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HAL temple of modern India, Modi government destroying it: Rahul Gandhi

He said when the Congress comes to power at the Centre, its government would ensure that HAL gets more orders to make aircraft.



Rahul Gandhi meets HAL employees

Bengaluru, Oct 13 : Taking the Rafale battle to the doors of HAL, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the Narendra Modi government has “insulted, hurt and destroyed” the future of the public sector company by depriving it of the offset contract with the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault.

In an hour-long interaction with about 100 former and present employees of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) here, he questioned the credibility and experience of the private company that got the Rs 30,000-crore offset contract.

Accusing Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of “lying” to the nation and misleading the people, Gandhi said she has rushed to Paris to cover up the alleged irregularities in the deal.

“She (Sitharaman) has rushed to France to try to cover it up, but she can’t. We will fight this on the streets of India,” he said.

Gandhi said firms such as HAL, ISRO and DRDO are “temples of modern India” which are being “destroyed” by the Modi government that is indulging in corruption.

“A very senior person in the government has raised questions over the ‘capacity’ of HAL. I ask them as to what is the capacity of Anil Ambani’s company that got the contract? The HAL’s capabilities are all in front of us. You (HAL) have built HF-24, MiGs, Sukhoi and Tejas. Public sector is the backbone of the country and the defence sector,” Gandhi said.

He said it is “completely ridiculous” to say that HAL does not have any experience.

“Does HAL have debt? No. But the person who got the contract has Rs 45,000 crore debt,” he added.

“HAL for me is not an ordinary company but a strategic asset to the country. It has a long history and legacy. It is reputed for making best fighters and helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

“You are the only company with the requisite experience to build that aircraft (Rafale). You are the people who built Tejas, MiG, Sukhoi. How can anybody say that you are not experienced?” he said.

The Congress President said the “forces” trying to take away the company’s “future” are “quite powerful, quite connected” and added that concerted efforts would be needed to save HAL and other public sector companies.

“I have come to give a message that we are going to protect your future. We are going to fight for your rights. Rafale is your right. The decision (to give offset contract) should be done only on merit. Nobody in the world who thinks objectively and takes decisions on merit can take away the offset contract from HAL.”

Asked if the Congress would cancel the Rafale deal if it is voted to power in 2019, Gandhi said the question is not what would happen to the deal but as to why the Rs 30,000 crore contract was given to a newly-founded company instead of HAL.

He said when the Congress comes to power at the Centre, its government would ensure that HAL gets more orders to make aircraft.

“We will not allow this government or anyone to destroy HAL or take away orders from it… We will not allow the government to get away with the deal. We will fight it in every street across the country till the truth behind the deal comes out,” he said.

Referring to the HAL circular that had directed the employees to keep away from the interaction with him, Gandhi said the management must have been under “pressure” from the government but “we are fighting for you too”.

He said the HAL fraternity’s hard work of the last 78 years and their patriotism has been “insulted and questioned” by the Modi government.

Replying to questions by reporters on Sitharaman saying that the government of India had no role in deciding the offset partner, the Congress chief said the Defence Minister is “lying”.

“The former President of France (Francois Hollande) has said that the government of India told him to give the contract to Ambani. Documentation has also come out that Dassault has said this.”

Mirajuddin, a former trade union leader of HAL, said they (the employees) were “agitated” as they felt “let down”.

“We were not only surprised but felt insulted. We are not begging. We are demanding that our rights based on merit should be protected,” he said.

Senior Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Ashok Gehlot, former Karanataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, party’s state unit chief K.C. Venugopal and Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara were also present on the occasion.



Will add value, says minister on Shekhar Kapur’s appointment as FTII president

Shekhar Kapur has been appointed to hold the FTII president’s post till 3 March 2023



Shekhar Kapur

Celebrated filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, 74, has been appointed president of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Society which runs the prestigious film school in Pune, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Kapur, who is known for movies from the Indian superhero film ‘Mr India’ to ‘Bandit Queen’ based on the incidents in the life of Phoolan Devi and an acclaimed biopic on Queen Elizabeth, will hold the post till March 3, 2023.

According to a person aware of the developments, the ministry of information and broadcasting has also appointed Kapur as the chairperson of the FTII governing council.

The tenure of the earlier members of the society had ended in March 2020. The other members of the governing council will be appointed soon, the person cited above said.

Kapur will head the premier film school at a time when, like many other colleges and universities, it is also grappling with the challenges posed by Covid-19.

The FTII had earlier declared the results of the entrance test and is planning the future course. Online classes and training courses have been continuing.

“Wherever it is difficult for students to attend classes, the institute has been putting up the material on the website,” said the person cited above.

Information and Broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar said “Kapur, who has a vast experience, will add more value to the Institute. I am sure everybody will welcome his appointment”.

“Shekhar Kapur, as a reputed film maker of international stature, is without doubt an excellent choice. FTII welcomes him as its Chairman. It’s come a full circle from Dev Anand who started his career working at Prabhat Studio within the campus of FTII today, to his nephew Shekhar Kapur as Chairman of FTII,” said Bhupendra Kainthola, Director, FTII.

The previous FTII chief was BP Singh known for his role as the lead actor in tele-serial CID. Singh was recently appointed by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) to its general assembly.

The Film and Television Institute of India was set up by the Centre in 1960 in the premises of the erstwhile Prabhat Studios in Pune. It conducts various film related courses including on acting, direction, sound recording, editing and cinematography.

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India does not need more Smart Cities, says Urban Affairs Secy




New Delhi, Sep 29 : Even as work is underway on building 100 Smart Cities across the country, there is no need for more as learnings from the ongoing mission can be replicated for other cities and towns in the country, a top official of the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs said on Tuesday.

“Learnings from 100 Smart Cities Mission is very important… people often ask me about the next round of Smart Cities and I tell them that it is not required because we can utilise the learnings from our ongoing mission, replicate the same and move ahead,” Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary D.S. Mishra said at a webinar on “Digital Transformation of Smart Cities in India and path ahead”.

Quoting examples of various smart cities – Indore, Bhopal, Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad and others, he said: “We have learnt a lot of things that can be replicated in shoring up infrastructure in other cities to achieve our goal of improving our citizens’ lives and promote ease of living, be it in terms of health, education, public transport, safety and surveillance and other such aspects.”

Highlighting the three main goals of Smart Cities Mission, Mishra said: “It is about improving liveability, economic ability and sustainability… for this we are conducting all sorts of new experiments in our smart cities – building basic infrastructure using technology to provide better facilities and sustainable solutions to people.”

“We are focusing on capturing the data and using it as an open source to further improve the living standard of people and how we can make our cities climate resilient,” he added.

Mishra also informed that work is likely to be soon completed on 33 of the 49 Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCC) that were turned into Covid-19 war rooms.

“In cities where the infection was rapidly spreading, the ICCCs helped track movement of each and every patient, tracing their contacts, supplying things to their homes, ensuring cleanliness and overall logistics together with predicting requirement of number of beds, masks, sanitisers and others,” he said.

“All this information was smoothly compiled with the help of our integrated command and control centres and has been documented. We have also uploaded it on our ministry’s website.”

The Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary also gave examples of proper management using technology in case of recent floods in Vadodra, cyclone in Vizag and holding the Kumbh Mela with the help of ICCC.

About digital transformation in the recent years, he said: “There is a new thinking which has introduced the concept of Smart Cities in India which is all about further improving the lives of our citizens, leading to quality of life and promoting ease of living through optimal use of all resources available at our disposal.”

Mishra further said that the Prime Minister, while giving a call for Aatmanirbhar Bharat, talked about three things – healthy individual, healthy society and healthy economy, and to accomplish all these three, it is needed to optimally utilise all the resources available. “For this we need to use technology in a big way and so Smart Cities concept can help us learn a lot in this behalf.”

He also said that the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is documenting most information – be it related to smart road construction, water supply, sanitation, mobility etc.

Terming digital transformation as a positive aspect of Covid-19, the Secretary said: “It is during the lockdown that we realised that life has to go on and for that it was only due to digital medium that we contacted people be it for sanitation, logistics, tracking patients and others… such exercises were possible only via digital medium.”

He also said that the pandemic has also brought a lot of challenges, and one big challenge is about how to make public transport in such a way that people can be saved from infectious diseases like Covid-19.

In his address, Pradeep Aggarwal, Chairman, ASSOCHAM National Council on Real Estate, Housing and Urban Development, said: “The epidemic of Covid-19 has given us an opportunity to think once again on the Smart City Mission and build sustainable cities which can fight such epidemic like situations. It has made us realize that we will need to strengthen the health and education facilities of such cities.”

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Congress Slams Yogi Adityanath for Not Allowing Durga Puja ‘Pandals’ in Uttar Pradesh

Congress’ newly-appointed Bengal in-charge Jitin Prasada, raising the concerns of the Bengali community said, “Massive political rallies can be allowed in Madhya Pradesh but the same BJP government in UP will not allow the Bengali community to celebrate Durga Puja with restrictions.




Jitin Prasada Congress UP

New Delhi: Ahead of Durga Puja which is slated for the last week of October, the Congress has raised the cause of Bengalis in Uttar Pradesh and lashed out at the UP government for not allowing Durga Puja ‘pandals’ in the state.

Congress’ newly-appointed Bengal in-charge Jitin Prasada, raising the concerns of the Bengali community said, “Massive political rallies can be allowed in Madhya Pradesh but the same BJP government in UP will not allow the Bengali community to celebrate Durga Puja with restrictions. Only shows that for the BJP faith is a matter of convenience while the only thing that matters to them is politics.”

The Congress leader who has just been appointed the state in-charge and has been meeting state leaders has raised the issue to corner the BJP in Bengal which has high political stakes. The BJP is rising in the state politically and Congress has a tough challenge to retain its position in the state.

The Congress has pitched this issue after the matter was raised by Swapan Dasgupta who is a nominated MP but close to BJP, and he has termed it discriminatory.

Dasgupta said in a tweet: “UP Govt’s order that Durga Puja should be done at home is unfair and even absurd. Like the allowances for Ram Lila, Durga Puja should be permitted with harsh but sensible restrictions. Otherwise it is discriminatory. Bengali Hindus in UP appeal to @myogiadityanath to review order.”

The UP government has issued guidelines regarding Durga Puja and has asked the worshippers to do worship at home but has directed authorities that Ram Lila should be only with 100 people due to Covid-19 protocols and to curb the spread of the virus.

The Congress is trying to regain its position in Bengal where Durga Puja is a major festival while the TMC in the state has been targeted by the BJP which accuses the Mamata Banerjee government of minority appeasement so this issue could lead to a new political battle for ‘Bengali Asmita’ in the state.

State government sources say that it has been left to district officials to ensure that there is no crowding during Durga Puja. The matter was also challenged in the Allahabad High Court which refused to entertain the petition filed by Bengali Welfare Association of Prayagraj.

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