Monday, July 31, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Australia to be next destination for Indian infotech professionals
MELBOURNE, July 30 — After the US and Germany, it seems to be Australia’s turn to open its doors to Indian information technology professionals to make up for a severe shortage of experts in the sector.

Punjab owes 261 crore to Centre
NEW DELHI, July 30 — Despite Centre’s efforts to recover the outstanding dues, a whopping Rs 980 crore approximately were due from various states and union territories as on March 31, 2000 on account of deployment of central paramilitary forces.

‘They ask for bribe to make tax refund’

NEW DELHI, July 30 — The Central Board of Direct Taxes and the Chief Commissioner of Income Tax have been directed by the Delhi High Court to consider a series of suggestions in a petition regarding redressal of various problems faced by tax payers.

Activists of the National Human Rights Council demonstrate outside Parliament in New Delhi on Sunday to protest the government’s move to allow imports of beef. — Reuters
Activists of the National Human Rights Council demonstrate outside Parliament in New Delhi on Sunday to protest the government’s move to allow imports of beef. — Reuters



Ex-IITians offer virtual schooling
NEW DELHI, July 30 — NIIT has picked up an equity stake in classteacher. com. This is the first investment made by NIIT in India, according to its Senior Vice- President R. Venkatash Iyer.

IRDA gets going, sets guidelines
NEW DELHI, July 30 — After an inordinate delay, political squabbling and widespread apprehensions among employees, the Indian insurance sector is all set to see the participation of the private sector.Top

Australia to be next destination for Indian infotech professionals
From Paritosh Parasher

MELBOURNE, July 30 — After the US and Germany, it seems to be Australia’s turn to open its doors to Indian information technology (IT) professionals to make up for a severe shortage of experts in the sector.

The IT experts here have suggested on various forums that Australia should loosen its immigration rules to let in computer professionals. The Australian government is also responding positively to the suggestion.

There have been numerous warnings by Australian IT sector experts of a drastic shortage of IT professionals. The Experts have also expressed concern that Australia is in danger of being left behind in the electronic information age unless key stakeholders pull together to solve the crisis.

In the wake of these developments, Australian Minister of Communications Richard Alston recently indicated that the country was considering making it easier for overseas IT specialists to work in Australia.

The IT sector professionals are taking the “opening of Australia” as imminent and Indians are, as in Germany, among the “target audience.” A recent Alcatel advertisement for software engineers in national periodicals featured a Sikh gentleman’s photographs.

While there has been a sizeable increase in the migration of skilled professionals to Australia in the 1999-2000 financial year ending June 30, the requirements of the IT sector have hardly been addressed.

Besides infotech professionals, Australia also continues to experience a shortage of accountants and nurses. Other professionals required across Australia include chefs, pastry cooks, cabinetmakers and refrigeration mechanics, according to an immigration department statement.

But the IT sector is the worst hit as professionals from different parts of the world are making a beeline to the US. Even Australia is feeling this surge in “brain-drain” as professionals trained here are migrating to the much more lucrative North America.

Surinder Chopra is one such Australian-trained computer professional who has moved to the USA. “Australia is such a small place,” he says from his new workplace in New Jersey. “In the USA you get paid really well and get better opportunities to enhance your professional qualifications,” says this India-born data base administrator.

Senator Alston said recently at an IT conference here: “The visa requirements should be such as to encourage people to here from around the world.” He said: “I am particularly interested in reviewing the visa rules.” Alston reportedly expressed the view that Australia should also envisage plans to lure back those Australian-trained IT specialist who are working overseas.

But Alston’s utterances have come under fire from some Australian quarters. The Australian Computer Society is leading this vocal band of critics. It is emphasising a greater thrust on training the unemployed in Australia instead of “importing short-term contractors.” — IANSTop

Punjab owes 261 crore to Centre
From S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 30 — Despite Centre’s efforts to recover the outstanding dues, a whopping Rs 980 crore approximately were due from various states and union territories as on March 31, 2000 on account of deployment of central paramilitary forces (CPMFs).

While Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir fall under the exempted category states, Punjab and Haryana owed the Centre Rs 261.81 crore and Rs 20.75 crore, respectively, Home Ministry sources told The Tribune.

Out of Rs 261.81 crore, Punjab has to pay Rs 203.85 crore towards the deployment of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Rapid Action Force (RAF), Rs 29.84 crore towards Border Security Force (BSF), Rs 23.84 crore towards Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Rs 4.28 crore towards the deployment of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).

On the other hand, Haryana owed Rs 16.05 crore towards deployment of the ITBP, Rs 4.13 crore towards the CISF and Rs 57 lakhs towards the CRPF and RAF deployment in the state till March 31, 2000, the sources said.

However, the National Capital Delhi topped the list of outstanding dues with an outstanding payment due from it to the tune of Rs 269.79 crore.

Besides the State Governments, 247 public sector undertakings (PSUs) located in various states have to pay the CISF Rs 557 crore approximately for utilising its services as on March 31, 2000, the sources said.

Of the total billing of Rs 771.71 crore made to various PSUs by the CISF, it received only Rs 214.75 crore as on March 31, 2000 leaving a balance due from various PSUs at Rs 556.96 crore.

Among the PSUs which owed money to the CISF, are the HMT, Srinagar (Rs 3.92 crore), the IDPL, Gurgaon (Rs 1.76 crore), the NFL, Panipat (Rs 88.21 lakh), the PTPS, Panipat (Rs 41.05 lakh), the NFL, Bathinda (Rs 39.44 lakh), the NFL, Nangal (Rs 33.40 lakh), the NTPC, Faridabad (Rs 16.81 lakh) and the IOC, Faridabad (Rs 5.43 lakh), the sources said.

Sixtyseven PSUs, which collectively owe Rs 467.54 crore as on March 31, 2000, have been put in a separate list of defaulting undertakings, the sources said.

HMT, Srinagar (Rs 3.92 crore), NFL, Manali (Rs 7.6 lakh), SCL, Mohali (Rs 14.93) and PGCIL, Moga (Rs 9,364) have been put in the list of defaulting undertakings.

According to senior Home Ministry officials, the Ministry has been regularly pursuing the State Governments and the PSUs to pay the dues.

In addition, releases made by the Home Ministry to various states under different schemes are being adjusted against outstanding amounts, they said adding that as regards PSUs, the matter has been taken up with the ministries concerned.Top


‘They ask for bribe to make tax refund’

NEW DELHI, July 30 (PTI) — The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Chief Commissioner of Income Tax have been directed by the Delhi High Court to consider a series of suggestions in a petition regarding redressal of various problems faced by tax payers.

The Income Tax Department may consider the suggestions listed by an NGO, Sampoorn Parivartan (SP) in its petition, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Arijit Passayat and Justice DK Jain last week said while disposing of a public interest writ petition filed by the organisation.

While accusing the it Department of arbitrarily applying the procedure for accepting the payment of taxes and refund of the excess amount, the NGO said: “The practice followed by the department gives a lot of discretion to its officials for misusing their powers which results in mala fide discrimination against tax payers.”

“Complaints have been received that amount ranging from 10 to 40 per cent of the refund amount is demanded as bribe by officials for clearing their cheques,” The petitioner’s counsel Prashant Bhushan alleged.

Sp also alleged that officials were demanding from the tax payers amounts between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 for allotting them permanent account number (PAN) cards and people who applied for the same three years ago were still waiting in the wings.

Listing a number of cases where the refunds had not been cleared for the past several years, the NGO claimed that in some cases refund on income tax returns filed five years ago had not been paid to the people.

sp said on the basis of analysis done by it of grievances received from over 500 people, it was found that the officials had not simply applied the existing procedure in their cases.

Implementation of the redressal measures did not require any additional legislative changes as those could be enforced through administrative orders.

Though the CBDT was the apex body for tax administration in the country, the subordinate authorities failed to implement its 1993 circular on disposing of tax payers’ rectification applications within two weeks time.Top


Ex-IITians offer virtual schooling

NEW DELHI, July 30 (UNI) —NIIT has picked up an equity stake in Classteacher. com. This is the first investment made by NIIT in India, according to its Senior Vice- President R. Venkatash Iyer.

Classteacher. com is the brainchild of three young Ex-iitians — Rohit Pande, Sameer Buti and Apoorv Misra.

It has been developed on the unique concept of Internet driven virtual schools, which will provide futuristic learning tools to students, teachers and parents.

This works in partnership with schools to provide a personalised learning module tailor-made for school children.

The objective is to provide stimulating ways of learning for the children and also a steady feedback on their individual learning graph for parents and teachers, according to its CEO Rohit Pande.

NIIT will make available its expertise in technology to Classteacher. com. NIIT funds will go into content creation, infrastructure development, marketing and advertising, Mr Iyer said.Top


IRDA gets going, sets guidelines
From T.V. Lakshminarayan
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 30 — After an inordinate delay, political squabbling and widespread apprehensions among employees, the Indian insurance sector is all set to see the participation of the private sector.

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) has put in place a set of transparent guidelines for the insurance players and there are indications that some of the private operators would be able to sell their first policies sometime in the first quarter of 2001.

According to the regulatory body’s Chairman N. Rangachary, IRDA will call for applications on insurance licence and the authority would take 10 to 12 weeks to process applications. The Chairman meant serious business and as promised released the first set of guidelines this week itself.

The first set of final guidelines announced by IRDA includes solvency norms, entry guidelines, rural and social sector exposure and advertising code.

The rural and social sector exposure norms for the insurance companies is of considerable interest as IRDA has set only realistic targets.

It has said private insurers will need to have a minimum rural exposure of 2 per cent in the first year in the case of non-life insurance, which will progressively rise to 5 per cent. In the case of life insurance, the initial exposure is to be set at 5 per cent, which will then rise to 15 per cent.

The authority has also set a minimum number of lives that are required to be covered in the social sector. It has laid out 5,000 lives in the first financial year, 7500 in the second, 10,000 in the third, 15,000 in the fourth and 20,000 lives in the fifth year.

However, IRDA has yet to clarify whether the policies sold to these social and rural segments would have to be priced concessionally. At present, LIC covers around 5 crore individuals under the social sector insurance, the entire cost of which is borne by the corporation or the government. Private players are anxious to know the burden they have to carry on this account.

On entry guidelines, the regulator has maintained a foreign investment cap of 26 per cent but has clarified that holdings by FII and domestic mutual funds will not come under the ceiling of 26 per cent.

The minimum equity share capital for life and general insurance has been kept at Rs 100 crore while the limit is Rs 200 crore for re-insurance. Those companies whose applications have been rejected will be debarred for two years.

The regulator has also asked the general insurance companies to mandatory cede a portion of the sum assured on each policy to Indian reinsurers. This will ensure and maximise retention within the country, secure the best possible protection for the reinsurance costs and simplify the administration of business.

With IRDA coming out with the final guidelines, a large number of companies are already lined up to make a beginning in the Indian insurance companies. Several banks and cooperative entities like IFFCO are among those who have announced their decisions to begin the insurance business.Top


by K.R. Wadhwaney

‘There’s an ass on the runway’

DECADES ago on one of the Indian airports, the captain of Dakota called the tower: “There is an ass on the runway”. Tower replied: “For the landing fee that you pay, what do you expect an elephant”?

If there are not many accidents in Indian airspace, it is not because of sturdy machine and competent men at control (pilots and ATCs), but because of providence.

After recent crash at Jayaprakash Narayan Airport (Patna), ATCs and the Airport Authority of India (AAI) should have been doubly watchful. But they were still in deep slumber when Indian Airlines A-320 pilot pointed out to officials that there were two dogs lounging on the runway.

Panic gripped both cockpit crew and tower as the commander had to veer upward instead of landing. Panic also prevailed among passengers in the cabin.

As the aircraft ascended, the pilot told the ATCs to clear the runway fast so that he could land. The tower continued to be inattentive when the pilot announced that he would be forced to divert the flight to Ranchi, if the runway was not cleared immediately. Can there be an instance of more carelessness on the part of the ATC than this ?

Condorde, crashed in Paris on July 25, killing 100 passengers and 10 crew members. Three other persons on ground also died because of this crash.

Initiated into service in the mid 1970s, there are in all 13 in service, seven with British Airways and six with Air France. The cause of the crash is not known but Boeing and Airbus Industrie are in the dock.

Most of the passengers were German and they were on a chartered flight to New York to join a cruise. Cracks in wings of some of the supersonic aircraft have been noticed and maybe, the authorities will ground the remaining 12 aircraft until defects are rectified.

AI disinvestment: Advertisement soliciting expression of interest from potential bidders for equity stakes in Air India will be released in the first fortnight of August. This decision has been taken by the Inter-Managerial Group which held a meeting in Mumbai where bureaucrats concerned and Air India’s Managing Director Michael Mascarenhas were present.

The adviser J.M. Morgan Stanley has been briefed on the disinvestment and time table and task forces defined. Air India’s disinvestment is expected to be finalised before the end of March 2001.

Gimmickry: Contrary to expectations, operations of Virgin Air on the Delhi-London-Delhi sector twice a week has not provided much needed boost. The situation remains as dicey as it was before the initiation of Virgin operations.

Almost all the travel agents and general sales agents are unanimous in their opinion that Virgin Air officials did not initiate proper promotional efforts when they were here. The officials, according to agents, did indulge in ‘gimmickry’ but it does not help boost traffic.

Jet Airways: Jet Airways passengers booking a return ticket to Khajuraho from Delhi or Varanasi till September 30 will be provided complimentary hotel stay for a night. For subsequent nights, heavy discount will be provided to the passengers.



by J.C. Anand

Winners available at attractive prices

NOW that a majority of top companies have announced their first quarter results it is the time to assess their sectorwise performance. Such an analysis should serve as a guide to investors for their long-term investments.

The automobile sector together with the ancillary sector are clear losers. Both Telco and Ashok Leyland have performed poorly and are in the red. Mico has cut down its working days by one day. Ceat and MRF have announced losses. The exception is Hero Honda.

The tractor industry is also performing poorly. Escorts has been able to announce presentable results only due to one-time “other income” item in the balance-sheet. Mahindra and Mahindra too has done only moderately well. Another major manufacturer of tractors has, as some reports indicate, has down its production.

The fertiliser companies too are not doing well. Tata Chemicals has gone into red partially due to unremunerative price of soda ash in the market and partially due to cut down in the government’s subsidy in the form of retention price. Hindustan Lever Chemicals has also suffered loss for the same reasons. Chambal Fertilisers has reported a net profit of only Rs 13.93 crore as against Rs 25.31 crore for the corresponding period last year.

The speciality chemicals industry has performed only moderately well. While Clariant and Vanvil dyes have done moderately well, Colour-Chem’s net profit has declined by 19.12 per cent. This moderate performance is largely due to modest performance of the textile and leather industries. BASF India too has reported moderately good results.

According to a recent CII survey, basic and some consumer goods sectors including steel, cement, fertilisers, automobiles, colour television and cigarette industry are likely to perform poorly during the current financial year.

Among the good performers are the ICE sectors of industry. Almost all top companies have reported excellent results. Apart from Infosys (whose results were discussed in a previous column), Satyam Computers, Silverline and Rolta have announced very good results. The net profit of Satyam has gone up to Rs 5036.79 lakh from Rs 2584.30 lakh. The surprise, however, is that in spite of good results reported by these companies, their market prices have come down considerably. It appears that some of these companies like Satyam can be picked up for appreciation at the current market prices.

Hindustan Lever, Nestle, Britannia and Cadbury have maintained their growth but in the context of the prevailing market sentiment, these shares appear to be fully priced.

Some pharma companies (like Novartis, Sun Pharma, German Remedies, Hoechst) are priced at attractive levels. Some paper shares like Ballarpur appear to be good buys. Reliance and Tata Tea are now at a price-level which makes them attractive for investment. Tata Tea, however, would need some time for appreciation.

There are, at least, some old economy companies which are quoting at attractive rates. These are: Vikas WSP (with an EPS of about Rs 100). Karur Vysya Bank (with a net profit of Rs 71.14 crore on an equity capital of Rs 6 crore and reserves of Rs 254.70 crore for the accounting year ended March 31, 2000), Electro Steel Casting (cum-bonus in the ratio of 1 for 1 and quoting around Rs 580 per share), Sterlite Industries (which has reported a 50 per cent rise in its net profit for the year ended June 30, 2000).


Books may get dearer
The rise in the prices and doubling of sales tax on paper is giving sleepless nights to publishers and book sellers who say that unless some action is taken urgently the prices of books, including textbooks, will witness a sharp rise.

The government has upped sales tax on the purchase of paper from 4 per cent to 8 per cent while there had been an increase of overall 30 per cent in paper prices, says s.c. Sethi, President of the Federation of Publisher and Book Sellers’ Association of India.

“The upward revision of sales tax is stated to be consequent on the decision of the group of state finance ministers to have uniform sales tax throughout the country. It appears that while taking this decision the adverse effect of the increase in sales tax on paper was not fully taken into account,” he laments. — PTI

Awards for fair business
The Council for Fair Business Practices (CFBP) is a forum for businessmen committed to protect the rights of consumer and to promote fair business practices. It is self-regulating body started 34 years ago by business leaders like late J.R.D. Tata and Ramkrishna Bajaj.

The CFBP has instituted awards to encourage fair business practices in the interest of the consumers and the public at large. At the last awards function the chief guest was N.R. Narayana Murthy, chairman, Infosys Technologies. The next awards will be presented in December this year.

The council has invited nominations from manufacturers, traders and associations for the awards. Self-nominations are also allowed. The last date for receiving completed nominations forms is September 30, 2000. Forms and more details are available with the CFBP at telephone No. 2885249/2842590 and e-mail — TNS

IT hub at Nehru Place
Nehru Place in South Delhi will soon be connected through a private network forming an Internet community of over 800 dealers in the largest IT market in Asia.

The IT hub at Nehru Place expects annual IT business of Rs 2,500 crore and it ( will meet the growing needs of vendors in northern India. The hub will also be connected to the outside world through the Internet via radio link. — UNITop


Inflation up
NEW DELHI, July 30 (PTI) — The annual rate of inflation once again crossed the 6 per cent level and stood at 6.12 per cent (P) during the week ended July 15 as against 5.92 per cent in the previous week. The rate was 1.99 per cent in the corresponding week last year.

Rakhi offer
CHANDIGARH, July 30 (TNS) — XPS door-to-door express service, a division of Transport Corporation of India, has launched a unique service named “Anmol Rakhi”. The service enables one to send Rakhi to distant places. The Rakhi offer includes a handcrafted wooden box, Rakhi, dori, sachets of Roli and chawl, a best wishes card — all packed in a gift pack.

Charlie range
CHANDIGARH, July 30 (TNS)  — The Rs 37 crore turnover Delhi-based Charlie Creations yesterday launched its new designer range which includes garments embellished with “Swarovsky Crystals”. The Charlie Casuals range for women includes haute embroided, trendy tattooed, sand blasted, fringed and mirrored denims. For men the company offers Koutons Collezioni party wear shirts and trousers and for boys khakis pyjamas in denim and cotton. Garments prices range from Rs 645 to 995.

FII sales
MUMBAI, July 30 (PTI) — The general polarity of inclinations in investment patterns of FIIs and mutual funds in equities has once again come to light when the former were net sellers at Rs 84.5 crore ($ 18.8 million) and the latter net buyers at Rs 126.28 crore during the week ended July 27. In the previous week, both together had withdrawn Rs 1,276 crore from the equities market, with the FIIs alone contributing Rs 1,127.5 crore ($ 252.4 m).

ADR issue
NEW DELHI, July 30 (PTI) — Nicholas Piramal India said today that it has deferred its proposed $ 100 million American Depository Receipts (ADR) issue on account of depressed US market conditions.

Steel imports
WASHINGTON, July 30 (PTI) — The USA is reviewing whether the floor prices for steel imports in India are consistent with Delhi’s obligations under the WTO agreements, a Commerce Department’s report on the global steel trade has said. The Indian government’s “market-distorting” policies in steel had “significant potential” to “disrupt global steel trade,” the report claimed.

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