The Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment has sanctioned 553 new Building Centres to be set up all over the country. The new Building Centres will be over and above 305 fully functional Building Centres. These Building Centres will be established as a network through Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), a public sector undertaking, under the Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment.

    The Government is also considering setting up of Rural Building Centres and Mobile Building Centres to give impetus to the construction of houses on a large scale both under the new Housing and Habitat Policy 1998 and in general.

    The Building Centres provide technology transfer from lab to land, skill upgradation and training on innovative and cost effective technologies. Besides, the Building Centres provide production of environment friendly building components using local resources. They also generate employment through construction, housing guidance, information and councelling.


    The Minister for Environment & Forests, Shri Suresh Prabhu has said that the developed countries had failed to meet their international commitments for transfer of resources and technologies to the developing countries. He was speaking at the prestigious Harvard University on Wednesday night while delivering a lecture there. The lecture was organised by the Committee on Environment of Harvard University. Just a few weeks ago the South African President, Dr. Nelson Mandela and the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan had also spoken at the University. Shri Prabhu's speech was titled, " INDIA: SUSTAINING DEVELOPMENT."

    Shri Prabhu covered a wide range of subjects on environment and development covering national and international issues. He told the gathering of University dons, intellectuals, NGOs and the student community, that the full implications of emissions trading between developed countries needed to be understood and brought upfront in a transparent manner. The Minister said a fundamental question is the basis of entitlements to trade. Another fundamental step required to be taken is the determination and creation of equitable emission entitlements of the Parties. Without this selling or buying could not take place, Shri Prabhu said. The Minister went on to say that per capita criterion is central to the determination of emission entitlements. This will also provide a direct measure of human welfare. At the foundation of equitable emission entitlements is the right to develop equitably. Any precept having the potential of depriving the world's poor from the right to develop must not be allowed.

    Turning to domestic environment issues, Shri Prabhu said he was making efforts to formulate a comprehensive national policy to balance between development and environment. In this context he said environmental impacts, carrying capacity, monitoring, preventive measures and awareness will have significant focus. At the same time he said it has been recognised that poverty eradication is a prerequisite for sustainable development. A cornerstone of the national planning process is the recognition of the link between poverty and sustainable development.

    The Minister said while the new national environment policy for which a White Paper has been prepared, will take cognizance of long term development perspectives emanating from the spread of economic activity and energy demand, it must also address parallel concerns relating to public health, industrial safety and emergency preparedness.

    Shri Prabhu said in India coal is expected to retain its predominant position in the decades to come as a source of energy. In view of the high ash content in India's coal, systems are being put in place to restrict the dumping of flyash on land and simultaneously facilitating the use of flyash in the manufacture of construction of material like bricks and cement. Another step taken stipulates standards for coal in terms of ash content, to be used in power stations, necessitating coal washing.

    The Minister stated that an important area of focus relates to the handling of hazardous substances in industry and transportation, and the dangers posed by chemical accidents to human life and the environment. It was indicated that the Ministry had mad new regulations for the handling of bio-medical wastes under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The management of plastic waste is also an area of focus where the use of recycled plastics for the packaging and storage of foodstuffs will be prohibited. The Minster indicated that requisite institutional, legislative, and managerial steps envisaged for municipal solid waste management. The concept of a National Environment Fund was also elaborated upon by the Minister. Contributions to this fund will be made by potential polluters. The resources in the fund will be used for pollution monitoring and other community environmental projects.

    The speech was followed by a two hour long detailed question and answer session.


    The Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting, Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who is presently in Pyongyang, North Korea, as a guest of honour in the Sixth Pyongyang Film Festival of Non-Aligned and Developing Countries said that there should be more cooperation amongst Asian countries in the field of cinema so as to encourage research in trans Asia cultures and strengthen bonds of mutual friendship. Shri Naqvi, while attending a function organised in his honour by Mr.Choe Jae Hyon, Minister of Culture, Government of Democratic People's Republic of Korea, reiterated the old bonds of friendship between India and North Korea and assured North Korea of assistance from the Indian Government during the difficult time which the country is passing through as a result of various natural calamities. He also informed the Government of DPRK that India has agreed to supply another 1000 metric tonnes of rice as assistance, besides irrigation pumps and polythene sheeting. He also discussed the possibility of signing an Information Agreement between the two countries. He also invited Mr.Hyon to the 30th International Film Festival of India which is being held in January,1999 at Hyderabad.

    Shri Naqvi extended his greetings to the Government of DPRK on the 50th Anniversary of the Founding of the Republic. He also acknowledged gratefully the support that has been given by the DPRK in the United Nations, where the DPRK has supported India's candidature for the Permanent Membership of the UN Security Council. Shri Naqvi also visited today the Korean Film Studio and also paid a visit to Mangyongdae, birth place of the late President of Kim Il Sung of DPRK.


    The Indian feature film, "SOUDA" ( A Deal) directed by Nabyendu Chatterjee and produced by Doordarshan, Calcutta, won a special prize of the Festival Organising Committee in the Sixth Pyongyang International Film Festival of the Non Aligned and Developing Countries, 1998, held in Pyongyang, North Korea from 16th to 25th September, 1998. The Indian short feature film, "NIRANKUSH" (without an End) won the individual prize in the Film Festival for good film literature.

    In the feature film section, the Golden Torch prize was conferred upon the Korean feature film "Myself in the Distant Future"; the silver Torch prize went to the Syrian feature film "A Roaming person"; and the Bronze Torch prize went to the Iranian film "Strange Sisters".

    In the short and documentary film category, the Golden Torch prize went to the Korean documentary "World Famous Peak"; the Silver Torch prize went to the Malaysian documentary "Kuda Kepang" (A Cultural Heritage); and the Bronze Torch prize to the Libyan Documentary "Coffin".

    The above prizes were given away by Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, who was the guest of honour at the Film Festival. Also present at the award giving ceremony was Mr. Choe Jae Hyon, the Minister of Culture, Government of Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Shri Naqvi and Mr. Hyon also discussed, on this occasion, the possibilities that exist in the direction of increasing co- operation among various Asian countries for joint production of feature films and documentaries, so as to encourage trans-cultural exchanges and to further strengthen the existing friendly relations among the countries.


    The Railway Minister, Shri Nitish Kumar, inaugurated here today a Passenger Reservation Centre at the Press Club of India, for the journalists and Media persons. The two counters at the press Club will work from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. all days of the week except Sunday. This is the 22nd Satellite Passsenger Reservation System located in Delhi.

    The Northern Railway computer system has about 700 terminals which cater to the demands of practically the entire Northern India, north of Bhopal, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Vishakhapatnam. Northern Railway system is connected with the Secunderabad and Calcutta systems and all these terminals are capable of handling reservations of any train on these three systems. During the peak summer season this year the Northern Railway System has handled a maximum of 2.31 lakh passengers on a single day. Even the present daily average is more than 1.93 lakh transactions.

    After the interlinking of the Delhi-Secunderabad-Calcutta Passenger Reservation Systems with those of Mumbai and Chennai, all the terminals of the Passenger Reservation System all over India, irrespective of the location, shall be able to deal with the reservation transactions of all trains on Indian Railways.


    Rail India Technical and Economic Services Ltd. (RITES), a Government of India Enterprise under the Ministry of Railways has achieved a turnover of Rs.133 crores during 1997-98 against the previous year's performance of Rs.135 crores. Profit before tax of Rs.20 crores has been attained and a dividend of 100 per cent for the year 1997-98 has been declared. For the sixth consecutive year, RITES has been adjudged "Excellent", the highest level of rating under the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Ministry of Railways.

    Addressing the 24th Annual General meeting of the company, Mr. G.K. Malhotra, Chairman (RITES) said that in the face of an extremely competitive international and domestic scenario, RITES by virtue of its untiring efforts succeeded in securing fresh contracts in different fields in Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Nepal, Tanzania and Vietnam. Further the company acquired the prestigious ISO 9002 Certification for its Quality Assurance Division to render consultancy in the area of ISO 9000 (Quality Management Systems) and ISO 14000 (Environment Management Systems).

    The company has secured World Bank consultancy service contracts for highways in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, besides securing contracts for 10 road over-bridges on NH-24 (Delhi-Lucknow) and NH-28 (Lucknow-Gorakhpur) from Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation. RITES is the leading consultant to the Uttar Pradesh State Civil Aviation Department for establishing new airports. An agreement has also been signed with the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation to provide consultancy services for development of 10 air strips in the state of Maharashtra. During the year, RITES was also involved in the preparation of Perspective Plan for Indian Port Sector -Vision 2020.

    The performance of the company is viewed in the context of the overall economic scenario within the country and global business situation prevalent during the year. The capital market continued to remain dormant. Export growth slowed down significantly. Besides, on the international front, the currencies of East Asian countries came under severe downward pressure.