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August - September 2007


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PM TAKES STOCK OF MUMBAI BLASTS INVESTIGATIONS AND RELIEF TO VICTIMS HAILS COURAGE AND FORBEARANCE OF MUMBAIKARS

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh took stock of the state of investigation into the bomb blasts in Mumbai on 11th July 2006. The Prime Minister also reviewed all the steps taken so far for providing compensation to families of victims and those injured in the blasts, including assistance for hospitalization, payment of medical bills and provision of employment for those who have sought such employment. Of the 118 applicants for jobs, approval has been given for 96 so far, according to information provided by the State Government of Maharashtra and the Ministry of Railways. The Railway Ministry has been asked to ensure that the Railway Claims Tribunal expedites the disposal of claims for compensation.

It may be noted that the Mumbai Police has so far charge-sheeted 25 persons in this case and the designated Court has issued non-bailable warrants against 15 absconders, and Red Corner Notices have been issued against 2 persons. The case is under trial.

The Prime Minister has said that all those against whom cases have already been registered and all those who are wanted in this case will be brought to justice. The Government will not rest till the guilty are punished. The Prime Minister hailed the courage and forbearance of the people of Mumbai and their determination to stand united in the fight against terrorism.


End the veil system: Pratibha

Rajasthan Governor and UPA Presidential candidate Pratibha Patil on Sunday left historians and Muslim social activists astounded by her remarks that the purdah (veil) system was introduced in India to protect women from Mughal aggressors.

Addressing a function marking the 467th birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap at the Nagar Parishad Auditorium in Udaipur, Ms. Patil said though Indian culture always respected women, the veil system began during the Mughal rule to “save women from Mughal invaders.”

Ms. Patil said: “Today we are citizens of free India. There is need to put a stop to such practices. That alone will ensure real respect for women. When women are progressing in every field, it is our duty to discontinue such practices.”

Historians said the veil system was prevalent much before the Mughal invasion. “There is evidence of construction of separate `zanana’ chambers for women in the Chittaurgarh fort in the 11th century,” said Varsha Joshi of the Institute of Rajasthan Studies.

Dr. Joshi said women were not allowed to take part in the coronation ceremonies of Rajput rulers, and they were mostly confined to home. “To argue that purdah started because of Mughals amounts to taking a very narrow view of history.”

State president of Jamat-e-Islami Hind Mohammed Salim said the opinion that women adopted the veil because of the fear of Mughal rulers reflected the distorted view of history taken by the Sangh Parivar. “It is unfortunate that Ms. Patil found the communal forces’ views convincing enough to incorporate them in her address.”

“Factually incorrect”

The State secretary of the All-India Milli Council, Abdul Qayoom Akhtar, said Ms. Patil’s remarks were “factually incorrect and historically untenable.”

“We have been listening to such comments in the false propaganda of Sangh Parivar earlier. It is surprising that Ms. Patil has chosen to agree with the Sangh’s line of thinking,” he said.

However, Congress spokesperson Param Navdeep, contacted by The Hindu, defended Ms. Patil’s remarks, saying they should be seen in the light of the life and times of the erstwhile Mewar ruler. “There should be no controversy about it. It is an established fact that women were the target of aggression during the Mughal rule,” she said.


STEPS TAKEN TO REDUCE HARDSHIPS FACED BY FOREIGN PASSPORT HOLDERS AT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS

Several measures have been taken to expedite customs, security and immigration clearances in order to reduce the hardships faced by foreign passport holders/tourists at the international airports.

These measures inter alia, include (1). manning of all X-ray machines and security check points at the international airports for expeditious security clearance, (2). with regard to Customs clearance, 95% of the in-coming passengers are cleared thorough the Green Channel, wherein the passengers simply walk through with their baggage and only passengers carrying dutiable goods report to the Red Channel. Facilitation desks are in place to assist the outgoing passengers and (3). computer systems have been upgraded, Immigration Control System Software, Passport Reading Machines (PRMs) and Questionable Document Examiner (QDX) machines have been installed at immigration counters at major international airports, to ensure expeditious immigration clearance.

At present, there are separate immigration counters for Indians and Foreigners at Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata airports.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Home, Shri Sriprakash Jaiswal in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha today.


Ministry of Panchayati Raj

INCENTIVES TO PRIVATE COMPANIES WORKING IN RURAL BUSINESS HUBS (RBH

RBHs are not being incentivized by giving tax breaks or soft loans, but by converging extant schemes of State and Central Governments, as well as financing institutions/banks and promotional bodies, to promote integrated business relationships between decentralized rural production units and larger corporate entities through the intermediation of the Panchayats.

The Electricity Act, 2003 enjoined the Central Government to formulate a National Policy for rural electrification and for the management of local distribution in rural areas through Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) or franchisees. The Rural Electrification Policy, approved in 2006, stated that electricity has been recognized as a basic human need and further that a village would be classified as electrified based on a Certificate issued by the Gram Panchayat. The Gram Panchayat shall certify and confirm the electrified status of the village as on 31st March each year. Panchayati Raj Institutions would have both a supervisory as well as advisory role in rural electrification and electricity supply. The State Government could encourage Panchayati Raj Institutions to take on the responsibility of franchisees as and when they are deemed ready to undertake contractual obligations, raise resources and discharge associated legal responsibilities. Panchayati Raj Institutions will have an important role in overseeing the delivery of services by franchisees in accordance with their identified responsibility, in an advisory capacity.

Under the Franchisee Guidelines of the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana 2006, Panchayati Raj Institutions are perceived as the primary interface for communication and advocacy of a participatory approach towards rural distribution management. With these provisions in view, a series of MoUs have already been entered into in the State of Karnataka between Panchayati Raj Institutions and electricity generation and distribution companies (both public and private sector), to promote Rural Business Hubs.

This information was given by Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar, Minister of Panchayati Raj, Youth Affairs & Sports and DoNER in the Lok Sabha today in a written reply to a question by Shri Kailash Meghwal.


SHRI A . RAJA TAKES OVER AS MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS & INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Shri Andimuthu Raja, has taken over as a new Minister of Communications & Information Technology here today. Earlier, Shri Raja was the Union Minister of Environment & Forests . He was received by the Secretaries of Department of Telecom, Posts, Information Technology , and several senior officials of BSNL and MTNL.

While interacting with the media after taking over, Shri Raja said that his top priority area would be Rural telephony. He further said “ during his tenure, his efforts and endeavour would be to provide the communication facilities to the people at the lowest ebb of the social order”. Since the telecom sector is growing sector and all efforts required for maintaining its growth will continue, Shri Raja added.

Elected as member to the 11th Lok Sabha for the first time in the year 1996, Shri A. Raja has also held earlier the positions in the central government as Minister of State of Rural Development and Minister of State of Health and Family Welfare.


Tenth round of Foreign Ministries Consultations between India and Israel

The 10th round of the Foreign Affairs Consultations between Israel and India was held in the Ministry of Foreign Affaires, in Jerusalem on 15 May 2007. The Israeli Delegation was headed by Ambassador Amos Nadai, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ambassador N. Ravi, Secretary (East) Ministry of External Affairs, led the Indian Delegation. The discussions were opened by Senior Deputy Director General Yossi Gal.

The delegations called on Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni.

The tenth round of talks coincided with the 15th anniversary of full diplomatic relations between India and Israel. It was held in a spirit of friendship and mutual understanding which characterizes the relations between the two countries. The two sides had a wide ranging and constructive exchange of views on bilateral, multilateral and regional issues. Ideas for further enhancing bilateral relations in fields such as economy and commerce, agriculture, culture, science, with particular emphasis on intensifying people to people contacts were discussed.


British Parliamentary Scene

Dholakia: “Terrorists who wish to harm our country will have no comfort from any one of us.”
Lord Dholakia, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, responded to a statement on Counterterrorism made by the Home Office Minister, Baroness Scotland of Asthal in which she stated that she wanted “to strengthen [the Government’s] capability to counter terrorism and protect this country from acts of terrorism”.

In response, Lord Dholakia said, “The British public rightly expect that on an issue of such importance parties will work together rather than create synthetic points of difference.”

Lord Dholakia continued, “There is another reason why a consensus on terrorism legislation is important. If agreement is reached, it will send a clear message that the country is united in its approach to safety and security. Terrorists who wish to harm our country will have no comfort from any one of us.”

Lord Dholakia commented that, “It is equally important that we achieve the right balance between rights, liberties and security measures. That is particularly important when the effect of both the language and policy of our anti-terrorist strategy can have such an impact on the opinions of precisely the communities whose co-operation we need to counter terrorism.”

On the subject of Control Orders Lord Dholakia said, “it is clear that they are not working. Six controlees have absconded. Even John Reid has said that they are full of holes. It will not help to tinker around with this legislation—we need a fresh approach.”

Finally, Lord Dholakia said, “Overall, we are broadly supportive of other measures and proposals, but we need to look at draft legislation as part of the consultative process.”


 

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