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Former President Pranab Mukherjee dies at 84

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, August 31: Pranab Mukherjee, India’s former President and one of the country’s most admired political leaders, died here on Monday. He was 84.

Mukherjee had suffered a fall at his Rajaji Marg house and had been operated to remove a blood clot in his brain on August 10. Doctors on Monday morning warned that there was a decline in his condition and he was in septic shock due to infection in his lung.

Soon after, his son Abhijit Mukherjee also tweeted a request to people, asking them to pray for his father. “He is a fighter & with all your good wishes & prayers , He will surely recover !” Abhijit tweeted.

Three hours later, Abhijit made the announcement on social media. “With a Heavy Heart , this is to inform you that my father Shri #PranabMukherjee has just passed away in spite of the best efforts of Doctors of RR Hospital & prayers, duas & prarthanas from people throughout India !,” Abhijit tweeted.

The veteran politician would often speak of his humble beginnings and his amazing journey from the flickers of a lamp in a small Bengal village to the chandeliers of Delhi.

A quintessential Congressman for five decades, the seven-time parliamentarian had worked as a teacher and journalist before taking his first steps in politics. His first stop in Delhi was the Rajya Sabha in 1969, the House that re-elected him four more times before he won his first Lok Sabha election from Bengal’s Jangipur in 2004. He was re-elected in 2009.

Mukherjee, who was seen as a formidable political strategist, draftsman and parliamentarian with an astute legal mind, prospered in Delhi. He first made it to Indira Gandhi’s council of ministers in 1972 and never looked back, going on to hold some of the most powerful portfolios – finance, commerce, external affairs and defence – in Congress governments.

He was considered the sharpest mind and the prime trouble-shooter in the government led by Manmohan Singh, who he had appointed as Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor in the 1980s.

His last stop in public life was Rashtrapati Bhavan. Mukherjee, a nominee of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition, was elected India’s President in 2012. By the time he exited Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2017, he left the legacy of a president who spoke his mind to the government and yet, kept the bridges and friendships intact.

In January 2019, Mukherjee was also named for the country’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who described him as the “outstanding statesman of our times”.

As news of his death emerged, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tributes to the veteran politician who had guided him when he first came to Delhi from Gujarat in 2014, ready to take charge as prime minister. “He has left an indelible mark on the development trajectory of our nation. A scholar par excellence, a towering statesman, he was admired across the political spectrum and by all sections of society,” PM Modi tweeted.

 

 



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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