Friday, November 23, 2001, Chandigarh, India






National Capital Region--Delhi

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

Govt to review tax exemptions: Sinha
New Delhi, November 22
The Income Tax department will once again start scrutiny of returns in an effort to increase revenue collections, Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha said here today.

USA raids portals selling anthrax cures
Washington, November 22
The USA is cracking down on dozens of websites that have mushroomed, almost overnight as these were, selling everything from mail sterilisers to oregano oil to prevent and treat illnesses such as anthrax.

Cotton growers outpriced in home market
T
he region’s cotton growers are in crisis due to the low prices of what was once proudly called the white gold. From the earlier level of Rs 1,830 per mound , the prices have fallen this year to Rs 1,480 in Punjab and a little lower in Haryana. As with paddy and wheat, it is a case of glut.


Commerce and Industry Minister Murasoli Maran addresses the inaugural session of the second India-European Union Business Summit.
(28k, 56k)
Once- leading hosiery brands of West Bengal today gasp for breath as they face stiff competition from Tamil Nadu
(28k, 56k)



EARLIER STORIES

 

Canara Bank net profit jumps 145 pc
Bangalore, November 22
Canara Bank’s net profit jumped 145 per cent to touch Rs 306 crore for six months ended September 30, 2001, as compared to Rs 125 crore in the corresponding period of last year.

HDFC Bank to launch credit card soon
Chandigarh, November 22
Buoyed by oversubscription of its stocks in the USA, HDFC Bank has decided to launch a credit card. The bank has also set aside Rs 30 crore for loans in the retail segment.


European Commission President Romano Prodi with Reserve Bank of India Governor Bimal Jalan  in Mumbai on Thursday.
— PTI



Johnson & Johnson won US approval to sell Ortho Evra, the first contraceptive skin patch. The patch releases hormones through the skin into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy. The patch is made by Johnson & Johnson's Ortho-McNeil pharmaceutical unit.
— Reuters

Fortis Heart Institute fully operational
SAS Nagar, November 22
Fortis Heart Institute at SAS Nagar has now become fully operational, according to an official announcement here today.

HP sheep-rearers in trouble
Shimla, November 22
The Gaddi community of Himachal Pradesh is adversely affected by the closure of government-run Wool Federation which was reportedly sustaining losses.

Downgrades to hit firms

ROUND-UP

Wipro ties up with Qualstar
BANGALORE: Wipro e-Peripherals, a leading storage solutions player in the country, today announced a strategic partnership with Qualstar Corporation, a Nasdaq-listed leader in enterprise-level storage solutions.

  • Software for nutrition counselling



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Govt to review tax exemptions: Sinha
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 22
The Income Tax department will once again start scrutiny of returns in an effort to increase revenue collections, Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha said here today.

The practice had been suspended for about two years due to the computerisation work undertaken by the department.

Addressing the first meeting of the reconstituted Central Board for Direct Taxes (CBDT) Advisory Committee, comprising MPs, officials and representatives from the business chambers, Mr Sinha said the present tax base was still small compared to the population and the government wanted to double the number of tax payers in the next four years. In this context, he said, “we are also looking at the number of exemptions.”

He said the challenges that needs to be addressed were further rationalisation of tax structure, simplification of procedures, review of the exemptions and creation of a tax-payer friendly environment.

Referring to the negative growth in tax collections in the first quarter of 2001-02, Mr Sinha said it was due to the large tax refunds. The collections had gone up from the second quarter and the government was hopeful that it would cross last fiscal’s figures.

“Gross collections have gone up, but net collections have come down largely on the dispensation by the CBDT of not to hold back refunds,” the minister said.

On reports that the “saral” return form was getting complicated, Mr Sinha said it continues to remain “saral (easy)”. Only some attachments were being proposed to enable people with additional income from several sources to provide those, he clarified.

The minister informed the meeting that Chief Commissioners of Income Tax have been asked to hold meetings with tax payers regularly to address their grievances.

Now that tax rates are at a very reasonable level, the focus would be taking further measures to make the department tax-payer friendly, he added.

The Advisory Committee members including the presidents of FICCI and Assocham suggested ways to increase revenue collections and improve the tax:GDP ratio.

FICCI President Chirayu Amin said the government should bring down corporate tax rates to 25 per cent in 2-3 years from the present 35 per cent while abolishing minimum alternate tax.

Assocham President Raghu Modi said the Finance Minister should hold meeting with tax officials in the major metros to understand the problems and come up with necessary changes. PTI
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USA raids portals selling anthrax cures

Washington, November 22
The USA is cracking down on dozens of websites that have mushroomed, almost overnight as these were, selling everything from mail sterilisers to oregano oil to prevent and treat illnesses such as anthrax.

The USA is cracking down on such websites that it claims are selling unproven products to counter bio-terrorism threats.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent some 40 e-mails to operators of such websites, telling them to stop marketing such products or face prosecution.

The FTC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the California Department of Health Services and the offices of more than 30 state attorneys-general scoured the web for sites selling products that claimed to protect or counter biological and chemical agents.

The Internet search uncovered more than 200 sites marketing bio-terrorism related products, including gas masks, protective suits, mail sterilizers, biohazard test kits, homoeopathic remedies and dietary supplements.

The sites are claiming that dietary supplements such as colloidal silver, zinc mineral water, thyme and oregano oil are effective treatments for illnesses such as anthrax.

But the FTC said it was aware of no scientific proof for such claims. And John Taylor with the FDA's Office of Enforcement said no products being marketed as dietary supplements had proven safe and effective in the treatment of anthrax.

The FTC said opportunistic online marketers are preying on the fears of the public. "This marketing targets people worried about the prospect of exposure to lethal biological or chemical weapons," said Howard Beales, the FTC's Director of Consumer Protection. IANS
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Cotton growers outpriced in home market
Nirmal Sandhu

The region’s cotton growers are in crisis due to the low prices of what was once proudly called the white gold. From the earlier level of Rs 1,830 per mound , the prices have fallen this year to Rs 1,480 in Punjab and a little lower in Haryana. As with paddy and wheat, it is a case of glut. Demand is there, but not at the price expected. Indian agriculture has landed in serious crisis because of being inefficient and uncompetitive by global standards.

Cheaper imports have made the domestic cotton unviable and unwanted. Some 20 lakh bales have been imported into the country this season. Of these three lakh bales have moved into Punjab. Top mills are rejecting the costly Indian cotton and importing it cheaper from the USA, Australia, Israel, Greece, Uzbekistan, Syria and Africa.

Smaller spinning, ginning and processing mills are on the verge of closure due to a high lumpsum power tariff, though most are working at almost half the capacity levels, faced with poor supplies. Punjab cotton has gone beyond millers’ reach also by a 4 per cent cess — 2 per cent market fee and 2 per cent levy for rural development. Such a cess also exists in Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, but it is lower there.

Cotton growers in Maharashtra share the same plight, but the state government has come to their rescue, not without inviting a huge financial burden. Honouring its commitments to the growers, it has decided to procure cotton at a price of Rs 2,300 a quintal against the minimum support price of Rs 1,800, adding Rs 1,500 crore to its previous burden of Rs 3,000 crore.

Such ruinous support is unlikely for the Punjab cotton grower. Why is the Punjabi farmer, who gets free water and power supply, still unable to bring down his production cost? The American bollworm is the culprit largely responsible for his woeful plight. Year after year, he faces helplessly the wrath of this worm.

Usually, cotton is sprayed four to five times to check the pest, but this time, according to media reports, it was given 22 sprays., raising the cost per acre from Rs 1,000 to Rs 6,000. Smaller farmers, being unable to spend that kind of money with uncertain results, chose to plough the standing crop. In Bhiwani they burned it.

Growers in Gujarat found a way out: they used genetically modified seed illegally to raise bollworm-resistant Bt cotton on 11,000 acres. When it was discovered by Mahyco, which solely holds the licence to grow it from US-based Monsanto, and on its complaint action was taken, half the cotton had already entered the market. Instead of burning the crop as demanded earlier, the state government has decided to purchase it and legally proceed against Navbharat Seeds, the company that allegedly supplied the GM seed.

There are 15 countries, including the USA and Australia, that use the GM seed which is not only bollworm-resistant but also gives a higher yield and the crop matures earlier than other varieties. In India the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), which is the sole deciding inter-ministerial body, has spent many years on experimenting with the GM seed without reaching any conclusion about its safety.

Cheaper cotton from the countries using the GM seed has outpriced the Punjabi farmer in his home market. The solution that the Punjab and Maharashtra Chief Ministers seek from the Centre is; raise the import duty. By 25 per cent, says the Punjab CM. By 50 per cent, says his counterpart in Maharashtra.

That is no solution. It is tempting to blame it all on liberalisation, cry against the WTO and seek protection for the domestic market, but that won’t work now. It is a situation of surplus. You can’t force the buyer — it is rather unfair — to buy something from a domestic producer at a higher price when it is much cheaper to import it. You can’t go on subsidising the inefficient producer; the need is to make him efficient.

Like much in the traditional Indian industry, farming costs are unreasonably high, largely because of expensive farming machinery, indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, often left to the discretion of hired migrant labour.

Also contributing to the disaster called agriculture are the widespread use of outdated seeds that push down productivity, the general reluctance to go in for the latest technology and farming techniques, prompted perhaps by bureaucratic hurdles, near absence of extension services from agriculture universities manned by disinterested, and often dissatisfied, scientists, policy delays by debate-prone academic guardians of the environment and tiresome official procedures.

So when the small miller in the Punjab cotton belt is starved of cotton supplies because he cannot afford to import and the farmer holds his produce back, hoping the prices would rise, it is time to tell them the market reality: be efficient for competition and survival. Market economy gives jolts, but it makes you stronger.
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Canara Bank net profit jumps 145 pc

Bangalore, November 22
Canara Bank’s net profit jumped 145 per cent to touch Rs 306 crore for six months ended September 30, 2001, as compared to Rs 125 crore in the corresponding period of last year.

Significantly, the figure is higher than the net profit earned for the entire 2000-01 (Rs 285 crore), the Bangalore-headquartered bank’s CMD, R.V. Shastri, said.

Global business increased to Rs 90,136 crore — Rs 61,517 crore of deposits and Rs 28,619 crore of advances — an year-on-year growth of 21 per cent, he said in a statement.

Capital adequacy rate improved to 11.04 per cent from 9.84 per cent.

Out of 2,407 branches, the number of computerised ones increased from 996 to 1,085. The number of ATMs increased to 33 from 18 in September last year. The bank has proposed to take the number of ATMs to 100 by March next year. PTI
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HDFC Bank to launch credit card soon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 22
Buoyed by oversubscription of its stocks in the USA, HDFC Bank has decided to launch a credit card. The bank has also set aside Rs 30 crore for loans in the retail segment. Stating this at a press conference here today, Mr Aditya Puri, Managing Director, said the bank has sent proposals for sales tax collection in Punjab and Haryana.

“Ours is the only bank authorised to collect income tax and now we are also planning to enter into sales tax collection in a big way for which we have already sent proposals”, he said.

The bank which has a network of 138 branches and 330 ATMs across 59 cities will now enter the semi urban areas which will be followed by its services in the rural areas. New branches in Moga, Abohar, Nabha , Hoshiarpur and several other towns will be opened shortly.

Speaking about the bank’s initiatives in the region, he said the bank would launch its credit cards by March next year whereas these would be launched next month in the South. The bank would increase it branches to 27, ATMs to more than 90 and more than 500 electronic transaction outlets. The bank would also increase online banking from 19 to 32 cities across the country.

Stating that the bank is registering tremendous growth continuously despite the ongoing recession, Mr Puri attributed it to the quality services being offered by HDFC Bank. In the second quarter ended September 30, 2001, the bank registered 43.8 per cent growth in its net profits (Rs 69.3 crore). For the half year ended September the growth was 44.9 per cent. While the total deposits were Rs 14,279 crore (42 per cent growth over corresponding period last year), the customer assets (advances, corporate debt investments, etc) increased by 72 per cent.

On the treasury front, Mr Puri said the foreign exchange revenue increased by 41 per cent for the half year ended September 2001 at Rs 25.6 crore.
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Fortis Heart Institute fully operational
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, November 22
Fortis Heart Institute at SAS Nagar has now become fully operational, according to an official announcement here today.

The institute has facilities which are being introduced for the first time in India and a working arrangements with America’s finest teaching hospitals. “This is what makes Fortis Heart Institute the most advanced heart hospital in India”, says Mr Harpal Singh, Chairman, Fortis Healthcare.

The institute drew its standards, procedures and clinical protocols from Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Woman’s hospital which were ranked among the top five cardiac hospitals in the USA. It was affiliated to the Partners Healthcare System, which comprised the leading teaching hospitals of the Harvard Medical School.

Besides cardiac care, the hospital also provides 16 specialities at the multi speciality medical centre supporting treatment for related diseases like nephrology, neurology, diabetes, dental, orthopedics, pediatrics and others.
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HP sheep-rearers in trouble

Shimla, November 22
The Gaddi community of Himachal Pradesh is adversely affected by the closure of government-run Wool Federation which was reportedly sustaining losses.

This community almost entirely dependent on sheep for its livelihood. Away from home, in the midst of rough weather and harsh terrain, shepherds work hard to get wool from the animals they rear. But all labour is now going down the drain as the federation set up for their welfare has been closed.

The “gaddis” now have to stop at various places for shearing wool from sheep. And in the absence of machines, they have to do the job manually. This harms the quality of the final product.

Moreover, they are not getting the right price for the wool since they are forced to sell it to the local buyers at very low rates.

Talking to ANI, Kartar Singh, former chairman of the HVC, said, “The government should think about this industry seriously. It’s the wrong policy of the government against these people because they were gaining out of it. There were some centres opened but they have been closed now.”

“They are facing lots of problem in selling their wool as even the Wool Federation is not buying. Hence, they are angry with the government. We want that the government should think seriously of opening some wool industries so that these people can get the market for their wool, where they can sell their wool.

Exploited by the local buyers and ignored by the state government, the “Gaddi” community stands lonely. It has been three years since they have been enduring the hardship after the closure of the Wool Federation. ANI
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Downgrades to hit firms

Kolkata, November 22
The recent trend of downgrading India’s sovereign ratings by international agencies like Standard & Poor (S&P) and Fitch will adversely affect Indian corporates raising foreign debt, according to leading investment bankers. The Vice-Chairman of J.M. Morgan Stanley, Mr Naina Lal Kidwai, told PTI that even before the recent downgrades, raising foreign loans by Indian companies was an extremely difficult proposition as it had become very expensive. PTI
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ROUND-UP

Wipro ties up with Qualstar

BANGALORE: Wipro e-Peripherals, a leading storage solutions player in the country, today announced a strategic partnership with Qualstar Corporation, a Nasdaq-listed leader in enterprise-level storage solutions.

With this relationship, Wipro e-Peripherals (WeP) will provide Qualstar’s complete line of state-of-the-art robotic tape library products in India, a Wipro press release said.

Ram N Agarwal, MD and CEO of WeP said: “With Qualstar, we will give the market a product line, which is not only aligned to present technology trends with superior specifications and a better value proposition story but which is also very vital in these times compared to competition.” PTI

Software for nutrition counselling

NEW DELHI: Nutritrust India Private Limited today launched “Nutritrust Pro” a nutrition counselling software based on Indian dietary patterns.

“The software is first of its kind in the country and has been designed to assist nutrition and diet counsellors for managing Indian nutritional needs,” K.S. Bhutoria, Managing Director, NTIPL, said.

The software allows customised diet planning, gives cooking procedures for standard recipes and has a glossary in 13 Indian languages. PTI

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BIZ BRIEFS

Canbank Fund
Chandigarh, November 22
Canbank Mutual Fund had declared an interim income distribution of 10 per cent (Re 1 per unit) on face value of Rs 10 each in its Canpremium Scheme — a debt oriented balanced open ended scheme. It is tax free in the hands of the unitholders. TNS

Branch opened
Chandigarh, November 22
Mr B.M. Singh, Commissioner of Income Tax, inaugurated fully computerised and online operations of the State Bank of Patiala’s Naveen Ayakar Bhawan Extension Counter, in Patiala today. TNS

Satyam
Hyderabad, November 22
Satyam Computer Services Ltd today announced its tie-up with the US-based Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) to provide software consulting, design and development services in the areas of ERP, e-Business and legacy system implementation. PTI

ABN AMRO Bank
Bangalore, November 22
Dutch banking major ABN AMRO Bank is planning to open 19 more branches in India over the next four years even as it is talking to “many banks” in the country for acquiring stake, senior bank executives said today. PTI

Rs 500 note
Mumbai, November 22
The RBI will shortly issue Rs 500 notes (revised colour scheme) in Mahatma Gandhi series with capital letter ‘C’ inset in both numbering panels bearing the signature of the RBI Governor, Dr Bimal Jalan. All Rs 500 denomination notes issued by the bank in the past will also continue to be legal tender. UNI

Amul pizzas
Patiala, November 22
Amul has decided to launch pizzas in Patiala by the end of this week by the brand name of “Snowcap”. Initially the simplest and basic onion and tomato-capsicum pizza will be launched. OC

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