Wednesday October 18, 2017
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Uttarakhand flood scam: How govt officials made merry over dead bodies

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By Harshmeet Singh

“Nero fiddled while Rome burned” isn’t a thing of history anymore. Some Government officials in Uttarakhand have actually demonstrated the true meaning of the phrase.

If you thought scams worth crores only take place inside closed doors of corporate offices with high level conspiracy meetings, the last couple of days would have come as a major surprise to you. The RTI query filed by Bhupendra Kumar of National Action Forum for Social Justice brought back the memories of one of the most devastating natural disasters to have hit the state of Uttarakhand. Unfortunately, these memories only serve as a reminder of government officials’ affinity towards scams and public money.

In 2013, the flash floods in Uttarakhand claimed over 5,000 lives. The heart wrenching scenes of boulders and water running towards people at a speed of several miles are still fresh in the minds. Soon after the weather cleared, the government machineries and insurance companies got into the act and sent their officials for relief work. As per the reply received by Bhupendra Kumar, these officials stayed in 5-star hotels which charged tariffs in excess of Rs 7,000 per day. If that wasn’t enough, the bills submitted by the officials show half litre milk being purchased at Rs 194! The other delicacies in the menu for the officials included Mutton, cottage cheese and gulab jamuns! These scrumptious meals were served to the officials at a time when thousands of people were stranded without food and water at many places for multiple days.

The other bills that were shamelessly submitted by the officials included diesel bills for scooter and motorcycles! Severe irregularities were also reported in the relief funds given to the people. A number of affected persons were given the relief amount twice.

State’s Chief Minister, Harish Rawat accepted the scam and told PTI, “I have ordered an inquiry into the allegations under the Chief Secretary. I can assure you that not a single guilty officer will be spared. These are serious allegations and if found true most strict action will be taken against the erring officials by the Government,”

Not impressed with Rawat’s statement, Ajat Bhatt, state’s opposition leader remarked, “If the state government has even an iota of morality left in it, it should recommend a CBI probe into the scam and resign owning moral responsibility for the ugly loot of money meant for people struck by an unprecedented tragedy.”

This has further added to the long list of scams under the Congress rule in the past decade or so. Interestingly, many media houses and the BJP have been continuously indicating that the Uttarakhand relief operations are turning into an ideal breeding ground for financial irregularities, but much like the other scams under its Governments, Congress decided to turn a blind eye towards these allegations.

Not the first time!

This isn’t the first instance of officials making merry over dead bodies. In 2004, Bihar was hit by one of the worst floods in its history, which caused close to 900 deaths. An investigation by a leading newspaper revealed that relief funds worth Rs 17 crore were untraceable with no authority having any answers. Gautam Goswami, Patna’s erstwhile district magistrate was suspected to have played a major role in siphoning off the funds. Embarrassingly enough, he was given the title of ‘Young Asian Hero’ by Time magazine for his outstanding contribution in the relief work in Bihar! Goswami died in 2009 due to pancreatic cancer. Among the other people involved in this scam was Sadhu Yadav, Lalu Prasad’s brother-in-law.

Our past experience with the scam gives enough indications about the future course of action. After years of enquiry and tens of charge sheets, a list of accused would come out. And it won’t be before a couple of decades at least that all judicial processes are over. By then, most probably, the main accused would be dead, thus bringing an end to another scam. While there are hardly any precedents to make us think otherwise, it would indeed be a pleasant surprise if, for once, our expectations are defeated and perpetrators are brought to book swiftly!

 

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Journalist Behind the Panama Papers Killed in a Car Bomb

Caruana Galizia was recently described by the American news outlet Politico as a "one-woman WikiLeaks".

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Daphne Caruana Galizia died on Monday when her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful explosive device. (Representative image) Pixabay

Valletta, October 17, 2017 : A journalist who led the Panama Papers probe into corruption in Malta was killed on Monday in a car bomb near her residence, the media reported.

Daphne Caruana Galizia died on Monday when her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful explosive device, reports the Guardian.

A blogger whose posts often attracted more readers than the combined circulation of the country’s newspapers, Caruana Galizia was recently described by the American news outlet Politico as a “one-woman WikiLeaks”.

Her latest revelations accused Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and two of his closest aides, connecting offshore companies linked to the three men with the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the government of Azerbaijan.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack, the Guardian reported.

Malta’s President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, called for calm. “In these moments, when the country is shocked by such a vicious attack, I call on everyone to measure their words, to not pass judgement and to show solidarity.”

ALSO READ Not Just Journalist Ram Chandra Chhatrapati, these 9 People too Bore the Brunt of Speaking Truth to Fight Corruption

In a statement, Muscat condemned the “barbaric attack”.

“Everyone knows Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine,” said Muscat, adding “Both politically and personally, but nobody can justify this barbaric act in any way.”

He announced in parliament later on Monday that Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officers were on their way to Malta to assist with the investigation, following his request for help from the US government.

According to local media reports, Caruana Galizia filed a police report 15 days ago to say that she had been receiving death threats.

The journalist posted her final blog on her Running Commentary website at 2.35 p.m. on Monday, and the explosion, which occurred near her home, was reported to police just after 3 p.m.

Over the last two years, her reporting had largely focused on revelations from the Panama Papers, a cache of 11.5 million documents leaked from the internal database of the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. (IANS)

 

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Amit Shah Rejects Allegation of Money Laundering on Son Jay Shah

"Where has money laundering been done? All the transactions happened through cheques and banks," claimed Amit Shah at an event.

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Amit Shah, BJP National President. Wikimedia

Ahmedabad, October 13, 2017 : Breaking his silence, BJP president Amit Shah rejected allegations of money laundering against his son Jay Shah whose company had reportedly recorded an extraordinary spike in business after the BJP came to power at the Centre, and asserted that it had not done any business with the government nor taken any kickbacks.

He also said that unlike the Congress, which had faced many corruption charges in the past, his son has shown courage to file a civil and criminal defamation suit on the allegations levelled against him and “invited a probe against himself” by this step.

“There is no money laundering involved in Jay’s company. This company is completely in commodity business, where turnover is more while the profit is less. We have exported bajra, corn and rice while coriander was imported. And after doing a turnover of Rs 80 crore, they don’t tell how much they made profit,” Amit Shah said at an “India Today” event “Gujarat Panchayat”.

Answering questions, he said that after making a turnover of Rs 80 crore, Jay made a loss of Rs 1.5 crore. “Where has money laundering been done? All the transactions happened through cheques and banks,” he said.

Asked about Jay Shah filing a defamation suit against the publication, Shah said: “Before answering your question I would like to ask you one thing. After Independence, how many corruption charges have been made against the Congress?

“Please understand this is not corruption. Many allegations of corruption were made against the Congress. Did it ever file a civil suit or defamation suit? No. Why they lacked such courage? Today Jay has filed a defamation as well as civil suit and is demanding a probe himself. Those who have the evidence can submit it to the court, and then the court will decide,” the BJP president said.

He said: “We have ourselves invited a probe and on the company issue I want to clarify that it has not done business with the government of even Re 1 nor taken any government land or tender. Neither has it received kickbacks as in the case of Bofors.”

When asked about Jay’s company securing unsecured loans, Shah said it was not unsecured loans. “It was a line of credit,” he added. (IANS)

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PM Modi is Optimistic about NDA’s Reforms to Boost Up Indian Economy

Lashing out at the critics, the Prime Minister elucidated about his government’s firm determination to boost up India’s economy. Admitting the economic plummet witnessed during the span of April-June, Modi declared that his government was devoted to back-pedal the mishaps due to the structural reforms of the economy. Let us look at what PM Modi said in his speech.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia

After facing severe criticisms over economic deceleration for a very long time, Modi finally broke his silence while addressing the Golden Jubilee Year Celebrations of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) in Delhi. Lashing out at the critics, the Prime Minister elucidated about his government’s firm determination to boost up Indian Economy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetization policy brought down the country’s GDP growth rate to a mere 6.1%. The implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) added to the plight of already sick Indian economy.

Admitting the economic plummet witnessed during the span of April-June, Modi declared that his government was devoted to back-pedal the mishaps due to the structural reforms of the Indian economy. Let us look at what PM Modi said in his speech.

On Economic Reforms

PM Modi was very straightforward to acknowledge the economic slump caused. He assured that the BJP government was capable of reversing the trend and would take important decisions in that direction. Further, the Prime Minister informed that a cleanliness campaign has been started to remove the people who try to undermine the nation’s unity and integrity. Under this cleanliness campaign, a Special Investigation Team (STI) has started working ever since the Modi government came to power.

On Critics

Welcoming the constructive criticisms, Modi declared that his government is sensitive enough to accept the prevailing denigrations in the Indian economy and are rectifying their mistakes. The Prime Minister opined that people have the right to criticize the wrong, but one should restrain from fabricating an environment of panic in the country. Further, he added that his government has started working towards the “development of new India, new culture, new celebration, and new traditions.” Some people do not welcome the reforms even though they are good for the nation simply because they are anti-BJP. “People who sleep well only after spreading pessimism about government’s economic reforms need to be combated”, emphasized Modi.

Past Economic Deceleration

After achieving a whopping growth of 7.5% over the last three years, Modi acknowledged that the growth rates dropped sharply in April-June but the BJP government would not sit back until putting Indian economy on firm footing. While addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister recalled a time when Indian economy growth rate was as low as 0.2% under the previous government thereby emphasizing the fact that India can recover from the economic sluggishness.

Mainstreaming Informal Sector

Encouraging the movement from the informal sector to mainstream economy, PM Modi assured, “People coming to mainstream fear that their old records may be reopened. We will not let that happen because earlier their old way of business was necessitated by prevailing circumstances. Nothing is more sinful than blocking those who want to come to the mainstream. Let bygones be bygones.”

On Doklam

Many people opined that the BJP Government would not be able to handle the Doklam crisis. Describing the censurers as hypocrites, Modi elucidated that “when the economic growth is favorable, it is the same people who like the institutes and process; but the moment situation becomes unfavorable to them, they say that the system is not right, the process is not right, people working in it are not right and just accuse people.” The Prime Minister also held the view that before drawing any conclusion, it is imperative to identify these people at once.

On Transport System

Modi made a comparative study of the BJP government with the previous ones. He argued that in its last three years, the UPA government constructed National Highways spanning an area of 15,000km while the period under his government has witnessed the construction of more than 34,000km National Highways. As far as the construction sector is concerned, Modi claimed that the total number of foreign investment has increased by 75% from 2014-2017. The foreign direct investment in the air transport sector has also registered a growth by 69% in the past three years. Likewise, in the mining sector, there has been an increase by 56%.
The Prime Minister also told that the BJP government is trying to increase the speed of development while creating a large number of job opportunities. He added that the government knows the value of the hard-earned money and thus their policies are aimed at improving the lives of poor and middle class. Moreover, most of the government schemes are launched to empower the poor. What affects them the most is corruption and black money estimated Modi.

– Prepared by Mohima Haque of Newsgram
Twitter: mohimahaque26

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