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Senate panel makes appeal to end ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the State

Senator Chris Van Hollen visited Delhi this week as a part of a delegation that discussed the Kashmir situation.Getty Images

In what could become the first step towards legislative action by American lawmakers against India on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has added an appeal to end what it calls a “humanitarian crisis” in Kashmir in its report ahead of the annual Foreign Appropriations Act for 2020.

The amendment was proposed by Senator Chris Van Hollen, who visited Delhi this week as a part of a congressional delegation that discussed the Kashmir situation as well as India-US bilateral relations, trade ties and defence purchases with key officials.

‘Restore communication’

According to the report, which was submitted to the Senate by Lindsey Graham, senior Senator and key Republican leader known for his close ties to President Donald Trump, the committee on Appropriations “notes with concern the current humanitarian crisis in Kashmir and calls on the Government of India to: fully restore telecommunications and Internet services; lift its lockdown and curfew; and release individuals detained pursuant to the Government's revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution.”

What makes the report as well as the tough language on Kashmir more startling is that the document was submitted on September 26, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was still in the US, and came just a few days after his joint address at the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event in Houston with Mr. Trump, as well as their bilateral meeting in New York.

Expression of concern

“This amendment, which was accepted unanimously by the bipartisan committee, is a strong expression of concern by the Senate about the situation in Kashmir and sends the signal that we are closely monitoring the human rights situation there, and would like to see the Government of India take those concerns seriously,” Mr. Van Hollen told The Hindu here, adding that he had “hoped to share his concerns privately” with Prime Minister Modi, but had not been able to meet him.

Mr. Van Hollen had met with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in Washington last week and Senator Bob Menendez, also a part of the delegation, met with Commerce and Industries Minister Piyush Goyal this week in Delhi. Both Senators have made public statements in the last two months on the Kashmir situation.

Denied permission

While it is unclear whether their concerns over Kashmir elicited any responses from the government, The Hindu has learnt that Senator Van Hollen was rebuffed when requested permission to visit Srinagar in an effort to assess the situation on the ground.

When asked, MEA officials said the Ministry of Home Affairs handled such requests. No diplomat or foreign journalist has yet been given clearance to visit Kashmir since the government’s decision on Article 370 on August 5.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit in Delhi on Friday, Mr. Jaishankar said many key decision-makers in the US had been “misinformed by their media” and that he had spent considerable efforts in the past few weeks to clear misconceptions on the government’s decision to drop the “temporary” Article 370.

(With inputs from

Sriram Lakshman)

FY20 GDP forecast revised down to 6.1% from 6.9% due to slowing growth

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) delivered another rate cut on Friday — the fifth in as many policy review meetings to boost a slowing economy. However, it failed to cheer the market, which was betting on a bigger rate reduction.

The six-member monetary policy committee (MPC) decided to cut interest rates by 25 basis points (bps) to 5.1%, with five members voting in favour of the quantum and R.H. Dholakia for a 40 bps cut (100 bps = 1 percentage point). “The MPC also decided to continue with an accommodative stance as long as it is necessary to revive growth, while ensuring that inflation remains within the target,” the RBI said.

The central bank also revised its growth forecast for the current financial sharply, from 6.9% projected in the August policy, to 6.1%. Growth forecast for the first quarter of the next financial year was also trimmed to 7.2% from 7.4%.

Inflation forecast for the second half of FY20 has been retained at 3.5-3.7%.

“Noting that the output gap has widened since its last meeting, the MPC was of the view that the continuing slowdown warrants intensified efforts to restore the growth momentum... As long as the growth momentum remains as it is and till the growth is revived, the RBI will continue to remain in an accommodative mode,” RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said in the post-policy interaction with the media.

The rate cut comes after GDP growth for the first quarter of the current financial year plunged to a 25-quarter low of 5%. Between February and now, the central bank has reduced the policy rate by 135 bps.

Central Pollution Control Board to offer technical support

Hazardous waste will be sent to Bengaluru for recycling. file photoKuni Takahashi

The Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have joined hands to set up the country’s first e-waste clinic here, that would enable segregation, processing and disposal of waste from both household and commercial units.

After inspecting the garbage and plastic recovery centres in Bhanpur here, CPCB officials discussed the clinic with BMC officials. A three-month pilot project, the clinic, if successful, would be replicated elsewhere in the country.

“Electronic waste will be collected door-to-door or could be deposited directly at the clinic in exchange for a fee. The CPCB will provide technical support at the unit,” BMC Additional Commissioner Rajesh Rathore told The Hindu.

At present, there was no estimate of the quantity of electronic waste generated in the city, he added. “Hazardous waste will be sent to Bengaluru for recycling,” he said.

Door-to-door collection will happen in two ways. Either separate carts for the collection of e-waste will be designed, or separate bins will be attached to existing ones meant for solid and wet waste. The clinic is being conceived in compliance with the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.

In the absence of a safe disposal mechanism, electronic waste at present is being disposed of along with other waste, said Mr. Rathore. “A suitable site for the unit is yet to be identified,” he added.

Celebrities had written to PM Modi in July, voicing concern over incidents

A case of alleged sedition has been registered in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur against 49 celebrities, including Ramchandra Guha, Aparna Sen, Mani Ratnam and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who had expressed concern in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over growing incidents of mob lynching.

Mr. Gopalakrishnan termed the decision “unbelievable”.

Addressing mediapersons on the sidelines of the release of an Islamic encyclopaedia on Friday, he said the letter was written by responsible citizens who visualised the nation as a democracy with space for plural opinions.

He reiterated that they could not be branded anti-national just because they did not agree with the government. “We are still a democracy and every citizen has the right to write to those in power, up to the President,” he said.

The letter, he said, had raised apprehension over mob lynchings of the poor. “Will they kill a man who has power and force him to chant Jai Shri Ram?” Using Rama’s name as a “killing cry” was terrible, he said.

“Instead of taking action on the issues raised in the letter, there was a propped-up petition by people who outnumbered us,” he said.

He said any responsible government would have taken action on the issue highlighted in the letter. Instead, there had been a dozen such cases of people being killed. The lynchings, he alleged, increased as the perpetrators knew no one would get punished. “Each of them deserves to be punished, even with capital punishment,” the wellknown filmaker said.

On the allegation that the letter tarnished the country's image, Mr. Gopalakrishnan asked if the lynchings, which were reported around the world, did not bring a bad name to the country.

Action will be taken against two officers: ACM Bhadauria

Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria in New Delhi on Friday. R.V. Moorthy The Hindu

The Indian Air Force (IAF) Mi-17 helicopter crash on February 27 in Kashmir was caused by friendly fire and was a “big mistake”, Air Chief Marshal (ACM) R.K.S. Bhadauria said on Friday.

The crash claimed the lives of all six personnel on board and one civilian on the ground. “The Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the accident completed its work last week... Disciplinary action will be taken against two officers involved in the crash,” said ACM Bhadauria, who took over as the 26th Air chief on September 30 from B.S. Dhanoa.

Those who lost their lives would be declared battle casualties, he added at his first annual press conference as the Chief of the Air Staff, ahead of the Air Force Day.

On the morning of February 27, as fighter jets of India and Pakistan were engaged in a dogfight over the Naushera sector, a day after the Balakot airstrike, the Mi-17 crashed in Budgam shortly after take-off from Srinagar.

The CoI confirmed that it was shot by the Israeli-origin ground-based Spyder surface-to-air missile system of the IAF.

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