In Kerala, Luddites Left And Right Sink Differences To Vote Out GM Mustard

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Updated: Fri, 19 May 2017 20:11:12 IST Updated: Fri, 19 May 2017

As ever, Luddites have won In Kerala. The state assembly today passed a resolution, demanding that the centre withdraw the decision to grant permission for production and cultivation of Genetically Modified Mustard seed.

It would have been a unanimous passage of the bill but for the solitary BJP MLA O Rajagopal. The ruling Marxist led Left Front and the Congress led United Democratic Front who have been going at each other’s jugular in the assembly and on the streets sunk their differences to vote out the new “threat” that would destroy traditional seeds and make farmers depend on multinationals for their cultivation. 

Moving the resolution, Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar said it was "unfortunate" that the centre's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had accorded sanction for production and cultivation of GM mustard. GM crops would be cultivated in the country if it was also approved by the Environment Ministry and "it is a very serious issue", he said. He demanded that the centre not implement GEAC's decision as GM seeds, he said, would adversely affect farmers and the agriculture sector.  He said most states are also against GM crops.

GM mustard is the second food crop which got the nod of the GEAC after Bt Brinjal. But the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had refused to give his approval. The genetically modified crops have been facing continued resistance from science-sceptics and the support they gain from Luddites and compulsive contrarians. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi defies Opposition, the country could make giant strides in mustard production.

The Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), Delhi University South Campus, had submitted an application to the GEAC for the environmental release of GM mustard (Brassica Juncea) hybrid DMH-11 and the use of parental events (varuna bn 3.6 and EH2 mod bs 2.99) for the development of a new generation of hybrids. 

The environment ministry had received over 700 comments from various stakeholders, including farmers and researchers, on the Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety (AFES) report on GM Mustard, which it had earlier posted on the ministry website. 

The application was submitted in 2015 after which several rounds of meeting were held by the GEAC. The sub-committee also convened meetings with experts. The GEAC also heard the views of various NGOs not in favour of giving an approval to GM crops.

The Kerala Minister, not known to be any sort of authority on the subject, said it has not yet been proved if GM crops would result in more yields, and claimed that it has been found that GM seeds attract new insects. Powerful pesticides would have to be used to safeguard crops from attacks of these insects, which in turn would harm human health, he said.

The minister alleged that some vested interest groups, taking cover under efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in edible oil, were trying to get sanction for GM mustard.

GM trials were progressing in 75 varieties of crops and their target was to get approval for all crops one by one after getting sanction for GM mustard, he alleged.

"This move is dangerous to the country, farmers and also the agriculture sector," he said adding GM crops are against the interest of the people.

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Modi Govt Approves Scrapping Of 25 Year Old FIPB

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Updated: Wed, 24 May 2017 20:39:44 IST Updated: Wed, 24 May 2017

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the winding up of the 25-year-old Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) that looked into FDI proposals requiring government approval. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had in his Budget speech on February 1 announced scrapping of the inter-ministerial body, which comes under the finance ministry’s Department of Economic Affairs.

The FIPB was initially constituted under the Prime Minister’s Office in the wake of economic liberalisation in the early 1990s. Currently, FDI in 11 sectors including defence and retail trading requires government approval. As per the proposed mechanism, respective ministries would take care of the FDI proposals going forward.

Last month Jaitley had said, “With the government easing the process of doing business by eliminating discretion and adopting market mechanism for allocation of resources, the industry does not have to visit corridors of power anymore. And in that series of reforms, efforts are being made to simplify direct and indirect tax structure.” Its winding up is expected to ease of doing business.

Further liberalization of the FDI policy is expected to be spelt out in the annual consolidated FDI policy circular of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), expected soon. The DIPP will act as the nodal body for all foreign investment proposals from now on. The decision of the Union Cabinet is expected to give a sizeable boost to job creation with the easier entry of foreign investment in different sectors.

FDI inflows touched a high of USD 60.1billion in 2016-17. In the last three years of its term, the Narendra Modi government has relaxed 87 FDI rules in 21 sectors to give a boost to jobs and to economic growth.

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IT Dept Summons Lalu’s Daughter Misa And Hubby To Explain Get-Rich-Quick Schemes

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Updated: Wed, 24 May 2017 20:03:22 IST Updated: Wed, 24 May 2017

The Income Tax department on Wednesday summoned RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav’s daughter Misa Bharti and her husband Susheel Kumar in a benami assets probe and tax evasion case.

The development follows the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) arrest of Rajesh Kumar Agarwal, a chartered accountant, associated with a company linked to Bharti in connection with a money laundering racket worth Rs 8,000 crore run by Virender and Surender Jain. The ED in a statement said Agarwal was “also associated with some transactions involving M/S Mishail Packers and Printers Pvt Ltd” – a company controlled by Misa and her husband.

ED officials had on Tuesday said Agarwal has been helping those with black money to legitimise their cash through shell companies. The documents in ED’s possession show that Agarwal handed Rs 1.2 crore in cash to the Jain brothers. The money eventually reached Misa's company through a web of transactions in which her company's shares were acquired by the Jains at exorbitant prices.

The chartered accountant’s arrest could lead to a formal probe against others involved in the money laundering scandal under the PMLA- a stringent law which provides for confiscation of properties allegedly acquired through the proceeds of crime. The law also allows for prosecution of the beneficiary owner, the benamidar, the abettor and the inducer to benami transactions, which could result in rigorous imprisonment up to seven years and fine up to 25 per cent of fair market value of the property.

The shell companies of the Jain brothers paid Rs 100 for one share in Misa’s company worth Rs 10. Within a year, the company allegedly bought back the shares at Rs 10 per each through accommodation entries provided by Agarwal and Jain brothers. Misa has not declared her status as a director of Mishail while disclosing her assets for Rajya Sabha polls.

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Nepal PM Resigns as Per Pact Made in August 2016

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Updated: Wed, 24 May 2017 19:54:49 IST Updated: Wed, 24 May 2017

Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ resigned on Wednesday as per a power-sharing pact between his party and the ruling partner Nepali Congress last August. Prachanda had been in office just nine months and according to the understanding, the government is to be run on a rotational basis until elections to Parliament are held in February 2018.

Dahal, 62, announced his resignation while addressing the nation in a live telecast. It was his second stint as the Prime Minister. Dahal, who is the Chairman of CPN (Maoist Centre), was elected the 39th Prime Minister after reaching an understanding with Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba.

The parliamentary vote for Prachanda's successor Deuba's appointment will be confirmed in the next 10 days. The Nepali Congress party along with the other parties had helped Prachanda in winning 363 out of 595 votes in the House to form a government. When the government was being formed, Prachanda reached an understanding with Deuba that he would step down as PM after nine months.

Nepal on May 14 voted in the first local polls in two decades as it took a critical step towards cementing democracy amid political turmoil. Local elections couldn't be held after 1997 largely due to the decade-long Maoist insurgency that claimed more than 16,000 lives. The elections were supposed to be held every five years but were stopped in May 1997. Prachanda, who led the Maoists during the armed struggle from 1996 to 2006, is credited with transforming the rebel movement into a political party after a 2006 peace deal. 

He was to hold office till local polls are held and remaining two elections — provincial and central — are to be conducted under Deuba. Millions of Nepalese, on May 14, voted in the country’s first local level polls in two decades as the Himalayan nation took a crucial step towards cementing democracy amid political turmoil. Local level elections could not be held after 1997, largely as a result of the decade-long Maoist insurgency that claimed more than 16,000 lives in Nepal. Elections should be held in every five years but due to political instability, they were halted since May 1997. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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Political, Corporate and Bureaucratic Big Fish to Lose Big Time as Assault on Benami Property Intensifies

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Updated: Wed, 24 May 2017 19:51:28 IST Updated: Wed, 24 May 2017

The assault on black money has got underway with the government today confirming the attachment of 400 benami properties worth Rs 600 crore.

“These include deposits in bank accounts, plots of land, flats and jewellery. Provisional attachment of properties under the Benami Act has been done in more than 240 cases. The market value of the properties under the Act is more than Rs 600 crore. Immovable properties have been attached in 40 cases with total value of more than Rs 530 crore in Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Although a press release issued by the finance ministry restricted itself to the value of benami properties detected by the authorities, sources confirmed that few big fishes in politics, bureaucracy and corporates would lose their ill-gotten wealth. “This is just the beginning,” the official said.

The action comes in the midst of a crackdown on political bigwigs that include former Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram, family members of RJD supremo Lalu Yadav, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister VB Singh and former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy.

The press release issued by the government detailed the ways employed by influential people to acquire wealth. “In one case in Jabalpur, the benamidar, a driver, was found to be the owner of a land worth Rs 7.7 crore. The beneficial owner is a Madhya Pradesh-based listed company, his employer. In Mumbai, a professional was found to be holding several immovable properties in the name of shell companies which exist only on paper. In another case in Sanganer, Rajasthan, a jeweller was found to be beneficial owner of nine immovable properties in the name of his former employee, a man of no means. Certain properties purchased through shell companies have also been attached by the department in Kolkata,” the release said.

The government also informed that searches have been undertaken on 10 senior officials during the past one month. “Every economic misdeed will be identified and punished,” said the release.

That the government was determined to go after fraud transactions was evident when the ministry said it has already constituted 24 dedicated Benami Prohibition Units across the country to “enable swift action and follow up, especially in cases where criminality has been detected.”

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