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QBullet: 80% Don’t Mind Note Ban Trouble; Indian Economy Slowdown

The Quint’s roundup of headlines from national dailies.

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India
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1. Over 80 Percent Don’t Mind Inconvenience of Demonetisation, Says C-Voter Poll

The demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes is being seen positively by a large part of the population cutting across the lines of age, income levels and area of residence, a nationwide survey conducted by C-Voter has suggested.

A whopping 80-86 percent of those surveyed said the inconvenience caused by the demonetisation is worth the effort of combating black money.

C-Voter, an international polling agency headquartered in India, conducted its survey in close to half the total parliamentary constituencies on Monday.

The wide-ranging support for the demonetisation cut across the barriers of categorisation. The numbers remained consistently high when broken down on the basis of area of residence, income levels or by age groups.

A landslide 86 percent of the respondents living in urban and rural areas said the inconvenience was worth it. This was 80.6 percent in semi-urban areas.

The highest level of support, however, seems to come from those from the higher income group, 90.6 percent of whom said the move is worth it. Also tellingly, the lowest level of support in the ‘below 25’, 25-45, 45-60 and 60+ was 83.3 percent.
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2. India Puts in Place Working Channel with Trump Team, Discusses Pak Terror Groups

India has established a working channel with the incoming Republican administration in the US, with Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar interacting with the campaign and transition teams of President-elect Donald Trump, including briefing them on the threat posed by Pakistan-based terror groups in the South Asia region and beyond.

Government sources said National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Jaishankar established a back channel with the Republican candidate even before he won the US election. They had even shared the broad parameters of the 29 September surgical strike through an institutionalised link.

“The link helped as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was able to congratulate President-elect Trump over phone on the eve of his election victory,” said a senior official.

South Block sources said that Jaishankar met Trump’s key campaign managers as well as the Republican transition team on 17-18 November in New York.

That India was in touch with President-elect Trump’s close advisors is evident from the way the Republican leader singled out the Indian community in US for praise.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

3. J&K: Three Soldiers Killed in Machhal; Army Says Retribution Will be Heavy

Three soldiers were killed in an encounter with terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir’s Machhal area on Tuesday, according to Northern Command of Indian Army.

The body of one of the soldiers was mutilated. Reacting to the incident, the Army said “retribution will be heavy” for this cowardly act. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was briefed by Vice Chief of Army Lt Gen Bipin Rawat on the killing of three soldier.

Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir Nirmal Singh condemned the incident and said Pakistan is desperate more so after the surgical strike.

Earlier in the day, the Army gunned down two terrorists in Bandipora district. Shockingly, Rs 2,000 notes, which have been in circulation for less than a fortnight, were recovered from the terrorists.

The incident happened a day after a head constable of the BSF was killed and five others were wounded in firing by Pakistani troops along the Line of Control (LoC).

(Source: Indian Express)

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4. Devanagri Numerals on New Notes ‘Design, Not Language’: Centre to Madras HC

The Madras High Court on Tuesday sought clarification from the government over the Devanagri form of numeral printed in the new Rs 2,000 currency on a PIL petition seeking to declare it invalid on the ground that the use of the script was against the Official Languages Act.

The Madurai bench of the High Court rejected the Centre’s assertion that the inclusion of Devanagri numerals on the new Rs 2,000 note was a “design feature,” and not evidence of preference for a language.

A bench comprising justices S Nagamuthu and MV Muralidaran said that the new numerals represented a promise on the part of the RBI governor that the note carried a value of Rs 2,000, and therefore, could not be considered a design feature.

It therefore needed to be a “legal” language, as defined by the 1963 Official Languages Act.

“As per Reserve Bank of India Act, the RBI’s Central Board can recommend designs to be printed on the currency notes. The Devanagari numerical is also a design,” the additional solicitor general (ASG) had argued.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

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5. Zakir Naik’s NGO Gave ‘Scholarship’ to ISIS Man

In what could be the first evidence of a direct link between controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik and his NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) with the Islamic State's Indian recruits, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has found that ISIS operative Abu Anas received Rs 80,000 as scholarship from the IRF.

The funds were transferred around the time Anas was planning to travel to Syria to join the ISIS, sources said. He had applied for the IRF scholarship on its website and he was called for an interview in Mumbai.

Anas was arrested in Rajasthan in January. The link will add teeth to the government's investigation of Naik under anti-terror laws while the IRF has already been banned and is being probed.

The payment emerges as an alleged link between the IRF and the ISIS, with sources suspecting that Naik's aides could not have been unaware of Anas's plans and extended him financial assistance by disguising it as a "scholarship".

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6. New Rs 2,000 Notes Found on Slain LeT Ultras

Security forces recovered freshly issued Rs 2,000 notes from two slain Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants after an encounter in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.

The unidentified militants, believed to be non-locals, were surrounded by the security forces at Gorikhan village of Hajin area in Bandipora on Tuesday morning. The exchange of fire started at first light.

In an hour-long gunfight, both militants, who had escaped twice in the recent past, were killed. An Army official said it was not known when they infiltrated.

Besides arms and ammunition, including two guns, underbarrel grenade launchers and grenades, the security forces recovered two Rs 2,000 notes and 116 notes of Rs.10. No demonetised note was found in the Rs 15,600 cash recovered from them.

The recovery of fresh notes, issued in Kashmir only a fortnight ago, is a point of worry for the security agencies as the Centre believed that demonetisation would dry up the money channels of militant organisations. Police said they had started an investigation into how the new denomination notes reached the militant outfit.

(Source: The Hindu)

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7. Fighting Black Money: India, Switzerland Sign Pact to Swap Bank Info

India and Switzerland signed on Tuesday a pact for automatic exchange of information which would help authorities access details of Swiss bank accounts held by Indians, a move which is seen as crucial for the government's fight against black money.

It will now be possible for India to receive from September 2019 onwards, financial information of accounts held by Indian residents in Switzerland for 2018 and subsequent years, on an automatic basis, a Finance Ministry statement said.

Fighting the menace of black money stashed in offshore accounts has been a key priority area for the Narendra Modi government and authorities had held several rounds of discussions with their Swiss counterparts to ensure that there is exchange of information.

"The declaration in respect of automatic exchange of information with Switzerland is in line with global trend on enhancing information exchange to combat tax practices that are considered unacceptable by governments," Rahul Garg, leader direct tax, at consultancy firm PwC.

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8. To Speed Passage, Government Plans GST Bills as Money Bills

The government is considering bringing the three GST-related Bills as money Bills disregarding the Congress’s demand seeking their introduction as financial bills, sources said.

The introduction of the GST Bills as money bills will ensure faster passage as these are required to be voted only in Lok Sabha where the ruling party has a clear majority.

On 10 November, the Lok Sabha had listed the Central GST Bill; the Integrated GST; and GST (Compensation for Loss of Revenue) for introduction, consideration and passing in the winter session of Parliament.

The Centre has circulated these three draft Bills to states and these will be discussed in the meeting of the GST Council on 25 November. The Centre aims to introduce these in the latter part of the current session ending 16 December.

The Central GST Bill will facilitate the levy of tax on intra-state supply of goods or services; the Integrated GST will enable levy of tax on inter-state supply of goods or services; and the third Bill is to facilitate payment of compensation to states for loss of revenue arising on account of the implementation of GST for a period of five years. 

(Source: Indian Express)

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9. Demonetisation Fallout: Experts Warn Note Ban Will Slow Down Indian Economy

For all its good intentions, the government’s decision to scrap high-value banknotes threatens to hobble the economy.

Some experts see a contraction of economic activity in the next two months, and consensus says the GDP growth could slow by a whole percentage point in the next 12 months.

“The footfall at our dealerships is half of what it was in October,” said Pawan Kant Munjal, who runs Hero MotoCorp, the world’s largest motorcycle maker.

Varun Berry, managing director of Britannia, the country’s largest biscuit maker, sees a 30% to 70% drop in sales of FMCG, which includes everyday items such as soap, detergent and toothpaste, in addition to packaged foods.

This was only to be expected in a country which has 20% of its $1.8 trillion GDP and 80% of employment in the unorganised sector.

Nearly half the population still does not have a bank account. Less than 300 million use the internet, and therefore the overwhelming majority cannot make electronic payments.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

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