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Durga Puja in Bengal and other parts of India is the biggest autumn religious and social festival. West Bengal's Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is trying to defend so-called puja organisers, from whom the union government's Income Tax department has sought details of their accounts. Puja committees are normally formed by non-political clubs. Normally the Chief Minister cannot have any role in their affairs. Most of the clubs have virtually been taken over by Trinamool Congress, and charges of corrupt deals in collecting sponsorship have been leveled against them. The matter of IT filing is absolutely a club affair. The Chief Minister is tacitly recognising these pujas, that are being organised by TMC leaders and supporters. The TMC is staging long "dharnas" in Kolkata, in protest against the central government's decision to serve IT Notices to Durga Puja committees. Under IT department Notices issued to various puja committees, the puja organisers are required to deposit Tax Deduction at Source (TDS), on the payments made to various vendors with the IT Department. Several contractors who were doing work for the Puja Committees were not paying due Taxes. Therefore, Notices Under Section 133(6) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 were issued in December, 2018, to about 30 committees in Kolkata and suburbs, calling for details of Tax deducted at source on payments made to contractors, event manager, etc. engaged by the committees for the Puja events, including the TDS statements. Many of the puja committees compiled, and furnished evidence of tax deducted at source, as well as deposit of the same in government accounts. Event management includes "Dhaki", "Purohit", small and village artisans engaged in arts and crafts, working in puja "pandals".

A section of TMC leaders and Ministers who looted funds through chit fund companies, have hidden large portions of ill begotten wealth in Durga Puja committees. Money already looted through chit fund scams are being money laundered through the Durga Puja committees. On 16 July 2019, an outreach program was organised by the Income Tax department, for the Durga Puja committees at their own request, so that they could be educated about the provisions of TDS.

Acceptability In J And K
Internationally acceptable Jammu and Kashmir is to wait till a plebiscite could be held in both parts of J and K. Not only did Pakistan fail to withdraw its troops as required, but it has conceded Gilgit, a part of the original J and K to China. Thus, there is no prospect of J and K wide plebiscite as required by the United Nations. Ladakh is a vast territory, totally, different from the Kashmir Valley and Jammu. It is sparsely populated but a huge source for solar energy. It will be the first Buddhist majority Union Territory, a first for India. The Ladakh people have welcomed the bifurcation. 1989 witnessed the armed insurgency in J and K and Pakistan got involved. Pakistan's Kashmiri agents ensured that the Hizbul Mujahideen stole the struggle for "azadi" from the secular JKLF. Jihadist Islam began to infuse a political movement. Soon Kashmir's Pandits were ethnically cleansed from the Valley. Bearded men forcibly closed down liquor shops, bars and cinemas. Women who did not veil their faces risked having acid thrown at them. A new "identity" was imposed on Kashmir. Article 370, prior to the first week of Aug 2019, was no more than a symbol of Kashmir's special status. The special status mode J and K a playground for secessionists and Jihadists, and J and K's identity became an Islamic state in the making. The demand by Kashmiri Muslims for a right to self-determination or "azadi" was politically check mated by other communities such as Dogras, Kashmiri Pandits, Gujjars, Bakkarwals and Ladakhi Buddlists. It is to be seen whether the abrogation of Article 370 by itself, would facilitate the return of Kashmiri Pandits to Kashmir Valley, without the support of local Kashmiri Muslims and suppression of rising violence.

Russian Blast And Nuclear Link
On 08 August 2019, off the coast of Northern Russia, a mysterious explosion off the Nenoksa Missile Test site occurred apparently during the test of a New Type of Nuclear propelled cruise missile, in the White Sea. Nearby local officials initially reported a spike in radiation in the atmosphere. It was possibly one of the worst Nuclear accidents in the region since Chernobyl, although apparently on a far smaller scale. Late on 11 August 2019, officials at a research institute confirmed for the first time that five of the scientists they had employed, died in the exploding reactor, during an experiment. The Russian Federal Nuclear Centre had been studying "small-scale sources of energy with the use of fissile materials." The blast involved a prototype of what NATO calls the SSCX-9 Skyfall, a cruise missile that Russia's president Putin had boasted earlier, that can reach any corner of the earth. After the explosion at a Russian missile testing site, radiation levels were up to 16 times the norm. Rosgridromet, the weather monitoring service, said it sensors in Severodvinsk, a town about 30 kms (20 miles) from the Nyonoska test site, registered gamma radiation exceeding background levels by "four to 16 times". The levels returned to normal after 2.5 hours. Staff at Russia's Rosatom Nuclear agency were providing support for the "Isotype power source" of a missile, and were thrown into the sea from the testing platform, by the force of the explosion. A decree from Russia's science and education Ministry prohibits researchers or meeting foreign colleagues one-on-one.

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Vol. 52, No. 12, Sep 22 - 28, 2019