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The festive cheer of Diwali left North India with a deadly hangover. And no, it's not what you think we mean. Across Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), a thick veil of smog choked the air, with levels of pollution shooting 42 times the permissible limit. Visibility on the DND Flyway to Noida was nearly zero as well as around India Gate in Central Delhi. Comparatively, the levels of toxicity were less in the southern states, though gang wars, eye injuries and fatalities involving stray animals were reported from various parts. Indians clearly have a near-fatal love for firecrackers, so much as that some of them couldn't stop from bursting a few in a crowded movie theatre in Malegaon during a screening of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Cinema owners say such incidents are a par for the course in that area. At least, now you know where not to go to watch movies in India.
In a daredevil bravado act, 8 operatives of the banned Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) escaped from a jail in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, after killing a security guard and scaling the walls. The police, reportedly, gave them chase and killed all of them in the next couple of hours. Be that as it may, the videos (warning: graphic content) of the shooting that have emerged put the police's claim of a gun battle with the opponents under question. How did these men flee from a high-security prison in the first place? Were they killed after a combat or after a staged 'encounter'? Why were they lodged together in the prison? A slew of hard questions are staring the National Investigative Agency (NIA) in the face.
Our guest this week on Breakfast with Huffington Post is a banking legend: Chanda Kochhar, the MD and CEO of ICICI, India's largest bank by assets. In a free-flowing conversation over breakfast with our Editor-in Chief, she talks about her long career in the corporate sector and eventual elevation to the highest position in the organisation. Kochhar has witnessed, from close quarters, several revolutions that have changed the dynamics of banking in India — from the use of ATM cards to netbanking, from taking only home loans to going on expensive holidays on credit, India's relationship with money has changed more than ever over the past two decades. Apart from her insights into the possibility of more rate cuts for interests, you will also pick up a tip or two about gender equity, best ways of de-stressing with such a demanding job and how to buy the most beautiful saris.
The political instability in Kashmir, precipitated by the law and order problem, has kept the state on a boil for several weeks now, since the killing of Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujadiheen leader, in July. But some of the worst affected institutions in the Valley are its schools. In the last 115 days, 26 schools have been torched in Kashmir, triggering public outrage and urging the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to step in to take suo motu cognizance. The court has told the police and civil administrations to identify these "mysterious enemies of education" and deal with them with an "iron hand".
The National Crime Records Bureau's prison data, currently intensely topical in the wake of the jail break by SIMI operatives in Bhopal, has revealed that 55% of under-trials in India are Muslims, Dalits and tribals. The numbers assume even more alarming dimensions: two-thirds of all jail inmates are under-trials and more than 70% of them have not passed Class X. According to Census 2011, Muslims, Dalits and tribals together constitute 39% of India's population, but together they account for only 50.4% of convictions.
The Hindu claims to have been given access to secret documents, including bank statements, that show massive sums of money have been paid into the accounts of companies run by alleged arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie and his family. A remittance of almost €100 million (approx. Rs 730 crore) over 12 months by Russian arms firms and about £10 million paid by British company Rolls-Royce are the highlights of these transactions. Choudhrie's lawyers told the BBC that the former Delhi resident, who now lives in London, has "never paid bribes to government officials or acted as an illegal middleman in defence deals".
Off The Front Page
Tata Sons and its former Chairman Cyrus Mistry, ousted in a boardroom coup last week, have hired legal and public relations teams to manage the fallout of the upheaval. Given the acrimonious circumstances of the parting between the two, chances of a long-drawn legal battle cannot be written off. According to Mint, the Tata Sons team includes Rediffusion's Diwan Arun Nanda and the team at the Edelman-Rediffusion strategic venture that services the Tata group, Suhel Seth, and Nikhil Khanna and Nitin Mantri of Avian Media. Mistry is currently using a team from Linopinion, which has serviced the Shapoorji Pallonji group for years. He is also believed to be looking for another agency that can take on the PR team Tata Sons has put together.
Fighting over the legacy of national leaders is grist to the political mills of our time. Sardar Patel, dead since 1950, has been caught in a tug-of-war between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for a while now. At a celebration of the veteran leader's birth anniversary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a barb at the grand old party, saying Patel, who was a member of the Congress, does not belong to one party only and that there's no "copyright" on his life's work, which was to serve the country.
A 66-year-old man has emerged as the Nemesis of street dogs in Kerala, his mission to stop "God's own country" from turning into "Dog's own Country", he says. John Maveli wants to kill as many of the 2.7 strays that live on the streets of various cities in Kerala. Such is the zeal of this macabre killing machine that he organised the butchery of 40 dogs after a man was recently mauled in Varkkala last week. When the police came to arrest him, the locals saved him. Although several cases have been filed against him for cruelty to animals, Maveli, called a "demon" by animal lovers, is determined to carry out his deadly project.
In the Hindustan Times, Sayeeda Hamid, formerly with the Planning Commission, argues that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board's (AIMPLB) position on triple talaq and Uniform Civil Code (UCC) goes against the spirit of Islam. Her conclusions, she adds, are not meant to speak for the 84 million Muslim women in India, as AIMPLB does, but based on her lifelong study of the Quran, especially the sections in it that deal with personal laws.
India's growing arms export business, still not significant by any measure, could shape the future of the regional superpower in the subcontinent, writes Shashank Joshi in The Hindu. The figures of the trade have doubled from 2012-13 to 2014-15 to over $200 million, and its recipients include Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, South Korea, as well as major exporters like Russia, Israel and Britain.
The strife between Tata Sons and Cyrus Mistry has tarnished the company's long-standing reputation of excellence in corporate governance. An editorial in Mint lists various lessons from the fallout at Bombay House, the most important being the reminder that the complex business structures of Indian companies end up giving promoters "far more control over listed companies than their actual shareholding would suggest".
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