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Congress demands probe into Rs 746 cr Ahmedabad co-op bank over demonetisation , NABARD says no irregularity

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The Indian National Congress on Friday demanded a probe into reports suggesting that notes worth Rs 745.58 crore were deposited in Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank, where BJP chief Amit Shah is a director, within five days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing demonetisation on November 8, 2016.

However, just before the Congress made the demand, NABARD issued a statement, saying that the average deposit amount in the Ahmedabad DCCB was Rs 46,795 per account holder, which is lower than the average per depositor in 18 DCCBs of the western state of Gujarat. NABARD, or National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, is the country’s apex financing agency for institutions that promote rural development.

“We expect the prime minister will himself come forward and give answers on the charges against Amit Shah, whom he has appointed. There should be an independent time-bound probe into this entire scam,” Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala told reporters.

The NABARD statement also said that during the period 1.60 lakh customers of the bank deposited/exchanged demonetised notes worth Rs 746 crore which were only 15 per cent of the total deposits of the bank.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cited the NABARD statement to say that the Ahmedabad DCCB was one of the biggest in the country and that it was not out of the ordinary for it to collect such an amount.

The Congress accused Modi of having “choreographed” demonetisation to benefit scamsters to convert their black money and dubbed the decision as independent India’s “biggest scam” that allowed scamsters convert their black money into white.

In a tongue-in-cheek tweet, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi congratulated Shah for being the director of a bank that won the 1st prize in the conversion of old notes to new.

“Congratulations Amit Shah Ji, Director, Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank, on your bank winning 1st prize in the conversion of old notes to new race. Rs 750 crore in 5 days!

“Millions of Indians whose lives were destroyed by demonetisation, salute your achievement,” he said on Twitter.

He also used the hashtag “ShahZyadaKhaGaya” along with a picture of Shah, which was also used by the Congress on its social media handles to hit out at him.

Addressing a press conference, Surjewala, the Congress spokesman, said while people suffered in queues, scamsters converted black money to white.

“PM choreographed the DeMonetisation, leaving out window for black money hoarders to benefit. Nineteen months post-Modi Made Disaster’ of Demonetisation, it is now officially clear that this entire exercise was the biggest scam in Independent India, indulged to convert its ill-gotten Black Money’ into White’!,” he said.

He also alleged that in 11 district cooperative banks in Gujarat headed by BJP leaders, as much as Rs 3,118 crore worth of old notes were deposited within the five days after demonetisation.

“It is time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah to answer. Will Prime minister Modi hold a probe against Amit Shah, his party MPs and ministers , he said.

The NABARD statement said that of the total 17 lakh accounts with district cooperative banks, deposits and exchanges were made only by 1.60 lakh customers, which is 9.37 pc of the total deposit accounts.

Of these less then Rs 2.5 lakh were deposited in 98.94 pc of accounts in which deposits/exchanges were made and out of the total accounts with the bank, it was only in 0.09 pc accounts where above Rs. 2.5 lakh were deposited.

The NABARD also said that demonetised notes presented in the DCCBs of Maharashtra were higher than those deposited in Gujarat, followed by DCCBs in Kerala.

The rural bank also said that the Ahmedabad DCCB, with total business levels of over Rs 9,000 crore, is one of the top ten DCCBs of the country and was recently awarded for the best performance by the Federation of the Cooperative Banks.

It also said that the bank has a total of 194 branches, the highest among all the DCCBs of Gujarat and its deposit base of Rs 5,330 crore is also the highest among all the banks of Gujarat.

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IITs, IISERs to mentor nearby schools in science & maths: Prakash Javadekar

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Prakash Javadekar

Ahmedabad | Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday said the IITs, IISERs and universities in the country will mentor schools located close their campuses to ensure that students do not lag behind in mathematics and science subjects.

Highlighting the importance of subjects like science, mathematics, engineering and technology in the 21st century, he said it is vital to foster research tendency among students right from the primary schools.

“Maths can be taught in an entertaining way. For the students to study and understand maths and science properly, not very big equipment, but simple ideas are required. Hence, primary school teachers play a big role,” Javadekar told reporters here.

“We have decided today- the Modi government has also decided- that IITs, IISERs (Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research), large and good universities will mentor 10-15 nearby schools and ensure that students in those schools are given proper training in science and maths so they do not lag behind (in these subjects),” he said.

Javadekar was speaking on the sidelines of inauguration of exhibitions- one on futuristic technology and another by the American Museum of Natural History on the future of space exploration, at the Science City as part of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit.

The minister said right pedagogy is required to cultivate the interest of primary school students in these two subjects. “Study shows that once students lag behind in maths or science, the gap increases and they fall behind further. Therefore, it is important how you explain science and mathematics to them,” he said.

According to him, the Modi government has taken many steps to promote the culture of innovation in the country by setting up innovation and incubation centres, allowing start-ups to run even from hostel rooms, launching IMPRINT India initiative, offering Rs 1 lakh per month to the PM Research Fellows, among others.

He said over 100 research projects are currently going on in Indian institutes and universities, and the government has so far set up 2,000 Atal Tinkering Labs and will establish another 3,000 such facilities across the country. He said participation in Smart India Hackathon has grown from 40,000 to 1.5 lakh in three years.

“On the basis of all this, I am sure our investment in research will grow, and an environment of science, engineering, technology, mathematics, research and attitude of innovation will start in schools…We are encouraging the tendency (among students) to explore solutions to the society’s problems,” he said.

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NGT slams Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore as per its 2018 order

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Volkswagen

New Delhi | The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Thursday slammed German auto major Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore in accordance with its November 16, 2018 order and directed it to submit the amount within 24 hours.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel took strong exception to the non-compliance of its order by the automobile giant and asked it to give an undertaking that it will submit the amount by 5 PM Friday.

“Why have you not complied with our order when there is no stay. We will not give you any further time,” the bench, also comprising Justice S P Wangdi, said while asking Volkswagen to submit an affidavit of compliance after depositing the amount.

The apex tribunal also said that in case the amount is not deposited by Friday, the directors of the company will be sent to jail. The tribunal deferred the matter for hearing after it was informed that the Supreme Court is also seized of the issue.

A spokesperson of Volkswagen Group India said that all cars of the company are complying with the emission norms in India. “The Volkswagen Group reiterates that all cars from the group are compliant with the emission norms in India. The order of the NGT is already under challenge before the Supreme Court. However, the Volkswagen Group India will comply with the order of NGT and deposit the money, as directed,” Volkswagen Group India spokesperson said.

On November 16 last year, the tribunal had said that the use of ‘cheat device’ by Volkswagen in diesel cars in India leads to inference of environmental damage and had asked the German auto major to deposit an interim amount of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

The NGT had said that even though the standards may be stricter in other countries, “the very fact of deceit devices being installed by the manufacturers calls for an inference of prima-facie violation of environment”.

The tribunal had constituted a joint team of representatives of the CPCB, Ministry of Heavy Industries, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, to give its expert opinion on whether the manufacturer has exceeded the prescribed environmental norms and fair estimate of the damage caused to the environment.

The tribunal was hearing pleas filed by a school teacher, Saloni Ailawadi, and a few others seeking ban on sale of Volkswagen vehicles for alleged violation of emission norms. The tribunal had said ARAI found Nitrogen oxide emissions to be five to nine times higher than the laboratory test limits. The tribunal said that even if there is 100 per cent recall, for the past violation of norms, the auto manufacturer cannot avoid its responsibility.

A ‘cheat’ or ‘defeat device’ is a software in diesel engines to manipulate emission tests by changing the performance of the cars globally.Volkswagen India had in December 2015 announced the recall of 3,23,700 lakh vehicles in India to fix the emission software after ARAI conducted tests on some models and found that their on-road emissions were 1.1 times to 2.6 times higher than the applicable BS-IV norms.

The automobile giant had admitted to the use of ‘defeat device’ in 11 million diesel engine cars sold in the US, Europe and other global markets to manipulate emission test results.

After the tests by ARAI, Volkswagen India had undertaken to rejig the software by recalling around 3.23 lakh vehicles fitted with EA 189 diesel engines which were in alleged violation of emission norms.

The company, however, had said that the recall in India was purely voluntary in nature as it did not face any charges regarding violating emission norms in India unlike in the US.

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Supreme Court paves way for reopening of dance bars in Maharashtra

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Image taken from the web

New Delhi | Stating that there can be “regulations” but not “total prohibition”, the Supreme Court on Thursday paved the way for the reopening of dance bars in Maharashtra by setting aside some provisions of a 2016 law imposing restrictions on their licensing and functioning.

Clearing the path for licences allowing dance bars to operate, an apex court bench headed by Justice A K Sikri permitted them to be located a kilometre away from religious places and educational institutions.

The court allowed tips to performers but disallowed showering of currency on them.

The apex court quashed the provisions of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein) Act, 2016, like the mandatory installations of CCTV cameras in the dance bars saying they violated privacy.

The bench, however, upheld the provision restricting the timing of operation of dance bars from 6 pm to 11.30 pm.

“From 2005 till date, not a single person has been given licence (for dance bars). It cannot be done. There can be regulations but it cannot amount to a total prohibition,” the bench said while pronouncing the judgement.

The apex court said the provision which mandated that dance bars should be located one kilometre away from religious places and educations institutions is “unconstitutional”.

It also quashed the provision of the 2016 law which mandated that there must be a partition between barrooms and the dance floor.

In August last year, the court reserved its verdict on the pleas of hotel and restaurant owners challenging the 2016 Maharashtra law.

Earlier, the petitioners told the bench that the state government tried to circumvent a previous order of the apex court by bringing in the new 2016 law on conditions for operation of dance bars.

Hotel and restaurant owners argued that the state government adopted an attitude that it will not permit operations of dance bars irrespective of orders passed by the apex court.

On January 11, 2017, the apex court directed the Maharashtra government to expeditiously decide the pending applications for licences to open dance bars under the old rules and the directions issued by the court from time to time.

The Maharashtra government, in an affidavit filed before the court, defended the operation of a new law meant to regulate licensing and functioning of dance bars in the state.

“It was observed that such dances were derogatory to the dignity of women and were likely to deprave, corrupt or injure public morality,” the state government said.

“It was also brought to the notice of the state government that the places where such dances were staged were used as places for immoral activities and also as a place for solicitation for the purpose of prostitution,” it said.

The state government said the prevention of obscenity in public places is a part of public policy in India and was reflected in the provision of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

“Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016 gives effect to such Public Policy,” it said.

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