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Police foils Hurriyat (G) executive body meeting

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Srinagar, Feb 24: Authorities on Saturday foiled an executive body meeting called by Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani at his residence.

The meeting was called by the senior separatist leader and chairman of Hurriyat (G) Syed Ali Geelani but police sealed all roads in advance leading to his residence.

Reports said that a large number of police cops were deployed around the residence of Geelani to ensure that nobody is allowed to attending the so-called meeting.

Barricading was done at the entrance of his residence and proper security cover was maintained when the last reports came in.

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Despite ODF status, rural Gujarat still needs lakhs of toilets

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Ahmedabad | Months after being declared as ‘Open Defecation Free’ (ODF), Gujarat still has requirement of lakhs of toilets in rural households, according to a reply to an RTI query.

In Dahod, as of May-June this year, 1.40 lakh families are yet to get toilets under the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission-

Gramin’ scheme, the district administration said in reply to the application filed by RTI activist Hitesh Chavda.

Besides, 17,874 families in Vadodara, 26,687 in Chhota Udepur, 14,878 in Kutch, 34,607 in Sabarkantha, 27,180 in

Patan, 19,526 in Mahisagar and 21,320 in Amreli districts do not toilets at their homes.

Officials say that such requirements are expected to come up every year because of the branching out of families into separate units.

The Gujarat government spent Rs 2,893 crore on construction of over 32 lakh toilets since 2014, after the Union government’s scheme was launched. Of this, Rs 1,778.96 crore was sanctioned by the Centre, the state rural development department said in the reply.

Toilets will have to be constructed for many more years before every rural household gets its own facility, the department’s commissioner and secretary, Mona Khandhar, told PTI.

“As new families get formed, adult daughters, sons get married, brothers get separated, and they have separate homes.So, this kind of requirement is expected,” she said.

The government expects that every year there will be new requirements for 3 to 5 per cent of total rural households, which will be about two lakh or so, she said.

“Over a period of time it may reduce to one lakh, but we are expecting this requirement and have also made arrangements for the additional requirement,” Khandhar said.

The Gujarat government has already sanctioned construction of one lakh additional toilets in rural areas this year after the state was declared ODF, she said.

Khandhar said her department along with the World Bank and the Quality Council of India will monitor implementation of the government’s project to ensure there are no lapses.

The Union government had informed the Lok Sabha in February this year that 11 states, including Gujarat, have been declared as ODF under the Swachh Bharat Mission.

However, in a survey conducted in eight districts of Gujarat, nearly 30 per cent of houses were found to have no toilets, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in a report tabled in the state Assembly last Wednesday.

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Railways spent Rs 13.46 crore on inaugurations via video conferencing

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Mumbai |The Ministry of Railways spent Rs 13.46 crore on inauguration of various rail projects and services via video conferencing between November 2014 and September 2017, according to a reply to an RTI query.

The expenditure was incurred on 166 events, including inauguration through video link of new trains, escalators, foot over-bridges, waiting halls, VIP lounges and toilets built at different stations, the RailTel Corporation of India said in reply to city-based RTI activist Manoranjan Roy.

The RailTel Corporation, an ICT (information and communication technology) arm of Railways, said the government spent Rs 13.46 crore on these inaugurations between November 9, 2014 and September 3, 2017, when Suresh Prabhu was the railway minister.

The corporation is tasked with arranging technical logistics for video conferencing, mainly laying broadband connection from the venue to the nearest station, a railway official said.

“The other logistics like stage, curtains, flowers, refreshments, sound, lights and LED screens are arranged by the local railway administration,” he said.

Kailash Verma, a member of Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee (ZRUCC), the Western Railway’s panel of commuters, said such expenses are unnecessary and wastage of taxpayers’ money.

However, a Western Railway official said the ministry has been investing huge sums to ensure better facilities and comfort to travellers.

“In the last four years, the Railways has invested huge money for passengers’ comfort and witnessed a quantum jump in the execution of projects. In this comparison, such expenses (on inauguration) are not so high,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

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Take views of IFAs before executing proposals: Delhi government to secretaries

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New Delhi | The Delhi government has asked principal secretaries and secretaries to take the views of “integrated financial advisers” before executing proposals of their departments.

The finance department has issued an office memorandum to all head of department’s asking them to adopt the practice of engaging integrated financial advisers (IFAs).

It has asked department heads to take the views of the advisers in budget formulation, expenditure management, procurement, contract, screening of proposals among others.

The move came after it was observed that the proposals being sent to the finance department do not contain views of IFAs according to relevant rules and provisions.

“Roles and responsibilities of IFAs have been clearly spelt out in various communications of both the state government and the government of India, as well as in the delegation of Financial Power Rules, 1978,” Principal Secretary (Finance) Renu Sharma said in the office memorandum.

In the memorandum, Sharma said, “All administrative secretaries are hereby requested to involve the integrated financial advisers in all proposals of the department, which have clear economic and financial implications.”

On screening of proposals, she said IFAs would be responsible for examining all proposals before referring them to the finance department with their specific recommendation on the proposals as per relevant rules.

“IFAs would continue to be responsible for expenditure management. They should be closely associated with the formulation of schemes and important expenditure proposals from the initial stage,” the principal secretary said.

Regarding budget formulation, she said IFAs would continue to be responsible for budget formulation and they may ensure that the schedule for preparation of budget is adhered to and the budget is drawn up according to the instructions issued from time to time.

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