M A I N   N E W S

Nitish selects RS candidates
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 16
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has emerged supreme in the Janata Dal (United) pushing senior leaders like Mr Sharad Yadav and Mr George Fernandes to sidelines as today’s list of candidates for three Rajya Sabha and four Legislative Council seats indicates.

Not only that the names of Ms Jaya Jaitley, favoured by Mr Fernandes, and Mr K.C. Tyagi, supported by Mr Yadav, have been overlooked, but the Chief Minister, who had been authorised by the party to finalise the names of the candidates, has opted for Mr Mahendra Prasad who has represented the Congress and the RJD in the upper House and is retiring on April 2 as an RJD member.

Mr Kumar instead of Ms Jaitley and Mr Tyagi has gone for a journalist-turned politician Mohd Ali Anwar and a seasoned party worker Mahendra Sahni.






Rs 25 lakh fund for MLAs withdrawn
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
The Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, today withdrew the provision of Rs 25 lakh made in the state Budget for each MLA for the development of critical infrastructure in his or her constituency on the pattern of Member of Parliament Local Area Development Fund (MPLAD).

He also announced a number of concessions for various sections of people and also withdrew the 4 per cent VAT proposed in the Budget on the resale of pre-used cars.

The Budget was passed today by the House amid a walkout by the Opposition led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and bitter exchanges between Mr Surinder Singla and former Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh.

The Punjab Appropriation Bill, 2006, that authorised the Government the payment and appropriation of Rs 25,967.98 crore out of the consolidated fund of the state was passed with voice vote in the absence of the Opposition. The Appropriation Bill was moved by Mr Singla.

As tempers ran high, the Speaker, Dr Kewal Krishan, had to intervene about 20 times to restore order in the House. The Speaker repeatedly asked Mr Singla to refrain from making sarcastic remarks against the Opposition. He also urge the Opposition MLAs, including, Capt Kanwaljit Singh and Mr Tota Singh not to interrupt the Finance Minister, who was replying the points raised by the Opposition while taking part in a discussion on the Budget. At one point of time the level of verbal fight between, Mr Singla and Capt Kanwaljit Singh had come down to " tu-tu, main main".

Before the Budget was, Mr Singla announced increase in certain allowances for MLAs. He declared also certain concessions for Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes and also reduced rates of VAT on certain items.

VAT on cement sheets used for roof purpose and marble has been cut to 4 per cent from 12 per cent. VAT on " barria" has also been waived. Except gold and gold plated nose pins, VAT on all other nose pins has been waived. VAT on intra-occular lenses has also been waived.Mr Singla also announced Rs 500 as honorarium for Nabaradars. Earlier, similar honorarium was announced for Sarpanches.

Poor people have been exempted from sewerage and drinking water charges. However, it will be decided later whether this benefit will be extended to those owning houses up to 4 marlas or 6 marlas. The cooperative loans to farmers would be given at 8.5 per cent rate of interest. Under the one time settlement scheme for scheduled castes and backwards classes, they will be asked only to pay the principal of the loans given to them.

The Government's share capital in the Punjab Backward Classes Land Development and Finance Corporation and the Punjab SC Land Development and Finance Corporation would be increased to Rs 5 crore. The Government to decide to abolish Octroi in six weeks, said Mr Singla.

The daily allowance in the case of MLAs has been increased to Rs 600 from existing Rs 500 and travelling allowance to Rs 10 from Rs 6 per Km. The house building loan for MLAs has been increased to Rs 15 lakh from Rs 10 lakh and loan for carrying out changes in built up houses for MLAs has been increased to Rs 2 lakh. Mr Singla also announced Rs 50 lakh for Babu Jagjivan Ram and Ambedkar Chairs and Rs 10 crore, which would be procured from the Union Government, for Jassa Singh Ahluwalia College, which is 150 years old, at Kapurthala.

Earlier, replying to the criticism made by Opposition benches of the Budget proposal, Mr Singla said that the debt burden during the previous SAD-BJP Government increased by 116 per cent whereas during the Congress Government it increased only by 64 per cent. The rate of growth during the SAD-BJP was only 2.30 per cent which during the present government had touched 5.4 per cent. He said that the rise in tax revenue was a result of booming state economy and not because of any increase of the tax slabs.

He claimed that with the implementation of VAT, the average payment of tax had come down. He said that the in 1997, the SAD-BJP Government was given a robust economy but they ruined it during their rule of five years that ended in 2001-02.

Dr Upinderjit Kaur, Akali MLA, and Mr Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, Congress MLA, also took part in the discussion on Budget.

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