Newsletter Oct 3, 2018




Festering problems in the agriculture sector yesterday resulted in thousands of farmers clashing with the police on the Delhi-UP border while attempting to force their way into the capital, even as the Centre assured them a decent look into their demands.

The police used tear gas shells and water cannons to prevent farmers from ramming tractor-trailers into barricades at the Ghazipur crossing. Vehicular traffic on the busy Delhi-Meerut Expressway remained paralysed.

The police action attracted criticism, with Opposition parties saying the farmers were on their way to raise genuine grievances, but were subjected to harsh measures.

Under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), farmers had started arriving at the entry point to Delhi since Monday evening. Tuesday morning, the police blocked them from proceeding towards Rajghat, the proposed site of protest.

A Central team, led by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, held talks with a BKU delegation where certain assurances were made.

The BKU later said the Centre had assured it would file a review petition against the National Green Tribunal order banning 10-year-old diesel vehicles and include farmers in the committee formed by UP for linking MNREGA to farm work. They also sought budget announcement of cost-plus 50 per cent minimum support price for rabi crops, firm measures for procurement and advising states to ensure fair prices for farm produce.

They called for an early meeting of the GST Council to fix 5 per cent tax for all products used for agriculture and a law to prevent import of crops produced in surplus.

BKU chief Naresh Tikait, however, said the farmers were “not satisfied” and would hold consultations before deciding the future course of action.

The Delhi Police denied any lathicharge, saying seven cops got injured while trying to control farmers who insisted on entering on tractor-trailers, banned in the city.

As per reports this morning, the farmers have called off their protest after reaching Kisan Ghat. They were allowed to enter the national capital around midnight after police unsealed the border between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

But the members of the BKU say that they haven’t reached an agreement on the full implementation of the Swaminathan report regarding the MSP, and their demand of one-time complete loan waiver.



Ahead of Vladimir Putin’s two-day visit to India starting tomorrow, his top foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov Tuesday said that the Russian President will oversee the signing of the S-400 air defence systems deal.

This is the first official confirmation from the Russian government on the signing of the deal with India. Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet for bilateral talks on October 5.

The S-400 deal has been caught in diplomatic crossfire between US and Russia, with Washington threatening Delhi and other partners with sanctions if their defence deals with Russia go through.

In Moscow, Ushakov told reporters that the “President is leaving for India on October 4” and would oversee the signing of the agreement. “The value of the contract will be more than USD 5 billion,” news agencies quoted him saying.

The S-400 deals have angered Washington. While the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) was passed unanimously by the US Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, the US Congress has now passed a law granting waiver to some countries. India is one of the intended beneficiaries, but the US President has to personally certify the deal for a waiver.



Keen on building coalitions to take on the ruling BJP in the 2019 General Election, the Congress yesterday described itself as the “only embodiment of Bharat” and called for freedom from the saffron brand of politics.

At a special meeting in Wardha’s Sevagram, the Congress Working Committee adopted a resolution saying it was time for a new freedom movement to oust the BJP. The resolution also presented the Congress as the only alternative to the ruling dispensation.

The meeting was attended by top Congress leaders, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party ex-president Sonia Gandhi.

The resolution took a clear political line saying the Congress would lead any potential anti-BJP coalition in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll. It also attacked the RSS for creating an atmosphere that led to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and for now “brazenly appropriating Mahatma’s legacy for political ends”.



Pitching for clean sources of energy by reducing use of polluting fossil fuels, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the International Solar Alliance (group of solar resource-rich nations) could replace Opec in the future as the principal supplier of energy.

“ISA will have the same role in future as what is played by Opec today. The role being played by oil wells now, will be played by the rays of sun in the future,” Modi said, referring to the cartel of 15 nations, which currently meets about half of the world’s energy needs. He was inaugurating the first Assembly of the International Solar Alliance launched as a joint initiative of India and France in Paris in November 2015.

Incidentally, 10 of the 15 Opec countries are in the list of ISA potential members and include the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya, Nigeria and Algeria among others. India also proposed that ISA membership be thrown open to all UN members apart from the 121 who are fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn as envisaged by the ISA when it was formed.

The ISA, an organisation based on an inter-governmental treaty, was formed by solar resource-rich nations to undertake joint efforts to reduce cost of finance and technology, and mobilise more than $1 trillion investment needed by 2030 for deployment of minimum 1,000gw of solar energy across the globe.




 British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday unveiled a major post-Brexit overhaul of the UK’s immigration system, which she said is aimed at a level-playing field for nationals from all countries by ending “freedom of movement once and for all” for European Union citizens.

“When we leave (the EU) we will bring in a new immigration system that ends freedom of movement once and for all. For the first time in decades, it will be this country that controls and chooses who we want to come here,” May said in a statement. “It will be a skills-based system where it is workers’ skills that matter, not where they come from. It will be a system that looks across the globe and attracts the people with the skills we need.”

“The UK government said the new so-called skills-based system will make sure low-skilled immigration is brought down and “set the UK on the path to reduce immigration to sustainable levels,” a key manifesto pledge of the ruling Conservative Party.

The new regime, details of which are yet to be fully specified, is expected to be in place by 2021 once the transition period for Britain’s exit from the EU is complete.



Irked by former dictator Pervez Musharraf’s failure to come back to Pakistan and face ongoing cases against him, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar on Tuesday warned that if the “courageous commando” does not appear soon, he may be forced to return in a disgraceful manner.

Chief Justice Nisar made the remarks when Musharraf’s lawyer told the three-judge bench that his client “respects the court” but was unable to return due to his medical condition and reservations over the provision of security, Dawn newspaper reported.

Musharraf, 75, who has been living in Dubai since 2016, is facing the high-profile treason case for suspending the Constitution in 2007. The former military ruler left for Dubai in March 2016 for medical treatment and has not returned since.



More than 1,200 people are now known to have died in the quake-tsunami that smashed into Sulawesi, Indonesia said on Tuesday, as the police pledged to clamp down on looting by survivors taking advantage of the chaos.

There were reports of officers firing warning shots and tear gas to ward off people ransacking shops in Palu, a coastal city ravaged by a 7.5-magnitude quake and the tsunami it spawned.

Almost 200,000 people are in need of urgent help, the United Nations says, among them thousands of children.

Survivors are battling thirst and hunger, with food and clean water in short supply, and local hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of injured. Police said they had previously tolerated desperate survivors taking food and water from closed shops, but had now arrested 35 people for stealing computers and cash.



Days after Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced he will ensure that the newly amended Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is “not misused” and that no one is arrested before an investigation, the Union Home Ministry has written to states and Union Territories clarifying that Parliament has amended the Act “to nullify” conduct of a preliminary enquiry before registration of an FIR, or to seek approval of any authority prior to the arrest of an accused.

The ministry’s directives came after reports that some poll-bound states are still dithering on the implementation of the amended Act. “Since the matter is very sensitive and has caused a lot of unrest and a sense of disharmony in the country, communication to states and UTs were sent to inform them regarding the amended Act,” an official said.

The move has led to fresh criticism by upper caste groups who feel that the NDA government has brought the amendments to woo Dalit voters and has ignored “concerns” of upper-caste and OBCs. On August 9, Parliament approved amendment to Act following protests by Dalit groups over its dilution by the Supreme Court.



If protesters turn violent and vandalise property, their leaders must present themselves for questioning at a police station within 24 hours, failing which they will be proceeded against as suspects first and absconders later, the Supreme Court has said.

“In instances where a group or organisation has staged a protest or demonstration resulting in violence and damage to property, leaders and office-bearers should physically present themselves for questioning on their own within 24 hours in the police station within whose jurisdiction the violence and damage occurred,” a bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said on Monday.

Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Khanwilkar said, “Any person(s) failing to present himself or herself in such manner without any sufficient reason should be proceeded against as a suspect and legal process initiated forthwith, including for being declared absconder in accordance with law.”

This will have serious implications, particularly for leaders of fringe groups, as protests over religion, cow protection, films or even political ideologies often turn violent. Turning the screws on such protests, the SC said leaders will be granted bail only if they deposit the estimated cost due to loss or damage, either individually or collectively.



 Social activist Anna Hazare on Tuesday put off his proposed hunger strike over various demands, including appointment of Lokpal, saying the government had taken certain steps that had shown a “ray of hope”.

The 81-year-old anti-corruption crusader, however, warned that he would launch the protest on January 30, the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, if the government failed to fulfil his demands.

Hazare had earlier said he would launch his agitation here in Maharashtra from Tuesday, marking the 149th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, alleging that the government had not kept its word of taking “positive steps” as regards his demands after his protest at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi in March.

Maharashtra Minister Girish Mahajan, who reached out to Hazare on behalf of the Centre and the state government, said the government had discussed in detail the demands raised by the activist and fulfilled the key points, as he urged the latter to call off the protest.



 Three scientists from the United States, Canada and France won the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for work with lasers described as revolutionary and bringing science fiction into reality.

One of them, Arthur Ashkin, 96, of Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, entered the Nobel record books by becoming the oldest laureate by six years.

Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo in Canada is the first woman to have won a Nobel in three years and is only the third to have won for physics.

Frenchman Gerard Mourou of the Ecole Polytechnique and University of Michigan shares half the prize’s 9-million-kronor, $1.01 million, with Strickland; Ashkin gets the other half.

Ashkin said Tuesday that he had thought his research was worthy of one of the world’s most prestigious prizes but figured his time had passed. He had retired in 1990.

Sweden’s Royal Academy of Sciences, which chose the winners, said Ashkin’s development of “optical tweezers” that can grab tiny particles such as viruses without damaging them realized “an old dream of science fiction — using the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects.”

The tweezers are “extremely important for measuring small forces on individual molecules, small objects, and this has been very interesting in biology, to understand how things like muscle tissue work, what are the molecule motors behind the muscle tissue,” said David Haviland of the academy’s Nobel committee.

Strickland and Mourou helped develop short and intense laser pulses that have broad industrial and medical applications, including laser eye surgery. The academy said their 1985 article on the technique was “revolutionary.”

Strickland’s award is the first to have gone to a woman in physics since 1963, when it was won by Maria Goeppert-Mayer; the only other one was Marie Curie in 1903.



In a bid to assuage fears over surveillance, breach of privacy and data farming, the government is promoting offline verification tools for Aadhaar such as QR codes and a paperless KYC that will not require sharing of biometrics or involve UIDAI servers for authentication.

The KYC process will not even need users to reveal their Aadhaar numbers, the collection of which has often been subject to controversies over potential data mining and tracking. The offline processes will fulfil the Supreme Court’s order ruling out biometrics-based Aadhaar authentication for private companies.

The offline KYC processes can be used by service providers, including the government, and will be in addition to other IDs such as driving licences, ration and electoral photo cards, passports and PAN cards. The government hopes reliability of offline Aadhaar KYC will make it popular while providing options for fintech firms disadvantaged by being denied access to UIDAI authentication.

The QR codes, which include three options, can be downloaded and printed from the Unique Identification Authority of India website.

A service provider can download a QR code reader from the UIDAI site or procure a scanner that can read the code from a Aadhaar number printout. In this process, the UIDAI server is unaware of where and when the QR codes have been used for authentication. The UIDAI is also offering a ‘paperless local eKYC’, a digitally signed XML that stored on a laptop or phone. As long as a service provider has the proper software, a user can share the zip file with a “share code” to establish ID.

Officials said the eKYC and QR codes protect privacy as UIDAI is ignorant of their use. Further, an Aadhaar user can restrict demographic information provided apart from name and address. “UIDAI will not know location, purpose, time or with whom the eKYC has been shared,” a source said.



Breaking its silence, Cine and TV Artists’ Association (CINTAA) issued a statement on Tuesday regarding former actor Tanushree Dutta’s claim that the association did not take appropriate action on her complaint of sexual harassment against actor Nana Patekar in 2008.

The statement, undersigned by CINTAA general secretary Sushant Singh, admitted that Dutta’s chief complaint of sexual harassment was not addressed. “After going through Ms Tanushree Dutta’s complaint, which was filed with the then Executive Committee of CINTAA in March 2008, we feel that the decision taken in the Joint Dispute Settlement Committee of CINTAA and Indian Film and TV producers Council (then known as Association of Motion Pictures and TV Programme Producers) in July 2008 was not appropriate, as the chief grievance of sexual harassment wasn’t even addressed,” read the statement.

The statement, on behalf of the association, went on to apologise for the action. “Although it was a different Executive Committee at that time, yet as CINTAA we find it highly regrettable and no apologies can suffice,” the statement added.

As part of the statement, Singh explained that CINTAA’s guidelines and constitution do not allow the current committee to take cases that date back more than three years, therefore barring them from addressing Dutta’s grievance in the present. However, as CINTAA, they have appealed “that the authorities take cognizance of Ms Dutta’s statements and conduct an impartial and speedy enquiry” into the matter.



(Indian Stocks Markets were closed yesterday on account of Gandhi Jayanti)

Nasdaq 8,000 (-38) Dow 26,774 (+123), S&P 2,923 (-1)

US$-Rs. 73.35 GBP-Rs. 95.29, Euro-Rs. 84.70, UAE Dhm-Rs.19.96, Can$-Rs. 57.21, Aus$- Rs. 52.78

GBP 0.76 /US$, Euro 0.86 /US$, Jap.Yen 113.76 /US$, Aus$ 1.38 /US$, Sing 1.37 /US$, Bang Taka 83.19 /US$, Can$ 1.28 /US$, Mal Ring 4.13 /US$,

Pak Re 123.36 /US$, Phil Peso 54.25 /US$, Russian Rouble 65.26 /US$, NZ$ 1.51 /US$, Thai Baht 32.29 /US$, Ukraine Hryvnia 28.12 /US$

Bitcoin – USD 6,553

Dollar Index 95.14 Brent Crude 84.84 BDI 1570

Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,207 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 3016 / 2928, Silver (Rs. Per KG) 41,100



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