The Supreme Court of India has directed its spotlight on the deplorable state of human rights in the BJP-ruled State of Chhattisgarh. Tribal leaders have charged the government with conducting a terror campaign against their organizations on the plea that they had links with Maoist groups who have been associated with acts of violence against the government and the political establishment. Journalists have been harassed and arrested for their alleged links with Maoist insurgents. (Telegraph April 21). At another level, the Times of India (April 18) reported widespread attacks on Christian churches and pastors in the Bastar district by thugs of the Bajrang Dal. Chief Minister Raman Singh has many cases to answer.
High Court revokes President’s Rule
In what amounts to a severe rebuke to the Union Government at the Centre, the Uttrakhand High Court has reversed President’s Rule in the State after its Governor dismissed the Congress-led government on the ground that it had lost its majority in the Legislative Assembly. However, the Supreme Court put the High Court order in abeyance until April 27.(Times of India, Hindu, Telegraph, Mint April 22, 23)
Rafale aircraft stink
The BJP’s claim that India’s acquisition of 36 French Rafale warplanes was done and dusted received an embarrassing jolt with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s statement to the media that this was not the case, that negations were at an ‘advanced state’ but no contract had as yet been signed. Only this was submitted to the Cabinet for final approval would the deal be confirmed. BJP party officials defended their premature optimism with the excuse that it was based on media reports. The French have put a lot of money into lobbies that advocate the purchase of the Rafale. There is a noticeable stink to the Rafale affair (Hindu, Telegraph April 22)
Peace returns to Kashmir Valley
The Kashmir Valley has been convulsed for weeks by Islamist and separatist agitation against what their leaders described as atrocities committed by the security forces against the civilian population including the molestation of women. One such high profile allegation was withdrawn after CCTV video showed the charge to be patently false. The violence eventually played itself out and peace has returned (Hindu April 18).
However, separatists and Islamists alike must understand that with or without Pakistani backing and the support of states such as Saudi Arabia, Niger and Turkey, India will not give way and permit an extension of the terrorist Islamic Caliphate or the Taliban come to life in its immediate neighbourhood. The ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Hindu community from the Kashmir Valley – their ancestral homeland as much as that of anybody else will not be soon forgotten.
Indian Jews seek minority status
The Indian Jewish Congress (IJC), Mumbai, made an application earlier this year to be accorded minority status in India after Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao broached the subject with the Minority Affairs Minister in Delhi, Najma Heptullah. IJC President Solomon Sopher said that following Governor Rao’s letter to Delhi a formal application was submitted on behalf of the Jewish community. ‘The Governor was very supportive. He came to the Obel David Synagogue for its 150 th anniversary celebrations and his speech was very encouraging.’ Mr Sopher recalled that Governor Rao ‘was kind enough to not just appreciate our contributions to the country but said that there should be a chapter in school textbooks at the higher secondary level about Jews’ role in nation- building (Telegraph April 18)
Women in Navy
The Indian Navy last week announced that its women officers would be eligible for permanent commission and service on warships, following in the footsteps of the Army and Air Force earlier this year. This means that women can heretofore command ships if found suitable. Hitherto women officers on permanent commission were either doctors or members of the nursing staff. From next year, the Navy will consider women pilots for maritime surveillance aircraft (Telegraph April 21)
Indo-Israeli defence deals
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd has signed cooperation agreement with India Reliance Defense Systems Ltd that are to encompass future deals worth $10 billion at the Defexpo 2016 exhibition in Goa. The agreement covers cooperation in the production, development and supply of air defense systems, air-to-air missiles and surveillance balloons. The ceremony was attended by Israel’s Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon and Rafael Director-General Major-General Yaav Har-Even. (Yaakov Lappin, Israeli journalist, March 29)
Iran-India ties forge ahead
Iran President Hassan Rouhani assured India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj that his country was a ‘reliable partner’ for India’s energy needs, as both nations sought to expand and deepen their economic relationship. Ms Swaraj also met with her Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif. President Rouhani spoke of the Chabhahar port as a ‘defining partnership which has the potential of connecting the entire region.’ President Rouhani whose country shares a common border with Afghanistan and Pakistan, referred to the volatile situation in Afghanistan and the need for Iran and India to cooperate in the fight against terrorism (Hindu April 18)
Iran caution to Pakistan
Pakistan-based terror groups had ‘created difficulties’ for normal bilateral ties between the countries, said Iranian Ambassador to India Gholemreza Ansari. ‘We have tried to convince Pakistan to stop such activities from Pakistani soil that target Iranian interests and we hope Pakistan will appreciate our requests.’ About the once projected Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, Ambassador Ansari said: ’You can forget the pipeline. The Americans will simply not allow this project to takeoff.’ (HHindu April 22)
Plea for extradition of Tahawwur Rana
India has sought the extradition of Tahawwur Rana, a close friend and co-conspirator of the Mumbai bombings of 26 November 2008, from the United States where he is serving a 14 year jail sentence for his part in those tragic events. India has charged Rana on the separate issues of planning a similar attacks on the National Defence College in Delhi and other attacks on Chabad Houses [Jewish religious centres] across Indian cities. By charging Rana for these crimes, the Indian authorities have avoided the double jeopardy law in the US which forbids an individual being tried twice on the same charge (Hindu April 18)
Infosys beats Street
Infosys, one of India’s major IT companies posted a net profit of 16.2 per cent for the fourth quarter (January-March 2016) of the last fiscal over the previous quarter fiscal. Revenue grew by 23.4 per cent over the same period. Vishal Sikka, 46, the CEO brought in to turn things around has succeeded in doing so brilliantly. Digital technologies, he said held the key to the future. Software was reshaping the world. ‘The future looks entirely different – as it is being fundamentally reshaped by digital technologies. While I am happy that our company’s achievements have yielded results, I am humbled by the task in front of me,’ said Sikka (Business Line April 16)
TCS bounces back with record figures
Tata Consultancy Services, India’s largest software firm recorded a massive 64.5 per cent leap in profit in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal (January-March 2016) over the same period of the previous fiscal. The growth has also been primarily driven by the digital business and a strong performance in the core portfolio (Business Line April 19)
No place like home
Ratan Tata constructed a $100 billion global conglomerate with a series of landmark acquisitions abroad. His successor Cyrus Mistry may now be looking to India to rejuvenate the Tata Group’s prospects for the future. For instance Tata Steel Ltd’s recent announcement that it was selling its UK assets to focus on the Indian steel market was recognition that in commodities the shift in global economic growth have created a new world for the Tata Group. India’s $2 trillion plus economy is growing faster than any 0ther major competitor, prompting Mistry, 47, to reverse some of the global expansion plans of his predecessor.
Paring debt in hard times
Tata Communications, Tata Power, and Indian Hotels Ltd are among other units looking to off-load overseas assets to pare debt. ‘There is a global wave of pulling back to your home turf,’ said Saurasbh Mukherjee, CEO of institutional equities at Ambit Capital Pvt Ltd in Mumbai. Mistry is paring down the $38 billion debt mountain left by Ratan Tata who inherited a Group worth $1.5 billion in 1991 and took it to a dizzy $100 billion when he stepped down in December 2012. The slowing global economy signals a period of consolidation for the Tata Group (Mint April 21)
Death sentences for killers of anti-hooch crusader
A Barasat court in West Bengal sentenced eight criminals to death for the gruesome murder of college student anti-hooch crusader Saurabh Chowdhury, who had campaigned against illicit liquor and gambling dens. The death sentence will have to be confirmed by the High Court (Times of India, Telegraph April 20).