Sunday, March 19, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Clinton’s visit to boost trade: Celeste
NEW DELHI, March 18 — US President Bill Clinton’s visit to India from tomorrow will stimulate “an extraordinary upward lift” in business relations between the two nations, US Ambassador Richard Celeste said today.

PSEB wants to help sick units
PUNJAB State Electricity Board of its own has shown intention to help weak and sick industrial units. It has constituted a committee for this purpose. There are mainly three things worthdoing in this regard.

Bruce Davis, right, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science in Beverly Hills, California, answers questions regarding the missing Oscars statuettes during a news conference on Friday. The Roadway Express trucking firm notified the academy that the statues were believed to be stolen from a dock in the city of Bell, California on March 10.— AP/PTI

‘Policy for SSIs soon’
NEW DELHI, March 18 — The Ministry of Small Scale Industries and Agro and Rural-based Industries will soon announce a policy for the small scale sector and set up a special cell to provide SSI units with the latest data and policy information.

SBP revises rates
CHANDIGARH, March 18 — Mr M. Sitarama Murty, Chief General Manager State Bank of Patiala, organised a joint meeting of the employees of the bank (officers and all other ranks) at Patiala last evening. More than 1000 employees of the office and branches in and around Patiala attended the meeting.


Markfed gets award
CHANDIGARH, March 18 — Paradeep Phosphates Ltd., a Government of India undertaking has selected Markfed as the “best Institutional agency of Punjab region” for distribution of fertilisers at the door steps of farmers efficiently.Top

Clinton’s visit to boost trade: Celeste

NEW DELHI, March 18 (PTI) — US President Bill Clinton’s visit to India from tomorrow will stimulate “an extraordinary upward lift” in business relations between the two nations, US Ambassador Richard Celeste said today. “I am sure his visit will stimulate an extraordinary upward lift in the USA’s interest in investment and business and act as an energiser of trade links between the two countries,” Celeste told reporters here on the eve of the Presidential visit.

Asked about the impact of economic sanctions imposed by the US in the aftermath of the Pokharan nuclear tests, he said Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha was “accurate” in his assessment that impact of the sanctions would be modest if not minimal.

“Some sanctions are still in force and I hope they will also be rolled back,” he said apparently hinting at possible lifting of the remaining sanctions in the fields of science and technology transfer.

Asked if the USA was concerned about peace in the region, the diplomat said “all of us share concern for peace in the region, for reduction in tension and for bringing under control cross-border terrorism.”

Celeste said Clinton’s visit might also be used for preparing a roadmap for institutionalising a mechanism for sustained relationship between the two nations in diverse areas.

Celeste said US businessmen were interested in becoming stakeholders in fast growing sectors like information technology, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

“We see a growing convergence between the interest of both countries in trade fields and a willingness to work together in areas where we have differences,” he said adding that creation of bilateral institutions would help minimise these differences.

Stating that nearly 87 per cent of the foreign direct investment (FDI) in power and 77 per cent in infotech industries came from the USA, he said “this relationship can be built and sustained over a period of time.”

At the press conference, the American Chamber of Commerce in India (AMCHAM) announced a five-point agenda, including setting up of special purpose consultation groups, to provide the Government a regular feedback on general and sector specific issues to augment inflow of FDI.

Announcing the FDI promotion initiatives, AMCHAM President Sanjay Bhatnagar said the organisation would use 87 of its offices in 77 countries to aid the country achieve its target of attracting $ 10 billion of FDI per annum.

AMCHAM, with over 300 US companies as its members, would be partnering with the Indian Government to provide strategic and marketing experience to build the “India Inc” image brand overseas, he said.

The organisation would also be actively involved in hosting a number of meetings with President Clinton and his senior colleagues.Top


PSEB wants to help sick units
By P.D. Sharma

PUNJAB State Electricity Board (PSEB) of its own has shown intention to help weak and sick industrial units. It has constituted a committee for this purpose. There are mainly three things worthdoing in this regard. Minimum charges on closed units should not be charged. Arrears should be realised without interest. In cases where PSEB’s faulty supply may partly be responsible for sickness due compensation should be given. It goes without saying that realisable amount has to be charged in easy instalments after restoring connection.

In fact this is not some sort of a concession on the part of PSEB. It charges tariff from industry with comfortable cushion over realisable cost. Burden of cross subsidisation is also mainly carried by this segment of consumers. It is thus quite reasonable and logical that sick units should be helped in the interest of the economy of the State. Punjab already has a dwindling stock of entrepreneurs and it cannot be replenished from outsiders. Even this favourable ground no administration of PSEB in the past ever thought of doing it. It goes to the credit of present management of PSEB that they have started thinking in the right direction.

PSEB is also thinking of giving some concession is tariff. In the past industry gave a proposal that consumers who maintain Power Factor above the minimum prescribed level should be given incentives as Board punishes the lower level. It may be recalled that on industry’s suggestion level of power factor was raised from 0.85 to 0.88 with the conditions cited above. Punishment part has been enforced while that of incentive was ignored. Present management is capable of removing this past anomaly.

To avoid sickness or to revive sick units is not a new thing. Maharashtra has such proposals. Now the left ruled state of West Bengal has formulated a comprehensive scheme. This includes relief in sales tax and power tariff to the firms at the primary level of sickness. State Cabinet Committee has been empowered to take exemptions. Industry has a genuine grudge against Punjab Government who is sleepy on this vital issue but aggressive in inducing sickness in industry by putting undue and heavy burdens.

Punjab Government’s attitude can yet be compared with another progressive State of A.P. Its Chief Minister has publicly stated that A.P.’s Electricity Board which is not bifurcated was the most corrupt body in the State. He further revealed that more than 65 per cent of the people felt that SEB was the most corrupt while departments of civil supplies; revenue; police; local bodies; irrigation; hospitals and road transport occupy corruption level on the down grading order. In our case Punjab Government cries hoarse that State is corruption free on the face of the fact when corruption is creeping in every nook and corner. Only those Government can rectify maladies who accept them. Those unwilling to do anything simply go on denying.

The Central Government’s packaging for SSI includes 5 per cent interest subsidy for modernisation and marketing assistance. In this regard it is quite appropriate to suggest that Punjab which got almost negligible public sector investment in the past and whose industrial economy is SSI oriented should get its due share in compensation of the past neglect. Punjab Government should assert in this regard as it is always found wanting in so far as problems of industry vis-a-vis centre are concerned.Top


‘Policy for SSIs soon’

NEW DELHI, March 18 (PTI) — The Ministry of Small Scale Industries and Agro and Rural-based Industries will soon announce a policy for the small scale sector and set up a special cell to provide SSI units with the latest data and policy information.

“The Ministry is aware of the problems of the SSI units and we will be come out with a policy addressing their problems like delayed payments and credit availability,” Vasundhara Raje said at a seminar on implications of the WTO on the SSI sector, organised by FICCI here.

The Ministry is also in the process of setting up a special cell in next three months which will provide the much needed data and policy information to the individual SSI entrepreneurs, she said and added that the Ministry was awaiting feedback for the creation of the cell from district and small scale associations around the country.

On the impact of the WTO on the small scale industry, Raje said the biggest challenge would be increased competition due to removal of quantitative restrictions (QRs) from both domestic and international market.

The Ministry had urged the Government to give adequate representation to the SSI sector during WTO negotiations and impressed upon them that no government policy should be made without SSIs representation or consultation.

On the issue of subsidies she said,”the Government is carefully reviewing the subsidies in place and taking all measures to re-orient them to make them WTO compatible”.

The Minister called upon the industry to increase its investment in Research and Development (R&D) to compete with imported technology.

Voicing her concern over the increasing trend of the SSI units being subjected to anti-dumping and countervailing duties Raje said, “we are strengthening our own institutional mechanism to take similar action against imports that are not in line with the WTO agreements to provide a level-playing field”.

The Government should consider setting up of a task force to study financial aspects and providing of technical support, Managing Director of SIDBI, Shailendra Narain said. There was a need to review policies and readjust the financial schemes in the light of the WTO.

On the initiatives taken by SIDBI to help the SSI sector Narain said,”the Finance Minister had recently extended the SIDBI’s Rs 300 crore Technology Development and Modernisation Fund by three years.”

The fund, launched in 1996 with a corpus of Rs 300 crore, extends loans at 13 per cent to the SSI units for R&D, modernisation and upgrading technology.Top


SBP revises rates
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, March 18 — Mr M. Sitarama Murty, Chief General Manager State Bank of Patiala, organised a joint meeting of the employees of the bank (officers and all other ranks) at Patiala last evening. More than 1000 employees of the office and branches in and around Patiala attended the meeting.

Mr Murty said “we have to re-orient ourselves to meet the high expectations of our patrons”. He emphasised upon impeccable customer service at the counters, punctuality in attendance. He desired that optimum utilisation of the technology should be made for value-addition to the customer service and not merely as a tool for mundane accounting.

The bank has revised their interest rate on domestic term deposit from March 16 for an amount of Rs 1 crore and above for a period of 15 days and up to 45 days from 5.75 per cent to 6.50 per cent for a period of 46 days and upto 90 days from 6.75 per cent to 7.50 per cent and for a period of 91 days up to 179 days from 7.75 per cent to 8.50 per cent for a period of 180 days and up to less than 1 year, the interest rate has been raised from 8 per cent to 8.50 per cent.Top


Markfed gets award
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, March 18 — Paradeep Phosphates Ltd., a Government of India undertaking has selected Markfed as the “best Institutional agency of Punjab region” for distribution of fertilisers at the door steps of farmers efficiently. The “Excellence award” for the performance in the field of fertilisers for the year 1998-99 was received by Markfed at Delhi today.

Mr D.S. Bains, Managing Director Markfed said that Markfed has a net work of more than 3000 agricultural cooperative societies and fertilisers were distributed to the farmers at their door steps. For the kharif crop of 1999 and rabi crop of 1999-2000, Markfed has distributed more than 5.36 lakh MTs fertilisers amounting to Rs 274.04 crore. Top


by Praful R. Desai

Change of user

Q: Whether use of a small portion of property for purpose different than the purpose let, would amount to a change of use and as such would be a ground for eviction?

A: Punjab and Haryana H.C. in Mohinder Kaur v Baldev Singh (1992(2) R.C.J. 592) expressed the view thus:

The case of landlord is that the tenant has installed a handloom. Handloom in fact does not require any permanent fixture and it can just be placed on the floor. It hardly covers a space of 6’x4’. No commercial activity is thus involved in the opinion of the H.C.

The H.C. added, using a small portion for a different purpose other than of letting, does not amount to change of user. In the instant case, the tenant occupies two rooms besides a kitchen and a court-yard. In one of the rooms, handloom has been installed. There is no evidence to show that this room is exclusively used for weaving purposes. Therefore, the H.C. felt that it can’t be said that 50 per cent of the demised premises has been changed for commercial purpose or that the major chunk of the demised premises has become commercial.

Still the question remains what is the dominant purpose? It is proved on the record that the tenant is residing in these very premises along with his family members.

The question is whether the tenant has committed such acts which are likely to impair materially the value or utility of the property. This question becomes relevant when the landlord is seeking eviction on the ground of change or user of the premises.

If the tenant has committed such acts which have impaired the value and utility of the property and from which a reasonable inference can be drawn that it would also amount to a change of user of the property, the Rent Controller or the appellate authority is not debarred from examining the case from that angle.

In the present case, the H.C. did examine the question. The H.C. stated that the allegation of the landlord that the tenant has installed a handloom in one of the rooms of the tenancy. Would such an act likely to impair the value and utility of the property materially?

The H.C. emphatically answered in the negative. The H.C. thus held that the tenant has not changed the user of the property.

Consequently there is no merit in the appeal and dismissed the same.Top


by A.K. Sachdeva

Q: We are registered as a dealer under the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Trade Tax Act, 1948 as also the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956. Our business activities involve manufacture and sale of medicines and pharmaceutical preparations. The assessment proceedings for the assessment year 1996-97 were initiated by the assessing authority for finalisation of assessments under the Local Act as well as the Central Act and it has been pointed out during the course of hearing of the matter that the department has come across some information from extraneous sources to the effect that we have had sold certain medicines outside the books of account on which sales tax was allegedly evaded. We have therefore requested the assessing authority to supply us the evidence allegedly collected behind our back for rebuttal. The assessing authority has not so far responded to our request. Kindly advise if the assessing authority is competent to rely upon the information without providing us a reasonable opportunity of hearing?

— Rajesh Gupta, Lucknow

Ans: The law in the matter of assessment is fairly well settled. It has been consistently ruled by the Supreme Court of India that the material which is obtained by the taxing authorities behind the back of the assesses cannot straightaway be used against them unless the same is duly supplied and confronted to the person sought to be proceeded against. As far as the request of the queriest is concerned, the assessing authority is bound to make available the adverse material to him so that he may have the opportunity of refuting the same, if he can.

Even otherwise it is one of the important requirements of the rules of natural justice that no person can be possibly condemned unless a fair opportunity of hearing to him is ensured. It is equally relevant to point out here that the queriest can also insist upon summoning of the witness who allegedly supplied adverse material to the assessing authority. In other words, opportunity of cross-examination of the witness can also be prayed for before the assessing authority to get at the truth and unless this opportunity of rebutting the material and cross-examination of the witness is provided to the queriest, the assessing authority cannot acquire jurisdiction to propose best judgement assessment or rejection of account books.

Reference in this regard may be made to a leading judgement of the Supreme Court of India on somewhat similar points that came to be delivered in the case of State of Kerala V. K.T. Shaduli Yussuf, (1977) 39 Sales Tax Cases 478.

Q: We are engaged in the business of manufacture and sale of machinery and other equipments being a dealer registered under the provisions of the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959 and the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956. During the year 1997-98 we received an order from a MP based party for the supply and erection of certain machinery. It was one of the conditions of the agreement entered into between us and the buyer that the machinery in question will be first taken to Madhya Pradesh for installation and approval to the satisfaction of the buyer and then the sale will be deemed to be complete.

The question that arises is as to what is the true nature of this transaction? Whether it is a sale within the state of Madhya Pradesh where the property in the goods is proposed to be passed or has been virtually passed? Or that if it is a sale in the course of inter-State trade or commerce from Maharashtra? Please advise.

— V.K. Industries, Bombay

Ans: According to the provisions contained in Section 3 of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956 a sale or purchase of goods shall be deemed to have taken place in the course of inter-State trade or commerce where such sale or purchase occasions the movement of the goods from one place to another. Admittedly, the agreement entered into between the queriest and the MP based party for the supply and installation of machinery had the effect of moving the goods from Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh.

Simply because the property in the goods passed on to the buyer in Madhya Pradesh on installation and approval it did not, in any manner, take the transaction out of the purview of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956. The transaction cannot therefore regarded as a sale within the state of Madhya Pradesh. The taxability of this sale will be governed by the provisions of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956.Top


by Pushpa Girimaji

What’s genetic food? Is it safe?

NEW food technologies always bring in their wake, consumer concerns over their safety. In the seventies and the eighties, for example, use of irradiation for food preservation kicked off a debate over the safety of this technique and its effect on food. Today, a far more complicated issue involving genetically engineered crops has got consumer groups around the world questioning their safety and demanding the right to information and choice.

However, even though the subject of genetically modified (GM) foods has snowballed into a major global controversy, very few consumers actually know the issues involved, perhaps because of the complexity of the subject. So in order to pave the way for greater consumer participation in campaigns for food safety vis-a-vis genetically modified foods, Consumers International (CI), a federation of consumer organisations around the world, chose to focus on this issue for this year’s World Consumer Rights Day on March 15. A comprehensive information kit released by CI this year not only explains some of the technical terminology, but also highlights the basic issues on GM foods confronting consumers and the successful campaigns by consumer organisations around the globe for labelling of GM foods. It also details the recipe for strategic action to pressure Governments to bring in necessary legal framework to protect the interests of consumers in this area.

So what is genetical engineering and why are consumer groups up in arms against such genetically modified foods or gene foods? Well, to put in a nutshell, it is a process of extracting genes bearing a specific, hereditary trait from one organism and artificially inserting them into a completely different organism. There are several possible benefits from such genetic engineering: You could have foods whose nutritional values are enhanced. Scientists, for example, are reported to be working on iron and vitamin fortified rice. Similarly, you could develop crops that are resistant to pests and give higher yields, or those that survive extreme weather conditions. You could even provide edible vaccines through such engineering.

But on the other hand, when you start tinkering with nature, you could also be exposing yourself to unknown and unforeseen health and environment risks, which may not be immediately apparent, but in the long run turn out to be not just hazardous, but uncontrollable. Says CI: Currently, the known health risks from GM foods are the possibility of food allergies and increased resistance to antibiotics. However, in the absence of long-term safety testing, no one can know for certain what the harmful effects of GM food may be. Besides, growing GM crops on a large scale can also have certain serious implications for bio-diversity, wildlife, balance of nature and environment. At present, the two main GM crops are soya and corn, followed by cotton, canola and potato.

Consumer groups say that they are not categorically opposed to genetic modification. But what they demand is safety and the right to informed choice. And given the many scientific questions in the fields of molecular biology and genetic engineering, they are against marketing of these foods without appropriate and extensive safety assessment. Says CI: Genetically modified crops are grown from a revolutionary seed technology embraced by farmers across the United States, Canada, Argentina and elsewhere. Ten years ago, no gene-altered crops were grown commercially and no GM foods were on the market. Today, GM ingredients are turning up in animal feeds and foodstuffs being traded, processed, mass produced, sold and consumed the world over.

So consumer groups around the world are now forcing governments to introduce mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods. Says CI: Consumers have a right to information, safety and choice. And labelling gives them the choice to buy or reject GM food. Consumer demand for GM-free food is now prompting food manufacturers and even food retailers in Europe, Australia, Canada, Japan, to publicly declare their policy on GM foods and even carry labels stating that the food does not contain GM ingredients. While the European Union has introduced mandatory labelling of GM soyabean and corn, in South Korea the Agriculture Minister announced implementation of mandatory labelling of GM corn and soya by mid 2001. Consumer groups have won similar battles in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, while in the US where biotech has blossomed, consumers are still fighting for labelling laws, says CI.

Since Codex Alimentarius Commission is the UN body responsible for setting international foods standards, CI has also been lobbying with Codex for mandatory labelling of all genetically modified foods.. However, so far, the Codex Committee on Food Labelling has not taken a decision on the matter. According to the Codex, the committee has agreed that the presence of allergen introduced into foods through biotechnology should be labelled, but it has not reached a consensus on whether all foods that are genetically modified or contain genetically modified organisms, should be labelled. (More on GM foods and the scenario in India in my next column).Top


Turf wars

IN case you thought that the Budget was the prime reason for the fall in share prices across the board, think again. Two of the biggest bulls are fighting a turf war and how — selling at each other countries across the board resulting in plummeting share prices. The interesting news, however, is that the erstwhile Big Bull is accumulating these shares cocksure that when the mayhem ends there will be short-covering that could send the Sensex soaring. Food for thought!


Rumours of a bonus are fuelling this stock, but experts and analysts shudder at the thought as they fear that an equity dilution through a bonus will irreparably damage this already overweight DFI’s financial health. But who’s listening — its a one-upsmanship game with another DFI after all!


With an interim dividend announcement, this recently listed Indian pharma company’s is bent on beating the March 31 deadline. It is also a good move to boost investor sentiment at this counter following its sharp price dip after listing. Seems a veteran BSE broker is eyeing this counter. Watch the action.

BFL Software

The grapevine has it that yet another major announcement by this company too could be round the corner, and even more interesting is the rumour that a Nasdaq listing might be on the cards within a year. Any truth here? Wait and watch!Top


by K.R. Wadhwaney

Terminals on paper only

WHEN, after considerable delay, a terminal building at Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) was commissioned in May 1986, it was announced that another huge complex would come about by 1989-90. When this terminal was commissioned, it had already become obsolete in relation to many airports, including some in the East.

Now, after delay of about a decade, the Government has informed the Rajya Sabha that another international terminal would be set up in 2,26,000 sq km with a capacity to handle 8.5 million passengers a year.

Minister for Civil Aviation Sharad Yadav said the proposal would be submitted to the Public Investment Board after the AAI had updated the cost estimates.

But by the time the proposal becomes a reality, it will also turn obsolete.

Progress n aviation and tourism worldwide is going on at a tremendous speed. These are two vital areas for minting money. Many countries are thriving on aviation and tourism to enhance their image. But in this country the aviation and tourism sectors continue to receive step-motherly treatment.

Similar is the plight of the Bangalore airport. A study have been conducting for the past five years. Now the study by a UK-based firm says it is “feasible” for 5 million passengers in next five years. The plan to set up an airport with international facilities depends on the steering committee and eventually bidders will decide the actual status of the airport.

Traffic jam: As there is no trouble shooter at the IGIA, there was needless traffic jam. The other day an Air India plane had taxied to runway when it develop a snag. It took sometime before it could be towed away.

It was sheer stubbornness on the part of the KLM commander not to move away from the main runway. ‘The AAI, which is an apex body at the airport, should have insisted on the KLM commander to move away instead of causing inconvenience to others. But AAI officials could not prevail upon commander.

There is a total lack of discipline at the IGIA where every unit considers itself autonomous and answerable to none. The multiplicity of authority is at all airports worldwide but the airport manager’s word prevails. Here the AAI official is ignored.

Following the Indian Airlines’ recent hijack, the quantum of passes has been considerably reduced. There is no need to issue a pass to any one who is not needed at the airport. Why should travel agents or their touts be given passes? Why should they be seen in arrival and departure concourses to help passengers booked by them? Nowhere in the world are travel agents provided with the facilities they are demanding here. Most of the ills, particularly illegal immigration, are because of unscrupulous agents who swindle innocent young persons and bring disrepute to the country.Top


Gold Std. Rs 4475
Gold 22-Ct Rs 4325
Silver Ready Rs 7810
Silver delivery Rs 7850

CHANDIGARH, March 18 (TNS) — In the tender for 1100 Optical Line Terminating Equipments (OLTE) valued at Rs 4.5 crores opened on March 15 by Gujarat Telecom Circle, Punjab Communications Ltd. (PunCom) emerged as the lowest bidder. PunCom share, being minimum of 30 per cent is over Rs 1.35 crore.

Perematt India
CHANDIGARH, March 18 (TNS) — Perematt India Ltd has launched magnetic therapeautic sleeping system in the market under Pearls brand. According to Mr Alex Daniel, the company has also launched 15 types of Masalas as consumer goods through out the country.

Overseas Bank
CHANDIGARH, March 18 (TNS) — Indian Overseas Bank inaugurated its first off-site ATM in the state of Punjab at PTL Administration Complex, Industrial Area, Phase-IV, S.A.S. Nagar on Wednesday. Mr R. Srinivasan, General Manager of the Bank said the bank will install another ATM at Ludhiana shortly.Top

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