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Antony asks Army to streamline purchase process

NEW DELHI: Amid allegations of bribery, Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Monday asked the Army to streamline its purchase process in a manner that accountability can be fixed in the event of slippages. This was conveyed by Antony to the Army brass led by its Chief Gen V.K. Singh at a meeting to finalise the Army's capital acquisition proposals at the South Block.

This is the first time Antony and Gen Singh came face to face since the acrimony over the Army Chief's allegation of a bribe offer made to him by a retired officer and the leak of a secret letter from him to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on gaps in defence preparedness.

The meeting was in continuation of earlier review meetings held in September last year and January.

"At the meeting, Antony directed the Army to streamline its acquisition process in such a manner that accountability can be fixed in case of any slippages," a Defence Ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi.

Antony also asked officials of the Defence Ministry and the Army to examine the possibility of compressing the time taken for technical evaluations and trials.

It is assessed that the services and the Defence Ministry take about seven years for completing the procurement processes of any major equipment.

He favoured delegation of more financial powers to the service headquarters if it can lead to speedier acquisition of equipment, platforms and systems for the services.

At present, the services vice-chiefs can approve defence contracts worth Rs 50 crore or less.

The other competent financial authority for defence acquisition are the Defence Secretary for deals worth Rs 75 crore, Defence Minister Rs 500 crore, Defence Ministry in concurrence with the Finance Minister for Rs1,000 crore, and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) above that.

Among those at the meeting were Defence Secretary Sashi Kant Sharma, Director-General (Acquisition) Vivek Rae and senior Army officials.

Among the major Army acquisitions that are pending are the Rs 20,000-crore (over $4 billion) worth of artillery guns to replace the ageing inventory and air defence weapons.

Gen. Singh had in his latest letter to the Prime Minister written in March pointed out that the Army had major gaps in its air defence, artillery, night vision capabilities and infantry

In an unrelated event, the Army Chief had given an interview to the media in which he claimed that a retired Lieutenant General had offered him a bribe of Rs 14 crore for approving a contract for 600 trucks for the Army.

Both the developments had caused a major uproar in Parliament. Some political parties wanted the Army Chief to be sacked.

The Intelligence Bureau has been asked to find out who leaked the letter from the Army Chief to the Prime Minister. — IANSBack




Star bags Indian cricket TV rights

CHENNAI: Star Group today beat competition from Multi-Screen Media (Sony) to bag six-year broadcast and digital rights of India's international cricket matches at home and domestic events like the Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy and Irani Trophy.

Star, in collaboration with ESPNCricinfo, bagged the broadcast, Internet and mobile rights in India for a period of six years starting from July 2012 till March 2018.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned company's six-year contract is valued at Rs 3,851 crore and will cover 96 matches in all.

It would be coughing up Rs 40 crore per match on an average much higher than the Rs 32.5 crore per match that Nimbus was paying the BCCI before its contract was terminated last year due to default in payments.

Star and Multi-Screen Media (Sony) were the only two companies to make the bids but a total of five had filed the tenders.

"The BCCI is very happy with the deal. Now the media rights have been fully evaluated and fully priced with Star coming out with a such a deal," BCCI President N. Srinivasan told reporters while making the announcement.

The second highest bidder was Multi-Screen Media (Sony), which bid Rs 3,700 crore.

"Following a transparent process of verifying the eligibility of each bidder, the winner was chosen," Srinivasan said.

Star Group's India CEO Uday Shankar promised that the company would provide good telecast of the matches.

"I thank the BCCI for giving Star the broadcast rights.

In collaboration with our partner ESPN, we will do a commendable job," he said.

"We have already got channels. But the option of launching a channel if number of matches demand that is always open," he added.

ESPN-Star already have the rights of all ICC events and also the rights of domestic cricket in England and Australia.

The BCCI's marketing committee had set the price for category A games at Rs 31.25 crore per match (approx $6.1 million) plus Rs 1 crore (approx $0.2 million), while category B games were set at Rs 34 crore (approx $6.67 million) plus Rs 1 crore.

The board failed in its attempt to sell the Internet rights separately last year, as the initial base price of Rs 3 crore and the subsequently reduced price of Rs 2 crore found no takers.

The matter has subsequently been referred for arbitration, with the Bombay High Court ruling that Nimbus must deposit Rs 305 crore (approx $60 million) with the court as security for the amount the BCCI claims it is owed by the company.

Nimbus has also made a counter-claim of Rs 600 crore (approx $118 million) from the board. — PTIBack




CBI broadens Tatra probe

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is likely to question Vectra group chief Ravi Rishi today again over the bribery allegations made by Army chief VK Singh, according to media reports.

The CBI has issued a lookout notice against the British citizen to bar him from leaving the country. Rishi's passport has also been impounded. Rishi has been questioned twice so far by the CBI.

The London-based Non-Resident Indian businessman Ravi Rishi is an accused in a case involving alleged irregularities in the purchase of more than 6,000 Tatra trucks for the Indian Army after 1997.

Authorities at all airports and exit points have been sent Rishi’s particulars, photograph and passport details. The move came two days after army chief Gen VK Singh sent his complaint, confirming that Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh had allegedly offered him an unspecified amount as a bribe for clearing a consignment of ‘sub-standard’ Tatra trucks in 2010.  The CBI is likely to register more cases, sources said.




Forensic report awaited in defence official’s death case

New Delhi: Three days since the mysterious deaths of Defence Ministry official Kumar Yashkar Sinha and his wife Archana Sharma, the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) is expected to handover its crucial report to Delhi Police on Monday.

The FSL report is expected to throw new light on the mysterious death of the 42-year-old Deputy Director at the Ministry's Directorate General of Medical Services and his 34-year-old wife, who was a trained classical dancer.

The two were found dead in their official flat in Hudco Place in Defence Colony on Friday.

Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police P.S. Kushwah told reporters that they were "waiting for the FSL report on the evidence collected from the spot" where the bodies were found.

According to Pushkar Sinha, brother of slain defence ministry official, Yashkar went to meet him in Lucknow last week and discussed the enormous work pressure on him.




Jagan Reddy defends land allotments

GUNTUR: Maintaining that Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy's regime made land allotments for employment generation purposes, Kadapa MP Jaganmohan Reddy has asked why the CBI did not look into the allotment of lands made during the previous TDP rule.

Reacting to the CBI chargesheet filed in the illegal assets case involving him, Jagan, while speaking at his 'Odarpu Yatra' in Guntur last night, defended the land allotments during his late father's regime.

"The lands were allotted to private companies in backward Mahaboobnagar and Medak districts to generate large scale employment," he said.

"Why the CBI can not see the land allocation in the heart of Hyderabad made by TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu at throw away prices and also during the present Congress government," he asked.

Meanwhile, unfazed by the developments in the case involving him, Jagan is going ahead with campaign in Assembly segments where bypolls will be held.

He is scheduled to tour Narsapuram and Polavaram constituencies in West Godavari district from Monday. These two Assembly seats are among the 17 constituencies where the by-elections are due. The bypolls in 16 of the 17 seats are necessitated by the disqualification of Congress MLAs who switched loyalty to Jagan and voted against the Congress government in a floor test held in December last year, while another MLA quit in support of Kadapa MP. — PTI





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