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Achhe din? Maharashtra’s BJP minister Pankaja Munde embroiled in Rs.2 bn scam

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Image courtesy DNA
Image courtesy DNA

 

Mumbai: Maharashtra’s Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde was on Wednesday embroiled in a controversy involving alleged irregularities in awarding contracts worth Rs.206 crore (Rs.2.06 billion) with the Congress demanding a CBI probe in the matter.

The minister — daughter of union minister Gopinath Munde who died in a road accident in New Delhi last year — is accused of doling out the multi-crore-rupee contracts through multiple Government Resolutions (GRs) on a single day (February 13) instead of adopting the e-tendering or tender route.

Among the allegations against Munde are irregularities in awarding contracts for workbooks for students, water filters, growth monitoring machines for malnourished kids, medicines and ‘chikkis’ (sweets cookies with nuts and dry fruits in a jaggery base).

Presently in the US, Munde rubbished all allegations in an email statement and claimed that some of her dynamic decisions as minister to reduce corruption have upset some “money-minded bunch of people”.

“I have not broken any rules, as far as I am concerned… I also do not fear any allegations. I’m here to do the best for those kids and women and I will do it,” Munde said.

Not satisfied with the explanation, Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant lodged a formal complaint with the state Anti-Corruption Bureau demanding a probe into the allegations against Munde.

Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan termed the matter as serious and urged the government to hand it over to the Central Bureau of Investigation for a probe.

As per the state government’s norms set in December 2014, e-tendering is a must for all contracts in excess of Rs.3 lakh and in cases where the rates were fixed, e-tendering was mandatory for contracts worth Rs.1 crore since April this year.

A clarification issued by her department said the purchases were made under the rates approved by the central government’s director general of supplies and disposals.

The note also said that in view of the approved rates, there was no need for e-tendering and although e-tendering was a must since April for all such contract exceeding Rs.1 crore, the contracts in question were awarded during the previous financial year (2014-2015).

Among the irregularities Munde is accused of are a contract to a Navi Mumbai-based firm for students’ workbooks worth Rs.5.6 crore with the cheque issued to its proprietor in his personal capacity, and an approval to purchase water filters from a Nashik-based company at Rs.4,500 per unit — but Munde allegedly hiked the cost to Rs.5,200 per unit, although the company had no manufacturing facilities and was to outsource the product, violating government norms.

Besides, two separate orders were issued to purchase growth monitoring machines, used to weigh undernourished kids, and awarded to two separate parties at a cost of Rs.18 crore and Rs.6 crore, respectively, and approval of a medical kit at Rs.720 per unit — but since the provision was for only Rs.500 per kit, the supplier was allegedly permitted to reduce the number of medicines in the kit to keep it within the limit.

The last one was a contract to purchase ‘chikkis’ from a women’s NGO based in Sindhudurg at a cost of Rs.37 crore, which was allegedly hiked by Munde to Rs.75 crore, though the NGOs manufacturing facilities were not ascertained.

Referring to this, the departmental statement said that contrary to media reports (not IANS), the contract was not for ‘chikkis’ worth Rs.114 crore but Rs.52 crore and Rs.23 crore for two different varieties.

Another Rs.41 crore has been directly disbursed in advance to the ‘aanganwadis’ for buying eggs and bananas for children.

There has been no reaction from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on the allegations clouding his cabinet colleague, though some minister have defended Munde who was once a chief ministerial candidate.

(IANS)

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Anti-Punjab Conspiracy: Apologise to Punjabis for Branding them as Drug Addicts, Demands Akali Dal to Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal

A survey by PGIMER had revealed that drugs abuse in Punjab was just around one per cent of the 2.8 crore population in the state

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Punjab
Sukhbir Singh Badal, President of Akali Dal in Punjab. Wikimedia

Chandigarh, Sep 11, 2017: Punjab’s opposition Akali Dal on Sunday said that latest findings of PGIMER survey listing drug addiction in the state at less than a per cent had yet again nailed the “anti-Punjab conspiracy” of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and demanded they apologise to the people.

“The latest comprehensive survey which was carried out in all 22 districts as well as 22 villages in each district, had exposed the anti-Punjab conspiracy of Rahul Gandhi and his team as well as that of AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal,” SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal said in a statement here.

“Both leaders and their parties should now tell Punjabis why they branded them as drug addicts and tender an unconditional apology to the people of the state.”

Claiming that the “entire conspiracy was hatched to counter the development narrative of the previous SAD-BJP government”, Badal said though the Congress had succeeded in its goal of achieving power in Punjab, it had caused incalculable damage to its people and its economy.

“Both Congress and AAP played with the lives of the youth and made them virtually unhireable. The image distortion also dented the image of Punjab and Punjabis worldwide,” he said.

Highlighting Rahul Gandhi’s “nefarious role in this sordid chapter of Punjab politics”, Badal said he was “definitely the villain-in-chief”.

“Rahul uttered an utter lie to reap political mileage for his flagging party by claiming in October 2012 at a NSUI function in Chandigarh that 70 per cent of the state’s youth were drug addicts.

“This despite the fact that he knew well that he was reading out a sample survey of drug addicts of which youth formed a big share,” he said.

“During the Punjab assembly campaign this year, he insisted he was speaking the truth and even had the gall to ask Punjabis to admit they were drug addicts. Such behaviour coming from the chosen scion of the Gandhi dynasty is shameful,” he added.

A survey done by a team of doctors and researchers of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research had revealed that drugs abuse in Punjab was just around one per cent of the 2.8 crore population in the state.

Badal said that Aam Aadmi Party leader Kejriwal and “his gang of outsiders had also tried to doom the future of the youth by claiming 40 lakh youth were drug addicts”.

“The PGIMER report puts the entire number of addicts in the state at 2.7 lakh. Other reports, included that conducted by AIIMS, had come out with even lower figures than this,” he added.

A detailed survey by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi had put the drug addiction at 0.84 per cent.

“The Punjab government also got a dope test conducted on 3.76 lakh youth who presented themselves for police recruitment. The test, which was conducted by the Baba Farid Health Sciences University, saw only 1.27 per cent candidates testing positive,” Badal said, citing a survey done during the Akali government last year. (IANS)

 

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Inside ‘Pitaji’ Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s ‘Gufa’, ‘Pardon’ meant Rape

Sadhvis of the controversial Dera Sacha Sauda sect were forced to seek 'mafi' (pardon) from its chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. The 'mafi' turned out to be rape.

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Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
DSS chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. IANS

Chandigarh, September 8, 2017 : Female disciples or ‘sadhvis’ of the controversial Dera Sacha Sauda sect were forced to seek ‘mafi’ (pardon) from its chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, at his whims and fancies. For those who did not know what ‘mafi’ meant, it turned to be rape by the man whom they considered their god.

These gory details have emerged in the judgment which recently convicted Ram Rahim for the rape of two female disciples in 1999.

The DSS chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who turned 50 last month, was sentenced by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court judge Jagdeep Singh to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment — 10 years for each count of rape.

Investigations by the CBI, as quoted in the judgment, describe a ‘gufa’ (cave) of the accused inside the sprawling 600-acre campus of the DSS sect near Sirsa town in Haryana.

One of the rape victims told the court and the CBI that she heard of the word ‘mafi’ from other sadhvis.

“The other sadhvis used to ask her (Victim A) as to whether ‘pitaji’ (father, as Ram Rahim is referred to by his followers) had granted ‘mafi’ to her or not, but at that time she did not understand the meaning of the word. When she used to ask from them as to what was the meaning of ‘mafi, they used to laugh at her,” the judgment, quoting the statement of one of the rape victims, said.

It was on the night of August 28, 1999, that the victim was taken by DSS ashram in-charge Sudesh to the ‘gufa’ of the self-styled godman. The victim gave details of what happened inside the gufa and how she was raped by the person whom she considered her god.

The victim said that Ram Rahim told her that she had become ‘apavitar’ (unholy) because of her past deeds and that he was going to purify her. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was watching a porn film when the victim entered his room, even had a pistol on the bed to intimidate her. After committing the rape, he warned her against relating the incident to anyone, failing which she and her family would be eliminated.

The same victim was again raped by the sect chief after a year.

Almost a similar modus operandi was adopted while committing rape on Victim-B in September 1999.

The CBI investigation revealed that out of the 133 sadhvis residing in two hostels of the DSS campuses, 24 had left during 1997-2002. The CBI, which was entrusted the inquiry into happenings at the DSS campus after an anonymous letter of rape and sexual exploitation of sadhvis by the sect chief emerged in 2002, could trace only 18 sadhvis who had faced exploitation during their stay.

“Both the prosecutrix, i.e. prosecutrix-A and prosecutrix-B, have stood like rocks and credibility of these witnesses/victims could not be impeached despite very lengthy cross-examination and they have consistently deposed that they were ravished by the accused while residing in the Dera campus,” the 167-page conviction judgment noted. (IANS)

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Top 10 highlights of Abu Salem sentencing for the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case: Abu Salem gets life sentence, Feroz Khan and Tahir Merchant gets death penalty

The duration of punishment for the alleged gangsters of the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts - Abu Salem, Taher Merchant, Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan, Karimullah Khan, and Riyaz Siddiqui was announced today

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Highlights of Abu Salem’s sentencing
Highlights of Abu Salem’s sentencing. IANS

New Delhi, September 7, 2017: It has been 24 years since the atrocious 1993 Mumbai serial blasts happened. Finally, a special Terrorist and Disruptive Activity (TADA) Court court in Mumbai announced today the duration of sentence against the gangster Abu Salem and four other convicts- Taher Merchant, Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan, Riyaz Siddiqui, Karimullah Khan. Abu Salem and Karimullah Khan were given life imprisonment by the court whereas Feroz Khan and Tahir Merchant were given a death sentence. Riyaz Siddiqui is given 10 years of imprisonment.

Also Read: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

The mastermind behind the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case was Mustafa Dossa, the blasts took lives of 257 people and injured 713 others. On 16th June 2017, Mustafa Dossa was convicted by the Court. But, the case against Mustafa Dossa was later closed as on June 28 he died due to a fatal cardiac arrest while the sentencing arguments were in the process in court. The CBI did claim that Mustafa Dossa’s role in the Mumbai serial blasts was “more severe” than Yakub Memon (he was hanged in July 2015 in the same case). The other claim made by CBI was that the “main conspirators” were Mustafa Dossa, Taher Merchant, and Feroz Khan.

Top 10 Highlights of Abu Salem’s sentencing:

  • The court said that Abu Salem’s ‘close proximity’ to chief conspirators of the case Anees Ibrahim (Dawood Ibrahim’s brother) and Mustafa Dossa, made him transport and conceal arms and ammunition at various places.
  • The court said, “Feroz Khan is not Hamza Khan as claimed by him. He is the same Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan, who was declared a proclaimed offender in this case in 1993.” The court noted that Feroz was in fact ‘a prominent member’ of the Dossa gang and was also ‘actively involved’ in smuggling of arms and ammunition to India.
  • According to ANI reports, Ujjwal Nikam, Public Prosecutor said: “Convicts will get set-off for the time they have served in jail.”
  • Abu Salem and Karimullah Khan were sentenced to life imprisonment due to 2 separate counts each. The court ordered Salem and Karimullah to pay Rs 2 lakh fine.
  • Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan and Tahir Merchant were given the death sentence. As per CBI, “Feroz and Tahir were the main conspirators.”
  • Riyaz Siddiqui was given 10 years of imprisonment. He had been found not guilty of conspiracy but was convicted under section 3 (3) of the TADA(P) Act as he provided a vehicle to Abu Salem for transporting the vehicles.
  • Abu Salem was sentenced to life imprisonment by TADA court on charges of conspiracy and murder which were proven against him. After him, Karimullah Khan was sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • The death penalty could not be awarded to Abu Salem as he was extradited from Portugal in 2005 and India had signed an extradition agreement with Portugal.
  • “The TADA court had earlier convicted all of them except Riyaz Siddiqui under charges including murder, criminal conspiracy and other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) – TADA Act, Explosive Substances Act, Explosives Act and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) asked for a death sentence for Feroz, Merchant, and Karimullah, and for Salem and Siddiqui- life imprisonment.

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