New Delhi: Congress parliamentarians from Kerala on Monday sought clarifications from the party-led United Progressive Alliance over the free trade agreement (FTA) with the Association of South East Asian Countries (Asean), which was cleared by the cabinet on Friday. The MPs, who raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, later met commerce minister Anand Sharma and have sought appointments with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
In the Lok Sabha, Alappuzha MP K. C. Venugopal said there were apprehensions among the farmers, especially from Kerala over the impact of such a pact on crops such as tea, coffee, rubber, pepper and coconut.
After meeting Sharma, Idukki MP P. T. Thomas said the government has assured that cash crops from Kerala would be protected by putting them in list of protected items.
According to top officials, a group of ministers may look into the concerns expressed by the farmers over the impact of the pact.
PM to clarify on joint statement, says Cong
New Delhi: Congress leaders are rallying behind Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the India-Pakistan joint statement in Egypt earlier this month, though they are not openly endorsing it.
Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi on Monday said, “The Congress is confident that when the prime minister speaks in Parliament on 29 July, he will set at rest all the questions, all apprehensions and speculations relating to the Indo-Pak joint statement...” India agreed to include a reference to Balochistan and delink terrorism from the composite dialogue process in the statement. Dwivedi said Singh would clarify further, if needed, in the Congress parliamentary party meeting scheduled for 30 July.
Meanwhile, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance said it would march to Rashtrapati Bhavan on Tuesday to submit a memorandum to President Pratibha Patil seeking her intervention in the matter.
— Liz Mathew and Santosh K. Joy
Opposition seeks probe into 2G allocation
New Delhi: The Opposition on Monday walked out from the Rajya Sabha while demanding a joint parliamentary committee investigation into the allocation of 2G spectrum.
While opposition leaders alleged a scam in the allocation, the government said the decision to grant 2G licences under a first-come-first-serve basis was first taken by the National Democratic Alliance regime and 51 licenses were issued when Arun Shourie and Dayanidhi Maran were ministers.
Meanwhile, the first meeting of the empowered group of ministers on the pricing of 3G spectrum, scheduled for 31 July, has been postponed.
— Santosh K. Joy