Sources in both the BJP and the Left parties insisted that since there are differences within the Union Cabinet as well as in Congress on the FDI issue, such informal communication may not be the last word
New Delhi: In a bid to buy peace in Parliament, the government Monday said a final decision on the foreign direct investment (FDI) issue will be taken only after consulting stakeholders and the opposition which insisted on a complete rollback and not just holdback, reports PTI.
With the government in a bind and Parliament paralysed for nearly two weeks, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee Monday spoke to leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury and informed them that the government is willing to hold back the decision to allow 51% FDI in multi-brand retail.
Both Ms Swaraj and Mr Yechury suggested that government convene an all-party meeting to convey its decision and then inform Parliament.
“I told Pranab that he should pick up the threads where they were left the last time. Since he had promised to get back to the opposition in the last all-party meeting, a similar meeting should be convened on 7th December in the morning where the government can clarify its stand,” Ms Swaraj told PTI.
The BJP has made it clear that it wanted a complete rollback of the government’s decision on FDI. “BJP has clearly stated in the all-party meeting that it wants a rollback. Let the government come out with a formal response,” party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters.
“We continue to stick to our demand of unconditional reversal of the decision on FDI.
Mr Mukherjee told us that the government has decided to put the decision of FDI in suspension and wanted the Parliament session to continue,” Mr Yechury later said.
However, this did not convince Ms Swaraj and Mr Yechury and both insisted that an all-party meeting be called where the government can formally convey its view.
“On that basis, a decision can be taken,” Mr Yechury said.
Sources in both the BJP and the Left parties insisted that since there are differences within the Union Cabinet as well as in Congress on the FDI issue, such informal communication may not be the last word.
UPA allies TMC and DMK have openly opposed the decision while NCP has suggested that the government should go by the sense of the House on this matter.
Asked whether Mr Mukherjee had told her about roll-back of the decision or merely about holding it back, Ms Swaraj said he had not discussed the issue in detail and insisted on making the stand clear on the floor of the House.
She later called up parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and told him about the conversation with Mr Mukherjee and emphasised that an all-party meeting be held.
The government’s move to press the pause button on FDI was made public first by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee after a telephonic conversation in Kolkata with Mr Mukherjee on Saturday.
Asked what would be the BJP response if the government only offers to defer the decision on the pretext of making changes in the policy, Ms Swaraj said her party was firm on its stand on roll-back of FDI in multi-brand retail but would see what the UPA states on Wednesday before taking a decision.
Mr Yechury said government has to roll-back this decision.
“Whatever proposal the government has it should keep it before the all-party meeting. On its basis, we will take a decision,” he said.
In reply to another question, Ms Swaraj said even if the FDI deadlock is resolved, BJP will press for acceptance of its adjournment motion on black money and a debate on price rise (moved by the Left parties) under Rule 193 (which does not entail voting).
Both the Left parties and the BJP also sought to blame the government for the deadlock.
“I told Mr Mukherjee that we always want Parliament to function. The question is will the government allow the Parliament to function. It should correct the decision it has made,” Mr Yechury said.
The security clearance was one of the conditions that the government had set for Vedanta group buying 40% stake in Cairn India from UK’s Cairn Energy. The two entities have already agreed to the other condition of Cairn India paying cess and royalty on crude oil produced from its mainstay Rajasthan oilfields
New Delhi: The home ministry has given its approval to London-listed miner Vedanta Resources’ buying majority stake in Cairn India for $8.7 billion, reports PTI.
The home ministry, while giving the security no-objection certificate (NOC), highlighted eight areas of concern, including 64 legal proceedings against Vedanta and its subsidiaries in various courts, sources privy to the development said.
The security clearance was one of the conditions that the government had set for Vedanta group buying 40% stake in Cairn India from UK’s Cairn Energy Plc.
Cairn Energy and Vedanta have already agreed to the other condition of Cairn India paying cess and royalty on crude oil produced from its mainstay Rajasthan oilfields.
Cairn India does not pay royalty and cess on its 70% share in the Rajasthan block as per the contract, but its current majority owner, Cairn Energy, and new owner Vedanta forced it to accept the government condition of making royalty cost recoverable and paying Rs2,500 per tonne cess.
Also, the government had a conditioned approval to the deal on Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which has 30% stake in Rajasthan block and pays royalty on behalf of Cairn India, giving its NOC. ONGC has agreed to give the NOC if Cairn India accepts to make royalty cost recoverable and pay cess.
Sources said the ministry’s 25th November letter to the oil ministry pointed to Vedanta Group’s investment in cases of “default of payment, human rights violations, environmental damage in its mining and metal projects etc in India and abroad.”
But these concerns did not have a “direct bearing on the security NOC”, it said.
The cases highlighted include alleged customs duty evasion by Sesa Goa in iron ore export, case filed by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) against Hindustan Zinc for which investigation was still in progress and environment ministry’s rejection of its earlier clearance to Sterlite Industries for mining bauxite from Niyamgiri hills.
Two activists had filed a potential class action suit against UIDAI requesting the Bangalore City Civil Judge to declare the Aadhaar scheme as illegal
Bengaluru-based Col (Retd.) Mathew Thomas of Citizens' Action Forum and VK Somasekhar, founder-trustee of Grahak Shakti have filed a potential class action suit against the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). In the petition, both the activists requested the Bangalore City Civil Judge to declare Aadhaar scheme as illegal, stop enrolment in the scheme and grant injuction against entering into any contracts binding the government and expending taxpayers money.
According to the petition, the UIDAI chairman has entered into number of agreements, contracts, and memorandum of understanding (MOUs) with both Indian and international private companies, as an authority of the Government of India, without the sanction of law.
In addition, the National Identification Authority of India Bill (NAI Bill), the proposed law on Aadhaar, is worded in such a way that regularises all the activities of the chairman from the day it was constituted as an authority by the Union government and deputy chairperson of the Planning Commission. "The Bill seeks to provide ex-post-facto blanket approval of all such acts of the first defendant (UIDAI chairman). It is respectfully submitted that first defendant on the basis of such a draft bill is continuing with the implementation of the Aadhaar scheme in entire India. It is respectfully submitted that the same is illegal," the petition said.
It said, the UIDAI chairman has also entered into contracts with 209 companies, organizations, societies as Enrolling Agencies by saying that Aadhaar is a high technology project. However, it has selected number of organizations, companies, societies, whose capacity and qualifications are doubtful, it said.
According to the petition, an organisation that is an education society in rural Andhra Pradesh secures rights of enrolling agency for entire state of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The basis on which, the agency was granted the license for enrolling people of these states is still unknown and raises questions on the criteria employed by the first defendant for empanelling private companies as enrolling agencies. Similar is the case of a Tea Estate Company being licensed as an enrolling agency that has been granted enrolling job in entire state of Assam, it said.
Some of the enrolling agencies have already sub contracted the work, allegedly against the rules of the first defendant, which prohibit sub-contracting of the work, the petition said. "One of the enrolling agencies, Alankit Financial Services sub-contracted enrolling at Bangalore to another private company, ID Global Technology Solutions. The latter is alleged to have indulged in franchising enrolling business to many other private companies. ID Global Technology Solutions is alleged to have been taking deposits of Rs2.5 Lakh from the franchisees. When the first defendant was confronted by the said fraud, it has stated that it was not aware of this illegal activity," said Col (Retd.) Thomas and Mr Somasekhar.
They alleged that the entire process of enrolling was done by a sub-contracting agency in Mysore district. There were instances where the agency and its employees in collusion with other persons have been issuing fake Aadhaar numbers to those who can pay at Mysore. The same was reported in a Kannada television channel known as TV9.
According to the petition, there is urgency in filing the suit as the defendants (UIDAI, Union Govt, and Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission) intend to complete major part of the Aadhaar enrolment before the matter is decided by the Standing Committee on Finance of the Parliament and presented before the Lok Sabha so as to compel the Parliament to support the project with retrospective effect as money has already been spent.
"Every day the UID project continues, several crore of rupees of taxpayers' money would be lost. Apart from this, the continued gathering of people's data would be an unacceptable security risk both to the people and the nation its self. It is respectfully submitted that while millions are dying of hunger, starvation and deprivation be it children, women, men or aged persons, spending such huge amounts of money to benefit and make it possible for many to pocket the money at the expense of the citizen in the name of Aadhaar even without any legislative sanction is illegal. Plaintiffs are affected by the conduct of the defendants and so are many millions of Indians," said Col (Retd.) Thomas and Mr Somasekhar in the petition.