Citizens' Issues
Floods in J&K: Massive rescue operations underway
Rescue teams will be focusing on the inundated city of Srinagar and south Kashmir belt where an estimated four lakh people are believed to be trapped in floods which have claimed nearly 200 lives in the Jammu & Kashmir
 
Mammoth multi-agency rescue efforts were underway in Jammu and Kashmir  (J&K) to rescue lakhs of people trapped in flood-ravaged areas, with choppers from Indian Air Force (AIF) and transport aircraft undertaking non-stop sorties overnight to carry men and relief material to the submerged parts.
 
Rescue teams will be focusing on the inundated city of Srinagar and south Kashmir belt where an estimated four lakh people are believed to be trapped in floods which have claimed nearly 200 lives in the State.
 
Two more units of Army and NDRF have been airdropped to Pancheri in Udhampur where 30 people are missing after a landslide hit the area.
 
“Seven bodies and a limb of a person have been so far recovered in Udhampur but the operation to locate those trapped is very difficult,” DIG Garib Das said.
 
However, the situation in the rest of Jammu belt has stabilised and the focus is now on providing relief material on the ground, officials said.
 
They said a massive rescue and relief operation is on in Kashmir Valley with more helicopters and rescue material, including boats, pressed into service.
 
floods, J & K, Jammu & Kashmir, Srinagar, rescue operations, Indian Air Force,  DIG Garib Das.Almost 30 sorties of IL-76 and AN 32 have been undertaken to Srinagar overnight to carry men and relief material, boats cutters and other equipment, besides huge quantity of medicines and water bottles.
 
Speaking about the rescue efforts, Army Lt Chetan said: “We are rescuing 10-15 people in every round we make per boat. We make 50-60 rounds per day. We have all equipment to rescue people. We will move out only after rescuing everybody.’’
 
Army Chief Gen Dalbir Suhag had said in Delhi that “Soldiers won’t return to barracks until last man is helped.”
 
Army medical officer Jagdish Singh said, “We have set up medical camps and are treating 230-300 people everyday."
 
“We have ambulances and surgeons. District hospitals and NGOs are also working with us,” he added.
 
Lt Gen DS Hooda, General-Officer-Commanding of the Army’s Northern Command had said yesterday that the focus will be now on Srinagar.
 
The heavy floods triggered by torrential rains have snapped the Valley’s telecommunication links with the rest of the country.
 
BSNL has launched an operation on a war-footing with the Army and IAF to restore mobile services through satellite network and the telecom network is expected to be partially restored today, officials said.
 
To provide relief to the displaced, 68 camps have been set up in Jammu.
 
Seven helicopters have been pressed to ferry relief material to Rajouri, Poonch, Reasi, Mahore, Doda, Kishtwar belts, officials said.
 
The Centre has rushed more National Disaster Response Forces (NDRF) teams equipped with boats and other flood relief equipment to Kashmir Valley. Naval commandos have also been deployed for the first time.
 
Army, Air Force, NDRF and state agencies have so far rescued more than 25,000 people and lodged them in higher places in the Valley.
 
Boats have been pressed into service in many flooded parts to rescue the residents huddled on rooftops and upper floors of their houses.
 
Meanwhile, the pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi shrine in Reasi district was on with over 25,000 people offering prayers since yesterday.
 
Efforts are on to restore helicopter services to the cave shrine, Das said.

User

Woman Involved in Security Lapse at Arizona Terror Center Stripped of Citizenship
Immigration case leads to likely exile of Chinese immigrant who had role in embarrassing episode in Phoenix
 
To find out more about how a Chinese national gained access to Arizona's terror center, read last week's exclusive piece from ProPublica and The Center for Investigative Reporting.
 
Xunmei Li, the Chinese immigrant and businesswoman who played a role in a large-scale security lapse inside the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center, lost her U.S. citizenship last week and likely faces exile from the country.
 
Federal Judge David Campbell ruled that Li's 2009 conviction for immigration fraud, combined with evidence that she was knowingly married to two men at once, is sufficient cause to denaturalize her. Li, 44, lied to immigration officials about how many times she'd married and whether she has children while applying for citizenship a decade ago. She denied being a mother despite having two U.S.-born daughters.
 
The order against Li is the latest chapter in the murky, long-buried story of how a Chinese national came to work inside the counter terrorism center in Phoenix. Lizhong Fan, a computer programmer from Beijing, spent five months in 2007 working with confidential records, including Arizona's database of five million driver's licenses. Fan abruptly left for China with computer equipment, potentially holding reams of sensitive data.
 
Li, who emigrated to the U.S. from Shanghai in 1994, has said she was the person whose recommendation led to Fan working inside the intelligence center. Li said she suggested Fan as a candidate to work on a facial recognition program owned and operated by a small security company called Hummingbird Defense Systems. Li was the girlfriend of the company's chief executive, Steve Greschner.
 
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office hired Hummingbird to set up the facial recognition system, and then persuaded officials to install the system in the intelligence center. The center, formed in 2004, allows more than 20 police agencies to work together to thwart possible terror attacks.
Arizona state and local officials did not disclose the possible breach at the center to the public. A joint investigation by ProPublica and The Center for Investigative Reporting detailed the security failure in an August 26 story.
 
It remains unclear how closely law enforcement looked into the incident or whether it moved to prevent future breaches. The FBI opened a probe shortly after Fan disappeared in June 2007, according to records and a former federal investigator, but the bureau hasn't made its findings public. The Arizona Department of Public Safety, which operates the intelligence center, has refused to comment.
 
Federal investigators came to worry that Li was a spy for China, said Paul Haney, a retired U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. Haney's criminal immigration investigation of Li led to her fraud conviction and, ultimately, the denaturalization case.
 
The government has never filed espionage or national security charges against Li. She did not respond to calls for comment this week, but has repeatedly denied any involvement in espionage.
"Absent a confession, we can only speculate," Haney said of whether Li served as a Chinese spy. "Maybe she's telling the truth and she's not an operative. I don't know."
 
Don Bivens, Li's lawyer, said in a statement that he cannot understand why government lawyers took such severe action against his client, "who in our view simply made mistakes on her naturalization application that are commonly made by hundreds of immigrants every day."
Patricia Corrales, a former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorney who was involved with many denaturalization cases in her career, said revoking citizenship has been used in situations that involved national security concerns, particularly when it involves false testimony, without disclosing secrets or such suspicions.
 
"Now, most people think, "Bigamy, what's the big deal with that?" said Corrales, who is now an immigration attorney in Southern California. "We want only people who deserve to be U.S. citizens in this country to have that status. If you're going to lie about your kids what else are you going to be lying about?"
 
Christopher Dempsey, a U.S. Justice Department attorney who represented the government at trial, referred calls for comment to the Justice Department.
 
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the government is pleased with the court's decision and the order "speaks for itself."
 
The U.S. Attorney's Office has said it intends to start deportation proceedings against Li. She can appeal her denaturalization. Bivens, Li's lawyer, declined to comment on whether his client will continue to fight for her citizenship.
 
Judge Campbell scheduled a hearing for later this month to establish how to proceed with Li's denaturalization.
 
Andrew Becker, a reporter at The Center for Investigative Reporting, contributed to this report.
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org

User

Supreme Court to decide future of 46 captive coal mines
Unless the governments, both at the Centre and State level, take these issues seriously and implement a uniform approach and policy over coal mines, we will continue to be in a mess
 
Only a couple of weeks ago, the Supreme Court declared that all the 218 coal blocks allotted were done, in every step of the way, illegally. Out of these, it appeared from the leniency plea made by the government that the Supreme Court may consider and spare 46 coal blocks, which were allotted as captive coal mines for various industries.
 
In his report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had stated that the State Exchequer lost Rs1.86 lakh crore (or about $31 billion) because of the policy of giving away these coal mines to non-state companies, which prompted the Supreme Court to order an investigation by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
 
The Court said that the allocation of coal blocks, which companies had won after competitive bidding process, was "legal" but these were meant to feed the designated power plants only. Thus, coal mined from these blocks could not be sold "commercially" or for any other purpose.
 
Out of the 46 blocks, actually 40 are producing about 45 to 50 million tonnes (mt), and if there are no impediments, production is likely to reach 53 million tonnes this fiscal year. The supplies are to power plants including the UMPP (Ultra Mega Power Project) at Sasan.
 
One question that may arise in our minds immediately is whether the owners of these captive blocks are also importing coal (or their imports may have stopped now), as they have captive mines at their disposal? If not, when do they expect to be self-sufficient from their own indigenous supply?
 
These miners, it is reported in the press, under the aegis of Coal Developers Association, have also begun legal consultation in case the Supreme Court's decision is not in their favour. However, the miners concerned feel that all the blocks awarded between 1993 and 2010 should be left with the developers!
 
These coal blocks are mainly located in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Apart from power plants, others who would benefit, if the Supreme Court accepts the government plea, are the iron and steel and cement sectors.  During the current fiscal (2014-15), as mentioned above six more blocks are scheduled to go into production.  These are GVK Power's Tokisud North (reserves stated to be 92.3 million tonnes), NTPC's Pakri Barwadih (reserves 1600 mt) and DVC's Khagra Joydev (reserves 196.15 mt)
 
In a press conference, Power Minister Piyush Goyal reiterated that the government will ensure 24 x 7 power supply for all and, in fact, in the last 100 days, power production has increased by 21% as compared to the corresponding period last year.  In any case, plans are already set to ensure that Coal India reaches a target of one billion tonnes by 2019 from the current levels of 500 million tonnes. The government was also expediting the completion of rail corridors so that supplies could increase. Also to facilitate such speedy movement and to avoid shortage of rakes, Coal India plans to spend Rs5,000 crore in the purchase of 250 additional rakes.
 
In a separate press meet, Prakash Javdekar, the Environment Minister, is reported to have stated that his ministry was no longer a "speed breaker" and that they expect to be able to introduce the system of on-line submission of forms for clearance. They are working on a single-window clearance for projects and that there was "transparency and no discrimination, in project clearance," as “we do not even know who owns the project!"
 
In this scenario, what can one expect from the Supreme Court, which is fully aware of the power situation in the country? Would they take a lenient view of the government plea? We look at several possibilities:
 
a) The Supreme Court may direct the owners of the 40 captive, producing blocks to pay on an at a "cost" for acquiring the blocks to the government, at current market prices, including royalty and penalty; (no free lunch for anyone including government-owned companies!)
 
b) Owners of these blocks need to pay this up or surrender
 
c) In case of state-owned companies generating power, they should additionally make the power available at a cheaper rate, per unit, to the public; they shall also commit production targets and refrain from imports to ensure indigenous coal substitution
 
d) All these developers may have just "gone by the book to obtain these coal blocks", by the then government policy. They need now to give a sworn affidavit that they did not secure these in an “under the table manner”, so as to "retain" this illegal allocation
 
e) all the 46 captive mines need to formally commit an annual production from the mines so as to reduce dependence on imported coal
 
In so far as the balance coal blocks are concerned, the government may be allowed to auction them, with a specific condition that the successful bidder must be able to guarantee an agreed quantum of production from the time actual mining starts
 
The government can decide the pattern of distribution of these available blocks:
 
a) offer 50% of these to Foreign Direct Investors (who should bring in their know-how, technology including machinery)
 
b) offer 25% to various organisations in the power, steel, cement and other related industries, who have the capacity to start the mining operation in 12/24 months
 
c) balance 25% be offered exclusively to state operated enterprises, which do not have any blocks allocated so far, but with above conditions of production
 
To ensure that these actually bring about total increase in indigenous coal production and eliminate imports, the Environmental Ministry will expeditiously give clearance with 60/90 days of application.
 
Unless the government, both at the Centre and State levels take these issues seriously and implement a uniform approach and policy, we will continue to be in a mess.
 
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)

User

We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
  Loading...
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email

BUY NOW

The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine and Lion Stockletter)