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VRS brings abrupt end to career of Andhra’s all-powerful, controversial IAS officer

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Amaravati, July 10 (IANS) The voluntary retirement taken by IAS officer, Praveen Prakash, brought curtains on the career of the senior bureaucrat, who had landed in a huge controversy over transfer of then Chief Secretary, LV Subrahmanyam, in 2019.

One of the most powerful IAS officers in the previous government headed by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, Praveen Prakash took voluntary retirement with seven years of his service left.

With the Telugu Desam Party (TDP)-led alliance coming to power, the 1994-batch officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre decided to quit IAS.

The state government permitted Praveen Prakash to retire voluntarily with effect from September 30, 2024 on personal grounds as per the provisions under sub-rule (2) of Rule 16 of the All India Services (Death-cum-Retirement Benefits) Rules, 1958.

Chief Secretary Neerabh Kumar Prasad on July 9 issued an order in this regard.

In the first major reshuffle of senior bureaucrats after Chandrababu Naidu assumed office as Chief Minister on June 12, at least 19 IAS officers were transferred.

They included Praveen Prakash, Principal Secretary, School Education Considered close to former Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, three IAS officers including Praveen Prakash were not given new postings and were directed to report to the General Administration Department (GAD).

When YSR Congress Party came to power in 2019, Praveen Prakash was serving as Resident Commissioner of Andhra Pradesh Bhavan in Delhi. However, Jagan Mohan Reddy brought him back to the state and appointed him Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister with full additional charge of Principal Secretary (Political) in the GAD.

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The IAS officer had emerged as the most powerful officer in the Chief Minister’s Office, overriding even the Chief Secretary. He was behind several key decisions in the CMO and was considered the CM’s go-to IAS officer.

The major and controversial decision was the transfer of then Chief Secretary, LV Subrahmanyam, to AP Human Resources Development Institute in November 2019.

He, being a Principal Secretary, signed the transfer order of the Chief Secretary.

The row had started with Praveen Prakash sending a proposal to Chief Secretary to be included in the agenda of the Cabinet meeting.

LV Subrahmanyam had taken strong exception to this and served a show cause notice to Praveen Prakash for exhibiting ‘grave misconduct’, ‘misbehaviour’ and ‘wilful insubordination’.

However, a few days after this, the Chief Secretary got a transfer order, duly signed by the Principal Secretary.

In 2021, then State Election Commissioner (SEC), N Ramesh Kumar had invoked his plenary powers to recommend transfer of Praveen Prakash holding him responsible for the inaction against some officers charged with dereliction of duty in the conduct of local body elections.

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The SEC also barred Prakash from interacting with the Collectors, Superintendents of Police and any other officer either directly or indirectly dealing with matters relating to the elections.

Prakash had reportedly scuttled the video conference convened to review the poll preparedness, and instructed the Collectors and Superintendents of Police as well as other officers not to participate in the commission meetings.

However, Prakash had denied the charges by the SEC.

In a letter to then Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das, he clarified that he never violated the orders of the SEC.

In February 2022, Praveen Prakash was transferred to Delhi to head AP Bhavan.

However, in October the same year, the officer was brought back to Andhra Pradesh and posted as Principal Secretary, Road and Transport Department.

Last year, Praveen Prakash was appointed Principal Secretary for School Education. He was quite active in setting things in order in the department.

The IAS officer’s surprise visits to schools used to evoke fear among teachers. He used to make a detailed inspection of schools from cleanliness to purity of drinking water and from textbooks to mid-day meals.

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The Principal Secretary used to take teachers, head masters and officials of the education department to task. He even suspended a couple of officials during the inspections.

Teachers’ associations had taken exception to the IAS officer’s style of functioning. They alleged that he was maligning the teachers working in the government schools.

Some of them said the officer was creating terror with his aggressive style as he travels with a convoy of 10-15 cars like the Chief Minister.

Andhra Pradesh Teachers’ Federation had even threatened to go on mass leave if the government failed to rein-in Praveen Prakash. In August last year, Praveen Prakash had said that he would resign from the IAS if the state fails to achieve 100 per cent Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in schools.

The IAS officer had reportedly told his aides before elections that if the TDP-led alliance comes to power, he would not work under the new government.

As the TDP-Jana Sena-BJP alliance came to power with a landslide majority, Praveen Prakash took the final decision.

A couple of weeks after the new government transferred him without giving him a new posting, he wrote a letter on June 25, requesting that he be allowed to retire voluntarily from IAS with effect from September 30, 2024.

–IANS

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Karnataka govt orders probe into MUDA land scam ahead of monsoon session

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Bengaluru, July 15 (IANS) The Karnataka government has ordered a probe into the Mysuru Urban Development Authority (MUDA) land case by a single-member commission headed by retired Justice of the High Court P. N. Desai, allegedly involving Chief Minister Siddaramaiah,

The government announcement has come ahead of the monsoon session which will begin from Monday and has asked the committee to submit its findings within six months after completing the probe.

The order said that the allegations regarding the allotment of sites have come to the government’s attention and have been reported by the media.

“The decision was made under Sub-rule 1 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952. The inquiry commission is empowered to investigate under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, and the Code of Civil Procedure,” the government order reads.

The opposition has been demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and to handover the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

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“The Urban Development Department and MUDA are directed to provide all documents and information to the commission and also to provide the services of technical, economic, and administrative experts,” the order reads.

It further underlines that the concerned officers attached to the Urban Development Department and MUDA must be present during the investigation and provide all documents, files, and other required materials, ensuring full cooperation.

Union Minister for Heavy Industries and Steel H.D. Kumaraswamy has made an appeal to the legal fraternity to seek consent for the prosecution of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah from Governor T.C. Gehlot in connection with the alleged irregularities in Mysuru Urban Development Authority (MUDA) and the tribal welfare Board.

Union Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Pralhad Joshi had accused Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of being “directly involved” in the Mysuru Urban Development Authority (MUDA) land scam.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had said that he is being targeted regarding the MUDA land case as he hails from a backward class.

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“I am being targeted as I hail from the backward class. The agitation against me is political but I am capable of countering it,” the Chief Minister had said.

The MUDA controversy is primarily over the purchase, de-notification, gifting, encroachment, and awarding of alternative sites in connection with 3.16 acres of land owned by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s wife B.M. Parvathi.

The BJP has alleged a loss of about Rs 4,000 crore to the government by alleged fraudulent allotments.

–IANS

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Telangana launches distribution of safety kits for toddy tappers

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Hyderabad, July 14 (IANS) The Telangana government on Sunday launched the distribution of safety kits for toddy tappers from the Goud community.

Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy launched the distribution of the ‘Katamayya Raksha Kavacham’ or safety kits at Lashkarguda village at Abdullapurmet on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

As many toddy tappers are losing lives or sustaining serious injuries after falling from trees while extracting toddy, the government has come out with a scheme to distribute safety kits.

Under the initiative by the Telangana State BC Corporation, specialised safety kits have been designed specifically for toddy tappers. These kits, developed in collaboration with IIT Hyderabad and a private company, integrate modern technologies to prevent accidents. With advanced safety features tailored to the specific needs of rope climbers, each kit includes six essential devices: ropes, clips, handles, a sling bag, and leg loops.

Revanth Reddy said that the government is committed to extending assistance to people who rely on traditional occupations. He claimed that the Goud community supported and campaigned for Congress to come to power in the elections. “Goud brothers also propagated that the respect of weaker sections will be enhanced only if the Congress comes to power in Telangana. Gouds are known for their fighting spirit and their robustness,” he said.

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The Chief Minister also said that the government will not object to growing palm and Indian date palm trees on the government lands.

He suggested to Excise Minister Jupally Krishna Rao to take up the plantation of palm and Indian Date plam under the Vanamahotsavam programme. An initiative is also proposed to plant such trees on the banks of water bodies, roads, ponds, and canals.

The Chief Minister claimed that the Congress government is striving for the upliftment of the weaker sections. “YSR regime introduced the fee reimbursement scheme for weaker sections. Our government is committed to continuing the fee reimbursement scheme,” he said, adding that the government is committed to protecting the culture of the Goud community.

Appealing to the community to provide higher studies to their children to make them reach higher levels, he said: “They should also participate in rebuilding the Telangana state. Your children should grow as lawmakers. Education is the only weapon for weaker sections to become rulers.”

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The Chief Minister, Assembly Speaker G. Prasad, and ministers also participated in a community lunch with the Goud community.

–IANS

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Coast Guard recovers body of missing fisherman from Bay of Bengal

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Kolkata, July 14 (IANS) The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has carried out a successful operation and recovered the mortal remains of a fisherman who recently went missing from a trawler in the deep seas off the West Bengal coast.

Fisherman Mohan Majhi (50) was on board the Indian Fishing Boat (IFB) ‘Jai Baba Lokenath’ that is registered at Diamond Harbour in the South 24-Parganas district of West Bengal.

He went missing on Thursday before the trawler returned to the harbour. The boat owner approached the ICG District Headquarters in Haldia around 7:30 p.m. on that day and requested officials to carry out a search for Majhi.

ICG Ship (ICGS) Kamla Devi was immediately deployed to the area where the fisherman went missing.

Braving rough seas, ICGS Kamla Devi carried out a sustained search operation in the area and sighted Majhi’s decomposed body. The body was taken on board the Coast Guard vessel where a medical team inspected it, officials said on Sunday.

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The ship then left for Haldia. After berthing there, the body was handed over to the local police on Saturday in the presence of family members and the boat owner, they added.

The recovery of the body will bring closure to the case for the bereaved family and allow them to overcome several legal hurdles regarding insurance claims and compensation.

–IANS

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Maha issues notification on free travelling facility to senior citizens

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Mumbai, July 14 (IANS) The Maharashtra government on Sunday issued a notification on free travelling facilities to important pilgrimage sites across India by senior citizens of all faiths.

Chief Minister Eknath Shinde recently announced that the Mukhyamantri Teerth Darshan Yojana will be implemented for the senior citizens of the state to visit various pilgrimage sites across the country.

The scheme includes 73 pilgrimage sites in India and 66 from Maharashtra state. Nearly all the important pilgrimage sites are included in the scheme.

The eligible senior citizens will get the benefit of this scheme to visit one of the pilgrimage sites mentioned under this scheme. Similarly, the maximum amount per head towards travelling allowance will be Rs 30,000. This will include actual travelling, meals, lodging and other important expenses.

The annual income of the beneficiary should be less than 2.50 lakh and the beneficiary should be a resident of Maharashtra state and should be a senior citizen above 60 years of age.

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For taking the benefit of the scheme the applicant will have to apply online.

The beneficiaries will be selected by the committees appointed at the district level. The quota will be decided on the basis of the population of the district and the beneficiaries will be selected by a lottery method from the applications received. Beneficiaries who are above 75 years of age will be permitted to travel with their spouse or any assistant.

A 17-member committee led by the Social Justice Minister had been formed to monitor and review the scheme at the state level.

A seven-member committee under the chairmanship of the guardian minister will be looking into the matter at the district level.

The Assistant Commissioner of the Social Welfare Department will be the member secretary, whereas at the state level, the Social Welfare Commissioner will be working as the Nodal Officer.

“The state government is leaving no stone unturned for fulfilling the dreams of the poor, downtrodden and destitute citizens of the state. We are satisfied that we will be getting the blessings of the senior citizens. This will definitely provide energy and inspiration to the government,” the Chief Minister said.

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–IANS

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Assam slowly emerging out of flood crisis, two more deaths, 6 lakh people still affected

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Guwahati, July 14 (IANS) With waters receding, the overall flood situation in Assam improved on Sunday even as two more deaths were reported from the Karimganj district and over 6 lakh people remain affected in 18, or over half, of the state’s 35 districts, Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) officials said.

According to ASDMA officials, with the two fresh deaths, as of Sunday, at least 93 people died due to the current flood in 23 districts and around 10 more people died due to landslides and other calamities after the monsoon rain started early last month.

The highest number of deaths (22) were reported from Cachar district in southern Assam.

According to the ASDMA officials, the number of flood-affected people has sharply come down from over 24.20 lakh in 30 districts as of July 5.

Flood water is still submerging 5,367 hectares of crop area in 1,342 villages in 18 districts while over 2.83 lakh domestic animals have also been badly affected.

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Of the 18 flood-affected districts, Dhubri, Cachar, Dhemaji, Darrang, Goalpara, and Golaghat are still badly hit.

The Brahmaputra is flowing above the danger level at Neamatighat, Tezpur, and Dhubri, while Burhidihing and Disang rivers are also flowing above the danger level in a few areas.

ASDMA officials said over 30,000 people are sheltered in the 172 relief camps set up by the district administrations, while 32 relief distribution centres are functioning in different districts.

The flood water also submerged the vast areas of Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR). The Forest and Wildlife Department workers have so far rescued 143 wild animals while more than 196 animals, including deer, rhinos, and hog deer, have drowned in flood waters.

–IANS

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