Viraat to start last journey today

Decommissioned aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy, Viraat will be towed to the Alang Shipbreaking Yard in Gujarat on Saturday morning where she will be dismantled. Viraat was India’s second aircraft carrier.

The earlier plan was to tow her away on Friday, but it was shelved due to bad weather.

Officers of the western naval command said that the ship will be first pulled out from the western command’s pier with the help of Mumbai Port Trust tugs. Thereafter, the two tugs brought to tow her away will take over. She will be escorted by naval helicopters till she is moved to the western coast. Thereafter, naval dornier planes will monitor her movement. “It will take at least three days for her to reach Alang,” a naval officer said.

The carrier was sold for Rs.38.5 crore and was bought by Shri Ram Green Company and the auction was done by Metal Scrap Trading Corporation. The navy had offered Viraat to many states. The Maharashtra government was to station her at Nivti and make her into a convention centre-cum-hotel along with a private partner. Andhra Pradesh had also shown keen interest in it. Viraat, the second Centaur-class aircraft carrier, was in service for 30 years before being decommissioned in March 2017. There were proposals in the past to preserve it as a maritime museum. But later every state that had earlier shown interest backed out. Viraat was occupying an important space in the naval dockyard and as a result, other ships had to be kept away.

Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha (retired), who had flown on all three aircraft carriers, Vikrant, Viraat and Vikramaditya, said, “It is sad that we have not been able to preserve even one of the two aircraft carriers which represented full one service of Sea Harrier (straight takeoff and vertical landing) aircraft.

Kashmir: Army indicts troops in encounter that killed 3 men

The Army has found “prima facie” evidence that its troops “exceeded” their powers under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act during an encounter in Kashmir’s Shopian district in which three men were killed in July this year and has initiated disciplinary proceedings.

On July 18, the Army claimed three militants were killed in Amshipura village in the higher reaches of south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

Following complaints from families of the deceased persons’ and social media reports that the three men were from Rajouri district in Jammu and had gone missing at Amshipura, the Army initiated an inquiry, said Col Rajesh Kalia, the defence spokesperson in Srinagar.

“The inquiry has brought out certain prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA1990 were exceeded and the Do’s and Don’ts of Chief of Army Staff as approved by the Supreme Court have been contravened. Consequently, the competent disciplinary authority has directed to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act against those found prima-facie answerable,” the statement said.

It is not immediately clear how many Army men are being proceeded against. The evidence collected indicates the three unidentified terrorists killed in Amshipura were Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar who hailed from Rajouri. Their DNA report is awaited. “Their involvement with terrorism or related activities is under investigation by the police,” the statement said.

Relatives of the three youths had lodged a written missing persons report after they lost contact with them on July 17.

According to the rules, a Summary of Evidence will now be initiated against the erring Army personnel after which Court Martial proceedings will begin.


Exports drop in August 2020

India's exports contracted for the sixth consecutive month in August, dragged down by a decline in shipments of petroleum, leather, engineering goods, and gems & jewellery, while imports tumbled by 26% during the month.

Exports in August were $22.7 billion, compared to nearly $26 billion a year ago, which was a decline of 12.7%. Imports fell by 26% to almost $30 billion in August, resulting in a trade deficit of $6.8 billion. Oil imports declined by about 42% to $6.4 billion during August.

Gold imports shot up to $3.7 billion in August compared to $1.4 billion in the same month last year. During April to August, exports contracted by nearly 27% to around $98 billion, while imports fell almost 44% to $118 billion.

Centre: Can’t legalise same-sex marriage

Two years after the Supreme Court de-criminalised Section 377 IPC, four LGTBQ community members requested the Delhi high court to legalise same-sex marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, but ran into stout opposition from the Centre, which said this fell foul of several criminal and civil laws recognising marriage only between a “biological man and woman”.

The petitioners—Delhi-based Abhijit Iyer Mitra and Gita Thadani along with Madurai-based Gopi Shankar M and G Oorvasi — told a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan that Section 5 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1956, provides that “a marriage may be solemnised between any two Hindus” and hence there could be no objection to same-sex marriage between two Hindus of the LGTBQ community.

The petitioners sought a declaration that since Section 5 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1956, does not distinguish between homosexual and heterosexual couples, the right of same-sex couples to marry should be recognised under the Act.

But the Centre, through solicitor general Tushar Mehta, registered its opposition to the petitioners’ plea. He said he had no instructions from the government on the specific issues raised by the petitioners. However, he said he could off-hand argue that same-sex marriage ran counter to several criminal and civil laws recognising marriage between “biological men and women” only. He said India’s social norms and cultural ethos were codified in statutory laws, like prohibited degrees of relationships and ‘sapinda’ marriages, and added both conditions had varying criteria for a man and woman entering into a matrimonial alliance.

In a same-sex marriage, who will be the man and who will be the woman to fasten this statutory condition, he asked.

The SG said there were different age criteria for men and women in a marriage and asked how that was going to be enforced. In case of domestic violence in a same-sex marriage, who will be the woman for enforcement of her rights under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, he asked. Mehta also cited Section 498A of IPC, which punishes a husband and his relatives for inflicting mental and physical torture on the wife for a jail term of up to three years.

Doval Leaves SCO Meet

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval left a virtual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation after Islamabad’s representative showcased a fake map that claimed Jammu and Kashmir and Junagadh as part of Pakistan.

“This was in blatant disregard to the advisory by the host against it and in violation of the norms of the meeting. After consultation with the host, the Indian side left the meeting in protest,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said in New Delhi. The virtual meeting was chaired by Russia.

“As was to be expected, Pakistan then went on to present a misleading view of this meeting,” Srivastava said responding to a query on the issue. A government source said the Pakistani action violated the SCO charter and all established norms of safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of SCO member states. The Indian team issued its strong objection to the use of the illegal map by Pakistan and even host Russia tried very hard to persuade the Pakistani representative not to do so. Pakistan was represented at the meet by Moeed W Yusuf, special assistant to the prime minister on national security.

China violated mutual agreements, militarised border: Rajnath tells LS

Amidst a barrage of questions from the Opposition on the handling of the border situation along the Line of Actual Control with China, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told the Lok Sabha that China continues to be in illegal occupation of approximately 38,000 sq. kms in the Union Territory of Ladakh as ‘China does not accept the customary and traditional alignment of the boundary’ between the two countries.

Singh gave a chronological account of the worsening relations with China over transgressions along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh and maintained that ‘while our armed forces abide scrupulously’ by the mutually-agreed norms, ‘this has not been reciprocated by the Chinese side.’ Singh said that in addition to the 38,000 sq km in Ladakh illegally occupied by China, ‘under the so-called Sino-Pakistan‘Boundary Agreement of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in PoK to China.’ “China also claims about 90,000 sq km of Indian territory in the Eastern Sector of the India-China boundary in Arunachal Pradesh,” he added.

The Opposition had put in several notices to the Speaker to allow a discussion or an intervention to raise questions on the issue but were turned away leading to a walkout by the Congress.


Navi Mumbai: Cidco Metro back on track

Two mega infrastructure projects— the Rs.16,000-crore Navi Mumbai international airport and the Cidco Navi Mumbai Metro Rail project worth Rs.7,633 crore— are back on track albeit with new deadlines.

While the airport deadline is pegged post-2024, the Metro run for all three lines connecting various residential areas and the industrial hub of Taloja MIDC is scheduled for end-2024.

Line IV of the Metro, the last point connectivity with the airport, has been kept in abeyance as it has to be synchronised with the proposed CST-Panvel elevated Metro track and entry/exit to the airport by proposed sky bus.

Cidco is executing work on Line I, which is expected to be commissioned in 2021, while Line III, which is a short distance, will get commissioned after that. Line II will follow thereafter. The entire 22.09-km Metro project providing connectivity in Cidco-Panvel city municipal corporation area will be completed by 2024. Cidco has awarded the contract for Lines II and III to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.

Line III, described a loop (line), will connect Line I from Belapur railway station to Pendhar with Taloja.