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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.

India

‘Not allowed to meet anyone’: Delhi riots accused Umar Khalid tells court

Khalid was arrested under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the communal violence that took place in Northeast Delhi in February this year.

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Umar Khalid

Former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Umar Khalid, who is in judicial custody in connection with his alleged role in Delhi riots, on Thursday claimed that he is not being allowed to step out of his cell or meet anyone, alleging that it is a form of solitary confinement.

“Security does not mean that I should be punished like this,” Khalid told a Delhi court during a hearing. He said that this is being done on the orders of additional jail superintendent.

Khalid also said that he is not well from the last few days and due to the orders to keep him confined to the cell all the time, he is feeling discomfort, not just physical but also mental.

The court then summoned the jail superintendent, and posted the matter for further hearing on Friday.

On October 17, the court had directed the Delhi Police to give adequate security to Khalid. The order came on a petition filed by the JNU student seeking adequate security because of his “ideological differences and dissenting opinion”.

Khalid was arrested under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the communal violence that took place in Northeast Delhi in February this year.

A Delhi court had on September 24 sent Khalid to judicial custody till October 22. At the end of the custody today, the police moved an application to keep Khalid in the judicial custory for another month.

The court will hear the matter on Friday and is expected to pass the order of Delhi Police’s petition.

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India

Govt restores all existing visas, barring electronic, tourist and medical categories

This includes flights operated under ‘Vande Bharat’ mission, air transport bubble arrangements or by any non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation

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Indian Passport

New Delhi, Oct 22 : The government on Thursday decided to restore with immediate effect all existing visas, except electronic, tourist and medical categories, almost eight months after their suspension following the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent imposition of a nationwide lockdown

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also announced giving permission to all Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card holders and all other foreign nationals to visit India for any purpose, except on a tourist visa

The ministry said in a statement that in view of the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government had taken a series of steps to curtail the inward and outward movement of international passengers since February, 2020

The government has now decided to make a graded relaxation in visa and travel restrictions for more categories of foreign nationals and Indian nationals who wish to enter or leave India

Under this graded relaxation, the government has decided to restore with immediate effect all existing visas, except electronic visa, tourist visa and medical visa, the statement said

If the validity of such visas has expired, fresh visas of appropriate categories can be obtained from Indian mission or post concerned

Foreign nationals intending to visit India for medical treatment can apply afresh for a medical visa, including for their medical attendants

Therefore, this decision will enable foreign nationals to come to India for various purposes such as business, conferences, employment, studies, research, medical purposes etc

The government has also decided to permit all OCI and PIO card holders and all other foreign nationals intending to visit India for any purpose, except on a tourist visa, to enter by air or water routes through authorised airports and seaport immigration check posts

This includes flights operated under ‘Vande Bharat’ mission, air transport bubble arrangements or by any non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation

All such travellers will, however, have to strictly adhere to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare regarding quarantine and other health/COVID-19 matters

While the restrictions on visas were imposed following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in February, commercial flight operations were suspended when the nationwide lockdown came into effect on March 25

However, the government has been allowing limited operations of Air India flights under the ‘Vande Bharat’ mission for certain categories OCI and PIO card holders and those Indians who were stuck due to COVID-19 outbreak since June.

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Economy not circus lion that responds to ringmaster’s stick: Chidambaram

Chidambaram said the economy was largely determined by the market, by the laws of demand and supply, and by the purchasing power and the sentiments of the people, which are missing currently

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P Chidambaram

Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday criticised the Centre for its claims on reviving the economy. He said the economy was largely determined by the market, by the laws of demand and supply, and by the purchasing power and the sentiments of the people, which are missing currently.

“Unless the government puts money in the hands of the bottom half of the families and puts food on the plates of the poor, the economy will not revive smartly,” he added.

The Congress leader said if the government doubted about what he say, then “just listen to the voices of the voters of Bihar on their existential crisis — no work or not enough work, no income or little income, and their thoughts are on surviving, not on spending.

He also said that RBI Governor, SEBI Chairman and the DEA Secretary should tell the FM, in unison, that the vast majority of the people do not have the money or the inclination to buy goods and services.

“Is it not intriguing that the RBI Governor, the SEBI Chairman and the DEA Secretary should speak on the same day on the same subject? All three have tried to ‘talk up’ the economy. I wish the economy was a circus lion that would respond to the stick of the ringmaster!” Chidambaram mocked.

The former Finance Minister was criticising the statements made by the RBI Governor and the Economic Affairs Secretary.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das said on Wednesday that India is at the doorstep of a revival process from the ongoing pandemic.

Speaking at an event, he said that it is very important that the financial entities have adequate capital to support the growth. He noted that many of them have already raised capital while others are planning to do the same.

He said that after the pandemic is contained, the government will have to spell out a fiscal roadmap for the country.

Secretary, Economic Affairs, Tarun Bajaj on Wednesday said the Centre is open for further measures to boost the economy.

Participating at a CII event, he said that the government has received suggestions from various ministries and sectors on the needed measures.

Bajaj also said that while preparing the next Union Budget, the government would be looking at expenditure for this year and the requirements of various ministries.

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