External Affairs

Get Wired 24/6: Lalit Drags in Omita Paul, Amit Shah; Saffron History; RSTV Defends Itself, and More

File photo of Omita Paul and Pranab Mukherjee, taken in his office when he was Finance Minister. PTI

File photo of Omita Paul and Pranab Mukherjee, taken in his office when he was Finance Minister. PTI

1. Lalit Modi drags in NaMo, Amit Shah, Omita Paul

Lalit Modi, the fugitive former IPL commissioner is currently embroiled in a controversy over alleged favours extended to him by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje, has sent out tweets in which he accused Omita Paul, secretary to President Pranab Mukherjee, of having ties to a businessman he described as a hawala operator. Documents released by him on his website (lalitmodi.com) also mention a call he made to Amit Shah and also an email in which he promises to lobby for the Rajasthan Royals with the then Gujarat CM, Narendra Modi.

2. NCERT workshop sparks fears

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HRD minister Smriti Irani

The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) conducted a 5-day workshop for a quick review of history textbooks between June 8 and June 12. Attended by scholars from across India, including three members of the controversy-ridden Indian Council of Historical Research, the workshop has sparked fears of the saffronisation of education in some quarters.

Before the workshop was conducted, a meeting took place in the Smriti Irani-led Human Resource Development ministry in which NCERT officials were called to discuss the issue of change in history books.

3. Dibang hydro project approved before study of impact

The 3000-MW Dibang river valley mega dam in Arunachal Pradesh, which is set to be India’s largest hydroelectric project, has been given all the requisite clearances by the Environment Ministry without a study of its downstream impact. The ministry has gone against the norm of conducting studies before clearance is given and stated that the study will be carried out five years after the commissioning of the dam. The project which was earlier rejected by the Forest Advisory Committee, will inundate 4,577 hectares of forest, currently home to 12,000 members of the Idu Mishmi community.

4. Compulsory voting in Gujarat local elections

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Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel

The Gujarat government is set to notify a law on compulsory voting before the local body elections due by October.  The law will impose a penalty on all registered voters who wdoill not vote in the elections. Arrangements have been made to allow those who are unable to go to polling stations to vote online. The State Election Commission will soon launch a door to door campaign to create awareness about the new law.

Also, this will be the first time that 50% of seats will be reserved for female candidates in local body elections.

5. We are not His Master’s Voice, says RSTV

Rajya Sabha TV, which came under attack from BJP general secretary Ram Madhav for allegedly not devoting adequate time to Modi’s Yoga Day, has yet to receive an apology from the BJP for the false charge even though the government said sorry for Madhav’s attack on Vice President Hamid Ansari for not attending the Rajpath event. RSTV is run by the secretariat of the Rajya Sabha, which is chaired by Ansari. In response to Madhav’s criticism, Gurdeep Sappal, Joint Secretary and OSD to the Vice-President has stated that Rajya Sabha TV is not the government’s channel and is not obliged to function as its mouthpiece.

6. Saudi concern over Iranian influence in India

Saudi Arabian foreign ministry documents released by WikiLeaks on Friday reveal that the Saudis are worried about the growing influence of Iran in India. Most of the documents are in Arabic. Some of the embassy cables on India express concern over Tehran’s outreach to the Shia community in the country. The leaked documents revealed that the Muslim World League has requested Saudi Arabia to establish the organisation’s Salafi/Wahhabi centres in India. The document also contain a memo from the Saudi MOFA, written in 2010 which talks about the importance and priority that Saudi Arabia places on improving relations with India.

7. Modi raises Lakhvi with Chinese leadership

293895-zaki-ur-rehman-lakhvi-rnaUN action against Pakistan for releasing 26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi has been blocked by China. An upset te Indian leadership has now taken up the issue at the highest level with China. Modi himself is learnt to have conveyed to Beijing how strongly India felt about Lakhvi and the fact that he is now out of prison. The UN move to seek explanation from Islamabad over Lakhvi’s release was initiated at India’s insistence and subsequently blocked by China.

8. Health ministry advisors on pay of external aid agencies

The salaries of many of the 363 consultants currently working with the Health ministry are being paid by external aid agencies such as the US Agency for International Development, the UK’s Department for International Development and the United Nations Population Fund. This is in sharp contrast to the government’s stand against foreign funding for NGOs. The Health ministry’s acceptance of this practice also raises concerns about conflict of interest, sovereignty and the erosion of in-house technical expertise.

9. Proposed MoU with Vedanta Foundation raises eyebrows

An MoU between the Centre and the Vedanta Foundation has been proposed for the construction of 4,000 anganwadis in public private partnership model. This has led to concern owing to the tainted image of Vedanta, which is currently being probed by the CBI in connection with irregularities in the disinvestment of Hindustan Zinc Limited. The proposed MoU will be signed between the Women and Child Development ministry headed by Maneka Gandhi and the foundation on Wednesday

10. Pankaja Munde accused of flouting norms as minister

Pankaja Munde, minister for women and child development in Maharashtra, has been accused of acting contrary to rules in the purchase of Rs. 206 crore worth of material and equipment that she sanctioned for anganwadi schools in the state. Clearances for the purchases were given in a day, even though the rules clearly prescribe that all government procurement over Rs. 3 Lakh must be made by way of e-tenders. The Congress has decided to file a complaint with the anti-corruption bureau tomorrow.