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Air India refuses to disclose PM Modi’s Flight records under RTI Act

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New Delhi, March 26: National carrier Air India said records pertaining to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi chartered flights for visits abroad cannot be disclosed under the RTI Act because of security concerns as per instructions from the PMO.

Air India came with this statement in a response to an application filed by an activist under the transparency law, PTI reported.

In RTI application dated February 2, 2018, Commodore (Retd.) Lokesh Batra had asked the national carrier about the dates of invoices raised for chartered flights provided by it for overseas visits of the prime minister since November 2016, and the dates of forwarding each of these bills to the civil aviation ministry and the external affairs ministry.

According to Batra, he got a response from the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) who said he cannot reveal the information sought by him, and also sent him an e-mail communication from the PMO to National Carrier on the issue.

In that email, sent to an Air India official on December 26, 2016, the Prime Minister Office had asserted, “Records pertaining to PM’s flight have certain information which may have security implications and are, hence, exempted from disclosure under clause (g) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, 2005.”

“As such, the Air India is advised not to disclose information relating to PM’s flight to such RTI queries,” it added

However, it was not clear what had prompted the PMO’s email in 2016.

Following the response of Air India, citing the PMO’s instructions, Batra wrote to the national carrier stating that there is no provision in the Act to refuse information without giving reasons as per section 7(1) of the Act or without quoting the CIC or court orders for denial of Information.

Later, in response to this, Air India said that “We never deny any information which is available as per our records of accounts dept. As per provision in the Act we are not supposed to supply any copy of our document or as per section 7(1) of the Act, which is informed by PMO”.

Batra has also written to the Prime Minister office terming the instruction to Air India a “serious lapse”.

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Trainee pilot killed in UP chopper crash

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Plane crash
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A rookie pilot was killed after a helicopter carrying 4 people crashed in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh district on Monday. Police and local authorities are the spot and rescue operations are underway.

The incident took place in Sarai Meer in an agricultural field, according to details available, the aircraft crashed at nearly 11.20 a.m. One person died and another was injured in the crash, while two others jumped out of the aircraft with the help of parachutes.

The deceased has been identified as trainee pilot Konark Saran. Amethi District Magistrate Arun Kumar said that the aircraft had taken off from the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi, a pilot training institute located at Fursatganj Airfield of Amethi. The aircraft belonged to the academy.

Authorities are probing the cause of the crash. The police is trying to secure the debris of the crash.

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Steps taken by Delhi govt to provide aid to widows: HC

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Delhi High Court

 The Delhi High Court on Monday observed that the state government has taken adequate steps to provide financial assistance to widows through pensions and other schemes.

“Looking at the Delhi government’s affidavit, it appears that adequate steps have been taken by it to provide funds to the widows. We see no reason to further monitor this case,” said a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan.

The Department of Social Welfare had filed the affidavit in response to a petition by social activist Harpal Singh Rana through advocate Akhil Rana and Utkarsh Sharma, claiming that pensions to around 12,000 widows had been discontinued during the COVID-19 lockdown by the Ministry of Women and Child Development without any valid reason.

The AAP government said in the affidavit, filed through advocate Anjum Javed, that it is remitting monthly pensions to beneficiaries so that they did not face any financial hardship during the pandemic.

“… the Department of Social Welfare has not withheld or discontinued pensions in respect of any beneficiary on imaginary grounds,” the affidavit said.

“The whole process of filing applications for all pension schemes, that is, old-age and disability pensions as well as financial assistance under the Delhi Family Benefit Scheme of the Department is online only.”

It said the money given under the Head “Financial Assistance to Widows for Performing Marriages of their Daughters” has been increased to Rs 1 lakh from Rs 60,000.

Rana told the court in his petition that as per a Right to Information reply, pensions of around 12,000 widows had been discontinued by the Ministry.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government also told the court that the status of the online applications is sent by the portal on the mobile numbers of the applicants. In offline cases, the status (acceptance/rejection) is conveyed by district offices through anganwadi/ASHA workers and displayed on the e-district portal.

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Farm bills Modi govt’s ‘death warrant’ for farmers: Rahul Gandhi on Farm Bill

The Parliament on Sunday witnessed a lot of drama and uproar. Calling the farm bills introduced by the government as “black laws”, Congress party hit out at the government and raised the issue of Minimum Support Price (MSP).

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Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi slammed the farm bills that were passed in the Upper House of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) on Sunday, saying that the ‘democracy is ashamed’ by the decision.

“The farmer who grows gold forom earth, Modi government’s pride is making that farmer cry tears of blood,” the Congress leader wrote on Twitter in Hindi.

Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, which the government says will help boost the farming sector through private investments, were approved in Rajya Sabha today, inviting a lot of criticism from opposition parties.

“Democracy is ashamed of the way this government issued a death warrant against farmers through these bills in Rajya Sabha,” Rahul Gandhi further wrote on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/RahulGandhi/status/1307652716508753920?s=20

The Parliament on Sunday witnessed a lot of drama and uproar. Calling the farm bills introduced by the government as “black laws”, Congress party hit out at the government and raised the issue of Minimum Support Price (MSP).

“Why the government is running away from providing legal obligation for MSP. Who will take a guarantee of MSP outside ‘Mandi’,” Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

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