Marshal Arjan Singh cremated with state honour

The nation bade a teary farewell to the Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, the legendary warrior who was laid to rest with full state honours at Brar Square in the national capital on Monday. In the honour of the national hero, the Tricolour Flew past at half-mast in all government buildings in Delhi.

In honour of the 1965 India- Pakistan war hero, A 17- gun salute was given to Singh while his body was consigned to flames amid chanting of Sikh hymns The 98-year-old Singh’s body was consigned to flames amid chanting of Sikh hymns. Several senior political leaders including Former Prime minister Manmohan Singh, BJP veteran LK Adwani and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman paid last respect to the war hero at the crematorium.

President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid glowing tributes to the war hero and visited Singh’s Residence on Sunday.

Singh, who died of the cardiac arrest, is the only officer to attain the highest post of Marshal of the Air Force, a rank equivalent to Army’s five-star field marshal.

Sources:

The Indian Express, India Today

Government to easen GST norms for small businesses

The Goods and service tax regime may have been burdensome for small businesses to get acclimatized to  and although the current norm requires traders with an annual turnover of Rs. 20 lakhs and above to register under the GST system, for the businesses to fully exploit the benefits of the new system it is important that everybody from the raw material trader to the vendor registers under the system.

To this effect, the government is planning an easier set of rules to comply with for the convenience of small businesses with an annual turnover of under Rs 20 lakh.

This decision comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged tax officials to help these traders and small businesses to migrate to the GST rule everyone in the production chain might be cumbersome, the government acknowledges these predicaments, “It should be like Saral (the income tax form), which should be a single-page form with only the sales and purchase details to be furnished,” a senior government official, who did not wish to be named, as reported in the Times Of India.

The registration process might be cumbersome along the chain, but the government has duly noted these predicaments, “It should be like Saral (the income tax form), which should be a single-page form with only the sales and purchase details to be furnished,” a senior government official, who did not wish to be named, as reported in the Times Of India.

Meanwhile, the new compliance mechanism is in its infancy and is being worked out by the Central Board of Excise and Customs. Once the conceptualization is done, the compliance rules will then be finalized by the GST Council.

The main idea is to expand the current tax base while ensuring that those registered under GST and who are doing business with non-registered entities have a fair and legitimate database of their business links.

Sources: Times Of India, Deccan Chronicle 

Image source: Deccan Chronicle 

Assam BJP muslim woman leader suspended for supporting Rohingya refugees

A muslim woman executive of Bhartiya Janta Party’s state majdoor morcha in Assam was expelled from the party on Sunday over her Facebook post that supported Rohingya muslim refugees. The evicted Benazir Arfan claimed to have been arbitrarily suspended without getting a chance to explain herself.

According to Indian Express, Dilip Saikia, General Secretary of the Assam state BJP unit said, “Benazir Arfan has been expelled after she failed to give any satisfactory reply to the show cause notice she was served last Thursday on why disciplinary action should not be taken against her for organizing a rally over the Rohingya Muslim issue in Guwahati without bringing the matter to the party forum.”

Arfan, in her post, she urged people to participate in the fast that protested the treatment given to the Rohingya muslims by Myanmar. She clarified her stand stating that her choice of words were misinterpreted and termed her expulsion an ‘insult’ to her loyalty towards the party.

She declared that she will take up the matter to the higher authorities. Rebuffing her claims, Saikia added that it is not for the first time she is flouting the party rules but has previously raised issues on inappropriate social forums.

Arfan had previously been BJP’s face in anti- triple talaq campaign in Assam.

Sources: DNA, Indian Express

Image Source: Facebook/ Benazir Arfan

The Sardar Sarovar Dam: Engineering Miracle or Failure?

Narendra Modi inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam, which is the world’s second largest dam on his 67th birthday, on September 17, 2017. He claimed that no other project in the world had faced so many obstacles and that the initiative had overcome numerous hurdles to finally be made. Present at Dabhoi, Gujarat, he dedicated the dam – which he called an “engineering miracle” – to the nation. The dam is supposed to provide power and water to 9,000 villages to the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

At the same time, miles away in a village in Madhya Pradesh, thousands carried out a ‘Jal Satyagraha’ – a protest sitting barefoot in water. The reason for this protest? They believed that the water from the dam will displace 40,000 families because their homes will be submerged. The protesters are led by activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan founder Medha Patkar. The protest had begun on Friday on the banks of Narmada at Chota Barda village in Dhar, about 300 km from Bhopal. The water level has been rising there constantly and has already submerged Nisarpur and Rajghat.

The highest embankment on a river in the country is built on the Narmada river and is expected to change the fortunes of Gujarat. However, since the foundation stone of this project was laid in 1961 by Jawaharlal Nehru, it has wrapped up in myriad controversies.

In September 1988, many environmentalists, social workers and scientists sent a memorandum to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi asking him to reconsider environmental clearance granted to the project. Activists have since been demanding that the filling of water in the dam be stopped and the games opened so that the water level reduces.

Patkar, who had visited the areas expected to be submerged by the river project in 1985, submitted her critique of the project, saying that the people who were to be displaced had not been rehabilitated or informed properly about the issues. She also demanded that the water filling be stopped till rehabilitation is undertaken and compensation paid to the families, which however has not happened despite a Supreme Court order. She also took her case to the World Bank, which stoped funding the project in 1994. Modi himself has talked about the opposition to the construction of the dam from the World Bank. When the financial institution stopped giving money to the project, the temples of Gujarat donated money to it.

Narmada Bachao Andolan had approached the apex court over the environmental issues posed by the dam and received a stay in 1996, although eventually in 2000, work was allowed to resume with some restrictions in October 2000. When her efforts failed, she led the NBA and undertook several fasts for weeks along with Baba Amte, another veteran activist.

Modi is right when he says that the project has progressed despite problems. In 2000, the SC allowed the government to increase the height of the dam to 90-metres, which kept increasing till it reached its current and final height of 138.68 metres.

The dam thus holds in its stead both expectations of development as well as the fear of displacement and the lack of compensation for the people of India. It also sits high as a symbol of the failure of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. While Patkar’s Jal Satyagraha movement carries on, so does some iota of rehabilitation and compensation, albeit slowly.

Sources: NDTV, India Today

DU Elections Herald the Winds of Change

For students of Delhi University, it is common sight to see the winning candidates in any year’s student elections being fielded by the ABVP, the RSS-affiliated right wing student organisation that has till now commanded the majority support. But not anymore. If the recently concluded DUSU elections send a message, it is that ABVP is not the most popular party anymore. The stunning defeat of the ABVP, only to give over its stronghold to the Congress backed NSUI shows that BJP is losing its hold over campuses.

It is true that the ABVP was not totally decimated in the elections. NSUI won only the President and Vice-Presidential positions, while the other two of General Secretary and Joint Secretary were retained by ABVP. It is also true that statistically, the best performer in the election was still the ABVP candidate for secretary, Mahamedhaa Nagar who defeated her NSUI rival by 2624 votes to win the post of secretary. Her win was still the biggest margin. However, what counts more is that NSUI has made a comeback and a stunning one at that. For the last five years, ABVP has dominated the student politics scene in Delhi, leaving no leeway for other parties to set foot. Since 2012, NSUI has never held an important position in DUSU and while this may be a half-triumph, it is still a triumph.

ABVP’s shocking loss should sound the alarm bells for the BJP and the Modi-brigade which has thus far captured the imagination of the youth across campuses. Students across the world do not like being dictated to and Indian students are no different. With the Modi brigade dictating terms on cow vigilantism, coupled with the lack of tolerance and the alarming rise of Hindutva across the country, it should be of no surprise that the students have swung to the age old challenger of the BJP, the Congress and chosen to put their faith in them. This is certainly a reaction to the brand of hyper nationalism propagated by the centre, which has backfired against them. Moreover, the ABVP has been on a rampage of violence and disruption, with the Rohith Vemula suicide last year, the upheaval in JNU and the Ramjas incident early this year. On every one of these occasions, the ABVP was the muscular aggressor and on the receiving end of much criticism from left-wing liberals.

And NSUI’s win in DU is not a one-off incident. This is simply a follow up of the impressive performances by the outfit in the recent polls in Guwahati, Rajasthan and Punjab Universities. This is the concert result of the educated and urban youth taking up arms against the divisive and polarising politics wielded by the ABVP in every election it participates in. This is a wake-up call to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Ironically, the latter had termed ABVP’s victory in DUSU polls last year as the triumph of nationalism. The DUSU election is definitely a reflection of the current mood among the youngsters, who are witnessing a polarising of the country under the current government.

However, it is not all hunky-dory for the NSUI. This year’s election also saw a huge jump in NOTA votes, from less than 10% last year to 16.5% this year. This can only portray a certain disillusionment with the student wings of mainstream political parties and should be a cause of worry for both the Congress and the BJP. It is also to be noted that more students availed of the NOTA option in the DUSU elections than the JNSUSU elections. Nonetheless, the DUDU results should be doing much to boost the sagging morale of the Congress, which sadly, does not remain a key player at the centre politics any longer.

Sources: The Quint, Hindustan Times

India launches first bullet train

Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone for India’s first bullet train project in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

Mr. Abe who is on a two-day visit to India said,” My good friend Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a far-sighted leader. He took a decision two years ago to bring high-speed train in India and to create a new India”. As a close ally to India, Japan has given a loan of $17 billion for the project.

The 750-seat train scheduled to run between Ahmedabad city and Mumbai will have 12 stations on the route. It is expected to cover the 500 km journey, in 3hrs as opposed to 8hrs taken by a normal train. It can run as fast as 350km/h which is more than twice the maximum speed offered by the fastest trains in India. Though most of the route is elevated, a part of it will run through a 7 km long undersea tunnel.

Linking major cities through high-speed trains is one of the main ambitions of the government and Mr. Modi has promised to make significant improvements in the network.

Sources

BBC, Hindustan Times

India-Belarus meet to foster bilateral trade

On Tuesday, India and Belarus drafted a 10 pact agreement to expand cooperation in various diplomatic areas and decisively explore a joint development and manufacture of military platforms, giving momentum to existing bilateral relationships between the two countries. The meeting was held at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Belarus President A G Lukashenko, discussed in brief about expanding their focus on increasing the economic engagement between the two countries. They also mulled over the fact that there was indeed a huge scope for ramping up trade and investment between the two nations.

“We will encourage joint development and manufacturing in defense sector under the ‘Make in India’ program,” Modi said in a media statement as reported in the Economic Times.

Modi also said that he and Lukashenko went through the “architecture” of India-Belarus partnership and suggested ideas to expand it.

The pacts provided for enhancing bilateral cooperation in a variety of areas, including oil and gas, education and sports.

Additionally, Modi also highlighted India’s ongoing negotiations with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) for a free trade agreement. For which Belarus is part of the five member-EEU and is considered an influential central Asian bloc.

The volume of bilateral trade in 2016 amounted to $402 million approximately.

Sources: Economic Times, The Hindu

Image source: The Hindu