Oscars 2016: Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins Academy Award

Leonardo DiCaprio

by BBC

Leonardo DiCaprio has finally won his first Oscar for survival epic The Revenant, after six nominations.

He was named best actor at the 88th Academy Awards, with Brie Larson named best actress for Room.

Spotlight took home the best picture Oscar with Mad Max: Fury Road picking up the most awards of the night, with six accolades.

Mark Rylance won the best supporting actor Oscar, with fellow Briton Sam Smith winning best original song.

DiCaprio received a standing ovation as he picked up his award, after five acting nominations and one nomination as producer of best picture nominee Wolf of Wall Street.

He thanked his director and co-star Tom Hardy for his “fierce talent on screen” and “friendship off screen” before campaigning for action to combat climate change, saying making The Revenant was “about man’s relationship to the natural world”.

“Climate change is real – it is happening right now,” said DiCaprio. “It is the most urgent threat facing our species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”

He asked the audience to “support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who’ll be affected by this”.

He added: “Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted.”

It is 22 years since he was first nominated for an Academy Award, having been nominated for best supporting actor for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

Speaking to reporters after his win, DiCaprio said: “I feel very honoured, to share this has been an amazing experience, to sit there and talk about the film.

“I also got to talk about something I have been obsessed with – the environment and climate change – on a platform with hundreds of millions of people watching worldwide.”

As he accepted his award, Inarritu said it was a “great opportunity to our generation to liberate ourselves from all prejudice”, saying the colour of someone’s skin should be “as irrelevant as the length of their hair”.

It is the fourth Oscar for Inarritu, having won best director, best original screenplay (as co-writer) and best picture (as producer) for Birdman in 2015.

Pakistan hangs Mumtaz Qadri for murder of Salman Taseer

Mumtaz Qadri was executed for the 2011 killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who sought to reform blasphemy laws.

Pakistan hanged the convicted killer of a former governor shot dead in 2011 [Anjum Naveed/AP]

Pakistan hanged the convicted killer of a former governor shot dead in 2011 [Anjum Naveed/AP]

by Al Jazeera

Pakistan has hanged the assassin of a governor who sought to reform the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, officials and supporters said

Mumtaz Qadri – feted as a hero by many supporters – was executed at a prison in Rawalpindi.

“I can confirm that Qadri was hanged in Adialia jail early Monday morning,” police official Sajjid Gondal told the AFP news agency.

Qadri, a bodyguard of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, shot him dead in the capital, Islamabad, in 2011.

Dozens of rangers and police in riot gear as well as ambulances were stationed outside Qadri’s home in the city early on Monday.

During his trial, Qadri’s legal defence was that Taseer opposed Pakistan’s so-called blasphemy laws by supporting Christian woman Asia Bibi, who was charged with allegedly desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Quran.

Qadri was convicted and sentenced in late 2011. But he is viewed as a hero by many people who thought Taseer was a blasphemer.

Blasphemy is a highly controversial issue in Pakistan, and angry mobs have killed many people accused of insulting Islam in the Muslim-majority country. The law does not define blasphemy but stipulates that the penalty is death.

Since 1990, dozens of people have been extrajudicially killed as a result of blasphemy cases.

The main road between Rawalpindi and the capital Islamabad was blocked by protesters within hours of the hanging.

“At this time, the sentiments of all Muslims have been injured, and our feelings have been badly hurt. For any Muslim believer – no matter what school of thought he belongs to – Ghazi Mumtaz Qadri is a hero of Islam,” said Tahir Iqbal Chistie, president of Sunni Tehreek, Rawalpindi Chapter, during the protest.

“He sent to hell a person who showed disrespect for the holy Prophet. What he did was according to the orders of the Quran and the collected reports of what the Prophet Muhammad said and did during his lifetime,” he added.

Police later dispersed the demonstrators and closed off the road to prevent more protests.

Qadri’s attorney, Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, predicted larger demonstrations coinciding with Qadri’s funeral, which his legal group said would be held on Tuesday.

Some lawyers showered Qadri with rose petals when he first arrived in court days after the killing. The judge who first convicted him was forced to flee the country after death threats.

Thousands may have starved to death in Syria: UN

As UN prepares to roll out aid in besieged areas, official says “thousands” cut off may have already starved to death.

Residents work on fixing a house in the town of Darat Izza, province of Aleppo on Sunday [Reuters]

Residents work on fixing a house in the town of Darat Izza, province of Aleppo on Sunday [Reuters]

by Al Jazeera

The United Nations human rights chief warned on Monday that thousands of people may have died of starvation during sieges affecting nearly half a million people in war-torn Syria.

The comments by Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein came as the first major ceasefire in the five-year conflict entered its third day, and as the UN prepared to deploy trucks loaded with humanitarian aid into the country during the lull in fighting.

“The deliberate starvation of people is unequivocally forbidden as a weapon of warfare. By extension, so are sieges,” said Hussein.

He added: “Thousands of people may have starved to death.”

Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from the Turkish border town of Gaziantep, noted that US Secretary of State John Kerry had accused the Syrian government of using food as “a weapon of war”.

“This war in recent months hasn’t just been fought with weapons – it has also been fought through the use of food,” he said. “The guns here haven’t gone totally silent, so it’s still dangerous for aid workers.”

The UN and its partner organisations were planning to start delivering aid to Syrians in several besieged areas previously cut off by the violence.

A UN spokesman told Al Jazeera that trucks bound for Mouadamiya in the southern outskirts of Damascus were loaded and were planning to move shortly.

Aid deliveries were also planned to arrive in the towns of Zabadani, Kefraya, Fouaa and Madaya by Wednesday.

The deliveries are part of humanitarian aid planned for 1.7 million people in hard-to-reach areas in the first quarter of 2016, Yacoub El Hillo, UN Resident Coordinator in Damascus, said in a statement on Sunday.

The UN estimates there are almost 500,000 people living under siege of a total of 4.6 million who are hard to reach with aid.

“It is the best opportunity that the Syrian people have had over the last five years for lasting peace and stability,” El Hillo said.

“But we all know that without a meaningful political process and a political solution, both cessation of hostilities and entry of humanitarian assistance will not be enough to end the crisis in Syria.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on the phone on Sunday at the initiative of Moscow on the progress of the ceasefire, Russia’s foreign ministry reported on Monday.

Syria’s main opposition grouping, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), on Sunday described the ceasefire as “positive”, but lodged a formal complaint with the UN and foreign governments about breaches on the first day.

A HNC letter to Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, accused Bashar al-Assad’s government and its allies of committing “24 violations with artillery shelling and five ground operations … in 26 areas held by the moderate opposition”.

The letter, signed by HNC head Riad Hijab, also criticised Russia for conducting “26 air strikes on areas falling within the ceasefire”.

It said continued breaches of the ceasefire would make peace talks unattainable.

Syria’s ally Russia has said it has only targeted areas under the control of  al-Nusra Front, which is linked to al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Nusra and ISIL are excluded from the terms of the international pact.

Masood Foujdar conferred a honourary doctorate

Masood Foujdar

Bengaluru: Mr. Masood Foujdar, Chairman Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation, has been conferred a Honourary Doctorate in Minorities Empowerment with Specialization in Social Concern today in Bengaluru by the Indian Virtual University for peace and Education.

The university is registered under Niti Ayog, Govt of India and United Nations Geneva.

Masood Foujdar

Asia Cup: Bangladesh stun Sri Lanka by 23 runs

Sabbir Rahman

Mirpur: Bangladesh produced a superb all-round performance to outclass Lasith Malinga-less Sri Lanka by 23 runs in their Twenty20 International clash of the Asia Cup at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium here on Sunday (February 28).

Batting first, the hosts posted 147/7 in 20 overs, thanks to Sabbir Rahman’s 54-ball 80. In reply, Sri Lanka lost wickets at regular intervals and managed only 124/8 in 20 overs.

Al-Amin Hossain (3-34) and Shakib Al Hasan (2-21) were the pick of the Bangladesh bowlers.Chasing a challenging target of 148, the defending World T20 champions didn’t start well as they lost experienced batsman and opener Tillakaratne Dilshan (12) in the fourth over itself. His opening partner Dinesh Chandimal (37) and incoming batsman Shehan Jayasuriya (26) held on to help team’s score past the 70-run mark. But Mahmudullah and Shakib claimed the wickets of Chandimal and Jayasuriya respectively in two successive overs to have them in trouble at 78/3 in 12th over. From there on, no Sri Lankan batsmen were able to score as some tight bowling and wickets at regular intervals helped the hosts stun their opponent. Earlier opting to bat, Bangladesh too struggled at the start losing both openers Mohammad Mithun and Soumya Sarkar inside three overs. But incoming batsman Sabbir played a commendable innings striking three sixes and ten boundaries to help the hosts cross the 100-run mark. He was well supported

Chasing a challenging target of 148, the defending World T20 champions didn’t start well as they lost experienced batsman and opener Tillakaratne Dilshan (12) in the fourth over itself.His opening partner Dinesh Chandimal (37) and incoming batsman Shehan Jayasuriya (26) held on to help team’s score past the 70-run mark. But Mahmudullah and Shakib claimed the wickets of Chandimal and Jayasuriya respectively in two successive overs to have them in trouble at 78/3 in 12th over. From there on, no Sri Lankan batsmen were able to score as some tight bowling and wickets at regular intervals helped the hosts stun their opponent. Earlier opting to bat, Bangladesh too struggled at the start losing both openers Mohammad Mithun and Soumya Sarkar inside three overs. But incoming batsman Sabbir played a commendable innings striking three sixes and ten boundaries to help the hosts cross the 100-run mark. He was well supported

His opening partner Dinesh Chandimal (37) and incoming batsman Shehan Jayasuriya (26) held on to help team’s score past the 70-run mark.But Mahmudullah and Shakib claimed the wickets of Chandimal and Jayasuriya respectively in two successive overs to have them in trouble at 78/3 in 12th over. From there on, no Sri Lankan batsmen were able to score as some tight bowling and wickets at regular intervals helped the hosts stun their opponent. Earlier opting to bat, Bangladesh too struggled at the start losing both openers Mohammad Mithun and Soumya Sarkar inside three overs. But incoming batsman Sabbir played a commendable innings striking three sixes and ten boundaries to help the hosts cross the 100-run mark. He was well supported

But Mahmudullah and Shakib claimed the wickets of Chandimal and Jayasuriya respectively in two successive overs to have them in trouble at 78/3 in 12th over. From there on, no Sri Lankan batsmen were able to score as some tight bowling and wickets at regular intervals helped the hosts stun their opponent. Earlier opting to bat, Bangladesh too struggled at the start losing both openers Mohammad Mithun and Soumya Sarkar inside three overs. But incoming batsman Sabbir played a commendable innings striking three sixes and ten boundaries to help the hosts cross the 100-run mark. He was well supported

From there on, no Sri Lankan batsmen were able to score as some tight bowling and wickets at regular intervals helped the hosts stun their opponent.Earlier opting to bat, Bangladesh too struggled at the start losing both openers Mohammad Mithun and Soumya Sarkar inside three overs. But incoming batsman Sabbir played a commendable innings striking three sixes and ten boundaries to help the hosts cross the 100-run mark. He was well supported

Earlier opting to bat, Bangladesh too struggled at the start losing both openers Mohammad Mithun and Soumya Sarkar inside three overs.But incoming batsman Sabbir played a commendable innings striking three sixes and ten boundaries to help the hosts cross the 100-run mark. He was well supported in the other end by Shakib (32).But with the wicket of both Sabbir and Shakib, Mahmudullah (23 not out) came

But with the wicket of both Sabbir and Shakib, Mahmudullah (23 not out) came

But incoming batsman Sabbir played a commendable innings striking three sixes and ten boundaries to help the hosts cross the 100-run mark. He was well supported in the other end by Shakib (32). But with the wicket of both Sabbir and Shakib, Mahmudullah (23 not out) came in to notch up couple of boundaries to help team cross 145-run mark. For Sri Lanka, Dushmantha Chameera (3-30) was the pick of the bowlers. The Islanders were led by Angelo Mathews in the absence of paceman Malinga.

(IANS)

Movie Review: ‘Carol’ is a heart warming film based on Lesbianism

Carol-movie

Producers: Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley and Christine Vachon
Director: Todd Haynes
Star Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacey, Cory Micheal Smith, John Magaro and Carrie Brownstein
Genre: Drama
Verdict: GOOD

Todd Haynes is an American Independent film director, often identified with the New Queer Cinema movement of filmmaking that originated in the early 1990’s. His latest directorial outing Carol is based on Patricia Highsmith’s novella named “The Price Of Salt”.

Plot: In this adaptation of the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith, Therese (Rooney Mara), a young department – store clerk in 1950’s Manhattan, meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), a beautiful older woman stuck in a depressing marriage of convenience. As their bond deepens and they become romantically involved, Carol finds the strength to leave her husband (Kyle Chandler). Unfortunately, her spouse starts to raise questions about her fitness as a mother when he realizes that Carol’s relationships with her best friend Therese is getting stronger day by day.

Aces: The scene stealers of Carol are definitely its two main actresses namely Cate Blanchett as Carol the older woman and Rooney Mara as Therese the younger woman. While the male actors Kyle Chandler as Carol’s husband and Jake Lacey, as the man in love with Therese, also shine in their brief roles under the deft direction of Todd Haynes.

Minuses: Some of the scenes are too tacky and literally sounds unconvincing.

Last Word: It’s raining films based on alternate sex, both in Bollywood and Hollywood. And believe me all such films like Aligarh based on Homosexuality, The Danish Girl based on the life of a transgender character and now Carol based on Lesbianism are some brilliantly made films.

Southern Films Round Up

vikram prabhu

2 Heroines In Vikram Prabhu’s Next

Vikram Prabhu is presently acting in Veera Sivaji directed by Ganesh Vinayak of Thagararu fame and Shamli is acting as the heroine in this film. The young actor has also completed Wagah directed by GNR Kumaravelan.

Apart from these 2 films, Vikram Prabhu has also signed up for another movie to be produced by the prestigious Sathya Jothi Films banner. This yet to be titled film will be directed by S. R. Prabhakaran of Sundarapandian fame. The film has been launched last month with a formal pooja.

Vikram Prabhu will get to romance 2 heroines in this flick. 1 amongst them will be Manjima Mohan who is presently acting in Gautham Menon’s Achcham Yenbathu Madamaiyada with Silambarasan and has singed up for the heroine’s role in director Suseenthiran’s film with Udhayanidhi Staling. And another heroine will be Aishwarya Dutta of Tamizhukku En Ondrai Azhuthavum & Aarathu Sinam fame.

Vijay Sethupathi’s Next Film Wrapped up

Vijay Sethupathi’s latest release Sethupathi is holding on strongly in the theaters in its 2nd week of release. His next release will be Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum directed by Nalan Kumarasamy, which will be hitting the screens on 11th Mar, 2016. The 3rd release in this year, for the versatile actor will be Dharmaduai which has been directed by his mentor Seenu Ramasamy. The film is set in Theni and a few other towns in Madurai districts. Vijay Sethupathi has acted as a doctor in this film while Tamannah who is acting as his heroine for the 1st time ever will be seen as a teacher. The film also stars Aishwarya Rajesh, Shrushti Dange & Shivada as other female leads.

Samantha Completes Her Work For Theri

Ilayathalapathy Vijay’s Theri is fast gearing up to release on 14th Apr, 2016 as a Tamil New Year treat and the team headed by director Atlee is working day & night to complete the post production work on time.

Samantha plays one of the female leads in the film and her fans can get to listen to the voice of the pretty actress for the character she plays in the film, Yes. Sammu has completed dubbing for her character in the film and she has confirmed the same in her official Twitter handle She has also thanked director Atlee for giving her a “role close to heart”. It is worth recalling that Samantha after completing her last day shoot for the shoot bid an emotional adieu which is a sign that she really enjoyed shooting for the film.

A. R. Murugadoss Appreciates Atharvaa’s Kanithan

Atharvaa’s action thriller Kanithan has been released recently and gets positive responses all over from the audiences. The film stars Atharvaa & Catherine Tresa in the lead and has been directed by T. N. Santhosh, a former assistant of A. R. Murugadoss, who in turn is busy working for his upcoming film Akira but he took time off to watch Kanithan amidst his tight schedule. The legendary director in his social media page has appreciated the film with a positive note.

Charan’s Film Done With 1st Schedule

The 1st schedule of Ram Charan. starrer Surender Reddy’s film has been wrapped up. Aravind Swamy took part in this schedule. He is playing the villain’s role. The 2nd schedule will begin from 10th Mar, 2016 and go on till 21st Mar, 2016. Cherry will join the crew from 14th Mar, 2016.

Produced by Allu Aravind & NV Prasad, the film has Charan playing an IPS officer for the 1st time ever after his Bollywood debut Zanjeer (Thoofan in Telugu). While the makers are tight lipped about the release date, it has been rumoured that the film will hit the marquee on 12th Aug, 2016 or a bit later. For all the speculation that the title is Dhruva, the title has been kept under the wraps. It will be announced soon. Hip Hop Adi (Hip Hop Tamizha) is scoring the music.

A Few More Theatres Earmarked For Kshanam & Terror

Kshanam, the suspense thriller released on 26th Feb, 2016 has been received to almost unanimous critical acclaim. Following the positive response, PVP Cinemas has decided to add a few more number of theatres this weekend. Notably, the other hit of the weekend namely Srikanth starrer Terror, too, has been on a spree. Satish Kasetty has announced that more number of theatres have been added following the positive reviews. Critics have raised a thumbs up to both Kshanam & Terror, calling them ‘hatke’ stuff.

Interestingly speaking, both were made on a shoestring budget. While Kshanam looks visually rich, the film actually was made on a budget of Rs. 1 to 1.25 crore, nothing less than a feat. On the other hand, Terror, too, is a small budgeted film.

The return of Srikanth

Srikanth was all but written off. With even the big ticket films, Shadow & Govindudu Andarivadele, not redeeming him as was expected, one thought that Sarrainodu is the only hope that he has to revive his sagging career. Then came Terror. Receiving unanimous appreciation for his studied portrayal of a temerous cop in Satish Kasetty’s Terror, Srikanth is touted to have a good year ahead. Come Apr, 2016 he will have a big ticket release. Although that’s not a lead role, it will be a most visible one for Srikanth, given that he is playing Allu Arjun’s babai. For a long time now, Srikanth had no remarkable character that he could claim to be a memorable one. A talented & choosy character artiste that Srikanth has always been, films like Mahatma & Operation Duryodhana didn’t happen often.

NTR Is Back As Student No: 1

When you hear the name of Young Tiger NTR, the things that flash in your mind are him holding a sword or a gun. You never expect him to hold a few books and walk into the college as a student. And now, director Koratala Shiva is going to break the jinx and is set to showcase NTR in a new avatar, as a student. It’s been a while we have seen NTR as a student and if the reports are anything to go by, the Temper actor will be sporting student look for a couple of scenes in his upcoming movie Janatha Garage.

Vineeth & Namitha Team Up Again

Om Santi Oosana director Jude Anthany is ready to roll his new film, Oru Muthasi Gadha. He has roped in Vineeth Sreenivasan to do a pivotal role. He has also cast popular actress Namitha Pramod to do a very prominent role. Vineeth & Namitha had paired up for Ormayundo Ee Mugham in which their romantic combination was well accepted. It is not clear if they will be playing a couple in Oru Muthasi Gadha. The movie is an inter – generational story of 3 women. A grandmother, her daughter & granddaughter forms the 3 pivotal characters in the movie. Namitha plays one of the granddaughters named Alice, who is an 18 year old college going student.

Ace Writer N S Madhavan Also Critiques Mohanlal After Benjamin

Mohanlal’s recent blog about the current political issues concerning JNU & nationalism had received mixed responses. Many prominent people had reacted against the blog raising doubt over the way he has presented his argument against the JNU students, mixing nationalism & freedom of expression as well as talking about soldiers fighting to protect the country. Director Vinayan had talked about it. Recently, popular novelist Benjamin had also reacted against the blog. Now, ace writer N S Madhavan has also sarcastically asked “Neelakandan to resign” in his short tweet. He has also referred to Mohanlal’s liquor ad.

Yash & Radhika To Pair Up Again

The rocking star Yash & dream girl in Kannada cinema Radhika Pandit yet another combination for K Manju production is titled as Maanja. This film went on the floors in the absence of Radhika Pandit. Mahesh Rao is director of this film was looking for a catchy title to suit the masses & fans of Yash. The super success of Mr & Mrs Ramachari with Yash & Radhika is continued in this Maanja. The popular screen pair commenced from Moggina Manasu and later acted in Drama a runaway hit film in Yogaraj Bhat’s direction. One of the senior producers in Lakshmi Art Combines, K Manju is roping in Yash after Raaja Huli. It is commencing shoot soon says K Manju.

Maja Talkies Hits A Century Mark

One of the popular comedy television serials in Colors Kannada Maja Talkies on the lines of Comedy Time with Kapil in Hindi has hit a century mark. For the century episode telecast on 7th Feb, 2016 century star Dr Shivarajakumar was the guest. Dr Shivarajakumar, noted director P Vasu & producer KA Suresh were utilising the opportunity for Shivalianga promotion. Shivalinga was released on 12th Feb, 2016 in over 200 theatres. V Manohar & Mandya Ramesh were also a part of this episode as addition to create funny moments. In the past for Maja Talkies dream merchant V Ravichandran, Upendra, Kichcha Sudeep, Darshan and others also took part in the comedy television serial.

US lawmakers’ letter to Modi on religious violence; Govt calls it ‘unfortunate’

Narendra Modi

New Delhi: The government on Monday described as “unfortunate” a letter written by 34 US lawmakers to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concern over violence against religious minorities in India.

“It is unfortunate that these members of Congress while applauding India as a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to inclusion and tolerance have chosen to focus on just a few incidents,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said in a statement.

“India is proud of its status as the world’s largest democracy. The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens, including minority communities. Aberrations, if any, are dealt with by our internal processes which include our independent judiciary, autonomous National Human Rights Commission, vigilant media, and vibrant civil society,” he said.

In the letter dated February 25 and released to the media by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, the 34 US lawmakers said that their strong support for the US-India partnership has encouraged them “to relay our grave concerns about the increasing intolerance and violence members of India’s religious minority communities experience”.

“We urge your government to take immediate steps to ensure the fundamental rights of religious minorities are protected and the perpetrators of violence are held to account,” the letter stated.

“Of particular concern is the treatment of India’s Christian, Muslim and Sikh communities. On June 17, 2014, more than 50 village councils in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh adopted a resolution banning ‘all non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches’ in their communities,” it said.

According to the US lawmakers, the ban “effectively has criminalised” the practice of Christianity by around 300 families in the region a day after a mob, including members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, attacked and injured six Christians at the village of Sireiguda.

“Since the ban was implemented, Christians in the Bastar district reportedly have been subjected to physical assaults, denial of government services, extortion, threats of forced expulsion, denial of access to food and water, and pressure to convert to Hinduism,” they alleged.

Stating that they were also concerned about the “nearly country-wide beef ban”, the US lawmakers referred to the killing of Mohammad Hasmat Ali in Manipur in November for stealing a cow and the murder of Mohammad Saif in Uttar Pradesh in September.

The letter also called for recognition of Sikhism as a distinct religion as not doing so prevented practitioners of the religion “from accessing social services and employment and educational preferences available to other religious communities”.

“Mr. Prime Minister, we applaud India as a pluralistic society with a long-standing commitment to inclusion and tolerance,” it stated.

“We also applaud your statements about religious freedom and communal harmony, including your promise in February 2014 that your government would ‘ensure that there is complete freedom of faith… and not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or minority, to incite hatred against others’. We urge you to turn these words into action by publicly condemning the ban on non-Hindu faiths in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh, and the violent assaults and other forms of harassment against religious minorities throughout India,” it stated, adding that steps should be taken against activities of groups such as the RSS.

The letter was signed by Senators Roy Blunt, Amy Klobuchar, James Alankford, Al Franken, Tim Scott, Ben Sasse, John Boozman and Steve Daines and 26 members of the House of Representatives, including Joseph R. Pitts, Keith Ellison, Brad Wenstrup, Jim Costa, Trent Franks, Ted Poe and Mark Walker.

In his statement on Monday describing the US lawmakers’ letter as unfortunate, Swarup reiterated that the Indian government was “fully committed to the constitutional principles which underpin the nation of 1.25 billion people as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society”.

(IANS)

Kejriwal’s car attacked in Punjab

kejriwal-car-punjab

Ludhiana: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had a narrow escape on Monday when some men armed with iron rods attacked his car here, coming “within an inch of grievously injuring” him, the AAP said.

Kejriwal, whose five-day tour of Punjab ends later in the day, tweeted that his car was attacked with sticks and stones, breaking the front glass pane.

“Badals and Congress nervous? They can’t break my spirits,” the Aam Aadmi Party leader added.

AAP leader Ashish Khetan called it a “well orchestrated attack” and said the “goons sent by Badals attacked Kejriwal’s car with stones and rods as police stood by.

“The attackers came within an inch of grievously injuring Kejriwal. It was only by god’s grace that he escaped unhurt,” Khetan added.

The AAP gave no further details. It was not immediately clear if Kejriwal, who usually sits to the left of the driver, continued with his journey or not.

The AAP put out a photograph showing the shattered front glass pane with a visibly worried Punjab police officer standing close by. The car appeared to be stranded on a rural road, with a police vehicle in the front.

The AAP has emerged as a major player ahead of assembly elections in Punjab due next year.

(IANS)

Tax sops for small I-T payers, hike in super-rich surcharge

jaitley-budget

New Delhi: The Budget for 2016-17 today offered sops for small and marginal income tax payers, hiked the surcharge by 3 per cent on earnings above Rs 1 crore, levied a pollution cess on petrol, diesel cars and SUVs and offered a one-time compliance window for domestic black money holders slapping a tax and penalty of 45 per cent.

Presenting the third Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also proposed a ‘Krishi Kalyan’ cess of 0.5 per cent on all taxable services to improve agriculture and reduction of duties on project imports for cold room for cold chain, refrigerated containers and a number of other items.

Cigarette and tobacco products will become costlier with the hike in excise duty by 10 to 15 per cent.

While the revenue loss on direct taxes will be Rs 1060 crore, his indirect tax proposal will mobilise an additional Rs 20,670 crore. Net revenue gain will be Rs 19,610 crore.

In a bid to shore up the economy hit by global slowdown, the Budget proposes a 15.3 per cent higher expenditure at Rs 19.78 lakh crore in 2016-17, consisting of Rs 5.50 lakh crore under Plan and Rs 14.28 lakh crore under non-Plan.

The Budget provides an outlay of Rs 162,759 crore for defence in 2016-17, up by 13 per cent from Rs 143,236 crore in the revised estimates for the current year. Capital expenditure on defence has been put at Rs 86,340 crore against Rs 81,400 crore in the current year’s revised estimates.

Interest payment will account of Rs 492,670 crore against Rs 442,620 crore. Subsidies will marginally lower at Rs 250,433 crore as opposed to Rs 257,801 crore in the revised estimates.

In relief to small tax payers, the Budget proposes to raise the ceiling of tax rebate under Section 87(A) from Rs 2000 to Rs 3000 for incomes not exceeding Rs 5 lakh per annum. There are two crore tax payers in this category who would get a relief of Rs 3000 in their tax liability.

Those who do not have house of their own and do not get house rent allowance from employers will get a deduction of Rs 60,000 per year as against existing Rs 24,000.
First time home buyers will get a deduction of an additional interest of Rs 50,000 per annum for loan upto Rs 35 lakh, during 2016-17, provided the house value does not exceed Rs 50 lakh.

The Budget proposes to extend the presumptive taxation scheme to professionals with gross receipt up to Rs 50 lakh with the presumption of profit being half of the gross receipt.

After pursuing blackmoney abroad, Jaitley today offered a limited period compliance window for domestic holders of unaccounted income and assets to declared their undisclosed income and assets and clear past transgressions by paying tax at 30 per cent plus 7.5 per cent penalty and 7.5 per cent of interest, a total of 45 per cent.

For the foreign blackmoney holders, the total tax and penalty was 60 per cent for those came clean.

In the domestic scheme, the Minister declared that there will be no scrutiny or inquiry regarding income tax declared under the scheme under I-T and Wealth Tax Act and they will have immunity from prosecution.

Immunity from benami transaction act of 1998 is also proposed subject to certain conditions.

The 7.5 per cent surcharge will be called Krishi Kalyan Surcharge to be used for agriculture and rural economy.

“We plan to open the window under this Income Disclosure Scheme from June 1 to September 30, 2016 with an option to pay amount due within two months of declaration,” he said.

A Krishi Kalyan Cess of 0.5 per cent would cover all services, proceeds of which will be used for financing incentives for improvement of agriculture and welfare of farmers. The cess will come into effect from June 1.

Raising concern over pollution and traffic situation in cities, Jaitley said he propose to levy infrastructure cess of 1 per cent on small petrol, LPG, CNG cars, 2.5 per cent on diesel cars of certain capacity and 4 per cent on higher engine capacity vehicles and SUVs.

Recalling his last year’s promise of reducing corporate tax from 30 to 25 per cent over a period accompanied by rationalisation and removal of exemptions and incentives, Jaitley today limited accelerated depreciation provided under I-T Act to a maximum of 40 per cent from April 1, 2017.

The benefit of deduction for research would be limited to 150 per cent from April 1, 2017 and 100 per cent from April 2020.

To boost domestic manufacturing and job creation, he allowed new units incorporated on or after March 1, 2016 an option of being taxed at 25 per cent plus surcharge and cess provided they do not claim profit linked or investment linked deductions.

He also proposed lower corporate income tax rate for next financial year of relatively small enterprises with a turnover not exceeding Rs 5 crore in fiscal 2016 to 29 per cent plus surcharge and cess. At present they pay 30 per cent plus surcharge and cess.

In a bid to promote employment through startups under the Make-in-India programme, the Budget proposes to assist their propagation through 100 per cent deduction of profit for three out of five years for companies set up between April 2016 and March 2019.

Minimum Alternate Tax will apply in such cases. Capital gains will not be invested in regulated/ notified fund or funds and by individuals in notified startups in which they hold majority shares.

As part of an attempt to incentivise domestic value addition in the Make in India campaign, he proposed to suitable changes in customs and excise duty rates on certain inputs, raw material, intermediaries and components to reduce cost and improve competitiveness of domestic industry in various sectors including IT, IT hardware, capital goods, defence production, MRO of aircrafts and ships, and textiles.

The period of getting benefit of long term capital gain regime in case of unlisted companies is proposed to be reduced from 3 to 2 years.

The controversial General Anti Avoidance Rules or GAAR will be implemented from April 1, 2017, he said.

The 12 per cent surcharge on personal income above Rs 1 crore has been raised to 15 per cent.

The Budget also proposes to collect tax at source at the rate of one per cent on purchase of luxury cars exceeding value of Rs 10 lakh and purchase of goods and services in cash exceeding Rs 2 lakh.

It also seeks to impose an excise duty of 1 per cent without input tax credit or 12 per cent with input tax credit, on articles of jewellery excluding silver other than studded with diamond or some other precious stone with a higher exemption and eligibility limit of Rs 6 crore and Rs 12 crore respectively.

As an additional resource mobilisation for agriculture and rural economy, the Finance Minister proposed a 10 per cent additional dividend distribution tax on individuals, HUFs and firms receiving dividend in excess of Rs 10 lakh per annum.

He also proposed a number of measures as part of financial sector reforms that includes enactment of a comprehensive Code on Resolution of Financial Firms to provide with a mechanism to deal with bankruptcy situations in banks, insurance companies and financial sector entities.

This Code together with the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2015, when enacted, will provide a comprehensive resolution mechanism for the economy.

The other steps include amendment of RBI Act to provide statutory basis for a Monetary Policy Framework and a Monetary Policy Committee through the Finance Bill 2016.
He also announced that a comprehensive central legislation will be brought to deal with the menace of illicit deposit taking schemes.

Jaitley proposed Rs 25,000 crore for bank recapitalisation and said the government will also consider the option of reducing its stake to below 50 per cent.

(PTI)