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Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi rules out resignation, offers support to new army chief Bipin Rawat

Kolkata: Putting to rest all speculation about his resignation, Eastern Army Commander lieutenant general Praveen Bakshi assured his full support to General Bipin Rawat, who took charge as the new army chief superseding him.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

“I convey my best wishes and full support of Eastern Command to Gen. Bipin Rawat on having taken over as the Chief of Army Staff,” Bakshi said on Saturday. He also made it clear that he was not resigning, and even called the new army chief on the phone to congratulate him on taking over the reins of the army, an official said.

Speculation that he may seek premature retirement from service gained ground after he met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on 21 December and then proceeded on leave after Christmas.

Bakshi was initially the frontrunner for the post of army chief. However, keeping aside the trend of seniority, the government appointed vice-chief of army, lieutenant general Bipin Rawat, a batch junior to Bakshi, as the new chief.

The army commander requested that speculation in media and trolling on social media should stop and everyone should focus on contributing their best to the betterment of the army and the nation.

At a function here on new year’s eve, he greeted all ranks of Army’s Eastern Command and said he would continue to lead the Command with full professional sincerity. He, however, continues to be on leave for the next few days.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 16:48 IST

Raj Thackeray has an apt question: Why spend money on memorials when historical forts are in a state of neglect?

With the BJP and Shiv Sena busy bickering over who was “hijacking” the grand Shivaji Memorial for reaping “political gains”,  Raj Thackeray, leader of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), had something pertinent to say.

Barely two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed the ‘jal-pooja’ for the proposed memorial in the Arabian Sea — a Rs 3,600-crore worth of grand affair —  Thackeray questioned how the state government planned to finance it. “Where is the money going to come from? Do they have the money for the project? In the past, they have made many similar announcements, but the funds never came,” he said

Alleging that the state government keeps making such announcements, without planning the resources, he suggested that the money should be utilised for the development and maintenance of the scores of forts and palaces in Maharashtra, many built during the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Incidentally, this had been a long-standing demand of the MNS.

As the state government is busy basking in the glory of another multi-billion project to claim the legacy of the the 17th century warrior king, the 3oo forts that the Maratha war hero built and captured during some of Indian history’s most iconic wars are languishing in a state of neglect.

Here’s a look at Maharashtra’s most prominent edifices that are the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj — an integral part of the Maratha pride.

Rajgad Fort

Aerial view of Rajgad Fort. Wikimedia commons

Aerial view of Rajgad Fort. Wikimedia Commons

The 14th century majestic edifice, built atop a hill near Pune, was the capital of the Maratha king and one of the most notable hill forts in the country. However, today, it remains callously ignored and is in dire need of fortified security measure as reports of thefts of historical artifacts from the fort have surfaced. According to a report in Pune Mirror on 12 Decembera piece of Shivaji’s sword disappeared that was a part of a well-known statue called Raj Sadar Sinhasan (the grand throne), at the fort. The report further states that the Maharashtra government has no paperwork to document the exact number and location of these artifacts, which makes it difficult for such thefts to be reported and documented.

From a tourism point of view also, the development of these forts remains far from satisfactory. Another report in The Times of India states that poor sanitation facilities at the fort and lack of a proper motorable road to the hill top are an impediment in harnessing the true tourism potential of the fort. The government, according to the report, is pushing for the historical site to be included among the World Heritage Sites maintained by the Unesco, but with shoddy upkeep, the Maratha heritage is unlikely to be restored to its past glory.

Sinhagad Fort

Sinhagad fort. Wikimedia

Sinhagad fort. Wikimedia Commons

The Maharashtra Tourism website boasts of the strategic fort’s grandeur in these words, “As one of the top military outposts during the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the fort of Sinhagad not only offers a fascinating peek into the history of the Maratha Empire but is also a perennial favourite… While taking in the panoramic view of the landscape below, you cannot help but wonder at the vision of those who built such imposing structures at such great heights.”

However, the structure sadly is in a dilapidated state and not much of it’s original structure has remained intact with time. According to The Times of India, parts of the structure are crumbling down due to lack of repair and restoration. The report also states that unmanouverable road, lack of security at the fort and garbage strewn across the place have further reduced its former glory. Vandalistaion is another problem, as visitors, in the absence of proper security carve out names and paint graffiti on the historical structure.

Sindhudurg Fort

Sindhudurg fort. Wikimedia Commons

Sindhudurg fort. Wikimedia Commons

Noted for its serene coastal beauty, the Sindhudurg Fort was built by Shivaji in 1664 AD off the Malvan coast. According to the Maharashtra Tourism website, it is believed that Shivaji personally chose the site for the construction of the fort, and it also has a temple dedicated to the warrior king, built by his son Rajaram.

However, this oceanic fort is also in a poor state, as the administration chooses to look the other way. As per The Times of Indiathe lashing waves from all sides have weakened the structure and its once impregnable boundary wall is crumbling in places. It’s well camouflaged and the sturdy gate has developed creaks because of which it cannot be closed anymore.

Walls of the Shivaji temple now has cracks. This temple has hosted many politicians who have wished to invoke Shivaji’s valour as a symbol of Maratha pride for making political gains.

Shramik Gojamgunde, the founder of Pune-based Sahyadri Pratishthan which is involved in spreading awareness about the conservation of forts in Maharashtra, rues at the terrible state of the over 350 forts dotted across Maharashtra. “The central government has 35 forts under their purview, while the state has 45. Who is responsible for the rest of the forts?” Gojamgunde is quoted in Mid-Day as saying. According to the report, frustrated by the lack of renovation and restoration initiatives, Gojamgunde’s organisation is taking up the work in its own hands and is involved in cleaning up a few forts. They have also installed information boards, where necessary, to inform the tourists about the glorious past of these monuments.

“The only reason we are taking on the responsibility is because the government shuns it. If we don’t do anything about these 2,000 year-old forts, they won’t exist 200 years down the line,” Mid-Day quotes him as saying. However, restoration and maintenance of historical structure should ideally be overseen by historians and the due authorities. The weathering and ageing of these structures is also an essential part which adds to their historical value. Unwarranted renovation work can damage the rustic beauty of these places. Installing newer and more lavish memorials to glorify the Indian history and heroes is a great idea but what is needed is the administration’s attention and support to protect the existing historical heritage.

With inputs from IANS

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 19:41 IST

Madras HC refuses to postpone 19 November polls for two Tamil Nadu seats

The Madras High Court has directed Election Commission to file an affidavit of expenses incurred for conduct of assembly elections to Aravakurichi and Thanjavur constituencies, which were cancelled in May following evidence by the poll panel of money used to bribe voters. The court passed the interim orders on petitions by PMK candidates M Baskaran, who contested from Aravakurichi and G Kunjithapatham, who contested from Thanjavur, seeking to recover all expenses from AIADMK and DMK candidates, who allegedly distributed money and gifts to the voters.

Madras-High-Court_Wiki-commons_Yoga-Balaji_380

Madras High Court. Wikimedia Commons

The EC had initially deferred the elections in the two constituencies in May when the state went for polls. The polls were bound to take place in June but were cancelled again. The polls will now be held on 19 November.

When the matter came up to the bench, the court directed EC to file an affidavit within four weeks, setting forth the expenses incurred for conduct of the election under different heads. The petitioners submitted that the amount expended in the election process should be recovered from the ‘delinquent candidates’. They also suggested the court that the EC may file an affidavit on the money spent towards these two constituencies so that the amount is quantified. Later on, it may be debated if the amount can be recovered from the candidates or not.

Additional Solicitor General submitted that cash seized from the constituencies was deposited in the permanent deposit account and that they were awaiting some information from the tax department, which may take up about three months. The court took note of the suggestions of the petitioners, directed the EC to submit the result of enquiry in a sealed cover before it and posted the matter for further hearing on 6 March, 2017. 

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 15:53 IST

Embraer deal: $5.5 mn paid as commission to middleman, claim CBI sources

Embraer deal: $5.5 mn paid as commission to middleman, claim CBI sources

Sep 29, 2016 09:20 IST

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New Delhi: Commission worth $5.5 million was allegedly paid to a middleman based abroad in the Embraer deal, the CBI has found in what it considers as a major breakthrough in its probe into allegations of kickbacks in the USD 208-million aircraft contract.

Representational image of Embraer jets. Wikimedia CommonsRepresentational image of Embraer jets. Wikimedia Commons

Representational image of Embraer jets. Wikimedia Commons

Without naming the middleman or location where the agent could be based, CBI sources said the agency is in touch with the law enforcement agencies of that country for further details in the matter.

The sources said the agency through its sources has found that $5.5 million (approx Rs 36 crore as per present exchange rate) was allegedly paid as commission to influence the deal in favour of Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer.

They said the agency, which has registered only a preliminary enquiry in the matter, will soon be converting it into a regular FIR as enough prima facie material has been found by it to proceed in the case.

The deal of three aircraft which were to be used by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for air-borne radar systems was inked in 2008 with Embraer.

A Brazilian newspaper recently alleged that that the company had taken the services of middlemen to clinch deals in Saudi Arabia and India.

According to defence procurement rules of India, middlemen are strictly barred in such deals.

Leading Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo had reported that the company allegedly paid commissions to a UK-based defence agent to finalize the deal with India.

DRDO had purchased three aircraft from the company in 2008 and customized them for serving are air-borne radar system known as airborne early-warning and control systems or AWACS for the Indian Air Force.

The company has been under investigation by the US Justice Department since 2010 when a contract with the Dominican Republic raised the Americans suspicions, the report said.

Since then, the investigation has widened to examine business dealings with eight more countries.

Char Dham yatra begins as Badrinath shrine opens doors after winter break

Dehradun: The annual Char Dham pilgrimage has begun with the reopening of the portals of Badrinath shrine in the Garhwal hills after the winter break amid chants of Vedic hymns.

Elaborate rituals preceded the formal opening of the Himalayan temple, located at a height of 10,279 feet, on Wednesday, a senior Badrinath-Kedarnath Samiti official said.

The other three Himalayan temples on the circuit — Kedranath, Gangotri and Yamunotri — had reopened on 9 May.

With reopening of Badrinath temple, the annual Char Dham yatra has begun.

Badrinath Temple. Wikimedia commonsBadrinath Temple. Wikimedia commons

Badrinath Temple. Wikimedia commons

Badrinath shrine Chief Priest Ishwar Prasad Nambudiri threw the temple doors open in the wee hours in the presence of Mandir Samiti officials and thousands of devotees amid chants of Vedic hymns and “Jai Badri Vishal”.

Over 8,000 devotees visited the temple, located on the banks of Alaknanda river, on the first day, he said.

Former Uttarakhand chief minister Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri also offered prayers at the shrine.

The four Himalayan temples are closed every year with the onset of the winter when they remain snowbound.

Govt taking steps to modernise Doordarshan: I&B Minister tells Lok Sabha

New Delhi: Government has taken a number of steps to modernise Doordarshan news and entertainment channels by bringing in latest technology, strengthening regional bureaux and hiring fresh talent, Lok Sabha was informed on Friday.

Observing that DD News provides “only news and complete news” and a vast population of the country continue to watch it, Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said, “modernisation process of Doordarshan is on. New technology is being brought, regional bureaux are being strengthened, fresh talent are being hired and salaries increased.”

Doordarshan logo. Wikimedia Commons

Doordarshan logo. Wikimedia Commons

The Minister was responding to a question by Congress member Ranjeet Ranjan who said that when “people get headache after watching private TV news channels”, they switch over to state-run DD News.

He said that government will soon bring a new entertainment policy where slots will be sold so that more entertainment programmes could be telecast.

Responding to BJP member Virendra Singh’s complaint that TV channels gave too much importance on telecasting cricket matches, he said a kabaddi league could be started and all such matches could be shown through DD Kisan channel.

Rathore said that Doordarshan had recently shown a reality programme on folk songs of the country which became immensely popular and several private channels too started similar programmes.

The Minister said that it was Doordarshan’s constant endeavour to improve upon its programmes by reviewing content and
quality from time to time with the view to sustain the interest of the viewers.

“Doordarshan has been procuring content through various notified schemes such as self finance commissioning, revenue sharing mode producers, advertisement funded programme and acquisition category,” he said.

Kerala mosque welcomes Muslim women in its inner portal for the first time in 1000 years

Kottayam: For the first time in its history, the 1000-year-old mosque at Thazhathangady, famous for its rich architecture and wood carvings, has thrown open its doors for Muslim women in Kerala.
Women were allowed to enter the mosque on Sunday to take a look at its famed architecture.

Thousands of Muslim women, including tourists, flocked to the mosque from various parts of Kerala and abroad. The move comes at a time when the demand for permitting women at places of worship is gaining ground.

“This is a 1000-year-old mosque. Our women had not seen it so far and had a great desire to visit the holy place. So the mosque committee decided to allow women to visit it on 24 April and 8 May”, Advocate Nawab Mulladom, President of the mosque committee, told PTI.

Thazhathangady Juma Masjid. Wikimedia CommonsThazhathangady Juma Masjid. Wikimedia Commons

Thazhathangady Juma Masjid. Wikimedia Commons

The mosque was not opened for “any celebrations or for offering prayers. It was only to allow women to see the place”, he said, adding the men were asked to leave the mosque before the women were allowed in.

Muslim women wore their traditional attire during the visit.

Fathima, one of the lucky ones to enter the holy place, said, “Standing before many historical mosques, I had always wanted to enter and offer worship. But I was afraid of even expressing that desire. I am happy that such an opportunity has come now”.

The Juma Masjid is a mosque situated at Thazhathangady, one of the Heritage Zones of Kerala, in Kottayam town.

Situated on the banks of the Meenachil river, the mosque is famous for its rich architecture, wood carvings and beauty.

The mosque, considered the oldest in India, is also known as the ‘Taj Juma Masjid’.

It has a square inner courtyard, an exquisitely carved wooden gabled roof, a traditional bathing area and lovely latticed windows, making it resemble a king’s palace.

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