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PM Narendra Modi announces a series of Financial incentives for Poor people, Farmers, Small businesses, Women and Senior citizens

Modi swept to power in 2014 promising to end graft, and while the currency ban aims to do that, political analysts have called it a risky gamble

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People watch Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the nation, on television in Hyderabad, India, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. (VOA)
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Asserting that his crackdown against corruption will not end, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a series of financial incentives for poor people, farmers, small businesses, women and senior citizens.

Modi addressed Indians on New Year’s Eve, 50 days after he banned high denomination currency in a bid to root out illegal money. The measure led to huge paper money shortages among citizens that hurt poor people the hardest and caused widespread disruption in the informal sector.

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Defending his move to scrap 86 percent of the country’s currency overnight, he said, “Corruption, black money and counterfeit notes had become so rampant in India’s social fabric that even honest people were brought to their knees.”

Although many in the country initially supported the move, patience has worn thin in recent weeks as the government has not been able to meet the demand for new currency, resulting in snaking lines outside banks since the November 8 announcement.

Those lines are likely to continue into the New Year. Although the prime minister had asked for 50 days to restore normalcy, cash shortages have not eased and limits on the amount people can withdraw from banks remain in place.

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Modi sought to address some of those concerns, saying efforts would quickly be made to restore normalcy to the banking sector. He said the focus would be on rural and remote areas, which have suffered the most from the cash crunch.

Acknowledging that the ban had led to hardship, the prime minister said people had shown patience, discipline and resolve in helping the government tackle corruption.

Among the promises Modi made were a discount on interest rates for home loans in rural and urban areas for poor and middle class people, doubling credit guarantees for small businesses, steps to help pregnant women and senior citizens and financial support for farmers.

Observers said the incentives are meant to alleviate growing anger among millions of poor people.

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He promised tough action against the corrupt but promised to help law abiding citizens. “The law will take its own course with its full force, but the priority is how to help the honest and protect them.”

Modi also called on all political parties to come together and take steps to ensure transparency in political funding, which many say is one of the major factors that fuels corruption.

Modi swept to power in 2014 promising to end graft, and while the currency ban aims to do that, political analysts have called it a risky gamble.

They say whether the move establishes his credentials as a strong leader who is meeting his promise or whether it loses him goodwill will be tested in crucial elections to be held in Uttar Pradesh province early next year.

Many economists have questioned the benefits of the currency ban and warn that it will hurt the economy while not achieving its objective of ending tax evasion. Modi however asserted that there is no precedent globally to what India has done. (VOA)

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Kashmir becomes a favourite again this New Year’s Eve

"It is just like the old times in Gulmarg. I cannot fully express my joy when I see the numbers of tourists here today," said Abdul Gaffar, a pony owner here.

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Kashmir. Pixabay
  • This new year starts with a bang for Tourism industry in Kashmir as it experiences the sudden boom of the tourists.
  • Hoteliers and Resort owners are especially overjoyed with the prospect of increased Tourism.
  • Increased tourism is also indicating an increase in Kashmir’s economy.

New Year couldn’t be likely to begin on a better note for the tourist industry of Kashmir. This world-famous ski resort was completely sold out on Saturday as scores of tourists from far and near thronged the place to start celebrations on New Year’s Eve on Sunday.

“It is a great omen for the tourist industry of the state. Gulmarg is completely sold out as hundreds of tourists have arrived here to welcome 2018.

“All hotels and tourist huts are occupied as more arrivals are expected tomorrow as well. “We have domestic tourists as well as foreigners from Thailand, Malaysia and some other countries.

“Not only Gulmarg, all high-end hotels and those in the middle class range are completely booked in Srinagar city. Pahalgam tourist resort also has appreciable presence of tourists these days,” state Director, Tourism, Mehmood Shah told IANS.

He said that aggressive and realistic tourist wooing campaigns through social media by the Tourist Department and other stakeholders have started paying dividends now.

“What is encouraging is that domestic tourists from south India are now looking at Kashmir as a holiday and honeymoon destination. Hopefully, we will be having a wonderful tourist season this winter and during the coming spring and summer months,” Shah said.

2017 had not begun on a good note for the local tourist industry. Lesser number of tourists came to Kashmir during this year, but the sudden boom noticed around the New Year’s Eve, signifies that 2018 will be a welcome year.

 Kashmir tourism is seeing a boom after a year of stagnancy. Wikimedia
Kashmir tourism is seeing a boom after a year of stagnancy. Wikimedia

“We had very little occupancy during peak tourist periods in 2017, but given the number of tourist arrivals towards the year end, we are hopeful of a great season ahead”, said Altaf Ahmad, manager of Hilltop Hotel here.

Managers at the highend Khybir Resort also expressed satisfaction at the tourist arrivals around the year end.

Even when the temperature outside is around minus six degrees Celsius, Gulmarg is abuzz with life.

The increased tourism is a matter of joy for the Kashmir's economy. Wikimedia Commons
The increased tourism is a matter of joy for the Kashmir’s economy. Wikimedia Commons

Taxi operators, ponywallahs and others directly or indirectly associated with the tourist industry in Gulmarg hope the tempo sustains and 2018 proves to be a blessing for the tourist industry.

“It is just like the old times in Gulmarg. I cannot fully express my joy when I see the numbers of tourists here today,” said Abdul Gaffar, a pony owner here.

Hoteliers in Srinagar especially those around the Dal Lake are busy attending to their guests.

“It is great to see guests arrive in such numbers at this time of the year,” said a hotelier in the Boulevard Road area on the banks of the lake. IANS