Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hollande visits typhoon-hit Philippine town

Francois Hollande visits typhoon-hit Philippine town Updated on : 27-02-2015 11:32 AM
French President Francois Hollande on Friday visited a remote Philippine town devastated by one of the world's strongest typhoons, seeking to sound a global alarm on climate change ahead of a crucial UN summit.

Hollande is on a two-day trip to the Southeast Asian archipelago, regarded as a frontline state in the struggle against global warming, as part of his campaign to build diplomatic momentum ahead of the Paris summit in December.

On Thursday, Hollande launched an appeal with Philippine President Benigno Aquino in Manila for world leaders meeting in Paris to secure a "universal, equitable and ambitious climate deal" that would avert catastrophic global warming.

Their appeal offered a show of unity they said could serve as a model for rich and poor nations, whose divisions led to a similar effort at a UN summit in Copenhagen in 2009 ending in disarray.

"We have a duty to act together and that's why I came here to the Philippines, to launch an appeal, to seal an alliance." Hollande said on Thursday.

Hollande then flew to Guiuan, a small coastal town in the far eastern Philippines of about 50,000 people that is still trying to recover from Super Typhoon Haiyan 15 months ago.

Guiuan was among the first towns hit when Super Typhoon Haiyan roared in off the Pacific Ocean with winds of 315 kilometres (195 miles) an hour, the strongest gales ever recorded on land.

Haiyan then swept across already deeply impoverished farming and fishing communities of the central Philippines, claiming more than 7,350 lives.

Rebuilding those communities is expected to take many years and cost billions of dollars.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of typhoon survivors will continue to live in danger zones along the coast and remain extremely vulnerable to future storms.

The Philippines endures about 20 major storms or typhoons every year but scientists say they are getting stronger and more unpredictable because of climate change.

In their joint appeal on Thursday, Hollande and Aquino highlighted that people in the Philippines had "endured an unprecedented series of extreme weather events in the last few years".

"We are reminded that while the developing countries have contributed least to climate change, they are the ones that suffer the most from climate change impacts." the appeal stated.
Dhaka court issues arrest warrant against Khaleda Zia

Dhaka court issues arrest warrant against Khaleda ZiaUpdated on : 27-02-2015 11:18 AM
In Bangladesh, a Dhaka court has issued an arrest warrant against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and two others in Zia Orphanage and Zia Charitable Trust graft cases.

Judge Mohammad Abu Ahmed Jomadar of Special Court passed the order on Wednesday.

Khaleda Zia did not attend the court proceedings citing security reasons.

The Supreme Court in November, 2014 had cleared the way for the lower court to continue the trial proceedings against Khaleda Zia by rejecting her two appeals challenging the High Court decisions regarding acceptance of charges framed against her.

Zia and 3 others stand charged of misappropriating over 3.5 crore Takas (Bangladeshi currency) from the Zia Charitable Trust.

If found guilty the BNP Chairperson can land in jail.

Mufti Mohammed Sayeed to take oath as Chief Minister

PDP leader Mufti Mohammed Sayeed to take oath as Chief Minister
A historic coalition of BJP and PDP is to take over the reins of Government in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday as PDP leader Mufti Mohammed Sayeed is to take oath as Chief Minister.

PDP patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed on Friday met PM Narendra Modi to paper over any 'last-minute hitches' and give a final seal to the historic deal between PDP and BJP to form a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir.

"We reached a common ground for government in Jammu and Kashmir after two months," Mufti Mohammed Sayeed told reporters after his meeting with the PM.

 Jammu and Kashmir, ahead of the scheduled swearing-in ceremony of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed led BJP-PDP coalition government and the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the winter capital city of Jammu on Sunday, a multi-tier security has been put in place.

AIR correspondent reports, the swearing-in ceremony will be held at the General Zorawar Auditorium of Jammu University around 11 am on Sunday.

79 year old Sayeed will take oath as the State's Chief Minister along with 12 members each from PDP and BJP at the ceremony to be attended by the Prime Minister.

BJP's Nirmal Singh is expected to be the Deputy Chief Minister of the State.

A common minimum programme the two parties worked out to come into coalition is also said to be made public on Sunday.

Iran to hold nuclear talks with 6 powers in Switzerland on March 5

Iran and six powers will hold more talks on Tehran’s nuclear program in Montreux, Switzerland, on March 5, the EU said on Friday. The talks at the level of political directors will be preceded by a series of bilateral meetings, according to EU spokeswoman Catherine Ray. The US State Department said on Thursday that Secretary of State John Kerry would meet with Iranian nuclear negotiators in Montreux next week.

6.9-magnitude quake strikes off Indonesia

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck 182km northeast of Ende, Indonesia at 1345 GMT on Friday, Reuters reported. The depth was 562km, according to the US Geological Survey. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there was no threat of a tsunami.

Afghan president invited to speak before US Congress

Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani, has received an invitation to address a joint meeting of the US Congress when he visits Washington next month, AP reports. House Speaker John Boehner, who was behind the initiative, said the speech on March 25 would give the newly-elected Afghan leader a chance to talk about the future of US-Afghan relations at a time when international troops are withdrawing from the country.

SC ask special benches at all High Courts to fast track election petitions

Supreme Court has said that Special Benches should be created at all High Courts in the country to speedily decide election-related petitions. A bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and Rohinton F Nariman asked for creation of earmarked benches with Judges assigned the task of exclusively deciding election petitions.

The bench observed that it is most undesirable to let an MP or MLA continue even for a day if he or she has been elected using illegitimate means. The Court said, it is very rarely an election dispute gets resolved during the tenure of declared candidates reducing the adjudicatory process into a mockery of justice.

The Court was hearing a plea by Congress candidate Mohd. Akbar who complained that his petition challenging the election of Ashok Sahu from Kawardha Assembly constituency in Chhattisgarh is being delayed inordinately.

Mexico captures most wanted drug lord, Servando La Tuta Gomez

Mexican police has captured the country's most wanted drug lord, Servando La Tuta Gomez. Gomez, leader of the Knights Templar drug cartel, was arrested in Morelia in Michoacan state without a shot fired.

President Enrique Pena Nieto wrote on Twitter that the rule of law had been strengthened because of the arrest, which moved Mexico towards peace. Gomez's arrest comes just over a year after the capture of the country's most notorious drug lord, Joaquin, shortly Guzman, head of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov shot dead in Moscow


WATCH LIVE: Mourners lay flowers at site where Boris was killed in Moscow


A leading Russian opposition politician, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, has been shot dead in Moscow, Russian officials say.

An unidentified attacker shot Mr Nemtsov four times in central Moscow, a source in the law enforcement bodies told Russia's Interfax news agency. He was reportedly shot near the Kremlin while walking with a woman.

He died just before a march in Moscow against the war in Ukraine which he was actively promoting. Mr Putin has condemned the killing, a Kremlin spokesman told news agencies. Mr Nemtsov, 55, served as first Deputy Prime Minister under the late President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.

US President Barack Obama condemned the brutal murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, and called for a full investigation into the killing. With Nemtsov's death, Obama said, Russians have lost one of the most dedicated and eloquent defenders of their rights.

 A veteran Russian politician, he went from being a top reformist to a prominent opposition figure.
The killing of Nemtsov just next to the Kremlin came as a shock to Russia, with many people from various political camps condemning the crime and demanding a swift and thorough investigation.
“Boris' death is a tragedy for my family and me,” tweeted Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian opposition figure arguably known best outside of the country. “We all love him. A reckless, but good fellow.”
“It's a tragedy. I didn't agree with him on some things. That's my right. But what happened, for whatever reason, cannot be justified. I condole,” said Leonid Roshal, a prominent Russian doctor and public figure.
Irina Khakamada, a one-time political ally of Nemtsov’s, wrote that the killing was “an outrageous provocation that crosses the line. On the eve of the protest march. It's like terrorism.”.

Bangladesh: BNP calls another Bangladesh shutdown from Sunday

In Bangladesh, main opposition party BNP on Friday called for another 72-hour nationwide shut down from Sunday, stepping up its nearly two-month-old tirade against the government.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led 20 party alliance has been protesting and staging shutdowns since January 6 to mark the first anniversary of the controversial polls the BNP's arch-rival Awami League won.

The alliance demands fresh elections under a non-party caretaker administration. The fresh shut down has been announced hours after the five-day 'hartal' by the alliance ended this morning.

According to a statement by BNP Joint Secretary General Salauddin Ahmed in Dhaka,the shutdown will begin at 6:00am Sunday and will continue till 6:00am Wednesday.

Nearly 100 people have died in the political violence since the protests began in early January. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said the non-stop agitation has caused the country nearly USD 15.5 billion.
 Bangladesh, protests against the killing of US-based writer-blogger are continuing. Students organisations, cultural platforms, journalists, writers, teachers and bloggers have taken to the streets at various places demanding the immediate arrest of the killers. They have said the attack was aimed at freedom of speech and democracy.

The Ganojagran Mancha carrying out a sit-in at Shahbhag have said they will not leave the streets until the attackers are arrested. Student’s Federation took out a torch procession last night at Dhaka University. A general strike has been called on Monday by the Progressive Students Front in protest against the killing. Meanwhile the U.K has joined US in strongly condemning the attack.

Police have yet to establish the identity of the killers. RAB Legal and Media Wing Deputy Director Major Rumman Mahmud said Avijit was killed in a planned way. Based on previous incidents and analysing the method of killing by machete-wielding professional killers, the police are investigating radical militant groups's links to the murder.

The responsibility for the crime was claimed by a twitter account allegedly by Ansar-e-Bangla7, a group believed to be an Islamist outfit. But with a lot of traffic on the web supporting the murder, police and intelligence agencies are not clear as to which Islamist group was possibly responsible for the killing.

Arun Jaitley presents Budget 2015-16 in Parliament

Arun Jaitley presents Budget 2015-16 in Parliament
Feb 28,
aitley presented the first full year Budget of the NDA government in the Lok Sabha today. The Union Budget for 2015 - 16 proposes two new laws and major curbs on black money stashed at home and abroad. No change has been proposed in the personal Income tax rates but deduction hiked for Transport allowance and health insurance premium. Surcharge will be 12 per cent for income exceeding one crore. Wealth tax has been abolished and replaced with 2 per cent surcharge on the super-rich. Corporate tax will be reduced from 30 per cent to 25 per cent from next financial year.

Service Tax hiked from 12.36 to 14 per cent and amusement park in tax net. Standard rate of Basic excise duty hiked from 12 per cent to 12.5. Microwave ovens, refrigerators, TVs, LED lamps, Tablet computers, leather footwear, Solar water heating systems, pacemakers and ambulances will cost less. Fertilizers, digital video camera, optical fibre cables will also to cost less. Iron and Steel articles, mobile phones and import of commercial vehicles and sweetened mineral water to cost more. Part of the basic excise duty on petrol and diesel to fund 40,000 crore rupees to Road cess. Smokers to pay more.

The Finance Minster also proposed Gold monetisation scheme. General Anti Avoidance Rule, GAAR deferred for two years. Micro Units Development Refinance Agency Bank, (MUDRA) will be launched to promote small business. Atal Pension Yojana, ‘Nai Manzil’ scheme for minority youth education will be launched. It promises Housing for all by 2022.. Defence allocation has been hiked to 11 percent. The fiscal deficit has been pegged at 3.9 per cent of GDP this year, are the proposals in the Budget 2015-16.

Presenting the budget in the Lok Sabha today, the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley focussed on boosting economic reforms, infrastructure development, Make in India, Skill India, Digital India, Clean energy, Job creation, Minimum government - Maximum governance and Public health. However, he put the measures to curb black money top in the list of broad themes he adopted in his budget. Mr. Jaitley said, the key measures include the proposed new law on black money to provide punishment of rigorous imprisonment upto 10 years for concealment of income and assets and evasion of tax in relation to foreign assets.

Penalty for such concealment will be at the rate of 300 per cent of the tax. No filing of return or inadequate disclosures of foreign assets will entail punishment of rigorous imprisonment upto 7 years. Date of opening of foreign account would be mandatory requirement in the returns. For curbing domestic black money, a new and more comprehensive Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Bill will be introduced in the current session of Parliament. This law will enable confiscation of benami property and also provide for prosecution. The Finance Minister also proposed a few other measures prohibiting acceptance or payment of an advance of 20,000 rupees or more in cash for purchase of immovable property. Quoting PAN is mandatory for any purchase or sale exceeding one lakh rupees.

Turning to Tax proposals, Mr. Jaitley did not make any change in the personal Income Tax rates. However, he proposed reduction in corporate tax from 30 per cent to 25 per cent over the next four years starting from next financial year. Transport allowance exemption for individuals has been increased from 800 rupees to 1600 rupees and deduction for health insurance premium has also been hiked from 15,000 rupees to 25,000 rupees. For senior citizens, the limit will be increased from 20,000 rupees to 30,000 rupees and for every senior citizens of the age of 80 years or more who not covered by health insurance, deduction of 30,000 rupees will be allowed for the money spent for treatment. For specified serious diseases the deduction has been hiked from 60,000 rupees to 80,000 rupees and for differently abled persons and additional deduction of 25,000 rupees will be allowed. The limit on deduction for contribution to a Pension fund and the new pension scheme will be increased to 1.5 lakh rupees, a hike of 50,000 rupees. Exemption to individual tax payers will continue to facilitate savings.

To help manufacturing sector, additional investment allowance at the rate of 15 per cent and additional depreciation at the rate of 35 per cent will be given to new manufacturing units in the backward regions of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Rate of income tax on royalty and fees for technical services reduced from 25 per cent to 10 per cent to facilitate technology flow.

Basic customs duty on inputs, raw materials, inter mediates and components in 22 items are proposed to be reduced to minimise the impact of duty inversion. These include microwave ovens, refrigerator compressors, metal parts in electrical insulators, sulphuric acid used in fertilizers, and components of still image video camera. The basic customs duty on the component - HDPE - used for making optical fibre cables for telecommunication sector has been reduced to nil from 7.5 per cent. The 10 percent customs duty on organic LED TV panels has also been abolished. Pacemakers will cost less and also solar heating system. Excise duty on chassis for ambulance reduced from 24 per cent to 12.5 per cent.

However, the tariff rate on iron and steel articles coming in the customs tariff category has been hiked from 10 per cent to 15 per cent. Customs duty on commercial vehicles has also been increased from 10 per cent to 40 percent. Excise duty structure for mobile handsets has been restructured. Concessional customs duty on specified parts of electrically operated vehicles and hybrid vehicles will be extended till March next year. To improve the quality of life and public health through Swach Bharat initiatives, the budget proposes hundred percent tax deduction for donations to Swach Bharat Kosh and clean Ganga fund. It also proposes a Swachh Bharat Cess on all or certain taxable services at 2 per cent rate.

Mr. Jaitley also proposed benefits to middle class tax payers to encourage saving and promote health. Investment in Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme will get full tax deduction. The budget also proposes to increase the limit of deductions for contributing to a pension fund of LIC or IRDA approved insurer from one lakh to 1.5 lakh rupees. Donation made to National Fund for drug abuse will get hundred per cent deduction. Making standalone proposals to maximize benefits to the economy, the budget proposes a uniform method of computation of period of stay in India for the purpose of determination of resident status in the case of an India seafarer. The budget proposes an increase in the service tax from 12.36 per cent plus Education cess to 14 per cent.

The budget says this will help smooth transition to introduction of GST, which is eagerly awaited by trade and industry. The Exemptions are being withdrawn on services provided by a mutual fund agent and selling or marketing agents of lottery tickets. Acknowledging yoga as a gift to the world, the budget proposes to include yoga within the ambit of charitable purposes. In order to rationalise the MAT, provisions of FIIs, profits corresponding to their income from capital gains on transactions in securities will not be subject to MAT.

In order to bring the country’s external borrowings and domestic debts under one roof, the Finance Minister proposes to set up a Public Debt Management Agency, PDMA. He also proposed to merge Forwards Markets, Commission with SEBI to strengthen regulations of commodity forward markets and reduce wild speculations. He said, it is proposed that government would exercise control in consultation with the RBI on capital flows as equity.

The Finance Minister said a National Skill Mission will be launched soon to consolidate skill initiatives and standardise procedures. 1,500 crore rupees has been set a part for the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gramin Kaushal Yojana to boost employability of rural youth. The budget also proposes a student financial aid authority to administer and monitor scholarships and loan schemes through the Pradhan Mantri Vidya Lakshmi Karyakram. To support programmes of women security and awareness, another one thousand crore rupees has been proposed for the Nirbhaya Fund.

The budget proposed creation of a universal social security system for all Indians specially the poor and the under privileged. The Finance Minister said the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana will be launched soon to cover accidental death risk of two lakh rupees for a premium of just 12 rupees per year. He also announced the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana covering both natural and accidental death risk. He said there is a pressing need to increase public investment in the infrastructure sector. He said the investment in infrastructure will go up by 70 thousand crore rupees over this year’s allocation.

The Finance Minister said that there are about 5.7 crore small business units involved in manufacturing, trading etc. He said 62 per cent of these are owned by SC/ST/OBCs, who find it difficult to access the formal system of credit. Mr. Jaitley proposed to create a Micro Units Development Refinance Agency Bank with a corpus of 20,000 crore rupees and a credit guarantee corpus of three thousand crore rupees. The budget proposed a road map for achieving fiscal deficit of 3 per cent in three years and pegged the fiscal deficit to 3.9 per cent for 2015-16.
Amardip Sinh Malik reigns supreme with course record 61

Taunk, Prabagaran & Shamim tied for second; Chikka & Thangaraja fire aces

Hyderabad, February 27, 2015: Noida’s Amardip Sinh Malik fired a blistering nine-under-61 to take the lead in round two of the Golconda Masters 2015 and establish a new course record at the Hyderabad Golf Club. Malik led by one stroke at the halfway stage as he totaled 10-under-130. There was a three-way tie for second place at nine-under-131 between Sri Lankan K Prabagaran, Jamshedpur’s Karan Taunk and Shamim Khan of Delhi.

Amardip Sinh Malik (69-61) had a double-bogey start on the first after he hit a poor bunker shot and then missed chip-putt. Malik made up for the early setback as he rallied with birdie conversions from 30 feet and 10 feet on the second and third respectively. There was no looking back for the 29-year-old from there on. Amardip drove the green on the par-4 fifth for his third birdie and picked up two more strokes in quick succession on the sixth and seventh.

The highlight of Malik’s round was the eagle on the par-5 11th where he missed an albatross by a whisker after landing his second shot just a foot from the flag. Amardip, who won his maiden event in December last year, set up four more birdies on the last seven holes by hitting it within six to eight feet of the pin. Malik thus broke the previous course record of 62 set by Prabagaran in round one.

Amardip said, “It was a great recovery after the double-bogey start. I just carried on after the two long conversions on the second and third. I was hitting it close throughout. I enjoyed some good stretches from the fifth to the seventh and again on the 11th and 12th and the last four holes. I could’ve gone lower today had I not missed a few short putts.

“I’m enjoying the conditions here at the HGC and I’ll look to build on this effort in the next two days. The win at the end of last year was a morale-booster and I’ve been playing good golf since then,” added Malik.

Karan Taunk (65-66) moved up two places from his overnight tied fourth after a determined effort of 66. He had two long putts and two good chip-putts. Taunk, the 2014 PGTI Emerging Player of the Year, capitalized on the three par-5s, the eighth, ninth and 11th, by picking up strokes on all three holes. He dropped strokes as a result of finding the trees on the sixth and a couple of missed chip-putts.

“I’ve played the par-5s really well on the first two days. I’ve made birdies on five out of six occasions on the par-5s in the first two rounds. The 20-feet conversion on the seventh was almost a bonus as I wasn’t expecting it. The two unforced errors where I missed chip-putts were the only disappointment. One can’t afford to be on the wrong side of the hole at this course.

“I played well in my rookie season last year but I needed to work on some aspects of my game and so didn’t play the first two events of the season earlier this month. The hard work seems to be paying off,” said Taunk.

K Prabagaran (62-69), the overnight leader, continued to strike it well as he drove three par-4 greens which earned him two birdies. However, his putting let him down, as he three-putted twice. His only bogey was on the 17th where he missed the green.

Shamim Khan (63-68) continued in joint second with a steady 68 that featured three birdies and a bogey. Khan created chances with his iron-play as all his three birdies were tap-ins.

On an eventful day, Bangalore’s Chikkarangappa and Sri Lankan N Thangaraja fired aces during their rounds of 65 and 66 respectively. While Chikka made hole-in-one on the 10th, Thangaraja achieved the feat on the seventh.

Chikka was placed seventh at seven-under-133 and Thangaraja ended the day in tied 13th at four-under-136. Thangaraja closed his round by picking up five strokes on the last four holes as he made birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie from the sixth through the ninth.

Gaganjeet Bhullar, one of the pre-tournament favourites, followed up his opening round of 70 with a 68 on day two to be placed tied 22nd at two-under-138. The Kapurthala golfer’s second round featured an eagle-two on the fifth, four birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey. Bhullar was five-under through 16 holes but dropped three strokes on the last two holes after a double-bogey and bogey finish.

Kolkata’s Shankar Das, the 2014 Rolex Rankings champion, shot a 70 on Friday to join Bhullar in tied 22nd position.

The cut was declared at four-over-144. Sixty professionals made the cut.
Survey pushes for Big Bang reforms


Encouraged by the growth projection of 7.4% by the new series with a new base year, the government think tank report `The Economic Survey 2014-15’ has urged for pushing forward the ‘Big Bang’ reform agenda just before the presentation of the annual Union Budget.

A few days back the Central Statistics Office (CSO) revised the base year to 2011-12 from 2004-05 for estimation of GDP. Accordingly, it projected 7.4% growth for the year 2014-15 at constant prices after revising the quarterly estimates for the year. The growth at current prices for the year is projected at 11.5%.

Further the Survey has raised the hopes of the country entering into a double digit growth trajectory as it the government has got a political mandate for reforms and a benign external environment is prevailing. The deceleration in growth has ended and the economy seems to be “recovering” and the macro-economic fundamentals are stable. 

Suggesting the government to be aggressive in inviting foreign direct investment (FDI), the Survey points out the “challenges in other major economies have made India the near-cynosure of eager investors.” The advantage of the situation of falling global oil prices and expectation of a good monsoon should be seized by pushing the reform agenda coupled with easing of monetary policy.

What is the essence of this ‘Big Bang’ reforms? To give a push to Prime Minister’s pet ‘Make in India’ programme, the Survey contemplates “What should India make? Manufacturing or Services? ” As a prelude, the Survey states that, in order to bring about expansion and structural transformation, India should utilize its dominant resource of unskilled labour. 

It distinguishes registered manufacturing (formal sector) from the general manufacturing which covers informal sector as well. It says that registered manufacturing has “the potential for structural transformation.“ Registered manufacturing exhibits high productivity compared to other sectors of the economy. However the manufacturing sector has registered a declining trend due to major factors like distortions in labour, land and capital markets and specialization not being in tune with India’s comparative advantage in unskilled labour. Thus the Survey signals the need for reforms in labour, land and capital markets.

Certain sub-sectors in services, particularly the financial services and business services, exhibit higher productivity levels than registered manufacturing. However, these sectors being highly skill intensive (excluding construction) are out of line with the skill profile of the Indian labour force. They are unlikely to generate widely shared and inclusive growth. Saying so, the Survey observes that the service sector has the potential for domestic growth convergence across regions. 

The services sector has clocked a double digit growth of 10.6% and continues to dominate FDI equity inflows. Services exports grew by 3.7% to $75.9 billion. Hence India should call for removing any market access barriers at the WTO and domestic regulations should be put in place to realise the full potential of the sector.

The Survey favours that growth should balance the nation’s comparative advantage in availability of low skilled labour with skill development required by future generations to take advantage of lost opportunities. The registered manufacturing must be expanded to take leverage of India’s abundant unskilled labour. While “Make in India” occupies prominence as an important goal, the future trajectory of economic development depends on both “Make in India” and “Skilling India”. 

According to the Labour Bureau Report 2014, despite the demographic dividend the country enjoys, the total skilled force is only 2%, much lower when compared to other developing countries.

The Survey has noted that 3.61 crore micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) contributes 37.5% of the country’ GDP have a critical role in boosting industrial groth and ensuring the success of ‘Make in India’ programme.

On investments, the Survey has significantly commented that while private investment must remain the primary engine of long-run growth, the public investment, particularly in the railways will have to play an important role in the interim to revive growth and to deepen physical connectivity. In the long run, the railways must be commercially viable and public support for the railways should be restricted to equity support for investment by the corporatized railway entities and for funding the universal service obligations that it provides. However, any public support should be clearly linked to serious reforms of the structure of the railways, its adoption of commercial practices, rationalization of tariff and overhaul of technology.

The Survey has prescribed a golden rule for fiscal policy saying that governments are expected to borrow over the cycle only to finance investment and not to fund current expenditure. Fiscal deficit should be brought down to 3% of the GDP.

The Survey has questioned the subsidies given by both the Central and State Governments on rice, wheat, pulses, sugar kerosene, LPG, naptha, water, electricity, diesel, fertilizer, iron ore. It raised the issue of how much of these benefits actually reach the poor. It said that price subsidies are often regressive: It means that a rich household benefits more from the subsidy than a poor household. Subsidies distort market. It contributes to food price inflation that disproportionately hurts poor household who tend to have uncertain income streams and lack the assets to weather economic shocks.

High MSPs and price subsidies for water together lead to water-intensive cultivation that causes water tables to drop, which hurts farmers, especially those without irrigation. In order to cross subsidise low passenger fares, fright tariffs in railways are among the highest in the world. This reduces the competitiveness of Indian manufacturing and raises the cost of manufactured goods that all households, including the poor, consume.Benefits from fertilizer price subsidies probably accrue to the fertilizer manufacturer and richer farmer, not the intended beneficiary, the farmer. Leakages seriously undermine the effectiveness of product subsidies.

As an alternative, the Survey has suggested direct transfer of cash benefits through JAM – Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhar platform and mobile phone number. It suggested creation of common markets for farm commodities and also extensive use of IT technology. It suggested imposition of carbon tax in lieu of carbon subsidy and promotion of clean energy. For reforms in financial sector, the Survey suggested 4Ds – deregulation, differentiation, diversification and disinter.

(Ashok B Sharma is a senior Columnist writing on strategic and policy issues in several Indian and international newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at His mobile phone number +91-9810902204)

Yogendra Yadav may be pushed out of AAP decision-making panel:

Yogendra Yadav may be pushed out of AAP decision-making panel: Sources
4m4 minutes ago
Yogendra Yadav may be pushed out of AAP decision-making panel: Sources

Friday, February 27, 2015

Indian National Congress has started its online membership process.

Indian National Congress has started its online membership process. Click here to be a member

Statement By Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, AirAsia X Group CEO
27th February 2015

Since taking the helm as Group CEO of AirAsia X earlier this month, the new management team and I have been reviewing all aspects of the business to ensure that we have the best product and services in place for our guests.

During this process, we found an issue with our current refund system, which we had outgrown due to our rapid expansion. The situation was unfortunately been exasperated by the QZ8501 incident as well as the unforeseen delay in the Denpasar – Melbourne route approval, which has caused a backlog in the refund process.

We are now in the process of migrating our refund process to our global shared services office in Penang. Once the migration is completed on 16 March, our centralized refund team will be able to process the refund requests in less than 45 business days (excluding processing time from customers’ merchant banks).

We are also taking additional measures to improve productivity and to add convenience and comfort to our guests’ travel experience. To start, we have set up a task force led by our newly appointed Group Head of Corporate Quality, Customer Support & Innovation, Mimi Phua.

Mimi will be responsible for spearheading a series of improvements and modifications including the development of a new platform that will enable all of our guests to track their refunds both online and on mobile devises.  The platform is currently scheduled to launch in July of this year.

We sincerely apologize for the inconveniences caused to our valued guests. As a token of our appreciation for their continued patience, we will be offering a $50 AUD e-gift voucher to all guests that have yet to receive their refunds.  The e-gift vouchers will be valid for use towards any AirAsia X (D7, XT or XJ) flights. 

Please stay tuned for updates on our innovations as we continue to strive to deliver only the best. For any inquiries on outstanding refunds, guests can email their PNR (booking number) to .


Kamarudin Meranun
Group CEO, AirAsia X

Statement By Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, AirAsia X Group CEO
27th February 2015

Since taking the helm as Group CEO of AirAsia X earlier this month, the new management team and I have been reviewing all aspects of the business to ensure that we have the best product and services in place for our guests.

During this process, we found an issue with our current refund system, which we had outgrown due to our rapid expansion. The situation was unfortunately been exasperated by the QZ8501 incident as well as the unforeseen delay in the Denpasar – Melbourne route approval, which has caused a backlog in the refund process.

We are now in the process of migrating our refund process to our global shared services office in Penang. Once the migration is completed on 16 March, our centralized refund team will be able to process the refund requests in less than 45 business days (excluding processing time from customers’ merchant banks).

We are also taking additional measures to improve productivity and to add convenience and comfort to our guests’ travel experience. To start, we have set up a task force led by our newly appointed Group Head of Corporate Quality, Customer Support & Innovation, Mimi Phua.

Mimi will be responsible for spearheading a series of improvements and modifications including the development of a new platform that will enable all of our guests to track their refunds both online and on mobile devises.  The platform is currently scheduled to launch in July of this year.

We sincerely apologize for the inconveniences caused to our valued guests. As a token of our appreciation for their continued patience, we will be offering a $50 AUD e-gift voucher to all guests that have yet to receive their refunds.  The e-gift vouchers will be valid for use towards any AirAsia X (D7, XT or XJ) flights. 

Please stay tuned for updates on our innovations as we continue to strive to deliver only the best. For any inquiries on outstanding refunds, guests can email their PNR (booking number) to .


Kamarudin Meranun
Group CEO, AirAsia X

AAP welcomes Delhi state BJP's demand 50 per cent power subsidy benefit should be extended to all,

AAP welcomes Delhi state BJP's demand
BJP';s demand that 50 per cent power subsidy benefit should be extended to all,

The Aam Aadmi Party welcomes Delhi state BJP';s demand that 50 per cent power subsidy benefit should be extended to all, and not just to consumers with electricity consumption up to only 400 units. We are ready to accept the suggestion and extend the benefit to all the consumers if BJP leaders manage to convince the BJP led central government to bear the extra financial burden for the benefit of Delhi';s citizens, which we sincerely hope Mr. Narendra Modi';s government will happily do, because he had promised to slash the electricity tariffs by half during his election campaign.

BJP Delhi state president Shri Satish Upadhyay and it';s leader of the legislative party in Delhi Assembly Shri Vijendra Gupta have been quoted in the media demanding across the board 50 per cent subsidy for power consumers. We do agree to Mr Vijendra Gupta and Mr. Satish Upadhyay that every Delhi citizen deserves relief, but we had to use the targeted subsidy route to benefit 90 per cent consumers for financial constraints and encouraging consumers to consume electricity judiciously. We think that this subsidy slab of upto 400 units will be major incentive that would encourage people to save power and help bring down electricity demand.

The state BJP leadership seems to differ with us on the issue. BJP';s statement shows that the party thinks the relief should be extended to all without any cut-off slab. BJP also seems to believe that there is no need to encourage people in Delhi to save power and consume less electricity and  give incentive to people saving electricity. We see this confidence of the state BJP stemming from the belief that they would manage the balance subsidy burden from the BJP led central government and insuring availability of cheap power to Delhi if the demand crosses the supply quota earmarked to Delhi.

Now as the Aam Aadmi Party government has given power subsidy benefit to 90 per cent consumers of Delhi, we request the state BJP leadership to take up the  issue with the Central Government led by their own party on an urgent basis and convince it to bear the financial burden to extend the benefit to the rest of 10 per cent electricity consumers, who spend more than 400 units per month. Since Mr. Modi himself had made the promise to slash electricity tariffs by 50 per cent, we sincerely hope that he would agree to this small demand of the state BJP leaders.

Moreover, as the BJP thinks there is no need to encourage people to save electricity by giving incentive to those consuming less electricity, the state BJP should also get an assurance from its central government that it would make available cheap power to Delhi if the demand shoots up.

The Aam Aadmi Party promises that the power subsidy benefit will be extended to all immediately after the extra subsidy burden is borne by BJP';s central government.

AAP Media cell

Srinivasan apologises to Supreme Court

Srinivasan apologises to Supreme Court -
BJP Continues to Mislead Farmers and their Supporters in Various Parties

The Real Battle is between Farmers and Land Grabbing Corporates and BJP, not between Bharat and Pakistan!

BJP is Hiding Behind the Poor in its Defence

The Ordinance now Bill is Bringing Back the Colonial Legacy: Unacceptable
February 27 : Forcible land acquisition has always been an issue of life and death for millions of people in India, not only farmers but also agricultural laborers and fish workers. With the Land Ordinance it has become a political hot-potato. More than 350 people’s organizations gathered at the Parliament Street on February 24th, with 25,000 people from Gujarat to Orissa to Assam, and from Himachal Pradesh to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It has forced the political parties to take a stand on the issue and leading to heated debate and discussion on the floor of the Parliament. It is certainly a result of the anti-farmer and anti-poor move of undemocratically amending the 2013 Act on Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation to the extent of killing its very spirit and purpose.

The ordinance brought in by the NDA government just after the Winter session of the Parliament came to an end was an obvious imposition on the country’s common people of the same colonial legacy of the perverted vision of development through an unjust and undemocratic modus operandi. Ordinance is an attempt at opening of the land that is life support, source of livelihood and shelter for India’s toiling masses, to the wealthy investors, including big corporations and builders. It is to forcibly divert India’s agricultural land at the cost of food security giving a free hand with no ceiling to the private companies as well as private entities i.e. the private trusts and expensive profit making educational and health institutions. The intention is to benefit private interests in the name of public interest. 

The 2013 Act which replaced the British Act on Land Acquisition, for the first time brought in the process of assessing Social Impact (SIA) along with environmental (EIA) in consultation with the affected people and the Gram Sabhas as well as appropriate urban units. As a precondition for the proper planning of rehabilitation including identifying, and listing of the affected population, the impact on their livelihood, culture, and an appropriate plan to compensate, this was a must if justice is to be done to those who are made to sacrifice in the name of development. Assessing options and seeking suggestions for alternatives to minimize impact and displacement would go a long way. The consent of land losers was also an important clause at least for private and PPP projects (The 2013 Act too left out government projects, unjustifiably) to respect and give our farmers due role, space and primacy in development planning as against ‘no level playing field’ situation between the monetary capitalists (the corporates) and the natural resource investors (farmers and others).

BJP’s Half Truths and Propaganda
The BJP leaders are now making false interpretations and unjustifiable arguments to accusing the people’s movements and pro people politicians and parties as indicated from the press conference held by Nitin Gadkari and statement by Arun Jaitley, the finance minister before the parliament, both of them the architects of the Ordinance and now the Bill. Without entering into dialogue with the agitating farmers’ organizations except members of their own ‘Parivar’, they are deliberately confusing the issues and presenting the struggle as a war between Bharat and Pakistan, drawing a false threat to India’s security. 

“If the SIA process is carried out and consent is sought, taking some time for the same, Pakistan will come to know about the project and can sabotage it,” said Mr. Jaitley. This is a statement, an indicator of the frustration and fury among the ruling party led by the Prime Minister that wishes to save the Bill by misbriefing the people. How can seeking consent for a project developed by a private corporation, since government is allowing PPP and FDI in Defence as well, be threat to the national security but the private corporations involvement is not. Does that make any sense ?  

The people’s movements, instrumental in getting the former UPA government to abolish the British Act of 1894 and to bring in the 2013 Act condemn this fake, communal appeal to disrespect the farmers and deny them the right to be partners in development. SIA and consent will not stop the projects but rather resolve the conflicts due to imposition of projects without rehabilitation.

The private and PPP projects have been grabbing land through forcible acquisition standing on the shoulders of the State. The SEZ of Ambani was to get 35000 hectares in Maharashtra, and DMIC is targeting 3,90,000 hectares. While the thousands of hectares of Sardar Sarovar command area land in Gujarat is diverted to companies, along with waters, Industrial Corridors to mining, tourism, water and power projects profiting companies are now proposed to be granted land that can be forcibly acquired from farmers. The 1894 British Act too was not permitted to be used for this, and no other country in the world has any such legal and legitimate way to forcibly transfer the farmers’, fishworkers’, and common peoples’ resources. 

Mr. Gadkari is claiming the credit for including 13 acts under the purview of the 2013 Act but this is done after killing the spirit and main provisions in the Act. 

Mr. Gadkari and BJP spokespersons have also resorted to a farcical justification for the ordinance, referring to 31.12.2014 as the deadline, for including the acts. 

The fact is that Section 105 allowed 1 year to bring in these 13 acts so as to allow amendments in those and make land acquisition procedures and provisions therein, consistent with the new Act.Section 105 also elaborates the procedure of placing any amendment, notification before the parliament for 30 days, seeking approval. Instead of doing the same, the BJP government waited till the last day to include the Acts, only after excluding the main pro-people provisions. 

The farmers in dam areas like Tata’s, Gosikhurd, Waang Marathwadi, Narmada or in industrial areas in Nandigram, POSCO or hill city project like Lavasa have experienced that the wasteland and previously acquired but unused land is ignored and more land, even irrigated, multiple crop land is forcibly acquired for non agricultural purposes. There is not less than 100,000 hectares of MIDC land, acquired for industries but left unutilized. The land acquired for Varasgaon Dam, 141 hectares were leased out for bungalows once Lavasa City came up, engulfing the dam itself!

The 2013 Act for the first time, brought in a restraint by suggesting a certain percentage to be decided by the state as a limit for acquiring multiple crop land in a district and a state. The movements believed no agricultural land should be acquired as today’s single crop land becomes multiple crop land tomorrow. But BJP doesn’t wish to put any limit to grabbing and destroying even prime agricultural land by changing the 2013 provision for the same. 

The Penalty Clause (Section 87) in the 2013 Act is also changed to meet the heads of the departments sanctioning authorities as against holding them responsible for the violations by erring officials! The common persons cannot file a case (FIR) against the violators without a sanction, as per the Bill, 2015. 

All this proves that the strong opposition to the Ordinance and the Bill 2015 by many an opposition parties and some of the NDA partners like Shiv Sena and LJD, is fully justifiable. We appreciate their taking a position in favor of the farming community in the country at this crucial juncture. Consideration including food security and no rehabilitation is possible without guaranteeing alternative livelihood (missing in the 2013 Act itself) has now led all those who support our food growers and toiling masses including small traders, artisans, to challenge the anti-people move, the Bill, 2013 which will lead to more suicides and make millions landless laborers.

We instead demand further pro-people amendments as recommended by the two Parliamentary Standing Committees in the 2013 Act to save farmers’ lives and livelihoods of millions.