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Gandhian prescription tackles farm distress

Bharat Dogra

Many-sided distress of farmers has led to intense movements of farmers in recent months. In the course of these movements important issues were raised and several demands of farmers were highlighted. Some issues got a lot of attention, while other equally or perhaps more important problems did not get the necessary attention.

The issue of ensuring remunerative and higher prices to farmers was well highlighted, as also that of providing relief from debt. In fact debt waivers of various kinds have already been announced in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab.

Another important issue which got attention was why and how benefits of muchpublicised crop insurance schemes had not reached farmers as per their expectations. On the other hand several important issues have not received attention even now. Firstly there is the important need to reduce costs of farming. Secondly there is the need to emphasise that solutions should encourage eco-friendly practices.

Only then would these solutions be sustainable. Otherwise we will merely be going from one crisis to another. During the last five decades or so the government has favoured policies and technologies that have increased farming costs relentlessly whether it is the cost of fertilizer or pesticide, or seeds of big companies or even various kinds of farm machinery.

The government implemented policies which trapped farmers in these technologies and later the price of some inputs went up sharply.

The next phase is that of extension in some way or the other of intellectual property rights to seeds and farming. This is also the phase of aggressive promotion of GM crops which get concentrated in the hands of fewer and bigger multinational companies bent on dominating the world food and agriculture scene. India is predominantly a land of small farmers who have very low capacity to absorb losses.

They do not have the resource base for this and even relatively small losses lead to borrowings at high interest rates. There are uncertainties associated with farming that have only increased with climate change, erratic weather patterns and a declining water table.

Hence a relentless rise in costs over the years has been one of the most important factors behind increasing debts and distress of farmers. To find a way out of this distress, methods of reducing costs on a sustainable basis have to be found. Dozens of interesting experiments and initiatives all over the country have established that it is possible to reduce costs on a sustainable basis.

These possibilities will increase if the government invests in a bigger way in water and moisture conservation, in improving pastures and the green cover of indigenous trees of diverse species, protection of traditional seeds and smallscale, low-cost irrigation projects.

All these should be taken up with the involvement of local villagers. For sustainable and broad-based well-being of farming and farmers, it is important to maintain the fertility of soil, the water table and also be protective towards the various pollinators and friendly birds, insects and microorganisms.

But the policies and technologies pursued in India have destroyed the natural fertility of soil, depleted and lowered the water table while perpetuating genocide against bees and other pollinators, various friendly insects, earthworms and micro organisms.

It is a measure of distorted thinking that areas where this has happened on the largest scale are termed in official jargon as the most developed areas. Now with the advent of GM crops and related technologies, the ground is being prepared for the next stage of irreversible ecological ruin.

This officially subsidized ecological destruction has been responsible for the many-sided distress of farmers. Several experiments and initiatives reveal that it is still possible to come out of the trap of this ecologically destructive farming and adopt sustainable, eco-friendly farming practices.

The twin challenges of reducing costs and protecting the environment are mutually supportive. The same methods, technologies and policies can be useful in protecting the environment and reducing costs. In some places organic and eco-friendly farming has been made needlessly expensive by adding costly certification procedures. This is not for us. We need those ecofriendly methods which are so low cost as to be close to zero budget. Very low cost methods and ecologically protective methods become possible within the overall perspective of self-reliant communities, a concept which was favoured by Mahatma Gandhi.

So the key issues are reducing costs, eco-friendly farming and an overall perspective of increasing self-reliance. These extremely important issues need to receive much more attention in the farmers movements than has been the case so far.

(The writer is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives.



Government punishes 133 'non-performing' babus

A service review on a government employee is conducted twice -- first after 15 years and again after 25 years of completion of qualifying service.

NEW DELHI: The government has taken disciplinary action against 133 non-performing officers, Union minister Jitendra Singh said today.

The action is part of a review being conducted by the central government to check deadwood in its workforce.

Compulsory retirement was given to an IAS officer in 2015, he said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.

"Necessary provisions have been invoked/recommended in the case of 30 Group A and 103 Group B officers till May 2017," the minister of state for personnel said.

In 2014, a graft-tainted IAS couple -- Arvind and Tinoo Joshi -- in Madhya Pradesh were dismissed from service, four years after an income-tax search on their house led to the detection of disproportionate assets worth Rs 350 crore and recovery of Rs 3 crore in cash.

A service review on a government employee is conducted twice -- first after 15 years and again after 25 years of completion of qualifying service.


Non-performance: I-T dept transfers 245 commissioners

NEW DELHI: In one of the biggest reshuffles of income tax commissioners so far, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has transferred 245 commissioners across the country. While performance was one of the main criteria for transferring officials in key positions and shifting out non-performers from significant charges, all those officers holding a post for two years or more have also been transferred, besides those facing vigilance or other disciplinary.charges.

In a separate directive issued to its top officers on July 12, the CBDT asked regional heads of the I-T department to "develop a regional strategy in line with specific profile of their region" and use centrally disseminated intelligence data in increasing the tax base. Last year alone, the department had added 91 lakh new taxpayers.

The CBDT said with the new data analytics provided by the central office, it expects these officers to add taxpayers who have so far not been filing returns or disclosing their income.

CBDT chairman Sushil Chandra told his top officers that he will hold regional stocktaking meetings to review region-wise performance, starting in October and to be continued thereafter as a regular affair.

Till then, he has asked senior officers and zonal heads to generate monthly reports highlighting the work done under their charge. With the rollout of the goods and services tax, the department is hopeful of adding a significant number of taxpayers and improve the tax to GDP ratio.

Chandra, in his communication to officers in the rank of principal chief commissioners, told them to maximise efforts to widen the tax base during the current financial year. "Widening of the tax base remains one of the important policy objectives of CBDT," he said, adding that this was possible in view of increase in economic activity both in the organised as well as unorganised sector.

The CBDT has deployed tools to identify tax evaders. It is using data mining and data analytics conducted in the wake of demonetisation and operation clean money to gather information on black money and tax evaders which is sent to field formations to issue notices to individual and firms going under the tax radar.

"Apart from centrally disseminated data, local intelligence, inputs from market associations, trade bodies and professionals may be utilised for identification of non-filers," Chandra said in his directive. As a strategy, I-T regional heads have been asked to conduct awareness meetings and outreach programmes to encourage voluntary compliance, particularly in tier-2 and tier-3 cities.

PIONEER, JUL 17, 2017



The Centre has clarified that there is no ban on IAS or IPS officers from filing Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the court.

According to a RTI information by Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT), Government of India has revealed that there is no provision in the All India Services (Conduct) rules 1968 that prohibits an IAS or IPS officer from filing PIL before the Court.

In a PIL filed by UP cadre IPS officer Amitabh Thakur, Allahabad High Court had directed to formulate policy as regards government servants filing PILs. Amitabh Thakur had sought information from the DOPT about the compliance of the High Court order.

The IPS officer in a statement said hereon Sundaythat the DOPT note sheet clearly states that there is no restriction to file PIL. It also mentions the case of V S Pandey where the Supreme Court has upheld the right of public servants to file PILs.

Yet, in order to have a balance between right to judicial remedy and its adverse effect on public service, DOPT is thinking of a policy of public servants taking permission to file PILs, while also worrying on why an affected authority grant permission against itself.

Meanwhile in another RTI revelation, Air India, whose proposed privatization is in news recently, does not have any information in this regards.

RTI activist Dr Nutan Thakur had requested Air India to provide the documents related with its proposed disinvestment, including those exchanged between Air India and different offices.

S K Bajaj, AGM (OA), Air India told through his letter dated July 11 last said that Air India has not made any communication to any other officers nor has it received any communication from any of the departments in respect of the proposed disinvestment of Air India. Hence, it has no information to provide in this regards.

As per Nutan Thakur in a statement here, it is truly strange that the Company whose privatization is being planned, seems to be out of the loop in the process.

TRIBUNE, JUL 17, 2017

Creche may soon be a must in offices with 50 employees

The labour ministry will soon come out with regulations for setting up creche at workplace to give effect to the maternity law, under which all offices with 50 or more employees are required to set up boarding facilities for small kids.

A notification on creche, which will define the location, area and other mandatory requirements, would be issued shortly, officials said.

The enabling provision under the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 has made it mandatory from July 1 to have creche facilities at establishments having 50 or more employees.

As of now, companies can take a leeway as we have not defined within what distance a creche should be opened by an employer. We are yet to bring that into the rules and then have to notify that in a couple of months, a senior official said.

Even though the rule has already come into effect this month, many establishments across the country, including government organisations, have not yet tendered this facility to their employees.

The amended Act states: Every establishment having 50 or more employees shall have a facility of creche within such distance as may be prescribed, either separately or along with common facilities. The labour ministry will also do advocacy in case other ministries or departments have not still provided creche, the official said.

The notification is under process as of now. For mines workers, the Centre will frame the rules. For other establishments and private companies, the state departments concerned will bring out the notification on rules, said another official in the ministry. Asked about what action could be taken if companies defy the rules, the officials said there is stringent penal provision.

The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 has increased the maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks with effect from April 1, 2017 for working women with less than two surviving children, as also the provision of creche facility. PTI


HINDU, JUL 17, 2017

Over 20 DU colleges have no principal or governing body

Top post at some colleges vacant for several years; new session starts this week

With just a few days to go before the new academic session begins at Delhi University (DU), over 20 of its 70 colleges are being run by officiating or acting principals.

The post at several top-rung colleges have been vacant for several years and they are being run by acting principals appointed according to university rules for a term of six months at the most, following which the post is supposed to be filled permanently, or the term is extended.

According to procedure, the responsibility of appointment of principals lies both with the university as well as the colleges governing body.

The post has to be advertised by the governing body and the university is supposed to set up a selection committee for interviews.

However, several colleges do not have governing bodies as well and hence the appointment has been stalled.

Fast-track approach

A university official said that in April, the university had sent a communication to over 20 colleges that do not have a permanent principal to speed up the process of filling the posts.

The university has decided to come up with a common format that colleges could use to advertise for the position of principal so that they do not have to spend time getting the advertisement approved by the governing body of the college.

DU has also released a form online so that candidates looking to apply for the post of Principal can apply to multiple colleges through the same application.

The university said that approximately 15 colleges published an advertisement for the post before the start of the session but there has been no update in this regard as the colleges got busy with the admission process.

The Delhi government has also written to the university to speed up the process of forming a governing body in 28 colleges that are funded by it so that the vacancies for the posts of principals and teachers can be filled.

Top colleges

The government said that it considered stopping funds to 12 fully-funded and 16 partially-funded colleges in the university if the governing bodies of the colleges are not formed.

The colleges without a principal include Hans Raj College, Shri Ram College of Commerce, Hindu College, Kirorimal College, Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, Kamala Nehru College and Ramjas College.

The Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) has also made several attempts to communicate to the Vice-Chancellor the need to form governing bodies in 28 Delhi government-funded colleges as well as to appoint principal in all colleges.

Other appointments

In a letter written to the V-C in June, DUTA president Nandita Narain had said: Since the governing bodies of colleges are the appointing authority for both the Principal and teachers, it is essential that regular governing bodies for all the colleges are in place to ensure that the appointment process takes place in a smooth, time-bound and fair manner.

Teachers said that the delay in appointing principals was also causing a delay in the appointment of permanent faculty and thousands of teachers were being forced to work on an ad-hoc basis without benefits and job security.

Since the governing body of a college is the appointing authority for both the principal and teachers, it is essential that regular governing bodies for all the colleges are in place

Nandita Narain

President of Delhi University Teachers Association


SRCC teacher assaulted for awarding zero marks to student with ABVPlinks

While the principal of the college, R P Rustagi, said he was given zero because he never attended classes, the student, Pradeep Phogat, has alleged that he was being discriminated against because he was politically active and was from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

Written byAranya Shankar

Delhi Police has registered an FIR against a student of Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) for allegedly assaulting a teacher in the college parking lot on Friday evening for giving him zero in his internal assessment and ruining his future. While the principal of the college, R P Rustagi, said he was given zero because he never attended classes, the student, Pradeep Phogat, has alleged that he was being discriminated against because he was politically active and was from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). ABVP state secretary Bharat Khatana, however, maintained that Phogat did not belong to the organisation.

Confirming that an FIR has been lodged under IPC sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341(wrongful restraint) and 506 (criminal intimidation) against the student, DCP (north district) Jatin Narwal said further investigation is underway.

Phogat is currently pursuing a Post Graduate Diploma in Global Business Operations (GBO) from SRCC. He was the Union Sports Secretary of Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) in 2015, and has previously done his LLB from Delhi Universitys Law Faculty.

The student assaulted Ashwani Kumar in the parking lot around 5 pm. He slapped him a couple of times but Kumar was able to defend himself. He also hurled abuses at him, and then ran away. After that, some of us went to the Maurice Nagar police station and submitted a complaint on the basis of which an FIR was registered, said Rustagi, who also teaches the GBO course.

He does not attend classes, and therefore all his teachers have given him zero in his internal assessment. Last semester, he had failed in all his exams, and this semester he didnt even sit for the examinations. What can a teacher do? He probably thought he could threaten teachers and have his way, but things dont work that way. He had earlier also called and threatened Ashwani Kumar on the phone regarding the same, he added.

Kumar, however, could not be reached for comments.

Phogat, meanwhile, said, Ashwani Sir has had a problem with me since last year when I participated in the college elections. He holds a grudge against me since Im from Law Faculty and from ABVP. He doesnt want students to be politically active. He gave me zero in my internals, and also asked all other teachers do the same.

My attendance was normal, but he stopped my admit card this year. I was simply speaking to Ashwani Sir on Friday, pleading with him to not ruin my future. But he said main tujhe pass nahi hone dunga. Phir maine unhe dhakka de diya, teen thapad maare aur pet me ek laath maari. He left me with no other option, said Phog

HINDU, JUL 19, 2017

Varsity teaching in local languages

UPDATED:JULY 19, 2017 03:38 IST

The Government of India has decided that regional languages should be the media of instruction in universities and the programme for this should be completed within five years. A sum of Rs. 18 crores has been set apart from a scheme to translate all books on scientific and technical subjects into Indian languages. Of this Rs. 5 crores will be for Hindi books and Rs. 1 crore each for other regional languages. The Union Cabinet, which at its meeting to-day [July 18] decided in principal to switch over to regional languages as media of instruction at all levels of education, will adopt a formal resolution incorporating its decision on August 14, one hundred years after the demand for regional languages being made the media of instruction was voiced in the country. The Union Education Minister, Dr. Triguna Sen, is expected to announce the Cabinet decision in the Lok Sabha to-morrow [July 19, New Delhi]. The Cabinet also decided in principle that linguistic minorities should be given all facilities and encouragement to start their own educational institutions. The Union Education Ministry will shortly begin to work out details for a smooth switch-over. Dr. Sen, it is understood, is keen on ensuring that standards of education are not affected by the new policy.

TRIBUNE, JUL 20, 2017

LS passes Bill allowing IIITs to award degrees

Aditi Tandon

Eleven months after the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Amethi, was wound up and its students shifted to the main IIIT campus at Allahabad, the government today said the Amethi institute was virtually running without faculty for nine years.

Between 2005 and 2014, no faculty was appointed at IIIT Amethi. There was just one faculty. Every day one teacher from IIIT Allahabad would travel to the Amethi off campus and come back. Substandard education became a norm. Students protested and asked to be shifted to Allahabad IIIT. That was why Amethi IIIT was shifted to Ambedkar University, Lucknow, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar told the Lok Sabha today replying to a debate on the IIIT Private-Public Partnership Bill 2017 which the House later passed.

The Bill, in a first, allows private investment (sharing ratio will be 50 per cent central financing, 35 per cent state and 15 per cent private) in a central higher education institution. It grants statutory status to 15 existing IIITs which can now confer B Tech, M Tech and PhD degrees to students. The first UG batch passes out this year.

Javadekar used the occasion today to clarify Congress charges that the BJP government closed down Rajiv Gandhi IIIT, Amethi, out of vengeance for the Gandhis. Amethi is Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhis LS segment.

Javadekar said TCS and Nasscom had projected 70 lakh jobs in the Information Techonology sector in five years, which makes the IIIT Bill important as it seeks to create IT manpower.


IIITs now Institutes of National Importance

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed a Bill to declare the Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIIT) established under the public-private partnership (PPP) route as Institutes of National Importance (INIs).

During the discussion before the passage of the Bill, Minister of Human Resource Development (MoHRD) Prakash Javadekar said that as PPP did not mean there would be fee hikes.

He said fees were not the only source of revenue for these institutions, and they would raise funds also from research grants and projects.

There might be a slight increase for those who have the capacity to bear. But for the poor [students], there will be scholarships, he added.

He also cautioned against resistance to the PPP model, saying much investment was required to make education competitive for increasing employability.

HINDU, JUL 18, 2017

Universities should produce argumentative IndiansAmartya Sen releases book at Rashtrapati Bhavan; President receives first copy

Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen released a book titledFuture of Indian Universities: Comparative and InternationalPerspectivesat Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday.

President Pranab Mukherjee, who received the first copy of the book, said, Universities should produce argumentative and pragmatic Indians rather than intolerant and dogmatic citizens.

Speaking on the occasion, the President asked those present to think about the future of Indian universities as a continuation of Indias rich history and heritage of education.

Universities of future

Mr. Mukherjee said, We would do well to take from reforms by great philosophers and visionaries, such as [Rabindranath] Tagore, who sought to revive the ancient Buddhist tradition of higher learning and research in a common pursuit of truth for all mankind.

The President added that our universities of the future must gear up for global competition to find their place on the tables of institutional rankings and they must not forget the difference between world-class and world-minded.

The President said the universities of the future need to re-invent our rich past heritage of Kautuhalshala (an assembly of inquisitive minds raising questions), hitherto silenced by the pedagogy of rote-memorising for test.

Mr. Mukherjee stressed on the importance of research by saying let our students raise important research questions and break new grounds in scientific discoveries, artistic creativity and philosophical ruminations.

The book has been complied by Professor C. Raj Kumar, the Vice-Chancellor of Jindal Global University and is published by Oxford University Press.



Ways to a cooler world- India's thinking on renewable energy is still too myopic

Writing On The WallAshok V. Desai

Global warming is now contested by few; it is part of our personal experience. It has intensified over the past two decades, and will get worse before long. Remedial action against it is urgent. Such action has, however, been impeded by the fact that it is an external diseconomy: my actions to reduce global warming benefit the rest of the world more than me, and I do not see why I should act unless my fellow humans pay me. Hence international action is unlikely unless all - or most of the important - countries agree to cooperate.

Assuming that they did, the question would arise what action they could take. An obvious measure would be to tax carbon emissions. The World Bank created a Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition for this purpose. It appointed a commission chaired by two economists: Joseph Stiglitz, professor at Columbia University, and Lord Stern, the I.G. Patel Professor in the London School of Economics. For convenience, I shall call the carbon pricing commission Stistern Commission.

The commission had before it two models that had been tried out. One is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This convention was called together in 1992. Subsequently, its members have met every few years and exchanged voluntary promises to cut emission. Their last collective act was the Paris agreement of 2015; 185 countries met and agreed to meet every five years to look at what they had achieved and revise their promises. This is the agreement on which Donald Trump has reneged; the United States of America being the world's biggest emitter, its exit must leave the agreement pretty limp.

The other model is the European Union's cap-and-trade agreement. Under it, every significant emitter in the EU gets a ration of emissions for a specified period; the current period is 2013-2020. It has to keep its emissions within the ration. But if it emits less than its ration, it can sell the difference to an emitter who wants to exceed his ration. Initially, emitters found cheap and easy ways to keep within their rations, there was a surplus of permits, and there was no market for them. Emissions vary with the trade cycle, and so does the scarcity value of an emission permit. The EU system reduces emissions down to a planned limit, but the incentive to reduce emissions that this model gives is highly variable and unpredictable.

The Stistern Commission notes other options besides carbon tax and cap-and-trade: the state can subsidize capital or interest costs of low-carbon investments, or give guarantees that would reduce capital costs of funds raised in the market. It would be ideal to raise funds wherever they are cheapest in the world, and to invest them in emission reduction projects that give the highest return. Funds are cheaper in developed countries, and unexploited opportunities are more abundant in developing countries. So an efficient solution would require massive investments by developed in developing countries, and large flows of funds to service the investments from developing to developed countries.

That is politically impracticable. But at the national level, a carbon tax can bring in considerable revenue, and create an opportunity to reform the fiscal system. It would be difficult to evade because carbon fuels are produced by large firms, and would reduce the incentive to stay small and evade taxes. Revenue from carbon tax would eventually fall to zero when carbon burning ceases. But till then, it can bring good revenue: as carbon consumption falls, revenue can be sustained by increasing the tax rate. Stistern suggest using the revenue to introduce a minimum basic income or universal cash transfer - an idea which was very hot in India until the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power and buried it. They have many other ideas: preparing roads and railways for carbon-free vehicles, adaptation of the electricity industry to absorb renewable energy technologies like solar and wind which generate power only intermittently, feebates which combine taxes on emitters with rebates to green alternatives, and so on.

Emissions tax will also have its victims - especially those who will have to pay the tax, and those working in and earning income from coal, oil and gas. Farmers who use diesel pumps and fishermen with diesel-fired boats will also suffer. But the deserving from amongst them can be subsidized. A strong candidate for subsidy is research and development for emissions reduction.

Stistern suggest that rich countries should raise carbon prices to $40-$80 per ton of emissions by 2020 and $50-$100 by 2030; poor countries should have more time to reach these targets. They should also introduce carbon-cutting regulations; the more countries achieve by other measures, the less they would have to achieve by raising prices.

The global green movement is replete with fancy terminology, unrealistic ambitions and an absent sense of realism; in that context, the Stistern report represents a commonsense, realistic approach. It is primarily directed towards rich countries, and takes the generous line towards poor countries that is embodied in international negotiations. India should take a tougher line with itself, and plan for a more expeditious transition to a green world. For this we need an analysis that is far more detailed than Stistern. The national energy policy that the government published in June does not go far enough. It envisages that between 2012 and 2040, energy consumption would more than triple under the business-as-usual scenario and rise more than two-and-a-half times if we got "ambitious". This is crazy; it is intended to be used for bargaining in international negotiations, but cannot be the basis of policy. The thinking on renewable energy, and especially solar power, is undeveloped; the report is stuck in the problems created in the electricity sector by its division across states. The approach is too myopic and bureaucratic.

The energy issue is going to make or break India; the government needs to bring in better analysis. For historical reasons, the parochial ties between the Energy Research Institute and the government have deprived us of good analysis. The government should start anew.

The two most promising lines of approach are solar power and electric vehicles. Solar panels now produce power at competitive rates; what their spread requires is cheap, mass-produced converters to integrate the panels into the grid, or storage batteries, or both. Electric vehicles are competitive where power is cheap enough; what has held them up in India is government permission. For instance, Bajaj designed an electric autorickshaw four years ago; it is still to be approved for use on the road.

These are just a few illustrations to show that India can change over to renewable energy pretty rapidly if the government encourages the shift instead of slowing it down in the guise of regulation. We should learn from Germany: it does not get much sunshine, but it has made it so easy for people to generate solar power in their homes and feed it into the grid that one sees solar panels over thousands of homes. We should also invest in mass production of lithium batteries: so many of our village homes are unconnected to the grid, but could turn to electric lighting if they can store solar power on the spot.


TRIBUNE, JUL 17, 2017

Public sector banks may go down to 12

Govt aim is to create global-sized banks and bring down the state-owned lenders number to minimum

The government is working on a consolidation agenda with a view to creating three-four global-sized banks and reduce the number of state-owned lenders to about 12, an official said.

The 21 public sector banks would get consolidated to 10-12 in the medium term, the official said.

As part of a three-tier structure, the official said, there would be at least three-four banks of the size of SBI, the countrys largest lender.

Some region-centric banks like Punjab and Sind Bank and Andhra Bank will continue as independent entities while some mid-size lenders would also co-exist, the official added.

Last month, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government is actively working towards consolidation of public sector banks but declined to provide details, saying this was a price-sensitive information.

Enthused by the success of SBI merger, the finance ministry is considering clearing another such proposal by this fiscal if the bad loan situation comes under control by then. According to former RBI Governor C Rangarajan, the system will have some large banks, some small banks, some local banks and so forth. What is needed in the system is variety, Rangarajan said.

One of the possibilities is that large public sector banks (PSBs) like Punjab National Bank, Bank of Baroda, Canara Bank and Bank of India could try looking for potential candidates for acquisition, another official said, who did not wish to be identified.

Factors like regional balance, geographical reach, financial burden and smooth human resource transition have to be looked into while taking a merger decision, they said, adding a very weak bank should not be merged with a strong one as it could pull the latter down.

In the last consolidation drive, five associate banks and Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) became part of SBI on April 1, 2017, catapulting the countrys largest lender to among the top 50 banks in the world.

State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur (SBBJ), State Bank of Hyderabad (SBH), State Bank of Mysore (SBM), State Bank of Patiala (SBP) and State Bank of Travancore (SBT), besides BMB, were merged with SBI.

With the merger, the total customer base of SBI reached around 37 crore with a branch network of around 24,000 and nearly 59,000 ATMs across the country.

SBI first merged State Bank of Saurashtra with itself in 2008. Two years later, State Bank of Indore was merged with it. PTI



Assam floods: lasting solution needed

Assam is facing its annual scourge of floods in the Brahmaputra, which is causing large-scale death and destruction. The Brahmaputra is among the most untamed rivers in the country which swells during the monsoon to inundate much of the state. Assam receives more rain than most other states. Halfway through the rainy season, 26 of its 35 districts are reeling under floods and 17.5 lakh people have been affected. Over 50 people have lost their lives. The loss of property, crops and livelihood is yet to be estimated. Most of the affected people have left their homes behind and are in camps. Thousands of domestic and wild animals have been lost. A good part of the Kaziranga National Park is under water and many animals, including four one-horned rhinos, have disappeared. It is a calamity of national proportions. Other Northeastern states have also been affected.

Though the floods were only to be expected and the government had made promises to take measures to tackle them, the state was as unprepared as ever to face them. The Brahmaputra is a wide river and the embankments are considered to have an important role in containing the floodwaters. They were not repaired and strengthened in time because of the lack of funds, bureaucratic delays and other reasons. Many of them have given way. About 300 of over 400 embankments covering 4,000 km have exceeded their life span. Many other preventive steps were also not taken. This is the case every year. Authorities try to take steps for relief and rehabilitation of victims after the floods, and this is always a half-done job. There cannot be adequate mitigation of the human misery caused by the floods and financial and other kinds of compensation are always inadequate. There is much corruption also in these exercises.

There has to be a combination of short-term and long-term measures to deal with the floods. The special course of the river, its widely varying size at different places and the high sedimentation and siltation in it make floods in the Brahmaputra bigger and more aggressive than in other rivers. There is still no agreement on how to fight the floods. There is a view that embankments are the problem and not the remedy. Measures like flood plain zoning, better forecasting and community-based local measures are suggested as more effective steps by some. Another proposal is for construction of dams but this is controversial. But a lasting solution needs to be found to save the Northeast from the recurring deluge.


HINDU, JUL 20, 2017

Ministry, NITI Aayog moot privatisation of select services in district hospitals

Vidya Krishnan

Under proposed PPP model, private players will get 30-year leases on space in district hospitals

As a part of a radical privatisation project, the Health Ministry and the NITI Aayog have developed a framework to let private hospitals run select services within district hospitals, on a 30-year lease.

In a 140-page document, prepared in consultation with the World Bank, the government will be allowing a single private partner or a single consortium of private partners to bid for space in district level hospitals, especially in tier 2 & 3 cities.

Under this Public Private Partnership (PPP), care for only three non-communicable diseases cardiac disease, pulmonary disease, and cancer care will be provided.

A model contract drawn up by NITI Aayog was sent out to State governments on June 5 by Amitabh Kant, Chief Executive Officer of NITI Aayog, giving the states a two-week window to furnish responses.

Draft document

In a letter sent out last month, Mr. Kant adds that the draft document was prepared by a working group comprising representatives from the industry, Health Ministry and representatives of a few states.

The policy document has come under sharp criticism for the Ministrys failure to consult with key stakeholders from civil society and academia. Dr. Amit Sengupta, convener of the India chapter of the Peoples Health Movement, said that the government was handing over critical public assets without gaining anything much in return.

NITI Aayog has no locus standi to make health policy, which is a state subject in India. The logic behind shutting down the Planning Commission was to ensure that policies are not centralised. NITI Aayog was to be an advisory body but here they are rushing through a policy that will essentially hand over public assets to the private sector, leading to a further dismantling of the public services available for free. If the government has to give seed money, share blood banks and other infrastructure, and still not be able to reserve beds for poor patients, it seems like we are not getting much in return, said Dr. Sengupta.

Mr. Kant, Health Minister JP Nadda and Health Secretary C.K. Mishra did not respond to emails and phone calls.

According to the draft model contract, private hospitals will bid for 30-year leases over portions of district hospital buildings to set up 50- or 100-bed hospitals in smaller towns across the country. The State governments could lease up to five or six district hospitals within the State.

Viability gap funding

Further, the State governments will give Viability Gap Funding (VGF), or one-time seed money, to private players to set up infrastructure within district hospitals. The private parties and State health departments will share ambulance services, blood banks, and mortuary services.

A major concern about the policy is that under principles of the financial structure, the document states that there will be no reserved beds or no quota (sic) of beds for free services in these facilities.

While it is clear that insured patients will receive free care, it is not at all clear what will happen to the vast majority of the population. In particular, how will these referral arrangements work? Whereas it says that states can, if they wish, refer 100% of patients for cashless care, it is a matter of concern that it also proposes that States can set a cap on this entitlement. How would this work? What happens when the cap is reached? Would people only be able to access services for half the year, or less, said Robert Yates, a leading expert on universal health coverage (UHC) and Project Director of the UHC Policy Forum at Chatham House, London.

What is particularly disturbing is the suggestion that only Below Poverty Line (BPL) patients and those in insurance schemes will be able to access free care. This would effectively exclude hundreds of millions of the Indian population from vital hospital services.

If implemented, these proposals could threaten to take India away from UHC, a key sustainable development goal, rather than towards it, Mr. Yates said.



Niti Aayog panel yet to finalise report on autonomous bodies

NEW DELHI: The Niti Aayog panel tasked with undertaking a comprehensive review of autonomous bodies is yet to finalise its report, Parliament was informed today. The government think tank had formed this committee in January 2017 after being recommended by the finance ministry to suggest ways to enhance operational efficiency, governance mechanism and effectiveness of autonomous bodies in the country. "Niti Aayog constituted the committee under the chairmanship of principal adviser... to review the autonomous bodies and make recommendations for enhancing their outcomes, effectiveness, efficiency and governance through consultative process," Minister of State for Planning Rao Inderjit Singh said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha. "In phase-1, the committee is holding consultations with the respective ministries/departments with regard to autonomous bodies set up under the Societies Registration Act. The report of the committee is yet to be finalised," Singh said. At present, the number of autonomous bodies in the country is more than 500, while in 1955, it was just 35. Car troubles? We got your back! Bajaj Allianz Bought a new house? Do this today Cityfurnish Recommended By Colombia Replying to a separate query, the minister said Niti Aayog is not aware of any demand from any labour organisation for restructuring/reorganising the think tank.


HRD against merger of councils withICSSR

According to sources, the ministry believes that the mandate of the ICHR, ICPR and ICSSR is different and their merger might dilute the specific purpose for which each of the autonomous organisations was originally established.

Written byRitika Chopra

The ministry is also opposed to the NITI Aayogs alternative suggestion to merge the ICHR and ICPR with Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on the same ground.

The HRD Ministry is opposed to the idea of merging its councils of historical and philosophical research with the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), as suggested by a review undertaken by the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) and the NITI Aayog.

Not convinced about the dividends such an exercise would yield, the Prakash Javadekar-led ministry, at a meeting held recently, decided to communicate its reservations on the proposal to the PMO and NITI Aayog.

According to sources, the ministry believes that the mandate of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR) and ICSSR is different and their merger might dilute the specific purpose for which each of the autonomous organisations was originally established.

The ministry is also opposed to the NITI Aayogs alternative suggestion to merge the ICHR and ICPR withJawaharlal NehruUniversity (JNU) on the same ground.

The ICHR was set up in 1972 with the objective of promoting and coordinating research in history and also to give a national direction to an objective and scientific writing of history and to have rational presentation and interpretation of history.

In 1977, the Union government decided to set up an exclusive body on the discipline of philosophy, on the lines of the ICHR. The ICPR was thus established with the aim of preserving Indias profound, long and living philosophical tradition. Over the years, the three councils ICSSR, ICPR and ICHR have served as a battleground for left- and right-wing ideologies.

Asked about the NITI Aayogs suggestion, former ICHR chairman Y S Rao, who retired last month, said, I came to know of this proposal only through media reports. I have no information about the details of the scheme. So I have no comments.

As first reported by The Indian Express on June 14, the merger of the ICHR and ICPR with the ICSSR was suggested as part of the review of the 114 autonomous bodies under seven ministries or departments, undertaken by the NITI Aayog and PMO.

Out of 114, 42 almost one-third were listed for reduction, by either winding them up entirely, merging them with other entities, reorganising them under a common umbrella, or corporatising them.

For instance, the review recommended that the Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT) be merged with the Central Institute of Indian Languages in Mysuru. This has snowballed into a controversy in Tamil Nadu, with the recommendation seen as the Centres attempt to assert its supremacy on Tamil identity. The state Assembly has taken up the matter and the Opposition has demanded a resolution against any attempt at merger.

The HRD Ministry will also be apprising the NITI Aayog of the sensitivities involved in merging or winding up autonomous bodies established to promote languages.



Signature moves- India's political will is being tested by China

Kanwal Sibal

India's China-challenge is mounting with Beijing's growing power, its swelling hubris and increasing acts of bullying. China is utterly self-centred in its thinking and considers its self-defined interests paramount. It decides unilaterally the scope of its sovereign rights and, based on its own version of history and facts, determines when they are being violated. It uses offensive and undignified language in diplomatic communications, exposing the crude facet of China's ruling class.

All these reprehensible traits are visible in its dealings with India. To take only the recent years into account, there has been a spate of serious provocations against India. New Delhi has absorbed these blows and preferred engagement to confrontation for many reasons, not the least because of the expanding power gap with China and the realization that the cost of aggravated tensions would be higher for India than for China. This has only encouraged China to be patronizing in its dealings with India and to brush aside its legitimate concerns. This has happened even as the two countries have maintained regular contact at the top leadership-level, with numerous meetings, whether bilateral, during international conferences, or within the Russia-India-China format or the format of BRICS. Therefore, it is not lack of contact or communication at the highest levels that would explain China's objectionable behaviour towards India.

The roots lie elsewhere - in China's determination to be Asia's leading power, which necessitates curbing India's rise as a rival power as much as possible. To this end, China keeps the border issue alive in order to keep India under pressure. It bolsters Pakistan, tries to erode India's influence in its own region by various means and wants to steer India towards participation in its grand geopolitical design represented by the Belt and Road Initiative. If India joined the project, it would consolidate China's uncontested primacy in Asia. With the setting up of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, China has already marked its leadership position and, by accommodating this fact in the bank's structures, obtained India's endorsement of this China-led institution. The crux of India's China problem is that while India deals with China from a sense of weakness, China deals with it from a feeling of strength. Chinese commentators frequently underline the widening gap in national power between the two countries and the fact that the Chinese economy is five times larger than India's .

China is fully responsible for the sharpening undertones of the India-China relationship. A series of provocations have come from Beijing. China has aggressively revived its claims on Arunachal Pradesh, naming the area "South Tibet" to uphold its territorial claims, giving fictitious Chinese names to districts in Arunachal Pradesh with the same intent, protesting with temerity when our leaders visit the state, admonishing India for complicating the issue by developing infrastructure in the area - commenting even on the recent inauguration of the bridge in Assam that would facilitate access to Arunachal Pradesh - and, not the least, by making the cession of Tawang to China as a precondition for Beijing to consider a resolution of the border issue.

In Ladakh, China staged the Depsang incident to coincide with the visit of its prime minister to India in 2013; it staged the Chumar incident in 2014, when the Chinese president was making his visit to India. Its earlier provocations included giving stapled visas to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir, refusing a visa to India's army commander in Jammu and Kashmir for official defence-level talks, shortening the length of the India-China border by excluding Jammu and Kashmir (and Arunachal Pradesh), which implied that it was not Indian territory. It has announced the China-Pakistan economic corridor in full knowledge of India's legal claim to this territory under illegal Pakistani occupation and India's known objections to Chinese presence there. It is unbothered that this initiative totally contradicts the position it takes on Arunachal Pradesh, where it disputes India's sovereignty. China is not concerned about its inconsistent positions as, presumably, it believes that its big power status now entitles it to the same double standards that it has been decrying in the case of other established big powers.

In addition to all this, China has not ceased to oppose India's membership to the nuclear suppliers group, despite Narendra Modi raising the subject with Xi Jinping. China has linked India's membership of the NSG to that of Pakistan in a policy of hyphenating the two countries, taking the cue from the Americans. By this, it seeks to achieve the political objective of treating India as only a regional south Asian power. This hyphenation downgrades India's stature in comparison to that of Pakistan. China has continued to oppose the designation of Masood Azhar as an international terrorist by the United Nations. Its call for India to settle the issue with Pakistan is again intended to sideline India's views and concerns as merely regional, and therefore ones to be resolved in that limited context.

All these provocations from China have come in spite of the establishment of the special representative mechanism to prepare the basis for resolving the border issue. In fact, by stepping up its claims on Arunachal Pradesh, staging incidents in Ladakh and generally poisoning the atmosphere of relations, China has deliberately hollowed out the purpose of setting up the mechanism. To boot, by claiming Tawang, it has violated Article VII of the 1995 agreement on 'Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question' for safeguarding the due interests of the settled populations.

The latest Chinese provocation in the Doklam plateau of Bhutan, which abuts Sikkim and is a matter of great security sensitivity for India, is part of China's growing belief - confirmed by the lack of any retribution for its aggressive postures in the South China Sea - that it has now become too strong and important to be made answerable for its arbitrary and illegal actions. It is India that is threatened through the Chumbi valley, not the reverse. China is disturbing thestatus quoin the tri-junction area in violation of its understandings with Bhutan and India, as pointed out in the official statements of both countries. China is also aware of the security arrangements between Bhutan and India and, having created a situation that would inevitably trigger India's intervention, China cannot accuse India or Bhutan of precipitating the current face-off. If China is committed to the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas - which includes the tri-junction area - its attempt to build a road on the disputed Doklam plateau in order to increase the threat to the Siliguri corridor calls that commitment into serious question.

Besides, China's attempt to build a road that gives it a security advantage violates Article III of the 1995 agreement, which speaks of a "package settlement" to the boundary question, covering all sectors of the India-China boundary. The tri-junction is logically covered by this article. It violates Article IV that stipulates that the two sides will give due consideration to each other's "strategic and reasonable interests, and the principle of mutual and equal security". China's action in the Chumbi valley violates the principle of equal security.

India's political will is being tested by China with its latest provocation. India must stand firm at all costs to thwart China's hegemonic ambitions.

The author is former foreign secretary of [email protected]



Ministry of Home Affairs says one nation, one flag

NEW DELHI: The Centre today made it clear there is no provision in the Constitution for a separate flag for any state and the tricolour is the only flag for India. This comes after the Karnataka government initiated a move for a separate flag for the state with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah defending the step after it came under attack from rival parties. "We are one nation, one flag. Legally there is no provision either for providing or prohibiting a separate flag for any state," a home ministry spokesperson said. Home ministry officials said Karnataka already has a flag which represents only the "people and not the government". That flag is not used in national ceremonies like Republic Day or Independence Day but on occasions like state foundation day, an official said. But the use of that flag was also challenged in courts by some people and a decision on the matter is yet to be taken, the official, who wished not to be quoted, said. Top 5 best SIP mutual funds to invest in 2017 Fundsindia Deposit Rs. 25 and win awesome bonuses! Junglee Rummy Recommended By Colombia A nine-member committee has been formed by Karnataka's Congress government and tasked with submitting a report on designing the separate flag for the state and providing a legal standing for it. If the flag comes into being, Karnataka will be the second state to have its official flag after Jammu and Kashmir, which enjoys a special status under Article 370 of the Constitution.



Pension scheme for elderly with 8% fixed rate to be launched todayThe Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY) is a pension scheme announced by the government exclusively for senior citizens aged 60 years and above - available from May 4, 2017 till May 3, 2018.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley will on Friday launch a pension scheme for the elderly with 8% fixed rate of interest on their savings.

It can be purchased offline as well as online through Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India which has been given the sole privilege to operate this scheme, the finance ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY) is a pension scheme announced by the government exclusively for senior citizens aged 60 years and above -- available from May 4, 2017 to May 3, 2018.

The scheme provides an assured return of 8% per annum payable monthly (equivalent to 8.30 per annum effective) for 10 years, it said.

Pension is payable at the end of each period, during the policy term of 10 years, as per the frequency of monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, yearly as chosen by the pensioner at the time of purchase, it said.

The scheme is exempted from the Goods and Services Tax, it said, adding, loan up to 75% of purchase price shall be allowed after 3 policy years to meet the liquidity needs.

Loan interest will be recovered from the pension installments and loan to be recovered from claim proceeds, it said, adding that the scheme also allows for premature exit for the treatment of any critical or terminal illness of self or spouse.

On such premature exit, 98% of the purchase price will be refunded.

On death of the pensioner during the policy term of 10 years, the purchase price will be paid to the beneficiary.

The shortfall owing to the difference between the interest guaranteed and the actual interest earned and the expenses relating to administration shall be subsidised by the government and reimbursed to the LIC, it said.



Tamil Nadu MLAs salary: Government doubles pay to Rs 1.05lakh

The state government has nearly doubled the salary and allowances of its MLAs. The new pay package for each MLA is Rs 1.05 lakh per month comp-ared to Rs 55k earlier.

Pension for former MLAs and members of the now defunct legislative council will be increased to Rs 20,000 from the present Rs 12,000. (PTI)

In a bonanza to the states elected lawmakers, the Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday nearly doubled the salary and allowances of its MLAs. Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Wednesday told the state Assembly that the salary and allowances of MLAs had been raised, taking their new pay package to Rs 1.05 lakh per month. Prior to the raise, the legislators monthly pay package was Rs 55,000.

Responding to the representations made by legislators seeking a hike in salary and pension, the chief minister announced the raise to the MLAs which was greeted with cheer. Tamil Nadu Assembly has a strength of 235 MLAs, including a nominated member. Allowances for the chief minister, ministers, speaker, deputy speaker, the leader of the opposition and the government chief whip were also increased with retrospective effect from July 1 this year.

Similarly, fund allocation for the MLA Constituency Development Scheme was hiked to Rs 2.5 crore from the present Rs 2 crore from this year (2017-18), Palaniswami said.

Pension for former MLAs and members of the now defunct legislative council will be increased to Rs 20,000 from the present Rs 12,000.

Family pension for kin of late MLAs has been hiked by Rs 10,000. The families get 50% of the pension drawn by pensioner-legislators. The annual medical allowance for retired MLAs will be increased to Rs 25,000 from the present Rs 12,000.

Giving the break up of MLAs pay hike, the CM said that their basic salary will be increased from Rs 8,000 to Rs 30,000. Similarly, compensatory allowance will be `10,000 (`7,000 earlier) while the telephone allowance has been revised to Rs 7,500 from `5,000.

The constituency allowance goes up to Rs 25,000 from Rs 10,000 and consolidated allowance to Rs 5,000 from Rs 2,500. Vehicle allowance will be revised to Rs 25,000 from Rs 20,000. Postal allowance will continue to be at Rs 2,500.

For the chief minister, ministers and speaker, the compensatory allowance will now be Rs 15,000, expenditure allowance of `10,000 and constituency allowance of Rs 25,000. The deputy speaker, leader of the opposition and chief government whip will get compensatory and constituency allowances at par with the ministers. Their expenditure allowance will be slightly lower at Rs 7,500.

He said that the fund could be used for initiatives like laying roads, constructing additional buildings for schools and PDS outlets.


HINDU, JUL 20, 2017

Zeliang sworn in Nagaland Chief Minister

The expulsion from the party does not affect the membership of the House, he said.

He was appointed shortly after Mr. Liezietsu and his supporters failed to turn up in the Assembly to face the floor test, following which the House was adjourned sine die.

Mr. Zeliang was administered the oath of office and secrecy by the Governor at a function in the Raj Bhavan in the presence of Speaker Imtiwapang Aier, 35 NPF MLAs, seven Independents, four BJP MLAs and BJP State president Visasolie Lhoungu.

He told journalists that he would prove his majority on July 21. The Governor has directed him to go for the floor test by July 22.



Cross-voting by 116 legislators helped Ram Nath Kovind in presidential election, says BJPAt the end of the vote count on Thursday, Kovind secured 2,930 votes with the total value of 702,044 as against 1,844 by opposition candidate Meira Kumar in the absence of a whip by any political party.

More than 100 legislators across the country cross-voted infavour of the BJP-led NDA nominee, Ram Nath Kovind, in the July 17 presidential election.

Cross-voting by MLAs was reported in West Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress is in power, and in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Goa.

At the end of the vote count on Thursday, Kovind secured 2,930 votes with the total value of 702,044 as against 1,844 by opposition candidate Meira Kumar in the absence of a whip by any political party.

Kovinds overall vote value was 661 more than the assured value of 701,382, comprising lawmakers from the NDA and some opposition parties. In contrast, Kumars total vote value stood at 367,314.

The Congress candidate had asked MPs and MLAs to vote on the basis of antaraatma ki awaz (inner conscience). There are 116 people who had not openly pledged their support to Kovind but voted for him. We thank each and everyone for their support and those who listened to their antaraatma ki awaz, said Bhupendra Yadav, a BJP general secretary and Kovinds campaign manager.

The total combined value of votes in the presidential election is 1098,903 549,408 for 543 Lok Sabha and 233 Rajya Sabha parliamentarians, and 549,495 for 4,120 legislators in state assemblies.

Large-scale cross-voting exposed the vulnerability of the opposition camp, especially Congress legislators favouring Kovind in poll-bound Gujarat. As many as 11 Congress MLAs voted for the NDA candidate.

It exposed chinks in the opposition party facing rebellion by senior leader Shankarsinh Vaghela.

Besides, three Rajya Sabha seats in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be vacant in August and the Congress expects to win one, provided it can keep its flock together. The BJP is comfortably placed on the other two seats.

We will thoroughly look into the matter once the final results come from states and take appropriate action. However, Kumar got more votes than expected in many states such as Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Nagaland. The important aspect is that the opposition parties stood united and will remain so in future as well, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

Rajasthan brought some cheer for the Congress as Kumar secured half-a-dozen more votes than expected. While the Congress has 24 MLAs and got the support of two BSP legislators and two independents, Kumar secured 34 votes.

It was, however, not clear whether any of the surplus votes came from the BJP, which has 161 MLAs. Kovind got the support of 166 and its likely that the additional votes for Kumar might have come from smaller parties.

In Uttar Pradesh, Kumar was expected to get the vote of 74 legislators from the Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal. However, she got 65, indicating cracks in the opposition camp, especially the SP.

About a dozen legislators from the opposition camp in Maharashtra voted for Kovind. The BJP, the Shiv Sena and some smaller parties that assured their support to the NDA candidate constituted 195 MLAs, but Kovind ended up with 208 votes.

The opposition camp comprising 42 MLAs of the Congress and 41 of the Nationalist Congress Party had the support of nine MLAs from the AIMIM, SP and other parties. But Kumar got only 77 votes.

The BJP that has made strong forays in West Bengal secured the support of at least five MLAs from the opposition camp. The BJP and its ally, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, have three MLAs each. Kovind secured 11 votes.

In Tamil Nadu, both factions of the AIADMK voted for the NDAs presidential candidate. It was one of the few states such as Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka and Uttarakhand that didnt witness any cross-voting.

In Madhya Pradesh, Kumar got the support of 57 MLAs. The Congress has 56 MLAs in the state and Kumar had the assured support of four BSP MLAs and three Independents.

Of the 776 members in Parliament, eight did not vote. The votes of 21 were declared invalid.


The mystery man- Ram Nath Kovind is the least known person set to be president

Worm's Eye ViewManini Chatterjee

The residents of India's grandiose Rashtrapati Bhavan have been, to put it politely, a rather mixed bunch. The 13 presidents we have had so far include a philosopher and a scholar, a diplomat and a scientist, and several eminent and not-so-eminent men and a woman from the field of politics. But they all had one thing in common - a fairly long and well known record in what is known as 'public life' before assuming the role of head of state.

India's first president, Rajendra Prasad - the only one to serve two terms, was one of the tallest leaders of the national movement. A bright student and alumnus of Calcutta's Presidency College, he became one of Mahatma Gandhi's earliest lieutenants after serving as a volunteer in Gandhi's fact-finding mission in Champaran in 1917. Like many in those heady, idealist times, Prasad gave up his lucrative law practice to join the freedom struggle. When freedom dawned in 1947, he was elected the president of the Constituent Assembly. With his hand-spun clothes and homespun wisdom garnered over decades of active public life, he was an apt choice for the republic's first citizen.

His successors were distinguished scholars. S. Radhakrishnan was, for a long time, India's pre-eminent authority on comparative religion and philosophy. He had taught philosophy at Calcutta University and Eastern religion and ethics at Oxford before being elected India's first vice-president. Similarly, Zakir Husain may have been India's first Muslim president but the choice was not made on the basis of his religion alone. He had made his mark as an educationist, co-founded the Jamia Millia Islamia University, and served as governor of Bihar before becoming vice-president and then president.

Zakir Husain's death in 1969 led to the most politicized presidential election India has seen since it became a proxy battle between Indira Gandhi and the Congress old guard then known as the "Syndicate". The Syndicate decided to field one of their stalwarts, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy. The vice-president, V.V. Giri, chose to contest as an Independent. Indira Gandhi backed Giri and called for a "vote of conscience". Giri famously - if narrowly - won.

Since that election marked the triumph of Indira Gandhi, many think V.V. Giri was a mere instrument in her battle. This is a travesty for Giri had a long record in public life, especially in trade union activity. Few know that Giri became an activist while studying in then colonized Ireland in the early decades of the last century. He became close to the leaders of the famous Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 - and was forced to leave the country soon after. On returning to India, he plunged into the trade union movement. After Independence, he served as India's first high commissioner to Ceylon, became minister of labour in 1952, did three stints as governor before being elected vice-president.

Of the remaining nine presidents, most have been politicians. The two exceptions are K.R. Narayanan, who had a distinguished career as a diplomat before joining politics, and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who became famous as India's "Missile Man" prior to his surprise choice as presidential candidate in 2002.

Among the politicians, some have been more illustrious than others. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, a veteran Congressman from Andhra Pradesh, lost to Giri in 1969. But such are the amazing twists of destiny and of Indian politics that he has gone down in history as the only president to be elected unanimously - eight years later in 1977, soon after the Janata Party stormed to power.

Similarly, R. Venkataraman and Shankar Dayal Sharma had a long innings in public life and handled many high-profile party and ministerial posts before being elected as first vice-president and then elevated to the post of president. Most recently, Like them, Pranab Mukherjee too is a quintessential Congressman of the old school who acquired vast experience in public life before entering the mansion atop Raisina Hill.

Some presidents brought more controversy than lustre to the office. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed infamously signed the declaration of Emergency in 1975 without demur. Giani Zail Singh, the first Sikh president who was chosen by Indira Gandhi for symbolic reasons at the height of the Khalistani agitation, equally infamously declared: "If my leader had said I should pick up a broom and be a sweeper, I would have done that. She chose me to be President."

Pratibha Patil, the first woman to become president, did not say or do anything quite as controversial. But she left no mark either.

Yet, looking back at the records, it becomes clear that all three had been active in public life - in their respective states and at the Centre - long before assuming the highest office of the land.

It is in this context that Ram Nath Kovind - set to be elected the 14th president of India today - comes across as a mystery man. Unlike any of the previous incumbents, the country at large knows little or nothing about him. Two years ago, when the Modi government picked him to be governor of Bihar, reporters scrambled to find out who he was. That scramble is still on, the mystery still continues.

No one knows how or why he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party as late as 1991. No one knows whether he was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh at any given time or is only a 'fellow traveller'. No one knows why he joined politics, what his views on the day's raging issues are, who have inspired him.

Kovind started out as a lawyer and practised in Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court for 16 years till 1993. Yet, no one can recall a single important case that he argued, a single public litigation that he championed.

His stint as BJP spokesman and his two terms in Rajya Sabha seem to have been equally unremarkable. He made no memorable speech, took up no pressing issue, asked no searching question.

The only thing we know about Kovind - and the only reason that he was chosen and widely endorsed - is that he belongs to the Dalit community. That, certainly, is an important attribute in a country where upper castes still dominate all areas of public life. It can be a source of great inspiration to the deprived of this land - but only if the person goes beyond the symbolic to embrace something more substantive.

Kovind, we must remember, will not be India's first Dalit president. That honour goes to K.R. Narayanan - a man who rose from humble beginnings to reach great heights, and brought even greater glory to the office of the president. Unlike many of his predecessors and successors, Narayanan consistently spoke out in favour of constitutional values, stood up for secularism and social justice, and, most memorably, twice returned for "reconsideration" the advice from the Union government to impose president's rule. Both times, the prime ministers of the day (I.K. Gujral in 1997, A.B. Vajpayee in 1998) honoured Narayanan's reservations.

Ram Nath Kovind, too, has a chance to make history. That he has been low profile and a man of few words can actually be an advantage. He starts on a blank slate, and can make the next five years memorable by refusing to be a rubber stamp president of thesangh parivar, by insisting on upholding the Constitution against threats that may become more menacing. That's one way of viewing a mystery about to unravel. That's also one way of hoping against hope.


New President of India Ram Nath Kovind has very big shoes to fillKovinds place in history is already secured as the Republics first President from the BJP-RSSs ideological stock. But his allegiance now is to the Constitution in letter, spirit and sensitivity

Vinod Sharma

Ram Nath Kovind won by a wide margin against the Oppositions candidate Meira Kumar to become Indias 14th president. (

As pointed out by the Prime Minister himself, the campaign for the 14th presidency was free of mudslinging and rancour, unlike the 2007 election of Pratibha Devi Singh Patil. Even the BJPs arch political rivals who set up Meira Kumar against Ram Nath Kovind posited the contest as a battle of ideologies.

Regardless of the desirablity of consensus in elections to high constitutional offices, contest is integral to and at times inevitable in a democracy. In Kovinds case, there was a near-consensus on his name with a host of non-NDA parties lining up behind his candidature.

Presenting the pro-Kovind mobilisation as a divide in the Congress-led Opposition ranks is but one way of looking at it. In reality, it places greater responsibility on the new incumbent in our increasingly competitive polity. Expectations of him became more acute in the light of his rivals decorous electioneering for the high office.

I remember Kovinds predecessor Pranab Mukherjee letting it be known at the outset of his tenure, that hed run a constitutional presidency. His term overlapped the governments of Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi. But he broadly kept the promise of adhering to the book barring the imposition of Presidents rule in Uttarakhand which the Court overturned to his chagrin and that of the Modi regime on whose advice he signed the proclamation.

Like Mukherjee who won during the UPA rule, Kovinds tenure will outlast that of the NDA that made him its candidate. His principal challenge wont be dissimilar to the one faced by past presidencies: safeguarding the constitution without locking horns with the elected regime, or lying prostrate before it in the manner Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed did in the 1970s sullied by the imposition of Emergency rule.

APJ Abdul Kalam assumed office when AB Vajpayee was Prime Minister. But he was a compromise choice, an outlier who earned a name devising defence systems. In that sense, Kovinds place in history is already secured as the Republics first President from the BJP-RSSs ideological stock.

But as the countrys first citizen, his allegiance now is to the Constitution in letter, spirit and sensitivity. The manner in which he accomplishes the task will embellish or demolish his legacy. His has to be a single book work religion.

The first Dalit to occupy the high office was K R Narayanan, the tenth president whom none opposed except the Shiv Sena. Kovind is second. But regional, caste or linguistic identities that might dictate nominations have to be subsumed bu the demands of office.

Narayanan for instance never let his caste background dictate his conduct in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. In fact, he resented being branded the countrys first Dalit president, asking close aides whether Zakir Hussain or Zail Singh were remembered as first Muslim and Sikh presidents? His emphasis was on what Bhimrao Ambedkar called constitutional morality as the guiding light of the presidency bound by the aid and advice of the cabinet.

Such nuances shouldnt be lost on Kovind a former Governor who studied law and practised it in the Supreme Court. But he will need to learn a lot while on the job, unlike Mukherjee, his immediate predecessor, whose familiarity with the system was surpassed only by YB Chavan, Swaran Singh and Jagjivan Ram, none of whom became President.

Compared to Kovinds two terms in the Rajya Sabha, Mukherjee was Member of Parliament for 43 years, minister for 22 years and member of the Congress working committee for 28 years. That gives an idea of the size of the shoes the new President steps into.

Even Narayanan and Kalam held administrative offices before getting elevated. When they made a point, they were heard and sought to be convinced or persuaded by the executive with sane reasoning. Example: Mukherjees discomfiture over repeated promulgation of the enemy-property ordinance that took time getting Parliaments nod.

The equation between the presidency and the elected dispensation has to be based on mutual respect, a healthy regard that facilitates an exchange of views. The PMs equation with the new President might personally not be as deferential as it was with the vastly experienced Mukherjee, whom he recently called a father figure. But hed have to accede to reason to help Kovind attain venerability as the keeper of the Constitution.

HINDU, JUL 21, 2017

The new PresidentUPDATED:JULY 21, 2017 03:44 ISTIt is Ram Nath Kovinds use of discretionary powers that will define his presidency

As Indias 14th President, Ram Nath Kovind will be expected to play the important role of safeguarding the spirit of the Constitution and the foundations of our parliamentary democracy. Unlike his immediate predecessor Pranab Mukherjee, Mr. Kovind moves into Rashtrapati Bhavan after a stint in a Raj Bhavan. Arguably, it is a Raj Bhavan, and not the office of the Vice-President, that is the best preparatory ground for the non-ceremonial duties of the President, particularly those that may involve invoking the offices discretionary power. After general elections that produced hung Lok Sabhas, former Presidents R. Venkataraman, Shankar Dayal Sharma and K.R. Narayanan adopted different procedures to decide who would have the first shot at forming the government. Venkataraman and Sharma invited the leader of the single largest party, with varying results. While Rajiv Gandhi declined Venkataramans invitation in 1989, A.B. Vajpayee accepted Sharmas invitation in 1996, only to see his government last no more than 13 days. In 1998, Narayanan ascertained the support Mr. Vajpayee had before calling him to form the government. Like these predecessors, Mr. Kovind may be involved in situations with no set precedent. Also, while the use and abuse of Article 356, and the imposition of Presidents Rule, are now monitored closely by the higher courts, as President he will necessarily have to use his own discretion should the Union Cabinet send such a recommendation. On contentious pieces of legislation, he can be extremely influential when he counsels caution, using his moral authority and the weight of his public office.

Mr. Kovind secured an impressive victory, receiving more than the number of votes pledged to him, signifying acceptance levels that go beyond the NDAs political spectrum. Once the names of the candidates for the election were known, much of the interest centred on the support he would garner from Opposition parties not affiliated to the Congress. That he did win substantially more votes vindicates the faith the BJPs leadership placed on his candidature. To the BJPs credit, it did not choose a dyed-in-saffron member of the Sangh Parivar. Mr. Kovinds candidature may have been a strategic political compromise. On the one hand it ensured the wider support that the BJP wanted and, on the other, it wasnt entirely politically neutral, not enough anyway to allow the Congress or the Left parties the satisfaction of a consensus candidate. He is a Dalit, and his nomination was intended by the BJP to signal a socially inclusive agenda. But as President, Mr. Kovind will have to rise above political and social identities. He will be called upon to apply his mind and distinguish between settled conventions and questionable precedents in arriving at decisions. The office of the President was not conceived as merely a ceremonial post. The discretionary powers that he has demand a delicate balance without slipping into being either an unthinking rubber stamp or an overzealous interventionist.

TRIBUNE, JUL 21, 2017

President Ram Nath Kovind

Constitutional office with constitutional responsibilities

After KR Narayanan, India will have its second Dalit President in Ram Nath Kovind (71). The outcome of the electoral exercise was known well in advance and political interest was limited only to the margin of victory. It may be inappropriate to mention the caste of a President but politics has sunk so low that more than merit, qualifications, stature or suitability political decisions are guided by such extraneous factors as caste. Given the general acceptability of caste politics in the country, it did not surprise or shock too many people to see the Presidential poll being reduced to a Dalit-vs-Dalit contest, even though the Opposition and its representative, Meira Kumar, tried to make it look like a battle of ideologies.

Political decisions of the BJP be it the choice of Kovind as the Presidential candidate or Yogi Adityanath as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister are taken with an eye on 2019. Kovinds choice was an attempt to contain the anti-BJP Dalit upsurge in places like Hyderabad, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. Dalit politics apart, as President, Ram Nath Kovind will be measured against the standards set by one of his worthy predecessors, KR Narayanan, who he will often be compared with. Since political expediency has landed Kovind the high office, every Presidential decision would be judged by the yardstick of political neutrality.

Though the Presidents is mostly a ceremonial office, at times of political uncertainty during government formation or recommendations for Presidents rule, Rashtrapati Bhavan plays a significant role. Any hint of political bias at such critical moments would be held against him. The nation will keenly watch how he graduates out of his political affiliations. Kovind was living in political obscurity and Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have put him on the national centre stage; indeed most Presidential candidates belong to a political party. The outgoing President, Pranab Mukherjee, was a life-long active Congressman till his election. In keeping with the demands of the august office Kovind will now have to rise above the pulls and pressures of the political class and emerge as a true Head of State.



Over 11 lakh public grievances against govt departments in 2016

NEW DELHI: Over 11 lakh public grievances were received against various central government departments last year, 33 per cent more than the previous year, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said today. A total of 11,72,918 plaints were received through the Centralised Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) in 2016 of these about 98 per cent -- 11,56,335 -- were disposed of, he said in a written reply to Lok Sabha. As many as 16,583 grievances were pending resolution as on July 12, 2017, said Singh, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions. A total of 8,81,132 public grievances were received in 2015. Now rent a bike @ Rs.2100/month Rentomojo Men, You Dont Need The Blue Pill If You Do This Daily TestoUltra Recommended By Colombia "No new organisation or institution is proposed to be set up for early redressal of public grievances, however, a call centre is in operation which rings up officials concerned of ministries/departments receiving bulk of the grievances, where grievances are pending for more than two months," the minister said.


TRIBUNE, JUL 20, 2017

15% pay hike for CPSEs employees

The Cabinet today cleared a 15% hike in salaries for public sector company employees.

The Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved implementation of the recommendations of the 3rd Pay Commission for Central Public Sector Enterprises' (CPSE) employees, an official said here.

The Commission had recommended a 15% increase in emoluments, the lowest so far. Higher wages are effective from January 1, 2017. PTI



Many of Indias proposed smart city projects are actually unsmartThe concept of the Indian smart city seems to create a very expensive and localised development, which focuses on core infrastructure with limited citizen engagement

Persis Taraporevala

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with former Union urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu, minister of state Babul Supriyo, Mahrashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Haryana chief minister ML Khattar at the launch of Smart Cities Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Housing for All Missions in New Delhi

The Centres introduction to the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) states that ...there is no one way of defining a smart city... and that it ...means different things to different people. This ambiguity provides the mission with an abstract beauty that could ease it from accountability, in ways that a precise definitio