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LIVE! PM on Budget session: Encourage all parties to discuss and debate

11:00  President set to address Parl shortly:  President Pranab Mukherjee enters Parliament House where he will address both the houses. President set to address Parliament shortly.

Image: President Mukherjee rides to Parliament House from Rashtrapati Bhavan in a ceremonial horse-drawn carriage.


10:50  PM on Budget session: Encourage all parties to discuss and debate :  PM Narendra Modi speaking outside Parliament House before tabling of the Economic Survey. He said the government is ready to talk about all issues including demonetisation. “We are bringing the budget a month earlier and combining it with the railway budget,” the PM said. The PM said a productive and detailed discussion of the budget should be done and hoped the budget session was fruitful.

Union minister Venkaiah Naidu said the budget will not be state specific and to a question on whether the TMC’s boycott of the budget would affect proceedings, Naidu asked how can anyone ignore the budget. He said the government has had discussions with parties individually and collectively.

The Budget Session will begin today with President Pranab Mukherjee addressing a joint session of Parliament. The government will later table the Economic Survey of India. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is scheduled to present the Union Budget on February 1.

This will be for the first time that Union Budget will be presented on February 1 instead of the usual February 28. Also, for the first time, there will be no separate Rail Budget from this financial year.

It will be a challenging task for the finance minister as he will be presenting the Budget less three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s gamble of banning Rs 500, 1000 notes from circulation. Experts say Jaitley will likely offer modest tax concessions and ramp up spending to ease the pain caused by demonetisation.   


10:37  Trump’s next immigration move will hit Indian IT hard :  US President Donald Trump is expected to sign a new executive order aimed at strangulating work-visa programmes, including the H1B and L1 visas used by Indian IT professionals, as part of a larger immigration reform effort, a top White House official has said.

The executive order drafted by the Trump Administration not only strangulates H-1B and L1 visas, but also increases inspection and ends employment authorisation cards to spouses on such work visas, which was recently introduced by the previous Obama Administration.

The draft of the order was leaked and published by some news websites yesterday.

“I think with respect to H1Bs and other visa is part of a larger immigration reform effort that the President will continue to talk about through executive order and through working with Congress,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at his daily news conference.

“You’ve already seen a lot of action on immigration and I think whether it’s that or the spousal visas or other type of visas, I think there’s an overall need to look at all of these programmes. You’ll see both through executive action and through comprehensive measures a way to address immigration as a whole and the visa programme,” Spicer said


10:29  The 12th Raising Day celebration of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) will be held in the national capital on Tuesday.

On this occasion, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will present the Jeevan Raksha Padak awards and Distinguished Service Medals to the NDRF personnel.He will also release the NDRF pictorial book and souvenir to mark the occasion.

The NDRF raised on January, 2006, is a specialised force capable of responding to any type of disaster in the country and abroad.

It is strategically deployed across the nation as per the vulnerability profile of the country.

The NDRF provided relief and rescue operations in a number of disasters including floods, train accidents, building collapse incidents, landslides in various parts of the country during the last year.

Over the years, the NDRF has proved itself a vibrant force in the country which provides prompt assistance in search and rescue, mass evacuation and immediate relief to victims in case of natural or man-made disasters.

So far, the NDRF has responded to over one thousand operations and rescued around four lakh 73 thousand victims.

File pic of the Raising Day celebrations in 2015

10:26  Trumps Muslim ban is already backfiring:  Despite incessant complaints about presidential overreach during Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House, many Republicans are now embracing Donald Trump’s flurry of executive orders. As the entire world has now noticed, one of these orders has implemented an immigration and travel ban that targets the Muslim-majority countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and Syria.It also has suspended the US Refugee Admissions Program, which is responsible for overseeing the transfer of refugees to the United States. Although Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have criticized the “Muslim ban,’ many other leading GOP figures are staying quiet. Read more

10:25  Demonetisation: A monumental blunder :  The one rationale for demonetization that was commonly accepted as legitimate was its presumed attack on ‘black money’. The other two reasons advanced for it by the government, namely eliminating counterfeit currency and facilitating the move to a cashless economy, scarcely carried credibility. The total value of counterfeit currency was minuscule: a study by the Indian Statistical Institute and the National Investigation Agency put it at only Rs 400 crore, or 0.022 per cent of the total value of currency in the country. And tagging the move towards a cashless economy as an argument for demonetization was neither ethically nor practically defensible.

It was ethically indefensible since the government was not only forcing people’s choice of the medium of circulation, but was also pushing them from costless transactions, which cash transactions are, towards costly transactions, owing to charges by banks and fintech companies on digital and other non-cash transactions, and, thereby, boosting the latter’s profits at the expense of the people. It was also practically indefensible because given the poor connectivity and literacy among the people, digitization of transactions was a pipe dream. Read more


10:06  Arnab changes channel’s name to ‘Republic TV’:   Television journalist Arnab Goswami, whose television venture Republic came under fire from BJP leader Subramanian Swamy for falling foul of the Emblems and Names Act, has written to the information and broadcasting ministry informing it of its change of name to Republic TV.   

In an application filed on January 28, 2017, to Manmeet Kaur, under-secretary in the I&B ministry, Goswami, managing director and editor-in-chief of ARG Outlier Media, has requested that ‘all references to ‘Republic’ in our uplinking-downlinking application be construed as references to ‘Republic TV’ forthwith’.   

You can see the application here.
09:53  White House considers reversing LGBT protections for federal workers:  

The White House is embroiled in a debate over whether to reverse some key protections that the Obama administration extended to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers, according to several people briefed on the process.

A draft of a potential executive order began circulating in Washington over the weekend that would overturn President Barack Obamas directive barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the federal workforce and by federal contractors.


09:39  Will SC strike down TN’s Jallikattu law today?:  The Supreme Court will hear today several pleas regarding the controversial bull-taming sport Jallikattu, including the one by the Animal Welfare Board of India seeking the Tamil nadu government’s recently enacted law on the sport to be made invalid.  

The plea termed the amendment a “fraud” on the Constitution and a violation of a 2014 Supreme Court judgment, which had declared Jallikattu as an “inherently cruel” event practised on bulls. 

It further described jallikattu as an “extremely violent” event where untrained persons either volunteer or are “coerced” into taming or fighting terrified bulls agitated by the organisers and the crowd. 

The apex court had, on November 16 last year, rejected the plea of the Tamil Nadu government seeking a review of its 2014 judgement which had banned the use of bulls for Jallikattu events. 

After hearing various petitioners and respondents in the case, a division bench of the top court, headed by Justice Dipak Misra and also comprising Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, dismissed the state government’s review petition. 

The Tamil Nadu assembly on January 23 unanimously passed the new Jallikattu law revoking the ban on the bull-taming sport.

09:28  I-T department raids Nirav Modis offices and residences:  

The Income Tax department has raided over 50 offices and residential premises of Nirav Modi, one of Indias top diamond merchants, and seized cash, jewellery and several documents that allegedly reveal tax evasion by Modis firms, said sources familiar with the investigation.

According to sources, the raids were carried out over 10 days ago and lasted for over four days, covering Modis office and residences in Mumbai, premises in Delhi, Jaipur and SEZ units in Surat.

The tax department is probing over half-a-dozen firms of Modi, including Firestar Diamond International Pvt Ltd, Firestar International and Stellar Diamond among others. Modis firms are suspected to have received money from shell companies through real time gross settlement, according to sources.

09:21  JUST IN: Trump replaces acting US immigration and customs chief


09:07  Murdered Pune techie had complained about guard to Infosys:  

Rasila Raju OP, the Infosys engineer who was found strangled at her work place in Pune on Sunday, was working alone in her ninth-floor office on a weekend when a watchman allegedly approached her on the pretext of fixing a computer cable and later murdered her.

Police arrested a private guard on Monday for the murder of the 25-year-old techie and recounted the murder after catching the fugitive Bhaben Saikia, a 26-year-old from Assam, from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus at Mumbai early on Monday.

According to deputy commissioner of police Ganesh Shinde, entry into the office is restricted and Saikia could enter the office only because he followed Rasila, who gained access using a swipe card, to her workstation on the pretext of fixing the LAN cable and noting down her computers serial number.

The guards presence made her uncomfortable. He was staring, provoking her to warn that she would complain against him for stalking her. He then asked Rasila not to complain against him for staring at her the previous day, Shinde said.

When she refused to back off leading to an argument, he pulled out the cable and strangulated her in a fit of rage. The guard also hit her face with his shoes, injuring her nose, said Shinde. As it was a Sunday, there was no one in the office on the ninth floor of the Infosys facility.


08:35  Yogi Adityanath backs seeks Trump-like immigration order in India:  

Firebrand BJP leader Yogi Adityanth applauded US President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration order that bans travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries and stressed the need for such action in India to contain terrorism.

He said, “Similar action is needed to contain terror activities in this country.”

On Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav voicing his displeasure over the tie-up between SP and Congress, Adityanath claimed that Mulayam is “afraid” that the alliance would alienate the backward cast people from Samajwadi Party.


08:07  Trump fires acting attorney general who defied him on travel ban:  He means business!

US President Donald Trump has fired Attorney General Sally Yates for defying him on the travel ban that restricts immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Somalia. 

Earlier, Yates had told Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees.

“My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts,” she said in a letter. “In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful,” Yates wrote.


00:24  Trump to announce Supreme Court judge nominee today:  United States President Donald Trump will announce his Supreme Court judge nominee today. He said his pick is ‘highly respected’ and people will be ‘very impressed’ with the person.

‘I have made my decision on who I will nominate for The United States Supreme Court,’ Trump said in a tweet.

The announcement would be made live from the White House at 8 pm tomorrow (on Tuesday), Trump said.

Later at an executive order signing ceremony, Trump described his Supreme Court nomination as a big decision.

“We have a big decision that I’ve made, very big decision on the United States Supreme Court that is going to be announced tomorrow night from the White House at eight o’clock,” he said.

“A person who is unbelievably highly respected and I think you will be very impressed with this person,” Trump said.

Trump’s pick is going to come from his short list of 21 candidates, which he had announced during the general elections.

One of them is Indian-American Amul Thapar. The other candidates in the list include William Pryor, Diane Sykes, Raymond Kethledge, Joan Larsen, Steve Colloton, Neil Gorsuch, Mike Lee, Don Willett, David Stras, Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Gruender and Margaret Tyan.

Source: Rediff