In your interest.
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No beating about the bush.
Despite being a shrewd politician for decades, Sharad Pawar continues to be blamed for any issue that goes out of control. The current blame game is in the skies
I have a friend. He is a sceptic and critic. Sometimes, I have a feeling that may be God has given him some extra brains that can connect something with anything or everything. Of course, some in our group think he is, what is called a pucca 'bheja-fry'. But on rare occasions he can leave everyone astonished and at a loss for answer with his weird and wacky questions. So don't take him seriously... but then, maybe one shouldn't take him too lightly either.
Just the other day, when he bumped onto me, his immediate question was, 'Who is the king of Indian aviation? Who really calls the shots in all our airlines? I first thought aloud about the 'Maharaja' and who control him, the then the blue seabird and its master-the King of Good Times, but he shot back-"You don't even know. This is very easy. It is Sharad Pawar". I was stumped. "How so?" I asked.
His answer: Mr Pawar controls the Indian aviation, just like he controls cricket, agriculture and the state of Baramati. You forgot the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Pawar's political outfit, I shot back. He said, "No. I haven't forgotten the NCP. You see, controlling a political party like the NCP, where everyone wants to be called a 'leader', is difficult. So what Pawar does is smarter; he controls or at least appears to control the leaders of leaders."
Confused, I said, "But how this is related with aviation? I know that he is a farmer from Baramati, he was president of the Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI), which controls cricket and the controversial Indian Premier League (IPL), he had blessed joint ventures with Vijay Mallya to make wine (Baramati Grapes), but I don't know of his personal interest in the aviation business".
Giving me a look that sneered at my ignorance, my friend, the sceptic, said, "It was the power of Pawar that helped Praful Patel ruin the aviation ministry and help many friends to fly high." "You mean to say rule, right?" I asked. "No," he said. "While the Maharaja was doddering, Indian Airlines was back to giving stiff competition to the private sector airlines under chairman Sunil Arora. Flights were on time, service was good and the many 'pawar'ful private sector competitors were getting a run for their money".
"There was no way that anyone was going to jet to supremacy of the domestic skies, or rule the good times until Indian Airlines was on the comeback trail. So some pawar-play was required. Arora was removed and Indian Airlines was permanently crippled with the disastrous merger with Air India," my friend said.
In 2007, the combined loss of both Air India and Indian Airlines was Rs770 crore. At present, its operating loss alone is about Rs1,700 crore. "Do you know why Air India changed its plan to buy 18 small planes in short-range and 10-medium capacity planes to 50 medium capacity long-range planes? The whole deal was completed in just seven month as soon as Patel was made aviation minister," my friend continued.
The same thing is also revealed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), in its report. The CAG report said, "Government conveyed its approval on 30 December 2005 and the contract was signed by Air India with Boeing on the same day. From the receipt of the proposal to the signing of contract took seven months. Many of the key assumptions underlying the revised project report (for 50 long-range aircraft) were flawed".
According to information from the net, during that period, the King of Good Times was also on shopping spree and in 2005 alone he placed orders to buy about 48 planes from Airbus. Do you mean at present, Airbus would be crying for not been able to make sell the planes? I asked. "Hell, No. In fact, they would be happy because if Kingfisher is not going to take deliveries and pay the money, then they (Airbus) can speed up deliveries to others who are ready to pay," the sceptic gave me another dose of 'gyaan'.
But, what all this has to do with Pawar and the current situation in India airspace, I asked. "See, the King of Good Times is a good friend of Pawar and subsequently of Patel. So if he is in trouble or the sea flying bird is in trouble, it should extend to others as well. So the Maharaja has also fallen ill and its flights are in cancelled mode," the sceptic blurted out. "Do you know one more thing?" he whispered. "The Maharaja is also under the control of Pawar. And his blue-eyed Bunty is calling the shots in the pilots' strike," he said.
"This is too much. How can you blame Pawar for everything? Whenever there is some or the other issue like inflation, price rise of essential commodities, Indian cricket team losing, Mumbai not getting adequate water or roads are full of potholes, everyone wants to put the blame on him. Why?" I asked.
As an ardent believer is simple things, I think in simple terms. For example, although Pawar is a farmer, he is not selling his agriculture produce to you and me directly. It is the traders who buy from the farmers and then sell it at higher prices to retailers who in turn sell it for you and me at much higher rates. The poor 'sabjiwala' also has to support employees of local municipality and police as they are dependent members of his extended family. So if not from us then from where he will generate money for that 'hafta'? And yet, people like my friend blame Pawar for the sky-rocketing prices of vegetables and foodgrain.
The sceptic, however, was not in a mood to relent. "You see, the King of Good Times is really not having good times in the skies. In fact his buffalo is in the water. So it is the duty of friends, to force other buffalos in taking a dip in the water, for the sake of good times. This is why pilots from both the airlines are falling sick," he tried to explain.
"And do you know, Bunty is not even a pilot and yet he is leading the squadron from the front. Do you think he can guide the squadron and land safely without any help from Pawar?" my friend whispered.
OMG, I thought, this is really getting very haywire. As I remember, almost every union, be it labour or pilots, is headed by a politician. Why then blame Bunty? As I read somewhere, his aspirations are to become a minister in Thane, sorry, in Maharashtra. But may be his party colleagues have different thoughts and so they propelled him to lead pilots. This way if he lands safely, then he can be accommodated in the capital else they can blame him for the defeat and sideline him. Both ways the leaders of leaders would be happy.
The sceptic friend was still not willing to let me go. He said, "Do you know what the King of Good Times told his ailing pilots? He told them either accept whatever salary I am giving and whenever I am giving, or else I will ask Bunty to lead your union. And see the result, all the sick pilots immediately become fighting fit and are back on duty."
Now my head is really swinging. Before I faint, you please move away from this crocked sceptic and critic. And don't take him lightly… I mean don't take him seriously…
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Posco-India proposed to set up a 12 mtpa steel plant near Paradip at an investment of Rs52,000 crore, which so far had failed to pick up due to various issues including stiff resistance from locals
Bhubaneswar: Odisha government and Posco-India have agreed to set up an 8 million tons per annum (mtpa) greenfield steel plant near Paradip, downsizing the earlier plan of establishing a 12 mtpa facility, reports PTI.
This was stated by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Posco-India CMD YW Yoon after a marathon 90-minute discussion over the future of the proposed mega steel project which had been hanging in balance for last seven years.
"We will start the project work as soon as the state government hands over 2,700 acres of land for setting up of 8 mtpa steel plant," Yoon told reporters.
The company had so far been given only 500 acres of land for the purpose though the government claimed to have acquired about 2,000 acres, he said.
Posco-India which had proposed to set up a 12 mtpa steel plant near Paradip at an investment of Rs52,000 crore, said to be the biggest FDI in the country, had failed to pick up due to various issues including stiff resistance from locals under Ersama block of Jagatsinghpur district.
Odisha government and the company had signed an MoU on June 22, 2005 to set up a 12 mtpa plant. However, both the parties agreed to downsize the capacity as the required 4,004 acre of land could not be acquired due to opposition from locals.
Asked about the company's revised investment plan for the 8 mtpa steel mill, Yoon said "Our investment plan remains unchanged. However, we will review the cost as the construction proceeds."
Though the company is going to set up 8 mtpa steel plant in two phases now, Yoon did not rule out possibility of expanding the project to the original plan of 12 mtpa if additional land is made available.
"Time will tell what will happen in future," Patnaik said replying to a similar question.
To a question whether the fresh agreement between the Odisha government and Posco-India would incorporate changes, Yoon said the company had already submitted its revised proposal.
The state government would take a decision on the revised content in the new agreement, he said.
On National Green Tribunal's rejection of environmental clearance to the project, the Posco-India CMD said they were in consultation with the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
"Once the problem is sorted out, we will be able to say something in this matter," he said.
Yoon, however, avoided question on issues of water and raw material which posed hurdle before the project.
"Actually, we held discussion on land issues and some other minor issues. When other issues are discussed, we can say something about this," he said.
Since Odisha government believed in peaceful industrialisation, it would acquire rest of the land of the required 2,700 acres in consultation of local people, Patnaik said.
"We hope that acquiring another 700 acre of land will not be a problem," the chief minister said, adding that the company today agreed to set up a training centre at Ersama for imparting skill education for the local youths.
The couple set up a number of cover companies with bank accounts registered in their own names which would provide illegal immigrants with pay slips and wage payments to make it look like they were employed
London: An Indian citizen who arrived as a student in 2000 and went on to perpetuate a series of immigration scams to earn hundreds of thousands of pounds by helping many Indian citizens and others to stay in Britain illegally, has been jailed for 10 years, reports PTI.
Vijay Sorthia, 35, will be deported to India at the end of his 10-year sentence, while his 31-year-old wife, Bhawna Sorthia, who helped him carry out the scams, was jailed for 15 months and also faces deportation to India. The couple have three children.
The sentences were pronounced in the Isleworth Crown Court on Wednesday.
When Sorthia was arrested at his house in north-west London in May 2010, officials of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) found over 330,000 pounds in cash.
Sorthia and his wife ran an immigration advisory company called Migration Gurus.
UKBA spokesman Adam Edwards said: "Mr Sorthia had dozens of clients who had applied to the Home Office for extensions to their visas, claiming to be 'highly skilled migrants'. They were mainly Indian and most of them were already here".
Sorthia had accreditation as an adviser with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), which is linked to the Home Office. The accreditation enabled him to assist individuals with claims for asylum, as well as immigration, residence and citizenship applications.
Edwards added: "What the couple did was set up a number of cover companies with bank accounts registered in their own names which would provide clients with pay slips and wage payments to make it look like they were employed as things like IT specialists and earning much more than they actually were".
Between 2008 and 2010, the couple helped more than 160 'clients' illegally gain visa extensions by providing them false documents to claim that they were highly skilled migrants.
Fifteen clients who benefited from the Sorthia scam have also been convicted and sentenced between 8 to 10 months in prison. Fourteen of them have been banished from UK.
The 'clients' reportedly paid the couple between 3,000 pounds and 4,000 pounds for their service.
"When officers searched Sorthia's property they found approximately 330,000 pounds in cash," Edwards said.
Most of that money, 270,000 pounds, was in a holdall in the back of a cupboard but other bundles of money were also discovered, which had clients' numbers and names on them.
UKBA's senior investigating officer Robert Coxhead said: "Vijay and Bhawna Sorthia knowingly flouted the UK's immigration laws. They ran a sophisticated scam designed to help people who would otherwise have no right to be here to stay in the UK.
"The amount of cash found at their home illustrates how lucrative this was, and we will now begin the process of stripping them of those assets using the Proceeds of Crime Act".
The court was told that following their arrest in May 2010, the couple sold their London house and transferred 466,000 pounds out of the country and went to India.
They were arrested again after they returned to Britain in July 2011.
Sorthia was convicted of obtaining or seeking to obtain leave to enter UK by deception on or before 24 October 2004, conspiracy to defraud between 1 April 2008 and 30 September 2010, possession of 332,000 pounds of criminal property, removing criminal property from England and Wales and possessing articles for use in fraud.
Bhawna was convicted of being concerned in an arrangement to facilitate the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property by Vijay Sorthia and others before 30 September 2010, removing criminal property from England and Wales and possessing articles for use in fraud.
Sentencing the couple at Isleworth Crown Court, Judge Andrew McDowall said Sorthia's actions risked 'undermining' Britain's immigration controls and 'eroding public confidence' that migrants had arrived lawfully.
He warned: "During difficult economic times, it becomes easier for those who are motivated by racial motives to start casting aspersions against those that are properly and legitimately in the country by trying to paint everyone of that ethnic group as tainted in some way, over the wrongdoings done by a limited number."