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Priyanka Chopra beats Deepika Padukone – announced Hottest Woman of 2015!
She’s hugely talented, intelligent, driven, multifaceted, risk-taker, socially conscious, adorable, beautiful, sassy and also very very Sexy…. It’s very difficult to describe Priyanka Chopra in one sentence. So when over 10 million people from across the world voted for her as the ‘World’s sexiest Asian Woman’, you cant help but nod your head in agreement.
The World’;s Sexiest Asian Woman recently also bagged the spot for the “Hottest Women of 2015″ ,elbowing out contemporaries with a whopping 53% votes beating Deepika Padukone who received 35% of the votes.This isn’;t the first time that the SHERO has beat Deepika at a poll – Priyanka topped the Sexiest Woman in a Bikini poll, bagging 22,552 votes out of the 23,775 votes that came in, winning by a huge margin.
One of Bollywood’s most sought after actresses and international recording artist Priyanka Chopra also made it to the Numero Uno spot on the Ultimate Guys Guide- Maxim India’s Hottest List for 2013.
This was the second consecutive year that Priyanka made it to the top rankings on the magazine’s Hottest List , an annual poll with some of the most gorgeous women competing for the crown.The “Exotic” singer and power player beat the likes of Grammy award winner Beyonce and Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima to the no#1 spot.
Every Securitisation Company / Reconstruction Company (SC / RC) is required to obtain prior approval of the Reserve Bank for any substantial change in its management. In order to smoothen the functioning of SC/RC companies, it has been decided by RBI, henceforth changes in the share holding pattern of the SC/RC will require Reserve Bank’s prior approval in cases such as any transfer of shares by which the transferee becomes a sponsor, any transfer of shares by which the transferor ceases to be a sponsor and an aggregate transfer of ten percent or more of the total paid up share capital of the SC/RC by a sponsor during the period of five years commencing from the date of certificate of registration.
In terms of Section 3(6) of the SARFAESI Act, 2002, every Securitisation Company / Reconstruction Company (SC / RC) is required to obtain prior approval of the Reserve Bank for any substantial change in its management. For the purpose of this section, the expression “substantial change in management” means the change in the management by way of transfer of shares or amalgamation or transfer of the business of the company. Hence, one of the terms and conditions stipulated to the SC/RCs, while granting them the Certificate of Registration, states that prior approval of Reserve Bank will have to be taken by the SC/RCs for any change in their shareholding pattern.
In order to smoothen the functioning of SC/RC companies, it has been decided that, henceforth only the following changes in the share holding pattern of the SC/RC will require Reserve Bank’s prior approval:
· any transfer of shares by which the transferee becomes a sponsor.
· any transfer of shares by which the transferor ceases to be a sponsor.
· an aggregate transfer of ten percent or more of the total paid up share capital of the SC/RC by a sponsor during the period of five years commencing from the date of certificate of registration.
The fourteenth Finance Commission has recommended substantial hike in share of states in central taxes and asked them to tailor make schemes as per their needs. The states share will now be 42% of the entire amount as compared to 32% previously which will translate into an additional, estimated Rs 1.78 lakh crore in the next fiscal year.
The snapshot of the report is as follows-
Sharing of Union Taxes
1. Considering all factors, the commission believes that increasing the share of tax devolution to 42 % of the divisible pool would serve the twin objectives of increasing the flow of unconditional transfers to the States and yet leave appropriate fiscal space for the Union to carry out specific purpose transfers to the States.
2. For area the Commission has adopted the method used by the FC-XII and put the floor limit at 2% for smaller States and assigned 15% weight.
3. In Commission’s view the large forest cover provides huge ecological benefits, but there is also an opportunity cost in terms of area not available for other economic activities and this also serves as an important indicator of fiscal disability. We have assigned 7.5% weight to the forest cover.
4. As service tax is not levied in the State of Jammu & Kashmir, proceeds cannot be assigned to this State.
5. The commission has decided to revert to the method of representing fiscal capacity in terms of income distance and assigned it 50% weight.
1. The Commission has recommended that the Union Government consider ensuring an assured source of funding for the NDRF and the past trends of out flows from it should be taken into account by the Union Government to ensure adequacy of the Fund in order to assure timely availability and release of funds to the States.
2. A decision on granting tax exemption to private contributions to the NDRF be expedited and that the Union Government consider invoking the use of Schedule VII of the Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Rules 2014 as an enabling provision for financing the NDRF.
3. A review of the current arrangements for the reimbursement of expenditure incurred by the defence forces on disaster relief is also recommended.
4. Expediting the development and scientific validation of the Hazard Vulnerability Risk Profiles of States is also recommended by the commission to the union budget.
5. All States should contribute 10 % to SDRF during the award period of the Finance Commission with the remaining 90 % coming from the Union Government.
6. Union Government is also recommended to take account of the genuine concerns of the States in the consultative mechanism already in place.
7. Considering the need for flexibility in regard to state-specific disasters, it is recommended that up to 10 % of the funds available under the SDRF can be used by State Governments for natural disasters that they consider to be ‘disasters’ within the local context in the State and which are not included in the notified list of disasters of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
1. A total revenue deficit grant of Rs. 1, 94,821 crore is recommended during the award period for eleven States.
2. There is a case for transfers from the Union Government to the States to augment expenditure in specific sectors with high degree of externalities in order to ensure desired minimum level of expenditures in every State. However, past experience shows that achieving this through the mechanism of Finance Commission grants may not be appropriate.
3. The proposal made by the Department of Justice to strengthen the judicial systems in the States is also endorsed and State Governments are urged to use the additional fiscal space provided by us in the tax devolution to meet such requirements.
4. The expenditure needs of the States has taken into account the high base of expenditure for both general administration and police. Therefore, the States have the appropriate fiscal space to provide for the additional expenditure needs as per their requirements.
5. Appropriate fiscal space for maintenance expenditures is provided to the states which would enable them to meet the additional expenditure needs according to their requirements. The States are also recommended to enhance expenditure on maintenance of capital assets to the appropriate levels.
6. Health, education, drinking water and sanitation are considered as public services of national importance, having significant inter-state externalities. Therefore, it is desisted from recommending specific purpose grants and have suggested that a separate institutional arrangement be introduced for the purpose.
Towards Cooperative Federalism
1. It is concluded that a compelling case has been made for reforming the existing system of fiscal transfers from the Union to the States, in a comprehensive manner. Hence it is recommended that the existing system be reviewed and necessary institutional changes be considered.
2. The commission believes the existing arrangements for transfers between the Union and the States needs to be reviewed with a view to minimizing discretion, improving the design of transfers, avoiding duplication and promoting cooperative federalism, insofar as such transfers are required to be made outside of the recommendations of the Finance Commission.
3. It is also recommended that the suggested new institutional arrangement also consider taking up issues related to identifying and recommending resources for inter-state infrastructure schemes in the North-eastern States.
4. The new institutional arrangement should also become the forum for integrating economic and environmental concerns in decision making.
Goods and Services Tax
1. The Union may have to initially bear an additional fiscal burden arising due to the GST compensation. This fiscal burden should be treated as an investment which is certain to yield substantial gains to the nation in the medium and long run. The Commission believes that GST compensation can be accommodated in the overall fiscal space available with the Union Government.
2. In the case of VAT, compensation was provided to the States for three years, at 100 % in the first year, 75 % in the second year, and 50 per cent in the third year. However, given the scale of reform and the apprehensions of revenue uncertainty raised by the States, the revenue compensation should be for five years. It is suggested that 100%compensation be paid to the States in the first, second and third years, 75 % compensation in the fourth year and 50 per cent compensation in the fifth and final year.
3. The creation of an autonomous and independent GST Compensation Fund through legislative actions in a manner that it gives reasonable comfort to States is recommended such that it limits the period of operation appropriately.
4. The Constitutional legislative and design aspects of the GST is recommended enabling the transition towards universal application of GST over the medium to long term.
Public Expenditure Management
1. The Commission endorse the view that the transition to accrual-based accounting by both the Union and State Governments is desirable.
2. At the Object Head level, the commission believes it is sufficient to have a few uniform Object Heads, such as salary, maintenance, subsidies and grants-in aid, across both the Union and States. Regarding the other Object Heads, States are recommend to retain their existing flexibility to open new Object Heads according to their functional requirements.
3. The formulation of appropriate indicators for the measurement of outputs, specification of standards and costs and establishing a suitable accountability framework is recommended.
4. It is suggested that serious consideration of the issue of assigning primary responsibility for preparing outcome budgets at the level of actual spending and its consolidation at the relevant level of government.
5. The Union and State Governments are asked to consider the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (submitted in 2009) on internal audit and internal control systems, and take a decision on each recommendation expeditiously.
6. The views of the FC-XI are reiterated for a consultative mechanism between the Union and States, through a forum such as the Inter-State Council, to evolve a national policy for salaries and emoluments.
7. The commission also recommends the linking of pay with productivity, with a simultaneous focus on technology, skill and incentives. We recommend that Pay Commissions be designated as ‘Pay and Productivity Commissions’, with a clear mandate to recommend measures to improve ‘productivity of an employee’, in conjunction with pay revisions. It is urged that, in future, additional remuneration be linked to increase in productivity.
8. The New Pension Scheme to be adopted by the states is recommended.
Public Sector Enterprises
1. The Commission recommends that the new realities be considered in evaluating the future of each public enterprise in the entire portfolio of Central public sector enterprises.
2. The evaluation of the fiscal implications of the current level of investments in, and operations of, the existing public enterprises, in terms of opportunity costs, is an essential ingredient of credible fiscal consolidation. Hence, the fiscal implications in terms of opportunity costs be factored in while evaluating the desirable level of government ownership for each public enterprise in the entire portfolio of Central public sector enterprises is recommended.
3. The Commission recommends that the basic interests of workers of Central public sector enterprises should be protected at a reasonable fiscal cost, while ensuring a smooth process of disinvestment or relinquishing of individual enterprises. We further recommend that employment objectives should be considered in evaluating the portfolio of public enterprises, not only in the narrow context of the enterprises’ employees, but also in terms of creating new employment opportunities.
4. The Commission recommends that the route of transparent auctions be adopted for the relinquishment of unlisted sick enterprises in the category of non-priority public sector enterprises.
5. The Commission recommends that the level of disinvestment should be derived from the level of investment that the government decides to hold over the medium to long term in each enterprise, based on principles of prioritization advised by us, while the process of disinvestment should take into account the market conditions and budgetary requirements, on a year to year basis.
6. The Commission recommends that the government devise a policy relating to the new areas of public sector investments. We also recommend the purchase of shares where the existing portfolio holding.
7. The Commission recommends that the enterprises be categorized into ‘high priority’, ‘priority’, ‘low priority’ and ‘non-priority’ in order to: (i) facilitate co-ordinated follow-up action by policy makers and (ii) provide clarity to public enterprises themselves on their future and to the financial markets about the opportunities ahead for them.
8. The Commission recommends the recommendations made by the FC-XIII to maintain all disinvestment receipts in the Consolidated Fund for utilisation on capital expenditure. The National Investment Fund in the Public Account should, therefore, be wound up in consultation with the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) and Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG).
9. The Commission recommends the recommendations made by the FC-XIII to maintain all disinvestment receipts in the Consolidated Fund for utilisation on capital expenditure. The National Investment Fund in the Public Account should, therefore, be wound up in consultation with the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) and Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG).
10. There is considerable merit in the Union Government dispensing a small share of proceeds of disinvestment to the States. In the case of Central public sector enterprises with multiple units located in different states, the distribution of this share could be uniform across all the States where units are located. In cases where only vertical unit-wise disinvestment is done, the share could go to the State/States where the units being disinvested are located.
11. The importance of making Central public sector enterprises effective and competitive is recognized by the commission and the monitoring and evaluation of these enterprises is suggested to be taken into account the institutional constraints within which their managements operate. If the Central public sector enterprises are burdened with implementing social objectives of the government, it should compensate them in a timely manner and adequately through a transparent budgetary subvention. Similarly, losses on account of administered price mechanisms should also be calculated and fully compensated for
12. The Commission recommends that governance arrangements be reviewed, especially in regard to separation of regulatory functions from ownership, role of the nominee as well as independent Directors, and, above all, the framework of governance conducive to efficiency. The Commission recommends that as part of the comprehensive review of the public sector enterprises proposed by us, policies and procedures relating to borrowing by the enterprises, payment of dividends and transfer of excess reserves be enunciated and enforced.
Pricing of Public Utilities
1. In order to provide financial autonomy to the SERCs, Section 103 of the Electricity Act, 2003, provides for the establishment of a State Electricity Regulatory Commission Fund by State Governments, to enable the SERCs to perform their responsibilities, as envisaged under the Act.
2. The Commission recommends that accounting systems in the State Road Transport Undertakings make explicit the types of subsidies, the basis for determining the extent of subsidies, and also the extent of reimbursement by State Governments.
3. The Commission recommends the setting up of independent regulators for the passenger road sector, whose key functions should include tariff setting, regulation of service quality, assessment of concessionaire claims, collection and dissemination of sector information, service-level benchmarks and monitoring compliance of concession agreements.
4. The Commission recommends that all States, irrespective of whether Water Regulatory Authorities (WRAs) are in place or not, consider full volumetric measurement of the use of irrigation water. Any investment that may be required to meet this goal should be borne by the States, as the future cumulative benefits, both in environmental and economic terms, will far exceed the initial costs.
5. The Commission has reiterated the recommendations of the FC-XIII and urge States which have not set up WRAs to consider setting up a statutory WRA, so that the pricing of water for domestic, irrigation and other uses can be determined independently and in a judicious manner. However, this may not be practical for the North-eastern states, due to the small size of their irrigation sectors, with Assam being the exception.
6. The Commission recommends that States (and urban and rural bodies) should progressively move towards 100% metering of individual drinking water connections to households, commercial establishments as well as institutions. All existing individual connections in urban and rural areas should be metered by March 2017 and the cost of this should be borne by the consumers. All new connections should be given only when the functioning meters are installed. While providing protected water supply through community taps is unavoidable for poorer sections of population, metering of water consumed in such cases also would ensure efficient supply.
Fiscal Environment and Fiscal Consolidation Roadmap
1. The commission recommends that both Union and State Governments adopt a template for collating, analysing and annually reporting the total extended public debt in their respective budgets as a supplement to the budget document.
2. The Committee recommended that the Union and the State Governments provide a statutory ceiling on the sanction of new capital works to an appropriate multiple of the annual budget provision.
3. The fiscal deficit targets and annual borrowing limits for the States during the Finance Commission’s award period are enunciated as follows:
i. Fiscal deficit of all States will be anchored to an annual limit of 3% of GSDP. The States will be eligible for flexibility of 0.25% over and above this for any given year for which the borrowing limits are to be fixed if their debt-GSDP ratio is less than or equal to 25% in the preceding year.
ii. States will be further eligible for an additional borrowing limit of 0.25% of GSDP in a given year for which the borrowing limits are to be fixed if the interest payments are less than or equal to 10% of the revenue receipts in the preceding year.
iii. The two options under these flexibility provisions can be availed of by a State either separately, if any of the above criteria is fulfilled, or simultaneously if both the above stated criteria are fulfilled. Thus, a State can have a maximum fiscal deficit-GSDP limit of 3.5% in any given year.
4. The flexibility in availing the additional limit under either of the two options or both will be available to a State only if there is no revenue deficit in the year in which borrowing limits are to be fixed and the immediately preceding year. If a State is not able to fully utilise its sanctioned borrowing limit of 3 per cent of GSDP in any particular year during the first four years of our award period (2015-16 to 2018-19), it will have the option of availing this un-utilised borrowing amount (calculated in rupees) only in the following year but within our award period.
5. Recognising that the fiscal environment should be conducive to equitable growth, the Commission also recommends that the Union and all the States should target improving the quality of fiscal management encompassing receipts and expenditures while adhering to the roadmap we have outlined.
6. To enable wider dissemination of the manner in which this shared responsibility for a conducive fiscal environment is being discharged by the Union and State Governments, the Commission recommends that the Union Government and the RBI bring out a bi-annual report on the public debt of the Union and State Governments on a regular and comparable basis and place it in public domain.
7. The Commission recommends that the Union Government should consider making an amendment to the FRBM Act to omit the definition of effective revenue deficit from 1 April 2015. It also recommends that the objective of balancing revenues and expenditure on the revenue account enunciated in the FRBM Acts should be pursued.
8. The Commission recommends an amendment to the FRBM Act inserting a new section mandating the establishment of an independent fiscal council to undertake ex-ante assessment of the fiscal policy implications of budget proposals and their consistency with fiscal policy and Rules. In addition, we urge that the Union Government take expeditious action to bring into effect Section 7A of the FRBM Act for the purposes of ex-post assessment.
9. The approach outlined and recommendations made warrant amendments to the FRBM Acts. To this end, the State Governments are suggested to may their FRBM Acts to provide for the statutory flexible limits on fiscal deficit. The Union Government may amend its FRBM Act to reflect the fiscal roadmap, omit the definition of effective revenue deficit and mandate the establishment of an independent fiscal council. Further, the Union and State Governments may also amend their respective FRBM Acts to provide a statutory ceiling on the sanction of new capital works to an appropriate multiple of the annual budget provision.
1. The Commission recommends that the local bodies should be required to spend the grants only on the basic services within the functions assigned to them under relevant legislations.
2. The Commission recommends that the books of accounts prepared by the local bodies should distinctly capture income on account of own taxes and non-taxes, assigned taxes, devolution and grants from the State, grants from the Finance Commission and grants for any agency functions assigned by the Union and State Governments. In addition to the above, we also recommend that the technical guidance and support arrangements by the C&AG should be continued and the States should take action to facilitate local bodies to compile accounts and have them audited in time.
3. The Commission recommends distribution of grants to the States using 2011 population data with weight of 90% and area with weight of 10%. The grant to each state will be divided into two, a grant to duly constituted gram panchayats and a grant to duly constituted municipalities, on the basis of urban and rural population of that state using the data of census 2011.
AirAsia X appoints Cheok Huei Shian as Chief Financial Officer
SEPANG, 25th February 2015– AirAsia X Berhad, the leading long-haul low-fare carrier today announced the appointment of Cheok Huei Shian as its Chief Financial Officer effective immediately. Reporting directly to Benyamin Ismail, acting Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia X Berhad, Huei Shian will be responsible for corporate finance, treasury, financial planning and analysis as well as investor relations.
Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, Group CEO of AirAsia X said, “We are excited to have Huei Shian join our management team as we continue to drive our strategic and financial business transformation. Huei Shian was part of the core team in the early days of AirAsia and has played an instrumental role in the success of AirAsia and getting the company listed on the Bursa Stock Exchange. She has vast experience and been involved in the turnaround team that oversees the entire AirAsia group. Her strong track record of financial and operational management success, combined with her very intimate knowledge of AirAsia’s business model, culture and products, make her exceptionally qualified to help us continue to build upon our market. My vision is to bring back people that understands the business as it will be instrumental in realizing our goal to be the undisputed global leader in the long-haul LCC category.”
Huei Shian joined AirAsia in 2004 and has held senior leadership roles across the group. Prior to AirAsia, Huei Shian was with Ernst & Young in the Financial and Advisory Service Department.
Huei Shian holds an Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Professional Stage from FTMS Business School and an ACCA Certificate from University Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Kuala Lumpur. Huei Shian is a fellow member of the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and a member of the MIA (Malaysia Institute of Accountants).
Benyamin Ismail, acting CEO of AirAsia X Berhad said, “We are delighted to have Huei Shian in the team. We now have the right people in key management positions and an organization that is optimally structured to support our current business, company growth and the successful execution of key new initiatives.”
Huei Shian replaces Chew Eng Loke, the former Chief Financial Officer of AirAsia X, who has decided to pursue other opportunities.
Anti Corruption activist, Shri Anna Hazare led a two day protest for farmer rights at Jantar Mantar,on 23 and 24 of February, 2015. The protest grounds were a striking contrast with his previous protest in 2011. In 2011, there was a crowd teeming with anger, energy and hope. In 2015 , there was a crowd with little hope and more discipline than could be seen in 2011. The dominant sensation was of fear. Fear of eviction from the land on which they had lived for generations together , was the motivating factor, which had drawn crowds from various parts of the country. All the oppositions parties , have declared their support for the cause of the farmers. The Delhi Chief Minister, Shri Arvind Kejriwal, of the Aam Aadmi, also shared the stage with Shri Anna Hazare on 24 February, 2015. Using this opportunity Shri Kejriwal , said that “In the country, if any government makes laws against the poor, makes laws against the farmers, the public will not let it last. They will teach them a lesson.”When asked , the protestors said that they believed that after the said bill becomes a law, their land will be forcibly taken and given to the “rich industrialists”. The fact that land is also acquired by the government for developmental activities, did not find much resonance among them. Some of them also voiced concern about the government machinery being inefficient and corrupt, would thus deprive them of the compensation or delay it inconveniently. The removal of the Social Impact Assessment and the Consent clause are the two major points of contention, between the government and the opposition. Though the lesser covered fact is that, both these clauses have been removed only for land acquisition under five sectors, which are – national security, defence, rural infrastructure , industrial corridors and housing for the poor. The Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitely , also stated that the removal of the two clauses was done with the concurrence of the states, including the opposition ruled ones.The Jantar Mantar was probably exactly opposite of the gathering inside both the houses of the Parliament. The people at the Jantar Mantar echoed the sentiment of not being heard. They were from different places, and the only thing that bound them was their desire to be heard by the government. While inside, the people weren’t too keen on debate or discussion. They seemed keen to obstruct. While the opposition from the people came essentially on the content of the the Bill, the lawmakers also opposed the Ordinance route adopted by the government. In the meanwhile, the government reiterated it’s commitment to having a constructive debate on the issue and also appointed a committee under the leadership of, BJP president, Mr. Amit Shah to look into the suggestions of the farmers.The farmers’ desire to be heard maybe taken care of, by the committee, what remains to be seen is how the lawmakers of the country will react, when the Land Acquisition Bill is tabled in the Parliament. The nation awaits!
On electric water tariff Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi on Wednesday slashed power tariff by half for 400 Units the lower slab users and announced free water up to 20,000 litres for every household from March 1.
“The prime minister of Australia acted to firmly entrench in the national psyche not only that Australian Muslims are not to be trusted, but that Islam and Muslims are complicit in the ‘death-cult’ ISIL.”
President’s address outlines use of technology, innovation
ASHOK B SHARMA
After the BJP’s victory march was halted in Delhi by the new Aam Aadmi Party, leading to its decimation in the state, the ruling party at the Centre has become cautious about not ignoring the issues relating to the common man. Apart from being aggressive on market reforms and alluring foreign direct investments (FDIs), the upcoming Union Budget and Railway Budget are likely to focus on some of the needs of the common man. The intention of the government is amply made clear in the President’s address to the joint session of the Parliament.
President’s address, drafted by the Union Cabinet, is reflective of the government’s annual agenda. A careful reading between the lines shows that that the government wants to keep its agenda for second generation economic reforms intact and to give a human face to its processes of further liberalization of the economy, it intends to resolve the issues of the common man much through the deployment of science and technology.
“Continuous evaluation of inverted duties is being undertaken to make Indian industries competitive. Stress is being laid on research and innovation. While focusing our attention on manufacturing for creating more jobs, my Government will continue to work on our formidable strength in the service sector,” the President’s address said.
Make-in-India is the pet project of the Prime Minister Narendrabhai Damodardass Modi and the Union Budget is likely to spare no effort in paving the way for the easy inflow of the FDIs and making as much concessions to the manufacturing sector.
As for the services sector, tourism is likely to get much attention. A new tourism policy is on the anvil. Major allocations are likely for developing Jyotirling Circuit, Sukhmangal Circuit, Dakshin Dham Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Coastal Circuit and Buddha Circuit. Dedicated tourist trains are already in vogue for some of these destinations.
The upcoming Railway Budget is likely reform and infuse new vitality into this through better services, improved passenger-safety and increased movement of freight. By ensuring passenger safety and giving better facility, the government intends to bridge the gap between infrastructure growth and passenger traffic growth. Greater allocations are likely for dedicated freight corridors and metro rail projects in some cities.
On the social sector front, government intends to make Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) “a powerful weapon to combat rural poverty” and by creating durable assets. It will direct about 60% of the expenditure under this scheme for creating agriculture infrastructure. Focus will be on promoting value-added agriculture, market reforms, use of technology, augmenting irrigation through river basin linking if possible and improving productivity in areas with untapped potential. Adequate attention is likely for livestock and fishery sectors.
Another area is skill development. A National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship is on the anvil to cater to the needs of both domestic and global markets. The Micro Small and Medium Enterprises are also likely to get attention. The Budget is also likely to give attention science and technology, particularly research and development. “Steps are being taken to channelize more resources for research and development in India; build world class research centres; nurture young talent and promote international collaboration, including the world’s largest optical -Thirty Meter Telescope”, the President’s address said.
The Mission Housing for All by 2020 is set to get adequate sops and allocation with government’s liberalized FDI policy. For easy flow of loan to housing and other sector the government is ready to undertaking financial sector restructuring and expedite implementation of the recommendations of the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission.
With a view to aggressively promote development of 100 smart cities, the government will come out with a National Urban Development Mission which would also focus on water and solid waste management.
Power sector is likely get adequate focus in the Budget alongwith the development of clean energy. Government intends to enhance the share of renewable energy in electricity generation from the present 6% to 15% in the next 7 years. Solar energy generating capacities will be set up along the international borders.
The Defence allocation is likely to see a sea change with focus on Indian Navy. Under Make-in-India programme ship designing capabilities, ship building and ship repairs will be strengthened. An environment will be created to increase the shipping tonnage and reduce the transaction time at ports. The Jal Marg Vikas Project will be taken up with sincerity for comprehensive development for national waterways for transportation.
On the front of Information Technology, Digital India will be taken up in right earnest. Auctions will be conducted for 135 vacant channels in 69 existing cities of FM phase-II as part of first batch of FM phase-III. It will also facilitate migration of FM phase-II to FM phase-III. This will take private FM radio to cities having population of more than one lakh and border towns in Jammu and Kashmir, northeastern region and island territories in a phased manner.
Prime Minister’s other pet projects like Swachh Bharat Mission, Namai Gange, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and NITI Aayog are also likely figure prominently in Finance Minister’s Budget speech.
The Budget, therefore, is likely to be mix bag of reforms, deployment of technology and innovation and social agenda.
(Ashok B Sharma is a senior Columnist writing on strategic and policy issues in several Indian and international newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org His mobile phone no +91-9810902204)
PM writes to Chief Ministers<
Record increase in devolution of resources to states
PM: Our Government has decided to devolve maximum money to states and allow them the required freedom to plan the course of states’ development.
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, has written to Chief Ministers, informing them of the Government`s decision to wholeheartedly accept the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. Following is the text of the Prime Minister`s letter:
“You are aware that ever since our Government came into office, I have been working to strengthen our federal polity and promote cooperative federalism. The people of the country have high expectations from their governments and do not want to wait. Therefore, since the very beginning, we have been committed to a rapid and inclusive process of growth. Looking to the diversity of the country, we understand that real and functional Federal Governance is the only vehicle to achieve this objective quickly and holistically.
I sincerely believe that strong states are the foundation of a strong India. Even as Chief Minister, I had been saying that the progress of the country depends on the progress of states. This Government is, therefore, committed to the idea of empowering states in all possible ways. We also believe that states should be allowed to chalk out their programmes and schemes with greater financial strength and autonomy, while observing financial prudence and discipline. We are clear that without this, local development needs cannot be met and marginalised communities and backward regions cannot be brought into the mainstream.
With this in mind, we have replaced the Planning Commission with the NITI Aayog with the explicit intent of ensuring that this becomes a common forum for forging a national vision on development. Such a vision and the concrete steps that all of us take will help in realising the development aspirations of our people.
It is in this context that we have wholeheartedly accepted the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, although it puts a tremendous strain on the Centre’s finances. The 14th FC has recommended a record increase of 10% in the devolution of the divisible pool of resources to states. This compares with the marginal increases made by previous Finance Commissions. The total devolution to states in 2015-16 will be significantly higher than in 2014-15. This naturally leaves far less money with the Central Government. However, we have taken the recommendations of the 14th FC in a positive spirit as they strengthen your hand in designing and implementing schemes as per your priorities and needs.
In making its recommendations, the 14th FC has made a fundamental shift in the pattern of financing revenue expenditures. It has assumed all central assistance to State Plan Revenue expenditure to be part of the states’s revenue burden and determined devolution on this basis. Para 7.43 of its report explains this. The dominant view of states too has been that a majority of the resources should flow as tax devolution and the number of CSS should be reduced as the 14th FC states in Paras 8.6 & 8.7.
Therefore, there is a shift from scheme and grant based support from the Central Government to a devolution based support. Hence, the devolution of 42% of divisible resources.
Therefore, as per the 14th FC, all State Plan Revenue expenditure has to be met from the resources being devolved to states. In spite of this large devolution, we have decided to continue with some support to topmost areas of national priority such as poverty elimination, MNREGA, education, health, rural development, agriculture and a few other areas.
You will appreciate that, following the acceptance of the 14th FC recommendations, we are moving away from rigid centralised planning, forcing a ‘One size fits all’ approach on states. States have always been voicing their opposition to this philosophy for years. Accepting these long standing concerns and long-felt lacunae in the country’s planning process, our Government has decided to devolve maximum money to states and allow them the required freedom to plan the course of states’ development. The additional 10% of resources being devolved will give you this freedom.
In this overall context when you are flush with resources, I would like you to have a fresh look at some of the erstwhile schemes and programmes supported by the centre. States are free to continue or change these schemes and programmes as per their discretion and requirement. In all these, the Union Government, particularly the NITI Aayog, will support states in developing a strategy and in its execution through ideas, knowledge and technology.
This is all towards the fulfilment of my promise of co-operative federalism. As you have already seen, we have decided to involve states in discussing and planning national priorities. This is being done so as to maximise the outcome from every rupee spent either at the centre or the state. It was with this spirit of Team India that all Chief Ministers have been made equal partners in the Governing Council of NITI Aayog. This is our strategy to take the country to a faster and yet inclusive growth trajectory through co-operative federalism which is real and true federalism.
We are happy with our decision and that resources are going to the right place. Resources are going to states to ensure that poverty is eliminated, jobs are created; houses, drinking water, roads, schools, hospitals and electricity are provided. This has never happened in this country before.
In addition, we have recently revised the rates of royalty on minerals which benefits many states. The ongoing transparent auction of coal and other minerals will result in flow of over Rs 1 lakh crore of additional funds to mineral and coal bearing states. Eastern India, which is less developed in spite of having immense mineral resources, is an important gainer and this is an opportunity for this part to catch up with the rest of the country.
Resources, thus, are not and will not be a problem. The issue is the direction and intent of our policies and our capacity to implement. You will agree that money, either at the central or the state level, should be spent to address the key challenges before the Nation. The focus should be the poor, farmers and common men and women, the youth and children. The challenge is to address the factors which inhibit the realisation of their full potential.
This is a golden opportunity in our nation’s economic development process. My recent visits across the world have shown that there is a lot of optimism about India and interest in investing here. Everyone wants to partner with India in its growth story. This is not an opportunity for the central government, but an opportunity for India as a whole.
Let us aim at a quantum leap in the process of our nation’s development. I am writing this to you in order to seek your co-operation and involvement in defining key challenges facing your state and the country and to devote the time, energy and resources to address these. I expect that every state will come up with a plan for its key priorities and deploy resources for this purpose. We should also adopt a rigorous system of evaluation of schemes and projects. I will work with you in this effort. Together, we have to establish benchmarks in terms of quality of works and their speedy execution.
Let us work together in this direction. I will be available for any consultation in this regard at any time.”
GOVERNMENT ORDERS SUSEPNSION OF SHRI SHASHI SHANKAR, DIRECTOR (T&FS) Shri Shashi Shankar, Director (T&FS), ONGC has committed gross misconduct while dealing with a tender for Procurement of Twenty One Blowout Preventers (BOP). He has been associated with this tender as GGM and OSD to Director (T&FS) and from 01.01.2012 as Director (T&FS).Taking strong note of the lapses the Government on 23rd February ordered suspension of Shri Shashi Shankar with immediate effect to ensure fair and transparent inquiry.
8 killed in Czech Republic as gunman fires at restaurant
In the Czech Republic, a gunman has opened fire at a restaurant, killing eight people before shooting himself dead. Officials say, the man burst into the Druzba restaurant in the eastern town of Uhersky Brod and started shooting indiscriminately. Some 20 people were thought to have been in the restaurant at the time. Police described it as the worst mass shooting incident on record. Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said it was not a terrorist attack.
Luthuania to restore compulsory military service for young men amid mounting tension in Ukraine
Luthuania will restore compulsory military service for young men as tensions in Ukraine continue to worry the small Baltic nation. After a meeting of military leaders and top government officials, President Dalia Grybauskaite said the measure is necessary because of growing aggression in Ukraine. Military officials said Lithuania will reinstate national service for five years starting in September. They will serve for nine months. The country has some 15,000 troops, down from nearly 39,000 it had before joining the alliance in 2004, and has no military aircraft or tanks.
Obama endorses India’s candidature for permanent membership of reformed UNSC
US President Barack Obama has endorsed India’s candidature for the permanent membership of the reformed UN Security Council. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday that India’s permanent membership to the UN security council is among a variety of other important reforms to the United Nations that Mr Obama has endorsed. Mr Earnest, however, said that he has no updates on the status of the ongoing reforms to the UN or efforts to try to bring about some of those reforms. During his India visit last month, the US President had reaffirmed his support for a reformed UN Security Council with India as a permanent member.
This report, prepared by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW), focuses on donations received by the National Political Party, Bharatiya Janata Party, above Rs 20,000, during the Financial Year 2013-14, as submitted by BJP to the Election Commission of India (ECI) on 20th Dec,’14. This report should be read in conjunction with the analysis of donations for the FY 2013-14 declared by the other National Parties (less BJP) which was released by ADR earlier. The report can be accessed here.
The executive summary below lists the key observations drawn from the report:
Submission of contribution report by BJP to the ECI:
Political parties were required to submit their contributions report for FY 2013-14 to the ECI before the due date (i.e.31st October, 2014).
The ECI received the donations report of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on 20thDecember, 2014.
ECI received the donations report of BSP on 13thSept,’14, of NCP on 17th Sept,’14, of CPI on 23rd Sept,’14 and of CPM and INC on 30th Sept,’14.
Number of donors contributing above Rs 20,000 to National Parties from all over India (FY 2013-14)
The total amount of donations above Rs 20,000 received by National Political Parties during FY 2013-14 was calculated from the donations report submitted to the Election Commission annually.
The total amount of donations above Rs 20,000 declared by the National Parties was Rs. 247.79 crores, from 2361 donations. BSP declared that the party received no donations above Rs 20,000.
The donations declared by BJP amounts to 69% of the total donations declared by all the National Parties together.
On an average, BJP received Rs 13.19 lakhs per unique donor*, INC received Rs 11.70 lakhs per unique donor, NCP: Rs 1 crore, CPI: Rs 3.23 lakhsand CPM: Rs 4.03 lakhs per unique donor.
Total number of donations
Total number of unique donors (a)
Total amount contributed (b)
Average amount of donation per unique donor (b/a)
Rs 1,70,86,36,182(~Rs 170.86 crores)
Rs 13,19,410(~Rs 13.19 lakhs)
Rs 59,58,37,728(~Rs 59.58 crores)
Rs 11,70,605(~ Rs 11.70 lakhs)
Rs 14,02,00,000(~Rs 14.02 crores)
Rs 1,00,14,286(~ Rs 1 crore)
Rs 1,22,81,544(~Rs 1.22 crores)
Rs 3,23,199(~ Rs 3.23 lakhs)
Rs 2,09,74,666(~Rs 2.09 crores)
Rs 4,03,359(~ Rs 4.03 lakhs)
Rs 247.79 crores
Rs 12.98 lakhs
*Unique donor: A donor who might or might not have made multiple donations during FY 2013-14
III. Comparison of donations received by National Parties during FY 2012-13 and FY 2013-14
The total donations of BJP, INC, NCP and CPI during FY 2013-14 showed an increase of 158%, from the previous financial year, 2012-13.
The total donations ofBJP during FY 2013-14 increased by Rs 87.67 crores from Rs 83.19 crores during FY 2012-13 to Rs 170.86 crores during FY 2013-14 (105% increase).
Donations declared by BJP during FY 2013-14 is more than twice the aggregate declared by the INC, NCP, CPI and CPM during the same year.
Donations to BJP during FY 2013-14
BJP received maximum donations of Rs 55.86 crores from 32 donors who donated between Rs 1 crore and Rs 10 crores.
Top 3 donors to BJP
Bharti Group’s Satya Electoral Trustdonated the maximum amount of Rs 41.37 crores to BJP from 3 donations followed by Sterlite Industries India Ltd which donated Rs 15 crores from 4 donations and Cairn India Ltd. which donated Rs 7.50 crores from 2 donations to the party. It is to be noted that none of the above 3 donors donated toBJP during FY 2012-13.
Bharti Group’s Satya Electoral Trustwas also the top donor to INC, contributing Rs 36.50 crores to the party during FY 2013-14.
Satya Electoral Trustmade the maximum contribution of Rs 4 crores to NCP too during FY 2013-14.
Donors from Corporates/ business sectors Vs. Individual donors
92% of donations to BJP above Rs 20,000 were from corporate houses/ business sector.A total of 704 donations from corporate/business sectors amounting to Rs 157.84 crores were made to BJP
8% of donations to BJP above Rs 20,000 were made by individuals. 772 individual donors donateda total ofRs 12.99 crores to the party during FY 2013-14.
Four donations declared by BJP contained details of only the amount donated by the donor but not the details of the donors. The total donations from such donors amounted to Rs 2.75 lakhs (0.02% of total donations).
VII. State-wise donations to National Parties
A total of Rs 45.21 croreswas donated to BJP from 119 donations from Delhi by both corporates and individuals together. It is to be noted that INC received maximum donations from Delhi(Rs 39.05 crores), as did CPI(Rs 54.6 lakhs) and CPM (Rs 1.88 crores) during FY 2013-14.
Donations to BJP from Gujarat amounted to Rs23.25 crores followed by 22.24 crores from Maharashtra.
It is to be noted that3 donations from individuals from Singapore was made to BJP, amounting to a total of Rs 8.50 lakhs. These were the only declared donations from outside India.
Complete address of the contributing person/company
Amount of contribution(Rs.)
Mode of contribution (Cheque/ DD/ cash/RTGS/others)
Details of contribution
Pulak Chandan Prasad
Rs 8.50 lakhs
VIII. Discrepancy in disclosure of information in the donations report
Cheque/DD numbers of 3 pairs of donors are identical. The donations made by A to Z Online Services Pvt. Ltd. (Rs 84 lakhs) and Jumana Goolam Vahanvati(Rs 20 lakhs) was through the same cheque number (957). Similarly, the donations made by Ravi Developers (Rs 7.50 lakhs) and Ravi Development (Rs 7.50 lakhs) was through the same cheque number (7939569). Also, the two donations made by Praveen Kumar of Rs 5 lakhs each was through the same cheque number (826592). It is to be noted that the PAN details of the first four donors was not declared in the contributions report of the party.
The contribution statement says that ‘Bharatiya Janata Party’ donated Rs 1 lakh while ‘BJP Ward 66’ donated Rs 30,000 to the party. Also, 4 donors whose complete name, address and PAN details are unavailable donated a total of Rs 2.75 lakhs to the party during FY 2013-14.
Discrepancy in disclosure of information in the donations report
Complete address of the contributing person/company
Amount of contribution (Rs.)
Mode of contribution (Cheque/ DD/ cash/RTGS/others)
Details of contribution
A to Z Online Services Pvt. Ltd.
Tech Park on Tower E, Airport Road, Yerwada, Pune- 411006
Other discrepancies in declaration of donations by BJP
Complete address of the contributing person/company
Amount of contribution (Rs.)
Mode of contribution (Cheque/ DD/ cash/RTGS/others)
Details of contribution
Bharatiya Janata Party
(Not provided by BJP)
Patan Co-Op Bank, Goregaon(W) Branch
BJP Ward 66
(Not provided by BJP)
Dattatray Bank, Jogeshwari (E ) Br.
(Not provided by BJP)
(Not provided by BJP)
(Not provided by BJP)
(Not provided by BJP)
ICICI Bank , Chembur Branch
(Not provided by BJP)
Sean Adevent 2nd Floor Alfran Plaza Opposite Dada Vaidya Hospital Panjim Goa-403001
Indian Overseas Bank Panaji
Recommendations of ADR
The Supreme Court gave a judgment on September 13, 2013 declaring that no part of a candidate’s affidavit should be left blank. Similarly, no part of the Form 24A submitted by political parties providing details of donations above Rs 20,000 should be blank.
There is ambiguity in cash donationsfrom 17 donors declared by BJP which amounted to Rs 24.77 lakhs in FY 2013-14. The party has not included any remarks though it is part of the prescribed format of the Election Commission of India.Thus, there is a need for clarity in large amounts of cash donations by individuals/ business houses.
A total of Rs 60.78 crores(36%) was declared as donations by BJP from donors whose addresses were not declared. Such contributions were made through 923 donations without providing the details of addresses of the donors. Due to lack of complete information about the donors, the state from which the donations were made and the details of their business houses could not be verified. Thus, it should be made mandatory to provide complete information in the donations report of parties.
Full details of all donors should be made available for public scrutiny under the RTI. Some countries where this is done include Bhutan, Nepal, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Bulgaria, the US and Japan. In none of these countries is it possible for 75% of the source of funds to be unknown, but at present it is so in India.
The Government of India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) India signed here recently an agreement for a US $350 million loan to upgrade district roads in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
The Madhya Pradesh (MP) District Connectivity Sector project will improve about 1,600 kilometers of major district roads in Madhya Pradesh through lane widening, surface improvements, strengthening of culverts and bridges.
Shri Tarun Bajaj, Joint Secretary (Multilateral Institutions), Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, who signed the loan agreement on behalf of Government of India said that the project will lead to improved road transport connectivity in Madhya Pradesh (MP) through reconstruction and rehabilitation of major district roads to all-weather standards. The project will have innovative elements like creation of State Highways Fund on PPP model, toll plus annuity on hybrid model of BOT (Toll) & BOT (Annuity), Border Checkposts, also on PPP model to increase the revenue and control overloading and damage to state roads.
Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Teresa Kho, Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission, who signed the agreement for ADB said that the loan is ADB’s first in the district roads sector in India, and will address a neglected part of ongoing road network upgrades in the country for these secondary roads, which provide a key link between rural roads and state highways. She further said that this will help to cut travel times, improve traffic flow and road safety, and provide better access to markets and social services for poor and remote communities. The project agreement was signed by Sh. Vivek Aggarwal, Secretary, Public Works Department, Government of Madhya Pradesh, and Shri Arun Paliwal, General Manager, Madhya Pradesh Road Development Corporation (MPRDC).
In addition to improving the roads, the project envisages to include five-year performance-based maintenance contracts integrated as an adjunct to the construction contracts, to ensure road assets are constructed to higher standards and well maintained after initial work is completed. The project roads will also be covered under an accident response system being developed by the state, with assistance under ADB’s prior loans.
ADB’s loan will cover 70% of the total project cost of $500 million, with the state government of Madhya Pradesh providing the balance of $150 million. It is expected to be completed by April 2018. Madhya Pradesh has a road network of about 127,000 km, including 4,700 km of national highways, 11,000 km of state hi
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Orsolya Kovács-Jármy<email@example.com>
Date: Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 6:37 PM
Subject: Literary Evening | ‘THE SPACE SENSITIVE SOUL – ANTAL SZERB’ | Film screening ‘All We Need’ | Feb 27, Fri, 6 pm | at HICC
Dear Friend,Hungarian Information and Cultural Centre invites you to:
‘The Space Sensitive Soul – ANTAL SZERB’, a literary evening, commemorating his 70th Death-Anniversary, moderated by the Hungarian Scholar, Dr. Margit Köves. His novels, short stories, his favorite poems and characters from world literature will be read-out by Indu Mazaldan and the Hungarian language students, on Friday, 27th February at 6 pm at HICC.
Followed by a short comedy Film, titled “All We Need” (20 min, Hindi/English), by a young French director, Gianluca Zerial. The film is about the rat race for the ultimate possession in this materialistic world by all human beings irrespective of nationality or religion. It has been presented in a humorous way to keep you guessing while the characters chase one another… Cast: Arun Verma, Surinder Kumar, Isabel (Mexico),Rajiv Asheesh.
Kindly find the e-Invite below.
Looking forward to your gracious presence!
Gujarat Chief Minister Smt Anandiben Patel welcomed Budget 2015-16 presented by Gujarat Finance Minister Shri Saurabhbhai Patel in Legislative Assembly today. She stated that the all-inclusive Budget will give momentum to State Government’s commitment towards sustainable development. The second consecutive budget under the leadership of CM Smt Patel has her imprint in the emphasis of the social sector and firm push for over-all development. Social and physical infrastructure has been accorded due priority with 48.53% of total outlay (Rs 38484.15 crores) allotted to social services sector.
The Budget 2015-16 is of the size of Rs 139139 crore with Revenue surplus of Rs 7308 crores. This is the fifth consecutive year with Revenue Surplus Budget. Plan allocation for 2015-16 is Rs 79295 crore for Annual Development, which shows 11% rise over the plan size of last year.
The new Budget features provisions that furthers CM Smt Patel’s vision of Gatisheel Gujarat in every way possible. Continuing the tradition of Gender Budget, the new Budget continues to propel women empowerment in various sectors, with 593 schemes and a total provision of Rs 45770 crores. This includes individual beneficiary oriented schemes as well as infrastructural and community developmental schemes. The Budget addresses aspirations of the youth, empowering them with knowledge and skills and providing them a platform to engage in state’s growth-story, said CM Smt Patel.
She particularly welcomed the starting of ten new colleges in talukas not having a single college and establishment of new universities in Saurashtra and another in tribal areas in the eastern belt of the state. The Global Knowledge Hub in Vadodara district which would house Children University, Teachers’ University, Sports University and Central University will prove to be a game-changer in the current education scenario. The pre-metric scholarship of tribal children have been almost doubled in all categories and maintenance grant for students in Ashram Shalas has been increased by 50%.
Leveraging the support from Centre, a provision of Rs 9000 crores has been allotted towards various facets of Sardar Sarovar project including canal network and Statue of Unity. To bring the water-starved villages of Saurashtra into the ambit of second Green Revolution being ushered in the state, the provision of SAUNI Yojana has been increased substantially from Rs 1294 crores last year to Rs 2102 crores. An additional 10% subvention to marginal farmers to procure equipment for drip irrigation would further Gujarat’s success with the motto of Per drop, More crop. New initiatives like Organic Farming Policy and Apni Mandi to market organic produce have also been introduced.
The boost to the augmentation of MSME sector laid down in the recently introduced Industrial Policy is supported by a provision of Rs 562 crores. Similarly, start-up schemes has got a provision of Rs 12 crores, that will support young entrepreneurs of the state. At the same time, a notable raise in the assistance provided to the workers working through khadi institutions and boards would be a great boon for them.
Gujarat, as always, has been committed to the development of the deprived. Rs 9690 crores have been provided under tribal area sub-plan, plus Rs 1674 crores for tribal development department for addressing various developmental needs to bring our Van Bandhus in the mainstream. CM Smt Patel welcomed the provision for grand celebration of 125th birth anniversary of the architect of the Constitution of India Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar while hailing provision of Rs 2263 crores for Social Justice and Empowerment Department.
Gujarat being a highly urbanized state, a provision of Rs 10,270 crores has been made for urban development and urban housing.Due allocation of funds has been made for global projects like SMART City and DREAM City on one hand and empowering municipalities and other urban local bodies, on the other.
Rs 3070 crores under Swarnim Jayanti Mukhyamantri Shaheri Vikas Yojana has been made to enhance the quality of life in urban areas. For providing 2 lakh houses in the coming year, Rs 1100 crores provided under Mukhyamantri Gruh Yojana would be a step forward towards slum-free Gujarat as well as fulfilling the dreams of neo-middle class. A provision of Rs 871 crores have also been made for housing in rural areas.
Another major need of neo-middle class is affordable high quality health, that would be addressed by a new policy involving NGOs and PPP model, the Budget specifies. Addressing the shortage of manpower in the medical sector, Rs 1128.5 crores have been provided for developing and constructing new medical colleges and up-gradation of hospitals.
Formation of Island Development Authority will have double benefit in the form of development of tourism as well as security of the coastline, for which Rs 10 crores have been provided.
Gujarat has reaffirmed its commitment towards cleanliness, by providing Rs 1200 crores for urban and Rs 722 crores for Gramya Swachhata Mission. This includes construction of toilets, waste management, drainage facilities as well as creating awareness.
With a motto of Digital Gujarat for Digital India, there is an ambitious plan to provide Wi-Fi facilities in districts and talukas on PPP basis, to create the facility of Digital Vault for civilians and institutions, to strengthen the State Resident Data Hub and to initate novel programmes like Citizen Engagement Platform through social media.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the United States of plunging the West Asia into chaos and fuelling the rise of extremists because of its drive to dominate the world. Lavrov levelled the fierce criticism of Washington’s policies at a special UN Security Council debate on maintaining international peace and security. The Russian foreign minister cited the US-led air strikes in Syria, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2011 military intervention in Libya as examples of violations of the fundamental principles of the United Nations. Lavrov told the 15-member council that all of this is the result of attempts to dominate global affairs, to rule over all, everywhere, to use military force unilaterally to push one’s interests.
He said, these have plunged the West Asia and North Africa into instability and chaos, and to a large extent have created a breeding ground in which extremists thrive. The foreign minister also spoke of unsavoury methods being used such as regime change and open support for the unconstitutional state coup in Ukraine a year ago. Russia has repeatedly accused the United States and its western allies of having engineered the ouster of pro-Kremlin Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych, which triggered the separatist upheaval in Crimea and east Ukraine. Lavrov spoke to the council as Ukraine accused pro-Russia rebels of massing forces near the port city of Mariupol despite a ceasefire agreement reached between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany.
Supreme Courtviewon tainted Legislators is disheartening. I can understand, there may be some limitations, but in the broader perspective, the view should have expressed the concern of the apex court for the nation and the welfare of the people. This perspective is conspicuously overlooked by the learned apex court and issue of national importance has remained an issue between the Parliament and the Judiciary. I suppose the present view of the apex court is based on an earlier verdict by one of its Constitutional bench. Sir, Judiciary, Parliament and State Assemblies are meant for the welfare of the people of the land. People look in them the wisdom of a prudent father andloveof a doting mother.
The Judiciary is the custodian of the Constitution and responsible for overseeing that the same is being truly implemented by the Parliament and State Assemblies. The tainted Legislators have been a compelling issue for long and a great deterrence in prudent governances. They are a conspicuous cause of the sufferings of our large populace. The bench of the apex court seems to have overlooked this vital aspect.
It is quite possible that some of the tainted Legislators may come out to be innocent. But it shall not be logical to hand over the fate of a massive nation such as India in the hands of such dubious characters until they are found innocent. Therefore let them enjoy a free life as a free citizen till they are found innocent under judicial impunity. Why permit them in the Parliament or State Assemblies? Our country is already pushed to the present tatters due to such incongruous and unmindfulpersonalrights. As I said before, in such cases we may apply the ‘law of maxims’ that says, ‘in the larger public good, individual rights can be sacrificed’. Good governance surely demands for this law to prevail.
I therefore pray the learned Judiciary toplaythe role of a watch dog for the Parliament and the State Assemblies, a responsibility that all the worthy Constitutions of the world have bestowed on their learned Judiciaries.
Supreme Court in its verdict has said that Political parties know the best about a suitable candidate because they have to run the governments. Sir, as far as we have witnessed, they just know how to manipulate vote politics and win the elections for their self seeking overtures. My statement is conspicuous and my book narrates this fact in abundance. The SC has assumed that the conscious of the Prime Minister or the Chief Ministers is enough to judge the repercussions of such dubious characters in the governments. But such assumptions are misplaced and have been largely responsible for India’s present dilapidation. Similar assumptions were made by our founding fathers when they were drafting the Constitution as discussed in my analysis and presented through the book. All such assumptions have failed us. Sir, our Parliament and State Assemblies have made mockery of elections and governances. For them Constitution is of little relevance and is generally used as an instrument for their own protection rather than any incumbency. The utter shambles of our country is a proof.
Sir, I may like to emphatically submit and pray that the time has come for the Judiciary to take some hard decisions for the sake of the nation, multitudes of perennially suffering people and the implementation of the Constitution. As the ultimate saviour of the people of India, Sir it is your turn now to set all wrongs right ‘within and outside’ andmakeall functionaries responsible and accountable, Parliament, State Assemblies or any other to uphold the dignity and reverence of our Constitution.
Today, I want to speak to you about keeping our country safe.
I want to speak to you about the threat that we face; the work done already to keep you as safe as we humanly can; and the things still needed to prevent further terrorist attacks.
Today, my colleagues and I are joined by representatives of the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Defence Force, ASIO and agencies like Crimtrac – which helps police and other law enforcement bodies share information.
The men and women in this room are on the frontline of Australia’s fight against terror.
There is no greater responsibility – on me – on the government – than keeping you safe.
This is the responsibility that’s discharged by the men and women in this room.
We know that these are testing times for everyone here – and for everyone sworn to protect democratic freedoms.
The terrorist threat is rising at home and abroad – and it’s becoming harder to combat.
We have seen on our TV screens and in our newspapers the evidence of the new dark age that has settled over much of Syria and Iraq.
We have seen the beheadings, the mass executions, the crucifixions and the sexual slavery in the name of religion.
There is no grievance here that can be addressed; there is no cause here that can be satisfied; it is the demand to submit – or die.
We have seen our fellow Australians – people born and bred to live and let live – succumb to the lure of this death cult.
We have heard the exhortations of their so-called caliphate to kill all or any of the unbelievers.
And we know that this message of the most primitive savagery is being spread through the most sophisticated technology.
By any measure, the threat to Australia is worsening.
The number of foreign fighters is up.
The number of known sympathisers and supporters of extremism is up.
The number of potential home grown terrorists is rising.
The number of serious investigations continues to increase.
During 2014, the Government consulted with our experts – many of whom are in this room today; we talked with our allies; and we worked with the Opposition, to improve Australia’s preparedness for any eventuality.
Last September, the National Terrorist Threat level was lifted to High, which means a terrorist attack is likely.
Critics said we were exaggerating.
But since then, we have witnessed the frenzied attack on two police officers in Melbourne and the horror of the Martin Place siege.
Twenty people have been arrested and charged as a result of six counter terrorism operations conducted around Australia.
That’s one third of all the terrorism-related arrests since 2001 – within the space of just six months.
The judgment to lift the Threat Level was correct.
In proclaiming a caliphate, the Islam-ist death-cult has declared war on the world.
Not only has Australia suffered at the hands of terrorists – but so have Canada, France, Denmark, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Japan, Jordan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
We have seen the tactics of terrorists evolve.
In the decade after 9/11, our agencies disrupted elaborate conspiracies to attack our electricity supplies, the Grand Final at the MCG and the Holsworthy Army Barracks in Sydney.
Now, in addition to the larger scale, more complex plots that typified the post 9/11 world, such as the atrocities in Bali and London, sick individuals are acting on the caliphate’s instruction to seize people at random and kill them.
Today’s terrorism requires little more than a camera-phone, a knife and a victim.
These lone actor attacks are not new, but they pose a unique set of problems.
All too often, alienated and unhappy people brood quietly.
Feeling persecuted and looking for meaning, they self-radicalise online.
Then they plan attacks which require little preparation, training or capability.
The short lead time from the moment they decide they are going to strike, and then actually undertake the attack, makes it hard to disrupt their activities.
Police do not have the luxury to wait and watch.
They apply their best judgement – and they do so, fully aware that armchair critics, will find fault.
Still, police act because they have enough facts to make an informed judgement.
Some of these raids may not result in prosecution.
But frankly, I’d rather lose a case, than lose a life.
The protection of life must always rank ahead of the prospects of a successful prosecution.
The arrest of two men in Sydney earlier this month, who’d already recorded a pre-attack message, is just one example of how quickly a threat can develop.
I should add that without our Foreign Fighters legislation, it is highly unlikely that these arrests could have been made.
This new terrorist environment is uniquely shaped by the way that extremist ideologies can now spread online.
Every single day, the Islam-ist death cult and its supporters churn out up to 100,000 social media messages in a variety of languages.
Often, they are slick and well produced.
That’s the contagion that’s infecting people, grooming them for terrorism.
Already at least 110 Australians have travelled overseas to join the death cult in Iraq and Syria.
At least 20 of them, so far, are dead.
Even if the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq stopped today, there’s an Australian cohort of hardened jihadists who are intent on radicalising and influencing others.
The number of Australians with hands-on terrorist experience is now several times larger than those who trained earlier in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Of that group, two-thirds became involved in terrorist activity back here in Australia.
The signs are ominous.
ASIO currently has over 400 high-priority counter-terrorism investigations.
That’s more than double the number a year ago.
We are not alone in facing such challenges.
The same phenomenon is evident across Europe, in the United States and in South East Asia.
Many of those involved in anti-Western attacks in Indonesia over the last decade are now being released from prison—some neither reformed nor rehabilitated.
Australian and Indonesian agencies will continue to work closely together to tackle extremists – because it is in both our interests to do so.
In Australia and elsewhere, the threat of terrorism has become a terrible fact of life that government must do all in its power to counter.
So far, this is what we have done.
Within weeks of taking office, I asked the Attorney-General to develop a government response to foreign fighters.
Last August, the Government invested $630 million in a range of new counter-terrorism measures.
This funding gives our security agencies the resources they asked for to combat home-grown terrorism and to help prevent Australians participating in terrorism overseas.
The effect of these new measures has already been felt.
·Counter-Terrorism Teams now operate at all eight major international airports;
·sixty-two additional biometric screening gates are being fast tracked for passengers at airports to detect and deal with people leaving on false passports;
·forty-nine extra AFP members are working in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra on the Foreign Fighter threat;
·seven new financial analysts have been engaged to help crack down on terrorist financing;
·a new “violent jihadist network mapping unit” in ASIO has been created to improve intelligence agencies’ understanding of the threat facing Australia;
·a Foreign Fighters Task Force has been established in the Australian Crime Commission with access to the commission’s coercive powers; and
·Last Thursday, the Attorney-General announced a series of measures designed to combat terrorist propaganda online.
We have legislated to cancel the welfare payments of individuals assessed to be a threat to security.
This is not window dressing – as of last September, 55 of the 57 Australian extremists then fighting with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq had been on welfare.
We have made it easier to ban terrorist organisations which promote and encourage terrorist acts.
We have strengthened the offences of training with, recruiting for and funding terrorist organisations.
We have made it easier to prosecute foreign fighters by making it illegal to travel to a declared area overseas.
Last December, we proscribed travel to Syria’s Al Raqqa province – where the death cult is based – without a legitimate purpose.
We are now looking at listing Mosul district in Ninawa Province, in Iraq, which the death cult also controls.
And we have given ASIO the further power to request an Australian passport be suspended, pending further security assessment – that’s happened eight times so far.
This year, we will consider what further legislation is needed to combat terrorism and keep Australians safe.
But we cannot do it alone.
The Government is working with local communities to counter violent extremism.
I acknowledge the readiness of parents, siblings and community leaders to let the police know about people they think are falling under the death cult’s spell.
Our law enforcement agencies could not operate without their help.
I acknowledge the cooperation the Commonwealth enjoys with all States and Territories on counter-terrorism issues.
That cooperation was highlighted by the Martin Place siege.
Yesterday, Premier Mike Baird and I released the Martin Place Siege Joint Commonwealth – New South Wales Review.
What we learnt from that Review was that there were no major failings of intelligence or process in the lead up to Martin Place.
Everyone did their job as required by law.
But now, there’s more to do.
It’s clear that in too many instances the threshold for action was set too high – and the only beneficiary of that was the Martin Place murderer himself.
For too long, we have given those who might be a threat to our country the benefit of the doubt.
The perpetrator was given the benefit of the doubt when he applied for a visa.
He was given the benefit of the doubt for residency and citizenship.
He was given the benefit of the doubt at Centrelink.
He was given the benefit of the doubt when he applied for legal aid.
And in the courts, there has been bail, when there should have been jail.
This report marks a line in the sand.
There is always a trade-off between the rights of an individual and the safety of the community.
We will never sacrifice our freedoms in order to defend them – but we will not let our enemies exploit our decency either.
If Immigration and Border Protection faces a choice to let-in or keep out people with security questions over them – we should choose to keep them out.
If there is a choice between latitude for suspects or more powers to police and security agencies – more often, we should choose to support our agencies.
And if we can stop hate-preachers from grooming gullible young people for terrorism, we should.
We have already made a start on removing the benefit of the doubt for people who are taking advantage of us.
We’ve introduced legislation to refuse a protection visa to people who destroy evidence of their identity.
And the same applies if you present a bogus document.
This Bill is currently stalled in the Senate.
It’s in our country’s interest.
And I call on all senators to support it.
The Government’s Data Retention Bill – currently being reviewed by the Parliament – is the vital next step in giving our agencies the tools they need to keep Australia safe.
Access to metadata is the common element to most successful counter-terrorism investigations.
It’s essential in fighting most major crimes, including the most abhorrent of all – crimes against children.
Again, I call on Parliament to support this important legislation.
We need to give our agencies these powers to protect our community.
Today, I am releasing the Counter Terrorism review that the Government commissioned last August.
The Review finds that we face a new, long-term era of heightened terrorism threat, with a much more significant ‘home grown’ element.
While the Review did not recommend major structural changes, it did recommend strengthening our counter-terrorism strategy and improving our cooperation with at-risk communities.
The government will carefully consider the findings and act as quickly as possible.
In fact, some recommendations have already been acted upon:
We will ensure returning foreign fighters are prosecuted or closely monitored using strengthened control orders.
We will appoint a National Counter Terrorism Coordinator.
We want to bring the same drive, focus and results to our counter terrorism efforts that worked so well in Operation Sovereign Borders and Operation Bring Them Home.
Over recent months, I spent many hours listening to Australians from all walks of life.
Clearly, people are anxious about the national security threats we face.
Many are angry because all too often the threat comes from someone who has enjoyed the hospitality and generosity of the Australian people.
When it comes to someone like the Martin Place murderer, people feel like we have been taken for mugs.
Australian citizenship is an extraordinary privilege that should involve a solemn and lifelong commitment to Australia.
People who come to this country are free to live as they choose – provided they don’t steal that same freedom from others.
We are one of the most diverse nations on earth – and celebrating that is at the heart of what it means to be Australian.
We are a country built on immigration and are much the richer for it.
Always, Australia will continue to welcome people who want to make this country their home.
We will help them and support them to settle in.
But this is not a one-way street.
Those who come here must be as open and accepting of their adopted country, as we are of them.
Those who live here must be as tolerant of others as we are of them.
No one should live in our country while denying our values and rejecting the very idea of a free and open society.
It’s worth recalling the citizenship pledge that all of us have been encouraged to recite:
I pledge my commitment to Australia and its people; whose democratic beliefs I share; whose rights and liberties I respect; and whose laws I will uphold and obey.
This has to mean something.
Especially now that we face a home-grown threat from people who do reject our values.
Today, I am announcing that the Government will look at new measures to strengthen immigration laws, as well as new options for dealing with Australian citizens who are involved in terrorism.
We cannot allow bad people to use our good nature against us.
The Government will develop amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act so that we can revoke or suspend Australian citizenship in the case of dual nationals.
It has long been the case that people who fight against Australia forfeit their citizenship.
Australians who take up arms with terrorist groups, especially while Australian military personnel are engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, have sided against their country and should be treated accordingly.
For Australian nationals, we are examining suspending some of the privileges of citizenship for individuals involved in terrorism.
Those could include restricting the ability to leave or return to Australia, and access to consular services overseas, as well as access to welfare payments.
We will also clamp down on those organisations that incite religious or racial hatred.
No-one should make excuses for Islam-ist fanatics in the Middle East or their imitators here in Australia.
For a long time, successive governments have been concerned about organisations that breed hatred, and sometimes incite violence.
Organisations and individuals blatantly spreading discord and division – such as Hizb ut-Tahrir – should not do so with impunity.
Today, I can confirm that the Government will be taking action against hate preachers.
This includes enforcing our strengthened terrorism advocacy laws.
It includes new programmes to challenge terrorist propaganda and to provide alternative online material based on Australian values.
And it will include stronger prohibitions on vilifying, intimidating or inciting hatred.
These changes should empower community members to directly challenge terrorist propaganda.
I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace’.
I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.
I have often cited Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia, who has described the Islamist death cult as ‘against God, against Islam and against our common humanity’.
In January, President al Sisi told the imams at Egypt’s al Azhar university that Islam needed a ‘religious revolution’ to sweep away centuries of false thinking.
Everybody, including Muslim community leaders – needs to speak up clearly because, no matter what the grievance, violence against innocents must surely be a blasphemy against all religion.
I can’t promise that terrorist atrocities won’t ever again take place on Australian soil.
But let me give you this assurance:
My Government will never underestimate the threat.
We will make the difficult decisions that must be taken to keep you and your family safe.
We have the best national security agencies and the best police forces in the world.
Our agencies are working together.
All levels of government are working together.
We are doing our duty.
That is what you have a right to expect – and to demand of me and of us.
Travel at ease with the AirAsia Asean Pass!Highly anticipated AirAsia Asean Pass is now available for sale on www.airasia.com
BANGKOK, 23 February 2015 – AirAsia introduced the “AirAsia Asean Pass” and the “AirAsia Asean Pass+” in an effort to boost travel by making traveling within the region a seamless experience. The passes are available from today at www.airasia.com, with the AirAsia Asean Pass retailing at RM499 for 10 credits and AirAsia Asean Pass+ for RM888 with 20 credits.
The co-founders of AirAsia; Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun announced the development of this product at the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Malaysia Conference held in Kuala Lumpur in November last year.
AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes said, “As a truly Asean airline, we are extremely proud to introduce the AirAsia Asean Pass, which is a product specifically designed to further liberalize and encourage travel among the Asean community. The pass allows us to bridge communities and attract more foreign tourists to the region- it’s the perfect instrument to promote Asean integration.”
“We are constantly enhancing the way guests fly with us and the AirAsia Asean Pass is another innovation that we have put in place to make flying more efficient and enjoyable. We are working on additional enhancements that will further benefit guests traveling from non Asean destinations.”
Holders of the AirAsia Asean Pass and the AirAsia Asean Pass+ can enjoy flights at a fixed-rate to over 148 routes across all 10 Asean countries. Acting like a single currency, it diminishes the hassle of different foreign exchange rates as flights are valued according to credits, allowing guests to be creative in planning their ideal trip through Asean.
Flights with duration of below two hours are valued at 1 credit, while flights of two hours and above are valued at 3 credits. No processing fee applies for flight redemptions using the AirAsia Asean Pass and Asean Pass+. Airport charges/tax and other fees will be payable separately. The pass can also be purchased as a gift for another traveller.
The AirAsia Asean Pass and Asean Pass+ credits are redeemable for travel with AirAsia Malaysia (AK), Thai AirAsia (FD), AirAsia Indonesia (QZ) and Philippines AirAsia (Z2) to Asean destinations only.
For a detailed list of flights redeemable with the AirAsia Asean Pass and Asean Pass+ and other applicable terms and conditions, guests may refer to the airline’s website at www.airasia.com.
Anirban Lahiri etches his name on Indian Open trophy with playoff win over SSP Chawrasia
Lahiri’;s 2nd European Tour win in three weeks could take him close to top-30 in the world
New Delhi, February 22, 2015: India’;s Anirban Lahiri sealed his second European Tour title in three weeks as he defeated compatriot SSP Chawrasia in a playoff at the Delhi Golf Club to etch his name on the coveted Indian Open trophy. Anirban came home the winner after sinking a long birdie putt during the playoff. Lahiri and Chawrasia had earlier ended the regulation 72 holes with identical totals of seven-under-277.
Anirban’;s win, the first by an Indian at the Indian Open in six years, is likely to propel him from his current world ranking of 39 to somewhere close to the top-30. The prolific Lahiri became the eighth Indian winner of the Indian Open and it was the 11th occasion that the tournament was won by an Indian. It was also the 68th international title won by an Indian.
Lahiri (73-65-70-69), who was overnight tied sixth, posted a tenacious two-under-69 on a high-scoring day even as overnight leader Chawrasia (65-67-69-76) struggled in the blustery conditions to return with a disappointing five-over-76.
Lahiri, who started the day seven shots behind Chawrasia, took advantage of the latter’s stuttering form when he turned in 34 before trading one birdie against one bogey on the back nine. But it was a magical chip-in par on the 17th hole which kept him in the title race.
Chawrasia scrambled through the day as a result of the blustery conditions. He found the bushes on two occasions and also missed the greens a few times that led to his five bogeys and a double-bogey. He could only manage two birdies in the final round.
Both players finished on seven-under-277 in regulation play and returned to the 18th hole for the playoff where Lahiri sealed the win with a birdie from inside 10-feet. Chawrasia’s title hopes faded when his tee shot landed under thick branches.
The victory accounted for Lahiri’s seventh Asian Tour title and second European Tour win. The 27-year-old from Bangalore playing in his rookie season on the European Tour, who had just two weeks back lifted the Maybank Malaysian Open trophy, is now ranked second in the European Tour Race to Dubai. Anirban’s 15th career title also made him the second Indian to record multiple victories in the same European Tour season following Jeev Milkha Singh in 2006.
“The new Hero Indian Open winner? That has a nice ring to it. I’m shocked. I really didn’t think that I will be in this position considering the way S.S.P. and Siddikur have been playing. I thought all of us were playing for third,” said Lahiri, who registered his fourth playoff win at the DGC.
“This has been a childhood dream so it is very special to keep the Indian Open trophy at home. Every Indian puts winning the Indian Open on their bucket list. I couldn’t have asked for a better day,” smiled Lahiri, who is the first local to win the Indian Open since C Muniyappa’s victory in 2009.
“It was a tough day with the wind switching its direction and the tricky pin positions. But that chip-in was crucial. I didn’t want to come down 18, needing to eagle it. Even when I played 18 in regulation play, I thought I needed to birdie it. That chip-in was easily the shot of the day. It was magical when it went in,” said Lahiri.
He added, “This win will boost my world ranking and open a lot of doors for me. I have a very good chance of playing The Masters now.”
Chawrasia, a two-time European Tour winner, was gracious in defeat despite finishing second for the fourth time in his National Open. He settled for runner-up in 1999, 2006 and 2013.
“It’s been a great week and I played well for three days and had some bad shots in the final round but it’s ok. The problem today was the wind. It was gusting a lot and made it very difficult,” he explained.
“I am proud of myself for hanging in there to make the playoff and there is always a next time. Anirban is a great friend and he played well to win the playoff. I’m playing well and hopefully it continues like this.”
PGTI member Mithun Perera of Sri Lanka enjoyed his best result in 2015 when he posted a 69 to share third place alongside Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng (71), Marcus Fraser (72) of Australia and Joakim Lagergren (69) of Sweden at six-under-278.
Md Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh made it four PGTI members in the top-10 as he claimed tied seventh place at five-under-279. He had a final round of five-over-76.
Among the other Indians in the field, Shubhankar Sharma and Jyoti Randhawa finished tied 17th at one-under-283, while Rashid Khan, Manav Jaini and Jeev Milkha Singh were a further shot back in tied 24th.
Arjun Atwal and Chikkarangappa shared 31st place at one-over-285. Mukesh Kumar was in joint 35th at two-over-286 and Amardip Sinh Malik, Kapil Kumar and Chiragh Kumar were a shot behind in tied 39th.
Om Prakash Chouhan was tied 50th at five-over-289, Angad Cheema was tied 63rd at eight-over-292 and Shiv Kapur ended in 68th place at 10-over-294.
We are happy to invite you to the 3rd edition of Transmissions – The Festival of Independent Cinema From Around The World. The film festival is scheduled from the 26th February to the 1st of March, 2015 at Instituto Cervantes ( Spanish Cultural Center ), 48, Hanuman Road, Connaught Place New Delhi
The Festival will also host, for the first time, an exhibition of art works / photographs from imminent independent artists from across the world and a tribute to the eminent film programmer Late. Mr. Peter Von Bagh from Finland during the festival.
I invite you for an exclusive press preview of the exhibition and the formal launch of the festival on the 24th of February, 2015 at 5 pmat Instituto Cervantes Auditorium.
The Preview will be addressed by Cultural Ambassadors of the supporting Embassies, Artists and Founders of Lightcube Film Society.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has concluded his two hour meeting with his American counterpart John Kerry in Geneva on Sunday. Zarif told Iranian state media that the talks produced “good discussions but no agreements”, and some differences remained. The talks are set to resume on Monday to try to narrow some of the gaps before the March 31 deadline to reach a political agreement.
The Polish film Ida, directed by Poland’s Paweł Pawlikowski, has won best foreign language film at the Oscars, defeating the Russian entry Leviathan, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. It is the first Polish film to win the world’s most prestigious movie award. The movie, set in Poland in the 1960s, is about a young woman who discovers she is Jewish just before she becomes a nun. “We make a film about silence and withdrawing from the world and the need for contemplation – and here we are, at the epicenter of world noise and attention. Fantastic – life is full of surprises,” Pawlikowski said while accepting the award
The Islamic State extremist group (IS, formerly known as ISIS, ISIL) has burnt more than 100,000 books, including rare and important manuscripts, across the parts of the Anbar region in Iraq they control, according to Anbar provincial council member Amal Fahadway, cited by London-based Arabic language website Elaph, Sputnik news agency reports. The director of Mosul’s public library said in a statement that a library in the Faisaliah area east of Mosul was bombed by IS on Saturday. IS has been notorious for ransacking libraries and destroying books. UNESCO exepressed its alarm at the beginning of February over reports of massive destruction of books in Mosul, saying that these actions seek “to wipe out the cultural diversity that is the soul of the Iraqi people.”
Syrian government has said a Turkish incursion into the north of the country was an act of “flagrant aggression.” Damascus said it would hold Ankara responsible after they went into Syria to evacuate personnel and relics from a holy tomb. Syria said the Turkish government had informed the Syrian consulate in Istanbul about its plans regarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah in northern Syria.Shah was the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire However, Turkey didn’t wait for permission from Damascus and mounted a rescue operation to the tomb, to salvage its relics and evacuate 40 Turkish soldiers who had been guarding it.>Damascus says the maneuver was in violation of an agreement signed in 1921. Syria also stated that Anakara would be responsible for any repercussions that could take place as a result of the incursion.
The military operation launched to rescue the holy place was coordinated with the Kurds. The only casualty was a Turkish soldier.
The task force of approximately 100 military vehicles, including 39 tanks, crossed the Syrian border to a territory controlled by Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighters and passed through the city of Kobani, recaptured by the YPG from the Islamic State in January.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held a media briefing in the capital, Ankara, reporting that 38 soldiers had been brought back safely to Turkey. Syria accuses Turkey of supporting insurgent groups that have seized control of wide areas of northern and eastern Syria, including the Islamic State militant group. The Syrian government statement said the fact that the Islamic State had not attacked the tomb “confirmed the depth of the ties between the Turkish government and this terrorist organization,” according to Reuters. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad accused Ankara of violating Syrian sovereignty and warned that his country has the right to defend itself. “Damascus reserves the right to defend our land and properly respond to this aggression at the right time,” he told pan-Arabist satellite TV channel Al Mayadeen.
An earthquake measuring 4.5 has shaken eastern Japan, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, as quoted by Reuters. There were no immediate reports of damage, and no tsunami warning has been issued. The epicenter of the tremor was in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo.