India Digest

-Sh. Narendra Modi to take charge as the the Prime Minister of india.-Profile
-Narendra Modi win from Vadodara
-Sachin Pilot loses from Ajmer
- Google Celebrate India's General Election with doodle.
-Arun Jaitly loses to Amrinder Singh.
-I take responsibility for congress defeat. I congratulate the new government- Rajiv Gandhi & Sonia Gandhi.

Modi hints at laws to push doctors to prescribe affordable, generic drugs
MMNN:17 April 2017

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday indicated that his government may bring in a legal framework under which doctors will have to prescribe generic medicines, which are cheaper than equivalent branded drugs, to patients.
Modi said his government brought in a health policy after 15 years and capped the prices of medicines and stents, which has angered some pharmaceutical companies.
Speaking at the inauguration of a charitable hospital here, he exhorted the wealthy people to come forward and contribute towards health care of the needy people.
This country has not been built by the kings and leaders alone but by the power of the people, he said.
"Doctors write prescriptions in such a way that poor people do not understand the handwriting, and he has to buy that medicine from private stores at high prices," Modi said.
"We will bring in a legal framework by which if a doctor writes a prescription, he has to write in it that it will be enough for patients to buy generic medicine and he need not buy any other medicine," he said.
"In our country doctors are less, hospitals are less and medicines are expensive. If one person falls ill in a middle class family, then the financial health of the family gets wrecked. He cannot buy a house, cannot conduct the marriage of daughter," he pointed out.
"It is the government's responsibility that everybody should get health services at minimal price," the PM said.
"We have recently declared a health policy. The health policy has been brought in after 15 years," he said.
"Earlier, the health policy was brought when Atalji (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) was the Prime Minister. Nothing happened in between (in health sector), which I have to do (now)," Modi said targeting the previous UPA government led by the Congress.
"When I was in Gujarat, I used to attract the wrath of many (by my decisions). Now when I have gone to Delhi, I have been instrumental in making many people angry, everyday I do some work which makes some or other person sulk," he said.
"See these companies which are manufacturing medicines, they used to charge Rs 1,200 for an injection. We called everyone (pharma companies) and ensured that the prices are reduced.
"The prices of 700 medicines were capped so that poor people get medicines at reasonable rates when they face grave diseases," Modi said.
"We have also capped the prices of stents used in heart ailments," he said.
"We have done this work, and you can imagine how angry the manufacturers of medicines will be. Despite the wrath of a very powerful lobby, the government is taking one step after another so that poor people and middle class get quality health services," the Prime Minister said.
He said the government has implemented the 'Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Pariyojna', where people get generic medicines from stores at reasonable rates.
Modi also stressed on preventive health care saying if people adopt it, they will not have to visit hospitals.
"Preventive health care is very important. My Swachhta Abhiyan (cleanliness campaign) is aimed at preventive healthcare as it has been proved that many diseases are contracted if we live in an unclean environment," he said.
"Yoga is also very important for wellness and I am running a campaign to make it popular across the world," he said.
He exhorted the well-off people to come forward and provide health care to the poor and middle class people.
"We require a jan andolan, jan shakti to provide effective healthcare to every person in the country," he said.
"Our country has a different mentality, our country was not made by governments, our country was not made by kings, neither by leaders, our country was built by the service oriented approach of our countrymen," he said.
"'Seva permo dharma' has been the motto of our people," the PM said.
"You tell me the dharmshalas outside every important pilgrim town, were they built by the government? Who used to build wells and lakes in villages? Did the government build it? he asked.
"The cow shelters in villages are not built by the government, libraries are not built by government," he said asking people to come forward to build and run hospitals in the rural areas.
Prior to his speech, Modi inaugurated the Rs 400 crore Kiran Multi Super Speciality Hospital and Research Centre, built by Samast Patidar Arogya Trust in Katargam area here.
He had also laid the foundation stone of the hospital when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Budget Session most productive; 18 bills passed by both houses: Ananth Kumar
MMNN:17 April 2017

Uttar Pradesh's BJP chief minister Adityanath today compared those who are silent and don't speak out against triple talaq to those who stood by silently while Draupadi was being stripped in the Mahabharat myth.
"I'm reminded of everyone staying silent when Draupadi was being disrobed. Those who stayed silent were as guilty and at fault as those who disrobed her. Similarly, the people who are silent on the issue of triple talaq are equally guilty," he said at a Lucknow event.
"I'm surprised over the silence over a burning issue of triple talaq by certain individuals," he added, while speaking at an event to release a book on late politician Chandrashekhar, who was once India's Prime Minister.
"Even Chandrashekhar was in favour of a common civil code," the UP CM said, adding that everyone should speak out against oral talaq.
The Supreme Court (SC) is currently hearing a case on the constitutional validity of triple talaq+ , the Islamic practice some Muslims follow of divorcing their wife by saying the word 'talaq' three times.
The Centre and some NGOs, who are a party in the case in the SC, have submitted that triple talaq violates the right to gender equality. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and other clerics have argued that triple talaq has the sanction of the Quran, forms part of Muslim Personal Law, and therefore, falls squarely outside the purview of the judiciary. It also said declaring it unconstitutional is akin to "rewriting the Quran."
"Those who give triple talaq without reasons+ prescribed by the Sharia (religious law) will face social boycott," said the AIMPLB yesterday.
"There has been misunderstanding on this issue, we will issue a code of conduct on it," it added.
Adityanath also chose to touch on Kashmir - which has been wracked with violence lately - and said he agreed with Chandrashekhar that Kashmir must remain a part of India.
"Chandrashekhar had said that if Kashmir is separated, India will lose its belief," Adityanath said at the book launch.

Kulbhushan Jadhav, accused by Pakistan of being a RAW spy, sentenced to death
MMNN:10 April 2017

Pakistan said on Monday that a military court has sentenced to death former Indian navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav for allegedly spying and stoking violence in Balochistan, drawing an angry response from New Delhi which described it as "premeditated murder" if carried out.
India summoned the Pakistani high commissioner Abdul Basit and handed over a demarche describing the court proceedings as "farcical" and also put on hold the release of several Pakistani prisoners, scheduled for Wednesday.
Jadhav was arrested on March 3 last year in Balochistan and accused of being a Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) agent who was fuelling the Baloch separatist movement and attempting to sabotage the $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India denies the charges.
A statement by the Pakistani military's publicity wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said Jadhav was declared guilty by an army court of waging war against the country.
"The spy was tried through field general court martial under the Pakistan army act and awarded the death sentence. Today chief of army staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa confirmed his death sentence awarded by FGCM," the ISPR said.
"He confessed before a magistrate and the court that he was tasked by RAW to plan, coordinate and organise espionage/sabotage activities aiming to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of law enforcement agencies for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi."
Relations between the neighbours are at their lowest in several years following a string of militants on defence installations in India, which New Delhi blames on Pakistan-based groups.
Shorty after the Pakistan army statement, Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar summoned Basit - whose successor was incidentally named on Monday and handed over the demarche.
"If this sentence (is) against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder," the demarche said.
"The proceedings that have led to the sentence against Jadhav are farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It is significant that our high commission was not even informed that Jadhav was being brought to trial."
Last December, Pakistan's foreign policy adviser Sartaj Aziz told the upper house of Parliament that the "dossier on Jadhav contained mere statements" and didn't have any conclusive evidence. Hours later, Pakistan denied the statement.
Pakistan Army had also released a "confessional video" of Jadhav who is purportedly heard saying that he was serving the Indian navy. In the video, Jadhav allegedly says he arrived in Iran in 2003 and started a small business in Chahbahar.
Islamabad also repeatedly refused India's request for access to Jadhav, who allegedly held an Iranian residency permit and a passport in the name of Hussain Mubarak Patel. The place of birth given in this passport was apparently Sangli, Maharashtra.
Pakistan has repeatedly accused India of fomenting unrest in Balochistan, the country's largest province, but it has never offered any evidence to back up its claims. India last year launched a new offensive by highlighting Pakistan's human rights abuses in Balochistan.
Though several suspected Pakistani spies were arrested in India over the years, none had been sentenced to death.
In 1999, Pakistan had hanged an Indian, Sheikh Shamim, also on charges of spying.
In 2013, another Indian national, Sarabjit Singh, who was sentenced to death for spying in Pakistan, was killed in jail after being attacked by fellow inmates. Singh was on death row for 16 years. However, previous cases have largely gone through civilian courts.
Months later, a Pakistani prisoner was killed by inmates in the Jammu jail.

India, Australia ink pact to expand counter-terror cooperation
MMNN:10 April 2017

A pact to significantly expand counter-terror cooperation was among six agreements India and Australia inked today as the two countries called for strong action against those financing and providing sanctuary to terror groups.
However, no breakthrough was achieved on a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) during talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull who merely decided to direct their respective officials to hold an early round of negotiations for the free trade deal.
During their talks, the two leaders decided to significantly expand their ties in several key areas including defence, trade, energy and education.
While Modi thanked Turnbull for passage of a legislation by the Australian parliament with bi-partisan support paving way for the country to export uranium to India, Turnbull said he was looking forward to starting the supply "as soon as possible".
Both the prime ministers felt that commercial export of Australian uranium could begin soon, opening up a new avenue for Australia to support Indias energy requirement.
The entire expanse of bilateral ties was reviewed at the talks including issues relating to Indian students studying in Australia and ways to deepen maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region.
"We took a number of forward-looking decisions to further strengthen our partnership, including the decision to soon hold the next round of negotiations on a CECA," Modi said at a joint media event with Turnbull.
Using cricket analogy, Modi, in a lighter vein, said "I am, of course, glad that our decisions are not subject to the DRS review system." Decision Review System (DRS) is a technology-based mechanism in cricket to review controversial umpiring decisions.
Referring to martime issues, the joint statement said both leaders recognised the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, as well as resolving maritime disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with the international law. It is seen as a reference to Chinas growing assertiveness in South China.
Modi and Turnbull also welcomed "continued and deepened" trilateral cooperation and dialogue among Australia, India and Japan.
In the talks. Turnbull noted Australias strong support for Indias membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. He also said Australia supports Indias entry into the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement, the two key export control groups.
On CECA, Turnbull did not give a timeline for the deal but said, "I think its fair to say that progress has not been as fast as either of us would have liked."
The two prime ministers have now asked negotiators on both sides to find a way out and list their priorities soon so that talks on it can move forward. There were indications that sticking points on the pact included issues relating to agriculture.
On the threat of terrorism, the two leaders asserted that the fight against terrorists, terror organisations and networks should also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against those who encourage, support and finance terror, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, and falsely extol their virtues.
"They emphasised the need for urgent measures to counter and prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism and radicalisation and expressed their determination to take concrete measures to step up cooperation and coordination among the law enforcement, intelligence and security organisations," a joint statement said.
The MoUs signed provided for deeper cooperation in areas of health and medicine, sports, environment, climate and wildlife, civil aviation security and cooperation in space technology.
Expressing happiness over cooperation in the energy sector, Modi said, "With the passage of a legislation in the Australian parliament with bi-partisan support, Australia is now ready to export uranium to India."
He also thanked Turnbull for Australias decision to join the International Solar Alliance. Referring to cooperation in the maritime sphere, Modi said peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific was key for economic growth.
"We, therefore, agree on the need for a secure and rule- based Indo-Pacific. We are also aware that in this globalised world, challenges like terrorism and cyber security extend beyond the boundaries of our region and, therefore, require global strategy and solutions," he said.
Modi said cooperation between the two countries in the area of defence and security has reached new heights.
The two prime ministers highlighted their shared desire to ensure that Indian Ocean architecture keeps pace with regional issues and addresses emerging threats and challenges in the region.
Noting that both the countries have been victims of terrorism, Modi and Turnbull said the signing of the MoU on cooperation in combating international terrorism and transnational organised crime will help both countries to address global and regional security threats.
"Our strong and vibrant strategic partnership is of course important for the security and well-being of our societies. But, it is also a major factor for peace, stability and security in our region," Modi said.
He said student exchanges are an important element of bilateral education cooperation and referred to more than 60,000 Indian students studying in the country.

Shia Personal Law Board for Triple Talaq Ban, Issues Fatwa Against Cow Slaughter

NEW DELHI:MMNN:5 April 2017

The All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) has adopted three resolutions including a fatwa against cow slaughter, a move to ban Triple Talaq and a call to solve the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute through an out-of-court settlement.
The fatwa banning the slaughter of cows in India was issued at its executive meeting in Lucknow on Wednesday after the AISPLB sought a clarification from Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain Najafi, a top Shia cleric from Iraq. It said communal tensions arise often in the country over cow slaughter.
Seventy five-year-old Hussain Najafi is one of the five Grand Ayatollahs in Iraq and is entitled to issue a fatwa for the community members.
Maulana Yasoob Abbas, member of the All India Shia Personal Law Board told News18 that how this fatwa aims to put an end to communal riots.
"For us Shias, horses are considered an important animal and likewise cows are considered holy by the Hindus. Hence, we need to respect other religions as well. If due to the death of one cow, a hundred humans are killed, I think it is best to save that cow," said Abbas.
This move from the Shia community comes just a day after the Dewan of Ajmer Dargah and an influential Sunni Islamic spiritual leader came down heavily on the practice of triple talaq and called it "un-Islamic" and something which was against the Holy Quran. He also called for a legislation which would ban the slaughter of all the bovine species in India and announced a personal decision to have given up beef along with his family members.
However, this resolution concerning triple talaq was not unexpected as on March 15, Shia Personal Law Board member Maulana Yasoob Abbas had stated that triple talaq in one sitting was not acceptable.
Abbas said: "I am moving an intervening application in the SC in the next two or three days and will request the court to make me a party. This is because I want such a strong law against triple talaq, that a man thinks thrice before divorcing his wife."
The Shia personal law board also seems to have supported the Chief Justice of India's stand by calling for an out-of-court settlement when most of the parties to the dispute had dismissed the offer stating that previous negotiations and mediations have not yielded any result.
On the suggestion for an out-of-court settlement for the Babri Masjid dispute Abbas said: "Whenever there is a religious matter to be decided, it's best to leave the political parties aside and take a call. Hence, this settlement should be without political interference and I am sure it will be successful as we understand each other's concern."
Recently Abbas had paid a courtesy visit to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, to express their demands in connection with certain demands of the Shias in India.
The Shia delegation headed by Abbas was expected to demand the establishment of a separate committee or commission on the lines of the Sachar Committee report for ensuring development and welfare of minority Shia among the Muslims.

India underlines claim over PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan

New Delhi :MMNN:5 April 2017
India underlined its claim over territories of Jammu and Kashmir under Pakistani occupation+ today amid moves by Islamabad to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as a new province.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj asserted in the Lok Sabha that it would be wrong to think that India will let go of any part of its territory.
She made the statement after BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab wondered if the government has even properly responded to Pakistan's move to make Gilgit-Baltistan its fifth province.
Noting that some western countries had criticised it, he asked, "What is our government's response?"
He asked the government to not forget history or it will be condemned to repeat it.
In her response, Swaraj said the Indian government had opposed Pakistan's move the very day it got to know about it.
"Even raising a doubt over this government that it will let go of some area will be wrong," the minister added.
She noted that both Houses of Parliament had passed resolutions which had iterated India's claim over the PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan, both under Pakistan's occupation, and the government was bound by it.
She also quoted a BJP slogan which underlines India's claim over the territory and noted that its founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee had "sacrificed" his life over this.
"We are bound by Parliament's resolutions and also our resolve," she said.

Ajmer dargah blast case: Bhavesh Patel, Devendra Gupta sentenced to life imprisonment

NEW DELHI:MMNN:22 March 2017

A special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Wednesday sentenced Bhavesh Patel and Devendra Gupta to life in jail in the Ajmer Dargah blast case.
The magistrate also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on Patel and Rs 5,000 on Gupta, both of whom claimed innocence.
"We will approach the High Court," Lokesh Sharma, Patel's advocate, told IANS.
"We are innocent and it is a political conspiracy against us," Gupta told the media while coming out of the court.
The court found the three guilty for criminal conspiracy and action intended to outrage religious feelings besides charging them under the Explosive Substances Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Three of the 13 accused are still missing.
On 8 March, the court had convicted Patel, Gupta and Joshi in the case while acquitting others including Swami Aseemanand. Joshi died soon after the blast.
The case was handed over to the ATS Rajasthan and was later transferred to NIA which re-registered the case with the NIA police station in New Delhi on 6 April, 2011.
There were as many as 149 witnesses in the case and 451 documents were examined and the NIA filed three supplementary chargesheets in the case.
The blast on 11 October, 2007 inside the premises of the shrine of Sufi saint Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer around 6.15 pm at the time of Roza Iftaar, had left three pilgrims dead and 15 others injured.
The revered shrine is visited by thousands of Muslims and non-Muslims, both from India and abroad.

Yogi Adityanath's UP development agenda is a pipe dream unless women are considered equal partners

New Delhi :MMNN:22 March 2017
Yogi Adityanath, after his appointment as the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, was in Delhi on Tuesday to pay the customary obeisance to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. Speculations were rife that Adityanath is already in disagreement with deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya over the allocation of portfolios. But it was his speech in Lok Sabha, reportedly his last one as an MP, that garnered the maximum amount of attention.
Known for his controversial, communally-charged speeches, the Hindutva leader's tone and language suggested a clear departure from his usual style as he made the right noises about development, anti-corruption and inclusivity. "In Uttar Pradesh, the new model of development will be based on 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas'... My government will be for everyone, not specifically for any caste or community... We will work for development of all sections and castes and create a new structure of progress," he said.
The BJP that fought the recently-held Uttar Pradesh election on the tried and tested development plank, it's the selection of Adityanath as the chief ministerial candidate came as a surprise. While trying to make sense of this decision, some came up with a rather weak argument: If you make the naughtiest student the class monitory, then discipline automatically follows. The man who once said, "Probably in the rest of Uttar Pradesh, Hindu women run away with Muslims but in Gorakhpur, Hindu men marry Muslim women and bring them home" can hardly be described as naughty.
For argument's sake, let's assume that Adityanath has renounced his hardliner ways and accepted development as his mantra, his views on women empowerment and equal participation will definitely prove to be an impediment in his road to development. Adityanath was one of the BJP MPs, who went against the party whip, and opposed the Women's Reservation Bill in 2010. On the website, in an essay titled 'Matrishakti - Bharatiya Sanskriti Ke Sandarbh Mein', he writes on the importance of women's participation in the development of society, but limits the role of woman to a mother, sister, daughter and a wife.
He goes on to write that just like if energy is not channelised, it goes to waste and proves to be disastrous, a women's power needs to be reined in. He writes that women don't need freedom, they need protection and channelisation. His opinionated, but dubious take on women's freedom gets confusing, considering he has been equally loquacious about cows and their protection.
Continuing in a similar vein, he writes a father offers protection to a girl, in her adulthood the role is taken up by her husband and in her old age it is the son that looks after her. His myopic vision restricts a woman's involvement in the family structure. The struggles of a working woman might as be well non-existent for this leader.
At some point, he acknowledges women's contribution in the Independence movement and in the progress of the nation and lauds their successes in various sectors. He also writes that years of discrimination have pushed women in the background and that though women have made progress in all walks of life, it has been mostly witnessed in urban areas and in affluent families and writes that a lot has to be done in the rural sector.
Making his argument against the Women's Reservation Bill, he writes that the Constitution doesn't discriminate based on caste, gender or community, then how does reservation for women makes sense. He elucidates that it will only fracture the family and the relations between a man and a woman. He says it only politicises women's rights. He exhibits his shaky hold on issues related to gender equality and argues that if progress is made organically, then there is no need rush things up. At one point he talks about women's rights and equal opportunities and goes ahead contradicts his statement by arguing about the futility of the Women's Reservation Bill.
Adityanath also implies in the essay, the West-driven women's liberation movement can potentially prove to be destructive to the Indian family structure.
The newly appointed chief minister might be on track with the development agenda, but unless he stretches his imagination and recongnises the role of women as an equal stakeholder in the socio-economic growth of the state and not just limit to the domestic set-up, all-round development of Uttar Pradesh can remain a myth.

India willing to let go of veto power initially to get UNSC membership

NEW DELHI:MMNN:8 March 2017

In a bid to get the UN reform process moving, India and other G4 nations have said they were open to innovative ideas and willing to not exercise veto as permanent members of a reformed Security Council until a decision on it has been taken.
In a joint statement, delivered by India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin at an inter-governmental negotiations meeting yesterday, the G4 nations of India, Brazil, Germany and Japan emphasised that an overwhelming majority of the UN member states supports the expansion of both permanent and non-permanent membership in a reformed Security Council. The statement points out that a negotiating text is a basic requirement for work at the UN. "While we are aware of no other way to proceed but this, we are open to innovative ideas to rework the UN system," it added.
The G4 nations said it unfortunate that they have not heard any innovative ideas but a few countries bringing old rejected models for consideration of the member states yet again. "We are, as a matter of respect, willing to consider them and have them tabled along with our proposals in a composite text," it said, adding that for the nations' and UN's credibility to be sustained, it is time for "honest engagement and exchange on the basis of a text." On the issue of the veto, the G4 said its approach is that the problem of veto is not one of quantity but of quality -- of introducing restrictions.
"While the new permanent members would as a principle have the same responsibilities and obligations as current permanent members, they shall not exercise the veto until a decision on the matter has been taken during a review," it said. The grouping warned that the issue of veto is important but member states should not allow it to have a "veto over the process of Council reform itself." It suggested that new permanent members can be democratically elected through an appropriate initial election process and subjected to mandatory and detailed review process after a specific time-period so as to ensure accountability.
Some member states have "conflated and confused" regular elections to the Council with accountability. The bloc said it believes there is an "imbalance of influence" within the Security Council between the permanent and non-permanent members and expansion only in the non-permanent category is not going to solve the problem. "It will actually widen the difference between permanent and non-permanent members even more, tilting further the scales in favour of a dispensation that was valid in the special situation in 1945 but is no longer now," the statement said.
Akbaruddin said a "balanced enlargement" in both categories is necessarily the only way to ensure an equilibrium that reflects the current situation and any reform that does not address expansion of both categories will be "incomplete and futile." "Expansion of non-permanent membership is a solution which adds to the size without addressing the malaise that afflicts the Council," he said in the statement.

Saifullah was self-radicalised, no evidence of ISIS link: UP Police

New Delhi :MMNN:8 March 2017
Saifullah, the alleged terrorist with ISIS sympathies who was killed this morning in Lucknow, was likely "self-radicalised', said a senior police official today.
"We have no such evidence yet of any ISIS link," said Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Daljit Chaudhary, about Saifullah who was also allegedly involved in a bomb blast on a train in Madhya Pradesh yesterday. Police earlier said that Saifullah and two others apprehended yesterday were affiliated with ISIS's 'Khorasan' module.
The senior policeman added though that police found plenty of ISIS literature in Urdu and in English in the house that Saifullah and two others Faizan and Imran, had been staying in for the past two months, in Haji colony on the outskirts of Lucknow. During the time that the standoff with Saifullah was underway, police managed to apprehend Faizan and Imran.
Police also found eight pistols, 650 rounds of ammunition, 50 fired rounds, explosives materials, bomb making instruments, pellets, timers, wires, 45 grams gold, some foreign currency, passports and SIM cards in the house, they said.
When asked whether it appeared the alleged terrorists are novices, Chaudhary said not all of them appeared to be beginners, considering they executed a bomb blast yesterday.
The "mastermind" of the train terror strike has been identified as Atif Mujaffar alias Al-Qasim , a well-off engineering student from Aligarh and the self-proclaimed 'emir' (chief) of the so-called the "Khorasan module" in India.
The 'Khorasan' module, an Islamic State offshoot based near the Afghan-Pakistan border, is expanding to new areas, recruiting fighters and widening the reach of attacks in the region. Bolstered by fighters from Pakistani and other militant groups and an active social media presence, some officials said the 'Khorasan' module of ISIS has become an "umbrella organization" for disparate movements.
Officials said Atif had placed the timer pipe bomb on the train at Bhopal railway station injuring 10 passengers, three of them seriously, when the train was reaching Jabdi station in Shajapur district on Tuesday morning around 9.40 am.
Atif was arrested along with Danish Akthar alias Zafar of Kanpur and Sayyed Mir Hussain alias Hamza by the MP ATS at around 1.30pm from a bus near Pipariya in Madhya Pradesh's Hoshangabad district.

India needs more scientists to harness technology: PM

NEW DELHI:MMNN:27 Feb. 2017

India needs more scientists to harness technology for the benefit of the common man, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today while hailing the scientific community for the record launch of 104 satellites and the successful test-firing of a new missile.
"The attraction for science among our young generation should increase. The country needs more scientists. When science is harnessed keeping in mind the needs of the common people, it becomes the most valuable contributor to general humanity," he said in his monthly 'Mann ki Baat' radio programme.
Referring to a recent competition organised at the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas, he said socially useful innovations were showcased and one of these was an application developed to help fishermen locate the most productive fishing zones and get updates about weather and sea conditions. "There are times when a problem portrays the importance of science for finding a solution," Modi said referring to the 2005 Mumbai floods which led to development of a dwelling structure that saves its occupants and prevents water-logging.
Referring to the 38th successive successful launch of PSLV rocket that placed a record 104 satellite in orbit, Modi said ISRO scientists have brought laurels to the nation. He said the ISRO team had several young scientists, including women. "After the successful mission of sending Mangalyaan to Mars, ISRO scripted a world record in the arena of space. ISRO has successfully launched 104 satellites simultaneously into space. "These satellites belonged to various countries. India has created history by becoming the first country to launch successfully 104 satellites into space in one go," he said.
He noted that one of the satellites launched by PSLV is Cartosat 2D, which has become operational and will be of great help in mapping of resources and infrastructure and planning for urban development. On the successful test-firing of a ballistic interceptor missile, he said that it destroyed an 'enemy' missile at an altitude of around 100 km above the earth surface. Hardly four or five countries in the world possess this capability, he said.

IS planned lone-wolf attacks in Gujarat, two arrested: ATS

New Delhi :MMNN:27 Feb. 2017
The Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Sunday arrested two brothers from Bhavnagar for allegedly planning an Islamic State-inspired "lone wolf attack" on a temple in Surendranagar. The father of the young men, a retired employee of Saurashtra University and a district-level cricket umpire, said both his sons had bachelor's degrees in computer application. One of the arrested men is a graphic designer; the other is a scrap dealer in Bhavnagar. ATS officials said the brothers, Vaseem Ramodiya and Naeem Ramodiya, were "guided by an unknown ISIS handler" with whom they were allegedly plotting to attack places which could create "big news". The brothers were picked up from their homes in Bhavnagar and Rajkot.
Vaseem's name, the officials said, had emerged after the arrest by the National Investigation Agency in February 2015 of the Rampur, Uttar Pradesh-based Mufti Abdus Sami Qasmi. Call detail records showed Qasmi had been in touch with a mobile number registered in the name of Vaseem Arifbhai Ramodia, a resident of Nehru Nagar, Raiya Road, Rajkot.
Surveillance of Vaseem's phone subsequently revealed that "he was into ultra-radical jihadi ideology as preached by the ISIS," says the FIR. According to the FIR, "the brothers were planning to conduct a lone-wolf terrorist attack and a blast of Improvised Explosive Device in immediate future". The brothers' mother and Vaseem's wife knew about their alleged "terror plans", the FIR says. Vaseem has a 1-year-old daughter.
In Rajkot, the father of the accused, Arif Ramodiya, claimed he knew nothing about his sons' alleged terror links until the time police raided his home in the city's Nehrunagar area late on Saturday night. "I know nothing about they having any terror links. Both my sons have studied computer science. While the elder Vaseem lived with us and did graphic designing work, the younger, Naeem, lived in Bhavnagar, and was a scrap dealer," Arif Ramodiya, who retired last year as a senior clerk of the physical education department of Saurashtra University, Rajkot, said.
"Policemen came past midnight and arrested Vaseem. They also seized a knife, an axe and some material which they claimed is an explosive. They have not allowed me to meet my sons," Arif Ramodiya said. Himanshu Shah, media manager of the Saurashtra Cricket Association, said Ramodiya "has passed an umpiring examination and has been officiating in our district-level matches for the last six-seven years". "His association with us is like that of a freelancer," Shah said. Shah also said Vaseem and Naeem could have played cricket at the district level, and SCA was going through its records to verify that.
According to the ATS, the arrest is the first of its kind in Gujarat. The brothers have been charged with conspiracy to wage war against India, and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Explosive Substances Act. Investigators have found PDF files in the brothers' computers and mobile phones that allegedly describe ways to make bombs with alarm clocks, material extracted from firecrackers, decoration lamps and elbow pipes, etc. A manual on detonation by remote control, and resource manual for guerilla tactics and weapons training have also been allegedly found in their phones.
One "GF 22 9V" battery for transistor radios, 58 grammes of explosive substance (extracted from firecrackers), residue of firecrackers, and 10 firecrackers commonly known as sutli bombs have been recovered. Police said that "various applications are found in the mobile phone from Vaseem wherein chats with other radical elements have been found". In its 12-page FIR, the ATS has cited several alleged web-based chats between Vaseem and his unknown ISIS handler, where he purportedly said he was ready for "muqammal kaam" or complete work.
Officials said surveillance had revealed that Vaseem was in regular touch with his brother Naeem and, according to the FIR, "both discussed various development pertaining to ISIS. Tone and tenor of the telephonic talks between the brothers clearly indicate that both the brothers are highly influenced by the Caliphate and wish to be part of the so-called crusade against non-believers." In a seized laptop, 173 files of "bayaans" of Mufti Qasmi were found, the FIR says. "We are investigating everything at this moment," Superintendent of Police (ATS) Himanshu Shukla said.

Govt may hike train fares after Budget to check its mounting losses

NEW DELHI:MMNN:21 Dec. 2016

The government might hike rail passenger fares and freight rates after the budget to stave off mounting losses, a top official said on Tuesday, as finance minister Arun Jaitley said passengers should pay for services they receive.
Speaking weeks before he presents India's first combined railway and Union budget in February, Jaitley made a strong pitch for the railways to outsource non-core activities such as hospitality.
"Railways got caught in a battle where populism prevailed over performance... the basic principle on which any commercial establishment is to be run is that consumers must pay for the services they receive," Jaitley told reporters.
The railway ministry official said the public-sector behemoth suffered an annual loss of Rs 33,000 crore on account of passenger fare subsidy but any hike announcement might come after the budget as it wants to assess budgetary support.
"We want the government to help railways bear the cost of the losses but so far, the finance ministry has refused any assistance," said an official who did not wish to be quoted.
The ministry is also likely to move the cabinet soon, seeking approval for setting up a committee to recommend rates of passenger fare and freight.
India's colonial-era railways carries more than 23 million passengers daily but creaky infrastructure, poor maintenance and shoddy revenue generation has hurt the world's fourth-largest rail network.
Successive governments have backed away from reforms and especially hiking passenger fares, which is a politically sensitive topic.
As a result, the country's largest employer runs many trains at rock-bottom fares and struggles to balance its books.
For example, for every Rs 100 spent on a rail passenger, the railways recovers just Rs 57 while the other Rs 43 is government subsidy. The poor financial health has taken a toll on rail infrastructure and accidents are common.
A number of state elections are scheduled for February-March, including the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
The finance minister said to remain competitive against highways and airlines, railways would have to strengthen its performance and internal management system.
"The core competence of railways is to drive trains. Hospitality may not be the core competence of the railways and what is not within its core competence, the principle of outsourcing -- accepted the world over -- can be a logical addition," Jaitley said.
He also dismissed Opposition criticism of the government's recall of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes and said the Reserve Bank of India had enough currency for circulation.
"We were prepared. There has been no day when RBI did not dispense adequate cash to banks. Even today, RBI has more than adequate cash to last not just till December 30 but even beyond it," Jaitley said.
Millions have lined up outside banks and ATMs since the high-value banknotes were scrapped last month but a cash crunch and frequent rule changes have irked the Opposition.
The finance minister also pitched for a shift to digital transactions, announcing small traders and businesses with a turnover of up to Rs 2 crore would pay less tax if they accept payments through banking and digital platforms. The presumptive tax on digital and cheque payments will be 6% instead of 8%.
Jaitley said the government will continue to incentivise the shift from cash transactions as there had been a 300-400% increase in digital and e-payments.

After Saarc, India boycotts Pakistan again

New Delhi :MMNN:21 Dec. 2016
India, along with Bangladesh and Iran, has pulled out of a key regional conference on sustainable development which is being held in Pakistan, according to a media report.
The three-day session of the Governing Council of the Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT) started in Islamabad on Monday . The objective of the conference is to promote innovation for sustainable development and discus strategy of the APCTT.
The Express Tribune reported that officials of the ministry of science and technology initially confirmed New Delhi's participation in the conference but later announced India's decision to pull out. "Just hours before the meeting was due to start, the Indian delegation cancelled their trip saying that their head delegate had contracted food poisoning," the official said.
India had earlier in November boycotted the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit that was to be held in Islamabad. It is believed that New Delhi's decision is part of its efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally by staying away from such multilateral engagements hosted by Islamabad, media reports said.
However, government officials in New Delhi said not much should be read into india's absence and that the Indian delegation couldn't attend probably because of scheduling issues. The ministry of science and technology is hosting the meeting of the 12th Governing Council of APCTT.
According to sources, all of the 14 member countries of APCTT were invited, but India, Bangladesh and Iran decided not to attend the meeting.The governing council, which meets once a year, advises on the future and reviews the working of the centre located in India under the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
The countries attending the meeting are China, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Samoa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. The meet will approve projects to be undertaken in 2017. Out of the total five projects, India has submitted one titled 'Feed the Future India'.The project is aimed at enhancing food security in selected least-developed countries through the establishment of an agricultural innovation accelerator platform in India with USAID funding of $1.5 million.
The APCTT is a specialised regional Institute of the United Nations' Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UN-ESCAP), based in New Delhi and a team from India have come to Islamabad to look after all the management related issues for the three-day conference.

Narendra Modi delivers sucker punch, takes on Opposition at parliamentary meet

NEW DELHI:MMNN:17 Dec. 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi couldn't speak in Parliament in the washed out winter session. However, the Prime Minister found another smart way to be heard - convene BJP parliamentary party meeting and get his speech there recorded by official government broadcaster DD News - and have that telecast after both Houses of Parliament were adjourned sine die.
By the time Modi's address to his own party MPs - 282 from Lok Sabha and 55 from Rajya Sabha - could be telecast in the afternoon, thanks to Congress party's strategy to go solo to give political mileage to Rahul Gandhi by personally petitioning the Prime Minister for farmer loan waiver, the brief opposition unity was tattered.
Modi had used the opportunity to blast Congress, citing documented evidence since the time of Indira Gandhi and sending out the message that the main opposition party and its leaders were self-centred who gave more importance to the electoral survival of the party than the nation. This was, which Modi pointed out, was in contrast to BJP's "nation first" stance.
Citing excerpts from former home secretary Madhav Godbole's book Unfinished Innings: Recollections and Reflections of a Civil Servant, the Prime Minister said that demonetisation was the need of the hour in 1971 but Indira Gandhi with an eye on coming elections chose to take the populist path: "When YB Chavan told her (Indira) about the proposal for demonetisation and his view that it should be accepted and implemented forthwith, she asked only one question, "Chavanji, are no more elections to be fought by Congress?"" Chavan got the message and the recommendation was dumped.
Modi also referred to the Wanchoo committee report recommendations stressing on the need for demonetisation in 1971.
Indira Gandhi's reference and her snub on demonetisation of high denomination currency notes were aimed to serve twin purposes - that Congress or more particularly her daughter-in-law and grandson and their new found allies were patently wrong in acting rough against Modi. Second, his comparisons with Indira Gandhi was to drive home the point that while she always had Congress' electoral gains in mind before taking a decision Modi always have the guts to take bold and tough decisions for the country irrespective of electoral implications.
While going out strongly against the Congress, Modi didn't spare other opposition parties either, which had lately aligned with Congress on the issue: "Disruption of parliamentary proceeds have been taking place earlier also but this time it was far too much. The difference between earlier occasions and winter session disruptions is that while earlier disruptions had taken place because some corruption cases had come up and some expose had happened. The opposition would unite to fight on the issue of integrity and honesty but this has happened for the first time that the treasury benches had taken steps to fight corruption and most in opposition had united to support the corrupt."
"The political standards have fallen to such low level that some people dare to stand for the corrupt. This is a huge concern," he said. In the same breathe he had a word of praise for Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who despite ideological differences with the BJP supported the demonetisation move. "Jyoti Basu had once favoured demonetisation. But today, see what the communists are doing," Modi said, taking potshots at the CPM.
He talked of denigration of political standards for the second time where he referred to some parties including Congress, AAP and some other parties asking for proof of Indian Army's surgical strike in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir(PoK). "Today is 16 December, India had made Pakistan surrender and Bangladesh was liberated. There was a robust opposition then but no one had then asked for evidence and when today Indian soldiers show valour then they ask for evidence. Falling standards in public life is a matter of grave concern," Modi said.
Besides targeting his political rivals, the Prime Minister sought to psychologically prepare people of the nation to be ready to face some hardships beyond 50-day-period that he had initially asked for.
Demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 is an important milestone but not the end of it. If the exploitation of middle class has to end and rights of the poor have to be protected then corruption has to be eliminated.
"I have said this before, 50 days would be pinching and thereafter the problems would slowly ease. Nobody could have imagined the kind of success and popular support we have achieved," he said. For him, this was a move to stop the exploitation of the middle class and protect rights of poor.
Modi hinted that his strike on Benami property could come soon. Demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes was an important milestone in the fight against corruption but not the end destination of it. Mark his words, "After all why we passed Benami property law. Now they will shout Modi has passed that law in haste. The question is why did you not implement it since 1988. Modi government has passed the law and will now implement it." He anticipated that once that law is implemented, suggesting a possible crackdown of benami properties, then again opposition parties would cry hoarse.
His idea was now that winter session of Parliament has come to a close the MPs should go to their respective constituencies and talk about virtues of demonetisation and push for a digital economy.
From the ruling BJP perspective, the closing day of the washed out Winter Session had given them strong talking points - Modi had spoken what he wanted to speak, if not on floor of the House then at the parliamentary party meet in the Parliament House premises, got the rights of persons with disability bill passed and put Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in an awkward position for two reasons.
First, Rahul Gandhi's failure to give evidence of what he had claimed earlier at a press conference. "Read my lips. The Prime Minister is personally terrified with the information that I have. I have information on the personal corruption of (the) Prime Minister." Second, Rahul Gandhi's own act to take mileage by taking a Congress delegation to Modi seeking loan waivers for farmers almost instantaneously broke opposition unity ranks. NCP's Prafulla Patel and CPM's Sitaram Yechuri publicly expressed their displeasure over Rahul's move and disassociated with the Congress-led opposition march to the President House. Besides, NCP and Left, SP, BSP and DMK which had earlier sided with Congress inside both Houses of Parliament too chose to stay away from Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi-led march to Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Congress was left only with TMC and RJD. While Trinamool Congress is desperate to find support from any quarter for Mamta Banerjee's protest against demonetisation and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav is eyeing longer run association with Congress should Nitish Kumar dump RJD and go for a fresh political realignment in times to come.
The problem for Congress is that it can't take on Modi government for Prime Minister's speech broadcast by DD News. The Congress had set a new precedent in 2004 when Congress parliamentary party meeting at Central Hall of Parliament, emotional outpourings for Sonia Gandhi when she had nominated Manmohan Singh to be Prime Minister in May 2004 was broadcast live.

SC refuses to stay demonetisation. Refers matter to Constitution bench

New Delhi :MMNN:17 Dec. 2016
The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday decided to examine all aspects of demonetisation. The apex court drafted nine questions and referred them to a five-judge Constitution bench. It also stayed the hearing of all petitions related to demonetisation filed in various high courts, saying the SC alone will hear the petitions to avoid multiplicity of decisions.
However, the bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur declined to grant any immediate relief to the depositors on withdrawal of their money in the banks after demonetisation. It did not extend the dates for the use of old currency in various sectors nor did it relax the rules, as it did not want to interfere in the fiscal policy of the government.
The SC took up the plight of the district cooperative banks as the first issue, as its dealings in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 have been frozen. "We are not inclined to suspend that bar as an interim measure. This is especially when the decision is the outcome of financial policy, which the government claims to have adopted on the basis of experience," the order said.
Regarding the bar on cooperative banks from utilising the demonetised notes deposited with them between November 11 and 14, the court took note of the government undertaking about relaxation of the rules and urged the government to issue a suitable notification within two days.
On the promise to allow withdrawal of Rs 24,000, the court noted that the government has already made it amply clear that it would take around 50 days to streamline the cashflow.
That period is still not exhausted. According to the government, as of now, the Reserve Bank of India has been able to infuse around Rs 5 lakh crore of the new legal tender notes of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000. That is around 40 per cent of the amount of demonetised notes already deposited with the banks.
Taking into consideration the statement of the government, the court recommended that "the authorities fulfil their commitment made in terms of the stated notification permitting withdrawal of Rs 24,000 per account holder per week to the extent possible and review that decision periodically and take necessary corrective measures in that behalf."
Regarding the plea in the petitions that the date for surrender of the old currency must be extended, the order stated that "in our opinion, whether the exemption period should be extended or not must be best left to the judgment of the government of the day with a hope that the government will be responsive and sensitive to the problems encountered by the common man. Accordingly, we decline to issue any interim direction to the government in the matter of extending the period of exemption and leave it open to the government to take appropriate decision in that behalf, as may be advised."
There are some 40 petitions in the SC and around 50 before high courts, which are set to be transferred to the apex court. The government and other authorities concerned have six weeks to file their replies to the petitions and the petitioners can file their counter to the government three weeks thereafter. The process will take around two months. The present Chief Justice is retiring on January 2 and J S Khehar will take over. An early decision on the nine questions will depend on the setting up of the Constitution bench and the time taken for arguments and delivery of judgment thereafter.
Supreme Court on Friday referred 9 queries to a Constitution bench
1. Whether the notification dated November 8, 2016, is ultra vires Section 26(2) and Sections 7,17, 23, 24, 29 and 42 of the Reserve Bank of India Act (RBI), 1934
2. Does the notification contravene the provisions of Article 300(A) of the Constitution?
3. Assuming the notification has been validly issued under the RBI Act, 1934, whether it is ultra vires Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution
4. Whether the limit on withdrawal of cash from the funds deposited in bank accounts has no basis in law and violates Articles 14, 19 and 21
5. Whether the implementation of the impugned notification(s) suffer(s) from procedural and/or substantive unreasonableness and thereby violates Articles 14 and 19 and, if so, to what effect
6. In the event that Section 26(2) is held to permit demonetisation, does it suffer from excessive delegation of legislative power, thereby rendering it ultra vires the Constitution?
7. What is the scope of judicial review in matters relating to fiscal and economic policy of the government?
8. Whether a petition by a political party on the issues raised is maintainable under Article 32
9. Whether district cooperative banks have been discriminated against by excluding them from accepting deposits and exchanging demonetised notes
Political implications of SC's interim order
* The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government would have been more empowered if the Supreme Court had agreed with the Attorney General's consistent argument that fiscal and monetary policy is not the domain of courts
* But a judicial denouement of demonetisation as a policy has been avoided
* The interim order establishes yet another important judicial principle: that nothing is beyond judicial review
* The interim order establishes yet another judicial landmark. In the past, whether in the case of Balco privatisation or the R K Garg bearer bonds case, the court recognised that in economic matters, it should adopt a 'stay off' policy.
* However, in the process of arriving at a conclusion it laid down further law. This interim order just illustrates that again
* CJI T S Thakur's term ends on January 3. A new CJI, Khehar Singh will take over on January 4. How he selects a Constitution bench, how the time frame for the hearings are set will be the new CJI's responsibility. So for the moment, the government can breathe a sigh of relief
* But the issue of whether government should have brought demonetisation before Parliament, whether the RBI Act allows decisions of this nature are questions that will be decided by the Constitutional bench
* In the past, too, (1978) demonetisation issues were heard by a Constitutional bench

Demonetisation and scramble for political gains: Congress could end up as a has-been

NEW DELHI:MMNN:14 Dec. 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation move has led to a mad scramble among political parties to tap the impatience, resentment and growing anger of the common people who have been forced to queue up, often for days together, outside ATMs and banks to withdraw their own money to beat the crisis of liquid cash for day to day expenses.
The Congress is the largest party in Parliament with 44 MPs in the Lok Sabha - though it does not enjoy the official status of leader of opposition - and another 60 in the Rajya Sabha. This adds up to a hefty 104 MPs which is considerably more than the 50 of the AIADMK and the 46 of the Trinamool Congress, its immediate non-NDA opposition parties. The 130-year-old party has been raising its voice against the tardy implementation of demonetisation by stalling the proceedings of the two houses of Parliament, protesting in front of the Gandhi statue in the complex and leading a delegation of opposition leaders to submit a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi stood outside ATMs and banks in solidarity with the common people who were facing hardships in accessing their own money.
And even here he and the Congress have had to compete with parties like the Trinamool Congress whose chief Mamata Banerjee is leading her own charge against the Modi government by demanding a rollback of demonetisation - a demand articulated also by Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The Congress was overshadowed by her fiery presence and tough stand when on the opening day of the winter session of Parliament on November 16 she marched to Rashtrapati Bhavan, with the BJP's ally the Shiv Sena in tow, and later held a rally at Jantar Mantar with AAP and some other leaders.
It is easy for the Congress to register its protest in Parliament and capture the headlines or for Rahul to come out with quotable quotes like PayTM means Pay To Modi, demonetisation is the country's biggest scam, notebandi was intended to help Modi's corporate friends, there would be an "earthquake" if he is allowed to speak in the Lok Sabha or the country is tired of the PM's monologue .
All this has helped Rahul capture the headlines and acquire a profile. It has also given him a handle to chip away at Modi's image.
So far, so good.
But what after the Parliament session?
The big question is what will the party do once the session gets over as scheduled on December 16? Will its hyperactivity fizzle out? Or will it take out street level campaigns to empathise with people hit hard by the withdrawal of the old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes and the non-availability of the new currency in adequate quantities? Will it commiserate with the farmers who have found sowing difficult in the rabi season? More pertinently, will Rahul, who led a 26-day Deoria to Delhi Kisan Yatra to make a pitch for the Congress in next year's assembly polls in UP, traverse the countryside and the hinterland where the bulk of India's voters reside? Indeed, this is where the Congress's problems really lie.
The Congress's strength at the grassroots level has been rapidly depleting over the years. This is reflected in its electoral track record. The party was rejected by the electorate in 2014 because of the UPA's mega scams, its inability to check price rise and the paralysis in decision making in government. It got just 44 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and drew a blank in as many as 19 states and union territories. It could win just 261 seats of the last 2226 seats , including those for the Lok Sabha, for which elections were held.
The party presently rules just seven states - Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka (the biggest of the lot), Arunachal, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya - and shares power in Bihar and Puducherry. Over the years, it has been systematically ejected from vast stretches across the country. In Tamil Nadu it was overrun by Dravidian parties 50 years back.
Even in states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where it once held sway, it has been dislodged by the BJP for almost a decade and a half now. Its place has been taken over time by the BJP, a host of regional outfits, region-based parties and new forces including the SP, BSP, JD-U, RJD, BJD, TRS, TDP and newbie AAP.
No leg to stand on
What hurts the Congress most perhaps is the fact that it does not have a social base to call its own. Its erstwhile coalition of upper castes-minorities-scheduled castes has been hijacked by other parties. Its success in 2004 and 2009 in bypassing the caste affiliations by winning over the poor, the middle classes and the aspirational youth through the combined appeal of Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi has long dissipated. With Sonia now poised to hand over the mantle of party president-ship to her son, Rahul will be confronted with the triple task of strengthening the organisation, building a social coalition for his party and improving his and his party's image, credibility and appeal if the Congress is to recapture the popular mind and vote.
It hopes to do this partially by its intensive campaign against Modi's poorly -implemented and half-baked demonetisation drive. But then there are drags like charges of corruption in defence and other deals during the UPA tenure. The recent arrest of former Air Chief SP Tyagi for irregularities in the Rs 3600 crore AgustaWestland deal has not only stoked those memories but also threatens to widen the net as the former air force officer has alleged that the specifications of the helicopters were tweaked at the behest of the PMO, that is the office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This in turn would drag the Gandhi family into the controversy. Until the people and the voters are able to forget or overlook the sins of omission and commission of the UPA regime, the Congress can only be an also-ran in the battle to extract political gains from Modi's adventurism.
Parties which dominate their states will have the advantage of harnessing the anti-BJP sentiment arising out of demonetisation there. This would mean, for instance, Mamata's Trinamool in West Bengal, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav's SP and Mayawati's BSP in Uttar Pradesh. Even parties that have not gone the whole hog in opposing Modi's move - like the BJD or the AIADMK, which is grieving over the loss of its leader J Jayalalithaa - are unlikely to cede space to the Congress.
Indeed, in many of the states where the regional parties hold sway, the local sentiments for the home grown outfit would perhaps weigh more with the people than that of a 'national party' like the Congress which is notional at best given its present condition. The Congress however believes that since it is as an all India party with its footprint across the country it would automatically attract those who are disgruntled with or disillusioned by the BJP.
But this could turn out to be a pipe-dream unless the Congress manages to reconnect with the people, enhances its political profile and improves its performance in the elections. Voting will take place in 15 states before the country moves into another general election in 2019.
In 2017, there will be elections in seven states including SP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, Akali-BJP ruled Punjab, BJP ruled Gujarat and Goa and Congress-ruled Manipur, Uttarakhand and Himachal. In 2018 votes will be cast in eight states: BJP- ruled Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and Congress-ruled Mizoram and Karnataka. Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland are the other three states.
It is a long road ahead for the party before it can re-emerge as an alternative.

Jammu and Kashmir: Top LeT commander Abu Bakr killed in encounter by security forces

Srinagar:MMNN:14 Dec. 2016
A militant was killed on Wednesday in an encounter with security forces in Anantnag district while another ultra was trapped in a cordon in Sopore area of north Kashmir, police said here.
Militants opened fire on a patrol party of army at Beewra in Srigufwara area of Anantnag district this morning, a police official said. He said the army personnel retaliated, triggering a gunbattle.
Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Abu Bakr has been killed in Sopore district in Jammu and Kashmir by security forces.
One militant, identified as Basit Ahmad Dar, was killed in the encounter. Dar had recently joined Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit.
In another counter-insurgency operation, a militant --believed to be a foreigner -- was trapped in a house in Bomai area of Sopore in north Kashmir's Baramulla district, the official said.
He said further details of the incident were awaited.

Parliament logjam over demonetisation anguished President Mukherjee: PM Modi

NEW DELHI:MMNN:10 Dec. 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today told a farmers' rally in Gujarat that "happenings" in Parliament had "anguished" President Pranab Mukhejee, in a reference to the President's recent criticism of the continued logjam in the national legislature over the currency ban.
"Happenings in Parliament anguished our President, who has tremendous political experience," PM Modi said in Deesa, where he inaugurated a Rs 350 crore cheese plant.
President Mukherjee on Thursday had said, in a reference to Parliamentarians: " For God's sake, do your job . You are meant to transact business in Parliament. Disruption of Parliament is not acceptable at all."
The currency ban has been a contentious issue in the Parliament since the start of its winter session, and both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have witnessed repeated adjournments.
While the government saw President Mukherjee's remarks as a signal to the opposition, some opposition leaders said that the message was also for the government, which needed to respect the views of its critics and had a responsibility to run Parliament.
PM Modi today said the Parliament wasn't being allowed to function , and added that since he wasn't being allowed to speak in the Lok Sabha, he had decided to speak in the 'Jan Sabha'
PM Modi today said the currency ban had had broken the backbone of terrorism and Naxalism, weakened individuals involved in fake currency rackets, and had been implemented "to strengthen the hands of the poor of the nation."

Eyes on Sasikala as AIADMK says it will elect its general secretary soon

MMNN:10 Dec. 2016
Strongly defending former Chief Minister and party supremo Jayalalithaa's aide V K Sasikala, ruling AIADMK Saturday said there is nothing wrong in its leaders calling on her as she is a key member and asserted a person would soon be elected to the top post of General Secretary. The party also dismissed as rumours and falsehood, claims in a section of the media about who would be the next General Secretary.
AIADMK Organisational Secretary C Ponnaiyan answering a question related to state ministers' recent meetings with Sasikala, said "even if somebody (belonging to the party) met Sasikala Amma, what is wrong in it?, Is she not an important member of the party? What you say is wrong." Drawing a distinction between government-led by AIADMK and the party organisation, he told reporters at the party headquarters here that while the government was led by O Panneerselvam, the party was steered by elected party bodies.
"AIADMK is steered by party bodies, including general and executive committees and functionaries at multiple levels and Sasikala is a key member," Ponnaiyan, who is also the party spokesperson, said. "Sasikala Amma lived with Puratchi Thalaivi Amma's (revolutionary leader Jayalalithaa's) last breath. Such questions are unnecessary," he said.
Asked who the chief minister, ministers and other top officials are consulting by visiting the Poes Garden residence of the departed AIADMK supremo and if it was Sasikala, he said, "they are having a meeting with the Chief Minister there," adding that, "It (Veda Nilayam at Poes Garden) is Amma's house where Amma's portrait is there... We are in mourning and it is still not over... They are going there (also) to pay homage... It is not good to invent imaginative reasons for everything."
"The party will soon elect a General Secretary who will guard the party and cadres who follow the footsteps of Amma with godly devotion and Tamil Nadu people," he added. The party high command has taken a decision to elect a General Secretary and the election will happen soon, he said. Asked about anger among some cadres against Sasikala as access was not provided to anyone to visit Jayalalithaa during her hospitalisation, he said "it is a planned rumour and spread wantonly... blaming this or that person is a deliberate rumour."
Ponnaiyan said some people were propagating several "rumours" and "falsehoods" through a section of the media about who will be the next General Secretary of the party. "News being spread that this or that person may become the General Secretary are all only rumours. There is no truth in it," he said, adding there is no "jealousy" or "competition" in AIADMK, which is like a fortress and stayed united. Asked about the role of Sasikala's husband Natarajan and other family members in the party, he said "this is an unnecessary question. The party is led and guarded by over 1.5 crore members."

Before Jayalalithaa, 16 chief ministers who died in office

NEW DELHI:MMNN:7 Dec. 2016

Tamil Nadu was thrown into turmoil after it lost its serving chief minister J Jayalalithaa this Monday. Her loyalist and senior All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader O Panneerselvam was swiftly anointed her successor while Sasikala Natarajan, a long-time confidante of the late AIADMK leader, is likely to take over as party's general secretary. Amid talks that the two would be no match to Jayalalithaa's charisma and popularity, political commentators are even speculating a split in the party.
However, this is not the first time that chief ministers in India have died while in office and states went through similar political upheavals in the event of the deaths. A look at such instances:
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Jammu & Kashmir (January 7, 2016)
After a prolonged illness and a two-week stay in the Intensive Care Unit of All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister died of multiple organ failure. His death came just months after he had sworn in for his second term as chief minister in the controversial PDP-BJP alliance. Mufti's death was followed by a three-month period of uncertainty in J&K where the state remained under government rule with alliance parties in power looking to renegotiate the terms. On April 4, 2016, his daughter and incumbent party chief Mehbooba Mufti took charge as CM.
Dorjee Khandu, Arunachal Pradesh (April 30, 2011)
The Arunachal Pradesh chief minister was killed when his Pawan Hans A350-B3 helicopter crashed 20 minutes after taking off. His body, along with other crew member and wreckage from the chopper were found five days later near the India-China border. A Congress leader, Khandu was sworn in as CM on April 9, 2007. He was succeeded by Jarbom Gamlin for the rest of the term. Pema Khandu, his son, is the present chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh.
YSR Reddy, Andhra Pradesh (September 2, 2009)
Dr Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy famously known as Y S Rajasekhara Reddy or YSR was a popular political figure in the South Indian politics. He was serving his second term as chief minister when he died in a fatal helicopter crash. The helicopter carrying him from Hyderabad to Chittoor deviated 18 km from its path before it hit a cliff and crashed. State finance minister K Rosaiah, the senior most Congress leader at the time, was sworn in as his successor.
Beant Singh, Punjab (August 31, 1995)
On the fateful day, a human bomb attack planned by terror outfit Babbar Khalsa International killed Beant Singh outside the state secretariat in Chandigarh. Under the former chief minister's tenure, the state witnessed a rise in insurgency along with claims of human rights violations towards pro-Khalistani movement by Punjab Police. Congress leader Harcharan Singh Brar succeeded him in office.
Chimanbhai Patel, Gujarat (February 17, 1994)
The former Gujarat chief minister died due to heart failure in an Ahmedabad hospital. Even as Chimanbhai's wife and Rajya Sabha member Urmilaben was made to step in his shoes even before the last rites were complete, she found herself pitted against his second-in-command, Congress leader Chhabildas Mehta, who was sworn in as interim chief minister, two days after Patel's death.
MG Ramachandran, Tamil Nadu (December 24, 1987)
MGR's death, like Jayalalithaa's, marked the end of an era in Tamil Nadu politics. Three years before his demise, he suffered a stroke and kidney failure from which he never fully recovered. On December 24, he died in sleep. A dramatic turn of events followed his death as power tussle between his wife Janaki and Jayalalithaa unfolded. In the end, Jayalalithaa went on to be the chief of AIADMK with a large number of supporters backing her.
Sheikh Abdullah, Jammu and Kashmir (September 8, 1982)
The leader and founder of National Conference (NC), Sheikh remained in a critical state of health for many months before he breathed his last. Even as accusations of corruption surrounded the late J&K CM, his supporters remained undeterred. Wrapped in the national flag, the body of late Sheikh was carried in a funeral procession that took over eight hours to cover a distance of around 10 kilometres. His grandson and former J&K CM Omar Abdullah is the present party NC chief. Barkatullah Khan, Rajasthan (October 11, 1973)
The 53-year-old died in Jaipur after suffering from a heart attack. The first Muslim chief minister of the state, Khan was reportedly picked by Indira Gandhi after the 1971 general elections.
Dayanand Bandodkar, Goa (August 12, 1973)
Goa's first chief minister after Portugal returned the territory to India, Dayanand Bandodkar held office for three consecutive terms until his death. Leader and founder of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, he had proposed to merge Goa with Maharashtra. A proposal that was met with strong opposition from the locals and eventually voted against in Parliament. Dayanand was succeeded by his daughter, Shashikala Kakodkar.
CN Annadurai (February 3, 1969)
Founder of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Annadurai became the first member of a Dravidian party to hold the office of Tamil Nadu chief minister. Two years into his term, he died battling cancer. The attendance at his funeral, estimated to be over 10 million. had the highest attendance of any to that date, earning it a Guinness record.
Balwantrai Mehta, Gujarat (September 19, 1965)
Mehta was the second chief minister of the state of Gujarat serving from February, 1963 to September, 1965. During the Indo-Pak war in 1965, a civilian aircraft that carried Mehta, his wife, three aides, two journalists and two pilots, was shot down by a Pakistani fighter jet killing all on board. Pakistani controllers had mistaken the civilian aircraft for a reconnaissance flight. 46 years later, the pilot of the Pakistani jet wrote an e-mail to the daughter of the chief Indian pilot expressing regret for his actions.
Marotrao Kannamwar, Maharashtra (November 24, 1963)
Kannamwar was elected as the second chief minister of Maharashtra after the Assembly elections of 1962. He represented the Saoli Vidhan Sabha constituency in Bombay State in 1957 and of the Maharashtra State from 1960-1962. He was re-elected fron Saoli in 1962 elections to the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha.
Bidhan Chandra Roy, West Bengal (July 1, 1962)
Elected in 1948 as second chief minister of West Bengal, Bidhan Chandra Roy held office for 14 years, until his death in 1962. He was a highly respected physician and a well-known freedom fighter. Every year on July 1, the date of his birth (and death), National Doctors' Day is celebrated in India. He was also awarded the country's highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna on February 4, 1961.
Sri Krishna Singh, Bihar (January 31, 1961)
Except for the period of World War II, Sri Krishna Singh was the chief minister of Bihar since he took office in 1937 until his death 24 years later. He was the first chief minister of any Indian state to abolish the zamindari system. Considered one of the architects of Modern Bihar, Singh was often called "Bihar Kesari" for his lion-like roars when he rose to address the masses.
Ravishankar Shukla, Madhya Pradesh (December 31, 1956)
Shukla served as the premier of the Central Provinces and Berar from April 1946 and January 1950 before he became the first chief minister of the recognised state of Madhya Pradesh on November 1, 1956. He died shortly after on December 31, 1956.
Gopinath Bordoloi, Assam (August 6, 1950)
After serving as the prime minister of undivided state of Assam since April 1946, Gopinath Bordoloi became the first chief minister of the recognised Indian state in 1950 for a short period before his death.

Bellary: Driver's suicide note accuses Janardhan Reddy of laundering Rs 100 crore black money

MMNN:7 Dec. 2016
Former BJP minister in Karnataka Gali Janardhan Reddy has been accused of laundering black money of over Rs 100 crore in a suicide note left by Ramesh Gowda, the driver to special land acquisition officer Bheema Nayak in Bengaluru. The cause of suicide was consumption of poison. Gowda died in Maddur.
Gowda in his suicide note claimed that he was receiving regular death threats because he had information on how Reddy had converted Rs 100 crore of black money into white.
Janardhan Reddy had recently come under criticism for the extravagant spending on his daughter's wedding. The lavish wedding is estimated to have cost Rs 100 crore. Over 50,000 guests had attended the wedding with some big names in Karnataka politics but many from BJP didn't attend the event, according to The Indian Express. Reddy is a former BJP minister and had faced arrest in the 2012 illegal mining case. He was released on bail last year. He had been actively preparing for his daughter's wedding soon after released on bail.
The high-cost wedding came under criticism as it was held a little over a week after the demonetisation decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many leaders were told to keep away from the wedding. According to a report by News18, Reddy, who is known as the mining-baron, spent Rs 500 crore on the wedding. The Income Tax department had visited Reddy's residence in Bellary after the wedding.
Former Karnataka Chief Minister has said that he doesn't know anything and that inquiry will reveal the truth.

This queue is the last queue to end all queues: PM Modi's top quotes at Parivartan rally

NEW DELHI:MMNN:3 Dec. 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday addressed the Parivartan rally in Moradabad, UP in a bid to win support of the people before the upcoming Assembly elections. In the rally, he told the people that he has been fighting the war on corruption for the citizens of the country. PM Modi hailed the common people as his high command.
Here are his top quotes:
* Corruption will not get eradicated on its own. We have to fight against it. If someone is fighting against corruption is he doing something wrong? I am surprised that in my own country a few people are accusing me.
* I am fighting this war for you, what will those accusing me do? I am a fakir; will exit with my little belongings.
* Today those who have stashed black money are queuing outside the house of poor people, asking for their help. Dishonest people can't go to banks now and so they are queuing up outside homes of poor and trying to mislead them.
* Want to tell poor people in whose account money has been deposited, don't touch that money, if they insist on asking for money, ask for proof. I am finding ways to put behind bars those guilty of stashing their black money into the jandhan accounts of the poor
* I assure you people that I won't let your hard work, your sacrifice, your struggle go in vein.
* For 70 years people queued up for essential items. This queue (outside banks) is the last queue to end all the queues
* I salute the farmers that despite the hardships that have come their way (after demonetisation) there has been no shortage in sowing. In fact the sowing has increased since last year.
* If one has to eradicate poverty from the country, it is essential to develop big states like UP, Bihar, Maharashtra. I have not fought from Uttar Pradesh only to become an MP but wanted to initiate a fight against poverty from this state.
* You, the people are my high command and no one else.
* In the 21st century, my country is ready to become Digital India. Now your bank is in your mobile. There are 40 crore smartphones in this country, at least 40 crore people will get rid of cash transactions. Corruption will come to an end.

This Gujarat realtor declared Rs 13,860 cr under IDS, but I-T found only Rs 29,000 in raid

Ahmedabad:MMNN:3 Dec. 2016
Income Tax searches were conducted on the office and residential premises of city-based property dealer Mahesh Shah, who disclosed a whopping Rs 13,860 crore of unaccounted income under the Income Declaration Scheme (IDS).
The I-T sleuths also swooped down on premises of his Chartered Accountant firm Appaji Amin.
Though, the I-T Department is tight-lipped about the searches, Shah's CA Tehmul Sethna, who is a partner in Apaji Amin & Co, informed the media about the searches carried out at various places, including on the premises of those connected with his client (Mahesh Shah's friends).
I-T department officials could not be contacted even after several attempts.
The search operations were conducted on November 29, 30 and December 1, Sethna told mediapersons.
According to him, Shah is untraceable after these searches.
In his statement to media, Sethna claimed Shah made a disclosure of Rs 13,860 crore of cash under the IDS scheme.
The IDS scheme was closed on September 30.
"Shah was in my touch since 2013 and took our advice on several occasions in the past. He was not my regular client. He was mainly into land dealings. When IDS scheme was declared, I advised him to make the disclosure for peace of mind, as he is almost 67-year-old and is not keeping well due to some heart related ailments," said Sethna.
"After taking guidance from senior I-T officials, he made a disclosure of Rs 13,860 crore cash under the IDS scheme. He was supposed to pay Rs 1560 crore, which is 25 per cent of 45 per cent tax on the disclosed amount, as the first instalment. Though November 30 was the last date, he failed to deposit the instalment with I-T department," said Sethna.
According to Sethna, there is possibility that Shah never had such a huge amount with him when he made the declaration.
"When I-T department conducted an enquiry, they started doubting Shah's capacity to pay the instalment by the due date. Thus by November 28, I-T department cancelled his IDS Form-2 and initiated search operations the next day. I gave my full co-operation to them and showed all the papers related to Shah, who is untraceable after the searches," he said.
"Though I knew that Shah's financial condition was not sound, I did not doubt anything because he himself claimed to have such huge money which he wanted to declare under IDS. Ultimately, client has to show money, otherwise, I-T department will step in. I now believe that Shah's disclosure was suspicious," Sethna said.
When asked if Shah "possessed black money of several politicians and bureaucrats", Sethna declined to comment on the authenticity of such reports.
In his statement to media, Sethna stated the I-T sleuths found only Rs 29,000 and some papers from Shah's office during the search.

Samba attack: Terrorists used tunnel to infiltrate into India, says BSF DG KK Sharma

NEW DELHI:MMNN:30 Nov. 2016

The Border Security Force (BSF) today said it found a cross-border tunnel along the International Border (IB) in Samba, which was probably used by three terrorists to infiltrate into India. The terrorists were gunned down by the BSF, who had spotted them, on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday.
The developments were shared by the BSF's Director General K K Sharma here today.
The BSF had said that on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday, in the general area of BSF Border Outpost Chamliyal in Samba, Jammu, some suspicious movement was noticed by thermal imagers. A BSF patrol was fired upon by the terrorists. The BSF retaliated and killed the three terrorists.
The BSF said it recovered 517 rounds, a pistol, an AK-47 rifle, radio sets, mobile power banks, bottles containing liquids and 7 Improvised Explosive Devices from the slain militants.
"Now the question is how did they come. We were surprised. Today morning during a thorough search of the area we were able to detect a very small tunnel," said Sharma.
The tunnel is close to 80 metres long. "We will take up this matter with the Pakistan Rangers," said Sharma.
The DG explained the problem in detecting such tunnels. There is no technical equipment to detect it, he said. "We try and dig trenches of 15 to 20 feet in depth to detect a tunnel, but it is not possible to dig a trench along the entire IB.
Only when we suspect the presence of a tunnel in an area, do we dig a trench to find the tunnel or to be on the safer side we deploy nakkas . It was this tactic of deploying a nakka , which detected the presence of militants and knd killed them," he said.
Sharma also said the BSF had prior intelligence on the infiltration of terrorists into Samba sector.

National anthem must be played before screening of films: Supreme Court

MMNN:30 Nov. 2016
The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered all cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem before the screening of films and that all present must "stand up in respect" till the anthem ended. It said the practice would "instill a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism."
Cinema halls should also display the national flag on screen when the anthem is played, it said.
A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said it is time people expressed their "love for the motherland."
"People must feel this is my country. This is my motherland... Arrey, who are you? You are an Indian first. In other countries, you respect their restrictions. In India, you do not want any restrictions?" Justice Misra remarked.
The Bench said it is the duty of every person to show respect when the national anthem is played or recited or sung under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1951.
"...people should feel that they live in a nation and show respect to the national anthem and the national flag," Justice Misra said. People should imbibe and express respect to the inherent quality of the anthem and the flag.
On 'perceived notions of freedom'
The Bench said too much has been indulged in the name of "individually perceived notions of freedom."
The Union government, represented by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, said it completely agreed with need for specific guidelines to show respect and honour for the national anthem and the flag.
In its interim order, while awaiting a detailed response from the Centre, the court issued a complete ban on the commercial exploitation of the national anthem and the flag.
The court banned dramatisation of the anthem or it to be used in any part of any variety shows or for entertainment purposes.
"Dramatisation at this point is absolutely inconceivable," Justice Misra, who dictated the order for the Bench, observed.
The court banned the display of the national anthem on any "undesirable or disgraceful places." It said such display "tantamounts to disrespect."
It also banned the display, recitation or use of the abridged version of the national anthem.
Justice Misra said all the doors of cinema halls must be closed when the national anthem is being played to prevent people from entering or exiting.
Wants 'people to see the order in its letter and spirit'
The Bench said the protocol of showing respect and honour to the anthem and flag is rooted in "our national identity, integrity and constitutional patriotism."
It said that the order should be distributed to Chief Secretaries of States and Union Territories. It shall be widely published by the electronic and print media so that "people wake up to see the order in its letter and spirit". The order should be implemented within a week hence.
"Universalism is alright but little still Bharat is the epitome of culture, knowledge... Gyaan and Vigyaan," Justice Misra observed.
The Supreme Court was hearing a plea to clarify when the national anthem should be sung.
The PIL was filed by Shyam Narayan Chouskey seeking a set of parameters on what amounts to abuse of the anthem.
The Supreme Court's decision to consider this PIL followed after a wheelchair-bound man was assaulted by a couple at a cinema hall in Panaji for not standing up during the rendition of the anthem.
The petition sought the anthem to be played in cinema halls across the country before screening of films and also issue a protocol for the playing or singing of the anthem at functions where constitutional dignitaries are in attendance.

In 'heavy retribution' for mutilating soldier, India blitzes Pakistani LoC posts with mortar

NEW DELHI:MMNN:23 Nov. 2016

The Army today carried out a massive counter assault using heavy mortar fire on Pakistani posts along the Line of Control, making good its promise of "heavy retribution" for the beheading of an Indian soldier yesterday.
Even as Pakistan continued to violate the ceasefire, the armed forces launched crippling attacks on Pakistani posts in Poonch, Rajouri, Kel and Machil sectors.
Pakistan today committed ceasefire violations in Bhimber Gali, Krishna Ghati and Nowshera sectors of Kashmir, ANI reported.
Yesterday, terrorists actively backed by the Pakistan army killed two soldiers and beheaded one soldier in gross violation of the Geneva Convention.
"Retribution will be heavy for this cowardly act of mutilating a soldier's body," the Army said yesterday. The Army destroyed four Pakistan army posts with massive fire assaults after an Indian soldier was beheaded October 28, in a similar border action team (BAT) operation as yesterday's.
A BAT typically consists of terrorists working in close conjunction with Pakistan army regulars for tactical operations against Indian troops and posts along the 778km Line of Control (LoC).
Yesterday, the three slain soldiers from 57 Rashtriya Rifles were in the lead of a counter-infiltration patrol when the patrol was ambushed by terrorists ahead of the LoC fencing in the thickly-forested, mountainous Macchil sector in the morning.
"The Pakistan army simultaneously opened fire at our patrol. Once the situation stabilised, the three bodies were found in the search operation... one was badly mutilated," said an army officer yesterday.
"Condemn the cowardly and brutal killing of our soldiers, and mutilation of one of them. Salute these brave martyrs for their supreme sacrifice," tweeted Defence minister Manohar Parrikar yesterday.
Since the October 28 beheading of a soldier , the Army has been conducting targeted fire assaults with heavy-calibre weapons, including artillery guns, 120mm mortars and anti-tank guided missiles, to inflict heavy casualties on the Pakistan army by flattening some of its forward posts and bunkers.

Rs 3.5 crore in old notes flown into Nagaland goes missing

GUWAHATI:MMNN:23 Nov. 2016
Central intelligence and income tax agencies are grappling with a peculiar situation with Rs 3.5 crore of cash in scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes "vanishing" after being seized on a private chartered flight at Dimapur in Nagaland. The cash was seized by Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel at Dimapur after a tip-off from the Intelligence Bureau and the local income tax staff was summoned to take further action with regard to the unaccounted wealth.
But to the surprise of CISF personnel, the cash disappeared and the local I-T officer is understood to have claimed that it had been with the security personnel all along. CISF officers who had alerted their headquarters about the seizure were shocked, but could do little as the I-T officer insisted he had nothing to do with the cash.
CISF, which does not have the power to carry out arrests, has reported the matter to IB and Central Board of Direct Taxes.
The plane's "main passenger" was one Amarjit Kumar Singh, a businessman from Bihar who was carrying the cash. The flight VTCP, which had taken off from Hisar in Haryana, was sent back to New Delhi.
A source said Singh told CISF that "someone big" in Delhi had allegedly sent the cash for a Naga businessman. He also named another Naga businessman. The aircraft landed in Dimapur with Singh and an unidentified woman among those on board.
The CISF identified four suspects on the basis of the alert by IB that they were on a mission to launder old currency notes in the state where I-T exemptions offered to Scheduled Tribes offer a window for money laundering.
The exemption is not unique to Nagaland. STs in North Cachar Hills, Karbi Anglong, Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District in Assam, Jaintia and Garo Hills in Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura are exempted from income tax subject to certain conditions.
Dimapur deputy commissioner of income tax A Kitto Zhimomi refused to comment on the haul. He said only the CBDT was authorized to talk to the media.

Three jawans killed, several others injured in militant encounter in Tinsukia

Guwahati:MMNN:19 Nov. 2016

Three jawans of the Army were killed and three others seriously injured in an ambush carried out by a joint group of ULFA and NSCN(K) militants near the oil town of Digboi in Tinsukia district in eastern Assam early Saturday morning. The jawans belonged to the 15 Kumaon Regiment. This is first major attack by ULFA militants since the BJP-led government took charge in Assam in May.
"The incident took place at about 5:30 AM on Saturday as a Maruti Gypsy and a truck of the 15 Kumaon Regiment was moving from Pengeri towards Digboi. It is definitely the handiwork of the ULFA faction of Paresh Barua with support of the NSCN(K). There must have been at least 15 militants in the group that fired from inside the Upper Dehing reserved forest," Tinsukia district SP Mugdhajyoti Dev Mahanta said.
The two army vehicles were on duty as part of the counter-insurgency operations, Guwahati-based Army PRO Lt Col Suneet Newton told The Indian Express. "The 15 Kumaon is based at Pengeri in Tinsukia district on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border," he said. While the 2.5-ton truck was thrown off the road due to the impact of the ambush, there were countless bullet-marks on the Maruty Gypsy.
Condenmning the incident Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal asked the security forces to immediately launch a massive operation against the militants. "Nobody should be spared. This is an act of cowardice," Sonowal, who asked DGP Mukesh Sahay to rush to the spot, said in Guwahati.
There was 'heavy shelling' on the two army vehicles from the right side of the road as they were moving from Pengeri towards Digboi. "There was heavy shelling from inside the jungle. They also used an IED, apart from firing with RPGs and at least one grenade," Tinsukia SP Mahanta said.
It was only on Wednesday that a group of ULFA militants had fired on a van that was on its way to the bank to collect cash for disbursement of wages for labourers of the Pengeri tea estate.

Demonetisation: Shiv Sena stands with Azad on Uri terror attack remarks

New Delhi :MMNN:19 Nov. 2016
Shiv Sena on Saturday spoke about the demonitisation and supported Congress leader and leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad. Azad was facing attacks from the BJP for comparing deaths after demonetisation to the deaths in Uri terror attack.
The Bhartiya Janata Party had earlier asked Azad to apologise for his remarks but the latter had declined the demand.
On Saturday, Shiv Sena's mouthpiece, 'Saamana' asked "Will the truth change if Azad apologises?" on its editorial page. The article says that in the Uri attack, 20 jawans had been killed, whereas '4 brave patriots' have been killed due to demonetisation, while standing in queues outside banks and ATMs.
The article says that there as a difference in both the attacks. In Uri, 'Pakistan' had attacked us, whereas demonetisation was created by our own rulers.
Saamna further states that the government would still remain adamant if the number of victims due to inflation, recession and unemployment rises from 40 to 40 lakh and say that the dead were 'victims of patriotism'.
A time would come when the entire country would have to be declared a martyr, the article reads. Shiv Sena is an ally of the ruling BJP government at the centre.
Earlier on Thursday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh held talks with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackrey and is expected to have spoken about the NDA's unhappiness at Shiv Sena's participation in the anti-demonetisation march.

Sheena Bora murder case: Peter Mukerjea's bail plea rejected by Bombay high court

MUMBAI:MMNN:16 Nov. 2016

The Bombay high court on Wednesday rejected a bail plea filed by former media honcho Peter Mukerjea in the Sheena Bora murder case. Justice N W Sambre who pronounced the rejection, swiftly and softly, at the end of the bail hearing, said reasons would follow on Thursday.
The bail plea which was pending in the HC for five months. The trial court had rejected his bail plea in May, citing a "case diary" that the CBI had produced in court. Additional solicitor general Anil Singh arguing for CBI opposed the bail plea and said there was enough material against Mukerjea and further probe was still required for his properties and financial assets abroad.
Mukerjea now 60 has had his bail plea rejected twice by special CBI trial court judge at the sessions court. He moved the Bombay high court to seek liberty from incarceration that began for him with his arrest last year on November 19.
His bail plea in HC assailed the sessions order of rejection and said that a new case diary entry cannot be a ground for rejection when there is nothing incriminating in the charge-sheet against him.
Mukerjea in his plea said that an officer can "write anything" in a further probe which has no deadline and it is unfair to keep a man indefinitely behind bars based on such "further probe" and not consider his arguments on the lack of any case against him. His arguments before the sessions court was that there is nothing with CBI to back the prosecution case that he is involved with the murder apart from merely saying that he must have known of the conspiracy since he is the husband of the main accused Indrani Mukerjea who was arrested last August.
Peter Mukerjea was arrested on the day the CBI filed its first chargesheet against Indrani, her second husband Sanjeev Khanna and her former driver Shyamwar Rai accusing all three of being in the car and killing Sheena on April 24, 2012 before dumping her body in a forest near Mumbai when Mukerjea was abroad in UK.
Sheena, is Indrani's biological daughter from her first husband, the prosecution said in the case that had last year grabbed national headlines. Rai's confession statement recorded before a magistrate early last November is silent on Mukerjea's alleged involvement in the case. The sessions court had referred to the statement which was then in a sealed cover as one of the grounds of rejecting his bail plea last month.
The CBI cited call date records between Indrani and him, as "evidence" and an "additional statement from Rai" where the driver claims he overheard Indrani say "good place" while allegedly on phone with him when searching for spot to dump the "Sheena's body." But Peter Mukerjea who has all along protested his innocence, said that the CBI was fabricating a case against him. His lawyer Aabad Ponda argued that the CBI without having contents of the call was looking at the case with "jaundiced eyes" to merely implicate him wrongly. He said he would not misuse bail and ought to be granted liberty as the arrest and long incarceration has already tarnished his reputation, when he had nothing to do with the murder case.

Where Is Najeeb Ahmad? A Month After He Went Missing, Several Questions Remain

New Delhi :MMNN:16 Nov. 2016
It has been a month since first year MSc student of Biotechnology, Najeeb Ahmed, went missing from the Jawaharlal Nehru University's (JNU) Mahi-Mandvi hostel after an alleged scuffle with ABVP students.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Tuesday that the issue will be raised in Parliament.
Nothing was known about Najeeb's whereabouts even as 350 of his fellow JNU students marched along with his mother in protest against the university's advice.
There have been several versions of what had happened the night that Najeeb went missing, the police has so far been unable to trace him.
Here's what we know so far:
On the night of 15 October, Najeeb, who had just moved into room number 106 of his hostel, and who is also allegedly an AISA activist, had reportedly slapped a student after which he was asked to vacate the hostel. The Indian Express had quoted a fellow activist as saying, "It all started with a scuffle between two groups of students, but then an entire group of ABVP activists came to avenge it and beat him up."
Najeeb had allegedly called his mother the night the scuffle broke out. His mother Fatima Nafeesi told , "He said nothing except that 'Mere saath koi haadsa ho gaya hai, aap aa jaiye (There has been an incident, please come)'. I told him I would leave as soon as possible, but would not make it to Delhi before noon the next day. I called his roommate Qasim, who said it was just a small incident and everything was under control."
A complaint was registered in the Vasant Kunj North police station under section 365 (kidnapping with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person).
In response to the news Najeeb having gone missing, JNU in a statement had called him the "accused" prompting the NUSU to call for a "complete shut down".
The students had accused the university authorities for not taking up the matter seriously.
By the fourth day the university administration, according to a report in The Times of India, had approached the government to rope in central agencies including the National Crime Record Bureau and the CBI in the investigation.
The report had quoted a statement from the university as saying, "Delhi police have been approached to investigate the matter and the administration is regularly in communication with the police. Police has informed that they have already registered a case under Section 365 of the IPC and doing the investigations. All PCR vans in Delhi and all SSPs throughout India have been alerted and efforts are being made to trace the student. Further, the police has intimated all the six neighbouring states and put the information on Zip-net in Northern Zone. Moreover, all relevant central agencies, including NCRB and missing section of CBI, have been requested for help."
Protests had intensified as the police also failed to trace Najeeb. Agitating students had on 20 October confined the vice chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar and about 12 other officials in the university's administrative building.
While Kumar had assured the students that all efforts were being made to find Najeeb, he had criticised the student for their "illegal" activities.
On 21 October Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said he would set up a special team to find Najeeb.
Earlier this month, with no sign of hope, when Najeeb's mother Nafeesa had participated in a protest, she was dragged into a bus by police along with other students when they were on their way to India Gate. The Delhi police had been harshly criticised for this.
As days passed the Delhi police has come up with several theories about Najeeb despite the fact that the student still remained missing. Last week the police said that they had found evidence of Najeeb being mentally disturbed.
Investigators had reportedly accessed prescriptions from the doctors Najeeb had allegedly visited and found that he was on anti-depressants, and other medicines for insomnia and obsessive compulsive disorder. The police also claimed that because of his mental condition, Ahmed may have left the campus voluntarily. This was after Najeeb's family moved the Delhi Hight Court seeking information on the police probe.
The investigators had also claimed that Najeeb was hiding under a new identity, and this was a result of his alleged mental illness.
And as allegations and theories fly thick and fast, the police is yet to figure out where Najeeb is.

On Currency Ban, PM Narendra Modi Says 'This Is Biggest Cleanliness Drive': 10 Points

TOKYO:MMNN:12 Nov. 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a three-day visit to Japan, on Saturday said currency ban was the "biggest cleanliness drive" taken by his government against the black money hoarders.
Here are the 10 latest developments:

Addressing the Indian community in Japan, PM Modi said he was aware of the difficulty people were facing back home after the scrapping of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes, but emphasised that it was necessary in the larger interests of the nation. "I salute each and every Indian. Many families had weddings, health problems...yes they faced inconvenience but they accepted the decision," he said.

PM Modi, who landed in Tokyo on Thursday night for a three-day visit to Japan, said the government had not taken the decision on demonetisation in haste. "We had given 50 days to people to show their unaccounted wealth" till September, before the government decided on currency ban.

Earlier today, from Tokyo, PM Modi, accompanied by his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, travelled to Kobe by the famed Shinkansen bullet train, the technology that will be deployed for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Railway. He visited the Kawasaki Heavy Industries facility in Kobe, where high speed railway is manufactured. Japan wants to edge out China in new bullet train deals with India.

On Friday, after six years of wrangling and intense negotiations, India and Japan signed a landmark civil nuclear agreement in Tokyo, where PM Modi and Shinzo Abe held talks. "The Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy marks a historic step in our engagement to build a clean energy partnership," PM Modi had said.

The agreement will allow Japan to supply nuclear reactors, fuel and technology to India, which will be the first country that has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT to have such a deal with Tokyo.

The two countries had reached a broad agreement last December during Mr Abe's visit to India, but Japan, the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, saw strong political resistance to the deal, especially after the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Tokyo had reservations about such an agreement with a nation that hasn't signed the NPT, and had sought assurances from New Delhi that it would not conduct nuclear tests any more.

India has declared a moratorium on nuclear testing since its last explosions in 1998. But with concerns about neighbours China and Pakistan being nuclear armed, it has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, contending that it is discriminatory.

Japan is a major player in the nuclear energy market and this deal will make it easier for US-based companies like Westinghouse and GE to set up atomic plants in India as both have Japanese investments. India is in advanced negotiations with Westinghouse Electric, owned by Japan's Toshiba, to build six nuclear reactors in the south - a part of New Delhi's plan to ramp up nuclear capacity ten-fold by 2032.

A joint statement by PM Modi and Mr Abe also made a strong reference to Pakistan. "The two Prime Ministers condemned terrorism in strongest terms in all its forms and manifestations in the spirit of 'zero tolerance'... They called upon all countries to implement the UNSC Resolution 1267 and other relevant resolutions designating terrorist entities," it said, referring to India's bid to get Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar designated as global a terrorist under this resolution.

PM Modi met Japanese Emperor Akihito on Friday. He also addressed top Japanese CEOs and invited investments, saying India has a huge and substantial need for finances and his government is pursuing reform policies to make the country the world's "most open" economy.

Demonetised Rs 1,000 banknotes found discarded in Ganga

New Delhi :MMNN:12 Nov. 2016
Demonetised Rs 1,000 notes were found floating in the Ganga river at Nayaghat area here, police said on Saturday.
According to reports, boatmen got into a fight after spotting the invalid Rs 1,000 notes flowing in the river on Friday after which police were informed.
As many as 19 torn Rs 1,000 banknotes were recovered from the river, superintendent of police Kalanidhi Naithani said.
The authenticity of the notes will be known only after further investigation, the SP added.

Demonetisation move to create corruption-free India, PM Narendra Modi says

NEW DELHI:MMNN:9 Nov. 2016

The decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes was taken to create a "corruption-free" India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday as a number of personalities from film and other fraternities welcomed the step.
Among those who welcomed the decision were film personalities Karan Johar, Rajnikanth, Ajay Devgn, Kamal Hasan, Nagarjuna, Ritesh Deshmukh, Subhash Ghai, Siddharth Malhotra, cricketer Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh who tweeted to the Prime Minister praising him for the bold move.
"This step was taken in the interest of our honest citizens who deserve a better India," Modi said on Twitter in response to southern star Kamal Hasan who said, "This move has to be celebrated across political party lines. Most importantly by earnest tax payers".
Superstar Rajnikanth said," Hats off @narendramodi ji. New india is born #JaiHind".
"Corrupt practices and black money have to be eliminated and that is when we will scale new heights of progress," the Prime Minister said in response to Sufi singer Kailash Kher's tweet that "This is a historical day in the history of mankind. Our Nation Bharat will soon be at par with developed countries @narendramodi GodBlessYoU".
Film maker Karan Johar said in a tweet, "This is truly a masterstroke move!!!! @narendramodi hits it out of the stadium!!!! ????.
Thanking Karan Johar, the Prime Minister said, "Thanks @karanjohar. We must create an India that is corruption free for our future generations. #IndiaFightsCorruption".
Film actor Nagarjuna congratulated the Prime Minister for "rewarding us tax payers/india on the way to become a super economy????".
"This step will check corruption, black money and fake currency rackets that slow our progress," the Prime Minister said in his response.
On cricketer Anil Kumble's comment that "Massive googly bowled by our Hon. PM @narendramodi today. Well done Sir! Proud of you!!," Modi said, "This coming from one of India's most admired cricketers, whose bowling caught many batsmen by surprise".
The Prime Minister said, "All of us have to work shoulder to shoulder and create a prosperous, inclusive and corruption free India".
Modi last night announced that high denomination notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 will no longer be legal tender to fight against black money and corruption.

Deposits of old Rs 500, Rs 1000 notes in banks not to enjoy tax immunity: Arun Jaitley

New Delhi :MMNN:9 Nov. 2016
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said deposits of now-defunct old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes in bank accounts will not enjoy immunity from tax and the land of law will apply on source of such money.
A day after the government announced the withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes in the country's biggest crack down against black money, corruption and counterfeit currency, Jaitley said old higher-denomination currency notes have to be deposited in bank accounts to get newer or smaller denomination currencies.
"But it should be clear that it is no immunity scheme. This (deposit) does not provide any relief from taxation. The law of land will apply (on source of fund)," he said.
"If the money is legitimate which had been previously withdrawn from bank or earned legally and saved and had been disclosed, there is nothing to worry about," Jaitley said.
But if it is illegal money, source will have to be disclosed and if it is a crime money, or bribe money, then it is trouble, he told DD News.
The Finance Minister further said that housewives and farmers with genuine savings need not worry about depositing cash in their bank accounts.
"The small amounts that people will deposit like Rs 25,000, 30,000 or 50,000 lying in house for expenses, whatever money could be there for meeting normal family expenses they need not worry. They can go to banks," he said.
The Finance Minister said for first one or two weeks replacements may be less but after 2-3 weeks as more currency notes come in market then normal replacement will be available.
The move would help make more and more transactions become digital, he said, adding now people will disclose income and pay taxes. "India will become a more tax compliant society."
Jaitley said that people who have accumulated black money, crime money or bribe would suffer after this.
"There is a premium now that this decision has created on honesty and dis-premium on dishonesty," he added.
"Obviously there are some inconvenience for a couple of days or couple of weeks but those inconvenience cannot be alibi that India continues to live (with black money and parallel economy)," he said.
The decision would bring more transactions under tax net and both direct and indirect taxes would move up. Reduction in parallel economy would increase the size of formal economy, Jaitley said.
Stating that the decision would have its ramifications on politics as well, Jaitley said some political funding has started by cheques and if this step can do some cleansing, it would be a great move.

India, China agree to maintain high-level exchanges

NEW DELHI:MMNN:5 Nov. 2016

India and China have agreed to maintain the pace of their high-level exchanges in counter-terrorism and other fields after "friendly and open" discussions between their National Security Advisors (NSAs).
NSA Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, State Councillor, concluded their discussions in Hyderabad on Friday in a "friendly, open and cordial environment," it was officially stated here on Saturday.
Wide range of areas
The Ministry of External Affairs said their discussions covered a wide agenda spanning bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest. It was Mr. Yang's third visit to India in the last two months.
"The two sides agreed to maintain the pace of high-level exchanges in political, economic, defence and counter-terrorism fields. They also agreed that the forthcoming high-level engagement in counter-terrorism is yet another manifestation of growing convergence of views of two countries on this pressing challenge facing international community," it said.
Did Azhar, NSG figure in talks?
However, there was no official confirmation on whether the two sides discussed contentious issues such as China blocking Indian's entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group as also stopping Indian efforts to get Jaish-e-Mohammed chief and Pathankot mastermind Masood Azhar getting banned by the United Nations.
NSA Doval and State Councillor Yang, who are also the Special Representatives on the Boundary Question of India and China respectively, agreed to hold the 20th Round of Special Representatives Talks on the Boundary Question in India next year.
Towards greater mutual trust
Mr. Doval and Mr. Yang also agreed that their consultations during which they exchanged views on various important and pressing bilateral issues have helped to enhance mutual understanding and would contribute to greater mutual trust. They agreed to continue such consultations in future.
The two sides have also appreciated that 2016 is an important year for bilateral engagement with President Xi Jinping's visit to India for BRICS Summit and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China for G-20 Summit being the major highlights of high-level exchanges.

Sopore: LeT militant Umar Khaliq Mir surrenders to Kashmir police after persuaded by father

MMNN:5 Nov. 2016
It is not every day that a police officer tries to persuade a Lashkar-e-Taiba militant for surrender without a shot being fired. But on Thursday evening that is what happened in the Tujar Sharief area of the restive Sopore town, when police and the Army cordoned off a cluster of villages after receiving information that a militant was holed up inside a house in the village.
It took five hours for a Kashmir police team led by the Superintendent of Police, Sopore, Harmeet Singh Mehta, to motivate a recently-infiltrated Kashmiri militant, Umar Khaliq Mir, to surrender before the police and the Army on Thursday evening.
Mir, 24, had crossed the LoC, according to police sources, a month ago along with few foreign militants, and was operating in and out of his village, Tujar Sharief.
At 5 pm on Thursday evening, the police and Army cordoned off a cluster of villagers in the area and zeroed in on a house were Mir was hiding. The police first asked the owner of the house to try to speak to the hiding militant, and gave him a cell phone so that they could talk to the hiding militant.
Mir, a local resident, had been perhaps under surveillance for a long time after he had crossed over to this side, along with some other foreign militants, but had managed to give the slip to forces many times for the last one month.
"The negotiations," says SP Sopore, Harmeet Singh Mehta, continued for hours and "we were not in a rush". The police first evacuated the entire area.
"We told the house owner, to motivate Mir for a surrender and if he lays down his arms, we will not go for an encounter," Mehta said.
Mir crossed the LoC in May for arms training in Pakistan, police said, but there has been no case registered against him in any police station. According to police, since his arrival back to Kashmir, he had largely remained confined to his village. After the cordon was put in place, a police officer had a conversation with militant. He was asked to "surrender" on the condition that there will not be any gun battle.
When Mir refused and instead asked for his father, the police got nervous, but did get his father, Abdul Khaliq, who agreed to come to encounter site.
Khaliq arrived at the scene and was briefed by Mehta, who told the former that the police will not kill his son if he surrenders. "We sent his father along with some respectable people from the area and then told him that there would be no harm done to him, if he surrenders. Then he came out with his hands up and we arrested him," Mehta said.
"He finally gave up at around 10 pm." Khaliq said.
The surrender of Mir, a Kashmiri militant, is rare in recent times, as most of the militants who get caught in situations like this prefer a gunfight instead of surrender.
"But this," Mehta says will also encourage others to surrender when they realise that police will honour its commitment of not killing them if they choose to lay down their arms."

Two years ago, ex-prison chief told Madhya Pradesh govt: Jail vulnerable, many gaps, how long will God help

Bhopal :MMNN:2 Nov. 2016

THE MADHYA Pradesh government had been warned in 2014 by a retired jail official about the "vulnerable points, illogical security arrangements and deplorable condition of staff" at Bhopal Central Jail, from where eight activists of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) escaped on Monday and were later killed in an encounter.
Former Madhya Pradesh IG (Prisons), G K Agarwal, told The Indian Express that he had written the letter to the then state chief secretary, Anthony Desa, on June 26, 2014, and marked copies to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the Intelligence Bureau.
But nothing came of the warning, said Agarwal, even though he had sent the letter a few months after the jailbreak in Khandwa in late 2013 when six SIMI activists had escaped.
Agarwal said that he had also sought a meeting with authorities to offer suggestions on how to prevent such incidents from occurring in Bhopal or other jails, but got no response.
In the letter, Agarwal wrote: "At present, SIMI activists from other prisons have been kept in the Bhopal Central Jail. But given the structure of the jail building, its vulnerable points, illogical security arrangement and deplorable condition of staff, it would be wrong to presume that everything is OK if no major incident takes place. God is helping but it would a mistake to presume that he will continue to offer help."
Agarwal said that the letter had been forward to the jail administration at the time. When contacted, DG (Jail) Sanjay Chaudhary told The Indian Express that he was not aware of the letter.
"Given my experience, I thought it was my moral duty to apprise those in power about the situation," said Agarwal, who retired in 2000.
He declined to specify the "vulnerable points" mentioned in the letter, but said that "the way the jail was built, there are many".
"After the Khandwa jailbreak, I realised how easy it would be for SIMI activists or other hardened criminals to escape, given the way the jail department functions," said Agarwal.
The retired officer alleged that the jail administration was hampered by staff shortage, which was compounded by the posting of several guards at the residences of senior prison officials.
On Monday, police said that the SIMI activists escaped around 3 am from the Central Jail after killing a head constable by slitting his throat using spoons and steel plates, and tying up another guard before crossing a wall using a rope made of bedsheets. Several guards were on leave when the jail break occurred, said officials.
On Tuesday, police said that a dedicated unit had been formed to provide round-the-clock security at the barracks where SIMI undertrials and other hardened criminals were lodged.
A senior officer told The Indian Express that some of these activists had tried to escape in the past, too, but that bid was foiled.
Agarwal had previously raised questions over the state's handling of its jails after it suspended a jailer for releasing five SIMI activists as part of the BJP government's amnesty scheme in 2011 for prisoners who had completed half their terms and whose conduct was certified as "good".
The five had been serving their term in Khachrod sub-jail and were among 600 prisoners released across the state on January 26 that year. They were re-arrested after protests by Bajrang Dal and VHP workers.
The state government later amended the scheme, excluding those convicted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other serious crimes.
Agarwal had defended the jailer, who faced a departmental inquiry, and argued that he was suspended for implementing government orders while senior officers got away with transfers. The government later revoked the inquiry.

Manohar Parrikar To Visit Kashmir, Pay Tributes To Major Somnath

Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar is scheduled to visit Kashmir tomorrow to pay homage to the country's first Param Vir Chakra recipient Major Somnath on his 69th death anniversary.
The Defence Minister will join senior army officers and other ranks in paying tribute to Major Somnath near the Srinagar Airport in Budgam district, an army official said.
He said Mr Parikkar is likely to be briefed by army officials on the situation along the Line of Control arising due to the ceasefire violations by Pakistan in the wake of last month's surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the border.
Major Somnath was the first recipient of the Param Vir Chakra, the highest military honour.
He was awarded the medal posthumously for his bravery in the Kashmir operations in November 1947.
He laid down his life while evicting Pakistani raiders from Srinagar Airport during the war with Pakistan in 1947-48 in Kashmir. He belonged to the 4th Kumaon Regiment.

BSF officer injured in overnight ceasefire violation

JAMMU:MMNN:26 Oct. 2016

An officer of the Border Security Force was injured when a shell fired by Pakistani Rangers exploded near him during overnight ceasefire violation in RS Pura sector along the International Border in Jammu.
In the last 24 hours, ten people mostly women have been injured in the cross border firing in the RS Pura sector.
"Assistant Sub Inspector of BSF A K Upadhayay was injured when a shell exploded near him in RS Pura sector. He received splinter injures in his hand", a BSF Spokesman said.
The Pakistan Rangers resorted to heavy shelling and use of small arm fire in RS Pura sector.
"Fire was mainly concentrated in RS Pura sector, heavy firing upto 2330 hours.Intermittent fire in Arnia also", he said.
He said the BSF was giving a "befitting reply", to the Pakistani fire.
Intermittent firing was going on in several areas of RS Pura sector, with BSF "responding well" to the Pakistani fire.
Deputy Commissioner (DC) Jammu, Simrandeep Singh said Pakistani posts also targeted civilian areas including Sai Kalan, Bure Jaal, Treva and Arnia.
"Shelling opened up in Sai Kalan also, Arnia also came under shelling from 0130 hours. People were inside their houses, so no human casualty," Singh said.
Singh said though the government has issued an advisory and all the educational institutions near the international border have been closed in the wake of the firing from across the border, people were migrating to safer locations.
"In the wake of the heavy firing border residents are migrating to safer locations, whenever there is lull, they leave their houses to shift to either safe camps or to their relatives houses at safer locations", Singh said.
Those injured in the cross border shelling have been identified as Shakshi (12), Manju Choudhary (15), Veena (26), Soma Devi (40), Kamlesh Kumari (28), Sanjana (10) Ratno Devi (60), Ramesh Kumar all residents of Suchetgarh.
Daljit Kour of Chanduchak was also injured in the firing and Ram Lal of Floora village in the RS Pura sector.
A six-year-old boy and a BSF Jawan were killed in the cross border shelling in the RS Pura sector on October 24.

There is no govt restriction on Pakistani artistes: Venkaiah Naidu

New Delhi:MMNN:26 Oct. 2016
Government has not imposed any restrictions on Pakistani artistes working in India but filmmakers should respect the sentiments of people while engaging them, said Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu.
He also felt that Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had mediated between the producers of Ae Dil Hai Muskhil and MNS, did no wrong or had any role in asking the producers to pay Rs 5 crore to army welfare fund.
In principle, Naidu said he is not in favour of imposing any ban on artistes from other countries to work in India but at a time when "a proxy war" was going on with the neighbouring country, filmmakers should keep the situation in mind.
"People say art has no boundaries. Yes, art has no boundaries but countries have boundaries. That has to be kept in mind," Naidu told PTI.
He said that artistes also have responsibility that they do not hurt sentiments of people.
"You have to understand the situation in mind. In normal times, yes."
"But in a situation where there is practically a proxy war going on and your neighbour is provoking you by encouraging and funding terrorists on a regular basis and killing thousands of people and your jawans, in such a situation if you engage in a debate that art is our right, then that will upset people. But government has not imposed restrictions on anyone."
Naidu felt it was the "correct" thing on Fadnavis' part to defuse the Ae Dil hai Mushkil release row after Producers Guild approached the Chief Minister in the wake of threats from Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
"Devendra Fadnavis has done the correct thing, right thing. He is responsible for law and order situation in the state. So, he worked for resolving the issue amicably." Naidu said Fadnavis told him in clear terms that he had not given his consent to the producers contributing to the army fund.
"Fadnavis is not part of it... it is against the ethos, against the principles of the government (to seek funds in this manner)," the Minister said, disapproving the Raj Thackeray-led MNS's demand that the producers contribute to the fund.
Dismissing the Congress' demand for the resignation of Fadnavis alleging that he had helped in "extortion" from the film industry, Naidu took a dig at the party saying there is "no lack" of demands on its part.
While Congress had demanded the resignation of Fadnavis, the CPI(M) had also accused him of "facilitating extortion" while resolving the row.
The Left party had asked Centre to take "serious note" of Fadnavis, who is also the Home Minister of Maharashtra, of not upholding his Constitutional duty as the Chief Minister by taking action against those who threatened to disrupt release of the film.
Asked about the industry's complaint that it was a "soft target", he shot back, "What is soft target? They are powerful and they have more voices. I don't think they are soft target. People have a right to protest but it's the responsibility of the local authority to maintain law and order."
The film was embroiled in a controversy recently after the MNS opposed the screening of movies featuring Pakistani actors in the wake of Uri terror attack.
The movie, featuring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, will release on 28 October, just two days before Diwali.

Need written assurance you won't work with Pak actors, Raj Thackeray tells producers

New Delhi:MMNN:22 Oct. 2016

Raj Thackeray has asked Bollywood producers to 'give in writing' that they won't work with Pakistani actors. He has also asked producers who have worked with Pakistanis to grant Rs 5 crore to the Indian Army's relief fund.
Although the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has assured that they won't oppose the release of Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil following Mukesh Bhatt's assurance that the Producers Guild will not work with Pak actors in the future, Raj Thackeray has demanded that producers give the same assurance in writing.
The MNS chief has also insisted that every producer who has cast Pakistani artists give Rs 5 crore to the Army relief fund.
Thackeray made this clear after meeting Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and film producers.
"For many years, we are raising the Pakistani artists' issue but the film industry was not taking it seriously. Now this time when we intensified the agitation they took cognizance of it," said Raj Thackeray.
The development comes in the wake of growing chorus of protests over the release of Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, which features Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.
Mukesh Bhatt also added that Karan Johar has offered to pay tribute to the martyrs of the Uri terror attack by putting a slate before the movie begins acknowledging their sacrifice.
"We had a very constructive meeting. I assured Fadnavis that the Producer's Guild has taken a decision in the larger interest of the sentiments of the people and the soldiers and the entire country that we will not work with Pakistani artists in the future. This is a resolution we will pass and send a copy to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and the CM. Karan Johar has offered to put a special slate honouring the Uri martyrs before the movie begins," said Mukesh Bhatt.
Bhatt said that Producers' Guild will also contribute to the Army Welfare Fund. "We owe this to the Army," he said.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is slated for release on October 28.Mukesh Bhatt's promise to not feature Pakistani actors in films followed by MNS' assurance to allow Ae Dil Hai Mushkil's release have put to rest the uncertainty surrounding the movie's screening.

BSF says it killed seven Pak Rangers, one militant in cross-border firing

New Delhi:MMNN:22 Oct. 2016
The Border Security Force (BSF) on Friday said that seven Pakistan Rangers personnel and one militant were killed in retaliatory firing after one of its soldiers was critically injured by sniper fire from across the International Border in Jammu. Pakistan, however, denied any loss of life on its side during the firing.
"In a befitting reply to a sniper attack of Pak Rangers at 9.35 am in the Hira Nagar sector of the Jammu frontier, BSF launched an aggressive offensive. During intermittent firing of small arms and area weapons, one militant and seven Rangers were shot dead," the BSF said in a statement.
Sources said that the information about Pak casualties was based on chat intercepts by intelligence agencies that spoke of "seven-eight casualties". The injured BSF personnel has been identified as Gurnam Singh of Magowali village in RS Pura tehsil. According to BSF, on the night of October 19-20, its troops foiled an infiltration bid in the vicinity of Bobiyan village within the Hira Nagar sector in Jammu.
Following this, sources said, there was unprovoked firing from the Pakistani side at the Hira Nagar, Akhnoor and Kathua sectors. "BSF retaliation to this fire claimed one militant's life," said the statement. "There were four instances of firing through the day in the three sectors. The BSF retaliated befittingly. It was during the retaliatory firing that the force managed to inflict casualties on Pakistan Rangers," said a BSF officer.
The force now expects cross-border tension to escalate. "If their men have died, they will retaliate and we will return fire. Friday night could be busy," said another BSF officer. The officer said that the force has communicated its apprehensions to the J&K government and asked it to prepare for the evacuation of people living on the border. "BSF is on high alert all along the International Boundary and ready to foil any infiltration attempt," the BSF statement said.
However, Asim Bajwa, director general, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Pakistan, denied the BSF's claims in two posts on his official Twitter account. "Indians resorted to unprovoked fire/shelling on working boundary in Shakargarh sector today. Pak Rangers befittingly responded. No loss on Pak side," Bajwa tweeted. "Indian claim of hitting or killing any Pakistani soldier/Ranger with firing at anytime of today at LOC/working boundary absolutely false," he wrote.

PM Modi welcomes Aung San Suu Kyi, says India, Myanmar enjoy century-old cultural connect

New Delhi:MMNN:19 Oct. 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday addressed the media after they held a meeting during the latter's three-day state visit to the country.
Prime Minister Modi, greeting Suu Kyi on her visit to India, said: "I welcome her excellency to her second home. It is an honour for us to receive you in India." He added that India will stand by Myanmar as Suu Kyi led that nation to prosperity.
"India has a robust development cooperation programme with Myanmar," Modi said. He also spoke about the need to have security co-ordination between the neighboring nations that serve mutual interest.
"Our societies enjoy centuries old cultural connect. We offered assistance in restoring pagodas that were damaged in recent earthquake," he added.
Aung Suu Kyi, in her address, said that Myanmar admired India for being the 'greatest democracy in the world'. Talking about the discussion she had with PM Modi, Suu Kyii mentioned that they covered a wide range of subjects like development, construction, archaeology among others.
"It is our ambition to bring peace and stability in our country and beyond because we have suffered from instability for a long time," Suu Kyii said. She concluded her speech by thanking PM Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee and reiterating the need for greater cooperation between the two countries.

'India used BRICS summit to outmanoeuvre Pakistan'

New Delhi:MMNN:19 Oct. 2016
India has "outmanoeuvred" Pakistan by effectively branding its neighbour as a "regional pariah" at the BRICS summit, an article in the State-run Global Times said on Wednesday.
"Given the uneasy background of Indo-Pak tension, which escalated last month and the inclusion of BIMSTEC bore even thicker geo-strategic connotations," it said.
"As India invited all countries in the region except Pakistan, it, in effect, consigned Pakistan to be a regional pariah," the article titled, India uses BRICS to outmanoeuvre Pakistan, said.
A grouping minus Pakistan
Referring to India's decision not to attend the SAARC summit in Islamabad, it said, "The collapse of the SAARC summit presented India a rare opportunity to get rid of any constraints Islamabad may have had over the regional group, as the same group would soon gather in Goa in the absence of Pakistan."
BIMSTEC also made a major difference for India at the Goa summit, it said, "A major difference between the Goa summit and the previous ones was that New Delhi put the [BIMSTEC] in tandem with the BRICS meeting."
By bringing regional countries - Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan - together with the major emerging economies of the BRICS, the daily said, India breathed legitimacy and substance into an otherwise "hallow and moribund acronym organisation."
"While the rest of the BRICS members would never openly endorse either side in the Indo-Pak tension, India in a way secured its stance with regards to Pakistan by taking advantages of its agenda-setting powers for the summits," it said.
"While the prospect of BIMSTEC as a more effective alternative to SAARC remains ambiguous, a subcontinent grouping without Pakistan balancing and checking a dominant India may well raise suspicions and fear for smaller countries," it said.
The summit also helped India to push for its membership of the NSG, which was blocked by China, as well as for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC), it said.
"The BRICS summit brings India an ideal mechanism to articulate and push for its reformist demands together with like-minded countries. This common front became particularly valuable for New Delhi, especially as its arduous bids for Nuclear Suppliers Group's (NSG) membership as well as for a permanent seat on an enlarged United Nation Security Council have both met with frustration," it said.
'India presented itself as a bright spot'
The article said that India successfully projected itself as the fastest growing economy compared to other members of the BRICS.
"During the summit, India presented itself as a bright spot in a bloc whose other members have been buffeted by economic headwinds to varying degrees. With a GDP growth rate of 7.5 per cent in 2015 against a rather gloomy global backdrop, India has replaced China as the world's fastest-growing large economy," the article said.
"But India finds confidence in talking about economic matters. After all, the setbacks undergone by its fellow countries made India's recent economic achievements shine even brighter in comparison," it said.
"Although India's domestic reforms have only made limited inroads in key areas such as land acquisition and labour regulation, an aspirant [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi equipped with newly-gained confidence on India's growth prospects has clearly made the country more proactive," it added.

Two militants killed in Pampore encounter as Army ends combing operations: Here's all that happened

New Delhi:MMNN:12 Oct. 2016

Second time within eight months, the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) complex at Sempora in Pampore came under an attack by militants on Monday. The previous encounter, which happened in February, cost the security forces five lives.
Being more cautious this time around, the security forces took their time to conduct the combing operations to avoid losing their men. As the encounter officially ends after more than 50 hours, here's what all happened:
When did it begin?
Early on Monday, the Director of EDI, Mohammad Ismail Parray received a call telling him that there was a fire at the institute complex. As firefighters and police approached the building, they were fired at. Since then, the Army, Jammu and Kashmir police and, paramilitary forces set up a perimeter to trap the militants in the building. Elite Para commandos of the army have were also called in to neutralise the militants.
It was speculated that militants might have deliberately set the fire to attract forces towards the building. The militants are suspected to have entered the complex via the rear end after crossing the Jhelum from Shalin village.
Injuries and casualties
On the first day of the encounter, as the security forces approached the building between intermittent gun battle, one soldier was injured. As the combing operations reached its final stages on Wednesday, 52 hours after the attack began, two militants holed up inside the building were killed - one Tuesday and one Wednesday - and their bodies recovered.
Number of casualties were minimised also because the building was mostly empty when the militants occupied it, with the hostels and offices largely vacant.
The building under attack
EID attracts youths from across J&K to its programmes on skill development and capacity building. The institute which started functioning in 2004 and trained over 4,000 youths ever since, had its main complex destroyed in February.
The first four floors of the hostel building are used as office space since then. After a more than 50 hours encounter this time, even though most parts blown up the concrete building has been reduced to a skeleton, the Army on Wednesday firmly denied reports of bringing down the building.
On Monday, former J&K chief minister and National Conference chief Omar Adbullah mourned the attack on EID, tweeting, "All the EDI ever did was train young Kashmiri boys & girls to stand on their own feet & not seek government jobs. Militants don't like that!"
February encounter
The encounter also lasted for more than 48 hours. Two CRPF men were killed and 12 others injured. In the mopping-up operation that followed, the Army lost three personnel, including a Captain with the Paras. Police said that attack was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba cadres based in south Kashmir.

Even those doubting surgical strike can take credit for it: Manohar Parrikar

New Delhi:MMNN:12 Oct. 2016
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said today that even those doubting the surgical strikes took place can take credit for them, although "the major share of the credit " for the strikes must go to PM Narendra Modi and the Indian Army.
"Even those doubting the strikes can share the credit. I don't mind sharing the credit, with every countryman because it is done by our armed forces and not by any political party. So all Indians, including, those doubting it also, can share the credit," he said at an event in Mumbai.
Parrikar's comments were a none-too-subtle reference to people like Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal who has said the PM should present proof of the strike on seven terrorist camps in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir late last month. The minister was also answering opposition critics who said the BJP is making political capital out of the strikes and "taking advantage of the bloodshed of soldiers."
The Congress party has claimed that while it was in power, three cross-border raids were carried out, but that it chose not to publicize these to avoid the conflict with Pakistan from escalating.
According to reports, PM Modi too has asked his ministers to not do any 'chest thumping' about the success of the September 29 surgical strikes, which were in retaliation for the terror attack on September 18 in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan has denied the cross-border strikes, accusing New Delhi of misrepresenting cross-border exchange of fire as ' surgical strikes .' Parrikar also said the surgical strikes have been a balm for people across the country who were outraged by the Uri terror attack.
"I understand (that) people's sentiments are satisfied and population is satisfied," he said.

India-Pakistan border issue: A good start, but govt should rethink safety measures

New Delhi:MMNN:8 Oct. 2016

The Home Minister on Friday stated that the government has decided to seal the entire stretch of the 3,323-km-long Indo-Pak border (1,225 km in Jammu and Kashmir, 553 km in Punjab, 1,037 km in Rajasthan and 508 km in Gujarat) by December 2018. Rajnath Singh also said that the development of the procedure will be done in a planned way, with a monitoring framework set up to review the progress, monthly, quarterly, bi-annually and annually.
On the question of securing the riverine belts and areas where it is geographically unfeasible to put the physical barrier along the border, Singh said that the government will look into technological solutions to ensure every inch of our land is guarded. It may be recalled that similar indications had also been given by the government after the recent terrorist attacks in Gurdaspur and the IAF base at Pathankot.
The decision is warranted with heightened proxy war by Pakistan that is likely to escalate further. Incidents of infiltration have gone up and 100 terrorists are reportedly ready to infiltrate from launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Infiltration has also been attempted through the international border in Punjab and J&K in addition to trans-border smuggling of goods, narcotics and fake Indian currency in Punjab, Rajasthan, and Gujarat.
India fenced and floodlit 461 km of Punjab's border with Pakistan from 1988 to 1993. The 1,048 km Rajasthan-Pakistan border was fenced and floodlit by 1999. Of the construction of 340 km of border roads and 137 km of link roads along Pakistan border in Gujarat sector sanctioned, 294 km of border roads and 136 Km of link roads had been completed till a few years back. The challenges remained along the LoC in J&K and the unfenced 93 km of Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. BSF had also proposed shifting of 23.380 km of fencing closer to the border in certain stretches of Ferozepur sector in Punjab due to the problems being faced by farmers in cultivating their lands. A dozen laser walls are already installed in the India-Pakistan border in Punjab in areas prone to infiltration.
India has erected 407 km border fencing in J&K in areas where there is high threat but the gaps between posts can only be covered through patrolling or ambushes which spread the security forces thin on the ground and is not 100 percent foolproof despite best efforts especially in hours of darkness, fog and adverse weather. Pakistan has been employing heavy cross-border firing to assist the infiltration and terrorists have also been using explosives to make gaps in the fencing or dig holes under the fence. In addition, heavy snows buried the fence especially in north Kashmir and large portions are also destroyed annually because of avalanches.
The new fence tried out - in consultation with the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) - uses stronger material and will have night-vision cameras, alarms and visual map displays integrated with the fence, all linked to a monitoring room, giving the local military commanders real-time data enabling quick reaction against any attempt to tamper with the fence. The fence is also proposed to be lit up using LED lighting where feasible. Existing fence in Jammu Sector is already lighted.
There is no denying that we need 'smart' borders. As per news reports, Israel has evinced interest in helping out in this venture. We need to optimize the best technology. Abroad, solar panels, rechargeable batteries, and diesel generators support extensive floodlighting with enough power. Operators pan and tilt the cameras remotely whenever any suspicious activity is observed. However, such arrangements are not feasible along active borders where Pakistan resorts to unprovoked firingy. Modern electronic surveillance involves detection of movement, and is largely based on seismic, acoustic, inductive sensors, and infrared sensors. Seismic sensors can distinguish between people and vehicles. Inductive sensors detect metal in an object that is moving, while an IR sensors can detect human body heat from a distance of up to 100 metres. The Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS) in use by the Army are mostly imported and primarily meant for guarding houses or premises. These are ineffective with snowfall and the DRDO has not been able to come up with one suitable for snow conditions.
However, despite smart fence fitted with cameras and consoles with commanders, limitations of adverse weather and visibility conditions will continue. This needs to be beefed up with Night Vision Devices (NVDs), Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) and Hand Held Thermal Imagers (HHTIs) which are in very limited numbers. The army post at Uri, which recently suffered a ghastly terrorist attack, did not have a single thermal imager despite being under enemy observation from three directions. The use of radars, as done abroad to detect smugglers as along the US-Mexico border, has the danger of giving away the electronic signatures of the equipment to the enemy. Besides, radars also have a dead zone. A mix of electronic surveillance and dogs would be very successful.
We use the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs) for surveillance but in limited numbers, because of the paucity of resources and restrictions on flying of multiple UAVs simultaneously in the same area or zone. There is a need to speed up the induction of the Battlefield Surveillance System (BSS), Battlefield Management System (BMS) in the army, and equipping infantry with hand-held Mini Aerial Vehicles (MAVs). Modern MAVs with forward-looking IR can identify objects at extremely long distances. America's MQ-9 Reaper UAV used for homeland security has cameras capable of identifying an object the size of a milk carton from altitudes of 60,000 feet, forward-looking IR detecting humans at distance of 60 km.
MAVs are also being weaponised. The US military is developing swarms of tiny unarmed drones that can hover, crawl and even kill targets. These micro UAVs will work in swarms to provide complex surveillance of borders and battlefields. Aside from a laser weapon they can also be armed with incapacitating chemicals, combustible payloads or even explosives for precision targeting.
Despite excellent achievements of Isro, we still have not gone for 24x7 satellite surveillance along our borders with both China and Pakistan. China already has 24x7 satellite surveillance along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India. A recent media report of a 45km-deep Chinese incursion in Arunachal points to this critical void. Iran is building a 700km-long, 10-feet-high and a three-feet-thick wall along its border with Pakistan, which is still not complete. If we are going for a similar 3,323-km-long Indo-Pak border wall with Israeli assistance, it is unlikely to be completed by December 2018. Nevertheless, it would be a good beginning and we must 'not' neglect other borders especially border infrastructure in the northeast, which remains pathetic because of gross neglect over a decade by the previous government.
The government must also seriously consider three issues. Firstly, the Army's Technical Support Division (TSD) that the UPA government disbanded to the great advantage of Pakistan's ISI, must be re-established if the NDA government is serious about countering Pakistan's proxy war on India. Secondly, the government needs to examine the villages located close to the border. When Farooq Abdullah, then the chief minister of J&K, was asked why the few border villages very close to the LoC could not be relocated in hinterland J&K by a foreign student at the National Defence College Course in 2000, he said he had thought about it and had already asked the Centre for Rs 120 crores to shift the first village. Creating a vacant belt would deter infiltration since any movement can be engaged by fire. Also, we may not mine the LoC but certainly patrols can keep adding IEDs.
Third, the principle of 'One Border, One Force' that we have muddled up completely because of turf wars. China has put her entire border along Myanmar, India and Afghanistan under the newly-created Western Theatre Command, which includes militias and border forces. The least we can do is putting our entire land and sea borders under the MoD. This would pay off immensely when it comes to defending India.

Kashmir dispute: India, Pakistan must seek resolution to prevent nuclear doom scenario

MMNN:8 Oct. 2016
In less than six months from now, thirty years would have passed since the Kashmir elections were rigged. An incident which perpetuated three decades of violence bringing hell to the valley that has been described as heaven on earth.
An unfinished business of the partition of the subcontinent, Kashmir is one of the largest and most militarised territorial disputes between India and Pakistan. It's also something the world should always worry about as it may trigger the next nuclear conflict on the planet.
A peaceful resolution of the conflict, which drains most of the resources of the two poor nations, should be a priority of the patriotic politicians on both sides. It is mind-boggling that the conflict has gone on for seven decades and no voices of reason have prevailed even though a large part of the population in India and Pakistan is under the yoke of poverty and disease.
By estimates of the World Bank, only 34 percent of Indians have access to a toilet. In Pakistan, only 48 percent of the population has access to 'facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and feces'.
Yet this festering and dangerous conflict remained unresolved for the last 69 years, causing hostility, and over which India and Pakistan have fought more than one war. I cannot fathom the resources that these two neighbors have squandered on their respective war machines when the people in both countries grind under the burden of misery.
In the pursuit of a resurgent India vis-a-vis the Chinese behemoth, the West has largely ignored this flash point which by some estimates can bring the world to a nuclear doom.
The possibility of nuclear winter is not far-fetched. The West would rather look for a counterweight to emerging China and forget about its moral sermons that are all too often delivered in its own interests.
Remember Palestine, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, and now Syria? Why should Kashmir be different?
Over the years, the voices of reason have periodically emerged exposing the sinister effect of the events in India-held Kashmir - mass graves, extrajudicial killings and innumerable human rights violations documented by none other than international organisations like Amnesty International, the UN, Human Rights Watch and others like Panjak Mishra and Gautam Navlakha.
The case of human rights lawyer Parvez Imroz who won the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize by Human Rights Institute of The Bar of Bordeaux, France, and the European Bar Human Rights Institute, is well known. This is the same prize that Nelson Mandela won in 1985. Not only Imroz was denied an Indian passport to receive the prize, but the security forces in Srinagar even tried to kill him and his family.
In spite of deployment of the Army with powers unbefitting a democracy, the Congress government had largely been successful in concealing the events in Kashmir, and thus, avoid discourse over this conflict. It also succeeded in placing in some form of obscurity with Western complicity.
How would the world know about the plight of Kashmiris when travel to Kashmir was impossible? But thanks to the advent of social media in the last 10 to 15 years, the world would come to know about what goes on in J&K.
Despite its ruthless suppression, Congress rule was successful in insulating the conflict from the international community, in which 100,000 people were killed. But the recent events by the BJP government have brought it out in the open. In its pursuit of nationalist agenda, the BJP government may have blundered by once again internationalising the issue which on the surface may have remained dormant. As late as July 2016, the leading intellectuals of the world have written a letter to the Indian government to stop its repression in the valley. Most notables among the more-than-850 who signed the letter were Noam Chomsky and Meena Kandasamy.
Interestingly, the hawkish media on both sides of the border is relentless in voicing claims, counter claims, denials and counter denials.
Personally, I don't know what to make of all this rhetoric and hoopla that is damaging to the cause of peace. The media on both sides has become a propaganda machine of each other's government, and frankly, it is useless to look for any objective analysis in a discourse full of insults, harangues, lies and half-truths. It has been almost two weeks since Uri. While there is non-stop and nonsensical coverage of Kashmir in the media both in India and Pakistan. I only find reasonable voices about the incident when I scour the world media including today's Jerusalem Post, The New York Times, Le Monde, or any other major newspaper of the world that comes to my mind.
In the West's ambivalence for whatever reasons aside, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people found an opportunity a fortnight ago to bring the issue to the fore in the international arena when India supposedly made a surgical strike across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK). Although the timing may have been carefully calculated by New Delhi since the Americans are busy in their presidential election, it doesn't seem to have as much impact as India may have expected, or hoped, and without impunity.
The respective claims of Indian and the Pakistani governments aside, buttressed by the clamour on the media of both countries, the Indian surgical strike across the Line of Control for whatever aims, domestic or international, were albeit partially successful or even a failure. Nonetheless, it was something dangerous and irresponsible whether one believes the Indian or the Pakistani version of the incident.
While Modi government may have succeeded in satisfying the demands of the Hindu nationalist at home, with the deployment of more than 700,000 troops in the Kashmir valley (that amounts to one soldier for seventeen inhabitants), the Modi government may have miscalculated, and brought the Kashmir dispute, once again, into the international arena.
This gave a sound reason to Pakistan to internationalise the event while at the same time deny the incursion to begin with. Whatever may have happened, ironically, a segment of the extremists still lament the loss of a 'window of opportunity' soon after the attack on Uri, which in their wishful thinking, would have punished Pakistan.
What the nationalist didn't do was entertain the possibility that rubbing the Pakistani nose could have surpassed the threshold which may have unleashed the Pakistani nuclear arsenal thus bringing havoc to the subcontinent and the world. In that case, India could not have sat back, and its retaliatory strike would have certainly caused the feared and awful mutual assured destruction.
Therefore, was the surgical strike worth taking the risk?
The conventional wisdom dictates that while the decision to carry out the surgical strike may have been made in New Delhi, the restraint that the Modi government displayed could have been due to orders coming from Washington, India's newly found friend that still has enormous interests in Pakistan. Were the policy makers in New Delhi so euphoric in their love for the Americans, that they imagined that the US would ignore its assets in Afghanistan and beyond, just for the sake of returning a warm handshake? It was ironic that the hawkish Indian Prime Minister on 5 October admonished his sabre-rattling domestic allies to refrain from commenting on the incident unless they are cleared by the defense officials. It was a smart move, indeed.
How could the warming of relationship with Washington have been sacrificed by drumming up the significance of the strike in the first place?
The fact is that the Modi government finds itself precisely between a rock and a hard place. It is true that the nationalist Hindutva sentiment is a genie that is no longer in the bottle and no matter what Modi and his allies want to do with it, supporting the nationalist agenda is not sustainable. The BJP may have used this genie to succeed in elections and gain popularity on the domestic scene, but there is no end to the demands of the domestic nationalist, who seem to have started to meddle in the security of the Republic of India basing their actions on whimsical behaviour. With time it has become more difficult for the BJP to deliver to its constituency that is virulently anti-peace in the subcontinent. I might ask what will happen to India that is resurgent and moving ahead with a robust growth, in case a war breaks out with Pakistan? Delusions aside, after Bangladesh, Pakistan is not ready for a defeat or even a humiliation.
The talk of war is thus dangerous and mutually suicidal.
Moreover, and notwithstanding that Congress may have hailed the strikes albeit in much cooler terms, the party of Sonia Gandhi has paid only lip service to the incident and thus avoided alienating its Muslim vote bank in particular, and the voices of reason, in general. The time has come once again to peacefully resolve the Kashmir issue despite the previous, chronic and ossified intransigence.
Another earlier miscalculation by the hawks in New Delhi regarding the international opinion may have been due to the false belief that the events in Kashmir have remained concealed thus providing impunity. But that is also not true. The American election campaign in full swing coupled with the public relation spree by Modi has brought goodwill to India, but it has not been able to prevent the world's reaction to what is going on in the valley.
Amnesty International issued a report regarding failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir. A detailed report addresses rape among other atrocities against the civilian population can be read here.
In the wake of the horrible Mumbai attack, the former British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband wrote:
"The issue is not whether we need to attack the use of terror at its roots, with all the tools available. We must. The question is how."
He further goes on to say that the terrorists are not an enemy that is united in a single army acting across borders and the war on terrorism therefore cannot be binary, between good and evil, between right and wrong.
Although terrorism is to be tackled at its root, by removing its weapons supply, by eliminating its finances and by emasculating its agenda. But you can turn blue in your face if the people you call 'terrorists' have a backer that is a state, and it has a legitimate claim recognised by the international community. Since one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist, the problem of Kashmir can only be solved with trilateral participation of the Kashmiris, Pakistanis and the Indians, by sitting on the negotiating table. Only cooperation can work in this case.
Therefore, the blame game in which Pakistan is touted as the root cause of terrorism is not going to solve the conflict. And despite its public denial for the sake of the international decorum, why should Pakistan not deny whatever it does in the India-held-Kashmir? Just like what India does in Baluchistan. The fact remains that Kashmir is a dispute that needs to be resolved. And it must be resolved by peaceful means. Both Kashmiris and Pakistanis are part of the conflict and a triad that includes them and the Indians is the only way that a peaceful settlement can be achieved, and nothing else.
No amount of rhetoric, posturing or appeasement of the domestic constituencies is going to solve the issue and since all else has failed, the only way out of the morass is for cooler heads to prevail and negotiations to start. The sooner the better. The people in both countries have had enough of miserable existence.

Surgical strikes: Eyewitnesses say Indian Army destroyed terror camps, LeT associated cleric called for revenge

New Delhi:MMNN:5 Oct. 2016

At a time when various political parties are demanding proof of the surgical strikes conducted by the Indian Army in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir last week, a report quoting eyewitnesses across the Line of Control said on Wednesday that bodies of several slain terrorists were loaded into trucks for secret burial.
The eyewitnesses claimed that the makeshift houses of the slain terrorists were also destroyed by the Indian Army and there was a heavy exchange of gunfire between the forces and so called Pakistan-backed jihadists.
Importantly, a confidential report on Indian Army's surgical strikes has been forwarded to the Centre. The report was made on the basis of eyewitnesses' account.
According to 'The Indian Express' report, two eyewitnesses, who visited Dudhnial, told the newspaper that a damaged building was seen near Al-Haawi bridge.
Notably, Al-Haawi bridge is the place where Pakistan-based terrorists are provided with supplies by Lashkar-e-Toiba, before they cross the Line of Control and infiltrate into the Indian side.
Some locals also confirmed to the eyewitnesses about heavy exchange of fire on the intervening night of September 28 and 29.
The locals further revealed that around 5-6 bodies were loaded on a truck early next morning, and possibly transported to the nearest major Lashkar camp at Chalhana, across the Neelum river from Teetwal, on the Indian side of the LoC, the Indian Express report said.
Locals also stated that a few bodies were buried at the site of the attack with support from Pakistani forces and the ISI.
Earlier reports had said that the surgical strikes by special armed forces, during which at least seven terror launch pads were completely destroyed, were recorded on cameras.
Media reports had quoted top government sources in saying that the video of surgical strike against Pakistan-based terrorists were duly recorded and kept as a proof by Army.
The confirmation of the surgical strikes come at a time when various political parties and their leaders including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Congress leaders P Chidambaram, Digvijay Singh, Sanjay Nirupam and few others have demanded proof of Indian Army's military action in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The Army conducted surgical strikes on seven terror launch pads along the LoC on the intervening night of September 28 and 29, inflicting "significant casualties" on terrorists preparing to infiltrate from PoK.
The next morning, the DGMO had given this information to the media in a press conference.
Pakistan, however, has been dismissing the claim as "fabrication of truth" and, said India was creating "media hype" by re-branding cross-border fire as surgical strikes.
On September 30, a cleric of a Lashkar-affiliated mosque in Chalhana, vowed to avenge the deaths of the men killed on the intervening night of September 28 and 29.
Friday prayers at a Lashkar-affiliated mosque in Chalhana, another eyewitness said, ended with a cleric vowing to avenge the deaths of the men killed the previous day.
Fresh firing across the de facto border between India and Pakistan on Tuesday intensified military tension between the already tense neighbours with Indian Air Force Chief Arup Raha warning that the situation on the Line of Control (LOC) was still "live".
The Indian Army alleged that Pakistan troops opened unprovoked heavy firing in at least three places on the LoC - a ceasefire line that divides Jammu and Kashmir between the two countries. Cross-border shelling also occurred along the International Border at Akhnoor sector in Jammu.

India fast-tracks Predator Guardian drone deal with US

MMNN:5 Oct. 2016
India is reportedly trying to fast-track a deal with the US to buy drones for its military before President Barack Obama's term ends in January 2017. An official in New Delhi said India had requested for 22 Predator Guardian drones in June and the negotiations to finalise the deal are in an advanced stage.
"It is progressing well. The aim is to complete the main process in the next few months," the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told
New Delhi has been sharing a cordial relationship with Washington following several personal interactions between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Obama. It has enabled both the countries to join hands in tackling terrorism in South Asia.
The ties have reportedly made India shift its focus away from Russia towards the US as the top weapons supplier. India is said to be closing in on a multibillion dollar US nuclear reactor deal. In return, Washington has offered Delhi access to high-end military technology to develop and fly fighter planes off its biggest aircraft carriers.
"They have already started helping us on our first indigenous carrier, in terms of certification, quality testing," the Indian government official said. "The challenge will be to sustain the momentum over the next decade."
The Obama administration has favoured India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) and had backed Delhi's entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime which has given India the right to purchase the unarmed Predator drones.
India had also requested the US for the armed version of the Predator in a bid to help deal with suspected terror groups in Pakistan but Washington's export control laws reportedly prohibit such sales.
After negotiating for nearly a decade, the Modi government signed a logistics agreement with the US in August that grants access to each other's military bases. Besides, a couple of other defence and nuclear collaborations are reported to be in the pipeline between the two countries.
However, with the US presidential elections round the corner, there is an element of uncertainty.
While Republic presidential candidate Donald Trump is reported to have been critical of Indian partnership with the US, he has said he values India's businesses. But should Hillary Clinton occupy the White House, things could be a little easier for India as she has dealt with New Delhi in the past as secretary of state.
Manoj Ladwa, a London-based political strategist who served as communications director for Modi's 2014 campaign, told Reuters that Trump's "unpredictability is worrisome in a world that requires steady and mature statesmanship".

PM Narendra Modi Greets Chinese People On China's National Day

BEIJING:MMNN:1 Oct. 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today greeted Chinese people on their country's 67th national day and said that close cooperation between India and China has the potential to shape a "peaceful and stable future for Asia".
In the greeting posted in his account in Weibo, China's popular microblog, PM Modi said "our relations date back to centuries, encompassing spiritualism, learning, art, trade and respect for each other's civilisation and shared prosperity".
"As I have said earlier, both our countries reflect, in many ways, similar aspirations, challenges and opportunities, and can be inspired by each other's successes."
"At a time when the world looks towards Asia, the progress and prosperity of China and India, and our close cooperation, have the potential to shape a peaceful and stable future for Asia," he said.
This is a vision I share with President Xi and Premier Li Kiqiang, he said.
"In recent times, we have deepened our engagement across the full spectrum of our ties, and laid emphasis on deepening mutual trust and confidence, and expansion of people-to-people ties.
"And we will continue our endeavours in this direction," he said.
PM Modi, who opened his account on Weibo ahead of his China visit last year, has thousands of followers in the country. China celebrated its 67th national day today with special ceremonies marking the occasion.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders held a series of events and meetings in Beijing, including a ceremony honouring martyrs besides a grand reception and meetings with foreign guests.
Meeting the foreign experts working in China who were conferred Friendship Awards, Li said China is ready to welcome more talent from abroad as the country becomes more open and inclusive.
Earlier Vice-Premier Ma Kai conferred medals on the 50 foreign experts and praised their contribution to the country's development at an awards ceremony in Beijing.
Mr Li observed that the foreign experts in China include both young and old, and the combination of their brainpower and great experience could "help yield a greater boost to China's modernisation process and world peace and development".
He said China is offering greater openness, inclusiveness and convenience for outstanding foreign talent, and the country will speed up facilitation of their application for a permanent residence permit.
Mr Li and others also greeted foreign ambassadors and envoys assuming their new offices in China.
Mr Li said China is committed to peace and development, and will join hands with countries to "achieve robust, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth".