Public sector bank unions to go on strike against merger; PM Modi likely to meet Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee; Facebook petition on social media, Aadhaar linkage case in Supreme Court; President Ram Nath Kovind in Japan; Turkish President Erdogan to meet Russian President Putin in Sochi
Exit polls gave a thumbs up to the BJP in Haryana and Maharashtra assembly polls — with one crucial difference. While in Haryana the party is expected to get a majority of its own, in Maharashtra, it will need the help of its chief alliance partner Shiv Sena as the BJP’s solo tally may fall short of the halfway mark in the 288-member assembly.
Storm in a tea-cup? In Haryana, the BJP went alone this time, unlike in 2014 after its alliance partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) broke off its ties with the saffron party following the defection of its lone MLA in the state, Balkaur Singh, to the BJP. That however, will be of little consequence as the party is expected to cross the majority mark of 46 seats in the 90-member state assembly. The party had 48 seats in the outgoing assembly.
Single, but mingle: The BJP’s dreams of gaining a majority on its own in Maharashtra may come undone, going by the exit polls in the coastal state — though in alliance with the Shiv Sena, it’s expected to romp home. While the BJP is expected to win between 100-135 seats (the majority mark is 145) — of the 162 seats it contested from — the Shiv Sena, according to some polls, may also hit the century mark, which could lead it to demand its pound of flesh in the next government. This may include a Deputy Chief Ministership for Aditya Thackeray as also plum ministerial portfolios.
Voter turnout: While Mumbai lived up to its reputation of disdain for voting day — voter turnout in the city was 51%, lower than the state’s, which stood at 60.5% — Haryana saw 65% of its voters come out to cast their votes. For both states though, voter turnout in the 2019 assembly elections was lower than the voter turnout in the 2014 elections — while Maharashtra had recorded a voter turnout of 64% five years back, Haryana’s voter turnout was at a record high, with 73% of the electorate exercising their franchise.
Glitch free? Not quite — in Maharashtra, the Congress sent 187 complaints to the EC regarding malfunctioning of EVMs at several polling booths. Polling was suspended at some booths in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri and Bhandara districts, as also at a booth in Worli area of Mumbai due to technical faults.
No sooner had the NR Narayana Murthy-Vishal Sikka storm abated than turbulence has hit tech major Infosys again. An anonymous group calling itself “ethical employees” has complained to the company’s board and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleging that the company is taking “unethical” steps to boost short-term revenue and profits and stating that the complainants have emails and voice recordings to substantiate the claims. (Infosys’ American depositary receipts trade on the US stock exchanges.)
Under fire, particularly, is CEO Salil Parekh (illustration above), with the group alleging that he forced the finance team to take a number of steps that went against standard accounting practices. “He [Parekh] directs them to make wrong assumptions to show margins,” the letter read. “CFO [Nilanjan Roy] is compliant and he prevents us from showing in board presentations large deal issues … several billion-dollar deals of last few quarters have nil margin,” the letter stated.
It also alleged that, in the last quarter, the complainants were asked not to fully recognise costs like visa costs to improve profits and were pressured to not immediately recognise $50 million in reversals in a contract. “In large contracts like Verizon, Intel, JVs in Japan, ABN AMRO acquisition, revenue recognition matters are forced, which are not as per accounting standards.” This after Infosys has been under pressure to improve growth rates, without allowing margins to drop too much. And till now, it seemed to be working under Parekh.
Add to this, the letter alleged that the company pays the travel expenses for Parekh’s weekly personal trips. “CEO spends two and half days in a week in Ecity [Bangalore] and rest in Mumbai. All his travel expenses are paid by the company, for these weekly personal trips. He is green card holder and avoids deduction of taxes during his US travel which is non-compliance.”
The whistleblower letter to the board is dated Sept. 20, 2019. The letter to the US SEC was first sent on Sept. 27, according to a purported follow-up letter dated October 3. Infosys told TOI said the whistleblower complaint has been placed before the audit committee as per the company’s practice and will be dealt with in accordance with the company’s whistleblower policy
The latest controversy comes after the company’s deputy CFO Jayesh Sanghrajka — who spent 14 years in Infosys over two stints — resigned earlier this month. Now, the last time Infosys faced a whistleblower complaint was during the tenure of former CEO Sikka. He left in 2017 after a tussle over corporate governance with Infosys founder Murthy. This led to the return of cofounder Nandan Nilekani as the non-executive chairman in 2017.
No!!! It was spin that was supposed to be the undoing of the Proteas during their Test match tour of India. After all the subcontinent and spinning tracks have long been synonymous. What unfolded on the third day of the third Test in Ranchi, therefore, was a googly. Sixteen South African wickets fell in the day, and half of them were courtesy India’s pace duo of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav (they had picked up one apiece the previous day). Okay, the visitors aren’t the best batting outfit at the moment, but make no mistake. Even a storied lineup would likely have struggled to counter the fire from Shami and Yadav on Monday.
There’s little doubt that India’s quicks have been far superior than their South African counterparts across the three Tests, but on the brightest day of the Ranchi Test so far, in terms of weather, Shami and Yadav shone with the greatest intensity. Off the fifth ball of the day, Yadav castled Faf du Plessis with an absolute beauty. And the procession continued as South Africa were made to follow on in consecutive Tests for the first time since 2002. And both Yadav and Shami backed captain Virat Kohli’s decision by striking early in the second innings. By tea, South Africa were gasping at 26 for 4, with opener Dean Elgar concussed. Yadav had removed Quinton de Kock, while Shami had accounted for first-innings half-centurion Zubayr Hamza, du Plessis and Temba Bavuma. Short balls, pace, relentless attacking line…the Proteas had no answer. And now they go into the fourth day at 132/8 — a whitewash inevitable.
Sample this extraordinary stat from India’s pace bowlers in this Test series. They’ve taken 26 wickets at a bowling averaging of 17.5. Of the 121 times India have played three or more Tests in a series — they’ve never averaged lower than this series. India’s previous best average of 18.4 came at home against New Zealand, in 1995-96. The next best? 19.9 versus Pakistan, away from home, in 1954-55.
This is a new Indian team from the looks of it — one which doesn’t dominate only on rank turners. Not only can they win away, they can do it with aplomb on seaming (read fair-minded) surfaces as well. That R Ashwin — who’s atop India’s wicket-taking charts — managed his first wicket of the Ranchi Test only off the 14th kast ball of the third day’s play, speaks volumes about how good a bowling lineup (especially pace) Kohli has in his arsenal.
Back to ‘normal’? The next session of Parliament is likely to be held from November 18 to December 13. That’s earlier than last year’s winter session, which started on December 11 and lasted till January 8. In 2017, the winter session had just 14 sittings (Dec 15 to Jan 5, 2018) in the 22-day session as it was delayed due to assembly elections in Gujarat. The constitution doesn’t specify the number of times parliament must meet in a year nor for how many days in a session, but the gap between sessions cannot be longer than six months. The convention has been three sessions a year (budget, monsoon and winter sessions).
Politics or economy? The 20-day session is the first after the revocation of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status. If the Supreme Court can deliver its judgment in the Ayodhya case before the Chief Justice retires on November 17, it would be just days after the judgment that Parliament meets. Apart from several bills, two crucial ordinances are on the list to be converted into law — one, reducing the corporate tax rate for new and domestic manufacturing companies and another banning the sale, manufacture and storage of e-cigarettes and similar products. Economic slowdown is also likely to figure in the debates.
The new numbers: The winter session is likely to be easier for the Modi government to navigate than the previous one. While the NDA has a brute majority in the Lok Sabha, the steady exodus of opposition MPs has helped it grow in Rajya Sabha too where it is now barely short of a majority. The Upper House now has five vacancies and the combined strength of the ruling NDA is around 106. Friendly regional parties add another 29 seats, though informally. AIADMK, which is not officially an NDA constituent but has mostly backed the government, has 11 members along with seven of the BJD, six of the TRS and two of the YSR Congress — three other regional parties with a record of supporting the Modi government on key issues.
A new corridor: As Pakistan refused to budge on charging Sikh pilgrims $20 to visit Kartarpur Sahib, India gave in and agreed to sign the Kartarpur Corridor agreement on October 23 “keeping religious sentiments and long standing demand in mind.” Pakistan stands to earn as much as $100,000 a day from around 5,000 pilgrims allowed to go. Earlier, the ministry of external affairs had taken a tougher stand saying they may not sign the agreement unless Pakistan reversed the fee. The Indian concession came even as both Indian and Pakistani forces are ranged along the LOC in a heavy exchange of fire. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced on Sunday that the corridor will be opened on November 9. India wants operationalisation of the corridor in time before Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary on November 12.
A new-old temple: Seven months after ordering the demolition of Guru Ravidas temple for being built on forest land, the Supreme Court on Monday directed re-construction of the temple at the same site in Tughlaqabad forest area in South Delhi after the Centre agreed to hand over the land to devotees to rebuild it. The Centre, which had earlier offered 200 sq m land for the temple, has now agreed to allot 400 sq m to devotees.
A new dispute: A rift has emerged within the Sunni Waqf Board, a stakeholder in the Ayodhya land dispute case, the verdict in which has been reserved by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court after a marathon 40-day hearing. While on one side, Sunni Waqf Board counsel Rajeev Dhavan strongly argued its claim of ownership of the disputed land, on the other side, advocate on record Shahid Rizvi said that the parties involved in the Ayodhya title dispute have reached a settlement and thus there will be no need of any judgement in the issue.
What: If you thought the internet and social media strengthened right to free speech, essential to democracy, this is what the Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court: “Internet has emerged as a potent tool to cause unimaginable disruption to the democratic polity.”
When: It assured the Supreme Court that it would finalise by January-end the changes in due diligence to be observed by intermediaries providing internet services to consumers to regulate its misuse. Internet intermediaries are companies which facilitate the use of internet and include internet service providers, search engines, social media platforms.
Why: “If on the one hand technology has led to economic growth and societal development, on the other hand there has been an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news, public order, anti-national activities, defamatory postings and other unlawful activities using internet/social media platforms,” the ministry of electronics & information technology said in its affidavit before the SC.
Fish not grass: A cow shelter in Goa has a unique problem. The 76 stray cows brought there recently do not eat grass or gram or the special feed like other cows in the shelter. They are non-vegetarian. “The animals developed this habit by feasting on leftover chicken and fried fish dumped in garbage,” says Goa minister for waste management Michael Lobo. Help from veterinary doctors has been sought to treat these animals and turn them into vegetarians again. It will take four to five days, the minister says.
Not a first: In 2007, a West Bengal village was abuzz with the news of a calf that loved a diet of live chicken. In this case the cow shed also served as a hen coop and the family that owned the calf and the chickens realised the calf’s changed dietary preference after they stood guard one night to investigate how 48 chickens had gone missing in a month.
Non-veg cows & politics: In 2012, BJP had opposed import of dairy items from the US over American cows’ non-vegetarian diet. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had then said that she told a former US ambassador who had raised the issue of dairy exports from his country that it wasn’t possible as “in our country, cow is vegetarian, you feed her non-vegetarian.” She also said that “it will take three years to take out effect of non-vegetarian food given to cows.”
Not good for cows: Meat in cows’ diet isn’t just unnatural, it can also have other consequences. For instance, one of the triggers for the mad cow disease that hit the UK in the 1990s and cost its economy close to a billion pounds was feeding of beef offal to cows.
Rise of the dead: Overruling the objections by family members, Spain’s Supreme Court gave permission to the government to exhume the body of Francisco Franco, the army dictator who ruled the country from 1939 to 1975. The exhumation, slated for Thursday, is expected to last three hours with the remains likely to be transported by helicopter to a cemetery in Madrid. They are currently housed in a mausoleum just outside the Spanish capital in a place called Valley of the Fallen.
Arousing passions: Franco rode to power through a civil war on the back of support from Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy — which is why he was sympathetic to the Axis powers even though he didn’t actively join them during World War 2. He remains a divisive figure in Spain till date for several of his policies — in particular his regime’s excesses against political opponents, including forced labour which was also used to build the Valley of the Fallen. In fact, ever since Spain transitioned to a democracy after his death in 1975, governments since then have been working on erasing public memorials to him, including removing his statues and renaming the streets that were named after him.
Dead man’s tales: The Socialist government, which has been in power since last year, had made removing Franco’s remains to a discreet place one of its campaign pledges — and with general elections scheduled for November 10, it’s in a rush to ‘unbury’ the dead general. Moreover, Franco’s mausoleum has become a shrine for Spain’s far-right, who gather there to observe his death anniversary in November every year. The government’s plan is supported by families of the victims of Franco’s oppression — the objective being to move it to a place which isn’t easily accessible for his right wing followers.
Britain’s Prince Harry has acknowledged tensions with his older brother Prince William for the first time, saying they are on “different paths”. Harry made the remarks in an interview with ITV’s Tom Bradby, that aired Sunday. The interview was part of an hour-long ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, that followed the royal couple during their official tour of Africa last month.
“We are certainly on different paths at the moment but I will always be there for him as I know he will always be there for me,” the 35-year-old said. “The majority of the stuff is created out of nothing but as brothers, you know, you have good days, you have bad days.”
The Duke of Sussex has been plagued by rumours in recent months of a rift between him and Prince William, and in the interview he acknowledged that “inevitably stuff happens” given their high-profile role and the pressure the family faces. “We are brothers. We will always be brothers,” he added.
The tabloids have been abuzz with rumours of a rift between the brothers, but more often those rumours concern the brothers’ wives — Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. The alleged rift has been cited as one of the reasons Harry and Meghan moved out of Kensington Palace in May. Also, at a royal foundation event in February 2018, Harry and William suggested that if there were any disagreements, they were between the brothers and not the wives.
Palace aides have repeatedly denied reports of a rift between the Sussexes and the Cambridges, who had once been championed as the royal family’s ‘Fab Four’. But asked how much of the speculation was true, Harry pointedly refused to deny a falling out.
In the documentary, Prince Harry also attacked the press over the public scrutiny that he and wife Meghan have faced. “I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum.” His attack against the media comes after the couple launched legal action against several British newspapers over invasion of privacy.
Japan. The country will witness the formal enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito today. The 59-year-old had ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1 — a day after his father Akihito (85) abdicated — marking the dawn of the Reiwa (beautiful harmony) imperial era. The half-hour main event on Tuesday, at which Emperor Naruhito will deliver a speech and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will convey felicitations, is being held for the first time since November 1990. Around 2,000 dignitaries from 174 countries, including political leaders and royal families, are expected to attend. The ceremony is part of a series of rituals that will last until April 2020.
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