Ritu Jha–

The Indian Overseas Congress has traveled to India to support Congress in the general elections. The mood seems upbeat among the overseas volunteers and the IOC president is confident that the Indian National Congress, as well as its multi-party alliance – the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A.), will win the general elections with a clear margin.

The Indian National Congress (INC, also known as the Congress Party), headed by Mallikarjun Kharge, is the BJP’s only pan-Indian rival to the grand old party Congress that won only 44 seats in 2014 and 52 seats in 2019, but the Indian Overseas Congress USA, President Mohinder Singh Gilzian confidently told indica, “India National Congress will win 150 seats and with the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA ) an alliance of 41 political parties will reach 300.”

Mohinder Singh Gilzian with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi

Gilzian who is currently in Delhi told indica over the phone there are 50 overseas Congress volunteers in India and more are coming to support. “We are working in seven states Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana, Kerela, and Delhi. “We are working very hard on the ground,” Gilzian said.

India during the last ten years has been going in the wrong direction and people earlier did not realize but now they see India is sliding back to the 18th century by leveraging religious differences – Hindus versus Sikhs and Muslims versus Christians. “That is unacceptable,” he said, “And he (Modi) is not answerable to anyone and he never talks to the media,” Gilzian told indica.

“This election is about the people of India versus Prime Minister Modi.” He clarified, “Not just the opposition parties’ alliance – INDIA – the contest is between Modi and the entire country. There are great leaders in BJP, but Modi….”

Gilzian says he keeps traveling back and forth between the US and India and he met Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and the Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge. Gilzian is also looking for a Congress ticket from Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. He is a green card holder and if Congress gives him the party ticket to contest this election, that will show their respect for NRIs who want to serve their country, and
like him there are many who love their motherland.

“I still hold the green card because I love my motherland… my country,” Gilzian said. “It will set an example and more leaders like me would like to come and serve.”

Like Gilzian, another IOC leader George Abraham too is in India. A friend of Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, Shashi Tharoor, Abraham is now in the southern part of India to help Congress there.

“The political atmosphere here is very charged. People in Kerala are very passionate about the politics here. Candidates are working very hard, and we will find out on June 4 when the elections take place, what the results will be,” Abraham told indica. General elections in India will be held in seven phases between April 19 and June 1, 2024. The results of the elections will be declared on June 4.

“Here in Kerala, the people will cast votes on April 26,” Abraham said. He however has some doubts about the election process spread over three months and about the Electronic Voting Machines being stored till June 4.

“Everybody wonders why it requires two months for the elections to complete. We cannot say we don’t have the manpower to provide security to conduct the elections in a free and fair manner. I think keeping these voting machines under lock and key for two months is not a good thing to do. I think these elections could have been done in two weeks.”

“I come to India for most of the elections. I’m a colleague and a good friend of Shashi Tharoor at the United Nations. When he ran for the election in 2009, he asked me to come and help him out, and I was there. This time also he asked me to come to Thiruvananthapuram because it looks like the fight here is definitely tight this time between Shashi Tharoor and Rajiv Chandrasekhar, the BJP candidate,” he added. Abraham has been in India since April 3 and will be in the state till April 30. Elections in Kerala will be held on April 26.

He feels that the BJP is gaining strength in Kerala owing to the failure of the current CPM government in Kerala. “People are upset about their rule and though they are part of the INDIA alliance, BJP has succeeded in creating a narrative that Modi is going to win,” Abraham added.

“Though the minorities, the poor, and others have grave concerns with the BJP, especially the Christian community in Kerala after the ethnic violence in Manipur where 41% of the population is Christians. They were ethnically cleansed, and 450 churches were destroyed. The other day the Manipur government announced that there shouldn’t be any Good Friday or Easter celebrations, that will not be a public holiday. People see that if that can happen to a state where 41% of the people are Christians, what can happen to Kerala where only 18% of the people are Christians?”

“When it comes to Kerala BJP came here and talked about development only, not religion. But the people here in Kerala are a very smart electorate, they know the real color of BJP. I don’t think Keralites will fall for the glib talk of BJP. They can influence a certain percentage of the people but otherwise, I don’t think BJP has any chance in Kerala in this election,” Abraham said.

“Whether Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, or Andhra Pradesh, the south will not embrace Modi’s philosophy easily, because religion is not a big issue yet. Not just because people here are more focused on development, jobs, and other issues, religion is much more of a personal thing here. In north India, it looks like Modi has succeeded in creating this religious polarization, provoking one community against another and capitalizing on it. But in the South, they really don’t have much of a chance anywhere right now. If anybody thinks that Modi can even do better than last time, I think they are not looking at things very realistically,” Abraham said.

Arup Hiwale of Indian Overseas Congress with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

Arup Arun Hiwale a Congress supporter, and volunteer based in California was in India earlier this month to help the party garner support and prepare for the forthcoming general elections. “One of the main reasons for my India visit was to show support to Rahul Gandhi and what he’s doing. I also walked with him and the supporters from Rajasthan to Punjab during Bharat Jodo Yatra,” Hiwale told indica.

“I feel India needs a sound approach to politics not divisive, or aggressively ambitious for the economy. I believe that in the rural areas, India still needs a lot of love, patience with one another, kindness. India Shining campaign did not work last time, and India becoming a world guru is giving some excitement in educated and uneducated people. While the educated people are proud about it, the rural uneducated people are crazy about it. They think that India is becoming something great. To diffuse that kind of hyper excitement, I told people that we need contentment with godliness. We need love for one another. We need to work hard. We need to have a discipline on the roads. And many things are necessary. And those come from your contentment. They don’t come by any political policy or any reservations. They come from how we see life as a whole,” Hiwale said.

“BJP will not have easy access to local communities because people are tired of their false promises. One good thing I saw when we went to villages in Lucknow and met with young people, I found out that people are helping each other. There was a big group of young people who were following the Nyay Yatra. I took part in the yatra Raebareli to Lucknow. I went to India in January and stayed there till March. The economy of India needs benefits reaching the rural parts of India.

What the BJP is proposing is a shining India that India doesn’t understand. There is a large number of people who still need that percolation of resources and benefits. To do that we need an ideal party like Congress,” he added.

“People of Rae Bareilly want to get rid of BJP and bring back Congress. They have experienced the falseness and the hollowness of the promises that were made.”

Ritu Jha–

Indian American student Amogh Upadhya, who was accused of arson at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in San Jose State University has been released from jail. However, the university police are adamant he did it and acted alone. Upadhya was charged with four counts of arson by the Santa Clara Superior Court on April 12 for allegedly setting fires in the college restrooms. He was arrested on April 10 and was held on $400,000 bail.

Jessica Kellogg, Communications Program Manager, Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara told indica on email, “The defendant is on a supervised own recognizance release.” Upadhya, who has returned to his parents’ house, told indica over the phone, “I don’t know what you are talking about…. don’t call this number.”

According to Mercury News, he will be going through psychological counseling and has to stay 300 yards away from the university property.

Captain Frank Belcastro, told indica Upadhyay acted alone. He said no bomb unit was called but the office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) responded to both the arson on March 31 and April 8.

Adding on he said that what he did was a safety hazard and he started the fire in an occupied building and on two separate occasions.” “He started the fire… on the 7th floor and one on the 8th floor. He stuffed papers and started it that led to the fire and the evacuation of the building,” Captain Belcastro said. “The library was occupied by a lot of people.” We did not call the bomb team and the state fire marshal assisted and no bomb squad was called.

“He operated all alone. And he was arrested in the library around 5 pm on April 10.

All personnel involved worked tirelessly to canvass the area, review security camera footage, cultivate leads, and ultimately identify the suspect,” Cal Fire said in a press note. Upadhyay a sophomore is an undergraduate researcher at the College of Engineering at SJSU. He was also in the cohort 2023-2024 Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) that comprises of only 31 students.

On his LinkedIn profile [now deleted] Upadhya says that he researches computer vision using AI technologies such as Darknet YOLO and employs ROS interfaces to incorporate machine learning algorithms into the robotic control loop.

“As a Robotics Researcher at San Jose State University, I develop innovative solutions using robotics, machine learning, and cloud computing. I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology/ Computer Network Systems, and I have earned multiple certifications and honors in these domains, such as DevOps on AWS Specialization and CCNA: Introduction to Networks. I am a motivated, results-oriented, collaborative team player, who values customer service, innovation, and quality. I am eager to apply my skills, technologies, and tools to real-world problems and projects, and to learn from new challenges and opportunities. I am seeking software internships that will help me grow as a software engineer and contribute to the success of the organization,” his profile reads.

Reena Bhardwaj (ANI)–

Indian American Congressman Shri Thanedar interacted with members of the Hindu community on Monday and spoke about the issue of rising attacks on Hindu temples across America and the fear among the community, saying that “local law enforcement hasn’t taken enough action” to investigate the recent attacks.

This comes as he introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives condemning Hinduphobia, anti-Hindu bigotry, hate, and intolerance on April 10. The resolution has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability.

“We’ve seen a lot of attacks happening on Hindu temples across the United States and we’ve seen a lot more in more recent times. And it’s time for us to seek support. There’s a fear. Many Hindu communities are under fear. And what we’ve seen is that local law enforcement hasn’t taken enough action. We have not seen any suspects, any arrests, or any resolution to these issues,” Thanedar said while citing it as a reason for introducing the resolution in US Congress.

“That (attack incident) has created a lot of fear among the Indian American community, among the Hindu community, and a lot of misinformation has been spread. And so the purpose of this resolution is to bring that to the attention of Congress and to the Biden administration,” he added.

Congressman Thanedar also said that he expects bipartisan support in Congress as it reflects American values, adding that he will continue to fight against racism.

“Well, I expect bipartisan support because American values–freedom, equality, and racial justice–are all American values. And I expect my congressional colleagues from across the aisle to co-sponsor this resolution and be part of it,” he said.

“I’ll continue to stand and fight for justice, just like I fight for justice for my community in Detroit, Michigan, and fighting against racism, fighting against systemic racism that my community in Detroit has experienced for decades,” he added.

Another Indian-American, Vijay Sadhawal, who was present at the event, expressed his concern over the ‘bias of the American media’ towards American Hindus and said that the resolution is just the starting point to raising the voice of the Hindu community.

“We have enough Hindu Americans in the country that can actually be a steering rod, so to speak, for protecting our minority rights in this country. And yet we see that the instruments of democracy, like the media, civil society, and NGOs, seem to be biased against the Hindu population of the United States,” he said.

“The proposal that Congressman Thanedar has introduced. I think it’s a starting point. It’s a starting point for saying that, hey, we are people. We are also people, as Americans, as anybody else. We have as many rights as everybody else has,” he added.

He also drew parallels to the attacks on Kashmiri Pandits after the 1990s and said that he “sees a tremendous similarity that serves the institutions.”

“The striking similarity is that if I take you back to Kashmir, which is a Hindu minority region in another democracy, and I look back at the events that took place in late last century, especially after the 1980s and beyond, I see a tremendous similarity that serves the institutions that in the democracy are intended to protect you,” he said.

“So I’m concerned in that light that Hindu Americans are at the crossroads. And if we don’t act up now, if we don’t realise what we have and our rights, both civil rights and otherwise, we will be in the same situation that Kashmiri Hindus were, who basically, a few years ago, came out of a movie called Kashmir Files. And the Indian population, by and large, said, We never heard that a genocide had been committed in Kashmir,” he added.

The resolution that Congressman Shri Thanedar introduced earlier last week reads that Hindu Americans face stereotypes and disinformation about their heritage and symbols, and have been the targets of bullying in schools and on college campuses, as well as discrimination and hate speech.

“…the House of Representatives– (1) celebrates the contributions of Hindus and Hinduism to the United States of America; (2) declares the United States as a place that welcomes the diversity brought by Hindu Americans; (3) condemns Hinduphobia, anti-Hindu bigotry and hate, and intolerance; and (4) makes appropriate copies of this resolution available for distribution to the public and the press,” the resolution read.

In the past few years, attacks on Hindu temples and communities have surged, with cases being registered to investigate the attacks.

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) shared information about the vandalisation of California’s Sherawali Temple in a social media post on Friday. A photo of the defacement was also shared by the HAF.

On December 23, last year, a Hindu temple was defaced with pro-Khalistani slogans in California’s Newark city. The pictures were shared on the social media platform ‘X’ by the Hindu American Foundation, showing slogans scribbled on the walls of the Swaminarayan Mandir Vasana Sanstha.

Images showed hateful slogans against India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the wall of the temple.

At the time, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had taken note of the incident and reiterated that extremists and separatists should not be given space.

Arul Louis (IANS)–

The historic trial of Donald Trump started on Monday, making him the first former President in US history to face a criminal case, throwing several questions over the November elections. In a trial watched with interest around the world, Trump faces the possibility of criminal conviction and a prison term on charges of falsifying business records of his company to hide hush money payments to a porn actor named Stormy Daniels (see photo below) to silence her allegations that they had sex.

Stephanie A. Gregory Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, with her husband Barrett Blade

Besides the cloud of conviction, the ability of Republican Trump, who has a slender lead in polls over Democrat President Joe Biden, to campaign will be seriously crimped by tying him down in the Manhattan courtroom four days a week over more than a month with less than seven months before the election.

Even if he is convicted, he may not be disqualified from running in the presidential election and being elected because the Constitution is silent on criminal conviction.

The Manhattan case will likely be the only criminal case to come to trial before the election as the other case alleging election interference in Georgia that appeared to be on a fast track has run aground because of allegations that the prosecutor had hired a boyfriend at a cost of $650,000 to taxpayers to help prosecute Trump creating a conflict of interest.

The federal criminal case against him alleging election interference as a fallout of the January 6, 2021 riots when his supporters broke into the Capitol to stop Congress from ratifying his election is also pending, with the Supreme Court likely having to decide on his claims of presidential immunity.

Another pending federal criminal case against him is over his handling of classified documents.

Before entering the courtroom, Trump said: “This is political persecution, this is a persecution like never before, nobody has ever seen anything like it”.

Prosecutors have said that the prosecution only shows that in a democracy, no one is above the law.

Outside, people supporting him and opposing him rallied with signs and shouts as he arrived in a sports utility vehicle with personal Secret Service guards, a privilege he gets as a former President.

Inside the courtroom, Trump sat at a table with his lawyers as they made a last-minute futile attempt to delay the trial by asking Judge Juan Merchan to recuse himself alleging he was biased.

Merchan, with whom Trump has had several skirmishes and was slapped with a gag order, turned down the demand and proceeded with the trial.

Manhattan Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass began recounting the case against Trump which has 34 charges. He parried with defence lawyers on what evidence could be introduced in the trial with Merchan ruling on the disputes.

The beginning phase of the trial under state procedures is the selection of 12 jurors – ordinary citizens who will make up the panel that will give the verdict – is set to begin. The prosecutors and the defence lawyers will closely examine the potential jurors looking for biases that could hurt their case and try to stop those they consider biased from sitting on the jury.

Manhattan is heavily Democratic so most potential jurors will be of that persuasion and the defence will try to winnow them down. The case brought by Manhattan Public Prosecutor Alvin Bragg, a Democrat elected to the position, centres on $130,000 that was paid to porn star Stormy Daniels through his former lawyer Michael Cohen during the 2016 election campaign to silence her and avoid another sex scandal.

The prosecution alleges that the payments were camouflaged as corporate legal expenses, a violation of state law that would make it a crime. Trump is also ensnared in civil cases.

New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, another Democrat elected to the office, successfully sued him in a civil fraud case over him overstating the value of his properties in applying for loans. He was ordered to pay a $454 million penalty, which the billionaire, whose assets are tied up in real estate, could not readily come up with. While his appeal against the judgment is on, he was required to post a bond to cover the amount, which he finally did with a lot of difficulty, aided in part by a windfall of billions from an online portal that he had invested in going public on a stock exchange.

In another civil case in a federal court, he was ordered to pay $83 million in damages for defaming a woman who accused him of molesting her by repeatedly denying her statements and criticising her.

Some of the Indian and Indian-origin students who were found murdered or dead in 2024

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

Expressing concern over recent incidents of killings of Indian students in the US, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Monday stated that though the incidents are unconnected, he does share the worry of the kin. Answering a question on murders of Indian students in the US in the last three and half months, he said: “If anything happens to the students, it is a great tragedy to the family, a big concern for us. Our embassy and consulates have looked at every case. They are actually unconnected. Some had personal issues, some had an accident and somebody was unfortunately murdered. So each case has been different.”

The External Affairs Minister said that people today are more aware and the number of Indian students is also strong enough.

“I do share the worry. Even if they are unconnected, we have told embassies to keep in close touch with them. Whenever new students come, they should talk to them. In new cities, there are some pockets where you have to tell people that they should not go and also to convey not to take foolish risks. We have presently 1.1 to 1.2 million students studying abroad in different countries,” he said.

Answering a question on handling the changing scenarios of the world, the Minister said: “We are very cognizant. There are going to be difficult years. Actually. India is an oasis of stability. If you look at any part of the world, few can say that they are better off today compared to the last five or 10 years. We have progressed, secured ourselves and built capacities.”

“But, it should not blind us. We have big challenges. For this, you need an experienced, courageous Prime Minister as well as a team in which he has confidence,” he added.

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju–

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman of Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

It is surprising that the Congress party has fielded Kanhaiya Kumar, of ‘tukde tukde gang’ fame (or notoriety) from the North East Delhi constituency for the forthcoming 2024 parliamentary elections in India.

Kanhaiya is almost certain to lose to against BJP’s Manoj Tiwari for these reasons:

(1) He has the unenviable stigma of belonging to the ‘tukde tukde’ gang, i.e., people branded as anti-nationals who want to break India. The BJP has been quick to point this out

(2) North East Delhi is a highly polarized district, which had witnessed communal riots. Close to 68% of its population is Hindu, a majority of whom will probably vote for the BJP.

BJP Lok Sabha candidate from North East Delhi Manoj Tiwari. (ANI/Sanjay Sharma)

(3) Kanhaiya Kumar is from Bihar; in fact, he had contested the 2019 parliamentary elections from his home state’s Beghusarai constituency on a Communist Party of India ticket. People in Delhi naturally wonder why he has been fielded as a candidate from Delhi.

(4) He has an unenviable reputation of being a ‘dal badlu’ (party switcher), having moved from the CPI to the Congress. It is reported that giving him the North East Delhi ticket was a decision of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. If true, it shows total a lack of sagacity and political
maturity in the latter.

In fact, not only will Congress lose the North East Delhi seat, the decision to field Kanhaiya Kumar from Delhi will have wider repercussions for the Congress.

Many voters in other parts of India may think that if a party is willing to hand over India’s national capital to anti-nationals, it is not to be trusted anywhere. Consequently, the decision will have an adverse impact on Congress elsewhere too.

Congress is sealing its own doom.

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-

Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and US ambassador to the United Nations, will be the next Walter P. Stern Chair at the Hudson Institute.

“When our policymakers fail to call out our enemies or acknowledge the importance of our alliances, the world is less safe. That is why Hudson’s work is so critical,” Haley said after her appointment on April 15, 2024. “They believe the American people should have the facts and policymakers should have the solutions to support a secure, free, and prosperous future. I look forward to partnering with them to defend the principles that make America the greatest country in the world.”

“Nikki is a proven, effective leader on both foreign and domestic policy,” Hudson President and CEO John P. Walters said. “In an era of worldwide political upheaval, she has remained a steadfast defender of freedom and an effective advocate for American security and prosperity. We are honored to have her join the Hudson team.” Haley received Hudson’s Global Leadership Award in 2018.

Hudson inaugurated the Walter P. Stern Chair in 2020 to commemorate the achievements of former Chairman Walter “Wally” Stern, who was instrumental in making Hudson one of Washington’s most respected research organizations.

“It is fitting that Nikki has taken on this title,” Sarah May Stern, chair of Hudson’s Board of Trustees, said. “She is a courageous and insightful policymaker and these qualities are vital in making Hudson the powerhouse policy organization it is today, and I am extremely proud that she has joined the Institute.”

 

Gopichand Thotakura

Rachel V Thomas (IANS)–

Calling his journey from Vijayawada to become a space tourist an effort worth “little 2 cents”, Indian national Captain Gopichand Thotakura on Monday said his story will inspire the next generation in the country to dream big and fulfil their aspirations.

He is set to become the first Indian to travel to the edge of space as a tourist onboard Blue Origin’s next flight. He will be a part of the six-person crew flying on US company Blue Origin’s NS-25 mission. The mission date is yet to be announced.

Speaking to IANS, Captain Gopichand said his dream of going to space and becoming an astronaut is finally going to happen.

“The dream is finally coming to life, to be able to carry the spirit of over a billion people and go up there, almost 40 years since Rakesh Sharma went to space with the Russians in 1984,” he said.

The six astronauts chosen to fly to the Karman Line, the boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and outer space

“It is an absolute honour on behalf of the country, and my family and everybody else,” he added.

After Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, only people of Indian origin who have been in space are — Kalpana Chawla (1997), Sunita Williams (2006), and Raja Chari (2021) as NASA astronauts.

Born and raised in India, Captain Gopichand made his way to the US for aeronautical engineering about 15 years ago. He completed his studies at Embry Riddle in Daytona Beach, Florida.

He later came back to India and worked as a commercial pilot for medical operations in Tier-II and III cities with jet transport aircraft. And in 2016-17, he moved back to international medical rescue operations. However, he always dreamed of going to space.

“I believe every Indian, growing up at some point, wants to be a pilot and has the lofty goal to sit there in the cockpit one day.

“As for me, it was a little more than that. It was always space. It was always to be an astronaut”.

Now, “I will be carrying our Indian flag to space, and show to the other fellow astronauts that our blood is also now a part of the league.”

He called out the young generation to dream big and chart their way to scale heights in life, especially in the space sector. He lamented that while every kid would want to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, no one aspires to become an astronaut.

“And that’s where my little two cents was put in to inspire the next gen to dream big,” he said on his “journey from Vijayawada to space”.

“It’s not about following somebody else’s dreams. Think outside the box, and don’t let anyone stop you from thinking,” Captain Gopichand told IANS.

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU—

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Sensex plunged more than 800 points on Monday amid growing tensions in the Middle East. While the Sensex fell 845 points, or 1.14 per cent, to end at 73,399.78, the National Stock Exchange (NSE) Nifty closed at 22,272.50, down 247 points or 1.1 per cent.

Samir Bahl, CEO (Investment Banking) at Anand Rathi Advisors, said the escalation in the potential conflict between Iran and Israel is a serious development that will likely impact oil pricing adversely. “The Indian markets will be pressured over the short term as well. However, the Indian economy’s strong fundamentals and growth trajectory remain firmly in place over the long term,” Bahl said.

Vinod Nair, Head of Research at Geojit Financial Services, said geopolitical tensions and higher-than-expected US inflation impacted investor sentiment and dragged the indices to a lower note.

Earlier, the stock market commenced trading on Monday in negative territory, mirroring global concerns over the escalating tensions in the Middle East.

At the opening bell, both the Sensex and Nifty indices plunged, reflecting investor apprehension amidst geopolitical uncertainties.

The Sensex had dropped by 887.82 points, or 1.20 per cent, to 73,357.08, while the Nifty declined by 181.75 points, or 0.81 per cent, to 22,337.65.

Among the Nifty 50 companies, only five witnessed advances, while 45 registered declines.

Across Asia, equities faced downward pressure, reaching a six-week low amid concerns surrounding the Middle East situation, disappointing bank earnings, and expectations of prolonged higher interest rates by the US Federal Reserve.

Major benchmarks in Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea registered declines, while mainland China’s energy sector saw modest gains.

Varun Aggarwal, founder and managing director, Profit Idea, said, “Although global markets demonstrated some stability following an unprecedented attack on Israel, tensions remained palpable. Oil prices experienced slight relief amid speculation of contained conflict, with Brent crude stabilizing around USD 90 a barrel. Conversely, aluminum and nickel prices surged after the imposition of new sanctions on Russian supplies by the US and UK.”

Investors are navigating through uncertainties such as persistent inflation and interest rate hikes, with the Middle East crisis adding a layer of volatility.

Expectations of oil prices surpassing $100 per barrel loom, with potential flight to safe-haven assets like Treasuries and gold, alongside further stock market declines.

As Wall Street’s earnings season kicked off, providing insights into the US economy’s resilience amid uncertain interest rate trajectories, major banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., and Citigroup Inc. reported mixed results, reflecting the impact of funding costs and consumer behavior in a high-rate environment.

As the trading day progresses, market participants remain vigilant, closely monitoring geopolitical developments and their implications on global markets, while also assessing corporate earnings for further market cues.

The Supreme Court of India (SC). (File Photo: IANS)

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

The Supreme Court of India on Monday issued notice on a plea filed by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal challenging his arrest and subsequent remand by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the excise policy case. Agreeing to examine the matter, a bench presided over by Justice Sanjiv Khanna asked the federal anti-money laundering agency to file its reply by April 24.

The Bench, also comprising Justice Dipankar Datta, allowed the petitioner side to file a rejoinder affidavit, if any, by April 27 to the reply filed by ED.

The matter will be taken up next on April 29 for further hearing.

Last week, a Bench presided over by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud agreed to urgently list CM Kejriwal’s petition. “Please send an email. I’ll look into it,” CJI Chandrachud told senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared on behalf of CM Kejriwal and mentioned the matter for urgent hearing.

CM Kejriwal has approached the Supreme Court challenging the dismissal of his plea by the Delhi High Court. Earlier, a bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma of the High Court took note of the ED’s submission that the federal anti-money laundering agency had enough material, including statements from approvers and allegations of involvement in the formulation of the excise policy, which had led them to arrest him.

It said, “The files and material placed before us reveal that the mandate of law was followed by the ED. The trial court order is not a two-line order. The statements with ED are of hawala dealers as well as AAP candidates in Goa elections.”

Immediately after he was taken into custody by the ED on March 21, CM Kejriwal moved the apex court seeking an urgent late-night hearing on his petition. But the very next day, before a special Bench of the Supreme Court could commence hearing the matter, he withdrew his plea and decided to contest remand proceedings before the trial court.

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

Addressing an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, which was convened after Iranian drone and missile launches into Israel, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday said the Middle East was on the brink, adding that neither the region nor the world can afford more war.

“We have a shared responsibility to work for peace. Regional — and indeed global — peace and security are being undermined by the hour. Neither the region nor the world can afford more war,” Guterres said in his statement.

“The Middle East is on the brink. The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict. Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate. Now is the time for maximum restraint,” he added.

He also condemned the Iranian air raids into Israel to avenge the attack on its embassy in Syria, which left three of its top military generals dead, while calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

“I strongly condemn the serious escalation represented by the large-scale attack launched on Israel by the Islamic Republic of Iran this evening. And I call for an immediate cessation of these hostilities,” the UN said.

“I remind all Member States that the Charter of the United Nations prohibits the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations,” he added.

Guterres also dwelt on the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, reiterating the UN’s call for immediate ceasefire and unconditional release of all hostages.

“We have a shared responsibility to secure an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid,” he said.

“We have a shared responsibility to stop violence in the occupied West Bank, de-escalate the situation along the Blue Line, and re-establish safe navigation in the Red Sea,” he added.

Following the Iranian strike, Israel put in a request with the United Nations Security Council to immediately convene a meeting to unequivocally condemn Iran and designate its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation.

Israel said Iran poses a direct threat to the international peace and violated the UN Charter, adding that time has come for the Security Council to address the ‘Iranian threat.’

Anil Swarup

By Anil Swarup–

(Anil Swarup is a former Education Secretary and Coal Secretary in the Government of India. He is also a renowned author. The views expressed in this article are his own)

In 2021, GVG Krishnamurty, former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India, passed away. A friend, while informing me about his demise, made a Freudian slip. He wrote, “Former Election Commission dead”.

I was struck by a tweet on April 13 last year by Shantanu Nandan Sharma, Senior Editor, Economic Times, that would have otherwise gone unnoticed: “Had everything been routine, @AshokLavasa would have taken over as CEC today”.

Along with the Indian judiciary and the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC), Election Commission of India (ECI) was one of the most revered institutions in the country. Now, perhaps only UPSC stands tall. The judiciary seems to have undone itself because no one had the courage to touch it. Imagine a law passed almost unanimously by the Parliament (there was just one vote against the bill to reform the selection process of judges) was struck down by the judiciary.

It had asserted its authority in no uncertain terms. It can still do that. Perhaps it will. However, its credibility took a huge beating on account of a series of events in the recent past. Who could have imagined that a group of sitting Supreme Court judges would hold a press conference against the incumbent Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra (January 2018), and, get away with it? Anyone else would have been hauled for contempt of court.

To make matters worse, one of the Supreme Court judges who had held the press conference was promoted as Chief Justice himself. He had, however, the mortification of facing sexual harassment charges that were subsequently withdrawn by the complainant who was herself then re-employed apparently as a consequence of a compromise.

How can there be a compromise in such a situation? If what she alleged was true, action should have been taken against the judge. And, if her allegations were false, she should have been charged with contempt and other crimes. The same judge sat in judgement on crucial and sensitive matter. He was ultimately rewarded with a Rajya Sabha nomination. Such “rewards” are not new and have happened in the past.

However, the number, the manner and the timing of such rewards have severely dented the faith that people have in the judiciary.

Actions themselves are not as important as the message they convey. Here the message is loud and clear.

T N Seshan brought the Election Commission to the fore. He has many critics as well, but no one will doubt the impact that he made on this institution. I had the occasion to conduct one election in Lakhimpur-Kheri, UP as District Magistrate in 1992 when he was the Chief Election Commissioner. I could feel the impact he made.

ECI’s credibility soared and continued to soar even after Seshan’s departure. His successors added value. There were indeed some unpleasant internal occurrences that also got highlighted in the public domain, but ECI’s authority and objectivity were never called to question.

Another isolated incident of a former CEC joining a political party and then becoming a Central minister was indeed unethical (though not illegal). It did dent the reputation of this august body but the subsequent incumbents to this this post held their head high.

Former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa

Now, the ECI is facing an unprecedented crisis of credibility. It started with what happened to Ashok Lavasa. This unsavory episode lent grist to the rumor mills. He was made election commissioner after due diligence. If newspaper reports are to be believed, on occupying the position, he apparently chose to take “independent” view on certain issues.

Suddenly cases against his family members were opened. Being the seniormost, he would have been the logical choice to the post of CEC at a crucial time when state elections were to be held in some states. Lavasa dithered, but finally chose not to put up a fight and went on to join the Asian Development Bank. The message was again loud and clear.

The credibility of ECI took a severe beating. What has now happened to another election commissioner Arun Goel who was elevated to the Commission in haste (took VRS and joined the commission within hours) and resigned is another incident that creates grave doubts.

There is an adage: Justice should not only be done but appear to have been done. The decisions that the ECI takes are, on more occasion than not, difficult and sensitive ones. It can’t please anyone. In fact, the decisions should not be to please or displease. The objective has to be to carry out the process of elections objectively.

This is what the ECI prided in and was known for. There were never such allegations as are being made now (though some of them are ridiculous in nature) in the past. The objectivity of ECI is being questioned as never before. The manner in which state election has been planned and rolled out in West Bengal has left a lot to be desired.

The need for having so many phases when country faces an unprecedented crisis was questioned. The ECI issued directives regarding adherence to COVID protocol but turned a blind eye towards their violation. The norms were ignored with impunity.

Those at the ECI have an unenviable job. It is a tough job. But it was always so. And, ECI managed to keep its neck above the water. However, Ashok Lavasa incident had not happened earlier. It has happened now. It can happen again. I have no doubt that the Election Commissioners would want to restore the sanctity and credibility of the institution.

For doing this, they will first have to admit that something is amiss. However, even after admitting it, the key question is whether they have the spine to do what they think is correct. When T N Seshan did what he did, he didn’t require a new legislation. He used the existing rules to strengthen the structure.

However, it required guts and attitude. Do the present Commissioners have guts and attitude? Some people argue, perhaps unfairly, that they wouldn’t be where they are if they were perceived to have these attributes. So, are we in the process of losing another credible institution? Or, will it regain its glory?

Himani Sanagaram–

Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi from the Democratic Party from Illinois’ 8th Congressional District says he is cautiously optimistic that the TikTok bill will pass. “We have to wait and see how it plays out,” said in an interview with indica.

Recently, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell raised the issue about getting TikTok passed. Some younger Democrats might not like this because they are relying on young voters. The Senate has yet to take up the bill. However, according to Krishnamoorthi, nearly half of participants in the latest CNBC All-America Economic Survey favor a ban on TikTok or that it be forced to be sold to a non-Chinese company.

The bipartisan bill, approved in a 352-65 House vote in mid-March, seeks to ban TikTok nationwide if the video-sharing app continues to be controlled by its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

TikTok CEO Chew Shou Zi testified earlier this year that he is a Singapore citizen and has no links with China.

Krishnamoorthi and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, wrote to TikTok CEO Chew Shou Zi to separate itself from the CCP-controlled ByteDance. The House bill gives Chew six months to divest TikTok from ByteDance or face a ban.

About 40 per cent of Democrats and 60 per cent of Republicans support a ban or a sale of TikTok, the March 2024 CNBC survey of 1001 Americans found. The poll also found that younger Americans in particular aren’t in favor of disallowing TikTok. While 31 per cent of participants in the CNBC poll oppose a ban, the number rises to 48 per cent among the 18-34 age group. Just 11 per cnt are against blocking the app in the 65 and older category. Of the daily TikTok survey users, close to two-thirds think the government should not prohibit the social media app.

App stores and web hosting companies would be barred from offering the app for new downloads or updating it on users’ phones.

On the perception that ‘Hinduism’ is under threat in the US, Krishnamoorthi said, “Many minorities in America are facing discrimination and right now Hindu Americans are seeing that discrimination.”

He said Indo-U.S. relations are strong. “Under Joe Biden, Indo-U.S. foreign relations, continue to be strong and will continue to be stronger,” he added.

Krishnamoorthi said he is working toward the per country cap for H-1B visas and enhance the skills needed to do so. “Elimination of percentage caps helps H-1Bs to reduce the waiting time for green cards. Currently, on an average, each Indian family will have to wait for about 100 years to get their green card.”

As per U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data, 59,100 Indians became US citizens in 2023. According to the report, Indians ranked second (6.7 per cent) in terms of the largest group by country of birth to be naturalized in the United States in 2023, while Mexico held the top position with 12.7 percent naturalizations.

According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, (Fairus.org), the per-country caps limit a single country to an annual cap of seven percent of family-based immigrant visas and seven percent of employment-based immigrant visas. The United States has a 7 per cent cap per country on legal permanent residency visas for immigrants from India, which some consider to be “discrimination” and “inconsistent” with merit-based immigration.

The cap has been in place since the Immigration Act of 1990, and has not been updated to reflect today’s immigration needs.

Meanwhile, on the illegal immigration front, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data (USCBP), an overwhelming number of 96,917 Indians were apprehended while crossing into the United States without documentation between October 2022 and September 2023.

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju–

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman of Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

Speculation is rife in India about the prospective results of the forthcoming parliamentary elections, to be held in seven phases from April 19  to June 1, with the results to be declared on June 4. The ruling BJP is being opposed by the 41-member opposition I.N.D.I.A. alliance.

Though most believe that the ruling BJP with its allies will win a majority in the 543-seat parliament, let us consider what will happen if this does not turn out true, and the I.N.D.I.A. alliance wins a majority, and forms the government.

1. The first question: who will be the Prime Minister? Though Rahul Gandhi will be a strong contender, other parties in the alliance may not agree.

Hence the alliance may agree to have Prime Ministers from different parties for limited terms, proportionate to their numbers in parliament. Thus during the five-year term of the Indian parliament (unless it is dissolved earlier) India may have 41 Prime Ministers, though with varying tenures in office. Though unprecedented, there is nothing in the Indian Constitution against this.

2. What will be distribution of portfolios? All members of the alliance will have an eye on the lucrative ‘wet’ ministries such as finance, industries, commerce, etc and none will seek the ‘dry’ ones like women’s welfare, social development, sports, etc. This distribution can also be done for fixed tenures, and proportionate to the numerical strength of the members of the alliance.

3. The Indian media will do a 180 degree turn, switching from supporting the BJP (as most are doing presently) to extolling the virtues of the alliance. This is because most of the Indian media houses are owned by businesspersons who would like to be on the right side of the new government, to protect their business interests. None would like the ED (Enforcement Directorate), the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), or Income Tax Department officials come chasing after them, as is happening these days.

4. There will be pressure on the new government leaders to institute ED, CD or income tax cases against BJP leaders, and such cases will consume the entire period of INDIA’s tenure and nothing else will be done, as it happened in the Janata Party rule from 1977-79 when cases against Indira Gandhi and other Co if the I.N.D.I.A. alliance wins.

5. There will be balkanisation of the country, with regional party leaders almost declaring themselves independent satraps, as it happened under the later Mughals after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. This is because the I.N.D.I.A. alliance government, if formed, will be a coalition government, and coalition governments by their very nature are weak. When the Central government becomes weak, the state government leaders assert themselves, like kingmakers, and the central government has often to do their bidding.

6. Muslims may feel some relief after the nightmarish 10-year BJP rule of atrocities and discrimination against them.

7. The economy will tank and nosedive, with poverty, unemployment, child malnutrition, price rise etc increasing rapidly.

8 The Indian people will start cursing the new government a short time after its installation.

IANS-

Regular consumption of plain yogurt may help people to reduce their risk of diabetes and also reduce insulin resistance, said doctors here on Sunday.

Yogurt has long been known to curb the risk of diabetes, however, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March made the first-ever qualified health claim that eating yogurt may reduce the risk of Type-2 Diabetes (T2D).

Based on limited scientific evidence, the regulatory body said that “at least three servings of yoghurt per week may reduce the risk of T2D incidence for the general population”, revealed a study published in the journal Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews.

However, “yogurt will not cure or treat people with T2D”, said researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, US, in the paper.

Speaking to IANS, Vandana Verma, Principal Dietitian at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said that the approval of yoghurt for managing blood sugar is due to its probiotic content, which promotes gut health.

“The gut microbiome plays a vital role in regulating glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, essential for blood sugar management. Probiotics in yogurt may enhance these functions, making it potentially beneficial for individuals with diabetes or at risk of it,” she said.

However, she emphasized that all yogurts are not equal.

“Some may lack probiotics or contain added sugars, reducing their health benefits. Opting for plain yoghurt with live cultures and avoiding added sugars is preferred. Additionally, incorporating yogurt into a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, coupled with regular exercise, is crucial for managing and reducing diabetes risk,” the dietician said.

Yogurt is a product of high nutritional value and a rich source of nutrients like proteins, vitamins, and minerals as well as beneficial microbes. Further, eating yogurt helps change the microbiota and ecosystem of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT).

Besides fighting off diabetes, the presence of Lactobacillus casei, Streptococcus thermophilus, and Bifidobacterium species in yogurt boosts immunity, reduces obesity, and keeps the liver healthy.

“These metabolites may prove anti-inflammatory and may change immunity by modulating IL-1 and IL-6. Decreased visceral fat and obesity can reduce insulin resistance, also modulated by cytokines, resulting in fewer new-onset diabetes cases and less non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NFLD),” Dr Rajeev Gupta, Director – Internal Medicine at the C.K. Birla Hospital (R), Delhi, told IANS.

 

IANS-

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Sunday, in a letter to his countrymen expressed that the nation has seen a massive transformation over the last decade. He added that the “Sankalp Patra is more than just a collection of promises,” as it outlines the collective aspirations and goals of the nation.

“With your trust and support, the nation has seen a massive transformation over the last ten years. While development attained an unprecedented speed and scale, a significant transformation has also happened in terms of mindset,” he wrote.

He also mentioned the achievable milestone of Viksit Bharat by 2047. “The nation is confident on its journey of becoming self-reliant (Aatmanirbhar). This is a big change from the atmosphere of desperation and frustration that the nation had experienced in the decade prior to 2014 due to the corruption, policy paralysis and misrule by the government of those times,” he wrote.

Stating that “We have gone from a nation that was in the ‘Fragile Five’ to a nation that is one of the top 5 economies of the world,” the PM acknowledged that “The most important facet of this progress is that the fruits of development reached everyone… The mantra of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas has guided our actions.”

“Benefiting from our approach in basic needs like bank accounts, gas connections, toilets, water, electricity, etc, they [people] are also being empowered with new-age facilities like optic fibre connections, digital solutions, drones, etc,” PM Modi said, indicating that the nation’s growth has come from the drastic socio-economic transformation in the lives of women, farmers, fisherfolks, street vendors, small entrepreneurs, SC, ST and OBC communities, who are being directly empowered through technology-driven schemes and facilities such as JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhar, and Mobile).

“Whether it is historic MSP hikes, the massive rise in procurement or making fertilizers available to them inexpensively despite globally high prices, direct income support through PM-KISAN, safety net of Fasal Bima, a renewed focus on millets, expanded access to local and global markets, several steps have been taken to empower them. Our Annadatas are also becoming Urjadatas due to the PM KUSUM scheme. Empowered by our Beej Se Bazar Tak approach, our farmers have done wonders for the country,” the PM stated, adding that farmers are the backbone of the nation’s progress.

The nation’s growth has been fueled by the government’s focus on ‘Vikas’ and ‘Virasat’, and India has been setting new benchmarks in growth of both ecology and economy.

Further, highlighting the significance of the youth, PM Modi went on to write: “The nation’s growth has been fueled by the achievements of our youth who have not only dared to dream big but also worked to realize dreams in various domains such as space, sports and start-ups. In the last ten years, whether it is education, employment or entrepreneurship, crores of new opportunities have been created for our youth.”

“At such a time, when our nation is ready to take off into a new phase of exponential growth, the Amrit Kaal, we seek your blessings for the roadmap that we are unveiling for the next five years. In the next five years, we will take our nation into the top three economies of the world, launch a final and decisive assault against poverty, open up newer avenues of growth in various sectors, further intensify our battle against corruption, unveil the next generation of reforms, and take several pro-people decisions and actions.”

“Our Sankalp Patra is more than just a collection of promises. This Sankalp Patra outlines the collective aspirations and goals of our nation, by our nation and for our nation,” the PM emphasized.

PM Modi concluded his letter by stating: “In 2014, we received your support to bring in a monumental transformation. In 2019, we received an even bigger mandate and ensured continued development and took big decisions. In the next five years, with your blessings, Modi guarantees that we will work 24 by 7 for 2047. Your aspiration is our mission. Your dreams are our responsibility. Let us create a nation that future generations will be proud of!”

 

Ritu Jha-

The San Francisco-based Bihar Foundation USA organized an event celebrating the annual Bihar Diwas in Milpitas, California on April 7. Many Bay Area community organizations attended the event, built around the theme “Bonding, Branding and Business.”

(R to L) Rajiv Sinha. president with Deepak Sharma, secretary, Bihar Foundation of USA, California.

The Bihar Foundation USA organizes free cataract surgeries in remote villages and helps budding entrepreneurs in the northern Indian state.

The foundation implements projects that promote health, art and culture from Bihar, and organizes outreach programs for the diaspora from the state, according to Rajiv Sinha.

Sinha, the foundation’s president and a member of the founding team, said since its inception in 2008, each year they observe the formation of the state of Bihar in 1912.

The foundation launched the “Adopt a Village” project in 2018-19 and put together its “Vision Bihar” program to eradicate blindness in the state. He said that many people at the event showed interest in working to improve 22 villages the team had lined up for assistance. Addressing the event’s theme, he said the team was indeed focused on bonding, branding and business.

“Last year we hosted two delegates from Bihar and organized “Bihar Business Connect -2023” in partnership with TiE Silicon Valley last July, Prior to that, we hosted Sanjay Kumar Jha, Bihar’s water resources minister, and his team.”

Sinha told indica that Tiger Analytics, based in Santa Clara, California, is planning to invest in Bihar. Right now they are limited to a Bangalore office in India.

As far as health goes, he said, the Bihar Foundation has provided more than 500 free surgeries and provided 1,000 free corrective glasses in six villages.

Shyam Chaudhary, executive council member of the foundation, described how people could help villages in Bihar. He came from Bhojpur in the state but now lives in San Jose.

Shyam Chaudhary, executive council member of the Bihar Foundation.

“Adopt A Village project is where anybody here can adopt a village in the Indian state by donating $1,000,” he said. “That will take care of cataract surgeries of at least 40 to 60 people. For surgeries, we have tied up with a very good 200-bed hospital in Kankarbagh, Patna: the Sri Sai Lions Netralaya.”

Chaudhary said that prescreened villagers who are deemed to need help are taken to the state capital Patna for surgery and a day to recuperate.

“It takes $22 to $25 to give patients their sight back,” he told indica.

The foundation’s Bihar intervention began about seven years ago when it joined forces with the Sri Sai Lions Netralaya in Patna.

Attendees at the Bihar Foundation USA event held April 7, in Milpitas, Calif.

“Donating [money] is one thing, but it is important for donors to know where the donation is going and how it is affecting people,” Chaudhary said, adding that the tie-up with the hospital ensured a stable and transparent process, particularly because it had the means to cover villages in a 200-mile radius around Patna.

Chaudhary, who joined the foundation in 2011, said it relied on help not just from within the US, but also from the Bihar government. Unfortunately, a change in government affected the dynamics of the relationship.

“The consistency is lost,” he explained, adding that the effort now was to make the organization autonomous and not reliant on personal connections alone, so that the work continues even during changes in the administration.

“I think there is a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “There is a lot that the new generation can do. I think new blood should take over and continue the journey that we have embarked on.”

One of the chief guests for the event was Rakesh Adlakha, deputy consul general and commercial representative at the Indian consulate in San Francisco.

Rakesh Adlakha, deputy consul general and commercial representative at the Indian consulate in San Francisco taking a look at the paintings.

“It is wonderful to see how the Bihari diaspora has promoted and preserved its culture so that it can be passed on to the new generations,” he said. He also judged a children’s painting competition held on the occasion.

Raj Salwan, the city of Fremont councilmember, has attended his share of events organized by the active Bihari community in the Bay Area.

“I have attended the Chhath Puja [a prominent Bihar festival] for the last three years,” he said, admitting that he did not know such a ritual existed, and adding, “Once I started going, I saw how dedicated they are.” He said that despite heavy rain, he had to help get permission to expand the festivities at Quarry Lakes in Fremont, Calif. so that more people could attend.

The Bihari community is very vibrant, and strong in the city of Fremont and the Bay Area, and they do a lot of good work,” Salwan said. “The community has great ancient ties to Buddhism, philosophers like Chanakya, and great religious leaders.

“I feel touched that we’re able to celebrate this rich culture here in America, our new homeland,” he said.

Salwan wants more cultural spaces for events like Bihar Diwas in Fremont.

Swati Sinha

“A lot of times the bureaucrats and the administrative officials don’t understand our rituals or festivals,” he said. “It’s important to explain to them what’s going on.”

Swati Sinha is one of those trying to help socially conscious startups. An executive fellow and mentor at Miller Center of Social Entrepreneurship, a part of Santa Clara University, she is one of the organizers of the event.

“We help social entrepreneurs who work in sectors related to climate change, poverty, and women-run businesses,” she told indica. “We educate them and take them to the next level.” She said her team helps draw venture capital attention to businesses that have been there for three years or have $50,000 in revenue.

“We are expanding across India but because I have been part of the Bihar Foundation we will start with Bihar,” she told indica. “The Miller Centre offers a six-month course, which is like a mini-MBA and is free of cost because donors pay for it. Once the social entrepreneurs are ready, we will fly them over here to pitch their ideas before VCs. The Miller Center will sponsor their visit. We want all Indians to take advantage of this.”

Swasti Pandey and her group.

Besides the painting competition, the program included Bhojpuri and Maithili songs by Swasti Pandey and her group.

One singer, Ruchi Priyadarshini, said one song she sang, “Jai ho bhutal gaurav Bharat jan jan jriva haar, hamara pyara raja Bihar” was about the rich culture and heritage of her state of birth.

Jain spiritual leader H.H. Acharya Lokesh Muni also spoke about Bihar’s glory and fact that Jainism was born there.

He said Bihar Diwas would not be complete without recognition of the first President of India Rajendra Prasad and leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan.

 

IANS-

The US has announced “ironclad” support for Israel as Iran launched scores of drones and cruise missiles against Israel in retaliation for the bombing of one of its diplomatic facilities in Damascus earlier this month.

US President Joe Biden cut short his weekend retreat at his beachfront home in Delaware to head back to the White House as Iranian drones were on their way. He had an hour-long meeting with his national security team that included Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA Director William Burns and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

“Iran has begun an airborne attack against Israel. President Biden is being regularly updated on the situation by his national security team and will meet with them this afternoon at the White House,” said National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson on Saturday.

“His team is in constant communication with Israeli officials as well as other partners and allies. This attack is likely to unfold over several hours. President Biden has been clear: our support for Israel’s security is ironclad. The US will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran.”

The Iranian attack said to be coming in waves of drones, is in retaliation for the Israeli bombing of a building in Damascus that housed senior officials of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

 

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-

An Indian-origin sophomore at San Jose State University was charged with arson and arrested on April 12. The youth has been alleged of setting two fires in the Martin Luther King Jr. Library when students were present on campus. The Cal Fire, the San Jose State University Police Department, and the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) Arson responded to the fires on March 31 and April 8.

The incidents of arson are being probed by the SJSU Police and Cal Fire department. The investigators have ascertained that the fires reported on the SJSU campus on March 31 and April 8 were incidents of arson. The officers also shared surveillance images of the potential suspect earlier this week. On April 12 the investigators arrested the student.

“All personnel involved worked tirelessly to canvass the area, review security camera footage, cultivate leads, and ultimately identify the suspect,” Cal Fire said in a press note. “The suspect was identified as SJSU sophomore student Amogh Upadhya.”

On his LinkedIn profile, Upadhya says that he researches computer vision using AI technologies such as Darknet YOLO and employs ROS interfaces to incorporate machine learning algorithms into the robotic control loop.

“As a Robotics Researcher at San Jose State University, I develop innovative solutions using robotics, machine learning, and cloud computing. I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology/ Computer Network Systems, and I have earned multiple certifications and honors in these domains, such as DevOps on AWS Specialization and CCNA: Introduction to Networks. I am a motivated, results-oriented, collaborative team player, who values customer service, innovation, and quality. I am eager to apply my skills, technologies, and tools to real-world problems and projects, and to learn from new challenges and opportunities. I am seeking software internships that will help me grow as a software engineer and contribute to the success of the organization,” his profile reads.

However, the motive behind his alleged SJSU student’s arsonist tendencies is not clear. After being arrested, Upadhyay was charged with four counts of arson, and booked into Santa Clara County Jail. He faced a court hearing on April 12 and, is being held on $400,000 bail.

 

IANS-

Elon Musk is coming to India for the first time to spend at least 48 hours in the country later this month. As all eyes are on what the billionaire would announce during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and industry leaders, Tesla lovers have only one question: When will they finally be able to drive a ‘Make in India’, affordable EV?

A cheaper Model 3, which is the entry-level Tesla, can only be possible with local manufacturing of battery components and a strong EV supply system, for which Musk will surely have a substantial announcement to make during his maiden visit to the country.

Currently, Tesla prices are almost the same worldwide. The base variant of the Model 3 is priced at over $40,000 (nearly Rs 33.5 lakh).

According to senior analyst Soumen Mandal from market intelligence firm Counterpoint Research, the import duty will be eliminated by setting up local production by Tesla, thus paving the way for an affordable Tesla car.

Also, the cost reduction could be achieved if Tesla cars manufactured in the country come with fewer features compared to the ones available globally.

Mandal told IANS that certain hardware required for Full Self-Driving (FSD) mode could be eliminated and “Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) Level 2 could be included”.

Tesla can eventually produce 5 lakh electric vehicles annually that start from Rs 20 lakh in India.

To produce a Rs 20 lakh car, Tesla can also have a battery pack with a lower capacity than 50kW and the electric motors could be of lower power. The in-vehicle electronics could also be reduced with a smaller center display.

In the new EV policy, the Indian government has cut the customs duty to 15 percent (with certain riders) from the earlier 100 percent on imported cars.

A minimum investment of Rs 4,150 crore (about $500 million) will be required to set up the manufacturing facilities for EVs in the country.

According to industry experts, Tesla can generate at least $3.6 billion in revenue in India by 2030.

 

IANS-

While calling him the coolest PM in the world, leading Indian creators on Saturday gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi a new name in the world of live stream gaming – ‘NaMo OP’, where OP stands for “overpowered”.

In a free-wheeling conversation with the Prime Minister at his residence in New Delhi, gamers decided to give PM Modi a new gamer tag.

A smiling Prime Minister said that India has already given him a name: ‘NaMo’.

The gamers replied: “We all have gamer tags. Since you are a Gen Z like us, we would now call you ‘NaMo OP’ (overpowered), as you are the most powerful person in the country, in our livestream chats.”

PM Modi also learned several gaming phrases like GTG (Got to Go) and AFK (away from keyboard), among others, which are used during live-streaming by the creators.

Later, PM Modi also played some indigenous games with the creators.

The Prime Minister’s meeting with the gaming community became a talking point in the nation, due to e-gaming’s vast engagement with the youth.

PM Modi’s outreach to the gaming community reinforced his resolve to maximize youth connection in the nation’s growth.

 

IANS-

Ladakh Apex Body (LAB), the key organization of protesters in the Union Territory (UT), has again announced that its leaders will conduct a march to the China border to draw attention to their demands.

Last week, LAB had called off the border march due to imposed restrictions by the authorities, aiming to avoid direct confrontation with the administration.

Speaking to the media, Sonam Wangchuk, a climate activist and LAB leader, announced that a small group of leaders would embark on a march to Changthang, traversing villages to raise awareness about problems faced by the people of the region.

Wangchuk highlighted concerns over the allocation of 40,000 acres of land to industrialists for solar power projects, further shrinking the already limited pasturing area in Ladakh.

He cited Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s assurance that “not a single inch of land was taken by China” as a reason for expecting the administration’s cooperation for the march.

Wangchuk said that the march aims to convey a message to the people in Ladakh and outside Ladakhi people are losing their homeland in the absence of any protection under Schedule Six of the Constitution.

He added that LAB decided to continue the ongoing struggle through chain hunger strikes and protests without affecting the farming activities and tourism which has started picking up with the onset of spring.

While the exact date of the protest march remains undisclosed, Wangchuk assured it would happen soon.

LAB, supported by the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), has been carrying protests for the past four years.

 

Partha Chakraborty-

Partha Chakraborty

There are few things guaranteed in life – death and taxes, for example. Add to the list the third consecutive five-year term for Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India, or so it seems. At the end of his third term, he will be barely shy of being the longest-serving Prime Minister of the most populous country in the world.

India is a raucous, but functioning, democracy, elections are fair and efficiently administered, and grassroots participation is the envy of the developed world. Modi is not taking his return as guaranteed; his discipline, hard work and perseverance show as he cris-crosses the land shoring up support. National Opposition is essentially non-existent, much of the injury is self-inflicted. Regional parties are busy cutting up pies at their sweet spots, but unlikely to put up a worthwhile fight nation-wide.

India moved through COVID admirably, given its size and diversity. Generational leap in connectivity is near-total and far ahead of its peers. Aadhar scheme and the “India-Stack” is clearing out much of endemic corruption. Central Government prioritized supplying piped clean drinking water and clean toilets to every home, and digital inclusion at every level. Frequent visitors are shocked at the breakneck speed the nation is addressing its infrastructure bottlenecks, business approvals that used to take years now take two weeks. Center champions market-based solutions to everyday problems, when plausible, yet cognizant enough to extend a much-needed public distribution scheme by five years. My personal interests are almost exclusively in serving everyday Indian needs at the bottom of the pyramid, and I never saw a more optimistic view, cutting across demographics and geography, even when they are waylaid by economic cycles.

At 7.6% projected growth, India is the fastest-growing large economy. With half the population under 25, India’s capacity to produce, consume and pivot will remain unchallenged for decades. Internationally, India has clearly leaned in favor of the US-led Free World but maintains close ties outside.

You will hear none of that if you listen to pundits and academics. Hearing them, you will be forgiven to think India is an ISIS Khilafat in the making, only at the opposite end, that ruling interests are perversely majoritarian, that lawlessness is the only law of the land, and that the country is perpetually teetering on the edge of an economic collapse. Compare that with the story you could get a decade ago. India changed from being a darling of a struggling little duckling that could to a pariah, a hulking beast of the devil.

It begs to question what changed. What changed is simple. Aspirational India woke up and conveyed that she did not need the affirmation from what I call the “Arts Quad Faculty Lounge Mafia.”

Our fascination with Oxbridge dons reflects our colonial past. Even when we fought against the British, our thoughts were governed by their language and their curriculum. Post-independence, we extended our intellectual servitude to the Cambridge on the other side of the pond, and peer institutions. Still young as a country, we fit perfectly in their worldview. The elite in India, after schooling in elite English medium schools steeped in British traditions, routinely transitioned into these colleges, or wannabes inside India. Somehow, they fashioned themselves as the voice of the oppressed. We, the hoi-polloi, were trained to be in awe of these superhuman creatures and lap up their every word as scripture.

Today’s India is proud and different. English education is still prized, more to prepare an aspiring youngster to serve the whims of a Joe or Jane thousands of miles away, among other thing – a tool to move ahead, not to humiliate others. We learned to be particularly dismissive of a ‘foreign’ stamp in subjects not related to STEM, law or business. Inside India we have learned to identify and loathe their peers in academia, in ‘think-tanks,’ and inside NGOs. These are essentially the same folks who are physically in India but fueled by the same concoction of liquor, affected accents, and parroted talking points. Today’s India pooh-poohs these affectations, and sidelines these naysayers, especially.

Not only has India moved away, it pains the pseudo-intellectual class even more that the administration has made it a point to take them to task for failure to act within the boundaries of the law. No wonder they are crying foul at every opportunity. Supporters, especially abroad, continue to extend a platform, thereby completing the loop of positive reinforcement for entities and interests that never who are too sanctimonious to be held accountable.

Using a term that originated inside these Arts Quad Faculty Lounges, I will declare that Modi has decolonized the Indian mind.

What came out is the raw, the unadulterated but the aspirational. What came out bears some of the old wounds and it is okay if you do not find it pretty, it certainly is not manicured for others’ pleasure. But that is who we are, warts and all.  There is no reason not to be proud of that.

 

 

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-

India Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra concluded his two-day visit to Washington D.C. on Friday, April 13, and met several White House executives.

During his visit, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks hosted Kwatra at the Pentagon to discuss priorities for strengthening the US-India defense partnership, including the implementation of the Roadmap for US-India Defense Industrial Cooperation.

According to the US Department of Defense press release, both countries applauded efforts to advance the co-production of fighter jet engines and armored vehicles, as well as the continued success of the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) in promoting innovation and partnerships between US and Indian researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors.

Kwatra also held discussions with his counterparts at the US State Department and the National Security Council.

According to the Indian embassy press release, Kwatra’s meetings were in “keeping with the tradition of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries and provided an opportunity to further advance our growing and future-oriented partnership.”

Among the officials he met were Richard Verma, the US Deputy Secretary of State, which is the highest position held by an Indian-American at the State Department; and Kurt Campbell, recently appointed the US Deputy Secretary of State, who is also the Biden administration’s czar on the Indo-Pacific and the Quad — a group of Indo-Pacific countries, India, the US, Japan and Australia.

Verma after meeting Kwatra posted on X [former Twitter]: “Productive catch up with Indian Foreign Secretary Kwatra on advancing ongoing #USIndia cooperation and the need for our countries’ close partnership for regional security and prosperity. #USIndiaFWD.”

Secretary Campbell posted on X [former Twitter]: “Delighted to welcome my great friend Indian Foreign Secretary Kwatra back to Washington for discussions on #USIndia cooperation and the Quad. Our partnership in the Indo-Pacific is closer than ever.”

Though not related to the visit, according to reports Kwatra is also one of the two frontrunners in the race for the ambassadorship to the US, which has been vacant after Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu departed Jan 31.

The other contender is Vikram Misri, India’s Deputy National Security Adviser.

[Photo courtesy: X (Twitter)]