The Indian Express | 2 months ago | 12-01-2023 | 05:40 am
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday directed the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) to start Ganga aarti — similar to the one held in Varanasi — at Babughat in Kolkata beginning from the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda (January 12) on Thursday.“Babughat is going to be one of the most visited places in Kolkata. Such initiative can also be taken at Tarapeeth, Belur and Dakshineshwar,” said Banerjee addressing Gangasagar Mela devotees at Babughat.The Chief Minister also directed that the aarti should be performed only by those who know the rules.Asserting that Cyclone Yaas had destroyed everything at Sagar Island, but her government developed it again, Banerjee said, “There was nothing at Gangasagar, our (TMC) government brought about development after coming to power. Cyclone Yaas destroyed everything there (at Sagar Island), but we developed it again. We made helipads and guesthouses, made an arrangement for lights and built 1,000 bio-toilets. The island has been decorated.”Banerjee has recently urged the Center to declare the Gangasagar Mela as a national fair. “Kumbh Mela is connected by rail and roads, but Gangesagar cannot be reached by rail or road. Devotees need to cross the river. There are many obstacles, but all arrangements to reach the sea have been made,” she said.Encouraging devotees and the common people to visit Gangasagar Mela while seeking to ward off their fear of accidents there, Banerjee said, “No accident happens at the fair, so don’t listen to anyone’s false propaganda or negative words, only listen to what the government says or announces.” The CM also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of accident death victims at the mela.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Monday directed the officers of Haryana Shehri Vikas Pradhikaran (HSVP) to develop a separate dashboard for all the properties of the state’s urban development authority.Details such as property location and owner’s name would be registered in the dashboard, he said. He also directed the officials that the entire record of the HSVP including the documents of the properties should be digitised.The chief minister, who is also the chairman of HSPV, was presiding over the 125th meeting of the authority here, according to an official statement.In the meeting, Khattar gave ex-post facto approval for the construction of multi-storey car parking and commercial complex by Faridabad Smart City Limited on about 4,000 square metre land in Sector-18A of Faridabad.Post facto approval was also given for the issuance of allotment letters of ownership rights to 131 shopkeepers and Antyodaya Market being constructed in place of the Rehri Market; as per the instructions of the Chief Minister, after the incident of fire in the Rehri market of Sector-9, Panchkula last year. Apart from this, pucca shops will be set up as Antyodaya Market in place of Rehri markets in Sectors 7, 11 and 17 of Panchkula.The chief minister said pucca shops should be constructed in the cities where Rehri markets are functioning.On this, HSVP Chief Administrator Ajit Balaji Joshi informed the chief minister that the HSVP has a proposal to set up Antyodaya Market in place of Rehri markets in Gurugram, Faridabad and Karnal.Khattar instructed the officers to constitute a committee to prepare a list of the cities where buildings or any other type of construction or activity has been done on the HSVP’s land or on the land of other departments. It was also apprised in the meeting by the officials that the HSVP has 5,418 residential, 2,688 commercial and 230 institutional properties, out of which 4,804 residential, 2,305 commercial and 205 institutional properties have been sold through e-auction.Khattar said that on the lines of the scheme for setting up cooperative group housing societies for MLAs, employees, journalists and lawyers in Panchkula, permission can be given to set up cooperative group housing societies for former MLAs as well.
The first session of the newly elected Meghalaya Assembly is set to conclude on Tuesday without a consensus among the non-treasury benches on who will assume the role of the Leader of Opposition.This deadlock is a result of the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the two largest Opposition parties, insisting on the position. Both parties, with five legislators each, have written to Speaker Thomas A Sangma to put forward their claims.The recently concluded Assembly elections threw up a fractured mandate but the National People’s Party (NPP) led by Conrad Sangma emerged as the single-largest party with 26 seats in the 60-member House.After a few days of uncertainty, the NPP formed the government by stitching up a coalition with the BJP and several other regional parties, including the United Democratic Party (UDP), which was the second-largest party with 11 seats.Andrew Simons, the commissioner and secretary of the Meghalaya Assembly, said the final decision rests with the Speaker. “Since both sides have claimed, it will be taken up soon,” he said. Simons said that since the two parties had the same numbers, factors such as seniority would be considered by the Speaker before making a final call.The other alternative is for the parties to come to an understanding with each other and make an arrangement. However, both the TMC and the Congress are, for now, refusing to relent.Congress Legislature Party leader Ronnie Lyngdoh said, “At the national level we are not together with them. If they reach out to us, we can approach the high command, but they haven’t.”Meghalaya TMC vice-president James Lyngdoh also put the ball in the court of his party’s high command. “Our president has already written to the Speaker. We will discuss with the party leaders.”The other Opposition party is the newly formed Voice of the People’s Party that has four seats. The regional outfit has said it will not align with either the Congress or the TMC as it wants to be “independent”.
Congress and other Opposition MPs wore black in protest against the “illegal disqualification” of Rahul Gandhi from the House. The unruly scenes made speaker Om Birla adjourn the proceedings in a few seconds.As soon as the House met Congress MPs – TN Pratapan Hibi Eden, Jothimani S and Ramya Haridas rushed to the well of the house, tore the papers in their hands and hurled them at the Speaker. Some of the MPs were waving black stoles also at the speaker. Birla adjourned the proceedings in a few seconds.The Congress MPs, however, continued the protests inside the house in the well of the house, tore papers and hurled it at the speaker’s chair while one banner was thrown on the chair of the speaker after he left the house.Along with Congress members, MPs belonging to DMK, NCP, Left and BRS were also wearing black today. TMC MPs had their mouth covered by a black band.The MPs were holding placards like Jago ED, ED Modani Bhai Bhai” etcAfter the house proceedings were adjourned the opposition held a brief protest in front of Gandhi statue in which Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge were present.The opposition then marched with shouting slogans to Vijay Chowk.
The Congress is furious at Mamata Banerjee’s concerted effort to ensure that Rahul Gandhi is not declared “the big boss’’ in the still-in-the works opposition alliance. Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury insinuated that Banerjee was playing the BJP’s game out of fear of investigative agencies. TMC supporters deny the insinuation, pointing out that central investigative agencies are still harassing her nephew Abhishek and his associates. Banerjee’s anti-Rahul stance is ascribed to her poor opinion of his capabilities, even though she has great respect for Sonia Gandhi. If Rahul is made the main challenger to Modi, she fears he would handicap the entire opposition and has informed her party that this is the reason the BJP keeps promoting Rahul’s name.The Congress’s recent win in the Muslim-dominated Sagardighi Assembly bypoll, a TMC stronghold, with the help of the CPM, has further antagonised Banerjee. Akhilesh Yadav has been persuaded to stay equidistant from both the Congress and the BJP. Banerjee also hopes to win Naveen Patnaik over to her side. Telangana’s K Chandrasekhar Rao, who has prime ministerial ambitions himself, needs no convincing. The NCP skipped the Opposition march to the ED office to protest lack of action against industrialist Adani. Pawar is an old friend of Adani and has stayed with him in Ahmedabad. Ironically, the AAP, which earlier saw the Congress as a direct threat, has now indicated willingness to cooperate in some states.External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s angst in a recent interview to ANI recalling that his father, Dr K Subrahmanyam, unquestionably an outstanding officer, was superseded in 1980 during Rajiv Gandhi’s regime is understandable. But raking up the word “supersession’’ is ironical considering Jaishankar too inhabits a glass house. He was appointed Foreign Secretary in January 2015, just days before retirement. To make his appointment possible, then Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh was asked to put in her papers, though she still had some months of service left.In the early years of independence, there were clear guidelines on selections to the top posts in the bureaucracy to ensure that the administration could be insulated from political pulls and pressures. Appointments were made on the basis of seniority of batches and the tenure was generally fixed for two years. But in recent times, seniority and fixed tenures have become an exception rather than the rule. The practice began long before Modi’s regime. For instance, when Shyam Saran was appointed foreign secretary in 2004, the 1970 batch officer jumped over three senior batches and some 15 potential IFS aspirants. In 2006, Shiv Shankar Menon leapfrogged over two senior batches and at least 16 senior colleagues. Since K M Chandrashekhar’s appointment as cabinet secretary in 2007, all cabinet secretaries, Ajit Kumar Seth, Pradip Kumar Sinha and incumbent Rajiv Gauba have had four-year tenures, dashing the hopes of many qualified secretaries to obtain the top job. While a government has the right to pick an officer of its choice for important posts, the dangers of following no clear cut norms is that pliable officers out to please political masters usually hold an edge. Another unfortunate trend is that the cabinet secretary is no longer the most powerful bureaucrat in the country; the senior secretaries in the PMO often carry more weight than the cabinet secretary. Last year, the government passed an ordinance extending the directorships of CBI and ED by an additional three years following a two-year tenure. The ordinance seems to have been specifically tailored to benefit Sanjay Mishra, an IRS officer who heads the ED and is on his third extension. Mishra will complete five years in his post.Members of all parties are learning the hard way that their respective high commands do not like them to carve out too high-profile a role for themselves. Mohua Moitra the TMC’s articulate, firebrand leader, who regularly takes on the BJP, including PM Modi, has reportedly been told to tone down her rhetoric on the Adani case. Recently, Moitra had questioned the veracity of the electoral affidavits of BJP MP Nishikant Dubey about his age and educational qualifications. Dubey, in retaliation, used the social media to try and score points with low grade innuendos. The BJP has asked both Dubey and the BJP’s Tamil Nadu president K Annamalai not to make statements unilaterally. Annamalai threatened to quit as state party chief if the alliance with the AIADMK remained intact and announced that two central ministers from Tamil Nadu would contest the Lok Sabha elections from the state on a BJP ticket. The party has no intention of fielding Nirmala Sitharaman and S Jaishankar from Tamil Nadu, a state where the BJP has still to strike deep roots. Annamalai is likely to lose his post as state president after the Karnataka polls.
A SENIOR official in the Gujarat Chief Minister’s Office resigned Friday over links between his son, who is a businessman associated with the BJP, and “conman” Kiran Patel, who is in J&K custody for posing as an official of the Prime Minister’s Office.Hitesh Pandya, additional public relations officer in the Gujarat CMO, submitted his resignation Friday evening after nearly 22 years in the office where he served under five chief ministers, including Keshubhai Patel, Narendra Modi, Anandiben Patel, Vijay Rupani and Bhupendra Patel.Speaking to The Indian Express, 73-year-old Pandya said, “I have tendered my resignation to the Chief Minister (Bhupendra Patel). Nobody asked me to resign. I felt I should resign. I will wind up my pending work by March 31 and be relieved from the office.”Earlier, speaking to this newspaper hours before his resignation, Pandya acknowledged that his 43-year-old son Amit had visited J&K this month along with Kiran Patel “for business purpose” with his consent. Amit and another man identified as Jay Sitapara were accompanying Kiran Patel when he was arrested in J&K earlier this month. Amit and Sitapara have been called by J&K police for questioning in the case.According to Pandya, Amit is “innocent” and “a witness” in the case against Kiran Patel. Asked about his son’s current location, Pandya said, “He is in Kashmir indeed. And I have been saying from day one that he had been called (by J&K police) to record his statement as a witness.”According to Pandya, his son deals in home security appliances like CCTV cameras through his firm Safe Solution. He also said that Amit has been associated with the BJP and was convener of the party’s social media cell in Gujarat’s North Zone.“As part of party reshuffle, he was relieved of his responsibilities as convener of the party’s social media cell’s north zone in January this year,” Pandya said. When contacted, the cell’s state convenor Manan Dani confirmed that Amit was the convenor for North Zone till January 2023.Pandya, meanwhile, denied any knowledge of Kiran Patel having any links to the CMO. But he acknowledged that in 2011, Patel was associated with a private organisation floated by him called Nation First Foundation (NFF).“I started it in 2011 to propagate Modi saheb’s ideas. I am the founder of the organisation…Our work was only related to serving the nation. Then we had done a Bharat Jago Abhiyan to create awareness among people towards the BJP government’s works and projects… He (Kiran Patel) came into contact because he was with Amit. And he joined NFF,” Pandya said.Asked specifically about Amit’s association with Kiran Patel, Pandya said, “They were working in a publicity company in 2004. And I know him as Amit’s friend… But in 2011 itself, I realised that he (Kiran) was not a person to be kept with us. So, I relieved him and all the people with him (from NFF)…I did not find his dealings and billing proper…Then, he (Kiran Patel) started his own organisation”.Asked why he didn’t warn his son about Kiran Patel, Pandya said, “As a friend he can be with anyone. Secondly, he is a businessman. If you think that a person can get you business, why would you break the relationship? He was keeping him away without snapping the relationship.”This, Pandya said, changed after Amit suffered a “rare heart condition”. “In September last year, Amit’s heart had stopped… and he still survived. I had written a story about that in some newspapers. He (Kiran) read it and reached the hospital to see Amit. After that, he increased his contact with Amit. Then, he told Amit that he has lot of work in Kashmir and he can go with him.”According to Pandya, Amit left for J&K with Kiran Patel “after asking me”. “He had gone for business purpose…He wanted to put forward a business proposal related to CCTVs,” he said.“After Kiran’s arrest, Amit and Jay were kept in a hotel and their statements recorded. Then, they were let go and told that they will have to come whenever called…His statement was recorded as a witness,” he said.According to Pandya, “After getting to know about the case (from Amit), I immediately informed the Chief Minister (Bhupendra Patel) and others who I felt needed to be informed.”Pandya has had one of the longest tenures in the Gujarat CMO, having been posted there since 2001 initially as assistant PRO in a lateral appointment. He was earlier employed with Life Corporation of India, and had also worked with Rajkot daily “Phulchhab”.