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May 25, 1998


With Pokhran over, govt prepares for Budget session

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With the euphoria ebbing over the successful nuclear underground tests in Pokhran in Rajasthan last fortnight, Parliament will get down to tackling the nitty-gritty of problems facing the country when the first full-fledged Budget session of the 12th Lok Sabha begins on Wednesday, May 27.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will make a statement about the tests in both Houses of Parliament on the opening day, immediately after the question hour, and the Houses will then discuss the issue during the day.

The session, which is expected to last till July 29, will see the introduction of the general budget by Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha on June 1. The first session of the Lok Sabha, held two months ago to enable the government to seek a vote of confidence, had passed an interim Budget till July end. There will be a break from June 12 to July 2 to enable the standing committees to consider demands from various ministries for grants.

The railway budget, to be presented by Railway Minister Nitish Kumar on May 29, will be preceded a day earlier by a paper on the status of the railways at the time of assumption of office by the Vajpayee government. The economic survey will also be presented on the same day as the status report.

The prime minister today began consultations with leaders of different political parties on the legislative business pending before the House. In the morning, he met Sharad Pawar and Dr Manmohan Singh of the Congress to discuss the Lok Pal bill, making Delhi a state, and the reservation for women bill.

He accepted the Congress suggestion for an all-party meeting on the bill for reservation of one-third seats for women in Parliament and state legislatures.

Later, he also met Somnath Chatterjee (Communist Party of India-Marxist), Indrajit Gupta (Communist Party of India), L P Yadav (Rashtriya Janata Dal), P Chidambaram (Tamil Maanila Congress), Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party), and Murasoli Maran (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam).

Three bills to replace ordinances issued by the President -- one on lotteries, another on essential commodities, and the third on pharmaceuticals -- will be introduced on the first day itself.

Parliamentary Affairs minister Madan Lal Khurana said the bill for creation of the Uttarakhand state was also expected to come up during the session.

However, the session is also expected to discuss various ticklish issues like the economic sanctions imposed by the United States, Japan, and Germany following the nuclear tests, Indo-Pak and Sino-Indian relations, and the reported statement by Home Minister L K Advani for adopting a tough stance towards Pakistan.

The session will also take up the question of India signing the Non-Proliferation and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaties, India's claim for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, electoral reforms, and the Bharatiya Janata Party's statements about reviewing the Constitution. The various financial scandals plaguing the country also expected to be discussed.

The promises made by the government in the President's address to Parliament two months ago like introduction of a national population policy, development bank for women entrepreneurs, and Centre-state relations will also come up for discussion.

An amendment will also be brought forward to the Prasar Bharati Act which had been amended by the previous government through an ordinance which has been allowed to lapse.


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