Shortest Budget session of Parliament in recent years concludes

The second part of the session has been dispensed with on account of the assembly elections scheduled in five states

New Delhi: The Budget session of Parliament closed today. It was the shortest Budget session in recent times and will be remembered more for the acrimony over issues like the appointment of the CVC to the cash-for-votes scam.

The highlight of the month-long session during which there were 23 sittings, was the setting up of the Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G spectrum scam, over which the entire winter session was disrupted, reports PTI.

During the just-concluded session, there were regular uproars over various issues which resulted in the Lok Sabha losing over 25 hours due to interruptions over adjournments. However, the members made up for this by sitting late for more than 26 hours.

In the Rajya Sabha 20 hours were lost due to interruptions and members also compensated for this by sitting late for over 12 hours.

In view of the "unfortunate logjam" in the previous session, Speaker Meira Kumar expressed satisfaction over the "successful" transaction of business in the Budget session.

For the first time since 2006, the Budgetary exercise was completed before the end of the current financial year.

The second phase of the Budget session, which was to be held in April, was dispensed with in view of the assembly elections in five states.

With elections scheduled in West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the rival sides utilised the session to score points over each other.

The BJP found itself isolated when it made Parliamentary Affairs Minister PK Bansal a target over the issue of allotment of kiosks in Chandigarh.

The evacuation of Indians from troubled Libya, radio collaring of Indian students in an American university, the Income-Tax notice to the Gujarat government and attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy also figured prominently during the Parliament session.


Decision on cancellation of licences in a month’s time: DoT Secretary

All 85 licence holders have replied to show-cause notices over ineligibility or for missing roll-out obligations

New Delhi: The telecom ministry said today it will decide in a month's time on the cancellation of licences given by former telecom minister A Raja to firms that were allegedly ineligible, in 2008.

"We have received replies from all 85 licence holders who were issued show-cause notices. We are legally examining them and should be able to take a decision on it in a month's time," telecom secretary R Chandrasekhar told journalists. He categorically denied that any licence was cancelled so far, reports PTI.

The telecom ministry had issued notices to firms on two counts-ineligibility for licences and missing roll-out obligations within the stipulated timeframe. The DoT gave the operators 60 days to file their responses to the show-cause notice for cancellation of licences. "In certain cases, 60 days are over, while in some, there is till some time," officials said.

Mr Raja faces charges of issuing 122 licences in 2008 without auctioning the scarce resource spectrum, which caused a presumptive loss of over Rs1.76 lakh crore. The matter is being examined by various investigating agencies as well as a parliamentary panel.

Notices have been issued to Swan Telecom (now Etisalat DB), Datacom (now Videocon Telecom), S Tel, Uninor and others, either for ineligibility or missing roll-out obligations.

In its reply to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) rejected the allegation of any notional loss due to the issuance of 122 new licences in 2008 and said that the premium placed on the scarce resource from the perspective of a producer need not necessarily translate into a loss when seen from the view point of the consumer and public welfare.

"The concept of notional loss when spectrum is given at a price discovered a few years earlier, has to be balanced with the gains accruing to the consumers and the general improvement in public welfare in the form of faster economic growth," the DoT said. The PAC had sent 40 questions to the DoT relating to the 2G spectrum scam.

Suggesting that the notional loss reported by the audit report should be seen in the light of the benefit that it has given to consumers and general public welfare in the form of quick economic growth, the DoT said the objectives of the Telecom Policy since 1999 were to increase tele-density and affordability for consumers, while maintaining a level playing field for incumbents and new players, as well as revenue accrual for the government.


Over 60 killed in Myanmar earthquake

Tremors were felt as far away as Bangkok, almost 800 kilometres from the epicentre, Hanoi and parts of China during the earthquake yesterday, which the US Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8

Yangon: More than 60 people were killed and dozens injured after a strong earthquake struck Myanmar near its border with Thailand cutting off some affected areas, reports PTI.

Tremors were felt as far away as Bangkok, almost 800 kilometres (500 miles) from the epicentre, Hanoi and parts of China during the earthquake yesterday, which the US Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8.

A Myanmar official said dozens of people were killed in areas close to the epicentre and more than 240 buildings had collapsed.

"The death toll has increased to more than 60 now from those areas including Tarlay, Mine Lin and Tachileik townships," the official said.

"About 90 people were injured from those areas. Officials are still trying to reach some more affected areas. There are some places we cannot reach yet," he added.

Across the border, Thai authorities said a 52-year-old woman was killed in Mae Sai district after a wall in her house collapsed.

Terrified residents across the region fled their homes, tall buildings swayed and hospitals and schools were evacuated during the tremors.

In Yangon Chris Herink, Myanmar country director for the charity World Vision, said there did not appear to be "catastrophic infrastructure damage" in the affected areas of Kengtung and Tachileik, although buildings were cracked and water supplies disrupted in some areas.

"Of real concern though are the more rural areas.

There will be more, I am afraid to say, unhappy information coming throughout the day," he said.

"It is a hilly area near the border between Thailand and Laos, the so-called Golden Triangle. There is a lot of commerce that goes on in the area."

World Vision has around 7,000 children sponsored by overseas donors in the affected areas.


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