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Mar 19, 2018 10:31 PM IST | Source:

News highlights of the day: White House says Trump not considering firing Mueller

This blog will keep track of key global and local developments impacting business and markets through the day. Important local and global political developments will also find resonance here.

  • Mar 19, 09:04 PM (IST)

    White House says Trump not considering firing Mueller

    President Donald Trump is not considering firing the special counsel investigating Russian election interference, a top White House lawyer said after a cascade of Trump tweets revived chatter that the deeply frustrated president may be preparing to get rid of the veteran prosecutor.

    The late-Sunday statement from White House lawyer Ty Cobb came after top congressional Republicans warned of repercussions if Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into contacts between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia and Russian meddling in the presidential election.

    In a series of weekend tweets, Trump jabbed directly at Mueller by name for the first time. The president challenged the investigation's existence and suggested political bias on the part of Mueller's investigators. Trump has long been frustrated by the lengthy and intensifying probe and insists his campaign did not collude with Russia to influence the election in his favour. (PTI)

  • Mar 19, 10:31 PM (IST)

    That's all for today, readers. Thanks for staying on with our coverage of the day's action. Your enthusiasm encourages us to better our coverage every day. Do come back tomorrow for more news, views and insights.

  • Mar 19, 10:28 PM (IST)

    No revision in intake of medical officers in the military: Parliamentary panel

    A parliamentary panel has said there has been no periodic revision in the intake of medical officers and specialists by the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS), despite a shortage.

    In a Committee of Estimates report on the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme, the defence ministry has said that although the annual intake from the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) is 130 (105 males, 25 females), a sanction for an intake of 140 exists since 1999. The committee noted that "there has been no periodic upward revision in the sanctioned intake from the AFMS". The actual annual intake from the AFMC was only 130 as against the sanctioned intake of 140 since 1999, it added. (PTI)

  • Mar 19, 10:12 PM (IST)

    Kapil Sibal accepts Kejriwal's apology in Vodafone tax revision case

    Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Monday accepted the apology of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy over the charges levelled against him and his son in Vodafone tax revision case.

    "Today, Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia have accepted that all the charges (levelled) were baseless. He apologised for this. We have accepted the apology. We do not want to fight with anyone," Sibal told reporters.

    In a complaint filed by Sibal's son Amit Sibal in 2013, it was alleged that Kejriwal, Sisodia, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Shazia Ilmi, who was then an AAP member, had targeted him and his father over the Vodafone tax revision case. (PTI)

  • Mar 19, 09:57 PM (IST)

    Government ropes in Airbnb to promote tourism in Northeast

    The Centre on Monday inked four MoUs with the US-based hospitality major Airbnb under the aegis of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) to promote tourism and generate technology-enabled livelihood opportunities in the north-eastern region of the country.​

    DoNER Minister Jitendra Singh said the MoUs were a step towards achieving the goal of doubling the tourist growth rate in the Northeast in the next three years by creating more sustainable accommodation options and enhancing the hospitality service standards in the region.

    Development of the region is of prime importance for the overall inclusive growth of India and tourism development has always been one of the government's key focus areas, keeping in mind the region's natural beauty and cultural heritage, he said at the event. (PTI)

  • Mar 19, 09:40 PM (IST)

    RSS believes in non-violence and truth: Mohan Bhagwat

    The RSS believes in Hindutva which has truth and non-violence as its core values about which Mahatma Gandhi, B R Ambedkar and Vivekananda had spoken, its chief Mohan Bhagwat has said.

    However, if required, one should fight to protect the core values of Hindutva, he said. "We consider Hindutva as only one. It is the set of values which we believe in. It is the same one about which Vivekananda, Subhas Chandra Bose, Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur, Babasaheb Ambedkar have spoken," he said in an interview with weekly magazine Organiser.

    Replying to a question about portraying Hindu religion in two different narratives--one as Hinduism and the other as Hindutva--Bhagwat said RSS considers Hindutva as the one and only narrative. While underlining that the RSS believes in truth and non-violence is the core values of Hindutva, Bhagwat, however, said, "If somebody is attacking or indirectly killing the truth and non-violence we believe in, then to protect those values we will have to fight."

  • Mar 19, 09:23 PM (IST)

    Odisha to keep up demand for special category status in House

    The Odisha government will target the Centre on a number of issues, including the demand for special category state status to Odisha, during the budget session of the Odisha Assembly scheduled to begin on Tuesday. The ruling BJD also said that it was ready to face the opposition attack and discuss major issues in the house.
    "We will discuss various issues like the demand for special category status to the state, Mahanadi river water tribunal, Polavaram and other important matters during the budget session of the Assembly," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters after the BJD legislature party meeting. The BJD would also raise issues like non-revision of minimum support price (MSP) on paddy and rejection of the demand to create three new railway divisions under the East Coast Railway (ECoR), a senior party leader said. (PTI)

  • Mar 19, 08:55 PM (IST)

    No decision yet on compensating students for 'error' in Class X English paper: CBSE

    The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) today said it has not yet decided on providing compensation to Class X students for an alleged error in the English question paper.

    Teachers and students have been claiming that the paper held on March 12 had certain errors in the comprehension passage section. The passage section of the paper where students were expected to find synonyms of 'endurance, obstruction and motivation' in paragraphs two, four and five, respectively had its answers in paras three and six. Certain typos also led to confusion among students, an online petition started by a group of students said.

    Reports were doing round that the board has decided to compensate students for the "error", however, the board officials clarified that no decision has been taken yet. (PTI)

  • Mar 19, 08:43 PM (IST)

    Haryana government to seek CAG audit of medical purchases after INLD allegations

    The Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana today decided to seek a special CAG audit of medical purchases in state-run hospitals following allegations of irregularities levelled by the opposition INLD yesterday.

    Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij said the state government had distributed Rs 87.60 crore under the Mukhyamantri Muft Ilaaj Yojana and National Health Mission from 2014 to 2017, of which only Rs 40.89 crore was spent. The Minister told reporters that it was recommended that a special audit conducted by the comptroller and auditor general be done for all districts of the state.

    He said the state government would write to the CAG to conduct a "special audit" into all the purchases concerning medical items at the district level by the officials of the health department in the past over three years.

    "If any irregularity is found, strict action would be initiated against the officer concerned. Apart from this, all civil surgeons have been directed to purchase online products available on the Government-e-Marketplace portal of the central government," he said. (PTI)

  • Mar 19, 08:30 PM (IST)

    WTO chief expresses concerns over increasing protectionism

    Expressing concerns over rising protectionism in developed countries, especially in the US which has imposed high import duties on steel and aluminium, WTO chief Roberto Azevedo today called upon the member nations to come together and resolve the issues related to global trade.

    The WTO (World Trade Organization) Director General, who is here for a mini ministerial meeting called by India, said that encouraging trends in global trade such as rising export orders and volumes could be jeopardised by protectionist measures.

    He was speaking at an industry interaction here organised by Azevedo, according to the CII statement, pointed "to rising risks to this positive outlook with recent incidents of increased protectionist moves by members".

    He cited the recent tariff increases by the US for steel and aluminium among other protectionist measures by other countries.

  • Mar 19, 07:10 PM (IST)

    SRA, MHADA redevelopment to be brought under Maharahstra RERA, says Minister

    The redevelopment of existing slums and MHADA buildings will soon be brought under the regulations of the Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority, state Housing Development Minister Prakash Mehta said today.

    He was replying in the Legislative Assembly to a calling attention motion by BJP MLA from Dharavi, R Tamil Selvan.

    Dharavi is dominated by slum clusters and has several buildings that have been constructed by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA).

    As per rules, slums are redeveloped by builders under SRA guidelines and comprise a saleable portion, for fresh buyers, apart from homes meant for rehabilitating slumdwellers.

    "This decision will impact the lives of at least 50-55 per cent of the population of Mumbai. Almost 41 per cent people live in slums as per the 2011 census. There are also 104 major colonies of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) in the city," a senior housing department official said.

  • Mar 19, 06:58 PM (IST)

    Indo-French naval exercise 'Varuna-18' begins off Goa coast

    The French Navy's anti-submarine frigate, Jean de Vienne, the Indian Navy's destroyer, INS Mumbai, and frigate INS Trikand are among the vessels participating in the exercise.

    The Indian Navy's submarine, Kalvari, P8-1 and Dornier maritime patrol aircraft and MiG 29K fighter aircraft are also participating in the exercise.

    The first phase of the exercise, which commenced today, will conclude on March 24, a Defence official said.

    The second phase will be held off the Chennai coast in April and the third near the La Reunion Island in May.
    India and France will explore the measures to facilitate operational-level interactions between their respective armed forces and increase mutual cooperation, considering the common global threats, the official added.

    Rear Admiral M A Hampiholi, Flag Officer Commander, Western Fleet of the Indian Navy, said "Varuna-18" would be conducted in three sea areas, including the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and South Western Indian Ocean.

  • Mar 19, 06:39 PM (IST)

    TADA court extends Dawood aide Farooq Takla's CBI custody till March 28

    A Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court here today extended the CBI custody of fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's aide Yasin Mansoor Mohamed Farooq alias Farooq Takla till March 28.

    Takla, an accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, had earlier been remanded to the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) custody till today.

    During today's hearing, the CBI prayed for Takla's custody to be extended, saying it needed time to verify the statements he made during the interrogation.

    The agency also claimed that Takla was not cooperating in the probe.

    Takla was arrested at an immigration counter of New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport earlier this month.

    The charges against him include criminal conspiracy, murder, attempt to murder and voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means.

    Takla had fled the country after the 1993 Mumbai blasts, in which 257 people were killed.

  • Mar 19, 06:24 PM (IST)

    Meant no disrespect to any individual or group: Clinton on her India remarks

    Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who faced flak for her controversial comments recently in India about how women voters in 2016 presidential elections were more swayed by men, says she meant no disrespect to any individual or group.

    In a lengthy Facebook post, Clinton referred to her remarks at the India Today Conclave in Mumbai, saying her comments "in passing about women "unfortunately" being more swayed by men in the 2016 Presidential elections got a lot of "negative attention."

    "I was also asked about women, specifically white women, the majority of whom have not voted for Democrats in recent history. I did better with them than previous Democratic nominees, but still lost them overall to a candidate who relies on scare tactics and false attacks, masking the fact that he is otherwise no friend to most Americans," the 70-year-old former presidential candidate said in the post.

    She said her comments that there is anecdotal evidence and some research to suggest that "women are unfortunately more swayed by men than the other way around" received negative feedback from various quarters.

    "I understand how some of what I said upset people and can be misinterpreted. I meant no disrespect to any individual or group. And I want to look to the future as much as anybody," she said in the post.

  • Mar 19, 06:12 PM (IST)

    No interim order on facilities at Rohingya refugee camps: SC

    The Supreme Court today favoured the Centre's submission that no interim order should be passed on pleas to grant certain facilities to Rohingya refugees as it would grab 'media headlines' and have repercussions on India's diplomatic ties with Myanmar and Bangladesh.

    The top court said it will not pass any interim order with regard to ensuring health and educational facilities for Rohingya refugee camps in the country unless materials contradicting the Centre's claims are brought before it.

    "Lordship should not pass any interim orders for media headlines. All my statements are on affidavit and I represent Government of India and the interests of India," Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.
    Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said any order passed may have repercussions on India's diplomatic relations with Myanmar and Bangladesh.

    "I cannot place before this Court the diplomatic solutions that are being worked out. The diplomatic decisions are taken at the highest level and are not for public consumption. These are the decisions taken at the top executive level. Government is alive to the situation prevailing at the Rohingya refugee camps," Mehta said.

    He also questioned the bonafides and motives of the NGOs and individuals seeking facilities for the Rohingya refugees and said the government has already said on affidavit that no discrimination between Indians and outsiders was being done in providing health and education facilities.

  • Mar 19, 06:03 PM (IST)

    Trump campaign firm harvested Facebook data 'horrifying': EU

    The EU said reports that a firm hired by the Trump election campaign harvested the Facebook data of millions of users is "horrifying" and Europe must do everything to protect its own citizens.

    EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said she would seek clarification from Facebook about the reports by the New York Times and The Observer when she visits the United States this week.

    Cambridge Analytica, the data analysis firm hired by Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, stole information from 50 million Facebook users' profiles to help design software to predict and influence voters' choices, according to the news reports.

    "Horrifying, if confirmed," Jourova, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, tweeted before travelling to the United States on Monday.

    Her shock was over how the personal data of 50 million Facebook users "could be so easily mishandled and used for political purpose!," Jourova said.

    "We don't want this in the EU and will take all possible legal measures including the stricter data protection rules and stronger enforcement granted by #GDPR," she said.

    The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force on May 25 in a bid to protect users' online privacy.

  • Mar 19, 05:54 PM (IST)

    DoT says no new bank guarantee from Axis Bank to be accepted

    Telecom department has ordered that bank guarantees from Axis Bank should not be taken as the country's third-largest private sector lender had failed to honour a guarantee issued previously.
    The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in a March 16 office memorandum titled 'non-adherence to contractual obligation of bank guarantees by Axis Bank' said no new bank guarantee from the lender should be accepted.
    "Axis Bank has failed to invoke a Bank Guarantee issued by them on behalf of Aircel Group of Companies," DoT said. "This action by Axis Bank is a serious breach of trust and contract with Government of India."
    Telecom companies have to routinely furnish bank guarantees to meet their contractual commitments. A failure may result in the government encashing the bank guarantee as a tool to punish the defaulter.
    Typically, a bank guarantee is issued by a bank or any other lending institution promising to make up for a pre-stated sum of money in case of default by the entity on whose behalf it is issued.
    When contacted, an Axis Bank official spokesperson, said: The bank guarantees have been issued by us on behalf of Bharti Airtel."
    Listing the reason for not honouring encashment of the bank guarantee, he said, "Payment of the said guarantees, at present, will be in violation of the orders of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT)".
    Without giving details of the injunction passed or the matter before TDSAT, the spokesperson said: "Once the order is vacated, the bank will be pleased to honour the said guarantees, as per the underlying terms. This matter has been communicated to the Dept. of Telecom (DoT)."

  • Mar 19, 05:46 PM (IST)

    MSME credit to grow at 12-14% over next 5 yrs: Icra

    The credit to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is expected to grow at 12-14 percent over the next five years, helped by higher lending by non banking finance companies (NBFC) to the segment, says a report.

    As on March 2017, credit to MSMEs stood at Rs 16 trillion.

    NBFC and housing finance companies are expected to expand at about 20-21 per cent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in this space during the period, while bank credit to this segment, which accounted for about 84 per cent of total MSME credit, is estimated to grow at a lower CAGR of 9-11 percent, according to a report by Icra.

    "Non-banks share in the MSME credit pie should expand to 22-23 percent by March 2022 compared to 16 percent in March 2017. Non-banks, with their niche positioning, differentiated product offering, good market knowledge and large unmet demand, would be able grow at a healthy rate vis-a-vis banks," the rating agency's assistant vice
    president and sector head, A M Karthik said.

    He added there is large unmet credit demand in the MSME segment, which was estimate to be about Rs 25 trillion in FY2017.

  • Mar 19, 05:08 PM (IST)

    BMC seizes property belonging to Dawood Ibrahim

    The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has seized a property of crime lord Dawood Ibrahim today, after his family lapsed on paying the property tax. According to CNN News 18 , the family has a property tax amounting to Rs 1.25 crore since 1996. 

    Reports at the beginning of March quoted famous criminal lawyer Shyam Keswani stating that Dawood Ibrahim was ready to return to India, given certain conditions.

  • Mar 19, 04:53 PM (IST)

    UFBU demands JPC probe into bank scams

    The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), the umbrella body of nine trade unions, today demanded a joint parliamentary probe into the recent PNB fraud and
    other bank scams.

    "We are demanding a detailed JPC probe into the recent Punjab National Band (PNB) fraud committed by two diamond traders, who fled the country. The government should set up a JPC probe as had been done after the Harshad Mehta scam in
    1992," West Bengal convenor of UFBU Siddharth Khan said here.

    Khan alleged that RBI had "failed on proper supervision" of banks for which these scams were taking place, and lower level employees were being made scapegoats.

    The Union wondered whether the SWIFT software used in making payments on the basis of Letter of Undertakings (LoU) issued by PNB was approved by the apex bank.

  • Mar 19, 04:51 PM (IST)

    Maharashtra farmers affected by February hailstorms given Rs 313 crore, says Minister

    The Maharashtra government has provided financial assistance of Rs 313.58 crore to farmers who were affected by hailstorms and unseasonal rains that lashed several parts of the state in February, revenue minister Chandrakant Patil today said.

    In a written reply to a question in the Legislative Assembly, Patil said that hailstorms and rain damaged agriculture crops over an area of 2.54 lakh hectare and multi-crops on an area of 38,046 hectare.

    The damage was spread over 19 districts in Vidarbha, Marathwada and north Maharashtra and it included the death of six persons and several head of cattle, he said.

    Patil, in his written reply, stated that those who were affected were given Rs 313.58 crore as compensation as per the guidelines of the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF).

  • Mar 19, 04:20 PM (IST)

    Here are the top headlines at 4 pm from Moneycontrol News' Sakshi Batra

  • Mar 19, 04:19 PM (IST)

    Lowest interest among millennials in agri-jobs: Survey

    The millennial generation has lowest interest in agriculture career because of lack of job security, poor awareness about the scope of the sector and dearth of entrepreneurial spirit, a latest study by job website Indeed. During the 2017 calendar year, there was 25% drop in the average number of agriculture related job searches per week, it said.

  • Mar 19, 04:10 PM (IST)

    CBI moves HC against acquittal of Raja, Kanimozhi in 2G spectrum case

    The Enforcement Directorate today moved the Delhi High Court challenging a special court order acquitting former telecom minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others in the money laundering case arising out of the 2G scam.
      Besides Raja and Kanimozhi, the special court had on December 21 last year acquitted 17 others, including DMK supremo M Karunanidhi's wife Dayalu Ammal, Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka of STPL, Asif Balwa and Rajiv Aggarwal of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd, film producer Karim Morani, P Amirtham and Sharad Kumar, Director of Kalaignar TV. ED, in its charge sheet, had alleged that Rs 200 crore was paid by Swan Telecom (P) Ltd (STPL) promoters to DMK-run Kalaignar TV. On the same day, the trial court had acquitted Raja, Kanimozhi and 15 others, including former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura, Raja's erstwhile private secretary R K Chandolia, Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka, Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra and three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG) -- Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair, in the CBI's 2G case.
      The CBI had alleged that there was a loss of Rs 30,984 crore to the exchequer in allocation of licences for the 2G spectrum which were scrapped by the top court on February 2, 2012. Special Judge O P Saini, however, had then held that the prosecution had "miserably failed" to prove the charges.

    The Central Bureau of Investigation has moved the Delhi High Court against acquittal of former telecom minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others in 2G spectrum case, reports PTI.

  • Mar 19, 04:08 PM (IST)

    Sensex extends slide for 5th day, sheds 253 pts, Nifty below 10,100

    The benchmark BSE Sensex cracked below the 33,000-mark by falling nearly 253 points, extending its slide for the fifth straight session on unabated foreign fund outflows amid weak global cues. Overall market sentiment remained weak after the RBI data released after market hours on Friday showed current account deficit rose to 2% of the GDP at $13.5 billion in the December quarter, up from 1.4% in the year-ago period, due to a higher trade deficit.

    The rupee also depreciated by 19 paise intra-day against the dollar at 65.13, which too had a negative influence. Global cues too were weak as investors moved cautiously before the US Federal Reserve meeting, that is likely to raise US interest rates. The 30-share index finally settled down 252.88 points, or 0.76%, at 32,923.12. This is the weakest closing since December 6 last when it settled at 32,597.18. The gauge lost 741.94 points in the previous four sessions. The wider NSE Nifty too fell by 100.90 points, or 0.99%, to end at 10,094.25.

  • Mar 19, 04:05 PM (IST)

    Modi's 'acche din' PR will take a beating: Rahul on unemployment

    Congress President Rahul Gandhi hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue of unemployment, saying his 'achche din' PR would take a beating, after a Nobel laureate warned India of mass unemployment. "The Nobel prize winning economist, Paul Krugman confirms what we've been saying for over two years now. Mass unemployment is the biggest threat India faces. Unfortunately, we have a PM who lives in denial. Afraid his ‘Acche Din’ PR will take a beating," he said on Twitter.

  • Mar 19, 04:00 PM (IST)

    Ford introduces manual transmission, petrol top-end EcoSport

    Ford India introduced a manual transmission version of top-end petrol variant of its compact SUV Ecosport priced at Rs 10.47 lakh (ex-showroom across India). The new Titanium+ variant will be paired to Ford's latest three-cylinder 1.5 litre petrol engine and feature five-speed manual transmission, the company said in a statement. It features bigger 17-inch alloy wheels and is equipped with six-airbags to ensure all around safety of occupants, it added.

  • Mar 19, 03:56 PM (IST)

    Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia have tendered an apology to advocate Amit Sibal, son of former Union minister Kapil Sibal, in defamation case filed against them, reports PTI.

  • Mar 19, 03:53 PM (IST)

    Lemon Tree to open 28 new hotels, to raise Rs 1,000cr via IPO

    Budget and mid-market hotel brand Lemon Tree will raise Rs 1,000 crore through an initial public offering which will see one of its private equity investors Warburg Pincus offload half its stake in the company, reports Moneycontrol News’ Swaraj Baggonkar.

    The offer for sale of up to 185 million shares represents 23.59% of the equity share capital of the company. The offer, which opens on March 26 in the price band of Rs 54-56 per equity share, is for the private equity company Warburg to off-load half of its 25% stake in Lemon Tree. The promoter entity, which holds about 30% will not dilute any stake.

    Lemon Tree is India’s largest mid-market hotel brand with about 45 operational properties having a room inventory of nearly 4,700 rooms spread across 28 cities. The Delhi-based company has three brands Red Fox (budget), Lemon Tree (mid-scale), Lemon Tree Premier (upper mid-scale). As of FY17, its average daily rate across three brands has been Rs 5,745 with an occupancy rate of 65%.

  • Mar 19, 03:19 PM (IST)

    Just two months before Karnataka goes to vote, the state has approved a separate religion status for Lingayats, reports CNN-News18.

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