Authorities must not encourage food bigotry or harass legitimate businesses

Last week Gujarat adopted a draconian law against cow slaughter, making it punishable with a 14-year jail term. This is on the heels of a clampdown on abattoirs in UP. Over in the Jharkhand capital, licenses of mutton and chicken shops haven’t been renewed. Voices are growing from Hindutva organisations in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and other BJP-ruled states for a blanket closure of meat shops. Taken together there are worrying signs of a rise in food bigotry, cow vigilantism, harassment of legitimate meat businesses and competitive fundamentalism.

It’s important to note that cow slaughter was banned in all these states even before the current NDA government took office. Gujarat for example had imposed a complete ban not just on slaughtering but also on transporting cow and progeny in 2011. Today if it were simply a matter of improving the implementation of all laws, incidentally including such bans, it wouldn’t necessarily be such an adverse development. A clampdown on illegal slaughterhouses would be welcome if it meant a more modern, compassionate and hygienic meat industry.

Unfortunately this is not the message that goes out when Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani says he wants to make Gujarat vegetarian, his government decrees veritable life sentences and Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh talks of hanging those who kill cows. Or when legitimate UP enterprises that account for over half of India’s $5 billion worth of buffalo meat exports are threatened. It’s not just precious foreign exchange but lakhs of jobs that are at stake in an economy characterised by jobless growth. Even if one wants to institute bans on cow slaughter, this cannot be equated to the taking of a human life. Such conflations amount to religious fundamentalism which will breed conflict and violence – Pakistan next door is a good example of how it plays out. The vigilantism and violence seen from Dadri to Una could now get worse, endangering social stability and harmony.

Some months ago Prime Minister Narendra Modi had come down heavily on such vigilantes, calling out the majority of ‘gau rakshaks’ as anti-socials who proclaim themselves cow protectors only to cover up their misdeeds. Yet, in conflicting signals, legitimate meat businesses are suffering and non-vegetarianism is facing an aggressive Hindutva attack. Both Centre and BJP-ruled states need to send a more coherent message, about respecting individual liberties and protecting legal businesses.


Donald Trump presses China on North Korea ahead of Xi talks

US President Donald Trump. (AP File Photo) US President Donald Trump. (AP File Photo)

U.S. President Donald Trump held out the possibility on Sunday of using trade as a lever to secure Chinese cooperation against North Korea and suggested Washington might deal with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs on its own if need be.

The comments, in an interview published on Sunday by the Financial Times, appeared designed to pressure Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of his visit to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida this week.

“China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone,” Trump was quoted as saying, according to an edited transcript published by the newspaper.

Asked what incentive the United States had to offer China, Trump replied: “Trade is the incentive. It is all about trade.”

Asked if he would consider a “grand bargain” in which China pressured Pyongyang in return for a guarantee the United States would later remove troops from the Korean peninsula, the newspaper quoted Trump as saying: “Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.”

It is not clear whether Trump’s comments will move China, which has taken steps to increase economic pressure on Pyongyang but has long been unwilling to do anything that may destabilize the North and send millions of refugees across their border.

It is also unclear what the United States might do on its own to deflect North Korea from the expansion of its nuclear capabilities and from the development of missiles with ever-longer ranges and the capacity to deliver atomic warheads.


Trump’s national security aides have completed a review of U.S. options to try to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs that includes economic and military measures but leans more toward sanctions and increased pressure on Beijing to rein in its reclusive neighbor, a U.S. official said.

Although the option of pre-emptive military strikes on North Korea is not off the table, the review prioritizes less-risky steps and “de-emphasizes direct military action,” the official added, saying it was not immediately known if the National Security Council recommendations had made their way to Trump. The White House declined comment on the recommendations.

Trump and Xi are also expected to discuss Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, when they meet on Thursday and Friday. China claims most of the resource-rich South China Sea, while Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the strategic waterway.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke on Sunday with China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, about Xi’s visit “and other issues of bilateral and regional importance,” a State Department official said on condition of anonymity.

Trump’s deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland, said there was a “real possibility” North Korea could be capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear-armed missile by the end of Trump’s four-year term, the Financial Times reported. McFarland’s estimate appeared more pessimistic than those of many experts.

“The typical estimates are that it will take five years or so,” said Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States and a leading expert on North Korea’s nuclear program.

Such estimates are notoriously hard to make both because of the scarcity of intelligence about North Korea and uncertainty about how high a success rate Pyongyang might want for such missiles.

John Schilling, a contributor to the “38 North” North Korea monitoring project, said Pyongyang might have missiles capable of limited strikes on the U.S. mainland by the end of Trump’s term, but “it will most likely be a bit later than that.”

“I doubt that any missile they could put into service by the end of 2020 will be very reliable, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be – one or two successes out of six launches against the U.S. would be a political game-changer to say the least,” he said.

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Massachusetts city council to vote on Trump impeachment resolution

A Massachusetts city is joining a handful of other municipalities across the country in calling for an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump based on alleged conflicts of interest.

During its Monday meeting, Cambridge City Council is slated to vote on a resolution calling for the U.S. House of Representatives to begin such an investigation.

The resolution — which is largely symbolic — follows similar calls to action by other city councils, including Richmond, Virginia; Berkeley, California,; and Alameda, California.

But as ABC News previously reported, in a resignation letter dated Jan. 19 — the day before his inauguration — Trump wrote, “I, Donald Trump, hereby resign from each and every office and position I hold in the entities listed.” More than 400 entities were listed in the 19-page document.

View gallery Massachusetts city council to vote on Trump impeachment resolution (ABC News)

Trump’s lawyers have also previously said that all potential conflicts of interest have been ironed out.

The resolution is being sponsored by Cambridge vice mayor Marc McGovern, councilor Jan Devereux and councilor Leland Cheung, according to the policy order posted on the city’s website.

The resolution states, “That the City Council call upon the United States House of Representatives to support a resolution authorizing and directing the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, including but not limited to the violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution.”

It continues, “On January 11, 2017, nine days before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump announced a plan that would, if carried out, remove him from day-to-day operations of his businesses, but not eliminate any of the ongoing flow of emoluments from foreign governments, state governments, or the United States government; and on January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump took the oath of office and became President of the United States.”

The resolution further argues, “From the moment he took office, President Trump was in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution.”

In attempting to justify its claim that Trump violated the aforementioned clauses, the resolution argues, “On January 11, 2017, nine days before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump announced a plan that would, if carried out, remove him from day-to-day operations of his businesses, but not eliminate any of the ongoing flow of emoluments from foreign governments, state governments, or the United States government.”

Such alleged violations, argues the resolution, “undermine the integrity of the Presidency, corruptly advance the personal wealth of the President, and violate the public trust.”


After raids in 16 states, ED finds over 1,000 shell companies

Enforcement Directorate. Enforcement Directorate.

IN A nationwide raid, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has unearthed a maze of over 1,000 shell companies, including those reportedly linked to NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, YSR Congress leader Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, former BSP leader Babu Singh Kushwaha and former Uttar Pradesh chief engineer Yadav Singh among others. “The raids have been conducted based on the money trail found in various cases of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) being investigated by the agency, apart from information and intelligence provided by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and Financial Intelligence Unit,” said ED Director Karnal Singh.

According to ED, the raids were conducted simultaneously on Saturday in 16 states, where 110 premises linked to 300 known shell companies were searched. These searches led to unearthing of more shell firms, adding up to a total of over 1,000 such companies, said an ED official. “Some of the companies were involved in major money laundering cases related to Chhagan Bhujbal, Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, Yadav Singh, NHRM, AGS Infotech, Rajeshwar Exports etc, while some other entities were found to have been used for laundering demonetised currency during post-demonetisation period,” said an ED statement.

The premises of Delhi-based chartered accountant S K Gupta was also raided. ED sources said Gupta was suspected to have moved several crores of rupees belonging to politicians from Uttar Pradesh. “He had floated 200 shell companies. Many entries have been found to be connected to some prominent UP politicians. We are still questioning him and verifying the documents recovered from his premises,” said an ED official.

Among the documents recovered during the raids was an identity card belonging to one Chetan Shah, identifying him as “Special Agent, Anti-Terrorism Division, Interpol”.

According to the ED:

* In searches conducted in Mumbai, one Jagdish Prasad Purohit admitted that he had formed around 700 shell companies using 20 dummy directors, out of which 130 companies are still in existence. He also provided ‘accommodation entry’ of Rs 46.7 crore to Bhujbal.

* Searches at the premises of a market entry operator linked to M/s Rajeshwar Exports revealed that the company had made remittances to the tune of Rs 1,476 crore for import of diamonds which were grossly overvalued.

* Searches at the premises of chartered accountant S K Gupta at Barakhamba Road in New Delhi revealed that he had set up over 200 shell companies and had given ‘accommodation entries’ to a number of people in Uttar Pradesh. ED sources said many of these were prominent politicians. He was also found to be involved in conversion of black money for some members of the sand mafia in Uttar Pradesh.

* In Kolkata, more than 50 companies had the same registered address, which on verification was found to be vacant residential premises. The landlord said he had rented it to a man around three years ago, and the tenant had disappeared within three months. The landlord had received loan recovery letters against two companies registered at the address. These two companies are already facing investigation in a PMLA case.

* Certain shell companies were found to have remitted huge amounts to other countries for imports which were not made. “A sum of Rs 20 crore was found in the bank account of one entity and the same will be considered for attachment,” said ED.

* In another case, a shell company was found to have exported carpets to its sister concern incorporated outside India. The export proceeds were never realised and the person behind these companies had applied to RBI for write-off of outstanding export proceeds.

ED sources said the raids were part of the agency’s drive against shell companies as mandated under the Special Task Force set up by the PMO to crack down on black money. On March 21, the agency arrested two market entry operators, Surendra Kumar Jain and Virendra Kumar Jain, who are suspected to have laundered about Rs 8,000 crore in the last three months. The agency’s investigations, based on a case lodged by the SFIO, involve 90 shell companies with 559 beneficiaries and the movement of close to Rs 11,000 crore.

According to the ED, the duo would allegedly accept black money from clients and convert it into share premium transactions through the shell companies for a commission. The agency also attached investments worth over Rs 64 crore made into Radisson Blu Hotel in Delhi in connection with the case. Shell companies, which have little paid up capital, nominal turnover and hardly any employees, are typically floated by unscrupulous businessmen and traders to create a maze of investments through which undeclared money can be moved both inside the country and abroad.

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Vote for me, I will ensure good beef: BJP candidate in Kerala by-election

Sreeprakash, the BJP candidate in Malappuram Sreeprakash, the BJP candidate in Malappuram

Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) amended a bill reflecting stricter punishment for those found guilty of cow slaughter in Gujarat and initiated a crackdown on illegal slaughter houses in Uttar Pradesh, its candidate in a by-election in Kerala is traversing a different path. N Sreeprakash, the party candidate in the upcoming Lok Sabha by-election in Malappuram, is promising voters that if elected, he will ensure the supply of good beef in the constituency.

“There will be efforts from my side to ensure good-quality beef at clean abattoirs (if elected),” Sreeprakash told reporters at a ‘Meet the Press’ function. He blamed the Congress for enforcing ban on cow slaughter when it was in power in many states in the past. He said it was only illegal to consume beef in states where a ban on cow slaughter is in place.

Kerala is among the few states in the country where there are no restrictions on the sale and consumption of cow meat.

The states in red have cow slaughter bans in place The states in red have cow slaughter bans in place

Sreeprakash’s frank admission comes a day after Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, a BJP leader, said that anyone found committing gau hatya (cow slaughter) will be hanged. The state banned cow slaughter in 2004.

While the BJP has pursued tough legislation and action on those committing cow slaughter in the northern and western states, it has been criticised of hypocrisy in states like Kerala and the northeast where consumption of beef is not illegal. “BJP’s hypocrisy is that in Uttar Pradesh Cow is mummy but in the Northeast its yummy,” AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi was quoted saying by news agency ANI.

There is no ban on cow slaughter in Arunachal Pradesh (BJP-ruled), Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland (BJP ally-ruled), Tripura and Sikkim. In Manipur, where the BJP came to power earlier this month, the Maharaja in 1939 had decreed prosecution for cow slaughter but beef is consumed widely.

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Looking back at GST’s journey: How an idea is now near reality

In 2011, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee introduced a Bill to provide the enabling framework for GST. (Representational image) In 2011, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee introduced a Bill to provide the enabling framework for GST. (Representational image)

In February 1986, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Finance Minister in Rajiv Gandhi’s government, proposed in the Budget a major overhaul of the excise taxation structure. The aim, he said, was to reduce the cascading effect of multipoint excise levies, and eventually help reduce costs — and in turn, the prices that consumers paid. Singh announced the introduction of a Modified Value Added Tax or MODVAT scheme which, he said, would allow manufacturers to obtain instant and complete reimbursement of excise duty paid on components and raw materials, along with the promise of transparency — disclosure of the full taxation on the product.

The scheme was to be implemented in stages, and its rollout on March 1, 1986, marked the first crack at reforming the country’s indirect tax structure. Subsequently, Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister in the government of P V Narasimha Rao, started early discussions on a Value Added Tax at the state level — after the Raja Chelliah Committee appointed by him to suggest reforms in the direct and indirect tax regimes submitted its report.

When Yashwant Sinha was Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Finance Minister, a decision was taken to put an end to the sales tax war among states, and to have uniform floor rates for sales tax of various commodities with effect from January 1, 2000. More importantly, to monitor implementation, Sinha proposed the creation of an Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers in 2000, which was approved by Vajpayee. West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta headed this Committee — a nod not only to his impeccable credentials, but also to efforts at building a consensus and at signalling cooperative federalism. The plan was to kick off VAT from April 1, 2003 — however, given some resistance, it came into force only in April 2005 after the UPA government came to power.

Earlier, in 2003, after the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act had been approved by Parliament, but was yet to be notified, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh — who had swapped places with Sinha — called a meeting of his officers to discuss the implementation of the new law.

Singh’s Economic Adviser, Vijay Kelkar, told him that meeting targets of lower fiscal deficit would entail increasing revenues, and not necessarily cutting spending in a growing economy (India’s GDP in 2003 was a little over $ 600 billion) with a severe infrastructure deficit.

Kelkar’s point was that India should use this opportunity to work on a modern tax law — by shifting the focus from a tax on production to a tax on consumption, and by creating a single national market that would provide a huge boost to Indian manufacturing.

There were other considerations too. India was signing regional tax treaties, which Kelkar recognised could hurt Indian industry and hobble the competitiveness of local firms. A Constitution Amendment Bill had been approved that empowered the government to tax services. Kelkar, along with Arbind Modi, an Indian Revenue Service officer who was on special duty in the Ministry of Finance, and Ajay Shah, another adviser in the Ministry, started work on a report on the Task Force for the Implementation of the FRBM, which had as its members all the Secretaries in the Ministry as well as the Chief Economic Adviser. That was the first report on a design for the GST — which suggested a single low rate: 7% for states and 5% for the Centre, and which detailed a plan for a grand bargain with states to get the proposed new taxation structure off the ground.

After the NDA lost the 2004 polls, the UPA’s Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, picked up the threads. He worked out the financial support to states and campaigned for the introduction of VAT. After overcoming resistance, by 2005, Chidambaram could announce a national VAT or GST, covering both the Centre and the states. The following year’s budget signalled April 1, 2010, as the date for launching GST.

By 2009, the first discussion paper on GST was unveiled by the Finance Ministry. The Finance Commission headed by Kelkar recommended several steps for the launch, including a substantial grant to the Empowered Committee to help reduce dependence on the central government to carry out research.

In 2011, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee introduced a Bill to provide the enabling framework for GST. That went to the Parliamentary Committee on Finance led by Yashwant Sinha, which suggested changes. During that period, resistance to the proposed GST was led by BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. The resistance was strong enough for Sinha to examine these arguments before Kelkar twice in the proceedings of the Committee. Some of the states opposing the new structure also raised the issue of their autonomy being impacted. The UPA government was unable to push forward, even though Chidambaram — who had returned to the Finance Ministry by then — approved most of the changes the Committee recommended, and provided for a higher compensation against potential revenue losses with the implementation of GST.

After the Narendra Modi government came to power, efforts were renewed, and the legislation was approved in the Lok Sabha in 2015. But the government’s lack of numbers in the Upper House led to a long standoff with the Opposition in 2016. Back channel talks were initiated, and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley led negotiations with several stakeholders — mainly state governments — and gradually got them on board. The passage of key bills this week has now paved the way for the launch of GST on July 1, 2017.

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Picking up a clean habit

By Parameswaran Iyer

Halfway into the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA), grassroots leaders like sarpanches, especially women, are playing an increasingly pivotal role in accelerating progress. Since the launch of the programme in October 2014, sanitation coverage in India has gone up from 42% to 62%, the number of people defecating in the open in rural India has come down from about 550 million to about 350 million, with 175,000 villages, 120 districts and three states becoming open defecation-free (ODF). SBA is now well on track to achieve an ODF India by October 2, 2019.

Unlike earlier sanitation programmes, SBA is not a toilet construction programme but a behaviour change mass movement. It is relatively easy to build a road, bridge or an airport. But trying to change human behaviour is complex. The sheer scale of the operation makes it a gargantuan task. While mass-media campaigns are useful, the real key to bringing about behaviour change on the ground is to have grassroots-level trained and incentivised motivators using interpersonal communication with villages and households to ‘trigger’ demand for toilets and cleanliness.

States and districts across the country are rapidly increasing the number of motivators. But this has to be accelerated further. The plan is to have over 500,000 ‘boots on the ground’, on an average, one per village across the nation. In addition to making the SBA a people’s movement, it is also critical to demystify toilet technology and practices.

The most ‘appropriate’ technology for rural areas, in terms of cost, sustainability and reuse, is the twin-pit model. While this model is the predominant one in rural India, and is effective in most contexts, more efforts and marketing are needed to persuade rural households to adopt it.

Emptying one (while it is closed) of the two toilet pits by the householder himself is also a simple, safe and environmentally friendly task, with the organic compost generated ideal for agricultural purposes. The more frequently senior officials and public personalities empty toilet pits themselves as examples to others, the more rural households will be persuaded to do it themselves and the faster will be the adoption of the twin-pit technology.

Beyond behaviour change and appropriate technology practices, it is also crucial that swachhta, or cleanliness, becomes ‘everyone’s business’. To this end, all sectors, including the private sector, are increasingly getting involved to mainstream sanitation into their core work. The private sector is stepping up to the plate. One example of whichis the Tata Trusts volunteering to recruit and finance 600 young professionals, one for each district in India, to support collectors in accelerating SBA.

In the public sector, in addition to organising ‘Swachhata Pakhwara’ (cleanliness fortnight), each central ministry has prepared a Swachhata Action Plan (SAP), including a budget line, which will integrate sanitation in their main line of business. An estimatedRs 5,000 crore have been earmarked for Swachhata-related activities by all ministries in 2017-18.

Cleaning up of iconic places, such as the Golden Temple in Punjab and Tirupati Temple in Tamil Nadu, and bringing them to international standards of public hygiene and of the gram panchayats along the Ganga are other examples of Swachhata being mainstreamed in other sectors and spaces.

Finally, one of the most crucial elements of the SBA is the verification and sustaining of results. This is especially important for the programme’s credibility. Currently, a multi-tier process is being followed with district-level, statelevel and national-level third-party verification being carried out. These efforts will need to be strengthened and mainstreamed in the days ahead.

In addition, the sustaining of ODF is also crucial since its achievement is not conceived of as a one-off exercise, unlike earlier government programmes. Achieving ODF status is one thing, but sustaining it through creation of local mechanisms and incentives is another. A sustainability protocol has been developed by the ministry of drinking water and sanitation together with the states, and this needs to be effectively implemented. The ministry too has a robust management information system, which tracks progress down to the individual household level.

At the halfway mark, the SBA is making good progress, but the teams, both at the Centre and in states, are conscious that there is a long and challenging road ahead. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the near-unanimous support of political leaders across states, civil servants and, most importantly, the leadership of grassroots-level leaders like sarpanches, especially women, there is now a quiet confidence across the country that the Jan Andolan will succeed.

(From “Income Inequality, Robots and a Path to a Fairer Society”)


Why demonetisation’s supporters and critics may have got it wrong

Last month’s gross domestic product data provided tentative evidence for demonetisation’s supporters that some of the forecasts about its negative impact were way off the mark. It is early days yet as GDP data will undergo a couple of revisions and we won’t know the final number before 2019. But there is a case to be made that demonetisation’s adverse impact on the economy may have been overstated.

If the negative impact was overstated, is there a possibility that demonetisation’s purported benefit in relation to combatting black money was also overstated? In other words, did demonetisation get more headlines than it deserved?

Let us take a look at one of the more persuasive arguments on why demonetisation’s negative impact on GDP will be limited. The Narendra Modi government’s Economic Survey- it is tabled in parliament ahead of union budget- cited two important reasons for the possibility that demonetisation would have a limited impact.

One, it said analytically the right measure to use in order to gauge the fallout of cash shortage was not the entire 86% which was demonetised, but the proportion of that money which is used daily for transactions. Therefore, the effective cash shortage would have to be lower than 86% of currency demonetised.

The other reason had more to do with the design of the scheme and the public reaction to the announcement. The relevant extract from Economic Survey is as follows.

“The true peak of the currency shock occurred in December rather than November. In the first few weeks following the announcement, effective currency was sustained because most of the demonetized notes served de facto and de jure as tender.”

The Survey reflected anecdotal experience coming in from different parts of the country. Even after old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were demonetised, people continued to use it for transactions. It was fairly common to come across vegetable vendors in Delhi, to cite an example, accept demonetised notes right up to the end of November.

By simply ignoring Prime Minister Modi’s announcement, many traders helped mitigate the adverse impact of demonetisation.

Separately, data revealed by Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi suggested that there was no serious cash shortage during the run-up to assembly elections in five states where polling was held in February and March.

According to Zaidi, seizures by Election Commission were more than three times compared to assembly polls in the five states in 2012. A major portion of the Rs 350 crore seized was in cash, he added.

It is intriguing that even when banks had imposed strict limits on cash withdrawals, there was a large quantity floating around in election bound states. If the Election Commission was forced to seize so much of cash, it was presumably unaccounted money.

There is more anecdotal evidence from other sectors which suggest that black money remains a part of the economic system.

Even as we wait for more data to reach a more settled conclusion on the fallout of demonetisation, some preliminary evidence suggests demonetisation was not that big a deal no matter which way one looks at it.


The Latest: Governor: HB2 fix not perfect but he supports it

The Latest on efforts at the North Carolina legislature to repeal or replace a state law limiting LGBT protections and which public restrooms transgender people can use (all times local):

11:45 p.m.

North Carolina’s Democratic governor says he’s on board with a proposal to end the standoff with Republican legislative leaders over the state’s “bathroom bill,” saying “it’s not a perfect deal” but begins to repair the state’s reputation.

Gov. Roy Cooper released the statement Wednesday night about the same time GOP lawmakers unveiled the details of their agreement.

The proposal would repeal the law known as House Bill 2, but it would still leave state legislators in charge of policy on public restrooms. And local governments couldn’t pass nondiscrimination ordinances covering things like sexual orientation and gender identity until December 2020.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger says the legislation will be debated and voted on Thursday. It’s unclear if the votes are there to pass it.

Berger and Moore said in a written statement they’re pleased the proposal “fully protects bathroom safety and privacy.”


10:45 p.m.

North Carolina Republican lawmakers say they have an agreement with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on legislation to resolve a standoff over the state’s “bathroom bill.”

GOP leaders announced Wednesday night that the new legislation would be debated and voted on Thursday. Details about the replacement weren’t immediately available. It’s also unclear whether there were enough House and Senate votes to pass it. Cooper didn’t immediately comment.

Republican lawmakers and Cooper have sought an agreement by this week because the NCAA was poised to deny championship events to the state unless changes were made to the law known as House Bill 2. HB2 has prompted some businesses to halt expansions and entertainers to cancel concerts in the state.

Leaders of national and state gay rights groups said they are opposed to any legislation that essentially doesn’t repeal HB2 completely and nothing else.


8:30 p.m.

North Carolina lawmakers keep huddling to shape legislation that does away with the state’s “bathroom bill” and gets enough votes for passage this week to avoid new punishments by the NCAA.

Republicans and Democrats spent several hours Wednesday in closed-door meetings. Several lawmakers said there was a new proposal floated by Republicans. Bills considered recently would repeal the law known as House Bill 2, but contain add-ons. No agreement had been reached Wednesday night.

HB2 blocks expansion of LGBT rights in local ordinances and requires transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.

The NCAA has said North Carolina won’t be considered for championships from 2018 to 2022 unless HB2 is changed. The group has said site decisions would begin getting made this week.


Is Your Child’s Carseat as Safe as It Should Be?

In most states, babies are required to ride with their car seats facing the rear of the car until around age two – but is that too young to turn them?

According to certified child safety technician Jennifer Beall Saxton, the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that you keep your child rear-facing until age two, or until they exceed the height and weight limits of their seat.

Watch: Comfortable Seatbelts

However, even when it’s legal to turn the seat forward, she notes, “It’s five times safer to stay rear-facing, because the head and neck and spine haven’t fully developed in small children. So when they’re forward-facing they’re more susceptible to severe injuries or death in a car accident.”

Breast Surgeon Dr. Kristi Funk wonders about older kids. She has three six-year-olds, and all of their peers are already using booster seats. Is it safer to keep them in their five-point-restraint seats, or are they too old for that?

Watch: Life-Saving Car Accident

“A five-point harness is much safer than just the seatbelt,” says Jennifer. “We recommend staying in that five-point harness as long as possible, because it’s going to diffuse the forces of a car accident.”

ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork tells Jennifer, “We applaud you for what you do.” He urges parents to learn the laws around child car seats in their states.