Pranabda’s book on Indira

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President Pranab Mukherjee has turned an author in Rashtrapati Bhavan to chronicle the politically tumultuous 1970s and impressions on former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The book ‘The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Years’, which was in the making for over one year, is to hit the stands on December 11.

Drawing from his personal diary and conversations with leaders, the recollection that runs into 348 pages is expected to unravel many not-so-known vignettes from the period.

An author of books like ‘Midterm Poll’, ‘Beyond Survival” and “Challenge Before the Nation’, Mukherjee will throw fresh light on Indira’s personality and what went to a number of important decisions like extending support to East Pakistan’s struggle for independence and bank nationalisation.

Mukherjee, who was Minister of State for Commerce under Indira, will also give an inside view on how the opposition to Indira grew and led to the formation of Janata Party.

He has never shied away in showering praise on Indira and in the book, Mukherjee touches upon the demand for Indira Gandhi’s midterm resignation.

Defending Indira, he asks, “Which democracy in the world would permit a change of a popularly and freely elected government through means other than a popular election? Can parties beaten at the hustings replace a popularly elected government by sheer agitation? Was it not prudent for those who were determined to change the government to wait till the elections which were but round the corner?”

“Does the rule of law of law mean that the remedies available to the common man are to be denied to someone holding an elected office? How could anybody replace her when the overwhelming majority of Congress MPs — with two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha — resolved that Indira Gandhi should continue as the party’s leader in Parliament and thereby as the Prime Minister of India?” he says.

Book’s publisher Kapish Mehra, Managing Director of Rupa Publications, told Deccan Herald that the book is interesting for a variety of reasons.

“First, a President is writing a book while in office giving an insider’s impression on the most important decade of Indian political history so far. It also talks about several landmark decisions,” Mehra said.

Before becoming President, Mukherjee had edited multi-volume ‘A Centenary History of the Indian National Congress’, which had intellectuals giving their views, sometimes adverse, on Indira. While the book blamed her son Sanjay Gandhi for the excesses during Emergency, one of the article had blamed Indira for party’s decline in Uttar Pradesh.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 26, 2014)

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Sachin in, Rekha not yet

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CPI(M) MP P Rajeeve had bowled quite a few bouncers against Sachin Tendulkar for absenteeism in Rajya Sabha during last session but when they met on the first day of Winter Session on Monday, it was all bonhomie.

Tendulkar showed up at Rajya Sabha before 11 AM and sat on his designated seat when Rajeeve walked up to him and started a conversation. However, it was a no-show for actress Rekha, who also faced the ire of the House for not attending the proceedings during the last session.

Showing no acrimony, both the lawmakers chatted for about 10 minutes before Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari called the House into order.

Tendulkar, dressed in black trousers and check shirt, and Rajeeve discussed about Kerala and the former’s football club Kerala in Rajya Sabha Blasters. The cricketer is likely to attend the proceedings on Tuesday also.

“We had a good chat today. He knows what I had raised was an issue and there was nothing personal against him. I was telling him that he has now become a half-Malayali by owning the Kerala Blasters football team,” Rajeeve told Deccan Herald.

After the chat inside the House, both had a conversation in the Rajya Sabha lobby too.

Rajeeve had on August 8 raised the issue of absence of Tendulkar and Rekha, both nominated to the Upper House by the previous Congress-led UPA government. It was the same day Tendulkar attended a function in Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi, barely two kilometre from Parliament House.

Following an uproar from MPs from across the party lines, both had to sent letters to the Chairman of the House seeking leave from attending the proceedings following they were granted permission. Tendulkar had then cited his brother’s illness to seek leave.

As the cricketer walked out along with Congress MP and a BCCI functionary Rajeev Shukla, media persons sought response from him Mudgal Committee report on match fixing as well as whether he would attend Rajya Sabha again and whether he would raise people’s issues.

While he refused a direct comment on Mudgal committee report saying the Supreme Court was hearing the case, Tendulkar said he would raise issues, which he feels appropriate.

Other than Rekha, others who were not present in the House on the first day included Opposition Leader in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress MP Digvijay Singh, CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury and Samajwadi Party’s Jaya Bachchan among others. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and BSP chief Mayawati were present.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 25)

Fake currency, India and Pak

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From using a class IX student to a Nepali politician with links to Dawood Ibrahim, Pakistan’s ISI is trying to pump in fake currency into India through several routes like Dubai, Colombo and Bangkok. This year alone, authorities have seized fake Indian currency with a face value of Rs 12.85 crore abroad.

Most of the seizures took place at Dhaka airport, signalling the increased coordination between Indian and Bangladeshi authorities in tackling Pak-sponsored anti-India activities using Bangladesh.

At least 18 foreign nationals and an Indian were arrested in 13 cases spread between January and September this year. Of this, nine were Pakistani national while one was a Canadian with Pakistani origin, five Nepali and three Bangladeshi nationals besides an Indian.

The highest seizure was at Dhaka airport on April 27 when Armed Police Battalion of Bangladesh intercepted a consignment from cargo section of the airport. The consignment – six bundles with same serial number– was brought from Pakistan in a Qatar Airways cargo flight.

The ISI appeared to have roped in a Nepali politician cum businessman Yunus Ansari, an associate of Dawood. Ansari is said to be an old ISI associate and returned to the crime soon after his release from jail recently after serving sentence for a previous fake currency case. He fell into a Nepal Police trap and was apprehended from his house with fake currency having face value of Rs 34 lakh, which was brought to Nepal through Pakistan International Airlines.

In July, Nepal police also arrested a Class IX student Farmullah Ansari with fake currency with a face value of Rs 3.86 lakh. He had told police that one Ramakant Kushwaha gave him the counterfeit notes.

Notorious Pak fake currency supplier Aslam Shera, whose name appears in several counterfeit currency cases, tried to send counterfeit currency of Rs 15 lakh through Sri Lankan Airlines but the carrier was arrested. Shera, who is believed to have close links with ISI, had sent the fake currency following request from his associate Rizwan who is currently in Lankan jail in a heroin smuggling case.

Three Pakistani operators were arrested in Bangkok with fake currency with a face value of Rs one lakh in July after Indian agency R&AW shared inputs with Thailand authorities. Mohd Sajjad Noor, Noor Shahid (both Pak nationals) and Mohd Hafiz (Canadian of Pak origin) were apprehended from outside Pak embassy in Bangkok.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 21, 2014)

FAA non-committal on speedy upgradation

India’s hope to reverse its downgrade of safety ranking by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) soon after the US agency’s inspection in December may come a cropper.

The FAA is non-committal on upgrading India to Category 1 soon, saying its reassessment may take several months. A team from the FAA will examine the progress made by India between December 8 and 12, ten months after it downgraded India to Category 2, which has ten other countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia and Curacao.

The downgrade came as India could not come out satisfactory on two counts – insufficient number of flight operations inspectors and airworthiness officers do not have required training to handle all types of aircraft.

India now says that it has recruited more Safety Inspectors and imparted proper training and expects a positive outcome of the inspection by January.

However, the FAA is non-committal. “The FAA will begin a reassessment of India’s Civil Aviation Authority in December, which may take several months,” an FAA spokesperson told Deccan Herald in an email from the United States.

Experience of other countries, which faced downgrade, is also not a solace for India, as it took long for countries to get back into Category 1.

Philippines are waiting for about six to re-enter Category 1 while the wait of Indonesia is around seven years. Israel took four years to reverse the downgrade and re-enter Category 1.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) officials believe that a positive sign from the FAA would help India deal with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Officials claim they have impressed the EASA on the initiatives taken by the DGCA to improve the situation.

“The FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency share the common goal of ensuring the highest aviation standards,” the FAA spokesperson said.

Announcing the decision after a reassessment, the FAA said in January that that the DGCA does not comply with the safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The FAA initiated a review after the ICAO audit in December 2012 identified deficiencies in the Indian regulator.

The FAA assesses on a uniform basis civil aviation authorities that operate or have applied to operate aircraft to the US. This assessment determines whether foreign civil aviation authorities are meeting ICAO safety standards, not FAA regulations.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 24, 2014)

India sixth worst affected country by terrorism: index

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India is the sixth worst affected country by terrorism, the new Global Terrorism Index said on Tuesday as it painted a gloomy picture about the scourge, which claimed 61 per cent more victims in 2013 than the previous year.

The Index developed by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace put Iraq at the first place followed by Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria ahead of India in terms of worst affected by the menace.

“The number of terrorist attacks around the world has increased dramatically,” the report, released in London, said.

According to the Index, 17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks last year, compared to 10,000 in 2012. Of the 82 per cent of all deaths from terrorist attack occurred in just 5 countries — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.

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Terrorism increased by 70 per cent in India from 2012 to 2013, with the number of deaths increasing from 238 to 404. “In India, there remains significant terrorist activity, including on the border between India and Pakistan,” the report acknowledged about Pak-sponsored terrorism.

Though the number of attacks also increased, with 55 more attacks in 2013 than 2012, the study said majority of terrorist attacks in India have low casualties. In 2013, around 70 per cent of attacks were non-lethal.

India faced attacks from 43 different terrorist groups who can be categorised into three groups — Islamists, separatists and Maoists. “Communist terrorist groups are by far the most frequent perpetrators and the main cause of deaths in India. Three Maoist communist groups claimed responsibility for 192 deaths in 2013, which was nearly half of all deaths from terrorism in India,” the study said.

After studying the impact of terrorism through out the year, the Institute said four groups — the Taliban, Boko Haram, Islamic State, and al Qaida — dominated the attacks. These four groups alone accounted for 66 per cent of all fatalities and their primary targets were citizens and private property.

Since 2000, there have been over 48,000 terrorist attacks that have killed over 1.07 lakh people. There are five times more people killed in terrorist attacks today than there were in 2000.

In a significant finding that could be read as an indictment of the United States-led war against terror, the study noted that since the 1960s, 83 per cent of terrorist organisations that ended ceased to operate due to policing or politicisation. “Only 7 per cent ended due to military intervention,” it said.

Country and Rank  

Rating

 

Incident

 

Fatal

 

Injured

 

1. Iraq

 

10

 

2,492

 

6,362

 

14,947

 

2. Afghanistan

 

9.39

 

1,148

`

3,111

 

3,721

 

3. Pakistan

 

9.37

 

1,933

 

2,345

 

5,035

 

4. Nigeria

 

8.58

 

303

 

1,826

 

457

 

 

5. Syria

 

8.12

 

217

 

1,078

 

1,176

 

6. India

 

7.86

 

624

 

404

 

719

 

25. China

 

 

5.21

 

12

 

6

 

 

71

 

30. United States

 

4.71

 

 

9

 

6

 

274

 

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 18, 2014)

Centre offers its officers for Bengal, Uttarakhand

Days after rebuking states for not sending enough IAS officers for deputation, the Centre has now offered middle-level officers for West Bengal and Uttarakhand where there is “acute shortage” of middle-level bureaucrats.

In identical letters to the Chief Secretaries of both the states, the government has said they could avail the services of Group A officers, who “provide a strong and permanent” set up of middle level functionaries, on deputation.

Sanjay Kothari, Secretary of Department of Personnel and Training, said in the letter that these officers contribute ably in policy formulation, its execution and review. These officers perform the function of coordinating opinions and ideas to present a balanced picture.

There are about 2,200 Group A officers in the service in the designations of Under Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Director and Joint Secretary.

“I understand that you have shortage of officers at middle level due to low intake of officers in civil services from 1992 to 2006. The state governments may like to utilise the experience of the officers at appropriate levels on deputation basis,” Kothari wrote.

He felt that the arrangement will “enrich” officers with the required field experience at ground level in the execution of various schemes and policies and make them understand issues in a better way, which will in turn improve their capacities.

He has asked the states to identify vacancies and tenure of posting and inform DoPT.  After this, the DoPT will circulate vacancies among officers and nominate a panel of selected officers for deputation.

“You (states) can choose the suitable officer from the panel,” the letter said.

Last week, the Narendra Modi government has shot off identical letters to states advicing them against restraining officers from taking up assignments on central deputation.

The government needed 1,345 IAS officers out of a sanctioned strength of 6,217 but it has less than 50 per cent of its strength as states fail to relieve sufficient number of officers for central government work. With only 4,455 IAS officers in place across India at present, the states are supposed to send 952 IAS officers.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 18, 2014)

Aviation: Carbon emission increases by 1.57 pc

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Carbon emissions due to airline operations from Indian destinations increased by 1.57 per cent in 2013 with a latest government report saying the planes emitted 1.56 crore tonnes of carbon dioxide compared to 1.53 crore tonnes the previous year.

However, this was just 2.21 per cent of global emissions due to airline operations, which had touched 70.5 crore tonnes.

The latest ‘Carbon Footprint of Indian Aviation 2013’ report prepared by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has warned that the emissions are likely to increase given the “significant expected” growth of Indian aviation.

The report also predicted that the baseline emissions due to airline operations are estimated to touch 2.65 crore tonnes in 2020, it said adding that India is committed to actively addressing climate change challenge.

The emissions of Indian scheduled passenger airlines to and from domestic destinations was 63.65 lakh tonnes last year, which rose from 61.35 lakh tonnes in 2012. However, the 2013 figure was nowhere near 67.55 lakh tonne carbon emissions in 2011.

Similarly, the emissions of Indian scheduled passenger airlines to and from international destinations was 55.85 lakh tonnes, which also registered a 2.95 per cent increase compared to the 54.25 lakh tonnes in 2012. Foreign airlines operating to and from India accounted for another 36.80 lakh tonnes of carbon emission. In 2013, Indian airports emitted another 7.8 lakh tonnes of carbon dioxide.

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The DGCA attributed the increase to general passenger developments, introduction of new routes by domestic airlines and an overall increase in aircraft movements by airlines.

“Aviation industry, though a small contributor, is aggressively working to minimize the adverse impact environment. India’s aviation industry has also taken proactive initiatives to address this issue,” the report said. The DGCA also credited Indian airlines as they were taking several measures.

“Some airlines show a significant reduction (i.e. Jet Airways), small reduction (i.e. SpiceJet, GoAir and Air India group) or small increase (i.e. IndiGo, JetLite). Some Indian scheduled passenger airlines are still above the global average, suggesting there is room for further improvement in efficiency,” it said.

On a positive note, the report said the commendable performance was due to improved efficiency of some Indian airlines, higher load factors and use of newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft like SpiceJet’s Q400). “At the same time the efficiency level of airlines that have started new sectors in remote areas with lower load factors, is expected to be lower,” it warned.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 16, 2014)

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