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Bloomsbury withdraws all copies of Jitender Bhargava's book that chronicles the fall of Air India and tenders an apology to former aviation minister Praful Patel, even as the author has refused to back down and avers that whatever he wrote was factual
In a sudden and shocking incident, Bloomsbury Publishing India Pvt Ltd has withdrawn Jitender Bhargava's 'The Descent of Air India' with an apology to Praful Patel, the leader of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and union minister. In his book, Mr Bhargava detailed all the people, including Patel and events that led to Air India's downfall. But Mr Bhargava is not planning to take it lying down. In his post of facebook, he has made it very clear that he does not agree with the publisher's stand and will stand by his charges recorded in the book. Here is what he says in his facebook post:
"This decision of Bloomsbury was unilateral, and without discussing with me, as an author. Their stand thus naturally came to me as a surprise. And it may surprise you too when you see the apology of Bloomsbury published in the newspapers," said Jitender Bhargava in an email.
According to Mr Bhargava, after the book, 'The Descent of Air India' was formally released on 11 October 2013 in Delhi attempts were made by Praful Patel to obstruct its distribution. "Besides ensuring that the books were not sold at airport book stores (he still appears to wield clout with airport operators) had TV channels to drop scheduled programmes relating to the book - in the case of one news channel even after the interview had been recorded; he served a legal notice, alleging that the book contents were defamatory," says Mr Bhagava.
"He (Patel) filed a case in the court of the metropolitan magistrate, Mumbai. While I told the judge on 6 January 2014 that everything stated in the book about Praful Patel is true, backed by documented evidence and will be duly justified and contested in the honourable court, the publishers, Bloomsbury, on whom also the notice was served, decided on not pursuing it, and instead agreeing to offer an apology to Praful Patel," Mr Bhargava said.
Earlier, in November, Moneylife Foundation organised an event in Mumbai where Dr Subramanian Swamy, former minister of commerce and law launched the book. On the decline of Air India, Dr Swamy highlighted a few reasons: harmful bilateral agreements, all profitable routes of the airlines were shutdown and made available to other airlines. He also mentioned that the airline bought aeroplanes that were probably overpriced and recently they sold these brand new planes as junk to Etihad, at one-third of the buying price.
Mr Bhargava, who was the executive director of the airlines till January 2010, mentioned that every decision was being taken by the government as Air India never had a culture of speaking up. Those who voiced their opinion were asked to leave. Instead of implementing decisions that should have been taken, the airline was bleeding because of decisions that should not have been taken. Impractical expansion plans and thoughtless use of the airline's resources contributed to the national carrier's collapse.
Highlighting one such instance in his book, Mr Bhargava wrote that when India won the T20 cricket world championship, Praful Patel, former aviation minister who oversaw the airlines for some seven years, awarded the entire Indian Team and their families’ free tickets on Air India for five years. The loss making airlines was also made to spend Rs3.5 crore on advertisements to celebrate the T20 win. A media house, for its annual summit, was given Rs30 lakh verbal commitment of free tickets from Air India, again by Praful Patel, in return for publicity! This oral commitment too was honoured since it was made by the minister.
Mr Bhargava also explains how the airline reached a point of no return under chairman V Thulasidas who acted as ‘His Master’s Voice’ to minister Praful Patel who seemed bent on decimating the airline. The story is important for all concerned citizens, at a time when opposition to privatisation is based on false romanticism about it being a national carrier. Politicians will continue to plunder the airline as long as it remains under State (minister’s) control.
Speaking about the publisher’s decision to withdraw the book, Mr Bhargava said, "As everything stated in the book is true, based on documents, I will have the book, 'The Descent of Air India' reprinted either on my own or through a new publisher. Simultaneous action is being initiated to bring out ' The Descent of Air India', as an e-book. I am told this can take up to four-five weeks. I will be back soon because neither can I be bulldozed into submission nor can facts be allowed to be suppressed."
The Mumbai MP has sought urgent intervention of the railway minister to reduce the gap between platforms and trains and also made available ambulances at all suburban railway stations
Milind Deora, union minister of state for Communications, IT & Shipping, and member of Parliament (MP) from Mumbai South constituency has taken up the suburban rail commuters' issues with the railway minister. This follows a memorandum from Moneylife Foundation and Samir Zaveri Railway Helpline on behalf of Mumbaikars to the MP urging his urgent intervention in stopping deaths on Mumbai rail tracks due to the wide gap between platforms and trains.
Deora, in a letter written to Mallikarjun Kharge has requested the railway minister to initiate strong measures to ensure passenger travel safety in Mumbai. He urged the minister to take following steps to prevent rail accidents like the recent one where one young girl lost both her arms after falling through the wide gap between platform and local train at Ghatkopar station in Mumbai.
1. An ambulance should be made readily available at all stations along with first-aid kits so that the injured persons can be attended to immediately and rushed to nearby hospital, if needed.
2. Bridging the gap between the platform and the train should be expedited.
3. Emergency medical rooms should be made available at all suburban stations to treat injured persons, as ordered by the Bombay High Court.
4. In case of emergencies and accidents, there should be a mechanism in place where primacy is given to saving lives of accident victims by providing them necessary medical attention without delay. It has been observed that the officials tend to give more attention to paper work than saving the precious life.
Moneylife Foundation , Samir Zaveri Railway Helpline as well as Coalition of Safe Rail Travel have been pushing for the raising of platforms for over a year. Samir Zaveri has taken up all these issues for several years now. He has even got the Courts to issue orders to Railway officials on these issues, however so far there is not much response from them.
Adv Bapoo Malcolm, who is a part of Moneylife group, managed to get the railway authorities to raise platform height at Grant Road station on a priority basis by filing a complaint and following it up. RTI activist Gaurang Damani, has successfully tried to close the railway track with a boundary wall with the help of certain efficient rail officials.
Here are more specific articles from DNA newspaper on the wide gap between train and platforms across Mumbai suburban network. 1. Mumbai: Hop on to lifeline, with care http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-mumbai-hop-on-to-lifeline-with-care-1946601 and 2. Mumbai local: Central Railway platforms provide height of horror http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-mumbai-local-cental-railway-platforms-provide-height-of-horror-1947035
Here is the memorandum sent by Moneylife Foundation and Samir Zaveri Railway Helpline to Milind Deora…
The CAG said Maharashtra undertook projects that were not permissible under the MNREGA while delays in execution cost the state over Rs80 crore
Irregular expenditure and delay in execution of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MNREGA) scheme in Maharashtra cost the state exchequer Rs81.47 crore.
According to the annual report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), works not permissible under the scheme were undertaken leading to irregular expenditure of Rs47.19 crore while due to delay in execution of work, a number of works were abandoned leading to another unfruitful expenditure of Rs34.28 crore.
The annual CAG report tabled in December said, project completion report was not accompanied by report of Vigilance and Monitoring Committee or photographs of completed work.
The CAG said there were delays in payment of wages and unemployment allowance. Also, differential in wages due to revision in wage rates too remained unpaid.
There were shortfalls in verifications and inspection works and conducting of social audit. The management information system database did not provide an assurance on its reliability, the report added.
The implementation of MGNREGA in the state was 'deficient' as eight of the nine test-checked districts did not prepare the District Perspective Plans (DPP) to facilitate advance planning for effective implementation of the scheme.
The annual development plans were also 'unrealistic' as the quantum of employment actually provided against the estimated demand was substantially down, the CAG noted.
The CAG has also found that in the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna, irregular price escalation amounting to Rs17.84 crore were allowed to contractors in respect of 61 works though none of the works were completed within the specified time limit in the contracts.
Also, item rates were revised during execution, leading to an irregular payment to the tune of Rs92.43 lakh to the contractor, the report said.