Monday, September 18, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


WTO agreement to benefit Indian farmers: Sharad Joshi 
NEW DELHI, Sept 17 — Nearly all kisan unions are painting a gory scenario for the Indian farming sector as consequent to the signing of the WTO agreement on agriculture, but Shetkari Sangathana leader Sharad Joshi is perhaps the one who feels the WTO regime will free the farmers, plagued by negative subsidies, from the decade-old distortrous trade practices.

HPMC auctioning hits apple prices  
NEW DELHI, Sept 17 — With the HPMC auctioning a part of its procured culled apple at "cheap rates"’ in Parwanoo, the orchardists from Himachal Pradesh are feeling that they are not getting ``good price’’ for their produce in Delhi fruit mandis.The growers complain that the market rates this year have been lower from the prices in 1998 when there was a good apple crop. 

Pak rejects World Bank advice
KARACHI, Sept 17 — Pakistan has rejected the World Bank’s advice to frame a new industrial policy that would phase out seven of the country’s existing industries, which the bank considers “as internationally uncompetitive.”

Chief Secretaries meet on Sept 22
NEW DELHI, Sept 17 — The Chief Secretaries of North Indian states will meet in Chandigarh on September 22 to discuss Sales Tax and labour laws and to evolve integrated policy framework for the region.

PSB takes steps to reduce NPAs 
CHANDIGARH, Sept 17 — Punjab and Sind Bank has drawn up a strategy to reduce its NPAs and gear up its technology and manpower to provide efficient customer service and improve its profitability.




WTO agreement to benefit Indian farmers: Sharad Joshi 
From J.S. Sidhi

NEW DELHI, Sept 17 — Nearly all kisan unions are painting a gory scenario for the Indian farming sector as consequent to the signing of the WTO agreement on agriculture, but Shetkari Sangathana leader Sharad Joshi is perhaps the one who feels the WTO regime will free the farmers, plagued by negative subsidies, from the decade-old distortrous trade practices.

Assigned last week by the Central Government with an enviable job of preparing a comprehensive report on the possible impact of WTO agreements on Indian agriculture as Chairman of a high-level task force, Mr Joshi wants the subsidy of every kind to the farming sector to go.

The subsidies given to farmers are invariably manipulated by the well-entrenched class of middlemen and domestic trade in their favour and gobbled up in the name of benefitting the poor farmers.

In fact, all subsidies — on power, irrigation, seeds, fertilisers and other inputs — combined have turned out to be negative, he says. Official figures reveal that aggregate measure of support (AMS) to the farming sector is only 7.5 per cent positive, while the support to agriculture prices is massively negative to the tune of 83 per cent.

Ironically, Mr Joshi opposes the minimum support price (MSP), fixed by the government for various crops, propagating it as a market intervention to provide renumerative prices to farmers. But his argument is different to that of liberal economists, who too plead for the dismantling of the MSP regime on the plea that the practice has led to an abnormal hike in domestic prices of commodities (as in the case wheat) rendering them uncompetitive in the global market.

Mr Joshi feels that the MSP has turned out to a “maximum permissible price” for the farm crop and allows the manipulation of the market against farmers.

Similarly, an annual fertiliser subsidy of about Rs 13,000 crore supposedly being given to farmers is, in fact, siphoned off to the sick fertiliser industry in the name of maintaining the country’s self-sufficiency, mainly in urea production, he notes.

He says Indian farmers are becoming pauperised day by day even as they produce more and more and are made to yield more and more ‘for others’ through subtle measures. It is like “fattening of a goat before slaughter,” he remarks.

The kisan leader says a particular mindset of socialist era feels threatened from the WTO agreement. Actually this mindset, which is a reflection of an inferior complex that has hampered the entrepreneurship in the farming sector, handicapped the Indian agriculture and denied the farmers access to the free market and advanced technology.

A critical analysis of the impact this “protectionist policies” as pursued by the government clearly shows that middlemen, “ahrityas” (commission agents), fertilizers and insecticide manufacturers and dealers and officials entrusted with the task of issuing licence-quotas permits for farm inputs and procurement of foodgrains are having a “heyday”, while farmers are reduced to penury in the process. The farmers are now under heavy debt and committing suicide, but some like to describe the phenomenon as the result of profligacy on part of kisans, he says.

Mr Joshi argues that the WTO regime will dispense with a layer of intermediaries who, experience shows, thrived on “protectionist policies of the government.”

“There should be no middleman between the farmer and the supermarket. Let the farmer decide what is good for him.”

Referring to the oft-repeated apprehension that the WTO would give opportunity to the developed countries to dump their farm produce in India to the disadvantage of the domestic farmers, Mr Joshi says: “Let kisans learn how to be competitive. What is wrong if anyone could sell any farm produce cheaper in the country after bearing transportation and other expenses.

The domestic farmers will cultivate other crops in which they have competitive edge. Why farmers should be forced to produce so and so crop for so called food security and other considerations.”

“If some commodities are imported some others must be exported and the trade-oriented agriculture regime will settle everything right automatically,” he adds.

If developing countries want to retain the “negative subsidy” the developed ones would use it as a handle to continue with various types of subsidies and tariff barriers, distorting the market and price mechanism in their favour. So India has to bring down the heavy burden of negative subsidies that has not only harmed the farmers but also confused the WTO negotiations in favour of developed nations, he says.

Mr Joshi is in favour of genetically modified (GMS) foods provided they bear the label specifying their bio-engineering details. Unlike other kisan leaders, Mr Joshi is not against genetical engineering of crops by “Monsanto” and other multinational companies. “We should not insulate farm sector against the bio-technological advances if they are beneficial... why should they be rejected. At least five MNCS are there in this field providing transparency to judge what is good for farmers.”

The kisan leader also opposes the collective or cooperative farming but supports “operation consolidation of holdings on a voluntary basis” as a remedy to the decreasing size of Indian holdings.

Bitterly criticising the Essential Commodities Act, he says it goes against the farmers and serves the trade and other priviledged groups, “The Act should be immediately abolished. The free trade regime necessitates it.” — UNI



HPMC auctioning hits apple prices  
From Prashant Sood 
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Sept 17 — With the HPMC auctioning a part of its procured culled apple at "cheap rates"’ in Parwanoo, the orchardists from Himachal Pradesh are feeling that they are not getting ``good price’’ for their produce in Delhi fruit mandis.

The growers complain that the market rates this year have been lower from the prices in 1998 when there was a good apple crop. The main reason for this is the availability of culled apple at exceedingly low prices to traders from UP, Rajasthan, MP and Bihar who purchase this apple from Parwanoo and sell it in their markets after sifting.

Feeling that availability of cheap apple was affecting the price of graded apple in the market, the orchardists say that the culled apple was meant to be crushed by the HPMC and not sold in the market. ``While its procuring culled apple at a minimum support price helps growers, the HPMC’s selling it at cheap prices is actually hurting growers’ interest,’’ they claim.

The HPMC is procuring culled apple at Rs 3.75 a kg from the procurement centres in Himachal Pradesh. The apple is packed in sacks and brought down to Parwanoo where it is auctioned to bidders. A sack, containing about 60 kg culled apple, was being auctioned at between Rs 50 and 150, HPMC officials said.

With apple price in the Delhi wholesale market hovering between Rs 200-400 per box for different varieties of graded apple, the growers feel that the prices could have been up by Rs 50-70 per kg for each grade had the culled apple not being sold to traders. They said that the culled apple was being sifted and sold at a price not even half of the graded apple.

However, defending the auctioning of culled apple, the HPMC officials said they ad to get the maximum return for the public money spent in procuring apples. Since there was a limit to which the fruit could be rushed for processing, they had to find other suitable alternatives. Denying that auctioning of culled apple was affecting the price of graded varieties, they said the two qualities could not be compared.

While admitting that the sale of culled apple could have a bearing on the price which the Himachal growers were getting in the market, wholesalers in Delhi said another contributing factor for somewhat lower prices could be the arrival of apples from Kashmir. The apple crop in the Valley is normally late, but being fresh and better in colour, gets preference from wholesalers once arrivals start.



Pak rejects World Bank advice

KARACHI, Sept 17 (IANS) — Pakistan has rejected the World Bank’s advice to frame a new industrial policy that would phase out seven of the country’s existing industries, which the bank considers “as internationally uncompetitive.”

Sources here said Abdul Razak Dawood, Pakistan’s Commerce and Industries Minister, had told participants at a meeting earlier this month that the bank’s recommendations did not form part of the government’s strategy to speed up economic revival, NNI news agency reported.

They said Razak had received a letter from Abid Hasan, the World Bank’s operational adviser to Pakistan, in which he had proposed that the military government must immediately curtail further investment in industries contributing “negative value-added at world prices”. The seven industries listed by Hasan, included sugar, chemicals and fertiliser.

The Industries Ministry for sector-wise development of industrial policies has included these three industries. The remaining twelve are: Textile vision 2000, plastic processing, leather, sports goods, surgical instruments, fisheries, edible oil and vegetable ghee, cement, carpets, mining and quarrying, furniture and engineering goods industry. Industrial policies in these sectors have either been completed or are in the process of being completed.

The sources also confirmed that participants at the meeting had sought clarifications about the future of their industries in the light of the bank’s recommendations. Some of them were so agitated over the proposal that they discussed it for half an hour before taking up the formal agenda of the meeting for consideration.

The Ministry has not responded publicly to the bank’s letter so far, despite its publication in the newspapers. Razak, however, has assured the entrepreneurs likely to be affected by the bank’s advice that it is not binding on the government.

What’s wrong with economy

A World Bank study has cited several national and international causes that contributed to damaging Pakistan’s economy, including factors like the 1998 nuclear tests, the growing domestic opposition to then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and increasing tensions between Pakistan and India.

Pakistan’s economy suffered a major setback from the international economic sanctions that followed the May 1998 nuclear tests, the Karachi daily Dawn quoted the study as saying on Saturday. The sanctions led to a severe balance of payments problem, import restrictions, public expenditure cuts, tax increases, substantial external debt service arrears and a slowdown in growth.

The study also cited other contributory factors like Pakistan’s support to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and its delay in signing the CTBT as reasons for the economic slump, NNI news agency reported.

The World Bank said in its study that it helped Pakistan to develop a macro-economic and structural reform programme to deal with the country’s external financial position in a partnership with the IMF. It said the programme was finalised in November 1998 and it helped in the performance of the Pakistani economy.

The study said real gross domestic product (GDP) rate grew by 4.5 per cent, domestic inflation declined from 5.7 per cent in 1999 to 3.6 per cent in 2000 and the current account deficit declined to 2.4 per cent of GDP from 4 per cent in 1999. On the fiscal side, it said revenue collection increased by 13.4 per cent over 1999 but fiscal deficit remained at about 6 per cent of the GDP.



Chief Secretaries meet on Sept 22
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Sept 17 — The Chief Secretaries of North Indian states will meet in Chandigarh on September 22 to discuss Sales Tax and labour laws and to evolve integrated policy framework for the region.

The Chief Secretaries and senior government officials of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir will be participating on the day long meet, a PHDCCI press note said here today.

The Chamber in a background paper has said the state governments should clearly define their labour policy emphasising the proposed amendments and the industrial relations system in the state.

Another important aspect of the matter is the rule making power to implement the central Acts is with the state government only. The state government can soften the rigour of the rigid labour laws by making flexible rules till the laws are suitably amended.

Though the major legislation concerning the industrial relations in the country are central legislation, yet there are certain matters on which law is enacted by the state government.

The Shops and Establishments Act is one of the most important laws which has been enacted by the respective state governments, so the implementation and amendment of the same is under the exclusive domain of the state government, the Chambers said.

The PHDCCI called for a review of the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act while preparing the labour code. The legislation in some of the South East Asian countries, as well as China and Vietnam, offer valuable insights. 



PSB takes steps to reduce NPAs 
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Sept 17 — Punjab and Sind Bank has drawn up a strategy to reduce its NPAs and gear up its technology and manpower to provide efficient customer service and improve its profitability.

Addressing a Zonal Managers’ conference here today, Mr M.S. Kapur, Executive Director of the bank, said " in the present competitive environment, we will have to focus on reducing the cost of deposits, improving the yield on advances and investments and increasing non-interest income to strengthen the bottomline of the bank".

He said the bank has taken steps to reduce its NPAs, which are 9.39 per cent of the advances. The bank has posted a General Manager (Recovery) and established settlement committee. The bank has opened asset recovery branches in Delhi, Calcutta, Amritsar and Mumbai. Special recovery camps are being organised where on the spot decisions are taken to settle NPAs.

Besides, Mr Kapur said, legal steps are being taken against the borrowers who are not coming forward for an amicable settlement, including attachment of their personal assets.

The bank, which has 866 branches and 12,000 employees, has a deposit base of Rs 10,556 crore and advances of Rs 5,079 crore. The per employee productivity of the bank stood at Rs 1.26 crore. Its net profit, which was Rs 61.44 crore for 1999-2000, is expected to improve further in the current financial year.

Inflation dips

NEW DELHI, Sept 17 (PTI) — The annual rate of inflation fell by 0.30 percentage points to 5.64 per cent in the week ended September 2, despite a rise in the price of primary and manufactured goods. The point-to-point inflation rate based on WPI for “All Commodities’ (Base: 1993-94 = 100) was 5.94 per cent (P) in the previous week.


 J.C. Anand 

Microsoft, Infosys pact fails to lift Sensex

STRANGE are the ways of the stock market. When analysts expect substantial rise in the market, the market falls. This is what happened last week. Bill Gates’s arrival, the Prime Minister’s visit to the USA and his parleys with the US President and leading politicians, the expectation that the OPEC would raise production of oil and so the oil prices would come down were some of the factors that led the analysts to expect a substantial rise in the market. The first two days of the last week recorded considerable gains but then the trend reversed. When the market closed last Friday, the Sensex was down by 109.54 points in a single day’s trading.

OPEC met and announced marginal increase in the production of oil but this concession was so small that there was no respite in the international prices of oil. Petroleum Minister Ram Naik also announced that the petrogood prices will have to be hiked after the Prime Minister returns to India. In fact, last Friday there were rumours that the petrogood prices have been hiked and this led to frantic selling by traders with large holdings.

Bill Gates came and met a number of Chief Ministers for less than an hour but promised little to them. Bill Gates, however, signed an agreement with Infosys for some kind of partnership in the form of a strategic global alliance to jointly work for the development of e- business, financial services and retail management. According to the announcement, Infosys will work in developing various business solutions which will be built using Microsoft’s net enterprises server platform. The exact implications of the alliance were not clear, for the possible gains to Infosys would come more in the future than now. The market was not impressed, for the traders had expected a more gainful alliance between Microsoft and Infosys. Microsoft has already almost similar arrangements with Satyam and Wipro.

Not much was expected from the Prime Minister’s visit to the USA, and the market did not respond to any news emanating from the US administration and President Clinton’s words of welcome to the Prime Minister. The news at home was disturbing. Industrial production has slipped to 4.3 per cent in July as against 6.2 per cent in July, 1999. The industrial growth during April-July of the current financial year is 5.4 per cent as against 5.9 per cent for the corresponding period last year.

In case, the petrogood prices are hiked again, this would adversely affect the cost inputs of industry in general and depress the rate of industrial growth. The knowledge-based sector alone will remain relatively unaffected by the higher petrogood prices. The old economy sectors are likely to be affected in two ways: in increase in cost inputs and stagnation in consumer demand. The inflation rate is also likely to move up. To some extent, the exchange rate of the rupee as against the dollar may also be adversely affected. It has been suggested by Business Standard editorially that the Government should shoulder the increased burden of higher oil prices by itself and not hike the petrogood prices any further.

Long-term investors should sit tightly on their investable funds till the economic situation gets clearer. I do not expect this week to register any recovery in the stock exchange indices.

Both Sterlite Industries and Novartis have been now permitted to sub-divide their equity shares by splitting and demerging their present production units and departments.


K.R. Wadhwaney

Lufthansa keen on AI stake

A two-day bilateral meeting between India and Germany on September 18 and 19 will reveal plans of Air India and Lufthansa for the next five years. Unlike Air India which is still striving to acquire leased fleet to increase flights to Europe and the USA, Lufthansa is all set for increasing flights ex-India.

Lufthansa is earnestly working on plans to operate flights ex-Bangalore. This is what Dr Karl Freidrich Rausch, Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, emphasised while talking about expansion programme of his airline ex-India.

“We have 15 flights through Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai”, said Lufthansa officials, adding: “We are aiming to make it a daily flight”. Lufthansa’s market evaluation is sound and if it plans to increase flights, it means there is enough traffic to capture.

In addition to passenger flights, Lufthansa operates as many as 16 cargo flights a week to eight destinations in India.

Rated seventh airline in the world, Lufthansa’s revenue is up to $9.5 billion. Considered one of the efficient carriers, the airline has always had a very effective public relations unit.

Dr Rausch did not spell out but Lufthansa seems to be interested in buying a stake in Air India, which is effectively decked up for sell-off. “I can’t make any commitment at this point of time”, said Dr Rausch, “but we are certainly watching developments in Air India”. “We will take a decision as we come to know the terms and conditions of disinvestment”, he said.

Whatever may be the terms and conditions, Lufthansa will buy stake in Air India only after a thorough evaluation. Lufthansa’s viewpoint is straight-forward. It is a commercial carrier and it will buy stake only when it is in a position to translate such a venture profitable.

Dr Rausch met Minister for Civil Aviation Sharad Yadav but he did not consider it necessary to discuss with him about Air India’s disinvestment at this juncture.

If Lufthansa decides not to have stake in Air India, it may have code-sharing with it. It already has code-sharing with several carriers.

An important member of “Star Alliance”, Lufthansa impresses on its presence in all five continents and provides an integrated and seamless service.

IA still contemplating

Indian Airlines has been engaged in “deep thinking” whether it is advisable to increase fares at this point of time. If there is not much rise in fuel prices, the airline may stay put and operate its flights on current fares. But if there is a steep rise in the fuel prices, the airline may be forced to increase fares. One thing, however, is certain that it will not increase fares to the extent of 18-20 per cent, as Jet Airways has announced.

As of now, IA has cut down fares to the extent of 30-35 per cent on certain routes including Mumbai-Madurai, Chennai-Bangalore. “We have offered this incentive so that more people take to flying on these sectors”, said one official.



by R. N. Lakhotia

Q: In these columns in The Tribune dated 7.2.2000 maximum limit for deposit in PPF Account in one year has been mentioned at Rs 60,000 whereas in Kalyani’s Income Tax made easy for salaries, asstt. year 2000-2001 maximum limit mentioned at Page 93 is Rs 70,000.

— B.K. Verma, Khanna

Ans: The maximum tax rebate permissible in respect of public provident contribution is on a total contribution of Rs 60,000 only which @ 20 per cent comes to Rs 12,000. Further, please remember that the tax rebate on total investment upto Rs 80,000 is permissible not on PPF contribution but on other investments like investment in certain specified shares and mutual fund. Please do not commit the mistake of depositing Rs 80,000 in PPF Account. Any deposit made exceeding Rs 60,000 in one Financial Year in PPF A/c will not be entitled to interest. The limit of Rs 80,000 is for the A.Y. 2001-2002.

Q: I have not claimed exemption on H.B.A. loan interest @ 30,000 P.A. for last 3 years. Can it be claimed now and the procedure for it. I am Punjab Government employee.

2. Can it be adjusted at D.D.O. level in Form 16A (1999-2000) Income year as this income also includes income of last two years.

3. Can this interest exemption for last 3 years be deducted in Form 16 for Income 2000-2001.

— Rama Arora, Ludhiana

Ans: In case your Income-tax assessment is not completed, you can file a revised return and claim tax deduction on account of interest on housing loan. The DDO of your office can adjust only the interest pertaining to the Financial Year 1999-2000. He is not authorised to grant you tax deduction on account of housing building loan interest pertaining to earlier year.

Q: Kindly give advice in respect of the following points, relating to Income Tax:

1. I purchased MEP 96 of U.T.I. for Rs 1000 and sold one to them for Rs 19360 in July 99. What is my capital gain tax liability?

2. How to neutralise the above capital gain tax?

3. What are details of the provisions under Section 54EA and 54EB?

4. Which of the Deposit Schemes qualify exemption under 54EA and 54EB?

5. What is the cost inflation index for F.Y. 1997-98?

— D.R. Malhotra, Faridabad

Ans: The capital gains will be calculated after taking into account cost inflation index. The cost inflation index for the financial year 1997-98 is 331 while the cost inflation index for the Financial Year 1999-2000 is 389. The various schemes under which investment can be made for saving capital gain as are applicable to Section 54EA or EB are announced from time to time in the newspapers. In your instant case the benefit of these two sections cannot be availed because the investment has to be made within 6 months of selling the capital asset. You have sold the MEP in July, 1999, 6 months from the date of sale have already expired. Hence, you will not be eligible to claim any tax saving or benefit u/s 54EA or u/s 54EB of the Income-tax Act, 1961.



Why designers kiss often

LONDON: The late fashion designer Franco Moschino once explained that designers “kiss each other so much not because they’re fond of each other but so that they can whisper fresh insults into each other’s ears”.

The fashion industry’s bi-annual round of catwalk shows kicked off in New York this weekend before taking in London, Milan and Paris. It promises plenty of intrigue and back-stabbing, even by its own Machiavellian standards.

Interest in catwalk shows has exploded in the past few years. New York fashion week offers nearly 100 shows this season, making it the biggest fashion week ever held, according to organisers.

Kevin Krier, one of the city’s top show producers, recently told Women’s Wear Daily, the industry bible, that he was “in shock at the number of people who think they should go to fashion shows”. The luxury end of the market is booming.

The potential for huge profits has intensified competition between designers. This week the feud between the powerful Italian houses of Versace and Armani resurfaced after comments by Giorgio Armani in Vanity Fair magazine.

Armani, named the world’s wealthiest fashion designer when it emerged that he took home $ 100m last year, claimed that Versace once said to him: “You know something, Giorgio? You dress elegant women. You dress sophisticated women. I dress sluts”. — The Guardian

Ritu Kumar show in New York

NEW DELHI: India’s foremost fashion designer, Ritu Kumar, unveiled her fascinating and internationally acclaimed audio-visual show, “Tree of Life”, in New York on Sunday as part of a fund-raiser by an American non-profit group.

The show is the highlight of the annual fund-raiser of the New York-based Children’s Hope, which is a non-profit organisation run by women professions who have been raising funds for children’s causes for the last eight years.

This is the tenth out-of-India presentation of the show, which recently won accolades at the World Economic Forum in Davos where it was chosen to showcase contemporary and traditional Indian textiles, crafts and apparels.

Kumar is one of India’s most respected, albeit low-profile, designers and is credited with reviving and vitalising ancient handicrafts and textile processing techniques which were dying out. ‘Tree of Life’ was jointly presented by the India Trade Promotion Organisation at the grand ballroom of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, New York. — IANS

Canadian award for doctor

TORONTO: More than a thousand physicians and surgeons were on their feet and clapping as Dr Naranjan S. Dhalla, a distinguished Indo-Canadian cardiovascular scientist, walked away with the 2000 Canadian Medical Association Medal of Honour.

This is the first time medal has been awarded to an Indo-Canadian. The award was given away to Dhalla, a graduate of Panjab University, by Hugh Scully, President of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), at its recent annual meeting in British Columbia.

Scully called Dhalla “a world-class leader in cardiovascular research and the man most credited for the global growth of the International Society for Heart Research”. Dhalla is currently distinguished Professor and Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences of the University of Manitoba (Faculty of Medicine) in Winnipeg. — IANS

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