Monday, May 19, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Reshuffle in offing: PM
Evasive on Shanta’s re-induction, hints at tax on hydel power
Our Correspondent

Manali, May 18
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today said he would reshuffle his ministry “soon” and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee might be inducted into the Cabinet along with some new faces.

Talking to mediapersons, he also said the burden on some ministers would be lightened.

Asked if anyone from Himachal Pradesh would be taken into the government, he said he could not reveal anything “right now”.

There has been speculation that former Union Minister Shanta Kumar may be taken back into the government.

The Prime Minister said there was no change in the government stand that Pakistan must end cross-border terrorism to create an environment conducive for talks.

Referring to the recent steps taken by Pakistan, including release of Indian prisoners, the Prime Minister said: “More steps must be taken.”

“A process has begun. Let us see how these steps are linked with ending cross-border terrorism.”

Asked if he would visit Pakistan for the SAARC summit, Mr Vajpayee said he had not received an invitation.

To a question whether he would meet Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in St Petersburg during his visit to Russia, he said the Pakistani leader was not going there.

Mr Vajpayee said the change of government in Himachal Pradesh would not affect the Centre’s attitude towards the state and the level of assistance to it would be maintained. He said last year the state’s Annual Plan allocation stood at Rs 553 crore. The same level would be maintained for the current year.

Talking to mediapersons at the Snow and Avalanche Study Institute helipad, before leaving for New Delhi after a six-day retreat, he said the NDA government dealt with all states even-handedly, irrespective of the party in power. It would continue to be magnanimous in extending financial support to Himachal Pradesh.

He said the modalities for additional assistance would be worked out by the Planning Commission in consultation with the state government. He had advised the state to prepare specific development projects like the Shah Nehar irrigation scheme, to avail of additional funds.

Mr Vajpayee said the Centre would look into the demand for imposition of tax on hydel power generation. Other states with substantial hydroelectric potential had made a similar demand.

Regarding the state’s demand for due claim in the BBMB projects, he said the matter was before the Supreme Court and the government would request the court to expedite the case. In the meantime, efforts would be made for an early “out-of-court” settlement.

The Prime Minister said the Centre would consider any proposal for establishing an institute for sustainable development of the Himalayan region to carry out study and research on protecting its fragile ecology.

He said the Chief Minister and officers of the state had submitted a memorandum on the needs of the state. He had also received a memorandum from the state BJP in this regard too. The development of the state, particularly the Kulu-Manali valley, was discussed.

He said the project to extend the runway at the Bhuntar airport would be completed within three years and entirely funded by the Centre. The Centre had earlier given Rs 30 crore for the project, but it could make little headway because of the state’s inability to acquire land. The extension of the airstrip would enable landing of larger planes.

The Centre would also consider any master plan the state might submit for the development of tourism in the Kulu-Manali valley.

Besides the Governor, the Chief Minister, several ministers, senior officers were present to see off the Prime Minister.

Chandigarh (TNS): Mr Vajpayee had a brief stop-over of 10 minutes at the Air Force station here today while returning to Delhi after his holiday in Manali.

He was received at the airport by the Punjab Governor and Administrator, Chandigarh, Justice O.P. Verma, his Haryana counterpart Babu Parmanand and Mayor Subhash Chawla, among others. The Prime Minister was accompanied by the National Security, Advisor and the Principal Secretary, Brajesh Mishra.

Dressed in a light brown safari suit, the Prime Minister look cheerful after his holiday. He specially called Justice Verma to pose for photographers.

The Prime Minister and his staff came in four helicopters and boarded an Air Force plane to return to Delhi.

The Punjab Public Works Department Minister, Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, represented the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, while the Haryana Mines Minister, Mr Kartar Singh Bhadana, received Mr Vajpayee on behalf of the Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala.


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