Sunday, February 4, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Consensus on disaster management panel
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Feb 3 — The Centre today decided to set up a national committee of all political parties to help relief and rehabilitation work in quake-hit Gujarat and a permanent Disaster Management Committee consisting of experts for dealing with calamities.

The decision was taken at an all-party meeting convened by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Briefing newspersons, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr Pramod Mahajan, said there was consensus among the political parties for such a committee at the national level and added that the it would be formed in a few days.

The meeting was attended by leaders of 19 parties, Mr Mahajan said, adding that there was also consensus on having a permanent National Disaster Management Committee which was agreed to by the Prime Minister.

Leaders of various political parties gave a number of suggestions on rescue, relief and rehabilitation and the Prime Minister promised the meeting that the government would take serious note of each suggestion, Mr Mahajan said.

The Prime Minister hoped that the national committee of leaders of political parties would be able to evolve some guidelines and decide the criteria for declaring a natural calamity as a “national calamity” so that appropriate help from the government could automatically follow, Mr Mahajan said.

Mr Vajpayee said the absence of such guidelines and criteria created difficulties for the government in providing help, as there was no provision under the current laws or rules for declaring any particular calamity as “national” disaster.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has postponed his visit to Malaysia and Japan. The leaders supported the efforts of the Centre and the Gujarat Government in meeting the situation in the wake of the devastating quake, he said.

Mr Mahajan said the suggestion for setting up the national committee of political party leaders was made by the CPM leader, Mr Sitaram Yechury, while that of a permanent national Disaster Management Committee was made by the Leader of the Opposition, Mrs Sonia Gandhi. The Prime Minister agreed to both the suggestions, he said.

Mrs Gandhi said her party and the party-ruled state governments were gearing up to meet the challenge posed by the grave calamity which was a national task of supreme importance.

Mr Yechury, who had led a party team to the affected areas in Gujarat, said there was no shortage of relief material but due to lack of coordination, the aid could not reach the real needy.

The TDP leader, Mr K. Yerrannaidu, urged the Centre to consult state governments apart from parties and agencies so as to prepare natural disaster management manuals and action plans.

Earlier, the Cabinet Secretary, Mr T. R. Prasad, made a brief presentation before the meeting on the sequence of events since 8.46 a.m. on January 26 when the devastating quake occurred and the relief measures undertaken.

Leaders of political parties apart from Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh of the Congress included Mr Sharad Pawar (NCP), Mr S. R. Bommai (Janata Dal), Mr Hannan Mollah and Mr Nilotpal Basu (both CPM), Mr J. Chittaranjan (CPI), Mr K. Yerrannaidu (TDP).


PM puts off visit to Japan, Malaysia
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Feb 3 — Responding to mounting criticism, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today postponed his seven-day visit to Japan and Malaysia scheduled to begin on February 7.

A spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said the decision to postpone the visit had been conveyed to the two governments in Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur and they had expressed full understanding.

“We will work with the governments of these two countries to identify mutually convenient dates for the Prime Minister’s visit as early as possible”, the spokesman said, adding that Mr Vajpayee arrived at the decision after consulting the External Affairs Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh who is in Cairo.

The visit to Tokyo was billed as highly important to carry forward Indo-Japan ties which had worsened after New Delhi’s nuclear tests in May, 1998. The two sides were to continue the security dialogue begun last year during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to India.

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