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Uttarakhand sticks to Bhagirathi ESZ plan despite being temed ‘destructive’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Despite being termed as “destructive” for water resources by the union ministry, the Uttarakhand government has stuck to its zonal master plan of the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) that proposes to open up the fragile area for hydropower projects above 2 MW, mining, and roads. The last pristine stretch of Ganga flows through this ESZ.At a meeting on Thursday with the union ministry for water resources, and union ministry for environment and forest, a posse of Uttarakhand officials justified these projects and objected to water ministry’s reservations.The meeting was convened as per National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) directions which asked water resources secretary Shashi Shekhar to sit down with Uttarakhand government and environment ministry to find a way ahead on the contentious zonal master plan. Members of the ESZ expert monitoring committee and two environment ministry officials were also present during the meeting. The Tribunal is hearing a plea on effective implementation of the Bhagirathi ESZ and on compensation for victims of 2013 Uttarakhand disaster.During the meeting, Uttarakhand chief secretary S.Ramaswamy and power secretary Umakant Panwar submitted to Shashi Shekhar that they were not in agreement with the water ministry’s opposition to the hydropower projects and riverbed mining as it will hit investments. According to sources present at the meeting, Uttarakhand officials said that there was little anthropogenic pressure on the resources and even population density was low, thus making it ideal for hydropower projects.They argued that small hydropower projects are ‘white’ projects that are non polluting in nature. The state government wants Centre to allow ten hydropower projects of 82MW total capacity. In August, the environment ministry agreed to consider these projects for approval and also allowed riverbed mining up to 2m depth and road construction on steep slopes.But, DNA reported last week that these decisions were termed “disastrous” by Shashi Shekhar in a letter to the secretary, environment ministry, as they were against the provisions of the ESZ notification.Pointing out to the restrictions on road building on steep slopes and riverbed mining, the officials also said in the meeting that “special rules” were being applied to Uttarakhand, sources added. To this, expert committee member Ravi Chopra said that the restrictions were in place since the stretch of Ganga between Gaumukh and Uttar Kashi is sensitive.Responding to the state government’s submissions, water resources secretary Shashi Shekhar said that in the present form the zonal master plan is in violation of the ESZ notification and any amendments could only be done only with the approval of the union cabinet and the Parliament. Interestingly, the environment ministry, which has agreed to consider Uttarakhand government’s proposal to allow ten hydropower projects in the ESZ did not make any submission during the meeting.”The zonal master plan violates the ESZ notification and the Uttarakhand government never wanted to prepare this master plan. There is no rationale in studying the impact of hydropower projects as the notification does not allow for such kind of development,” said Mallika Bhanot, member, ESZ expert monitoring committee.

The volunteers who saved flooded Chennai

A year on from the devastating Chennai floods, we hear from the volunteers who kept the city afloat.

Demonetisation: Updated Paytm app to allow shopkeepers accept card payments

New Delhi: Digital payments company Paytm today launched an updated app that will allow small shopkeepers to accept payments made through credit and debit cards.

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The app will be particularly useful for small shopkeepers without card swiping machines, ensuring they do not lose out on business amid the ongoing cash crunch following demonetisation.

“Paytm has updated its app to launch India’s first APP POS, which will democratise digital payments. With this, any shopkeeper who has a smartphone and mobile internet, can accept debit and credit card payments from customers,” Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder and CEO – Paytm said.

Explaining the new facility on its app, Paytm said that under `Accept Payment’ icon, small shopkeepers and businesses can self-declare their details and provide bank account details to start receiving payments instantly up to Rs 50,000 a month as stipulated by RBI.

The shopkeeper will generate a bill for the item sold and hand over the phone to the customer for entering card details. The details, entered by the customer, will not reside on the app itself, but on the bank’s website, making the process secure, Paytm said.

This comes at a time when scrapping of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes has forced consumers to adopt digital payment and cashless transactions, to tide over the liquid cash crunch.

Mobile wallet companies including Paytm, have seen manifold increase in transactions and new users coming on board with people turning to digital platforms as serpentine queues outside ATMs continue to hassle cash-strapped public.

Stating that there are 740 million cards in India at present, but only 1.5 million POS machines, Sharma said that he expects 10 million app POS to be downloaded before the weekend. As many as 15 million app POS merchant are expected by November-end, he added.

Paytm will not charge transaction fee for the same till December 31.

“There will be no fee for all debit cards till December 31 on the App POS…Paytm expects to launch its Payments Bank at the earliest and if you take this money to our Payments Bank, it will be perpetually free,” he said.

Only 3.5 per cent of all retail outlets in the country accept debit and credit cards with near zero penetration in the mass retail segment, which makes up more than 90 per cent of all retail in India, Paytm said.

“India is witnessing a digital and cashless revolution. With this facility, shopkeepers can accept credit or debit card payment of up to Rs 50,000 a month at zero per cent charge and thereafter take it to the bank account,” he said.

The App POS has been updated for Android devices at present, and iOS version is in the works.

The company said it is currently registering an average of 5 million transactions, with an annualised gross merchandise value or GMV – an industry term for estimating the total worth of goods sold through a digital platform – of Rs 30,000 crore.

The company further said that over 15,00,000 offline and online merchants across India accept Paytm as their preferred payment mode.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 16:56 IST

I think Narendra Modi may give Bharat Ratna to PV Narasimha Rao: Sanjaya Baru

Sanjaya Baru was media adviser to Manmohan Singh during his tenure as Prime Minister. His experiences in the PMO became the subject of Baru’s 2014 book on Singh, The Accidental prime Minister. Now, Baru has turned his gaze to another Indian PM, Narasimha Rao. In 1991: How PV Narasimha Rao Made History, Baru examines how Rao steered the country towards economic reform.

Excerpts from an interview with Firstpost:

Manmohan Singh and P V Narasimha Rao are the subjects of your previous and current books, respectively. You were well acquainted with both of them and knew them personally. Was there is a specific reason for choosing them as subjects?

Sanjaya Baru: Frankly, that was not part of any plan. I wrote my earlier book because I felt that there was a story to tell and I wrote this one as (I have mentioned in the book itself) we are now in silver jubilee year of ‘1991’. In the last several months, there were many articles  that appeared in various publications about 1991. But I found that most of the writings were about what the economist did, whether it was Dr Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Rakesh Mohan or Rangarajan . Many in the media also gave out awards like Economic Times did, for Reformer of the Year.

However, many of them forgot that the political leadership at that time was provided by PV Narasimha Rao. When I started reading about it, I realised that even Chandra Shekhar  had played an important role, as he was the Prime Minister for the first six months (from November 1990) and the crisis actually started developing from October 1990.

I started reading about his role and what happened during his tenure and I realised that both Rao and Chandra Shekhar played important roles. The book, in a sense, is not just about Rao. It is also about Chandra Shekhar. At the end of the day, the fact is that Rao became Prime Minister and succeeded, while Chandra Shekhar lost his job.

Sanjaya Baru. Photo by Naresh Sharma/FirstpostSanjaya Baru. Photo by Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

Sanjaya Baru. Photo by Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

But at the book launch, most of the speakers devoted more time to Chandra Shekhar. Did you find that jarring?

Naturally Yashwant Sinha spoke about Chandra Shekhar, because he was in his government and I was expecting him to do that. I expected Chidambaram to be critical of Narasimha Rao. I wanted someone there to disagree with me. Normally, at book launches, there are speakers who just praise the author. That becomes boring. So I decided that there should be some controversy. After reading my book, he (Chidambaram) called me and told me that he was going to disagree with me and that he would point out some mistakes. I was worried — what mistakes had I made in the book? — so I read it again. I found that whatever I had written is authentic reality, as far as I am concerned.

For example, at the book launch we discussed his resignation and he questioned the way I have written it. And he gives a different version. But let me tell you, I have not written all the details as it would have been more damaging. The reason why I mentioned the resignation episode was to use it as an example of how Narasimha Rao chose to punish people who were close to Rajiv Gandhi.

The only two resignations he accepted were of Chidambaram and MR Scindia. Both of them thought that they were close to the Gandhi family, hence safe. By accepting their resignations, Rao was sending a bigger political message.  So I mentioned the resignation episode as part of the larger politics that was being played out at that time and not to get in details. If you get in the details, what Chidambaram said at the book launch was not correct. The fact is that Chidambaram met Narasimha Rao along with his wife and explained what had happened. And Narasimha Rao did not say anything. Chidambaram thought that the issue has been resolved. When he reached home, he was told that his resignation had been accepted. You see, Rao used to play such games.

It was partly to send a message that no one should take him lightly. Anyway, I expected Chidambaram to be negative about Rao. And I was not surprised. Naresh Chandra was there and he did speak about his interaction with Rao and made an interesting point which many in the audience did not register (which I have also mentioned in the book): Rao’s address to the nation immediately after he became the PM. He became PM on 21 June, and on 22 June he addressed the nation.

I have quoted from the address. His speech was written by Naresh Chandra. In the speech, Rao talked about economic reforms, the need to tighten our belt. He talked about opening up the economy. The fact that this speech was not written by an economist like Manmohan Singh or Montek Singh Alhuwalia is important. That speech was written by Naresh Chandra and some joint secretaries. What Naresh Chandra wanted to say was that Rao knew what he wanted. [We] knew what should be done. As a cabinet secretary, Chandra was briefing the press regularly and everyone was fully prepared for the change. So he was saying, give us some credit. I do that in my book. I give credit to IAS officers like Naresh Chandra, AN Verma, Suresh Mathur.

So you are saying that the script for economic reform was written by bureaucrats and politicians?

No, I’m saying that a lot of people played important roles. I don’t want to underplay the role played by the economists. The fact remains that Rakesh Mohan wrote that note on industrial policy. Similarly, Montek Singh Ahluwalia wrote that paper on reforms when VP Singh was PM. Manmohan Singh provided leadership as finance minister. Dr Rangarajan was deputy governor; he played an important role. So all of them played important roles, I’m not denying that. I’m just saying the popular thinking, the press in particular, seems to project only economists as heroes. I’m saying that this was not right. Let us recognise the role of political leadership. I’m just trying to be balanced.

Is that true then that the foundation of the reforms was laid down by the Chandra Shekhar government and Narasimha Rao walked in on it?

It is true. If Chandra Shekhar had the majority, he would have done the same thing as Rao. However, two important things that Rao did were not on Chandra Shekhar’s agenda: one, devaluation of the rupee. Chidambaram told me that then in fact, Chandra Shekhar was very critical in Parliament when the rupee was devalued. Devaluation of the rupee was very important for trade policy reform but Chidambaram had argued that Chandra Shekhar would not have done it. Two, Chandra Shekhar would not have gone in for de-licensing. But the fact is that there was a programme with the International Monetary Fund which was being negotiated in December 1990 by Yashwant Sinha. That programme required certain changes in policy which Chandra Shekhar would have had to do.

1991 was the same period when VHP launched its movement of building the Ram Mandir. In your book you have ignored that completely. Was that deliberate?

Firstly, my book is titled 1991 and all of this happened in 1992. So there was no question of my discussing these events. I end with the first two months of 1992 because I had to mention the AICC election which happened in 1992. But in my book, in the last chapter, I have stated that Narasimha Rao had written a book on the way he saw the whole issue of Ayodhya and Babri Masjid. He is the only Prime Minister who has written a book on a policy matter which he had dealt with.

PV Narasimha Rao. PTI photoPV Narasimha Rao. PTI photo

PV Narasimha Rao. PTI photo

At the book launch everyone, including you, spoke of the Machiavellian streak in Rao. But of late, there have been attempts to praise him. In 1996 he emerged as a villain of peace. Why the recent attempts to praise him then?

Firstly, when you say that he was seen as a Machiavellian figure, I don’t see it as a criticism. That is praise. Politicians are supposed to Machiavellian. You don’t succeed in politics unless you have that streak. In fact, I used to say that Manmohan Singh was Machiavellian. For Manmohan Singh’s birthday, I gifted him a copy of The Prince. In one of his parliamentary speeches, he even quoted from the book to defend one of its policies. So when you say a PM is Machiavellian, that is praise.

Second the way we saw him in 1996 was because the Congress party chose to put the entire blame of the Babri Masjid demolition and defeat on Rao. This is what Rao had written in his book as well: that if things go wrong, he would be blamed, but if they go right, the party would take credit.  In fact, I have written in Accidental Prime Minister that even with Manmohan Singh, the arrangement was the same. So I’m not surprised that he was criticised so much. As the Congress needed someone to hang, they hanged Rao.

But I think the re-assessment that is happening today is happening for a different reason. That is because Narendra Modi has shocked the Congress Party by adopting one-by-one, various Congress leaders. He adopted Sardar Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose, Lal Bahadur Shastri. He has not given the Bharat Ratna to Rao. I think he may do so.

How much of subjectivity has influenced your book? As in one case you were associated closely with the subject and in the second, you had some kind of rapport with the subject.

Look, all books are subjective. Let us not fool ourselves by saying that something is objective and something isn’t. It depends upon how the author looks at it. It is the way I look at it. It is my subjective view. All you can do is to draw on the existing information to support that view. I’ve quoted from various people and various biographies, interviews and various reports. But at the end of the day, this is the view of the author. Now you can disagree with it. And my view is that in a democracy, everyone has the right to write a book. Every book is subjective as it is based on one’s own understanding. Even in disciplines like economics you can easily manipulate numbers to get your desired results and conclusions. So it is a theoretical framework and preconceptions that influence your work.

Being closely associated with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh you must have seen the manner in which the ‘first family’ influenced the decision. Is this the reason why the demand to divorce the Congress from the family is made?

I make a large point, which for me is very very important: The Indian National Congress was the party of the national movement. A large number of political leaders from across the country joined the national movement and INC. There were many in the INC before Independence who left the party after (we gained freedom) and formed other parties. They went into communist and socialist movements. But at the end of the day, the Congress was a national party until 1980. Even in Indira’s time, it was a national party.

In 1980, when Indira Gandhi returned to power, she started the whole dynasty business; [Sanjay] first, and then Rajiv. After that, we have this interlude when Rao became PM. Many of us thought that the Congress had gone back to being a normal political party and will not be ruled by one family. BJP is a regular political party where you become a member; you go up the ladder and become a leader. You have the communist parties which have the same process. The Congress was like this. Rao also became PM following this process. You see, all the regional parties have become dynastic. For the Congress to become a family party is shocking.

I come from a Congress family, but today, I cannot say that I am a Congress supporter. Rao’s tenure gave us the hope that Congress would become a national party. During Rao’s time, a lot of regional leaders did come out: Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra, Digvijay Singh in Madhya Pradesh and SM Krishna in Karnataka are few examples. There were many regional leaders who went on to become chief ministers not because someone in Delhi wanted them to but because of the political support they had.

Don’t you think that cases like that of Lakhubhai Pathak and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha will always be among the reference points in any analysis of the political life of Narasimha Rao?

First of all, in none of the cases was he implicated. He and many of his supporters see it as an attempt to discredit him. It was a systematic attempt from 1996 onwards to distance Rao. You have to seriously look at how many of these cases were genuine. I give a simple answer to this: you look at the wealth of his children and grandchildren and compare it with any politician of that time or today. Things become clear.

SC reserves verdict on appeals to cancel Shahabuddin’s bail

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict for Friday on appeals challenging the grant of bail to controversial Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Shahabuddin in a murder case by Patna High Court.A bench comprising justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy reserved the order after lawyers representing Shahabuddin and others wrapped up their arguments in the case.Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Shahabuddin, opposed the appeals challenging the grant of bail and said right to life and liberty should not be curtailed in normal circumstances.The apex court had on Wednesday come down heavily on the Bihar government for not placing facts before the Patna High Court which granted bail to Shahabuddin in a murder case and asking the state “were you in slumber till he got bail?”The counsel for Nitish Kumar government, which has RJD as its coalition partner, faced searching questions in the apex court which rebuked it for not being serious in pursuing the case against Shahabuddin.Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Siwan-based Chandrakeshwar Prasad whose three sons have been killed in two separate incidents, has sought cancellation of Shahabuddin’s bail and said enlarging him on bail was “travesty of justice”.Naphade had said his client has been suffering from media trial and said the state government has to be fair and cannot play with the liberty of an individual.

SC ruling allows Maharashtra dance bars to serve liquor, CCTV cameras at entrance

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said dance bars in Maharashtra will continue to operate under the old terms and conditions that permitted serving of liquor with CCTV cameras at the entrance.

Without putting on hold the new rules that limited the timings of the dances up to 11.30 pm, prohibiting serving of liquor and installation of CCTV cameras in the dance bar itself, Justice Dipak Misra and Justice C Nagappan said the “persons granted licence should be allowed to continue under old terms and conditions”.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“You ban liquor in the state,” the bench said, taking exception to the new rules that prohibits serving of liquor at the dance bars.

“Somebody has a bar licence and a dance bar. You can’t say don’t serve liquor. Anybody who has a bar licence, you can’t say that you can’t serve liquor,” Justice Misra said told the Maharashtra government.

“You fight for the dignity of women. You protect the dignity of women.”

Senior counsel Shekhar Naphade told the court: “I have a right to prohibit liquor in the bar and it (right to prohibit liquor) will remain unless it is taken away by the court.”

Appearing for the Maharashtra government, Naphade also defended the new rule that mandates the dance bars to install CCTV in dance area, saying it was a part of the police power of the state.

“I have a power to regulate and I have a right that my regulations are complied with. The only way I can do it is through CCTV,” Naphade told the court.

An apparently unimpressed bench said: “We understand logically and constitutionally the powers of the police.”

The bench asked senior counsel Jayant Bhushan, appearing for the dance bar owners, if they could make some arrangements so as to assist the police if needed.

Bhushan told the court that CCTVs had a chilling affect on the people coming to dance bars. “People have some right to privacy.”

Supreme Court to resume hearing of Mumbai dance bars case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court will on Wednesday resume hearing of the Mumbai dance bars case, where the bar owners have challenged the stringent norms regulating bars, while the Maharashtra government is justifying the need for these restrictions to ensure the safety and dignity of women working in these establishments.The apex court had on August 30 issued a notice to the Maharashtra Government over a new law for dance bar licences, while asking the BJP-led state government to reply within six months.Dance bar owners have objected to the restriction of maintaining a 1-km distance from any religious or educational structure claiming it was not possible in big cities. They claimed that another curb of shutting down the bars before 11.30 p m is discriminatory in the time when the central government was promoting round-the-clock business by commercial establishments.Maharashtra Government’s counsel Shekhar Nafade had, however, said they would fight the objections at the next hearing as the government had every right to frame rules in the interest of society.The apex court had in May directed the Maharashtra Government to grant licenses to eight dance bars within two days and asked them to give an undertaking that they would not engage employees with criminal antecedents near the dance area.The Dance Bar Regulation Bill, that was unanimously passed by the Assembly on April 13, among other things, prohibits serving liquor in performance areas and mandates that the premises must shut by 11:30 pm. It also imposes heavy penalties on dance bar owners and customers for not following these rules.The apex court had on 2 March rejected certain suggestions like providing live CCTV footage to police of performances in the dance bars and asked the state government to grant licences to owners within 10 days after they comply with the modified guidelines.

On Chandra Shekhar’s 89th birthday, it’s time to recall a PM with a difference

As an officer serving in the Special Protection Group (SPG), I had the privilege of working with four successive prime ministers — Rajiv Gandhi, VP Singh, Chandra Shekhar and PV Narasimha Rao. By ‘working’, I don’t mean I enjoyed unbridled access to the prime ministers but I oversaw various aspects of their security from close quarters and that exposed me to some facets of the four VIPs. Among them, I found Chandra Shekhar most simple, caring and accessible to the SPG personnel who remained concerned about  the wellbeing of the officers and men guarding him and his family members.

Even though he lasted for a very short period, he was known for his decision-making based on sound reasoning.

Once, a group of young civil service aspirants came to VP Singh requesting the enhancement of the age of candidates and pressing for an increase in the number of maximum attempts to appear for the entrance exams. VP Singh would always be evasive to their pleas and tacitly convey that their requests could be met, thereby raising false hopes — typical of a politician! Now the same group of young men met Chandra Shekhar when he succeeded VP Singh.

Without committing himself to their demands, he asked the cabinet secretary to examine the issue, and once it was made clear that the relaxation was not possible, Chandra Shekhar, during his subsequent meeting with this group, plainly told them that it couldn’t be relaxed.

The group protested and raised anti-prime minister slogans.

File image of former Indian prime minister Chandra Shekhar. Wikimedia Commons

File image of former Indian prime minister Chandra Shekhar. Wikimedia Commons

Undeterred and unfazed, Chandra Shekhar shouted at them and also counselled that the time wasted by coming to the prime minister’s home time and again could be better utilised in focussing on UPSC preparations and that way, the protesters would stand greater chances of success. Chandra Shekhar never practiced politics of cheap populism. His decision was for the larger interests and he did not care for any brownie points, which politicians normally go for.

Another important anecdote that comes to mind is about an Assam cadre IPS officer, whose wife was slain by Ulfa terrorists and he was next on their hitlist.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had deputed him to Bihar as a temporary reprieve. This officer’s elder brother, an inspector-general with the UP police, was detailed to oversee the prime minister’s security bandobast when the latter was camping at his hometown of Ballia. The I-G requested me to facilitate a meeting with the prime minister, wherein he could make a request to have his brother from the Assam cadre permanently transferred to Bihar, away from the Ulfa threats in Assam.

As soon as the prime minister heard this request, he said on compassionate grounds, “I can have his deputation period to Bihar extended by a year or so but I can’t have him permanently transferred to Bihar.”

The I-G reiterated his plea and said “Sir, the terrorists have even sneaked into Bihar and may kill him, and Assam is a sure-shot deathtrap”.

Without taking a second, Chandra Shekhar crisply responded, “I-G sahib, once your brother has joined the IPS, these occupational hazards will continue. If every police officer keeps seeking a transfer because of the fear of terrorists, how will the police function?”. The I-G did not have any counter argument and took his leave immediately. He knew his decision would evoke mixed emotions, but sometimes hard decisions have to be made.

That was Chandra Shekhar.

National interests were always uppermost in his mind and decisions he took were quick and conclusive.  It’s very rare to find prime ministers not wanting to stay in their designated bungalow. But, Chandra Shekhar was satisfied by continuing to stay in his MP’s accommodation at 3, Safdarjung Lane. Never did he attempt to occupy his official residence — on to which he was certainly entitled — at 7, Race Court Road. He lived with his extended joint family and would eat sitting on the floor with the entire household, plus his personal staff.

Simple vegetarian food amid discussions on a wide range of topics.

Chandra Shekhar was very caring of the security detail. In peak winter season, SPG personnel deployed at his house were served hot tea at regular intervals. On festivals like Holi and Diwali, everyone was served sweets. Such gestures were unprecedented and that they were coming from the Prime Minister of India made all the difference. Further, whenever he went out to a marriage or party, he would bluntly tell the host to look after his security detail first .

He invariably spared time to talk to his security complement more often than not, keeping them in good humour. That was characteristic of Chandra Shekhar. Once in 1990 while at Ballia, he asked me about his next programme. Hearing that it was Allahabad and I was going to cover it and knowing that my parents were living there, he directed his staff to load several kilos of sweets and fruits for my aged parents in addition to hand-woven sarees and dhotis .

Such noble gestures were frequently witnessed and I was not the exception.

There are endless accounts of Chandra Shekhar’s benevolence, generosity and large-heartedness. His term lasted only six to seven months but the impact he left behind is profound and will last for ever.

1 July is his birthday and these anecdotes are a tribute to that Young Turk — rustic in appearance but packed with so much finesse.

The author is a retired IPS officer who was in the SPG when Chandra Shekhar was prime minister. Views are personal

AgustaWestland case: TMC sought to corner Congress in RS

New Delhi: Trinamool Congress (TMC), which is facing the Congress-Left combine in the West Bengal assembly election sought to corner the Congress in Rajya Sabha by raising the AgustaWestland helicopter issue and wanting to know who the ‘Gandhi’ and ‘AP’ are the alleged bribe seekers in the deal.

TMC sought to corner Congress in the RS. AFPTMC sought to corner Congress in the RS. AFP

TMC sought to corner Congress in the RS. AFP

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Sukhendu Shekhar Roy (TMC) wanted to know who has taken bribe in the deal to buy 12 VVIP helicopters.

“Defence Minister has to give a statement. Why is the government silent,” he asked. “Who is this AP (named as alleged bribe taker in the deal)? Who is Gandhi? Who is Shashikant.”

He wanted the Defence Minister to make a statement on the issue after suspending regular business and matter discussed.

“Government has to disclose the identity (of bribe takers),” he said.

Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said there is no rule for suspension of business during Zero Hour and disallowed his notice.

Lucknow Metro shuttering collapses; 8 hurt, no loss of life

Eight labourers were injured, one of them seriously, when a shuttering between two under- construction pillars of Lucknow metro, a flagship project of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, collapsed in Lucknow on Sunday. However, there was no loss of life, District Magistrate Raj Shekhar said.He said eight workers were at the site when the incident occurred and all of them were taken out and rushed to a hospital.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While seven were released after first aid, one was referred to the trauma centre of King George’s Medical University Hospital in Lucknow in a serious condition.The mishap took place hardly two weeks after a heavy slab of concrete fell on a car during metro construction when a two-inch screw came off a shuttering in Lucknow. The incident also triggered panic as it came a fortnight after a flyover collapse in Kolkata, which left 26 people dead.PTI”No one is trapped in the debris,” said Shekhar, who rushed to the spot along with Senior SP Rajesh Pandey to supervise relief operations and the removal of debris by diverting traffic.”The incident took place at around 7 AM when a slab of 10×2 metre which was being cast near Alambagh bus station fell down,” the district magistrate said.”Rescue and relief works are going on. Administration, police and Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation (LMRC) teams are on job. We have also called National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) personnel and they have reached the spot,” the DM said.Cranes and bulldozers were immediately deployed to clear the area and ensure normal plying of vehicular traffic. Giving details of the incident, Pandey said the incident occurred when workers were filling concrete to reinforce the portion between two pillars at the busy Sujapura locality in Alambagh.”I was driving my vehicle when suddenly this part of the pillar fell. It is Sunday, therefore, there is not much damage otherwise more people would have been injured,” a person present at the spot said. An LMRC spokesman said, “Concreting work for the cross arm was going on at the site since midnight and it was about to be completed when the incident took place. The site has been cleared and the traffic has resumed.”The cross arm is used as a structural base to build the concourse level (middle level) of any metro station.”A director-level inquiry committee, including safety experts from the general consultants, has been constituted for conducting an inquiry into the incident. The committee will submit its report soon,” he said.The Chief Minister said, “All safety precautions will be taken. I will inquire about incident and issue directives to ensure safety of labourers. Those injured will be given free treatment.”LMRC is facing a tight deadline to complete the 8.5 km-stretch of the metro rail project from Transport Nagar to Charbagh under the priority section. It has to run trains on trails by November 2016.With LMRC going full steam to meet the Transport Nagar- Charbagh deadline set by the state government, opposition BJP cautioned that safety and security should not be sacrified for speed.”To ensure its completion before UP Assembly polls, safety norms should not be overlooked, thus, putting lives of people in peril,” BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said.Yadav has promised to run the first phase of the Metro before the 2017 Assembly elections and at present a team of senior officials of the government and LMRC are in France to review a 3D presentation of the project and inspect the design of the the metro.The team led by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Pandhari Yadav and LMRC Managing Director Kumar Keshav will hold a “detailed discussion” with experts of French firm Alstom which has the contract for the construction of the rail coaches.The officials will learn about the interior and exterior of the Metro, and after finalisation of the design, the coaches will be constructed near Chennai. The accident occurred despite issuance of safety guidelines by LMRC. Even E Sreedharan, the principal advisor of LMRC, during his recent visit to the city had instructed the LMRC MD to enhance security arrangements as soon as possible.

With reserves of less than 31% of last year, Centre plans water management guidelines for states

New Delhi: With some parts of the country facing acute water crisis, the government is likely to come out soon with a model Bill which will lay down guidelines for states on efficient management of the valuable resource by ensuring its storage. The Bill is being drafted taking into account opinions of various stakeholders and it is likely to be finalised by 15 May, Union Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar said here today.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“Drafting of the legislation is already on and the work is expected to be completed by 15 May. This is a framework law. It is not mandatory for states to adhere to it. (Water being a state subject,) states follow their own laws…

“But given the present water crisis, the country needs to follow some common practices to manage water. The Bill will be of help in this regard,” Shekhar said.

Shekhar said if need be, the ministry will consult other Union ministries before circulating the Bill among states. “It may take a month or so for us to circulate the Bill among states after the draft is finalised,” he said. Terming the present water crisis as “very serious”, Shekhar underscored a need for busting the “myth” among public that there is a “plentiful of water available in the country
and that too at free of cost”.

Referring to the water crisis in Maharashtra’s Latur district, he stressed the need for “comprehensive” thinking for water management over the next 10 years and pitched for storage of water, especially underground reserve, to avoid evaporation of the limited resource. “Although we have monsoon for a period of 90 days every year, it is only 30-35 days when we receive rainfall actually.
So we have to bear this is in mind and focus on storing water.

“We will also have to think in a very comprehensive manner about supply-demand combination. Latur has emerged as an example from which we can learn,” he said.

Latur district in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region has been witnessing acute water crisis and local authorities there have imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC near water sources in view of possibility of violence given the current grim situation. What raises concern is that water stock in 91 major reservoirs in the country has dipped to 24 percent of their total storage capacity, the government had said recently.

According to the Union Water Resources Ministry, only 37.92 billion cubic metre (BCM) of stock was available across these reservoirs for the week ending 7 April. The stock is 31 percent less than the corresponding period last year. These reservoirs have a total storage capacity of 157.799 BCM.

Three injured as concrete slab of Lucknow Metro caves in: NDRF arrives for rescue ops

Lucknow: Three people were injured, one critically, on Sunday when a concrete slab being laid on the Lucknow Metro Rail route caved in, police said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The concrete slab collapsed at Sujanpura near the Alambagh bus station, said the police.

The injured, said to be labourers, have been admitted to a nearby hospital, where condition of one is stated to be critical. Others are being treated for non-life threatening injuries.

District Magistrate of Lucknow Raj Shekhar told IANS that there were “no casualties reported as of now,” meaning the accident has not resulted in any loss of life.

Senior district and police officials are at the accident site, overseeing rescue operations.

Shekhar said that 15 personnel of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) have reached the accident site to help in rescue operations.

Totally bonkers: Five injured after drunk man’s celebratory firing at wedding in Delhi

Five persons sustained bullet injuries in celebratory firing by an inebriated man at a marriage function in outer Delhi’s Alipur area, police said on Saturday. According to police, the incident took place around 11 PM yesterday at a marriage party when a man, identified as Vikas Kumar, allegedly started firing indiscriminately by a shot gun as soon as the groom’s family arrived from Sonepat.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He fired the first two rounds pointing the gun towards the sky and by the time he could be stopped, he pointed the gun towards the ground and fired several rounds, making people run helter-skelter for their lives.While two of the bullets injured the groom’s friends, identified as Shekhar and Pankaj, three of them hit the members of the band party — Sartaj, Bablu and Teekam.Vikas, who was in an inebriated state, was held by the guests and police was called, following which he was arrested.Police has also booked the owner of the farmhouse, in which the marriage party was being organised, for allegedly allowing guests with gun, despite strict instructions against such practices.All injured persons were rushed to a hospital. They suffered mostly pallet and ricochet injuries in their knees, calves and thighs, police said, adding that their condition is stable and a case has been registered. PTI DEY SMJ

Jat quota stir: Protesters lift blockade on Delhi-Hisar rail route

Hissar: Jat protesters on Tuesday lifted their blockade from the railway track at Mayyar in the district, clearing the Delhi-Hisar rail route.

The railway track was closed since 11 February after Jat protesters sat on a dharna. Traffic is expected to be restored after railway authorities inspect the track.

Jat agitation in Haryana. PTI

Jat agitation in Haryana. PTI

Chander Shekhar Khare, deputy commissioner of Hisar, said the protesters have left the spot.

Spokesman of All India Jat Aarakshan Sanghursh Samiti Ram Bhagat Malik told reporters that they had vacated the track in view of the action initiated by the Centre in connection with the Jat reservation issue.

The bus service to Delhi and other places, including Rohtak, Chandigarh and Bhiwani, is yet to be restored as there
are many blockades, including trees on the National Highway which are being cleared.

However, curfew continued in five villages of the district in view of the faceoff between Jats and non-Jats in the area on Monday.

The curfew was imposed in five villages of Sisai, Pano Bolan, Kali Rava, Sainipura and Dhanipal falling in Hansi subdivision of the district.

The Army and police are patrolling the affected villages.

PTI

DDCA files defamation suit against Kirti Azad, Arvind Kejriwal

Last but not the least, the man who moved this resolution — secretary DDCA Anil Khanna — is the same person who has been under Delhi government scanner for serving liquor on Oct. 2, 2013, for which the DDCA bar has already been sealed by authorities.

Chander Shekhar Luthra
Ritika Jain

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