Monday, September 25, 2017

Fly on the Wall : Mayawati as PM candidate ?

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Mayawati as PM candidate ?

Mayawati's frontal attack on the BJP alleging that it is hatching a conspiring to eliminate her is the first direct hint of her joining ranks with other Opposition parties during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The BSP has mostly kept away from the 17-parties Opposition parties' conclaves. She was quiet for some time and some attributed this silence to Enforcement Directorate (ED) going after her brother Anand in the Rs 1200 crores money laundering case. With Mayawati blasting the Modi government is the first signal of Opposition unity taking a positive turn. It transpires that Rahul Gandhi is sending out signals that he is willing to do anything to dislodge Modi. Mayawati thinks she can play a role at the national level. Akhilesh Yadav is working out a barter deal with Mayawati quietly under which he will support her for the PM's post while she will back him for the CM's post. Lalu Yadav is also ready for Mayawati. The BSP has following amongst the Dalits outside UP in several North Indian states. One may hear more news on this front sooner than expected. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also been nursing the Prime Ministerial ambitions. With Mayawati throwing her hat in the ring, one will have to watch. 

Hooda may be in the dock, thanks to CBI

After M L Tayal, its the turn of another top official related to former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to face the music. The CBI is now tightening its grip around Chhatar Singh who is now a member of the UPSC. He was chief administrator of HUDA and principal secretary to Hooda after Tayal retired and facing CBI cases for corruption. The case against Chhatar Singh is strong and may put Hooda in serious trouble. The Modi government helped Hooda by not charging him under the PMLA in the National Herald case. But the case against these top aides of Hooda is so strong that the CBI is unable to dilute them. It is learnt that Chhatar singh may even be asked to resign from the UPSC. Hooda had ensured that Chhatar Singh is appointed member UPSC during the UPA regime after retirement.

Rajnath not consulted on NIA's new chief

When Y C Modi was appointed was appointed as the new chief of the NIA, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in the dark until the file landed on his desk from the PMO. Normally, the file to fill vacancies with regard to departments and police organisations directly under the Ministry of Home Affairs are sent to the Cabinet Secretary by the Home Minister. The NIA is directly under the MHA and its Chief Sharad Kumar was to retire on October 30. Normally, announcements with regard to such postings are done 15-20 days prior. But in this case, the PMO called up the Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and asked him to send the proposal which he did without losing time. Gauba was also asked to send the name for the successor of SSB Chief also. But before Gauba could recover, the file came back in no time clearing the name of Y C Modi. Rajnath Singh who is also a member of the Cabinet Committee for Appointment (ACC), was taken aback when the file was put up to him for information and subsequent action.

Scared BJP delinks Gurdaspur LS Bye-poll with others

The BJP has de-linked the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha byelection with that of Gorakhpur and Phulpur. Though Yogi Adityanath had quit the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat and Keshav Prasad Maurya had quit the Phulpur Lok Sabha seat on August 6 itself, the Election Commission didn't hold the LS polls in these constituencies. When asked, a senior Election Commission official said that byelections are to be held only on the recommendation of the state government. Since the Punjab Government recommended the holding of bypoll in Gurdaspur and six months mandatory period was also expiring, we are holding the same. But in the case of UP LS seat, there is time. It is, however, up to the state government to take a call when it would like to hold. The state government indicated that it will contemplate after the festival season. It is said that the BJP doesn't want to test its popularity in UP at this juncture and delaying bye-polls. There are two vacancies in Rajasthan (Alwar & Ajmer) and one in Telangana.

Kejriwal Went to Igatpuri, lessons to keep quiet

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal quietly went into silent mode even after winning the Bawana Assembly seat in a tough byelection. This was a surprise to all in the Capital. He did not react when BJP was routed in the Delhi University Students Union polls. It now transpires that he opted to go to Igatpuri in Nashik and stayed at the Vipaasana Centre for ten days. Though he had been going to Bengaluru for his throat treatment and practice silence, habits die hard. He is back on twitter after ten days and roar in Gujrat shortly.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fly on the wall : Even Padma Awards linked with Aadhaar

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Even Padma Awards linked with Aadhaar

Prime Minister Modi's liking for Aadhaar is setting a new milestone with the each passing day. The Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha who headed the Padma awards committee directed that all nominations for 2018 must be linked to Aadhaar. It has been decided that all nominations /recommendations for Padma Awards should be sent online only on the Padma portal designed specially by Ministry of Home Affairs. Anybody contemplating to recommend a person's name for these awards, must have Aadhaar card and the person who recommends first obtain an OTP number and feeds the OTP in the system and then alone he or she can make a recommendation. Cabinet Ministers, Governors and those holding key political posts have been signaled they shouldn't make recommendations in a routine manner. The Lieutenant Governors of Union Territories have been told to route recommendations through state governments. This was a signal to Pudducherry Governor Kiran Bedi that the mandate is for an elected government.

How Rudy was shown the door

“Fly” learnt an interesting tail how Skill Development Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy's resignation went through the motions days before the major Cabinet rejig on September 3. Rudy was traveling when summoned by Shah on September 1. It is no secret that Shah calls the shot these days and scond in command; be it party or the government. Shah was sitting with General Secretary Ram Lal when Rudy was called inside the room. Without mincing words, Shah told Rudy, “The PM wants your resignation.” Rudy knew it was coming. Yet he developed the courage to ask, “When do I resign, Sir?” Shah shot back without blinking, “Right now.” Rudy's next raised eyebrows, “Shall I give it to you sir or to the PM?” Now Rudy got another shocker: No, you give it to Ram Lalji.” Rudy recovered and asked politely, “Shall I write the resignation here sir ?” Shah said, “No, you write in the ante room. Ram Lalji will collect.” Rudy handed over the letter to Ram Lal who emerged after a long time.

Nirmala at Number 26 in pecking order !

Nirmala Sitharaman may have jolted the nation all when PM Modi promoted her as Defence Minister. She became a key member of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) too in her capacity as Defence Minister. But if one examines the official website of the government listing names and portfolios of Council of Ministers, Nirmala Sitharaman's name figures at number 26. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is the only Cabinet Minister who figures below her at number 27. All Cabinet Ministers including Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Maneka Gandhi are ranked upward in the serial. Efforts to elicit response didn't succeed. But sources in the BJP said that its the seniority in the party that matters most and now what you are in the government. She is the youngest member to join the BJP. Then why Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi listed below her ? The Fly didn't get a response. Some consolation !

Ex-CBI Director counting his days

Two former CBI directors – Ranjit Sinha and A P Singh – are facing tough times. While Sinha's case is being monitored by the Supreme Court directly after M L Sharma headed SIT submitted its report. But A P Singh seem to be counting his days as Enforcement Directorate (ED) has gathered enough evidence to book him in the money laundering case. His alleged accomplice meat exporter Moin Qureshi is in the ED custody and payment of Rs 1.75 crores to Qureshi to help a Bengaluru-based person in a CBI case, has sealed the fate. The BBM messages on mobile phones exchanged between Qureshi and Singh and other evidence have exposed the scam. The days seem to be numbered and it may happen sooner than expected. Singh was made to quit prematurely by the government from the UPSC and now his arrest is matter of days.

The turn of the nephews now

In a country of dynasties, the unmarried leaders can claim to be free from any such pressure. But not any more. It now transpires that BSP supremo Mayawati may launch her nephew Aakash shortly in politics. Since her brother Anand is involved in some cases with ED and IT and is a low profile person, Mayawati wants her legacy to be transferred to Aakash who has completed management studies from London. Similarly, Navin Patnaik may promote Arun Patnaik, son of his elder brother Prem Patnaik. Navin Patnaik sounded his sister Geeta Mehta. But she opted out and returned to the USA. Navin is now old and even sick as well. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is already replying heavily on her nephew Abhishek Banerjee who is a Lok Sabha MP.

Centre to launch massive crack down in Valley

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Centre to launch massive crack down in Valley

Home Minister sounds Mehbooba

NIA lists 200 ill-gotten properties of separatists

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 16

The Modi government is contemplating a massive onslaught against terrorists operating in the Jammu & Kashmir shortly. Enthused by the recent successes of Centre's anti-terrorist operations, the government is now gearing up for a final onslaught. Final touches are being given to the plan after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh's 4-day visit to the trouble-torn state. It is rare that Union Home Minister camps in a state for such a long time. Highly placed sources in the government say that one of the major task of Rajnath Singh was to sound out J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti about the impending massive operation.

The action entail arrest of top leaders of Hurriyat, JKLF and other organisations patronized for the past several decades by successive governments at the centre & the state launch a final onslaught against the militants. The government also plans to confiscate more than 200 properties of these leaders. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is reported to have submitted a detailed list of properties including hotels, resorts, orchards, factories, business establishments, and other assets acquired by 20 top leaders in the Valley. Recent massive raids conducted by the NIA established that these “corrupt leaders” accumulated wealth through illegal means and even from across the border. They were also hand-in-glove with the Barter Trade operators. The list of 200 properties has been submitted to the Home Ministry and PMO and created a flutter.

The security forces, with the active cooperation of the state government, Intelligence agencies and others, have eliminated or arrested nearly 105 out of 258 hard-core militants operating in the Valley. The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), The National Investigation Agency (NIA), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Military Intelligence (MI) and state police have together have succeeded in plugging the financial support system to a large extent. While Rajnath Singh is monitoring the operation from the front, Ajit Doval, National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister is personally coordinating the entire operation.

The Modi government has decided that no talks will be held with these intermediaries who have looted the state and fooled successive governments. The only task is elimination of militancy and restore peace.

The Centre is particularly enthused by the fact that locals are coming in large numbers to provide information about the hide outs of the terrorists and even their movements. The high-tech equipment installed by the IB, NTRO and other agencies and deployment of trained personnels to decipher the coded messages in the shortest possible time has helped the security forces to act against top militants.

The way Burhan Wani, Abu Ismail, Abu Dujana, Bashir Lashkari, Junaid Mattoo and several others were killed by the forces is an indication of growing cooperation between the forces and locals. After virtually plugging the funding routes to terrorists and their sympathizers in the Valley, the security agencies have told the government that time has come to launch the operation before Diwali.

Interestingly, most of these top leaders were killed after the agencies tracked down their movements and hide-out as their mobile numbers were made available by moles or informers.

The country's top security establishment has prepared a blueprint to deliver a lethal blow to militancy to achieve the IB, NTRO, CRPF, Army Intelligence and more importantly the state police.

The agencies have been able to make inroads amongst the local who were scared to share information until recently. Earlier, the informers used to be eliminated as information provided by them was never acted upon or rather leaked to the militants by moles in the police establishment. Now the Centre has practically taken over the anti-terrorist operations and state police is made to lend a helping hand.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Banning “Barter Trade” with PaK: PMO to decide

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Banning “Barter Trade” with PaK: PMO to decide

NIA says Barter-trade generated Rs 1000 crore terror funding

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Sep 11

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) will take a final call on banning the “Barter Trade” between India & Pakistan which was aimed at promoting trade & harmony between the people in J & K and PoK.

Highly placed sources in the government say that the PMO is seized of the matter after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) strongly recommended the closure of the barter trade. The NIA had sent its report to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which is turn has referred the issue to the PMO as it has wider implications.

Incidentally, it was the Union Home Ministry which had initiated the Barter-Trade agreement with Pakistan in 2008 at the bidding of the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh within days of returning to India from his US trip in 2008 to promote harmony between the people on both sides of Jammu & Kashmir. It was decided that no cash will be involved, only 21 items will be trade for mutual exchange and the value of items will be fixed by traders mutually. The goods should be produced in J & K and PoK only. But what happened thereafter, was an eye-opener to agencies. For example the Californian Almonds made their way from Pakistan to J&K on the ground that these were produced in PoK.

Lokmat was first to break the story “Barter Trade or Terror Funding” on January 23 this year in its editions saying the NIA had undertaken countrywide raids and scrutinizing records of 350 traders in Delhi & J & K. At that time, the NIA estimated that the hawala racket could be of the order of Rs 300 crores. Top sources have now told Lokmat that the hawala scam could be of the order of Rs 1000 crores.

The NIA submitted detailed report listing how hundreds of cores of rupees reached terrorist groups and stone pelters in the Valley thanks to the “Barter-Trade” route. The NIA said the barter-trade generated more than Rs 3000 crores in cash and at least Rs 1000 crores of this amount had gone to the kashmiri militants and their patterns which included Hurriyat leaders. The NIA submitted a detailed account of money-trail beginning with traders on the borders to traders in Delhi and major cities and how money re-routed to Hurriyat leaders and Kashmiri militants. The NIA also gave detailed account of how bank channels were used for over-invoicing and under-invoicing and went on unchecked for nearly eight years.

It said that terror funding by LeT, JeM and other outfits and the alleged transfer of cross-LoC trade proceeds are "interlinked". It gave clinching evidence to the MHA how large amount exchanged through import and export of goods has been ultimately used to foment "civil unrest" in Kashmir. The NIA suspects that some traders even provide trucks to hide arms and ammunition smuggled from Pakistan.

It is learnt that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who undertook 4-day visit to J & K discussed this issue with the state Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also as she had urged the Prime Minister that Barter-Trade agreement should not be scrapped.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Fly on The Wall : Bitter battle grips Railway Board

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

A bitter battle has gripped the Rail Bhawan here ever since Ashwini Lohani was appointed chairman of the Railway Board in a mid-night coup. Lohani was brought by the PMO after A K Mittal quit in the wake of two consecutive railway accidents last month. While the Railway administration was still in the process of absorbing the shocking news of Mittal quitting, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu also quit. But all hell broke when Lohani was brought to the Railway Board as its chairman. Lohani could not have been appointed as Chairman under the rules and procedures. Insiders say that rules were thrown to the winds. Rules state that unless an officer held the post of General Manager in the Railways, he cannot become a Member of the board or its chairman. A non-member can become chairman of the board. But the condition is that he must have an experience of working as GM in the Railways. Lohani was two ladder down in the seniority and yet he was made chairman straight. The insult to the injury was also in store as Lohani also superseded two highly competent and senior members of the Railway Board. The two members are Ravindra Gupta and Mohammad Jamshed who are bitter and contemplating quitting. The position of these two members has become untenable with Lohani's appointment. The new Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal is busy sorting out the grave issue as both of them reportedly threatened to quit. Goyal wants to resolve this anomaly as continued acrimony can take a turn for the worse. The internal trouble has cropped up at a time when the Railways is trying to overcome serious problems. No doubt, Lohani is an old Railway hand and a technical guy himself. He is reported to have impressed the PMO when he was made ITDC chairman. His appointment had raised eyebrows in the ITDC as well. But within no time, he got a big boost and brought as Chairman Air India.

Amit Shah's advice to Narain Rane

The BJP high command has conveyed to dissident Congress leader Narain Rane to keep patience and his entry is only a matter of time. BJP president Amit Shah had a meeting with him a couple of months ago where in principle decision was taken to admit the Ranes into the BJP. Amit Shah's philosophy is to admit leaders from other parties with an open arm and once they are in the BJP, they would be “reformed.” Shah is of the firm view that this is the only way to expand BJP in a short span and win Lok Sabha seats. This open arm policy is contrary to most of his predecessors who were rather slow in admitting leaders from other parties. But Amit Shah wants every influential leader to be part of the BJP. Therefore, he has conveyed to Rane that he would surely be admitted.

India Foundation calls the shots

What is common among Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha and MoS External Affairs M J Akbar ? All of them are professionals and highly successful and their rise has been rather brisk. In the case of Nirmala Sitharaman, it has been phenomenal. But there is one more factor; all of them are key member of the India Foundation, a think tank founded by BJP general Secretary Ram Madhav. His focus is to ensure that BJP gets more Lok sabha seats in states where it didn't get numbers in 2014. The Think-Tank formally came into being early 2014 though Ram Madhav was working for Narendra Modi in Gujrat for a long time. Ram Madhav is considered a parallel power centre. There are as many as eight such think tanks floated by those associated with the RSS & BJP. But India Foundation and Vivekanand International Foundation are the two most powerful think tanks providing talented persons to the Modi government. Interestingly, Ram Madhav keeps a low profile and works from behind the scenes. The rise of Nirmala Sitharaman is being attributed to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. But it is said that Ram Madhav is the key behind her success and worked hard to promote her at every stage. He prefers to handle security and international affairs apart from J&K and North eastern states.

The mystery of 'Old Notes' deepens as RBI counts

The mystery of “old notes” demonetized and deposited with banks deepened further after the RBI said: Rs 15.28 lakh crores in old notes out of Rs 15.44 lakh crores had been counted and final figure will be released later. This leaves only Rs 16000 crores which were not deposited with the RBI. But think of 'Old Notes' still lying with Nepal Rashtriya Bank and other neighbouring countries. The figure is stated to be over Rs 8000 crores. The RBI has yet to accept around Rs 7000 crores from Cooperative banks. Then, thousands and thousands of NRIs who made a bee-line outside the RBI branches failed to deposit old notes who came from all over the world as government changed rules at will. In addition, banned notes lying with the Income Tax, ED, Police in states and other agencies could not be deposited with the RBI either. Did India print more notes than notified ? No one has a clue. But everyone in the government is frightened if the old notes in the “pipeline” are allowed to be deposited.

Mamata wants Kejri in Mahagathbandhan

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is pitching for the inclusion of Aam Aadmi Party into the grand alliance of 17 Opposition parties. Mamata wants Arvind Kejriwal to be part of the “Mahagathbandhan” as he is a force in Delhi and elsewhere. However, the Congress has puts its foot down and made it clear that there is no place for AAP in the front. Rather, the Congress leadership has cautioned Mamata Banerjee to keep away as Kejriwal is known for selling dreams. The Congress leaders sheepishly confessed how Kejriwal fooled Shiela Dixit saying that he will never float a political party and work for her victory in Delhi. But Mamata is unwilling to dump Kejriwal. Perhaps, Kejriwal has promised to campaign for Mamata and project her as Prime Ministerial candidate in 2019.

Monday, September 4, 2017

We are providing free medicines and tests to all: Nadda

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

'We are providing free medicines, tests to all'

We are providing free medicines and tests to all: Nadda

Union Minister for health and family welfare Jagat Prakash Nadda says free check-up will be done in case of those above 30 years of age and suffering from hypertension, diabetes, oral cancer and breast cancer. We are going to roll out this scheme in 100 districts this year.
Medicines too will be given free of cost. Similarly, we have decided to open 20 state-of-the-art cancer units. Under the Prime Minister's Dialysis Scheme, the government will open dialysis centres in about 400 districts across the country.


Questions: Is “free medicine and free treatment to all' your new slogan?
Answer : Free drugs and diagnostics will be available to all whether they take treatment in a private hospital or a government hospital. Our government has rolled out free drugs and diagnostic facilities. This is a revolutionary step in the field of healthcare. The government is offering 500 medicines free of cost. Now the states have to implement this. Many state have already come forward to implement this. Moreover, there are many other schemes too.

Q. What are the new schemes?
A : There will be free check-up for those above 30 years of age and who are suffering from hypertension, diabetes, oral cancer, breast cancer etc. This will be done in the entire country. We are going to roll out this plan this year in 100 districts. We have decided to open 20 state-of-the-art cancer units. They will be built at a cost of Rs.150 crore. The project will also inculde 50 cancer centres which too will be opened. Under the Prime Minister's Dialysis Scheme, the government will open dialysis centres in about 400 districts across the country. One per cent rise would be registered in the Universal Immunization (vaccination) programme for new born babies every year. We have taken it up to eight per cent in the last two years and proposed to take it up to 10 per cent. This has been a great achievement. There were seven types of vaccines in the immunization programme so far, which we have increased to 11 now. Our government has done a landmark work in a short span of time.

Q. But in Delhi, the Kejriwal government too is offering free medicines and tests?
A: All the money to the district hospitals comes from the centre. in Delhi also, whatever free drugs and diagnostic tests are being offered in the district hospitals, are being funded by the centre only.
Q. So the Kejriwal government is just bragging while you are doing the real work?
A. All I would say is that the government of India is working. There are many state governments that are taking advantage of Centre's schemes.
Q. You fixed the prices of stent and keen treatment. It took you three years to do. When will you fix the cost of other surgeries?
A. We are working on it. Our effort is to cap costs of all essential surgeries.
Q. It seems you are afraid of the hospital lobby?
A: Not at all. We do 'solid' work. We do not get affected by the lobby.
Q. You generic medicines policy has stirred the hornet's nest among drug companies. But this order sounds more populist. Nothing is happening on the ground!
A. Whenever any changes occur, they have their own reactions. For, the decisions are taken for the benefit of the people. Just wait... the work is going on.
Q. But the effect of medical lobby is quite conspicuous in case of medical colleges!
A. We are bringing the National Medical Commission Bill. There will be uniform policy in the entire Country.
Q. You had assured about this Bill when you became a minister?
A. This Bill is in the final stage. After all, whenever there is a problem, it is necessary to make fool-proof arrangement.
Q. You superseded the MCI. Then there was some problem in the Supreme Court appointed committee? Then you formed the 'oversight committee'?
A. I will not make any comment on this. We are trying to establishing a transparent system. Look at NEET. It is a glaring example of our transparency. The National Medical Commission will be formed too. We will do away with the these problems.
Q. You are opening AIIMS in every states. But there are neither doctors nor trained staff?
A. We have increased 20,000 seats in PG and UGC courses. After all, it takes time to set up AIIMS-like institutions on such a large scale. We can not compromise on institutions like AIIMS.
Q. But you are cutting down the healthcare budget?
A. No, we are raising the budget. There is a 27 per cent increase this year. But the states have not been able to spend the money. When I assumed charges, they were spending about 20 per cent only. After a lot of hard work, it has now gone up to 40 per cent.
Q. The government is silent on this issue of 'population'?
A. We are working on family development mission. Today, the total fertility rate in 24 states has come down to 2.1 per cent. It is more than 3 per cent in 8 states. In these states, 140 districts are such where we are doing micro-planning for each one of them.
Q. But there is no discussion whatsoever, about it. Are you doing it quietly?
A. You have to concentrate only on your work while doing some good work. This is very serious task and the results will be for all to see.
Q. You once proposed to regulate the sale and consumption of tabacoo, but went silent after that?
A. prevention is very essential. We are laying emphasis on public education and awareness, which has been 6 per cent reduction in consumption of tabacco in the last three years. The effects can be seen even in cinema halls. If regulation will be required even after that, we will do that too.
Q. In Gujarat and Karnataka, the BJP has announced its leaders. But why is it not doing so in Himachal?
A. The BJP prepares separate plans for every state. In many states, we contested elections after announcing names of the leaders. But in many states, we did not do so. It is the BJP Parliamentary Board which takes a decision in this regards.
Q. Some people say that you are BJP's 'secret card'?
A. There is absolutely no truth in it. The BJP Parliamentary Board takes the decision on all such matters and it will take a right decision at the right time.