Tuesday, October 16, 2001, Chandigarh, India






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Uncertain economic environment worries govt

New Delhi, October 15
Union Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha today expressed concern over the uncertain economic and political global environment and observed that certain sectors in the Indian economy were likely to feel the heat of the current war against terror unleashed by the United States and its allies against the ruling Taliban in trouble-torn Afghanistan. 

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Mr Yashwant Sinha, Union Minister of Finance, in conversation with Mr N. Rrangachary, Chairman, IRDA, at the international conference on insurance, "Emerging horizons in the Indian insurance industry," organised by FICCI in the Capital today.

Increase investment in agriculture: Ajit Singh
New Delhi, October 15
The Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Ajit Singh, today said the Tenth Plan should focus on increasing investment in agriculture if a breakthrough is to be achieved in removing poverty and improving the standard of living of the farmers.



EARLIER STORIES
 

Amritsar our third destination, says Canada 3000
Chandigarh, October 15
“We cannot allow a handful of people to decide what sort of society we want to live in. In fact, it is people who have to decide. The free world must stand up and say what it wants rather than allowing a minute minority to dictate terms,” says Mr Angus J. Kinnear, President, Canada 3000.

‘Smart’ warriors to fight in Afghanistan
Washington, October 15
What was earlier a video game fantasy might be coming true!
Pentagon brass are considering a rushed production of the world's first wearable computer network for soldiers, a high-tech system to track down elusive terrorists.

India committed to protecting environment
New Delhi, October 15
India has stated that agricultural negotiations in the WTO should lead to the removal of distortions in major subsidising countries.
The negotiations should also provide adequate flexibility to developing countries to enable them to take care of their concerns relating to food and livelihood security and rural development.

Competition to hit sugar exports
New Delhi, October 15
With Thailand cane crushing season to begin and Brazil offering sugar at a much lesser price, Indian sugar exports will suffer unless the mills offer their produce at a low price of around $ 200 per tonne.

SBI chief rules out another VRS
Vrindavan (UP), October 15
The State Bank of India Chairman Janki Ballabh has ruled out a second phase of Voluntary Retirement Scheme in SBI.
“There is no thought of another phase of retirement schemes in SBI,” Mr Janki Ballabh told UNI here.

30% software exports expected
New Delhi, October 15
Computer software and service exports from India is estimated to have touched $ 2298 million during April to July, 2001, up 30.5 per cent from $ 1,761 million during the same period the previous year.

TVS Suzuki unveils ‘Victor’ motor cycle
Chandigarh, October 15
TVS Suzuki today launched ‘Victor’, a four stroke 110cc motor cycle here. The bike which will be available in red, blue and black colours will give 85 km per litre fuel efficiency under standard test conditions.

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Uncertain economic environment worries govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 15
Union Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha today expressed concern over the uncertain economic and political global environment and observed that certain sectors in the Indian economy were likely to feel the heat of the current war against terror unleashed by the United States and its allies against the ruling Taliban in trouble-torn Afghanistan.

“The effect ( of the ongoing war) will be felt in certain sectors. It is difficult to say how long the adverse situation will last, as globally the political and economic situation is uncertain”, Mr Sinha told newspersons here on the sidelines of a conference on insurance organised by FICCI.

Earlier speaking at the conference, he indicated that the cap of the foreign investment was unlikely to be enhanced from the current level of 26 per cent to the 49 per cent for private players in the insurance sector.

“It will have to wait. We have just opened up the sector and the private sector must be able to perform and produce results before a case is made out for enhancing the foreign equity cap”, he said.

On the affects on the ongoing war against terror, he said that the immediate affects have been manifested in the response of the country’s stock markets and also in the decline in the value of the domestic currency, the Finance Minister said adding that a fall in the inflow of foreign investment could also be felt.

“The fall in the rate of growth of exports to one per cent is cause of worry for us”, Mr Sinha said even as he maintained that the government was not expecting any inflationary tendencies to creep into the economy.

“I do not expect any inflationary pressure in the days to come. This is one parameter of the economy where there is some positive sign and according to the latest figure the inflation rate is hovering around 3.4 per cent”, he said.

He said that a close watch was being maintained on the external environment and the idea was to insulate the domestic economy from feeling the heat from the exogenous factors.

“We may have to put in place measures that will increase the demand of goods domestically and thereby reduce dependence on external markets”, he observed.

“These are difficult times and nothing is more worse for economic development and growth than uncertainty. Economic growth prospers when there is stability all around”, Mr Sinha noted.

Earlier speaking in the conference, he sought to clarify the view that the government was seeking refuge under the global situation to explain the current slowdown in the Indian economy.

“There are also purely domestic reasons for the slowdown and I have been criticised in some quarters for hiding behind the global situation”, he pointed out. He also indicated that the government was not in favour of any amnesty scheme or further lowering of tax rates to increase revenue collections.

“An immunity scheme every now and then is one of the most powerful disincentives for the honest tax payer”, he said. Referring to the 8 per cent cut in excise rate cut in the last budget, Mr Sinha said that in the industry responded by increasing prices on those items where the excise rate was reduced.

Regarding the low growth in the manufacturing sector in recent times, the Finance Minister said that lates figure of 1.8 per cent growth in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) did not come as a surprise to the government given the performance of the manufacturing sector.

On the insurance sector, the Finance Minister also said that the private sector players will have to fulfill social obligations.

“There has to be equal sharing of burdens and I expect the regulator ( IRDA) to ensure that the burden of unbalanced economics is not placed entirely on public sector insurers”, he said.

Rationalising the opening up of the insurance sector in India, Mr Sinha said that one of the biggest economic advantages was to ensure higher domestic savings. “One would expect the insurance sector to augment the savings rate which will subsequently lead to larger availability of funds for long-term projects”, he pointed out.
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Increase investment in agriculture: Ajit Singh
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 15
The Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Ajit Singh, today said the Tenth Plan should focus on increasing investment in agriculture if a breakthrough is to be achieved in removing poverty and improving the standard of living of the farmers.

Addressing a meeting of the Steering Group of Agriculture and Allied Sector for the Tenth Five-Year Plan, Mr Singh suggested that budgetary support for infrastructure development in the form of irrigation, rural roads, research and development, electricity, watershed management, rural communication, post harvest management besides regionally differentiated strategies for agricultural development be enhanced.

Since agriculture is the source of livelihood of about two-third of the population, it has to be a primary area of focus in the tenth Plan. In order to achieve a growth rate of 8 per cent, a significantly higher growth rate would be required in the agriculture sector than the growth rate in the nineties.

He said policy framework requires a bold departure from the existing policies in terms of restructuring as also to enhancing support and investment in the sector.

The agricultural sector today was capital starved and the its share in the gross capital formation in the economy has declined from 15.4 per cent in early eighties to 8 per cent at present. The share of public investment in agriculture too has declined and the total plan budget for the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation has also been reduced. The trend appears to reflect a general lack of appreciation to the needs of the agriculture sector, Mr Singh lamented.

The Minister outlined the need for formulating area specific strategies, diversification of agriculture, emphasis on horticulture, animal husbandry and fisheries sector and said these have to be the thrust areas in the tenth plan for enhancing incomes and livelihood opportunities.

The Steering Group consists of 20 members drawn from concerned fields and is headed by renowned agricultural scientist, Dr M.S. Swaminathan.
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Amritsar our third destination, says Canada 3000
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 15
“We cannot allow a handful of people to decide what sort of society we want to live in. In fact, it is people who have to decide. The free world must stand up and say what it wants rather than allowing a minute minority to dictate terms,” says Mr Angus J. Kinnear, President, Canada 3000.

Slowing down of economy and recession in international aviation notwithstanding, Mr Kinnear is going ahead with his plans of operating a direct polar flight from North America to India .

“When we came to India for the first commercial flight on October 8, newsmen came and questioned us about the new flight. The life has not come to a stop after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA. And if we succumb to the pressure, terrorists would have won the battle,” he says maintaining that New Delhi has been 108th destination for Canada 3000 worldwide.

“Of 7 lakh Indians in Canada, nearly two lakh are Punjabis who fly to India every year. And if we have only 23 per cent of the total air traffic between Canada and India, our flights will remain 100 per cent booked,” says Mr Kinnear while talking about prospects of the new polar flight.

“Though we have a licence for five flights a week to India, we will operate only three to begin with, two to Delhi and one to Mumbai. The Mumbai flight will touch down London while Delhi flights will be direct, non-stop to Toronto. If given a choice, we would opt for a third destination in India — Amritsar. We hope to take it up with our government so as to amend the bilateral agreement between India and Canada which at present provides for flying to two destinations each.

“A far as Air Canada is concerned. We are not bothered. Life is a challenge and we compete against them everywhere and will be happy to compete with them in India too,” adds Mr Kinnear, maintaining that civil aviation will recover quickly from the aftermath of September 11 incidents.

“The best thing will be to restore normalcy as quickly as possible and take people out of this trauma. This will help in economy to recover. For aviation to survive, it has to ensure two things — safety and security of passengers and good service. We are striving for both. We have to rebuild the confidence of the traveller and assure his safety in the air,” adds Mr Kinnear.
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Smart’ warriors to fight in Afghanistan

Washington, October 15
What was earlier a video game fantasy might be coming true!

Pentagon brass are considering a rushed production of the world's first wearable computer network for soldiers, a high-tech system to track down elusive terrorists.

Designed and engineered in Silicon Valley, the experimental "Land Warrior" system originally was scheduled for release in 2004, the California-based Mercury News reported.

But military commanders, who are scouring their arsenal for technologies that will help soldiers track down terrorists in hostile terrain such as the mountains of Afghanistan, are now debating whether to quickly adopt the futuristic system.

"Land Warrior is one that we're looking at to see if we could push it harder," says Lt. General Paul Kern, the military deputy overseeing acquisition of technology for the U.S. Army.

The wearable computers, now in the final testing stage, turn foot soldiers into "smart" soldiers, creating a wireless human network on the battlefield, complete with Pentium III-powered portable computers, a gun-mounted mouse, e-mail, night vision goggles and a global positioning system that can pinpoint the enemy in the dark.

"It was designed for places like Afghanistan," says Hugh Duffy, Vice-President of Pemstar Pacific Consultants in Mountain View. Duffy's been working on the Land Warrior system since 1999, when the army enlisted Silicon Valley experts to salvage its then-floundering "smart" soldier project.

A decision to fast-track the project would give a financial boost to several firms that do business in Silicon Valley and are crafting the technology — especially Pemstar, the electronics manufacturer that will make the next round of prototypes at its San Jose, California, plant.

It's seen as having an excellent shot at winning the deal to manufacture the wearable computer components for 34,000 systems (about $30,000 a unit), a sizable piece of the entire $1.5 billion Land Warrior contract.

The goal is to make soldiers almost as invisible as snipers who have a home turf advantage by turning them into walking "local area networks", communicating much like wireless PC networks in an office.

"We've never had the ability for one soldier to designate a target, and for another soldier to shoot it," says Col. Bruce Jette, who has overseen the successful redesign of Land Warrior. Jette now works on preparing the army for 2010 and beyond.

When it comes to communicating, instead of age-old battlefield methods, troops can talk to one another via radios and e-mail -- hand-typed or pre-written messages.

Unless serious problems surface in current safety and reliability tests, Jette has advised his Pentagon commanders that Land Warrior could be rolling off the assembly line by late spring if they make a decision soon.

"The bottom-line question is: Will this make it more likely that a soldier will survive? The answer is yes," says John Geddes, Land Warrior project manager at Exponent, the Menlo Park engineering consultant coordinating work by five companies doing the design work.

The entire Land Warrior package — everything from body armour to weapons to wearable computer —weighs a hefty 92 pounds. Over the next few weeks, top Pentagon commanders will debate whether to rush Land Warrior into combat. IANS
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India committed to protecting environment
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 15
India has stated that agricultural negotiations in the WTO should lead to the removal of distortions in major subsidising countries.

The negotiations should also provide adequate flexibility to developing countries to enable them to take care of their concerns relating to food and livelihood security and rural development.

India made its stand known at an informal meeting of Trade Ministers which was held in Singapore last week to prepare the ground for the Doha Ministerial Conference of the WTO in November.

Mr Murasoli Maran indicated that on the paragraph on agriculture in the Draft Ministerial Declaration, certain additional elements like concerns of livelihood security and market access for agricultural products of the developing countries needed to be added to the special and differential elements of the present draft.

Mr Maran also articulated India’s position on the issue of environment implementation, investment competition policy, trade facilitation and transparency in government procurement.

Expressing concerns on some of the language as also the structure of the Draft Ministerial Declaration (DMD), Mr Maran pointed out though the draft talks of placing the interests and needs of developing and least developed countries at the heart of the WTO’s work programme, the draft declaration does not address the development dimension fully.

He expressed his reservations in respect of the Singapore issues which were investment, competition, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation.

He questioned how multilateral rules in the subjects would benefit to the developing countries when they take away even their existing developmental domestic policy options.

Regarding environment, he stressed India’s commitment to the conservation and protection of environment. He however, expressed concern of the developing countries over environmental measures being used for protectionist purposes.

On the issue of TRIPs and public health, the Minister strongly argued that the Doha Ministerial Declaration should respond to the concerns raised by the developing countries by clarifying that the flexibilities available in the TRIPs Agreement should not and must not come in the way of governments undertaking measures to protect public health.
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Competition to hit sugar exports

New Delhi, October 15
With Thailand cane crushing season to begin and Brazil offering sugar at a much lesser price, Indian sugar exports will suffer unless the mills offer their produce at a low price of around $ 200 per tonne.

“As of now, there is a major competition from the Brazilians and price-wise India has also to watch out for Thais with their sugar to hit the market from December onwards,” Vice-President, Adani Exports, Atul Chaturvedi, told PTI.

A market analyst warned if India did not position itself at a competitive price of $ 200 per tonne free on board (FoB), exports which included 1.4 lakh tonne contracts for October-November, delivery would come to a standstill from January.

He explained that India had primarily exported sugar to Sri Lanka and Pakistan and the South Asia. Mills were at present offering sugar at $ 235 per tonne FoB.

However, Thailand was expected to offer sugar at a $ 3 discount over the London price which was quoting at $ 208 per tonne for March delivery.

This would badly hit Indian exports as the freight and time advantage the country had over Brazil would become irrelevant, given the Thai proximity to Asian buyers.

Chaturvedi said even before the Thai arrivals begin, exports scenario was sluggish with Brazil selling sugar to Indonesia at $ 230 cost and freight while Indian sugar cost around $ 257 per tonne, including freight. PTI
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SBI chief rules out another VRS

Vrindavan (UP), October 15
The State Bank of India (SBI) Chairman Janki Ballabh has ruled out a second phase of Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) in SBI.

“There is no thought of another phase of retirement schemes in SBI,” Mr Janki Ballabh told UNI here.

Mr Janki Ballabh, who was here to attend the All-India Conference of the National Confederation of Bank Employees, said it was high time the quality of the service improved and better marketing strategies adopted in the changing world scenario.

The NPAs which has become a bane for the banks should be done away with at the earliest, he added.

Meanwhile, Confederation General Secretary Y. Tharaknath termed the VRS as anti-labour and a method aimed at getting rid of the unions. He alleged that the Vajpayee Government was moving much faster in the direction of privatisation than the P.V. Narasimha Rao regime who had first brought in changes in the banking sector.

The contention that the NPAs which stand at more than Rs 1,00,000 crore was the basis for the privatisation move was incorrect. UNI
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30% software exports expected

New Delhi, October 15
Computer software and service exports from India is estimated to have touched $ 2298 million during April to July, 2001, up 30.5 per cent from $ 1,761 million during the same period the previous year.

Overall electronics and software exports are estimated to have reached $ 3074 million during April to July 2001, up 33 per cent from $ 2311 million in the corresponding period the previous year, according to provisional export data compiled by the Electronics and Computer Software Exports Promotion Council (ESC). In rupee terms, the growth in software and services segment is estimated to the tune of 33.3 per cent at Rs 10,800 crore during April to July, 2001, from Rs 8,100 crore in the same period the previous year.

Electronics hardware exports were at $ 213 million during April to July 2000. PTI
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TVS Suzuki unveils ‘Victor’ motor cycle
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 15
TVS Suzuki today launched ‘Victor’, a four stroke 110cc motor cycle here. The bike which will be available in red, blue and black colours will give 85 km per litre fuel efficiency under standard test conditions.

“This makes it one of the most fuel efficient bikes in the category of 110 cc to 135 cc bikes”. “The longer stroke in the bike ensures that it delivers the widest possible torque band for more power . This feature has been made more convenient through the Victor’s options of Economy or Power Mode (patent pending)”, stated the company press release.

Designed with a synchronized suspension system, Victor has rectangular swing arm and vehicle geometry.
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Ballarpur net improves

New Delhi, October 15
Ballarpur Industries Ltd (BILT) have registered a slight improvement in its operating profits and turnover during the quarter which ended on September 30 compared to the corresponding period last year. The operating profit was Rs 76.58 crore as compared to Rs 72.8 per cent and the net profit was Rs 17.43 crore as against Rs 17.40 crore. UNI
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BIZ BRIEFS

Krishi Card
New Delhi, October 15
Punjab National Bank announced the successful completion of a special 15-day drive to enrol Krishi Card to farmers. The drive for the kisan credit cards, launched from October 2 was made available through PNB’s large network of 2630 rural and semi urban branches across the country. TNS

Mr Grasim
Bhiwani, October 15
In the wake of terror strike in America and US attacks against terrorism on Afghanistan, the Grasim Mr. International-2001 to be held in Udaipur on October 27 has been postponed till second week of December by the organisers. OC

SBP branch
Chandigarh, October 15
Mr P.K. Bansal, Assistant General Manager, State Bank of Patiala, Ludhiana today inaugurated fully computerisation of Ludhiana (Sunder Nagar) branch. Mr Bansal said that by the end of March 2002, more than 80 per cent of the bank’s operations would be computerised. TNS

Maruti award
Chandigarh, October 15
Modern Automobiles, a Chandigarh-based ISO 9002 certified Maruti dealer, has been given bronze dealer award by the Maruti Udyog Ltd. for maintaining excellence in overall dealership standards in the area of sales, service and marketing for the period 2000-2001 for Chandigarh-Ambala-Karnal and Hisar. It was announced by Mr Jagdish Khattar, MD Maruti Udyog Ltd. TNS

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