Posts tagged ‘Prime minister’

15/11/2016

The Economist explains: Why India scrapped its two biggest bank notes | The Economist

In a surprise televised address on the evening of November 8th, Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, delivered a bombshell: most of the money in Indians’ wallets would cease to be accepted in shops at midnight. The two most valuable notes, of 500 and 1000 rupees ($7.50 and $15), were to be “demonetised”, economist slang for taken out of circulation. Indians have until the end of the year to visit banks to either exchange their cash against newly printed notes or deposit it in their accounts. After that, their notes will become mere pieces of printed paper with no value at all.

Citizens and businesses face weeks or months of disruption as the new currency stock is deployed. So why bother?

The government justified the move in part due to concerns over a proliferation of counterfeit notes (not unusually, it pointed the finger at neighbouring Pakistan), which it claims is fuelling the drug trade and funding terrorism. But its main impact will be on “black money”, cash from undeclared sources which sits outside the financial system. Perhaps 20% of India’s economy is informal. Some of that is poor farmers, who are largely exempt from tax anyway. But the rich are perceived to be sitting on a vast illicit loot. Though a large part of that sits in bank accounts in predictable foreign jurisdictions, a chunk of it is held in high-value Indian notes. Purchases of gold or high-end real estate have long been made at least in part with bundles (or suitcases) of illicit cash. The impact of the move is that everyone will have to disclose all their cash or face losing it. Those with mere bundles of 500 rupee notes clearly aren’t the target: the government has said tax authorities won’t be told about deposits of less than 250,000. But those who have stashed large piles of notes are in a bind. A recent amnesty programme for “black money” has just passed meaning the tax man is unlikely to look upon undeclared cash piles with sympathy.

The question is not whether the scheme will work but whether the cost of implementing it is worth it. The notes being nixed represent 86% of all cash in circulation: everyone is impacted. Queues have snaked around banks for days as Indians have tried to convert their notes into new money. And the “black money” hoarders have ways to liquidate their loot, for example hiring lots of people to deposit their notes into their own accounts and then send it back, all for a fee. The benefits are hard to gauge for now. The government is keen to be seen to be cracking down on tax-dodgers on behalf of the “common man”. But if the poor fellow then has to spend his days (like your correspondent) scouring the streets for an ATM that works, he may end up wondering if he is a beneficiary of the scheme or its victim.

Source: The Economist explains: Why India scrapped its two biggest bank notes | The Economist

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03/10/2016

How has India changed a year after Dadri beef lynching? – BBC News

It has been a year since a Muslim man in northern India was lynched over rumours that his family had slaughtered a cow and eaten beef.

Hindus consider cows to be sacred, and for many, eating beef is taboo. The slaughter of cows is also banned in many Indian states.But Mohammad Akhlaq’s death sparked widespread outrage and contributed to changing the social and political discourse of the country. The BBC’s Ayeshea Perera looks at some of the most significant things that happened in India following his death.

The ‘intolerance’ furore

Image copyright AFP: The government began to be haunted by allegations of intolerance

Perhaps the largest fallout of Mohammad Akhlaq’s death in Uttar Pradesh state was the accusation of “intolerance” that began to haunt Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist BJP.

Critics of the BJP have often accused it of being Hindu majoritarian in its outlook and of being hostile to ethnic and religious minorities, particularly Muslims. And this incident only strengthened those voices.

The fact that Mr Modi did not immediately condemn the incident, choosing to remain silent even as state party leaders jumped to the defence of the accused, caused even more anger.

It prompted an unprecedented movement by writers and poets who had been celebrated by the government – they started returning their prestigious Sahitya Akademi awards to protest at intolerance in India. More than 40 writers from all across the country returned their awards and were soon joined by a group of film makers who said they would not be “guilty of flattening diversity” in the country.

Leading writer Nayantara Sehgal, a niece of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, wrote that “… India’s culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault… The prime minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology.

“But “intolerance” was not limited to returning awards – it found its way into popular discourse as well. Bollywood superstar Amir Khan also created a furore when he expressed concern over the “growing intolerance” in India. He was later joined by fellow star Shah Rukh Khan who said he “respected” people returning awards to protest against intolerance.

Later, the arrest of a student leader from India’s prestigious Jawarhalal Nehru University on sedition charges over a rally condemning the hanging of a man convicted of attacking the Indian parliament also sparked cries of “intolerance” on a massive scale.

The BJP loses Bihar

Image copyright AP: Nitish Kumar led an alliance which defeated PM Narendra Modi’s BJP in the Bihar polls

A second outcome that can be linked back to the Dadri killing is that the BJP went on to lose state elections in the neighbouring northern state of Bihar – a poll it was widely expected to win.Incumbent chief minister Nitish Kumar, who was on his second term, had already suffered a crushing defeat to Mr Modi’s party in the 2014 parliamentary elections, and another “Modi wave” was expected to sweep the state elections as well.

But in a masterstroke, Mr Kumar and his allies positioned themselves as a “secular” alliance, in direct opposition to the “communal” BJP.

The fact that Mr Modi and BJP party chief Amit Shah raised the sensitive issue of cow slaughter and consumption of beef during election rallies in the state also did not seem to help.

When Mr Kumar’s party won, it was called a “historic verdict” and hailed as proof that running a poll campaign along religious and ethnic lines would not bring results.

The rise of cow protection vigilante groups

Image copyright MANSI THAPLIYAL: These self styled cow protectors created headlines after they lay in wait for and then badly beat up a number of truck drivers transporting cattle for slaughter

The death of Mr Akhlaq seemed to put new focus on “cow protection” groups who took it upon themselves to ensure that cattle would not be slaughtered or consumed.

Mostly members of militant Hindu groups like the Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and Shiv Sena, these self-styled cow protectors created headlines after they lay in wait for and then beat up a number of truck drivers transporting cattle for slaughter.

In another attack, two Muslim woman were beaten up after they were accused of carrying beef. And most significantly, in an incident which led to massive caste unrest, four low-caste Dalit men trying to skin a dead cow were thrashed by vigilantes in the western state of Gujarat.A video of the incident went viral and led to huge protests and an uproar in parliament.

After again being accused of silence, Mr Modi used a radio address almost a full month later to criticise vigilante attacks, saying such people made him “angry”, and any attacks must be investigated.

Eating as an act of defiance

Beef fry is an essential part of the diet in south India’s Kerala stateThe right to eat beef became another huge talking point in

Source: How has India changed a year after Dadri beef lynching? – BBC News

28/07/2016

With eye on China, India doubles down on container hub ports | Reuters

Indian conglomerate Adani Group has started building the country’s first transshipment port, conceived 25 years ago, and the government will construct another $4-billion facility nearby to create a shipping hub rivalling Chinese facilities in the region.

New Delhi will grant billionaire Gautam Adani 16 billion rupees ($240 million) in so-called “viability gap” funding to help the new port at Vizhinjam in Kerala win business from established hubs elsewhere in Asia.

Once Vizhinjam is operational the central government will start building the port of Enayam in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, said a senior shipping ministry official. Enayam alone will save more than $200 million in costs for Indian companies every year, he said.India’s 7,500-km (4,700-mile) coastline juts into one of the world’s main shipping routes and Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to capitalise on that proximity by developing ports that can shift freight on to huge vessels capable of carrying up to 18,000 20-foot containers.

By bringing onshore cargo handling now done at entrepots in Sri Lanka, Dubai and Singapore, Modi’s government expects cargo traffic at its ports to jump by two-thirds by 2021 as India ramps up exports of goods including cars and other machinery.

The lack of an Indian domestic transshipment port forces inbound and outbound containers to take a detour to one of those regional hubs before heading to their final destination.

New Delhi expects the new ports to save Indian companies hundreds of millions of dollars in transport costs, as well as ease concerns over the growing strategic clout in South Asia of rival China, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Sri Lankan ports at Colombo and Hambantota.

Adani wants the Vizhinjam port, which an arm of his Adani Group is building at a cost of around $1 billion, to be operational in 2018. The port lies hard by the Gulf-to-Malacca shipping lane that carries almost a third of world sea freight.

“The port can attract a large share of the container transshipment traffic destined for, or originating from, India which is now being diverted primarily through Colombo, Singapore and Dubai,” said an Adani Group executive who declined to be named.

But officials acknowledge that it would be difficult for the new ports to win international clients unless they offered discounts.”A major part of transshipment is happening at nearby ports. We can win some of that business,” said A.S. Suresh Babu, who heads a government agency set up by Kerala to facilitate the construction of Vizhinjam.

“There’s a viability issue in the first few years. Already the Chinese are operating there. So unless you give some discount you can’t attract these ships. So that’s why the government of India has approved the viability gap funding.”

Source: With eye on China, India doubles down on container hub ports | Reuters

27/07/2016

Parliament passes controversial child labour bill | Reuters

Parliament on Tuesday approved a controversial law that would allow children to work for family businesses, despite widespread concern by the United Nations and other rights advocates that it will push more children into labour.

A week after the bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha approved the measure that brings a raft of changes to a three-decade-old child labour prohibition law. The bill now goes for the President’s assent before becoming law.

The U.N. Children’s Agency (UNICEF) as well as many others have raised alarm over two particular amendments – permitting children to work for their families and reducing the number of banned professions for adolescents.

A 2015 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) put the number of child workers in India ages 5 to 17 at 5.7 million, out of 168 million globally.

More than half of India’s child workers are employed in agriculture and more than a quarter in manufacturing – embroidering clothes, weaving carpets or making match sticks. Children also work in restaurants, shops and hotels and as domestic workers.The new legislation extends a ban on child labour under 14 to all sectors. Previously, only 18 hazardous occupations and 65 processes such as mining, gem cutting and cement manufacturing were outlawed.

It also stiffens penalties for those employing children, doubling jail terms to two years and increasing fines to 50,000 rupees ($740) from 20,000 rupees ($300).

While child rights groups have welcomed such changes, there has been concern over other amendments proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government.

For example, children will be allowed to work in family businesses, outside of school hours and during holidays, and in entertainment and sports if it does not affect their education.

Also, children 15 to 18 will be permitted to work, except in mines and industries where they would be exposed to inflammable substances and hazardous processes.

The government says the exemptions aim to strike a balance between education and India’s economic reality, in which parents rely on children to help with farming or artisanal work to fight poverty or pass on a family trade.

“The purpose of this very act is that we should be able to practically implement it,” Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya told parliament. “That’s why we are giving some exemptions.”UNICEF had urged India to exclude family work from the proposed law and include an “exhaustive list” of hazardous occupations.

“To strengthen the Bill and provide a protective legal framework for children, UNICEF India strongly recommends the removal of ‘children helping in family enterprises’,” it said in a statement on Monday.

“This will protect children from being exploited in invisible forms of work, from trafficking and from boys and girls dropping out of school due to long hours of work,” it said.

Source: Parliament passes controversial child labour bill | Reuters

16/06/2016

Why an Indian Hindu Group Wants a Ministry of Cows – India Real Time – WSJ

Cows have long held a sacred place in India’s society, revered as holy by the country’s predominantly Hindu population. If one group gets its way they might soon have a government department devoted to their interests too.

The cow-protection unit of the right-wing Hindu group Vishva Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) is urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to form a dedicated ministry for the preservation and protection of cows.

“Gou mata (mother cow) is the symbol of life, soul of our culture. She is not being given enough importance,” an official at the Bharatiya Govansh Rakshan Samvardhan Parishad (Indian Cattle Protection and Promotion Council), who didn’t wish to be named, said.

He said the “whole idea is to save the cows from getting killed.” Rearing cows will also increase milk production in the country, he added.

Slaughter of bovines has long been a fraught issue in India, but a renewed push to protect the animals came after a Hindu mob killed a Muslim man in the town of Dadri, 31 miles from New Delhi last September over rumors that he butchered a cow. The murder unleashed a wave of violence and sparked a debate over religious intolerance in the country.

There is no central law on cattle slaughter in India, though various states have introduced their own rules since Mr. Modi took power. A number of states have also tightened restrictions on the consumption of beef.

Minority groups, including around 170 million Muslims, have expressed concern over the clampdown.

The official from the Indian Cattle Protection and Promotion Council said members of his organization plan to meet ministers and members of Mr. Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to ask them to take up the issue of a separate cow ministry in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament, which begins in July.

“Our goal is to restore cows of bharatiya (Hindu) breed back to the country’s economy,” he added.Despite the various bans, India is the world’s largest exporter of beef, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. India exported 2.4 million tons of beef last year, compared with 2 million tons by Brazil. India alone accounts for nearly 24% of global beef exports.

India has also ranked first among the world’s milk-producing nations since 1998, according to India’s department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries. Milk production in India during the period has gone up from 17 million tons in 1950 to 146.3 million tons till last year, it said.

Source: Why an Indian Hindu Group Wants a Ministry of Cows – India Real Time – WSJ

06/01/2016

Pathankot attack: Congress asks Modi to ‘fix responsibility’ – The Hindu

Scaling up the offensive against the government over Pathankot terror attack, the Congress on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fix responsiblity for the “grave security lapse” and suggested that some heads must roll.

People light candles during a memorial service for the Indian soldiers killed in a militant attack at Pathankot air base, in Mumbai on Tuesday.

“They should realize that it has gone wrong and resignations should happen. If there is a lapse, resignations should happen,” former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told reporters at the AICC briefing when repeatedly asked whether Congress is demanding resignation of Home Minister Rajnath Singh or Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar into the matter.

“This government has totally failed. It has no system in place to protect the nation,” he added.

AICC Communication Department chairman Randeep Surjewala also said that the Prime Minister should fix the responsibility and take action against the Home and Defence Ministers.

“First responsibility is of the Prime Minister as he is the head of the government. Then Defence Minister and Home Minister are also responsible as they deal with the matter.

The Prime Minister should act decisively and not merely talk. “The Prime Minister should fix responsibility for this negligence and he reaches to the same conclusion that the nation has arrived at that there has been a huge lapse in the nation’s security, he should then take action against the Defence Minister and the Home Minister,” Surjewala said.

The party asked whether the Prime Minister and the BJP government would explain as to who was responsible for the “grave security lapse” as terrorists managed to reach Pathankot Air Base despite advance intelligence alert and reporting of prior incident.

Source: Pathankot attack: Congress asks Modi to ‘fix responsibility’ – The Hindu

01/01/2016

Launching of odd-even scheme in New Delhi: Overwhelmed by response of odd-even scheme, says Arvind Kejriwal – The Hindu

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said he was “over-whelmed” by the response of people towards the odd-even scheme in New Delhi.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejrwal The scheme has been successful so far, the Aam Aadmi Party convenor said. “I am truly overwhelmed by the response we have received so far. There are very less even-numbered cars on the roads. The plan seems to have been successful,” Mr. Kejriwal told the media. He said the people of Delhi have accepted the scheme “whole-heartedly”, adding “I am confident that in next five years people will show the way to rest of the country”.

The odd-even scheme for private vehicles started in New Delhi on Friday. The move aims at reducing air pollution levels.

Source: Launching of odd-even scheme in New Delhi: Overwhelmed by response of odd-even scheme, says Arvind Kejriwal – The Hindu

24/11/2015

Modi woos investors in Singapore – The Hindu

Promising more reforms to make India more attractive for foreign investments, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday assured investors that he would “carefully hold” their hands and expressed hope that the GST would be rolled out in 2016.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Institute of Technical Education College in Singapore on Tuesday.

Speaking at the India Singapore Economic Convention, Mr. Modi said India is exploring a potential partnership with Singapore’s Changi Airport for developments of two Indian airports and invited companies to join in building smart cities.

“In the last 18 months, the runways for the take-off of the economy have been made. Reforms are happening in a big way. They are now reaching to the last mile. Reform is to transform the system so that they perform. They aim at helping people realise their dreams. It means more charm on the faces and less forms in the offices. Efforts to deepen financial markets have been made,” he said.

‘Most open economy

The Prime Minister said his government began to liberalise FDI laws soon after coming to power last year and the latest round of FDI reforms have made India the “most open economy” in the world.

“We are also conscious of last mile operational issues in such matters and we are fine tuning the norms. Recently, we further eased FDI norms, after which India is the most open economy in terms of FDI,” he added.

While talking about 40 per cent increase in FDI and improvement in rankings like ease of doing business and world competitiveness index, Mr. Modi said, “Perceptions are turning into positive outcomes”.

“We are hopeful to roll out GST regime in 2016. The company law tribunal is being set up. FDI inflows have gone up by 40 per cent compared with previous year’s comparative period. Perceptions are turning into positive outcomes. FDI commitments are translating into reality,” he noted.

Modi also outlined 14 decisive steps taken to address regulatory and taxation concerns and said that India offers tremendous opportunities for investments, ranging from affordable housing to smart cities, railways to renewable energy.

Source: Modi woos investors in Singapore – The Hindu

23/09/2015

Prime Minister Popularity and Voter Optimism Have Soared in India Under Modi, U.S. Think-Tank Survey Shows – India Real Time – WSJ

In the sixteen months since Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a landslide victory in national elections, he has faced policy setbacks, parliamentary roadblocks and electoral failure. These appear to have had little impact on support for him.

A new report by the U.S.-based think tank Pew Research Center says Mr. Modi remains overwhelmingly popular among Indians. Among those surveyed, 87% said they have a favorable opinion of Mr. Modi. Unpacking that statistic gives Mr. Modi greater reason to celebrate. His popularity is the highest among two crucial demographic groups: 18 to 29 year olds and rural Indians. Nine out of 10 people in each category gave the leader of the world’s largest democracy a thumbs up.

Mr. Modi’s undented approval ratings come at a time when his appeal among investors and analysts has lost some of its sheen. India-watchers complain big policy pronouncements have been few and slow to come, limiting India’s growth potential. Far from sharing that pessimism, a majority of Indians are upbeat about their country’ economic prospects, the survey showed. More than half of the respondents said they were happy with the direction of their country, up from 29% in 2013, toward the end of the Congress party’s decade-long tenure when the economic was stuttering and corruption scandals dogged the government. More than 90% of those surveyed by Pew said they had faith in government, up from 70% two years ago. These findings raise key political questions.

Some strategists wonder why, given his once-in-a-generation mandate, Mr. Modi hasn’t pushed for tougher, more-disruptive measures to accelerate growth. His government recently backtracked on a policy that would have made it easier to acquire land for infrastructure and industry because of protests by opponents in Parliament and fear of a backlash from rural voters.

Others argue Mr. Modi is playing the long game, seeking to build on his popularity to consolidate more political power at state and local levels rather than risking it at an early stage on controversial policies. Leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party say they are planning for at least two five-year terms under Mr. Modi’s premiership during which they hope their party, whose political authority has grown sporadically since its inception in 1980, will achieve the kind of dominance Congress enjoyed in the decades after India won independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

Such a strategy – and Pew’s data – explains why Mr. Modi is the BJP’s star campaigner. In the state of Bihar where elections are scheduled to begin next month, the BJP has not announced a candidate for chief minister, the person who would run the state if the party won. Instead, posters and hoardings are plastered with Mr. Modi’s face. To be sure, the Bihar polls won’t be easy. Caste allegiances play an important role in the vote and the incumbent regional leader, Nitish Kumar, is seen as an effective leader for development. A recent opinion poll by the Hindi-language ABP News channel and Nielsen showed the BJP and Janata Dal (United)-led alliances are neck and neck.

Source: Prime Minister Popularity and Voter Optimism Have Soared in India Under Modi, U.S. Think-Tank Survey Shows – India Real Time – WSJ

07/08/2015

Where You Can and Can’t Eat Beef in India – India Real Time – WSJ

The treatment of cows, animals considered sacred by India’s Hindu majority, has long stirred political controversy in the country –and now conservatives, emboldened by the first year of the Hindu nationalist government, are stepping up their campaign to protect them.

In many Indian states, the slaughter of cows is already illegal, making it difficult to buy, sell, and, as a result, eat, beef.

Some conservative Hindus want Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party government to enact a federal law banning cow slaughter. They are “encouraged to be aggressive under the Modi regime and this is to be expected,” said Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, an Indian specialist at the Cato Institute in Washington.

 

The party argues that protecting the animal is in line with India’s constitution, which includes language calling for the prohibition of the slaughter of cows.

In Maharashtra, where killing the animal is illegal, a new law in March banned the possession of beef and also the slaughter of bulls and bullocks. Running afoul of the new law can lead to a jail term of up to five years or a fine of up to 10,000 rupees ($156) or both.

The amendment was passed by the state government in 1995 and received the president’s nod in March.

In the same month, the state assembly of Haryana passed a bill containing stricter punishments for the animal’s slaughter. It is still waiting for the president’s approval, a senior official at the state’s animal husbandry department said.

States such as Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab, which are at the heart of India’s buffalo meat industry, have also imposed complete bans on killing cows. The practice is outlawed in the capital city of Delhi. Other major states with bans include Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Orissa.

In Gujarat, Mr. Modi’s home state, India’s Supreme Court upheld the state’s law that prohibits killing of cows, bulls and bullocks in 2005, overturning the decision of the Gujarat High Court that ruled against a blanket ban on bull and bullock slaughter. But in 2011, sentences for people caught killing cows were increased from six months to seven years.

West Bengal, which has a higher than average population of Muslims, is slightly more lenient and allows the killing of cows if they are “fit-for-slaughter.”  A senior official in the animal husbandry department in Assam said that such a certificate would also permit the slaughter of cows in that state but usually only during the Islamic religious festival of Eid.

Overall, 24 of India’s 29 states–including the newest state of Telangana–have imposed penalties  and restrictions of varying degrees on the slaughter of cows and other cattle.

Meanwhile, in the southern state of Kerala, where beef dishes are popular and which has a larger than average proportion of Christians, there is no statewide legislation restricting cow slaughter.

And the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and the territory of Lakshadweep also have no legislation banning or prohibiting slaughter of cows and other cattle.

Rajnath Singh, India’s home minister, failed to persuade Parliament to pass nationwide legislation banning the slaughter of cows in 2003 when he was agriculture minister. “The moment I rose to present the bill in the Parliament, there was an uproar and the bill couldn’t be passed,” he said in a speech in March.

This time, however, Mr. Singh said the government will do everything in its power to ban cow slaughter in the country. But BJP’s success in getting such a legislation cleared by the Parliament is not guaranteed as it is short of a majority in the upper house.

via Where You Can and Can’t Eat Beef in India – India Real Time – WSJ.

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