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Committed to passage of Lokpal Bill: PM, Sonia

NEW DELHI: Amid reports that the much talked about Lokpal Bill will be brought in the Winter session, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday said they are committed to the measure.

AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who was the first speaker at the Congress rally on Sunday, rued that though Congress brought the bill before Parliament, the Opposition ensured its non-passage in the Rajya Sabha.

“But we will again bring it and ensure the passage of that Bill,” Rahul said.

The Prime Minister and the Congress chief also spoke of plans to bring forward the measure to fight graft. Sonia Gandhi attacked BJP for blocking the passage of the Bill.

She said the UPA government brought the Lokpal Bill to fight corruption but the “BJP did not allow its passage in the Rajya Sabha. But our struggle to get it passed will continue and I hope we would be successful in it“.

Manmohan Singh while highlighting the need to fight corruption said Parliament is considering the Lokpal Bill.

The Lokpal bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha but could no be passed in the Rajya Sabha due to stiff opposition from the BJP and some parties to some of its provisions.

Reports had it that Government planned to drop the contentious clause relating to setting up Lokayuktas in the states from the Lokpal bill and try to get it passed in the Winter Session of Parliament beginning November 22.

The rationale is that deleting the clause would help the government secure the support of UPA allies like the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party and constituents of the Opposition NDA in the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling coalition is in a minority. — PTIBack




Opposition neck-deep in corruption: Congress

NEW DELHI: With its image battered by a series of corruption allegations, Congress on Sunday launched a counter offensive against the Opposition, especially BJP, saying it was “neck-deep” in corruption and gave clear signals that the UPA government will go ahead with implementing FDI in retail. 

The Congress bigwigs including party chief Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi utilised a well-attended party rally, where party chief ministers and other leaders were present, to convey the message that the party was on board on economic reforms and the recent fuel price hike notwithstanding the strident attack from the Opposition. 

Dispelling any impression about Congress and the government having second thoughts on the FDI issue, Sonia Gandhi said that the country needed a large dose of investement, of which FDI is a part, to boost growth and employment. 

Lauding the stewardship of the Prime Minister at a time when the world was witnessing economic distress, she said that India has fared much better than many other countries and the government has to provide jobs for 80 to 100 lakh youth who enter the job market every year. 

Against the backdrop of attacks on Congress over a number of scams, Gandhi said corruption is a cancer which affects the poor the most and declared that whoever is found guilty will not be spared. 

In a veiled attack on BJP, which she did not name, Gandhi said that those levelling false allegations against Congress, were themselves “neckdeep” in corruption. ” 

“Those who dig ditches for others, have a well ready for them”, she said quoting a Hindi proverb in an apparent reference to corruption charges against BJP including those faced by its President Nitin Gadkari. 

Claiming credit for enacting RTI to bring transparency and check corruption, Gandhi said such a law can be brought only by those who want to eradicate corruption and that was the reason the government brought the Lokpal bill, but BJP did not allow its passage in Rajya Sabha. 

“Our conscience is clear, our record is clean and our intentions are well. There is no need for the Congress to be on the defensive”, Sonia Gandhi said charging the opposition with trying to “weaken the foundations of democracy". 

She alleged that those who are levelling allegations against the government, which have been elected twice, wanted to weaken it by hook or by crook. 

“They are continuosly obstructing Parliament. Why? The straight answer is that these people do not want laws for the welfare of the people to be passed and do not want discussion on matters of national importance,” Gandhi said. 

In a similar vein, Rahul Gandhi said that the opposition is opposing the measures taken by the government without any thought. 

“They are engaged in simply opposing without giving any thought,” Gandhi said, insisting that FDI in multi-brand retail will benefit farmers. He also reminded BJP that Congress, when it was in opposition, had backed the then ruling NDA fully on the Kargil conflict. 

“It was BJP, which first talked of FDI. They were weak-hearted. We are strong-hearted. So we did. But when we did it, they said no to it in Parliament,” the Congress general secretary said. 

Making a strong case for economic reforms, he said, “If the poor have to progress, then FDI is needed, the economic reforms are needed.” 

The Prime Minister said that greater investment and positive atmosphere for the industry is needed for faster growth of the country. 

“Recently, our government has taken certain decisions. Attempt is being made to mislead the people and spread all kind of rumours about them,” he said. 

The strong stand of Congress and the government on the FDI issue has come at a time when the opposition is planning to make a common cause against the issue in the Winter Session of Parliament beginning November 22. 

Noting that the opposition had protested when he as the Finance Minister had initiated economic reforms in 1991, the Prime Minister said, “A similar protest has begun now. I can say it with confidence that those, who are opposing us, will be proved wrong.” 

Justifying the economic reform measures initated by his government, the Prime Minister said, “Be it a family, any business or the country, the expenditure cannot be more than its earning. 

“The burden of subsidy is growing on the Centre in which oil subsidy is a major part. As far as I understand economic issues, it is the common man and the country which will suffer if the subsidy bill and the government’s deficit will continue to rise. 

“It will lead to lack of confidence in our economy and rise in poverty and unemployment. That is why some difficult decisions have been taken about fuel pricing. But the poor have been kept in mind,” Singh said, adding that the price of kerosene oil have not been touched. 

Sonia Gandhi also noted that despite pressures from all sides, the government did not increase the price of kerosene oil. 

The Prime Minister asserted that Congress is focussed on making India a prosperous country and “if there is a need to bring changes in the policy for that, we will bring the changes“. 

The Prime Minister, the Congress president and Rahul Gandhi said that the government is committed to bringing a strong Lokpal bill and will ensure that it happened soon. 

While noting that fighting corruption is “duty” of the government, Singh also had a word of caution. “We should also keep in mind that we should not create situations in which honest officers avoid taking decisions“. 

All the three leaders said they were committed to the Food Security Bill. 

Meanwhile, traffic went haywire in Central Delhi due to the Congress rally attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party chief Sonia Gandhi putting commuters to hardships. 

Roads leading to Ramlila Maidan were choked with vehicles carrying party workers from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and long serpentine queues of vehicles were seen on Ring Road and ITO. 

It took more than half-an-hour for commuters on way to ITO to cross a length of less than one-km from Yamuna bridge on Vikas Marg. 

Police had a tough time regulating traffic on a Sunday which usually witnesses very less movement of vehicles in the city during day time. 

Ring Road from Sarai Kale Khan to Raj Ghat was also choc-a-bloc while NH-24 linking Delhi with Uttar Pradesh saw traffic snarl-ups. 

“Normally, I take around five minutes to reach Pragati Maidan from Millenium Park. But today I took 40 minutes to cross that stretch,” said Mayank Kulkarni, an engineer. — PTIBack





74 per cent polling in Himachal

SHIMLA: At least 74 per cent polling was recorded on Sunday in the election to the 68-member Assembly in hill state of Himachal Pradesh.

Polling had begun on a dull note apparently due to cold weather conditions. The minimum temperature was hovering around freezing point in Chopal in Shimla district and in Kaza area. 

“Aleast seven EVMs were replaced due to malfunctioning, four of them in Kullu and one each on Shimla and Bilaspur,” Himachal’s Chief Electoral Officer Narinder Chauhan said. 

Polling has been peaceful and no untoward incident has been reported, election officials said. 

Average voting was below 8 per cent in the first hour but it crossed 18 per cent by 10.00 am, and over 30 per cent by 3 pm. The poll percentage in the last election was 71.61 per cent. 

While a turn out 25 to 30 per cent turn out was reported from lower areas of Kangra, Hamirpur, Una and Bilaspur till noon, some polling booths in Palampur, Nagrota and Hamirpur recorded 45 to 50 per cent voting. 

In Shimla district, 30 per cent polling was reported in Rampur, 28 per cent in Rohroo, 33 per cent in Theog and 22 per cent in Jubbal while it as 22 per cent in Shimla town. 

Long queues of voters which included a large number of women were seen at the polling booths in the lower areas. In Sirmaur district 13 per cent polling was recorded by 10.00 am but it picked up later and touched 30 per cents by noon. 

Union Commerce and Industries minister, Anand Sharma, who cast his vote a Kelston polling booth in Shimla, claimed that the Congress would win and form the government. 

Chief Minister PK Dhumal, who exercised his franchise in Samirpur, which in now a part of his Hamirpur constituency, claimed that BJP would repeat its poll performance and win 45 seats against 41 seats it won in 2007 Assembly polls. 

HPCC president and former Chief Minister V B Singh cast his ballot at Rampur. Many voters complained that delimitation of constituencies had become a hurdle for them in exercising their franchise. 

There are 459 candidates in the fray including the Chief Minister, the HPCC chief, all ten Cabinet ministers, leader of the opposition Vidya Stokes, 63 sitting MLAs and a large number of former ministers and MLAs. 

The electorate comprises 46.08 lakh voters, including 22.31 lakh women. Counting of votes will take place on December 20. — AgenciesBack





2 CISF men killed in Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh

RAIPUR: Two Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) troopers were on Sunday killed when a group of heavily armed Naxals attacked a security post in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district.

The attack took place early Sunday morning in the Bacheli complex of the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) mines which is guarded by the paramilitary force.

“Two constables of the force have been killed while their weapons, an AK-47 and an INSAS rifle, have been looted. The incident occurred at around 8 AM,” a senior Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officer said.

A joint squad of personnel from CRPF, CISF and state police has launched a combing operation in the area and reinforcements have been rushed.

The CISF headquarters in Delhi has despatched Special Director General R R Verma and Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Jaideep Prasad by a special Home Ministry aircraft to the state for an inquiry.

The Bacheli—Kirandul complex has witnessed a number of Naxal attacks and six CISF men were killed earlier this year in an ambush by the ultras in the Naxal hotbed of Dantewada in the Bastar region of the state. CISF has since geared up its presence in the area. — PTI






Yuvraj set to return for Test series against England

MUMBAI: Yuvraj Singh is all set to regain his spot in the Indian Test squad when the new national selection panel, headed by Sandeep Patil, sits down on Monday to pick the team for the series-opener against England at Ahmedabad from November 15-19.

Though skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has said that the left-handed batsman was the best judge of his fitness for the rigours of Test cricket after having undergone treatment for cancer, it looks unlikely that the selectors will leave him out of the squad.

Yuvraj came back into the Indian team that flopped in the Twenty20 World Championship in Sri Lanka and then struck a double century for North Zone against Central Zone in the Duleep Trophy tie at Hyderabad, his re-entry into first class cricket.

Chosen for India A against the England cricketers in the tourists opening three-day warm-up game at the Brabourne Stadium here, Yuvraj scored a fine 59 with seven fours and four sixes and then grabbed a career-best first-class haul of five wickets.

Yuvraj last played a Test match against the West Indies last year in Kolkata.

In all probability, he would come into the squad in place of S Badrinath who had taken the spot of the retired V V S Laxman.

Yuvraj’s likely competitor in the playing XI, Suresh Raina, too is expected to retain his position though he looked unconvincing against the England pace attack when leading India A at the Cricket Club of India. He made 20 and 19 not out in the drawn game. — PTI




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