|Friday, September 22, 2000,
STD calls to be cheaper from
Villagers to manage Magsaysay
Oil companies fattening on fuel
Bears are back
Imagine scientists doing it!
No free grains for poor
States to feed iron to girls
STD calls to be cheaper from
NEW DELHI, Sept 21 Long distance domestic calls will be cheaper from October 1 while local call charges and rentals will remain at current levels, the Minister of State for Communications, Mr Tapan Sikdar announced today.
He said the Department of Telecom had accepted the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) almost in toto.
However, off peak hour time has been changed in accordance with the recommendations of TRAI, but the relief would continue for a duration of 13 hours, he said.
The new charges have been planned with an aim to minimise the revenue loss to the Department of Telecom Services (DTS) and to increase the traffic during the off-peak hours.
As per the new tariff, peak hour rates between two destinations of upto 200 km have been slashed by over 9 per cent from the present Rs 16.80 to Rs 15.60. Call charges for distances upto 50 km have been left untouched.
Peak hour STD charges for distances between 200-500 km would be lesser by 19 per cent. One pulse of call in this segment would cost Rs 36 against the existing Rs 44.40. Similarly, peak hour call charges between two places with a distance of 500 to 1000 km has been reduced by 13.5 per cent from the current Rs 62.40 to Rs 54.
Long distance call charges for a distance above 1000 km would be Rs 73.70 against the current Rs 87.80, down by 16.5 per cent, Mr Sikdar said.
He said although the effective changes in STD call charges would be less by only 9 to 16.5 per cent during the peak hours, the reduction would be from 8 to 33 per cent during the off-peak hours.
As per the changes effective from October 1, peak hour charges would be levied from 9 am to 8 pm against the existing 8 am to 7 pm.
Half charges would be levied from 8 am to 9 am and from 8 pm to 9.30 pm, one-third charges would be between 6 am and 8 am, and also between 9.30 pm to 11 pm. One-fourth charges would be between 11 pm and 6 am.
According to the existing tariff, half charges are between 7 am to 8 am and 7 pm to 10.30 pm and one-third charges are from 6 am to 7 am and 8.30 pm to 11 pm. One-fourth charges are between 11 pm to 6 am.
Mr Sikdar said it was the first ever tariff revision which has not added any burden on the users.
Villagers to manage Magsaysay
LONDON, Sept 21 Aruna Roy, the Indian winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award for community leadership, said the $ 50,000 prize would be managed by a trust and it would distribute earnings from the interest to social activists working for human and democratic rights.
Roy, who won the award for her work with the Rajasthan-based Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathna (MKSS), told IANS, The interest from that money will go to people who are working for human and democratic rights in Rajasthan and elsewhere in India. I wont even be a trustee. Half the trustees will be people from our village and others will be people who can take care of the money.
Roy, who is in Oxford to participate in Ford Foundation-sponsored conference on India, said the MKSS central committee had a debate whether she should travel to Manila to accept the Magsaysay award since the organisation believes in collective leadership and does not have any single person as leader.
We dont believe an individual can be a leader, but after a lot of discussion, it was decided that I could take the award, Roy said.
Founded in 1990, the MKSS is a peasants and workers organisation and is behind the Right to Information campaign that has won it national recognition in India. Roy said, The MKSS was formed in 1990 to bring together peasants and workers in villages and demand their rights from the government, Roy said.
One of the MKSS achievement has been its success in mobilising grassroot support, including contributions in cash from working people in Rajasthan. The campaign was supported by the people. From every house, we got one-and-a-half kg of wheat, they also promised to sit in demonstration with us, Roy said.
She added, We also used a lot of theatre to get across our message the right to information was translated into two slogans Hamara paisa, hamara hissa (our money, our share) and sarkar hamara aap ka, nahin kisi ke bap ka, paisa hamara aap ka, nahin kisi ke bap ka (goverment and money are ours).
Oil companies fattening on
LONDON: Everybody knows that the taxes on petrol and diesel are lower in Europe than in Britain, yet the fuel price protests are not confined to Britain.
Truckers and farmers all over Europe are protesting. This confirms that the recent cost increases in Britain owe more to the rise in prices charged by the oil companies than to anything that the British Government has done. It also demonstrates that whatever happens to fuel duties, we need to address the fundamental problems of unjustified fluctuations in world oil prices.
In 1990 in the run-up to the Gulf war, the oil companies pushed up the price of petrol and claimed it was because of inexorable market forces which had forced up the worldwide price of crude oil. As shadow energy secretary, I set up Labours petrol price monitoring unit. This exposed the truth, eventually accepted by nearly every commentator not in the pocket of the oil industry, that the increases owed little to a shortage of oil and a great deal to profiteering by the oil companies.
They are at it again. The impression the oil industry has created is that there is a shortage of oil which has increased the world price and that the companies are innocent victims of market forces. Oh yeah! Lets look at the facts. Figures from the International Energy Agency show that the world production of crude oil in August this year was higher than in 1998. Yet in 1998 the average crude oil price was just $12.52 per barrel compared with $34 per barrel today.
Over and above the August production figures, output is expected to rise by 1.7m barrels per day or 2.2 per cent of total world production. Some 0.8m of these extra barrels have been promised by OPEC and a further 0.94m extra barrels are expected from non-OPEC countries. So production shortages, or fear of production shortages, cant be the explanation. The companies also claim that oil stocks are low. They dont mention that the stocks that are low are mainly their stocks and that it was they who decided to stock less.
The oil companies also claim that oil consumption has risen as a result of economic expansion. Surely an effective global oil system should be able to respond without needing huge price increases.
No one can safely say whether there is an oil shortage because although production figures are available worldwide, storage and consumption figures are not. So the world is laid open to the effects of rumours and propaganda from speculators who usually lay the blame for price increases on OPEC. This badly managed cartel must take some of the blame but only some.
Most people have the impression that the world depends overwhelmingly on OPEC for its oil supplies. Not so. Only 40 per cent of the worlds oil supplies come from OPEC countries. They make up only four of the top 10 producers. Saudi Arabia leads with 8.2m barrels a day, but is closely followed by the US on 8.1m and Russia on 6.5m. Combined Norwegian and UK production from the North Sea totalled 6.3m barrels a day in the first quarter of this year, although it had fallen to 5.7m by August.
The North Sea also illustrates that the cost of producing oil hasnt risen much since 1998, yet the oil companies are getting nearly three times as much money for every barrel they produce there. And that is broadly true the world over it is the price of crude that has risen, not the cost of producing it.
So who is getting the extra money? The answer is the oil companies. They produce the oil. They transport it. They store it (or dont store it). They refine it. They retail it. Above all, they buy and sell it. Oil trading is done by oil companies and speculators. No Martians are involved. The price of oil and oil products is what the oil companies pay and get paid. That is why they run up such huge extra profits during periods when oil prices are high. This is harming the rest of us because it means that the oil sector is taking a much bigger share from the worlds economy.
Under the present system, consumer countries, both rich and poor, are suffering. Many producer countries, including some members of OPEC, suffer from the economic, fiscal and social uncertainties caused by wild fluctuations in oil prices. The only constant beneficiaries of the present system are the oil companies.
The present system is unsustainable and needs to be changed. A worldwide, transparent and accountable system should take its place. It would not be perfect, but it would be better than what we have got. It might even be so successful that oil companies in the UK would do everything necessary to keep the forecourts properly supplied.
Thatll be the day.
Bears are back
THE crash of the Indian rupee precipitated by the impending international oil crisis has coincided with the vertical crash of the market. Last week we had predicted that while FII buying is very useful to comprehend why the rise occurred, it is by no means a guarantee of the future course the market will traverse.
A flashback to March had indicated that heavy FII buying then was followed by a very bad spell for the market. Hence, we had opined that investors would be well-advised to be selective while riding the rally and that they would do well to start booking partial profits.
It is now the turn of the bears to rule the roost and those with a bearish temperament can consider short positions at the counters of Wipro at Rs 2726 (cover up at Rs 2589) and ITC at Rs 771 (cover up at Rs 713).
Those with a bullish temperament may consider taking up long positions at the counters of Cadila Healthcare at Rs 124 (square up at Rs 137) and Hindustan Lever at 230 (cover up at Rs 244).
Imagine scientists doing it!
NEW DELHI, Sept 21 (PTI) The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology here, set up 13 years ago to take the fruits of biotechnology to developing member countries, is in the thick of a controversy following allegations of nepotism, mismanagement and sexual harassment.
Added to this, it is facing a serious accusation from Mr P.K. Panda, a senior Professor of Pathology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), that the centre cheated him by excluding his name in a commercial deal and violated an agreement he had signed with it.
Although Mr Virendra Singh Chauhan, head of ICGEBs New Delhi branch (the other branch is in Trieste, Italy), dismisses the allegations as part of a wrong and mischievous propaganda, the ICGEB Board of Governors meeting on November 13 is expected to discuss these problems affecting the research climate at the centre.
Mr Chauhan became the head of the unit two years ago on the recommendation of Ms Manju Sharma, Secretary to the Department of Biotechnology (DBT). The DBT is providing annually Rs 50 million to the unit as Indias contribution.
What is viewed as a case of blatant nepotism is the appointment this month of the son of the DBT Secretary as a post-doctoral fellow on international salary a position strictly meant for non-Indians and reserved for scientists for other member countries.
Many of us have been denied promotion to international grade due to a budget cut, a senior scientist burst out. How did Mr Chauhan find tax-free dollars for the Secretarys son? he asked. Mr Chauhan, in an interview, said the selection was made by a committee in Italy and not by him.
The Delhi unit was in the news earlier this year with reports of deteriorating work atmosphere, one reason for as many as 17 scientists quitting the centre in past two years. Recent events suggest that discontent among the staff persists and the situation has become worse.
Last month Mr Vikas
Dwivedi, head of the purchase division for 12 years,
filed a case against ICGEB in a Delhi court alleging that
Mr Chauhan sacked him to accommodate his relative. But Mr
Chauhan has denied this charge.
No free grains for poor
NEW DELHI, Sept 21 (UNI) The Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Minister, Mr Shanta Kumars proposal to distribute foodgrains either free or on nominal prices to the poorest has failed to find favour with the Planning Commission and Finance Ministry as they say the move would fiscal deficit.
The Planning Commission has shot down the proposal of free distribution of grains to the poorest, who according to the Minister, constitute only 8 per cent of the below poverty line (BPL) category which covers 320 million population, official sources said here today.
The Planning Commission is also reluctant to implement the revised proposal of Mr Shanta Kumar which involves the identification of atti-garib (poorest of the poor) for supplying the foodgrains at nominal prices, sources said.
The Food Minister suggested that rice be distributed at Rs 3 per kg and wheat Rs 2 a kg to the identified section
States to feed iron to girls
NEW DELHI, Sept 21 (PTI) The government is preparing a new Adolescent Girl Nutrition Programme aimed at providing nutritional support to women at the threshold of adulthood, Minister of State for Women and Child Development Sumitra Mahajan said here today.
To be called Kishori Shakti Yojana, the new initiative would allow states and districts to choose specific need-based interventions for the holistic development of adolescent girls, Ms Mahajan said, inaugurating a two-day national conference on preventing malnutrition through ICDS.
The scheme provides for additional inputs like deworming and iron and folic acid as also Vitamin A supplementation, she said.
Portrait of average Internet worker
LOS ANGELESS: He works 10 hours a day, makes more than $98,000 a year, doesnt bother to take holidays, dresses as he pleases, has never been happier and is looking for another job. This 33-year-old, white, university-educated creature is, according to the first comprehensive survey of the industry, the typical Internet worker.
There is also a reasonable chance that his employer will arrange his dry cleaning, allow him to bring his dog to work, offer him free massages and give him stock options. And he still thinks people in other firms are doing better.
The profile of the typical Internet employee has emerged from a survey carried out by the Industry Standard, the San Francisco-based news magazine of the Internet economy. The typical worker, it appears, not only enjoys an income about three times the national average but also has the gall to enjoy himself.
Currently 2.5m people are employed by Internet firms in the USA and the results of the survey give plenty of reasons why so many people believe that the grass is indeed greener in Silicon Valley. Even after the economic downturn in April closed many of the over-optimistic start-ups, there is still a mood of enthusiasm and privilege among those still employed.
So what makes 51 per cent of themvery happy? Challenging work is given as the main reason and salary is unsurprisingly close behind. The respondents to the survey also listed working weekends and long holidays as indicators of the pleasures of the workplace. Only 13 per cent were paid for the extra hours worked while 14 per cent put in more than 12 hours work on an average day.
The average income, consisting of salary, bonuses and commission, worked out at $104,000 with the average basic salary at $84,700. Given that around a third of the workforce is under 30 and often without family responsibilities, it is clear that for many new graduates 88 per cent of the workforce went to college there is only one job in town.
Despite the recent influx of techno-migrants from India and other Asian countries, the industry remains predominantly white (83 per cent) and around two-thirds male. The average age is 33.8
In 1986, in his prophetic verse novel about Silicon Valley, The Golden Gate, writer Vikram Seth recounted how ...Silicon Valley/Lures to ambitions ulcer alley/Young graduates with siren screams/Of power and wealth beyond their dreams.
The survey seems to confirm that the young graduates are still listening to the sirens, still dreaming and now may even have expert advice on how to deal with that ulcer. By arrangement with The Guardian
Click the mouse for education abroad
NEW DELHI, Sept 21 (PTI) Students aspiring to get entry into universities and colleges abroad do not have to run any more from pillar to post to get information. They can now download compact information with a click on the mouse.
A group of young professionals have come together and put up a site on the web called infozee.com where one can find answers to not only the frequently asked questions but has some exclusive features like GMAT and GRE practice test series in a unique format and database of almost 2500 universities and colleges in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
The site provides detailed information on admission process, pre-requisites, visa issues and similar most frequently requested information in a clear and concise manner.
A search engine, encompassing an entire gamut of courses from agricultural sciences to music to zoology makes the cumbersome process of locating a suitable university easier for an aspirant according to his/her interest and abilities.
HCL Infosystems to go public, launches ISP
NEW DELHI, Sept 21 (PTI) HCL Infosystems today launched its Internet services provider (ISP) subsidiary, HCL Infinet, and has plans to go public by March 2002 for raising funds for the new company.
HCL Infosystems will invest Rs 125 crore to spread out in 42 cities targetting a subscriber base of one lakh within a year, HCL Infinet President Saurav Adhikari said launching the ISP here.
He said the parent company would divest its stake to public, venture funds and strategic investors after consolidating the business within the next 12-18 months.
We would divest small portion (5-10 per cent) to venture funds through the book-building route and also go for an initial public offer to dilute HCLs stake, Adhikari said.
UP to buy MLAs laptops
LUCKNOW: In a move that may cost the state exchequer up to Rs 100 crore, the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet has decided to give laptop computers to each of the states 533 legislators at no charge to them.
The purchase will be financed out of each legislators constituency fund, the annual corpus given to the elected representatives for development work in their constituencies, hiked recently to Rs 75 lakh from Rs 50 lakh.
This is to help the legislators attend more efficiently and promptly to problems of their respective electorate, Chief Secretary Yogendra Narain told newsmen here.
Since no limit has been fixed for the expenditure on each computer, a legislator will be free to choose the brand and configuration, the best of which, according to a market survey, are in the price range of Rs 200,000 to Rs 400,000.
The legislators will also be entitled to retain the computers as their personal property even after they cease to represent the electorate in the Assembly. Interestingly, a study had recently revealed that less than 5 per cent of the legislators have basic computer knowledge. IANS
Power lines link to cancer
LONDON: New evidence that high voltage power lines cause cancer by making particles of pollution stick to peoples lungs has been uncovered by a team from Bristol University in England.
The teams research shows that car exhaust particles get an electrical charge from overhead power lines that makes them sticky giving people living close to the lines two or three times the average daily dose of potentially damaging pollutants in their lungs.
David Henshaw of Bristol University said the discovery is the missing link that shows how power lines can cause cancer clusters something the global electricity industry has spent millions of pounds researching without finding a conclusive answer.
His work is supported by Dr Alan Preece at the Bristol Medical School, whose independent research that people living up to 500 metres downwind of power lines have a 29 per cent greater chance of contracting lung cancer. This finding matches the area where sticky particles from car exhausts drift downwind of power cables.
Both men believe that building new houses near power cables, or allowing new power lines near houses should be stopped until their research is investigated. A ban already exists in the USA and Sweden. The Guardian
Foreign reporters rotten apples?
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad gave advice to European journalists on Thursday, saying they should stop being arrogant racists and learn to be humble.
Mahathir, who has long relished attacks on foreign reporters, returned to the fray in a speech entitled Role of the Media in Non-Aligned Countries.
For the European journalists, learn to be humble, stop assuming that you know better than non-whites about how to run countries and administer justice, he said.
Mahathir came under a barrage of international media criticism in 1998 when he imposed capital controls to insulate an economy battered by the Asian financial crisis.
Every time they report on Malaysia they talk of capital control and they repeat ad nauseam that this will mysteriously destroy Malaysias economy, he said of the international media.
Why it would do this and how it would do this, they do not care to explain. It is quite likely they dont understand this either. They are merely parroting something they heard somewhere.
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