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Posts Tagged ‘Bihar’

Bihar’s opposition walks out of assembly over graft

Patna, Dec 3 (IANS) Bihar’s opposition parties – RJD, LJP and the Congress – staged a walkout from the assembly Monday and demanded a CBI probe into alleged graft in the state’s rural jobs scheme in the wake of a report by a Delhi-based NGO revealing “an open loot of taxpayers’ money”.

“When the government refused a CBI inquiry into the scam, the entire opposition staged a walkout from the state assembly,” Leader of Opposition in the Bihar assembly and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui told IANS. The opposition parties — the RJD, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Congress members — walked out of the assembly.
Earlier, Siddiqui said in the assembly that the opposition will approach the court if the Janata Dal-United (JD-U)-led state government failed to order a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into it.
After taking part in a special debate in the state assembly on the alleged irregularities in the implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), Siddiqui said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s government should not delay in ordering a CBI probe into the mega-scam.
Last month, Delhi-based Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) said the performance audit of MGNREGS in Bihar found that 73 percent of the Rs.8,189 crore scheme fund, spent in the state’s 38 districts in six years (2006-12), were embezzled by the implementing authorities.
“There is an open loot of taxpayers’ money. There is plunder of rural poor’s right to guaranteed wage employment for 100 days and there is pillage of every single norm of democratic governance and public accountability,” the CEFS report said.
“The scale and dimensions of MNREGS corruption in Bihar suggest that this kind of open loot is impossible without active connivance of the block and district authorities,” the CEFS added.
Last week, Bihar Rural Development Minister Nitish Mishra said the government would conduct the physical verification of beneficiaries and areas covered under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
Mishra assured that strict action would be taken against officials found involved in irregularities in the implementation of the scheme.
MNREGS aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

India to adopt liberal visa policy with Bangladesh

Dhaka, Dec 3 (IANS) India would adopt a liberal visa policy to boost economic partnership and encourage Indian business to invest in Bangladesh to address the imbalance in trade and reap mutual benefit.

“As a step towards showing India’s commitment to joining hands with Dhaka in giving a boost to the economic prosperity of Bangladesh and its people, we have decided to adopt a liberal visa regime,” High Commissioner Pankaj Saran said at the start of the India Show here.
India is attaching greater importance to its ties with Bangladesh as a strategically and economically key element in the furtherance of its “Look East” policy.
It also believes Bangladesh can become a hub for its Northeast region. India intends to help develop ports, waterways and alternate roadways to boost trade and investment.
There is no formal agreement between India and Bangladesh on the visa regime.
“Earlier, businessmen and other categories would get five days’ visa with single-entry condition. This was making it very difficult for even those people who have been dealing with the Indian corporate world for the last two to three decades.
“Now we are granting six-month multi-entry visa and even longer term visas to various categories including artists from Bangladesh that is going to make things smooth and easy,” Saran added.
Bangladesh is seeking more Indian investment in the country.
“We have an open business-environment in the county and Indian businessmen are welcome to invest in any kind of establishment they want to,” Bangladesh Commerce Minister Ghulam Muhammed Quader said, inaugurating the Show.
Bangladesh’s liberal investment policy allows equal treatment for local and foreign investors, legal protection against nationalisation and expropriation, guarantee of repatriation of capital and dividend, corporate tax holidays up to seven years, concessionary duty on the import of machinery, export incentives, allowing 100 percent equity, and unrestricted exit policy.
India’s Commerce Secretary S.R. Rao said the balance of trade in favour of India could be addressed by investing in Bangladesh.
Indian companies can also have access to western markets like EU and the US where Bangladesh enjoys zero duty especially for textiles.
Deputy High Commissioner Sandeep Chakravorty said Indian companies may look for collaboration in power generation, IT and tyre manufacturing.
“Indian investment is suitable for Bangladesh. Indian entrepreneurs understand Bangladesh’s business climate. Bangladesh’s export to India won’t rise unless the Indian investors come here,” he said.
Bangladesh had been demanding since long increased market access for its products to India.
Rao said he hoped that business people in the two countries would fully utilise the duty and quota-free access facility.
India slashed its sensitive list under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) for less developed countries and granted duty-free access to Bangladesh especially for textiles.
The two-way trade stood at $4.3 billion in 2011-12. India sold goods worth over $3.5 billion to Bangladesh whose exports were worth around $0.6 billion.
Chakravorty said export diversification and investment by Indian companies to produce products here and re-export those to Indian market could help Bangladesh boost its export volume to India.
Bangladesh and India will have secretary-level talks Tuesday. Various trade-related issues will come up for discussions at the meeting.
Bangladesh commerce joint secretary Shawkat Ali Wareshi said since Bangladesh’s export basket is fragile, the India Show would be an opportunity for entrepreneurs to know what type of products India wants and it will help them diversify their products to boost exports to India.
The India Show has been organised by the commerce ministry, India Brand Equity Foundation and FICCI to explore joint venture possibilities and cooperation to boost trade and investment between the two countries.

Jharkhand passes Rs.524 crore supplementary budget

Ranchi, Dec 3 (IANS) The Jharkhand assembly Monday passed a Rs.524-crore supplementary budget without discussion amid protests by the opposition alleging that the state government had failed to spend the money allocated in the general budget.

The opposition parties have questioned the passing of the supplementary budget alleging that the state government has failed to spend the money allocated in the annual budget. The departments have spent merely 25-30 per cent of the Rs.16,300 crore budget, they alleged.
The supplementary budget was passed without discussion as the opposition parties were demanding constitution of a committee to look into the displacement issue of Panem coal mines in Pakur district.
The supplementary budget was tabled Friday by Deputy Chief Minister Hemant Soren who is in charge of the finance department.

What will Nitish do if Modi is PM candidate, asks Lalu

Patna, Dec 3 (IANS) In the wake of senior BJP leaders backing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the job of prime minister, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Monday threw a challenge at Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, asking him to make clear his stance.

Leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde had earlier made statements that Narendra Modi was a fit candidate for prime ministership.
Lalu Prasad reminded the Bihar chief minister of a statement he made a few months ago, that he would end his alliance with the BJP if that party projected the Gujarat chief minister as prime minister in the 2014 general elections.
“What will Nitish Kumar do if the BJP goes ahead and projects Modi as prime minister candidate for the 2014 parliamentary polls, as top BJP leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Gopinath Munde have already supported Modi? That indicates the mood in the BJP,” Lalu told newspersons at Madhepura during his “parivartan yatra” (journey for change).
Lalu said it was high time that Nitish Kumar made clear his stand on the issue.
“Going by the statements of BJP leaders supporting Narendra Modi for prime minister, Nitish Kumar should make it clear whether he will endorse their stand or oppose it,” Lalu Prasad said.
However, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said no formal announcement of a prime ministerial candidate had been made by the BJP, and that the opinions so far expressed were only of individuals.
“Lalu Prasad’s remarks are related to the statements of BJP leaders in their individual capacity. We have to wait till the party makes a formal announcement,” he said.
The JD-U has been vocal in its opposition to Narendra Modi coming to the state.
Modi evokes strong reactions in Bihar, particularly from the minorities, for his alleged involvement in the Gujarat riots in which almost 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
Tensions continue in Bihar over those riots, even though it is now a decade since the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Nitish Kumar had earlier objected to his photographs with Narendra Modi in newspaper advertisements during the BJP national executive meeting in Patna in June 2010.
Several JD-U leaders had demanded that the Gujarat chief minister should not be allowed to campaign during the Bihar assembly polls.
Nitish Kumar has claimed earlier that it would not take a minute for his party to break ties with the BJP if the latter projected Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.
Lalu also hit out at Narendra Modi during the ‘parivartan yatra’ meeting, describing him as a communal leader responsible for butchering hundreds of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.
Earlier, Arun Jaitley had said that the Gujarat chief minister is “very successful and popular and we will obviously praise him”.
Sushma Swaraj had Saturday told reporters in Vadodara that Modi is “definitely fit for the job (of prime minister), and there is no doubt about it”.
“Narendra Modi is capable of becoming prime minister and I am satisfied with Sushma Swaraj’s opinion… He has potential,” Munde had said in Ahmedabad.

After polio, Bihar targets eradication of measles

Patna, Dec 2 (IANS) After polio, Bihar has decided to seek eradication of measles by launching a special vaccination drive to cover nearly 13.5 million children from Monday, an official said.

State Health Secretary Sanjay Kumar, who is also executive director of Bihar State Health Society, Sunday said the state will now focus to fight against measles by increasing routine immunization.
“We are launching a measles catch-up campaign to vaccinate 13,433,835 children above 9 months and below 10 years of age with measles vaccine,” he told media persons here at a media interaction organised here by Unicef.
Sanjay Kumar said the 21-day special campaign was to immunize more than 80 percent of the target age group, if not 100 percent.
He admitted that Bihar is one of the 14 Indian states where measles vaccine coverage is below 80 percent.
Noting Bihar has remained polio-free for over two years, thanks to the state government’s commitment supported by development partners in the polio eradication programme, Sanjay Kumar said: “Now, the focus is to work to increase rate of vaccination against measles in the state.”
Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by virus and spreading from person to person through coughing and sneezing.
According to Unicef’s health expert Ghanshyam Setty, it kills nearly 100,000 children every year in India.

Now, website opened to save George Orwell’s house

Patna, Dec 2 (IANS) Fed up with assurances that have made little difference, residents of Motihari town in Bihar, birthplace of legendary British author George Orwell, have gone online seeking support for the conservation of the house the author was born in.

“In a bid to mobilise support for the conservation of the birthplace of George Orwell, we have launched a new initiative online to inform people and offer those interested a platform to know more about the ground reality,” Debapriya Mukherjee, a senior Rotarian in Motihari, told IANS Sunday.
Mukherjee said that Rotary Motihari Lake Town has launched a website on the birthplace of George Orwell.
“It is the first of its kind to help conserve George Orwell’s birthplace,” he said.
After being neglected for decades, the website may aid efforts to conserve George Orwell’s birthplace, Mukherjee said.
According to him, the ancestral house of George Orwell now lies dilapidated, and stray cattle graze in its premises.
Another local resident, Somnath Singh said that it was unfortunate that despite the Bihar government’s declaration of the house as a protected site a few years ago, nothing had changed.
“The house is in poor shape. It may collapse if not renovated,” Singh said.
Earlier this year, the state government announced that it would prepare a blueprint to turn the crumbling single-storey house in East Champaran’s Motihari town, about 300 km from here, into a museum.
Orwell is the cult author of classics such as “Animal Farm” and “1984”, which painted a grim ‘Orwellian’ picture of a future totalitarian society where ‘big brother’ was always watching.
Successive governments have done little to capitalise on the tourism potential of house in which the author was born.
Two years ago, the state government had issued a notification declaring the building a protected site. The notification for its protection had been issued under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments (Protection) Act, 1976.
According to district officials, Orwell’s birthplace was mainly targeted by encroachers, who have been damaging it.
Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in 1903 at Motihari near India’s border with Nepal. His father, Richard Blair, worked as an agent of the opium department of the Indian Civil Service during British rule.
The house has been lying neglected for decades, and now serves as a shelter for stray animals and vagabonds. A small portion was taken over by the state government, and a schoolteacher now lives there.
It has been reported time and again that the roof line has caved in, and a large grapefruit tree has undermined the southern wall.
Only the stone floor looks solid, though it cracked during an earthquake that almost levelled Motihari in 1934.
At present, there is nothing to tell visitors that this modest two-room house was where Orwell spent the first few months of his life, tended to by his mother, Ida, and an Indian maid.
Orwell and his mother left for Britain soon afterwards.

Dalai Lama to open Buddhist meet in Patna

Patna, Dec 1 (IANS) Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will inaugurate a three-day international Buddhist convention here in January 2013, an official said Saturday.

The Dalai Lama will open the meet at the Buddha Memorial Park Jan 5, Patna Divisional Commissioner E.L.S.N. Prasad told IANS.
More than 1,500 delegates and followers of Buddhism, including from Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, Myanmar and Japan, were expected to take part, the official said.
Delegates would deliberate on different aspects of Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama inaugurated the Buddha Smriti Park, a sprawling 22-acre park in the heart of Patna and dedicated to Lord Buddha, in 2010.
The Dalai Lama has lived in India in self-imposed exile since 1959 when he fled his homeland after Chinese Communist troops took over Tibet.

Bihar polio-free for two years

Patna, Nov 30 (IANS) Bihar has remained polio-free for over two years, thanks to the state government’s committment supported by development partners in the polio eradication programme, a health official Friday said.

Bihar Health Secretary and Executive Director of Bihar State Health Society Sanjay Kumar said Bihar has been focusing on 41 polio high risk blocks, which have persistently reported polio cases in the past.
“Promoting sanitation and hygiene, routine immunisation, exclusive breastfeeding and diarrhoea management are some of the planned efforts to holistically address polio associated risk factors in the state”, Sanjay Kumar said at a media interaction organised by Unicef here.
“This progress follows strategic and intense efforts for polio eradication focussing on hard-to-reach areas along the Kosi river in central Bihar and to improve the quality of immunisation rounds and awareness,” Sanjay Kumar said.
“The programme continues to focus on the migrant and the mobile populations in brick kilns, construction workers and nomads as most polio cases in the past have been reported among them. With children — especially newborns — at the highest risk of getting polio, vaccinators track and immunise them at least eight times a year,” Sanjay Kumar said.
Of the 17,964,847 children checked for polio till date, 4,834,138 have been vaccinated by around 95,000 vaccinators.

Bihar sacks 110 officials for corruption

Patna, Nov 29 (IANS) The Bihar government has sacked 110 officials for corruption in the state’s rural job guarantee scheme, Rural Development Minister Nitish Mishra said here Thursday.

“After a probe, 110 officials working under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) have been sacked,” he said.
“The government has also lodged FIRs (first information reports) against 120 panchayat members and 130 officials for irregularities in the implementation of the scheme,” Mishra added.
The state government began a probe into the allegations of corruption in the MGNREGS after a performance audit report by a non-government organisation.
The Delhi-based Centre for Environment and Food Security said the performance audit of the MGNREGS in Bihar found that 73 percent of the Rs.8,189 crore scheme fund, spent in the state’s 38 districts in six years (2006-12), were embezzled by the implementing authorities.
“We are committed to make the implementation of the scheme more transparent to check corruption,” the minister said, adding that strict action will be taken against guilty officials.
The MNREGS aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

ADB loans Bangladesh $300 mn to improve market

Dhaka, Nov 29 (IANS) The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Bangladesh Thursday signed an agreement for $300 million loan to help the country stabilise its financial market, making it safer and more attractive to invest.

The assistance will help meet the long-term financing requirements and thereby address the current infrastructure investment gap in Bangladesh, Xinhua quoted the Manila-based lender as saying in a statement.
Iqbal Mahmood, senior secretary of Bangladesh’s Economic Relations Division, and M. Teresa Kho, country director of ADB’s Bangladesh Resident Mission, signed the agreement.
The ADB loan will be used to help the securities regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, do a better job of independently overseeing activities, and to set up specialized tribunals to deal with financial cases.

Sustaining Bihar’s economic growth a challenge: Sushil Modi

Patna, Nov 29 (IANS) A day after a Planning Commission report revealed Bihar had a 21.9 percent economic growth rate, state Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi Thursday said it was a big challenge to sustain such a high rate.

“It is fact that Bihar has left several developed states behind in terms of economic growth rate but it is a big challenge to sustain growth rate,” Modi told media persons here in reference to Bihar’s nominal gross state domestic product (GSDP) growth rate reaching 21.9 percent during the 11th Plan (2007-12), as per the plan panel report.
Modi said the state government has targeted over 13 percent economic growth rate during the 12th Five Year Plan period. “We hope to achieve it with our commitment of development.”
He recalled that Bihar recorded its highest growth rate of 61.71 percent during 2011-12 due to record food grain production. Bihar produced 166.69 lakh tonnes of foodgrain during 2011-2012, as compared to 103.47 lakh tonnes a year before.
According to the Planning Commission report on state finances, only Sikkim and Goa, which are much smaller in size than Bihar, have performed better than the state.
During the 11th Plan, Gujarat grew at 16 percent followed by Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh at 15.3 percent each.

Pregnant HIV positive women a concern in Jharkhand

Ranchi, Nov 29 (IANS) The number of pregnant women testing HIV positive in Jharkhand is a cause of concern, a Unicef statement said Thursday.

According to data released by the Jharkhand unit of Unicef, based on National Aids Control Society (NACO) findings, till September this year, 66 of 69,200 pregnant women were found to be HIV positive. The number was 76 of 61,500 in 2011.
The adult HIV prevalence was 0.11 percent in 2005 and 2006, which increased to 0.13 percent in 2007 and 2009.
Out of the 23,600 HIV positive people in the state, 91 percent are aged between 15−49 years, 2.5 percent are children and 6.5 percent are aged over 50 years.
In 2009, there were 3,814 new cases compared to 1.2 lakh in the country, and 836 deaths in the state.
“The transmission of the HIV virus from mother to child could be prevented if all pregnant women are tested every year. At present only eight percent were tested,” said a Unicef release.
“In 2011, only 61,500 pregnant women were tested for HIV, against total number of about 8.2 lakh pregnant women. Out of this, only 38 received treatment to prevent parent−to−child transmission (PPTCT), against the estimated number of 527,” it said.
It is estimated that there are 40,476 female sex workers (FSW), 3,295 men who have sex with men (MSM) and 1,805 injecting drug users(IDU) in Jharkhand.
According to a Unicef official, the cause of the spread of AIDS needs to be addressed.
Transmission of HIV can be prevented by practicing safe sex behaviours such as use of condoms. The large share of migrant population also pose as a challenge.
The UN body suggested that the stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV−AIDS needs to be checked by awareness among service providers and communities.
The Jharkhand State AIDS Control Society (JSACS) has adopted many methods to prevent the spread of the disease in the state.
“We have set up six Anti−retroviral treatment (ART) centres and 17 link ART centres for treatment in the state. Jharkhand has a network of 42 blood banks of which 24 are in the government sector and 18 in the voluntary sector,” a JSACS official told IANS.

“We have also initiated several programmes for targeted interventions among high risk groups,” he added.

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