‘Advice crew what to eat before flight’

Airlines should advise its crew on what should they eat in the 24 hours prior to operating a flight to ensure that they don’t fall sick mid-air, the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has recommended.

The AAIB’s recommendation to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation came following investigations into a “serious incident” of incapacitation of a pilot of Jet Airways while flying from Bangkok to Delhi on May 7, 2015.

The plane with 121 passengers and six crew members on board had entered Kolkata airspace when the pilot felt uneasy. “After 1.5 hours of flight, the pilot-in-command (PIC) was served salad, soup and curd. (15 minutes after having this) he started feeling uneasy,” the report said.

The tail section of an Air India Airbus

The pilot had re-entered the cockpit after feeling but 30 minutes later, he “was absolutely unresponsive and shivering.” He was again taken out of the cockpit and administered medicines. Tests revealed that the pilot did not consume alcohol.

The flight was completed by the First Officer with the help of another pilot who travelling in the same flight.

“During the previous night, the Pilot-in-Command had his dinner which mainly consisted of noodles. On the day of incident, he had fruits, fresh fruit juice, soup and bread for his breakfast and lunch. He had sufficient sleep i.e. 8 hours during night and 2 hours during day,” the report said.

In its recommendation, it suggested, all airlines should ensure guidance materials available to crew regarding “the meals which flight crew must not consume before a flight or a layover leading to a flight within 24 hours.

As the particular flight landed in Delhi and not in Kolkata despite it being the closest after the pilot felt uneasy, the AAIB said the DGCA must clearly define as a policy that an aircraft must commence diversion to the closest suitable airport once a flight crew incapacitation is confirmed.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 30, 2017)

Tweak responsibilities of police: MHA to States

Inability to investigate around 30% of the FIRs registered in a year and declining proportion in filing chargesheets have prompted the Centre to ask states to tweak responsibilities of policemen.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has now asked the states to establish dedicated “investigation cells in all districts” and “entrust all new cases” to this unit.

It also wants a separate road map may be made to separate law and order duty from investigation in a time bound manner, a communique sent by MHA to states said.

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The suggestion is part of the actionable points on separation of law and order duty from investigation identified by the MHA from the recommendations made at the Directors General of Police Conference held n Hyderabad last November.

According to the MHA, the states have “certainly made sincere attempts to improve” the criminal justice system and it is evident from the rise number of filing of FIRs.

The letter comes at a time there is “considerable improvement” in filing of FIRs but a large proportion of the cases remain not investigated.

The percentage of IPC cases investigated stands at 68.4%, 71.8% and 71.5% for 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively. For crime against women alone, this is “just 61.8%. 68.4% and 66.5%” respectively.

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Centre’s Prescription for States

** Establish investigation cells in all districts

** All new cases should go to this unit, earlier ones should continue with local policemen

** Roadmap needed to separate law and order duty from investigations

** Set up Investigation Monitoring Cell at state-level

** Ensure chargesheets filed soon after concluding probe

** Regular training for Investigating Officers

** Fill all vacancies in time-bound manner

** Consider out-sourcing non-core police functions

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 “Data also indicates that there is a backlog of cases taken up for investigation and over the period, there is a declining trend in cases in which chargesheets are submitted compared to total cases in which investigations have been completed by police,” the letter noted.

It said the states have set up units like Crime Branch to deal with specific cases of grave offences but all other cases continue to be handled by local police.

The MHA, which argues that entrusting investigation duty to local police would have an adverse impact on investigation as well as maintenance of peace, wants the states to take immediate steps to separate these functions.

The proposed cell at districts could be led by a Superintendent of Police, the MHA said adding an investigation monitoring cell could be established at state-level headed by an Additional Director General-rank officer to supervise these units.

Reminding that time-bound completion of investigations is essential to ensure speedy justice, the MHA said amending Police Acts would take time and they should take these steps immediately to separate law and order duty from investigation.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 28, 2017)

What Oppn wants? Bihar-model grand alliance in UP

Demands for a Bihar-model grand alliance in Uttar Pradesh with arch rivals Samajwadi Party and BSP coming together to tackle BJP resonated at an Opposition meeting here on Friday.

At the first meeting called by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to forge unity among opposition, leaders like RJD president Lalu Prasad and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee harped on the unity theme among UP parties as chiefs of SP and BSP – Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati sat across the table.

Sources said BSP chief Mayawati set the tone at the meeting called to strategise on Presidential polls and a united fight against BJP, saying she was “all for opposition unity”. Canards are being spreading that she would not join the opposition, she said.

“I am with you. I am not outside (the opposition camp),” a senior leader, who attended the meeting, quoted Mayawati as saying. She also referred to the plight of farmers and spread of communalist forces in the country.

lalu-ni

While the SP chief did not speak, sources said, senior party leader Ramgopal Yadav endorsed the concerns raised by Mayawati and said all secular parties should come together.

SP-Congress alliance and BSP were decimated in the recent UP polls with opposition viewing that if there was a Bihar-model alliance, in which JD(U)-RJD-Congress combine trounced BJP, they could have trounced the saffron party.

Sources said, Prasad was very vocal that SP and BSP should come together. “If SP, BSP and Congress come together in UP, BJP will be decimated in UP,” Prasad was quoted as saying.

Banerjee also echoed Prasad and said that BJP was using investigating agencies to trouble her party, Prasad and Mayawati.

Both the UP parties did not object to remarks for adoption of Bihar-model in their state. Sources said Mayawati’s presence itself showed her seriousness about opposition unity.

The meeting also saw ruling and opposition parties from Kerala and West Bengal – CPI(M)-led Left Front, Congress and Trinamool — sitting across the table.

Sources said CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury wanted the ideological battle against RSS-BJP to continue while his CPI counterpart S Sudhakar Reddy wanted a concerted campaign on price rise.

At the meeting, several other issues like Kashmir, plight of farmers, Dalits and adivasis were also raised.

While Banerjee also mentioned demonetisation during her intervention, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who demanded a sub-committee to be set up to coordinate efforts on Presidential polls, raised the issue of farmers’ plight. SP’s Yadav also echoed Pawar’s concerns.

JMM leader Hemant Soren highlighted the issues faced by adivasis and wanted the opposition parties to make it one of the important planks of the campaign.

Senior National Conference leader Omar Abdullah demanded frequent meetings of the opposition leaders. Referring to the Kashmir issue, he said the government was scared of the Hurriyat Conference.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 27, 2017)

UDAN, Air India to be on focus in Modi’s 4th year

Putting more regional centres on aviation map and dealing with Air India will high on the agenda of Narendra Modi government, which is entering into its fourth year.

Besides, the government will also come up with new regulations to deal with unruly passengers and improve infrastructure facilities for ever growing aviation market in the country.

After coming out with the first ever National Civil Aviation Policy last year and launch of Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS), the industry would be watching how the government takes forward the programme.

airplane2_505_021414033417

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has already showed its intent to expand the ‘UDAN’ (Ude Desk Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme to unserved routes even if the two connecting airports are not unserved or underserved though without Viability Gap Funding (VGF) and exclusive rights to operate on the routes.

The first round of bidding for regional routes had resulted in adding 33 unserved and 12 underserved airports and 128 routes to the aviation map of the country. Officials are confident that more and more routes will get added to the UDAN network.

While only five operators won the bids in first round, the Ministry expects more players to enter the field in the second round. Market leader IndiGo has already announced that it will enter the regional market and has placed orders for 70-seater aircraft.

Another prominent subject on the table would be the functioning of Air India. Talks about disinvesting the national carrier is hanging in the air and there would be push from within the government to go ahead with divesting stakes in it.

One of the argument is that there is no point in government pumping in money into Air India as part of its Turn Around Plan and Financial Restructuring Plan (TAP-FRP). Under the TAP-FRP approved in April 2012, the government had committed to infuse equity of Rs 42,182 crore from 2011-12 to 2031-32.

The Ministry will also have to finalise the fresh regulations to deal with unruly passengers and setting up of a national No-Fly List to ensure that trouble-makers cannot fly. The government will also have to deal with complaints of airlines jacking up prices during peak season.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 26, 2017)

CPI(M)’s Bengal unit wants Yechury back in RS

The furore over a third term for Sitaram Yechury in Rajya Sabha refuses to die down in CPI(M) with its West Bengal unit insisting that the party General Secretary should contest the elections with the support of Congress.

The West Bengal state leadership has told the Polit Bureau to give an exemption to Yechury in current circumstances as his election from the state is important for its fight against Trinamool Congress and BJP.

This comes despite Yechury ruling himself out, saying he himself cannot violate party rules of not allowing more than two terms, and a section of the leadership opposing any truck with the Congress.

sitaram-yechury

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has offered support to CPI(M) in the Rajya Sabha elections from Bengal if it fielded Yechury, whose term as a representative from Bengal in the Upper House ends in August. CPI(M) with 26 MLAs do not have enough votes to win the seat alone.

If CPI(M) does not change its stand, Congress will field its own candidate. Sources said the retiring Congress MP P Bhattacharya has met senior leaders who clearly conveyed to him that the party could think of re-nominating him only if CPI(M) decides against fielding Yechury.

Yechury’s second term in the Upper House will end along with five others from West Bengal this August and CPI(M) with 26 MLAs is not in a position to win on its own votes even if fields a candidate of its own. However, Congress can get its one nominee elected even if it fights alone. However, Trinamool Congress is upset with Congress over its support to Yechury.

Sources said the Bengal unit has written to the Polit Bureau that the norms should be changed for Yechury citing that it was done in some exceptional cases earlier. The Polit Bureau is likely to discuss the issue in its meeting in the first week of June but party leaders feel that there would be no change in the state.

They believe it could lead to a confrontation with the Bengal unit, which is at loggerheads with the central leadership over the “electoral understanding” it has with Congress. “This is an exceptional scenario. We need a leader like Yechury there. The Congress is supporting us. Hope they don’t repeat the historic blunder,” a senior CPI(M) leader said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 25, 2017)

Modi@3: Internal Security Concerns

Kashmir and naxals will dominate the internal security concerns of the Narendra Modi government in its fourth year during which it is likely to showcase a muscular policy to reverse the recent setbacks.

The Opposition has already raised its pitch over Kashmir and naxal fronts, accusing the government of following ill-advised strategies that they claim are further alienating public and putting security personnel in danger.

The first five months of 2017 had been tough for the security establishment on these two fronts following continuing protests in the valley and frequent strikes by Maoists on security personnel.

Officials said one of the biggest worries for them is handling the stone-pelting youth, including girls, and Islamist forces trying to usurp the separatist movement in the Valley.

The government’s toughness was latest visible when it went ahead with rewarding Major Leetul Gogoi, who invited controversy after using a Kashmiri youth as a human shield. It also went after Hurriyat leadership on its funding while ruling out talks with separatists.

crpf-7591

(Illustration courtesy: Indian Express)

While opposition is finding fault with the government, it has not gone full throttle against the government fearing that their tough stand on Kashmir may put them on the back foot.

Another concern would be to arrest the rise in number of security personnel and Pathankot-type attacks which are continuing in the Valley.

The government will also be looking at reviewing its anti-naxal strategy after Maoists managed to strike heavily on security forces, including the April 24 strike in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma where 25 CRPF personnel were killed. Security forces have lost 59 personnel in the first four months of 2017 as against 31 during same period last year.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) itself had admitted the Maoists have fine-tune their counter offensive strategy “quite well” though it suffered huge setbacks last year.

An MHA document prepared last month said the Maoists are trying to extend their “movement” to newer areas and deflect the security forces’ attention on Dandakaranya region. For this, they have stepped up activities at the Chhattisgarh-MP-Maharashtra tri-junction and are planning to develop the area into a new zone.

After a Parliamentary Standing Committee suggested revival of the controversial National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) mooted by previous UPA regime, the government is also looking at such a possibility. Officials told DH that this year could see the government trying to find a consensus, as several states had earlier opposed the move to have an over-arching intelligence for being against federal structure.

Though the government is happy that the IS has not attracted much traction among Muslim youths, the security establishment would also have to keep a close vigil on the matter.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on May 24, 2017)

‘Make clarity in law to deal with Female Genital Mutilation’

A group of female genital mutilation (FGM) survivors and activists have come together to demand clarity in law to deal with the “harmful criminal practice” and not allow it in the garb of religious sentiments.

The ‘Speak Out on FGM’, a group of survivors, and an NGO ‘Lawyers Collective’ says the Indian law has provisions for criminal action against any form of hurt but there is no specific mention in laws and the practice largely goes unnoticed.

“It has also been seen, internationally, that it has proved necessary to have a specific law dealing with the subject, which addresses not only prosecution but also prevention, education, awareness building, relief and rehabilitation,” a report ‘A Guide to Eliminating Practice of FGM in India’ prepared by the two groups said.

A separate law is needed to expose the problem and address it as a “harmful criminal practice and not as an acceptable religious practice”, the report said.

Over 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM worldwide and the practice is most common in 30 countries across Africa and in some countries in Asia. In India, this practice is common amongst Bohra community, it said.

Deep rooted discrimination against women and girls is cited as the reason for the practice by the groups, the report said adding various justifications like religious dicta, an aid to female hygiene and a tool to control or reduce female sexuality are given in support of FGM.

“In a study conducted amongst women of the Dawoodi Bohra community, it was found that religious requirements, traditions and customs and the wish to curb the girl’s sexuality were the main reasons for the flourishing practice,” the report noted.

Prominent lawyer Indira Jaising said every practice must stand the scrutiny of the Constitution and we demonstrate it to be non-discriminatory. “FGM is not only illegal but is also unconstitutional as it disproportionally impacts the girl child. It is also prohibited by International conventions which India has signed,” she said.

Speak Out on FGM Convenor Masooma Ranalvi said a law along with administrative measures of promoting awareness, sensitizing the community on the subject and grass roots campaigning for social reform will help us eventually root out the practice of FGM.

The report has demanded that the parent, the cutters and propagators (Amils) should be penalised. Victims should not only be compensated but also be rehabilitated, cases should be reported to a government and accredited NGO.

It also suggested that a designated person should be able to obtain a restraining order in case of proposed FGM.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald website on May 23, 2017)

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