Science News This Week:
1) Earliest ancestor of land herbivores discovered:
New research from the University of Toronto Mississauga demonstrates how carnivores transitioned into herbivores for the first time on land. "The evolution of herbivory was revolutionary to life on land because it meant terrestrial vertebrates could directly access the vast resources provided by terrestrial plants," says paleontologist Robert Reisz, a professor in the Department of Biology. "These herbivores in turn became a major food resource for large land predators."
Previously unknown, the 300-million-year old fossilized juvenile skeleton of Eocasea martini is less than 20 cm long. Found in Kansas, it consists of a partial skull, most of the vertebral column, the pelvis and a hind limb.By comparing the skeletal anatomy of related animals, Reisz and colleague Jörg Fröbisch of the Museum für Naturkunde and Humboldt-University in Berlin, discovered that Eocasea martini belonged to the caseid branch of the group Synapsid. This group, which includes early terrestrial herbivores and large top predators, ultimately evolved into modern living mammals.Eocasea lived nearly 80 million years before the age of dinosaurs. "Eocasea is one of the oldest relatives of modern mammals and closes a gap of about 20 million years to the next youngest members of the caseid family," says Fröbisch. "This shows that caseid synapsids were much more ancient than previously documented in the fossil record."It's also the most primitive member and was carnivorous, feeding on insects and other small animals. Younger members were herbivorous, says Reisz, clear evidence that large terrestrial herbivores evolved from the group's small, non-herbivorous members, such as Eocasea.
"Eocasea is the first animal to start the process that has resulted in a terrestrial ecosystem with many plant eaters supporting fewer and fewer top predators," he says.Interestingly, Reisz and Fröbisch also found that herbivory, the ability to digest and process high-fibre plant material such as leaves and shoots, was established not just in the lineage that includes Eocasea. It arose independently at least five times, including twice in reptiles."When the ability to feed on plants occurred after Eocasea, it seems as though a threshold was passed," says Reisz. "Multiple groups kept re-evolving the same herbivorous traits."The five groups developed the novel ability to live off plants in staggered bursts with synapsids such as Eocasea preceding reptiles by nearly 30 million years. This shows that herbivory as a feeding strategy evolved first among distant relatives of mammals, instead of ancient reptiles -- the branch that eventually gave rise to dinosaurs, birds, and modern reptiles.
The adoption of plant-eating also caused dramatic shifts in the size of early herbivores. When the team mapped the animals on an evolutionary tree, they found that four of the groups showed a tremendous increase in size during the Permian Period, at the end of the Paleozoic Era.Caseids were the most extreme example of this size increase, says Reisz. The oldest member of the group, Eocasea, was very small, less than 2 kilograms as an adult, while the youngest, last member exceeded 500 kilograms.Reisz says that the discovery of Eocasea creates questions even as it answers them. "One of the great mysteries to my mind is: why did herbivory not happen before and why did it happen independently in several lineages? That's what's fascinating about this event. It's the first such occurrence, and it resulted in a colossal change in our terrestrial ecosystem."
2) Triclosan aids nasal invasions by staph:
The antimicrobial compound found in soaps and toothpaste may help infectious bacteria stick around . Sneezing out antimicrobial snot may sound like a superpower, but it actually could be a handicap.
Triclosan, an omnipresent antimicrobial compound found in products ranging from soaps and toothpaste to medical equipment, is already known to show up in people’s urine, serum and breast milk. It seeps in through ingestion or skin exposure. Now, researchers have found that it gets into snot, too. And in the schnoz, triclosan seems to help the disease-causing bacteria Staphylococcus aureus instead of killing the microbes.Microbiologist Blaise Boles, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues swabbed the noses of 90 adults and found that having triclosan-containing snot could double a person’s likelihood of carrying staph. The microbes may have adapted to triclosan, allowing them to remain steadfast in the nose. The results appeared April 8 in mBio.Because triclosan usually kills bacteria, the finding was a surprise, says Boles, who works to understand why only some people harbor staph. A person carrying the microbe in his or her nose, he says, has a much higher risk of a staph infection, which can occur in the skin and blood and cause pneumonia and produce toxic shock syndrome.
In the study, 37 people, or 41 percent, had detectable levels of triclosan in their nasal secretions. Of the people that had very little or no antimicrobial compound in their snot, 27 to 32 percent had staph in their nostrils. This fraction fits with previous studies, which have found that staphcolonizes about 30 percent of the general population. But of the people with higher levels of triclosan, 64 percent carried staph.The researchers found a similar link in rat experiments. They used a breed of rat known to take about a week to shake off a mild nasal invasion by staph. When the researchers gave the rats triclosan-laced food and stuck a small batch of staph in the rodents’ noses, the rats could not get rid of the microbes.
In the lab, the researchers found that staph grown with nonlethal doses of triclosan were more “sticky,” attaching better to human proteins, as well as to glass and plastic surfaces. Nonlethal doses of triclosan in snot could help staph hunker down in the nose, giving it an advantage over other nose-dwelling microbes, Boles says.Microbiologist Hanne Ingmer of the University of Copenhagen says the finding has troubling implications for public health. Triclosan, she adds, could provide footholds for the most worrisome forms of staph, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA.
While health experts have focused on the misuse of antibiotics, which can spur microbes to become drug resistant, the uses of triclosan and similar compounds in personal care products “are almost an uncontrolled area,” she says.And unlike with antibiotics, Boles adds, using triclosan to kill off microbes may not even work well. “There’s no indication that it’s doing a better job than soap and water,” he says.The Food and Drug Administration has asked companies to provide evidence that adding triclosan to soaps is safe and effective.
3) Possible measles drug tests well in animals:
Compound saves ferrets from related virus by blocking key enzyme. There’s no treatment for measles, but an experimental compound might do the trick by bogging down a key viral enzyme, a study of ferrets finds. When given to animals infected by a virus similar to the one that causes measles, the compound prevented illness.
“This is still a ways away from human testing,” says Alan Hinman, a public health physician at the Task Force for Global Health, a nonprofit organization in Decatur, Ga. “But it’s exciting to see this. I think it has potential to be really useful.”
4) Turkana Boy sparks row over Homo erectus height:
Studies differ on whether 8-year-old would have reached modern human stature. A Stone Age boy stands at the center of a controversy over when members of the human evolutionary family first reached heights and weights comparable to those of modern human adults.
All that remains of the ancient, approximately 8-year-old Homo erectus boy today is his nearly complete roughly 1.5-million-year-old skeleton. Excavations in 1984 near Kenya’s Lake Turkana yielded the find, often called Turkana Boy. At the time of the skeleton’s excavation, little was known about adult sizes and growth patterns of H. erectus.
5) New MRSA superbug emerges in Brazil:
A new superbug that caused a bloodstream infection in a Brazilian patient has been identified by an international research team. The new superbug is part of a class of highly-resistant bacteria known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, which is a major cause of hospital and community-associated infections. The superbug has also acquired high levels of resistance to vancomycin, the most common and least expensive antibiotic used to treat severe MRSA infections worldwide.
An international research team led by Cesar A. Arias, M.D., Ph.D., at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) has identified a new superbug that caused a bloodstream infection in a Brazilian patient. The report appeared in the April 17 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.The new superbug is part of a class of highly-resistant bacteria known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, which is a major cause of hospital and community-associated infections. The superbug has also acquired high levels of resistance to vancomycin, the most common and least expensive antibiotic used to treat severe MRSA infections worldwide.Most worrisome is that genomic analyses indicated that this novel vancomycin-resistant MRSA superbug belongs to a genetic lineage that is commonly found outside hospitals (designated community-associated MRSA), said Arias, the report's senior author and an associate professor of medicine, microbiology and molecular genetics at the UTHealth Medical School.Previous research has suggested that community-associated MRSA can disseminate rapidly among people and is responsible for the majority of skin and soft tissue infections (sores) in patients of all ages. Some of these infections can become serious and even fatal.
Since community-associated MRSA is thought to be transmitted mainly by skin contact, the new superbug may affect not only sick people or those with a weakened immune system but also healthy individuals, according to Arias. Apart from causing localized skin infections, the MRSA superbug has the ability to invade the bloodstream and may become a serious threat.
"This is the first-ever reported bloodstream infection caused by a highly vancomycin-resistant MRSA bacteria," Arias said. "If we lose vancomycin, it would make it very difficult and expensive to treat these infections," he said.
Arias and his colleagues conducted microbiological and genetic analyses of an MRSA superbug recovered from the blood of a 35-year-old Brazilian man and identified a novel transferable genetic element (plasmid) that carries the genes necessary for vancomycin resistance (vanA gene cluster)."The presence and dissemination of community-associated MRSA containing vanA could become a serious public health concern," report the authors in the paper.However, since this is the only documented case of this type of infection, Arias said, it is too early to tell if this specific superbug will lead to a bigger threat.Barbara E. Murray, M.D., report co-author and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UTHealth Medical School, said, "The worst resistance possible has now appeared in the community-associated MRSA clone."What is the next step?"There will have to be increased surveillance in South America and worldwide in the future," said Murray, who is the holder of the J. Ralph Meadows Professorship in Internal Medicine at the UTHealth Medical School and president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Movie Release This Week:
Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him.
However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed—to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should.
Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.
Based on the #1 New York Times best-selling book of the same name, Heaven is for Real brings to the screen the true story of a small-town father who must find the courage and conviction to share his son's extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world. The film stars Academy Award® nominee and Emmy® award winning actor Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo and co-stars Kelly Reilly as Sonja Burpo, the real-life couple whose son Colton (newcomer Connor Corum) claims to have visited Heaven during a near death experience. Colton recounts the details of his amazing journey with childlike innocence and speaks matter-of-factly about things that happened before his birth ... things he couldn't possibly know. Todd and his family are then challenged to examine the meaning from this remarkable event.
A small, secluded island off the coast of Belize suddenly finds itself terrorized by a deadly predator from the planet’s distant past, when deep-sea divers accidentally awaken an ancient evil. Jackson Slate and his team of underwater cave explorers unearth much more than long-lost Mayan treasure while plumbing the depths of a world famous blue hole. They disturb a creature that’s been hibernating for over 60,000 years - a rampaging behemoth of death and destruction not only at sea but also on land.
Fioravante decides to become a professional Don Juan as a way of making money to help his cash-strapped friend, Murray. With Murray acting as his "manager", the duo quickly finds themselves caught up in the crosscurrents of love and money.
12-year-old Pelle accidentally gets bitten by an ant and develops unimaginable superpowers. With help from his friend, comic book nerd Wilhelm, Pelle creates a secret identity as the superhero Antboy. Slowly things start to happen in the surburban community, and when a scary and crazy supervillain, Flea, enters the scene, Antboy must step up to the challenge. The first Danish superhero-movie. Based on the books by Kenneth Bøgh Andersen.
Political news of this week:
1) Moderate to high turnout in 5th phase of LS polls:
Moderate to high turnout on Thursday marked the polling in the fifth and biggest round of Lok Sabha elections covering 121 seats across 12 states amidst Maoist violence in Jharkhand where rebels injured four CRPF jawans, blew up a railway track and exploded bombs.
The highest turnout of 78.89 per cent was in the four constituencies in West Bengal, which has a total of 39 seats, while the lowest was recorded in Madhya Pradesh at 54 per cent. In the key battleground state of Karnataka, where polling was held in the all the 28 seats on Thursday, the voting percentage was 66 per cent and in the 11 seats of Uttar Pradesh, electorally the most important state, the turnout was 62.52 per cent.
A good show for Congress in Karnataka could help it to check BJP's perceived surge nationally. In the previous Lok Sabha poll in the state, BJP had won 18 seats in the state but is struggling this time. Congress had defeated BJP in last year’s state assembly polls, bringing to an end the saffron party’s only power centre in southern India.
Bangalore watched one of the keenly contested seats in the state where Congress party candidate Nandan Nilekani is pitted against BJP veteran Ananth Kumar. Polling in another important, Maharashtra, which has a total of 48 seats, 19 constituencies which went to poll on Thursday saw a turnout of 61.7 per cent.
Thursday's polling decided the fate of 358 candidates, including Union Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and former chief minister Ashok Chavan (both Congress) and senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde in Maharashtra. The fifth phase of polling was the largest single-day in the nine-phased election exercise and electoral fates of 1,769 candidates, including Nandan Nilekani (Cong), Maneka Gandhi, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda (JD-S), Union Ministers Veerappa Moily (Cong) and Srikant Jena, Supriya Sule and Lalu Prasad's eldest daughter Misa Bharti, were decided. Viewed as a high stakes day by both BJP and its allies, which hold 46 seats and Congress and its partners having 43 seats, today's polling may decide which party will lead the race to form the next government.Polling in Uttar Pradesh decided the fate of 150 candidates, including Maneka Gandhi, Santosh Gangwar, Saleem Sherwani and Begum Noor Bano. West Bengal holds the key to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's bid to position herself as a key player in government-formation at the Centre in the event of a fractured mandate. Over 54 per cent polling was registered in seven Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, another electorally key state, today while 62 percent turnout was reported in six constituencies in adjacent Jharkhand despite Maoists' boycott call.With completion of polling in the fifth phase, the exercise crossed the half way mark in the nine-phased elections to 543-member Lok Sabha.
Around 65 per cent voter turnout was recorded in three Naxal-hit Lok Sabha constituencies of Chhattisgarh where Maoists targeted a polling team but there was no casualty.
Barring the one Naxal-related incident, polling was by and large peaceful in the State which completed the second phase of voting that decided the fate of Congress leader Ajit Jogi and CM Raman Singh's son Abhishek (BJP) among others.
2) As ties sour with TDP, BJP eyes YSR Congress in Andhra:
With its alliance with the Telugu Desam Party running into troubled waters, the Bharatiya Janata Party is keeping its options open in the Seema-Andhra region and even considering seeking support from the YSR Congress post polls.
A senior BJP leader told Rediff.com that the alliance would be on the similar lines of that in Uttar Pradesh where both the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party extended support to the United Progressive Alliance.
The issue arose after TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu told his party workers through a tele-conference that the BJP had fielded bad candidates in the Seema-Andhra assembly segment. “They are not even capable of winning a ward election,” Naidu is believed to have said adding that the alliance was proving to be a mistake.
However, the BJP says the problems could be sorted out in a day’s time. “He had the upper hand in the seat-sharing formula and gave us seats where he could not have won anyway,” said a BJP leader on the condition of anonymity. “It is up to him. If not him, there are other options available,” the BJP leader added.
But some sources in the BJP added that if the alliance did break and if they needed the numbers, they could rely on Jaganmohan Reddy, as the latter would want to have a share in the power pie.
However, for now the BJP is hoping to iron out the differences with the TDP, as they still viewed TDP as a valuable ally.
3) Lalu, Nitish most worried about their 'prestige seats':
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal-United and his bete noire Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav are not contesting the Lok Sabha polls, which has put their ‘prestige constituencies’ of Nalanda and Patliputra at stake.
Polling in both these constituencies is underway on Thursday along with 5 other seats.Both Nitish and Lalu are taking personal interest to closely monitor the voting in the 2 constituencies.For Lalu, the Patliputra seat is crucial because his elder daughter Misa Bharti is in the fray from this seat. Lalu has taken extra care to personally campaign in Patliputra and has worked hard as his personal stake is high.
According to RJD leaders, Lalu has deployed his trusted party leaders, including legislators in Patliputra to manage his daughter's election.The BJP has fielded Ram Kirpal Yadav, who was known as ‘Hanuman of Lalu’ till February. But he revolted and left the RJD after being denied a ticket.The ruling JD-U candidate and sitting MP Ranjan Prasad Yadav, who was described as ‘Chanakya’ in the mid 90s also deserted Lalu over a decade ago due to differences.Misa publicly admitted that she is fighting against her two chachas (uncles).
With 3 formidable Yadavs in the fray in Patliputra, the vote share is bound to get divided. In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Lalu was defeated from Patliputra due to division of Yadav votes.But the situation was different then. The JD-U and the BJP were in an alliance and Ranjan was supported by the upper caste -- Bhumihar, Rajputs, Other Backward Castes, Extreme Backward Castes, Mahadalits and Muslims.This time Ram Kirpal is supported by the upper caste and others including a section of his castemen, Yadavs and Other Backward Castes. The JD-U is hopeful of getting a major chunk of Kurmi votes (Nitish Kumar’s caste), who have a strong presence after the delimitation of the constituency -- along with a major chunk of EBCs and Mahadalits.
Nalanda is Nitish’s home district and a stronghold of the party. It was considered a safe seat till a few months ago but not any more. Congress has fielded former Bihar police chief Ashsish Kumar Ranjan, a Kurmi, from Nalanda. Sinha is considered close to Lalu, who has joined hands with the Congress for the polls.Sinha is heavily banking on the support of his castemen, Lalu’s support base of Yadav-Muslims and Congress’s support base among different social groups.Sensing a tough contest, Nitish Kumar campaigned for two days and addressed over half a dozen public meetings. He also visited several places to reach out to people seeking support for JD-U candidate and sitting MP Kaushalendra Kumar.LJP candidate Satyanand Sharma, a Bhumihar, is eyeing the support of his castemen, other upper castes and his party chief Ram Vilas Paswan’s castemen –Dusadh, the only Dalit caste in Bihar.
4) Modi alleges distribution of watches with Chidambaram's photos:
Sharpening his attack on Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra Modi on Thursday alleged wrist watches with photos of the finance minister were being distributed to voters and demanded a probe by the Election Commission."In Tamil Nadu, there is a Congress leader -- recounting Minister -- he is so afraid that he ran away from elections,” Modi said, without taking Chidambaram's name while addressing an election rally in this town, bordering the union minister's native Sivaganga district.On a whirlwind two-day electioneering in Tamil Nadu to canvass for NDA candidates, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate continued to describe Chidambaram as "recounting minister", a reference to his controversial win from Sivaganga constituency in 2009."Some people on this dais showed me a watch. It has the recounting minister's photo and his symbol. I was told that these watches are being given to every household. EC should take it very seriously. There should be a probe against the recounting minister and Congress," he said.After Chidambaram opted out of the April 24 Lok Sabha polls, his son Karti Chidambaram has been given the Sivaganga seat.Seeking to strike a chord with the locals, Modi raked up the problems of the firecracker industry in nearby Sivakasi, employing lakhs of workers, and slammed the licence fee hike and blamed it on the faulty UPA policies.He promised to take all steps for the welfare of the firecracker industry.Reiterating BJP's commitment to interlinking of national rivers, Modi said if voted to power, the NDA Government will link "Cauvery and Ganga," thus addressing the drinking water problems and irrigation challenges of Tamil Nadu.
With an eye on the large Muslim population in this coastal district, Modi said Congress Government's 15-Point Programme that promises employment to Muslim youth among others has not achieved the desired result.Many years and crores of rupees had been spent on the scheme, but what has it delivered, he asked, adding the Kundu Committee which was set up by the government had also found "after detailed study, that there has been no change in the condition of Muslims."Congress was only trying to 'hoodwink' Muslims, he charged, adding the Central government could achieve only 56 per cent of its goal between 2006-12.While the achievement rate was 26 per cent in Tamil Nadu, it was 54 per cent in his state, he added.Heaping praise on former President Abdul Kalam, who was born in this town, Modi described him as a "great son of India" and lauded his contribution to space science."He was not a just great scientist but also a visionary. I am proud that it was (former prime minister A B ) Vajpayee who recognised this gem of India; together they did wonders," he said.
Continuing his tirade against Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, whom he once again described as 'Shehzada' (the Prince), Modi questioned the former's notion of poverty, saying he was 'born with a golden spoon,' and claimed that he hailed from a 'poor, backward family.'Making good use of Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar's 'tea-boy' jibe, Modi said he had risen to his present day stature selling tea in his young days.Seeking to address the concerns of fisherfolk, especially those from Rameswaram in the district, he blamed the 'weak' Central Government for the harassment of fishermen from Tamil Nadu and Gujarat by navies of Sri Lanka and Pakistan respectively.
He also promised steps for promoting tourism in this district besides modernising the fishing industry among others by providing technology-driven information on fish wealth which would help them return home quickly like their Gujarat counterparts.He said BJP-led NDA in Tamil Nadu had emerged as an "able, reliable front" to DMK and AIADMK, which he alleged were keen on settling personal scores only.Earlier, addressing a rally in Erode, he took a dig at former Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan and without naming her, said a woman Congress leader from the state was responsible for delaying many infrastructural projects in the country including in Tamil Nadu.To boost the turmeric industry in Erode, he pledged BJP's efforts to set up Research and Development Centre for the same and make turmeric a value-added product.
5) Saradha scam: ED arrests Sudipta Sen's absconding wife, son:
Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday night arrested the wife and son of the alleged kingpin of the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam accused Sudipta Sen in a money laundering case.
The duo, wife Piyali Sen and son Shubhojit, were arrested by the sleuths of the central probe agency after they were questioned for close to two hours with regard to the alleged dubious transactions that led to the Ponzi scam which has duped hundreds of investors across West Bengal, Odisha and Assam. "Both the people have been arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and they will be produced in a court tomorrow. ED brought them to Kolkata from a location and they had been absconding for long," sources privy to the development told PTI.The agency, sources said, arrested both as they want to confront them with some incriminating documents that the agency has obtained after raids at some locations of the Kolkata-based firms.
The agency has recently issued summons to numerous entities involved in the case even as it attached assets worth Rs 140 crore of individuals and firms on money laundering charges.The ED has also issued a notice asking general public "to furnish information and particulars of properties, both movable and immovable as well as bank accounts, in West Bengal and other places, if any, related to Saradha group known to them, with specific details" to it.
Recently, ED's zonal office in Kolkata issued summons to about 15 people involved in the funds transactions of the scam that came to the fore early last year after duped investors raised their voice of grievance.The notices come in the backdrop of ED attaching Rs 105.62 crore assets of various entities involved in the case including Saradha Director Sudipta Sen and Piyali.It had attached Rs 34 crore worth of assets earlier in the same probe.The agency is jointly probing the case taking cognisance of the FIRs filed by the three state police departments.The agency has till now issued attachment orders on all equity shares of all 224 companies of the Saradha group, insurance policies in the name of Sen and his wife, numerous land properties and plots, 390 bank accounts and equity shares of a TV channel run by the beleaguered group.The agency has also issued an advisory that no one should "transact" in these attached assets without seeking permission of the agency.
6) 292 missing in South Korean ferry disaster:
A multi-storey ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast today, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by ships and helicopters.
At least three people were confirmed dead and 55 injured.
The high number of people unaccounted for likely trapped in the ship or floating in the ocean raised fears that the death toll could rise drastically, making it one of South Korea's biggest ferry mishaps since 1993 when 292 people died.
7) Why corruption is even worse than communalism:
While corruption destroys the moral fibre of a nation, its society and people, secularism as espoused in this country is cynical secularism, a sham perpetrated during election time and communalism is a spectre, a bogey raised by these great champions of Indian secularism to secure and perpetuate their vote bank, says Maneck Davar.The statement of a minority community leader that corruption was preferable to communalism is shocking, but not surprising. In the present electoral debate while charges of divisiveness in the basis of religion, class and caste are shrill, there is not much focus on the huge scams which have emasculated our economy and diverted the nation's wealth to shady bank accounts in tax havens.
In a previous column, I had argued why the minorities need not fear a Narendra Modi dispensation as communal trouble would derail his programme of economic and infrastructure development, make him a whipping boy of domestic and international sentiment and deny him a place in history as a harbinger of change, which he aims for.Modi is astute enough to have learnt the lessons of Godhra well, for all his re-election rhetoric in the subsequent elections he has won in Gujarat have been on the development plank. There has been no communal outburst in Gujarat for the last 12 years, creditable in a state where communal strife was endemic.It does not take great economic knowledge to realise how corruption beggars a country's economy. At the apex of the pyramid it is the loot of the national exchequer by rent-seekers who hugely profit by under valuing the nation's resources, may it be under the ground like coal, oil and mineral ore or above the ground like spectrum and sharing the spoils with their political partners.
At the base are all those who occupy petty positions in government bureaucracy who prey on the helpless and ignorant, denying them even their sustenance in government schemes.Corruption diverts the State's scarce capital resources to private pockets, denying crucial and fragile social areas like health and education much needed funding, leaving schools without teachers and teaching aids and hospitals without doctors, medicines and diagnostic equipment.More important, it destroys the moral fibre of a nation, its society and people, making them insensitive to the intense suffering caused to those deprived of their basic right to a decent quality of life because of the base instincts of those in power who illegally enrich themselves.Secularism as is espoused in this country is cynical secularism, a sham perpetrated during election time and communalism is a spectre, a bogey raised by these great champions of Indian secularism to secure and perpetuate their vote bank.
While at Independence, the promotion of a secular, multi-cultural nation was an imperative to assuage the fears of a community after Partition, over the years it has degenerated into an empty slogan, worse a promise unfulfilled.Even constituencies were redrawn to ensure that in its composition at least 15 to 20 per cent comprised members of the minority community who would vote en bloc for the Congress.True secularism is not ring-fencing minorities in ghettos, both real and in mentality, and creating unjustified fears, but in seeking and working for their emancipation, their economic and social progress and their assimilation as equals in society. This has not happened in 67 years of Independence of which the Congress has enjoyed six decades of power.What does a child dying of hunger malnutrition or lack of medical care know or care about secularism?What is the religion of a child begging at traffic signals when s/he should be in school?What do the huddled masses on pavements and slums in the city or in mud huts in the villages without water, sanitation or electricity worry about communalism when they are reduced to mere husks of humanity?It is when you make a serious effort to eradicate corruption and redirect the hundred of thousands of billions of rupees of illicit gains back in the economy and the building of concrete and social infrastructure, when you get the nation's wealth secreted in offshore banks back into the system, when you allow entrepreneurship to flourish by eliminating greasy palms and when these benefits percolate to the lowest level as they must and they will, then your slogan of secularism will be one of substance.
But here is the paradox and the reason why it is in the interests of the 'secularists' to keep a vast section of the populace poor. As an extreme analogy you don't find the denizens of Lutyens' Delhi, Malabar Hill in Mumbai or Banjara Hills in Hyderabad rioting and destroying each other's property. It is largely the poor, the dispossessed who suffer.Almost all of sectoral violence -- religion or caste-based -- is due to social tension engendered by poverty, lack of education and employment and deprivation of basic amenities like water, sanitation and electricity.Finally, not only have these 'secularists' who have been in power so long done anything to address the woes of the common man, but have perpetuated his misery by corrupting the system and reveling in the country permanently residing in the bottom ten per cent of global development and corruption indices.For it is only an economically disenfranchised people, hobbled by corruption, that can be frightened by the 'threat' of communalism.
8) Bangalore-bound AC bus catches fire; 6 dead:
Six persons were charred to death and 12 others injured, five of them seriously, when a Bangalore-bound bus caught fire at Metikurke, 25 km from Chitradurga, on Wednesday.
Three critically injured passengers have been hospitalised at Davangere while two of them were admitted to a hospital in Chitradurga, police said.
The bus was carrying about 30 passengers from Davangere when the tragedy struck in the early hours,
9) Assam: Kamakhya-Dimapur BG Express derails, over 50 hurt:
Over 50 passengers were injured, 19 of them seriously, when the engine and 10 coaches of the Dimapur-Kamakhya BG Express derailed at Teghiria in central Assam in the wee hours of Wednesday.
The derailment damaged 100 meters of railway line leading to cancellation of eight trains on the route. The Dibrugarh-New Delhi Rajdhani Express has also been detained at Lumbing, railway officials said.
They said the engine and 10 coaches of the train derailed near Jagiroad in Morigaon district at around 2 am.Nineteen passengers were seriously injured and have been admitted to various hospitals including GauhatiMedicalCollegeHospital, police said.Many passengers were discharged after receiving first aid in MorigaonCivilHospital.The cause of the derailment is being investigated, railway officials said.Senior railway officials have rushed to the site and rescue operations are on.
Sports News This Week:
1) Why the IPL is a waste of time:
This article isn’t for IPL fans. Go back to cleaning your vuvuzela or shouting at your launderer for shrinking your Chennai Canaries jersey if you’re one‘Talk about things and nobody cares.’
Not Steven Tyler’s best work. It’s definitely nothing as profound as ‘dude looks like a lady’. It does remind me of the IPL though. In fact, it was a close second to ‘Oh no, not again’ when I realized that 6 weeks of grotesque jerseys, the Punjab Paupers, the Mumbai Foreigners, and a whole lot of pretentiously named teams was upon us again.
The IPL is quite simply put, a gigantic waste of time. It’s overhyped and underwhelming at best. The organizers are a bit like overzealous mothers, shoving 6 weeks of what they’re passing off as cricket down our throats, except they don’t want us to grow big and strong.
I wouldn’t object to the IPL if it wasn’t so damn crass and in your face. There are other idiotic T20 leagues floating around, but we don’t have to hear about the SPL every day.One would think that having survived the IPL, you would be grateful and move on. But people go back for seconds. And sevenths.Now, there are many things you could do instead of watching the IPL, provided you are willing to make some sacrifices, the big one being you don’t get to hear how Chris Gayle is better than Vivian Richards.
I realize there’s a whole lot of different reasons to watch the IPL, about 3 less than the number of caps they have floating around.
Let’s start with those who watch the IPL because they enjoy torturing themselves.You could poke your eye with a sharp object, wrestle a Doberman for no apparent reason or listen to Arnab Goswami telling us all what it is that we want to know. On second thoughts, the last one is too extremeIf you’re the delusional type who thinks that the IPL is the greatest tournament in the world, your time would be better spent finding a cure for cancer. Or rewriting the ‘How I Met Your Mother’ ending for about the fiftieth time.If you’re only watching it because you’re bored, you could dabble in horticulture and watch the grass grow instead.
If you’re watching it for the cheerleaders, is it really worth it with team owners popping up everywhere? You would be better served watching women’s tennis.If you watch it because of the bad commentary, I’m sorry I have no alternatives for you. They are doing great things with psychiatric help these days, I’d check that out (don’t forget to wear your Russel is Benaud t-shirt).
Some people tell me that the IPL is entertaining. Personally, I don’t see what’s entertaining about international superstars and domestic wannabes playing Mitchell Johnson meets the England Cricket Team, but there you have it. However, if entertainment is what you’re after, why not catch up on the latest episode of CID? They’re breaking down the doors of conventional detective shows these days.Other than that, you could spend your time trying to understand Duckworth-Lewis, drawing a square circle and trying to find out what exactly the fox said.The world is your oyster.And if you’re a Kevin Pietersen fan, you can curse the ECB, switch on the TV, mute it before you start feeling not unlike dogs when they hear a high pitched sound, and watch the Delhi Dodderers.I know I will.Dude looks like a lady? More like the ECB is crazy.Into all life, some rain must fall.
2) IPL 2014 – Match 1: Was it a blip, or a sign of things to come for the Mumbai Indians?:
Lots to ponder for the defending IPL championsThe defending IPL champions, Mumbai Indians (MI), got off to the worst possible start to their title defence with a colossal 41-run morale-sapping defeat against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).
Having lost the toss and forced to field, the first half of the KKR innings went according to plan for Rohit Sharma and Co., and it wasn’t until the 15th over when the veteran from South Africa, Jacques Kallis, decided to take matter into his own hands and carted Pragyan Ojha for 20 runs, thereby triggering a shift in the momentum of the KKR innings.
In the end, it would prove to be a masterstroke, though, for KKR and Gambhir to persist with Kallis opening the batting, and letting him set the tempo of the innings.
Continues to garner runs, and was a solid man-of-the-match displayThe Kolkata Knight Riders’ bowling efforts were a peach of their own, and Gambhir played around with his spin trio of Shakib Al-Hassan, Sunil Narine, and Piyush Chawla, all three making sure that Mumbai Indians were starved for lack of pace to conjure up something. With KKR inflicting such a massive defeat in terms of runs and performance, it has put forward a serious question to the Mumbai Indians’ outfit – was it a minor blip, or is it a sign of things to come for the defending IPL champions?Mumbai Indians, having made a few changes to the dynamics of their squad in the past IPL auctions, looked like they had a selection conundrum ahead of their 1st game against KKR. Termed by many a cricket pundit as a squad that is lacking in depth, Mumbai Indians vindicated all of those allegations by coming up with an insipid display, which could well be an indication of what this side might offer going forward.
3) Forensic expert faulted at Pistorius trial:
The prosecution in Oscar Pistorius' murder trial on Thursday challenged the credibility of an expert witness for the defense, which was trying to show that the athlete killed his girlfriend by mistake.Roger Dixon was called by the defense to give evidence to support Pistorius' story that he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by accident thinking she was an intruder behind the toilet door in his home and about to attack him.Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder for shooting Steenkamp multiple times on Feb. 14, 2013. Prosecutors say that he killed Steenkamp after a fight.The trial has been adjourned until May 5.
Continuing his cross-examination, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Dixon, the third witness to be called by Pistorius' defense, had no expertise in some areas where he was testifying and also had not been thorough in some of his examinations.
In one, the prosecutor criticized Dixon, a geologist, for not using the exact height of double-amputee athlete Pistorius when standing on his stumps."It is something I omitted. I overlooked it at the time," Dixon replied when questioned why his measurements were around 20 centimeters (8 inches) off in a test to see if Pistorius' head and body would have been high enough to be seen by neighbors through a bathroom window. He said he was not trying to "mislead" the court.
Dixon is a former policeman and an expert in the analysis of materials at crime scenes. His testimony touched on ballistics, gunshot wounds, pathology and blood spatter, and he also said he was involved in audio and visual tests. He conceded he is not an expert in any of those areas.
The bearded university researcher was subjected to tough questioning by Nel and has been ridiculed on social media and in the South African media for trying to be an expert in areas where he was not qualified.Judge Thokozile Masipa will ultimately deliver a verdict. Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted on the premeditated murder charge.
4) Real Madrid wins 19th Copa del Rey title:
Gareth Bale raced down the field, avoided a defender and rolled the ball under goalkeeper Jose Pinto in the 90th minute, giving Real Madrid a 2-1 win over Barcelona on Wednesday night and its 19th Copa del Rey title.Angel Di Maria put Real Madrid ahead from a counterattack in the 11th minute, but defender Mark Bartra scored on a header off a corner kick in the 67th, the first time Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas allowed a goal in this season's tournament.Neymar hit a post in the 90th for Barcelona, which was eliminated from the Champions League last week and lost at Granada last weekend, making a league title unlikely.
"Obviously this is not a good moment. It has been a hard week on all fronts," Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said.
5) Nadal, Federer and Djokovic all breeze into last eight with comfortable wins:
Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic demonstrated their superior class on clay as they eased into the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters on Thursday.Claycourt wizard Nadal barely broke a sweat in his 6-1 6-3 thrashing of Italy's Andreas Seppi while fourth seed Federer recovered from a break in the first set to beat Czech Lukas Rosol 6-4 6-1.Champion Djokovic dropped just one game as he demolished Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta 6-0 6-1 to continue his title defence in the principality. Spaniard Nadal, whose eight-year reign as champion was ended by Djokovic in the final last year, extended his proud record in Monte Carlo to 50-2 with the win on centre court.The world number one will next meet compatriot and sixth seed David Ferrer in the final eight, who made easy work of Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov by winning 6-4 6-2.
"That is going to be a very tough match," the eight-times French Open champion told a news conference about the all-Spanish duel with Ferrer."David is a tough, tough player on any surface but here on clay, (he is) always a big challenge. I play a lot of matches against him, very tough ones."Federer, who has a record 17 grand slam titles, will face local favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a mouth-watering quarter-final after the French ninth seed shook off a mediocre start to celebrate his 29th birthday with a 5-7 6-3 6-0 victory over Italy's Fabio Fognini."I think Jo played the semis here last year, so he's played here well in the past," Federer told a news conference.
"I've seen Jo play different kinds of quality matches lately so I'm not quite sure how he's going to play, how aggressive, how passive."I have to make sure I play aggressive myself and not become too passive just because we're on clay."Djokovic, seeded second, will face either fifth seed Czech Thomas Berdych or Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and he can look forward to a titanic semi-final showdown with Federer should they both get past their next opponents.Swiss third seed Stanislas Wawrinka reached the quarter-finals without hitting a ball on Thursday after his third-round opponent Nicolas Almagro withdrew injured."I woke up this morning with a severe pain in my left foot that prevented me from even walking normally," Almagro said."After consulting with the doctor for a long time this morning, we decided together that it was better for me not to play today."Australian Open champion Wawrinka advances to meet eighth seed Milos Raonic after the Canadian beat 11th-seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-4 6-3.
6) Court keeps Srinivasan out of BCCI:
The Supreme Court has turned down N Srinivasan's reinstatement request, and has revealed that he is one of the 13 named in the sealed envelope submitted to it by the Justice Mudgal committee. In response to the BCCI counsel CA Sundaram's argument that the court was responding only to prima facie evidence and not secondary evidence, Justice AK Patnaik for the first time revealed details about the sealed envelope. He said that there were 13 names of "very important personalities in cricket" in the sealed envelope, with Srinivasan's name being the 13th. There were 12 allegations against Srinivasan with annexures to each of them. "It seems that Mr Srinivasan has not taken the allegations seriously," he said.Patnaik said Srinivasan "could not come back as BCCI president as long as the probe is on." A day before the court hearing on Wednesday, Srinivasan had filed an affidavit, asking the court to reconsider its interim order that removed him as the BCCI president while the probe into the alleged corruption in the IPL was on. The court, though, reiterated that a fair probe would not be possible with him discharging any duties inside the BCCI.
It further asked the BCCI to come back to the next hearing, on April 22, with constructive corrective measures with regard to how it can ensure a free and fair probe into the IPL corruption scandal. The measures could involve a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe or selecting its own other independent investigators, but it stipulated that the probe had to be conducted by a credible team. If the BCCI was to be given the power to investigate the matter, it had to be done without prejudice and the mandatory condition that "Srinivasan cannot come back."The court said that "we cannot close our eyes," but did not impose an independent probe in the matter. "We are not considering a SIT because we don't want the CBI or the police or the media to throw mud on cricketers," Patnaik said. "Reputations of cricketers and great names are at stake. What happens to the reputation of the players who are representing the country and Indian cricketers of the future. Cricket has to be clean but institutional autonomy has to be maintained."There was some relief for the BCCI. Sundar Raman, the chief operating officer (COO) of the IPL, whose future was to be decided by acting BCCI president Sunil Gavaskar, was allowed to continue in his role. Gavaskar stated that he was not in a position to take a decision on Sundar as he knew him in a personal capacity and was unaware of the details of the information that investigating agencies had against Sundar.
The hearing on April 22 will also look into several matters related to the many ramifications of the IPL corruption scandal. Patnaik said the court will look into the amended clause in the BCCI constitution that allowed Srinivasan to own a team in the IPL as well as him being sent as a board nominee to ICC meetings. There is also a possibility that G Sampath Kumar, the Chennai police officer whose deposition formed part of the Mudgal committee's report, will be asked to depose before the court on April 22. The details of his deposition were found in Mudgal committee member Nilay Dutta's additional comments to the main report. Dutta is a member of the Assam Cricket Association. Deccan Chargers may also be introduced as part of the arbitration pertaining to the matter of their resurrection.
The court will also appoint an amicus curae, a lawyer who is not part of the case, to report to them about the existence or otherwise of transcripts and recordings of the depositions to the Mudgal committee. So far it is understood that the court has been provided with minutes of the 52 interviews conducted by the panel in the course of its investigation. The BCCI's counsel had previously contested the Mudgal committee's findings and had requested for the tapes the findings were based on.
The case dates back to June 2013 when the Cricket Association of Bihar secretary Aditya Verma raised charges of conflict of interest in the formation of BCCI's two-member inquiry panel into the IPL corruption issue. A Bombay High Court ruling later termed the probe panel "illegal". The BCCI and the CAB filed petitions in the Supreme Court against this order, with the CAB contending that the Bombay High Court could have suggested a fresh mechanism to look into the corruption allegations.The Supreme Court then appointed a three-member committee, headed by former High Court judge Mukul Mudgal and comprising additional solicitor general L Nageswara Rao and Dutta, in October 2013, to conduct an independent inquiry into the allegations of corruption against Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, India Cements, and Rajasthan Royals team owner Jaipur IPL Cricket Private Ltd, as well as with the larger mandate of allegations around betting and spot-fixing in IPL matches and the involvement of players. The committee had submitted its findings to the court on February 10.
Books Of This Week:
Sanjaya Baru is an Indian political commentator and policy analyst, currently serving as Director for Geo-Economics and Strategy at the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Previously he had served as associate editor at The Economic Times and The Times of India, and then chief editor at The Financial Express. He quit the Express to become Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's media advisor and chief spokesperson, a role in which he served from May 2004 until August 2008. In April 2014, Penguin India published The Accidental Prime Minister, Baru's tell-all memoir about his time at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). In it, Baru alleges that the prime minister was completely subservient to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who wielded significant influence in the running of the Singh administration, including the PMO itself. The book has sparked off a controversy, with the PMO officially denouncing it as "fiction". Baru, however, has said that he set out to show an empathetic portrait of the prime minister.
Baru sums up Singh's predicament acerbically. The former media adviser says Singh made the "cardinal mistake of imagining the (2009 election) victory was his. Bit by bit, in the space of a few weeks, he was defanged. He thought he could induct the ministers he wanted. Sonia nipped that hope in the bud by offering the finance portfolio to Pranab Mukherjee, without even consulting him."
Book 1 : The Accidental Prime Minister : By Sanjaya Baru :
'PULOK SOUGHT SONIA'S INSTRUCTIONS ON FILES TO BE CLEARED BY PM'
Baru says that Sonia exerted an upper hand on the PM through Pulok Chatterjee, "who was appointed into the office at her behest". Through Chatterjee, she even had privy to the files to be cleared by the PM. Says Baru: Pulok Chatterjee "had regular, almost daily meetings with Sonia at which he was said to brief her on the key policy issues of the day and seek her instructions on the important files to be cleared by the PM".Baru says Singh was in office, but not in power. The PM, says Baru, had a difficult time making his cabinet ministers fall in line. He did not allocate portfolios, he did not intervene much in cabinet meetings and the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs lost its edge. Instead, power vested with a Congress "core group" - Arjun Singh, AK Antony, Pranab Mukherjee and Ahmed Patel.
While Singh found allies in the leaders of coalition parties, he had to face severe criticism from old-timers in the Congress, says the book. Sharad Pawar, with whom Sonia Gandhi did not have the best of equations, was Singh's ally, says Baru. So was RJD leader Lalu Prasad, to some extent. But Vayalar Ravi, Antony and Arjun Singh were the PM's critics in the cabinet. Antony might have been quiet in public but was a "tough customer" in private, critical of economic and foreign policies, says Baru.Then foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, Baru says, did not brief the PM even three days after returning from a trip to Washington, DC. When the Left turned against Singh over the civil nuclear energy deal with the US and there were rumours that Pranab Mukherjee or Sushil Kumar Shinde might be considered as a replacement, it was Nationalist Congress Party's Praful Patel who assured Baru that they will not support anyone but "Doctor Saheb".
"I DO NOT WANT ANY CREDIT FOR MYSELF"
Baru says the creation of the NAC was the first sign that "Sonia Gandhi's renunciation of power was more of a political tactic than a response to a higher calling". He says that Singh too realised that the buck stopped with Sonia. Baru says that there was an eagerness to claim all social development programmes as the National Advisory Council's initiatives, even though, he says, the Bharat Nirman programme came out of the PMO - drafted by the late R Gopalakrishnan, who was joint secretary. When it came to NREGA, the claims became more insistent. Baru recalls that on September 26, 2007 - Manmohan Singh's 75th birthday - Rahul Gandhi led a delegation of general secretaries to 7 RCR to wish him. Rahul wanted to extend NREGA to all 500 rural districts in the country. Ahmed Patel handed over a statement about the meeting to Baru to be released to the Press. Baru put a spin on it, eager to apportion some credit to the PM.
Baru says, anyway, Manmohan Singh himself had made a commitment about it on his Independence Day speech. So Baru sent a text message to journalists that this was the PM's birthday gift to the country. The blowback was swift. The PM soon summoned Baru. Baru told PM that the party wanted to give the entire credit to Rahul, but "you and Raghuvansh Prasad [who was then minister for rural development] deserve as much credit". The PM snapped: "I do not want any credit for myself."A few minutes later he again said, "Let them take all the credit. I don't need it. I am only doing my work."
PC Parakh: A Spotless Record:
Bureaucrats who know him, all call him an upright officer. The Comproller and Auditor General characterised him as a whistleblower in its report on the coal scam. But now he is under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on charges of alleged criminal conspiracy.
Prakash Chandra Parakh, 68, born at Jodhpur, Rajasthan studied at the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee and later at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. He worked as a mining geologist with the National Mineral Development Corporation and Hindustan Copper Ltd before joining the Indian Administrative Service in 1969 and being allotted to the Andhra Pradesh cadre. During his long career in the IAS, he has handled the departments of civil supplies, land reforms and commercial taxes in the Andhra Pradesh government at Hyderabad, before moving to Delhi as Director in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural in 1983. Later, he returned to the state government and was posted in the industries department. He has been commissioner, secretary and principal secretary in the Department of Industries.
In March 2004, Parakh returned to the Centre as secretary in the Ministry of Coal. He retired in December 2005 and is currently working with two NGOs which support physically challenged persons and kidney patients.
Coal allocation scam or Coalgate, as referred by the media, is a political scandal concerning the Indian government's allocation of the nation's coal deposits to public sector entities (PSEs) and private companies by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In a draft report issued in March 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) office accused the Government of India of allocating coal blocks in an inefficient manner during the period 2004–2009. Over the Summer of 2012, the opposition BJP lodged a complaint resulting in a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into whether the allocation of the coal blocks was in fact influenced by corruption.
The essence of the CAG's argument is that the Government had the authority to allocate coal blocks by a process of competitive bidding, but chose not to. As a result both public sector enterprises (PSEs) and private firms paid less than they might have otherwise. In its draft report in March the CAG estimated that the "windfall gain" to the allocatees was INR1067303 crore (US$180 billion).The CAG Final Report tabled in Parliament put the figure at INR185591 crore (US$31 billion) On 27 August 2012 Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh read a statement in Parliament rebutting the CAG's report both in its reading of the law and the alleged cost of the government's policies.
While the initial CAG report suggested that coal blocks could have been allocated more efficiently, resulting in more revenue to the government, at no point did it suggest that corruption was involved in the allocation of coal. Over the course of 2012, however, the question of corruption has come to dominate the discussion. In response to a complaint by the BJP, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) directed the CBI to investigate the matter. The CBI has named a dozen Indian firms in a First Information Report (FIR), the first step in a criminal investigation. These FIRs accuse them of overstating their net worth, failing to disclose prior coal allocations, and hoarding rather than developing coal allocations. The CBI officials investigating the case have speculated that bribery may be involved.
The issue has received massive media reaction and public outrage. During the monsoon session of the Parliament, the BJP protested the Government's handling of the issue demanding the resignation of the prime minister and refused to have a debate in the Parliament. The deadlock resulted in Parliament functioning only seven of the twenty days of the session. The Parliamentary Standing Committee report on Coal and Steel states that all coal blocks distributed between 1993 and 2008 were done in an unauthorized manner and allotment of all mines where production is yet to start should be cancelled
Book 2 : ‘Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and Other Truths':By PC Parakh:
Former Coal Secretary PC Parakh on Monday released his book 'Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and Other Truths', and said that the book is essentially about the degradation in the political system of the nation. He also said that India has reached to a situation where even Chief Secretaries are forced to become servants of political masters. He further said that his suggestion on coal auction was not considered and that the prime minister failed to control his ministers. Parakh also said that the book is also to inspire and motivate people to work with honesty and dignity.
Former Coal Secretary P C Parakh on Monday claimed that the multi-crore coal block allocation scam could have been avoided if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asserted in pushing reforms including open bidding of coal blocks. Auction of coal blocks in open market and e-marketing of coal, as proposed, would have ensured that there was no scam.
On undermining the authority of the Prime Minister, Mr. Parakh said besides Ministers including Shibu Soren and D S Rao, MPs cutting across the party lines were responsible for scuttling the reforms in the Coal Ministry.In his book, Parakh has wondered why CBI director Sinha chose not to mention Manmohan Singh in the Hindalco allocation because he had taken the decision in the matter. The former coal secretary, PC Parakh, has now demanded that the Prime Minister's role be probed by the CBI. He claimed that the PM's authority was undermined and he allowed it to happen.
In his tell-all book 'Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and other Truths', to be released on Tuesday, Parakh said that two ministers, Shibu Soren and (Dasari Narayana) Rao, "did not want transparent allocation of coal blocks and the PM did nothing to stop it. Many MPs had even written to the PM to stall transparent allocations and Naveen Jindal was one of them."PC Parakh says Naveen Jindal's Flagship company Jindal steel and Iron market cap jumped 10 times from 3K cr to 31K cr in 2 yrs from 2005-07