Anonymous call about bomb in Indigo flight

IndiGo Airways plane.

IndiGo Airways plane.

An anonymous phone call threatening that a bomb has been placed in a Kolkata-bound Indigo Airlines fllight with 130 people, including six crew, on board on Wednesday sent security agencies into a tizzy at the airport in New Delhi.

The call was made to Indigo’s call centre at around 4 pm (IST) that a bomb has been placed in the Delhi-Kolkata flight (No: 6E203), which was to take off at around 4:30 pm (IST), an airport official said.

The flight was actually to take off at 3:30 pm (IST) but was rescheduled because the airport was closed for about two hours as part of a security drill ahead of Independence Day celebrations.

Security personnel have cordoned off the plane and checks are on.

Will anyone dare audit the DRDO?

For a full 20 months now, the Defence Ministry has been sitting on two crucial recommendations of a committee on reforming defence procurement chaired by former Economic Advisor to the Finance Minister Vijay Kelkar. Not only have these not been made public, there’s been no action on any. It’s not difficult to understand why.

These two recommendations have to do with what is unspeakable at the Defence Research & Development Organisation: the need for an “independent audit” of its abysmal record of delay and waste in virtually all weapons programmes, as reported in the ongoing series in this newspaper.

Numbered 6.19 and 6.20 in the report, accessed by The Indian Express, the Kelkar panel, including scientists, officials of the three service chiefs and industry organisations, said that the Defence R&D Board, the apex review mechanism headed by the DRDO chief, should also include representatives from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

This, the Committee noted, was “in order to enable the Defence R&D Board to draw the expertise and experience from institutions falling outside the purview of defence.”

Second, the Kelkar Committee recommended that DRDO be periodically reviewed “for its functioning” by an independent high level committee and the first such review should be initiated in 2005. The reason: “DRDO has expanded considerably and tried to create in-house research facilities for all defence requirements. This, perhaps, is not a very cost-effective move…DRDO, as a research body has also not been reviewed by an external and independent group of experts”, a process the Kelkar Committee said would compel DRDO to “reform wherever necessary”.

FBI team coming to India to solve 26/11 jigsaw

THE TERROR TRAIL: Obama told the PM that he will be sending a high-level FBI team to India.

THE TERROR TRAIL: Obama told the PM that he will be sending a high-level FBI team to India.

On Board PM’s Special Aircraft: India is expected to get information about the plans and network of alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operatives David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana next week when a high-level FBI team visits New Delhi with “all details” of their probe.

National Security Adviser MK Narayanan said US President Barack Obama has told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he was seized of the case related to Headley and Rana, who were arrested by the FBI on the charges of plotting attacks in India at the behest of LeT.

Obama told Singh during their meeting on Tuesday that he would be sending a high-level FBI team to India within a week with “all details”, Narayanan told journalists accompanying the Prime Minister on return home from two-nation tour of US and Trinidad and Tobago.

The team is expected to give exhaustive details about the plans of Headley and Rana and their network in India.

“Let us see what information they share,” Narayanan said.

Headley, a Pakistani-born American, and Rana, Canadian of Pakistani-origin, were arrested by the FBI in October on the charges of plotting attacks in India and Denmark.

Indian officials suspect that Headley and Rana could have been involved in the 26/11 attacks but there is no evidence in this regard so far.

The US has told India that it has zeroed-in on a Pakistani national who could have been a link between Headley and Rana and their Pakistan-based handlers. Indian investigators wanted to interrogate Headley and Rana and a team from New Delhi had gone to the US earlier this month. But the US did not give access citing legal compulsions.

However, sources downplayed this saying India understands the compulsions and will “work around that”. US National Security Adviser James Jones had said that US was unable to allow Indian investigators access to the arrested LeT operatives because certain aspects of the legal system here protect the rights of the accused.

The sources also said Obama has promised to provide all details about Headley-Rana investigations to India.

During his meeting with Obama, Singh had expressed concern over “new hubs” of terrorism coming up in India’s neighbourhood, the sources said.

Singh also registered disappointment over the selective approach of Pakistan in fighting terrorism. They said Obama’s unhappiness over this approach was reflected in the Indo-US joint statement, which twice referred to “safe havens” for terrorism in Pakistan and underlined the need for smashing these.

Gas-hit Bhopal colony remains a living tomb

// BHOPAL: A quarter century after a packed shantytown turned into a hell hole following the Bhopal gas disaster, JP Nagar’s perennially poor residents are still paying the price for a multinational’s folly.The road in front of the now shuttered Union Carbide pesticide plant has been paved and widened. Most of JP Nagar now boasts of brick and mortar houses, in place of the earlier ugly mud-and-polythene dwellings.But nothing has changed in the lives of JP Nagar’s mass of poor. They lead as pathetic an existence as they did when tonnes of toxic gas leaked from the Carbide plant on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984.If anything, life is now a burden.”What has not changed is our fate,” laments Aziza Sultan, a survivor who lives next to the site of the world’s worst industrial disaster.The leak of methyl isocyanite (MIC) gas killed more than 3,000 people instantly in Bhopal, many in JP Nagar, and thousands more over the years. It also maimed many more, leaving them to suffer for many long years.Leelabai Ahirwar, a 45-year-old mother of four in JP Nagar, echoed a popular view: “Those who survived the gas are the unlucky ones. The lucky are those who died that night.”I am still affected by the gas. I suffer from chest pains and often feel I’m about to die. My children are worse off. My daughter is anaemic and her body swells up mysteriously. My son Jagdish had retarded growth and he looks like a 14-15-year-old though he is almost 24.”Almost every house in JP Nagar has a similar tale.Residents say women here reach menopause at age 30, children are born with deformities, girls do not menstruate until they are 18 and women don’t lactate properly.Abdominal pain, dizziness, vomiting, constipation, indigestion and growth retardation are widespread.”The water they drink is laced with 12 deadly chemicals,” says Satinath Sarangi, an activist who has worked among the Bhopal victims almost from the first days after the disaster.Sarangi is director of the Sambhavna Clinic, which treats victims using a mixture of Western and traditional Indian ayurvedic medicine.Aziza Sultan can never forget the nightmare of that night.”Soon a dense fog formed which rolled across the road into our slums. Here, the ill-built houses with badly-fitted doors and windows were packed with people during that winter night,” she recalled.”Those within were roused in darkness to the sound of screams of people. My baby started coughing badly at about 30 minutes past midnight. My room was filled with a white cloud. Soon I also started coughing. My eyes were burning.”This is no isolated story.Said another survivor, Babu Khan, 53: “It felt like somebody had filled our bodies with red chillies. The coughing was such that people were writhing in pain. Some just got up and ran in whatever they were wearing — underclothes and some not even those. People were only concerned about their lives. They just ran, many falling over one another.”Khan was a scrap dealer. Over the past 25 years, he has not been able to do any work due to various gas-related ailments including breathlessness.He went on: “Those who fell while running were not picked up by anybody. They were trampled on by others. People were dying.”Some vomited uncontrollably, went into convulsions and fell dead while others were choked to death. Many were crushed in stampedes in the narrow lanes of JP Nagar.”Some lost eyesight — some became partially blind.When dawn broke over the city, thousands of bodies lay in heaps on the streets, even far from the factory. Families and entire communities were wiped out, leaving no one to identify them.Another veteran activist Abdul Jabbar says: “JP Nagar took the worst hit that night. The people hit by the poisonous gases continue to suffer. Death continues to stalk them even as the survivors wait in vain for cure for their ailments and a just compensation.”But the misery and death in Bhopal is no longer news. Outsiders think all is well in this city. The reality is quite different,” Jabbar said.


Maoists blast rail tracks, school in Jharkhand

RANCHI: Maoist guerrillas have blown up railway tracks at two places and a school building in Jharkhand and called for a two-day shutdown beginning Sunday, police said.

The incidents come ahead of the second phase of assembly polls in the state Dec 2.

The rebels blew up a rail track near Dania railway station in Ramgarh district late Saturday night. Around 10 trains services have been affected and their routes have been diverted, an official said.

In a separate incident, Maoists blasted a track near Bano railway station in Simdega district early Sunday morning, damaging about one metre of the line.

On Saturday night, Maoists blew up a school building in Pipara village of Palamau district. Detonators were used to blow up the building, police said. The rebels also blasted a community centre in the same village.

Maoists have blown up 10 school buildings this month. The rebels have been targeting schools as security forces camp there during elections.

The outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has called for a two-day strike beginning Sunday in Jharkhand, demanding that Maoist leader Ashok Mahto be produced either in court or before the media. Police, however, say Mahto has not been arrested.

Maoists claim he was held by the police two months back.

Maoist rebels have also asked people to boycott the five-phased assembly polls that end Dec 18.

In the second phase of elections Dec 2, polling will be held in 14 assembly constituencies, which are situated in Maoist strongholds.

Rosaiah nominated CLP leader

NEW DELHI: Chief Minister K Rosaiah was Saturday nominated as the Congress Legislature Party leader by party chief Sonia Gandhi, bringing down the curtains on the issue of sucessor to the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy who died in a helicopter crash more than two months ago.Gandhi nominated the 77- year-old Rosiah a day after the CLP had authorised her to take the decision.“In accordance with the unanimous resolution of the CLP of Andhra Pradesh, the AICC president is pleased to nominate K Rosaiah as the leader of the Congress Legisl ature Par t y i n Andhra Pradesh,’’ senior leader M Veerappa Moily said. The announcement by Moily came after he and another senior leader Pranab Mukherjee met Gandhi.Gandhi s decision was on expected lines after the Congress High Command managed to mollify the Jagan camp by giving YSR’s widow YS Vijayalaxmi a ticket for the Assembly bypoll from Pulivendula.

TD seeks stop order by Forest Department

HYDERABAD: The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) Saturday urged Chief Minister K Rosaiah to present the OMC case in “proper perspective’’ in court, and to the general public.“It is pertinent that the State Forest Department, which is directed by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), has to issue separate orders as required and initiate action on the violation of the Forest Conservation Act and Environment Protection Act,’’ the TDP stated in its letter to the chief minister.Speaking to reporters, TDP politburo member Nagam Janardhan Reddy alleged that the Advocate-General was not presenting the case in a “proper way’’ in the High Court.He pointed out that in Orissa, apart from suspension of mining operations, the officials responsible were being prosecuted by the State government, whereas in Andhra Pradesh, in spite of conclusive proof cited by committees and high-level bodies, the officials responsible for allowing illegal mining — both forest and mining heads of departments — were allowed to continue without any punitive action, let alone prosecution, the TDP leader alleged.He said that the GO stopping illegal mining in Anantapur was issued by the Industries Department. A separate GO from the Forest Department should be issued and presented in the High Court, Nagam demanded.