Saturday, July 11, 2020

Strange ! ~ SBI duplicate Branch unearthed at Panruti !!

For years, Fifth Third Bank, a large regional bank based in Ohio, opened unauthorized accounts in customers’ names as part of an aggressive sales strategy that foisted credit cards, online banking services and other products on people without their knowledge, according to a lawsuit filed on Monday by one of the bank’s federal regulators.  The bank “set goals that thousands of its employees could not achieve” and penalized those who fell short, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in a complaint in federal court in Chicago. The misconduct stretched back to at least 2008, and the bank failed to sufficiently respond to internal warning signs, the consumer bureau said.

With the number of bank frauds increasing, one should eb  doubly careful about transactions, especially online ones. According to the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) annual report for 2018-19, the number of cases of frauds reported by banks increased by 15% in 2018-19 on a year-on-year basis, with the amount involved rising by 73.8% from Rs.41,167 crore in 2017-18 to Rs.71,543 crore in 2018-19.

It is not only Bank’s customers getting cheated but also Banks getting cheated !  Over  two years after Manjit Singh Makhni, the Director of Punjab Basmati Rice Ltd, fled the country, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has now registered a complaint against him for defrauding Canara Bank-led consortium of six banks of around Rs 350 crore.  Canara Bank has filed a complaint with the CBI, alleging that Punjab Basmati Rice has cheated six banks to the tune of Rs 350 crore. The complaint was filed on 1 June by the General Manager of Canara Bank, Chandigarh against Punjab Basmati Rice and its directors Manjit Singh Makhni, his son Kulwinder Singh Makhni, his daughter-in-law Jasmeet Kaur and unknown public servants. As per reports, all the accused have left the country.

Remember watching in Marina Grounds, a Buchi babu match – when stalwarts Gundappa Viswanath, Parthasarathi Sharma, Rajinder Goel, Syed Kirmani, Vaman Kumar, Abdul Jabbar, Eknath Solkar all played for State Bank of India.

SBI is one of the largest employers in the country with more than 2 lakhs employees of which a high % is female employees and a % of  employees with disabilities. They have highest no. of Branches across the Nation too.  State Bank of India (SBI)  at the start of the  year issued public notice to its  customers urging them to complete KYC. The lender  asked all SBI account holders to complete their KYC in order to avoid inconvenience in the future. The bank also said in the public notice that if an SBI customer fails to complete one's KYC by February 28, 2020, then it will have no choice but to block such SBI accounts till the KYC is completed. .. .. perhaps they failed to check their own KYC.

The biggest of the Indian bank with branches overseas too, is a Government corporation statutory body headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra. SBI is ranked as 236th in the Fortune Global 500 list of the world's biggest corporations of 2019.  The bank’s origin traces back to the Bank of Calcutta, founded in 1806, via the Imperial Bank of India, making it the oldest commercial bank in the Indian subcontinent. The Bank of Madras merged into the other two "presidency banks" in British India, the Bank of Calcutta and the Bank of Bombay, to form the Imperial Bank of India, which in turn became the State Bank of India in 1955. The Government of India took control of the Imperial Bank of India in 1955, with Reserve Bank of India (India's central bank) taking a 60% stake, renaming it the State Bank of India.  In 1959, the government passed the State Bank of India (Subsidiary Banks) Act. This made eight banks that had belonged to princely states into subsidiaries of SBI. This was at the time of the First Five Year Plan, which prioritized the development of rural India. The government integrated these banks into the State Bank of India system to expand its rural outreach. In 1963 SBI merged State Bank of Jaipur (est. 1943) and State Bank of Bikaner (est.1944).

SBI has acquired local banks in rescues. The first was the Bank of Bihar (est. 1911), which SBI acquired in 1969, together with its 28 branches. The next year SBI acquired National Bank of Lahore (est. 1942), which had 24 branches. Five years later, in 1975, SBI acquired Krishnaram Baldeo Bank, established in 1916 in Gwalior State, under the patronage of Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia.   In 1985, SBI acquired the Bank of Cochin in Kerala, which had 120 branches. SBI was the acquirer as its affiliate, the State Bank of Travancore, already had an extensive network in Kerala.

All that is past ! ~ now comes an eerie instance of a duplicate bank branch in operation – have heard of fake cheques, fake accounts, fake credit cards, fake currency notes – but it takes a lot to open and operate a bank branch that was fake !!

The duplicate branch came under the radar when an SBI customer enquired about the newly-opened branch in North Bazaar with the manager of an existing branch in the town.  Indian Express and mainline media reports that a person by name Babu, along with A Kumar, M Manickam, had opened the branch in April amid the lockdown, with an assumption that they would not be caught.

Tamil Nadu Police have arrested three persons for running a duplicate State Bank of India (SBI) branch in Panruti in Cuddalore district. According to the police, Kamal Babu (19), the son of a former SBI employee, had brought computers, lockers, challans and forged documents, among other items, to set up the branch through his contacts. A website was even created in the name of the Panruti Bazaar branch. Babu, along with A Kumar (42), M Manickam (52), had opened the branch in April amid the lockdown, with an assumption that they would not be caught. However, the branch came under the radar when an SBI customer enquired about the newly-opened branch in North Bazaar with the manager of an existing branch in the town.
After one of the customers showed the receipt he had acquired from the duplicate branch, the manager and other officials visited the fake branch and were shocked to find the set up similar to that of an original bank branch with all the necessary items. They immediately lodged a complaint with the Panruti police following which the trio were arredt under sections 473, 469, 484, 109 of the Indian Penal Code. Speaking to, Panurti Inspector Ambedkar said Babu had learnt all the bank operations in his early years and therefore, attempted to open a fake branch.

“Babu’s parents are former SBI bank employees. From an early age, he had been visiting the bank and had learnt how a branch functions. His father died a few years ago and his mother had retired. After his father’s death, he had applied for his post. He got frustrated after his application was delayed and hence decided to open a bank by himself,” the official said.  He added: “Till date, we haven’t received any complaints from customers that they have lost money in this branch. When we enquired, Babu said he never intended to cheat people but wanted to open a bank for himself. However, there has been a lot of transactions between his mother’s account and his aunt’s account. A probe is underway.”

Panruti famous for jack fruits and cashew is a small place with less than 70000 population – it is surprising that State Bank of India which officially has a branch in this place, could not locate or did not find it suspicious when a furious branch surfaced !  Some one with ingenuity had opened a Branch and had created all necessary documents and paper work including challans !! – would not any check their chequebooks and IFSC code ? or were they too created duplicate !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Friday, July 10, 2020

protests in Kerala against CM Pinarayi - on gold scam !!

The media, which sometimes is paid, many times is remote-controlled creates perceptions that strongly weigh in the minds of common man.  The unanswered Q is – the direct relevance of Educational qualifications with Good Governance !

Tamilnadu had a golden rule under Mr K Kamaraj who was not a graduate.  Mr Edappadi Palaniswamy too is managing well, again not a graduate – significantly both are not from tinseldom too ! .. .. Media have oft repeated Mr Arvind Kejriwal to be the most intelligent followed by Pinarayi Vijayan.  Kejriwal graduated from IIT in Mechanical Engineering;  Pinarayi holds BA Economic degree -; while Media’s bete-noire Mr Ajay Mohan Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath holds a Bachelor degree in Mathematics.

For months, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan was getting unprecedented television prime time each evening, appearing on Malayalam channels and giving out the statistics of the day’s coronavirus statistics. With just over two dozen COVID-19-related deaths in the state, Vijayan and his health minister K.K. Shailaja have won applause across India and even internationally.

Kerala has not quite excelled in behaviour as the most literate State – first when there was lockdown there were reports of suicides arising out of liquor unavailability and now the action of some affected people against medical professionals !! 

A medical team that went to the coastal village of Poonthura off Thiruvananthapuram for Covid-19 swab collection Friday were surrounded by angry locals who threatened them with expletives and even coughed at them. Poonthura and its adjoining areas have been described by government officials as exhibiting a ‘super spread’ of the coronavirus infections with over 200 persons testing positive in the last week alone. On Friday morning, dozens of men and women came onto the streets in the village agitating against the tight lockdown restrictions and claiming that the health department’s data on infections among them was hyped. They protested without masks and by abandoning social distancing regulations.

India’s Covid-19 cases and deaths per million population is still among the lowest in the world, despite being a country with 1.3 billion people, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Thursday.  Amid a sudden surge in coronavirus patients across states over the last few weeks, the country’s viral caseload is an estimated 2,69,000 people. “When we talk of the caseload of Covid-19 in India, it is 2,69,000 people. This tells us that at the end of the day we’ve managed a situation where our health care infrastructure is not unduly burdened and is not creaking due to the pressure,” Bhushan said. 

While Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi are running at the top with more than lakh of cases, Kerala reported 272 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, the highest single-day spike in the state till date, taking the total count of coronavirus infections to 5,894.  Of the new cases, 157 came from abroad while 38 were from other states, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters, according to news agency PTI.  Giving the district-wise breakup of cases, the CM said Malappuram continued to record the highest number of cases with 63 people getting infected today.

The record single-day spike in the southern state came a day after the state government imposed a week-long triple lockdown in capital Thiruvananthapuram and in parts of Malappuram district. The lockdown has been imposed at the street, mohalla (locality) and town levels with people restricted from leaving their houses and strict surveillance in place.   A coastal village in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram has been cordoned off and around 25 commandos have been positioned in that area as testing has shown a spread and spike of COVID-19 cases locally. This, health experts say, is possibly a first evolving cluster in the state, with more than one "super-spreaders" identified.

"A super-spreader is anyone who infects more than six people. In Punthoora,  it is the first evolving cluster in Kerala , where multiple super spreaders have been identified", Dr Mohammad Asheel told NDTV, health expert and core member of team dealing with COVID 19 in the state told NDTV.

From all the limelight, there appears some slip – a   series of missteps over the past few weeks, and an embarrassing case of officials in the chief minister’s office being linked to a shocking gold smuggling case have suddenly put the chief minister on shaky ground. One of the first controversies was the government’s decision to enter into a contract with US-based Sprinklr for analysis of data related to COVID-19 patients. The Opposition raised serious concerns of data likely being misused by the company, as well as the manner in which state IT secretary M. Shivshankar handed the contract to Sprinklr on his own volition. The CM, however, shielded the officer.

Walking out of the Sprinklr controversy, the government walked right into another one, by initiating a mobile app to sell liquor from its monopoly outlets managed by the Kerala State Beverages Corporation. The app, named BevQ, was meant to control anticipated crowding at liquor outlets. The government once more lost face as the app took much longer to develop than expected, and when it was officially launched it was found that there were no major crowds to buy liquor, with the common man’s earnings severely affected by job losses as a result of COVID-19.

The Sprinklr and BevQ missteps have now been dwarfed by the gold smuggling case using diplomatic channels, which has drawn the chief minister’s office into the controversy. The gold smuggling case involves a former employee of the UAE Consulate in Kerala, Swapna Prabha Suresh, and her accomplices smuggling a large quantity of gold into the state, misusing diplomatic channels.  This came to light when a baggage of 30 kg of gold, concealed in plumbing equipment in a diplomatic baggage was caught.   Meanwhile, the state’s early achievements on the Covid front are also slipping, with a spurt in cases in recent days. On Tuesday, there were 272 fresh cases, including as many as 68 who got it through community spreading.

People get guided by the news channels and presenters who depict their version of the story !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

amidst Covid 19 ruins, Test Cricket is back ! ~ Jason Holder takes 6 for !!

Strange are the ways of people !

The UK government missed its target of returning all covid-19 tests in England within 24 hours by the end of June, according to data published today. UK Prime minister Boris Johnson set the target in parliament on 3 June, saying that all covid-19 tests would be returned within 24 hours by the end of the month. But the latest figures from the Department of Health and Social Care show that only 54.9 per cent of people who were tested for covid-19 within communities in the week ending 1 July received their test results within 24 hours, although the number meeting the 24-hour time limit did rise from 41.3 per cent in the previous week. The figures include home tests, as well as those performed at regional testing sites, mobile testing units and satellite testing centres across England.

The number of coronavirus infections outside of hospitals and care homes in England has fallen slightly, according to the latest provisional results from a random swab testing survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Yet the numbers are no small – total no. of Coronavirus Cases: 287,621p; Deaths: 44,602

And at this crucial juncture, England is keen on ensuring flow of money through sports – yes, football and now Cricket is happening.  A Cricket Test being played after India New Zealand test in Mar 2020 – now on at Southampton from July 8, 2020 between touring West Indies and England.   Usually, when we think fast bowling, we think speed. More so when we think Caribbean fast bowling. Holder is the tallest fast bowler in Test cricket. He is strong. Yet he is not quick. And so the perception builds about him, that he's somehow lesser.

Southampton is a city in Hampshire, South East England, 70 miles (110 km) south-west of London.   A major port, and close to the New Forest, it lies at the northernmost point of Southampton Water, at the confluence of the River Test and Itchen, with the River Hamble joining to the south.   The Port of Southampton is a passenger and cargo port in the central part of the south coast of England. The modern era in the history of the Port of Southampton began when the first dock was inaugurated in 1843. The port has been owned and operated by Associated British Ports since 1982, and is the busiest cruise terminal and second largest container port in the UK.

Southampton ticked the boxes on the ECB’s list of criteria, which required venues to have the ability to turn into ‘island sites’ during matches. There is perimeter and access control; it is a custom-built standalone venue away from the main city. There is plenty of space for medical screening and testing facilities, isolation areas and car parking. It also packs in indoor and outdoor practice facilities. In short, players can be ‘locked down’ inside the complex with almost all their needs met, apart from the urge to step out, that is. Of course, it was not  easy for Hampshire to put everything together.   But it was very important for cricket in England that they started  playing again.

The West Indies cricket squad landed in England,  completed its 14-day isolation period in England on 22.6.2020.  The tourists have been in quarantine at Manchester’s Old Trafford cricket ground and adjoining hotel since arriving in Britain on 9 June. They started their  first warmup game on Tuesday, as England’s 30-man training group too started  at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton and were  tested for COVID-19 on arrival along with the management team.

Old Trafford is England’s second oldest test venue and one of the most renowned.  It was the venue for the first ever Ashes test to be held in England in July 1884. In 1956, the first 10-wicket haul in a single innings was achieved by England bowler Jim Laker who achieved bowling figures of 19 wickets for 90 run.

Now the action began and the scorecard reads : West Indies 57 for 1 (Brathwaite 20*, Hope 3*) trail England 204 (Stokes 43, Holder 6-42, Gabriel 4-62) by 147 runs

West Indies captain Jason Holder took a career-best haul of 6 for 42 to roll England for 204 at the Ageas Bowl, before their top order saw them through to the close one wicket down.  While it would prove to be Holder's day, it was Gabriel who made the early breakthroughs after Rory Burns and Joe Denly had come through the first half hour. Denly was the first to go, his stumps splattered as a vicious nip-backer burst through a hefty gap between bat and pad and crashed into the top of off. Then, after hanging the ball outside Burns' off stump from round the wicket, Gabriel fired one in full at his pads, striking him in front of leg stump. Richard Kettleborough concluded it was missing leg stump, but Holder disagreed and was vindicated by a successful review.

In reply, England bowled with good pace but failed to make as many breakthroughs as they would have hoped. Anderson was the most threatening bowler. Three times he wrapped John Campbell on the pad and had him given lbw; on the first two occasions, Richard Illingworth's decision was overturned as the ball had pitched outside the leg stump, but on the third, the on-field call was upheld.

With so many decisions going for a review, Umpiring is either poor or biased ! – the interesting fact is amidst all ruins of Covid 19, Test Cricket is now on.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Thursday, July 9, 2020

'Cancel culture' - muffling voices - freedom expression champions !!

“cancel culture” is most talked about now ! ~  Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.

Kerala turmoil .. .. .. the office of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has, in recent days, come under intense pressure following the seizure of 30kg of gold - part of a diplomatic consignment that arrived at the state capital's Trivandrum International Airport on July 4.  The gold, reportedly valued at Rs 15 crore was seized by Customs officials at the airport. Under the Vienna Conventions, a country is able to send documents or other items to its consular offices or international organisations like the United Nations as diplomatic baggage.  Following the discovery, Sarith Kumar, a fomer public relations officer (PRO) of the UAE consulate in Thiruvanthapuram, and an accused in the case, was arrested on Monday, and remanded in custody for a period of two weeks.

People have been commenting on social media on Communist stand and their falling standards ! – the Party would vociferously advocate ‘freedom of expression’ and simplicity but would not comment a word when things like this surface nor on the human rights violations in China.  There was this Commie backed Union who would fight for worker’s right and need for confirming daily-roster employees – but in the Union Office they employed a person for a measly payout without providing regular employment !

When Liu Xiaobo was formally awarded his Nobel Peace prize in 2010, he was represented at the ceremony by an empty chair. By then, the dissident academic was in prison again, this time serving an 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion of state power" for his role in drafting a democracy manifesto for China. Chinese authorities, recognizing in recent years that limited freedom of expression enables the government to better monitor potentially problematic social issues have not permitted freedom, at best they created a kind of "free-speech elite," and only  in government-controlled forums.

Freedom of speech  is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction.  Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that "everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice".

Some 150 writers, academics and activists - including authors JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood - have signed an open letter denouncing the "restriction of debate". They say they applaud a recent "needed reckoning" on racial justice, but argue it has fuelled stifling of open debate. The letter denounces "a vogue for public shaming and ostracism" and "a blinding moral certainty".

The term “cancel culture” originally surfaced as a hashtag, credited to black users of Twitter. It was used when celebrities were seen to fall from grace. At times it got linked to the #metoo movement, and so Louis CK was cancelled – for all of 10 months!  When civilians, ordinary human beings, are cancelled, their lives are turned upside down.  An ill-advised tweet may make someone unemployable, the consequences lingering for years.

At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of a contentious new national security law, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech and force internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the law took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the last year of protests. Charles Mok, a pro-democracy lawmaker who represents the technology sector, tweeted: “We are already behind the de facto firewall.”

Hong Kong is facing a dramatic decline of one of its most important advantages – a free and open internet – a defining trait that sets it apart from mainland China where Facebook, Twitter, Google and most major foreign news sites are blocked. The prospect of Beijing-style internet controls – where residents are not just restricted but monitored and punished for what they post online while companies are forced to censor their platforms – is worrying for citizens, activists and businesses in Hong Kong.

The law gives authorities the power to demand individuals and service providers remove content, or access to content deemed threatening to national security. Noncompliance can result in fines and imprisonment for company staff or individuals. Police investigating national security cases can surveil communications and confiscate electronic devices. “The law seems to be building up the Great Firewall locally in Hong Kong. Personal freedom on the internet will be eliminated,” said Charles Low, the chairman of the Hong Kong chapter of the Internet Society. “If you say something wrong they can request the service provider to give your IP address or mobile number so they can grab you.”

After the new measures were announced late on Monday, Facebook, Microsoft, WhatsApp, Google, Twitter, Telegram and others said they would not process information requests from the government until they had reviewed the law. TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, said it was leaving Hong Kong altogether. Protesters who have relied on digital tools over the last year to mobilise demonstrations now find those same platforms could be used against them. Political groups have already disbanded and formerly outspoken activists have quietly left social media, while others have deleted old comments. “We had freedom before and now it is being taken away. It is extremely painful for me to experience that,” said Glacier Kwong, a digital rights activist. “There will be a loss of information available to the public because people are afraid to speak up. They are controlling the discourse, how people can think about things and what they can think about. It’s very dangerous.”

Experts say it is precisely because Hongkongers used digital tools so effectively against the Beijing-backed government that authorities are now targeting the online space. The movement that erupted last year managed to mobilise itself without leaders through platforms such as the LIHKG forum and messaging app Telegram – with a level of organisation that Beijing has tried to point to as evidence to claim the demonstrations are coordinated by foreign forces.  Experts point out that China’s Great Firewall – which allows the government to inspect data as well as block IP addresses and domain names – could not be immediately replicated in Hong Kong, home to several private internet service providers and internet exchanges.

The security law may also add to the Balkanisation of the internet, with countries having their own fenced-off versions, and major international tech companies will be under pressure not to contribute to that. But Hongkongers, accustomed to decades of unrestricted access to information, may not be so easily deterred. Since Beijing announced its plan in late May to enforce the security law, searches and purchases of virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxies to hide IP addresses have soared. Many have migrated from Telegram to the encrypted messaging app Signal, and some residents have turned to sim cards from providers in other countries. Kwong says it is not just young protesters who are taking action – her parents recently moved their family group chat to Signal.

In 2017,  Liu Xiaobo, the renegade Chinese intellectual who kept vigil at Tiananmen Square in 1989 to protect protesters from encroaching soldiers, promoted a pro-democracy charter that brought him a lengthy prison sentence and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while locked away, died under guard in a hospital on Thursday. He was 61. The Chinese government revealed he had cancer in late June, only after the illness was virtually beyond treatment. Officially, Mr. Liu gained medical parole. But even as he faced death, he was kept silenced in the First Hospital of China Medical University, still a captive of the authoritarian controls that he had fought for decades. He was the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in state custody since Carl von Ossietzky, the German pacifist and foe of Nazism who won the prize in 1935 and died under guard in 1938 after years of maltreatment.

~ and people here talk about freedom of press and gagging individual opinion !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Gold smuggling busted in Trivandrum .. .. and the political link !!

How often do you buy Gold ?  - do you know the Gold rates of date ? ~ if you were irritated and were about to respond ‘ who cares to know of Gold during testing Covid times’ – there is something to be read.  Today it was Rs.4626 for 1 gm of Gold and Rs.37008/- for 8 grams in Chennai market [24 ct Gold cost Rs.4858/- per gramme]

Tinseldom is obsessed with Gold biscuits or rather Gold bars – villains would steal biscuits, put them in a suitcase and run like wind. Hero would snatch and run faster !   Gold is a dense metal, and the denser the metal, it would weigh heavily,  the harder it would be to  carry, leave alone carrying it !

Way back in 1973 Bombay High Court delivered on a case between JS Parkar Vs VB Palekar & Ors. The petitioner (assessee) was carrying on business of transporting iced fishes, mangoes and other goods by sea from Konkan ports to Bombay. He was the owner of a launch "Lakshmi". On 24th Apr 1961, the Central Excise authorities seized 4,999 biscuits of gold weighing 10 tolas each from the said vessel. The Collector of Central Excise investigated the case and ultimately confiscated the gold. The assessee and some others were then tried before the Special Judicial and Additional Chief Presidency Magistrate, Bombay, for offences under section 120B of the Indian Penal Code and section 167(81) of the Sea Customs Act, 1878, and section 23 of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act of 1947. At the conclusion of the trial the assessee and some other accused were convicted by the learned Magistrate for these offences on July 22, 1963. The said convictions and sentences were confirmed by this High Court on August 11, 1964.

Gold is a material available in so many shops – you pay and buy them – for values above Rs.50000/- the Jewellers would insist on ID proof including PAN.  People returning from Foreign especially Middle East would carry gold (in ornaments and sometimes biscuits / coins).  The Govt rules prescribes that male passengers returning after residing outside can bring Gold jewellery upto 20 gms but not costing more than Rs.50000/- Female passengers can carry 40 gms of gold jewelry costing not more than Rs. 1 lakh.  Anything in excess will have to declared to the Customs Authorities upon landing in India and would attract import duty of 36% - thus increasing the cost of gold so gotten.

Rangoon is a 2017 film written and directed by Rajkumar Periasamy and produced by AR Murugadoss. The film features Gautham Karthik and Sana Makbul in the lead roles.  Venkat indulges in gold smuggling to clear Siya's debts with the profits earned. In the same motive, he, along his friends travels to Myanmar on a smuggling deal in an illegal route via road crossing the borders.  After four years, Venkat gets released from jail and starts his own small jewelry shop in the name of his father. Now, Venkat faces life with hope and faith, as a reformed man of mid-20s ! 

It is always stated that lot of the gold being smuggled into Indian comes from Dubai or other Asian countries. It is yellow gold meaning 24 Ct reportedly pure gold.  In a massive operation, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) recently seized  11.2 kilograms of gold being smuggled into Kerala from Kannur International Airport.   During the raids conducted later in Kozhikkode district as per the information received from the arrested smugglers, the officials also recovered 3.2 kilograms of gold and Rs 17.5 lakh in cash. This is one of the largest haul of the precious yellow metal in the state and the seized gold is worth around Rs 5 core, official sources revealed.  Media reports state that the  State is  notorious for highest cases of gold smuggling. As per official statistics, the number of cases for gold smuggling went up from 242 in 2017-18 to 1,102, an increase of 455%.  

Kerala, specifically the northern region, has been a paradise for gold smugglers and hawala transactions since decades which has contributed much to the country’s black money.  Criminals and dishonest people are involved in smuggling and Govt should punish these people – there must be harsh punishments, one tends to think – now read on further.

On July 5, Customs officials seized 30 kg of gold worth Rs.15 crore at the Thiruvananthapuram Airport from a diplomatic cargo addressed to a person in the UAE Consulate. Sarith Kumar, who worked at the UAE Consulate was arrested in this regard. Reportedly, he told the Customs about the role of Swapna Suresh, an ex-Consulate employee now working as the manager of the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited.

The case took a political turn after photos with Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan surfaced. It has been alleged that Swapna has links with the CM and has been seen with him at parties when she was working at the UAE Consulate. Following the backlash over her appointment, she was sacked by the state government. Moreover, Principal Secretary to CM, M Sivasankar, has been replaced after his role in hiring Suresh came under the scanner.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala lashed out at the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government over the gold smuggling controversy. He claimed that the IT Secretary M Sivasankar had direct involvement in this racket. Thereafter, the senior Congress leader indicated that the responsibility lies with the CM. The UAE Ambassador to India on Tuesday affirmed that his country would fully cooperate with the Indian Customs authorities to investigate the matter. Moreover, he called for strict legal action against those involved in the gold smuggling racket.

A day after a state IT department employee emerged as a key figure in the gold smuggling racket operating through the diplomatic cargo channel, the Kerala government removed senior IAS official M Sivasankar as the principal secretary of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan after his role in hiring the employee came under the scanner. He has been replaced by IAS officer Mir Muhammad Ali.

The alleged involvement of Swapna Suresh, who had worked as manager with the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITL), has deeply embarrassed the government, with the Opposition parties claiming that the CM’s Office (CMO) has links to the racket. Dismissing the allegations, Vijayan had said Swapna had been appointed without his knowledge. “I don’t know under which circumstances she was appointed. It was not with my consent,’’ he said.

 According to the Customs, Sarith, who is no longer associated with the consulate, took advantage of the immunity and privileges enjoyed by diplomatic missions. Sources said the smuggling attempt was foiled, and the consignment seized, on the basis of a specific tip-off indicating gold concealed in the cargo. Officials said Sarith had come to the airport to collect the cargo, and was apprehended. The UAE Consulate General office has disowned the cargo and has “promised to cooperate with the investigation”, Customs Commissioner Sumith Kumar said. Kumar said the gold was found concealed in the form of small cylinders in the cargo, comprising plumbing items, water taps and door locks. “Diplomatic cargo has protection, and normal checking cannot be done (on them), but we took special sanction from the government to examine the cargo,” he said. Kumar said the Customs suspects a well-organised syndicate is behind the smuggling.

“The Consulate General office has told us that the mission was not involved and they have nothing to do with the consignment. However, we will look into whether anyone from the mission was involved in the racket,” he said. Kumar said they are also looking into the role of Swapna. “Swapna is also involved in this case. We hope she will appear before the Customs to give her statement. If she fails to do so, we would explore legal options,’’ he said.

Congress leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala, demanding a CBI probe into the case, said, “The chief minister has removed his secretary because he fears the case will reach him too…we have been ministers too. If our secretary or private secretary takes any decision, we are responsible too. When the chief minister’s secretary is misusing his official position by attempting to protect an accused in a gold smuggling racket, there’s no doubt that the responsibility of the same lies with the chief minister too.” BJP state president K Surendran termed the gold smuggling case a repetition of the solar scandal involving prime accused Saritha Nair that plagued the previous Congress-led UDF government.

The chief minister of Kerala said  he was not aware of how Swapna was appointed in the IT department. In the initial days of the solar scandal, former CM Oommen Chandy had also said he didn’t know Saritha Nair,” said Surendran. “CM Pinarayi Vijayan has known Swapna Suresh from the beginning of 2017. It’s a big lie if he says he doesn’t know her,” the BJP leader alleged.

Will there be debates in local channels on this sordid episode and the involvement of Kerala Govt ?

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

News source :  Indian Express, NDTV, India Today, Money Control, OP India, Times Now, Malayala Manorama and other online media.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

China should know “Thucydides’ trap,” - Modiji visit to Ladakh

Professor Graham Allison of the Harvard Kennedy School popularized the phrase “Thucydides’ trap,” to explain the likelihood of conflict between a rising power and a currently dominant one. This is based on the famous quote from Thucydides: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this inspired in Sparta that made war inevitable.”

In 2017,  chocolate cake had just been served at the Mar-a-Lago summit when President Donald Trump leaned over to tell Chinese President Xi Jinping that American missiles had been launched at Syrian air bases !  What the attack on Syria signaled about Trump’s readiness to attack North Korea was left to Xi’s imagination.  The United States and the Soviet Union built nuclear arsenals so substantial that neither could be sure of disarming the other in a first strike. Nuclear strategists described this condition as “mutual assured destruction,” or MAD. Technology, in effect, made the United States and Soviet Union conjoined twins — neither able to kill the other.  History also reveals that One has to be powerful enough to command respect from the powerful !!

After the start of the pandemic that spread from Wuhan and changed the lives of people across the Globe, few would have expected Xi Jinping to don the war paint and literally follow in Mao’s footsteps where everyone was an enemy, to be bullied and dominated. India, with its teeming masses and on the face of it, especially to Chinese eyes, complete chaos would have been and was Xi Jinping’s first port of call, especially since the PRC has its carefully nurtured pet poodle ever ready to bite from the west.

With India’s rise as a regional power, the shifting balance of power between India and Pakistan  and the emergence of India’s alliance with the US, India has occupied a higher place in China’s agenda. While China’s attention was fixed on a new Cold War with the United States,  tensions on its troubled Himalayan border with India  erupted last month in the deadliest clash in over 50 years. The fatal skirmish rubbed salt into an old wound that has refused to heal since the 1962 border war, and raised questions about China’s strategic calculations on the rise of India. It also prompted fears about armed conflicts between the nuclear powers becoming a deadly manifestation of the Thucydides Trap.

China is hiding its wounds ! not only after the border skirmish, more so, after the deadly virus that erupted. Even now, the World is apprehensive of the extent of damage to China, not only the economic impact but also the human casualties arising out of Covid 19, though figures suggest that India is perilously close to Russia and about to overtake it to become no.3 of the affected people, while China is not in top 20 even !

Beijing is battling an “explosive outbreak” of  the coronavirus, with health authorities reporting 36 new local infections in the city in one day – all linked to a food market. As scientists try to track how the latest outbreak in Beijing emerged, the capital and neighbouring regions have stepped up emergency measures, including renewing lockdowns.

A Communist Party  newspaper stated  China is determined to show that “socialism is indeed better than capitalism”, in what observers say is an attempt to rally support for the party as it faces unprecedented challenges including the coronavirus pandemic  and its  rivalry with the United States.  Study Times, official newspaper of the Central Party School, where party officials are trained, published on its front page on Monday a commentary by a senior figure at the school that praised the ideas of President Xi Jinping  and called the present era “the most wonderful chapter of world socialism in 500 years”.

Before you jump to say something, these are not my individual views but taken from South China Morning Post and some other leading International dailies and here are some excerpts from an interesting read a post in The Guardian by  Shiv Kunal Verma, author of “1962: The War That Wasn’t” and “The Long Road to Siachen: The Question Why.”

At Lumpu, there is a hut of remembrance. An inverted .303 Lee Enfield Rifle with a helmet placed on it overlooks the Nyamjang Chu that flows north to south from the direction of Khenzemane, the border post where the Dalai Lama had stepped onto Indian soil in 1959. Also visible from the hut is the Thagla ridge that runs off to the west from Khenzemane to the tri-junction with Bhutan, while at the base of it, is the Nam Ka Chu. The names of those who fell in the valley are enshrined on the walls all around the rifle—men from 1/9 Gorkha Rifles, 4 Grenadiers, 9 Punjab, 5 Assam Rifles, some gunners, some signalmen, some sappers—but the longest list is of 2 Rajput, which lost 281 men on the fateful morning of 20 October 1962. Also written on the wall, are three words which together carry a lot of meaning: “We Shall Avenge!”

Six decades ago, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had paid the price by trusting the PRC, which under the Communists was a very different animal from the earlier Kuomintang Chinese with whom Indians over the centuries had never had any serious issues. “President for Life” Xi Jinping, the Chinese strongman, who, at the beginning of 2019, was not only dreaming but preparing his people for a new world order, has made a few fundamental mistakes. The PRC, whose own ruthless march to power was fuelled by years of oppression and humiliation, forgot that other people too have a DNA and they also will fight back when pushed to a corner. If they have embedded in their collective national consciousness humiliation at the hands of the Chinese, the fight-back will be even more resolute, even if they have to fight with sticks and stones.

India, with its teeming masses and on the face of it, especially to Chinese eyes, complete chaos would have been and was Xi Jinping’s first port of call, especially since the PRC has its carefully nurtured pet poodle ever ready to bite from the west. It also made sense to try and precipitate a limited military confrontation in the Himalayas where if other nations were to get sucked in, China would have the advantage of a huge buffer between its actual frontier and the conflict zone.

There is a lot that Indian political parties have done over the years that has adversely affected the country’s defence preparedness. Jawaharlal Nehru, hugely guilty of interfering with the Armed Forces’ structure and  the country today, the leadership,  the people and the Armed Forces, have undergone a sea change. Institutions like the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy have nurtured generations of fighting men, who are today in a class of their own and quite capable of sorting out any misadventure by not only the Chinese, but also the Pakistanis, who face us in a different environment where the dynamics are quite different.

Pangong Tso and Galwan are the perfect example of what and how the leadership at the higher levels has evolved. That the so-called intelligence agencies, whose job it is to anticipate these sort of build-ups, failed is something we shall never have definite answers to. It may have taken 59 years for the message to sink in, but the commanders of today have done what Lieutenant General S.P.P. Thorat advocated in April 1961—do not let the Chinese decide where and when to fight. Choose your own ground and then take them on. The cacophony of orchestrated voices in the Indian media, some of them undoubtedly controlled by handlers both within and across the Himalayas, did its level best to provoke a reaction.

The Indian leadership, having withstood the initial onslaught and after the Chinese faced the fury of but a handful of soldiers after they murdered the commanding officer of an Indian infantry battalion, has shown its willingness to open up other fronts as well. The PRC’s calculations were based on similar propaganda that had been launched by the Pakistanis in 1965 when the self-styled Ayub Khan was at the helm of affairs—that the Indians as a race were buzdil (cowards) and would crumble like a house of cards the moment any pressure was applied.

China and its Communist leadership  for sure would have realized that the World is far different now. 

Thucydides  mentioned in para 1  was an Athenian historian and general. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the fifth-century BC war between Sparta and Athens until the year 411 BC.  He also has been called the father of the school of political realism, which views the political behavior of individuals and the subsequent outcomes of relations between states as ultimately mediated by, and constructed upon, the emotions of fear and self-interest.  His text is still studied at universities and military colleges worldwide.  More generally, Thucydides developed an understanding of human nature to explain behaviour in such crises as plagues, massacres, and civil war.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
With inputs liberally taken from The Guardian; South China Morning Post and other print media.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

PM Narendra Modiji's visit rattles China ~ armchair critics know not history !

The worst effect of Corona is rise in no. of armchair critics and cynics who on seeing every photo become experts in analysis.  Just as we see WA experts in Medicine,  Economics, Science, Technology, Astrophysics and more – some covidiots took to social media questioning the photos stating that it does not look like an hospital and the soldiers whom the Prime Minister was meeting did not look wounded.  .. .. this was meme brigade of local political parties, commies and a MP of a National party.  You cannot expect more from them for they can only equate scenes from movie – ‘ they know not history and God forgive them ‘ !

The whole World was surprised when news came out that our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji had visited Ladakh, paid homage to soldiers, interacted with our soldiers and met those convalescing at hospitals .. ..

If Chinese media had written something that would have been understandable for it is always the order of Communist controlled Country to suppress all their information and write what they feel should be and not what has occurred ! – but sadly, there are cynics locally too whose bubble has been burst and torn by Army, yet they would not apologise nor write the truth. To what these extent these morons stoop – even questioning the Nation and army.

History is replete with China engaged in battles in every century of mankind. The Battle of Yangxia  was the largest military engagement of the Xinhai Revolution and was fought from October 18-December 1, 1911, between the revolutionaries of the Wuchang Uprising and the loyalist armies of the Qing Dynasty. The battle was waged in Hankou and Hanyang, which along with Wuchang collectively form the tri-cities of Wuhan in central China.  After heavy and bloody fighting, the stronger loyalist forces eventually prevailed by taking over both cities, but 41 days of determined resistance by the Revolutionary Army allowed the revolution to strengthen elsewhere as other provinces defied the Qing Dynasty.  

They have been constantly at war with their neighbours  trying to expand and push their borders.  The Sino-Soviet border conflict was a seven-month undeclared military conflict between the Soviet Union and China at the height of the Sino-Soviet split in 1969. The most serious of these border clashes, which brought the world's two largest communist states to the brink of war, occurred in March 1969 in the vicinity of Zhenbao (Damansky) Island on the Ussuri (Wusuli) River, near Manchuria. The conflict resulted in a ceasefire, with a return to the status quo.

The Vietnam War   was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia that occurred and continued for decades from Nov 1955 to Apr 1975.  It was  officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war, considered a Cold War-era proxy war by some, lasted 19 years, with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, which ended with all three countries becoming communist in 1975.

In 1962, the world’s two most populous countries went to war against one another in a pair of remote, mountainous border regions. In less than a month, China dealt India a  defeat, driving Indian forces back on all fronts. Along with breaking hopes of political solidarity in the developing world, the war helped structure the politics of East and Southeast Asia for generations. Even today, as Indian and Chinese forces square off on the Doklam Plateau, the legacy of the 1962 resonates in both countries.  .. .. that loss would ever remain in the minds of Indians and was a strategic failure by the then Prime Minister Mr Jawaharlal Nehru whose Congress party ruled the Nation for 6 decades. 

The Indian Army has issued a statement saying it is unfortunate that some people are casting aspersions on the treatment of Indian soldiers at the Leh hospital where PM Modi paid a visit on Friday. The Indian Army has said the armed forces are given the best possible treatment and the hall shown in the photos were converted into a ward due to the coronavirus crisis. “There have been malicious and unsubstantiated accusations in some quarters regarding the status of the facility visited by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi during his visit to the General Hospital at Leh on July 03, 2020,” said the Indian Army said.

Prime Minister Modi on Friday visited Ladakh and spoke to the Indian Army, Air Force and ITBP personnel posted in the border region. PM Modi also paid a visit to the injured soldiers who fought Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley clash. Interacting with them at the army hospital in Leh, PM Modi said the world is discussing that India's brave soldiers have shown valour before "such powers". As photographs of PM Modi's visit to the Leh facility surfaced, several people took to Twitter and expressed doubt if the Leh facility visible in the photos was a hospital at all.

As some said that the facility shown in the photos are a conference hall and no hospital, the Indian Army clarified that it is a training hall that was converted into a ward since the Leh hospital became a designated Covid hospital. Slamming critics, the Indian Army has said, “It is unfortunate that aspersions are being cast on how our brave Armed Forces are treated. The Armed Forces give the best possible treatment to their personnel.” “It is clarified that the said facility is part of the Crisis Expansion capacity of 100 beds and is very much part of the General Hospital complex,” said the Army.  “The COVID-19 protocol had necessitated some wards of the General Hospital to be converted into isolation facilities. Hence, this hall which otherwise was normally used as a Training Audio Video Hall was converted into a ward ever since the hospital was also designated as COVID treatment hospital,” said the Army in its clarification on Saturday. It also added, “The injured braves have been kept there since their arrival from Galwan to ensure quarantine from COVID areas. The Chief of Army Staff General M M Naravane and the Army Commander have also visited the injured braves in the same location.”

But our War and strategy experts who ruled the Nation for 6 decades and doing little were quicksilver in finding out that it was not an hospital !! and even after their lies are fully exposed, do not have the grace to erase and apologise for their tweets and misinformed comments.

Exposing China has been a challenge for the world. China never fails to surprise the world, particularly India with deception in its policies, domestic or foreign. But for once, it was rattled by the sheer political brilliance by a young Indian parliamentarian Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1965 – read this interesting report in India Today. 

One of the excuses that China had used for a military confrontation with India in 1967 was the charge that Indian soldiers had stolen its sheep and yaks. China made this claim in August-September 1965. This was the time when China was itching for another territorial expansion by appropriating Sikkim, which was a kingdom under India's protection. It was also the time when India was busy fighting infiltrators from Pakistan in Kashmir. Just three years ago, India had suffered a humiliating defeat in war. China was again threatening to "teach" another 1962-like lesson to India. However, as it turned out in the end, China miscalculated India's preparedness this time around.

China wrote a letter to the Indian government accusing Indian soldiers of stealing 800 sheep and 59 yaks. The Indian government obviously wrote back denying the ludicrous charge but the response that Vajpayee, then a 42-year-old Jan Sangh leader, gave left China fuming. Vajpayee arranged for a herd of around 800 sheep and drove them to the Chinese embassy in New Delhi in late September. The sheep had placards tied saying, "Eat me but save the world." This incensed China so much that it shot off another letter to the Lal Bahadur Shastri government. China had called the protest by Vajpayee an "insult" to the Chinese nation and alleged that it happened with the backing of the Shastri government.

In its response, India replied confirming that "some of the citizens of Delhi took in procession about 800 sheep" but said, "The Government of India had nothing to do with this demonstration. It was a spontaneous, peaceful and good-humoured expression of the resentment of the citizens of Delhi against the Chinese ultimatum and the threat of war against India on trumped-up and trivial issues."

In its original complaint, China had alleged that four Tibetan inhabitants had been kidnapped by the Indian soldiers. India had responded saying, "Like other Tibetan refugees these four people had come into India on their own volition and without our permission and taken refuge in India. They are free to go back to Tibet at any time if they desire to do so." China might actually have gotten infuriated with the two Tibetan women, who escaped the eyes of Chinese authorities and crossed over to India. They approached a police station on Indian side and complained about atrocities committed by Chinese officials and soldiers. China wanted India to hand over these women and some other Tibetans who had fled seeking refuge in India.

On the question of stealing of sheep, Indian response was: "Apropos the 800 sheep and 59 yaks the Government of India have already given a reply in the clearest terms possible. We know nothing of the yaks and as regards the sheep it is up to the two herdsmen concerned to take them to Tibet if and when they choose to go back to their homeland."

The entire episode of Vajpayee mocking China's bullying tactic had become a talking point during those weeks of tension leaving people in splits in public conversations. Two years later, China did come to "teach" India a lesson but returned with a bloody nose. The lesson that China learnt in 1967 ensured peace on India-China border for several decades until Xi Jinping became the president and resumed the salami slicing policy once again.

History is always interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar