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Jaitley takes a dig at Opposition, says ‘prophets of doom’ proved wrong on noteban

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New Delhi | Hitting back at the Opposition for criticising demonetisation, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said the “prophets of doom” have been “conclusively proved wrong” with India retaining its position as the fastest growing economy for the fifth year in a row.

Many opposition leaders have been critical of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to demonetise high-value currency notes two years ago.

Responding to note ban critics, Jaitley said demonetisation has strengthened the economy and increased the government resources to fund poverty alleviation and infrastructure development programmes.

“What has happened to ‘prophets of doom’ who said India’s GDP will decline by at least 2 per cent. For the fifth year running, India will be the fastest growing (large) economy in the world. It is continuing to happen. So prophets of doom have been proved wrong and conclusively proved wrong,” he told reporters here.

Earlier, Jaitley in a Facebook post said demonetisation has helped in formalising the economy, expanding tax base and earmarking more resources for the poor.

On the controversial noteban decision, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said “scars and wounds” caused by demonetisation are getting more visible with time and second anniversary is a day to remember how “economic misadventures” could roil the nation.

Describing demonetisation as an “ill-fated” and “ill-thought” exercise, he said the havoc it unleashed on the Indian economy and society is now evident to everyone.

The senior Congress leader had earlier said that demonetisation would shave off 2 per cent economic growth rate.

Among other opposition leaders, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also questioned the rationale behind the Modi government’s note ban move and termed it as “a self-inflicted deep wound” on the Indian economy.

Joining the chorus, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged that the demonetisation move was initiated for the benefit of a handful of people, saying the common men were the worst sufferers.

Congress’s spokesperson Anand Sharma, at a press conference, also alleged that demonetisation was “a big money laundering project”.

The Modi government on November 8, 2016, demonetised high-value currency notes of old 500 and 1000 rupee notes, constituting 86 per cent of the currency in circulation.

Defending the demonetisation drive, Jaitley said, “Even when there was global stress, we still manage to have respectable growth rates and we had the courage because of leadership of the Prime Minister… we took decisive steps and these steps which are not economically correct have helped the system in the long run, and the long run, in this case, does not mean generations,” he said.

The finance minister said that demonetisation has favourably impacted the tax system, digitisation and formalisation of the India economy.

“Of course, there is a long distance we still have to cover and I am certain in the coming years the advantage of these movements in the right direction will strengthen the India economy,” he said.

Giving details of impact of demonetisation, Jaitley said the number of income tax return filers has gone up to 6.86 crore from 3.8 crore in May 2014.

“By the time the first five years of this government are over, we will be close to doubling the assessee base, he said.

He further said with the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), it is now becoming increasingly difficult to evade the tax system and the indirect tax to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio has gone up to 5.4 per cent post-GST, from 4.4 per cent in 2014-15.

On the criticism that almost the entire cash money got deposited in the banks post demonetisation, Jaitley said confiscation of currency was not an objective of demonetisation.

“Getting it into the formal economy and making the holders pay tax was the broader objective. The system required to be shaken in order to make India move from cash to digital transactions. This would obviously have an impact on higher tax revenue and a higher tax base,” Jaitley said.

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Court takes cognisance of defamation plea against Shashi Tharoor for remark against PM Modi

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New Delhi | A Delhi court on Friday took cognisance of a criminal defamation complaint filed against Congress leader Shashi Tharoor for his alleged “scorpion” remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal fixed December 22 for recording the statement of the complainant, Delhi BJP leader Rajeev Babbar. The complaint alleged that Tharoor, with “mala fide intention, made the statement which is not only abuse of the Hindu deity but also defamatory”.

In his complaint, Babbar said being a vice-president of the BJP’s Delhi unit, he was “identified as a worker/supporter of Narendra Modi and BJP” and that Tharoor’s statement hurt his religious sentiment.  The complaint termed the statement “intolerable abuse” and “absolute vilification” of the faith of the people.

Tharoor stoked a controversy last month while speaking at the Bangalore Literature Festival, claiming that an unnamed RSS leader had compared Modi to “a scorpion sitting on a Shivling”. The complaint has been filed under sections 499 and 500 of IPC relating to defamation. If convicted, Tharoor may face a maximum punishment of two years in jail.

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Uttar Pradesh: Thakur leader Raja Bhaiya launched new political party

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Lucknow | Six-time MLA and Thakur community Raghunath Pratap Singh on Friday announced the launch of his new political party called ‘Jan Satta Party’.

Addressing the media during the launch Singh said,”I have completed 25 years in politics, have been an Independent politician and MLA, so now have decided to form a political party.” He further added that he has approached Election Commision for registration.

Popularly known by the name Raja Bhaiya, Singh is currently an MLA from Kunda in Uttar Pradesh. He was a cabinet minister of Food and Civil Supplies Department during the Samajwadi Party government. He has also served as a minister in the cabinet of Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh’s government.

According to political pundits, the formation of a new political party by Raja Bhaiya is an attempt to influence the upper caste of voters in Uttar Pradesh which will indirectly help the BJP in the upcoming elections against the possible SP-BSP alliance. Earlier a close aide of the Samajwadi party, Raja Bhaiya in the last Rajya Sabha elections voted for the BJP candidate. He clearly stated that he won’t be voting in favour of the BSP candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls due to his differences with BSP supremo Mayawati.

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Afridi’s comments on Kashmir endorsed by Pakistan citizens: Shiv Sena

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Mumbai | The Shiv Sena Friday latched on to former Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi’s remarks that his country “does not want Kashmir” and said all sane Pakistanis would endorse the view.

The Sena, in an editorial in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, said Pakistan’s government and military chief gave more impetus on trying to harm India than governing the country as a result of which it has to seek external financial aid even 70 years after Independence.

In a video that has gone viral, Afridi is heard saying, “I believe that Pakistan does not want Kashmir, and India too should not be given the state. Kashmir should be an independent country.” He went on add that “humanity” or “insaniyat” should be prioritised.

In a swipe at the affairs of his own country battling financial woes and sectarian strife, the Pakistani all-rounder added, “Pakistan can’t handle its four provinces”. Afridi, while speaking on the matter later, however, has blamed the Indian media for quoting him out of context. Making a U-turn, Afridi has now said that “Kashmir belongs to Pakistan”.

The Sena’s editorial Friday stated, “Pakistan has become so poor in trying to support terrorism and corruption that it now is left with only the option of selling cattle and vehicles from the Prime Minister’s residence.”  It claimed that Pakistan was on the verge of a financial breakdown and it had been relegated to begging for a bailout from countries like China, after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) turned down its aid request.

“If the country needs financial oxygen to keep its economy going, alive, how will it take care of Kashmir? Not just Afridi, every sane Pakistani will hold the same view. However, who asks the common man there?” the editorial questioned. “The government and the military chief there give more impetus on harming India than doing good for its people. Therefore, they have to beg for aid even 70 years after Independence,” it said.

The Sena further dubbed Afridi as “anti-Indian” and said he has, in the past, made derogatory statements against India. Citing examples, it said Afridi had shown a soft corner for 13 terrorists eliminated by Indian security forces, and has been repeatedly advocating Independence for Kashmir.

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