Governments silence has left EPF subscribers confused, says BJP

Updated: Mar 22 2005, 05:30am hrs
Former finance minister and senior BJP member Yashwant Sinha on Monday accused Left supporters of the UPA goverment of keeping mum on the delay in notifying the hiked rate of interest on the Employees Provident Fund and said governments silence had left EPF subscribers confused.

Raising the issue through a special mention in the Rajya Sabha, Mr Sinha pointed out at benches occupied by Left parties and said champions of the workers cause were keeping absolutely mum on this and demanded a statement from the government.

He said though the government chose to raise the rate of interest from 8.5% to 9.5% on February 2, just a day before the commencement of Assembly elections, there was no notification till Monday as a result of which a crucial meeting of the central board of trustees of EPFO could not be held Sunday.

Mr Sinha said though the 1% hike had created an additional burden of Rs 927 crore, it was not known how the deficit would be bridged as even the finance ministry had refused to give any subsidy for this.

This, he said, had Left the subscribers confused and a chaotic situation was prevailing as withdrawals were held up in the absence of a clear applicable rate of interest.

Responding to his concern, minister of state for parliamentary affairs Suresh Pachouri said since the matter related to ministries of labour and finance, he would inform the concerned ministers.

Claims of pan masala without tobacco to be examined: The government has asked the Advertisement Standards Council of India to examine the veracity of claims made by commercials of pan masala without tobacco, information and broadcasting minister S Jaipal Reddy said.

The government has banned direct and indirect advertisement of tobacco products, he said.

The advertising code for all TV channels prohibits commercials which promote direct/indirect production, sale or consumption of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

On the matter regarding advertisement of pan masala without tobacco, the advertisement standards council of India has been asked to examine the veracity of the claim in terms of its own code of self-regulation, Mr Reddy said.

FDI: To another question, he said foreign direct investment (FDI) is not permitted in FM radio service.

The recommendations of (sector regulator) Trai on Phase II of private FM broadcasting which, inter-alia, contains recommendations on FDI, are under consideration of the government and no final decision has yet been taken, he said. Also a proposal for setting up an authority to regulate the content was under consideration.

DAVP: Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity, the governments publicity wing, owes to various newspaper publication over Rs 4.75 crore in payment for advertisements.

Taj maintenance: The government has received a representation from a non-government body for taking over maintenance of Taj Mahal and is examining its legal angle, culture minister Jaipal Reddy said. He said, Some claim has been made on maintenance of Taj Mahal and the Archaeolological Survey of India (ASI) has received some representation on this. It is being looked into from the legal angle.

Mr Reddy said Taj Mahal continues to be the prime monument of the country and was being taken care of by the ASI.

When Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (BJP) said he was concerned that the Waqf Board had made a claim for maintenance of Taj Mahal, Mr Reddy, without naming anybody, said, Some representation has been received. It is being looked into. There is nothing objectionable about it.

Mr Reddy said the UNESCO World Heritage Commitee had recommended setting up a body to coordinate and address all conservation and development challenges to Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.

It also called for evaluating and redefining world heritage protective boundaries and management guidelines pertaining to Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, he said.

Private partnership for maintaining monuments: Admitting there were resource constraints in preserving historic monuments, the government said that it would welcome private partnership for maintenance of such heritage sites.

Mr Reddy said since funds available for the purpose were limited, the government would consider private partnership though the Archaelogical Survey of India would remain the main body for preserving such institutions.

Mr Reddy said the Agha Khan Foundation had played a major role in restoring gardens in the Humayun tombs.

He said the Centre would try to seek private funding for the National Culture Fund.

The minister said besides the ASI which maintains about 3600 centrally-protected monuments, there were also state-level bodies for preservation of historical sites.

Tribal: A comprehensive policy for welfare of tribal people in the country is in the process of finalisation, minister for tribal affairs PR Kyndiah said.

Vedic studies: A central plan scheme for development of Sanskrit Education is being implemented by the government, human resource development minister Arjun Singh said.

Qutub Minar complex: Minister for culture S Jaipal Reddy said that 97 kw of power has been granted to illuminate the entire Qutub Minar complex and that there was no load on the building or monument as the underground cables and fixtures were provided outside and away in the open.

Tsunami: None of the historical monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India has perished in tsunami and no relics were unearthed, he said.

Housing: Minister of state for urban employment Kumari Selja said that by the end of 9th Plan period, urban housing shortages was estimated at 8.89 million while the total number of house requirement cumulatively during the 10th Plan was estimated at 22.44 million.

Unemployed: According to National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), the estimated number of unemployed youths had increased from 20.13 million in 1993-99 to 26.58 million in 1999-2000, she said. However, Ms Selja said her ministry was already implementing a centrally-sponsored employment oriented urban poverty alleviation programme Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana on all-India basis, with effect from December 1, 1997.

Stamp: Under the government-approved scheme of Urban Reforms Incentive Fund which provides for giving incentives to the states/UTs, the government of Delhi and Maharashtra had agreed to reduce the stamp duty so that it was not more than 5% by the end of the 10th Plan, the minister said.

(Compiled by Sangram K Parhi)