Monday, May 28, 2012

Bonanza for forces, post Gen. V K Singh. Antony triples financial powers of forces

If the Army headquarters wants to buy arms and ammunition without the prior approval of the Defence ministry and Defence Minister AK Antony, there is a good news. Antony on Monday gave his ‘in principle’ approval to a three-fold hike empowering the financial powers to Service Headquarters – from the current Rs.50 crores to Rs.150 crores – with the sole objective of accelerating the process of procurement for the armed forces.
The decision was taken after Antony had a meeting here with the three Service Chiefs – Admiral Nirmal Verma, General VK Singh, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne -- and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma. A detailed review of the security situation was also made at the meeting, Sitanshu Kar, the chief spokesperson of the Ministry of Defence, said. Antony directed the three Service Chiefs to explore more avenues for giving permanent commission to women in the Armed Forces.
Antony also had a one-on-one meeting on Monday morning with the Chief of Army Staff General Singh, who is retiring on May 31. Imagine what would Antony have said to the angry Gen. Singh who has been blasting the establishment.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Why Sonia quiet on Presidential candidate

Why Sonia Gandhi is keeping quiet when TMC leader Mamata Banerjee pledged her support to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar for the post of the President. Mamata may have said in the lighter vein that Pranab Mukherjee is the son of the world (Not son of the soil i.e. West Bengal). Mulayam Singh Yadav not only attended the UPA celebration party and dined with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul too. In fact, it was surprising to see that Rahul Gandhi chose to sit with Mulayam Singh Yadav on the dinner table rather than with the of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh  on his dinner table. The vacant seat was telling its own story.
Lalu Prasad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and several others have already pledged support to the UPA and most of the smaller parties are with UPA too.
So what's holding Sonia Gandhi back ? Are you going to get some kind of a shocker ? History tells me Sonia Gandhi has not never forgiven her bitter critics and they have gone either in political wilderness or just seen no where in the arena. There is a long list of such persons. Therefore, I think she has some political plan and allowing the clamour for Pranab Mukherjee to grow. Don't forget, Mamata Banerjee met her Political adviser Ahmad Patel and no one knows what transpired there.
Therefore, Sonia may not promote Dr Manmohan Singh for the post of the President as widely whispered. The problems are post Pranab as President in the government, my guess.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Anna Hazare is angry like Pranab Mukherjee. Like Manmohan Singh's ministers, Hazare's team is no different. So Anna has expressed his anger over  undue expenditure by India Against Corruption. He has taken exception to not being kept informed about how much money has been collected from the public and how much money has been spent on what and why.
Hazare said this in a strongly-worded letter to his close colleague and member of IAC Arvind Kejriwal. This is the first time when Hazare has written such an angry letter to a prominent member of his core group. Significantly, Hazare has said that he is writing the letter after receiving an email from another core group member Kiran Bedi wherein the retired Indian Police Service officer has said that PCRF (Public Cause Research Foundation) must make its budget and clearly mention how much money is going to be spent on what account.
In the May 3, 2012 letter, written in Hindi, Hazare has said too much money is being spent on the PCRF staff and cautioned Kejriwal that the PCRF funds have come from the public and thus the money must be spent judiciously. The PCRF is a Delhi-based NGO set up by Kejriwal on December 19, 2006. Both Kejriwal and Bedi are Magsaysay awardees.
Hazare has stressed for the need for more transparency in the donations received and the expenditure and has even called for austerity measures reducing unnecessary expenditure from the budget. He has pointed out that there has been no meeting of the core committee since August 16 last and remarked thus:” After Aug 16th, the core committee has met many times, but I  am also not aware, so how will the committee or the public understand? I am not happy with the current state, and upon asking questions, it is said that allegations are being made. This is not correct“.
Kejriwals NGO, PCRF, which is collecting all the funds is spending too much of the people’s money on PCRF’s staff and its activities. No details of funds collected or expenses incurred have been provided to Hazare or the core committee. “Only the Audit report is not enough. Even 5 rupees spent must be put in front of the Core Committee. Expenditure must happen only where necessary, but to spend money where it is not needed is not correct,” Hazare has said in his letter.

Monday, May 21, 2012

India to export 4 million tones foodgrain to Iran

There is a good news for farmers specially for Punjab ad Madhya Pradesh as the Centre has agreed to export wheat.

Though a formal decision will be taken by the empowered Group of Ministers shortly, the process to export the wheat has been initiated.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and commerce minister Anand Sharma have conveyed to concerned groups that the government has decided to export 4 million tones of foodgrains to Iran. The talks are in advance stage with Iran with whom country is facing problems due to US pressure. the modalities to export 40 lakh tones of wheat and rice to Iran is part of India’s effort to meet crisis arising out of foodgrain glut.

The issues relating to subsidizing the exporters of wheat due to glut and fall in international market are also being worked out by the Manmohan Singh government. Sources in the government said that gap between the prices of Indian wheat and international prices has narrowed due to growing demand globally. It is explained that demand of wheat has risen recently and Iran is keen to import wheat from India as part of the barter deal Oil for Food.

Harsimrat Kaur and Naresh Gujral, the two Akali Dal leaders who met the Central ministers conveyed that Punjab is already having an old stock of 9.80 million tones of wheat and rice. During the current season the state has procured 12.60 million tones of wheat. This brings the total foodgrains to 22.60 million tones. But the state has a capacity of fully covered storage facility of 10 million tones and another 10.40 million tones of open plinth area. It simply means that more than 3 million tones is rotting and lying in the open. The procurement is still going on and stocks may go up to 24 million tonnes
Sharad Pawar  and Anand Sharma said that testing of wheat in laboratories is going on and efforts are moving in the right direction to create consitions to export wheat and rice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Saurabha Chandra is ad-hoc commerce secretary ?

Saurabh Chandra has been given the additional charge of commerce department until further orders. He was recently elevated as secretary DIPP, a powerful policy wing of the government relating to Industry. It was rather surprising why this adhoc arrangement as decision to send Rahul Khullar to TRAI as chairman had been taken long ago. May be, the government wants more time to pick the full-fledged commerce secretary. In the changed environment, the commerce secretary plays a key role  in trade and economy. It was the PMO's Man-Friday Rahul Khullar who held this post for long and did not even go to Brussels as Economic Minister.

 Will Saurabh Chandra be given commerce and divest the DIPP? Dr Sutanu Behuria, 1976 batch Himachal Pradesh cadre IAS with prior experiences in commerce ministry may spring a surprise. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tractors are commercial vehicles. Can you believe this !

Have you heard of Jyoti Mirdha ?  

If you haven't heard of Jyoti Mirdha, its your loss. She is an MP from Nagaur in Rajasthan, married, educated, net-sauvy and no nonsense person. Works quietly and keep away from the glare of the media. 
But for her, millions of tractor owners across the country would have shelled out crores of rupees to blood-sucking insurance companies. The UPA government had thrown out tractors from the agricultural category in the finance bill. But this fire-brand Congress young Turk MP from Rajasthan got the smile back on farmers’ faces.

The union budget presented by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the Lok Sabha on March 16 had taken out tractors from agricultural category and put these vehicles in the commercial category. This increased the annual insurance premium on farmers from 300 % to 800 % - the figure varying from state to state. Jyoti Mirdha took up cudgels with the union finance ministry and urged the ministry to reverse this anti-farmer policy decision. For example, farmers in Rajasthan now had to shell out Rs 10902 a year as insurance from the earlier figure of Rs 1350. In Punjab, the farmers were now paying Rs 22000 for tractor insurance as compared to Rs 8000 they had been paying.
It was Minister of State for Finance Namonarayan Meena who supported Jyoti Mirsha and took up the issue further with Pranab Mukherjee and IRDA chairman. Accordingly, the amendment was issued. The quiet roll back was done even before the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee could give his speech in the Lok Sabha on Finance Bill.

Mirdha’s efforts have paid off as IRDA Chairman J Narayan passed an executive order reversing the earlier. The order comes into effect from retrospective effect.

Friday, May 11, 2012

PM hugs Mukul Roy with both hands ! How ?

Mamata Man is now in all powerful Cabinet Committees too

Gone are the days when Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh used to keep Mukul Roy at arms length. It was on insistence that Mukul Roy was not made a full Cabinet rank minister of Railways and Dinesh Trivedi sneaked in. Destiny brought Mukul back in the Rail Bhawan. But the government kept him waiting for more than a month by not inducting him in any of the committees of the Cabinet.
But no more. The Mamata Banerjee protégée and sole representative of Trinamool Congress in the Union Cabinet is not member of almost all Cabinet Committees now.

In a new notification, the government had a change of heart. The Trinamool was completely unrepresented in the Cabinet committees of the Government and the party leaders had no clue of decision making process on crucial issues as Mukul Roy remained in hibernation. It was a clear signal that something is amiss between him and the PMO.
Today, Mukul Roy was made a member of most-powerful Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs. He will rub shoulders with powerful men in the Cabinet committee like Pranab Mukherjee, Sharad Pawar, P Chidambaram, A K Antony and a couple of others. Another surprise induction into the CCPA is civil aviation minister Ajit Singh whose RLD is considered a light weight compared to the TMC.
Mukul Roy is a member of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, Parliamentary Affairs and Cabinet committee on infrastructure. Mukul Roy has also been made a member of the Cabinet Committee on Prices.
Sources say that induction of mukul roy in almost all the committees of the Cabinet is an indication that government is placating Mamata banerjee. Lately, government is accepting almost all the demands of the TMC, the last being the West Bengal package.
However, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) remains an exclusive domain of the Congress Party ministers and no ally has been inducted including NCP and DMK.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Govt. Buckles, Lok Pal Bill to be amended

Govt bows to Mamata on Lok Pal, agrees to almost all demands of the Opposition too

Ahead of the Presidential poll in July, the government buckled under the pressure of the allies and the Opposition parties alike on the Lok Pal and Lokayukta Bill.

With the smooth passage of the Finance Bill in Parliament this week, the government has now decided to buy peace with all and remove irritants. More than 200 amendments were introduced in the Lok Pal Bill in the rajya Sabha during the winter session. The bill was deferred as UPA allies, the Left & the BJP opposed its provisions. The house had to be adjourned sine die abruptly.
Dr Hamid Ansari earned Opposition's ire too. But this was set off with Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee first losing cool in the Lok Sabha today and then apologising profousely.

Now the government has decided to take five steps;

1. The provisions regarding Lokayukta will be taken away and powers will be given to the state governments to enact their own laws from the Lok Pal Bill;

2. The appointment of Lok Pals will be made more simpler;

3. The CBI will remain under the government. But it will be made more accountable and answerable;

4. Group C and D officers will be outside the Lok Pal;

5. The procedures and action against Prime Minister with regard to complaints against him or her have to be made tougher and cannot be general in nature and confidentiality has to be maintained unless prima facie proved otherwise

The government, it is learnt, has started discussions with the leaders of the various parties and make a move in the Rajya Sabha where it is lying dorment.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mamata falls in line, Opposition divided on MCI

By Harish Gupta

The rajya sabha today witnessed a different scene when the Opposition stood completely divided and Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress MPs supported the government's bill on the Medical council of India.

The government floor managers succeeded in ensuring that the MCI bill which faced hurdles from the TMC in the LOK Sabha gets through without any difficulty in the rajyasabha.
Though the government is in a hopeless minority in the Rajya Sabha with BJP, Left, Samajwadi, BSP and other opposition parties having the majority in a house of 245.

But the samajwadi party and BSP walked out of the house and TMC decided to back the bill after a fervent appeal by health minister ghulam nabi azad who replied to the debate.
 This was one of the  rare occasion in the rajya sabha where the government showed that it can still pass thr roaster even when it doesn't have the majority.

An opposition leader commented, " We always said and believed that SP and BSP are the B team of the Congress" 
the bill passed by a voice vote with opposition not even demanding voting, made it clear that the government will have a smooth sailing.The parliament functioned peacefully through the day today which was also one of the rare occasion though in the morning there were scenes on the P Chidambaram's role in the telecom deal.

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By Harish Gupta
NEW DELHI: India has spent a whopping amount close to Rs two lakh crore on defence purchases in past three years alone, the government said in parliament on Wednesday.
Besides, the UPA government is closely watching all activities of China and Pakistan in the neighbourhood and reviews the threat perception regularly. Required measures have been initiated through development of infrastructure, including rail, roads and forward airfields as well as operational capabilities to achieve desired defence preparedness through accretion and modernization and deployment of forces to safeguard the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of India. 
Both these statements were made by Defence Minister AK Antony during the Question Hour on Wednesday, the former in the Rajya Sabha and the latter in the Lok Sabha.
The total expenditure on defence purchases by India during the past three years (Revenue and Capital) was Rs.197123.76 crore, Antony said in written reply to N.K. Singh in the Rajya Sabha. This includes procurement made from Indian private sector, public sector undertakings, ordnance factories and foreign sources. The accounting system does not separately capture data regarding defence purchases made from the Indian private sector.
There has been a major thrust on indigenous manufacture of defence equipment through collaborative efforts of Defence Research and Development Organisation, Defence Public Sector Undertakings, Ordnance Factory Board and Indian Private Sector. Defence industry was opened up for Indian private sector participation in May 2001, with FDI upto 26% subject to licensing. With a view to achieve greater self-reliance in defence production, government has announced a defence production policy in January 2011. Besides, the government has included a categorization “Buy and Make (Indian)” in the Defence Procurement Procedure in November 2009 to encourage indigenous production in the country.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

No closures in Punjab, Highest in Tripura

Who says there is slow down in economy ?

The country may be facing industrial recession and economic slow down. But India's labour and employment minister rolled out figures to to claim that not a single industrial unit in Punjab was declared sick during the past four years.

In all 200 industrial units were declared sick by the Board for Industrial financial reconstruction (BIFR) during 2009, 2010, 2011 and up to March 31, 2012 rendering 8000 workers jobless.

Even Narendra Modi’s Gujrat witnessed closure of one industrial units rendering 1500 workers jobless – highest in the country barring Tripura.

which witnessed closure of as many as 158 industrial units rendering 4400 workers jobless.

Why such a high number of units in a small state like Tripura witnessed closure, no explanation was given. The other north eastern states like Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim or trouble-torn jammu and Kashmir did not witness any closure of units.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mukherjee beat Yashwant Sinha as a "roll back" Finance Minister

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee created a history of sort today by virtually rolling back every new tax he proposed in his March 2012 Union Budget.
In the process, he surpassed his predecessor Yashwant Sinha (BJP) who was termed as the “Roll Back Minister” during the NDA regime.
Mukherjee rolled back not one but almost all controversial proposals in the finance bill today in the Lok Sabha and buckled under the pressures of the Opposition, ruling party members, corporate and businessmen across the board. 
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley jokingly said after Mukherjee’s speech, “ I wonder if he had to do all this why did he bring the Budget for.”
The proposals that Mukherjee withdrew or deferred:
 1.    Will delay the General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR) until next fiscal 2013/14. Directed the Central board of direct tax not to re-open cases of all Merger and acqvition of Indian companies by foreign MNCs whose assessments have already been completed. But  he offered no concessions to Vodafone involved in tax dispute;
2.    He rolled back the proposed one percent TDS on transfer of immovable property as the government received various representations.  The Finance Bill proposes that every transferee of immovable property (other than agricultural land), at the time of making payment for transfer of the property, shall deduct tax at the rate of 1 percent of such sum. This has been withdrawn completely and will be big boost to the real estate companies and infrastructure;
3.    Provide relief to the jewellery sector by withdrawing extra excise duty on jewellery  making;
4.    halved the capital gains tax for private equity investors to 10 per cent. Earlier this was 20% and had a cascading effect on the share market and other financial market for the past 15 days. Even the FIIs had withdrawn heavily from the Indian markets;
5.    Mukherjee also agreed to roll back the norms for arrest of persons involved in violation of Customs Act. Now instead of stringent non-bailable offence, the custom violation will be treated as a bailable offense;
6. A Securities Transaction Tax at the rate of 0.2 per cent will be levied on the sale of unlisted securities, or shares that are not bought or sold on a stock exchange. Mukherjee proposed extending tax exemption on Long Term Capital Gains tax to the sale of unlisted securities that go in for an initial public offer (IPO) to get listed on an stock exchange.