India: At Bengal rally, PM Modi stings Mamata with an offer of a drawing

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

At Bengal rally, PM Modi stings Mamata with an offer of a drawing

Both the BJP and Trinamool have blamed each other for the violence at Amit Shah’s roadshow on Tuesday evening. A statue of renowned Bengal reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, was destroyed and a college named after him ransacked in the violence.

LOK SABHA ELECTIONS Updated: May 15, 2019 19:05 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
At a rally in Basirhat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee appeared to have lost her mental balance when she claimed that she did not consider Modi as India’s Prime Minister.(ANI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday stepped up his party’s attacks on Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a rally in Bengal’s Basirhat, accusing Trinamool Congress of letting its goons loose because the party was scared of its defeat in the national elections.

“The BJP wave in Bengal has scared Didi and look to what level she has stooped,” PM Modi said, blaming her party for the violence at his party president Amit Shah’s Kolkata roadshow. A statue of renowned Bengal reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, was destroyed and a college named after him ransacked in last evening’s violence, which the BJP and Trinamool leaders have angrily blamed on each other.

“Mamata Banerjee is high on power and wants to strangle democracy… Mamata Didi had declared publicly two days ago that she will avenge every inch of space that she loses to the BJP…. She has fulfilled her agenda within 24 hours,” he said.

Also read:Amit Shah blames Mamata for roadshow violence, holds up 3 photos as proof

PM Modi also panned the chief minister for the arrest of a youth BJP leader in Bengal for sharing Mamata Banerjee’s morphed photo on social media. Her arrest has already been criticised by the BJP which has sought to use the incident to project Mamata Banerjee as a dictator.

WATCH: Mamata meme row: BJP worker alleges delayed release, forced apology

Mamata meme row: BJP worker alleges delayed release, forced apology
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) youth wing worker Priyanka Sharma on Wednesday alleged that the West Bengal government delayed her release. She added that the police didn’t allow her to meet her advocate, family and made her sign an apology.
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The prime minister recalled Mamata Banerjee’s outburst at two students who asked her an inconvenient question at a televised interaction. Then he came up with an offer.

“You can draw my picture… make it as offensive as you want and after 23 May when I win, you can come over to gift it to me,” PM Modi said at the rally. Moments earlier, the prime minister had predicted his victory in the national elections and declared that Bengal would contribute a big share.

“I will accept the drawing and treasure it… I will not file an FIR against you,” PM Modi said.

Basirhat, which is due to vote on May 19 along with eight other Bengal Lok Sabha seats, had been a citadel of the communists for three decades before Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool breached it in 2009.

Communal violence had erupted in some parts of this constituency in July 2017 after a derogatory social media post on the Prophet Mohammad went viral. The violence was ultimately contained after a week but some of the fault lines have persisted.

The votes of the bitterly-fought seven-phase elections are due to be counted on May 23.

PM Modi, who had described Mamata Banerjee as someone who was afraid of her own shadow, said the chief minister appeared to have “crossed all limits and lost her mental balance” when she recently said that she did not consider Modi the Prime Minister.

“She is not ready to consider the Prime Minister of India as the PM… but she accepts the PM of Pakistan as Pak PM,” he said.

First Published: May 15, 2019 16:45 IST

India: Decision on oil purchase after Lok sabha polls, India tells Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Decision on oil purchase after Lok sabha polls, India tells Iran

The US decision to end exemptions to sanctions on Iranian oil imports on May 2 has hit India.

BUSINESS Updated: May 14, 2019 23:46 IST

Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Tehran was among New Delhi’s top three energy suppliers, providing 23.6 million tonnes of oil last year, or about 10% of the country’s energy needs.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj informed her Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif on Tuesday that a decision on purchasing Iranian oil in the face of US sanctions will be made after the conclusion of India’s general election, people familiar with developments said.

Iranian oil exports and Tehran’s approach to recent developments in the region, including tensions between Iran and the US over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iranian nuclear deal, figured in the discussions between Zarif and Swaraj.

Zarif arrived in New Delhi late on Monday for a previously unscheduled visit to lobby for India’s support against the backdrop of the Iran-US tensions. He last visited India in January, and the current trip was organised at short notice at Zarif’s request, the people cited above said.

When Zarif raised the purchase of oil from Iran, Swaraj reiterated India’s position that a decision will be made after the general elections while keeping in mind the country’s “commercial considerations, energy security and economic interests”, the people said.

The US decision to end exemptions to sanctions on Iranian oil imports on May 2 has hit India. Tehran was among New Delhi’s top three energy suppliers, providing 23.6 million tonnes of oil last year, or about 10% of the country’s energy needs.

The sanctions were imposed after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Zarif briefed the Indian side on Iran’s approach to developments in the region, including on JCPOA, and also reviewed bilateral cooperation.

The outreach to India, he explained, was part of Iran’s consultations with key countries, including Russia, China, Turkmenistan and Iraq, over the past few days.

The impact of the sanctions on Iranian oil exports, the country’s main revenue earner, prompted Tehran to threaten last week that it would roll back its compliance with the nuclear deal.

Zarif referred to President Hassan Rouhani’s announcement on May 8 about Iran keeping larger amounts of enriched uranium and heavy water, instead of exporting the excess as required under the JCPOA. He also mentioned the 60-day timeline given to the EU3 (France, Germany, the UK) and other parties to the JCPOA (China and Russia) for restoring oil exports and banking channels.

The Indian side, the people said, reiterated its position that New Delhi would like all parties to the JCPOA to continue to fulfil their commitments and engage constructively and resolve issues peacefully through dialogue.

Both sides expressed satisfaction at the operationalisation of an interim contract between India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) and Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) for the development Chabahar port. They also discussed Afghanistan and agreed to “maintain close coordination on the evolving situation”, the people said.

First Published: May 14, 2019 22:32 IST

Pak blinks, offers ‘moratorium’ on artillery firing to ease LoC tensions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Pak blinks, offers ‘moratorium’ on artillery firing to ease LoC tensions

Pakistan has offered to remove its Special Service Group (SSG) – the special forces of Pakistan – from the LoC and even suggested a “moratorium on the artillery fire from both sides,” a report sent to the Prime Minister’s Office said.

INDIA Updated: May 11, 2019 16:31 IST

Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Hindustan times, New Delhi
LoC tension,Pakistan,Special Service group
The government had warned the Indian Army and especially the Corps Commanders to take “adequate precautions” to prevent cross-border raids by the Pakistani army after the Pulwama suicide attack. (Photo by Nitin Kanotra / Hindustan Times)

Islamabad has blinked first in the staring battle along the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border between India and Pakistan. Under sustained pressure from India, Pakistan has offered to de-escalate tensions along the LoC . The offer to India was made by the Pakistani military “through the institutionalised military channels of communication between the two sides,” a senior official in the Indian security establishment said on condition of anonymity.

The Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries are regularly in touch and HT learns that the offer may have come during such an interaction.

Pakistan has offered to remove its Special Service Group (SSG) – the special forces of Pakistan – from the LoC and even suggested a “moratorium on the artillery fire from both sides,” a report sent to the Prime Minister’s Office said. HT has seen a copy of the report.

After the Pulwama suicide car bomb attack by a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist on February 26, which left 40 troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) dead and led to the subsequent air strikes by the Indian Air Force on Jaish’s training camp at Balakot in Pakistan, Islamabad moved special forces and troops along the LoC and the border and “maintained a precautionary deployment”.

India’s pressure on Pakistan was not just along the border, but diplomatic as well. With the US, UK, and France backing India, China agreed to remove its so-called “technical hold” on declaring Maulana Masood Azhar, the emir of JeM, a global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council. Simultaneously, India is also pushing the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF), a global body that watches money laundering and terror funding, to blacklist Pakistan.

In the report, the Indian Army has said that there have been “no infiltration attempts,” and “no attempt to (carry out) cross border tactical action since the Pulwama terror attack.” Interestingly, terror launch pads along the LoC, from which terrorists infiltrate India are empty. “Terror infrastructure in close vicinity of the LoC has been temporarily closed due to overall pressure being maintained on Pakistan,” the Indian Army added in the report.

The thinning out of terror launch pads were reported “from active areas like Poonch and Rajouri as well,” a senior defence ministry official said, asking not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “These are clear on-ground signals from Pakistan for de-escalation.” Recently, when formations along the LoC also repaired bunkers –an annual feature to prepare for the monsoons– the “Pakistan army didn’t interfere,” the official added.

The government had warned the Indian Army and especially the Corps Commanders to take “adequate precautions” to prevent cross-border raids by the Pakistani army after the Pulwama suicide attack. And, while the Indian Air Force was planning air strikes, the Indian Army reinforced its positions along the border and adopted an aggressive posture all along the LoC and the international border. “There were over 100 instances when artillery was used,” the official said and added that “the use of artillery has considerably reduced now.” Pakistan army positions along the border from where Border Action Teams could be launched into India were especially targeted. “In the initial days, several Pakistan Army positions were destroyed, and we have not allowed them to rebuild or these positions,” a second senior official in the ministry of defence said on condition of anonymity.

First Published: May 11, 2019 07:13 IST

India in for drier, hotter summer

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

India in for drier, hotter summer

According to figures released by the Central Water Commission on Friday, 91 of the major reservoirs across the country are holding an average of 25% of their capacity.

INDIA Updated: May 11, 2019 07:36 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
summer,summers in India,Pre-monsoon rainfall
Many parts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are facing a drought-like situation despite the 2018 south-west monsoon bringing ample rainfall, experts said. (Diwakar Prasad/ HT Photo)

Pre-monsoon rainfall has been 21% below the long-period average (LPA) of 82.5mm between March 1 and May 8, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). North-west India, with a rain deficit of 37%, and peninsular India, with a shortfall of 39%, bore the brunt.

Rainfall triggered by cyclone Fani earlier this month managed to bridge the deficit in central, east and north-east India, which have now recorded normal pre-monsoon rains, according to data put out by IMD in its weather status report released on Friday. Central India has experienced 15% surplus rain over the LPA, mainly due to showers in the past one week.

Even so, extreme heat waves in most parts of India would mean large swathes of the country will remain dry before sowing begins in June for the Kharif crop with the onset of the south-west monsoon, which is critical in India, where nearly half the population is dependent on farming and 60% of the net-sown area does not have any form of irrigation.

Millions of farmers wait for the rains to begin summer sowing of major crops, such as rice, sugar, cotton, coarse cereals and oilseeds. Half of India’s farm output comes from summer crops dependent on these rains.

Many parts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are facing a drought-like situation despite the 2018 south-west monsoon bringing ample rainfall, experts said.

Also read: Dust storm, light rain may lower temperature over the weekend

“The water level in big dams this year is 10-15% less than previous years despite many of the regions receiving good rainfall last year,” said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

According to figures released by the Central Water Commission on Friday, 91 of the major reservoirs across the country are holding an average of 25% of their capacity.

Concerns of a weak monsoon this year have been fanned by a lingering El Niño, a weather phenomenon characterised by warm ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that is associated with poor rainfall and more episodes of heat waves in the subcontinent.

An update by private weather forecaster Skymet Weather said on Thursday that after tapering down slightly during April, El Niño indices have risen again in the last two weeks although the increase has been marginal.

“During the beginning of monsoon, there is a 60% chance of El Niño conditions remaining steady. This is why we are expecting monsoon rain to be below normal in June and then gradually becoming normal in the latter part of July and August,” said Mahesh Palawat, vice president (meteorology and climate change), Skymet Weather. Deficient pre-monsoon rains and a weak beginning to the monsoon could have an impact on summer crop sowing, which may be compounded by deficient rainfall.

For a bountiful crop, the rains also need to be evenly distributed across regions. Robust summer rains, which account for 70% of India’s total annual rainfall, spur rural spending on most items and increases demand in other sectors of the economy. Rural sales, for instance, account for about 48% of all motorcycles and 44% of television sets sold annually if the monsoon is normal.

Also read: Heat wave conditions prevail in North India

Officials at IMD, however, said concerns about El Niño are premature. “El Niño conditions have definitely not gone up. June onwards, it will move towards neutral El Niño conditions. We don’t expect El Niño to amplify. At the most, there will be a sluggish start to the monsoon but it will not be detrimental in any way,” said KG Ramesh, IMD’s director general.

Last month was marked by heat waves in many parts of the country, including eastern Uttar Pradesh, western Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Vidarbha, and Telangana. Some northern parts of the country also recorded extremely high temperatures.

For example, Una in Himachal Pradesh recorded 41.7 degrees C on Friday; Sundernagar, also in Himachal Pradesh recorded 37.6 degrees C, Dehradun in Uttarakhand was at 38.7 degree C. The highest maximum temperature this summer recorded till now has been at Brahmagiri in Vidarbha on May 2 at 46.4 degrees C.

“Heat wave in central India, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh is expected in May which is the peak summer season… We have noticed that the temperature in the foothills of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are also 3 to 4 degrees above normal. Temperatures also increase before a western disturbance approaches,” said Charan Singh, senior scientist at IMD. Due to an approaching western disturbance (WD) and moisture incursion from Arabian Sea, scattered rainfall and thunderstorms are expected in north-west India and north India, including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, on Sunday.

“The heat wave will abate. There will be scattered rainfall in northwest India till May 17. But it is unlikely to compensate for the deficient pre-monsoon showers over the country,” added Palawat.

First Published: May 11, 2019 07:32 IST

India: Cyclone Fani: Odisha stares at ecological crisis

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Cyclone Fani: Odisha stares at ecological crisis

Two of Odisha’s ecological hotspots – Lake Chilka and Balukhand-Konark wildlife sanctuary — may not be the same any more, thanks to Cyclone Fani that roared through the state on May 3 with wind speeds exceeding 200 km an hour, officials said on Thursday.

INDIA Updated: May 10, 2019 08:30 IST

Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Puri
Cyclone Fani,Odisha fani,India news
A tribal family seen under a collapsed tree that was hit by cyclone Fani, at Birapratap Pur Village, Odisha, India, on Thursday, May 09, 2019.(Photo: Arabinda Mahapatra / Hindustan Times)

Two of Odisha’s ecological hotspots – Lake Chilka and Balukhand-Konark wildlife sanctuary — may not be the same any more, thanks to Cyclone Fani that roared through the state on May 3 with wind speeds exceeding 200 km an hour, officials said on Thursday.

Chilka, Asia’s biggest brackish water lake that earlier had two mouths, now has four more, stirring fears that salinity could increase by inflow of sea water and adversely affect marine life, the officials said. Over 4.5 million trees were uprooted by the cyclone in Balakhand, making it look like a “wasteland”.

Cyclone Fani, which made landfall in Puri last Friday, has left a long trail of destruction along the coast, uprooting millions of trees, blowing away roofs and homes, and snapping power. Weather experts have termed Fani the most intense cyclone in the region in 20 years.

While it affected over 14 million people in Odisha’s densely populated coastal districts, its impact on ecology and wildlife has been equally devastating, though an estimate of the damage has yet to be made. Most part of the ~17,000 crore the state government has sought from the Centre will go into putting people’s lives back on track.

The Balukhand wildlife sanctuary on the Puri-Konark marine drive, which has over 4,000 spotted deer, a large number of wolves, monitor lizards and is visited by Olive Ridley turtles for nesting, has lost over 4.5 million trees. “Most of the trees are either uprooted or broken. It’s a Herculean task to clear the fallen trees and restore the sanctuary’s ecology,” said Harshabardhan Udgata, the divisional forest officer of the sanctuary. The sanctuary was home to around 9 million trees and only mangroves were able to resist the strong winds.

The loss of spotted deer was not much, Udgata said, but it would be difficult for them to tolerate the gruelling summers without the shade of trees. “It will take us at least four months to clear the fallen trees. Planting new ones would only be possible in the next season. We are distressed thinking about the impact of the cyclone on wildlife,” he said.

The cyclone also damaged lakhs of trees along the Bhubaneswar-Puri highway and on roads in Bramhagiri, Satapada, Krushnaprasad, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Khurda and several other areas. On Thursday, the Odisha forest department released information on the ecological impact of the cyclone, including Lake Chilka, which has been designated a world heritage site.

“Chilka lagoon had only two active mouths — the point where it meets the sea — before Cyclone Fani. Four new mouths have opened due to wave energy with high tidal prism and saline ingress to the lake,” said Chilka Lake Authority chief executive officer Sushanta Nanda. “Its effect on biodiversty is being assessed.”

A Bhubaneswar-based environment expert, Biswajit Mohanty, said the new mouths were a cause of concern to the health of the lake, but one would have to wait a few months to see if they remain open or close by natural deposition.

“It’s important to monitor the lake’s salinity, which may see unexpected fluctuations due to the inflow of sea water through the new mouths. This may also lead to changes in fish migration. Fish and aquatic plants may also be adversely affected if the salinity level goes up,” he said.

“Chilka is home to about 150 species of migratory birds and endangered plants and animal species, apart from a source of livelihood for about 1.5 lakh fishermen in the region,” Mohanty added. Another environment expert, Aditya Panda, said increase in salinity could impact swamps in the lake and it could be measured only though detailed scientific assessment. “I am hopeful that Chilka will be able to revive itself,” he said.

After an initial assessment, Panda said the flamingo, pelican and painted stork population was safe in the Nalabana sanctuary on Chilka lake. But the real ecological impact would be assessed only in the next few weeks, he said. In the Balukhand-Konark wildlife sanctuary, the forest department has estimated damage to nearly 5.5 million trees, which would affect around 400 spotted deer. “Around 20% of the trees are uprooted and cannot be revived, while the remaining were found to be snapped or broken,” said Jarsabardhan Udgatta, divisional forest officer of Puri wildlife division.

In Bhubaneswar’s Nandankanan Zoological Park, animal enclosures have been destroyed and hundreds of trees uprooted. With the zoo shut indefinitely, monkeys have begun entering residential areas looking for food and water, zoo officials said.

The Odisha principal chief conservator of forests, Sandip Tripathy, said the damage to the green cover was so pervasive that it would take at least a decade to restore it. “We have to ensure re-plantation of the uprooted trees to revive the green cover,” he said. Mohanty suggested that the department should not plant trees such as casuarina and eucalyptus as they cannot withstand strong winds. “It would be wise to plant trees like neem, karanj, banyan and local berries, which are endemic to the area,” he said.

There is clear indication that because of climate change, the frequency and intensity of cyclones have increased in recent years, Panda said.

According to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increase in surface temperatures over oceans, especially in the cyclone-prone Bay of Bengal, will increase the frequency and intensity of sea storms.

Odisha has witnessed three major cyclones since 2015 – Phailin, Titli and Fani. “Cyclone Fani got intensity as surface temperature over Bay of Bengal got warmer by one degree Celsius over the long term average, according to NASA satellite data,” said a Global Strategic Communication Council statement.India Meteorological Department director general K J Ramesh said there was a direct correlation between the intensity of cyclone Fani and climate change.

“Due to global warming, there is additional warming over all oceans; Bay of Bengal is no exception. Atmosphere is also very warm. The combination of the two makes cyclones last longer,” he said.

Panda said the increase in frequency of cyclones, especially in the Bay of Bengal, should goad policy-makers to come up with a new action plan to tackle them. “The storm blew away window panes of flats in high-rise buildings in Bhubaneswar and Puri and damaged household goods. This has not happened before. We need to do a rethink on how to save our cities from such cyclones,” he said.

First Published: May 10, 2019 06:58 IST

Age gap between pilots led to Air India Express plane ending up in open drain

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Age gap between pilots led to Air India Express plane ending up in open drain

A senior male pilot who was 30 years older to his female co-pilot and refused to heed her suggestions or warnings was one of the reasons for Air India Express flight IX 452 from Abu Dhabi to Kochi with 102 passengers ending up in an open drain following a landing in heavy rain on September 4, 2017

INDIA Updated: May 10, 2019 07:31 IST

Faizan Haidar
Faizan Haidar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Air India Express,India news,Crime
The incident left three passengers with injuries and serious damage to the aircraft, especially the front landing gear that collapsed.(File photo)

A senior male pilot who was 30 years older to his female co-pilot and refused to heed her suggestions or warnings was one of the reasons for Air India Express flight IX 452 from Abu Dhabi to Kochi with 102 passengers ending up in an open drain following a landing in heavy rain on September 4, 2017. The incident left three passengers with injuries and serious damage to the aircraft, especially the front landing gear that collapsed.

Now, to avoid a repeat of such an accident, aviation authorities have advised Air India Express to ensure pilots are not paired in a way that they have a wide age gap.

“There is not just one reason behind an accident. In the report, we tried to go to the exact details and found that probable cause of accident was incorrect judgement taken by PIC (pilot-in-command). Heavy rain and reduced visibility were contributory factors,” said a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official, who asked not to be named.

According to the report, which has been seen by HT, the co-pilot told her senior that she could not see runway markings and asked him to go extremely slow.

Moments later, she insisted that a “follow-me” vehicle — used to guide aircraft in cases of low visibility — be summoned.

“However, there was no response from PIC. At 2112 UTC, the aircraft took a 90m early turn before the Taxiway ‘F’… and entered into open rain water drain. PIC applied throttle three times for aircraft to come out of the drain, but aircraft stuck in the drain. Co-pilot requested PIC not to apply throttle,” said the report by DGCA.

In the report, the DGCA has highlighted that there was an age gap of over 30 years and a difference of 13,000 hours in the flight experience between the two pilots, and that runway markers were , as the co-pilot said, barely visible

“…The coordination was lacking from PIC’s side. PIC was found alcohol-positive twice and his licence was suspended by DGCA for 3 months from 09.01.2016. The pilot had operated previous flight a day before and as per his statement, he reached hotel around midnight and was not able to sleep. In cockpit voice recorder, there is noise of PIC yawning in the flight,” the report points out.

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) has now recommended that Air India Express issue a circular related to crew coordination, and mentioned in its analysis that both PIC and co-pilot were operating together for the first time.

Detailing the sequence of events, the report said the aircraft entered the open rainwater drain and the nose landing gear collapsed. The aircraft moved deeper into the drain and the main landing gears too were in the run-off. The plane eventually rested on its engines and the rear belly, with the main landing gears hovering in the air.

According to experts, crew management trainings that are mandated for airlines include how to tackle problems that can arise from wide differences of age and experience between flight crew. “The airline is suppose to minimise the age gap between pilot and co-pilot and if pilot is not listening to the co-pilot, irrespective of the age gap, then it shows lack of training and also inefficiency of DGCA which must conduct an audit to find these loopholes,” said Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation safety expert.

An Air India Express spokesperson said the recommendations will be implemented. “Our top management has taken note of the recommendations made by AAIB regarding the incident involving aircraft VT-AYB at Cochin International Airport on 04.09.2017. AAIB has made safety recommendations which are to be implemented by various agencies including DGCA, Cochin International Airport Limited, AAI and Air India Express. Out of the 10 safety recommendations, two relate to Air India Express and these shall be duly implemented,” said PG Prageesh, chief of corporate communications, Air India Express.

First Published: May 10, 2019 06:56 IST

India: Supreme Court Justices Declare In ONe Voice: Chief Is Innocent

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Supreme Court Justices declare in one voice: Chief is innocent

The report said that the committee had found “no substance in the allegations contained in the complaint”, the committee said.

INDIA Updated: May 07, 2019 01:43 IST

Bhadra Sinha and Ashok Bagriya
Bhadra Sinha and Ashok Bagriya
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Supreme Court,SC,CJI
The report said that the committee had found “no substance in the allegations contained in the complaint”, the committee said.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

A three-member in-house committee of Supreme Court judges led by justice SA Bobde on Monday unanimously cleared Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment charges levelled by a former court employee, in a decision that was criticised by several leading lawyers for its lack of transparency and process.

The proceedings were ex parte (without the party concerned) after the complainant walked out of her third meeting with the panel citing lack of procedure.

The committee submitted its report to justice Arun Mishra, but refused to share its findings with even the complainant. It also cited a 2003 judgement in a case filed by lawyer Indira Jaising seeking the report of an in-house committee that looked into allegations of sexual harassment against judges of the Karnataka High Court.

Jaising said on Monday that the judgment was before the Right to Information Act and “cannot have any application in today’s time”.

The complainant, who said she was disappointed and dejected by the report, has said she will decide on her next step after consulting her legal advisors.

According to people familiar with the matter in the Supreme Court who spoke on condition of anonymity, justice Mishra will now decide whether the report should be placed before the full court as the committee was set up by a full court’s approval. The report was submitted to him because he is the senior most judge to whom it can be (see box).

In a statement, the secretary general of the Supreme Court said: “The in-house committee (of Justice SA Bobde, Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Indu Malhotra) has submitted its report dated 5.5.2019, in accordance with the in-house procedure, to the next senior judge competent to receive the report and also sent a copy to the judge concerned, namely, the Chief Justice of India.”

Justifying its stand on not making the report public, the statement by the secretary general’s office said, “The in-house committee has found no substance in the allegations contained in the complaint date, 19.4.2019 of a former employee of the Supreme Court of India. Please take note that in the case of Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India and others (2003), it has been held that the report of the committee constituted as a part of the in-house procedure is not liable to be made public.”

Reacting to the committee’s findings, the complainant said in a statement that she was disappointed and dejected. “I am highly disappointed and dejected to learn that the In-House Committee ‘has found no substance’ in my complaint and feel that gross injustice has been done to me as a woman citizen of India. I am now extremely scared and terrified because the In- House Committee, despite having all material placed before them, appears to have given me no justice or protection and said nothing about the absolutely malafide dismissals and suspensions, indignities and humiliations suffered by me and my family. I and my family members remain vulnerable to the ongoing reprisals and attack,” she said.

Hindustan Times has learnt that the three-member committee looked only into sexual harassment allegations and did not go into the merits of the disciplinary action taken by the Supreme Court against the complainant. The woman was dismissed in December 2018 and she has claimed this was part of the harassment she faced.

HT also learns that the panel has said in its findings that before April 19, when she wrote to 22 judges of the court, the complainant did not raise the allegation of sexual harassment or victimisation despite having an opportunity to do so when she challenged the disciplinary action in December 2018.

The panel has said the woman can avail the remedy of a statutory appeal against her dismissal and if she does so the appropriate forum will look into it. She was removed from service on account of insubordination after the woman was moved out of the CJI’s home office to a different department in the Supreme Court premises.

No merit was found by the committee in the allegations of harassment and subsequent victimisation of the complainant and her family members, including her arrest in a cheating case and the suspension of her husband and brother-in law who work as a Delhi police constable, at the instance of the CJI.

The committee in its report has also recorded that despite material being presented against the complainant, it has not relied on it as the same was given after she walked out of the inquiry proceedings on April 30, and could not be confronted with the evidence.

With regard to alleged police excesses against the complainant’s family, the panel has concluded that all the members were booked in criminal cases prior to the alleged incident. An FIR was filed against the complainant in 2011 and 2012 and the one against the husband was lodged in 2015.

In her allegations, the complainant has asserted that her husband was suspended in connection with a 2015 case only in December 2018 which was a part of the victimization effort led by the Chief Justice.

The people familiar with the matter said a letter written by Supreme Court Judge Justice DY Chandrachud demanding an external member – preferably a retired woman Supreme Court judge – on the probe panel, was not accepted.

The committee members felt that as per the procedure of in-house inquiry laid down in 1999, legal assistance is not envisaged. The complainant has also criticised the panel for adopting a non-transparent procedure. She said, “From the media I have learnt that the CJI was perhaps called by the committee for his version. However I am not aware whether any of the other persons named in my complaint who would have knowledge of matters mentioned in the complaint, especially my victimisation, were called by the committee for their evidence.”

Some lawyers say the committee could have been more transparent. Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde said: “The complainant walked out and the inquiry proceeded ex parte. The enquiry committee cannot compel her participation. Yet it proceeded, rendered an ex parte finding, and it’s report while legally defensible, will still remain wanting in public perception. The independence of the judiciary, rests on public trust and public trust is not maintained by one-sided inquiries.”

Senior advocate Gopal Sankarnarayan added: “The procedure adopted has had questions raised about it for more than a week now, and the concerns of the bar associations and stake holders in the court have not been appropriately addressed. It would be incumbent that a methodology be followed that is consistent with sexual harassment law and due process be applied that protects both the accuser and the accused in a truly transparent manner.”

The committee had its defenders too. Senior advocate Aishwarya Bhatti said: “My view is that the committee has submitted its report after following procedure laid down in law. This committee comprised of the second senior most judge of the court, who will also go on to become the CJI and two eminent sitting women judges. I think it is best now to leave things. It is now for the next senior most judge who receives the report to consider it and decide if more needs to be done.”

First Published: May 06, 2019 17:12 IST

India: BJP Leader Shot Dead By Militants In His Home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

BJP leader shot dead by militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag

BJP leaders said that Ghulam Mohammed Mir was without any security which was withdrawn by the government recently.

INDIA Updated: May 05, 2019 09:25 IST

Mir Ehsan
Mir Ehsan
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
breaking,death,crime'
Image for representation(ANI file photo)

Ahead of Monday’s final phase of polls for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, militants shot dead district vice president BJP in Anantnag district late Saturday night.

Ghulam Mohammed Mir,55, who had contested assembly elections on a BJP ticket from Anantnag was killed inside his house at Verinag.

BJP leaders said that Mir was without any security which was withdrawn by the government recently.

BJP state spokesman Altaf Thakur said that Mir was killed by militants inside his house on Saturday night. “He received several bullets and died on way to hospital.”

Thakur termed the killing of Mir barbaric and said despite threats from militants his security was withdrawn by the government. “He was under constant threat from militants, yet his security was taken back.”

Police spokesman said that unknown militants fired upon a member of the BJP Ghulam Mohammed Mir at Nowgam Verinag. “He was shifted to hospital in critical condition.”

This is the second attack on any political worker in South Kashmir. On Thursday militants shot and injured a civilian Abdul Rashid Bhat of Kuchmulla Tral. Bhat was a former member of a political party

Pulwama and Shopian districts will go for polls on Monday in the third phase. Due to security reasons, polls for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat is being held in three phases. Two phases had passed without any militant attack on any worker.

First Published: May 04, 2019 22:45 IST

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India: Cyclone Fani To Strike Odisha Today, Over 1 Million People Evacuated

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Cyclone Fani to strike Odisha today, over 1 million people evacuated

As the cyclone progresses into West Bengal, it should weaken gradually into a severe cyclonic storm with winds of 90-100 kph and gusts of 115 kph before entering Bangladesh as a cyclonic storm on Saturday evening with winds of 60-70 kph.

INDIA Updated: May 03, 2019 08:03 IST

HT Correspondents and Agencies
HT Correspondents and Agencies
Bhubaneswar/Kolkata
Fani,cyclone Fani,Odisha
Puri: Villagers at the beach as dark clouds hover above the sea ahead of cyclone ‘Fani’, in Puri.(PTI)

An “extremely severe” cyclonic storm that is likely to make landfall south of Puri on Friday has put Odisha on high alert and prompted authorities in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh to take precautionary measures.

On Thursday, the Odisha government conveyed to the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), the country’s top body for handling emergency situations, that 10,000 villages and 52 towns in nine districts will be affected due to Cyclone Fani , a home ministry statement said after a meeting of the NCMC, which was headed by cabinet secretary PK Sinha.

Flight operations from Bhubaneswar remained suspended from Thursday midnight and from Kolkata from Friday morning, with the cyclone — packing winds gusting up to 200 kilometres per hour and torrential rains — approaching India’s eastern coast. Services will be resumed as soon the conditions improve. The railways has already suspended operations of trains in Odisha, the home ministry statement said.

As the cyclone progresses into West Bengal, it should weaken gradually into a severe cyclonic storm with winds of 90-100 kph and gusts of 115 kph before entering Bangladesh as a cyclonic storm on Saturday evening with winds of 60-70 kph.

A total of 1.1 million people in Odisha were moved to safer areas and the state has advised the public to remain indoor on Friday. Around 900 cyclone shelters have been made ready.

The storm is likely to impact Odisha’s coastal districts Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur and Balasore. In West Bengal, it will affect the districts of East and West Medinipur, South- and North-24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Jhargram as well as Kolkata.

In Andhra Pradesh, the cyclone is likely to hit Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts.

The power ministry has made arrangements to restore supply in affected areas with least downtime. The drinking water and sanitation ministry has made arrangements to move additional water supplies in the affected areas and is keeping in readiness packaged drinking water.

The ministry of food processing industries is keeping in readiness packaged ready-to-eat food. The health ministry has mobilised emergency medical teams, medicines and also coordinated with the Red Cross to provide assistance. It has kept ready 17 public health response teams and five quick response medical teams with emergency drugs.

The department of telecommunication has issued orders to all operators to allow free SMS for cyclone-related messages and inter-operability of mobile networks by other operators. The petroleum ministry has ensured availability of sufficient petroleum and oil in the affected areas.

The Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Navy have deployed ships and helicopters for relief and rescue operations while the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force units in the three states have also been put on standby.

The ministry of shipping has disengaged all ships at Paradip Port and has deployed emergency vessels

The railways on Thursday said around 102 trains have been cancelled in the last two days, while three special trains pressed into service to ferry stranded passengers from affected areas.Four trains have been diverted, it said.

The national transporter said it will grant full refund to passengers for the cancelled or diverted trains if tickets are produced for cancellation within three days from the scheduled date of journey. The railways had announced cancellation of 81 trains on Wednesday. So far, the railways has announced three tourist special trains to ferry passengers from affected areas.

The national transporter has also instructed that sufficient amount of cash be made available at major stations for granting refunds to passengers and meeting other exigencies. Frontline staff are to be advised to be extremely polite while dealing with passengers and leaving no scope for complaint, it added.

“Emergency control is to be operated round the clock with helpline numbers for guiding passengers. No staff are to be allowed to go on leave for the next three days,” the railways said.

In West Bengal capital Kolkata, authorities directed advertisers to take down all hoardings in the city. Hotel owners in tourist spots along the Bengal coastline such as Digha, Mandarmani, Tajpur and Shankarpur fear a loss of business. Digha, West Bengal’s most popular beach resort, is about 342km east of Puri, and close to the Odisha border.

“There are about 650 hotels in the area that attracts average footfalls of about 0.2 million people every day. Even if you consider them spending Rs 600 per head a day, the direct loss of business is at least Rs 12 crore a day,” said Bipradas Chakrabarti, secretary of the Digha Shankarpur Hoteliers Association.

First Published: May 03, 2019 02:26 IST

India: 100 Million People In Path Of Major Cyclone Fani

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

What is expected to be India’s strongest landfall tropical cyclone in nearly five years is barreling toward 100 million people on the east coast, prompting officials to begin emergency evacuations.

On Thursday, Tropical Cyclone Fani had winds of 215 kph (130 mph) with gusts of 260 kph (160 mph), making it equivalent in intensity to a Category 4 major hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
While it is not expected to make landfall in Odisha state until midday Friday, tropical cyclone force winds are already coming ashore in portions of Andhra Pradesh and will soon reach the Odisha coast as well.

Cyclone Fani is due to make landfall in Odisha state on Friday.

As Fani was classified as an “extremely severe cyclonic storm” in India, the country’s Coast Guard and Navy deployed ships and helicopters for relief and rescue operations. Army and Air Force units have also been put on standby in Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh states.
Some 900 cyclone shelters have been set up across Odisha to house evacuees and school is canceled across the state on Thursday and Friday. Teams are going door to door to warn people.
“They are being told what to take with them if they leave and the precautions they need to take if they stay,” said Ameya Patnaik, assistant commandant for the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in Odisha.
Evacuations have also begun neighboring Andhra Pradesh, while those in West Begal have been told to be ready to leave, officials told CNN. Fishermen have been warned not to venture out to the sea due to the extreme conditions.
Fani, which is still about 200 km (125 miles) east of Visakhapatnam, a port city on India’s coast, strengthened rapidly on Monday and Tuesday, becoming the strongest storm to move through the Bay of Bengal this early in the year since Tropical Cyclone Nargis in 2008.
Nargis went on to strike Myanmar with winds over 200 kph (124 mph), bringing a devastating storm surge and flooding rainfall that resulted in more than 100,000 deaths in the country.

Impacts

Fishing boats at Konark beach prepare for cyclone Fani in Odisha.

Fani is expected to bring large storm surges and significant wind damage near the landfall location. Inland flooding will also be a major threat.
Portions of eastern India and Bangladesh can expect 150 to 300 mm (6 to 12 inches) of rain with locally higher amounts regardless of the intensity.
As Fani approaches India it will be moving nearly parallel to the coast. A slight move to the east or west would have a significant impact on the timing of landfall as well as the intensity. A more easterly track means that landfall would be farther north in India, perhaps even into Bangladesh.
If that happens, the storm would likely be a category or two weaker as it moves over cooler waters.

Cyclone season

Fani is the first tropical cyclone of the year in the northern Indian Ocean.

How are hurricanes named?

How are hurricanes named? 01:38
The season doesn’t have a defined start and end like the Atlantic hurricane season, but it does have two main periods of activity: late April to early June, and October to November.
These two periods are prior to, and immediately following, India’s southwest monsoon season. The southwest monsoon season lasts from June through September and provides India with the vast majority of its annual rainfall.
Tropical cyclone activity during the monsoon season is extremely rare because the monsoon is characterized by high wind shear, which makes it difficult for tropical storms to form.