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Archives for : June2018

Make Operation Bluestar-related files public, orders UK judge

Documents to shed light on Britain’s involvement in Indian army action at Golden Temple

Make Operation Bluestar-related files public, orders UK judge
People gather at Golden Temple to mourn the deaths caused during Operation Bluestar in Amritsar. Tribune photo: Yog Joy (file)

London, June 12

A UK judge has ordered the declassification of documents that are expected to shed further light on Britain’s involvement in Operation Bluestar in 1984, dismissing the British government’s argument that the move could damage diplomatic ties with India.Judge Murray Shanks, who presided over a three-day hearing of the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) in London in March, ruled on Monday that a majority of the files relating to the period must be made public and rejected the UK government’s argument that declassifying the Downing Street papers would damage diplomatic ties with India.

The judge, however, did accept that one file marked “India: Political”, from the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), could contain information that relates to British spy agencies MI5, MI6 and GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) and therefore the Cabinet Office was entitled to rely on a technicality that exempts such material from the Freedom of Information (FOI) request appeal.

“We recognise that the period we are concerned with was a highly sensitive one in India’s recent history and the strength of feeling it continues to evoke it should also be remembered that the fact that 30 years has gone by is bound to have reduced any prejudice that may have resulted from release of the withheld material,” the judgment notes.

The FOI appeal was handled by KRW Law on behalf of freelance journalist Phil Miller, who has been investigating the exact nature of the then Margaret Thatcher-led government’s assistance to the Indian Army operation on Golden Temple in Amritsar.In 2014, UK government documents declassified under the 30-year rule to make such material public had revealed that British military advice was given to Indian forces prior to Operation Bluestar. 

Then British Prime Minister David Cameron had ordered a review into this discovery, named as the Heywood Review, which led to a statement in Parliament declaring that Britain’s role had been purely “advisory” and the advice provided by the country’s Special Air Service (SAS) had “limited impact in practice”.But Miller, the author of ‘Sacrificing Sikhs: The need for an investigation’ report released last year, says only “full transparency” would reveal the exact nature of Britain’s involvement. “After nearly four years of asking for disclosure of these files, it is a great victory for a judge to rule that more transparency would not harm diplomatic ties or risk national security,” said Miller, who is disappointed that one file has been left out due to a “loophole” relating to the country’s intelligence agencies.”It is no wonder that many in the Sikh community are calling for a public inquiry, as only that would have the power to disclose all relevant material,” he added.

The files that must now be released in full include papers on UK-India relations from 1983 to 1985 – covering a meeting between Thatcher and Indira Gandhi’s adviser, L.K. Jha, the situation in Punjab, Sikh activities and the assassination of Gandhi in October 1984. Judge Shanks dismissed the UK government’s claim that declassifying these papers would harm relations with India and said “it is worth noting that we have heard no evidence of any adverse reaction from the Indian government resulting from the events of January and February 2014”, referring to the Heywood Review.

 

The UK Cabinet Office has been given time until July 11 to appeal against the First Tier Tribunal’s decision. Alternatively, it must make the relevant documents available to Miller for his research by July 12.

The Cabinet Office said it would be issue its response in due course. – PTI

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/make-operation-bluestar-related-files-public-orders-uk-judge/604135.html

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Maharashtra – 1000s of AIKS-led peasants Gherao on Comrade Laxman Bagul Martyr’s Day

 At least 200 activists of the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party in Surgana joined the CPI(M) mass organisation All India Kisan Sabha in support of the protest and agitation for farmers rights. They were welcomed with slogans of Lal Salaam in a mass gherao of the Surgana tehsil office by thousands of farmers as all publicly denounced the ‘anti-farmer’ policies of their erstwhile political parties.

The Maharashtra farmers stir is gathering momentum after the Long March that had Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis agreeing to all demands. However, given the partial and delayed implementation the farmers are back on the roads. On June 12, the 31st anniversary of the martyrdom of Laxman Bagul, Adivasi peasants gheraoed the district headquarters demanding immediate implementation of their demands on the Forest Rights Act, pension, loan waiver and remunerative prices that the BJP government had conceded on March 12 after the Long March.

Bagul was shot dead on June 12, 1987 at Vaganbari village near Umbarthan in the Surgana tehsil of Nashik district during the AIKS struggle for forest land rights then. This has been on ongoing fight with successive governments blocking the farmers rights, in fact diluting these even further.

Interestingly, CPI(M)’s woman member Sonali Bagul was elected as the President of the Surgana Municipal Council just last week. It is the first time that the Left has secured this position.

The meeting decided to continue the gherao until the Tehsildar agrees to the implementation of the demands.

 

The government silence on the farmers protests is now deafening. Just recently the BJP lost the Lok Sabha bypoll in Kairana because of the Jat farmers, who voted in the Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate in sheer ‘anger.’ Farmers had no hesitation telling reporters who travelled through the constituency that they had made a mistake voting for the BJP, and that the sugar cane glut and prices were a clear example of the ruling party’s disinterest in the peasants and their problems. Several farmers in what was a violence hit belt in 2013 with Muslim families fleeing for their lives, said that this was a bad mistake and that they would like their ‘tenants’ to return.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made tall promises in the campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls that have not been fulfilled. The distress has only deepened according to agriculture experts, with the farmers suicides since 1995 having topped the 300000 mark even by official National Crime Record figures. Agrarian experts insist that the numbers are far higher, with at least 60 percent of farmers in crippling debt.

Farmers as a community are coming together in support of the demands that share a common agenda of remunerative prices, loan waivers and forest rights. As AIKS leader Ashok Dhawale who led the Long March, and is currently at the head of the ongoing gherao, told The Citizen earlier, the farmers are desperate and yet determined to secure their rights now. It is a matter now of life and death, a sentiment that is echoing through the hinterland far away from the eyes of the captured media. This is the primary reason why peasants with the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra for instance are feeling the heat, and sharing the concern of those sitting for their demands have started what could become a process of exodus. More so as the ruling alliance is seen largely indifferent to their demands, with the Shiv Sena of course turning the tables on to the BJP for this.

Needless to say the mass protest has not been covered by the so called mainstream media. It is as if the farmers have dropped from view, and do not exist, with their high unpayable loans, their homes without food, their heavy debts, and their acute distress.

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Sri Ram Sene Activist Suspected to be Gauri Lankesh’s Shooter Arrested From Karnataka’s Sindagi

The 26-year-old is the second accused in the murder case after KT Naveen Kumar, who was arrested in March for helping the killers acquire bullets for their country-made gun.

Sri Ram Sene Activist Suspected to be Gauri Lankesh's Shooter Arrested From Karnataka's Sindagi
Parashuram Wagmore was produced before a magistrate and sent to police custody for 14 days.

Bengaluru: Karnataka police’s special investigation team on Tuesday arrested a 26-year-old man who is suspected to have shot dead journalist Gauri Lankesh outside her home in Bengaluru in September last year.

The accused, Parashuram Wagmare, is a member of the right-wing group Sri Rama Sene. He was produced before a magistrate and sent to police custody for 14 days. The SIT also arrested his alleged accomplice Sunil Agasara.

According to police, Wagmare is from a small town, Sindagi, in Vijayapura district in northern Karnataka and used to run a mobile phone shop there. Sunil irons clothes for a living in Sindagi.

Although police refused to confirm, sources said Wagmare was one of the two persons present at the crime scene on September 5, 2017, when Lankesh was shot down in front of her house in a cold-blooded attack.

Going by the descriptions of the features of the shooter in the case – as given by witnesses so far and the CCTV evidence on his height, weight and other characteristics – the SIT suspects that this short stocky man was the one who pulled the trigger on Lankesh.

However, his exact role was not mentioned by the prosecutor while seeking his custody in court. The ten-minute hearing only had the SIT counsel seeking his custody for questioning. The magistrate asked the accused if he wants access to legal aid through the court, but he declined.

On September 5, 2017, two bike-borne men had accosted writer-activist Gauri Lankesh just as she returned home from her office, and shot her four times. One bullet had missed her, three others hit her, the last one proving fatal.

CCTVs in front of her home gave police some leads, but since there were no lights and the duo were both wearing helmets, it was not possible to get exact characteristics of the two attackers.

However, the police used specially-built software and the help of forensic experts to rebuild the sequence of events. Footage also showed that the two persons had conducted a reconnaissance on Lankesh’s home at least twice before the killing around 8 pm that night.

They were caught on camera going on the same street around 3 pm and once again around 7 pm. The SIT had analysed footage of cameras around the home besides traffic surveillance cameras on the route from her office to her home to zero in on more leads.

The 26-year-old is the second accused in the murder after KT Naveen Kumar, who was arrested in March on the charges of helping the killers acquire bullets for their country-made gun.

Wagmare, police said, was also accused of hoisting Pakistan’s flag on the office of Sindagi’s revenue officer along with six others to foment Hindu–Muslim tensions in the town in 2012.

The next day, he and his co-activists of the Sri Rama Sene had held protests outside the taluk office against the hoisting of such a flag and even tried to manhandle the district police superintendent.

However, the police had quickly arrested the culprits and foiled their plans. A local court had dismissed the case later.

Wagmare’s friend Rakesh told News18 that he had nothing to do with the murder and had never even been to Bengaluru in the past.

“We can’t believe that he is the real killer. Normally he used to be at Sindagi. If the police have any evidence, they should produce it before us,” he said. He claimed that Wagmare was actually picked up by the police three days ago. He even requested the Hindu society to rise against the government.

The accused’s house was locked on Tuesday and his parents were not available for any comment. The other accused, Naveen, had also led police to one Srirangapatna near Mysore, whom Naveen had tried to ‘recruit’ for the cause of ‘safeguarding Hindu dharma’.

Anil has now turned into a police witness, giving details of yet another plot to kill writer-academic Professor Bhagvan of Mysore – a plot that could not be carried out.

Anil has recorded his own confession before a magistrate court under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code – which will be admissible during the final trial against all others in the case as well.

Anil and Naveen have both talked of how they had identified Professor Bhagwan as target for the next hit-job, as they were “angry with his anti-Hindu views and insult of Hindu gods.”

Ten days back, based on their inputs, the SIT had sought and taken into custody four more persons. Among them are Sujith Kumar alias Praveen, who reportedly informed Naveen about the plot to kill Lankesh 15 days before the murder, as the person who ‘recruited’ people for the cause of Hindu dharma; Amol Kale, a Pune resident who is said to have been the main planner who “identified targets”; Amit Degvekar, a Hindutva activist who lived at the Sanatan Sanstha’s ashram in Ponda in Goa; and Manohar Edave, a resident of Vijayapura in north Karnataka.

The four persons will be in custody for questioning till June 14, while Parashuram will be in custody till the June 25.

Police sources say they are still on the look-out for at least three more co-conspirators in the case, so the investigation is not closed yet.

On Tuesday morning, many Hindu activists, including lawyers who have represented accused in terror cases in Maharashtra, came together to hold a press conference. They alleged that they were being targeted as part of a political conspiracy.

Among those who held the press conference was Mohan Gowda – an activist Naveen said was the one who put him in touch with Sujith Kumar aka Praveen, allegedly one of the main planners of the killing.

https://www.news18.com/news/india/man-who-pulled-trigger-on-gauri-lankesh-arrested-had-links-to-hindutva-group-earlier-1776393.html

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Fake news and WhatsApp: A lethal combination

Tales From The 4G Rumour Mill

Fear is trending and violence is a ping away, why does fake news make India erupt?
Tales From The 4G Rumour Mill
Shillong is pushed into curfew as fake news about the death of a tribal causes a riot- like situation in the hill town
PHOTOGRAPH BY PTI

 

  • Bangalore 2012 This was one of the early episodes of chaos induced through social media.  Messages claiming that people, largely students, from the Northeast were being targeted in Bangalore by locals were circulated via social media, still at a somewhat nascent stage. What followed was a mass exodus ­attempt by people from Northeastern states with thousands rushing to the railway station to flee the virtually created hostile vibe.
  • Muzaffarnagar 2013 The main spark of the 2013 communal riots in Muzzafarnagar was a stray WhatsApp video. The video, most likely from a remote area of Pakistan, showed a mob brutally beating two men. It was shared widely to spread anger against a community. The state government had to intervene and clear the air around the falsely attributed video, but the venom had been spread by then.
  • Jharkhand 2017 Last year, another WhatsApp scare around ‘child-kidnapping’ in Jharkhand resulted in the lynching of seven people.

***

It came out of nowhere—no sour­ces cited, no eyewitness accounts, yet it spread all over the internet and suddenly, it was social media breaking news: a tribal man had been killed following an argument with a bus conductor, who belonged to another community. In no time, a usually laidback Shillong was in the grip of both fear and rage, courtesy, innumerable WhatsApp forwards, Facebook shares and retweets.

No one bothered to check the veracity of the ‘news’ as angry local residents descended on the streets, baying for the blood of their ‘enemies’. When police intervened, they were showered with stones and bricks. Such was the anger that mobs even defied curfew and continued their rampage—pelting stones, attacking religious places, damaging vehicles, anything that came their way.

By now it’s known, Shillong only adds to the list of rumour madness, a growing trend across India. Behind the violent bouts of anarchy are the usual suspects: WhatApp, Facebook, Twitter—social media platforms that can proliferate information like never before. Platforms that offer super-convenience, for all our endeavours, mischief included.

Calcutta goes into panic mode over the alleged sale of ­carcass meat in the city’s meat shops and eateries

PHOTOGRAPH BY SANDIPAN CHATTERJEE

Across the country, several people have died in the recent past due to such fake news, mischievously planted into social media platforms by unidentified people or groups. “Internet hoaxes are driven by a large number of different reasons. Individuals, groups or organisations are often driven by religious ­intolerance to generate rumours about other communities,” says P.K. Das, former officer-in-charge of Calcutta Police’s cybercrime cell.

READ ALSO: Squint Eye On The Postcard Boys

“Helpless rage on issues beyond their control compels a section of people to group themselves into mobs to take the law into their own hands, when they feel they cannot adequately rely on the ­administration. Other compulsions ­include revenge and even the need to relevant in some way,” he tells Outlook.

Weeks before the Shillong violence, at least six people, all ‘outsiders’, were lynched in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh by local residents, whose ­mobile phones were flooded with messages about gangs of kidnappers. Some of these messages were even circulated as ‘warnings’ by the local police about ‘gangs’, giving a strong ring of legitimacy to the rumours.

Das offers an explanation for the ­online rumour mill: “Individuals are disconnected from society and their interface with the world happens through their computers and smartphones. It creates deep mental chasms. The gratification is immense when they inject into cyberspace something sensational and it becomes a talking point, with hundreds of people clicking and liking their post.”

Calcutta has been another epicentre of fake news recently. Since it has to do with the city’s meat, it has impacted everyone—businesses, the administration and the common man. But before the “dog meat” scare came the “plastic egg” scare, almost as if to test the wat­ers for the city’s rumour potential.

On a cool evening towards the end of 2017, news channels were streaming a video of a Calcutta homemaker holding up a lit matchstick to an egg, which was melting like wax onto a plate on her dining table. She alleged that it was made of plastic. In the subsequent weeks, the city’s poultry traders ­reported drastic drops in the sale of eggs. The scare lasted a few weeks and ended only after the state administration declared that it was a rumour.

Hyderabad Police chief after the recent ­lynchings, asks people not to believe in social media rumours

A few days later, another, purposefully gross, video surfaced showing the production process of fake eggs—a drop of yellow food colour congealing into a yolk before being stuck into a thin, transparent, plastic egg-shell shaped sheet. “How are we supposed to distinguish between real and fake while buying food anymore?” says a homemaker, a mother of a ten-year-old child in Calcutta. She hasn’t just stopped giving her son eggs but is also on the verge of banning meat from the house following another massive scare which has taken over Calcutta: about the “bhagarer mangsho”, or mea­t­ culled from the carcasses of dead, wasteland animals.

Throughout April and May news channels carried reports of how meat from dead chickens, even cows, dogs and pigs was being “processed” by ­dubious operators and sent to the city’s eateries. Amid an outrage, police identified and arrested one of the kingpins, a man named Bishu, who is now being called “mangsho (meat) Bishu”.

READ ALSO: Fake News Busters

Though some of the allegations were true, the distribution of such meat was limited. But that did not stop huge numbers of consumers from boycotting chicken and meat. Abdur Rezzak Mollah, West Bengal minister in charge of the department of food processing industries, said that while the rumours could indeed be based on some real occurrences, the magnitude of public panic or outrage was far overplayed.

“No one can claim that illegal businesses, including those which are ­involved in fake food production, are not burgeoning not just in West Bengal or the rest of the country but across the world,” says Rezzak. “However, to allow these stray incidents to have such an impact as to cripple normal life is a matter of concern.” Rezzak does not just hold fake news sites on social media ­responsible for spreading paranoia but even mainstream media , which shows news without checking the sources.

Beverages including colas of multinational brands have been at the receiving end of numerous smear campaigns, allegedly by rival companies. Though the health hazards of aerated drinks are widely accepted, a recent video which went viral on WhatsApp showed two popular drinks using “bathroom-cleaning chemicals” as an ingredient. The video sparked panic among a section of consumers. The rumour was eventually contained, but not before it could do some damage.

Over the last few years, rumours and fake news with political and religious colour have been circulating almost on a daily basis, pitting communities or caste groups against each other. Such has been the menace that the government is now contemplating stricter laws to clamp down on fake news. In India, which is reportedly one of the world’s biggest WhatsApp’s markets, the spread of rumour viruses is far reaching and it seems to be mutating, appearing ceaselessly in various avatars.

In the latest instance, it has sprung up around the Nipah virus which has claimed several lives in Kerala. When the disease struck the state late in May, a fresh round of scare-mongering ­infected the Internet. The initial ­onslaught of advisory messages forbid the public from partaking of ripe fruits which could have been bitten by bats, which were initially thought to be the carriers of the virus, along with pigs. But at a national level, the messages soon became more offensive, advocating as they did, the ostracisation of Kerala and its residents. The state administration had to issue reassurances that the ­outbreak had been contained and ­managed to dispel fears.

Within Kerala itself, another cause for concern for the administration were the hate rumours that were flooding the ­inboxes of the state’s users—that ­migrant workers from Bangladesh and other states had brought the Nipah virus to the state. Worried that its 40-lakh migrant ­labour workforce would be targeted, the administration had to step in to dispel the xenophobic myths. This it is not the first time that Kerala’s ­migrant labour force had been the subject of rumours. In October 2017, hundreds of migrant labourers fled Kerala when rumours floated that their lives were in danger. Fake messages circulated on WhatsApp said that a ­migrant labourer from West Bengal was beaten to death in the state while others said that Hindi-speaking people were being attacked by locals. That was enough for this floating, vulnerable population to panic and an exodus began. Newspapers reports say that many of the labourers didn’t even ­collect their wages, they just fled  the state without informing their employers. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had to step in to condemn the rumours. Vijayan called the rumour mongers “mad” for spreading the cruel messages. His choice of word was not without a reason.

When Kerala was in the vortex of a ­crisis after Cyclone Ockhi grazed the coast last year, another rumour hit. Hundreds of fishermen out at sea had gone missing. As the state struggled with the rescue efforts, a WhatsApp message claimed that nearly 60 fishermen were rescued by a Japanese merchant ship that was heading towards Vizhinjam port. As the state rejoiced following the news, relatives of the missing fishermen took taxis and rushed to the port to receive them while ambulances were at the ready to rush the rescued to the hospital. But there was no Japanese ship nor any rescued fishermen at the port, causing anger among the relatives and huge embarrassment to the state government. Even the district collector of Thiruvananthapuram and the fisheries minister were taken in by the fake messages.


By Dola Mitra in Calcutta

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Adani Power: Australian Coal to Produce Power in Jharkhand and Sell to Bangladesh #StopAdani

Besides this crazy scheme, reports suggest that Jharkhand’s BJP govt. gave undue concessions for Godda power plant.
12 Jun 2018
Adani Power

We all know that capitalism works in bizarre ways to ensure profit. But crony capitalism takes the cake when it comes outlandish arrangements. India’s Adani Group is one excellent example of this. And their latest adventure in getting coal from Australia to produce power in Jharkhand and supply it to Bangladesh is one such instance.

In November 2017, Adani Power announced that it will set up a coal-fired power plant in Jharkhand dedicated to supply power to Bangladesh for a 25-year period. This enterprise came into being after PM Modi visited Bangladesh in June 2015 and assured his counterpart Sheikh Hasina that India would help her country with getting over its acute power shortage.

So far so good. Jharkhand has the largest coal reserves in India and Godda, where the plant was to be located, is close to the Bangladesh border. So, even if you ignore the fact that Jharkhand’s population has one of the lowest power consumption standards in the country (nearly half of the country average), you could think that this is the way things work. Private enterprises will look for profit after all and so on…

But in January this year, Adani Power announced that it would be importing coal from – hold your breath! – Australia to run its Godda power plant! As we know, Adani owns one of the world’s biggest coal mines, the Carmichael mine, in Australia linked to a nearby port, Abbot Point. Adani’s whole Australian business is in jeopardy because of stiff resistance from locals on environmental concerns. Perhaps in order to revive the sinking Carmichael mine, Adani Power thought up this bizarre scheme of sending coal from Carmichael to Godda, some 8800 odd kilometres away by ship.

This is where crony capitalism, till then waiting in the wings, stepped in to help Adani. As reported in Scroll.in today, the BJP led Jharkhand govt. stepped in to help fix the whole system. According to a “confidential government audit report” it has now been revealed that the Jharkhand govt. amended the state’s energy policy to give Adani Power an undue advantage or benefit of Rs.296.4 crore every year. Since the Bangladesh agreement is for 25 years, this works out to a whopping Rs.7410 crore undue benefit to Adani Power.

What the state govt. helped with was this: the energy policy required that any power producing company that sets up a plant in the state was required to sell 25% of its output at cheap rates to the state. Normally this was broken into two parts, 12% power to be supplied at a price that covers only variable or running cost and the remaining 13% at a price that covers both fixed and variable costs – running cost and depreciation of plant and machinery. The actual tariff was to be determined by the state electricity regulatory commission.

Under Adani Power’s pressure – and maybe some pressure from you know who! – the energy policy was amended in 2016 to buy power from Adani only at cost covering both fixed and variable costs, which works out to double the cost if only variable cost is counted. That’s how the saving of Rs.7410 accrues to Adani Power.

There is a provision in Jharkhand’s policy for waiving the 25% cheap power provision – it says that you can avoid supplying cheap power if use the state’s own coal. And, Adani does own the Jitpur coal block in Jharkhand. But the snag is that under the agreement Adani has to send that coal to its Mundra facility in Gujarat! There is no way of getting around that.

The 1600 Mw-Godda power plant, to be built at a cost of USD 2.1 billion (Rs.135 billion) was initially projected to be completed by end of 2018 but Adani Power has said that it would become operational only by 2022, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). It will carry power to Bangladesh through a dedicated line. How Adani Power is going to meet the costs of this giant exercise is anybody’s guess because as per latest financial results, Adani Power’s net debt of US$7.2 billion is more than 16 times equity. The company has so far failed to make the full cash deposit required to secure land acquisition for the project, IEEFA said.

Even Bangladesh is a loser in this deal. IEEFA analysis shows that Bangladesh will be getting power at about Taka 8.71/kWh compared to other imported coal-based rates of Taka 6.52 to 7.8 per kWh, not to forget even lower rates from imported LNG or natural gas power plants.

But between them, Modi and Adani have locked everybody down into a giant scheme that profits nobody else but themselves.

Newsclick.com

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Letter #PlotToKillModi written on mobile – Forensic expert

PRATIK  GOYAL

Top intelligence and retired officials questions the orginality of letter

Pune“Rajiv Gandhi avarunde mandalai addipodalam. Dump pannidungo. Maranai vechidungo.” ( Blow the head of Rajiv Gandhi, eradicate him, Kill him) was the first wireless intercept about the Rajiv Gandhi assassination and was heard by the People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Ealam, a pro-government paramilitary, which was with logger heads with LTTE ( Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam) .

The intercept, which was heard in April 1990, was immediately reported to the intelligence wing of Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka after which intelligence agencies started monitoring wireless communication. Though they were able to trace a message between two unauthorized stations in Chennai and Jaffna in January 1991, they couldn’t break it as it was highly coded and had alphanumeric codes. No wireless messages were untangled till the death of Rajiv Gandhi. It was only after his assassination, a Special Investigation Team of CBI, after months of investigation, were able to decode the messages and found the involvement of LTTE in the assassination.

Now, after 27 years, the assassination of Former Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi has again been in the limelight after it was mentioned in a letter, which was recovered by Pune police allegedly from the computer of Delhi based activist Rona Wilson.

Wilson along with anti-displacement activist Mahesh Raut, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, Nagpur based Lawyer Surendra Gadling and Mumbai based activist Sudhir Dhawle were arrested from Delhi, Nagpur and Mumbai on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in organizing Elgar Parishad; an event commemorating the 200th anniversary of Koregaon-Bhima battle between the armies of  British and Peshwas.

But, the whole case took a new angle when a section of media went frenzied by the mention of the alleged assassination plot of current Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the lines similar to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and arrested the accused persons of the assassination plot.

Though the plot of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination had a highly coded nature of communication, the assassination plot of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had no secrecy to it. The Maoist letters allegedly recovered from Wilson’s computer has a clear mention of the assassination plot and even has the names of political leaders, Party and social activists.

Although Maharashtra Director General of Police Satish Mathur on Saturday claimed in Pune that the letters are credible, there are various retired and active officers having decades of experience in handling Naxalism raised a question on the content of the letter which has a political overtone to it.

Rohan Nyayadheesh, a cyber expert based in Pune, said, “The letter mentioning the assassination plot has been typed from a mobile phone as per its font, auto dictionary and writing style whereas the other letter has been written on computer as it has alignment of lines (which means ‘Justification’ in computer language) . However, to reach a conclusion, we have to check the previous letters written by the persons in questions. In the letter written ‘By Comrade M’, there is not a single hyphen whereas the letter which mentions the assassination plot has four-five words with hyphens. These small things need to be analyzed to find about the originality of letters.

Nyayadheesh informed that the assassination plot letter has Calibri font and the letter from Comrade ‘M’ has Courier font. He said, “ Credibility of the letters can also be defined by knowing whether they have been retrieved after doing forensic procedure or were they found as it is in the computer, and if the letters were there as it is in the computer then police has checked Meta dex (File attributes) or not and if in case they have then whether it was matching or not. Meta Dex helps to let us know about the computer on which file has been made, it allows us to know about the revisions made to the file, who was the original creator etc. If revisions are more than once then it can be found out if the writer of the letter has completed them in one sitting or not.

A high ranking IPS officer from Intelligence department of Andhra Pradesh with an expertise on Maoism (on the condition of anonymity), said, “Maoist do write letters but they don’t write in such a long form. Mention of buying M-4 guns with 400000 lakhs rounds of bullets, strategy to mobilize people and discussing the assassination of PM is weird. I do have seen letters written by Maoists in my career but for the first time, I am seeing such kind of letter.
A source in the forensic department said, ” We have not done any analysis of the letters, we just did the cloning of the hard disc and other devices. We don’t know whether the letters were there inside the hard disc or not.”

M.V Krishna Rao, Former Director General of (Sahastra Seema Bal) and Former ADG of CRPF, said, “First of all CPI (Maoists) will not recruit people who are known in public domain. These five people, Prakash Ambedkar or others who are mentioned in the letters are renowned in public domain and Maoists will never recruit such people who are famous. To be a member of the party or central committee nobody should be able to recognize you if you stand next to someone.”

“As far as I know, members of the central committee were not using computers 6-7 years back. I don’t know whether they have started using them now. The central committee members generally don’t use the methodology of sending letters through emails, they used the methodology of couriers (couriers are 2 or 3 trusted people of CC members who are employed with the job to deliver their messages) and the letters are very short with not more than one or two sentences. A normal person will not be able to understand them as they have hidden meaning to it,” added Rao.

DR Karthikeyan, Former CBI officer and head of SIT which investigated Rajiv Gandhi’s murder,said, “Any such kind of things or messages cannot be ignored, if any such things are appearing we have to take it seriously. We cannot say whether it is true or false. In Rajiv Gandhi case also there were some secret messages though not in open. The coded messages were exchanged between LTTE operatives in Jaffna and India in which they were targeting India and mentioned about the elimination of some important person, but these messages were decoded only after the assassination. It needs to be investigated then only we can arrive at to a conclusion.”

http://www.sakaltimes.com/pune/letter-plottokillmodi-written-mobile-says-forensic-expert-19587

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How legal are sting-ops? Relax, what Cobrapost did was in ‘public interest’

A midst news about the sting operations conducted on multiple media houses that reveal their initial affirmative response to run Hindutva related content on their platforms in exchange of a handsome some of money, the questions regarding the legality of such sting operations are brimming. Are sting operations even legally permitted in the country? What is the evidentiary value of the information gathered through a sting? What happens if the person conducting the sting commits an offence as a part of it, can he be prosecuted for it?

Before we move to exploring the legality of sting operations, it is important to understand the concept of paid news which is associated with this particular sting operation. The Press Council of India, in its 2010 report said that paid news referred to “any news or analysis appearing in any media (print and electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration”. It further said that this could include exchanges in the form of accepting gifts on various occasions, foreign and domestic junkets, various monetary and non-monetary benefits, besides direct payment of money, or even private treaties signed between media entities and corporate houses.

Unfortunately, paid news is not a crime in India. Even though, the Law Commission Report of 2015, suggested the amendment of Representation of People’s Act, 1950 to include paid news in an electoral campaign as an offence, the same has not seen any fruition.

Sting operations

A sting operation in general is a method that employs deceit and disguise to uncover certain information. The “deceitful” nature of this style of journalism stands on a grey area, especially when the medium of disseminating such information is the audio-visual and television. Where the Press Council of India, Norms of Journalistic Conduct (2010) provide certain standards to be followed when conducting and reporting on a sting or information gathered thereof. The television and the digital medium is not covered under the Press Council, and are therefore, bereft of these guidelines.

However, this medium is regulated through a self regulatory body called the News Broadcasters Association. It is important to note that their code of conduct and ethics does point that, “the broadcasters should ensure that they do not select news for either promoting or hindering any side of a public controversial issue. News shall not be selected or designed to promote any particular beliefs, opinions, or desires of any interest group.”

Overriding public interest

The Indian Supreme Court had the opportunity to clearly state the validity of a sting operation, when conducted on a sub judice matter, i.e. pending in the court of law, in the sting operation conducted on the two advocates of the BMW hit and run case. This sting, which was subsequently telecasted by NDTV, revealed the advocates from opposite sides colluding to bribe a witness. In a judgment that clarified the position of stings, the apex court, vide a three-judge bench in R K Anand v Registrar, Delhi High Court [2009 8 SCC 106], upheld the validity of such operations if the information sought to be revealed was of “overriding public interest”.

The doctrine of public interest has undergone substantial jurisprudential exploration by the courts for there to be enough direction on what would constitute an overriding public interest in a particular case.

In a poignant opinion, the Supreme Court held as follows:

“Looking at the matter from a slightly different angle we ask the simple question, what would have been in greater public interest; to allow the attempt to suborn a witness, with the object to undermine a criminal trial, lie quietly behind the veil of secrecy or to bring out the mischief in full public gaze? To our mind the answer is obvious. The sting telecast by NDTV was indeed in larger public interest and it served an important public cause.”

Culpability of the sting operator

The implicating information in a sting operation, at times, is gathered by committing an offence in itself. The Supreme Court in the case of Rajat Prasad v CBI [2014 6 SCC 495] addressed this issue, and acknowledged that “only in cases where the question reasonably arises whether the sting operator had a stake in the favours that were allegedly sought in return for the bribe that the issue will require determination in the course of a full-fledged trial”.

This was in response to the argument that prima facie prosecution of the sting operator would be an inhibition for journalists from undertaking such operations to expose corruption or other illegal acts, therefore, detrimental to public interest. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held that the “a crime does not get obliterated or extinguished merely because its commission is claimed in public interest”.

Whether the act by the sting operator was a journalistic exercise or if the operator had stakes involved in the act in question could not be assumed as public interest, but will be determined be finally determined after perusing the facts and circumstances, and proper evidence.

Entrapment

In the course of a sting operation, if the evidence against the accused is gathered by inducing the person to commit the offence, can the accused still be prosecuted for the crime? This question has arisen in jurisdictions that permit law enforcement to conduct sting operations and gather information. The legal doctrine of entrapment nuances this concept.

However, India does not permit law enforcement to adduce evidence by this methodology, save and except under the Prevention of Corruption Act where a law enforcement officer is permitted to entrap by offering marked notes. In the United States, the usage of stings by law enforcement is a legal technique in producing evidence against offences of drug trafficking, political and judicial corruption, prostitution etc.

The dividing line between the legality of the sting operations is drawn at where the law enforcement “merely afford opportunities or facilities for the commission of the offense” and where the crime is the “product of the creative activity” of law-enforcement officials. If the actions of law enforcement officials qualifies as the product of creative activity, the suspected criminal can use the defence of entrapment to prove that the offence was not committed solely by the individual, but due to the explicit interference of law enforcement officials.

The Canadian jurisprudence on the subject provides a deeper perspective wherein the Supreme Court in R v. Mack [1988 2 SCR 903] has laid down factors for when the law enforcement provide more than an opportunity for commission of an offence. These factors include:

  • the persistence and number of attempts made by the police before the accused agreed to commit the offence;
  • whether an average person, with both strengths and weaknesses, in the position of the accused would be induced into the commission of a crime;
  • the type of inducement used by the police including: deceit, fraud, trickery or reward;
  • the existence of any threats, implied or express, made to the accused by the police or their agents;
  • whether the police appear to have exploited a particular vulnerability of a person such as a mental handicap or a substance addiction

Evidentiary value and contempt of court

After having established the permissibility of a sting operation on the threshold of public interest, the question of the evidentiary value of the material so collected arises. In the case of R K Anand,  prior to the matter reaching the Supreme Court, the Delhi High Court had studied the audio-visual clips of the sting operation, and taken suo moto cognizance of the matter, and issued a show cause notice of criminal contempt of court to the advocates concerned. The Delhi High Court, thus, took the information gathered in the course of the sting as evidence of obstructing the course justice under the Contempt of Courts Act, and called upon the advocates for a justification.

Sting operations in themselves did not deem as being an act of contempt of court, or an obstruction to justice, even when the information that was telecasted related to a pending case. The same would have to be adjudged by the courts on a case to case basis. Rightly upholding the freedom of the press, the Supreme Court in the case of R K Anand, also held that information did not require to be pre-screened by the trial court or high court before it was published as it would constitute as pre-censorship. Whilst the apex court did not hold NDTV in contempt for telecasting the sting operation, it did point out the omissions and excesses in their telecast, and cautioned about the manner of dissemination of sensitive information which may lead to trial by media.

Cobrapost sting is legitimate

The sting operation published by Cobrapost — “Operation 136” — revealed the backend dealings of media houses regarding buying news time in exchange of propaganda. This operation would be qualified under “public interest” owing to its legitimate purpose of uncovering the current structure of organisations that provide citizens with their information and have the onus of providing non partisan reportage of the events in the country. It was an act of conducting a check on the media houses, which are responsible for being the watchdog of democracy through their reportage. Much like the NDTV sting, this too was a legitimate exercise of journalistic prerogative and uncover extremely disturbing trends in the Indian mainstream media.

 

http://theleaflet.in/how-legal-are-sting-ops-relax-what-cobrapost-did-was-in-public-interest/

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Stop Aadhaar-linked pay to anganwadi staff: Activists

Anganwadi workers had protested earlier this year, demanding an increase in the honorariumAnganwadi workers had protested earlier this year, demanding an increase in the honorarium
PUNE: Activists have demanded that Aadhaar-linked payments be stopped for anganwadiworkers as technical issues have affected their payments for nearly eight months to a year.
They alleged that an anganwadi worker committed suicide in minister Pankaja Munde’s constituency in Beed districtbecause she was deprived of honorarium for six months as her biometrics did not match.

In a written statement, the activists demanded a probe into the death and blamed the government for not simplifying the process of disbursement of funds to anganwadi workers.

Activist Shubha Shamim blamed the government for the ‘faulty system’ of disbursement of honorarium to anganwadi workers. “Anganwadi worker Neeta Shinde, 32- year-old widow from Gevrai in Beed district, ended her life as she was deprived of honorarium for the last six months,’’ alleged Shamim who demanded a probe by the government.

The aadhaar-linked disbursement of salary from banks has been an issue and many anganwadi workers have not been paid honorarium for several months. Shamim said that after several follow-ups, she managed to receive honorarium for two months but did not receive the same for another eight months as her biometrics did not match.

‘We feel that the government is responsible for her suicide,’’ she said. This is not the first instance of suicide in Marathwada region as last year also, a 54-year-old anganwadi worker allegedly took her life in Parbhani district of Marathwada due to non-payment of honorarium for some months.

Anganwadi workers had threatened to go on a strike in March this year over non-payment of honorarium when the state government invoked the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) against them. The strike was called to protest the decision to lower the retirement age of anganwadi workers from 65 to 60, but it was revoked later. It was two years earlier that the honorarium of anganwadi workers was increased by Rs 1,000. Last year, it was raised further by Rs 1,500.

TOI

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Death Of Judge Loya: Government Letter Concealed From The Supreme Court #WTFnews

 The Letter Detailed Purpose Of Loya’s Visit To Nagpur And Arrangements For His Stay

Official documents with new details regarding the purpose of the judge BH Loya’s visit to Nagpur in 2014 and the arrangements made for him have been released in response to Right to Information applications. The documents show that the government of Maharashtra concealed details of enormous importance to the Loya case in its submissions to the Supreme Court. The documents were not included in the report of a “discreet inquiry” carried out by the Maharashtra State Intelligence Department soon after Loya’s family went public with suspicions about his death, in 2017. The report was the basis for the Maharashtra government’s claim, accepted by the Supreme Court, that Loya died a natural death. The documents have been submitted to the Bombay High Court as part of a new Public Interest Litigation demanding official compensation for Loya’s family.

In an official letter—EST 1114/Q/2014—dated 27 November 2014, the Nagpur office of the department of law and judiciary wrote to the Public Works Division Number 1, under the local Public Works Department, about “reserving one V.I.P. Air-Conditioned Suit in Ravi Bhavan”—the government guest house where Loya is said to have been staying at the time of his death, on the night intervening 30 November and 1 December 2014. The letter, as per a translation submitted to the Bombay High Court, stated, “from Mumbai Hon’ble Shri B.J. Loya [sic] and Hon’ble Shri Vinay Joshi, these both District and Session Judges Mumbai, will be staying from early morning of 30.11.2014 till 7 am of 1.12.2014 for government work. It is requested that for their stay one V.I.P. Air Conditioned Suit with two cots be reserved.” A subsequent note from the additional engineer of the division to a booking clerk at Ravi Bhawan ordered him to “Give 1 suit in Building No.1.”


Neither Joshi nor Loya’s names appear in the occupancy register for Ravi Bhawan, which contains a record of all the rooms in use by guests at any given time. The Caravan earlier reported clear signs of manipulation in the register’s pages. For the dates in question, the register has entries for Rooms 2, 3 and 5—all in Building Number 1—without any information on when and by whom they might have been occupied. The fields for noting those particulars have been struck through. Such blank entries are strange, since an entry should only be created in the register when a room becomes occupied.


The letter’s indication that Loya was to travel to Nagpur “for government work” contradicts the State Intelligence Department’s assertion that “Judge Loya was in Nagpur to attend the wedding in the family of a colleague on 30 November 2014.” The SID report made no mention at all of an official trip, or of Vinay Joshi—who is currently the principal district judge of the Thane district court. It stated that Loya was in Nagpur “along with his colleagues, Judge Kulkarni and Judge Modak, both in the rank of Principal District Judges.” Modak, in a written statement to the SID, said that he, Kulkarni and Loya all stayed together in one room at Ravi Bhawan—where the standard furnishings for every room include only two beds. It remains unclear why they would do so if separate accommodation had already been arranged for Loya.

Vinay Joshi declined to speak on the matter when contacted by The Caravan. “Understand that I am serving in a department, understand that without permission I can’t speak anything,” he said. “The registrar general of Bombay High Court, if he permits, then I will talk to you.”

It is evident that the Maharasthra government’s submissions to the Supreme Court failed to relate the full story of how Loya’s trip to Nagpur came about. Testimony from Loya’s family indicates that the judge was unaware that he had an official trip coming up, and wanted to use the dates in question to travel to Latur, his home town, to visit an ailing nephew in hospital.

Loya left for Nagpur on 29 November 2014—two days after the letter stating that he would be making an official trip was issued. One of Loya’s sisters, Anuradha Biyani, earlier told The Caravan that Loya was persuaded to travel to Nagpur only on the day that he left, after his colleagues insisted, “You have to attend the wedding. We have made advance bookings for you.” Nupur Biyani, Loya’s niece, who also earlier spoke to The Caravan, said, “Everyone who was accompanying him [was] insisting.”

Additional records made available in response to an RTI application make it clear that both the purpose of Loya and Vinay Joshi’s visit as well as their accommodation arrangements were distinct from those of Loya’s other colleagues who travelled to Nagpur on the same dates. The District Legal Services Authority in Nagpur wrote to the Public Works Division Number 1 on 19 November 2014 to ask for eight rooms at Ravi Bhawan from 29 November to 1 December on behalf of the judge Swapna Joshi, whose daughter was getting married on 30 November. Where the letter arranging Loya’s accommodation stated that he would be on “government work,” the request on behalf of Swapna Joshi stated that the rooms requested were for judicial officers, including Modak and Kulkarni, “coming to Nagpur for some urgent work.” The letter arranging Loya’s accommodation was issued eight days after the request on Swapna Joshi’s behalf, indicating that he was not part of the group initially meant to go to Nagpur for the wedding.

 

Someone with the necessary powers in the Maharashtra government apparently decided that Loya was to travel to Nagpur and stay at Ravi Bhawan on the stated dates. Who that was is unclear. Instructions regarding an official visit by a judge in Loya’s position, at the head of a special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Mumbai, could only have come from officials in the Maharashtra capital.

The chain of letters on Loya’s accommodation, including the letter from the department of law and judiciary, was released by the office of the executive engineer of the Public Works Division Number 1, after an RTI application by Ashok Pai, a resident of Mumbai. When the department of law and judiciary was asked for a copy of its letter under an RTI application by Satish Uke, a Nagpur-based lawyer, it replied,

Since the said document is a miscellaneous document and since the said document is not required for further proceedings, it is filed away after one year’s duration. Since the said document has been destroyed, it is not available.

IM Bhargav, who issued this response, is the department’s desk officer, in addition to being its public-information officer. The department’s November 2014 letter regarding Loya’s accommodation was signed by Bhargav in her capacity as desk officer.

In connection with the same RTI application, which also sought “office notes and complete documents” behind the letter requesting accommodation for Loya, Bhargav responded,

Since the said document was issued on the oral instruction of the then Deputy Secretary, no remarks have been made about it. Similarly, even if any document has been released by this office for the purpose of reserving a suite in Ravi Bhavan, the suite was not reserved based on a document of this office.

When telephoned by The Caravan, Bhargav said that she would only respond to queries over email. At the time this story was published, she had not responded to emailed questions—including one on the claim that “the suite was not reserved based on a document of this office,” and another on the identity of the “then Deputy Secretary.” It is not clear why the department claims that no reservation was made at Ravi Bhawan based on its letter.

The RTI records show a clear chain of correspondence that followed the department’s letter. The document was addressed to the executive engineer of the Public Works Division Number 1, and also copied to the manager of Ravi Bhawan and deputy collector (protocol) for Nagpur. The correspondence ends with the additional engineer’s instruction to the booking clerk to provide accommodation.

The additional engineer’s instruction to “Give 1 suit in Building No.1” was addressed to a “Shri Sawant.” Ravi Bhawan’s duty register shows that a Pradeep Sawant was serving as a clerk at the time. When contacted by The Caravan, Sawant confirmed that he was a reservation clerk at the guest house in November 2014. Sawant, who worked at Ravi Bhawan between 1983 and 2015, said it was common for him to receive such letters of instruction. The usual procedure, he said, was for the “higher authority” to sign off on the communication, before forwarding it to the reception desk for allotment of specific rooms. The higher authority in this case, Sawant added, was Sanjay Upadhyay, the manager of Ravi Bhawan at the time. When telephoned by The Caravan, Upadhyay confirmed that he was the manager of Ravi Bhawan at the time, but hung up as soon as he was asked about the letter. He did not answer subsequent calls, and did not respond to questions sent to him over WhatsApp, along with an image of the letter.

Sawant did not recall this particular letter. “There are so many judges and other people who keep coming and going, often we don’t know when they came, whether they came or not,” he said. He also did not remember whether Joshi and Loya actually came to stay at the guest house. Sawant—like the 17 current and former employees of the guest house that The Caravan spoke to earlier—heard nothing in 2014 about a guest having died while staying at Ravi Bhawan. He first learnt of Loya’s death through news coverage in 2017. “No one in Ravi Bhawan at that time knew that this had happened,” he said.

Uke and Pai filed a Public Interest Litigation before the Bombay High Court on 7 June 2018, demanding that the government of Maharashtra compensate Loya’s family since he “died in service, on government work of State Of Maharashtra.” Pai, when contacted by The Caravan, said he was confused by the letter stating that Loya had travelled on government work. “So did he go for the official visit, or did he go for an unofficial visit, for the wedding?” he said. “It is not clear at all.”

Uke pointed out that police in Nagpur opened an inquiry into Loya’s death on the day of his demise, and that the letter should have been part of police records from the beginning. He added that the document’s “destruction in this manner, well after a police inquiry had been initiated, raises serious questions.”

The newly released documents call into doubt the reliability of the SIT report submitted to the Supreme Court by the state of Maharashtra, which forms the basis of the account that Loya died a natural death. The documents add more urgent questions to the long list of unresolved concerns in the Loya case:

  • Who sanctioned Loya’s official trip to Nagpur and ordered that a room be booked for him in Ravi Bhawan?
  • Why was Loya not informed of this trip?
  • Why were records relevant to this matter destroyed by the government even after police began an inquiry into the case?
  • Why is there no entry for Loya in the Ravi Bhawan occupancy register?
  • Why did the lawyers representing the state of Maharashtra in the Supreme Court fail to mention that Loya’s accommodation was booked two days before he left for Nagpur, or that the booking was made on the premise that Loya would be travelling on “government work”?
  • Why were these documents and facts concealed in the “discreet inquiry” conducted by the State Intelligence Department of Maharashtra?

Death of Judge Loya: Government letter concealed from the Supreme Court detailed purpose of Loya’s visit to Nagpur and arrangements for his stay

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India hockey coach Harendra slams food quality at training camp

Chief coach of Indian men’s team Harendra Singh has complained to Hockey India about the sub-standard quality of food and hygiene level at the SAI centre in Bengaluru.

Chief coach of Indian men’s team Harendra Singh has complained to Hockey India about the sub-standard quality of food and hygiene level at the SAI centre in Bengaluru.(Photo Courtesy: Hockey India)

‘Bugs, Hair in Food’: Indian Hockey Coach on State of SAI Centre

Chief coach of Indian men’s team Harendra Singh has complained to Hockey India about the sub-standard quality of food and hygiene level at the Sports of Authority of India (SAI) centre in Bengaluru, where the national team is currently training.

But the grievance isn’t a new one. Even when he was coaching the senior Indian women’s hockey team, Singh had made several complaints about the diet provided to players, but to no avail.

Less than two weeks before the Indian men leave for the Champions Trophy in the Netherlands, Harendra, in a letter dated 9 June, wrote to the top officials of Hockey India.

“I would like to bring to your kind notice that food quality at Bangalore SAI centre has been well below par with a professional unit – excessive oil and fat through out, bones with lack of meats. Moreover insects, bugs and hair were also found in the food,” he wrote.

“Sir, I also would like to inform you that hygiene part has also been neglected. The kitchen utensils which are used to prepare food are unhealthy.”

Even the coach’s request that mutton be added to the men’s meal plan at least once a week was not fulfilled.

“We are preparing for the upcoming Champions Trophy, Asian Games and World Cup. It is vital for these high performance athletes to have meals which consists of entire nutrition,” he added.

Recently, we conducted blood tests on all 48 athletes, and the blood report found many food-related deficiencies in some athletes, which act as a hindrance to perform at the optimum level.
Harendra Singh in a letter to Hockey India

The chief coach further wrote that the quality of food has been sub-standard despite Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s instructions during one of his visits before the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. The players had then also complained about the poor quality of mattresses, which had later been changed.

“Before the CWG, during one of the camps, Hon’ble Sports Minister had visited the camps and had given instructions to competent authority that within 48 hours these complaints must be addressed but no change is visible,” Harendra wrote.

After writing to Hockey India, Coach Singh had forwarded his letter to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra, who wrote to the Sports Ministry to address the issue. After being informed by Hockey India, the IOA asked SAI to look into the matter as soon as possible.

IOA president Batra immediately wrote to SAI Director General Neelam Kapur, urging her to address the matter seriously.

“The Hon’ble Minister had visited SAI centre Bangalore couple of months back and he is aware of this situation concerning the athletes and their food issue, hygiene issues etc,” Batra wrote.

“It is couple of months now, I humbly request SAI to kindly take care of food quality, hygiene, cleanness, etc, at SAI centre Bangalore in interest of health and performance of elite athletes. If we expect elite athletes to perform at their best, then we also need to provide them with the best.”

The IOA chief sought a meeting with SAI DG to discuss the matter.

“Kindly give time to discuss on these issues since it is a problem across all centres of SAI,” Batra wrote.

SAI’s Response: ‘Orders Have Been Issued’

While Hockey India has refused to comment on the issue, SAI has decided to go for a performance review of all its regional centres.

“We are deeply concerned about the quality of food and hygiene in the SAI centres and give it the highest priority. The problem in Bengaluru has come to the notice earlier during the Minister’s (Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore) visit in March this year,” said SAI Director General Neelam Kapur in a statement.

“Orders have been issued to take corrective action which includes hiring a new cook, ensuring quality of raw food supply and improving hygiene.” The complaint has prompted the DG to call an urgent meeting of the Regional Heads.

“Regional Directors will be accountable to ensure quality food and hygiene. Monitoring systems are being put in place including surprise checks. Strict action will be taken on any complaints received,” Kapur added.

The Indian team is training in the Karnataka capital for the Champions Trophy to be held in Breda, Netherlands from 23 June to 1 July.

(With inputs from PTI)

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