Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Modi wants states to spend, borrow more to battle economic slowdown.

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New Delhi: States need to borrow more to step up capital expenditure to counter the economic slowdown at a time when revenues are slowing down, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi has said.

In an interview to ThePrint, Modi said, “During an economic slowdown, we require to spend more to boost consumption.”

He added, “However, states will get less money from the Centre and their own sources of revenue are also growing at a lower rate. So states will need to borrow more to ensure capital expenditure is not affected.”

The deputy CM said a relaxation in the target set in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act as well as faster permission for borrowing from the market have been sought from the Narendra Modi government.

“A relaxation in the fiscal deficit target as set by the FRBM Act has been sought. Many states have asked the limits to be relaxed to 3.5 per cent of gross state domestic product (GSDP) from 3 per cent of GSDP,” he said.

Bihar is likely to get Rs 10,000 crore less this year as devolution from central taxes, said Sushil Modi, who also holds the finance portfolio.

The FRBM Act mandates states to keep their fiscal deficit targets under the prescribed limits. However, a slowdown in direct tax and indirect tax collections by the Centre means the amount of money states get from the pool of total central taxes as devolution is likely to come down.

In addition, the pace of growth of state GST revenues has also been lower than anticipated. This has forced states to cut down on capital expenditure at a time when the economy is expected to fall to an 11-year low of 5 per cent.

The Modi government is also expected to reset the FRBM targets as achieving a 3 per cent fiscal deficit by 2021-22 looks near impossible at a time growth is falling sharply.

In a report last month, India Ratings and Research pointed out that a decline in tax revenues, a lower nominal GDP and higher expenditure will see aggregate fiscal deficit of states touch 3 per cent of GDP in 2019-20 as against the budgeted 2.6 per cent.

Besides the lower devolution and GST revenues, the report said states will also see lower tax collections from value added tax on petroleum products.

“Growth of consumption of petroleum products at 2.2% in FY20 so far (April-November) is the lowest in the last seven years,” the report said. In 2013-14, the growth was 0.6 per cent.

‘States should be allowed to swap debt liability’

Speaking to ThePrint, Sushil Modi said there is a need to allow states to repay their high-interest older loans taken from the National Small Savings Fund (NSSF) ahead of schedule to lower the interest burden.

“The rate of interest on NSSF loans is very high and this places a heavy interest burden. States should be allowed to swap our debt liability and repay the higher interest loans.” he said.

Bihar is also demanding faster approvals from the central government to make open market borrowings.

Modi pointed out that while states get permission from the Centre to borrow up to 75 per cent of their debt limit without any issue, it has become difficult to get permission for the remaining 25 per cent.

The Bihar leader also favoured the central government transferring funds to the state consolidated fund for any centrally sponsored schemes rather than sending it directly to the implementing authorities.

“In many of the centrally sponsored schemes, the Government of India is (right) now directly sending the money to the implementing agencies rather than to the consolidated state fund,” he said.

Unclaimed bodies of three workers to be sent to Bihar.

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NEW DELHI: The bodies of three migrant labourers who lost their lives in the massive Anaj Mandi fire remain unclaimed till Tuesday evening.

According to police personnel on duty at the Mortuary department in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash hospital, the three deceased have been identified but no member from their family had come to claim the body.

At LNJP hospital, 34 out of 43 dead bodies were taken for post mortem while the rest 9 bodies were taken to Lady Hardinge Hospital.

“Out of 43, two people have died of burning. Their bodies are totally charred while all the others lost their lives due to suffocation. All the three unclaimed bodies are from Bihar. The post mortem will be over by tomorrow and they will be sent to their hometown. Some family members were informed at late Sunday evening. The relatives of the deceased living in Delhi had come to claim,” the police noted.

On Tuesday, 17 bodies were to undergo post mortem out of which 14 were done. The police added that the family of the deceased have identified the bodies and are being sent in ambulances. “They are not kept in ice and rather embalmed. The mortuary department has sufficient staff who have been working since immediately after the incident,” an official from the department said. Hospital authority said that 14 survivors are admitted out of which two are in the  ICU.

Victims of the blaze

Out of 43 people who died in the massive fire, only two died of burning.

Their bodies were totally charred. However,  all the other victims lost their lives after suffocating in the poorly-ventilated building.

Nine of them suffered from burns and four are being treated under the medicine department at LNJP hospital. A teenager is being treated in the paediatrics department.

Opposition looks to build on state poll results in winter session, Jharkhand polls.

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NEW DELHI : The performance of Congress – Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra, one of the most time tested political alliances, has given hope to opposition parties to build upon the peformance to boost index of opposition unity particularly in upcoming winter session and Jharkhand polls later this year. The development comes on the back of the failure of opposition parties to come together on a broader national pitch during Lok Sabha elections earlier this year.

While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is on course to form government in both the recently polled states of Maharashtra and Haryana, the opposition parties in both the states managed to increase their tally compared to previous election. In Haryana, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar led BJP could not cross half way mark and had to take support from Dushyant Chautala led Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) to make its bid for power.

Opposition parties, particularly Congress, is now hopeful that the result could be used to build consensus upon electoral understandings, political positioning and policy views. Senior opposition leaders say that the immediate impact of this can be seen in upcoming winter session of Parliament and elections in Jharkhand slated for later this year.

“There has always been issue based understanding between all the key opposition parties but Thursday’s result will boost that unity. NCP has always been a strong ally of ours and Maharashtra’s performance showcases that when opposition parties are together then the BJP faces a stiff competiton. We are hopeful that a similarly strong alliance is struck ahead of Jharkhand polls,” a senior Congress leader said requesting anonymity.

In Jharkhand, Congress is in talks with Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Left Parties to contest the upcoming state polls. The opposition’s performance in the BJP incumbent state will be crucial as just five months ago, the NDA had won 12 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats.

Opposition parties are also hopeful that the state polls’ performance will boost greater coordination on the floor of Parliament during winter session. Two key issues which a united opposition is likely to take up in the session includes state of economy and situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The issue of Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank could also be taken up by both Congress and NCP in the next session of Parliament.

Doctor part of central team in Patna to check dengue spread is now a patient.

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An entomologist, from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi, who was visiting Patna to check houses for Aedes mosquito larvae, which transmits Dengue, has now been afflicted with the disease.

Dr Ram Singh, joint director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and head of the Centre for Medical Entomology and Vector Management, New Delhi, has been sent to the sick bay after he tested positive for Dengue and Chikungunya on Saturday.

He was a part of the Central team sent to the city on October 3, at the behest of Union Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey, to help the state in curbing the spread of the disease.

Patna was battered by incessant rain between September 27 and 29.

Dr Singh, who is down with high fever and acute joint pain, could not return to Delhi with the rest of the team on Saturday. The Central team wound up its fortnight-long operation in Bihar, this weekend.

“I am shivering with high fever and have pain in my joints since Friday. I had to return to Delhi yesterday (Saturday) but am still here under the care of Dr Krishna Pandey of the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences (RMRIMS) after my blood serum test tested positive for Dengue and Chikungunya,” Dr Singh said over the telephone.

Dr Singh had visited several waterlogged houses to check them for Aedes mosquito larvae, as microbiologists and entomologists accompanying him went around collecting samples of water from piped sources and tanks to check for the presence of microbes and those in buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash containers, to check vector density of Dengue. Mosquitoes are known to breed in stagnant water.

The Central team conducted health camps and collected blood samples to check vector and water-borne diseases as well as samples of stagnant water from households to check dengue vector density. It wound up its operations after consultation with the state government on October 18.

The team comprised doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi; Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Delhi; Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi; the National Institute of Malaria Research, Delhi; Regional Malaria Research Centre, Bhubaneswar, directorate of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), Delhi; the NCDC, Delhi; AIIMS-Patna and the Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences (RMRIMS), Patna.

Earlier, two BJP legislators — Nitin Navin and Sanjiv Chaurasia — both from Patna, were stung by the Aedes mosquito.

Cases of Dengue and Chikungunya have increased this month. Bihar has reported 2,538 cases of Dengue of which 1,916 are from Patna and another 268 cases of Chikungunya out of a total 293 in the state this year till October 19.

At least five Dengue patients have died in Patna since October 15, but the state government has so far not attributed any of these deaths to the disease.

Doctors, requesting anonymity, said that nine out of 10 deaths in case of Dengue was due to co-morbidity and failure of different organs like the heart or the liver, triggered due to the disease.

Remembering Jagannath Mishra, Doctor Sahib of Bihar politics


Jagannath Mishra, three-time Bihar chief minister and a former Union minister — terms which earned him a mix of accolades and criticism — died on Monday at his home in New Delhi. He was 82. He was suffering from multiple medical ailments, including cancer. He will be cremated with full state honours. He was survived by three sons and three daughters.

Though Doctor Sahib, as he was fondly referred to, had stepped out of the spotlight while leading a retired life, Jagannath Mishra was never short of political wisdom and sharp analysis. Many in media and politics recall him as an affable man with a deep understanding of politics and abiding love for Bihar and all its people.

Dr Mishra, younger brother of former Railway Minister Lalit Narayan, was also the last Congress chief minister in Bihar. In December 1989, as Congress stared at an electoral setback following gruesome riots in Bhagalpur, Rajiv Gandhi had picked Mishra as Bihar chief minister in an attempt to salvage the state. Mishra ruled Bihar for 95 days in his last stint as Bihar chief minister but could not stop Janata Dal storm to power in Bihar in March 1990.

When the Congress lost power in Bihar, Jagannath was inducted as Union agriculture minister in the PV Narasimha Rao government in 1995. In 1999, he joins Sharad Pawar in opposing Sonia Gandhi on her foreign origin issue. Later, he left the Congress to join the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar, becoming the director of LN Mishra Institute of Management — a cabinet minister’s position.

His son Nitish Mishra became a cabinet colleague first of Nitish Kumar and later of Jitan Ram Manjhi. Mishra also broke away with Nitish Kumar by siding with his erstwhile disciple Jitan Ram Manjhi in the latter’s war with Nitish Kumar. But his move failed, leaving him to lose political significance.

For someone who began his career as a professor of economics in Bihar University, Jagannath Mishra touched many political peaks in his career. He took over as Bihar’s chief minister after the assassination of his brother in January 1975.

Lalit Narayan Mishra was attacked with a bomb while inaugurating a broad gauge railway track between Samastipur and Muzaffarpur in north Bihar on January 2, 1975. He was declared dead in Danapur railway hospital the next day. Jagannath Mishra, who too had been severely injured in the incident with multiple splinters piercing his legs and thighs, survived to achieve many political peaks in his career.

Remembering him as a “famous leader and educationist,” Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar paid tributes to Dr Mishra saying he made an invaluable contribution to the politics of Bihar and India. “His death is an irreparable loss in the field of politics, society, and education,” Nitish Kumar said in a statement.

In his heydays, Jagannath Mishra had emerged as the most powerful Congress leader in the late seventies and eighties. He was known as a very popular mass leader, with ears to the ground and hands of political pulse of Bihar. Prior to emergence of Lalu Prasad on the political landscape of Bihar, Jagannath Mishra was the most popular leader among the minorities for making Urdu as the second official language of the state in 1980.

A man with sharp intellect and a perfect practitioner of populism, Jagannath won over the hearts of lakhs of teachers by taking over hundreds of private primary, middle and high schools across the state in 1977.

Dr Mishra also had a fair share of controversies in his political careers. One of his most infamous actions was seen in July 1982, when his government pushed the Bihar Press Bill, which prohibited the publication, sale and possession of any printed matter that was “scurrilous” or “grossly indecent” or “intended for blackmail.”

Though Dr Mishra claimed he supported the free press, his moved was criticised as draconian and dictatorial and also an attempt to gag the press. The move was responded with unprecedented protests from newspapers, as journalists staged a protest on the streets. A year after, the then Bihar government withdrew the bill, which was not given the presidential assent till then.

Dr Mishra was also convicted in the infamous fodder scam case. He, however, was granted bail. Dr Mishra always blamed former Congress president Sitaram Kesri for having his name deliberately included in the scam.

While historians and political scientists will continue to debate whether he could have done better or rose higher, it is true that Dr Mishra has left a rich legacy and will always been remembered as someone who cared for Bihar.

CBI cracks down on loan defaulters


New Delhi : In a possibly the biggest synchronised action against alleged bank loan defaulters, the CBI on Tuesday launched a massive crackdown by carrying out searches at over 61 locations in 18 cities after registering 17 cases involving swindling of funds to the tune of Rs 1,139 crore, officials said.

Over 300 officers drawn from various units of the agency swooped down at over 61 locations and knocked the doors of alleged defaulters on the basis of complaints received from various nationalised banks and inputs developed by the agency under close monitoring of CBI Director Rishi Kumar Shukla and senior officials in Delhi.

The figure, which stood at around Rs 640 crore, swelled to Rs 1,139 crore as the agency continued filing of FIRs during the day and expanding its search operations.
Braving the waterlogged streets of Mumbai due to incessant rains, the agency officials carried out searches at promoters and directors of Winsome Diamonds founded by absconding diamantaire Jatin Mehta who was booked in a fresh FIR registered under this operation.

This was the 16th FIR against Mehta accusing him of allegedly defaulting Rs 202 crore from Exim Bank. He is accused of allegedly swindling funds to the tune of Rs 6,500 crore.

The searches in Mumbai also covered two other firms booked in separate FIRs on a complaint by Union Bank of India.
Five places were searched in connection with Rs 57 crore loss caused to the bank by Supamad Trading Pvt Ltd and one place was searched in connection with Asuti Trading Pvt Ltd for causing loss of Rs 50 crore to the bank.

Two places were searched in Delhi and Mumbai in connection with Asuti Trading. By evening, the agency had already registered 17 FIRs across the country and the process of registering more is going on, they said.

The searches were being conducted in Delhi, Mumbai, Ludhiana, Thane, Valsad, Pune, Palani, Gaya, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Bhopal, Surat and Kolar, among others, the officials said.

Delhi-based SL Consumer Products Ltd has been booked by the CBI for causing loss to Union Bank of India to the tune of Rs 55 crore, Aligarh-based Samprash Foods Ltd for loss Rs 60 crore to Union Bank of India, Chandigarh-based International Mega Food Park Ltd for loss of Rs 40.17 crore to SIDBI, Bhopal-based Ranjeet Automobiles for loss of 34.36 crore to Bank of Baroda, Surat-based Jalpa Textiles Pvt Ltd for loss of Rs 28 crore to Bank of Baroda, they alleged.

Three FIRs pertaining to alleged irregularities in disbursal of housing loans in a Union Bank of India branch in Bhubaneswar were also registered by the agency in which senior bank officials have been named as accused.

The loans resulted in the loss of Rs 24.17 crore to the bank, the officials said, adding that searches were conducted at nine places in Odisha.