Citizens' Issues
Dirty dealing: The Air India aircraft purchase could also unravel-Supreme Court issues notices to Centre

A petition refers to several of Praful Patel’s decisions, including ‘massive’ purchase of 111 aircraft for the national airline costing about Rs70,000 crore, taking a large number of planes on lease, giving up profit-making routes and timings in favour of private airlines and the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines

The Supreme Court of India Friday issued notices to the Centre and Air India on a plea seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into a raft of alleged irregularities at Air India during Praful Patel's tenure as civil aviation minister, allegedly to benefit private airlines. 
A bench comprising justices HL Dattu and CK Prasad sought a response from the government and Air India on a petition filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) a non-governmental organisation (NGO). The NGO has alleged that these decisions and irregularities had caused huge loss to Air India. Specifically, CPIL's petition refers to the 'massive' purchase of 111 aircraft for the national airline at a cost of over Rs70,000 crore, leasing a large number of planes, giving up several profit-making routes and timings to private airlines and the disastrous merger of Air India and Indian Airlines.
The NGO approached the apex court after the Delhi High Court refused to pass any order on CPIL's petition saying that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament is already looking into it.
"A responsible committee like PAC is looking into the matter and we are not giving any direction at this stage but expect for PAC to look into the matter from all angles..." the high court had said.
In its petition before the apex court, the NGO has alleged that the actions and decisions of the then civil aviation minister "ruined our national carriers, cost the national exchequer tens of thousands of crore and the only beneficiary of the above decisions were foreign aircraft manufacturers, private and foreign airlines".
"Thus the above actions were clearly made on extraneous considerations and resulted in pecuniary benefits to private companies, which is an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act".
The NGO has also referred to a CAG report which had stated that the decisions of the ministry do not "withstand audit scrutiny" and that the entire exercise was "a recipe for disaster ab initio" and "should have raised alarm signals in the government".
Following the SC notices, there is renewed hope that the findings of the CAG report as well as the alarm that had been sounded by Sunil Arora, former chairman and managing director (CMD) of Indian Airlines will finally see light of day. It is believed that Mr Arora, who is credited with turning around Indian Airlines during his tenure of 2002 to 2005 and making it profitable, was hounded out because he would not fall in line with Mr Patel's machinations.
Mr Arora had then written a detailed letter to the cabinet secretary BK Chaturvedi on 2 June 2005, documenting all that was wrong in the decisions which escalated the losses dramatically. Interestingly, existence of such a document came to light with the release of Delhi lobbyist Niira Radia's taped conversations with Mr Arora. 
Right to Information (RTI) activists who had written to the government seeking this document may like to know that the letter was denied to them because it was not written on 28 May 2005 as is wrongly believed but on 2 June 2005. We learn that Mr Arora wrote a second letter to the cabinet secretary on 10th June in which he documented his meeting with Mr Chaturvedi and elaborated on why it as wrong to force Indian Airlines to give up its bilaterals. 
While Praful Patel has got away with causing grave losses to the national carriers and a plan is afoot to bail them out through a massive infusion of funds by the exchequer, Sunil Arora continues to be punished for his remarkable work in having restored IA to its glory days for a brief period and for daring to speak against the minister. In August, the appointment's committee had approved the appointment of this Rajasthan cadre IAS officer as Development Commissioner (Handlooms) under the ministry of textiles, but it was promptly cancelled with the state claiming that it was unwilling to let him go to the Centre. 




5 years ago

Jay Ramdev Baba ki.

Ranbir Kapoor to play Kishore Kumar in Anurag Basu's biopic

After 'Barfi', Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Basu are coming together to make a biopic on Kishor Kumar, the most versatile singer, actor, director from Bollywood

Mumbai: Legendary singer-actor Kishore Kumar has become a source of inspiration for director Anurag Basu, who is making a "colourful and entertaining" biopic on him with Ranbir Kapoor in the lead, reports PTI.


"Ranbir, UTV and I, all three of us are committed to make this film. Ranbir is busy; he is doing two films in between. After 'Barfi', Ranbir and I will come together again for this movie," Basu told PTI.


Born as Abhas Kumar Ganguly, Kishore Kumar was a popular film playback singer and crooned in various languages including Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Assamese, Gujarati, Kannada, Bhojpuri, Malayalam and Oriya, apart from acting in a number of movies.


Being the youngest of four siblings, with elder brothers like Ashok Kumar and Anoop Kumar, Kishore was more interested in becoming a singer. He was not keen on acting, but Ashok Kumar wanted him to be an actor like himself.


For Basu, penning the story of the film is not an easy task, considering that Kishore Kumar was a legend.


"I have started writing it. It is a very tough job to write this, as the whole world will be looking at my work. I should be happy and sure of this film before I jump into shooting it," he said.


The legendary singer changed his name to Kishore Kumar and started his career as a chorus singer at Bombay Talkies.


Apart from singing many melodious and popular songs like 'Maana Janaab Ne Pukara Nahin', 'Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke', 'Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si', 'Haal Kaisa Hai Janaab Ka', 'Chhod Do Aanchal', 'Mere Saamne Wali Khidki Mein' and others, Kishore acted in films and was known for his comic timing in 'Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi', 'Dilli Ka Thug', 'Half Ticket', 'Padosan' and others.


"The film will have madness of Kishoreda. I am lucky that this came to me, UTV was planning this movie, Shomit had written a script. I am a big fan of him. I think he was the most colourful person, so full of life. That's why we thought of making a biopic on his life. It will be a very entertaining film," Basu promised.


"I had locked this film with Ranbir when 'Barfi' was only one schedule old. I had offered it to him and he liked the idea very much and consented to do it," Basu added.


Ranbir will have to change his look to get into the boots of the stalwart singer.


"We did some look test of young Kishore Kumarji on him (Ranbir). We have gone through several such processes before zeroing in on him to play Kishoreda on screen," Basu said.


The film will bring back the black and white era where Kishore Kumar reigned as a comic star and trace his rise in Bollywood's playback scene.


"It is a biopic so we are not taking the liberty to make our own story. There are a lot of things that people don't know about him," Basu said.


Kishore Kumar's son Amit Kumar is involved at every stage to provide inputs for the film, Basu revealed.


"The family does not have a problem with the film. They have already given the green signal. They are helping us out a lot with his personal things, secrets, which the people are not aware of," he said.


Kishore Kumar had married four times. His first wife was Bengali singer and actress Ruma Ghosh. Their marriage lasted from 1950 to 1958.


He later married actress Madhubala, who had worked with him in many films including his home production "Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi" (1958) and "Jhumroo" (1961). They got married when she was sick with a heart ailment. However, the marriage was also strained and lasted nine years, ending with Madhubala's death in 1969.


Later, Kishore married Yogeeta Bali in 1976, but separated in 1978. Then he was married to actress Leena Chandavarkar from 1980 until his death. He has two sons, Amit Kumar (playback singer) with Ruma, and Sumit Kumar with Leena.


Meanwhile, speculations are rife that Katrina Kaif might be signed to play Madhubala in the film.


"We have not thought of anyone as a leading lady yet. As of now only the three of us (Basu, UTV and Ranbir) are final," he said.


In Modi’s good-governance regime, four villagers expose mega housing scam using RTI

Four villagers who tenaciously used RTI are presently on a satyagraha in front of the Rajkot district collectorate demanding action against corrupt officials in  the Indira Awaas Yojana but no one, including Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, is listening

While Narendra Modi’s Gujarat is portrayed as a sterling example of good governance, brazen corruption in the premier housing scheme, Indira Awaas Yojana meant for those below poverty line (BPL) has not led to action against corrupt officials who have been diverting housing funds meant for the poorest of the poor to the ‘rich’ and ‘influential’ of the village, as exposed through RTI (Right to Information).


The Indira Awaas Yojana scheme is run by the Union rural development ministry to construct houses for people below poverty line. The financial assistance comprises Rs75,000 allotted to a woman or in the joint name of husband and wife. It is also extended to widows and war widows. It was the plight of a poor widow of Dhank village in Rajkot district that led to the corruption trail through incriminating evidence found through a series of RTI applications filed in the last two years, but the corrupt continue to be protected.


To protest against inaction by the state government, four villagers of Dhank in Rajkot district where the scam was exposed, Bharatbhai Ghughal, Bhanjibhai Jogel Naranbhai Varagiya and Govind Gangera are on satyagraha for the past one week in front of the Rajkot Collector’s office, to demand proper action against officers responsible for corruption in Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY). These officers, which include block development officers, assistant engineers and sarpanchs diverted funds to the rich and influential of the village for renovation of their houses. In some cases, the very same ‘rich’ and ‘influential’ people were also beneficiaries of another similar state government-run scheme, Sardar Patel Awaas Yojana (SPAY). As per rules, only villagers below poverty line can avail of one of the two schemes.


The endless power of citizen empowerment through RTI is reflected in this particular case, two villagers of Dhank who studied up to Std VII—Bharatbhai Ghughal and Bhanjibhai Jogel—tirelessly pursued the RTI route for two long years and blew the lid off a mega housing scam that is allegedly prevalent in most villages of Gujarat. Their frustration at corrupt officials not being punished despite incriminating evidence they exposed forcing the State Information Commission to direct vigilance commission to take action, has forced them to sit on satyagraha in front of the Rajkot Collector’s office.


In a press statement issued by the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) which has guided these two villagers to crusade through RTI,  Ghughal and Jogel have stated that, “We are agriculture labourers. Through RTI we came to know about the scam. We have approached the vigilance commission, as well as panchayat, rural housing department but no action is being taken against the officers who were responsible for this corruption. We were threatened by village sarpanch and panchayat officials but we are fighting for the cause to change the system. It’s almost a year but government has not taken any action against the responsible officers.” The press release has appealed to citizens and activists, nationwide to contact Bhanjibhai Jogel, Bharatbhai Ghughal on 09974573036 for moral support and send emails requesting action on the corrupt to   RM Patel, Additional Chief Secretary, Panchayat and Rural Housing Dept (GOG)

[email protected], [email protected]; D Rajgopalan, Chief Information Commissioner – Gujarat [email protected] ; Rajendar Kumar,  District Collector Rajkot [email protected] and/or N B Upadhyay, District Development Officer, [email protected].


Jogel and Ghughal filed RTI applications at the Gram Panchayat office in 2010 requesting names of the beneficiaries in Dhank village for the IAY and SPAY schemes for the last five years. When the sarpanch came to know of this, he along with his men beat the duo. In fact, he threatened to kill them by burning their houses in the night—a statement which he made in front of the District Development Officer (DDO) who was unmoved by it. Refusing to cow down, they took the help of Pankti Jog, a RTI activist working for MAGP which also has a whistleblowers’ helpline, based in Ahmedabad. She filed a police complaint and also ensured police protection to them.


When the PIO did not reply, they filed the first appeal with the first appellate authority, that is, the District Development Office of Rajkot district. During the hearing, the PIO submitted a hand-written chit with six names of beneficiaries who received allotment out of the rules. Jogel and Ghughal refused this shabby information and demanded a certified copy of the list of beneficiaries and whether they belonged to the BPL section of the society. Says Pankti Jog, “finally multiple RTI applications were filed to procure the same information and finally they received the list. The information stated that there were 65 beneficiaries in the last five years out of which 22 of them belonged to the affluent class and had received multiple benefits, meaning they received money two to three times under the two housing schemes and had renovated their houses with it.”


Jogel and Ghughal then analysed the sheet, re-worked it in an excel sheet format and with red marks defining irregularities. They then sent it to the Vigilance Commission for suitable action against the illegal beneficiaries. Says Pankti Jog, “The Vigilance Commission was initially slow in its action but in March 2011 directed the principal secretary of the panchayat department to conduct and inquiry and submit its report to the commission. The panchayat department sought details from the District Rural Development Authority (DRDA) by conducting investigation on ground. The two RTI applicants helped the authorities in identifying homes and the DRDA conducted a panchnama and collected testimonials which proved that 22 affluent households had indeed siphoned the money meant for the poorest of the poor.


Manu Moudgil, who has done a case study on this issue states that the villagers bravely used the RTI after the conventional methods of procuring failed. He writes, “it was in 2010 that Gughal and Jogal observed that well-to-do people owning large properties were getting the houses meant for below poverty line persons. They, joined by four others, decided to raise the issue first through official representations. Their first step was to file a joint complaint to the Taluka (Tehsil) Development Officer (TDO) on 30 March 2010, seeking an inquiry into the matter. Getting no response from the administration, they armed themselves with knowledge about the RTI Act, which they had heard was bringing about transparency in governance.” 


Despite incriminating evidence found against the seven officers including the sarpanch of the village Dhank which has a population 7,000 odd, neither the Panchayat Department nor the Vigilance Commission is taking action against them. States Pankti Jog, “corruption in these housing schemes’ disbursal of money runs in crores of rupees across Gujarat but the Narendra Modi government seems hesitant to take action.” The reason why these poor villagers have had to resort to satyagraha.


(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at [email protected].)



MK Gupta

5 years ago

Hey Ram!


5 years ago

Narendra Modi has his eyes set on the Central Government where such scams is a qualification. Maybe he is aquiring the qualifications necessary for the Central Leader.

Krishnan B S

5 years ago

Congress has been actively working on Corruption in Gujarat. However, Can you please use RTI and find out What is the expenditure for Ms Sonia Gandhi on her foreign trips and also which countries she visits every time and purpose of the same ?

R Balakrishnan

5 years ago

Hope the people who filed the RTI and got the information out are not hounded by the Modi govt


5 years ago

Mm Vinita - Excellent coverage and from where you get all these interesting details. Please keep us informed further development.

Rakesh Goyal

5 years ago

Vigilance Commission in Gujarat is an ornamental post. VC is not bothered to take any action against proved misconduct of officials of GoG. I am also dealing and following up with VC GoG with one such matter.

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