M A I N   N E W S

UPA Coordination panel to meet on Aug 18

New Delhi, August 13
Demands for reduction of the petro products’ price hike, steps to curb rising prices in the wake of rising inflation and the cut in the EPF rate issue are expected to dominate the meeting of the UPA Coordination Committee scheduled here on August 18.

The meeting, being held two days after the resumption of the second phase of the Budget session of Parliament, is also likely to deliberate on the Manipur situation, which is causing concern to several constituents of the UPA.

A strategy is also expected to be formulated at the meeting, which will help the UPA to counter BJP on several issues, UPA sources said.

The implementation of the Common Minimum Programme is also expected to come up for discussion at the meeting of the UPA leaders at the Prime Minister’s residence.

A meeting of the coordination committee of the Left parties is expected to take place on August 16 to prepare for the August 18 meet.

The last meeting of the UPA Coordination Committee, held on June 18, had witnessed several constituents of the Alliance mounting pressure on the Manmohan Singh government for a reduction of the petro price hike, especially cooking gas.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram had assured them that their demands would be considered within the parameters of growth and fiscal discipline.

The meeting assumes significance, as it would be last before the passage of the Budget 2004-05. — PTI 


Centre adopts wait-and-watch approach on Manipur
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13
The Centre has decided to adopt a "wait and watch" approach on Manipur even as it weighed various possibilities, including partial withdrawal of 17th Battallion of Assam Rifles, to cool the passions of Manipuris who continued their agitation in the state today demanding withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from the entire state.

Several suggestions are pouring in from different channels to tackle the situation in the hill state. A large number of people have taken to the streets in Manipur for the past months protesting over the law and order situation ever since security forces allegedly shot dead Thangjam Manorama on July 11.

"With the Manipur Government withdrawing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from seven Assembly constituencies in Imphal the situation has become very tricky and any decision from the Centre should be holistic and not piece-meal," UPA sources said here.

When contacted, Home Minister Shivraj Patil refused to say anything on the Manipur situation. "I can't say anything at the moment," Mr Patil told The Tribune.

Sources said the Centre is not in favour of lifting the Act as it fears repercussions in neighbouring states like Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.

At the same time, the Centre is wary of re-imposing the law in Manipur immediately as the situation in the hill state could go out of control.

Faced with this sensitive situation, the Centre is understood to be weighing various 'interim' measures to tackle the problem.

Among the various possibilities being considered at the Government level are partial withdrawal of the 17th Battallion of Assam Rifles in Manipur, withdrawal of Act from urban limits of Manipur as an interim measure and simultaneously constitute a high-level committee to review the Act to do away with some of the 'draconian' provisions, if any, sources said.

At the political level, the Congress High Command is keeping a close watch on the political developments within its state unit as some of the party legislators have been lobbying for a leadership change in the state.

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