India’s First Women’s-Only Bank #BharatiyaMahilaBank


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday inaugurated the “Bharatiya Mahila Bank” or Indian Women’s Bank, the country’s first women-oriented bank aimed at providing loans and financial services to women.

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The bank, fully owned by the government, started with an initial funding of 10 billion rupees ($161 million) and an all-women board comprising eight members.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had announced setting up the bank in his budget speech in February, as part of government measures to generate employment opportunities and provide funding for women.

Many, including members of the opposition, welcomed the announcement at the time. But some commentators felt the move was populist and sought to attract female voters ahead of federal elections in May next year.

Sonia Gandhi, the president of India’s ruling Congress party, of which Mr. Chidambaram and Mr. Singh are members, has asserted that a dedicated women’s bank is aimed at improving the self-sufficiency of women.

“Only 26% women in the country today have bank accounts,” Mr. Chidambaram said at a press conference in Mumbai on Tuesday, adding that a women’s-only bank will help increase this statistic.

Access to finance and banking not only helps empower women but also broadens the social base of development, thus fostering equitable growth. This is an area in which India lags far behind,” Prime Minister Mr. Singh said in his inaugural speech.

The bank, headquartered in New Delhi, will be headed by Usha Ananthasubramanian, a former executive director of Punjab National Bank, the country’s second largest state-run lender by assets. Tuesday was the launch of the inaugural branch in Mumbai.

Mr. Chidambaram said the bank is starting with seven branches and has a target to open 25 branches by March 2014. He expects the bank to open a branch in every state capital and eventually expand to smaller towns and villages, perhaps even overseas.

The bank’s priority will be women and it will design its products around them, he said.

India launches own aircraft carrier INS Vikrant


When the INS Vikrant comes into full service in 2018, India will join an elite club of nations including Britain, France, Russia and the US

India unveiled its first indigenously-built aircraft carrier on Monday, a landmark moment in the $5 billion project that seeks to project the country’s power and check the rising influence of China.

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When the INS Vikrant comes into full service in 2018, India will join an elite club of nations that have designed and built their own aircraft carriers including Britain, France, Russia and the US but not China.
“It’s a remarkable milestone,” defence minister A.K. Antony said as he stood on a red carpet in the shadow of the giant ship which was launched from a dry-dock in the city of Kochi and later pulled out into the harbour by tug boats.
“It marks just a first step in a long journey but at the same time an important one,” he added before his wife Elizabeth officially launched the 40,000-tonne vessel by placing a garland on its hull.
INS Vikrant, which will be fitted with weaponry and machinery and then tested over the next four years, is a major technological and military advance for a country competing for influence in Asia, analysts say.
“It is going to be deployed in the Indian Ocean region where the world’s commercial and economic interests coalesce. India’s capability is very much with China in mind,” Rahul Bedi, a defence expert with IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, told AFP.
On Saturday, India announced its first indigenously-built nuclear submarine was ready for sea trials, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called a “giant stride” for the nation.
“All these are power projection platforms, to project India’s power as an extension of its diplomacy,” Bedi added.
The world’s biggest democracy is spending tens of billions of dollars upgrading its mainly Soviet-era military hardware to bolster its defences.
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Successes in its long-range missile and naval programmes have been tempered by expensive failures in developing its own aircraft and other land-based weaponry, leaving the country highly dependent on imports.
INS Vikrant is two years behind schedule after problems in sourcing specialised steel from Russia, delays with crucial equipment and even a road accident in which vital diesel generators were damaged.
Overall, India lags far behind China in defence capabilities, analysts say, making the success in beating its regional rival in the race to develop a domestically-produced aircraft carrier significant.
China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, which was purchased from the Ukraine, went into service last September.
Beijing is reportedly planning to construct or acquire a bigger ship in the future and Jane’s claimed earlier this month that it has seen evidence that an indigenous carrier was being assembled in a shipbuilding facility near Shanghai.
India has one aircraft carrier in operation—a 60-year-old British vessel acquired by India in 1987 and renamed INS Viraat—but it will be phased out in the coming years.
India’s ally Russia is also set to hand over a third aircraft carrier—INS Vikramaditya—later this year after a bitter row over the refurbished Soviet-era warship caused by rising costs and delays.
The INS Vikrant, which means “courageous” or “bold” in Hindi, had a bare flight-deck decked out only with flags and yellow tassels but it will carry Russian-built MiG-29 fighter jets and other light aircraft when it goes into service.
While its hull, design and some of its machinery are domestically made, most of its weaponry will be imported as well as its propulsion system, which was sourced from GE in the US.
“Its primary role will only be to defend our naval fleet and it will not be used for ground attacks,” retired rear admiral K. Raja Menon told AFP.
“It’s a defence carrier so it will attack platforms that are coming to attack our (naval) fleet …without air defence our fleet just cannot survive,” Menon said.
C. Uday Bhaskar, a retired naval officer and former director of the National Maritime Foundation in New Delhi, said the ship would “enhance India’s credibility”—but it “would not alter the balance of power with China”.
“China’s nuclear expertise and ship-building capabilities are of a higher order,” he told AFP.
The Indian navy is currently working on 39 ships and has begun planning to make another two aircraft carriers, Bedi said. AFP

Jaya demands bold stand from Centre on issue of SL 13th Amendment


Voicing concern over the fate of the 13th Amendment to Sri Lankan Constitution that agreed to devolve some authority to provinces, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa today called for a “bold stand” by India, saying it cannot remain a “passive bystander.” In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, she referred to the March 27, 2013 resolution by the state assembly and reiterated her demand for the Centre moving a resolution in the United Nations Security Council for a referendum on ‘Tamil Ealam’ (homeland).

The 13th Amendment is part of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, whereby Colombo agreed to devolve some authority to provinces but that government had been giving indications of late that it may repeal it despite New Delhi’s concerns. Jayalalithaa told Singh that there were “disturbing signs” about Sri Lankan government not being serious about Tamils’ rehabilitation, besides its attempts to dilute 13th Amendment.

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She said “our worst fears” on the intentions and motives of the present Sri Lankan regime appeared to be coming true, while referring to setting up of a Parliamentary Select Committee by President Mahinda Rajapakse to review the 13th Amendment. ”The hawkish Sinhalese right wing groups have been resorting to agitations and protests to pressure the Sri Lankan Government to repeal the 13th Amendment prior to the elections to the Northern Provincial Council proposed to be held in September later this year. In public statements, the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse has directly called for the repeal of the 13th Amendment,” she said.

She said a delegation led by Sri Lankan Minister Basil Rajapakse had also met External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, “presumably to justify their stand in this matter.” Jayalalithaa said people of the state and elswehere are “justifiably alarmed” over the move and charged the Lankan government with never being serious about genuine devolution of powers.

The merger of Northern and Eastern provinces into one administrative unit as contemplated in the accord was ”dismantled” by the Lankan Government in 2007, following an order of the Sri Lankan Supreme Court nullifying it, she said. ”The demerger of the North Eastern Council has to be construed as a serious setback to the Indo Sri Lankan accord and, perhaps, as a sinister first step leading to the eventual abrogation and repeal of the 13th Amendment, which has starkly appeared on the agenda now,” she said.

Jayalalithaa said India cannot afford to be a “passive bystander at this juncture,” saying “we have a commitment to protect the life and liberties of Tamils in Sri Lanka, whose distinct identity and cultural presence in Sri Lanka, particularly in the Northern and Eastern regions, was the guiding principle behind the accord that led to notification of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution.”

India should see to it that reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of Tamils, by establishment of democratic institutions of Self-Government, was “not derailed by the insidious attempts now being made by the Sri Lankan Government to jettison the 13th Amendment,” she said.

Such a development would spell doom for the lives and liberties of Lankan Tamils, who will again face the prospect of a return to thraldom (bondage, slavery, servitude) under the Sinhalese military and majority, she said while expressing fears of impact to the security in the region. “In the present turn of events, when the Sri Lankan Government is acting with impunity to take away even the limited political rights available to the Tamils, I strongly urge Government of India to take all possible steps to bring pressure to bear upon the Sri Lankan Government not to take any steps to repeal or even dilute the 13th Amendment in any manner,” she said.

New Delhi should ensure the process of democratic decentralization, integral to the survival of Tamils in Sri Lanka, was in no way jeopardised. “I hope that the Government of India, as a leader in the region and as a champion of human rights and democracy, will decisively take a bold stand in support of the much discriminated against and long suffering Tamil minorities in Sri Lanka,” she said.

Jayalalithaa also referred to the Mar 27, 2013 resolution adopted by the Assembly and said she wished to reiterate it. The Assembly had adopted a strongly-worded resolution demanding a referendum for a separate Tamil Eelam (homeland) in the United Nations Security Council.

PTI

Want To Know Richest Indian’s Salary?


 

we all are aware that most of the CEOs and Celebrities across the world earn big bucks. And at the same time, we as common people are keen to know about how much do these celebrities earn.

When we think about India’s richest people, the first name that strikes our mind is none other than Mukesh Ambani, the business czar.

In the coming days, it will be more interesting to know how this business magnet earns and saves annually. According to the annual report of the company Mukesh Ambani has kept his salary unchanged from fiscal year 2008, at 15 Crore.

Previously Ambani was getting almost up to 24 crore as his salary, through which he gained a lot of media attention. This was the time when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh put a cap on CEOs salaries, in a meeting of business leaders in 2007. Perhaps, in the year 2008, Ambani capped compensation of 15 crore.

Taking responsibility of the throne:

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The Indira Gandhi administration offered private sectors to manufacture PFY (polyester filament yarn) in 1980. Despite many competitors like Tata and Birla, the license was sanctioned only to Dhirubhai’s Company.

This became the stepping stone for Mukesh Ambani to join hands with his father, when Dhirubhai Ambani pulled him out of Stanford University where he was pursuing his MBA to look after their new chain of business, the “PFY plant”. This ultimately led him drop his studies in the year 1981.

From then on, it was just not easy for Mukesh to reach the success ladder. Since, he was the son of well known business magnet, at every step he was compared to his father.

His journey as a Chairman:

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In the year 2002, Mukesh Ambani took over as the chairman of the Reliance Group after the death of his father and became the founder of the company “Reliance Industries”.

It has been more than decade now; Mukesh Ambani has taken over reliance. While he has taking over as the chairman of the company he said that his father will be present in all his thoughts and actions. He went on to say that he will be measuring every action by the yardstick of his expectations.

Dhirubhai Ambani built the company from scratch to India’s first private sector global company. The task of the present CEO’s Mukesh and Anil is to strengthen the position to transform it and to ensure its growth.

It was not easy for Mukesh to reach success as there was significant pressure on RIL’s profitability. It was very clear that the net worth of the company between the year 2007 and 08 as well as from the year 2011-12 did not rise more than 3 percent over the period.

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Arun Kejriwal, director of Kejriwal Research and Investment Services, who has followed Reliance India’s growth closely, says that “Barring other income, net profit growth may even have been negative. RIL’s businesses have gone through volatility due to macroeconomic conditions, and businesses in other parts of the globe have become more competitive.” But still during the decade Ambani has done it exceptionally well.

Infact, after Mukesh took over as the chairman, the company has grown both in size as well in the scale. Moreover the company has got new dimension and direction.

Today the company has established brilliantly where 75.67 percent of the profit is from petrochemicals, 48 percent for refining.

“There is a lot of confusion surrounding the company with respect to its future plans, its plans in retail, telecom and exploration and production are yet to bear fruit and nothing has really taken off in some of the areas in which it was betting big earlier like power and special economic zones.” said S.P. Tulsian, a stock analyst and long-time RIL tracker.

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Apart from this, there are about 23,166 to 23,519 employees working for RIL and in the year 2012-13 the company paid overall 5, 179 crore to its staffs as salary which was 3,955 crore in the previous years.

Recently the two Ambani brothers have decided to tie up after 3 long years as they have signed up for a new deal for infrastructure in telecom business soon.

Here is a glimpse of how his remuneration was split into different section between the year 2012 and 13. There was about 4.16 crore which was considered as his basic salary 60 lakh towards the allowances, 89 lakh as retiral benefits and 9.35 crore as commission.

Indian PM Spends a Whopping 642 Crore on Travel


Strong austerity measures are being taken up from time to time by the Central Government to deal with increasing inflation in the country. But on the other hand, a study of the travelling expenses of so many ministers shows that it does not correspond with the government’s measures of strictness. The Cabinet ministers, ministers of state and even Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime minister of India spent huge amounts on their domestic and overseas trips over the last few years.
This has raised questions by many sections of the society on the government’s policy to control expenditure and also inflation. Given here is the list of travelling expenditures incurred by the Ministers of India during the year 2004 to 2011, as reported by The Hindu.

Manmohan Singh

q8964E35 The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh’s foreign trip by means of air travel has hugely affected the government’s funds as he has spent a whopping amount of 642 crore in the previous nine years.

The information on PM’s official visits gives an insight about the overall 67 travels undertaken by Dr. Singh since 2004 when his tenure as PM started. The bills of his 62 visits were received whereas the other five still remain a mystery.  Among all the visits of the Prime minister, the highest expenditure of 26.94 crore was incurred from his weeklong visit to Mexico and Brazil in 2012 for attending the G20 Summit and Rio +20 Summit. There is also an expense of 22.70 crore used up for travelling to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, BRIC Summit and IBSA Summit at Washington DC, and Brazil in 2010. All theis information is disclosed by the PMO as part of obligations under the compulsory proactive revelation clause of the Right to Information Act.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia

fE7D3IXY Montek Singh Ahluwalia has undertaken around 42 official trips and spent every ninth day abroad during his seven year tenure as the deputy chairman for Planning Commission. Between May and October 2011, Ahluwalia has cost the exchequer a daily average amount of 2.02 lakh. He also further made four international trips that cost around 36.40 lakh just for 18 nights. UK and the U.S. were the first few destinations for the deputy chairman’s official foreign trip in the year 2004 whereas the trip to Davos, Switzerland from January 24 to January 30 was his latest according to the information provided by the Planning Commission under the Right to Information Act (RTI).

The exact expenditure incurred by Ahluwalia is 2.34 crore which he has spent on these trips. According to the Commission, he has spent 11.68 lakh during his visit to U.S. and the UK during April 18-28, 2006.But this figures might not be the exact figures as the actual numbers might be much more.

Rahul Gandhi

NfZVpyLb Rahul Gandhi, the Congress vice-president whom everyone looks up to as the youth icon of India is one of those politicians of the country who spent in lakhs and crores for a trip in and around the country and abroad too.  His trip to Tamil Nadu in 2009 raised quite a few eyebrows as his three day visit is believed to add to a sum of around 1 crore, reported The Hindu.

The report also reveals that Gandhi who flew back to New Delhi in an eight-seater Falcon 2000 aircraft which belonged to the Mumbai-based Taj Air costed approximately 20.31 lakh for a oneway trip. On September 8, Gandhi was on a day-long whirlwind tour to southern districts and had used a Pawan Hans helicopter from Thiruvananthapuram after arriving there in the Beechcraft. The total cost incurred was around 15 lakh for all these trips.

Cabinet Ministers

S0q2xlBF Almost all the Cabinet Ministers of the UPA Government have successfully contributed its shares of spending from the government’s funds. This accounts to a whopping sum of 300 crore, especially spent from their foreign and domestic travels since the government came into existence.

During the period 2006 to 2009, a sum of around 271 crore was spent on overseas visits and a sum of more than 29 crore was spent on domestic travel by the cabinet ministers. In the data given by the Cabinet Secretariat shows that more than 137 crore was spent by the cabinet ministers on their overseas travels between the year 2006-07 and 2008-09 showing the highest amount (more than Rs 115 crore) in the period 2007-08 spent on such kind of trips. The data provides shocking information about the domestic travels of the ministers of cabinet. It ranks much more than that of the expenditure spent on the abroad trips. More than Rs 163 crore was lavishly thrown away by the cabinet ministers during their tenures.

Ministers of state

59S1haI6 The ministers of state of the central government of India are also among those who enjoy all the benefits a minister of a country should get which are much more than it is endowed to be.

Since  two years from its government formation in May 2009, the ministers are found to have at least 750 visits abroad. Of all these trips, the media are just aware of the only 260 trips which amount to over Rs 12 crore. In the year 2006 to 2009, the ministers of state had a travelling expenditure to foreign countries that are more that Rs 20 crore. An amount of more than 27 crore was used up just for travels expenses of the ministers of state for a trip within the country in the period 2006-07 to 2008-09.  It was in the year 2010, the Union government put up an austerity measure to check foreign trips by the ministers of state.

Delhi is not safe, I am going back to Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee


A day after she along with her state finance minister Amit Mitra were heckled by Left student activists outside the Planning Commission office in New Delhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said that the national capital “is not safe.”

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Banerjee, who will be flying back to Kolkata this afternoon, said Delhi is unsafe and that she “was manhandled like anything.

Alleging that the police did not co-operate with her, Banerjee said: “I think this is the first time such a thing has happened in New Delhi. I was also manhandled like anything. I requested the police to open the doors but they said that they don’t have the keys.

She further said she was advised by doctors to get hospitalised but she did not want to be hospitalised.

“I was given oxygen whole night on Tuesday, the doctor advised me to get hospitalised, but I don’t like to get hospitalised,” she added.

She also lashed out at the CPM for the attack on her and her Finance Minister.

“Our cadre are peaceful, all ruckus was created by the CPM. It’s a double standard game of CPM, they are hypocrites,” she said

She also apologised to Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh for cancelling her meeting with him

Meanwhile, the TMC held a protest at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi against the heckling of Banerjee and Mitra.

The TMC workers are also staging rallies, holding protests in Kolkata and other parts of the state in condemnation of the incident

Banerjee and Mitra were heckled outside the Planning Commission office in the national capital by the SFI activists protesting a young comrade’s death in Kolkata allegedly in police custody.

Dozens of protestors from the SFI waited for the TMC leaders outside the Planning Commission office and raised slogans against Banerjee when she came with Mitra and other ministers to meet the commission’s Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Sudipto, an MA student at Rabindra Bharati University, was among the hundreds of members of the SFI who were protesting against the government for postponing college union elections. They were arrested and put on a bus that was meant to take them to jail. According to the students, the SFI leader succumbed to injuries in baton charge by the police.

The police, however, claims that students were leaning out of the bus, shouting slogans, and that in the chaos, Gupta hit his head on an electricity pole as he was getting out of the bus.

Congress has always misused CBI: Hazare


Social activist Anna Hazare on Saturday said it was wrong to presume that the CBI acts of its own volition and alleged that Congress had always “misused” the central investigating agency.

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Asked about the CBI raid on DMK leader M K Stalin’s residence immediately after the party withdrew its support to the UPA government,
Mr Hazare told reporters, “Everybody knows that the CBI is under government’s control. If it is brought under the Lokpal’s control, it would help in curbing corruption.”

Mr. Hazare alleged that Congress had always “misused” the agency, even though it has some good officers in its fold.

“It is not that all people with the CBI are bad. But they are subjected to pressure as they have their jobs to protect.

Congress has always misused it,” he alleged.

When asked to comment on the UPA allies leaving Congress, Mr. Hazare said the party was losing the sympathy of the people because of the corruption associated with it.

“Congress is taking wrong steps. People have lost their sympathy for the party as responsible ministers in the government too are involved in scams,” he added.

Referring to the support of Samajwadi Party (SP) to the Congress-led government, Mr. Hazare said, “Regional parties pose a threat to the country as they bring pressure (on the government).”

He said although he had parted ways with his erstwhile colleague Arvind Kejarwal, there was no conflict between them and he wished him well for their cause through political means.

Mr. Hazare said he had not instituted any core committee of his own after breaking away from IAC. “It is difficult to get selfless workers for a cause. I am at present associated with ’Janatantra Morcha’ along with former Army Chief V K Singh, which is a non-political organisation,” he added.

Later, addressing a gathering, the activist said he was confident that the Lokpal would be a reality. “We have seen part one of the Lokpal bill,” he added.

He also noted with satisfaction that the provision of a fine for civil servants, who delayed their work beyond the stipulated period under Citizens’ Charter.

“When the elections are declared, I would be once again be at the Ramlila maidan to press for the demand for Right to Reject as part of electoral reforms to keep anti-social elements out of Parliament and the state legislatures,” Mr. Hazare asserted.

BJP blames UPA policies for poor economic growth


Accusing the government of flip-flops, indecision and mis-governance, the BJP today said its policy paralysis and corruption have affected the country’s growth rate and left its economy in a mess.

Slamming the government for its “failure” to control price rise and inflation, it also demanded an “immediate” roll back of hike in all administrative prices of diesel, gas, petrol, rail and other services “as the common man is reeling under unprecedented economic burden.”

Targeting the government on the issue of corruption, it said, the VVIP helicopter scam and the Farm Loan Waiver scam are the latest additions in this government’s “unending list of corruption.”

“It is fascinating to note that Italy, which was to benefit from the helicopter deal, went after the bribe givers immediately when they got the wind of corruption, while India, the sufferer of this scam is not ready to trace the bribe takers. Mystery still shrouds over the mention of the recipients as ‘the family’,” the BJP Economic Resolution passed at its National Council meeting here said.

It said while the government has ordered a CBI probe, it is not ready to have it monitored by the court.

“It has neither registered FIR nor issued Letters Rogatory (LR). It is offering JPC knowing full well that it cannot investigate and come to conclusion. This fuels speculation that the government is more interested in ensuring a white wash to protect the bribe receivers rather than unearth the truth and punish the guilty,” it said.

It said the biggest failure of the UPA government is its inability to tame inflation and bring down the prices.

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, while seconding the Economic Resolution, said India will scrap FDI in multi-brand retail policy when BJP-led NDA comes to power.

“Unfortunately, inflation is not the result of any natural disaster but is purely a gift of this government. Bad food stock management and distribution anomalies triggered the inflationary pressure in the first place,” the resolution said.

When the country is required to stock only 30 million tonne of food grains in the godowns, the UPA has stocked a huge quantity of more than 70 million tonne of food grains thereby creating shortages in the market and fuelling prices, the opposition party said.

Drawing comparison of the economic situation of the country between now and the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the resolution maintained that the BJP-led government inherited a lowly growth rate of 4% in 1998, but due to its commitment to make India an economic superpower, it had put the economy on a fast growth trajectory.

“As a result of the visionary leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India for the first time in decades witnessed 8.25% growth rate in 2004 when the BJP led NDA government demitted office.”

It said the NDA government had put in place the historic economic legislation – the Fiscal Responsibility and Budgetary Management (FRBM) Act which sought to rein in the fiscal deficit below 3%.

“Ironically, under the Congress leadership, it is the central government that has shown scant commitment towards this resolve while the state governments are instead broadly adhering to the FRBM targets which is reflected in their financial numbers,” the resolution said.

It alleged that inflation and corruption have become the “hallmarks” of the UPA government.

“The country also has to suffer the ignominy of experiencing economic downslide under the leadership of an economist Prime Minister under whom every economic macro-parameter has steadily declined…The BJP holds the Congress led UPA government guilty of non performance, policy paralysis and lack of direction,” the resolution said.

-PTI

#2G Scam: DMK to Back Raja’s Request to Appear Before JPC


DMK will back former Telecom Minister A Raja if the issue of his request to appear before the Joint Parliamentary Committee as a witness on the 2G case is raised at the UPA Coordination Committee meeting here on Tuesday.
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“If the Congress raises the issue…, asks us, we have to stand by Raja,” party spokesman T K Elangovan, MP, told PTI when asked whether the issue could be raised by the DMK, a key constituent of the UPA, at the Coordination Committee meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Besides, Elangovan said Raja’s request to appear before the JPC was a “new development” and “our leader may advise us” about future course of action.

The DMK spokesman said his party would raise the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils and farmers suicides in Tamil Nadu at the UPA Coordination Committee meeting.

A DMK member of Lok Sabha, Raja is a prime accused in the 2G spectrum case who had been in Tihar jail for several months before being granted bail.

He had met Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar some days back and handed her a letter expressing his willingness to appear as a witness before the JPC.

Raja has contended that while he has the “fullest respect” for the court, “the fact remains that I have been condemned unheard.” He has sent a copy of the letter to Congress leader P C Chacko, who heads the JPC.

Raja’s request to Kumar comes days after Attorney General G E Vahanvati blamed him for various issues before the JPC.

“The truth of the matter is being suppressed on the basis of preconceived notions, deliberate bias, faulty investigation and erroneous conclusions.

“…Perhaps the most telling example of this situation is the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 02.02.2012, where specific and prejudicial observations were made against me without giving me a hearing,” Raja wrote in the letter.

Chacko is likely to get back to Raja with a final decision soon on the issue after consulting other committee members, JPC sources said.

Reports had it that Raja’s desire to testify before the JPC could be extremely damaging for the ruling UPA, as it fuels a controversy which the government is now trying to give a quiet burial after over two years of turbulent parliamentary, judicial and media scrutiny since November 2010.

Chacko is likely to get back to Raja with a final decision soon on the issue after consulting other committee members, the sources said.

Raja’s request has come when the three-month-long Budget session has just commenced.

Congress has steered clear of the issue while an AIADMK has leader said it was a fight between DMK and Congress and his party would not get into it.

With Parliament reconvening on Tuesday and the JPC scheduled to meet soon after, Raja’s demand could become a major rallying point for the BJP and Left parties.

At the UPA meeting, besides several issues, the Telangana statehood demand is expected to figure. NCP chief Sharad Pawar had suggested the need for such an early meeting to discuss Telangana.

The meeting will be the first formal interaction between Congress and allies after the AgustaWestland helicopter scam broke out .

Meanwhile, another ally National Conference is apparently upset over the way the execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was carried out. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had said it would increase alienation of Kashmiris from the Indian mainstream.

PTI

Tough times ahead for Rahul, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family


Rahul Gandhi

 A special Congress session over the weekend formally launched Rahul Gandhi as the official No. 2 after party chief Sonia Gandhi, making him the presumptive prime ministerial candidate of the party for the 2014 general elections, but the battle is half won and tough times lie ahead for the 42-year-old fifth-generation leader of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Gandhi alluded to the challenges when he talked about the “poison” that came with such heavy political responsibility and the attached personal risks. His mother, who came to his room and cried on Saturday night, perhaps understands it better than anyone else.

Nine assembly polls – five big ones in Delhi, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, where the Congress will have direct contest with the Bharatiya Janata Party, and four in the northeast – will test his leadership skills.

The return of the third edition of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in 2014 will also depend on how the Amethi lawmaker is able to restructure and re-energize the party for the big political fight. He heads the party’s coordination panel for the 2014 polls.

Rahul Gandhi is also expected to give key roles to younger leaders so the party is able to reach out to all voters, 70 per cent of whom are below the age of 35. Connecting with the country’s youths, who are angry over corruption, crave for better systems of governnance and want accountability from politicians, will be a major task for the new Congress vice president.

The Nehru-Gandhi family scion would also be expected to spell out his position on various national issues clearly as he now holds an official post in the Congress.

While any success in the elections will bring him credit, he would also have to accept the blame in case of a failure.

“Rahul Gandhi faces enormous challenges during the coming polls as his leadership skills would be tested,” Zoya Hasan, who teaches political science at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, told IANS.

“His speech after being made vice president pointed out many wrongs in the party. Now he has to set things right,” she said.

The move to make him vice president, which marks a generational shift in the 127-year-old party, is significant. Party insiders said the decision was postponed for a while due to reservations among some senior leaders. But members of the Youth Congress, National Students Union of India and the younger leaders in the party – who comprised a third of the 350-odd delegates at the session – made strong demands for his elevation.

Over 50 senior leaders who shared the dais with Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the session, not only heard Rahul with rapt attention, but stood up as soon as he finished his speech and were seen competing with one another in congratulating him. Rahul had arrived.

In an impassioned speech, Rahul made it clear that he does not hanker for power and stressed the need to transform the party’s systems and develop new leaders at all levels while saying the youths must be involved in decision-making.

Rahul struck an emotional chord when he related how his mother cried when she met him after his appointment.

The question now is whether he will be able to bring the middle class, especially the “restless and impatient” young, to the Congress camp from which they stood quite alienated over perceptions of corruption, misgovernance, inflation and insensitivity to issues that concern them

IANS

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