LIST OF NEWSPAPERS COVERED BUSINESS LINE ECONOMIC TIMES HINDU HINDUSTAN TIMES PIONEER STATESMAN TELEGRAPH TIMES OF INDIA TRIBUNE 1
LIST OF NEWSPAPERS COVERED
BUSINESS LINEECONOMIC TIMESHINDUHINDUSTAN TIMESPIONEERSTATESMANTELEGRAPHTIMES OF INDIATRIBUNE
BLACK MONEY 3-4CIVIL SERVICE 5-15DEFENCE 16-17EDUCATION 18-28ELDERLY 29 ELECTIONS 30-31FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS 32-33PASSPORT 34-35POLICE 36-38POLITICAL PARTIES 39-41POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT 42-47PUBLIC FINANCE 48-51
HINDUSTAN TIMES, JAN 30, 2017
Demonetisation akin to unguided missile: Amartya Sen
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen today termed note ban as an unguided missile fired unilaterally by the government without adhering to the democratic conventions.
Every now and then we get missiles fired by the government unilaterally. Demonetisation one fine morning is of course just such a missile where there are reports coming in of hardships and suffering though it is not quite clear where the missile has landed, Sen said.
The remark was made by Sen during a talk titled Healthcare for all: Why and how here, was done while comparing decision-making in a democratic country like ours and the Communist China.
The Bharat Ratna awardee said decisions get taken in China based on the vision of a small group of people, while in a democracy like ours, things move only when there is a public demand for it.
Our political decisions, however, in contrast have to involve the public, he said, comparing our situation with China and going on to mention the demonetisation exercise as an aberration from such a convention.
Drawing attention to the critical challenges faced by the healthcare sector, the professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard said, unilateral thoughts like demonetisation cannot be of help.
Firing unilateral thoughts are not the way to reform healthcare in the kind of democracy that is India, Sen said.
It can be noted that the US-based Sen has been critical of the demonetisation announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8.
ECONOMIC TIMES, JAN 30, 2017
Ashok Khemka not deputed to PMO despite proposal
By Ajay Sura,T
CHANDIGARH: The Civil Services Board (CSB) did not suggest senior Haryana bureaucrat Ashok Khemka's name to the appointments committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for deputation to the Prime
Minister's Office (PMO). The CSB had proposed Khemka's name initially in July 2014.
Khemka revelations about the land deal between Robert Vadra's firm and DLF ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections had triggered speculation that he would be employed by the PMO.
However, an RTI reply by the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) has said that Khemka's deputation is still pending before the ACC and cannot be disclosed under RTI. Sources said a case clea red by CSB in July 2014 can't remain on hold for such long time because Khemka was considered for deputation to the PMO under Centre Staffing Scheme (CSS) 2014, the period for which expired on March 31, 2015.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has now directed the central government to provide a copy of the agenda along with minutes of the meeting of the CSB on Khemka's deputation.
In its January 18 order, the CIC bench headed by information commissioner Sudhir Bhargava has set a deadline of four weeks for DoPT to supply the informa tion to Khemka
In its January 18 order, the CIC bench headed by information commissioner Sudhir Bhargava has set a deadline of four weeks for DoPT to supply the informa tion to Khemka.
Khemka has been transferred to inconsequential posts in his parent Haryana government ever since his revelations. He was appointed transport commissioner and secretary of Haryana's transport department in December 2014 after the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government assumed took over. But he was posted to the archaeology and museum department within 126 days after he raised issues related to overloading of transport vehicles.
In April 2016, he was posted as principal secretary, science and technology, where he is serving at present.
ECONOMIC TIMES, JAN 30, 2017
Govt departments don't send timely response: MPs complain to PMO
NEW DELHI: Some Members of Parliament have complained to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) regarding delayed response from central government departments to queries sent by them. The matter was taken by the higher authorities and Union minister Jitendra Singh wrote to ministers of all the departments concerned. As per the guidelines, any communication received from the MPs should be attended "promptly" and acknowledged within 15 days, followed by a reply within the next fortnight. In cases where delay is anticipated, an interim reply should be given, indicating the possible date for a final reply.
This is to ensure that prompt attention is given to the communications received from the MPs, the guidelines say. The guidelines further specify that appropriate record should be maintained and monitored in respect of communications received from the Members of Parliament. "The Prime Minister's Office has been receiving references from some of the MPs that they are not receiving timely acknowledgement and responses from the ministries/ departments in response to their letters.
"I would be grateful, if you could issue suitable instructions to ensure prompt reply to the letters of the MPs and also like to consider setting up of a mechanism to periodically monitor progress in disposal of references received from the MPs," said Singh, Minister of State in the PMO, in the letter.
In this regard, it is also suggested that all letters received from the MPs should be immediately scanned and uploaded in e-office, he said. "This system will facilitate electronic monitoring of disposal of letters received from the MPs," the Minister said. It is not the first time that the legislators have raised this issue. In past also, the Ministry of Personnel has written to all the ministries seeking timely disposal of the references from the MPs. In almost all Parliament sessions, the Ministry is "questioned" on the delay in sending replies to letters received from Members of Parliament and non-adherence to the existing guidelines, as per another communique sent to the ministries last year. With Budget Session of Parliament scheduled to begin from February 1, this issue may crop up.
ECONOMIC TIMES, JAN 30, 2017
PMO debars senior income tax officer from central deputation
NEW DELHI: Senior Income Tax officer Madhu Mahajan has been debarred from central deputation till her retirement next year. The move comes after the officer reportedly failed to join on the central deputation in National Commission for Women (NCW). The Appointments Committee of Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved debarment of Mahajan, a 1982-batch officer of Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax), for appointment on central deputation till her date of. retirement i.e. September 30, 2018, an order issued by Personnel Ministry said. Mahajan was appointed Member Secretary in the NCW, under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, last month.
HINDUSTAN TIMES, JAN 28, 2017
Jaishankars extension as foreign secretary shorts chances for two IFS batches
The NDA government has amended the rules to extend foreign secretary S Jaishankars tenure by a year, preventing officers from two batches of the Indian Foreign Service 1979 and 1980 from being considered for the top post.
This has also brought to the fore a perennial question on selecting the top diplomat: Should one go by the candidates seniority or their qualifications? The choice of foreign secretary has always been a political call.
Jaishankar, a 1977-batch officer, didnt supersede anybody to bag the top job. However, the unexpected extension of his tenure will turn choosing his successor into a complex process, and crush the dreams of many officers who had been hoping to bag the plum post on the basis of seniority and key postings.
A clutch of officers who were likely to be considered for the post will retire this year. They are secretary (west) Sujata Mehta and the Indian ambassadors to Nepal (Ranjit Rae), Italy (Anil Wadhaw) and Germany (Gurjit Singh). Indian ambassador to the US Navtaj Sarna, a 1980-batch officer, will also retire in December this year.
So, technically, only four officers from the 1981 batch including Indian ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale can be considered for the post when Jaishankar retires in January 2018. If he gets another extension, these calculations will go awry too.
The service rules stipulated a two-year fixed term for foreign, defence and home secretaries, besides the CBI director. However, they have now been amended to include that the central government may if deemed necessary for public interest give an extension in service for a further period not exceeding one year to the foreign secretary.
The last three foreign secretaries Sujatha Singh, Ranjan Mathai and Nirupama Rao were appointed on the basis of seniority. However, the principle was overturned while appointing both Shivshankar Menon and Shyam Saran to the post.
Menons appointment in 2006 sent tremors through the ministry of external affairs, given that he had superseded four batches and 16 officers to bag the post. Three such officers very senior diplomats opted for voluntary retirement.
The then government had also toyed with the idea of granting an extension to foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal. However, it later decided against taking such a step and appointed Bhupatray Shashank in his place in November 2003.
When the time came for Shashank to retire after eight months, the Vajpayee government again considered extending his tenure before bringing in Shyam Saran as the new foreign secretary.
HINDU, JAN 24, 2017
Jaishankar gets one year extension
Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, whose tenure is to end on January 28, on Monday got a one year extension.
The nod for the extension of his tenure till January 28, 2018 was given by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, official sources said.
A 1977 IFS batch officer, Mr. Jaishankar was appointed Foreign Secretary on January 29, 2015 just few days before his retirement, replacing Sujata Singh, whose term was abruptly curtailed by the government.
With Mr. Jaishankar getting the extension, many senior diplomats, including Indias ambassador to Italy, Anil Wadhwa (1979 batch) and Secretary (West) Sujata Mehta (1980 batch), will retire without getting a shot at the top position.
Indias Ambassador to China, Vijay Gokhale, seen as one of the main contenders to replace Mr. Jaishankar, is retiring in the end of January 2019. And with Mr. Jaishankar getting a one-year term, it leaves Mr. Gokhale in the race for the top diplomatic position in the External Affairs Ministry.
The coming month will also see a number of key appointments in the External Affairs Ministry with Vikas Swarup, Additional Secretary and spokesperson in the Ministry, on his way to Canada as High Commissioner. He is waiting for his official agreement to come from Ottawa which is likely by the month end.
The post is lying vacant after Vishnu Prakash retired in October.
Mr. Swarup is expected to be replaced by Gopal Baglay, currently looking after (Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan) in the Ministry. Mr. Baglay has earlier had a stint in the XP division of the MEA as Director from 2008 to 2010.
In the first half of 2017, ambassadorial positions will also open up in key countries including Germany and Nepal.
STATESMAN, JAN 30, 2017
Officers to face action for delay in GPF payments
Action will be taken against the officers concerned in cases of delay in processing payment of General Provident Fund (GPF) to retiring employees, the Centre has said.
The move comes after it was noticed that GPF final payment in many cases was not being made to the government servants immediately after retirement leading to payment of interest for the period delayed.
In an order, the Ministry of Personnel said in order to ensure timely final payment of GPF and to avoid unnecessary financial burden on account of interest, it has now been decided that every case, in which payment of interest on General Provident Fund becomes necessary beyond the date of retirement, shall be put up for consideration to the Secretary of the administrative ministry.
"In all such cases the Secretary of the administrative ministry or department will fix responsibility at all levels to take appropriate action against the government servant or servants who are found responsible for the delay in the payment of General Provident Fund," it said in the directive to all central government departments.
Senior Personnel Ministry officials also said there have been a few instances in which there were complaint of delay in giving final amount of GPF to the retiring employees.
Rules clearly provide that when the amount standing at the credit of a subscriber in the General Provident Fund becomes payable, it shall be the duty of the Accounts Officer to make the payment.
The authority for the amount payable is to be issued at least a month before the date of superannuation, but payable on the date of superannuation, the rules say.
The Centre had in 1996 dispensed with the requirement of submitting a written application by the retiring government servant for GPF final payment.
As per the rules, in case the GPF balance is not paid on retirement, interest on the GPF balance is required to be paid for the period beyond the date of retirement also.
TIMES OF INDIA, JAN 24, 2017
New rules set 6-month deadline to conclude departmental probe and submit report
NEW DELHI: All departmental inquiries against IAS and IPS officers for alleged misconduct or misbehaviour will now have to conclude and a report submitted within six months, according to new rules notified by the Modi government to ensure swift action against those found guilty.
The All India Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, also require an officer facing inquiry to submit his written statement of defence against charges of misconduct, within a period of 30 days of receiving a copy of articles of charge. He may also specify if he wishes to be heard in person. This period of 30 days may be extended after recording reasons in writing by the disciplinary authority.
Under no circumstances shall the extension of time for filing written statement of defence shall exceed 90 days from the date of receipt of articles of charge, say the amended rules.
As per the new norms, the inquiring authority should conclude the inquiry and submit a report within six months from the date of receipt or order of his appointment as inquiring authority. This authority may however seek extension, not exceeding six months, for its proceedings from the disciplinary authority. The reasons shall have to be recorded in writing by the disciplinary authority.
The disciplinary authority may, based on the findings of the inquiry, make an order imposing penalty on the officer found guilty. A copy of the inquiry report, however, must be submitted to the UPSC, along with comments of the disciplinary authority on representation of the officer and disagreement note, if any.
Such steps are needed in march towards efficiency. I have seen the cases where a probe against certain officer went on for years and punishment came one day prior to the day of retirement. All arrang...Read MoreSham Lal Mehta
The advice of the Commission must be shared with member of the service who may submit a written representation within a fortnight. The Commission's advice and representation of the member of service on such advice shall be considered before making any order imposing penalty.
"The change (in rules) is to ensure that the guilty is punished swiftly. This will also send a message to all employees that they need to perform up to expectation and without any acts of omission and commission," minister of state for personnel Jitendra Singh was quoted by the agencies as saying.
HINDU, JAN 24, 2017
NGT rap for UP chief secy
Bindu Shajan Perappadan
Green panel sees red over non-compliance of order on illegal encroachments in Ghaziabad
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has rapped the Uttar Pradesh chief secretary over non-compliance of its order on illegal encroachments in the green belts in Ghaziabad in the National Capital Region (NCR).
We notice our order dated September 5, 2016, by which chief secretary of UP was directed to file compliance report to our directions as indicated in the said order. We note with regret that the chief secretary has shown disdainful conduct by failing to comply with the said order and no status report has been filed till date. We, therefore, direct that the report be filed in the Registry of this tribunal within one week, the Bench headed by Justice Jawad Rahim said.
The Tribunal warned that if this order is not complied, the chief secretary shall be present personally before the Tribunal to explain the lapse.
It also directed the Ghaziabad Development Authority to file a status report on illegal encroachments in the green belt and inform it as to what extent the encroachments have been removed and what action has been taken.
The matter has been listed for next hearing on February 9. The green panel's notice came in the wake of a plea filed by the Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity (SPENBIO) and Ghaziabad resident Sushil Raghav seeking demolition of unauthorised and illegal structures located on green belts in the city.
The plea claimed that as per the Master Plan-2021 of the GDA, about 2,484 hectares of the 15,554 hectares (15.97 per cent) total area covered under the Master Plan was earmarked as green, but due to GDA's inaction, the green cover was getting reduced day after day.
Most of the green belts under the Master Plan 2021 of GDA are lying encroached with illegal constructions scattered across such green belts and hazardous municipal wastes dumped there, the plea said.
GDA is constructing a recreation city club in the green belt in Sector-8, Raj Nagar, which is also an extension of the Central Park situated along ALT Centre Road (erstwhile Rani Jhansi Marg).
The same was reserved as a green belt by the Improvement Trust, Ghaziabad, during the development of Raj Nagar Colony after acquiring the land of Raheespur and Jatwara Kalan villages under various provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, from 1962 to 1980," it has said.
ECONOMIC TIMES, JAN 24, 2017
Govt extends Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das' tenure by 3 months
Das was also in contention for the post of Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) chief after completion of UK Sinha's second innings.
NEW DELHI: The government has given a three-month extension to economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das, 1980 batch IAS office from Tamil Nadu cadre. The extension will allow Das to oversee the entire budget process that should end early April.
Das was to retire at the end of February. The extension was approved by the appointments committee of the cabinet. His extended tenure ends on May 31, 2017 now.
Das had taken over as Economic Affairs Secretary on August 29, 2015.
The economic affairs department of the finance ministry is responsible for bringing out the annual budget.
TIMES OF INDIA, JAN 24, 2017
Army officers likely to lose their orderlies in peace stations in near future
Army chief General Bipin Rawat had earlier this month said that sahayaks are part of a very important and go...Read More
NEW DELHI:Army officerswill have to make do without theirorderliesor "sahayaks" in the near future. The government has now finally got cracking on the long-pending Army proposal to replace soldiers with "non-combatants or service assistants" in peace stations.
But "status quo" will be maintained in "field areas" with officers and JCOs (junior commissioned officers) posted along the borders or in counter-insurgency operations continuing to get soldiers as sahayaks or "buddies" as before.
Defence ministrysources on Monday said the move to withdraw around 29,000 soldiers deployed as sahayaks of officers and JCOs in peace locations was "on the verge of being finalised now". The Army, incidentally, had submitted this proposal way back in May last year but it is only now that it is being considered with the requisite seriousness in the backdrop of a jawan taking to the social media to criticise the use of soldiers as sahayaks.
"The Army had proposed something similar in 2012 but it involved extra expenditure since around 30,000 civilians will need to be hired to replace the soldiers posted as sahayaks in peace-time locations. The existing proposal is financially neutral, revolving around offsetting the costs involved from within the service," said a MoD source.
It will take three to five years to implement the step, with the non-combatants being hired and permanently deployed in major peace stations like Delhi, Chandigarh, Pune and Lucknow, among others. "These civilians will get a monthly pay package just below soldiers. While lower ranks will share such assistants, Colonels and above will get at least one such non-combatant each," he added.
As earlier reported by TOI, several parliamentary committees have held the sahayak system prevalent in the 12-lakh strong Army is "a shameful practice'', a vestige of the colonial era that "should have no place in Independent India''.
But the Army, which currently has around 41,000 officers, contends an officer gets a sahayak basically for upkeep of his uniform, weapons and other equipment, as also act as his radio operator and ``buddy'' during combat.
This was, once again, underlined by Army chief GeneralBipin Rawatearlier this month, who held that sahayaks are part of a "very important and good buddy system" in combat and operational situations.
Carry out a reality check for all government officers in all departments. How many government employees are at their residences. Also carry out checks at politicians. Misuse of Government transport...Read MoreSanjay Vig
This is certainly true. But some officers also grossly misuse their orderlies, getting them to do household work, walk the dogs and take kids to school. This is in blatant disregard of standing instructions that sahayaks should not be employed for "menial household work'' because it adversely impacts their dignity and self-respect as combat soldiers.
"A sahayak is a comrade-in-arms to his officer, symbolising trust, respect, warmth, confidence and interdependence. But yes, there is some misuse in peace stations. So, it's better to have non-combatants or stewards," said a senior officer.
STATESMAN, JAN 30, 2017
IIMs are free
It has been a richly deserved New Year gift for the Indian Institutes of Management, courtesy the government of the Bharatiya Janata Party. This without question has been a significant turnaround for a party which in 2003 ~ when it was in power and when Dr Murli Manohar Joshi was HRD minister ~ was determined to dictate the terms of engagement to IIMs and IITs. Unmistakable is the dramatic change in the strategies of the NDA government then and now, if last Tuesday's approval accorded by the Union cabinet to the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bill, 2017, is any index to go by. From an attempt to regulate the pay-structure and other terms and conditions of faculties, the Centre has eventually conceded a long-standing demand of the premier B-schools ~ the grant of autonomy. Chiefly, the belated embroidery of complete autonomy will enable the IIMs to award degrees and not diplomas, as now. The fact that the MBA from an IIM has been a diploma since their inception more than 60 years ago has been one of the puzzling features of these centres of excellence. It is hard not to wonder whether successive governments, cutting across party lines, were intent on reinforcing their stranglehold over the B-school campuses. Beyond the conferment of degrees, the autonomy will cover administration, recruitment, and daily operations. Of course, the concept of complete autonomy has been couched in the rider of what the cabinet calls adequate accountability. Is that a hint of an overarching entity akin to the University Grants Commission? The IIMs are at a par with the best of B-schools in the world, and it will be deeply unfortunate if the government is loath to give up its total control ~ the obverse of what has now been fashioned as complete autonomy. It is fervently to be hoped that the HRD ministry will follow through on the Prime Ministers tweet ~ The IIM Bill, which was approved by the Cabinet, has been prepared with the aim of furthering excellence in these premier institutions. And also of course the HRD minister, Prakash Javadekars assertion that the cabinet approval is a historic decision.
Theoretically, the IIMs stand to gain as the Bill will ensure that they are board-driven, with the chairperson and director selected by the board. This rules out the government's intervention in the matter of helming these institutions which have been accorded a free hand in the matter of course fees as well. It marks a significant measure of forward movement not least because the board's role was hitherto confined to advancing recommendations that the government could either accept or reject. The distinct departure from the MM Joshi strategy will hopefully be sustained. The evaluation of accountability ought never to be the government's prerogative.
HINDUSTAN TIMES, JAN 30, 2017
Easy transfer for Kendriya Vidyalaya teachers from next academic session
There are 1,128 KVs in the country, with more than 55,000 teachers and over 12 lakh students.(HTFile Photo)
To bring in stability in the work culture, the government has decided to do away with abrupt postings of Kendriya Vidyalaya teachers by allowing them 10 years in a school and only three transfers in their career, within the zone of their choice, sources said.
The new proposal, approved by the KV Sangathan, is likely to be rolled out next academic year (2017-18) from April. The move is expected to enable the teachers to track the progress of the students over a period.
There are 1,128 KVs in the country, with more than 55,000 teachers and over 12 lakh students.
The entire country will be divided into six zones based on geographical locations and the teachers will be asked to give the choice of the zone for their posting. This will ensure stability of tenure and will promote quality work as regular transfers affect classroom teaching, said a source in the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
This is a welcome step as getting postings and transfers done is difficult. There are times when we even try to get recommendations from MPs. If we will be frequently transferred how will we concentrate on the growth of the child? There has to be some sort of stability in the job, said a KV teacher posted in Delhi.
The Group of Secretaries appointed by Prime Minister Modi had also recommended a similar policy to promote stability in the work culture of teachers. Sources said regular transfers of teachers hamper teaching activities and affects their morale too. There are some teachers who are shifted regularly while others stay in one school for years. There has to be a greater transparency in the recruitment and transfer, said a senior official.
Recently, the KV commissioner issued strict warning to teachers asking them not to put political pressure on the Sangathan to get their transfers done. It is learnt that a number of teachers and employees had sent a representation to HRD minister Prakash Javadekar and others to get their choice of posting.
KV teachers and employees were also asked to sign a letter, stating they will not pressure the administration for transfers and postings of their choice. A circular was issued last year to all the principals of KVs that strict action will be taken against the teachers who breach the warning.
TSR Subramanian, former cabinet secretary who headed the committee that prepared a blueprint of the new national education policy, had also referred to such political interferences that affect the quality and credibility of education. He had recommended that transfer, selection and promotion of teachers should be more transparent.
HINDUSTAN TIMES, JAN 30, 2017
Delhi University to soon keep tab on students attendance via new mobile app
Ramjas College, affiliated to Delhi University in New Delhi. The university is soon launching a mobile app to track the attendances of students.(HTFile Photo)
After the admission process, the mechanism for marking and tracking attendance of students at Delhi University is set to go online with the varsity planning to launch a mobile application for the purpose.
The university had last year set up a seven-member committee which has been working on a mobile application to ensure accountability and transparency.
The project has been going on for around six months now and the app is expected to be launched next month. This will help teachers keep a tab on daily class strength and show the percentage of attendance to help them inform the students about the shortage in advance, a senior DU official told PTI.
Earlier, the teachers used to manually maintain an attendance register and few colleges like Hindu College, Zakir Hussain College, Miranda House and IP College for Women, used to update the attendance on their websites on a monthly-basis.
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But after the app is launched, teachers will update the attendance on the app on a daily-basis. Attendance data is very crucial for students, especially at the time of issuance of admit cards for exams.
Students always come up with complaints that teachers have not maintained accurate attendance sheets, the official said.
This will be a centralised app for all departments and faculty members of 68 colleges affiliated to the university.
After testing on a pilot basis for few years, the university last year made online the process of undergraduate admissions and also opted for digitisation of the marksheets
TRIBUNE, JAN 30, 2017
Biometric attendance at all medical colleges
Move aimed at keeping tabs on ghost faculty
The Medical Council of India has decided to put in place the biometric attendance facility in both government and private medical colleges to track attendance and eliminate ghost faculty members.
The move is part of the Digital Mission Mode Project (DMMP) to bring in more transparency in the attendance system in 439 medical colleges, and will be made mandatory as part of the minimum standards required to open a medical college.
The move is aimed at exposing ghost faculty that is arranged by some medical colleges during the inspections to seek the medical education regulators approval to run their college, a senior official said.
Each faculty member will also be issued a Radio Frequency Identification-enabled identity card to help the regulator monitor the attendance, salary and work status on a real-time basis.
Some private medical colleges have either ghost medical faculty or they appoint guest lecturers to teach students. This malpractice will end when the Aadhar Card details of faculty members are linked to biometric attendance devices, a senior official said. MCI, in November last year, had asked all the faculty members of government and private medical colleges to register with their Aadhar Card details so that it could be linked with the biometric attendance system.
The proposal to install the biometric attendance system was conceptualised in 2009 and was stuck in red-tape before being cleared recently. PTI
PIONEER, JAN 30, 2017
SKILL DEVELOPMENT EDUCATION IS MUST FOR STUDENTS: GOVERNOR
Governor Om Prakash Kohli said that students of all the categories are strength of our country. Keeping in view the rising unemployment, skill development education is must for the students. Students can get employment through skill development and can also provide employment to others. Governor Kohli said this at Rajbhavan while addressing the scheduled caste and tribe students who came to participate in the Leadership Development Camp. Principal Secretary to the Governor Ajay Tirki and newly appointed Principal Secretary to the Governor M Mohan Rao were present on the occasion.
Remembering the Former President Late APJ Abdul Kalam, Governor Kohli said that he used to love children very much. He wished that children should cherish dreams for progress as they have potential to rise. Whatever situation arises, on the basis of dreams we should create our place rising above it. Governor Kohli further mentioned that students of scheduled castes and tribes are struggling in their lives in large number in our state and country.
Moreover, Kohli said that students should prepare themselves in this era of competition. Great personalities and Intellectuals of our country have achieved big position due to competition. He urged the students to participate in the State, country and societys development getting inspiration from great personalities.
Principal Secretary Scheduled Caste Welfare Ashok Kumar Shah said that parents of the students participating in the camp have capabilities. We hope that these students will play a creative role to make their families and society prosperous taking inspiration and experience from this camp.
Governor Kohli presented gifts to the students at the end. Vote of thanks was given by Commissioner Scheduled Caste Welfare Deepali Rastogi. Students, Parents and Teachers were present on the occasion.
HINDUSTAN TIMES, JAN 28, 2017
Architect of Indias supercomputer appointed Nalanda University chancellor
Dr Vijay Bhatkar was appointed the new chancellor of Nalanda University.(Pratham Gokhale/HTFile Photo)
Dr Vijay Bhatkar is the new chancellor of Nalanda University (NU).
President Pranab Mukherjee, in his capacity as Visitor of NU, appointed Dr Bhatkar as the chancellor of Nalanda University with effect from January 25, 2017.
Dr Bhatkar will hold the office for a term of three years from the date of his appointment as provided under Section 11(3) of the Nalanda University Act.
The post had fallen vacant following the resignation of George Yeo on November 25 following the dissolution of the mentor group functioning as the governing body.
One of the acclaimed scientists and IT leaders of India, Bhatkar is best known as the architect of Indias first supercomputer and as the founder executive director of C-DAC, Indias national initiative in supercomputing. He is credited with the creation of several national institutions.
Bhatkar has been a member of the scientific advisory committee to the cabinet of government of India as also of the governing council of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). He has been honoured with Padma Shri and Maharashtra Bhushan awards.
Meanwhile, the Nalanda University has awarded the second contract for construction of non-residential buildings on its sprawling 455-acre permanent campus to Hyderabad-based NCC Limited.
TIMES OF INDIA, JAN 24, 2017
Unaided private schools need govt nod for fee hike: Supreme Court
NEW DELHI:Private unaided schoolswhich were granted subsidised land by the Delhi Development Authority(DDA) in the national capital would not be able to hike fees without approval from the government, theSupreme Courtsaid on Monday.
A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud refused to interfere with the order of the Delhi High Court which had in January last year held that the schools were bound to seek approval from the directorate of education before increasing fees.
The high court had held that schools, which were granted land at cheaper rates by DDA, cannot indulge in profiteering and commercialisation of education by increasing fees on their own and directed that prior approval from the directorate of education was a must before taking any such decision.
"Quantum of fees to be charged by unaided schools is subject to regulation by DoE... under the Delhi School Education Act, 1973 and it is competent to interfere if the fee hike by a particular school is found to be excessive and perceived as indulging in profiteering," the HC had said.
Very Good decision and nowadays Profit Making is the Sole Aim for themUsha Tripathi
The HC had passed the order on a petition filed by an NGO, Justice for All, which contended that there were close to 400 private unaided schools which had been allotted government land in the city. The list includes Modern School (Barakhambha), DPS (RK Puram), Air Force Bal Bharti School (Lodhi Road), Amity International School (Saket), Sanskriti School (Chanakyapuri), Mirambika Free Progress School (Sri Aurobindo Ashram), Convent of Jesus and Mary (Bangla Sahib Marg), Ryan International School (Mayur Vihar) and Ahlcon International School (Patparganj).
Action Committee Unaided RecognizedPrivate Schools, an association of schools, then approached the Supreme Court against the HC order.
PIONEER, JAN 25, 2017
Students need not to submit their original docu
In a major relief to the student community of the State, the Technical Education Department (TED) of the State has accepted the recommendations made by the Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission (MPHRC) that they need not to submit their original documents with the educational institutes besides the educational institute could no longer avoid issuing Transfer Certificate (TC) and other documents.
The MPHRC had made recommendations to the TED to instruct the educational institutes that they should not keep the original documents of the students submitted with them at the time of admission. The TED agreed to the recommendations of the Commission and to ensure their implementation issued necessary instructions to all the technical education institutes.
Now, as per the instructions issued by the TED to technical education institutes and their principals to ensure implementation of the MPHRC recommendations the educational institutes would not be able to keep the original documents of the students produced before them by the students at the time of admission. Besides, the educational institute would have to exhibit through the notice board that the original documents submitted by the students at the time of admission would be returned to the students immediately after examination.
According o the recommendations of the Commission this has also been ensured that if a student wishes to discontinue studies or wish to leave the institute due to some reasons than the institute concerned would carry on the proceedings of admission cancellation and would immediately return all original documents and earnest money besides issuing TC.
TRIBUNE, JAN 25, 2017
Cabinet nod to LIC pension for elderly
The Union Cabinet today approved a pension scheme for senior citizens. To be implemented through the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), the scheme will provide a guaranteed return of 8 per cent for 10 years.
The Cabinet gave post facto approval for launching the Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana-2017 (VPBY-2017), which is part of the governments commitment for financial inclusion and social security, an official statement said.
The scheme would be implemented during the current financial year to provide social security during old age and protect the elderly (aged 60 years and above) against any future fall in their interest income. It will provide an assured pension based on a guaranteed rate of return of 8 per cent per annum for 10 years, with an option to opt for pension on monthly, quarterly, half yearly and annual basis.
The differential return or the difference between the return generated by the LIC and the assured return of 8 per cent per annum would be borne by the Centre as subsidy on an annual basis.
The pension scheme is proposed to be open for subscription for one year from the date of launch. The earlier VPBY-2014, announced in the Union Budget 2014-2015, for the benefit of citizens aged 60 years and above, offered an income at an overall rate of 9.38 per cent per annum on deposits being paid on a monthly basis. It effected into a guaranteed 9 per cent return assured by the government. The VPBY-2014 was open from August 14, 2014, to August 14, 2015.
ECONOMIC TIMES, JAN 30, 2017
Election Commission bans exit polls in election-bound states
CHANDIGARH: The Election Commission today banned exit polls between February 4 and March 8 in the election-bound states of country, including the Amritsar Lok Sabha bypoll. Citing provisions of section 126 A of Representations of the Peoples' Act, 1951, a spokesman of the EC said, "Exit polls cannot be conducted and publicised by means of print and electronic media or dissemination in any other manner starting from February 4, 2017 at 7 AM to March 8, 2017 at 5.30 PM." Clarifying further, he said that display of any election matter including results of any opinion poll or any other poll survey in any electronic media is prohibited during the period 48 hours, including the hour fixed for conclusion of voting in each of the phases in connection with the elections.
BUSINESS LINE, JAN 25, 2017
Elections and governance
The decision of the apex court and EC should be welcomed as governance cannot be held captive to the election cycle
The green signal from the Supreme Court and the Election Commission of India for presentation of the Budget according to schedule on February 1 is welcome and removes the uncertainty that prevailed ever since elections to five States were announced. Dismissing a petition seeking postponement of the Budget, the apex court observed on Monday that there is nothing concrete to back the notion that presentation of the Budget just ahead of polls to five State assemblies can sway the minds of the electorate. The ECs decision came with some riders no State-specific schemes should be announced that might influence the electorate, and the speech should not contain any reference to the achievements of the Government in the five States.
It is just as well that the two entities have examined the issue and come up with similar decisions though one could argue that the EC appears more of the view, compared to the apex court, that the electorate can indeed be swayed by the Budget proposals. The election watchdogs reference to its own advisory to States in March 2009 is interesting. In that letter, the EC has advised State legislatures to take a vote-on-account but such advice was not binding. The reference to this advisory in its letter to the Centre now suggests that the EC thinks a vote-on-account is the ideal option now; the nuanced decision to allow a Budget without any State-specific proposals is only to ensure that governance goes on.
There is an opinion that the Centre should have kept in mind the State elections cycle when it decided to advance the Budget date. Those subscribing to this view feel that a consultation with or prior intimation to the EC may have been in order, but it is difficult to imagine what solution it would have brought forth. If advancing the Budget was an important reform from the economys standpoint, the timing of elections was dictated by the constitutional need to have the new assemblies in place by the time the terms of the existing ones ended. The point to note is that in a country perpetually in election mode with one election or the other in some part, governance cannot be held captive to the electoral process. From that standpoint, the ECs decision to allow the Budget with restrictions is probably welcome but it may fail the test of practicality. The finance minister cannot be prevented from increasing allocations to welfare schemes that apply across the country, including the poll-bound States. If, for instance, Arun Jaitley decides to increase allocations to the rural jobs scheme (MGNREGS), which he well might, will he exempt Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and the other poll-bound States specifically from the increase? The only solution to this clash of governance and elections is to have a uniform election cycle to Parliament and State assemblies. The Prime Minister has mooted the idea and the EC has indicated that it is not averse to it but are our political parties ready?
(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 25, 2017)
HINDUSTAN TIMES, JAN 31, 2017
RBI removes restrictions on cash withdrawals from ATMs from February 1
The move came nearly three months after the government withdrew Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, triggering a nationwide cash crunch that forced the central bank to clamp daily and weekly limits on withdrawals.(Reuters File Photo)
Limits on ATM withdrawals will further be eased from February 1 and curbs on branch withdrawals from current, cash credit and overdraft accounts would be lifted with immediate effect, the Reserve Bank of India said on Monday.
People will now be able to withdraw from ATMs Rs 24,000 from their savings accounts in one go, the second time in two weeks that the central bank has relaxed ATM limits while keeping the Rs 24,000 a week ceiling unchanged.
The RBI had on January 16 raised the limit to Rs 10,000 per day from Rs 4,500.
The decision to withdraw the weekly cap will be taken at an appropriate time the situation (of cash supply) is far better today, a source in the banking sector told HT on condition of anonymity.
The restrictions were put in place after the government withdrew Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes in a surprise move, triggering a cash crunch.
HT wrote on January 27 that the limit for single ATM transaction could be raised from Rs 10,000 to Rs 24,000 with the easing of cash supply.
On a review of the pace of remonetisation, it has been decided to partially restore status quo ante, the RBI said in its notification.
It, however, said banks would have the flexibility to fix withdrawal limits, as was the case before the demonetisation exercise was announced on November 8.
Around Rs 12,000 crore was being provided for countrys 220,000 ATMs compared to around Rs 13,000 crore before November 8, sources said.
The government has been saying the amount of currency in circulation would remain lower that what it was before November 8 even after remonetisation is completed, a move aimed at encouraging people to go cashless and adopt digital payment methods.
HINDUSTAN TIMES, JAN 25, 2017
You can soon get your passport at the post office too
The external affairs ministry will launch a pilot project at the head post offices at Mysuru and Dahod.(File Photo)
Post offices will soon start issuing passports, with the ministry of external affairs working jointly with the department of posts to simplify the delivery of the important document to travel abroad and cover people on a larger scale. Head post offices across the country will now double as post office passport seva kendra (POPSK).
The pilot projects for this joint venture will be inaugurated on Wednesday at the head post offices at Mysuru in Karnataka and Dahod in Gujarat.
Applicants, who apply for their passports online through the passport portal, can now schedule an appointment and then visit the designated POPSK to complete the formalities akin to those at the PSK necessary prior to the issue of the passport, the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
The ministry explained that the governments objective was to reach out to the people located far away from passport offices. It said the latest initiative would enable the government to deliver passport related services in a timely, transparent, more accessible, and reliable manner.
The service will be rolled out at all head post offices in a phased manner.
In December, the ministry scrapped the requirement of submitting the birth certificate to obtain a passport. It relaxed rules by allowing applicants to submit any government document that bears their dates of birth such as school-leaving certificate, driving licence, PAN card, Aadhaar card, voter IDcard and even a policy bond issued by public life insurance corporations.
The new rules also simplified the process for single parents, divorced or separated people and adopted children.
TIMES OF INDIA, JAN 31, 2017
New Delhi top cop Amulya Kumar Patnaik supersedes two seniors
NEW DELHI: The government appointedAmulya Kumar PatnaikasDelhi police commissioneron Monday, choosing him over two other contenders senior to him.
Patnaik, a 1985 batch IPS officer belonging to the AGMUT cadre, is currently special commissioner (adminis tration) in theDelhi Police.He replaces Alok Verma, who will be taking over as CBI director.
Patnaik, the brains behind the record 25,000 promotions awarded toDelhi Police personnelover the past six months, had earlier launched the anti-stalking and anti-obscene call cells to ensure women's safety in the capital. He is expected to have one of the longest tenures as the city's police chief.
There were two others in the race -Dharmendra Kumar, currently serving as additional DG in CISF and Deepak Mishra, who is additional DG with CRPF.Both Kumar and Mishra belong to the 1984 batch.
Patnaik, sources said, was chosen over the two senior officers essentially on account of his "clean" image and "blemishless" record. Sources said the race had finally narrowed down to Patnaik and Kumar and the former was informally cleared as the new Delhi CP last Monday , a week before the formal announcement.
Very good, while appointing an officer for top post candidate''s proven track records, clean image only matters, seniority should not be parameterawaladimo
Patnaik, from Odisha, is described by his contemporaries as a "straightforward, low-profile and soft-spoken officer" who is meticulous in his work and prefers to follow the rule book. Patnaik has tackled sever al critical assignments of Delhi Police and also had a deputation to the Special Protection Group (SPG). He has had several postings outside Delhi, having served in Puducherry and Mizoram. He was deputed to SPG during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's tenure as Prime Minister. "Amulya Kumar Patnaik, IPS (AGMUT: 1985) has been appointed to the post of commissioner of police, Delhi from the date of actual as sumption of the charge, in place of Alok Kumar, IPS (AGMUT: 1979) who has been appointed as director, CBI, till further orders," an order issued by the government said.
Patnaik was honoured with the police medal for distinguished service in 2009, when he was the joint commissioner (crime) in Delhi Police, and with the police medal for meritorious service in 2002.
HINDU, JAN 30, 2017
60 senior counsellors appointed to Police Department, says DG & IGPThey will be posted after three months training at NIMHANS: Om Prakash
In the wake of increasing cases of suicide among police personnel, the State government has appointed 60 senior counsellors in the Police Department to help officers and police personnel deal with depression and stress, Director-General and Inspector-General of Police Om Prakash has said.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a farewell parade at the DAR Police Grounds in Kalaburagi on Sunday.
Mr. Om Prakash said that counsellors will be posted to battalions and police training colleges across the State after three months training at the National Institute of Mental health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru. The trained professional counsellors will help police personnel deal with stress and overcome personal and professional hurdles. Through counselling, therapy and medication, the experts will try to make police personnel health conscious and encourage them to take up de-stressing activities such as yoga and meditation. To a question, Mr. Om Prakash said that the government will soon take a final decision on establishing a police commissionerate in Kalaburagi.
ECONOMIC TIMES, JAN 25, 2017
SAD manifesto promises big bonanza for farmers, Dalits
By Vinay Sharma
SAD promised free two-wheelers to all girl students in Class 12 and graduation.
LUDHIANA: The Shiromani Akali Dal SAD) election manifesto unveiled in Punjabs industrial city Ludhiana, also known as textile hub of North, for the 2017 assembly elections promised a big bonanza for farmers, Dalits, unemployed, BPL families if voted to power in a row for the third time.
After remaining in power for 10 years, party while sticking to its populist measures further hiked allocation to its hit schemes like Atta Dal , that covers more than half of population of state with 1.41 crore beneficiaries.
Cash-strapped Parkash Singh Badal Government in 2010 diverted Rs 800 crore from the cash credit limit (CCL) --- central food grain procurement loan --- to run its populist atta-dal scheme. One can gauge significance this scheme has for SAD, with some political scientists even claiming, it was the sole scheme that had brought SAD back to power in 2012.
SAD promised free two-wheelers to all girl students in Class 12 and graduation. State government had already distributed 1,44,324 cycles to the girls of class XI and XII during 2015-16 at the cost of Rs 39.50 crore.
Party announced farm debts of farmers with land holdings up to 2.5 acres to be waived, free power to farmers for regular 10 hours during the day, respite to the traders who have a turnover of up to Rs 2 croreno books, self-certification, lump sum tax. Party will build 'Pucca houses" for all the BPL families.
Punjab Government doles out Rs 4500 -5000 crore per annum on power subsidy to farmers, irrespective of the mounting debt of Rs 1.31 lakh crore.
To strike chord with SC and economically weaker sections of the general category, SAD announced to provide free Pressure Cooker and Gas Stove, 5 Kilo Sugar at a price of Rs 10 per Kg and 2 Kilo Ghee at Rs 25 Per Kg. It raised the Shagun scheme amount, given on the marriage of a girl from Rs 15000 to 51000. Also announced to provide, free sewing machines for every 10th passed girl.
The manifesto released by SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal committed to waive off farm debts of all small farmers. The alliance government would also give a State fertilizer input incentive of Rs 100 per quintal on both wheat and paddy as an additional support to farmers over and above the minimum support price (MSP). All small farmers will also be eligible for a Rs two lakh interest free agriculture crop loan. Besides this the government will provide tubewell to all farmers irrespective of the land holding and free and regular ten hour day time power supply for farm operations.
The vision document as claimed by party, will also facilitate 50000 youth to acquire taxis without down payment and soft loans. We will give government employment and also create jobs in tourism and industrial sectors to reach the 20 lakh job promise, Badal said.
Manifesto intends to make agriculture a sustainable profession, revolutionize rural infrastructure, create 20 lakh jobs for youth, establish mega complexes for industry and provide succour to the poorest of the poor.
SAD President claims that his party, follows the dictum - 'jo keha so kar vikhaya' (Delivered what we promised in last manifesto). "We have delivered what we have promised earlier be it making the State power surplus, introducing unique welfare schemes like aata-daal and Shagun, to providing 100 per cent water and sewerage facilities in 165 towns across the State. "We are similarly committed to delivering on the promises made today".
Stating that the next five years would be known as the period when rural infrastructure was revolutionized in the State, Mr Badal said "we have provided clean drinking water and sewerage facilities in 165 towns. Now we will do the same in all 12,000 villages besides making cemented streets and putting up solar lights". He said besides this a one stop shop which will dispense aata daal, medical clinic and Sewa kendra will be opened in villages. All link roads will be made 18 feet wide.
With focus on youth, SAD will skill 10 lakh youth in 25,000 skill centres with one skill centre catering to five villages. "Those doing the skill courses will be eligible for Rs 10 lakh interest free loan," says Sukhbir Badal.
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
TELEGRAPH, JAN 28, 2017
Trump orders ban on refugees, visitors from 7 Muslim-majority countries
Jan. 28(Reuters):President Donald Trump on Friday put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred visitors from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries, saying the moves would help protect Americans from terrorist attacks.
The order limiting entry on visitors from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries is for 90 days. The six other countries are: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the White House said.
I'm establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. Don't want them here, Trump said earlier on Friday at the Pentagon.
We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people, he said.
Civil rights groups condemned the measures as discriminatory, and said they would strand refugees in dangerous places and would tarnish the reputation of the United States as a land welcoming of immigrants.
The details of the order - which had been rumored for days - were not available until Friday evening, leaving people affected scrambling to figure out what it meant.
The impact was immediate, causing chaos for Arab-Americans who had family members already en route for a visit, said Abed A. Ayoub, legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Ayoub said the order could affect traveling green card holders, students, people coming to the United States for medical care and others.
The order is already affecting refugees and their families, said Jen Smyers of the Church World Service, a Protestant faith-based group that works with migrants.
Smyers said she spoke to an Iraqi mother whose twin daughters remain in Iraq due to processing delays. Those two 18-year-old daughters won't be able to join their mother in the US, she said.
Trump had promised the measures called extreme vetting - during last year's election campaign, saying they would prevent militants from entering the United States from abroad.
The rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, which fueled a flood of migrants into Europe, combined with a series of attacks in France and Belgium heightened concerns in the United States about taking in refugees from Syria.
Trump's order suspends the Syrian refugee program until further notice, and will eventually give priority to minority religious groups fleeing persecution. Trump said in an interview with a Christian news outlet the exception would help Syrian Christians fleeing the civil war there.
Stephen Legomsky, a former chief counsel at US Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Obama administration, said prioritizing Christians could be unconstitutional.
If they are thinking about an exception for Christians, in almost any other legal context discriminating in favor of one religion and against another religion could violate the constitution, he said.
But Peter Spiro, a professor at Temple University Beasley School of Law, said Trump's action would likely be constitutional because the president and Congress are allowed considerable deference when it comes to asylum decisions.
It's a completely plausible prioritization, to the extent this group is actually being persecuted, Spiro said.
Trump's order had been expected to include a directive about setting up safe zones for Syrian refugees inside the country, but no such language was included.
President Trump has cloaked what is a discriminatory ban against nationals of Muslim countries under the banner of national security, said Greg Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
TELEGRAPH, JAN 25, 2017
A hostile capital- Washington DC and the new president of the United States
Diplomacy - K.P. Nayar
"Do not come back for Donald Trump's inauguration in January." In the days following the election of the 45th president of the United States of America two and a half months ago, as I was preparing to leave Washington for New Delhi, several American friends and well-wishers on the US east coast gave this grim bit of advice.
Different people gave different reasons why Trump's swearing-in is best skipped. One view was that the anger among the new president's most ardent champions against the media was so deep and so venomous that journalists were vulnerable - even foreign correspondents like me, who were observers of the election, not participants like domestic US journalists who tried their best to damage Trump's poll prospects. One person predicted an attack on the media section that is at a vantage position on the Capitol's west front and is, therefore, easily identifiable since the layout for the swearing-in of a new president has not changed since 1981.
Another white American with liberal convictions worried that an Indian of brown complexion on the streets of Washington on January 20 could be mistaken as an immigrant by red-neck supporters of the maverick new occupant of the White House. Several others like this liberal were convinced that I would be at risk returning to a changed Washington where the incoming establishment, ready to run things differently, was anxious to trumpet a new political and social order about which they were already feeling indignantly righteous by mid-November in the wake of Trump's victory.
Undeterred by such well-meaning advice, I asked the manager of the Hilton hotel a few blocks from what is acknowledged as the centre of Washington if I should make my room reservation for January. She had told me when I checked in 10 days or so before the November 8 election that they were 98 per cent booked in advance for the presidential inauguration. Her answer 10 days after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton was revealing. The manager said the hotel had 85 per cent cancellations after the upsetting Republican victory in the presidential poll.
I decided to check a Marriott hotel, which is usually popular with people who visit the national capital for the post-swearing parade where the first couple meet and greet Americans who do not have access to the restricted spaces along the National Mall in front of the Capitol, a vantage point for viewing the peaceful transfer of power that takes place there every four years. At this Marriott hotel, confirmation of rooms for January 20, the date designated under the 20th amendment to the US Constitution when a president begins his new term, requires full payment, which is non-refundable. The reservations manager said 80 per cent of the bookings had been cancelled. Because of mass cancellations, the hotel decided to suspend its no refunds policy and repay the patrons in order to retain client goodwill in the long term.
Against the backdrop of this experience, the ongoing controversy over the size of crowds along the National Mall on January 20 did not surprise me. Of course, more than the controversy, the way the president ill-advisedly waded into it while addressing Central Intelligence Agency staff - of all people - at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, made for a bad beginning of his presidential tenure. The mass cancellations of hotel bookings can be explained away because the early reservations had obviously been made by Hillary Clinton acolytes who were so certain of her victory that they did not want to miss her swearing-in as Barack Obama's successor for want of a place to stay not far from the Capitol.
But several reservations clerks squirmed when asked if they expected new bookings from the victor's side. At fancy hotels, no shortage of bookings was expected. The wealthy, those with special interests or a stake in the political super structure, would simply switch sides: yesterday's donor to the Clintons would be today's donor to Republican causes without any pause. But it was the middle-range hotels that faced a challenge. A few reservation clerks who were willing to be candid feared that many Trump supporters - unlike the middle-class, educated women and the latte-drinking liberals - could not afford such hotels. They would only be comfortable in surroundings that are at the bottom of what the US hotel industry offered. Washington is a city that does not have too many such hotel beds.
Washington is also a city of marches similar to the one this capital saw on Saturday - often bigger. To be a political journalist in Washington is to be an expert on numbers, on crowd-counting. A journalist with an activist mindset also grows into an expert on how to evade arrest if you are in a march, how to dodge the police if chased, and finally, with help from lawyer friends if any, how to win substantial financial settlements from the US Park Police, the District of Columbia Police or the Capitol Police.
All this knowledge could help in functioning as a journalist in Washington because the security-obsessed law enforcement agencies there show no consideration for journalists in the line of duty if they sense the possibility of any disturbance from marches. It is no use waving a press pass in the face of police officers. More likely than not, a journalist caught in the middle of a rally is likely to be subdued and handcuffed while arrests are on. There is even a word for such police tactics: it is called "kettling", surrounding protesters, detaining them without warning and arresting them in thousands.
The situation has improved a little since 2015, when the US department of justice and the department of the interior were forced to shell out $2.2 million in damages for the actions of the US Park Police in kettling peaceful demonstrators 13 years earlier. The mass arrests in 2002 were of anti-globalization marchers against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund when the fall meetings of the Fund and the Bank were being held in Washington.
The civil society fears that with the new Trump administration in charge, there will be no leniency towards liberal dissent. Human rights activists fear a harsher approach towards law and order and threats to national security, the scope of which may be widened to include gay and lesbian persons, free thinkers and journalists. Hence the advice I received in favour of skipping the Trump inauguration.
It was during the George W. Bush era that journalists across the US became experts on marches and rallies, if one discounts those who reported on the anti-Vietnam-War protests of an altogether earlier generation. Both in Washington and in New York, people opened their homes to anti-Iraq-War protesters who came from far, travelling by chartered buses for days. Liberal Washingtonians and New Yorkers offered food, water and other comforts to those who were seen as standing up for what is right and to protest against young Americans being offered as cannon fodder in a war that had no justification.
There is no way that the people of Washington would have opened their homes to those who arrived in their city to celebrate the victory of Trump. The large African American population of the city had nothing in common with the red-necks who arrived for Trump's inauguration. That was not the case in 2009 when Barack Obama, the first black president of the US was sworn in. It was possible for outsiders to find a place to stay in Washington even if they had only the remotest connections with a resident in the US national capital or surrounding areas. Obama was making history. That explains the huge vacant spaces along the National Mall on Friday, which Trump does not want to acknowledge. The new president will have to be reconciled to the reality that he will be living for the next four years in a city that is deeply hostile to him. Trump will have to metamorphose into a different person if that hostility is to end.
Unfortunately for the new president, he cannot appoint a lieutenant-governor for Washington who will try to tame the city's elected representatives. There is no such post in the district of Columbia, only in states as elected deputies to state governors. But those lieutenant-governors have an altogether different job profile. So, the fracas we saw in the first days of Trump in office may repeat itself again and again.
STATESMAN, JAN 31, 2017
The dual challenge
Indias general Budget 2017-18 will be interesting for a variety of reasons. It would be a first for two major reasons ~ inclusion of Railway Estimates in the General Estimates and abolition of the Plan and non-Plan distinction. How would each of these alter the complexion of the Budget? Are these the only challenges?Indian Railways (IR) currently runs operating ratios that are over 90 per cent. This leaves precious little for new capital projects and extension, even less for maintenance, additions to rolling and motive stock and accretion to reserves while deferred dividends would continue to multiply. With a general turndown in manufacturing activity, freight revenues would sag substantially. For instance, the declining demand from high-tension energy consumers has caused several major coal-fired thermal power plants to back down. In turn, this is reflected in Coal India's stagnant, even declining, production figures. The same holds true for almost all other ores and equivalents that account for perhaps half of the freight earnings. Although global commodity prices have taken a severe knocking and even anti-dumping duties are not too serious a deterrent, yet with an overall decline in manufacturing activity, reduction in bulk imports will invariably have a negative fallout on IR's freight revenue. At the same time, the commercial exploitation of Railway land and immovable assets has major limitations. For one, audit, vigilance and investigation can justifiably scare away proposing officers. Second, much of such assets, notably land, are located in areas where land prices are already low owing to lack of demand. Encroachment over the decades has substantially reduced the price and availability even more. On the passenger front, a rapidly expanding budget and feeder airlines are steadily gnawing at air-conditioned class travel. Volvo and long-distance sleeper buses offering dynamic fares on point-to-point connectivity between passenger railheads would probably add to the further diminution of Railway revenues. Safety and comfort remain standing bugbears for passengers. Inter-city bus services, run by states and private operators, have also been steadily adding to their fleets and augmenting the number of daily services, something IR is unlikely to be able to match. Clearly, all these will cast a tremendous negative impact on the General Budget.
The second issue is a welcome step, having been proposed by the Dr C Rangarajan Committee about five years ago. However, there are several grey areas, notably in recognising capital and revenue items that are governed mainly by the woolly distinction between the two items laid out in Rule 79 of the General Financial Rules (GFRs), 2005. At present, there are several thousand project and contract posts that are funded from capital funds and get carried over from project to project, oblivious of their often eternal timeliness, assuring lifetime career opportunities. There are many revenue expenditure-based projects, such as in the R&D category, that include high-value project stores and several thousand personnel that ought to be classified as capital expenditure but are not, even though such R&D projects/establishments work to create permanent assets for India. If the revenue-capital divide is indeed genuinely enforced, shouldn't the governments permanent assets be valued and revalued every five years as well? These are national assets, after all. GFR 79 is so loosely worded that it is subject to convenient interpretation/re-interpretation. How would the new classification change the way business is done in the government? Would it result in more capital expenditure? Past practice is not very encouraging for a guide.However, there are other major challenges, far greater than these two issues. Several economic and policy factors may severely constrain public expenditure proposals in the forthcoming budget. The deepening manufacturing crisis (including the real estate and infrastructure sectors) would exert an adverse pressure on excise and other related revenues. With a large decline in business earnings by falling sales (such as the automotive sector by a fourth), the contribution of corporate taxation in real terms would decline. The gradually reviving global oil prices over the 2014 levels are already exerting pressure on oil PSU margins and will reduce dividends available for transfer to the Government of India. With manufacturing in the doldrums, non-oil PSUs too are hard-pressed to meet the rising demand for unsustainable dividend from the government and buy-back of government shares that would have added to non-tax revenues. Coal companies, for instance, have been hit by the backing down of many coal-fired power stations owing to low industrial consumer demand and the shift to alternative energy sources. The delay in implementing GST would only add, in substantial measure, to the dearth of the governments fiscal resources.Public sector banks (PSBs), that have been assured Rs 70,000 crore over 2016-20 by the Government of India, need much more for achieving Basel-IV norms of liquidity that is unlikely to be available. At the same time, recovery suits are bogged down in mostly understaffed Debt Recovery Tribunals while the volume of NPAs is steadily rising. If corporate debt restructuring (CDR) cases were added, the real volume of NPAs could potentially skyrocket. To these can be added the giant public deposits arising from remonetisation on which banks would have to fork out 4-5 per cent interest per annum. The lowering of lending rates for commercial borrowers seems to have limited takers owing to low consumer demand. In effect, the banks would be saddled with idle funds on which 4-5 per cent interest at least would be payable. Any further rise in US Federal bank rates carry a potential backward migration of foreign investments in India, particularly those that have no long-term moorings.
A major set of reasons for the scarcity of government funds is the overweening emphasis on revenue generation by sale/lease of state/natural resources such as telecom spectrum and FM stations. The entire process of public auction to the highest bidder is ruinous, indeed antithetical, to the interest of the nation. Such assets are public properties to be devoted to the common good. A deliberate decision of the government to arrive at a minimum reserve price for spectrum, for instance, after factoring certain conditions, such as embargo on mobile call/data tariff plans beyond 5 per cent per annum, specified density/sq km of mobile towers, downtime/slow speed penalties, free Internet connectivity for educational and health institutions, 50 per cent tariff (of urban tariffs) for rural and semi-rural areas, etc., would have pegged the price of spectrum to more realistic levels as would a reverse price auction from such a benchmark. This would also have partly offset malfeasance in very large revenue-sharing deals and made monitoring of contracts relatively easier. This was a major reason why the recent spectrum auction was able to collect barely 10 per cent of the targeted licence fee and which left a gaping hole in the Centre's projected finances by nearly Rs 6 lakh crore. This plagued the auction of FM stations too.
Furthermore, there are pending wage revisions, both in the public sector as also in states as a cascading effect of the partial acceptance of the 7th Central Pay Commission's recommendations by the Government of India. Another major sector is the defence services that need urgent upgrades in war material, technologies and provisions. Central and state police forces too need proportionate upgrades. Even the Make-in-India programme for the defence services would demand guaranteed defence purchase budget allocations and waiver of competitive bidding for a private entrepreneur to invest several thousand crore rupees in captive manufacturing facilities for at least 20-25 years (like the Maruti-Suzuki ancillary units in Gurugram in the 1980s and 1990s). The same would hold true of all sectors where government purchases alone would sustain private manufacture. Budgetary uncertainties would equally affect defence PSUs like GRSE, BEL, BDL, etc., that mostly live off government-funded orders from the defence services, more so if they have to compete with private manufacturers of military terrestrial transport and the like. In fact, the only way Make-in-India may succeed is by a giant scale of operation, akin to the Chinese model, from where it was evidently borrowed and given the Indian moniker. The challenges are gargantuan and solutions not facile. Second-hand bargain hunting, vintage solutions and accounting ingenuity are no longer options in circumstances that are not far less in magnitude from the 1990-91 crises.
(The writer is a senior public policy analyst and commentator)