Prez Polls: Will Oppn consolidate?

The BJP’s reach out on Presidential polls that started on Friday has not cut much ice with the Opposition, which believes that the ruling side not indicating a name is a “deliberate” ploy but would help consolidate the non-NDA side.

The Opposition is entering a hectic phase of consultations in the coming days and expects to decide on a candidate by the middle of next week with sources saying their goal is to come up with a name before the government side.

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, whom senior BJP ministers Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu met here following, feels that the government’s efforts were not sincere, a view echoed in the opposition ranks.

After the meeting, Yechury minced no words in describing the meeting as a “pre-concluded PR exercise” in which the BJP wanted to show a charade of reaching out to opposition. Besides Yechury, the BJP leaders had with opposition parties Congress president Sonia Gandhi and leaders of CPI, Samajwadi Party and BSP.

“Without names, they are meeting opposition. That means it has made improbable for any opposition party to talk about support. So those opposition parties who were thinking of probably supporting a candidate whom they could vote for has no option,” a senior Opposition leader said.

The BJP’s ‘no names strategy’ may also be to force the opposition to put up a candidate as it wants to show that they won against a joint candidate, the leader said. Sources said that it could also mean that the BJP would want a political candidate, who adheres to the party ideology.

Some of the Opposition parties had earlier indicated that they would vote for an NDA candidate in case they put up a nominee who could appeal to their constituencies.

Amid rumblings in the opposition ranks, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Yechury held a meeting on Thursday where the former made it clear that they were for a fight in the Presidential polls.

Sources said Sonia also indicated Congress was not averse to the candidature of Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who has started reaching out to parties. Gopalkrishna Gandhi has already spoken to leaders, including AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal who said his party was honoured to support him.

The Opposition parties’ prominent leaders would consult over the weekend before a meeting of 17 parties, which attended a luncheon meeting called by Sonia last month. Though AAP and Naveen Patnaik-led BJD are not part of this grouping, it is expected that they would join them in voting. AAP has already conveyed their support to Yechury on Presidential polls.

June 16, 2017


No self medication mid-air, airline crew told

Do not take medicines without consulting a doctor mid-air. This is the advice given by an investigation panel to aircraft crew following an incident on a SpiceJet flight.

The recommendation by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) came recently following its investigation into an incident in January 2014 where a SpiceJet pilot-in-command (PIC) fell ill mid-air after he took a pain killer for his neck pain mid-air.

Though the plane landed safely, the AAIB has not taken the incident lightly and in its recommendation to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), it said the regulator should sensitise all airlines to educate their crew of the “consequences of self-medication and also the importance of communicating any ailments” to the company doctor during the pre-flight medical.

“DGCA should issue instructions to all schedule operators should to sensitize flight crew recurrent training on the importance of procedures in case of flight crew incapacitation,” it said.

The panel said the “most probable cause of the SpiceJet pilot getting incapacitated was due to side-effects of a pain killer which he took any prescription or consultation by a doctor”.

Prior to the flight Mumbai-Hyderabad on 8 January 2014, the PIC had neck pain but he decided to continue with his flight schedule as the pain was reducing. He also did not record this during the pre-flight check-up.

“During flight he experienced pain in the neck and consumed a pain killer medicine in flight to subside the pain. During descent, he experienced partial loss of hearing and a blurred vision and decided to take an anti-allergic tablet to counter the presumed reaction of the pain killer medicine,” the report said.

According to the report, the PIC said due to repeated stretching of arms to operate controls and overhead panels the neck pain got aggravated and for relief, he decided to take a pain killer from his flight bag in which he used to carry over the counter medicine like pain killer and anti-allergic medicine.

During descent into Hyderabad, he experienced partial loss of hearing and a blurred vision. To counter the existing reaction of the painkiller he took an anti-allergic tablet, the symptoms improved after 10 minutes of taking anti-allergic medicine, it said.

“The PIC apprised his First Officer regarding his health condition and briefed him about the medicines he had consumed. He also instructed the first officer to carry out an auto-land and inform ATC to provide a doctor on ground after landing,” it said.

June 17, 2017

Tigerair-Scoot to further footprints in India

GOLD COAST (Australia): Tigerair and Scoot, the no-frills subsidiaries of Singapore Airlines that will merge by July-end, are looking at expanding its footprints in India by tapping international travellers from Tier-2 cities and secondary markets in the country.

The airlines, which will start functioning under a single brand ‘Scoot’ from July 25 after the merger, believes that the international connectivity from Tier-2 cities in India is “currently untapped” and is an area where it sees a “lot of growth opportunities”.

“It is part of our strategy to tap into Tier-2 cities and secondary markets in India…We are definitely keen on expansion and are constantly exploring avenues to expand our footprint in India. We are already studying markets in India that we want to go to next. However, we will need to assess the market demand before we go ahead with any such plan,” Scoot and Tigerair CEO Lee Lik Hsin said in an email.


Tigerair, a short-haul airline, currently operates from Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kochi, Tiruchirappalli and Lucknow while Scoot, a medium-haul operator, operates from Chennai, Amritsar and Jaipur to Singapore and to other destinations like Australia.

Hsin said South India has been their focus area since the commencement of operations in India and “still see a lot of demand from existing markets” there as well as from “several smaller markets in South India that we do not operate to at the moment”.

Asked whether they would expand beyond the south Indian market, he said, “we are already evaluating options for expansion in North India and would be happy to further expand our footprint all across India.”

The increase in destinations had helped the airlines capture more passengers. While there was an increase of 8.6% from 2013 to 2014, it declined to 7.1% in 2015 compared to 2014.

However, last year saw a 22.3% rise from 2015 with the airlines attributing the significant increase in flown passengers to the launch of new routes Amritsar and Jaipur in May and Oct respectively.

Acknowledging the “tremendous growth opportunities” in India’s aviation sector, Hsin said the UDAN or Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) will step up air connectivity to smaller cities and towns. “With Indian travellers increasingly looking at affordable international travel, international low-cost carriers operating to India have great prospects to offer long-haul budget travel options,” he said.

Queried about their target for India in the coming years, Hsin said they will continue to access potential tier 2 cities in India for further expansion, to cater to both leisure and business demand between India to Singapore and beyond.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 17, 2017)

Prez polls: Fissures in opposition?

The issue of fielding a candidate against NDA Presidential nominee appears to be unravelling the Opposition unity, with the CPI(M) insisting that they should contest for the top post at any cost.

Fissures have developed among parties over the issue as a section of parties led by Congress are of the view that they should wait till the ruling BJP finishes the consultation process and see whether they could come up with a “moderate” face for the post.

The opposition parties may have their own compulsions on voting. Like BJD which could vote on government side if Draupadi Murmu, an Odia who is now Jharkhand Governor, is fielded, the NCP may support a Maharashtrian fielded by the BJP. Congress and Trinamool Congress would also weigh in options before going ahead with a joint opposition candidate.

With some of them amenable to such a candidate from the ruling side, the CPI(M) is insisting that the opposition should not leave the opportunity for a “political battle” and contest the Presidential polls.

As the BJP initiated the process of consultation on candidate, the majority view among opposition parties is to wait for the proposals from the ruling side before taking any step on its candidate. This was echoed in a meeting of opposition parties on Wednesday.

However, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said that even if NDA fields a candidate and some of them supports, the opposition should field a candidate.

He got support in RJD chief Lalu Prasad who is learnt to have insisted that “there should not be any ideological compromise” in the fight against BJP.

This could be music to the ears of the Left as they are not averse to a 2002-type scenario where they field contest. In 2002 when almost entire Opposition joined hands with NDA to support A P J Abdul Kalam, CPI(M)-led Left had fielded INA war veteran Captain Lakshmi as its candidate.

Sources said the opposition camp would not jump the gun on the candidate and one could expect a decision by June 24 or 25. Reports suggested that BJP may finalise the name by June 23, a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is embarking on a visit to the United States.

Senior BJP Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, one of the three senior leaders in the committee of three set up by party president Amit Shah, has already reached out to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Yechury and leaders of NCP and BSP among others for consultation.

However, Left sources believe consultation is a government tactics to “create confusion and division” in the opposition ranks. They believe it is to push their own candidate at the last minute where opposition has no time to recalibrate its strategy.

They don’t want to give time to opposition. They have a strategy and we are going to fall into it,” a senior Left leader said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 15, 2017)

Child Artiste: no work for more than 3 hours without rest

A child artiste should not be made to work for more than five hours a day and not for more than three hours without rest, latest government rules has said.

The new amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Rules also make it mandatory for any producer of any audio-visual media production or any commercial event to take permission from District Magistrate for involving a child in their programmes.

“No child shall be allowed to work for more than five hours in a day, and for not more than three hours without rest,” the new insertion in the rules on child to work as an artist said.

“No child shall be made to participate in any audio visual and sports activity including informal entertainment activity against his will and consent,” it added.

All screening of films and television programmes involving children should also have a disclaimer specifying that all measures were taken to ensure that there has been no abuse, neglect or exploitation of child artists during the entire process of the shooting.

The producers should also ensure appropriate facilities for education of the child to ensure that there is no discontinuity from his lessons in school. “No child shall be allowed to work consecutively for more than 27 days,” it said.

Another point in the rules is the depositing of at least 20% of the income earned by the child in a fixed deposit account in a nationalised bank in the name of the child which may be credited on attaining majority.

The shows on television includes reality shows, quiz shows, talent shows. These rules also cover the participation of a child artiste as an anchor of a show or events.

The issue of presence of child artistes in reality shows and other programmes in entertainment industry had raised a furore earlier.

In March, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour had expressed fear that child labour is rampant in domestic households and entertainment industry. It had then asked the government to study the situation in these sectors and take remedial steps.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had earlier come out with guidelines to regulate child participation in TV serials, reality shows and advertisement.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 14, 2017)

AI accident: Non-adherence to SOP cost a life

Overlooking procedures appeared to have claimed the life of an Air India ground service engineer when he was sucked into an aircraft in Mumbai two years ago, an investigation has suggested.

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) report into the December 2015 incident said non-adherence to Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and rushing crew to operate a delayed flight resulted in the tragic incident.

The report, submitted to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) recently, is based on the 16 December 2015 incident in Mumbai airport when Air India ground staff Subramaniam died after he was sucked into the national carrier’s aircraft.

According to the report, the crew who operated the Rajkot-Mumbai flight were to fly Mumbai-Hyderabad service. However, the Mumbai-Hyderabad flight was delayed as the Rajkot flight did not land on time.

This prompted Air India’s another pilot on Hyderabad flight to take clearance from the ATC to handle the aircraft. The pilot assigned to fly the plane reached the cockpit just seven minutes before the scheduled take-off.

He told the panel that he took clearance from the Ground Engineer and right clearance from co-pilot regarding obstruction. During push back, the engines were started and the parking brakes were put on after reaching the required position on taxiway. He then put the parking brakes off, switch on the taxi light and gave power to taxi.

However, four ground personnel were still around the nose of aircraft. The aircraft then started moving and the deceased Ground Service Engineer was standing facing back towards the aircraft with headphone on his head. “The aircraft right hand side engine came very close to the deceased and sucked him. All the other ground personnel ran away from the aircraft and the tow truck driver also took the tow truck away from the aircraft leaving tow bar,” the report said.

The co-pilot had told the panel that the ground staff had “given clearance followed by thumbs up” and not used torch for clearance. However, the ground staff refuted this saying the deceased staff had “neither shown thumb or pin to pilot nor by any other person”.

According to Operations Manual, one person from the ground crew has must be designated as marshaller and give thumbs up signal or at night with marshalling flash light wand.

The report concluded that “non-adherence to SOP and delayed departure of flight due to improper rostering of crew resulted in the accident”.

The AAIB recommended that crew must board aircraft 20 minutes prior to scheduled departure and minimum 30 minutes of gap should be there in case of change of aircraft between two consecutive flights.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 14, 2017)

Prez polls and rethink in some Oppn parties ?

With the BJP setting in motion the process to select a Presidential candidate, a section of the Opposition parties now feel that the government side may come up with a name acceptable to them.

They believe the constitution of the committee with Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and M Venkaiah Naidu as members is a positive sign.

The “moderate panel”, as some of the opposition leaders put it, is expected to come up with a “moderate” candidate whom the opposition could also support.

Sources said Congress could also agree if the BJP-led NDA comes up with a candidate from the Dalit or tribal communities. The Opposition camp feels that the BJP may look for candidates like a former Chief Justice.

The opposition expects that the BJP panel could throw names like that of Draupadi Murmu, former Governor S C Jamir and even Kerala Governor and former Chief Justice of India P Sadasivam as a Presidential candidate.

However, this may not mean that there will be no contest as the Left parties may field its own candidate for the Presidential polls in a redux of 2002 when it fielded Captain Laxmi against A P J Abdul Kalam, who got support from the then ruling NDA and most of the Opposition, including Congress.

Though the ruling side have enough numbers, the entire socialist parties may break ranks with opposition to vote if BJP fields former socialist Hukum Narain Yadav as its Vice Presidential candidate.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 13, 2017)

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