L A T E S T      N E W S

Budget to unveil second-generation reforms: Jaitley

NEW DELHI: A “whole set of second generation reforms” will be unveiled in the next Union Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said on Sunday, promising “a lot of exciting time ahead”.

The country needs “a larger opening out in more sectors,” it requires stability of policy and tax regime besides a “reasonable” cost of capital, he told PTI journalists at an interaction at the agency’s headquarters in New Delhi.

Looking ahead, the Minister envisages the GDP growth to cross 6 per cent in 2015-16 once the effect of all the steps proposed kicks in. From thereon, “we are going to take off,” he said.

Asked about the broad contours of the direction the Budget for 2015-16 will take, Jaitley said, “There is a whole set of second-generation reforms.

“And there is a whole set of reforms which have arisen because some undoing is required. The coal ordinance is one undoing thing. Allocation of natural resources by non-discretion is undoing thing. A rational and reasonable tax regime is undoing thing. Some procedure changes in the land (acquisition) law is an undoing.”

Enumerating the steps taken by the NDA government, he said that a series of measures taken in the last six months had “corrected the (depressing) sentiment”.

Answering a question about the state of the economy that he had inherited, Jaitley said the economy had “dipped quite low and there was a sense of disillusion” but in the past six months domestic as well as global investors were taking a huge interest, although their faith in the Indian economy had been shaken badly.

“It will still take some time before results start surfacing. On the ground some green shoots are visible,” the Minister said.

“I think we have a lot of exciting time ahead of us and I do see investments coming into India. I do see domestic investors taking a lot of interest,” he emphasised.

However, he acknowledged that several more steps are required to create even more positive environment not only by the Central government but also by the state governments and several other institutions, which include the Opposition parties in Parliament.

Asked about the steps he intended to take, the Finance Minister replied: “You see you need a larger opening out which is what we are doing. There I think we are on track. One by one more sectors (will be opened up), there are avenues.

“You will require to give another comfort to investors. You have given them the comfort of stability of politics but (they require) stability of policy, stability of tax regime (and) correcting whatever major aberrations have taken place,” he said.

Jaitley said infusing liquidity into various sectors was necessary along with providing reasonable cost of capital.

“It is one thing saying we must concentrate on infrastructure. But for companies building highways... power plants, who even if coal is made available to them, but access to capital (as well as) money locked up in disputes will have to be resolved,” he said.

Jaitley said if the government was not able to infuse that liquidity or unable to provide cheaper capital, then opening out alone would not help. “So, it is a chain of events which has to take place.”

He pitched for an interest rate cut by RBI at its next monetary policy review due next week.

On the importance of his next Budget, the Finance Minister said the Budget is really an accounting statement.

“Reforms have to take place all 365 days in a year. But then Budget is an important occasion to highlight that. Therefore it is important in those terms. It is also an important occasion to signal the direction.

“Because so far our government has followed one clear direction and I do hope governments are never forced to take any moves which are in contrarian direction. That can difficulty for the economy,” he said.

Making it clear that reforms is a continuing exercise, Jaitley said the process of second generation reforms would be done and continued both before, during and after the Budget process. “Budget is not the only opportunity but is an important opportunity.”

Asked what are the sectors the government was targeting, he said his immediate target was Insurance Amendment Bill, coal ordinance and the GST Bill.

“I am simultaneously looking at the other big mineral allocation, introducing a non-discretionary basis... Then I have indicated to you that the land laws. Some dilution is required because this law can actually make development stagnant. I have no difficulty in higher compensation. I welcome it. But no access to land means what happens to infrastructure, townships, housing, industry and jobs,” he said.

On banking sector reforms, Jaitley said under Basel-III norms, the government stake in all PSU banks will have to be brought down to 52 per cent and the rest is to be used for financial inclusion.

To a question on the growth rate set for 2015-16, Jaitley said first the economy has to make a turnaround from the sub-5 per cent-4.5 per cent and 4.7 per cent.

“Move up this year. Manufacturing is still a challenge. Infrastructure expedition and manufacturing are two prime areas we have to get into so that the expedition takes place. Once the effect of all these steps is visible, our ability to cross the 6 per cent mark then increases.”

Asked whether he would be able to do it in the next fiscal, the Minister said, “Hopefully, we will cross that figure. Then we are going to take off.” — PTIBack

















Contradicting stand on Article 370 will sink BJP's boat in J&K: Omar Abdullah

SRINAGAR: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi skirting any statement on Article 370, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today said the BJP is shying away from committing on this contentious issue and is instead keeping its "feet in two boats" in Jammu and Kashmir, which normally ends up "sinking".

The Chief Minister, who is the working president of the National Conference, also dubbed the BJP as an "opportunist" party with whom he feels there cannot be any relationship.

Omar, who heads the coalition government with the Congress, made these remarks when asked to comment on the BJP talking in different voices on Article 370 that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir and avoiding making a direct statement on the issue during the Assembly polls.

"Of course, they are avoiding to be caught in this issue because it will be a problem for them. In Jammu, Article 370 becomes a national issue, up in the hills in Jammu, they are silent about it and in Kashmir, their candidates say 'if you touch Article 370, we will pick up the gun' .... So they are contradicting themselves depending on the place in the state, where they happen to be," he said in in an interview to PTI during the course of his hectic campaign for the Assembly elections.

"They don't want to commit themselves one way or the other. But, again, while trying to put their feet in two boats, you will end up sinking," the 44-year-old Omar said.

Modi, who was in Kishtawar of Jammu region yesterday, refrained from making any political statement on Article 370.

The state is going for the a five-phase poll beginning November 25 and it is widely expected that the results on December 23 will throw up a hung assembly. But Omar refused to predict anything saying, "I never make predictions. It's never been my habit. In school, I never predicted my exam results and I never predicted my election results."

However, in case of a hung Assembly, the Chief Minister made it clear that he would not be having any ties with the BJP which had accused him of being corrupt.

"Look I don't want to speculate about what will happen after the elections. I think let's wait and see what the assembly looks like and then we will decide what has to be done.

"I know people are very curious to know what we will do with BJP. As far as I am concerned, the party which is calling for abrogation of Article 370, wants to do away with our Constitution and our flag and seems to think that I am a thief is an untouchable party. I am not the one who will be accused of corruption by a person no less than the Prime Minister and one month from now, I will go and join hands with them.

"I am not opportunist like the BJP. In Maharashtra they called NCP as ' Nationalist Corruption Party' and today they are governing the state with their support. That's not my politics. If I am corrupt now, then I will be corrupt three months from now. And if the BJP thinks of me like that, then I definitely will not be one to be forming any sort of relationship with them," Omar said.

On the allegations levelled by the Prime Minister and BJP president Amit Shah, Omar replied "You (BJP) have been in the government for the last six months at the Centre. Please tell us where (we have robbed the state). Amit Shah is famous for following people and tapping phones. Prove it (the allegation)."

In reply to another question, Omar was quick to list the 2010 summer agitation, which was sparked off by a fake encounter by the Army in Machil of North Kashmir by gunning down three civilians and dubbing them as militants, as an incident which will haunt him for a long time. — PTIBack





















39 injured as earthquake hits Japan 

TOKYO: At least 39 people were injured after a 6.7-magnitude quake on the Richter scale hit Japan, media reported Sunday.

The quake hit Nagano City and Hakuba village in Japan, where at least 10 homes collapsed late Saturday, Xinhua reported. 

More than 80 people spent the night in an evacuation shelter, following the 6.7-magnitude quake that struck the region at 10:08 p.m. local time Saturday.

The quake was revised to 6.7-magnitude from 6.8, according to the Japan's Meteorological Agency.

No damage has yet been reported at a nearby nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, according to its operator.

The water and power supply was hit in Hakuba.

Local authorities were also assessing the damage and injuries in Nagano, which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics.

The agency warned of possible strong aftershocks in the coming week.
It was earlier reported that 57 people were injured in the earthquake. –IANS Back















Modi will only attend SAARC Summit in Nepal 

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Nepal to attend only the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu Nov 26-27 and not go to Janakpur, Lumbini and Muktinath, the government said Sunday. 

The External Affairs Ministry said this was decided due to Modi's "unavoidable domestic commitments and pre-scheduled travels within" India.

An official spokesman said that during his last visit to Kathmandu, Modi had expressed a desire to visit other places in Nepal "to highlight the strong civilisational links and unparalleled people-to-people contacts between the two countries".

The three places he had specifically desired to go were Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, as well as Janakpur and Muktinath, which both Hindus and Buddhists hold as sacred.

"There has been widespread interest in the prime minister's schedule in the upcoming visit to Nepal for the SAARC Summit.

"Due to (Modi's) unavoidable domestic commitments and pre-scheduled travels within the country, he will travel only to Kathmandu to attend the SAARC Summit," the spokesman said.

The government said Modi "deeply values the special relationship between India and Nepal and will always welcome every occasion to visit Nepal and interact with the leadership and the people of Nepal. 

"He looks forward to an early opportunity to visit Janakpur, Lumbini, Muktinath and other places in Nepal." –IANS Back











PM copying my scheme of adopting villages,
building toilets: Mulayam

LUCKNOW: Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on Sunday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "copying" his schemes of adopting villages and constructing toilets.

"He (Modi) is talking about adopting villages. I have adopted villages in 1990. The Prime Minister is copying me. I have done all this. I have initiated construction of toilets in 1990," Yadav said while addressing a function here.

The SP chief said, "You talk about removing 'gandagi'. You first remove poverty and it will automatically vanish."

"I have done, what he (PM) is talking now. You all should know," he added.

He asked party leaders, including legislators and ministers, to adopt at least two villages and work there.

"If you all work in your area and understand your responsibilities, change would be visible," Yadav said.

Welcoming Prime Minister's foreign visits, the SP chief said, "I personally feel that it's good that he is touring. We should have good relations with our neighbours and other countries and lessen enmity."

He said he would ask the PM that with how many countries he had established friendship. — PTIBack












BJP a major factor as Kashmir readies to vote 

SRINAGAR/JAMMU: Jammu and Kashmir will vote starting on Tuesday in assembly elections that have for the first time made the BJP a major power, much to the chagrin of the state's established parties.

A host of issues are hogging the campaign. 

These include allegations of corruption and family rule, how to improve the economy, how to bring back Bollywood to the scenic state and of course article 370 of the constitution that gives special status to the country's only Muslim-majority state.

A total of 7.2 million people are eligible to vote in the polls to pick a 87-member house. The five-phase election will end Dec 20. Vote count will take place Dec 23. 

Spread over 22 districts with diverse climatic, cultural and religious characteristics, political parties are using every permissible tool to woo voters in Jammu and Kashmir.

Friends and allies of yesterday have suddenly turned foes. 

The Congress and the National Conference are contesting elections separately after having ruled the state in coalition for six years. Today, they blame each other for whatever is wrong with Kashmir.

Flush with its Lok Sabha success, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has entered the battle as a major challenger to everyone including the Congress, the National Conference as well as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

For the first time, BJP leaders are confident of either taking power in the state -- or becoming a kingmaker.

Given its diversity, priorities in the three regions of the state -- Jammu, Ladakh and the Kashmir Valley -- are different. 

Voters in far-flung backward areas give top priority to roads, healthcare, education and employment. These include the cold desert Ladakh region, districts of Leh and Kargil, border areas in Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora in the valley, and Poonch, Rajouri, Doda and Kishtwar in the Jammu region.

Voters in urban areas of Srinagar, Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Udhampur and some other districts are concerned more with political issues like article 370, autonomy and self-rule. Corruption is a major factor.

Separatist leaders in the valley have been giving election boycott calls ever since militant violence started in the early 1990s. 

With the gradual improvement in the overall law and order situation in the valley, these calls have had little impact on voter turnout in rural areas.

Cities and towns in the valley, however, witness low voting.

Given the security situation, authorities have categorise polling stations as sensitive, hypersensitive and normal - depending on the threat appraisals by intelligence agencies.

More than 50,000 extra paramilitary troops have been sent to help the existing central forces and the state police to provide security to voters and polling venues.

A total of 10,005 polling stations are being set up.

In the first phase, 15 constituencies in seven districts will vote Nov 25. The second and third phases will see polling in 18 and 16 constituencies Dec 2 and Dec 9.

The fourth phase will be held Dec 14 (18 constituencies) while the fifth and final round will involve 20 constituencies Dec 20.

The term of the current Jammu and Kashmir assembly expires by the middle of January next year. A new house must be constituted before the expiry of the present assembly's tensure. -IANS Back













Pope declares two Keralites as saints

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday declared Fr Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Sister Euphrasia Eluventhinkal from India as saints at the Vatican.

With their canonisation, as the finale of the long-drawn process is known in Catholic parlance, the centuries-old Syro Malabar Catholic Church has three saints, the first being Sister Alphonsa raised to the revered rank in 2008.

The two from Kerala were declared as saints during a special mass at St Peter's Square at Vatican, Syro Malabar Catholic Church sources said.

According to church scholars, Syro Malabar Church, which traces its origin to the visit of Apostle St Thomas to the Kerala coast in the first century AD, is one of the 22 Eastern Churches in Full Communion with Rome.

The Pope declared Chavara and Euphrasia as saints during a special mass at St Peter's Square at Vatican, a moment shared in elation and spiritual fervour by churches across Kerala where the faithful throng in large numbers for thanks giving service and prayers.

A large number of devotees, two Cardinals, bishops and clergy and nuns from Kerala attended the ceremony at Vatican also.

Three places closely associated to the lives of Chavara and Euprhasia at Mannman in Kottayam, Koonammavu in Ernakulam and Ollur in Thrissur have already been in a jubilant mood for the last several days.

Founder of the congregation Carmalites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), F Kuriakose Elias Chavara (1805-1871) was more than a spiritual leader of Syro Malabar Catholic community.

Historians and church chroniclers consider him as a social reformer who gave thrust to secular education of not only Catholics but also of children other communities, especially the depressed classes. Incidentally, one of the first institutions he founded was a Sanskrit school. — PTIBack














HRD Minister turns down demands to make Sanskrit compulsory

NEW DELHI: Taking on her critics, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani on Sunday dismissed charges that education was being saffronised even as she turned down demands that Sanskrit be made compulsory in the curriculum.

"Those who accuse me of being an RSS mascot or RSS representative possibly want to deflect the attention from the good work that we have done ... this agenda will be flagged and I will be whipped for as long as there is a need to keep attention diverted away from the good work. I am ready for it. I have no problem," she told PTI journalists at the agency headquarters here.

Answering questions on the controversial decision to replace German with Sanskrit as the third language in some 500 Centrally-run Kendriya Vidyalayas, Irani said teaching of German under an MoU signed in 2011 had been in violation of the Constitution. An investigation has already been launched to find out how the MoU came to be signed.

Responding to demands that Sanskrit be made a compulsory language, the Minister said that the three language formula was very clear that any of the 23 Indian languages listed in Schedule 8 of the Constitution could be opted for.

But she reiterated that German will continue to be taught as a foreign language.

"... we are teaching French, we are teaching Mandarin, we teach German in the same way. For the life in me, I can't understand why people are not understanding what I am saying," she said.

Irani had earlier strongly defended the decision to replace German with Sanskrit as the third language, saying the existing arrangement was in violation of the Constitution.

Dismissing charges that efforts were being made to saffronise education, the Minister said she has never tried to explain herself on the "basis of secularism with respect to saffronisation in terms of education" while citing examples of choosing heads of institutions irrespective of their religion.

Irani said while rolling back the Four Year Undergraduate Programme of Delhi University, she never had in mind which region or religion they (the students) had come from.

In this context, she defended the decision to roll back the programme, saying the degrees offered had no "legal sanction".

"My endeavour is whatever I do should be done so that it is within law and favours the students", she asserted while rejecting the notion that education is being politicised in the country.

Talking about the moves to have a new national education policy, the deliberation of which would start next year, she said the exercise would be exhaustive in nature and involve all stakeholders, besides academicians and experts, who are directly impacted by it.

"For the first time, in the history of our nation, an initiative will be undertaken where the citizen will also be engaged on this policy because education policy when we arrive upon it will have an impact for generations.

"So to ensure that those who will be impacted most also considered in terms of their views...something which I am currently structuring within the Ministry", she said.

A methodology is being prepared wherein the stakeholders apart from private sector, academicians, institutional experts and policy experts could also be engaged in drafting the policy.

It will be deliberated upon in the Ministry and in Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) which is the highest decision-making body on education in the country.

Irani said that during her interaction with students and parents the views that came forth were that they wanted more updated information about the syllabus and variety in choice of courses.

"They want to pick up some option, which are applicable and viable now, but also some options, which will prepare them for the future.

Asked about the demands for re-introduction of Class X board examinations, Irani merely said that the decision has to be take by CABE.

"The big policy decision will be taken on the platform like CABE and taken in conjunction with the states.

When her attention was drawn to fleecing of students by institutes whose degrees were not recognised, the Minister said that she will soon hold a special meeting to see what can be done.

"If there is belligerent violation, then I will explore what are the possibilities that a regulator can undertake," she said and quoted the Prime Minister that, "There is no shortage of law, but there was lack of implementation".

Queried about criticisms that none of the Indian universities find a place among the top 100 institutions in the world, she pointed that ranking agencies have their own parameters for evaluation.

Irani further asserted that India will have its own ranking system in place soon.

"In India we are actually evolving a ranking system for our institutions. Vice chancellors, IIT directors and everybody are sitting together to tell us how to rank ourselves," she said. — PTIBack














Seven killed in Himachal bus accident

SHIMLA: Seven persons were killed on Sunday when a privately-owned mini-bus rolled down a gorge in Himachal Pradesh's Sirmaur district, the police said.

Nine persons were injured in the accident which took place near Haripurdhar in Sangrah, one of the remotest areas in the state, some 95 km from district headquarters Nahan.

The bus was going to Baddi town in Solan district from Ratwa village, Additional Superintendent of Police N.S. Negi told IANS over the phone.

The cause of the accident is yet to be ascertained, he added.

Most of the victims were locals.

Officials said the toll could rise as some more passengers might be trapped in the wreckage. — IANSBack












Rampal taken to Satlok Ashram

BARWALA (Haryana): Arrested 'godman' Rampal was today taken to his Satlok Ashram in connection with the probe being conducted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Haryana Police, which will question him on the recoveries, including arms and ammunition, that have been made.

63-year-old Rampal, who was arrested on November 19 from his ashram, spread over 12 acres in Hisar district, was taken by the police to the complex for further investigation as they made more recoveries from the premises, where a thorough search has been going on for the last four days.

Rampal, who was produced before the Punjab and Haryana High Court a day after his arrest in connection with a contempt of court case, was later remanded in police custody for five days by a court in Hisar after fresh cases were slapped on him.

The police today said he will be questioned in connection with the recoveries, including arms and cartridges, made from the ashram, which is located in this Haryana town. There are many lockers inside the ashram and the police will quiz him about these as well.

During the standoff between Rampal's followers and the police, five women and an infant had died, while more than 200 people were injured in the clashes on Tuesday.

For the search operation, the police have divided the ashram into three zones. The underground bunkers are also being searched.

Yesterday, the police had found a bullet-proof vehicle, an oil-tanker, two tractors and many two-wheelers among other items from the ashram.

A huge cache of arms and ammunition, petrol bombs and acid syringes were found from the highly fortified complex. The police have found three .32 bore revolvers, 19 air guns, two 12 bore double barrel guns, two .315 bore rifles, 28 cartridges of .32 bore, 50 cartridges of 12 bore and 25 cartridges of .315 bore.

The sprawling complex was found to be under constant surveillance of CCTV cameras installed at several key points to keep tabs on the movements of followers, who largely came from low-income strata.

The police said the search operation will continue for a few days more as the ashram was spread over a vast area. — PTIBack














A bumpy ride for Himachal's apples

SHIMLA: A World Bank-funded multi-million road project in Himachal Pradesh, earlier awarded to a Chinese firm but which missed its deadline following which an Indian contractor was hired, is caught in a political slugfest.

The main opposition BJP has been blaming the ruling Congress for abnormal delay in the completion of the bumpy 80-km-long Theog-Kotkhai-Hatkoti-Rohru stretch, the lifeline for Shimla's prominent apple belt which carries out annual business worth Rs.1,000 crore.

Last week it carried out a six-day 120-km-long 'padyatra' or protest march from Rohru to Shimla town, submitted a memorandum to Governor Urmila Singh and filed a petition in the high court to highlight the cause.

"We have urged the governor to direct the government to constitute a special task force for the project and fixed a time limit for completion of the road work," former minister Narender Bragta told IANS.

He said the memorandum, submitted Nov 20, highlighted the plight of the people due to the inordinate delay in completing the road.

"We demanded that five-metre width of the road should be metalled on priority while the remaining work be completed in routine," said Bragta, himself a prominent apple grower in upper Shimla.

The Congress government countered it by saying it was just a political drama to divert the attention of the public from the core issue of development.

Irrigation and Public Health Minister Vidya Stokes said the World Bank-funded road, having a length of 80.684 km and amounting to Rs.228.25 crore, was awarded to Chinese company Longjian Road and Bridge Ltd Feb 29, 2008, by the then BJP government. It was to be completed within 36 months.

"The work was unnecessarily delayed due to lack of interest of the then government," Vidya Stokes told IANS.

She said the Chinese company executed only 18 percent work during the BJP government tenure.

Due to the poor condition of roads in Shimla district during the BJP regime about 1,200 persons lost their lives in road accidents. Besides, apple crop worth hundreds of crores of rupees could not be transported to the markets due to bad road conditions, she said.

The contract of the company was terminated Aug 11, 2012.

The present Congress government, she said, fragmented the road work in two parts, 48-km Theog-Kotkhai-Kharapathar and 32-km Kharapathar-Hatkoti-Rohru. Through international bidding, the work was allocated to C&C Constructions Ltd at a cost of Rs 322.76 crore.

The timeframe for completing the entire road is June 2016, added Stokes, who is also a prominent apple grower.

But locals say the entire 80-km-long stretch from Theog to Rohru is a motorist's nightmare.

Chet Ram, a grower in the Jubbal area, said: "Since the awarding of the project in 2008 the work remained standstill a number of times. Now the work has gained some momentum but it will again be hampered for weeks together with the onset of snowfall in the area by next month." Justifying the delay in work execution, Bragta filed the petition with a prayer to direct the state and the contractor to complete the project within a stipulated period.

Advocate General Shrawan Dogra informed the court November 19 that a public interest litigation relating to the project was also filed by advocate Devinder Chauhan and various orders were passed by the court for its early construction.

After its first hearing, the court listed both the petitions for next hearing Nov 24.
Chauhan's petition claimed that due to bad condition of the road, the apple growers of the Theog, Kotkhai, Jubbal and Rohru area have incurred a loss of Rs 500 crore owing to delay in crop transportation.

Himachal Pradesh has limited rail and air connectivity, forcing it to rely exclusively on its road network for transportation. –IANS Back














J-K poll: Parties go on social media overdrive 

SRINAGAR: In a quantum leap from previous elections when campaigning was largely restricted to hoardings, banners and rallies, political parties in Jammu and Kashmir are tapping social media in a big way to woo voters in the upcoming Assembly polls.

Since the announcement of the five-phase elections for the 87-member Assembly in J-K, the parties have embarked on vigorous campaigning and social media is one of the key battlegrounds to harness the digital tools.

The ruling National Conference (NC) is using social media in a big way for campaign purposes, with the party leaders being active on the micro-blogging site, Twitter.

The party, which launched its official Twitter account in 2012, has given a push to its campaign in cyberspace since last month, registering over 3,000 tweets.

NC has also decided to have a dedicated Youtube channel and is using Internet messaging application Whatsapp to garner support, especially among the youth.

"We are approaching the social media scientifically and our aim is to have a two-way communication with the youth of this state," said NC spokesman Junaid Mattu.

NC is working on a more robust strategy and has established a dedicated team for targeting voters through social networking sites.

"We want to reach out to the youth of the state and involve them in our programmes," said Mattu.

Political Secretary to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Tanveer Saddiq, said, "We will be reaching out to youth in their language and I believe today the youth in the city as well as rural areas are more glued to social networking sites."

Omar also believes that his "biggest shortcoming" has been that he could not sell whatever he did for the people in the past six years and lists the matter of Tosha Maidan as an example.

The meadow was with the Army on a lease which was extended by successive governments. The last of those extensions was given by the PDP-Congress government in 2004.

"It was not an ordinary decision to take back Tosha Maidan... They (PDP) forget that they were the ones who handed the meadow to Army for 10 years on lease and then kept mum," Omar said.

"But when I got it back, I didn't drum it up. Now, there will be no sound of bullets and there will be no army camps but hotels and restaurants in the meadow.

"This is what you mean by working silently," Omar said. -PTIBack










J-K poll: Members of same House declare unequal salaries

SRINAGAR: If affidavits filed by sitting MLAs contesting the forthcoming Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir are to be believed, the lawmakers are not being paid equally for their work.

Most of the sitting MLAs in J-K assembly who are seeking re-election have declared a monthly income of Rs 80,000, but there are several who have showed incomes far lower.

Nazir Ahmad Khan, a minister of state in the Omar Abdullah-led government and the National Conference candidate from the Gurez Assembly segment, has declared a monthly income of Rs 35,000 only.

Congress candidate from Inderwal, Ghulam Mohammad Saroori, too, has declared a monthly income of Rs 35,000 while Vikar Rasool Wani, a minister and the Congress candidate from Banihal, has stated that his monthly income is nearly Rs 42,000 per month.

NC candidate from Sonawari and Higher Education Minister Mohammad Akbar Lone has declared monthly income of Rs 40,000.

Opposition PDP MLA from Bandipora Nizamuddin Bhat, who is also in the fray for the first phase of polls on Tuesday, has surprisingly shown his monthly income to be Rs 82,000 per month -- more than some of the ministers.

There are some ministers, whose fate will be decided in polling on Tuesday, who have shown monthly income of more than Rs 1 lakh per month. These include NC candidates from the Kangan and Kishtwar Assembly segments, Mian Altaf Ahmad (Rs 1.04 lakh) and Sajad Ahmad Kitchloo (Rs 1.07 lakh).

According to an MLA, who did not wish to be identified, the salary of a legislator is Rs 40,000 per month.

"But we get other allowances which add up to (give a figure which is) more than the salary we get. Some legislators do not count allowances under the income head, which leads to the apparent disparity in the filing of income returns," he said.

According to Saroori, he had filed the relevant information in the affidavit as per the Form-16 issued by the competent authority. -PTI












Govt starts process for selecting next CBI chief 

NEW DELHI: With little over a week's time left for CBI Director Ranjit Sinha to demit office, the Centre has started the process of selecting a new chief of the investigating agency.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has sought the names of senior IPS officers fulfilling the eligibility criteria to make a panel for the selection committee to choose the CBI director, official sources said.

Sinha's tenure ends on December 2.

The process for selection of the next CBI chief has been started by the DoPT, which acts as nodal authority for CBI, and the new appointment is likely to be made before the present incumbent tenure ends, the sources said.

According to the Lokpal Act, the CBI chief has to be appointed by the central government on the basis of recommendation of the selection committee headed by the Prime Minister, and comprising the Leader of Opposition (LoP) and the Chief 
Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by him as members.

The Home Ministry will send the names of the IPS officers to the DoPT which will then send a panel of such officers formed on the basis of "seniority, integrity and experience in the investigation of anti-corruption cases" to the selection panel, they said.

The Supreme Court had on Thursday removed Sinha from the multi-crore 2G scam case probe while hearing a matter.

The government is also in the process of amending the Lokpal and Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Acts, 1946, to pave way for the CBI chief appointment as there is no recognised LoP in Lok Sabha, who is a member of the selection committee, they said. –PTI Back




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