Economy
Chhattisgarh government paid commission for Agusta chopper: Swaraj Abhiyan
NGO Swaraj Abhiyan on Thursday accused the Raman Singh government in Chhattisgarh of inviting a "fraudulent" tender and paying a hefty commission of $1.57 million on the purchase of one AgustaWestland chopper in 2007.
 
A court-monitored investigation be conducted to probe the deal and find out those who took kickbacks, Swaraj Abhiyan leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav demanded at a joint press conference here.
 
"The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate are toys controlled by the central government. A former Supreme Court judge should be appointed to investigate the matter," Yadav said.
 
As per documents shown by them, the state civil aviation department prepared a note on the need for a VIP helicopter on December 19, 2006.
 
Within days, they said, a meeting was held between state government officials and representatives of OSS (service provider of AgustaWestland in India), where the latter gave a presentation on the A-109 chopper model of the company.
 
The Swaraj Abhiyan leaders said the state government then approached AgustaWestland directly, which said it would take two years to deliver the chopper and suggested (the government) to purchase it from its Hong Kong-based dealer Sharp Ocean, which had already quoted a price of $6.31 million through its subsidiary OSS.
 
Bhushan and Yadav said the price included a "premium" of $2,00,000. 
 
They said the government sent a team to Hong Kong to negotiate the premium amount but in vain after which the state government floated a "global tender" calling for suppliers who could provide 'Agusta 109 Power E Helicopter'.
 
"The tender itself was fraudulent. The government mentioned the name of the product and company in the tender notification itself. No attempt was made to find out different manufacturers. There are at least 10 similar helicopter manufacturers who supply at cheaper rate than AgustaWestland. Why did the government favour it?" Bhushan asked.
 
Interestingly, companies that are said to have bid for the tender were AgustaWestland, Sharp Ocean (Hong Kong dealer of AgustaWestland) and OSS (service provider of AgustaWestland and subsidiary of Sharp Ocean), which quoted the lowest price of $ 6.57 million. The tender was finally awarded to OSS.
 
"It is important to note that the initial price quoted by OSS was 6.31 million. However, the tender was awarded to it at $6.57 million, which also included commission of $1.57 million (around 30 percent of the deal). Who all shared the premium amount which was paid to AgustaWestland? The Comptroller and Auditor General had also indicted the Chhattisgarh government in its 2011 report for wasting public money by signing this deal," Bhushan, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, added.
 
The then United Progressive Alliance government had signed a deal with the AgustaWestland company to buy 12 VVIP choppers in 2010, which was cancelled in January 2013.
 
The deal came into public focus again after an Italian court referred to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the then prime minister Manmohan Singh, among others, in its judgment last month but gave no details of any wrongdoing by the two leaders.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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COMMENTS

D S Ranga Rao

1 year ago

Whatever it's worth for, the allegations against the Chattisgarh government must be probed and the alleged pecuniary loss to government must be fixed and recovered to the last rupee and the guilty punished without any compunction. When the present incumbent government at the centre smelt a rat in the proposed Augusta chopper purchase and when it is going hammer and tongs against all the parties involved in it, how can it ignore it though it is on the sidelines? Therefore, the central government should demonstrate that it means it can walk the talk too.

SpiceJet asked to pay Rs10 lakh for offloading a disabled passenger
The Supreme Court on Thursday asked private carrier Spicejet to pay Rs10 lakh as damages to a disabled passenger suffering from cerebral palsy, who was offloaded by the carrier in 2012. 
 
While allowing the petition of Jeeja Ghosh, a bench of Justices AK Sikri and RK Agrawal, said a little care, a little sensitivity and a little positive attitude on the part of Spicejet officials would not have resulted in the trauma, pain and suffering Jeeja Ghosh suffered. 
 
On 19 February 2012, Ghosh was offloaded by Spicejet while travelling to Goa from Kolkata for attending a conference hosted by Able Disable All People Together (AGAPT), a non-governmental organisation (NGO). 
 
"On our finding that Spicejet acted in a callous manner, and in the process violated Rules, 1937 and Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), 2008 guidelines resulting in mental and physical suffering experienced by Ghosh and also unreasonable discrimination against her (Ghosh), we award a sum of Rs10 lakh as damages to be payable to her," the Bench said in its order.
 
The SC said the decision to offload Ghosh was taken by the airlines without any medical advice or consideration and her condition was not such which required any assistive devices or aids.  "Even if we assume that there was some blood or froth that was noticed to be oozing out from the sides of her mouth when she was seated in the aircraft (though vehemently denied by her), nobody even cared to interact with her and asked her the reason for the same. No doctor was summoned to examine her condition. Abruptly and without any justification, a decision was taken to de-board her without ascertaining as to whether her condition was such, which prevented her from flying. This clearly amounts to violation of Rule 133-A of Rules, 1937 and the CAR, 2008 guidelines," the Bench added.
 
The apex court also praised Ghosh for her achievements. It said, "...the work experience and other qualifications of Ghosh amply demonstrates how a person suffering from cerebral palsy can overcome the disability and achieve such distinctions in her life, notwithstanding various kinds of retardation and the negative attitudes which such persons have to face from the society. Ghosh is a living example who has, notwithstanding her disability, achieved so much in life by her sheer determination to overcome her disability and become a responsible and valuable citizen of this country."
 

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Keep iconic Matheran toy train alive urges Twitterati
News of the Central Railway's decision to give up on the iconic Neral-Matheran toy train, a major attraction among tourists and a source of livelihood for thousands at and near the hill station, had social media reacting in shock and dismay at the abrupt decision. Several people, including journalists, filmmakers, and citizens, while expressing grief over the decision have requested Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu to keep the toy train alive and running. While it is true that the toy train suffered two mishaps in a week, people find it hard to believe that a train that has run from 1907 and has been on the tentative heritage list of UNESCO.
 
Citing the Committee report, a news report from Mumbai Mirror, says, "the iconic Matheran toy train service needs an urgent overhaul to prevent frequent disruptions, but the railways do not have the technical expertise to redesign the Neral-Matheran network."
 
The Committee, which submitted its report to CR General Manage SK Sood, has recommended a tie-up with international consultants to revamp the network, including the design of tracks and rolling stock. 
 
As per the newspaper, the Committee had said neither Indian Railways' Research Designs & Standards Organisation nor zonal rail centres had the expertise to redesign the hill line.
 
Rajendra Aklekar, journalist and author of 'Halt Station India", says the Neral-Matheran toy train has already entered in the tentative heritage list of UNESCO. "They don't have funds for maintenance. And shut down the train in vacations," he said in one of his tweets.
 
This is strange, since the local economy of Matheran seems dependent of the train to bring tourists to the picturesque hill station. In another report on 13th May, Mumbai Mirror details how over 5,000 peoples’ livelihood depends on the train.
 
 
Sucheta Dalal, Managing Editor of Moneylife wondered why the iconic train cannot be repaired and made viable taking into account the higher spending power of tourists. As for technical expertise, she says, the Konkan Railways and the Delhi Metro has tunnels, viaducts and bridges across that traverse difficult terrain - it is hard to believe that there is no in-house expertise available to preserve this piece of heritage.
 
 
The history of the 109-year old train in important. A post on Wikipedia says, “The Matheran Hill Railway is a 2 feet (610 mm) narrow gauge heritage railway in Maharashtra, India. The railways come under the administration of the Central Railways. The railway covers a distance of 21kms, over large swathes of forest territory connecting Neral to Matheran in the Western Ghats.”
 
 
The Neral-Matheran Light Railway was built between 1901 and 1907 by Abdul Hussein Adamjee Peerbhoy, financed by his father, Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy at a cost of Rs16 lakh. Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy visited Matheran often and wanted to build a railway to make it easier to get there. Hussain's plans for the Matheran Hill Railway were formulated in 1900 and construction started in 1904. Consulting engineer was Everard Calthrop of Barsi Light Railway fame. The line was open to traffic by 1907. Originally, the tracks were laid with 30 lb/yd (14.9 kg/m) rails but now have 42 lb/yd (20.8 kg/m) rails. Ruling gradient is 1:20 (5%) with tight curves and speeds are limited to 12 km/h (7.5 mph).
 
The railway was closed by flood damage during 2005 and was not expected to reopen before April 2007. Contrary to those expectations, the first run on the repaired railway was on 5 March 2007. The line observed its centenary on 15 April 2007, Wikipedia added.
 
Journalist Suhasini Haider called the act (to stop the toy train) as 'Shame'.
 
 
Activist and transport expert Sudhir Badami too wondered why the toy train, which has seen 109 monsoon cannot be repaired. 
 
 
This narrow gauge train service is popular among children as well as elderly, so much so that Matheran hill station has become synonymous with the toy train. Also Matheran is the only hill station near Mumbai, and thus frequented by tourists from the city. Filmmaker and noted photographer Atul Kasbekar said, if the current train cannot be repaired why not to have a new train.
 
 
 
However, the recent incidents of derailments since the beginning of this month have sent the tourists and the railway authorities into a tizzy.   
 
 
Usually during monsoon, services of the Matheran toy train were suspended due to dangers of landslides. However, after conducting tests of the train air brakes, and obtaining necessary permissions from the Commissioner of Railway Safety, the services were run in 2012 monsoon for the first time. 
 
In November 2012, CR added a special coach called a saloon to trains operating on the line. The saloons feature cushioned sofas and LCD screens showing images from outside the train. 
 
It takes approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes to complete the 21 km journey from Neral to Matheran. CR had plans to reduce the journey time to 1 hour 30 minutes.

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COMMENTS

Param

1 year ago

while it is nice to romanticize about these heritage items, one has to realise that the tweets do not result in actual business for keeping these systems alive. i support ms. dalal's idea that govt should get out of this business & perhaps auction it off to a private party for operation/maintenance. however, i still feel that 'regular' tourists would not be able to afford the economic fees needed to keep these things running.

Param

1 year ago

while it is nice to romanticize about these heritage items, one has to realise that the tweets do not result in actual business for keeping these systems alive. i support ms. dalal's idea that govt should get out of this business & perhaps auction it off to a private party for operation/maintenance. however, i still feel that 'regular' tourists would not be able to afford the economic fees needed to keep these things running.

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