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Newsletter 21 Aug, 2018




 The centre has declared the Kerala floods as a calamity of “severe nature”, paving the way for national assistance in various forms, officials said.

When a calamity is declared to be of ‘severe nature’ support to the state is provided at the national level.

The deluge thinned to occasional drizzle in several parts of Kerala under an overcast sky on Monday, but human minds shone with readiness to help fellow beings affected by the week-long downpour. The state showed semblance of a return to normalcy, as many people came back to their homes, nursing hopes of resuming life.

Relief camps totalling 3,224 reported an attendance of 10,28,073 people, while rescue operations neared an end with 602 people saved. A chunk of them was from Chengannur, where four villages around it in coastal Alappuzha district turned out to be the last post of assignment for the armed forces and voluntary organisations.

CM Pinarayi Vijayan lauded the untiring efforts of the public. On August 29, members of the fishermen community would be honoured. There will not be an official celebration of Onam, the CM said. The tacit implication: now is not the time to rejoice over the festival of harvest.



Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, in a letter, conveyed to his newly-elected Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan India’s commitment to “meaningful” and “constructive” engagement with Islamabad and emphasised the need to work for a terror-free South Asia, official sources said on Monday.

Soon after the news of congratulatory letter, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi reportedly indicated that the Indian PM had called for talks between the two countries. However, hours later, Pakistan’s Foreign Office clarified that the Indian PM had “not made an offer of a dialogue” in the letter. It said Pakistan looked forward to a mutually beneficial, uninterrupted dialogue with India to resolve all issues.

Sources said India’s position that talks and terror could not go hand-in-hand had not changed. “In the letter, the PM expressed India’s commitment to build good neighbourly relations and pursue meaningful and constructive engagement for the benefit of the people of the region,” they said.

In Islamabad, Qureshi offered “uninterrupted” dialogue  to resolve all outstanding issues, saying it was the “only wise course” as the two countries could not afford any “adventurism”.


Union home minister Rajnath Singh marked an all-party meeting to mourn Atal Bihari Vajpayee by extolling the late leader’s “art of taking everybody along”. Leaders cutting across the political divide paid rich tributes to the departed leader..

Leaders from the Congress, the Left and the regional parties opposed to the BJP’s ideology shared the stage with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and saffron-robed religious leaders to pay homage to Vajpayee. Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, too, were present.

The ball was set rolling by Rajnath, who said: ” Sabko saath le ke chalna, unki jo kala thi… (Taking everybody along, which was his art…).”

Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad highlighted the difference between Vajpayee and the incumbent BJP leadership, without taking names. Azad termed the condolence meeting “unique”, pointing out how ideologically divergent leaders had congregated to pay their tributes to Vajpayee.

CPI leader D. Raja confirmed that a meeting did take place between Left leaders and Vajpayee on the issue of sending troops to Iraq. He said Vajpayee prodded the Left to protest and used the lack of political consensus to overcome US pressure to send the troops. “He was a parliamentarian who could reach out to leaders of divergent ideologies,” Raja said.

When his turn came, Amit Shah said: “Everybody present here has desired to follow the ideology of Atalji. I want to assure that each and every worker of BJP will follow the same ideology that Atalji followed.”

Modi praised Vajpayee as a great administrator.


Arguing that technological capability would be of little meaning in a climate of growing scientific obscurantism and social prejudice, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Monday said the “opening of the economy” and the “closing of the minds” is a dangerous and destructive mix.

She was addressing a gathering after presenting the Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavana Award to former administrator, diplomat and Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi. Accepting the award, Gopal Gandhi said that “all those who are opposed to zabardasti” must work together, and the “larger entity… is expected to make the larger gesture”.

In his address, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke about growing intolerance, communal polarisation and mob lynching and argued that these “unsavory trends” can only harm the national interest.

Sonia said Rajiv was an “unwavering believer” that India’s unity was actually derived from and strengthened by the country’s incredible diversity. “That is what sadbhavna meant to him — not just acceptance of, not just respect for, but most fundamentally, a celebration of our society’s many diversities. Not just a passive acquiescence and tolerance of different points of view, but active engagement — so that every citizen of India is enabled to lead a life of dignity, security and self-respect,” she said.




Iran urged Europe on Monday to speed up efforts to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers that U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in May, saying French oil group Total has formally pulled out a major gas project.

Efforts by the remaining signatories – EU members Britain, France and Germany plus China and Russia – to avoid the agreement’s collapse are struggling as Washington has said any firms dealing with Teheran will be barred from doing business in the United States.

“Europeans and other signatories of the deal have been trying to save the deal … but the process has been slow. It should be accelerated,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said. “Iran relies mainly on its own capabilities to overcome America’s new sanctions,” he told a news conference broadcast on state TV.



Pope Francis condemned on Monday the “atrocities” revealed by a far-reaching U.S. report into clerical child sex abuse in the state of Pennsylvania issued last week.

“In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors… the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests,” the Pope said in a letter made public by the Vatican.

“Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims,” he said.

“We have realised that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death,” he added.

Calling for “solidarity” with the victims and a fight against “spiritual corruption”, Pope Francis said “no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient”.





The Army officer who drafted the petition on behalf of 356 Army personnel in the Supreme Court is from the legal branch of the Army and is currently serving in Jammu and Kashmir. The petition, which alleges dilution of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) without specific amendment to that effect, was admitted in the Supreme Court last week and will be heard next on September 4.

Colonel Amit Kumar, an officer with 18 years of service and currently posted as a legal officer at a corps headquarters in J&K, says that all soldiers voluntarily joined the petition which was filed by Aishwarya Bhati, advocate-on-record, and will be argued by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi.

“I did not organise anyone for this. Once people came to know, which happens in the world of social media, they sent their vakalatnama to Bhati. In fact, we have more than 400 additional vakalatnamas lying with her even now,” Colonel Kumar said.

“Under Article 32 of the Constitution and Fundamental Rights what is due is what the petition is asking for. These are duty-bound soldiers whose morale is affected if there is any confusion about the bonafide duty on legal government orders. These are all cases which are in areas under the Disturbed Areas Act with AFSPA applicable,” Colonel Kumar said.


Justifying Constable Tej Bahadur Yadav’s dismissal from the BSF last year, the Centre on Monday told the Punjab and Haryana High Court that a video he posted on the quality of food being served to security personnel “could have led to mutiny among the armed forces”.

Calling Yadav’s complaint “a cooked up story”, the government and BSF, in a written reply, said the video was an ill-conceived idea to “malign the image” of the force, and that his dismissal was only a minor punishment for the offences he had been convicted.

Yadav had petitioned the High Court in January this year against his dismissal from the BSF. The reply from the government and BSF was taken on record on Monday.

In the video, Yadav had said only paratha and tea were being served for breakfast, and he also complained about the quality of the moong daal at dinner.

“…In BSF mess, food is being prepared for number of persons and it is not practically possible to cook the food as per the choice and taste of each and everyone. Moreover, health of troops is also paramount consideration in the force as cardiac arrest problem has risen in the troops in recent times,” the affidavit stated.

The government said that when the administration base near the Line of Control in Poonch district switched over to advance winter stocking, leftover condiments like haldi, salt and others were used for four days in January 2017 as their fresh supply had not been received “due to snowfall”. “…No sabji was prepared in breakfast as it was in short supply and the previous month’s fresh vegetables had exhausted,” the affidavit stated, adding that no one ever complained regarding the quantity or quality of food being served during breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The government said that absence of condiments for a few days do not make the food for the entire force bad or insufficient.



A Kerala fisherman who got down on all fours to act as a footboard so a group of women could board a rescue boat has turned a social media hero for his spontaneous gesture.

Jaisal KP, resident of Tanur in Malappuram, had stopped going to sea to earn his daily bread early last week so he could join the rescue missions.

As he steered the disaster response team’s motorised dinghy on Saturday to a flooded spot in Vengara, Malappuram, he realised that at least one of the women would find it difficult to climb in.

“So I made myself into a step of sorts for all the women to get on board,” he said.

A Vengara resident whom Jaisal identified as Nayeem Bapu filmed him in that position – his body mostly submerged in the floodwaters – on a mobile phone.

Jaisal is one of thousands of fishermen who had volunteered for the rescue missions because of their knowledge about the water and skill at manoeuvring boats even in the strongest currents.


The special cell of Delhi police has arrested two Haryana-based cow vigilantes who claimed to have attacked activist Umar Khalid last week.

A senior police source on Monday confirmed that Darwesh Shahpur and Naveen Dalal had been arrested for the August 13 murder attempt on the former JNU student.

The arrests came days after Dalal, from Jhajjar, and Shahpur, from Jind, claimed in a video uploaded on Facebook that the attack was their “gift to India on Independence Day”.


India’s diamond exports to the US are under threat after that country’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced last month that there would henceforth be no distinction between natural and man-made sparklers.

The FTC had originally defined a diamond as “a natural mineral consisting essentially of pure carbon crystallised in the isometric system.” The definition has now been modified with the word “natural” removed from it. The FTC went on to say that the definition of a diamond was being changed because it was now possible to create diamonds in a laboratory.

“These stones have essentially the same optical, physical and chemical properties as mined diamonds. Thus, these are diamonds,” FTC’s statement said.

Lab-grown diamonds or “American diamonds”, as they are called, are expected to receive a big boost since the US is one of the biggest markets in the world for smaller diamonds.

According to diamond traders here, lab-grown diamonds are almost 40% cheaper than those that are mined from the bowels of the earth. It is felt that continuing technological advances in the field will bring down the price of lab-grown diamonds even further in the coming years.

India, which exported $8 billion worth of polished diamonds to the US in 2017, is worried. “We have already been reaching out to different industry bodies and stakeholders to help fashion a common global response,” Sabyasachi Ray, executive director, Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, said.

The country’s apex body of gem and jewellery exporters went on to say that it was not opposed to, what it called, synthetic or lab-grown diamonds. “We have always maintained that it can be developed as a separate vertical that is not confused with the natural diamond pipeline,” Ray added.


Vinesh Phogat created history by becoming the first Indian woman wrestler to win a gold medal at the Asian Games, brushing aside her rivals with remarkable ease in the 50kg category here.

Vinesh was likely to face stiff competition from Japan’s Yuki Irie, whom she outplayed 6-2 in the final.

It was second gold for Indian wrestlers after Bajrang Punia’s win in the 65kg freestyle category yesterday.

However, Rio Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, competing in her first Asian Games, and Pooja Dhanda lost their bronze medal bouts tamely.

In the men’s freestyle 125kg, Sumit Malik also lost his bronze medal bout, leaving India with just one medal from wrestling yesterday.

Earlier, putting behind her heart-breaking loss at the Olympics two years ago, Vinesh began her victorious campaign with a revenge win against Sun against whom she had suffered that terrible knee injury which cut short her journey in Rio. This time Vinesh did not give her opponent any chance and came out a dominant winner with a 8-2 score.

In the next bout she brushed aside the challenge of Korea’s Hyungjoo Kim by technical superiority. She ended the bout with a four-point throw.

Vinesh’s semifinal lasted just 75 seconds as she moved into the final with a ‘fitley’. She was already up 4-0 and then rolled over her opponent thrice with leg-lock.

The gold also enabled Vinesh to achieve another feat as she became the only woman wrestler to win two medals in back-to-back Asian Games.

Vinesh had earlier won a bronze medal in the 48kg category at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.


Young Indian shooter Lakshay claimed the silver medal in the men’s trap event of the Asian Games, in Palembang, on Monday.

The 19-year-old Lakshay shot 39 out of 45 to finish second on the podium. Taipei’s Kunpi Yang won the gold medal while equalling the Games record with 48, while Korea’s Daemyeong Ahn bagged bronze after scoring 30 at the JSC Shooting Range.

Manavjit Singh Sandhu, who topped the qualification, finished fourth.

India’s Deepak Kumar produced a late surge to steal a silver in the men’s 10m rifle event at the Asian Games, giving the shooting contingent its second medal, in Palembang, on Monday.

Deepak, who was not in the race for a medal until the 18th shot when he produced a perfect 10.9, earned his maiden Asian Games medal with 247.7, pushing Taipei’s Lu Shaochuan to third with 226.8 in the 24-shot final.


England will have to set a record for the highest successful fourth-innings chase if they are to win the third Test against India after the dominant tourists declared at 352/7 with Virat Kohli making 103 on Monday.

Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings survived a tricky nine overs before the close of play, reaching 23/0.

That means Joe Root’s side require another 498 runs to win over the final two days of play and history suggests that is highly unlikely. The highest fourth-innings winning Test total at Trent Bridge is 284 by England against New Zealand in 2004.

Having started the third day on 124/2, India were barely troubled through two-and-a-half sessions of steady, if unspectacular, accumulation under grey skies. After a fruitless morning session for England’s bowling attack, Cheteshwar Pujara, was caught at first slip by Cook off the bowling of Ben Stokes for 72, ending his partnership with Kohli at 113.

Skipper Kohli, who was out for 97 in the first innings, took few risks during his patient knock which finally came to an end after 197 balls when he was trapped lbw by seamer Chris Woakes. Hardik Pandya was unbeaten on 52 when Kohli finally decided to declare and let his bowlers give Cook and Jennings an uncomfortable mini-session.

Scores at end of Day 3: India 329 & 352/7; England 161 & 23/0


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GBP 0.78 /US$, Euro 0.87 /US$, Jap.Yen 110.41 /US$, Aus$ 1.36 /US$, Sing 1.37 /US$, Bang Taka 82.91 /US$, Can$ 1.30 /US$, Mal Ring 4.09 /US$,

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Bitcoin – USD 6,382

Dollar Index 95.78 Brent Crude 72.22 BDI 1723

Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,194 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 2908 / 2820, Silver (Rs. Per KG) 40.000


Diversion from a profession refreshes the weary; so also too long a diversion weary the refreshed. – Rosie Cash


The cruise ship docked at a port during a very high tide. Everyone on board was forced to use the ship’s narrow gangway to the dock far below. The staff stood motionless when a passenger in her 70s appeared at the top of the gangway. She edged along slowly and finally made it to the jetty safely, to everyone’s relief. As she stepped down, she turned, looked back to the top of the gangway and shouted, “It’s okay, Mother, you can come down now.”

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