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LIVE! Cong's 'Jan Vedna' meet in Delhi today, will Rahul take over as prez?

11:26  Obama’s misses, and their consequences, will be with us for a long time. Read

11:24  Little evidence demonetisation succeeded in combating corruption: NYT:  The atrociously planned and executed currency ban and a subsequent cash crunch has made life increasingly difficult for Indians, the New York Times has said in its latest hard-hitting editorial criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modis move to check black money and corruption. The daily said in an editorial on Monday that there was little evidence that it had identified black money hoarders or curbed graft in the country.

Two months after the Indian government abruptly decided to swap the most widely used currency notes for new bills, the economy is suffering, the Times said. The manufacturing sector is contracting; real estate and car sales are down; and farm workers, shopkeepers and other Indians report that a shortage of cash has made life increasingly difficult, it said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on November 8 that the high value currency that made up 86 per cent of all currency in circulation could no longer be used in most transactions and would be replaced by new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes. Modi said this was necessary to combat corruption, black money and terror funding.

But the swap was atrociously planned and executed. Indians had to line up for hours outside banks to deposit and withdraw cash, the daily observed. New notes have been in short supply because the government did not print enough of them in advance. The cash crunch has been worst in small towns and rural areas. The amount of cash in circulation fell by nearly half, from 17.7 trillion rupees ($260 billion) on November 4 to 9.2 trillion ($135 billion) on December 23, the Times said citing the Reserve Bank of India.

No economy can lose that much currency in a few weeks without creating major hardship certainly not one like that of India, where cash is used for about 98 per cent of consumer transactions by volume. And while a growing number of people have debit cards and cellphones that can be used to transfer money, most merchants are not set up to accept such electronic payments, the Times said.


11:16  Jawan’s family rubbishes BSF’s claims he is mentally unstable:   Imposing faith on Border Security Force (BSF) jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav’s claims, which was to expose corruption in the higher order, his family, on Wednesday, reiterated his charges and said what he showed was the truth.

Tej Bahadur’s wife Sharmila rubbished BSF’s claims, which termed him mentally unstable, and questioned why was he sent to the border, if he was mentally unfit.

“What my husband did is right and for the welfare of the soldiers. It is not wrong to demand for food. He has only shown the truth, but these people are saying his mental health is not well. If he was mentally unstable, why was he sent to the border?” she said.

Sharmila also urged the government to investigate the matter and ensure justice to her husband and family.

Rohit, son of Tej Bahadur, also supported his father’s demand for good food and expressed his inclination towards investigation of the matter.

“We have been unable to contact him since last evening. We last spoke to him yesterday evening. We don’t know where has he been kept and in what circumstances. He just demanded for good food, which is not wrong. We want to know what is happening with him and if he is fine. I want this matter to be investigated and wish he gets justice,” he said.

In a video that went viral on Monday, BSF jawan Tej Badur of the 29 battalion Seema Suraksha Bal was seen exposing the rot in the system by revealing the deeply ingrained corruption in the higher order, saying that the troops there were not even getting basic three square meals.

Speaking from an undisclosed location, Yadav could be seen saying that the soldiers stand for 11 straight hours every day, regardless the weather or temperature, but they are treated in the worst possible way one can imagine.

“Neither the media, nor any minister tries to take a note on how are we going through this (harsh weather). Our conditions are still worst. (humare halat wahi darbartar hain). After this, I will send three videos that will show how our officials are mistreating us. We do not want to blame any government, because they give everything we need, but our senior officials sell everything (for their own profit),” the jawans can be seen saying.

However, refuting the allegations labelled by soldier Tej Bahadur, the BSF on Tuesday accused the latter of indulging in indiscipline act and added that it is a sensitive matter for the forces.

Image: BSF jawan Tej Bahadur’s wife Sharmila


10:59  NE-YO @NeYoCompound tweets this sketch as Barack Obama signs off after eight years of presidency.


10:55  Mystery over Om Puri’s death continues, police yet to obtain his mobile phone:  Mystery over what happened in wee hours of Friday when actor Om Puri passed away at his Versova flat remains a mystery. On one hand, police is awaiting forensic and histopathology report to find the exact cause of death and recording statement of people close to Puri. But mobile phone which remains a critical part of any investigation is not with Oshiwara police. Read more

10:42  US Secretary of State Designate Rex Tillerson Senate Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement. Read
10:39  Why do we treat our soldiers like this?:  “We owe our existence to the men in uniform, and we owe it to them to cleanse the armed forces by driving away every bit of corruption that eats into it,” argues Sudhir Bisht. Read the column here.

10:37  Cong’s ‘Jan Vedna’ meet in Delhi today, will Rahul take over as prez? :   To reflect on the sufferings of the people in the wake of demonetisation, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi will preside over a convention — Jan Vedna Sammelan — in the capital on Wednesday, a party leader said on Tuesday.

“The convention will highlight the pains and sufferings of the people due to the note ban policy of the Modi government. The party will also highlight the anti-people policies of the government,” said Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil.

The convention will be held from 10 am to 4 pm at Talkatora Stadium in Delhi.

Earlier, Rahul has presided over the party’s foundation day function in December and also chaired a meeting of the party’s Working Committee in the absence of Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

This is also likely to pave the way for Rahul to take over as the President of the party at the earliest, according to party sources. Asked whether Sonia will be present at the convention, Gohil said that Rahul led the agitation against demonetisation, so he would preside over it.

“We have got a leadership in Rahul, who is not mad for power. We have a system. Tomorrow’s (Wednesday) Jan Vedna Sammelan has been called to raise the issues of the people,’ he added.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, members of the Congress Working Committee, senior party leaders and state leaders will be present at the convention.

“There will be discussions. Every member will express views and share ideas. The party will also pay respect to all those who lost their lives due to demonetisation,’ the party spokesperson said.A resolution would be passed on late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s birth centenary (which will take place this year), said Gohil.”The Congress will also decide its future course of action with regard to demonetisation and other issues,’ he said.


10:28  BSF Jawan Tej Bahadur Is Right, Media Betrayed Him:  The media is certainly questioning the government after BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav’s video went viral. But Tej Bahadur has also questioned the media. He has asked us for answers too. His statement – that no one in the media shows the condition that jawans are in – pierces the conscience like an arrow. Because the media has let down jawans like Tej Bahadur and betrayed their trust. The army, paramilitary forces,  the police coerce recruits into remaining mute. Who will give them a voice?

The media often returns after speaking only with officers. During parades, cameras show close-ups of the shoes of jawans during the march-past. Their shoes are shown in sync with a lot of pride, which is genuine and immense, but I wish the cameras would also focus on their stomachs, which, separately from the rigorous physical training they undergo, have shrunk due to hunger.

Read Ravish Kumar’s column here.


10:20  The slightly wistful press pass to Obama’s Farewell Address.  

10:17  NY Times journalist Jodi Kantor @jodikantor: I’m yards away from President Obama, and I can tell you, the loudest cheers of the night were for ending discrimination against Muslims.


09:56  Four high-profile cases will be heard by Supreme Court today:  The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear four high-profile cases today.

One is the plea filed by Taj Mansingh Hotel regarding its renewal on Wednesday. 

The apex court had, on November 21, ordered that the status quo with regard to the Taj Mansingh Hotel be maintained and issued a notice to the New Delhi Municipal Council to reply to plea against the auction of hotel. 

The Delhi high court had earlier dismissed the Tata group’s appeal for retaining management rights over Taj Mansingh Hotel, and told the conglomerate that it will have to participate in the auction process.  

The Supreme Court will also hear the plea filed by the SBI-led consortium of banks against liquor baron Vijay Mallya for recovery of more than Rs 9,000 crore from him. 

The consortium of banks had approached the apex court seeking its intervention in bringing back Mallya to India and also repayment of money which the beleaguered businessman, who has absconded to England, had taken. 

The banks, in their plea, told the apex court that there was an outstanding loan of almost Rs. 9,000 crores against the businessman.  

Another case before the Supreme Court today is the bail plea filed by self-styled godman Asaram Bapu accused in two rape cases. 

On November the apex court 21 refused to give him relief in connection with two rape cases registered against him. 

Asaram had earlier knocked the doors of the apex court seeking bail on health grounds. 

In 2013, a minor girl had alleged that Asaram had sexually assaulted her at his ashram in Jodhpur.  

The Gujarat Government had earlier told the top court division bench that the rape case registered against Asaram would very likely proceed in an expeditious manner, adding that the trial would be completed within six months so the bail should not be granted to him in the case.  

Finally, there is the plea filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma seeking not to provide any tax relief to political parties.  

The petitioner has sought the quashing of the 13(a) of the Income Tax Act which confers tax exemption to the political parties for income from house property, income by way of voluntary contributions, income from capital gains and other sources.


09:48  Sensex breaches 27K, Nifty reclaims 8300 mark in opening trade:  BSE Sensex surged over 151 points to breach the 27,000-level and Nifty hit the crucial 8,300-mark in opening trade today following widespread gains as investors widened their bets amid a firming trend in Asian markets. 

However, caution prevailed ahead of macroeconomic data and quarterly earnings from blue-chip companies.

The 30-share index, which gained 173.01 points in the previous session, added 151.01 points, or 0.56 per cent, to 27,050.57 with all the sectoral indices led by metal, capital goods and bank leading the gains.

The NSE Nifty reclaimed the 8,300-mark by climbing 45.15 points, or 0.54 per cent, at 8,333.75. 

Brokers said a flurry of buying by retail investors and domestic institutional investors amid a firming trend at other Asian markets with commodities-linked shares leading gains boosted by China’s strong inflation reading mainly influenced the sentiment.

Among other Asian markets, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was trading higher by 0.74 per cent, while Nikkei surged by 0.36 per cent in early trade. Shanghai’s Composite index, however, was marginally down. The US Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 0.16 per cent down in yesterday’s trade.


09:45  Akhilesh shuns Mulayam offer, won’t give up SP president post:  

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav would not step down as the Samajwadi Party president, at least not till the election was over, sources said, dealing another blow to hopes of reconciliation in the faction-riddled party.

Akhilesh conveyed the decision to his father and party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, during a meeting on Tuesday morning, nine days after he staged a coup to take control of the party from his father.

Mulayam had extended an olive branch to his son on Monday night when he told media that Akhilesh would be the party’s chief ministerial candidate.

It was a climb down from his earlier statement when he told media the party would go into polls without a CM candidate, a public snub to Akhilesh.

According to sources, he also turned down Mulayam’s offer that both the factions withdraw applications submitted to the election commission, staking claim to the party symbol a bicycle.

Mulayam, said sources, was ready to give Akhilesh a free hand in deciding poll candidates, a big reason for chief minister’s running feud with his uncle Shivpal Yadav that is tearing the party apart.

While Mulayam agreed to keep Shivpal, his younger brother, and Amar Singh out of the election, he was firm on not accepting the Akhilesh faction’s decision to throw Singh out of the party.


09:20  ‘Where’s Sasha’: Internet asks as she is missing at Obama’s final address:  US President Obama gave his farewell address in Chicago, and he made sure to give a loving shout out to his family. First lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia were both there to support the POTUS with his goodbye, but Sasha was noticeably absent. 

Where was Sasha Obama at the farewell address? Many have taken to social media looking for the answer — so many, in fact, that a #whereissasha hashtag started trending.

Some users pointed out that Obama’s speech began at 9 pm Eastern on a Tuesday night, meaning Sasha would presumably have school in the morning. 

08:32  ‘Yes we can, yes we did’: Obama bids adieu:  

My fellow Americans, it has been the honour of my life to serve you. I wont stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.

Obama calls on citizens to have faith in the country.

I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change but in yours, he says.

“I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written

Yes We Can. 

Yes We Did.

Yes We Can.

Obama thanks the crowd and is greeted by his family and the Bidens.


08:26  Barack gets personal — Thanks Michelle, ‘his best friend’, his daughters, and Biden:  Obama is getting onto the personal thank yous. He simply says the word ‘Michelle’, and the crowd erupts and gives the first lady a standing ovation. 

Paying tribute to his wife, Michelle, he says, “For the past twenty-five years, youve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend. You took on a role you didnt ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humour.”

Aww.. This is why we love ‘Barry’. There’s not a dry eye in the house and we can’t help but get misty-eyed ourselves. 

He turns to his daughters (Malia is in the audience) and says, “You have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion. You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that Ive done in my life, Im most proud to be your dad.”

And then Obama pays tribute to his VP Joe Biden.

The scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delawares favourite son: you were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best. 

“Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother.”


08:18  ‘Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted’:  

In what he calls his final point”, Obama speaks about the precarious nature of democracy.

All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions, says Obama.

Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But its really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power with our participation, and the choices we make.

Speaking of being an active citizen, he says, “If you’re tired of arguing with people on the internet, try talking to them in real life.” If something needs fixing, he says, do something about it. If you’re disappointed in elected officials, try and run for office yourself.”

08:11  It’s interesting to hear Obama specifically calling Russia a rival.

This comes as Senate hearings continue into Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Convention e-mails during the election campaign.

During his speech, he says, “Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbours.” 

Hmmn, is Putin hearing?


08:01  Race remains a potent and divisive force in our society: Obama’s farewell speech:  

Obama, the United States’ first black president discusses race and immigration. 

“Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. Ive lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago you can see it not just in statistics, you see it in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum, he says.

“If we’re going to be serious, we need to uphold laws against discrimination…But hearts must change…”

The US president quoting Atticus Finch, a character from the book How to Kill a Mockingbird, says minorities must also pay attention to the needs of the privileged white guy, while the complaints of minorities must also be listened to. 

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of viewuntil you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

He reminds people the Irish and Italians faced the same problems in the past. “But they embraced this nation’s creed and this nation was strengthened….We all have to try harder.”

Image: Obama along with his family marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma, Alabama to mark the 50th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’.

07:52  ‘For all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough’:  

America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started, says Obama, listing the achievements of his administration, including gay marriage, the Iran deal and killing Osama bin Laden.

Obama calls on the country for unity, speaking about the power of democracy and unity.

On Trump, he says he promised a smooth transition. “It’s up to all of us… our potential will only be realised if our democracy works. If our politics reflects the decency of our people. Only if all of us restore the sense of common purpose, that we badly need right now.”

He is calling for solidarity as America moves forward, before ticking off more achievements under his time in office. “We need economic opportunity” and he notes that poverty is falling again.  Unemployment rate is near a 10-year low.

“For all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough.”


07:48  Tonight it’s my turn to say thanks: Obama’s final speech:  

US President Barack Obama is addressing his farewell speech in Chicago as he closes the book on his presidency. Chicago is his adoptive hometown, where he is addressing a sold-out crowd, not far from where he accepted presidency eight years ago.

“Hello Chicago,” he begins. “It’s good to be home.”

“My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes that we’ve received over the last few weeks. Tonight it’s my turn to say thanks, whether we’ve seen eye to eye or rarely agreed at all,” says Obama.

He speaks about the importance of conversations with every day Americans.

“They’ve kept me honest, they’ve kept me inspired, they kept me going. Every day I’ve learn from you. You made a better president. You made a better man,” said Obama.

The crowd stops the speech with chants of “four more years”.

“I can’t do that!” says Obama.


00:28  Manish Tewari to join US think-tank as distinguished fellow:  Senior Congress leader and former Union minister of state for information and broadcasting Manish Tewari will join a top United States think-tank as a distinguished fellow.

“We are delighted to welcome Manish Tewari to our team. We are eager to draw on his expertise from his years of service to the government of India, and he will be an invaluable addition to the South Asia Center team as we look to deepen our programming on India and the subcontinent,” said Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council.

A counsel practicing in Supreme Court, Tewari previously served as a member of Parliament from Ludhiana and is currently the national spokesperson of the Indian National Congress.

At the Councils South Asia Centre, Tewari will focus on programming aimed at strengthening US-India relations.

South Asia is a region with complex traditional and human security challenges that is home to almost two billion people, Tewari said.

‘As the new administration takes shape, I look forward to working with the Councils South Asia Center to develop programming on how the new administration can best engage with the region to strengthen key relationships,’ Tewari said in a statement.

Based in Washington DC, Atlantic Council has ten regional and thematic centers.

Source: Rediff