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Newsletter 26 Aug, 2018




 Congress president Rahul Gandhi strayed into sensitive territory Friday night when he told some UK politicians that there was no Congress involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots but favoured punishing those who were involved in the “tragedy”.

“I have no confusion in my mind about that. It was a tragedy. It was a painful experience. You say that the Congress was involved in that. I do not agree with that. Certainly there was violence, certainly there was tragedy,” Gandhi said, in response to a question.

His reply raised a storm back home where the Akali Dal accused him of “complicity” in the genocide of Sikhs

“There are legal processes ongoing in India but as far as I’m concerned, anything done that was wrong during that period should be punished and I would support that 100 per cent,” Gandhi added.

Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal was quick to ask Gandhi what his mother and former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologised for if their party was not involved in the riots.

While BJP spokesman Sambit Patra mocked Gandhi saying “know nothing speak everything = Rahul Gandhi”, Union Minister and Akali MP from Bathinda Harsimrat Badal said, “If Congress wasn’t involved in the Sikh massacre, Indira Gandhi and (former PM) Rajiv Gandhi were also not killed. They died of heart attack.”

Harsimrat tweeted a TV video of 2014 where Gandhi admitted some Congress men may have been involved in the anti-Sikh riots with a comment: “Thirty-four years of covering up seems to have fogged up your (Gandhi) brain too. Is this video a reminder of your deteriorating memory or your U-turns from 2014-2018?”

The Congress rushed to defend its president. “The Congress was in office in 1984. A very terrible thing happened in 1984 for which Dr Manmohan Singh apologised in Parliament. You cannot hold Rahul Gandhi responsible for that. He was 13 or 14 years old. He has not absolved anyone,” , ex-Finance Minister P Chidambaram said.

In the UK for a two-day trip, Rahul faced two questions on the anti-Sikh riots. Interacting with students at the London School of Economics, he talked cautiously of the riots when asked what he thought about them. “I too am a victim of violence,” was his take.



 The Ministry of Defence (MoD), in a major development, has okayed two separate types of helicopters for the Navy, including the ones that will hunt submarines, besides 150 India-made artillery guns.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) at its meeting, chaired by Nirmala Sitharaman yesterday accorded approval to several projects that total to nearly Rs 46,000 crore.

To enhance the capability of Navy at sea, the DAC has also been granted procurement of 24 anti-submarine capable Multi Role Helicopters, which are an integral part of the frontline warships like the aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes. Availability of MRH with the Navy would plug the existing capability gap and will be taken through the government to government route from the US and the aerospace giant Lockheed Martin is the supplier.

Chinese submarines routinely troll the Indian Ocean and the ability to pick out these is needed. Currently, the Navy uses the Sea King Mk42B and the Kamov-28 copters in an ASW role. Both are of the 1980s vintage design and are now being upgraded. There are about 20 such copters.

In another major breakthrough, the DAC also granted approval to a few other proposals amounting to approximately Rs. 24,879 crore, which included approval for procurement of 150 numbers of Indigenously Designed and Developed 155 mm Advanced Towed Artillery Gun Systems (ATAGS) for the Indian Army at an approximate cost of Rs 3,364 crore. These guns have been indigenously designed and developed by DRDO and will be manufactured by private companies by Tata and Bharat Forge.

The DAC also approved procurement of 111 Naval utility helicopters (NUH) for the Indian Navy at a cost of over Rs 21,000 crore. This is the first project under the MoD’s prestigious Strategic Partnership (SP) Model that aims at providing significant fillip to the government’s ‘Make in India’ programme.

In addition, procurement of 14 vertically launched Short Range Missile Systems was also cleared by the DAC. Of these, 10 systems will be indigenously developed. These systems will boost the self-defence capability of ships against anti-ship missiles.



Hours after he said the 2019 Lok Sabha elections would be a fight between the BJP on one side and the entire opposition on the other, Congress president Rahul Gandhi set up three key panels for the polls.

The nine-member core committee announced by the party is dominated by the old guard, but does not include UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Rahul also announced a 19-member manifesto committee, and a 13-member publicity committee — the latter has many young faces.

Sonia’s trusted aide and newly appointed AICC treasurer Ahmed Patel, senior leaders A K Antony and P Chidambaram, AICC general secretaries Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ashok Gehlot, Mallikarjun Kharge and K C Venugopal, besides Jairam Ramesh and Randeep Surjewala, are members of the core committee. It is a big leg up for the likes of Surjewala and Venugopal, who were not involved in any planning and strategising in the 2014 campaign.

On Friday night, addressing students at an event at the London School of Economics, Rahul said the 2019 elections were going to be “pretty straightforward” with the “BJP on one side and the entire opposition on the other side”. He said the opposition would go to the people with a “common minimum structure”.

“That is how the next election is going to be. And the reason for that is that almost everybody in the opposition and also members of the BJP alliance feel that the encroachment that is taking place on Indian institutions, the systematic attack that is taking place on Indian institutions… So there is a feeling in the opposition that for the first time, an organisation is challenging the very conception of India and this has not happened in the last 70 years,” he said.

“So there is this move that we need to defend the Indian institutions, we need to defend the idea of one man one vote; we need to defend the inclusive idea of India. And you’re going to have a clear cut election where everybody is going to be on one side and the RSS/BJP is going to be on the other side and once that math starts to come into play, and you can look at the UP and Bihar alliances as sort of the central focus areas, it becomes very difficult for the BJP to win elections,” he said.

The Congress chief was asked if he has any vision of becoming the next PM during an interaction with the Indian Journalists’ Association in London on the last day of his European tour.

To this, Rahul replied, “I don’t have these visions. I view myself as fighting an ideological battle and this change has come to me after 2014. I realised that there’s a risk to Indian state, to the Indian way of doing things and I’m defending that.”






 Nearly a year after 700,000 Rohingyas fled from their Myanmar homeland due to a deadly military crackdown, the community on Sunday marked the day as ‘black day’. The Myanmar violence drove the persecuted minority into Bangladesh, thus making them stateless with a grim future.

August 25, 2017 marked military raids across Rakhine state in Myanmar which the United Nations dubbed ‘ethnic cleansing’. A number of Rohingya refugees fled the country on foot or by boat to neighbouring countries.

As the day drew close, Rohingya refugees in Bangladeshi camps in Cox Bazar district vowed to mark the ‘black day’ in their lives with prayers, speeches and songs. The district which became home to one of the world’s largest refugee settlement is still under immense pressure as the latest entrants into the camps furthered the number of refugees in the area to nearly a million.

There have been continuous talks between Myanmar, Bangladesh and the United Nations, however, only few signs indicating that it is time for Rohingyas to go home any time soon. The UN believes that Myanmar is not yet a safe place for the Rohingya refugees.



China and Britain have agreed to look at the possibility of reaching a “top notch” free trade agreement after Britain leaves the European Union, China’s Commerce Ministry said on Saturday after talks with British trade minister Liam Fox.

Britain has pushed a strong message to Chinese companies that it is fully open for business as it prepares to leave the EU next year, and China is one of the countries with which Britain would like to sign a post-Brexit free trade deal.

Last month, China offered Britain talks on such a deal.

In a statement released after Friday talks between Fox and Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan in Beijing, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said they had discussed how to boost two-way investment and expand trade in services.



 Pakistan’s new government has banned the discretionary use of state funds and first-class air travel by officials and leaders, including the president and the prime minister, as part of its austerity drive.

The decisions were made at a Cabinet meeting, chaired by PM Imran Khan yesterday, according to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry.

“It has been decided that all the top government officials, including the president, PM, chief justice, senate chairman, speaker national assembly and the chief ministers will travel in club/business,” he said.

Chaudhry said the discretionary allocation of funds by the PM and the president and other officials was also stopped by the Cabinet.  The PM also decided to stop using special plane for foreign visits or domestic travelling and use business class. Imran also decided to use only two vehicles and keep two servants. He refused to use elaborate official protocol.





A public spat between Union defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Karnataka tourism minister Sa Ra Mahesh in Kodagu escalated into a war of words between the state and Centre on Saturday.

While deputy CM G Parameshwara accused Sitharaman of “lashing out” at his colleague, the defence ministry said Mahesh’s “personal remarks” against the Union minister were in “bad taste”.

Parameshwara took to Twitter to back Mahesh, saying, “Our ministers have stayed back in Kodagu for weeks to oversee relief operations along with the district administration. You should extend to them the same respect that they extend for the help from your end. It was disappointing to see you lash out at my colleague.”

On Friday, during a visit to flood and landslidehit Kodagu, the Sitharaman had snapped at Mahesh, who is the district incharge minister, when the latter rushed her through her interactions with ex-servicemen, among others, and asked her to attend a review meeting with officials instead.


The Editors Guild of India on Saturday spoke out against Patna High Court’s order restraining journalists from reporting on the investigation of rapes of inmates at a shelter home for minor girls in Muzaffarpur, Bihar.

“The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned over a Patna High Court order restraining the media from reporting on the investigation into the Muzaffarpur shelter abuse case,” a statement said.

“A verbal order issued by the division bench of Chief Justice Mukesh R. Shah and Justice Dr Ravi Ranjan on August 23 said that till the investigation into the shelter case was completed, all the print and electronic media were restrained from reporting anything with respect to the case, more particularly, with respect to the investigation already undertaken and/or which was likely to take place as it could seriously hamper the investigation of the case.”

It added: “The Guild is distressed to note that the court, instead of protecting media freedom, has issued an order that has effectively curbed it. It condemns such orders as it believes that such restrictions on reporting on investigations into a matter of public importance are counterproductive….The Guild decries the recent growing trend of courts issuing such restraint orders on the media that undermine one of the pillars of democracy. It also appeals to the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of India and Patna High Court to review the restraint order and uphold the principles of a free media and democracy.”

Some 34 girls rescued from the shelter home were found to have been sexually abused. Bihar social welfare minister Manju Verma resigned following allegations of her husband’s proximity to the man who ran the shelter, Brajesh Thakur. The CBI is probing the case.


Telangana Congress president N Uttam Kumar Reddy has accused Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao of “threatening early polls out of fear of being unable to face people after full terms, considering his unfulfilled promises”.

He questioned the claims of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in general and the CM in particular about the TRS staking victory on around 100 seats “without any basis”. In a tele-conference with poll booth presidents, Reddy said: “The call for early polls only shows that the CM is scared of the growing anti-incumbency against his government and does not want it to reach its peak.”

He said the Congress was ready to face polls even if they are held tomorrow and claimed that his party will form the next government.


In a recent report to Maharashtra Home Department, Mumbai Police has given a clean chit to policemen of the Malabar Hill Police station who issued a police verification report on fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi, wanted in connection with the Punjab National Bank fraud.

Antigua and Barbuda had said Choksi was granted citizenship based on a police clearance certificate (PCC) issued by Regional Passport Office, Mumbai, and documents received from SEBI in May 2017. Following this, the government came under attack for what was pointed out as shortcomings in the online police verification system adopted by state police department. In the wake of this, Mumbai Police ordered an inquiry to find out if there was any deliberate violation of rules by officials issuing the verification report on Choksi.

“Before issuing a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC), the regional passport office had sought details from the Malabar Hill police station, under whose jurisdiction Choksi’s Mumbai residence falls. The PVR was issued by the police station after it ran a check on the Criminal Antecedents and Information System (CAIS) under four heads, including if the applicant is wanted by any court or any warrant has been issued against him. Since there was nothing on the system against Choksi when a search under these heads were made, local police issued the PVR,” said an official from State Home Department. “The report has also stated that Choksi didn’t try to influence the officials at the police station or offer them bribe to get a PVR. It happened in due course,” said the official.


Tajinderpal Singh Toor became India’s first gold medallist in the track and field events at the 2018 Asian Games as he won the men’s shotput gold with a Games record of 20.75m in Jakarta on Saturday.

Such was Toor’s domination that he led the field throughout the competition from the first throw.

With his 20.75m throw, Toor also broke national record, bettering the six-year-old record of 20.69m in the name of Om Prakash Kathana.

Toor had a disappointing Commonwealth Games 2018 as he finished seventh in the competition but he put that behind to come the Asian champion.


The Indian women’s hockey team beat defending champions South Korea 4-1 and confirmed its spot in the semifinals. Significantly, India’s last three goals came in the last 10 minutes as India displayed title credentials to go top of Pool B with this impressive victory. And this was without the services of inspirational captain Rani Rampal, who sat out of the match. The team management, including coach Sjoerd Marijne, did not want to take any risk after she complained of pain in her back.

Navneet Kaur (16th minute), Gurjit Kaur (54th and 55th) and Vandana Kataria (56th) scored. — TNS


It was a tricky match for Saina Nehwal. The Indian was not only playing against a competent shuttler, but she was also up against a stadium full of supporters who were shouting hoarse for the local girl, world No. 40 Fitriani. The feisty Indian did not let it affect her game as she advanced to the quarterfinals with a 21-6, 21-14 win on Saturday.

A day after both Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy suffered shock exits in the tournament, all the focus is now on Saina and PV Sindhu to deliver at the Games, and the duo did that in style by winning their matches convincingly.

After Saina’s win in the first match of the day, Sindhu defeated another Indonesian, world No. 22 Gregoria Mariska, 21-12, 21-15 to secure a last eight berth.


A sense of duty is useful in work, but offensive in personal relations. People wish to be liked, not be endured with patient resignation. – Bertrand Russell


A Priest was being honoured at his retirement dinner after 25 years in the parish.

The leading local politician was chosen to make the presentation and to give a little speech at the dinner.

However, he was late, so the Priest decided to say his own few words while they waited. He said:

“I got my first impression of this parish from the very first confession I ever heard here. I thought I had been assigned to a terrible place. The very first person who entered my confessional told me he had stolen a television set and, when questioned by the police, was able to lie his way out of it.  He had stolen money from his parents;  embezzled from his employer;  had an affair with his boss’s wife; taken illegal drugs. I was appalled that one person could do so many awful things.  But as the days went on, I learned that my people were not all like that and I had, indeed, come to a fine parish full of good and loving people.”

Just as the Priest finished his talk, the politician arrived full of apologies at being late. He immediately began to make the presentation and gave his talk:

“I’ll never forget the first day our parish Priest arrived,” said the politician.  “In fact, I had the honor of being the first person to go to him for confession.”

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