News Wrap


At least 30 people were crushed to death with an unspecified number of  victims feared trapped, after a portion of Kolkata’s Vivekananda Road Flyover, currently under construction, collapsed near the Ganesh Talkies crossing, on 31 March 2016. Over 130 injured are undergoing treatment in different hospitals. Around 50-meters long flank of the flyover, that was supported on two pillars and passing through Chitpur-Ganesh Talkies in Girish Park area, north of the city, came crashing down, Crushing several vehicles under it. The construction work of the 2.2 km long Vivekananda Flyover had begun in 2009, after the contract was awarded to IVRCL, a Hyderabad based company, by the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA). Multiple deadlines have been missed by the flyover construction. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), along with the Police, Army and Civil Volunteers joined the rescue operation.

The construction company was in a tremendous hurry to complete the construction job. Steel girders on which the portion was being concretised gave in as it was unable to bear the weight of the cement casting. Structural designs did not go through third party checks and balances, in the congested area, where the flyover collapsed. Only 5% of the flyover construction work was done, prior to May 2011, during the Left Front regime. The foundation for the flyover was laid in 2008, and work began in February 2009. The flyover was being built on a faulty design, but work went ahead, as 60% of funds have been spent. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had awarded a contract to the Hyderabad based IVRCL, for constructing a tunnel at Baramulla (Jammu and Kashmir), in 2011 when she was the Union Railways Minister, even though the company was blacklisted. The Railway Board has scrapped the Baramulla tunnel project in 2014, shortly before the Modi government was installed, due to poor progress. After the Trinamul party came to power in West Bengal, in May 2011, the new government again reviewed the Vivekananda Flyover Project, and sanctioned the blacklisted IVRCL to continue with the report. The company officials were close to the Trinamul Congress party, and a relative of a local party MLA, was awarded a sub-contract for the project. Pillar number 40C that supported the two girders before they collapsed has a different design than other pillars. Three possible reasons for the flyover collapse are faulty design, poor execution and inferior quality of raw materials. Just before the flyover crash, a bolt of a slanting girder was falling of. Soon the bolt used for connecting the girders, to other portions of the bridge had come off.

Myanmar’s New Cabinet
Suu Kyi, aged 70, is the sole female member of Myanmar’s first civilian-led government, since General Ne Win led a military coup in 1962. The outgoing military-led government had two female ministers, and one female deputy minister. In last year’s elections, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) had only 15% female candidates. Suu Ki would act as foreign minister and presidential office minister, as well as running education and energy. The new president, Htin Kyaw, a long-term NLD stalwart and the 18-member cabinet negotiates with the military, the shape of the new administration. The once all-powerful military, with 25% of the seats in parliament retains Defence, Home and the sensitive post of Border Affairs, dealing with Myanmar’s warring ethnic minorities. Despite possessing a fake PhD, issued by a fraudulent college run by a Pakistani group in America, Kyaw Win is the NLD’s choice as Finance Minister. In the last week of March 2016, the military conducted the Armed Forces Day parade, and continues to stay on the political scene. The constitution gives the military crucial ministerial positions, and a majority on a special committee, than can override parliament during a crisis.

The Panama Papers
The Panama Papers expose, a massive leak of off-shore financial documents, includes the names of many well known world leaders and famous personalities, involved in an international web of corporate finance, corruption and tax evasion. Secret files of law firm, Mossack Fonesca (named after its two founders Juergen Mossak and Ramon Fonesca shed light on heads of state, celebrities, criminals and business tycoons investing and hiding their wealth in tax havens. Mossack Fonesca, based in Panama, has branches in Hong Kong, Miami, Zurich and 35 other cities worldwide. More than 11.5 million documents and files contain details of offshore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials, from around the world. Billions of dollars have been shuffled through banks and shadow companies by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his associates ; Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaj Sharif and his family; China’ President Xi Jinping and his brother-in-law; Iceland’s Prime Minister Gunnlaugsson, United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, David Careron; the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud; Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, former Egypt President Hosni Mubarak; South African President Jacab Zuma; Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak; Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko and Argentine President Mauricio Marci. The Mossack Fonesca documents contain the details of every transaction made by these people, through different sources, at different times.

There are cases relating to Indians who have links to off-shore companies, foundations and trusts in tax havens, such as British Virgin Islands, Bahamas and Panama. These Indians include as few of industrialists, Bollywood stars, real estate tycoons, politicians and even lawyers. Indian government authorities have been able to identify 434 as Indian residents, out of 700 Indian persons, having business connections with off-shore entities. Credit in the undisclosed foreign accounts of such Indian persons, is in excess of Rs 2000 crore. India is fully committed to the Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (BEPS). The present foreign remittance limit, under Reserve Bank of India’s Liberalized Remittance Scheme (LRS) of 2004, stands at $250,000 a year for resident Indians.

Vol. 48, No. 45, May 15 - 21, 2016