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Opposition members in Lok Sabha demand restoration of MPLADS fund

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NEW DELHI:

Opposition

parties, including the Congress, in the

Lok Sabha

on Tuesday demanded restoration of Member of

Parliament Local Area Development Scheme

(

MPLADS

) fund, even as they supported the government’s decision to cut salaries of MPs.

Participating in a discussion on the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in the Lower House, members of the Congress, TMC, BJD, NCP, TRS, TDP and other parties pitched for restoration of the funds.

Under the MPLADS, each MP gets Rs 5 crore every year to carry out development works in their constituencies.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the government had in April decided to suspend MPLADS funds for two years — 2020-21 and 2021-22. The money would be transferred into the government’s consolidated fund.

Making a strong case for restoration of MPLADS funds, Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy said salaries of the parliamentarians can be taken away, but the fund should be given back. He also stressed the government should cut down on bigger expenses.

Echoing similar sentiments, BJD MP Pinaki Misra said the government should seriously reconsider its decision on MPLADS funds and urged that it should be restored.

Supporting the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, NCP leader Supriya Sule said it is probably a “drop in the ocean” in terms of salary cut and everyone wants to stand united in this regard.

The estimated cost of the proposed development of the central vista is Rs 20,000 crore and “you (Union government) are saving around Rs 10,000 crore from MPLADS for a building which we have not asked for,” she said.

“Do you want a central vista and an office, or a ventilator and a good hospital in your constituency. It is not rocket science. I urge this government to come clean on this,” the NCP MP said.

YSR Congress member Midhun Reddy urged the government to rethink

suspension of MPLADS

funds, while Telangana Rashtra Samithi MP Nama Nageswara Rao called for restoration of the funds.

The funds should not be taken away, stressed Telugu Desam Party member Jayadev Galla said.

Leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said MPLAD fund should be restored. Everybody has called for restoration of the funds, so “why not, we pass an unanimous resolution” in this regard, he proposed.

Chowdhury said 93 per cent of the funds have been utilised by members and the bulk of it were spent on welfare activities for SCs, STs and villagers.

While the government is giving tax relief to the corporates, it is cutting salaries of the MPs. This is being “penny-wise and pound-foolish”, he said, adding, “I am appealing to the House that this fund should be restored.

Other members who demanded for the same include AAP MP Bhagwant Mann, Independent MP from Maharashtra Navneet Ravi Rana, BSP’s Ritesh Pandey and AIMIM’s S I Jaleel.

TMC MP Mahua Moitra said the government is doing a disservice by this decision, while Navneet Ravi Rana said the fund is “very important for us” and the government should not take “our rights”.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

Govt will need 80,000 crore for Covid vaccine, says Serum CEO

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MUMBAI: The government may need Rs 80,000 crore over the next one year for distribution of Covid-19 vaccine and immunization of the country’s population, Adar Poonawalla, CEO and promoter of the world’s largest vaccine producer, Serum Institute, said on Saturday.

Calling it the “next concerning challenge”, which needs to be tackled, Poonawalla posted a tweet tagging the Prime Minister’s Office, which read: “We need to plan and guide vaccine manufacturers both in India and overseas to service the needs of our country in terms of procurement and distribution.”

Serum has tie ups with global manufacturers AstraZeneca and Novavax for potential Covid-19 vaccines, which are currently undergoing clinical trials. The tweet, perceived by many as alarming, also raised concerns over the government’s ability to fund the massive vaccine programme.

“The government has assured that there will be plenty of funds available for vaccines. We have now been assured by the highest levels in the government that enough funds will be available for vaccine procurement, supply and logistics. This is good news,” Poonawalla told TOI, when contacted.

While addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday PM Modi said that as the world’s largest vaccine producing country, India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help people across the world.

Although further details on Poonawala’s calculations were not immediately available, sources said, it could be assuming the benchmark price of $3-5 per dose, and including two doses for the over 1.3 billion population.

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INDIA

Congress may rope in Prashant Kishor for 2022 Punjab election

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NEW DELHI: Pollster Prashant Kishor may get to manage Congress in the Punjab elections scheduled for early 2022. Party sources said CM Amarinder Singh is in talks with the former JD(U) member and election strategist, and a decision may be announced soon.

While Kishor is likely to get the contract for advance poll planning in the state, Congress members said he could even get an official perch to manage the affairs. Kishor had widely been credited with helping Congress ride back to power in the state in 2017. A senior AICC manager said the talks are being held by the chief minister and that the party is not involved in the negotiations.

While speculations about Kishor coming on board the Congress campaign in Punjab have been on for a while, it is only now it appears to be reaching a finality. Having been expelled from JD(U) following a scrap with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Kishor is said to be on the lookout for a new political platform – a reason why there are also speculations that he is looking for an entry in Congress.

Well-placed sources in Congress said Kishor has a direct line with the Gandhi siblings, a reason why not many are willing to hazard a guess about the pollster. There is some confusion in Congress ranks about Kishor.

Sources said a possible reason for CM Singh to get Kishor on board in Punjab would be to ensure that he does not work for Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP, which is set to make a strong pitch in the state in the next polls.

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INDIA

India slams Pakistan PM at UNGA for terror export

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NEW DELHI: After Pakistan PM Imran Khan again raised the Kashmir issue at UNGA, India slammed Pakistan saying terrorism was its only crowning glory. Exercising its Right of Reply, the Indian mission also accused Khan of warmongering and of using the multilateral forum to spread lies, misinformation and malice.

“This august forum witnessed a new low on its 75th anniversary. The leader of Pakistan today called for those who incite hate and violence to be outlawed. But as he went on, we were left wondering, was he referring to himself?” said Mijito Vinito, the first secretary in the permanent mission of India to the UN, Mijito Vinito, exercising India’s Right of Reply.

The only crowning glory, he said, that this country has to show to the world for the last 70 years is terrorism, ethnic cleansing, majoritarian fundamentalism and clandestine nuclear trade. “This hall heard the incessant rant of someone who had nothing to show for himself, who had no achievements to speak of and no reasonable suggestion to offer to the world. Instead, we saw lies, misinformation, war mongering and malice spread through this Assembly,” he added.

Pakistan later exercised its right of reply too, in which it claimed that Jammu & Kashmir was never a part of India. Alluding to the “stellar record” of Pakistan, Vinito said this is the country that has the “dubious distinction” of hosting the largest number of terrorists proscribed by the United Nations, a reference to terror masterminds such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) head Masood Azhar.

“This is the same country that provides pensions for dreaded and listed terrorists out of state funds. The leader whom we heard today is the same person who referred to terrorist Osama Bin Laden as a ‘martyr’ in the Pakistani Parliament in July,” Vinito said.

He added that it is Pakistan that brought genocide to south Asia 39 years ago when it killed its own people and it is also the country that is “shameless enough” not to offer a sincere apology for the horrors it perpetratedeven after so many years. India asserted in its Right of Reply that Khan, “who spewed venom today”, admitted in 2019 in public in the US that his country still has about 30,000-40,000 terrorists, who have been trained by Pakistan and have fought in Afghanistan and in the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

“This is the country that has systematically cleansed its minorities , including Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and others, through the abuse of its blasphemy laws and through forced religious conversions,” Vinito said.

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