Authors Posts by Babita Mittal

Babita Mittal

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In a major political realignment a year before General Elections, the Mayawati-led BSP has decided to back the Samajwadi Party in bypolls to Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the Lok Sabha seats vacated by Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath and deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, respectively.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will make an official announcement soon, but party sources said the decision was taken after a marathon meeting at Mayawati’s residence on Thursday.

The move marks a fresh attempt to form an anti-BJP alliance in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

It also marks a break from tradition for the BSP, which has never contested bypolls when in opposition. However, its absence in the recent Madhya Pradesh Assembly bypolls seems to have benefitted the BJP, with the Congress’ victory margin going down. Mayawati’s announcement of support to the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP may prevent a division of its vote bank.

However, the Congress, which allied with the SP for Assembly elections last year, has announced its own candidates on the two seats.

In Gorakhpur — a seat represented by Yogi Adityanath for five consecutive terms — the Samajwadi Party has fielded Praveen Kumar Nishad, the son of Nishad Party chief Sanjay Nishad, as its candidate. Nishad will take on the BJP’s Upendra Shukla and Congress leader Surhita Chatterjee Karim.

In Phulphur, the Samajwadi Party has fielded Nagendra Singh Patel, an OBC leader. Patel will contest against BJP candidate and fellow OBC leader Kaushlendra Singh Patel, who has also been Varanasi mayor. The Congress has fielded Manish Mishra for this seat.

Voting for both bypolls will be held on March 11, while counting of votes will be held on March 14.

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PNB is witnessing probably one of the biggest scams in banking history, opening a can of worms worth over Rs 11,300 crore (USD 1,771.69 million) for the banking sector.

Fraudulent transactions likely to have been going on for last seven years were unearthed by PNB — the second largest public sector bank and fourth largest lender by assets – at one of its Mumbai branches.

Foreign branches of at least two Indian banks including Axis Bank and Allahabad Bank are likely to have been caught in the fraud with an alleged credit offering given based on letters of undertaking (LOUs) issued by PNB  allegedly towards group companies of Nirav Modi and Gitanjali Gems.

These banks are said to have recalled the loans given based on the LoUs/FLCs (foreign letters of credit) issued on behalf companies of Gitanjali Gems — Gitanjali Gems, Gili India, Nakshatra — and to Nirav Modi Group firms which include Solar Exports, Stellar Diamonds & Diamonds DU.
Nirav Modi has foreign centres in Hong Kong, Dubai, and New York and has been availing buyers’ credit based on such LOUs from as early as 2010.

How does this work?

Typically, an LOU is a letter of comfort issued by one bank to branches of other banks, based on which foreign branches offer loans or credit to buyers. In this case, it is said the foreign branches of the above mentioned banks, which had relationships with the outlets of the jewellery companies, had given credit against the fraudulent LOU/FLC.

A senior PNB official said, “LOUs are basically just fallback arrangements. They are not direct instruments. The LOUs were given through SWIFT technology and none of the transactions were routed through its core banking solutions (CBS) to avoid detection.”

According to the official, “SWIFT is like a fax which is not integrated with the CBS. The concerned firm manipulated and used this technology to send the LOU with the help of some of our officials who gave access to the LOU fraudulently. The credit was then routed by those foreign branches to PNB through its Nostro account. The foreign bank receiving the message (through SWIFT) while discounting should do the due diligence because it does not show an entry in our system when it gets credited. We do not know the ultimate legal stance. Although there is some misutilisation of some of the facilities from our bank.”

One of the officials of a bank giving the credit said, “Our credit goes to PNB and not to the company. Based on the LOU, we have remitted the amount to the Nostro account of the bank. We have already reported the matter to the regulators.”

A letter dated February 12 by PNB to 30 banks, according to CNBC TV18 channel, said the fraud was detected on the retirement of the PNB branch official and there is a clear criminal connivance of group companies of Nirav Modi and Gitanjali Gems with PNB branch officials and also by officials of overseas branches of Indian banks.

The letter also pointed out that the RBI stipulated timeline of validity of LOUs for only 90 days from date of shipment was overlooked by overseas branches of Indian banks. The buyers credit against LOUs were used to retire import bills or replenish maturing credit.

Investigations

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may register case in the coming week and after that enforcement directorate will also take this matter up for further investigation.

Sources in the department told Moneycontrol, “In most of such cases, company use round tripping of the amount. In this case also, company may use round tripping facility which increases the amount value but actual amount involved is less as compare to total amount.”

Another source said, “It is hard to believe that junior level officers were authorised to sanction such high limit letter of undertaking. Investigation agency may open up old sanctioned files and authorised officers may also be under the scanner.” One former senior executive of PNB waiting to become the CEO of another bank is also under the scanner of the investigation agency.

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In 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) slogan ‘paanch saal Kejriwal’ found such resonance in Delhi that the party ended up rewriting electoral history by winning 67 of the 70 assembly seats.

As the party completes three years in power on Wednesday, the new slogan is ‘everything is possible’.

But, the AAP government, which had an eventful run in the Delhi Secretariat, has now learnt that everything may not be possible.

By sticking to measures such as cheap power and free water (up to 20 kilolitres a month) and implement the odd-even car rationing plan, the AAP has shown that it does not necessarily lack political will but often gets more busy in politics than implementation. The government has shown a lack of planning and application in checking pollution and strengthening the public transport system. It struggled to add a single bus to the DTC fleet and drew flak for knee-jerk proposals such as cloud seeding and water dispersal through helicopters. Other ideas, such as setting up its own power plant and giving people the choice of their power supplier, were junked since they were not doable.

Having crossed the halfway mark, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said governance in Delhi is now on the “fourth gear”. “Our main projects have been streamlined and approvals have been taken. Now, the stage is set for implementation. People will see results in next two years,” Sisodia said in an interview to Hindustan Times on January 23.

With its Mohalla Clinic health scheme and focus and investment in education, the AAP government did well on two fronts. But now, as it plans to implement its plans doorstep delivery of various services, installing CCTVs, and meeting the target of buying 10,000 buses for DTC as its next big targets, there are questions on whether it can walk the talk on these diverse targets in areas where it does not have a good track record.

Here is a look at the successes and failures of the AAP government in the past three years:

Environment and public transport

Risking public anger, the government went ahead with the odd-even scheme. Experts, however, described it as short-term measure with little impact. Other ideas to tackle pollution, such as cloud-seeding and sprinkling water from choppers were described as unnecessary.

According to environmentalist and EPCA member Sunita Narain, the actions taken by the government to combat air pollution were only temporary.

“Whatever actions that were taken were on the directions of the EPCA and these were short-term measures. Little has been done to improve public transport which is the key long-term solution to control air pollution,” she said.

The government has promised to bring 3,000 buses by the end of this year, which includes 2,000 non-AC standard floor buses and 1,000 electric buses. But, this would still not fulfil the target of at least 10,000 buses by December — a measure on which it has fallen woefully short.

Health

The Mohalla Clinic scheme has been appreciated by the likes of Kofi Annan, former secretary general of United Nations and Gro Harlem Brundtland, former director-general of World Health Organisation, as a move towards achieving better health coverage.

The government had planned to set up 1,000 clinics in Delhi – one in every 5km radius – but the expansion plans are crawling for the want of land from various agencies. Only 160 clinics are operational now.

“Urban primary healthcare is often a neglected subject, leading to people going to hospitals for minor ailments. This results in time loss for the patient and improper utilisation of hospital resources. Such neighbourhood clinics will also help in early detection and management of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. It will reduce the need for quacks among low-income communities,” said Dr K Srinath Reddy, the president of Public Health Foundation of India.

The government is also providing free surgeries and radio-diagnosis tests at empanelled private centres, if the service is unavailable or the waiting period is long at Delhi government hospitals.

Road and infrastructure

Narain and other experts say the AAP government has failed to redesign 10 roads and create infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. “It is high time that the government approaches Delhi’s mobility system differently,” she said.

The government, however, qassured that a progress report will be ready by next month. “We have five projects lined up for completion within the next one year. This includes second phase of Barapullah, Janakpuri flyover and ITO Skywalk,” a government spokesperson said.

Praveen Rai, a political analyst at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), said, “Roads need immediate attention. They are bumpy, uneven and full of potholes,” he said.

E-governance

Even though e-district services have started, applicants are still required to visit the office for verification of documents. Moreover, despite services being available online, majority of people still visit the SDM’s office due to lack of awareness. But the government hopes that its doorstep delivery of 40 services will improve the situation.

“A high priority agenda needs to be radical transparency in civic works and budgets at a street, mohalla and ward level, powered by GIS technology and mobile apps. This will build trust with citizens, make budgetary allocations fairer between neighbourhoods in the city and eventually ensure all citizens have a voice in budgets and get access to basic minimum quality of life,” said Srikanth Vishwanathan, CEO of the Janaagraha, an NGO.

Education

Last year, education minister Sisodia had said that they had looked at infrastructure in the first year, and teacher training in their second, and in their third year, their focus would be on creative learning methods. In its 2017-18 budget, the government allocated ₹11,300 crore, almost a quarter of its budget, to the education sector alone, to build 10,000 new classrooms and 400 new libraries among other things.

Educationists praised the newfound emphasis given to education, especially public education. But they expressed concerns over a few government programmes. Poonam Batra, a professor of education at the Delhi University and a member of last year’s teacher recruitment committee, appreciated the mentor teacher system, and the additional clerical support offered by retired personnel at government schools.

“It would require some systematic research to determine the kind of work they have done in these years… While a lot of it is good, certain policies and pedagogical changes are not OK. The streamlining of students into different groups (based on their academic progress) is a regressive step,” she said.

Atishi Marlena, the advisor to Sisodia, said, “We have focused on quality this year. The learning gaps were too huge, and we are developing better material to address this. We have also taken note of the importance of mental and emotional health of the students, which is why we introduced the happiness curriculum,” she said.

Water

Jyoti Sharma, water conservationist and president of NGO, Force, said the government’s efforts could be seen in the slums. “The free water scheme, despite its negatives, takes care of the availability issue. Rainwater harvesting and reviving water bodies were good initiatives but were not sustained,” Sharma said.

A government spokesperson said the CM was personally monitoring projects like providing water and sewer lines in unauthorised colonies and setting up mini-decentralised sewage treatment plants in all such colonies.

Yamuna

The ‘Maili Se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project’ has been marred by inordinate delays. Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, said, “Despite a clear roadmap set by NGT, the state has failed abysmally to implement any if its directions be it on reigning in pollution or safeguarding Yamuna’s floodplains.”

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New Delhi : Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi

Accusing the RSS of trying to “capture” every institution in the country, Congress President Rahul Gandhi today said it was a “particular ideologue” of the Sangh Parivar outfit who gave the idea of the notes ban to the Prime Minister.

“Do you know where the idea of note bandi (notes ban) came from? Do you know who gave the idea of note bandi to the Prime Minister of India? It was not RBI, it was not Arun Jaitley (Finance Minister), it was not an officer in the Finance Ministry,” Mr Gandhi said.

 “It was a particular ideologue of the RSS. Now you imagine the RSS places an idea into the Prime Minister’s mind and the Prime Minister launches that idea,” he said.

Suggesting it was the design of RSS and BJP, who are convinced that it is only they who know everything and are taking such “disastrous” decisions, he said even a child would say it was not a good idea to “destroy” Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes that allowed the corrupt to convert black money into white.

The Congress President was speaking during an interaction with professionals and business community on the last day of his four day ‘Janashirvad Yatra’, in the northern Karnataka region here.

Mr Gandhi also alleged that ministers in the NDA government were not operating independently, as RSS men were stationed in each ministry.

“In every single Ministry in India, national level there is an OSD (Officer on Special Duty) from RSS working with the Minister…In every Ministry in India, there is a man from RSS who works with the Minister. The Minister is not operating on his own,” he said.

Stating that the Ministers are being guided by RSS on what to do, he said “the approach is of capture, the approach is, here is an institution and let us capture it; as opposed to allowing an institution to serve the people of India and allowing the people of India to capture the institution.”

Noting that the Congress believes in the idea that institutions should be controlled by people, Mr Gandhi said the job of a political party is to run a political system and not to capture or run the institutions and shape them according to their beliefs.

“This is the fundamental conflict we have with BJP. Their idea is wherever they go they plant people with their ideology into that organization,” he said adding that the Congress’ idea is to “democratize” institutions, while BJP believes in “bureaucratizing” them.

During his interaction, Mr Gandhi also shared his vision of having many more women MPs and Chief Ministers in the country.

Stating that there are hardly any women in Parliament, Mr Gandhi said that the “first thing I feel is important and I can do it in the Congress party and I will do it in the Congress party, is to bring more and more ladies into the political system, into the Vidhan Sabha, into the Rajya Sabha.”

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India captain Virat Kohli described his team’s 73-run win in the 5th ODI against South Africa as a “complete performance”. The win enabled India to take a winning 4-1 lead in the six-match series, their first success in seven bilateral or multi-team series in South Africa. Kohli, however, vowed no let ups in the final ODI of the series. “We want to win 5-1 but there might be a scenario to give a few (other) guys a chance.” Kohli said with the series won using only 12 of India’s 17-man squad. “It’s a wonderful feeling to have created some history. The guys really got stuck in, with the bat and the ball and in the field as well.” Kohli said praising the effort of his team.

Rohit Sharma ended a personal South African hoodoo and set up a series win for India. The Mumbai batsman’s 115 was his first major innings in three tours of South Africa.

South Africa‘s chances of overhauling India’s 274 for seven plummeted when they lost their first three wickets inside the first 13 overs. Hardik Pandya struck crucial blows by dismissing JP Duminy and AB de Villiers.

Hashim Amla played a measured innings of 71 and shared partnerships of 62 with David Miller and 39 with Heinrich Klaasen. He was run out by a direct hit from Pandya, effectively ending the home team’s hopes.

Indian wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal were effective on a slow pitch, taking four and two wickets respectively.

Rohit’s 17th one-day international century ended a run of low scores in South Africa. In 19 previous innings across both Tests and one-day internationals, his previous highest score was 47 and he had scored only 249 runs at an average of 13.11.

He said he had ensured that he stayed in a good frame of mind despite not making big scores.

“I have been enjoying South Africa. It’s a good place to play cricket. I knew I didn’t have to change a lot and the runs would come,” he said.

With the series won, using only 12 of India’s 17-man squad, Kohli said: “We want to win 5-1 but there might be a scenario to give a few (other) guys a chance.”

Although he was the mainstay of the innings, Sharma was at least partially complicit in two run-outs, both of which happened after he sent his batting partner back.

The first run-out accounted for captain Kohli, who made 36 — his lowest score of the series — in a second wicket stand of 105 with Rohit. Kohli called Sharma through for a risky single, then could not beat JP Duminy’s direct hit at the bowler’s end.

Ajinkya Rahane was the second run-out victim, playing a ball to mid-on and almost reaching the other end of the pitch before realizing Sharma was refusing a run.

Rohit hit 11 fours and four sixes in his 126-ball innings but should have been caught on 96 when Tabraiz Shamsi dropped a straightforward offering at third man off Kagiso Rabada.

Rohit’s 17th one-day international century ended a run of low scores in South Africa. In 19 previous innings across both Tests and one-day internationals, his previous highest score was 47 and he had scored only 249 runs at an average of 13.11.

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Four Professors of IIT-Kanpur got a reprieve from the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday when it stayed action against them in connection with harassment...

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