Citizens' Issues
Vadra land deals: BJP sees massive scam; Khemka feels 'vindicated'
A day after the CAG blamed Haryana's previous Congress government for showering favours on party chief Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, who made millions in controversial land deals, the BJP, which now rules the state, claimed a "massive scam" during the nearly 10-year tenure of the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government.
 
Bureaucrat Ashok Khemka, who had questioned a land deal of Vadra, said the report "vindicated" his action but did not go deep enough, while the Congress defended the former Hooda government, saying all decisions were in accordance with the law. 
 
"The public was always convinced there was a massive scam in Haryana," Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson G.V.L. Narasimha Rao said on Thursday.
 
"It just confirms the allegations that were being made... Vadra's company was extended undue favours and he made massive gains by misusing the authorities," Rao told IANS.
 
"The Congress government had bent all rules allowing them to make windfall gains. Action will be taken by the state government, the report (of CAG) has already been tabled," he said.
 
Senior IAS officer Khemka, who was embroiled in controversy over Vadra's land deals, on Thursday tweeted: "My action in VADRA-DLF land-licence deal vindicated in CAG report, but continue to suffer the stigma of chargesheet."
 
He, however, noted there were more issues to be probed yet. "Many issues untouched in the CAG report. Cycle of corruption involved the triad - business, politics and bureaucracy," he said in another tweet.
 
The Congress on Thursday dismissed the CAG rap, claiming its government performed "purely in accordance with the law" in the land deal.
 
Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a statement that the state's principal accountant general (PAG) neither indicted the Hooda government nor Vadra or his company for any violation of the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Act, 1975, or any rules or policy.
 
"There is no such finding of wrongdoing as is being sought to be alleged and projected unfairly and incorrectly," he said. 
 
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, tabled in the Haryana assembly on the last day of the budget session which ended on Wednesday, blamed the Hooda government for showing undue favours to Vadra.
 
Vadra's company, Skylight Hospitality, sold a prime 3.5 acre plot in Manesar, Gurgaon, to DLF in 2008 for Rs.58 crore. The land had cost his company only around Rs.15 crore and was sold to DLF after obtaining change of land use (CLU) and other permissions from the Hooda government.
 
Vadra did not share the Rs.43 crore profits with the state town and country planning department, the CAG report said.
 
The report said the "possibility of extending undue benefit to particular applicant (Vadra's company) cannot be ruled out." It also questioned the "distinction" made by the Hooda government for Vadra's company in giving permissions.
 
Khemka had ordered the scrapping of the land deal then, saying that it was illegal and alleging that Vadra's land deals caused loss of crores of rupees to the state. He also ordered a probe.
 
Later, KJhemka was transferred and served a charge sheet for his actions by the Hooda government, which gave Vadra a "clean chit".
 
"Real culprits sit in judgment over me. My pain and suffering may help to detox and cleanse the body politic," tweeted Khemka, who is now the secretary and commissioner of Haryana's transport department, without naming anyone.
 
The CAG has indicated that the Hooda government had obliged Vadra with quick sanction of the permissions required. Some other companies being favoured also figured in the CAG report.
 
The controversy became a national issue with opposition parties alleging that the then Congress government was doing everything to help Vadra in his land deals in the National Capital Region and areas around Delhi.

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Citing 26/11, US report says FBI needs to improve
Citing the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack and four other cases, a report has concluded the US FBI has made strides in the past decade but needs faster reforms to transform itself into a threat-based, intelligence-driven organisation.
 
One of the key plotters of the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai, Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley "had previously come to the attention of US law enforcement authorities but FBI officials repeatedly concluded that Headley did not pose a threat at the time", the report noted.
 
"The increasingly complex and dangerous threat environment it faces will require no less," said the report by the FBI 9/11 Review Commission which studied FBI investigations into five "significant terrorism events."
 
In none of those cases did a confidential source "provide actionable intelligence to help prevent or respond to a terrorist operation", the report released Wednesday said.
 
The principal authors of the report were Bruce Hoffman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University; Edwin Meese III, the former attorney general; and Timothy J. Roemer, a former ambassador to India.
 
In December 2007, Headley's Moroccan wife complained to officials at the US embassy in Islamabad that her husband was a terrorist. But the FBI investigation of Headley did not begin until 2009, and it was triggered by a tip that originated outside the FBI that revealed his relationships with extremists abroad, the report said.
 
"One of the main lessons from the Headley case is that absent an intelligence effort across the US Intelligence Community to understand the connections among cases and complaints across field offices, relevant intelligence may fall by the wayside," it said.
 
News outlets, it noted, have reported, prior to his terrorist activities, that Headley had worked as a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informant in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, following two heroin trafficking arrests.
 
"A single complaint may be more easily dismissed as a poison pen motive, but several unrelated complaints should not be dismissed as readily as the work of a malcontent," the report said.
 
"The Headley case raises the important question faced by all intelligence agencies - certainly important to the FBI - of how to scan and assess voluminous amounts of collected information strategically and identifying valuable intelligence leads," the report said.
 
"Still, more than a decade after 9/11, the FBI must prioritize empowering and equipping its analytic cadre to make these connections with cutting edge technology, to minimize the risk of the FBI missing important intelligence information," it said.
 
In the Headley case, an analyst was ultimately able to connect him to an ongoing plot in Denmark, underscoring the value of good intelligence analysis in the field to meet the FBI's national security and investigative missions, it said.
 
Describing Headley as "an elusive target," the report noted that "he conducted his activities with all the skills of a trained intelligence operative - able to travel to and from the United States, Pakistan, and India with relative ease and eluding authorities."
 
"The FBI had no knowledge of Headley's connections to Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT) until provided with a tip that originated outside the FBI that prompted the investigation in 2009."
 
In Chicago, National Security Letters helped the FBI track David Headley and better understand his involvement in the Copenhagen plot directed by Ilyas Kashmiri, Al Qaeda's chief of external operations at the time and the head of the Pakistani extremist organization, Harakat ul Jihad al Islami.
 
Over the next several months, the FBI obtained warrants on Headley and on his associate Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Pakistani Canadian resident of Chicago.
 
Based on the information obtained, FBI special agents decided to arrest Headley before he could leave the country, the report noted.

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Australia send India packing from World Cup
Australia comprehensively overwhelmed India to oust the defending champions and enter the cricket World Cup final with a 95-run win in their semifinal encounter at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) here on Thursday.
 
With the triumph, Australia ensured a summit clash against co-hosts New Zealand and will be vying for their fifth title at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Sunday.
 
A 182-run stand between Steven Smith (105) and Aaron Finch (81) proved to be the difference between the two sides. Opting to bat, the hosts put up a commanding total of 328/7 in 50 overs before bowling out India for 233 in 46.5 overs.
 
The daunting target notwithstanding, India started well with openers Rohit Sharma (34) and Shikhar Dhawan (45), with the latter playing the aggressor's role. The left-hander was dropped by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin while batting at five but recovered to notch six boundaries and a six in his 41-ball innings.
 
Just when India were looking like they may give the hosts a challenge, from 76/0 in the 13th over, the defending champions lost four quick wickets to be tottering at 108/4. Virat Kohli (1) and Suresh Raina (7) failed to provide the impetus and the loss of their wickets completely put India on the backfoot.
 
Ajinkya Rahane (44) and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (65) then tried to steady the floundering ship with a 70-run fifth-wicket partnership but the asking rate kept mounting.
 
After Rahane got out, the pressure got on to Dhoni who struck a couple of lusty blows to bring in a lot of cheer from the crowd. But the Indian skipper had to go for it with the required run rate almost 10 per over.
 
In order to accelerate the faltering run rate, Dhoni was run out by a direct throw from Glen Maxwell -- and all Indian hopes of a comeback lay shattered.
 
In the end, such was the dominance of the Australian pacers that they scalped the last four wickets for just two runs as the tail failed to offer any form of resistance.
 
The Australian pace attack lived up to its hype with the tournament's highest wicket-taker Mitchell Starc starring with 2/28 in 8.5 overs. Mitchell Johnson (2/50) also took a brace while James Faulkner cleaned up the tail with 3/59.
 
Earlier, with Australia opting to bat, Smith and Finch's second-wicket partnership powered the four-time champions to the first 300-plus total in a Cup semifinal with Smith scoring his fourth One-Day International (ODI) century.
 
Looking at the way the hosts were going, India did well to drag Australia back from the time they looked like getting anything above 350.
 
India started well with pacer Umesh Yadav (4/72) taking big-hitter David Warner's wicket in only the fourth over. But thereon, Smith and Finch more or less put the match in Australia's favour.
 
Opener Finch was slow but managed to stick it out in the middle to score seven boundaries and one six in his 116-ball knock. He provided good support to Smith, who smashed his way to 11 fours and two sixes in his 93-ball innings.
 
India pulled things back as Yadav, Mohit Sharma (2/75) and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (1/42) took four quick wickets. Despite this, the four-time champions maintained the flow, scoring almost a run-a-ball.
 
A couple of brilliant cameos at the end from James Faulkner (21) and Mitchell Johnson (27 not out) helped Australia hammer 89 runs off the last 10 overs, despite losing two more wickets.
 
All Indian bowlers, who had proved to be the team's main reason for success in the tournament, were expensive against the explosive Australian batsmen. Though Yadav picked up his second consecutive four-wicket haul, he went for eight per over.
 
Ashwin was the most economical bowler giving away only 42 runs from his 10 overs, also taking a wicket.
 
In the Cup final, the two co-hosts will take on each other with Australia, in their seventh final, and New Zealand, in their maiden. The Black Caps had beaten their Trans-Tasman rivals by a wicket in the group stage.

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