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Deputy CM in-waiting? ACB clean chit brings cheer for Ajit Pawar

As the saying goes in politics its all about timing. The clean chit by Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) to NCP leader and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in the Vidarbha irrigation scam comes at a time when his induction in the state council of ministers led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is on the cards.

It was NCP chief Sharad Pawar's decision not to suggest his nephew's induction last week when Thackeray and six others were sworn in a glittering ceremony at Shivaji Park to avoid criticism from allies Shiv Sena and Congress and also from the opposition. NCP insiders believe that it was necessitated as Ajit Pawar had staged a rebellion against his uncle and the party to join hands with BJP but came back to the party fold in the absence of necessary support of legislators.


NCP leader told FPJ,'' It is not secret that Jayant Patil, who took oath as minister last week, has been quite keen to become deputy chief minister and has expressed displeasure if he will be sidelined. At the same time, Ajit Pawar will not settle at the ministerial berth unless made deputy chief minister. Pawar senior is expected to find a way out." He further stated that Ajit Pawar and Patil are also quite keen to take politically sensitive home portfolio though they have left the decision to party chief.

The ACB, in its affidavit submitted in the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court, has ruled out Pawar's involvement in cases of alleged irregularities in irrigation projects in the Vidarbha region. The affidavit was submitted on November 27, a day before the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of the Shiv Sena -NCP-Congress was sworn-in the state on November 28.


The court had asked the ACB to clarify its stand on the role of Pawar junior, a former Water Resources Development Minister in the Congress-NCP government, in these cases. Ajit Pawar had also served as chairman of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), which had cleared irrigation projects in which irregularities were alleged.


All 4 accused in Hyderabad vet rape and murder case killed in police encounter

All four people accused in the rape and murder of woman veterinarian in Telangana have been killed in an encounter with the police.

The incident took place around 6.30 am when the accused were taken to the site of the offence for reconstruction of the scene of the crime as part of the investigation, a senior police official said. "They (accused) snatched weapons from police and fired on police and tried to escape... police fired in retaliation in which the four accused died," a senior police official told PTI.

Two policemen were also injured, he said. The four men, all lorry workers, aged between 20 and 24, were arrested on November 29 for raping and killing the woman by smothering her and later burning her body.They were remanded to 7 days' judicial custody.


Reacting to the killing of the four accused in the encounter, the victim's sister said they welcomed it. "We are happy. We did not expect this (killing in encounter). We thought they would be hanged through courts. "We thank everyone who stood by us. With this incident people should be scared to indulge in such crimes (against women)," she told reporters.

The gang rape-and-murder triggered a nation-wide outrage with the public and lawmakers demanding speedy punishment to the perpetrators. The state government had ordered setting up of a special court (fast track) to expedite the trial.

The charred body of the 25-year old woman veterinarian was found under a culvert at Shadnagar near here on the morning of November 28 a day after she went missing. Four persons were arrested in connection with the incident on November 29.

(Inputs from Agencies)


Maharashtra ACB gives clean chit to Ajit Pawar in Vidarbha irrigation scam

Mumbai: Maharashtra's anti-corruption bureau (ACB) has cleared National Congress Party's leader Ajit Pawar of allegations in an irrigation scam case in an affidavit submitted in the court.

The 16-page affidavit, dated November 27 Nov was submitted at the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court by ACB superintendent Rashmi Nandedkar in which she has observed that there is no criminal liability on the part of the then Chairman of the VIDC (Minister of WRD) in respect of the process of granting sanction. Minister of Water Resources Department is Ex-Officio Chairman of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation.


"The payment of EMD amount by the successful bidders for his competitors in some cases, issuing of tender booklets to some non-eligible bidders joint venture firms without following the pre-condition of the tenders etc. But these lapses are on the part of executing agencies of the tender work i.e Engineers, Divisional Accountant and the respective contractors. The Chairman of the VIDC/Minister of WRD cannot be held responsible for executing agencies, as there is no legal duty on his part", the probe agency said in its affidavit.

In its enquiry report, the ACB has also stated that 'There is no evidence on record to say that the Secretary of the Department had briefed the Minister of Water Resources Department about not accepting the liability of the tender work'. The state anti-corruption bureau has also said that the Chairman of the VIDC has acted in the line with the then prevailing policy of the corporation and in accordance with the proposals put up before him by the Executive Directors on Managing Directors of the VIDC.

In the report filed in the court, the probe agency mentions that "considering the facts and evidence collected during the course of enquiry/investigation, it is observed that there is no criminal liability on the part of the then Chairman of the VIDC (Minister of WRD) in respect of the process of granting sanction to the liability of the tender cost including that of updated cost and sanctioning the mobilization advance to the contractors or any other allegations/charges." Pawar, who belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), along with others, was in-charge of Maharashtra's irrigation department when the Congress-NCP coalition government was in power in the state from 1999 to 2014. That was a period during which the scam, relating to alleged irregularities in various irrigation projects, took place.


FPJ Exclusive: Review of viability of water grid project is on the cards

Mumbai: The Maha Vikas Aghadi is in no tearing hurry, but it will nonetheless review the former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis' Rs 25,000 crore Marathwada water grid project, which is aimed at interlinking dams and supplying water from the dams and other reservoirs through pipelines to all villages in the scarcity-hit region.

Further, the state government will also review the viability and financial feasibility of lifting water from Konkan to the Godavari basin, which is again to be supplied to the drought hit Marathwada region.


The Fadnavis government had cleared the first phase of the Rs 4,527 crore project. His government had also proposed developing a water grid project on the lines of either that in Gujarat or Telangana.

A senior minister told the FPJ, ‘‘The government has taken a conscious decision to have a relook at these two projects instead of implementing them without taking all stakeholders on board.''

The minister also reminded that leading water experts had already raised concerns over the water grid project and had suggested the completion of the long-pending Krishna-Marathwada project to bring relief to areas in Beed and Osmanabad and focus on water management.

The BJP, in its assembly poll manifesto, had proposed connecting all the 11 dams in the perennially parched Marathwada region, and provide drinking water supply with the help of a closed pipeline.

Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and former finance minister Sudhir Munganitwar had argued that the water grid project was quite crucial as Marathwada, comprising eight districts, has traditionally been a low-rainfall area.

The grid project aims at creating an integrated piped network to supply water for drinking, industrial and agricultural purposes through the year.

The project envisaged lifting of around 167 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) water from the Konkan region and transferring it in the Godavari basin to address the needs of Marathwada and parts of Konkan.

Major dams such as Jayakwadi, Majalgaon, Lower Dudhna, Yeldari, Vishnupuri, Manjara, Mannar and Sidhdheshwar, along with several medium and minor irrigation projects, cater to Marathwada. Scanty rainfall in last few consecutive years has left many dams dry.

Water expert Pradeep Purandare raised strong objection to the project, especially since Marathwada people’s need for real change in water management remains unheeded.

He said the government needs to see whether the water grid project has received approval from the Maharashtra Water Resources Authority.

''There has not been provision for water grid in the Integrated State Water Plan. The government first needs to complete the incomplete or suspended projects to improve water availability in Marathwada,'' he felt.


Mumbai: State bats for merger of PMC Bank into MSCB

Mumbai: There is good news for 16 lakh scam-hit PMC Bank depositors as the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has shown its desire to speak to RBI for its merger into the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB).

Senior minister Jayant Patil on Thursday said he already has held talks with the MSCB chairman in this regard and added that the government is with depositors and will make all efforts to protect their interests. 


PMC Bank had total deposits of Rs 11,617 crore as on March. More than 60% of its customers had small deposits of around Rs 10,000 each in the bank.Patil said, "I spoke to the MSC Bank chairman the day before yesterday.

We have suggested to the MSC Bank to try and merge the PMC bank with it, so that the poorest of its depositors get relief."

He further stated that the government wants to assure the PMC Bank depositors that the government stands with them. The merger of the two banks will definitely help small depositors.

Patil's announcement comes at a time when the troubled PMC Bank has been put under restrictions by the RBI, after an alleged Rs 4,355 crore scam came to light, following which the deposit withdrawal was initially capped at Rs 1,000, causing panic and distress among depositors.

The withdrawal limit has been raised in phases to Rs 50,000. Furthermore, twelve people, including top officials of the PMC Bank and the HDIL, have so far been arrested by the Mumbai Police's Economic Offences Wing (EOW) in connection with the scam.

As far as the MSCB is concerned, it is a Scheduled Bank which provides a wide range of banking services, including Retail & Wholesale Banking, domestic and International remittances and Treasury operations using modern technology. 

When contacted, an MSCB spokesman said there has been no concrete proposal thus far; they are hearing news of the PMC Bank’s merger only through media.

As per a MSCB audit report, the bank has total deposits worth Rs 15,839.87 crore and loans and advances of Rs 19,599.54 crore as on March 31, 2019. The bank has reported net profit of Rs 251.35 crore and its net worth is Rs 2,681.89 crore.


Farooq Abdullah writes to Shashi Tharoor, says 'we are not criminals'

New Delhi: In a letter addressed to Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah has expressed his discontent over being kept under watch, while asserting that he was not a 'criminal'.

Abdullah's letter, written in a reply to a Tharoor's post to him was shared by the Congress Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, on his social media account. In his reply, Abdullah thanked Tharoor for writing a letter in October which he claimed was delivered late to him by a magistrate who looks after him in a 'sub-jail'.

"It is most unfortunate that they are not able to deliver me my post in time. I am sure this is not the way to treat a senior Member of the Parliament and leader of a political party. We are not criminals", reads Abdullah's reply. Sharing the letter on the micro-blogging site, Tharoor also asked for Abdullah to be allowed to attend the session of parliament saying that it was essential for democracy.

"Members of Parliament should be allowed to attend the session as a matter of parliamentary privilege. Otherwise, the tool of arrest can be used to muzzle opposition voices. Participation in Parliament is essential for democracy and popular sovereignty", wrote Tharoor. On November 29, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MPs held a protest in front of Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament premises demanding the release of National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, from his present accommodation where he has been lodged since August 5.

Raising the issue of Abdullah in the Lok Sabha, Kanimozhi, an MP from Thoothukudi constituency, said, "Farooq Abdullah should be attending the Parliament but he is not allowed. He has been under arrest. This is against democracy. We are protesting for his release." Several mainstream leaders in Jammu and Kashmir including Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti have been put under house arrest following the abrogation of Article 370 in August that granted special status to the region.


Spat over seat commuter thrown out of moving train

Mumbai: A 35-year-old railway commuter was severely injured after being thrown out of a moving train near Kurla by three unknown passengers following an argument over a seat.

The incident took place on Thursday morning on the Central Railways' Harbour line section and the commuter has been identified as Vijay Kumar Gupta.


He was rushed to the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital in Sion for treatment.

Gupta, a Mankhurd resident, was a regular commuter and had boarded a Vashi-CSMT train at 8.52am. He is employed at a printing press in Masjid Bunder and was on his way to work when the incident took place.

G Inamdar of the Government Railway Police (GRP), Kurla, said Gupta was bullied, assaulted and then thrown out of a moving train near Kurla and they learnt about the incident at 9.15am, after which GRP officers reached the spot and rushed him to the Sion hospital.

“Four commuters began arguing with Gupta over a seat in the crowded train and this turned into a fight. When the train crossed Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, they threw him out of the moving train,” said Inamdar.

GRP officials said they had obtained Gupta’s statement and registered a case against the unknown passengers for attempt to murder and assault.

“We have registered the First Information Report (FIR) and will transfer the case to the Wadala GRP. We will also scrutinise the CCTV footage and have alerted all the police stations to look for the suspects,” he added.

Ravi Gupta, a relative of the injured man, said his cousin has sustained severe injuries and is critical. Doctors said “The patient has sustained injuries on his left hand, legs and head. He is under observation in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU),” said doctors.


SC grants bail to P Chidambaram in INX media case

Supreme Court grants bail to former Finance Minister & Congress leader P Chidambaram in INX Media money laundering case, registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The apex court granted bail to Congress leader P Chidambaram on personal bond of Rs 2 lakh with two surety of like amount. The SC also set aside Delhi High Court's November 15 verdict dismissing bail plea of P Chidambaram. The Supreme Court has told the former Finance Minister not to leave country without prior permission of court.


Jammu-Kashmir: Farmers take out 10-km long march to highlight Border issues

Kathua: The farmers and youth of Hiranagar border area led by Samajik Insaff Manch, Hiranagar president Bani Lal Kandely are carrying out a 10-km-long foot march from last border village Korepunnu to Tehsil Marheen to highlight several issues of border residents and demanded an immediate redressal.

Farmers and youth of the border area here started the march on Tuesday and wore banners and posters around their neck, with a charter of demands. The march will be concluded on Thursday.


"We have four main demands. First is that the farmers who have suffered losses due to recent rain and hailstorm should be provided with compensation.

Second, internet services should be retrieved. The third demand is that Jammu and Kashmir should be given the status of a state again," said Kandely.

"Our fourth demand is that all unemployed people should be provided with government jobs. Residents of the border area here are already very disturbed," he added.

Govind Ram, a farmer told ANI that mainly, two of the farmers' crops have been destroyed here one is wheat and other is paddy, recently but they have not been provided with any compensation so far.

"The government should encourage us to keep the farmers and agriculture alive. Agriculture should be given the status of mini-industry based on this, the farmers should also be provided with subsidies," said Ram.

According to the locals, the youth of the border area is reeling under severe unemployment. The residents of the border area have struggled a lot to educate the youth here.

"The youth here have not provided with any benefits even after the reservation. I request the central government to properly implement the reservation of these people and they should further be given employment opportunities," said Ram Paul, a farmer.

The protest march started from Koreopunnu led by Kandley and it was joined by numbers of farmers and youth of the border area. They raised slogans in support of their demands.


PM Modi greets Navy personnel on Navy Day

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday greeted Navy personnel on Navy Day, saying their service and sacrifice has made India safer.

"On Navy Day, we salute our courageous Navy personnel. Their valuable service and sacrifice have made our nation stronger and safer," Modi tweeted. He also posted a short video on Indian Naval history.

Navy Day is celebrated to commemorate the attack on the Karachi harbour during the Indo-Pakistan war on this day in 1971 by the Indian Navy.