India-China boundary talks could be delayed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

India-China boundary talks could be delayed

The reasons for the likely change in the schedule for the talks between the Special Representatives, and the change in the top Indian general’s visit to China, could not immediately be ascertained.

INDIA Updated: Sep 04, 2019 08:16 IST

Rezaul H Laskar and Rahul Singh
Rezaul H Laskar and Rahul Singh

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India and China have held more than 20 rounds of talks under the mechanism to settle the dispute over the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
India and China have held more than 20 rounds of talks under the mechanism to settle the dispute over the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).(HT FILE)

Talks between India and China on the boundary issue under the framework of the Special Representatives (SR) mechanism are likely to be delayed, four people familiar with developments said on Tuesday.

To be sure, the two sides had not formally announced any dates for the talks under the SR mechanism. But the people cited above said that China’s foreign minister Wang Yi was expected to visit New Delhi next week for talks with National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval.

The Indian Army’s Udhampur-based Northern Army commander, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, is also not going for a visit to China as scheduled, the people said. The visit was expected to take place this month, but the exact dates could not be immediately ascertained. The Northern Army command is the nerve-centre for counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir and is also responsible for guarding the Line of Control (LoC).

Also watch| Jaishankar meets Chinese minister amid Beijing’s objection to Art 370 move

 

Jaishankar meets Chinese minister amid Beijing’s objection to Art 370 move
India’s External Affairs Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, is in China.
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The reasons for the likely change in the schedule for the talks between the Special Representatives, and the change in the top Indian general’s visit to China, could not immediately be ascertained.

HT has learnt, however, that the SR talks would be held in the near future.

India and China have held more than 20 rounds of talks under the mechanism to settle the dispute over the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The countries are also continuing with preparations for the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, expected to be held during October 11-12.

The people cited above said the two sides were looking at four possible venues – Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Varanasi – for the informal summit. The first informal summit between Modi and Xi was held in Wuhan last year and helped put bilateral ties on an even keel after the 73-day military standoff at Doklam in 2017.

Wang Yi, who is also a state councillor, is set to visit Islamabad on September 7 for a trilateral Afghanistan-China-Pakistan meeting, people aware of the matter in China said. He will then travel to Kathmandu on September 8 to prepare for President Xi Jinping’s proposed visit to Nepal in October.

Meanwhile, China’s new envoy to India, Sun Weidong, said on Tuesday that the two countries should work to reduce their differences and settle their disputes through talks. “For neighbors and major countries, differences are hard to avoid. The key is to properly handle them,” he told a welcome reception hosted by the Chinese embassy.

First Published: Sep 04, 2019 00:46 IST

In ‘New India’, noose tightening on corruption, nepotism: PM Modi in France

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

In ‘New India’, noose tightening on corruption, nepotism: PM Modi in France

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Indian diaspora in Paris during his visit to France on Friday amidst chants of “Modi hai to Mumkin hai” at the UNESCO headquarters.

INDIA Updated: Aug 23, 2019 17:21 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets Indian community in France at UNESCO HQ in Paris,France, Friday, Aug 23, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets Indian community in France at UNESCO HQ in Paris,France, Friday, Aug 23, 2019. (Photo: Twitter/ @MEAIndia)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was the strength of 1.25 billion Indians that had powered the big decisions taken by his government in the first 75-days of re-election amidst chants of “Modi hai to Mumkin hai” during his address to the Indian diaspora at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on Friday..

He listed criminalizing the practice of “Triple Talaq” and indirectly referred to removal of the “temporary” provision of Article 370 that had granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir along with several other welfare schemes among the “big” decisions taken by his government.

“Triple Talaq, was an inhuman practice, we have ended the practice that hung like a sword over hundreds of thousands of Muslim women for years,” he said, adding that his government had set some goals for the country that were considered “impossible to achieve earlier”. He listed the “record number of new bank accounts” and the beneficiaries under PM’s Central health scheme as some important milestones.

“We have showed red card to several evil social practices in the last five years,” he said and added “In new India, the way in which action is being taken against corruption, nepotism, loot of people’s money, terrorism, this has never happened before.”

Watch | Modi’s Paris diplomacy: Macron fully backs India’s stand on Kashmir issue 

Modi’s Paris diplomacy: Macron fully backs India’s stand on Kashmir issue
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed media with French president Emanuel Macron on the first day of his three-nation tour. He spoke about Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan’s diplomatic campaign against India.
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“There was no place for temporary in India,” he said in a veiled reference to his government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. “It took us 70-years to remove temporary,” said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, the mandate given to him in 2019 elections was “not just to run India but to create a new India”, adding that the country had seen “several positive developments in the last five-years during which the youth, women, farmers and the poor were put at the center of government’s programmers.” He also said that several studies had confirmed rapid eradication of poverty in India.

The Prime Minister, who is on day long visit to France, said India-France ties were beyond friendship. There was no single platform in the world where the two countries had not worked together. So, I devote this day to India-France relations,” he said.

He said India and France partnership could be summed up by combining words “IN” (for India) with “FRA” (for France) to create “INFRA”. INFRA, he said, represented the joint efforts between the two nations in the field of “Solar Infra”, “Technical Infra” and “Space Infra” among others.

Also read | We met goals once considered unachievable: PM to Indians in France

First Published: Aug 23, 2019 15:14 IST

India studying early Chinese proposals on boundary issue

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

India studying early Chinese proposals on boundary issue

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.

INDIA Updated: Aug 18, 2019 08:15 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, Beijing/ New Delhi
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way.
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way. (HT File Photo )

The 22nd round of the India-China Special Representatives dialogue on the boundary issue will take place in New Delhi in mid-September. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.

Dates for the meeting between Doval and Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, the interlocutors, haven’t yet been finalised, Hindustan Times learns from Chinese and Indian diplomats.

The foreign ministers dialogue on August 11-13 in Beijing and the Special Representative talks are precursors to the October 11-12 informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in India for which Varanasi is being considered as the potential venue.

Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way, and that Wang had sent “early harvest” proposals to India.

Neither side is willing to share the contents of the proposals. However, Beijing, as indicated by HT’s conversations with Chinese diplomats, is showing no signs of changing any positions with New Delhi, be it India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or full political support to its “all weather ally” Pakistan.

The trust factor between the two sides has also taken a hit after China, joined by the United Kingdom, still living in its imperial past, supported Pakistan in the informal United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Monday against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to nullify Article 370 and Article 35 A of the Indian Constitution pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir.

The overall sense from the UNSC meeting was that both countries were hopelessly outnumbered and outmanoeuvred in their quest for a formal outcome by the remaining 13 members led by the US and France.

In his meeting this month in Beijing with State Councillor Wang, who is also foreign minister, external affairs minister S Jaishankar had made it very clear that both countries should be sensitive to each other’s core concerns. “If Beijing wants India to support One China that includes Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, then it also must support One India,” said a top official.

Indian diplomats based in the US said the latest Chinese move in support of Pakistan on Kashmir will lead to a cooling of ties; Article 370 and Article 35 A have nothing to do with beaching either the UN Charter or the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan, they say. Despite Chinese diplomats vehemently denying it, Beijing wants to play elder brother to South Asia as the dominant power in the region and will support Pakistan for its own economic and strategic interests.

In the circumstances, mutual trust between the two countries can only be built if President Xi, or Xi Dada (elder brother as he is called), can overrule the status quoits in Beijing and opt for a mutually beneficial and mutually acceptable solution to the long-pending dispute over the boundary.

First Published: Aug 18, 2019 07:07 IST

India: Govt readies 3-pronged plan to make India a $10 trillion economy by 2032

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Govt readies 3-pronged plan aimed at making India a $10 trillion economy by 2032

On June 6, the government created two new Cabinet committees under the chairmanship of prime minister — the Cabinet Committee on Investment & Growth, and the Cabinet Committee on Employment & Skill Development

INDIA Updated: Aug 17, 2019 08:09 IST

Rajeev Jayaswal
Rajeev Jayaswal

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Economic growth has slowed every quarter since the first quarter of 2018-19.
Economic growth has slowed every quarter since the first quarter of 2018-19. (REUTERS FILE PHOTO FOR REPRESENTATION)

The government is working on an economic plan that will provide an immediate boost to tackle the current crisis of growth; and medium-term and long-term blueprints to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25 and a $10 trillion one by 2032, two government officials aware of the development said.

The finance ministry is compiling inputs from different ministries, with the ultimate aim of accelerating growth and creating jobs, and these will be discussed by the high-level committees headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the officials who work for two different economic ministries said on condition of anonymity.

On June 6, the government created two new Cabinet committees under the chairmanship of prime minister — the Cabinet Committee on Investment & Growth, and the Cabinet Committee on Employment & Skill Development.

Economic growth has slowed every quarter since the first quarter of 2018-19. The Reserve Bank of India recently downgraded its growth estimate for the year to 6.9% from 7%. The real estate and construction sectors remain in the doldrums; car sales have declined for nine straight months, with demand for new cars in July around 30% lower from a year ago; and the crisis in shadow banking, a result of the meltdown at IL&FS and later DHFL, hasn’t fully passed.

Also Watch | PM on I-Day: India can become $5 trillion economy in the next 5 years

PM on I-Day: India can become $5 trillion economy in the next 5 years
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed confidence that India will become a $5 trillion economy in the next five years. PM Modi was addressing to the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort on the occasion of 73rd Independence Day.
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The government’s immediate objectives are to create demand and boost growth, the officials said. “There is enough liquidity in the banking system. There is a need for banks to pass on the benefits of a lower interest regime to customers aspiring to buy vehicles, homes and white goods. Some policy or administrative directions in this regard is expected soon to boost consumer sentiment before the forthcoming festive season,” one of the two officials said.

Among the proposals on the table, he added, is one to temporarily slash Goods and Services Tax (GST) on automobiles, which is currently in the highest slab of 28%. The government is also working on an attractive package for scrapping of old vehicles to boost auto sales, he said.

The government may also make some institutional arrangement of funds to complete stalled projects and provide more tax incentives to homebuyers to spur demand in the sector, the officials said. Stimulus packages are also expected for labour-intensive sectors such as textile and those services that have the potential to create lots of jobs — e-commerce, hospitality, tourism, telecom and information technology (IT) — the second official said.

The government is also keen on incentivising investments in the manufacture of hi-tech products, the second official added. Communications, electronics and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is holding a meeting of stakeholders from the electronics industry on Monday to discuss issues related to the sector. Top executives of multinational companies such as Apple, Samsung, Lava, Xiaomi, Panasonic, LG Electronics, Dell and Siemens are expected to attend the meeting. The outcome of the meeting will be conveyed to the cabinet committees on investment and employment for policy considerations, the second official said. Prasad has already met stakeholders from the telecom industry.

While the immediate aim of the government is to revive demand, it is committed to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25, a target articulated in PM Modi’s Independence Day speech. Modi spoke about exports, a ~100 lakh crore investment in infrastructure, and a special focus on the rural economy, and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and all of these will be reflected in the country’s economic policies, the officials said.

“Eventually the government’s long-term vision is to make India a $10 trillion economy,” the first official said.

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) director general Chandrajit Banerjee said the PM’s speech on Independence Day has boosted the morale of the industry. “At CII, we estimated that the economy needs roughly around ~450 lakh crore [of investment] in the next 5 years for moving to the 8-8.5% growth trajectory. In that, infrastructure itself would obviously be one of the largest areas of investment, given the massive infrastructure gaps that India has. The PM’s statement of the country getting to that investment cycle is very heartening. We believe that 55% of this has to come from public investments,” he said.

First Published: Aug 17, 2019 07:18 IST

India: Jammu and Kashmir: Now a territory of the Union

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Jammu and Kashmir: Now a territory of the Union

The move has triggered a debate among constitutional experts, with many experts asking if Article 367 can indeed be amended through a presidential order.

INDIA Updated: Aug 06, 2019 01:09 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets Union Home Minister Amit Shah after the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill being passed by Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Monday. (ANI Photo)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets Union Home Minister Amit Shah after the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill being passed by Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Monday. (ANI Photo)

In a move planned with political and legal precision, and complete suspense, the central government led a move in the Rajya Sabha on Monday to end the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). By the end of the day, Article 370 and Article 35A, which have, for close to seven decades, defined the state’s relationship with the Union, were effectively rendered null and void.

It also pushed through a bill in the Rajya Sabha to reorganise the state. J&K has now been bifurcated; Jammu and Kashmir will be a Union Territory (UT) with a legislature; and Ladakh will be a separate UT without a legislature. The resolutions are to be tabled in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, where the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has an overwhelming majority.

 

‘Bloodshed will end now’: HM Amit Shah on how Article 370 hurt J&K
Union Home Minister Amit Shah justified the decision to end Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and the proposal to bifurcate it into two Union Territories in the Rajya Sabha.
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The move came after a week of intense security build-up in the state — additional paramilitary troops were deployed, the Amarnath Yatra was cut short, tourists and non-Kashmiri students were advised to leave, Kashmiri leaders, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, were detained, internet and phone connections were suspended, and movement severely curtailed. The actions caused panic in the Valley and prompted speculation about whether the government was pre-empting a terror threat from across the border, or seeking to bring in drastic legislative changes.

Monday provided the answer.

The day began with a Cabinet meeting at 9.30am at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence in New Delhi’s Lok Kalyan Marg. Union home minister Amit Shah then headed to Parliament, where he began speaking in the Rajya Sabha at 11am. While Opposition leaders first sought a response to the unfolding situation in the Valley and the detention of Kashmiri leaders, Shah said he would address all the concerns.

He then moved four motions. The first was the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019, which superseded the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954. The 1954 order gave rise to Article 35A, which defined and prioritized permanent residents. The order also enabled all provisions of the Indian Constitution to be applied to Kashmir. With this, not only was the supremacy of the Indian Constitution and its laws reinforced, but the special provisions which gave the state a distinct constitutional identity, removed.

The order also added a clause to Article 367 of the Constitution — whereby it said that references to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir would be construed as the governor of the state (acting on the advice of a council of ministers); and the reference to the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir of Article 370 would now read legislative assembly of the state.

The second was a statutory resolution to recommend to the President to issue a notification, using clause 3 of Article 370, to declare that all clauses of Article 370 would cease to be operative and that all provisions of the Indian Constitution would apply to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Clause 3 empowered the President to do so, but only on the recommendation of the constituent assembly (CA) of Jammu and Kashmir. This was overcome by the earlier order, which replaced the CA with the state legislature, and empowered the governor.

Together, these two moves mean that J&K will no longer have its own flag and own constitution; Indian laws — from the penal code to property and taxation — will now be applicable. It also paves the way for citizens from the rest of the country to be able to exercise rights to move, settle, and purchase property in J&K.

Shah then introduced the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganization) Bill, 2019. The new Ladakh UT will include Leh and Kargil districts; and the remaining districts of the state will constitute the J&K UT. The final bill was the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Second Amendment) Bill 2019, which enabled reservations for economically weaker sections to be extended to the state.

Shah’s proposals caused a massive stir in the House and outside. The treasury benches erupted with applause and cheers, and its supporters outside lauded Prime Minister Narenda Modi and Shah’s courage for fulfilling a key ideological goal and manifesto promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to integrate the state fully into the nation. Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, said, “This will be known as the day of redemption, as the day of rejuvenation.”

But the Opposition was not pleased. A furious Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and a former CM of J&K, led the charge for the Congress: “In my political life, I had never even imagined that the state which is India’s crown, one day that head will be chopped off.” He warned that the move would not integrate, but in fact had laid the foundations for disintegration.

The move also provoked howls of outrage from Pakistan, which has fought four wars with India and continues to engage in a shadow war in Kahsmir with the use of terrorists. It asked the Indian government to “halt and reverse” its decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, contending such a unilateral step cannot change the state’s status as an “internationally recognized disputed territory”.

Foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood summoned Indian envoy Ajay Bisaria to the foreign ministry to convey a “strong demarche” or formal diplomatic representation on actions taken by India.

The response from Kashmir was strong too. With most of the state under a blackout, little information percolated out. But former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “GOI’s intention is clear & sinister. They want to change demography of the only Muslim majority state in India, disempower Muslims to the extent where they become second class citizens in their own state.” Another former CM, Omar Abdullah, said, “Government of India (GOI)’s unilateral and shocking decisions today are a total betrayal of the trust that the people of Jammu & Kashmir had reposed in India when the state acceded to it in 1947. The decisions will have far-reaching and dangerous consequences. This is an aggression against people of the State as had been warned by an all-parties meeting in Srinagar yesterday.”

But the government sought to allay apprehensions. “Article 370 is the biggest hurdle to normalcy in the state,” Shah said, promising to make J&K among the most developed states in India.

The Opposition fractured in Parliament. Congress’s own chief whip in the house, Bhubaneshwar Kalita, resigned from the party disagreeing with its position on Article 370. The Bahujan Samaj Party and the Aam Aadmi Party, in surprise moves, backed the government — as did the Telangana Rashtriya Samithi, Biju Janata Dal, YSR Congress Party, and AIADMK, among others. One hundred and twenty-five MPs voted in favour of the Reorganization Bill, while only 61 voted against it.

The move has triggered a debate among constitutional experts, with many experts asking if Article 367 can indeed be amended through a presidential order. Mohan Parasaran, a senior advocate and a former solicitor general of India, noted, “An amendment to the Constitution may only be done by recourse to Article 368 by introducing a Bill, in that regard, in the Parliament and being passed in both the houses by a majority of 2/3rd of its members present and voting and thereafter the Bill receiving the assent of the President. As the amendment to Articles 367 and 370 are the fulcrum of the Presidential Order, question may arise as to whether such amendments can be made through a circuitous manner without resort to Article 368 and whether such an Order would suffice in light of the spirit behind Article 370.”

But beyond the legal complexities — and there are indeed complexities which could well end up seeing a challenge in court — the government’s move on Monday on Kashmir was fundamentally political. Over the next few days and weeks, observers will closely track developments in Delhi but also more importantly Kashmir, where the response has remained muted because of the clampdown. Observers believe that managing the fallout in the Valley will now be the government’s next big challenge.

First Published: Aug 06, 2019 00:59 IST

India: Piped water to be Modi 2.0 priority, the blueprint is in place

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Piped water to be Modi 2.0 priority, the blueprint is in place

The Jal Jeevan Mission, announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her first budget on July 5, is ready for cabinet approval and will be launched by the Prime Minister, Hindustan Times has learnt.

INDIA Updated: Aug 03, 2019 08:34 IST

Sunetra Choudhury
Sunetra Choudhury

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The blueprint for the Jal Jeevan Mission is ready and has already been approved by the Expenditure Finance Committee, government officials said. Only cabinet approval is pending.
The blueprint for the Jal Jeevan Mission is ready and has already been approved by the Expenditure Finance Committee, government officials said. Only cabinet approval is pending.(Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

What toilets were to the Narendra Modi government in 2014 — the symbol of a nationwide crusade to end open defecation and build a cleaner India — piped potable water could well be for Modi 2.0.

The Jal Jeevan Mission, announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her first budget on July 5, is ready for cabinet approval and will be launched by the Prime Minister, Hindustan Times has learnt.

It may even find pride of place in his Independence Day speech.

The objective of the mission is to give access to piped potable water to every rural household by 2024. Only 18% of households in the countryside now have piped water supply, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is aiming for an over fivefold jump in five years.

The blueprint for the Jal Jeevan Mission, which has been publicised with the tagline “har ghar, nal se jal”, translating as “water from the tap in every home,” is ready and has already been approved by the Expenditure Finance Committee, government officials said. Only cabinet approval is pending.

Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Shekhawat said: “The day the scheme is approved, we will start working on it. The blueprint of this is absolutely ready.”

Water is a state subject, and Jal Jeevan won’t be an easy mission for the central government to accomplish. Shekhawat’s big idea is to present it as a challenge to local administrations, and turn it into a contest between state governments for central funds. “Whichever state does the maximum amount of work, will get the maximum amount of funds,” he said.

There is a catch. To receive central funds for water projects, the states and their district administrators will have to fulfil some tough conditions — create an underground storage facility with a sustainable source of water, ensure that the water is piped to households and devise ways for treatment and reuse of discharged water in activities like agriculture.

“We have spoken to all chief secretaries and secretaries to do all three things together. They should start preparing their respective plans,’’ said Shekhawat .

“Since water is a state subject, implementation has to be done by states. They will have to work with commitment and priority and we are here to support them,” the minister added.

He is right in projecting the scheme as a challenge. Nearly 163 million Indians lack access to clean water, the highest number for any country, according to WaterAid, a non-government organisation. Frequent droughts have led to crop failures and led to rural distress in parts of India, where only around a third of the cropland has access to reliable irrigation systems.

According to data from the Jal Shakti ministry, in states like Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand, fewer than 5% of rural households have piped water. That compares with 99% of rural households that have piped water supply in Sikkim.

For the rural drinking water mission, the government raised its allocation by 22% to Rs 10,001 crore in 2019-2020 from Rs 8,201 crore last year.

A note prepared the Jal Shakti ministry and reviewed by HT says the plan is to co-opt NGOs to help village councils and their subcommittees manage the planning and running of the local water supply system. In cases where there isn’t enough water supply for a single village, water from multiple villages will be pooled and shared.

Experts pointed out the importance of groundwater in any national policy on water.

“There are two things. One, any national policy on water has to pivot around groundwater because groundwater is India’s water lifeline. Secondly, there is a complete policy vacuum on the urban water sector. The impact of urban use is directly felt, both downstream and upstream, in terms of availability in rural areas,” said Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

First Published: Aug 03, 2019 05:44 IST

India: Talks with Pak won’t be only on Kashmir, also PoK

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Talks with Pak won’t be only on Kashmir, also PoK: Rajnath Singh

Both houses of Indian Parliament —Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha—witnessed protests over Trump’s stunning claim. The opposition, led by the Congress, demanded a statement by PM Modi.

INDIA Updated: Jul 24, 2019 15:35 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Rajnath Singh,Kashmir,Donald Trump
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh speaks in the Lok Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (PTI photo)

Defence minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament on Wednesday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t discuss Kashmir with US president Donald Trump and ruled out any possibility of mediation on the issue.

“As S Jaishankar ji (External Affairs Minister) said Kashmir issue was not discussed in President Trump and PM Modi meeting. There is no question of mediation in Kashmir issue as it will be against the Simla agreement,” Rajnath Singh said in Lok Sabha.

“Kashmir is an issue of national pride for us. We can never compromise with it… if there would be any talks with Pakistan over Kashmir, it will also include Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” Singh said.

Watch | Uproar in LS: Oppn insists PM Modi must clarify on Trump’s Kashmir remark

Uproar in LS: Oppn insists PM Modi must clarify on Trump’s Kashmir remark
Opposition demanded PM Modi’s clarification over Trump’s claims on Kashmir issue in Lok Sabha today. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury questioned PM Modi’s silence over the issue.
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Trump, speaking to reporters during Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s US visit, had claimed that PM Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue. India was quick to rebut the US president’s claim with external affairs minister S Jaishankar confirming that no such request was made.

Click here for live updates

The US did backtrack later, saying that it would assist in talks between India and Pakistan and that Kashmir is a bilateral issue.

When asked about Trump’s claim on Wednesday, a top advisor said the president “does not make up things”. “The President does not make anything up. That’s a very rude question in my opinion. I am going to stay out of that. It’s outside of my lane. It’s for Mr (National Security Advisor John) Bolton, Mr (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo and President,” Trump’s Chief Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow said.

Both houses of Indian Parliament —Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha—witnessed protests over Trump’s stunning claim. The opposition, led by the Congress, demanded a statement by PM Modi. The opposition continued its demand on Wednesday and staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha.

Rahul Gandhi tweeted that PM Modi must “must tell the nation what transpired” in his meeting with Donald Trump. “President Trump says PM Modi asked him to mediate between India & Pakistan on Kashmir! If true, PM Modi has betrayed India’s interests & 1972 Simla Agreement. A weak Foreign Ministry denial won’t do,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

First Published: Jul 24, 2019 12:24 IST

India/China: Trade point planned at India-China LAC

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Trade point planned at India-China LAC

Although the Indian Army’s spokesperson did not respond to queries, three officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that the army has cleared the opening of the post, and that it is up to the government now.

INDIA Updated: Jul 19, 2019 07:09 IST

Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India news,China,India
Image for representation(HT file photo)

The Indian Army has approved the opening of a new trading point with China at Dumchelle in Ladakh, the third such along India’s disputed, albeit peaceful 3,488-km border with China in a confidence building measure ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s October visit.

Although the Indian Army’s spokesperson did not respond to queries, three officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that the army has cleared the opening of the post, and that it is up to the government now.

Hindustan Times learns that the trading post could open as soon as the end of the year and that work has already started on the customs check point and the road to it. The only thing left is for the Cabinet Committee on Security to sign off.

Dumchelle is in Southern Ladakh, and is strategically located between Chushul , one of the five designated Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) meeting points between the Indian and Chinese armies, and Demchok in Southern Ladakh.

The two other recognised trading points with China are Lipulekh in Uttrakhand and Nathu La in Sikkim. Predetermined, locally made items are traded through these points with an aim of boosting the local economy.

President Xi is scheduled to be in India in October for an informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Opening up another trading point along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) would be a major confidence building measure, analysts said.

Although the Dumchelle trading point will be new, trade at the border town between residents of Ladakh and the Tibetans from the other side has a long history. Goods are bought and sold at Dumchelle regularly. In addition, there is a three-week-long fair at Dumchelle where locals from both sides participate.

In the past, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has even used the hotline, which connects military commanders on both sides of the border and which is used to sort out minor issues, to discuss dates of the fair. “It is an informal arrangement between the two sides,” a senior serving Indian Army officer said.

“It is a traditional trade route. In the past, the army has written to the government advising it to either completely stop the trade or formalise the exchange,” a government official added.

The current trade through Dumchelle is informal and designating it a trading point will automatically lead to “supervision of the goods flowing through this area. Also, there could be revenue implications for the government,” this person said. “Ladakh is flooded with Chinese made goods, much of which is traded through this particular point.”

India-China ties which hit a low during the 73-day long stand-off between the armies of the two countries in the Doklam plateau in Sikkim in 2017 warmed after the historic informal summit at Wuhan between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi in April 2018. Both leaders agreed to give “strategic” guidance to the respective militaries to reduce border tensions.

Nonetheless, caution on either side is understandable. The LAC is not demarcated. To address this, the two countries have agreed to elaborate mechanism that includes banner drills and communication between local commanders through established “hotlines” to ensure minor issues do not escalate into major ones.

First Published: Jul 19, 2019 06:58 IST

India: 10 killed after century-old Mumbai building collapses

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

10 killed after century-old Mumbai building collapses

The extension of Kesarbai building, which housed 16 families and four shops on the ground floor, caved-in at around 11.40am, causing tremors in several dilapidated buildings in the low-income neighbourhood in south Mumbai, which also houses some of the city’s most upmarket areas.

INDIA Updated: Jul 17, 2019 00:14 IST

HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
mumbai,mumbai building collapse,dongri
Rescue personnel were seen clearing rubble and cutting through iron girders by hand, and taking the help of local residents, who had formed a human chain, to pass the debris.(Photo: Kunal Patil/ Hindustan Times)

Ten people died, nine were injured and 30 were feared trapped after an illegal extension of a 100-year-old four-storey building collapsed in south Mumbai Dongri area on Tuesday morning, spotlighting the decaying infrastructure of India’s crumbling financial capital that is corroded by poor oversight and monsoon showers.

The extension of Kesarbai building, which housed 16 families and four shops on the ground floor, caved-in at around 11.40am, causing tremors in several dilapidated buildings in the low-income neighbourhood in south Mumbai, which also houses some of the city’s most upmarket areas. Chief fire officer P Rahangdale said many adjoining buildings were rendered unstable, and had to be evacuated. Some part of Kesarbai building was left standing after the collapse.

Cramped and crowded lanes leading up to the site made it challenging for rescue equipment to reach the building, added Rahangdale. Rescue personnel were seen clearing rubble and cutting through iron girders by hand, and taking the help of local residents, who had formed a human chain, to pass the debris.

“My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted earlier in the day. “I hope the injured recover soon.” Union home minister Amit Shah called the collapse “ very tragic”. “Rescue operations are in full swing,” he added. There was no clarity on the number of people stuck under the rubble, which was yet to be fully cleared at the time of going to press even as rescue operations were in their tenth hour. Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis said the building was roughly 100 years old and illegal, promising that an inquiry will be ordered.

As night fell on the city, hundreds continued rescuing people from under the rubble of the building, located in a bustling lane off Tandel Street. Television channels showed dramatic visuals of a child, wrapped in a cloth, being carried out of the debris by rescue workers. The child is alive, officials said.

Building collapses are common in Mumbai during the June-September monsoon season, when heavy showers lash India’s largest city and weaken the foundation of already decrepit structures. Earlier this month, multiple wall collapses killed 27 people. This was the deadliest collapse of a building since September 2017, when the 117-year-old Husaini building crumbled in Bhendi Bazaar, killing 33 people.

Moreover, ageing infrastructure, poor planning and a maze of conflicting by-laws, building codes and jurisdiction mean that no single authority is responsible for the upkeep of structures, leading to a cycle of accusation after each tragedy.

This was on display on Tuesday. Within minutes of the collapse, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) clarified the building was owned by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA). It also confirmed that in July 2017, the BMC brought to the Mumbai’s building repair and reconstruction board’s (MBRR) — a wing of MHADA — notice that the building was dilapidated and unfit for habitation. A senior BMC officer told HT, “There is no doubt that the collapsed Kesarbai building is owned by MHADA.”

Hours later, Vinod Ghosalkar, chief of the MHADA repair board, denied that the agency owned the building. “So the responsibility of evacuating it or taking action against any persons for its collapse does not rest with MHADA. This is an illegal building, even though it is in the middle of MHADA colony in Dongri,” he said. State housing minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who visited the spot in the afternoon, said, “The building is illegal, and it is privately owned. We are probing about who will be held responsible for the collapse.”

Residents of neighbouring buildings recalled hearing a loud boom. Abdul Gaffar Shaikh, 85, who lives in nearby Kasai building that was among those vacated, said, “Our building experienced tremendous vibrations when the other building collapsed. Everything shook.” BMC opened a shelter centre at nearby Imamwada School for residents of nearby evacuated buildings to take shelter.

Congress leader Milind Deora said it was time for the people of Mumbai to seek an explanation from the government. “This is unfortunately something that happens in Mumbai every year during monsoon. Walls collapse, there are potholes on roads where people die and young boys fall into manholes,” he added.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Jul 16, 2019 23:51 IST

On Kartarpur, India pushes Pakistan to meet November deadline

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

On Kartarpur, India pushes Pakistan to meet November deadline

As of now Pakistan has only agreed to allow Indian passport holders to visit the shrine and has asked PIOs to take a Pakistan visa for the pilgrimage.

INDIA Updated: Jul 03, 2019 05:45 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
kartarpur corridor,indo pak kartarpur talks,guru nanak birthplace
Heavy machines at work beyond the border fence for the construction of the Indian side of Kartarpur corridor, in Gurdaspur (PTI)

Pakistan’s foreign office has issued a release agreeing to India’s proposal for a joint secretary level meeting between the two countries between July 11 and July 14 at Wagah to finalize the Kartarpur corridor, with the Narendra Modi government is pressing hard to meet the 2019 November deadline to allow Sikh pilgrims from India an opportunity to celebrate the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak Dev at Darbar Sahib in Narowal district in Pakistan.

While work on a passenger terminal, a four-lane highway and a bridge across the Ravi floodplain has begun on the Indian side, the Modi government is also keen that Pakistan allow Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) apart from Indian passport holders to visit the historic shrine.

As of now Pakistan has only agreed to allow Indian passport holders to visit the shrine and has asked PIOs to take a Pakistan visa for the pilgrimage.

According to home ministry officials, India also wants pilgrims to be allowed to go on foot to the shrine, located around five kilometres from the international border west of Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district and that too without permit or paying additional charge.

India is keen that a 200-300 meters bridge be built over River Ravi floodplains to cater for floods and rains to allow pilgrims to visit Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur, where Guru Nanak Dev settled the Sikh commune.

India has requested Pakistan that the pilgrimage should be allowed around the year with 5,000 visitors being permitted each day with the number being allowed to increase to 15,000 on special occasions such as the Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

According to North Block, Pakistan is ready to accept around 500-700 pilgrims from India and that too on a limited number of days.

It wants to escort the pilgrims from its side of the border terminal to Kartarpur via buses after issuance of permits.

Islamabad will issue the permits after India sends the names of the pilgrims ready to visit the Gurudwara at Kartarpur.

As of now there is no talk of a dedicated corridor between India to Kartarpur purely for the purpose of pilgrimage. Pakistan wants pilgrim to shell out cash for the permits just as foreigners pay to visit historical sites in India.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself keen to participate in the 550th celebrations for Guru Nanak Dev, India is making an all-out effort to operationalize the Kartarpur corridor as soon as possible.

First Published: Jul 03, 2019 05:45 IST