CVC appointment was 'error of judgement': PM

Dr Manmohan Singh said appointing PJ Thomas as CVC was an error of judgement on his part and he accepts full responsibility for it.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Monday termed as an "error of judgement" the appointment of PJ Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) and told the Lok Sabha that he accepts "full responsibility" for it, reports PTI.

Left parties were not satisfied and staged a walkout. "I have no hesitation in repeating what I said in Jammu. Obviously, there was an error of judgement. I accept full responsibility for it," Dr Singh said.

He stated this when Opposition created an uproar after his suo motu statement had no mention about responsibility and contained only the sequence of events beginning from the appointment of Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner and its annulment by the Supreme Court last week.
In his statement, Dr Singh said, "We accept and respect the verdict of the Supreme Court and that the government would take into consideration the guidelines/directions given by the court while appointing a new CVC.

He noted that the meeting of the committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and Leader of the Opposition to choose the CVC took place on September 3 last year and recommended the name of Mr Thomas for the post.

Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj gave a dissenting note, Dr Singh recalled.

After Mr Thomas' appointment, two public interest litigation petitions were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the appointment and the court quashed it, he said.

As he sat down after reading out the statement, the Opposition members were not satisfied.

Ms Swaraj said she was "surprised" that the Prime Minister had not said even what he had stated in Jammu about owning up responsibility for the CVC appointment.

"I was expecting you to repeat at least what you said in Jammu," she said amid chants of 'shame shame' by BJP members.

Left parties were not satisfied by the Prime Minister's contention that it was an "error of judgement". Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) wanted to know how it happened. Finally, the Left members staged a walkout.


NHAI to issue tax-free bonds of Rs5,000 crore in April-June

The NHAI would raise tax-free bonds worth Rs10,000 during FY12 in two tranches, with plans to issue first tranche in next quarter.

New Delhi: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is likely to issue tax-free bonds worth around Rs5,000 crore in the first quarter of the next financial year to part fund land acquisition and annuity payments among others.

"The government will allow us to raise tax-free bonds worth Rs10,000 crore in 2011-12. We will raise the fund in two tranches and expect to issue the first tranche of around Rs 5,000 crore in the first quarter of the next financial year," NHAI Member (Finance) JN Singh told PTI.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his Budget 2011-12 had said the government would allow NHAI to raise tax-free bonds worth Rs10,000 crore in 2011-12.

Mr Singh said the fund would be used for acquisition of land, meeting the viability gap funding and committed annuity payments among others. The second tranche would be issued in the last quarter of 2011-12, depending upon the market conditions, he added.

"This is certainly a very good step and will allow us to go for cheaper finances. We expect the costs to go down by 2% to about 7% on present market conditions," Mr Singh said. The tax-free bonds proposed in the Budget are for long-term financing.


Finance Ministry wants RBI to focus on inflation as crude oil hardens

The Finance Minister has stressed on the on the need for sustaining post-crisis economic recovery and growth momentum, while keeping inflation in check against the uncertainty of oil price rise, especially in the MENA region.

New Delhi: Concerned over worsening political turmoil in West Asia and the impact of rising global crude oil prices on the domestic economy, the Finance Ministry has suggested the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to focus on containing inflation, reports PTI.

An indication to this effect was given by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to the RBI, which is slated to announce its mid-quarterly review of the monetary policy on 17th March.

The central bank has, for the seventh time since March 2010, raised the key policy rates to tame inflation, which of late has started declining. However, with the surge in global crude oil prices following political turmoil in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, it is unlikely that inflation would continue to fall in the months ahead.

Mr Mukherjee, in his address to the RBI Board last week, stressed on the need for sustaining post-crisis economic recovery and growth momentum, while keeping inflation in check against the uncertainty of oil price rise.

"This (keeping inflation in check) is essential for furthering the government's agenda on inclusive development," the minister had told the central board of RBI, headed by Governor D Subbarao.

Crude prices in the global market have escalated to $116 a barrel. India is 75% dependent on oil imports and such a spurt would have adverse affect on the economy.

The Indian government and RBI have been under pressure due to inflationary pressures in the economy, particularly the high food prices.
Food inflation, though declining, has been in double digits for the most of the current financial year. The latest data puts the food inflation at 10.39% for the week ending 19th February in comparison to the year-long period.

Further, the headline inflation has also been falling; it declined to 8.23% for January from 8.43% in December. However, this is still much above the comfort level and the government expects it to descend further to 7% in March.


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