QBullet: Unemployment At All-Time High; Interim Budget & More

Govt Disputes Report Pegging Jobless Rate at 45-Yr High, Calls it ‘Premature’

A major controversy erupted after a business newspaper on Thursday cited an NSSO survey pegging the unemployment rate in the country at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent in 2017-18, with the opposition attacking the government for its failure to create employment and Niti Aayog, a government think tank, claiming it was a “draft report” and not final.

The slugfest came against the backdrop of the resignation of two members of the National Statistical Commission who said they were bypassed by the government (reported by The Times Of India on Wednesday) and amid allegations that the government was not releasing a jobs report finalised by the National Sample Survey Organisation in December as it had shown a sharp decline in employment post demonetisation.

“It is a draft report and the data being cited has not yet been finalised or approved by the government. So, using this data is not right,” Niti Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar said, adding the government would release the final report in March after all the data that had been collected was processed in a manner that allowed for quarter-on-quarter comparison.

(Source: The Times of India)

Also Read: Unemployment Data Reiterates That Note Ban Left Us In A Shambles

Verma Fails to Join New Post, Puts Pension Benefits at Risk

Former CBI director Alok Verma.

Former CBI director Alok Verma did not join his fresh posting as director general of fire services, civil defence and home guards, despite directions from the home ministry to do so, potentially putting his post retirement benefits at risk.

The DG, fire services, posting was given to him in the wake of his removal as head of the CBI on 10 January. Verma declined to take up his posting, arguing he had actually superannuated in 2017 and was in service only because of the two-year tenure given to the CBI director. The Centre, however, has concluded there is no “deemed retirement” and there must be a resignation or completion of service.

Since Verma failed to take up his posting on the last day of what would be his extended tenure, he might have opened himself to possible departmental action for unauthorised absence in violation of service rules, which at the post-retirement stage could entail pension cuts.

(Source: The Times of India)

Also Read: Can Govt Initiate Disciplinary Action Against Alok Verma?

Indo-Pak Row Over Mirwaiz Escalates

Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s phone conversation with Farooq on Tuesday centered around two events being organised in London during 4-5 February to highlight alleged rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

A diplomatic row between India and Pakistan over the Pakistani foreign minister’s outreach to Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on the Kashmir issue escalated on Thursday, with New Delhi saying such actions would have “consequences”.

The Indian government was angered by foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s phone conversation with Farooq on Tuesday, which centered around two events being organised in London during 4-5 February to highlight alleged rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. People familiar with the development said this amounted to “crossing a red line”.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at a news briefing that India wouldn’t back down on the issue as Qureshi’s actions had confirmed Pakistan “officially abets and encourages individuals associated with terrorism and anti-India activities”.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

Also Read: Pak Retaliates to MEA’s Summon to Envoy Over Hurriyat Leader Talks

Jind Bypoll Win Cements BJP’s Non-Jat Base, Rattles Congress Roots in Haryana

The bypolls were held on 28 January in the Assembly seats of Jind in Haryana and Ramgarh in Rajasthan.

The outcome of the Assembly bypoll in Jind has sent many signals, settled some debates and posed a new set of questions to the main players — the winner BJP, the INLD factions and a red-faced Congress — ahead of the Lok Sabha and Haryana elections.

Primarily, the result could prompt the BJP to advance the Assembly elections due in October and hold it along with Lok Sabha elections, after its nominee Krishan Middha defeated Digvijay Singh Chautala of Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), a breakaway outfit of INLD, by 12,930 votes.

The Congress, which turned this poll into a high-profile battle by fielding its national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, finished a distant, and embarrassing, third with 22,742 votes.

The BJP managed to secure the non-Jat votes — Middha is from the Punjabi community — to score a morale-boosting win in the poll season. But the 13,582 votes polled by Vinod Ashri, fielded by party rebel Raj Kumar Saini’s new political outfit Loktantra Suraksha Party, has come as an irritant. The message is it cannot take the non-Jat votes, especially from the Saini segment, for granted.

(Source: The Indian Express)

Also Read: Bypoll Results: BJP Clinches Jind, Congress Wins in Ramgarh

PM Narendra Modi Clears the Air: Interim Budget Today

The Budget Session of Parliament began on Thursday, 31 January.

A DAY after Finance Minister Piyush Goyal told an all-party meeting that a “Budget is a Budget” and there is nothing like an interim budget or a vote-on-account, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it clear to the Opposition that his government will present an “interim Budget” in the Lok Sabha Friday.

He gave this assurance to leaders of parties at a session-eve meeting at the Parliament House Thursday. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who heads the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, also reiterated what Modi stated.

The government had been forced on to the back foot after the Opposition Congress vowed to oppose any attempt at presenting a full-fledged Budget when the government’s tenure was scheduled to end in May.

(Source: The Indian Express)

Also Read: Piyush Goyal to Present Modi Govt’s Last Interim Budget on 1 Feb

SAD Skips NDA Meet, Says May ‘Separate’ if Demands Not Heard

Senior leader of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral told The Indian Express that the BJP leadership had not done anything about his party’s warning to stay off the management of their religious places.

Even as senior BJP senior ministers attended a lunch hosted by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur, the party’s long-term coalition partner boycotted an NDA meeting and threatened to “separate” if the party does not heed its demands.

Senior leader of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral told The Indian Express that the BJP leadership had not done anything about his party’s warning to stay off the management of their religious places, rein in its leaders who make provocative statements against minorities, and ignored its demands for a package for farmers.

“Our party has told the BJP to keep off the gurdwara management affairs and not interfere in our religious matters. But the RSS keeps meddling with the Sikhs’ religious affairs. We cannot allow that,” Gujral said after deciding not to attend the NDA meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the first day of the budget session.

(Source: The Indian Express)

Also Read: SAD Skips NDA Meet A Day After It Threatened To Snap Ties With BJP

AgustaWestland Case: ED Says Rajiv Saxena Hid $45 Mn in Swiss Banks

Enforcement Directorate investigations have found that eight Swiss bank accounts maintained by key AgustaWestland accused Rajiv Saxena, who was Wednesday deported from the UAE, received kickbacks in the chopper deal.

The agency told a Delhi court Thursday that Saxena had, in the name of his family members and companies, cumulative deposits of over $43 million and over 5 million Swiss Francs. These details were gathered by the ED following a reply to a letter rogatory sent by it in connection with the case, sources said. The court gave the ED four days custody to question Saxena.

According to the ED, two companies owned by Saxena – Matrix Group Ltd and UHY Saxena & Associates – have four bank accounts in which $12 million and Swiss Francs 65,608 are deposited. The two companies, the ED has alleged, had received AgustaWestland kickbacks through Interstellar Technologies.

(Source: The Indian Express)

Also Read: AgustaWestland Deal: ED Says Saxena Hid $45 Million In Swiss Banks

SBI Risks Customer Info, Holds Text Msgs in Unsecured Server

State Bank of India has leaked the data of millions of users.

The State Bank of India (SBI) exposed text messages sent to millions of its customers by storing the data in an unsecured server. The infirmity in the bank’s systems was exposed by US-based TechCrunch, which publishes technology news.

TechCrunch said the information was available to anyone who knew where to look. The server held two months of data from SBI Quick — a service that allows customers to pull basic account information by sending an SMS or through a missed call. The text messages sent by the bank typically contain the account balance or the last five transactions.

Besides the text message, the account-holder’s registered mobile number and partially masked account number could be accessed from the server. While TechCrunch did not make the server address public, it shared masked screenshots of text message details providing recent transactions.

SBI is understood to have secured the server with a password immediately upon being alerted.

(Source: The Times of India)

Also Read: SBI Leaked Sensitive Financial Data of Millions of Customers

Searches in Uttar Pradesh in Case Over Memorials Built by Mayawati Govt

BSP Supremo Mayawati. 

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) Thursday conducted searches in Uttar Pradesh in connection with alleged irregularities of over Rs 111 crore in the construction of memorials in the state during BSP chief Mayawati’s tenure as chief minister.

Searches were conducted at seven locations – private and commercial – of contractors and two UP Rajkiya Nirman Nigam (UPRNN) engineers in Lucknow.

Sources said the ED filed a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to probe allegations after taking cognizance of a UP vigilance department complaint of 2014.

The ED searches come weeks after the CBI searched more than a dozen locations in connection with an illegal mining case that allegedly involves Samajwadi Party leaders including former chief minister and party president Akhilesh Yadav. Incidentally, Yadav and Mayawati recently announced an alliance to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

(Source: The Indian Express)

Also Read: ED Conducts Raids In ‘Memorials Scam’ During Mayawati’s Tenure

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