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Cash paid for tickets, difficult to prove Bhandari-Vadra link: I-T sleuths

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Cash paid for tickets, difficult to prove Bhandari-Vadra link: I-T sleuths

Income tax officials say Paharganj-based travel agency which booked Vadra’s business class air tickets for Zurich had received cash payments

While the Congress and BJP trade charges against each other over a Times Now report which claimed that absconding arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari had, in August 2012, booked business class air tickets for Robert Vadra’s travel to Zurich, tax officials claim that the said air fare was paid for in cash and no trail of where the money came from could be proved during a probe.

The claims by I-T officials who spoke anonymously to The Indian Express appear to take the steam out of the political attacks made by the BJP against the Congress party’s first family at a time when the saffron party too finds itself in a spot over allegations that Jay Shah, son of BJP national president Amit Shah, saw a 16000-times hike in his company’s turnover in the years that followed Narendra Modi’s stunning rise as the country’s Prime Minister in May 2014.

The Times Now ‘expose’ against Vadra, the controversial husband of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi, had come days after online portal The Wire published the report about Jay Shah’s meteoric rise in wealth. The Congress has questioned the timing of the report over Vadra, claiming that it was deliberately being circulated by the BJP to deflect media and public attention from the allegations against Jay Shah.

However, while the conjectures arising out of the article on Jay Shah are largely based on tax returns and official filings made by the company of the BJP national president’s son, the allegations being made against Robert Vadra over his alleged links with Sanjay Bhandari are reportedly based on an email trail exchanged between the two, with little evidence to actually prove the money trail.

On Wednesday, The Indian Express said that income tax officials believe that the probe into the alleged payment by Sanjay Bhandari of air tickets for Vadra’s travel to Zurich had “virtually reached a dead end”. The newspaper claimed that: “when tax sleuths approached the Paharganj-based travel agency (International Travel Home) through which the air passage had been booked, they were informed that the payments were received in cash and they had no recollection whether the money was handed over to them by someone from either Sanjay Bhandari’s side or Robert Vadra’s side.”

The Indian Express report also anonymously quoted a senior I-T official as saying: “If the payments for the flights had been made by cheque, we could have traced the person who made the payments. But since the payments were made in cash there is nothing to dig deeper. And an amount of between Rs 8 lakh-Rs 10 lakh is too small an amount for us to call Robert Vadra over for questioning.”

The report added that the mail trail of ticket bookings for Zurich were located by them shortly after searches were conducted along with other mails connected to the renovation of a property in London ostensibly being done by Sanjay Bhandari for Robert Vadra.

Vadra and his lawyers have reportedly claimed that they had no communication with Sanjay Bhandari during the period for which the arms dealer is facing multiple probes by Indian agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and the I-T department.

The Times Now ‘expose’ however claims that: “According to the email trail, Bhandari bought tickets for the tainted businessman (Vadra) at a time when the arms dealer was being investigated for his role in swinging a jet trainer deal for Swiss company Pilatus. The fact that one of the tickets booked for Vadra was to Zurich, the financial capital of Switzerland, hints at his involvement in the Pilatus deal. However, there is no clarity on the issue as of now, and Times Now is awaiting a reply from his side.”

The BJP has latched on to the Times Now expose in an attempt to directly attack Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son, party vice president Rahul Gandhi over the Bhandari-Vadra links. On Tuesday, the BJP had fielded Union defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman to lead the party’s broadside against the Congress on the issue.

Sitharaman had said that the “studied silence” of Sonia and Rahul on the charges being leveled against Vadra will be construed as their acceptance of the allegations being true. Citing the Times Now report, Sitharaman had alleged that a London house linked to Vadra had been refurbished by Bhandari and that 7.5 lakh Swiss francs were deposited in a bank account of the arms dealer- possibly as payment for the renovation of Vadra’s London home.

“Why is the Congress vice-president, who has been emulating the Prime Minister in his tweets, maintaining a silence on this,” the defence minister had asked.

The Congress party had hit back at the BJP with its chief spokesperson, Randeep Singh Surjewala claiming that the allegations against Vadra were being raked up by the saffron party to “distract people from the accusations hurled against Jay Shah”.

“An unnerved and running scared BJP is on a ‘save Shah-Zada’ (a reference to Jay Shah) mission. Instead of ordering an inquiry into the business dealing of company owned by Amit Shah’s wife, daughter-in-law and son, which is being demanded by people in Opposition and even RSS, Nirmala Sitharaman is on an agenda of diversionary tactics but they will never succeed (sic),” Surjewala had said.

The Congress spokesperson had added that “the vicious witch-hunt and vendetta against Robert Vadra has continued for 41 months by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and yet not a single wrongdoing, violation of any law or a criminal misconduct has been established (against Vadra).”

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Caught on cam: Class 10 girl falls from school terrace in Ayodhya, family accuses school authority of rape and murder

The parents of the deceased girl said their daughter was called to school despite ongoing summer vacations.

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Caught on cam: Class 10 girl falls from school terrace in Ayodhya, family accuses school authority of rape and murder

A class 10 girl students died after falling off the terrace of her school building in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. While school said the girl fell from the swing, family accuses school officials of assault on their daughter.

The incident took place at 8:45 AM in the Sunbeam School, Ayodhya, of which the girl was a student.

The parents of the deceased girl said their daughter was called to school despite ongoing summer vacations.

At around 10:00 am on Friday, the parents received a call from the school administration informing them about their to have fallen from a swing and was severely injured.

The family then immediately rushed to the hospital but were informed by the doctors that their daughter had died during treatment.

The family doubted and informed the police about the incident.

The entire incident on the floor was caught on camera, the police during the investigation retrieved a CCTV footage that showed the girl falling on the floor.

Ayodhya SP Police on the matter said as the girl’s mother was out somewhere, once she comes back and once CCTV footages and other surveillance evidences are retrieved his team will conduct the investigation.

Deceased girl’s grandfather while speaking to media said at around 8:48 am, her daughter left for the school and at around 9:50 am, they received a call from the school authority.

The victim’s grandfather further informed that first they were told by the school management that the girl had fallen from the swing but later in the evening after watching the CCTV footage they got know to that she was thrown from from the terrace.

He further alleged that Brijesh Yadav, Abhishek Kanojia and another person killed her grand daughter. He again putting stress on Abhishek Kanojia’s name said he is responsible for the death.

School principal has distanced from giving any comments on the incident.

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Bihar: Snake found in mid-day meal in Araria school, 100 students hospitalised

Reports said the incident occurred on Saturday at Amouna middle school Ward No. 21, under Jogbani Nagar Parishad.

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Mid-day meal Bihar

A ruckus broke out at a government school in the Araria district of Bihar after a snake was found in the Khichdi served to students under the mid-day meal scheme.

Reports said the incident occurred on Saturday at Amouna middle school Ward No. 21, under Jogbani Nagar Parishad and landed as many as 100 students in the hospital. Officials said the affected students are undergoing treatment and are out of danger.

The pictures of the dead snake floating in the Khichdi are doing rounds on the internet.

Have a look at the pictures:

Reports further said students were served khichdi prepared by an NGO during the mid-day meal and the students who already ate the food ended up barfing following which they were rushed to the Forbesganj hospital.

Araria district education office Rajkumar said all the students who ate the food are safe and an investigation has been launched into the matter.

DEO Rajkumar also said the NGO, which was assigned for the mid-day meals in the school, will face the cancellation of their license.

The school authorities noticed the dead snake after a student pointed it out and informed everyone. However, about 100 students had eaten the meal till then.

Reports said school teachers complained several times to the NGO about the bad quality of mid-day meals they have been serving to the students, however, their complaint was neglected.

This is not the first mid-day meal mishap reported in Bihar. In November 2022, as many as 200 students were hospitalised after eating mid-day meals at a middle school in Naugachhia in Bhagalpur.

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PM Modi convenes Niti Aayog meeting, 6 Chief Ministers skip event

Delhi CM Kejriwal in a written letter to PM Modi stated he is boycotting the meeting to protest against the May 19 ordinance moved by the Centre nullifying the Supreme Court judgement. Kejriwal in his letter termed the ordinance as undemocratic and unconstitutional.

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PM Modi to convene Niti Aayog meeting today, 6 Chief Ministers not to attend

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired the eight governing council meeting of Niti Aayog today. At least Chief Ministers of six states skipped the meeting, a day ahead of the inauguration of the new Parliament building.

The list of CMs who boycotted the meeting are West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin, Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao and Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann.

The meeting was held at the new Convention Centre in Pragati Maidan, Delhi.

The theme of the meeting was Viksit Bharat at 2047: Role of Team India. Niti Aayog in an official statement stated today’s meeting will be participated by Chief Ministers, Lt Governors of all states and union territories, Union Ministers as ex-officio members, vice chairman and the members of the Niti Aayog.

The leaders of the states had announced their decision to skip the meeting due to various reasons.

Delhi CM Kejriwal in a written letter to PM Modi stated he is boycotting the meeting to protest against the May 19 ordinance moved by the Centre nullifying the Supreme Court judgement. Kejriwal in his letter termed the ordinance as undemocratic and unconstitutional.

Bihar CM Kumar while speaking to the media in Patna raised questions on the need of the new Parliament which is et to be inaugurated by PM Modi on May 28.

Kumar attacking the BJP said, the Central government in rule will change the history of the country and further added he sees no sense in attending the Niti Aayog meeting today at the new Parliament inauguration tomorrow.

Tamil Nadu CM Stalin will not be able to attend the meeting as he is on a three-day tour to Singapore and Japan, said state officials.

Punjab CM Mann stated the reason behind the boycott to be the Central government’s ignorance on farmer issues.

Telangana CM Rao is expected to attend a prearranged meeting with Kejriwal in Hyderabad on Saturday, the reason he is not attending the meeting.

While West Bengal CM Banerjee reason behind not attending the meeting was not stated, CM Banerjee is scheduled to visit Khadikul village in West Bengal to meet the family members of the victim of the blast in an illegal firecracker factory.

This comes after at least 20 opposition parties decided to boycott the inaugural event of the newly built Parliament building today.

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