AAP ki sarkar....

Arvind Kejriwal took oath as Delhi’s seventh and youngest chief minister ever in an unconventional ceremony at Ramlila Maidan on Saturday, marking a paradigm shift in the capital’s, and perhaps, the country’s politics — from control to empowerment of the people.
After his swearing-in ceremony, the action shifted to the Delhi secretariat where he immediately assumed office and called a meeting of his cabinet to execute the first of the many controversial decisions to come. The AAP-led government stripped its ministers and bureaucrats of beacon-fitted cars, personal security and escort cars. Kejriwal said the decisions on cheaper power and water would be taken next week.
Earlier in the day, right after he took oath, he announced an anti-corruption helpline on which people could register complaints against corrupt officers and bureaucrats of the Delhi government. “If someone asks you for a bribe, please do not say no. But call the helpline and get him caught red-handed,” he said in his first speech as chief minister. In an emotional and extempore address to a crowd of around 40,000 people, who had gathered to watch the common man be crowned king, Kejriwal said his party’s electoral win and an AAP-led government in the capital was nothing but the victory of the aam aadmi. Reiterating his promise to usher in participative democracy he said: “My cabinet ministers and I alone cannot run this government. This is not a ceremony where only I have taken oath, every person present here has also taken an oath to fight corruption. We need the help of 1.5 crore people of this city to cleanse the system of corruption and run this government.” He ended by singing a Manna Dey song on brotherhood from the 1959 film Paighaam.
Although Anna Hazare did not attend the oath-taking ceremony, he congratulated his one-time protégé and his cabinet ministers in a letter sent to Kejriwal on Saturday. “We have worked together for many years.... I congratulate you for taking the oath of chief minister today. I also congratulate others taking oath with you today,” he told reporters at his village Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra. Prime minister Manmohan Singh also called Kejriwal in the day to congratulate him on his new assignment.
On the first day of his new job, Kejriwal held a series of meetings with senior officials from Delhi Jal Board, departments of power and transport and also the Delhi Police Commissioner. The newly appointed CM also decided to keep some of the key portfolios such as home, finance, vigilance and power with himself.
The AAP-led government is expected to hold a special session of the Delhi assembly in the first week of January to prove its majority on the floor of the House.

3 Key Decisions
1 No Red Beacons
Ministers and officials will not use red beacons on their cars. This was one key promise made by AAP and aimed at putting an end to the VIP culture in Delhi. MLAs must use government cars only for official work. 2 Security on ‘Threat’
The Delhi cabinet decided that security to lawmakers will be allotted based only on “threat perception”. No escort vehicle will be provided to officials and ministers. This stems from AAP’s ideology that an MLA needs the same security as the common man.
3 Anti-graft Helpline
Kejriwal announced creating an anticorruption helpline which people can call to register complaints against government officers seeking bribe. A call centre will be established.

Team Kejriwal
Delhi’s new ministers and their portfolios

Arvind Kejriwal,
Home, Finance, Vigilance, Services, Planning, Power and all other unallocated depts

Manish Sisodia
Education, Higher Education, PWD, Urban Development, Local Bodies, Land and Building Revenue

Somnath Bharti
Administrative Reforms, Law, Tourism, Art and Culture

Girish Soni
SC/ST, Development, Employment, Skills Mission and Labour

Saurabh Bharadwaj
Food and Supply, Transport, Environment, General Administration

Satender Jain
Health, Industries, Gurudwara

Rakhi Birla
Women and Child development, Social Welfare, Languages

Of a probe into Snoopgate....

The UPA government has approved setting up of a Commission of Inquiry to mainly investigate the so-called “snoopgate” allegations involving Narendra Modi, taking direct aim at the BJP’s PM candidate and setting the stage for a rancorous battle between the parties in the run up to the 2014 general elections.
The allegations that Modi ordered illegal surveillance of a woman by the Gujarat Police in 2009 will be investigated by a commission headed by a retired Supreme Court judge and is tasked to deliver its report in time for the general elections. "The Cabinet has approved a proposal to set up a Commission of Inquiry under Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, to look into the incidents of physical/electronic surveillance in the states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and the National Capital Territory of Delhi, allegedly without authorisation," an official release said. Curiously, the commission’s remit also includes incidents of surveillance purported to have taken place in Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.
This, government sources said, was aimed at allowing the commission to investigate complaints of senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley that his phone records were illegally collected by some people. The Himachal angle of the probe pertains to present Congress Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s allegation that his phones were illegally tapped at the behest of his BJP predecessor PK Dhumal, the sources said.
Political observers said the move to include Delhi NCR and HP and thereby making it an omnibus inquiry was aimed at taking the sting out of any criticism that the probe was aimed exclusively at Modi.
But the main target of the proposed inquiry remains Gujarat, where the surveillance of the woman, allegedly ordered by Modi and overseen by his close confidante and then state Home Minister Amit Shah, is widely seen as the biggest political challenge the Gujarat chief minister faces since the 2002 Gujarat riots.
After these allegations were reported last month by two investigative portals, the Gujarat government constituted its own commission of inquiry to look into the charges. But the Congress and many other parties have dismissed this inquiry as a “cover-up exercise”.
Government sources said after the cabinet decision, the central government could dissolve the commission of inquiry instituted by the state government. The centre’s Commission of Inquiry will be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge and will be asked to submit its report within three months, they said.
While Modi has said nothing on this case, the BJP has said the surveillance on the woman, then an architect based in Bangalore, was instituted upon a request by her father and a friend of Modi who feared a threat to her safety, an explanation that has failed to cut ice with Modi’s critics.
Sources said the home ministry pushed for the Commission of Inquiry, which will have powers to seek documents and depositions from officials, saying that it had received demands for an investigation from many quarters and that the issue involved was an interstate matter and a violation of Telegraph Act. President Pranab Mukherjee too is learnt to have forwarded to the home ministry several petitions received from several women’s organisations demanding a probe into the allegations.
The “snoopgate” conversations, purportedly carried out between Shah and a senior Gujarat police official during August and September 2009 , do not specifically mention Modi by name, but the portals claimed a “saheb” referred to in the tapes was the Gujarat chief minister. Pradeep Sharma, an IAS officer suspended by the Gujarat government, has alleged in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court that that the woman and Modi had close relations.
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh was quick to welcome the cabinet decision on Thursday, saying it was overdue as the case involved the violation of Telegraph Act.
While Modi remained silent, the BJP slammed the government for the decision, saying it smacked "political vindictiveness".
"It is a clear case of political vindictiveness, it is a witchhunt...clearly it is the fascist Congress with its emergency mindset that has taken such a decision. BJP shall meet all the challenges and fight at every platform," BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters.
Senior BJP leaders and the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha said the decision would be challenged in the courts. "This action legally is a suspect and liable for challenge. I am sure it will be legally challenged in courts. The setting up of this Commission (of Inquiry) violates the federal structure of the Constitution. It is an affront to the states. I hope other chief ministers also join in the protest against this action."

Delhi Metro Phase III trial runs

Delhi Metro began trial runs for Phase III between Central Secretariat and Mandi House on Monday. The first train was flagged off from Central Secretariat Metro station by union urban development secretary Sudhir Krishna and DMRC chairman Mangu Singh.
According to officials, trial runs on this section are expected to continue for a couple of months. “Work for this 3-km underground section which is part of the Central Secretariat-Kashmere Gate line is almost done and it’s expected to open by March 2014. The opening of this stretch has been brought forward by about six months and it will help decongest the Rajiv Chowk Metro station as commuters of the Badarpur-Central Secretariat Line bound for Noida and Vaishali will now need to change trains once at Mandi House instead of twice ,” said an official.
Areas to be benefited include Central Secretariat, Janpath, parts of CP, Mandi House, NSD, high court, Bengali Market and Barakhamba Road and Metro expects 70,000 additional footfall.

Vodafone, Tesco get FIPB nod

The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approved Vodafone’s proposal to acquire shares from Ajay Piramal and Analjit Singh for over Rs.10,000 crore, making the British telecom company among the largest foreign investors in India, while also allowing Tesco to set up the country’s first multi-brand retail chain with overseas funds.
Vodafone had first spent $11.1 billion to acquire a 67% economic interest in Hutch Essar and then got Essar to offload its 33% shares for almost $5.5 billion. Through the latest transaction, which was approved by FIPB on Monday, the Vodafone will convert the Indian company into a wholly-owned entity.
Piramal holds almost 11% stake in India's second largest telecom company by subscribers, while Singh, who is Vodafone India’s non executive chairman, has a 24.65% holding. Vodafone Group will pay Analjit Singh Rs.1,241 crore and Piramal Enterprises Rs.8,900 crore for their stakes in Vodafone India as part of the transaction.
“We are pleased to have obtained FIPB approval to increase our stake in Vodafone India. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs still has to endorse this decision before either transaction can take place,” Vodafone said in a statement. All foreign investment proposals of over Rs.1,200 crore have to be approved by CCEA.
A green light to Vodafone is the first instance of a telecom company being owned entirely by a foreign investor after the government recently allowed 100% FDI in a sector that has faced security concerns in the past.

Similarly, an approval for Tesco is the first case of a foreign multi-brand retail chain being allowed to set up shop in the country. The British retailer is buying 50% stake in Tata Group’s Trent Hypermarkets and intends to invest $110 million initially to open stores in Maharashtra and Karnataka. The investment comes even as several global players, led by the world’s largest retailer Walmart, have postponed their plans to enter India, citing rigid rules that require foreign companies to invest in creating back-end infrastructure and also source 30% goods from local players.
“This (FIPB approval) will now allow us to work on the practicalities of setting up the joint venture with Trent. Any such announcement will be made in the usual way,” a Tesco spokesperson said in a statement.
The FIPB has also approved foreign investment proposals of Johnson & Johnson. A decision on HDFC Bank’s proposal to raise more equity from foreign institutional investors (FIIs) was, however, postponed. 

Lucknow-Agra Expressway snippets

The Uttar Pradesh cabinet has approved the state funding of chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s dream project: the Lucknow-Agra Expressway as it has failed to attract investors. The funding would be done through the state budget under the Engineering Procurement Contract (EPC) model. The cabinet also cleared the proposals for acquiring land in Meerut, Kushinagar, Lalitpur and Mirzapur for state and Central projects.
In all, the cabinet approved of 18 proposals that were on the agenda for Friday including service matters, construction of a new jail in Etah, a common facility centre in Sitapur, IT city in Lucknow and constitution of a commission for management and regulation of water in the state.
Chief secretary Jawed Usmani, briefing the media about the cabinet decisions said that since no bidders turned up for the expressway under the PPP mode,the cabinet has decided to fund the project through the EPC mode that had been adopted earlier as well for various projects in UP.
Due to economic slowdown, the project failed to attract bidders and now the UP Industrial Development Authority (UPIDA) would develop it instead. The 301-km long expressway from Lucknow to Agra is likely to cost Rs 8,944 crore. He said that an important clause of the EPC model has been amended because of which the Defect Liability Period (DLP) has been extended to five years instead of the existing two years. The DLP cover the expenses to be borne by the developer, he said.
The Cabinet also awarded the 100 acre Information Technology (IT) City project in Lucknow to Vama Sundari Investments of HCL Group as HCL was the only group to bid for the project requiring investments.


Indian Space Research Organization (Isro)’s Launch Authorization Board gave the go ahead for the launch of Geo Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV–D5), carrying the GSat-14 communication satellite, on January 5 from Sriharikota spaceport.
The mission was originally slated for lift-off on August 19, but was delayed following a leak in the liquid second stage of the rocket.
“A 29-hour countdown (for the launch) is set to commence on January 4 at 11 am,” an ISRO official said.
The GSLV is designed to inject its passenger spacecraft into the intended Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit with a combination of solid, earth-storable liquid and cryogenic propellants in its first, second and third stages.
GSat-14, with a 12-year life span, is Isro’s 23rd. After commissioning, it will join the group of nine operational geostationary satellites.

NaMo finally speaks on the Godhra riots

Closure was the theme of chief minister Narendra Modi’s blog on Friday, as he finally spoke about the 2002 post-Godhra riots a day after a court in Ahmedabad said there was insufficient evidence to charge him with larger conspiracy.
Although Modi stopped short of offering an apology, he came closest to offering regret for the communal conflagration marked by large-scale anti-Muslim violence. His earlier attempt at expressing regret attracted large scale criticism because of the use of puppy analogy.
“This is the first time I am sharing the harrowing ordeal I had gone through in those days at a personal level”, Modi said. In a carefully worded post with key words like “mindless violence” in bold, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections spoke about how the killings had “shaken and shattered” him “to the core”.
He said, “Yesterday’s judgment culminated a process of unprecedented scrutiny closely monitored by the highest court of the land, the Honourable Supreme Court of India. Gujarat’s 12 years of trial by the fire have finally drawn to an end. I feel liberated and at peace.”
Earlier, the Gujarat CM had spoken about the riots in detail at the launch of the Sadbhavana fasts on his 61st birthday on September 17, 2011. This was after the SC had refused to monitor the conspiracy case further.
“‘Grief’, ‘Sadness’, ‘Misery’, ‘Pain’, ‘Anguish’, ‘Agony’ — mere words could not capture the absolute emptiness one felt on witnessing such inhumanity,” Modi wrote.
He expressed anguish for being accused of the killings. “Can you imagine the inner turmoil and shock of being blamed for the very events that have shattered you?” he asked in bold.
“On one side was the pain of the victims of the earthquake, and on the other the pain of the victims of the riots. In decisively confronting this great turmoil, I had to single-mindedly focus all the strength given to me by the almighty, on the task of peace, justice and rehabilitation; burying the pain and agony I was personally wracked with,” he wrote.
Modi also addressed the criticism for dodging the issue of riots on his charge despite persistent allegation that they were facilitated by deliberate inaction on the part of state administration. “During those challenging times, I often recollected the wisdom in our scriptures; explaining how those seating in positions of power did not have the right to share their own pain and anguish. They had to suffer it in solitude. I lived through the same, experiencing the anguish”. Modi: My govt responded more swiftly than ever done before
In an obvious reference in the blog to the charge that he deliberately did not move fast enough to riots which broke out in the wake of killings of karsevaks at Godhara, Narendra Modi said that “as if all the suffering was no enough, I was also accused of the death and misery of my own loved ones, My Gujarati brothers and sisters. Can you imagine the inner turmoil and shock of being blamed for the very events that have shattered you”.
The attempt to reach out to Muslim victims through the reference of “my Gujarati brothers and sisters” ran through the blog.
Without mentioning the Congress, he claimed his government had responded to the violence “more swiftly and decisively than ever done before in any previous riots in the country”.
In an apparent reference to some NGOs, Modi wrote his critics targeted him to achieve their personal and political ends, and “ironically delayed the very justice that they claimed to be fighting for”. Modi added he did not expect the “tirade” against him to cease.
Modi signed off saying, “I am deeply convinced that the future of any society, state or country lies in harmony. This is the only foundation on which progress and prosperity can be built. Therefore, I urge one and all to join hands in working towards the same, ensuring smiles on each and every face. Once again, Satyameva Jayate!”

Fruits & Vegetables Delinked From APMC Act

Congress ruled states will delist “fruits and vegetables” from their Agricultural Produce Markets Committee (APMC) Act by January 15, a move that would give free choice to farmers to sell their produce directly in markets. The move to remove middlemen is seen as an effective way to check hoarding and price rise.
The decision was taken at a meeting of 12 Congress chief ministers with party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to discuss ways to curb inflation, a sensitive political issue that has gained urgency in the party ranks after the rout in recent assembly elections. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had identified high food prices as a reason that influenced voters against the party.
Congress has also asked its CMs to crack down on hoarders and black marketing by invoking Essential Commodities Act stringently and by putting the “chronic offenders” behind the bars.
Any decision to put vegetables and fruits outside the ambit of APMC would radically change the way farmers sell their produce. Presently, farmers have to sell at “mandis” that is normally a closed group of traders who indulge in cartelization. The move would not require any change in the Act but can be done by amending the rules. A government official said, “It would allow people, be it individuals or traders, to buy directly from the growers and would end the exploitation of farmers. Farmers are forced to sell their produce at lower price determined by a cartel of traders in the mandis.”
It is felt if Delhi had amended the APMC Act in time, it would not have faced food inflation that finally turned the public opinion against Sheila Dikshit government and routed it out earlier this month.
The RBI has consistently flagged the serious risk posed by price pressures and has called for government efforts to restore supplies. Experts say the problem has to be tackled jointly with a focus to increase supplies, smash the ring of middlemen in the chain and take urgent measures to reform the APMC Act. For nearly 10 years, there has been tardy progress on this vital issue.

Of India in 2028....

India is likely to overtake Japan in 2028 to become the third largest economy in the world after China and United States, according to London-based economic consultancy Cebr.
As per Cebr’s World Economic League table report for 2013, India has lost a place in the league table in 2013 to Canada and is now the 11th largest economy in the world.
“But demographics and economic growth will eventually drive the Indian economy up the table and the forecast for 2028 has India becoming the world's 3rd largest economy overtaking Japan,” the report said.
The Cebr World Economic League Table (WELT) is an annual calculation by the consultancy. The base data for 2012 is taken from the IMF World Economic Outlook and the GDP forecast draws on Cebr’s Global Prospects model to forecast growth, inflation and exchange rates.
The report gives an end of year report on GDP in the 30 largest economies in the world and forecasts countries that will be in the top-30 after 5, 10 and 15 years.
In the 2013 league table, India is at the 11th place with a GDP of $1,758 billion, and by 2018 the country is likely to be at the 9th place with a GDP of $2,481 billion, and by 2023 it would be at 4th place, with GDP size of $4,124 billion, and it will claim 3rd spot with GDP of $6,560 billion by 2028, it said. By the year 2018, the emerging economies will be “on the move”. 

Lokpal-like law in Cong-led states

Congress-ruled states will enact Lokayukta legislations on the lines of the Centre’s Lokpal by February-end, a resolve aimed at positioning the party strongly in the fight against corruption ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The 12 states will put CMs and ministers under the ambit of the anti-graft ombudsman, and will empower investigating agencies with prosecution wings under them to be free of the control of the law ministry.
At a meeting with chief ministers called by Congress heir-imminent Rahul Gandhi to discuss the issue of corruption on Friday, all state heads agreed to bring the Lokayukta legislation mirroring Lokpal bill by February 28. A blueprint to be followed was given to the chief ministers.
While the Lokpal bill passed by the Parliament this month gives one year to states to bring their Lokayukta legislation, it leaves the states free to decide on the nature of the ombudsman they want to have. Announcing the decision, Rahul said, “We want to take the stipulations in the Lokpal bill to the states.”
The move on Lokayukta — seeking to soften the negative perception about UPA-2 and woo voters in states where elections are going to be fought – appears a strategy to challenge the BJP to follow suit. Sources said while Lokayukta is present in almost every state, the Congress initiative is about giving them teeth, a la Lokpal.
It is hoped the Congress’s initiative will bring under focus the Lokayukta in Gujarat, amended by Narendra Modi government to make it subservient to the state government. The issue came up at the meeting with Rahul where, sources said, AICC general secretary Ajay Maken pointed out how the Gujarat ombudsman was rendered feeble.
Rahul lost no time in slamming the BJP for its silence on his demand to pass the six anti-graft bills besides Lokpal that are pending in Parliament and which he calls part of a “framework against corruption”.
The pending bills are about protection of whistle blowers, grievance redressal and delivery of services, public procurement, foreign bribery and judicial accountability.

India, US seal pact for six more Super Hercules

India and the US have inked another mega contract, the $1.01 billion one for six additional C-130J “Super Hercules” aircraft, while some others are being finalized.
Defence ministry sources said the “letter of offer and acceptance” for the six new four-engine C-130Js, which will be delivered within three years, was signed on Friday under the US government’s “foreign military sales” (FMS) programme.
IAF already has six C-130Js tactical airlift aircraft, ordered for $962 million in 2007, which are based at the Hindon airbase on the outskirts of Delhi. The six new C-130Js, also configured for “special operations” as the first six, will be based at Panagarh in West Bengal.
Panagarh will also house the headquarters of the new mountain strike corps, christened XVII Corps with a total of over 80,000 soldiers, being raised by the Army in a project worth around Rs 90,000 crore. This new corps will plug operational gaps along the 4,057-km LAC as well as give “some serious ground offensive capabilities” against China for the first time.
The rugged C-130J, as also the bigger C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlift aircraft acquired from the US, can even land at a small forward airbase on a semi-prepared runway. Crucial to counter China’s massive build-up of border infrastructure.

2007 : $962 million for 6 C-130J ‘Super Hercules’ aircraft
2009 : $2.1 billion for 8 P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft
2010 : $170 million for 24 Harpoon Block-II anti-ship missiles for Jaguar fighters
2011 : $4.1 billion for 10 C-17 Globemaster-III giant strategic airlift aircraft
2012 : $822 million for 99 GE F-414 engines for Tejas Light Combat Aircraft
2013 : $1.01 billion for 6 more C-130J

Of India's most prosperous cities....

Credit rating agency Crisil has confirmed what many had guessed for long: newbie Gurgaon has emerged as the most prosperous city in the country, leaving financial capital Mumbai way behind.
Using ownership of consumer durables as a measure of prosperity, Crisil found Gurgaon has the largest proportion of households with all basic gadgets, including a computer or laptop. The study covered top cities in 16 states.
Gurgaon, with 27% of its households owning all gadgets, tops the list while Chennai is second with 24% such families. Bangalore comes in a close third at 23.6%. Mumbai, however, trails way behind at 15.7%.
Delhi, a city state, and union territories were not included in the study.
However, Gurgaon has a significant number of poor households with almost 7% families having no consumer durables at all. In Mumbai’s case, the figure stands at a meagre 2.2%. The consumer durables covered in the study include television sets, computers, laptops, telephones, mobile phones, two-wheelers, cars, and jeeps among others.

RaGa disapproves junking of Adarsh report

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s tough stand on the Adarsh housing scam was his second powerful intervention in public against his own colleagues on the plank of probity. Earlier, he had opposed the ordinance to save convicted legislators from disqualification by calling it “complete nonsense”, leading the Union Cabinet to drop the legislation.
Rahul’s disapproval of the Maharashtra cabinet’s rescue act for senior Congress leaders came after a day-long huddle with Chavan and 10 other Congress CMs to discuss anti-graft measures. Chavan reacted to the public instruction by saying he would discuss it with his cabinet colleagues. Sources in the party said consultations will be a mere formality as by upping his ante in public, Rahul may have presented Chavan with a fait accompli.
The reversal will be facilitated by the fact that the coalition partner in Maharashtra,NCP,has seized upon the cabinet’s decision to taunt the Congress for organizing a safe passage for senior party leaders—former CM Ashok Chavan and ex-CM and Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde—who were indicted by the probe panel.The third ex-CM to be indicted by the commission, Vilasrao Deshmukh,died last year.
CM Chavan will be happy to carry out the fiat which will keep him without key competitors for his job.
Rahul’s public frowning cuts short the respite that Ashok Chavan secured after the decision of the state cabinet. Governor K Sankaranarayanan also refused CBI sanction to prosecute him in the case.
With the Adarsh report proving to be a thorn in the Congress’s side and putting the young leader’s anti-corruption drive under a cloud, rescinding the controversial decision has become a political imperative. No sooner did the Chavan government reject the report than a controversy erupted, with BJP leader Narendra Modi invoking it to question Rahul’s offensive against graft.
Sources said the Adarsh issue came up for discussion at Rahul’s meeting with CMs and AICC general secretaries on how to position the party on the right side of the anti-graft debate on Friday. One of the party general secretaries reportedly questioned how the party’s new found toughness against graft would wash with people when the Maharashtra government had rejected the judicial panel’s report on irregularities in the Adarsh housing project. At this point, CM Chavan interjected to say he would not discuss the issue in the open house but would have a word separately with the Congress heir imminent.
What transpired between the two is not known but Rahul’s disagreement with the state cabinet’s decision on Adarsh appears to have been discussed between the duo. Chavan’s blank look on the dais when Rahul spoke indicated that he had not been taken by surprise.

UP government admits 34 kids died @ riot camps

The Uttar Pradesh government admitted that 34 children -- all below 12 years -- died at the relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts between September 7 and December 20. The toll was confirmed by a high powered panel, constituted by the Akhilesh Yadav government to look into the deaths of infants as reported by the media.
The panel submitted its report on December 25 and the findings would now be placed before the SC which is hearing petitions related to different aspects of the communal riots which claimed more than 60 lives and left over 50,000 homeless. Briefing reports on the panel’s findings, principal secretary (home) A K Gupta said 4,783 people were still living in five camps including one in Loi in Muzaffarnagar district and another four at Madarsa Taimul Shah, Malakpur, Barnavi and Edgah in Shamli district.
Briefing reports on the panel’s findings, principal secretary (home) A K Gupta said most of the children who lost their lives were the ones who had been taken outside the camps for treatment by their parents or were referred to government hospitals.
“The cause of the death of all these children was different. Four of them died of pneumonia and some due to dysentery. In one case, it was a premature birth,” Gupta said.
The officer also admitted that that all those living in the relief camps were displaced people. The response came to a question whether there were conspirators living in camps as claimed by Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Initially, the state government had denied any deaths at any of the camps and had even submitted an affidavit before the Supreme Court with similar claims. However, the apex court asked the state government to verify the facts after which the panel was formed on December 13.
The committee was headed by the Commissioner (Meerut), Manjit Singh. The DMs and chief medical officers of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli were nominated as its members.
Gupta, however, denied any of the victims had died due to medical negligence or government’s apathy.
Meanwhile, Ittehad-e-Millat Council (IMC), an ally of Samajwadi Party, threatened to snap ties with the ruling party for neglecting relief work in Muzaffarnagar.
On December 23, Mulayam had said that most riot survivors had left relief camps and those living in the camps were conspirators of either Congress or BJP.

Cabinet okays constitutional status for JAC

The Union Cabinet green-lighted giving constitutional status to the composition of Judicial Appointments Commission. Since the composition of JAC had no constitutional status in the bill which was earlier passed by Rajya Sabha, the opposition prevented the government from tabling it in Lok Sabha.
Later, when the bill was referred to the parliamentary standing committee of law, the MPs’ panel too recommended giving constitutional status to the composition of JAC.
The amended JAC bill, when passed by both Houses of Parliament, will replace the collegium system of judges appointing judges with the proposed commission that will have representation from the executive and some independent members besides Supreme Court judges. It will be headed by the Chief Justice of India.

Somewhere in Uttarakhand....

The Uttarakhand government has revoked the state Lokayukta Act which received presidential assent in October.
Chief minister Vijay Bahuguna said the decision was taken at a cabinet meeting. He said the new Lokayukta Bill which has been drafted from the Lokpal Bill passed by Lok Sabha over a week ago will be tabled in the state assembly during its special session from January 13 to 15.
“Since the next session of the house will be held in March, we were left with no option but to summon a special session to pass the bill ,” agriculture minister Harak Singh Rawat said.


Machchil Encounter snippets

Three years after the Machchil encounter triggered widespread protests in the Kashmir valley, the Army ordered court martial proceedings against six of its men, including a Colonel and Major, for allegedly gunning down three youths and claiming they were Pakistani infiltrators.
The April 30, 2010 encounter had led to two month-long agitation in the Valley. The slain youths were identified as Mohamad Shafi, Shehzad Ahmed and Riyaz Ahmed –– all residents of Nadihal in Baramulla district. Army had claimed it had killed three Pakistani terrorists in the Machchil sector along the Line of Control (LoC).
Army sources said the court martial proceedings have been initiated against the six accused including Col D K Pathania, Commanding Officer (CO) of 4 Rajput Regiment, Major Upinder and four jawans. Sources said a detailed court of inquiry was conducted to establish culpability of the accused personnel.
Police had charged nine people in July 2010, including six Army personnel. But the probe was handed over to the Army after it was assured of a detailed inquiry into the encounter.
A senior Army official said the venue and date of the court martial proceedings would be decided soon.
“A very detailed and exhaustive inquiry was conducted with the assistance of state police and judicial department to summon witnesses, record evidence and establish culpability of the accused personnel,” a source said.
The parents and relatives of the slain youths were given fair opportunity to make their submissions during the investigations by the Army, sources said. Sources said after a detailed scrutiny of the incident, the Army has ordered court martial proceedings to take the legal process to a logical conclusion.

Somewhere in Rajkot....

 In order to save power while providing efficient lighting on the roads, Rajkot Urban Development Authority (RUDA) has decided to install (light emitting diodes) LEDs in 54 villages under its jurisdiction. The installation will be done by recognized agencies. Earlier, RUDA had installed more than 400 LEDs to light up a stretch of about six kilometres on a four lane road connecting the city with Metoda Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) hub on the western outskirts. The project was executed at a cost of Rs. 2.3 crore.
Now, RUDA has come out with a plan to implement a similar project in 54 villages along with Kothariya Road and Ishwariya Road leading to the outskirts of the city. By executing this project, RUDA aims to save on its electricity bill in a big way. In all it will install total 2,000 LEDs at a cost of Rs 7.80 crore.
“Our earlier experience with LEDs on Kalawad Road has been good as LED consumes less power than conventional sodium lights. Also, the intelligence street light controller will save energy as it will function in accordance with sun rise and sun set automatically,’’ said a RUDA official.
RUDA will install 210 LEDs on the three kilometre stretch on Kothariya Road at a cost of Rs 1.36 crore for the benefit of commuters travelling between the city and Kothariya village during night.


Of India's GDP growth stats in the past....

Boost for Jaitapur N-project

The Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) has picked pace with 61 per cent of the project affected persons (PAPs) accepting the additional land compensation package of Rs.22.5 lakh per hectare since March this year.
According to Sandeep Singhroy, director, JNPP, of the total 2,336 khatedars or land title holders, 1,484 have collected the land compensation cheques so far. While the figure stood at less than 300 PAPs till March this year, it saw a sharp increase after the state government approved the additional ex-gratia payment of Rs. 22.5 lakh per hectare in February this year, as recommended by a state government-appointed committee based on market rates. Of the 1,484 who have opted for the compensation, 1,423 have taken the ex-gratia payment so far.
"The numbers are increasing by the week. There is a general encouragement among the people after the announcement of the ex-gratia amount and the progress of accepting cheques is satisfactory," Singhroy said.
The ex-gratia amount of Rs.22.5 lakh per hectare is reported to be more than 80 times the original amount. While land for the project was acquired at different rates, NPCIL sources said the initial payments were as low as Rs.25,000 per hectare.
The land acquisition amount was earlier fixed at Rs.14.77 crore as per the Land Acquisition Act. But the NPCIL has now earmarked an additional Rs.211 crore as ex-gratia payment, following the panel's recommendations.
A total of 938.026 hectares (692.311 hectares for the plant site and 245.715 hectares for the residential complex) has been acquired for the project. The state government handed over possession of the land to the NPCIL in 2010.
The rehabilitation package agreement, signed between the state government and NPCIL in October 2010, also requires NPCIL to provide Rs 2 crore per village for civic amenities and Rs 25 lakh per village per year for maintenance. The maintenance amount will be increased by 10 per cent every three years.
NPCIL has also agreed to provide permanent employment to one person from each project-affected family in Group 'C' or Group 'D' categories if they are qualified for the post. If the person is not qualified or the family does not want the job, NPCIL will make a one-time payment of Rs 5 lakh per family in lieu of employment.
The package includes cash compensation — 750 days' minimum agricultural wage to families of those who have become landless post-acquisition, 500 days' wage to marginal land owners, 375 days' wage for small land owners, and 625 days' minimum agricultural wage to agricultural labourers or other labourers who are dependent on the land.
The project has been facing protests from villagers of the affected areas in Madban, Niveli, Mithgavhane and Karel.

DGMOs meet

The Indian and Pakistani armies vowed to maintain the sanctity of the Line of Control (LoC) as well as the ceasefire agreement at the meeting between the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries on Tuesday — the first since the 1999 Kargil war.
Coming at the end of a year that saw an unprecedented number of cross-border violations since the 2003 ceasefire agreement came into place, the meeting between the two top officers is being seen as a sign that peace may return to the LoC.
At the end of the meeting, which was held on the Pakistani side of the Wagah border, a joint statement was released in which both nations emphasised their "commitment to maintain the sanctity and ceasefire on the Line of Control" and agreed to "re-energise existing mechanisms".
While it is learnt that the Indian side strongly raised the issue of at least two cross-border raids this year that resulted in the death of seven Indian soldiers and also conveyed that it does not expect a repeat of 2013 that saw over 195 ceasefire violations on the LoC, no new measure was decided at the DGMOs' meet.
"Consensus was developed to make Hotline Contact between the two DGMOs more effective and result-oriented. It was also decided to inform each other if any innocent civilian inadvertently crosses Line of Control, in order to ensure his or her early return," the joint statement said. "Both sides reiterated resolve and commitment to continue efforts for ensuring ceasefire, peace and tranquility on the Line of Control."
Indian DGMO Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia told reporters at Attari that the meeting was "cordial, cordial and fruitful" where both sides were looking forward to "sustaining the ceasefire". Bhatia said "there were some issues we are moving forward on". While Lt Gen Bhatia led the Indian side, Maj Gen Aamer Riaz represented the Pakistani side.
The one takeaway of the meeting was that a decision was taken to conduct two flag meetings between the Brigade Commanders on the LoC to "take forward" the points discussed at the DGMOs' meet. The meetings are likely to take place in the coming weeks in the Uri and Poonch sectors where the Brigade Commanders will discuss local issues at length. The Poonch area in particular has seen repeated ceasefire violations as well as a brutal cross-border raid by Pakistani soldiers.
The meeting of the two DGMOs was aimed at reducing tension on the border and had been agreed upon in September when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his counterpart Nawaz Sharif at the UN in New York.

Aviation snippets

Air passenger traffic in the first eleven months of this year jumped by over 4.5% as compared to the corresponding period last year, as per the latest data released by the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Indian domestic airlines carried a total of 55.9 million passengers between January and November 2013 as compared to 53.5 million during the same period last year, which meant a 4.52% rise. A total of 5.2 million passengers travelled by air in November as compared to 5.1 million that travelled in the same month last year, a 2.33% increase.
IndiGo continued to dominate the domestic market. It’s marketshare in November was 28.6%. Jet Airways market share was 24.1%, Air India 19.3%, SpiceJet 19% and GoAir 8.8%.
National carrier Air India had the highest load factor of 75.1% among the domestic airlines in the month of November.
The overall cancellation rate last month was 0.8%.
GoAir had the maximum cancellation rate of 1.7%. SpiceJet had a cancellation rate of 1.4%. Air Costa, the new regional carrier, fared the best with zero cancellations.
IndiGo had the best on-time performance (OTP) at the six metro airports of 86.5% while the Jet Airways group’s OTP was 85.9%. Air India with an OTP of 71.7% was the worst performer. A total of 747 passenger related complaints were received by the airlines last month.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee turns 89

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee turned 89 today
Regarded as one of the pillars of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vajpayee has been a stalwart in the Indian political arena for over six decades
Vajpayee served as the tenth Prime Minister of India, three times - first for a brief term of 13 days in 1996, and then for two terms from 1998 to 2004.
After his first brief period as Prime Minister in 1996, Vajpayee headed a coalition government from March 19, 1998 until May 19, 2004. A parliamentarian for over four decades, Vajpayee was elected to the Lok Sabha a record nine times, and to the Rajya Sabha twice
He served as the Member of Parliament for Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, until 2009, when he retired from active politics due to health concerns. He is a gifted orator and also a poet
Vajpayee began his political career with the RSS, the ideological fountainhead of the BJP
Born into an upper-caste family on December 25, 1924, Vajpayee was detained by police during a protest against British rule in 1942 and during emergency rule imposed by late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the 1970s
He was elected to Parliament for the first time in 1957.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

The Adarsh Scam update

Even as Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and state Congress chief Manikrao Thakare met the Congress high command in Delhi to discuss the fallout of its rejection of the Adarsh Commission Report, Union Minister of State for Shipping Milind Deora tweeted last night: “If the Adarsh Committee Report raises questions, we should investigate (agnostic of party or bureaucracy), answer them & not be hush!”
The controversial Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society is in Cuffe Parade in Deora’s South Mumbai constituency. He said, “Every party is involved in the Adarsh scam in some way. This issue must be discussed threadbare in the public domain. I am not saying a particular person is to be blamed. But the opposition has no right to politicise the issue as their own people are involved.”
On Sunday, the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, had criticised Rahul Gandhi without naming him, saying that while Congress leaders were talking about fighting corruption, its own government in Maharashtra had junked the Adarsh report that indicted its ministers.
Many Congress feel that Deora’s tweet will prompt the party to change its stand. In September, Deora had gone against the Congress stand on the Supreme Court verdict on convicted lawmakers, saying that protecting convicted MPs and MLAs would cause the public to lose faith.
“Legalities aside,allowing convicted MPs/ MLAs to retain seats in the midst of an appeal can endanger already eroding public faith in democracy,” had Deora tweeted. Following this, Rahul Gandhi raised his voice against the ordinace, prompting the government to junked it.
Meanwhile, Vinod Tawde, leader of opposition in the legislative council, sent a letter to Governor K Sankaranarayanan yesterday,asking him to reconsider his decision not to prosecute former chief minister Ashok Chavan, whom the CBI had been named as an accused in the case.
RTI activist Anil Galgali alleged that the MMRDA (headed by the chief minister) had recovered Rs 8.12 crore from Adarsh society under various heads, proving that Chavan and all subsequent chief ministers knew about the scam. 

An AAPhill task

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced its decision to lead a minority government with Congress’ support. Arvind Kejriwal is expected to be sworn in as the seventh and youngest chief minister of Delhi on Thursday at the Ramlila Maidan. The AAP has set a tough deadline for itself as it plans to implement or at least initiate implementation of each of its 18 radical promises — including passage of Jan Lokpal Bill, free water supply of 700 litres per day per family, 50% reduction in electricity tariffs and stripping symbols of VIP culture — in its manifesto within the first two months of coming to power. It hopes to pass the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill before January 26.
“All policy decisions will have to be taken before the end of February next year as the model code of conduct for the general elections will kick in immediately after that,” said AAP leader Yogendra Yadav.
AAP got cracking soon after making its intent to form the government public at the party’s Ghaziabad office on Monday at 11.15 am. While AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal left immediately to meet L-G Najeeb Jung to inform him of the public mandate, senior leaders of the party kickstarted an intensive two-day training programme on governance for all its 70 candidates, including those 42 who lost the elections.
“Over the last week we have consulted the electorate and they want us to form a government. We are going by that mandate,” Kejriwal said after which he met Jung where he expressed his desire to be sworn in at Jantar Mantar instead of Raj Bhawan. But Jung’s office suggested that the oath taking ceremony be held at Ramlila ground. “His office felt that Jantar Mantar will not be able to accommodate the kind of crowd we are expecting for Arvind’s oath taking (ceremony) and it could lead to a law and order situation,” said Sanjay Singh of AAP’s political affairs committee. Questions were raised about the longevity of the alliance between AAP and Congress as its leader Sheila Dikshit made it clear that the support offered was “not unconditional”. “We will support them as long they deliver. We already know that it is not possible to fulfil the kind of promises they made,” she said. Yadav said: “It could be a one-day government or a 5-year government. The day we are not allowed to fulfill even one of our promises we will walk out.”

Ishrat Jahan Case

The CBI has decided against including BJP general secretary and Narendra Modi confidant Amit Shah in its upcoming chargesheet in the Ishrat Jahan encounter killing case, in what will come as a big relief to the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate and give them a stick to beat their opponents with.
A top CBI official said that while the agency could not find any prosecutable evidence against Shah to prove that he had directed the 2004 encounter killing of Jahan and three others during his tenure as Gujarat’s home minister, CBI Director Ranjit Sinha has decided to press charges against retired Intelligence Bureau (IB) Special Director Rajendra Kumar and his three subordinates for criminal conspiracy leading to murders. Sinha, however, has sought legal opinion from the law ministry and A-G G E Vahanvati on whether CBI needs prosecution sanction from the Union Home Ministry to chargesheet the four IB officers, the official said on condition of anonymity. If CBI opts to seek sanction and the MHA denies it, the agency won’t be able to chargesheet the IB officers. The CBI’s clean chit to Shah and Modi, coming as it does in the run up to the 2014 general elections, will be seized upon by the BJP as proof of Modi and Shah’s innocence and give it ammunition to attack the Congress, which has long alleged that the encounters were nothing but cold-blooded murders. Jahan, a college student from Mumbai was shot dead along with three others in 2004 by the Gujarat police, which claimed they were part of a terror module that had travelled to Gujarat to assassinate Modi. The CBI, which was asked to probe the case by court, has concluded encounter was a fake one, but does not have proof that it was at Shah’s behest.
A CBI investigator said in the absence of actual phone conversation contents, nothing could be substantiated from the call records between Shah, Kumar and arrested Gujarat top cop DG Vanzara before or after the encounter. “The annual rath yatra in Gujarat happened around the time of the fake encounter and the officials may have been in touch with regard to security arrangements for the same. Certain Gujarat police officers did give statements to the CBI that Vanzara and Kumar had mentioned about taking sanction from Shah and Modi for carrying out the fake encounter. But this is in the nature of hear-say evidence which will not stand scrutiny in the court of law,” a top CBI official said.
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley had in a letter to the PM in September accused the CBI of “bargaining” with some state police officers to implicate Gujarat’s political leadership in this case. CBI chief Sinha over-ruled the opinion of some members of the investigation team who had mentioned in writing that there was inadequate evidence to chargesheet the IB officers as well. Sinha feels there was enough evidence to prove that the IB officers were part of the entire conspiracy along with Gujarat Police officers to abduct, confine and ultimately kill Ishrat and three others in a fake encounter. But he has still sought the A-G’s views on proceeding against the IB officers, possibly chastened by the recent Adarsh housing scandal episode in which the CBI chargesheeted former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan without seeking sanction from the governor. The governor subsequently denied the sanction. No such sanction was sought to charge the Gujarat cops in the first chargesheet in the Ishrat case.

India - US pow wow update

In a perceptible hardening of stand against the US, India on Christmas eve rejected the American embassy’s request for an extension on IDs for its consulate officials. With the deadline for surrender of these cards ending on Monday, India withdrew all identity cards of US consulate officials.
The move to issue fresh IDs came days after the arrest of senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade on visa fraud charges involving her domestic staff, Sangeeta Richard.
In a related development, Kuoni Business Travels, a popular travel agent in Delhi, will face action from the government for issuing tax-free air tickets to the Richards family bought by the US embassy. The ‘tax-exemption’ applies only to diplomats and not to Indian citizens.
The Richards’ ticket — PNR number H1XJ3 — was paid for by MasterCard. The endorsement reads “JNTAXEXEMPTEDUSEMBASSY”. The US embassy spirited away the Richards in a way that has incensed New Delhi.
Sources said US diplomats in consular posts would get a new set of cards that are an exact replica of the cards issued to Indian diplomats in the US. The cards, which would be given to consulate officials and not their families, (unlike earlier) reflects the reciprocity India has been insisting on. The cards will say on the reverse that consulate officials have no immunity against felony charges. US has four consulates in India). The hardening of stand by the government is contrary to the almost conciliatory tone taken by foreign minister Salman Khurshid in his interactions with journalists. Sources said the US government was trying to stall or delay the actions that they had to take.
Meanwhile, keeping security considerations in mind, the government has changed some traffic movement patterns near the US embassy. Sources said, “All US diplomatic and consular officials are being provided security as before. No changes have been made in security status of US embassy in New Delhi and the security personnel remain deployed at check posts there.”

BJP's One Vote, One Note

One vote, one note’. This is the new slogan for the BJP as it attempts to deepen its connect with voters ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in what many may see as replication of the Aam Aadmi Party’s stunningly successful method to reach out to voters and gather funds.
Declaring that it will get an outright majority of its own, Congress’s principal challenger announced an ambitious outreach programme which will extend down to the booth level.
“The BJP will reach out to 10 crore families for donations that could be anything from Rs 10 to 1,000, in the name of Modi for PM,” party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters after a meeting of party’s PM candidate Narendra Modi, chief ministers and senior leaders. Coming just after its effective use by the AAP, the plan for a door-to-door fund collection naturally attracted suggestions that the party was mimicking Kejriwal. However, party functionaries denied having been influenced. “We have been doing so since the days of Jan Sangh. We have a regular mechanism for raising funds from workers,” party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said.


Agni III successfully test fired

2013 has finally ended with a bang as the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) successfully fired the long-range Agni-III missile from Wheelers Island, off the Odisha coast on Monday at about 4.58 pm. The Agni-III missile has a range capability of over 3,000 kms. In fact, if the sources are to be believed, 2014 will be kick started with another bang as plans are more or less finalised to fire the prestigious Agni-IV in the first week of January 2014.
It was the sixth launch of Agni-III whose maiden launch in 2006 was a disappointment but the subsequent five launches have proved successful. Officials disclosed that the ‘users’ are involved in every stage followed by development trials in case of strategic missiles and usually after three consecutive successful fires, the missile is inducted into the forces. Agni-III missile is equipped with advanced high accuracy navigation system and guided by an innovative guidance scheme. Project Director for Agni-III is V V Rao while the Agni Programme Director is Dr V G Sekaran. Trajectory of Agni-III trial was tracked by a battery of sophisticated radars, telemetry observation stations, electro-optic instruments and naval ships from its launch till the missile hit the target area with pin point accuracy. During the course of flight, the missile reached a peak height of 350 kms and re-entered into the atmosphere successfully tolerating the skin temperatures of nearly 3,000 degree Celsius.
Agni-III has target range of 3,500 km
The marker pen-like Agni-III is 17 meters long with 2 metres in diameter with a range capability of 3,500 km. The missile is a two-stage solid propellant system with a payload capability of 1.5 tonnes.

Devyani takes the fizz outta Coke

Workers at Coca Cola’s plant at Atmakuru in Guntur district forced the management to shut down the unit by going on a flash strike to protest the humiliation of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in the United States.
About 1,200 regular and contract workers participated in the strike demanding that the Obama administration immediately withdraw cases against the Indian consulate official. The workers
raised slogans outside the local plant and warned that they would intensify the agitation. The plant reportedly lost production of nearly 60,000 litres of soft drink because of the flash strike.
Stung by the sudden strike, the plant management sent an SOS to state government’s labour department officials in Hyderabad and Guntur. The management representatives asked the officials to intervene because the flash strike would cause them huge loss as the ‘concentrate’ readied for preparation of the soft drink would go waste if not used within 24 hours of mixing.
Following a directive from Hyderabad, local labour officials visited the plant and held discussions with the agitating workers. However, the workers refused to end the strike arguing that the loss due to a day's strike is nothing compared to the humiliation of the Indian diplomat by the US government. 

Of Quadricycles.....

The road transport and highways ministry cleared “quadricycle” as a new category of vehicle. Battery-powered or electric four-wheelers will be brought under this category, sources said. After incorporating suggestions and objections, transport minister Oscar Fernandes approved the proposal.
Quadricycles are seen as safer than three-wheelers as they will have four wheels with fully enclosed body structure with a hard top and doors. These will be allowed to ply only on city roads as transport and not personal vehicles. “These vehicles should have dual car-type braking system. Since there is no provision for crash test of these vehicles, we need to have a better braking system,” says a senior ministry official.
Earlier, many automobile manufacturers and organizations, dealing with road safety issues, had red-flagged the vehicle as “unsafe”. Sources said, with the new provision, the ‘safety’ concern has been addressed. The ministry has made no change in weight, size, body or emission norms of the vehicle.
Sources said quadricycle will be a substantial upgrade over the three-wheeler auto and will be bigger than an auto-rickshaw and smaller than a normal car. The vehicle meant for carrying passengers will be of 450 kg and for carrying goods will be of 550 kg. The length will be 3 metre for passenger version and 3.7 metre for goods version. Quadricycles can carry a maximum of four passengers and goods vehicles can carry 500 kg. Sources said in case of battery-operated quadricycles the weight of battery will be excluded from the total vehicle weight. Ministry officials said the final notification will happen in less than a month and these vehicles will be allowed to ply after six months of the notification.

Antony clears Barak Missile deal

Defence minister A K Antony has finally bitten the bullet. With the CBI deciding to close the infamous seven-year-old Barak kickbacks case for lack of evidence, the defence ministry has cleared the long-pending “critical” naval procurement of an additional 262 Israeli Barak-I missiles for Rs.880 crore.
The Antony-led Defence Acquisitions Council also gave nod to two other delayed naval projects for 16 anti-submarine warfare warships capable of operating in “shallow waters” for Rs.13,440 crore and two diving support vessels meant for rescuing sailors from disabled submarines for Rs .,500 crore. The Rs.300 crore purchase of 41 Dhruv advanced helicopters, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, was also cleared.
“While a global tender will now be floated for the diving support vessels or DSRVs (deep-submergence rescue vessels), the ASW boats will be built in India with some foreign collaboration for torpedoes etc. The ASW boats, with a displacement below 1,000 tonne, are crucial to track and kill enemy submarines near our coast or ports,” said a source.
Both these projects have been hanging fire for long. The proposal for two DSRV-like “mini submarines” — to rescue trapped sailors from depths up to 610 metres — for instance has been stuck for over 15 years.


SC verdict disappoints judge who decriminalized LGBTs

Law Commission chairman and former Delhi high court chief justice A P Shah, who had delivered the historic judgment on Section 377 of the IPC decriminalizing gay sex, has expressed disappointment at the Supreme Court verdict setting aside his order and recriminalizing same-sex relationships. “My first feeling was deep sadness about the LGBT community… I was disappointed,” Justice Shah said in an interview to a TV channel on Sunday.
Justice Shah said he had thought his judgment would be sustained. “Given the subject matter of the appeal, I thought that our views would prevail,” Justice Shah said, commenting on the SC order.
The government on Friday filed a review petition against the SC verdict on Section 377. The SC verdict had upheld the legality of section 377 of the IPC, which provides for imprisonment with up to a life term.
In another interaction with a newspaper, Justice Shah said the British, who had introduced Section 377 as they feared “their army and daughters would be tainted by Oriental vices”, had repealed it in their own country. Their judicial committee recommended that “for consenting adults, it should not be a crime”.
Justice Shah defended his judgment saying gay sex by consenting adults was not a crime in all of Europe and the US. On the issue of morality, the Law Commission chairman said what was envisaged in the Constitution was not popular morality.
“Probably, public morality is the reflection of the moral normative values of the majority of the population, but constitutional morality derives its contents from the values of the Constitution,” he said.

NaMo's Maha-Garjana rally @Mumbai

Narendra Modi latched onto the controversial ‘all clear’ given to Congress politicians allegedly involved in the Adarsh scam to tear into Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for casting himself as an anti-corruption warrior, calling it an unparalleled example of audacity.
Addressing a well-attended rally at the MMRDA grounds in BKC, Modi said the clean chit to the biggies in Maharashtra Congress had exposed Rahul’s anti-corruption intent as a mere ploy. Referring to Rahul’s speech at a Ficci meet in Delhi on Saturday, the BJP’s PM candididate said, “The speech of a Congress leader yesterday left me befuddled. He belongs to a party which is neck-deep in corruption. But he spoke with such an innocent demeanour that it appeared he belonged to a different party. It was an unparalleled example of audacity. Look at the paradox. He was speaking of corruption just after the Congress government had tried to bury the Adarsh scam.”
His focus on Adarsh was a clear indication that the Congress’s attempt to help its leaders who have been accused of complicity in the scam may exact a political cost by undercutting Rahul’s effort to buffer the party from the charges of corruption.

Narendra Modi, just like during his recent speech in Varanasi, did not refer to Rahul Gandhi by name during his speech in Mumbai on Sunday. He also refrained from using the moniker shehzada (crown prince).
Saying that Congress was not serious about fighting corruption, Modi challenged the ruling party to sponsor legislation aimed at bringing back within three years the black money that Indians have illegally stashed abroad in foreign banks. Corruption was just one of the issues the BJP leader chose to attack the Congress on as he exhorted his audience to get rid of Congress rule. Attacking Congress for jeopardizing the future of the country’s youth, he said the Congress was mired in divisive politics and would stoke divisions to stay in power.
Modi, who seemed pleased with the turnout, came up with the attractive catch line: ‘Vote for India’. “We have so far voted for one party or another. The time has come to vote for India to free the country of corruption, nepotism, communal strife, price rise, vote-bank politics and bad governance,” Modi said as he proceeded to secure a pledge from the huge crowd. The conflation between a vote for him and national interest struck many as controversial, but went down well with the audience, which enthusiastically took the oath.
The catch line, in fact the tone of the speech as a whole, reflected Modi’s swelling confidence. “A wave is sweeping the country,” BJP’s PM candidate declared as he said that the poor identified themselves with him because of his humble roots as a tea vendor. “The poor are going be the new VIPs.”
The speech was marked by an outreach to some of his colleagues in BJP perceived to be either hostile or neutral towards his prime ministerial aspirations. Thus, party patriarch L K Advani was credited with the move to pressure the government to bring black money back. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has matched his feat of scoring three consecutive wins in assembly polls and who has, though unsuccessfully, been sought to be set up as a rival, came in for lavish praise.
Predictably, Modi showcased Gujarat’s achievements, and emphasized that the state scored over Maharashtra in power generation and providing efficient administration, but not before he had called the latter the elder brother as well as the cradle of Gujarati culture. Observers saw this as meant to assuage the radical, pro-Marathi section in the Sena. The Sena was not invited for the rally.
Modi raked up the irrigation scandal that wracked Maharashtra and besieged two NCP ministers. “Farmers in Maharashtra have to face drought. They choose to end their lives out of mounting debts. This is because of the wrong policies of the state government,” he said.
Modi humoured the city’s mercantile community by slamming the state government for introducing LBT in the state. “LBT stands for Loot Baantne ki Technique,” he said.

Police estimated the turnout at the MMRDA Grounds in the range of 2.2-2.5 lakh.
Thousands landed in the city for the Maha-Garjana rally on long-distance trains
Road transport took a hit as 500 BEST red buses were redirected to ferry people to the venue of the rally in BKC
Many autos and cabbies refused to ply to Kurla, Bandra, Sion and Santa Cruz


Finding Founding Faculty

Somewhere in Kerala....

Pune Metro update

Two months after getting cabinet approval, the state government has finally submitted the Pune metro project plan to the Centre.
Union Urban Development minister Kamal Nath told Rajya Sabha that the Maharashtra government has approached the Centre and sought financial assistance to set up metro train network in Pune city. Besides Maharashtra, four other states/ union territories have approached the Union government for financial assistance.
In October, the state government had decided to go ahead with metro rail development in Pune. The state cabinet also revised the completion deadline of phase I from 2014 to 2021. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) report for the Pune metro expected the project to be completed by May 30, 2014.
The revised estimate for the project is pegged at Rs.10,183 crore. Now, the project on the Chinchwad-Swargate corridor will cost Rs.6,960 crore and the Vanaz-Ramwadi route will cost Rs.3,223 crore. The total cost (for both corridors) has increased by nearly Rs.2,199 crore as compared to the estimated cost in 2009.
Kamal Nath made it clear to Rajya Sabha members that as per National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP), 2006, the Government of India provides funding to the extent of 20% of the cost of metro rail projects either through equity and subordinate debt (for 50% Central taxes/duties) if the project is taken up through a 50:50 jointly owned Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) of Government of India and the state government or through Viability Gap Funding (VGF) if the project is taken up in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
Sudhir Krishna, union secretary, urban department, had said at the 6th Urban Mobility India Conference that metros can contribute to generation of funds and had announced that the Pune Metro plan has a projected Financial Internal Rate of Return (FIRR) of 11.25%. FIRR is Centre’s assessment of the financial viability of a project.
“Once the Union government gives its nod for the project, plans will be chalked out to call joint meeting of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and state UD officials. The financial model of the Pune metro is based on the DMRC report. Once the Centre makes its stand clear, the state will take further steps,” said a state UD official.

Kishanganga Dam snippets

The International Court of Arbitration has allowed India to go ahead with construction of the Kishanganga dam in Jammu & Kashmir, over which Pakistan has raised objections.
The court delivered its “final award” on Friday after India requested clarification of an order issued by it in February of this year.
In its “partial award” in February, the court upheld India’s main contention that it has the right to divert waters of western rivers, in a non consumptive manner, for optimal generation of power.
The western rivers are allocated to Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, which has faced much criticism in recent years.
The “final award” specifies that 9 cumecs of natural flow of water must be maintained in Kishenganga river at all times to maintain the environment downstream, said a statement from the Indian high commission here.
This is much lower than the 100 cumecs of natural flow that Pakistan wanted to maintain, it said. 

PepsiCo to invest Rs.1,200 Crore in Andhra

Food and beverage major PepsiCo India announced plans to build a new greenfield beverage manufacturing plant in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh and plans to invest more than Rs.1,200 crore in the project.
It will be PepsiCo’s largest beverage plant in the country. The investment is part of recently announced plans by the company and its partners to invest Rs.33,000 crore in India by 2020.
The company also unveiled plans to substantially increase sourcing of mango pulp from Andhra Pradesh in the next six years. It already has a beverage manufacturing plant at Sangareddy. “The proposed plant will be completed in three phases and once fully operational, the plant will provide direct and indirect employment to over 8,000 people,” Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy said.

Finding RaGa

Pressure from Delhi combined with restive colleagues forced Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan to submit a four-line ATR on the last day of the winter session saying the Cabinet was rejecting the report.
On the ATR, the Cabinet member said it was proposed to take stringent disciplinary action against all bureaucrats named in the report as per the provisions of the All India Service (conduct and discipline) Rules and Maharashtra civil service rules.
“It was unacceptable that bureaucrats dealing with the Adarsh file or working in the CM’s office had misused their position to secure flats in the society. Chavan was of the view that they must be taken to task, an independent departmental probe initiated and action taken accordingly,” the minister said.
On the ongoing probe by the CBI, it was proposed that the agency should be asked to continue criminal proceedings against those officials named in its FIR or those held guilty of quid pro quo.
Asked about the governor’s decision to refuse permission to prosecute former chief minister Ashok Chavan, the minister said it was felt the decision was taken in a hurry and without consulting the state government or the Cabinet. “Our information is that though there was four months’ time for the government to respond to the CBI request, he took the decision immediately. We don’t know if he needs to consult the state government on such proposals, but it’s a fact that Raj Bhavan did not approach the government,” he said.

While political observers say the rejection of the Adarsh judicial commission’s report has damaged chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s image, in an hour long interaction with media persons, the CM maintained it was not his individual decision, but that of the cabinet. “I was unhappy with the entire Adarsh episode. We appointed the commission and it did submit the report. However,the cabinet decided to reject it.’’
Significantly, Chavan did make crucial comments on the Adarsh scam as well as politicians’ and bureaucrats’ involvement in it, but later withdrew them for obvious political reasons.
After the unceremonious exit of former chief minister Ashok Chavan following his role in the Adarsh scam, Prithviraj Chavan took over the reins and set up a two-member judicial commission.
BJP leader Eknath Khadse said he gave false hopes to the people of Maharashtra. “We were banking on his clean image. Since there was a deliberate delay in tabling of the report, we knew the recommendations of the commission will be given a decent burial. It did happen like that. We feel that Chavan lacks the courage to take on corrupt bureaucrats and politicians.” Khadse said Chavan must give people of Maharashtra specific reasons for rejection of the report.

Wonder what is the opinion of Rahul Gandhi on the rejection of the Report on the Adarsh Scam? 


Of Services, Investment Pact with ASEAN....

India has given a go-ahead to services and investment deal with 10-member Asean as part of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). The Union cabinet cleared the proposal on Thursday, overruling concerns of the finance ministry, the official said.
A decision on the deal was deferred when it was taken up last on November 28 meeting of the Cabinet after finance minister P Chidambaram expressed concerns on the investment text of the agreement, saying it was finalised without any consultation with his ministry. India signed an FTA in goods with Asean in 2009. New Delhi has been keen on a deal in services where it feels the country has more to gain.
India’s exports to Asean declined by 10.2% in 2012-13 to $32 billion, whereas imports grew by 2.9%, to $43.7 billion, leaving a trade gap of about $11 billion. Lower tariffs in Asean offer local manufacturers significant tariff advantage over Indian producers, an issue that has been time and again raised by all industry bodies. The finance ministry had also highlighted that the Asean agreement was not in sync with the latest model text for such pacts prepared after in-depth deliberations.
The government is tightening its bilateral investment pacts with other nations after as many as 17 companies or individuals including Deutsche Telekom, Germany, Vodafone International Holdings, Sistema of Russia, Children`s Investment Fund and TCI Cyprus Holdings have served notice to India under various BIPAs after their investments ran into trouble or they faced adverse policy action. 

Higher Gas Price for Reliance approved

The Cabinet has allowed Reliance Industries to charge the new gas price for all its fields against a bank guarantee to be encashed if the company is found guilty of hoarding gas, potentially ending a rocky phase in the government’s relationship with India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had approved the new formula five months ago, which would double domestic prices to an estimated $8.4 per unit next April. But the decision was not formally notified. The finance ministry had raised concerns about the ongoing arbitration between Reliance and the government, which has accused the company of deliberately cutting gas production by not drilling the agreed number of wells. “The notification will be issued as soon as we get the minutes of the Cabinet meeting,” Petroleum Secretary Vivek Rae said. 

Aranmula Airport snippets

The proposed Aranmula airport project in Pathanamthitta district suffered yet another setback with the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal ordering the promoters of the airport to maintain status quo at the site. The bench was hearing a petition filed by K P Sreeranganathan, a 71-year-old environmental activist hailing from Aranmula, who has pleaded for setting aside the environmental clearance accorded to the project.
Sreeranganathan had filed the petition on December 17. In a separate petition, Kummanam Rajasekharan, representing Aranmula Heritage Village Action Council, a forum that is campaigning against the project, had also pleaded that the project be stalled. Both the petitioners have pointed out that the project has been proposed on wetland and hence would cause irreparable ecological damage. Rajasekharan’s petition, however,has not yet been taken up by the tribunal.
Sreeranganathan’s case has been posted to January 22 for further hearing. The petitioner had moved the tribunal in line with the conditions laid down by the Union ministry of environment and forests while giving clearance to the Rs.2,000-crore airport project on November 18. The ministry had said in the order that the promoter company should publicize the environmental clearance and people concerned, if any, should raise objections in a month.
Since a microlight aircraft landed on the slushy airfield at Aranmula in September 2005, when the project was under the control of Mount Zion Airport Service Private Limited, nothing much has changed on the ground for several years. Chennai-based KGS Group subsequently took over the project from Mount Zion group.
The promoter not only needs to reclaim a large swathe of low-lying marshland but has to acquire more than 250 acres of private land if the project has to be taken forward.


The homegrown Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) is now fully airworthy but it will take at least another 18 months for the fighter to become capable of firing long-range missiles and integral guns as well as undergo mid-air refuelling to double its strike range.
The lightweight multi-role Tejas finally got its initial operational clearance (IOC) on Friday, after being in the making for the last 30 years. But it will be ready to go war only after attaining the final operational clearance (FOC) with full integration of all its weapons and refuelling probe by mid-2015 or so.
The supersonic fighter can currently fire only short-range R-73 missiles and drop some laser-guided 500-kg bombs. IAF will now begin inducting 20 of these fighters, with the first two coming next year, in their IOC configuration. Another 20 will follow in the FOC one. But the Tejas IAF really wants is the Mark-II version, with a more powerful engine for greater thrust and improved maintainability.
In effect, the first Tejas squadron (IOC) of 20 jets will be up and running at the Sulur airbase in Tamil Nadu by 2016-17.