|N A T I O N|
|Sinha: Fiscal indicators favourable
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 Indias second phase of economic reforms, which is underway now, would provide considerable "comfort" to investors, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha has told the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee with US Secretary of State Strobe Talbott at his residence in New Delhi on Monday. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh is also seen in the picture. PTI
murder case: cops clueless
cremated with full honours
to host IFFI-type fest
20 other nations for UNDCP survey
medical check-up of prisoners: NHRC
preparing list of probables
Sinha: Fiscal indicators favourable
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 (UNI) Indias second phase of economic reforms, which is underway now, would provide considerable "comfort" to investors, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha has told the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos.
Addressing WEF members yesterday, the Finance Minister said the country had managed to avoid much of the Asian economic turmoil due to its low level of short-term debts in the financial portfolio.
Mr Sinha said India had started consolidating the first phase of reforms and begun the second phase. He cited the government decision to corporatise airports and ports and new policies for the road and the telecom sector.
The government had also taken steps to increase investment in education, he said.
Mr Sinha said Indias economic indicators were very favourable when compared to other developing countries and the governments reforms efforts should provide "considerable comfort" to investors.
Mr Sinha said the debate for a new global financial architecture must look at various issues, including the need for prudential information sharing and extraordinary risks involved in cross-border lending and borrowing.
"We are also working towards a new international financial architecture that would require to be put in place to avoid recurrence of crisis to the extent possible as well as to deal with it effectively," he said.
He pointed out that India had moved cautiously but systematically from a control-based regime to current account convertibility and market-determined exchange rate.
"We have managed capital account in such a way as to ensure growth with stability and simultaneously add to our reserves," Mr Sinha said and noted that the capital account was fully convertible for both direct and institutional foreign investors and also non-resident Indians.
He said India was taking
measured steps in liberalising its capital account as
part of the reform process. "We in India are
committed to globalisation, free of exploitation and one
that brings in high growth, enabling speedy reduction of
poverty. We see globalisation as a means to new and
substantial opportunities not merely to a few rich but to
a vast majority of the working and poor people," he
Sanctions may be eased soon
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 (PTI) Sanctions by international financial institutions (IFI) against India in the wake of nuclear tests in May last are likely to be eased "very soon" with New Delhi likely to take some "specific steps" on the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT).
This indication was given by a senior American official today as US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott wound up his four-day visit at the conclusion of the eighth round of the Indo-US dialogue on issues related to security, disarmament and non-proliferation.
"There would be a tangible visible movement on sanctions very soon in the context of the anticipation India taking some very specific steps on the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT)," he indicated.
The "forward movement" on sanctions may be taken this month itself to accelerate the time-table on the CTBT during the middle of the year, the official told a select group of Editors while making it clear that "all sanctions will not disappear" in the immediate future.
Before leaving for Islamabad, Mr Talbott held a luncheon meeting with Ambassadors of G-8 countries and briefed them on the progress in talks as part of efforts to coordinate the decision since the IFI sanctions had the backing and sponsorship of the G-8.
Mr Talbott described the just-concluded talks in the eighth round as "constructive and productive". In fact, this was the "most productive" since last September though there had been no visible or spectacular breakthrough, he said.
To a question whether the concrete steps New Delhi had to take included the signing of the CTBT, the official said "signing as well".
On the issue of credible minimum nuclear deterrence being insisted upon by India, the official said the USA would appreciate if New Delhi translated it into a minimum credible deterrence which the world would accept.
The Americans wanted India to take "tough, wise and statesman-like" decisions on the issue of non-proliferation in its own interest.
The official said "the USA is cautiously optimistic because Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh have been doing a lot of work with Indian Parliament (on solving problems arising out of nuclear tests)".
"We have tried to reach out to the Indian side beyond the government," he said.
He said while on both sides there were deeply held views on the nuclear question, the USA felt that the Prime Minister was not only trying to orchestrate the complex policy of relations with the USA, but was attempting to propagate it within the system.
The official said President Bill Clinton had worked hard to give a push to relations with India after the Prime Ministers statement to the United Nations General Assembly.
This was followed by the US Administration working on the Brownback Amendment leading to Washington partially lifting economic sanctions against New Delhi.
The U.S. side maintained that India and Pakistan had made a mistake by going in for nuclear tests but the two countries had been maintaining that it was dictated by their security concerns.
The official said it may look "ironic" but the tests that had brought bilateral relations to a low point, had the potential to take it to a "new high".
The official gave the impression that the USA was not keen that both sides had to shelve their fundamental positions as "at the end of it all" India would still be developing nuclear weapons.
On the FMCT, he said it was part of multilateral discussions but the two sides had agreed that expert-level talks in future would discuss it. However, he said, it would not be a healthy thing to keep churning out fissile materials pending finalisation of the treaty.
The American side also expressed concern over the attacks on Christians but the USA would not like to overreact to the issue because it saw India as a country with secular and tolerant traditions.
The visiting US delegation today also called on Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
The meeting held at the Prime Ministers official residence lasted 30 minutes. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh was also present.
Earlier, Mr Talbott met Defence Minister George Fernandes at his office in South Block.
Mr Talbott also called on Congress President Sonia Gandhi at her residence.
Khurana assessing support
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 Former Union Minister Madan Lal Khurana today said he was not a dissident and he would continue to serve the Bharatiya Janata Party.
While the BJP strongman from Delhi maintained that he had no intention to float a regional or national outfit, his supporters said Mr Khurana was assessing his support within the party and other regional parties like the Indian National Lok Dal of Mr Om Prakash Chautala.
Mr Khurana said he would decide his future course of action after consulting his supporters and well-wishers.
"I would take the next step after consulting my supporters. I would not like to disclose it at present", Mr Khurana said on his future plans.
A large number of supporters gathered at the residence of the former Union Parliamentary and Tourism Minister today and raised slogans like "Khurana sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hain". (We are with you in your battle).
Mr Khurana told mediapersons that he had resigned from the government on certain issues with the sole motive of protecting the partys and Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee governments image and credibility.
He said incidents like demolition of places of worship, destruction of cricket pitch and the killing of an Australian missionary and his two sons had damaged the partys image.
Mr Khurana said his decision to resign from the Cabinet and the national executive of the party was not taken in haste but after due consideration.
He asserted that there was no pressure on him to resign from the Council of Ministers, but "the Prime Minister may have been under some pressure to accept my resignation".
The former Delhi Chief Minister claimed that his resignation had evoked a good response from the Christians and minorities and they had conveyed to him that their attitude towards the BJP had changed for the positive after his decision to resign for the cause of minorities.
"I have been receiving telephones, telegrams and letters from different parts of the country appreciating my decision," Mr Khurana said.
While asserting that he was not "anti-Sangh Parivar", Mr Khurana said he had his own style of functioning which was aggressive. "I never compromise with circumstances", he added.
Mr Khurana denied he ever said that the Bajrang Dal was behind the recent killing of the Australian missionary and his two sons. He clarified that he had only mentioned that a Home Ministry official had told him that the main accused in the incident, Dara Singh, was a Bajrang Dal activist and he had worked for the BJP in the last elections.
Meanwhile, the BJP spokesman, Mr M. Venkiah Naidu, said the party did not agree with the views of Mr Khurana.
When asked if the party was contemplating disciplinary action against the former minister, Mr Naidu said: "Wait and watch". He said the party had received no representation from any quarter seeking disciplinary action against Mr Khurana.
Scheme for new townships
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 The government has prepared a scheme for new township development for inclusion in the Ninth Five Year Plan.
The scheme envisages the state governments would undertake necessary legislation to prepare new satellite townships around fast growing metropolitan cities and arrange for initial funding for land acquisition, core infrastructure development, city centre development and fast track transport through involvement of private sector.
To meet the land acquisition costs, the scheme suggests that the state governments should follow land readjustment schemes in their Town and Country Planning Acts and provide compensatory floor area ratio (FAR) to persons whose lands are taken over the arterial roads.
The participants in the scheme would consist of the state governments, private sector, private individuals (especially landowners), public sector companies and institutional funding agencies.
The scheme stipulates state governments to consider imposing concentration taxes and land levies in the mother metropolitan cities to mobilise finance for new township projects.
Meanwhile, a two-member delegation of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) of Singapore today met officials of the public sector National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) to tie up and explore the possibility of getting prospective manpower for building and construction industry tested for their skill.
HC notice on plea by school
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 The Delhi High Court today issued notices to the Director of Education in Delhi and the Delhi Abhibhavak Mahasangh on a petition of the Naval Public School (NPS) seeking a clarification whether it was restrained from hiking school fees beyond 40 per cent.
A Division Bench comprising Mr Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Mr Justice K.S. Gupta issued the notices asking the respondents to file a reply by March 26.
The petition filed through counsel Rakesh Tikku said the high court order of December 1997 restraining public schools from hiking fees beyond 40 per cent should not be binding on the NPS as it was not a respondent to the litigation and the fees were increased on April 1, 1997.
Seeking a clarification
from the court in this regard, the petition said the NPS,
which essentially admitted children of serving and
retired Naval officers, did not hike its fees for the
past several years prior to April 1, 1997, and its funds
were only being used for its infrastructural development.
Shivani murder case: cops clueless
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 The police is yet to trace the murderer of Shivani Bhatnagar, Principal Correspondent of the Indian Express. She was found murdered in her flat in Nav Kunj Apartments in East Delhi on January 23.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch), Mr Karnal Singh, said the case was being investigated from different angles. Several people, including relatives of Mr Bhatnagar, were being interrogated but the police is still clueless, he said.
Robbery angle could also not be ruled out as a camera, a gold chain and gold ring were missing from the house.
He said the police had so a been able to rule out the involvement of Chandra Shekhar, who was arrested on charges of molestation in 1994. At present, he lives in Hyderabad.
The police has constituted two teams to investigate the Shivani murder case, he said.
The blood report of the
towel which was recovered from a heap of dirty clothes
would come tomorrow. The clothes were lying in the room
ransacked by the criminals. It was kept in the heap of
dirty clothes in the bucket that was why it could not be
recovered on the day of incident, the DCP said.
Cop cremated with full honours
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 The body of a constable of the Delhi Police, Ashok Kumar, (35), was consigned to the flames today with full police honours in his native village, Kaneena in Mahendergarh district, of Haryana.
The constable received serious injuries in his spine while nabbing three fleeing robbers in Karol Bagh, Central Delhi, on January 2. He was admitted to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) where he succumbed to his injuries yesterday.
His funeral procession was attended by the Joint Commissioner of Police (Northern Range), Mr Suresh Roy and the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central district), Mr S.B.K. Singh, a spokesman of the Delhi Police said.
The police has offered a suitable job to the widow of the constable. In addition to that, she will be given full salary of the constable till his retirement age.
Besides, the name of the constable has been recommended for gallantry award by the Delhi Police.
According to the police on January 2, the constable was patrolling the Prahlad Market area in Karol Bagh, when he spotted three men robbing an autorickshaw driver. He alerted his two colleagues who managed to overpower two of the robbers. The third robber escaped and ran towards a school. He climbed an eight-foot-high wall and jumped on to the road following which he sustained serious injuries.
Although partially paralysed, he managed to catch hold of the robber and retained his grip till his colleagues reached the spot.
Lucknow to host IFFI-type fest
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 (UNI) An international film festival is to be held in Lucknow later this year on the lines of similar fetes being held annually in Calcutta, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram.
This follows an initiative taken by film-makers from northern India who attended the 30th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Hyderabad last month. At a meeting held under the aegis of the Northern India Film and Television Producers Forum (NIFTPF), it was decided that the festival would be held in turns in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The decision to hold the festival in Lucknow coincided with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singhs statement that a new film policy for the state will be announced early this month to give a fillip to film activity. The policy is aimed at not merely attracting prominent filmmakers to the state, but also setting up a state-of-the-art film city.
The festival in Lucknow
has been tentatively scheduled from November 20 to 27
with the screening of maximum of 30 feature films. It
will be a non-competitive fete and there will be at least
one retrospective. The first festival is likely to have a
retrospective of the films of Sergei Eisenstein.
Illicit drug markets
LUCKNOW, Feb 1 (PTI) India, Pakistan and Iran are among 20 countries across the globe identified by the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) for a study on illicit drug markets.
The study with regard to illicit drug markets, will rely heavily on microeconomics tools to interpret and analyse data, according to Tony White, chief, supply reduction and law enforcement section of the UNDCP.
Research partners were being identified in each of the 20 countries to gather data to be consolidated at the global level, the UNDCP representative told the 34th session of B-commission on illicit drug traffic and related matters in the near and West Asia, which started here today.
The study would be completed by the end of next year and documented and published.
The UNDCP was also working with member states in developing an international information network for monitoring illicit cultivation of narcotic crops, White said.
Earlier, inaugurating the five-day session of the sub-commission being attended by representatives from 23 countries, Union Minister of State for Finance KMR Janardhan claimed significant fall in seizures and said this clearly indicated that enforcement agencies were effective in reducing the extent of smuggling at international borders.
Significant seizures of opium and heroin have also taken place in and around opium growing areas and the illicit drug trafficking destined for metropolitan cities for consumption or smuggling abroad had also been checked to a large extent, Mr Janardhan said.
Mr Janardhan said India, as the largest producer of opium was totally committed to international obligations to make available this vital drug for medical use and the area of cultivation was being increased considerably.
He said effective steps were being taken to stop the diversion of opium, through illicit channels.
The conference assumed added significance as an action plan approved by the special session of UN General Assembly in June last year, will also be discussed here.
Ensure medical check-up of
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 The National Human Rights Commission has directed the Chief Secretaries and Inspector-Generals of Prisons of all states to ensure medical examination of prison inmates. The commission has taken this step to check the disturbing incidence of spread of contagious diseases in prisons.
According to a press note issued here today, the commission has said such medical examinations should be done immediately in accordance with the proforma drafted by the commission and monthly progress reports should be sent to the commission.
The commission has also appointed a special rapporteur and chief coordinator of custodial justice programme of the commission to monitor the efforts of the state governments and assists and guide the prison administrators of the states.
According to the release, a sample study conducted by the commission indicated nearly 70 per cent of deaths in judicial custody were due to tuberculosis. In many cases, the condition of the inmates had deteriorated by the time the jail administration arranged for his first medical examination.
The commission observed that overcrowding in most prisons made inmates susceptible to infections. The commission feels the solution lies in ensuring periodic medical examination of inmates by the prison and government doctors. The commission has suggested the prison administration may seek the services of doctors of voluntary organisations and the Indian Medical Association for medical examination.
Natural gas found in Barmer
JAIPUR, Feb 1 (UNI) A huge reserve of natural gas capable of generating 2,680 MW of power annually for 30 years has been detected in Rajasthans border district of Barmer.
Seven block areas of Barmer have been found to possess coal-based methane reserve which could be gainfully exploited for the states economic development, according to an official report made available here.
An estimated 30 per cent of the hidden natural resource could be made use of, it said.
The report projected that an estimated investment of about Rs 6,300 crore to tap the reserve could fetch the state an annual revenue of Rs 492 crore by way of 10 per cent royalty and another 12 per cent sales tax.
Besides its use in different forms, the exploitation of the gas could produce water for irrigation and domestic consumption after proper treatment.
The findings were based on detailed investigations carried out by different agencies during the past 16 years.
The report also spoke of existence of extensive lignite deposits in various parts in the western region of the state, mostly in the desert areas. Seismic surveys carried out during 1996 indicated extensive presence of thick lignite seams in Barmer graben, which is now considered as the northern continuity of the Cambay basin.
The coal-based methane had been detected in commercial quantities in the sub-surface lignite deposits of the Cambay basin, which had raised hopes for possible exploitation for bettering the states economic health. The report also indicated the presence of similar gas in the Sanchore well number one, drilled by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.
Delhi Assembly byelections
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 The Delhi unit of the BJP is preparing a list of probables for byelections to two Delhi Assembly seats of Hauz Khas and Nangloi Jat.
Discussions are being held with the leaders of the local units and a list of probable candidates would be sent to the central election committee of the party soon, the president of the Delhi unit, Mr Mange Ram Garg said.
The byelections are being held in the Hauz Khas Assembly segment following the resignation of the BJP candidate and former Delhi Chief Minister, Ms Sushma Swaraj, who had quit the seat to retain her South Delhi parliamentary seat.
The poll to the Nangloi Assembly seat was countermanded due to the murder of Samata Party candidate Ved Singh during the elections.
Electronic voting machines (EVMs) will again be put into use in the Hauz Khas Assembly constituency.
After the successful experiment of the EVMs in the 1998 assembly elections, where it was used at six polling stations in the Capital, the Election Commission will use the EVMs not only to make the work of the election officers easy, but also to enable speedier results.
Despite the filing of nominations opening on Friday for no candidate had filed papers for the Hauz Khas constituency till the time of going to the Press.
Candidates can file nominations for the two seats till February 5 and the polling will take place on February 22.
There are 1,09,546 voters in the Hauz Khas constituency in South Delhi while Nangloi Jat Assembly segment in Outer Delhi has a total of 1,45,257 electorate. A total of 106 polling stations in Hauz Khas and 158 polling stations would be set up in the Nangloi Jat Assembly segment.
The Congress had swept the 1998 assembly elections by winning 51 of the total 70 seats in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha. The BJP had managed to win only 14 seats.
for two corporation seats are also expected to be held
following the two Congress candidates, Mr Mahabal Mishra
and Dr Narendra Nath, winning from their respective
J&K tableau gets first prize
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 (PTI) A skit on "unity in diversity" by the Environment Ministry and presentation of "Vande Mataram" by the West Bengal team today marked the closing ceremony of cultural programmes by the state tableaux which had arrived here to participate in the Republic Day parade.
The Jammu and Kashmir tableau "Kashmir Sings" won the best tableau award followed by CPWD tableau titled "Steady Towards the Goal" while the one by Gujarat on the ancient civilisation of Dholavira got the third prize.
|Goa proposes copter service
PANAJI: The Goa Government was considering a proposal to introduce helicopter service for emergency needs like transporting accident victims needing medical attention at Goa Medical College from remote rural areas, according to Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro. Making the announcement at a farmers mela at Gaune here during the weekend, he said discussions on the proposed service had been held with the naval authorities. PTI
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