01/01/2016 8:03 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

The Morning Wrap: Modi To Cut Down Foreign Visits In 2016; Lawmakers To Pay More For Food At Parliament Canteen

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, middle, takes a selfie next to Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, left, as they tour the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque during the first day of his two-day visit to the UAE, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. The UAE is home to over two million Indian expatriates and this is the first visit by an Indian premier in over three decades. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

The Morning Wrap is HuffPost India's selection of interesting news and opinion from the day's newspapers. Subscribe here to receive it in your inbox each weekday morning.

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As a new year dawns, HuffPost India takes a look back at 2015 with all its hopes and disappointments, tragedies and moments of both profound empathy and deep despair. Here are the events and newsmakers of 2015. We were proud to report these heartwarming stories of human kindness. The film industry has had a busy year with its leaders finally speaking up on the issues that mattered the most. The women of Bollywood kicked some ass this year while regional films made great strides. India's Culture Minister, the man with a portfolio few cared about before the BJP came to power, truly came into his own with an aggressive agenda of defining Indian culture. Here are the memes that stuck with us, and the films that you shouldn't have missed in 2015.

Even with the myriad problems that beset a third world economy, Indians have refused to give up hope, a new survey has found. According to the Worldwide Independent Network Gallup International/Cvoter survey's calculations of Hope Index for 73 countries in the world, India is placed among the top 10 'Most Optimistic Countries' with a net hope score of 47% regarding optimism amongst it's citizens. What's amazing is, while a majority of 54% of the world came out as optimists when asked if 2016 will be better, worse or the same than 2015, 60% of Indians were looking for the silver lining.

Surprise, surprise! Indians love Chicken Biryani and Kolkata enjoys ordering online more than any other metropolitan cities, a Zomato survey on consumer trends pertaining to the online food ordering market has found. The single highest value order is Rs 21,500 and predictably, chicken biryani is among the most ordered items.

Continuing his meteoric rise, Indian Test captain Virat Kohli has been named 'Cricketer of the Year', while Mithali Raj was picked for the top women's award in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) annual honours to be given away on January 5 in Mumbai. Under Kohli, the Indian team ended a 22-year wait for a series win on Sri Lankan soil before battering world No.1 South Africa to give them their first overseas loss in nine years.

It seems there's no end to the tug-of-war of power between the Delhi government, led by Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party, and the Centre. This time, the suspension of two officers of the Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Services (DANICS) officers have led to a full-fledged battle of egos between the government and the Home Ministry which declared the suspensions null and void.

No corporate works for charity -- by intention and definition. Blogger Mahesh Peri argues why Facebook's intentions behind Free Basics in India are fraudulent. It is a NASDAQ-listed company. Mark Zuckerberg owns only 28% of the company and other investors include corporates, PEs, VCs etc. Analysts will punish FB with impunity the moment they see it swerve from the path of being a profit-making enterprise, he writes.

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It's an odd start to the new year. On Friday, January 1, the first concrete step to curb the city's pollution with be taken in the national capital as cars with odd registration plates hit the busy morning traffic. The government has exempted 25 categories from the policy, including VVIPs, emergency vehicles, two-wheelers and single women drivers with children younger than 12 years. A trial run was conducted on 31 December in the city and volunteers asked to take the high road and guide citizens instead of forcing errant drivers to turn back home.

India has given Pakistani singer Adnan Sami a beautiful gift in the new year. Sami has been granted Indian citizenship. Sami, of 'Lift Kara De' fame, had applied for Indian citizenship in 2004. The elated 46-year-old singer, who lives with his wife Roya in Andheri at Lokhandwala, told the Times of India he loves the Indian culture.

A massive blaze engulfed a 63-storey luxury hotel and residential building in Dubai on Thursday just minutes before the fireworks began at the adjacent Burj Khalifa. Large explosions could be heard from inside the burning building, which was cloaked in thick black smoke.

After a busy year travelling the world to renew diplomatic ties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to cut down his foreign visits in 2016 and focus more on matters at home. He has asked the external affairs ministry to keep his foreign engagements in 2016 to the minimum. He has a couple of visits abroad planned in the first half of the year and then international summits in the latter.

Off The Front Page

Not politicians or ministers, but LGBTQ rights in India have a champion in India Inc, its biggest and most effective flagbearer in 2016. The Supreme Court in 2013 may have upheld an 1860 law criminalising gay sex, but a handful of firms such as Godrej, Genpact, Intuit, ThoughtWorks, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Google, etc, is openly championing LGBT rights.

An IAS officer in Rajasthan has changed his religion, alleging that he was being "victimised" because he belonged to a Scheduled Caste. Umrao Salodiya, chairperson of the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation, has also applied for voluntary retirement in protest against an extension given to chief secretary C.S. Rajan. He's embraced Islam and said he will be henceforth called Umrao Khan.

Food at Parliament will now cost more after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan approved a proposal to abolish canteen subsidy. According to the new rates effective from January 1, a Rs 18 veg thali will now cost Rs 30 while a non-veg thali will see a hike of Rs 27. Fuelled by a public outcry, the revision means our lawmakers will no longer enjoy a plate of chicken curry for Rs 29, which now costs Rs 40. Still cheap enough, you say? Well, baby steps.

A panchayat in Haryana has decided to punish a rapist with slaps and a fine of Rs five lakh. A woman had lodged a police complaint against the accused, but before the officials could initiate any action, the panchayat ordered the punishment.

A doctor's wife hit upon an ingenious way to fool Income-Tax (IT) sleuths in Mumbai. When the officials searched the residence of a renowned doctor in central Mumbai, his wife ordered pizzas. The empty pizza boxes were filled with jewellery and a domestic help was asked to "dump" the boxes. But as plot twists go, the help decamped with the booty worth Rs 15.85 lakh.


The big political task of the coming year will be to recover, against all odds, a little space for idealism: the idea that politics can be better than what it is, writes Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President of the Centre for Policy Research in The Indian Express. "Liberal has become the caricatured 'Adarsh Liberal' or 'neo-liberal,' a posture of hypocrisy and social privilege. 'Toleration' has been twisted to the point where the critique of the intolerant carries more moral odium than intolerance itself. 'Justice' is not about fine-grained moral judgments; it is becoming synonymous with satiated vengeance. The idea of the 'public' and 'private' is confused in its institutional articulation," he writes.

Free Basics Is A Walled Garden, caution Nandan Nilekani, former chairman of UIDAI and Viral Shah, who led the design of government's subsidy platforms using Aadhaar, in the Times of India. The walled garden of Free Basics goes against the spirit of openness on the internet, and in the guise of being pro-poor, balkanises it. Only Free Basics-approved websites will be accessible for free.

The link between the business of diplomacy and the diplomacy of business is as old as the link between trade and flag, writes Sanjaya Baru in The Hindu in column titled 'The diplomacy of business'. If Indian business has a complaint, it is about the attitude of the bureaucracy. While happy to use business influence and outreach in diplomacy, the Indian bureaucracy is notoriously protocol-conscious and would rarely offer official recognition to business leaders.

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