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LIVE! Rebel AIADMK MP Sasikala Pushpa's lawyer attacked by cadres

14:43  Rebel AIADMK MP Sasikala Pushpa’s lawyer attacked by cadres:  Ruckus ensued outside AIADMK’s office in Chennai on Wednesday after rebel MP Sasikala Pushpa’s lawyer was attacked by party cadres at a meeting called to decide the successor for late former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa. The ruckus turned violent after which the police had to use force to disperse the mob.

The expelled Rajya Sabha MP had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court asking for judicial inquiry into Jayalalithaa’s death. She has also hit out at Sasikala Natarajan, Jayalalithaa’s closest aide. This comes within days of it becoming clear that Natarajan will take over the reins of the AIADMK.


14:29  Watership Down’s Richard Adams dies :  For each of us who loved Hazel and Fiver and the world they allowed us a peek into.,, Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down, has died aged 96.

A statement on the book’s official website said: “Richard’s much-loved family announce with sadness that their dear father, grandfather, and great-grandfather passed away peacefully at 10pm on Christmas Eve.’The novel, first published in 1972, became one of the bestselling children’s books of all time, selling tens of millions of copies.

Adams did not begin writing until 1966, when he was 46 and working for the civil service. While on a car trip with his daughters, he began telling them a story about a group of young rabbits escaping from their doomed warren.


14:21  HDFC Bank uses chatbots to foray into commerce on social media:  Next time you are on Facebook and you realise you need to recharge your phone instead of opening a separate page for it, you can chat with an HDFC Bank bot and complete your transaction.

The bank explains that this is their foray into the space with the help of social media; these chatbots (the term for a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet) can help you with transactions such as recharge, bill payment, booking a cab, etc.

“This will open conversational commerce and also help us in personalising a digital experience which otherwise is fairly impersonal. We did our research where we realised that not even the younger generation but even the older population is more comfortable with chatting instead of calling. Therefore, we thought chatbots would be important,’ said Nitin Chugh, head, digital banking, HDFC Bank.

Nupur Anand/Business Standard


14:12  Now, firms can pay employees through prepaid cards:  To facilitate greater adoption of digital payments, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday allowed banks to issue prepaid instruments to any institution that can be given to their employees.

Earlier, this facility was available only for listed companies. The central bank modified a clause in its circular for prepaid instruments, allowing employers such as “unlisted corporates, partnership firms, sole proprietorship, public organisations like municipal corporations, urban local bodies, etc, to issue prepaid instruments for their employees.

However, the institutions receiving the prepaid instruments should have accounts with the issuing banks and should not avail such instruments from any other bank, RBI said. The employer would be responsible for the verification of the identity of the employees, contract workers, etc.

Anup Roy/Business Standard

14:08  RBI’s new deputy governor’s qualifications impressive :  So, who’s Viral V Acharya, RBI’s new deputy governor?

Acharya is a professor of Economics in the Department of Finance at the New York University. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet cleared the appointment for three years. He is taking over at a time when the central bank is facing criticism for repeated changes in the rules related to deposit and withdrawal of money, post-demonetisation.

Acharya is known for his research in theoretical and empirical analysis of systemic risks of the financial sector, its regulation and genesis in government-induced distortions, according to the profile on the NYU website.

The research areas also span across credit and liquidity risks, agency-theoretic foundations as well as their general equilibrium consequences, it says.

Acharya is is the C V Starr Professor of Economics in the Department of Finance at the New York University Stern School of Business (NYU-Stern). An alumnus of IIT, Mumbai, with a degree of Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science and Engineering in 1995 and PhD in Finance from NYU-Stern in 2001, Acharya was with London Business School (2001-08) and served as the Academic Director of the Coller Institute of Private Equity at LBS (2007-09) and a Senior Houblon-Normal Research Fellow at the Bank of England (Summer 2008).

13:52  We should accept ‘reasonably good’ OROP scheme: Air Chief:   Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, on Wednesday asserted that One Rank, One Pension (OROP) scheme of the government is reasonably good and said that one should accept it.

“The OROP by the government is reasonably good. We should accept it. The anomalies are being resolved by one-judge committee. Some of the anomalies and the discrepancies which cropped up from the transition from the sixth to seventh pay commission have been resolved… others will also be resolved,” he added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday accused the Congress Party of betraying the jawans by not fulfilling the long-pending OROP demand in the last 40 years.

Addressing a parivartan rally in Dehradun, Prime Minister Modi said, “My Army jawans were demanding OROP for the last 40 years, the party that ruled the country then never thought of their demands.”

“In reality, the budget for OROP is over Rs. 10,000 crore. Why did they (Congress) betray the Jawans by allocating 500 crore for this,” he added.

He said the Centre was always clear that from day one that the Jawans must get their due and therefore, his government always stated that OROP will be a reality.

13:28  Afghan MP Fakuri Behishti wounded and bodyguard killed in an IED blast in Kabul city: TOLO News


13:25  IAF better prepared after Pathankot attack: Air Chief :  Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, on Wednesday said the Pathankot terror attack earlier in January this year was the first setback, adding that they are now better prepared having learnt lessons from the same.

“Pathankot was the first setback. We have learnt lessons and are better prepared now. The second setback was the missing of the AN-32. Even after efforts, we could not trace the aircraft. We are helping their families. It is one of the worst memories in my career. AN-32s don’t have Underwater Locater Beacons. We have taken up the case with the government,” the Air Chief said.

The Air Chief said on operational preparedness, they are dwindling with the fighters.

“We paid attention to latest acquisitions and upgrades of the aircraft we have. On Rafael, we have invited LCA. Three are flying and we will accept 123 in next 10 years. The second squadron of C130 will come soon. It will be based at the Arjangadh base. Large numbers of radars which are indigenous have been inducted. The Air Force is well on its way to have network centric capabilities. We have done reasonably well in looking after the sub-conventional threat like terrorism and other conventional threat,” he added.

He asserted that the revenue cases languishing since long have been signed due the proactiveness of the government and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

“The average flying we did was more than the average flying of last 10 years. We have flown in the fighter fleet 40,000 hrs, more than last 10 years due to better serviceability. We have done an average night flying of 27 percent which was less earlier. There has been a large improvement in the professional capabilities. We have been involved deeply in the operations against Naxalism, logistics support, flying by night,” he added.

The Air Chief also said that they have upgraded the Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in northeast.

“The government has given approval of 27 flights of Garuns, with each having 45 Grains. 23 more Garun Flights will be raised later. (Garun is the special force under the Indian Air Force). We have been able to sign various cases in the last two and a half years including Rafale which will be in India. It will be operational within next three years to five and a half years,” he added.


13:16  Now, a Rs 5,000 fine, 4-yr jail term for possessing old notes:   The Centre has approved an ordinance that imposes penalties for possessing old notes beyond a certain limit and indulging in transactions with junked notes of Rs 500 and 1,000.

According to the ordinance anyone possessing old notes — Rs 500 and Rs 1000 — after March 31, 2017 will have to face four-year jail term and those involved in transactions have to pay a penalty of Rs 5000.

There will be a criminal liability and a municipal magistrate will hear cases involving violation and decide on penalty.

The draft ordinance includes recommendations of the central board of directors of the Reserve Bank. After December 30, banned notes have to be directly deposited in the Reserve Bank of India or RBI and a grace period will be specified later.

12:25  JUST IN: Government appoints Viral Acharya as RBI deputy governor

12:08  After 3-month ban, Kashmir newspaper back on the stands:  Local English daily Kashmir Reader hit the stands today after it was banned by the Jammu and Kashmir government for nearly three months on the charges that its publication was a threat to peace in the valley.

The newspaper started its publication and distribution for the first time after it was banned through an order passed by District Magistrate, Srinagar on October 2.

The District Magistrate’s order had alleged that the publication of Kashmir Reader posed a threat to peace in the valley which had been going through a period of turmoil since July following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

The revocation of the ban on the newspaper is seen as the first success for the newly-formed Kashmir Editors’ Guild, a body of all major dailies and weeklies published from the Valley.


11:57  Lift restrictions on withdrawal of money… Rahul’s demands on demonetisation:   Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi lists out demands for PM Modi as the 50-day period of demonetisation nears. Addressing a meet on Congress foundation day, Rahul Gandhi said the party will stand with people and defeat the ideology of Narendra Modi and RSS that spreads “anger” and “hate”.
His demands include…

— He said the government should come out with a list of those who deposited
more than Rs 25 lakh in their accounts before demonetisation.

— All restrictions on withdrawal of money should be lifted

— A sum of Rs 25,000 should be deposited in the account of every woman of a BPL family that has suffered post demonetisation.

— Rahul demands doubling of MNREGA wages and Income Tax and
Sales Tax rebate for small businessmen and shopkeepers.

— PM should compensate people who died during note ban.


11:56  ED arrests Kotak Bank manager in Delhi:   The ED has arrested the manager of a Kotak Bank branch here in connection with its money laundering probe in a case of detection of nine alleged fake accounts with deposits worth Rs 34 crore post demonetisation. Officials said the agency arrested the Manager of the bank’s branch in the K G Marg area here, identified as Ashish Kumar, late last night after questioning.

“The Manager has been arrested under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and will be produced before the court for further custody,” they said. The bank in its statement said it has already “suspended the services” of Kumar. “With reference to the ongoing investigation of the said accounts, Kotak Mahindra Bank had proactively informed Financial Intelligence Unit and the bank has already suspended the services of its employee Ashish Kumar. “The bank has zero tolerance towards employees not adhering to its Code of Conduct, and takes strict measures against them,” Kotak Mahindra spokesperson Rohit Rao said.


11:43  Demonetization as despotism :  A distinguished Ugandan social scientist of Indian origin,whom I happened to meet earlier this month at an academic conference, told me that Narendra Modi’s demonetization reminded him of the fiat in 1972 of the Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, that all Asians should quit Uganda within a period of three months. His analogy, of course, would be considered inapposite for an obvious reason: expelling people from their places of domicile, as Amin did, is certainly a more inhumane act than snatching away people’s purchasing power as has happened in India; and this remains true, even when the victims in the former case are relatively more affluent compared to those in the latter case, and number only a few thousand, compared to crores in the latter case. But his analogy is apt in another sense: both fiats are instances of extreme unreason. Read more


11:25  Drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra, Fisher wanted her obit to read :  “Star Wars” icon Carrie Fisher was known for her wit and even after her tragic demise the actress has managed to bring a smile on her fan’s face as they mourn her loss.

In 2008’s “Wishful Drinking,” one of the three memoirs she wrote, there was a sort of auto-obituary, reported Deadline. In the piece, she wrote about her “Star Wars” director’s reasoning for her Princess Leia wearing that flowing white dress, and not much else, in the movie.

“George (Lucas) comes up to me the first day of filming, and he takes one look at the dress and says, ‘You can’t wear a bra under that dress…because there is no underwear in space.'”

She said Lucas eventually explained the full reasoning, which she revealed, writing, “What happens is you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn’t. So you get strangled by your own bra.”

“Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit, so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra,” Fisher wrote.

However, it was not the only time she discussed death, using humour, in an interview with Rolling Stone just last month, she was asked if she fears death. “No. I fear dying. Anything with pain associated with it, I don’t like. I’ve been there for a couple of people when they were dying; it didn’t look like fun. But if I was gonna do it, I’d want someone like me around. And I will be there!” she had said. Fisher passed away on Tuesday after she suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles.


10:58  28 December 1885: First Session of the Indian National Congress, Bombay.The picture was tweeted by @indianhistorypics


10:48  PM’s yagna against black money sacrificed common man: Rahul :  Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi today once again lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for causing inconvenience to people through the demonetisation scheme.

“On December 8, the Prime Minister said he is performing a yagna against corruption and black money. In this yagna, common man was sacrificed,” Rahul Gandhi said. Gandhi said the yagna was performed to benefit the 1 per cent super-rich population of the country.  

Addressing party workers at the Congress’ foundation day in New Delhi, Gandhi asked them to work “without fear”.

He said his party values “difference in opinion” and has a history of “ideology and agitation”. “What is the Congress?. It means listening to you and understanding others. It made us understand the meaning of freedom,” the Congress leader said.

Addressing party workers at the Congress’ foundation day in New Delhi, Gandhi asked them to work “without fear”. He said his party values “difference in opinion” and has a history of “ideology and agitation”. “What is the Congress?. It means listening to you and understanding others. It made us understand the meaning of freedom,” the Congress leader said.


10:39  Zardari, Bilawal confirm plans to contest elections :  The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leadership has announced that Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would contest the election and take part in parliamentary politics together.Addressing a large number of party workers who had gathered to mark the ninth death anniversary of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari said that he would contest elections from his sister’s constituency in Nawabshah, whereas his son Bilawal would contest from his constituency in Larkana.

“We have rendered so much sacrifices for democracy. We will not spare this Mughal emperor [Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif],” he said.”We have fought the country’s dictators but never raised a voice against the army. I am not coming to parliament to topple your government. My intention is to teach the government a few lessons and to talk to the prime minister on national issues,” the Daily Times quoted Zardari, as saying.

He also called for the Supreme Court decision on Panamagate be brought to the floor of parliament and be vetted by all political parties.

Bilawal Bhutto urged PPP supporters to get ready for a possible long march against the Nawaz Sharif government


09:58  BJP MP blames Kambli’s Dalit background for exclusion from cricket :  BJP MP from Delhi and a prominent Dalit face Udit Raj has triggered a controversy by saying former cricketer Vinod Kambli’s Dalit background was the reason for his not-so-illustrious career.

Raj tweeted, “Vinod Kambli you should not be shy of accepting that you are a Dalit and that was the reason of your exclusion from cricket”.

Kambli, who has always called a spade a spade, hit back, saying his caste had nothing to do with his career. Kambli tweeted, “Mr Raj i don’t support any of your statements. Hence i request you to refrain from using my name !!!”

Twitter, of course, took potshots at the MP with people advising him to undergo mental treatment. Some people even tagged the Prime Minister’s office to complain about the provocative comment. Another Twitter user raised the issue with the BCCI and PM Modi.

The BJP MP has sought reservation in cricket for dalits, a demand that the BCCI rubbished. Raj had alleged that there is discrimination in the selection process in BCCI. 


09:44  Personally monitoring situation: Prabhu on train derailment:   Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today said he is personally monitoring the situation following the derailment of the Ajmer-Sealdah Express in Kanpur.

“We are making alternate arrangements for passengers to continue with their onward journey,” he said in a series of tweets. The railway minister said all assistance is being provided to those injured.

“Personally monitoring the situation in wake of unfortunate derailment of Sealdah-Ajmer Express near Kanpur,” Prabhu tweeted. The Railway minister said ex-gratia will be paid to the injured passengers. All passengers are being provided with necessary assistance to ensure least inconvenience, “doing our best”, Prabhu said.

Two persons were killed and 26 others injured when 15 coaches of the Ajmer-Sealdah Express derailed this morning near Rura railway station in Kanpur rural district.


09:21  Let cash curbs stay till new notes come in, banks tell govt:  

Banks have asked the government to extend the curbs on cash withdrawals beyond December 30 until an adequate quantity of new currency is injected, according to bankers and officials in the Finance Ministry. Lifting the curbs immediately after this week could disrupt branch operations as a large number of people could turn up to withdraw cash, bankers have told the finance ministry.

The government had informally sought feedback from top bankers on currency withdrawal and plans to lift cash curbs after December 30, said sources. 

At present, individuals can withdraw Rs 2,500 a day from ATMs and Rs 24,000 a week from their bank accounts. The government is expected to announce its decision on withdrawal curbs Friday.

These restrictions should go only when there is a sufficient amount of bank notes in the system. Until and unless that happens, they (the government) cannot take away the restrictions. The moment they do this, everybody will want to go and draw out a lot. That will become a problem, said a senior executive of the State Bank of India.

09:09  JUST IN: ED arrests Kotak Mahindra bank Delhi branch manager in Rohit Tandon case

08:57  Agni V missile test-firing: India says not targeted against any one country:  

After India test-fired Agni V missile, the ministry of external affairs said its strategic capabilities were not targeted against any particular country as it abides by all applicable international obligations and expects others do the same. The comments came in a response to Chinese reaction to the development.

Indias strategic capabilities are not targeted against any particular country. India abides by all the applicable international obligations and hopes that all other do the same. Indias strategic autonomy and growing engagement contributes to strategic stability, said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

Earlier, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had hoped that Indias test-firing of the nuclear-capable Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile that could cover all of China complied with UN Security Council rules and safeguarded South Asias strategic balance.

Though China maintained that the two nations are not rivals for competition but partners for cooperation, it took exception to media reports that Indias missile was meant to target its land.


08:31  90 per cent of scrapped notes back in system:  

Of the Rs 15.4 lakh crore worth of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that were scrapped as a resulted of PM Narendra Modi’s November 8 declaration, as much as Rs 14 lakh crore has been deposited in banks.

The value of scrapped currency exceeded the government’s expectation that as much as Rs 3 lakh crore will not be returned as this would be part of black money hoards.

This also means that expectation that RBI will be able to give a substantial dividend to the government will be belied. 

While the value of deposits indicates that ways were found to deposit unaccounted money, the government expects to gain tax revenues from large deposits above the prescribed Rs 2.5 lakh per individual limit.


07:50  14 coaches of Ajmer-Sealdah Express derail near Kanpur, 40 injured:  Fourteen coaches of the Ajmer-Sealdah Express derailed near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh this morning. Around 40 people have been injured. 

This is the second train accident in Kanpur within months. In November, Indore-Patna  Express had derailed at Pukhrayan in Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh, killing 120 people and injuring 180 others.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu shortly after the tragedy said, “Immediate medical help being provided to the injured. Mobilised resources,directed all concerned to ensure rescue and relief. Have directed senior officials to reach the site immediately.”


00:35  Carrie Fisher didn’t take fame too seriously:  

Carrie Fisher, the actress, author and screenwriter who brought a rare combination of nerve, grit and hopefulness to her most indelible role, as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movie franchise, died on Tuesday morning. She was 60.

Fisher, the daughter of the pop singer Eddie Fisher and the actress Debbie Reynolds, went on to use her perch among Hollywood royalty to offer wry commentary in her books on the paradoxes and absurdities of the entertainment industry.

Star Wars, released in 1977, turned her overnight into an international movie star. 

The film, written and directed by George Lucas, traveled around the world, breaking box-office records. It proved to be the first installment of a blockbuster series whose vivid, even preposterous characters — living “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” as the opening sequence announced — became pop culture legends and the progenitors of a merchandising bonanza.

Fisher established Princess Leia as a damsel who could very much deal with her own distress, whether facing down the villainy of the dreaded Darth Vader or the romantic interests of the roguish smuggler Han Solo.


00:31  Lt Gen Bakshi’s leave fuels speculation about early retirement:  

Speculation about Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, who has been superseded by Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the next Army Chief, taking premature retirement has heightened after he proceeded on leave.

Army sources, however, said Lt Gen Bakshi is on a pre-scheduled three-day leave and is expected to resume duties on December 30, a day before Lt Gen Rawat takes over as the new Army chief.

There has been speculation that Lt Gen Bakshi may take premature retirement. 

He had recently met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, fueling speculation about his possible resignation. 

Lt Gen Rawat’s appointment as the new Army Chief superseding seniors Lt Gen Bakshi and Southern Army commander Lt Gen P M Hariz had also sparked a fierce political row between a section of the Opposition and the government. 


00:31  Lt Gen Bakshi’s leave fuels speculation about early retirement:  

Speculation about Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, who has been superseded by Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the next Army Chief, taking premature retirement has heightened after he proceeded on leave.

Army sources, however, said Lt Gen Bakshi is on a pre-scheduled three-day leave and is expected to resume duties on December 30, a day before Lt Gen Rawat takes over as the new Army chief.

There has been speculation that Lt Gen Bakshi may take premature retirement. 

He had recently met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, fueling speculation about his possible resignation. 

Lt Gen Rawat’s appointment as the new Army Chief superseding seniors Lt Gen Bakshi and Southern Army commander Lt Gen P M Hariz had also sparked a fierce political row between a section of the Opposition and the government. 


00:28  NY attorney general’s office: Trump can’t shut down foundation until probe ends:  

Donald Trump cannot move ahead with his plan to dismantle his charitable foundation because state prosecutors are probing whether the president-elect personally benefited from its spending, the New York attorney general’s office said Tuesday.

“The Trump foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete,” said Amy Spitalnick, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The statement came after Trump announced that he wanted to dissolve the Donald J Trump Foundation, part of what his presidential transition team says is an effort to erase any potential conflicts of interest before he takes office Jan. 20.

But the foundation’s inner workings have been the subject of Schneiderman’s investigation for months and could remain a thorny issue for Trumps incoming administration. Democrats nationally have said they are ready to raise any legal or ethical issues from Trump’s global business empire during his presidency.


ANI reports: The Central Industrial Security Force has issued guidelines making mandatory for crew and employees working at airports to show their Aadhar card to enter the premises. 

The rule will come into force from January 1 2017.

Source: Rediff