Thursday, March 9, 2017

EDITOR'S COLUMN

Friends,

We are into the last month of financial year 2016-17, supposedly the Budget month. But an executive decision to shift the budget date from 28th Feb. to 1st Feb. has effectively stopped the significance of March. The executive order also scrapped the practice of separate Railway Budget by including the same in the main Union Budget 2017-18. From now on there will be only one single budget for the country.
Union Budget of Finance Minister Arun Jeitley did attempt valiantly to undo negative fallout of demonetization by giving sops of all kinds to all people. Of course in an exercise of this nature, it is impossible to address concerns of every section of the society. Those who complained kept complaining. But then those who can afford should pay more, without much of a demur, that’s the principle of public finance. But then it is in the nature of homosepiens to ask for more. In the Month-in-Perspective, we have analyzed the latest Union Budget in better details. 
Elections to five states have more or less completed, with the exception of a phase of polling remaining for U.P. Who will emerge a winner, has to be seen. However one of the larger states of India, Maharashtra, has sent an unmistakable signal of going to BJP in their just concluded Municipal corporation polls, despite the perceived negatives of demonetization. Obviously Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has shuffled his poll managers better, to impress his voters. It is difficult to say, if similar result would come from elsewhere too. But, the richest corporation of Brihan Mumbai has thrown up a very tricky result with erstwhile partners having almost the same number of seats. But Shiv Sena leadership being strong headed will try all tricks to keep BJP out. Will that happen? 
As usual Month-in-Perspective has dealt with issues of relevance happening in the last month, taking them head-on. However, it has not been possible to take-up all issues of relevance.
The sudden withdrawal of High Denomination Currency notes of `500 & `1000, on 8th Nov. 2016, has been an unprecedented, almost cataclysmic, event that has left the country reeling in no-cash situation for most of the 50 days that the restrictions lasted. There have been plethora of reactions and responses of all kinds for the abrupt cessation of a large part of legal tender. We have tried to go into the positives and negatives in the Focus, of this historic move by the central govt. led by Narendra Modi. Focus on demonetization has tried to be fair where it was due and critical where it felt was needed. Hope our readers will find it worth their time. Do revert with your thoughts. We do value them.        

J. Shriyan

MONTH-IN-PERSPECTIVE

New Delhi: Post demonetization, the eagerly awaited Union budget has come. As expected, it has tried to mollify ruffled temper of Indians who suffered due to the abrupt cessation of HD currency notes. It has tried to be politically correct by accommodating give aways to possible vote banks. Every government does it, every year, in one way or the other. But this was pleasantly surprising in many ways. To the middle class, the reduction of 10% to 5% income tax for `2.5 lakh to `5 lakh earners, is a welcome development, although the expectation was it would do away with `2.5 lakh limit to increase it to `5 lakh limit. Budget has also tried to be welfare oriented by allocating funds to spend 24% more for rural India and 35% raise in allocation to Dalits. Reduction of Corporate Income Tax for SME companies was welcomed by industry, although it complained about not being pari passu when it came to companies beyond `50 crores turnover. But then very principle of taxation is based on ‘what traffic can bear’. Declaring Rail Suraksha Kosh with a corpus of `1lakh crore over a period of 5 years is most welcome, with rail safety going for a toss in recent times. Thrust on affordable housing by elevating it to infrastructure status and increased allocation for highway construction by 12% are two powerful prime movers for both socio-economic equity and boost for empowerment of have nots. In a path-breaking step, the government proposed to setup mini-labs in Krishi Vigyan Kendra for soil testing so also has initiated measures to setup a long term irrigation fund in Nabard with `40,000 crores. MNREGA has received a boost with a huge allocation of `48,000 crores. The promise of 100% electrification of villages by 2018, is another highlight of the budget. The reduction of political funding in cash from `20,000 to `2,000/- is a welcome proposal in the face of black money playing its role in political funding. Of course, those who give `2,000/- will repeat it 10 times to hide their identities. But still, it can have some effect on the bottom line, for some.
All in all, it’s fairly a positive budget. Of course, for those who want to criticize, need not have reasons, like opposition parties do it routinely ‘sticking to script’. Not that it does not have any shortcoming, but let’s take the positive and leave the negative to pessimist. As usual criticism, just for the heck of it, takes us no-where. Hope all proposals of the budget are carried to its logical end.

In recent times, BSF has been in the news for some wrong reasons. Reasons, they should be reasonably disturbed about.
In all forces, whether army, navy or air force, Border Security forces and there are other national security related agencies, besides police, the sentries or jawans or constables are always badly treated in all respects. Whether, it’s their food, clothing, accommodation or even their pay packet. There is no fairness. It is a fact, known across the spectrum. But no-body complains because of its ‘discipline’ and of course, the fear of possible retribution at the hands of seniors.
For every level there is something of a difference of vertical nature with pay and perks. But there is something as basic minimum, quality of food, quality of accommodation facility and of course a living wage. It is so in most part of the world. But in India, difference between the top man and the bottom man can be truly staggering.
Hence, the video of a BSF Jawan from 29 Battalion in Poonch, uploaded on social media, showing picture of poor quality chapathi or roti, and watery dal and had requested the PMO to probe where he accused higher-ups selling the essentials procured for jawans.
According to the jawan “We only get a paratha and tea as breakfast without any pickle or vegetable, we slog for 11 hours and at times we have to stand throughout the duty hours. For lunch, we get dal which only has haldi (turmeric) and salt with roti. This is the quality of the food we get, how can a jawan do his duty”. He also fears that, now that he has gone public higher-up may do anything and asked public to take it forward.
As expected the authorities came up with the story of BSF is highly sensitive to the welfare of troops and have ordered an inquiry and that Jawan has remarks on him in the past, etc. Reportedly he has been shifted and his supervisor suspended. The latest is not known, although the VRS that the jawan had requested has been withheld.
Then comes this news of a clerk going public with his video alleging sale of liquor to civilians, which was meant for BSF personnel, this is despite his complaints in the past and no action taken he alleges.
Thus, once the clerk posted his video, the authorities responded by ordering a probe. But then this is an open secret that liquor is sold to civilians at a premium, which is sold to security forces at a highly subsidized rate. According to the video of the clerk, one Chaudhary from Bikaner Rajasthan, who works at 150 Battalion in Gandhidham Kutch, Gujarat, ‘a civilian is seen carrying liquor bottles. In Gujarat sale and consumption of liquor is prohibited.’ He alleges “we cannot even ask for good food, if someone complains, he is treated as if he has committed a grave offence. All wants to end corruption. But nobody comes forward to end it. Every time a whistle blower is punished and all rules are applied against him, but nothing happens to the corrupt.” He had complained four months ago about liquor sale to civilian. But nothing happened. “Hence I am going public. I am not afraid of being transferred. But they cannot break my morale”. So, the stories are real. This is Yeh Mera India, where good not rewarded and wicked never punished.

Something is not really alright with the Supreme Court/ High Court judges, especially when it comes to granting custody of small children. Some judges seem to think, they know better when it comes to child’s welfare, even better than child psychologists. In fact, it is neither the judge nor the child psychologist who are qualified to sit on judgement when it comes to child custody, it is the child alone who should decide. It is the right of the child to decide its future, where it feels more secure and comfortable to opt for either of the parent. It is simply not the case of parent’s rights as to who should have the custody. Court has no business in interfering with the emotional demands of the child.
The other day Bombay High Court (BHC) granted the custody of child to the mother, despite the inconsolably crying child wanting to go with the father. It was a case of father kidnapping the child boy returning from school, while it was in the custody of mother. She went to police and then to BHC. Judges reprimanded the father for taking the child away. But the learned judges failed to ask the child, ‘are you happy with the father or you want to return to mother’. Child had clearly made-up its mind to go with the father, but court forced its way to let mother take the custody and asked parents leave the court primises. By this judgement, court has clearly hurt the interest of the child and in the process denied the moral right of father and caused the rupture of the even pace of father-child bonding and possibly even the future life of the child.
Then comes another case where an 8 year old daughter was handed over to the mother, by the Supreme Court, despite the child’s desire to live with her father. Even the child counselor had observed that child was in a very sensitive phase of mental and physical growth and it was in her best interest that the present arrangement is not disturbed as she remained with the father since she was 21 months old”. That is over 6 years with the father. And the judges in their wisdom thought otherwise. In their strange logic, they contended similar time frame should be given to the mother for the child to develop affinity and love for the mother. They used the term ‘level playing field’. It was clearly a case of miscarriage of justice. Certainly a child counselor is more competent than judges in such cases. But most important was the wishes of this minor girl child, which court clearly trampled, by completely ignoring it and forcing the child to go with the mother. It was indeed very sad.    

Madhya Pradesh: Reacting to a piece of writing in “India Against Demonetization” on 9th Feb one Mr. Gilbert D’Souza accused a section of Indians as “uncouth, uncivil, regressive, uncultured, pedestrian, autocratic… I can go on”. Probably he ran out of his steam. Then comes this story on 11th Feb, of Wang Chi, a Chinese soldier, who had strayed into India, post 1962 war with India. He was captured on Jan. 3, 1963. He was treated as a spy and spent some 8 years in different Indian prisons. Since he could not establish contact with his people in China, despite all help from the government of India, he settled down in a village, Tirodi in Balaghat district of Madhya Pradesh. He adopted an Indian name Raj Bahadur Wang, got married to an Indian woman and reportedly has grand children. He remembers the help and assistance received from former PM Rajiv Gandhi, so also former Deputy PM L.K. Advani, whom this Mr. Gibert B’Souza had called “uncouth, uncivil, regressive, uncultured, pedestrian, autocratic etc”, since Mr. LK Advani is from BJP.
Now after 54 years, Chinese Authorities have relented and have given him a Chinese Passport and a Visa. It took some 25 years to get his letter across to his mother in China, who had replied that “now she would sleep in peace after 24 years of frantic search”.  “Sadly, my mother passed away without seeing me,” he recalls. According to Wang Chi urf Raj Bahadur Wang, wants to visit China just once, after which he will settle down in Balaghat ‘forever’. If only this Wang Chi urf Raj Bahadur Wang had heard of Mr. Gilbert D’Souza, may be, he may never want to come back to the ‘uncouth, uncivil, uncultured’ Madhya Pradesh, India.
   
JHARKHAND: Indeed things are changing for better, although very slowly. Better late than never. Something is better than nothing. A former Jharkhand minister is reportedly jailed for Money Laundering. According to Ranchi datelined media report Harinarayana Rai, who held different cabinet portfolios under different governments, was sentenced by the court of special judge B.K. Tiwari, for 7 years rigorous imprisonment and was fined `5 lakh.
Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) was enacted in 2002 and being implemented from 2005 in order to check and curb black money and grave financial crimes.
And this Jharkhand minister Harinarayan Rai, reportedly became the first to be convicted, and that too a three time cabinet minister in three governments. That is indeed a good development. “Kaanoon ke haath bahoot lambey hotey hain”. If both executive (police, CBI, E.D. etc) and judiciary (lawyers & judges) honestly join hands and sincerely work together conviction of persons like Minister Rai should be so much easier.
All news savvy Indians are privy to the fact, that in public space, there are any number of stories, about members of all estates of our democratic milieu, be it legislature, executive, judiciary and even media are involved in grave financial misdemeanors of different types. There are also senior functionaries and owners of business houses too in this game of financial skull drudgery. Unfortunately, despite there being all kinds of laws to check such crimes in public space and many have been booked by law enforcing authorities, last word was rarely said. Hence it took some 12 years for the first conviction under the new enactment of PMLA. Yes, better late than never.
According to the report, it was Jharkhand’s Vigilance Bureau that filed an FIR in 2009 against the minister Rai, then CBI too probed, besides Enforcement Directorate(ED). Rai had 3 shell companies in the name of his wife and brother and laundered unaccounted money he made by misappropriation of public fund.
Reportedly court found minister Rai guilty for laundering proceeds of crime to the tune of `3,72,54,016/- (`3.72 crore). Quite frankly this amount is peanut, when we hear of stories of Mallya and others, running into hundreds of crores. The list of such wrong doers would be a literal ‘who’s who’ of our socio-economic & political functionaries. Hope these convictions increase to put fear into the heart of habitual offenders and looters of public money.      

MAHARASHTRA: There was this report datelined Nagpur ascribing to former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
Speaking on the floor of the Maharashtra Assembly in its Nagpur Secretariat, former CM had suggested that the central government should introduce `200 currency and that `1000 currency notes need not be brought back into circulation.
These political leaders, with the exception of few, can’t think, out of the box. To give `200, one can use 2 notes of `100/-. Similarly we do not need `20/- notes, since giving 2 notes of `10/- in place `20/- note, is just as easy.
We need to think little differently. What we need is `250/- notes and `25/- notes, which can truly facilitate lot of dealings where you need smaller notes & coins which are in short supply. Also there are number of situations where one can use a bundle of `25,000/- (250X100) or multiple thereof similarly `2500/- (25X100) and multiple thereof.
This proposal was circulated in ISSUES&CONCERNS, over a year ago and may be even sent to PMO for consideration.
Hope the power that be wakes up to the ground condition and consider the proposal.

Ajaykumar Waghmare of Nanded had filed a petition in Bombay High Court (BHC) requesting the BHC to look into some scenes in the film ‘Jolly LLB’, in which, Waghmare contended that there are deliberate attempts to malign the reputation of the Indian Legal Profession. He wanted these scenes to be dropped from the film and tender an unconditional apology. According to Wagmare, “Trailers released of the movie on social media and television channels are nothing but attempts to portray the Indian legal Profession as a laughing stock to the society at large”.
The Advocate from Nanded, went on and on, in his submission about the alleged tarnishing of the reputation of his fraternity in the film ‘Jolly LLB’.
A film is known to be a medium to reflect on issues that concerns general public. If the film makers have taken liberty to portray the legal fraternity in poor light, they may be having some grounds to do so. So the BHC must lend its ears to the ‘Jolly LLB’ producers, as well, which reportedly BHC has asked for their response.
But our friend from Nanded, Ajay Kumar Waghmare, has he got a case? Its 'Yes' & 'No'. Yes, he does have a case. But at the same time he has a weak case as well. The fraternity of lawyers has not been always without contradictions and controversies. There are enough instances where their actions have portrayed them poorly. Of course they too are humans. There are good and very good among them, but then there are also black sheeps.
The Bar-council of India President Manan Kumar Mishra has recently told a gathering that had CJI Justice Khehar in attendance, about some 50% of lawyers being fake. ‘Jolly LLB’ too presents a picture of a lawyer, who is not qualified. So if ‘Jolly LLB’ has a case, it can’t be denied.
Of course, it was surprising, that only an advocate from Nanded, an interior town of Maharashtra, thought of going to court, none from Delhi, Mumbai or other metros. Does this mean, most lawyers do not disagree with ‘Jolly LLB’!?

Macbeth had famously observed “Out, out, brief Candle! Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more, it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
Indeed for all these post independent years, Indian politicians & bureaucrats have spoken and spoken, have made enough noise but done precious little, especially when it came to health care and other social indicators. Despite 12 development plans, a large section of Indians have remained outside the socio-economic development of the country. Among other needs of a large section of Indians, affordable health care remained a mirage for a vast section of Indians.
Addressing a conference recently on “Health care: A commodity or Basic Human Need”, Dr. Rajendra Badwe, director of Tata Memorial Centre explained “Accessibility and affordability are the two major challenges in India. Universal health care is not just a pipe dream but a necessary global reality which is a principal concept in health care planning.”
The conference was jointly organized by Tata Memorial Centre, Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Tata Trusts and Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University.
As a free nation, we are 70 years old. Our development planners, economic managers, political leadership have been comprehensively unimaginative in having a vision for the country and its people. Why a government exists, if not for its people! Unfortunately, it has been there only for a section of the population who manage the affairs of the country, the politicians, civil servants, traders, industrialists, contractors, political brokers, big farmers, top professionals, they decide the priorities and make investments and share its benefits. Even today India has more malnourished and illiterate persons than any other country. Over 80%of our pregnant women are anaemic. Added to that, is the state of healthcare sector, where private initiatives are allowed a free run with government hospitals running with less and less doctors and equally less and less medicines available. The stocks at Sanjeevini, the generic medicine outlets are woefully sad, as if they are there only to promote private enterprise.
The above conference, probably, is not a first time happening. It has happened regularly to only appear in the media- ‘full of sound and fury, signifying precious nothing.’ Nineteenth century observation of Macbeth is still relevant in 21st century. A sad reality of India!  

KARNATAKA:Former Karnataka CM, former Minister of External Affairs Mr. S.M Krishna has resigned from his party, so informs the media. “I am yet to decide on the next step” he is reported to have stated. Reportedly he is 84 years old. At this age what kind of serious service he can do as he is contemplating his next step?
If he has resigned to remain in the news, it’s OK. But is he looking for some important role so late in the day?!
Why are these elder politicians thinking, that they are the only nation servers? When will they make room for youth in nation building?! Right or wrong each political party has its own priorities. Serving the nation may be one of their objectives but certainly not a priority. SMK is only one of the many octogenarians, who are battling their irrelevance. Sad and bad politics!

Deccan Herald editorial of 13th Feb. “Rohingya killing…”, among other things also took trouble of ‘highlighting’ “Islamophobia is turning us into unfeeling cold people.”
It is true that Rohingyas are suffering at the hands of Burmese authorities. World must take a call, purely from a humanitarian angle.
But can we make the Burmese accountable for the suffering of Rohingyas? To start with Burmese people may not be concerned if Rohingyas are Muslim, unlike Indian media which is ‘worried’. Burmese people are worried about an issue, on which media in India has no take.
Rohingyas’ history is over 100 years. They were brought to Burma as labourers by Britishers. According to British census their number was 58,255 in 1872. Now, reportedly, its 1.1 million, which means, it has grown 19 times.
In 1982, Gen. Ne Win, effectively denied them Burmese nationality, and thus they were denied legitimate livelihood options. Hence their suffering is genuine. But the uncontrolled and increasing number of the Rohingyas is causing grave concern to Buddhists of Burma. Presently Buddhists are 90% of the 50 million populations. But they are worried, by 2050 Rohingyas may overtake Buddhists, which they never want it happen. Is their fear unfounded? Are they expected to be minorities in their own country?
The news is, Bangladesh is trying to rehabilitate these Rohingyas in some inhospitable island. But why don't their friends in media, ask Saudi Arabia and other Arab petro dollar countries to accommodate these Rohingyas. They can after all, be seen as fellow members of the same faith and these Rohingyas can provide cheap labour as well. After all even Europe is welcoming migrants for its cheap labour component. Some food for thought!

TAMIL NADU:Whole of media savvy Indians are aware what is happening in Tamil Nadu, since the passing away of the only man in AIADMK, K. Jayalalitha. MLA’s met and ‘elected’, Sasikala as the Gen Secretary of AIADMK. Then the clamour started, like Jayalalitha in the past, Gen Secretary should also be the CM. So, Pannirselvam (OPS) was ‘convinced’ to resign and Sasikala was ‘elected’ as the CM, pending presenting her credentials to the Governor.
Governor took his own time, and fortunately Supreme Court verdict became handy to delay the swearing in. In the meanwhile, listening to his ‘conscience’, at the Jaya memorial, OPS tells about the pressure put on him to resign and leaves it to God to take the call. Machinist that Sasikala is, she managed to herd 135 MLAs to a resort. That was a week ago.
A week later, Sasikala is set to go to jail, not sure when; she decides to select her nominee as CM candidate, ‘removes’ OPS as AIADMK member. There was a speculation that ‘once convicted’ Sasikala’s camp will be deserted. But that didn’t happen so far. Except some MLAs, and a niece of Jayalalitha have joined OPS.
In this whole scenario, one thing emerges clearly. OPS is an obedient AIADMK worker and had implicitly carried out Jayalalitha’s orders. Is he fit beyond that? He appears to be dependent on emotional support looking for sympathy, but doing precious nothing to garner support. He could have travelled, for all these past 7 days, the whole length and breadth of Tamil Nadu to tell people how he has been wronged and if they are convinced should call their MLAs and ask them to support OPS. He does not seem to have any strategy, except celebrating the court verdict and saying “God is Great”. God does not need certificate from humans.
As was evident, all these days, and post SC verdict on Sasikala, OPS has no influence on anybody. He only wants to live on the goodwill of Jayalalitha.
Surely there are competent people in AIADMK, other than OPS, who may not like his leadership, now that Jaya is not there. So they have asserted to upstage him. For all you know, there may not be exodus to OPS Camp, and Sasikala nominee may romp home after all.
With Jaya niece on his side, he must form a separate group, have a strategy in place and start building ‘Jaya ADMK’ from scratch. May be by next election, he may emerge as a force along with Deepa. If in the meanwhile, Sasikala is taken to Parappana Agrahaara in Bengalooru, dice may still go in favour of OPS. People of Tamil Nadu do not deserve this uncertainty.

KERALA: All of us have to die someday, some early some late. So was E Ahamed, an M.P from Kerala.
Loksabha paid tributes to his departed soul and also adjourned the House for a day. The matter should have ended there. But that was not to be.
Politicians need issues for its sensation quotient. Thus after several days the issue of his death was raked by Kerala MPs, under the banner “Parliamentarians for dignified life and death”, alleging that their honour was hurt due to the delay in informing the parliament.
Rahul Gandhi of Congress joined the crowd for whatever sense it made.
E Ahamed, was a controversial Kerala politician and in his death too, his ‘friends’ raked an avoidable controversy.
While being a Kerala Minister, this E Ahamed had ‘famously’ brought Arabs into Kerala without visas and no action was taken for this open violation of the law of the land. Wonder what Kerala MPs have to say on this.

World: The news datelined Karachi “Terrorist attack kills 100 in Pakistan” made a very sad reading. Baghdad report informed “car bomb kills 45”, was another sad happening, within 24 hours, between as far a place as Karachi and Baghdad. But the common factor that caused the mayhem is Islamic State or IS as was known.
Why is this lunatic fringe is indulging in this kind of barbaric killings of innocents? Violence in the name of Islam is taking place from all parts of the world. From Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Libya, Somalia, Egypt, Nigeria and many other countries, some or the other group affiliated to primitive  fundamentalism are taking up arms to enforce its own set of rules and those who are opposed to its views are annihilated without remorse. To think that in Karachi, the victims of the bomb blast were praying in a shrine, and they too were Muslims like the killers, makes the whole episode macabre. Of course, as for Pakistan, it is chicken coming home to roost. For far too long it has mollycoddled these terror groups to cause ‘thousands cuts to India’, and played with fire. Now these groups are throttling Pakistan itself. If Pakistan is suffering its violent terror groups, it has only itself to blame, none else. Of course Pakistan will be too happy to blame India, like they do with Baluchistan politics. In other parts of Muslim world, the politics of Shia-Sunni is taking its own toll. It is an unfortunate dimension of Muslims all over the world that only Muslims can address. Fortunately India is not a victim of this Shia-Sunni sect.-politics. However for the larger picture of peace all over the world in general and Muslim countries in particular, the leadership of Muslim countries have to take the call, how they should control the anger of its faithfulls. Hope someday it happens for the good of all.

Post Donald Trump election to the United States, there has been apprehensions about his action on immigrants, especially Muslims. He proved himself right, when he stopped allowing migrants from seven Muslim countries. Court intervention has saved the day. But, the problem persists.
While all sympathies are with law abiding Muslim migrants, all migrants should look within themselves what can they do, so that there is less apprehension and more bonhomie in their social intercourse with the migrated society?
There are two contrasting stories that have appeared in the print media, which throws light on the prevailing atmosphere within the U.S. A New York date lined news tells, about a heartwarming letter a Muslim family received from his neighbor a day after Mr. Trump was sworn-in, which said Dear Neighbours, To-day begins a new stage for our country. No matter what happens, please know there are still a lot of people who will fight for your right to practice your religion, to continue your lives without discrimination. You are welcome in our neighborhood and if you need anything- please knock on our door.” Deeply touched, Abubakar Amry, reacted “This is the other side of America, this is the best, best, best experience. This act of kindness has changed my mind a lot. Even when I was driving the next day to my work, I looked at the people on the street totally different”.
Diametrically different was another incident in New York airport when a white American shouts and kicks a hijab-clad woman. Hijab clad Rabeeya Khan, an airline employee was sitting in her office at JFK International Airport and for no reason, this American Robin Rhodes, barges into her office and shouts “Trump is here now, he will get rid of all of you” and reportedly kicked her. When Rabeeya attempted to run away he followed her menacingly. Other staff stopped him and handed him over to the airport police. It was pure and simple racial hatred. If proved, he will be jailed.
So, these are the two contrasting picture from the U.S, and there are instances in the U.K & Australia too. But there is a larger question, which all migrants have to answer, for their own good and for their wholesome acceptance in an alien environment. Every country has its laws, its dos and don’ts, its social ethos, likes and dislikes of its people. All migrants should be sensitive to this, if they have to stay there with their head held high. They have to perforce accept the law of the land, strictly do nothing, which can antagonize the authorities and its citizenry. Read literatures on the prejudices and their likes and dislikes, even if one has to make some adjustments. After all migrants are not invited, they requested their entry into the country; it is only fair that, there are no hiccups in accepting it. Migrants cannot insist on their way of life, in someone else land. There may be lot of people in the host country, who may not mind accepting migrants as they are. But, it certainly pays in both peace and better life, if migrants adjust to the new environment. It’s not for nothing the adage came about “While in Rome do as the Romans do”. Parsies when they landed in Sanjan, centuries ago, on the Gujarat coast, running away from persecution in Persia they were asked by the Sanjan King, ‘how would they merge with the locals?’ Parsi priest asked for a glass of milk, when given, he mixed the sugar he had carried and said “Just like this”. And they lived happily ever after in Gujarat and beyond.

J. Shriyan



What They Said

I'm herewith sending a cheque for `10,000/-. You are doing an excellent job. Please keep it up.         -Prof. (Dr.) M. Shantharam Shetty, Pro Chancellor, Nitte University

Sir, Thanks for the time taken to write, so also for your supportive views, your contribution of `10,000/-, we will take it as Permanent Membership. Thanks for the participation and the trust reposed in I&C.                                                                                                            -Editor 

‘Irrelevance of State and Civil Society' (Focus- I&C Feb.17)-  There could only have been only a large mound of earth built up by the continuous flow of the Ganges river over millions of years, which was cut through by just one man named Dashrat Manjhi, which also was a herculean task which no doubt is "Incredible" like what you said. 
Personally going by the topography of the region, however, I feel the story has been exaggerated.                                                                                                                     -Capt. H. Vas, Via Email

Your article (I&C Feb.17) ‘Irrelevance of State and Civil Society- The story of Dashrat Manji’ made an incredibly fantastic reading. I have been reading ISSUES&CONCERNS for more than ten years; this focus is the truest, when it comes to Issues of Concerns. It is indeed the best issue that I&C has taken-up, which comprehensively exposed the double standard of both our governments- be it central or state as well as the civil society.  Naam Bade Darshan Khote. While the governmental mental poverty may be excused for its sheer incompetence to measure up to people’s expectation, the failure of people like Aamir Khan and Ketan Mehta is simply unexceptionable. They helped themselves to crores of rupees by using the brand image of Dashrat Manji, but let him and family completely down by conveniently forgetting to keep their promises. Your description of “an ungrateful government, insensitive bureaucracy and moron political class” describes the disgust one would naturally have, on the scale of sheer injustice that was meted out Dashrat Manji.                                                        -SM Suvarna, Udupi. 

Your focus story of Dashrat Manjhi (I&C Feb.). What an excellent comparison! Though I have heard Dashrat Manjhi’s story, I was a bit confused while reading the focus that you compared his story with TajMahal. It dawned on me as I&C unfolded his story, as the best comparison. 
This is what we call as “living for others” – the man who lost his wife, his youth, his life but broke the mountain and made a way, so that his people would not have to face the same plight like that of his wife, in future. Ultimately what the society gives to such people? There are so many personalities that come before us when thinking about sacrificing oneself for the sake of the society. What importance has been given to them? Who cares? 
Even what do we do? We read about such people. Keep him in our thoughts for a few days and get busy with our own personal issues. So this attitude cannot be changed. Many things strike us here but our attitude towards society remains unchanged. We show sympathy, and keep quiet. 
If Newton hadn’t been born, the law of gravitation would have remained all the same, unknown. It was his genius that discovered it. Likewise this Manjhi, if not him no one would dare even to touch the mountain. People like Manjhi remain as a brilliant example to our society for their sacrifice. He is an inspiration to all of us. That’s it. 
 -Chaithra Padukone, Nitte, Via- Email 




                  

FOCUS

Demonetization- A question of Answers

J. Shriyan

Two things happened on 8th Nov 2016, entirely unrelated, but completely unexpected, and can even be termed shocking game changer.
If United States of America elected a political greenhorn as its 45th President, Prime Minister Naredra Modi in India declared that ‘`500/- and `1000/- currency notes will cease to be legal tender’ from the midnight that day.
While the election of Mr. Donald Trump, as the 45th President of U.S has its relevance in the global context and the Indo-U.S relations, the relevance of the unprecedented and bold declaration by the Indian Prime Minister Modi, had its immediate relevance for both India and Indians.
In all probability, 8th Nov. 2016, will go down in the history of modern India, as red/brown/black letter day, depending upon how does one looks at the momentous decision of the central government of the day. In his broadcast to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had summarily stopped the use of currency notes of `500/- and `1000/- denominations, to be effective from the midnight of 8th Nov 2016.
Immediately thereafter, from 9th Nov. until this very moment, there have been relentless plethora of reactions and responses, in writing and in interviews, from a shocked populace, so also from those who received the news of demonetization with glee. People from across the national spectrum reacted on the abrupt removal of these paper currencies from circulation. That, it affected the length and breadth of the nation, is an understatement. It was a comprehensive disruption of the socio/economic life of the entire nation.
The declaration of demonetization also accompanied the announcement of restricted withdrawal of new currencies from banks, so also against the exchange of old `500/- and `1000/- notes. However, the maximum amount of personal cash withdrawal was pegged at `4000/- per person, then increased to `4,500/- then again reduced to `2000/-. However for current a/c holders, it was different, but way below the routine requirement. This restriction will be in place until 30th Dec. 2016, the announcement had further stated.
Thus there have been dozens of interventions, ostensibly to facilitate the ‘smooth’ management of available cash. Thus it was fairly clear, that proper home work was not done, either by the union government or the fiscal regulator, the Reserve Bank of India, before the sudden announcement of demonetization of these currency notes.
Initially there were problems galore with long Qs all over the country, both for cash withdrawal and to exchange old currencies, so also at ATM kiosks. With new currency notes of `2000/- and `500/-, being of different size, ATMs had to be recalibrated all over the country, which was wellnigh impossible in matter of hours. It took days and weeks for ATM to become functional. This problem alone contributed hugely for the large-scale inconvenience to the general public, added to the shortage of currencies, be it `100/- or `2000/-. The non-supply of new `500/- currency notes made life very difficult for all and sundry, since getting to change the new `2000/- note was extremely difficult for those who wanted to spend `100/- or `200/- at a time. For the first 4 days, it was chaos all over, with `500/- notes coming only on 13th Nov, that too in a very few centres. However `500/- notes were not available in all places across the country for fairly long time- even as late as 30th Nov. 2016. Non availability of `500/- new notes, were the biggest cause that aggravated the problem of cash crisis. Besides, the rationale of issuing the new `2000/- currency notes is being questioned, when the idea was to discontinue the currency notes of higher denominations. As was clearly noted, that these `2000/- notes soon found its way into the coffers of hoarders with the active connivance of bank staff. We are all privy to the fact that hundreds of crores worth of these notes were detected from influential wheeler-dealers during raids by Enforcement and Income Tax authorities.  
It was becoming more and more clear that enough deliberation and discussion did not take place on the possible impact of withdrawing some 86% of our legal tender out of circulation. The kind of enormous inconvenience caused to ordinary people, whether urban or rural, was humongous.
The large informal sector which depends overwhelmingly on cash transactions has been rendered financially immobile due to shortage of money supply. Demonetization had reduced economic activity so also reduced consumption. It has hurt those on margins more than those with access to formal, banked and digitalized sections.  
Dozens of deaths were reported of those standing in the Qs for either exchange of old currencies or withdrawing cash from bank. A print media report of 20th Nov. reported that, a 75-year-old man identified as Kanta Prasad was standing in a queue before Dhikauuni branch of Bank of India in Harodi in UP when he was taken ill and died on the spot, police sources informed.
In Aligarh, 50-year-old Babu Lal, died due to heart attack after apparently failing to exchange old currency notes despite making persistent efforts at different banks since the past three days, his family claimed. The victim was under tremendous pressure as his daughter’s wedding was slated a week later, they said.
In another incident, also in Aligarh, Mohammed Idrees (45), died of heart attack while he was on his way to a bank to exchange old currency, his family claimed.
They alleged that Idrees had no bank account, but he was making rounds of a local bank to exchange old notes since the past four days.
Local legislator Zameer Ullah Khan said the death of both Babulal and Idrees were connected with the “shock and frustration over failure to get currency notes exchanged” and demanded proper compensation for their families.
Meanwhile, in Bengalooru, a 70-year-old man, Siddappa, died allegedly after he suffered a heart attack while waiting in queue for nearly four hours to exchange old notes at the State Bank of Mysore branch in Cheluru village in Tumakuru district, about 105 km from Bengalooru, police said. 
Of course quite a few of them could have been, due to natural causes, but there can be no argument that, the difficulties generated by the demonetization has only exacerbated the dying pace.
It is also true that small scale livelihood and economic activities were greatly disrupted and poor lost their earnings due to lack of work, induced by cash crunch. No wonder former RBI governor, D. Subbarao, has reportedly stated “On Nov. 8, Prime Minister Modi and the RBI demonetized 86% of currency in circulation overnight which is, what is arguably, the most disruptive policy innovation in India since the 1991 reforms.”
The stated objectives of this demonetization of high value denominations of `500/- and `1000/- as per Gazette notification No 2652(Ministry of Finance 2016) are 1) to curb the menace of fake currencies; 2) to wipe out unaccounted and tax evaded money (read black money) stored in such high value notes; and 3) to prevent use of high denomination notes for terror funding. After 50 days time limit that ended on 30th December 2016, the questions are being asked, did it really serve the purpose for which the nation was made to suffer so enormously?
Coming to the avowed objectives, the issue of fake currency is a recurring menace and is estimated to be around `400 crores according to the NIA, which is roughly 0.027% of  `14.73 lakh crores worth currency demonetized. Was demonetization the only way to handle this?
With regard to black economy, it is fairly well known that cash component of black money is less than 10%. Informed public are privy to the fact that, there are many devious mechanism to launder or convert over 90% of the unaccounted wealth held in cash. “The wealthy typically hold assets disproportionate to legal sources of income as undervalued assets, including real estate, land, gold and jewelry. A large portion of the black money obtained through fudging of export invoices is not just stashed outside India, but is typically spent overseas.”
As far as terror funding is concerned, this too is not of a very significant sum, according to the available data in public space.
The public relation exercise by the government, through, the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers and spokespersons, conveyed to Indians at large that , the inconvenience of limited cash supply due to demonetization of `500/- and `1000/- notes is good for the country and to its people in the long run. The management strategy -short term pain for long term gain- has been fairly successful, since there has been hardly any law and order problem in a country of some 1300 million population. The capacity if Indians to suffer is amazing. As things were getting clearer that the result on the ground has not been as spectacular as expected, ‘increased forced banking, using electronic means of transaction, digitization of financial dealings are good for the financial health of the country’ became the newer approach to stem the criticism of the 8th Nov. move.
It was never in doubt that demonetization of these high denomination notes would certainly make some difference. And some difference it has done, although not exactly the way the government thought it would. It is also true that during the 50 days time and thereafter banking has seen upward trend, similarly using of credit cards, Paytms and other digital form of financial transactions have increased. Hopefully it will keep improving. Increasing formal transaction dealings via banking, cheques, electronic and digital means is a positive spin off of the 8th Nov. move, although they were not the planned objectives or rather an after thought. Of course the hype of India going completely cashless is a long shot.     
Yes, 50 days of time limit for the hardship that Indians were made to endure, is over. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in his usual ebullient style had stated “Mujhe sirf 50 din deejiye, aur uske baad, kisee chauraahe par Mujhe khada karke, jo sajaa dena hai aap mujhe dey sakthe hein.” But after 50 days were over, he never reminded the nation to punish him for all the tribulations that citizens have suffered. Instead he gave some lollypops in his address to the nation on 31th Dec. As his wont, he did not even apologize for the trauma, millions of faceless Indians suffered, due to his demonetization gamble. However, the way he treated parliament by abstaining himself during the debate on demonetization has neither influenced people nor won him friends.   
Clearly he knew, there have been eminently avoidable problems, which could have been addressed prior to the announcement. He knew that the measure could have undergone positive changes before final order was promulgated to stop using these currencies. But as his usual self, he will not admit his probable error of judgement. If only he was graceful in acknowledging the shortcomings in the demonetization move of 8th Nov., Indians would have been equally graceful in accepting the nobility of his intentions, which would have truly helped his socio/political stock. But that was not to be.

Demonetisation- My Take

S.K Uchila

Certain disturbing facts remain unanswered about the Central Government which owes to unearth and control the black money. Even after two years in office, the Central Government not yet appointed Central Vigilance Commissioner. Adequate numbers of policemen are not appointed and utilised in judicious manner. Required numbers of judges are not appointed and workings of all the courts are unsatisfactory. Central Government controls roughly 70% of lendable funds through the ownership of the Public Sector banks etc. and bad debts are mounting. To garner votes, government’s poverty alleviation programmes are aimed at caste based communities (ST, SC, OBC, & minority communities) excluding the real unorganised poor in the country. 
The political parties which are at the helm of administration cushioned themselves with certain privileges. The RTI was not made applicable to political parties which survive on the public money and compulsory audit of their accounts are not in place. Even filing of their annual returns with Election Commission and Income Tax Department are not enforced. The ambiguity in total election expenditure per candidate was left undefined so that money spent by the party is left out of count. When meagre withdrawal limit were prescribed for the withdrawal of their own money from the bank accounts, the political party donations up to twenty thousand in cash was not touched. The Benami Property Control Act only deals with the investors and the rampant unaccounted money transactions within the real estate business were not controlled. 
The timing of the demonetisation is an important issue. The demonetisation was done without adequate preparation need not be elaborated. But, without preparation, for the political gain from the ensuing five state elections, the demonetisation was ordered in haste. Now, after almost three months later there are enough evidence to hold that not even preliminary preparations, such as, printing of adequate number of currency notes and procedure to be followed were out of place. With these remarks, the demonetisation scheme needs to be examined. 
 Finance Ministry vide Gazette Notification No.2652 dated 8th November, 2016 demonetised `500 and `1000 currency notes (H. D. notes) with effect from the same day. The said notification was issued after the approval of the Central Board of Directors of Reserve Bank of India u/s.26 (2) of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934. The purpose of demonetisation was to eliminate the circulation of fake H. D. notes, to prevent the unaccounted money stored in H. D. notes and to prevent H. D. notes being used in subversive activities, such as, drug trafficking, terrorism etc. which are harmful to the economy of the country. 
On the same day a clarificatory circular was also issued to all the financial institutions as a guidance note for implementing the demonetisation scheme. Apart from the circular, several executive orders were issued allowing the use of demonetised H. D. notes for certain mode of payments which were considered essential in the transitory period.
From the information available as on 4th November, 2016, the total currency circulation was `17.97 lakh crores out of which the above referred H. D. notes value was `15.44 lakh crores which roughly works out at 85% of total currency circulation. It means that other currencies in circulation were `2.53 lakh crores.
The Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, NDA spokespersons and Central Government officials advised the citizens of this country that there would be little difficulty during the implementation of the demonetisation scheme but overall benefit accruing out of this exercise will be immense in future. It appears, by and large, the people accepted the promises made at its face value and endured the transitory difficulties.  
In spite of the fact that large number of Jan Dhan Bank accounts were opened after the NDA government took office, rural India still cannot be said to have adequate banking facilities. Further, particularly, agriculture sector and rural artisans preferred to transact in cash. We must understand that at least 20% of our population still lives in villages which do not have access by road, electricity and banking facilities. The sudden shortage of cash circulation which is reduced to 15% of the total currency circulation was an impossible proposition to deal with. The marginal people of our society suffered most.
To add to the woes, the remonetisation process with new notes and depositing the demonetised H. D. notes were painfully cumbersome. Because of shortage of adequate cash available, the rationing of withdrawal of money from the bank for certain genuine expenditure was evident in front of banks and ATMs. In the beginning the withdrawal in two thousand rupee notes added only heart burning. 
Even at the end of the dead line on 30th December, 2016, the currency circulation was less than 55% of the total currency in circulation as on 8th November, 2016. Every person in this country was inconvenienced in one way or the other.  Unfortunately nearly hundred people were said to have died while trying to withdraw their own money in their bank accounts. Probably no compensation was paid to the families of these unfortunate people.
The hidden cost of implementing this scheme is borne by the RBI and implementing banks which cannot be ascertained and none would be compensated. The cash deposited because of demonetisation was said to have been impounded and taken away by the RBI which normally would not pay any interest on such deposits but the operating banks have to pay interest on the balances in the saving bank. Therefore, the cost of collection of deposits and interest payable will be on the operating banks. 
The proper information about the total deposit of H.D. notes in the bank account is not available. If this information is available one could find out how much fake H. D. notes and black money was unearthed in this exercise. On rough estimate, such unaccounted black money remained to be deposited in the bank account might be around one lakh crores subject to some adjustments which is not significant outcome. 
The Central Government has also modified certain provisions of Income-tax Act enabling the people who possess black money in the form of H. D. notes to declare their black money with concessional rate of tax plus penalty. It is still not known how the Jan Dhan Bank account deposits will be treated. The result of these schemes will be known only after all India figures are compiled. 
The Central Government’s decision to allow the H. D. note to be used for payment of government taxes and other dues enabled the state governments and local self government bodies to collect hefty sum which would not have been collected otherwise.  
Half way on the implementation of demonetisation scheme, the Central Government started urging the people to switch from cash payment system to digitalised mode of payments. The concessions for use of cheque payment, credit and debit card payments, Paytm etc. and introduced some new methods of digital payments, centred on ‘Aadhar Card’. The incentives given for transacting in digital form also cut into the revenue stream of the financial institutions. 
The Government now claims that it would not pump in all the currency withdrawn as it considers that currency circulation should be curtailed with reference to the national GDP comparable to the developed countries. 
 It is not possible to assess the effectiveness of demonetisation scheme with the available data. However, it can be definitely said that some of the professed objectives of the scheme were accomplished. At least a part of the fake currency was neutralised, hoarding of black money is checked and drug & terror funding were curbed. These subversive tendencies might once again rear their head but fear of God was put in place so that in future they may not be as rampant as it was. 
So far as unearthing black money is concerned, the desired effect may not be visible now. But, even if this scheme generates roughly two lakh crores on account of short deposits and additional Income-tax under the special provisions, it can be still said that the scheme is a success. Further, the accounted (banked) currency which can be counted as income, reasonably digitalised economy coupled with the implementation of GST will generate more revenue to the government compared to the predominantly cash economy with innumerable indirect taxes of the past. Revenue gain apart, it can definitely be said that the demonetisation as the first step towards containing corruption. 
Icing on the cake is that if the additional revenue generated by this scheme is used to  bridge the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ particularly, bringing the under privileged people living without road, electricity, schools and health facilities which was promised to them sixty years back by the visionaries who framed our constitution.

(Author is an IRS & a former Asstt Commissioner of Income Tax) 



FEATURE

Health is environmental?

Prof. B. M. Hegde,

hegdebm@gmail.com

“Skepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.”                 -Thomas Huxley

We have been depending too much on reductionist science to believe that health and diseases are basically controlled by our genes. This myth has now been blown apart and our genes, if anything, have very little to do with our evolution and even our existence here. That apart, we now know that we can even change our genetic pattern, if needed, by our environment. Our life style changes for the better can change even our genetic pattern. This has been recently shown in the case of killer diseases of old age. 
If one is healthy and well at a given point in time it is just chance; if one, on the other hand one is ill and suffering it is also chance! No science can predict either of those events with any degree of certainty! Doctors have been predicting the unpredictable future of patients for generations based on some phenotypic features called risk factors. A very large prospective study followed up for 25 long years has shown that there are no “risk factors” as far as human diseases are concerned. The said MRFIT study did further show that the so called risk factors could be controlled by drugs or surgery but the risk, if it is there, still works itself successfully!
With the onset of quantum wisdom, we have been now able to comprehend much more than what we could grasp with our five senses. Quantum world view opens a new vista in human physiology where we can get a wider holographic view of human life at a given point in time. So called life style management also gets a new meaning in quantum world view. In the old Einstein-Newtonian world view life style changes are simply wok, sleep, food, exercise, stress reduction, the physical environments like air, water, earth, weather etc. in addition to the medical money spinners like hypertension, diabetes, obesity and what have you. Although this has made a dent in the morbidity pattern they did not make a huge difference. In addition the powerful drugs used to control the risk factors have brought in their wake many adverse drug reactions, some of them being even fatal.
In the new world view human mind assumes special significance. Reductionist science does not take the mind into considerations seriously although some fringe studies did show some mental altered states like depression, and frustration leading to serious illnesses. The main line medicine is yet to give importance to the mind as it is not yet sure where the mind is? The Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield in his elaborate reductionist studies put the mind inside the brain but later realised his folly and in 1971 admitted that the mind cannot be confined to a small organ like the brain. Mind is our consciousness-the canvas on which our thoughts are projected. Consciousness is fundamental and all else will have to arise from consciousness, wrote Max Planck! Matter and energy being the two faces of the same coin the human body becomes an illusion of the human mind. In view of this new scientific awareness the real environment for our healthy living or even for recovery from any illness should be the human mind. 
A healthy mind is an insurance against diseases and is a tool in reversing disease processes, many of them like cancer keep incubating for very long times. Our mind is at work in every disease situation from common cold to cancer. In the latter case the cancer cells, “aimless, jobless wandering cells” that have mutated to survive a hostile environment in our bodies urgently need a conducive environment to remodel and survive. Our reductionist idea of early cancer detection (a big business move for the cancer industry) is a fraud as these wandering cells have gone far and wide long before the cancer can be clinically detected. Hence there is nothing called “early” cancer detection. Sometimes the secondaries come up before the primary cancer shows up! Now one can understand the significance of the need for a healthy mind to keep us physically also healthy. For the lay person what should be the meaning of a healthy mind?
Healthy mind is a mind filled with “enthusiasm to work and enthusiasm to be compassionate.” This all-encompassing definition covers all parts of health. The words are chosen carefully. Enthusiasm is not just wanting to do a thing but a compulsive motivation to do that. Enthusiasm to work is the love for work-want to work and NOT have to work! Similarly, enthusiasm to be compassionate is a compulsive urge to be of some use to someone almost always, nay to be universally compassionate. If one follows these two mottos in life there is no room for any negative thoughts in the mind like hatred, jealousy, superego, anger, pride, and greed (that too Wall Street greed)? The latter are the real risk factors for all major killer diseases!
In the true sense of the word the real environment for the human wellness and illnesses is the human mind. Rest of the conventionally acclaimed risk factors are not the real environment although they do contribute to the final outcome. Genetics has given place to epigenetics. Human mind sits in the driving seat in human affairs which can even alter the gene penetrance. Charles Darwin and Gregory Mendel have been given an undeservedly exalted position in medical textbooks although the neo Darwinists still want to hang on to their coat strings as there is money in genetic profiling, genetic engineering, stem cell research, dead body and cord blood preservation etc. Charles Darwin himself, in his old age and, before him, his own grandfather Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck had clearly said that the environment is more important than the genes in human evolution. The new science of evolutionary biology has strongly reiterated that truth.
Like people who search for the God inside mud and stone structures these scientists have been searching for the real environment far outside this real environment of the human mind in BP, sugar, cholesterol , tummy girth and what have you? Our future generation at least should have the benefit of this truth. We have to bring forth a generation of our youth with a healthy mind. In that direction real education takes the cake. Today education is aimed at making a wealthy career for the child. That is not education. The real education is to make a healthy mind out of every child and not just a wealthy career. If every Indian child develops a healthy mind with enthusiasm to work and enthusiasm to be compassionate all our society ills like terrorism, laziness, crime, rape etc. will vanish without any effort on our part. Can I hope that the powers that be would change the base of education policy which would lay the foundation for a healthy mind in every child?

“21st century illiterate is one who cannot unlearn the wrong things that he has learnt and relearn the right things.”                                                                  -Anon

FEATURE

Agri-income-Error or Cover-up?

R.N Bhaskar

After almost ten months of silence, the government of India finally came forth with some (rather strange) answers. The answers related to the charge that agriculture was being used as a laundromat – for converting black money into white.
The laundering was not related to just a few thousand crore of rupees.  If one takes the figures for just two years – 2011 and 2012 – the agricultural income declared was in excess of (hold your breath)  `874 lakh crore. The figure was at least five times the total GVA (Gross Value Added) for the two years combined. It also represented 66 times total direct taxes collected over those two years.
This matter might not have come to light had it not been for a PIL (public interest litigation) filed by a retired income tax officer before the Patna High Court. The petition asked the court to direct the income tax authorities to release the names of the top 1,000 assessees who had declared huge agricultural incomes. According to the petition, the total agricultural income filed exceeds `2,000 lakh crore. Phew!
The income tax department came out with a set of figures which showed that in 2011 and 2012 alone, declarations had reached `874 lakh crore.  At the same time, thanks to the PIL before Patna High Court, the CBDT – on 10 March 2016 – sent out a circular to all its officers to verify details. A copy of this letter can be downloaded from http://taxguru.in/income-tax/verification-agriculture-income-1-crore.html .
Remember, demonetisation involved just `15.4 lakh crore. The total currency in circulation is under `20 lakh crore. And `874 lakh crore was many times these levels.
Since agricultural incomes are totally tax free, they are a great conduit for laundering slush funds. Almost every politician uses this route to justify tax-free income. But never have declarations reached the levels they did in 2011 and 2012, when P.Chidambaram was finance minister.
Curiously, nobody said anything about this sudden surge in agricultural incomes. Not even the income tax department which is required to complete assessments in two years’ time to prevent further enquiries from becoming time-barred.
Finally, after more than a year’s silence, the income tax gave out its version to a national daily.  According to the report (it had no names, no designations, and quoted no clear authority), the income tax department had scrutinised 2,746 assessments (out of 8 lakh assessees) and had found data entry errors in 838 of them. But the department’s version doesn’t wash. There are several reasons to believe that the story given out is not the whole truth.
First, assessees who declare income of over `10 lakh are required to file their returns electronically.  In that case, there can be no excuse for data entry errors. The entries must have been made by the assessees themselves. They then swore to the accuracy of the entries. In that case, why have not cases been registered against such assessees for wrong declarations?
Second, income tax assessments get time-barred if serious issues are not flagged within the stipulated time frame of two years. Does this mean that the income tax department saw nothing wrong in such returns – till March 2016?
This leads us to the third problem. The amounts declared were so staggeringly large that any person familiar with numbers could have seen the abnormal increase in the number of digits.  Normally, income tax officers deal with individual returns which sport 7-9 digits. In these cases the numbers swelled to over 10 digits, because the average agricultural income stood at over `30 crore in 2011 and over `83 crore in 2012. Surely, if an officer cannot see the difference between 7 digits and 9 digits, he is either incompetent or collusive. This is more true of finance ministry officials who are trained to notice such discrepancies.
Fourth, there is no explanation why the finance ministry remained silent – right from 2011 to 2016.  Neither did the CEA report anything nor did the CSO which compiles GDP data. The returns had been filed. The figures had been tabulated. Could it be that these figures were not passed on to other departments? Nor were the inflated returns cancelled – in sheer contrast to the cancellation of the returns filed by an individual in Ahmedabad and another in Mumbai, post demonetisation. Even the CBDT swung into action only after the case was filed before the Patna High Court.
Fifth, even after such reports began appearing in the media, such questions were not raised in Parliament. Was it a convenient collusion of the powerful? And why has the income tax department not formally cancelled all such declarations even now? Smells fishy all right!
As always, too many questions.  Too few answers.

The author is consulting editor with FPJ.

A SLICE OF HISTORY

‘Lost continent’ under Indian Ocean!

Johannesburg: Scientists have confirmed the existence of a “lost continent” under the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius that was left-over by the break-up of the supercontinent, Gondwana, which started about 200 million years ago.
The piece of crust, which was subsequently covered by young lava during volcanic eruptions on the island, seems to be a tiny piece of ancient continent, which broke off from the island of Madagascar, when Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica split up and formed the Indian Ocean.
“We are studying the break-up process of the continents, in order to understand the geological history of the planet,” said Professor Lewis Ashwal from University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.
By studying the mineral, zircon, found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions, Ashwal and his colleagues have found that remnants of this mineral were far too old to belong on the island of Mauritius.
“Earth is made up of two parts – continents, which are old, and oceans, which are “young”. On the continents you find rocks that are over four billion years old, but you find nothing like that in the oceans, as this is where new rocks are formed,” said Ashwal.
“Mauritius is an island, and there is no rock older than nine million years old on the island. However, by studying the rocks on the island, we have found zircons that are as old as three billion years,” he said. Zircons are minerals that occur mainly in granites from the continents.
They contain trace amounts of uranium, thorium and lead, and due to the fact that they survive geological process very well, they contain a rich record of geological processes and can be dated extremely accurately.
“The fact that we have found zircons of this age proves that there are much older crustal materials under Mauritius that could only have originated from a continent,” said Ashwal.
This is not the first time that zircons that are billions of years old have been found on the island.
A study done in 2013 has found traces of the mineral in beach sand. However, this study received some criticism, including that the mineral could have been either blown in by the wind, or carried in on vehicle tyres or scientists’ shoes.
“The fact that we found the ancient zircons in rock (six-million-year-old trachyte), corroborates the previous study and refutes any suggestion of wind-blown, wave-transported or pumice-rafted zircons for explaining the earlier results,” said Ashwal. Ashwal suggests that there are many pieces of various sizes of “undiscovered continent”, collectively called “Mauritia”, spread over the Indian Ocean, left over by the breakup of Gondwanaland.
“According to the new results, this break-up did not involve a simple splitting of the ancient super-continent of Gondwana, but rather, a complex splintering took place with fragments of continental crust of variable sizes left adrift within the evolving Indian Ocean basin,” Ashwal added.

TECHNOLOGY

Solar-power to provide safe drinking water in rural parts of India

London: Scientists are developing a low-cost, solar-powered water purification system that may help over 77 million people in remote parts of India get access to safe drinking water. According to researchers at the University of Edinburgh in the UK, there is no systematic treatment of sewage in rural India.
The government has focused on purifying contaminated water in rivers and streams, but the situation could be greatly improved by tackling the problem at source, researchers said. To make contaminated water safe to drink, visible traces of waste are first removed using filters. Then any remaining organic matter and bacteria is broken down.
The team, including researchers from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune, is adapting its existing technologies to power this second stage in the decontamination process. The system uses sunlight to generate high-energy particles inside solar-powered materials, which activate oxygen in the water to incinerate harmful pollutants and bacteria.
The initiative will not only provide safe drinking water, but could also help reduce the spread of disease, researchers said. “We are aiming to provide people in rural India with a simple off-grid water decontamination system. This could be achieved by simply fitting our modified solar-activated materials to containers of contaminated water positioned in direct sunlight,” said Aruna Ivaturi from the University of Edinburgh.
The team hopes to incorporate technologies developed during the five-month pilot project into larger-scale initiatives that deal with water contamination – a major problem in the developing world.
Around 77 million people in India do not have access to safe drinking water – more than any other country in the world, researchers said. “Working closely with our Indian partners, we aim to harness the sun’s energy to tackle a huge problem that affects many people around the world,” said Professor Neil Robertson from the University of Edinburgh.

Earthquake- Proof Bed

Pacific Northwest: The bed is the brainchild of Russian inventor Dahir Semenov. Here’s how it works: When the ground starts shaking, sensors detect the movement and automatically trigger a series of events. The mattress drops you down into a panic-room-like chamber, and a lid slides over top to protect you from debris. There are a few different designs featured in the video, but the most disconcerting is the one where the sides of the mattress flip up before you sink into the box, like a scary magic trick. The tops could close with hinges, like a trunk; slide over sort of like a trapdoor; or have a two-door design and close over you from both sides of the bed. The beds also seem to require stepstools to get in them, so that the boxes below have enough room for you, your mattress, and a bunch of food and water supplies.

This biomimetic tree can generate electricity

New York: It is true that money does not grow on trees but electricity might someday, as scientists have developed a prototype biomimetic tree that mimics the branches and leaves of a cottonwood tree and generates electricity when its artificial leaves sway in the wind. Researchers from Iowa State University found that the technology could spawn a niche market for small and visually unobtrusive machines that turn wind into electricity.
“The possible advantages here are aesthetics and its smaller scale, which may allow off-grid energy harvesting. We set out to answer the question of whether you can get useful amounts of electrical power out of something that looks like a plant,” said Michael McCloskey, associate professor at Iowa University.
Cell phone towers in some urban locations, such as Las Vegas, have been camouflaged as trees, complete with leaves that serve only to improve the tower’s aesthetic appeal. “Tapping energy from those leaves would increase their functionality,” McCloskey said.
This prototype device features a metallic trellis, from which hang a dozen plastic flaps in the shape of cottonwood leaves.”It’s definitely doable, but the trick is accomplishing it without compromising efficiency. More work is necessary, but there are paths available,” said Curtis Mosher of Iowa State University. 
Researchers explained that small strips of specialised plastic inside the leaf stalks release an electrical charge when bent by wind.

SERIAL : 6

THE PERSISTENCE OF CASTE

A HISTORICAL OUTLINE

Anand Teltumbde

These developments have healed four decades of sagging national morale and boosted the middle classes’ confidence in their oft-invoked 'culture, custom and tradition', which are ultimately nothing but euphemisms for the caste system. The new syndromes of 'India Shining', an ill-advised election slogan coined by the rightwing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in 2003-04, and the excitement over a prospective 'India as superpower' daydream reflect this newfound confidence. The new generation middle and upper classes, whether in India or abroad, are devoid of a sense of shame about India's past and appear, rather, to vehemently justify it in all aspects, including the caste system.
In relation to the lower classes, an almost opposite set of globalization processes has worked to strengthen caste. These classes, irrespective of location, are rooted in a rural background and are predominantly comprised of shudras and dalits, besides huge numbers from the religious minorities. Globalization has brought them a crisis of livelihood and an erosion of confidence. There has been a massive loss of jobs due to the closure of small-scale industries and thereby a direct loss of income. Indirectly, various downsizing strategies, such as business process reengineering, outsourcing, contractization, etc., entailed an informalization of jobs and therefore huge reductions in income. For the rural masses, the withdrawal of state subsidies and protections created an agrarian crisis best manifested in the shocking number of farmer suicides in the years since India's economic liberalization. Moreover, due to a contraction of welfare services, these classes have suffered a loss of security. This all-round crisis of life and livelihood has driven people to cling to primal identities such as caste and religion. Among Hindus, their communal identity has tended to manifest itself in nationalist stridency, while in caste terms, it easily manifests in antidalit prejudice and behaviour.
Globalization, as a market-centric ideology, entails varying uncertainty for all classes. It has turned the world into a veritable casino where all familiar correlations between action and outcome have collapsed. Such a situation psychologically impels a person to seek support from the supernatural, from gods and godmen. Prior to globalization, such beliefs and practices were considered characteristic of the irrational and the weak-minded. People kept their faith to their private selves lest they be ridiculed in public. This is no longer so. There is a renewed fervour in temple building, with new gods to propitiate discovered almost daily. A huge market for divinity has developed all over the world and particularly in India, long stereotyped as spiritualism's ancient source. The implication of this trend is grave for caste for insofar as it is rooted in Hindu scripture and is believed to be of divine origin, any revival of faith concurrently reinforces caste as well.
Globalization has thus variously strengthened caste, though this has not happened necessarily in terms of classical identities. Globalization dehistoricizes identities but cannot erase them, except by creating hybrid ones. In the context of caste, its impact can be seen in the growth of a non-ritualistic caste identity that has erased certain caste divisions and grossly aggravated others. It is these that underlie the phenomenon of caste atrocities, the concentrated expression of contemporary casteism. The process of the formation of this identity and its effects form the subject of the next chapter.
Conclusion
Atrocities can be taken as the best proxy measure of the present-day manifestation of caste, for they mirror the lived reality of what caste in modern India means. A major antidalit atrocity invariably involves the state, the media and civil society. The dynamics unleashed in its wake bring forth the true character of its agents while exposing the causal matrix behind the act. Indeed, there is no better way of comprehending the complex reality of living caste than examining the various aspects of atrocity dynamics.
The present volume seeks to do this in the wake of a lynching that killed four members of a family in Khairlanji, a village in Maharashtra, in September 2006. Analyzing context and crime, it seeks to locate this event in the political economy of the development process India has followed after Independence. It then documents and examines the circumstances of the event's occurrence, the reactions it created, the way it was packaged and unpackaged, the roles played by the agents above named, and its aftermath in court in a verdict that refused it its essence as a caste atrocity. The outcome of the discussion variously contradicts prevailing notions about caste, the state and civil society in India and dalits themselves. By interrogating these many myths and posing new questions, it hopes to contribute to an understanding of caste's contemporary reality.

CASTE IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Khairlanji. An obscure village in Mohadi taluk, a little-known subdivision of Bhandara district in Maharashtra, western India. Suddenly, in 2006, it became another addition to a series of place names that have become synonymous with caste crimes of great violence in post-Independence India - Keezhvenmani (in Tamil Nadu state; forty-four dalits burnt alive in 1968), Belchi (in the state of Bihar; fourteen dalits burnt alive in 1977), Morichjhanpi (an island in the Sundarban mangrove forest of West Bengal where hundreds of dalit refugees from Bangladesh were massacred during a government eviction drive in l978), Karamchedu (Andhra Pradesh; six dalits murdered, three dalit women raped and many more wounded in 1984), Chunduru (also Andhra Pradesh; nine dalits slaughtered and their bodies dumped in a canal in 1991), Melavalavu (Tamil Nadu; an elected dalit panchayat leader and five dalits murdered in 1997), Kambalapalli (in the state of Karnataka; six dalits burnt alive in 2000) and Jhajjar (in Haryana state, adjoining the capital, New Delhi, where five dalits were lynched outside a police station in 2002). The incidents listed here will never figure in any history of contemporary India. Most Indians may never even have heard of these places. Four years later, Khairlanji, too, has been almost forgotten, just like the scores of such abominations that take place every year, each slipping out of memory in turn.
Khairlanji ignited dalit anger and spawned protest across Maharashtra and beyond the state's borders - spontaneous street demonstrations started by ordinary people, sans leaders. But it did not catapult to the national stage all at once. The horror that devastated the world of a dalit farmer named Bhaiyalal Bhotmange on 29 September 2006 came to light only a month later. Bhotmange's entire family - his wife, Surekha (40), his sons, Roshan (21) and Sudhir (19), and his daughter, Priyanka (17) - were killed by a mob of caste Hindus, neighbours from their own village. This was not simple murder; it was the worst display of collective, premeditated sadism that could shame humanity anywhere - gang-rape, torture and unspeakable public humiliation, culminating in four lives extinguished in the village square with utmost ferocity.
Yet all this was camouflaged by the administration and ignored by the media for over a month. When the facts around the Khairlanji murders began to emerge, they were at first portrayed as the violent end to an illicit relationship between Surekha and a man named Siddharth Gajbhiye, for which not only the mother but her children had to pay with their lives. The lynching was made out to be not a criminal act but an expression of the 'moral outrage' of 'simple villagers' who could not tolerate such 'immorality' in their midst. The atrocity was projected by the locals, and initially also by the media, in such a manner as to elicit a certain leniency from the majority of Indians towards the perpetrators. The logic is similar to the orchestration of public sympathy when 'instant justice' is meted out in police 'encounters', the name the Indian establishment informally gives the countless extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals, usually said to be attempting to flee. In almost all such cases, the police are commended and the targets condemned, without anyone caring to know the facts. Khairlanji was similarly packaged as an act of public-spirited 'moral justice', and the real crime could well have been buried and eventually forgotten. But for the indignant interventions of a few citizens and independent activists- who foregrounded the facts against all odds -the truth about Khairlanji would perhaps never have been exposed.

YEH MERA INDIA

Proposed hospital remains wasted for 7 years due to apathetic govt.

Mumbai: Amidst the residential area of Khar (west), lies a five storey maternity home which is not functional since the time it was constructed. The maternity home, which is just opposite to the Khar Gymkhana, is a property of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and has been lying vacant since the past seven years.
The maternity home was constructed by Diwan builders and was then handed over to the BMC on the basis of accommodation reservation policy. But since the time of its construction, the hospital has never started. The property is locked at present without any caretaker.
Residents have complained that the maternity home was constructed for the people but after constructing it the BMC realised that there was no need for a maternity home. The whole building is dark during the night as there is no activity happening over there. A resident said, “I have never seen anyone entering the maternity home and the structure lies completely vacant amidst the adjacent residential complexes. If the BMC did not want to start this facility, why did they construct it?”
Padmaja Keskar, executive health officer of the BMC, told, “There is no need for a maternity home or a hospital in that area as there are other hospitals like Bhabha hospital nearby. The hospital has been dysfunctional since over seven years but we will now try to use it for any other alternate facility.”
A watchman of the adjacent building said, “The authorities are not even bothered to either clean or maintain this home. Every monsoon we write a letter to the BMC to clean this property as it gets flooded due to water logging. The structure could be given on rent and can be used for residential purposes.”

Cannot blame government if you do not vote

New Delhi: If you don’t vote, then you have “no right” to question or blame the government, the Supreme Court has observed. The candid admission of an activist seeking a blanket order to remove encroachments in the country and saying he has never cast his vote, did not go down well with the apex court leading it to make the observation.
Observing that the court cannot pass a sweeping order on encroachments in a matter involving all states, the bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said “One can’t blame the government for everything. If a person does not cast his vote, then he has no right to question the government.”
The bench, which also comprised Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud, said it was not possible for it to look into encroachments sitting in Delhi and asked the petitioner to approach different High Courts wherever he saw such encroachments on roads or pavements.
The hard-hitting observation came when Dhanesh Ieshdhan, appearing in person for Delhi-based NGO ‘Voice of India’, said the governments do not do anything to remove encroachments and kept on insisting for a blanket order to remove them from across the country. The bench asked Ieshdhan whether he has voted or not.
“To be honest, I have never voted in my life,” Ieshdhan said candidly.
This irked the bench which said, “If you have not voted, then you have no right to question or blame the government”. “We do not have so much power to order a clean sweep of encroachments. If we pass any order, then contempt cases and other petitions will pile up. It’s not possible,” the bench said after the petitioner kept on seeking a blanket order.
“If you do not move High Courts, we will feel that you are here for publicity,” the bench said and noted in the order that an open-ended direction to remove encroachments will not serve any purpose. It granted liberty to the NGO to seek remedy state-wise before the High Courts. On August 26 last year, the apex court, while hearing the plea, had said it cannot order the establishment of ‘Ram Rajya’ in the country and cannot do several things it wanted to due to its “limited capacity”.
“Do you think with our directions, everything will be done? Do you (petitioner) think we will pass an order that there will be no corruption in the country and all corruption will go? Should we pass an order that there will be ‘Ram Rajya’ in the country? It cannot be like this,” the apex court had then observed. The NGO had said that in 2014, the apex court had asked concerned authorities to deal with the issue raised it its plea.

95-year-old in fray for UP poll

Agra: A 95-year-old woman, perhaps the oldest candidate to file nomination papers, is one among 166 candidates who have entered the electoral fray for the nine assembly seats of Agra district which goes to the polls. Jal Devi filed her papers from Khairagarh assembly seat, while her son Ram Nath Sikarwar also filed as an independent. She reached the Collectorate in a wheel chair escorted by her son and a lawyer. Devi, who cannot even stand on her legs without support, is hopeful of fighting corruption and giving a new direction to development. She won the last panchayat election with a record number of 13,000 votes from Jagner block.

No frivolous litigation- MLA fined Rs.10L

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court made an example of RJD MLA Ravindra Singh by fining him `10 lakh for wasting "precious judicial time" through frivolous litigation, thus sending a message to habitual PIL petitioners to be wary of hefty costs.
Half-an-hour before slapping Singh with a hefty fine and rejecting the plea for leniency, a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud had imposed a cost of `1 lakh on a retired 66-year-old teacher from Maharashtra who had moved the SC to challenge a reservation related notification of the state government.
In both cases, CJI Khehar was ruthless and laid out the apex court's new mantra: "weed out frivolous litigation". "Every day, we waste precious judicial time by going through these voluminous frivolous petitions. These busybodies must be stopped. Why should we accept such petitions? These petitions are multiplying with each passing day. What is going on? Why should three judges of the SC waste time dealing with such trash?" he asked.

Drunk Woman Pilot of AI grounded

New Delhi: A woman pilot and another crew member of state-owned Air India were grounded for three months after they failed a pre-flight alcohol test.
The crew members, who have been taken off from flying for failing to clear the pre-flight medical test were to operate Air India’s Rajkot flight from New Delhi on January 25, sources said.
As part of the DGCA safety regulations, all pilots and cabin crew must undergo breath analyser test before and after flights.
Incidentally, airline’s head of operations, himself a senior executive pilot, is under probe by a committee for allegedly skipping the mandatory test close to a month.
“The woman pilot and cabin crew along with other operating crew were rostered for Air India flight AI-9631 on January 25 for Rajkot from New Delhi. After they reported for duty, as per norms, they were told to undertake breath analyser test.
However, the findings were positive,” a source said. The matter was reported to the DGCA and the two crew members were taken off for flying for three months, the source said.
Air India spokesperson was not available for comments.
Aircraft rules prohibit crew members from taking any alcoholic drink 12 hours prior to the commencement of a flight, and it is mandatory for the employee to undergo an alcohol test both before and after operating a flight.
Any crew member who tests positive in the pre-flight medical check or refuses to take a breath-analyser test is required to be taken off flying duty for at least four weeks and the airline is required to initiate disciplinary proceedings.

MONTH THAT WAS

Dutch rent out prison cells

Dan Bilefsky: The Netherlands has a problem many countries can only dream of: A shortage of prison inmates.
While countries like Belgium, Britain, Haiti, Italy, the United States and Venezuela have grappled with prison overcrowding, the Netherlands has such a surplus of unused cells that it has rented some of its prisons to Belgium and Norway. It has also turned about a dozen former prisons into centers for asylum seekers.
About a third of Dutch prison cells sit empty, according to the Ministry of Justice. Criminologists attribute the situation to a spectacular fall in crime over the past two decades and an approach to law enforcement that prefers rehabilitation to incarceration. The relative lack of prisoners has spurred the Dutch to be creative.
At jails transformed into housing for asylum seekers, former cells for prisoners have been converted into apartments for families, albeit some with the original cell doors. At De Koepel, a former prison in Haarlem, refugees played soccer in a large interior courtyard that doubled as a soccer field.
At a time of austerity, the government has also been able to raise money by outsourcing empty prisons to countries with overpopulated detention facilities. Two years ago, Norway agreed to pay the Netherlands about 25 million euros per year for a three-year lease of Norgerhaven Prison, a high-security facility, where it sent 242 prisoners. Earlier, Belgium had sent about 500 prisoners across the border.
Professor Swaaningen also argued that in the digital age, an increasing number of 12- to 18-year-olds — the most high-risk age group for committing petty street crime — spent time hunched over their computers, taking them off the streets and potentially reducing levels of criminality.
Yet in the Netherlands, not everyone is rejoicing, including many of the roughly 2,600 prison guards who could lose their jobs in the next four years if more prisons close. Moreover, some law enforcement officials also say that the excess of vacant cells is a symptom of poor policing and the reporting of fewer crimes, rather than a reflection of Dutch crime-fighting prowess.

In France adultery= freedom of speech

PARIS: Dating site Gleeden can keep singing the praises of cheating, a French court ruled in throwing out a complaint from a federation of Catholic families that the site's business model is immoral and illegal because it encourages extramarital affairs.
A Paris civil court said that promoting infidelity in advertisements wasn't unlawful because adultery isn't a criminal offense in France and that cheating on one's spouse is a private matter.
"It is a victory of freedom of speech over religious bigotry," Caroline Mecary, the lawyer for Gleeden said. Gleeden caters to married women and men looking to date other married people. 
The French Catholic association had accused Gleeden of helping people commit adultery and break one of the obligations of marriage. The dating site was also seen by the group as promoting "anti-social behaviors" for business purposes.

Solar power tariff goes record low

NEW DELHI: Solar power tariffs in India have found a new floor at `2.97 per unit, sinking below the average cost of `3 for electricity supplied by state-run generation utility NTPC from its coal-fired plant.
The record low tariff was quoted by the Mumbai-based real estate developer, for the first unit of the 750 MW Rewa solar park in Madhya Pradesh, the bidding for which closed.
"India marches on towards realising the clean energy vision of Hon'ble PM Narendra Modi," power minister Piyush Goyal tweeted.
The quoted tariff is for the first year of the project, which has three units of 250 MW each. The project, however, envisages an annual escalation of 5 paise for 15 years and 33 paise is to be added for levelised tariff. Solar power tariffs have been falling in the last two years due to the Narendra Modi government's thrust on raising India's green energy footprint and reduce oil imports by 10% by 2030.

Pak female MLA threatens immolation

Karachi: A Pakistani woman lawmaker threatened to self-immolate in the Sindh assembly after a provincial minister passed sexist remarks, inviting her to his private chamber, an incident which highlighted the position of women in the country.
Nusrat Sahar Abbasi, who belongs to the Muslim League Functional party, created an uproar in the assembly after provincial minister for works and home, Imdad Patafi, misbehaved with her on the floor of the house. The furor over the issue finally came to an end when Abbasi ‘forgave’ Patafi in the name of ‘tradition’. In the incident which highlighted the position of women in Pakistan’s feudal community, Patafi invited Abbasi to visit his private chambers so that he could give a “satisfactory reply” to questions she had asked on the assembly floor.
Another lawmaker of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party was also captured on camera making snide remarks about the female parliamentarian. The lawmaker’s behaviour caused a storm on the social media and on television channels and was seen as sexist and harassment of women. Patafi had to face the criticism even from PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and his sister Bakhtawar Zardari, who directed their lawmaker to apologise to Abbasi.
Abbasi came to the session with a bottle of petrol, threatening self-immolation unless Pitafi was sacked. To finally bury the hatchet, Patafi draped a traditional shawl over Abbasi’s head and apologised to her over his behaviour. But , Abbasi again complained to speaker Shehla Raza that she was not being allowed to speak her mind on a point of order. “I want to highlight the fact that in the Sindh assembly female lawmakers are not being given their due place and rights,” she said.
“What happened and the way I was treated it only highlighted our problems. I only accepted the apology because of the traditional shawl,” she said. Abbasi, who belongs to the opposition, said she would have carried out her threat of self immolation in front of the assembly if Bilawal and Bakhtawar had not intervened. “The media saw everything and they also saw Patafi’s remarks as sexual harassment. The deputy speaker was also not willing to listen to me,” she said. The incident caused widespread embarrassment to PPP which was headed by slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Abbasi said though the incident was over but the government needed to review further laws governing women’s rights and protection.
“Before me also there has been an incident in this assembly and also in the national assembly where sexist remarks were made by fellow lawmakers and they later apologised,” she said. Abbasi said the government needs to quickly enforce the laws as women face discrimination in Pakistan’s conservative society.

Technology Solutions for plastic waste and potholes

Mumbai: Transforming Mumbai’s major slum area, Dharavi was the central aim of the TEDx event which was hosted at Maharashtra Nature Park. The event organised by TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) — a non profit organisation, witnessed speakers, entrepreneurs and social workers from various backgrounds who shared their experiences and ideas to improve the basic civic problems of the city.
Plastic waste is one of the key problems as it forms a major portion of the garbage collected from every household. Rajagopalan Vasudevan, a scientist also known as the plastic man of India, shared his invention to solve the issue of plastic waste by using plastic to construct roads. Vasudevan said, “Using plastic for constructing roads is a cost effective method. It makes the roads durable and prevents recurring potholes. In addition, it helps to treat the waste in an eco friendly way as over 75 percent of India’s population uses plastic and a tonne of waste is generated daily from every area.”
Over 20,000 kilometre (km) of plastic roads have been laid at Tamil Nadu using this technology while a 1.5 km road has been constructed at Prabhadevi in Dadar. Considering that Dharavi generates a major portion of the plastic waste, Vasudevan added, “The project of constructing plastic roads is being carried out in over 11 states of India. This method would help the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to prevent road damages due to heavy moving vehicles as these roads can manage a load of 2,500 kilograms and also resolve the potholes issue.”
Bhau Korde and Jockin Arputham, both social workers, expressed the need for an individual to take small steps to bring about change in the society. Civic issues like garbage collection and disposal, lack of infrastructure, roads, sewage, communal violence and women empowerment were highlighted.
Raghuveer Surupa, organiser of the event, told, “Dharavi is an area with large number of civic problems. Therefore, the whole idea of having the event here was to re-imagine what Dharavi can be in future and also to redefine the perception that people generally have towards this area.”

Lagori goes inter-state

Bhayandar:  The ancient and traditional lagori (earlier seven stones, now plastic tiles) sport is expected to get a boost in the twin-city as the fifth edition of the state level championship for juniors will be hosted in the Kashimira area of Mira Road. Organized by the Shiv Shakti Seva Mandal under the aegis of the Maharashtra Lagori Association, the two-day event will be held at the Adarsh Vidya Niketan School ground. 42 teams including 23 represented by boys and 19 girls team from 22 districts across the state will participate in the tournament. “With computer games gaining priority, our humble and traditional outdoor sports are on the verge of extinction. By launching this tournament here we aim to revive this sport.” said orgainser- Kesarinath Mhatre. A game officially recognized as sport in Maharashtra, Lagori is played by two teams of 12 members each.  A member of one team (the seekers) throws a soft ball at a pile of plastic tiles to knock them over. Then the seekers try to restore the pile of pile while the opposing team (the hitters) throws the ball at them. If the ball touches a seeker, he is out and his team continues without him. But a team member can always safeguard himself by touching the opposite team member before the ball hits him.

First female Arab pilot

Dubai: Shaikha Mozah Al Maktoum, one of the female members of Dubai’s ruling family, is claimed to have become the first woman commercial pilot.
A few members of the Al Maktoum family took to Instagram to congratulate the young achiever, expressing their pride and joy on her accomplishment. 
Shaikha Latifa posted on her Instagram account a photograph of her cousin Shaikha Mozah, which said in Arabic: “Mozah Marwan. My sister’s daughter. The first female pilot in the family, who is on her first assisted flight as a commercial pilot for Emirates. As long as you can dream it, you can achieve it,” the Gulf News reported.
Other members of the ruling family sent their congratulations on social media to the young royal pilot, with Shaikha Maitha Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum saying: “So proud of you cousin.”
Although the veracity of the airline -that she flies for- cannot be confirmed, but the uniform looks similar to the one worn by Emirates pilots.

Drug and Buddhist Monk

Myanmar: A Buddhist monk in Myanmar has been caught hiding more than 4m methamphetamine pills in his monastery, police said, following a record haul of stimulant seizures last year.
The monk, named Arsara, is in custody after police discovered hundreds of thousands of the tablets in his car as he was driving from Shwe Baho village in the town of Maungdaw in Rakhine state, bordering Bangladesh. “First they found 400,000 drug pills” when they searched his vehicle, local police chief Kyaw Mya Win told. “The police then went to the monk’s monastery and found another 4.2 million pills.” Myanmar is one of the top narcotics-producing nations, manufacturing huge quantities of methamphetamines as well as opium and cannabis.

PIO pledges $1mn to pay off jailed expat debts

Dubai: An Indian businessman in the UAE has pledged $1 million (Dh3.6 million) to pay off the debts of expatriates who are jailed here, a newspaper reported. Firoz Merchant, who operates a number of gold jewellery shops here, recently visited the Ajman Central Jail to help secure the release of the first batch of 132 prisoners whose combined borrowings worth $40,837 (Dh150,000) were settled,  according to IANS