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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.

Jharkhand coal mine death toll rises to 16, some still trapped | Reuters

BHUBANESWAR, India The death toll in a coal mine collapse in Jharkhand rose to 16 on Saturday and could rise further, officials said, as some people are still feared trapped at a coalfield run by state-owned Coal India Limited.The accident occurred on Thursday evening at the Lalmatia mine, one of the country’s largest, which is owned by Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL).”At night (on Friday), the rescue operation was slow due to fog,” R.R. Amitabh, a senior officer at ECL, told Reuters, adding that about 30 percent of the collapsed mine waste had been removed.Coal India has a poor safety record, with 135 accidents reported last year, killing 37 people and injuring 141, the company said in a report.

Operations at the mine in Godda district, about 280 km (175 miles) from the state capital, Ranchi, have since been stopped, Amitabh said.The state police spokesman R.K. Mullick said the number of people still trapped may be less than the nearly two dozen assumed earlier, based on the number of families who were searching for their kin.

The mine has an annual capacity of 17 million tonnes and accounts for about half of ECL’s coal production. Last month, ECL accounted for about 9 percent of Coal India’s total production of 50 million tonnes.

The federal coal ministry has ordered an investigation and announced some cash compensation to the families of miners who died in the accident. (Reporting by Jatindra Dash; Writing by Malini Menon; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 18:12 IST

Anil Baijal takes oath as Delhi Lieutenant Governor

Sat, 31 Dec 2016-11:32am , New Delhi , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former union home secretary Anil Baijal on Saturday took oath as the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi at Raj Niwas. The oath was administered by Delhi High Court’s Chief Justice G Rohini.President Pranab Mukherjee earlier on December 28 accepted Najeeb Jung’s resignation and approved Baijal’s name as the next Lieutenant Governor of the National Capital Territory. Baijal, a 1969 batch India Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Union Territories cadre, was removed as union home secretary when the UPA government assumed power in May 2004.The former bureaucrat has also been the vice-chairman of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and had headed key public sector companies like Prasar Bharti and Indian Airlines.Jung had submitted his resignation on December 22, ending a nearly three-and-half-year-long eventful tenure, mostly marked by bitter confrontation with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government.

Pune: CBI arrests income tax officer for accepting bribe of Rs 1 lakh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested an Income Tax Officer from Pune for demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 1 lakh from the complainant.A case was registered under section 7 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 on a complaint against Income Tax Officer (ITO), Ward 2(2), Income Tax Office, Swargate, Pune.It was alleged that the ITO, demanded bribe of Rs 2 lakh from the complainant to pass favourable orders in connection with his tax liability.The CBI laid a trap and caught the ITO red handed while demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 1 lakh from the complainant.Searches have been conducted at the office and residential premises of the accused which led to recovery of incriminating documents relating to tax assessment of the complainant; cash of Rs. 5,04,030/-(approx); jewellery i.e 4 Gold biscuits weighing total 350 grams (approx); two flats in Pune and 4 acres land at Solapur, 9 Bank accounts and one bank locker (yet to be operated).The arrested accused is being produced on Friday before the Court of Special Judge, CBI Cases, Pune.

One civilian killed in cross-border firing at J&K’s Poonch sector

Jammu: One civilian was killed, as Pakistani Army indulged in heavy cross-border firing, targeting Indian positions and civilian areas along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch sector, prompting the Indian side to retaliate.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“Pakistani troops targeted the Indian Army posts and civilian areas along the LoC in Poonch sector with small arms, automatic and mortars at 16:55 hours,” an army officer said. He said the army was retaliating strongly and effectively to the ceasefire violation.

One civilian has been killed in the ongoing firing, a senior police officer said.

On 16 December, Pakistan had violated ceasefire by targeting Indian positions along the LoC in Balakote sector of the same district. That had come after a lull of over three weeks, after the Indian troops had launched a counter-offensive on 23 November against the killing of three soldiers in the Machhil sector of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

In the cross-LoC attack by suspected Pakistani terrorists, three Indian soldiers were killed on 22 November, with body of one of them being mutilated. Following the incident, the Indian Army had vowed a heavy “retribution”.

The 2003 India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement has virtually become redundant with over 300 incidents of firing and shelling along the LoC and IB in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops.

Over 26 people, including 14 security personnel, have been killed in ceasefire violations since the surgical strike on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 19:32 IST

Demonetisation, staff crunch: Why the I-T dept is struggling to complete scrutiny assessment

With less than 36 hours for the 31 December deadline, the Income Tax (I-T) department staff and officials are burning the midnight oil to complete the scrutiny assessment.

Advancing of the scrutiny deadline, demonetisation and verification of lakhs of bank accounts — all have compounded into an unprecedented workload which the department is grappling with.
The direct tax department’s offices at Civic Centre on Minto Road, CR Building at ITO, Aaykar Bhawan at Laxmi Nagar in New Delhi to name a few are abuzz even after midnight, as the officials are busy in the disposal of time-barred assessment cases, which was 3.66 lakh as on 1 April.

Scrutiny assessment is the examination of the I-T returns by giving an opportunity to the assessee to substantiate the income declared and the expenses, deductions, etc claimed in the returns with evidences. The purpose of the I-T department is to verify whether the assessee has correctly shown his/her income or not.

Despite assessment, verification, search and seizures being a routine job, why has it become a Herculean task for the I-T department to meet government’s demand this time?

Five key reasons

1. Advancing of the assessment deadline: Earlier, the last date of disposal of scrutiny cases was 31 March, which has been changed to 31 December from this year.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

2. Demonetisation effect: After PM Narendra Modi announced demonetisation on 8 November, the I-T department got down to verifying bank accounts where large sums of money have been deposited. After 31 December, the banks will compile details of accounts where cash has been deposited and hand over a CD to I-T department by January end. “There are 25 crore Jan Dhan accounts and money has been deposited in these accounts. Now the department besides its routine work, will also have to verify the suspected accounts, send notices, follow it up…large number of cases will come up. It’s going to be a mammoth job,” an I-T official said.

3. Staff crunch: According to the I-T department, there’s shortage of staff at multiple levels. “There’s 35% shortfall at staff level. The department is top heavy, with more number of chief and principle commissioners, whereas there’s acute shortage at deputy and assistant commissioner and assessment officer levels. Due to shortage of inspectors, field work is getting badly affected. Now, post-demonetisation, pressure on staff will increase multifold,” Ashok Kumar Kanojia, president, Income Tax Employees Federation (ITEF), New Delhi said.

4. Infrastructure bottleneck: “Government promised laptops but has not yet been given. Privacy is a problem as two officers have to share a single room and an assessee would not like to talk in presence of another officer. Besides, the department has to do online scrutiny, but the capacity of the server is so low that often an officer has to wait for long to download information. Internet bandwidth is very low in comparison to the workload, so it takes long hours to dispose cases,” added association’s general secretary Ajay Sharma.

5. Jugglery of numbers: Out of nearly 25 crore Permanent Account Number (PAN) registered with the I-T department, only 5.6 crore file I-T Returns. According to I-T department, nearly 3 crore people pay taxes. The department conducts scrutiny on 1% of the total cases of declarations. “As on 1 April, there were 3.66 lakh scrutiny cases, which has increased by more than a lakh as on date. This itself speaks about the gigantic proportion of workload,” an official remarked.

Tough days ahead…

The tax officials have predicted 2017 as a tough time for them.

“The workload will increase in days to come as the I-T officials would now deal with the information coming from banks. The department has been facing staff crunch for quite some time and it’ll have to manage with the existing staff,” added former chairperson, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Praksah Chandra.

“The department staff and officials have been working without any weekly-offs to meet the deadline. For the last three months large number of staff members hasn’t even taken any leave. It has become cumbersome due to shortage of staff and lack of adequate infrastructure. Several times we’ve communicated it to the government, but to no avail. We don’t have any magic wand to complete this humongous workload,” added Kanojia.

Meanwhile, the Confederation of Central Government Employees & Workers and Income Tax Employees Federation have given a one-day strike call on 15 February. The 21-point charter of demands of the joint call includes the problems being faced by the tax department.

…Yet hopes are alive

“There are hurdles, staff crunch, etc, but as the department is accountable towards disposal of time-barring cases, every case will be completed within deadline, how difficult it may be. Despite mounting pressure, we know the department staff will ultimately perform,” said general secretary, IRS Association, Jayant Mishra said.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 18:29 IST

2008 Malegaon blast case: ATS killed two ‘missing’ accused in 2008 fake encounter, claims ex-cop

In a sensational revelation, a former officer of Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) claimed that two accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, who were thought to be missing, were actually killed by the ATS in December 2008. Hindustan Times reported that in an application to the chief judicial magistrate’s court in Solapur on 19 August, 2016, suspended police inspector Mehboob Mujawar claimed Ramchandra Kalsangre and Sandeep Dange, currently wanted, were killed by ATS cops.  This information is contrary to the chargesheet filed by the ATS, which claimed the two are still on the run.

File image of Sadhvi Pragya. PTI

File image of Sadhvi Pragya. PTI

According to Mujawar, the two accused were brought to Mumbai from Indore in November 2008 were they were killed in a alleged fake encounter, Mid Day reported.

According to the paper, Mujawar was suspended in 2009 for allegedly threatening a terror suspect Ghulam Hussain Kasim Sahab Shaikh. The Times of India added that Mujawar was later accused of criminal intimidation and charged under the Arms Act. In his affidavit, he stated that he was falsely accused and while speaking to media, added that he was being hounded for being a witness to the encounter.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assured of probing the matter, Times Now reported.

Malegaon blast took place on 29 September 2008, when a IED placed in a bike went off, killing six and ijuring 101 people.

Hindutva outfits were accused to have been the perpetrators of the attack, with the role of the Abhinav Bharat, a fringe right-wing group, coming under the scanner of the National Investigation Agency and the ATS. In 2009, ATS charged Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Indian Army officer Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit for criminal conspiracy under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). In 2015, however, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) dropped charges Sadhvi Pragya and 10 others for lack of evidence.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 14:14 IST

Sasikala – From video library owner to new AIADMK chief

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Always seen as a shadow of Jayalalithaa and never heard in public, V K Sasikala on Thursday emerged as her political heir to lead AIADMK which has had hugely charismatic figures at its helm in all its 45 years.Blamed once for Jayalalithaa’s disastrous election loss in 1996, the 60-year-old, who was a video library owner before getting close to the late leader, was always considered having a clout in the running of the party.Having accompanied Jayalalithaa to prison when arrested in a disproportionate assets case, Sasikala’s roller-coaster career saw her being expelled for anti-party activities only to be restored in a few months five years ago.
ALSO READ Sasikala likely to be elected as AIADMK General Secretary todayJayalalithaa’s demise on December 5 was seen as a personal loss for Sasikala who was a permanent resident of Jayalalithaa’s house Veda Nilayam in Poes Garden, even choosing to stay away from her husband. She continued to be by Jayalalithaa’s side when she was hospitalised on September 22 that stoked some controversies, including that access to the ailing leader was not being allowed even to her kin.Sasikala belongs to the dominant Thevar community which also is said to have played a major role in O Panneerselvam, who is also from the same community, becoming the stop-gap Chief Minister whenever Jayalalithaa had to step down and even after her death.An aspiring small-time entrepreneur offering video coverage services and allied products like video cassettes in the early 1980s, she got acquainted with Jayalalithaa in 1982 along with her husband M Natarajan through the then IAS officer VS Chandraleka.When Jayalalithaa was organising a party conference in Cuddalore in 1982 – a new entrant to AIADMK then, it was Sasikala who had got the event video-graphed. Similarly, she had got covered several of the party functions of Jayalalithaa which was the beginning of their association. Sasikala or ‘Chinnamma’ as she was later called remained a wall of support for Jayalalithaa through thick and thin over the next three decades.In her much televised 1999 interview Rendezvous with Simi Garewal, Jayalalithaa had said Sasikala was targeted much because of her association with her. She had even praised Sasikala as a “sister” who fulfilled the role of her late mother by taking care of her. This has been quoted by supporters of Sasikala to claim legitimacy to her ascending the top party post.As early as 1989, through 1990 and 1991, many relatives of Sasikala began actively participating in AIADMK activities and several of them were seen supporting Jayalalithaa in protests organised by AIADMK then.Sasikala caught the attention of media only after Jayalalithaa became Chief Minister for the first time in 1991.It was only in 1995, when Jayalalithaa declared Sasikala’s nephew VN Sudhakaran as her foster son and got his infamously extravagant wedding conducted did the clout that Sasikala enjoyed with the party chief come to the fore.Having graduated as Jayalalithaa’s trusted aide, Sasikala was also reportedly taking part in party affairs. She was jailed along with Jayalalithaa in the alleged colour TV scam in 1996. The relationship between the two also came in for criticism from political opponents due to Sasikala’s kin allegedly having a say in party affairs.Sudhakaran, whom Jayalalithaa had declared as her foster son, was later disowned by her and Sasikala’s husband and a host of other relatives also fell out of favour.In early 1980s, Sasikala’s husband Natarjan was a government PRO in Cuddalore with strong moorings in Dravidian ideology.After the rout of AIADMK in 1996, Jayalalithaa announced that she was severing ties with Sasikala and later in 2011 she was expelled along with her husband Natarajan and 12 other relatives. However, on both occasions they patched up and Sasikala resumed living in Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence after assuring the AIADMK chief that she would keep away from her relatives.Their relationship, which saw several ups and downs, has culminated in Sasikala taking over the mantle of AIADMK general secretary to continue the political legacy of Jayalalithaa and MGR. ​

WCD Ministry seeks monthly reports on sexual harassment

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry on Wednesday issued fresh guidelines in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, asking all ministries and their departments to furnish monthly report on all sexual harassment cases registered in that particular month. The guidelines, issued via an order of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), mandated that the monthly report should also contain the details of cases disposed of and the action taken in the reported cases.The guidelines comes after a meeting that WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi had on October 26 with the heads of the internal complaints committees of different ministries and their departments wherein cases of sexual harassment which were pending with government offices were also examined.“On the basis of the discussions, it was decided that DoPT will issue fresh instructions so that some of the issues can be suitably addressed,” said a ministry release. Apart from that, Gandhi’s meeting had in attendance the director of DoPT.“The development is a procedural one, where we look toward plugging any gaps in the implementation of the act,” said a DoPT official, who issued the order, dated December 22, 2016.The new guidelines also stated that ‘as far as practical’ inquiries in such cases should be completed within 30 days of the complaints. And that, “in no case should it take more than 90 days as per the limit prescribed under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013,” it stated.The guidelines also mandated that no complainant should be victimised and that, for a period of five years from the day the complaint was made, the ICC should ensure that she is not subjected to vendetta, or is posted under the officer against whom the complaint is made, or any other officer who may subject her to any form of harassment.“In case of any victimisation, the complainant may submit a representation to the Secretary in the case of ministries/departments and head of the organisation in other cases. These representations should be dealt with sensitivity, in consultation with the complaints committee, ministries/departments and head of the organisation in other cases, and a decision taken within 15 days of the submission of the same,” the memorandum read. The guidelines come close on the heels of Gandhi announcing a review of the internal complaints committees in government offices.Late October this year, Maneka Gandhi announced the said committee because cases of delays in probes have been brought to her notice. She told DNA that she was compiling the cases in this regard.Over a month before that, in a DoPT memorandum dated September 9, 2016, and another dated July 11, 2016, the DoPT issued orders reiterating the seniority of the chairperson of the complaint committee.The orders maintained that the chairperson of the complaints committee “is legally competent to hold an inquiry into a case irrespective of the fact that the chairperson of such Committee is lower in rank to the employee against whom the allegations have been made” as per the July 11 mandate.Answering a Lok Sabha question in August last year, Gandhi said that there were 526 cases of sexual harassment at the workplace in 2014. She further informed that 57 cases were reported at office premises and 469 cases were registered at other places related to work during 2014.

The persecution of Zakir Naik’s lawyer is both illegal and unjust

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>By no stretch of imagination is Zakir Naik, the founder and head of NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), a benign preacher or a saintly figure. There’s no dearth of members of his own religious community who condemn him for hate-mongering and giving Islam a bad name.However, is he indulging in terrorist activities by “radicalising” Muslim youth, as the government claims? Are the lawyers defending him to be held ‘guilty by association’? If that is the case, then no lawyer worth his salt would stop shuddering before taking on the brief of anyone accused of terror offences. Only the most intrepid of lawyers would come forward to fora without fear or favour. And most Muslim lawyers would be all the more intimidated due to the persecution and hounding they might face, for the simple reason that a majority of terror-accused (most of whom finally get acquitted) happen to profess Islam as their religion.Moreover, how judicially sound is the government’s November 2016 decision to ban Naik’s IRF as a terror outfit under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and would it stand the legal scrutiny of the tribunal being headed by Justice Suresh Kait of the Delhi High Court?
ALSO READ Notice served on legal counsel of Zakir Naik’s NGOThese questions assume prime significance because of Mumbai Police’s Crime Branch summoning Naik’s lawyer SHA Jamati for questioning, and directing him to show cause why his client’s NGO should not be banned, and prove that he is in no way either an aide or an associate in Naik’s activities. It might appear that defending Jamati for fighting his client’s case is equivalent to supporting Naik’s activities, but that is not the case.
ALSO READ Centre transfers bureaucrat who cracked down on Zakir Naik’s NGOIn fact, the two issues are intertwined, and the root lies in the wording of definitions in the UAPA. They are too sweeping in scope and give more than ample and justifiable reasons for the tribunals to pass orders which transgress constitutional principles, as researchers from the think tank Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy have pointed out in this piece.Moreover, Justice PK Shali, who headed the tribunal in 2012, had this to say: “The language of the provisions of the Act is drafted in such a manner that the Tribunal is required to see only the ‘sufficiency of the cause’ for the Central Government to declare the association to be unlawful and conversely, the onus is put on the association, either as a body of persons or as office-bearers or even as members, to show cause as to why it should not be declared as unlawful.”
ALSO READ Ban on IRF is an attack on Indian Muslims, peace, democracy and justice: Zakir NaikSuccessive reports, available here, here, and here, have exposed in detail how, under the UAPA, the banning regime works in a grossly undemocratic and illegal manner.A Lawyer’s DutyAccording to the law, a lawyer is an officer of the court and owes his duty only to his client and the court. He is not to be subjected to humiliation or any kind of harassment merely and only because he has taken up the case of someone deemed odious by a certain section of society and some members of the ruling government. Legendary British barrister, Lord Brougham, a tireless crusader of civil liberties, said in 1937: “An advocate, by the sacred duty which he owes to his client, knows in the discharge of that office but one person in the world — the client, and no other… to protect that client at all hazards and costs to all others, and among others to himself is the highest and most unquestioned of his duties… Nay, separating even the duties of a patriot from those of an advocate, and casting them if need be to the wind, he must go on reckless of the consequences…”Nancy Hollander, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers (US), proclaims with pride and devoid of any compunction: “So let me say it: I am a terrorist lawyer, if that means I am willing to defend those accused of terrorism. I am currently defending two men imprisoned in Guantanamo and I defend others accused of terrorism. Contrary to recent attacks by those who claim to be supporters of American justice, my defence of people accused of serious and sometimes horrific crimes is not an endorsement of those crimes. Rather, it is a testament to the strength of my belief in, and commitment to, the American system of justice. Why? Because in my defence of every client, I am defending the United States Constitution and the laws and treaties to which it is bound, and I am defending the rule of law. If I am a terrorist lawyer, I also am a rule-of-law lawyer, a constitutional lawyer and a treaty lawyer.”Sadly, in recent times in India, lawyers taking up cases of those accused of terror offences are also regarded as terrorists and hounded. The trials and tribulations faced dauntlessly by the likes of Mehmood Pracha, Sarim Naved, Trideep Pais, and Shahid Azmi (who was assassinated), who have successfully secured acquittals for those accused as terrorists, can inspire many, but not all, to soldier on. Regardless of the consequences.But, for how long? It requires a Herculean effort to withstand the might of the state and its agencies.Till date, Jamati has remained unfazed and has vowed to take the government head on. Mubin Solkar, a reputed Mumbai-based criminal lawyer, is also advising Naik and has warded off threats and persecution.But, for how long should this legally-abetted thuggery be allowed to continue?

Anil Baijal to be Delhi L-G after Pranab Mukherjee accepts Najeeb Jung’s resignation

President Pranab Mukherjee, on Thursday, accepted the resignation of Najeeb Jung as Delhi Lieutenant Governor. Former Home Secretary, Anil Baijal is slated to replace him as the new administrator of the National Capital Territory, according to India Today TV.

In his career as a bureaucrat, Baijal, a 1969 batch IAS officer, has donned many hats.

A file image of Anil Baijal. News18

A file image of Anil Baijal. News18

He retired from the service in October, 2006 as Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. While in that ministry, he was instrumental in the designing and roll-out of the  Jawahar Lal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) with federal grant equivalent of about Rs 60,000 crore, for improvement of infrastructure and provision of basic services in urban areas of India, according to his profile on IDFC group website, of which he is a non-executive chairman and an independent director. 

He has been the union home secretary in the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The former bureaucrat  has also been the vice-chairman of the Delhi Development Authority and had headed key public sector companies like Prasar Bharti and Indian Airlines.

In a sudden move, Jung had submitted his resignation on 22 December, ending a nearly three-and-half-year-long eventful tenure, mostly marked by bitter confrontation with AAP government.

The 65-year-old Jung, a former 1973 batch IAS officer and former vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University, had assumed charge as Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi on 9 July, 2013.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 16:29 IST

Dhulagarh riots: West Bengal town on the boil after communal violence

Dhulagarh, a town 25 kilometres west of Kolkata, has been simmering for the past fortnight, following communal clashes that saw people’s houses and shops being targetted and set on fire. A Times Now report said 65 people have been arrested, and the state administration has asked the DGP Surajit Kar Purakayastha to take prompt action against the culprits and to ensure peace.

The tension erupted on 12 December, when two groups clashed as a procession was brought out in the area last week. After the groups were not allowed to carry out the procession, the Times Now website reported, they hurled bombs at each other, and the angry mob also looted and torched people’s homes.

The next day, on 13 December, the occasion of Milad-ul-Nabi, there were further clashes in the area. A section of locals claim the clashes were unprovoked, according to a report in the DNA newspaper. Local residents claim that they had to flee with their children and elderly as soon as the mob hurled country-made bombs at their houses. Later, the mob allegedly looted the houses and fled with the money and jewellery, later also setting it on fire.

People's houses were targeted in Dhulagarh. Image courtesy: Twitter/@Leopard212People's houses were targeted in Dhulagarh. Image courtesy: Twitter/@Leopard212

People’s houses were targeted in Dhulagarh. Image courtesy: Twitter/@Leopard212

“Nothing is left. We are looted of all our belongings. They ransacked and vandalised our houses and eventually set them on fire. We could not save a single penny from our houses, only managed to save our children and ran for life,” said a local, Lakshmi Mallya.

The violence didn’t stop there, however. The next day, a Muslim mob allegedly attacked Hindu homes and shops and them ablaze, reported The Indian Express. “Policemen rushed to the spot and managed to diffuse the tension. But the next day, for almost two hours, there was a stand-off between the police and rioters from both communities. They were carrying bombs. We used tear gas shells. Finally, we had to call in reinforcements to bring the situation under control,” an officer said.

A case of rioting and breaking communal harmony was registered against members of both communities. “The situation is under control. Forces, including RAF, have been posted at Dhulagarh to maintain peace,” the newspaper quoted the officer as saying.

However, despite the heavy presence of police and armed forces in the area, things didn’t return to normalcy. A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) delegation — comprising party leaders Jagdambika Pal, Satpal Singh, state president Dilip Ghosh and national secretary Rahul Sinha, and several volunteers — was stopped at Ekabbarapur Road, about one kilometre away from the spot where the clashes had taken place a few days ago, reported The Quint.

Angered by this, the BJP delegation, along with thousand-odd supporters, blocked the road in protest. Alleging that there is no law and order in the state, Pal said the government was following “appeasement politics towards a particular community”. Ghosh alleged right-wing Muslim outfits and Simi activists have entered the area and were creating trouble. He also said BJP was not given prior any information about prohibitory orders being imposed in Dhulagarh. “We are surprised that police did not allow us to approach the people in the area to know about their plight of sufferings,” Ghosh said.

However, perhaps in an attempt to prove that they weren’t targeting one specific political party, the police also stopped a CPM delegation from entering the violence-scarred area. The CPM team comprised party general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Lok Sabha MP Mohammad Salim and MLA Sujan Chakraborty, among others, said another report in The Indian Express.

Having addressed a public rally at Dhulagarh Chaurasta (crossing) and appealed for peace, the CPM leaders tried marching to the locality where arson and clashes had occurred, but the police stopped them. “If we are not being allowed to enter even now, and there is Section 144 of CrPC imposed, it means the situation still hasn’t been brought under control,” Salim said. “Our demand is for the state government to bring normalcy immediately, and paying monetary compensation for those affected by violence.”

Under fire from various quarters, the state government imposed restrictions on the media regarding coverage of the Dhulagarh violence. According to The New Indian Express, the state government even went a step ahead and slapped a non-bailable offence against three employees of the TV channel Zee News, including editor Sudhir Chaudhary, West Bengal correspondent Pooja Mehta and cameraperson Tanmay Mukherjee under Section 153A (promoting enmity) of the Indian Penal Code. However, the Sankrail police didn’t confirm registering an FIR. “We register over 30 FIRs on a daily basis. We can’t distinguish which are related to Dhulagarh,” said a police officer at the Sankrail police station.

Chaudhary took to social networking site Facebook to call the action taken against his channel an example of the West Bengal government’s “intolerance”. “It’s another low point in our democracy to see a democratically elected govt using police force to curb media in an effort to suppress uncomfortable facts and reality. When you can’t manage media,use the state machinery to conquer the media only to conceal the failures of your administration. It shows the intolerance of a chief minister who is using the state machinery as her personal fiefdom and acting like a feudal lord,” he wrote.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 16:29 IST

Duncan Road Minor’s Murder: Police probe reveals juveniles didn’t attend college after kidnapping girl

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Around 200 residents of Duncan Road gathered at JJ Marg police station on Tuesday and appealed to the police to try the arrested juvenile duo in the three-year-old’s murder case as adults. The family of 3.5-year-old Junera-Tabassum Fatema Khan, who was allegedly murdered by her neighbours for ransom, also told the police that they suspected that the family of one of the juveniles was involved in the incident. The residents also thanked the police for their swift action.The police have recorded the statements of around ten witnesses in the case.Mumtaz Khan, Junera’s father, said, “We want them to be tried as adults, we want their family also to be arrested. We are certain that the boys are adults and the JJ Marg police has told us that the will do tests for the same.”While speaking about the investigation of the case, an officer privy to the probe said, “We have collected circumstantial, forensic, technical, and scientific evidences against the two juveniles to make the case water tight. We have recorded the statements of 10-12 witnesses for the same.”While another senior police officer said, “We have sent our teams to the spots where we had traced the last location of the juveniles. Our team is collecting CCTV footage from the areas. We have also obtained Call Data Record and sent the (mobile) sim card as well as recordings for technical verification.”Earlier during the investigation, it was revealed that the first year Science students of Siddharth College had stolen chloroform from their college laboratory which was later used to kill the girl. The police is seeking a clarification from the college authorities for the same. During the investigation of the college authorities, it was revealed that “the accused hadn’t attended college since they had kidnapped the girl.”The police also suspects the involvement of other people in either manipulating evidence, or involvement in planning the murder or hiding facts, the officer added, “We are looking at all the angles. We have also spoken to a couple of peers of the accused and are investigating if there was any involvement (of other people) or if someone helped them to destroy the evidence.”

Railways asks West Bengal govt to take charge of all ongoing & new projects

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Railways has sent a letter to the West Bengal government stating that from now on the state has to take responsibilities of all ongoing and upcoming projects of the suburban system as well as Metro Railway.According to a highly-placed source at the state secretariat Nabanna, the letter addressed to the Chief Secretary, the Transport Secretary and the Urban Development Secretary, was sent last week from the Railways Works Planning Directorate.It stated that the Railways, in the last few years had incurred losses of around to Rs 15,000 crore due to delay in projects including Metro Rail projects, which were either delayed or stalled because of various hindrances.In the letter, the Railways has asked the state government to take responsibilities about removal and rehabilitation of encroaches on its land, feasibility study of any proposed project and so on, the officer said.It has also proposed the state can utilise funds meant for urban transport projects or can levy different forms of taxes and development fees to releasing project costs, he said.Incidentally, a couple of months back the Centre had verbally given similar proposals to the state government, which the latter had dismissed, the officer added.

Ex-TN chief secy Rao slams Modi govt for I-T raids, claims ‘political vendetta’

Days after the Income Tax Department raided the house of the former chief secretary of Tamil Nadu P Rama Mohana Rao, he addressed the media on Tuesday and raised several questions about the “unconstitutional” raids. Speaking to the media, Rao, who was removed from the post of the chief secretary on 23 December, said that he still holds the post and authorities have no evidence against him.

“After 32 years of service, if this is the condition of a chief secretary, how can CRPF enter my house? Why did they not transfer me? This is political vendetta. I was under house arrest for over 26 hours. They (Centre) have no respect for the state government,” Rao said.

Rao thanked West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for “supporting my cause” and also alleged that his life was in danger. “They did not have any search warrant against me. The search warrant had name of my son. They have found nothing — no incriminating documents were found during the raids,” Rao said. Pointing towards a room that was alleged to be a secret chamber by the income tax authorities, Rao said that it was the store room. “What secret chamber?” he asked.

Alleging interference from the BJP-led Centre, Rao also said that the Central government has no business raiding the house of a chief secretary of a state. “Where is the state government? What role or business does Government of India and CRPF have to enter a chief secretary’s chambers? Did they get the chief minister’s permission? Isn’t this a unconstitutional assault? Where’s the state govt? On whose permission did CRPF enter my house. If they wanted to search my house, they could have transferred me. How much time does it take for a chief minister to transfer a chief secretary?” asked Rao.

Remembering former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa, Rao said that if she were here, this would have never happened. “If Honourable Madam (Jayalalithaa) was here today, this would not have happened. I managed Madam’s funeral and handled when Chennai was battered by the cyclone. My reputation precedes me. I am a big hurdle to many. I am a hardcore man and they fear me,” said Rao, adding that he feared for his life.

On 21 December, Income Tax authorities raided the house and office of Rao after a tip-off. The premises were searched by officials, who claimed to have recovered Rs 30 lakh in cash in new notes and five kilograms of gold besides getting “disclosure” about Rs five crore of unaccounted income. The raids were carried out at 15 places, including the office and the residence of Rao, his son Vivek and some relatives in Chennai and Chittoor in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, I-T sources had told PTI.

Rao was appointed as the Tamil Nadu chief secretary in June 2016.

Rao also refuted claims that he had any business links with mining baron Shekhar Reddy. A senior I-T official had told The Indian Express that the raids at Rao’s home and office were linked to the seizure of Rs 132 crore in cash (including Rs 34 crore in new notes) and 177 kilograms of gold from mining baron J Sekhar Reddy earlier this month. “Documents seized from Reddy’s premises were the major evidence, as they had details linked to Rao. It was a matter of ascertaining locations before launching the raid,” the official told the paper. Rao, however, on Tuesday said:

Within 24 hours after the raid, Girija Vaidyanathan, an officer with a no-nonsense work ethic, was appointed as Rao’s successor. The political class reportedly wanted to wait till an FIR was filed but was advised that the raid had already dented the image of the government and any delay would only reflect poorly on the AIADMK.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 11:49 IST

IT department summons former TN Chief Secretary’s son for tax evasion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Widening its probe, the Income Tax Department has summoned the son of former Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao in connection with its tax evasion investigation against sand mining operators of the state where one of the biggest seizures of cash and gold was made by the taxman in the aftermath of demonetization.Officials said while Rao’s son Vivek Papisetty was first summoned to join investigations last week, after searches were carried out against him and his family on December 21, and now fresh reminders have again been sent to him in this regard.They said Vivek has informed the Investigating Officer (IO) of the case that he would join the probe soon and has cited his wife’s illness as the reason for not being able to do so till now.The department, it is understood, wants to confront and question Vivek regarding a number of seizures of documents made by the sleuths from his and his kins’ locations and from the premises of Shankar Reddy after searches were first carried out against the latter here earlier this month.Reddy was arrested by CBI last week.”Vivek has said he would be joining I-T investigations in a day or two. His questioning is vital in the case,” they said, adding that three other associates searched in the case are also being questioned by the department.I-T officials had earlier claimed that Vivek had “admitted to a total unaccounted income of about Rs 17 crore”, a day after I-T raids were carried out at the top bureaucrat’s house and other premises linked to his kin.Last week, the department had launched searches on at least 15 premises related to Vivek and others and had claimed to have seized Rs 30 lakh in new currency and five kg gold.The Tamil Nadu government, on the very next day of raids on December 22, had replaced Rao from the top bureaucratic post and had appointed senior IAS officer and Additional Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan as the new Chief Secretary.The I-T case emerges from the to biggest cash haul of new notes post demonetization after the department raided some sand mining operators of Tamil Nadu.Over Rs 142 crore unaccounted assets have been recovered so far by the department in this case apart from seizure of Rs 34 crore in new notes. The total cash seizure in this instance was over Rs 170 crore and this has become the single largest case of disclosure of undisclosed assets post the note ban.

AAP alleges its Goa face Elvis Gomes being victimised, BJP refutes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>AAP’s chief ministerial face for Goa, Elvis Gomes, on Monday appeared before ACB in connection with an inquiry into an alleged land conversion ‘scam’,amid allegations by his party said he was being victimised, a charge which the ruling BJP rubbished.Gomes, who appeared before the anti-graft agency in connection with the case, has refuted the allegations against him, saying the timing of summoning him for the probe is “suspicious.” A former IG (Prisons), 53-year-old Gomes had taken voluntary retirement from police service some time back and joined AAP, which is making a serious bid in the assembly polls in the coastal state due in early 2017. Gomes, who was then managing director of Goa Housing Board, and Nilkant Halarnkar, its chairman at that time, allegedly acquired about 30,000 sq m of land near Margao town, changed its ‘zoning’ (reservation) to residential, which would have increase its market value, and later gave it back to the owner in 2011, as per the ACB’s FIR.The board had acquired the land for building residential units and allegedly got its zoning changed from ‘orchard’ to ‘settlement’. Reacting to the development,AAP national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that Gomes was being victimised by Goa’s BJP-led government. “Elvis Gomes is known all over Goa for his honesty. Being victimised by BJP government,” Kejriwal tweeted, minutes after Gomes appeared before the ACB at its office in Altinho locality of Panaji.AAP also posted a video on twitter which showed Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza praising Gomes in the past. “Watch this. BJP’s dirty tactics. Elvis was an honest/efficient officer till he intended to join AAP. Goa CM/DyCM used to praise him,” AAP leader Ashutosh alleged in a tweet. AAP Goa leader Dr Oscar Rebello, addressing party volunteers outside the ACB office, alleged, “They have been asking him to join BJP. They sent him a strong message that if you want your cases to be withdrawn then join us.” BJP rubbished the charge of victimising Gomes.”It is an inquiry by ACB. What role do we have to play in it?” BJP’s Goa unit chief Vinay Tendulkar said. He said the case was filed against Gomes when he was in the government service. “How can AAP relate the case to elections and politics?” he questioned. Tendulkar said the AC is doing its job impartially.

Demonetisation: Fake notes of new Rs 2,000/500 worth Rs 26.10 lakh seized; 2 held in Gujarat

Rajkot: Two persons were arrested on Monday with counterfeit currency in the denominations of newly introduced Rs 2,000 and Rs 500, having a face value of Rs 26,10,000, police said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Acting on a tip-off, the city crime branch sleuths intercepted a car at Hanuman Madhi area and arrested two persons with fake currency notes of Rs 2,000 with face value of Rs 26 lakh, and of Rs 500 with face value of Rs 10,000,” Rajkot Commissioner of Police Anupam Singh Gehlot told mediapersons here.

The arrested persons were identified as Hruday Jagani and Lakshman Chauhan, both hailing from Ahmedabad, he said.

The notes were kept inside the speaker box of the car in which they were travelling, Gehlot said.

He said a high quality colour printing machine was also seized from their possession which was used to print the currency notes.

The cover of notes’ bundles bore the tag and seal of a public sector bank to make them look like original, he said.

“Hruday used to work as a printer and has a sound technical know-how of printing and cutting notes with perfection so that they look like original,” Gehlot said.

“The mastermind was identified as one Jignesh Shah, who is a land broker in Ahmedabad. Jignesh would find customers looking to exchange their old currency notes, and would order printing of notes after he struck a deal with his customers,” the senior police officer said.

A search is on to nab Shah.

He said the accused might have supplied several such notes since demonetisation came into effect on November 9.

“They would bring such notes into circulation in different ways. They’d hide duplicate notes in the bundle of original notes so that it was supplied easily, and would earn around Rs 15,000-20,000 on supply of Rs 2 lakh,” Gehlot said.

“Another modus operandi was to hide blank notes below the Rs 2,000 lookalike duplicate notes,” he said.

Gehlot said ever since demonetisation came into effect, around Rs 2 crore worth of old notes and Rs 70 lakh of new notes were seized from Rajkot alone.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 15:48 IST

Maharashtra man-animal conflict

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>From crop depredation by herbivores in Vidarbha to the rampaging herds of wild elephants in Konkan to the rising leopard presence in parts of Pune and Ahmednagar, the conflict between urbanisation and natural habitats of animals is coming to a head.“These conflicts are inevitable,” a senior forest department official with extensive experience in wildlife management said. Rising population, development projects and construction of dams and roads come with their own toll on the ecology, he said. The difficulty in balancing these competing interests leads humans to wildlife habitations and vice-versa.“Wild boars, which live around agricultural fields, are responsible for most cases of injuries to humans, followed by leopards and sloth bear. Wild boars and leopards account for the highest conflicts with humans due to their proximity with them,” noted another official, adding that in case of attacks by a tiger, the chances of death are almost certain.“Wild boars, nilgai, chital and sambar cause crop depredations and leopards are responsible for most incidents of cattle lifting,” he said. In the Chandrapur area, which has the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, apart from the Bramhapuri forest division, with a rich tiger base, around 1,500 cases of cattle lifting (4-5 daily), were reported annually. This despite the area being under the control of the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM).In Bramhapuri, of the 179 injuries caused to people in 2015, 147 were caused by wild boars while it was 70 in 2014. The department had to summon sharp-shooters to cull wild boars in the district after complaints from villagers and farmers.Forest officials noted that the degradation of habitats led to herbivores entering agricultural fields in neighbouring areas, causing crop depredations. This forced farmers to fence their fields affecting animal movement and some even electrocuted the fences, causing animal deaths.From 2008-09 to October 2016, 2,18,394 cases of crop damage by wild animals have been recorded in Maharashtra. The state government has given compensation worth Rs 5,330.85 lakh.Officials claimed that in parts of Konkan, influential landowners have destroyed virgin forest lands for monoculture of rubber plantations, thus severing a crucial link between the Sahyadri landscape and the tiger-dominated areas down south. Presence of mines in parts of Kolhapur has weakened the corridor further.“There is immense grazing pressure on the jungles. This leads to palatable species of grass being trampled upon by domestic animals, which causes an increase in non-palatable and invasive species and a change in the character of forests. This makes it tough for wild herbivores to settle there,” noted wildlife researcher-activist Ramzan Virani.14-year-old Akshay Rose was grievously injured in a leopard attack at Tansa wildlife sanctuary in Maharashtra —File photoThis competition between wild herbivores and domestic animals leads farmers to shift out of jungles in search of food and water, he said. Carnivores like tigers and leopards also move out in tandem for prey. They often feast on domestic animals, which are easier to hunt and yield more meat. Areas near resource-rich habitats were also being diverted for purposes like setting up coal mines and factories, creating an additional burden on the landscape.“Because of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, encroachments in forest areas are rising. Many forests are being cleared for farming, especially in territorial forest divisions near protected areas (like wildlife sanctuaries and national parks),” Virani said. These jungles acted as buffer in areas that were not part of tiger projects (which work on a core- buffer strategy), he said.The number of tigers in non-protected areas is huge. It forms a fourth of Maharashtra’s tiger population of 203, according to the Phase IV exercise conducted by the forest department last year.Virani, who teaches in the department of zoology at the SM College in Pandharkawada, Yavatmal, suggested that to break the deadlock, habitat development work, including moisture conservation, water retention, meadow development and eradication of invasive weeds, should be undertaken fast. This will attract herbivores to these habitats, and, in turn, stabilise a healthy carnivore population in smaller areas due to food and water availability.Virani, however, added that the state government’s schemes, aimed at participatory conservation and development of sustainable livelihoods, saw the involvement of locals.Activists noted that the ban on the culling of bulls had led to these animals being discarded by their owners, once they were past their prime. They often strayed into forests for food. Girish Vashisth, divisional forest officer and spokesperson of the state wildlife wing, said that the department gives 75 per cent subsidy to people in buffer zones for buying LPG cylinders, thus reducing their dependence on forests for firewood. Toilets were also being built in areas around forests.“Livelihood options with training and job placements are being offered to the youth in areas around the Pench tiger project, Tadoba and the Umred Karhandla wildlife sanctuary,” said Vashisth. Eco-tourism facilities in jungles also created additional revenue sources for people, he said. He admitted that they had come across cases where people had encroached upon forest lands to get their rights under the Forest Rights Act.In villages around sanctuaries, cattle are allowed to graze on a rotational basis in “compartments” (the basic administrative unit in the forest department) and in case of problem animals, orders for their killing were given only as the last resort.THE COMPENSATIONDeath (Human): Kin of the victim gets Rs 8 lakh if death is caused by tigers, leopards, dhole, wild boars, crocodiles, elephants, wolves and bisons.Serious injuries: Victims are compensated with Rs 1 lakh.Death (domestic animals): Death of bulls, cows, buffaloes is compensated with 75% of the market price or Rs 25,000, whichever is lower.Destruction: Farmers are also compensated if their fields are destroyed by wild animals. The amount depends on the type of crop (food crops, horticulture, sugarcane, bananas etc).

Anger in Afghanistan at female pilot’s U.S. asylum bid | Reuters

KABUL There was an angry reaction in Afghanistan to news that the first female fixed-wing pilot in the country’s air force was requesting asylum in the United States after completing an 18-month training course.The Afghan defence ministry confirmed on Sunday that Captain Niloofar Rahmani, 25, had sought asylum after the Wall Street Journal quoted her as saying that she feared her life would be in danger if she returned home.A recipient of the U.S. State Department’s “Women of Courage” award in 2015, Capt. Rahmani had been a symbol of efforts to improve the situation of women in her country, more than a decade after the fall of the Taliban regime.Mohammad Radmanish, a defence ministry spokesman, said the government hoped that her request would be denied by U.S. authorities who have spent billions trying to build up Afghan security forces.”When an officer complains of insecurity and is afraid of security threats, then what should ordinary people do?” he said. “She has made an excuse for herself, but we have hundreds of educated women and female civil right activists who work and it is safe for them.”

Capt. Rahmani, who graduated from flight school in 2012 and qualified to fly C-208 military cargo aircraft, had been in the United States on a training course and had been due to return home on Saturday.In a conservative country notorious for the restrictions placed on women, Rahmani’s story stood out as a rare example of a woman breaking through in areas normally reserved for men.

Her success came at a price, however. The citation for the “Women of Courage” award said she and her family had received direct threats not just from the Taliban but also from some relatives, forcing her family to move house several times.However, there was little sympathy on Afghanistan’s active social media networks, which were replete with comments criticizing Rahmani, accusing her of wasting government money spent on expensive training and avoiding her responsibilities.

“Niloofar Rahmani took a million dollars from the pockets of the people of Afghanistan to pay human traffickers to get to America to seek asylum,” one Facebook user wrote in comments typical of others.Dozens of Afghan troops receiving training in the United States have gone missing over the past two years, and at least one has been detained while trying to cross the border to Canada. (Reporting by Mirwais Harooni, writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 18:11 IST

Maharashtra: Man held for raping minors in his SUV in Bhiwandi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 35-year-old man from Bhiwandi, who used his four-wheeler to ferry school children, was arrested for allegedly raping two minor girls for the last six months, police said on Sunday.The accused, identified as Tulsiram Manere was held on Saturday night, Inspector SV Jadhav of Nizampura police station said.The accused molested and raped the victims, aged around 8 to 9, on several occasions inside his SUV and also at some other secluded places in the past six months, the officer said. It is suspected that Manera might have sexually abused more number of girls travelling in his car and as of now only two have disclosed about the offence.It was only after the teachers enquired with the parents of the victims about their absence from the school, the offence came to the light. “The two girls confided in their parents and told them about their sexual abuse. The parents then informed the school authority about it and subsequently a case was lodged by a teacher,” Jadhav said.The accused has been charged under sections 376 (rape), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and under relevant sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act-2012, he said, adding, further probe was on.

Uttar Pradesh: 7-year-old boy killed by elder brother over property in Sitapur

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A seven-year-old boy was pushed into a well by his elder brother to stake full claim over the family property in Bhawanipur village here, police said on Saturday.”The accused, Ankit (22) killed his brother Aditya by pushing him into a well,” Station House Officer DK Singh said.Aditya’s family searched for him yesterday when he did not return home, but by the time they found the well, he had died, Singh said.”The accused on interrogation confessed of committing the crime with the help of two others, in order to stake full claim over the parental property,” he said.”A case has been registered and efforts are on to arrest the other two accomplices,” Singh added.

Mumbai: Three people killed, 5 rescued as boat capsizes in Powai lake

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three people were killed and five others were rescued after a boat with eight people on board capsized in Powai lake in Mumbai on Friday night.Five people including the helmsman were rescued, while three others were declared declared dead on arrival.Those rescued are out of danger and being treated.“The control room got a call at 11:30 pm about a boat being capsized. The boat capsized at 11:15 pm on Friday. A couple of them were rescued by the locals during the night while rest drowned,” said a senior police officer from Powai Police Station”Those who boarded the boat were all residents of Mumbai and were on the boat for leisure. The boat belonged to a member of the Maharastra State Angling Association, a club near the lake, however, the club claims that the boat was taken without their permission,” officer added. Police said that the boat toppled because it was hit by a bamboo or a pole in the water, the boat was only 100 meters away from the shore hence, the locals could rescue them.

Passport rules: Sadhus, sanyasis can now mention names of gurus instead of parents

New Delhi: Sadhus and sanyasis can now mention names of their spiritual gurus instead of biological parents under new passport rules announced in New Delhi on Friday which also eliminate the mandatory requirement of the birth certificate as the proof of date of birth (DOB).

The rules, which were announced by Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh, also provides a provision for
government servants, who are not able to get “no objection certificate” from their respective ministries/departments.

Easing passport norms. AFPEasing passport norms. AFP

Easing passport norms. AFP

In order to streamline, liberalise and ease the process of issue of passport, the ministry has taken a number of steps in the realm of passport policy which is expected to benefit the citizens of India applying for a passport, Singh noted.

In case of proof of DOB while filing application, it has now been decided that all applicants of passports can submit any one of the documents — transfer/School leaving/Matriculation Certificate, PAN card, Aadhaar Card/E-Aadhaar having the DOB of applicant, copy of the extract of the service record of the applicant, driving licence, Election Photo Identity Card (EPIC) or LIC policy bond.

Birth Certificate issued by the Registrar of Births & Deaths or the Municipal Corporation or any other prescribed
authority whosoever has been empowered under the Registration of Birth & Deaths Act, 1969 to register the birth of a child born in India can also be given as DOB proof.

As per the extant statutory provisions of the Passport Rules, 1980, all the applicants born on or after 26 January 1989, had to mandatory submit the birth certificate as the DOB proof to get a passport.

The government has also accepted the demand by the sadhus/sanyasis that they should be allowed to write names of
their gurus instead of names of their parents, Singh said, adding but they have to provide at least one public document such as EPIC, PAN card, Adhaar Card, etc wherein the name of the guru has been recorded against the column(s) for parent(s) name(s).

In case of government servants, who are not able to obtain the Identity Certificate/ No-Objection Certificate from their employer concerned and intend to get the passport on urgent basis can now get the passport by submitting a self-declaration that he/she has given prior Intimation letter to his/her employer informing that he/she was applying for an ordinary passport.

A report of a inter-ministerial committee with members from MEA and Women and Child Development ministry to examine issues pertaining to applications where mother/child has insisted that the name of the father should not be mentioned in the passport and also relating to children with single parent and to adopted children has also been accepted.

Based on the report, policy changes have been made which include no mandatory requirement of a marriage certificate for married applicants as also provide name of the only one parent and not both. This would enable single parents to apply for passports for their children and to also issue passports where the name of either the father or the mother is not required to be printed at the request of the applicant.

Under the new rules, total number of Annexes prescribed in the Passport Rule, 1980, has been brought down to 9 from the present 15 and all the annexes that are required to be given by the applicants would be self-declaration on plain paper.

“No attestation/swearing by/before any Notary/Executive Magistrate/First Class Judicial Magistrate would be henceforth necessary,” as per the new rules, which also do not require the applicant to provide the name of her/his spouse in case of separated or divorced persons.

Such applicants would not be required to provide even the Divorce Decree.

Orphaned children who do not have any proof of DOB such as Birth Certificate or the Matriculation Certificate or the declaratory court order, may now submit a declaration given by the Head of the Orphanage/Child Care Home on official letter head of the organisation confirming the DOB of the applicant.

For children not born out of wedlock, the applicant should submit only self-declaration form while submitting the
application and in case of issue of passport to in-country domestically-adopted children, submission of the registered adoption deed would no longer be required.

Asked about the rules applicable to get a passport for a child born through surrogacy, Chief Passport Officer Arun K Chatterjee said there was a specific list of documents required as per the Indian Council For Medical Research regulations.

Since the bill dealing with surrogacy is still pending before the Lok Sabha, changes can only be carried out
after it is passed, he added.

Singh also said the necessary notifications would soon be published in the Official Gazette to give effect to these changes. Instructions are also being issued to the Passport Issuing Authorities in India and abroad on these revised regulations.

“MEA expects that the changes in the Passport Rules would further ease the process for passport applicants in
getting their Passport.

“At the same time, it would enable this Ministry to continue to deliver passport related services to the citizens
in a timely, transparent, more accessible, reliable manner and in a comfortable environment through streamlined processes and committed, trained and motivated workforce,” ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

Singh also said the ministry was examining a pilot project under which the head post offices could be used to
provide passport services.

On when will the passport services like ‘Tatkal’ can become cashless, Chatterjee said they have done a tie-up with SBI and were getting machines to make the service totally cashless and expressed hope it will start functioning in next fortnight or so.

He also mentioned that currently there were 89 passport seva kendras apart from 38 passport offices and seven passport centres in the country.

Responding to a separate query on demonetisation and the update on the reccomendations of the inter-ministerial task force, Swarup said it was still under the preview of the Department of Economic Affairs.

“We continue to pursue with them and we hope that very soon we will have some recommendations…Government will take a considered view in the matter,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 23:01 IST

RBI truck carrying new notes penalised by RTO for overloading

Mumbai: A container truck hired by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to carry demonetised currency notes from Bhilai in Chhattisgarh to Nagpur, was stopped at Deori border check-post in Gondia district and penalised for overloading, by the Regional Transport Office (RTO).

The action was taken on Tuesday night and Rs 30,000 fine was collected from the driver, an RTO official said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The container had the capacity to carry 16 tonnes of load, but we found that the it was carrying 21 tonnes. The vehicle was filled with scrapped notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination, which it was transporting to RBI’s currency chest in Nagpur,” Vijay Chavan, Deputy Regional Transport Officer of Gondia district told PTI on Friday.

The vehicle was stopped by local officials posted at Deori check-post.

“The vehicle papers and other necessary documents were verified. We received a communication from Transport Commissioner based in Nagpur that the vehicle can be released after the payment of fine,” Chavan said.

“As per the calculation, the driver was asked to pay a fine of Rs 30,000, as the container was carrying five tonnes above the permissible limit. The officials issued a receipt of the fine payment and the vehicle was let off,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 19:55 IST

Maharashtra: 8 more handsets seized from Nashik prison, 3 officers suspended

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Eight more mobile phones have been recovered from barracks in the Nashik Central jail, days after some prisoners were shifted out following recovery of such gadgets, prison authorities said on Friday.Three jail officers have been suspended today in this connection by Deputy Inspector General (Prisons) Rajendra Dhamane, they said. With this, total 16 phones have been recovered from the prisoners’ barracks inside the jail in two weeks. During a search operation yesterday, eight mobile phones were found hidden at various places, including a washroom. However, the phones did not have the SIM cards, an official from Nashik Central Jail said.The jail authorities suspect that the prisoners used to talk on the phones. During the search carried out by senior jail officer Pramod Wagh and other staff, three mobile handsets were found hidden inside a wall while the other phones were recovered from a toilet and lofts in the barracks, officials said.Based on a complaint by a jail officer, the Nashik Road police late last night registered offences under relevant sections.Earlier, as many as 11 prisoners serving life sentence in the Nashik Central Jail were shifted to prisons in Pune and Navi Mumbai after mobile phones were found in some of their barracks.Following suspicion, a through search was carried out last week during which eight mobile phones were found in different barracks of the jail, an official had earlier said.

Economic blockade: Three govt offices burnt down in Manipur

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three government offices, including that of the office of the recently created Kamjong district, were burnt down on Friday by unidentified persons in Manipur, which is witnessing an economic blockade imposed by United Naga Council. “Around 5 to 6 unidentified persons came around 3 AM and torched the office of Sub-divisional office,” newly appointed Deputy Commissioner Armstrong Pame of Kamjong district said.He said the office of the DC Kamjong was temporarily set up within the SDO office, as the newly built office of DC Kamjong was yet to be inaugurated.The creation of the Kamjong district, which was carved out from the Ukhrul district, has been strongly protested by various Manipur based Naga civil bodies including the Tangkhul Naga Long and United Naga Council (UNC) amongst others.In another incident, two rooms of mini Secretariat were also set on fire by unidentified persons in Ukhrul district in the wee hours today, a police officer said.

UP: 7-year-old raped in Lucknow, hospitalised in serious condition

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a shocking incident, a 7-year-old girl was allegedly raped in Lucknow’s Ashiyana Police Station area. She has been hospitalised in a serious condition.As per TOI, the girl resides in Kila Mohamadi village of Aashiana. Her father works as a class III employee with Railways in Lucknow.The victim had gone to buy toffee at 3.30 pm but did not return. Her parents began to look for her but after failing to find her they lodged a missing report at the Aashiana police station.When the search was going on, some locals found bleeding in a grove near a Gurudwara in Ashiana. She was taken to Lok Bandhu Hospital by the police and later to the King George’s Medical University.According to Circle Officer, Cantt, Avanish Mishra, there were grievous injuries in the girl’s private part indicating sexual assault. He also said that since the girl was found quite far from her home and it is not possible for a child her age to travel so far. “It seemed that someone picked her from way,” he said.

Gangrape case: 25-year-old US national questioned by Delhi Police

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The 25-year-old US national, who was allegedly gangraped by a group of men earlier this year in a five-star hotel here, was on Thursday questioned by Delhi Police to determine the sequence of events.She arrived here a couple of days ago to join the probe and on Thursday she underwent a medical examination and recorded her statement under section 164 of the CrPC before a magistrate.Today, the investigating team interacted with her to fill in the gaps in her complaint and to firm up their case, a senior police officer said.Earlier, she had said that she was not satisfied with the probe and was ready to come to India to identify the accused.On December 8, the tourist guide, accused of raping her along with his accomplices, was questioned by police after his arrival from Nepal. Police had identified the man and contacted him while he was in Nepal.
ALSO READ Gangrape case: US national arrives in India to join probeThe tour guide had denied his involvement in the matter and told police that the victim had given him a positive feedback in the forms and internal inquiry by the travel agency hadn’t found him guilty.The woman had alleged that she was raped by the men for two days. They also threatened her with dire consequences. She had also said the accused had made a video of the act and had threatened to make it public if she reported the matter to anyone.

Horse manure still a threat to Matheran trees

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While the forest department have re-forested the land at Dasturi Naka in Matheran, an eco sensitive zone, where hundreds of trees died due to highly nitrogenous dung from illegally stabled horses, the issue is far from being resolved. Horse owners are now suspected to having moved deeper into the forests.Dasturi Naka had lost most of its green cover, as the soil quality was affected due to horse dung and acidic urine from horses that were illegally stabled under trees.With the area now off-limits for stabling horses, the equines are parked in the deeper parts of Matheran’s forest, said Manoj Khedkar, former councillor. Loss of Matheran’s green cover can be bad news, as the entire Navi Mumbai region depends for its drinking water.The Bombay Environmental Action Group that worked on the re-planting and barricading of the Naka said the Joint Forest Management (JFM) needs to be strengthened for a permanent solution.While only about 460 horses have license to operate, over 1,000 horses ply in peak season. “Most of them are brought from from Neral and Jummapatti. Handlers tie horses to trees that shrivel due to the dung and acidic urine, thus leaving a trail of dead trees,” a local said. In the past, horses brought from outside would be taken back at night.Stables in areas like Indira Nagar and Valmiki Nagar being converted into lodging, as it is more profitable, have compounded the problem. Councillor Prasad Sawant said, “We need to create a facility for horses to be stabled.”Divisional Forest Officer Alibaug Jayoti Banerjee said, “Now that Dasturi Naka has been saved, the department is working on a solution with major stake holders.” In the meanwhile, the officials have been carrying out surprise raids to reduce illegal stabling.

Land scam: AAP Goa CM candidate Elvis Gomes summoned by Anti-Corruption Bureau

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Elvis Gomes, AAP’s Chief Ministerial face for Goa elections, has been summoned by the Anti- Corruption Bureau in connection with a land scam. “Gomes alongwith former minister Nilkant Halarnkar has been asked to remain present before investigating officer on Monday,” a senior official said here. ACB has booked Gomes and Halarnkar in connection with a scam involving 30,000 square metres of land in Margao town which allegedly took place between 2007-2011. BJP-led state government filed a complaint against them in June this year. Gomes, who was managing director of Goa Housing Board, and Halarnkar who was its chairman, allegedly acquired land, changed its `zoning’ (reservation) to residential which would have increased its market value, and later gave it back to the owner.The board had acquired the land for building residential units and allegedly got its zoning changed from `orchard’ to `settlement’. Gomes had denied his involvement in the scam. On December 19, AAP’s national convenor Arvind Kejriwal announced Gomes as the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate in Goa for next year’s polls. Gomes would be contesting from Cuncolim in South Goa.

JNU student Najeeb’s roommate bunks polygraph test with Delhi police

Missing JNU student Ahmed’s roommate, who was supposed to undergo a polygraph test , didn’t turn up for it despite giving his consent. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Missing JNU student Najeeb Ahmed’s roommate, who was supposed to undergo a polygraph test , didn’t turn up for it despite giving his consent, police said. The polygraph test was scheduled today after Mohd Qasim, Najeeb’s roommate gave his consent last week but he didn’t turn up at Forensic Science Laboratory, Rohini, a senior police officer said. Many of the students connected to the probe are out of Delhi because of vacations and have been asked to give their consent for the polygraph test. Police have so far served notices to nine people, including family members of Najeeb as well as the students with whom he was allegedly involved in a brawl at his hostel a night before he vanished.More than 600 Delhi Police personnel assisted by sniffer dogs and mounted police had concluded their search of the sprawling JNU campus on December 20 but could not find any clue. Najeeb has been missing since October 15 after an alleged scuffle at his hostel with ABVP students on the night of October 14. A reward of Rs 10 lakh has been announced by Delhi Police on any information about him.

DCW chief Swati Maliwal smells ‘conspiracy’ in ACB chargesheet against her

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal smells a ‘deep conspiracy’ in the chargesheet filed against her by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Wednesday, alleging irregularities in recruitment in the commission.

This comes close on the heels of her proposed raid at the brothels on GB Road to locate girls trafficked in the red light area from across the country.

File image of DCW chief Swati Maliwal. PTI

File image of DCW chief Swati Maliwal. PTI

“On Thursday, we (DCW) will raid the brothels at GB Road to find out the trafficked girls and the culprits behind this trafficking. We have asked the municipal corporation of Delhi (MCD) to shut the hidden cells in the brothels. This chargesheet is a tool to intimidate us and prevent us from working,” Maliwal told Firstpost.

Maliwal is no stranger to such charges. Just three months ago (on 20 September), an FIR was filed by the ACB against her on the complaints made by her predecessor — former DCW chairperson Barkha Shukla Singh that Maliwal appointed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) volunteers in plum posts without following due procedure.

What the latest chargesheet is about

The latest chargesheet was filed before the special ACB judge at Tis Hazari Court against Maliwal for the alleged offences under section 13 (criminal misconduct by public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. A chargesheet has been filed in the court in connection with alleged irregularities in the appointment of 85 AAP workers in the DCW. The ACB has taken up the probe on a complaint by former DCW chief, whereby she had claimed that 85 people got jobs ‘without requisite credentials’.

Why Maliwal smells a conspiracy

“There is a deep rooted conspiracy behind this chargesheet. Earlier, the ACB filed an FIR against me on the basis of a false charge. Now, the ACB has chargesheeted me because the commission asked the Delhi lieutenant-governor Najeeb Jung why he didn’t conduct any meetings with us during the past year. It’s the first time that the Delhi High Court has given two notices to the L-G; so he’s using the ACB as a tool to intimidate and scare us,” claimed Maliwal.

Maliwal’s counter-allegations

– “Former DCW chief spent Rs 90 lakh in a single day, without showing any work against the spending. We gave a 128-page document of evidence to the ACB, but they didn’t even file our complaint, forget an FIR.”
– “Barkha Shukla Singh, who was then a Congress MLA, dealt with only one case in her eight-year tenure; whereas we have handled nearly 12,000 cases.”
– “Singh had obliged those whom the then chief minister Sheila Dikshit had referred.”
– “Despite six rapes committed in Delhi per day, the lieutenant-governor didn’t hold any meeting with the DCW.”
– “The lieutenant-governor appointed IAS officer Dilraj Kaur, secretary (Social Welfare and Women & Child Development) as DCW’s member secretary — this is unconstitutional, because there’s already an officiating member secretary functioning in the commission. Kaur has stopped the salary payments of 90 staffers for the past three months.”

Maliwal’s clarification

“We followed the same procedure in appointing new volunteers, as followed by our predecessor. Nothing wrong has been done. Against the allocated budget of Rs 9 crore, we’ve spent only Rs 3.5 crore; but three audits have been conducted on us to find out whether there had been any misappropriation.”

“I’ve worked with utmost honesty and if charges of corruption — even amounting to a single rupee — is proved against me, I’ll give up my life.”

What ACB chief says

“We’ve chargesheeted her because she made illegal appointments in the commission. They have favoured AAP workers,” ACB chief MK Meena reportedly told the media.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 08:14 IST

Jagannath temple reform panel gets final submissions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Gajapati Maharaj of Puri, Dibyasingha Deb, has submitted an affidavit before Justice BP Das Commission of Inquiry suggesting reforms in rituals and management of Shree Jagannath Temple. The Commission Secretary collected the copy of the affidavit from Deb’s residence in Bhubaneswar today, which was the last date for submission of affidavits. The Puri district administration through its Collector and Shree Jagannath Temple Administration through its Chief Administrative Officer too submitted their respective affidavits before the Commission during the day. The Shankaracharya of Gobardhan Peeth at Puri had earlier conveyed his suggestions to the Commission on the reforms for Shree Jagannath Temple. A whopping 10,344 affidavits collected from across the state were submitted to the Commission on Monday. Hundreds of holy men and devotees under the aegis of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) marched in a massive rally and submitted these affidavits at the Commission’s office here. The holy men also submitted a seven-point proposal for reforms in the temple. The Commission had extended its deadline for submission of affidavits twice, the last one being on December 3. The Commission had then claimed that it was extending the deadline since it had only received 350 affidavits.The judicial Commission had been instituted by the state government to suggest measures for better security of the temple, safety of the visiting devotees, timely conduct of temple rituals, and welfare of deities and servitors.It was set up in July this year after the Niladree Bije fiasco which took place at the concluding ritual of the nine-day Rathayatra festival this year when the servitors allowed devotees to climb the chariots defying a ban by Orissa High Court. The state government had announced the formation of the one-man judicial commission in September after the Puri Collector Arvind Agarwal was manhandled by servitors during the incident when the matter reached a tipping point.Television cameras had zoomed in to show a young girl climbing down the chariot of Lord Balabhadra, in the last leg of the Rath Yatra 2016 at Puri. Moments later a few servitors got into an ugly scuffle with the district collector of Puri and other media personnel. The Jagannath Temple has since become a battle ground for control between the servitors, the political class and the temple administration.Rath Yatra, the annual chariot festival is the most prominent religious temple festival of India, and holds a special place in the hearts of the Odia people. At this year’s Rath Yatra, major deviations in rituals resulted in a ruckus in full glare of TV cameras, angering millions of devotees. After a prolonged debate last year and intervention by Odisha High Court, the climbing of devotees atop chariots was banned. A similar diktat was issued by the Shankaracharya and an understanding between Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) and servitors to ensure the ban was reached. However, a few relatives of the servitors defied the ban. When Arvind Agarwal, district collector of Puri intervened, servitors manhandled members of district administration and media personnel. The ritual of Niladri Bije, that of the deities returning to their temple after a nine-day-long sojourn at their aunt’s place, was delayed causing anguish to many devotees. Following legal action, some servitors were suspended; others arrested. The state government, whose law minister, Arun Sahoo was present on the occasion, constituted a one-man judicial commission, headed by retired judge of Odisha High Court, Bimal Prasad Das, to suggest reforms in management of Sri Jagannath Temple, Puri. On July 25 it was alleged that the state government paid Rs 2 crore to servitors as compensation for the loss that prevention of taking devotees atop chariots brought about to honour the Odisha High Court verdict. There are nearly 6,000 servitors in 119 categories that help run the Jagannath Temple.

Bihar: Nitish Kumar govt set to approve 7th Pay Commission

Patna: The Bihar government on Wednesday paved the way for providing benefits of the 7th Pay Commission to the state officials and pensioners by announcing the setting up of a fitment committee for the purpose.

The decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of state Cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Patna.

The three-member fitment committee would be headed by retired bureaucrat and former state Chief Secretary GS Kang while Secretaries of Finance and Rural Works Department Rahul Singh and Vinay Kumar respectively will be the members, Principal Secretary, Cabinet Coordination Department Brajesh Mehrotra told reporters.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

The committee would be asked to submit its report in three months, Mehrotra said.

There are around 4.5 lakh employees under Bihar government and 3.5 lakh pensioners who will get the benefit of new pay scale.

Ever since announcement of the 7th Pay Commission benefits for the central government employees, demand for similar benefits for the Bihar government have been coming.

The state Cabinet at its meeting today approved 20 proposals of different departments.

In another important decision, the Cabinet gave its nod to a proposal of the Home Department to enhance honorarium of SAP (State Auxiliary Police) personnel.

While junior commissioned officer of SAP would get a monthly honorarium of Rs 20,700 now in place of Rs 18,000 earlier for jawans the hike would be Rs 17,250 from Rs 15,000, Mehrotra said.

The cabinet also gave its nod to a proposal of state Civil Aviation Department to hire a new 7+2 seater helicopter on wet lease for five years at a cost of Rs 93,15,00,000.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 22:25 IST

Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi meets Manohar Parrikar, officials term it ‘courtesy call’

New Delhi: Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, who was superseded along with another senior officer in selection of the new army chief, met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday, amid speculation that he may seek premature retirement or will be given a new role by the government.

Defence Ministry officials termed the meeting as a “courtesy call”.

They said the meeting was sought by Lt Gen Bakshi, contrary to initial claims by army sources that Parrikar had sought the meeting. Lt Gen Bakshi also met with Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag after meeting Parrikar.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Dalbir Singh is set to visit the Eastern Command in Kolkata shortly as part of his farewell tour. The army chief will hang his boots on 31 December.

A section of military experts feel that Lt Gen Bakshi may seek premature retirement. However, the process may take a month or two, sources said, adding that during this period he may go on leave.

Lt Gen Bakshi was initially the front runner for the post of the army chief. However, keeping aside the trend of seniority being the lone criteria, the government appointed Vice Chief of Army Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, a batch junior to Lt Gen Bakshi, as the new chief.

Lt Gen Rawat, an infantry soldier, was found best suited among three officers to deal with challenges like cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the situation with Pakistan, both areas which the government felt will be under focus for the next two-three years.

Another section of military experts claimed that Lt Bakshi may become the new Chief of Defence Staff, a post that has been hanging fire for the last many years.

While the creation of such a post is in “active consideration” of the government, it is unlikely that it will happen soon, they claimed.

The Centre had on 17 December appointed Lt Gen Rawat as the new army chief superseding his two senior officers — Lt Gen Bakshi and Southern Command Chief Lt Gen PM Hariz.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 20:11 IST

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat is next army chief: Govt did what it thought right, it’s time to end row

Appointment of Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat as the next Chief of Army Staff superseding Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi and Lieutenant General PM Hariz has got the self-appointed social media critics going ballistic on the internet. It has also given enough to feed the monstrous hunger that the media has for breaking news. Many writers have mentioned that there has been precedence of such supersession. Having known all the three officers closely, one is at a loss to explain one’s feelings. Lieutenant General Bakshi is an intellectual, straight shooter, dynamic and a thoroughly professional officer who is a dear friend and a course mate.

Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty ImagesLieutenant General Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

Lieutenant General Hariz is again a very competent officer and a junior in service but became the author’s boss due to residual service requirements. A mature and simple officer, he conducts himself with dignity. Lieutenant General Rawat, took over the command of the corps from this author. He is a humane, mature, professionally sound and a second generation officer. Appointments Committee of the Cabinet would have had a tough time picking one among them as the next COAS of the Indian Army. Since the supersession issue mainly pertains to these three officers, other officers considered are not mentioned here.

Be that as it may, the procedure followed is very simple and has been alluded to by some writers. A panel of all eligible army commanders and vice chief of army staff is sent to the defence ministry by the army headquarters. The defence minister makes his recommendations and sends it to the Appointments Committee of the cabinet. Previously, the appointments committee of the cabinet used to comprise of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and the Finance Minister. Under this government, it has been simplified and reduced to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. A thorough 360-degree review of the individual is carried out for all promotions to and above the rank of Major General. Similarly, in this case too such a review would have been done. One is confident that all three would have been above board. After the panel is drawn and recommendations are made by the defence ministry it is purely the call of the appointments committee of the cabinet to make the selection of the next Chief of Army Staff. Needless to say that it is the prerogative of the government of the day to select the COAS of its choice.

A quick glance at the selection procedure of other democracies would be highly perceptive at this time. The organisational structure of many of the advanced countries is different from that of our country. The USA follows a theatre commands system whose commanders directly interact with the Secretary of the State for Defence and the President. In the USA, a Chief of Staff is considered to be the equivalent of the Chief of Army Staff in India. UK follows the system of a Chief of Defence Staff who has an advisory role and a Chief of General Staff who commands the army directly. Australia has a Chief of Defence Staff and a Chief of Army. Pakistan also follows a system of a Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and a Chief of Army. Sri Lanka follows a similar system to ours. One cannot compare China and other communist countries with India on this subject as “political correctness” plays a major role in such selections and the system is different.

In the USA, the selection of Chief of Staff (COS) is governed by the rule “10 US Code 3033 – Chief of Staff”. Unlike the COAS of the Indian Army, the Chief of Staff of the Army is an administrative position and does not have operational command authority over the army. The COS is recommended by the Secretary of the Army, nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. In the UK, the equivalent of the COAS is the Chief of General Staff. The Ministry of Defence headed by the Secretary of State for Defence, recommends the names for Chief of General Staff and he is nominated by the Prime Minister. By the exercise of Royal Prerogative Powers, powers to appoint the senior leaders of the services is vested in the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence. The Queen, remains the ultimate authority. A similar system is followed in the Australian Army. In Germany, the Army Chief is designated as the Inspector of the Army (Generalinspekteur derNationaleVolkarmee). In peacetime, and in a state of tension, command of the Armed Forces is vested in the Federal Minister of Defence. It is only in a state of defence, which can be declared only with a two-third majority in the Bundestag (Lower House), that the power of command over the Armed Forces is passed to the Federal Chancellor.

While the systems may differ in various countries, the underlying principle in appointing the Chief of Army remains the same. That is, the political dispensation holds the privilege of choosing the person it likes to have as the Chief of its Army.

There has been disappointment and anger in some quarters about the supersession particularly those who are close friends of Lieutenant General Bakshi and Lieutenant General Hariz. This is but natural. Once the dust on this issue settles down and it dawns on people that the civilian government’s supremacy is to be respected, things will return to normal. Already, it has appeared in the media that things have reverted to normalcy and Lieutenant General Bakshi is back to his regular work schedule. Nothing less would have been expected from the true soldier that he is known to be. Similarly, Lieutenant General Hariz can also be expected to do the same. If these two generals who were directly affected have behaved in a manner befitting their stature and reputation, it behoves on all others to behave in a like manner. There are also rumours making the rounds that they will be accommodated as Permanent Chairman of Chief of Staff and Vice Chancellor, Indian National Defence University respectively. Again, it is required to keep in mind that it is the prerogative of the government to take a decision on these appointments. There is also a need to have confidence in the government that it will take the decisions in the best interests of the country.

This author has closely watched two of the COASs functioning and is convinced that every COAS works hard for the army. Therefore, we should hold the hands of Lieutenant General Rawat and support him in all his endeavours to take our famed army to higher glory.

The author is a retired lieutenant general of the Indian Army.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 19:20 IST

NIA team visits Poonch, looks into cross-LoC trade records

Tue, 20 Dec 2016-07:12pm , Jammu , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A National Investigation Agency (NIA) team visited the border district of Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir and took the cross-LoC trade records from the Chakan- Da-Bagh Trade Facilitation Centre.”NIA has visited Poonch. They are looking into cross-LoC trade records”, Deputy Commissioner, Poonch, M H Malik said on Tuesday. They (NIA team) have taken records of Chakan-Da-Bagh Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) and are going through it.The team is looking into any suspicious activity under the grab of cross LoC trade.The NIA team is headed by IG rank officer is camping in Poonch. They have talked to several businessmen and cross LoC traders besides officials and officers of TFC.

7.98 crore rupees recovered from 15 bank lockers in Pune, CBI registers case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Had it not been for credible intelligence received by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), smooth but illegal transactions taking place in the Parvati Towers of Parvati Gaon in Pune would have taken quite some time to get noticed.The probe agency on Monday registered a criminal case against Sudhir Puranik, director of Worldwide Oilfield Machine (WOM) Pvt Ltd, a multinational companywith its headquarters based in Houston, Texas and other unknown officials of the Bank of Maharashtra (BOM) for allegedly obtaining new currency notes to the tune of rupees 7.98 crores.Interestingly, the WOM office as a BOM branch is located in the same compound and the alleged exchange of new currency notes had been taking place smoothly since November 8, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonitization measures. The lid finally blew off when the Income Tax department conducted a raid on the Parvati branch of BOM and recovered a whopping 7,97,95,500 crore rupees from 15 lockers maintained in the name of WOM.Among other accused in the case are Mangesh Annachhatra the Chief Executive Officer of WOM and Satyen Gathani of the Ishaniya Hyundai Motors.The WOM, as per official company records,is a private limited company incorporated on December 19, 1985 with a registered address as 6th floor of Parvati Towers. The multi-national company deals in manufacture of special purpose machinery, such as gate valves and has facilities in Aberdeen, Scotland, Dubai, UAE and Singapore.Gathani, too is a designated partner in Pune-based Ishanya Motors Llp, a company dealing in sale,maintenance and repair of motor vehicles and retail sale of automotive fuel.According to the CBI, Sudhir, Annachhatra and Gathan, along with unknown bank officials, entered into a criminal conspiracy to obtain the note including the newly introduced 2000 and 500 rupee notes. Sources in the probe agency said that Gathani had obtained the notes from various other banks and had been handing over the same to Sudhir who filled the lockers with the same.According to CBI, the accused were booked under IPC sections 420 (cheating) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy) as well as other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Former IAS officer Elvis Gomes to be AAP’s CM candidate for Goa

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former IAS officer Elvis Gomes will be Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) chief ministerial candidate for Goa.Making a formal announcement, AAP’s national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal declared Gomes to be AAP’s CM candidate for Goa on Monday. The announcement came during Kejriwal’s rally in Cuncolim to celebrate Goa’s liberation day. Gomes, who was the Inspector General of Prisons had sought for voluntary retirement in July earlier this year and finally joined the AAP on October 1, claiming that the state government has meted out injustice to bureaucrats. Calling Gomes a gem, Kejriwal said that the senior officer was in the Goan administration for almost 20 years and has been one of the most honest officer in the state. “If he wanted to indulge in corruption, he could have easily earned several crores, but he didn’t. This is not something that I am saying, people of every religion and caste are saying this,” said Kejriwal. “He is the son of the soil. He resigned from his post to save Goa and I hope that those who want Gomes’s government in the state will vote for him and the AAP,” Kejriwal added. During the rally, Kejriwal also targeted Congress and BJP claiming that the two parties had turned the State into a ‘drug hub’ and the mandate during the Assembly elections will show the anguish of the people. Sources said that the move comes by the AAP in its bid appease the Christian and Muslim community which had come forward in support of the AAP. The official, who opted for voluntary retirement in July this year, was booked by Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) in a land scam. He, however, has refuted all the allegations.AAP has so far announced 25 candidates of the total 40 seats in Goa Assembly elections. The party had previously made it clear that it will contest elections on all seats. Elections in Goa are due early next year, with the announcement on election dates likely to be made in the last week of December by the Election Commission of India

Lt General Bipin Rawat is new Chief of Army Staff: How does selection process work?

The government on Saturday chose Lt General Bipin Rawat as the next Chief of Army Staff (COAS). He will succeed General Dalbir Singh Suhag, who retires on 31 December. However, controversy broke out immediately as Rawat was not the senior-most officer in the Indian Army. Traditionally, the rule in the security forces is to nominate the senior-most officer as the new head. According to the established tradition, Eastern Command chief Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi was all set to be the next chief, on account of his seniority.

This is the second instance in Indian Army’s history that this principle of seniority has been overlooked. In 1983, the then senior-most officer Lt Gen SK Sinha was superseded by Arun Shridhar Vaidya, who was the army chief when Operation Bluestar was launched.

Here is all you need to know about the process of selecting a new army chief.

Who has the power to appoint the new army chief?

The government of India has the power to choose the army chief. The government chooses a successor based on the security situation as well as the requirements that arise from time to time, noted The Times of India. It is worth noting that seniority has generally been the guiding principle while choosing the head of the third-largest army in the world.

Who exactly is responsible in the government for appointing the army chief?

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) is responsible for taking the final decision on the appointment. The ACC comprises of the prime minister, minister of home affairs and the concerned ministry, in this case the defence ministry.

File picture of Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. Getty Images

File picture of Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. Getty Images

How does the selection process go about?

The process of selection commences four-to-five months in advance, with the ministry of defence seeking personal data and professional profile of all eligible lieutenant generals from among the vice chief of army ataff and general officers commanding in chief of the various Commands, the IANS reported.

The service headquarter, then forwards data of the eligible candidates, including their professional exposure, achievements and operational experience. These are processed by the ministry and forwarded through the defence minister for consideration and selection to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, the IANS quoted an unnamed defence ministry source as saying.

Generally, the government appoints the prospective COAS as the vice chief of staff to familiarise him with the working at the South Block, the report added.

When is the announcement generally made?

The announcement of the next army chief is made two or three months in advance.

What is the tenure of the army chief?

The chief of army staff has a three-year term. Alternatively, the chief of army staff is in office till he is 62, whichever is applicable at the earliest.

Why has the move to appoint Rawat been criticised?

In an article in The Citizen, ex-army officer Lt General Vijay Oberoi said that such a move may play a negative role in the long run. “Chances of selection based on political, sycophantic and non-professional reasons may become predominant in due course, with professional and character qualities being sacrificed on account of extraneous issues.”

What about Lt General Praveen Bakshi now?

Media reports suggest that the current Eastern Command chief might be the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), a position first mooted after the Kargil War. The CDS will be the single point of contact for the defence minister as well as the prime minister.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 14:52 IST

Congress imposes ‘one family, one ticket’ rule for Punjab elections

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Facing a tough electoral battle in Punjab next year, Congress has decided not to let sitting MLAs in general seats change their assembly segments and strictly apply the “one family, one ticket” formula by not allowing two people from a family to contest. “These two rules are non-negotiable. We have decided that all sitting MLAs in general seats must defend their own segments. They will not get to replace their seats. Replacements will be allowed only in case of 34 reserved seats. Also, the decision to allot one ticket per family is final. It will not be bent,” Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh said in an interview.He said the remaining party tickets for Punjab are likely to be finalised by early next week when the party’s Central Election Committee headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi would meet. The former Punjab Chief Minister said allowing sitting MLAs to shift to other constituencies would send “wrong signals” to the party workers. “Everyone must go into this battle thinking they are winning,” Amarinder said at a time when many sitting MLAs of Congress, including some senior leaders, want to shift to other constituencies.Among those are six-time MLA from Sanaur Lal Singh, who wants to shift to Samana, but is unlikely to be obliged. Another MLA demanding a change is Indian Youth Congress President Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, who is hoping to shift to Muktsar though he represents Gidderbaha in the Punjab assembly. “No changes will be allowed for any general candidates,” Amarinder categorically said.Singh also said the first list of 61 candidates announced a few days back reflected the sentiment that the MLAs will have to defend their turfs when it comes to general seats. Former Punjab CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who was seeking to contest from Sunam has been fielded from Lehra, which she currently represents in the assembly. Similarly, the “one family, one ticket” rule will apply, said Amarinder.”The CEC is likely to meet on Tuesday,” he said, as 56 seats are pending declaration. Punjab assembly has 117 seats. On “one family, one ticket” rule, Amarinder referred to his own family in which his wife and Patiala MLA Preneet Kaur had stepped down in his favour. Similarly, sitting MLA from Qadian Charanjit Kaur Bajwa has stepped down in favour of her brother-in-law Fateh Jung Bajwa. Guriqbal Kaur Babli, the Nawanshahr MLA has vacated her seat for her son Angad Saini whose name has been announced in the first list.Also, former Madhya Pradesh cadre IAS officer Amar Singh, who was principal secretary to AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh when he was the state’s chief minister, has been fielded this time from Raikot reserved seat instead of his brother and sitting MLA GS Boparai. Congress is seeking to wrest power from the ruling Akali- BJP combine after two successive defeats. The state appears set for a tough three-cornered fight with Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party seeking to queer the pitch for both Congress and Akali-BJP alliance.

Bipin Rawat as the new Army Chief: All you need to know about his appointment and career

On Saturday, the Defence Ministry said that Lt General Bipin Rawat will be the new Army Chief and Air Marshal BS Dhanoa will be the new chief of Indian Air Force.

The appointment of Rawat has ignored the principle of seniority as Eastern Army Commander, Lt General Praveen Bakshi and Southern Army Commander, Lt General PM Hariz had spent longer time in service. Bakshi was also not appointed Vice Chief when the post fell vacant in September and Rawat brought in from the Southern Command.

Lt General Rawat and Air Marshal Dhanoa, presently the Vice Chiefs of their respective services, will take over on 31 December, when incumbents General Dalbir Singh and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha demit office on retirement from service.

Bipin Rawat. Getty ImagesBipin Rawat. Getty Images

Bipin Rawat. Getty Images

Who is Lt General Bipin Rawat? 

Rawat was commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles in December 1978, from IMA, Dehradun, where he was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’. He has commanded an infantry battalion along the Line of Actual Control, a Rashtriya Rifles Sector and an infantry division in the Kashmir Valley, and has vast experience in high altitude warfare and counter insurgency operations.

Commissioned into the IAF’s fighter stream in June 1978, Dhanoa, who has flown various types of fighter aircraft and is a qualified Flying Instructor, commanded a fighter squadron during the Kargil Operations and flew numerous night strike missions in the mountainous terrain.

He has also held a number of important operational appointments including commanding a fighter base and leading the Indian Military Training Team in Bhutan. He has also served as Chief Instructor (Air) at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Intelligence) and Senior Air Staff Officer (chief of staff) of two operational commands.

According to a report in The Indian Express, Rawat has authored numerous articles on National Security and Leadership which have been published in various journals and publications. He also has completed his research on military media strategic studies. He also has a Doctorate of Philosophy from Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut.

Why was he chosen? 

Army Chief appointments are made at the sole discretion of the government — it is free to choose any candidate. In most cases however, the seniority principle is followed, but the government said that it is purely on the basis of merit. The government on Sunday  justified the appointment of Rawat by  insisting that his operational experience and “general dynamism” tipped the scales in the officer’s favour.

“Lt Gen Bipin Rawat fulfills this criteria by virtue of his operational assignments as Commanding Officer of 19 Division in Jammu and Kashmir and his outstanding track record, his familiarity with the functioning of the Army HQ and MoD in his capacity as Vice Chief and his general dynamism has also played a role in tipping the scales in his favour,” the sources told PTI.

A report in The Times of India quotes a government source as saying: “He was chosen because he was deemed to be suitable at a time “when the threat from Pakistan and China has increased,” and his appointment isn’t “a reflection on anyone else.” A report in India Today states that Rawat has a decade of counter insurgency ops to his credit and had led his battalion against the Chinese PLA in 1986.

What’s the controversy? 

As soon as the appointment was announced, the Opposition expressed anger that the government had failed to respect seniority.

“Why has seniority not been respected in appointment of Army Chief? Why have Lt General Pravin Bakshi and Lt General Mohamed Ali Hariz been superseded, Mr PM (Narendra Modi)?” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari posted on his Twitter account on Saturday. “Why has third senior most officer Lt General Bipin Rawat with due respects to his professionalism superseded other two in a hierarchical force?” he asked.

Tewari further corrected himself saying: “Correction… General Rawat is not third but fourth senior most. Even Lt Gen BS Negi Army commander Central Command is senior to him? Why Mr PM?…And I only hope and pray it is untrue that this supersession in the Army is not a precursor to suppressions in other institutions Like SC?” Tewari asked. On Sunday, Tewari held a press conference and raised this issue. “We would like to ask the Prime Minister what was the compelling reason why this supersession has taken place. Why the principle of seniority, which has held now for almost two decades, was not respected,” he said.

The CPM on Sunday accused the Modi government of creating controversies over appointments to top posts and said the army should not be dragged into a row.

However, BJP was quick to respond to Congress and the Left front.  Hitting back at Congress and the CPM for questioning appointment of Rawat as new Army Chief, the Bharatiya Janata Party said that armed forces should not be dragged into political debate for political gains. “We condemn the Congress’s repeated attempts at dragging armed forces into political debate to suit its narrow political ends,” BJP spokesperson GVL Narsimha Rao said.

Surprise move, but not a first

This is not the first time the seniority principle has been given the go-by by the government. In 1972, the Indira Gandhi government had side-stepped Lt General PS Bhagat, who was next in seniority to then army chief General Sam Manekshaw, who later became a Field Marshal, by giving his junior, Lt General GG Bewoor a year’s extension. Bhagat retired in this period and Bewoor then succeeded Manekshaw. In 1983, again under Indira Gandhi, Lt General SK Sinha who most senior was superseded when General KV Krishna Rao demitted office and General AS Vaidya was appointed the chief.

It is likely that in the coming week, the Opposition is likely to rake up the issue more seriously.

With inputs from IANS and PTI

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 21:50 IST

Curfew in East Imphal: All you need to know about the Manipur violence, economic blockade

At least 22 cars, buses and other vehicles were torched in some places in Manipur’s Imphal East district on Sunday by angry residents protesting against the Naga economic blockade and several incidents of militancy targeting security forces.

Following the heightened tension and violence, parts of Manipur capital Imphal were brought under indefinite curfew and mobile internet services were snapped at various places to prevent spread of rumours.

Imphal East: Angry people set on fire vehicles in protest against the United Naga Council (UNC)'s indefinite economic blockade. PTI

Imphal East: Angry people set on fire vehicles in protest against the United Naga Council (UNC)’s indefinite economic blockade. PTI

The curfew was imposed on Sunday afternoon and covers Porompat and Sawombung subdivisions of Imphal East district, said an order issued by the District Magistrate. It will continue till further directions.

In Imphal West district, the major areas where violence flared up were around the area where three blasts had taken place within an hour on Friday evening.

The landlocked state has been experiencing severe hardship in supply of essential items since 1 November after United Naga Council (UNC) imposed an indefinite economic blockade on the two national highways that serve as lifeline for the state.

The blockade was imposed following the state government’s announcement of formation of seven new districts, four of which have been formally inaugurated. The UNC claims that the creation of new districts in the Naga dominated hill areas will encroach upon and divide the traditional land holdings of Naga tribes.

The blockade, however, has not only crippled trade and normal life in the state, it also stoked up the existing divide between the valley and the hill populace.

Tension in the state further heightened after suspected militants continued their violent attacks on Manipur Police and other state forces in the last few days that left three policemen dead and 14 others injured last Thursday. The attack was followed by triple bomb blasts at Nagaram area in Imphal West district allegedly by Manipur Naga People’s Front on Friday.

In another incident, suspected militants overpowered a small outpost of Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) at Nungkao area on Saturday in Tamenglong district and fled with nine service weapons.

According to a report in News 18, the violence and insurgency in the state — suspected to be carried out by various Naga outfits — has steeped in the recent past, even as the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah (NSCN(IM)) leadership claims that a political solution on the lines of Greater Nagalim is on the cards. The situation has worsened so much so that the Manipur Chief Minister urged the Centre in writing to snap all agreements with the NSCN(IM) and revoke the ceasefire at least in Manipur.

Thus, in the aftermath of the economic crisis and insurgency, a group of angry protesters on Sunday took to the streets and torched vehicles coming down from the Naga dominated hilly areas. Even as several vehicles were torched and vandalised, the arsonists did not target the vehicle drivers and passengers. The fire tenders and security forces, however, could not salvage the vehicles due to street blockades and protests.

Remains of torched vehicles in imphal west as tension between valley and hill populace flared up following a blockade imposed by a naga group. PTIRemains of torched vehicles in imphal west as tension between valley and hill populace flared up following a blockade imposed by a naga group. PTI

Security forces doze fire from the remains of torched vehicles in Imphal West as protesters set ablaze vehicles coming from Naga dominated areas. The tension between valley and hill populace flared up following a blockade imposed by a Naga group. PTI

Expressing the people’s resentment against the blockade, activist A Rajen told IANS, “Since the central government is pampering the United Naga Council (UNC) and the militant outfit underpinning it, the situation is getting worse day by day. The Centre is a silent spectator to the indefinite economic blockade imposed against Manipur since 1 November.”

The violence comes on a day when a state-wise bandh was called by various civil society groups in the state, including a group of women vendors of Khwairamband Bazaar. The protesters took out marches and forced all transport to stay off-road as they displayed placards saying “Remove NSCN-IM from Manipur”, “Declare United Naga Council an unlawful organisation” among others, according to a PTI report.

Earlier in the day, the state Cabinet decided to shut down mobile internet services in Imphal West district with immediate effect, taking serious note on the prevailing situation in Manipur following the three blasts on Friday and the subsequent call for state-wise bandh.

The Cabinet decision came after analysis of the prevailing law and order situation and to halt spreading of rumours through social networking sites, officials said.

All measures were being taken to contain violence by deploying a large number of police personnel at sensitive areas of the state, a police officer said.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 21:44 IST

SC upholds acquittal of ex-Army officer in murder case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It is “unfortunate that a crime is going unpunished”. This was the observation and finding of the Delhi High Court as it acquitted a former Army officer in a 34-year old murder of a Delhi businessman, saying it “cannot hang any person” if evidence on record does not conclusively establish his guilt.The order has now been upheld as “plausible, logical and persuasive” by the Supreme Court that also rapped CBI for failing to bring home the guilt of the accused.The case relates to the murder of a famous Delhi businessman, 40-year-old Kishan Sikand who was killed in a blast when he opened a parcel containing explosives in 1982.Lt Col S J Chaudhary, now 78, who was convicted and sentenced to life term by a lower court after facing trial for 26 years, was acquitted by the high court in 2009 after being absolved of charges of murder and under the Explosive Substances Act.The order was upheld by the apex court, which observed that “CBI has failed to bring home the guilt of the accused”.An apex court bench of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Amitava Roy dismissed the appeals of CBI and family members of the victim, who was the son of Sikand Motors showroom owner H D Sikand, challenging Chaudhary’s acquittal, saying the high court’s findings are “plausible, logical and persuasive” and it commands for affirmation.”Accordingly, in our opinion, the high court has correctly come to the conclusion after analysing the facts and the evidence. In our opinion, the arguments which have been put forward in the matter by the counsel appearing on behalf of Chaudhary, are much more acceptable in the facts and circumstances of this case.”The findings recorded by the High Court are plausible, logical and persuasive, reached by the materials on record and command for affirmation. Thus, we do not have any hesitation to hold that the high court has correctly come to the conclusions with the reasons given therefor. Accordingly, we do not find any merit in these appeals which are hereby dismissed,” the bench said.The top court said it appeared that the case was totally dependent on circumstantial evidence and held that the CBI has failed to bring home the guilt of the accused.

Manipur: Mobile Internet service shut down in West Imphal following chaos

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking serious note on the prevailing situation here following three blasts on Friday, the state Cabinet has decided to shut down Internet service in Imphal West district with immediate effect.The Imphal West District Magistrate issued an order directing telecom operators to shut down mobile data service in the district immediately until further orders.Major areas of the state capital fall in Imphal West district where the three blasts had taken place within an hour on Friday evening.The Cabinet decision came after analysis of the prevailing law and order situation and to halt spreading of rumours through social networking sites, officials said.The move was preceded by a 24-hour bandh called to protest hill based militants’ attacks on Manipur Police in the last few days in different parts of the state that left three policemen dead and 14 others injured. The militants also snatched several weapons from the IRB personnel.All measures were being taken to contain violence by deploying a large number of police personnel at sensitive areas of the state, a police officer said.

Violation of code of conduct: Amit Shah gets clean chit by UP Police

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Uttar Pradesh Police has given clean chit to BJP President Amit Shah in two separate cases of alleged violation of code of conduct during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.While filing the final reports on Saturday, police said there was no evidence against Shah.Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Arun Kumar has fixed dates for filing of objection by the complainants in the two cases.The court has fixed January 17 in Baburam case while January 3 in Ramkumar case for filing of objections, according to the prosecution.Earlier this year the court had returned the final report to police in the Barwar case filed by Baburam, saying they were deficiencies and asked them to rectify it.Police had registered case against Shah on the complaint of the then Sub Divisional Magistrate Baburam under sections 188 IPC (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 123(3) of Representation of People Act (relating to appeal by a candidate to vote on basis of religion, race, caste, community or language) and on the complaint of Assistant Returning Officer Ram Kumar separately in Kakroli and New Mandi police stations in the district.The BJP leader was accused of making objectionable speeches in Barwar village.Shah had allegedly said that, “If (Narendra Modi) Modi wins, ‘mulla’ Mulayam’s government will fall”.The cases against the BJP leader were registered on the directive of the Election Commission which had banned the leader from campaigning in UP.

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat to be new Army Chief, Air Marshal BS Dhanoa to head IAF

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government on Saturday appointed vice chief of army staff Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the new Army chief superseding his two senior officers, while vice chief of air staff Air Marshal B S Dhanoa has been made the new chief of the Indian Air Force.”Government has decided to appoint Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, vice chief of army staff, as the next chief of army staff with effect from afternoon of December 31,” the Defence Ministry said in a tweet. It also tweeted that Air Marshal B S Dhanoa will take over as IAF chief with effect from afternoon of December 31.Lt Gen Rawat, an infantry soldier, superseded senior most army commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, who headed the Eastern Command and was next in line to be the army chief, besides Southern Command Chief P M Hariz.Government sources said Lt Gen Rawat was found best suited among the Lt Generals to deal with emerging challenges, including a reorganized and restructured military force in the north, continuing terrorism and proxy war from the west, and the situation in the North-East.They said Lt Gen Rawat has tremendous hands-on experience of serving in combat areas and at various functional levels in the Indian Army over the last three decades.He has handled various operational responsibilities in many areas, including along the LoC with Pakistan, the LAC with China and in the North-East.He is known for his balanced approach towards soldiering, compassion, and connect with civil society.His experience as GOC-in-C Southern Army Command in Mechanised Warfare has been focused towards the western borders, in coordination with the other two services, the sources said.Supersession in the army is not new though there has not been any such instances in the recent past. In 1983, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had appointed Lt Gen A S Vaidya as army chief superseding Lt Gen S K Sinha, who resigned in protest.Earlier in 1972, the Gandhi government side-stepped the very popular Lt General P S Bhagat, one of the handful of Indian Victoria Cross awardees from World War II, who was in line to succeed General (later Field Marshal) Sam Manekshaw.This was done by giving his junior, General G G Bewoor a year’s extension, during which time Bhagat retired. Bewoor, thus, succeeded Manekshaw.Defence Ministry sources said the focus was on suitability and merit for the selection of the new Army chief.They said that Lt Gen Bakshi, an Armoured corps officer, spent most of his career in Jodhpur and had two postings in Kashmir but the positions he was in were not considered field posting.The sources added that Lt Gen Hariz had no experience in operational areas in terms of counter insurgency or seeing action along the LoC.With Lt Gen Rawat’s sudden promotion as the army chief, the line of succession in the force will get affected.The IAF, which has also seen supersession in the past, was set for a smooth transition with Dhanoa, the first in line for the post, named its new chief.He was commissioned into the fighter stream of the IAF in June 1978. He has served in various squadrons and in the Intelligence Directorate of Air Headquarters.Rawat was commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles in December 1978, from IMA, Dehradun, where he was awarded the Sword of Honour .The General Officer has vast experience in high altitude warfare and counter insurgency operations.He commanded an Infantry battalion along the Line of Actual Control in the Eastern sector, a Rashtriya Rifles sector and an Infantry Division in the Kashmir Valley. He has tenanted instructional appointments at Indian Military Academy, Dehradun and Army War College, Mhow.Lt Gen Rawat also held important staff appointments at Directorate General of Military Operations and Military Secretary s Branch at Army Headquarters.He has been Major General General Staff at HQ Eastern Command. The officer commanded a Multinational Brigade in a Chapter VII mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC).An alumni of Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, the Higher Command and National Defence College Courses, the General Officer, during the span of over 35 years of service in uniform, has been awarded for gallantry and distinguished service.Prior to taking over as the VCOAS, Lt Gen Rawat was holding the post of the GOC-in-C, Southern Command.

Rajiv Jain appointed as new IB chief, Anil Dhasmana to head RAW

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jharkhand cadre IPS officer Rajiv Jain was on Saturday appointed as the new chief of Intelligence Bureau (IB) while Anil Dhasmana will head external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).Both the officers will have a tenure of two years. Jain, who is at present serving as the Special Director in the IB, will take over on January 1 after the incumbent Dineshwar Sharma completes his two-year tenure on December 31. A recipient of President’s Police Medal, the 1980-batch officer has served in various departments of the IB including the sensitive Kashmir desk.He was advisor to the previous NDA government’s interlocutor on Kashmir K C Pant when talks were held with separatist leaders like Shabbir Shah. In another appointment, Anil Dhasmana will take over the reins of the Research and Analysis Wing, an organisation which looks after the external intelligence of the country. He succeeds Rajinder Khanna who completes his tenure this year end. Dhasmana, a 1981-batch officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, has been with RAW for the last 23 years during which he has served on important desks including Pakistan.

Pakistani troops violate ceasefire, target army posts, civilian areas in Poonch

Poonch (J&K): After a lull of over three weeks, the ceasefire on the LoC was violated again with Pakistani army on Friday, resorting to heavy cross-border firing at Indian posts and civilians areas in Balakote sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district.

“Pakistani army violated ceasefire, targeting Indian positions along the Line of Control in Balakote sector. The firing started at 0900 hours continued till 1000 hours. Our soldiers gave a befitting reply,” an army official said.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The ceasefire breach comes after a lull of over three weeks. Two BSF jawans were injured in shelling by Pakistani troops along the LoC on 23 November, a day after three Indian soldiers were killed and the body of one of them was mutilated in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

A senior police officer said shells fired by the Pakistani troops landed in civilian areas in the sector. However, there was no report of loss of life or injury to anyone.

The Pakistani army said one civilian was killed and four school children were injured on their side in the exchange of fire.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 15:41 IST

Indian Army Major Anita Kumari commits suicide

Fri, 16 Dec 2016-11:30am , Jammu , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indian Army Major Anita Kumari allegedly committed suicide by shooting herself with her personal weapon.Prima facie she shot herself on the intervening night of December 14-15. The officer did not come to the unit and no one was aware about her whereabouts till her neighbours broke the door.Further details are awaited.

No intention to discriminate but must ensure uniformity: SC on barring IAF personnel from sporting beards

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> IAF personnel cannot sport a beard on religious grounds, the Supreme Court said making it clear that policies on personal appearance are “not intended to discriminate against religious beliefs” but to “ensure uniformity and discipline” which are indispensable to every armed force.The apex court observed that for the effective functioning of a large combat force, the members must bond together by a sense of espirit-de-corps, “without distinctions of caste, creed, colour or religion” and while on duty, every member of the Indian Air Force is required to wear uniform and not display any sign distinguishing one from another.”Regulations and policies in regard to personal appearance are not intended to discriminate against religious beliefs nor do they have the effect of doing so. Their object and purpose is to ensure uniformity, cohesiveness, discipline and order which are indispensable to the air force, as indeed to every armed force of the Union,” a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said while dismissing appeals of two Muslim personnel of IAF.Airmen Mohammed Zubair and Ansari Aaftab Ahmed had challenged dismissal of their plea by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in which they had sought setting aside of the air force order directing them to shave off their beard. By an August 26, 2005 communication, the personnel were informed that under the current policy of the air force dated February 24, 2003 and July 9, 2003 an airman was not permitted to have a beard on religious grounds.The bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, said there was no merit in the appeals as they were unable to show that their case falls within the ambit of Regulation 425(b) which says “personnel whose religion prohibits the cutting of the hair or shaving of the face of its members will be permitted to grow hair or retain beard”.”In the circumstances, the commanding officer was acting within his jurisdiction in the interest of maintaining discipline of the air force. The appellant having been enrolled as a member of the air force was necessarily required to abide by the discipline of the force,” the court said.

DNA Evening Must Reads: Govt demands apology from Rahul Gandhi, Disabilities Bill passed in Rajya Sabha, and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Govt demands Rahul’s apology, says allegations against PM Modi made out of ‘desperation’Rejecting as “baseless” the allegations levelled by Rahul Gandhi against the Prime Minister, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar on Wednesday said they were made out of “desperation” and asked the Congress Vice President to apologise. Read more hereRights of Persons with Disabilities Bill passed in Rajya SabhaA bill stipulating up to two-year jail term and a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh for discriminating against differently-abled persons was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Read more hereSyria: Nearly 1,000 people held at Iran checkpoint outside Aleppo, says Turkey’s AnadoluNearly 1,000 people from Syria’s Aleppo evacuated overnight after a ceasefire deal, are held at an Iranian militia checkpoint outside the city, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency quoted the head of the Turkish Red Crescent as saying on Wednesday. Read more hereVoting by minority shareholders of TCS sent a strong signal for governance reform: Cyrus MistryA day after being voted out as TCS’ director, Cyrus P Mistry on Wednesday took the moral high ground, saying over 70% of non-promoter shareholders either voted against the resolution to remove him or abstained. Read more hereAmazon Prime Video launched, now access movies and shows at Rs 42/monthAmazon Prime Video is now available on Android and iOS. Read more hereCrime Patrol actor Kamlesh Pandey commits suicideTV serial actor Kamlesh Pandey, who had played a police officer in Crime Patrol, committed suicide by reportedly shooting himself in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. The reason behind his suicide is not known. According to reports, he was in Sanjivini Nagar and his wife’s sister Anjani Chaturvedi was present. Read more here

Congress guns for Rijiju over Rs 450-crore ‘scam’, minister says ‘I am not connected with the audio tape’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Setting the scene for a showdown with the Modi government in Parliament, the Congress on Tuesday demanded Union minister Kiren Rijiju’s resignation on account of an “audio proof” and documentary evidence which claimed that he facilitated a Rs 450-crore scam embedded in a huge hydro-electric project in his home state of Arunachal Pradesh.Congress alleged that Satish Verma, the Chief Vigilance Officer with North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ld (NEEPCO), had said in a report that the government was in danger of being swindled of nearly Rs 450 crore because it was being presented with inflated and fictitious bills. These bills were for the removal of large stones and boulders in trucks for the construction of a dam in Rijiju’s constituency.Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed that an audio recording of Verma’s conversation with the minister’s relative Goboi Rijiju revealed that the official is about to be promoted. In the audio tape, Goboi Rijiju also offered: “Sir, if there is anything that my brother can do, please do let me know.”
ALSO READ Not a crime to help poor tribals, all payments made during Congress regime, says under-fire Kiren Rijiju Coming back hard on the Congress for “malicious” intent, Rijiju reacted, “Those who are planting this news, if they come where we are, they will get hit with shoes. Is it corruption to try and help your people?”Backing Rijiju strongly, the BJP said, “Satish Verma is a charge-sheeted officer with a dubious track record and continues to work as a political fixer for the Congress party. The entire contract works were allotted when the Congress party was in power.Later, a much sober Rijiju told DNA, “It is the Congress that should apologise to the nation. I don’t have any brother. All works allotted and payments made were during Congress rule. I am not connected with the audio tape.”To bolster his claim that there was no wrong doing, Rijiju also posted on Twitter the letters he had written to Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal, the latter’s reply to him and the representation by local residents of his constituency West Kameng bearing ten signatures.Besides, the ministry of power also came out with a long clarification on the government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) website questioning the intent of wild allegations made in the media along with the copies of correspondence.Putting across the facts, the clarification said, “The letter written by Hon’ble MoS Home Affairs has no bearing on any payments released by NEEPCO as the payment had already been released before his letter under authorization of Shri Verma. NEEPCO is a Mini Ratna company and the government does not interfere in the operational matters of PSUs. No instructions or directions by the Government were given to NEEPCO at any time for making any payments. Thus, the allegations made are baseless, totally false and seem to be motivated by the charge sheet issued against an officer for violation of CVC instructions and service conduct rules.”Congress insiders from Arunachal Pradesh, however, conceded that allegations of corruption on Rijiju and demands for his resignation will not stick and the party is looking only for political gains.”Rijiju is a title of Miji tribe which has only 37,000 people spread out in the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. In West Kameng, the Miji population is much less and in Arunachal it is normal for a minister to get representation from people and forward it to ministry concerned with a request for expediting the work. Every minister writes such letters in hundreds. There is nothing extraordinary in Rijiju’s letter,” conceded a local Congress leader from Arunachal.

‘Kiren Rijiju did no wrong’, says Power Ministry, rushing to his defence

New Delhi: Springing to the defence of minister Kiran Rijiju, the Power Ministry has said payments to a contractor of power plant in Arunachal Pradesh were released even before the minister forwarded a representation for the same.

Kiren Rijiju. Image courtesy: Press Information BureauKiren Rijiju. Image courtesy: Press Information Bureau

Kiren Rijiju. Image courtesy: Press Information Bureau

Dubbing allegation of Rijiju using his influence to clear bills as “unsubstantiated, false and baseless”, the ministry said the vigilance officer SC Verma, who alleged corruption in the construction of two dams for NEEPCO’s 600 MW Kameng Hydro Electric Project in Arunachal Pradesh, had himself authorised the release of substantial payments to the contractor.

The ministry in a statement said Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiran Rijiju had on 9 November, 2015, forwarded a representation of local inhabitants of his constituency, complaining about the stoppage of payments to the sub-contractor of Patel Engineering Ltd for transportation of boulders/sand.

“At no point did Shri Rijiju recommend that payment be released but only requested that ‘kindly get this petition considered in your Ministry sympathetically on priority’,” it said, making public the copy of the letter.

But as much as 60 percent of the payment due to PEL was released on 4 November, 2015, on instruction of Verma, much before the letter of Rijiju. “Hence, the letter written by Hon’ble MoS Home Affairs has no bearing on any payments released by NEEPCO as the payment had already been released before his letter under authorisation of Shri Verma,” the statement said.

NEEPCO, it said, is a Mini Ratna PSU and the government does not interfere in the operational matters of PSUs. “No instructions or directions by the government were given to NEEPCO at any time for making any payments. Thus, the allegations made are baseless, totally false and seem to be motivated by the charge-sheet issued against an officer for violation of CVC instructions and service conduct rules,” it said.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 22:58 IST

Ministry of Power backs Kiren Rijiju, releases documents to counter Congress ‘Rs 450 crore scam’ claims

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Union Minister Kiren Rijiju was in the eye of a political storm today over an alleged Rs 450 crore scam in a power project in Arunachal Pradesh after he wrote a letter to the Power Ministry to clear the bills of contractors, provoking opposition demand for his ouster but he denied any wrongdoing. The controversy erupted over news reports that the Chief Vigilance Officer of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) Satish Verma, an IPS officer of Gujarat cadre who probed the Ishrat Jahan encounter case as part of the Special Investigation Team, had sent a report to the CBI, CVC and the Power Ministry highlighting alleged corruption in construction of two dams as part of the 600 mw Kameng Hydel project.In his report, Verma was said to have named Kiren Rijiju and Goboi Rijiju, who he claimed was the minister’s cousin, while alleging an “elaborate conspiracy” involving contractors, NEEPCO officials and the West Kameng district administration to defraud the state-run company and the government of funds that “may extend up to Rs 450 crore”. Alleging that it was a Rs 450-crore scam committed by using false and inflated transportation bills, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala released an audio tape of a purported conversation of the minister’s claimed cousin with Verma, and Rijiju’s letter recommending that held up payments be released. “Kiren Rijiju has no right to stay in office. He should either be dismissed by the Prime Minister or asked to resign till an independent probe is complete,” he said. The opposition party also targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying his “tall claims” of bringing transparency have “fallen flat” as had happened with several other scandals in the past including Vyapam, Lalitgate and the Vijay Mallya issue. “Mr Modi’s claims of transparency and honesty is now under question. People of India are looking at what action he takes on this issue,” Surjewala said. Rejecting Congress’ charge of his complicity in the alleged scam, Rijiju said he had only forwarded a memorandum received from “petty contractors” from his village to Power Minister Piyush Goyal on November 4, 2015 to get their petition considered on a priority.”I have written the letter to the Power Minister after I received representations from some people in my constituency in Arunachal West regarding pending bills. I have done no wrong and there is no corruption.”Peeved at the allegations, the Minister said, “Those who planted the story will be beaten up with shoes when they will come to our area.”He also denied that Goboi Rijiju was related to him, saying, “Among tribals in a village, everybody is a cousin. He is not related to me by blood. I have no brothers. Both my elder and younger brothers have expired.” National Secretary Shrikant Sharma also insisted that the contractor, who is at the centre of allegations, is not Rijiju’s cousin as alleged.”It is a completely baseless charge. Congress and its friends have hatched a conspiracy to target BJP as they have not been able to find a single case of corruption against our government,” he said.In his report, Verma said though the CBI conducted two “surprise” inspections, it did not file any FIR in connection with the alleged scam.Targeting the CBI, Surjewala alleged that the premier investigation agency has become a “puppet” in the hands of the Modi government and has not even registered an FIR in the matter despite the report by the vigilance officer.”If PM has courage of conviction, he must either sack Kiren Rijiju or ask him to resign and conduct a fair and free probe so that truth comes out…Till then, Rijiju should be divested of his post.””The Prime in the run up to elections used to say that he will neither do or allow corruption to happen. But there have been a series of charges of corruption that came to light in the Modi government,” he said.Payments to the main contractor Patel Engineering was stopped on the recommendation from Verma.Aam Aadmi Party also demanded Rijiju’s sacking for “trying to sweep under the carpet”, the alleged Rs 450-crore power scam.Addressing a press conference, party leader Ashish Khetan said the Minister of State for Home Affairs not only wrote a letter to Power Minister Piyush Goyal to release funds of contractors in state-run NEEPCO, but also “hid the fact that his brother was a sub-contractor in it.” Hitting out at the claims, the government said the claims were ‘false and baseless’ and that the contract issued in 2004 and 2012 were made under authorisation of the then CVO Shri SC Verma. They also added that there was no role of MoS Home Affairs in the release of payment. The Ministry of Power released a statement which said: Certain unsubstantiated, false and baseless allegations have been made by some persons in sections of the media about some alleged irregularities in payments made by NEEPCO Ltd. which are completely false and are totally denied.From the record, it is gathered that an officer, Shri S.C. Verma, who was appointed as CVO of NEEPCO on 8th October, 2014, was transferred on 4th July, 2016 to CRPF, since he was charge sheeted on 9th May, 2016 for continued violation of CVC instructions and for violation of All India Service Conduct Rules, 1968, for not performing his duties with due diligence and care. It was found that Shri Verma stayed away from Shillong, the headquarters of NEEPCO, for a total period of 310 days during the 18 month period (October 2014 to March 2016) without intimating the authorities or submitting any tour reports. It is also reported that most of his tours were to places which were not the area of operations of NEEPCO.After being relieved of his duties on 5th July, 2016, he sent 10 back dated reports to the Ministry of Power which were received between 18th July, 2016 to 25th July, 2016. Further it has been reported that Shri Verma retained some official files in his personal custody and did not hand them over at the time of relinquishing his charge. It has also been confirmed that 10 (ten) outward dispatch numbers were taken by Shri Verma from the Establishment Section of NEEPCO before relinquishing charge, and the same numbers were found in the office copy of the forwarding letters of these reports, which were received later on. The report on the alleged matter has been examined by the present CVO of NEEPCO and forwarded to CVC last month for appropriate action.As regards the alleged irregularities, it is pertinent to note that the project work was awarded to M/s Patel Engineering Ltd. (PEL) in December 2004, much before the present government took charge. Work for transportation of boulders/ sand was awarded to them in 2012 itself, much before the present government took charge. PEL executed the work from December, 2012 to July, 2015 and payment was made to them from time to time during this period, after due process of verification and measurement of quantity at site and the certification of distance by the State government officials namely Asstt. District Mineral Officer (ADMO), regarding quantity of boulder/sand mined from the respective quarry. In July 2015, Shri Verma visited the site and initiated an investigation and stopped all payments due to which the work at site was affected. On examination of the record, it has been found that, Shri Verma himself authorised on 19th October, 2015, adhoc payment of 60% of the billed amount and subsequently himself further authorised the provisional payment of 80% of the billed amount vide letter dated 3rd February, 2016.On 9th November, 2015, Hon’ble Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Kiren Rijiju forwarded a representation of local inhabitants of his constituency, complaining about the stoppage of payments to the sub-contractor of PEL for transportation of boulders/sand. At no point did Shri Rijiju recommend that payment be released but only requested that “kindly get this petition considered in your Ministry sympathetically on priority” (Copy of his letter and representation of local inhabitants is enclosed).Rijiju letter It was reported to the Ministry that, under the instructions of Shri Verma 60% payment had already been made on 4th November, 2015 to M/s PEL, much before the letter of Shri Kiren Rijiju. The same was intimated to Shri Rijiju by Shri Piyush Goyal, MoS (Independent Charge) Power vide letter dated 31st December, 2015. Piyush Goyal’s letterHence, the letter written by Hon’ble MoS Home Affairs has no bearing on any payments released by NEEPCO as the payment had already been released before his letter under authorization of Shri Verma. NEEPCO is a Mini Ratna company and the government does not interfere in the operational matters of PSUs. No instructions or directions by the Government were given to NEEPCO at any time for making any payments. Thus, the allegations made are baseless, totally false and seem to be motivated by the charge-sheet issued against an officer for violation of CVC instructions and service conduct rules. The following documents were also released by the government:

Gen Suhag has under 3 weeks in office: Can India ever avoid political delays in naming service chiefs?

Come New Year, India will have a new Chief of Army Staff (COAS), as the incumbent, General Dalbir Singh, is due for retirement. The very fact that the central government is yet to announce his successor has already made news. In fact, the issue will only get further politicised, just the same way Dalbir Singh’s appointment was, two years ago. And it’s all because of a convention that the incoming COAS (or for that matter, the new chief of Indian Navy or Indian Air Force) be announced two months in advance, in order to make the transition smooth.

Invariably, the vice-chief of army staff, who in turn is the senior-most in the service after the COAS, is promoted to the chief’s post (normally a term of three years or the age of 62, whichever is earlier), provided he is not superannuated (turning 60) before the day of assumption (if he is made chief on his last day in office, then he automatically gets an additional two years as chief).

Dalbir Singh Suhag is due for retirement on 1 January, 2017. PTI file imageDalbir Singh Suhag is due for retirement on 1 January, 2017. PTI file image

Dalbir Singh Suhag is due for retirement on 1 January, 2017. PTI file image

This convention, it seems, has been broken by the government. Only a fortnight remains for the new COAS to take charge, but as The Indian Express reported, the Modi government has not yet appointed Lt Gen. Praveen Bakshi, who heads Kolkata-headquartered Eastern Command, and the senior most General to succeed Dalbir Singh as the vice-chief (that post had gone to a relatively junior officer). Nor has the government officially announced Bakshi as India’s next COAS. The newspaper speculates that Bakshi’s background as an armoured corps officer is being held against him, as the post of COAS usually goes to those coming from infantry. The only armored corps officer to have made COAS was General Krishnaswami Sunderji, more than two decades ago.

However, all this is not to suggest that General Bakshi will not be made COAS. The point is that the delay by the government in announcing a name is giving rise to all sorts of speculation. In case Bakshi is being ignored or superseded by a junior for the post of COAS, he will be the next such officer to suffer this fate, starting with General SK Sinha in 1983.

But, fact remains that the previous Manmohan Singh government had also raised many an eyebrow when it announced General Dalbir Singh as COAS in 2014. The then incumbent, General Bikram Singh, was to retire only on 31 July, 2014. But the outgoing government of Manmohan Singh announced the then vice-army chief, Lt Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag, as next Army Chief in March, 90 days ahead of schedule, well before the standard two months. Going by convention, the announcement on the next COAS should have been made on or around 31 May, by which time there would have been a new government at the Centre. So why did the Manmohan Singh government make an announcement that should have been made by the Modi government? Why was the outgoing government in such a hurry? There has been no answer to this question.

Of course, the Modi government has more or less followed convention, by announcing the appointment of Indian Navy chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba, 40 days ahead of schedule (it should have been 60 days). Incidentally, his predecessor, Admiral Robin Kumar Dhowan’s appointment by the previous UPA government in 2014, also didn’t stick to the norms; his appointment came after an unprecedented gap of almost two months, after the equally unprecedented and untimely resignation of Admiral    Devendra Kumar Joshi. For two months, India did not a have a navy chief.

Going by convention, a serving chief has to not only be the senior most officer, but he also needs to possess experience of being a commander. Not all Lt Generals, Vice-Admirals and Air Marshalls are “commanders”. Unfortunately, the UPA government was not consistent in sticking to these established norms. While it wanted General Suhag, the senior most in the Indian Army having command experience, to succeed General Bikram Singh, it conveniently overlooked these norms in appointing Admiral Dhowan, who was not the senior most Vice-Admiral, and nor did he have any command experience. The Indian Navy has two operational commands — the Western Naval Command in Mumbai and the Eastern Naval Command in Vishakhapatnam. There is also the Southern Naval Command headquartered in Kochi, but it is a training command without real operational jurisdiction on high seas.

With the possible exception of Admiral Sushil Kumar, who was controversially made chief after the dismissal of Admiral V Bhagwat under the NDA regime in 1998, nobody heading the Southern Command has become chief. But in Admiral Dhowan’s case, this fundamental requirement of becoming a commander as perquisite for the consideration of the post of Naval chief was given a go by.

After the resignation of Admiral Joshi and Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, the flag officer commander-in-chief of the Western Naval Command was the senior most. As per established norms, he should have become the new navy chief. Predictably, however, he too resigned in protest, claiming being overlooked. The government reportedly overlooked him because quite a few naval accidents happened under his leadership of the Western Command, the reason for which Admiral Joshi had resigned earlier, under “moral grounds”.

This logic is dubious, to speak the least. First of all, as the armed forces in India are strictly under civilian control, any moral responsibility for the lapses should have been with the real leaders, which, in this case, was the defence minister. As Railways Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri once had resigned from the Union Cabinet after an accident; he did not ask the chairman of the Railway Board to quit. But then no Cabinet minister resigns under moral ground anymore.

So, could the government have turned down Admiral Joshi’s resignation, something Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had done in the case of General KS Thimayya, who had offered to quit following his souring of relations with the then Defence Minister Krishna Menon? Ships had sunk, aircraft had crashed and soldiers were killed in the past in peace time; but no chief had been punished. Nor for that matter do these mishaps affect the careers of the officers directly in charge, not adversely. So, why should these incidents have gone, first against Admiral Joshi and then Vice-Admiral Sinha?

It is this inconsistency on the part of the government of the day that unnecessarily makes senior military appointments a political issue. All the more so when confidential military matters are selectively leaked to the media from the South Block, as has been the norm in the last few years. See how documents regarding former Army Chief VK Singh’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir came to the political domain? There was nothing illegal on the part of VK Singh to launch “hearts and minds” campaigns in Kashmir to promote what he called “stability”, and another ex-army chief Shankar Roychowdhury called “sadbhavana”. But more importantly, General Singh’s actions had the complete approval of the then Defence Minister AK Antony. But Antony did not protest when his colleague, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, demanded a CBI inquiry against General Singh.

But for these partisan considerations, it’s anybody’s guess what the government of the day can do about the appointments. I, personally, do not believe the principle of seniority is a must in determining a service chief. When in December 2011, US President Barak Obama nominated General Martin Dempsey as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in place of Admiral Michael Glenn Mullen, he hadn’t even completed one year of his four-year term that had begun in April. In fact, Obama picked him as Admiral Mullen’s successor just one month after making him Army Chief. Besides, he was not the senior most four-star officer in the US when his new job was announced.

Now, could General Dempsey have achieved the top military position in India, had he been an Indian officer? Our system, and factors such as age and political considerations play a more decisive role in an officer’s career than his competence. I think India needs competent service chiefs irrespective of age. And when one talks of age, I do not necessarily buy the logic that one should give positions to those who are relatively young on a platter. General Martin Dempsey may have been young, but then the fact also remains that the United States recalled General Douglas MacArthur back to active duty three years after he had retired as the Chief of the US Army Staff in 1938. General Peter Jan Schoomaker, who had retired in December 2000, was recalled to head the US Army in August 2003. The point to be reiterated is that it is ability that alone should matter.

India is one of the few democratic countries in this part of the world where the armed forces are strictly under civilian control. We should be proud of our armed forces that they have always treated the principle of civilian control as sacrosanct. It is therefore unfortunate to see the appointments of the chiefs of our military services becoming partisan issues with political overtones.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 19:29 IST

Not a crime to help poor tribals, all payments made during Congress regime, says under-fire Kiren Rijiju

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Union Minister Kiren Rijiju came under attack over allegations that he influenced Power Ministry to clear bills related to a power project in Arunachal Pradesh, with Congress demanding his sacking but the minister denied any wrongdoing.Alleging that it was a Rs 450-crore scam in the form of false and inflated transportation bills, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala released an audio tape of a purported conversation of the minister’s cousin, a contractor in the 600 MW power project, and Rijiju’s letter recommending that held up payments be released.”Kiren Rijiju has no right to stay in office. He should either be dismissed by the Prime Minister or asked to resign till an independent probe is complete,” the Congress spokesman said.The opposition party also targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying his “tall claims” of bringing transparency have “fallen flat” as had happened with several other scandals in the past including Vyapam, Lalitgate and the Vijay Mallya issue. “Mr Modi’s claims of transparency ad honesty is now under question. People of India are looking at what action he takes on this issue,” Surjewala said.Hitting back, Rijiju, who is Minister of State for Home, said, “I have written the letter to the Power Minister after I received representations from some people in my constituency in Arunachal West regarding pending bills. I have done no wrong and there is no corruption.”Peeved at the allegations, the Minister said, “Those who planted the story will be beaten up with shoes when they will come to our area.”Rijiju also tweeted copies of the representation he received and the letter he had sent to the Power Minister. “Really cheap!… Is it a corruption helping poor Tribals?,” he said on twitter.Stating that the contracts were given and most of the payments made during the Congress rule, he asked the opposition party to apologise. Reports claimed that Rijiju, his cousin, a contractor in Arunachal Pradesh, Goboi Rijiju, and several top officials of the state-run NEEPCO, including its Chairman and Managing Director, have been named in a 129-page report by the PSU’s Chief Vigilance Officer Satish Verma that alleges corruption in construction of two dams for 600 MW Kameng Hydro Electric Project, one of the biggest hydro-electric projects in Arunachal Pradesh.NEEPC comes under the Union Power Ministry. “I pity Congress party … I feel that Congress should apologise to the nation for creating an issue which is non-existent. If local people have approached me to tell me that bills are pending and the bills are of small amount and what they are saying of Rs 150 crores, it is not like that,” Rijiju said.”Small pending bills, pending since 2012, 2013, 2014 before we came to power, the contracts were awarded when we were not in the government, the payments were paid when we were not in the government. Only I was told that some 20-30 per cent of payments were remaining which NEEPCO is not releasing the money. So I wrote a letter to the Power Minister that just look into the matter, thats it,” the Minister said. Verma’s report was sent to the CBI, CVC and the Ministry of Power in July this year. It alleges an “elaborate conspiracy” involving contractors, North East Power Corporation (NEPCO) officials and the West Kameng district administration to defraud NEEPCO and the government of funds that “may extend up to Rs 450 crore”. West Kameng, the site of the project, falls in Arunachal West which is the parliamentary constituency of Rijiju. The CBI has made two “surprise checks” but no FIR has been registered yet, reports said.Chief Vigilance Officer Satish Verma, a Gujarat IPS officer, was pulled up by NEEPCO for “unauthorised absence,” and transferred to the CRPF in Tripura soon after his report.Verma was also part of the three-member SIT set up to probe the alleged fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan in Gujarat in 2004 when Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister.Verma had said Ishrat’s killing was a “premeditated murder”. Surjewala said, “This is a very serious issue. The Prime Minister should speak out on this issue…. “If PM has courage of conviction, he must either sack Kiren Rijiju or ask him to resign and conduct a fair and free probe so that truth comes out…Till then, Rijiju should be divested of his post.” “The Prime in the run up to elections used to say that he will neither do or allow corruption to happen. But there have been a series of charges of corruption that came to light in the Modi government,” he said.Payments were stopped after a letter by the Chief Vigilance Officer conducted a probe into the issue, he claimed.Targeting the CBI, Surjewala alleged that the premier investigation agency has become a “puppet” in the hands of the Modi government and has not even registered an FIR in the matter despite the report by the vigilance officer.Surjewala also played out a purported audio conversation between Goboi and Verma and the opposition party claimed it also had a mention of the goings on that led to pulling down of the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh.He claimed Rijiju’s relative was clearly attempting to influence the CVO in the 28-minute tape and was using his Minister brother’s name to seek his help in getting the bills cleared and was also enticing him with a promotion.”There seems to be a connection with making of these payments and were some of these payments used to buy and sell legislators is a matter that needs to be seriously probed,” he said.Alleging that “inflated” bills were put up for bringing boulders for the dam construction, he said some of the huge boulders were shown to be carried on scooters, motorcyles and cars by a single driver at the same time.

Jammu and Kashmir: Former Pakistani army man arrested by BSF along IB in Samba

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An ex-army man from Pakistan was arrested by BSF while he was trying to sneak into the country from the International Border (IB) along Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir.The intruder, who was nabbed last evening, has been identified as Mohammed, 65, of village-Gandyal in Pasroor tehsil of Sialkot, which is in Pakistan’s Punjab province, a senior BSF officer said, adding that the man disclosed that he had retired from Pakistan army.”Late last evening, alert BSF troops noticed suspicious movement on Pakistani side near the fence in Ramgarh Sector and they fired a few rounds,” a senior BSF officer said.The officer said visibility was hindered due to fog and wild growth.”Later, at some distance at about 01:00 hours, a BSF jawan on duty again observed suspicious movement of a person in front of a fence on Indian side of IB,” he said.The intruder was forced to surrender and was arrested, the officer said.