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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jumbo reshuffle in Union Cabinet , 22 ministers take oath

New Delhi: Seven Cabinet ministers, including new faces K Rehman Khan and Chandresh Kumari, and 15 Ministers of State were sworn-in today as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expanded his Council of Ministers. Five Ministers of State -- Dinsha Patel, M M Pallam Raju, Harish Rawat, Ajay Maken and Ashwani Kumar -- were promoted to Cabinet rank. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari and actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi were brought in as Ministers of State with independent charge, while Shashi Tharoor made a comeback as Minister of State after over two years. 12 new Ministers of State were sworn-in. They are Tariq Anwar (Maharashtra), K Suresh (Kerala), A H Khan Chowdhry, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhry and Deepa Dasmunshi, (West Bengal), S Satyanarayana, K Jayasuyraprakash Reddy, P Balram Naik, and Killi Kriparani (Andhra Pradesh). Lalchand Kataria (Rajasthan), Ranee Narah (Assam) and Ninong Ering (Arunachal Pradesh) are the others who were sworn-in as MoS. List of changes in portfolios of existing ministers and portfolios of new ministers: Cabinet ministers: * Salman Khursheed - external affairs * M. Veerappa Moily - petroleum * K. Rahman Khan - minority affairs * Dinsha Patel - mines * Ajay Maken - housing and poverty alleviation * M.M. Pallam Raju - human resource development * Ashwani Kumar - law * Harish Rawat - water resources * Chandresh Kumari Katoch - culture Ministers of State (Independent Charge) * Jyotiraditya Scindia - power * Manish Tewari - information and broadcasting * K. Chiranjeevi - tourism * Sachin Pilot - corporate affairs PM rules out early elections Ruling out early elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today's expansion of his Council of Ministers would probably be the last. 'I don't see early elections. Elections will be held in due course,' he told reporters at the Rashtrapati Bhawan after the swearing-in ceremony. PTI

Krishna, Gowda, Yeddyurappa face probe in expressway scam

Bangalore: The Karnataka Lokayukta Thursday ordered a probe into the role of three former chief ministers H.D. Deve Gowda, S.M. Krishna, B.S. Yeddyurappa and over 25 others for alleged lapses in land allotment for the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor. Acting on Bangalore-based social activist T.J. Abraham's complaint, Lokayukta court Judge N.K. Sudhindra Rao directed police attached to his mbudsman's office to probe the role of 30 of the 105 people named in the complaint. Others to be probed include present Public Works Department Minister C.M. Udasi, managing director of Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises Ashok Kheny, former Congress minister R.V. Deshpande, Congress legislator D.K. Shivakumar, Bharat Forge chief Baba Kalyani and former Massachusetts, US, governor William Weld. Weld has been named in the complaint as he had in 1995 signed the memorandum of understanding with then Karnataka chief minister Deve Gowda for execution of the project by a consortium of Indian and US companies. The Rs.4,000 crore project consisting of 111-km expressway and some townships has been mired in controversy over allegations that the builder Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises Limited (NICE) has been allotted land far in excess of the project's requirement. The complaint filed Aug 27 alleged irregularities in the acquisition of farmers' lands for the project and wanted the court to attach the 6,999 acres allotted for it. Besides modern expressway between Bangalore and Mysore, the infrastructure corridor envisages five self-sustainable townships, each with a capacity to house a population of 100,000, and several commercial buildings. Krishna, of Congress, is now the union external affairs minister while Gowda, Janata Dal-Secular leader and Lok Sabha member, was prime minister in 1996-97. Yeddyurappa, the first Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister in Karnataka, was forced out of office in July last year over mining bribery charges.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Maradona wins thousands of hearts in Kerala

Kannur : In just 20 minutes that the legendry Diego Maradona held centre stage, he danced, sang and demonstrated jaw-dropping football skills to win thousands of hearts at the Municipal Stadium here Wednesday. Over 50,000 fans started pouring in since early morning for a glimpse of the Argentine star. There were thunderous cheers as he walked into the stadium around 11.30 a.m. Maradona is in Kerala on an invite from his industrialist friend Bobby Chemmanur. The footballer could not hide his excitement. He danced to the music and showered flying kisses to his fans from the stage. Then came rolling, one after the another, over a dozen footballs towards Maradona. Each was rocketed into the crowds. But not before the icon manoeuvred them deftly to amuse his fans. Amid cheers, Maradona and former India football captain I.M. Vijayan headed a football between them for a few minutes. The Argentine will turn 52 Tuesday. His birthday was celebrated in advance here. He cut a cake weighing over 30 kg and shaped like a football ground with a football in the middle. It was prepared by Sheen Bakery here. Among those present at the function were Home Minister T. Radhakrishnan, Sports Minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar and a number of legislators. 'It's a great honour for the God of football to have come to Gods's own country,' Vijayan said. Maradona arrived here Tuesday from Kochi and will take a flight to Dubai from Kozhikode Wednesday evening.

Kingfisher employees turn down 3-month salary offer

New Delhi: Striking employees of Kingfisher Airlines rejected the management's compensation offer yet again Tuesday and said they may move court and seek intervention of Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh. 'At meetings held in Mumbai and New Delhi, the employees reached a broad agreement to reject the management offer. We will write a letter to them on the same,' a senior flight engineer told IANS. 'We have also taken legal advice on the issue, but we are awaiting more clarity on the matter before taking any further step.' The employees' meetings took place a day after talks failed in Mumbai to end the deadlock which started Oct 1 with the grounding of the airline and suspension of the carrier's flying license by the aviation regulator. The engineer said the latest offer by the management did not meet the bare minimum of demands. 'We are seeking payment of four months' salary from March onwards by Oct 26,' he said. The airline's Chief Executive, Sanjay Aggarwal, Monday had sent a letter to the staff offering the March salary by Oct 26 followed by April's pay by Oct 31 and May's compensation before Diwali. However, the employees have demanded an upfront payment of salaries, citing a lack of trust with the management. 'They have been issuing letters, email and other communications assuring us of payment which has not been made. We cannot go on trusting them forever,' he said. He added that the employees may also seek the civil aviation minister's intervention. 'In this particular case the government should play a pro-active role like they did in the Satyam scam. Though the situation may vary, but the government has to save the thousands of jobs as they did in the Satyam's case.' Nearly, 6,500 employees of the airline face the possibility of losing their jobs as the airline remains in a state of lockout. The employees went on a flash strike Oct 1 demanding payment of their salaries by by Oct 5, which have been pending since March. They also claimed that non-payment of salaries has affected their morale and built up stress levels that can also affect operational safety. Key personnel like aircraft maintenance engineers, whose airworthiness clearance is mandatory for any flight to take off, also struck work. The airline has a total debt of Rs.7,000 crore from a consortium of banks. Currently, the airline has only 10 operational aircraft from a strength of around 66 planes a year ago. It was the country's second largest airline by passenger traffic. But it had the lowest market share in September, which stood at 3.5 percent. The company's scrip at the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Tuesday closed 4.59 percent down and stood at its circuit limit of Rs.10.40 from its previous close at Rs.10.90.

Anyone can probe Gadkari: BJP

New Delhi: The BJP Tuesday said 'any competent authority' can probe allegations of corruption against its president Nitin Gadkari. 'The party president has said any competent authority can probe the charges,' Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told the media. India Against Corruption has accused Gadkari of land grab in Vidarbha in Maharashtra, an allegation he denied. On Tuesday, media reports revealed that an infrastructure company IRB gave his company a loan of Rs.165 crore, two years after IRB was awarded road contracts by Gadkari when he was the Maharashtra PWD minister.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

IAS officer transferred three days after he asked for Vadra-DLF inquiry

Chandigarh: A senior Haryana IAS officer is at the Centre of a raging controversy after he was transferred in the wake of his decision to probe alleged undervaluation of properties dealt with by Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Significantly, on the last day of his posting as Director General of Land Consolidation and Land Records-cum- Inspector-General of Registration yesterday, Ashok Khemka also issued an order cancelling the mutation of over 3 acre plot of land in Manesar-Shikohpur that Vadra had sold to DLF. Khemka, a 1991-batch officer, Tuesday attacked the decision to transfer him, saying it was "demoralising and dehumanising". "If these problems are brought in sunshine, probably my decisions would appear to be normal and correct. But what happens is, inside, you are guided and directed that behave differently. "If you do take an action which you call strong but I would call as correct, and then action is taken against you, it's very demoralising, dehumanising and you feel ashamed of yourself that look, there must be something wrong with you that these things are happening. "You get words like 'you don't get along well with others, 'there are shades of grey in life' etc. These kinds of euphemism are created to deviate you from the correct path," he said pleading for security as he feels "threat" from "vested elements" whom he has been exposing from time to time. In his October 12 letter, a day after his transfer orders were issued, addressed to the Deputy Commissioners-cum-Registrar, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal and Mewat districts, Khemka's letter reads "inquiry regarding under valuation of some properties registered by Robert Vadra or his companies as vendor or vendee". In the letter, Khemka wrote "As per the records of one property, M/s Sky Light hospitality had purchased Khasra No 730 (3.53 acres) of village Shikhopur, district Gurgaon vide sale deed number 4928 dated February 12, 2008 for Rs 7.5 crore. "This property was re-sold to M/s DLF Universal for Rs 58 crore vide sale deed number 1435 dated September 18, 2012 after obtaining LOI/licence from the Director, Town and Country Planning, Haryana on March 28, 2003, subsequently renewed on January 18, 2011 for 2.701 acres," he alleged in the letter. Khemka cancelled the mutation of over 3 acre plot that Vadras company, M/s Sky Light Hospitality, had allegedly sold to DLF Universal Ltd last month on the grounds that the mutation violated the States Consolidation Act and was done not by a revenue officer but by the Assistant Consolidation Officer of Gurgaon unauthorisedly. Khemka, who was also the Inspector General of Registration, formally ordered an inquiry across four districts into the alleged under-valuation of some properties registered by Vadra or his companies as vendor or vendee. The IAS officer further mentions that village Shikhopur of district Gurgaon was re-notified under the provisions of East Punjab Holdings (Consolidation and Prevention of Fragmentation) Act, 1948 on August 5, 2011. "The sale of property on September 18, 2012 during the pendency of the consolidation proceedings without sanction of the Consolidation Officer was against provisions of Section 30 of the Consolidation Act. The mutation number 4513 sanctioned on September 20 this year by the Assistant Consolidation Officer was also without jurisdiction, since he is not a Revenue Officer under the Punjab Land Revenue Act," he stated. Noting that "under-valuation" of property leads to loss of revenue, Khemka said that in view of questions raised in reputed national dailies and to clear the name of Registering Offices in Haryana, he considers "it fit and appropriate to order DCs-cum-Registrars of Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal and Mewat shall inspect all documents registered from January 1, 2005 and till date by or on behalf of Vadra or his firms in the capacity of either vendor or vendee and compile such list for examination. "They (DCs) shall estimate the real value of the property conveyed through registered documents and in case of under-valuations, the matter shall be referred to Collector under Section 47-A of the Indian Stamps Act for correct assessment of the stamp duty payable," Khemka said. While mentioning the name of a reputed national daily, Khemka in his letter further directed the DCs that the report must reach the office of Inspector General of Registration, Haryana by October 25 this year. Quoting the daily, he mentioned the names of some companies of Vadra as "Sky Light Realty, Sky Light Hospitality, Real Earth Estates, Blue Breeze Trading, Artex and North India IT Parks". In his letter yesterday to Director General, Town and Country Planning Department and Deputy Commissioner-cum- Registrar-cum Assistant Director, Consolidation, Gurgaon, Khemka advised the former not to accord permission or issue Letter of Intent/licence or Change of Land Use "in violation" of Consolidation Act or Land Ceiling Act "at least in future". He mentions that with reference to registered sale deed of September 18 of village Shikhopur, Sector 83, Gurgaon, for sale of 3.531 acres against total consideration of Rs 58 crore by vendor, M/s Sky Light Hospitality Private Limited, to vendee, M/s DLF Universal Ltd, of which part area of 2.701 acres is issued LOI/license dated March 28, 2008 and subsequently renewed on January 18, 2011 by Town and Country Planning Department, Sky Light Hospitality had allegedly received Rs 50 crore out of total sale consideration of Rs 58 crore by October 7, 2010 as per the registered sale deed. "The vendor had ex-facie entered into a sale agreement with the vendee or on before June 3, 2008, when part payment of the total sale consideration was received. It is not known what made the Town and Country Planning Department to renew the LOI/licence on January 18, 2011 in favour of the vendor, when 86.2 per cent of the total sales consideration was paid to him by October 10, 2009, that is 15 months before the date of renewal of the LOI/licence. "If the vendor suppressed the material fact that he had entered into a sale agreement of the impugned property with M/s DLF Universal, against which he was paid 86.2 per cent of the total sales consideration 15 months before the renewal of the LOI/licence, then the Department ought to be taking action against vendor for suppressing the material fact," Khemka's letter said.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chidambaram rules out probe into Vadra-DLF business deals

New Delhi: Ruling out any probe into business dealings between Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra and realty major DLF, Finance Minister P Chidambaram Monday said the government cannot look into private transactions unless there are specific allegations of corruption. "...unless there is a specific allegation of quid pro quo or corruption, I am afraid private transactions cannot and ought not to be allowed to be questioned on the basis of imputations and insinuations", he said while responding to a question on the Vadra-DLF deals at the Economic Editors' Conference here. Civil rights activist Arvind Kejriwal had demanded an inquiry into business dealings between Vadra and his companies and real estate giant DLF. Kejriwal had alleged that DLF gave interest free loan of Rs 65 crore to Vadra. The company as well as Vadra had denied the allegations. Chidambaram said he "could not respond (on the issue) on behalf of the government because that is not the issue here. I think those who made their allegations have made their statement, the company concerned has made a statement and the individual concerned has made a statement". Vadra had earlier dismissed Kejriwal's allegations as "utterly false and defamatory" saying that his business transactions were "fully reflected" in financial statements before government authorities in compliance with the law. DLF too had rejected the allegations that it had given unsecured loans to Vadra as a 'quid pro quo' for favours and said it had transparent dealing with him as an individual entrepreneur. Kejriwal had alleged that besides an interest free loan of Rs 65 crore, DLF gave properties worth Rs 300 crore to Vadra at throwaway prices.

'Israel to lose 10,000 troops if it attacks Iran'

Tehran: An Iranian official has warned Israel that it would lose at least 10,000 soldiers in the event of a military strike on Iran, Press TV reported. 'If the Israelis attack, Iran's deterrent power would deal a mortal blow to them and the Israeli death toll would not be less than 10,000. Therefore, they would be stopped soon,' Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of Iran's Expediency Council, was quoted as saying. 'We don't want war, but are fully prepared to defend our country against any strike. Of course the Zionists don't dare to invade Iran and only speak of war to win concessions from the next US president,' said Rezaei, a former chief of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). The US and Israel have not ruled out the possibility of a strike on Iran's nuclear energy facilities. America and its Western allies believe Iran is working towards a nuclear weapon, but Tehran denies the allegations, saying its atomic programme is for 'peaceful' purposes.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Arvind Kejriwal exposes 'Robert Vadra scam' trains guns at Sonia

New Delhi: In a major expose, Arvind Kejriwal, the India Against Corruption activist who parted ways with social crusader Anna Hazare to launch his own political party, on Friday levelled charges of accumulating disproportionate land assets against Robert Vadra, husband of Priyanka Gandhi. He claimed that Vadra's income grew from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 300 crore in three years. "Companies linked to Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law are overvalued. We all know DLF got huge lands in Congress-ruled Delhi and Haryana... I ask DLF why it is giving interest free land to Mr Vadra. Is it because he is providing any benefit to it," Kejriwal asked. Kejriwal had on October 2 announced that India Against Corruption would reveal sensational information against two political leaders. Kejriwal said: "The ruling dynasty thinks noboday can probe the country's son-in-law, despite whatever he does. We demand that the disproportionate income of Robert Vadra should be probed. "We has earlier released documents against 15 Cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, accusing them of corruption. No probe was ordered. Now, the question is who will probe the benefits received by Robert Vadra and his mother." "It's not that we are talking in the air... We have got our claims investigated by a noted CA," he underlined. Kejriwal was joined by his colleague and Supreme Court lawyer Prashan Bhushan. “Robert Vadra got 10,000 sq foot penthouse in DLF Aralia for Rs. 85 lakhs whose market value when sold was 25 crore and today it’s value is 40 crore,” Bhushan told a press conference. “Why did the DLF give so much money to Vadra without any obvious benefit?” the eminent lawyer questioned. Vadra was getting benefits for the DLF company through the Delhi government and Haryana government, he said, adding that it should be probed by investigating agencies. “We have received all our information from RoC…There are many other properties to be inquired into,” Bhushan said. He questioned how Vadra could take money from DLF to buy properties from the company. He alleged a case violating conditions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Income Tax Act could be made out against Vadra and should be investigated at the earliest. “Vadra and his mother have participated in a big scam and the government has been trying to divert attention from scams…this scam will be called the Robert Vadra scam,” The veteran lawyer said.