Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Unveiling of Statue of Unity is a fitting tribute to Iron Man of India

AKBToday is the 143rd birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first Home Minister, known as the Iron Man of India. On this occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will dedicate to the nation the world’s tallest statue, a 153-metre high Statue of Unity in Gujarat.

It is a fitting tribute to this great son of India, who, immediately after independence, went about with quick precision, strong political will and administrative efficiency to bring about the merger of over 550 diverse princely states into the Indian Union. Sardar Patel and his team patiently negotiated with all the princely states one by one and ensured that the princely states became part of free India. The map of India is what it is today, because of this Herculean effort.

Installation of a statue is not as important as developing the space around the statue. The entire space surrounding the Statue of Unity has been developed as a tourist spot. There is a viewing gallery offering a 360-degree view, a flower valley created by skilled artisans, a museum, and a boating place.

The tourist spot is going to provide immense job opportunities to the people of Narmada district. This was a plan, which Narendra Modi could have envisioned, when he was Chief Minister, and the entire credit goes to him for bringing this dream project to reality.

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How to survive in Delhi NCR’s polluted air, whose levels have become abysmal

AKA_frame_12513 (002)The National Capital Region of Delhi recorded the worst air quality of the season on Monday, with the Air Quality Index reaching 367, which is considered ‘very poor’. This is the state of Delhi’s air as of now, nine days before Diwali, when the atmosphere of the capital will be filled with unbearable, choking smoke with the bursting of millions of firecrackers.

India TV on Monday carried out a reality check across the NCR and found the air quality deteriorating. Ghaziabad reached an AQI of 430 (severe), Gurgaon reached 389, Noida 374 and Faridabad 358 (all very poor). A reading between 201 and 301 is treated as ‘poor’ on the AQI index set up by Central Pollution Control Board. Readings between 301 and 400 are classified as ‘very severe’ and those above 400 are treated as ‘severe’ with the maximum limit kept at 500.

To add to these woes, the number of crop stubble fires in Punjab and Haryana has shot up dramatically in the last two days. NASA satellite data predict that pollutants from crop stubble fires are likely to impact air quality in NCR over the next few days.

The Supreme Court on Monday directed transport departments of Delhi and neighbouring states to impound all 15-year-old petrol and 10-year-old diesel vehicles, after it was revealed by the amicus curiae that there has been 40 per cent increase in vehicular pollution in NCR. Vehicular pollution contributes 41 per cent to the overall air pollution in NCR, the apex court was told.

Experts say that the air quality in NCR is so toxic that on a rough average, a child inhales smoke equivalent to smoking 6.5 cigarettes. The air is so polluted that every day the average life of a citizen living in NCR gets reduced by two and a half hours.

Even as the judiciary and executive are trying to find out means to tackle air pollution, companies selling air purifies and masks are raking in the moolah. Air purifiers are being sold anywhere from Rs 12,000 to Rs 1,30,000, but India TV reality checks showed these air purifies are useless considering the level of air quality.

I would like to share a simple step to tackle air pollution at home. A research was conducted in IIT Kanpur on three plants –

  1. Areca palm (also known as living room plant) which absorbs formaldehyde and carbon monoxide and gives out fresh air,
  2. Mother in law tongue plant (also known as snake plant or bedroom plant) which can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen even at night, and
  3. Money plant, which absorbs most of the toxins from air and provides fresh air.

One may not be able to tackle air pollution in this megapolis, but use of these easily available plants at home can give people at least a breath of fresh air in their domestic environs. Widespread use of these plants can also help in reducing air pollution in the city to some extent.

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Supreme Court has taken a balanced view in CBI internal feud

akb (1)The Supreme Court on Friday took a balanced view in the ongoing feud between top CBI officials, by refusing to give immediate stay on the government order sending CBI director Alok Verma on leave.

It also directed the CVC probe against Verma to be completed within 14 days under supervision of a retired SC Judge A K Patnaik, and restrained the interim director M. Nageswara Rao from taking any major policy decision.

Had the apex court stayed the government order sending Verma on leave, it could have been a major embarrassment for the Centre and would have come as a big boost to Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who led countrywide protests by his partmen on Friday against the Centre’s role in the CBI feud.

Rahul Gandhi has been alleging that the CBI director was going to order probe into the Rafale deal, but he was sent on leave to scuttle the probe. Rahul Gandhi should understand that the government’s step to untangle the CBI mess has nothing to do with Rafale deal. Neither was there any file in CBI on Rafale, nor any inquiry ordered.

To allege that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed the CBI chief because he was going to probe the Rafale deal, may be a good political move for Rahul Gandhi, but this charge is not supported by facts. The Congress had hoped that the Supreme Court would stay the order against Alok Verma, but it did not happen. Naturally, the protests fizzled out soon after the SC gave its order.

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Midnight purge in CBI by Centre, though belated, is justified

akb 2In a dramatic midnight operation, the Centre on Tuesday sent both the feuding No.1 and No.2 officials of CBI on leave, appointed a joint director as interim chief and transferred as many as 13 CBI officers. This was done after the Central Vigilance Commission sent its report to the government complaining that the outgoing CBI director Alok Verma was stonewalling information on complaints made by his deputy Rakesh Asthana against his chief.

The Centre’s action, though belated, is fair and justified. In one stroke, it removed both the feuding senior CBI officials who were involved in an internecine war for the last one year. The CVC’s report against the CBI chief clearly underlined the need for urgent action on part of the PMO. Till Tuesday, the PMO had stayed away from the internal feud in CBI, because it was wary of charges of interference from the opposition, but the moment the CVC gave its report, the government galvanized itself into action and axed both the feuding officers.

This is clear indication that the Centre is going to take a similar action in the case of other investigating agencies where such feuds are taking place. As far as the Opposition is concerned, those who were complaining about Prime Minister Narendra Modi being silent about the feud in CBI till Tuesday, are now asking why the surgical operation was carried out. The answer to this needs no elaboration.

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Civil society leaders must come forward to spread awareness about air pollution

AKBThe Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that only “green” firecrackers will be allowed during fireworks on Diwali, Gurpurab and other festival days strictly from 8 pm till 10 pm, and on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, fireworks will be allowed from 11.55 pm till 12.30 am.

The apex court turned down the plea for a blanket ban on manufacture and sale of firecrackers across India, but set stringent standards for their manufacture. Online sale of firecrackers has been banned. The “green” firecrackers are supposed to have reduced noise and emission levels. The court also banned “joined firecrackers” (‘ladi’) and directed police to ensure that only “green” firecrackers are sold throughout the country.

“Say No to crackers” campaign has been carried out in schools and colleges for the last several decades. Students are taught about air pollution created by firecrackers. While the campaign has been successful to a large extent, yet fireworks continue to take place on Diwali nights and during other festivals. The Supreme Court directive may have the desired results to some extent.

Air pollution is caused not by fireworks alone but also due to indiscriminate burning of stubble in fields by farmers. This too needs to be curbed. Industries near big cities also add poison to the air through emission of fumes and smoke. Dust emanating from construction sites, and fumes from vehicles exhaust also add to air pollution.

It is not possible to curb all these through strict enforcement of laws only, nor through stern court directives. Mass public cooperation is needed. People must be made to understand that minor mistakes can cause serious air pollution. Schools and colleges, parents in homes, spiritual gurus and other leaders of civil society must come forward to create awareness about air pollution.

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Navjot Singh Sidhu is lying in order to hide his wife’s mistake

akb 2On Dussehra evening, Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Dr Navjot Kaur addressed a crowd at a Ravana effigy burning event in Amritsar. As the effigies were being burnt, a train crossed the railway tracks crushing more than 61 people to death in a gruesome tragedy. Seeing the melee, she immediately left the venue in her car.

As more and more injured people were brought to hospital, she appeared on TV to say that she came to know about the accident 15 minutes after she left the spot. That was a plain white lie. The videos from the accident spot clearly nail her lie.

Nobody would have blamed Dr Navjot Kaur had she not uttered this lie. First, she reached the venue late, gave her speech, and as soon as the accident took place, she just vanished. Dr Navjot Kaur was told at the venue that many people had been run over by a train, and yet she left the spot.

Nobody is saying that Navjot Kaur’s action to leave the spot was deliberate. Mistakes sometimes do occur. It would have been better if she had admitted her mistake. But in order to hide one lie, more and more lies are being spouted not only by her, but by her husband Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. The former cricketer is now shifting the blame on Railways to hide his wife’s mistake.

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Several questions arise over tragic train accident in Amritsar

akbThe tragic train accident that took place in Amritsar on Friday evening during Dussehra celebrations is truly spine chilling. It was a disaster in the making and it raises several questions about our system.

Railway officers claim that the crowd had gathered on the tracks despite the gates remaining closed at Joda Phatak crossing, because two trains were to pass at that time. But local eyewitnesses have a different view.

There are some disturbing questions that remain, and the nation needs answers. One, the Dussehra effigy burning event used to take place at that spot every year, which was close to rail tracks, then why didn’t the administration took steps to control the crowd?

Two, why didn’t the local railway officials sent employees to stop the crowd from spilling over the rail tracks ?

Three, the railway crossing gate may have remained closed, but why weren’t the local residents alerted by railway officials about two trains passing through simultaneously?

Four, when railway officials knew that a Dussehra event was taking place close to the rail tracks, why wasn’t the speed of train reduced ?

Five, two trains were to cross the tracks at that time, and local railway officials had prior information. Then, why didn’t they take the initiative to caution the crowd that had gathered on the tracks ?

Six, since the Dussehra event was well publicized, why didn’t the railway officials at Amritsar station delay the crossing of the trains till the event was over ?

Seven, Why was there no coordination between the local administration and railway officials?

Eight, why didn’t the local police fail to keep people away from rail tracks ?

And Nine, the last question: If Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu was present at the event, why did she leave in haste and did not stay back for rescue operations?

These are questions, and we shall continuously try to seek the right answers.

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BJP spokespersons were finding it difficult to defend M. J. Akbar

akbUnion Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar resigned on Wednesday saying “since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me, also in a personal capacity”. Nearly 20 women journalists who had worked with Akbar in newspapers have levelled accusations of sexual misconduct against him when he was an editor.

For the BJP, its spokespersons were finding it difficult to defend the minister in public. The day women journalists levelled charges of sexual harassment against Akbar, who was then in Africa, it was almost clear that he may have to quit. The only question was: when. Akbar returned to India, filed a criminal defamation suit against a woman journalist in a Delhi court, and on Wednesday he tendered his resignation.

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Tuesday met Akbar and later he called on the BJP President Amit Shah. By that time, it was almost clear that Akbar would be asked to quit. BJP leaders were being constantly asked questions about Akbar and they were finding it difficult to answer. With Akbar’s resignation, the party spokespersons can now breath a sigh of relief. It is now for the court to decide on the merits of the charges levelled against Akbar.

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Law should show delinquent VIP brats their true place

akb_17 oct (003)On Saturday night, Ashish Pandey, the son of a Bahujan Samaj Party leader from UP, brandished his pistol in full view of others inside the portico of Hotel Grand Hyatt in New Delhi, and threatened a couple, after mouthing obscenities. Three young women accompanying him were also seen in the video mouthing filthy abuses at the couple, who appeared to be shaken.

The incident would have remained under wraps but the video, taken by one of the women accompanying Pandey, made its way to the social media. As news channels flashed the video, Delhi and UP police sprung into action, and the son of the politician went underground.

The young man, who was publicly displaying his swagger, holding the pistol in his right hand, and threatening the couple, suddenly vanished, realizing the enormity of his crime. Such people are enemies of civil society. They unleash their power with abandon, with scant regard to law, and go to the extent of committing murders and rapes.

This incident reminds one of Jessica Lal murder case, where the son of a heavyweight Haryana politician, shot at the model, who was acting as bartender, for refusing to serve him liquor.

The background check of Pandey’s family reveals that his father and uncle have already several criminal cases slapped against them, and yet they are part of our political system. Moreover, their son seemed to have learnt all the ropes from his seniors and has the temerity to swagger around, holding a pistol and threatening people in a public place.

Such offsprings of politicians brazenly use money, muscle and political power to evade jail. Time has come for the law to show them their right place, otherwise these brats will continue to indulge in muscle flexing and shock civil society with their tantrums.

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How terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s outfit tried to build a mosque in Haryana with hawala money

akbbb (003)The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested three persons from Old Delhi and Nizamuddin on charge of bringing hawala money from a person in Middle East, who is an office bearer of Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation, a front organisation of Pakistani terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed.

The most worrying thing about this raid is that hawala money from Hafiz Saeed’s outfit was channelized to build a mosque in Palwal, Haryana.

Mosques are places of worship, and no religion allows building of a place of worship with terror funding. These terrorists have nothing to do with Islam, nor with mosque and neither with humanity. For them, a mosque is a tool for carrying out terror attacks.

Muslims living in Palwal did not have even a faint knowledge about the source of money that was being given to build a mosque. The question is, why NIA raised finger at this mosque and not at thousands of mosques across India?

The NIA was working on this terror module for last several months. Rs 1.5 crore cash was recovered from those arrested, and one of the accused confessed that he had given Rs 70 lakhs to build the mosque. Citizens should be on alert about the source of funds that come in for building places of worship.

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How to stop stubble burning and save Delhi from air pollution

AKBIndia TV on Friday gave a ground reality check from different places in Haryana and Punjab to show that farmers have already started burning stubble in their fields, leading to massive air pollution. This will ultimately affect air quality in National Capital Region and the surrounding areas. This is due to lack of spreading awareness among farmers, who are in a hurry to dispose of the paddy stubble in order to start fresh sowing from Rabi season. In some instances, in Punjab and Haryana, local village panchayats have allowed farmers to burn stubble, and in some other cases, they have threatened to cut the stubble and dump them in front of the Collector’s office.

Immediate action is needed to prevent farmers from burning stubble, otherwise it will be a repeat of previous years, when smog will set in with the early onset of winter in Delhi. Farmers say they are unable to bear costs for cutting off and transporting stubble for disposal, and burning them is the only way out.

There are three different options available to reach a solution. One, agricultural scientists have prepared decompost, which if mixed with stubble, can decompose them and increase soil productivity. The problem is that not much decompost is right now available nor are the farmers aware about it. If this decompost is provided to farmers free of cost, much of the stubble can be disposed of.

The second option: government can offer to buy stubble from farmers at a fixed rate, so that farmers can recover the cost of cutting off and transporting stubble. These can be used for rope making, and already some farmers have started doing this.

The third option: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has already said in Aap Ki Adalat that government can buy stubble from farmers in order to make ethanol, which can be used as a bio-fuel.

Time is short, and I would appeal to the Centre and respective state governments to act fast. Farmers cannot wait for long. Burning of stubble in fields have been going on for years, and smoke emanating from such fires have choked Delhi’s air quality. Old persons and children living in the capital suffer the most, leading to rise in cases of asthma. We cannot lose time any more.

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A tie-up with BSP could have been advantageous for Congress in MP

AKBIndia TV on Thursday telecasted an opinion poll based upon a pre-poll survey conducted by CNX and the projections showed that BJP may get a comfortable majority, though with reduced strength, in the forthcoming Madhya Pradesh assembly elections.

Since polling is more than a month away, this opinion poll can be considered as preliminary. In politics, situations, issues and circumstances change. A single issue can upstage all predictions in an election. No opinion poll can be called final, but the pre-poll survey gave a fairly clear idea about the mood of the people in Madhya Pradesh.

All hopes of Congress rest on anti-incumbency factor, and it is true that there has been a decline in the vote share and number of seats projected for BJP. But one thing to note is that: after being in power for 15 years, if most of the respondents show their clear preference for BJP, then it means that anti-incumbency factor has not cut much ice in the minds of the people.

One particular thing to note is that had the Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party stiched an alliance, their combined vote share would have been more than that of the BJP. Of course, in elections, two plus two never makes four, and there is always the X factor. One can however safely say that a Congress-BSP tie-up could have been advantageous for the main opposition party. For the moment, it looks as if Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is way ahead of the rest.

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