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ED officials in Singapore trace Nirav Modi

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Nirav Modi

New Delhi, July 16: In a bid to tighten the noose around fugitive diamantaire  Nirav Modi, who is wanted in India in connection with multi-crore  Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case, a three-member Enforcement Directorate (ED) team has reached Singapore.

“Our team is in Singapore to ready the case against Nirav Modi,” a highly placed ED source told IANS.

The team is scheduled to meet the authorities in Singapore to present India’s case.

The visit follows the case it registered against Nirav Modi earlier this year following three different cases filed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Most of the accused are common to the cases.

On Wednesday, the ED moved a special court in Mumbai seeking to declare Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi as fugitives as they fled from India a month before they were named in the fraud case.

On July 2, the Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice against Nirav Modi.

Nirav Modi left India along with his family in the first week of January, weeks before the scam was unearthed and reported to the CBI. His wife Ami, a US citizen, left on January 6 and Choksi on January 4.

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Farmer bodies gear up for ‘Bandh’ on Friday

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Farmers Protests Kurukshetra

New Delhi, Sep 24 : Over two dozen farmer organisations have announced support to the ‘Bandh call on Friday to protest against the farm Bills passed by Parliament amid massive protests from 18 political parties.

The 31 farmer organisations in Punjab and Haryana are already on protest and come Friday the organisations want to convey their concerns to the government.

V.M. Singh, convener of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, who is from central UP, said “There will be nationwide unrest if MSP is not guaranteed and the food security of the poor is handed over to multinationals and corporates,” he said while appealing to President Ram Nath Kovind not to give assent to these Bills.

The same demand has been raised by 18 parties who met the President on Wednesday and requested him to return the Bills for reconsideration of the House.

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Avik Saha of Jai Kisan Andolan said, “We have been trying to engage democratically with the government. After the ordinances were issued, hundreds and thousands of letters have been sent to the Prime Minister. But even in Parliament, this government has refused listen”.

Farmers’ unions have requested farmers to come out in open to oppose the legislations as Bharatiya Kisan Union said “On September 25 there will be farmers’ curfew, blockade and till purchase of produce as per MSP is guaranteed in the law the agitation will go on.”

Rakesh Tikait of the BKU has appealed its members to come out in large numbers.

Farmers unions in Punjab are claiming that it is due to their pressure that Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned as a minister from the Cabinet but the real success will be when the law is repealed. The most vociferous protests are in Haryana and Punjab.

The farmers’ unions say that the problem with the Bills goes beyond MSP to the whole issue of phasing out the ‘mandis’ as farmers are far more vulnerable to exploitation outside the ‘mandi’ system and they are producers, not agri-businesses.

Hannan Mollah , of All India Kisan Sabha, an affiliate of the Left parties, said, “How can a small farmer negotiate a fair deal with the big corporates?”

The farmers have received support from 18 parties including the Congress which has governments in four states, TMC in West Bengal, Left in Kerala, AAP in Delhi, TRS in Telangana while the BJD has also demanded the Bills be sent to a select committee.

The farmers are opposing the Bills passed by the government as the Upper House gave the nod to the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.

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Opposition requests President to return farm Bills for reconsideration

After the meeting senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “the govt did not have the numbers and our request for division was ignored and even the resolution against the Bill was not allowed”

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Ram Nath Kovind

Opposition leaders met President Kovind on Wednesday and apprised him of the circumstances amid which the Farm Bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday. They requested him to return the Bills for reconsideration to the House.

After the meeting Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “the government did not have the numbers and our request for division was ignored and even the resolution against the Bill was not allowed.”

The opposition said that the government ignored the demand for sending the Bills to a select committee.

Ahead of this meeting, the Congress and other opposition parties continued to protest in the Parliament complex here on Wednesday.

The protesting lawmakers marched from Gandhi’s statue in the complex to BR Ambedkar’s statue within the premises to register their protest while carrying placards.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “All MPs of the Congress and like-minded parties are marching from the Gandhi statue to the Ambedkar statue in Parliament to protest against anti-farmers and anti-workers Bills rubber stamped in Parliament in the most undemocratic manner by the Modi government.”

Earlier, the opposition leaders met in the chamber of Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and decided to continue their protest over the Farm Bills.

The opposition and the government are at loggerheads ever since the two farm Bills were passed amid a ruckus in the Upper House on Sunday. The third contentious Bill on essential commodities was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

On Sunday, pandemonium broke out in the Upper House as the opposition protested over the two Farm Bills. Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien even approached the Chair and tried to snatch a mike while citing the rule book.

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Navy’s capabilities hit by PSUs’ lack of expertise, delays: CAG

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MiG 29K Indian Airforce

New Delhi, Sep 23 : The Indian Navy does not have adequate auxiliary vessels, landing platform docks, fleet tankers and cadet training ships, government’s financial watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said on Wednesday.

It also said that the navy is facing problems due to inordinate delays in the acquisition process and lack of expertise of defence public sector undertakings (PSUs).

The CAG’s audit report on Defence Services, Navy and Coast Guard was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.

In its performance audit on efficacy of auxiliary vessels — vessels designed to operate in support of combatant ships and other naval operations — in the Indian Navy, the government auditor stated that their strength was not increasing commensurately with the increase in the combat fleet.

“In fact, it was declining,” it said.

The planned targets for acquisition of auxiliary vessels could not be achieved due to inordinate delays in acquisition process, specifically, non-adherence to the prescribed timelines in conclusion of contracts, it said, pointing out that this was principally on account of lack of expertise of defence PSUs and non-assessment of capability of shipyards.

On assessment of landing platform dock (LPD), CAG stated that the existing capability of the LPD, which is used to transport troops, defence equipment, helicopters and vessels into a war zone, was found to be inadequate to meet requirements of amphibious and expeditionary operations.

The Indian Navy had decided to acquire this vital warfare ship in October 2010 at a cost of Rs 16,000 crore.

However, even after nine years, the contract has not been concluded.

“This was due to failure to fix a specified time frame for obtaining a Corporate Debt Restructuring exit certificate by one of the participating firms,” the report stated.

On fleet tankers, the CAG stated that due to the inadequate availability of fleet tankers, the Indian Navy was thus forced to hire ships from trade and these vessels are used for providing fuel, water, ammunition and stores to the fleet at sea.

The approval for acquisition of fleet tankers to a force level at a cost of Rs 9,045 crore was accorded in 2014. However, the contract was yet to be concluded till August 2019.

The CAG also stated that Indian Navy did not possess enough cadet training ships, and “therefore, converted normal fleet ships to training ships” but the “converted vessels, however, experienced severe limitations in operations”.

The contracts concluded (June 2011 and November 2012) for acquisition of three cadet training ships did not fructify and bank guarantees worth Rs 324.73 crore were yet to be encashed.

The audit also observed that there was loss due to irregular stepping-up of pay of sailors.

System-driven mass stepping-up of pay of 21,089 sailors was carried out by the Naval Pay Office between 2009 and 2011 by misinterpreting the rules and side-lining the relevant pre-audit checks.

“The wrong stepping-up of pay which was reverted in 2017 led to overpayment of at least Rs 22.70 crore. Incorrect fixation of pay and pension is not yet completely rectified,” it said.

It also stated that simulator and training aids were procured at a cost of Rs 120.66 crore in July 2015, and certain defects were noticed in the training aids but these were not rectified.

The training aids, therefore, could not be commissioned. Training was, therefore, imparted to pilots directly on Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers in live sortie flying mode, it said.

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