Thursday, November 28, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Drought relief package soon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 27
The Union Government has decided to come out with a comprehensive package for the drought-hit states.

This was decided at a meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee last evening after taking into account the details sent by various states regarding the prevailing drought situation and the kind of relief needed to tackle it.

Briefing the mediapersons here, Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj said the proposed package was discussed at length at the Cabinet meeting. She said the government would make a formal announcement regarding it in Parliament within a day or two.

Refusing to give details of the proposed package, Ms Swaraj said since the drought situation had been discussed in both Houses of Parliament in the current winter session, it was proper that the government announced the measures first in Parliament.

The Lok Sabha had a discussion last week on the drought situation in various parts of the country on a censure motion moved against the government by Congress President Sonia Gandhi. The motion, which was defeated by a voice vote, stated that the government had failed to deal with the situation adequately.

The government has also decided to introduce a Bill in Parliament soon to set up a company law tribunal for adjudicating on disputes and working out rehabilitation and winding-up packages for companies as part of its efforts to tackle industrial sickness.

The proposed amendment to the Companies Act was approved by the Cabinet last night. However, Ms Swaraj refused to give further details, saying since Parliament was in session, it was members' prerogative to know about the changes first.

But reports said the proposed tribunal would be a quasi-judicial body vested with powers presently enjoyed by the Company Law Board and the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR), as also the winding up powers enjoyed by high courts.

The tribunal will come into being after the passage of the Company Law Amendment Bill, 2002, for the purpose, which the government intends to introduce soon.

Expected to comprise around 60 members, the CLT will function as several benches set up across the country to tackle disputes and cases of sickness effectively.

The Cabinet also decided to give Rs 230 crore interim assistance to Bhutan for its ninth five-year plan and decided to continue such financial aid for the next five years.

India has been giving financial assistance to Bhutan for its five- year plans since 1961 and the Cabinet yesterday decided to continue with the assistance for another five years, Ms Swaraj said.

The Cabinet also decided to continue subsidised helicopter ferry services to Lakshadweep for the next five years entailing an annual subsidy of Rs 7 crore.

Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited will continue to subsidise 80 per cent of fare for Indian passengers between Lakshadweep Islands and Agati, from where regular air services are available for the mainland, Ms Swaraj said.

However, subsidy would not be available to foreign tourists visiting the islands and they would have to pay 100 per cent fare for the helicopter service, the minister said.

The decision to continue with the subsidised airfare was taken in view of the absence of medical services available there and helicopters were being used to ferry patients for treatment, she said.

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