Ordinances likely on six anti-graft bills

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Presidential order to create coal, realty regulators

Ordinances likely on six anti-graft bills
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s last-ditch attempt to push through six anti-corruption bills in Parliament might have failed, barring the whistleblower protection bill that was passed at the fag end of the session that ended last Thursday. But the Union cabinet is considering giving them legal teeth through presidential ordinances either on Thursday or Friday.

Government officials, who did not want to be named, said that seven or eight ordinances are likely to be taken up for clearance by the cabinet this week, days before the model code of conduct comes into operation with the announcement of this summer’s general election by the election commission in early March.

The cabinet usually meets on Thursday, but this week, it is likely to assemble on Friday, as Thursday is a government holiday on account of Shivratri.

Apart from the five anti-corruption ordinances, the cabinet is likely to advise President Pranab Mukherjee to promulgate an ordinance to set up a real estate regulator. The bill on this has been pending before Parliament.

Recently, the government also decided to set up a coal regulator, but the concerned bill was not taken up by Parliament in the fortnight-long Budget session.

Though there is a strong demand from government servants to raise their retirement age to 62 years, the Cabinet may not take a call on this sensitive issue given its potentially adverse political ramifications. Also, all parties that are part of the UPA are not on the same page on increasing the retirement age.

With almost half of India’s 1.2 billion population below 35 years, a section of politicians feel it would be inappropriate to decide on raising the retirement age of babus ahead of elections in which the youth is expected to play a crucial role.

Instead, the cabinet may decide to merge close to 100 per cent of the dearness allowance with basic pay as a pre-election bait to win over a large number of government employees, a top government official said. Civil servants will receive a windfall gain if the government approves the proposal.

Out of the six anti-corruption bills, the whistleblower bill has passed muster in Lok Sabha. The other five bills that Rahul Gandhi is keen to bring through the ordinance ro­ute are the public procurement bill, the prevention of corruption act (amendment) bill, the prevention of bribery of foreign public officials and officials of public international orga­nisations bill, the judicial sta­ndards and accountability bill, the right of citizens to time-bound delivery of go­ods and services and redre­ssal of their grievances bill.

The cabinet had already cleared the real estate (regulation and development) bill in July 2013 after the idea was conceived five years ago. According to the bill, builders must obtain all mandatory clearances before launching projects. It also bars false and misleading advertisements about projects. Builders will also have to open separate bank accounts for each of their real estate projects to prevent diversion of funds elsewhere. It also seeks to remove ambiguity over super areas and requires developers to clearly define the carpet area.

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