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CAG performance audit finds cost overruns in paramilitary forces construction projects

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In 20 selected works, mobilisation advances amounting to Rs. 87.64 crore were given by the CAPFs to the executing agencies, but no separate project account for mobilisation advance was maintained by the executing agencies.

CAG’s performance audit has found several irregularities in construction activities undertaken by the seven central armed police forces (CAPFs) including those of tardy land acquisitions, delay in awarding work and completion and no system of quality assurance resulting in bad construction quality of buildings and cost overruns worth several crore rupees.The performance audit undertaken for the period from 2008-09 to 2013-14 found that Union home ministry and CAPFs were not able to meet the requirement of the office buildings as well as residential buildings for personnel as against the authorised requirement of 2.99 lakh dwelling units, only 1.54 lakh dwelling units were available for the CAPFs personnel. Similarly, against the requirement of 5113 office buildings, only 2041 were available.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Thus the satisfaction level in providing residential accommodation for under stress CAPFs personnel ranged from a low of 2.06 per cent to 22.48 per cent as on March 2014 against the targeted 25 per cent satisfaction level.There was a significant delay beyond prescribed limit ranging from 5 months to 9.7 years in 56 out of 132 selected land acquisition cases worth Rs. 236.05 crore. In 23 cases, land was acquired in access of authorisation resulting in additional expenditure of Rs. 29.21 crore. In 18 cases of land acquisition, sale deed/mutation were not executed by the CAPFs in contravention to the home ministry guidelines.In 20 selected works, mobilisation advances amounting to Rs. 87.64 crore were given by the CAPFs to the executing agencies, but no separate project account for mobilisation advance was maintained by the executing agencies.Although there were delays up to 56 months in completion of works, no compensation charges amounting to Rs. 19.86 crore were levied on the contractors.Excess payment of Rs. 6.42 crore over the contractual stipulation was made to the contractors. The excess payment made were mainly due to wrong calculation of price index, escalation of labour rates, cement and steel rates etc.

e-waste rules remain on paper, inefficient implementation by CPCB: CAG report

CPCB was unable to coordinate with State Pollution Control Boards for collection and compilation of data regarding numbers of producers, collection centers, dismantlers and recyclers authorized in each state, the CAG report said.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has pulled up the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the country’s top pollution watchdog, for ineffective implementation of the e-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 even three years after it came into effect.The e-waste Rules, 2011, was the first regulatory notification brought out to manage and process the burgeoning e-waste generated in the country. One of CAG’s chief findings, shockingly, is that since 2005 CPCB has not bothered to assess the quantity of e-waste generated in the country. “There is no assurance that generation and treatment of e-waste in the country has been controlled and environmental risks reduced despite introduction of e-waste Rules, 2011”, the report said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>CPCB was unable to coordinate with State Pollution Control Boards for collection and compilation of data regarding numbers of producers, collection centers, dismantlers and recyclers authorized in each state, the CAG report said. As per a United Nations 2014 report, India is currently generating a massive 1.7 million tones or 17 lakh metric tonnes of e-waste.Electronic waste comprises of old, defunct and rejected electrical appliances such as personal computers, television sets, mobile phones and bulbs. e-waste contains toxic heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, nickel and lead that can cause cancer, brain tumour, paralysis, infertility, joint pain and nerve disorders and also pollute the environment by way of groundwater contamination.According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, only 1.5 per cent of India’s total e-waste is recycle by formal recyclers who are approved by state boards.Another key aspect of the e-waste Rules, 2011, called the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has been largely left ignored by CPCB, CAG observed. Under EPR, producers of electronic goods are mandated to manage the ‘end of life’ of goods. Thus, even after consumers discard the electronic goods, the producers are responsible to collaborate with the government to collect e-waste and organize systems to process it scientifically.The CAG report though has noted that CPCB set up a committee to formulate EPR mechanisms only in May 2015, a good three years after E-waste Rules, 2011, came into effect. Thus, even today there is no system in place to get producers to manage e-waste.

Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan total failure: CAG

Strap: Rs 10,000 crore spent in the last five years has not shown adequate results, CAG report finds

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the successor to Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, is an even more ambitious project

The Comptroller and Audit General of India (CAG) announced the tabling of 12 reports (of the promised 25) in the parliament on Tuesday. One of the tabled reports that focused on the Total Sanitation Campaign or Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan found alarming discrepancies in fund allocation and its misuse and also a clear failure in the implementation of the sanitation programme.According to the report, almost 60.69% Indians defecate in public – the highest in the world. At a time where India is being touted as one of the fastest growing economies, we are still struggling with basic sanitation. According to the report “Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2012” submitted by UNICEF and WHO, Pakistan and Bangladesh feature higher on the list of improved sanitation with 34% and 58% respectively. Among the Asian countries, Sri Lanka topped the list with 94%.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sanitation was one of the Millennium Goals adopted by India which culminates at the end of this year. The Central Rural Sanitation Programme – the first structured programme for rural sanitation, was started in 1986 and has been remodified in many avatars since. The latest avatar now known as The Swachh Bharat Mission, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project. Though, whether the declaration and goal for 100% eradication of defecation in India by 2019 will be achieved is yet to be seen.According to the CAG report, a few of the major reasons for the failure in our sanitation programme can be attributed to the lack of intent on the implementation level, effective monitoring and periodic evaluation of the programme. There was a lack of date integrity submitted by the ministries concerned forcing the auditors to deal with and interpret four different sets of data with conflicting numbers.Among the major findings in the report, it was stated that against an objective of constructing 426.32 lakh and 469.76 lakh Individual Household Latrines (IHHL) for Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Above Poverty Line (APL) project districts could construct only 52.15% and 44.18% respectively. In 53 districts that were audited for this purpose, it was found that 33% of the toilets were defunct due to poor quality of construction, incomplete structure, non-maintenance etc.Another disturbing find was that in the past five years, almost Rs. 10,000 crores has been spent on rural sanitation with not much to show for results. There have also been cases of financial irregularities, improper disbursement of funds, diversion of funds for other unrelated activities and even misappropriation of the allocated funds. Almost Rs 2.28 crore was misappropriated in six states (Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra) while cases of suspected misappropriation to the tune of Rs 25.33 was found in four states namely: Andhra Pradesh, Jharkand and Manipur.Where funds were allocated, it was found in that in the case of nine states, an amount of Rs 212.14 crore remained parked and unutilized at the implementation level for periods ranging from four months to 29 months. It was also noted that the accrued interest of Rs 5.58 crore accrued on the scheme fund was not accounted for.To get a wholesome view of the matter dna spoke to Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, an Indian sociologist and founder of Sulabh International, who said that for the Prime Minister to achieve 100% sanitation by 2019, he must allocate Rs 3.60 lakh crore. “To build a decent toilet, one needs Rs 25,000-Rs 30,000, anything cheaper will be shoddy and of no use.”Pathak, who has won various accolades on the national and international level including a Padma Bhushan for his work on hygiene and sanitation also states that with proper motivation and will, the government is capable of providing a toilet in every household should they assign at the very minimum one labourer per village who will build at a rate of 20 toilers per month.In it’s conclusion, CAG report number 28 strongly urges the ministry to step up its drive for Information, Education and Communication that will result in a rise in demand for toilets and basic sanitation. It also advises on the need to rope in various corporate houses and tie-up with their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives to spread the word. Effective monitoring and periodic evaluation of the programme which was found missing is now of paramount concern. If India our country must compete with the world, the report finds that it must step up intensify its efforts by realistic planning and implementation, large scale information, behavioral changes in the target population and overall governance at the grassroot level. While the current prime minister does seem active on this front, auditors feel these initiatives though welcome are far to late in coming.

Sanitation programmes have failed to achieve targets: CAG

The CAG has also recommended ensuring data integrity which alone can provide reliable periodic status check and timely remedial measures.

The CAG pointed out that while the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched by the Prime Minister on October 2, 2014 with an aim of 100 per cent open defecation free India by 2019, before this similar targets for eradication of open defecation were set out for 2012, revised to 2017 and again set out for 2022.
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dna Research & Archives
The country’s sanitation programmes have failed to achieve the desired targets largely due to planning level weaknesses even as large-scale diversions, wastages and irregularities were detected, the CAG said on Tuesday.”…audit clearly reveals the failure of the sanitation programmes in achieving the envisaged targets,” the CAG report on performance audit of total sanitation campaign/Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan tabled in Parliament said.The CAG pointed out that while the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched by the Prime Minister on October 2, 2014 with an aim of 100 per cent open defecation free India by 2019, before this similar targets for eradication of open defecation were set out for 2012, revised to 2017 and again set out for 2022.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The conceptual frame-work kept changing from supply driven to demand driven and finally to ‘saturation and convergence’ approach, yet the lessons learnt and experimentations through this long journey do not seem to have made much impact on the sanitation status in the country,” the country’s top auditor said.The CAG said its audit has brought out planning level weaknesses which were critical for the success of programme. Nearly Rs 10,000 crore was spent on the rural sanitation programme by the Central government in the five years covered by audit and large scale diversions, wastages and irregularities were noted, it said.”More than 30 per cent of individual household latrines were defunct/non-functional for reasons like poor quality of construction, incomplete structure, non- maintenance,” it pointed out.It said unless implementation is based on realistic planning and is backed by large scale information, education and communication campaigns to bring about behavioural changes in the target population and overall governance at the grass root level improves, mere deployment of resources may not have any significant impact. The CAG has also recommended ensuring data integrity which alone can provide reliable periodic status check and timely remedial measures. It said convergence with related programmes like NRHM is necessary and an effective mechanism for independent evaluations is required to achieve desired goal of Swachh Bharat.The first structured programme for rural sanitation, the Central Rural Sanitation Programme, was started in 1986. Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) was started with the main objective of providing access to toilets to all by 2012 and providing sanitation facilities for all schools and anganwadis by March 2013.In 2012, TSC was further transformed in Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) with modified objective of achieving the vision of Nirmal Bharat by 2022 thus effectively shifting the sanitation targets by nearly a decade, the report pointed out. P

A temporary setback, will move SC: Arvind Kejriwal on HC decision on discoms

New Delhi: The AAP government will move the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court order today quashing its decision to get the accounts of three private power distribution companies audited by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today said that the HC order is a “temporary setback” for the people of the national capital and he is “committed” to provide cheap electricity to people.

“Delhi HC order is a temporary setback for the people of Delhi. Delhi government will soon file an appeal in SC.

“I am committed to providing cheap electricity to people of Delhi. Our fight will continue (sic),” Kejriwal said in a series of his tweets.

Earlier in the day, the Delhi High Court quashed the AAP government’s decision to get the accounts of three private power distribution companies audited by the CAG.

“We have allowed the petitions of the discoms,” a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw said while clarifying that the entire audit process carries out so far as well as the draft report of the CAG would be “non-est” and would have no bearing any more.

A senior government official said that on April 17, 2014, Supreme Court had made it clear that wherever public money or resources are involved, CAG audit is “required”.

CAG is a constitutional institution under Art 148 of the Constitution of India. Once it accepts reference for an audit, it must be respected, the official said.

The discoms – Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL), BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd and BSES Yamuna Power Ltd – had challenged the AAP government’s decision on January 7, 2014, of ordering a CAG audit of their accounts.

The discoms had also challenged an order of a single judge of the High Court, who had refused to stall the CAG audit.

The single judge, in his January 24, 2014 order, had also asked the discoms to “fully cooperate with CAG in the audit process”.

While allowing the discoms’ pleas today, the court dismissed a PIL filed by NGO United RWAs Joint Action (URJA) which had sought an audit of the discoms’ accounts by CAG.

Earlier, the city government had told the court that a CAG audit of the private discoms here was necessary as these companies discharged “public function”.

The discoms are a 51:49 per cent joint venture between the private companies and the Delhi government.

The government had said it was not trying to stop their (discoms) functioning or interfere in it, but was only trying to bring them under public audit, as 49 per cent stake in the discoms was held by the Delhi government which has also infused capital in these companies.

PTI

Delhi High Court rejects AAP govt order to get CAG to audit discoms

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday quashed the AAP government’s decision to get the accounts of three private power distribution companies audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. AFP

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. AFP

“We have allowed the petitions of the discoms,” a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw said while clarifying that the entire audit process carries out so far as well as the draft report of the CAG would be “non-est” and would have no bearing any more.

The discoms – Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL), BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd and BSES Yamuna Power Ltd – had challenged the AAP government’s 7 January, 2014, decision ordering a CAG audit of their accounts.

The discoms had also challenged an order of a single judge of the high court who had refused to stall the CAG audit.

The single judge, in his 24 January, 2014 order, had also asked the discoms to “fully cooperate with CAG in the audit process”.

While allowing the discoms’ pleas on Friday, the court dismissed a PIL filed by NGO United RWAs Joint Action (URJA) which had sought an audit of the discoms’ accounts by CAG.

Earlier, the city government had told the court that a CAG audit of the private discoms here was necessary as these companies discharged “public function”.

The discoms are a 51:49 percent joint venture between the private companies and the Delhi government.

The government had said it was not trying to stop their (discoms’) functioning or interfere in it but was only trying to bring them under public audit, as 49 percent stake in the discoms was held by the Delhi government which has also infused capital in these companies.

PTI

Form enquiry commission to probe discoms’ irregularities: Congress writes to Delhi CM Kejriwal

Congress demanded Delhi Government on Friday to constitute enquiry commission headed by a sitting judge of high court to advance and implement findings of CAG report on irregularities of power companies (DISCOMs).

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dna Research & Archives
Congress demanded Delhi Government on Friday to constitute enquiry commission headed by a sitting judge of high court to advance and implement findings of CAG report on irregularities of power companies (DISCOMs).In a letter issued to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday, Congress also reiterated demand for appointment of Lokpal as presence of the ombudsman would have ensured transparency in governance in Delhi and bring the CAG report to a logical conclusion.”We have sought a probe headed by a sitting HC judge in order to materialise findings of CAG report on irregularities by DISCOMs and for necessary action, thereof. We have also sought immediate appointment of Lok Pal,” Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken told reporters.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maken further said to have requested Kejriwal to stop immediately annual payment of Rs 2,000 crore made to the ‘corrupt’ power companies in the form of subsidy as “it is the hard earned money of people”. He demanded tariff must be slashed urgently by implementing the CAG report.

Performance of ITBP affected as ordnance factories delayed arms supplies: CAG

Performance of ITBP guarding the sensitive Sino-India border has been “adversely affected” as ordnance factories did not supply necessary arms and ammunition to the force for upto to six years after taking advance payments, the CAG today said.

Performance of ITBP guarding the sensitive Sino-India border has been “adversely affected” as ordnance factories did not supply necessary arms and ammunition to the force for upto to six years after taking advance payments, the CAG today said.In its latest report tabled today in Parliament, the CAG said advance funds of Rs 15.58 crore of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) were blocked from period ranging one year to six years because of non-supply of arms and ammunition.The CAG said the supplies should have been made within nine months of taking advance.The auditing body has recommended that the Home Ministry should look into the issue of advance payment to the ordnance factories and take effective steps to remove the “inefficiencies in the system”, by making the factories “more accountable and ensuring timely supply of urgently needed arms and ammunitions” to ITBP.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The Ministry of Home Affairs…had no practice of quoting time schedule for supply of arms and ammunition at the time of issue of sanction order and making advance payments against sanctioned amounts to ordnance factories,” it said.The report said as per the proforma invoice of the ordnance factories, the supplies were to be made within period ranging between one and nine months from the date of receipt of advance payment.”Scrutiny of records (August 2009 and May 2013) of the office of a support Battalion, Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force, Karera, Shivpuri, MP revealed that the payment of Rs 15.58 crore being 60% of the total cost was made as advances during 2007-08 to 2012-13 to different ordnance factories for supply of emergent requirement of arms and ammunitions,” it said.

Delhi: Another power tariff hike on cards shortly?

The DERC is in the process of finalising the tariff for 2015-16 and is likely to announce the new rates by the end of August after taking views of various stakeholders including the consumers.

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Citing the widening revenue gap of around Rs 28,000 crore, Delhi’s three private power distribution companies have pitched for early announcement of annual tariff revision.The companies, which have sought up to 20% hike in tariff, have communicated to DERC about the resource crunch being faced by them owing to steep rise in power purchase cost. The Reliance Energy-backed BSES discoms has petitioned the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) for upto 19% hike, while Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL) has demanded an increase of 20%.The DERC is in the process of finalising the tariff for 2015-16 and is likely to announce the new rates by the end of August after taking views of various stakeholders including the consumers. Making a case for hiking tariff, the discoms have argued that their combined revenue gap due to absence of a cost-reflective tariff has gone upto Rs 28,000 crore and the financial position would worsen further if there was no increase in rates.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The total under recoveries of BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd and BSES Yamuna Power Ltd have risen to Rs 20,000 crore while for TPDDL, it has been estimated at Rs 8,000 crore, as per the discoms. On June 12, the DERC had hiked tariff by upto six% to compensate the discoms for rise in power purchase cost. The AAP government had strongly criticised the DERC for the hike. DERC chairman P D Sudhakar said the discoms have been buying 95-98% of power as per provisions of the long-term power purchase pacts signed between erstwhile Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB) and state-run power utilities like NTPC.Power experts said Delhi discoms have to incur 60% more cost on buying power compared to other states because of the long-term power purchase. The DVB, which used to supply electricity in Delhi, was disbanded in 2002 as part of reforms in the power sector. However, the private power distribution companies were made to comply with various pacts DVP signed with central government entities.Sources in the DERC said it was yet to take a decision on hiking tariff again which may escalate its confrontation with the AAP government. Power tariff was a major issue for AAP during the Delhi polls. The Kejriwal government had in February announced a 50% subsidy on monthly power consumption upto 400 units till the government receives the CAG report on financial condition of the discoms.In its first stint, the AAP government had ordered a CAG audit of all the three discoms, claiming they have been misleading the government and the DERC about their financial position. The city has seen a series of hikes in power tariff in the past two years. The tariff was hiked by 22% in 2011 followed by 5% rise in February 2012. The rates were increased by up to 2% in May 2012 and again by 26% for domestic consumers in July 2012.It was hiked by up to 3% in February 2013 and again by 5% in August 2013. It was increased by upto 7% in November last year. The cost of buying power has increased primarily on account of an increase in the input prices of raw material like coal and gas, officials said.According to official figures, around 80-90% of total revenue of discoms goes into purchasing power from central and state government-owned entities through long-term power purchase agreement, at rates determined by the central and state regulators.

Indian Museum director B Venugopal removed; sent to Forest Department

A CAG report had also revealed that standard system of purchase and acquisition of antiquities was not followed by the Indian Museum, Kolkata and raised questions as to how antiques reach auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

Biswarup Ganguly

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Indian Museum director B Venugopal was removed from his post and sent to the Forest Department, said sources in the Union Ministry of Culture.Former curator of Victoria Memorial J Sengupta will replace Venogopal as the new director of the Indian Museum. On the other hand, Venugopal has been sent to the Forest Department.Venugopal’s tenure since October 2013 was marred by controversies – from damages to the ancient artefacts, irregularities in the purchase and acquisition of antiquities to his alleged involvement in the case of the missing whistleblower Sunil Upadhyay. CID, which is currently investigating Upadhyay’s mysterious disappearance, had questioned Venugopal on several occasions.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier this year, a 2nd century BC sculpture of a yakshi was damaged. Prior to that, the Rampurva Lion Capital, a priceless Mauryan artifact dating back 2,200 years was damaged while it was being shifted from its gallery.A CAG report had also revealed that standard system of purchase and acquisition of antiquities was not followed by the Indian Museum, Kolkata and raised questions as to how antiques reach auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s. The report also highlighted irregularities in the museum and how articles of international importance were damaged in the process of transportation.In January this year, news broke out that Venugopal has put in his papers and wanted to step down. However, the Museum later issued a statement dismissing such media reports.

Maharashtra government to launch survey to track out-of-school children

A massive exercise for headcount of all such children across Maharashtra has been chalked out. From 7am till 7pm on July 4, the state machinery will be involved in conducting a survey of children aged 6-14 years who don’t go to school.

In a gross violation, 5 lakh kids in the state are out of RTE Act’s purview

After being pulled up by the Comptroller and Auditor General for total absence of a system to identify out-of-school children, and shoddy implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the state government finally seems to have woken up.A massive exercise for headcount of all such children across Maharashtra has been chalked out. From 7am till 7pm on July 4, the state machinery will be involved in conducting a survey of children aged 6-14 years who don’t go to school.The survey will be conducted at all railway and bus stations, markets, public places and even door-to-door. An official from the school education department said: “The plan aims to ensure that not a single child is left out of school. This also seeks to ensure that all children in the state complete their primary education.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A circular in this regard was issued by the school education and sports department on May 20. The department has also sought assistance in the census from the offices of district collectors, urban development department, rural development department, minority development department, public health department, labour and tribal development department.RTE Act 2009 provides free and compulsory education to all children aged 6-14 years. However, a large number of children across India still remain out of RTE Act’s purview. The number of such children in Maharashtra could be close to 5 lakh, a gross violation.The CAG in its recent report has highlighted that the state had 2.30 lakh girls in the age group of 11-14 years who were out of school, as of March 2014.The definition of ‘out-of-school children’ under the Act not only covers the kids who never went to any school, but also takes into account those who dropped out before completion of class VIII, or remain absent from the school for a month or more. Still, no official statistics are available due to lack of a monitoring system till now.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar blames UPA govt for arms, ammunition shortfall

Nagpur: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday blamed the previous UPA regime for not taking steps to maintain the stocks of arms and ammunition as preparation in case of a war and said the situation has substantially improved now under the new government.

The minister’s remarks come in the wake of a CAG report on ammunition management, which pointed that the army faced a massive ammunition shortage with reserves that would barely last 20 days of intense fighting.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

“I admit the CAG report, which stated that arms and ammunition will last for 20 days if war breaks out. The situation that was there till 2013 has considerably improved now and there was not reason to worry,” Parrikar, who is on a two day visit to Nagpur, told reporters.

He said the necessary stock of arms and ammunition between the year 2008 and 2013 was not taken care of and no seriousness was shown in this regard.

“Now the situation is not that bad and it is not a question of 20 days or 40 days. It all depends on the requirement of arms and ammunition and shell’s life. I can’t afford ammunition for 40 days since other factors are also involved like the age of ammunition and ease of handling,” Parrikar said.

There are a variety of ammunition and and if one particular product is short, others can be used to overcome the shortfall, he said.

“We will overcome the shortfall within one and half years and the gap has been filled 50 per cent and process of remaining 50 percent is underway,” Parrikar asserted.

To a question, Parrikar defended the government’s decision to freeze the raising of Mountain Striking Corps. Elaborating on it, he said it requires a whopping Rs 88,00

0 crore for which the previous UPA government did not make provision, but just took a decision.

“The UPA cabinet took a decision in 2010 which was without proper planning,” he alleged.

The infrastructure has to be improved for raising such a force and in the absence of such a provision, the BJP government has decided to put it on hold.

“We are working on to settle the unit,” he added. On procurement of fighter aircraft Rafale from France, Parrikar said India would go for direct purchase. Earlier in the day, Parrikar met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in the city.

PTI

AAI employees’ union urges CBI to probe Mumbai airport land deal

The AAI employees union has sought a CBI probe into the Mumbai Airport land issue after citing a CAG report which castigated the Civil Aviation Ministry for granting extensions to the airport modernisation project, delayed by four years, and not penalising the private operator for it.

“Delhi Airport land is a big scam and the Mumbai Airport land (scam) is even bigger… Regarding Mumbai airport, the CAG report is in public domain… Please investigate Mumbai airport case also,” the Airports Authority Employees Union said in its request to CBI.

The Mumbai airport which was developed through the PPP model. PTIThe Mumbai airport which was developed through the PPP model. PTI

The Mumbai airport which was developed through the PPP model. PTI

It also urged the CBI director to consider its request as a “complaint”. It has sent copies of the letter to the Minister of Civil Aviation, Civil Aviation secretary as well as to the Chairman of AAI.

AAEU welcomed the central investigative agency’s move to initiate a probe against unknown officials of Civil Aviation Ministry, Airports Authority of India (AAI), Delhi International Airports Ltd (DIAL) and GMR for alleged irregularities in the Delhi Airport land deal. The previous UPA government had in 2006 handed over the two airports — Delhi and Mumbai, which cater to the bulk of air traffic — to two private companies, respectively, the GMR and GVK groups, for modernisation and operation under a revenue sharing agreement.

NCP leader Praful Patel was at the helm of the Civil Aviation Ministry when the two top revenue-generating airports were handed for modernisation to corporates despite stiff opposition from the unions.

Both Mumbai and Delhi Airport are run under joint venture companies, namely MIAL and DIAL. While MIAL (Mumbai International Airport Ltd) is a 74:26 JV between a GVK-led consortium and AAI, DIAL is 74:26 JV between GMR-led consortium and the airports operator.

CAG in its report had said, “Neither Operations, Management Development Agreement (OMDA) nor the lease deed signed between MIAL and AAI demarcated the land leased to MIAL.

“Both documents were to have a map of the premises, which was left blank… as such area of CSI airport Mumbai stated to be 1,875 acres in the Request For Proposal increased to 2,006 acres on actual survey by MIAL. The very significance difference in area quoted by AAI and MIAL raises questions on the quality of land records maintained by the AAI.”

The CAG report further stated that “as per the OMDA, the concessionaire was eligible for commercial exploitation of 10 per cent of the demised premises. With the increase in demised premises, the quantum of commercially exploitable land available to MIAL as per OMDA increased by 10.23 per cent”. CAG, in its report, also found that the carved out assets were primarily intended for the use of AAI and could be transferred to MIAL for aeronautical purposes only following suitable negotiations as per OMDA.

“AAI transferred 48.15 acres out of the carved out assets to MIAL against a consideration based on a meagre upfront payment by MIAL (of Rs 3.52 crore) without negotiations,” the report said.

Last year, a Gujarat-based social activist, Vishwas Bhamburkar, had filed an FIR in Mumbai, based on the said CAG report, accusing MIAL and GVK of receiving undue benefits to the tune of Rs 5,887 crore through various irregularities while constructing the airport. The FIR was later stayed by Bombay High Court.

The FIR had named Alok Sinha, a former joint secretary in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Dr GVK Reddy, chairman and managing director of GVK Power and Infrastructure Ltd, GV Sanjay Reddy, managing director of MIAL, and a few Mumbai Police officials.

There was no immediate response from MIAL regarding this matter.

PTI

Sushil Modi dares Bihar govt to lodge a case against him

Patna: A day after Bihar government rubbished his charge of irregularities in transformers’ purchase and threatened to take lawful action against him, former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi today reiterated his demand for a probe by the CAG and dared it to proceed against him as per law.

Sushil Modi. PTISushil Modi. PTI

Sushil Modi. PTI

“It appears that the state government has got rattled after I unearthed a scam of Rs 37 crore in transformers’purchase going by the manner in which it has threatened to lodge a case against me instead of ordering a probe in the alleged scam,” the senior BJP leader said in a statement.

“I dare the state government to lodge a case against me,” Sushil Modi said and defended his charge about a scam in transformers’ purchase.

He alleged that the state government had purchased transformers and other electric equipments costing Rs 96 crore from suppliers without floating a tender for replacement of transformers and related works in the districts under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) in 2015 and justified the purchase under the cover of bids floated in 2012on turnkey basis for which no supplier had participated.

Reiterating his demand for a probe by the CAG in the alleged scam in transformers purchase at arbitrary rate, he asked the state government to immediately stop all transformers’ replacement works till pendency of the probe.

Sushil Modi’s rejoinder came a day after Bihar Energy Minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav had trashed allegation of irregularities worth Rs 37 crore in replacement of transformers under (RGGVY) in some districts and accused the senior BJP leader of “deliberately putting spanner in development work.”

Slamming Modi for making ‘baseless’ allegation on transformers’ purchase with a “malicious intention”, Yadav issued veiled threat to the BJP leader saying that such canard could warrant lawful action.

The Minister, at the same time, said that if the former deputy CM backed his allegation with evidence the state government would not hesitate to order a vigilance probe in the matter.

PTI

India faces acute shortage of ammunition: CAG tells Defence Ministry

New Delhi: Public accounts watchdog CAG on Friday pulled up the Defence Ministry on the issue of ammunition management in Army, saying acute shortage of ammunition was a serious cause of concern directly impairing the operational readiness of the force.

A CAG report said India faces acute shortage of arms. PTI

A CAG report said India faces acute shortage of arms. PTI

“While availability of authorised stock against War Wastage Reserve (WWR) to meet the expected duration of operation formed the basic criteria for ensuring the operational readiness of the Army, we found during the review that against the WWR of 40 (I) days, the availability of ammunition was only in 10 percent of the total types of ammunition held (March 2013).

“Further, in 50 percent of the total types of ammunition, the holding was ‘critical’ i.e., less than 10 (I) days,” the Comptroller & Auditor General of India said in its report tabled in Parliament on Friday.

The CAG said it observed that the overall holding had been continuously depleting over the years and was more prominent in high calibre ammunition, adding the percentage of high calibre ammunition, which was critical, ranged up to 84 percent during the five years period of audit.

“To tide over the persistent acute shortages, the AHQ had set (1999) a minimum threshold of MARL (Minimum Acceptable Risk Level) 20 (I) days to be achieved first. We found that even after 15 years, the threshold of MARL could not be achieved. The acute shortage was a serious cause of concern directly impairing the operational readiness of the Army,” it said.

According to CAG , the inability of OFB to meet the demand of Army was a major cause for shortage of ammunition.

“OFB, which had a limited production capacity vis-a-vis the requirement of Army, accepted the targets for supply of ammunition covered under the Roll on Indent in mutual consultation with AHQ. It however, failed to supply the accepted quantities, and there was shortfall in 54 to 73 percent types of ammunition.

PTI

India faces acute shortage of ammunition: CAG tells Defence Ministry in report

New Delhi: Public accounts watchdog CAG on Friday pulled up the Defence Ministry on the issue of ammunition management in Army, saying acute shortage of ammunition was a serious cause of concern directly impairing the operational readiness of the force.

A CAG report said India faces acute shortage of arms. PTI

A CAG report said India faces acute shortage of arms. PTI

“While availability of authorised stock against War Wastage Reserve (WWR) to meet the expected duration of operation formed the basic criteria for ensuring the operational readiness of the Army, we found during the review that against the WWR of 40 (I) days, the availability of ammunition was only in 10 percent of the total types of ammunition held (March 2013).

“Further, in 50 percent of the total types of ammunition, the holding was ‘critical’ i.e., less than 10 (I) days,” the Comptroller & Auditor General of India said in its report tabled in Parliament on Friday.

The CAG said it observed that the overall holding had been continuously depleting over the years and was more prominent in high calibre ammunition, adding the percentage of high calibre ammunition, which was critical, ranged up to 84 percent during the five years period of audit.

“To tide over the persistent acute shortages, the AHQ had set (1999) a minimum threshold of MARL (Minimum Acceptable Risk Level) 20 (I) days to be achieved first. We found that even after 15 years, the threshold of MARL could not be achieved. The acute shortage was a serious cause of concern directly impairing the operational readiness of the Army,” it said.

According to CAG , the inability of OFB to meet the demand of Army was a major cause for shortage of ammunition.

“OFB, which had a limited production capacity vis-a-vis the requirement of Army, accepted the targets for supply of ammunition covered under the Roll on Indent in mutual consultation with AHQ. It however, failed to supply the accepted quantities, and there was shortfall in 54 to 73 percent types of ammunition.

PTI

UPA govt ‘gave away’ coal mines like it was a handkerchief: Modi

Paris: Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the previous government of “giving away” coal mines as easily as one would give a pen, a handkerchief or even a piece of paper.

Addressing a civic reception by the Indian diaspora, Modi said that “204 coal mines were just given away like, “come and take my pen, take this hanky, this piece of paper” but even while giving a pen you will think twice, but the 204 coal mines were just given away”, he alleged.

“A storm was kicked up… the court raised the issue and it even went up to that of the prime minister,” he said referring to the CBI court summons to former prime minister Manmohan Singh in the coal allocation issue. “But I don’t want to indulge in criticism, but the Supreme Court then waved the stick (on the issue),” he said.

Modi said when the CAG pegged the loss from coal allocation at Rs. 1lakh 76,000 crore “No one believed it”.

“But when we auctioned, only 20 of the 204 mines were auctioned. And we got Rs.2 lakh crore. Only 10 percent of the work has been done, and the treasury has got Rs.2 lakh crore,” he said.

PM Narendra Modi. PTIPM Narendra Modi. PTI

PM Narendra Modi. PTI

“If any government does this then the people will say that run the government for 25 years,” Modi said to loud cheers.

He said the government has decided that the money will go to the respective state government, for making factories, for education and infrastructure projects.

“Gujarat does not have coal mines, or the newspapers would have criticized the move,” he said.

The coal auction money would go to Odisha, Bihar, Jharkahnd, West Bengal “where there is possibility of progress, and I have to take them forward”, he said.

He said through the Jan Dhan projects 14 crore people have got bank accounts, which is bigger than the population of France.

Modi said the government has given cooking gas subsidy to 13 crore bank accounts, adding that it helped end corruption.

He also referred to his move of “give it up”, urging the well-off people to give up their cooking gas cylinder subsidy.

“And I have seen that 2 lakh people of their own volition have stopped taking subsidy… If you are well off, give it up, now 3.5 lakh people have left it, now we are saving money,” he said.

Modi said the money the government got through this would be transferred to the accounts of those who still use stoves that use wood so that they can buy cooking cylinders.

“Climate change will be tackled this way,” he said.

IANS

76 percent increase in rape of minor girls in Gujarat: CAG

Gandhinagar: Gujarat has witnessed a 76 per cent rise in the number of cases of rape of minor girls between 2012 and 2013, a latest Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report has stated.

The CAG audit report on the general and social sector tabled in the Gujarat Assembly on Tuesday, has stated a gradual increase in the number of minor girls raped in Gujarat.

Women protest during a candle light march in New Delhi. File Photo/PTIWomen protest during a candle light march in New Delhi. File Photo/PTI

Women protest during a candle light march against rape in New Delhi. File Photo/PTI

According to the CAG report, 92 minor girls were raped in 2009, 103 in 2010, 130 in 2011, 150 in 2012 and 265 in 2013, which is a 76 percent increase over the previous year.

As per CAG figures, among a total of 2,485 of rape cases during the past five years, 29.78 percent of these cases, that is 740 cases, were of rapes perpetrated on minor girls.

Out of these 740 minor girls, 112 minor girls were below the age of ten years, 203 minor girls were between the age group of 11 and 14 years, while 425 were in the age group of 15 years to 18 years, the report said.

The CAG report also stated that the Gujarat state government did not give timely financial assistance to rape victims.

“The audit observed that as against 1,205 rape cases registered in 2012 and 2013, financial assistance was provided to only in 298 cases as of March 2014,” the CAG report stated.

PTI

CAG report slams Gujarat govt, says 54 state-run schools running without teachers

Gandhinagar: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) criticised the Gujarat government in its audit report tabled in the Gujarat Assembly on Tuesday, for not maintaining teaching staff in schools run by it, resulting in children dropping out of these schools.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

In the CAG’s compliance audit of the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme in Gujarat for the year 2013-14, the CAG stated that out of 43,176 government-run schools in the state, 64 schools having 5,698 students run without any teacher. Further, 874 schools function with merely one taecher as on March 2014.

“Teaching work was assigned by authorities to teachers of nearby schools as an aleternate arrangement. Thus, the state has not ensured availability of adequate teaching staff as per the norms. This could have an effect on the quality of education imparted to students,” the CAG report stated.

CAG also slammed the government for not maintaining Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) in more than 6,000 state-run primary schools and upper-primary schools in five tribal-dominated districts of Gujarat including Dangs, Dahod, Panchmahal, Tapi and Valsad. These five districts comprise 41 per cent of total tribal population of the state, the CAG report stated.

The CAG report mentioned that as per the SSA framework and guidelines of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, there should be atleast two teachers in primary schools with a pupil-teacher ratio of 40:1, while upper primary schools ought to have atleast one teacher per class with a pupil-teacher-ratio of 35:1.

However, the CAG observed during its audit that “Pupil-Teacher Ration was not maintained in 156 out of 3,147 primary schools and 2,535 schools out of 3,016 upper primary schools in these tribal districts. Highest pupil-teacher ratio in one of the primary schools was found to be 156:1 as against 40:1, while a pupil-teacher ratio of 363:1 was found in one of the test-checked upper primary schools,” the CAG report stated.

The CAG report provided data which showed that 21.28 per cent of tribal students of primary schools have not enrolled for upper primary section.

“Out of 4.37 lakh Scheduled Tribe (ST) students on the rolls in class one to class four during 2009-10, only 3.44 lakh (78.72 per cent) of students could be retained in class five to class eight upto 2013-14,” the CAG report said.

The CAG attributed non-retention of these students to “non-maintenance of pupil-teacher ratio and inadequate basic amenities in schools”.

PTI

CAG report on Rober Vadra-DLF land deal vindicates me: Ashok Khemka

Ashok Khemka. PTI.Ashok Khemka. PTI.

Ashok Khemka. PTI.

Chandigarh: A senior IAS officer of Haryana Ashok Khemka today said that his action in Vadra-DLF land-license deal has been “vindicated in the CAG report but he continues to suffer the stigma of charge sheet.”

During the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government, the official had ordered the scrapping of the land deal between Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd (owned by Robert Vadra) and DLF, terming it as illegal. However, the previous Hooda government gave clean chit to Vadra in the land deal.

“My action in VADRA-DLF land-license deal vindicated in CAG report, but continue to suffer the stigma of chargesheet,” said Khemka in a tweet reacting to the CAG report.

In another tweet he said, “Real culprits sit in judgement over me. My pain and suffering may help to detox and cleanse the body politic.”

In his third tweet Khemka, presently posted as State Transport Commissioner, said “Black-marketing of licenses and permits to cronies is loot of public wealth. Will action be taken against the black-marketers?”

“Undue favours” to builders, including Robert Vadra‘s Skylight Hospitality, by the Haryana Government during the Congress regime has come under attack from the Comptroller and Auditor General.

In its report for the year 2013-14, tabled in the Haryana Assembly yesterday, the official auditor has come down heavily on the Town and Country Planning Department.

“….the department neither at the time of granting in-principle approval nor at the time of formal approval fortransfer of licenses ensured that net profit beyond 15 percent of the total cost accrues to public exchequer. This enabled the developers to earn huge profits merely by selling the land while the government had to forego sizeable amount,” the CAG report said.

The BJP and other Congress rivals had trained their guns on the previous Bhupinder Singh Hooda government accusing it of showing favours to Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, in his land deal with realty giant DLF.

Though the report did not name Vadra, his company, Skylight Hospitality, was named. Skylight Hospitality, the report noted, sold a prime 3.5 acre piece of land in Manesar in Gurgaon district to DLF in 2008 for Rs 58 crore.

PTI

CAG report on Vadra deal vindicates Khemka, but ‘still suffering stigma of chargesheet’, he tweets

Chandigarh: The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on controversial land transactions in Haryana has almost vindicated the position of bureaucrat Ashok Khemka on the Robert Vadra-DLF land deal.

Tabled in the state assembly on Wednesday, it has accused the previous Congress government of showing undue favours to Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

PTIPTI

PTI

The CAG report has said that the “possibility of extending undue benefit to particular applicant (Vadra’s company) cannot be ruled out”.

It has also questioned the ‘distinction’ made by Hooda’s government for Vadra’s company in giving permissions. It had helped Vadra by giving sanction in haste to the permissions required, the report suggested.

Under the deal which had been under scrutiny for the last few years, Vadra’s company, Skylight Hospitality, had allegedly sold a prime 3.5 acre piece of land in Manesar in Gurgaon district to DLF in 2008 for Rs 58 crore when the land had only cost his company around Rs 15 crore, earning a cool profit of around Rs 44 crore. It was sold to DLF after obtaining change of land use (CLU) and other permissions from the Hooda government.

Senior IAS officer and the then Haryana Director, General Consolidation, Ashok Khemka, who was the first one to point out and object to this deal, had also ordered its scrapping. Khemka, who has been proved right now by the CAG, had claimed at that time that the deal was illegal and stood no chance of being allowed.

Khemka had alleged that the Rs 7.5 crore that Vadra used for buying the land in question, which he later sold to DLF, was not his own, as he had just Rs 1 lakh in his account at that time.

Khemka went on to cancel the land mutation of the Vadra-DLF land deal for development of a commercial complex at the venue, a step that saw him subjected to a lot of harassment by the Hooda-led government.

Asked for his reaction after his daring action against Vadra had been vindicated, Ashok Khemka told Firstpost that he had nothing to say as he had only done his official duty and nothing else. “I have no comment to offer now.’’ He, however said that, “there is much more than what the CAG has pointed out.”

However since then he has tweeted, saying that despite being vindicated, he continued to suffer the ‘stigma’ of the chargesheet filed against him:

The land deal controversy had become a national issue before both the general elections in the country in 2014 and also in the Haryana assembly elections.

The then government had fiercely defended the questionable land deal even as Khemka was taken to task. The opposition parties in Haryana had alleged that it was doing everything to help Vadra.

Earlier, Anil Vij, Haryana’s Health minister, had told Firstpost that there were discrepancies in the Vadra-DLF land deal and the former made profit illegally. The revenue he earned should have gone to the Haryana government according to rules. “After the Haryana government examines the CAG report, it will take necessary action in this regard,” he had said.

However, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has been non-committal on initiating an investigation into the deal. “The BJP government’s priority in Haryana is to implement its agenda and not to run a vendetta campaign,” Khattar had said in Chandigarh. “Law will take its own course in the Robert Vadra land deal case,’’ he said.

Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala was not available for comment. He had lashed out earlier at the BJP government for `unnecessarily questioning the land deal’. “Vadra is being hounded as part of political propaganda against the Congress,” he had said then.

Pawan Jain, Haryana Congress spokesman, said there was no wrongdoing in the Vadra case. “The Hooda government had not done anything wrong. We will challenge the CAG report to prove it.”

“This is just the beginning. We are not at all surprised. Many more scams in Haryana will come out in the days to come, especially those related to land deals. Not for nothing was the Congress government known to be a party of property dealers,” Dushyant Chautala, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) MP from Hisar constituency, said.

The ulterior motive behind Sonia’s defence of Manmohan in the Coal scam

The solid show of strength supporting Manmohan Singh, now Accused No 6 in the coal scam case involving the allotment of a mine in Odisha to Kumar Mangalam Birla’s Hindalco, is intended to send several messages. With all top Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, taking to the streets, it is clear that the former PM is now getting the kind of support he never got when he was PM.

“We are outraged. We offer our unstinted support and we shall fight this not only legally but with all means at our command. He (Manmohan Singh) is known not just in India but throughout the world as a person of integrity and probity. We have no doubt whatsoever that he will be vindicated,” was how the Hindustan Times quoted the Matriarch, while on the march to Manmohan Singh’s house.

Congress leaders march to Manmohan Singh's houseCongress leaders march to Manmohan Singh's house

Congress leaders march to Manmohan Singh’s house

Parse the statement for its hidden or implied meanings, and this is what you really get.

First, the most farcical statement is the first sentence: “We are outraged”. None of this outrage was visible when the treasury was being looted by some of her own ministers and those of the coalition (2G, coal, CWG, etc). There was no outrage even when the Supreme Court castigated the CBI for showing its report on the coal scam to the law minister, who finally lost his job. There was no outrage when her own son insulted the PM by calling the ordinance to protect convicted legislators “nonsense.”

This is not about outrage, but feigning support to Manmohan Singh so that he does not say anything out of turn during his court deposition.

Second, she said “we shall fight this not only legally but with all means at our command.” Can responsible politicians fight a court summons by any means other than legal? Or is this an implied threat to the judiciary, asking them to lay off or watch the consequences when the Congress comes back to power? Or is the message meant for the government? Clearly, Sonia sees this battle as political even though it was the court which ordered the CBI not to close the investigation. The CBI twice told the court that there was no prosecutable case, but the court refused to accept its decision.

Third, Sonia talked about Singh being known “not just in India but throughout the world as a person of integrity and probity.” This red herring has been repeatedly used not only by Sonia, but all Congressmen, in the past to deflect corruption charges against the UPA. The fact is Manmohan Singh, for reasons best known only to him and Sonia Gandhi, did not do what he was supposed to do: He allowed himself to be convinced that opaque and arbitrary ways of allocating spectrum and coal mines were fine, even though his better judgment was against it.

Put another way, he allowed the loot to happen. The meaning of the above statement is thus clear. Manmohan Singh’s own clean reputation will be used as a shield to prevent inquiries against the rest of the corrupt.

However, it is worth pointing out that “integrity and probity” cannot only mean not taking a bribe; in Manmohan Singh’s case this was what it was reduced to.

Fourth, Sonia tells us that “we have no doubt whatsoever that he will be vindicated.” This is another red herring. In one innocent statement, she has essentially confirmed to us that Manmohan Singh is the accused, and hence he will be vindicated. This is a clever way to avoid the real accusation: that Manmohan Singh did what he did to oblige the party high command.

The court has probably done Sonia Gandhi a favour by choosing the Hindalco case to accuse the former PM of showing undue favours. If this case falls through, the Congress will claim that there was no mala fide involved in the entire coal scam.

The Hindalco case is unlikely to stand up to legal scrutiny. Reason: the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report talked about the opaque process of the Screening Committee, but in the Hindalco case, the Screening Committee’s decision was overturned and both the coal ministry and the PMO gave their own justifications for why the mine should be allotted to Hindalco.

At best, the court may find that it was a flawed decision, but mala fide will be difficult to establish as the PMO has already released all the files and letters relating to the decision. It has explained why it allotted the mine to Birla.

No court can find an executive decision, arrived at after application of the mind, mala fide, unless there is proof of some hanky-panky – which the CBI did not find, and hence wanted to close the case.

By bringing in the PM into the accused category, the court has given Sonia Gandhi a huge reason to claim vindication for the entire coal scam if nothing is found finally against Manmohan Singh. And she can allege political influence in bringing Manmohan Singh’s integrity into question.

AAP slashes electricity tariff, announces free water

In a repeat of their decisions when they were in power for 49 days in 2014, the AAP-led Delhi government has reduced electricity rates by 50 per cent for upto 400 units consumption, On Wednesday. Consumers going above 400 units will have to pay the whole bill.

In a repeat of their decisions when they were in power for 49 days in 2014, the AAP-led Delhi government has reduced electricity rates by 50 per cent for upto 400 units consumption, On Wednesday. Consumers going above 400 units will have to pay the whole bill.The government put out a figure that 36,46,428 families would benefit from reduced bills. And if the subsidy continues for a year, it will cost cash-strapped AAP government Rs1700 crore, official sources say.Kejriwal had visited the CAG office earlier in the day, to discuss the state of the audit on discoms in the city. It is learnt that the CAG assured him of the assistance required in fast completion of audit. The party has long claimed that the results of the audit will reveal irregularities in the discoms, once it is sorted the cost of electricity will be show a decline, removing the need for subsidies.For water, the government once again promised 20kilolitres of free water, per household, every month. Sisodia told the media that 18lakh families would reap the benefit of this move. Unlike their last government, this time Kejriwal has included group housing societies in the free water plan.The government has announced a total subsidy of Rs20 crore for this financial year for this measure.

Time for SC to set up a SIT to focus on how TN judiciary is being compromised

It should have been apparent to any impartial observer that the apex court is distracting itself with issues that are not in its domain, while ignoring areas that are squarely its responsibility.

In recent weeks, the Supreme Court has done practically nothing to support its brother judge, the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, who is being consistently pressured by unruly gangs of lawyers to appoint judges from particular communities. Among other things, lawyers have been shouting slogans against Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and threatening to boycott court proceedings. Elsewhere in Chennai city, gangs of lawyers attached to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s court have apparently been running a criminal enterprise of extortion from clients using their privileged access to the court (read here).

Supreme Court of India.Supreme Court of India.

Supreme Court of India.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court has been busy trying to involve itself in areas that are purely in the executive’s domain. It is not the Supreme Court’s job to decide how black money should be eliminated. But it is doing just that by setting up a Special Investigation Team (SIT). It is not the court’s job to pressure the government on how it is cleaning up the Ganga. But it is doing that, too. It is not the court’s mandate to decide how stored grain should be used. But it has been loquacious on this front. It is not the court’s brief to push the idea of inter-linking India’s rivers. But it has been expressing opinions in this area too.

Isn’t it time the judiciary focused on what is really important – interpretation of the law, ensuring judicial independence, and protection of the constitutional guarantees to citizens? In the policy domain, the check on the executive is the legislature, not the judiciary.

On the other hand, it is certainly the court’s job to ensure that there is no corruption is the judiciary. It has done little on this count. It is certainly the court’s job to reduce the pendency of cases, but this is not quite happening even in the Supreme Court. It is, above all, the court’s job to ensure that the judiciary retains its independence – and here the Supreme Court seems to be ignoring the blatant efforts in Tamil Nadu to ensure the installation of certain kinds of judges.

Lawyers in Tamil Nadu have been going berserk in recent days because Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul has drawn up his own list of recommendations for judicial appointments. He is being pressured to appoint others representing some communities. According to a report in Bar and Bench, the Madras High Court Advocates Association is agitating against the Chief Justice demanding the right to have its views heard.

Should judges be appointed under mob pressure? What is the Supreme Court doing to protect the independence of its own high court judges?

The News Minute has published a brilliant and chilling report on the kind of thuggery and extortion going on in the Egmore Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court, where lawyers fleece hapless clients by filing double bail applications, and then demand money from clients for withdrawing one of these pleas.

Most shockingly, these thugs-claiming-to-be-lawyers actually stoned one of their own to death on 31 January. If lawyers can actually kill one of their own to extort and make money by illegal means, what kind of judiciary are we running at the lower level? Tamil Nadu lawyers are clearly becoming a law unto themselves, and need to be reined in by the Supreme Court.

But so far the Supreme Court seems to be more attentive to the political pressures emanating from Tamil Nadu, not to the potential loss of judicial independence.

In July 2014, former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju wrote in his blog that three former chief justices of India (CJIs) – RC Lahoti, YK Sabharwal and KG Balakrishnan – had a direct or indirect hand in confirming and then promoting a “corrupt” judge in Tamil Nadu. Worse, this was done on the basis of the political pressure exerted by the DMK, then a critical partner in shaky UPA-1, as Firstpost wrote at that time.

Isn’t this what the Supreme Court should focus on first, instead of wasting its time on deciding what a private club like BCCI should do or how the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) should be appointed, when the constitution is already clear on this?

It is good that the Narendra Modi government is finally trying to push the judiciary out of its turf. The executive is reclaiming some of the authority it lost during the weak administration of Manmohan Singh.

On Wednesday (11 February), a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu backed away from hearing a petition to challenge the appointment of current CAG Shashi Kant Sharma, a former defence secretary in the UPA government, after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi made a forceful plea to the court to stop meddling with appointments that were constitutionally in the executive’s domain.

According to The Times of India, Rohatgi made this bold assertion in an open court when the petition came up for consideration: “If the court attempts to frame guidelines for (the) appointment of CAG, it would be in the teeth of constitutional provisions. The constitutional mandate is to leave it to the executive. The CAG is appointed by the President on the aid and advice of the council of ministers headed by the prime minister. There is no role for the courts.”

The petition was filed by senior counsel and PIL specialist Prashant Bhushan, who has been busy trying to involve the judiciary in all kinds of policy areas in the name of ensuring independence and transparency. Bhushan quoted two earlier judicial decisions to support his plea for setting up a new procedure for appointing a CAG. Those judgments took away the government’s power to appoint judges, leading to the setting up of the opaque collegium system. Bhushan mentioned the judges cases to claim that CAG appointments must be taken out of the exclusive domain of the executive. Rohatgi’s strong arguments helped the court say no admitting Bhushan’s PIL.

Rohatgi, who may soon be back in court to defend the constitutional amendment for setting up the National Judicial Appointments Commission when it comes up for judicial challenge, countered Bhushan’s plea forthrightly. He said the Supreme Court’s judgments in the judges appointments case were “completely wrong. The selection and appointment of judges…was with the executive. One cannot say that the judges who were appointed by the executive prior to the judgment were not independent and that those who were appointed after the judgment were all independent.”

Touche!

The moral is simple: the Supreme Court must focus on what is central to its role, and avoid transgressing into executive domain.

It could start by appointing a SIT to investigate what is really going on in Tamil Nadu’s judiciary. The lower courts seem close to losing their independence to political powerplay.

Cash-strapped govt eyes Rs 65,000 cr jackpot from spectrum auction

New Delhi: The cabinet Monday approved the proposal of the Department of Telecom (DoT) to proceed with auction in 800, 900 and 1800 MHz (mega hertz) bands and finalised its reserve prices, an official statement said.

Reuters Image

“The reserve price approved is Rs 3,646 crore pan-India per MHZ in 800 MHz, Rs 3,980 crore for 900 MHz band pan India excluding Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Jammu and Kashmir; Rs 2,191 crore pan India (excluding Maharashtra and West Bengal) in 1800 MHz band,” the statement said.

The quantum of spectrum to be put to auction is 103.75 MHz in 800 MHz band in all service areas, 177.8 MHz in 17 licence service area (LSA) in 900 MHz band and 99.2 MHz in 15 LSAs in 1800 MHz band. Thus a total of 380.75 MHz in 800, 900 and 1800 MHz is being put to auction, it added.

“The estimated revenues from this auction are Rs 64,840 crore (excluding 2100 MHz spectrum) of which Rs 16,000 crore is expected to be realised in the current financial year,” the statement said.

The auction is due in February. The revenue target from spectrum auction set by the government in the 2014-15 budget is Rs 45,471 crore.

The DoT has selected Kolkata-based mjunction services for conducting the upcoming spectrum auction.

In December 2015, seven licences each of Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications, four licences of Bharti Airtel and six licences of Vodafone will complete their 20-year term after which they have to be renewed.

“Payment terms, eligibility criteria and auction objectives shall be as in the previous auction of February 2014,” the statement said.

In February 2014, in a 10-day auction of 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz, the government mopped up Rs 61,162 crore.

Regarding auction of 2100 MHz or 3G spectrum, the statement said: “Cabinet also decided that intent to put 2100 MHz to simultaneous auction may be announced along with auction of other bands. Details of this will be announced later on.”

According to a report in The Times of India, the decision to auction 3G spectrum simultaneously has been taken to increase the availability of the scarce resource. Otherwise, the government fears, speculation may bump up the bid prices at the auction.

The report also said that while Trai has recommended a reserve price of Rs 2,720 crore per mHz, the Telecom Commission is yet to arrive at a final price. This is the reason the government has held back the details of the 3G auction for now.

With inputs from IANS

More woes for Robert Vadra: Rajasthan cancels mutation of land bought by his firm

Things just seem to be getting worse for Robert Vadra. The Rajasthan government has reportedly cancelled the mutation of 360 hectares of land that his firm Skylight Hospitality had purchased in 2010 in Bikaner.

Vadra’s firm had reportedly purchased the land from fake sellers and as a result the mutation of the land stands cancelled and seized by the Rajasthan government, an Indian Express report said.

The local administration had ordered the investigation of land deals involving 16 residents and said it would issue cancellation of orders if the mutations were found to be fake, the report said.

According to a Hindustan Times report, Vadra’s company had sold off portions of the 360 hectares after it was accused of being aided by the Congress government in the state in 2010. Other business groups had also purchased the land in the area that had been seized by the Rajasthan government.

Robert Vadra in this file photo. PTI

As an earlier report had noted, investments made by Robert Vadra in Rajasthan multiplied six times in three years under the Congress government run by Ashok Gehlot.

Soon after Vadra began his land buying spree, the Central government announced plans to promote solar-energy production, a land-intensive project for which Rajasthan was well-suited, turning his investments into hot property.

The value of his investments rocketed when those setting up solar power projects began chasing his property due to its proximity to the grid into which the power was to be fed.

Vadra has not only reportedly fast-tracked the process of winding down his businesses in both Rajasthan and Haryana but is also on a land selling spree in the two states, fearing stringent action and monitoring by the BJP government in both the states.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has also faulted Robert Vadra’s land deals in Haryana too, saying he reaped nearly Rs 44 crore in windfall gains because an indulgent Congress government allowed him to do so in breach of law, and did not insist on recovering Rs 41.51 crore of the profit he made by selling land to DLF Universal.

This year also didn’t begin too well for the Congress party president’s son-in-law with the Income Tax department reportedly sending his firm, Skylight Hospitality, a notice seeking an explanation about the company’s financial deals with DLF.

One ‘terror’ boat occupant should have been caught alive: Congress

PTI
A top Gujarat Congress leader on Saturday said it would have been better if at least one of the occupants of the “terror” boat had been captured alive even as he alleged loopholes in the State’s coastal security.A Pakistani fishing boat said to be carrying explosives was intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard off the Gujarat coast, but the vessel exploded and caught fire before sinking along with four occupants on December 31 night. “We had caught a 26/11 terrorist (Ajmal Kasab) alive during the operation. It would have been better if at least one of the boat occupants had been caught alive. “India then could have told the world their handlers belonged to Pakistan,” said Shaktisinh Gohil, Congress MLA and former Leader of Opposition in Gujarat Assembly.About the circumstances under which the suspected Pakistani boat caught fire and exploded, he said “only time will tell what was the exact reason.” The Congress leader alleged that the BJP Government in Gujarat has not taken adequate measures to provide foolproof coastal security. “A CAG report in 2013 observed that coastal security measures have not been fully implemented in Gujarat, which has the longest sea coast in the country.” The BJP Government has also failed to fully utilise funds meant for buying speed boats for deployment along the maritime border with Pakistan, Gohil said, and recalled the boat used in the 26/11 terror attack was from Porbandar.