Centre seeks funds from Delhi for 427 electric buses

Stressing the need for a robust last-mile connectivity, the Centre has urged the Delhi government to release funds to procure 427 electric buses by Delhi Metro Rail Corp (DMRC).

Informed sources said that DMRC had submitted a proposal in January 2018 to the Delhi government for providing a grant under the Viability Gap Funding (VGF) for the procurement of the buses to boost its feeder service. The request has been pending since then.

The Secretary in the central Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Durga Shanker Mishra, has written to Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Dev requesting him to intervene and expedite the approval of the DMRC proposal.

VGF is a grant to support projects that are economically justified but not financially viable. It was launched in 2004 to support infrastructure projects that fall under Public Private Partnerships.

“You are aware that provision of a good feeder service towards last mile connectivity improves modal shift from private transport to mass transit system like metro rail,” Mishra’s letter read.

“In Delhi this is a challenge and needs to be addressed squarely so as to provide easy accessibility to commuters from homes to offices, hospitals, institutes, shopping centres.

“This will not only reduce the congestion, vehicular pollution and accidents but also enhance the ridership of Delhi Metro,” Mishra added.

Mishra said the DMRC had said that it has submitted the proposal and flagged it several times, besides providing necessary clarification.

The State Transport Authority in Delhi had agreed in principle to support the proposal, he said.

Mishra added that the DMRC had invited tenders from various players in the anticipation that the purchase of these buses would be approved.



Bengal MPs blame Mamata for poor MPLADS funds use

Opposition MPs in West Bengal have blamed the “non-cooperation” of Trinamool Congress-led state government and district administrations for unused MPLADS fund, even as Mohammad Salim of the CPI(M) tops the list of state MPs for spending the highest proportion of the funds released.

According to official data, Rs 803.76 crore has been spent out of the total Rs 928.09 crore available under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) during the 16th Lok Sabha. Rs 124.27 crore remain unspent till date.

The Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation specifies the role of MPs is limited to recommending the projects and it is the responsibility of the district authorities to sanction, execute and complete the works.

Babul Supriyo (BJP) who is seeking re-election from Asansol has spent 72.68 per cent of the MPLADS funds.

However, BJP Darjeeling MP S.S. Ahluwalia, who has recorded 56.30 per cent utilisation of the released MPLADS funds, claimed he recommended about 312 projects worth Rs 25.22 crore till January end, but 228 of them were yet to be processed.

“The Trinamool government had categorically instructed officers not to approve projects recommended by BJP MPs. This is a complete non-cooperation by district authorities. Since I have recommended, funds for development in Darjeeling will be used sooner or later,” Ahluwalia told IANS.

Beharampur MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress had a similar complaint. “We were not allowed to spend the funds by the state administration.”

The four-term Congress MP used 79.85 per cent of the amount released, his party’s Malda South MP Abu Hasem Choudhury used 74.63 per cent and former President Pranab Mukherjee’s son and party’s Jangipur MP Abhijit Mukherjee 91.80 per cent.

Mohammad Salim, seeking re-election from Raiganj, used 115.14 per cent of the released funds and recommended around Rs 28.88 crore for developmental work of which Rs 21.51 crore was sanctioned. The amount available with interest in Salim’s MPLADS was Rs 20.98 crore.

Badaruddoza Khan, CPI(M) MP from Murshidabad seat, who is also seeking re-election, told IANS: “The Trinamool government did not allow us to spend MPLADS funds. I have written to the Prime Minister and the Lok Sabha Speaker seeking their interventions. About Rs 12.5 crore fund was sanctioned.” He has used 73.32 per cent of the funds.

Refuting allegations, Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy told IANS: “Our focus has been development and we have been relentlessly working towards it, while the Opposition leaders lack interest. The allegations are their excuses for their own failure.”

Among the Trinamool Congress MPs whose fund utilisation has been over 100 per cent are mostly either first-time parliamentarians or those belonging to the entertainment industry like Jhargram’s MP Uma Soren, Sandhya Roy (Medinipur), Deepak (Dev) Adhikari (Ghatal) and Satabdi Roy (Birbhum).

Party veteran and Kolkata South MP Subrata Bakshi secured 100.46 per cent funds utilisation.

Opposition MPs also alleged the TMC refused tickets to better performers like Soren, Roy and Bakshi. But Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee refuted the charge saying Roy asked for “a more sedate responsibility owing to her ill-health” and Bakshi preferred to work for the party.

Anupam Hazra and Soumitra Khan, who were expelled from the Trinamool for anti-party activities and joined the BJP subsequently, have ensured 89.44 per cent and 98.42 per cent utilisation, respectively. Hazra is contesting from Jadavpur while Khan is in the fray from Bishnupur.



Sack Smriti Irani for misusing MPLAD funds says Congress

Citing a CAG report indicting Union Minister Smriti Irani for making a payment of nearly Rs 6 crore from MPLAD funds without a tender, the Congress on Thursday demanded her sacking and also registering an FIR against the BJP MP from Gujarat.

“Time has come to sack Union Minister Smriti Irani and lodge an FIR against her for proper investigation under Prevention of Corruption Act, and different provisions of Indian Penal Code,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted pointing to the CAG findings.

“This is a clear-cut case of misuse of office and fraud vis-a-vis public money and Prime Minister Narendra Modi should immediately sack Irani and order for initiating criminal proceedings against her.”

The CAG report on the general and social sector for the year ended March 2017, has charged Irani with “injudicious awarding of works under MPLADS to an NGO without inviting tenders resulted in irregular payment of Rs 5.93 crore including fraudulent payment of Rs 84.53 lakh to the NGO”.

Irani, the Union Textile Minister, selected Anand district as her nodal district for implementation of works under the MPLAD scheme.

“Audit observed that the selection of the NGO (Sharda Majoor Kamdar Co-operative Society), as implementing authority was in contravention of the scheme guidelines and government instructions, as no tender procedure was followed for its selection,” reads the report.

Reporting the matter to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat, the CAG recommended investigating all the works by the NGO.

“Since the tendering process, scope of work awarded and payment processes were violated, therefore audit is of the view that these works are susceptible to fraudulent and irregular payments.

“Audit recommends that the State Government should investigate all the works carried out by the NGO and fix responsibility on the Government officials responsible for the negligence. The matter was reported to the Government (September 2017). Reply is awaited (February 2018),” the report added.

Congress Gujarat MLA and spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil said the NGO selected by Irani is supposed to be a co-operative society of construction labourers, but all the members actually belong to the BJP.

Gohil also referred to a letter by the Anand district collector written on June 20, 2017, to the Deputy Secretary, General Administration Department, Gujarat pointing out the irregularities and the fraud being committed under the grants received under MPLAD.

Gujarat Congress MLA Amit Chavda has also filed a PIL in the Gujarat High Court demanding an FIR against Irani.



Kashmiri trader got funds from 26/11 mastermind; ED

The Enforcement Directorate has identified some 24 properties across India, including in the national capital, that belong to Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Ahmed Watali and were bought with money received from alleged 26/11 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Watali in August 2017. He is currently lodged in Tihar Jail.

On Monday, the Enforcement Directorate attached Watali’s immovable property worth Rs 1.3 crore in Haryana’s Gurugram. The action was taken under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The financial probe agency is examining cases against Saeed, who is the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), Syed Salahuddin, head of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), and others.

“We have identified 24 properties of Watali, bought in several states including Delhi, Harayana and Uttar Pradesh,” an ED source told IANS.

He refused to share details of these properties.

The value of the said properties is over Rs 15 crore. The source claimed that Watali received the money for the properties for “his services”.

The agency had earlier claimed that documents recovered from Watali’s residence showed that he received money from Saeed, from the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), from the Pakistan High Commission at New Delhi and also from a source based in Dubai.

The source said Watali had a very good relation with Pakistan-based terrorists and terror groups apart from Saeed and Salahuddin.

Watali used to receive instruction from his handlers from across the border to pass the money to the separatist leaders in the Kashmir valley, the source added.

Earlier, on March 8, IANS reported that the ED has also identified six people and several NGOs, who bought properties from the money received from Pakistan-based terror groups.

The ED had filed the case of money laundering based on a NIA case registered in May 2017 for stoking unrest in Jamuu and Kashmir.

The anti-terror agency had on January 18 last year filed charge sheet against 12 people, including Saeed and Salahuddin, seven Kashmiri separatist leaders and others in terror funding.

The ED in 2018 had also questioned Dubai-based hawala operator, Naval Kishore Kapoor, who was arrested by NIA on July 16. Kapoor is currently lodged in Tihar Central Jail, as the ED continues probe into details of funding that emerged post-26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

According to the ED sources, questioning of Kapoor was required as the NIA probe had revealed a lease agreement signed in 2014 between him and Kashmiri businessman Watali.

The agency also has incriminating document against Watali, recovered from the cashier-cum-accountant of the businessman, Ghulam Mohammad Bhatt, during a 2017 raid.

According to ED officials, the Watali, who was arrested by the NIA in August 2017 was remitting the same to the Hurriyat leaders, separatists and stone-pelters of Jammu and Kashmir to stoke unrest.

The officials said that the documents collected from Watali’s residence and office showed that it had been maintained in regular course of his business and was signed by Watali himself.

The NIA in July 2017 had also arrested Aftab Hilali Shah alias Shahid-ul-Islam, Ayaz Akbar Khandey, Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate, Nayeem Khan, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal and Bashir Ahmad Bhat alias Peer Saifullah.

Altaf Ahmad Shah is the son-in-law of hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who advocates Jammu and Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. Shahid-ul-Islam is an aide of moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, and Khandey is the spokesperson for the Geelani-led Hurriyat.