Friday 28 February 2014

Cabinet meet today to clear populist measures

New Delhi:   The Union Cabinet on Friday will decide on a series of populist measures and some ordinances on anti-graft and protection of rights bills at a meeting possibly the last before the model code of conduct could come into force for coming Lok Sabha polls. 

A proposal to increase the poll expenditure cap up to Rs 70 lakh per contestant from Rs 40 lakh now is also on the table of the cabinet meeting. 

The cabinet will also decide on hiking dearness allowance to 100 per cent from existing 90 per cent, benefiting 50 lakh employees and 30 lakh pensioners. 

The hike in DA would be effective from January 1 this year. Another proposal which will bring cheers to pensioners is to ensure Rs 1,000 minimum monthly pension under the pension scheme run by retirement fund body EPFO, which would immediately benefit 28 lakh pensioners. 

The cabinet is likely to consider a clarification on the decision for supply of 12 subsidised LPG cylinders per household in a year. 

The government had last month raised the cap on supply of cheaper LPG from 9 to 12 cylinders of 14.2-kg each. It was inferred that this meant one cylinder in a month. 

The ministry has proposed to the cabinet that consumers should have the freedom to book a refill after 21 days with an overall cap of 12 subsidised bottles in a year. 

When the model code of conduct goes into force with the announcement of the election schedule, no populist measure can be made public and any policy decision can be announced only with the clearance of the Election Commission. 

Sources said the cabinet may also consider raising the retirement age of government employees from 60 to 62 years. The raising of superannuation age was originally a part of the Terms of Reference of the Seventh Pay Commission. 

Since the Commission report is expected not before 2017, a decision on raising the retirement age cannot happen before that. 

So, the reference to retirement age has been removed from the ToR of the 7th Pay Commission and it is speculated that the same may be brought as a supplementary agenda. 

Sources have not ruled out a proposal before the cabinet to provide 'special category' status to Andhra Pradesh for development of Seemandhra region on the ground of revenue loss following the bifurcation. 

The sources said Planning Commission's Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia had met Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh recently to fine tune the proposal. 

The cabinet could also approve six ordinances on bills pending in Parliament. Three ordinances which had lapsed last month could also be re-promulgated. 

Three anti-corruption bills -- Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, Right of Citizens for Time-Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill and the Public Procurement Bill -- are likely to be approved as ordinances. 

Along with these, the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, Rights of Persons with Disability Bill, Security Laws (Amendment) Bill, ordinances on Medical Council of India and another which gives Election Commission limited powers to make changes in Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe constituencies, where some castes have been either excluded or included between the 2001 census and May 2012, are also likely to be approved by the cabinet.

An ordinance seeking to enhance the pecuniary jurisdiction of civil suits of the Delhi High Court from existing Rs 20 lakh to Rs 2 crore will also come up.

The Delhi High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2014, introduced in the Rajya Sabha recently, aims at reducing workload of the Delhi High Court by transferring thousands of civil suits, valued up to Rs 2 crore, to the nine district courts in Delhi.


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