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Army Chief General M.M. Naravane says that the armed forces are prepared to meet all kinds of challenges, be it on the northern front with China or the western front with Pakistan.

Ashish Singh



Army Chief General M.M. Naravane on Tuesday launched ‘Defence Guardian’, a niche online platform from the iTV Network dedicated exclusively to the defence and strategic sectors. On this occasion, he talked about a host of issues. Excerpts:

Q: How has the pandemic affected the Indian Army›s operational preparedness? Also, what is the current situation along the LoC and LAC, how prepared are we on both fronts?

A: The current pandemic situation has in no way affected our operational preparedness, be it on the northern front or the western front. And we are prepared to meet all kinds of challenges. As you would recollect, in the first half of February, we had the agreement on disengagement of the PLA and in the second half of February itself, we had an understanding with the DGMOs of Pakistan and India regarding the ceasefire. Both sides have carried out the disengagement as agreed upon and this disengagement was based on the principle of mutual and equal security and that is what the basis of the agreement chalked out was. And both sides have carried out this disengagement and it has been followed in letter and spirit.

Similarly, along the western front, the ceasefire understanding which was there in 2003 but was not being observed. This understanding has been revived. And I’m happy to say that since 25 February, in the LAC area of the Union Territory of J&K, there has been no ceasefire violation. But that does not mean we will not carry out counter-terrorist operations, because terror, terrorism and the infrastructure related to that still remains. And, therefore, we reserve our right to carry out such operations. But overall, I would say that the situation along both the borders, the northern and the western borders, is somewhat stable now. And that has given us an opportunity to recalibrate our strategy, and to see how to deal with all these possible challenges.

Q: Before I ask you more questions on China and the LAC front, we would like to discuss a bit about the pandemic. We have seen the Indian Army›s involvement as far as helping the states and the Central government in the earlier two Covid waves are concerned. How did the Indian Army tackle all this and is the Indian Army prepared for a possible third Covid wave?

A: Well not only for this current wave, but even last year when Covid was starting, even then, we had raised, and given a lot of importance on force protection. And in dealing with the second way along with force protection, we also give equal importance to infrastructure augmentation. The second wave, of course, was much more serious than the first. But we were able, because of the efforts which were taken towards force protection. We were able to limit the number of cases in the Indian Army to a large extent. And as I said earlier, this has in no way impacted our operational preparedness. But side by side, we’re also doing our infrastructure augmentation and helping the civil administration also in coping with this crisis. Just to give you an example, in the middle of April, we had about 1,800 oxygen-enabled beds. But when this surge happened, we also went into mission mode. By the middle of May, this number increased to more than 5,200. So this is the kind of ramping up that we could achieve. Similarly, we reached out to the civil administration in all the states, the senior-most military commander in each of these states, to the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary and in concert with them as part of a partnership between the civilian and the military. We saw what best we could do to come to the help of our fellow citizens, and I’m happy to say that as a result of all these efforts, we were able to reach out and negate the sufferings of a lot of people. And now, because of all this, the capacities that we have built up will definitely come in handy if at all there is a third wave.

Q: General, when we look at the China situation and current Chinese threat perception we have along with the LAC, I remember having asked you this question on modernization a couple of years ago when you were the Vice Chief and you were the Head of the Affairs as far as driving the modernisation plan is concerned. Looking at the Chinese threat perception, how›s our modernisation procurement aspect going on the ground? Also, has there been any change in the procurement and the modernisation plan that we had, say, one-and-a-half years ago, before the Chinese perception was not so intense and not so frequent? Has it changed a bit, the entire process of modernisation procurement looking at the Chinese perception?

A: Well you have been asking me this question from time to time. I would say that modernisation is a long term process, which is well planned and it is planned in keeping with the likely threat perception. And what we would require to deal with that. So definitely, it’s part of a process, but that does not mean that that process is rigid. And should there be certain turbulence or certain events, which come like the crisis in eastern Ladakh that obviously makes us look into the gamut of post-modernization and see then what is more required, and therefore we reprioritise the requirements depending on these emergent situations. The force of post-modernization per se, as part of this long term plan is going on as we have forecast. We have 15 contracts worth about Rs 1,600 crore, which have been concluded in the recent past. And as a consequence of the situation in eastern Ladakh, the emergency powers were devolved upon the free services under the emergency powers; we have undertaken 44 contracts worth about Rs 5,000 crore. Obviously these contracts were as a result of having to deal with this emerging situation. And in that manner, force modernisation is progressing. Also, I should have seen the reports just a couple of days ago. Okay, that the DSCS cleared certain very important projects apart from the naval project. We also have a Rs 6,000 crore project for the Indian Army specifically for air defence. So, all these things are very much works in progress. And I can assure you that modernization plans are on track.

Q: That›s a solid plan. The other topic that has been talked about a lot in the last two years is theatre commands. I understand that the CDS and DMA would be taking the charge but I want to understand from you as an Indian Army Chief that this must have taken some kind of progress as far as the theatre command planning is concerned. What has been the progress on that particular front?

A: The concept of theatre commands is not new. We have always felt that having integrated theatre commands would be very beneficial as far as having synergy between the three services is concerned. And through this synergy, bringing about much greater operational efficiencies. Although this idea has been there for some time, it is the creation of the appointment of the CDS which has really given an impetus to this. And the CDS and under this stewardship, three services had a number of deliberations, a recent one being just three or four days ago. Yes. And broadly, we have chalked out what we feel should be the architecture for these regional commands. And that is possibly going to be 2-3 theatre commands which are land-oriented and land-centric; one maritime and one Air Defence Command. So this is the broad architecture that we envision.

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Tanuj Virwani, who has won a lot of accolades for his role in ‘The Tattoo Murders’, recently joined NewsX for an exclusive interview as part of NewsX India A-List and opened up about his current projects and how the pandemic has been affecting him.

Tanuj Virwani is an actor and model, who has won a lot of accolades for his role in ‘The Tattoo Murders’ on Disney+Hotstar, and yet again he packed with a powerful role as ACP Aditya in ‘Murder Meri Jaan’ streaming on Disney + Hotstar alongside Barkha Singh. Along with being an actor he has shown a keen interest in direction and writing and has made several socially relevant short films. Tanuj recently joined NewsX for an exclusive interview as part of NewsX India A-List and talked about how his current projects and roles in it and how the pandemic has been affecting him.

When asked about what convinced the director and also him to do the role in his recent film ‘Tattoo Murders’, Tanuj shared with us, “If you propose that question in front of our director Shravan sir maybe he will ask what convinced Tanuj to do the role. It was sort of a perfect role because I think I was also itching to do something different. Since I have started getting work, I have been offered an array of roles such as after ‘Inside Edge’ I have been offered interesting projects. It was more urban in the treatment of how those characters lived, and I specifically felt that with the character of Prabhat Pratap on ‘Tattoo Murders’, it offered me the chance to do something drastically different and I like to experiment.”

“On this particular project, I did not have the sort of pressure to carry a shoot but I was okay to try something different because sometimes you will pass with flying colours and audience will embrace it or sometimes just mixed reactions. But if you don’t try, if you don’t take that first step into the water you will never know whether you can sink or swim. I think the OTT platform also largely should be credited because it really gives us as actors a lot more scope for experimentation, shoots and even films.”

When asked about how appealing the role was to him, the actor replied, “Absolutely, the one thing I am happy having seen the show entirely is that our director who is also one of the writers on the show was kind of able to read it in the authenticity that was present in the writing. Many times what happens is that things get lost in translation, you might read a script and whereas the whole story may appeal to you but when you see the way it’s finally done on the screen executed very differently. In this particular case, I feel Shravan sir has done an excellent job of maintaining the authenticity and it’s very raw and very edgy because there’s no sex involved in a lot of projects was involved shooting in real life which I think will be impossible during a pandemic but we finished shooting just before Covid has hit.”

When asked about his success with digital platforms, Tanuj said, “I think just the visibility of what OTT platform offers to actors like myself and many others in my position is insane. I still remember when I was signed on ‘Inside Edge’ and we were shooting back in 2016, a lot of us were very cautiously optimistic that we know we are making something cool and interesting but no one could have in their wildest dreams thought like the impact it could have. Today when you look at the entire landscape of entertainment in our country it has just shifted so dramatically and has given birth to so many wonderful actors and I consider myself very fortunate that I am an active actor at this point of my career who is getting these opportunities. I am just so glad that I listened to my instincts and it has given me even more confidence on going ahead to trust my instincts.”

While talking about his next upcoming movie, the actor shared with us and said, “The lineup seems to be very solid right now so I believe my next release would be a show called ‘Tandoor’ that is based on a Tandoor murder case that happened in Delhi in 1995 and I am portraying the role of the person who was responsible for it and it’s a miracle to get that on Covid situation. I have got another show coming up with Barkha Singh so I am looking forward to it as it has given me another opportunity to do other works. There is one upcoming project which I am passionate about with the mafia in Bombay city because it’s again a very different kind of project.”

When asked how the actor himself has adjusted to the pandemic situation, Tanuj revealed, “Everybody collectively put our guards down and we are in a probably worst situation than from last year. I would like to say is that we all have been redirecting for the last year about social distancing, sanitisation and wearing masks and hence I request viewers to take of themselves and others around especially those who are vulnerable. It has been frustrating for me also but whenever I put on television I consider myself extremely fortunate and grateful to be in the position that I am and there is so much to look forward to in life and I am sure few years from now when we will look back at this as learning curve thinking and how we lived through it and we survived.”

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Cryptocurrencies: Regulation is the constructive way forward



Is the wave of cryptocurrency a destructive tsunami that shall annihilate the financial system or a lucrative opportunity that ought to be pushed towards profitable shores? Given that the first cryptocurrency, bitcoin, traded at $0.08 when it was created in 2009, even after accounting for its significant fluctuations, its current value of $35,876, is enough to make jaws drop and eyes roll. 

What makes cryptocurrency so valuable despite it having no intrinsic value? Top cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum and Bitcoin trade at amounts that are unthinkable for an intangible piece of code. While this can be baffling, on deeper scrutiny, print money’s valuation is equally without any intrinsic value. Once the gold standard was removed in the 1930s as a basis to value fiat currency, the central bank of a country was effectively the sole determinator of its value. So the RBI dictates the value of the Rupee and if it decides to devalue it against the dollar or print more money, it can easily do so. However, there is still a level of stability associated with the value of the rupee owing to several factors on the demand and the centralised nature of its regulation, as is true of most fiat currency from stable economies. On the other hand, it begs the question of whether a currency whose value can fluctuate from $58,000 to $30,000 on an Elon Musk tweet can be said to have any level of stability.  

The value of cryptocurrency is derived from demand and supply, media forecasts and finite coin mining. Being platformed on blockchain technology and a decentralised distributed ledger system it has no central authority which approves and maintains a record of the database and determines its value. Despite the banking system being one of the oldest institutions backed by the Central government, the absence of an intermediary has not stalled the growth of cryptocurrencies because it has developed on a peer to peer network, being freely tradable by individuals and vesting control directly into the hands of the owner. Its convertibility into fiat currency is also at the behest of individuals who, through exchanges, are perfectly happy accepting it as tender which constitutes a discharge of debt. 

Moving forward, there is great uncertainty about the place of cryptocurrencies in the formal economy on account of the concerns of the state-regulated banking system. Lately, the Chinese government, amongst others, has vowed to crackdown on crypto-exchanges amidst growing leakages from their financial system. El Salvador, in stark contrast, became the first country to formally introduce cryptocurrency in its financial system and recognise it as legal tender. Several countries stand between these two extremes and recognise cryptocurrency in a limited capacity by regulating its use. India is at such an inflection point and must decide which path to follow. 

As with most significant technological developments, India viewed cryptocurrency with scepticism but did little about it from 2008 till sometime in 2018, when the RBI decided to come out with a circular that disallowed banks from allowing persons to trade in cryptocurrency. That step was taken without the legislature disallowing trade in cryptocurrency, so it effectively never made cryptocurrency illegal but created a surrogate ban for its official trade. The result was cryptocurrency exchanges relocating themselves outside of India and those wanting to trade in cryptocurrency proceeding to do it from outside the country. The RBI’s circular was struck down by the Supreme Court in its judgment in Internet and Mobile Association of India v RBI, which meant that crypto-currency, never considered illegal in India, could be traded and conversions into fiat currency done through the formal banking channel. However, as with most things, matters did not end with the Supreme Court’s decision. The recent experience with cross border trade in cryptocurrency in violation of foreign exchange guidelines served as another important reminder that regulation, and not prohibition, is the way forward. The cryptocurrency exchange WazirX was put on notice by the Enforcement Directorate for the alleged violation of foreign exchange laws. 

Rather than a blanket or a surrogate ban, acknowledging that the Indian authorities are well within their rights to prosecute the unauthorised and illegal use of cryptocurrency is the way to serve all stakeholders and is better in the long run, even from a tax collection standpoint. Allowing interested traders to access the market through legitimate and regulated means would help negate many of the worries associated with cryptocurrency transactions. Banning cryptocurrency is likely to further incentivise investment through the black market thereby leading to even more leakages from the formal economy. 

India can take several cues from beyond its borders on how to approach the regulation of cryptocurrency. The European Union, while cautioning against the dangers of cryptocurrencies, has permitted its use by regulating it. Cryptocurrency trading is also permitted in the USA, UK, Canada, Brazil and Russia, amongst others. For example, in the USA, people who trade in cryptocurrencies must follow centralised regulations and must register with accredited bodies to enforce anti-money laundering programs, keep appropriate records and make reports to FinCEN. With the active monitoring of such reports, it is possible to regulate the entire market holistically to avoid funding criminal activities such as terrorism. 

With carefully crafted safeguards most of these concerns can be tamed. The potential for cryptocurrencies to destabilise the system can be addressed by simple checks such as permitting trading only through exchanges and limiting deposits and withdrawals. By placing limits on the volume of sales and purchases as a percentage of the total holding, the volatility can be controlled in the same manner as the stock market. That said, while there have been talks of cryptocurrency regulation in India and several policy papers, they have not materialised into a proper regulation. A bill in Parliament proposes criminal penalties for mining, holding, selling, trading, issuance, disposal, or use of cryptocurrency and at the same time introduces the Digital Rupee as the RBI backed digital currency. However, that was followed by a ministerial press statement that suggested that even if the bill was tabled for the RBI to launch a Digital Rupee, it would not criminalise cryptocurrency. That bill is yet to be tabled. Further, high echelons of the government and in particular the Finance Ministry have made positive statements to the media on the subject, which shines a bright ray of hope, but not without the usual policy surprises.  

The question is whether India wants to follow China or embrace the winds of change with strong controls that are in sync with the liberal free-market economy. By embracing new technologies in our democratic and progressive nation, the twin objective of strengthening the dream of a digital India and not missing on the Blockchain revolution will become a reality. Gautam Buddha’s adage holds true even in today’s world: “Change is never painful, only resistance is.” There is no reason for India to impose a complete ban. Appropriate regulation and taxation are the tools to introduce it within the system for safe and legal use.

Nakul Dewan is a Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Barrister, Twenty Essex, Singapore and London. Nakul was the lead counsel who successfully argued against the RBI’s cryptocurrency ban in Internet and Mobile Association of India v RBI. Avishkar Singhvi is an Independent Advocate, Supreme Court of India. The views expressed are personal.

By embracing new technologies in our democratic and progressive nation, the twin objective of strengthening the dream of a digital India and not missing on the Blockchain revolution will become a reality. Gautam Buddha’s adage holds true even in today’s world: “Change is never painful, only resistance is.” There is no reason for India to impose a complete ban on cryptocurrency. Appropriate regulation and taxation are the tools to introduce it within the system for safe and legal use.

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Shweta Verma




In the latest development on actress Kangana Ranaut’s plea seeking passport renewal, the Bombay high court on Tuesday refused an urgent hearing on the plea which seeks directions to the authorities to renew her passport, which expires in September. According to the actress, she has to travel to Hungary for the shooting of a film. The renewal has allegedly been denied over a sedition case against her. The court has called the application vague and also said Kangana was not wide awake to mention all details. She also did not cover the authorities as a party. The high court noted Ranaut in her application had sought relief only for herself but her sister’s name Rangoli Chandel was also mentioned as an applicant. The bench accordingly granted advocate Siddiquee the liberty to amend the application and to implement the Passport Authority as a party by the end of the day. The court allowed Kangana Ranaut to amend the application and posted the hearing in the matter on June 25.

The bench dismissed Ranaut’s advocate Siddiquee’s request for an earlier date of hearing. Siddiquee said Ranaut needed to travel out of India for the shooting of her film whose schedule had been fixed for later this week. The HC, however, said June 25 was the earliest date it could assign for the hearing.

“It is just a film. The schedule can be changed. First of all, the application is vague. If she was so vigilant, she could have approached the court with all details in advance. It is just a matter of one week, a film production takes over a year. June 25 is the earliest date we can give,” the judges said.

In her application filed on Monday, Ranaut had said she needed to travel to Budapest this month for the shooting of her upcoming film ‘Dhakkad’ and thus, needed her passport renewed.

The FIR was registered against Ranaut and her sister, Rangoli Chandel, in October 2020 on a magistrate’s order for allegedly creating communal disharmony through their statements and tweets. The Bandra police registered an FIR against Kangana Ranaut and her sister under IPC sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc), 295A (deliberate acts hurting religious sentiments), and 124-A (sedition).

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The Andhra Pradesh Government has decided to make ‘English Medium’ compulsory across all Government, Private Aided and Unaided Degree colleges in the state from the academic year 2021-22. The Department of Higher Education of Andhra Pradesh strongly feels that the introduction of English medium education at the UG level would enhance the career prospects of graduates. According to the findings in the India Skills Report of 2019, English figured among the top three skills, along with learning agility and adaptability, that employers look for in India.

Out of nearly 2.62 Lakh students who have taken admissions into degree colleges across the state, only 65,981 students are admitted into Telugu medium background during 2020-21. Out of 65981 Telugu medium students, 24007, 16925, and 24960 have enrolled themselves in BA,, and BSc courses respectively. This particular decision is bound to immensely benefit these students as well.

A 2016 report of Cambridge University titled ‘Findings of English at Work: Global analysis of language skills in workplace’ highlights that about 90% of employers look for in India say that English language skills are important for their organization.

A majority of BSc students have been seen to have taken up opportunities across the country, and in some cases abroad. Considering, this proficiency in the English language becomes essential for opening up new avenues for the students and ensuring their career growth.

Data proves that a large number of BA graduates prefer getting into sales and marketing, apart from journalism and research. Keeping in mind, the fact that most companies have started to prefer multilingual candidates and the emphasis on English, it is essential that the students pursue their UG in English medium.

Moreover, With the advent of top-notch technology, the commerce industry has become highly dynamic, fast-paced and algorithm/software-oriented in the last two decades. Therefore, the English language serves as an essential tool for professionals in the industry who are in the process of becoming highly successful.

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SC adjourns IUML plea challenging MHA notification on citizenship by two weeks

Ashish Sinha



On Tuesday, the Supreme Court said it would hear after two weeks a plea challenging the Centre’s notification inviting non-Muslims belonging to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan and residing in 13 districts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, and Punjab to apply for Indian citizenship.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the IUML, requested a vacation bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian to grant two weeks to respond to the counter-affidavit filed by the Central Government on Monday.

The Union Home Ministry on Monday filed an affidavit before the top court stated that the notification issued in May has nothing to do with the Citizens Amendment Act. The Union Home Ministry has stated that it has issued similar notices five times in the past.

“The notification dated 28 May 2021 seeks to merely delegate the power of the Central Government to the local authorities in particular cases. The said notification does not provide for any relaxations to the foreigners and applies only to foreigner who have entered the country legally as the Central Government used its authority under Section 16 of the Citizenship Act and delegated its powers to grant citizenship by Registration or Naturalisation to District Collectors,” the MHA submitted.

The MHA in its affidavit further said that such citizenship-granting power, in effect delegation of power, in respect of “minority Hindus with Pakistani citizenship” who had migrated to India five years back was also delegated to Collectors of all the Districts in the State of Rajasthan.

MHA also said that initially, this delegation of powers of Central Government to District Collectors of Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Home Secretary of Gujarat State were only for one year.

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) had also filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the Centre’s move to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees in thirteen districts in five states.

The petition had been filed in the Supreme Court by League General Secretary PK Kunhalikutty challenging the amendment to the Citizenship Act.

The League wants the notification issued by the Central Government inviting applications for citizenship to be stayed immediately.

The plea also said that the two provisions read together do not permit the classification of applicants on the ground of religion and therefore the order goes beyond what is permitted by the provision itself.

The order does not withstand the test of Article 14 in as much as it treats people within a particular class i.e. persons entitled to apply for citizenship by registration and naturalisation unequally by virtue of their religion, the plea added.

The Petitioner further said that the concept of granting citizenship to persons based on religion was introduced vide the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, and the impugned order and rules as challenged in the present writ.

The said act is against Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution and violative of the basic structure of the Constitution, the plea added.

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Abhijit Bhatt



The Love Jihad (Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act) Act has been implemented in Gujarat on Tuesday. The act was passed in the recently concluded budget session of the Assembly and was approved by Governor Acharya Devvrat recently. About two months ago, the Minister of State for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja introduced the Freedom of Religion Reform Bill 2021 in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly. The notification was issued by the government after the approval of Governor Acharya Devvrat.

After Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat becomes the third state to implement this law.

The Gujarat government has mentioned a penalty of up to 5 years and a fine of up to Rs 2 lakh for those who would violate this law, while there would be a sentence of 7 years and a fine of Rs 3 lakh for the crime if a minor is involved. In addition to this, provision has been made for 7 years for offenses against women belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Legal action will also be taken against those who help the individuals who are committing the crime. In some cases, it will also become a non-bailable offense. A special provision has also been made that an officer below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police cannot investigate this. The new section 4 provides for punishment in connection with the sole purpose of converting a person by getting him married or helping him to get married.

The unlawful conversion would be a non-bailable offense if the offense is proved to be committed against the institution and organization of the marriage.

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