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Modi govt's austerity drive
No first-class travel, 5-star hotel meetings for bureaucrats

NEW DELHI: Unveiling an austerity drive to cut non-plan expenditure by 10 per cent, the Narendra Modi government has barred bureaucrats from travelling first class on overseas visits and have been asked to use video conferencing as much as possible.

With an aim to restrict fiscal deficit to 4.1 per cent of GDP in 2014-15, the Finance Ministry has barred officials from holding meetings in five-star hotels and put a freeze on fresh appointments and filling up posts lying vacant for over one year.

“While officers are entitled to various classes of air travel depending on seniority, utmost economy would need to be observed while exercising the choice keeping the limitations of budget in mind. However, there would no bookings in the first class,” said the office memorandum.

The facility of video conferencing, it said, “may be used effectively”.

The Finance Ministry said purchase of new vehicles to meet operational requirement of defence forces, paramilitary forces and security organisations are permitted but ban on purchase of any other vehicles would continue.

“Such measures are intended at promoting fiscal discipline, without restricting the operational efficiency of the government. In the context of the current fiscal situation, there is a need to continue to rationalise expenditure and optimise available resources,” it said.

The government proposes to lower the fiscal deficit to 3 per cent of GDP by 2016-17. The deficit which had touched a high of 5.7 per cent in 2011-12, was brought down to 4.8 per cent in 2012-13 and further to 4.5 per cent in 2013-14 by way of austerity measures.

“The task before me is very challenging because we need to revive growth, particularly in manufacturing sector and infrastructure,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said in his Budget speech. He added that choice has to be made whether or not to be victims of mere populism and wasteful expenditure.

The Finance Ministry said that the “mandatory 10 per cent cut” in plan expenditure will exclude interest payments, repayment of debt, defence, capital, salaries, pensions and grants to the state.

“No re-appropriation of funds to augment the non-plan heads of expenditure on which cuts have been imposed, shall be allowed during the current fiscal,” it said.

It said the austerity measures would also apply to autonomous bodies, adding that no fresh commitments would be made over and above what was provided in the Budget.

Only seminars and conferences that are absolutely essential should be organised, it said, adding that “holding of exhibitions/seminars/conferences abroad is strongly discouraged except in case of exhibitions for trade promotions.”

It said in all cases of air travel the lowest air fare tickets available for entitled class are to be purchased. “No companion free ticket on domestic/international travel is to be availed of,” it added.

Referring to jobs in government departments, it said there will be a total ban on new posts and those that have remained vacant for more than a year will not be filled except “under very rare and unavoidable circumstances”.

The Finance Ministry has also asked the departments to avoid bunching up expenditure in the last quarter to ensure that there is no infructuous or wasteful spending.

It said the Secretaries would be responsible to ensure compliance of the austerity measures and the Financial Advisors would be required to submit reports to the Finance Ministry on a quarterly basis.

The non-plan expenditure of government deals with outlay on subsidies, interest payment, salary, among others.

For the current fiscal, the government has proposed a Plan expenditure of Rs 5.75 lakh crore, while that for non-Plan expenditure is over Rs 12.19 lakh crore.

Total budgeted expenditure estimates, including Plan and non-Plan stand at Rs 17,94,892 crore, higher than revised estimates for 2013-14 at Rs 15,90,434 crore. — PTIBack

















1st BJP govt in Maha to be sworn in tomorrow, Sena to boycott

MUMBAI: The first BJP government in Maharashtra led by Devendra Fadnavis will be sworn in tomorrow in a ceremony which Shiv Sena today said it will boycott because of "constant humiliation" despite claims of talks being held for a possible tie-up.

Shiv Sena, which has been blowing hot and cold over joining the new government, said, "We have constantly been humiliated by the BJP, which has not gone down well with our MLAs.

"As our MLAs feel that BJP did not give us due respect, why should we attend the oath-taking ceremony?" Sena MP Vinayak Raut told reporters after meeting party president Uddhav Thackeray.

The tough posturing by Sena came hours after BJP said no minister from that party was likely to be inducted tomorrow.

"It seems unlikely that any Shiv Sena minister will be sworn in tomorrow. Talks with Sena are on in an amicable atmosphere for a possible tie-up in Maharashtra but there has been no outcome yet," BJP general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy told PTI.

Maintaining that BJP was looking forward to a decision soon, he said," This may not happen tomorrow." When asked if talks between Shiv Sena and BJP leaders for discussing a possible alliance had been called off, Raut said no talks had been scheduled, so there was no question of cancellation.

Earlier in the day, Sena MP and spokesman Sanjay Raut had said "positive talks" were on between the two parties and extended best wishes to Fadnavis and his team.

44-year-old Fadnavis, a fourth-term MLA from Nagpur, will be administered the oath of office by Governor C Vidyasagar Rao at Wankhede Stadium in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several of his Cabinet colleagues, Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states, corporate leaders, Bollywood stars and other celebrities.

A small Cabinet of about a dozen ministers including state BJP Core Committee members Eknath Khadse, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Vinod Tawde and Pankaja Munde besides MLAs from Schedule Castes and Scheduled tribes is also likely to be sworn in.

"A slim and trim government will take oath tomorrow," a BJP leader said.

BJP had emerged as the single largest party in the 288-member state Assembly with 122 seats but one of its MLAs Govind Rathod died.

Though technically it will be a minority government until Sena joins it, declared support from 41-member NCP will act as a hedge for the BJP dispensation. It also has the support of several independent MLAs and those from some smaller parties. -PTI













Govt gives compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to next of kin of 1984 riot victims

NEW DELHI: The government has decided to give Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of 3,325 victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots triggered after assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The compensation to the families of the anti-Sikh riot victims will be given in addition to what they have so far received from the government and other agencies from time to time, a senior government official told PTI.

Of the 3,325 victims, 2,733 were killed in Delhi alone while rest of the victims were from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states.

The Narendra Modi government had received several petitions from various Sikh organisations in last three months and a decision came on the eve of 30th death anniversary of Gandhi.

The fresh compensation, which will cost exchequer Rs 166 crore, will be disbursed "as early as possible" and hopefully in the next few weeks, the official said.

The anti-Sikhs riots were triggered following the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.

In 2006, the UPA government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced a package of Rs 717 crore which included monetary compensation of Rs 3.5 lakh to each killed in the riots besides financial assistance to injured and those who had lost their property.

Out of this only Rs 517 crore had been spent and the remaining Rs 200 crore could not be distributed because of dispute over claimants.

The most affected regions were the Sikh neighbourhoods in Delhi.

Some of the anti-Sikh riot cases are still continuing in courts and many Sikh organisations have alleged that the key conspirators of the violence were at large and victims have not yet got justice.

In 2005, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had apologised for the 1984 anti-Sikh violence saying Gandhi's assassination was a "great national tragedy" and what happened subsequently was "equally shameful".

"I have no hesitation in apologising to the Sikh community. I apologise not only to the Sikh community, but to the whole Indian nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood enshrined in our Constitution," he said.

During an interview, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had admitted that some Congress members were probably involved in the 1984 riots, in which innocent people had died.

"Some Congressmen were probably involved ... there is a legal process through which they have gone through ... some Congressmen have been punished for it," he had said.

Supreme Court lawyer H S Phoolka, who has been fighting anti-Sikh riot cases, welcomed the decision of the government. — PTIBack



















Sensex hits record-high on economic reforms

MUMBAI: The benchmark BSE Sensex hit a record-high by soaring 260.68 points to 27,358.85 during mid-session trade today on increased buying by investors as the recent economic reforms have instilled confidence that the country can better withstand potential rate hikes in the US.

The Sensex shot up by 260.68 points, or 0.96 per cent, to hit an all-time high of 27,358.85, surpassing its previous record of 27,354.99 touched on September 8.

The National Stock Exchange index Nifty also jumped by 76.75 points, or 0.94 per cent, to trade at 8,167.20, just 13 points shy from its all-time high of 8,180.20 reached on September 8.

The major gainers which supported the key indices were Infosys, Tata Consultancy, Reliance Industries, Maruti, Gail, HDFC, L&T, ONGC and Wipro.

The government had yesterday relaxed rules for FDI in the construction sector by reducing minimum built-up area as well as capital requirement and easing the exit norms.

Among other significant blue-chips, realty major DLF Ltd shot up by 3.70 per cent, Unitech (6.18 per cent), HDIL (4.10 per cent) and Sobha Developers (1.62 per cent). -PTI Back












Sanjeev Kaushal appointed Principal Secretary 
to Haryana CM 

CHANDIGARH: In its first bureaucratic reshuffle after taking over reins of the state, Manohar Lal Khattar led Haryana government today appointed senior IAS officer Sanjeev Kaushal as Principal Secretary to Chief Minister (PSCM), replacing S.S. Dhillon.

Kaushal was currently holding the charge of Principal Secretary, PW (B and R) and Architecture Departments, said an official release here.

Another IAS officer Sumita Misra has been appointed as Additional Principal Secretary-1 to Chief Minister in place of K.K. Khandelwal, while Rakesh Gupta has been appointed as Additional Principal Secretary-II to Chief Minister against a vacant post, said the release.

Misra was holding the charge of MD, Haryana Tourism Development Corporation Limited, Director-General and Secretary, Tourism and Hospitality Departments and Managing Director, Dairy Development Cooperative Federation.

Gupta was Secretary, Health Department, Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and Commissioner, Food and Drugs Administration and Secretary, Administrative Reforms Department, the release said. 

Meanwhile, the Haryana Government has appointed Jawahar Yadav as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the Chief Minister with immediate effect, an official spokesman said.-PTI Back















Haryana bank heist: Two suspects arrested, building owner's body found

CHANDIGARH: In the daring bank locker heist in Gohana town, Haryana Police have arrested two suspects and recovered over 10 kg of ornaments, an official said Thursday, adding that the man who owned the building from which the burglars dug a tunnel to the bank was found dead inside a car.

The body of Mahipal, who owned the building from where the 125-foot long tunnel was dug to the bank's locker room, was found in a car on the Panipat highway, in a shocking twist to the case. Police said it appeared Mahipal committed suicide.

Burglars had dug the tunnel from the building adjoining the bank and broken into the locker room of the state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB). They broke open 89 of the over 350 lockers in the room. The heist came to light Monday.

Sonipat district police chief Arun Nehra told the media that two men, Balraj and Surinder, were arrested for the bank robbery in Gohana, 210 km from here.

"Two suspects have been arrested. We have recovered over 10 kg ornaments from a bag hidden in a brick kiln in a nearby village. We are trying to apprehend two other suspects, Satish and Rajesh," the police official said.

Another official said the building owner's body was found in a car on the Panipat highway. "It appears that he consumed some poisonous substance and committed suicide," he said.

Police have booked bank officers for negligence.

Angry customers have been agitating outside the bank branch since Monday. They claim they had lost millions in the form of jewellery and cash.

The Prime Minister's Office had sent a senior security officer to Gohana Tuesday to help police in the investigation.- IANS















Yasin Malik arrested in Srinagar

SRINAGAR: Separatist leader Muhammad Yasin Malik, who has called for a boycott of the coming Jammu and Kashmir elections, was Thursday taken into preventive custody here.

This was done to maintain law and order in the city, a police officer said.

Malik, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), told IANS that police reached his uptown Abi Guzar office in the morning and seized him.
He said some other JKLF leaders were also arrested.

Separatist leaders, including hardliner Syed Ali Geelani and moderates like Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Malik, have called for a boycott of the November-December election.

Earlier, Jammu and Kashmir police chief K. Rajendra Kumar told the media that security forces will not allow anyone to interfere with the peaceful conduct of assembly polls. –IANSBack
















India should do more to maintain peace in border areas: China

BEIJING: China's military today expressed concern over India's plan to construct 54 new border posts in Arunachal Pradesh, saying India should not complicate the situation and do more to maintain peace as it is a "disputed area".

"We have noticed relevant report. Dispute still exists in the eastern part of China-India border," Defence Ministry Spokesman Yang Yujin told a media briefing here when asked a question on the plans announced by the Home Ministry to build 54 new border posts along the Arunachal Pradesh border.
"We urge the Indian side to do more to maintain peace and stability in the area and not do things that may complicate the situation," he said.
Asked why China is wary of India's development of infrastructure along the border when it has carried out extensive development on its side, Yang said, "I think that the roads you are talking about are in the eastern part of the China-India border which is still a disputed area." "China's position on the dispute in this area is clear and consistent," he said.
China claims Arunachal Pradesh as southern Tibet.
"It is an important consensus reached by the two sides to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Actual Control and both sides should do more towards converging direction rather than contrary," he said.
Indian government last week announced setting up of 54 new border outposts and a Rs 175 crore package for beefing up the infrastructure along the border in Arunachal Pradesh.
Yang's comments on the border posts and the road network along the Arunachal Pradesh border was in line with the views expressed by the Chinese foreign ministry earlier this month.
Reacting to the border posts plan, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had earlier said that "pending the final settlement of the boundary question, we hope that the Indian side could refrain from taking any action that may complicate or exaggerate the question".
Chinese foreign ministry has also reacted earlier on the plans announced by Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju, to construct a road network along the international boundary from Mago-Thingbu in Tawang to Vijaynagar in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh to match China's infrastructure development.
"There is a dispute about the east part of the China-India border. Before final settlement is reached we hope that India will not take any action that may further complicate the situation," spokesman Hong Lei said on October 15.
Yang said today that the agreements like setting up hotlines between the two militaries and improving communications between the command posts reached during this month's meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) in New Delhi put very important and positive inputs into bilateral relations and can help to deal with the border issues in a timely manner. PTI














Shahi Imam invites Pak PM Sharif, not PM Modi for son's anointment

NEW DELHI: The Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari Friday said he has not invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his son's anointment as the next chief cleric.

Bukhari, however, said he has invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and also four Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including two ministers.

"We have invited the Prime Minister of Pakistan as we have had relations with him since my father's time, unlike with Modi, whom we have not invited," Bukhari said.

The anointment of Bukhari's son, 19-year-old Shaban, will take place on November 22. The guests have been invited for a special dinner on November 29.

"Modi has not done anything for Indian Muslims even after coming to power. Indian Muslims have not forgiven him for the 2002 Gujarat riots," Bukhari said, referring to the 2002 communal clashes in Gujarat in which around 1,000 Muslims were killed.

"Modi has not even apologised (for the riots) and reached out to the Muslims," he added.

"We have also invited Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi along with Vice- President Hamid Ansari," Bukhari added. — IANSBack





















Positive move, says SC on Delhi govt formation effort 

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday described as positive the reports that Lt Governor Najeeb Jung would be consulting all the political parties in its efforts to form a government in Delhi.

The apex court constitution bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu said that as per the newspaper reports there is a positive move by the Lt Governor that he is going to consult all the political parties in his efforts to form a government in Delhi.

The court said that there are situations with a party not having majority forms the government with outside support.

As the court said this, Aam Aadmi Party counsel Prashant Bhushan said that this was another attempt to deny people of their right to have a representative government. 

However, he said that they have no objection in giving Lt Governor another chance to explore the possibility of forming the government, but it should be time bound.

The court also observed that if by chance, the Lt Governor fails and the formation of the government is not possible, he may seek the advice of the president and he will take a call.

Having said this, the court adjourned till Nov 11 hearing on AAP petition seeking dissolution of the assembly and holding of fresh elections. -IANS Back













Cyclone Nilofar weakens before landfall in Gujarat 

NEW DELHI: Very severe cyclonic storm Nilofar has weakened into a severe cyclonic storm ahead of making landfall at the northern Gujarat coast and adjoining Pakistani coast around Naliya by Thursday night.

Cyclone Nilofar, currently centred about 730 kilometres southwest of Naliya in Gujarat, is expected to bring moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy rainfalls at isolated places.

C. P. Patel, the District Magistrate (Collector) of Gir Somnath District requested tourists to return home on Wednesday and also confirmed that fishermen have been called back from sea.

Official leaves have been cancelled to handle the situation and plans have been made to evacuate people to safer areas.

Teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have also been deployed in some places as authorities intensified relief and rescue arrangements as precautionary measures to handle the cyclonic storm.

Pakistani authorities have also advised fishermen in Sindh and Balochistan to not venture out to sea from Wednesday to Friday, while those who were already there, have been advised to return to land. -Agencies Back















Stop anti-national forces, not Opposition: BJP to TMC govt

KOLKATA: With the violence hit area in Birbhum made out of bounds, BJP on Thursday stepped up its attack on Trinamool Congress government saying instead of stopping Opposition, it should use its energy for "curbing anti-national forces" working in West Bengal.

BJP national vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who was leading a three-member party team to Makra in Birbhum district where TMC and BJP supporters clashed leading to death of three persons last Monday, said the state Home department has asked them not to proceed as prohibitory orders were in force there but they would not change their plan.

"After we were informed of this communication, we decided we will carry on with our programme and we are not afraid if we are arrested there," Naqvi told PTI.

BJP, Congress and CPI(M) teams were stopped from entering the village yesterday citing prohibitory orders in force in the area since Monday.

Asking the state government to deal firmly with anti-national activities, Naqvi alleged that, "The Trinamool Congress government is synonymous with terrorists and mafia and they are letting the anti-national forces to use the land of Bengal for terrorist activities.

"The kind of energy the Trinamool Congress government is spending on stopping the opposition parties from entering Bengal, if they had used ten per cent of that energy in curbing anti-national forces working in Bengal, then it would have been great for the country and the state," Naqvi told reporters here before leaving for Makra village.

Enroute to the village, Naqvi said, "We got a call at our party office a few minutes back in which the state Home department asked our party functionaries not to proceed to Makra in Birbhum district as prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC was in force there."

When asked about media reports claiming that the terror module unearthed in Bengal was planning to assassinate Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia, Naqvi said "these reports are not only of national concern but also have implications on diplomatic ties." The BJP delegation comprising Naqvi and MPs Kirti Azad and Udit Raj will submit a full-fledged report about the incident to the party's central leadership. -PTI Back




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