Disproving predictions of a close contest, Himachal Pradesh lived to its reputation of voting out the party in power, giving the ruling BJP, which suffered from severe infighting and rebel candidates, only 26 seats, while Congress won 36 seats
Shimla: Riding an anti-incumbency wave and staving off corruption charges against its veteran leader Virbhadra Singh, Congress on Thursday wrested power from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Himachal Pradesh with a wafer-thin majority of 36 in the 68-member Assembly, reports PTI.
Disproving predictions of a close contest, the state lived to its reputation of voting out the party in power, giving the ruling BJP, which suffered from severe infighting and rebel candidates, only 26 seats.
The Independents, mostly BJP and Congress rebels, won five seats while Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) floated by BJP dissidents won one seat.
In the last elections in 2007, the BJP had won 41 seats and Congress 23.
78-year-old Virbhadra Singh, a five-time chief minister who was given the reins of the party on the eve of elections and who ran a spirited campaign, won from Shimla (Rural).
Singh, against whom BJP had levelled allegations of corruption during his tenure as Steel Minister in Delhi in the campaign, is again a strong contender for the Chief Minister's post, political observers say.
He also appears to have emerged unscathed from the CD case filed by the Dhumal government in which charges were framed against him leading to his resignation from the Union Government.
While Chief Minister PK Dhumal won from Hamirpur constituency, his four cabinet colleagues Narinder Bragata, Khimi Ram, Krishan Kumar and Romesh Dhawala lost the elections.
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill would cover those involved in procurement of weapons, raising funds for terrorist activities and counterfeiting Indian currency
New Delhi: Offences that threaten India's economic security including circulation of counterfeit currency will now be a terrorist act, as a bill in this regard was cleared by Parliament on Thursday, reports PTI.
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2012, passed by the Rajya Sabha by voice vote amid a walk out by Left parties, JD-U and RJD, also provides for extended period for ban on an association from current two years to five years. Lok Sabha has passed the bill earlier.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said an individual, group of individuals and an association who are involved in counterfeit currency circulation will be covered under the law and is not against innocent people.
The other salient features of the bill include expansion of the definition of terrorist act to include acts that involve detention, abduction, threats to kill or injure, or other actions so as to compel an international or inter-governmental organisation to comply with some demand.
The bill would cover those involved in procurement of weapons, raising funds for terrorist activities and counterfeiting Indian currency. It would also cover offences by companies, societies or trusts.
That apart, courts would be given additional powers to provide for attachment or forfeiture of property equivalent to the counterfeit Indian currency involved in the offence or to the value of proceeds of terrorism involved in the offence.
Seeking to allay apprehensions expressed by members, Minister of State for Home RPN Singh said the amended law will not be misused. "This bill is against terrorism and terrorists. I assure that the bill is religion neutral...Terrorism is not just about guns, it is also about attack on a country's economy," he said.
The CPI-M had moved an amendment seeking to take trade unions out of the purview of this Act but it was negated by a majority 79 members out of 107 present. 28 members voted in favour of the amendment.
The amendment moved by BJP to include NGOs under it so that their foreign funding also comes under scanner for its misuse in terrorist activities was withdrawn.
The junior Home Minister said that terrorism is on rise and affecting economic security. Hence, the bill has been amended to curb economic offences in line with the suggestions of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a 34-member global body, that chalks out policies to counter financial frauds.
India is among six Asian countries who are member of the FATF, he said.
Allaying apprehensions of some members, the minister said there is no "gender bias" and both male and female individuals involved in a terrorist act would be covered under this law.
He assured members that the bill will not be used against innocent individuals. "There are no such clauses and we are not giving enormous power to police. There are so many safeguards, there are no chances to misuse," he said.
Interrupting the minister's reply, members of CPI, CPI(M) and JD-U sought further clarification on the bill, while two of them - one each from BJP and CPI-M - moved amendments.
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury wanted to know reasons for bringing back three provisions like enhancing period for which an association involved in terrorist acts will be declared unlawful, which were part of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and were opposed.
Responding to his query, Singh said, "This bill has nothing to do with other laws (like POTA). It is to prevent counterfeit currency that is weakening our economy."
Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U) said even POTA was religion neutral but the 'draconian' law was misused, while D Raja (CPI) asked the government to "defer the bill for wider consultation before passing it in hurry."
To this demand, the Minister said, "All recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee are taken into consideration."
During the discussion, a number of members mainly from JD-U, RJD, CPI and CPI-M expressed serious apprehensions over the law granting extra powers to police and the possibility of its misuse against members of a particular community, caste and trade unions.
Several members also asked the government not to pass the bill in haste and have a rethink. They demanded that the bill be sent to the Select Committee for seeking views of members of various parties by holding wider consultations.
Some members also termed the law as "draconian", saying it will become another tool in the hands of police to harass innocents.
Naresh Agrarwal (SP), Sabir Ali (JD-U), MP Achuthan (CPI), AA Jinnah (DMK) and Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP) were among those who opposed the bill.
High Mark which desperately needs an injection of money to remain viable, had given four independent directors, including Vepa Kamesam, former deputy governor of RBI, and chairman Prof Anil Pandya 70% of ESOPs. The top management team which set up High Mark got just 30%. This team quit, leaving High Mark without an effective management team
High Mark Credit Information Services, one of the four credit information companies (CICs) in India licensed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is not just under financial pressure but also facing crunch of key persons to manage its operations. According to sources, unequal distribution of shares under the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) has made some of its top executives and key technocrats leave the credit bureau on which among other investors stock speculator Rakesh Jhunjhunwala has a stake.
In fact, High Mark's four independent directors, Dipankar Basu (1.63 lakh), Vepa Kamesam (1.63 lakh), Rajiv Johri (6.53 lakh) and Shyam Sunder Suri (6.53 lakh) and its chairman Prof Anil Pandya (3.27 lakh), together hold 70% of ESOPs. Of these, while Prof Pandya was designated executive chairman in position, if not in responsibilities, the other four directors have had little operating roles. And yet, the board allotted 1.9 lakh ESOPs to Kiran Moras, its senior vice-president and 2.7 lakh to Siddharth Das, its executive vice-president and chief operating officer. These options lapsed due to the resignation of both these officials. While Moras resigned on 21 March 2012, Das left High Mark on 20 March 2012.
High Mark’s total approved ESOPs were about 32.7 lakh, out of which 28 lakh were granted to independent directors, its chairman and other employees. As of 7 November 2012, about 4.66 lakh options lapsed. This means the credit bureau has 9.3 lakh options available for grant.
As Moneylife pointed out, the big bone of contention in High Mark was the generous salary, bonus, perks and stock options that the board has given to Prof Pandya when he has had little operating role. Apart from a salary package of Rs60 lakh a year in 2011, the chairman also got Rs4.27 crore as lump-sum compensation for past services including obtaining license from the RBI.
While other three CICs—Credit Information Bureau (India) Ltd (CIBIL), Experian Credit Information Company of India Pvt Ltd and Equifax Credit Information Services Pvt Ltd (ECIS)—have leading global credit bureaus as stakeholders and technology providers, High Mark preferred to develop its own technology and build systems accordingly.
High Mark has invested heavily over the past four years in creating competencies and technologies. The credit bureau has spent around Rs19 crore just for building its IT infrastructure and support systems.
Sachin Vyas, who was the chief technology officer (CTO), actually built the systems. Vyas while working with CapGemini headed a team that built loan systems for HSBC. However, according to sources, he also resigned from the company over differences with the chairman and allotment of ESOPs. Surprisingly, while Vyas resigned from High Mark in April, he was relieved only at the end of November 2012.
Bereft of a management team, High Mark is in a particularly tough spot because it does not have money either to run the operations beyond two months. It now appears strange that the RBI licensed High Mark at all to run a capital-intensive and long gestation business like a credit bureau, given how financially shaky and operationally mismanaged it has turned out to be. By all accounts the board of directors, who bagged the ESOPs for contributing little operationally, has remained unperturbed in the face of this raging crisis.