Newsletter August 2 2018






The ongoing war of words between BJP chief Amit Shah and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee on the contentious issue of National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft intensified on Wednesday.

Vociferous scenes were witnessed in Parliament as discussion on the NRC remained incomplete with TMC members backed by Congress MPs refusing to allow Shah to speak.

As Opposition members tried to corner Shah over his “Congress lacked courage” remark in Parliament, the BJP chief hit back outside, saying he was determined to hold a rally in Kolkata on August 11 whether or not he was granted permission by the Banerjee-led West Bengal Government.

Shah dared Banerjee to have him arrested amid buzz that the state government had denied permission for the meeting, a charge the TMC denied, wishing him “happy journey to the land of peace and harmony”.

Both sides are unwilling to cede ground on the issue given that it may well decide the future of political parties in crucial West Bengal. Riding on the NRC, the BJP is trying to consolidate its constituency not just in Assam but across the country.

Shah, while daring Opposition parties to clear stance on the NRC, said the government would also bring the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. Pitching the BJP as the party standing for rights of Indians as opposed to rivals, he did not negate the possibility of the exercise being replicated in other parts on the experience of ongoing exercise in Assam.

Mamata called the BJP the biggest infiltrator in the country for dictating what people should eat, wear and read. “Who is an infiltrator? Those who tell us what to eat or not to eat. Who can be a bigger infiltrator than that? They tell us what we should eat, what we should wear, what we should read. They control the media, indulge in judicial interference, break political parties. Never seen anything like this before; Indian politics has never been so dirty,” Mamata said at the Trinamul Congress office in Parliament House.

Mamata met UPA chief Sonia Gandhi and batted for a collective leadership of the Opposition in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. “I am not after any chair. The first task is to defeat the BJP,” she said after meeting Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.





Moving to placate angry Dalit and Adivasi outfits which have called a Bharat bandh on August 9 over the alleged dilution of the SC/ST law, the Union Cabinet Wednesday approved an amendment to The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act which, official sources said, would “nullify” the March 20 Supreme Court order and “remove any room for interpretation” by the courts.

On March 20, the bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit laid down stringent safeguards, including provisions for anticipatory bail and a “preliminary enquiry” before registration of a case under the SC/ST Act. The judges noted that there had been “instances of abuse” of the Act by “vested interests” for political or personal reasons.

This ruling angered the Dalits who felt it was a dilution of the special law meant for their safety.





Amid an increasing clamour from its leaders to replicate the National Register for Citizens (NRC) exercise in all states to identify “illegal migrants”, the BJP on Wednesday said the “mandate for the NRC exercise was only for Assam for the time being”. The party, however, said the law and order machinery would “identify all Rohingya Muslims living in the country and deport them”.

BJP General Secretary and in-charge of the party’s affairs in the northeast, Ram Madhav told The Indian Express said that though NRC had the word ‘national’ in its name, its mandate was only for Assam only as of now. “The process (of NRC) was originally limited to Assam only as it was the result of the Assam Accord signed in 1985. The process, right now, is limited to Assam only,” he said.

Madhav, however, said the Home Ministry has already decided to identify Rohingya Muslims who have entered the country illegally. “Rohingya infiltrators in all the states will be deported. But you don’t need an NRC exercise for it. Law and order machinery of the country, the Home Ministry, will identify them and deport them,” Madhav said. “No country in the entire world will allow illegal immigrants on its soil.”

Earlier, BJP General Secretary and in-charge of West Bengal Kailash Vijayvargiya had claimed that there should be an exercise to “identify illegal migrants from Bangladesh in West Bengal” as well. The idea was seconded by several party leaders, including BJP’s Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari.

On Wednesday, Tiwari demanded that the Aam Aadmi Party government should also identify and evict Rohingya and Bangladeshis living illegally in the national capital.

Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria recently called illegal migrants “traitors” and said other states should consider following Assam’s example.





Banks will be looking to raise home, auto and other lending rates after the monetary policy committee of the RBI yesterday raised its policy rate – the repo – by 25 basis points to 6.50 per cent, the second straight rate increase since its June meeting.

It is the first time since October 2013 that the rate has been increased at consecutive policy meetings. In June, the RBI policymakers had increased the key rate by 25 basis points.

The rate increase is designed to combat retail inflation, which is projected to rise to 5 per cent by the first quarter of fiscal 2019 (April-June).

Retail inflation has ruled above 4 per cent – the medium-term target – for eight months, driven upward by anticipated rise in global crude oil prices and a looming trade war between China and the US.

The bank’s decision to raise rates comes as global central banks, such as the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Indonesian central bank also adopt a tightening path.








The Trump administration plans to propose slapping a 25 per cent tariff on $200 billion of imported Chinese goods after initially setting them at 10 per cent in a bid to pressure Beijing into making trade concessions, a source familiar with the plan said on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump’s administration said on July 10 it would seek to impose the 10 per cent tariffs on thousands of Chinese imports.

They include food products, chemicals, steel and aluminium and consumer goods ranging from dog food, furniture and carpets to car tires, bicycles, baseball gloves and beauty products.

While the tariffs would not be imposed until after a period of public comment, raising the proposed level to 25 per cent could escalate the trade dispute between the world’s two biggest economies.




Iranian lawmakers have given President Hassan Rouhani one month to appear before parliament to answer questions on his government’s handling of Iran’s economic struggles, state media reported on Wednesday.

It is the first time parliament has summoned Rouhani, who is under pressure from hardline rivals to change his cabinet following deterioration in relations with the United States and Iran’s growing economic difficulties.

Lawmakers want to question Rouhani on topics including the rial’s decline, which has lost more than half its value since April, weak economic growth and rising unemployment, according to semi-official ISNA news agency.

Rouhani, a pragmatist who reduced tensions with the West by striking a nuclear deal in 2015, is facing a growing backlash since US President Donald Trump pulled out from the pact in May.





US President Donald Trump on Wednesday called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the wide-ranging probe into Russian election meddling and possible ties between his campaign and Moscow, slamming it as “a disgrace” to the country.

The president’s latest tweet on the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller came on the second day of the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on unrelated bank and tax fraud charges that nevertheless stemmed from the probe.

“This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further,” Trump said.

He claimed Mueller was “totally conflicted” and denounced his probe as “a disgrace to USA”.

“Russian Collusion with the Trump Campaign, one of the most successful in history, is a TOTAL HOAX,” Trump said yesterday on Twitter.




The UAE on Wednesday launched a landmark three-month visa amnesty programme, which will benefit hundreds of illegal foreign workers, including Indians, overstaying their permits by allowing them to leave the country without penalties and giving them six months to find a job.

The UAE is home to 2.8 million Indian expatriates, the largest expatriate community in the country. Professionally qualified personnel constitute about 15 to 20 per cent of the community, followed by 20 per cent white-collar non-professionals (clerical staff, shop assistants, sales men, accountants, etc) and the remainder 65 per cent comprises blue-collar workers.

The government did not release specific numbers, but says thousands of people, primarily labourers from countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka etc will benefit.








The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to examine a plea for a court-monitored probe into alleged extrajudicial killings and rapes of tribal women by security personnel in Chhattisgarh, brushing aside the state’s argument that Maoist insurgency was more serious than the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

The PIL filed by two Adivasi activists from Bilaspur district accused the forces of orchestrating killings, rapes and custodial torture in the name of launching counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra directed that the PIL, originally filed in Chhattisgarh High Court in 2016, be transferred to the Supreme Court even as additional solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the state, cautioned that entertaining the petition would “set a bad precedent”.

Mehta said security forces would come under tremendous pressure if such petitions were entertained. The bench brushed aside Mehta’s plea, issued notice to the Chhattisgarh government to respond and posted the matter for hearing after four weeks.





A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court — which took up petitions challenging the constitutional validity of adultery as a crime under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code — on Wednesday made it clear that the hearing was not about making it a gender-neutral crime.

“Now the issue is why adultery should be a crime at all” said a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra

The Bench, also comprising justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, observed that the law in question violated right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.

At the outset, the Bench said it would refer the issue to a seven-judge Bench as there was already a verdict by a five-judge Bench upholding the validity of Section 497.

However, the Bench agreed to hear the matter after senior counsel Meenakshi Arora pointed out that the issue before the court in the earlier case was if women should also be punished for adultery. The legality of the provision was not challenged before the earlier five-judge, she submitted. “Let’s get over it,” said Justice Nariman.

The CJI said, “There were already civil liabilities and consequences of adultery. But making it an offence only for men is actually hit by Article 14 (right to equality).”

According to Section 497 of IPC, whosoever has sexual intercourse with the wife of another man is guilty of adultery, which is punishable. It says the woman in question can’t be punished as an abettor.




Signalling a quantum leap in mobile technology, the TRAI has given its recommendations for the auction of eight bands, including the fifth generation (5G) ultra high speed telephony. 5G auction, a first for India, is expected to be a catalyst for internet of things (IoT) innovations that would speed up machine learning and artificial intelligence. Airwaves worth around Rs 5.06 trillion will be on offer for telecom operators in the next round of auction.

If accepted and implemented by the government, this would mean the largest spectrum auction in terms of amount with over 7,000 Mhz going up for sale across eight bands. This would range from the premium 700 Mhz to 3,300-3,600 Mhz. In terms of value, the previous auction in 2016 was at a slightly higher level with airwaves amounting to Rs 5.63 trillion up on sale. The cost of 700 Mhz airwaves alone was Rs 4 trillion. However, the government could sell airwaves worth around Rs 657 billion only, as telcos decided to ignore the high-end 700 MHz band completely.

The timing of the auction will be decided after gauging the interest of the industry, which is already divided on the subject of 5G auction.

In the last auction, around 60 per cent spectrum remained unsold. Also, much of the airwave acquired by telecom operators at that point is yet to be deployed.




GST collection rose in July but stayed well below the government’s target of Rs 1 trillion for a third month in succession of the current financial year (starting April 1).

The tax came into effect from July 1 last year. Last month’s collection was Rs 965 billion, after Rs 956.1 billion in June and Rs 940 billion in May. The official data was released on Wednesday. The pace of collection is expected to slow down in the coming months, as the impact of rate reductions by the GST Council on a little over 100 items at its previous meeting takes effect.

“This (July collection) is broadly on expected lines,” the finance ministry stated on Wednesday. According to the Union Budget and expected 14 per centgrowth in state GST figures, year-on-year, the monthly average was expected to be Rs 1.12 trillion in 2018-19. Hasmukh Adhia, the finance secretary, had said he expected an average monthly collection of Rs 1 trillion this year, perhaps a little less in the initial months but showing a rise in the remaining ones.





For an actor who famously started his working life as a waiter and a cook, Akshay Kumar has come a long way. With $40.5 million (Rs 2.78 billion) to his name and ranked 76 in the global Forbes Top Earning 100 Celebrities 2018 list, he is the biggest celebrity brand that India has today, leaving the industry’s three Khans (Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir) who have held sway for years, way behind.

Kumar has moved up four places from 2017 list (80) and ousted Salman Khan from the pedestal. Salman, who ranks 82 on the 2018 Forbes list, is down 11 places from 2017 (71) and Shahrukh Khan who was ranked 65 in the 2017 list is not on it this year.




PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth notched up contrasting wins to progress to the pre-quarterfinals but world No. 11 HS Prannoy suffered a shock defeat to Brazilian Ygor Coelho to bow out of the World Championships.

Sindhu, who had got a bye in the first round, opened her campaign with an easy 21-14 21-9 win over Indonesia’s Fitriani. The 23-year-old Indian will face South Korean Sung Ji Hyun in the next round.

Srikanth recovered from a slump during the hard-fought contest to see off Spain’s Pablo Abian 21-15 12-21 21-14 in their second-round match that lasted 62 minutes. The 25-year-old Indian will lock horns with Malaysia’s Daren Liew. B Sai Praneeth also entered the next round after defeating Spain’s Luís Enrique Penalver 21-18 21-11 to set up a meeting with Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus.

However, Prannoy and Sameer Verma bowed out of the tournament. Prannoy could not hold on to the momentum after breezing through the opening game to eventually lose 21-8 16-21 15-21 to Coelho.

Later, Sameer failed to get across Lin Dan, losing 17-21 14-21 in a 45-minute match. It also turned out to be a disastrous day for the Indian doubles pairs as all of them lost their matches to crash out of the tournament.





Off-spinner Ravichandran Aswhin produced one of his most impactful performance outside the Subcontinent as India reduced England to 285/9 on the opening day of the first Test.

Ashwin (4/60) registered his best figures in Test cricket across South Africa, England and Australia as the hosts lost six wickets for 69 runs in the final session of play to find themselves in a precarious position after opting to bat.

Joe Root (80 runs off 156 balls, 9x4s) scored his 41st Test half-century but the English innings completely got derailed after his dismissal.




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When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together. – Isaac Asimov


Joe just arrives in America and needs a job and has no qualms about inventing the necessary qualifications. The sales manager is interviewing him.

“You say you have experience selling books?”

“Lots of it,” replies Joe.

“And you have a Master`s in American history from the University of Michigan?”

“Correct,” replies Joe. “History is my field of study.””Well then,” says the sales manager, “As soon as I can complete this form, we can get you started in our firm.”

While the sales manager is making a few notations, Joe, obviously pleased with himself, begins to whistle. Looking around the room, he notices pictures of Washington and Lincoln on the walls.

Pointing to the portraits, he turns to the sales manager and says, “Fine looking men. Your partners?”

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