Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday said the ISRO scientists worked hard for Chandrayaan-2 mission and the nation is with them.The lunar mission’s lander ‘Vikram’ lost contact with the ground station minutes before its planned soft landing on moon surface.”We are proud of our scientists. The @isro team worked hard for #Chandrayaan2. A befitting tribute to our founding fathers who envisioned India’s place in the league of scientifically advanced nations far ahead of their times,” she tweeted.She congratulated the ISRO scientists and said the nation is with them.”A testimony to the scientific temper they ingrained in us, and their unmatched caliber and dedication. My sincere gratitude and congratulations to @isro. We are all with you.May you continue to make us proud,” she added.
OTTAWA – A pair of relative political rookies — Seamus O’Regan and Carla Qualtrough — have been tapped to guide two of the federal Liberal government’s most complex and politically sensitive portfolios: military procurement and veterans affairs.The appointments — Public Services and Procurement for Qualtrough, Veterans Affairs for O’Regan — are big jumps for the pair, who will be wrestling with some difficult challenges even before the ink on their swearing-in papers has dried.O’Regan’s appointment was the more high-profile move, given his background as a national TV host before being elected to federal office in 2015.The rookie backbencher from St. John’s takes over from Calgary MP Kent Hehr, who was demoted to minister for sport and persons with disabilities after a rough tenure in the veterans’ portfolio.The Liberals were elected two years ago on a promise to address many of the complaints veterans had raised about their treatment under the Harper Conservatives.Hehr fulfilled some of those commitments, including the re-opening of nine Veterans Affairs Canada offices closed by the Tories.But he stoked anger and frustration by repeatedly obfuscating on the Liberals’ biggest promise: bringing back lifelong disability pensions, which were replaced by lump-sum payments and a new system of benefits for injured ex-soldiers in 2006.Veterans reacted with mixed emotions to O’Regan’s appointment.Some hoped the former Canada AM host’s personal friendship with Trudeau would translate into real action for veterans, but others feared that the relationship was the main reason he got the job in the first place.During a news conference Monday, Trudeau defended his decision to promote O’Regan, who vacationed with the prime minister and his family on the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas this past Christmas.“He is a friend, that’s true,” Trudeau said in French.“But he’s also someone who has been there to deliver for Newfoundland and Labrador, who’s shown his skills and abilities. He’s certainly going to be an exceptional minister.”The prime minister also stood by O’Regan, whose brother is a senior naval officer, when asked about the new veterans affairs minister’s past struggles with alcohol and mental illness.O’Regan spent Christmas 2015 at a “wellness centre” where he received treatment for alcoholism, a subject he openly discussed Monday when he greeted reporters for the first time as the minister for veterans affairs.“In my case, anyway, there is nothing better than purposeful work,” he said. “This is sweet, and I feel great … the stresses and strains of purposeful work is something that I find completely invigorating, and it keeps me very healthy.”The big question for veterans is whether the Liberals will make good on the promise to bring back the lifelong disability.“It’s irrelevant who the minister is if they don’t have the pension,” said Aaron Bedard, one of six disabled Afghan veterans suing the government in B.C. Superior Court for a return to the pensions.The stakes are high for the government, as well, given the emotional nature of the veterans’ file, which many believe helped scuttle the Conservatives’ re-election efforts two years ago.Qualtrough’s task at Public Services and Procurement Canada isn’t any easier, despite her experience in cabinet as Canada’s most recent minister for sport and people with disabilities.The former Paralympian and ex-sports and disabilities minister takes over from Judy Foote, the longtime Liberal MP who resigned from cabinet last week for family health reasons, at a time when the department is facing big challenges.One is the ongoing effort to fix the federal government’s troubled Phoenix pay system, which has affected thousands of public servants and cost millions of dollars to fix — with no end in sight.Yet Qualtrough is also being thrown into the deep end when it comes to several multibillion-dollar military procurement projects, with decisions looming on naval warships and interim fighter jets.The fighter-jet file in particular is a potential landmine, as everyone waits to see whether the Liberals scrap their plans to buy 18 interim Super Hornets from U.S. aerospace giant Boeing.That decision is expected to come down to whether the U.S. Commerce Department decides this month to penalize Canadian firm Bombardier, which Boeing has accused of unfair trade practices.Qualtrough would not say Monday whether Canada still needs interim fighter jets to strengthen the air force’s aging CF-18 fleet until a full replacement can be purchased.“I can tell you that having been in this job for an hour that it would be premature to come out and answer that question directly,” she said.“But I can assure you as I get briefed up that the fighter jet file will be top on my plates and on my desk and I will be able to provide a more informed decision as soon as I’m briefed up.”— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.