Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Nitin Gadkari launched Ashok Leyland Electric Double Decker Bus named Switch EiV 22 in Mumbai today, August 18, 2022. Launching the electric bus, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said, “There is a need to transform the country’s transport system, looking from a long-term perspective. With a focus on reforming urban transport, we are trying to build a low carbon footprint and high passenger density integrated Electric Vehicle (EV) mobility ecosystem. With growing consumer demand for greener transport solutions, the Government’s vision and policies aim to encourage higher adoption of electric vehicles.”
As per Ashok Leyland, Switch EiV 22 is India’s first and unique electric double decker air-conditioned bus, which has been designed, developed and manufactured in India. The company informs that Switch EiV 22 is equipped with the latest technology, ultra-modern design, highest safety and best-in-class comfort features.
Sharing his vision for the Delhi-Mumbai Express Highway, the Union Minister said: “My plan is to connect Nariman Point to Delhi. 70% of work has already been completed.” Exhorting the automobile companies, he added, “Let us plan luxury electric buses that can travel from Mumbai to Delhi in just 12 hours.”
Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said that electricity as an automobile fuel is highly cost-effective, when compared other fuels like diesel. “Import of crude oil is a big challenge for the Government. Use of solar power has reduced the cost of electricity to a large extent.”
Pitching for electricity as an alternative fuel, the Union Minister said 35% of pollution in the country is due to diesel and petrol. In this context, the Minister highlighted the need for import-substituting, cost-effective, pollution-free and indigenous products. “It is time for India to start using alternative fuels like electricity, ethanol, methanol, bio-diesel, bio-CNG, bio-LNG and green hydrogen for automobile sector”.
Sharing his plans for the automobile industry, Shri Gadkari said, “My dream is to make the automobile industry from the current size of Rs. 7.5 lakh crores to Rs. 15 lakh crores by the end of the year 2024.” This is an achievable target, he added. The Minister observed that the sector has maximum employment potential and gives maximum taxes to central and state governments.
About Switch EiV (according to Ashok Leyland)
The Switch electric double decker can ferry nearly twice the number of seated passengers as compared to a single-decker bus, with just 18% increase in kerb weight (without the passengers).
With contemporary styling and feel-good interiors and exteriors, the double decker boasts of wide front and rear doors, two staircases and an emergency door complying with the latest safety standards. The AC offers effective cooling in India’s hot climatic conditions, while the optimized seating for 65 passengers is the maximum number of seats to be offered in the given footprint.
Each seat has a lightweight cushion and the interiors come with car like comfort for passenger convenience. This state-of-the-art electric double decker serves as an ideal solution for urban commuting, as they occupy less road, terminal and depot floor space per seated passenger.
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As ‘Bharat Jodo’ enters Karnataka, rattled BJP gives front-page ad that distorts history: Jairam Ramesh
As Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra entered the BJP-ruled state, according to Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Saturday, the BJP placed a front page advertisement in a Kannada newspaper. Ramesh said in a tweet, “The advertisement mischievously distorts history as usual. Savarkar propounded two-nation theory & Jinnah ensured it got done. Syama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of Jan Sangh championed partition of Bengal.” BJP is rattled by the yatra’s success, the Congress leader continued.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi entered the election-bound state of Karnataka on Friday. There, the yatra will travel 511 kilometres across seven districts in 21 days.
Rahul Gandhi remarked in a statement at the beginning of the march’s Kerala leg that the Bharat Jodo Yatra is the voice of the nation and that no one can stop it.
“Entire control is lying with the (Central) government. If we speak in Parliament, they shut our microphones,” Rahul Gandhi said.
A new Rahul Gandhi and a new Congress party have emerged from the Bharat Jodo Yatra which forced the BJP and the RSS on the backfoot, Jairam Ramesh said on Friday. “People asked who is ‘thodoing’ (breaking) Bharat for Congress to do Bharat Jodo, our answer is Mr Modi’s ideology, policies, personality is thodoing Bharat. Because economic inequality is increasing, social polarisation is increasing and political over-centralisation is increasing, the Congress is doing this yatra,” Jairam Ramesh said.
Rajnath Singh Urges Industry cooperation to take Indian defence sector to new heights
Government Steps to Improve Defence Industry manufacturing eco system are showing results: RM
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh exhorted the Indian defence Industry to make new investments and lay more emphasis on research & development to scale new heights. He was addressing the 117th Annual session of PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PHD-CCI ) held in New Delhi on September 30th, 2022. “Make new investments, put more emphasis on research & development, and harness its full potential to take the Indian defence industry to new heights. This effort of yours will be very important not only for the defence industry, but also for the overall growth of the entire country,’ he said.
Raksha Mantri added that the Indian defence sector offers immense potential and the companies even from abroad see opportunities. PHD-CCI being one of the oldest industry associations having many national and international members could act as ambassador of the Indian defence industry. “Your roots are spread far and wide in the country and abroad. You can fulfil your role by communicating with all the domestic and foreign companies, connecting them with the Indian defence industry and acting as a bridge between these two,” he said
Appreciating the PHD-CCI for scheduling a dedicated session on ‘Make in India: A success story of India’s Defence Indigenization’ Raksha Mantri said that this is equally related to the national security, and the economic progress of the country. National security is one of the most important components in the progress of a nation. The social, economic and cultural upliftment of the nation are not possible without security.. India had paid the price in past for neglecting national security. Even after independence not enough attention was given to make defence sector strong and self-reliant, he lamented.
Striking an optimistic note, Raksha Mantri said that Indian defence industry is progressing steadily in partnership with private sector.”There was either no way for the private sector in the past to enter the defence sector, and even if there was some scope, the industry was not ready to set foot in the defence sector due to various reasons”. These reasons were lack of political will, appropriate policy to incentivize their entry, high investment and long gestation period.
Raksha Mantri noted that the government has removed these bottlenecks and played the role of an incubator, catalyst, consumer and facilitator in the case of private industry. Several steps have been taken by the Ministry of Defence, under the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Self-reliant India’ initiatives of the Government, to change the old traditions, and to create a manufacturing climate, in which the public and private sectors could participate.
Elaborating upon the far-reaching reforms undertaken by the MOD to bolster the private sector participation in defence sector, Raksha Mantri said that Government labs opened to the private industry, transferred technology at zero fee, provided access to test facilities, and upfront funding through DRDO was provisioned.
The Ministry of Defence has issued 3 positive indigenization lists of 309 items which will be procured from domestic vendors as per norms. Three lists have also been issued by Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU), in which more than 3700 are Line Replacement Units, Sub-systems and other Components. In addition, an iDEX initiative has been launched to encourage innovators and start-ups. The policy decision has been taken to increase the limit of FDI to 74% by the automatic route, and to 100% by the government route in special cases. Government has taken several steps like introduction of defence industrial corridors– two Industrial corridors have been set up each in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, corporatization of OFB which creates win-win situation for armed forces, industry, start-ups and innovators, said Raksha Mantri.
He further said : “The magnitude of all these efforts is beginning to come before us. Today we are not only producing to meet our own defence needs, but also fulfilling the defence needs of many other countries under ‘Make for the World’. It is a matter of great happiness that defence exports have increased manifold from what we used to have, and have reached Rs 13,000 crores last year. We used to be counted as one of the biggest arms importers in the world until now. But today we are one of the top 25 arms exporting countries of the world. We have targeted a turnover of Rs 1.75 lakh crore in defence manufacturing, including Rs 35,000 crore from exports in aerospace, and defence goods and services by 2025.”
PHD-CCI is one of the oldest chambers in the country. Since its establishment in 1905, it has been proactive National Apex Chamber working at the grass-root level and with strong national and international linkages. The Chamber acts as a catalyst in the promotion of industry, trade and entrepreneurship. PHD Chamber, through its research-based policy advocacy role, positively impacts the economic growth and development of the nation.
Indian Railways to release its new All India Railway time table
The Ministry of Railways will be releasing its new All India Railway Time Table known as “TRAINS AT A GLANCE (TAG)” effective from 1st October, 2022. The new Trains at a Glance will also be available w.e.f. 1st October, 2022 on Indian Railways’ official website i.e. www.indianrailways.gov.in.
Highlights of the new time table are as follows:
I. Indian Railways runs about 3,240 Mail/Express trains which include Vande Bharat Express, Gatimaan Express, Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express, Humsaafar Express, Tejas Express, Duronto Express, Antyodaya Express, Garib Rath Express, Sampark Kranti Express, Yuva Express, Uday Express, Janshatabdi Express and other types of trains. In addition, about 3,000 Passenger trains and 5,660 suburban trains are also operated over the Indian Railways network. The volume of passengers carried daily is about 2.23 Crore.
II. To clear extra rush and meet passenger demand, more than 65,000 Special train trips were operated during 2021-22. About 566 coaches were permanently augmented to increase the carrying capacity.
III. Maximize the utilization of rolling stock:
i. During review of the lie over of rakes it was observed that the rakes can be better utilized for extending the existing services or increasing the frequency. This would maximize the utilization of the rolling stock and provide better connectivity to the travelling passengers.
ii.During the year 2021-22, 106 new services were introduced, 212 services were extended and frequency of 24 services was increased.
IV. Proliferation of Premium Trains:
i. At present, Vande Bharat Express trains are operating between New Delhi – Varanasi and New Delhi – Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra. One more Vande Bharat Express train has been introduced between Gandhinagar Capital and Mumbai Central w.e.f. 30.09.2022. It has been proposed to introduce more Vande Bharat Express trains over the Indian Railways network.
ii. Tejas Express services offering onboard services like entertainment, local cuisine, wifi etc. are also being proliferated over Indian Railway network. At present, 7 pairs of Tejas Express services are operational over Indian Railways.
V. Provision of Corridor Blocks in the working Time-Table of the divisions:
To provide sufficient time for the maintenance of the fixed infrastructure like track structure, signaling gears, overhead equipments, it has been planned to ensure provision of fixed corridor blocks. The duration of these corridors blocks will be from 3 hours in each section. This will not only improve the reliability of the assets but also enhance the passenger safety.
X. Conversion of Rakes ICF to LHB:
The conversion of Mail/Express trains operating with ICF design rakes is being undertaken to improve passenger safety and provide faster transit with better riding comfort. Indian Railways converted 187 Rakes of ICF to LHB for the period of 2021-2022.
VII. Efforts to improve punctuality of late running trains:
Necessary changes in the time table have been incorporated to improve punctuality. Due to concerted efforts the punctuality of Mail/Express trains has improved by about 9% as compared to the punctuality during pre Covid (2019-20).
viii. Standardization of rakes:
The rakes at different maintenance depots have been standardized by integration of the rake links to improve flexibility in operations and thereby help in improving punctuality.
IX. Replacement of conventional Passenger trains with MEMU/DEMU:
In the year 2021-22, 60 number of conventional passenger services have been replaced by MEMUs thereby increasing the overall mobility of the system.
X. Availability of Trains at a Glance as “e-Book”:
As a part of digitalization of train Time Table, Trains at a Glance (TAG) will now also be available as ‘e-Book’ which can be downloaded from IRCTC website (www.irctc.co.in & www.irctctourism.com).
Strict Action against defaulters: Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav
Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav, conducted a detailed review on 30.09.2022 on measures and actions planned towards abatement of air pollution by all stakeholders concerned in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas, in the wake of poor air quality conditions generally prevailing during the period between October – January each year,
Union Minister impressed upon key sectors that contribute to air pollution and are critical in the ensuing 3-4 months period. He emphasized that source of air pollution such as paddy stubble burning, open biomass / municipal solid waste burning, industrial emissions and particulate matter / dust emissions from construction / demolition activities and roads / open areas were directed to be focussed for concerted preventive and mitigative actions.
Union Minister directed for timely and effective implementation of various components of the detailed plan of actions, developed by the NCR States and Punjab, pursuant to CAQM Framework / Directions on management of paddy stubble burning. Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change called upon Punjab to expand the coverage of area under Bio-Decomposer through pro-active action by the State Government specially since a very marginal increase had been proposed in the coverage of area under Bio-Decomposer i.e. form 7500 acres in 2021 to merely 8000 acres in 2022.
Chairman, CAQM also emphasized the need of time bound implementation of the action plan particularly by the State of Punjab. Optimal utilisation of available crop residue management machinery with the states was identified as a key factor towards effective management of stubble. Extensive use of technology and mobile applications for mapping the demand and supply of such CRM machinery through the CHCs and cooperatives was emphasised upon during the meeting. It was also stressed upon enhancing the net of PUSA bio‑decomposer application for in-situ management of the stubble. Towards ex-situ utilisation of paddy straw various options are now being progressed with including biomass power generation, bio-ethanol production, CBG production, co-firing in thermal power plants, fuel for industrial boilers and other misc. applications, composting, cattle fodder and misc. commercial applications in furnishing materials and packaging etc. Progress on co-firing of biomass in thermal power plants has not been up to the desired levels and the Minister called for immediate corrective measures by Thermal Power Plants to substantially enhance co-firing. The Minister asked CAQM to utilize his statutory powers to take action against the defaulting the Power plants and also any other defaulting entities.
Union Minister expressed his concern and dis-satisfaction with the preparedness of Punjab in taking concrete action on the ground towards Air Quality Management while pointing out that the State Government had not planned adequately for management of almost 5.75 million tons of stubble which is a huge gap and was likely to have an adverse impact on the air quality in Delhi and NCR region.
The Minister exhorted the need to switch over to clean fuels for industrial applications and directed for a quick transition to clean fuels as per the approved standard fuel list for NCR as directed for by the CAQM. Controlling heavy pollution from a large number of diesel generator sets operating in NCR was also identified as key action area and the Minister emphasised on strict implementation of restrictions on use of DG Sets and emission control measures in this context.
The review highlighted the need for effective dust control measures in various anthropogenic activities, construction / demolition activities, roads and open areas. Effective utilisation and augmentation of mechanised road cleaning equipment, water sprinklers and anti-smog guns by NCR State Governments / GNCTD was also emphasized during the meeting.
Considering the criticality of air pollution related mattes including the weather conditions around Diwali festival, the Minister directed for special and timely measures to control the air pollution levels.
As air pollution in the region is a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral phenomenon, spreading across geographical boundaries, the Minister reiterated the need for collective and concerted efforts of all the stakeholder agencies, departments in the State Govts. and public at large towards abatement of air pollution in the region and to this effect directed that all directions, orders and guidelines of the CAQM / CPCB/ State Pollution Control Boards be implemented in right earnest and critically monitored / reviewed periodically by the authorities concerned.
Senior officials from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change including Secretary, Chairman, Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), Secretary in-charge in the State Govts. of Punjab, Haryana, UP and GNCT of Delhi, Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board, NCR State Pollution Control Boards, DPCC and other major stakeholders participated in the review meet.
India today aspires to take our ranking in the GII Index to the top 25: Piyush Goyal
Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyal said that India had come a long way in the Global Innovation Index (GII) from the 81st spot in 2015 to the 40th spot in 2022 today. ‘We were 46 last time the ranking was done. We have also maintained 1st rank in ICT services exports over the years’ he added. Shri Goyal was delivering a virtual message to mark the launch of the Global Innovation Index, 2022 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The Minister said that GII has established itself as a tool for Governments across the world to reflect upon policies and their impact. “GII has over the years recognized India’s continuous rise due to the progressive measures taken by the government and industry working hand in hand”, he added. He also expressed his gratitude to WIPO on behalf of 1.3 billion Indians and said that India today aspires to take our ranking in the GII Index amongst top 25, he said.
India Innovating Like Never Before!
India climbs to the 40th rank in the Global Innovation Index of @WIPO, a huge leap of 41 places in 7 years.
The steady rise testifies that India under the leadership of PM @NarendraModi ji is rapidly emerging as the global innovation hub. pic.twitter.com/pltqW8kdUh
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) September 29, 2022
Goyal said that Innovation has been a catalytic force for the economy and society. “Though innovation implies novelty, it is also rooted in tradition for us in India. Ancient scientific knowledge including the Vedas and traditional medicine are a testament to India’s innovative spirit”, he added.
The Minister said that India had established the first of its kind Global Centre for Traditional Medicines in collaboration with the WHO, representing India’s ancient scientific prowess.
Goyal said that as the importance of the ‘knowledge economy’ grows, innovation will lay the roadmap for development in India. “We have been working to strengthen Research & Development across sectors as amplified by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s clarion call to make innovation our nation’s mission”, he added.
The Minister noted that agility, enthusiasm and energy of our youth are powering the start-up ecosystem. He observed that India today the 3rd largest start-up ecosystem and is home to over a 100 unicorns. “Start up revolution has spread across India. Over half the start-ups are from remote small towns”, he said.
Goyal opined that incubation, handholding, funding, industry-academia partnership and mentorship have stirred entrepreneurial spirit across the country. He said that India had embarked on the ‘Digital India’ journey in 2015 and have set up a goal of a trillion-dollar digital economy in the next few years. “Digitization of Government initiatives and public services has been our continuous focus”, he observed.
The Minister outlined several areas in which digital technologies are employed from mapping capital assets using GIS technology to revolutionizing payments through UPI. In fact, 40% of global real-time digital transactions happened in India last year, he underscored. “To further strengthen innovation, we have introduced the National Education Policy, which promotes the spirit of enquiry by setting up incubation & technology development centers. With over 9000 Atal Tinkering Labs, we encourage youth to develop solutions to society’s problems”, he added.
Shri Goyal also stressed that India has taken up structural reforms to strengthen its IPR regime including modernization of IP office, reducing legal compliances and facilitating IP filing for start-ups, women entrepreneurs, the small industries and others. “Domestic filing of Patents registered a 46% growth in the last 5 years. We are now transitioning to a knowledge-based economy”
THE TRAGIC DEATH OF LAL BAHADUR SHASTRI AND THE MYSTIFYING NETAJI SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE ANGLE
The unimpeachably honest 5 feet 2 inches tall mighty second Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri was born on 2nd October, 1904 in Mughalsarai, officially known as Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Nagar, a small but bustling railway town close to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Shastri’s birthday happily coincides with that of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi. On the auspicious occasion of his 117th birthday in 2021, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi twittered his personal homage, ‘Tributes to former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri ji on his birth anniversary. His life based on values and principles will always remain a source of inspiration for the countrymen’ Significantly, Shastri coined the eternally electrifying seminal slogan ‘Jai Jawan! Jai Kisan!’ and fathered the “Green Revolution” (the agrarian movement that catapulted India to self-sufficiency in foodgrain production enabling it to achieve a record level of over 300 million tonnes in 2021-2022!) as well as the ‘White Revolution’ (the national campaign to increase the production of milk that eventually culminated in India becoming the largest milk producer in the world with a staggering output of over 200 million metric tons in 2021-22!).
On 11th January, 1966, a date which will live in infamy as one of the darkest days in India’s chequered history, this proud and noble son of India was unexpectedly snatched away from our midst by the cruel hand of death barely one and a half years after his taking over as the Prime Minister under the most mysterious circumstances. This tragic death took place in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan (the ‘City of Stones’ that was to be literally reduced to rubble by an earth shattering earthquake on 26th April, 1966!), after Shastri had signed the historic Tashkent Declaration with the Pakistani President Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, with the Soviet Premier Alexei Nikolayevich Kosygin acting as the peace mediator, that brought the curtain down on the fierce seventeen day 1965 Indo-Pakistan war.
Prior to his demise, Shastri looked superbly agile and brimming with boundless energy. Following the signing of the Declaration at 4 p.m. and a grand reception at 8 p.m. hosted by Kosygin, Shastri returned to his ‘dacha’ around 10 p.m. He instructed his faithful personal valet Ram Nath to fetch his dinner which turned out to be a light meal comprising spinach, potatoes and curry specially prepared by Jan Mohammed, the personal chef of the Indian Ambassador Triloki Nath ‘Tikki’ Kaul. At 11.30 p.m., Nath gave Shastri a glass of milk. Shastri asked Nath to retire to his room and snatch some sleep as he had to catch a flight the very next morning to Kabul where he was scheduled to meet the ‘Frontier Gandhi’ Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. At 1.25 a.m., Shastri was afflicted by a sudden bout of convulsive coughing. He staggered out from his suite and asked his Personal Assistant J.N.Sahai, ‘Where is Doctor Sahib?’ Sahai immediately rushed to summon Shastri’s personal physician Dr.R.N.Chugh who had accompanied him to Tashkent. A Personal Assistant M.M.N.Sharma placed Shastri’s head on his lap, whereupon Shastri kept pointing suggestively to a thermos flask containing water placed on the dressing table. Dr.Chugh arrived to find Shastri in a most critical condition. He made frantic efforts to revive Shastri, but in vain. A team of Russian doctors also arrived on the scene, but by then Shastri’s pulse had stopped, his heart was silent and he was bereft of his breath and corneal reflexes. The veteran Indian journalist and my late father’s close friend Kuldip Nayar recorded later, ‘In a corner of the room, however, on a dressing table, there was an overturned thermos flask. It appeared that Shastri had struggled to open it.’ Russia’s leading news agency TASS issued a terse message, ‘The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the Council of Ministers of the USSR is sad to notice that 11 Jan, 1966 in 1 hour and 32 minutes in Tashkent died a distinguished statesman, Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri.’ In 2009, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs revealed that no ‘post mortem was conducted by the authorities of the former USSR’. The solitary available record emanated from the joint medical investigation conducted by Dr.Chugh and some Russian doctors and attributed Shastri’s death to ‘an acute attack of INFARKTMIOCARDIA’. Akhmed Sattarov, the Uzbek butler assigned to Shastri, was summarily arrested and handcuffed, subjected to an excruciating interrogation and eventually let off the hook by the Ninth Directorate of the dreaded ‘Committee for State Security’, better known as the ‘KGB’. It is not known whether Jan Mohammed, who effortlessly joined the Rashtrapati Bhavan staff in Delhi subsequent to Kaul becoming India’s Foreign Secretary, was also interrogated.
When Shastri’s body was brought home to 1, Janpath in Delhi, his mother Ramdulari Devi noticed that his face had turned blue and rigid with white patches and shrieked, ‘Mere bitwa ko jahar de diya!’ (‘My son has been poisoned!’).Thereafter, Shastri’s family spearheaded by his wife Lalita Shastri, emphatically alleged that he was poisoned because his face and neck had turned dark blue and there were fresh incision marks on his abdomen. The prodigious Barrister and my legal Guru Asoke Sen, who was the Union Law Minister in Shastri’s Cabinet, also observed clearly discernible blue patches on Shastri’s body much to his consternation. In February, 1966, the issue of Shastri’s death was raised for the first time in the Indian Parliament. In April,1970, Shastri’s childhood friend Tribhuvan Narain Singh (the former Governor of West Bengal who was personally known to me), demanded a comprehensive enquiry into his death as he had not been autopsied. The maiden inquiry into Shastri’s death was conducted by the Raj Narain Inquiry Committee in 1977 which proved to be utterly abortive and lamentably not a trace of the inquiry survives even in the archives of Parliament House. An epic Hindi poetry book titled ‘Lalita Ke Aansoo’(‘Tears of Lalita’) penned by the celebrated Indian poet and writer Dr. Krant M. L.Verma was published in 1978 containing a narrative of the Tashkent whodunit. In response to a RTI by the celebrated writer and journalist Anuj Dhar, the Indian Prime Minister’s Office in 2009 glibly admitted that it had one document relating to Shastri’s death which could not be declassified for security reasons. Not so very long ago, I had a prolonged, animated tête-à-tête in the Delhi Gymkhana Club with my dear friend and popular Kisan leader Sanjay Nath Singh (the elder son of Shastri’s second daughter Suman Singh who was around 9 years old at the time of Shastri’s demise).Giving a rare insight into Shastri’s death, Sanjay told me in chaste Hindi, ‘Amma (his grandmother) invariably travelled with Babuji (Shastri) on his overseas trips, but this time she did not travel with him. In fact, Amma and Anil Mama (maternal uncle) were supposed to have travelled with Babuji to Tashkent, but at the last minute their trip was cancelled by Babuji. Babuji was to be booked at a hotel in Tashkent. But, he was put up in a dacha far away from the venue of the conference. His suite did not have any telephone, buzzer or teleprinter. When his body reached Delhi, blood was oozing from his mouth and nostrils. There were fresh cuts on his abdomen which had been strapped with adhesive tape bandage. Amma dipped her fingers into a bowl of ghee and smeared ghee on Babuji’s lips. When she put her fingers back into the bowl, the ghee turned dark blue and became hard. Babuji’s personal diary as well as his ‘Action Plans’ diary went missing. Babuji’s spectacle case came back to Delhi along with his body. Rummaging inside the spectacle case, Amma stumbled across a minute strip of paper containing Babuji’s last hastily scribbled message which visibly shocked her.’ Shastri’s third son Sunil Shastri, another close friend of mine, had earlier told me about the spectacle case which had ‘miraculously’ escaped the scrutiny of his father’s detractors and had reached his mother’s safe hands. What adds grist to the rumour mill is the fact that Dr.Chugh met with a fatal road accident on 5th February,1977. In a spine chilling judgement of the Delhi High Court dated 11th February,2004, Justice Madan Bhimrao Lokur (an old friend from my college days and a former judge of the Supreme Court of India), observed, ‘On 5th March, 1977, a horrific accident took place between a truck driven by Wasan Singh and a car driven by Dr. R.N. Chugh…Dr. R.N. Chugh and his wife Dr. (Mrs.) Sarojni Chugh and their minor son Master Shailender Chugh died. Their daughter Ms. Shobha Chugh..received grievous injuries on her head and other parts of her body.As a result of the injuries, she is facially permanently scarred, her memory was affected and her concentration impaired.’ On 6th March,1997, Ram Nath, whilst astride a bicycle was hit by a speeding bus. Both his legs were crushed, necessitating amputation, and he became mentally unstable. Both of them were on the verge of deposing before the Inquiry Committee!
Startingly, there is a mystifying Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose angle to the whole episode. Shastri was an indefatigable champion of Netaji. Jagdish Kodesia, a former Delhi Congress chief and a confidante of Shastri, appeared before the Khosla Commission in March, 1971 as a witness. He deposed that Shastri did not believe in Netaji’s death in a plane crash and went on to assert, ‘When he became Home Minister, he wanted to know the truth whether Subhas Bose was alive or not.’ Shastri also showed a deep interest in the antecedents of Gumnami Baba of Faizabad who was rumoured to be Netaji. It is widely believed that Netaji was present at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s funeral on 27th May,1964 at Teen Murti Bhavan dressed as a monk. According to Capt. Ajit Vadakayil, the well known blogger, Netaji came in a taxi and sent an envelope to Shastri whereupon Shastri came running out to meet him. Then Shastri and Netaji went inside Teen Murti Bhavan. Netaji took out a package, stood beside Nehru’s body and offered a giant garland of roses with an attached note saying ‘Another name of Jawaharlal Nehru is courage. Let us confront the crisis of our nation for the future of India’. The note was undersigned as ‘Subhas Chandra Bose’. After Shastri became the Prime Minister, 80 Members of Parliament visited him and proclaimed that the monk was none other than Netaji without any shadow of doubt! Shastri decided to set up a second inquiry commission to investigate the mystery behind Netaji’s death.
In 1965, Shastri was invited to unveil Netaji’s statue on the occasion of his 68th birth anniversary on 23rd January,1966 at Mayo Road in Kolkata. For some inexplicable reason, Shastri preponed the ceremony and unveiled the statue in December,1965, three weeks prior to his Tashkent visit. Netaji’s nephew Amiya Nath Bose, the eminent lawyer and parliamentarian, who happened to be at the ceremony requested Shastri to probe into the circumstances relating to Netaji’s death whereupon Shastri assured him that he would personally pursue the matter in Russia. Bose was extremely close to our family. After my father retired from government service in 1966 shortly after Shastri’s death, we stayed for a few months at his 10, South Avenue flat. During those days, he used to regale us with his personal reminiscences of the intense relationship that existed between Shastri and Netaji and was never tired of telling us about the Mayo Road ceremony. In 1976, I joined the legal profession and became a member of the Bar Library Club within the majestic confines of the Calcutta High Court in 1991. Bose, who used to come infrequently to the High Court, most graciously allowed me to sit on his hand crafted Elizabethan chair in the Library which fortuitously happened to be right next to the chair of Asoke Sen. After his death, the chair was permanently allotted to me prompting Sen to remark in a jocular vein, ‘The chair moves from Bose to Bose!’ I continue to occupy that chair to this day with a sense of immense pride.
On 12th December,2015, the Times of India added an intriguing twist to the whole matter by divulging that a forensic face-mapping report submitted by a British expert Neil Miller had found a strong resemblance between Netaji and a man photographed in Tashkent. According to Miller, the face mapping of the mystery man seen in Tashkent ‘lends support leaning on strong support to the contention that the person seen in the picture and Subhas Chandra Bose are one and the same person.’ Shastri had made a call before his death to his family members. In a moment of helpless nostalgia, Sanjay, who was standing right beside the telephone, vividly recalled, ‘Amma first spoke to Babuji but could hardly hear his voice. Then Hari Mama (Shastri’s eldest son) exchanged a few words with him. Lastly, Ramji (his father Vijay Nath Singh) spoke to Babuji who asked him about the reaction in India to the Declaration. When Ramji told him that certain prominent opposition leaders were planning to hold a black flag demonstration against him for having returned Haji Pir Pass, Babuji clearly told him that he would bring forth such a thing that would make his countrymen forget about the return of the Pass and any criticism about the Declaration. He was alluding to Netaji! Within a fraction of minutes, we got a call saying Babuji had taken ill. This was followed by another call after 10 minutes announcing his death.’ On 16th August,2015, Sunil disclosed on Zee 24 Ghanta that his father told him shortly before his death about a ‘special person’ he was going to meet. Was this ‘special person’ Netaji? Was Shastri planning to present Netaji before his countrymen on the occasion of Netaji’s 69th birthday on 23rd January,1966? Did he intend to invite Netaji as the Chief Guest to the Republic Day parade on 26th January,1966? Was he going to abdicate in favour of Netaji? These questions will perhaps remain inscrutable.
The uncanny circumstances surrounding Shastri’s death have received wide and extensive coverage in India and even beyond its frontiers, thanks to the bold and tell-all revelations made in the National Film Award winning ‘crowd sourced’ thriller film ‘The Tashkent Files’ written and directed by the noted film director and screenwriter Vivek Agnihotri, who is a member on the board of India’s Central Board of Film Certification and a cultural representative of Indian Cinema at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. Interestingly, Sanjay was the guiding spirit behind the film and had been specially interviewed in the film itself by Agnihotri.
Last but not the least, there is an imperative need to declassify the files relating to Shastri’s death in the national interest to clear the air once and for all on the factual plane. In fact, Shastri’s second son Anil Shastri made an impassioned plea for such declassification as far back as on 22nd June, 2018 at a solemn function to mark the release of a Punjabi translation of the bestseller ‘Lal Bahadur Shastri: Lessons in Leadership’ by the well known writer Pavan Choudary. The time has now inevitably arrived for Modi to step in readily and play the role of the crusader in baring all for posterity’s sake. I shall leave it at that for the present moment!
(The author is an internationally reputed senior lawyer practising in the Supreme Court of India and various High Courts and Tribunals in India)
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