The Hindustan Times – Punjab government employees’ accounts frozen, salaries debited after double payment

The accounts were frozen after the Punjab government realised that some employees have been paid double salary following a technical glitch. And if this was not enough, the government debited the salary of some employees who did not even receive the double payment.

Aneesha Sareen Kumar

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 07 November 2018. It was ecstasy, chaos and misery for Punjab government employees in a span of just three days.

On Saturday, some employees found they had been paid double salary for October, thinking that the Punjab government gave them a Diwali gift. But their happiness was short-lived as they could not withdraw their hard-earned money for three days.

Their accounts were frozen after the government realised that some employees have been paid double salary following a technical glitch. And if this was not enough, the government debited the salary of some employees who did not even receive the double payment.

District public relations officer Prabhdeep Singh said he received an SMS on Tuesday evening that his salary has been debited form his account. “I received a single salary and that too has been debited. With Diwali holiday tomorrow, I don’t know what to do,” he said in despair.

Earlier, it was utter chaos at the offices of the Punjab government in Ludhiana district as a number of employees belonging to different departments couldn’t withdraw their salaries, a day ahead of Diwali. To add to this, a number of employees who had not received double salary also found their accounts frozen.

More than Rs 100 crore excess payment was made to government employees across Punjab. In Ludhiana district alone, it was Rs 63 crore and the figure was Rs 50 crore in Amritsar district.

It was on Monday that the employees realised that their accounts have been frozen and started visiting banks as well as the district treasury office.

On Tuesday evening, the administration issued directions to the zonal officers of Cooperative Bank, Union Bank of India and Punjab National Bank to revoke the bank accounts. But some employees, who had not received double salary, were shocked after they received an SMS saying that their October salary has been debited from their account.

Till the filing of this report, the salary of many senior officials in the administration and the police had been debited from their bank accounts sending them into a tizzy.

“The officials are working to resolve the issue and the employees whose salaries have been debited will get the money back soon,” said a senior official in Ludhiana administration, requesting anonymity.

An assistant sub-inspector said he needed money to buy sweets, clothes and gifts for his family but could not withdraw the salary. “I never received double salary, why am I made to suffer? Also, even those who have received double salary have not committed any mistake that they are being deprived of their money.

I am not even able to withdraw the amount that was there before I received the salary,” he said.


The Hindustan Times – In plea before SC, Alok Verma claims government interference in sensitive cases

CBI director Alok Verma has moved the top court under Article 32 of the Constitution and said the DoPT order violated statutory provisions under which CBI is expected to function independently.

Bhadra Sinha

New Delhi – India, 24 October 2018. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Kumar Verma has accused the government of interfering with the independence and autonomy of the premier institution, told the Supreme Court that divesting him of his powers “overnight” by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was “patently illegal”, and also hinted that he was removed for investigating cases inconvenient to the government.

He also hit out at the agency’s special director Rakesh Asthana (whom he didn’t name), who too was sent on leave along with the director, for posing hurdles in investigating cases.

Verma’s petition was mentioned by advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan before a bench led by chief justice Ranjan Gogoi on Wednesday morning.

Investigating officers of sensitive cases are being changed, which may jeopardize a probe into many sensitive cases, he said. The court agreed with his request for an early hearing and listed the matter for Friday.

Verma sought the quashing of the “rapid fire” decisions of October 23 by the CVC and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), as being without jurisdiction and in violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. They were arbitrary and issued without following the due process of law, he claimed.

Verma has moved the top court under Article 32 of the Constitution.

As CBI is expected to function independently and autonomously, there are bound to be occasions when certain investigations of high functionaries do not take the direction that may be desirable to the government, Verma mentioned in his petition.

He offered to share details of “many cases” which have led to the “present circumstances.” Verma did not divulge the same in his petition as they “are extremely sensitive” in nature.

Verma’s petition has asked to court to “give independence to CBI from the DoPT” as its latest move “seriously hinders the CBI’s independent functioning.”

Not all influence exerted by a political government would be found “explicit or in writing.” “More often than not, it is tacit and requires considerable courage to withstand,” Verma claimed.

The director has also challenged the decision of the government by which joint director M Nageswara Rao, a 1986-batch Odisha cadre Indian Police Service officer, has been given charge as head of the probe agency.

According to him the DoPT could not have divested him of the powers without the mandate of the high-powered committee led by the Prime Minister and comprising the leader of the Opposition and chief justice of India.

Under the law it is this committee that appoints and approves the transfer of a CBI director.

“Over the recent past, although all functionaries within CBI from the investigating officer and the superintending officers up to the Joint Director and the Director have agreed on a certain course of action, the Special Director has been of a different view,” he said, referring to Asthana.

Hurdles posed by Asthana, Verma said, have now been compounded by his complicity in “concocting evidence” to impugn the director’s reputation. This had led to registration of a separate FIR, which Asthana has challenged in the Delhi high court.

“As matters stood thus, CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) and the Central Government have overnight taken the impugned decisions to divest the petitioner of his complete role as Director CBI and to appoint another individual in his stead. These actions are patently illegal for the reasons,” the petition stated.

Recalling various SC judgements, Verma said the present actions give serious credence to the requirement that the agency be given independence from the DoPT. Any illegal interference of the present nature not only erodes the independence of the institution but also the morale of its officers, he added.

The Hindustan Times – M J Akbar’s resignation exposed ‘chaal – charitra – chehra’ of BJP-ruled Centre, says AAP

Reacting to MJ Akbar’s resignation, AAP spokesperson Dilip Pandey said the action was “not sufficient” and demanded criminal proceedings against him.

New Delhi – India, 17 October 2018. The AAP Wednesday hailed the women who accused Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar of “sexual harassment” and said his resignation “completely exposed” the ‘chaal, charitra and chehra’ of the ruling BJP at the Centre.

Reacting to Akbar’s resignation, AAP spokesperson Dilip Pandey said the action was “not sufficient” and demanded criminal proceedings against him.

“Mere resignation by Akbar is not sufficient considering gravity of allegations against him. Criminal proceedings must be started against him,” Pandey told PTI.

Akbar stepped down today as the Minister of State for External Affairs, following a spate of allegations of sexual harassment during his days as editor of several publications, by several women journalists.

“We salute the courage of the 20 brave women who boldly faced Akbar’s intimidation and forced him to resign as a minister of government of India. His resignation completely exposes the BJP that came to power with the slogan of ‘Chaal, Charita and Chehra’(behaviour, character and personality),” Pandey said.

In a brief statement, Akbar said he had decided to seek justice in a court of law in his personal capacity.

“I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, also in a personal capacity. I have, therefore, tendered my resignation…,” Akbar said.

Over the last fortnight, about 20 women have come forward to narrate their experiences of alleged sexual harassment at the hands of Akbar.

The Hindustan Times – Lion death toll in Gir rises to 21, officials admit some succumbed to viral infection

As a precautionary measure after the deaths of lions due to various reasons in Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, 31 lions have been shifted to a care centre in Jasadhar.

Hiral Dave

Ahmedabad – Gujarat – India, 02 October 2018. Twenty-one lions have died due to various reasons, including a virus infection, in Gujarat’s Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, the last abode of the Asiatic lion since September 12, the state forest department said on Monday.

The department also admitted, for the first time, that some lions had succumbed to infections caused by tick bites. The department had so far maintained that deaths were because of infighting in the highly congested wildlife habitat. The toll stood at 13 when the data was made public on 22 September.

As a precautionary measure, 31 lions have been shifted to a care centre in Jasadhar, the forest department said in a statement, adding that the spread of the virus was now under control. All the causalities were reported from Gir’s east division in Amreli district.

Spread across 1,400 sq km, Gir wildlife sanctuary is divided into two administrative divisions. It has a total of 523 lions, according to the census of 2015. Latest estimates by the forest department put the lion population at about 600.

“Samples sent to National Institute of Virology (Pune) confirmed the presence of viruses in four cases. In six other cases, veterinary college Junagadh confirmed protozoa infection cause by tick bites, the release said.

Tick-borne illnesses are caused by variety of pathogens, including several types of bacteria, viruses and protozoa.

The department said a vaccination has been imported from the United States to control the spread of virus, and experts from across India have been roped in to monitor the situation.

Three experts from Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Uttar Pradesh, five experts from Delhi zoo, and two from the Etawah lion safari, are in the Gir reserve for conducting the examination of the cats and for their treatment, an official said.

The Gujarat government said it will take further steps after examining the reports to be submitted by the experts. The experts will examine the reasons for the death after examining blood reports and functioning of kidney and liver of all 31 lions who have died.

The forest department also linked the deaths to an increase in the lion population. “A survey was conducted by 140 teams after 11 deaths were first reported between September 12 to 20, and it has revealed that the population of lions has increased since the last census in 2015,” the department said.

“From day one, volunteers have said that infighting cannot cause so many deaths and it has to be some diseases. The forest department instead of being in denial should have acted swiftly,” said Bhikha Jethva, president of the Lion’s Nature Club. which has been working for the conservation of Gir forest.

The forest department had earlier said there was no reason to worry because about 100 lions die in Gir every year. “In the last two years, an average of 32 lions have died during the three monsoon months. Against that, in the current year, 31 have died,” the department had said in a statement on September 22.

The Gujarat government has long resisted the move to relocate some of the lions from Gir to Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, invoking state’s pride in being the only home of the Asiatic lions.

The MP government first proposed the relocation in 1993. Delhi-based biologist Faiyaz Khudsar even filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking relocation on the grounds that Gir was overpopulated.

The court asked the Union environment ministry to examine the relocation plan. The ministry, in its report in 2015, said Madhya Pradesh will take at least 30 years to prepare Kuno Palpur for the relocation of lions, thereby ending any possibility of immediate relocation.

“The deaths should be an eye-opener and the Gujarat government should now give lions for relocation to Kuno,” Khudsar said.

The Hindustan Times – Supreme Court asks states, union territories to comply with its order on cow vigilantism, lynchings

Supreme Court took note of the fact that eight states are yet to file reports indicating the compliance of its July 17 verdict to deal with mob violence and cow vigilantism.

New Delhi – India, 24 September 2018. The Supreme Court Monday asked all states and Union Territories to comply with its directions on curbing cow vigilantism and mob lynching, and said that people should realise that such incidents would invite the “wrath of law”.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra took note of the fact that eight states including Mizoram, Telangana, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Delhi are yet to file reports indicating the compliance of its July 17 verdict giving a slew of directions to deal with mob violence and cow vigilantism.

“People must realise that mob violence and taking of law into the hands will invite wrath of law,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.

It granted last opportunity to eight states and UTs to file their compliance affidavits within three days and listed the PIL of Congress leader Tehseen Poonawala after two weeks.

The bench also sought the response of the Centre on the compliance of its one of the directions that had asked it and all the states to run an awareness campaign on television, radio and electronic and print media against mob lynching and cow vigilantism.

The Centre had earlier informed the bench that in pursuance of the apex court verdict, an empowered Group of Ministers has been set up to consider framing a law on mob violence.

Poonawala, in his plea, had said the 28-year-old dairy farmer Rakbar Khan was attacked by a group of cow vigilantes in Lalwandi village of Ramgarh district in Rajasthan on July 20, three days after the apex court had delivered a detailed verdict.

Khan, a resident of Haryana and his friend Aslam, were transporting two cows to Kolgaon through a forest area when a mob had attacked them on the alleged grounds they were taking the animals for slaughter, the plea said.

While Aslam managed to survive by hiding in the fields, the crowd killed Rakbar, it said, adding that there was a considerable delay in taking the deceased to a nearby hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

Poonawala has sought initiation of contempt proceedings against Rajasthan officials, including the Chief Secretary and the police chief, for alleged violation of the top court’s verdict in the lynching case.

The apex court had directed the Centre, states and UTs to give wide publicity to its directions given on the verdict on mob violence. It asked them to put the information on measures to curb the mob violence on their websites so that people know the recourse available to them.

The apex court had on July 17 said that “horrendous acts of mobocracy” cannot be allowed to overrun the law of the land and issued a slew of guidelines to deal with mob lynching and cow vigilantism, besides asking the Centre to consider enacting a new law to sternly deal with such cases.

The court had issued a slew of directions to the government to provide “preventive, remedial and punitive measures” to deal with offences like mob violence and cow vigilantism.

It had asked the state governments to designate a senior police officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police, as nodal officer in each district to take steps to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching.

The officers were asked constitute a Special Task Force to procure intelligence and information about those likely to commit such crimes or were involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news.

The judgement was delivered on a batch of petitions including Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Tushar Gandhi and Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla seeking formulation of guidelines to curb incidents of mob violence and lynching in the country.

The Hindustan Times – Congress leaders meet Goa governor, demand that Manohar Parrikar-led BJP government should face floor test

Congress claimed that the moment the name of a new chief minister was announced, replacing Manohar Parrikar, ‘many BJP MLAs’ will resign.

Gerard de Souza

Panaji – Goa – India, 18 September 2018. Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar must be asked to prove its majority in the state assembly, Congress leader told governor Mridula Sinha on Tuesday.

The Congress alleges “governance has come to a standstill” in Goa because Parrikar, 62, is unwell. Parrikar is undergoing treatment in New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Goa Congress president Girish Chodankar said earlier in the day there is political uncertainty in the state because the Bharatiya Janata Party has been unable to name a consensus candidate to replace Parrikar, news agency PTI reported.

“The situation is that this ‘government in minority’ should actually be dismissed by the governor. At least now, the single-largest party, the Congress, should be invited to form the government. The Congress is confident of proving its majority on the floor of the House,” Chodankar said.

With 16 of the 40 seats in the assembly, the Congress is the state’s single-largest party. But the BJP, which has 14 seats, stitched an alliance with regional players Goa Forward Party (GFP) and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which have three seats each, after the elections last year.

The Hindustan Times – Government plans to relax height limit for Nepalese in paramilitary forces: Rijiju

The minister of states for home affairs Kiren Rijiju said the relaxation in the height limit would be same as given to Scheduled Castes and Tribes in the paramilitary forces.

New Delhi – India, 12 September 2018. The home ministry is planning to relax the minimum height requirement for people from the Nepalese community residing in India to join the paramilitary forces, minister of states for home affairs Kiren Rijiju said on Wednesday.

He was speaking at Haritalika Teej Mahotsav organised by Ramdev’s Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust and Bharat Swabhiman Trust.

Rijiju praised the contribution of the Nepalese community in developing the Indian culture.

“The Nepalese community has played a very important role in saving and making the Indian culture and because of their enormous contribution, we are proposing relaxation of height for the Nepalese community residing in India in paramilitary forces,” he said.

The minister said the relaxation in the height limit would be same as given to Scheduled Castes and Tribes in the paramilitary forces.

The Scheduled Tribes get a relaxation of a few centimetres in paramilitary forces. The minimum height for all candidates belonging to Scheduled Tribes is 162.5 centimetres for males and 150 centimetres for females.

The minimum height for General Category candidates is 170 centimetres for males and 157 centimetres for females.

At the event, Ramdev urged people to believe in national unity, which should be above unity over caste, religion and region.

“We keep hearing about OBC unity, SC/ST unity. National unity should be above all,” Ramdev said.

The Hindustan Times – Modi recalls peace overture to Islamabad in meeting with Pompeo and Mattis

India and the US signed a foundational defence partnership agreement during the dialogue and also agreed on several other measures to boost defence ties

Shishir Gupta

New Delhi – India, 06 September 2018. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recalled his December 2015 peace overture to Islamabad before dignitaries including Secretary of Defence James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and General Joseph Dunford, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff who called on him for 45 minutes.

The US delegation was in India for the two-plus-two dialogue between Mattis and Pompeo and their Indian counterparts, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, and met the Prime Minister for around 45-minutes.

Pompeo conveyed to India that Pakistan has been told to take action against pan-Islamic terrorist group and not just talk; Pompeo spent a few hours in Pakistan before arriving in India on Wednesday and had a get-tough-on-terror message for the country’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan.

India and the US signed a foundational defence partnership agreement during the dialogue and also agreed on several other measures to boost defence ties. Prime Minister Modi is believed to have personally reviewed several aspects of the dialogue with all principals on the eve of the talks.

Hindustan Times learns that contrary to what was expected, the issue of a possible visit by US President Donald Trump to India early next year was not taken up during the meeting but that PM Modi asked the visiting dignitaries to convey his greetings to their President.

He fondly recalled his interactions with President Trump and told the US delegation that both Swaraj and Sitharaman were very happy with the outcome of the visit.

The visiting team did not raise the issue of the waiver to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CATSAA) that would facilitate India’s plan to purchase S-400 missile systems from Russia.

Only macro issues were discussed, a senior South Block official said on condition of anonymity. “There is a CATSAA waiver by President Trump. We will discuss the issue when the acquisition is finalized,” said a senior South Block official.

The Indian side however, briefed the team on its legacy relationship with Iran for oil purchases and the effort being made to reduce the imports. The Indian side also explained the importance of Chahbahar port in stabilizing Afghanistan.

Both Pompeo and Mattis said that US will work with India on how to sort out the two issues with Iran, both of which could see India fall afoul of US sanctions against the West Asian nation.

The Hindustan Times – India, Pakistan discuss implementation of Indus Waters Treaty projects

The 115th meeting of the India-Pakistan Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) was held in Lahore on August 29-30

New Delhi – India, 31 August 2018. India and Pakistan have discussed the implementation of various hydroelectric projects under the Indus Waters Treaty during the 115th meeting of the India-Pakistan Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) in Lahore on August 29-30, the External Affairs Ministry said on Friday.

“As per the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960, technical discussions were held on the implementation of various hydroelectric projects, including Pakal Dul (1,000 MW) and Lower Kalnai(48 MW) in Jammu and Kashmir,” the Ministry said in a statement.

“Both the countries agreed to undertake the Treaty-mandated tours of both the Indus Commissioners in the Indus basin on both sides,” it said.

“Deliberations were also held on further strengthening the role of the Permanent Indus Commission on matters falling under the Treaty purview.”

The treaty was signed in 1960 and involves the Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers.

Brokered by the World Bank, the treaty gave the right to use waters of the first three rivers to India and of the other three to Pakistan.

India has said it has the right under the treaty to set up hydroelectric plants on the tributaries of the rivers flowing through its territory. Pakistan fears this might reduce the water flow into its territory.

During the Lahore talks, the Indian side was led by P K Saxena, the Indian Commissioner for Indus Waters.

The Hindustan Times – Rahul Gandhi’s remark will anguish 1984 riot victims, says Akali Dal

The Congress party defended Rahul Gandhi’s remark on 1984 anti-Sikh riots, saying he has not absolved anyone.

New Delhi – India, 25 August. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Saturday hit out at Congress president Rahul Gandhi for saying that his party was not involved in the 1984 riots, saying his statement indicated he was with the perpetrators of the violence in which nearly 3,000 Sikhs were killed, mostly in the national capital.

The Congress defended its chief, saying he has not absolved anyone.

“Rahul Gandhi has conveyed a clear message, he is with those who killed innocents at that time. The statement given by Rahul Gandhi has added salt to the wounds of the victims,” Sukhbir Singh Badal, SAD president, said at a press conference, reported ANI.

Asked about Gandhi’s statement, senior Congress leader P Chidamabaram said that “a very terrible thing happened in 1984” for which prime minister Manmohan Singh had apologised in Parliament.

“You can’t hold Rahul Gandhi responsible for that, he was 13 or 14. He hasn’t absolved anyone,” he added.

To a question being asked by the CNN-News18 at an event on Friday in the UK Parliament about the 1984 riots, Gandhi had said: “I have no confusion in my mind about that. It was a tragedy, it was a painful experience. You say that the Congress party was involved in that, I don’t agree with that.

Certainly there was violence, certainly there was tragedy”, according to an IANS report.

Later, during an interactive session at the London School of Economics (LSE) when he was again asked about the anti-Sikh riots and former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s statement on it, Gandhi said: “When Manmohan Singh spoke, he spoke for all of us. As I said earlier, I am a victim of violence and I understand what it feels.”

“So, I am against any sort of violence against anybody on this planet. I get disturbed when I see anybody being hurt. So, I condemn that 100 per cent and I am 100 per cent for punishment for those involved in any violence against anybody. That’s crystal clear,” he had said.