Budget 2010: PMEAC for hike in duties

Rangarajan

PMEAC made a case for a partial roll back of stimulus by way of raising excise duties.

Ahead of the Budget, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) made a case for a partial roll back of stimulus by way of raising excise duties and reducing expenditure – which would automatically help reduce the fiscal deficit.

“There is a case for adjustment of duties…adjustments are possible both on the revenue side and the expenditure side in order to bring down fiscal deficit,” PMEAC Chairman C Rangarajan said after releasing the Review of the Economy 2009-10.

The Review said the economy would grow by over 7.2 per cent during the current fiscal and exceed 8 per cent in the next.

PMEAC member Govinda Rao said, “Partially, we need to roll back and if you partially roll back, you need to unify (excise duty and service tax rates).”

A uniform excise and service tax rates would imply raising of excise duty to 10 per cent. It is also possible that both rates may be raised to 12 per cent.

“There is one possibility that you unify both the rates at 10 per cent. There is another possibility… that both be raised to 12 per cent,” Rao said.

As part of the stimulus package given to the industry to combat the impact of the global financial crisis, the government, in two tranches, reduced the excise duty from 14 per cent to 8 per cent and service tax from 12 per cent to 10 per cent.

Rao, however, clarified that he is not making any suggestion to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and it was up to him to take a call in the Budget.

Hyderabad police on alert to foil students’ agitation

Hyderabad police have gone on alert, anticipating trouble in view of Osmania University students’ Joint Action Committee’s (JAC) siege of the Andhra Pradesh state assembly Saturday to demand resignations of all elected representatives from Telangana over the statehood issue.

Police have declared the protest “illegal” and announced deployment of over 20,000 personnel from police and paramilitary forces to deal with any eventuality.

Prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more persons have been imposed in Hyderabad and Cyberabad police commissionerates while police in other districts of Telangana were on alert to prevent students from reaching the state capital.

Chief Minister K. Rosaiah and leaders of the ruling Congress party from Telangana have appealed to students to withdraw their protest plan. “All the students are like my children and no father will be happy if their studies are affected,” Rosaiah said.

Seeking cooperation from the people, Hyderabad Police Commissioner A.K. Khan Friday announced several traffic restrictions. The police will seal all routes leading towards the assembly building and five flyovers will be put out of bounds for traffic, he said.

“The protest is illegal as it has no police permission. Nobody even approached us for permission,” Khan said.

He appealed to parents and teachers to restrain students from participating in the protest and warned that those violating law would be dealt with as per the provisions of law. Khan did not rule out preventive arrests of JAC leaders.

The unprecedented security arrangements have been made in view of the recent violence in Osmania University, where police and paramilitary forces allegedly used excessive force on students, including girls.

The police action on the campus has come under severe criticism from the high court, which not only reprimanded the government and police but also ordered all paramilitary forces to be pulled out from the campus.

The state government, however, approached the Supreme Court, which Friday stayed the high court order.

The government has defended deployment of paramilitary forces and police action on the campus on the grounds that some anti-social elements had allegedly entered the campus.

The student’s JAC has demanded that all elected representatives from Telangana resign to pressurise the central government to revise terms of the Srikrishna Committee looking into the statehood demand.

So far, only 15 legislators have submitted their resignations and the speaker has accepted resignations of 12 of them, including all 10 of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS).

While the Congress legislators have rejected the direction of all-party Joint Action Committee to all elected representatives to quit, the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leaders sent their resignations to JAC convenor M.Kodandaram to mount pressure on the Congress.

Osmania campus: Forces will stay, says SC

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed till February 23 the Andhra Pradesh High Court order directing withdrawal of Central paramilitary forces from Osmania University campus, the hotbed of the volatile Telangana agitation.

A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and T S Thakur, however, directed the state Home Secretary to ensure that the paramilitary forces are not allowed to misbehave in any manner with the students at the campus.

The apex court said the paramilitary forces shall operate strictly under the personal supervision of the Home Secretary.

The apex court passed the order on an appeal filed by the Andhra Pradesh government, challenging the High Court’s direction to withdraw the paramilitary forces from the campus.

The AP government has also alleged that they strongly suspect that Maoists have infiltrated the movement and perhaps are inside the campus among the students.

However, this allegation was rebutted by Counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the students.

Andhra Pradesh government had on Thursday approached the apex court against the direction of the High Court asking it to move out paramilitary forces from the University campus.

The state government had assailed the February 16 order, saying the High Court cannot order the removal of paramilitary forces from the campus which is a hotbed of the agitation for a separate Telangana state.

A division bench of the High Court had on February 16 upheld the directions of a single judge to move out special forces from Osmania University campus.

The division bench had also said that the police should interfere with the administration of the university only on a specific request from the university authorities.

The bench had observed that the single judge was right in his analysis that the Rapid Action Force was deployed in the university campus without any study of the situation.

Police action: Andhra Congress divided over court order

Legislators of the ruling Congress party in Andhra Pradesh stand divided over the state high court order on police action against students of Osmania University protesting for a separate Telangana state.

A day after two legislators from the Andhra region took exception to the court reprimanding the government and police and making certain observations about the state governor, a legislator from Telangana Friday criticised the raising of the issue in the assembly.

Shankar Rao, who represents one of the assembly constituencies in Hyderabad, told the house during zero hour that the action of the legislators was not proper and this had hurt the sentiments of the Telangana people.

Deputy Speaker N. Manohar stopped the member from speaking further and pointed out that Speaker N. Kirankumar Reddy has already reserved his ruling over the issue.

Two Congress legislators, Malladi Vishnu and Mahidhar Reddy, had Thursday raised the issue in the house. They said the court’s remarks against the governor, government and police could send a wrong message to people.

Leader of opposition and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu took exception to the members raising the court directive in the house.

While ordering the government to pull out paramilitary forces from the Osmania University campus earlier this week, the court had severely reprimanded police for beating up students, including girl students and mediapersons.

Justice Narasimha Reddy pulled up the police saying it was lawless and even the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues were helpless. It lambasted police chief Girish Kumar for not respecting his order. The judge also remarked this was happening despite the fact that a renowned former police officer was the governor of the state. He was referring to Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan, former director of the intelligence bureau.

The division bench of the high court Tuesday dismissed the government’s petition challenging the Justice Narasimha Reddy’s order to remove the paramilitary force from the campus.

The single judge bench had again pulled up police Thursday and asked the government why the probe into the incidents not handed over to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Though the government had pulled out paramilitary forces from the campus, it filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, seeking a stay on the high court. The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, while posting the hearing to Friday, asked the state who permitted the deployment of paramilitary forces on campus. He remarked it was not a good sign.

We will built”BABRI MASJID”

Indore: BJP president Nitin Gadkari unveiled his “new deal” for the BJP at the party’s national council meet, including an offer to build a grand mosque to replace the Babri Masjid, although at an alternative site.

The deal he offered was that of a “kinder, gentler” approach to minorities, an inclusive agenda regarding Dalits and rural India, and an assurance to his partymen that performance would be rewarded.
Scarcely had Gadkari made his speech that party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy had to do a little backtrack operation, saying the Mosque offer was conditional, meaning it would “happen at an appropriate time after due consultation with all parties.” Sources say a stern phone call came from the VHP, which asked the BJP top brass how such an undertaking could be given on behalf of the Sangh Parivar.

Gadkari’s hour-long speech made little mention of the Ram Mandir issue, but got the most applause when he “appealed” to Muslims that they voluntarily give up their claim to the Ram Mandir complex in return for an alternative site “where the BJP will help build a grand mosque.”

The message most delegates seem to come away with was that Gadkari and the RSS appeared to have come to the conclusion that the party had peaked electorally as far as its current electoral base was concerned and was looking to add to it. Gadkari said as much in his speech. “I aim to increase our vote share by at least 10% to our existing base,” he said. This 10%, according to Gadkari’s calculation, would come from Dalits, tribals, the rural population, youth and even minorities.

“When I landed in Indore, I decided to first go to Mhow, the birthplace of Babasaheb Ambedkar, for his blessings. There I ate at a Dalit councillor’s house, but I made sure that this was not enacted in front of TV cameras, as for me the fight against untouchability is not a political strategy but a firm conviction,” he said, clearly alluding to AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi.
While his plans for the party’s political issues were articulated at length, he did not forget to address the party’s internal issues.

“I promise I will set up a system of internal evaluation and accountability, and institute an award for the best-performing MLA, MLC, MP and ministers,” he said. He would also set up a team to look into getting together a vision 2025 for the party and its plans.

Significantly, Gadkari’s centrist approach stands in contrast to his predecessor Rajnath Singh’s, who had warned the party of deviating too much from the hindutva ideology.“In the 1980s there was a great rivalry between Pepsi and Coke and while Pepsi retained its USP and worked on its strengths, Coke tried to experiment with it basic flavour, leading to Pepsi’s ascendance. This can well happen anywhere,” Singh had said during his last speech as party president.

Between the hardline and centrist agendas, it seems as though Gadkari is throwing his weight behind the latter.

Nothing wrong in talking with Pakistan: Antony

Dabolim (Goa), February 19: India today said there was “nothing wrong” in holding Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan though terrorist camps along the borders in that country were “still active”.

“It is a considered decision of the government to have Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan. There is nothing wrong in that. Everything will now depend on the outcome of the talks,” Defence Minister A K Antony told reporters here when asked why talks were being held with Pakistan when it had not stopped aiding terrorists targeting India.

To a question about what will be the outcome of the talks, he said, “What will be the outcome, I can’t say. I am not an astrologer.”

Antony said, “All the 32 (terrorist camps in Pakistan) near their border are active even now.

“This year, the number of infiltration attempts has also gone up.

SC stays withdrawal of forces from Osmania campus

New Delhi, February 19: The Supreme Court today stayed till February 23 the Andhra Pradesh High Court order directing withdrawal of Central paramilitary forces from Osmania University campus, the hotbed of the volatile Telangana agitation.

A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and T S Thakur, however, directed the state Home Secretary to ensure that the paramilitary forces are not allowed to misbehave in any manner with the students at the campus.

The apex court said the paramilitary forces shall operate strictly under the personal supervision of the Home Secretary.

The apex court passed the order on an appeal filed by the Andhra Pradesh government, challenging the High Court’s direction to withdraw the paramilitary forces from the campus.

The AP government has also alleged that they strongly suspect that Maoists have infiltrated the movement and perhaps are inside the campus among the students.