The Election Commission of India announced the schedule
for Assembly elections in four States and one Union Territory which will be
conducted in multiple phases from April 4 to May 16.
Elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will be
held in a single phase on May 16, said Chief Election Commissioner Nasim
In West Bengal, owing to security issues, polling will be
held in six phases, the first phase on April 4 and 11, and the rest on April
17, 21, 25, 30 and May 5. Assam will go to the polls in two phases on April
4 and 11.
Asked whether action would be taken if any reference was
made on the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to remit the life sentence of
the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts, Mr. Zaidi said: “As and when
the reference comes, the Commission will take an appropriate view to ensure
that our voters are not influenced.”
The votes will be counted on May 19. The model code of
conduct immediately comes into effect.
The electronic voting machines, for the first time, will
carry a NOTA (none of the above) symbol created by the National School of
Photographs of the candidates will also be featured
alongside the voting buttons. Identification of voters through voter card at
polling booths has been made mandatory, but if required, use of additional
documents will be allowed.
China has slammed the ‘Pivot to Asia’ doctrine of the
United States, blaming it for the growing tensions the South China Sea,
where a trilateral exercise involving New Delhi, Washington, and Tokyo is
scheduled later this year.
The war of words between China and the U.S. escalated
when Fu Ying, the spokesperson for the National People’s Conference (NPC),
countered the U.S. assertion that China was responsible for the
militarisation of the South China Sea.
The Chinese official stressed, that the “Pivot to Asia
was an important decision,” which enabled Washington to deploy “as many as
70 per cent of its naval force in the Asia-Pacific”.
China claims sovereignty over most of South China Sea, a
position that is contested by several countries including Vietnam,
Philippines and Taiwan.
It has recently accelerated conversion of some of the
disputed reefs into artificial islands, and positioned surface-to-air
missiles at Woody Island in the Paracel island chain.
The spokesperson stressed that China was ready to play
the role of a regional security provider. Ms. Fu said that China was ready
to seek joint development of the Nansha islands, “but that is on the
prerequisite of not giving up our sovereignty”.
Ms. Fu’s remarks follow assertions by Admiral Harry B.
Harris during the course of the Raisina dialogue in New Delhi, where, in a
veiled reference to China, he asserted that, “While some countries seek to
bully smaller nations through intimidation and coercion, I note with
admiration India’s example of peaceful resolution of disputes with your
neighbours in the waters of the Indian Ocean.”
The U.S. Admiral also revealed that that the forthcoming
Malabar naval exercise comprising India, U.S. and Japan would be held in the
north Philippine Sea, not far from the South China Sea.
In Beijing, China addressed Admiral Harris’ assertions
with restraint: “We have no objection to relevant countries’ normal
cooperation, but we believe that relevant cooperation should not be targeted
at a third party.
Days after a top U.S. Admiral expressed keenness in co-ordinated
patrols between India and U.S,, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that
there was no scope for such patrols at this point of time.
“As of now India has not taken part in joint patrols but
we do participate in joint exercises. So the issue of joint patrols at this
time does not arise,” Mr. Parrikar told a press conference.
U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter is scheduled to
visit India in April during which the agreements are expected to be
The Defence Ministry had not returned Rs. 11,000 crore
from the budget but had indeed saved the amount by utilising funds locked in
the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) account.
There is an account for paying the U.S. for defence
procurements under the FMS route. The amount is paid to the U.S. government
which further pays the companies concerned.
Last year, India paid Rs. 6,000 crore for committed
liabilities from this account.
The government announced that the application window for
the third tranche of the Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) scheme will be March 8-14
and the bonds issued on March 29.
The first tranche of the scheme, unveiled in November
2015, attracted 62,169 applications for 915.9 kg of gold worth Rs. 246.2
crore. This subdued performance prompted the government to tweak the
scheme’s rules to make it easier to buy the bonds.
The second tranche, which opened in January 2016, met
with greater success, attracting 3.16 lakh applications for 2,790 kg of gold
worth Rs.726 crore.
The Government of India, in consultation with the Reserve
Bank of India, has decided to issue third tranche of SGB. Applications for
the bond will be accepted from March 8, 2016 to March 14, 2016. The Bonds
will be issued on March 29, 2016.
The Bonds will be sold through banks, Stock Holding
Corporation of India Ltd. (SHCIL) and designated Post Offices,” according to
a statement from the government on Friday.
The announcement of the third tranche of the scheme comes
at a time when gold prices are rallying.
The government’s plan behind the SGB scheme is to
encourage those who use gold as a store of value to instead invest in the
gold bonds as opposed to the physical yellow metal itself.
The idea, among others, is to reduce India’s substantial
gold imports, which were at $2.9 billion in January 2016, up 85 per cent
over the same month of the previous year.
The bonds, issued by the Reserve Bank of India on behalf
of the government, have a tenor of eight years with an exit option from the
fifth year onwards.
The maximum quantity which can be subscribed is 500 grams
per person per financial year and the interest rate on the bonds are set at
2.75 per cent per annum, payable on a half-yearly basis.
The maximum quantity which can be subscribed is 500 grams