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Finance Minister slams criticism on transfer of surplus to exchequer

Stout defence: Nirmala Sitharaman and Anurag Thakur addressing a press conference in Pune on Tuesday.PTIPTI

Any suggestions on the credibility of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are “outlandish”, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday, responding to criticism over the transfer of ₹1.76 lakh crore surplus from the central bank to the exchequer.

Speaking a day after the Central government’s windfall from the RBI, she said the government was yet to decide on the deployment of the funds.

“I cannot comment right now on how these funds would be deployed. We will inform [the media] only after we have taken a decision,” she said at a press briefing here.

Ms. Sitharaman and Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur were in the city for a meeting with tax officials, traders, entrepreneurs and industry experts on the issues related to the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Refutes Rahul

The Minister slammed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over his remarks accusing the Narendra Modi government of “stealing” money from the RBI. “Whenever Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has used words like chori and chor (thievery) [pertaining to the NDA government], a thing that comes to my mind is that though he tried his best to malign us using such words, the public has given him and his party a fitting reply, ” she said, and added that the Congress had no right to tarnish the RBI’s reputation.

“Rahul Gandhi should first ask the erstwhile Finance Ministers and senior leaders of the Congress before hurling allegations of theft from the RBI at us …, but it appears he has become an expert at using words like chor and chori,” the Finance Minister said.

Making it clear that she was not responding to any specific criticism, Ms. Sitharaman said that the Bimal Jalan committee on the economic capital framework included eminent experts, and it was constituted by the RBI itself and not by the government.

Formula from panel

“It is worrying that a committee appointed by the Reserve Bank of India is being questioned. The committee has had several sittings and has come out with a formula. It was appointed by the RBI, it had experts and they gave a formula, based on which the amount was arrived at,” the Minister said.

“Now, any suggestions about the credibility of the RBI, therefore, for me seems a bit outlandish, considering that the committee was appointed by the Reserve Bank itself,” she said.

Ms. Sitharaman further said the committee members themselves had given an explanation through the media that issues such as fiscal financial stability and the surplus to meet any emergency and contingency had all been factored in by the committee while coming up with its formula.

Responding to questions on the auto industry’s demands for a GST rate cut, she said the GST rates were not in the Finance Ministry’s domain, but that of the GST Council.

Those who pose least threat to peace will be released first

No work: Shopkeepers outside their closed shops in the tourist resort of Gulmarg on Tuesday. Nissar Ahmad The Hindu

The Jammu and Kashmir government has initiated a process to release at least 173 incarcerated leaders of the regional political parties, including those from the National Conference (NC), the Peoples Conference (PC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in phases in the coming days.

Sources said the Union Home Ministry had passed on directions to the police to finalise the names for release in the first phase. Those who “pose the least threat to the law and order situation” will taste freedom first.

Muharram procession

PC leader Imran Ansari, also a former Minister in the PDP-BJP government, will be among the first to be released as he has complained of “ill-health”. Mr. Ansari, a prominent Shia priest, will be allowed to attend the ‘Shia tazia’ (commemoration) gathering on Muharram, the Islamic calendar’s first month, which starts next week.

The police report suggests there are fears that the Muharram procession “may turn into an anti-India protest this time”. Mr. Ansari would be key to preventing such a situation.

Many Shia priests will be called in the coming days “to seek their assurances on the law and order situation.”

Police sources said prominent “ailing and ageing leaders” of the regional parties might be considered first for release.

NC’s Ali Muhammad Sagar, a former legislator and Minister, and PDP’s Nayeem Akhtar, also a former legislator and Minister, were being considered for release in the first batch. However, former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah of the NC and Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP are unlikely to be released in the first phase “on account of fears of eruption of protests”.

More than 173 mainstream leaders and activists have been arrested in the clampdown, coinciding with the August 5 decision to revoke the State’s special status. The Hindu has been able to access official data on the detention of legislators, former Ministers and party leaders. Around 70 leaders from the NC, 79 from the PDP, 12 from the PC and 12 from the Congress are under detention in the Valley. Around 30 are lodged in Centaur Hotel, declared a sub-jail, and many remain detained in their houses.

Authorities lifted restrictions from 12 more police station areas, taking the number to 81 out of 109, even as the shutdown continued for the 23rd day. “Ten more will be added by Wednesday,” said Information Director Syed Sehrish Asghar.

Singhvi recalls ADM Jabalpur case

A 44-year-old caution from the Supreme Court, probably the only silver lining in one of the most controversial decisions of the court during the Emergency era, was ignored when the Delhi High Court refused to protect former Union Minister P. Chidambaram from arrest in the INX Media case on August 20.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi recalled the stricture in the Supreme Court on Tuesday while arguing Mr. Chidambaram’s appeal against arrest by the Enforcement Directorate.

He referred to the “infamous” Constitution Bench verdict in the ADM Jabalpur case of 1975, which upheld the State’s right to suspend personal liberty under the draconian Maintenance of Internal Security Act during the Emergency. But still, Mr. Singhvi said, the Bench had warned the High Courts against tasting the “forbidden fruit” of sealed cover missives handed by probe agencies behind the back of the accused.

The known habitat of Peacock Parachute Spider is in degraded forests near Nandyal in Andhra Pradesh

Unusual home: The spider was sighted in the Pakkamalai reserve forests near Gingee. P. Aravind Aathi The Hindu

In an interesting find, researchers have sighted a critically endangered species of tarantula for the first time beyond its known habitat in the Eastern Ghats.

The spider belonging to the genus Poecilotheria, commonly known as the Peacock Parachute Spider or Gooty Tarantula was spotted by a team of researchers of the Puducherry-based Indigenous Biodiversity Foundation (IBF) in the Pakkamalai Reserve Forests near Gingee in Villupuram district.

Chance spotting

The team of wildlife researchers was involved in field work in the reserve forests recently when they sighted a Gooty Tarantula (Poecilotheria metallica) resting in a cave. The species was later cross-matched with photographic evidence published by the Zoo Outreach Organisation and Wildlife Information Liaison Development Society. The species, known to be endemic to India, was found at different locations in the reserve forests.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorised it as Critically Endangered.

According to K. Raman, founder of IBF, “The spider was sighted way back in 1899 by Reginald Innes Pocock on the basis of a single female specimen in Gooty. About 102 years later this species has been recorded at degraded forest between Nandyal and Giddalur in the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh.

IUCN says on its website that it could not be said to occur naturally in Gooty, since it could have come from the Eastern Ghats at least 100 km away.

S. Vimalraj, a wildlife researcher said the species had so far not been sighted in any other part of India or Sri Lanka except its known habitat in Andhra Pradesh.

Not surveyed before

According to Zeeshan A. Mirza, Researcher at National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru, “This is an interesting find as this area has never been surveyed before. Species of this genus can be identified based on the banding patterns on the underside of the legs. Tarantulas are biological pest controllers and there is a huge demand for them by collectors in the pet trade. There is an urgent need to protect them.”

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