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TMC MP Tapas Paul’s bail denied, sent to 3-day CBI custody

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A special court here today rejected the bail plea of Trinamool Congress MP Tapas Paul, arrested for his alleged involvement in Rose Valley Chit Fund scam, and sent him to three-day CBI custody.Paul was produced in the court of Special CJM, CBI, P K Mishra.Against it plea for a five-day remand of Paul, the court allowed CBI to take him into custody for three days. The cine star-turned politician was one of the directors of the tainted chit fund group that allegedly duped investors in Odisha, West Bengal and some other states.Paul is also accused of promoting the company and “misleading” people to deposit money in the firm. He was also charged with giving senior posts to his family members in the company, a senior CBI official said.In its charge sheet submitted in the court on January 7, CBI had accused the ponzi firm of duping investors of Rs 17,000 crore, of which Rs 450 crore is from Odisha alone. The company was active in Odisha and had 28 branches in the state.Paul was brought from Kolkata in the morning and taken to the CBI state headquarters. From there, he was sent to the Capital Hospital for medical examination before being produced in the court.CBI sources said a special investigation team led by DIG N K Singh, CBI Superintendent of Police, Bhubaneswar, Rajeev Ranjan and investigating officer will interrogate Paul.

TMC MP and actor Tapas Pal arrested by CBI in connection with Rose Valley chit fund scam

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Trinamool Congress MP from Krishnanagar constituency, Tapas Pal was arrested by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the Rose Valley Chit Fund Scam for money laundering. Pal was arrested by CBI officials after four hours of questioning on Friday, when he appeared at the CBI office in CGO Complex of Kolkata. Sources in the CBI reveal that several inconsistencies had surfaced in his statements and he was not cooperating with the investigators. Officials are likely to take him to Bhubaneswar for further questioning. CBI had sent a notice to Pal on Tuesday to appear before them and give details of the transactions that took place when he was the director of the Films Division in the Rose Valley Group. He was also asked to produce documents of the transactions. Earlier, his accountant was also questioned by the CBI. Reacting to his arrest, Trinamool Congress spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP, Derek O’Brien said, “So now political atrocities against those opposed to #NoteBandi and with the movement. We will fight it out.” On the other hand, opposition parties welcomed the arrest of Pal and claimed that the noose will further tighten on other Trinamool Congress leaders. “Long awaited and much delayed arrest,” said CPI(M) leader Md.Salim.

Kolkata: Suspected IS militant, Musa planned execution of foreigners at Mother House, says NIA

New Delhi: Alleged terrorist Mohd Mosiuddin was plotting Islamic State-style chilling execution of foreigners, especially those from the US, Russia and the UK, visiting the Mother House in Kolkata as it would be a “heart pleasing” experience for him, the NIA has claimed.

The NIA, in a charge sheet filed before a special court in Kolkata recently, claimed that Mosiuddin alias Musa was planning to stab and kill foreigners, a style frequently chosen by the IS to eliminate its targets.

The Mother House in West Bengal capital is the headquarters of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. In its charge sheet, the anti-terror probe agency has said Musa termed the militants operating in Kashmir as “Mujahids (holy warriors) with impure ideologies” who were fighting for Kashmiri land when they should have fought in support of Sharia, the Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet
(Hadith and Sunna).

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The agency has provided Musa’s photographs in Kashmir to buttress its claim that the terrorist had visited the Valley.

NIA alleged it had proof of his having bought a big knife to commit the terror crimes before fleeing away. He also allegedly procured pepper spray from Snapdeal, an online marketplace to facilitate his proposed criminal acts as the intended target would be rendered temporarily blinded by it.

The charge sheet alleged that Musa discussed plans for conducting such attacks at the Mother House, which is frequented by foreigners from the US, Russia and the UK. Armed forces of these countries are locked in fierce battles with the IS in many nations.

Musa had discussed with some others the exact location of the Mother House and was claimed to have told them that foreigners, particularly Russians, Britishers and Americans often visited the place. He wanted them killed as the governments of their countries had bombarded the IS in Syria and Libya, the charge sheet alleged.

The NIA had taken over investigation in the case from Howrah police on 22 July.

During Musa’ arrest, a .38 bore six-chamber revolver, three rounds of ammunition, a knife, a Samsung mobile phone and other incriminating articles were seized. Subsequently, one Apple Macbook and a sword were seized from his residence at Tiruppur, Tamilnadu.

During investigation, two more accused, namely Saddam Hossain alias Kalu and Abbasudin Sk alias Amin were arrested by West Bengal CID.

“Mosiuddin was found involved in furthering the illegal activities of the IS in India and Bangladesh and had been in touch with Shafi Armar…and was also linked to the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) operatives in Bangladesh,” NIA had said in a statement.

Armar is a former Indian Mujahideen operative who was later claimed to have joined the IS. It was Armar who had radicalised him by sending the links of jihadi sites like, Al-Shabab media and Just-Paste-it links, etc.

Armar also allegedly sent him videos released by Ansar Ut Tawid (AuT) which included footages of the war between the IS and Iraqi forces. The videos and speeches of ‘Anwar ul Awlaki’, a jihadist ideologue and preacher who was killed in a US drone attack in Yemen, were also sent to him by Armar, a native of Bhatkal in Karnataka and one of the main recruiters for IS in India.

Abu Suleiman, a Bangladeshi IS/JMB operative, visited India to meet Musa twice in March, 2015, and May, 2016. He encouraged Musa to use encrypted chat applications like Telegram, Surespot, Threema, Chatsecure, to communicate with him and other IS operatives, NIA has alleged.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 21:14 IST

Parasmal Lodha in ED net: How the deal-maker and influencer became a commoner

At an undisclosed lockup, Parasmal Lodha — known for his fetish for limousines, priceless watches, Cognac and mahogany beds — sleeps on the floor covered with prickly blankets, his meals comprise flatbread and lentils.

Officials of the Enforcement Directorate, who arrested Lodha on charges of illegally re-routing cash to make it look legal (read hawala), showed no mercy to the 60 year-old influencer, rejecting all pleas for special treatment, including home-cooked food. Lodha, claimed sources within the probe agency, did not like being treated as a commoner. To the wealthy across India, he was — over two decades — known as the three-word man: “Get it Done”. But now, Lodha had no choice.

“It’s interesting to see him in such a condition. In 40 years, life has turned full circle for Lodha and his crimes,” quipped an ED official, in an apparent hint about Lodha’s initial years when he had arrived in Kolkata in 1977 as a carpetbagger and sold stuffed betel leaves and flavoured paan masala in front of Poddar Court, an imposing building close to Lalbazar police headquarters.

Old-timers in Kolkata recall how Lodha and Nandu Pasari, a dealer of Raymond suitings, grew in stature and, of the two, Lodha started doing small-time brokering on behalf of Arun Poddar, owner of Poddar Court.

Parasmal Lodha being taken to court last week. PTI

Parasmal Lodha being taken to court last week. PTI

Lodha, thanks to Poddar, increased his network among Kolkata’s Marwari community, and using their financial prowess, wanted to take over the Peerless Group, then India’s largest residuary non-banking company, in 1987 by acquiring 50 percent of its shares and a seat on its board.

Chairman of Peerless PC Sen had complained to the Kolkata Police that Lodha had offered his staff loads of cash but when refused, Lodha even threatened to kill him using his contact with Dawood Ibrahim. Lodha was questioned by the cops but eventually let off. However, his attempt failed as the Left Front and Congress jointly staved off his bid —  CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee and Congress leader Priya Ranjan Das Munshi joined hands — and Lodha’s stake was down to 30 percent.

However, the Peerless misadventure proved to be the biggest springboard for Lodha, who was now seen as the best face for “deals and negotiations” in Kolkata, some in Delhi and Mumbai were also calling him for consultations.

But then came the second jolt when 43 people were charred to death in a deadly inferno that swept through the multi-storeyed Stephen Court in the heart of Kolkata in March, 2010. Lodha was rumoured to be the actual owner of the building, where he had flouted several rules and even built two extra floors bribing his way through. A team of the Kolkata Police had also arrested Sanjay Bagaria, the son-in-law of industrialist GP Goenka — a friend of Lodha’s — from a guest house of a paper mill in Saharanpur, in August 2010. Bagaria was one of the directors of Stephen Court Limited — the century-old architectural heritage building on the upmarket Park Street in Kolkata — and had gone missing after the inferno swept through the building. Interestingly, Lodha managed to extricate himself from the incident.

“Lodha had — by the mid-1090s — moved from Kolkata to Delhi and acquired expensive properties, including a huge farmhouse where he entertained guests,” said ED sources.

Among his friends were a host of retired judges with considerable influence on the judiciary, many cabinet ministers, corporate captains, and sons of the then prime minister PV Narasimha Rao. Lodha was a regular at the PMO in South Block.

Lodha expanded his wings even abroad. The ED is looking into his proximity with some influential Indian families in London and Kenya, even in Australia and whether those families benefitted from Lodha’s largesse. Having helped a top Indian conglomerate when his business deals in Australia went sour, Lodha was also seen in the forefront of a group helping a London-based family solve teething problems in its automobile business.

“He was seen as the ultimate saviour who knew the routes to instant cash. He wanted to try his hand into everything, including films,” claimed ED officials. It is reliably learnt that it was Lodha who helped the influential Renu Roy garner cash to finance Rituparna Ghosh’s award winning film, Unishey April, in 1994. He even lobbied for Roy to become the first woman president of Kolkata’s prestigious Saturday Club in 2007-2008, raising many eyebrows in the city.

ED officials claim Lodha had been under the scanner for almost a decade but “serious tracking” by the agencies started when it was claimed that he was the front to re-route financial packages offered by the Indian government to ailing jute mills in Bengal. Many jute mill owners were accused of diverting Central funds without refurbishing the jute mills. Some were also slicing off portions of jute mills into real estate zones. “Lodha was thick in it,” claimed ED officials.

Lodha also worked with influential Marwari tycoons in Kolkata who wanted to acquire heritage buildings close to the Ganges. He had an uncanny ability to get sanctions for extra floors and eventually legalise them by paying hefty bribes to the cops, state government officials and civic authorities. He was then jokingly called “Extra Floor Lodha”.

But his interests in real estate dimmed in late 1990s amd he shifted to cash re-routing, lobbying with the judiciary and started negotiating with many across India. Instead of shuttling regularly between Delhi and Kolkata, his new destinations now were Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. Bollywood interested him immensely, Lodha often used small-time Bollywood actresses and models to impress his clients. Barely 10 days before his arrest, Lodha was in touch with a Bollywood starlet whose services he wanted for two of his clients.

It wasn’t just cinema and actors, however, as Lodha showed an interest in owning news channels. Always ready to strike a deal and completing it successfully, he was then known as “Deal Done Lodha”. He was always interested in the end result, often telling his conduits in simple words: “Kaam Hona Chahiye” which translates to “The work must happen”.

His name cropped up when many in Kolkata were being interrogated by the CBI in the Sharada scam. Lodha — or so claimed those who were interrogated — had urged them to sell licences to run news channels to Sudipta Sen of Sharada, promising them “high value deals” because of his clout with Sudipta.

Arrested last Thursday from the Mumbai Airport while trying to flee to Malaysia, allegedly for illegally converting demonetised notes worth Rs 25 crore into new currency for Chennai sand baron J Sekhar Reddy and lawyer Rohit Tandon, Lodha started showing his clout at the airport, virtually naming the entire UPA-I and UPA-II Cabinets and some ministers of the ruling NDA-led government as his friends. “His handset and messages folder looked like an encyclopaedia,” said a top source.

ED officials were tracking Lodha after New Delhi’s demonetisation moves, and eventually a dossier was prepared on the hawala trader and influencer, and clearances were sought from the Ministry of Home Affairs. “His huge influence was indeed a cause of worry for us,” claimed the ED officials.

No more.

Inside the ED lockup, Lodha is unable to crack a deal and nothing is happening to his satisfaction. He does not even have his expensive watch to see if time is on his side.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 12:38 IST

Bengal turns communal tinderbox, thanks to CM Mamata Banerjee

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal is slowly, but steadily, heading back to its gory past when Hindus and Muslims were at daggers drawn and communal clashes and riots were frequent.Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee’s blatant minority appeasement is not only causing acute heartburn among Hindus, but has also emboldened attacks against them at many places. These have been mostly unprovoked with the motive of driving away Hindus from their hearth and homes.Her administration has been playing the role of a passive onlooker and the state police have been venturing into riot-torn areas only after the damage is done.In the latest such riot that broke out in a village at Howrah’s Dhulagarh area last week, according to reports, a procession complete with loudspeakers blaring Hindi film music was taken out on 13 December to celebrate Eid-e-Milad (the birthday of Prophet Mohammed), which fell on 12 December, a public holiday. On 13 December, Hindus at Dhulagarh village were observing Margashirsha Purnima.Hindus requested that the volume be lowered since the music was interfering with some rituals. This incensed a section of those in the procession and they started attacking Hindu homes and shops. According to local people, the attackers were non-locals. Hindu houses and shops were looted and then set ablaze while, as the Zee News report says, police who reached the village were attacked by bombs and prevented from stopping the rioters.Locals and leaders of Hindu Samhati (a Hindu social organisation) claim the attack on Hindus at Dhulagarh, like many others are increasing with regularity all over Bengal and were pre-planned. “Why would people participating in a procession to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet carry sticks, choppers and other lethal weapons as well as bottles filled with acid (which they hurled at shops), kerosene and diesel (which were used to set Hindu houses and shops ablaze after they were looted) and country-made bombs (that were hurled at the police)? Why was the procession taken out a day after Eid-e-Milad? And why were non-locals in the procession?” asked Hindu Samhati leader Prashanta Sen.In October this year, communal riots broke out in 12 places all over the state over Durga Puja immersions and Muharram tazia processions. The seed was sown by Banerjee when she banned immersion of idols of Goddess Durga on Dashami on the ground that the immersion processions would coincide with Muharram processions. She wanted immersions to take place before 4 pm on the day of Dashami or two days after that.The Calcutta High Court came down heavily on this and said: “There has been a clear endeavour on the part of the state government to pamper and appease the minority section of the public at the cost of the majority section without there being any plausible justification… the state government has been irresponsibly brazen in its conduct of being partial to one community, thereby infringing on the fundamental rights of people worshipping Ma Durga.” The High Court also warned the state that it would be dangerous to mix politics with religion.But by the time the Calcutta High Court delivered its stinging criticism, the damage had already been done. The state government’s restrictions ignited anger among the Hindus of the state and triggered tension between the two communities. This ignited into full-scale riots when those in the Muharram processions attacked the Durga immersion processions.“At all the places, the immersion processions or Durga Puja mandaps were attacked by those taking part in the Muharram processions. And there seemed to be a clear intention to create trouble. Some mischief makers burst a firecracker in the midst of a Muharram procession at Malda and shouted that the procession had been attacked with bombs. In no time, swords, daggers, choppers and lathis came out and Hindu homes, shops and temples were attacked. It was pre-planned,” a state home department officer who did not want to be named said.Hindus were angry because of unreasonable restrictions on Durga Puja immersions, and also over other such anti-Hindu and pro-minority actions of the government. For four years, her government has been denying permission to 300 Hindu families of a village in the state’s Birbhum district to organise a Durga Puja because 25 families would be offended.In 2012, she started giving monthly stipends of Rs 2,500 and Rs 1,000 to imams and muezzins of the 32,000-odd mosques in the state. This is perceived as blatant minority appeasement. She has also allowed hardline Muslim organisations a free hand. The hanging of 1971 war criminals in Bangladesh triggered massive protests in Kolkata and rallies calling for Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina’s death.Last month, a massive rally that brought Kolkata to a halt demanded a steep hike in the stipends to the imams and muezzins to Rs 20,000 and Rs 10,000 per month respectively. A few months ago, another massive protest rally against preacher Zakir Naik brought the city to its knees. Another against the Uniform Civil Code (the biggest such in the country till date) was held last month in Kolkata. Kolkata is emerging as the hub of hardline Muslim activism.West Bengal has also become a safe haven for Islamists hounded out of Bangladesh. “Hundreds of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and activists accused of heinous crimes like killings of secularists and bloggers have taken shelter in West Bengal. The Mamata Banerjee administration has turned a blind eye to their presence. The Khagragarh blast was an eye-opener. Many such Bangladeshi criminals and terrorists sheltered in West Bengal have been planning attacks on targets in Bangladesh,” said a Central Intelligence Officer.The fallout is steady Hindu-Muslim polarisation. “This polarisation has been triggered by what Hindus perceive is the blatant appeasement of minorities… anger has reached tipping point,” warns sociologist Dibyajyoti Goswami.West Bengal is no stranger to communal riots: more than 5,000 were killed and tens of thousands displaced in the Calcutta riots of 1946. The 1964 riots were a reaction to the pogrom against Hindus in erstwhile East Pakistan, the 1992 riots, the 2013 riots in Canning, and many more.Whatever be the failing of the erstwhile Left Front government, the lid was kept firmly on communal tensions.This article is reprinted with permission from Swarajya magazine.

DNA Evening Must Reads: PM Modi to go after benami properties, Russian military jet crash; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. War on black money: After demonetization, PM Modi promises to go after ‘benami properties’Vowing to carry forward the war against corruption and black money post-demonetization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government will soon operationalise a strong law to effectively deal with ‘benami’ properties and this was just the beginning. Read more about Mann ki baat here.2. ISIS suspect Musa planned to attack Mother House in Kolkata to target US nationals: NIA chargesheetISIS suspect Mohammad Masiuddin alias Musa had planned to attack Mother House in Kolkata to target US nationals according to the chargesheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday at NIA special court. Read more here.3. Russian military jet crash: All 92 passengers onboard killed, Putin declares national mourningA Russian military plane carrying 92 people, including dozens of Red Army Choir singers, dancers and orchestra members, crashed into the Black Sea on its way to Syria on Sunday, killing everyone on board, Russian authorities said. Read more here.4. Cashless means less cash, Opposition ‘slow in understanding’: Jaitley at Digi-Dhan MelaAs the government kick-started the Lucky Grahak Yojana and Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana for consumers and merchants to push the digital drive, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that it is in the interest of every country that it becomes a less-cash economy. Read more about his speech here.5. Restrictions on cash withdrawals may continue beyond December 30Restrictions on withdrawal of cash from banks and ATMs are likely to continue beyond December 30 as currency printing presses and RBI have not been able to keep pace with the demand of new currency notes. Read more here.

Centre vs Mamata: Now, Bengal CM calls CRPF deployment for IT raids unconstitutional & illegal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Weeks after West Bengal Chief Minister termed the army exercise in the state as an attack on federal structure, Mamata Banerjee on Friday said that the deployment of 15 CRPF personnel to provide security to income tax officers during raids is unconstitutional and illegal.Banerjee, in a letter addressed to the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, “It has come to our notice that the Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to make available 15 personnel of the CRPF for apparently providing ‘security’ to Income Tax officials and staff deputed for operations in West Bengal. No communication in this regard has been received by the state government.””The State Government objects strongly to this decision, which is blatantly unconstitutional, illegal and against all principles of cooperative federalism,” the letter reads.Stating that the deployment of any Central Police Force of the Union to any State can only be done at the request of the state government, letter said, “The decision must be immediately revoked. The Chief Minister also said that the state government at its police forces will provide all necessary help and protection.”On the other hand, an advisory by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the CBDT, dated December 20, mentioned that 15 CRPF personnel would be deployed in the state.“The matter has been considered in this Ministry and it has been decided that CRPF shall make available 15 personnel to Income Tax Department, Kolkata for providing security to officers and staff deputed for search and seizure operations to be carried out by the Income Tax Directorate,” the advisory read.However, when contacted, CRPF officials remained tight lipped. They refused to give information whether the deployment plan was shared with the state government or not.

TN chief secretary P Rama Mohana Rao raided: Here are the major I-T raids since demonetisation

It has been more than a month since the Narendra Modi government decided to demonetise high-denomination notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 and even though queues outside banks and ATMs might have shortened from how they used to be, income tax officials have been busy with several high-profile seizures of cash and gold. Some of the seizures reflect poorly on the government — in a few instances new currency notes were seized as well which in turn raises questions about the BJP government’s decision.

Since 8 November, the Income Tax department has detected Over Rs 3,185 crore of undisclosed income, while seizing Rs 86 crore worth of new notes, as part of its country-wide operations against black money hoarders. Official sources said the taxman carried out a total of 677 search, survey and enquiry operations under the provisions of the Income Tax Act since the note ban was declared on 8 November, even as the department has issued over 3,100 notices to various entities on charges of tax evasion and hawala-like dealings.

The I-T department, they said, has also seized cash and jewellery worth over Rs 428 crore during the same period.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The agency has also referred over 220 cases to its sister agencies like the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to probe other financial crimes like money laundering, disproportionate assets and corruption as part of their legal mandate.

Here are some of the biggest raids conducted by tax sleuths since the high-profile cleanup of the Indian economy began:

Kolkata businessman raided

Kolkata businessman Parasmal Lodha was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate for allegedly converting over Rs 25 crore in demonetised currency notes into new ones, reports News18. According to the report, Lodha has links with industrialist J Shekhar Reddy, who was arrested along with his associate K Srinivasulu on Wednesday.

Tamil Nadu chief secretary, his son under taxmen scanner

The house and office of Tamil Nadu chief secretary P Rama Mohana Rao was on Wednesday searched by Income Tax officials who claimed to have recovered Rs 30 lakh cash in new notes and five kgs of gold besides getting “disclosure” about Rs five crore of unaccounted income.

On Thursday, tax sleuths raided his son, Vivek Rao’s office in Chennai. Sources told NDTV that the taxmen are probing the source of funding for the six companies that Rao established in 2012.

Continuing raids in Chennai

On 20 November, taxmen raided the premises of a prominent engineering college after reports arose of the owner depositing Rs eight crore in unaccounted cash in the accounts of employees. IT officials later found that the amount was deposited in over 400 bank accounts.

According to The Indian Express, on 8 December, the IT department busted a money exchange racket in the Tamil Nadu capital, seizing Rs 90 crore in cash, of which 70 crore were in new notes, along with 100 kgs of gold.

The Income Tax officials on Monday seized demonetised currency notes worth Rs 10 crore and a few kilogrammes of diamond and gold jewellery during a raid in the house and showroom of a jeweller in Chennai.

BJP leader arrested with new notes

On 6 December, the Special Task Force arrested former West Bengal BJP leader Mahesh Sharma, after Rs 33 Lakh in form of Rs 2,000 notes was confiscated from him.

New notes found in ‘secret chamber’

In a surprise raid at a hawala operator’s residence in Hubballi led to the Karnataka and Goa taxmen unearthing Rs 5.7 crore in new cash, The Times of India reported. The stash of new cash, interestingly, was found in a secret chamber in the bathroom.

Post note ban Rs 30 crore seized in Maharashtra excluding Mumbai

Post demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the Income Tax department seized about Rs 30 crore in cash, including Rs 12.32 crore in new bills, from Maharashtra, excluding Mumbai.

The cash was seized during 57 surveys and search operation carried out since the decommissioning of the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, I-T department said in a release in Mumbai.

CBI raid at Hyderabad post offices

The CBI conducted surprise raids after the note ban. During one such search at the Himayatnagar Post office, the invetigation agency found Rs 40 lakh. The raid took place on reports of irregularites in phasing out of old currency notes.

Bahubali producer raided in Hyderabad

The IT department raided the residences and offices of the producers of the multi-lingual blockbuster Bahubali, Business Standard reported. Shobu Yarlagadda and Prasad Devineni, the two producers, were at the recieving end of the taxmen, as Rs 60 crore worth of new notes were found during the raids.

G Janardhan reddy under IT scanner

On 21 November, within days after G Janardhan Reddy’s daughter’s lavish wedding grabbed headlines for its splendour, Income Tax Department raided the mining baron’s offices in Bellari.

A team of five I-T Department officials raided the former BJP lawmaker’s Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC) offices.

NGO linked to Pakistan singer raided

On November 18, Delhi police and the IT department raided the offices of a NGO, Routes of Roots, run by the managers of eminent Pakistani singer Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, after it recieved reports of illegal conversion of black money.

IT raids in Chandigarh college

The Enforcement Directorate on Monday seized Rs 50 lakh cash, including Rs 46.80 lakh in new notes, after raids at the premises of an educational institute’s owner. Acting on a tip-off, the ED sleuths swooped down on the premises of the owner of Swami Devi Dyal Group of Institutes in Chandigarh.

Over two crores seized from Meerut engineer

Cash worth more than Rs 2.67 crore in both old and new notes, and 30 kilograms of silver were seized from an engineer, working in the irrigation department, by the Income tax sleuths on Tuesday.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 12:56 IST

Kolkata: 2 dead, 20 shanties gutted in major fire, hundreds left homeless

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A major fire broke out in Kolkata’s Patipukur in the wee hours of Saturday morning, leaving two dead and one injured. As many as 20 shanties of the Subhas Colony adjacent to the rail line were gutted in the fire, leaving hundreds homeless.The two deceased have been identified as Priya Adhikari and Nimai Adhikari. Priya was to appear for her class 10 board exams next year. The injured person has been rushed to the hospital and continues to be in critical condition.The fire broke out around 2.45 am and 16 fire tenders were pressed into service. The fire was doused around 5 am and the cooling process was initiated to find pocket fires, if any.Sources in the Fire and Emergency Services Department reveal that the cause of the fire was a cylinder blast. Immediately after the blast, the fire spread rapidly to the other shanties and reduced them to ashes.The state administration has arranged for rehabilitation of those rendered homeless at two nearby schools. “Till the time we decide on a proper rehabilitation and compensation, we are going to shift all those whose shanties have been gutted to two nearby schools. They will stay there till they get an alternative place to reside,” said Shantanu Sen, a local councillor.In another incident, another fire broke out on Saturday morning at a hosiery factory in Hatibagan. As many as eleven fire tenders were rushed to the spot and brought the fire under control.

BJP leaders arrested forts against fatwa by Muslim cleric

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Protesting against the ‘fatwa’ issued by Imam of Tipu Sultan Masjid Syed Md Nurur Rahman Barkati, state BJP leaders had organised a protest rally from party state headquarters at 6 Muralidhar Sen Lane in north Kolkata to Tipu Sultan Masjid in Esplanade area of Central Kolkata but police stopped protestors near their party office itself.There had been a huge police posting since morning near the BJP office and the entire proposed length of the rally. Protestors tried to break police barricade and a scuffle between them and police officials followed. When BJP workers tried to put up a blockade on the second lane of CR Avenue where they were stopped, police opened a lathi charge to disperse protestors.As many as 48 BJP supporters including party MLA Swadhin Sarkar and senior state party leaders such as Krishna Bhattacharya, Locket Chatterjee and Amitava Roy were arrested. An effigy of Barkati was also burnt.”Police are acting as the cadre of TMC. On the behest of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, police had hit our people who were protesting peacefully. We will fight it to the finish,” Chatterjee said as she was taken to the prison van.State BJP vice president Jayprakash Majumder said, “Mamata is the Chief Minister of a state which comprises 72 per cent Hindus and yet it is sad to see that she has to take refuge behind a Muslim cleric.”Later at a press conference, party state president Dilip Ghosh said that what police had done was undemocratic. “Section 144 has been imposed at the Reserve Bank of India area and TMC leaders have been protesting there for the last two days. No police action has been taken there. Our supporters had taken out a peaceful rally police rained sticks on them injuring at least eight who had been sent to the hospital. It is highly undemocratic,” Ghosh said.Coming down on Mamata he said, “She is the Chief Minister of West Bengal but it seems Barkati is calling the shots. What authority does he have to issue a ‘fatwa’ against me?”On December 12, Barkati had said that he had issued a fatwa according to which stones should be pelted at Ghosh wherever he is sighted and that he should be thrown out of Bengal.It was found out that state BJP would put up protest demonstrations across the state till December 21 when it culminate into a bigger protest movement. “On December 21 we will put up sit in demonstrations in front of all district magistrate and superintendent of police’s offices across the state,” he said.

Demonetisation impact: RBI Governor Urjit Patel shown black flags outside Kolkata airport

Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Urjit Patel was on Thursday shown black flags outside Kolkata airport during a protest staged by Congress workers against demonetisation. They also raised slogans “Urjit Patel go back” and “Urjit Patel hai hai“, however,  the security personnel managed to escort the RBI Governor inside the airport.

Earlier in the day, West Bengal Chief  Minister Mamata Banerjee met Patel to express her concerns over demonetisation.  “The meeting was good,” Patel told reporters at the state secretariat.

Earlier, Patel attended a meeting of the RBI central board at the apex bank’s office where Trinamool Congress and CPM workers had staged demonstrations.

When asked about the meeting, Banerjee told reporters, “I am satisfied with the meeting (with Patel)”. “I availed the opportunity to express views of the common man are facing immense hardships due to demonetisation… The prime minister, Parliament, nothing is available. No one is responding. Patel is a direct man,” she said. “RBI is a big institution. We respect it. It should not be politically misused,” she said.

RBI Governor Urjit Patel. PTI

RBI Governor Urjit Patel. PTI

The TMC chief also handed over a letter to Patel in which she said, “as the Governor of RBI, an autonomous institution with a great history, which issues currencies to the nation, we expect you to stand up against this demonetisation onslaught against the common people of the nation at this moment of crisis, rather than falling silent and remaining opaque”. “We would also like to know from you the nature of allocation of new currency to each of the states in a spirit of transparency and accountability, since there are serious concerns of political discrimination amongst States,” the letter said.

The whole country, she said, is going through “unprecedented misery and suffering” due to the “cruel misadventure” of demonetisation which has not been seen in any modern democracy. “You are perhaps aware that already five crore workers across the country and across the sectors are facing unemployment and hunger. Unorganised sector of the country which provides two-third jobs in the country has literally collapsed,” Banerjee said in the letter.

“The small and medium enterprises are shutting down shops in lakhs. The massive trading sector of the economy has been brought down to its knees due to cash crunch, unable to conduct its business.” The farmers of our nation are going through a trauma never seen before and that too not due to natural calamity but due to a man-made disaster of massive demonetisation. Even the middle and large industries have dropped their production by at least 50 percent,” she added.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 19:34 IST

Mamata remarks: BJP leaders arrested for taking out rally protesting fatwa against Dilip Ghosh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Several top BJP leaders were arrested by Kolkata Police while taking out a rally to condemn the comments of a Muslim cleric who had issued a “fatwa” against state party president Dilip Ghosh. The rally was organised against the fatwa issued by Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan Mosque, Maulauna Noor-ur Rahman Barkati, against Ghosh for his comments against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The rally started from Central Avenue near BJP state office and was scheduled to reach Tipu Sultan Mosque in Esplanade area in the heart of the city. Police cordoned off Central Avenue and asked BJP workers not to proceed but when they tried to move ahead, police used force to stop them from crossing the barricade.”Some of the BJP leaders and workers have been arrested. We tried to stop them but they tried to force their way, so we had to arrest them. But at this moment we can’t give the figures and names,” a Kolkata police official said.BJP claimed that Ghosh was injured during a scuffle with police when it tried to stop the rally. It also said senior leaders, including MLA Swadhin Kumar Sarkar and state BJP general secretary Deboshree Chowdhary, were arrested. Ghosh said, “This is inhuman and undemocratic. We are not being allowed to take out a rally peacefully. We condemn this autocratic rule of TMC. They (TMC) are so much busy with appeasement politics, that we are not allowed to take out a rally.” The Imam had on Monday issued a fatwa against Ghosh for making “filthy comments” against the chief minister.”From where does he (Ghosh) get such audacity to make filthy comments against our beloved chief minister who is the most secular leader of our country? I issued the fatwa which states that he should be pelted with stones and then kicked out of Bengal. He does not deserve to stay in Bengal,” Barkati had said while issuing the fatwa.Reacting to the charges, Ghosh lashed out at Barkati and said this country is neither Pakistan nor Bangladesh that he could issue a fatwa and go scot-free.”What does Barkati think? Is this Bangladesh or Pakistan that he will issue a fatwa against me? He can issue a fatwa against TMC, they will listen to him, but not BJP. It seems that Barkati no longer wishes to stay in Bengal or India. I think he is planning to migrate to Pakistan or Bangladesh,” Ghosh had hit back.

International Tea Day: Mamata urges Centre to help tea workers hit by demonetisation

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday yet again urged the Centre and RBI to “extend a helping hand to tea garden workers”, who she alleged were “dying” in the aftermath of demonetisation.

Her comments came on a day when RBI Governor Urjit Patel was in the city to attend the apex bank’s central board meet.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. File photo. PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. File photo. PTI

On the occasion of the International Tea Day, Banerjee said in her tweet that the tea garden workers were hungry and dying due to demonetisation.

“RBI must immediately restore payments by our government through DMs (district magistrates),” Banerjee said.

She said as many as 97 people died following the 8 November decision.

The Trinamool Congress supremo had on Wednesday demanded that the RBI restore and continue payments by the state government till March 2017.

TMC legislators and senior state ministers organised a sit-in in front of the Reserve Bank of India office in Kolkata on Wednesday to protest against the insufficient supply of new currency notes in the state.

Banerjee also accused the central government of discriminating between states with regard to disbursement of cash from the RBI.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 15:23 IST

Calcutta, Madras, Bombay High Courts to retain their names in the near future

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The names of iconic high courts of Madras, Calcutta and Bombay may not be changed in the near future as a bill moved in this regard has run into trouble and the revised one has to be introduced in Parliament. The High Court (Alteration of Names) Bill, 2016, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 19 to allow the names of the Calcutta, Madras and Bombay High Courts to be changed to Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai respectively.But, now the Tamil Nadu government has asked the Centre to rename the Madras High Court as ‘High Court of Tamil Nadu’ instead of ‘High Court of Chennai’ as proposed in the bill. While the West Bengal government wants the Calcutta High Court to be renamed as Kolkata High Court, the high court itself “not agreed for revised nomenclature.” Minister of State for Law PP Chaudhary said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday that the old bill will have to revised and a new bill will have to be introduced.”The central government has sought views from the concerned state governments and the respective high courts for finalising fresh bill. No time frame can be fixed for finalising of the fresh bill and its introduction in Parliament,” he said.The Calcutta High Court has the distinction of being the first high court and one of the three chartered high courts to be set up in India, along with the high courts of Bombay, Madras. It was formally opened on July 1, 1862. ‘Indian High Court Act’ of 1861 vested in the Queen of England to issue letters patent to establish high courts of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay.The Bombay High Court was inaugurated on August 14, 1862. The high court today has three benches at Nagpur, Aurangabad and Goa. Bombay HC is one of a few institutions in Maharashtra that continue to carry the old name of the city. The state government renamed Bombay as Mumbai in 1995 and all institutions under it altered names accordingly.The Madras High Court, which came into being around the same time, has one bench in Madurai.

Self-censorship is worst form of censorship: Taslima Nasreen

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For noted Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, who has faced the ire of fundamentalists on several occasions, self-censorship is the worst form of censorship.With attacks against writers, minority religious leaders, and atheist bloggers on the rise in Bangladesh, Nasreen says many authors have now been forced to resort to self-censorship to avoid facing fatal consequences.”In our part of the world we have problems regarding freedom of expression. Many people do not speak what they want to. And, most writers in Bangladesh now self-censor themselves. Otherwise they will be hacked to death. But, for me it is the worst form of censorship,” she said.”Even when I write for newspapers, editors cut several sentences before printing,” she said.The 54-year-old author has been living in exile in India after having incurred the wrath of fundamentalists back home over a novel written by her in 1994.According to the writer, a voracious advocate of freedom of speech, sentiments of one group or the other will invariably be hurt, no matter what one writes.”My sentiments are offended by the death threats I receive from Islamic fundamentalists but that doesn’t mean I want to kill people for that. I have an inbuilt mechanism to face all this. The fundamentalists, however, are so weak that they can’t tolerate what I say,” she said.Despite being a permanent European citizen and an American resident, the doctor-turned-author refuses to stay anywhere but India.Initially, she was residing in Kolkata, but following a riot in the region, she was asked by the then ruling CPI(M) government to leave, and has been living in the Capital since then.”I chose to live here and specially as a Bengali writer I decided to live in Kolkata. I needed a Bengali environment and was very happy when I settled there in 2005.”The government and I started facing problems three and a half years later and I was forced to leave the state,” she claimed.The writer had penned her struggles from her time in exile in her book, “Nirbashan”, which has now been translated from Bengali into English as “Exile.”In the book, she mentions the series of events during her seven-month struggle leading to her ouster from West Bengal, then Rajasthan and eventually India.She also talks about the “anxious” days that she spent under house arrest.”There were days when I had high blood pressure and wanted to see a doctor but because of security reasons, I was not allowed to do so. I was even asked how much money I needed to leave the country,” she said.Expressing concern over how more and more parts of the globe are becoming autocratic, she said the world was becoming a difficult place for writers to speak their minds.”When writers like me are attacked here, we go to Europe.Now even Europeans have started having problems (Charlie Hebdo attack), so where do we go now?” she said.She also called for a consolidated fight against the ‘misogynist’ mindset prevailing in society to “make the world a better place to live in”.”If we want to change society we have to fight fundamentalists because they want to pull society backwards. I write for human rights, women’s rights and freedom of expression.”For a change I think we should fight misogyny and religious fundamentalism, otherwise it won’t be a better place to live.”

Post demonetization crackdown by CBI: 10 cases, 16 arrests and Rs 19 crore in questionable currency

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> As part of its ongoing countrywide operation, CBI lodged a case against a Bank of Baroda official in Kolkata for converting old currency in violation of rules, taking the number of such cases to 10 with 16 arrests and Rs 19 crore as currency in question. Cashier of Bank of Baroda, Behala branch, Ranjit Kumar Bhattacharya has been booked by CBI for allegedly converting currency worth Rs 50 lakh using fraudulent means in violation of laid down rules post demonetizationof Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes on November 8.Under its countrywide operation continuing for a few weeks, the agency has so far registered four such cases in Karnataka, four in Hyderabad, one in Rajasthan and one in Kolkata.CBI sources said so far it was probing currency conversion of Rs 19 crore, which might increase as the probe progresses and more FIRs are registered by it.The agency sources said it has made 16 arrests across the country which include public servants, middlemen and private persons.In Karnataka, CBI has arrested a JDS leader who is also a casino operator and an RBI official in separate cases of alleged illegal conversion of old currency.Reserve Bank official K Michael, posted in Bengaluru, was arrested by CBI while he was allegedly trying to convert Rs 1.51 crore of old currency notes.CBI sources said Michael, a senior special assistant at RBI, was arrested last week.The agency has also arrested Veerendra in a separate case relating to seizure of Rs 5.70 crore of new currency from the bathroom of the casino owner by the Income Tax department.”We have arrested K C Veerendra. He was arrested in Hubballi on December 10 and brought to Bengaluru the following day and produced before the CBI court. He is in our custody for six days,” a top CBI official told PTI today.Besides Veerendra, middlemen Thipeswamy and Venkatesh, residents of Chitradurga districts of Karnataka, and unknown officials of four banks — State Bank of India, State Bank of Mysore, ICICI Bank and Kotak Mahindra — have also been named in the FIR in this case.A case has been registered against an ATM servicing company and officials of Karnakata Bank and Dhanluxmi Bank. Another case has been registered against Central Bank of India officials and private persons for allegedly facilitating exchange of demonetised notes by issuing 149 Demand Drafts of Rs 70 lakh in the name of a private loan company.In Hyderabad, CBI had registered four cases related to conversion of currency by postal department officials with prime suspect named in the FIR being K Sudheer Reddy, an Indian Postal Service Officer.The agency has also registered an FIR against officials of State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, Dausa branch on similar charges.

International Kolkata Book Fair wary of demonetization woes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Wary of the impact of demonetization, organisers of the International Kolkata Book Fair 2016 have requested the State Bank of India (SBI) to provide ATM counters inside the fair premises. The Publishers and Booksellers Guild has also asked individual publishers to provide PayTM facilities at their stall to help book lovers buy books without any hassle. “Following demonetization, we have come up with these initiatives of providing PayTM facilities and ATM counters inside the premises. I also met Partha Pratim Sengupta, Chief General Manager of State Bank of India, to discuss the issue of ATM counters. Buyers may not have enough cash so these initiatives will come handy,” said Tridib Chatterjee, Honorary General Secretary of the guild. The Publishers guild expressed concern that book sales could drop considerably following the demonetization move. “Book publishers pay their labourers in cash. With the cash crunch, it has directly impacted the printing of books. We apprehend that demonetization might impact our sales this year too,” added Chatterjee. The 41st edition of the International Kolkata Book Fair will begin on January 25 and go on till February 5. The 12-day long book fair will have Costa Rica as a focal country and will also have Russia as a special participant.

Jaish-e-Mohammad ‘member’ sends letter to Eastern Railway HQ, threatens to kill Bengal CM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The Eastern Railway headquarter has received a letter demanding Rs 50 crore, non-payment of which it said would harm the passengers in Howrah division, officials said here in Kolkata on Monday. Security has been beefed up at important stations and railways installations, they said. “A handwritten letter was received at the headquarter and it has been given to the police to investigate,” Divisional Railway Manager (Howrah) R Badrinarayan said. “It says Rs 50 crore should be paid. There is a mobile number given. It said if the demand was not met, there would be threat to lives in Howrah division,” he said.Eastern Railway officials said security has been beefed up at important stations, including at Howrah and other installations of the Railways. The police confirmed that the letter on a plain paper demanding the amount was received by the Eastern Railway authorities at its headquarter at Fairlie Place. An investigation is on to find out the source of the letter, they said.With PTI inputs

Mamata vs Army: Relationship with Bengal govt remains unchanged, says army official

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Notwithstanding West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s complaint about Army exercise at toll gates, a senior Army official on Monday said that its working relationship with the state government had not changed.”We have good communication at the local level. There has been no change in our working relationship,” Eastern Command’s Major General General Staff, Maj Gen R Nagraj, told reporters here. Earlier in the month, Banerjee had accused the Centre of deploying the Army at toll plazas in the state without informing the state government and described it as “unprecedented” and “a very serious situation worse than Emergency”. The CM had refused to leave her office in Kolkata till the armymen were withdrawn from toll plazas, and had asked whether it was an “Army coup”, drawing sharp reaction from the Centre.Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had last week written to the chief minister expressing “deep pain” over her allegations and said it can “adversely” impact the morale of the armed forces. Asked to comment on the allegation of collection of money by Army personnel, the Major General says that the Army is a powerful organisation and they do not tolerate such incidents.”There was no such news before us. This is against the ethos of the Indian Army,” he said. On Army’s preparedness to tackle challenges from across the border, Nagraj said they are always ready.”Given the current circumstances all units and formations of the Army are fully alert. We are ready for action and also for lending a helping hand to our fellow citizens,” he said.

India to get Rafale fighter jets in 3-yr time: IAF chief Arup Raha

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India will get the first tranche of Rafale fighter jets from France in the next three years, Indian Air Force chief Arup Raha said on Saturday. “Rafale contract caters for delivery time between 36 months to about 66 months if I am not wrong. So within three years time we will have the first few aircraft delivered to us and within five and a half years we will have two full squadron of aircraft in operation,” Raha said at a function in Kolkata.He said the fighter jets, capable of carrying nuclear weapons and equipped with latest missiles, will tremendously increase the force’s capability. When asked about the depleting strength of jets, he said besides Rafale, India is going to produce Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas in large numbers. “The effort is on to increase production lines. The more the number of aircraft we produce, the faster we ramp up the capacity to close the gap created by obsolete and old aircraft,” Raha said.IAF has put on display one such obsolete MiG-27 fighter aircraft in front of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata. The installation was inaugurated by the Air Chief Marshal. He also said the government is also thinking of procuring another fighter aircraft to fill up the gaps faster. On the Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), Raha said they are already working with Russia on research and development. “The project is already negotiated. Preliminary design on our part is over and if this R&D negotiations are over and we sign the contract then we should have these aircraft in another 5-6 years,” Raha said.

Mamata Banerjee has crossed all limits by questioning Indian Army: BJP leader

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shrikant Sharma on Saturday said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had crossed all limits by criticising the government and questioning the Indian Army.”She has crossed all the limits. While condemning Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she didn’t even bother that she is criticising the Indian Army and questioning their routine exercise,” he said adding that the TMC leader is adopting dictatorial style of leadership.Sharma’s statement came in the backdrop of the controversy surrounding the deployment of the Indian Army at two toll plazas near the new state government secretariat in Kolkata. He further said that Mamata was levelling baseless and false allegations at the Centre and should apologise for the same.
ALSO READ Mamata politicising everything in wake of demonetization: BJPDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar wrote a letter to Banerjee on Friday, saying her allegations could “adversely” impact the morale of the armed forces.Banerjee hit back over his “wild assertion”. She maintained that the Ministry of Defence had not taken prior permission of the state government for the large deployment of army personnel in civilian areas.On December 1, as part of exercises across Bengal and several northeast states, the army had deployed unarmed soldiers at check points and toll plazas to note the movement of vehicles which could be diverted in case of a major disaster, military operation or war. Seeing soldiers at a toll plaza just 500 metres away from her new secretariat in Kolkata, left Mamata infuriated and she refused to leave her office until the army moved its troops out. She left her office 30 hours later.The West Bengal government said the army was denied permission to hold the exercises. The army, however, produced correspondence with the state’s police and civil administration, and also asserted that the exercises are held annually.

Mamata politicising everything in wake of demonetization: BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said Saturday that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is trying to politicise everything in the wake of demonetization after indulging in a war of words with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. BJP leader S Prakash snubbed Banerjee, saying that she is behaving like ruler of some union and not of a state of some democratic country. “She is seriously under the impression that she is heading a union of West Bengal, which is part and parcel of India and abides by its Constitution. The army serves every state impartially. She is just trying to politicise everything in the wake of demonetization,” Prakash told ANI.The political row over the recent army drill at toll plazas in West Bengal flared up again on Friday as Parrikar wrote a letter to Banerjee, saying her allegations can “adversely” impact the morale of the armed forces. Banerjee hit back over his “wild assertion”. She maintained that the Ministry of Defence had not taken prior permission of the state government for the large deployment of army personnel in civilian areas.On December 1, as part of exercises across Bengal and several northeast states, the army had deployed unarmed soldiers at check points and toll plazas to note the movement of vehicles which could be diverted in case of a major disaster, military operation or war.Seeing soldiers at a toll plaza just 500 metres away from her new secretariat in Kolkata, left Mamata infuriated and she refused to leave her office until the army moved its troops out. She left her office 30 hours later.The West Bengal government said the army was denied permission to hold the exercises. The army, however, produced correspondence with the state’s police and civil administration, and also asserted that the exercises are held annually.

Mamata flight row: No shortage of fuel, pilots ‘cried wolf’ for early landing

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cockpit crew of the three aircraft reporting short on fuel over Kolkata recently was “crying wolf” and played “naughty” to seek early landing to show good on-time performance, a top DGCA official said today and justified the action of de-rostering them.All the three aircraft had, in fact, “enough” fuel and the pilots wanted “early” landing to show “good on-time performance”, the official said, requesting anonymity. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had ordered an inquiry to find out how three flights, including the IndiGo aircraft which had West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee onboard along with other passengers, could fly low on fuel into Kolkata at the same time.Subsequently, it directed the three airlines — IndiGo, Air India and SpiceJet — to take off duty the entire cockpit crew of the three aircraft. A row had erupted after the Trinamool Congress alleged that the IndiGo aircraft carrying its chief Banerjee was not accorded priority in landing despite fuel shortage.”All three aircraft had enough fuel, enough not only for holding pattern but also to land twice at the diversionary airport, which in this case was Bhubaneswar. In the landing sequence, Air India was on sixth position while IndiGo flight was on eighth slot. SpiceJet aircraft was on the last position of the three. “However, despite, this IndiGo pilot sought early landing from the ATC saying it was short on fuel. Before giving it clearance, the ATC asked Air India pilot since it was ahead in slot, but he also reported low on fuel. Just then, SpiceJet pilot also jumped in and reported short fuel. But none of them sought priority landing as that would have put them under scrutiny,” the official said.”These pilots actually played naughty. It was like cry wolf,” he said. Norms mandate an aircraft to carry enough fuel to enable hovering for 30-40 minutes as well as to carry it to the nearest diversion airport, which in this case was Bhubaneshwar. As a fallout of the entire row, all the six pilots were taken off duty for one week while the air traffic controller, who handled these flights was directed to undergo “corrective training”. “The ATC was instructed to undergo corrective training as he should have taken a decision on his own,” the official said.IndiGo on its part had said that its November 30 flight carrying the Trinamool Congress supremo was delayed due to congestion over Kolkata before making a normal landing and had adequate fuel. In a statement, IndiGo had said the flight made a “normal landing” at Kolkata airport and that its captain did not declare a fuel priority or an emergency, though there was some misunderstanding between ATC and the pilot.

Kolkata: FBI team arrives to interrogate Islamic State operative Musa

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A seven-member team of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States, have arrived in West Bengal to interrogate ISIS operative Musa. The team arrived at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) office in Kolkata on Thursday afternoon. 25-year-old Mohammad Masiuddin alias Musa was arrested from Burdwan railway station by the CID on July 4 on charges of radicalising youths to join ISIS. Later, the probe was taken over by the NIA and the agency is currently probing his links to Jamaat-Ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and also the Dhaka attacks. While the Superintendent of Police of the zonal unit of NIA in Kolkata, Soumitra Dhar refused to divulge the reason of interrogation, sources in the NIA reveal that Musa had agreed to take on an assignment from a JMB leader Abu Suleiman to target foreigners and US nationals in India and behead them.In March 2015, Musa had met Abu Suleiman in West Bengal during his sister’s wedding. Musa had been in touch with Suleiman over Facebook, but Suleiman had expressed his wish to meet Musa in person. Later, Musa invited him to attend his sister’s wedding, held in Bengal. Suleiman is now on the run and both – the Indian and Bangladeshi governments are looking for him.Musa came under the scanner of CID and NIA after his e-mails and calls were traced to Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Syria. Officials in the investigating agency highlight that he had been touch with several ISIS operatives in Syria through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Initial investigations revealed that he had also been in touch with several JMB operatives in Bangladesh.Earlier, in the month of August, a three-member-team of Bangladesh’s security intelligence department had also come to Kolkata to interrogate Musa.

IndiGo to contest diktat on pilots in Mamata incident: Did politics force DGCA’s hand?

New Delhi: Six pilots flying three separate aircrafts to Kolkata last Wednesday have become scapegoats in the controversy over West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s flight and its delayed landing amid emergency procedures. From all available accounts, it is clear that her life was never under threat on that balmy November evening and these three aircraft were delayed at Kolkata due to normal congestion issues. No emergency was declared by the pilots of any of the three aircraft, none reported being low on fuel – so where is the question of a threat to the CM’s life? She was not alone, there were hundreds of other passengers too on board these aircraft, waiting for a safe landing just like her. It is obvious then that politics, not aviation safety procedures, has dictated the subsequent strict action by air safety regulator DGCA. The regulator has de-rostered six pilots – two each from IndiGo, SpiceJet and Air India – for allegedly being low on fuel that day.

Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, West Bengal. AFPMamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, West Bengal. AFP

Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, West Bengal. AFP

A source said that a senior DGCA officer confessed to ‘immense political pressure’ before issuing the diktat about these pilots. Director General B S Bhullar was not available for comments for this story.

IndiGo has protested against strictures on its pilots by the DGCA. An airline spokesperson said, “the inquiry was conducted by the regulator supported by IndiGo safety department. Pilots operating flight 6E 342 have been kept off flying duties till investigations and discussions with DGCA are complete. As an airline we always comply with the DGCA guidelines. IndiGo captain had followed all SOPs as laid down by the regulator and at no stage did the captain declare a fuel priority or an emergency. There has been no violation or breach of any regulatory requirement in the above-mentioned matter. We are taking up the matter in greater detail with the DGCA.”

In fact, each of three airlines which have been asked by DGCA to de-roster pilots has stoutly denied the ‘low-on-fuel’ charge. Besides IndiGo, Air India also plans to contest the DGCA order further. An airline spokesperson declined to offer any comments for this story. But since they have been de-rostered, the pilots of all these flights will now have to undergo corrective training before they can resume duties. A SpiceJet spokesperson did not comment on whether her airline will appeal against the DGCA decision but confirmed that the flight was not low on fuel at any time.

Crying wolf is an old trick which Banerjee uses frequently. Her party’s paranoia over the delayed landing of her IndiGo flight came just around the time the CM also imagined that army deployment at some toll plazas in her state was a conspiracy against her.

The army later clarified that this was routine exercise, done after following laid down procedures which include informing local authorities. In the flight instance too, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs made several allegations about a threat to Banerjee’s life. “Is there more to this than meets the eye?” asked TMC’s Derek O’Brien. “There is a school of thought that this is a conspiracy,” he said in the Rajya Sabha.

On the evening of 30 November, IndiGo flight 6E 342 carrying the CM was made to hover at Kolkata airport for about an hour. Though the airline subsequently said that at no time did its pilots either seek priority landing or report low fuel, full emergency procedures were put in place by the ATC when the flight landed. IndiGo had then said that the ATC got it wrong – the pilots said they had enough fuel for diversion (to Bhubaneshwar, which is about 20 minutes away) and another eight minutes of fuel for hovering. They did not say there was any fuel shortage.

The IndiGO statement after the incident said: “The flight was kept on hold for landing due to air traffic congestion at Kolkata. The pilot operating 6E 342 had informed the ATC that he has eight minutes of extra holding fuel over Kolkata (destination) before commencing diversion to the planned alternate. However, this information was misunderstood by the ATC who assumed that the aircraft had only eight minutes of total fuel left. The misinterpretation of the information by the ATC led ATC to instruct fire engines and ambulances to be stationed at Kolkata airport. We would like to clarify – IndiGo captain at no stage declared a fuel priority or an emergency. Subsequently, the air plane made a normal landing at Kolkata airport at 8.40 pm, delayed by an hour due to congestion”.

An industry source said an Air India flight was ahead of the IndiGo aircraft in landing queue and the SpiceJet aircraft was third. But Air India’s AI 020 Delhi-Kolkata flight was asked to ‘go around’ at the airport and the ATC gave priority to the IndiGo aircraft carrying Banerjee to land.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 15:14 IST

Mamata Banerjee flight row: Pilots’ suspension grossly unfair, only mollifies West Bengal CM

The suspension of six pilots, two each from indigo, Spicejet and Air India for allegedly endangering their flights as they hovered over Kolkata waiting for landing clearance makes no sense. Spurred by the accusations of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who was on one of them and believes this whole exercise was designed to have her killed, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) decided to investigate the issue.With ana alacrity it seldom displays.

On the face of it all three aircrafts were low on fuel and had asked for clearance or else they were to prepare to move to an alternate airport.

There is a fixed protocol in every commercial or scheduled flight. You go from point A to point B with thirty minutes ‘go around’ or ‘hover’ fuel over point B and enough fuel after that to reach your alternate airport (in this case, Bhubaneshwar) and hover there for thirty minutes.

If any of these parameters have been broken, then by all means charge the pilots and the ground crew and the dispatch for negligence.

But if they have not been broken and the fuel was sufficient to get to the alternative with enough to spare then becoming all holier than thou because a chief minister gets paranoid borders on the ridiculous.

Mamata Banerjee. File photo. ReutersMamata Banerjee. File photo. Reuters

Mamata Banerjee. File photo. Reuters

We have to understand that when you make the pilot community jittery and take punitive action like this you are more likely to compromise air safety that if you go off half-cocked into an investigation that requires a probe of what went on between the three flights and the ATC where there might have been a possible misunderstanding but you do not create such a furor and take these unilateral actions when there is no evidence of the rules being broken.

At no stage were the aircrafts in danger or passenger safety compromised and it seems that all this controversy is predicated to the Banerjee’s impatience of her flight landing being delayed.

In fact she should be asked why she would scare 170 passengers and why an airline should be maligned by her causing distress and concern to future passengers.
When you accuse airlines of negligence, it has far reaching effects. Add to that a finger pointing at the pilots for not carrying out their duty and the carrier is literally placed in the dock.

You cannot seriously imagine that the crew colluded to endanger a flight complement of 170 passengers and place their lives at risk as an part of a conspiracy to eliminate Banerjee.

The more incredible part is how protected these politicians are that they can make such outrageous statements and get away with it. Any other normal passenger making such claims would either be taken away in a straitjacket or be placed into custody pending an inquiry.

Once having said it, Banerjee should be asked to explain exactly how and why she has arrived at this conclusion based on the flimsy perception that her flight was slightly delayed.

Imagine, if you will, if all of us on delayed flights were to see the a hand in glove plot what utter chaos there would be in the skies.

Seeing that no pilot on any of these flights called an emergency, hit the transponder 7700 code or said anything more than alerting ground control to facts on the fuel situation suspension for doing their job seems untenable.

After all, they had enough fuel to break the parameters and hover over Kolkata for another ninety minutes.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 11:27 IST

Fire breaks out at South City Mall in Kolkata

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A major fire broke out at South City Mall in Kolkata on Sunday morning and as many as 15 fire tenders were rushed to the spot. Two hydraulic ladders were also pressed into service. Disaster Management Group officials are stationed outside the mall.Since the entire third floor was engulfed in smoke, firefighters put on oxygen masks to reach the spot where the fire was.The fire broke out at around 9.15am on the third floor of the mall, where the food court is housed. While no injuries were reported in the incident, all those who had reached the mall to watch the day’s first movie show were safely evacuated.”Prima facie it seems the fire was caused due to a short circuit. No one was trapped inside the mall. We are trying to douse the fire as soon as possible,” said Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee.Meanwhile, the electricity supply has been disconnected in the mall.

A nation of believers: Nilanjan Ray captures several facets of faith in Indian society

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three years after he picked up his camera and set off across India to capture ‘Faith’ in all its dimensions, award winning photographer Nilanjan Ray took a break to exhibit his work in Delhi. The black-and-white photographs he has shot are confirmation that India, for all its modernity, remains fundamentally a society anchored firmly to faith.Ray travelled through his native West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to bring to life a telling narrative of people and communities held together in body and soul by their faith in beliefs that may even border on superstition.In Hajipur in Bihar, Ray came across a group of men brutally beating a woman. “I stopped by to wonder what was happening. The kind of assault she was subjected to would have killed me. I was scared but I went closer. This was their way of dealing with a ‘possessed’ woman. When she lost consciousness, a priest came forward, put his feet on her head, and commanded the evil spirit to leave the woman’s body. Then she was dragged to a nearby river and given a bath. The men went home believing the spirit had fled the woman’s body,” says Ray. “Even more incredible was the fact that none of them were aware of my presence or me photographing them. They were all so engrossed in exorcising the so called possessed woman.” The photograph of the priest commanding the spirit to leave accompanied by the beating of drums has made it to the exhibition currently on at the India International Centre in Delhi.But not all the photographs evoke fear like this one. There are also poignant frames of men and women involved in the intensely personal and communal aspect of prayer. Ray’s keen eye for detail and contrast also reveals the vast social and cultural mosaic that India is. From Agra, with the Taj Mahal as the backdrop, a woman shrouded in a white cloth is about to immerse herself in the waters of the Yamuna on Chhath Puja.In an adjacent frame, three women, all with their heads covered in immaculate white, are about to immerse themselves in the holy, but polluted, waters of the Ganga at Varanasi. The visual effect of the darkness of the water into which the women will momentarily immerse themselves and the white covering their bodies is evocative of the river’s present pitiable state and the fervor of the devotee who cannot be deterred by such considerations.One of the most intriguing moments captured by Ray is one of two babies laid on a wet stone floor with a leg moving over them. For an instant it would evoke horror but like many of Ray’s photographs it essentially captures the idiosyncratic practices that mark faith in India.“It is from a temple in Kolkata on the banks of the Ganga. A woman who has taken a dip in the river is treated as a devi. The belief is that if the devi stretches over an infant, the child will be blessed,” says Ray. During Muharram, Ray came across two men flogging themselves in the back with sharp knives tied at the end of a rope. “The lacerations were deep and I was also splattered with their blood while getting close to them,” Ray says. After the exhibition closes on December 6, Ray will travel to Punjab and then Kerala to take forward his photographic project.

Army withdrawn from Bengal toll plazas as 72-hour exercise comes to end

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As the 72-hour routine lead carrier information exercise of the army came to an end, it has withdrawn from the Palhit toll plaza and other areas.CPRO defence SS Birdi said, “As 72-hour exercise got over, we withdrew deployment from Palhit toll plaza and other areas yesterday night.”When the army deployed its team at two plazas in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged that the deployment was made without any prior information to state government. She also termed the day as ‘black day’, pointing out that such a deployment takes place only normally during disasters.The army, however, clarified on the issue by releasing a series of letter stating that it was very well in contact with the Kolkata Police and that it was nothing but a routine exercise which takes place every 3-4 years.”This is an exercise carried out for operational purposes, which will terminate to its logical and tonight. They are only collecting data of heavy vehicles, which is an annual exercise being carried out every year. Similar exercises are also being carried out in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar from September 26 to October 1 this year,” said Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC), (Headquarters), Bengal Area, Major General Sunil Yadav.Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress MLAs staged protest outside Raj Bhavan in Bengal, demanding withdrawal of the army deployed at toll plazas.BJP lashed out at Mamata Banerjee for dragging in the army into politics and sought an apology from her and her party. BJP spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh said, ?It?s very unfortunate, the kind of politics Mamata Banerjee has been doing after demonetization. BJP is of the opinion that the issue of army deployment in Bengal has been politicised.”

Navy increases surveillance in Sundarbans: Tells fishermen to install tracking devices in boats

Kolkata: The Navy is increasing surveillance over the remote islands in the Sundarbans and has asked all fishermen to install AIS tracking device in their vessels without which they will be treated as suspicious.

“All boats, trawlers and ships have been instructed to install the Automatic Identification System (AIS) through which we can establish their identity at the click of a button on our software,” said Commodore Suprobho K De, Naval Officer-in-charge (West Bengal).

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The tracking device transmits data related to the ship or boat back to the Navy. “Through satellites, images from aircraft and other vessels, we track the movement of ships. Whenever we are unable to trace them through the AIS, it becomes suspicious for us but that doesn’t mean we seize it. We just go there and investigate if everything is fine or not,” De told reporters.

Fishing crew are also supposed to be carrying their identity cards and biometric cards whenever they are in the sea. De said with the help of two softwares – Trigun and Avgaah, the Navy are able to screen ships virtually by knowing crucial data like its latitude, longitude position, nationality of the crew, last and next port of call.

The Navy has also prepared a digital mapping of coastal villages on a GIS (Geographic Information System) platform. “Besides national security issues, the data will also help us in case of any calamity where we have to do search and rescue operations,” the naval officer said.

West Bengal has a 260-km-long coastline. In the Sundarbans delta, there are 102 islands, out of which 42 are uninhabited. “There are challenges related to trafficking, smuggling of drugs and cattle and unregulated fishing,” De said.

Although Navy is increasing its aerial surveillance in coastal areas, there are no plans of having UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in Kolkata, he said. “We are trying to activate the Behala airport but not immediately,” De added.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 19:53 IST

Mamata vs army: TMC MLAs protest outside Raj Bhavan; raise ‘Modi should go’ slogan

Kolkata: As Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stayed put overnight at the state secretariat over army’s presence at toll plazas in West Bengal, her TMC MLAs and ministers staged a dharna outside the Raj Bhavan protesting the “dictatorial tendencies” of the central government.

More than 150 MLAs and ministers marched to the Raj Bhavan from state assembly to submit to Governor K N Tripathi a memorandum against the “ill motives of the central government” and demanding immediate withdrawal of the army personnel.



They sat outside the Raj Bhavan with placards and posters criticising the Narendra Modi government besides raising slogans like ‘Modi haaye haaye’ and ‘Modi should go’.

The group could not, however, meet Governor K N Tripathi as he is in New Delhi.

Alleging that the Centre is trying to topple the state government as TMC has raised its voice against demonetisation, Bengal Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee said, “Today we came here to protest against the dictatorial tendencies of the central government, which is trying to finish off the federal structure in the country. The state government in Bengal has been democratically-elected and that too with a huge mandate.

“The people of this country will give a befitting reply to the dictatorial tendencies. A conspiracy is being hatched to topple a democratically-elected government. People will give the reply whether they want an army coup or federally-elected government,” he said.

TMC, he said, would go to Raj Bhavan again on Saturday to meet the governor and lodge its complaints. “We contacted him (Tripathi) over telephone. He told us that he has read about the incident in newspapers. He has asked us to come tomorrow.”

After a high drama over “deployment of army” at certain toll plazas in West Bengal without informing the state government, Banerjee stayed put at the state secretariat overnight.

Army on its part strongly rebutted Banerjee’s allegations and said the exercise was being carried out in coordination with Kolkata Police.

Asked to comment on the army’s statement, Chatterjee quipped, “There is difference between informing and getting permission.”

Earlier in the day, Tripathi told PTI when contacted, “I have read about it newspapers. Army has already given a clarification. I have nothing more to say.”

Asked to comment on Banerjee’s allegation of “army coup”, Tripathi said, “It is the chief minister’s view. I have nothing more to say.”

Today was the first day of winter session of the state assembly and Chatterjee had wanted to raise and discuss the issue in the house. However, Speaker Biman Banerjee stopped him, saying that in order to raise and discuss an issue on the floor of the assembly it has to be first discussed in the Business Advisory committee of the house.

Reports from Jalpaiguri said TMC workers held day-long protest outside the army camp at Binnaguri too.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 18:50 IST

Opposition dragging army into unnecessary controversy, says Venkaiah Naidu

New Delhi: Terming the protest by the West Bengal chief minister over the presence of army men at toll plazas as “cheap political stunt”, Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu today said an attempt was being made to drag the army into an “unnecessary controversy”.

He said this was a routine exercise being undertaken after informing the authorities in the state. The deployment of army men at toll plazas was raised in Parliament by the Opposition and the TMC claimed that the move was a “challenge” to the federal structure of the country and was completely “politically motivated”.


Minister of Information & Broadcasting Venkaiah Naidu. PTI

“This is a routine exercise. It happened last year, it has happened this year. So why suddenly this issue?” Naidu asked. Talking to reporters outside Parliament, he said, “This is nothing but a cheap political stunt to defame the government and dragging the army into an unnecessary controversy where none exists. It is highly deplorable.”

Taking on the Opposition, he said, “It is a dirty campaign launched by some of our political opponents. Routine army exercise is being undertaken in different states of the country. This is an ongoing exercise, collecting data in all the North-eastern states, including Assam, Arunachal, Bengal, Nagaland, Tripura and Mizoram by Eastern Command of the Army.”

Giving details, he said, “Personnel of the army consisting of five or six unarmed personnel in each point are collecting data of heavy vehicles. This is an annual exercise. This exercise is carried out every year. “In the same location, the same exercise was carried out           on 19 and 21 November last year with the same government and the same chief minister in the state.

Similar exercise has also been carried out in Jharkhand, UP, and Bihar under South Western Command.” Naidu also dismissed as “baseless” the charge that army men were collecting toll charges and said this was not good for the country. “The allegation of collecting toll is also baseless. This exercise was carried out after informing the Kolkata Police. The date was changed after the request of the Kolkata                                                                                                          Police.

So where is the question of not keeping the state in the loop?” he asked. Pointing out at the main opposition party, he said, “The Congress has ruled the country for 50 years and they are also joining the issue. It is sad.” Commenting on Rahul’s statement that the Prime Minister was practicing TRP politics, Naidu counter-charged the Congress and said the party has become “irrelevant”.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 16:52 IST

Supreme Court adjourns hearing on demonetization matter till Dec 5

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to spell out measures taken to ease the sufferings and inconvenience of people in rural areas, who are mostly dependent on co-operative banks, post-demonetization.A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice D Y Chandrachud, while hearing a batch of pleas challenging various aspects of demonetization, said all the parties should sit together and prepare a list of categories of cases which could be referred to high courts and those that could be heard by the apex court.Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, said that the government is aware of the situation in co-operative banks which lack proper infrastructure and mechanism as compared to scheduled banks.”Entire chapter in the additional affidavit filed by the Centre is dedicated to the issue of co-operative banks. It is not that we are not aware of the situation but these (the co-operative banks) lack proper facilities, mechanism and proper infrastructure as compared to scheduled banks,” he said.He said that the government has deliberately kept co-operative banks out of the drive as these did not have the expertise to detect fake currency.Rohatgi said, “Several cases are filed each passing day in various high courts on various aspects post demonetization and it is not possible to deal with cases simultaneously in Kerala, Kolkata, Jaipur and Mumbai… All these matter should be clubbed together and be referred to any one high court or the apex court should hear them.” Senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for co-operative banks, questioned the government’s decision, saying that the rural economy is almost paralysed due to non-inclusion of co- operative banks.Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, suggested that they will sit together and file the list of categories by Monday.The bench then posted the hearing on the matter to December 5.

Dense fog delays flights & trains in Delhi, 3 killed in road accidents in UP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At least three people were killed and six other suffered injuries after a truck ran over them in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, due to poor visibility as shallow to moderate fog in parts of the state since Thursday night.As visibility dropped sharply due to dense fog in many parts of the country, the Jet Airways on Friday stated that due to adverse weather condition in Delhi, Lucknow and Amritsar, they are expecting delay in arrival and departure.”Due to poor visibility in fog at Delhi, arrival and departure delays are expected at Delhi airport,” Jet Airways tweeted. “Due to adverse weather in Lucknow & Amritsar, we’re expecting delays in arrivals & departures,” it said in a series of tweet.Meanwhile, the dense fog engulfed several parts of North India delaying 70 north-bound trains and 49 flights departing from Delhi on Friday. Around 70 north-bound trains, including Rajdhani services, were delayed, while around 30 others were rescheduled due to fog on Friday.A Northern Railway official said, Rajdhani trains from Kolkata, Sealdah, Bhubaneswar and Patna were among trains that were three to five hours late. He said, around 30 trains originating from Delhi were rescheduled due to fog. According to IGI release, in all, 88 flights were delayed due to fog and other reasons. According to Met Department, dense fog is likely over South Assam, Meghalaya, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi and North Madhya Pradesh on Saturday.

Bengal: Army says it is conducting routine exercise with police coordination

Kolkata: Army on Thursday night said they are conducting routine exercise with full knowledge and coordination with West Bengal police.

“Army conducting routine exercise with full knowledge & coord with WB Police. Speculation of army taking over toll plaza incorrect,” a statement by the Eastern command said on Twitter.

File photo of Mamata Banerjee. PTI

File photo of Mamata Banerjee. PTI

“Routine exercise in all NE states. In [email protected] places, Arunanchal @13, [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], Tripura & [email protected]”, it said.

Kolkata Police, however, said they have raised objection to this Army exercise due to security reasons and traffic problem.

“Army exercise at Toll Plaza was objected to in writing by Kolkata Police, citing security reasons & traffic inconvenience,” the city police said in a Twitter message on Thursday night.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the Army was deployed at toll plazas in different places in the state without informing the state government and termed it as “unprecedented and a very serious matter”.

She further said, “Whatever reason they are giving is not correct. They are lying. They are changing their reasons time to time. The MHA has the complete data of the vehicles moving in different states in the country.”

Earlier, a defence spokesperson said that the Army conducts biennial exercise throughout the country with the aim of getting statistical data about the load carriers that could be made available to the army in case of a contingency.

“There is nothing alarming about this and it is carried out as per government orders”, Wing Commander SS Birdi said.

The exercise gives an estimate about the number of vehicles passing through a certain area that could be tapped during operations, he said.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 09:16 IST

Demonetisation day 23: Cash shortage noted on payday as angry customers queue up again

Reeling under shortage of currency stock, banks across the country have resorted to rationing of cash in order to handle the huge payday rush at branches. Although claims were made by various banks that adequate arrangement would be in place to tide over the cash crisis on payday, branches are seen rationing cash depending on their currency stock position.

Some banks are disbursing only Rs 5,000 per person while those having better cash availability are offering Rs 10,000 or Rs 12,000 per withdrawal. Making matters worse, a large number of ATMs are still dry despite recalibration of nearly 80 percent of ATMs, while people are struggling with the problem of change as the operational ones dispense mostly high denomination Rs 2,000 notes.

The news updates of day 23 show how people across India queued up in large numbers outside banks and ATMs to withdraw cash from their first salary received after the 8 November demonetisation.

People wait for cash in Delhi

Long queues were witnessed outside most banks and functioning ATMs across the capital, residents said. At Lakshmi Nagar in east Delhi, hundreds queued up outside the only three ATMs that were dispensing cash. In Dilshad Garden, also in east Delhi, most ATMs were dry. There was a huge rush outside five banks in the locality. At an ATM in Khirki extension in south Delhi, people queued up outside banks much before they opened. “I have to pay my landlord, maid, newspaper guy and many others. I am not sure I will get cash as this ATM works only for an hour after it is refilled,” Nandini Gupta, a call centre employee waiting outside a Khirki extension ATM, said.

The scene was no different outside the ATMs in Connaught Place in the heart of the city. A resident of Noida near Delhi, Shiv Kumar, even queued up outside the ICICI Bank in Sector 18 hours before it opened.

Long queues at banks in Kolkata

Young working professionals to pensioners, a large number of people queued up at banks long before the start of banking operations on Thursday morning, the first payday after demonetisation.

A number of ATMs in Kolkata — in the city and suburbs — displayed “No Cash” notice while the functional ones mostly dispensed Rs 2,000 notes. Queues at banks in the city were relatively longer as many people wished to withdraw the maximum amount permitted to avoid a cash crunch over the next few days.

Representational images. PTI

Representational images. PTI

Cash shortage in Telangana, Andhra

The queues turned longer as people lined up as early as at 6 am at banks to draw the money to meet their financial commitments on the first day of the month. Employees of private firms including IT companies, pensioners, housewives, traders, students and daily wage earners all had the same complaint — low cash or no cash in banks.

Majority of the banks allowed customers to draw only Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000. The situation was worse at ATMs, with almost all of them closed. A few, which opened in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Tirupati and other major towns, soon went dry. The new Rs 500 note is yet to reach the banks in the two states.

The Telangana government has asked nationalised banks to open special counters for employees and pensioners to pay cash. It also directed them to work extra hours to meet the demand.

Salary Day in Kerala

State Finance Minister Thomas Issac had said there was no issue as far as the government was considered in paying the one million-plus people their salaries and pensions. He had expected Rs 1,000 crore to arrive at the state treasury on Thursday, while the banks were also expected to get around Rs 1,200 crore.

However, serpentine queues were seen in front of state treasuries and banks (ATMs saw less of a crowd) across Kerala on Thursday. With ATMs having a ceiling of Rs 2,500, the withdrawal limit in treasuries and banks has been fixed at Rs 24,000 a week, and hence, there was less of a rush at ATMs. In Kerala’s commercial capital Kochi, the scene was much the same with people — mostly pensioners — queuing up before the treasuries and banks.

As a matter of abundant caution, additional police force was deployed in front of several banks and treasuries across the state.

No mayhem in Tripura

The crowds at banks and ATMs in Tripura on Thursday, the first salary day after demonetisation, was not as massive as feared by many. In Mizoram, the first consignment of new Rs 500 currency notes along with Rs 100 notes arrived two days back, easing the cash crunch somewhat.

Bank officials in Agartala said a large number of employees withdrew some money in advance from their accounts fearing a huge rush on the first of December. However, the cash crunch continues to be serious in semi-urban, remote and rural areas of Northeast India where most banks do not have adequate currency or where ATMs lack notes of various denomination.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 15:34 IST

Plane ferrying Mamata made ’emergency’ landing due to ATC’s ‘misinterpretation’: IndiGo

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the wake of the ongoing controversy over the emergency landing made by the commercial plane on Wednesday with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee onboard, IndiGo on Thursday clarified that the flight captain at no stage declared a fuel priority or emergency, adding that the fuel on arrival was more than minimum.The airline in a statement said IndiGo flight from Patna to Kolkata had normal landing at the Kolkata Airport and the flight was kept on hold due to air traffic.”IndiGo flight 6E 342 from Patna and Kolkata made a normal landing at the Kolkata airport on Wednesday, November 30. The flight was kept on hold for landing due to air traffic congestion in Kolkata. The pilot operating 6E-342 had advised the ATC that he has eight minutes of extra holding fuel over Kolkata (destination) before commencing diversion to the planned alternate,” the statement said.The airline said the emergency landing was declared due to ‘misinterpretation by the ATC’.”However, this information was misunderstood by the Air Traffic Controller, who assumed that the aircraft had only eight minutes of total fuel left. The misinterpretation of the information by ATC controller led ATC to instruct fire engines and ambulances to be stationed at Kolkata airport. We would like to clarify, IndiGo Captain at no stage declared a fuel priority or an emergency,” it added.”Subsequently, the airplane made a normal landing at Kolkata Airport at 8 40 p.m. after being delayed by an hour due to congestion. The fuel on arrival was more than the minimum diversion fuel and there has been no violation or breach of any regulatory requirement in the above mentioned scenario,” the statement said.IndiGo said the safety of passengers, crew and the aircraft is the utmost priority and at no stage it can be compromised.The IndiGo flight from Patna to Kolkata, which was reported short of fuel, was made to circle the airport for nearly 30 minutes as it waited in line for clearance to land.When it touched down, the plane was surrounded by fire engines and ambulances, standard protocol for emergencies.

DGCA to probe issue of delay with Mamata Banerjee’s flight, govt tells Parliament

New Delhi: Aviation regulator DGCA has ordered an inquiry into as many as three flights, including one carrying West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, reporting low fuel at the same time, as TMC and other opposition parties alleged conspiracy and threat to her life.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI

TMC raised the issue in both Houses of Parliament alleging that Banerjee’s flight was made to hover over Kolkata airport on Wednesday evening for about half an hour despite the pilot reporting that the plane was low on fuel.

The government vehemently denied any design saying just when West Bengal Chief Minister’s Patna-Kolkata Indigo flight reported low on fuel, two other flights of Air India and SpiceJet also called in with the same problem.

Banerjee’s flight hovered over Kolkata airport for only 13 minutes and it was ensured that the aircraft landed in a safe and orderly manner, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were informed by Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and MoS Jayant Sinha respectively.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered an inquiry to find out how three flights at the same time could fly low on fuel into Kolkata when the norms mandate them to carry enough fuel to enable hovering for 30-40 minutes as well as to carry it to the nearest diversion airport, which in this case was Bhubaneshwar, they said.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said in Lok Sabha the DGCA report will be tabled in the House.

Alleging a threat to the life of Banerjee, who is at the forefront of anti-demonetisation campaign, TMC leader in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay said the government should rise to the occasion and find out whethere there was a conspiracy.

Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, said that Banerjee has been travelling to various parts of the country protesting against government’s move to ban 500 and 1000 rupee notes causing hardships to common people.

“Her life is in danger and ATC should have allowed her flight to land first. The VVIP flight should have been allowed to land in priority,” he said.

Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said: “It is incorrect to say that the flight was hovering over Kolkata for 30-40 minutes. The flight was hovering for only 13 minutes. The DGCA has ordered an inquiry how all the three flights were flying low fuel.”

He also said that none of these three flights sought priority landing, despite being asked by the ATC.

In Lok Sabha, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said the House prays for the well being of the West Bengal Chief Minister and all other passengers who were in the flight.

Kumar said life and safety of Banerjee was paramount and the incident was a matter of concern and security of Banerjee and other passengers is the responsibility of the government.

In Rajya Sabha, Derek O’Brien (TMC) tried to raise the issue no sooner had the House assembled for the day, saying Banerjee was flying from Patna to Kolkata on an IndiGo flight which normally takes an hour to reach.

About 200 km from Kolkata, the ATC informed that the flight was 8th in landing sequence but the pilot relayed a message that it was low on fuel and should be allowed to give priority landing, he said.

Despite the warning, the flight was made to hover over the Kolkata airport for at least 15 minutes and by some count 30 minutes, he said adding besides Banerjee, there were 100 other passengers on the flight whose life was put to danger.

“Today it is one opposition leader… this opposition leader is at the forefront (of anti-demonetisation campaign),” he said, adding questions are being raised if it is a conspiracy to eliminate opposition leaders.

Stating that the flight landed under full emergency conditions, he asked why was the pilot denied permission to land. “I am not insinuating anything but there is a school of thought which believes it may be a conspiracy.”

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said just when the IndiGo flight called in to report low fuel, two other planes of Air India and SpiceJet also did the same.

“Air safety of all passengers is of utmost importance to us… we did everything possible that every flight landed safely,” he said, adding “passenger security is of utmost importance and we are doing the best and no one should have any doubt on it.”

He said DGCA has specific standards for low fuel and priority landing and all procedures were fully followed.

As per norms, every plane is mandated to carry enough fuel to allow 30-40 minutes of hovering and traveling to nearest diversion airport.

Sinha said the IndiGo flight took off from Patna at 7.36 pm on Wednesday and landed at Kolkata at 8.40 pm after hovering for 13 minutes.

“At no point was anybody’s life at risk or danger. All safety procedure were fully followed,” he said.

The Minister said DGCA will probe as to how three flights could fly with low fuel despite strict norms.

Aircraft instrumentation would also be checked to find out how much fuel was there when the flights took off and whether they carried enough fuel, he said.

“Strict action will be taken for any violation,” he said adding criminal investigation would be conducted. “We will do the needful. Passenger safety is number one priority and will remain so.”

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said it was a very serious issue as any plane flying on low fuel should be given top priority in landing and sought a probe into the incident.

Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said the incident has created doubts in minds of people and an inquiry must be ordered and its report tabled in the Parliament.

Mayawati (BSP) said the government should rise above party politics and order an inquiry, while Sharad Yadav (JD-U) also termed the incident as serious and sought a probe.

Prem Chand Gupta (RJD) said when a flight is low on fuel it should be allowed to land first and it should not be converted into “an opportunity to take out vengeance.”

Rajeev Shukla (Congress) said how could airplanes be allowed to take-off when they are low on fuel.

KTS Tulsi (Nominated) said based on the material brought out so far, it is a fit case for registering an FIR for attempt to murder and investigating the case.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 12:59 IST

Mamata flight hovers in sky, TMC claims conspiracy to kill Bengal CM for protesting against demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A private airline plane carrying West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hovered for over half an hour in the Kolkata sky before landing at the NSCBI Airport here on Wednesday night, prompting Trinamool Congress to allege that it was a conspiracy to eliminate the party supremo.”The flight took off from Patna at 7.35 PM, an hour behind schedule, and landed here at shortly before 9 PM, after hovering over 30 minutes in the sky due to technical reasons,” airport officials said, adding that such incident was nothing new in any airport. Senior Trinamool Congress leader and state Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim, who was accompanying Banerjee in the flight, however, took strong exception to “delayed permission from the ATC” for the flight to land and alleged that it was a conspiracy to eliminate the CM.Hakim claimed that even as the pilot announced 180 km away from Kolkata that the plane would land within five minutes, it ultimately touched down after over half an hour, “seriously inconveniencing the chief minister and other passengers”. “The pilot sought permission for landing from the ATC as the plane was flying short on fuel but the ATC kept the flight on hold,” he alleged. “This is nothing but a conspiracy to kill our chief minister as she has raised voice against demonetization and is touring the country to organise a mass movement against the anti-people decision,” Hakim said.When contacted, a senior ATC official said he was not aware of such incident. Mamata terms demonetization decision as ‘super Emergency’Stepping up her attack on the Centre over demonetization, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today dubbed the drive as “super Emergency” and vowed to agitate against it till a rollback of the decision.”The government has taken away the freedom from the people that they have been enjoying for the past 69 years. The government has snatched ‘Roti, Kapda aur Makan’ from the people… A people’s movement was started during the Emergency days… Today, the situation is even worse than Emergency, it can be termed as super Emergency,” the Trinamool Congress supremo said.”People are facing difficulties and inconveniences.They (NDA Government) have sold the country. It is the duty of political parties to raise their voice for the people and we will continue with our agitation till the government takes a decision to roll back the demonetization move,” she said. Mamata was addressing a gathering here in the course of her party’s nationwide campaign against demonetization. Raising the the issue of funding of PM Modi’s public meetings in foreign countries, she asked “From where do they get money to hold such mega public meetings in foreign countries like the US?”.She also raised issue of registration of land by BJP in Bihar for opening offices in districts and displaying deed numbers of land purchased by the BJP, questioned the PM’s intentions as to how could BJP buy huge chunks of land in the month of September, a few weeks before the announcement of demonetization on November 8. Without naming anyone, Banerjee said, “If someone comes with us, then it is good. But, it certainly pains us if someone is not with us in the struggle for common people. This is people’s cause. People will not forgive ‘gaddars’ (betrayers).”Mamata, who arrived in the state capital yesterday, also met RJD chief Lalu Prasad at the latter’s residence. The ruling JD(U) has already made it clear that it would not be present at Banerjee’s agitation programme in the light of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s support to demonetization. Questioning Modi’s poll promise of depositing Rs 15 lakh to every individual’s bank account from money stashed away illegally, Banerjee said, “What happened to the promise? Not a single paise came to anyone’s account nor any single paise was brought from the Swiss bank.” Lalu Prasad and his RJD have also been from time and again questioning the fate of this promise.”Entire industry sector and economy are witnessing a slowdown due to demonetization as a result of which people, mostly from Bihar who have migrated everywhere in search of jobs, are not getting their payments, especially in the jute industry and tea gardens in Bengal,” Banerjee said. Displaying two new notes of Rs 500 denomination having some dissimilar features, she alleged it smacked of a “big scam”.”The prime minister painted everyone as having black money, even those who file IT returns and pay taxes,” she said adding “The PM also disrespected the ‘stree shakti’ (women power) and ‘stree-dhan’ (women wealth).” In order to buttress her point that majority of people still rely on cash transactions in the absence of banking facilities, the TMC chief gave figures of availability of bank branches saying, of the 8,400 gram panchayats in Bihar, 5,000 panchayats do not have branches of any bank.After the programme was over and Mamata left the venue, senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh told reporters, “Nitish Kumar should not have supported the Centre’s decision of demonetization. It creates doubt among the people whether everything was fine in the grand secular alliance.” “There is no unanimity in the JD(U) itself on demonetization as Sharad Yadav, former JD(U) president, is saying something different while Nitish is supporting demonetization,” he said.Singh and party state unit chief Ramchandra Purbe, a few leaders of the Bihar unit of Samajwadi Party and Jan Adikar Party of Pappu Yadav along with TMC’s senior leader Mukul Roy were present on the dais.

Wing tips of two taxiing planes touch each other at Mumbai airport

Wed, 30 Nov 2016-09:35pm , Mumbai , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A major mishap was averted on Wednesday when the wing tips of two aircrafts – one of them taxiing and the other on the verge of takeoff – touched each other at the city’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai.No passenger or crew member of either IndiGo or Kuwait Airways aircraft was hurt in the incident, which took place at around 0545 hours, airport sources said.Both the aircraft are now grounded and the incident has been reported to the aviation regulator DGCA, they said.Kuwait Airways’ Airbus A330 was taxiing at the runway for parking (rpt) parking while IndiGo’s Airbus A320 was taking off for Kolkata via Jaipur, they said.

Demonetisation: ED conducts searches on 40 locations across country

New Delhi: Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday conducted searches at 40 locations across the country in order to check black money held with currency exchanges, hawala dealers and others in the wake of the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Officials said the searches are being conducted by multiple teams of the agency in various cities and as many as 100 sleuths along with police personnel are undertaking the search operation.

In the eastern region, the agency is searching at least 16 locations including six in Kolkata, two each in Bhubaneswar and Paradip (both in Odisha), Guwahati among others.

The sleuths from the Kolkata zone of the ED have also seized Rs 10 lakh cash in new currency from the premises of a doctor in the West Bengal capital during the said operation, even as an assortment of foreign currency worth Rs 4 lakh has been seized from the same area.

They said the agency is looking at instances of illegal exchange of old currency and stashing of new currency notes to perpetrate hawala and money laundering like activities.

ED is the central agency to enforce two laws — the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 20:04 IST

Demonetisation: Mamata Banerjee to protest in Lucknow today, Patna next

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Trinamool Congress Party (TMC) on Tuesday said that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s protest in Lucknow will be a big one and would be followed by another in Patna.”Last night, Mamata Banerjee reached Lucknow. Today is the protest rally. The protest which took place in Kolkata was huge. Around eight- ten lakh people were there. After Lucknow, it will take place in Patna and in the whole country,” TMC national spokesperson Derek O’ Brien said.While leading a protest march against demonetization in Kolkata, Mamata said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has acted like god in implementing the demonetization decision without caring about the common people.She also threatened to demonstrate outside Prime Minister Modi’s residence in the national capital against the demonetization move.”The people are distressed. I believe such a step has not been taken anywhere worldwide. Suddenly Modiji felt, he acts like God. He has done whatever he wants, without knowing the consequence. Ask him why there’s scarcity of notes in banks. If there was ample notes in banks then nothing would have bothered us. Without any proper strategy he took the step,” she said. “I am taking pledge that either I’ll die or live, but will remove PM Modi from Indian politics,” she said on Monday.Continuing her tirade against Prime Minister Modi, Banerjee said she would fight till the end against the anti-people decision.

Fidel Castro: Left parties in West Bengal take out a rally in Kolkata as a mark of respect

Kolkata: The Left parties in West Bengal on Saturday took out a rally in Kolkata and decided to fly the red flag at half mast for three days at their respective offices across the state as a mark of respect to Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

An activist from the Communist Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) sits under his party's flags during a protest in New Delhi March 14, 2012. Thousands of activists on Wednesday protested against the rising prices of essential commodities and corruption, activists said. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)An activist from the Communist Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) sits under his party's flags during a protest in New Delhi March 14, 2012. Thousands of activists on Wednesday protested against the rising prices of essential commodities and corruption, activists said. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)


Led by Left Front chairman Biman Bose and CPI(M) state secretary Surya Kanta Mishra, 18 Left parties, including the CPI, CPI(M), All India Forward Bloc, RSP, Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (Liberation), took out the rally from the Lenin statue at Esplanade to Ram Lila Maidan at Entally in central Kolkata.

Condoling the demise of the legendary communist leader, Mishra said, “Fidel Castro will continue to inspire all struggles for social transformation through revolution. He will inspire generations. We salute the relentless fighter.”

Cuba’s former president and communist icon Castro, who led a rebel army to an improbable victory in his country, died in Havana at the age of 90. Once a Left citadel, Bengal and Castro shared a bond as the Cuban had a stopover at the city airport while returning from Hanoi on his way to Cuba in September, 1973. He was received by the then top communist leaders of Bengal, Jyoti Basu and Promode Dasgupta, at the airport.

In September 1993, Basu, then the chief minister of West Bengal, had visited Havana, 20 years after Castro’s visit to Kolkata, to convey his moral and political support to the Cuban revolution.

First Published On : Nov 26, 2016 19:23 IST

Skeletons of newborns at Kolkata NGO

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Kolkata CID has recovered skeletons and bones of infants from the compound of an NGO, in yet another instance of newborn trafficking, on Friday morning. CID officials raided the Sujit Dutta Memorial Welfare Trust, an NGO in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district, which facilitated the selling of newborns. They were led to the NGO by the prime accused in the trafficking case, Utpala Byapari.Officials dug the NGO’s compound and found skeletons and bones of infants. CID sources said that the NGO used to sell the newborn babies to childless couples and would bury stillborn babies on the compound premises itself.“So far, we have found bones and skeletons from this particular compound,” said an official.

Demonetization: West Bengal to get up to Rs 1000 cr from NABARD for rabi crop

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal will get a share of Rs 900 to 1,000 crore out of Rs 21,000 crore additional fund sanctioned by the NABARD for the current rabi sowing season to tide over the cash crisis resulting from demonetization.National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) Chief General Manager A K Raybarman expressed confidence that there would be no scarcity of money with sanctioning of up to Rs 1,000 crore. The government has taken enough measures to make adequate cash available in rural India so that farmers do not suffer during the sowing season, he said.State Bank of India CGM P P Sengupta also said the bank would give priority to make cash available in the districts to take care of the farm sector. Speaking at the CII-organised CSR meet in Kolkata he informed that banks are working towards reviving an old system which would reduce demand for cash at the hands of the farmer for buying agricultural inputs.”There has been an effort to reduce the cash demand of a farmer to the extent that he spends for inputs like fertiliser and seeds. Methods are being worked out to allow farmers to buy their requirements without paying cash to the vendor,” Raybarman said. “I had suggested in a meeting that instruments like payorder can be issued for 60-70% of farmers’ credit limit that can be redeemed at the farm stores,” he said.If demand for cash is reduced by 70% then it will be smooth going in the rabi season despite demonetization, bankers felt. Last year farm credit demand was some Rs 3 lakh crore in India.

NGT orders ban on noise, solid waste pollution in Sundarbans

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal has ordered a ban on noise and solid waste pollution in the Sundarbans area in a bid to protect the wildlife during the coming tourist season.The Kolkata bench of NGT, comprising Justice (retd) SP Wangdi and Dr PC Mishra, taking up the matter suo motu, prohibited the use of mikes or loudspeakers blaring music, fancy decorative lights, release of solid waste and other material in river water. The bench, in an order passed this week, directed the principal secretaries of four departments, Tourism, Environment, Home and Panchayat to ensure compliance of the order to maintain the ecology of the forests.”Hundreds of motor launch, steamers and cruises take tourists to the Sundarbans during the winter for excursions and picnics leading to a lot of sound, air and solid waste pollution in the rivers and canals crisscrossing the largest mangrove forest in the world,” environmentalist Subhas Dutta, who has been appointed amicus curiae in the matter by the NGT bench said.Home of the Royal Bengal Tiger, apart from a large number of other wildlife including alligators, dolphins, deer, wild boars, etc, the Sundarbans on the Ganga delta is already facing a threat to its ecological balance owing to deforestation and increasing human habitats and population.Air and sound pollution are also on the rise in the Sundarban National Park and Tiger Reserve and its fringe areas owing to modern facilities being extended to these areas, which are not so remote now as compared to a decade ago, with better road communication and other modern facilities being available. “The NGT has also directed the Pollution Control Board (PCB) to visit all 174 hotels, resorts, lodges and homestays operating in the Sundarbans area and review their pollution control systems and whether these are conforming to rules and guidelines,” Dutta said.The state PCB officials would check the year of establishment of these places, whether these have consent to establish and consent to operate by the PCB as also the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) permission, he said.

Newborn trafficking racket: CID officials rescue 10 infants in midnight raid in West Bengal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a major breakthrough, CID officials rescued as many as 10 infants from an old age home in West Bengal in connection with the newborn trafficking racket, in a midnight raid on Thursday.Acting on a tip-off, CID officials raided an old age home, Purbasha Centre in southern fringes of Kolkata. With this, the total number of infants rescued by the CID officials stands at 13.”We have recovered 10 infants from this old age home. We have arrested one lady, Reena Banerjee in connection with the recovery of the infants,” said DIG CID, Bharat Lal Meena.This centre houses the elderly and the mentally unstable. A part of the home comprises an asylum. The infants were shifted to this home by one of the main accused of the racket, who is at large.Meanwhile, the police are trying to trace the parents of the newborn.
ALSO READ West Bengal: 13th arrest made in connection with newborn trafficking racketThe police have already arrested 13 people in connection with the newborn trafficking racket. Investigators reveal that this is one of the biggest rackets existing in eastern India.The huge racket was uncovered on Tuesday when CID officials raided a nursing home in Baduria in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal and recovered two infants wrapped in cotton inside a biscuit carton.

West Bengal: 13th arrest made in connection with newborn trafficking racket uncovered in state

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two days after officials of West Bengal’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) busted a newborn trafficking racket, investigations reveal that it is one of the biggest rackets existing in the eastern India.On Thursday, CID officials made the 13th arrest in connection with the trafficking of the newborns. Police arrested Partha Chatterjee, owner of Shri Krishna Nursing Home. Chatterjee had been running the nursing home for a decade and was involved in the racket for the past three years. This apart, the police have arrested a number of heads of the NGO involved in the racket. “We have arrested as many as 13 people in connection with the racket. All have been arrested under section 369 (kidnapping or abducting child under 10 years with intent to steal from its person), 370 (trafficking) 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC and 34 of CrPc,” said Deputy Inspector General (CID), Bharat Lal Meena.The racket was prevalent in nursing homes in the state capital, Kolkata. Agents would liaison with NGOs and the nursing home staff. The nursing home staff and doctors would declare an infant as ‘dead’ and issue a birth certificate to the parents of the newborn without handing over the dead body.Later, the newborn would be sold off to childless couples through the NGO. While newborn girls with a dark complexion would be sold for Rs 1 lakh and fair babies for Rs1.5 lakh, newborn boys with a dark complexion would be sold for Rs 2 lakh and fair ones for higher than Rs 2 lakh. The racket had been existing for the past three years and involved a dozen of nursing homes in Kolkata.The racket sold newborns not just across the country in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, but also spread its arms across the United States and the United Kingdom. “Several NGOs would get in touch with the agents here. Agents, in turn, would get in touch with the nursing home staff and pay them a huge commission. Dozens of nursing homes across Kolkata are involved in the racket. The newborns have been sold in Delhi and Mumbai. Sources are telling us that some have been sold in the UK and USA too,” said a senior official of CID.The network was uncovered on Tuesday when CID officials raided a nursing home at Baduria in North 24 Parganas. Acting on a tip-off, the raid led them to this racket. The police recovered two newborns, wrapped in cotton sheets and placed in a biscuit carton, ready to be handed over to a childless couple.“While the racket began with the targeting of unmarried mothers, who were paid huge amounts of cash, they later moved on to cheating parents of the newborn. We suspect more NGOs and nursing homes are involved in the racket,” added Meena.

Triple talaq: AIMPLB’s decision to establish a women’s wing is just a token gesture

The recent decision of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) to establish a separate women’s wing — to dwell on issues exclusive to women like triple talaq and polygamy — will not bring about any change in the status of Muslim women within the family, but is indicative of the pressure on Muslim clerics to display a semblance of concern on gender issues within the community.

The so-called Kolkata Declaration, released at the conclusion of AIMPLB’s 25th conference on 20 November, was keenly awaited given the recent debate over triple talaq and the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). There was, however, no change in AIMPLB’s stance as it unanimously passed a resolution saying that triple talaq is sacrosanct, as per the Shariah laws which are divine, and cannot be modified, changed or altered by any person or authority under any circumstances.

Attacked by vocal liberal sections within the Muslim community for holding a brief for patriarchy, AIMPLB’s decision on the new women’s wing does not mark a change in its position on rights for women within the family.

AIMPLB's decision of establishing a separate 'women's wing' will not help improve the status of Muslim women. ReutersAIMPLB's decision of establishing a separate 'women's wing' will not help improve the status of Muslim women. Reuters

AIMPLB’s decision of establishing a separate ‘women’s wing’ will not help improve the status of Muslim women. Reuters

The resolution is undoubtedly not of their own volition but a result of pressure from below. The semblance of a response by the Board to the growing demands of Muslim women for equal rights within the family is also indicative of new pressure groups that have emerged in recent years.

These organisations have ranged from activist groups like Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), who have backed their programmes with solid research, and the All India Muslim Women Personal Board that despite its limited capacity has recently become party in the ongoing case in Supreme Court.

More than six years after four elective seats were allocated to women in AIMPLB in March 2010, the Board’s decision to form a separate wing for women indicates that pressure from progressive forces within the community is far greater now than at the time of the last churn in the mid-1980s following the Shah Bano verdict of the Supreme Court.

Pro-changers of that time were eventually marginalised after the Rajiv Gandhi government sided with conservatives within the community and enacted the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act. The decision heralded the process of communalisation of Indian politics as it galvanised the Sangh Parivar into re-launching the Ayodhya agitation that had been abandoned in October 1984, following Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

Unlike in the past, the debate for removal of triple talaq has raged for close to a decade with the initiative being taken by progressive Muslim women who decided to treat the treacherous path of questioning the clerics. In a community that is known for poor levels of awareness and coupled with the trajectory of Indian politics towards majoritarianism, the path chosen by groups like the BMMA was daunting because it was often considered a part of the Sangh Parivar’s ‘sudharak’ agenda for the Muslims.

Indeed, the BMMA has been accused of being in cahoots with the government in undermining minority rights. However, its denunciation of the government initiative on introducing UCC puts paid such charges.

In recent months, the Supreme Court has been seized with a clutch of cases challenging the legal validity of triple talaq and polygamy, beginning with the case filed by Shayara Bano, a woman from Uttarakhand, who was instantaneously divorced. When asked to present its viewpoint, the Centre pleaded in the apex court that it should declare the practices as illegal. In its affidavit, it argued that neither of the practices can be “regarded as essential or integral part of the religion”.

Simultaneously, the Law Commission released a questionnaire to assess public opinion on if triple talaq should be abolished. But more contentiously, the Commission also asked if UCC should be introduced. Law panel chairman Justice BS Chauhan (retd) stated that the commission aimed to “begin a healthy conversation about the viability of a uniform civil code”.

Statements by BJP ministers and leaders stirred the hornet’s nest because UCC has long been a political objective of the Sangh Parivar. That a common family law has been a constitutional goal listed in the Directive Principles of State Policy enabled the BJP to claim that it was simply pursuing constitutional obligations.

In October, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too waded into the controversy by taking up the cause of Muslim “behne” or sisters saying that triple talaq was discriminatory and outlined his government’s position on the issue. Predictably, the AIMPLB reacted negatively to the proposal of the Law Commission and declared what has now been reiterated in Kolkata.

Several non-BJP parties, like Bahujan Samaj Party and Trinamool Congress, have also supported this position and in turn have been accused by Modi and other BJP leaders of indulging in “vote bank politics” by pandering to the conservative sections among Muslims.

By introducing the demand for UCC at this stage, the BJP has mired the pitch for progressive groups in the community as the conservatives led by AIMPLB — which still retains great relevance and support in the community — will hijack the issue and argue that when minority rights are under threat from the Centre, organisations like BMMA are weakening the battle against the government’s plan to marginalise Muslims. Token gestures like formation of a women’s wing will enable them to project a facade of being sensitive towards gender issues.

Ironically, the state of Muslim women, being used as pawns in a political game, will remain as abysmal as it is currently.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 17:04 IST

West Bengal: Group C, D employees allowed to draw advance salary

Mon, 21 Nov 2016-09:32pm , Kolkata , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Providing some relief to Group C and D employees from the cash crunch following demonetization of high-value currencies, the West Bengal government on Monday allowed them to draw advance salary.A government release said that to reduce the hardship faced by Group C and Group D employees of the state government and all other state employees whose posts were equivalent to Group C and Group D might draw part salary or wages in advance in cash. Some employees are allowed Rs 5,000 from the salary of December while others are allowed Rs 2,000, it said.Those wanting to receive cash payout in advance should apply by November 25 while cash would be disbursed to them from their offices by November 30, the release said.

Kolkata hospital fire: All patients and hospital staff evacuated safely from SSKM hospital

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A major fire broke out at the state government-run SSKM hospital in Kolkata on Monday morning. All patients and hospital staff were evacuated safely. The fire broke out at the library housed on the sixth floor of the Ronald Ross Block of the hospital around 10.30-11am. The plastic surgery and burn department is housed right next to the library, where as many as 17 patients were undergoing treatment. As soon as the hospital staff spotted smoke billowing out of the windows of the library, authorities undertook the evacuation of the patients. No casualties or injuries were reported in the incident.As many as six fire tenders, hydraulic lifts were rushed to the hospital. After two hours of fire-fighting, the fire was brought under control. While the cause of the fire is yet to be known, the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee rushed to the hospital and ordered an enquiry. “I am happy that everyone escaped unhurt. I have asked the health department to set up a committee to enquire into the incident. Through the enquiry, we will get to know whether it was an act of sabotage or some accident. There will be thorough enquiry by the police and fire services department,” said Banerjee. The Chief Minister announced that the SSKM hospital will soon have a permanent fire station inside the hospital premises. “We are planning a permanent fire station inside SSKM, which will have a skylift and two fire tenders,” she added. Meanwhile, all the 17 patients that were evacuated from the Ronald Ross Block have been shifted to the Woodburn Ward, where they are undergoing treatment.

Mamata Banerjee visits RBI office in Kolkata, meets traders at Burrabazar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two days after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal staged a dharna in the national capital outside the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) office, Banerjee on Saturday afternoon visited Kolkata’s RBI office and lashed out at the Centre.“In the name of black money, Centre is carrying out loots across the country. This anti-people government must withdraw this decision and allow old Rs.500 currency notes to remain in the circulation. People cannot access their savings account. This is being restricted. Is their money safe? The country wants to know. The whole of rural India is crying, farmers are crying. If food is not available what will the common people eat? Plastic?” Banerjee asked.She met the Regional Director of RBI, Kolkata, Rekha Wadia, who assured her that the RBI had sufficient stocks of cash.Later, Banerjee went to Burrabazar — central Kolkata’s business district — where she met traders and assured them that she would fight for them. “I paid a surprise visit to Asia’s biggest market, Burrabazar. Heard the problems of hawkers, traders, mazdoors, shopkeepers and commoners, all expressed deep anguish. They are saying, in the last 10 days, their businesses have suffered hugely. Some of them are saying that their businesses are down to zero,” she said, adding that she would continue her protest against the Centre.

Kolkata’s money lending ‘Kabuliwalas’ struggle to cope after demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Kabuliwalas in West Bengal have traditionally played the role of money lenders in the community, giving out small loans in times of crisis. However, they themselves are in crisis these days.In the 19th century, these Afghan migrants popularly known as ‘Kabuliwalas’, came to the eastern Indian city of Kolkata from Pashtunistan, the modern day Afghanistan-Pakistan, in search of greener pastures. They would go from from door to door selling attar (perfume), dry fruits, spices and fabrics procured from Afghanistan. Over the years, they became money lenders and would charge high interest rates. Still, Bengalis have a special place in their hearts for them because of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s endearing 1892 story about the friendship between a Kabuliwala and a five-year-old girl Mini. This story comes alive every time someone calls out, ‘Kabuliwala’ in the bylanes of the city. It might be a foreign land for him, but Nidim Khan, a third-generation Afghan money lender, says he feels at home in Kolkata. He, and several other Kabuliwalas have settled in the northern part of Kolkata and their building is famously known as the ‘Khan Kothi’. With minimal furniture and a beautiful carpet brought from Afghanistan, the house is neat and tidy. Nidim, a 28-year-old Afghan, who was born in Kabul, moved to Kolkata with his father a decade ago. Since then, he has been assisting his father in the business of money lending. But following the demonetization, he says they are trapped in a situation where they cannot recover the money they had lent or give out more money as loans to people. “We are not being able to recover the money as the people who had borrowed from us are repaying in old currency notes, which we cannot accept. People do not have enough Rs 100 notes or the new Rs 2,000 notes,” says Nidim adding, “They are asking for more time to repay their loan. On the other hand, we do not have new currency notes to give away as loans.”The Kabuliwalas do not hold bank accounts, which prevents them from exchanging old currency notes with them. “Since we are not Indian citizens, we do not hold any bank accounts. The currency notes in our possession are of no use to us as we cannot exchange them. We do not deal in bonds and agreements. Our business thrives on just promise and trust,” says Nidim’s father, Afroz who has been in the business of money lending for the past two decades in Kolkata. “While our income has dropped in the last few years, we have also had to reduce our interest rates from 10% to 5-6% flat. While we have been struggling with bad debts due to non-payment, the demonetization has hit our business harder,” added Afroz.

NIA arrests accused in major fake Indian currency racket

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The NIA has arrested an accused in a case of fake Indian currency racket from West Bengal’s Malda. 34-year-old Tahir Sk alias Tahir Sekh, a resident of Malda, had been absconding.He was involved in the conspiracy for procurement of fake Indian currency notes (FICN) having face value of about Rs 65 lakh through the Indo-Bangladesh international border at Daulatpur area under the limits of Baishnabnagar in Malda district in May last year, the NIA alleged in a statement.Sekh was intercepted by a team of BSF deployed in the border area, it said. “Earlier, investigation into the case revealed that the arrested accused person was a member of the FICN network involved in the transnational procurement of high quality FICNs through smuggling and distribution and pumping the same into the Indian economy,” the NIA said.He was arrested recently on the basis of a non-bailable warrant issued against him by a local court in Kolkata. The accused has been sent to police remand till Saturday.

Demonetization: Petrol pump employees arrested for beating customers

Mon, 14 Nov 2016-10:53pm , Muzaffarnagar , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two persons were allegedly injured during a scuffle with employees of a petrol pump who refused to accept old high denomination currency notes on Saharanpur-Delhi highway in Shamli district, police said on Monday. Kanhayya Lal and Raju, the petrol pump employees, have been arrested for beating two customers on Sunday when the latter were paying Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes but they refused to accept them, police said.
ALSO READ Demonetisation: 2 sacks of torn notes of Rs 500, Rs 1000 found near garbage dump in KolkataA case has been registered against the employees.

Demonetisation: Charges on ATM transactions waived till 30 December

Mumbai: In yet another move to lessen woes of people facing cash crunch, the RBI on Monday directed banks to waive ATM charges on all transactions done by savings bank customers till 30 December.

The waiver will be applicable on transactions done by a customer through his or her own bank ATM as well those of other banks.

“It has been decided that banks shall waive levy of ATM charges for all transactions (inclusive of both financial and non-financial transactions) by savings bank customers done at their own banks’ ATMs as well as at other banks’ ATMs, irrespective of the number of transactions during the month,” the central bank said in a late evening notification.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The waiver is applicable on transactions done at ATMs from 10 November till 30 December, 2016.

There are about 2 lakh ATMs of different banks across the country.

In August 2014, the number of mandatory free ATM transactions for savings bank account customers at other banks’ ATMs was reduced to three transactions per month in the six metro centres (Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad).

A customer was permitted at least five free transactions per month for use of own bank ATMs.

Banks could charge up to Rs 20 (plus service tax, if any) beyond the permitted transactions.

The government’s decision to demonetise old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes from 9 November has lead to shortage of cash with the public.

Huge queues are being seen outside bank branches to exchange the old notes or withdraw money from ATMs across the country.

On Sunday, the withdrawal limit from ATMs (recalibrated machines) was raised to Rs 2,500 from Rs 2,000.

First Published On : Nov 14, 2016 21:48 IST