Friday, February 27, 2009

Ministry raises red flag on law banning strikes in oil sector

Ministry raises red flag on law banning strikes in oil sector
Maneesh Chibber :: The Indian Express :: February 27, 2009
THE UPA Government’s plan to bring a legislation to make it illegal for petroleum employees to go on strike has run into rough weather, with the Law Ministry questioning the provisions of the proposed law.

Sources said the Law Ministry has referred the matter back to the Petroleum Ministry.
"We have sent the file back to the Petroleum Ministry, asking them to rework the draft Bill. We wanted to know how somebody could be sent to jail for striking, and that too with stringent bail provisions. It has now been indicted to us that the Government has also given up on its intention to bring an ordinance for banning strikes," said a senior Law Ministry officer, who did not want to be named.

Sources in the Petroleum Ministry also said that unhappy with some draconian provisions in the proposed law, the Home Ministry refused to give any inputs on the draft Bill.

"The Home Ministry has informed us that it would not like to comment on the provisions in the Bill. While the official communiqué says that the reason for this is that since a policy decision has already been taken to bring the law, it had no comments to make, the actual reason is something else," said a senior officer.

The proposed legislation — Petroleum Sector Employees (Prohibition of Strikes) Bill, 2009 — is aimed at banning strikes by all categories of employees of oil companies, including contractual staff and employee associations.

The decision to bring the legislation was taken after a recent three day strike by employees of state owned oil companies crippled the economy and brought the country to a standstill.
According to the draft Bill, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, striking oilmen will face, in addition to strict disciplinary action including summary dismissal, jail terms of up to a year and/or a fine of upto Rs. 50,000.

It also allows the police to arrest striking employees without a warrant, while denying the arrested employee the facility of bail unless the prosecution has been heard by a magistrate and given an opportunity to oppose the bail plea.

A Law Ministry officer, who dealt with the issue, said the main objection of the Ministry was to the stringent provisions in the Bill.

"Why have such a law only for the petroleum sector? Why not include other sectors, including transport, civil aviation, railways, etc, in the proposed law? Our view is that the Government should revive the Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1981, which lapsed in 1990," the officer said.. "Other than this, there are enough provisions in the National Security Act to deal with attempts by any section of society to disrupt the economic or financial sector." Sources said with elections so near, the Government won’t issue an ordinance to bring in such a law, which is certain to become unpopular with employees in the oil sector.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CPM asks govt to seek details of Swiss bank accounts


CPM asks govt to seek details of Swiss bank accounts 23 Feb 2009, 1459 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: With one of the Swiss banks agreeing to provide information to the US about its account- holders, the CPM on Monday demanded that the UPA government should seek details of Indians who have illegally stashed funds in Switzerland and other tax havens.

The CPM Polit Bureau said it is imperative that the UPA government demand details of Indian account-holders from Swiss banks and from banks in other tax havens.

"In the case of India, it is not only a case of tax evasion but also of funds being illegally stashed abroad, or used for money laundering," the CPM said in a statement.

The CPM reminded the government that UBS, the largest Swiss Bank, has agreed to provide information to the US of account-holders who are suspected to have evaded taxes in America while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also called for such an action.

"If the (UPA) government is serious about stopping black money and raising resources to meet growing economic crisis, it must take steps to bring back the unaccounted or ill-gotten wealth of Indians abroad," the party said.

The Swiss banks with secret accounts are known to hold substantial sum of money deposited by Indians, it said adding "these funds amounting to billions of dollars were either illegally taken out of the country or were deposited in Switzerland and other tax havens instead of being repatriated to India."

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