Special Correspondent

Cabinet nod takes the total number of beneficiaries to 1,10, 000

  • Approval for investment promotion pact with China
  • Community radio proposal cleared

    NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to increase by 10,000 the number of Haj pilgrims eligible for government subsidy. Thus this year, 1,10,000 pilgrims would be eligible for subsidy. The Haj season starts later this month.

    The fare of Rs. 12,000 payable by each pilgrim for the round trip to Jeddah and Medina would be retained. The remaining amount would be paid as subsidy to airlines.

    The decisions, taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, came in the backdrop of the Supreme Court staying an interim order passed by the Allahabad High Court asking the Government to stop giving subsidies or other financial assistance to pilgrims of all communities. The Cabinet approved the signing of a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement with China. The text of the pact was finalised in negotiations held here on March 13. It incorporates Indian sensitivities while taking note of such bilateral agreements with other countries.

    Salient features

    The pact includes provisions for extending national treatment and the most favoured nation treatment to foreign investments and investors.

    Expropriation and nationalisation would be resorted to only on a non-discriminatory basis and subject to payment of compensation. Repatriation of all returns would be allowed without unreasonable delay and on a non-discriminatory basis. The agreement prescribes a mechanism, including an international arbitration procedure, to deal with disputes between an investor and the host Government as well as between the two Governments.

    The cash component of the Kabir Puraskar award, a national honour for promoting communal, caste and ethnic harmony by recognising acts of physical and moral courage and humanity exhibited during communal riots, was increased. For three awards, it would be doubled to Rs. 2 lakh, Rs. 1 lakh and Rs. 50,000.

    The revision, meant to bring the honour on a par with the National Communal Harmony Award, would be applicable from this year and consequently would cover the awardees announced on October 2.

    The Cabinet cleared a proposal to allow non-profit organisations, apart from educational institutions, to set up community radio stations provided they had a proven record of at least three years of service to the local community and were legal entities registered under the Registration of Societies Act or any such law.

    Information and Broadcasting Minister and Cabinet spokesperson Priyaranjan Dasmunsi said the programmes should be relevant to educational, social and cultural needs of the community. News or current affairs programmes would not be allowed.