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Govt misleading nation on Rafale deal: Congress

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Anand Sharma

New Delhi, Jul 23 : In a fresh offensive, the Congress today accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of “lying” in Parliament on the Rafale deal, saying there was no secrecy clause in the 2008 Indo-French pact that binds the government from revealing price details of the fighter aircraft.

The Congress is likely to raise the heat on the government on the issue and may move a privilege motion against PM Modi and Sitharaman for “misleading” the Lok Sabha.

Days after Congress President Rahul Gandhi forcefully attacked the government in Parliament on the Rafale deal, the party fielded three of its top leaders — former defence minister A K Antony, Anand Sharma and Randeep Surjewala — who demanded the Modi dispensation must reveal the price details of the aircraft.

The leaders also released a copy of the confidential agreement the UPA government had signed with France in January 2008, to drive home the point that it does not restrict India from revealing the price details of the Rafale deal. They also indicated that Congress may bring a privilege motion against the PM and Sitharaman.

According to copy of the agreement released by Congress, both French and Indian governments, in accordance with their national laws, shall take all measures necessary for the protection of classified information and material provided to them under it or in accordance with agreements, contracts or sub-contracts concluded between or by the two sides or by their authorised agencies.

In his address during the debate on the no-confidence motion against the government on Friday, Gandhi had said that French President Emmanuel Macron had told him during a meeting that there was no secrecy pact that forces India from revealing price details of the Rafale aircraft.

After Gandhi’s remarks, the French Foreign Ministry had said France had signed a security pact with India in 2008 which legally binds the two countries to protect the classified information which could impact security and operational capabilities of the defence equipment.

In his reply to the motion, Modi asked Gandhi to not make such “childish” allegations on such sensitive issues.

In today’s press conference, Antony said the government’s claim that a secrecy clause in the pact was forcing it to not reveal price details of the deal was “totally wrong”.

Antony also said the government cannot hide the price details of the Rafale jets as the deal has to be scrutinised by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as well as the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

“They must reveal the price details of the aircraft and they must also tell us why a company was selected as offset partner which has no experience manufacturing aircraft,” said Antony, alleging the private player has benefited by crores.

Addressing the joint press conference, his colleague Anand Sharma said, “The French government had no objection in revealing the price of the Rafale aircraft. This was conveyed by the French president to Rahul Gandhi during a meeting in which I was present along with the former prime minister.”

Sharma also said France never had any reservation or any issue about the disclosure of the price of the aircraft which under the French law is mandatory.

“It is a sad day that they are not respecting even the Constitution of the country by telling that they cannot disclose and brazenly misleading the Parliament. Under the French law, annual mandatory filing is there even by the companies concerned,” he said.

“I have no hesitation to say that, going by the record of this Government, the contradictory statements and denials, this is definitely a scam,” he said.

“The prime minister is equally accountable. He is equally responsible. He too enthusiastically repeated the lie and misled the House and misled the people of the country. I am sure since this was in the Lok Sabha, it shall be appropriately taken forward,” he said.

On Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with the French president, Sharma said, “What the French president had said in the interview and in the meeting, is the truth that the French government has no objection, no reservation and no hesitation to reveal the price or to make it public.”

Surjewala said this is a clear cut denigration of the faith that the Parliament reposes in both the prime minister and the defence minister.

“It is a clear cut case of misleading the Nation and the Parliament. That issue relates to Lok Sabha and the leader of the Congress Party in Lok Sabha will soon be taking a call,” he said.

According to the Congress leaders, the prime minister “sought to hide behind a cloak of pseudo-nationalism in the Rafale deal” during the debate on the ‘no-confidence motion’ against the government in Parliament on July 20.

“Shoddy cover-up, self-defeating assertions and deliberate lies are being dished out to divert, dupe and deceive. Grave apprehensions and claims of insurmountable loss being caused to public exchequer stand exposed as government refuses to state the truth,” the statement said.

The Congress has been ramping up attack on the government over the Rafale issue, claiming that the deal negotiated under its rule was much cheaper then the contract signed by the Modi government to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets from France at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore.

The Congress had claimed that the per aircraft price under the deal inked by the NDA came to Rs 1,600 crore as against the Rs 520 crore negotiated during the UPA.

The deal negotiated by the UPA could not be finalised by it.

India

Withdraw farm bills, guarantee MSP: Rahul Gandhi to Modi Govt

The video messages of various Congress leaders were posted on the party”s official Twitter handle with a hashtag ”SpeakUpForFarmers”.

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Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, Sep 26 : Stepping up its attack on the Centre over the farm bills passed by Parliament, the Congress Saturday ran a social media campaign — Speak up for farmers — with Rahul Gandhi demanding the government withdraw the proposed legislations and give a guarantee on MSP.

The three bills were passed by both houses of Parliament during the Monsoon Session and are awaiting presidential assent.

In a video message as part of the Congress” ”Speak up for farmers” campaign, Gandhi told farmers they were being persistently “attacked”.

“First demonetisation, then GST, then you were not given a single rupee at the time of coronavirus, attempt was being made to kill you (farmers), you are being made a slave of corporates, and now these three deadly Bills,” Gandhi said in his video message.

These bills are aimed at finishing off farmers and hurt them, he alleged.

“We are standing with you (farmers) and together we will stop these Bills,” Gandhi said.

“I want to say to the government — you have made a very big mistake. If farmers hit the streets, it will result in tremendous damage. Don”t waste time, withdraw these laws immediately and give guarantee on MSP (minimum support price) to farmers,” the former Congress chief said.

As part of the Congress” ”Speak up for farmers” campaign on social media, several party leaders such as Priyanka Gandhi, K C Venugopal, P Chidambaram, Ahmed Patel, Salman Khurshid, Tariq Anwar, Sachin Pilot and Shashi Tharoor, posted videos expressing support for farmers and calling for the withdrawal of the bills.

The video messages of various Congress leaders were posted on the party”s official Twitter handle with a hashtag ”SpeakUpForFarmers”.

Farmers from all over the country are unitedly raising their voices against the new agricultural bills, Priyanka Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.

“No provision of MSP in the bills, contract farming and mandi system being ended is like hitting the hard work of the farmers with an axe,” she said.

“Today, the whole of India is united against this injustice,” Priyanka Gandhi said.

“The hurry in passing these bills is only to favour the BJP”s crony capitalist friends… The Congress party is taking this agitation throughout the country to support our farmers,” said Venugopal, the Congress” general secretary organisation.

Chidambaram, in his remarks, said, “The APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) Act today is a safety net for a large section of farmers. The MSP is a price signal & the market takes a signal from MSP. These two Bills will eliminate MSP as a price signal & in the course of time the APMCs will wither & vanish.”

Tharoor said the fact is that the farmers of the country are in a state of agitation and concern as the three bills have been “bulldozed” through Parliament by the BJP government.

In an earlier tweet, Gandhi said, “Let us raise our voices together against the atrocities and exploitation of farmers by the Modi government.”

“Join the Speak Up For Farmers campaign through your video,” he said, tagging a video in which the party called for the withdrawal of the bills.

The Congress, through its official Twitter handle, alleged the agriculture bills passed by the government in a “highly undemocratic manner are nothing but an attack on our farmers and an attempt to transform agriculture into another revenue stream for their crony capitalist friends”.

Along with many other opposition parties, the Congress has claimed that the bills — Farmer”s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 — will harm the interest of farmers and benefit corporates, a claim denied by the government.

The Centre has asserted the bills will be beneficial for farmers and increase their income.

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India

With tweet on Covid-19 vaccine, Rahul Gandhi takes a jibe at PM’s ‘Mann ki Baat’

Gandhi had earlier attacked the Centre over Covid-19 vaccine, saying a strategy should have been in place by now and said the government’s alleged “unpreparedness” is “alarming”.

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Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday questioned the government on its strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic in India. On Twitter, he also took a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is going to hold his Mann ki Baat today.

“It’s a justified question, but how long will India wait for the government’s answer? Hope Covid access strategy would have been the ‘Mann ki Baat’,” Gandhi tweeted. He also attached a screenshot of a news article on development of Covid-19 vaccine.

PM Modi will address the nation through the 69th edition of his ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme. The outreach talk focuses on a range of subjects.

The Mann Ki Baat’s latest episode comes a day after the Prime Minister’s pre-recorded video address to the UN General Assembly where he expressed his concerns about the pace of reform of the United Nations its response to challenges such as terrorism and the Covid-19 pandemic.

PM Modi assured the international community that India’s coronavirus vaccine production and delivery capacity will help all humanity in fighting the pandemic.

“As the largest vaccine producing country of the world, I want to give one more assurance to the global community today. India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis. In India and in our neighbourhood, we are moving ahead with phase 3 clinical trials in India. India will also help all the countries in enhancing their cold chain and storage capacities for the delivery of the vaccines,” he said.

PM Modi said even during these very difficult times of the raging pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry of India has sent essential medicines to more than 150 countries.

Gandhi had earlier attacked the Centre over Covid-19 vaccine, saying a strategy should have been in place by now and said the government’s alleged “unpreparedness” is “alarming”.

He had demanded that the government clearly define an inclusive and equitable vaccine access policy to ensure its affordability and fair distribution.

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India

CMS planning to hire 1,000 employees in next two months as it expands

CMS is planning to hire 1,000 employees in the next two months with salaries upward of Rs 30,000 per month as it expands into service vertical of cash collections

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Job we are hiring

Leading cash management services provider CMS is planning to hire 1,000 employees in the next two months with salaries upward of Rs 30,000 per month as it expands into service vertical of cash collections for its partner banks, NBFCs and microfinance firms, a company official said.

CMS Info Systems (CMS) has signed up for cash and cheque collections with several companies, including, Mahindra Finance, L&T Finance and Hero FinCorp.

Anush Raghavan, Senior Vice-President and Head Cash Business Unit of the CMS said that with a network spanning over 115,000 ATMs and retail outlets that spread across 98.3 per cent of districts in India, the company is uniquely positioned as the “backbone of the circulation cycle” of the economy.

“While CMS has built out the offering for NBFCs, we are also looking at the cash pickups from the other industries such as travel, education; cheque collections for the insurance industry, apart from doorstep banking service for senior citizens.

“CMS is looking to hire 1000 employees in the next two months. We will continue to expand and hire more in this fiscal,” he said.

The company, he added, will be working with NBFCs and microfinance companies on both B2B collections and also B2B2C collections.

CMS handles cash processing to cash-in-transit, from cards to ATM network management, retail management and managed services.

The company said large NFBCs are currently dealing with hundreds of local collection agencies. Citing an example, it said that any vehicle finance company will be spending Rs 100-300 crore a year on their collections. The opportunity for collections is in the size of about Rs 4,000 crore a year, just in the auto space.

Though disbursement of loans happens digitally, EMI payments happen in cash. More than 80 per cent of loans are repaid in cash, said CMS.

Apart from cash collections, the collection agents of CMS would also be undertaking other services for NBFCs and MFIs such as KYC and other tech-enabled services. Average salary of such collection agents could be upwards of Rs 30,000 per month, CMS said.

Raghavan further said cash is still the king in India as RBI data shows that 87 per cent of total consumer transactions in the country happen in physical cash.

“The business of cash is not going away with digital and tech payments coming in. India is still a long way to adopt digital payments because of issues with financial literacy, basic literacy, technology adoption and availability and other social issues,” he said.

Cash collections service is predominantly for semi-urban and rural towns, CMS said. Cash usage continues to be high among Rural and non-metro towns in India.

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