2010: The Year of Treasure Hunters

first_imgT he first Indian to welcome US President Barack Obama at Mumbai airport on November 6 was then Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan. He was sacked minutes after Obama left India because of his direct involvement in the Adarsh Housing Society scam in which flats meant for Kargil heroes and,T he first Indian to welcome US President Barack Obama at Mumbai airport on November 6 was then Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan. He was sacked minutes after Obama left India because of his direct involvement in the Adarsh Housing Society scam in which flats meant for Kargil heroes and widows were virtually stolen by powerful politicians, bureaucrats and defence officers who abetted construction on disputed army land. Chavan’s relatives owned three flats in Adarsh. He was confident that his mentors-a guru, Sri Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi, and Rahul Gandhi-would save him. Chavan was self-delusional. It was the judiciary that forced the political class to move. On December 22, a division bench of Justice B.H. Marlapalle and Justice U.D. Salvi hearing the case noted, “Everybody who was supposed to clear a file has been gifted (a flat in Adarsh).” Adarsh was not the only scandal in the Year of the Treasure Hunter. The total loot of the public exchequer in 2010 is estimated to exceed Rs 4 lakh crore. An analysisreveals that real estate is corruption’s biggest cash cow. According to realtors, 60 to 70 per cent of the price of property transactions in all major Indian cities is in cash. A finance ministry report of December 2009 states: “Of the Rs 4,500 crore seized in income tax raids, around Rs 2,000 crore involves land. Politicians are earning money per sq ft of the floor space index awarded to construct buildings. This is a result of commercialisation of politics,” says former Mumbai High Court Judge B.G. Kolse-Patil. The cbi discovered that it was Chavan, who as state revenue minister in 2000 cleared the society’s ownership conditions to admit civilians along with defence personnel, thereby opening up a real estate gold-mine. “The Congress is the fountainhead of corruption in the country,” says bjp leader Rajnath Singh.advertisementIn 2010, allegations of corruption-referred to by Wharton academic Jitendra Singh as “a kind of shadowy market”-were made against the spectrum of the national establishment. Politicians like Chavan, B.S. Yeddyurappa, Suresh Kalmadi and Mulayam Singh Yadav; senior army officers like former army chief General Deepak Kapoor and Major General R.K. Hooda stole the headlines of the year with a glittering cast of friends, mentors and hangers-on from the media and bureaucracy.Chavan’s personal assets run into hundreds of crores of rupees. In his hometown Nanded, Chavan Inc owns dealerships, real estate worth crores, sugar mills and educational institutions. He insists that his commercial ventures are legal and he has done nothing wrong. For a politician who declared his net worth as Rs 24.61 crore  in 2009, india today investigations revealed that the estimated worth of assets held by Chavan and his family amount to much more. “The politicians in the entire country are corrupt. Why talk only about Maharashtra?” says Kolse-Patil. Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray says, “We are facing a challenge to cure the disease of corruption.” Chavan, however, is defiant. “The investigations will prove my innocence,” he says.   The country has got used to the idea of corrupt politicians. It was shocked to learn that officers of the rank of general and admiral were involved in Adarsh. “Here is a man whom we trusted, here is a person on whose orders we were ready to go to battle,â€? said Chief of Staff General V.K. Singh about his predecessor General Kapoor. In his application for a Rs 80-lakh apartment, General Kapoor lied that his annual income was Rs 2.8 lakh while when it was actually around Rs 7.2 lakh. When this application was turned down, the then Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh used his arbitrary powers to clear it. Adarsh is not the only example of Kapoor’s real estate adventures. The Haryana Government gave him a Gurgaon plot for Rs 36 lakh with a lock-in payment period of five years-a knockdown price for land valued at Rs 7.5 crore. In Sukna, West Bengal, army land was allegedly given to builders at throwaway prices. The military court indicted two army officers for this deal-one of them was Kapoor’s staff advisor Lt. General Avdesh Prakash. Kapoor reportedly used his clout to save Prakash from a court martial. The armed forces have earned the unsavoury nickname, the “Harmed Forces”.Real estate besmirched the reputation of Karnataka’s Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa as well. In June 2010, Yeddyurappa was preparing for a spotlight moment, ordering a bespoke Italian suit from Bangalore fashion designer Prakash Lamba as a change from his usual white safari suit to preside over the two-day Global Investors Meet in Bangalore from which he expected to raise at least $66.3 billion as investments for Karnataka. In private, Yeddyurappa was taking decisions that would blow up in his face. On November 17, 2010, Karnataka Lok Ayukta Santosh Hegde announced there was enough evidence to establish a prima facie case against Yeddyurappa. The Opposition released documents-around 2,000 of them-alleging that Yeddyurappa flouted rules to get prime land worth Rs 500 crore allotted to family members; his sons bjp MP B.Y. Raghavendra and Vijayendra became beneficiaries of state largesse after their father became the Karnataka deputy chief minister in 2006. Raghavendra was allotted a government plot in Bangalore under the MP’s quota and paid Rs 10 lakh for the land whose market value was over Rs 2 crore. Yeddyurappa also denotified the Bangalore Development Authority (bda) land which his sons and son-in-law Sohan Kumar allegedly grabbed at throwaway prices. Yeddyurappa’s daughter Umadevi was allotted two acres of government land to set up a bpo. Some of his family members were allegedly allotted five acres in Shimoga to build a hospital, and two acres for a factory in Bangalore. In March 2010, 11 more acres in Bangalore worth crores were denotified in Vijayendra and Raghavendra’s favour against the advice of the bda and the Urban Development Department. Later, his kin returned the land following a judicial inquiry. Five previous chief ministers gave similar deals to their relatives including Dharam Singh and H.D. Deve Gowda’s son H.D. Kumaraswamy who is yet to return the land allotted to him.advertisement”The names of my family members are being dragged into imagined corruption cases to cover up their (Opposition’s) own misdeeds,” says Yeddyurappa, responding to the Opposition’s charges of corruption.The Opposition also alleges that the chief minister took a bribe of Rs 20 crore from the Bellary-based South West Mining Ltd; supporting documents claim that the money was allegedly deposited into the bank accounts of Raghavendra, Vijayendra and Sohan Kumar.If land was exploited by the corrupt, the skies were open to political plunder as well. On November 14, the dmk, unable to withstand the heat from a belligerent Opposition, a hostile Congress and an angry media, ordered Andimuthu Raja to resign as telecom minister. Raja was accused of favouring select telecom companies-Swan Telecom, Unitech, S-Tel, Datacom Solutions, Idea, Spice, Systema, Tata and Loop-in acquiring 2G spectrum licences in a valuation game which is estimated to have cost the country a notional Rs 1.76 lakh crore. “As a lawyer, I will abide by the law, not evade it,” Raja said. His slogan during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls was “Oru kilo arisi oru rupa, oru hello 50 paisa” (One kg rice at one rupee, a hello on the phone at 50 paise). The Niira Radia tapes exposed how much his hellos cost the country. Veteran Congress leader of Tamil Nadu EVKS Elangovan says “Karunanidhi must’ve been aware of things.”In power, there is no free lunch. So what did the telecom companies give Raja and Radia in return of the favours? The CBI and the ed are investigating a money trail that leads to the Cayman Islands, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and Mauritius. “Raja represents a front for a number of undesirable organisations. He is a front for anti-national agents,” says Subramanian Swamy, Janata Party president. There may be political exaggeration in the accusation.advertisementRaja stuck to his chair for 400 days after the scam surfaced. A CBI official claims that the minister used this time to manipulate or destroy evidence. No incriminating documents were found when the agency raided his house on December 8. According to one source, documents were also destroyed at Radia-owned Vaishnavi Communic- ations’s office in Delhi. Employees had burned thousands of documents to prevent them from falling into the hands of the CBI. “The Government should constitute an Integrity and Ethics Commission urgently to check corruption and initiate stringent action against corrupt practices,” says assocham President Dilip Modi.The climate of venality spawned a variety of hunters who sought to seize what they could. Public anger began to mount. When Suresh Kalmadi, the most visibly tainted face of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, walked into a Delhi restaurant on a late October weekend, he was surrounded and heckled by diners who called him a thief. The CBI and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) estimate that the 66-year-old Congress Rajya Sabha MP caused a loss of Rs 5,000-8,000 crore of public money through financial and administrative malfeasance. In 2003, the Indian Olympic Association estimated the Games would cost the country Rs 1,620 crore. By 2010, the bill had risen to Rs 11,500 crore. With other additional expenditure, the Games expenditure was estimated to be around Rs 30,000 crore, making the 2010 Commonwealth Games the most expensive sporting event ever. CBI sources says that of the Rs 665 crore spent on overlays, around Rs 200 crore was stolen. Following the CVC report on financial misdemeanors, the CBI raided the ioa offices and arrested close Kalmadi aides T.S. Darbari, Sanjay Mahindroo and treasurer Jayachandran.Some of the statistics are stunning. The infrastructure cost for the cwg was Rs 2,904 crore but Rs 5,503 crore was released. Where did the extra money go? The CVC investigated 16 Games-related projects totalling Rs 2,477 crore and found that corrupt officials and contractors tampered with initially discounted tenders. The organising committee inflated bills by at least 30 per cent. The CBI raided Kalmadi’s residences in Delhi and Pune. “I am innocent till proven guilty. I have not taken any decision alone,” Kalmadi says.Many more careers and reputations tumbled as other skeletons of corruption fell out of hidden closets. In Mumbai, private financier Rajesh Sharma, chief of Money Matters (India), and senior bank officials were arrested in a bribes-for-loans affair. The arrests have made corporate India uneasy. Though the licence raj has ostensibly ended, lobbyists are still needed for project clearances. “We need to be clear about what is defined as corruption. In an economy where competition and enterprise are driven by individual endeavours, and there is no strong government hand, these things flourish,” says P. Shankar Raman, executive v-p (finance), L&T. Following these arrests, the market value of lic Housing Finance shares plummeted from Rs 10,159 crore to Rs 2,365 crore. Investors lost Rs 2,300 crore in a day. “There are enough regulatory bodies in the country but they don’t have the teeth to enforce regulations,” says Richard Rekhy, ceo, KPMG, one of the largest of audit, tax and advisory services firms in the world   There was one unusual instance of corruption. While Adarsh, the cwg and other scams largely involved powerful cabals, Ketan Desai, president of the Medical Council of India, was the lone ranger of graft. His modus operandi was to ask for bribes in return of government recognition for private medical colleges. After the CBI arrested him for accepting Rs 2 crore as payola for one such deal, raids conducted in Delhi, Punjab, Mumbai and Ahmedabad revealed that Desai and his family owned 10 houses, two commercial properties in Mumbai and gold worth Rs 39 lakh.During the Adarsh hearing, Justices Marlapalle and Salvi asked, “Why has no fir been registered except the one on the missing files in the case? Don’t tell us committees will be formed to conduct inquiries. Committees are formed and dissolved, nothing happens.” Nothing happens because a corrupt system closes its ranks to protect its own. India remains stuck in the purgatory of corruption.with Nivedita Mukherjee, Kiran Tare and Nirmala Ravindranlast_img read more

PM Urges Greater Use of GIS for Economic Growth

first_img Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, is encouraging greater use of geographic information system (GIS) technology across all sectors in order to spur higher levels of economic growth and development. Story Highlights Mr. Holness said the Government has been making significant investments in using GIS technology to spur Jamaica’s growth and development while seeking to reposition the country as a knowledge-based economy. Another key area of investment, the Prime Minister highlighted, was the National Identification System (NIDS), which will provide a comprehensive and secure structure to capture and store the personal identity information of all citizens. Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, is encouraging greater use of geographic information system (GIS) technology across all sectors in order to spur higher levels of economic growth and development.He contends that despite Jamaica’s use of the technology over the past 25 years, its full potential remains untapped.“It is certainly accepted by the Government… definitely at the administrative and executive levels. But we have still not yet moved to the point of utilising the technology where we leverage (its) predictive powers… which is to use it in a way to either prevent things from happening or facilitating things we want to happen,” the Prime Minister noted.He called for its utilisation at the decision-making level “as a management and planning tool”.He was delivering the keynote address at the opening ceremony for the inaugural two-day Jamaica GIS User Conference held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday (October 10).Mr. Holness said the Government has been making significant investments in using GIS technology to spur Jamaica’s growth and development while seeking to reposition the country as a knowledge-based economy.These, he said, have been in the notable areas of job creation, with the establishment of the GIS Corps of National Service targeting unattached youth under the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) initiative, and the installation of key infrastructure designed to enhance public safety and security.Mr. Holness said that under the GIS Corps, youngsters have been employed by several State entities to undertake a number of key engagements.These, he said, include at the National Water Commission (NWC) to carry out asset mapping of all meters islandwide, the collating of data for an asset map capturing street lights, with another corps being established to assist in generating rainfall data for the National Meteorological Service.The Prime Minister said that there were numerous other opportunities for youth employment utilising GIS technology to document Jamaica’s critical assets.He noted that significant investments have also been made to install surveillance cameras and closed-circuit television (CCTV) to capture illicit criminal activities and traffic breaches, as part of the Government’s undertaking to engender a safe and secure society.Another key area of investment, the Prime Minister highlighted, was the National Identification System (NIDS), which will provide a comprehensive and secure structure to capture and store the personal identity information of all citizens.Mr. Holness contended that a system to accurately identify persons will go a far way in generating information that facilitates analyses of the society’s challenges, and potentially yield solutions and predict outcomes.“We truly understand the deep power of the technology, and that it can be leveraged for the economic and social development of the country,” he added.The GIS User Conference is being jointly staged by the National Spatial Data Management Division (NSDMD) and Land Information Council of Jamaica (LICJ) under the theme ‘GeospatialTechnologies: Mapping Our Way to Secure Communities’.It forms part of activities commemorating the LICJ’s 25th anniversary.last_img read more

Meriaura Adds First EcoCoaster

first_imgzoom Finnish shipping company Meriaura has taken delivery of M/S Eeva VG, the first of two VG EcoCoaster general cargo vessels ordered from Dutch shipbuilder Royal Bodewes.The 5,000-ton vessel arrived for the first time in Finland on October 4, 2016. It was baptized in the port of Rauma on October 5, where it loaded its first cargo, 4,000 tons of oats, for Rotterdam.Featuring a length of 103 meters and a width of 13.6 meters, the Eeva VG is a dry cargo ship with Ice Class 1A.VG EcoCoaster is designed to cause less environmental impact than dry cargo vessels of same type and size, according to the company. The hull and machinery are optimized to the speed of 10,5 knots in open water conditions. Additional power required for fulfilling Ice Class 1A requirements is achieved by a diesel electric-driven booster unit.The vessels are equipped with a dual fuel system, where the main engine is suitable for both biofuel and marine gas oil (MGO).“Although the vessels are traditional dry cargo bulkers, they represent a new generation because of their environmental friendliness and energy efficiency,” Jussi Mälkiä, Chairman of Meriaura Group, said.The contract for the two newbuildings was signed in Turku in December 2014 when Meriaura revealed its plans to regenerate its fleet with vessels that have lower fuel consumption and GHG emissions.The Eeva VG is a supplement to Meriaura’s fleet of 17 vessels. Its sister ship, the Mirva VG, is expected to be completed by the end of November this year.last_img read more

Canada US lead call for enforcement of sanctions against North Korea

first_imgVANCOUVER – Canada and the U.S. led calls Tuesday for the global community to step up its enforcement of sanctions against North Korea, even as they urged Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and embrace a more peaceful future.The demands followed a day of closed-door talks in which foreign ministers and senior diplomats from 20 countries strategized ways to end North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and force it back to the negotiating table.Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the meeting’s co-hosts, were united during a closing news conference in emphasizing that a nuclear-armed North Korea would never be accepted.Diplomacy is the preferred option, they said, as Freeland promised that “a North Korea that commits to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear program will have a secure place in the international community.”But both also emphasized the need for continued pressure on Pyongyang through the rigorous enforcement of UN sanctions, especially by North Korea’s two most important allies and neighbours: China and Russia.“We agree that the need for UN member states, especially China and Russia, to fully implement agreed-upon sanctions is essential to their success,” Tillerson said.The U.S. last year sanctioned several Chinese companies and individuals for their alleged involvement in helping North Korea skirt sanctions, while both Russia and China have been accused of exporting oil to Pyongyang.The two countries, neither of which were invited to the Vancouver meeting, have previously denied the charges and criticized Tuesday’s gathering as potentially harmful to peace prospects on the Korean peninsula.To help close the gaps in enforcement, Freeland said the Canadian government had earmarked $3.2 million to help other countries with training and other technical assistance, and that it would raise the issue during the G7 summit.One of the questions heading into the meeting was whether participants would endorse a U.S. call for naval interdiction of North Korean shipping, following concerns about smuggling.While participating nations agreed to take a tougher line, Tillerson said, the results were not expected to result in military action but instead see illicit North Korean goods identified and seized when ships stop in ports of call.Canada and the U.S. called Tuesday’s meeting in response to Pyongyang’s recent nuclear and ballistic-missile tests, which have rattled the international community and thrust North Korea to the top of the list in terms of global crises.Asked how serious the threat of war with North Korea actually is, Tillerson replied: “We all need to be very sober and clear-eyed about the current situation.”The majority of the 20 countries were invited to the meeting because of their support for South Korea during the Korean War more than 50 years ago.Participants were largely united in their belief that efforts to isolate North Korea and stop its sources of income were starting to bite, which they argued is what prompted Pyongyang to reach out to Seoul earlier this month.But despite that thawing of relations and resumption of talks between North and South Korea, there was unanimity in the need for real progress on denuclearization before any easing of pressure.“Our message is clear,” Freeland said at the start of the meeting, speaking directly to the North Korean regime.“The pursuit of nuclearization will bring you neither security nor prosperity. Investing in nuclear weapons will lead only to more sanctions and to perpetual instability on the peninsula.”Freeland and others emphasized that they were not seeking regime change, and suggested that by abandoning its nuclear aspirations, Pyongyang would help bring a safer, more prosperous future to its people.Whether that message resonates with Kim Jong Un’s regime will have to be seen, but analysts have long asserted that it sees nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantor of its survival in any conflict with the U.S.Freeland, meanwhile, dismissed suggestions that U.S. President Donald Trump has made the current standoff with North Korea worse through his public comments.“The source of the threat to the international community, the source of the illegal actions, the source of the nuclearization is North Korea,” she said during the closing news conference.“It is North Korea’s actions which are making us all less safe, and to which we all need to respond as allies and as an international community.”— By Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa, with files from Laura Kane and Geordon Ormand in Vancouverlast_img read more