In a brief ceremony at the Durbar Hall of the
Rashtrapati Bhavan, President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath of
office to Mr. Naidu in the presence of top political leaders and
The 68-year-old former Union Minister, who took his
oath in Hindi and in the name of God, is the 15th Vice-President of the country
but the 13th individual to be sworn in.
His immediate predecessor, M. Hamid Ansari, and the
first Vice-President, S. Radhakrishnan, held the Constitutional post for two
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Hamid Ansari, Lok
Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and BJP
president Amit Shah were among the guests at the Durbar Hall.
The invitees included the Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled
States and those of Bihar and Delhi, Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal,
respectively. Senior Opposition leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mulayam Singh, D. Raja
Tariq Anwar too attended the swearing-in. Mr.
Naidu’s wife, M. Usha, was present.
His role in the functioning of the Upper House will
be crucial as the Opposition’s numerical strength is higher than that of the
ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Noting that “obstruction and disruption of
proceedings is increasingly being chosen as the first Parliamentary option”, Mr.
Naidu said, “All that the people desire is that Parliament should be the voice
of sanity echoing their concerns and finding solutions to their problems. Over
the years, both the Houses of Parliament have done a reasonably good job. But
somehow there is a growing concern and resentment among the people over our
functioning.” Quoting the former President Pranab Mukherjee, Mr. Naidu said
Parliament should be used for debate, discussion and dissent.
Welcoming the new Chairman, Ghulam Nabi Azad who
leads the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said every member should have the
freedom to speak as the Rajya Sabha had a “dual responsibility of representing
the MLAs and the legislatures that elected them and the people who elected the
The Rs. 819-crore Water Metro project proposed
in the Greater Kochi area has achieved a milestone, with an expert panel of
the Ministry of Environment clearing its terms of reference.
A total of 78 modern ferries will link the city
with islands in the neighbourhood in the project that will be realised by 2021.
Though specifications have not been finalised, each
ferry will most likely have an air-conditioned space (where fare will be higher)
and non-AC area. The general consultant appointed by us is in the process of
readying specifications and procurement documents for inviting global tenders
for the ferries.
As per the KMRL estimate, the Water Metro is
expected to have a daily ridership of 40,000 by 2019, 54,000 by 2025 and 86,000
The project was discussed during the latest meeting
of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change’s expert appraisal
committee (EAC) for infrastructure projects.
Terms of references are guidelines for conducting
environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies of projects, based on which the
Union Environment Ministry grants or rejects clearances for projects.
The EAC further recommended a study on the “impact
of dredging and dumping on marine ecology” and a management plan by any
institute specialising in marine ecology.
It also sought a study on the impact of dredging on
the shore line, how it affects marine life, aquatic birds, details of waste
water management, and an environmental monitoring plan.
With the Uttar Pradesh government pushing for
an early hearing, the Supreme Court scheduled the hearing of 13 appeals in
the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute for December 5, the eve of the
25th anniversary of the demolition of the 15th century mosque by karsevaks
on December 6, 1992.
A Special Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, Ashok
Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer said the contesting parties, including the deity Ram
Lalla, U.P. Central Sunni Waqf Board, NirmohiAkhara, the Uttar Pradesh
government and the several legal heirs and representatives of the original
parties, who have died over the years of litigation in various courts, can make
their opening statements on December 5 and continue for two days in December
before the court closes for Christmas vacation.
The court gave the Uttar Pradesh government the
responsibility of translating the entire gamut of oral evidence in the case
within the next 10 weeks.
The State government, represented by Additional
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, displayed visible eagerness to start the hearing
in the Supreme Court. It said it needs just four weeks to translate the
Documentary evidence in the case involves scripts,
palimpsests and records dating back several centuries and written in various
The Uttar Pradesh government insisted that the
court hearing begin soon and the parties could, on their own, translate the
documents they intend to rely on as and when they require them during the
This suggestion was strongly objected to by the
Sunni Waqf Board represented by senior advocate Anoop Chaudhari and senior
advocates Kapil Sibal and Rajeev Dhawan, appearing for some of the opposing
Mr. Chaudhary said the “appeals were not yet ripe
for hearing”. Mr. Sibal and Mr. Dhawan said the documents needed to be
translated first and the translations had to be finalised before the hearings
start. Mr. Dhawan said otherwise a party can translate a document and “add their
own spin to it”.
The court said it would first hear the appeals on
the original title suits and then hear a writ petition of BJP leader Subramanian
Swamy that the right to worship at the Ram Mandir was his fundamental right.
Attempts of the Kerala State Electricity Board
(KSEB) Limited, the public sector electricity utility in Kerala, to beat the
August 18 deadline set by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate
Change (MoEFCC), for beginning work on the controversy-marred Athirappilly
hydel project, has sparked a political storm in the State.
Former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, alliance
partner Communist Party of India (CPI), and environmental activists who have
been campaigning against the 163 MW project, have all come out strongly against
the KSEB’s move, accusing the utility of having set up a transformer near the
project office at Kannankuzhy two weeks ago to mark commencement of work on the
The KSEB had done this even as a writ petition is
pending against the project at the Kerala High Court, and without going through
the tender process. The hydel power project, which proposes the construction of
the seventh dam along the 145 km course of Chalakudy river, will sound the death
knell for what remains of endemic species of flora and fauna in the region, the
project’s critics say.
The 110 KW transformer had been set up in KSEB’s
own land. The KSEB had spent almost Rs. 35 crore for maintaining an office for
the project, despite it being a non-starter.
India has deployed more troops along the entire
1,400 km of the border with China in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the
face of heightened rhetoric by Beijing over the Doklam standoff, senior
government officials said.
The “caution level” among the troops has been
raised, the officials said on condition of anonymity. The decision followed a
detailed analysis, they said.
The officials declined to give any figure or
percentage of increased deployment, saying they cannot disclose “operational
details”. The Sukna-based 33 Corps and 3 and 4 corps based in Arunachal Pradesh
and Assam have been tasked with protecting the border in the east. The
officials, however, said there was no enhancement of troops at Doklam.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley assured the Lok Sabha
that the armed forces were prepared for any eventuality amid a tense standoff
between India and China in Doklam. He was responding to a question on the issue,
and specifically a question based on a senior Army officer’s statement that
Pakistan’s defence industry was better than India’s.
He said the armed forces had adequate equipment to
tackle any exigency. On a CAG report that the forces had ammunition only for 22
days in case of a war, he said “significant progress” had been made on this
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj
discussed a “range of issues” with Bhutanese Foreign Minister DamchoDorji on
the sidelines of the BIMSTEC conference of India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal,
Myanmar and Thailand in Kathmandu, MEA officials said, but made no comment
on the ongoing Doklam standoff between the Indian and Chinese troops in the
territory claimed by Bhutan.
After the meeting, Mr. Dorji told reporters only
that he hoped, “the situation in Doklam will be resolved peacefully and
The Foreign Ministers’ meeting was the first
high-level contact between India and Bhutan since the standoff began on June 16
after Indian troops went onto the Doklam plateau to hold off a Chinese PLA team
that was building a road Bhutan objected to.
As the standoff enters the third month, diplomats
say the next two weeks will be crucial to the effort.
China’s top communist party leaders are understood
to have been meeting at the party’s “retreat” at the seaside resort of Beidaihe,
an annual unofficial conclave, where the détente with India will no doubt be
discussed, and a coordinated signal on the road ahead will be sent out, ahead of
this year’s Autumn party conclave.
In an article, Mr. Saran had recounted that the
decision by Chinese leader Mao to launch a “major border war” against India was
also taken at the ‘Beidaihe conference’ in August 1962. Prime Minister Narendra
Modi’s Independence Day speech next week will also be watched closely for
references to the current standoff with China.
Last year, amid tensions with Pakistan, Mr. Modi
had referred to India’s support to Balochistan at the August 15 speech.
Says demonetisation has increased digitisation
across the board; all economic indicators have returned to normal and filing
of income tax returns has gone up
Demonetisation has reduced Rs. 3.5 lakh crore of
cash from the amounts available in the system before, and digitisation has
increased across the board, even among the poor, says Volume II of the Economic
The volume, tabled in Parliament, noted that while
the informal sector suffered initially from demonetisation, all indicators, such
as two-wheeler sales and demand for MGNREGA work, had returned to normal. It
found that while the number of income tax returns had increased sharply, the
average income declared had not risen commensurately.
In levels, and as a share of GDP and money, there
seems to have been a sharp and equilibrium decline in the use of cash: as of
July, the holding of cash is about Rs. 3.5 lakh crore (20%) less than what might
have been the case had pre-demonetisation trends prevailed, consistent with the
calculations presented in Volume I.
The report also said that the effect of
demonetisation on the digitisation of transactions could be divided into three
categories: the poor (who are largely outside the digital economy), the less
affluent sections (who have acquired Jan Dhan accounts and RuPay cards), and the
affluent (who are fully digitally integrated via debit and credit cards).
And even though the immediate post-demonetisation
surge has moderated in some cases, the level and pace of digitalisation are
still substantially greater than before demonetisation.
The report found this to be true for Aadhaar-enabled
payments, which serve as an indicator for the poorer sections of society, Rupay
cards for the intermediate category, and credit and debit card transactions for
the affluent sections of society.
“The growth of taxpayers post-demonetisation was
significantly greater than in the previous year (45% versus 25%),” the Survey
“The addition amounted to about 5.4 lakh taxpayers
or 1% of all individual taxpayers in just a few months. It is, however,
interesting that the average income reported of the new taxpayers — Rs. 2.7 lakh
— was not far above the tax threshold of Rs. 2.5 lakh, so the immediate impact
on tax collections was muted.”
The report analysed the effect of demonetisation on
the informal sector via two proxies — demand for MGNREGA work, and two-wheeler
sales — since the economic indicators collected by the government themselves do
not include data from the informal sector.
The Survey’s detailed calculations show that while
demonetisation resulted in a contraction in demand for MGNREGA work in the first
four weeks following demonetisation, demand normalised by the tenth week, and
subsequently grew sharply.
This effect was particularly prominent for less
developed States, which saw a 63% increase in demand for MGNREGA work after the
Many indicators point to a deceleration, says
second volume of Economic Survey
The Indian economy’s growth in 2017-18 is more
likely to be closer to 6.5% than 7.5%, according to Chief Economic Adviser
Arvind Subramanian. Speaking to the media after the second volume of the
Economic Survey was tabled in Parliament, Mr. Subramanian outlined new downside
risks to growth that have emerged since the presentation of this year’s Union
“We are not changing our growth forecast (a range
of 6.5%-7.5% estimated in February), just saying that because of all these
risks, it’s less likely that we will see outcomes towards the upper end of the
forecast. The balance of risks to the growth outlook has clearly shifted to the
downside and the balance of probability has correspondingly shifted away from
the upper end of the growth forecast,” Mr. Subramanian said.
Stressing that it would be premature to say that
growth can rebound very quickly unless there is a ‘clean-up’ and significant
‘deleveraging’ in the Indian economy, Mr. Subramanian said there has been an
‘across-the-board deceleration in real activity since the first or second
quarter of last year,’ which could have intensified owing to demonetisation of
high-value currency notes by the government last November. The economy grew by
7.1% in 2016-17.
While refusing to get drawn into a debate on
whether farm loan waivers announced by States are good or bad, he said such
waivers will act as a ‘drag on growth’ rather than have an inflationary impact.
“To accommodate the loan waiver, States will have
to cut down either expenditure or raise taxes which will be deflationary. This
is not something I am making up.
Look at the Uttar Pradesh Budget – capital
expenditure has been slashed by 13% or so. That represents less demand, less
growth,” he said, suggesting this could impact demand by as much as 0.7% of GDP,
drag down growth in the short run and worsen States’ aggregate fiscal deficit