Monday, December 19, 2011

Government to start fresh talks on FDI in retail!Centre returns UP's resolution seeking division into 4 states!What an Irony underlies beneth the Political Game played in Parliamentary Politics. Renewal of reform Agenda is Topmost priority and it is

Government to start fresh talks on FDI in retail!Centre returns UP's resolution seeking division into 4 states!What an Irony underlies beneth the Political Game played in Parliamentary Politics. Renewal of reform Agenda is Topmost priority and it is open secret. But they DISPLAY False Difference to dupe the 95 percent Non Aryan Non Brahamin Masses!Revised Lokpal Bill to be tabled in Parl in couple of days

Bringing Prime Minister in the ambit of Lokpal with adequate safeguards and change in mode of appointment of CBI director could be among the provisions the government is looking to incorporate in the Lokpal Bill to be introduced in Parliament, possibly in the next couple of days.Government and BJP on Monday agreed on issues related to Pensions Fund Regulatory Development Authority Bill and Companies Bill but the opposition suggested that since the draft of the latter has been altered considerably it should be sent back to the Standing Committee.BJP on Monday raised doubts over whether the proposed Food Security Bill approved by the Union Cabinet would achieve its objectives, wondering whether it would turn out to be another "scam".

Narendra Modi to hold day-long fast in Jamnagar tomorrow

6 AIADMK workers tonsure heads to celebrate Sasikala's expulsion

National Manufacturing Policy will help intensify US ties: Nirupama Rao

Team Anna had a meeting in Delhi on Monday to discuss its strategy on the Lokpal bill as the government worked to finalise the anti-corruption legislation to be presented before Parliament.

India spent over Rs4,42,000 crore in 10 yrs on procuring defence equipment

Rs7.25 crore spent on ads on birth anniversaries of Rajiv, Indira Gandhi

Hazare to offer rose to PM if Cabinet approves strong Lokpal

56,383 cases pending in Supreme Court

Jailed former communications minister A. Raja's former additional private secretary Aseervatham Achary Monday told a special court here that the DMK leader hatched the conspiracy on 2G spectrum licences much before he headed the ministry.

Troubled Galaxy Destroyed Dreams ,Chapter 723

Palash Biswas

Government to start fresh talks on FDI in retail!

  • Pushed to the wall on the issue of allowing FDI in the multi-brand retail, the government today asserted that the decision was "suspended and not rolled back" and said it will start fresh talks withstakeholders to bring it back on the table.
  • "I do not think there is a policy paralysis. Sentiment has been low. The government is committed to the reform agenda...there is only a suspension, there is no roll-back of the decision. We will be talking once again (with the stakeholders)," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said.
  • The issue came up for discussion during a meeting between Sharma and business leaders of CII and Ficci.
  • After a big uproar in Parliament and strong opposition, mainly from its key allies TMC and DMK, the government had put on hold the decision to allow 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the multi-brand retail sector.
  • Sharma said as far as his ministry is concerned the decision was a "well thought-out" one and was taken after intense consultations with all stakeholders, including SMEs, states and farmer associations.
  • The decision was not taken "abruptly", he said. "Let us remain optimistic that we will be able to ensure that there is a larger support," he said.
  • About his meeting the industry, he said that they have reviewed the progress of several mega projects in sectors like power. Issues like high cost of credit, depreciation in rupee and declining industrial production also came up discussion.
  • "Industry feels and the government also accepts that it (mega projects) should be regularly monitored so that the project approvals are put on a fast track," he said.
  • However, they did no disclose the name of the mega projects.
  • On reviving industrial growth, he said the government and the industry are in a regular dialogue and are discussing ways to increase the factory output.

National Manufacturing Policy will help intensify US ties: Nirupama Rao
CHENNAI: Seeking to forge closer trade and economic ties between India and the US, Indian Ambassador to US Nirupama Rao today said the National Manufacturing Policy, which was recently cleared by the Union Cabinet, would pave the way for intensified commercial ties between the two nations.

"I am sure the scope for intensification our ties is going to be considerable and enormous. Now that the new Manufacturing Policy announced by the government of India, I think there is enormous potential to expand and diversify our export basket to US," Rao told business leaders at FICCI here.

Noting that India's exports to US were dominated bycommodities, Rao, a former Foreign Secretary, said there was a need to lay more focus on manufacturing exports.

"There is a need to focus on manufacturing exports and we at the Embassy and at the Consulate will be happy to work with our industry to identify specific products which can be exported to the US. In fact, we will be happy to map the US market in terms of the exports that interest you," she said.

Recalling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's observation that Indo-US ties were a "unique blend of principle and pragmatism," she said the trade and economic cooperation between the two countries was mutually beneficial.

"India's trade and commercial engagement is at levels that have never been high as of today," she said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India's economy will return to a long-term growth pace of 9% as inflation slows and the government extends a record of market-opening policies. "We will stay the course," Singh said in an interview on Wednesday.

"We will make India an eminently bankable and creditworthy economy." Gross domestic product will increase 7.5% in the fiscal year that ends March 31 while inflation will cool to between 6% and 7%, Singh said. The slide in the rupee won't diminish investor confidence, he said.

The prime minister said he expects to succeed in his push to open India's retail market to foreign companies after state elections conclude by the end of March 2012. The benchmark Sensex had its biggest threeday drop since July 2009 after the government suspended the opening of foreign direct investment into the retail industry.

Shoppers Stop, India's second largest retailer by market value, gained 1% to Rs 310.6, ending five straight days of losses after Singh's pledge on opening the industry to foreign investment. Wal-Mart Stores and Tesco are among overseas companies that have pushed to enter Asia's third-largest economy.

Rupee performance

The rupee pared losses, and was at $53.76 per as of 4:55 pm in Mumbai. The rupee has tumbled 17% so far this year, the worst performance among 10 major Asian currencies tracked by Bloomberg, hurt by India's parliamentary gridlock, elevated inflation, widening budget gap and the weakest economic growth in two years.

Turning to KingfisherAirlines, the carrier seeking cash after losses, Singh predicted that banks will support its turnaround efforts. Kingfisher has pledged assets ranging from its brand to office furniture for bank loans of as much as Rs6,420 crore ($1.2 billion).

"In the case of Kingfisher, where government banks have given loans, if they take corrective measures I am sure things should work out," Singh said. "The Indian banking system has a stake in their well-being. With a government nod things will turn around."

Animal spirits

"We have a strong intention to create a situation where the animal spirits of Indian and overseas businessmen continue," Singh said in the interview.

"There may be zigzags along the way, but the path is the one I set. It is my conviction that it is the only path, to reduce the chronic poverty of millions still live under." The prime minister signaled he will revive the proposed retail measure after March, following state elections and when inflation has slowed. That will help bolster public support for the government, he said.

"There was inadequate preparation and some partners in the coalition developed cold feet," Singh said. "But I can assure you, India remains committed to a system of regulation that is supportive of enterprise and we will do everything to encourage foreign investment."


Parliament ruckus over Bhagvad Gita facing ban in Russia

Parliamentarians across the political spectrum Monday asked the government to ensure that the religious rights of Hindus in Russia are protected after a member pointed out an IANS report about the Bhagvad Gita facing a ban and the prospect of it being branded as "extremist" literature there.
Angry MPs forced the adjournment of the Lok Sabha till 2 p.m. after Biju Janata Dal leader Bhartruhari Mahtab raised the issue in the house and asked the government to intervene immediately to ensure the religious freedom of Hindus in Russia.
He said a court in Siberia's Tomsk city was set to deliver its final verdict Monday in a case filed by state prosecutors, as was reported by IANS Saturday when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was on an official visit to Moscow.
"I want to know from the government what it is doing. The religious rights of Hindus in Russia should be protected. The government should impress upon the Russian authorities through diplomatic channels," he said.
The case, which has been going on in the Tomsk court since June, seeks a ban on a Russian translation of the "Bhagavad Gita As It Is" written by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

It also wants the Hindu religious text banned in Russia, declared as literature spreading "social discord", and its distribution on Russian soil rendered illegal.
Indians in Moscow, numbering about 15,000, and followers of the ISKCON religious movement in Russia have appealed to the Indian government to intervene diplomatically to resolve the issue in favour of the scripture, an important part of Indian epic Mahabharata written by sage Ved Vyas.
When Mahtab raised the issue, the lower house plunged into chaos, with MPs urging Speaker Meira Kumar to let them speak on the matter. She, however, refused and instead asked them to send notes and associate with Mahtab.
Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RLD) was heard shouting that the Hindu scripture does not preach extremism.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members were also seen rising from their seats to protest the issue before Meira Kumar adjourned the house till 2 p.m.

Source: IANS

Complete Coverage: Manmohan Singh | Bhagavad Gita | ISKCON | Meira Kumar | Lalu Prasad | Bharatiya Janata Party

Chomsky, 70 others oppose Assange's extradition

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APWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a statement to media gathered outside the High Court in London in this file photo.



crime, law and justiceinternational law
justice and rights
politicsespionage and intelligence
freedom of the press
human rights

Leading world figures, including the distinguished American academic Noam Chomsky, British filmmaker Ken Loach and journalist and free speech campaigner John Pilger, have attacked the move to extradite the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Sweden as they fear it could be a prelude to him being handed over to the Americans, who want to prosecute him for publishing classified documents.

Sweden is seeking Mr. Assange's extradition over allegations of sexual assault brought by two Swedish women but he has challenged the proceedings and Britain's Supreme Court is to hear his appeal next month.

In a statement on Monday, signed by more than 70 others including the former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, they said: "We are concerned that should Mr. Assange be placed in Swedish custody, he will be subject to the process of 'temporary surrender' enabling his removal to the United States without the appropriate legal processes that accompany normal extradition cases."

Arguing that the chances of Mr. Assange receiving a fair trial in the U.S. appeared "remote", they said: "A number of prominent [U.S.] political figures have called for him to be assassinated, and Joe Biden, the Vice-President, has called him a 'high-tech terrorist'. Given this atmosphere of hostility, we hold serious concerns about his safety in American custody."

The signatories pointed out that any prosecution of Mr. Assange in the U.S. would be "on the basis of his activities as a journalist and editor — Mr. Assange's status as such has been recently confirmed by the High Court in England". "Such a prosecution would be a serious assault on freedom of speech and the need for an unfettered, independent media," said the statement, published inThe Daily Telegraph.

Keywords: WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange
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Centre returns UP's resolution seeking division into 4 states! Ahead of a cabinet meeting tomorrow, senior ministers have studied the Lokpal Bill and made major changes. Jailed former communications minister A. Raja's former additional private secretary Aseervatham Achary Monday told a special court here that the DMK leader hatched the conspiracy on 2G spectrum licences much before he headed the ministry.

What an Irony underlies beneth the Political Game played in Parliamentary Politics. Renewal of reform Agenda is Topmost priority and it is open secret. But they DISPLAY False Difference to dupe the 95 percent Non Aryan Non Brahamin Masses!

The Centre today returned Uttar Pradesh Assembly's resolution seeking division of Uttar Pradesh into four seperate states, says Home Ministry.

The resolution was returned as the Centre sought clarifications on the resolution.

The Centre today returned Uttar Pradesh Assembly's resolution seeking division of Uttar Pradesh into four seperate states, says Home Ministry.

The resolution was returned as the Centre sought clarifications on the resolution.
A Raja's former additional personal secretary Aseervatham Achary on Monday stood by his statements in a 2G court under Section 164 of the CrPC, which counts as admissible evidence in court. He told the 2G court that DMK MP Kanimozhi was a frequent visitor to Raja's office and residence when he was the IT minister.

Achary also said that Unitech's Sanjay Chandra and DB Group's Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka were known to A Raja from his days as environment minister.

Achary in his testimony said that Sanjay Chandra, Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka used to meet a Raja when he was environment minister in relation to environmental clearance required for big real estate projects in which these companies were involved.

A big chocolate cake was cut at Rashtrapati Bhawan on Monday to mark President Pratibha Patil's 77th birthday.

Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Railways Minister Dinesh Triwedi called on her to greet her on the occasion.

The President along with her spouse Devisingh Patil cut the cake in the presence of her Rashtrapati Bhavan staff.

In her brief speech, Patil, whose tenure ends in July next year, said she has cherished her time at Rashtrapati Bhavan and derives her strength from the hardworking staff of the President House.

Her Secretary Christie Fernandez handed over a bouquet of red roses to the President on behalf of the Rasthrapati Bhawan staff.

Revised Lokpal Bill to be tabled in Parl in couple of days!Team Anna had a meeting in Delhi on Monday to discuss its strategy on the Lokpal bill as the government worked to finalise the anti-corruption legislation to be presented before Parliament.

New Lokpal Bill with changes likely

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Parliament session may be extended by three days to pass legislation
The government is mulling over introducing a new Lokpal Bill in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday or Thursday, and if necessary, extend the winter session by three more days from December 27 to 29 to ensure its passage. The new bill is likely to incorporate more than 60 amendments to the existing legislation.
The Cabinet is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. on Tuesday to clear the Bill being finalised by a Group of Ministers. The jurisdiction of the Lokpal over the CBI and bringing the Group C employees within its ambit appear to be the only sticky points on which the government is working a way out to secure the support of a majority of the political parties.
The ruling combine is opposed to placing the CBI under the direct control of the Lokpal but is ready to concede the agency's jurisdiction on cases referred by the ombudsman for investigation.
In addition, the government has no issue over the proposal for selecting the CBI chief through an independent panel.
As things stand, the government is against the BJP's proposal to concede to the Lokpal administrative control over the CBI. For the record, the BJP is insisting that it would stick to its position. At the same time, the party leaders maintained that they could review their stand if the government came forward with a formula acceptable to them.
On bringing Group C employees under the Lokpal, the government is in favour of sticking to the August 27 'Sense of the House' resolution which said that this category could be under the ombudsman through an appropriate mechanism. According to government sources, the Group C employees could be under the Lokpal through the Central Vigilance Commission.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told journalists that the government was hopeful of moving a Bill which would be acceptable to a majority of the parties. "The revised Bill may not be acceptable to all but we are hopeful that it would be by and large acceptable to a majority."


Explaining the rationale behind introducing a new Bill rather than moving amendments to the existing one, Mr. Bansal said the number of amendments were too many and it would be 'messy' to carry them in the current Bill. "The idea is to have a cleaner Bill."
He cited the Companies Amendment Bill, which was introduced in 2009. The government decided to introduce a fresh one this year after it accepted most of the over 170 amendments made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
Introduction of a new Bill would involve some procedural issues. The government was required to circulate a new Bill to the MPs at least two days in advance and could be introduced only five days after it was circulated. The Speaker could waive the required period for circulation by a day and give permission for introduction without waiting for five days.
Mr. Bansal said that if the Cabinet approved the Bill on Tuesday it could be circulated the same day and moved for consideration and passage either on Wednesday or Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Law Minister Salman Khursheed said a group of senior Ministers was working on the draft of the proposed changes to the Bill and expressed the hope that it would be completed at the most by Tuesday night.
Keywords: Lokpal Bill, UPA-II, parliament session, anti-corruption bill, Team Anna

No more grace time for government: Anna Hazare

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The HinduAnti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare greets supporters at a public rally against corruption in Chennai on Sunday. Photo:M. Vedhan




Anna Hazare in Chennai


New Lokpal Bill with changes likelyWill make every effort to get Lokpal Bill passed: AdvaniWe're working day and night on Lokpal Bill: ManmohanAnna cancels Hyderabad tour to attend Parliament sessionAnna Hazare in ChennaiHazare dubs Lokpal Bill worthlessParliament will have final word on Lokpal: Advani"Don't dictate terms to Parliament": Omar to AnnaThousands keep date with AnnaAnna Hazare watches film on GandhiHazare not to visit Delhi today


IndiaTamil Nadu
Tamil NaduChennai
crime, law and justicecorruption & bribery

The Centre, which has repeatedly cheated on its deadlines, has run out of any more grace time for passing a strong Lokpal Bill during the ongoing winter session of Parliament, anti-corruption movement spearhead Anna Hazare said on Sunday.

Interacting with journalists after addressing a large rally, his first in Chennai, Mr. Hazare said repeated betrayals by the government despite assurances had made Team Anna sceptical about the passage of the Bill during the winter session, and the composition of the Bill, if at all it is passed.

Claiming that the people had been betrayed by the government four times in the last 10 months on its promise of a Lokpal Bill, Mr. Hazare pointed out that in spite of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assurance — on the basis of which he had called off his August fast — the Parliamentary standing committee report had not included the citizen's charter, lower bureaucracy (group C and D) and establishment of Lok Ayuktas in all States.

The Prime Minister is a straightforward and non-corrupted man; the problem is with the "remote control" as some around him seemed to be more powerful than him, Mr. Hazare remarked.

"If the Bill is passed, I will present flowers to the Prime Minister on December 27; otherwise it is only protests," said Mr. Hazare.

He made it clear that there was no going back on the protest fast scheduled for December 27 at Ramlila maidan in Delhi and the 'jail bharo' stir from January 1 if the government failed again.

Indicating that there has been no softening of Team Anna's stance on bringing the CBI under the Lokpal, Mr. Hazare said there could be no compromise on this core demand. Pointing out that there had not been any instance of a Minister, high-ranking bureaucrat or police officer being sent to jail (for corruption) as the CBI remained under the government, Mr. Hazare said the CBI had to be taken away from government control for the people to get justice, he said.

"The Lokpal will be nothing without the CBI. It is better not to have a Lokpal if the CBI as a whole or at least its anti-corruption wing is not brought under the Lokpal," said Team Anna leader Kiran Bedi.

She pointed out that the agitation for Lokpal was started following complaints of political interference over the CBI. So the mass consensus was that the CBI should become autonomous and free from government influence, she said.

Earlier, addressing the rally, Mr. Hazare promised to build a model village in Tamil Nadu on the lines of the one he developed in Maharashtra. He said it was a shame that Tamil Nadu was one of the nine States that did not have a Lok Ayukta — a lacuna that would be resolved once the Lokpal Bill was passed.

'A document of people'

Team Anna member Santosh Hegde who referred to criticism that the campaign was holding Parliament to ransom and that laws could not be made on streets and maidans, said the very Constitution that bound Parliament, executive and judiciary, was a document of the people in whom was vested the ultimate power in a democracy.

Keywords: Lokpal bill, India Against Corruption, Anna in Chennai, anti-corruption

A Team Anna member said the working group of the Team Anna met to discuss the situation against the backdrop of the moves by the government.
The member said they deliberated on the preparations for Anna Hazare's protest from December 27 in case there is no forward development on the Lokpal bill issue.
Meanwhile, Hazare changed his plans to come to Delhi on Monday and headed to his native village Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra where he will stay for the next three-four days.
As there were no clear indications when the Lokpal bill will be introduced in Parliament, one of his close aides said he has reached Ralegan Siddhi. "He will be here for next 3-4 days," Suresh Pathare, Hazare's close aide, said.
Hazare cancelled his Hyderabad programme for Monday and wanted to be in Delhi anticipating that the Lokpal bill will be introduced in Parliament during the day.
The 74-year-old activist wanted to be present in the Visitors' Gallery of Parliament when the Lokpal bill, for which he led a protest for the past eight months, is introduced.
He cancelled his Hyderabad plans as there were reports that the Cabinet will clear the bill on Sunday night and it will be introduced in Parliament on Monday.
Stepping up pressure, Team Anna member Kiran Bedi alleged that the government's unwillingness to part with CBI was to protect its past.
"People are demanding to make CBI effective and not divide and share it. Original government draft was to keep original CBI with them. May be to to keep past protected? And create another one with borrowed resources?" she said.
"What is Lokpal without CBI? Where was need for Lokpal then? What did the government mean by strong Lokpal? What did Anna fast and people agitate for?" she said.

India spent over Rs4,42,000 crore in 10 yrs on procuring defence equipment

India spent over Rs4,42,000 crore in the last ten years on procuring defence equipment for the armed forces from both foreign and Indian players, Lok Sabha was informed on Monday.
"The total expenditure on defence purchases by India during the years from 2001-02 to 2010-11 (revenue and Capital) was Rs4,42,607 crore," Defence Minister AK Antony said in reply to a written query.
In view of threat perception, India has made significant investments in upgrading and augmenting the armed forces as it recently signed deals worth billions of US dollars for procuring aircraft such as Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers, C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 strategic airlift transport aircraft, he said.
In the next five years, the Government is expected to spend another $100 billion on the modernisation programme of defence forces for procuring artillery howitzers, combat aircraft, armoured vehicles and upgrading existing inventory.
Antony said the procurements have been made from "Indian private sector, public sector undertakings, Ordanance Factories and foreign sources."
In reply to a query on defence shipyards, Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju said, "Formation of joint ventures has been put on hold till formulation of suitable guidelines regarding the manner in which JV partner can be selected."
He said private shipyards are also being encouraged to participate in defence shipbuilding to meet the requirements of Navy and the Coast Guard.

Narendra Modi to hold day-long fast in Jamnagar tomorrow!

6 AIADMK workers tonsure heads to celebrate Sasikala's expulsion

Six partymen belonging to AIADMK tonsured their heads in nearby Tirupur district in Coimbatore on Monday to celebrate the expulsion from the party of Sasikala Natarajan, a trusted aide of party chief Jayalalithaa.
Jayalalithaa Monday expelled Sasikala Natarajan, her husband M Natarajan, Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son VN Sudhakaran and 11 others from the party. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister made the announcement in a terse statement, citing no reasons for her action.
According to police sources, the workers, raising slogans hailing the decision taken by Jayalalithaa, said they would "stand behind their leader during any crisis".
In some areas in Tirupur and rural areas of Coimbatore, party workers burst crackers to welcome the expulsions, police said.

The special court trying the disproportionate assets case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Monday granted a six week stay on proceedings against her close aide and co-accused Sasikala Natarajan, concerning the translation process.
Justice BV Pinto passed the order on Monday after hearing Sasikala's counsel Thulasi.
Counsel had filed a criminal petition on Dec 16, seeking translated versions of questions framed by the court ready in Tamil.
On Dec 8, Sasikala's counsel had filed the interlocutory application, seeking a direction to the interpreter to keep a translated version of questions framed by the court ready in Tamil and then record the answers in Tamil, which could then be translated to English.
The court had however, granted him a week's time to move the High Court as against three weeks sought and adjourned recording of Sasikala's statement under Sec 313 of CrPC (power to examine the accused) to Dec 21.
The case relates to accumulation of wealth allegedly disproportionate to Jayalalithaa's known sources of income by Jayalalithaa when she was Chief Minister in 1991-96.
The court had earlier adjourned the case to Dec 8 for questioning Sasikala after the four-day deposition of Jayalalithaa last month during which she answered 1,339 questions framed by the judge.
The case was shifted to Bangalore by the Supreme Court on a petition by DMK General Secretary K Anbazhagan.

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi will hold a day-long Sadbhavna Fast tomorrow in Jamnagar.

Ahead of the fast, Jamnagar BJP city unit has planned to take outpadyatra from Dhorol town to Jamnagar city, party sources said adding the yatra would be flagged off by BJP's state unit president R C Faldu.
Modi will hold similar fasts in Junagadh on December 22 and in Rajkot on December 26, party sources said.
Congress would stage parallel fasts against Modi at all the three venues.

Bringing Prime Minister in the ambit of Lokpal with adequate safeguards and change in mode of appointment of CBI director could be among the provisions the government is looking to incorporate in the Lokpal Bill to be introduced in Parliament, possibly in the next couple of days.Government and BJP on Monday agreed on issues related to Pensions Fund Regulatory Development Authority Bill and Companies Bill but the opposition suggested that since the draft of the latter has been altered considerably it should be sent back to the Standing Committee.

These are among the 60 official amendments the government was tonight said to be giving final touches to in the bill that is expected to be brought to the Cabinet tomorrow.

The government was also considering extending the current Winter Session, which concludes on December 22, from December 27 to 29, after a five-day break for Christmas.

A meeting of the Cabinet, which was to take place tonight, was put off till at least tomorrow as the draft was not ready, sources said.

When Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee reached out to the principal opposition this morning saying he wanted to discuss some important issues, the BJP thought the government wanted to discuss the Lokpal Bill.

However, Mukherjee informed BJP leaders LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Yashwant Sinha that he wanted their party's support for the PFRDA and Companies Bill. The Left parties are opposed to the proposed legislations.

On the Companies Bill, government conceded to BJP's demand for allowing Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) which would enable a group comprising only of professionals from one category like Chartered Accountants, or Company Secretaries, etc. to form their own company.

However, the Companies Bill which was sent to the Standing Committee earlier has been altered considerably by the government and the draft which has been presented in the Lok Sabha is virtually a new Bill, according to BJP sources.

Hence the main opposition suggested that this should be sent to the Standing Committee for discussion. Mukherjee heard the BJP on this matter but did not make any commitment.

Companies Bill was listed for passage Monday in the Lower House but the government did not move it.
PFRDA Bill will be moved for passage in Lok Sabha on December 21 after BJP's demands were accepted by Mukherjee.

Sources said government agreed to the BJP demand for inclusion of Assured Returns to retired employees in PFRDA Bill. The Standing Committee on Finance, headed by Sinha, had made this recommendation.
The government also agreed to BJP's demand for defining the quantum of FDI in PFRDA in the Act itself instead of bringing it through an Executive decision. The BJP had made it clear that it will oppose the Bill if this provision is not included.

TMC, which is a part of the ruling UPA coalition, reportedly has certain reservations about these two Bills but had said recently it will not do anything which would topple the government.

The Left parties have indicated that they will oppose the Bill.

A senior minister said that decisions on all issues have been taken and "some faults" were being removed.

The sources said the government is unlikely to meet Team Anna's demand for bringing CBI entirely under Lokpal but is ready to carve out from it an independent prosecution wing.

There is also a proposal for changing the selection procedure for the CBI chief by including Leaders of Opposition in both the Houses in the selection committee, they said.

A senior minister said the government felt that an institution cannot be killed to set up another institution.
A group of senior ministers completed the exercise of "cleaning up" the draft of the bill amid Anna Hazare's looming threat of going on hunger strike from December 27 if the anti-graft legislation was not passed by then.
The sources said that in view of over 60 official amendments mooted, there was a plan to withdraw the Bill introduced in August and table a revised one, either on Wednesday or Thursday.

Home Minister P Chidambaram is leading a team of ministers which met today to fine tune the proposed legislation, particularly on the most contentious issue of the jurisdiction of the Lokpal over CBI.

The sources said an appropriate language was being worked out, particularly on the aspect of CBI, and Chidambaram was focusing on that as he was not happy with the draft prepared earlier for consideration of the Cabinet.
Law Minister Salman Khurshid said the officials have to work on the draft. "I hope it will be the last night they will have to stay awake (to work on the draft)," he said.

Khurshid, who is involved in the drafting process along with Personnel Minister V Narayansamy, said, "We have finished the cleaning up of the draft. We had instructions to clean up the draft and we have cleaned up the draft".
The changes would go to the Cabinet for approval before which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee would have a look at it, he said.

After the Prime Minister gives the signal, the bill will go to Cabinet which is expected tomorrow, Khurshid said.
He said the final architecture of the changed Bill would be known only after the Cabinet approves it and sends it to Parliament for consideration.

The Law Minister said the government would bring the Lokpal Bill in the current session. There may not not be any need to extend it, he felt.

Apart from Chidambaram and Khurshid, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal and Minister of State for Personnel V Narayansamy were also present in the meeting to finalise the changes.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the Lokpal Bill may not be fully acceptable to all but all sections of the House would find it "acceptable" except those "who are opposed to the very concept of Lokpal".
Bansal said a three-line whip has been issued to Congress MPs asking them to be present and vote in Parliament in favour of the government on crucial bills that would come up from tomorrow till Thursday.
The Congress allies are also expected to issue similar whips.

Bansal said that the Judicial Accountability Bill and the Whistleblowers Bill are not likely to come up in this session.

At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi steered clear of questions on the stand of the party on certain aspects of the bill which have been contentious.

"There is no position of a political party when a bill is about to come to Parliament within 24 to 48 hours. It is absolutely futile," said Singhvi, who is also the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee that went into the Lokpal Bill.

Will make every effort to get Lokpal Bill passed: Advani

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After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised all possible efforts to get the Lokpal Bill passed in this winter session of Parliament, veteran BJP leader L. K. Advani on Sunday promised "all cooperation" in this matter.
Talking to journalists on the sidelines of the 18th International Sindhi Sammelan here, Mr. Advani said the BJP was in favour of a strong and effective Lokpal Bill, and his party would extend full cooperation to get the Bill passed in the current session if there was no other hindrance.
"From the BJP and the NDA side, there will be every effort to get the Bill passed. We have shown our commitment even in the joint committee and in the meetings on the issue called by the Prime Minister and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee."
Mr. Advani said he would comment on the Bill only after it was introduced in Parliament, expected on Tuesday
Accepting Team Anna's right to voice their grievances on the form of the Lokpal Bill, Mr. Advani, however, was clear that the final word on the Bill would be that of Parliament. "There are no two opinions that Parliament will now decide the final form of the Bill and no one else."
Team Anna had discussed the provisions of their proposed Jan Lokpal Bill with the BJP leadership and a few changes were suggested.
"I do not know on what points they agree with us and where they still differ," he said but added that no individual opinion mattered as it would be for Parliament to decide the final shape.
Keywords: Lokpal Bill, BJP, Advani

Hazare to offer rose to PM if Cabinet approves strong Lokpal

For a change, Anna Hazare, who has been dashing off letters to the Prime Minster insisting on a strong Lokpal bill, Monday spoke of offering a rose to Manmohan Singh if the Union Cabinet accepts his demand.
"If the Cabinet decides in favour of a strong Lokpal bill, as expected by crores of people of the country, I will offer the Prime Minister a rose at Ramlila Maidan instead of undertaking a fast (on December 27), and congratulate him on opting for a stringent (anti-corruption) legislation," he told reporters at Pune airport before leaving for Ralegan Siddhi, his native village.
Hazare, who arrived in Pune from Chennai, said he might not require to go back to Delhi after two days if the Cabinet decides on a strong Lokpal bill to be placed before Parliament.
The Gandhian has threatened to go on fast from December 27 and launch a fill-the-jail campaign from January 1 if the government fails to get an effective Lokpal bill passed in the ongoing session of Parliament.

56,383 cases pending in Supreme Court

Inadequate number of judges and delay in filling vacancies were among the various reasons responsible for the large number of pending cases in courts, including 56,383 cases in the Supreme Court, law and justice minister Salman Khurshid said Monday.

The minister told the Rajya Sabha in reply to a written question that till Oct 31, 2011, a total of 56,383 cases were pending in the Supreme Court. As on Sep 30, 2010, the number of cases pending in high courts was 4,217,903.

The minister identified granting of excessive adjournments, indiscriminate closure of courts and the lack of priority to disposal of old cases as other reasons for the case backlog.

Other factors preventing quick disposal of cases included disproportionate concentration of work among some members of the bar and long arguments by counsel, he said, adding that staff attached to courts was also inadequate.

The minister said the time taken for the disposal of pending cases was exclusively within the domain of the judiciary.

He said the government had taken a number of measures under the National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms to reduce the backlog. A drive launched by the department of justice for the purpose in July was continuing in December.

Chief justices of high courts had been asked to initiate a "campaign mode" approach towards clearing petty and long pending cases, he said.

During the campaign, cases related to women, senior citizens and other marginalised groups would be given priority for disposal, the minister said.

Rs7.25 crore spent on ads on birth anniversaries of Rajiv, Indira Gandhi

Government had spent Rs4.79 crore and Rs2.46 crore on print media advertisements on the occasion of birth anniversaries of former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi respectively.
These details were shared with the Rajya Sabha by Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting CM Jatua while replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha.
Stating that no campaign was released through electronic media on the occasion of Rajiv Gandhi's birth anniversary, Jatua said that "Rs4,79,73,656/- was spent on print media advertisements on the occasion of birth anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi in 2011."
The Health Ministry spent the highest amount of over Rs95 lakh. Ministry of New and Renewable Energy spent over Rs82 lakh followed by Tourism Ministry which spent over Rs79 lakh on the occasion.
Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation spent over Rs65 lakh, Information and Broadcasting over Rs58 lakh, while Social Justice ministry spent over Rs51 lakh for the occasion.
Women and Child Development Ministry (Rs25 lakh) and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Rs21 lakh), also spent funds on print media advertisements on the day, Jatua said in his reply.
On the occasion of birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry spent over Rs60 lakh while Social Justice Ministry spent over Rs56 lakh.
Micro, Small and Medium enterprises ministry spent Rs41 lakh, Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region spent Rs25 lakh while ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation spent amount over Rs 22 lakh.
Water Resources and Women and Child Development ministries spent over Rs19 lakh each, Jatua informed the Rajya Sabha.

Hazare's anti-graft campaign is good for the country: Narayana Murthy

BANGALORE: Software icon and Infosys' founder N R Narayana Murthy said he was hopeful that the draft of Lokpal bill, expected to be tabled in the Parliament in a day or two, would satisfy all well meaning citizens.

"Mr Anna Hazare, his team and the government have been in talks and they are discussing. I am positive that they will come out with something that will satisfy all the well meaning citizens of this country," the Chairman Emeritus of Infosyssaid.

Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of a function where he was conferred the Mother Teresa Award by Indian Development Foundation, he remarked that the anti-graft campaign launched by Hazare was "good for the country and there is no doubt about that".

"All Indians want corruption to come down, whether it is in the government, opposition or in the corporate world and those belonging to civil society," Murthy said. "The Prime Minister has said yesterday that they are accelerating the progress on introducing this (Lokpal) bill in the Parliament, so I think it is good. We are all very happy."

At the function, Murthy said even the projected seven per cent GDP growth for the current fiscal, as revised by the government, is pretty good in the current circumstances. But the biggest challenge is how to bring the majority poor to the mainstream.

Quoting a study which said 350 million Indians live on Rs 36 a day, Murthy lamented: "With this kind of income you cannot keep our body and soul together".

He said there were two sections of society in India. The first one was "galloping" with good economic growth. Children in these families have reasonably good education and comfort in their lives, decent health-care and nutrition.

But a vast section is still struggling and suffering. The government is indeed making efforts to make their lives better. The government cannot do it on its own and it is the duty of civil society and corporates to become an "enthusiastic" partner to ensure better lives for the poor,he said.

Doing our best, says PM as Anna ups Lokpal ante

TNN | Dec 18, 2011, 01.50AM IST
NEW DELHI: PM Manmohan Singh on Saturday kindled hopes of an early passage of the Lokpal Bill by asserting that the government will try to pass it in Parliament's ongoing session even as Anna Hazare mounted fresh pressure on the Centre.

Talking to media on his way back from Russia, Singh said his government is "working day and night" to draft the law and promised to try and ensure its passage. "We will make all effort to pass the bill in this session... it is my hope that by tomorrow we should be able to bring the bill to the Cabinet," he said. The Cabinet is to meet at 7.30 pm on Sunday.

The PM's promise came amid indications of a special two-day sitting of Parliament after Christmas to clear the bill in case it is unable to do so before Thursday when the winter session is to end. The session cannot be extended by more than a day because of Christmas. However, Parliament cannot hold sittings after Christmas. To achieve this, government may not prorogue the session.

The urgency made sense as Hazare on Saturday stepped up pressure by bringing forward his jail bharo campaign to December 30.

Anna Hazare wants Parliament's Winter Session extended to pass Lokpal Bill

Anna Hazare on Thursday said the ongoing winter session of Parliament should be extended to pass Lokpal Bill and threatened to go on a hunger strike if it is not introduced soon.

His remarks came a day after a consensus eluded political parties on Lokpal Bill.

The activist said he has confidence in Parliament that it will pass the bill as everybody in government has given his team the assurance that it will be done.

"(There will be a consensus) in Parliament if not at all-party meeting. All MPs are there, it will be passed there...yesterday people put forward right points, some pointed out the deficiencies.

"Everybody in the government is giving us assurances that we will get a Lokpal Bill. So we should have faith in them. But if they don't bring it, then we will have to agitate," he said ahead of the second day of Team Anna's Core Committee meeting.

Hazare was responding to questions on consensus eluding the all-party meeting on Lokpal Bill and apprehensions that the bill will not be passed in the ongoing Winter Session.

Repeating his demand for extension of the ongoing session to pass the bill, he said, "if there is no time for passing the bill (according to the present schedule), then extend it.

"It is important for the country. Earlier also, you have occasions when the Session was extended," he said.

He also said the venue of his proposed protest from December 27 could be shifted to Mumbai depending on the weather conditions in Delhi. "If the climate is good, then it will be in Delhi," he added.

Replying to questions on the all-party meeting, Team Anna member Kiran Bedi said almost all the parties were unanimous on CBI getting autonomy.

When pointed out that some leaders have cautioned against rushing through the Bill, Bedi said, "Who are these parties? Not the BJP surely as Sushma Swaraj tweeted that they want it in this session. Are they managed voices, isolated voices?".

Sasikala expelled from AIADMK

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The HinduTamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her close aide V.K. Sasikala, who was expelled from the AIADMK. File photo: R.V. Moorthy




The tale of two friends


The tale of two friends


IndiaTamil Nadu

V.K. Sasikala, close friend of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, was expelled from the primary membership of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam on Monday, along with her husband M. Natarajan, and 12 of their close relatives.

Ms. Jayalalithaa, who is the general secretary of the AIADMK, announced the expulsions, first on Jaya TV, and later through a statement. She asked party activists not to have any contact with Ms. Sasikala and the other expelled members.

Earlier, Ms. Sasikala a member of the party's executive council, was sent out of the Chief Minister's Poes Garden residence.

Though Ms. Jayalalithaa gave no reason for their expulsion, party sources said interference of the family members in the administration and political overreach were the reasons for their downfall. AIADMK cadres greeted the announcement with the bursting of crackers.

The resignation of A. Panneerselvam, officer on special duty, special programme implementation department and transfer of Pon. Manickavel, D.I.G, Intelligence, two officials close to Ms. Sasikala and her family, were seen as indicative of a rift between Ms. Jayalalithaa and Ms. Sasikala.

Mr. Natarajan, who was earlier a Public Relations Officer with the State Information Department, had fallen out of Ms. Jayalalithaa's favour several years ago. Mr. V.N. Sudhagaran, who was declared a foster son by Ms. Jayalalithaa in 1995, was later disowned by her. Neither was known to be active in the party now, but Ms. Jayalalithaa included their name in the expulsion list to send across the message that she had completely cut all links with the Sasikala family hailing from Mannargudi in Tiruvarur district.

Of those who have been expelled, T.T.V. Dinakaran, V. Bhaskaran and Mr. Sudhagaran are the sons of Ms. Sasikala's sister Vanithamani. Mr. Dinakaran had also served as an MP of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. Mr. Bhaskaran had served as the managing director of JJ TV, which folded up before the launch of Jaya TV, the official channel of the AIADMK. He was once arrested on charges of Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) violations.

Mr. Sudhagaran shot to fame when Ms Jayalalithaa organised his mega wedding. But subsequently, when the AIADMK was in power in 2001, he was arrested on charges of attempt to murder under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code, and provisions of the Arms Act, and the Narcotics Act, for allegedly possessing a revolver and heroin.

S. Venkatesh, a doctor, is the son of Ms. Sasikala's brother Sundaravadhanan. He was the secretary of Ilaignar and Ilampengal Pasarai (Youth and young women brigades) and was seen as a prominent leader in the party until recently. It was he who held parleys with the leaders of the alliance parties for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, but was removed from his party post in September 2010.

Mr. Divakar is another brother of Ms. Sasikala. T.V. Mahadevan, a former secretary of Jayalalithaa Peravai, is the son of another of Ms. Sasikala's brothers Vinodhagan.

Mr. Natarajan's brother M. Ramachandran, Eravanan, Mohan (Adyar), Kulothungan, Rajarajan and Thangamani are the others who have been expelled.

This is not the first time Jayalalithaa is disowning Sasikala. In 1996, after she lost the general elections, Ms. Jayalalithaa announced that she was disassociating herself from Ms. Sasikala. However, after Ms. Sasikala was released from prison on bail, she returned to Ms. Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden residence.

Both Ms. Jayalalithaa and Ms. Sasikala are facing a disproportionate wealth case in a special court in Bangalore.

Keywords: Sasikala, Jayalalithaa, AIADMK


Cabinet to discuss Lokpal Tuesday, Hazare calls it worthless

New Delhi: The union cabinet is likely to meet Tuesday to approve the contentious Lokpal Bill even as civil society leader Anna Hazare described the proposed government bill as "worthless and good for nothing".
The cabinet meeting, initially planned for Monday evening, is likely to be held Tuesday morning, sources said.
Law Minister Salman Khurshid told reporters that the final draft of the bill will be scrutinised by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday night.
Khurshid spoke to media persons after a team of key ministers, including Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Khurshid and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) V. Narayanasamy held a meeting for two-and-half hours on the anti-graft bill, sources said.
The ministers - all of them lawyers by training - scrutinised the bill for any loopholes, sources added.
The government may also be considering extension of the winter session of parliament for three more days to facilitate detailed discussion of the Lokpal bill and its passage, sources said. A final decision in this regard will be taken at the cabinet meeting.
If parliament is extended, then it will meet again Dec 27-29 after breaking for the Christmas holidays on Dec 22.
According to sources, the government bill is likely to bring the prime minister under the ombudsman with riders. The bill also will bring the prosecution wing of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the Lokpal purview, it is learnt.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal has already informed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) about the government's intention to extend the session.
Meanwhile, Hazare told reporters in Pune that the government's proposed bill was "worthless and good for nothing".
Hazare's plan to visit Delhi Monday has been cancelled, his aide informed.
The government as well as the ruling Congress are trying to forge a consensus on the Lokpal bill and it will be presented in parliament in the ongoing winter session, Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar said.
"The government and Congress are trying to build consensus on the Lokpal by consulting its allies and parties in opposition," Ashwani Kumar said.
Union Minister Farooq Abdullah said parliament should adopt caution while framing the Lokpal bill so that "a super government to the government is not formed".
Source: IANS

Return of the Jat chieftain Ajit Singh

Published: Monday, Dec 19, 2011, 10:15 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA
He has been a minister with VP Singh, PV Narasimha Rao, HD Devegowda and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He has also won seven Lok Sabha elections, including one on a Congress ticket. The 72-year-old Jat chieftain Ajit Singh was sworn in as union civil aviation minister today after been out of power under the UPA dispensation for a long spell.
Last week, when he announced his decision to join the UPA in Congress President Sonia Gandhi's presence, he made up for lost time. He knew he had to get his price for the deal before the state went to polls, as there would be a lot of uncertainty in the interim if he waited any longer.
Singh brought into play his USP as the holder of the Jat card in the state assembly elections. He has five MPs and was allocated 45 seats out of the 403 in the state assembly for the showdown in 2012, but Congress managers believe that his importance extends beyond these numbers.
"In Uttar Pradesh, it is a worn out cliche that instead of casting their vote, people vote their caste. But you can only ignore it at your peril. The Jat factor thus extends beyond the Ajit Singh stronghold of Western Uttar Pradesh and so we have allocated three seats in the eastern belt for him," said Mohan Prakash, the Congress CWC member who chairs the screen committee for candidates and was an important part of the negotiating team in the Congress-RLD backroom talks.
In the emerging political scenario, the importance of the UP elections extends beyond the territorial domains of the state and the mere formation of a state government. In a polity that is fractured along several faultlines, you have to get your arithmetic right at the constituency level.
For the RLD, the gains of the alliance have already begun to flow in. Singh is assured of power for a few more years till the next Lok Sabha elections and at the state-level he has improved his bargaining power. He has achieved these gains even as another UP boss Mulayam Singh Yadav with a larger share of MPs is struggling to regain his importance.
His job at the Centre, as the union civil aviation minister, may appear politically inconsequential at this stage, but for this US-educated engineer who has learnt the ropes of administrative and political management in the school of hard knocks, it should not be a tough task to fly the aviation sector back into the good times.

Jayalalithaa sacks close aide Sasikala, 13 others from AIADMK

Karthick S, TNN | Dec 19, 2011, 03.18PM IST
CHENNAI: In a sudden development, Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa on Monday sacked her close friend,Sasikala Natarajan, and 13 others, mostly Sasikala's relatives, indicating a churning of sorts within the party.

Sources said that Sasikala left Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden bungalow on Sunday night.

A terse party press release issued in the afternoon merely said that Sasikala and 11 others, including her husband M Natarajan, her nephews, former MP T T V Dinakaran, Jayalalithaa's erstwhile foster son, V N Sudhakaran, V Bhaskaran, who was in charge of J J TV and her brother V K Diwakar have been expelled from the primary membership of the party.

A second release, which was issued couple of hours later, announced the expulsion of two more relatives of Sasikala, including V Mahadevan, former state secretary of the Jayalalithaa Forum, and his brother V Thangamani. The Midas Distilleries managing director Mohan, a close associate of Sasikala, has also been expelled from the party.

The move, coming as it does in the wake of a series of resignations and sackings of key officials, said to have been appointed through Sasikala, has sent shock waves within the party.

This is the second time that Jayalalithaa is distancing herself from her close friend, whom she has known since 1985. Sasikala has been staying with Jayalalithaa at her Poes Garden residence since 1989. Except for a brief period in 1996 when she estranged herself from Sasikala just after the electoral debacle, the two have always lived together.

The expulsion comes days ahead of the meeting of the party's decision making bodies, the general council and the executive, on December 30.

The Jayalalithaa-Sasikala saga has been a talking point in state political circles as the latter is seen with Jayalalithaa at most of her private and public appearances.

Sasikala is one of the accused in the disproportionate case relating to Jayalalithaa, who had appeared before a trial court in Bangalore recently.

Project UP: Congress showers pre-poll goodies

TNN | Dec 19, 2011, 03.08AM IST

NEW DELHI: Congress on Sunday sought to cover both the western and eastern flanks of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh by inducting Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh as Cabinet minister and clearing a Rs 2,350 crore package for weavers aimed at wooing voters, especially Muslims, in the eastern part of the state. A tie-up with Singh is expected to improve the party's prospects in western UP.

The twin decisions come just before Election Commission is set to announce dates for UP polls amid indications that it may be looking to complete the exercise in February. CEC S Y Quraishi indicated on Saturday that the election schedule for UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand may be announced by the middle of the week.

The indication that the government may get the Lokpal bill passed in the winter session is also being seen in the light of Congress's anxiety for polls in UP where Anna Hazare has found resonance in the towns.

The Cabinet endorsed the Food Security Bill in its original form, ignoring reservations of agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, among others.

The move was seen to be crucial to woo voters, especially those below the poverty line and the lower middle class with promise to provide assured supply of grains at subsidized rates.

Although the law is several months away, the specially-convened Cabinet meeting approved the introduction of the bill in Parliament. The government is hoping that the bill will help the UPA quell the perception that it has done little to protect the aam aadmi from rising food prices.

If Ajit Singh's induction is aimed at helping the Congress win votes in western Uttar Pradesh, where Jats are an important constituency, the financial aid for handloom weavers will help bring in the votes in the eastern part of the state.

The additional set of sops - aimed at providing cheap credit and cheap yarn for the sector - was designed almost overnight after Rahul Gandhi dashed off a letter to stand-in textiles minister Anand Sharma.

While Sharma is expected to formally announce the scheme on Monday, sources said the plan is to provide 3% interest relief on loans in addition to margin money assistance of Rs 4,200 per weaver and also give 10% subsidy on silk and cotton hank yarn.

Even before the new civil aviation minister took charge, the Centre decided to set up a commercial airport in Rae Bareli - the Gandhi family stronghold. Congress expects to score brownie points with the decision, even as UP chief minister Mayawati has been pushing for an international airport in Greater Noida but has run up against objections from the civil aviation ministry.

But when it came to Rae Bareli, there were no such glitches as the Airports Authority of India (AAI) was tasked to extend the 6,000-feet runway at the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udaan Acedemy (IGRUA) to make it fit for bigger commercial jets and also build a passenger terminal.
Mon, 19 Dec 2011 13:51:15 GMT
Newsmakers of 2011: In pics

Harvinder Singh

Harvinder, a resident of Delhi, made news for slapping Union Minister Sharad Pawar. He touched the chord of millions when he said he acted because of frustration with rising prices and corruption. He also claimed that he had earlier slapped former minister Sukharam.


Sensex slumps to two-year low

Mumbai: The BSE Sensex fell to 28-month low today at 15,379.34, down 112 points on heavy selling for the fourth day in a row on persisting concerns over slowing growth and weakening rupee amid declining global markets.
After losing 511 points in the past three sessions, the BSE 30-scrip index opened lower and dropped sharply to 15,190.
It recovered some ground but still ended the day 0.72 per cent down from Friday's close. Sensex has sunk 26 per cent so far this year.
The 50-scrip NSE index Nifty today fell 38.50 points or 0.83 per cent to close at 4,613.10.
FIIs continued to sell shares. They sold equities worth Rs 220.25 crore on Friday, as per provisional data from the stock exchanges.
Analysts said investors are wary of slowdown in economic growth, falling rupee and tight liquidity.

"The selloff continued unabated and bears had another field day. RBI's caution on Friday about slow economic growth has led to the jittery sentiments on the bourses," said Shanu Goel Senior Research Analyst at Bonanza Portfolio.
"Banking stocks led the fall as the sentiments worsened on RBI's decision to keep the CRR unchanged. Negative openings in European markets added to the woes," she added.
Global cues remained weak on investor worries over the euro-zone debt crisis. Asian markets were down also due to some anxiety in the region after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Key indices in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korean fell by up to 3.43 per cent.
Parag Doctor, Associate VP at Motilal Oswal Securities said, meanwhile, "There was last hour buying in the market due to bounce back in European markets. European debt crisis, government delay in policy implementation and concern of lower growth is troubling the market, which is why sentiments have turned cautious."
After weak openings, European stocks was trading slightly higher, with key indice in France, Germany and the UK up between 0.49 per cent and 0.22 per cent.
Of the 30 Sensex scrips, 21 ended with losses, while eight finished higher. Wipro closed unchanged.
Major losers were L&T (4.06 per cent), Bhel (3.70 pc), Jindal Steel (3.32 pc), DLF (3.05 pc), SBI (2.91 pc), ICICI Bank (2.80 pc), Tata Power (2.44 pc), HDFC Bank (2.38 pc), Jaiprakash (2.03 pc), Maruti Suzuki (1.91 pc), Infosys (1.58 pc), Sun Pharma (1.24 pc), Hero MotoCorp (1.15 pc), ONGC (1.13 pc) and M&M (1.04 pc).
However, Tata Motors shot up 4.44 per cent, followed by Cipla (1.89 pc), Reliance Industries (1.78 pc), Hul (1.07 pc) and ITC (0.95 pc).
Among the sectoral indices, the BSE-Capital Goods fell 3.48 pc, Bankex - 3.08 pct, Realty - 2.89 pc, Power - 1.60 pc and PSU - 1.59 pc.
The total market breadth on the BSE remained negative as 2,066 stocks ended with losses, while 726 finished with gains.
The total turnover declined to Rs 1,844.17 crore, from last Friday's level of Rs 2,187.93 crore.
Source: PTI

We want state-run hospital in place of AMRI, say locals

The ultra-modern glass facade AMRI hospital in Dhakuria was out of bounds for the thousands of shanty dwellers who live in its vicinity. These slum dwellers, many of whom played a crucial role in saving patients during the fire last week, want a state-run medical facility at the spot so that they can get access to affordable healthcare.
About 10,000 people live in shanties near the super-speciality hospital, where 93 people, mostly patients, choked to death due to toxic smoke from a pre-dawn fire Dec 9.
Asit Kumar Tikadar, who has been residing in a shanty beside one of the dingy bylanes in the area for over 22 years, told IANS: "We did not get treatment there as we do not have money. Sometimes they (the doctors) gave us some first-aid and then referred us to public hospitals.
"Then what is the use of this hospital?" the 45-year-old asked.
A local cable operator, requesting anonymity, stated people here wanted that the hospital be converted into a fully public facility.
AMRI sources, however, claimed that the hospital provides free first-aid treatment to the needy.
As per records with the Registrar of Companies, the state government has 1.99 percent stake in Advanced Medicare Research Institute (AMRI) Hospital, with private companies Emami and Shrachi Groups owning the remaining 98.01 percent.
The hospital was co-founded by the two private companies with the state government in 1996.
Earlier, the state-owned Niramoy Polyclinic was transferred to a consortium floated by S.K. Todi of the Shrachi Group and Swapansadhan Bose. Later, the Emami group replaced Bose.
Initially, the government had a stake of 49 percent, while the rest was with the two private groups. But as the private stakeholders injected fresh investment and built two more blocks, the state government's stake progressively decreased.
As per the ownership document, the government has two nominees on the board, with a senior official - the director of medical education - as chairman.
Rajan Jana, a labourer, resides in one of the densely-populated unplanned slums behind the hospital. The 35-year-old, who took part in the rescue operations like other slum dwellers of the Dhakuria-Panchanantala area, said: "When the fire broke out in the upper basement of the annexe building and smoke entered into the wards of the upper floors, almost all higher officials fled."
He alleged that security guards of the hospital tried to prevent slum dwellers who rushed to the spot to rescue helpless patients from entering the premises.
Had the guards allowed them to enter at an earlier stage, lives of more patients could have been saved, he said with agony, showing his bruised palms.
"There are many graduates who reside in the area. Had the hospital been run by the government and the authorities employed local people as staff members, this kind of disaster would not have taken place," he averred.
But the agency in charge of the hospital's security denied any negligence.
"I have heard about these allegations. But I would like to say that the security guards followed the proper fire fighting norms which state that if a fire breaks out in a building, then it should be immediately cordoned off so that no outsiders can enter except professional fire fighters," Debajit Choudhury, proprietor of NIS security agency, which held the contract to supply security guards for the Annexe 1 building, told IANS.
Rajan's mother Gauri Jana alleged the doctors of the hospital had in the past refused to treat her five-year-old grandson when he suddenly fainted.
"They asked us to go to a public hospital. They were rude to us as we are poor," she said.
"But the hospital should not be closed down. The government should take over control. Only then will we be able to get proper treatment from here. And local youths will also get jobs," she said.
Local councillor Chaitali Chatterjee told IANS: "As all the people are demanding that AMRI be turned into a government-run hospital, I will take up the matter."
Source: IANS

Pawar 'Crippled' in Taking Decisions: Opposition

A united Opposition today demanded in Rajya Sabha that several ministers connected with the farm sector should be present in the House to reply to a debate on agrarian crisis because Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has "no power" and is "crippled" in taking decisions.
"Agriculture Minister has no power.His responding to the debate is not going to suffice," BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu said when Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan asked Pawar to give reply to the debate on agriculture which took place last week.
Naidu said since several other ministries are concerned with the subject -- Ministers of Finance, Commerce, Panchayati Raj and Irrigation -- they should also be present in the House at the time of reply.
Making a similar demand, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said the Agriculture Minister is "very crippled in taking decisions".
He said that the Opposition was expecting that given the gravity of the agrarian crisis, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee would be available in the House when government responds to the issues raised by the members.
"Though I am not going to use the pun that Venkaih Naidu used that Pawar is without power, but he alone is not going to answer many questions," Yechury said while Pawar was seen smiling.
When similar demands were made by other Opposition parties including CPI and BSP, Khan adjourned the House for 10 minutes at 12.25 hours.
However, senior member P J Kurien (Congress) assumed the Chair after 10 minutes to announce adjournment of the House up to 2 PM.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla said the Opposition did not make such demand at the time of debate.
It is a tradition that the Minister concerned with the subject replies to the debate, he said, adding in any case the Cabinet has a collective responsibility.
Last week, members discussed the crisis before the agriculture sector. They demanded a special session of Parliament to find solutions to the problems faced by farmers which included rising input cost and increasing number of suicides by debt-ridden farmers.
Source: PTI

Palash Biswas
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