The meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif started with the latter clarifying that he never made any adverse comments on the former as reported by a section of the Pakistani media. In fact,Sharif had asked his Foreign Secretary to clarify the same to the Indian delegation before the meeting started. Singh,however,was not perturbed. He is believed to have replied,possibly in jest,that he was not concerned about the controversy generated as he had become quite thick skinned about such barbs.
Senior bureaucrat Arun Kumar Bal,who was in charge of acquisitions cases of the Air Force in the Defence Ministry,including the VVIP chopper deal scandal,passed away on Wednesday morning after suffering a heart attack during morning walk. He was known to have a heart condition. Bal was the one bureaucrat at the ministry who,as Joint Secretary (Air),knew most about the ongoing investigation into the VVIP deal as well as the Italian investigation having traveled to several court hearings and having complete access to all probe papers. Most recently,he was instrumental in hiring a new set of lawyers to represent the Indian side in the ongoing Italian court hearings into the scam. These lawyers had promised to obtain more documents from the Italian authorities than what had been passed on in the first lot.
The HRD Ministry has quite a task at hand,finding 12 academics worthy of heading central universities. The terms of the Vice-Chancellors of 12 central varsities are nearing the end and the ministry is set to begin the selection process. The move requires a dozen search-cum-selection committees to be set up for the purpose. What is worrying the ministry most,officials privately admit,is just how they will scout for so many academics to fill these slots by March 2014 considering that there is such dearth of academic talent in the country. Meanwhile,the ministry has successfully found a candidate to head the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University in Madhya Pradesh,with Prof Kattimani from Hyderabad being chosen for the job.
The much-hyped retreat ceremony at the India-Bangladesh border that was scheduled to be inaugurated by the home ministers of both countries on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was cancelled at the last moment due to bad weather. While officials maintained that the cancellation request came from the office of Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde,who remained occupied throughout the day dealing with issues related to withdrawing the ordinance on convicted MPs and MLAs,there were reports that the programme was cancelled as the officials could not build a helipad at the inauguration site so that VIPs could fly directly to the venue from Kolkata.