Citizens' Issues
Complaint filed after worms found in Nestle's Cerelac in Coimbatore
Still fighting the Maggi noodles crisis in court, Nestle India on Tuesday was hit by another potential trouble-spot with a consumer filing a complaint with the food safety watchdog saying that a packet of baby food Cerelac was found infested with worms in Coimbatore.
 
"We have received a complaint about a worm-infested packet of Cerelac. We have sent the packet for tests. We will be collecting three more samples of the same Cerelac variant and send it for tests," R. Kathiravan, the designated officer of the food safety and drug administration, told IANS over phone from Coimbatore, around 500 km from the Tamil Nadu capital.
 
M.S. Sriram, the complainant, also told IANS over phone from Coimbatore: "We bought the Cerelac packet on Sunday. It was opened only on Monday around noon by my wife to feed our baby. To her shock, she found worms in the powder and called me."
 
"The expiry date on the pack was printed as February 2016. We always buy food products after checking the expiry date," Sriram said.
 
He said he then called Nestle India's toll-free complaint number and got a "pathetic response".
 
"The response I got at the toll-free number was horrible. Hence I decided to take the issue further by making a complaint to the food safety department," Sriram said.
 
Only after the issue escalated did Nestle India officials start acting.
 
"A company official called me and apologised for what happened to me with their product. He gave a new packet and said the company would also take the issue forward by testing the samples," Sriram said.
 
According to Kathiravan, there was a remote chance of a properly packed product getting infested with worms.
 
Incidentally, this was the second such complaint in Coimbatore with Nestle India's baby food.
 
On June 2, a person said he found larvae and worms in a packet of Nestle's NanPro 3 milk powder.
 
"After that complaint, we collected samples of that product from other shops and tested them. The test results were positive for the company as they were not contaminated," Kathiravan said.
 
He said the product would get infested with worms only when moisture enters the packet.
 
Nestle India officials were not immediately reachable for comments.

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Railways' reforms can transformatively impact 1.2 bn Indians
One will have to wait and watch as to how the strategic restructuring in this critical sector unfolds over the next decade. It truly has the capability to have a transformative impact on the lives of India's 1.2 Billion people
 
The railways sector has seen some activity in the past few months. Not only are operational changes being brought about but a long-term strategic view seems to be in sight. The operation changes in ‘tatkal’ remuneration in respect to cancellation as well as the choice to upgrade to a domestic airline in case of waitlisted seats are steps that are beneficial to customers.
 
The long-term view seems to come from the recently constituted seven-member committee under the chairmanship of economist Bibek Debroy on Mobilizing Resources for Projects and Restructuring of Indian Railways. The report proposes five fundamental points for the IR, specifically and the railways sector to look into: 
 
First, what is the core role of the IR in India? This question is pertinent to understanding the core activities and the peripheral ones and separating the commercial from the social role of the IR. At present, there are a lot of activities that take up considerable time and effort on the part of IR. These include the medical service that IR runs with an infrastructure of 125 hospitals, 586 health units and 14,000 beds. Also, pertinent in this regard is the 1 degree college and 168 schools that IR runs. These along with the railway protection, catering, real estate development, housing and the like, according to the committee, are non-core activities that can be clearly outsourced. 
 
Second the report calls for proper accounting procedures and commercial considerations in IR. A formally reformed accounting system will enable the Ministry of Railways that has administrative control over 6 established production units and 16 public sector undertakings (PSUs) to keep proper accounts. Similarly, it will also enable the understanding the level of subsidization in the 17 zones and 68 divisions into which the IR at present is bifurcated. A case in point that finds mention is the Kolkata Metro rail. Any future suburban systems according to the committee should be built on a JV route with state governments (on a 50:50 basis), and the cost should not be borne by IR. 
 
Third, the report recommends streamlining the HR procedures and processes in IR. It is fundamental to carrying out the organizational transformation. It is primarily to be achieved by merging and consolidating the eight Group ‘A’ services into two services. These could be respectively called the Indian Railway Technical Service (IRTechS) comprising of the existing five technical services (IRSE, IRSSE, IRSEE, IRSME and IRSS) and the Indian Railway Logistics Service (IRLogS), comprising the three non-technical services (IRAS, IRPS and IRTS). Aligned with the streamlining of HR procedures is the decentralization of the authority and responsibility to at least the level of Divisional Railway Manager (DRM). The DRM is in charge of one of the 68 divisions of the IR. The financial authority, as well as the power in handling tenders connected with works, stores procurement, to DRM's, ensures that departmentalism is reduced - and there is accountability within the IR. 
 
Fourth, is the issue of ensuring competition and liberalization in the railways sector. The committee has for specific reasons refrained from calling the liberalization of the railways sector as privatization or deregulation. Essentially the committee recommends and encourages open access to private players who want to operate trains on tracks. It is in line with what is practiced at present in some parts of Europe and Australia. Liberalization and open access also call for an independent regulator for the sector and the committee report recommends setting up the same statutorily with an independent budget. The regulator - Railway Regulatory Authority of India (RRAI) - for economic regulation, including, wherever necessary, tariff regulation. 
 
Fifth, the report proposes progressively phasing out of the rail budget and merging the same with the general budget. It reflects the need to define clearly the relationship between the government and the IR. The recommendations also call for ending the system of paying dividends and reduction in the gross budgetary support carried out between the government and IR. 
 
The recommendations of the report are timely and present a systematic roadmap to restructure the IR behemoth in specific and the railways sector in general. However, as with the previous committee reports much will depend upon the acceptance of the report and ultimately its implementation on the ground. One will have to wait and watch as to how the strategic restructuring in this critical sector unfolds over the next decade. It truly has the capability to have a transformative impact on the lives of India's 1.2 Billion people. 
 

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Maharashtra ACB searches homes, offices of Bhujbals
A Special Investigation Team of Maharashtra's Anti-Corruption Bureau on Tuesday carried out searches at 16 offices/homes belonging to senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, his son Pankaj and nephew Sameer.
 
The former deputy chief minister's Nationalist Congress Party cried "vendetta" on the searches. 
 
The searches were carried out at their homes and offices in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nashik, an official of the ACB said here.
 
These include seven residences and offices in Mumbai, a bungalow in Thane, commercial premises in Navi Mumbai, three farmhouses and two bungalows in Nashik, a flat in Pune and a bungalow on a 65-acre plot with a helipad in Lonavala.
 
The searches followed offences registered by the ACB in the past few weeks against the Bhujbals and 14 others for corruption and amassing wealth and assets beyond their known sources of income.
 
Following complaints, the ACB lodged FIR against Bhujbal and son Pankaj, both legislators, and nephew Sameer, a former MP, for alleged irregularities in awarding the contract to construct the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi.
 
Last year, following the Bombay High Court directive on a Public Interest Litigation, the ACB formed the SIT to investigate the contract and other cases, including allotment of a plot of land in Kalina to a realtor.
 
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rallied behind the Bhujbals and said the party would challenge these actions in the court of law, senior party leader Madhukar Pichad said and termed the SIT operations an "act of vendetta".
 
Co-accused in these cases are Arun Devdhar, Gita Joshi, Iram Shaikh, Devdutt Marathe, Bipin Sankhe, Krishna Chamankar, Prasanna Chamankar, Pranita Chamankar, Pravin Chamankar, Tanveer Shaikh, Sanjay Joshi, Manik Shah, Deepak Deshpande and Anil Gaikwad.

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