Monday, August 29, 2011

Kerala CPM men wooed US capitalists: WikiLeaks

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When the US political counsellor and staff of US consulate evaluated Kerala’s political and economic scene in conversations with political and business leaders a couple of years back, senior CPM leaders reportedly pleaded for assistance in attracting US private sector investment to Kerala.

A diplomatic cable sent by a top US diplomat to the US State Department and accessed by Express through WikiLeaks (166399, unclassified, dated August 2008), states that the openness with which CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and then ministers Thomas Isaac and M A Baby expressed their desire for US investment to American diplomats was startling. It goes on to say that the meeting demonstrated confidence that their reformist faction had the upper hand over the more dogmatic wing of the Kerala CPM led by the then Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan.

Revealing the details about a closed-door meeting the American political counsellor had with top CPM leaders and ministers, the American diplomat says, “CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan opened the meeting, which was held in his office underneath framed pictures of Stalin and Lenin, by telling the political counsellor that “we need your assistance” in drawing US investment to the state.Vijayan, who is a member of the CPM politburo, added that “we have no problems with American companies, no hesitation at all.” He explained the change in the Kerala CPM’s position on investment by saying that “the government does not have enough money to adequately develop the state. We need money from the private sector.”

News courtesy :Arun Jayan: 30 Aug 2011 (Indian Express)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

UDF Rice for Rs 1 scheme Inagurated by A.K. Antony

Thiruvananthapuram: Defence Minister A K Antony today called upon the people to take anti-corruption pledge as bribery was growing in the country. Launching Kerala governemnt's 'Poverty-Free' scheme for supply of rice at Rs one per kg to BPL families, Antony said it was a matter of grave concern that it had become a normal practice that people had to give bribe for getting benefits of government schemes. Without mentioning the ongoing fast by Gandhian Anna Hazare, the Congress veteran said people's anger against this danger generated in many forms in the country. 'So we should take a pledge against corruption', Antony said. He said the government should ensure that welfare schemes reached the targetted groups without any hitch. 'People have lost faith in announcements. They think that for getting government benefits, they have to grease the palm of someboy', he said.

Though India had achived progress in many fields after independence and had become a world economic power,the country still had two tiers- one shining India and the other where the people live in poverty, he said. Efforts of the UPA government was to ensure inclusive growth by taking steps to provide basic needs of the commonman while implementing development works, he said. Inaugurating the scheme of supplying free Onam kit to BPL famililes, Kerrala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the
government's aim was to have a permanent set up to check price rise of essential commodities. Under the scheme, 21 lakh BPL families would get 25 KG rice per month at Rs one per kg and 35 kg for families under Antyodaya Ann Yojana schem at Rs one kg. Speaking on the occasion, Food and Civil Supplies minister T M Jacob said necessary quantity of rice had already reached in the more than 14,000 rations to start the supply. Jacob said the Onam kit would contain rice and sugar
besides other essential articles. A total of Rs 19 crore had been earmarked for the scheme, he said.

Povery-free Kerala project of supplying one rupee per kg rice was one of the 100-days programmes announced by the Congress led UDF government. It completed 100-days in office on August 25. PTI

Friday, August 19, 2011

BJP-led Municipal Corporation of Delhi roll out the red carpet for Anna Hazare at Ram Leela Maidan

Some 250 workers of the BJP-led MCD are engaged in getting the Ramlila Maidan ready by Friday.Sensing an opportunity BJP's Delhi unit is leaving no stone unturned to roll out the red carpet for Anna Hazare and his aides at Ramlila Maidan. The historic grounds come under the jurisdiction of the BJP-controlled Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), giving the principal opposition an opportunity to be on the side of the popular anti-graft sentiment which has turned against the government.

Taking advantage of a cowed down Congress government, the MCD has turned all its forces towards preparing the grounds that are in a bad condition after incessant rains for the last two days. Six earth movers, 15 trucks which have made as many as 100 rounds to off-load the muck and 250 people who will continue to labour through the night have been pressed into service.

It was only in the early hours of Thursday that MCD was informed that Ramlila Maidan would be the venue for the anti-corruption crusade and BJP leaders in the MCD immediately started rolling out men and machinery towards Hazare's latest protest venue: the swift response starkly contrasting with the lethargic way in which the civic body ordinarily functions.

Leader of the House in MCD Subhash Arya told TOI that he reached the venue at 9 am and supervised work at the grounds till evening, leaving only for a few hours in the afternoon. Other important BJP leaders including state chief Vijender Gupta, Yogender Chandolia and Ramesh Bidhuri were also closely involved with the preparations.

Congress must be keeping a close watch on BJP's enthusiasm. The party has spoken of an "invisible hand" remote-controlling the Hazare campaign, as well as its infiltration by RSS. The Hazare campaign has taken pains to stress that it is not predisposed towards the opposition, and has tried not to let the government's opponents use their platform.

BJP and RSS, which have pledged their support to the anti-corruption movement, were conspicuous by their presence at Baba Ramdev's protest: something that was subsequently cited by the government to justify the midnight police action on the yoga guru's supporters.

The core group of Hazare's campaign has also decided to provide one lakh water pouches with "ISI mark" gratis to the protestors along with provisions for an ambulance and medical supplies.

When asked if the BJP supported Hazare's campaign, Arya said, "The issue was first flagged off by our leader L K Advani and we are willing to support anyone working on the anti-corruption campaign."

He also did not lose the opportunity to rub in the fact that the Congress-led central government had to buckle to the activist. "Congress has bowed down to Hazare. It is a moral defeat for them," he said.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Anna Hazare Arrested -Parliament reverberated

Parliament reverberated today with the repercussions of Anna Hazare’s arrest as the Opposition came out in unanimous support of the activist’s right to peaceful protest and rejected the government’s claim that the arrest was made to uphold parliamentary supremacy. It sought unconditional permission for Anna’s fast.

Leaders of Opposition in both Houses - Sushma Swaraj in the Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitely in the Rajya Sabha - tore into Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s defence that the government was duty-bound to maintain peace when some sections (read Anna and team) challenged its authority and Parliament’s prerogative to make laws. “The issue is not whether a Lokpal Bill is necessary; the question is who drafts the law,” the PM said in a statement justifying Anna’s arrest. The Opposition dismissed his contentions that Anna’s campaign was a confrontation between Parliament and the civil society, with Jaitely asking if anyone had ever disputed Parliament’s right to make laws. “The question is not who drafts the law; the question is that people have the right to express views on those laws,” he said, ripping into PM’s arguments that the government arrested Anna to protect democratic principles which he was questioning by seeking to foist his version of the Lokpal Bill on Parliament and wanting to fast towards that end. The debate happened under Rule 193.

The PM’s statement merely listed events leading up to Anna’s arrest and snubbed the Gandhian saying those who believe their voice alone represents the will of 1.2 billion persons should reflect on that position. “Many forces will not like to see us realise our true place. We must not play into their hands,” the PM warned. In the LS, he was repeatedly disrupted and Speaker Meira Kumar had to request for calm.

His statement had the Opposition wondering who drafted it. Jaitely had an answer when he took a dig at P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khursheed. He said: “This is the problem with a government that has too many lawyers advising it. It invokes Section 144 of the CrPC for what is a political solution.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Anna Hazare - A Profile -Know whom you are Supporting

Short Biography of Anna Hazare – Story of Army Driver becoming the Crusader of the Mass Movement

Name - Kisan Bapat Baburao Hazare known as Anna Hazare

Birth date - 15 January 1940

Anna Hazare was born in Bhingar village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra state in western India to Baburao Hazare and Laxmi Bai, an unskilled labourer family
He was raised by his childless aunt in Mumbai but could not continue beyond VII standard and had to quit midway due to problems.
He has two sisters.

He is unmarried.

Anna Hazare started his career as a driver in the Indian Army.

During his 15-year tenure as a soldier, he was posted to several states like Sikkim, Bhutan, Jammu-Kashmir, Assam, Mizoram, Leh and Ladakh and braved challenging weathers.

Anna was greatly influenced by Swami Vivekananda’s teachings.

In the year 1965, Pakistan attacked India and at that time, Hazare was posted at the Khemkaran border. On November 12, 1965, Pakistan launched air attacks on Indian base and all of Hazare’s comrades became martyrs

In 1978, he took voluntary retirement from the 9th Maratha Battalion

After serving 15 Years in Army Anna took the voluntary retirement and returned to his native place in Ralegan Siddhi, in the Parner tehsil of Ahmednagar district.

Ralegan Siddhi falls in the drought-prone area with a mere 400 to 500 mm of annual rainfall.

There were no weirs to retain rainwater.

During the month of April and May, water tankers were the only means of drinking water.

Almost 80 per cent of the villagers were dependent on other villages for food grains. Residents used to walk for more than four to six kilometers in search of work

Hazare came across the work of one Vilasrao Salunke, a resident of Saswad near Pune who had started a novel project of water management through watershed development in a joint venture with the Gram Panchyat. Hazare visited the project and decided to implement it in Ralegan Siddhi.

He steered the villagers to begin working towards water conservation.

At the outset, they completed 48 Nala Bunding work, contour trenches, staggered trenches, gully plugs, meadows development and of forestation of 500 hectares of land. Thereafter, they constructed five RCC weirs and 16 Gabion Weirs.

This resulted in increase in the ground water level.

Hazare’s Ralegan Siddhi became the first role model of an ideal village from the worst village to an ideal village.

Anna rightly thought that Development is marred by corruption and started a new venture in 1991 called Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan (BVJA) or public movement against corruption.

It was found that some 42 forest officers had duped the state government for crores of rupees through corruption in confederacy.

Hazare submitted the evidences to the government but the latter was reluctant to take action against all these officers as one of the ministers of the ruling party was involved in the scam.

A distressed Hazare returned the Padmashree Award to the President of India and also returned the Vriksha Mitra Award given by then prime minister of India Rajiv Gandhi.

He further went on an indefinite hunger strike in Alandi on the same issue.

Finally, the government woke up and took action against the criminal and corrupt officers as well as six of the ministers were forced to resign and more than 400 officers from different government offices were sent back to home.

Hazare raised the issue of alleged massive land purchase by Gholap's wife Shashikala in Nashik between April to September 1996.

He forwarded the available documentary evidences in support of his allegations to then Maharashtra Governor P. C. Alexander

On 4 November 1997, Gholap filed a defamation suit against Hazare for accusing him of corruption.

On 9 September 1998, Anna Hazare was imprisoned in the Yerawada Jail after being sentenced to simple imprisonment for three months by the Mumbai Metropolitan Court all political parties, every one from Maharashtra came in support of him
Later due to public protest, outcry the Government of Maharashtra ordered his release from the jail.

The state government has opened cooperative societies, credit societies & urban banks everywhere in states.

However, the directors of such societies do the corruption and failed to pay back the basic amount to the members of the societies.

Thus poor people get cheated when Anna saw this he again began his agitation against this.

Hazare agitated for over eight months.

The result was that more than Rs 125 crore was recovered from defaulters and the members of such societies heaved a sigh of relief.

Recovery of around Rs. 400 crores is in the pipeline.

After this Anna started to fight for the Right to information act.

Government ignored Anna.

In 1997 Anna agitated in Azad Maidan in Mumbai to create mass public awareness about RTI amongst the youth.

Anna started to travel across state.

Government promised Anna they will pass RTI act but in reality they never did it.

For this Anna agitated ten times for this law.

When Anna saw that Government is not willing to pass this law Anna went on an indefinite hunger strike at Azad Maidan in the last week of July 2003.

After 12 days of Hunger strike in Azad Maidan the President of India signed the draft of the Right to Information Act and ordered the state government to implement it with effect from 2002. The same draft was considered as the base document for the making of the National Right to Information Act-2005.

In 2003 Anna Hazare raised corruption charges against 4 ministers of the Congress-NCP government

Government ignored him

Then Anna started his fast unto death agitation on 9 August 2003.

He ended his fast on 17 August 2003 after then chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde formed a one man commission, headed by the retired justice P. B. Sawant to probe his charges.

The P. B. Sawant commission report was submitted on 23 February 2005, indicted Suresh Jain, Nawab Malik and Padmasinh Patil.

Suresh Jain and Nawab Malik resigned from the cabinet in March 2005

Jan Lokpal Bill –
Agitation and hunger strike at the age of 73 and great victory against powerful and rich government

India against corruption movement
N. Santosh Hegde, a former justice of the Supreme Court of India and Lokayukta of Karnataka, Prashant Bhushan, a senior lawyer in the Supreme Court along with the members of the India against Corruption movement drafted an alternate bill, named as the Jan Lokpal Bill (People's Ombudsman Bill) with more stringent provisions and wider power to the Lokpal (Ombudsman)

On April 5 2011 Again Anna started second freedom struggle in India.
Anna wrote to everyone regarding Jan Lok Pal bill but no one listened him
After that on 5th April 2011 Started fast unto death to wake up the government for India.
Anna started war against corruption in India.
Hazare has started a fast unto death from 5 April 2011 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, to press for the demand to form a joint committee of the representatives of the Government and the civil society to draft a new bill with stronger penal actions and more independence to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Ombudsmen in the states)

In beginning Government of India ignored him, many people said many things, but as First day was over Anna got the support from every corner of India and
No one has expected such a support Anna will get for this bill.

Over night table were turned and after 4 days of discussion with government of India servants .
Finally Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh realized that demand of Anna is right and government accepted all the demands of Anna.
Thus Jantar Mantar saved from becoming another Tahir Square.

Anna Hazare won the following awards –
1. Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra award by the Government of India on November 19, 1986 from the hands of Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi.
2. 1989 - Krishi Bhushana award by the Government of Maharashtra.
3. 1990 - Padmashri award, by the Government of India
4. 1992 - Padmabhushan award, by the Government of India
5. 2008 - On April 15 2008, Anna Hazare received the World Bank's 2008 Jit Gill Memorial Award for Outstanding Public Service
6. Care International of the USA, Transparency International, Seoul (South Korea)
7. He received awards worth Rs 25 lakh and donated the entire amount for the Swami Vivekananda Kritadnyata Nidhi (social gratitude fund). Out of the two lakh rupees received from the above amount, mass marriages are carried of at least 25-30 poor couples every year.

Anna Hazare has given his life for the benefit of India.

He got the home in his village but he has not entered in that house from last 35 years.

Anna Hazare and Properties –

Anna Hazare has declared he has got Rs68, 688 in bank balance and cash and three pieces of land
Hazare's lands were either donated to him or family owned
In his statement, Hazare said two land pieces measuring 0.07 Hectares and two hectares are in his native village in Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra while 0.46 hectare of land is in Pimpianer.
one of the pieces of land in Ralegan Siddhi was donated by Army to him which he has donated for village use
the Pimpianer land was donated to him by a villager.Hazare has further donated this land for village use.

Anna Hazare never got any grant from Government of India.

Appeal: Lets Support Anna Hazare.

Jai Hind....!

Anna Hazare detained and send to Tihar Jail

New Delhi: Civil society activist Anna Hazare was detained by Delhi Police Tuesday, shortly before he was to begin an indefinite fast to press for a strong anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, triggering swathes of unrest across the country and pitting the government against not just the opposition but also large sections of the public.

Hazare's associates Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Shanti Bhushan were also detained along with about 1,000 supporters. As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the move smacked of the excesses during Emergency and parliament was stalled, the outrage spread across the country with reports of protests coming in from virtually every corner.

Hazare and Kejriwal were whisked away as they stepped out of an apartment in east Delhi on their way to the J.P. Park where police had clamped prohibitory orders and where the activists were planning to set the stage for their strike against the government's version of the bill that keeps the prime minister, judiciary and junior officials out of its ambit.

The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha Aug 4.

Hazare's supporters, who had gathered in hundreds in the apartment complex, shouted anti-government slogans and lauded the 74-year-old anti-corruption crusader who had gone on a hunger strike in April.

While the many hundreds who had been detained were kept at the Chhatrasal Stadium, lawyer and Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan said they had no news about the whereabouts of the others.

They were planning to move the Supreme Court against the detentions but could not.

'It is not possible to move the court today as we don't have the signatures of Anna Hazare, Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwala on the petition,' Bhushan told IANS.

'Their whereabouts are not known,' Bhushan, who said the arrest was illegal and unconstitutional.

Just before his arrest, Hazare said in a recorded video message: 'Don't let my arrest stop this movement. This is the nation's second struggle for freedom.'

The message was flashed on television screens, fuelling protests in many states including Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa where people trooped out of their homes to voice their anger. Many shopkeepers downed shutters.

In India's financial capital Mumbai, thousands gathered at various places.

'We are also requesting supporters to strike work tomorrow and support Annaji,' a volunteer for India Against Corruption said.

Celebrities too stepped in to verbalise their distress. Lyricist Javed Akhtar said: 'I have had certain reservations about Anna's method but his arrest cannot be condoned. It is undemocratic, unacceptable.'

The ripple effect was widespread.

'In a democracy like ours, one has the right to protest in a peaceful manner. By detaining Hazare and others supporting him, the government is depriving the country's citizens of their constitutional rights,' said P.K. Garg, a retired professor in Lucknow.

As the protests spread, the government attempted to clarify its position and said Delhi Police was not acting under political pressure and had made the detentions because the anti-corruption crusaders had refused to agree to certain conditions.

'If someone says we will defy the orders, I think this is unacceptable in a democracy,' said Home Minister P. Chidambaram. 'It is a real regret that police have taken this action.'

The crisis for the government comes soon after the clampdown on a protest by yoga guru Ramdev on June 5.

Monday, August 15, 2011

PM has started speaking like Kapil Sibal: Anna Hazare

If government falls, we don't care, says Anna

New Delhi: Social activist Anna Hazare on Monday lashed out at the government accusing it of misusing its power and said that the Prime Minister has also started speaking like Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal. "I had great regard for the Prime Minister, but he has also started speaking the language of minister Kapil Sibal," Anna said.

Quoting the Prime Minister's Independence Day speech about the Lokpal Bill and the procedure in Parliament, Anna said that he trusts Parliament but not its members. He also said that though Parliament will pass the bill, but the major concern is to hand over the right bill to Parliament. "The government doesn't have the will power to bring the right Lokpal Bill. If the right Lokpal Bill comes, 60 to 65 per cent corruption will be wiped off," he said.

Anna also called for a 'jail bharo aandolan', saying that going to jail for betterment of the country is good.

Addressing the nation a day before his fast, Anna made it clear that he will start his fast from August 16 despite being denied permission.

Defending his fight against corruption, Anna said that his fight will continue till his last breath. He also said that he has no intentions of bringing down the government. "If the government doesn't understand the intentions of the common man, then we don't care even if the government falls," he said.

He also laid stress on the farmers' plight in the country saying that the government is only concerned on giving land to industrialists. "They fire, carry out lathicharge upon farmers and the poor people to give land. The government is not concerned about farmers," he said.

"Farmers were fired upon in Pune, this is not the right independence. We have to talk and fight for change," he added.

Section 144 imposed at the fast venue, but Anna to go ahead with fast

Section 144 has been imposed at the JP Park, the venue where Anna Hazare is supposed to fast from August 16. Heavy security has also been deployed at the venue.

The Delhi Police rejected the undertaking given by Team Anna on Monday after they refused to accept some of the key conditions set.

The conditions that were not accepted by the Hazare team were capping the day of protest to three and the number of protestors to below 5,000, government doctors to check on Hazare, ban on use of loudspeakers after 9 pm, limiting the number of vehicles to 50 cars and 50 motorcycles in parking and that no tent be erected.

The police move to reject the application came soon after the Hazare team submitted an undertaking leaving six out of the 22 conditions laid out by Delhi Police for granting permission for the fast at the park.

Anna said that they are ready to court arrest if they are not allowed to fast at the JP Park in the national capital from August 16. He also said that once released, they will return back to the same venue and fast again.

If government falls, we don't care, says Anna

NEW DELHI: Expressing his desire that the Lokpal bill will be a reality soon, social activist Anna Hazare said, "We are not interested in pulling down the government but during our fight for change, if it falls, we don't care."

Addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Sunday, he said, "there has to be a mass uprising to bring about a change." He also said that he will live and die for the country.

He reiterated that he will be starting his fast from tomorrow. He also called for a revolution to "fight against the government and change the system". He added that he has faith in the country's parliament but the government was not producing the correct version of the Lokpal bill before it.

"We believe completely in the country's parliament but the government is producing the flawed version of the bill before it," said Hazare reacting to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement that the Lokpal bill had been introduced in parliament.

Hazare further said that the fight for a stringent Lokpal bill is fine, but there is a need for a revolution to change the prevalent system in the country.

"A revolution on a much larger scale is the need of the hour to fight against the government and change the system," he said.

"This is a fight for change and till the time our system doesn't change we won't progress. Even after 64 years there is corruption and scams, what is the use of this Independence? This freedom is not right," said Hazare.

"The government is only concerned about power and money," he added.

Hazare is scheduled to begin a hunger strike to press for a stronger Lokpal bill from Tuesday but has been denied permission by the Delhi Police to do so.

Centre won't interfere

The Centre has decided not to interfere with the decision of Delhi Police's refusal of permission to Anna Hazare to hold his protest fast, saying the force has taken the stand on its own and it was fully capable of dealing with any situation.

"The home ministry will not interfere in the decision of Delhi Police. We have nothing to do with it," the official said.

A home ministry official said the Delhi Police took the decision of denying permission to Team Anna to stage the protest since they refused to comply with its set conditions which are applicable to any group which wanted to stage any protest in the national capital.

The Centre also thinks that Delhi Police are capable of dealing with any situation arising out of Hazare's announcement that he would go ahead with the protest despite the refusal of the permission.

"If they (Team Anna) decide to go ahead with their programme defying the order, law will take its own course," the official said.

'Lottery king' Martin arrested in city on land-grab charges

CHENNAI/SALEM: The Tamil Nadu police arrested Santiago Martin, who faces charges in some states for selling illegal lottery tickets, on Saturday. The arrest in Chennai, however, was made on charges of land grabbing. Martin had come to the Chennai suburban police commissioner's office to sign a register as directed by the court in another landgrab case when he was picked up on Saturday.

The arrest was made on a complaint by VG Balaji of Salem, who accused the 'lottery king' of grabbing his 2,000 sqft land worth Rs 2 crore, the police said. Along with Martin, six others were arrested by a police team that had arrived from Salem. They were identified as S Benjamin of Coimbatore, who is Martin's brother-in-law, G Malarselvi of Chennai, V Rajeswari of Salem, V Vijitayoganandini of Ramanathapuram, C Babu of Salem and M Venkatesan of Salem. They were taken to the Kannankurichi police station in Salem, where they were questioned till 8.45pm. Later, investigation officer Kamaraj said, "All the accused were produced before Salem III judicial magistrate Muralidaran." Martin is the first big businessman to be arrested as part of the crackdown launched by the AIADMK government on land grabbing during the previous DMK regime.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mammootty, Mohanlal to settle IT dues

Malayalam cinema's superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal, whose homes and offices in Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai and Bengaluru were raided by the Income Tax (IT) department on July 22, have admitted to having assets beyond their known sources of income.

Both the actors have now agreed to settle their dues. They have also added that they will carry out their audits properly in the future and keep a close eye on monitoring their revenues.

Earlier, some reports said the IT department had acted on a confidential tip from certain agencies on the business modules worked out by the superstars in the Middle East for satellite rights. However, the authorities did not have enough evidence to substantiate that claim at the time.

While actor Mohanlal's residence in Mudavanmugal, Thiruvananthapuram and in Thevara, Kochi, was raided, Mammootty's house in Panampally Nagar, Kochi, was raided by the IT department.

Mammootty's production company Play House and Mohanlal's Studio Max Labs too, were raided alongwith the homes of their close aides.

The actors had been boasting of properties in and out the country, and this was also a factor that prompted the authorities to look into their monetary affairs closely.

Actor Mohanlal has been claiming to have flats in the Burj Khaleefa, Dubai, while Mammootty is said to have announced his multiple investments in various properties including a hospital in Bangaluru besides real estate investments inside and outside Kerala.

Earlier, Income Tax officials had questioned Mammootty in Kochi for nearly seven hours on July 22nd. The officials had also recorded Mohanlal's statement in Rameshwaram, where he was shooting for a film at the time.

The I-T Department had said then that the actors may be summoned for further questioning ahead. The two superstars, who have dominated the Malayalam film industry for over three decades, have several business interests.

In a career spanning more than three decades, Mammootty has won the National Award thrice, for Dr. Ambedkar (1988), Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha, Mathilukal (1989) and Vidheyan, Ponthan Mada (1993). He has acted in more than 360 films, including a few Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films.

While Mohanlal was reportedly planning to bid for an IPL team with director Priyadarshan and owns some hotels in Bangaluru, he had recently reportedly purchased a plush house in the world's tallest tower, Burj Khalifa, in Dubai.

He was awarded the Padma Shri for his contribution to Indian cinema in 2001. He has won four National Film Awards and his notable roles include those in Vaanaprastham and Bharatham.

Air India to start service linking Tiruvanathapuram, Kochi, Kozhikode

K.BABU Minister in charge of Airports

India's premier air service provider Air India has agreed to start daily air services linking Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Karipur.

A 40-seater plane will start services before Onam, minister in charge of airports K. Babu said here.

The flight will be given maximum reduction in aviation fuel taxes after consultation with the finance department

Monday, August 8, 2011

Court orders probe into Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy's role

Vigilance too hot for Oommen Chandy

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy has come under political pressure after a vigilance court ordered a fresh probe on whether he had a role in the decision to import palmolein from Malaysia, as finance minister in the Karunakaran cabinet.

The court asked the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau to probe the matter and submit a report within three months. The development has serious political implications, given Chandy's earlier statement that he would abide by the Congress high command's decision if there was an adverse observation by the court in the case.

The court rejected the report filed by investigators that there was no need for any further inquiry into Chandy's association in the matter. The palmolein case involves an allegation that Rs 2.32-crore loss was incurred by the state in the import of 32,000 tonnes of palmolein from Malaysia. The late Congress leader K Karunakaran was the first accused.

The case cost former Chief Vigilance Commissioner PJ Thomas his job, as he is the sixth accused in the case. Thomas was the state Food Secretary when palmolein was imported. The turn of events is expected to bring additional pressure on Oommen Chandy, given his coalition's thin majority in the assembly and also because of perceived power struggles within the state unit of the party.

Political observers say the latest setback for Chandy may give an upper hand to KPCC President Ramesh Chennithala. It was another Congress leader TH Mustaffa who had dragged Chandy's name into the case. Mustaffa pointed out that while he was implicated in the case as then food minister, Chandy who was the finance minister was not made an accused.

The Chandy camp, however, is hopeful that he has the backing of the central leadership at the moment. Opposition Leader VS Achuthanandan said Chandy should "decide whether he should continue in the post" in the backdrop of the court's directive.

"It doesn't seem like Chandy has any other option than resigning." CPM leader and former home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said Chandy ought to give up the vigilance portfolio since he was facing a probe by that department.

"If he continues to hold the vigilance portfolio when there is an inquiry against him, the probe is unlikely to progress impartially," Balakrishnan said. Chennithala said the chief minister need not resign on the basis of Monday's development.

Vigilance too hot for Oommen Chandy

The two-decade old palm oil case almost claimed an unwitting party to the deal; the Chief Minister Mr Oommen Chandy, the then finance minister.

Mr Chandy wanted to quit as soon as the verdict was out, but coalition leaders prevailed on him.

Instead, Mr Chandy may give up the vigilance portfolio as it would be embarrassing to preside over the agency that probes him.

The CM, who had told the Congress high command that he would quit in the event of an adverse judicial reference, was inclined to uphold it. But the Defence Minister, Mr A K Antony, smelt the danger.

Despite his busy schedule in Parliament, Mr Antony authorised a Congress MP to ask Mr Chandy not to act on sentiment but look at the larger UDF canvas and let the probe conclude.

The message was that but for him, the ruling UDF faced imminent collapse.

The advocate-general, Mr K.P. Dhandapani, rushed from Kochi to advise the Law Minister, Mr K.M. Mani.

The argument in favour of Mr Chandy still retains the high moral ground because none of the previous Left Ministries could find a shred of evidence to proceed against him.

The former Vigilance director, Mr K.J. Joseph, had probed Mr Chandy during the Nayanar Government and given a given a clean chit.

However, towards the fag end of the Achuthanandan Government, following the death of the first accused, Mr K. Karunakaran, there was a flurry of petitions seeking discharge from the case. But the judge thought otherwise.

The case now continues to hound Mr Chandy, whose only indiscretion was to sign on a file presented to him by the then Food Minister, Mr T.H. Musthafa, minutes before a Cabinet meeting.

Court orders probe against Chandy; Cong rules out his resignation

Thiruvananthapuram: In a major setback to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, a Vigilance court here Monday ordered a probe to ascertain whether he had played any role in the 1992 palmolein oil import deal as the then Finance Minister in the K. Karunakaran government.

Opposition LDF lost no time in calling for his resignation but KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala said there was no question of the CM tendering resignation because of the direction issued by the vigilance court.

"No such situation exists. We respect the court direction," Chennithala told media persons after a hastily convened meeting with UDF colleagues. Stating that the Chief Minister will face the probe as ordered by the court Chennithala said the Congress party would take a decision on whether the CM should hold the vigilance portfolio.

Media reports said Oommen Chandy had offered to resign but UDF leaders advised him that there was no need to take such a step.

KCM supremo K.M. Mani and Muslim League leader P.K. Kunhalikkutty were of the opinion that the situation does not demand resignation by Oommen Chandy.

Passing the order, Special Vigilance Judge S Jagadeesh, rejected the report filed by investigators in April last stating there was no need for further probe to add any more person to the list of the accused.

The judge asked the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau to submit the probe report within three months.

The court while rejecting the report by Vigilance SP stressed on three points:

Oommen Chandy who was the finance minister had signed the file for bringing palmolein import as an exceptional item in the cabinet meeting on a suggestion by food minister T.H. Musthafa

The file was in the finance minister's office for a period of one-and-a-half months
The Chief Minister's spokesman said Chandy would react to the court order after examining it closely.

The finance minister knew about the need to impose 15 per cent service tax

The long-pending corruption case had cost P J Thomas the post of Chief Vigilance Commissioner. Thomas was listed as the sixth accused in the case relating to import of 32,000 tonnes of palmolein from Malaysia causing loss to the tune of Rs 2.32 crore to the exchequer.

Thomas, whose appointment as CVC was quashed by the Supreme Court, was the food secretary then and a director of the state Civil Supplies Corporation. Late Congress leader Karunakaran was the first accused in the case.

The import of 15,000 tonnes of palm oil was undertaken in 1992. The case was registered in 1999 when the Communists led by E.K. Nayanar were in power. The vigilance department had earlier submitted a report stating that there was nothing that could indict Chandy in the case.

Former chief minister K. Karunakaran, then food minister T.H. Mustafa and bureaucrats P.J. Thomas and Jiji Thompson were charged with causing a loss of Rs.2.32 crore by importing oil from Malaysia at an enhanced price.

The case was reopened earlier this year by the then Left government under V.S. Achuthanandan after Mustafa filed a petition asking the court that he also be allowed to go free as Chandy has not been named in the case.

Soon, the state government ordered a hurried investigation and the vigilance department submitted the report giving a clean chit to Chandy on May 13 -- the day the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) won the assembly polls.

Opposition leader V.S Achuthanandan said the Chief Minister should resign in the wake of direction by the vigilance court.

Reacting to the new development, former home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that in the light of the court ordering a fresh probe by the same vigilance department and the same official, it will not be very helpful.

"The present vigilance department director should be asked to go. With Chandy himself holding the vigilance portfolio, he should give up the vigilance portfolio. It must be recalled that former central vigilance commissioner P.J. Thomas had to step down because he is an accused in the case," said Balakrishnan.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Shock waves in US after S&P downgrades its credit rating

Washington: The downgrading of US' credit rating by Standard & Poor’s from 'AAA' to 'AA+' has sent shock waves across the country, with many fearing this could affect the financial system worldwide. "The action by S&P reaffirms the need for a balanced approach to deficit reduction that combines spending cuts with revenue-raising measures like closing taxpayer-funded giveaways to billionaires, oil companies and corporate jet owners," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

"This makes the work of the joint committee all the more important, and shows why leaders should appoint members who will approach the committee’s work with an open mind - instead of hardliners who have already ruled out the balanced approach that the markets and rating agencies like S&P are demanding," said Reid, who was among the first lawmakers to react on the unprecedented decision of the S&P.

The Wall Street Journal termed it as shaking of the global financial system. "A cornerstone of the global financial system was shaken Friday when officials at ratings firm Standard & Poor's said US Treasury debt no longer deserved to be considered among the safest investments in the world," it said. "The downgrade will force traders and investors to reconsider in real time what has been an elemental assumption of modern finance," the Journal reported.

The Washington Post said: "The downgrade will push the global financial markets into unchartered territory after a volatile week fueled by concerns over the European debt crisis and the slowdown in the US economy. "Since July 14, when Standard & Poor's warned it could downgrade the US, analysts have struggled to determine how such a move could affect the financial landscape, given how Treasury's permeate the machinery of Wall Street and the economy."

The Washington Post said the move by S&P could serve as a psychological haymaker for an American economic recovery that cannot find much traction, and could do more damage to investors' increasing lack of faith in a political system that is struggling to reach consensus on even everyday policy items.

The Wall Street Journal feared it could lead to the prompt downgrades of numerous companies and states, driving up their costs for borrowing. "Policy makers are also anxious about the hidden icebergs the move could suddenly reveal," the Journal said.

Democratic lawmaker Barney Frank denounced the ratings downgrade by S&P’s and said it has a terrible record. "These are some of the people who have the worst records of incompetence and irresponsibility around," Frank told the MSNBC on an interview.

"When they finally dealt with the debt ceiling, they obviously kicked the can down the road, and the market did not need that," William Larkin, fixed income portfolio manager at Cabot Money Management in Salem, told the news channel. "I don't think it is a great shock," he said, regarding the downgrade. "If it didn't happen now, I think it probably would have happened in a couple of months," he said.

The Washington Post said the downgrade could also have a cascading series of effects on states and localities, including nearly all of those in the Washington metro area. These governments could lose their AAA credit ratings as well, potentially raising the cost of borrowing for schools, roads and parks.

Sadananda Gowda takes over as Karnataka CM

Bangalore: D.V. Sadananda Gowda was Thursday sworn in as Karnataka's 20th chief minister at a brief ceremony on the lawns of Raj Bhavan here.

Governor H.R. Bhardwaj administered the oath of office to Gowda as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) second chief minister in south India at 4.30 p.m.

The 58-year-old Gowda took oath in Kannada in the presence of several dignitaries, former BJP ministers, including his predecessor B.S. Yeddyurappa, opposition leaders, top civil and police officials, his family members and hundreds of his supporters.

Contrary to reports during the day, only Gowda took oath and no other lawmaker or party leader was sworn in as minister.

Gowda, who represents the party in the Lok Sabha from Udupi-Chickmaglur constituency, has to be elected to the state legislative assembly or nominated to the legislative council in the next six months to continue as chief minister.