Modi at Davos: Climate change, terrorism and protectionism, the three greatest challenges

In a speech that spanned over 40 minutes, Narendra Modi addressed Global Leaders at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos in his keynote address to the congregation. In a speech that was laced with quotes from ancient Hindu scriptures as well as made references to prominent features of contemporary culture, Narendra Modi spoke of the sea of reforms his government has brought about in the country and the changing face of the Indian growth story. He also elaborated on the many ways that technology has changed the world and how big data has become the next big thing in global politics. The Prime Minister also highlighted the three critical challenges that the world faces today: climate change, terrorism and protectionism.

On climate change, Narendra Modi elucidated the steps taken by the government to meet its renewable energy goals and pledged to the climate change accord. Narendra Modi also mentioned that French President, Emmanuel Macron will visit India for the International Solar Alliance Summit to be held in India later this year. The Prime Minister also remarked that countries that have the resources need to do more to supply developing nations with technologies that will help them reduce their carbon footprint. He also pointed out that human greed has led to a situation where the Earth is suffering as a consequence.

Narendra Modi also remarked that in an increasingly divided world, ancient Indian practices such as Yoga could play an important role in bridging the gap between countries. He pointed out that in recent years, people all over the world have developed an aversion towards globalism as globalism has been under siege while Nationalism is still going strong. As a consequence, imposition of new tariffs on foreign goods is seeing a rise as protectionism is being promoted by certain countries.

On terrorism, Modi observed that it pained him to see that so many youths all over the world were being radicalized into taking up arms against civil society and in an obvious hint at Pakistan, he stated that it is even worse that some people differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terror.

Narendra Modi mentioned how his government has enacted a series of reforms that had made investing in India a lot easier. He spoke of how the Indian government had repealed around 1400 obsolete laws that were hindering business and the lives of citizens in general.

Narendra Modi remarked on the growing stature of India in the international scene. He highlighted how his government had facilitated the rescue of hundreds of people stranded at Yemen from not only India, but from various other countries. He spoke of his government’s policy of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas‘ that strives towards the development of every section of Indian society without any discrimination. He mentioned the contribution of his government towards gender justice through the campaign of ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao‘. He elaborated India’s approach towards relationship with other countries as one driven by a sincere concern for the interests of the other country and formulation of agreements that take into account the necessities and compulsions of the concerned nation.

Lastly, the Prime Minister greeted everyone present warmly and assured that they will always receive a warm welcome in India and that even in an increasing divided world, India will continue to shine as a beacon of stability and hope to the rest of the world.

Kairana which witnessed a mass Hindu exodus, now being brought to order by the Yogi Government

Yogi govt planning on introducing dress code in Madrasas to set them at par with formal schools
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath

The Kairana region in Uttar Pradesh became infamous in 2016 after a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) probe acknowledged that the region was witnessing a mass exodus of Hindu families.

Currently the Kairana town is pegged to have about 85% Muslims, and the rest being mostly Hindus. In 2001 the figure was 52% Hindus and the rest were Muslims.

As per reports, about 250 Hindu families from Kairana had left their homes in fear of the region’s criminals. The law and order seemed so non-existent in the region that the police had failed to take action against the offenders, after a woman belonging to Kashyap caste was abducted, gang raped and killed.

Turns out that the matter was reported to the police of PS Kairana on 5th April 2016 by the victim’s husband but the police neither registered an FIR, nor did it carry out any searches. It was also noted that Muslim boys were known to pass lewd comments against the Hindu girls, forcing them to stay indoors.

The region was also infested with gangsters and businessmen were routinely required to make extortion payments to the notorious gangster Mukeem Kala. His gang was recorded to have committed at least 47 cases of Robbery/Murder/ Dacoity/Extortion/Violation of Arms Act within a span of just five years.

Most of the witnesses examined by the NHRC report claimed that the law and order situation had further deteriorated from 2013 when about 25/30 thousand members of Muslims Community in Kairana Town.

The prevailing sentiment was that the gangsters were largely Muslims and the victims largely Hindus. As per the traders who largely belonged to the Agarwal community, the gangsters allegedly picked on them while sparing Muslims, with the knowledge that the ruling dispensation won’t bring them any harm.

Things were so bad that three businessmen were killed within a fortnight in 2014 after they refused to pay Rs 15 lakh to the Mukim Kala gang.

This increase in crime and deteriorating law and order situation meant that many families migrated from the region, creating an exodus like situation which was seen in case of the Kashmiri Pandits in the 90’s.

A snippet of what that exodus looked like

Now enter the Yogi Adityanath led Uttar Pradesh government.

As per an exclusive ground report by Swaraya, the region is slowly returning to normalcy thanks to a visible effort by the Yogi government to improve the law and order situation in the region.

Since the past few months, the Shamli police has launched a crackdown on the extortion gangs inhabiting the region, with their chief target (no points for guessing) being the Mukim Kala gang. As per Shamli’s SP, the police have arrested about 70 criminals and eliminated five in encounters.

The police notched its biggest victory at the start of this year when it killed sharp shooter Shabir Ahmed. Ahmed carried a bounty of Rs 50,000 and was wanted in more than 20 cases of loot and murder.

Mukim Kala who was arrested in 2015, now sees most of his associates either dead or behind bars. Ahmed was his final major associate after his brother who too was killed in an encounter three months ago.

The report claims that the atmosphere has improved to such an extent that the phrase, “Sarkar badalne ke baad mahaul badla hai” (The atmosphere has changed after the government has changed), is regularly heard in Kairana.

It is even claimed that talk’s in the air about traders returning back to Kairana and reopening their shops. As per Manish Kansal a businessman, now nobody turns up at shops to demand extortion money. He had earlier fled to Panipat after feeling threatened by such demands. He was convinced by neighbours to return back six months back.

Only time will tell what the future holds for Kairana and its Hindu families, and whether the police manage to ensure a crime free region, where people finally feel safe enough to do a “Gharwapsi”.

You can read the full Swarajya ground report here

Foes turn friends? Mamata remembers birth anniversary of Balasaheb Thackeray

Politics makes bizarre alliances possible. Parties and leaders who are polar opposites in ideology and policies often rally together when it suits them. We have seen erstwhile ‘secular’ young leaders suddenly hopping temples. The son of a roman catholic becomes ‘Janeu Dhari’. Leaders who are so secular that they even object to the rainbow being called ‘Ramdhanu’ in local tongue and change it to ‘Rongdhanu’ start befriending parties whose core ideology differs so starkly from their own.

Mamata Banerjee seems to have found new friends. This time it is Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray. Shiv Sena, whose founder Balasaheb Thackeray shaped it around core Hindu ideologies, is looking for new friends too. Her protest march outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan against demonetisation in 2016 saw Shiv Sena leaders walking with her. She has been meeting Uddhav Thackrey on several occasions since.

Today, her newfound love for the Right-wing party saw another dimension altogether when she took to Twitter to wish on the occasion of Balasaheb Thackeray’s birth anniversary.

Her tweet shocked some, whereas some guessed the reason behind it:

Her tweet, however, had twitterati in splits. Many replied with sarcastic even hilarious reactions.

Twitter users were quick to remind her that Balasaheb was vehemently opposed to the kind of appeasement politics her party practices.

People soon pointed out that she might become ‘selectively Hindu-loving’like some youth icons too.

Some reminded her of her past reactions to Shiv Sena:

Twitter users even pointed it out that the current Shiv Sena has become a shadow of its former self under Uddhav Thackrey and it is nothing like Balasaheb has envisioned.

How far both Uddhav Thackrey and Mamata Banerjee are willing to ‘adjust’ on their respective parties’ core ideology in their quest for an anti-BJP force, remains to be seen.

How Congress party shunted out Subhash Chandra Bose

Today, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted how he remembered Subhash Chandra Bose on his birth anniversary. But the country needs to be reminded as to how the Congress party shunted out Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose unceremoniously in 1939. 

Congress Session at Tripuri 1939 – Subhash Chandra Bose is re-elected President

Subhash Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru were staunch leftists within the Congress party of the day. They advocated complete freedom from British unlike those who hoped for constitutional concessions from British. The declaration of Purna Swaraj was taken under president-ship of Nehru in Lahore session of Congress (1929).

Bose had been elected as the president in Haripura session of Congress in 1938. Bose had been advocating opposition to British government’s federal scheme as per Government of India Act 1935. He had been proposing a mass movement for ‘Purna Swaraj’, unlike other elements within the party which were in favor of accepting the new concessions from the British. However, the old guard, including Mahatma Gandhi, refused to heed to his words. Therefore he contested for re-election to the presidency of the next annual Congress session that was to be held in Tripuri.

Unlike today’s Congress party, there were real elections to the post of president during that time. He won against Gandhi’s candidate Pattabhi Sitarammayya (1,575 to 1,376 votes). In response, the entire CWC (Congress working committee) resigned. He wrote about the events in November 1939 :

Towards the end of 1939 election of the Congress president for the year took place. The decision to offer myself for the position was an act of dare devilry, majority of the Congressmen being of the view that the chances of success were remote. My justification for standing was that by doing so I would strengthen the anti-federation, cause no matter what the result of the contest might be. There is no doubt that the result brought disappointment to the rightists, sent a thrill of joy and self-confidence to all leftists in the country. ‘Federation is now dead as a doornail’- was the universal comment on my re-election. ‘The work of twenty year has been undone’ -was the remark at Wardha.

But Gandhians were not to be discomfited so easily. Mahatma Gandhi was stirred to activity, proclaiming to the world (and quite wrongly in my own opinion) that Dr Pattabhi’s defeat was his own defeat. The party machinery set with full force and preparations were made for a battle royal at the annual session of the Congress which was to meet at Tripuri in March last.  [..]

The question of Swaraj was receded to the background and the one thought and endeavour of Gandhiites was to avenge their defeat at presidential election, about which they were optimistic, having won over Jawaharlal Nehru in the meantime.

Subhash Bose’s exit from the Congress party

Thereafter, he was shunted out of the Congress party because he had the charisma and ability to win an election against the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi. The Congress party’s official website admits to the Bose’s ouster within the Congress party after the Tripuri session :

Netaji was a sick man at Tripuri, but even so, with amazing and almost prophetic foresight, he warned that an imperialist war would break out in Europe within six months. He demanded that the Congress should deliver a six – month ultimatum to Britain and in the event of its rejection a country-wide struggle for ‘Poorna Swaraj’ should be launched.

His warning and advice went unheeded, and what was worse, his powers as President were sought to be curtailed. He therefore resigned in April 1939, and announced in May 1939 the formation of the Forward Bloc within the Congress. In August, he was removed from the Presidency of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee, and further debarred from holding any elective office in the Congress for a period of three years. In September 1939 war broke out in Europe, and Netaji’s prophecy at Tripuri came true almost to the very day.

This shows how the Congress party treated a popular leader like Netaji Subhash Bose because he had the ability to shine, unlike a compliant Nehru. Had he been allowed to lead Congress in Tripuri, he might have led India in the future. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The case of Subhash Chandra Bose, shows that no popular leader of capability is ever allowed to rise in its system.

Shiv Sena breaks its alliance with BJP on Balasaheb Thackeray’s birth anniversary, to contest 2019 alone

In its national executive meet on the birth anniversary of the legendary Balasaheb Thackerey, the Shiv Sena passed a resolution in favour of contesting the Lok Sabha polls next year, breaking its traditional alliance with the BJP. Uddhav Thackerey also vowed to contest in every state for the cause of ‘Hindutva’.

The decision to contest the polls alone was taken after Sanjay Raut had moved a resolution in this regard. The Shiv Sena chief also took the opportunity to take digs at the Prime Minister. He questioned Narendra Modi for not organizing any roadshows at Lal Chowk in Srinagar and traveling abroad for diplomatic visits.

Troubles between the Shiv Sena and the BJP began soon after Narendra Modi took office. Last year, Shiv Sena criticized Narendra Modi’s Bullet Train drive in the harshest of terms, calling it an “expensive dream” which will “loot the nation of Rs 108,000 crore”.

The party had also criticized the Demonetization of currency notes by the Prime Minister saying it had turned people into beggars. Earlier that year, Uddhav Thackerey had deemed the Modi government the worst ever.

Things reached a peak when the Shiv Sena Chief extended his hands towards Hardik Patel, the self proclaimed Patidar leader from Gujarat who has been a vehement critic of the Prime Minister, whose associates have often been uncouth and extremely disrespectful with his choice of words. Uddhav Thackerey has also met Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, whom he described as a ‘tigress‘. Now that Shiv Sena has officially broken its alliance with BJP, if it does go on to ally with ‘secular’ parties against BJP in 2019, it will be interesting to witness how Shiv Sena reconciles its Hindutva with minority appeasement politics.

The breaking up of the Shiv Sena alliance and its increasing affinity towards ‘secular’ leaders such as Mamata Banerjee in recent years is symbolic of the tectonic shift that Indian Politics has undergone since 2014. Until now, it would have been unimaginable that the party of Balasaheb Thackerey could ever contemplate of pitting itself on the same side of parties such as the Trinamool Congress and associate itself with leaders such as Hardik Patel. The ball is now in Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s Court and it’s up to them now to respond to the latest move by Shiv Sena.

The Culture War : Conservatism is in fashion and Liberals have serious cause for concern

There has been an interesting “culture war” that has been playing itself out in the United States for quite some time. Despite the fact that Conservatism has always enjoyed a respectable intellectual space in America, Liberalism and Social Justice has virtually occupied every single cultural space and relegated mainstream conservative thought to the fringe. The 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, is both, a product of the culture war that is currently raging in the country and an unpredictable particle that has accelerated the churning of the waters immensely. As the New York Times reported, “In private, the president and his top aides freely admit that he is engaged in a culture war on behalf of his white, working-class base, against ‘politically correct’ coastal elites. He believes the war was foisted upon him by former President Barack Obama and other Democrats — and he is determined to win.”

The Culture War has never been more evident in the Intellectual Space than it was in Jordan Peterson’s interview by Cathy Newman of Channel 4. Until very recently, conservatives* have always been ridiculed and mocked in liberal strongholds for their opinions and their arguments greeted with derision by their counterparts. But on this occasion, Cathy Newman was visibly disturbed and at one point and was left speechless by the clinical psychologist from Canada. This is a remarkable change from only a few years back when liberals could easily get away with painting conservative intellectuals as dinosaurs from a bygone era who have no business participating in intellectual discussion in <the current year>.

A similar change is also underway in India and a similar culture war is being fought across cultural spaces across the country. The situation in India is different in a number of ways from the States, the most prominent has to be the fact that although conservatism has always occupied a strong intellectual space in America, they have lost every cultural and political battle to the Left every single time as their culture by and large has adopted liberal and postmodern values. While in India, although the Left has won the intellectual battle without even a fight, mainstream Indian society, apart from a few urban centers, continues to be predominantly conservative. However, Conservative thought has finally discovered a method of countering the Left in the Intellectual Space, and a lot of it which involves turning in the methods of the Left on the Left itself.

Because India already is a conservative society, conservative intellectuals in the country have achieved a great many victories in a very short period of time. Conservatives are often prone to pessimism, the long series of defeats that conservatism has suffered is undoubtedly a part of the reason, however they do have plenty to smile about at the moment. Nationalism is suddenly at the forefront of political debate, the atrocities committed on Hindus are receiving a lot more attention, Hindu causes are gaining a lot more traction, ‘Bhagwa’ is in fashion again and indeed if you are skeptical of the success of conservative thought in recent years, one need only look at the support the Karni Sena has been receiving for its staunch opposition to Bhansali’s Padmaavat. Yes, one could concede that most Conservatives have not taken kindly to Karni Sena’s threats of violence, as they shouldn’t, however, the overwhelming majority of them do sympathize with their cause.

Again, the ‘Culture War’ is being reflected in the Political arena. Rahul Gandhi, the Vice President of the Congress, has suddenly discovered a newfound appreciation for the Hindu school of thought. Yogi Adityanath, a saffron clad priest, is the Chief Minister of the most populous state of the country. Politicians across the spectrum are forced to affirm their Hindu identity to secure their success at polls. And the resulting attempts at division of the Hindu society along caste and linguistic lines by liberal parties are all a consequence of the series of victories the conservatives have achieved in the past 3 or 4 years.

A neutral observer would have noticed that Liberal Intellectuals have begun to engage in activities that contradict values they have themselves previously affirmed in public with alarming frequency. Their voices have become shriller and they often come across as individuals who are not quite in their right frame of mind. The staunch march of conservatism has left them clutching at straws. At the fundamental level, liberals want to live in a Western society and want India to transform into one because it gives them and their children the best opportunity to live in one and that Western values are universally good. They are confronted by conservatives who neither believe Western values are universally good nor are they desirable and want to live in a society dominated by Indic values. And that is the primary source of conflict between the two camps.

That Western values and virtues are not universally good is perhaps reflected best on occasions when liberals have acted contrarily to their affirmed beliefs. For instance, liberals want women to be believed every time one of them makes an allegation of sexual harassment and the man to suffer the consequences of the allegation. However, when Raya Sarkar published a list of sexual predators in Indian Universities, the very same intellectuals came to their defense and in fact, DailyO of the India Today Group continues to provide a platform to one of the people who have been accused of sexual harassment in the list.

For the Liberal Intellectual Elite that dominates Indian intellectual space, the ‘Culture War’ that is raging today is a matter of existential concern. Their legacy, reputation, their entire life’s work hinges on it. They are confronted by an opposition that does not consider their dispute a difference of opinion but who truly believe, as they have every right to, that they, and their ancestors and their legacy, have been morally wronged by the current intellectual elite. Therefore, what the liberals mortally fear, is when retribution knocks at the door, it won’t be sweet. And that future generations will not cherish their memories of them as they wish to be the case.

For years, Liberals have propagated their ideology, not by engaging in honest debate but by hijacking social institutions and remodeling the Constitution in accordance with their belief system. And it is intriguing how religiously they have acted during the whole process in spite of their vicious refutation of religion. They indoctrinate children into adopting their ideology by propagating it in schools and colleges, they have a clergy in the form of intellectuals who debate and formulate the core tenets of their ideology, they have pulpits in the form of the mainstream media whence they preach their sermons and are quite rabid in their persecution of ‘heretics’Reactionary thinkers of the 21st century have identified, correctly in my opinion, the religious nature of liberalism and its ideological offspring, Progressivism.

Conservatives now have a strong presence in the blogosphere, and even have mainstream news channels which support conservatives on issues such as nationalism. Even Bollywood, after the Padmaavat controversy, will think twice before hurting Hindu sentiment. The next space that is expected to be invaded is the education system, and that has been a major concern for the conservatives in India as they believe the ruling conservative party hasn’t done enough to rid the education curriculum of liberal propaganda. And as conservatives penetrate the education system, expect shrill cries of ‘saffronization of education’ to only grow louder. Because both parties realize that the education curriculum is the most important arena of battle and whoever wins over the youth, wins the War.

One must be careful here, however, to remember that although the Left universally shares almost the same beliefs and can be assumed to endorse the same ideas, varying only in the extent of their adherence to the said ideas, the same cannot be said of conservatism. Conservatism and Reactionary philosophy vary in their fundamental principles in accordance with the cultures they are rooted in. And usually, they are irreconcilable with each other because of fundamental reasons and often in conflict. For instance, Conservatism in India is fundamentally different from that in America as one is a manifestation of Dharmic philosophy while the other of Christianity. Every sect within a religion represents its own distinct form of conservatism. And there liberals have a critical advantage over conservatives. While liberals across the world coordinate with each other and provide their minions a global platform, it is impossible for conservatives to coordinate with each other in such a fashion due to the fundamental nature of conservatism.

All sorts of ideas are being debated seriously on Social Media today, politically aware members of the youth are adopting various labels to describe themselves, Traditionalist, Monarchist, Radical Feminists, Gender Nonbinary, Gender Nonconforming and the like, and for the first time in a very long time, it’s the ‘conservative’ and ‘reactionary’ labels that inspire intrigue from neutral observers today while even mainstream Left labels such as ‘Feminist’ invite ridicule and mockery. We are living in an age of chaos. At the end of the next few decades, we shall either emerge on a greater plane of existence or be relegated to the cesspits of abyss. As Jordan Peterson says, we must choose our words extremely carefully because these are precarious times and the smallest of actions can lead to the greatest of consequences.

How lies about World Bank ‘reviewing’ Ease of Doing Business ranking of India were spread

In the last 2-3 days, you might have come across some comments, especially on the social media, that the World Bank could review its latest Ease of Doing Business ranking, and India will be given a lower rank than the 100th position it was given earlier. In October last year, India for the first time had got a rank of 100 after lagging around in 130s for years.

As soon as a global endorsement of India doing better on some parameters came, some people in India were deeply hurt and attempts to discredit the rankings began. OpIndia.com had carried a piece that showed how shallow and silly some of these attempts to discredit the rankings were.

But perhaps the silliest of those attempts were the claims made by some Congress leaders, which were obliquely supported by their leader Rahul Gandhi, that the rankings were “fixed”. Basically, the Congress party insinuated that the Modi government had paid money to World Bank to manipulate data to show India in a better light.

Since such claims by the Congress party appear silly on the face value, the Congress fed ‘ecosystem’ was under pressure to come up with some ‘intellectual’ sounding reasons to back this conspiracy theory. And the ecosystem got an opportunity earlier this month.

On 12 January this year, a controversy erupted around the (Ease of) Doing Business rankings when WSJ (Wall Street Journal) published a story claiming that World Bank’s chief economist Paul Romer had said that they (World Bank) had changed the methodology of calculating the rankings in ways that were misleading and unfair, suggesting political motivation behind doing so. The controversy had surrounded one particular country – Chile.

However, 4 days later, Paul Romer clarified in his personal blog that he had neither seen any manipulation of rankings nor did he think that he had said so in the interview.

But on 20 January, “Go News”, a news website run by Pankaj Pachauri – former NDTV anchor and Communications Advisor to Manmohan Singh’s PMO – published an article titled “India’s ease of doing business just got uneasy”. The article referred to Romer’s alleged comments about political manipulation despite Romer having clarified otherwise, and worse, it dragged in India while the original controversy was about Chile.

In the said article, Go News resorted to lies and spins to insinuate that India’s improvement in Doing Business rankings was on account of dubious methodology and political manipulation. The website claimed that there will be a review of Doing Business rankings and India will be given a lower rank, in the process giving credence to earlier claims by the Congress party that the rankings were “fixed”.

Pankaj Pachauri's website resorts to lies to help Congress porpaganda
The underlined part of the article is based on hearsay and is a complete distortion of facts

But the truth is that World Bank has made it clear that the said review will be limited only to Chile. There will be no review of any other country’s performance. Interestingly, Go News contradicts itself later in the same article admitting that the review will be restricted to Chile (emphasis added) –

But in indicating a review, the bank restricted itself wholly to the Chile issue saying that “In the light the concerns expressed by World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer in the media and our commitment to integrity and transparency, we will conduct an external review of Chile’s indicators in the Doing Business report”.

Go News didn’t stop here. It gave the entire matter further twist by trying to discredit the Doing Business rankings based on the views of a think-tank called Centre for Global Development (CGD). This think-tank has calculated its own rankings based on World Bank’s data and ranked India 147th in 2018 using their own methodology, which Go News tried to present, through their social media handles, as the “real” and “genuine” ranking.

This was further spread on the social media by some anti-Modi commentators such as a journalist named Mihir Sharma, who earlier worked with a newspaper called Business Standard (BS). A couple of days later, BS also published an article based CGD’s rankings and questioned World Bank’s credibility.

With this being a carefully crafted and well-orchestrated narrative, I feel it’s important to highlight the following points with respect to World Bank and CGD rankings –

  • World Bank’s Doing Business (DB) rankings are based on a score called as “Distance to Frontier” (DTF), which captures the gap between an economy’s performance and a measure of best practice across the entire sample.
  • The methodology to calculate DTF score is updated periodically and the history of these changes is available publicly on the DB website. There has been no change in the methodology for DB 2018 rankings i.e. it’s same as DB 2017. So, the comparison with 2017 score is perfectly legitimate.
  • World Bank also provides DTF scores computed using past methodologies. For example, India’s DTF scores using past methodologies are presented in the below picture (source – World Bank):
    So even if we consider DB2016 methodology, it’s clear that India has shown consistent improvement from DB 2015 to DB 2018 rankings, showing the highest improvement in DB 2018 rankings.
  • Even if we rank the countries on DTF scores of DB 2018 calculated using the DB 2016 methodology, there will be no change in India’s ranking i.e. India is ranked 100 in DB 2018 using both the DB 2018 and DB 2016 methodologies. So a revert in methodology by the World Bank will not hurt India’s ranking.
  • The think-tank CGD hasn’t provided any details about its own methodology apart from a program/script that was used to compute rankings using World Bank’s data, and hence I find it difficult to take CGD’s claims at face value (it has ranked countries like Niger, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ethiopia above India!)
  • In their blog post, CGD experts criticize the Doing Business rankings for having “extreme libertarian” bias. For instance, they accuse World Bank of ignoring the benefits of taxes and regulations. But they do not propose any mechanism to quantify those benefits. If World Bank can be accused of having libertarian bias, CGD can also be accused of having a socialist bias. Moreover, World Bank has clarified that Doing Business ranking is not a comprehensive measure of the business environment in a country, rather it’s a measure of the red tape and regulation relevant to the life cycle of a small to medium-sized firm.
  • Even if the one is to agree with the assertion of CGD that the Ease of Doing Business rankings reward libertarian and punish socialist policies, shouldn’t the self-declared “economic right” commentators be actually happy that India has done better on this count? Or they are ready to junk their libertarian ideology because they must show Modi government in poor light?

So in essence, a misconstrued comment by a World Bank economist about Chile’s rankings were used to insinuate that Indian ranking was manipulated. To further promote this insinuation, findings by a ‘think tank’ – which also makes no comments about any manipulation to favor India – were used out of context. This was done not only by a news website run by Manmohan Singh’s former aide, but by various economists, activists, psephologists and other -ists to attack the Modi government. It shows either their desperation or lack of basic comprehension. Or maybe both.

(With inputs from Rahul Roushan)

IIM professor rebuts Jairam Ramesh’s politically motivated article on the payroll study

The official Twitter handle of Congress party tried to peddle Jairam Ramesh’s politically motivated article that sought to downplay the study conducted by IIM professor Pulak Ghosh and SBI chief economic advisor Soumya Kanti Ghosh. We had put out a summary of this study (Towards a Payroll Reporting in India) in our earlier report . The article by Ramesh, titled ‘A misleading story of job creation‘ published in The Hindu was shared by Congress party on Twitter.

Desperate efforts in mental gymnastics from the Congress’s side came up after PM Narendra Modi mentioned this study in his interviews to Zee News and Times Now. While answering questions on job creation he cited this  independent study which had unearthed 70 lakh new PF accounts that were opened in the past one year. The Prime Minister had also argued that formal sector employment is just 10% and the 90% of jobs are in the informal sector. He had also said that the loans given under Mudra scheme would have created jobs and employment opportunities that are not captured in official labor bureau statistics.

Jairam Ramesh’s flawed analysis of the IIM’s payroll study

The article co-authored by Jairam Ramesh and Pravin Chakravarthy makes three key arguments

Most of the new PF accounts are due to formalization of informal jobs prior to demonetization and GST:

The Indian economy was subjected to massive external forces of formalization by the twin forces of demonetization in FY-2017 and the GST in FY-2018. As we know through numerous surveys, demonetization resulted in thousands of employers retrenching a large part of their informal workforce paid in cash and registering the remaining employees as formal workers with benefits such as provident fund.

In the process of formalization of these jobs, many informal jobs have been lost. They say:

In other words, if, say, for every five informal employees, four lost their jobs due to the GST and demonetisation and one became formal, this study will count it as one new job created. Instead, the truth would be that four jobs were lost and one job turned formal from informal, not new. Thus, the study conflates what could be formalisation gains with new jobs.

He further asserts that a study on new PF accounts for the years FY (financial year)-2015 and FY-2016, shows a poor growth of 7% and 8% respectively. Hence the huge jump of 20% in 2017-18 only shows that that job creation has been poor under NDA :

If one had to truly separate out GST- and demonetization-induced formalization effects, then the study should have compared the EPFO numbers of FY-2016 and FY-2015. We did exactly that. And what did we find? In FY-2015, the total number of contributing EPFO members grew 7%. In FY-2016, it grew 8%. But after demonetization, in FY-2017, it grew 20% and by December 2017, it had grown a further 23%. Are we then saying that the Modi government did not produce enough jobs in the first two years but, miraculously, after demonetization and the GST, there were jobs galore, as per the same EPFO data set?

After this they go on to make a pointless comparison of employment figures of the study to rise in bank deposits after demonetization. Employment data is not as straightforward as bank deposit data. This is the same as comparing apples with bananas.

Flaws in the arguments

A cursory glance shows that these arguments made to downplay a tedious piece of research are politically motivated. Firstly, there is no data to say how many were retrenched (if any) in the process of ‘formalization’ of the economy. Secondly, the data they have collected for FY-16 and FY-17 has not been presented clearly, unlike the study of researchers. Have they removed zero contribution accounts? Which age group did they focus on? These details are absent. Lastly, if the same logic is used, we can say that there were no jobs created under UPA as well, because all jobs showing up in labor bureau reports can be construed as informal jobs that were formalized.

Response of researchers

Pulak Ghosh and Soumya Kanti Ghosh, the researchers who collaborated on the study of payrolls have replied to the analysis of Jairam Ramesh  in an article titled ‘Payroll reporting works.’ They clarify the details of their methodology and also point out the baseless claims made by the Ramesh and Chakravarthy (emphasis added):

First, we considered only those who specifically joined jobs during that year in the age group of 22-25 years (most jobs in the 18-25 age group are clustered around 22). They are hence strictly first-time employees. Also, we only considered those first-time employees who had been making continuous non-zero contributions since their date of joining.

They bust the false logic propounded by Jairam Ramesh by clarIfying that new additions to EPFO data under the amnesty scheme had already been deducted from their final figures. They say (emphasis added) :

Also, the argument that EPFO contributions have jumped many times in FY-2017 and hence create a false narrative is not correct, as this is exactly the point that we are making but for a different reason. There were 10 million EPFO additions under the Amnesty scheme during January and June of 2017 and this has resulted in a surge in EPFO contributions, but we have not taken this into consideration for our analysis.

The researchers concluded that new jobs were being created and the economists in labor bureau had to improve their data output by using big data analytics instead of the current method of surveys. They conclude by saying :

Young people are getting jobs and contributing to Employees Provident Fund and Employees’ State Insurance and that is what the data shows. Even though we appreciate the enormity of India’s job challenge, we believe that the debate about jobs should move to adequate reporting, skilling and compensating our labour force. Until our well known labour economists understand this simple logic, they will continue to say that data analytics has gone berserk!

Thus the Congress party’s attempt to malign the employment record under the NDA government seems to have failed on the factual and logical front. It remains to be seen if the party tries to understand the researcher’s genuine concerns of employment data or continues to make politically motivated arguments to mislead the country.

Twitter user shows Congress spokesperson the mirror after she attacks PM Modi over development record of his adopted village

Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi has unfortunately had quite a few gaffes during her time on Twitter.

One time she was schooled by twitter users when she failed to grasp the basics about how insurance schemes are supposed to work. She in another instance decided to wish her followers a happy Ram Navami, when the occasion on that day was actually Mahanavami.

Now she is again in the twitter news after she decided to attack PM Modi for his adopted village allegedly not being up to the mark, when it comes to development :

She, in the process of discrediting PM Modi’s promises, quoted a Livemint article from March 2017 which claimed that infrastructure at PM Modi’s adopted village of Jayapur, like toilets, and solar panels were in bad shape.

Following Ms. Chaturvedi’s charge against PM Modi, a twitter user who goes by the name Shashi Kumar decided to show her the mirror by comparing the adopted villages of PM Modi, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi:

He listed out a few facilities provided at PM Modi’s model village like: construction of village roads, renovation of schools, setting up of High Schools for girls, opening up of banks and post offices, establishment of a skill development centre for women. Apart from this, bio toilets and solar panels have been constructed, which fully illuminate the village.

Here are a few images of PM Modi’s adopted village which were shared by Shashi:

Shashi also pointed out that other schemes like distribution of LED bulbs, gas connections, E-rickshaws, setting up of a library and an air-conditioned aanganbari centre for women have also taken place. Plus the whole village is covered with a WiFi connection.

He then came to the villages which have been adopted by Congress leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

With regards to Rahul Gandhi’s village of Jagdishpur, Shashi claimed that it lacks basic amenities like proper drainage system, medical centre, water distribution facilities:

These are some of the pictures from Rahul Gandhi’s village, as uploaded Shashi:

Incidentally, it was somewhat evident that Rahul Gandhi may not be paying much heed to his adopted village as he was critical of this scheme in itself. As per him, his job was to ensure development for all and not just for one village.

Shashi finally turned his attention to the adopted village of former Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Turns out that even though the walls in Ms. Gandhi’s village named Udva, contain graffiti about women’s empowerment, the girls actually have to leave their studies as there are no schools or colleges :

As per a 2016 report, the village only received about 10 hours of electricity and lacks even a vaccination centre. The nearest hospital is 22 KM away. Also reports claim that only 19 out of the total 608 families in the village have a toilet.

Here are a few images from Sonia Gandhi’s village:

So considering the above analysis, it remains to be seen whether Ms. Chaturvedi taps into her inner conscience, and takes up the issue of the poor condition of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi’s villages to reaffirm her concern for rural India.

How a tweet from a parody account was attributed to former SC Judge Katju

The Aam Aadmi Party has been known to play the victim every chance they get. Last week the Election Commission disqualified 20 of their MLAs for holding ‘office of profit’. The recommendation has since been approved by The President of India and AAP’s subsequent moves against it has been stalled by the Delhi High Court. In the desperation to claim victimhood, the party and its supporters, even CM Arvind Kejriwal himself have been clutching at any virtual rope thrown towards them.

A parody account attributed to former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju made a satirical tweet toying with the idea that the EC’s decision of disqualifying 20 AAP MLAs is “pure vendetta”. As luck would have it AAP supporters soon picked it up as “news” and started retweeting.

Unbelievable as it may sound but a baseless tweet by a parody account was soon converted to “news” where TV24 News Channel made it into a statement issued by Justice Katju himself.

 

Twitter user @Being_Humor pointed out this was a parody account but it was too late by then.

Even AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal retweeted it.

Justice Katju tweets from his handle @mkatju and the parody handle is named as @KatjuPCI. As pointed out to Arvind Kejriwal and especially TV24 News Channel, PCI stands for Private Citizen of India and it is evident from the name itself that the said handle belongs to a parody account. Twitterati had a field day making fun of the said news channel and AAP supporters.

15 year old gang rape victim commits suicide and the Odisha government has a lot to answer

In a sad turn in a long series of events, on 22nd January, the 15-year-old Gangrape victim of Kunduli, Odisha has committed suicide. She was found hanging from her own dupatta in her room by her family members. Her body was brought to the government hospital in Kunduli, Koraput where she was declared dead.

This tragic event has pushed the entire state into turmoil. The opposition parties, as well as citizens, have taken to streets protesting against the alleged “lack of empathy” and failure of justice by the current Biju Janata Dal Government led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Odia News channel OTV has reported that this could cast a shadow on CM Naveen Pattnaik celebrating the much-hyped ideal CM award and would also lead to allegations of “opposition design” by the ruling BJD.

The gang rape case came to highlight when the family of the victim, a student of standard 9, in the tribal area of Kunduli, Koraput, brought her in a critical condition to Kunduli government hospital on October 10, 2017. She was reported to have been brutally raped by at least four men. She was sent later to Koraput Medical College for further treatment. After treatment, she was sent to a Children’s home, 17 days later under the vigilance of the Child Welfare Committee. She has been repeatedly in and out of hospitals since then. In an unexpected turn of events, the state police denied that any rape has happened. The victim’s family had protested against it. On 8 November, the case was handed over to crime branch for re-investigation. After many trips between hospitals and children’s home, the victim finally went home under her family’s supervision on 28 November.

The state police’s denial of rape had triggered wide outrage among the public. The victim had alleged earlier that while undergoing treatment in Koraput medical college, the police had tried to pressurise her into withdrawing her complaint. Even her family had alleged that while under treatment, attempts had been made to showcase her as ‘mentally unstable’. The victim had attempted suicide twice earlier. The firs time, she was stopped by an aunt while she tried to fling herself from the roof. Later she had consumed too many iron pills in the hospita. Though the state police denied this event, the hospital authorities had confirmed.

The young girl’s suicide has rekindled many questions about Odisha’s dismal record in cases of crimes against women. Regional newspaper, The Sambada, has reported that the state has a disturbing 6.2% rate of conviction in cases of crimes against women, a shocking 3 times LESS than the national average. Mostly by judicial delay and lack of proper investigations. While a staggering 82,364 cases were sub-judice, as per last year, only 6304 cases saw verdict. Even then only 392 of them saw the culprits charged.

The tragic end of a young girl’s life has put both the society and state machinery in shock.

Several Odia political leaders have expressed sadness over the incident.

Whether the victim finds justice, only time will tell.

Update: The probe report of the Commission of Inquiry on Kunduli gang rape & suicide case, which was tabled in the Odisha Assembly today by Minister of State for Home Department, Dibya Shankar Mishra, questioned the role of the victim’s family members and political parties, while terming the whole case a mystery that will require further probe.

“The victim girl could have been the best person to have said that why she made such false accusations & why she committed suicide. The exact cause is a mystery & will remain so unless unearthed by making further investigation,” the report said.

Nagaland Baptist Church Council calls Yoga a deeply Hindu practice, asks Churches to not practice Yoga

(representative image)

The Nagaland Baptist Church Council has declared Yoga a spiritual discipline deeply rooted in Hinduism and asked its associate Churches to not practice as it is not compatible with Christianity.

This is not the first time that Yoga has attracted opposition from certain sections for theological reasons. Recently, a fatwa was reportedly issued against Rafia Naz, a Muslim Yoga teacher, and she received death threats after pictures of her doing Yoga with Baba Ramdev went viral on Social Media.

In 2015, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) had declared that Yoga, along with Surya Namaskar, was not acceptable to Muslims and had appealed to secular forces to join their cause in opposing the “imposition” of Yoga by the Modi government.

There are other instances of such opposition. Christian parents in the United States of America have regularly objected to Yoga being taught in schools. Christian priests oppose Yoga because it apparently puts the soul in “jeopardy“. Even Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later go on to become Pope Benedict XVI, in a letter to Bishops in 1989 warned Catholics against ‘eastern meditation practices’ such as Zen and Yoga.

The response from most Hindu politicians thus far to the objections raised against Yoga, has been to concede ground to their opponents and forfeit the rich Hindu history of Yoga for the sake of Secularism. Senior Members of the BJP have often reiterated that ‘Yoga has no relation with Hinduism’, to appear secular.

The cause has not been helped by spiritual leaders who have been prone to making statements like “If Yoga is Hindu, then Gravity is Christian.

The de-Hinduization of Yoga has led to the undermining of the deep spiritual roots of Yoga and various spurious forms of the practice such as “Beer Yoga” have emerged into the scene.

However, the regular opposition to Yoga by fundamentalist sections of other faiths for theological reasons will serve as a reminder to everyone, even Hindus, that despite the many attempts at secularization of the ancient spiritual practice, Yoga cannot be disassociated from Hinduism.

Dalit family brutally beaten up for refusing to convert to Islam, Jignesh Mevani maintains silence

A Dalit family living in the Mohlaka village of the Nagina Khand region in Mewat Haryana, has alleged that it was brutally attacked by the village goons for refusing to convert to Islam. As per reports, casteist slurs were also hurled at the family. Based on complaint by the family, a case has been registered against five accused in the Nagina police station.

This village in question is populated by about 3000 people. Out of these seven families belong to the Dalits and the rest are Muslims.

The complainant named Kishan has claimed that a villager named Islam was pressurising them to convert their religion. Thus last Monday, at about 6 AM, Islam, Taufeeq, Mosim, Ataru and Asmina attacked the Dalit family using sticks and iron rods. Kishan as a result of this attack suffered grave injuries.

As per Kishan, he lives in a house which was allotted to him for being below the poverty line. The accused named Islam had illegally occupied a nearby plot and used to threaten Kishan’s family that if they wished to live in the colony, they have to convert to Islam. The accused Islam, was also declared absconding in another matter and was also believed to be in possession of an illegal weapon.

A local report claimed that such forced conversions have happened earlier in the village. So much so that, a family was tortured to such an extent that it decided to flee the area. It has also been alleged that the girls belonging to these families are regularly harassed.

After the matter was highlighted, the members of the Mehrishi Valmiki foundation met the Dalit family with regards to the matter. The family as a result narrated the incident and even pleaded for justice. It also alleged that the police was trying to hush up the matter. Also in light of this matter, the family pleaded that they be provided adequate protection.

The foundation’s members as a result assured that the matter won’t be hushed up, and they would meet the Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. They also claimed that letters would be written to President Kovind and PM Modi regarding this matter.

With such a serious matter of atrocities against Dalits coming from a region near the national capital, many wondered why some leaders are keeping quiet over the issue. People on social media especially questioned Dalit leader and now Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, who otherwise has been very vocal about any such incident:

Mevani’s silence, who is otherwise vocal about any attack on Dalit anywhere, comes at a time when his aide Hardik Patel was seen supporting an extremist who declared choosing Quran over Constitution of India.

This silence by Mevai also raised the question whether, he is quiet so as to try and not destabilise the ‘Dalit-Muslim unity’ narrative?

Incidentally the Mewat region of Haryana, which has seen this incident, was also in the news, after two teachers in a local residential school were accused of forcing Hindu students to offer namaz, and had also allegedly forced them to convert to Islam.

Dear Twinkle Khanna, I love you, but you are so, so wrong

Dear Twinkle Khanna

Firstly, I love you. You are a feisty woman who has found a new purpose to life. That is especially difficult for women who come from the field you started your career with. A misogyny riddled profession where women don’t get paid as much as men, and are more often than not, looked upon as objects that can move well to masala songs. A field where beyond a point, the only option left to women is to either bask in the reflected glory of her husband, or frequent Page 3 parties and talk about the ‘could have beens’. You on the other hand, have chosen to leverage your social capital to talk about causes you feel deeply about. That is admirable.

Unfortunately my dear, this time you are barking up the wrong tree, and in a spectacularly wrong fashion. I am of course referring to your now viral tweet, which I reproduce below:

The issue of women using hygienic options such as sanitary pads, is indeed a noble cause. Of course I presume your enthusiasm on this issue is not solely linked to your husband’s impending movie on the same issue, and that this vigour will be seen well beyond the release of the said movie. But the issues you are tackling are grossly misplaced.

Firstly, the premise you answer to is in fact wrong. In India, Sildenafil Citrate, which is known as Viagra, is not tax free and is actually taxed at 12% GST. In a later tweet you have clarified that you were referring to Viagar in the USA and not in India.

While the clarification is welcome, it fails on two counts:

1. What relevance does the tax rate on a product in USA have with taxation of sanitary pads in India?

2. Since your initial tweet was misleading, it has gone viral and readers believe you are talking about the Indian situation itself. This misinformation can be damaging for none other than you, because you will (and are) being called out. Moreover, many media sites have also carried your tweet without your subsequent clarification, and you, my dear, don’t seem to have a problem with that. Your vocal, vociferous self hasn’t once asked the Media outlets to publish your clarification tweet as well. You ought to be more careful with your words.

Secondly, to the question: Why should sanitary pads even be taxed? The Government and many tax experts have clarified this, but maybe you did not read or understand it, so I have to repeat it (sometimes even voracious readers who can sit, sleep on, eat on, live on books, miss reading up before forming an opinion. Its okay. We are human).

A. If one is to take all the taxes, by the centre, the state and the embedded taxes in the Pre-GST era, Sanitary Napkins were already being taxed at around 13%.

B. A lot of adhesives and additional materials that are used in the manufacturing of Sanitary Napkins are taxed at 18% GST. Hence, many of the input items are taxed at 18% while the final item is taxed at 12%.

C. As of now, a manufacturer can set off the tax on purchase against the GST he is collecting on sales. If sanitary items are made tax free, then all these tax credits on purchases are lost and become a “cost”.  If these are treated as cost, then the final MRP of sanitary pads can actually rise, even though the rate of GST is 0%. A very simplistic example is as below:

As you can see, keeping all variables constant such as cost and profit percentage, and only by changing GST rate on pads, the MRP of pads actually increases by about 5%. The actual calculation could vary but I hope you get the crux: reducing GST rate does not mean reduction in MRP.

This, in tax parlance is called “inverted duty structure” where the GST rate on purchase is more than the GST rate on sales. This kind of taxation hurts the industry. Already, the fertilizer industry is reported to feel this pain, since their purchases are at 18% and sales are at 5%. Do you want the sanitary pads industry to also join them?

Next, I come to your answer to the question which was purportedly put to you on BBC News:

“Because policies are made by 65 year old men with erectile dysfunction”

While this comment is great for laughs and shares, it is utterly insensitive and even offensive to senior citizens and men at large who suffer from this medical condition. If a converse remark was made by a man, you and your friends would be ready to burn him at stake. Can you imagine one of these men responding to you by saying “Oh she’s a bitter and stupid 40 something failed actress who is facing premature menopause“? Would you take that comment lightly? I wouldn’t and you shouldn’t either. But maybe the difference is that I wouldn’t resort to making the kind of insulting remark you made, either.

Instead of the tax rate on pads, I suggest you focus on the Government’s scheme for distributing such pads all across India. Between 2012-15, a Central pilot scheme was run in 160 districts of India under which the Health Ministry procured and sold sanitary napkins. Eventually, patchy supplies and procurement issues sounded the death knell for the scheme. Further, the structure of the scheme came in for criticism from states who told the Centre that a menstrual hygiene scheme where the supply of sanitary napkins sometimes comes after a gap of three months is “self-defeating”.

This is where we need to focus. On rural India where lack of awareness or supply, or both, is forcing women to adopt unhygienic means during menstruation. The answer to this problem is not reducing tax rates or making distasteful, sexist remarks on senior citizens. To truly solve a problem, one has to get his or her hands dirty, like the character played by your husband does.

Regards

A fan

 

Indira Jaising crosses the line, withdraws her remark, says sorry to the CJI

CBI has registered an FIR against Lawyer's Collective and Anand Grover, Jaising's husband
Adv Indira Jaising

Senior lawyer Indira Jaising was left eating her own words after she crossed the line while arguing for an independent probe in Judge Loya’s death. The heated argument took place in the Chief Justice’s Court, between the country’s top senior lawyers, Harish Salve and Dushyant Dave, Mukul Rohatgi and Indira Jaising.

As per the exchange produced on livelaw, the argument took place when Salve, arguing for the State of Maharashtra, requested that the documents and reports relating to the case be kept confidential. Dushyant Dave, who appeared for Bombay Lawyers Association, also said he’d give the documents in sealed cover to Salve. However, Salve then sought an order from the court to restrict the media from reporting on the case. Indira Jaising, who was supporting Dave, said that this restriction would amount to gag order on the press and the publication and discussion should be allowed.

Salve argued that since this is a sensitive matter, he doesn’t want the media discussing the statements of the lawyers. To that, Dave argued even Tharoor and Chidambaram matters, which are sensitive, are also discussed in media. Justice Khanwilkar asked whether they want to discuss sub-judice matters in the media, Dave retorted saying that the Court cannot stop the nation from discussing even sub-judice matters.

Jaising, too, came to support Dave and said,

‘I will oppose if a gag order is being issued. Two days ago in Padmaavat matter, your Lordship stayed the screening by states citing freedom of speech and expression.’

This angered Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, who reprimanded Jaising for drawing a conclusion and crossing a line. He asked her to apologise unconditionally and withdraw her statement:

“We have not passed any order to that effect. Please expressly withdraw your statement. And please do not make such comments“.

Following this, she said sorry and withdrew her statements. CJI further admonished her and she repeated:

‘I withdraw my statement’.

In the end, the court did not heed to Salve’s request.

Supreme Court makes some ‘interesting’ observations while hearing the Judge Loya case

In the recent days, a section of the ‘Indian intelligentsia’ has started seeing a conspiracy in the death of CBI court judge BH Loya, who was presiding over the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case where BJP President Amit Shah was pegged as the main accused.

Judge Loya passed way in December 2014, but three years after the death, in November last year, a magazine named Caravan came out with a sensational story, which insinuated possible foul play behind the death, which was deemed as a natural death. Caravan’s story was later debunked to a large extent by an Indian Express article and an inconsistency, which the IE failed to address, was explored and debunked by us.

Things though refused to mellow down, and the conspiracy theories became so rife that the family of Judge Loya, in a press-conference had to come out and plead to the NGOs, lawyers and politicians to stop harassing them, as the death of Judge Loya, they believed, was natural.

This too didn’t stop the so-called ‘vultures’ and another conspiracy emerged that claimed that this press conference was organised by Amit Shah, and the family was making the statements under his influence. This theory too was debunked.

Things have kept rolling since then, and two writ petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court, which seek an independent probe into the Judge’s death. These petitions were filed by journalist Banduraj Sambhaji Lone and a Congress supporter Tehseen Poonawalla.

This matter came to hearing in front of a three judge bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice A. M. Khanwilkar on Monday.

The proceedings were eventful to say the least, and some pretty interesting observations were made during the course of it.

In response to the technicalities of the surroundings of Judge Loya’s death like the ECG reports and the buildup to the fateful day, Justice Chandrachud directed both the sides to file all documents in their possession in a catalogued manner. The ‘sides’ here included senior lawyer Harish Salve, who appeared on behalf of the state of Maharashtra, and senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, Indira Jaisingh and Dushyant Dave.

Justice Chandrachud very interestingly remarked that they needed to see everything, and couldn’t base their analysis solely on articles which appeared in Caravan, Indian Express, The Wire or Scroll.

Further Dushyant Dave, who was appearing for the Bombay Lawyers’ Association, tried to get the Supreme Court to not allow Harish Salve’s participation in the matter, simply because he appeared for Amit Shah.

This too was shot down by Justicle Chandrachud who asked Dave to not cast aspersions or comment on such matters. Justice Chandrachud commented that it’s for the advocates to comment whether they should or should not appear in a matter.

Harish Salve had also sought for an order which sought that the documents of the matter be not shared beyond the concerned counsels, which interestingly drew a huge backlash from Indira Jaising. She called the request inappropriate and claimed that it amounted to a gag order. She stated that the Supreme Court had recently upheld freedom of expression with regards to the movie Padmaavat and hence the court should not pass such orders which restrict the same.

This drew a stern reaction from the Chief Justice who commented that, “We have not passed any order to that effect. Please expressly withdraw your statement. And please do not make such comments“.

The apex court though finally rejected Salve’s request.

The court has also directed that, similar writ petitions which are pending before the Bombay High Court, be transferred to it. It also instructed that Bombay High Court and other courts to not entertain any identical petitions.

The next hearing in the matter is on February 2.

Karni Sena extends support to Congress, while after meeting Yogi Adityanath, agree to watch Padmaavat

Nearly a dozen Rajput organizations, including the Karni Sena, have declared support to the Congress party for the upcoming by-polls in Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies to be held on January 29. The Rajput organizations claim they have taken the decision to avenge the humiliation Rajputs have suffered under the BJP rule in the state.

Giriraj Singh Lotwara, Preseident of Shri Rajput Sabha, said, “The Rajput community is unhappy with the state BJP government. The community feels cheated. The agreement inked in the Anandpal encounter case has not been followed. In the Chatur Singh case, we demanded a CBI probe but nothing happened. Also, a sum of ₹3.5 crore service tax has been imposed on Rajput Sabha Bhawan.”

Candidate of the Congress Party from Ajmer, Raghu Sharma, met with leaders of the Rajput community seeking support for the upcoming by-polls. Leaders of Rajput organizations have assured unconditional support to the Congress in all the three seats going into polls. Khachariyawas, who was accompanying Sharma, commented “The Rajput organisations have assured support on all three seats and this will come as a big jolt to the BJP. We have also assured the Congress’ support to the community.”

The other Rajput organizations to have declared support to the Congress include Shri Rajput Sabha, Marwar Rajput, Rashtriya Karni Sena, Rawna Rajput, Charan Rajput, Pratap Foundation.

It wasn’t the first time that Congress leaders have sought to appease the Rajput community for electoral gains. When members of Karni Sena had thrashed Sanjay Leela Bhansali last year, Congress leader Pratap Singh had backed the Karni Sena and stated that no one had the right to dent Padmavati’s image. He had told ANI then, “Padmavati was not lover of anyone. Bhansali cannot hurt the sentiments of the people by portraying the sacrifice of Padmavati in a wrong way. Padmavati has a history, she had fought for everyone. Chittaur is a pride of the nation.”

The conspicuous silence of the Congress bigwigs over the violent antics of the Karni Sena has not gone unnoticed. Normally, they are overeager to point fingers at the BJP and demand strict punishment for the offenders, however with the state assembly elections in Rajasthan around the corner, the Congress party has adopted a strategic silence.

Shashi Tharoor, self-proclaimed champion of Freedom of Expression, demanded that the sentiments of Rajputs be respected, giving the impression that he was perfectly at ease with censorship in this particular instance:

While the Congress party maintains stoic silence, and Karni Sena extends support to Congress, news emerged that after meeting Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Karni Sena has agreed to accept invitation extended by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and watch the movie Padmaavat:

Appeasement has been a favored tactic of the Congress party to succeed at electoral politics and it is not surprising that it is looking to benefit electorally from the Padmavat controversy. Congress has in the past adopted the same strategy and it has served their purposes electorally. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that the Party which brought the First Amendment is again willing to retract from its self proclaimed strong commitment to Freedom of Expression for electoral benefits.

Throwing Saraswati away

Major General William Kincaid was a British officer posted in India in the late 1800’s. Unlike a typical gun-slinging and swashbuckling armyman, Kincaid led a rather insipid career, dabbling between “adjusting boundary disputes” and playing “political agent”.

What one does though, when faced with annual appraisals and proving loyalty to the Crown, is plunder the country one has colonized and send “gifts” back to the Crown. This is apparently what Kincaid did. While posted in Bhopal, he pilfered some murtis and dispatched them to London.

The most controversial amongst this loot, have been the murtis of Goddess Saraswati, taken from Bhojshala in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh. These murtis were commissioned by Raja Bhoja (incidentally after whom Bhopal is named), and were the object of reverence for centuries.

But back to the controversy. The loot of the Saraswati murtis became controversial for three reasons:

  1. The location and temple has since become a mosque, where namaaz is offered till today.
  2. The return of these murtis have become an election mudda over the last decade.
  3. PM Narendra Modi is the first Indian head of state to demand (and personally receive) stolen antiquities from the United States of America, Canada, Germany, Australia and other nations.

 

One of the thousands

UNESCO estimates that 50,000 idols and artifacts had been stolen out of India till 1989. Advocacy group Global Financial Integrity estimates the illegal trade of arts and artifacts is worth Rs. 40,000 crores a year. As an example, a single sandstone sculpture stolen from Madhya Pradesh was worth Rs. 100 crores in the international market.

It’s not just a National Pride issue now, but a National Security issue.

In February 2015, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) expressed its concern that the Islamic State (ISIS) “are generating income from engaging directly or indirectly in the looting and smuggling in cultural heritage items (…) to support their recruitment efforts and strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks”.

As a response, the UNSC adopted its resolution 2199, formally recognizing art and antiquities trafficking as a terrorist financing tool.

You would imagine a certain level of seriousness, to therefore bring the Saraswati (and indeed others) back home.

Saraswati : Drawing Adversaries Closer

Shashi Tharoor made the case for the larger issue of reparations, at the now famous Oxford debates. Regardless of party affiliation or personal opinion about the gentlemen himself, this call of his needs our unequivocal support.

Subramanian Swamy, during his visit to Dhar, lent his voice to the issue demanding that this murti be brought back. This follows closely, the famous London Nataraja case, which India won successfully in the UK.

PM Narendra Modi, in his earlier avatar as the CM has promised to bring this murti back at an election rally in Dhar.

So you see, the Bhojshala Saraswati Devi finally had the divine power to get adversaries to agree.

Britain’s envy, India’s pride

In June 2016, I was invited to speak at an “Art Crimes” Seminar in London. Many members of the audience were eminently supportive of our #BringOurGodsHome program, where we demand that heritage should go back where it belongs. Post-conference conversations revolved around “How can we help?” type of discussions; with wide consensus on Britain’s moral obligation to return what is rightfully India’s.

Lo and behold! A few months later, in September 2016, one of the audience-members actually DID return a Brahma-Brahmani murti that was stolen from India earlier (located painstakingly by Mr. Kirit Mankoti). Fascinating that it was the first ever piece of heritage that came back to independent India from the UK, a historic occurrence by any measure.

Is there hope?

Well yes and no.

On one hand, PM Modi has been the first Indian head-of-state to focus on the issue. But on the other hand, his bureaucrats can’t seem to deliver on the PM’s commitment. As an example, 200 heritage-objects were offered to PM Modi in June 2016. Of the 200, only a dozen seem to have been brought back by officials.

On one hand we are seeing a Hindu resurgence of sorts, where more and more people are realising the value of our cultural heritage. Issues of reclaiming temples and bringing our gods back are slowly but steadily become dinner table conversation and social media discussion. While the conversation around this is reaching a crescendo, on the other hand, there are people who take a step further and lead community driven awareness campaigns like #BringOurGodsHome, #ReclaimTemples, #YearofTemples etc.

While community outrage on political issues and the nitty gritties of the Lutyens charade is important to keep the discourse on track, we can’t possibly choose to sacrifice Maa Saraswati at the altar of seemingly frivolous conversation. It is my personal hope, that perhaps one day, our collective energy will create something beautiful, the seeds of which are already being laid by Hindus consolidating. Perhaps one day we as a people would decide to pool and channelise our anger and stress a simple idea in one, united voice :

History belongs to its geography.

(Anuraag Saxena is a Singapore-based CA & MBA. He is passionate about Indian heritage and culinary-history, and runs India Pride Project (www.ipp.org.in). He tweets at @anuraag_saxena)

Fed up of ‘restrictions’, Muslim girl becomes Hindu, seeks security

A girl hailing from Haldwani Banbhulpura in Uttarakhand has submitted an affidavit to the local administration on Friday, informing them that she has converted from Islam to Hinduism. She has further requested the authorities to provide her a security cover. She has also stated that she be called Sunita instead of Shahnawaz in the future.

Media reports say that Sunita along with a few other people came to the City Magistrate’s office on Friday, and informed him about her conversion to Hinduism. Following this, the Magistrate handed over an affidavit, where she wrote that the myopic views towards women in Islam prompted her to learn about other religions. While reading about Hinduism she found that Hindu women have a right to live independently without any sort of restrictions.

The 22 years old girl has alleged that her family members have been harassing her for a long time and had also placed a lot of restrictions on her. Things were allegedly so bad that the family members were even threatening to poison her. The girl as a result has claimed that she has been in hiding in the recent past. She claimed that she was tired of all the restrictions heaped on her, and after expressing wariness about the practice of triple talaq, she decided to become a Hindu.

Following her conversion to Hinduism, Sunita has claimed that her family members have threatened to kill her.

Based on the girl’s claims, the city magistrate Pankaj Upadhaya has instructed the police to carry out a probe in the matter. Upadhaya called it a personal matter of the girl, and said that the police will probe the circumstances of the girl’s conversion, and would also ascertain whether she was forced by anyone to carry out this exercise.

Even though such religious conversions are rare, there have been similar incidences in the past.

In December of 2016 it was reported that a Muslim woman in Ghaziabad, who was a victim of triple talaq, had decided to convert to Hinduism. She was reportedly given triple talaq by her husband in 2014 after which she, a mother of two kids, had to leave their home. She also claimed that following her conversion, she would lead a fight against such evils.

Interestingly, it has also been reported that a family from Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, which had converted to Islam about 5 years ago, had decided to reconvert back to Hinduism. As per one family member, he felt uneasy for a long time after converting to Islam, following which he then finally decided to listen to his inner voice and decided to rejoin Hinduism.

Sunita’s demand for security might be justified as such conversions attack severe backlash from the Muslim community.

We had reported how a mob had threatened to kill a Bihar advocate who had accepted Hinduism after renouncing Islam. The lawyer from Bihar’s Begusarai region had supposedly converted to Hinduism along with his sons, after he was being threatened by some radical Muslims for failing to follow the tenets of Islam.

Following the conversion, he was surrounded by a 15-20 strong mob at the town square who apart from hurling vile obscenities, also threatened to kill him.

How ‘Young Indian’ physically obstructed IT officials from conducting inspection of premises in NH case

The National School of Drama, Delhi.

The Income Tax order presented by Subramanian Swamy in the court has opened a pandora’s box for Congress and the Gandhi family. The order by itself indicts the Gandhis of exactly what was alleged by Dr Swamy. Further, it reveals some sub-plots like how the Gandhis’ company Young Indian tried to thwart the investigation. The order also reveals how the Congress party threatened a tax officer with legal consequences, for asking “irrelevant questions”.

Another section of the order now reveals how the officers of Young Indian (YI) physically obstructed an income tax officer from doing his duty. At this point, the Income tax department’s investigation had concluded that the entire National Herald case was a scheme to transfer prized real estate assets from Associated Journals Limited (AJL) to the Gandhi family controlled YI. The scheme was devised such that no tax would have to be paid, since the fair market value of these properties would run into hundreds of crores.

Thus, to determine the tax evaded, the Income Tax department had to value the properties involved. For this, they ordered that the following properties owned by AJL be valued by the Departmental Valuation Officer (DVO) to ascertain the fair market value as on date:

Little did the DVO know that he would be stopped from discharging his duty by YI and AJL. In his physical inspection report, the DVO lays down the facts.

He states that via a letter dated 14.07.2017, certain information and documents were sought from YI to facilitate the valuation. Instead of providing the information and documents, YI raised certain objections. The officer clarified the objections by 09.08.2017, and YI was again requested to furnish the information and documents by 22.08.2017. The tentative date of inspection of the above properties was also intimated to YI via this letter.

In response to this letter, again raised some objections via letter dated 21.08.2017. In response the DVO intimated to them that even if they could not provide the information and documents, the DVO would inspect the propertv at 5A, Herald House, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi, on 01.09.2017 at 11.30 hours. AJL as well as YI were asked to extend the necessary cooperation.

The story beyond this, as per the DVO’s report is shown as below:

As can be seen from the DVO’s report, he states that the security personnel at the premises and the representatives of YI and AJL, did not allow the DVO and his team to carry out physical inspection of the premises. Thus YI and AJL, left no stone unturned to ensure that the true value of the premises would never come out.

consequently, the DVO resorted to collect external data and estimate the value of the premises. The order notes that the above incident corroborated the finding that YI “had not only taken possession of whole property but it had full control over the property including entry and exit to the property“. Thus YI itself had proved that the entire transaction was done to gain control over AJL’s properties, and it had succeeded in the same.

This reluctance of YI and AJL in even letting an income tax officer visit their premises, betrays extreme fear of being caught in something which they have no way out of.

Kerala Congress desperate to align with CPM, which has been accused of killing Hindu activists

Senior Congress leader A. K. Antony, on Sunday came down on CPI-M, the ruling party in Kerala, for ruling out forming an anti-BJP pact with Congress. He even said that opposing Congress in the fight against the BJP is nothing less than being a traitor. His remarks came soon after CPI-M’s central committee meeting in Kolkata ruled out the alliance.

While Sitaram Yechury was in favour of forming an alliance with Congress, Prakash Karat, was not in favour of any alliance with Congress for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Yechury’s draft got support from West Bengal unit, where after 2016 alliance with Congress, their performance was disastrous, and Tripura, while Karat got support from the Kerala unit.

However, Congress slammed CPI-M for playing a ‘spoilsport’ in an effort to form a ‘secular front’ against the BJP. Which is ironical since CPI-M workers are accused of brutally murdering RSS workers and other Hindu activists in Kerala. Even BJP President Amit Shah has blamed the current chief minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan for the political killings taking place in Kerala, on a very regular basis.

The last couple of years have seen numerous instances of violence perpetrated against RSS sympathizers with both workers and their offices getting targeted. In February 2016, year a 27 year old RSS worker was hacked to death in front of his parents in Kannur. In January last year, a BJP worker was stabbed to death at Andaloor in Dharmadam which is the constituency of the current CM of Kerala. We had also reported how an RSS office in Kannur was vandalised by alleged CPM workers, a day after it was inaugurated. It was also alleged that the office had been attacked a whopping 18 times during its construction.

In May last year, two CPM workers were arrested in Kerala for the murder of an RSS worker. All this while Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has tried to downplay the murders of RSS workers in Kerala by claiming how CPM victims in the political murder wars was higher than BJP/RSS on basis of partial data.

In October 2016, the RSS establishment had claimed that as many as 350 of its workers have been a victim of political murders in the last 7 decades.

Meanwhile, Kerala State Congress President MM Hassan also ridiculed CPI-M for praising North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and having a pro-China stand. ‘While the policies in China and North Korea are acceptable to them, they feel allergic to the policies of the Congress party,’ Hassan has reportedly said.

‘Opportunists are those who become selectively janeu-dhari when it suits them’ – Shehzad Poonawalla

Indian politics is extremely diverse, and up until recently, it could be said that all parties, national and regional, move in concentric circles around the central party, which was the Congress. Recently, however, they have lost miserably in elections, and, it would appear, that their core ideology has morphed into a potpourri of electoral demands. The Congress party, led by a now-a-janeu-dhari-now-a-topi-dhari President and a now-supporting-tukde-tukde-gang-then-muzzling-dissent politician, has lost its way to say the least. One such incident is the public distancing from the rebel congress member Shehzad Poonawalla who recently spoke against the predominance of Dynastic politics within the grand old party. He spoke about how the Congress’ electoral vision is limited to keeping the Shehzada in power. I spoke to him to get a sense of what he thought the Congress party had morphed into. I tried to understand the ‘insiders opinion’ on whether Congress is pro minority, as it had always been, or pro ‘soft hindutva’, as it was trying to protect itself as during Gujarat elections. I end the interview by asking him if he is an opportunist, as many from his own party have been claiming.

Mr Poonawala, you and your brother have been one of the biggest, loudest supporters of the Congress party and the Gandhi family. What changed that prompted you to speak against the dynastic politics in the party?

We have to behave in the public domain in a certain way when we are working for a particular political party, be it the Congress, BJP or AAP. But that does not mean that we are totally unmindful or unaware of the rights and wrongs happening within. Let us be honest, even hardcore supporters would admit that some things are wrong and some things are right when it comes to their party. I too was aware of shortcomings of my party. The thing is, I tried to use the internal platforms available in my party to highlight certain issues. One of them was, the manner in which we allow our representative leader to be chosen and this was the reason I was taking time to reach out to Rahul Gandhi on my level. Internally I was trying to approach him on this matter from 2011 onwards without much success. Probably it was because I spoke too much about how the dynastic politics is actually hurting us instead of helping.

But you always knew about the Dynastic nature of the Congress party, didn’t you?

Since Rahul Gandhi became actively involved in politics he has been speaking about presenting a “New Congress”. It was what he said in 2007 when he became general secretary and also when he became vice president in 2013. It was for me to believe my leader and give them a reasonable amount of time trying to change things before I had to take another course. I did my part. But the sad thing is the party has now become a ” kabeela”, a stringent tribal system. There was a time when there were certain people strong enough to take on the kabeela, like for example Dr Pranab Mukherjee. But today as you know, today has his own mini-kabeela where Sharmistha and Abhijit Mukherjee are there. Everyone has either become a beneficiary or a stakeholder in the kabeela to the extent that Dynastic politics has become the rule, the norm in the party and real talent has become an exception. So please tell me if I had not spoken out against it now when Rahul Gandhi is being coroneted as party president for probably the next twenty or twenty-five years, then when?

According to you, what is the core ideology that drives the party now, which is headed by Rahul Gandhi?

It has nothing to do with the ideology of Congress that started with Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Azad or Lokmanya Tilak. In fact it is totally against it. It has nothing to do with the principles with which the Congress was once founded, to fight against a foreign rule and get India’s freedom. It is now a subservient party that can be described in a three-point ideology.

  1. Gandhi family must remain in power, in the party and in the nation.
  2. Be it caste or any other card, irrespective of national interest has to be used if it can help us achieve point no 1
  3. Any sort of questioning or dissent on the leadership is not allowed because it will affect point no 1

Congress is known for minority appeasement. Now they are also fiddling with “soft Hindutva” and at the same time, trying to manipulate caste based divide within the Hindu community. What is your view on it?

There was a time when Maulana Azad became the Congress president. Not even the worst critic of Congress had said then that him becoming president was minority appeasement. Because the spirit of the party then was inherently democratic.  There were differences between leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Bose, Sardar Patel. But there was a prevailing sense to maintain democracy which allowed talent to flourish. In the last two decades that the party has been completely hijacked and monopolised, tokenism has become the agenda. Have you seen a single Muslim CM in any state other than J&K? Are there no talents in the Muslim community that this self-proclaimed secular Gandhi family could find?

So are you saying the Congress only uses the Muslims as vote banks and they not exactly interested in the upliftment of the community?

I am not saying it, The Sachchar committee report is saying it. In Gujarat there is a 10% muslim population. Congress blames BJP for not giving tickets to Muslims. How many tickets did the Congress give? Did they speak a word about Muslims in Gujarat during their election campaign? They suddenly discovered temples and completely forgot about the Muslims. So much so that when somebody asked if Ahmad Patel can become CM, a competent man who has been in the Rajya Sabha for so long and been such an active person in the party, they rejected that too. For Gujarat they became Janeu Dhari, now that Karnataka has a significant Muslim population, they have started opposing the triple talaq bill. They do politics in the name of Dalits, please tell me in the last many decades that the party ruled the nation, have we ever seen a Dalit Prime Minister?

It is believed that Congress is now seeking an alliance with PFI to consolidate Muslim votes. As someone who practices the faith and is associated with the party, do you think it is the right way to consolidate Muslim votes, to seek an alliance with a radical organisation like PFI?

When my party approached Maulana Bukhari during the 2014 elections I was strongly critical of it. I always tried to get my leaders to seek support from Muslims of talent and education who can be an inspiration to others. PFI is now being investigated by NIA for alleged links to terrorist activities. The very idea of an alliance with them is wrong. Ethically and morally.  Extremism of any religion is condemnable. Congress is quick to call out extremism associated with any other religion, then why to shake hand with Fanatic Muslims? Cant we reach out to the mainstream Muslims, Christian or Sikh to know their views about our country and its policies? It all fits into their policy of divide and rule, tokenism and photo-ops with controversial elements help them to set their narrative of fear-mongering among the masses against BJP. Gandhi family is very good at the divide and rule game.

Congress has a very bad history when it comes to personal laws. Overturning the Shah Bano verdict had started a whole string of bad judgements and atrocities that women faced. Now they are opposing the triple talaq bill. What are your views on it?

I think Congress has not realised that we have moved on from the era of Shah Bano to the Era of Shayara Bano. Today a Muslim woman is as much a stakeholder in the community as any cleric. Congress can appease a few clerics but that is not going to win them any support over the entire community. The bill is a reform that was long overdue. It would have been understandable if congress had said they have problems with certain clauses of the bill, but in the Lok Sabha where BJP holds a majority, they allowed the same bill to pass. How can they have a completely different stand on the bill when it came to Rajya Sabha? They can not preach gender equality here and then run to appeasement in the other house. They cannot step on two boats at the same time.

So you are saying that Congress as of now is neither loyal to Hindus, Muslims or Dalits?

Yes.

How did the Congress react to you after your rebellion? Were doors shut?

You will be surprised to know the number of people who had called me and congratulated me for bringing the issues out in the open. They all told me they wish they had my courage and conviction. But they are also certain that at the right time and right place they are going to make themselves heard. The sentiments I am expressing are echoed by a large number of people. I also want to clarify that I am still a member of Congress party. There had been statements that I don’t belong to Congress but I have provided ample proof and let me assert again that I have not been expelled, neither have been served any show cause notice.

You recently had a spat with Rajdeep. He said that nobody had called and asked him not to invite you to debates and you contradict it, saying there have been communications from Mr Surjewala and his media cell

It’s common knowledge that when there is a TV debate, it is not the anchor who invites the participants. In case of political parties, they have a media coordinator who decides who will attend a debate. The guest co-ordinators from the channel contacts the media cell of a party. There are two people, Dinesh and Girish, who work under Mr Surjewala. They get instructions on which guest to send to which news channel and to speak on what topic. Those two have been telling the guest co-ordinators from each channel that if Shehzad Poonawala is in the panel, we will boycott the channel for the next three days, My point is, this is blatant blackmailing. I have proof of such communication happening. I want my freedom of expression to be upheld too. There are channels who have very good dynastic connections and they have boycotted me.

Can you give me three names of journalists who can qualify as unofficial spokespersons of Congress and three names who are still practising respectable journalism

I won’t give you specific names of persons but I can give you names of media outlets who selectively do not report faults of Congress and do not practice unbiased journalism. First is ‘The Quint’, you saw how they have reported about Kulbhushan Jadhav to propagate their narrow interests, they also promoted Rahul Gandhi and Jignesh Mewani. Second is ‘The Wire’ and third, there are some specific individuals in NDTV and India Today who have a direct connection with congress leadership and allow their personal relationship to influence their professional sphere.

And the channels or anchors that have not changed their stance towards you depending on whether you are talking in support of Congress or against its leadership?

I can not comment on that.

I’m asking if there is still any media house that has not fallen into the blackmail of the Congress media cell?

Then, in that case, it would be Times Now. They have made it clear that they will not deny me a platform.

You are already being depicted as an opportunist who wants to change sides now that Congress is losing elections. Are you worried about the kind of image that Congress is going to project you as

Congress gave its worst ever performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. They have been losing consistently after that. If I wanted to escape and jump ship the doors were open. Opportunists are those who become selectively “Janeu Dhari” when it suits them.

Delhi police arrests founder of Indian Mujahideen and 2008 Gujarat Blast mastermind Abdul Subhan Qureshi

In a major breakthrough, the Delhi Police on Monday arrested Abdul Subhan Qureshi, who was one of India’s most wanted terrorist, and the mastermind of 2008 Gujarat terror attack which killed at least 58 people. Qureshi who is also the founder of Indian Mujahideen was on the run for almost 10 years.

As per reports, Qureshi was earlier living in Nepal using forged documents and had decided to return back to India for reviving the Indian Mujahideen. He was arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi police after a light exchange of fire.

PS Kushwah the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell), termed Qureshi as India’s most wanted terrorist. Qureshi is also on the National Investigative Agency’s (NIA) most wanted list and had a bounty of Rs 4 lakh on his head.

The visuals of his arrest have started emerging:

The hunt for Qureshi began soon after the 21 bomb blasts in Ahmedabad on July 26, 2008, when the Gujarat police announced him as a suspect following an email by Indian Mujahideen which claimed responsibility for the attack.

Apart from this, Qureshi was also wanted by the NIA for his alleged involvement in the 2006 Mumbai local train attacks, and blasts in Delhi, Bangalore. Qureshi is believed to be a tech-savy terrorist, who apart from being a bomber, was an employee with IT companies Bengaluru and Hyderabad. He was later allegedly recruited by Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in 1998.

Qureshi, a native of Madhya Pradesh’s Rampur, is also considered an expert in changing appearances and carries aliases like Abdul Subhan Usman Qureshi, Kasim, Zakir, Qab and Touqeer. This might be the reason why he was so successful in giving the police a slip for such a long time.

Swamy explains why Congress may be silent on National Herald papers

Subramanian Swamy’s “nuclear bomb‘” in the National Herald case is finally out. Swamy today produced in court was an Income Tax assessment order against the Gandhi family owned company Young Indian. The 105 page order dated 27th December says Congress claim of Rs. 90 Crore loan to AJL was “bogus”. It orders Young Indian to pay tax for concealed income of Rs. 414 crore.

One would imagine that after such explosive revelations, the congress party would go hammer and tongs addressing press conferences, calling the allegations “false and politically motivated” in their usual style.

We wondered why there was such radio silence on this issue. Today, Swamy hinted why they might have chosen to refrain from commenting.

Swamy said that perhaps Congress is not addressing the media on National Herald because if they do, they will have to confirm whether those papers presented by Swamy are authentic or not, and whether they were served with these documents by the IT authorities.

Interestingly, even during court proceedings Swamy had reportedly told the Gandhis to either confirm that these papers are authentic or face perjury.

Swamy also speculated as to who might have delivered these documents to him anonymously.

We had accessed the assessment order and had reported on how the order implicates the Gandhis and how the order indicates that the Gandhis took “loan” from a Hawala operator. With these interesting developments and the hints being given by Swamy, this case promises to be one with endless fireworks.

Raja Ki Mandi station in Agra gets a colourful makeover with gorgeous wall art

'Ram Baraat' painted at Raja Ki Mandi railway staion . Image by Times of India

The idea of painting walls of Railway stations with vibrant, colourful art has become very popular lately. They have received huge support and appreciation from all quarters. The vibrant art not only creates awareness among the public, it also encourages them to keep the stations clean.

We have reported earlier about the beautiful paintings at Titwala railway station near Mumbai and Madhubani railway station in Bihar. Both projects have received tremendous public appreciation and support. While the Titwala station saw wall-art spreading awareness about cleanliness and deforestation, The Madhubani station’s wall art was a tribute to the local art-form of Madhubani paintings. The East Central Railway division had taken it upon itself to beautify the station walls with traditional murals in the Madhubani station. While in case of Titwala the paintings saw a mix of modern art and awareness campaigns carried out by Central Railways.

The latest entrant in this positive and energetic initiative is the Raja Ki Mandi railway station in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. According to a report, the railway officials have roped in the student artists of Lalit Kala Sansthan to unleash their creativity on the station walls of Raja Ki Mandi. Rashmi Baghel, senior DCM, Agra Division, North-Central Railways, stated that the beautification projects are being undertaken with the tagline “Mera station, Meri Shaan” and they have already painted the walls of the Agra Cantonment station too.

Ministry of Railways has tweeted regarding the beautiful art at the Raja Ki Mandi station.

The paintings at the stations were based on the “pachhikari” work of Agra, giving them a Mughal era feel. On the other hand, the paintings at the Raja Ki Mandi station will showcase the “Ram Baraat” of Agra. Here it must be added that the “Ram Baraat” is a part of the famous Ramleela celebrations of Agra and it is one of the biggest events in the city.

‘Ram Baraat’ painted at Raja Ki Mandi railway station. Image courtesy: Times of India

 

Students of Lalit Kala Sansthan, Agra painting the walls of Raja Ki Mandi Station. Image courtesy: Times of India

These gorgeous paintings can sure infuse some colour into mundane travel routines!

Saraswati Puja pandal and idol burnt down in West Bengal by suspected criminals

A Saraswati Puja pandal was reportedly found burnt down in West Bengal’s Dasnagar area, in Howrah District on Sunday night. Apart from the pandal, even the Saraswati idol was set ablaze by the arsonists. As per reports, this incident has happened at the puja organised by the Green Star Club, which has been performing such a puja for the past 25 years.

The incident is supposed to have happened in the wee hours of the night as the decoration and arrangements for the puja went on till 2 AM, following which the organisers decided to go home. The fire was noticed within the next hour, after which locals rushed to douse it using bucket full of water and fire tenders were also called in. The police too were informed of the incident.

As per ANI, the criminals perpetrated the crime to allegedly extol vengeance against locals who closed their liquor shops near that spot:

The organisers have also claimed that the local criminals run a parking lot where people drink, play cards and also perform certain illegal activities.

The Saraswati Puja in West Bengal was also riddled in controversy a year back, when Muslim groups had stopped a school from celebrating Saraswati Puja in West Bengal’s Uluberia.

We had reported the tensions had risen in the Tehatta High School after Muslim groups and locals had forcibly entered the school in December to celebrate Nabi Diwas (Birthday of Prophet Mohammed), which included making religious speeches. They had later also proceeded to vandalise the school property.

About a month later, when the date of Saraswati puja started nearing, such groups again demanded to celebrate Nabi Diwas on 28th January. The headmaster as a result begged the Uluberia police to take some preventive steps as the school could see another forcible gathering and protests. This allegedly angered the groups as they again vandalised the school property.

The district inspector of schools, thus, ordered the school to remain shut until further notice, thereby ensuring that the 65 years old tradition of Saraswati Puja celebrations stood cancelled.

C Voter survey shows losses in UP, gains in Bengal for NDA, if Lok Sabha elections were held today

Republic TV has yesterday released the projected numbers from their C-voter survey for seven remaining states. Last week they had released opinion poll projections for 256 of the total 543 seats. Opindia.com had published the tally of seats C Voter had predicted.

Yesterday the projected numbers for the remaining 287 seats poured in and though the NDA is projected to retain a majority in the Lok Sabha, they may lose several of their current seats in Uttar Pradesh and still fail to emerge as a strong power in Tamil Nadu. West Bengal, however, is expected to see a saffron surge.

The projections for the seven new states are as follows:

The seat projection for Sikkim, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand

In West Bengal the BJP is set to gain, jumping to 12 seats from the 2 in 2014 while the UPA will sink further to a mere single seat from their 2014 number of 4 seats. The TMC is losing several seats too, as predicted by the C-voter survey.

In Sikkim, though the NDA is set to retain their seat, they are set to lose vote share. The vote share of UPA is predicted to rise.

In Telangana, The NDA is set to win 3 seats as compared to 2 in 2014 although it may see a 5.7% surge in vote share.  The UPA vote share will see a very slight dip as they retain the 2 seat tally.

In Tamil Nadu, the NDA is losing a seat to reduce to 1 from 2 in 2014. The UPA as before will fail to win a seat while others (DMK chiefly) will be the majority force. The NDA is looking at a 7.8% dip in vote share while the UPA is looking at a 3.1% increase, as reported by the survey.

In Tripura the BJP is not expected to win a seat, however, they are looking at a significant 25.4% increase in the vote share as compared to a dip of 3.2% for UPA.

In Uttarakhand, the  NDA is set to retain all 5 of its current seats while expecting a slight 4.1% dip in vote share.

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is expected to lose several of its current seats. The BJP which won 73 of the 80 seats in UP in 2014 is expected to come down to 60, though the overall dip in vote share is not very significant. The UPA is set to win big, upping its tally to 18 seats from the current 2 (Rae Bareilly and Amethi for Sonia& Rahul Gandhi ).  The UPA is looking at a massive surge of 22% in its vote share.

The overall tally for all the states and union territories is as follows:

 

Actor who says he will choose ‘Quran over Constitution’, gets support from AAP, Hardik Patel and Pakistan

Actor Ajaz Khan

Little known TV actor Ajaz Khan, who is best known for making the threatening-ish video against singer Sonu Nigam after his ‘controversial’ tweet about azaan, is back in news, this time for saying that he will choose Quran over Indian Constitution ‘any day any time’.

Muslim actor from India says he will choose Quran over Constitution of India
link to the tweet

He was responding to a Twitter user who was critical of Khan for referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on a maiden visit to India, as a murderer.

Soon enough support poured in from Pakistan and #IStandWithAjazKhan was also trending on Twitter (as per Ajaz’s claim on his Twitter page). It is also noteworthy how Ajaz gleefully retweeted the tweets from Pakistan supporting his stand of choosing the Quran over the Constitution, thereby undermining the sovereignty of India for religion:

Aam Aadmi Party’s Ved Prakash, also came out in support of Ajaz:

Congress’ recent ally Hardik Patel too supported him:

Interestingly, Jignesh Mevani, an aide of Hardik Patel, had recently asked BJP leaders to choose between Manu Smriti or Constitution, but appears that the new ‘youth leaders’ have no problem supporting someone who openly says he chooses Quran over constitution.

It is thus surprising that the very elements who resort to citing the constitution when things don’t go as they please, are today endorsing views that undermine not just the “secular ethos” that they like to tom tom, but also the same constitution they swear by to justify their skewed version of secularism.

Ajaz, whose extremist views are not new, and who today finds unbridled support from the “torch bearers of secularism and constitutional supremacy”, had earlier too taken to social media to ask for ‘donations’ for his ‘political party’ which started out as an NGO ‘Allah Ke Bandey’.

He is also of the opinion India will be declared a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ after 2019 elections and hence more and more Muslims should join Allah Ke Bandey. Sharing a video on Prime Minister Modi on Godhra riots, Khan posts “Chup Rahegi Zubane Khanjar To Lahoo Pugarega Aasteen ka – Ye Hai Sacchayi Narendra Modi ki Yaro dekho aur share karo inko Bhul mat Jana”. In an earlier video, which is now deleted, Ajaz Khan referred to Modi as Hitler after the BHU incident.

Ajaz who had spoken against Modi and fear mongered about India turning into “Hindu Rasthra” after 2019, is today endorsing Islamic identity over the constitution of India. One wonders then, whether such elements are not really opposed to religious supremacy, but religious supremacy of a religion they dont practice themselves.

IT department further tightens the noose by issuing notices to 2 lakh people for deposits during demonetisation

About two lakh people have been issued an Income Tax notice by the government for depositing more than Rs 20 lakhs in the now defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, in the aftermath of demonetisation. The notices have been specifically issued to those persons who have either failed to file IT returns or haven’t responded to the IT department’s request for information in this regard.

As per a senior IT officer, these depositors in question were given a lot of time to come clean in the IT returns, but their failing to do resulted in them getting a notice which asks them to furnish details my filing the IT returns in question.

The IT department as per the report, has identified chasing tax payers as a key priority for the year, and the Central Board of Direct Taxes is carrying out a recovery action to ensure that evaders do not escape the brunt of law.

The total amount of suspected deposits is pegged at about Rs 2.9 lakh crores, which is less than 20% of the total amount deposited during demonetisation. In total, about 5 lakh people haven’t filed their Income Tax returns, but the department is currently going after the big fish.

The latest development comes after the other slew of measures which the Income Tax department has undertaken post demonetisation.

Earlier this year, the Department had launched Operation Clean Money, involving e-verification of large cash deposits made during 9th Nov to 30th Dec 2016. In only the “first batch”, about 18 lakh persons had been identified in whose case, cash transactions don’t appear to be in line with the tax payer’s profile.

Later the IT Department had issued detailed guidelines to tax officers, which are to be considered while ordering scrutiny assessments pertaining to filing of revised/belated returns by assessees, post demonetisation period. Scrutiny assessments refer to the cases which are picked by the IT Department for detailed investigation, and verification with supporting documents.

Further the Income Tax Department has slapped notices on 1.16 lakh individuals and firms who made cash deposits of more than Rs 25 lakh in bank accounts post note ban but failed to file returns by the due date.

Even though there have been a sizeable number of persons who have failed to file the IT returns, overall the total number of people paying Income Tax has increased by 22% in the 2016-17 Financial year. This jump was also considered significant as a mere 3% of the Indian population is currently believed to be paying the Income Tax.

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi’s company took loan from Hawala operator, authorities suspect black money involved

The Mother-Son duo of Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi

By now most of us the know the crux of the National Herald case. It revolves around allegations that Young Indian, a company owned by Gandhi’s, acquired assets of Associated Journals Limited (AJL), by paying Rs 50 lacs to purchase a loan of Rs 90.21 crore, and later converting the loan into shares. While the transactions seem complicated, there is one transaction which enables all of this.

Young Indian (YI) was incorporated on 23.11.2010, with a share capital of Rs 5 lakhs. In December, the loan which AJL owed to AICC, was transferred to Young Indian by AICC. So now AJL owed the money not to AICC but to YI. YI was supposed to pay Rs 50 lacs to AICC to purchase this loan.

But at this time, YI, a company which was just 1 month old, and had a share capital of just Rs 5 lacs, had no money to pay AICC against the loan. YI arranged this money a good 2 months after the loan was transferred. YI took a loan of Rs 1 cr and paid Rs 50 lacs to AICC on 01.03.2011.

In all of this, let us forget issues such as why did AICC hand over rights to collect Rs 90.21 crores to YI, for a mere Rs 50 lacs. Let us further forget how this right was then converted to shares in AJL. Let us also forget how AJL’s properties became YI’s properties by virtue of the above.

Let the focus be solely on one transaction: How did YI, a 3 month old company with nothing in its books, manage to get a Rs 1 crore loan.

The Income Tax department’s order goes into this aspects and the findings are shocking. The order states the following:

1. YI took a loan of Rs 1 crore from M/s Dotex Merchandise Pvt. Ltd. (Dotex) on 15.02.2011.

2. The order states that till the finalizing of the original income tax case, neither the principal nor the interest was paid back to Dotex by YI.

3. The terms of the loan, as per the confirmation letter furnished by YI, said that the tenure of the loan was 1 year from date of cheque. Thus the non repayment of the loan was in contravention of the terms and conditions of the loan, yet Dotex never took any action against YI. Dotex also failed to give any reasonable explanation as to why it did not demand return of the loan.

4. As per the order, the loan was finally repaid only in Financial Year 2015-16 “when the investigation proceedings were continuing and YI was confronted with the facts that M/s Dotex Merchandise Pvt Ltd was a paper company engaged in providing hawala entries.”

5. Mr Sunil Bhandari and Mr Sunil Sanganeria were directors of Dotex. Along with Dotex, they were directors of 50 other Kolkata based companies. The order states that during the course of raids/surveys by the Income Tax Department, many of these companies had been found engaging in the business of providing “accommodation entries“. Copies of bank accounts “had proved that these companies were engaged in business of accommodation entries” which typically involved “deposits of cash and issue of cheque of equivalent amount“.

6. The order explains what this business of accommodation entries is: issue of cheques by these companies in lieu of cash payments of equivalent amount by the recipient of the cheque i.e. a company approaches these companies with cash, and they give an equal amount of cheques in return. The companies charged a commission of 1% to 5% on such dealings. The cheques issued were shown as “loans” in the recipient’s books and were never repaid because “that loan represented the laundered money” of the same recipient.

7. The order observes that the loan of Rs 1 cr was given to YI, a new company with a capital base of just Rs 5 lakhs, without any guarantee.

8. The order further refers to Dotex as a “known Hawala entry operator” and “a company engaged in providing hawala
transactions“. It also says that this entry of Rs 1 crore loan given to YI, was already reported in the “Suspicious Transaction Report” of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Government of India.

9. Later on, the order states that to prove the existence of the loan, YI only filed a copy of confirmation where address and name of person issuing such confirmation was not disclosed. YI neither proved the genuineness of the transactions nor creditworthiness of Dotex. YI could not even prove that Dotex was engaged in any meaningful business and had source of income and capacity to advance the loan.

10. The order observed many defects in the confirmation letter given for the loan. For example, it did not bear address of Dotex nor the name of authorised signatory. PAN of Dotex was not mentioned. Address of YI was not mentioned.

Based on all the above, the order concluded that:

The amount of Rs 1 crore in this case represents own laundered money of M/s Young Indian

All of the above is from the Income Tax order. This leaves us with some questions.

The findings of the order imply that Rs 1 crore was in fact black money of Young Indian itself, which was funneled to Dotex, and was returned by Dotex to Young Indian, as a loan of Rs 1 crore. But Young Indian as a company was merely 2-3 months old when all this happened, and had no transactions to generated such black money. Then who might have arranged such money? Was it the promoters of Young Indian:

Can the above shareholders and director of Young Indian explain the source of this Rs 1 crore black money which is alleged to have been paid to Dotex, in order for Young Indian to receive it back as a “loan”, which was repaid only after the Income Tax department highlighted to Young Indian that Dotex was in fact a hawala operator?

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