Times of India | 2 months ago | 26-01-2023 | 11:19 am
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: MP Shashi Tharoor disowned Anil Antony’s, senior Congress leader AK Antony’s son, claims that the BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Gujarat riots will affect the sovereignty and national security of the country.“Our national security is not so fragile that a documentary made by the BBC would affect our security or sovereignty. Hence the argument that it would affect India’s sovereignty was not convincing,” said Tharoor, while reacting to the statement made by Anil Antony on the screening of the BBC documentary.On Antony resigning from the posts he held in Congress, Tharoor said that he hadn’t spoken to Antony. “I think he can speak for himself,” said Tharoor.Pointing out that all controversies over the BBC documentary was unnecessary, Tharoor said, “Had the government not gone over the top in condemning the documentary, thereby drawing attention to something that wasn’t otherwise available in India, there wouldn’t have been all these noises.”He flayed the Centre’s attempts to remove all links from social media platforms. “By not allowing the people to watch what they want goes against the tenets of democracy. Freedom of expression is a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this country. However, when a foreign organization talks about the Prime Minister or the country, it can be construed differently,” he added.“It is not proper for a government to ban the documentary. We cannot stand with that decision. Censorship is not part of our democracy and our Constitution. What the British diplomats reported about the violence that happened in Gujarat in 2002 has now been made as a documentary. It has to be remembered that our diplomats have also reported about the violence that had happened in Britain,” said Tharoor.“The Gujarat riots happened two decades ago, and it is a matter the Supreme Court has ruled on. The tragedy is something that all Indians, including Muslims, feel that we should now put behind us,” said Tharoor.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday said the CBI was “putting pressure” on him to “frame” Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an alleged fake encounter case in Gujarat when he was being questioned by the probe agency during the Congress-led UPA government.Shah said this at the ‘News 18 Rising India’ programme in New Delhi in response to a question on Opposition’s charge that the Narendra Modi government is “misusing’ central agencies to target them.The CBI “was putting pressure” on me to “frame Modi ji” (when he was Gujarat CM) in an alleged fake encounter case during the Congress government,” he said, adding that the BJP never raised a ruckus despite this.On Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a criminal defamation case by a court in Surat, the home minister said the Congress leader was not the only politician who was convicted by a court and lost membership of the legislature.Instead of moving to a higher court, Rahul has been trying to create hue and cry and blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his fate, he said.Shah said Rahul Gandhi should go to a higher court to fight his case, instead of trying to put the blame on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.He said the Congress is spreading misconception; conviction can’t be stayed. “The sentence can be stayed if the court decides,” he said.“He has not appealed to take stay on his conviction. What kind of arrogance is this? You want a favour. You want to continue to be MP and will also not go before the Court,” Shah said.Where does such arrogance gets generated, he said.Shah said 17 prominent leaders, including Lalu Prasad, J Jayalalitha and Raashid Alvi, had lost their membership because of a 2013 Supreme Court order during the UPA government, which said an elected representative would lose his seat immediately after conviction. Still, no one protested wearing black clothes because it is the “law of the land”, he said.“Listen to the full speech of Rahul Gandhi, he has not only spoken abusive words for Modi ji. He has spoken abusive words for the entire Modi community and OBC society,” he said.“The law of the land is clear. There is no question of vendetta politics. It is the judgment of the Supreme Court of India, which had come during their government,” Shah said.Asked about the notice to vacate his bungalow, Shah asked why should there be “special favour” when the Supreme Court had said to act as soon as the conviction comes into effect.“It was a deliberate statement by Rahul Gandhi. If Rahul Gandhi did not want to apologise, then he should not have applied for bail. Let him not apologise,” Shah said.“This gentleman is not the first one. Politicians who held much bigger positions and with much more experience have lost their membership because of this provision,” the Home minister said.He said India’s democracy wasn’t threatened when Lalu ji was disqualified but it is endangered only when a person from the Gandhi family is disqualified.“Now it has come on him, so they are saying make a separate law for the Gandhi family. I want to ask the people of this country whether there should be a separate law for a single family. What kind of mentality is this? Whatever happens, they start blaming Modi ji and the Lok Sabha Speaker,” Shah said.He said senior lawyers who are Congress MPs in Rajya Sabha should tell their colleagues that Lok Sabha Speaker has no role in the disqualification.“It is the law of the country that all his speeches in Parliament would have to be erased from the records from the moment of his conviction. Even if his disqualification notice were served a few days later, it would have no purpose,” he said.Shah said BJP did not want changes in the Supreme Court order. The Manmohan Singh government brought an Ordinance to blunt the apex court order, but Rahul Gandhi tore it apart, calling it “nonsense”.“Once he tore it apart, who in his government would have dared to turn it into law? It was vetoed. Had that ordinance become a law, he could have been saved,” Shah said.Asked about Rahul’s comment on Savarkar, the Home Minister said Veer Savarkar was the only freedom fighter who was sentenced to two life terms in Andaman prison. “Such language for such a freedom fighter should not have been used,” he said.He (Rahul) should read his grandmother’s speech on Veer Savarkar. His own party people are advising him to not speak against Savarkar, he said.In the general election of 2024, Shah said Modi would again be PM with a larger majority. BJP will get more seats in the 2024 elections than 2019 elections, he said, adding that there is no unity among the opposition, he said.On the upcoming Karnataka elections, Shah said BJP would comfortably cross the halfway mark and form a government with a clear majority in the state.Ruling out any alliance in Karnataka, Shah said, “The BJP will definitely cross the halfway mark and form the government with an absolute majority in Karnataka. We will win record mandate.” Referring to recent Karnataka government’s decision to end quota on the basis of religion, he said reservation based on religion is unconstitutional.“Karnataka’s Congress government did it due to polarisation, and we have just rectified it. It should have done earlier,” he said.The Home minister rejected the allegations on the misuse of investigative agencies against the opposition leaders. Shah said we never blamed the opposition for anything, innocent police officers were put behind bars during Congress government.Shah said the BJP had won the 2014 and 2019 elections on the plank of anti-corruption. He said Enforcement Directorate had seized 1.10 lakh crore of assets, of which not even five per cent are of political leaders.“Shall we stop the fight against corruption? Should we not act if the accused is a politician,” Shah asked. The Home minister asked who had filed cases against Lalu Prasad Yadav and who had sent a plane full of officials from Delhi to arrest Shaikh Abdullah.Citing the misuse of agencies, Shah said thousands of innocent persons were imprisoned for 19 months of Emergency and questioned whose doing it was. It was his grandmother Indira Gandhi, he said.On the Maharashtra question, Shah said people wanted Shiv Sena and BJP government and now the real Shiv Sena is with BJP. “I also accept that BJP on its own could have formed the government in Maharashtra. There is no question of the merger of Shiv Sena,” he said.He said the Congress should introspect about its contribution to corruption. There is a strong resentment against Congress governments in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. We will definitely win elections in Madhya Pradesh, he said.Shah said we have not taken any decision on the face in Rajasthan elections. People want to change the CM of Rajasthan, he said.On Amritpal Singh, Shah said he meets Punjab Chief Minister every three months, irrespective of the government and stand with the party when it comes to the security of the country.“Many people have been arrested in connection with Amritpal case, police and intelligence agencies are working on the case,” he said.On attacks on Indian missions abroad, Shah said it was an attack on India. “We will take action against those involved in the attack, FIR already lodged in Delhi,” he said. Shah said the contribution of Sikhs to India’s freedom has been immense; every Sikh wants to be with India.The Home minister ruled out any confrontation between the judiciary and the government. “Both are working within their limits,” he said. The government’s duty to make law now and the Parliament will think over it, he said
Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut on Thursday blamed the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra for the clashes that broke out in Sambhaji Nagar (previously Aurangabad) on Wednesday evening and alleged that the government was “working to ensure that there would be riots in the state”.Hitting out at Deputy Chief Minister Fadnavis, who holds the Home portfolio, Raut said that the home minister and home ministry are “invisible” in the state and alleged that Fadnavis was looking “frustrated and depressed”.“This (the Aurangabad clashes) is a failure of the government. The government wants to have such a situation in different places. The Shinde group is working for this. This government has only one intention, that is to create disturbance in the state and to ensure that riots take place,” Raut said. A clash had broken out between two groups in Sambhaji Nagar’s Kiradpura area on Wednesday midnight with stone pelting and several police vehicles being set on fire.“The government is working to ensure that there are riots in the state and communal disharmony…This is their politics,” Raut alleged.Taking a dig at Fadnavis, Raut said, “In fact, there is a question if the home minister or home ministry exists in the state. I am saying again and again, Fadnavis is not visible anywhere. He looks depressed and frustrated. We should find out the reasons for that. It is not something I can disclose openly.”
Google’s video platform YouTube has told the Congress that it is looking into a claim made by party leader Rahul Gandhi that views on his videos on industrialist Gautam Adani are much lower than his other videos with similar user engagement, it is learnt.The Congress had written to YouTube earlier this month suggesting that it suspects viewership of Rahul’s two videos on Adani were suppressed.The issue was flagged by Sam Pitroda, head of the Indian Overseas Congress, in a letter to YouTube CEO Neal Mohan on March 11.“Mr Gandhi has raised the issue of cronyism of the ruling government with one industrialist, Mr Gautam Adani, through speeches in India’s Parliament and specific videos released exclusively on his YouTube channel. His team has found that the views on these videos are much lower than what they normally are for other videos of Mr Gandhi for similar user engagement,” he had stated.Pitroda had argued that Rahul’s social media team find “this a bit bizarre and are searching for an explanation. They have used YouTube’s own data and analytics to show that viewership of videos of Mr Adani are being suppressed, perhaps unwittingly or algorithmically.”To back his claim, Pitroda also forwarded a presentation made by the party’s data analytics department, comparing viewership data of the video on Adani and Rahul’s other videos from the Bharat Jodo Yatra and recent speeches in Parliament and at Cambridge University.Mohan, sources said, has replied to Pitroda saying that a “team is taking a look” at the Congress’s claim. Sources said Pitroda and Congress data analytics department head Praveen Chakravarty have had discussions with YouTube’s top executives over the issue.In the presentation, the Congress had claimed that one Bharat Jodo Yatra video has less positive interactions than the first video on Adani but has five-times more views. The container video from Yatra, it said, has 83,602 positive interactions, whereas the first video on Adani — titled ‘Mitr Kaal episode 1’ — had 99,197 interactions.But the ‘Mitr Kaal’ video got only 4.78 lakh views, compared to 20 lakh-plus views of the container video.Similarly, the party had claimed that the second video on Adani “has double the interactions of Cambridge video but similar number of views.” While the Cambridge video had 28,360 positive interactions, ‘Mitr Kaal episode-2’ had 49,053 positive interactions. Both videos had 2 lakh-plus views.“Our estimate is that Adani video, too, should have had 8 lakh views based on interactions metrics, but only has 2.6 lakh views,” the Congress said in its presentation.Arguing that there was a “clear case of algorithmic suppression”, the party said in the presentation that most people watch videos through the YouTube Browse feature, where the YouTube homepage shows videos and suggested videos.The party said the browse feature in Rahul Gandhi’s channel was down since February 9. “YouTube algorithm has suppressed the browse feature for Rahul Gandhi’s videos,” it said.
All drugs and food for special medical purposes, imported for personal use for the treatment of all rare diseases listed under the National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021, have been exempted from basic customs duty by the central government. The government has also fully exempted Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) used in the treatment of various types of cancer from basic customs duty.On March 28, Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor shared the story of a young couple who had approached him for an exemption of duty for a drug. It was imported for their young daughter who was suffering from cancer, and they said they were unable to pay a high duty for it.“They had scrounged and saved and borrowed and crowd-funded to raise the money required but when they imported the drug, they needed an additional Rs 7 lakhs for GST that they could not afford. When they approached me I wrote to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on March 15 asking her help to exempt them from the GST on humanitarian grounds. When there was no reply they approached me again on Sunday (March 26th); the injection was stuck at Mumbai airport but Customs would not release it without the GST payment.I called Mrs Sitharaman directly this time. I told her this baby depended on her exercising her authority immediately because the drug was perishable and would expire while in the custody of Customs. She was instantly sympathetic. She hadn’t seen my letter so I re-sent it. Within half an hour her PS, Sernya Bhutia, called to tell me she had spoken to the Chairman of the Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs. Within ten minutes Chairman Vivek Johri called me asking for more documentation. By 7 pm today the exemption was granted,” Tharoor had posted on Twitter on March 28.In a notification which came into effect on March 30, the exemption has been granted by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) by substituting “Drugs, Medicines or Food for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP)” instead of “drugs or medicines”.Now, in order to avail of this exemption, the individual importer has to produce a certificate from the central or state director health services or district medical officer/civil surgeon of the district, a finance ministry release said.“While exemptions have already been provided to specified drugs for treatment of spinal muscular atrophy or duchenne muscular dystrophy, the government has been receiving many representations seeking customs duty relief for drugs and medicines used in treatment of other rare diseases. Drugs or special foods required for the treatment of these diseases are expensive and need to be imported. It is estimated that for a child weighing 10 kg, the annual cost of treatment for some rare diseases, may vary from Rs 10 lakh to more than Rs 1 crore per year with treatment being lifelong and drug dose and cost, increasing with age and weight. This exemption will result in substantial cost savings and provide much needed relief to the patients,” it said.Drugs/medicines generally attract basic customs duty of 10 per cent, while some categories of lifesaving drugs/vaccines attract a concessional rate of 5 per cent or nil.In its meeting in September 2021, the GST Council had reduced tax rates for several life-saving drugs. Life-saving drugs Zolgensma and Viltepso used in the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy were exempted from GST when imported for personal use. At that time, the GST rate for Keytruda was cut to 5 per cent from 12 per cent.
Reacting to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Parliament, Germany said Thursday that it has taken note of the case and “expects that the standards of judicial independence and fundamental democratic principles will apply”.The German Foreign Ministry spokesperson made the statement during a press briefing that was aired on German state-owned international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW).“We have taken note of the verdict of the first instance against the Indian opposition politician Rahul Gandhi as well as the suspension of his parliamentary mandate. To our knowledge, Rahul Gandhi is in a position to appeal the verdict. An appeal will show whether the verdict stands and whether suspension has a basis. We expect standards of judicial independence and democratic principles to be applied,” the spokesperson said.NEW: Rahul Gandhi caseGerman Foreign Ministry spokesperson comments for first time:– Takes note of verdict, suspension from parliament– Appeal will show whether verdict stands & suspension has basis– Expects standards of judicial independence & democratic principles to apply pic.twitter.com/dNZB6vflG2— Richard Walker (@rbsw) March 29, 2023Veteran Congress leader Digvijaya Singh took to Twitter to recognise Germany’s statement. “Thank you Germany Foreign Affairs Ministry and Richard Walker for taking note of how the Democracy is being compromised in India through persecution of Rahul Gandhi,” he wrote.BJP leaders, meanwhile, criticised Congress and Singh, accusing the party of inviting foreign interference in internal affairs.Sharing a screenshot of Digivijaya Singh’s tweet, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said, “Thank you Rahul Gandhi for inviting foreign powers for interference into India’s internal matters.” “Remember, Indian Judiciary can’t be influenced by foreign interference. India won’t tolerate ‘foreign influence’ anymore because our Prime Minister is:- Shri @narendramodi Ji,” Rijiju said.Thank you Rahul Gandhi for inviting foreign powers for interference into India’s internal matters. Remember, Indian Judiciary can’t be influenced by foreign interference. India won’t tolerate ‘foreign influence’ anymore because our Prime Minister is:- Shri @narendramodi Ji 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/xHzGRzOYTz— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) March 30, 2023Hitting back at Rijiju, Congress’ media department head Pawan Khera said, “Mr. Rijiju, why divert from the main issue? The issue is that the Prime Minister cannot answer Rahul Gandhi’s questions about Adani.” Instead of “misleading” people, please answer the questions, Khera said.BJP’s IT department head Amit Malviya also tagged Singh’s tweet and said, “Shameful that Congress continues to lean on foreign agencies and seek their intervention in India’s internal affairs.” “Rahul Gandhi had recently sought Europe and US intervention and now it is Digvijay Singh. But Law is the Law… Unless somebody thinks Law is not the Law for them,” he said.Let this be on record. For the first time in Independent India’s history, Congress leaders are pleading foreign powers to intervene in India’s democratic process and weigh in on our judicial decisions… It is a brazen attempt to undermine people’s will and India’s sovereignty… pic.twitter.com/4FDlsOrgkh— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) March 30, 2023BJP spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill also hit out at the Congress, alleging that the party “celebrating Germany/US remarks on Rahul Gandhi’s case shows their political desperation”. “Rejected by Indian voters now looking for acceptance by foreign powers is sad reality of Congress! Judiciary must take note of daily maligning of courts by Congress brigade!” he said.Congress celebrating Germany/U.S. remarks on Rahul Gandhi’s case shows their political desperation!Rejected by Indian voters now looking for acceptance by foreign powers is sad reality of Congress!Judiciary must take note of daily maligning of courts by Congress brigade!— Jaiveer Shergill (@JaiveerShergill) March 30, 2023Tagging Singh’s tweet, BJP leader Vijay Chauthaiwale said on Twitter, “Look how happy @digvijaya_28 ji with comments from Germany. It only shows how they are desperate to involve external agencies in the domestic matters.”On March 23, Gandhi had been found guilty in a 2019 defamation case filed after his remark “why all thieves have Modi surname”, made at a campaign rally in Kolar, Karnataka. A Gujarat court had sentenced him to two years in prison. Gandhi is currently on bail.Following his conviction, he was disqualified from the Parliament, where he was an elected MP from Kerala’s Wayanad district. He was also issued a notice to vacate his official bungalow in New Delhi.First Washington, now BerlinGermany’s response comes days after the United States took a similar stance, saying that respect for the rule of law and judicial independence is a cornerstone of any democracy.In a press briefing, US State Department’s Deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel had said that the US is watching Gandhi’s case in the courts.“Respect for the rule of law and judicial independence is a cornerstone of any democracy, and we’re watching Mr. Gandhi’s case in Indian courts, and we engage with the Government of India on our shared commitment to democratic values – including, of course, freedom of expression,” Patel said.“In our engagements with our Indian partners, we continue to highlight the importance of democratic principles and the protection of human rights, including freedom of expression, as a key to strengthening both our democracies,” he added.Following this, Patel was asked if the US is still engaging with Gandhi as the opposition leader. “It is normal and standard for us to engage with members of opposition parties in any country where we have bilateral relationships,” replied Patel.