Cabinet approves increase in number of Haj pilgrims

Nearly 10,000 more devout Muslims will be able to undertake Haj pilgrimage this year with the Centre on Thursday deciding to enhance the quota under its subsidy scheme to 1.1 lakh.

New Delhi, Nov 16: Nearly 10,000 more devout Muslims
will be able to undertake Haj pilgrimage this year with the
Centre on Thursday deciding to enhance the quota under its subsidy
scheme to 1.1 lakh.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet
chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Information and
Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunsi told reporters here.

"Approximately 1.1 lakh pilgrims will be benefited during
Haj 2006-II," Dasmunsi said.

The movement of Haj pilgrims from India to Saudi Arabia
during Haj 2006-II is due to commence later this month.

According to Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel more
flights will be added from India to Saudi Arabia this year.

The Cabinet also approved a proposal for transportation
of other Haj pilgrims by Air India or Indian Airlines from
Kolkata, Calicut, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Patna, Guwahati, Jaipur
and Srinagar.

Amendment in law to protect wildlife approved

To expedite implementation of the
Tiger Task Force appointed by the Prime Minister, the Union
Cabinet gave its ex-post-facto approval to an amendment
carried out in the law to protect wildlife.

"It would strengthen conservation of tigers and other
endangered species of wild animals through effective combating
of wildlife crimes," P R Dasmunsi told reporters.

He said the approval would also reinforce the ongoing
initiatives to conserve tigers and other endangered animals in
the wake of present threats and need for viable habitat.

The amendment passed by the Parliament in the Wildlife
(Protection) Amendment Bill 2005 would address the growing
concern of public in saving the tiger, he added.

Expansion of community radio stations

Aiming to put in place a vibrant
community radio system in the country, government approved expansion of such radio stations by non-profit
organisations after ensuring security clearances from the
Defence and Home Ministries.

"The community radio will not include newscasting and
current affairs programme and will be dealt with
comprehensively by an inter-ministerial group represented by
Ministry of Home Affairs, Defence, Rural Development,
Panchayati Raj and HRD," Dasmunsi said.

He made it clear that individuals, political parties or
their affiliates and trade unions would not be allowed to
operate community radio stations (CRS).

Organisations with profit motive will also stay outside
the purview of the CRS, he said.

Stating that 15 radio stations have so far come into
operation since 2002 when the previous NDA government approved
the concept, Dasmunsi said the UPA government aimed to
strengthen the service.

He said this decision has been taken after considering
the recommendation of a Group of Ministers headed by
Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

Norms for irrigation project relaxed

The government relaxed the
criteria for extending financial assistance to the states for
on-going irrigation projects.

The Union Cabinet has relaxed criteria for Accelerated
Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) and would also include
the drought prone districts identified under Prime Minister`s
package for agrarian distress, Dasmunsi told reporters.

"The relaxation will help to complete on-going approved
projects for any plan, which the state government undertakes
to complete within four years", he said.

Besides the identified drought hit districts, the AIBP
project would be extended to drought-prone and tribal areas
and states with lower irrigation potential as compared to
national average.

The criteria of taking up another project only after
completion of the on-going project would be relaxed for the
drought-prone and tribal areas, states with lower irrigation
potential and identified districts under Prime Minister`s
package, he said.

Bureau Report

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