Railway food not fit for human consumption: CAG

An annual audit report compiled by the Comptroller Auditor General of India (CAG) has declared the food served in the railways and stations across India as “unsuitable for human consumption”.

After numerous complaints from passengers over the years, it is finally official that there are serious hygiene issues in regards to contaminated food, unauthorised brands of water bottles and packaged food items that are way beyond shelf life.

The audit has put the entire blame on the Railway Ministry for its frequent and unnecessary change in policies that has created a state of uncertainty in the management of catering services, reports TOI.

Screen grab of complaints.
Screen grab of complaints.

The team inspected 74 stations and 80 trains and concluded that the standards of cleanliness and hygiene were way below par at all catering units; the inspection reveals that unfiltered tap water was used to prepare beverages, waste bins were not covered and cleaned and food was being kept in places infested with cockroaches and flies.

The CAG also cracked down on the scam of overcharging passengers for food and beverages. It observed that the caterers did not provide menu cards and food was also served below prescribed quantity.

The report also thrashed the Integral Coach Factory located in Perumbar stating that the policy of progressive switch over from gas burners to electric power equipment in pantry cars to avoid the occurrence of fire accidents in trains was not followed while manufacturing the pantry cars.

News Source: TOI, News18

Image source: Indian Railways 

Is Maharashtra equipped enough to handle fire mishaps?

With the commencement of the year 2016, Maharashtra witnessed many fire mishaps, right from Deonar rage to Make in India event, where massive fire broke out, engulfing the city in a thick blanket of smog. Accidents like these have happened int the past and will happen in the future as well.  And now with festive season around, the state is much more susceptible to such incidents.

One of the major problems whenever a fire breaks out is that how intense fire does not easily comes under control and continues to simmer , with the smoke creating a havoc for the people residing in the nearby areas. Thus, it raises the issues of not only loss of lives and property damage but also pollution concerns.

Recently, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) computed an audit which highlighted several points that needed urgent attention. With high rise buildings becoming a norm rather than an exception, timely inspection in terms of fire preparedness has been made mandatory to avoid major calamities. In fact, one of the major concerns was with Pune city, as the city lacks enough fire brigades to carry out the inspections at regular intervals. The inadequacy of fire stations combined with less manpower results in the failure to carry out such inspections in Pune, and this calls for an immediate introspection.

As per the norm, there should be one station every 10 square kilometre area. However, Pune has one station every 36.57 square kilometre. In fact, only the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai has one station every 13.46 square kilometre area among the eight municipal corporations in Maharashtra namely, Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, Thane, Nashik, Aurangabad, Amravati and Navi Mumbai.

Every year, the Municipal Corporation allocates funds towards fire department, however, the funds were not put to use. In the case of Pune, funds of around Rs 8.40 crore was found unutilised, with the fire department citing the election code of conduct and other reasons for the same. Overall in the state, Rs 1,091.20 crore was allocated for the fire department of which only Rs 854.87 crore was utilised, rest laid unspent.

During such fire breaks, the area is swept with the fire for prolonged duration and the damage ratio is high, thus, embarking the question which has been raised for so many times now, but still left answered-Is there an urgent need of establishing fire stations and implementing certain rules? Because disasters cannot be prevented but the causalities and damage can.

Defence Ministry slammed by CAG over ‘avoidable expenditure’ on MiG-29

According to a report by Hindustan Times, The Comptroller Auditor General has slammed the central government for incurring “an avoidable expenditure” of Rs 9.97 crore on India’s mainstream naval fighter MiG-29K due to defects in engine, airframe and serviceability issues, leading to very low adaptability of the aircraft.

It would have been the least of the problems for the government if only CAG would have stopped by saying that the aircraft is riddled with problems, but it went on to explain that the maritime fighters’ battle readiness was at an unimpressive 15.93% to 37.63% for the single sitter and around 21-47% for the twin-seat trainer.

The CAG also added to its statement that the MiG-29K were being technically accepted despite having anomalies relating to airframe.

In another report tabled at the parliament, the auditor has revealed how India had invested almost Rs 19 crore on Boeing C-17 Globemaster but failed to utilize them adequately. 

The MiG aircraft has earned epithets like “widow-maker” and “flying coffin” right from the time it became the backbone of the Indian Air Force.

India has lost half of its MiG combat fleet (872 aircrafts) in accidents, killing 171 pilots, 39 civilians and eight persons from other services

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CAG will do special audit for projects cleared by National Security Council

In a bid to make national organizations more accountable, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) will conduct special audit of the projects that are cleared by the National Security Council, which is headed by the Prime Minister. If done, this is will be the first instance of CAG auditing the NSC’s projects.

In a meeting between the Prime Minister’s Office and the CAG last year, Shiv Shankar Menon, the then National Security Advisor had given a go ahead on certain guidelines and framework for the special audit.

“The idea is that no intelligence agency or organization should completely remain out of an oversight mechanism” said a senior government. The initial proposal for this audit was passed in the UPA 2 rule, however, the signal to proceed with the exercise was received when the NDA assumed power. CAG officials have confirmed that they have begun work and the first report will be finalized soon.

The NSC audit report will only be submitted to the PMO unlike other routine reports presentation in Parliament. This is akin to the CAG’s report on the National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) which commenced in 2010.

The NSC approves proposal and projects which is highly classified and sensitive in nature and their budgets are allocated from the secret service funds or an intelligence agency. “The procedures and purchases for a clutch of such projects and proposals would now be scrutinized by a special team of auditors,” the officials said. CAG’s special audit on the NTRO had found certain loopholes and this step can be understood as tightening their stance on other organizations as well.

Source- Indianexpress

CAG condemns Censor Board; ‘Censor gate’ in the making

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has heavily criticized the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) of violating several norms pertaining to certification of films. The CAG, in its reply to an RTI query filed by activist Vihar Durve, accused the board of irregularities in the conversion of films; spanning across the period between 1st October 2013 and 31st March 2015.

According to a report by The Hindu, the CAG report titled “Inspection Report on Account Maintained by the office of CBFC, Mumbai”, 172 “A” category certified films were converted into “UA” category films and 166 films of “UA” category into “U” category films during 2012-15, which accounted for violation of several provisions of the law.

Films are generally certified into three categories: ‘A’ certified films that are restricted to exhibition to adults only, ‘U’ certified films that are suitable for unrestricted public exhibition and ‘UA’ certified films containing portions unsuitable for children below the age of twelve, but otherwise suitable for unrestricted public exhibition.

The report also pointed out that nearly 4.10 lakh entries for censor certificated and 60 lakh pages of feature film files were pending digitization, even after funds being allocated for the same. Another revelation is with regard to two films “Gabriel” and “Three Can Play That Game”, examined by Mrs J S Mahamuni and Mr S G Mane on February 2009 and February 2009 respectively. However, the CBFC certificate shows that they were examined by Mrs V K Chawak, Secretary to the Chairperson, on March 30, 2009 despite the fact that these were not re-applied for re-examination

Mr.Durve termed this irregularity as a scam, naming it “Censor Gate”.

The game of CAG

Photo Courtesy – www.indiacag.org

 

In October last year, 700 excited students from across the country crowded the Thyagaraj stadium in Delhi eager to share with the world elaborate solutions to some of the country’s most pressing problems. What they however were forced to witness was propaganda in its truest form meted out by one BJP member after another, only to be wrapped up by a populist speech by the chief guest, Narendra Modi himself. Students sat there grim faced, having been allowed to only present for two minutes each while the members of the saffron party droned on, unabashedly thrashing the Congress, all the while soliciting votes. These students were all participants of a competition called chock-Manthan, organised by a group that called itself the Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG).

Formed in June 2013, just in time for the electoral race, this not for profit organisation comprises some of the brightest young minds in the country. Graduates from IIT, IIM, NIT, Harvard, Stanford and the like gave up high paying corporate jobs to form this initiative. Their 60 full time members get a monthly ‘sustenance allowance’ which is nowhere close to the remuneration of their previous jobs. “It was not the money that drew us to this,” says Anish Bharadwaj, a graduate from NIT and a key CAG strategist. “We were a group of people who wanted to play a more active role in deciding who will lead the country our country. When we first started Mr.Modi was extremely supportive,” he adds.

CAG has been the mastermind behind several initiatives such as Chai Pe Charcha and Sankalp, which are aimed to promote brand Modi. Registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act, they claim to have no political origins. “As an organisation, we are not politically rooted to any party. For the 2014 elections, by our collective judgement, we have decided to back Modi and work by his mandates. For the next elections, you might even see us supporting AAP,” says Anish. All the members of CAG, according to Anish, do not support Modi ideologically.

However, their official website tells a completely different story. Chock-full of content that is pro-Narendra Modi, it is easy to mistake it for more of fan page created by loyal followers. One opinion poll question reads – ‘After Rahul Gandhi accepting that there could be Congress involvement in the Sikh riots, should there be an SIT to reinvestigate?’ while another survey published claims that 97.78% of people want Modi as PM and only 1.14% want Rahul Gandhi. Arvind Kejriwal doesn’t feature in the list at all. “We did not realize the content was misleading. We will look into it,” is all Anish has to say on the matter.

The CAG have been over the last year, affecting people’s perception of Modi and many have accused them of being a disguised PR agency. “We believe in value added service that will eventually benefit the public at large. For example, we take surveys of what the pressing problems are in a region and give the information to Mr. Modi,” says Anish. “ However, I can’t disagree that there is a lot of indirect PR where we may have an effect on people’s opinions,” he adds hesitantly.