What to Watch Out For
AgustaWestland scam accused Rajeev Saxena to record statement before Magistrate
The AgustaWestland money laundering case hearing is likely to take a crucial turn today with the accused Rajeev Saxena recording an important statement before the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court in Delhi.
The Rs. 3600-crore corruption case, which came to light in 2013, involved middlemen and Indian officials in 2006 and 2007 paying money to secure the purchase of helicopters for high-level politicians.
Recent Developments: Saxena, a director of two Dubai-based firms - UHY Saxena and Matrix Holdings along with another accused was extradited from Dubai on January 31 and sent to four-day custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) the same day.
The court had earlier marked Saxena's plea before the court of the chief metropolitan magistrate (CMM) on March 2 for the recording of his disclosure statement but Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal put up the matter for March 5 after the alleged middleman told the court on Saturday that he was not feeling well.
Saxena had been granted a bail in February following which he had moved a plea to become an approver in the case on March 2.
‘Choppergate’: The Congress-led UPA government had in February 2010 signed a contract with UK-based helicopter manufacturing company AgustaWestland to purchase 12 AW101 helicopters for the Indian Air Force for Rs 3,600 crore. The helicopters were supposed to be used to ferry the President of India, the Prime Minister, and other VVIPs.
In 2013, allegations were made that the technical specifications of the required choppers were manipulated in favour of the manufacturer AgustaWestland. It was also alleged that the parent company Finmeccanica paid kickbacks to win the VVIP chopper deal with the Indian Air Force.
The defendants in the case were acquitted by the third Court of Appeals of Milan in January last year, although the case is still being investigated by the Indian courts and Central Bureau of Investigation.
In December last year, Christian Michel, an alleged middleman was extradited to India from Dubai. Michel is a popular British consultant who was allegedly hired by AgustaWestland to influence top-ranking officials in Indian Airforce and the UPA government to help secure the Rs 3,600 crore deal for the company.
The two others accused- Rajeev Saxena and lobbyist Deepak Talwar were extradited to India from Dubai soon after.
Tribal, Dalit groups call for bandh on March 5 over ordinance to protect their rights
An all-India bandh has been called on Monday by tribal and Dalit rights organisations to demand the promulgation of two ordinances to secure their rights that have been affected by Supreme Court decisions - the first to secure the forest rights of tribals, and the second to ensure fair representation in UGC faculty posts. Among the other demands is the establishment of Indian Judicial services under Article 312 of the Constitution, for recruitment in higher judiciary posts to ensure inclusion of SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities and women. A protest will take place from Mandi House to Parliament Street.
What You May Have Missed
We don't count the dead, says IAF day after Amit Shah's '250' claim
In their first public remarks since the February 26 air strikes on Pakistan, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Monday said that “Air Force is not in a position to clarify how many people were inside(the target). We don’t count human casualties. We count what targets have been hit or not hit.” Dhanoa’s comments come amid a political slugfest between the opposition party leaders and the Centre over claims of the number of terrorists hit in the air strike. On Sunday BJP chief Amit Shah, said that “more than 250 terrorists were killed without the IAF suffering any losses”. Congress party leaders including Digvijay Singh have demanded the Centre produce proof of the strikes and casualties. Meanwhile, PM Modi on Monday reaffirmed his stand to “weed” out terrorists and said that “it’s our principle that we will enter their house and hit them”.
CPM Central Committee approves seat-sharing formula with Congress in Bengal for LS polls
The Central Committee of the CPI (M) finally put its seal of approval on the wishes of the party’s state wing to forge a seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress in West Bengal for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to simultaneously take on the BJP and the Trinamool Congress. “…the CPI (M) proposes no mutual contest in the present six sitting Lok Sabha seats, currently held by the Congress and the Left Front,” a statement from the party’s Central Committee, which is meeting in Delhi on 4-5 March, read. The decision was taken despite the Congress’s perceptible key role in the so-called “Mahagatbandhan” of opposition parties in the run-up to the polls of which Trinamool Supremo Mamata Banerjee is a crucial part.
News18 Elections Lab: Taking the battle to the skies: who’s got better fleet strength, India or Pakistan?
The tensions between India and Pakistan have de-escalated with the return of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. Expectedly, India will wait for Pakistan’s response on the dossier it has handed over to the latter on “specific details” of involvement of the JeM in the Pulwama terror attack on the CRPF as also the presence of camps of the UN-proscribed terror outfit in that country. But how do the two countries compare in terms of their fleet strength? Read Swati Dey’s report.
Baijayant Jay Panda, former BJD leader, joins BJP ahead of Lok Sabha polls
Baijayant Jay Panda, who quit Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal (BJD) last year, joined the BJP on Monday. "Nine months of introspection & widespread consultations w/colleagues & public. Grateful for support recd from all over. On auspicious #MahaShivratri I've decided to join @BJP4India & work under the leadership of @narendramodi Ji to serve Odisha & India to the best of my ability," he wrote in a tweet following the announcement. Panda met BJP president Amit Shah soon after joining the party. The BJP has identified Odisha as one of the priority states ahead of the polls. In the 2017 state rural elections, the BJP emerged as the second largest party, pushing the Congress to the third spot.
Trump says he plans to end India's preferential trade treatment over high tariffs
US President Donald Trump said on Monday he intends to end India's preferential trade treatment under a programme that allows $5.6 billion worth of Indian exports to enter the United States duty-free. Trump, who has vowed to reduce US trade deficits, has repeatedly called out India for its high tariffs. “I am taking this step because, after the intensive engagement between the United States and the Government of India, I have determined that India has not assured the United States that it will provide equitable and reasonable access to the markets of India,” Trump said in a letter to congressional leaders. India is the world's largest beneficiary of the GSP programme and ending its participation would be the strongest punitive action against the country since Trump took office in 2017.
The election commission officials are currently visiting the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The elections come at a time when the state is riddled with tension following the Pulwama attack, talk of simultaneous elections and debates over article 35 A. News18 explains what is at stake.