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Congress takes on Modi over ‘industrialist’ remark

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Manish Tewari

New Delhi, July 29 (IANS) With Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserting that he was “not afraid of” publicly standing beside industrialists because his intentions were “noble”, the Congress hit out at him, saying he should not lend his legitimacy and respectability to such corporates.

“If the Prime Minister feels alright to be photographed with such people, who allegedly ripped off the banking system, and run away to Antigua and London or probably disappear from the earth, then I leave it to the Prime Minister’s wisdom to lend his legitimacy and respectability to such people,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said at a press conference.

“The question is not the capitalists or industrialists. The question is what kind of capitalists or industrialists,” he said, while stressing his party was not against industrialists and capitalists, but against “crony capitalists”.

“The Congress feels that private enterprise has a legitimate place in the developmental trajectory of the country. But what we are against is crony capitalism and the nexus between the suit and the boot. ‘The Suit Boot ki Sarkar’, when the government functions for the benefit of a few at the cost of many,” he said.

Tewari also hit out at Modi for comparing himself with Mahatma Gandhi, saying: “What is even more astonishing is that the Prime Minister went and compared himself to Mahatma Gandhi.

“Its unfortunate because no politician should compare himself to the father of the nation. He said that even Mahatma Gandhi used to carry industrialists with him. Again the question is what kind of industrialists. They were those people who in the teeth of British tyranny, British imperialism, in the teeth of persecution were ready to stake in sacrifice everything they had for the freedom of India.”

These industrialists stood with Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress because their goal was the freedom of India, and were “not those industrialists who had gamed the banking system and runaway with thousands of crores of public money,” he said.

Slammed Modi over development issues, Tewari said that “the Prime Minister patted himself on the back saying that the country is developing splendidly”, but this is not borne out by facts.

“The facts are that farmers are forced to sell their crop below the minimum support price. The fact is that small and medium industry is closing down rapidly across the country.”

On Modi’s visit to Uttar Pradesh, Tewari said when any Prime Minister visits a state seven times, six or nine months before the Lok Sabha elections, it is possibly the most “potent barometer of the nervousness” of both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Prime Minister of India.

“This is perhaps the seventh trip that the Prime Minister is making to Uttar Pradesh in less than a month.”

He also criticised BJP President Amit Shah’s interview to a newspaper where he mentioned the Rs 12 crore Mudra loans for youth, saying the question was “how many sustainable livelihoods have those loans created”.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala meanwhile tweeted: “Dear PM, your political career reeks of a culture of cronyism! From giving land to your crony friends at throwaway prices in Guj to GSCPC scam, from promoting select mobile wallets in DeMo to gifting largest defence contracts in Rafale! So spare us the lecture!”

India

Probe irregularities in 5 UAV Rotax engines’ purchase: CAG

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UAV Rotax engines

New Delhi, Sep 23 : India’s government auditor has pulled up the Indian Air Force (IAF) and an Israeli drone manufacturer for financial loss in procurement of UAV Rotax engines and recommended a probe into the matter to fix the responsibility.

The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) Audit Report on Air Force – Defence Services, tabled in the Parliament on Wednesday, flagged irregularities in purchase of aero engines for Unmanned Aero Vehicles.

“IAF concluded a contract in March 2010 with M/s Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for supply of five 914F (certified) UAV Rotax engines at a cost of Rs 87.45 lakh per engine,” it said.

The audit, however, noted that the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), under the Defence Research and Development Organisation, had, in April 2012, procured the same variant of Rotax engine at Rs 24.30 lakh per engine.

Also, the average price of this engine in the international market ranged between Rs 21 lakh and Rs 25 lakh.

“As a result, the vendor gained an undue benefit of Rs 3.16 crore as it supplied the five contracted UAV engines at more than three times the market price or the price offered to the DRDO unit,” the CAG stated.

The audit also noted that the vendor resorted to mislabelling and supplied uncertified engines to the IAF instead of the contracted certified engines.

“There were many reported accidents involving these uncertified engines including loss of one UAV in a flying accident,” the report stated.

The auditor recommended investigation into the matter and fixing of responsibility for wrongful supply and acceptance of mislabelled engines by IAF.

About upgradation of medium lift helicopters, the CAG stated that the upgradation of Mi-17 helicopters, proposed in 2002, to overcome the operational limitation of these helicopters could not be achieved even after 18 years.

As a result, these helicopters were flying with limited capability, thus compromising operational preparedness during these years.

Due to poor planning and indecision at various stages of procurement, the Defence Ministry took 15 years to enter (January 2017) into the upgradation contract of 90 Mi-17 helicopters with an Israeli company.

The contracted delivery of these upgraded helicopters was to start from July 2018 and be completed by 2024.

The CAG noted that after upgradation, 56 of these helicopters would be left with less than two years of life and would be phased out by 2024.

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Business

Oil Ministry yet to recover $510 mn from contractors under PSC: CAG

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Dharmendra Pradhan

New Delhi, Sep 23 : The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has said that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has not recovered $510 million as cost of unfinished minimum work programme (CoUMWP) from contractors in respect of 45 blocks.

The CAG report on Union Government (Economic & Service Ministries-Civil) – Compliance Audit Observations, which includes important audit findings, was presented in the Parliament on Wednesday.

It noted that the government awarded 254 blocks during the New Exploration and Licensing Policy’s (NELP) I to IX rounds for exploration of oil and gas. As per the terms and conditions of Production Sharing Contracts (PSC), contractors are required to pay the cost of unfinished minimum work programme, if the block is relinquished or terminated by government.

However, contractors of 54 relinquished blocks failed to pay the CoUMWP as specified in the PSCs.

“An amount of $510.79 million (Rs 3,652.64 crore), which was 77 per cent of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas’s (MoPNG) approved amount of $664.67 million (Rs 4,753.03 crore) on account of CoUMWP in respect of 45 blocks still remained unrecovered (September 2019),” the report said.

It added that the CoUMWP for nine blocks is yet to be worked out by Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) or yet to be approved by the ministry.

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India

Lok Sabha passes Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020

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Lok Sabha

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020 that looks to reorient the governance model in central ports to landlord model, whereby port infrastructure is leased to private operators.

The bill aims at decentralizing decision making and to infuse professionalism in governance of major ports. The landlord model of port operation is widely followed globally.

Of the 204 ports in the country, 12 are major ports, including Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT and Cochin.

“I am introducing the major port authorities bill with the vision to make major ports competent and improve their efficiencies,” shipping minister Mansukh Mandaviya said in the Parliament.

The bill is expected to help impart faster and transparent decision making benefiting the stakeholders and better project execution capability.

The role of Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) has been redefined in the bill. The port authority has now been given powers to fix tariffs which will act as a reference tariff for purposes of bidding for PPP projects. PPP operators will be free to fix tariffs based on market conditions.

The Board of each major port shall be entitled to create a specific master plan in respect of any development or infrastructure established or proposed to be established within the port limits and such master plan shall be independent of any local or state government regulations of any authority whatsoever.

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