MPs` constituency funds hiked to Rs 5 crore

Bringing cheer to Parliament members, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday hiked the constituency development fund to Rs 5 crore from the existing Rs 2 crore per constituency.

Updated: Mar 11, 2011, 15:44 PM IST

Friday hiked the constituency development fund to Rs 5 crore from the existing Rs 2 crore per constituency.

But he also warned the MPs from West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry that they could start committing funds for development works in their constituencies only after the state Assembly elections are over in May this year.

Replying to a debate on the 2011-12 budget proposals in the Lok Sabha, Mukerjee said he agreed with his fellow MPs and had hiked the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) funds limit.

"We have considered the matter and I am happy to announce an increase in allocation under this scheme from Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore," he said.

This hike in the MPLADS fund has resulted in an increased allocation of Rs 2,370 crore for the 2011-12 financial year, he added.

"Please tell your colleagues from the states that are going to polls, they can make commitments on funds utilisation only after the elections are over from end of May," Mukherjee added.

He also said that the report of the government auditors has been received by his ministry and this would be examined by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) headed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Murli Manohar Joshi.

"Just yesterday (Thursday), I received the report of the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General), which has dealt with this subject and made certain recommendations," he said.

"The PAC will examine them and give a report so I can improve the guidelines for MPLADS in consultation with the chairpersons of the MPLADS committees," he added.

West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry go to polls in April.

IANS

Indian Wells: Juan Martin del Potro, playing his first match since winning at Delray Beach, defeated former top-10 player Radek Stepanek 6-4, 6-0 at the WTA and ATP Masters event.

Argentina`s del Potro on Thursday beat the Czech and former world number eight in a controlled and powerful fashion to reach the second round as he continues a comeback from surgery on his right wrist that forced him to miss most of last season.

"I broke his serve very soon in the match and it gave me confidence with my serve," del Potro said.

This marked the first time del Potro has beaten Stepanek in three career meetings. He lost to the Czech twice in 2009. Oddly enough one of those losses was in Paris when del Potro first started having problems with his wrist. Del Potro was down 4-0 in the first set when he pulled out of the Paris match.

"I felt bad in that match and then I took a rest then came to the Australian Open with pain in my wrist and after that I said. “I need to see a doctor`. It was very frustrating," said del Potro, who beat Janko Tipsarevic in the Delray Beach final last month.

Del Potro, 22, advanced to the second round, where he will face defending champion Ivan Ljubicic, who received a bye through the first round of the $9 million dollar hardcourt tournament.

"He is the last champion and he has a strong serve and a nice backhand," del Potro said of Ljubicic. "If I focus I have a chance to beat him."

Unseeded del Potro won five of eight break-point opportunities and saved 83 percent of his break-point chances in the 84-minute match on the centre court stadium.

Del Potro`s victory highlighted the opening day of the 96-player men`s draw.

Like Ljubicic, three-time former champion Roger Federer has a bye. Federer will face the winner of a first-round match between Japan`s Kei Nishikori and Igor Andreev of Russia.

The men`s draw also features world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, hard serving Ivo Karlovic of Croatia and reigning Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic.

Del Potro won the 2009 US Open for his first Grand Slam title. His best finish in Indian Wells was a quarter-final berth in 2009.

The son of a veterinarian father who played semi pro rugby in Argentina and a school-teacher mother, del Potro turned pro in 2005. He nows has eight career ATP titles, including one Grand Slam victory at the 2009 US Open.

The former world number four says the wrist feels good and he`s ready to challenge the heavyweights again.

"It is a long road to be a top player again but I am going to try to do it," del Potro said.

In other first round men`s matches on Thursday, Xavier Malisse of Belgium defeated Flavio Cipolla of Italy 6-1, 6-4, Germany`s Rainer Schuttler stopped Robin Haase 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 and Ryan Sweeting of the US swept past Spain`s Marcel Granollers 6-4, 6-1.

Somdev Devvarman of India defeated Adrian Mannarino of France 6-2, 6-3, Victor Hanescu of Romainia stopped Andreas Seppi of Italy 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 and Janko Tipsarevic beat Tobias Kamke 6-2, 6-0.

On the women`s side, China`s Peng Shuai defeated Czech Renata Voracova 7-5, 6-1, Simona Halep of Romania defeated Nuria Llagostera of Spain 0-6, 6-2, 6-4 and Britain`s Elena Baltacha ralled to beat Italy`s Roberta Vinci 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Second-seeded Belgium Kim Clijsters begins her run at Indian Wells on Friday when she faces Russian Alla Kudryavtseva. Sixth-seeded Jelena Jankovic takes on American Coco Vandeweghe in another second-round match.

Prominent men`s contests on Friday feature rising Canadian star Milos Raonic, who faces Turkey`s Marsel Ilhan.

Bureau Report