Cong overhaul: After Goa and Karnataka, Digvijaya relieved of charge over Telangana

New Delhi (Hindustan Times): The Congress on Tuesday divested party general secretary Digvijaya Singh of his responsibilities in Telangana as part of a new strategy to have just one senior functionary in charge over each state.

Digvijaya, who was earlier relieved of his charge over Goa and poll-bound Karnataka, now holds the fort only in Andhra Pradesh. Former Rajya Sabha MP and party secretary RC Khuntia will take over his responsibilities in Telangana.

Khuntia, a backward class leader from Odisha, had been assisting Digvijaya in Telangana until now. He has served in the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), a frontal organisation of India’s grand old party, for a long time. Satish Jarkiholi, a recently appointed party secretary who reportedly began hobnobbing with the Janata Dal (Secular) after being dropped from the Karnataka cabinet, will assist Khuntia in his functions.

The other organisational changes effected by Congress president Sonia Gandhi are the creation of two new departments in the party structure. While Thiruvananthapuram MP and former Union minister Shashi Tharoor will head the All India Professionals Congress (AIPC), Arbind Singh will chair the All India Unorganised Workers Congress with Irfan Alam as the vice-chairman.

Arbind, a social entrepreneur, has been associated with the National Association of Street Vendors of India – an organisation working for the upliftment of street vendors across the country. Alam, a Harvard graduate from Bihar, has worked to protect the interests of rickshaw pullers through his NGO – Samman Foundation. Ahead of the 2015 Bihar assembly elections, the state Congress had appointed him as the media advisor and planner of the party’s poll campaign. At one time, Alam even earned the praise of former US president Barack Obama for his work.

The Tharoor-headed AIPC hopes to contribute to the advancement of progressive politics in India by letting citizens network with like-minded peers, engage with political leaders and influencers, and contribute to election campaigns as well as policy formulation activities.

Digvijaya had come under fire for his lacklustre handling of the post-election developments in Goa, where the Congress failed to form the government despite emerging as the single-largest party in the state assembly. After the BJP cobbled together a coalition, chief minister Manohar Parrikar had even offered “special thanks” to Digvijaya for helping the saffron party by “doing absolutely nothing”.

A rebellion had been brewing even in Karnataka’s ruling Congress government. Many state leaders complained to the Congress high command about the party veteran’s style of functioning, and demanded his removal from the post.

The fresh changes are part of a new strategy aimed at adapting to the changing times. It lays down a strict condition that no Congress functionary will be allowed to hold charge over multiple states, even if the person concerned is a general secretary. Moreover, the leaders in charge will be issued a strict directive to focus exclusively on their territories and take steps to strengthen the party’s presence there.

With this basic change in its organisational restructuring process, the party has shunned its decades-old practice of indiscriminately handing charge over multiple states to general secretaries or any other leader of a similar stature. It was devised in view of feedback received by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi that entrusting a single leader with responsibilities in manifold states leaves him/her with little time to do justice to either of them. Many claimed this was the reason behind the Congress losing various electoral battles, and several leaders straying into greener political pastures.

The Congress used to hold sway over 13 states before its worst-ever electoral drubbing in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Today, with just six state governments to its credit, the party can no longer claim to be a dominant political force in the country.

Another organisational strategy unveiled by the Congress constitutes preparing a team for the future by appointing young leaders as secretaries who can assist senior members in managing party affairs in various states. This way, the old guards will not feel ignored either.


Ramya Pranjali Tanna to represent India at “Pride of the Universe 2017” – Fitness, Fashion and Beauty Pageant to be held at Seychelles

The Organising Board for the Pride of the Universe 2017 – Fitness, Fashion and Beauty Pageant today announced that Pune-based model and actress Ramya Pranjali Tanna was selected through a national elimination process to represent India for the “Pride of the Universe 2017” event to be held in Seychelles in November 2017.

Jeanne Shane Morris, Pageant Director told news agency that the nomination of Ramya Pranjali Tanna was accepted by the Board. She was selected after auditioning almost 500 candidates from 20 different cities in India. The national event Pride of India 2017, will be held in October 2017 in Delhi.

Meanwhile, according to reports, director and producer Suneet Vohra has signed on Mumbai-based actress Ramya Pranjali Tanna in a three-film deal for his Tamil-Hindi remake of the original Ravi Chopra-directed Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and Hema Malini starrer Baghban.

The project is as yet untitled and a name is expected soon, once the director and producer are able to register a suitable name, said sources.

Vohra announced this officially last week on his Facebook account saying that the 3-film deal was signed by BrickBat Films, Suneet Vohra and Ramya Pranjali Tanna. Maneesh Singh is the co-producer on this project.

While not much information is available on the financial details of the deal, our source tells us that this Tamil remake is a big budget project and both BrickBat Films and Sunnet Vohra along with co-producer Maneesh Singh would be investing nearly Rs 125 crore in the project.


The 22-year-old actor Ramya Pranjali Tanna speaking to a said that she was thrilled to be part of the three-film deal with BrickBat Films and was looking forward to shooting with the talented and enterprising director Suneet Vohra. Tanna is expected to play the main lead in this project which will be dubbed in Hindi and other Indian languages.

Details of the other two projects are not yet available and Vohra said it would be revealed at the appropriate time.

Baghban was a 2003 Bollywood drama film directed by Ravi Chopra, featuring Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini in lead roles. Aman Verma, Samir Soni, Saahil Chadha and Nasir Kazi portray Bachchan and Malini’s four sons. Mahima Chaudhry, Paresh Rawal, Rimi Sen and Lilette Dubey are featured in supporting roles. It is an unofficial adaptation of the 1937 movie “Make Way for Tomorrow” and many scenes and the plot were inspired from the 1954 Marathi movie Oon Paoos and 1958 Kannada film School Master. It has similar theme as the Hindi film avtaar. It released to cinemas on 3 October 2003.

This film was remade in Kannada as Ee Bandhana in 2007 starring Vishnuvardhan and Jaya Pradha in the leads. Baghban was originally a remake of Oon Paoos, a Marathi film. Raja Paranjape was the lead actor and director of Oon Paoos. It explores themes that are prevalent in the play King Lear by Shakespeare, because Raj suffers much pain and duress at the hands of his children.

Vohra in association with director Maneesh Singh had earlier announced a film on the life of Pakistani social media sensation Qandeel Baloch, but was denied a visa by the Pakistani Government to shoot in Multan – the native village where Baloch lived. Qandeel Baloch was killed by her brothers in a case of honour killing, after she allegedly shot for a raunchy music video, which went viral in Pakistan. Her death shocked the world and the international media went berserk with the story of a young and energetic life lost due to such barbaric social practices such as honour killing.

The film titled “Ghairat” to be directed by Singh, and produced by Vohra was completely shelved after hostilities broke out between India and Pakistan following the Uri attack and the Indian armies surgical strikes at terrorist camps in PoK.

The Indian film producers body – Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) had declared a ban on Pakistani actors working in Indian films and Singh announced that he had temporarily put the Qandeel Baloch film project in the cold storage.

He has now teamed up with Vohra to jointly co-produce the Tamil-Hindi version of a great classic..


BJP MP Roopa Ganguly’s comment on rape triggers controversy, complaint lodged

India Blooms News Service: Creating a controversy, Ganguly, while attacking West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her government, said she would challenge Congress and Trinamool Congress leaders and their supporters to send their female relatives to West Bengal and they will not be able to survive in the state for even 15 days without getting raped.

“I dare all parties who keep flattering the Bengal government and Congress to send the female members of their families to Bengal for 15 days and if they don’t get raped, then tell me,” the actress-turned-politician was quoted as saying by media.

Following the incident, a woman lodged a complaint against the MP at Nimta police station in Kolkata.

However, the controversy took to a new level when the comments were countered by TMC leader  Shovandeb Chattopadhyay.

Chattopadhyay, while interacting with media persons, said: “I cannot understand how a lady who was born in West Bengal and had spent so many years in the state can give such an ugly statement.

“She has not only insulted women from outside but also in the country. I think she has lost her balance otherwise she couldn’t say like that,” he added.

But the second controversy erupted when the TMC MLA directing Ganguly, said: “Before giving any statement, she should have told how many times she had been raped in this state otherwise there is no meaning of giving of such a statement.”

Ganguly was nominated by BJP as the MP of Rajya Sabha in 2016, after the post was vacated following cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu’s resignation.

SOURCE: India Blooms News Service

Maharashtra government plans online system to curb graft in slum projects

By Faisal Malik:  Following allegations of corruption and irregularities, the Maharashtra government has asked the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to introduce an online system for slum redevelopment projects to bring in transparency and weed out delays. The system is likely to be ready in a month, said a senior official from the housing department.

From submitting application to SRA to handing over documents to final approval for project, everything will be done online, said the official.

Slum redevelopment projects in the city are under cloud after a social activist alleged that a bribe of Rs11 crore was offered to him to prevent him from revealing a slum revamp scam. Before this, state housing minister Prakash Mehta allegedly interfered in a slum project in Tardeo. Vishwas Patil, former chief of SRA, was accused of clearing at least 120 files in the last month before he retired.

Under the slum redevelopment scheme, slum residents choose a developer who use their land to build a rehabilitation units and a saleable units. The latter are sold in the open market to fund the rehabilitation units and earn a profit. The developer also gets incentive in the form of buildable area to make the project sustainable. With crores of rupees at stake, SRA projects are mired in corruption and irregularities, thanks to a nexus among builders, bureaucrats and some politicians. The SRA scheme was launched with an aim to clear Mumbai of slums. In the past 21 years, it managed to rehabilitate only 1.53 lakh people. Only 3 lakh houses have been constructed under the scheme.

Apart from the government’s move to go online, it has told all developers to mandatorily register SRA projects with the Real Estate Regulation Authority (RERA), newly-formed housing regulatory authority.

The integrated system will be connected to all government department so that they can verify documents submitted by developers.

“Our objective is to end human intervention and subsequently weed out irregularities and make people accountable for any wrongdoing. This will be achieved by introducing systematic procedure provided by a deadline for issuing each and every permission,” the official said.

“The system will verify documents on its own and issue approvals without any human intervention. We are also in the process of making software for the same,” said a senior official of SRA.

The documents being used for the online process have to be self-attested, which means that the parties will have to take the onus for any wrong doing, he said.

Earlier, there was no mechanism to check the veracity of the submitted documents. Now everything will be in public domain as the entire set of documents and the status of every project will be made available on the SRA website for the public, the officer added.

However, three things will be done manually as they cannot be completed online. These include area measurement, slum plan and head count of tenants (tenants’ verification) by the authorities.

The housing activists have welcomed the development but are also sceptical about its implementation. Santosh Daunkar, a housing activist, who has exposed several scams, said, “Bringing such a process is a good move but the government needs to ensure there are no loopholes. There are instances where senior officer put pressure on their subordinates to cleare a file. I hope the online system will prevent this.”


Indian coast guard makes record 1.5 tonne heroin bust valued at USD 550 million

AHMEDABAD, India (AFP) – India’s coast guard announced on Sunday (July 30) it had seized 1.5 tonnes of heroin worth almost US$550 million (S$746 million) from a merchant ship in what maritime authorities are calling their largest-ever drug bust.

The ship was intercepted on Saturday off the western state of Gujarat, the coast guard said in a statement.

“This is the largest single haul of narcotics seized till date,” it said, adding the drugs were worth an estimated US$545 million.

An undisclosed number of suspects were detained for questioning by coast guard officials, police and intelligence agencies.


Huge cracks emerge in Chapora Fort hill slope

PANAJI: A 380-metre long controversial road built by the public works department (PWD) at the iconic Chapora fort has turned into a water conduit during monsoon, and channelizing the runoffs into houses below the hill.

The hill, which has a steep gradient had been cut into heavily, to lay the road from an area near the foot of the hill to an upper section, a few metres short of the heritage monument.

A hotel nearby had also excavated into the hillside and constructed a helipad, a rain water harvesting tank and other illegal structures.

The construction of the road in the soft laterite soil has affected stability and erosion after heavy rainfall is triggering further collapse of the excavated portions.

“Landslides are frequent due to the destabilization of the hill slope. Channels have been formed on either side of the road due to water runoffs from the top of the hill, and the slurry (semi-liquid mix) is flowing down the hill,” Sagardeep Sirsaikar, a resident of Anjuna said.

PWD had built the road at the request of the directorate of archives and archaeology (DAA) to help carry building material for the restoration of the fort.

Sirsaikar had then complained to the Goa coastal zone management authority (GCZMA), alleging that the illegal hill cutting and the road construction near the fort was in blatant violation of Coastal regulation zone (CRZ) notification 2011 and its rules.

“With so much digging in the fragile section of the hill, the heavy rainfall has caused more damage,” Sirsaikar said. “The water would flow towards my house during the rainy season, but it is now entering my balcony,” Joe D’Souza, a resident from Vagator, said, whose house is nearest to the fort while five other houses have also been affected.

“Streams of rainwater flow from the excavated hill around our houses, to the nullah below,” Felix D’Souza, another resident from Vagator said.

Sources close to water resources minister and local MLA, Vinod Palienkar said that he has inspected the area and directed the authorities to carry out remedial measures. “The digging activity has created a mess here,” D’Souza said.



Nigerian arrested with 190 grams of ganja in Baga area of Goa


Panaji, Jul 29 Goa police have arrested a 30-year-old Nigerian for possessing 190 grams of ganja from the state’s north Goa coastal belt.

“Augustine Okafor Olise, originally from Nigeria and currently living at Anjuna was arrested at Baga beach last night,” Police Inspector Jivba Dalvi said.

Olise has been booked under relevant sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

Dalvi said prior information was received about a Nigerian national coming to sell ganja in Baga area at Bharat Junction late night yesterday.

Accordingly a team was formed and the Nigerian was arrested and the ganja was seized, he said.

A personal search led to discovery of 190 grams of Ganja, said Dalvi.