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Opposition is fighting for its own difficulties and not for public: BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Launching a scathing attack on opposition parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party has said that the the former is fighting for their own difficulties and not for the public.”Opposition has not remained opposition anymore. Their coalition has broken as many parties have left, this is their first failure. The opposition has decided to protest after 30th December and no one has stopped them for doing that, they should continue with their protest as they will move away from the people the more protest they will do,” said BJP leader Rahul Sinha.He said the opposition is not finding a way to get out of the loss caused to them because of demonetization and on the pretext of fighting for the people they are making unconstitutional statements.Responding to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s statement of labelling Modi government as faceless, Sinha said that Mamta herself is becoming faceless as her neat and clean political image was tarnished by the Saradha scam.He said it has also been proved that opposition’s fight against the demonetization is the fight for the black money and for the people who own black money.”The more the opposition will raise their voice, the more BJP will gain,” he said.Sinha said it is unfortunate that opposition has not learnt from the recent election results in which the people have approved that the decision of demonetization was right.He said the Prime Minister will not reply to Rahul Gandhi, he will respond to the people and people till now have supported him.”Prime Minister himself had said that he is ready to face any decision that the people of this country will announce for him. People are giving their verdict that they are with the Prime Minister in this fight against the Black money,” Sinha said.”People don’t have any interest in Rahul Gandhi allegations. Opposition does not have any issue and their protest on the demonetization has also not worked, they don’t have anything and are just making unconstitutional statements.

Union minister Manoj Sinha undergoes surgery for fracture at AIIMS

Sun, 25 Dec 2016-12:15am , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union minister Manoj Sinha on Saturday underwent a surgery at AIIMS Trauma Centre for a fracture he suffered in the upper left arm in a road mishap in Gorakhpur.”The minister was operated on a fractured left upper arm. His condition is stable and is being monitored closely by a team of experts from critical care, anesthesia and orthopedics,” said a senior doctor at AIIMS Trauma Centre. The 57-year-old was involved in an accident that took place around 7.15 PM yesterday on the Tapti river bridge when he was coming to Gorakhpur from Barabanki.Sinha, who represents Gorakhpur in Lok Sabha, was initially admitted to Apollo Hospital and later shifted to the Lalit Narayan Mishra Railway Hospital. According to sources, the accident took place when the vehicle ahead of the minister’s car in the cavalcade suddenly applied brakes to avoid hitting a man. The car carrying Sinha hit the vehicle from behind and in the impact, the minister sustained the injury.

Dhulagarh riot: BJP central team stopped from entering violence-hit village

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A team of central leaders of BJP were stopped from entering the village at Dhulagarh, Howrah on Saturday afternoon, where communal clashes erupted last week.The Howrah (Rural) district police officials put up barricades to prevent the BJP leaders and supporters from entering the violence-hit area of Dhulagarh.”Section 144 has been imposed in the area, hence outsiders are not being allowed to enter. This is to prevent any law and order situation in the area. Currently, the situation has retuned to normal and is peaceful. However, though the locals are allowed to enter their homes inside the village,” said a senior police official.The central BJP team comprised of two MPs Dr. Satyapal Singh and Jagdambika Pal was accompanied by BJP state president Dilip Ghosh and national secretary Rahul Sinha to take stock of the situation and meet the victims of communal clashes.

MoS Railway Manoj Sinha injured in a car accident

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Minister of State for Railways and Mos (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Commications Manoj Sinha was reportedly injured in a car accident. According to reports he was taken to Apollo Hospital. It’s believed the accident occurred when he was returning from Gorakhpur. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted: “Shocked to learn about accident to my colleague and friend @manojsinhabjp Wishing him speedy recovery.”More details awaited…

Was Gen Bipin Rawat’s appointment as Army Chief pushed by the influential Gorkha coterie?

The appointment of Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat as new Chief of Army Staff has snowballed into a controversy, once it emerged that Rawat was not the senior-most officer in the Indian Army. The officers who were bypassed to let Rawat become the new army chief were not only more senior, but they were also in command positions, placed there because they are capable enough and experienced enough to become chief.

They have been on the frontline as active commanders. You don’t get to become an army commander unless you’re ready and trained, as simple as that. It’s not just a question of seniority; hundreds of very senior people get bypassed, sidelined, passed over, and continue to serve “juniors” for several years if they wish to stay in uniform. In all these cases, the officers are competent field commanders, and have already touched the stars…literally.

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty ImagesLt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

But then, it’s no secret that there is a coterie at the army headquarters. The Gorkha Rifles are so strongly represented at the highest levels that it raises eyebrows even within army circles. The incumbent Chief of Army Staff, Dalbir Singh Suhag, is from the Gorkha Rifles, as is Bipin Rawat, the man who will replace him on 31 December. In April this year, five of the 14 major generals promoted to their third star were from the Gorkha Rifles. The director general military intelligence, Lieutenant General SK Patyal, is from the Gorkhas. The director general military training Lieutenant General AL Chauhan is from the Gorkha Rifles.

These, by the way, are the top jobs at army headquarters; they oversee all strategic matters. Another very important position is director general military operations, currently held by Lieutenant General AK Bhatt, again from the Gorkha Rifles. Even the adjutant general Lieutenant General RK Sharma is from the Gorkha Rifles.

What are the odds that in an army of over a million, with dozens of battalions and regiments, all with glorious histories, the top five jobs would be held by officers from the same section of the army.

None of this is rocket science. And it’s all available on the public domain.

Sure, the Gorkhas have a proud history, but so do the Sikh Regiments, the Maratha Light Infantry, the Rajputana Rifles, the Madras Regiment, the Guards, the para regiments, the Punjab Regiment, the Grenadiers, the Bihar Regiment, the Jats, the Dogras, the Assam Regiment, J&K Rifles, the Armoured Corps, the Mechansied regiments, etc.

Handing command to a Gurkha is not a flaw in itself, but it means one regiment will continue to hold sway at South Block. If it is happening at the expense of others is a question worth asking.

Retired Lieutenant General Ike Singha, as head of the Peacekeeping Mission in Golan Heights in Syria and Israel from 2012 to 2015, has seen more action than anyone else in the Indian Army. This is what he has to say about the controversy over Bipin Rawat’s appointment. “The NDA government launched a surgical strike on the Indian Army by superseding very competent generals and selecting Bipin Rawat as the next COAS. In the past, only once has the seniormost army commander been passed over; when Lt Gen. Sinha was overlooked and Gen. AS Vaidya appointed COAS by the Congress government led by Indira Gandhi. History punished the nation for this folly. Gen. Vaidya lacked the moral guts to tell Gandhi that the army, an apolitical organisation should not be dragged into storming a religious place like the Golden Temple. Gen. Sinha, a strong man, would have perhaps resisted and that is why he was overlooked. The BJP resurrected Sinha, and he was appointed a member of the Rajya Sabha. Unfortunately, the NDA government has made the same mistake and overlooked two very capable officers. I have very closely served with all three senior officers and we have grown together. All three are thorough professionals and Praveen Bakshi and PM Hariz lacked nothing.”

“Modi, like Jawaharlal Nehru, feels that the country is not going to fight a war with any of its neighbours. Nehru showed Chou en Lai all our defence establishments, and the shrewd Chinese leader saw the chinks in our armour and annexed Tibet in 1959. India was stunned, but before it could recover from the jolt, China affected an embarrassing defeat in the 1962 war. Modi has a disdain for the Indian Army that I watched closely as General Officer Commanding in Gujarat. It seems he is going the Nehru way and has no inclination to learn from history. (Manohar) Parrikar is a technocrat and has been chief minister of Goa, a state with two districts. A novice in security matters, he thinks he has a magic wand and has a solution for all the complex problems and challenges facing the defence forces.”

He does not.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 15:26 IST

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat’s appointment by Modi government creates unease: Here’s why

Soon after coming to power in 2014, the Narendra Modi government decided to honour the outgoing UPA government’s announcement on Lieutenant-General Dalbir Suhag’s elevation as India’s army chief. There was much speculation as his predecessor, General VK Singh who had done everything under his power to stop Suhag from getting the top job, was now not only in the BJP, but had been elected to Parliament.

Putting all speculation to rest, Modi decided to honour the well-established convention of the senior-most officer getting the top job and appointed Suhag. But, when it came to the navy, the Modi government overlooked the claims of the senior-most officer — Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sinha — and instead appointed the vice-chief and his junior, RK Dhowan as the Chief of Naval Staff.
But the navy is a smaller arm when compared to the over one million strong Indian Army. Naval supersession did not evoke much comment.

However, two years later the decision to appoint Lieutenant-General Bipin Rawat as the next army chief superceding two highly respected and competent officers, has come as a shock to many in the armed forces. Probably for the first time, two successive chiefs come from the same regiment — Gurkha Rifles.

Interestingly, Rawat’s appointment as army chief comes days after Pakistan appointed General Qamar Javed Bajwa as their new chief, both of them served in Congo as part of the UN Peacekeeping Force under General Bikram Singh, who later became India’s army chief.

File image of Lieutenant-General Bipin Rawat. Getty Images

File image of Lieutenant-General Bipin Rawat. Getty Images

Rawat’s appointment has bypassed two senior officers. Lieutenant-General Praveen Bakshi, commander-in-chief, Eastern Command — a highly respected officer, who was seen as a natural successor to Suhag. Across all ranks, the Indian Army looked forward to Bakshi’s appointment because of his exemplary credentials and the enormous respect he commands among both officers and men. The other officer superseded is commander-in-chief, Southern Command, Lieutenant-General PM Hariz, also held in high esteem.

Why did the government supersede two officers to appoint Rawat? The real reason will never be known and the explanation put forward by the government is far from convincing. The government explanation that Rawat has more experience in tackling counter-insurgency and of high altitude warfare sounds pretty facile. After all, no army chief leads formations to battle.

Bakshi, as C-in-C of the Eastern Command, is responsible for all counter-insurgency operations along the China border and in the North East region. He has served armoured brigades in Jammu and Kashmir and the western sector.

At a time when parochial interests dictate many decisions, the appointment of Rawat is bound to keep speculators busy for a long time.

There is media speculation that Bakshi might be in for a more coveted job, that of the CDS or Combined Defence Services Chief, a post which has been debated for several years but no political party has put its final stamp of approval. In a service where seniority was taken as a norm, the government announcement on Rawat is bound to stir regional and sectional interests a lot more. Senior officers are bound to use their regional and linguistic connections to play to the gallery and even lobby regional leaders.

The appointment of Rawat has already stirred a debate on the growing importance of officers from Uttarakhand in New Delhi. This tendency is not healthy for either the Indian Army or the nation to debate on.

Unlike Pakistan, in India, civilian control over the military has long been recognised and firmly established. Appointments and succession are decided by elected governments and accepted by the armed forces quietly. Even the supersession of Lieutenant-General SK Sinha by Indira Gandhi was quietly accepted, except by the general concerned who protested and resigned from the service.

Rawat’s elevation has become politically controversial

While the Opposition has every right to question the appointment the government is in no way expected to explain an executive prerogative. A privilege of the Executive, however, has to be handled with great care when dealing with sensitive appointments like that of the army chief. Historically, there has always been an undeclared war between infantry and armoured corps for supremacy.

In this battle, once again, the armoured corps represented by Bakshi was trounced by the infantry arm of the Indian Army.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 08:48 IST

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as army chief: Strategic vision, not tactical achievements may have swung decision

Predictably, the government’s decision of appointing Lt General Bipin Rawat as the next Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) by superseding the “senior-most eligible officers”, the Eastern Army Commander Lt General Praveen Bakshi, and Southern Army Commander Lt General PM Hariz, has now become a political issue, with the Opposition Congress, Janata Dal (U) and the two Communist parties (CPM and CPI) questioning the decision.

In fact, as I had written in this platform last week, it is this unfortunate politicisation of the military appointments that prevents the new and better norms from being encouraged for the much required military reforms in the country.

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

The issue of seniority in top appointments always raises the question: Which should prevail – the quantum of experience or the quality of experience? And, if one goes by the examples of leading military powers of the world, there has been a systematic endeavour to go by the quality, not the quantum, of experience. It is in this context that it is interesting to know the Narendra Modi government’s explanation behind its choice of General Rawat as the next army chief.

Apparently, the government sources have told The Times of India, that “General Rawat is the candidate best suited to deal with emerging challenges, and that his operational experience and ‘general dynamism’ tipped the scales in his favour.” It is said that General Rawat has “more than 10 years of experience in counter-insurgency operations and on the Line of Control, besides serving on the China border. He has the requisite experience considering the current situation.”

Incidentally, it is not the first time in India that a senior-most officer has been denied the topmost position in his or her service, whether it is a civilian, judicial or a military job. Indira Gandhi was the prime minister when Justice AN Ray superseded three senior judges of the Supreme Court to become the Chief Justice in 1973. Again it was Indira Gandhi whose government in 1983 appointed General AS Vaidya as the Army Chief in 1983 superseding General SK Sinha.

In 2004, the Manmohan Singh government appointed Shyam Saran as the foreign secretary by superseding four senior officials in the Indian Foreign Service. But what it did in 2006 was even more eye-raising. It appointed Shivshankar Menon as foreign secretary, although 16 serving officers were senior to him; this was a decision that triggered a virtual rebellion in the Ministry of External Affairs, with many of the superseded diplomats deciding to quit the service. In 2014, the same Manmohan Singh government appointed Admiral Robin Kumar Dhowan as the Navy Chief, bypassing Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sinha, the flag officer commander-in-chief of the Western Naval Command and the senior most Naval officer at that time.

Of course, it is always debatable whether the above choices were based on the factor of merits or otherwise. But the point is that it is not a sacrosanct norm to go by the factor of seniority in the top-level military appointments. In neither the United Kingdom nor the United States, the countries that India will like to be compared with, the chiefs of the armed services are necessarily the senior-most officers; indeed in many a case their appointments have been least anticipated.

The appointment of Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach as the Head of the UK armed forces early this year was announced at a time when the military circles were expecting either Army General Sir Richard Barrons, or First Sea Lord Admiral George Zambellas for the coveted position. One remembers in this context the famous remark of the then Prime Minister David Cameron, “You do the fighting and I’ll do the talking.” Similarly, in the United States in 2011, President Barack Obama nominated a relatively junior General Martin Dempsey as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But neither in Britain nor in the US, had these appointments become a political issue.

In fact, there is now an emerging school of thought in the military sphere that while efforts must be made to identify “tactical commanders” at battalion and brigade level, for higher posts officers with “strategic leadership” potentials should be rewarded. Strategic leadership includes attributes of being a “combat genius” (fighting beyond the plan, innovating as one fights, staying well ahead of the enemy in imaginative application of combat power); “political genius” ( wielding and melding the elements of military power with allies and politicians, mastering civil-military discourse); “institutional genius” ( managing a very large institution and making it relevant to the needs of the nation); and “anticipatory genius” (having the ability to think in time and imagine conceptually where the nature and character of war is headed).

Here, the “experience” suggests that those officers who had shown great tactical skill did not equal great strategic skill. Tactically talented officers can do a great job in making the convoys run on time, but they may not anticipate a battlefield that has yet to appear. On the other hand, those gifted with strategic foresights have often been found wanting in tactical maneuvers; they have been better at conceptualising warfare rather than practicing it.

As retired US Major General Robert H Scales says, “Tactically talented officers can move hundreds. Strategically talented officers can maneuver hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Tactically talented officers know how to fight enemies they know. Strategically talented officers are prepared to fight enemies yet unforeseen. The tactically talented read the manuals and put existing doctrine into practice. Strategically talented officers continually question doctrine and eventually seek to change it. Tacticians see what is; strategists conjure what might be.”

Viewed thus, let us hope that General Rawat has been rewarded by the Modi government for his “strategic” leadership (or its assessment that the new chief will provide such a leadership) attributes, not necessarily for his “tactical” achievements in Kashmir, the China-borders and dealing with counterinsurgencies.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 15:59 IST

Bipin Rawat as next Army Chief: Superseding three army commanders sets an ugly precedent

Superseding three active General Officer(s) Commanding-in-Chief of three ‘armies’ has never occurred since 1947, so let’s stop talking about precedents. That is complete nonsense. Why are we so nice about the mishandled manner in which the new army chief (Bipin Rawat) was announced with 14 days to go instead of the customary 90 days? The only one precedent was the clumsy bypassing of Lt Gen Mani Sinha in place of Lt Gen Vaidya and General Sinha did what Generals do — he put in his resignation. As a protest. Hardly a high-water mark in the annals of military history, the way he was set aside.

Which is exactly what Lt Gen PM Hariz, Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Lt Gen BS Negi will do — either retire or simply put in their papers.

Bipin_Rawat_380_GettyBipin_Rawat_380_GettyConsequently, we will have three top commands in Southern, Eastern and Central armies without leadership around the same time since none of these officers will serve a junior at this high level.

In army lexicon they have been bypassed, period. They will go home. Has anybody figured out that between these three Generals — who have not been made chief — commanded 70 percent of the active forces in the Indian Army? If they were so average, why were they in charge?

Yes, the government has the right to do exactly what it wishes in the selection, even if others find fault with it. In the ranks of this government is a former chief who fought hard to stay in the job by making an issue of his age thereby setting the most shabby precedent in the Indian armed forces.

The fact that the new chief is in South Block and his three seniors are in active command indicates a definite flaw. The vice chief like the Vice President is a goodbye gift. No one knows what he does. The job is largely a sinecure. So how exactly did he stand out?

To supersede three Generals commanding your armies is either an act of arrogance or such incredible military insight that even the famous strategist Sun Tzu would have been impressed. How do you, and why do you bypass three Generals in active command of your armies?

Not only does this cause dismay, it jump-starts the domino principle with at least 50 potential three-star Generals and two-star aspirants reworking their career paths thanks to this announcement. We suddenly have three degrees of separation and several three-star officers looking at retirement will now look at the possible fourth star and realign their priorities.

You cannot really believe for a moment that between bureaucrats and politicians, they have a clue as to how effective or of what calibre these three sidelined officers are. You have to be naïve to think they know who suited them most or was of the highest calibre. To put it bluntly, as a fellow Gurkha officer incumbent General Suhag probably advocated his brother officer’s cause — the fact that General Rawat was in Delhi gave him access or at least presence in the capital while attending meetings in these troubled times also helped. He was relatively familiar.

Unlike his three seniors who are commanding active armies. Compare their career records — all first rate.

All this said, the government exercised a right. Will it change the dynamics of the Indian army? For sure. The government has found a trump card to keep its top echelons pliable, pliant and obedient and, oh yes, politically non-ambitious. Today, the fourth, tomorrow who knows? (Maybe the ninth).

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 20:31 IST

IIMs ponder how to include faculty from SC/ST category

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Directors of Indian Institutes of Management discussed how to include people from socio-economically weaker sections into the faculty. The director of IIM-Kashipur spoke about a program to train doctoral students from SC/ST category. Directors of eleven IIMs and the dean of IIM-Kozhikode today met at IIM-Ahmedabad here for the fourth annual PAN-IIM World Management Conference.Among other things, the issue of including people from socio-economically weaker sections into the faculty was discussed, IIM-Ahmedabad director Ashish Nanda said.”We are very much aware that we should have diverse faculty with different life experiences teaching our students, and we particularly want to make sure that people who are socio-economically on the margins have the opportunity to be in the classroom (as teachers),” Nanda told reporters.”Each IIM is very much committed to people of all backgrounds, people of the weaker backgrounds and under-represented minorities, through participation, at the same time maintaining the highest quality standards… we discussed how IIM Kashipur is doing this. Other IIMs may like to follow up based on its experience,” he said.The director of IIM Kashipur, Gautam Sinha, said his institute had launched a special fellowship programme. “We have just embarked on this special drive to bring SC/ST doctoral students into the Fellow Programme in Management (FPM). While they will be doing this special FPM, we will also develop them to be faculty in IIMs, so five years down the line we can see results,” Sinha said.IIM-Raipur recently advertised special FPM programme for SC/ST candidates following suggestions from the Union HRD Ministry. On the issue of reservation for faculty positions in the IIMs, the HRD Ministry had recently said the Constitutional provisions remain supreme, apparently suggesting that these prestigious management schools should enforce quota.

Kashmir: On a day Valley remains calm, Yashwant Sinha-led delegation meet separatists for peace

Senior BJP leader and former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha said on Tuesday that his civil society group was trying to convince New Delhi to invite separatist leaders from Kashmir for talks and to hold unconditional dialogue with them to resolve the long pending issue of insurgency in the Valley.

“After our first visit, we interacted with people in Delhi and we apprised them about the ground reality in Kashmir through our reports and interactions,” Sinha told Firstpost.

Former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. Getty ImagesFormer External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. Getty Images

Former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. Getty Images

Sinha, who is leading a civil society delegation — comprising Kashmir observers like Wajahat Habibullah, Sushoba Bharve, and former air vice-marshal Kapil Kak — said that though his group doesn’t enjoy a mandate from the government of India, the two visits did yield a positive outcome.

“Building trust and acceptance on both sides is important to have a meaningful conversation and to search for solutions,” Sinha said. “If our previous visit would have been a non-starter, we wouldn’t have come back for a second time.”

The group is visiting the state at a time when the Valley is witnessing one of longest shutdowns in history. Nearly 100 people have been killed in retaliatory action against protesters by government forces, over 12,000 protesters have been wounded — many of them blinded for life, and around 7,000 are either behind bars or detained in their homes.

“We had to build trust with the people and then start work. It’s not easy because of the mistakes previously committed. And though we don’t have the government’s mandate, we can try to influence the policy makers,” Sinha said.

However, the group’s visit has been clouded by the unceremonious binning of the report prepared by the three-member Kashmir interlocutor group headed by Dilip Padgaonkar, which was sent by the UPA government to provide a roadmap following the civilian uprising in 2010. It also meant there wasn’t much hope from the new delegation, other than providing the members an opportunity to meet with society.

In a curt six-page report, the group has written to the central government that the people of Kashmir believe that “Indian politics has taken such a turn (today) that there is no willingness to listen to even demands for autonomy. In terms of the agenda of alliance (between PDP and BJP), a dialogue process must be initiated with all stakeholders so that peace can be restored,” the report says.

Sinha had said that it is true that such processes had failed in the past, but they have started the process once again with a hope that any positive outcome will be yielded, due to which they chose to visit the Valley a second time. “The dialogue we have had from three days with people from different shade of opinion was fruitful,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 21:45 IST

PIL against government’s decision to appoint Gujarat cadre IPS as interim chief of CBI

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Public-Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Supreme Court on Monday seeking quashing of government’s decision of appointing Rakesh Asthana, a Gujarat cadre IPS officer, as the interim director of the Central Bureau of Investigation. The PIL also seeks appointment of a Court-selected person as the interim Director of CBI as well as a meeting of the selection committee, which consists of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the largest Opposition party and the Chief Justice of India, to appoint a regular director of the probe agency. The PIL states that the government took a series of steps in a “completely mala fide,arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Rakesh Asthana was given the charge of CBI Director and “prematurely curtailed the tenure of and transferred Mr. R K Dutta,Special Director, CBI, to the Ministry of Home Affairs”.The PIL has been filed by Kamal Kant Jaswal, the president of Delhi based Common Cause through his counsel Prashant Bhushan. The PIL cited landmark judgment in Vineet Narain case in which the court had directed that there should be a selection committee to identify a panel of names for the appointment of Director CBI, and thereafter the final selection to be made by the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC).The PIL also cited that the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, , which governs the CBI, was amended in 2003 vide the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act, 2003 to state that the Director CBI shall be appointed by the Central Government on the recommendations of the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the Vigilance Commissioners and two Secretaries to the Government of India.”As the above mechanism was not found sufficient to insulate the CBI Director, Section 4A of the DSPE Act, 1946 was further amended vide the Lokpal andLokayuktas Act, 2013 (the Lokpal Act) to provide that the CBI Director shall be appointed by the Central Government on there commendations of the selection committee,” the PIL read.Th petitioner has claimed that the Central Government did not convene a meeting of the selection committee ” even though it was fully aware that Mr. Anil Sinha was going to demit the office of CBI Director on 02.12.2016″. The central government had last week made Asthana, a Gujarat cadre 1984 batch IPS officer, the interim director as the current chief probe agency Anil Sinha relinquished his charge. The decision came two days after CBI Special Director R K Dutta, who was among the frontrunners for the top post, was shifted to the Home Ministry as a Special Secretary leaving the agency without a director for the first time in 10 years. Asthana,who was serving as the additional director of the probe agency had previously headed the state SIT that probed burning of Sabarmati Express train at Godhra in February 2002. The SIT had then found that the burning of a coach of Sabarmati Express, which claimed lives of 59 people, was a “carefully planned and meticulously executed criminal conspiracy”. The 1984 batch officer has also supervised the fodder scam probe allegedly involving then chief minister of Bihar Lalu Prasad Yadav.

PIL filed in SC against Rakesh Asthana’s appointment as CBI’s interim boss

New Delhi: A PIL was filed on Monday in the Supreme Court challenging the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as the interim director of the CBI.

Representational image. IBNliveRepresentational image. IBNlive

Representational image. IBNlive

The plea, filed by NGO Common Cause, has alleged that the Centre took a series of steps in a “completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Asthana was given the charge of CBI director”.

It claimed that the government did not convene a meeting of the selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the largest Opposition Party and the Chief Justice of India, even though it was fully aware that Anil Sinha was going to demit the office of CBI director on 2 December.

Asthana, a Gujarat-cadre officer of 1984-batch, was elevated as the Additional Director in the agency on 2 December when CBI Special Director RK Dutta, who was reportedly among the frontrunners for the top post, was shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as a Special Secretary.

The PIL claimed that the government had “prematurely curtailed” the tenure of and transferred Dutta, to the MHA on 30 November, ie just two days before Sinha was slated to demit office.

First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 19:51 IST

Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana takes charge as new CBI Director

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>CBI Director Anil Sinha on Friday retired from the post handing over the baton to his second-in-command, Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana, as the government did not name any full-time chief.Asthana, a Gujarat-cadre officer of 1984-batch, got elevated as the second-in-command in CBI two days ago when Special Director R K Dutta, who was among the frontrunners for the top post, was shifted to the Home Ministry as a Special Secretary. The post of second special secretary was created for the first time in the ministry.It is the first time in last 10 years, that no new CBI chief has been named to succeed an incumbent. Sinha completed his two-year tenure on Friday. “The competent authority has approved assignment of additional charge of the post of Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to Rakesh Asthana, IPS (GJ: 1984), Additional Director, CBI with effect from the date of relinquishment of charge by Anil Kumar Sinha, IPS (BH:1979) on completion of his tenure with immediate effect and until further orders,” an order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training said.The CBI chief is selected through a collegium comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition or largest party in opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India. The collegium has not been able to meet.60-year-old Sinha took charge of the agency when it was earning sobriquet of “caged parrot” and “closure bureau of investigation” and he managed to steady the ship by keeping away from media and ensuring a low profile with limited social circle. Sinha proved to be a soft-spoken yet assertive leader for the agency who guided investigation in a number of important cases like the Sheena Bora murder case and Vijay Mallya loan default case.In Mallya’s case, Sinha ensured that a case is registered against the flamboyant liquor baron for his alleged default of loans extended to his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines even though banks did not approach CBI with a complaint. He directed his teams to explore role of media baron Peter Mukerjea in the Sheena Bora murder case after the agency was handed over the investigation.Sinha ensured that CBI rigorously follows cases of piling of Non-performing Assets in public sector banks even though banks were reluctant to initiate a probe in these cases fearing loss of possible middle path which can be arrived at through discussions with defaulters. Sinha, an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University where he studied during the first decade of its inception, follows his interests in psychology and economics and loves to spend a quiet time with his family.

Flight landing delay: IndiGo debunks Mamata’s conspiracy theory; her life was not in danger

New Delhi: Conspiracy theories form an integral part of Indian politics, like perhaps politics anywhere else on the planet. So it was no surprise when Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders alleged today that there was danger to their leader Mamata Banerjee’s life, after the commercial flight she was travelling on made an emergency landing at Kolkata yesterday. A landing, which required all emergency procedures to be put in place and which happened after an hour’s delay. Not just TMC, members of other Opposition parties also echoed these sentiments, with BSP chief Mayawati saying this was a dangerous situation for Opposition parties.

File photo of Mamata Banerjee. PTIFile photo of Mamata Banerjee. PTI

File photo of Mamata Banerjee. PTI

Remember, Mamata Banerjee has been the most vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the last few weeks on his demonetisation push and has also vowed to finish Modi’s rule at the Centre. What better than to allege a threat to her life to gain fresh political currency? And get other Opposition parties to also join this chorus? But when Mamata’s party MPs began speaking about a threat to her life because of the delay in landing of the aircraft carrying her – never mind the fact that it was carrying hundreds of other aam aadmis and aam aurats as well – it was sounded like a desperate attempt to gain attention, not a plea for enhanced air safety.

“The plane was about to crash…we want to bring to notice that life of Mamata Banerjee is in danger,” an NDTV report quoted TMC MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay saying this in Rajya Sabha today. “Is there more to this than meets the eye?” asked Derek O’Brien? “There is a school of thought that this is a conspiracy,” he said in the Rajya Sabha.

Mayawati said this was a serious issue and sensitive issue and “we condemn what happened. We want the government to take the issue seriously and conduct an enquiry. This is dangerous situation for those in the Opposition parties. What happened was wrong.” Sharad Yadav of JD(U) also wanted a probe into the incident.

MoS Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha assured members in Rajya Sabha that passengers were not in danger (on that aircraft) at any point and standards of safety were in place. And that safety regulator DGCA is looking into claims that the aircraft was short on fuel. O Brien interjected to say that if there was no danger, why were emergency measures taken? Sinha replied O’Brien should be glad that precautionary measures were taken to ensure nothing went wrong.

While all this verbal gymnastics was going on in the Upper House, no one really bothered to gather details of the incident. What had exactly transpired, no one seemed to know clearly, not even the junior minister of civil aviation.

But here’s what IndiGo, the airline ferrying Mamata, had to say: The captain of this flight neither declared an emergency nor did he, at any time, say that there was a fuel shortage. The airline pinned the blame on the ATC controller at Kolkata for the mess up and said the delay in landing was due to congestion issues at Kolkata airport. All very routine stuff really. Where is the threat to Mamata’s life?

Anyway, Ms Banerjee and her party should ideally be giving a piece of their mind to the ATC concerned, instead of blowing their top in Parliament and making wild allegations of her life being in danger.

The IndiGo statement said “Flight 6E 342 from Patna and Kolkata made a normal landing at the Kolkata airport on Wednesday, November 30. The flight was kept on hold for landing due to air traffic congestion at Kolkata. The pilot operating 6E 342 had informed the ATC that he has eight minutes of extra holding fuel over Kolkata (destination) before commencing diversion to the planned alternate. However, this information was misunderstood by the ATC who assumed that the aircraft had only eight minutes of total fuel left. The misinterpretation of the information by the ATC led ATC to instruct fire engines and ambulances to be stationed at Kolkata airport. We would like to clarify – IndiGo captain at no stage declared a fuel priority or an emergency. Subsequently, the air plane made a normal landing at Kolkata airport at 8.40 pm, delayed by an hour due to congestion”.

If some questions still remain, they should be about congestion at India’s airports, language issues or fatigue of ATC personnel which could have lead to the mixup. As for an emergency landing, it was surely a precaution well worth taking.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 13:08 IST

Demonetisation: Shatrughan Sinha blasts mere experts, demands committee of ‘real experts’

As the seventh day of the Winter Session of Parliament saw a rancorous Opposition hell-bent on taking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to task for his comments earlier in the day, trouble was brewing elsewhere: BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha’s Twitter account to be precise.

Never mind the fact that both Houses of Parliament were adjourned 20 minutes in, Sinha spent more time than that spelling out his thoughts on the microblogging site.

He began simply enough:

But pleasantries soon went out the window:

Poor experts. They just can’t seem to catch a break.

When fake experts are no longer enough, you need real experts:

But he soon appeared to come to the realisation made famous by ‘President Arnold Schwarzenegger’ in The Simpsons Movie.

Untitled

And went on to tweet:

We’re glad he cleared that one up.

Strong words.

Somehow, we were left disappointed that there wasn’t a ‘Khamosh!‘ at the end of all that.

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 11:52 IST

Indore-Patna Express derails: Over 100 dead; Centre announces Rs 3.5 lakh ex-gratia

Over 100 passengers were killed and 226 injured, 76 of them seriously, when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Pukhraya in Kanpur dehat district in the wee hours on Sunday.

Rescue officials on the spot where 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna express derailed, killing around 96 people and injuring 200, in Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

Rescue officials on the spot where 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna express derailed, killing around 96 people and injuring 200, in Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

Four coaches of the train – S1, S2, S3, S4- were badly damaged in the mishap that took place at around 3am near Pukhraya. Most of the passengers were jolted out of their sleep to find themselves among mangled remains of the bogies.

“More than 100 people have died, rescue operation is still underway,” Daljeet Singh Chaudhary (ADG, Law & order ,UP) told ANI.

He said 150 other passengers received minor injuries in the mishap. “90 bodies have been pulled out so far. There can be more bodies trapped,” Superintendent of Police, Kanpur Dehat Prabhakar Chowdhury told PTI over the phone.

Ahmad said, “Over 150 injured people have been rushed to nearby hospitals in the area. All hospitals have been asked to be alert. More than 30 ambulances have been pressed into service.”

A team of Army doctors and rescue officials have arrived at the spot. 250 police officials are also involved in carrying out the rescue and relief operations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the train tragedy. “Anguished beyond words on the loss of lives due to the derailing of the Patna-Indore express. My thoughts are with the bereaved families,” he said in a tweet.

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered a probe into the train tragedy and announced ex-gratia for the families of the victims.

Rs 3.5 lakh exgratia will be given for the families of those killed in the derailment and Rs 50,000 for those grievously injured, he said.

Prabhu said the Commissioner of Railway Safety will probe the reasons behind the derailment.

“All rescue and relief work is on to deal with the unfortunate accident. All medical and other help rushed.

Inquiry ordered. Situation monitored closely,” Prabhu said. Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha along with four senior railway officials have rushed to the accident spot.

MOS Railway Rajen Gohain said a fault in the tracks may have led to the derailment.

“We haven’t seen an incident like this in Indian Railways for a long time because we have taken a lot of safety measures.

“Earlier these kind of accidents used to happen because of the negligence of the driver but despite taking all safety measures this tragic incident took place.This is a cause of concern and we are investigating the reasons behind it.

“There must be a fault in the track as 14 bogeys have derailed and this happened despite regular checking of the tracks,” he said.

Taking stock of the situation, Home Minister Rajnath Singh asked the Director General of National Disaster Response Force to rush to the spot.

Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav announced ex-gratia for the families of those killed in the mishap.

While Rs 5 lakh each will be given for families of those killed in the derailment, Rs 50,000 will be given for seriously injured and Rs 25,000 for those with simple injuries.

The Chief Minister has instructed the DGP to personally monitor the relief operations and deploy traffic police along the route of the mishap site to ensure green corridor for ambulances to reach hospitals quickly.

Kanpur district officials have been instructed to take support of Indian Medical Association to avail the services of more doctors for extending medical support to train accident patients, the CM said.

More ambulances/roadways buses have been rushed to the spot for speedy relief operations, the CM said.

DG Health & ADG (Law and Order) have also been rushed to the accident spot to monitor the relief operations. Railways Ministry spokesperson Anil Saxena said several people have been rushed to nearby hospitals with injuries, and the casualties may go up.

Accident relief train has been rushed to the spot, he said. Northern Central Railways spokesperson Vijay Kumar said that doctors and senior railway officials have reached the spot.

Rescue and relief operations were being carried out by district administration and railway officials.

Though the cause of the derailment was not known immediately, sources said the nature and timing shows that the accident was caused by a rail fracture.

However, the exact reason would be known only after an inquiry.

Buses have been pressed into service to help passengers complete their journey, Kumar said, adding that the S2 coach was severely damaged. Four AC coaches have also been derailed.

Railways have made available the following helpline numbers — Indore-07411072, Ujjain- 07342560906, Ratlam- 074121072, Orai-051621072, Jhansi- 05101072, Pokhraya- 05113270239.

Talking to reporters here, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha said the government will bear the cost of treatment of the injured, and they will be provided with the best facilities.

Sinha also said that two trains, one to Indore and one to Patna respectively will take passengers to their destination.

According to the information he received, the passengers felt a big jolt right before the train derailed.

The accident took place before the glitch in the track could be spotted, Sinha said, adding strict action will be taken against anyone implicated as a result of the investigation.

Meanwhile, NDRF Director General RK Pachnanda told PTI that a total of five teams of the special rescue force, comprising 45 personnel each, have been pressed into action at
the accident site.

“The rescue teams are deploying cutters and hydraulic equipment to ensure that all the trapped passengers are evacuated safely from the rail bogies,” the DG, who has reached the accident site, said.

“As the victims are trapped inside the bogies, due care and diligence is being taken into consideration.

NDRF responders are making all possible efforts to rescue the trapped victims with the help of multi-types of latest disaster management gadgets and tools.

So far, NDRF has rescued 53 passengers including 16 badly trapped from the bogies.

The operation is still in progress.

Some additional teams are also put on stand by and shall be mobilised as per demand,” the Force said in a statement.

Railway authorities ignored a passenger’s warning, night before the mishap

Even as the main cause of the train mishap which has now claimed 96 lives and injured over 200 is not known, a man from Mandsaur district who was travelling in the same train claims that the railway authorities ignored his warnings few hours before the incident took place.

According to this report by Pradesh 18, a regular traveller of the train Prakash Sharma, who was travelling in one of the now derailed coaches S-2, had informed the railway authorities that the wheels of the train are making more noise than usual. Sharma told the authorities that he sensed something was odd because he was a regular commuter of the train.

However, the TC and authorities ignored his concern saying that it’s a regular thing.

Later, Sharma got down at Ujjain station on Saturday night. His fears were later confirmed when he heard the news of the mishap.

The Pradesh 18 report quoted him as saying that the railway authorities should have taken his concern seriously.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 15:21 IST

Indian man calls news conference to declare he is alive

An Indian man holds a press conference to declare he is alive after reports he died because of the cash crisis.

In bridge over Ganga, Modi to fulfil plea pending from Nehru’s time

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over five decades after a proposal for making a bridge to link Tarighat in Uttar Pradesh to the north bank of the Ganga was placed before Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to turn it into reality. The date chosen for this is November 14, the birth anniversary of the country’s first Prime Minister.Modi will be laying the foundation stone for the Tarighat-Mau railway line and bridge when he goes to Ghazipur. Besides, he will also address a rally, participating in BJP’s ‘parivartan yatra’ launched on November 5. Besides this, the Prime Minister is expected to address rallies in Kushinagar, Bahraich, Kanpur, Agra, Bareilly and Moradabad.The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), headed by Modi, had cleared the rail project in June. The proposal to build a bridge from Tarighat had come up first in the 1960s after Lok Sabha member Vishwanath Singh Gahmari gave a grim picture of poverty in the eastern UP region. This had touched Nehru and the government set up the Patel Commission, which recommended linking Tarighat to the north bank of the Ganga, to give a boost to economic activity. Sources said the proposal which had been put on the backburner for years was now revived by the BJP government.Ghazipur is also adjacent to Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency. The BJP is trying to revive the mood of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when it swept the state on the development plank. The BJP has been focusing on the politically crucial Poorvanchal belt, from where five union ministers– Rajnath Singh, Kalraj Mishra, Manoj Sinha, Anupriya Patel and Mahendra Pandey–belong. The party’s state chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, an MP from Phoolpur, is from Kaushambi near Allahabad, where the BJP held its national executive earlier this year.The SP was hoping to win Ghazipur in the general elections, but BJP’s Manoj Sinha, who is now minister of state for railways, defeated the party’s Shivkanya Kushwaha in Ghazipur. The region has a high concentration of backward classes like Patels and Mauryas besides Brahmins, Yadavs, Muslims and Thakurs. The BJP is trying to reach out to the non-Yadav backward classes in the assembly elections due early next year.While launching the yatra from Jhansi, in the economically backward Bundelkhand region, BJP chief Amit Shah has promised to turn UP into the richest state if the party came to power. The party’s four parivartan yatras will culminate in Lucknow on December 24, the eve of the birthday of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was an MP from the state capital.Target audienceThe SP was hoping to win Ghazipur in the general elections, but BJP’s Manoj Sinha, who is now minister of state for railways, defeated the party’s Shivkanya Kushwaha in Ghazipur. The region has a high concentration of backward classes like Patels and Mauryas besides Brahmins, Yadavs, Muslims and Thakurs. The BJP is trying to reach out to the non-Yadav backward classes in the assembly elections due early next year.

Passenger says ‘Acche Din’ after Minister Jayant Sinha switches seats with her on plane

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Minister Jayant Sinha had a Twitter moment when a grateful young girl from Ranchi tweeted about the minister’s kind gesture to give up his first class seat in a plane for her and her ailing mother.As per NDTV, the girl Shreya Pradip from Ranchi was on an an Indigo flight from Bengaluru to Ranch and was moved to first class seats after her mother fell sick. But they found out the seats belonged to Jayant Sinha, the Minister of State for Civil Aviation, and his wife. But the couple offered Pradip and her mother their seats saying they would find seats somewhere else. Pradip tweeted about the incident saying, “Acche din is when Aviation Minister gives his first class seat to me and my ill mother, sits in the economic class himself. Thanks Sir.” Sinha is the latest to receive adulation on Twitter after MEA Sushma Swaraj and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. Sushma Swaraj is very active on Twitter helping Indians in distress abroad while Prabhu replies to Railway related issues of people on the social media platform.

Kashmir unrest: Yashwant Sinha-led delegation winds up visit after meeting separatist leaders

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The five-member civil society delegation led by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha completed its three-day visit to Kashmir on Thursday during which it met various stakeholders to “understand the situation” and “share the pain” of the people in Kashmir. The delegation will now discuss the future course of action after meeting in Delhi. “We came here to understand the situation and share the pain of the people. We will sit down (after going back to Delhi) and see how we can proceed further,” Sinha told reporters after completing meetings with various sections in the valley, including separatists.Sinha said the delegation, which does not have any official status, met Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday and Governor NN Vohra on Thursday. Since its arrival here on Tuesday, the delegation met hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, moderate separatist leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Abdul Gani Bhat​ and representatives of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry — the apex trade body of Kashmir.Sinha, former External Affairs Minister, disagreed when asked whether the meeting with the separatists could be seen as a breakthrough since they opened their doors to the delegation members unlike the members of all-party delegation who were turned away by Geelani earlier in September. “It was good on their part they decided to meet us. We had extensive discussions with various stakeholders here,” he said.
ALSO READ J&K deadlock: BJP leader Yashwant Sinha led delegation meets separatist GeelaniThe other delegation members — Wajahat Habibullah, the former chairman of National Commission for Minorities, Kapil Kak, former Air Vice-Marshall, Journalist Bharat Bhushan and Sushoba Barve of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation — met Geelani again on Thursday.

BJP distances itself from Yashwant-led team’s meeting with Hurriyat leader Geelani

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP on Tuesday distanced itself from the meeting between Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and a delegation led by its leader Yashwant Sinha, saying the party has nothing to do with it.”It is not a BJP delegation. BJP has nothing to do with this,” its National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said.A five-member civil society delegation led by the former Union Minister today met Geelani amid continuing volatile situation in the valley. Some media outlets have said that it is a BJP delegation which is absolutely wrong, Sharma said, adding Sinha too maintained that he took up the enterprise in his personal capacity. The other members of the delegation are Wajahat Habibullah, the former chairman of National Commission for Minorities, Kapil Kak, former Air Vice-Marshal, journalist Bharat Bhushan and Sushoba Barve of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation. They plan to meet other separatist leaders too.A five-member civil society delegation led by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday met hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani here in an attempt to break the three month impasse in Kashmir triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in July. The delegation led by Sinha called on Geelani at his residence in Hyderpora area of the summer capital here.Before meeting Geelani, Sinha told reporters that they had not come as a delegation. “We are few people of goodwill who have come here on the basis of humanity. The aim is to share the pain and sufferings of the people. If we can do that, we will consider ourselves as fortunate,” he said. Asked if the team will be meeting other separatist leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, Sinha said they are trying to meet everyone.In response to a question about timing of the visit, the former Finance Minister said, “That is an eternal question why did you not do it before. We are doing it at a time which is quite appropriate.”Asked if they had been invited by the separatists, Sinha said, “We do not have an invitation (from Geelani). We had requested (for a meeting) and we are going to see him.” The other members of the delegation are Wajahat Habibullah, the former chairman of National Commission for Minorities, Kapil Kak, former Air Vice-Marshal, journalist Bharat Bhushan and Sushoba Barve of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.The delegation is also scheduled to call upon moderate Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. Mirwaiz was released from Chesma-Shahi sub-jail late last night where he was lodged on August 27.Geelani, Mirwaiz and JKLF chief Yasin Malik have been jointly issuing weekly protest programmes ever since the unrest started in the Valley.

J&K deadlock: BJP leader Yashwant Sinha led delegation meets separatist Geelani

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A five-member civil society delegation led by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday met hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani here in an attempt to break the three month impasse in Kashmir triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in July.The delegation led by Sinha called on Geelani at his residence in Hyderpora area of the summer capital here.Before meeting Geelani, Sinha told reporters that they had not come as a delegation.”We are few people of goodwill who have come here on the basis of humanity. The aim is to share the pain and sufferings of the people. If we can do that, we will consider ourselves as fortunate,” he said.Asked if the team will be meeting other separatist leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, Sinha said they are trying to meet everyone.In response to a question about timing of the visit, the former Finance Minister said, “That is an eternal question why did you not do it before. We are doing it at a time which is quite appropriate.”Asked if they had been invited by the separatists, Sinha said, “We do not have an invitation (from Geelani). We had requested (for a meeting) and we are going to see him.” The other members of the delegation are Wajahat Habibullah, the former chairman of National Commission for Minorities, Kapil Kak, former Air Vice-Marshal, journalist Bharat Bhushan and Sushoba Barve of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.The delegation is also scheduled to call upon moderate Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq.Mirwaiz was released from Chesma-Shahi sub-jail late last night where he was lodged on August 27.Geelani, Mirwaiz and JKLF chief Yasin Malik have been jointly issuing weekly protest programmes ever since the unrest started in the Valley.

Kashmir logjam: Yashwant Singh, 5 others in Srinagar to meet separatist leaders Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq

New Delhi/Srinagar: Senior BJP leader and former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha is leading a five-member team to Srinagar for talks with separatist leaders in a fresh bid to break a logjam after more than three months of deadly unrest in the Kashmir Valley.

The team includes former bureaucrat Wajahat Habibullah, who has served in Jammu and Kashmir, ex-Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, journalist Bharat Bhushan and activist Sushobha Barve. Reports said it is an independent outreach programme and that the team is expected to meet separatists.

Sinha confirmed to IANS that he and other “people of goodwill” will try to “meet all” during their visit to the Valley that began on Tuesday. “We came here for humanity. Our motto is to share the grievances and pain (of Kashmiri people),” Sinha said.

He said they have requested many people for a meeting but didn’t divulge more details.

However, informed sources told IANS that the delegation during their three-day stay in Srinagar would meet representatives of the two factions of the separatist Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

Former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha. PTI

Former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha. PTI

Before meeting Geelani, Sinha told PTI that they had not come as a delegation. “We are few people of goodwill who have come here on the basis of humanity. The aim is to share the pain and sufferings of the people. If we can do that, we will consider ourselves as fortunate,” he said.

Asked if the team will be meeting other separatist leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, Sinha said they are trying to meet everyone.

In response to a question about timing of the visit, the former Finance Minister said, “That is an eternal question why did you not do it before. We are doing it at a time which is quite appropriate.”

Asked if they had been invited by the separatists, Sinha said, “We do not have an invitation (from Geelani). We had requested (for a meeting) and we are going to see him.”

The delegation is also scheduled to call upon moderate Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq.

Mirwaiz was released from Chesma-Shahi sub-jail late last night where he was lodged on 27 August. Geelani, Mirwaiz and JKLF chief Yasin Malik have been jointly issuing weekly protest programmes ever since the unrest started in the Valley. According to ANI

They are also expected to meet Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yaseen Malik, who has been moved from jail to a Srinagar hospital after his health deteriorated. And after two months of detention at a guest-house-turned-jail in Srinagar, the Mirwaiz is now under house arrest at his upscale Nigeen residence.

The fresh bid to break ice between separatist groups and the government comes after 108 days of unrest and shutdown that have disrupted normal life in the Kashmir Valley since the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

At least 92 persons were killed and over 12,000 injured in clashes between protesters and security forces. Police have arrested over 7,000 suspected ring leaders of stone throwers. Some have been let off. The Sinha-led delegation is also expected to meet civil society and trade groups including the Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) and the Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies (KCSDS).

They will call on Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Governor NN Vohra.

One lakh blocks in India to be digitalised soon: Telecom Minister

Sat, 22 Oct 2016-02:31pm , Basti , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>One lakh blocks in the country will be digitalised in the coming days, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha has said. “Some one lakh blocks in the country will be digitalised in the coming days to ensure that people do not have to run to tehsils for getting their work done,” the minister said here on Friday.Sinha also said that his ministry was working in a big way to fulfill the promise of ‘Digital India’ made by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The minister said after mobile revolution, work is on for digital revolution in the country.”The result is that last year government saved Rs 34 thousand crores…the manner in which people are using Internet will have far-reaching results,” the minister said.He also lauded the efforts of one of his official developing website for sale and purchase of cattle which he said will go a long way in helping rural population.

RSS accuses Farooq Abdullah of sympathising with Pakistan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue Rakesh Sinha on Friday castigated former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah for batting for resumption of India-Pakistan dialogue and said the latter is hinting sympathy towards Islamabad with such an irresponsible assertion.Sinha said Abdullah’s statement may have an adverse affect on India’s diplomatic efforts initiated to teach Pakistan a lesson.”Farooq Abdullah has made an irresponsible statement. Dialogue is not the lone responsibility of India. Pakistan is not initiating talks. Instead of talks, it has chosen the path of violence, terrorism. By making such comments, Farooq Abdullah is showing sympathy towards Pakistan and such kind of sympathy in current times cannot be expected out of any Indian,” said Sinha.”The whole country has united against Pakistan and is vouching for methods which compel Islamabad to quit terrorism. Such irresponsible statements have a negative impact on India’s diplomacy,” he added.The National Conference patron, who yesterday visited the Zero Line along the Line of Control and interacted with border dwellers, called for resuming dialogue with Pakistan.Making a fervent appeal to the leadership of the two hostile Asian neighbours to resume dialogue and end all hostilities, Abdullah said, “Wars haven’t and won’t resolve inherent political issues between India and Pakistan.”Abdullah also strongly criticized the alleged politicization of India’s surgical strikes, saying the blood of Indian jawans was being traded for electoral victories.”Today, we want to sell our soldiers’ blood for electoral victories? The condition is such that we want to trade their blood…but a soldier doesn’t belong to any party, he belongs to the entire country,” he said.The comments came after Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar gave credit to the RSS teachings for the strikes targeting terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.Responding to the recent ceasefire violations by Pakistan, Farooq said, “The situation is very grim right now. Poor people at both sides of the border are suffering. I would like to appeal to both nations that enough is enough; more bloods have been sacrificed from our end and at Pakistan’s end. Loss was reordered at both sides. For God’s sake stop shelling.”He urged Pakistan to approach India with helping hands and stop shelling near the border.Earlier today, Pakistan forces fired around 25 rounds of small weapons and two small mortars in Hiranagar sector.One BSF jawan was injured as the Indian troops retaliated to the firing from the other side of the border.

BRICS: India aims to forge consensus on combating terrorism

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The leaders of BRICS, a multinational grouping that represents 25 per cent of the global GDP, will meet in Goa over the weekend to discuss among other things the state of the world economy, ways to spur economic growth and sustainable but a dominant theme will be terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism emanating from India’s immediate neighbourhood.Secretary (Economic Relations) Amar Sinha in the Ministry of External Affairs says one can expect the outcome document, which will be issued towards the end of the summit on Sunday, to contain “strong” paragraphs on how to deal with countries that provide sanctuaries and safe havens to terrorists.Sinha points out that the national security advisers (NSAs) of the BRICS countries, who recently met in New Delhi, discussed the issue of terror financing and tackling the sources of weapons that find their way into the hands of terrorists.”So these would get reflected in the BRICS Declaration,” says Sinha, adding that national positions will be iterated in the document.For its part, India is pushing the BRICS to set aside their differences on semantics as to what should be the definition of a terrorist so that progress could be made on other issues related to combating terrorism.Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently raised this issue at every multilateral for a in the recent past, including the G20 Summit at China and the East Asia Summit in Vietnam.Modi is likely to raise it again in his bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping of China after Beijing put a technical hold for the second consecutive time on the proposed United Nations ban on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar who India accuses of carrying out terrorist attacks, most recently at Uri.The challenge before New Delhi will be to overcome the apparent reluctance or inability of the international community in general and China in particular to forge a consensus on combating terrorism. It becomes even difficult for India because China sees Pakistan as an all-weather ally and a countervail to New Delhi.Modi’s bilateral meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia promises to be a highlight of his engagements on the margins of the BRICS Summit.The two will meet on Saturday for the 17th India-Russia Annual Summit. The Indian foreign ministry says “important bilateral agreements are expected to be concluded and a joint statement released at the end of the bilateral summit.”An indication of what some of those agreements will be can be had from the remarks made by Yuri Ushakov, a Putin aide, who told reporters in Moscow on Thursday that the two sides are likely to sign 18 documents.”One of the central themes,”according to him, “will be cooperation in the field of nuclear energy.”A raft of defence deals is also likely to be clinched on the occasion, including, but not limited to, the sale and subsequent manufacture in India of Kamov helicopters, upgradation of the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jets and the purchase of advanced air defence missile systems.Russia is still by far the mainstay of India’s defence inventory but it has of late been overtaken by the United States and Israel but if the proposed outcome of the Modi-Putin talks is anything to go by then it will mark an upward turn in the fortunes of Russia’s strategic ties with India.Collective solutionsGoa, a popular destination for tourists, is hosting the eighth BRICS Summit this weekend. The theme of this year’s summit will be “Building responsive, inclusive and collective solutions.”While people-to-people ties and business-to-business contacts will be in the table, terrorism can be expected to figure prominently on its agenda.

Hyderabad: 13-year-old girl dies after 68 days of fasting

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 13-year-old girl from Hyderabad died last week after fasting for 68 days for the Jain holy period called Chaumasa, reported NDTV.The girl, Aradhana, was admitted to a hospital two days after she finished her fast of 68 days due to a cardiac arrest. Her funeral was celebrated and called ‘shobha yatra’ — a mark of celebration— which was attended by 600 people.A member of the community, Lata Jain said, “It has been a practice for people to undertake severe penance when they give up even food and water. They are glorified, lauded and honoured at community meetings by the religious elders. They are also showered with gifts. But in this case it was a minor and that is my objection.”The class 8 student was allowed to give up school so she could fast. Her grandfather Manekchand Samdhariya said that it was known that Aradhana was fasting, “Everyone knew Aradhana was fasting. They came and took selfies with her,” he added. People known to the family have said that the girl had earlier undertaken a fast of 41 days. Politicians like Telangana minister Padma Rao Goud, Zaheerabad MP BB Patil were present at grand event for the completion of fasting which is called ‘Paarana’. Child rights activist Shanta Sinha has said that a police complaint must be filed and that the child rights commission must take cognisance.

Yashvardhan Sinha appointed India’s High Commissioner to UK

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Senior IFS officer Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha was on Tuesday appointed as India’s High Commissioner to the UK succeeding Navtej Sarna. Sinha, an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of the 1981 batch, is currently serving as India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. Sarna has been appointed as India’s Ambassador to the US.Earlier this month, the government had appointed 1988- batch IFS officer Taranjit Singh Sandhu as the next High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka to replace Sinha. Sinha, who is expected to take up his assignment shortly, is a seasoned diplomat and in his career spanning 35 years he has handled several important assignments at the MEA and in Indian diplomatic missions in South Asia, the Middle East, Europe, South America and the Permanent Mission of India at the United Nations headquarters in New York.Before coming to Sri Lanka, he was the Additional Secretary heading the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran division at the Ministry of External Affairs. He was Ambassador of India to Venezuela from January 2007 to August 2009 and Consul General of India in Dubai from August 2003 to December 2006. Earlier, he served as Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi (UAE) from March 2002 to July 2003.

Mumbai on high alert: Police circulates sketch of masked man spotted near Uran navy base

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A high alert was sounded along the Mumbai coast and adjoining areas on Thursday after a group of men were spotted moving suspiciously near a naval base at Uran in Raigad district, leading to multi-agency search operations.Mumbai coast and adjoining areas on Thursday after a group of men were spotted moving suspiciously near a naval base at Uran in Raigad district, leading to multi-agency search operations.”As per the reports, five to six persons were sighted in Pathan suits and appeared to be carrying weapons and backpacks,” Naval spokesperson Cdr Rahul Sinha said in a statement. Some reports said they were in military uniform.On Friday morning, the Uran police released a sketch of one of the men and circulated it among all the investigating agencies. The sketch was based on the description provided by the three school students who reportedly spotted the men near the naval base.
ALSO READ High alert in Mumbai after school kids report spotting suspicous men near Uran navy baseOn Thursday, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis appealed to citizens not to panic and said all precautions are being taken and that Massive combing operations were on.With PTI inputs.

Uran alert: CM Devendra Fadnavis appeals to citizens to stay calm, says precautions are being taken

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis appealed to citizens on Thursday not to panic and said all precautions are being taken after a high alert was sounded along the Mumbai coast and adjoining areas on Thursday after a group of men were spotted moving suspiciously near a naval base at Uran in Raigad district.Fadnavis who is enroute to Mumbai from United States, spoke to the state Director General of Police Satish Mathur, Mumbai Police Commissioner Dattatray Padsalgikar and Intelligence Commissioner. “CM @Dev_Fadnavis spoke to DGP , @CPMumbaiPolice and Intel Comm. All precautions are being taken. Massive combing operations are on,” the CMO Maharashtra tweeted.”State &Central forces are working in close Cordination. CM @Dev_Fadnavis has appealed citizens not to panic. Situation under close vigil,” it said in another tweet.Security beefed up at JNPTCountry’s largest container port JNPT has beefed up security measures at the port and in the vicinity following a high alert on security issued by law enforcement agencies, a senior official said. “We have beefed up the security measures and alerted all our staff. The CISF, which takes care of our security is on high alert and there has been an increase in the number of personnel out on the field,” a senior port official said.The official said the standard of surveillance in the port spread over 1,500 acres, adjoining to the fishing town of Uran where the suspects were spotted, has been upped, the official said. The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) handles over half of the country’s container traffic which contributes significantly to the export-import trade. The official said the port and CISF are coordinating very closely with the local police, Navy and other agencies.Navy’s response to the alertA multi-agency search operations was initiated amidst the alert. “As per the reports, five to six persons were sighted in Pathan suits and appeared to be carrying weapons and backpacks,” Naval spokesperson Cdr Rahul Sinha said in a statement. Some reports said they were in military uniform. The Navy pressed its choppers for aerial surveillance and heightened patrolling in the sea by its vessels and high-speed boats.The Western Naval Command (WNC) issued a “highest state of alert” along the Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Raigad coasts where several sensitive establishments and assets are located. Western India’s biggest naval base, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, fertiliser plants, refineries, power plants and the country’s largest container port, JNPT are located in close vicinity of Uran.The base located close to the town also houses units of MARCOS, the Navy’s elite strike force. Indian Navy’s Chief PRO Capt DK Sharma said the search operation was launched along with Maharashtra police and other agencies.Security situations across MumbaiSecurity has been beefed up at sensitive spots along the coast, including the Gateway of India, Raj Bhavan, offshore oil assets Bombay High, JNPT, BARC and other major establishments near the sea. “Indian Navy’s Western Naval Command expeditiously reacted to the situation by first initiating an alert and informing all coastal security stakeholders… No person has been located or apprehended till now,” Sinha added.Navi Mumbai Commissioner of Police rushed to the spotNavi Mumbai Commissioner of Police, Hemant Nagarale, and senior officials rushed to Uran to review the security situation and gathered details from the children, who spotted the men moving suspiciously.The coastline is guarded by a three-tier network which starts with the local police (with its coastal police stations) closest to the land, followed by the Union Home Ministry-led Coast Guard while the Indian Navy patrols the high seas. NSG deployedTeams of elite anti-terror commando force NSG have been deployed in three locations in Mumbai and another team has been kept ready in Delhi to be flown if required. Teams of National Security Guard, drawn from its Mumbai hub, pre-positioned at three locations in Mumbai and another team is on alert at NSG base in IGI airport in Delhi, official sources said.Precautionary action taken in Mumbai to cut down reaction time in case of any emergency situation, sources said.BackgroundSome children from Uran Education Society’s school first spotted the suspects, and their teacher informed the police, the police said, adding none of them have been traced.The alert comes four days after the terror attack in Uri in which 18 soldiers were killed. Coastal security has been a top priority after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in which multiple locations in the city were targeted by Pakistani terrorists who landed using the sea route.The fishing town of Uran is located across the eastern water front of the financial capital.With PTI inputs

Race Course or Lok Kalyan: Worried nation over Uri attack wants more from PM than road rename

Minutes before Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened a meeting of top ministers to discuss the government’s strategy following the Uri attack, news broke that the name of the road, which houses the official residence of the PM, had been changed to Lok Kalyan Marg.

Nothing could be more ironic than the timing of the move. It came at a time when the nation was eagerly awaiting to know how India would respond to the attack. How it would show its shakti (force) if you will, flowing from the might and decisiveness of its shaktiman (powerful) prime minister to a perennially errant neighbour in Pakistan. The government of India, by announcing the decision, officially told the world that on that day, the concerns of the political brass were different.

In doing so, the government showed that it was more concerned about an image makeover — by stating that the reigning prime minister lives on Lok Kalyan Marg, and hence lives for lok kalyan (public welfare).

Narendra Modi . ReutersNarendra Modi . Reuters

Narendra Modi . Reuters

True, that the prime minister’s basic mandate is to work for public welfare, but does that mean that he has to necessarily live on a road that bears lok kalyan (public welfare) as its name? Prime Minister Modi, the first in the last 30 years to have a clear majority on his own, represents lok shakti, and hence becomes sarv shaktiman — thus, he is required to assert power when the situation demands.

Given the national mood in the aftermath of the Uri attack and the hype generated by the series of meetings on Wednesday, it would have been more appropriate if the government had renamed Race Course Road as Lok Shakti Marg.

Though a race course might be considered as elitist, but it’s a fact that only the mightiest of political horses have lived on Race Course Road, either driven by circumstances or by being clear winners in the race. What’s in a name, they say. It seems that the pratham sewak and his government clearly believe in it, quite a lot.

The issue that is agitating the minds of more than 120 crore Indians is much bigger than the name of the road where the prime minister resides. The nation is concerned with its honour, the lives of its people and teaching a lesson to a rouge neighbour in a manner that ensures that it does not dare repeat any such ghastly terror act.

As this author had written earlier, the real test of Modi’s supposed 56-inch chest lies in how he rises to the occasion and in the kind of response he gives to Pakistan following the Uri attack.

Former Finance and External Affairs Minister in the Vajpayee Government, Yashwant Sinha, in an article in the Indian Express wrote:  “India should, however, not be deterred in the pursuit of its goal. I have repeatedly said that the fight against Pakistan sponsored terrorism is India’s fight alone. Others will sympathise with us, commiserate with us, condemn the terror strike and forget about it. We should not. We must remember every wound Pakistan has inflicted on us, every hurt, every humiliation it has caused us and every martyr who has made the supreme sacrifice for the nation,”

“Indira Gandhi showed this courage in 1971, we should show it now…We, in the BJP, must remember that the people of India will judge us by our standards and our utterances on the strength of which we came to power, not by the standards of other political parties…We all want peace with Pakistan but we must remember that sometimes the road to peace passes through war,” Sinha wrote.

PM Modi has not spoken on the subject since Sunday and the only indication of what he thinks of the issue and how he wants to deal with the situation is evident from his first response, made public through a tweet:

Incidentally, the CCS did meet on Wednesday morning ahead of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) and the Cabinet meeting, though only for a few minutes. Apparently, the meeting was held to clear the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in order to augment the fighter power of the Indian Air Force. Sources said that the Uri attack was not discussed in that CCS meet and that only the ministers met with the concerned officials, in the absence of the three armed forces chiefs.

The government and the BJP, it seems, are reading too much into the prime minister’s words, “those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished”. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, at a function on Wednesday, reiterated Modi’s words to give a sense of confidence and assurance to people.

“I don’t think the PM’s initial words that “those responsible will be punished” will go as a mere statement. How to punish, that is for us to work out,” Parrikar said. He talked about a fast and furious reaction, which made the headlines, but then himself ruled that out saying that as a responsible nation India had to make a considered move. “Sometimes I can have a knee jerk reaction too. But we are a responsible nation,” he said.

The nation would be keenly awaiting Modi’s address at a public rally in Kozhikode on Saturday, to get a sense what kind of retribution people can expect for the Uri and Pathankot attacks on army bases.

Modi and the entire BJP leadership – top to some tiers below – would be in Kozhikode for three days beginning from 23 September for the party’s national executive and council meeting. Though the meet is officially dedicated to the party’s foremost ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s birth centenary, all the party leaders and workers would be curious to understand how Modi plans to walk the talk vis-à-vis Pakistan, for much of BJP’s future prospects would depend on the way Modi chooses to shape the party’s and his own image.

Pilot launched for solar energy to power PHCs, for millions with no access to health centres with electricity

In a bid to strengthen the primary health infrastructure in the country, the Indian Council of Medical Research has piloted a programme to power Primary Health Centres through solar energy. Partnering with the think tank Council for Energy, Environment and Water, the country’s apex medical research body has signed an MoU to study if solar can be an effective solution for almost 33 million Indians who have to make do with primary health infrastructure with no electricity at all.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The two research bodies have come together after the CEEW approached ICMR based on their own research, published in February this year as Solar for Powering Health and Education in India, that found 4.4 percent PHCs in the country have no electricity at all, which affects about 33 million rural Indians. This doesn’t even account for the centres that have power for only a handful of hours.For now, however, the programme will start small, with a few PHCs in three states. A technical committee formed by the ICMR is working with state nodal officers from across the country and, for now, Haryana, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and/or Maharashtra are being considered, as they have shown an early interest in the project, Dr Arunabha Sinha CEO, CEEW, told dna. Maharashtra is in the running as it has already worked on solar energy in the past, hence demonstrated an existing interest and awareness of the process.Sinha elaborated on the criteria for each PHC, saying that the ones selected should have less than 10 hours of electricity, but an existing infrastructure for new born care, 80-90 institutional deliveries per month, 24×7 functionality and, most importantly, proper maintenance of records.”It’s not just about provision of power,” said Sinha, “but we need to establish a baseline to then measure whether there is an increase in patients, a difference in services provided, what the situation of power supply is on the ground. For that, records need to be maintained.”After the project is deployed in August, once the states are finalised, CEEW’s role will come into play in designing the infrastructure on ground, overseeing implementation and a four month evaluation. Based on such results, sates will scale up solar energy for other PHCs. A project such as this could bring down the stress on district hospitals and tertiary care centres, which currently shoulder the burden of dysfunctional PHCs.”Though states such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha have more number of unelectrified PHCs, we need to start work with those that meet these criteria so that we can establish our baseline,” said Sinha. Jharkhand alone has 42.5 percent unelectrified PHCs.Though it will take 18-24 months before health metrics start changing, Sinha added, this could be a way to encourage states to take up renewable energy. It will show state governments that not only do community services increase and improve but the cost to run them through conventional power means comes down.

Bihar toppers scam: State school board clerk arrested

Patna: The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Tuesday arrested Bihar School Examination Board clerk Ram Bujhawan Jha in connection with the Std 12 toppers’ scam, police said.

Bihar toppers Rubi Rai and Saurabh Sreshtha. News18

Bihar toppers Rubi Rai and Saurabh Sreshtha. News18

Earlier, Jha was detained and interrogated by the SIT.

“SIT has arrested Jha on the basis of revelations made by others who have been arrested in connection with the toppers scam,” a police official said.

Jha was produced in a local court that sent him to judicial custody for 14 days.

SIT on Monday had arrested former Board secretary Hariharnath Jha in connection with the scam.

Last week, SIT had arrested the Board’s former chairman Lalkeshwar Prasad and his wife Usha Sinha from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.

So far, 20 persons have been arrested in the case, police said.

After Congress, BJP veteran Yashwant Sinha flays Modi’s NSG strategy

The Modi government came under fresh attack over India’s failed bid for NSG membership, with BJP veteran Yashwant Sinha saying there was no need for approaching the bloc as an “applicant” as Congress termed the push for entering the elite grouping as “event management” which “embarrassed” the nation.Sinha said India stood to “lose and not gain” by becoming a member of the 48-nation grouping and alleged that people sitting in the government were “misguiding it every day.” “India which has shown so much keenness and desperation in getting NSG membership, it is not required at all. We are comfortable outside NSG. If we become members of NSG, we will have more loss. There will be no gains for us.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I say this strongly that India should not accept the NSG membership. We should not go there as an applicant. Whatever we had to get, we have got it,” 83-year-old Sinha, who has been critical of the government after being marginalised in the party, said.His comments came after India failed to make the cut despite intense lobbying, including a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Tashkent as some countries backed by Beijing blocked New Delhi’s entry into the NSG on the ground that it was not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).”Whether those sitting in the government understand this (issue) or not, I do not know. But I know this that such people are sitting in government who are misguiding it every day,” Sinha said.Sinha, who was External Affairs minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, has spoken out against various aspects of Modi government’s foriegn policy, especially its handling of relations with Pakistan.Gloating over the Modi government’s failure, Congress termed the vigorous push for NSG membership as “event management” and accused it of “embarrassing” the nation with its “misplaced euphoria”.”There was no reason for our government to file the application. It was ill-advised — the desperation, which the Prime Minister showed and also the prematured claims, which he made when he went to Switzerland and Mexico as if everybody is endorsing us,” former Union Minister and senior Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said. Another party spokesperson Tom Vadakkan said there was no need for this “event management on NSG”.”There were huge celebrations that Switzerland and various other countries are supporting us. But eight to nine countries opposed us including Switzerland,” he said.

India should not accept the NSG membership: BJP veteran Yashwant Sinha

New Delhi: Former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha on Sunday flayed the Narendra Modi government over its vigorous push to get NSG membership, saying there was no need for it and India should not have gone to the elite grouping as an “applicant”.

The BJP veteran, who has often been critical of the Modi government after being sidelined in the party, said India should not accept NSG membership as it has already got what it needs.

“India which has shown so much keenness in getting NSG membership, it is not required at all. I say this very strongly that India should not accept the NSG membership. We should not go there as an applicant. Whatever we had to get, we have got it,” 83-year-old Sinha said.

A file photo of Yashwant Sinha. PTIA file photo of Yashwant Sinha. PTI

A file photo of Yashwant Sinha. PTI

His comments come after India’s push for becoming at member of the NSG came a cropper at the plenary meeting of the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group recently as divisions persisted over admitting non-NPT members with China leading the opposition to it.

Ahead of the meeting, India had pushed its case with a number of countries, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the charge and also meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tashkent urging him to take a decision on India’s membership on merit while seeking Beijings support.

Sinha, who was External Affairs minister in the previous NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has spoken out against various aspects of Modi government’s foriegn policy especially its handling of Pakistan.

Terming the developments at the NSG meet in Seoul as an “embarrassment” to India, Congress too had hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he needs to realise that diplomacy needs “depth and seriousness and not public tamasha”.

Pampore attack – Our govt’s Pakistan policy has completely failed: Yashwant Sinha

Senior BJP leader and former Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha on Sunday again criticised the Modi government for engaging Pakistan in peace talk, in view of the recent Pampore attacks. “If it is true that the two terrorists killed yesterday were Pakistanis, then it is clear that it is a war-like situation between India-Pakistan.”With great sadness, I would like to say that our government’s Pakistan policy has completely failed. The sooner we stop pursuing this kind of policy towards Pakistan the better,” said the veteran politician.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sinha also said that he was against India’s bid for NSG membership. “Would like to say strongly that India must not accept NSG membership, there is no need to go there as an applicant. If today we get the NSG membership, we will be the ‘loser’. It will be a loss for us, no benefit,” he said.”Indian Govt is being regularly misguided by some people sitting in the Govt (on entry into NSG),” he added.Sinha had earlier too disapproved India-Pakistan peace process. He wanted the NSA talks between the nations to be called off. “From the time of Vajpayee government it has been our policy that terror and talks cannot go together. This is the consistent policy of BJP as well….The talks should be called off,” he had said He had also taken a jibe against PM Modi saying PMs after Vajpayee have cherished the thought of getting Nobel Peace Award by resolving Indo-Pak dispute.With agency inputs.

West Bengal opposition terms Narada sting probe as gimmick

The opposition parties in West Bengal on Friday termed the decision of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to order an inquiry into the Narada sting operation as a gimmick to fool the masses and cover up the important evidences in the sting operation.”This is nothing but a gimmick to fool the people. Everybody knows when SIT was formed during Sarada scam what was the result. Important documents where siphoned off and no major arrests were made. It was a CBI investigation that led to the arrest of several important leaders of TMC,” leader of opposition and senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan told PTI. “This investigation into the Narada scam is also ordered for the same purpose of covering up the incident”, Mannan said and wondered why didn’t the Chief Minister order an enquiry earlier and had termed the Narada sting tapes as false and fabricated.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Banerjee on Friday ordered an enquiry into the Narada sting operation and put Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in charge of the investigation. Kumar had also headed the SIT formed to investigate the Sarada chit fund scam when he was Bidhanagar Police Commissioner.In his reaction, senior CPI(M) leader Sujon Chakroborty termed Banerjee’s decision as an eye-wash to fool the people and destroy the evidences. BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha also echoed the view of Congress and CPI(M) and said if Banerjee really wanted a proper inquiry into the Narada sting then she should have recommended a CBI probe into the incident.”If she really wanted proper inquiry she should have called for a CBI inquiry,” Sinha said. TMC leader and state minister Firhad Hakim, whose name has also cropped up into the incident, welcomed the probe and said he wanted the truth to come out. Earlier, the TMC had ordered an internal party inquiry into the incident.

Sri Lanka ties moved ahead after Maithripala Sirisena took over: Indian High Commissioner

India-Sri Lanka relations have moved ahead from ‘being focussed on the past’ after President Maithripala Sirisena took over from his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa in January 2015, the Indian envoy in Colombo said on June 16.Indian High Commissioner YK Sinha said bilateral ties have become robust and entered a new phase with highest-level engagements.Recalling a flurry of high-level visits between the two South Asian neighbours across the Palk Strait, Sinha said ties entered a new phase since Sirisena took over from Rajapaksa. He said relations have moved ahead from being focused on the past.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After Sirisena’s ascent to power, there have been several high-level visits between India and Sri Lanka starting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2015, which marked the first visit to the island-nation by an Indian leader since 1987. Sirisena has twice visited India since January 2015. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also made his first overseas visit to India, Sinha said.Delivering a lecture on ‘India-Sri Lanka relations in the 21st Century’ at the Bandarnaike Centre for International Studies, Sinha said bilateral trade between the two nations have formed the cornerstone in the growing relationship.Contrary to perceptions, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries has been most fruitful, he said. Sri Lankan exports have grown 13 times since the FTA was signed in 1999. This will show who has benefited most, he said, adding that Sri Lanka and India enjoy a robust partnership, with New Delhi being Colombo’s largest partner in defence training.On the fishermen issue, Sinha said it was a humanitarian issue, with grave implications on the livelihoods of those involved. Negotiations are continuing to try and resolve the issue of fishermen of the two countries crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).Sinha pointed out that Sri Lanka’s security was in India’s interest. India stresses the need for reconciliation in Sri Lanka through a negotiated political settlement where all communities can agree. This must be within the framework of a united Sri Lanka, he added.Sirisena has taken steps to reconcile with the Tamil minority. Several confidence-building-measures such as the release of Tamil-owned lands, lifting of travel restrictions to the North and de-escalating the military presence have been taken since January as part of efforts to ensure reconciliation after three decades of civil war with the LTTE that claimed more than 100,000 lives.

‘Piracy di maa di’: Bollywood is urging you to watch ‘Udta Punjab’ only in theatres

Mumbai: Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, lead actors of Udta Punjab, among other celebrities from Bollywood have urged their fans not to waste two years of their hard work by watching the pirated version of the film and instead watch it only in the theatres.

Shahid, who will be seen playing a rockstar named Tommy Singh in the film, shared:

The controversial film Udta Punjab was leaked online on Wednesday, two days ahead of its scheduled release in theatres. The Abhishek Chaubey directorial- which has been in news for the makers’ run-in with the censor board- was available on torrent websites for illegal download.

However, soon the download links were “removed due to a copyright complaint”.

Visibly upset with the online leaks, Bollywood celebrities including Karan Johar, Shraddha Kapoor, Varun Dhawan and Sonakshi Sinha requested people to head to the theatres to watch Udta Punjab, based on drug abuse in the Indian state of Punjab.

Here’s what tinsel town celebrities had to say:

President Pranab Mukherjee arrives in ‘home of hospitality’ Cote D’Ivoirie

Abidjan: President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday arrived in Cote D’Ivoirie on the second leg of his three- nation African tour during which he will witness the reopening of Exim bank and receive the country’s highest honour.

Presdient Pranab Mukherjee. PTIPresdient Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

Presdient Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

This is the maiden visit of the Indian President to “home of hospitality” Cote D’Ivoirie and is seen as India’s outreach to Africa. Mukherjee’s visit comes close on the heels of Vice President Hamid Ansari’s trip of Morocco and Tunisia.

Mukherjee, who arrived here on a two-day visit, was received at the airport by Cote D’Ivoirie President Alassane Ouattara. He was also accorded a warm traditional welcome from about 30 tribal chiefs who wore colourful dresses.

“Exim Bank is going to re-open its office. It was relocated to Dakar during the civil war, so they have now got all the permissions and are relocation back to Ivory Coast. This is their regional office in West Africa to monitor all the lines of credit that we have,” Secretary (Economic Relations) Amar Sinha said.

“In 2011, a new government has come in and there has been a national reconciliation…,” Sinha had said.

In a symbolic gesture, the President will be handed over key of Abidjan city, the economic capital and largest city of Cote D’Ivoirie.

Cote D’Ivoirie also known as Ivory Coast, a francophone country, is the biggest producer and exporter of cashew nuts to India which procures nearly 80 per cent of their total exports of cashew nuts.

The President’s arrival coincided with rains which is considered a good omen by the locales.

“When a guest comes with rain, it is the most auspicious occasion in our country. The second line of our national anthem says our country is a home of hospitality,” said Brice, a local.

The country had gone through a period of turmoil in the last decade due to civil war but its development can be seen from modern expressways crisscrossing the lush green countryside.

Udta Punjab row: Pained by Shatrughan Sinha’s comments defending Nihalani, says Ashok Pandit

Veteran filmmaker Ashok Pandit on Monday said that he feels pained when veteran actors like Shatrughan Sinha speak against the freedom of expression of the film industry.Pandit told ANI, “I am surprised with the statement of Shatrughan Sinha ji where he is backing the CBFC chairman. The whole industry is tensed with the whole episode of ‘Udta Punjab’ and Shatrughan ji said that whatever Nihalani did was correct.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I feel pained that a senior actor like him is making a statement against freedom of expression. It would be better that if Shatruji keeps his personal equations separate,” he added.Actor-turned politician Shatrughan Sinha earlier on Monday defended the CBFC chairman, saying he is only following the guidelines laid down by the government.”The filmmakers, who are attacking him (Nihalani), forget that he has not made the rules. He is only following the guidelines laid down by the government. Don’t shoot the messenger if you don’t like the message,” Sinha told ANI.Defending his ‘close friend’ Pahlaj Nihalani, the Patna Sahib MP said the former is dutifully and beautifully playing his part as the CBFC chairman.”Why there is a huge outcry to sack Pahlaj Nihalani? He is only doing his duty. One should ask the government to change the guidelines,” he said.

RSS ideologue blames ‘anti-Hindu mindset’ for Kairana mass exodus

RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha on Monday dubbed the mass exodus of Hindu families from Kairana village of Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district as a manifestation of ‘anti-Hindu’ ideology, which had led to nation’s separation in 1947.Expressing shock and concern at the exodus of Hindu families, Sinha said it was the remnant of Pakistan?s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s ‘ideology’ which had led to such a situation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The incident of Kairana is shocking and I think any intervention would be welcomed to rehabilitate Hindu’s there. It is not only the question of rehabilitation but also fighting the mindset of Jinnah. It is a vestige of Jinnah which is creating such a situation. It is this ideology which parted the country in 1947,” Sinha told ANI here.”Kairana is becoming Kashmir. We cannot tolerate that Hindu are being forced to migrate. It is not communalism it is anti Hindu mindset which is acting,” he added.BJP legislator and Muzaffarnagar riots accused Hukum Singh had earlier reportedly said that Hindus were being forced to leave their homes in the Muslim-majority town.According to reports, the police have ordered a probe into the alleged migration after Singh presented a list of 346 families from the Muslim-majority town, claiming they had to leave their homes after attacks and extortion attempts.

Indian central bank chief wins over Modi despite broad mistrust | Reuters

NEW DELHI In late 2014, the knives were out for India’s central bank governor Raghuram Rajan.

Finance ministry officials were frustrated by his reluctance to cut interest rates to stimulate growth, and moves were afoot to ease him out of the job. Some were airing their reservations about Rajan’s hawkish stance in the media.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened a meeting of senior finance ministry staff that December to hear their complaints, said a person who was present.

At the end, the leader delivered a stern message: do not indulge in a public spat with the central bank.

The moment marked a turning point in ties between the heads of the newly installed government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Since then, Modi and Rajan have developed a close working rapport, government officials and people close to the governor say, and that could be crucial to the $2 trillion economy.

With Modi’s patronage, it is more likely the government will reappoint Rajan, whose three-year term expires in September, should he wish to stay on, the sources said.

That would allow him to try to revive India’s banking sector that has been smothered by distressed debt, which, in turn, is choking off economic recovery.

“Rajan will get another term and he will accept it,” said Arvind Mayaram, India’s former finance secretary who Rajan worked with closely first as the government’s chief economic adviser and then as RBI governor. “He is well entrenched in India’s political economy.”

A top government official said the decision rests with Modi and the leader has not yet said what he wants to do. Modi recently told The Wall Street Journal that Rajan’s reappointment would come up only in September.

The official, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the press, added that the prime minister was “proud” of the RBI governor and that a campaign against Rajan would not affect Modi’s decision.

The prime minister’s office and finance ministry did not respond to requests for comment. Rajan, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, has not disclosed his plans, and did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

MODI’S SUPPORT IS KEY

Modi’s support would be important if the 53-year-old RBI chief is to get the big state banking sector to complete a cleanup of massive debts and force defaulters to pay up.

Banks making provisions for bad debt are reluctant to issue new loans, leading to criticism within the sector and complaints from smaller businesses and politicians.

Patronage from above will also help shield Rajan from lingering opposition within the ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a man known for his straight talking and willingness to question government policy and achievements.

As the personal understanding between Rajan and Modi appears to grow, some officials still resent him.

The fact that Rajan was appointed by the previous Congress government did not help him win friends in Modi’s BJP, and the former University of Chicago professor has been viewed by some with suspicion as a product of the West, not India.

BJP parliamentarian and economist Subramanian Swamy, one of those leading a campaign to remove Rajan, recently accused him of “wilfully and deliberately wrecking the Indian economy.”

The governor’s penchant for blunt commentary raises hackles.

Rajan’s appeal for tolerance late last year was perceived to be a veiled criticism of the government for appealing to the Hindu majority at the expense of minority communities, prompting Swamy to rebuke him for speaking like a “grandfather”.

Rajan recently compared India’s fast-growing economy to a “one-eyed king in the land of the blind”. Trade Minister Nirmala Sitharaman publicly censured his comments.

BONHOMIE

The first signs of growing bonhomie between Modi and Rajan came early last year, when Modi called Rajan the “best teacher” for explaining complex economic issues to him.

Days later, the governor returned the compliment, saying the teaching went both ways.

The prime minister backed Rajan in the monetary policy panel’s composition and blocking moves to strip the RBI’s authority to regulate government bonds and manage public debt.

Modi’s office also directed the finance ministry to pursue only those policies where there was agreement with the central bank, a former finance ministry official said.

The governor frequently visits New Delhi to meet Modi, a government official with direct knowledge said. But their meetings are mostly kept away from the public gaze.

Modi’s office declined a request to disclose the number and details of the meetings, saying the information relates to “economic interest of the state”.

Rajan had help from junior finance minister Jayant Sinha, a college friend and one of the more influential economic voices in the Modi government.

At the December meeting, Sinha told the attendees that the clashes were undermining the government’s credibility, the person present said.

A government source said that Sinha also facilitated meetings between Rajan and Modi to broker a compromise on thorny issues such as the composition of the new monetary panel. Sinha did not respond to a request for comment.

LEARNING ON THE JOB

Rajan may prove a more effective governor second time around if he gets the chance, say some RBI insiders and economists.

Although he fended off a market attack on the rupee early in his tenure, bankers, economists and his former colleagues said he was relatively slow to grasp how liquidity flows through the economy and how to fine tune it to meet his primary policy goal of taming inflation.

Under Rajan, the RBI forced banks to source limited short-term funds from cash-for-bond auctions rather than getting unlimited funds from the central bank at a fixed rate.

Banks complained the new system was forcing up costs and hampering the transmission of rate cuts to the real economy, said several bankers privy to the discussions with the RBI.

At first, Rajan publicly dismissed their concerns as “nonsense”. It was only after 16 months of pleading by banks that he finally revamped the RBI’s liquidity management in April, the bankers said.

A second stint is likely to see a more accomplished operator as the RBI tackles bank debt, tries to develop the bond market as a viable source of funding for companies and switches to a Western-style approach to decision making.

A new monetary policy panel will be formed later this year to set interest rates, something Rajan favored to make the RBI more independent and introduce transparency to the process.

In a key victory for Rajan, draft legislation from the finance ministry that would have allowed the government to appoint more than half of the panel’s members was amended to split it evenly between government and RBI nominees.

Rajan will get the casting vote in the case of a 3-3 split.

Those who have worked with Rajan said his people skills and powers of persuasion will give him a big say on setting rates.

“WHY ROCK THE BOAT?”

Rajan continues to be lionized by foreign investors whose funds are needed to keep the Indian economy motoring ahead.

That was key in convincing Modi to defend him, while two off-cycle interest rate cuts in January and March last year also acted as a balm, a senior minister in the federal cabinet said.

The country has been ravaged by drought in the last two years and not enough jobs are being created to accommodate its rapidly expanding workforce, but India is the world’s fastest growing major economy and inflation is half what it was in 2013.

“The combination of Modi, (Finance Minister Arun) Jaitley and Rajan are delivering on the macro front,” said Gita Gopinath, an economics professor at Harvard University who knows Rajan well. “I really don’t see any reason to rock the boat.”

(Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine, Neha Dasgupta, Suvashree Choudhury and Rupam Jain; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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

Vice President Hamid Ansari to visit Morocco and Tunisia

Vice President Hamid Ansari will undertake a five-day visit to Morocco and Tunisia beginning May 30 as part of efforts to build on diplomatic gains from the India-Africa summit held in October last year.The Vice President will discuss with leaders in the two North African countries issues of terrorism, UN Security Council expansion and investments in private sector, as well as ways to strengthen outreach to Africa and regional matters.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ansari will be in Morocco from May 30 to June 1 at the invitation of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, the External Affairs Ministry (MEA) said today, adding the two leaders would jointly launch the India-Morocco Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Rabat.During the visit, a number of MoUs will be signed in areas like education amd IT, focusing on “capacity building and cultural exchange”.In the second leg of his two-nation tour, Ansari will be visiting Tunisia from June 2 to June 3.Ansari’s visit “will build on diplomatic gains” from the India-Africa summit and “we have chosen these two countries as they are great examples of democracy”, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the MEA Amar Sinha told reporters here.”Hello Africa, Tell me how are you doing?” will be India’s motto for the continent, he said, adding there will be a series of visits by Indian leaders to Africa in the coming days.He also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to visit Africa this year. The King of Morocco had set the ball rolling when he came here in October, Sinha said, adding the two countries are important for India as it shares economic relations with them. He said it is the first high-level visit to the African country after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee went there in 1999. “At the level of Vice President the visit comes after 50 years,” he said, noting that it is the 50th year of Independence of Morocco.The New Delhi Summit – of which Morocco’s King Mohammed VI was the first confirmed guest – was the largest political conference in modern history connecting Indian and African leaders.Both the countries are looking forward towards the visit as they are key partners in food security and fertilizers and investments in private sector.”Our car and truck manufacturers are looking at prospective markets,” he said. While Morocco’s trade with India is “substantial”, there is scope for increasing it with Tunisia, Sinha said. “Morocco is developing destination for Indian film industry,” he said, adding MoUs will be signed in education, IT and communication technology sectors. The visit will help in building the contemporary relationship between these two countries and India.The visit to Morocco intends to further strengthen the cordial relations between the two countries, develop and diversify profile of bilateral economic cooperation and explore new avenues of co-operation and partnership on a wide range of issues of shared common interest, the MEA said.The Vice President would hold discussions in Rabat with King Mohammed VI and Prime Minister Benkirane. Speakers of both Houses of Moroccan Parliament and the Minister of Foreign Affairs & Cooperation would call on Ansari, who would also visit the city of Marrakesh where he would be hosted by the Governor.The Vice President would meet leading intellectuals and Imams of Morocco as well as deliver a talk at Mohammed V University in Rabat. Members of Indian diaspora would interact with the Vice President in the Moroccan capital.Ansari will later head to Tunisia for his June 2-3 visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Habib Essid.India has very cordial bilateral relations with Tunisia.”The economic cooperation between the two countries is deepening with Indian investments in phosphate sector,” the MEA said.During this visit, further avenues of cooperation in various areas of growth would be discussed.The Vice President would be holding discussions in Tunis with Essid and President Beji Caid Essebsi on a wide range of issues of shared common interest.He would be received by the President of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People of Tunisia where he would be meeting multi-party Members of Parliament and Tunisian-India Parliamentary Group.Ansari would deliver a key note address to the Tunisian Diplomatic Corps and leading scholars and think tanks at the Tunisian Institute for Strategic Studies.Besides his wife Salma Ansari, the Vice President would be accompanies by Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, four members of Parliament and senior officials. PTI AKA VJ

Coal scam: Ranjit Sinha ordered closure of case, investigating officer tells court

An investigator in a coal block allocation scam has told a special court that the order to file a closure report in the case was given by then CBI chief Ranjit Sinha whose role is under the scanner of a Supreme Court-appointed panel on whether his decisions had led to scuttling of the probe.The probe officer was recording his testimony as a prosecution witness in the case involving Madhya Pradesh-based Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL) and others in which the court had rejected CBI’s closure report and has been proceeding with the trial in the case.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The CBI had named as accused KSSPL, its directors, Pawan, Kamaljeet Ahluwalia, Prashant Ahluwalia, Amit Goyal and some unknown public servants in FIR for allegedly misrepresenting facts, including inflated net worth, to acquire coal blocks.The officer told the court that after completing the probe, he had submitted the report to his senior but the final order was received from the “competent authority” to close the case.On being asked by special CBI judge Bharat Parashar as to who was the “competent authority” referred by investigating officer (IO), in his examination-in-chief, who had directed to file closure report in the case, DSP Sanjay Dubey said “Ranjit Sinha the then Director CBI.”The controversy regarding Sinha’s alleged meetings with some coal block allocation scam accused at his official residence during his tenure as CBI director had reached to the Supreme Court which had constituted a team to look into it.An initial report has been given in the apex court by former special director of CBI M L Sharma-headed panel and it is still continuing with its inquiry into the allegations that Sinha’s meetings with accused and others had led to botching up of investigation in the Coalgate cases.During his deposition, the IO said, “Upon completion of all necessary investigation, I submitted my report to my senior officer in CBI. However, the final order as was received from the then competent authority was to file a closure report against all accused persons. Accordingly, a final report in the nature of closure report was filed by me in the court on March 27, 2014.” The IO said the court, however, did not agree with the conclusion drawn in the final report filed by him and had taken cognisance of various offences against various private parties and public servants in October 2014 and had ordered the CBI to carry out further investigation.The case pertains to alleged irregularities in allocation of Thesgora-B Rudrapuri coal block in Madhya Pradesh to KSSPL.The court had summoned the Madhya Pradesh-based company and its managing director Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia, senior official and Chartered Accountant, Amit Goyal, former Coal Secretary H C Gupta and two government officials as accused in the case.The other two government officials who were summoned as accused were Ministry of Coal’s (MOC) then Joint Secretary, K S Kropha, and one of its then director K C Samaria.These accused are facing trial for the alleged offences under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) of the IPC and under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Lok Sabha gives nod for insolvency and bankruptcy code

New Delhi The Lok Sabha on Thursday gave its nod to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, that seeks to improve the ease of doing business in the country.

The measure seeks to overhaul the laws regulating insolvency amid a surge in bad loans. The bill will now go to the Rajya Sabha for its consent.

The new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code aims to slash the time it takes to wind up a company or recover dues from a defaulter. PTI

The new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code aims to slash the time it takes to wind up a company or recover dues from a defaulter. PTI

Piloting the legislation, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha called it “transformational” and one that will restore the balance of power between the promoters and creditors.

It also seeks to amend the laws, including the Companies Act, to become an overarching legislation.

Officials and experts say the passing of the legislation before 31 May can help India improve its rankings in the World Bank’s “ease of doing business index”.

At present on the parameter of resolving insolvency, India is ranked 136 among 189 countries.

Once it gets the Rajya Sabha nod, the new law will give the banks “more confidence” to lend for long-term projects such as roads, ports and power plants, officials said.

The new draft legislation contains amendments to the original Code introduced in December 2015 as suggested by a joint parliamentary panel.

The new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code aims to slash the time it takes to wind up a company or recover dues from a defaulter.

Bharatiya Janata Party sources told IANS that the bill will boost Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s ‘Made in India’ programme and attempts to improve the ease of doing business, as promised by the National Democratic Alliance dispensation to the foreign investors.

The new code seeks to replace the existing century-old bankruptcy laws and provide a time-bound process for resolving insolvency issues.

It will cover individuals, companies, limited liability partnerships and partnership firms.

The government expects the bill to get Rajya Sabha approval too since members from the upper house too were a part of the joint committee on the issue.

“There were 12 laws, some of which were more than 100 years old, to tackle insolvency and now there will be one law. We will be able to quickly move up the World Bank rankings,” Sinha said while replying to the debate.

The bill, after its introduction in December last year, was referred to a joint committee of both houses. The committee, which submitted its report last week, proposed a number of changes.

The parliamentary panel also recommended that money due to workers and employees from the provident fund, pension fund and gratuity fund should not be included in the assets of estates under liquidation.

Among others, Gaurav Gogoi and Sushmita Dev (Congress) and Saugata Roy (Trinamool Congress) also spoke on the issue.

The members underlined that the “implementation” of the new Code will be key to its success and future roadmap.

The members also suggested that the government will have to move faster to strengthen debt recovery tribunals and the appellate tribunals for effective implementation of the new law.

Rail Minister and his deputy go missing during Question hour in Parliament, govt left red-faced

Government on Wednesday faced embarrassment in Lok Sabha when a question relating to Railway Ministry was taken up but both Minister Suresh Prabhu and junior minister Manoj Sinha were absent, leading the Speaker to issue a stricture saying such instances should not recur.The incident happened during Question Hour when Speaker Sumitra Mahajan took up the issue of ‘Go-India Smart Card’, an initiative of the Railway Ministry, for discussion.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As neither Prabhu, nor Sinha were present in the House, Congress members led by Mallikarjun Kharge strongly protested and wanted to know why the Ministers were absent when the question relating to their Ministry was listed for business in the House.Kharge said this was not for the first time that a Minister was absent when matters related to their Ministries were taken up. “They (Ministers) are not following rules. Earlier, when a Cabinet Minister was not present, we kept mum. For running the House, Ministers must be present. They are not following rules. It will have a repercussion on you (Speaker), not on them (treasury),” Kharge said. Congress chief whip Jyotiraditya Scindia asked the Speaker to issue a stricture and said “we are fighting for you, Madam”.Speaker Mahajan expressed her displeasure over the absence of MoS Sinha, saying “I am sorry, it is unfair” “I was informed that the Cabinet Minister is busy in somewhere else. The MoS was here. But I think he has left.This should not happen. Ministers should be present till the last. This should not happen again,” she said. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu also expressed regret for the absence of the Minister saying it will not be repeated.”The Minister (MoS) was here. But he has left perhaps under the impression that it (the question related to the Railway Ministry) will not come up. I am sorry and it will not be repeated. Minister should be in the House. It is a mistake,” he said. Naidu also suggested that the particular question relating to the Railway Ministry should be postponed and taken up on another day.

Ram Navami violence: NIA team reaches Hazaibagh to probe circumstances behind April 17 blast

NIA team on Tuesday reached Hazaribagh to examine the circumstances behind the April 17 Ram Navami violence and the subsequent bomb blast at Habibinagar Colony that killed six persons and injured two.Officials of the team visited the place soon after arrival and would like to stay in Hazaribagh in connection with the inquiry, Superintendent of Police, Akhilesh Kumar Jha, said here.Senior BJP leader and former External Affairs minister Yashwant Sinha had on April 21 demanded NIA probe into the blast.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Meanwhile, another person was arrested today at Marhetta under Hazaribagh Mufassil police station area after the police came to know that he was also injured in the blast and now under treatment at his in-laws’ place, Jha said. He has since been shifted to Hazaribagh Sadar Hospital, the police officer said. Sinha added that interrogation of the accused was on to ascertain how many people were involved in the making of the bomb that resulted in the blast. Earlier, the police got information from one of the injured persons and accused that seven persons had allegedly been involved in the bomb making when the blast took place and that the dead were buried. Subsequently, the police moved the court and exhumed five bodies yesterday.After autopsy, the bodies were again buried here today in the presence of their relatives, the police said. The April 17 violence during Ram Navami procession had led imposition of curfew in Hazaribagh town and its surrounding areas for a week. Altogether six persons had been killed and two others were injured in the bomb blast, the SP said. One body was recovered on April 20. Both the injured have been arrested and being treated for their wounds.

Marathwada’s drought: Crop insurance for farmers not adequate to cover cultivation costs

Latur: Ram Venkat Rao Hande rues the day he paid the insurance premium to safeguard his crop. In 2014, the farmer shelled out Rs 3,001 to cover the channa (chickpea) that he had cultivated on his 4.5 acres land in Ausa taluka of Latur district. Unseasonal rains destroyed the crop and after two years, he got a total of Rs 17,810, not even enough to cover the market cost of one acre of channa.

“I would have got Rs 18,000 per acre of channa just by selling it,” Hande told Firstpost. “What’s the use of insurance that doesn’t even cover my production cost?”

Farmer Ram Venkat Rao Hande with his insurance payment receipt

Farmer Ram Venkat Rao Hande with his insurance payment receipt. Photo courtesy: Tushar Dhara

Insurance, as a product to hedge against risk, is widely used to provide cover against unforeseen factors. Three years of continuous drought and extreme weather events in Marathwada has made agriculture more unpredictable, but the financial products that are meant to defray the risk are failing farmers, Firstpost found by talking to farmers and bankers.

Crops like soyabean, pulses like urad, moong and tur, rice and fruits like grapes and chikoo are usually grown in this part of Latur. Interviews with cultivators revealed that the insurance they get for crop damage doesn’t even cover the cost of cultivation.

Pradeep Sonawane has around 24 acres of land in Ausa taluka where he cultivates crops like urad, tur, jowar and grapes. The cost of cultivating one acre of urad and moong is around Rs 10,000. Soyabean is slightly higher at Rs 14,000 per acre. Last year, when unseasonal rain destroyed these crops, the amount he got was way below what he had spent in cultivating the crops.

“I got Rs 2,000 per acre for soyabean and Rs 1,500 for tur. The insurance doesn’t cover the actual cost of the crops destroyed,” Sonawane said.

For urad, a type of pulse, the premium for one acre is Rs 378 for a 100 percent coverage of Rs 6,000, in theory. But Sonawane said that he got only Rs 600-1,000 per acre.

Shivaji Sonawane, the president of the Grape Growers’ Association in Latur, feels that the reason why crop insurance cover is so low is because the likelihood of payout is much higher for agriculture.

Insurance works on the principle that the premiums collected for a particular risk category by a company will always be higher than the likelihood of an actual payout. The chance of a fire breaking out at a warehouse is much more improbable than the premiums collected for fire insurance from several warehouses. Similarly, the chance of crashing your car is remote, compared to the surety of your annual vehicle insurance payments.

But in case of agriculture, which is largely dependent on monsoons, a slight deviation from a normal monsoon means widespread destruction of crops. Either excessive or deficient or even untimely rains are enough to destroy the crops, which is what is happening in Marathwada, along with unseasonal hail.

“The reasons why we don’t get adequate cover are linked to climatic factors,” Shivaji Sonawane said. “In our case, one extreme weather event will ruin thousands of farmers. Which company wants to take that risk?”

In the case of crop insurance, some part of the premium is paid by the government. For grapes, the premium comes to Rs 18,000 per hectare, of which half is paid by the government and Rs 9,000 by the farmer. However, grape crop insurance is only for 40 days, which is less than the grape season. For instance, two years ago, Shivaji Sonawane’s insurance cover expired on 28 February and a hailstorm destroyed his crops on 5 March.

Jayanta Sinha, an independent banking consultant who was formerly the chief general manager for rural business at the State Bank of India, said that the average all India penetration of insurance is just 22 percent (of cropped area). This is the reason why premiums are high. “The sum paid out as insurance is low while premiums are high. This is the reason farmers are reluctant to purchase crop insurance,” Sinha said in an interview.

Sinha said that the government’s new insurance scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year has the potential to change things for the better. “This can be a game changer because it is assuring a lower premium and higher payouts,” Sinha said.

Under the scheme farmers will pay 2 percent premium for kharif crops, 1.5 percent for rabi and 5 percent for cash crops. The aim is to take insurance penetration to 50 percent of gross cropped area in the next two years, because the success of the scheme will depends on that. The premium percentage is based on output per hectare multiplied by the average price per hectare.

Of course, insurance is just a financial product to defray risk. The structural factors affecting Indian agriculture are deeper than that and those need to be addressed to make agriculture viable.

Shivaji suggested that one way to improve insurance is to include the cost of cultivation and 50 percent of profit on that. That would act as an incentive for farmers to continue cropping. This view was echoed by Sudhakar Shinde, a farmer and political activist who grows soyabean and pulses.

Pradeep Sonawane, on the other hand, wants opening up of the insurance sector so that a larger number of products are available to the farmer. “Let the government allow foreign companies to come in and compete with the companies operating locally. Maybe then we will get a better insurance deal.”

Marathwada-logo

Shivaji Sonawane laments that the current debates going on in the country do not feature farmers or agriculture at all. “Right now, everything in the news is about Kanhaiya and beef. What about the issues that really matter? Agriculture and the people who grow food are a vital part of the economy, but we hardly figure anywhere in the collective consciousness of the nation.”

This is the eleventh segment of a 13-part series on Marathwada’s drought.

Part 12: Climate change and its impact on the farmers of Marathwada.

Read the previous parts of the series here:

Part 1: Region is parched, impoverished and desperate, but it’s a crisis of its own making
Part 2: In the midst of severe economic downturn, private water sellers reap profits in Latur
Part 3: Drought has brought the economy down and is forcing farmers to leave the region
Part 4: Water scarcity has created a region where trust has eroded and left the social fabric frayed
Part 5: Maha has the most dams in the country, but the least effective irrigation network
Part 6: A surveyor of suicides tells the story behind the statistics and the lonely struggle of Indian farmers
Part 7: Will outreach help reduce farmer suicides?
Part 8: ‘Toothless’ laws lead to water exploitation
Part 9: Shirpur, Jal Biradari projects show impact of small local initiatives
Part 10: Why debt-ridden farmers are deemed least creditworthy

Malda is tense, but is it communal? Ground reality suggests otherwise

The market is bustling with activity. Shopkeepers are busy interacting and bargaining with customers as cars keep honking in the background. Security forces patrol the streets ahead of the polling. Merely, three and a half months ago, this locality had been engulfed in violence and turbulence. Today, however, the spectacle in Malda has “business as usual” written all over it.A closer look, though, indicates that normalcy had returned the very evening after the unrest erupted on the morning of January 3. “I opened my shop at around five in the evening,” says Dipal Sinha, who runs a medical store right across the Kaliachak Police Station, which was burnt by the hostile mob. “The attack was confined to the police station.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Immediately after the incident, reports on social media suggested a communal riot in West Bengal’s Malda district, which goes to polls on Sunday. The episode had pitted the Muslims against Hindus. However, shopkeepers in close proximity to the police station say no human being was targeted or no shop was vandalised. “We have never experienced communal tension and neither have I been at the receiving end of minority persecution,” says 67-year-old Sinha, who has lived right behind his shop all his life. “My relations with my Muslim neighbours are extremely pleasant. In fact, when I was wondering whether I should open my shop in the evening, my Muslim friends asked me to go ahead without any hesitation.”
ALSO READ Malda Violence: Why Rajnath’s trip won’t help BJP beat Mamata in West BengalWhat was the attack about?An obscure group, Anjuman Ahle Sunnatul Jamaat, organised a rally protesting a derogatory remark about Prophet Mohammad made by Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari a month ago. Five times the amount of people turned up at the Kaliachak market than what was expected. Shortly, the rally proceeded towards the police station. “The whole lane was packed,” says Sinha.
ALSO READ Malda violence: Is West Bengal under Mamata Banerjee a communal tinder box or a victim of false propaganda?It did not take time for the matters to escalate and the mob set afire a Border Security Force (BSF) vehicle, then attacked and ransacked the police station. “If the attack was communal, what is the sense behind the police station being the lone target?” questions Sina-ul-Haq, who has been reporting from Malda for local newspaper Uttar Banga Samvad for years. “The rally was intentionally hijacked by some of the anti-social elements in Malda.”Merely a day or so before the attack, the police had raided substantial poppy fields and arrested more than hundred cultivators. Peculiarly, the attempt to burn down the police station was limited to the section where the records and files of the drug mafia had been kept. “It was a clear cut effort to destroy the evidence that would have landed some of the major law breakers of the district in jail,” says Haq.An overwhelmingly Muslim dominated district, Malda is grossly backward and underdeveloped, clouded by agrarian distress, poverty and illicit activities. Poppy cultivation, circulation of fake currency notes is rampant here.In Baisnabnagar village of Malda, located 7-8 kilometers from the Bangladesh border, miles of farmlands spread out like a trackless desert. A tranquil serene village enveloped in greenery is one of the many bordering villages indulging in poppy cultivation. Samar Mandal, an agricultural labourer, says it is cultivated at the centre of the farmland with rice or wheat guarding its borders. “It is rampant,” he says. “The more you move towards the interiors, the more acute it gets.” Mandal, clad in a sullied checked shirt, lungi and a handkerchief wrapped around his forehead, says he has come across it many a time while fetching fodder from the farmlands for his livestock.The rampant illicit activities have been used to target the religion, but when the population is overwhelmingly Muslim, the involvement of Muslims in these activities is obvious, says Haq. “A few Hindus are in the poppy business as well,” adds Mandal. The poppy season arrives in January and concludes towards March end. The mafias running the poppy business rent the farmlands for three months. Once cultivated, the poppy is processed and then exported to various parts of the country and abroad, especially Bangladesh. Behind every 1.5-2 acres, the poppy earns profits worth Rs 4 lakh. Unfortunately, Malda has, in recent times, become a hub.Locals say those involved in poppy are, by and large, the same strongmen indulging in the circulation of fake currency notes. The raids conducted by police in these poppy fields would have, in all likelihood, implicated them. What happened on January 3 was a major law and order breakdown, which is not unusual in Malda.Reason behind the communal colourWhile the ones trying, at times successfully, to paint the incident communal in order to galvanise Hindu sentiments nationwide were right-wingers, the polarisation also benefits the ruling TMC government.Malda has been a bastion of the Congress for a long time, largely due to the much revered leader Ghani Khan Chowdhury. He passed away eight years ago but his legacy continues to wield influence over the electorate. The TMC has hitherto not been able to breach the loyal Congress vote, and with the Congress now tying up with the Left, their chances have boosted considerably.The TMC government’s indifferent response towards the law and order situation in Malda is interpreted by journalists and observers here as an attempt to garner more votes through religious polarisation, since the move to go out of the way and coax Madrasas does not seem to be cutting any ice. “Grants to Madrasas will not influence voting in Malda,” says Tajbul Hussain, a headmaster at a Madrasa in Malda. “The major issues over here are law and order and security.”The polarisation is not working in TMC’s favour either. In most of the 12 constituencies of Malda district, the Congress-Left alliance appears to be enjoying the upper hand. Moreover, when arch rivals generally join hands, the alliance is essentially a handiwork of the top brass while the ordinary cadres find the amalgamation uncomfortable. However, at a local booth in Malda, the ease of the workers of Congress and Left towards each other was telling.The BJP, on the other hand, appears to have gained from painting Malda communal. The party, which failed to make inroads in Malda even during the Modi wave of 2014, seems to be a serious contender in the Baisnabnagar constituency which has a significant Hindu vote bank. Swadhin Sarkar, BJP’s candidate from the constituency, says he is the frontrunner to clinch Baisnabnagar. “I do not know how BJP would do elsewhere in Malda, but I shall win this one comfortably,” he says.Back in Kaliachak, the police station has been renovated in no time. The police quarter is back on its feet and the security personnel have moved back in. The freshly painted white walls and reconstruction of the infrastructure do not indicate that the site was brutally attacked not long ago. Neither does the electorate’s demeanour while talking about it.

Bihar: Shatrughan Sinha hails total prohibition decision, calls for curbing use of tobacco

BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha on Sunday praised the Nitish Kumar government’s decision of total prohibition in Bihar and urged the Chief Minister to give a serious thought on curbing tobacco consumption.”Total prohibition is a progressive decision by the Nitish Kumar government to which everybody should extend a wholehearted support,” Sinha told PTI.The BJP Lok Sabha member from Patna Sahib made a strong case for similar concerted action against tobacco and its products like khaini, ghutka, zarda and beedi.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We must kill tobacco before it kills us,” said Sinha, who had launched a strong campaign against smoking and tobacco consumption as a Union Health Minister.The World Health Organisation (WHO) has marked tobacco as a leading killer. In India, tobacco-related diseases like cancer and lung problems have been identified posing a grave threat.
ALSO READ Bihar goes dry: After country liquor, CM Nitish Kumar announces complete ban on foreign and domestic alcoholProhibition of tobacco along with the total ban on liquor would have a “cascading” effect on human health, he said.Last Tuesday, the Nitish Kumar government had announced a complete ban on liquor, domestic and spicy, as well as Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in Bihar.

Bengaluru gym chain backed by Virat Kohli to set up 100 branches across India by 2018

Bengaluru-based Chisel Fitness has announced major plans. On Sunday, the company, in which Indian cricketer Virat Kohli has a 30% stake, said it is planning to set up 100 branches across India by 2018.A report in The New Indian Express states that each centre will see an expenditure of nearly Rs 2 crore for set up. Currently, they have two gyms owned by the company. Most of its new branches will be franchises.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Satya Sinha, co-founder, Chisel Fitness, told the daily that their fitness centres are currently set up in Bengaluru and Andhra Pradesh. He added, “We will be opening centres at Delhi, Mumbai, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore and Chennai over the next few months.”The company is looking to expand into the UAE and Sri Lanka. Chisel has also tied up with a California-based firm. The daily adds that the slimming and fitness sector is just 8% of the total market of the Indian wellness industry. Given this scenario, the company which started nine months ago sees a high possibility of growth. Sinha stated that they also plan to sell diet food and clothing.

Kolkata flyover tragedy: All TMC has done is paint our projects white and blue, says CPM

The packed Girish Park area of North Kolkata’s Jorasanko, that witnessed the deadly collapse of an under-construction bridge leaving 24 dead and injuring hundred others, is a Trinamool Congress stronghold. Haphazardly lined with small sweet shops, smaller grocery stores and multiple tea stalls, amid residential and commercial buildings standing neck to neck, the 800-metre long, dusty approach road to the Vivekananda flyover is brimming with election posters –18 of them splashing pictures of chief minister Mamata Banerjee and local TMC legislator Smita Bakshi representing TMC this year too, and three posters seeking votes for BJP candidate Rahul Sinha.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>That’s not all. Around three months ago, the chief minister had promised locals inauguration of the long-delayed flyover by the end of March, which ironically was Thursday. As if to keep her promise, residents admitted that work on the flyover was on day and night for the last two months.Yet, when the structure came down unalarmed on Thursday noon, the immediate stand of TMC was, “Construction of the flyover began in 2008, during CPM regime, not ours,” and “the tender was passed in 2009 by the former Left Front government and was given to Hyderabad’s IVRCL construction.”On her part, Banerjee did order an inquiry into the incident, calling upon top civil engineering experts, offered hefty compensation of Rs5 lakh and Rs 2lakh each to the next of the kin of deceased and the injured and announced that those responsible wouldn’t be spared. But what made her alienate the ambitious project that she was once holding onto so dearly? Her political opponents said it is nothing but the timing of the incident. The state begins its first phase of polling three days later on April 4. State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the TMC is steeped in corruption and that’s the root cause of the ‘impending’ disaster. “How did the ruling party did not know that the infrastructure company (IVRCL) building the flyover was blacklisted earlier by the Railways as well as the Hyderabad corporation?” Chowdhury asked. He also alleged that the original contract was also sub-contracted to relatives of the local TMC leader. “It had been repeatedly pointed out that the design of the flyover was faulty. Why couldn’t the government ask the contractor for the design plan and get it revised, which has such a dubious reputation?” Chowdhury asked.Crying graft, local leader Rahul Sinha, who is fighting for the Jorasanko constituency on a BJP ticket, said that the infra company was given an extension at least nine times to complete the delayed project.”What started as a Rs164 crore project, has already touched the Rs200 crore mark. What was the tearing hurry in starting the construction just two months ahead of the election? The quality was also compromised because of the haste,” Sinha told dna.The crowded Jorasanko constituency is home to a thick population of trading communities, including Rajasthanis, Biharis and Gujaratis and Biharis, a demography that will come as an advantage to the BJP on the lines of is ‘ease of doing business’ promise. The national party is trying to get an entry into the state this time.Leaders of CPI(M), which ruled the state for 34-long years before being ousted by the TMC in 2011, said that Banerjee has only been been taking credits over the completion of projects started by the left government. CPI(M) leader Surjya Kanta Mishra said that what the ruling party has done in the last five years was to paint infrastructural projects started by the left government in white and blue.”They always took credit for work initiated by us, but changed their stance in this case, even though they were in charge of it for the last five years,” he said. Aside allegations, the biggest embarrassment for TMC, however, was when TMC MP of North Kolkata, Sudip Bandopadhyay, too said he had asked for the sketch of the flyover to be remodelled, but that never happened. Local TMC leader Smita Bakshi refuted allegations saying that the bridge had to start sometime and that the party was in no hurry to finish it before the polls. “It was hugely delayed because of opposition from locals who said that it was interfering with their balconies. It was also under litigation for sometime, so work couldn’t progress earlier. But it has to start sometime,” she said, adding that despite repeated reminders, the infra company did not submit her the bridge design plan.However, she couldn’t make it clear why did the infra company owners refused to pay heed to the local legislator’s demand of producing the plan.West Bengal government officials said work has on a standstill for almost six years because of a lack of permission from the Calcutta Port Trust on build piers on the ramp on a 150 metre stretch of the road. The project was a joint venture of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority with construction company IVRCL. Calling the incident a game changer, Kolkata locals say the incident and its timing could be a setback for the ruling TMC, which was expected to make a clean sweep this election.

Kolkata: Two policemen offer bribe to BJP leader Rahul Sinha, suspended

The BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha on Monday said two Kolkata police personnel tried to bribe him in return for help in smuggling out cows to Bangladesh, following which the duo was suspended.Sinha also alleged that it was a conspiracy by the Trinamool Congress government to trap BJP leaders in the sting operation before the Assembly polls and demanded a CBI probe.Trinamool Congress, however, refuted the charge. Sinha, contesting Assembly poll from Jorasanko seat in the metropolis, said, “Two persons last night came to my home and wanted an appointment. Today they came to meet me in my party office.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The two said they wanted my help in cattle smuggling and offered me huge sums. I immediately rejected the proposal and handed them over to the police station,” Sinha said. “After initial interrogation, the OC of the Jorasanko police station told me that both are from the Special Branch of the Kolkata police. I have lodged an FIR against the duo,” Sinha said.”Both Subhasish Ray Choudhury, an ASI of the Special Branch, and constable Aminul Rahman have been placed under suspension pending enquiry into the allegations of Rahul Sinha,” a top police officer said.An enquiry under DC Central Division, Akhilesh Chaturvedi has been initiated against the two, he said, adding that since this was a non-cognisable offence, the accused have not been arrested but if found guilty they may lose their jobs.”We are interrogating the two persons. As they belong to the Special Branch, Joint CP (Intelligence) is also looking into the matter,” he said. “The duo has done this for their own benefit and Kolkata police has no link in the matter,” Joint CP, Headquarters, Kolkata police, Supratim Sarkar.Sinha alleged, “Actually it is a conspiracy by the TMC government to organise a sting operation against BJP leaders and tarnish our image ahead of Assembly election. But they have forgotten that BJP is a party of honest politicians.” He said the police department was under the chief minister.TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee, however, said in a sarcastic vein, “Every good thing is done by them and whatever is wrong is done by TMC. The people in the state know that whatever good thing is done is done by Mamata Banerjee”.

Stalker who hacks 16-year-old national level volleyball player with cleaver, surrenders

Barasat, West Bengal: On Saturday the man accused of hacking a teen to death in West Bengal, surrendered, according to a report by NDTV. On Friday, a female national-level volleyball player was allegedly hacked to death by a youth in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district.

The youth hit the 16-year-old girl, Sangita Aich or Tina, with a sharp weapon several times at Natun Pukur locality and fled, Superintendent of Police Tanmay Roychowdhury said. Aich, a Class 9 student, had played volleyball twice at the national level and thrice at the state level, reported Hindustan Times.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

According to the report, the attacker was a 20-year-old Subrata Sinha also known as Raja, who was “furious” over Aich rejecting him several times in the past.

According to the police, Sinha arrived at Aich’s practice camp on Friday evening and demanded that she speak to him. Upon refusal, he advanced towards her with a cleaver. According to NDTV, the girl’s coach — Swapan Das — tried to save Aich. When Sinha tried to get up from the chair he was sitting on, the coach beat him back to his seat as a frightened Aich cowered behind him.

The 16-year-old, however managed to flee the scene and scrambled towards her residence, located barely 100 metres from the ground, but Sinha followed her and allegedly hacked her to death.

The locals were too scared to tackle Sinha as he fled. Aich was finally taken to the hospital by her uncle, where she was declared dead on arrival.

The NDTV report quoted Das saying, “If Tina had stayed with me, he would have had to kill me first. And he may have too.”

Sinha, a resident of Shyamnagar in North 24-Parganas, is also a national-level volleyball player.

Aich’s relatives have alleged that complaints made to the police about Sinha’s stalking tendencies were ignored. Her father, who runs a business in the area, was not in a condition to comment.

The police suspect unrequited love as the motive for the death.

With inputs from PTI

Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, mountaineer Arunima Sinha among others honoured with Yash Bharti award

Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, mountaineer Arunima Sinha and satirist Ashok Chakradhar were among 46 eminent persons honoured with Yash Bharti award on Monday by the UP government for their exemplary contribution in the field of art, culture, cinema and sports.Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, while presenting the awards, said, “The Samajwadi Party government revived the awards, which was started by party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, to acknowledge the talent in the state and keep them motivated.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Those who got this award have not only earned a name for themselves in the state but also in the country through their hard work and dedication…this tradition was started by ‘netaji’ (Mulayam Singh),” he said.Referring to the previous Mayawati government, he said, “There was a time when these awards were stopped…when people gave us (SP party) a chance, we not only revived Yash Bharti awards but all other such felicitations which were discontinued.”The Yash Bharti award carries a citation and Rs 11 lakh in cash. Those honoured today include comedian Raju Srivastava, filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, mountaineer Arunima Sinha, Bhojpuri singer and film personality Dinesh Lal Nirahua, shayar (poet) Anwar Jalalpuri and satirist Ashok Chakradhar.Speaking on the occasion, Mulayam said that he thought of starting these awards after seeing the “sad plight” of Hindi litterateur Munshi Premchand and coming to know that only 25 people were present at his last rites.”It’s when I realised that those making a contribution to society should be given their due honour,” he said.”These awards began in 1997,” he said, adding that there are suggestions to include government officers in the award list. Yash Bharti awards were started to not only motivate individuals but also the entire society,” he said.Referring to the farmers’ conditions in the country, he said a lot will have to be done to improve the situation.”Nobody works as hard as the farmers in India…there was a time when we had to depend on imported foodgrains, but today farmers toil hard to feed the country and themselves go hungry.”

Bihar: Nitish Kumar objects to Opposition’s ‘frequent walkout’ from House

Taking umbrage over Opposition’s “frequent walkout” from the House ahead of the government’s reply on financial agenda and not pressing cut motion, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday urged the Speaker to declare the motion moved by them as infructuous.”The opposition members resort to walkout from the House ahead of the government’s reply on financial agenda and end up not pressing the cut motion they move upon introduction of budgetary demands by respective departments…it is not a good thing,” he said drawing Speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary’s attention towards empty opposition benches “Why should not the cut motion be rejected by the Houseand declared infructuous if the opposition members are not present to press with it,” Kumar asked.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The Chair should consider declaring the cut motion not pressed by the opposition members as infructuous,” the Chief Minister said and urged the Speaker to forward his suggestion to the rules committee of the House for consideration. Chaudhary agreed to forward the latter’s suggestions to the rules committee.The Chief Minister’s interjection came after the Speaker called out BJP member Vijay Kumar Sinha to press ahead with his cut motion on the Animal Husbandry and Fisheries department’s budgetary demand of Rs 544.19 crore for 2016-17. But Sinha was found absent from the house as the BJP-led Opposition staged a walkout as soon as the department’s minister Awadesh Kumar Singh stood up to reply to the debate.The Animal Husbandry and Fisheries department’s budgetary demand was later passed by voice vote. Singh said Bihar State Milk Co-Operative Federation Ltd (COMFED) has proposed to issue licenses to 1,966 liquor shops to sell dairy products in place of country-made liquor.As many as 306 liquor shops have entered into oral agreement with the COMFED to sell dairy products at their outlets from April one next in place of liquor, he said.The Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Minister announced a proposal to set up a veterinary university in the Patna Veterinary College campus at Sheikhpura here. He also announced 24-hour medical services for cattle.

Shatrughan Sinha rules out retirement from politics or quitting BJP

BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha, who was apparently sidelined by his party during Bihar Assembly election, today ruled out retiring from politics and promised to continue raising issues “objectively”.”I am yet to see many springs in politics … there is too much time for that (retirement),” Sinha told reporters when asked if he planned to hang up his politician’s boots following the “disregard” by BJP. Asked if wished to withdraw from politics like fellow Bollywood colleague Amitabh Bachhan, 70-year-old Sinha said the comparison was not even as “I have been member of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for four times.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sinha, popularly known as “Bihari Babu”, was talking to mediapersons a day before the release of a biography on him “Anything but Khamosh” in his home town. In reponse to a question as to why was he “ignored” within the party, Sinha, the second term Lok Sabha member from Patna Sahib, disagreed being “ignored” by BJP and said in days to come he would participate in the party functions.He also dismissed chance of leaving BJP. “I have said many times and say even today, BJP is my first choice and most probably would be the last choice,” he said. “It’s all within the family … you know utensils collide within family,” Sinha said on his not so sweet relations with the BJP leaders since eve of Bihar poll.Sinha, who served as Cabinet minister in NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said he joined BJP “at the peak of his film career when BJP used to be party of two MPs. My contribution to the party could not be ignored.” “Politics is a mission for me and not a profession. I came to politics to do something for common man and would continue to raise issues concerned with them and which are also good for the party,” Sinha said.Sinha had embarrassed his party on several occasions by meeting and praising rivals like Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad.Talking about the book written by a Mumbai-based journalist Bharti Pradhan, Sinha said it highlights his struggle to success both in film world and politics. First released in Delhi by Sinha’s “friend, philosopher and guide” L K Advani, the biography was later launched by mega star Amitabh Bachchan in Mumbai.The book would be launched in Patna tomorrow at a function likely to be attended by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and acting Chief Justice of the Patna High Court Iqbal Ahmad Ansari. Sinha had recently indicated that many leaders of his own party BJP would not be invited for the book release function in Patna which would be a “cultural function”.

Centre will fulfill commitment on package announced by PM: Govt

New Delhi: Government on Tuesday said in Rajya Sabha that it will fulfill its commitment to provide the special package of Rs 1.25 lakh crore to Bihar which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the run-up to Assembly polls there last year.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

“When the Prime Minister says this and tells people about it, this commitment will be fulfilled in toto. This amount of Rs 1.25 lakh crore will be given under Centrally Sponsored
Schemes.

“We have made a promise and we will fulfill it and people of Bihar will get full benefit of this,” Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said replying to questions.

Addressing a function in Bihar in August last year, the Prime Minister had announced a mega package of Rs 1.25 lakh crore in central funds for Bihar. Opposition parties have repeatedly raised questions over the genuineness of this special package announced by Modi.

In their supplementaries, the JD-U members repeatedly asked the minister whether and when the government will give the promised package to Bihar.

Replying to a question whether the government proposes to release the amount deducted from the Plan funds earmarked for Bihar, Sinha said release of central funds to the states under various programmes including Plan schemes are governed by prescribed guidelines including submission of utilisation certificates for funds released.

“This is not an issue of doing any favour. This is about responsibility. If utilisation certificate comes from your side, it becomes the responsibility of the government to give the fund,” he said when asked when will the central government release funds for various pending road and bridge construction projects in the state.

The minister also chose to highlight that consequent to the recommendations of 14th Finance Commission, the share of states in the net proceeds of union taxes has been significantly enhanced from 32 to 42 per cent and that the total tax devolution to Bihar for the period of 2015-20 is estimated at Rs 381592.27 crore against the estimated tax devolution of Rs 158341.22 crore by 13th Finance Commission.

“This shows an increase of 141 per cent increase in tax devolution,” he said.

PTI

CBI surveillance identifies 2200 officials for suspected corruption

New Delhi: CBI has kept 2,200 senior central government officials under surveillance for suspected corruption during the last one year and has registered FIR against 101, agency chief Anil Sinha said.

In a rare informal interaction with journalists, Sinha said registration of cases from surveillance has increased by 94 per cent from 2014 when CBI had registered only 52 cases to 101 cases this year.

Representational image. IbnliveRepresentational image. Ibnlive

Representational image. Ibnlive

The agency lodged the cases after it came to the light during its monitoring that the concerned officers had demanded bribe to grant favours.

Talking about the performance of the central agency, Sinha who has completed 14-months as chief, said CBI has managed to file 1,044 charge sheets this year which is the highest by the agency during the last five years.

“Mood of the public is against corruption. If CBI will not side with them, who will?,” Sinha said, adding that the agency has registered cases against 67 officials amassing disproportionate assets which is also an increase of 56 per cent as compared to 2014.

On the international front, CBI claimed to have achieved phenomenal success as it completed 62 international operations (cases where one part is investigated outside) with 42 fugitives being brought back to face law in the country which is also an increase of 91 per cent in 2014 when only 22 such absconders were deported or extradited, Singh, buoyed by the deportation of gangster Chhota Rajan, said.

When asked about constraints faced by the agency, Sinha said shortage of staff is a major concern as states are not ready to relieve officers for Central deputation.

“At the cutting edge levels which is — DIG, SP, DySP — the staff crunch is at critical levels. Earlier one official used to handle one case now they are solving three or four cases at a time which is putting pressure on them,” he said.

PTI

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