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New Year price hikes give opposition fuel against government

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Modi and Amit Shah

New Delhi, Jan 1 : People of the country, yet to recover from their New Year revelry, woke up Wednesday to the double blow of increased rail fares, and cooking gas prices – both essential components of the common Indians’ lives and directly impacting their household budgets.

Coming on the first day of 2020, the developments couldn’t have been more inopportune for the government, which is battling criticism over its handling of the economy amid fears of spiralling inflation.

CPI-M chief Sitaram Yechury lost no time in attacking the government. “Modi govt starts the year. After railway passenger fare hikes, another attack on peoples’ livelihoods. All this In the wake of sharp job losses, food price inflation and record fall in rural wages,” he said in a tweet.

The Indian Railways has hiked passenger fares across the board, with immediate effect. Prices per kilometre have been raised for passenger trains, sleeper, and AC class fares, with sleeper class passengers will have to shell out an additional 2 paise per kilometre of travel, while those travelling in 3 AC, 2 AC and AC first class will be paying 4 paise more per kilometre.

Wednesday’s hikes come almost five years after the last fare rationalisation exercise undertaken in 2014-15. Apart from attributing the move to defray expenditure incurred on enhancing passenger amenities and disbursing 7th Pay Commission payouts, the Railways has said that revenues realised from the fare hike will help speed up modernisation and services.

However, opposition party leaders are not letting the opportunity go of criticising the government over the price hike.

Fresh from their recent victory of sorts over the BJP in Maharashtra, NCP leader Supriya Sule also tweeted against the government. “2020 begins with a piece of bad news for the common man as Railway Fare and the prices of Non Subsidised Gas Cylinders have increased…With Inflation and unemployment on one hand and slow economic growth hand, the backbone of the common man will be broken. Economic reforms are needed to address the issue of Inflation,” she said.

Although LPG price revision is a monthly feature every month, Wednesday’s hike was met with annoyance by twitterati, coming on the first day of the year. The price of non-subsidised LPG cylinder has been increased by Rs 19, and with the latest hike, the prices have recorded a total increase of Rs 139.50 per cylinder, over the past five months.

As opposed to subsidised cylinders which are available at Rs 495.86, the non-subsidised cylinders are available at a higher price. The latest price restructuring has increased the cost of a 14.2 kg LPG cylinder from Rs 695 to Rs 714.

India

PM Modi a versatile genius who thinks globally and acts locally: SC judge Justice Arun Mishra

Justice Mishra said India is a responsible and most friendly member of the international community under the ‘stewardship’ of Modi.

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Justice Arun Mishra

NEW DELHI: Supreme Court judge Justice Arun Mishra on Saturday was all praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and termed him as an “internationally acclaimed visionary” and a “versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally”.

Complimenting the PM and Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for doing away with 1,500 obsolete laws, Justice Mishra said India is a responsible and most friendly member of the international community under the “stewardship” of Modi.

Delivering the vote of thanks at the inaugural function of the International Judicial Conference 2020 – ‘Judiciary and the Changing World’ at the Supreme Court, he said challenges faced by the judiciary at the national and international levels are common and judiciary has a “significant role” in the ever-changing world.

“Dignified human existence is our prime concern. We thank the versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally, Shri Narendra Modi, for his inspiring speech which would act as a catalyst in initiating the deliberations and setting the agenda for the conference,” Justice Mishra, who is third in seniority in the apex court, said while expressing gratitude to the PM for inaugurating the conference.

He said India is the biggest democracy in the world and “people wonder how this democracy is functioning so successfully”.

“India is a responsible and most friendly member of the international community under the stewardship of internationally acclaimed visionary Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi,” he said.

“India is committed to constitutional obligations and dedicated to a peaceful and secure world, free from terrorism. In the process of development, preservation of the environment is considered supreme,” he said.

Justice Mishra emphasised on the need to strengthen the judicial system saying, “Now we are in the 21st century. We are looking for modern infrastructure not only for the present but also for future.”

“To strengthen judicial system is the call of the day as it is the backbone of democracy whereas legislature is the heart and executive is the brain.

All these three organs of the state have to work independently but in tandem to make democracy successful…”.

Referring to globalisation, he said, “but there is growing concern among masses of being left out and deprived of the gains of globalisation”.

“The sense of injustice and inequality being created by the same looms large on us,” he said, adding, “It has to be taken care of by all of us alike before it becomes lethal like coronavirus”.

He also referred to the contribution of an independent and robust bar and said there is no denying the fact that “bar is the mother of judiciary”.

Judges from over 20 countries are attending the conference here.

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Ex-CIC Wajahat Habibullah welcomes Shaheen Bagh protesters’ move

The “breakthrough” came after the Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors assured the protesters that their demands would be taken up before the Supreme Court.

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Wajahat Habibullah

New Delhi, Feb 22 : Former Chief Information Officer Wajahat Habibullah, who has been assisting the interlocutors in dialogue with the anti-CAA protesters at Shaheen Bagh, has welcomed the protesters’ initiative to clear the blockade.

Speaking to IANS over phone, Habibullah said, “I welcome the move by the protestors. It’s really good news.”

When asked if the interlocutors have succeeded in their efforts, the former CIC said, “At this point, it would be premaute to say this.”

The passage between Kalindi Kunj and Nodia (via Road No. 9, Okhla) which was blocked for more than two months due to the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests at Shaheen Bagh was opened on Saturday.

The “breakthrough” came after the Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors assured the protesters that their demands would be taken up before the Supreme Court.

DCP South East R.P. Meena visited the site to review the situation. However, the barricades are partially placed and the police are checking every car passing through the passage.

The passage was blocked after protests continued in the Shaheen Bagh area of the national capital against the CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The move comes four days after the Supreme Court appointed interlocutors to initiate talks with the protesters at Shaheen Bagh.

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Name loan waiver beneficiaries: Cong to govt

“Despite the loan waiver of about Rs 8 lakh crore, it was not mentioned whose loans have been waived? Why this privacy,” Shrinate said.

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Supriya Shrinate

New Delhi, Feb 22 : Blaming the Narendra Modi government for the state of economy, the Congress said, here on Saturday, without improvement in the banking sector the country’s economic condition couldn’t be ameliorated.

Addressing the media at the party headquarters, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate asked the government to name the corporates whose loans had been waived in the past six years and demanded a high-level panel be set up to examine the process of loan waiver.

“The government should make public the names of those whose debt has been waived, a high-level committee should be constituted to examine the process of loan waiver and it should also assess financial viability and potential of the banking sector,” Shrinate said.

The demand has come a day after global banking group Credit Suisse said the banking sector’s impaired assets remained at Rs 16.88 lakh crore — 15.7 per cent of the advances — as of December 2019, despite a decline in gross non-performing assets (NPAs) to Rs 9.1 lakh crore — 9.2 per cent of the advances.

Shrinate said the Congress had been raising economic issues with the hope that someday it would shake the government out of slumber and “denial” and make it understand the truth of economic recession.

“According to the recent reports, the banking problem is affecting India badly. Until the banks improve, India’s economic plight is almost impossible to solve,” said the Congress leader.

“As on date, about 16 per cent of loans has become stressed assets, which is Rs 16.88 lakh crore. These are the figures for December 2019. It was 12 per cent in 2017,” she said referring to the report.

In the December quarter, new NPAs started to form and at an increased pace in sectors like telecom, real estate, MSMEs and automobile, she said.

She said the government was saying NPAs had declined from 11.7 per cent to 9.2 per cent. “It should have been good news, the economy should have improved. But has it,” the Congress leader said.

“The truth is different. Banks are actually waiving loans of big capitalists,” she said, adding since the BJP came to power in 2014, around Rs 8 lakh crore debt had been waived. The government should have recovered it from them, she said.

“Despite the loan waiver of about Rs 8 lakh crore, it was not mentioned whose loans have been waived? Why this privacy,” Shrinate said.

“Lending by banks is an indicator of a good economy. But when the demand declines, it means there is an economic slowdown. The demand today is down at 12 per cent in private banks and 4 per cent in government banks,” she said.

Shrinate said, “Whenever the BJP government is questioned on the banking sector’s condition, it blames the previous government. But repeated lying doesn’t change the truth. What it has done for banking reforms in the past six years.”

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