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Times Top10: Today’s Top News Headlines and Latest News from India & across the World

5 THINGS FIRST

PM Modi on two-day visit to Gujarat, to lay foundations of Rs 29,000-cr projects; Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to visit forward areas in Arunachal Pradesh; In SC: Gautam Navlakha’s plea seeking house arrest instead of judicial custody in the Elgar-Parishad case; Varanasi district court hearing in Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri case; UN Security Council meeting on Libya

1. Lest India see ‘a reign of terror’…
1. Lest India see ‘a reign of terror’...
  • PFI banned: The Centre declared the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its associates — specifically naming eight — as “unlawful association” under the UAPA on Wednesday for a period of five years.
  • Who all banned: The eight PFI “associates, affiliates or fronts” are Rehab India Foundation, Campus Front of India, All India Imams Council, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation, National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation, Kerala.
  • Who wanted a ban: The governments of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat had recommended banning PFI and its fronts.
  • Why: The government said the PFI was involved in the terrorist activities with an intent to create a reign of terror in India and it disrespected and disregarded the constitutional authority and sovereignty of the State. More reasons here
  • Terror link: The Centre said leaders of banned outfits like Students Islamic Movement of India and Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh were founding fathers of the PFI. It also said the PFI had links with outfits like ISIS.
  • Primed by raids: The ban comes days after the NIA, the ED and state police forces conducted a nationwide coordinated crackdown against the PFI over suspected terror activities, terror funding, terror training and radicalisation of vulnerable persons.
  • And arrests: Hundreds of PFI leaders and cadres have been arrested over the past few days as part of the multi-agency, multi-state swoop.
  • More action: The Income Tax Department has cancelled the registration granted to PFI and Rehab India Foundation as the sources of deposits on behalf of the PFI were not supported by the financial profiles of the account holders, and the activities of PFI were not being carried out as per their declared objectives.
  • The PFI dissolved its organisation following the ban, said outfit’s Abdul Sattar in a statement. More on ban here
2. India gets a new military boss…finally
2. India gets a new military boss…finally
  • Lt Gen Anil Chauhan (retd), a former eastern Army commander and director general of military operations, was on Wednesday appointed as India’s new Chief of Defence Staff, more than nine months after the post fell vacant following the death of Gen Bipin Rawat.
  • Additional role: Sixty-one-year-old Chauhan will also function as secretary, the Department of Military Affairs, with effect from the date of his assumption of charge, the defence ministry said.
  • Career highlights: In a career spanning over nearly 40 years, Chauhan held several command, staff and instrumental appointments and had extensive experience in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast India. He retired from the service in May last year.
  • NDA alumnus: Lt Gen Anil Chauhan was commissioned into the 11 Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army in 1981. He is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla and Indian Military Academy, Dehradun.
  • A decorated officer: For his distinguished and illustrious service in the Army, Lt General Chauhan (retired) was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Sena Medal and Vishisht Seva Medal.
  • Rawat’s successor: Gen Rawat, who died in a helicopter crash on December 8 last year, had taken charge as India’s first CDS with a mandate to bring convergence in the functioning of the Army, the Navy and the Indian Air Force and bolster the country’s overall military prowess.
  • Theatre commands: Another key mandate of the CDS was to facilitate the restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through the establishment of theatre commands.
  • Rules tweaked: In June, the government amended rules paving the way for appointment of any serving or retired Lt General, Air Marshal and Vice Admiral under the age of 62 to the post of CDS. More details here
3. Let the poll sops season begin!
3. Let the poll sops season begin!
  • Oh dear! Just ahead of Diwali and the upcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the Central government hiked the Dearness Allowance (DA) for its 47.7 lakh central government employees by 4%, which will take the total DA to 38% of the basic pay. Simultaneously, the Centre also hiked the Dearness Relief (DR) for 68.6 lakh pensioners by 4%.
  • Hikes galore: This is the fourth hike in DA in a little over one year, from July 2021, when the DA was increased from 17% to 28%, after the rate hike was stopped in 2020 in wake of Covid-19. Rates were again hiked in October last year when the Centre increased the DA from 28% to 31%, followed by another hike of 3% in March earlier this year which was effective from January 1, 2022.
  • The cost: The increase, which is in line with the recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission, will be effective retrospectively from July 1, 2022. While the additional financial implication on account of the hike in DA will be Rs 6,591.36 crore per annum — though for this fiscal, it will Rs 4,394.24 crore (for 8 months from July, 2022 to February, 2023) — in the case of DR, the increased outgo will be Rs 12,852.56 crore per annum and Rs 8,568.36 crore in the current financial year.
  • More freebies: The Centre also extended by three months, till December 31 this year, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) for providing free rations — 5kg of rice and wheat every month — to 80 crore poor people. This is the sixth extension for the PMGKAY which was first launched in April 2020 and was set to end tomorrow. The extension will entail an additional cost of Rs 44,762 crore, taking the cumulative expenditure under PMGKAY to Rs 3.91 lakh crore.
  • Facelift: The Centre will also spend Rs 10,000 crore for the redevelopment of the New Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus railway stations. The redesigned stations’ buildings will be built on both sides of the railway tracks to enable access from both sides of the city, according to the Railway Ministry.
4. A substitute found for Gehlot to run against Tharoor?
4. A substitute found for Gehlot to run against Tharoor?
  • Tharoor versus who? While Shashi Tharoor is almost certain to run for the Congress president, it is not yet clear who he would be contesting against in the October 17-election. Tharoor is likely to file his nomination on September 30, the last day to file election papers. His rival, with speculated backing of the Gandhis, may also file his nomination the same day.
  • But who’s Gehlot’s replacement? He has not confirmed it but Gehlot-like Gandhi family loyalist Digvijaya Singh has emerged as a replacement for the rebel Rajasthan CM for the Congress presidential election.
  • Why Digvijaya: He was in Kerala on Wednesday for Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. Though he denied having “discussed with anybody” saying, “I have not sought permission [to contest election] from the high command.” After spending time with Rahul, Digvijaya has meetings planned in Delhi — including a possible audience with party president Sonia Gandhi.
  • Rajasthan awaits a decision: Gehlot continued to delay his meeting with Sonia in Delhi, with reports from Jaipur saying that the CM was unlikely to vacate the chair on his own. Apparently, Gehlot has kept Sonia waiting for three days. He is likely to meet Sonia today. Some reports also indicated that the Gandhis may defer the Rajasthan CM decision until they have a clarity on the next Congress president.
  • More names doing rounds: Two more family loyalists are said to be in consideration of the Gandhis — Kamal met Sonia on Tuesday, AK Antony met her on Wednesday. Both have, however, brushed off the speculation on their candidatures.
  • Will Gandhis retain the post? Rahul is said to be adamant on not returning as the Congress president. Sonia is also said to have refused to continue in her present role. With Rahul prevailing, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is also out of contention. All updates here
X-PLAINED
7. Why depleting forex is reminding experts of 2008 crisis
7. Why depleting forex is reminding experts of 2008 crisis
  • Forex status: A strengthening dollar has not only weakened the rupee to its lowest ever position but has taken a huge toll on the foreign exchange reserves of India. To cover for the rupee, the RBI has drawn down its foreign exchange reserves by nearly $100 billion — from a peak of $642 billion to $545 billion in a year.
  • More to come: Forex reserves may fall another $23 billion to $523 billion by end-2022, a Reuters poll found. That would be the lowest level in over two years.
  • Why talk 2008: Forecasts were in a $500-540 billion range. That suggests the RBI will run down forex reserves at a rate last seen during the global financial crisis of 2008, when they fell over 20%.
  • Steeper than 2013: India has already burnt reserves at a much quicker pace than during the taper-tantrum period in 2013, when the US Federal Reserve suddenly cut government bond purchases.
  • An ailing rupee: Despite regular interventions, the rupee has depreciated nearly 10% against the dollar this year. It hit a record low of 81.95 per dollar on Wednesday before closing at 81.93.
  • Reasons: The RBI’s continued defence of a sliding rupee against the mighty dollar’s rise is the principal reason. The drawdown is partly due to the RBI lagging the US Fed with interest rate hikes.
  • The Fed has raised rates by 300 basis points from near-zero in March to 3.00%-3.25%, and is expected to do 150 basis points more over the coming months.
  • The RBI started following suit only in May, and has raised the repo rate by just 140 basis points. It is expected to hike by a mere 60 basis points more in this cycle, with 50 due this week. More here
6. ‘Is it just an academic exercise?’
6. ‘Is it just an academic exercise?’
The Supreme Court said on Wednesday it will examine if the challenge to the Centre’s 2016 demonetisation decision has become a mere “academic exercise”, and posted it for consideration on October 12.

Petitions

  • The top court was hearing a batch of 58 petitions challenging the BJP-led Centre’s November 8, 2016 decision to demonetise currency notes of denomination of Rs 500 and Rs 1000.
  • As the hearing commenced, a constitution bench headed by Justice S A Nazeer wondered if the matter survives for consideration at this stage.

Centre’s submission

  • Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, submitted that for all practical purposes the matter does not survive for consideration. However, the case can be examined as an academic exercise, he said.

SC responds…

  • “A five-judge bench for academic exercise when we are already burdened with such a large amount of pendency?” the court wondered before posting the matter for hearing on October 12.
  • On December 16, 2016, a bench headed by then Chief Justice TS Thakur had referred the question of the validity of the decision and other issues to a larger bench of five judges for authoritative pronouncement.
8. Putin set to annex a Portugal-size territory
8. Putin set to annex a Portugal-size territory
  • Russia is poised to formally annex a swathe of Ukrainian territory the size of Portugal after referendums there reportedly endorsed Moscow’s rule even as Kyiv and the West denounced the exercise as illegal sham voting held at gunpoint.
  • The results: Pro-Moscow administrations of all four occupied regions of southern and eastern Ukraine said Tuesday night that their residents voted to join Russia in five days of Kremlin-orchestrated balloting.
  • Polling percentage: 93% of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported annexation, as did 87% in the Kherson region, 98% in the Luhansk region and 99% in Donetsk, according to Russian-installed officials.
  • Annexation: President Vladimir Putin could proclaim the annexation in a speech within days, just over a week since he ordered a military mobilisation at home and threatened to defend Russia with nuclear weapons if necessary.
  • Western countries, however, dismissed the ballots as a meaningless pretence staged by Moscow in an attempt to legitimise its invasion of Ukraine launched on February 24. The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said late Tuesday that Washington would propose a UN Security Council resolution to condemn Russia’s “sham” vote.
  • More sanctions? Ukraine’s foreign ministry blasted the ballots as “a propaganda show” and “null and worthless.” It asked the EU, NATO and the Group of Seven major industrial nations to “immediately and significantly” step up pressure on Russia through new sanctions, and significantly increase their military aid to Ukraine.
9. How long does it take to decide on a mercy plea?
9. How long does it take to decide on a mercy plea?
The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday berated the Centre for its dilly-dallying in deciding on the mercy petition of death row convict Balwant Singh Rajoana in the assassination case of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh.

Why’s SC angry?

  • At its last hearing on May 2, the court had ordered the Centre to decide on Rajoana’s mercy plea within two months without being influenced by the fact that appeals of the other convicts in the assassination case are still pending.
  • The apex court had rejected the objections raised by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), filed in an affidavit on April 30 that it couldn’t decide on Rajoana’s plea as it has been filed by another organisation and not by the convict himself and also because appeals by other convicts were pending in the SC.
  • “We gave you two months. And now, two more months have passed. You raised two technical issues. We told you please don’t wait for that. He is not interested in filing appeal,” the SC noted and adjourned the matter till tomorrow.

What Rajaona wants

  • Rajoana, who interestingly has not challenged either his conviction or the sentence, both in the high court and SC, filed his writ petition in 2020, seeking implementation of the Centre’s 2019 decision to commute his death sentence and grant remission to eight other convicts on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES
Answer to NEWS IN CLUES

Taj Mahal. The World Heritage Site was the most visited ticketed Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) site for domestic tourists in 2021-22, with 3.29 million domestic visitors. The Taj Mahal, whose name was appropriated by former US President Donald Trump for one his hotels, which was named Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, stands 73 metres tall while the Qutub Minar is 72.5 metres tall. Its colour keeps changing during the day due to the Sun’s position relative to the Earth.

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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Tejeesh Nippun Singh, Jayanta Kalita, Prabhash K Dutta
Research: Rajesh Sharma

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