FRESH ROW OVER ‘UPA ERA RAFALE DEAL SCAM’ REPORT - The Daily Guardian
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FRESH ROW OVER ‘UPA ERA RAFALE DEAL SCAM’ REPORT

BJP takes on Gandhis, says INC stands for ‘I Need Commission’; Congress hits back, says the party has been seeking a JPC probe into the Rafale deal
A massive political fight was reignited on Tuesday by French portal Mediapart’s new report on alleged kickbacks paid between 2007 and 2012 to a middleman involved in the Rafale deal, and on the CBI allegedly failing to investigate these allegations despite receiving documents.

Seizing on a French media report that commissions were paid between 2007 and 2012 for securing the Rafale deal with India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday said the INC (Indian National Congress) should be renamed as “I Need Commission” and alleged that the Congress’ dissatisfaction with the cut on offer was behind the failed negotiations when it was in power.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra launched a scathing attack on the Congress leadership, especially Rahul Gandhi who has been alleging corruption in the purchase of the fighter aircraft by the Narendra Modi government, and accused him of spreading “canard, disinformation and lies”. Patra also sought Rahul Gandhi’s response to the fresh revelation by French investigative journal Mediapart.

However, the Congress hit back and noted that the Congress has been seeking a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal. Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera asked as to why the government has not agreed to this.

The political battle over the matter heated up after Mediapart made fresh claims that bogus invoices were used that enabled French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation to pay at least 7.5 million euros in secret commissions to a middleman to help it secure the Rafale deal with India. According to Mediapart’s investigation, Dassault Aviation paid the kickbacks to the intermediary in Mauritius between 2007 and 2012. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was in power between 2004 and 2014, leading the ruling BJP for the first time to launch an aggressive counter-attack on the main opposition party after confining itself mostly to dismiss its allegations of corruption in the deal.

Diving into the Rafale controversy, Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Nawab Malik on Tuesday demanded that the Centre should investigate claims made by French portal Mediapart that Rafale makers paid 7.5 million Euros to middlemen between 2007 and 2012. “A lot of news regarding Rafale has been coming in the French media. I think the way the news is coming, the government should investigate the matter. We demand an investigation by the government,” Malik said.

The Modi government had inked the deal on 23 September 2016, to procure 36 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation after a nearly seven-year exercise to procure 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force did not fructify during the UPA regime.

Hitting out at the Congress, Patra alleged that it was clearly the dissatisfaction of the Congress and the Gandhi family that was the main reason behind the negotiations

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A massive political fight was reignited on Tuesday by French portal Mediapart’s new report on alleged kickbacks paid between 2007 and 2012 to a middleman involved in the Rafale deal, and on the CBI allegedly failing to investigate these allegations despite receiving documents.

Seizing on a French media report that commissions were paid between 2007 and 2012 for securing the Rafale deal with India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday said the INC (Indian National Congress) should be renamed as “I Need Commission” and alleged that the Congress’ dissatisfaction with the cut on offer was behind the failed negotiations when it was in power.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra launched a scathing attack on the Congress leadership, especially Rahul Gandhi who has been alleging corruption in the purchase of the fighter aircraft by the Narendra Modi government, and accused him of spreading “canard, disinformation and lies”. Patra also sought Rahul Gandhi’s response to the fresh revelation by French investigative journal Mediapart.

However, the Congress hit back and noted that the Congress has been seeking a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal. Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera asked as to why the government has not agreed to this.

The political battle over the matter heated up after Mediapart made fresh claims that bogus invoices were used that enabled French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation to pay at least 7.5 million euros in secret commissions to a middleman to help it secure the Rafale deal with India. According to Mediapart’s investigation, Dassault Aviation paid the kickbacks to the intermediary in Mauritius between 2007 and 2012. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was in power between 2004 and 2014, leading the ruling BJP for the first time to launch an aggressive counter-attack on the main opposition party after confining itself mostly to dismiss its allegations of corruption in the deal.

Diving into the Rafale controversy, Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Nawab Malik on Tuesday demanded that the Centre should investigate claims made by French portal Mediapart that Rafale makers paid 7.5 million Euros to middlemen between 2007 and 2012. “A lot of news regarding Rafale has been coming in the French media. I think the way the news is coming, the government should investigate the matter. We demand an investigation by the government,” Malik said.

The Modi government had inked the deal on 23 September 2016, to procure 36 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation after a nearly seven-year exercise to procure 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force did not fructify during the UPA regime.

Hitting out at the Congress, Patra alleged that it was clearly the dissatisfaction of the Congress and the Gandhi family that was the main reason behind the negotiations falling through during the UPA government. The Mediapart story says that “corruption, influence-peddling and favouritism” marked the deal during the UPA government, he noted and said, “It will not be an exaggeration to say that the INC be renamed as ‘I Need Commission’.” “Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Robert Vadra, all say that I need commission,” Patra said. The UPA government had a deal within every deal, he added.

The Congress has in past said that the allegations of corruption by the BJP against its ruling family and its members were driven by vendetta. To a question about the Congress’ demand as to why the government has not probed the matter, Patra noted that the alleged middleman was earlier arrested by Enforcement Directorate in a corruption case and said probe agencies must be looking into the matter. The BJP spokesperson said the alleged middleman Sushen Mohan Gupta, whose name has cropped up in the Rafale case, was also accused of pocketing commission in the purchase of VVIP choppers. This is too much of a coincidence, and too much of a coincidence is always a conspiracy, he said.

Sushen Gupta is accused of receiving bribes from AgustaWestland through a shell company registered in Mauritius, Interstellar Technologies, to seal a deal to supply 12 VVIP choppers for India. To facilitate investigations, Mauritius agreed to send documents related to the company to the CBI and Enforcement Directorate. The documents were sent to the CBI on 11 October 2018. According to the portal, this is when it was discovered that Sushen Gupta also acted as an intermediary for Dassault over the Rafale deal. The report says Gupta’s Interstellar Technologies “received at least 7.5 million euros from the French aviation firm between 2007 and 2012, thanks to IT contracts that were clearly overbilled, and from which most of the money was discreetly sent to Mauritius using a system of alleged false invoices. Some of these invoices even got the name of the French company wrong, referring to “Dassult” Aviation.

Mediapart says the Mauritian documents cover the period of the bid process that was eventually won by Dassault (2007 – 2012), when the Congress was in power. “Whereas the complaint filed on 4 October 2018, targets suspicious activity that took place from 2015, when the deal was being finalised on the authority of the current BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” says the site.

The Supreme Court and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) have already gone into the contents of the Rafale deal signed by the Modi government and found nothing wrong in it, Patra said. He said Rahul Gandhi had made the alleged corruption in the purchase a big election issue during the 2019 polls but it failed to make any impact. The BJP retained power with a bigger majority.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi asked his party colleagues not to stop or be afraid of fighting against the “corrupt” central government as truth was with them in every step. There was no reaction yet from the defence ministry or Dassault Aviation on the latest report.

‘When the truth is with you in every step, then what is there to worry about? My Congress colleagues—keep fighting like this against the corrupt central government. Don’t stop, don’t get tired, don’t be afraid,’ Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi, using the hashtag ‘#RafaleScam’.

“He should respond to this from Italy,” Patra said, citing reports that the Congress leader is currently not in India. Corruption has become “homeless” after the BJP came to power, and its address is 10 Janpath, he alleged, referring to the residence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The Congress hit back at the BJP, saying that the government has launched “operation cover up” and demanded to know as to why it had not probed the entire episode so far.

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S Jaishankar on buying Russian oil: ‘duty towards the people’

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S Jaishankar

The world has somewhat accepted New Delhi’s stance on buying Russian oil in light of Moscow’s ongoing conflict in Ukraine, according to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, because New Delhi has not been defensive about its choice and instead has helped other nations understand the responsibility they have to their citizens.

“Once you lay it out very openly and honestly, people accept it.” Jaishankar remarked, “They may not always appreciate it, but once it is there and you are not trying to be too clever about it, you actually have laid out your interest in a very direct manner, my sense is that the world somewhat accepts that as reality,” addressing a meeting with the Indian community in Bangkok, Jaishankar remarked.

Jaishankar, who has frequent liaison with Americans, remarked, “I do see that—not just in the United States but including the US—that they know what our position is and they move on with that.”

Since Europe is buying less oil from Russia, many of India’s suppliers have switched their shipments to Europe, according to the foreign minister. “Oil prices are unreasonably high, and so are gas prices. A lot of traditional suppliers to Asia are diverting to Europe because Europe is buying less oil from Russia. It is a situation today where every country will try to get the best deal possible for its citizens to try to cushion the impact of these high energy prices. And that is exactly what we are doing,” Jaishankar said.

“We are not doing it in a defensive way. We are being very open and honest about our interests. I have a country which has a per capita income of two thousand dollars. These are not people who can afford higher energy prices. It is my obligation, my moral duty to actually ensure that I get them the best deal,” he further added.

In light of India’s continued purchase of Russian oil, questions regarding the relations between India and the US were put to the foreign minister. To participate in the 9th India-Thailand Joint Commission Meeting as both nations commemorate 75 years of the start of diplomatic relations, Jaishankar arrived in Thailand on Tuesday. Following the meeting, India and Thailand will sign their MoUs.

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OVER 5 CRORE TIRANGA SELFIES CLOCKED AS PART OF HAR GHAR TIRANGA CAMPAIGN

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More than five crore Tiranga selfies have been uploaded on the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign website so far, the Ministry of Culture informed on Monday and termed it a “stupendous achievement”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given a call on 22 July 2022, to join the Har Ghar Tiranga’ movement by hoisting or displaying the national flag at homes.

“In a stupendous achievement, more than five crore ‘Tiranga’ selfies have been uploaded on the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ website,” the ministry of Culture said in a statement.

As India embarks on its 76th year of Independence, wrapping up the 75-week countdown to 15 August 2022, was the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ initiative of the government driven by the nodal ministry for ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ the Ministry of Culture.

The commemoration of 75 years of independence started on March 12, 2021, as a 75-week countdown to 15 August 2022, and will continue till 15 August 2023.

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Indian Missions under MEA screen short film on Sri Aurobindo

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Indian Missions abroad under the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), including the Embassy of India, Paris, India in UK, CGI Birmingham, Switzerland, Colombia and Ecuador, Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO and Bahrain, screened the short film titled ‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey’ on 15th August 2022, which also marked the 150th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo. Directed by award-winning Indian filmmaker Suraj Kumar, the short film is based on a screenplay by Manish Kumar Pran. The film stars Vikrant Chauhan in the titular role.

Based on Sri Aurobindo Ghose’s prison life (1908-1909), the short film was shot in Alipore Jail, Kolkata, from where Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual journey had started. Sri Aurobindo was arrested for conspiracy on 5th May 1908 and spent a full year in Alipore jail while the British government, in a protracted court trial, tried to implicate him in various revolutionary activities. It came to be known as the Alipore Bomb Case. He was finally acquitted and released on 6th May 1909. 

 ‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey puts the spotlight on an important chapter of Sri Aurobindo Ghose’s journey that often gets overlooked when one talks about his exemplary life and work. Sri Aurobindo was also a renowned freedom fighter and was accused of bombing a series of British nationals as a leader of Anushilan Samity. However, in Alipore central jail, while being accused of the Alipore conspiracy, he had a change of mind and became a philosopher and spiritual guru till his death in 1950 in Puducherry.

“While Sri Aurbindo Ghose was lodged in jail, his spiritual transformation started just after 2-3 days of prison life. My short film ‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey’ documents his beginning of spiritual journey in Alipore jail,” reveals Suraj Kumar. Speaking about the film’s conception, he adds, “The idea of making the short cropped up when one of my IIMC friends and prison reformer Dr. Vartika Nanda discussed it with me, back in early 2021. Subsequently, I visited the National Library of India in Kolkata to document and record the news articles published related to Sri Aurobindo’s imprisonment. “

Sri Aurobindo Ghosh was one of the first few leaders who demanded complete independence from the British Raj. He is said to have proposed the concept of ‘Purna Swaraj’, 20 years before the Indian National Congress. He advocated the use of Swadeshi products, non-cooperation, and passive resistance to achieve the goal. After being a part of the Independence movement from 1902 to 1910, he shifted to the French colony of Puducherry, where he set up an ashram and worked for the development of ‘internal Yoga.’ He authored several works, including The Synthesis of Yoga, The Life Divine, The Ideal of Human Unity, and The Human Cycle, among others.

‘Sri Aurobindo: The Beginning of Spiritual Journey’ will be screened in various schools and colleges all across the country over the next one year.

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WHAT MAKES NAVROZ A SPECIAL OCCASION FOR PARSIS

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Navroz, which is the Parsi New Year, was celebrated on 16th August this year . The day is dedicated to the beginning of spring and to promoting peace, solidarity, and friendship among people and different communities.

The Navroz celebration is believed to date back to the time when Prophet Zarathustra founded Zoroastrianism, one of the earliest known monotheistic religions in the world, in Persia (now Iran). It was one of the most important religions in the ancient world until the emergence of Islam in the seventh century.

During the Islamic invasion of Persia, several Persians fled to India and Pakistan. Since then, their festivals have become a part of Indian festivities and are celebrated by people from diverse cultures.

Navroz marks the first day of Farvardin, the first month in the Zoroastrian calendar, also known as the Shahenshahi calendar.

For followers of Zoroastrian philosophy, this day represents the time when everything in the universe is completely renewed. Jamshed, a monarch of the ancient Sasanian Empire, is credited with introducing the Parsi calendar. Hence, this holiday is also called Jamshed-i-Nouroz.

Across the world, Navroz is celebrated at the time of the vernal equinox, around 21 March. However, Parsis in India follow the Shahenshahi calendar, which does not recognise leap years. This is why the Parsi New Year in India is celebrated almost 200 days after it is celebrated across the world.

On this occasion, Parsi families across India, especially in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat as they have a sizeable Parsi population, visit the holy temples to offer prayers.

They also prepare traditional Parsi dishes like Farcha, Berry Pulao, and Jardaloo Chicken, among several other things. Parsis also believe it to be a day of remittance of sins and a time for repentance.   

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GOVERNMENT’S REVENUE LOSS OF RS 1.84 LAKH CRORE IN FIRST 2 YEARS, CLAIMS CONGRESS

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On Tuesday, Congress held a press conference where the party spokesperson, Prof. Gourav Vallabh, citing a revenue loss of Rs 1.84 lakh crore in the first 2 years of the corporate tax cut, said, “On September 20, 2019, the government announced the corporate tax cut from a base rate of 30% to 22% for existing firms without exemptions or incentives and from 18% to 15% for new manufacturing units. The rate cut came amidst fiscal distress, as in the same month, the Finance Minister told states at Goa’s GST Council meeting that the Centre had no money and wouldn’t be paying the GST Compensation anymore.

He further added, “For the last 3 years, the government has repeatedly claimed that the corporate tax cut would help increase corporate tax collection. But the parliamentary Committee on Estimates put out different claims in its report submitted on August 8, 2022. The panel said the corporate tax cut of 2019 had resulted in a negative “revenue impact” of Rs 1.84 lakh crore.”

Corporate tax is paid on corporate profits after accounting for all expenses. As per CMIE, 30,000 companies (5,000 listed and 25,000 unlisted) made a 138% increase in net profits in FY21 over FY20. In FY22, listed companies alone made profits that grew by 66.2% over FY21. As per the SBI research paper, the corporate tax cut contributed 19% to the top line for FY 21. “The corporate tax cut contributed to the increase in corporate profits but didn’t raise corporate tax collections,” he said.

According to the RBI, companies have used the corporate tax cut to service debt, accumulate cash balances, and other current assets rather than restart the CAPEX cycle. “In fact, in FY22 capital expenditure grew by a mere 2.3%, a six-year low. So, there was no investment or job creation due to the corporate tax cut in India, and above this, corporate tax collection fell from Rs 5,56,876 crore in FY20 (actual) to Rs 4,57,719 crore in FY21 (actual) despite the increase in corporate profits,” Vallabh said. He added that tax cuts for the rich lead to income inequality. “In contrast, such reforms do not significantly affect economic growth or unemployment,” Vallabh said.

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PUNJAB POLICE CRACKDOWN ON ABSCONDERS EVADING ARREST

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With the special drive to arrest proclaimed offenders (POs) and absconders in NDPS Act cases entering its 7th week, the weekly arrests of POs and absconders have witnessed a significant surge as Punjab Police has managed to arrest those POs and absconders in NDPS Act cases who have been evading arrest since the 1980s and 1990s. In the last week, there have been 45 such POs/absconders.So far, a total of 186 POs/Absconders in NDPS Act cases have been arrested since July 5, 2022, including 46 nabbed from out of state.

Divulging details, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Headquarters Sukhchain Singh Gill said that Gurdeep Singh alias Kaku of Kotla Hoshiarpur, who was declared PO in November 1985, has been arrested by the Ludhiana Commissionerate Police. Amarjit Singh, a PO from 1988, has been arrested by Fatehgarh Sahib Police, and Mohinder Singh, of village Dabalkheri in Haryana, who was declared PO in 1989, has been arrested by Sangrur Police. Similarly, at least three nabbed POs are those who have been evading arrest since the 1990s, he added.

Giving weekly updates on drugs, the IGP said that Punjab Police have arrested 335 drug smugglers/suppliers after registering 251 first information reports (FIRs), including 22 commercial, under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) act across the state in the last one week.

After conducting cordon and search operations in drug-affected areas and laying nakas at vulnerable routes across the state, the police recovered 9.76Kg of heroin, 8.68Kg of opium, 11.56Kg of Ganja, nine quintals of poppy husk, and 49k tablets/capsules/injections/vials of Pharma opioids, in addition to recovering Rs 40.50 lakh in drug money.

Meanwhile, the DGP has strictly ordered all the CPs/SSPs to further tighten the noose around drug smugglers by identifying all top drug smugglers and the hotspots infamous for drug smuggling in their jurisdictions and launching a combing operation to nab all those selling or smuggling drugs. He also directed the police chiefs to effectively forfeit the property of all the arrested drug smugglers so that their ill-gotten money could be recovered.

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