Newsletter Oct 14, 2018




Top Army commanders, led by Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, have decided to restructure the force in phases and introduce a new battle-fighting concept.

A decision to form integrated battle groups (IBGs), which will be validated in field exercises, has been taken at the ongoing commanders’ conference (October 9-15). An IBG — each with six battalions or more (about 6,000 men) will have a mix of infantry, armoured, artillery, signals and engineers — will be commanded by a Major General and placed directly under the Corps. This is a novel concept as so far the Army has a few independent brigades (some 3,000 men) headed by a Brigadier. The IBG is expected to be swifter in battle. At present, there are 8-10 Brigades in a Corps.

The restructuring will also bring out a younger profile for commanders and make the 1.3-million strong Army ‘right-sized’ by cutting out redundant posts.

If all measures under consideration of the four separate studies on restructuring of the Army are actually implemented, it is expected to reduce manpower by around 1 lakh (jawans and officers) over the next six-seven years and result in saving almost Rs 7,000 crore annually.

The focus is integration of existing verticals, enhance operational and functional efficiency, optimise budget expenditure, facilitate force modernisation and address aspirations of officers. Army Commanders deliberated security dynamics, emerging security scenarios and enhancement of combat edge over potential adversaries.

the roads leading to Sabarimala if Trupti Desai attempts to visit the shrine,” he said.


With another journalist levelling charges of sexual misconduct on Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar today, all eyes are on his return from the official trip to Nigeria tomorrow.

Even as the ruling BJP remained tight-lipped on what action it might or might not take against Akbar, CNN journalist Majlie de Puy Kamp took to Twitter to reveal graphic details of harassment she faced at the former editor’s hands while interning under him as an 18-year-old. Kamp recalled a 2007 incident at the Asian Age.

Back home, BJP chief Amit Shah expressed openness to look at the charges against Akbar and to see whether these are authentic.

Though many ministers are convinced Akbar should step down on moral grounds, it remains to be seen what call Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes on the eve of election season, including in Madhya Pradesh, a state Akbar represents in Rajya Sabha.

At another end, the #MeToo movement also saw its first push back today with actor Alok Nath taking his accuser Vinta Nanda to court. Nath’s wife moved a Mumbai court demanding police probe into Vinta Nanda’s allegations of sexual harassment and alleged the charges were meant to malign the actor.


Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday took his fight with the government over the Indo-French Rafale deal to the compounds of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and said the Defence Minister should apologise to the public  sector undertaking for saying it did not have the capability to make the jet.

Taking dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Gandhi described HAL as a “strategic asset” and told the employees of the organisation that “Rafale was their right”.

“HAL is a strategic asset in aerospace, not an ordinary or regular company,” Gandhi said, in an unprecedented move by a leader of the Opposition party to engage the employees of a PSU in a fight with the government.

The employees’ union of HAL participated in the interaction with Gandhi despite a reminder from the HAL leaders about their “duties as government employees”. The union said it was apolitical and had received an invitation for an interface from the Congress office.

“Temples of modern India are being attacked and destroyed and we cannot allow this to be done. Rafale is your right. You have a history of 78 years and you have the experience needed to build the jet,” Gandhi said at the event organised in Bengaluru at Minsk Square near HAL headquarters.

HAL regretted “politicisation” of its employees and termed it a fad and regrettable development that would be detrimental to national security and the organisation. An official from the agency said the NDA government had extended full support (to HAL), having placed supply orders of over Rs 27,340 crore during the 2014-18 period by recognising its premier position.


Two US senators have called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to soften India’s stance on data localisation, warning that measures requiring it represent “key trade barriers” between the two nations.

In a letter to Modi dated Friday and seen by Reuters, US Senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner — co-chairmen of the Senate’s India caucus — urged India to instead adopt a “light touch” regulatory framework that would allow data to flow freely across borders.

The letter comes as relations between Washington and New Delhi are strained over multiple issues, including an Indo-Russian defence contract, Indian tariffs on electronics and other items, and India’s push to purchase oil from Iran despite upcoming US sanctions.

Global tech companies, including Mastercard, Visa and American Express, have been lobbying India’s Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India to relax proposed guidelines that mandate all payment data on domestic transactions in India be stored inside the country by October 15.

The letter is most likely a last-ditch effort after the RBI told officials at top payment companies this week that the central bank would implement, in full, its data localisation directive without extending the deadline or allowing data to be stored offshore as well as locally.

“We see this as a fundamental issue to the further development of digital trade and one that is crucial to our economic partnership,” the US senators said in its letter.




 Anwar Ibrahim won an overwhelming mandate in a parliamentary byelection on Saturday, setting the stage for his return to frontline Malaysian politics and sealing the once-jailed opposition figure’s remarkable resurrection.

Figures from the Election Commission showed he got more than 71% of the total votes cast in a seven-way contest that included a former aide who lodged the sodomy charges that landed Anwar in prison for a second time in 2014.

Anwar was designated the successor to Mahathir, his former foe-turned-ally, after they set aside a bitter political feud and joined hands to win a stunning victory in May’s General Election.

Anwar couldn’t participate in the polls due to a 2015 conviction for sodomy – a charge he alleged was politically motivated, but he was freed after receiving a royal pardon days after the polls.



 Pope Francis on Saturday defrocked two more Chilean prelates accused of sexually abusing minors, and to show greater transparency about how he’s responding to the church’s global sex abuse crisis, the pontiff publicly explained why they were removed.

The Vatican’s unusually detailed statement announcing the laicization of Jose Cox Huneeus and Marco Antonio Ordenes Fernandez signaled a new degree of transparency following past missteps that appeared to underestimate the gravity of the scandal.

Explaining the latest removals as Chile’s church is called to account for decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups, the statement made clear the two were defrocked for abusing minors with evidence so overwhelming that a canonical trial was unnecessary.

The Vatican said the move could not be appealed.



 The UK government is all set to double the immigration health surcharge (IHS) from December, which will increase the overall visa fees for the citizens, students, professionals and family members from the non-European Union countries, including India.

The IHS, introduced in April 2015, will rise from 200 pounds to 400 pounds per year, with the discounted rate for students increasing from 150 pounds to 300 pounds, the UK Home Office said, as the proposal announced earlier this year was put before Parliament this week.

The move is expected to raise an estimated 220 million pounds in extra funding for the state-funded National Health Service (NHS).

The surcharge allows anyone in the UK on a work, study or family visa for longer than six months to access NHS services in the same way as UK citizens.

“Our NHS is always there when you need it, paid for by British taxpayers. We welcome long-term migrants using the NHS, but the NHS is a national, not international health service and we believe it is right that they make a fair contribution to its long-term sustainability,” UK Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said. “It is only fair that people who come to the UK make a contribution to the running of the NHS, and even with the increase we still continue to offer a good deal on healthcare for those seeking to live in the UK temporarily,” she said.





A mere 3.49 per cent of the electorate voted in the third phase of the urban local body polls in militancy-hit Kashmir Valley on Saturday even as a Hizbul Mujahideen militant, identified as Shabir Ahmad Dar alias Maali of Samboora village in Pulwama, was killed and another injured in a gunfight in Pulwama. The third militant, believed to be a former Army man, escaped.

The Valley saw a poor turnout but Jammu’s Samba district recorded a 82 per cent turnout, officials said. Also, bucking the trend in the Valley, the frontier town of Uri in Baramulla recorded a 75.34 per cent turnout. In the 20 wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), only 1.84 per cent of the 1.53 lakh eligible voters exercised franchise. The Mattan Municipal Committee of Anantnag witnessed a turnout of 2.81 per cent. There are 365 candidates in the fray for 96 wards of eight urban local bodies for the third phase, comprising an electorate of 1,93,990.


The Congress today suffered another setback in poll-bound Chhattisgarh with party’s working president Ram Dayal Uike joining the BJP. Uike is a three-term lawmaker from Pali in the state.

BSP chief Mayawati recently jolted the Congress by refusing to sew a pre-poll pact with it and siding with former Chief Minister and Congress Working Committee member Ajit Jogi’s Janata Janhit Congress instead.

At a time when the Congress is set to declare its first set of candidates for 18 Assembly segments that vote in the first phase polling on November 12, Uike’s exit is a bound to demoralise cadres.

The party is already on the back foot after Chhattisgarh Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel was named in a sex scandal. He was jailed and is currently on bail.

Congress media coordinator for the state Jaiveer Shergill chose to blame the BJP for Uike’s betrayal and said: “BJP chief Amit Shah has become a habitual offender when it comes to poaching leaders of the Congress ahead of elections. He does not believe in his own leaders and wants to win at any cost. It is unfortunate that Uike who sat in the Opposition for 14 years has decided to switch sides. He will again sit in the opposition because the Congress is going to win.”


In poll-bound Telangana, the BJP has promised to remove the surcharge on tickets of Telangana State Road Transport Corporation buses plying to pilgrimage destinations especially during festivals. It has said it will consider “providing free transport to needy devotees going to Sabarimala”.

The party Saturday said if it is elected to power in the state, it will implement a ban on sale of liquor after 6 pm on weekdays, and a total ban on liquor sales over the weekends. This issue, said BJP manifesto committee chairman and former legislator N V S S Prabhakar, will figure prominently in the party manifesto for the assembly elections.

The party has decided to contest on its own all 119 Assembly seats in Telangana.


 As protests continued against the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups into Sabarimala temple, the Kerala Police on Saturday registered a case against actor Kollam Thulasi for saying that “women who dare to enter Sabarimala temple should be torn into two pieces”.

The FIR against Thulasi, who had contested as a BJP candidate in the 2016 assembly elections, was registered on a complaint by Ratheesan, a local leader of the DYFI, the youth wing of the CPI(M). The actor was booked under Sections 295A (outraging religious feelings), 298 (uttering words with intention to wound religious sentiments), 354A (making sexually coloured remarks) of the IPC. He has also been booked under Section 119A of the Kerala Police Act, which deals with sexual gestures or acts in public places degrading the dignity of women. The Kerala State Women’s Commission registered a suo motu case against Thulasi.

Under fire for his remarks, Thulasi on Saturday tendered an apology. “I should not have made those statements. I reacted in such a manner due to my extreme devotion. I am withdrawing that statement and offering an apology if my words have hurt anyone. I got carried away by the enthusiasm of mothers who had taken part in that prayer meeting. My words only reflected the pain of a devotee of Ayyappa,’’ he said, adding that he would continue to take part in prayer meetings.

On Saturday, thousands of people took to the streets in Kochi to protest against the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict even as activist Trupti Desai announced plans to visit the hill shrine. It evoked sharp reactions from Ayyappa devotees and the BJP, which is campaigning against the entry of women into the hill shrine.

Reacting to Desai’s statement, BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai called hers a “dangerous approach. It is up to the faithful to prevent Desai from going to the temple. If the faithful come out to prevent Desai, BJP will support them. She should desist from visiting the shrine’’.

The state govt, which has decided to implement the SC ruling, held a meeting in Thiruvananthapuram to evaluate the preparations for pilgrims arriving at the temple, which will open for monthly pujas on October 17 evening. Activist Rahul Easwar, who announced a hunger strike at Sabarimala, said they would stop Desai if she attempts to visit the Lord Ayyappa Temple.


While the government and many others profess commitment to the holy Ganga — keeping it “aviral and nirmal” as campaigners like late GD Agarwal had been demanding — the government records narrate a different tale.

According to documents accessed under the Right to Information (RTI) by Ropar-based activist Dinesh Chadha from the Ministry of Water resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, the Narendra Modi-led government released just about Rs 5,500 crore from 2013-2014 till June 30, 2018, for the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).

The government has promised to spend about Rs 20,000 crore for rejuvenation of the national river. The apathy towards Ganga gets further highlighted with another piece of information accessed by Chadha. The NMCG through its website had requested companies to serve the holy river by adopting CSR projects — ghat construction, cleaning of ghat, IEC activities, bio-remediation of nalas and drains Ganga gram, crematoria, river surface cleaning using trash skimmer, solid waste management and tree plantation, etc — but as per the RTI, no company adopted any project, at least till July 30, 2018.


Moving to deal with the first #MeToo case allegedly involving an official of the Indian cricket administration, the Committee of Administrators (CoA) has sought an explanation “within a week” from BCCI Chief Executive Officer Rahul Johri after sexual harassment charges were levelled against him by an anonymous person via a Twitter handle. The alleged incident was said to have taken place before Johri joined the BCCI.

In a press release, the CoA, headed by Vinod Rai, said: “There are certain media reports today, including in the social media, pertaining to Mr Rahul Johri, CEO BCCI. The reports disclose allegations of sexual harassment made against Mr Johri by an unnamed person through a Twitter handle. The allegations also relate to his previous employment with a large media house. The allegations have appeared as a part of the ‘me too’ movement.”

“Though the said allegations do not pertain to his employment with the BCCI, the Committee of Administrators of the BCCI has deemed it appropriate to seek an explanation from Mr Johri in relation to the allegations. He has been asked to submit his explanation within a week. Future course of action will be considered on receipt of his explanation,” the CoA said.

Meanwhile, K R Sreenivas, Resident Editor of The Times of India in Hyderabad, has put in his papers following allegations on Twitter from women that he harassed them.


India’s teenage opener Prithvi Shaw missed out on a century but Rishabh Pant remained on course for a ton as the hosts looked to build a significant first innings lead against West Indies in the second and final Test. India dominated the morning session, needing only 6.4 overs to claim the last three West Indies wickets as the tourists folded for 311.

Shaw led India’s strong reply with a rapid 70 (off 53) but West Indies claimed three wickets after lunch to roar back into the see-saw contest in Hyderabad. Temperamentally poles apart, a cavalier Pant and a composed Ajinkya Rahane eventually wrested the initiative back with a burgeoning 146-run partnership to guide India to 308/4 at stumps. Pant was batting on 85 at stumps with Rahane on 75 with India nearly wiping out the deficit.


 The more a man judges, the less he loves. – Honoré de Balzac



Three old ladies are sitting in a diner, chatting about various things.

One lady says, “You know, I’m getting really forgetful. This morning, I was standing at the top of the stairs, and I couldn’t remember whether I had just come up or was about to go down.”

The second lady says, “You think that’s bad? The other day, I was sitting on the edge of my bed and I couldn’t remember whether I was going to sleep or had just woken up!”

The third lady smiles smugly, “Well, my memory is just as good as it’s always been, touchwood,” she says as she knocks on the table. Then with a startled look on her face, she asks, “Who’s there?”

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