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VVIP chopper scandal: govt threatens to blacklist Italian firm, asks it for details

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VVIP chopper scandal: govt threatens to blacklist Italian firm, asks it for details

Seeking to contain damage arisingout of the alleged kickbacks in the VVIP chopper deal, government on Thursday asked the Italian firm Finmeccanica to state whether any money was illegally paid to any Indian entity or individual coupled with a warning of blacklisting it.Under attack over alleged payment of kickbacks to the tune of Rs. 362 crore in the Rs. 3,600 crore deal, the defence ministry also threatened to take legal action, including cancellation of the contract and recovery of money paid for the deal if it was proved that bribes have been paid.

As charges flew thick and fast and BJP targeted the government demanding a Supreme Court-monitored probe, one of its leaders and former defence minister Jaswant Singh came to the rescue of former Air Chief SP Tyagi saying allegations should not be made before truth is known.

Italian prosecutors have told a court that three cousins of Tyagi have been paid bribes to the tune of Rs. 72 lakh to get the requisite specifications for the tender changed through the then Air Chief Marshal. One of them cousins, Sanjeev Tyagi outright rejected the charge as “absolutely baseless”.

Through the change in specifications, AgustaWestland’s helicopter AW-101 became eligible to participate in the bid for 12 helicopters.

Issuing a fact-sheet of the sequence of events involved in the deal clinched in 2010, the defence ministry noted that the mandatory technical requirements of the chopper were changed in the tender during the Vajpayee government in 2003, with the then National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra playing a key role.

Seeking to show determination to act in a tough manner, the Minister said the CEO of AgustaWestland has been asked to “categorically state the clear position in view of the current developments indicating specifically if any financial transaction has taken place with any Indian individual/entity which would be violative of the Integrity Pact or any other terms and conditions of the contract.”

Noting that the contract with AgustaWestland carried an integrity pact that bars paying of bribes or involvement of middlemen, the defence ministry warned of “strict action including cancellation of contract, recovery of payment, blacklisting and penal action can be taken against the vendors.”

It said the government is “determined to take all possible legal and administrative action against the guilty parties and accordingly has ordered a thorough probe by CBI.”

Giving details, the fact-sheet said the first Request for Proposal was issued in March 2002 mandating requirement of 6,000 metre (18,000 feet) flying altitude for selection of the chopper.

This requirement made it clear that AgustaWestland could not participate in the deal.

However, in a meeting taken by the then NSA (Brajesh Mishra), it was noted that the President and the Prime Minister have rarely made visits to places involving flying at an altitude beyond 4500 metres (15,000 feet) and it was decided to make the mandatory requirement for operational altitude 4500 meters.

“The higher flying ceiling of 6000 meters, and a cabinet height of 1.8 meters could be made desirable operational requirements,” it said.

Mishra suggested that the then IAF Chief and Defence Secretary may jointly review the matter to draw up realistic mandatory requirements satisfying operational, security and convenience requirements of VVIPs and also set in motion a fast track process for selection and acquisition of the replacement helicopters.

“In pursuance of the above directive, the Operational Requirements (ORs) were deliberated at length between IAF, NSA, SPG/PMO and Defence Ministry between March, 2005 to September, 2006 and the above indicated changes were incorporated,” the Ministry fact-sheet stated.

In these deliberations, the stakeholders took a decision to increase the number of choppers for VVIP duties from eight to 12.-PTI

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Misc News/Press Release

Bat deaths in Himachal not due to Nipah Virus, Don’t panic: Govt

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Nipah virus in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla: To put an end to the rumours of Nipah virus outbreak in Himachal Pradesh after dead bats were found in Sirmaur a couple of days ago and then in Mandi district on Friday, the State Government today issued a statement asking people not to panic about it.

Apart from the outbreak of Nipah Virus in two districts of Kerala State no information regarding its spread has been reported from any other part of Himachal as well as the country, stated Additional Chief Secretary, Health B.K. Agarwal in a meeting held here today.

He said that only fruit bats (flying fox) have been found carrying this virus. These types of bats are found in the coastal regions of the county.

Therefore, there is no possibility of Nipah Virus in the bats found in Himachal Pradesh.

He said that the bats reported having died in the state were not due to the virus as these species do not die by Nipah Virus.

Agarwal said that a few days back samples from dead bats in Sirmaur were collected and sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune for testing and all the samples were reported negative for Nipah Virus.

Additional Chief Secretary has advised people not to panic about the Nipah Virus. He said that all the medical colleges of the State were prepared to deal with the situation if needed.

Officers of Health, Animal husbandry, Forest & Horticulture department were present in the meeting, chaired by Agarwal.

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Misc News/Press Release

Met predicts state-wide rains in Himachal on May 31 and June 1

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rain prediction for himachal in 2018

Shimla: As a ray of hope amid acute water-scarcity prevailing in Himachal Pradesh’s various regions including the capital town Shimla, the Meteorological Department, Shimla, has predicted state-wide rain with thunderstorms on May 31 and June 1.

If lucky, four districts including Kangra, Kullu, Mandi, and Shimla can receive a spell of rain on May 29 and 30 too.

With the rains, the people also hope to see a relief from the scorching heat of summer sun and forest fires. The Fire Department is reportedly facing trouble in dousing forest fires due to water scarcity.

As per the Met department, District Bilaspur and Una recorded 41℃ and 43℃ temperature on Saturday.

The farmers in rural areas and the public in towns, both are facing a hard time due to a shortage of water. Shimla town has run into a situation of chaos as the Mayor Kusum Sadret on Friday left for her China visit. The situation is such that the Chief Minister had to call an emergency meeting with Irrigation & Public Health Department to take stock of the situation.

The High Court had also taken cognizance of the media report and directed the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to provide adequate funds to the State for water-supply schemes worth over Rs. 700 crores.

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Amid grave water-crisis in Shimla town, Mayor on China tour for reason unknown

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shimla-to-china--mayor-Kusum-Sadrate

Himachal Watcher tried to confirm the urgency behind the Mayor’s visit to China in times of such crisis when she should have been brainstorming with her councillors to come out with a solution.

Shimla: The Mayor of Shimla town, Kusum Sadret, on Friday left for China, away from the chaos caused by the ongoing water-crisis that has reached an alarming level. Her Ward Councilors are shocked that the Mayor did not even conduct a single meeting to attend to the water crisis in the town, which is only worsening with each passing day.

Yesterday, she remained in the news as SMC supplied ‘sewerage contaminated’ water to the residents of Kanlog Ward. The public and opposition parties are seeking action against the responsible officials for playing with the health of the people by supplying them contaminated water in a time of acute water shortage.

This is not the only reason to worry. The people are forced to fetch water from natural water sources, which are already declared contaminated. Sadly, the Government and the SMC forgot the deadly jaundice outbreak in 2016 that had killed about 32 people within a few months.

The Mayor doesn’t deserve to be at the SMC because she has failed on every front ranging from sanitation to supply of clean and sufficient drinking water to the people, the former Mayor of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan said.

He has demanded that the government should take the matter seriously and initiate criminal proceedings against the responsible officials. Meanwhile, the Councillors had yesterday planned a protest and gherao of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. However, they did not find them in office.

The public is receiving a supply of water after a gap of four to five days in most wards while some others are going without water for over a week now.

The water-crisis has brought the hospitality industry in Shimla on its knees. People are forced to buy mineral water as public taps and filters in offices, schools, hospitals are running dry for days. The Shimla Municipal Corporation doesn’t even have sufficient water-tankers to make up for the shortage of water.

A sort of protest erupted among the people as well as the Councilors against the Mayor. The Mayor was even gheraoed by the people in some localities.

While the protest of the Congress Ward Councilors demanding the resignation of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor was obvious, Bhartiya Janata Party’s own Councilors have come out openly criticizing the way Mayor left them behind to face the wrath of the people.

Leaving the battleground at such a time is condemnable.

It appeared that there must be some urgent reason behind discarding distressed people from the list of her priorities for a visit to foreign.

Himachal Watcher tried to confirm the urgency behind the Mayor’s visit to China in times of such crisis when she should have been brainstorming with her Councillors to come out with a solution. The Deputy Mayor did not pick up the phone. Everyone else at the Shimla Municipal Corporation said they were not aware of the purpose of the visit.

When Himachal Watcher contacted the MC Commissioner, Rohit Jamwal, he also denied having any knowledge regarding the purpose of this visit of the mayor. The Commissioner also denied having any knowledge regarding the return of the Mayor.

He said he could only confirm that she has left for China.

The only hint available is some unofficial reports that suggested that Sadret would be attending the International Mayor’s Conference in China. Otherwise, her visit is a sort of secret mission, which is why no one is aware of it. Maybe, she’ll bring a solution to the ongoing chaos from China.

The Councilors are blank as the people of their wards demand supply of water on at least alternate days. The Mayor made a wrong choice, the Councillors agreed, adding that a leader should not run away when the people need him/her most.

The public can be heard comparing the tenure of Sanjay Chauhan with Kusum Sadret. We were better off with previous MC, a couple of shopkeepers at Boileauganj heard discussing.

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