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Madras HC slams TN politicians for promoting freebie culture and making people lazy



Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, April 1: The Madras High Court on Monday expressed its strong displeasure over the way in which political parties in Tamil Nadu are vying with each other to garner votes by offering freebies such as television sets, fans, mixer grinders, laptops, washing machines and even monthly cash doles.

Instead, the court said they should concentrate more on promising and delivering jobs, infrastructure development, improving health, transport facilities and agriculture.

Justices N. Kirubakaran and B. Pugalenthi lamented that the freebie culture had made the people lazy and dampened their spirit to work hard. They declared that promising freebies should also be declared a corrupt practice since it vitiates the purity of the election process and influences the voters.

It was pointed out that if one party promises a cash dole of INR1,000 another comes up with a counter promise of INR1,500 a month.

If this trend continues, a day might come soon when some political party in the State will offer to visit the houses of voters and cook food for them every day, and another party may offer not only to cook but also to feed the voters, the judges wrote in their verdict.

The court also came down heavily on voters who accept money for exercising their franchise, thereby making the entire democratic exercise a mockery.

“It is stated that every candidate has to shell out about INR200 million in the election to an Assembly constituency as many voters have become corrupt and sell their votes for a few thousands, biriyani and a quarter [liquor] bottle. It is the stark reality. If that is so, how could people expect good leaders? Do people, who sell their votes, have any moral right to question their leaders? In a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve,” the Bench observed.

The tax payers remain mute spectators to the public exchequer being drained on distributing freebies, the judges said. People of the State have become so lazy that migrant workers from the north and north eastern parts of the country have to be employed in every other field of work, be it hotels, industries, shops and saloons. Migrants are employed even for agricultural work in the State, they pointed out.

“The way in which things are happening today, one would not be surprised to see that migrant workers would be the owners of the movable and immovable properties here in due course. And the sons of the soil will become workers under them. It may be the only achievement, probably, the political parties have attained through election promises by providing freebies for the past 20 years,” the Division Bench said.

Stressing the need to arrest such practices at the earliest, the court posed a series of 20 questions to the Government of India as well as the Election Commission of India, and sought a reply by April 26. The court wanted to know whether the Centre has taken steps to enact a law governing the promises made by political parties in their election manifestos and the action taken so far by the Election Commission of India against parties which make irrational promises.

The observations were made and the questions posed while passing orders on a writ petition to de-reserve the Vasudevanallur Assembly constituency .

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SJB: Excise, FM officials all out to pocket Rs 1 bn



By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday told Parliament that the Finance Ministry and Excise Department officials had misled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal in order to obtain billion rupees, fraudulently.

The officials had got a contract for printing stickers or barcodes to be displayed on bottles of liquor awarded to an Indian company.

“The project would result in one-billion-rupee loss to the government coffers annually,” the MP said, adding that the money being taken from the public purse would end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Pathirana said that the Excise Department had commenced a project to paste stickers on bottles of liquor to differentiate them from the fake and counterfeit bottles in the market.

“As per this project’s requirements, 32 million stickers would be needed per month. The stickers are to be purchased from Madras Security Printers company of India. This method was proposed in 2016 but it failed and the officials thereafter decided to introduce a barcode system.

“The cost of a sticker at 25 cents and the new barcode system will cost of two rupees a piece. This is a dubious deal. It seems that the Finance Ministry officials and the Excise Department heads have ganged up to give the contract to the Indian company and get commissions. There are many unanswered questions. First, the contract of printing the barcode too has been given to the MSP company, which could not secure the first contract. I want to know whether the proper procurement process has been followed. The second question is whether the barcodes would be up to the standards listed in the tender. Third question is who had selected the MSP company which is black-listed in India after being found guilty of frauds with Indian liquor companies in providing stickers to them. MSP has been blacklisted in many other countries. The company has been banned in Sudan and Liberia for supplying the stickers to private companies. The last question is whether this fraud is being committed with the knowledge of ministers of this government.”

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Reserves fall to lowest since 2009, rupee strengthening to be short-lived: report



by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka’s Foreign reserves had dropped to USD 4.1bn in March 2021, the lowest since August 2009, on the back of over US$ 4bn outstanding debt payment during April-December 2021 period, a report issued by First Capital Research yesterday said.

According to the report, rupee appreciation is likely to be short-lived considering Sri Lanka’s depleting foreign reserve position, high foreign currency debt repayment requirement and limited funding sources available in the market are expected to further increase depreciation pressure on the currency during 2Q and 3Q.

“We maintain our exchange rate target for 1H2021 at Rs. 196-202 with 2021 year-end target at Rs. 205-215 as mentioned in our ‘Investment Strategy 2021 – January 2021,” the report recalls.

“Sri Lankan rupee appreciated 5% against the US dollar over the last 2 market days reversing the continuous accelerated depreciation witnessed in January-April 2021. On 12th April, Sri Lankan rupee recorded a historical low of Rs. 201:1 US$. Ministry of Finance (MoF) reported on the same day that the government of Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the China Development Bank (CDB) for US$ 500mn and MoF expected the funds to be disbursed during the same week. Following the announcement, the market registered a steep appreciation with mid-rate recording at Rs. 190.9 on April 19,” it says.

The total foreign debt repayment (capital and interest) for 2021 is US$ 6 bn, according to the report.

Meanwhile FC Research believes that the temporary appreciation in USD-LKR, may adversely impact earnings of export companies such as Hayleys, Haycarb, Dipped Products, MGT Knitting Mills, Teejay Lanka, Expolanka Holdings etc. in the short term.

“However, considering the potential future currency pressure, we expect an overall depreciation of approximately 12% for the rupee providing a significant gain for companies with foreign currency revenue”, FC research predicts.

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Govt. asks Opposition not to propagate lies



By Saman Indrajith

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday accused the Opposition MPs of abusing parliamentary privileges to mislead the public by propagating lies about the Easter Sunday terror attacks. 

Addressing Parliament, Minister Fernando said: “The Opposition MPs level wild allegations in the House knowing that they have the cover of parliamentary privilege. If they have anything substantial or any knowledge of the perpetrators of the Easter attacks still not in custody they can go to the CID and lodge complaints so that such complaints could be investigated.”  

Fernando said so after SJB Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara had told the House that he possessed evidence of those who carried out the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Nanayakkara also said that the facts that he had were not in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage.

“You are making various statements regarding the Easter Sunday terror attacks in the Chamber without any proof because you know that you have Parliamentary privilege. You even quoted some statements which are not included in the PCoI report. How did you obtain such information? Why didn’t you complain about this to the CID in the first place? Your action is aimed at misleading the public,” the Minister said. 

Minister Fernando said that the Opposition should stop insulting Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith by misinterpreting the latter’s statements. 

“When you are in the Government you never said that this is a Buddhist country. Now you are insulting the Cardinal too. You should not do that,” the Minister said. 

“The former Government should be responsible for the terror attack. Now we are trying to punish those who are responsible for it. We will take action against everyone who is responsible. You should support us, not try to obstruct the on-going investigations,” Minister Fernando said.

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