentions, Modi finds seven mentions and Nazi found six mentions. SEVERAL KEY WORLD LEADERS GREET INDIA AND PM MODI ON ITS I-DAY A host of key world leaders on Thursday wished Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indian citizens on the country's Independence Day with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu greeting them with a "namaste" in a video and hailing the deepening ties between the two countries. "The relations between India and Israel are like never before. It's not merely cooperation, it's genuine friendship," said Netanyahu in a short video, posted to mark the occasion. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wished Modi on Twitter, saying his country joins the people of India and the Indo-Canadian community in celebrating the 73rd Independence Day. Russian President Vladimir Putin also wished Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind on the occasion. Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Bhutan PM Lotay Tshering were among the first leaders to congratulate Prime Minister Modi. "India is our neighbour and close friend and we shall continue working with the Indian government to further strengthen the ties between Maldives and India," Solih said in a tweet. Nepal's Oli said his country is delighted to see India's rapid economic growth achieved over the past seven decades. Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering tweeted he "sees new chapters of friendship unfold for the two countries." SONIA GANDHI SKIPS ID EVENTS AT RED FORT AND RASHTRAPATI BHAWAN Congress president Sonia Gandhi skipped the Independence Day event at Red Fort and the 'At Home' hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday. She unfurled the national flag at the Congress headquarters here and said there is no place in India for bigotry and fanaticism, and asked the nation to stand against every act of injustice, intolerance and discrimination to truly cherish freedom. This is the second time Sonia has skipped the Independence Day event at Red Fort since the Narendra Modi government came to power. In 2016, Sonia had skipped the event as she was unwell. There was no response from the Congress on why its chief skipped the I-Day events. CHINA PUSHES PAK LETTER, UNSC TO HOLD INFORMAL DISCUSSION ON J&K MOVE The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has decided to hold "informal consultations" on Jammu and Kashmir. The meeting is likely to take place in New York today. The decision comes after China approached Poland, which holds the UNSC presidency this month, to discuss Pakistan's letter on India's move to revoke special status for J&K and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories. New Delhi will be closely monitoring the situation, especially the shape and nuance of discussions within the UNSC since China is the only permanent member that has pushed for the consultation. India will also track how the 15 UNSC members proceed on the issue, and whether there are any statements issued later, especially by the five permanent members, that refer to restrictions in the Valley or human rights violations. According to rules, the outcome of UNSC's informal consultations are "not binding". Delhi, however, is prepared to deal with any plea by the Council to hold "bilateral dialogue" since that has been its own position as well. South Block feels the discussions will not have any bearing on the Constitutional change that India carried out while revoking special status to J&K under Article 370. It hopes that after discussing the issue, the matter will find closure in the international diplomatic space. INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS ====================== ALL 24 INDIAN CREW ABOARD IRANIAN OIL TANKER RELEASED IN GIBRALTAR All 24 Indian crew aboard VLCC Grace 1, an Iranian oil tanker, have been released by Gibraltar authorities and are free to return to India, Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan said on Thursday. In a tweet, Muraleedharan said: "Spoke to our High Commission in London. They confirmed all 24 Indian crew aboard VLCC Grace 1 have been released by Gibraltar authorities and are free to return to India." "I am grateful and thankful for my release. And I am grateful to all who have facilitated my release in my legal team," the Captain of the Grace 1 tanker said in a statement. A spokesman for Gibraltar's government also confirmed that police proceedings against four members of the crew had ended. The arrested Indian crew members - the Master, Chief Officer and two Second Mates - were aboard the Panama-flagged supertanker that was detained off Europa Point in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory on the Spanish coast, last month. The Gibraltar authorities had said the vessel is loaded to capacity with crude oil enroute to Syria, in breach of European Union (EU) sanctions. But after a hearing in Gibraltar on Thursday, the local Supreme Court of the region ruled that the tanker should be released after formal written assurances from Iran that the ship would not discharge its cargo in Syria and therefore not be in breach of EU sanctions. A total of 28 crew on board the vessel include majority Indians but also Russians, Latvians and Filipinos, who had spent over a month in detention on board the ship since it was seized in early July. They should now be able to sail on to a destination agreed with Iran and the owner of the tanker - the National Iranian Oil Company. "CHINA WILL 'QUELL UNREST SWIFTLY' IF HONG KONG CRISIS BECOMES 'UNCONTROLLABLE" China will not "sit by and watch" and is ready to "quell the unrest swiftly" if the crisis in Hong Kong becomes "uncontrollable", China's ambassador to London said on Thursday. "If the situation deteriorates further into unrest uncontrollable by the SAR govt, then the central government will not sit by and watch," Liu Xiaoming said in a televised press conference. "We have enough solutions and enough power to quell the unrest swiftly," he said. Images taken by AFP earlier on Thursday showed thousands of Chinese military personnel waving red flags and parading at a sports stadium in the city of Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong. Dozens of armoured personnel carriers and supply trucks were also parked nearby. "We hope this will end in an orderly way. In the meantime we are fully prepared for the worst," Liu said. He also protested against "foreign interference" in the Hong Kong protests and urged British PM Boris Johnson's govt to handle the issue with "great caution". "I think some politicians in this country... still regard Hong Kong as part of the British empire," he said. THE REST ======== NO EXCHANGE OF SWEETS AT ATTARI-WAGAH BORDER With rising tension between India and Pakistan following abrogation of Article 370 giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the customary exchange of sweets between Border Security Force and Pakistan rangers did not take place on the occasion of Independence Day. Sweets were also not exchanged between two neighbouring countries' border guarding forces on Eid two days ago. Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh on Thursday said that for the last few days Pakistan has been attempting to push in infiltrators. "For the past few days, there have been attempts by Pakistan to push in infiltrators. Such infiltration attempts have been supported by ceasefire violations," said the Commander. "However, the Indian Army is totally alert. We have been able to foil all such attempts at the Line of Control (LoC) itself," he said. FORMER ARMY CHIEF HAILS DECISION ON CDS Welcoming the Prime Minister's announcement that the country will have a Chief of Defence Staff, former Army chief General (retd) V P Malik Thursday said this was long overdue. He said the appointment of a CDS will make the three services more effective by improving jointmanship and inter-operability. In the long run, it will also make the forces more economical. "The appointment of a CDS has been under consideration for the last 20 years. It was first recommended by the Kargil review committee and then again by the Group of Ministers in 2002. But for some reason or the other, it was not accepted," Gen Malik, who was Army chief during the Kargil war, said. He said there were political leaders who had not understood the concept correctly. "Some even went to the extent of thinking that it will make the military too strong." There were some differences among the three services, he said, and opposition from the bureaucracy. The appointment of the CDS, he said, will spell a major organisational change at the level of national security organisation, particularly for the defence services. "We already have an integrated defence staff. The CDS, once appointed, will head it. He will be the military advisor to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). He will also head the nuclear set-up, the strategic command etc. He will be able to give a holistic approach to our defence planning which at present tends to be competitive and uneconomical," he said. "In the current environment, politico-military strategy is very vital and it cannot be dealt with in watertight compartments. The armed forces require greater versatility and flexibility," he said. SC TO HEAR PETITIONS AGAINST ARTICLE 370 ON FRIDAY The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Friday the petitions posing legal challenges to the Centre's decision to scrap provisions of Article 370 which abrogated special status to Jammu and Kashmir and subsequent measures putting restrictions on the working of media in the region. A special bench, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer, will hear the petitions filed by advocate M L Sharma and Executive Editor, Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin. While the advocate has challenged the scrapping of provisions of Article 370 which has resulted in the creation of two Union Territories-Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, the journalist has sought directions for restoring of all modes of communication, including mobile Internet and landline services, throughout the state to provide an enabling environment for the media to practise its profession. CHHATTISGARH DOUBLES OBC QUOTA: RESERVATION TOTAL 22% OVER CEILING In a significant political and administrative move, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel announced Thursday an increase in reservations for OBCs and Scheduled Castes in state government jobs and education. Baghel said the government will increase the quota for Scheduled Castes by one per cent (from 12% to 13%) while nearly doubling reservation for OBCs from 14 per cent to 27 per cent. The quota for Scheduled Tribes remains at 32 per cent. Once in effect, it will mean Chhattisgarh will have a total of 72 per cent reservation, the highest in the country and far above the 50 per cent cap on quotas mandated by the Supreme Court. rights." "THE WORLD SAW PEHLU KHAN BEING LYNCHED" The world watched in horror as the video of a man being lynched went viral in April 2017. Pehlu Khan, dressed in a white salwaar kurta, was seen being dragged on the highway by a group of men who beat him mercilessly. Khan died in a hospital shortly after the incident. Two years later, that video, a clinching piece of evidence in this case, was disregarded in the court. All six accused, who were tried as adults for the lynching of Khan, were acquitted by a lower court in Rajasthan's Alwar District on Wednesday evening. "The video was viral. Everyone saw it. You can still go online and have a look at it. However, the court decided not to admit the video as evidence," says Akhtar Hussain, Pehlu Khan's lawyer. "For it to be admitted in the court, the police had to obtain a Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) certificate. They could not do that on time. I can't believe that they had two years to examine a video and they couldn't do it. The police and investigators have let Pehlu Khan down." Hussain, however, argued that the judge could have still admitted the video. JAVADEKAR SAYS WILL CHALK OUT CONCRETE PLAN TO RID INDIA OF SINGLE-USE PLASTIC Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar responded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to make India free of single-use plastic and said that his ministry will review all initiatives and campaigns in this regard and "chalk out a concrete plan" to realise this target. "In response to the Prime Minister's call on India's 73rd Independence day to make India free of single-use plastic, a massive public campaign will be launched engaging all stakeholders. In this regard, a series of meetings will be done with all stakeholders, including state governments, to chalk out a concrete plan to make it a people's campaign to realise the ultimate target," Javadekar said. VETERAN BOLLYWOOD ACTRESS VIDYA SINHA PASSES AWAY AT 71 Veteran Bollywood actress Vidya Sinha, famed for her role in Basu Chatterjee film 'Rajnigandha' (1974), passed away after a brief lung-cum-heart ailment. She was 71 and breathed her last at a private hospital in Juhu where she was rushed on Sunday last after severe breathing problems. LORD'S TEST DAY 2: AUS HOLD THE EDGE; GALLE TEST SEES TOUGH COMPETITION Australia's Josh Hazlewood marked his entry into this season's Ashes with three wickets as England were dismissed for 258 after the second Test at Lord's finally got underway on Thursday. World Cup-winning England fast bowler Jofra Archer then marked his Test debut with an electrifying opening spell but the only wicket Australia lost before stumps was when David Warner was bowled by Stuart Broad. Left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel became the first New Zealander to claim a five-wicket haul in Galle as the tourists restricted Sri Lanka to 227 for seven at stumps on day two of the first Test on Thursday. Earlier, New Zealand's had posted a first innings total of 249 all out. INDICATORS (Indian Stock Markets were closed yesterday on account of Independence Day) Nasdaq 7,767 (-7) Dow 25,579 (+100), S&P 2,848 (+7) US$-Rs. 71.46 GBP-Rs. 86.39, Euro-Rs. 79.53, UAE Dhm-Rs.19.45, Can$-Rs. 53.67, Aus$- Rs. 48.42 GBP 0.82 /US$, Euro 0.89 /US$, Jap.Yen 106.04 /US$, Aus$ 1.47 /US$, Sing 1.38 /US$, Bang Taka 82.99 /US$, Can$ 1.33 /US$, Mal Ring 4.19 /US$, Pak Re 159.88 /US$, Phil Peso 52.56 /US$, Russian Rouble 66.05 /US$, NZ$ 1.55 /US$, Thai Baht 30.80 /US$, Ukraine Hryvnia 25.02 /US$, Norway NOK 8.99 /US$ Bitcoin - USD 10,014 Dollar Index 98.09 Brent Crude 58.64 BDI 1950.00 Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,520 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 3756 / 3578, Silver (Rs. Per KG) 48,700 THOUGHT FOR THE DAY Your friends will believe in your potential, your enemies will make you live up to it. - Tim Fargo OFF TRACK Women believe if a pet cat strays, it's because of a lack of affection at home. Women believe if a pet dog strays, it's because of a lack of affection at home. Women believe if a woman strays, it's because of a lack of affection at home. Women believe if a man strays, it's because men are pigs.

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