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BJP hopes to cash in on Citizenship Bill in Bengal

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Kolkata | With the Lok Sabha polls approaching, the West Bengal BJP hopes to cash in on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill to reach out to the one crore odd Hindu Bangladeshi refugees in the state once the bill is implemented.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to grant Indian citizenship to the non-Muslims who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014.

According to a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, the bill will not only endear them to the Hindu refugees in the state but will also help them counter the allegation of being an “anti-Bengali” party.

The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and several opposition parties in the state had levelled the saffron party as “anti-Bengali”, following the publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) drafts in Assam last year.

Mohit Roy, convenor of the BJP’s refugee cell, told PTI that the bill would change the future of the one crore Bengali refugees living in West Bengal.

“Various political parties have played with the emotions of the Bengali refugees living in the state for the past several decades. Neither the TMC nor the CPI(M), which boast of being champions of refugees, did nothing for the Bengali refugees. It is (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and the BJP which will give them citizenship. This is a historic decision,” he said.

In the next few days, the party will set up camps and make people aware of the bill, especially in the bordering districts such as North and South 24 Parganas, Coochbehar, Uttar Dinajpur and Nadia which have a very high concentration of Bengali refugees, BJP sources said.

These districts account for around 10-12 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

The saffron party has identified West Bengal as a priority state and party chief Amit Shah has set a target of winning 22 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the upcoming general election.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill would be one of the top issues in West Bengal in the Lok Sabha polls, West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh told PTI.

He said the passage of the bill had exposed the “double standards” of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the TMC, who had played politics with the emotions of the refugees in West Bengal.

“The TMC had tried to portray the BJP as an anti-Bengali party when the NRC drafts were published. Now what would they say? We have passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill to give rights to Hindus and Bengalis,” Ghosh added.

He said the BJP did not believe in vote-bank politics like the TMC, which was busy appeasing a specific community in the state.

Senior TMC MP Saugata Roy dubbed the bill as “divisive” and “insidious” that went against the basic tenets of the Constitution.

State minister and North 24 Parganas president of the TMC Jyotipriyo Mullick told PTI that the people of Bengal were well aware of the kind of development initiatives the Mamata Banerjee-led party had undertaken for the benefit of the refugees in the state.

“Unlike the BJP, we do not believe in dividing people on the basis of religion. We do not differentiate between refugees on the basis of religion,” he said.

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Ensure justice to two Hindu girls: Sushma Swaraj to Pakistan

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Sushma Swaraj India

New Delhi | External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday asked Pakistan to ensure immediate release of the two Hindu girls who were allegedly kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam in Sindh province last week.

“Justice demands that both these girls should be restored to their family immediately,” she tweeted.

Reena and Raveena, hailing from village Hafiz Salman near the town of Daharki in Sindh, were allegedly kidnapped and forced to convert from Hinduism to Islam on March 20, before being married to Muslim men.

“Forced conversion of Hindu girls in Pakistan: The age of the girls is not disputed. Raveena is only 13 and Reena is 15 years old,” Swaraj said.

“Even the Prime Minister on Naya Pakistan will not believe that girls of this tender age can voluntarily decide about their conversion to another religion and marriage,” she said.


A Pakistani high court on Tuesday ordered official protection for the two girls due to concern about their safety as authorities widened a probe to ascertain if the teenage sisters were abducted, forcibly converted and married.

On Sunday, Swaraj tweeted that she asked the Indian envoy in Islamabad to send a report on the incident.

Hours later, India issued a note verbale to Pakistan on the issue, sharing its concerns over the incident and called for suitable remedial action to protect and promote safety, security and welfare of people from the minority communities.

Subsequently, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an investigation into the incident.

The Islamabad High Court issued the order on Tuesday after the petition was filed by the girls and their husbands to seek protection from adverse action.

On March 20, the girls’ family lodged a First Information Report against their alleged forced conversion to Islam.

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Implementation of Cong’s minimum income scheme may not be an easy task: Experts

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New Delhi | Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s minimum income scheme, aiming to lift five crore families or 25 crore people out of poverty, reflects a commitment to social security, but financing it may be an uphill task, said several leading economists and social scientists.

Gandhi on Monday, announced that under ‘Nyay’ — an acronym for Nyuntam Aay Yojana, Rs 72,000 will be given to the poorest families every year if his party returns to power while calling it a final assault on poverty.

Nyay would require run up an annual bill of Rs 3.60 lakh crore, or around 1.7 per cent of GDP, which, for 2019-20, is pegged at 210 lakh crore. The Congress is yet to spell out how resources will be generated to implement the scheme amid concerns that its implementation may not be fiscally prudent.

“NYAY reflects a welcome commitment to social security. The soundness of this proposal, however, depends on how it is to be financed and how the poorest 20 per cent are to be identified. Hopefully, the proposal will improve even as the commitment remains,” Development Economist Jean Dreze told PTI.

Under the scheme, any family having a monthly income less than Rs 12,000 would receive Rs 6,000 monthly.

Syeda Hameed, former member of Planning Commission gave a thumbs up to the scheme though she admitted that it could result in a “fiscal burden” on the exchequer.

“It can change the face of India. It will be a fiscal burden, but there is enough ill gotten money with billionaires which can be put to use by a leader who is honest and who cares,” she said.

Abhijit Sen, a retired JNU professor who was also a member of the erstwhile Planning Commission said, “It is going to cost a lot of money. And it is going to be an implementation issue.”

Right to food activist Harsh Mander said he welcomed the scheme because it brought the real issues of the poor at the centre of the political discourse and also recognised the inequality prevailing in the country.

“India’s tax to GDP ratio is among the lowest in the world. We are just not taxing the super rich. Our subsidies to the rich and middle class is at least three times as much as we give to the poor, so we need to reorganise our subsidies to include the poor.

“If we have a fully functioning employment guarantee programme, both for urban and rural areas, and if we have an effective pension programme for poor and person with disabilities, then those who still fall through the cracks would be covered by this program,” he said.

Economist Sen suggested that while implementing the scheme, the obvious thing that the Congress can do is to link it to something such as NREGA.

“You don’t identify; people come to work. So, if you can increase the number of days on which the people are eligible to work, that would serve the purpose as far for those who can work.

“For the old and the disabled you just transfer cash transfer. To transfer cash to the working age population, which is a large population, you will need to know their incomes and all that. That is a very difficult thing to do,” he said. PTI DSP ASG MPB

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Happy that women will benefit under NYAY scheme: Priyanka Gandhi

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New Delhi | Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Tuesday said she’s happy that women will receive Rs 72,000 per year directly into their bank accounts under the minimum income guarantee scheme announced by party chief Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi on Monday announced that Rs 72,000 per year will be given as minimum income to poor families, benefiting around 25 crore people, if his party is voted to power in Lok Sabha polls, and asserted it will be the final assault on poverty.

“So happy that under the NYAY scheme, women will be the ones who receive the annual amount of Rs. 72,000 directly into their accounts. ‘Empower a woman, empower a family’,” Priyanka Gandhi wrote on Twitter.

She said 20 per cent or 5 crore families belonging to the poorest category with monthly income less than Rs 12,000 will benefit under the scheme.

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