Putin congratulates Russians, reveals New Year secret

IANS | Moscow | Updated :

Thanking all Russians for their "victories, achievements, understanding and trust" in 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday wished "peace and prosperity" for all citizens and that they will be able to fulfil their dreams and "good intentions",

In a televised New Year's address, he also revealed the secret of how all may become something of a magician on New Year's Eve for those nearest and dearest to them, EFE news reported.

"We simply need to treat our parents with love and gratitude, care for our children and families, respect our colleagues at work, nurture our friendships, defend truth and justice, be merciful and help those who are in need of support. This is the whole secret," the Russian leader explained.

Putin acknowledged that 2016 was "a challenging year" in reference to the economic difficulties that his country is experiencing, in addition to sanctions imposed by the West on Moscow due to the Ukrainian crisis.

"It was a challenging year, but the difficulties we faced have brought us together and allowed us to discover our enormous resources for moving forward," the Russian leader said.

LPG, jet fuel prices hiked in Delhi

IANS | New Delhi | Updated :

State-run oil marketing companies (OMCs) on Saturday hiked the price of subsidised cooking gas, or LPG, along with kerosene and aviation turbine fuel (ATF).

The three state-owned OMCs revise rates of LPG, Kerosene and ATF on the first of every month, based on global oil prices and the foreign exchange rate.

This is the seventh straight month of increase in cooking gas cylinder prices — a subsidised 14.2 kg cylinder will become expensive by Rs.2 to Rs.434.71 in Delhi, as against Rs.432.71 earlier.

In a move to reduce its LPG subsidy outgo, the government, in July, had decided on small hikes of around Rs.2 per cylinder every month.

The price of non-subsidised LPG, which consumers buy after exhausting their quota of 12 cylinders in a year, was also hiked on Saturday by Re.1 to Rs.585.

Meanwhile, kerosene will became dearer by 26 paisa to Rs.19.43 per litre in Kolkata.

The ATF, or jet fuel, will be hiked by 8.60 per cent to Rs 52,540.63 per kl in Delhi. Prices vary at airports depending on local taxes.

RBI to announce facility for NRIs to exchange old notes

IANS | New Delhi | Updated :

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Saturday said that it will introduce a facility for exchange of old specified bank notes for Indian residents and NRIs, who were abroad from November 9 to December 30.

According to a RBI notification, Indian residents, who were abroad during November 9 to December 30, 2016 can avail the new facility up to March 31, 2017, while NRIs can avail it up to June 30.

"While there is no monetary limit for exchange for the eligible resident Indians, the limit for NRIs will be as per the relevant FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) regulations," said the RBI notification. 

"They can avail this facility in their individual capacity once during the period on submission of ID documents, such as Aadhaar number, Permanent Account Number (PAN) etc, and on submission of documentary evidence showing they were abroad during the period and, that they have not availed the exchange facility earlier."

The country's central bank elaborated that third-party tender will not be accepted under the new facility.

"On fulfilment of the terms and conditions and the genuineness of the notes tendered, admissible amount will be credited to the tenderer's KYC (know your customer) compliant bank account," the notification said.

"The facility will remain open for residents from January 2, 2017 to March 31, 2017 and for NRIs from January 2, 2017 to June 30, 2017. This facility will be available through Reserve Bank offices at Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, and Nagpur."

The notification added that Indian citizens residing in Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Bangladesh cannot avail this facility.

Happy New Year 2017, India sets sight on new goals

SNS | New Delhi | Updated :

As we enter the New Year 2017, thestatesman.com wishes all its readers a happy and prosperous year ahead.

The year 2016 was a pack of delight for some, while others saw it as a start of revolutions that promised a change they eagerly awaited from a long time. From Colombia striking a peace deal, to Brazil and South Korea impeaching their presidents and to the fall of Eastern Aleppo, the world witnessed an upside-down during this season.

In India, the demonetisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to spark a fire against the fuming issue of black money.

In the midst of all the hardships and people’s struggle, thestatesman.com stood tall in support of Indian citizens.

Through our thought-provoking reportage of real time events, we tried to keep our motto 'People’s parliament always in session' intact, contributing in the making of the glorious nation.

India seems ready to step into the New Year with a bang and all its projected goals looks well in shape when we sneak peak into 2017. Subjects like the growth of GDP, besides other long-term benefits of the demonetisation, now looks reachable. 

We, the people of India, saw a few essential bills, like Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, Constitution (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill), finally getting passed in the parliament this year.  

The New Year 2017 promises to get the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill passed by the parliament to lighten the burden of the common man of the society.

So the year 2017 appears welcoming at this point, let's roll in with all the joys to celebrate a new beginning. 

Year-Ender 2016: From Leicester’s title triumph to the rise of Rosberg

Let us take a trip down memory lane to cherish the very best of every month in 2016.

Akash Khanna | New Delhi | Updated :

Sports have always been a lifeline for many. No matter how stressed one is, playing sports or watching a play may heal every bit of hassle.

Calendar year 2016 witnessed a lot of sports happening all across the globe and saw many sportsperson turning larger than life. As the year is about to end, let’s take a trip down memory lane to cherish the very best of every month in 2016.

January – Tennis transcripts the beginning

The year 2016 started on a stellar note for tennis enthusiasts as Serbian tennis icon Novak Djokovic outshone Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5 and 7-6 (3) to equal Roy Emerson’s record of six Australian Open titles.

However in the women’s single event, a shock defeat awaited Serena Williams and billions of her fans glued to their TV sets. Defending champion Williams lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to German tennis professional Angelique Kerber, who lifted the first Grand Slam of her career.

February – Sports for Peace, Progress and Prosperity

"Play for Peace, Progress and Prosperity," with this motto, the Indian PM Narendra Modi inaugrated the 12th edition of the 2016 South Asian Games in Guwahati and Shillong, India.

The hosts, India, being the sporting giant of the region, continued its dominance in the medal's tally with an astonishing 308 medals, including 188 gold.

Staggering perfrmence in the South Asian Games, ahead of the Rio Olympics 2016, was enough to ensure India's fans of a strong performence from its athletes in the Olympics as well.

March – West Indies wonder

Four consecutive sky-scraping sixes by Carlos Brathwiate ensured West Indies win their second title at the ICC World Twenty 20. The four-week tournament was concluded on April 3.

Marlon Samuels scored unbeaten 85 runs to pile up pressure on England and Brathwiate hammered the final nail in coffin, contributing with 34 runs (not out) as West Indies win by four wickets with two balls remaining in the final.

Besides men, West Indies women cricket team also lifted the World Cup to double the celebration. Opener Hayley Matthews smashed a stunning 66 off 45 balls to help the Windies beat Australia by 8 wickets to claim their maiden World T20 title.

Earlier in February, the Under-19 West Indies team also crowned as the Champions at the ICC Under-19 World Cup (50 over format).

April – Golf to shine the summers

English golfer Danny Willett stole the limelight in the year’s first major golf championship at Augusta, Georgia. Willett scored 5-under-par 67 in the final-round to become the first Englishman in two decades to win the Masters Tournament.

The 28-year-old golfer finished at 5-under-par 283, outshining home favourite Jordon Spieth and UK’s Lee Westwood by a winning margin of three shots.

Spieth’s close defeat cost him a thousand shattered dreams as he was bidding to create history at the Masters Tournament. The US golfer was awfully close of becoming just the fourth player in the 80 years of the tournament history to successfully defend his Masters title.

In the 80 years history of the Masters Tournament, only three players, Jack Nicklaus (1965-66), Nick Faldo (1989-90) and Tiger Woods (2001-02), have defended their title, winning two consecutive editions.

May – Leicester City's, Djokovic’s dream came true

The man with six Australian Open, three Wimbledon and two US Open, Novak Djokovic had a well-decorated trophy shelf. However, one trophy — French Open — was something that still far from his sight till the month of May.

Just like the Australian Open, Djokovic routed Andy Murray in the final, this time with 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, to complete his career Grand Slam at the age of 29.

Djokovic became the first tennis professional since Rod Laver in 1969, to win all four Grand Slams at once.

May brought some luck for the English football club Leicester City too, who won their maiden title at the English Premier League.

Defeating the odds, Leicester, who were on the verge of relegation last year, emerged as the champions to script the biggest sports story of the year.

Amidst the fall of mega clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, Claudio Ranieri-managed Leicester played astonishing throughout the league. En route the triumph, they lost just three matches out of 38 in all.

June – Mighty Australia brace hockey dominance

Australian men’s hockey team Kookaburras have been a dreaded rival for every team across the globe. Having won nine medals at Olympics, which include one gold and three silver medals, Australia also rule the Hockey Champions Trophy.

In the biennial tournament, which was earlier an annual event, Australia have won the maximum number of titles (14).
In the 2016 edition of the tournament, Australia beat India by 3-1 in a shootout game after the 60-minute game concluded with a 0-0 scoreline.

July – Much awaited title for Ronaldo’s Portugal

“No one believed in Portugal, but the truth is we made it,” Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo said in the locker room, with a lump in his throat. 

Portugal outclassed the hosts France 1-0, thanks to the substitute striker Eder, who undoubtedly deserved to be named as the hero of the match.

Eder scored with eleven minutes of extra time remaining and the Portugal to win the European Championship. The victory was even more touching for the star striker Ronaldo, who suffered injury during the match, however, he was the one with the biggest hands over the glittery trophy in the end.

“I am very happy. This is one of the happiest days of my life. Forget the individual trophies, the Champions League, this one right here is the happiest moment of my life. I have cried three or four times already. My brother had to tell me to calm down and I said Hudo, ‘I can’t’,” Ronaldo said in a video he shared after the much awaited triumph.

August – Sindhu’s Silver to bring back smile 

Despite driving fast in the beginning on the road to Rio, India missed the path in between and many of the largest athletes contingent (118), started collapsing like dominoes. 

It was Indian girls, Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu, who bring back smiles on the faces of Indians, who waited for a medal form the Rio Olympics desperately.

Shuttler Sindhu won India's first Silver medal in the badminton sport, after losing 21-19, 12-21, 15-21 to Spain's Carolina Marin. Earlier, Malik had won Bronze in the women's 58kg freestyle wrestling to end India’s medal draught in the sports’ life-size event.

September – Paralympians pick the pulse

Indian Olympians didn’t so wonders in the Rio Olympics, though the Paralympians shone to the fullest in the following event – 2016 Rio Paralympics. 

From just two medals in the Olympics, that too in the dying days of the event, Paralympians brought home four medals, two gold, a silver and a bronze medal.

Mariyappan Thangavelu, Devendra Jhajharia clinched gold in high jump and javelin throw respectively, while shot putter Deepa Malik won silver. 

Besides Thangavelu, Varun Singh Bhati claimed bronze medal in the high jump event.

October – Success story of India’s rural sport

Kabaddi, our own sport, remained a subject of flaunt for many in the year 2016 as India retained their supremacy in the rural sport, winning the Kabaddi World Cup 2016.

Under the captaincy of Anup Kumar, Indian national Kabaddi team beat Iran by 38-29 to claim their third successive title in the standard style Kabaddi World Cup. 

Raider Ajay Thakur was the marquee man for India with 12 points, though he was well supported by Nitin Tomar who contributed with causative six points. 

November – Rosberg’s silent rise and retirement

Mercedes’ driver Nico Rosberg clinched the 2016 World Championship, denying his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was bidding for his fourth crown.

Despite finishing on the top at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton failed to secure the F1 2016 title, while Rosberg who finished on second was crowned world champion for the first time.

The 31-year-old races under a German licence and has now become the third German driver to win the world championship after Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, who won first time in 1994 and 2010 respectively.

December – Double delight besides Indian cricket supremacy

The month of December can be precisely defined in a phrase: “All's well that ends well.”

Indian sports fantics were full of the joys of spring in winters, as first India Test cricket team routed England 4-0 to finish on the top of the ICC Test team rankings and later the junior hockey team brought home the much-awaited World Cup title.

Leading by an example, star of all-three formats, Virat Kohli powered Indian Test side to best against visiting England side, who was trounced for a cleansweep victory.

On the other hand, Indian hockey registered a clinical 2-1 victory over Belgium to win the FIH Junior Hockey World Cup after a gap of 15 years. 

Gurjant Singh (8th minute) and Simranjeet Singh (22nd) were the celebrated heroes behind the close carnival of the year.

Trump tweets New Year’s greeting to his many enemies

PTI | Washington | Updated :

Donald Trump sent New Year's greetings to his "many enemies" in a backhanded tweet on Saturday in which he gloated over his political conquests.

"Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!" the US president-elect wrote.

The message on Twitter, Trump's preferred mode of communication, caps a year in which he overcame long odds to vanquish 16 other Republicans vying to become the party's White House nominee.

He then upended Democrat Hillary Clinton in last month's general election — her formidable political machine and bigger campaign coffers notwithstanding — in a shock election upset.

Trump takes the oath of office on January 20, when he will become the 45th US president.

Yuki wins opening round of qualifiers in Chennai Open

PTI | Chennai |

Yuki Bhambri breezed past Italy's Marco Cecchinato in the opening round of the qualifiers in the Chennai Open here on Saturday.

The former top-100 player and a quarterfinalist in 2014 in Chennai Open, Yuki has returned to the circuit after a long injury lay off. But he displayed a lot of aggression as he romped to a 7-5 6-1 victory in one hour and 10 minutes.

Yuki will next take on Argentina's Nicolas Kicker, who got the better of Sasi Kumar Mukund of India.

Mukund bowed out of the first round of the qualifiers after losing 7-6(7) 3-6 5-7. He seemed to have gained a measure of his 24-year-old opponent as he fought tooth and nail to win the tie-breaker but suffered an early setback in the next set, getting broken in his second game itself.

Mukund tried to power his way back, riding on his big serve and powerful forehand strokes, but Kicker drew the sting out of his own shots by imparting massive top spin into them.

The third set was a hard-fought affair with the games going with serve till 5-5. Kicker broke through in the critical 11th game and held on to his serve to beat Mukund 7-5.

"It was a close match. The third set was tight and could have gone either way. May be I was a bit passive. He took his chances," Mukund said.

PM warns of tough action against dishonest, announces sops

PTI | New Delhi |

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday set out a stern warning of tough action against the "dishonest" people even as he announced a slew of sops for senior citizens, farmers, rural housing, women and small entrepreneurs to soften the blow of demonetisation.

He also assuaged the honest people that the government will act as a friend to them so that their difficulties are eased.

Among the sops announced in his address to the nation at the end of 50-day demonetisation period, Modi said senior citizens will get 8 per cent interest on deposits of upto Rs.7.5 lakh for 10 years and deposit of Rs.6000 into accounts of pregnant and lactating women in rural areas to meet medical expenses.

For farmers, he announced that banks will not charge interest for 60 days on loans taken from district cooperative central bank and primary societies for rabi crop.

For construction or expansion of a rural house, 3 per cent interest will be waived on loan of upto Rs.2 lakh.

Announcing two new schemes under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, he said 4 per cent interest subvention on loans upto Rs.9 lakh and 3 per cent on loan upto Rs.12 lakh.

"The law will take its course with full force. The government will help the honest and protect them and see their difficulties are eased. How honest will gain from the government. This government is a friend of good people and wants to build on the good environment for the people to return to goodness," he said.

Acknowledging that "serious offences" have been committed by some bank and government officials taking advantage of situation, he said "they will not be spared". 

Cannot help Iranian woman due to court order: Swaraj

PTI | New Delhi |

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday expressed inability in helping a British woman charity worker of Iranian origin who has been sentenced to one year imprisonment by a court in Odisha on charges of causing death of a tribal child due to negligence.

Swaraj had sought a report from Odisha government on the case involving 28-year-old Narges K Ashtari.

She said she cannot help the woman due to the court order.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif earlier this week has said that Iran will use all its capacity to secure Ashtari's release.

"I have received the report from Government of Odisha. The trial court has convicted Narges K Ashtari to one year imprisonment and Rs 3,00,000/- fine.

"She has filed an appeal before Sessions Court which is pending. The appellate court has released her on bail pending appeal. This is a judicial order and the matter is sub judice.

Therefore, I am unable to help in this case @BorisJohnson @JZarif," Swaraj said in a series of tweets.

She also tagged Zarif as well as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in her tweets.

Ashtari, who runs an orphanage through her NGO Prishan Foundation in Rayagada district of Odisha, was found guilty by a court in the case relating to causing death to a child due to negligence.

She faced the charges after the disappearance of the child in 2014, who is feared drowned.

An online petition by social activists has recently sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention in seeking justice for Ashtari saying she has dedicated her life in serving orphan and abandoned children around the world.

Earlier this week, the Iranian Foreign Minister had said "The Foreign Ministry considers it its duty to protect Iranian nationals residing abroad, including students, elites and businessmen… and will use all its capacity to support them and restore their rights." 

He said the Iranian Foreign Ministry and Iran's embassy in New Delhi are following up on her case though diplomatic, consular and legal channels.

Born in Isfahan, central Iran, Ashtari's parents moved to the UK when she was four years old.

India to be among world’s top 3 economies: Rajnath

PTI | Lucknow |

Terming demonetisation a "short-term pain for a long-term gain", Union Home Minster Rajnath Singh on Saturday said India would be among the top three world economies in the next ten years.

"After the decision of demonetisation, cashless transactions have increased by over 300 per cent. It is not a small thing. It is a bold and historic decision," he said.

Singh was speaking at a function here to mark the launch of 'Lucky Grahak Yojana' and 'Digi Dhan Vyapaar Yojana'.

"This decision will shape the future of India, it will make India an economic super power," he said.

Referring to the hardships faced by common people due to note ban, he said it was a "short-term pain for a long-term gain".

"Things are looking up now. The circulation of new currency notes in the market has improved," he said, noting that India was the "fast-growing economy" in the world.

"Modi wants to take decisions that will catapult India to the slot of top three economies of the world, and I am confident of it," he said.

To encourage cashless business, strengthen mobile banking and inculcate the habit of making e-payments, the government recently launched schemes for consumers as well as traders.

To encourage customers, the scheme is 'Lucky Grahak Yojana' and to encourage traders, the scheme is 'Digi Dhan Vyapaar Yojana'.

The government had announced scrapping of the old Rs 500 and the Rs 1,000 notes on November 8. While this led to a cash crunch and serpentine queues at banks and ATMs, the decision also pushed uptake of digital payments in the country.

The programme was attended by UP Governor Ram Naik, Union MoS for Finance Santosh Gangwar, city Mayor Dinesh Sharma and popular Bollywood singer Kailash Kher.