A T E S T N E W S
Army Chief briefs Antony on Chinese incursion issue
NEW DELHI: Army Chief General Bikram Singh on Thursday briefed
Defence Minister A. K. Antony on the Chinese incursion issue in Ladakh and the present situation there.
After reviewing the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the Ladakh area with military commanders in the Northern Command, Gen Singh briefed the
Defence Minister on the incursion issue today, Army officials said.
The Army Chief had returned from Jammu and Kashmir yesterday evening after reviewing the situation there with Northern Army Commander Lt Gen K.T. Parnaik, they said.
The Army has given its inputs to the government and the National Security Advisor-headed China Study Group, which is handling the present situation in Ladakh.
The Army has also given various options to the government on the issue, including the aggressive use of military to handle the present situation.
All the options suggested to the China Study Group are being looked at carefully and other stakeholders in the situation have also given their inputs.
The China Study Group is handling the whole issue in consultation with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the
The Army had rushed its troops from the 5 Ladakh Scouts battalion to the DBO area and they are camping there. The force is also considering the option of dispatching additional troops if the need arises.
On April 15, a platoon-strength contingent of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) had come 10 km inside the Indian territory in Burthe in the DBO sector on the night of April 15 and established a tented post there. — PTI
Salman Khurshid to visit China on May 9 despite standoff
NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will go ahead with his visit to China on May 9 notwithstanding the ongoing standoff between Indian troops and Chinese forces, which intruded deep inside Depsang Valley in Ladakh ten days back.
Khurshid's trip comes ahead of the visit by newly-elected Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India later next month. A lot of significance is being attached to Li's visit, his first abroad after becoming Prime Minister last month.
"I am going on May 9," Khurshid told reporters when asked about his proposed visit to China.
The minister also expressed confidence that India and China will be able to resolve the situation arising after the incursion in Indian territory by Chinese forces.
Noting that there was a working mechanism between the two countries to deal with such issues, Khurshid
said, "Let us allow that mechanism to find its solution and repeatedly it has found. And we have good reasons to believe that it should be able to do it again."
Earlier during his speech at FICCI, Khurshid said "disagreement" on any issue is not "betrayal".
"People ask me what is wrong with India that all its neighbours are not its friends, what is wrong with India? And I tell them, you have an idea of friendship which is different from mine. My idea of friendship is when you are frank, free with each other, you have expectations and you deliver.
"You agree and you disagree, but you have constant faith that a disagreement is not betrayal. A disagreement is like two intelligent people working out life plans and not necessarily kicking the heels saying one is right and one is wrong," he said.
Earlier this week, India had asked China to revert to the status quo position in Depsang Valley in Ladakh.
Khurshid also said that these things happen because there is variance of perception between the two countries as there is no demarcation of the Line of Actual Control.
Terming predictions of doomsday following the current standoff in India-China relations as absurd, Khurshid said, "Somebody asked me is the standoff with China going to dilute your friendship, will it derail your relationship with China, will it mean you will not visit China, will it mean the premier of China will not visit India?"
"Doomsday predictions are absolutely absurd. It's absurd not so much for China as it's absurd for us. Our duty is to serve India, not China. Chinese
Foreign Minister's duty is to serve China and I believe that we have a mutual interest but our concern is our interest and our interest is part of a mutual interest and that is what is very fortunate for us," he said.
The minister underlined the fact that years of friendship should not be destroyed by "some little" thing going wrong.
"We shouldn't destroy years of investment, years of contribution that we have made to this relationship because somewhere some little thing goes wrong. One little spot is acne which cannot force you to say that this is not a beautiful face.
"...That acne can be addressed by simply applying an ointment," he said, adding this should not be considered as a surrender or admission of defeat.
"Ointment is part of the process of growing up just as acne is part of the process of growing up. And the relations between India and China is a relationship which is growing up. We had started off as children who fought over something they needed, demanded or believe were there's. They have grown up into two beautiful adults who can talk about these things and who can find a solution," he said.
Asked whether the current standoff will impact trade relations between the two countries, Khurshid said, "If your relationships deteriorate then your trade will get affected, so that is why we don't want the relations to deteriorate when there are no reasons for relations to get deteriorated." — PTI
Govt orders SFIO probe into chit fund companies
NEW DELHI: In the wake of an alleged fraud involving thousands of crores by Kolkata-based Saradha group, the Centre today ordered a SFIO probe into suspected misuse of the public money by various chit fund companies.
A special task force has been set up under the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) to carry out all investigations into such companies, the Corporate Affairs Ministry said today in a statement.
The decision was taken in view of a "larger public interest involved in these cases, and concerns regarding misuse/laundering by such companies of the ill-gotten wealth and the possibility that the promoters of these companies may strip these companies," the
The probe follows raging public protest against alleged duping of lakhs of investors by Saradha group through their
chit fund and other money-pooling activities in West Bengal.
After being on the run for several days, Saradha Group Chief Sudipta Sen was arrested in Kashmir valley two days ago and has been brought to Kolkata.
The Corporate Affairs Ministry said that the Task Force will also coordinate with other law enforcement agencies and regulators wherever required, in its investigations.
Capital market regulator SEBI has already passed an order against one group entity, Saradha Realty India, asking it to wind up all collective investment schemes and refund the money collected from investors.
Besides, SEBI is also probing at least ten other Saradha entities for raising funds without the regulator's approval.
The Income Tax Department would also soon start its investigations into the activities of this group.
Without specifically naming Saradha group, the Corporate Affairs Ministry said it has "taken note of the misuse by certain chit fund companies who have raised huge sums of money from the public at large."
The ministry said the probe has been ordered in view of a larger public interest involved in the issues, although the state governments are the appropriate authorities for regulation of such chit fund companies and schemes under the Chit Fund Act, 1982.
"... it has been decided by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to set up a Special Task Force in the SFIO to investigate the affairs of such companies. Accordingly, all investigations into such companies are being entrusted to SFIO with immediate effect," it said.
The decision to order a probe came after a meeting taken by the Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot of the top ministry officials this morning, where activities of Saradha group and other money-pooling entities were discussed.
Besides Saradha group, the meeting also deliberated on steps required to check suspected fraudulent activities of other chit fund companies, sources said.
The alleged scam at Saradha group is said to have defrauded thousands of investors, including poor people.
In the past, the ministry had received complaints of alleged ponzi schemes at 73 companies of about a dozen different groups in West Bengal. These complaints, which also include those against Saradha group entities, were referred to concerned agencies and departments by the Ministry.
Saradha group has more than 100 firms registered with the RoC (Registrar of Companies) for businesses across sectors including real estate, auto, education and entertainment.
Most of these companies are registered with names starting with 'Saradha', while there are also firms with other names. Authorities are already looking into alleged ponzi or multi-level marketing schemes of at least ten Saradha firms.
Majority of the group's firms are into real estate. These include Saradha Build-Dev, Saradha Realty India, Saradha Infra Properties, Saradha Township, Saradha Villa and Saradha Housing. The group also has registered companies related to education, exports, automobiles, shopping mall, agro development, tour and travels, among others.
Opposition demands Chacko’s removal
NEW DELHI: Opposition and DMK members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on 2G on Thursday demanded the ouster of chairperson P.C. Chacko for being “highly partisan” and asked Speaker Meira Kumar to replace him with a new chief.
The 15 Joint Parliamentary Committee members belonging to BJP, JD(U), AIADMK, DMK, Left parties, TMC, and BJD met the Speaker and expressed “no-confidence” in Chacko on grounds of “highly partisan, unfair and prejudicial” conduct as also leakage of the draft report.
The JPC has 30 members, including Chacko.
Congress, NCP, BSP and SP are supporting the chairperson. Though SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has said prime accused A. Raja should have been called by the JPC as he wanted to depose, the party does not wish to go to the extent of seeking Chacko’s removal.
Amid opposition plans to corner the JPC Chairman over clean chit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the much-talked about meeting of the panel to adopt the draft report was today postponed following death of a Lok Sabha
Chacko said that the new date would be announced indicating that it would be possible only next week as some members have expressed “inconvenience” if it is held on Friday.
The NDA members submitted one letter to the Speaker against Chacko while the other parties gave separate letters.
In the letters — which were formulated by these parties in consultation with each other — the members expressed their anger at the manner in which
Chacko conducted the proceedings.
His behaviour has been “unfair, prejudicial and unbecoming of the post to which he was appointed”, the letters said.
Members alleged that Chacko has failed in his duty to lead the JPC to bring out the truth. “Instead he has used the JPC to conceal and subvert the truth,” the members said.
They also alleged that the report was leaked to the media before they were given copies.
Expressing “no confidence” in Chacko, these members urged Meira Kumar to immediately replace him. The 15 members later said Kumar promised that she will look into their demand.
This action from the non-Congress members was precipitated due to the cancellation of Thursday’s JPC meeting — due to the death of TMC MP Ambika Banerjee — in which the report was to be adopted. They had earlier planned to press for a vote on the draft report at Thursday’s JPC meeting.
The draft report has given a clean chit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. — PTI
Bangladesh building collapse toll rises to 194, many still trapped
SAVAR, Bangladesh: With deep cracks visible in the walls, police had ordered a Bangladesh garment building evacuated the day before its deadly collapse, but the factories flouted the order and kept more than 2,000 people working, officials said Thursday. At least 194 people died when a huge section of the eight-story building splintered into a pile of concrete.
The disaster in the Dhaka suburb of Savar came less than five months after a blaze killed 112 people in a garment factory and underscored the unsafe conditions faced by Bangladesh's garment workers, who produce clothes for brands worn around the world. Some of the companies in the building that fell say their customers include retail giants such as Wal-Mart.
Hundreds of rescuers, some crawling through the maze of rubble in search of survivors and corpses, worked through the night and into Thursday amid the cries of the trapped and the wails of workers' relatives gathered outside the building, called Rana Plaza, which housed numerous garment factories and a handful of other companies.
An Associated Press cameraman who went into the rubble with rescue workers spoke briefly to a man pinned face down in the darkness between concrete slabs and next to two corpses. Mohammad Altab pleaded for help, but they were unable to free him.
"Save us, brother. I beg you, brother. I want to live," moaned Altab, a garment worker. "It's so painful here ... I have two little children."
Another survivor, whose voice could be heard from deep in the rubble, wept as he called for help.
"We want to live brother; it's hard to remain alive here. It would have been better to die than enduring such pain to live on. We want to live. Please save us," the man cried.
After the cracks were reported Tuesday, managers of a local bank that also had an office in the building evacuated their workers. The garment factories, though, kept working, ignoring the instructions of the local industrial police, said Mostafizur Rahman, a director of that paramilitary police force.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association had also asked the factories to suspend work starting Wednesday morning, hours before the collapse.
"After we got the crack reports, we asked them to suspend work until further examination, but they did not pay heed," said Atiqul Islam, the group's president.
On Thursday morning, the odor of rotting bodies wafted through holes cut into the building. Junior minister for Home Affairs, Shamsul Haque, said that by late Thursday morning a total of 2,000 people had been rescued from the wreckage.
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder, who is overseeing army rescue teams, said the death toll had climbed to 194 as of Thursday afternoon.
Dozens of bodies, their faces covered, were laid outside a local school building so relatives could identify them. Thousands of workers' family members gathered outside the building, waiting for news, as thousands of garment workers from nearby factories took to the streets across the industrial zone in protest.
Shikder said rescue operations were progressing slowly and carefully, so that as many survivors as possible could be saved.
He said rescue teams were standing by with heavy equipment and would "start bulldozing the debris once we get closer to the end of the operation. But now we are careful."
He also said the size of the crowd was interfering with getting more rescuers to the scene.
"We are ready with about 1,000 soldiers and rescue workers from other departments. But a huge crowd is obstructing our effort," he said.
The garment manufacturers' group said the factories in the building employed 3,122 workers but it was not clear how many were in the building when it collapsed.
Searchers worked through the night to probe the jumbled mass of concrete with drills or their bare hands, passing water and flashlights to people pinned inside.
"I gave them whistles, water, torchlights. I heard them cry," said fire official Abul Khayer late Wednesday, as he prepared to work late into the night.
Abdur Rahim, an employee who worked on the fifth floor, said a factory manager gave assurances that the cracks in the building were no cause for concern, so employees went inside.
"After about an hour or so, the building collapsed suddenly," Rahim said. The next thing he remembered was regaining consciousness outside.
On a visit to the site, home minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir told reporters the building had violated construction codes and that "the culprits would be punished."
Abdul Halim, an official with the engineering department in Savar, said the owner was originally allowed to construct a five-story building but he added another three stories illegally.
Local police chief Mohammed Asaduzzaman said police and the government's Capital Development Authority have filed separate cases of negligence against the building owner.
Habibur Rahman, police superintendent of the Dhaka district, identified the owner as Mohammed Sohel Rana, a local leader of ruling Awami League's youth front. Rahman said police were also looking for the owners of the garment factories.
Among the garment makers in the building were Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms. Altogether, they produced several million shirts, pants and other garments a year. The New Wave companies, according to their website, make clothing for major brands including North American retailers The Children's Place and Dress Barn, Britain's Primark, Spain's Mango and Italy's Benetton. Ether Tex said Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, was one of its customers.
Many of the retailers distanced themselves from the disaster, saying they were not involved with the factories at the time of the collapse or had not recently ordered garments from them. Only Primark acknowledged it was using a factory in Rana Plaza.
Benetton said in an email to The Associated Press that people involved in the collapse were not Benetton suppliers. Wal-Mart said it was investigating and Mango said it had only discussed production of a test sample of clothing with one of the factories.
The Savar suburb is home to dozens of garment factories. The collapse was even deadlier than the November factory fire that drew international attention to working conditions in Bangladesh's $20 billion-a-year textile industry. The country has about 4,000 garment factories and exports clothes to leading Western retailers, and the industry wields vast power in the South Asian nation.
The Tazreen factory that caught fire lacked emergency exits, and its owner said only three floors of the eight-story building were legally built. Surviving employees said gates had been locked and managers had told them to go back to work after the fire alarm went off. — AP