Ayodhya: AIMPLB wants review of SC order

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board favoured seeking a review of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Ayodhya issue, and said it was against accepting the five-acre alternative land given for a mosque.

“The land of the mosque belongs to Allah and under the Sharia, it cannot be given to anybody,” AIMPLB secretary Zafaryab Jilani said after a meeting of the board here. “The board has also categorically stated that it was against taking five-acre land in Ayodhya in lieu of the mosque. The board is of the view that there cannot be any alternative to the mosque,” he said.

The installation of a statue of Lord Ram inside the Babri Masjid in the night of December 23, 1949, “was unconstitutional”, Jilani said, adding, “So, how did the Supreme Court consider them as ‘araadhya’ (eligible for worshipping). They (idols) cannot be considered as ‘araadhya’ even as per Hindu religion.”

The Board said the five-acre alternative land for a mosque awarded by the Supreme Court “will neither balance equity nor repair the damage caused”, and declined to accept it. “We feel that Sunni Wakf Board will give respect to this view of the community at large,” it said. Earlier in the day, the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind also decided to file a review petition challenging the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict.

Jamiat chief Maulana Arshad Madani said they took the decision following extensive deliberations involving lawyers and experts.

The Supreme Court, in its verdict in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title case on November 9, said the entire 2.77 acres of disputed land should be handed over to the deity Ram Lalla, who was one of the three litigants.

The five-judge Constitution bench also directed the Centre to allot a five acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board in Ayodhya to build a mosque.

After the AIMPLB decided to go for a review petition against the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict, the Sunni Central Waqf Board is seeking legal opinion on weather to accept the five-acre plot offer for a mosque in Ayodhya. According to Zufar Farooqui, Chairman of Sunni Waqf Board, “As of now, it has to be seen whether the board can refuse to take the five-acre land for the construction of a mosque as ruled by the Supreme Court. Will it amount to contempt of court? The board has started taking legal opinion on the matter.”

Farooqui said there were divergent views within the Board on the matter and a final decision will be taken at the Board's meeting on November 26.


October 2019: Imports decline for 5th straight month

India's exports fell by 1.1% to $26.4 billion in October as shipments of petroleum and leather goods contracted, the third consecutive month of decline for exports while imports dropped sharply indicating demand slowdown.

While the contraction was narrower than the previous month, the latest data adds to the raft of economic indicators which have pointed to a slowdown in the economy. Imports contracted by 16.3% to $37.4 billion, declining for fifth straight month, which helped narrow the trade deficit to $11 billion during the month. The trade deficit in October was $18 billion. The dip in imports was the sharpest in nearly three years.

Oil imports in October dropped 31.7% to $9.6 billion compared to the same period last year, highlighting the slowdown in demand. Exports in the April-October period of the current fiscal year fell by 2.2% to $186 billion, while imports fell by 8.4% to $280.7 billion, a trade deficit of $94.7 billion. Exports have been hit by the slowdown in the global economy, while imports have been hurt due to a demand slowdown in the country. Last month, the WTO said trade tensions and a slowing global economy led its economists to downgrade their forecasts for trade growth in 2019 and 2020.


WPI inflation at over 3-year low

Wholesale price inflation moderated to a nearly three-and half-year low in October, dragged down by a contraction in manufactured product, fuel and power prices, but the fall was limited by an increase in food prices to near double-digit levels.

Inflation as measured by the wholesale price index eased to 0.2% in October, slower than 0.3% recorded in the previous month and 5.5% in the year earlier period.

Inflation in the manufactured goods segment fell by 0.8% in October, its lowest level since April 2016. The WPI in manufactured goods was 4.6% in the same month a year-ago. Food price inflation shot up to a 63-month high during the month.

Inflation in the fuel and power group contracted for the fifth straight month and stood at (-8.3%), a 39-month low. This is largely due to soft global crude oil prices.

Divergence between WPI and retail inflation also increased. Consumer price inflation rose to a 16-month high of 4.6% in October, largely led by food and vegetable prices.

RBI largely looks at the retail inflation for its monetary policy review, although it also takes into account other inflation numbers, while deciding on rates. Economists said they expect the central bank to cut interest rates in December as several other data prints have pointed to a slowing economy.

SC rules out Rafale probe, warns Rahul

The Supreme Court refused to re-examine the aspects of pricing, decision making process and selection of the offset partner in India’s deal for purchase of Rafale jet fighters from French company Dassault Aviation.

In the review petition, there were allegations of irregularities on pricing and doubts were raised on decision making in giving priority to Rafale. Aspersions were also cast on choosing Anil Ambani’s company as an offset partner.

A bench headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said such a submission was not fair as the apex court in its December 14, 2018, judgment had addressed all these issues in detail. “We do not consider this to be a fair submission for the reason that all counsels, including counsel representing the petitioners in this matter addressed elaborate submissions on all the aforesaid three aspects.

“No doubt that there was a prayer made for registration of FIR and further investigation but then once we had examined the three aspects on merits we did not consider it appropriate to issue any directions, as prayed for by the petitioners which automatically covered the direction for registration of FIR, prayed for,” said the bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph. While dealing with the allegation of irregularities on the pricing of the jets, the top court said that it satisfied itself with the material made available and it is not the function of this court to determine the prices and act on mere “suspicion” of certain persons.

The Supreme Court rebuked Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for wrongly attributing to the apex court his “chowkidar chor hai” remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in connection with the Rafale case, but closed the contempt proceedings against him with a “word of caution” that he must be more careful in future. It took into account the additional affidavit filed by him in which he had tendered an unconditional apology and said that the attributions were entirely unintentional, nonwillful and inadvertent.

SC refers Sabari case to larger bench

The uncertainty over the entry of women of all ages to the hilltop shrine of Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala is likely to continue this season as the Supreme Court referred the Sabarimala review petitions to a 7-judge bench by 3:2 majority.

The apex court said the seven-judge bench will also look into similar pending questions like Muslim women's right to enter a mosque and permission to Parsi women who marry outside the community to enter its fire temple and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.

CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra noted that the issue whether the court can interfere in essential practices of religion needed examination by a larger bench. Justices Chandrachud and Nariman dissented, sources said.

The court in its majority judgment concurred that the right to worship by an individual in a temple “cannot outweigh the rights of a section of the religious group to which one may belong”.

It is understood that there is no stay of the September 28, 2018 judgment which allowed entry of women of all ages in the temple. Which would apparently mean that there is no bar on young women entering the temple this season.

Leaders of opposition parties including Ramesh Chennithala (Congress) and Kummanam Rajasekharan (BJP) urged the LDF government to respect the sentiments of the devotees.


The Squeeze

India's reliance on Saudi oil....

In a state of shock....

Of State GDP and Data Consumption....

Court Report

India’s oil demand to double: IEA

India’s oil demand will double to more than 9 million barrels a day, marking the largest absolute consumption growth for any country, and its dependence on imports will rise to 90% by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest World Energy Outlook.

This means the Indian economy will continue to depend in the near term on oil or fossil fuels in spite of the government’s stress on renewable energy and electric vehicles. This does not augur well as the suggested price trends in business as usual or stated policy environment scenarios do not offer any relief on the price front in spite of subdued demand growth from other economies and rising exports from new players such as the US and Brazil.

Oil is one of the key elements of the government's fiscal math. Costlier fuel cramps government's fiscal room for social spending or stimulus as it disturbs macro-economic parameters by raising costs for consumers, farmers, transporters and manufacturers. The report says a third of the growth in India’s oil will come from trucks. Another quarter will come from passenger cars, with the Indian car fleet growing by a factor of seven between now and 2040. Use of oil as a petrochemical feedstock will contribute the remaining 15% demand. On the global stage, the Outlook sees the oil trade becoming increasingly centred on Asia, with China soon overtaking the European Union as the world’s largest oil importer and holding that position to 2040, despite the flattening of its oil demand in the 2030s.

The Outlook also sees the influence of traditional players in the oil market waning.

Retail inflation at 16-month high

Retail inflation accelerated to a 16-month high in October and breached the Reserve Bank of India’s medium-term target of 4% for the first time since July 2018 as food prices increased.

Inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index was 4.62% last month compared with 3.99% in September as food prices rose 7.89% from 5.11% in September on pricier vegetables. The sharp uptick in consumer inflation dampened expectations of a big cut in interest rates by the RBI in December, although most experts expect monetary easing to continue, given the deepening economic slowdown.

Core inflation — excluding volatile energy and food items — declined to a 94-month low of 3.47% in October and will provide comfort to the monetary policy committee, which sets interest rates. Core inflation is seen as a measure of demand and its decline suggests weak consumer sentiment.

Industrial production contracted 4.3% in September.

The lender expects RBI to cut rates by 25 basis points in December to support growth, looking through the volatile food inflation spikes. The RBI has cut rates by 135 basis points this year to 5.15%. One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point. The monetary policy committee will announce the next round of monetary action on December 5.

The RBI’s medium-term inflation target for CPI is 4%, with a band of +/- 2% for the period from August 2016 to March 2021.

CJI office falls under RTI

The Supreme Court held that the office of the Chief Justice of India is a public authority and falls within the ambit of the Right to Information Act. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi upheld the 2010 Delhi High Court verdict and dismissed three appeals filed by Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information officer of the apex court.

Cautioning that RTI cannot be used as a tool of surveillance, the top court in its judgment held that judicial independence has to be kept in mind while dealing with transparency.

The bench, also comprising Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said that only the names of judges recommended by the Collegium for appointment can be disclosed, not the reasons.

While the CJI and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna have penned one judgment, Justices Ramana and Chandrachud have written separate verdicts.

It said that the Right to Privacy is an important aspect and it has to be balanced with transparency while deciding to give out information from the office of the Chief Justice.

Justice Chandrachud, who wrote a separate judgment, said the judiciary cannot function in total insulation as judges enjoy constitutional post and discharge public duty.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna said independence of judiciary and transparency go hand in hand.

Justice Ramana, who concurred with Justice Khanna, said there should be balancing formula for Right to Privacy and Right to transparency and independence of judiciary should be protected from breach.

The High Court on January 10, 2010 had held that the CJI office comes within the ambit of the RTI law, saying judicial independence was not a judge’s privilege, but a responsibility cast upon him.

The 88-page judgment was seen as a personal setback to the then CJI K G Balakrishnan, who has been opposed to disclosure of information relating to judges under the RTI Act.

The move to bring the office of the CJI under the transparency law was initiated by RTI activist S C Agrawal. His lawyer Prashant Bhushan had submitted in the top court that though the apex court should not have been judging its own cause, it is hearing the appeals due to “doctrine of necessity”.

The lawyer had described the reluctance of the judiciary in parting information under the Right To Information Act as “unfortunate” and “disturbing”, asking: “Do judges inhabit different universe?”

He had submitted that the apex court has always stood for transparency in functioning of other organs of State, but it develops cold feet when its own issues require attention.

Referring to the RTI provisions, Bhushan had said they also deal with exemptions and information that cannot be given to applicants, but the public interest should always “outweigh” personal interests if the person concerned is holding or about to hold a public office.

Dealing with “judicial independence”, he said the National Judicial Accountability Commission Act was struck down for protecting the judiciary against interference from the executive, but this did not mean that judiciary is free from “public scrutiny”.


Somewhere in Rajasthan....

Carcasses of 1,622 more migratory birds were found strewn across Rajasthan’s Sambhar Salt Lake amid fears that the mystery illness behind the deaths might have taken a bigger toll on the wintering visitors than initially estimated.

Since Monday, forest department teams have buried 2,338 carcasses of birds from more than 25 species, including trans-Himalayan migrants.

“As suggested by veterinarians, we have dug a pit measuring 10x10 to bury the birds after sprinkling lime and salt. We will continue to look for more carcasses that might be floating or lying along the 5 km span of the salt lake,” forest range officer Rajendra Singh Jakhar said.

Veterinarians suspect water contamination or algae poisoning to be the cause of the deaths. The forest department has collected water samples from the lake and sent it to the state pollution control board for tests. “We will know from the test results whether toxicity of water or a bacterial or viral infection is killing the birds,”he said.

Viscera samples had been sent to the forensic science laboratory in Bhopal to find out if an infection was responsible for birds falling dead. Jaipur-based veterinarian Ashok Kumar ruled out the possibility of bird flu, saying water contamination and algae were the prime suspects.

The bird species struck by this mystery illness include Pallas’s gull, knob-billed duck, mallard, ferruginous duck, northern shoveler, common teal, pied avocet, ruff, common redshank, marsh sandpiper, wood sandpiper, common sandpiper, lesser sand plover, little ringed plover, Kentish plover, common coot, green bee-eater, blackwinged kite, ruddy shelduck, black-winged stilt, Temminck’s stint, gadwall, black and brown-headed gulls, gullbilled tern, greater flamingo, lesser whistling duck, silverbill and northern pintail.


Car, SUV sales snap 11 months of declines

Sales of cars and SUVs broke an 11-month string of declines as numbers turned positive, although by a minuscule 0.3%, on festive spirits, deep discounts and new models.

According to numbers released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, the turn in sentiments may be sustained through November and December on lower base advantage.

Sales of passenger vehicles, a mix of cars, SUVs and vans, stood at 2.85 lakh against 2.84 lakh units sold in the same month last year. While Siam brings out wholesale numbers that the companies dispatch to dealers, company officials say that healthy retail sales in the month (customer purchases) led to lowering of inventory levels.

While Kia sold nearly 13,000 units of Seltos SUV in October, MG Motors sold over 3,500 units of Hector off-roader.

However, demand-generation continues to remain tough in categories such as commercial vehicles and two-wheelers.

Two-wheeler sales in October declined 14% to 17.6 lakh units compared to 20.5 lakh units in the year-ago month. Motorcycle sales declined by 16% to 11.2 lakh units as against 13.3 lakh units a year earlier.  Scooter sales last month declined by 10% to 5.8 lakh units as against 6.4 lakh units in the year-ago period. Commercial vehicle sales were down 23% at 66,773 units in October, Siam said.

Somewhere in Hyderabad....

Seventeen people, including a loco pilot, suffered injuries when a local city train leaving Kacheguda railway station collided with inbound Hundry Intercity Express. Six coaches of the MMTS (multi-modal transport system) service derailed due to the impact. After an eight-hour rescue effort, MMTS loco-pilot was extricated alive from the mangled cabin. Had MMTS driver not applied brake, it could have been a bigger tragedy.

As a result of the accident, train services on the Kacheguda–Falaknuma section were affected, resulting in cancellation of at least 26 trains.

MMTS loco pilot D Chandrashekar, 35, who got stuck in the mangled cabin, was extricated around 6.30 pm by a team of NDRF, GHMC’s DRF and railway medical relief van staff after an eight hour non-stop effort. Railway officials said “his condition is stable” and he was rushed to a local hospital for treatment.

Around 10.35 am, an MMTS (Lingampalli-Falakunma) service started from platform number 2 of the Kacheguda station towards its destination, Falaknuma. Seconds later, it crashed into the inbound Hundry Express (Kurnool-Secunderabad) at the track interchange. The Hundry Express, which was waiting at the outer signal, was heading for platform number three, when the mishap occurred. Several passengers also fell out of the coaches due to the impact of the collision.

A look of the accident spot reveals that both loco pilots could see each other as their cabins collided. Due to the impact of the collision, MMTS loco pilot Chandrashekar got stuck in his cabin. Apart from his cabin, vendor coaches too suffered damages. A coach of the differently-abled persons was among the bogies derailed.

Of the 16 passengers rushed to Osmania General Hospital, five persons—Shekhar, Rajkumar, Raheemuddin, Anuradhamma, Ibrahim— were grievously injured. “They have been admitted with serious injuries and fractures. Shekhar’s condition is very critical. He has suffered multiple fractures,” OGH superintendent Dr B Nagender said.

Senior South Central Railway officials reached the spot and started relief measures. SCR additional general manager B B Singh who visited the spot, said, “Preliminary investigation revealed that the accident took place due to human error. We have ordered a high level inquiry by the commissioner of railway safety, Secunderabad, into the accident. We are yet to get all details of the accident.”

Supreme Court Relied On ASI’s Evidences, Travellers’ Tales

The presence of symbols of Hindu religious significance inside and outside the Babri Masjid, which were acknowledged by Muslim witnesses, suggested actual worship took place down the centuries and large congregations visited the disputed site during festivals, the Supreme Court has said.

The SC’s observations in its verdict on the Ayodhya case, bolster the argument that the Hindu community persisted with its claim to worship and the evidences gathered by the Archaeological Survey of India pointed to a religious structure of Hindu origin.

“The oral testimony of Hindu devotees establishes the pattern of worship and prayer at Sita Rasoi, Ramchabutra and towards the ‘garb grih’, while standing at the railing of the structure of the brick wall,” the court has said. The argument that the Ayodhya site’s significance went beyond faith alone, is important even as the court held that the ASI report could not be used to settle a title suit.

The judgement evaluates faith-tradition, ASI evidences, traveller accounts and witnesses to state that the presence of a masjid did not deter Hindus from continuing their worship at the disputed site and within the precincts of the structure prior to the incidents of 1856-57 (when riots broke out over access to the plot).

“The physical structure of an Islamic mosque did not shake the faith and belief of Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the disputed site. On the other hand, learned counsel fairly stated that the evidence relied on by the Sunni Wakf Board to establish the offering of namaz by the Muslim residents commences from around 1856-57,” the SC ruled.

The accounts mentioned by the court have often been part of BJP’s political campaign where the party has argued that the site is of much more significance to the Hindus than a mosque at Ayodhya was to Muslims. Records of travellers indicate, said the court, that there was “historical presence of worshippers and the existence of worship at the disputed site even prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British and the construction of a brick-grill wall in 1857.” The wall was built by the British colonial administration to separate the inner and outer courtyards and restrict access of Hindu devotees.

While the ruling notes that the ASI report does not conclude that remnants of the pre-existing structure were used for the purpose of constructing the mosque or there was an act of razing, it notes a reasonable inference can be drawn that foundations of the mosque is based on the walls of a pre-existing structure. This underlying structure was suggestive of Hindu religious origin.

VHP eyes crowdfunding to build Ayodhya temple

The VHP has decided to seek contributions for the proposed Ram temple and has also decided to explore ways to enlist the involvement of Ram bhakts in its construction, potentially setting the stage for yet another mass mobilisation for the Ayodhya temple.

“Ram bhakts from across the country will be approached for contributions to construct the temple. The Ayodhya movement was associated with the faith and sentiments of scores of Hindus and they will have to do their bit, including ‘kar seva’, whenever the project begins,” said Vinod Bansal, national spokesperson of the VHP, the Sangh-affiliate which spearheaded the campaign for the construction of temple.

Besides, the VHP has decided to suggest that the trust which is to be formed within three months to supervise the temple construction work, should facilitate symbolic participation of “ bhakts” in the construction of what has been touted as a “grand Ram temple”. Devotees from all 718 districts of the country will be invited in delegations to stay for at least a week and help in the construction work, the VHP functionary said, in an indication that another round of “kar seva” could be in works.

“Kar seva”, or voluntary work, formed an important part of the VHP-led ‘mandir’ movement, with lakhs reaching Ayodhya in 1990, and again in 1992, the second round resulting in the demolition of Babri masjid. VHP functionaries in Delhi confirmed the crowd-funding plan.

“There is no ambiguity about the plan that funds will be pooled in directly from Hindu devotees of Lord Ram spread across the globe. The process to seek contributions will start soon for which teams will be constituted to ensure that it is done smoothly,” VHP working president Alok Kumar said.

The VHP’s statements come amid reinforced indications that it will have a significant representation on the temple trust. The Supreme Court had, in its verdict on Saturday, denied any role for the VHP-promoted Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas in the construction.

However, sources said the government, which will have the final say in the matter, appears inclined to include in the trust Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, who headed the Nyas, as well as some of the key Hindu seers aligned with the VHP.

The decision to pool funds is in sync with what Mahatma Gandhi had suggested when he offered his support for the reconstruction of Somnath temple. Gandhiji gave his consent to the move to revive Somnath temple which had been attacked and plundered by invaders, but told the prime movers— Sardar Patel and K M Munshi—that they should not take money from the government.

“For a temple dedicated to Lord Ram, funds must come from the public. Tax-payers’ money should not have any role in the project,” Kumar said. “Some people may contribute ‘shilas’ (sandstone), while others may donate money. We leave everything to people.” he added.

VHP functionaries said enlistment of popular support for the construction of the temple will be a respectful gesture to the devotees, who have waited for generations to see it happen.

Industrial production posts steepest fall in 8 years

In signs of continuing weakness in the economy, India’s factory output shrank to the lowest level in eight years as all three broad-based sectors of capital goods production, consumer durables, and infrastructure and construction goods contracted.

The Index of Industrial Production fell 4.3 per cent in September as compared to a contraction by 1.4 per cent in August 2019 and a growth of 4.6 per cent in factory output in the same month a year back, data released by the Ministry of Statistics showed on Monday.

The second straight month of contraction has taken the IIP to its lowest level since it shrank by 5 per cent in October 2011.

On a quarterly basis, the second quarter of 2019-20 fiscal (July-September) saw IIP contracting by 0.4 per cent (Q1 3 per cent expansion and 5.3 per cent growth in Q2 FY19).

In September 2019, capital goods output dropped 20.7 per cent from a year ago, while consumer durables fell 9.9 per cent. Infrastructure and construction goods output fell 6.4 per cent. Intermediate goods was the only usebased classification that grew 7 per cent in September.

The contraction in IIP in September has dampened prospects of a quick recovery in economic growth after it slipped to a six-year low of 5 per cent in the April-June quarter this year.

Gross Domestic Product data for July-September is due on November 29.

Low agricultural growth is feeding into low agricultural and non-agricultural wage growth in rural areas, which is impacting rural demand adversely, he said, hoping of a cut in the interest rate in December.

During April to September, the IIP growth remained almost flat at 1.3 per cent compared to 5.2 per cent in same period last fiscal.

A slowdown was witnessed in the manufacturing sector, which declined by 3.9 per cent in September as compared to 4.8 per cent growth a year ago.

The power generation sector output dipped 2.6 per cent in September, compared to 8.2 per cent rise a year ago. Mining output too fell by 8.5 per cent in September as against 0.1 per cent climb in the corresponding month last fiscal.

Capital goods production, which is a barometer of investment, declined by 20.7 per cent in September compared to a 6.9 per cent hike in the yearago month.

Consumer durables and consumer non-durables have recorded growth of (-) 9.9 per cent and (-) 0.4 per cent, respectively.

Massive protest at JNU

Hundreds of students of Jawaharlal Nehru University staged massive protests right outside the university premises demanding a rollback of the proposed fee hike and changes in the hostel manual that imposes curfew hours, dress code and other restrictions on students.

The agitating students waited all day demanding a meeting with the University’s Vice-Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, who refused any discussion on fee hike and other issues raised by the students.

The students clashed with policemen deployed to control the situation as the protest turned unruly. They upturned barricades and hurled shoes at the cops. The police in turn resorted to water cannons and batons to control the crowd that finally dispersed in the evening after an assurance from the Ministry of Human Resources to look into their grievances. They were backed by the JNU Teachers Association that held a Teachers’ Assembly on Monday where the police action was condemned and a strong demand for the VC to step down was made.

“The police action was clearly only to defend the obstinate refusal of the VC to engage in any dialogue with students on their concerns….The Assembly was an expression of the collective view of the JNU faculty that the changes in the hostel manual and the steep increase in hostel charges are unacceptable. It is the university’s responsibility to provide residential and mess facilities to students at reasonable cost and hostels cannot be run on a self-financing principle as the new Hostel Manual proposes,” an official statement of JNUTA read.

Students claimed that the fee hike was three-fold to 999 per cent in varying cases that would drive out 40 per cent of the students since a large number come from economically weaker sections of society. The varsity has increased fees for a single-occupancy room from Rs.20 to Rs.600 per month and from Rs.10 to Rs.3,000 for a double-occupancy room. A new service charge of Rs.1,700 per month has been levied, taking up the monthly hostel fee from Rs.2,000 to Rs.2,300. The onetime mess security deposit has also been raised from Rs.5,500 to Rs.12,000.

The JNU administration explained that this was the first fee revision in 19 years and that the previous fee structure was outdated and extremely low. The authorities have previously stated that an annual expenditure of Rs.10 crore on electricity, water and service charges is incurred. This, they said, has to be borne from the general fund given by the University Grants Commission that could have otherwise been used for maintenance and giving the university a facelift.

The students demanded the resignation of the VC.


The US Food and Drug Administration’s Centre for Devices and Radiological Health has designated a medical invention by a Bengaluru-based scientist as a “breakthrough device” in liver, pancreatic and breast cancer treatment.

Cytotron, developed by Rajah Vijay Kumar, aids in tissue engineering of cancer cells, altering how specific proteins are regulated to stop these cells from multiplying and spreading.

“We are pleased to inform you that your device and proposed indication for use meet the criteria and have been granted designation as a breakthrough device,” states a communique from the FDA wing to Shreis Scalene Sciences, the company that had taken the device to the US.

Cytotron is intended to cause degeneration of uncontrolled growth of tissues. “It is indicated for treating protein-linked, abnormally regenerating disorders such as neoplastic disease, and allowing extended progression free survival, with pain relief, palliation, improved quality and dignity of life,” says the letter.

Kumar had developed Cytotron at the Centre for Advanced Research and Development, which is headquartered in Bhopal, after nearly 30 years of research into cellular pathways and interactions with specifically modulated fast radio bursts.

“It is a great feeling that after so many years of hard work, against all odds, an institution like the USFDA is designating our work as a breakthrough in the treatment of three types of cancers,” Kumar said.

New technologies in the battle against cancer have generally been hard to come by. It’s even rarer for an Indian device to get breakthrough status in the US. The Centre for Devices and Radiological Health is responsible for pre-market approval of medical devices in the US, ensuring they are safe to use and effective. “The devices will all be made in India, given that there are hardly any imported components. And our American partner will take the device to the US. Cytotron is already an approved medical device and is in use in the UAE, Mexico, Malaysia and Hong Kong, among others,” Kumar said.

How it works: Generically known as rotational field quantum magnetic resonance, Cytotron uses fast radio bursts, high energy and powerful short radio bursts in which both electric and magnetic components of the electromagnetic signals are “circularly” polarised.

FRBs are produced when a radio signal travels through a powerful instantaneous magnetic field on its path to the target. “FRBs can be used to communicate with the cellular command and control, to up or down regulate a specific protein or gene,” Kumar said in a statement.

He added: “In cancer cells, Cytotron does two things: First, it alters the protein pathways of a pro-apoptosis protein called p53 via p21 inducing programmed cell death in the cancer cells. Second, exposure to Cytotron stops metastasis by inhibiting the epithelial mesenchymal transition cells, responsible for spread of cancer; 90% cancer patients die due to metastasis.”

The Local Smartphone Market: Snapshot


Note Ban: 3 years on....

Maharashtra: BJP expresses inability to form the government

The political crisis in Maharashtra deepened with the BJP announcing that it would not form the government in view of ally Shiv Sena’s stand to not join them.

After several rounds of discussion with party leaders and ministers, caretaker Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis called on Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and declared the BJP’s inability to form the government in the state.

After a short break in the afternoon, the BJP leaders again met for talks. It was conveyed to them that the central leadership was also opposed to the idea of sharing the chief minister’s post with Sena. Fadnavis, state BJP president Chandrakant Patil, senior state leaders Girish Mahajan, Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde and the party’s national general secretary V Satish were part of the meeting. It ended around 5.30 pm after which a few leaders, including Fadnavis, met the Governor. Later Patil addressed the media. “The BJP will not form the government even though the Governor invited us. People have given a mandate to our grand alliance with Shiv Sena, BJP, RPI, RSP and Shiv Sangram,” Patil said.

The Sena and the BJP had some informal exchanges regarding government formation, but the former remained fixated on sharing the chief ministership as promised during the Lok Sabha elections.

“The Sena is not interested to form the government with us and at this point we can’t form the government. We have conveyed this message to the Governor. Sena has insulted the mandate. If the Sena wants to form the government with support from the NCP and Congress, our best wishes are with them,” he added.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had a meeting with his legislators at Hotel Retreat on Madh island in which he reportedly said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called him several times but he refused to respond. At the same time he said that he had not broken the alliance with the BJP and also praised the PM for doing a good job, said a Sena MLA who was present at the meeting.

Since the BJP expressed inability, the Governor invited the Sena, the second-largest party, to form the government by 7.30 pm tomorrow. The Sena will have to get support from the NCP and the Congress. “We know it will be an uphill task for the Sena to get the required numbers by Monday evening. After tasting failure, they will fall in line,’’ said a BJP minister.

A senior NCP leader said that so far BJP president Amit Shah and PM Modi have not revealed their cards.

Mumbai: BKC-Chunabhatti elevated connector opened

Caretaker Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that the Bandra Kurla Complex-Chunabhatti Connector was open to public use. “In public interest, I declare that BKC-Chunabhatti Connector (flyover) stands open from today evening. With this, Mumbaikars will now save 30 minutes travel time and avoid traffic congestion at Dharavi and Sion junctions,” Fadnavis had tweeted. In another tweet he said that the 1.6-km long, 17-metre wide and four-lane connector will ease traffic towards Thane-Nashik and Panvel-Pune, and added that it will provide faster connectivity to and from the Eastern Express Highway.

The Rs.203-crore connector, which was under construction for four years, is an engineering marvel wherein a 230-metre-long stretch passes over Mithi river and has 50-metre long rail overbridges over tracks near Sion and Chunabhatti.

The NCP had alleged that the BJP-Shiv Sena government did not inaugurate the flyover earlier, despite it being ready before the elections.

MMRDA officers claimed that the inauguration was delayed because of the rains.

A fish belly shaped elevated corridor, passing through BKC, Babubhai Compound, Central Railway (near Sion), Duncan Colony, Harbour Line (Chunabhatti station), Somaiya ground and lands at Eastern Express Highway, is our yet another step towards bringing ease in living for Mumbaikars, Fadnavis noted.

Ex- Chief Poll Commissioner Seshan Dead

Former chief election commissioner TN Seshan, who led the game-changing electoral reforms in the country in the 1990s, died following a cardiac arrest. He was 86. Seshan was not keeping good health for the past couple of years and he passed away at about 9.30 pm. Known for his no-nonsense attitude, he was largely confined to his home here for the past several years. Former CEC SY Quraishi said on Twitter, “He was a true legend and a guiding force for all his successors...”

Cyclone Bulbul: Bulbul kills 9 in West Bengal

Nine people were killed and around 60,000 houses damaged in Bengal as Cyclone Bulbul left a trail of death and destruction in its wake as it veered towards Bangladesh and started losing steam.

Till evening, there were reports of 4.6 lakh people being affected across the state. The toll might rise, officials said. Eight fishermen who were on board the trawler MV Chandrani, which capsised off Mousuni island on the Bay of Bengal, are missing. Of the casualties confirmed, five were in North 24-Parganas district and one in East Midnapore’s Nandigram. One person died in a building collapse while trees uprooted by winds crushed other victims.

A father and son died in Hooghly of electrocution on Sunday and another was killed in a trawler capsise. The toll in Bengal since Saturday stands at 10.

The maximum damage was reported from South 24-Paragans.

Rescue efforts to trace the missing fishermen was abandoned on Sunday evening because of inclement weather and the remoteness of the location, said Kakdwip fishermen’s association secretary Bijan Maity. “The capsized trawlers have been spotted. The rescue effort will resume early on Monday,” said Maity.

State disaster relief minister Jawed Ahmed Khan said the 1.76 lakh people who were evacuated ahead of the landfall are slowly returning to their homes, but state-run schools will remain closed on Monday, too.

Kartarpur: Colourful ceremony welcomes first jatha

The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor on the Pakistan side turned out to be a lively, colourful ceremony with the first jatha of Indian pilgrims comprising, among others, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union ministers Hardeep Puri and Harsimrat Badal speaking in glowing terms about the corridor.

While Manmohan, accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur, said it was a good thing for both countries that the corridor had opened after a wait of over 70 years, Harsimrat said those talking about the possible use of corridor to revive the Khalistan movement did not believe in Guru Nanak or his teachings.

Many saw it as a jibe at Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who too was a part of the jatha. Amarinder had last week said Pakistan had a “hidden agenda” in opening the corridor.

Harsimrat’s father-in-law and former Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal described it as the happiest day of his life.

Talking to journalists at Kartarpur Sahib, Puri said India’s main problems came from Pakistan army and ISI and not from the civilian government. Barring Navjot Singh Sidhu and actor and Gurdaspur MP Sunny Deol, most of the Indian dignitaries didn’t sit through the speeches made by Pakistani leaders.

Most of them chose to explore other parts of the complex. Sidhu was the only Indian politician to give a speech at the ceremony. He thanked Pakistan PM Imran Khan for “creating history” by opening the corridor.

Manmohan and his wife spent considerable time at the gurdwara and also participated in the langar there.

The Akal Takht jathedar, and also the head of the jatha, was among the first to arrive at what is considered one of the holiest Sikh shrines. He said Pakistan as promised had not charged any service fee. “It was all very smooth with Indian and Pakistani officials working in tandem to facilitate the pilgrimage. Pakistan officials did look at our passports but didn’t stamp them,” he said.

The first jatha to travel through the corridor comprised pilgrims chosen from all over the world.

These included first Sikh member of European Parliament Neena Gill and NRI businessman Rami Ranger who was recently nominated to Britain’s House of Lords. Ranger also allayed fears expressed in India about Pakistan looking to fan separatist sentiments. “It will be a tragedy if that happened. Pakistan knows that it will gain by acting together with India and not the Khalistanis. With the Khalistanis, it will only get bad publicity,” he said.


Mumbai: Goregaon-Mulund Link Road

The long-awaited east-west connector, the Goregaon-Mulund Link Road is a step closer to reality. Work on an underground tunnel under Sanjay Gandhi National Park will start in six months after the BMC sealed a deal to buy 19.8 hectares of land abutting the Tadoba Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur for Rs.4.67 crore which will be handed over to the state forest department as compensation. Despite having the rest of the permissions in place for the underground tunnel, the project was held up as the forest department’s clearance was long pending over the compensation clause. Once completed, the 12.7-km long GMLR will connect Film City in Goregaon with Mulund, and a journey that currently takes over an hour will be reduced to 15 minutes. It will be a six-lane road, of which 4.7 km will be a twin tunnel road running underneath the SGNP.

Parag Seth, executive engineer, GMLR tunnel project, said, “This project was subject to the compensatory condition, based on which final clearance for GMLR tunnel will be granted. We have given an affirmation that environmental clearance isn’t required for this project since it is a road marked in the Development Plan. Physically we are not disturbing SGNP at all.”

The BMC had requested the forest department to suggest a land parcel convenient to them. The forest department suggested a buffer zone for their tiger reserve in Tadoba. A buffer zone is the land between a forest area and revenue department area which separates the village area from the forest. Seth said that the procedure to acquire the land from the residents of Chandrapur will be completed in the next two months. Work on the tunnel is expected to start in six months, he added. It is expected to be completed in five years.

The east-west connector was first proposed in the 1960s but the project never took off due to pending permissions. The total cost of this project is around Rs 6,000 crore. In this year’s BMC budget, the civic body has allocated Rs 100 crore for the GMLR project.

Elaborating on how this tunnel will help ease traffic in the city, Seth said, “Presently in Mumbai there is only Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road near this project. After JVLR, there is no link on the north side connecting the eastern and western suburbs. The only link is on Ghodbunder road in Thane. We expect 20 minutes travel time from Goregaon Western Express Highway to Eastern Express Highway,” said Seth.

The Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay will conduct a study on the tunnels’ environmental impact on aquifers above ground and on the Tulsi and Vihar reservoirs in the SGNP, which supply water to the city.

No place for bitterness in new India: PM Modi

The Supreme Court judgment on the Ayodhya issue has heralded a new dawn and should not be seen as win or loss for anybody, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday. Addressing the nation after the verdict in the politically and communally sensitive case was pronounced, Modi invoked the fall of Berlin wall on November 9, 1989, and referred to the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor earlier in the day to assert that the message of the day is for everyone to come together to surge ahead.

The fall of the Berlin wall brought two contrasting ideologies together while both India and Pakistan played a role in the development of the corridor, he noted. Modi urged people to shun any fear, bitterness and negativity and come together to build a new India.

“With verdict on Ayodhya, this date -- November 9 -- teaches us the power of staying united and growing together. Today is about the message of integration and emerging victorious together,” he said.

Hailing the Supreme Court for delivering the verdict on an important issue “which has a history of hundreds of years”, he pointed out that the entire country wanted the court to hear the matter daily and it happened. “For the Indian judiciary, it is a golden day. The Supreme Court heard everyone with patience and delivered a unanimous verdict,” Modi said in his 11-minute address. He said the judges, the courts, and the judicial processes should be greeted for their strong will.

“The dispute may have affected several generations, but after the judgment we have to take a pledge that the new generation will work for the creation of a new India with a fresh spirit,” he said.

Modi said that peace, unity and amity are essential for development of India and described November 9 as a day to forget any bitterness one may have. Earlier in the day, the prime minister took to Twitter to assert that the judgment should not be seen as win or loss for anybody and appealed to countrymen to maintain peace and harmony. In a series of tweets in Hindi and English, Modi also asserted that the judgment clearly illustrates that everybody is equal before the law.

“Be it Ram Bhakti or Rahim Bhakti, it is imperative that we strengthen the spirit of rashtra bhakti,” he said. Noting that the apex court has amicably concluded a matter going on for decades, he said the verdict will further strengthen people’s faith in the judicial system.

“The calm and peace maintained by 130 crore Indians in the run-up to today’s verdict manifests India’s inherent commitment to peaceful coexistence. May this very spirit of unity and togetherness power the development trajectory of our nation. May every Indian be empowered,” he said.

Every side, every point of view was given adequate time and opportunity to express differing points of view, he said. “The judgment is notable as it highlights that any dispute can be amicably solved in the spirit of due process of law. It (the verdict) reaffirms the independence, transparency and farsightedness of our judiciary. May peace and harmony prevail,” he tweeted.

Modi Inaugurates Kartarpur Corridor

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday inaugurated the Kartarpur corridor, thanking Pakistan premier Imran Khan for respecting Indian sentiments towards the shrine across the border that marks the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev.

“I thank Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi,” he told a gathering about eight km from the Dera Baba Nanak gurdwara, where he later flagged off the first batch of pilgrims to the shrine. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh was part of the first “jatha” of over 400 pilgrims.

Modi said, I also want to thank workers in Pakistan who worked at a fast pace, helping in building the portion of the corridor on their side.”

The corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, just four km apart across the border.

Before flagging off the first jatha, Modi chatted briefly with Manmohan Singh, who was accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur.

Other members of the delegation included Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Union ministers Hardeep Puri and Som Prakash.

Former Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, his son and Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and daughter-in-law and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal were also part of the delegation led by Akal Takht Jathedar Harpreet Singh. Gurdaspur MLA Sunny Deol was part of this group.

The corridor, which allows visa-free access to the shrine where Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev spent his final years, has been thrown open just ahead of his 550th birth anniversary on November 12.

Ayodhya Dispute Settled

The Supreme Court paved the way for construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, on the ground that the Hindu litigants had demonstrated a stronger claim to the disputed property than the Muslim side, thus bringing to an end more than a century-long dispute over the title of the land. But in a gesture of restitution for the desecration and demolition of the Babri Masjid, the court ordered that the Muslims be given a five acre plot to build a mosque.

“… the evidence in respect of the possessory claim of the Hindus to the composite whole of the disputed property stands on a better footing than the evidence adduced by the Muslims…,” a five-judge bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi said.

Oral and documentary evidence suggested that the Hindus had historically worshipped the inner courtyard — on which the now-demolished masjid once stood — as the birthplace of Lord Rama, the court said.

The core of the dispute was about the legal title of the small inner courtyard (an area of 2.77 acres) on which the Babri Masjid once stood. Many Hindus have claimed that birthplace of Lord Rama was in the courtyard, under the central dome of the mosque.

“All evidence indicates that a reasonable inference based on a preponderance of probabilities can be made that there was continuum of faith and belief of the Hindus that the garbh griha was the place of birth of Lord Ram both prior to and after the construction of the wall,” the court said.

The British put a wall between the inner and the outer courtyard to reduce hostilities between the two sides, but the Hindus continued to pray at the side of the railing towards the garbh griha, the court said.

Though the Hindus continued to worship at the Ram Chabutra in the outer courtyard, the consistent pattern of their worship including the making of offerings to the Garbh Griha while standing at the railing, indicated their belief that it was the birth place of Lord Ram, the court said.

“… there can be no manner of doubt that this was in furtherance of their belief that the birthplace of Lord Ram was within the precincts of and under the central dome of the mosque.”

On the outer courtyard, the court said, that the use of the area within the railing by the Muslims was contentious and their access to the inner courtyard was landlocked; the only access being through the two gates to the outer portion and the area which were in the control of the Hindus. “There is clear evidence to indicate the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857. Their possession of the outer courtyard stands established….” as per the judgment.

There is evidence to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857. The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857, since the mosque’s construction in the 16th century.

The five-judge bench also ruled, in a unanimous verdict, that the UP Sunni Central Wakf Board would get five acres to build a mosque either in the surplus land area around the disputed structure or elsewhere in a suitable, prominent place. This was a reparation of sorts for the legal wrongs done to the community. “Justice would not prevail if the court were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprived of the… mosque through means which should not have been employed in a secular nation committed to rule of law. The Constitution postulates the equality of all faiths. Tolerance and mutual co-existence nourish the secular commitment of our nation and its people.”

The central government had acquired the surplus 67 acres in and around the disputed structure in the immediate aftermath of the December 6, 1992, demolition.

The disputed land, measuring 2.77 acres, will stay for now with a receiver till the central government sets up within 3 months a trust or any other body to take over its management and control. Nirmohi Akhara has been ousted as the sebait of the temple at the disputed site and will now be only a member of the trust among many others. Mere presence or possession is not sufficient to be vested with the powers of a shebait, SC said. No evidence has been produced to show exercise of management rights by the Akhara.

The bench also reminded the state of its obligation to enforce its commitment to secularism, in a hint to the government to rein in elements which may rake up similar disputes at Mathura and Kashi in the wake of the Ayodhya ruling by implementing the Places of Worship Act which freezes places of worship in India as they existed in 1947.

“Historical wrongs cannot be remedied by the people taking the law in their own hands. In preserving the character of places of public worship, Parliament has mandated in no uncertain terms that history and its wrongs shall not be used as instruments to oppress the present and the future,” the court said.

The court said this while striking down parts of HC judgment, which had diluted the 1991 law. The bench also refused to declare the janmasthan as a juristic person although it conceded that the deity itself could be given such a status. In its first reaction to the ruling, the Akhara said that it would await the consultative process with the government to discuss appropriate representation in the new trust. “At the same time, the lawyers will study the judgment in detail and then decide how to proceed legally.”

Sunni Waqf Board chairman Zafar Faruqi on his part said that the Board may not challenge the ruling though that may not be the final word on the subject. The Allahabad High Court had in 2010 ordered a three-way division of the land to declare that the Hindus would get two thirds and the UP Sunni Central Wakf Board one-third of the disputed land.

Under the HC ruling, the Ram Lalla was to get the inner courtyard while the Ram Chabutra and the Sita Rasoi, would go to the Akhara. The Board was to get land after all adjustments for entry and exit for all parties.

The top court bench, which also comprised CJI-designate SA Bobde, and Justices Ashok Bhushan, DY Chandrachud and S Abdul Nazeer, dubbed the HC order as devoid of logic. The High Court was not dealing with a partition suit, it said, but a title suit. “Even as a matter of maintaining public peace and tranquillity, the solution which commended itself to the High Court is not feasible.”

“The disputed site admeasures all of 1,500 square yards. Dividing the land will not subserve the interest of either of the parties or secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquillity.”

The bench said that religious beliefs were beyond the ken of courts in a modern constitutional system, refusing to examine the faith and belief issues invoked by both sides. The court cannot adopt a position that accords primacy to the faith and belief of a single religion, it said. “From Shahid Gunj to Ayodhya, in a country like ours where contesting claims over property by religious communities are inevitable, our courts cannot reduce questions of title, which fall firmly within the secular domain and outside the rubric of religion, to a question of which community’s faith is stronger.”

The bench said the ASI finding that there was a Hindu religious structure under the Babri Masjid was also not enough to rule in their favour.

Instead, the court said, it would go by the length and extent of use of the disputed area to take a call on the title suit. The court also rejected a claim by the Shias to the land.

Modi one of world’s best leaders: Ray Dalio

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wryly commented that the praise from Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, would give the latter an opportunity to test his meditation skills in the light of the trolling the philanthropist received on Twitter for saying, “In my opinion, Indian’s Prime Minister Modi is one of the best, if not the best, leaders in the world.”

After Dalio’s interaction with Modi played out on social media, the PM said, “My friend Ray Dalio, the trolling after these words of praise would give you the best opportunity to test your meditation skills and being like a Ninja. On a more serious note, the points below make for a healthy discussion, in the spirit of being radically open minded.”

The 20-odd minute discussion saw Dalio praise Modi’s governance initiatives and his ability to bring people together, which saw several Twitter handles criticise the American billionaire for ignoring BJP’s ‘anti-minority’ posture. Some said the posts amounted to paid tweets.

Dalio said, “In the last election, he won a big mandate from voters for the next five years. I think he has a good chance of creating revolutionarily better outcomes with the broad support of the population. Those are big deals that are hard to find in other countries.” Modi appeared to have followed the social media reactions, noting that some of the loud criticism would test him. “He is doing (leadership) by providing both basics and cutting edge digital technologies as part of his mission for India’s direction. For example, his government built more than 100 million toilets which reduced diseases, potentially saving approximately 300,000 lives by some estimates,” Dalio said.

Moody’s lowers India outlook to negative

Global ratings agency Moody's Investors Service lowered India’s sovereign credit rating outlook to negative from stable, citing rising risks to economic growth and increased probability of a more entrenched slowdown due to prolonged financial stress among rural households, weak job creation and credit crunch among NBFCs.

The agency affirmed the Baa2 foreign-currency and local currency long-term issuer ratings. A change in outlook to ‘negative’ is at times a precursor to a sovereign ratings downgrade unless things turn for the better. It is also perceived negatively by both investors, global and domestic. Moody’s had upgraded India’s sovereign ratings in November 2017 to Baa2 from Baa3.

The negative outlook indicates an upgrade is unlikely in the near term, Moody’s said, adding it would likely change the outlook to stable if the likelihood that fiscal metrics stabilise and improve over time increased significantly.

“Moody's decision to change the outlook to negative reflects increasing risks that economic growth will remain materially lower than in the past, partly reflecting lower government and policy effectiveness at addressing longstanding economic and institutional weaknesses than Moody's had previously estimated, leading to a gradual rise in the debt burden from already high levels,” the agency said in a statement.

Moody’s estimates that the growth slowdown is in part long-lasting. “Moreover, compared with two years ago when Moody's upgraded India's rating to Baa2 from Baa3, the probability of sustained real GDP growth at or above 8% has significantly diminished,” the agency said.

The latest action from Moody’s comes at a time when economic growth has slowed to an over 6-year low of 5% in the April-June quarter. The government has unveiled a raft of measures to tackle the slowdown and experts say that the steps will yield results in the months ahead. Several multilateral agencies, economists and brokerage houses have trimmed their growth estimates for Asia’s third-largest economy given the slowdown in GDP growth. Several data points have also pointed to the weakness in the economy and the action from Moody's is expected to weigh on sentiment.

Responding to Moody’s action, the government said the fundamentals of the economy remain quite robust with inflation under check and bond yields low and asserted that India offers strong prospects of growth in the near and medium term.

“India continues to be among the fastest growing major economies in the world, India’s relative standing remains unaffected. IMF in its latest World Economic Outlook has stated that Indian economy is set to grow at 6.1% in 2019, picking up to 7% in 2020,” the finance ministry said.

“As India’s potential growth rate remains unchanged, assessment by IMF and other multilateral organisations continue to underline a positive outlook on India,” the ministry said.

The sensex, after trading flat for most of Friday’s session, closed 330 points lower at 40,324 while the rupee weakened by 26 paise to close at 71.31 to a dollar.


Maharashtra: State No. 1 in justice delivery

Maharashtra emerged as the best state for justice delivery in the country in the first such ranking, but could not score even 60% in performance in police, prison, judiciary and legal aid—the four pillars of justice. Goa topped among the small states.

The India Justice Report - 2019 placed Kerala and TN second and third, followed by Punjab and Haryana. Among the smaller states, Goa was followed by Sikkim and HP.

The report, a civil society study relying on government data since 2012, shines the light on problems plaguing the justice system, and retired SC Justice Madan Lokur hoped it would be used to “urgently plug the gaps in management of the police, prisons, forensics, justice delivery, legal aid and (in) filling up the vacancies”.

The vacancies are telling — 2% in police force, 39% in prisons and 20-40% in judiciary. More than one in four sanctioned HC judge posts had not been filled as of 2016-17, the report says, adding that only half the states made efforts to cut vacancies in the last five years.

Women were under-represented in all four areas of justice delivery while prisons remained overcrowded at 114% of capacity. Of these, almost 70% were undertrials awaiting probe or trial, it said.

Maharashtra scored a high of 5.92 out of 10 in the first Indian Justice Report, 2019, while Kerala scored 5.85 and TN 5.76. Interestingly, Maharashtra didn’t lead in any of the four categories, but emerged on top in overall performance. Its best showing was in prison administration (score 7), but even there Kerala was ahead. Kerala flopped on the police front—it ranked 13th out of 18 states— but led on prisons and legal aid.TN ranked first on police and judiciary, but 10th and 12th on prisons and legal aid.

Maharashtra ranked fifth in dispensation of legal aid. “India’s per capita spend on free legal aid—which 80% of the 1.25 billion people is eligible for—is 75 paise per annum,” the report revealed. Shockingly, it pointed out that in UP, there is only one sanctioned post of a correctional officer for almost 1 lakh prison inmates.

The individual scorecard of the states shows “serious lacunae in our justice delivery system”, said (retd) Justice Lokur, calling the report an “excellent effort to mainstream the issues of the justice system”.

Former CJI M N Venkatachaliah stressed on paying attention “before it is too late” and lauded “the commendable purpose of the report to attract attention to two important areas of national concern—access to justice and the health of our institutions responsible for justice delivery”.

The ranking, an initiative of the Tata Trusts in collaboration with the Centre for Social Justice, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Daksh, Tiss-Prayas and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, involved an 18-month quantitative research of “siloed statistics from government sources”, said Shireen Vakil, head of policy and advocacy at the Tata Trusts. The report assessed all 29 states and seven Union Territories.

West Bengal, No. 12 overall, scored less than 5 and UP, at the bottom, scored just over 3 in police and legal aid. Bihar, second last on the list, was the lowest performer in judiciary. Jharkand was worst in jails.

India spends 0.08% of its GDP on the judiciary, said the report. “On an average, except Delhi (1.9%), every other state and UT spends less than 1% on its judiciary,’’ said the report, using a per capita expenditure as a comparator. The average case pendency was five years, and judicial delays cost the country about 0.5% of GDP annually, or about Rs.50,000 crore considering the GDP in 2015-16, said the report.

While other factors, including witness absence, adjournments, impact case progress, the report found an “undeniable influence of excessive and persistent vacancies”.


Cabinet approves Rs.25,000 crore fund

The government approved Rs.25,000 crore fund to help complete over 1,600 stalled housing projects, including ones declared bad loans or admitted for insolvency proceedings, as it looks to boost growth by steering consumption in real estate and associated sectors.

Continuing with steps she began announcing within a month of Parliament approving her maiden Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Alternative Investment Fund will comprise Rs.10,000 crore coming from government and the remaining being provided by state insurer LIC and country’s largest lender SBI.

The AIF, which was first announced by Sitharaman on September 14, will act as a ‘special window’ to provide loans to over 1,600 incomplete affordable and middle-lower income housing projects.

In all, 4.58 lakh housing units are being targeted to be completed with a view to generate employment as well as revive demand of cement, iron and steel industries.

Sitharaman said the scheme, approved by the Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a modified version of the September 14 plan.

The key change is allowing the AIF to fund projects that lenders may have declared as non-performing assets or which have been dragged to the NCLT for insolvency proceedings.

Welcoming the move, Niranjan Hiranandani, president, National Real Estate Development Council, an umbrella body of real estate developers, said, “These are positive steps and the government has made a good beginning.

However, this fund will not fully address the liquidity problem facing the sector. I would suggest that the government and the RBI consider a roll over of all loans to realty sector, like they did during the 2008 crisis in the aftermath of the collapse of Lehmann Brothers.”

Shirish Deshpande of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, said, “This will certainly go a long way in providing much-needed relief to the home-buyers as well as to rehab members stuck in incomplete and delayed housing projects in Maharashtra.”

Anuj Puri, Chairman, ANAROCK Property Consultants described the cabinet nod for the AIF as “a critically important move which eliminates the ambiguity which surrounded the timelines for setting up the fund, and its actual implementation.”

India will need 2,380 new planes by 2038: Boeing

Indian airline operators will require 2,380 new commercial aircraft worth $330 billion (Rs.23.4 lakh crore) to handle the growing demand for air travel over the next 20 years, according to Boeing’s 20-year (2019-2038) commercial market outlook.

India’s commercial aircraft fleet is projected to quadruple in size to approximately 2,500 planes by 2038.

To operate and maintain the expanding fleet, operators will spend an estimated $440 billion (Rs.31.2 lakh crore) on aviation services.

Jewar airport race

The bidding process to select a developer for the Jewar international airport crystallised into a four-horse race between leading aviation and corporate heavyweights. The four shortlisted technical bids belong to Delhi International Airport Ltd, Zurich Airport AG, Anchorage Infrastructure (backed by the Canada-based Fairfax Holdings) and Indian conglomerate Adani Enterprises.

The companies were picked from a pool of 20 that had participated in the bid floated on May 30 this year.

This was the first half of the bidding. The Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority, which is UP’s nodal agency for the project, will study proposals before accepting financial bids later this month (on November 29) from the shortlisted firms. The developer for the airport, which is chasing a 2023 deadline for its first phase, will be finalised in January. YEIDA CEO Arun Vir Singh said the four bidders participating in the final leg have been found eligible on the technical front.

“However, analysis of financial parameters and metrics forwarded by them is going to be paramount in the entire process. Our focus would be on revenue generation plans of the four bidders.” The UP government has formed a special purpose vehicle, Noida International Airport Ltd, to manage the airport project. The bids, under UEIDA’s supervision, were floated by NIAL.

DIAL, the GMR group-led consortium, has the right of first refusal for the Jewar project under rules that allow this to the operator of an existing airport if a new airport is coming up within a 150 km radius (the distance between IGI and Jewar is less than that). Hence, if DIAL’s bid is up to 10% higher than the lowest bid, it will get an opportunity to match it. DIAL suffered a net loss of Rs.11.7 crore on a revenue of Rs.3,793 crore in 2018-19 as against a profit of Rs.38 crore on a revenue of Rs.4,042 crore in 2017-18.


October 2019: Services Activity Declines

India’s service sector activity declined for the second straight month in October, the first back-to-back reduction since the second quarter of 2017-18, dragging business confidence to its lowest level in almost three years.

Although the IHS Markit Services Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 49.2 last month from 48.7 in September, it remained below the 50-mark threshold that separates contraction from expansion.

As per the survey report, service sector employment increased for the 26th month in a row, albeit at the joint-slowest pace over this period.

The consecutive contraction in service activity in the second quarter of FY18 followed the implementation of the goods and services tax in July 2017.

A sister survey last week showed manufacturing activity in India slipping to a two-year low in October.

Put together, Indian private sector activity decreased for the second straight month in October, reflecting a “notable slowdown in growth of factory production and a further contraction in services activity.”

The Composite PMI Output Index fell from 49.8 in September to 49.6, signalling a marginal rate of reduction overall, the report showed.

Although aggregate employment increased further, the pace of expansion eased to the weakest in over two years. The slowdown in job creation was wide spread across the manufacturing and service sectors.

The PMI services activity index is based on a survey of purchasing executives of more than 400 service providers in five categories: consumer services, transport & storage, information & communication, financial & insurance and real estate & business services.

Total sales were broadly unchanged in October, after contracting in September for the first time in over a year-and- ahalf. Sub-sector data indicated that finance & insurance and real estate & business services acted as the main drag on the Indian service economy, where both business activity and sales contracted.

Asean may Soon Conclude Review of FTA with India

The Association of South East Asian Nations may soon conclude FTA review with India. The aim is to balance China in the Indo-Pacific.

The grouping will work with India for early conclusion of the review of Asean-India FTA to keep momentum in the partnership.

PM Narendra Modi, while addressing 10 Asean leaders, on Sunday welcomed the decision to have a relook at the free-trade agreement between India and the 10-member grouping. Last month, India and Asean initiated a review of the free-trade agreement in goods to make it “user-friendly, simple and trade facilitative”.

After India’s decision to stay out of RCEP, some Asean nations, including Thailand, are keen for early conclusion of the FTA review.

In 2003, India and Asean signed a Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation to establish an Asean-India Regional Trade and Investment Area, which would provide a basis for subsequent FTAs covering goods, services and investment. The Asean-India Trade in Goods Agreement was signed in 2009 and it is this that both sides have agreed to review.

Modi said he welcomed “the decision to re-examine the India-Asean FTA. “This will make our economic links stronger and will make our trade more balanced,” he said. Bilateral trade between the two sides increased to $80.8 billion in 2018 from $73.6 billion in 2017.

India has its concerns, given that its FTA with Asean is stacking up trade deficits with several Asean partners.


Sensex Scores a New High

The sensex clocked gains for the seventh straight session to settle at a fresh closing peak of 40,302 on Monday, buoyed by encouraging quarterly earnings, sustained foreign fund inflows and positive global cues. The 30-share sensex rose 137 points, or 0.3%, to end at an all-time high of 40,302, beating the previous record closing high of 40,268 recorded on June 3. The seven session winning run is also the best since mid-March for the BSE benchmark. The index also hit its record intra-day high of 40,483.

The broader NSE Nifty too advanced 51 points, or 0.4%, to close at 11,941. Experts said better liquidity from foreign funds, de-escalation in geopolitical risks and focus on upcoming reforms to revive growth also boosted investor sentiment. 

RCEP: India steps aside

India has decided not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement as its key concerns have not been addressed, government sources said. They said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood firm as India’s key concerns were not addressed.

Fifteen Asian countries agreed terms on Monday for what could be the world’s biggest trade pact, they said in a statement, but India delayed its decision on joining because of significant differences over tariffs and other issues. The RCEP is backed by China and also brings in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

“We noted 15 RCEP participating countries have concluded text-based negotiations for all 20 chapters and essentially all their market access issues,” the statement from the leaders said, to allow for signing next year.

“India has significant outstanding issues, which remain unresolved... India’s final decision will depend on satisfactory resolution of these issues,” it said.

According to government sources, there will no compromise on the country’s core interests and RCEP agreement does not reflect its original intent and outcome is not fair or balanced.

The key issues include inadequate protection against import surge, insufficient differential with China, possible circumvention of rules of origin, the base year remaining as 2014 and no credible assurances on market access and non-tariff barriers. The PM had said earlier that India remains committed to a comprehensive and balanced outcome of RCEP negotiations and seeks balance across goods, services and investments and also within each pillar.

India has been worried that the agreement, which requires the gradual elimination of tariffs, would open its markets to a flood of cheap Chinese goods and agricultural produce from Australia and New Zealand that would harm local producers.

RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the ten member states of ASEAN and six FTA partners.


NRC ‘base document’ for future: CGI Gogoi

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Sunday strongly defended the current exercise of National Register of Citizens in Assam, saying prior to it there was “guesswork” on the number of illegal immigrants in the state that “had fuelled panic, fear and vicious cycle of lawlessness and violence” and it would be a base document for future.

Justice Gogoi, who is heading an apex court bench which is monitoring the process of NRC in Assam, was also critical of “arm chair commentators” who, he said, are not only far away from the ground reality but also present a highly distorted picture due to which Assam and its development agenda have taken a hit.

The CJI, who hails from Assam, said that NRC is neither a “new or a novel idea” as it found expression as early as in 1951 and the current exercise is an attempt to update the 1951 NRC.

“The NRC is not without contestations. Let me take this occasion to clarify. The NRC is not a new nor a novel idea. It found expression as early as in the year 1951 and in particular context of Assam in year 1985 when the Assam accord was signed. In fact, the current NRC is an attempt to update the 1951 NRC,” said Justice Gogoi, who was addressing a gathering here during inauguration of book ‘Post Colonial Assam (1947-2019)’ authored by veteran journalist Mrinal Talukdar.

A total of 3,30,27,661 people had applied to be included in the NRC. Of them, 3,11,21,004 have been included in the document and 19,06,657 excluded. The names of 1.9 crore people were published as part draft NRC on the midnight of December 31, 2017. 


New map of J&K and Ladakh UTs

The political maps of newly-formed UTs of J&K and Ladakh released by the Survey of India depict UT of J&K as comprising 22 districts including Muzaffarabad and Mirpur in POK. The UT of Ladakh, as per the latest map, has two districts of Kargil and Leh, with the latter encompassing the erstwhile districts of Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilhas, Tribal Territory, and Leh and Ladakh.

The districts in UT of Jammu & Kashmir, as per the map prepared by the country’s principal mapping agency, include Kathua, Jammu, Samba, Udhampur, Doda, Kishtwar, Rajouri, Reasi, Ramban, Poonch, Kulgam, Shopian, Srinagar, Anantnag, Budgam, Pulwama, Ganderbal, Bandipora, Baramulla, Kupwara, Mirpur and Muzaffarabad.

The UT of Ladakh, as per the official map, will comprise the districts of Kargil, carved out of the area of Leh and Ladakh district as outlined in 1947, and Leh, which will encompass the erstwhile districts of Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilhas, Tribal Territory, and areas of Leh and Ladakh remaining after carving out Kargil.

In 1947, the former state of J&K had 14 districts, namely, Kathua, Jammu, Udhampur, Reasi, Anantnag, Baramulla, Poonch, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Leh and Ladakh, Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilhas and Tribal Territory. By 2019, the state government of erstwhile J&K had reorganised the areas of these 14 districts into 28 districts. The new districts are Kupwara, Bandipur, Ganderbal, Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama, Shupian, Kulgam, Rajouri, Ramban, Doda, Kishtivar, Samba and Kargil.

The Leh district of the new UT of Ladakh has been defined in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Removal of Difficulties) Second Order, 2019, issued by the President, to include areas of the districts of Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilhas and Tribal Territory of 1947, in addition to the remaining areas of Leh and the Ladakh districts of 1947, after carving out the Kargil district.


Jharkhand Polls announced

Delhi declares air pollution emergency

The Delhi government decided to shut all schools till November 5 after a Supreme Court mandated panel declared a public health emergency in the Delhi-NCR region in the wake of rising level of pollution. As the pollution level in the region entered the “severe plus” category”, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority banned construction activity till November 5 and bursting of crackers during winter season.

“In the wake of rising level of pollution caused by stubble burning, the Delhi government has decided to shut all schools till November 5,” CM Arvind Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.

The CM also met EPCA Chairman Bhure Lal and assured him of all cooperation in implementing the Graded Response Action Plan. “....I sought guidance from him and reiterated the commitment of our govt in dealing wid pollution. I also assured him all cooperation in implementing GRAP and other measures (sic),” Kejriwal said in another tweet. In a letter to chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, Lal said, “The air quality in Delhi and NCR deteriorated further last night and is now at the severe-plus level. We have to take this as a public health emergency as it will have adverse health impacts on all, particularly our children.”

According to official data, the overall Air Quality Index at 1 pm on Friday was recorded at 480, which falls in the “severe” category.

In an earlier tweet, Kejriwal said Delhi has turned into a “gas chamber” due to smoke arising out of crop burning in Punjab and Haryana.

On Friday, Kejriwal distributed masks to school children and told students that smoke emanating from stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana was causing air pollution here and asked them to write letters to CMs of the two states urging them to control it.