External forces cannot decide regime change: India
NEW DELHI, March 22: India on Tuesday came out with a strong message that "external powers" cannot decide the regime change in Libya after a strong demand was made in the Lok Sabha that the House unanimously pass a resolution condemning allied air strikes on that country.
The House saw an impromptu discussion on the issue when SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav raised it with almost all members ranging from the Left to the BJP condemning the air strikes on Libya by the US-led allied forces.
At the same time, they expressed their support to those striving for democracy in the north African oil-rich nation ruled for over four decades by Col. Muammar Gaddafi.
"The Lok Sabha has to condemn the attack on Libya. Innocent civilians have been killed and Parliament cannot keep quiet," Yadav said.
Responding to the concerns expressed by members, Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee said the government has already expressed its unhappiness over the intervention of allied countries against Libya.
"No external powers should interfere in it.... What is happening in Libya is an internal affair of that country," he said.
"Nobody, no two or three countries can take a decision to change a particular regime in a third country," Mukherjee said.
"Whether a regime will change or not will depend on the people of that particular country, not by any external forces," he said.
India has regretted the air strikes by the US-led coalition forces in Libya and called upon all the parties to abjure use of force and resolve the differences through peaceful means.
An External Affairs Ministry statement on Sunday said India hoped that the air strikes would not harm innocent civilians, foreign nationals and diplomatic missions and their personnel, who are still in Libya.
Participating in the discussion, Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) said the House should condemn the brutal attack on Libya and recalled that the Lok Sabha had deplored the aggression of Iraq by the US.
He, as also Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI), appreciated the stand taken by the Government on Libya, but said it was not enough.
"In the name of unseating Gadaffi, thousands of innocent Libyans are being killed in the NATO bombings. Another Iraq and another Afghanistan is being created," Dasgupta said.
"We are against Gadaffi but do not believe in NATO bombings. It is a war for oil," he said.
NDA Convenor Sharad Yadav termed the attacks on Libya as a serious matter and wanted India to take a strong position against it.
Associating with the views expressed by the members, Yashwant Sinha (BJP) supported a unanimous resolution of the House condemning the external aggression against Libya.
"We are extremely concerned about what is happening in Libya. We are completely with the democratic forces struggling against an authoritarian regime. We are against any military intervention to enforce regime change," Sinha said calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Mehboob Beg (NC) appreciated the stand taken by the government and pitched for a middle path to provide succor to the Libyan people.
"America's coercive tactics have been increasing over the years. It treats the UN Security Council as its pet cat," Sharifuddin Shariq (NC) said.
Ratan Singh Ajnala (SAD) and Dara Singh Chauhan (BSP) said their parties associated with the views expressed by the members, while Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (RJD) said Parliament should not be a mute spectator.
Sudip Bandopadhyay (Trinamool Congress) said his party totally appreciated the stand taken by the government which has risen to the occasion by taking a firm position against the US.
Bhratruhari Mahtab (BJD) noted that Libya was a member of the Non-Aligned Movement and was "not Egypt".
He said India has done the proper thing by abstaining from voting in favour of the resolution at the UNSC.
E T Mohammed Basheer (Muslim League) alleged that the US was trying to create confusion in the Arab world.
Nama Nageshwara Rao (TDP) said a strong message should be sent by the Lok Sabha against the action of the allied forces.
The UN Security Council had last week adopted a resolution, calling for an immediate ceasefire and authorised all necessary measures for protecting civilians in Libya from Gaddafi's forces.
On Saturday, French jets fired the first shots in 'Operation Odyssey Dawn', the biggest international military intervention in the Arab world since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, destroying tanks and armoured vehicles in eastern Libya.
They were joined by the US and the UK who fired over 110 Tomahawk missiles from American and British ships and submarines, hitting Libyan air and missile defence targets in the capital Tripoli and along the Mediterranean coast.
Indian Govt committed to tackling menace of black money: President
NEW DELHI, Feb 21: With the issue of black money stashed abroad coming into focus, President Pratibha Patil today said the government stood committed to tackling the menace frontally. "My government stands committed to tackling the menace frontally. It requires diligent, sustained effort by all law enforcement agencie s including those of state governments," she said addressing a joint sitting of members of Parliament, marking the start of the budget session.
She expressed concern over ill effects of black money, especially that was allegedly stashed away in foreign banks either through evasion of taxes on income earned legitimately or through illegal activities.
Noting that the government has taken many steps to strengthen the legal framework, the President said a multi-disciplinary study has been commissioned to go into its ramifications for national security and recommend a suitable framework to tackle it.
Declaring that the government would spare no effort in bringing back to India "what belongs to it and to bring the guilty to book, the President said the steps taken so far have led to additional collection of taxes of Rs 34,601 crore and detection of additional income of Rs 48,784 crore."
Detailing the steps taken by the government, she said India was also working closely with the international community especially through the G-20, to expedite the process of identification and recovery of such money.
She said India is now a member of the Financial Action Task Force in recognition of its anti-money laundering and anti-tax evasion measures and has also gained membership of the Eurasian Group and the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development.
Turning to the issue of corruption in the wake of rash of scams that have surfaced recently, she said, "Our citizens deserve good governance. It is their entitlement and our obligation".
"My government stands committed to improving the quality of governance and enhancing transparency, probity and integrity in public life," Patil said.
She said that a Group of Ministers was considering all measures including legislative and administrative to tackle corruption and improve transparency.
"The group will consider issues relating to the formulation of a public procurement policy and enunciation of public procurement standards and review and abolition of discretionary powers enjoyed by ministers", she said.
Besides, it would also seek introduction of an open and competitive system of exploiting natural resources, fast tracking of cases against public servants charged with corruption and amendments to relevant laws to facilitate quicker action against public servants, she said.
The Group will also consider issues relating to the state funding of elections. The report of the GoM is expected soon, the President said.
A Bill to give protection to whistle blowers has been introduced in Parliament, she said, adding the government has also decided to ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
On the issue of electoral reforms, she hoped that the process of consultations would lead to a consensus on an "acceptable" agenda of reforms.
She said the government attached high priority to improving the delivery of justice and reducing delays in the disposal of cases. The details of the National Mission for Delivery of Justice and Legal Reforms are expected to be finalised soon.
The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, already introduced in Parliament, is intended to enhance the accountability of the judiciary, thereby improving its image and efficiency, the President said.
Budget session very crucial: PM
NEW DELHI, Feb 21: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is facing opposition onslaught over a series of scams, on Monday said the Budget session of Parliament is "very crucial" and hoped that the proceedings will be peaceful and productive.
"This Budget session of Parliament is very crucial. The budget has to be debated and passed by the two Houses of Parliament," he told reporters at Parliament House.
"We also hope to bring some important pieces of legislation for consideration of Parliament," he said.
Government has been under opposition attack over 2G spectrum allocation, Adarsh housing, CWG and ISRO S-band scams.
The winter session of Parliament was a washout with the opposition insisting on a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the 2G scam.
"It's our sincere hope that this session will be peaceful and productive," Dr. Singh said.
The Prime Minister had on Sunday stated that Government is ready to discuss any issue raised by the opposition.