Renewed Push For FDI In Select Sectors

In major decisions to liberalise Foreign Domestic Investment (FDI) norms to boost investment, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved 100 per cent FDI in coal mining and contract manufacturing through automatic route.

The meeting also liberalised sourcing norms concerning single-brand retail and allowed 26 per cent FDI in the digital media with government approval.

Briefing the media on the decisions of the Cabinet, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said the decisions have been taken to make the country an attractive destination for FDI.

He said that presently 100 per cent FDI is allowed in coal mining for captive production.

“Now 100 per cent FDI through automatic route will be allowed in coal mining and associated infrastructure including processing, washing, and thrashing,” he said.

The minister said that the government was keen to make India a manufacturing hub. He said due to change in the global environment, many people were wanting to manufacture goods in India but there were some difficulties.

“It has been decided to allow 100 per cent contract manufacturing through the automatic route,” added Goyal.

He said the government has already allowed 26 per cent FDI in print media and now has been decided to “allow 26 per cent FDI in digital media” with the approval of the government.

He said the condition to start brick and mortar stores has been relaxed for ease of operations and companies have been allowed to start online trading initially and start the stores later.



SC To Hear Plea On Article 370 In Oct

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that a five-judge Constitution Bench will hear all petitions related to abrogation of Article 370 and Articles 35A from the first week of October.

The top court also issued notices to Centre and other petitioners in the connection.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was hearing a batch of pleas on Article 370 and the ban on internet, telephone, communications and other restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir. The petitions were filed by several parties including National Conference, Congress, CPI-M and some Kashmiri lawyers.

The apex court also allowed CPI(M)leader Sitaram Yechury to visit Jammu and Kashmir and meet his party leader and former MLA, Yousuf Tarigami.

However, the court said that Yechury’s visit should only be only to meet Tarigami as a friend, and not for any political purpose.

The court allowed Kashmiri student Mohammad Aleem Sayed to travel to Anantnag to meet his parents. It directed the Jammu and Kashmir administration to provide police protection to the student.

The top court also issued another notice to the Centre seeking a detailed report within seven days on a petition filed by Kashmir Times executive editor, Anuradha Bhasin, which sought a direction for relaxing restrictions on the internet, landline, and other communication channels.

Bhasin, in her plea on August 13, had sought relaxation on restrictions imposed on the free movement of journalists and media persons.

The litigant claimed that Kashmir Times, which is the largest circulated daily in Jammu and Kashmir, has not been printed and published for a long time owing to restrictions on all communication services and movement.

She also said that the ban was curbing journalists’ rights provided under the different provisions of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the apex court also refused a request from the Centre to appoint an interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir.

Earlier this month, both houses of Parliament had also passed the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill, 2019 and the resolution abrogating Article 370.

The reorganisation bill provides for the formation of the two separate Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir with legislature and Ladakh without legislature.

Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh will come into existence as separate Union Territories on October 31. (ANI)


Plea In SC Against 'Unnao-Like' Case

A group of Supreme Court lawyers on Wednesday filed a petition to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi urging him to take suo moto cognisance of media reports that a law student from SS Law College in Uttar Pradesh’s Shahjahanpur has gone missing from her college hostel.

Mentioning the matter before a bench headed by Justice NV Ramana, the lawyers said they did not want another Unnao case to happen.

Parents of the missing girl had filed a missing complaint with the police earlier and alleged that former Union Minister and BJP leader Swami Chinmayanand was responsible for their daughter’s disappearance.

On August 24, a video of the missing girl had gone viral in which the law student had alleged that a person from ‘Sant Samaj’ destroyed many lives of women including her’s. Without naming anyone, she also alleged that the person had threatened to kill her parents.

The girl appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for her help.

An FIR has been registered against Chinmayanand in the case.



Pak Quotes Rahul In UN, BJP Slams Cong

The BJP on Wednesday said Pakistan has used remarks of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi about the situation in Kashmir in a petition to the UN and sought apology from him saying that he had “backtracked” due to anger among people.

Addressing a press conference at the party office here Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said remarks of Gandhi has shown India in bad light.

“Never has India been shown in a bad light as the Congress has done. Rahul Gandhi and Congress should apologise to the nation,” he said.

Javadekar referred to Gandhi’s remarks during a Congress Working Committee meeting in which he had told the media that there were reports of violence during restrictions imposed by the government following the repeal of Article 370 of the constitution, which gave special powers to Jammu and Kashmir.

“Acts of violence have been acknowledged by mainstream politicians such as the leader of Congress party Rahul Gandhi noted that people are dying,” Javadekar said quoting Pakistan’s petition.

“This is nothing but vote-bank politics. The Congress party is backtracking because of the anger among the people after Rahul Gandhi’s initial statements.

Earlier in the day, Gandhi had in tweets that while he disagreed with the government on many issues, Kashmir is India’s internal issue and there is no room for Pakistan or any other foreign country to interfere in it.

He had also said that violence in Jammu and Kashmir was due to Pakistan.

“There is violence in Jammu and Kashmir. There is violence because it is instigated and supported by Pakistan which is known to be the prime supporter of terrorism across the world,” he said. (ANI)


Will Modi’s Gamble In Kashmir Pay Off?

Indian Prime Minister may have stalled the US for the moment but the world’s eyes are focused on Kashmir as India and Pakistan are on the edge. Meanwhile, a lock-down in the Valley only hurts our democratic credentials

The mood in India is celebratory. The general consensus after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with US President Donald Trump in France (the first since scrapping of Kashmir’s special status) is that this round has gone to India. Modi has drawn the line on third party mediation and told Trump where to get off.  Neither the US President nor any other nation needs to intervene in what is a purely bilateral matter between India and Pakistan. This has been the traditional Indian stand on Kashmir but in the context of Trumps recent statements, it had to be reiterated.

Considering that Trump had since his July 22 meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan spoken several times of his wish to play peace maker, there was concern in South Block at what to expect from the mercurial Trump. There was a collective sigh of relief in India at the way the conversation panned out, on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Biarritz.

Prime Minister Modi may have stalled the US President for the moment but the world’s eyes are focused on Kashmir as India and Pakistan are on the edge. With the peace talks between US and the Taliban about to be clinched in Doha, and Pakistan’s importance in the process, Imran Khan’s hands have been strengthened.

In recent years, Kashmir had been pushed out of the global narrative. Modi’s decision to abrogate article 370 and the consequent lockdown of the Valley has given Islamabad just the opportunity it wanted.

Pakistan is mobilizing all resources to bring Kashmir back to centre stage. Initially the response from the global community was muted, but gradually that graph is changing. The reason for this shift is not due to scrapping of the special status but the complete communication embargo. Bringing back a semblance of normal life to the Valley thus is the need of the hour. That is a big ask, considering the mood of the majority of Kashmiris.

Pakistan claims that it has “succeeded in internationalising the issue of Kashmir”. Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed in an address to his people, hours after the Modi-Trump meeting, “We talked to world leaders and embassies. UN for the first time since 1965, convened a meeting on Kashmir issue. Even international media has picked it up.”

Playing on the US and the rest of the world’s fears about a nuclear fallout between the two South Asian foes, Imran Khan emphasised: “If the [Kashmir] conflict moves towards war then remember both nations have nuclear weapons and no one is a winner in a nuclear war. It will have global ramifications. The superpowers of the world have a huge responsibility…whether they support us or not, Pakistan will do everything possible.”

Modi on its end has made it clear that third party mediation was not welcome. At a news conference, with Trump sitting beside him, he made it clear: “All issues between India and Pakistan are bilateral in nature and that is why we don’t bother any other country regarding them.” Modi also added that India and Pakistan were one country before Independence and that he was “confident that we can discuss our problems and solve them, together”.

How did the conversation on Kashmir go behind closed doors, is not known. The Americans team had briefed reporters ahead of the meeting that the situation in Kashmir and concerns about the communication blockade would be raised during the President’s meeting with Modi. But the Indian Prime Minister seems to have convinced Trump that the situation would not go out of hand or lead to regional instability.

Trump made this known at the joint news conference when he said: “We spoke last night about Kashmir, Prime Minister really feels that he has it under control, and now when they speak with Pakistan I’m sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good.” He also added that he was available if anyone needed his help. Does this mean that Modi had given the green signal for talks with Pakistan?

For Pakistan, Kashmir is the core issue. By scrapping Article 370, the government’s contention is that Kashmir is just another state in India. Thus, Pakistan’s claim that it is a party to the Kashmir dispute becomes redundant. New Delhi will possibly be ready to talk about Siachen, Sir Creek and other issues, but not Kashmir. From that position any kind of dialogue with Pakistan appears impossible, whatever Modi has said to Trump about talks.

Imran Khan has said in a recent interview to the New York Times, that he is no longer willing to talk to India. He had tried in earlier but New Delhi possibly regarded his attempt to mend ties as a sign of weakness. India’s response has been that terror and talks cannot go together.

Talks may be out, but the Modi government has to work at lifting restrictions in the valley. Restoring communication lines is a must as a blanket ban cannot continue indefinitely in a nation which proudly flaunts its democratic credentials.    

After all, Kashmiris are Indian citizens. They were not consulted when government decided to scrap Kashmir’s special status and are angry. The BJP has singularly failed at reaching out to the ordinary Kashmiri. Considering that opposition leaders were sent back from the airport on Saturday just proves how difficult the situation is.

It is also true that the moment restrictions are lifted, the Valley will erupt in protests which could lead to violence. Handling protests and stone-pelters would be a major challenge considering that Indian police and para military forces are ill equipped to deal with such a situation.  

A new intifada is likely to take shape in Kashmir. Separatists and jihadi groups will naturally try to exploit the situation. Besides, well known anti-India groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen will again become active. These are the usual suspects but the ISIS and Al Qaeda sub-groups will also fish in troubled waters. The Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, linked with Al Qaeda, is working at forming a loose jihadi alliance against India, according to reports from Pakistan.

New Delhi has a tough task ahead and the next few months will show whether Modi’s gamble in Kashmir has paid off.


‘Namami Gange Funds Go Into A Drain’

LokMarg team speaks to people on Namami Gange project, one of the pet projects of Narendra Modi government launched in June 2014. People feel that the project has given yet another milch cow to officers and politicians.


Stealing From RBI Won't Work: Rahul

A day after the Central Board of the Reserve Bank of India approved transfer of ₹1,76,051 crore to Centre, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over their ‘self created economic disaster’. Rahul said that ‘stealing’ from RBI will not work.

“PM and FM are clueless about how to solve their self created economic disaster. Stealing from RBI won’t work – it’s like stealing a Band-Aid from the dispensary and sticking it on a gunshot wound. #RBILooted,” Rahul tweeted on Tuesday.

RBI’s decision is in line with the recommendations of the Bimal Jalan Committee.

On Monday, a press note from the RBI said that it has decided “to transfer a sum of Rs 1,76,051 crore to the Government of India comprising Rs 1,23,414 crore of surplus for the year 2018-19 and Rs 52,637 crore of excess provisions identified as per the revised Economic Capital Framework (ECF) adopted at the meeting of the Central Board today.”

It may be recalled that the RBI in consultation with the Government of India had constituted an Expert Committee to Review the Extant Economic Capital Framework of the Reserve Bank of India under the chairmanship of Dr Bimal Jalan.

“The Committee’s recommendations were based on the consideration of the role of central banks’ financial resilience, cross-country practices, statutory provisions and the impact of the RBI’s public policy mandate and operating environment on its balance sheet and the risks involved,” the note said.

The note further said, “The Committee’s recommendations were guided by the fact that the RBI forms the primary bulwark for monetary, financial and external stability… Hence, the resilience of the RBI needs to be commensurate with its public policy objectives and must be maintained above the level of peer central banks as would be expected of a central bank of one of the fastest-growing large economies of the world.”



Imran Briefs Saudi Prince On Kashmir

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday night briefed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman about Kashmir issue over a phone call, reported Pakistani news service ARY News.

It was the third time the two leaders talked to discuss the regional developments since India abrogated special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Previously, Khan had called MBS and discussed the issue last week.

Pakistan has been rattled by the Indian government’s move to strip the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and has found itself completely isolated despite desperate attempts aimed at internationalising the issue.

Islamabad has been snubbed on all fronts as the international community has made it clear that the Kashmir issue is strictly New Delhi’s internal matter.

The Pakistan government has downgraded bilateral ties with India in the wake of the decision and said it will consider all steps to counter what it described “illegal steps” taken by New Delhi.

Two days after New Delhi revoked the Article, Khan had “briefed” the Saudi prince.

“During the call, they discussed the development of the situation in the region and efforts exerted towards it,” the official Saudi Press Agency(SPA), the agency had reported. (ANI)


Unnao Case – ‘Courage Of Victim Is Rare’

Uttiyo Mallick, 31, a lawyer at Kolkata High Court, says the Unnao case is a beacon of hope for rape victims in small towns and villages. He lauds the courage of the survivor and her family for their support.

The political and bureaucratic high handedness has always been an impediment to the delivery of justice in our country. I am talking about all kind of offences here and not just rape cases. However, not many people have been able to show the guts that this young girl from Unnao has been able to show in persistently fighting for justice for more than a year now. It is amazing to see how supportive her family is. 

I was shocked and appalled when I heard of the accident. This is the second case of killing and attempting to kill people related to this case (the death of her father’s murder witness is another case). Protection from the learned court should have been provided much earlier in this case. Also, investigation should be done about the absence of her security cover during this accident. If the Supreme Court had taken suo moto cognizance of the matter, then the girl and her family wouldn’t have suffered as much. 

I feel now, fresh FIRs need to be filed against the accused. Also, the victim, her family, her lawyer and his family should be ensured a security cover at all times. The proceedings should be shifted to another place if the victim so wants it.

Women in villages and small towns (like Unnao) are still not aware of their legal rights or the legal aid they are entitled to. Most women don’t have the courage to report the assault on them and neither are their families supportive. In fact, in small towns rape cases are often settled out of court by providing monetary compensation to the victims. That is why the Unnao case is so different. Both the immediate family as well as relatives are very supportive and the victim herself is so courageous. 

One of my clients was threatened with repeated assault (rape) if she did not withdraw the rape case that was already in court. They also tried to pay her off to withdraw the case, but I am proud she did not give in. 

It has been widely reported that West Bengal is safe for women, however instances of molestation and outraging modesty women are very common. If not for social media, many of these cases might have been unknown. However, social media doesn’t always serve as a handy tool for the uneducated and unaware masses. 

A preventive mechanism is needed, rather than legal solutions for later. The kind of burden our courts already face, prevention is better than cure. The cases stretch on for years. I have been an observer as well as a participant in various legal aid camps in villages and small towns, I have noticed that education level and financial condition of the victim’s family are the two of the biggest impediments in grievance redressal of  victims. 

Media can play a vital role in popularising these legal aid camps so that more people can participate in it. Plus, the young generation of lawyers should also play an active role in making the masses aware of their legal rights. The civil society should also take care not to shame the victims or get involved in providing justice to the accused on their own. The Apex Court will not have to use its precious time to interfere in the case of heinous crimes then, for the High Courts will then be able to handle them. I am happy that fast track courts are doing their work effectively and efficiently in West Bengal.  

However, in all this, one should not forget about the problem of fake rape cases. Such cases do injustice to real victims who suffer endless trauma. This is another aspect where mass sensitization as well as social change is required.


Kashmir Bilateral Issue, Modi Tells Trump

With US President Donald Trump by his side, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday ruled out any third-party mediation on the Kashmir dispute saying it’s a bilateral issue with Pakistan and that the two countries can resolve all issues.

Trump also appeared to agree with him when he said the two countries “will do something good”.

“All issues between India and Pakistan are bilateral. We do not want to bother any other country for these issues. And I believe that India and Pakistan, which were one nation before 1947, we will resolve all issues and can find solutions to it,” Modi told the media ahead of his talks with Trump on the sidelines of the G7 summit.

“There are many bilateral issues between India and Pakistan. And after Imran Khan became the Prime Minister of Pakistan, I called him up to congratulate him and told him that Pakistan and India need to fight together many issues like diseases, illiteracy, poverty and let us work together for the welfare of our country. We keep talking about the various bilateral issues between each other,” Modi said watched by Trump and the officials of the two delegations.

On his part, Trump, who said he spoke to Modi last night, said the Prime Minister feels he has control over the issue and hoped the two countries would “do something very good”.

“The Prime Minister feels he has control over the issue. They speak with Pakistan and I am sure they will do something very good,” said Trump who had on three recent occasions offered to mediate in the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.

India had rebuffed claims that Trump had discussed his mediation offer with Modi and had made it clear that Kashmir was a bilateral issue.

The US President also congratulated Modi over his election victory, saying the “Prime Minister is a man who is loved and respected in his country”.

Trump said that the two sides had some great discussions last night, including trade, military and various things of mutual interest.

Meanwhile, expressing gratitude to Trump, Modi said, “Today I am meeting my friend and the President of world’s oldest democracy. This meeting is very important to me. We have been meeting very frequently on many occasions.”

Addressing the issue of ongoing trade negotiations between the two countries, the Prime Minister said, “India and the US have been continuously negotiating over the issue in recent days and we appreciate and welcome their suggestions on the issue.”