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Four Congress MPs suspended for unprecedented move in the Parliament

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Om Birla

The Lok Sabha has suspended four Congress MPs for the entire monsoon session. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Om Prakash Birla, took action amid opposition protests against the government since the beginning of the monsoon session.

The legislators protesting within the house received one last warning from Om Prakash Birla on Monday, the sixth day of the new session. In the midst of protests, Birla declared, “This is a temple of democracy,” despite the fact that protests and carrying placards are now forbidden within the Parliament building ahead of the monsoon session.

The speaker said, “The government is ready to hold discussions,” he insisted, suggesting that the session could be resumed after 3 pm if the chaos is halted. “The nation wants Parliament to function. But with this kind of chaos… the House can’t function.”

Due to the oath-taking ceremony of elected president Draupadi Murmu, the session started late on Monday.

In an unprecedented move, Manickam Tagore, Ramya Haridas, Jothimani, and TN Prathapan were suspended, yet the mayhem persisted even after 3pm. The Congress MPs were seen standing together and holding placards against inflation.

Inflation and the rising cost of LPG, which has an impact on many households, have been targets of the opposition’s protests. Rahul Gandhi also participated in the protests last week.

 The MPs were warned last week too for carrying placards.

This may lead to further conflict between the Congress and the BJP, who have been at odds over the past week over Sonia Gandhi’s summons from the Enforcement Directorate in the National Herald case and comments made by Congress leaders about Smriti Irani and her daughter in relation to a Goa property.

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Punjab Govt accepts VC Dr Bahadur’s resignation

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Days after the row between Punjab Health Minister Chetan Singh Jouramajra, Chief Minister Punjab Bhagwant Mann and Vice-Chancellor of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences Dr. Raj Bahadur, Punjab Government on Thursady accepted the resignation of Dr. Raj Bahadur as VC of BFUMS. On 29 July, a video went viral where Health Minister Chetan Singh Joura Majra asked VC Dr. Raj Bahadur to lie on a dirty bed. After this video, many doctors across the country showed their anguish and asked Health Minister to apologize publically to Dr. Raj Bahadur.

As per senior officers in the Chief Minister’s Office, the resignation has been sent to Punjab Governor Banwari Lal Purohit for final approval. The incident had become a major embarrassment for the government, with people from all walks of life supporting Dr. Raj Bahadur and condemning the Health Minister for the incident. Doctors of Punjab even declared to go on strike if the health minister was not removed from the ministry. Though neither strike took place nor the health minister apologized and was removed.

TDG had word with Dr. Raj Bahadur at the time this incident happened. Dr. Bahadur informed that the Chief Minister apologized to him for his health minister’s behaviour. Also, as per CMO officials, Dr. Raj Bahadur was asked to meet CM Bhagwant Mann but Dr. Bahadur did not meet CM Mann as he was not keeping well. Hence, after a wait of more than a week, on Thursday, Punjab Government accepted Dr. Bahadur’s resignation.

Day after the incident, Dr Raj Bahadur had resigned as Vice-Chancellor, even though Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had spoken to him and expressed regret over the incident.

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Delhi LG orders FIR against 11 DDA officials

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Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena on Thursday ordered the registration of First Information Report (FIR) against 11 former Delhi Development Authority (DDA) officials over alleged financial misappropriation and violation of norms. The LG also ordered the withdrawal of pension benefits to nine retired officials.

“Lt Governor, VK Saxena, in his capacity as Chairman DDA, has ordered that an FIR be registered against the then Member (Finance) and Member (Engineering) of DDA, apart from 9 other officials of DDA in a 9-year-old case of blatant financial misappropriation and violation of Codal Formalities, CPWD Works Manual and General Financial Rules (GFR), that was reported in 2013,” said an official statement from the LG office.

These nine DDA officials are all retired and include a Chief Engineer, Superintendent Engineer and Executive Engineer and others from the finance and accounts departments.

The said action will be taken against Abhay Kumar Sinha, then Member (Engineering), Venkatesh Mohan, the then Member (Finance), Om Prakash, CE (Retd) Nahar Singh SE (Retd) JP Sharma, EE (Retd), PK Chawla, Dy. CAO (Retd), Jasvir Singh, AAO (Retd), SC Mongia, AAD (Retd), SC Mittal, AE (Retd), RC Jain, AE (Retd) and Dilbagh Singh Bains, AE (Retd).

Considering the grave misconduct and loss to the exchequer, the LG has also ordered to ‘’permanently withdraw the full pension benefits’’ of these retired officials, against the department’s recommendation of withdrawing only 25 percent of their pension, the statement said.

The case pertains to the up-gradation and beautification of the Coronation Park at Kingsway Camp that was awarded to M/s Ajab Singh and Co. in 2013. The tender cost of the work was Rs 14.24 crore but additional work amounting to Rs 114.83 crore was also carried out at Narela and Dhirpur, without any sanctions.

“The original project cost of Rs 14.24 crore was escalated to Rs. 28.36 crores and the same was further deviated with additional work, at a different location altogether, amounting for Rs 114.83 Crore was executed without any sanctioned estimate. This resulted in the overall payment of Rs 142.08 Crore to the agency,” it said.

According to the statement, this gross irregularity was pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its report in 2016, which concluded an overall deviation of 897.67 per cent (almost nine times) from the original work.This additional work should have been done through fresh tenders that would have not only saved crores in terms of competitive biddings but also ensured better quality, it said.

“However, in what appears to be a case of convenient collusion between the contractor and officials, all laid down norms were violated to benefit the contractor in lieu of probable commissions,” it said further.

The execution of the additional work, here, was approved by the then Chief Engineer (North Zone) on the day of his retirement on 31 October 2014. The then Member (Engineering) DDA had granted in-principle approval for carrying out additional work amounting to Rs 114. 83 Crore, even as awarding any additional work required calling fresh tender.

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Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh to lose chair

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Harivansh Narayan Singh, the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, is set to lose his position. According to sources in the Janata Dal (United), Singh would soon be asked by the JD(U) to demit the constitutional office. With his party JD(U) out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) now, the BJP will appoint one of its own Rajya Sabha members in his place.

Singh was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2014 by the JD(U) and was elected Deputy Chairman of the Upper House of Parliament as an NDA candidate in 2018, defeating Congress candidate BK Hariprasad. He was elected to the constitutional office again in September 2020 after the JD(U) returned him to the Rajya Sabha that year.

Speaking to The Daily Guardian, sources said that, amid the change of government in Bihar, if any politician who is in a tight spot it is the journalist-turned politician from Ranchi. Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh, the national president of the JD(U), while interacting with reporters in Patna on Thursday said that he had spoken to Singh regarding the political changes in the state. “Harivansh ji told me he is with Nitish Kumar,” said Singh. Another politician who is set to be booted out is the BJP legislator from Lakhisarai, Vijay Kumar Sinha, who is Speaker of Bihar Assembly. Fifty-five MLAs of the Grand Alliance on Wednesday submitted a no confidence notice against him, which has been sent to the Secretary of the state Assembly.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has made his displeasure known with the conduct of Sinha many times in the past, told journalists on Thursday that the “Speaker should decide whether to continue in the chair or quit”.

The no trust motion moved against Sinha would be taken up for discussion during the two-day special session of state legislature on 24 August in the assembly and on 25 August in the council.

In the meanwhile, there is some tussle for important portfolios in the Cabinet, which is slated for expansion during the special session of the Assembly, between the JD(U) and RJD. Nitish has turned down RJD’s demand for home portfolio. Now, the RJD has demanded the post of the Speaker as per the power sharing agreements, sources said.

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CBI ARRESTS MAMATA CONFIDANTE ANUBRATA MONDAL

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday arrested Trinamool Congress leader Anubrata Mondal from his residence in Birbhum’s Bolpur in connection with a 2020 cattle smuggling case. Mondal, the TMC Bhirbhum district chief, is a close aide of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The central agency produced Mondal before the CBI Special Court in Asansol on Thursday and was granted custody till 20

August.

According to sources in the CBI, Mondal was summoned for questioning by the agency 10 times, but he avoided all summons feigning illness. Even though he was summoned to the CBI office at Nizam’s Palace in Kolkata on Monday August 8, he did not comply with the order. Instead, Mondal checked in to SSKM Hospital, but doctors there said he was healthy.

A CBI team raided Mondal’s house in Birbhum on Thursday at 7 a.m. and arrested him three hours later. Initially, it led to confusion if was being taken to Durgapur camp office to interrogate him further. But eventually he was taken to the ECL guest house at Shitalpur near Asansol.

The central agency had on 21 September 2020 arrested Satish Kumar, a former Border Security Force (BSF) commandant in connection with illegal cattle smuggling across the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Kumar’s interrogation led to many revelations, including the route map of smuggling from West Bengal to Bangladesh. The CBI also received information that smuggling was planned from Rampurhat area of ​​Birbhum. The interrogation led the CBI to Mondal’s close associate Enamul Haque, a hawala operator and kingpin of the smuggling racket, who was arrested in November 2020. Haque’s interrogation in turn led to Mondal’s bodyguard Saygal Hussain. The CBI recovered properties worth crores of rupees from Hussain’s house after his arrest.

Mondal’s involvement in the cattle smuggling case came to notice after the CBI interrogated the two. The central agency also interrogated Ghatal MP Actor Dev too.

Haque was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in February this year on the basis of the CBI FIR a month after he was granted bail by the Supreme Court.

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FREEBIES SERIOUS ISSUE, MONEY MUST BE SPENT ON INFRASTRUCTURE: SC

Ashish Sinha

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The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that freebies that political parties dole out in the run-up to elections to lure voters are a serious issue. Saying that there were two sections, the apex court observed that one who supported the freebies and the other who would like the money spent on freebies to be spent on development.

“Those who are getting they want it as ours is a welfare state. Some may say that they are paying taxes and it (the money) has to be used for developmental process. So it is a serious issue. So both sides have to be heard by committee,” said Chief Justice of India

NV Ramana, while hearing a PIL challenging the culture of freebies.

Ramanna also observed that the Central government also runs schemes to feed the hungry and though “economy is losing money”, it is pertinent that “people’s welfare has to be balanced”.

The Election Commission on Wednesday filed an affidavit which supported the Supreme Court’s suggestions to set up an expert committee to examine regulatory measures on freebies announced by political parties ahead of elections. The electoral watchdog, however, refused to be part of the expert body.  

“It may not be appropriate for the Commission, being the constitutional authority, to offer to be part of the expert committee especially if there are (representation from) ministries or government bodies in the expert committee. Further, there are continuous elections in the country and any opinion/view/comment during deliberations in a multi-member body might, in the event of being publicised, amount to pre-decide the issue and disturb the level playing field,” the Election Commission said in the affidavit. 

The top court was hearing a public interest petition filed by lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay in January this year pleading that promise or distribution of irrational freebies from public funds before elections could unduly influence the voters, shake the roots of a free and fair election and disturb the level-playing field, besides vitiating the purity of the election process. “Direct and declare that promise/distribution of irrational freebies from the public fund before an election to lure voters is analogous to the bribery and undue influence under Section 171B and Section 171C of the IPC,” the petition observed. The petition seek a ban on political parties promising ‘freebies’ during election time. The petition also seeks steps to regulate poll manifesto and make political outfits accountable for promises they make therein.

The Supreme Court had on 3 August suggested that an apex body comprising the NITI Aayog, the Finance Commission, ruling and opposition parties, the RBI and other stakeholders was required to make recommendations on how to manage freebies distributed by political parties during election campaigns. 

The court will next hear the plea on August 17. 

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French Rafale jets stop over in India during Indo-Pacific deployment

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A French air and space force contingent, including three Rafale jets, was hosted in India during an Indo-Pacific deployment on Wednesday, a statement issued by the French Embassy in New Delhi said.

The contingent, which was en route to New Caledonia, was hosted for a technical stopover at the Air Force Station in Sulur town in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore district on August 10-11 during a long-distance deployment from metropolitan France to the Pacific Ocean.

“From 10th August to 18th September, the French Air and Space Force is carrying out a major long-range mission in the Indo-Pacific, code-named Pegase 22. The first stage of this mission aims to demonstrate France’s capacity for long-distance air power projection by deploying an Air Force contingent from metropolitan France to the French territory of New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean in less than 72 hours (10th–12th August). To achieve this unprecedented 16,600-km deployment, the Air Force contingent made a technical stopover in India, at Air Force Station Sulur,” the statement read.

The contingent, which comprises three Rafale jets and support aircraft, landed at Air Force Station Sulur on Wednesday evening and flew out in the early hours of Thursday after refuelling, as per the French Embassy.

“The operation demonstrated a high level of mutual trust and interoperability between the French and Indian Air Forces, which has been further boosted by the fact that both air forces now fly Rafale jets. It also illustrated the concrete implementation of the reciprocal logistics support agreement signed by France and India in 2018,” the statement read further.

Lauding the IAF’s role in this successful operation, the Ambassador of France to India, Emmanuel Lenain, said: “France is a resident power of the Indo-Pacific, and this ambitious long-distance air power projection demonstrates our commitment to the region and our partners. It is only natural that to carry out this mission, we rely on India, our foremost strategic partner in Asia. My heartfelt thanks to the Indian Air Force for welcoming the French contingent.”

In the following stages of Mission Pegase 22, the French Air Force contingent will take part in the “Pitch Black” air exercise taking place in Australia from 17th August to 10th September. The Indian Air Force will also participate in this multilateral drill, along with Australia, Japan, the United States, Germany, Indonesia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and South Korea.

Mission Pegase 22 is a powerful demonstration of France’s capacity for quick deployment in the Indo-Pacific. The mission is also proof that the security situation in Europe has not diminished the French and European commitments in the Indo-Pacific. In this respect, it also aims to strengthen ties with key strategic partners, such as India, and underline France’s support for security and stability in the region.

India and France have traditionally had close and friendly relations. In 1998, the two countries entered into a Strategic Partnership, which is emblematic of their convergence of views on a range of international issues apart from a close and growing bilateral relationship.

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