Cong oppn to Red Sari showed decadence: Moro

Javier Moro

The Congress’ opposition to the “dramatised” biography of its presidenty Sonia Gandhi showed signs of “decadence” even four years ago though his book portrayed her in “good light”, author Javier Moro said on Saturday.

The book ‘The Red Sari: A Dramatised Biography of Sonia Gandhi’, which could not be published in 2010 owing to Congress’ opposition, has hit the stands a couple of days ago and publishers claim that it is sold out already.

“I never thought the book when it was published in Europe, the reaction of the Congress would be such that they created a scandal. But this only says about the state of the party at that time,” Moro, the nephew of well-known writer Dominique Lapierre, told reporters.

He said the book is not a political or historical account of Gandhi’s life and his only aim was to tell the story of a “remarkable lady from Italy”, who came from humble beginnings to become one of the most powerful leaders in India.

The book was first published in Spanish ‘El Sari Rojo: Cuando la vida es el precio del poder” in 2008 but it attracted attention when an English translation was to hit Indian stands in 2010. Gandhi’s lawyers had then served Moro a legal notice, alleging that the book contained “untruths, half truths, falsehoods and defamatory statements”.

Asked about his views on Congress’ reaction to his book four years ago, “why they were so intolerent? I think they were decadent. It was the sign that things were not going well. They mismanaged it.”

He also rebutted allegations that he invented conversations saying, his book is only recreating the life of a person in a dramatic way.

Red sari

“I still wonder why Congress was against publishing it. The whole issue was blown out of proportion by poor PR people of Congress,” he said.

He also claimed Congress wanted to project her as a “marble figure or an idol” which cannot be approached easily.

Pramod Kapoor, founder-publisher of Roli Books, said certain pressures were out and conditions were made so difficult that they could not publish it in 2010. “But the situation changed with the change in government last year and we decided to go head,” he said but added that Roli was never told not to publish the book in 2010.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 18, 2015)

Book on Modi by Blair’s advisor


After books by prominent journalists Harish Khare and Rajdeep Sardesai on Lok Sabha polls, now it is the turn of British journalist and one of Tony Blair’s former media advisors Lance Price to analyse the Narendra Modi effect in the elections that catapulted the BJP leader to the post of Prime Minister.

The book ‘The Modi Effect: Inside Narendra Modi’s campaign to Transform India’ by Price, a former BBC correspondent and Communication Advisor to then British Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as Labour Party, is likely to hit the stands by March.

Price’s book is the latest book analysing the Lok Sabha polls and Modi effect after Khare’s ‘How Modi Won It: Notes from the 2014 Election’ and Sardesai’s ‘2014: The Election that Changed India’.

Price has previously written ‘Where Power Lies’, ‘The Spin Doctor’s Diary: Inside Number 10 with New Labour’ and ‘Time and Fate’. ‘The Spin Doctor’ was the first insider’s diary from the Blair years and it ran into trouble after a British paper published without permission material deleted at the behest of the government.

“Of all the elections I have ever reported on or taken part in, nothing compares to Modi’s recent campaign in India. It was breathtaking in its ambition and its execution. The new Prime Minister is a fascinating character with a controversial past,” Price said in a statement.

He said the book could shed “important new light” on how the election was won and the lasting impact it is likely to have on India and the world.

The publisher Hodder and Stoughton claims that this is the only book with exclusive access to Modi, his ministers and advisers and it would reveal the inside story of the campaign. Modi’s campaign has been described as the “most ambitious and innovatory”, which has lessons for politics in every democracy on earth.

The book is likely to look at Modi’s rise to power, his unprecedented mass appeal despite the controversies surrounding him, including the West “shunning” him and the pivotal role he would play in the international state, the publisher said.

The description about the book in a foreign e-com site said that political parties in Britain, Australia and North America pride themselves on the sophistication of their election strategies, but Modi’s campaign was a master-class in modern electioneering.

“These pioneering techniques brought millions of young people to the ballot box – the holy grail of election strategists everywhere – as Modi trounced the governing Congress led by the Gandhi dynasty,” it said.

 (An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 18, 2015)

U-turn by Home Ministry on activist case


Jan 13, 2015: After a blame-game, the Union Home Ministry on Tuesday did a u-turn on the offloading of London-bound GreenPeace activist Priya Pillai and supported the Intelligence Bureau (IB) action of issuing a Look Out Circular (LOC) against her.

Sources cited “national security considerations” and purchase of Pillai’s ticket by the UK-arm of Greenpeace as the reasons for the issuance of LOC by the IB, which was initially contested by the Union Home Ministry saying the agency has no authority to issue such circulars.

Pillai, a senior campaigner with GreenPeace India, was to interact with British MPs on January 14 on “violations of human rights and environmental norms by Essar in Mahan coal mine areas”.

On Monday, top officials of the Home Ministry questioned the need for issuing an LOC against Pillai and IB’s authority in doing so. Though the incident took place on Sunday, Home Secretary Anil Goswami on Monday claimed that he did not have details about the incident and will be seeking a report.

Reversing its stand on Tuesday, sources said as per guidelines issued by the Home Ministry in 2010, an officer in the rank of Assistant Director in the IB is authorised to issue LOC for any individual based on inputs received against the person.

Interestingly, the whole of Monday, the Ministry was not clarifying whether the IB had the authority to issue an LOC.

Sources said LOC was issued on January 9, two days prior to her scheduled departure. One of the reasons cited was UK chapter of GreenPeace paying for Pillai’s ticket, which the authorities claimed violated the rules of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

Greenpeace India has to seek permission from RBI before receiving any foreign contribution following an order of the Home Ministry last year freezing the NGO’s funds over its campaign against corporates engaged in coal mining. Greenpeace India challenged the order in the Delhi High Court and the next hearing is on January 20.

Purchase of air ticket by the Greenpeace UK for someone working for its India chapter is amounting to receiving funds from abroad, sources said, adding no permission had been sought from the RBI in this case.

Asked about the ticket issue, Pillai told Deccan Herald the authorities are passing the buck. “They are raising trivial issues and coming up with several reasons two days after the incident. Tell us the real reasons,” she said.

Questions have also been raised in activist circles about authorities citing “national security considerations” to restrict some one’s movement.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 14, 2015)

ALSO READ: Mystery over offloading of activist

Mystery over offloading of activist


Jan 12, 2015: Mystery deepened over the offloading of GreenPeace activist Priya Pillai while she was to board a flight to London with Union Home Ministry on Tuesday saying that it did not authorise the issuance of Look Out Notice (LOC) against her.

Sources in Home Ministry said the LOC was issued by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) without any authorisation. Only investigating agencies like CBI and Police have the powers to issue LOC and if IB had to get an LOC, it had to go through the Ministry.

The Joint Secretary in charge of Foreigners Division, which clears such requests, has not given any authorisation for issuing an LOC against Pillai, they said. The Home Ministry officials are “puzzled” over IB’s move.

“I have no idea. Let me get a report. I shall seek a report,” Home Secretary Anil Goswami official said. When asked about GreenPeace’s allegation that government was trying to muzzle dissent, he said GreenPeace keep making allegations against the government and “this is one more allegation”. “What change it makes?” he added.

Questions have been raised over the move to offload her while she was board an Air India flight to London as it curtailed her right to free movement. According to Pillai, she was not given a reason for the Immigration officials’ action.

The Home Ministry officials also said that they are not aware under which rule the activist was offloaded and the cases against her. An LOC is issued is against absconders, those who have red corner notices issued against them and suspects.

“I am not absconding and I have no criminal convictions. Am I being banned from travel due to my political beliefs- is that democratic?” Pillai tweeted.

Syed Akbaruddin, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, told reporters that the MEA has no role in immigration of Indian residents going out and coming in.

Pillai also shot off a letter to Home Secretary Anil Goswami seeking a “definitive answer” on the reason why an LOC was issued against her.

“If a Look Out Notice does exist in my name, please provide me with details of this circular along with information on the issuing authority and the reasons for it,” she said.

She also said that she was flying to London to give speech to MPs and she was not subject to bail conditions that would prevent her from travelling abroad. “Therefore if I am on a look out circular, it is because of my political beliefs. That would be fundamentally undemocratic,” she said.

Another official said the NGO could take the government to court over the matter. He reminded the court verdict in a case filed by Maneka Gandhi, now a Union Minister, in 1977 after her passport was impounded when she planned to go abroad for a professional engagement. The verdict went against the government as the apex court upheld the right to personal liberty.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 13, 2015)

ALSO READ: U-turn by Home Ministry on activist case

AAI wants to maximise non-aeronautical revenue

After registering losses over the past several years, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) wants to maximise non-aeronautical revenue to mop up money but Civil Aviation Ministry is not optimistic about its capacity to do so.

AAI Chairman R K Srivastava, who assumed office early this month, believes that adopting best global practices in the commercial exploitation of available assets would help in augmenting non-aeronautical revenue.

Srivastava has outlined his priorities in a message to his colleagues but the Ministry appeared to have thrown up its hands even before as it told a Parliamentary panel that AAI could “not fully harness” non-aeronautical revenue from parking, cargo facilities, hotels, passenger amenities and shopping “due to inherent constraints”.

AAI-run airports are likely to incur a loss of at least Rs 1,112.39 crore in 2014-15, a rise from Rs 1,087.48 crore incurred in the last fiscal. These figures could rise, as the allocated expenditure is not included in these calculations. It is to be seen whether the losses will surpass Rs 1,546.84 crore incurred in 2012-13.

Srivastava noted that maximising non-aeronautical revenue is the new global trend to make airports a self sustaining commercial enterprise. With the changing time and emerging global trends, the AAI is now expected to work as a commercial enterprise, he said.

“Many airport operators across the globe have augmented the share of their non-traffic revenue to the tune of 50 per cent or even more. This is certainly achievable, if the emerging trends in the country for the development of infrastructure by different wings of the government through monetisation of immovable assets and land available with government and its allied organisations are emulated and adopted,” he said.

He was of the view that the AAI needs to make concerted efforts for augmenting the business potential in the cargo business, which has not been exploited to its full potential. “The AAI needs to work out a new strategy to capture and develop its share of the market in the cargo sector,” he added.

However, the Civil Aviation Ministry does not appear to share this. The Ministry said airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, which are now running on PPP mode, had increased non-aeronautical revenue substantially, which is about 50 to 60 per cent of total revenue.

“Whereas, in AAI airports, non-aeronautical revenue even today is restricted to 16 per cent,” the Ministry was quoted in the report tabled in Parliament last month.

The main issue before the AAI is the difficulty in getting encorachment removed from its land, it said.









Rs 895.39 crore




Rs 1,101.84 crore




Rs 1,546.84 crore




1,087.48 crore**




Rs 1,112.39 crore**

# Revised Estimates

## Budget Estimates

** Excludes Allocated Expenditure



Ex-diplomat’s take on Pak


Did Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif knew in advance and give his approval for the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts?

Yes, says Rajiv Dogra, who served as Consul General of India in Karachi for two years from 1992-94, in his new book ‘Where Borders Bleed’.

The 66-year-old former diplomat, who was also ambassador to countries like Italy and India’s permanent representative to UN agencies based in Rome, believes that India is keen “to clutch at the imaginary straws that they dangle” that terror is the work of non-state actors.

“We fall for that line because we find it convenient to be deceived,” he writes.

Recalling a meeting he had with a former Pakistan Supreme Court judge in 1994 in French chancery premises in Karachi, he claims that the then Prime Minister Sharif knew in advance about the Mumbai serial blasts.

“I had just walked into the splendid garden, when an eminent former judge of the Pakistani Supreme Court shook my hands and said quickly, but sotto voce, ‘The blasts in Bombay were done with the approval of PM Nawaz Sharif,” he writes.

When the “stunned” author asked how he knew about it, the former judge was quoted as saying, “A sitting judge of the Supreme Court, who should know, told me.”

Dogra said he had “no reason to doubt a man of his eminence”, as the former judge had a “sterling reputation” and it was out of question that such a man would make a comment on the basis of “half-baked information”.

The 1974-batch Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer feels that successive Indian leaders have stopped reacting to provocation, resulting in criticism that they follow a policy of appeasement.

He also sought to debunk suggestions that Pakistani politicians do not have a say on vital strategic issues concerning India and it is ISI and Army that drive the hard-line agenda against India.

Dogra goes on to claim that Sharif knew that Pakistan soldiers were occupying Kargil heights when he welcomes then Prime Minister A B Vajpayee who made the historic Delhi-Lahore bus ride.

He also blames the United States for the spread of terrorism.

“America must bear some responsibility for the spread of terrorism in the world. It was the massive infusion of arms and money into Pakistan by America in the years starting from 1979 that led to Pakistan becoming a vast repository of weapons for jihadis against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan,” he writes.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 13, 2015)

Singapore sees an opportunity in smart city projects

Singapore sees a huge business opportunity for its companies in the Narendra Modi government’s plans to develop 100 smart cities across the country.

S Iswaran, Singapore’s Minister Second for Trade and Industry, has said that Singapore companies can contribute in building smart cities as they have a strong track record in urban solutions and infrastructure management.

“This is also what our companies are doing in other markets in China and ASEAN countries. This is what some of our companies doing here already,” Iswaran told a select group of journalists from India and Singapore here.

The government had announced the setting up of 100 smart cities across the country soon after it came to power in May 26. The first among these is being developed in Dholera, 110 km from Ahmedabad along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.

Trade between Singapore, the “largest trade and investment partner” of New Delhi among ASEAN countries, and India is “growing quite well” and valued at about 25 billion dollars, he said.

“There are new opportunities based on the initiatives of new government under Prime Minister Modi. We see this as a way for enhancing bilateral economic cooperation,” he said.

Iswaran had flown to Ahmedabad from Delhi in the inaugural flight of Vistara, a joint venture of Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, on Saturday to attend the Vibrant Gujarat Summit.

Complimenting the joint venture, Iswaran said it is an “excellent addition” in bilateral economic ties between India and Singapore. “I think it is a very good development. It will give further momentum to the economic ties between the two countries,” he said.

Asked whether Singapore businesses still experience bottlenecks in dealing with India, he said in any emerging market, there are opportunities as well as challenges.

“This is not just specific to India. That is why our businesses and investors need to asses the opportunities and compare it with the risks associated with it,” he said adding the reality is that all governments will have to reconcile the challenges it faces.

Expressing confidence in Modi government, he said, businessmen, especially in Singapore are closely watching the agenda set by the new government. “They see an opportunity. The greater regulatory clarity, the greater the investment incentive is,” he said.

He said the Indian businesses in Singapore are growing.

“They came to Singapore not just because of what the Singapore market offers but significantly, they use Singapore as a platform through which they pursue opportunities in ASEAN, in larger Asia Pacific region. The core companies are around 5-6,000. It is a pretty good number,” he said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 12, 2015)

Vistara to hit south Indian skies soon

Vistara's inaugural flight land's at GVK CSIA T2

‘Vistara’, the newbie on the Indian skies, will jack up their services from February 16 by adding more destinations, including from south Indian cities, besides increasing frequencies to the existing ones.

The airline, the joint venture of Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines joint venture, is close to finalising its schedule beyond February 15, its top officials told Deccan Herald after the launch of its Delhi-Ahmedabad flight on Saturday. Vistara started its operations with a Delhi-Mumbai flight on Friday.

Vistara had consciously decided not to squeeze itself with more number of services in this fog season, for which the schedule has been cleared by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) until February 15. The airline is operating from “late in the morning” and winding up “early in the night” to avoid disruptions during the fog.

With the DGCA now looking at post-fog season schedule, Vistara is aiming to finalise its choice of destinations.

At present, Vistara operates 11 services on Delhi-Mumbai, Mumbai-Delhi, Delhi-Ahmedabad and Mumbai-Ahmedabad sectors.

“India is a big country and I can tell you some south Indian cities will be there among the new destinations. But I can’t tell you the destinations until I have the slots,” Vistara Chief Commercial Officer Giam Ming Toh said.

Phee Teik Yeoh, Vistara CEO, said, “without doubt, we will start going to other cities. We will have more from the existing (destinations) as well as new destinations.” Though he feels that one now sees on schedule is “just s tip of the iceberg”, he refused to cite which all cities will be added to the Vistara map.

Giam Ming said they decided to keep the operations “small” during the fog season. “We built a buffer for fog season. We can stretch the window after the fog season,” he said.

He said one has to keep in mind the ‘Route Dispersal Guidelines’ as an airline is mandated to operate a certain number of services to non-metros and under-served destinations when they operate to metros.

The airline’s fleet is also growing with two more expected by March and one in April, taking the total to six. Another three aircraft also will be added by the year-end.

On Ahmedabad being the third destination, Phee said they look at the potential market for deciding on it. Operating to a new destination involves a lot of factors and not a single variable that makes it work, he said.

(An edited version of the Ahmedabad datelined report appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 11, 2015)

MHA cancels permission for Kerala org to collect fgn funds

Union Home Ministry has cancelled the permission granted to an organisation under the Catholic Church in Kerala to collect foreign contributions after a probe found that it violated rules.

The Kerala Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (KCCRS) was found to have transferred “almost the entire” foreign contribution it received between May 2008 and February 2012 to another organisation ‘Jeevana Samridhi’, which does not have the required registration to receive such funds.

The KCCRS has transferred Rs 34,19,944 to ‘Jeevana Samridhi’ in Ernakulam district. ‘Jeevana Samridhi’ is neither registered under Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) nor received prior permission for receiving such money. The Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council (KCBC), the apex body of Catholic Church in the state, recognises the KCCRS.

“The KCCRS had acted as a conduit for transfer of foreign contribution to Jeevana Samridhi,” the Foreigners Division of the Home Ministry said in its order.

The Ministry also said the organisation did not file the mandatory annual returns for 2006-07 and 2008-09 besides failing to furnish documents for 2012-13 within prescribed period. It had also “not maintained proper vouchers” for cash payments.

The FCRA registration of KCCRS was suspended on July 31 last year and given an opportunity to place on record its side of the story. In its reply, the KCCRS “accepted the violations” and “sought apology” from the Home Ministry before requesting that its registration be not cancelled.

However, the Ministry said it could not accept the request and invoked relevant section of the FCRA to cancel the registration of the Kochi-based organisation.

Last week, four American NGOs operating in India were restricted from receiving funds from abroad after the government found out that they were not adhering to laws relating to foreign contributions. It was found that the foreign funds for these NGOs were being remitted in personal accounts of a few individuals and not in bank accounts operated under FCRA Act as per law.

The Ministry has been sending show-cause notices and reminders to NGOs, which are not submitting returns on time and violating FCRA regulations.

According to the latest statistics, 82 per cent of over 45,000 NGOs with permission to receive foreign funds are yet to submit their accounts for 2013-14 though the deadline ended on December 31. Only 8,636 NGOs have submitted the details of foreign funds it received during 2013-14. These NGOs have received Rs 3,784.04 crore in the last fiscal.

As per the latest figures, NGOs received Rs 10,963.81 crore foreign contributions in 2012-13 as against Rs 11,544.75 crore in 2011-12. In 2010-11, such organisations received Rs 10,354.93 crore.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 10, 2015)

Son follows Father


Farooq Abdullah did it in 2002, so did his son Omar in 2014 after the defeat of their party National Conference in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections.

One could not miss the similarity as the Abdullahs refused to continue as caretaker Chief Ministers on both the occasions and the state’s rein has fallen into the hands of the Governor.

 As archrival Mufti Mohammed Sayeed-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the single largest party, and BJP could not arrive on a consensus, Governor N N Vohra on Jan 9 issued a Proclamation under Section 92(1) of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir to impose Governor’s Rule in the state.

Only on Jan 7 night, Omar met Vohra to request him to relieve him as the caretaker Chief Minister. Omar, who met Vohra soon after return from his 12-day visit to London to attend to his ailing father, felt that the state needed a full-time administrator to deal with the situation along the border with Pakistan.

This meeting as well as the uncompromising stand taken by both PDP and BJP to stitch an alliance to form the government led the Centre and Governor to think about dealing with the situation. After a series of meetings and consultations, Vohra issued the proclamation of imposing Governor’s Rule.


Like in Omar’s case, the unending discussions between Congress and PDP in 2002 on government formation irritated Farooq, who refused to continue. “I have no moral right to stay in power after midnight tonight,” he had told then Governor Girish Chandra in 2002.

Then Prime Minister A B Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani tried to reason with Farooq, then an NDA ally, but he did not budge from his position. Soon after, Saxena imposed Governor’s Rule. However, Governor’s Rule in 2002 lasted only for 15 days, the lowest.

In 2008 also, the state came under Governor’s Rule after the fall of Ghulam Nabi Azad-led coalition government in the state. Since 1977, Governor’s Rule was imposed in the state six times.

The highest duration in the state without an elected government at helm was between January 19, 1990 and October 9, 1996 – a period of six years and 264 days. The years were marked by heightened militancy.

Jan 9, 2015

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