Citizens' Issues
Sunanda Pushkar death: Govt seeks report from AIMMS

Dr Gupta, who was heading the panel that conducted Sunanda’s post-mortem, has reportedly alleged that he was pressurised to show that her death was natural.

The Indian government on Wednesday sought a detailed report from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on the reported allegation by a senior forensic doctor, that he was pressurised to manipulate the report of the autopsy of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor.


“After I became the Health Minister, Dr Sudhir Gupta of AIIMS had written to our department regarding his promotion. But after TV channels reported that he has made a specific allegation, I have written to the AIIMS Director seeking a detailed information in this regard,” Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.


The allegation by Dr Gupta, who heads the Forensic Science department of AIIMS, has added a new twist to the mystery surrounding the death of 52-year-old Sunanda Pushkar.


Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in a 5-star hotel in South Delhi on the night of 17th January, a day after her twitter spat with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar over an alleged affair with Tharoor.


Dr Gupta refused to comment on his reported allegation, saying he has already stated the facts before the “competent” authorities.


“I don’t want to comment on this issue. It is a legal matter, a serious issue, I cannot share with the media. I am a government servant. Whatever I wanted to say, I have said at a competent place,” he said.


Dr Gupta, who was heading the panel that conducted Sunanda’s post-mortem, has reportedly alleged he was pressurised to show that her death was natural, which he claims he resisted.


The autopsy report had mentioned more than a dozen injury marks on both of Sunanda Pushkar’s hands and an abrasion on her cheek which suggested a “use of blunt force”, besides a “deep teeth bite” on the edge of her left palm. Viscera samples were preserved after the autopsy at AIIMS and were sent to CFSL for further tests.


The CFSL report hinted at drug poisoning but its findings were not conclusive enough to file an FIR in the case, according to the police.


The search and seizure memorandum of the police, which is a part of the report, mentioned finding a mix of two drugs — Alprazolam and Excedrin. Excedrin is a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine while Alprazolam is an anxiolytic.


The probe into the case was handed over to the Crime Branch on 23rd January. However, the case was transferred back to the South District police two days later on 25th January.


Inquest proceedings under Section 174 CrPC were initiated in the Sunanda Pushkar case according to which a sub-divisional magistrate inquires into the death of a woman if she dies within seven years of her marriage.


In a report to the police, the SDM, who had recorded the statements of the victim's brother, son, Shashi Tharoor and his staff, had said that no family member suspected any foul play in the death.


NSA Snooping row: India summons top US diplomat

The BJP figures in the list of foreign political parties along with Lebanon’s Amal, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Pakistan Peoples Party, on whom the US National Security Agency was given permission to carry out surveillance

Reacting strongly to reports of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders being spied upon by the American National Security Agency (NSA), India on Wednesday summoned a top US diplomat to raise the issue. India said it was 'totally unacceptable' that an Indian organisation or Indian individual’s privacy was transgressed upon.


India also sought an assurance from the US that it will not happen again.


However, officials did not say who the US diplomat summoned by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was.


Significantly, the US currently has an interim ambassador, Kathleen Stephens, who came in after former US Ambassador Nancy Powell resigned from her post.


India also noted that it had raised the issue with the US administration in Washington and the Delhi Embassy in July and November last year when reports emerged that NSA had spied upon individuals and entities, and said it was still “awaiting a response from America on this''.


India had reacted sharply when the reports of snooping by NSA came to light, after revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year.


BJP figures in the list of foreign political parties along with Lebanon’s Amal, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Pakistan Peoples Party, on whom the National Security Agency was given permission to carry out surveillance, says the document made public on Monday by The Washington Post.


The document lists the 193 foreign governments as well as foreign factions and other entities that were part of a 2010 certification approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The list includes Indian entities.


“These are the entities about which the NSA may conduct surveillance for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence,” the paper had said, citing documents provided to it by Snowden.


Developments in Iranian neighbourhood - India needs to be proactive!

India is already actively associated with the developments of Chabahar port in Iran and the proposed 70kms railway line between the port and Gorgan will further help develop trade

Recent developments in Iraq are alarming. Whether this leads to a limited military engagement by US, unilaterally or at the behest of the present Iraqi government remains to be seen. What is of prime importance for India is to hope that this sort of intervention does not block our movements in the area, particularly of crude supplies from Iran.


Saudi Arabia opposes foreign intervention in Iraq, particularly warning Iran, who may use the current situation as an opportunity to go in for defending Shi'ite Muslim holy sites. Outsiders can only hope that the rivalry across the region's Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian divide does not become explosive.


Meantime, it has been reported in the press, that the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are practically in the outskirts of Baghdad, having already "captured" Iraq's largest oil refinery.


As a result of these deteriorating conditions, the trade between India and Iran is almost at a standstill. India owes Iran an estimated $3-4 billion, presently held in Rupee accounts with UCO Bank in Kolkata, making up for 45% balance payment for the crude supplied. Thanks to a kind gesture by the Iranian government, this arrangement was made, from which Indian exporters of goods are paid.


Due to the US sanctions, and the lack of progress in the US-Iran talks over the nuclear issue, which has a target date of 20th July for an agreement, there is fear in the minds of Indian traders about the uncertainty ahead; and to add to this confusion, developments in the Iraqi situation has only made it worse!


While participating in the Madras Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) meeting held recently, Hassan Nourian, Consul General of the Islamic Republic of Iran, based in Hyderabad, reassured the Indian businessmen present, that they should not fear retributions from the US.


In fact, it was earlier reported in the press that "Obama determined that there is no need for sanctions for the next six months, as Teheran is fully cooperating with the US-led International community to address their concerns about its nuclear weapons programme", the White House said.


In continuing their quest for closer trade relations with India, it has been reported in the press, that Shaida Mohammed Abdali, the Afghan Ambassador referred to the importance of Chabahar port in Southern Iran, which could be well utilized to increase trade with Iran as well as Afghanistan.


India is already actively associated with the development of Chabahar port in Iran and the proposed 70km railway line between the port and Gorgan will further help develop trade. It will also help India move its goods to CIS nations.


In view of all these developments, it is imperative that the Government considers the urgent need to depute a strong trade and industry delegation to Iran to:


a) Expeditiously build railroads between Chabahar and other designated towns and cities for easy movement, which should include, rails, wagons, coaches and locomotives


b) Offer similar service for branching off the railroad lines to the east, to enter Afghanistan so as to increase trade among the three nations

c) Seek and offer participation opportunities as joint ventures, to be set up in gas producing centres in Iran to manufacture Urea that can be exported fully back to India; meet part supplies to Iran for their needs


d) Offer technical assistance in setting up oil refineries


e) Establish a large warehousing facility near the Chhabahar port so as to maintain stocks of essential supplies that can be moved to Iran, Afghanistan or CIS countries at short notice


f) Any other specific area where Iran needs assistance


Payment for all these could be set off against the Rupee account already held in UCO Bank; new payment arrangements could be simply on a barter basis on an Iranian crude to Indian goods and services basis.


(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.)


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