Saturday, October 29, 2011

PAUPER’S LOG: Teen Bikers: Insanity is Macho

THE LIGHT OF ANDAMANS - Vol 35 | Issue 17-18 | 28 Oct 2011

Teen Bikers:  Insanity is Macho

By Abu Arsh

Earlier this year near Netajee Stadium, a young boy in his teens met with a fatal accident while trying a stunt maneuver on a bike. This tragic incident took two lives. One of the boys was a fifteen year old and his friend about twenty odd years old. These boys were aping stunts performed in a reality show on a television channel sponsored by a leading Bike brand. It was a tragedy which could easily have been avoided if the boys' parents had kept a tab on the activities of their wards. For people who knew this innocent young teenager, it was a shock that has been hard to get over with. His father was on sailing most of the time and he was under the control of his mother. Darling of a doting mother being the only son as the younger sibling is a daughter. One fine dawn when school was to reopen in a few days after vacation, his grand parents were to arrive from mainland; the young teenager took the keys of his dad's bike from his mother on the pretext of going for morning prayers. His bike won't start, but the boy pushed it down a slope and after some trouble it finally did start. He went straight to where his senior friend was waiting and they started their stunts at break neck speed. Finally they decided that both of them would come from opposite directions at top speed and brake facing each other using front brakes which will lift the rear end of their bikes off the road as shown on TV. The stunt failed and the end result was twisted metal, burnt rubber, crushed bones, shredded muscles and disfigured faces with one of them spot dead. The teenager expired on reaching GB Pant hospital. His mother was lost with remorse and thoughts of guilt for letting her lone son go away in this manner.
Every year 100's of kids perish in road accidents owing to rash driving. Islanders also suffer from a syndrome where kids flaunt their parent's wealth and status. Parents provide them with bikes and cars, latest smart phones, gaming consoles and send them for tuitions even for art and crafts. Kids are always away from home rushing from one tuition to another. Life is fast paced and everyone's busy; young kids who are not of a legal age to drive are provided with two wheelers to attend tuition classes. These kids mature before others in picking up vices, be it riding vehicles at top speeds or picking up fights over trivial matters. All the while thinking insanity is macho. They assume girls are impressed by guys who burn rubber on the road, flash latest androids, dress branded apparel, play violent video games, smoke a fag and talk slang. Though papa has bought them a latest model helmet, it is not chic to put them on while riding a bike. Helmet hinders these young guns's vision, spoils their hairdo and obstructs the view of the onlooker of their handsome faces. It is also inconvenient when answering the frequent phone calls they receive while on the move. For all this traffic violation and more, traffic policeman uncle would not book them either as their dad is known to all.
Our Islands do not have enough land mass where roads can be built which are of such length or width as in big cities. Due to undulating topography roads curve every few meters and the gradient also varies with steep inclines or slopes. Port Blair has lacked basic planning since ages, building set backs are insufficient, hawkers/shops encroach on footpaths, ever increasing no of vehicles, parked vehicles on road side spaces- make the roads narrower for moving motorists. Traffic sense among motorists of private or public transport and pedestrians is non-existent creating further chaos. In conditions like these the young teenagers with no mastery over machine go all out trying to create a stunt spectacle; this is extremely dangerous for the rider, pillion, pedestrians or hawkers. Parents need to stop their wards from this indulgence until they arrive at a legal age to drive a vehicle sensibly. Road safety rules and regulation lessons are to be made mandatory for kids at an early age. Our roads need to be safer for all; we parents can assure this for our wards.

EDITORIAL: Advani's Visit and BJP

THE LIGHT OF ANDAMANS - Vol 35 | Issue 17-18 | 28 Oct 2011

Advani's Visit and BJP

Lal Kishen Advani had cut short his visit to Ranchi disappointing the workers over there when he said that he had to rush to Andamans as he desperately wanted to meet the old Jan Sanghis in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
At the ripe age of 84, he could manage to touch this farthest outpost of India, sending a clear cut message that in his scheme of things, Andamans too counts. Whether the state unit of BJP could take mileage of Advani's visit is a different matter.
The group as soon as it landed rushed to Cellular Jail to pay tributes to the freedom fighters. Someone pointed out that he could not control his tears when he visited the memorial. Savarkar has been a plank for BJP and is used to the hilt at different levels. The controversy apart, nobody remembers those who were deported here between 1857 and 1900. They are missed big time by everyone. Those great souls do not qualify in today's milieu. To remember them, one needs to look for a memorial!
Advani's visit had strewn enough feathers in the party. There was a tacit competition in outdoing one another in putting up banners and billboards. One could not see any symmetry in those displays whereas it clearly manifested the differences, and who belonged where and why.
Did the state unit miss the opportunity to bring forth or highlight matters of local concern when the national leaders were here? Most of the speakers at the Conference at ITF grounds had finished their discourses, well before the leader arrived. Advani or the other national leaders should have been at least briefed by the State Unit about the level of corruption in the Administration, which did not happen. Advani spoke about black money and corruption at national level. There was nothing Island-specific in the addresses of the leaders. Even the address by the State head was run of the mill stuff, who could not compose his words properly.
It is also learnt that there was no interaction between the leaders and the party workers, and many of them returned disappointed. The money and energy spent by the party to coordinate the local leg of the Yatra could not create a visible ripple anywhere. The Z-category security too played spoilsport with the local leadership and workers. Till the last moment, they were not allowed to even share the dias with their national leader.
Of late, BJP too have made breakthrough by welcoming a few PRI members from Congress and TMC. A Diwali gift credited to the visit of Advani.
Bishnu too stole the show, when he reached the airport with his entourage to receive his leader to the dismay of the local leaders. They forgot that he is still the MP of BJP and deserved some space in the scheme of things. For that to materialize, his opponents need to mature as politicians. A seat on the dias could have confused many about the events going to transpire.

NCRB Releases Suicide Statistics: ANI on Third Position

THE LIGHT OF ANDAMANS - Vol 35 | Issue 17-18 | 28 oct 2011

NCRB Releases Suicide Statistics
ANI on Third Position

Fifteen suicides take place every hour in India and a majority (69.2 per cent) of the suicide victims are married while 30.8 per cent un-married, according to latest government statistics.
Sikkim reported the highest rate of suicide (45.9) followed by Puducherry (45.5), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (36.1), Kerala (24.6) and Chhattisgarh (26.6).
One suicide out of every 5 is committed by a housewife, said the statistics released today in the form of a report.
"It is observed that social and economic causes have led most of the males to commit suicide whereas emotional and personal causes have mainly driven females to end their lives," the report, released by Home Minister P Chidambaram, said.
41.1 per of suicide victims were self employed while only 7.5 per were un-employed.
More than one lakh persons (1,34,599) in the country lost their lives by committing suicide during the year 2010 and nearly 70.5 per cent of the suicide victims were married males while 67.0 per cent were married females, according to the report of the National Crime Record Bureau for 2010.
Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh accounted for 65.8 per cent of suicide victims in the age group 60 years and above.
Suicides because of 'family problems' (23.7 per cent) and 'illness' (21.0 per cent) combined accounted for 44.7 per cent of total suicides, said the report.
The percentage of suicides due to 'property dispute' and 'death of dear person' showed a relatively higher increase of 48.0 per cent and 28.9 per cent respectively.
The overall male:female ratio of suicide victims for the year 2009 was 65:35. However, the proportion of boys:girls suicide victims (upto 14 years of age) was 52:48. 
26.3 per cent of the suicide victims were primary educated and 22.7 per cent were middle educated while 19.8 per cent of victims of suicide were illiterate, the statistics showed.
Government servants were 1.4 per cent of the total suicide victims.
West Bengal (11.9 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (11.8 per cent), Tamil Nadu (12.3 per cent), Maharashtra (11.8 per cent) and Karnataka (9.4 per cent) contributed 57.2 per cent of total suicide victims.
West Bengal has reported the highest number of suicide victims (accounting for 11.9 per cent) in 2008 and 2009 and second highest in 2010 (accounting for 11.9 per cent).
Southern states Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have accounted for 51.7 per cent of total suicides reported in the country.
Sikkim and Puducherry had reported 45.9 and 45.5 respectively suicidal deaths per one lakh of population as against the national average of 11.4.
Besides, more than 55.9 per cent children suicide victims belonged to five states – Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu--out of 3,130 suicide victims.

INTERVIEW: Capt Seshasai, Director, Shipping Services: Captain of the Sinking Ship

THE LIGHT OF ANDAMANS - Vol 35 | Issue 17-18 | 28 oct 2011

INTERVIEW: Capt Seshasai, Director, Shipping Services
Captain of the Sinking Ship

Capt Seshasai, Director, Shipping Services did dodge pointed questions by explaining things technically. But, he could not convince the financial misappropriations and procedural lapses leading to rampant corruption.

By Zubair Ahmed

Capt Seshasai's promises to bring sanity to a department have gone haywire. From one director to three directors and again back to one director, why the experiments have miserably failed, with the service severely hitting rock bottom. In the meantime, corruption continues unabated, according to insiders. Only the modalities and the beneficiaries have changed. 
Paul James was an enigma as the director of shipping services. There were wild allegations of rampant corruption in the department during his tenure. It was also alleged that he had set his house on fire himself to avoid recovery of incriminating documents. But everything is under a thick veil of secrecy. There were CBI raids in the offices of the director. The net result of this entire hullabaloo was that the administration went on the defensive. It worked overtime to devise ways and means to check corruption in shipping department. To exorcise the ghost of Cdr. Paul James; the administration, in its wisdom, turned it into a hydra-headed body but that did not help matters either.
The DANICS lobby had found an excellent chance to push one of its own into the cushy job as Director (Administration) with an air-conditioned cabin furnished at a cost of Rs 10 lakhs, it is alleged. Another cabin (naturally air-conditioned) was readied for the Principal Director. The Secretary (Shipping) doubled as the Principal Director also. He, even otherwise could have had a tight leash on the department in his capacity as Secretary (Shipping). The third one, Director (Operations) was again from the Indian Navy. He was the man responsible for actually providing services to the people of the islands and run the vessels in the sea. He was in-charge of Operations and Maintenance, the two most vital arms of the department. He was the public face of the department who gets all the flaks for shortage of vessels, schedules going awry and angry mobs raiding his office whenever there was a dislocation. He however, sat in a sparsely furnished non-air-conditioned cabin on the ground floor of a single storey building near Marine Gate.
After a couple of years when the top heavy department failed to deliver, even though corruption to an extent was brought under control, the nexus of master-engineer-crew took over and brought the department to its knees. Moreover, every officer looked over his shoulder before putting his signature on a paper.  These knee-jerk actions to maintain a semblance of sanity did not work. Finally, the experiment had to be dropped.
When Captain Seshasai joined the Shipping Directorate, he too was one of the three Directors and assigned Operations and Maintenance. Anyway, he was not keen to continue as 'one of the Directors' and had told LOA at that time that without complete control, he would not be in a position to bring any positive change to the department. He was given complete control as the whole and sole Director. Like any tenderfoot, he too showed all idiosyncrasies in the initial period. In boiler suit, he was found in the dockyard early mornings as a timekeeper. By the time, he could understand the work culture of his employees; he had obviously learnt the ways to consolidate his grip on the cash-rich department. With a large fleet of sick vessels, unable to decommission or make operational, he found it a tough go. New vessels joined, but could not cover the demand. The onus once again fell on the whole and sole director to explain. He had by now learnt how to dodge the complaints. Technically, he would try to convince or ultimately confuse those who went to him with complaints.
Capt Seshasai did dodge pointed questions by explaining things technically. But, he could not convince the financial misappropriations and procedural lapses leading to drain of public exchequer.

There was a raid by anti-corruption wing in the stores recently on charges of rampant corruption in purchases in the department. Purchase of crankshaft, cylinder heads, gear boxes and a digital microwave frequency counter.
I am also aware of the issue. It needs to be clarified. The crank-shaft of MV Pilobhabi had to be replaced. The department placed an order with Momani Diesels on 7th July 2010. It was supplied on 22 June 2011. When the package was opened by the shop staff at the dockyard, they found it to be second-hand or used one and rejected it. We informed the dealer to replace the crankshaft. Moreover, all the orders placed with the dealer have been held in abeyance. We are planning to blacklist the dealer. However, it is the responsibility of the dealer to replace the part.

How come the matter was overlooked by the Inspection Committee?
Crank-shaft is a precision part, which is packaged in grease and boiled oil. The part is removed from packaging only when it has to be fitted. The issue came to light when it was unpacked and cleaned for fitting on the engine.

When the spare part is available from DGS&D, why did you go for local purchase?
We had placed the order with DGS&D in 2008. But, till now, we have not received the part, which is one of the main parts of the engine. With the delay, the services are affected. So, we decided to place the order locally.

And you were cheated by the dealer?
Yes. We will take punitive action against the dealer.

What about the gearbox meant for Maina? And the cylinder heads, which are lying idle?
Look, we have many boats with different requirements. If the gearbox does not suit a specific boat, we can use it in other boats. The gearbox supplied by the tenderer was not matching the boat engine. In tsunami, the documents of many ships went missing. It was difficult for us to identify the exact part. With much difficulty we could procure many parts and sometimes, if it doesn't match one boat, it will surely match other.

The Digital Microwave Frequency Counter was purchased for a whopping amount of Rs 17 lakhs? It is alleged that the electronic item is available for far less price?
I am not aware of the details. I will check it. Anyway, it was an open tender, where we have gone with the lowest quote.

APLAB, the manufacturer does not have the model mentioned in the Purchase Order and there is a mismatch in dates too. The quotation date is 14-05-2010 whereas the store requisition date is 29-07-2010.
I am not sure about the model and the electronic equipment purchased. I will look into the matter. However, I think we had called for annual rate contract for the product. That's the reason the quotation date is prior to the requisition date.

It is also alleged that there was no IRS certification for the spares purchased?
The process of IRS certification delays everything. However it is the responsibility of the supplier to get the IRS certification.

Why are such allegations cropping up now? Does the smoke suggest fire somewhere?
I cannot say anything about it. But, my own staff is making such allegations. There might be some heartburn among them.

On the service front, you have failed miserably, unable to meet the demands of the commuters?
State-owned and state-run service industry is not a viable option. The operating costs are very high. With the kind of attitude of the staff as well as the state of the fleet, we will be always lacking on that front. Most of the boats berthed here are very old. It is difficult to procure spares for most of them. If I could have my way, I would have decommissioned most of the boats lying idle.
When I joined in 2008, almost 70% vessels were non-operational. Now, about 50% of vessels are operational. There are many other factors also for the poor performance. Even if a boat gets ready for seagoing, due to documentation, it will have to wait. There is no MMD surveyor stationed in the Islands for last one year.

Many new vessels have also joined?
Eleven new vessels have joined the fleet after I took charge. There is a severe shortage of administrative officers and staff to regulate the man onboard. Since 1986, there has been no recruitment in this department. Naturally, the quality will suffer.

We have been hearing about MV Campbell Bay joining the fleet in at least three Independence Day speeches. Is it coming this time?
Yes, our crew has already left to bring the vessel. But, there are a few hiccups. ABG Shipyard has informed us that they would like to get all documentation work done here after it reaches Port Blair. In fact, we want the vessel to be put into operation as soon as it reaches here. The builder had to face many issues. The MV Act was amended many times. In 2010, it was made mandatory for ships to be equipped with Recoverable Voice Data Recorders like the black box on flights. It is mandatory as per the latest amendments to the Marine Pollution (MARPOL). In 2010, there were other amendments, which required the equipment to be upgraded and integrated to the system. It was not possible to get the latest additions integrated. And, without the modifications, the ship would not get clearance. Moreover, there were issues with the lifeboat also. They had to redo the whole thing. The issues have been resolved now. It will join soon.

What happened to the proposal of wet-lease of vehicle ferries?
Last week, the papers have been sent to the Ministry for approval.

What is the status of Shipping Corporation for the Islands?
It won't be Shipping Corporation anymore. The Administration is planning to have Andaman Nicobar Integrated Transport Corporation, which will cover sea, land and air transport. A fresh Expression of Interest will be called for appointing Consultant.
By telescopic observation, I think passenger ships are not a cheaper option anymore. Only 3% of ships are passenger ships and 97% are cargo ships. We need to have more air connectivity between the Islands as well as mainland.
We have helicopter service as well as seaplane running now. Moreover, the chartered plane, which the Administration wishes to introduce, will be also part of it. The chartered plane is pending with the Ministry. Once it materializes, Islanders will get huge benefit. The Administration plans to offer Islanders two-trips per year at the fare of Rs 1500/- to Rs 2500/-.

Why is Shipping Corporation of India milking the Administration? Sentinel is out of service for last one year?
There are serious issues with SCI. I don't know why we are still continuing with them. We are paying them a lot. But, If I suggest changing them, I am blamed for being partisan towards other private parties. The Admn is spending about Rs 25 crores for Sentinel itself, even without any service, whereas our complete purchase for our stores is not more than Rs 6 crores annually. In fact, SCI has no commitment towards our vessels.

Why is MV Chuglum not pressed into service yet? Is that not a gross waste to public exchequer?
MV Chuglum has no technical issues. We have already forwarded the file for technical manning to the Administration. It is pending for last three years.

It is learnt that your tenure is extended by another year?
Seriously, I am unable to function properly, but I have been asked to continue.

COVER STORY: Directorate of Shipping Services: Black Hole of Corruption

THE LIGHT OF ANDAMANS - Vol 35 | Issue 17-18 | 28 oct 2011
Directorate of Shipping Services: 
Black Hole of Corruption

Flouting General Finance Rules is a way of life at Directorate of Shipping. With inappropriate purchases amounting to lakhs of rupees, dumping all regulations, with an excuse of uninterrupted service, DSS is sailing on a sinking ship. 

By Zubair Ahmed

The Directorate of Shipping has a disgraceful history of corruption and nepotism since ages. Mired in various corruption charges and many failed experiments with the setup, it has miserably failed in meeting the demands of the commuters too. 
Flouting all the rules of procurement of goods and services mentioned in the GFR, the department has been on a purchasing spree without any reason. Anti-corruption raids are not new to the department. However, they go scot free where it is very easy to convince or confuse quoting the technical aspects. Moreover, in the garb of providing non-stop service, it prefers to procure spares from the local market, whereas, the workshop staff finds it a bit hard to digest.
Recently corruption charges were leveled against DSS officials by a fortnightly and the ant-corruption unit also raided the premises.  Nothing has happened thereafter.
The charges cannot be just brushed off as even after purchases amounting to lakhs of rupees, the presumed results are not visible in the service. Moreover, a few expensive parts procured by the department are unjustifiable. 
The crankshaft of MV Pilobhabi, a vehicle ferry plying between Bambooflat and Chatham, which had resumed service after a long span of maintenance, was found defective and had to be replaced. A purchase order was placed with Momani Diesels, who claims to be an authorized dealer for Kirloskar products. The crankshaft was purchased for a cost of Rs 2362000/-. However, the workshop staff claims that the vendor is not an authorized dealer for Crankshaft (W8V) series, an expensive and precision part. One of the allegations is that the part is available on DGS&D rate at the cost of Rs 18 Lakhs and the department failed to procure it even after placing an order in November 2008. "We cannot wait such a long period, as the services will come to a halt," said Capt Seshasai, Director, DSS. He said that a committee was constituted and decided that to sustain services, parts can be purchased locally. On the other hand, this excuse has been exploited to make purchases from local vendors on exorbitant prices, where it is alleged that the booty is shared among the top echelon. The crankshaft is a proprietary item, for which OEM Guarantee certificate has to be produced which is not done in this case. It is also alleged that the recycled Crankshaft was purchased for the cost of Rs 85000/- from Chennai by the Vendor.
The order was placed on 7th July 2010 and was delivered on 22 June 2011. An inspection committee is in place to check the part and authorize it. The Inspection of the part was also completed on the same day and the amount of Rs 2,74,0150/- by Cheque No. 139984 was issued to the vendor on 6 July 2011. The urgency in completing the Inspection is also being raised by the Workshop staff. When it was opened by the shop staff, it was found to be a used one with defects. The staff objected to fit the same. But, it is learnt that one of the Asst Marine Engineer forced them to fit it. "From the look itself, one can find out whether it was a used one or a new piece, but, how come it was overlooked by the Inspection Committee," a staff told LOA. When asked, Capt Seshasai agreed that the part was a used one and the vendor has been asked to replace it. But, when contacted CJ Anthony, Procurement Officer told LOA that the part was not a recycled one, but defective. He also told that the Inspection Committee only does preliminary inspection and the defect will only be seen when it is fitted. The staff however disagrees and says that when we can easily identify a new one from a used one, how come the committee is incapable? Every proprietary item has a serial number embedded and same mentioned in the OEM certificate. How this aspect was overlooked by the Inspection Committee points to a major racket inside the DSS in connivance with the top echelon. The Procurement Officer also needs to do lot of explaining as how he released part payment to the vendor when the complete purchase order, which included Crankshaft(W4V) and Fresh Water Pump, was for Rs 49,97,677/-
Without the approval of competent authority, making purchase of a proprietary item, the open infringement of GFR rules are the way of life at DSS, where the Director has no power.
Subsequently, on a complaint, Anti-corruption wing raided the premises and were on the verge of filing FIR. In the meantime, there was an attempt to even shift the crankshaft from the workshop to the vendor's shop. It was effectively blocked with the intervention of some staff, who informed the Anti-corruption wing. The Director was not in the station and when he came back, he met the Anti-corruption officials and what conspired at the higher level is a mystery and the issue is pushed under the carpet.
Another allegation is about the purchase of two gearboxes for the vessel Maina, which has been lying dead since long time. The gearboxes procured locally at a cost of Rs 917719/- each was found to be unfit for the vessel. The GFR rule no 137 (i) clearly points out that the specification in terms of quality, type etc., as also quantity of goods to be procured should be clearly spelt out keeping in view the specific needs.." In this case, the need was for a gearbox with ratio of 4:1 and in the purchase order, the ratio mentioned is 3:1. Another wasteful expenditure indeed. But, Capt Seshasai disagreed and said that there are many vessels with DSS and the gearbox can be used in some other boat. How come such mistakes creep in when there is sufficient technical staff. Flouting the GFR on one hand and claiming that senseless purchases involving huge amount is not an issue that can be easily rebuffed. It is once again blamed on tsunami. Capt Seshasai said that most of the documents pertaining to the vessels were lost or destroyed in tsunami. So they had to guess the model no. and procure it. Moreover, it was not certified by Indian Registrar of Shipping (IRS).
Same is the case with the purchase of cylinder heads for engines. About 16 Cylinder Heads were procured, which were also inappropriate and is lying without serving any purpose.
The most blatant instance of corruption is in the purchase of Digital Microwave Frequency Counter, bench instrument procured at a whopping cost of Rs 17,15,117/-. The workshop staff informed LOA that the electronic instrument of APLAB make is a unique item as there is no reference to such an item anywhere on the website of the manufacturer. The costliest Microwave Frequency Counter manufactured by APLAB is approximately Rs 60,000/- There is more than one discrepancy in the purchase order itself. The variation in the store requisition date and the quotation date itself points to foul play. The requisition date is 29 July 2010 whereas the quotation date of the supplier is 14 May 2010. When asked about the variation, I got two different answers from the Director and the Procurement Officer. The Director said that it was an annual rate contract whereas the Procurement Officer told that there is a mistake in the date.
When asked the exorbitant cost of the equipment, C J Anthony, Procurement Officer told LOA that it was an open tender and they had no idea about the cost of the instrument, as it was the first time, this particular equipment was purchased. Whereas the GFR in Rule 137(iv) says that the procuring authority should satisfy itself that the price of the selected offer is reasonable and consistent with the quality required. Procuring such expensive equipment without any market survey shows the vice motive behind it. The Procurement Officer has no idea about the cost of the equipment and accepted the lowest of the two qualifying quotations.
Furthermore, it is learnt that a bill of Rs 3 Lakhs was sent by the Director to the master of a vessel for endorsement for painting of the vessel. The master was shocked to see the bill as no painting work had been carried out on the boat. He was in a dilemma whether to put his initials as he will be in a soup. Finally, the director had his way.
The way the Department officials are draining the exchequer on one hand and empty promises of better service on the other hand, prompt service will always remain a pipedream for the gullible Islanders.