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PM Narendra Modi pitches India as favourite investment destination at Fintech Festival in Singapore

Singapore: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that financial inclusion has become a reality for 1.3 billion Indians as he pitched India as a favourite destination for investment at the Fintech Festival here.

Modi became the first world leader to address the festival which was launched in 2016 and is in its third edition. “Financial inclusion has become reality for 1.3 billion Indians. We have generated more than 1.2 billion biometric identities- Aadhaar or foundation- in just a few years,” Modi said at the event. The Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF) is already the world’s largest event on financial technology – or fintech. In 2017, the event drew as many as 30,000 participants from over 100 countries.

The SFF involves a three-day conference, and exhibition of FinTech firms and capabilities, a global competition of FinTech solutions and a platform for matching entrepreneurs and investment capital. Modi said through Aadhaar and cellphones, his government has launched Jan Dhan Yojana and opened 330 million new bank accounts in three years.

“These are 330 million sources of identity, dignity and opportunities. Less than 50 per cent of Indian had bank accounts in 2014. Now, it is nearly universal. So today, more than a billion biometric identities, more than a billion bank accounts and more than a billion cell phones give India by far the biggest public infrastructure in the world,” Modi said. “We are in an age of a historic transition brought about by technology. From desktop to cloud, from Internet to social media, from IT Services to Internet of Things, we have come a long way in short time,” he said.

Nehruvian legacy being ‘undermined’, we must honour him by safeguarding democracy: Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi: Congress leader Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday alleged that the Nehruvian legacy was being “undermined” by those presently in power who have “contempt” for the country’s first prime minister for all that he did to build an India which they want to change for the “worse”.

Speaking at an event to relaunch Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s book ‘Nehru: The Invention of India’, the former Congress president said Jawaharlal Nehru, as India’s first prime minister, “consolidated democracy and entrenched the basic values of India’s polity — values to which we are still proud to lay claim.” “What are these values. Shashi Tharoor summarises them as the core pillars of Nehruvianism — democratic institutional building, staunch pan-Indian secularism, socialist economics and foreign policy of non-alignment. These values were integral to a vision of Indianness that is fundamentally being challenged today,” she said on the eve of Nehru’s birth anniversary.

But, that vision remains at the core of “our time-tested beliefs”, Gandhi said. “We all know, as Shashi Tharoor has just said, that this precious legacy is being undermined daily by those who rule us today. They express disdain and contempt for Nehru for all that he did to build the India they are bent upon changing for the worse,” Gandhi said. She further said, “Today we must honour him by fighting with determination to safeguard our democracy against those who are undermining it.” Tharoor, in his remarks at the event, lauded Nehru for strengthening democratic institutions and always encouraging “constructive criticism”.

Narrating an anecdote, Tharoor said Nehru was asked by an American editor as to what he wanted his legacy to be, to which the first Indian prime minister said: “330 million people capable of governing themselves.” “A number of post-colonial heroes in other ex-colonies had gone the opposite way. They started off as democratically popular heroes and headed in an authoritarian direction…Nehru ji never fell into that trap.

“So if today, we have a chaiwala as prime minister, it is because Nehru ji made it possible to create the institutional structures through which any Indian can aspire to and rise to the highest office in the land,” the MP from  Thiruvanathapuram said. Talking in detail about the four Nehruvian pillars, Gandhi said democracy could not have been taken for granted in 1947 that a country beset by acute poverty and torn apart by partition would become or remain democratic. It was Nehru who instilled a democratic culture in our country by his regard for democracy, she said.

Nehru’s regard for Parliament, his regard for the independence of the judiciary, his curtesy to those of different political convictions, his commitment to free elections, his faith in a free press and his deference to institutions over individuals — have all left a precious legacy of freedom, Gandhi said. On Nehru’s commitment to secularism, Gandhi said he strived to prevent partition, but when it occurred, he never accepted that since Pakistan had been ostensibly created for Indian Muslims, what remained was a state for Hindus. His life-long conviction was that India belonged to all its people and the majority community have a special obligation to protect the rights and promote the well-being of India’s minorities, she said.

In both policy and personal practice, Nehru stood for an idea of India that embraced every religion, caste ethnicity and language, Gandhi asserted. Talking about Nehru’s idea of socialism, she said: “It is fashionable today to decry Nehruvian socialism as a system that tied India to many years of modest growth. This does not take into account the circumstances of the early years of independence when massive infrastructure was needed to be built up.” On his foreign policy of non-alignment, Gandhi said Nehru was a “convinced internationalist”.

The Nehruvian vision was about safeguarding India’s independence and self-respect against a potential encroachment on its sovereignty that still lies at the heart of the Indian National Congress, she said. Gandhi highlighted that over the years Congress governments have taken Nehru’s idea forward and cited the examples of Panchayati Raj and the Right to Information Act. “They have defended secularism in the face of violent threats to our nation’s diversity,” she said.

Tharoor said a concerted campaign of vilification, calumny and an astonishing amount of lies was being spread on the internet against Nehru. “If today, the government can boast about Mangalyaan, ask who created ISRO. Who decided that even a poor Indian can dare to aim for the skies. Who created the IITs who send so many bright young men to the Silicon Valley. “All of this in the poor country was optional. You had to have the vision to say we need to do all these things. We need to lay the foundations to build India of the future,” Tharoor said.

Mumbai: 2 dead as massive fire breaks out in 21-storey SRA building in Andheri

Mumbai: Two persons died after a massive fire broke out in a 21-storeyed high-rise Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) building, Kadam Chawl, at Andheri West on Tuesday night (8.30 PM). According to fire brigade officials, they received a call about a blaze on the 10th floor of the building, which spread to the 11th floor.

Two bodies were found charred in the living room of Flat no 1001, which bore the brunt of the fire. According to officials of Mumbai Fire brigade, three people trapped in the bedroom of the same flat had been rescued. Another family member was missing and efforts to douse the flames were on when the FPJ went to press.

The deceased were identified as Vicky Sharma, 25, and Sagar Sharma, 74. One Lal Krishna Sharma has sustained 30% burn injuries. As per the statement released by the Mumbai fire brigade, it was a level 2 (massive) fire. People living on other floors of the building have been evacuated.

The deceased were taken to civic-run Dr RN Cooper Hospital. A senior Cooper Hospital doctor said, “50-year-old Lal Kishore Sharma and is undergoing treatment.” The chawl is located close to Oberoi Tower on Veera Desai Road. According to information provided by the Disaster Management cell of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, five fire engines and four jumbo water tankers had to be deployed.

Dassault CEO Eric Trappier’s comments on Rafale deal manufactured lies: Congress

New Delhi: The raging political row over the Rafale deal escalated further on Tuesday with the Congress dismissing as “manufactured lies” claims by the CEO of French plane maker Dassault Aviation that there was no wrong-doing in the contract and Rahul Gandhi firing a fresh salvo at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over it.

Hitting back at Gandhi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Congress chief’s failed politics is compelling him to resort to “falsehood” and “petty hair-splitting” to make the sensitive Rafale purchase defence deal controversial. His Cabinet colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad told PTI that Trappier’s claims have in fact “exposed all the lies” of Gandhi whose behaviour, he alleged, had become increasingly irresponsible and oblivious to India’s security needs. Congress leaders Anand Sharma and Randeep Surjewala joined Gandhi in accusing the government of a “cover-up”, hours after Dassault CEO Eric Trappier rebutted the party’s allegations.

Congress chief spokesperson Surjewala said the nation needs a “fair investigation” and not “doctored explanations” on the fighter jet deal, referring to comments by Trappier in a media interview that there was no corruption in the deal as alleged by the opposition party. Dassault Aviation did not respond to a series of questions sent by PTI over the allegations including why it selected Reliance Defence Ltd, a company with not much experience in aerospace sector, for complying with offset obligations of the deal, and what was the reason behind the company’s investment in loss-making Reliance Airport Developers Limited (RADL).

The Congress has been making a relentless attack on the government, alleging a massive scam in the deal and accusing it of forcing the French aerospace major to partner with Reliance Defence Ltd (RDL) for fulfilling offset obligations. The government, RDL and Dassault have rejected the charges. Trappier’s interview came a day before the Supreme Court is scheduled to examine the government’s submission on the decision-making process and pricing details relating to the deal. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari alleged that the government, through its affidavit in apex court, was trying to “conceal more than it reveals” and posed a set of questions.

“Dictated interviews and manufactured lies cannot cover up corruption in the Rafale deal. The first rule of law is mutual beneficiaries and the co-accused’s statements hold no value. The second rule is beneficiaries and accused cannot be a judge in their own case. Truth has a way of coming out. Mr Modi, the nation does not want doctored explanations,” Surjewala said.  “The fixed match between the Bharatiya Janata Party and Dassault Aviation will not hide the scam. The PR stunt that Eric Trappier and the Prime Minister Modi are doing will not cover up the layers of corruption in the Rafale deal,” he alleged.

The Left parties also alleged that the government had spun a “web of lies” to hide “corruption” and its “wrong doings” in the Rafale jet fighter deal. CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury said “cronies” of all kinds, from France to India, were trying to defend the Modi government on the issue and such efforts will go in vain. CPI national secretary D Raja said Trappier’s comments do not prove that there was no scam in the deal. The Congress, on its Twitter handle also said, “The government’s submission to Supreme Court on the Rafale Scam makes it clear they did not take the basic steps fundamental to defence procurement. Prime Minister Modi’s corruption is crystal clear.”

“There is a very clear violation of the Defence Procurement Procedure. Every process has been completed post-facto. The Rafale deal is shrouded in secrecy and it is very clear that a desperate government is using all tools and means at its disposal for a cover-up,” Sharma alleged. The Centre on Monday informed the Supreme Court that the Defence Procurement Procedure as laid out by the UPA in 2013 was “completely followed” in procuring 36 jets from France and the deal was subsequently approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security.

Mounting a fresh offensive against the prime minister, Gandhi tagged a media report with his tweet alleging the government has thrown up more “wrong-doings” by Modi in the Rafale deal in its affidavit before the apex court. The media report claimed the affidavit has made it clear that the government did not take the most basic steps that are fundamental to any procurement. In a tweet in Hindi, Gandhi alleged “Modi ji has admitted to his theft in the Supreme Court. In the affidavit, he admitted to changes in the contract without asking the Air Force and put Rs 30,000 crore in Ambani’s pocket.

“The picture is still to come my friend.” He also raised the issue of the Rafale deal at a poll rally in Chhattisgarh. Modi went to France with Ambani, snatched Rafale contract from the HAL and gave it to him, Gandhi said in Raipur. Modi snatched Rs 30,000 crore from the poor, put it in Ambani’s pocket, Gandhi said, adding, “Modi works for very rich and not poor.” Sharma said the government had embarked on a tardy cover-up of the scam.

“The timing of Dassault CEO Eric Trappier’s interview is significant, as elections are nearing. All the processes and procedures are post-facto after the prime minister had personally changed the parameters and brought down the number of aircraft from 126 to 36,” he alleged. The UPA government was negotiating a deal with Dassault for procuring 126 Rafale jets. However, the deal did not go through.

Thick haze engulfs Delhi, air quality remains in severe category

New Delhi: The Supreme Court-appointed EPCA lifted the ban on the entry of heavy vehicles into Delhi on Tuesday even as a thick haze engulfed the city with the air quality remaining in the “severe” category. Authorities said rains in some parts of the national capital have made the air heavier and increased pollution.

Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain said he is studying the proposal of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) to ban non-CNG private and commercial vehicles in the city if the situation does not improve. Experts have called for strengthening public transport before taking such a step. Urban Emissions, a research group, said that after lifting of ban, largest contribution to PM2.5 pollution on Wednesday would be due to power plants and DG sets (19.6 per cent), followed by industries (17.3 per cent) and household pollution (15.9 per cent).

The EPCA said heavy vehicles would now ply in the city on normal timings between 11PM to 6 AM. Meanwhile, a new study  by the ASAR Social Impact Advisors, which works on social and environmental issues, said about 89 per cent people in Delhi feel discomfort due to bad air quality and most of them believe motor vehicles and felling of trees are major reasons behind pollution. The study, for which around 5,000 people in 17 cities were interviewed, found that the top four reasons behind bad air quality were pollution caused by motor vehicles (74 per cent), industrial units (58 per cent), tree cutting (56.9 per cent) and construction (48.2 per cent).

As the overall air quality index (AQI) was recorded at 411, which falls in the “severe” category, according to data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the EPCA said heavy vehicles would now ply in the city on normal timings between 11 pm and 6 am. According to official data, 21 areas in Delhi recorded ‘severe’ air quality and it was ‘very poor’ in 12 areas. An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”. Light rains in some parts of the national capital led to a decline in temperatures in the city.

The maximum temperature was recorded at 29.4 degrees Celsius, a notch above normal, while the minimum temperature settled at 14.2 degrees Celsius, also a notch above the season’s average, a meteorological department official said. The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research said in a report that stubble burning incidents have reduced significantly and now the winds are not blowing from these areas so its impact on Delhi’s air quality would be marginal. EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal said the restriction imposed by it on heavy vehicles had been lifted.

On Monday, the EPCA had allowed entry of only those vehicles into the city which were stranded for the previous four days at Delhi borders, anticipating the situation getting out of hand with the owners of over a 1,000 trucks getting “restive”. The EPCA had asserted on Monday that these stranded trucks would be exempt from paying toll or Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) from 11 pm on November 12 to 7 am on November 13. The body had said by relaxing the payment of toll-ECC, the trucks can move without any halt and this will reduce congestion and thereby pollution. Over 2,200 vehicles were ordered to turn back from Delhi’s borders during restriction on the entry of heavy vehicles in the national capital from November 8 to November 12 in the wake of high pollution levels in the city, a senior traffic police official said.

As many as 3,931 vehicles carrying essential goods were allowed in the national capital from 11 pm on November 11 till 5 am the next day, he said. The restriction on the entry of heavy vehicles was initially imposed from November 8 to November 11 but was later extended by a day by the Supreme Court-appointed agency on the recommendations of a CPCB-led task force, which reviews the national capital’s air quality. Hussain said he has been studying the proposal by the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority to impose a ban on non-CNG private and commercial vehicles.

EPCA Chairman Bhure Lal, in a letter to the chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, had Monday warned that if the air quality in Delhi continues to deteriorate, then it would impose a complete ban on the use of non-CNG private as well as commercial vehicles. Experts have expressed their apprehension over this proposal, saying there is a need to first strengthen the public transport system.

Sunil Dahiya, member of Greenpeace India, said there are bigger sources like industrial waste that needs to be targeted before. “There is a need for stronger public transport system. People should be provided with alternatives before implementing such a move otherwise the plan might not work just like the fire cracker ban did not,” he said. Ravina Kohli, an environmentalist and member of #MyRightToBreathe campaign, called the move a knee-jerk reaction.

‘I don’t lie…Chose Ambani by ourselves’, Dassault CEO Eric Trappier responds to Rahul Gandhi’s allegations over Rafale deal

Istres-Le Tubé Airbase (Marseille) [France]: Dassault Aviation Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Eric Trappier in an exclusive interview to ANI rubbished allegations made by Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi that the former lied about the details of the Dassault-Reliance Joint Venture (JV) for offset contracts in the Rafale Jet deal.

“I don’t lie. The truth I declared before and the statements I made are true. I don’t have a reputation of lying. In my position as CEO, you don’t lie,” said Trappier when asked to respond to Rahul Gandhi’s charge that Dassault was covering up for possible cronyism in awarding the offset deal to Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group.

Rahul Gandhi, in a press conference on November 2, alleged that Dassault invested Rs 284 crore in a loss-making company promoted by Anil Ambani which was used to procure land in Nagpur. “It is clear the Dassault CEO is lying.If an inquiry starts on this Modi is not going to survive it. Guaranteed,” added Gandhi.

Speaking to ANI in the Dassault hangar housed in Istres-Le Tubé Air base located North of the French city of Marseille, Dassault’s CEO Eric Trappier said that they had prior experience dealing with the Congress party and the comments made by the Congress president made him sad.

“We have a long experience with the Congress party. Our first deal was with India in 1953 with Nehru and other Prime Ministers. We have been working with India. We are not working for any party. We are supplying strategic products like fighters to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Government. That is what is most important,” said Trappier.

When pressed further for the reason behind Dassault’s choice of Reliance as an offset partner which had no experience in manufacturing fighter jets, Trappier clarified that the money being invested was not going to Reliance directly but in a Joint Venture (JV) that included Dassault.

“We are not putting the money in Reliance. The money is going into the JV. I put my know-how free of charge on how to produce people. I have engineers and workers from Dassault who are taking the lead as far as the industrial part of this deal is concerned. At the same time, I have an Indian company like Reliance who is putting money into this JV as they want to develop their country. So the company is going to know how to produce aircraft,” added Trappier.

Trappier clarified further about the investments being made by Dassault, adding that Reliance would match the amount since the shareholding pattern is 49% Dassault and 51% Reliance as per prescribed Government norms.

“We are supposed to put in this company together about Rs 800 crore as 50:50. For the time being, to start work in the hangar and to pay workers and employees, we have already put Rs 40 crore. But it will be increased to Rs 800 crore, which implies Rs 400 crore by Dassault in the coming five years,” said Trappier.

He added Dassault has seven years to perform offset. “During first three years, we are not obliged to say with who we are working. We have already settled work and agreement with 30 companies, which represents 40% of total offset obligation as per contract. Reliance is 10% out of the 40, while rest 30% is a direct agreement between these companies and Dassault,” Trappier said.

On the pricing issue, the CEO said that the present aircrafts are cheaper by 9 %.

“Price of 36 was exactly the same when you compare with 18 flyaway. 36 is the double of 18, so as far as I was concerned, it should have been double the price. But because it was government to government, there was some negotiation, I had to decrease price by 9%. The price of Rafale in flyaway condition is less expensive in the 36 contract than the 126 contract,” he said.

When asked about the initial agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the subsequent breakdown of talks with the Indian PSU for production of Rafale jets, the Dassault CEO said that if the initial deal of 126 jets went through they would not have hesitated to work with HAL and Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance.

“It’s because the 126 didn’t go smooth that the Government of India had to reconfigure to urgently acquire 36 from France. And then I took the decision to continue with Reliance, and HAL even said in the last few days that they were not interested to be part of the offset. So, it has been done by my decision and the decision of Reliance to invest in a new private company,” added Trappier.

He added that Dassault was earlier in discussions with several other companies for offset tie-ups. “Obviously, we could have gone to Tata or other family groups. At that time, the decision to go ahead was not given to Dassault. We were in 2011, Tata was also discussing with other flying companies. We finally decided to go ahead with Reliance as they have experience in big engineering facilities,” Trappier said.

Talking about the aircraft, the Dassault CEO explained that the present planes will have all necessary equipments but not weapons and missiles. “The weapons will be sent in different contract. But the aircraft with everything other than weapons will be dispatched by Dassault,” he said.

Politicians across party lines, public pay homage to Ananth Kumar

Bengaluru: A stream of leaders and supporters on Tuesday paid their last respects to Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister and senior BJP leader Ananth Kumar, who passed away on Monday.

The body was taken from his Basavanagudi residence, where it was kept since Monday morning to Jagannath Bhavan, the BJP state headquarters at Malleshwarm, in a decorated military vehicle with personnel of the three services- the Army, Navy and Air Force- accompanying it. The procession began, with supporters chanting slogans “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, “Ananth Kumar Amar Rahe”. State BJP President B S Yeddyurappa and party’s General Secretary in-charge of Karnataka Muralidhar Rao were present at the state BJP office, where a pall of gloom has descended.

Several BJP leaders including Union Minister Sadananada Gowda, R Ashoka, K S Eshwarappa, Anurag Thakur, Pralhad Joshi, and hundreds of party workers paid their last respects to the departed leader at the party office, where the body will be kept for about an hour. Kumar’s mortal remains will then be shifted to the National College Ground, which falls in his constituency, for the public to pay homage, before the funeral at Chamarajapet crematorium in the afternoon. The central government has announced a state funeral for Kumar.

According to sources close to the family, Kumar’s brother Nanda Kumar will perform the last rites according to Brahmin traditions. The 59-year-old Bangalore South MP breathed his last around 2 am on Monday at the Sri Shankara Cancer Hospital and Research Centre where he was under care after returning home in October following treatment in the US and Britain. Besides Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu and BJP President Amit Shah, Union Ministers, including Rajnath Singh, Piyush Goyal, Harsh Vardhan, Radha Mohan Singh, Ramdas Atavale, Mahesh Sharma, Ashwinikumar Choube and Ramkripal Yadav would pay homage on Tuesday, party sources said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew in here from Varanasi and drove straight to the residence of Kumar at Basavanagudi and paid homage to his colleague by placing a wreath on his mortal remains, on Monday night. Modi consoled Kumar’s wife Tejaswini and his two daughters during his 15-minute visit. BJP leaders and those from various political parties, relatives, family friends, party workers and people made a beeline at Kumar’s residence to pay homage to the “most-loved” Bengaluru MP, known for his affability and cordial ties with rivals. The Karnataka government had declared a three-day state mourning.

Foraying into politics in 1987, Kumar became an Union minister in the Vajpayee cabinet in 1998 when he was only 38. He remained in the inner circle of the central leadership of the BJP — be it during the heyday of Atal Bihari Vajpayee or Narendra Modi now. He served as an important link between the central and state units of the party. Teaming up with Yeddyurappa, Kumar was among the few party leaders who could be credited for the growth of the BJP in Karnataka, bringing it to power in 2008 and making it the first saffron party government in the South. Kumar made his parliamentary debut in 1996 from Bangalore South, where he remained unconquered till his death. He had defeated software icon Congress’s Nandan Nilekani in the highly politically conscious constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.


If Opposition thinks BJP is dangerous, it must be: Rajinikanth

Chennai (Tamil Nadu): Actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth on Monday said that if Opposition thinks Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a dangerous party, it must be.

Interacting with media outside Chennai airport, Rajinikanth, when asked if he agrees with the Opposition’s stance that the BJP is a dangerous party, said, “If they (Opposition) think like that then definitely it (BJP) must be.” the opposition is forming an anti-BJP block and does he agree with the Opposition’s stance that the BJP is a dangerous party When further asked about the implementation of the demonetisation, he termed it as an incorrect move. “The demonetisation scheme was not implemented properly. We need to have a larger discussion on it,” Rajinikanth told reporters.

Rajinikanth was among the few personalities who had supported the demonetisation move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, 2016. “Hats off @narendramodi ji. New India is born #JaiHind,” he had said minutes after demonetisation was announced.


Tamil Nadu, Puducherry brace for cyclone Gaja; 30,500 rescue personnel on standby

Chennai: Cyclonic storm Gaja will cross Tamil Nadu coast between Cuddalore and Pamban on November 15, bringing heavy rainfall coupled with gale wind, the Met office said on Monday as the state government put its machinery on alert and kept on standby 30,500 rescue personnel.

Neighbouring union territory of Puducherry, which is also covered by the cyclone alert, said it is on high alert as well and precautionary steps are being taken to meet the situation. The cyclone lay about 720 km east northeast of Chennai over the Bay on Monday and it is very likely to move west southwestwards and intensify further into a severe cyclonic storm by Tuesday, the IMD said in its latest bulletin. Tamil Nadu Chief Minsiter K Palaniswami chaired a high- level meeting at the Secretariat of Ministers and top officials to review the preparedness in the wake of the storm and forcast of heavy rainfall.

Revenue Minsiter R B Udaya Kumar said 30,500 rescue personnel were on standby while arrangemets had been made for food and shelter at relief centres for those in low lying areas. Across the state, a total of 4,399 locations have been identified as vulnerable and teams have been deployed for rescue, he told reporters. Also, teams of the National and State Disaster Response Forces are ready for deployment. Vigil has been mouted in coastal districts and meetings have been held to review preparedness, he said.

Coastal and vulnerable districts including Cuddalore and Nagapattinam have been advised high alert, Udaya Kumar said. The IMD said the system was likely to weaken gradually and cross Tamil Nadu coast between Cuddalore and Pamban as a cyclonic storm on November 15 forenoon. It forecast rainfall at most places in Tamil Nadu on November 14 and extremely heavy (over 20 cm) in isolated places in norther parts of the state the next day.

It also advised fishermen not to venture into sea whose condition will be rough to very rough from Tuesday morning while the wind speed is expected to up further touching 110 kmph. Storm surge of height of about 1.0 meter is very likely to inundate low lying areas of Nagappattinam, Thanjavur, Pudukkottai and Ramanathapuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Karaikal district of Puducherry at the time of landfall. The IMD also warned of major damage to thatched huts and houses. “Roof tops may blow off …damage to power and communication lines,” it said adding standing crops could also be hit and cautioned sea water intrusion in low lying areas.

Citing the IMD forecast of heavy rains, the Central Water Commission issued an advisory to Tamil Nadu and Kerala authorities to maintain strict vigil at various dams which come under the “cyclone field” and are already 80 per cent to 91 per cent full. Puducherry Revenue and Industries Minister M O H F Shah Jahan said the union territory has been put on high alert. Services of NDRF personnel will be requisitioned if warranted, he said after a review meeing with top officials. Banners, billboards should be removed considering safety, he said. The Minister appealed to people to not trust fake information on social media.

Modi government trampling on RBI’s institutional integrity, alleges Congress

New Delhi: The Congress on Monday accused the Modi government of “trampling” on the RBI’s institutional integrity and alleged that it was seeking around Rs 3.6 lakh crore from the central bank to distribute electoral sops ahead of the general elections.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said RBI reserves, from which the government is seeking money for its use, are the country’s wealth and alleged that the Modi government wants to distribute it to its “crony friends”. “Spinning lies, weaving false narrative and knitting sugar-coated alibis is a nefarious ploy of the Modi government to trample on the institutional integrity of the RBI. The RBI reserves are the nation’s social wealth and the Modi government wants to distribute it to its crony friends,” he alleged.

Singhvi said that the Modi government’s “sinister overtures to pounce on the RBI treasury is demonetisation part-II”. “‘Modi-made disaster of demonetisation’ shaved off 1.5 pc of India’s GDP and severely denigrated the institutional autonomy of the RBI, now PM Modi plans demonetisation part -2 that will again shave off 2 pc of India’s GDP in one shot,” he claimed. Singhvi said according to public information, the Modi government is coercing the RBI to pay a special dividend of Rs 3.6 lakh crore, equal to nearly 40 per cent of the reserves accumulated over decades, which is two per cent of India’s GDP.

“Staring at an imminent defeat in five states and the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, a desperate Modi government wants to grab the family silver of the RBI in order to indulge in pre- elections sop-splash,” he alleged. “A cobweb of fraudulent narrative, which smacks of despotism and complete disregard for institutional integrity towards the RBI, is being carefully weaved by the Modi government, so that it snatches away the family silver in an election season to hide its mal-governance and failures,” he alleged.

Singhvi alleged that the funds of the RBI will be used by the Modi government to recapitalize public sector banks, failing PSUs, “thereby benefitting crony friends in an election season”. “What is the meaning of “fix appropriate economic capital framework of RBI” which is being discussed by the government? What is the need of this quick-fix solution, which will further deteriorate the contingency stability? How does the government seek to battle plummeting market confidence which will be a result of using the RBI reserves?” he asked.

Singhvi claimed the Modi government earned a windfall gain of Rs 12 lakh crore in the past four years through heavy taxation on petrol and diesel. “Why does it not use that Rs 12 lakh crore to fund its ‘electoral lollipops’? Wouldn’t this money be used to recapitalize the PSUs and banks which will only benefit large crony friends of PM Modi?” he asked.