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Decision on EPF rate deferred till July 13
New Delhi, June 30
The Central Board of Trustees (CBT) of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) today deferred a decision on the interest rate payable to the depositors till July 13.
In video (28k, 56k)

Unfortunate, say unions

Union Labour Minister Sis Ram Ola with members of the Central Board Of Trustees of the Employee Provident Fund before the 168th meeting in New Delhi In video: Labour minister seeks higher pension fund rate. (28k, 56k)
Union Labour Minister Sis Ram Ola with members of the Central Board Of Trustees of the Employee Provident Fund in New Delhi on Wednesday.
— PTI photo

GDP rate grows 8.2 pc last year
New Delhi, June 30
Buoyed by a robust performance in agriculture, economy clocked a healthy 8.2 per cent growth last fiscal year (2003-04). The revised estimates released by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) showed that the GDP growth rate in the last quarter of the last fiscal was also 8.2 per cent.

Fan’s fan

Indian artist Jatin Das displays hand fans during an exhibition in Kolkata on Wednesday

Indian artist Jatin Das displays hand fans (pankhas) during an exhibition in Kolkata on Wednesday. Das has collected thousands of hand fans from the Indian subcontinent since last 20 years.
 — AFP


A model presents a bathing suit as a part of Totem’s 2005 Spring/Summer collection during Rio Fashion Week in Rio de Janeiro
A model presents a bathing suit as a part of Totem’s 2005 Spring/Summer collection during Rio Fashion Week in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday. — Reuters

EARLIER STORIES

 

Israeli firm to log in with $1 million
Jerusalem, June 30
Israeli IT company Veraz Networks will invest about a million dollars to expand its operations in India and provide hardware and software-based switches for phone companies.

Yes Minister! Yehi hai sahi
New Delhi, June 30
With a view to popularising usage of condoms as "dual" purpose device - for contraception and against HIV/AIDS - a new "Dual Protection Condom Programme" was launched here today which aims to involve male in the endeavour.

Commission cut irks travel agents
Kolkata, June 30
Up in arms against the decision of the European airlines to slash ticket commissions, the 800-member strong Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) has threatened not to sell their tickets from July 10 after its Annual General Meeting here.

Anti-Adulteration Cell to be scrapped
New Delhi, June 30
The government has decided to scrap the Anti-Adulteration Cell and is instead planning to set up a unit in the Petroleum ministry to check doping of petrol and diesel.

Corporate news
Atlas Copco may buy Ingersoll’s drilling business
Mumbai, June 30
Ingersoll Rand India Ltd would sell its drilling solutions business in the country to Atlas Copco India Ltd for about Rs 137.52 crore, subject to shareholders’ nod.

  • Ashok Leyland plant for Iran

  • GAIL dividend at 40 per cent

  • Ind-Swift in Mohali

  • Pfizer nets Rs 9.35 crore

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Decision on EPF rate deferred till July 13
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 30
The Central Board of Trustees (CBT) of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) today deferred a decision on the interest rate payable to the depositors till July 13.

“A decision on the EPF rates has been deferred to July 13. All members wanted the Special Deposit Scheme (SDS) to continue. The CBT has unanimously approved the proposal to recommend the continuation of the SDS to Finance Ministry,” Labour Minister Sis Ram Ola told newspersons here.

Sources, however, said the rate of interest might remain at the present level of 9.5 per cent. They said the EPFO could just about manage to offer the existing rate of 9.5 per cent even though the net yields could be negative in 2004-05.

Incidentally, the notification of last year’s announcement about 9.5 per cent rate of interest has been issued so far. The sum is credited at the rate of 9.5 per cent to the accounts of only those who have retired or died in harness. There were 1.8 million such employees last fiscal.

For all other employees, the amount will be credited only after the notification in this regard is issued.

Mr Ola said the trade union representatives wanted a rise in the EPF rate, while government officials, state labour secretaries and employers opposed any such move.

While in 2001-02 and 2002-03, the net yields amounted to Rs 504 crore and Rs 204 crore respectively, it dipped to a (-) 271 crore in 2003-04. But the net gains from the previous two years would still result in a surplus of Rs 437 crore after accounting for the negative returns of 2003-04.

Presently, the rate of interest on EPF stands at 9.5 per cent with the erstwhile NDA government making one-off announcement of raising the rate to 9.5 per cent — 0.5 per cent as a “Golden Jubilee” bonus. This had resulted in a net outgo of Rs 500 crore, which the EPFO had accounted for by taking recourse to its Contingency Fund.

At 2003-04 levels, the Contigency Fund had an estimated amount of Rs 2,000 crore in its corpus.

The total corpus of the Employment Provident Fund is around Rs 1.28 lakh crore which includes Rs 71,000 crore of the Employees’ Provident Fund, Rs 52,000 crore of the Employees’ Pension Fund and Rs 4,000 crore of the Employees’ Deposit Linked Insurance Scheme.

Trade unions have been bargaining hard for raising the interest rate to as high as 12 per cent on small savings schemes such as EPF, PPF and GPF.

The Finance and Investment Sub-Committee of EPFO had suggested a reduction of EPF rates to 8 per cent to make it compatible with the present yield rates of the fund.

While about 80 per cent of the EPF corpus is invested in SDS, the balance is invested in public sector/financial institutions, central government loans, state government loans and government guaranteed loans. 
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Unfortunate, say unions

Major central trade unions today demanded a probe into the lapse of the previous NDA government in not issuing notifications for 9.5 per cent EPF rate for 2002-03 and 2003-04.

Terming as unfortunate the move by the Central Board of Trustees of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation to defer the decision on fixing the EPF rate for the current fiscal till July 13, the unions also condemned the reported move of the Vajpayee Government to wind up the Special Deposit Schemes where 80 per cent of the Rs 1.28 lakh crore EPF fund is parked. There are more than 30 million subscribers to the fund.

They, however, expressed the hope that the next meeting will either recommend an increase in the EPF rate to 12 per cent or at least retain it at the existing 9.5 per cent. — UNI
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GDP rate grows 8.2 pc last year
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 30
Buoyed by a robust performance in agriculture, economy clocked a healthy 8.2 per cent growth last fiscal year (2003-04).

The revised estimates released by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) showed that the GDP growth rate in the last quarter of the last fiscal was also 8.2 per cent.

Agriculture, forestly and fishing grew by an impressive 10.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2003-04.

At constant prices, the GDP rate in 2003-04 stood at Rs 14,27,701 crore in 2003-04.

Trade, hotels and communications was another sector which recorded a strong performance clocking a growth rate of 11.2 per cent in 2003-04 as against 7 per cent in 2002-03.

The social sector grew by 6 per cent in 2003-04 as compared to 5.8 per cent in 2002-03.

However, mining and quarrying recorded a growth rate of 4.4 per cent, a significant fall as compared to 8.8 per cent in the previous fiscal year. Construction and financial services also recorded a lower growth rate, registering a growth of 6.2 per cent and 6.8 per cent in 2003-04 as against 7.3 per cent and 8.8 per cent in 2002-03.

Electricity and water supply grew by 5.5 per cent in 2003-04 as against 3.8 per cent in 2002-03.

Per capita income in real terms ( at 1993-94 prices)during the last fiscal year (2003-04) stood at Rs 11,672 as against Rs 10,964 in 2002-03, the CSO press statement said.
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Israeli firm to log in with $1 million

Jerusalem, June 30
Israeli IT company Veraz Networks will invest about a million dollars to expand its operations in India and provide hardware and software-based switches for phone companies.

“The company wishes to establish a centre to supply systems to Indian suppliers of communications and IT outsourcing services, which will also serve as an R&D centre for developing and testing software,” Tal Simchony, the company’s chief executive, told business daily ‘The Marker’. Veraz provides hardware and software based switches for phone companies, and for voice over Internet next-generation communications networks.

The office to be opened next month will be located either in New Delhi or Mumbai and the company has already started working on recruiting a general manager for its Indian operation, the daily said.

The first solution it is to offer in India will enable phone calls to be made over Internet (VoIP) at compression levels of 1 to 10. It will also allow data transmission over the same infrastructure, it said. — PTI
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Yes Minister! Yehi hai sahi

New Delhi, June 30
With a view to popularising usage of condoms as "dual" purpose device - for contraception and against HIV/AIDS - a new "Dual Protection Condom Programme" was launched here today which aims to involve male in the endeavour.

Based on a campaign "Condom: Yahi Hai Sahi", the programme is a joint effort between ICICI Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and has support from the Health Ministry.

As part of this, a new television advertisement that portrays Indian male as an energetic, successful individual who is in full control of his life and choices has been prepared and will be aired tomorrow. "Population explosion is the major factor that prevents India from becoming a developed country from a developing one," Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said here launching the programme.

Ramadoss said India had one-sixth of world population with its only 2.5 per cent of land mass. The aim of the programme was to promote correct and consistent use of condoms and expand private sector market by increasing demand.

The new programme would help in handling the twin issues of population and HIV/AIDS, Ramadoss said, adding that though fertility rates in the country had fallen, some states like Bihar and UP scored badly in this aspect, he said. — PTI 
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Commission cut irks travel agents

Kolkata, June 30
Up in arms against the decision of the European airlines to slash ticket commissions, the 800-member strong Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) has threatened not to sell their tickets from July 10 after its Annual General Meeting here.

TAFI, which held an internal emergency meeting on June 17 in Mumbai, has threatened an agitation till the airlines reverts their decision to cut down the ticket commission from seven per cent to five per cent.

TAFI sources told PTI here they were not willing to wait till the July 29 meeting of both travel industry associations since the matter was “going out of hand”.

The sources said European airlines - British Airways, Swiss Air, Air France, Lufthansa, Al Italia and KLM - had unilaterally decided to cut down the ticket commission from September. — PTI
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Anti-Adulteration Cell to be scrapped

New Delhi, June 30
The government has decided to scrap the Anti-Adulteration Cell and is instead planning to set up a unit in the Petroleum ministry to check doping of petrol and diesel.

However, the new cell, unlike the AAC, would not have the powers to seize stock/documents during inspection of a fuel station/depot, government sources said.

The decision to wind up the cell by July 31 was taken after a recommendation of the one-man committee of Mr M. S. Srinivasan, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, which went into AAC’s working following the arrest of AAC region director (north) Sandeep Garg by CBI in April for allegedly taking bribe.

Documents and records with AAC would be transferred to the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell in the Ministry.

Mr Srinivasan’s report said AAC, since its inception three years ago in March 2001, has failed to check adulteration and malpractices in distribution of petroleum products. It also failed to address the larger issues of providing policy and technological inputs to curb the menace, and instead ended up inspecting petrol stations and transporters along with other investigating agencies. — PTI
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Corporate news
Atlas Copco may buy Ingersoll’s drilling business

Mumbai, June 30
Ingersoll Rand India Ltd would sell its drilling solutions business in the country to Atlas Copco India Ltd for about Rs 137.52 crore, subject to shareholders’ nod.

The board at its meeting held yesterday, gave its nod to the sale of its drilling solutions business to Atlas Copco, the company informed the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) today.

The drilling solutions business is expected to be transferred to Atlas Copco on completion of all statutory compliances, effective September 1, 2004.

Ingersoll had earlier informed that the sale of drilling solutions business in India could not be consummated until certain legal restrictions on Atlas Copco India Ltd were lifted.

Ashok Leyland plant for Iran

The Hinduja Group flagship firm Ashok Leyland is planning to set up a multi-million dollar plant in Iran for assembling CNG trucks and buses.

The company is talking to state-run gas firm GAIL (India) Ltd and Iranian government for a joint venture for the project which would also involve laying pipelines from gas field to consumption centres and setting up CNG fuelling stations.

“We will put up an assembling plant near Tehran while GAIL would assist in setting up the CNG distribution network.

The Iranian national company will supply natural gas, which will be piped to various cities where it will be compressed and dispensed to automobiles,” a senior official with Ashok Leyland said.

GAIL dividend at 40 per cent

The board of directors of GAIL India Ltd has declared a final dividend of 40 per cent on the paid-up share of the company for the year-ending March 31, 2004.

Informing the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), the company said with this final dividend of 40 per cent, that the board of directors at its meeting held today (June 30, 2004), the total dividend for the financial year 2003-04 aggregates to 80 per cent including interim dividend @40 per cent on the paid-up share capital.

Ind-Swift in Mohali

Pharma firm Ind Swift Laboratories Ltd plans to spend Rs 75 crore in the next 18 months for its expansion, which includes setting up a research and development centre and pilot plant as per the FDA standards.

Of Rs 75 crore, Rs 25 crore will be invested on setting up an R and D facility at Mohali for the development of new molecules.

“We are also setting up a multi-purpose pilot plant at an investment of Rs 15 crore to ensure timely delivery of bio-batches of the new molecules developed by the research centre to the regulated market,” Ind Swift Chairman G Munjal said after the board meeting yesterday.

Most of these projects are at an advanced stage of implementation, he said adding that the company's facilities are also being upgraded to meet FDA standards.

Pfizer nets Rs 9.35 crore

Pfizer Ltd has registered a massive 672.72 per cent rise in net profit to Rs 9.35 crore for the second quarter ended May 31, 2004, compared to Rs 1.21 crore recorded in the same quarter of the previous fiscal.

Total income in the period under review increased to Rs 137.51 crore as against Rs 119.14 crore recorded in Q2 of last fiscal, the company informed Bombay Stock Exchange today. — Agencies
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BRIEFLY

Price index up
Shimla, June 30
The All-India Consumer Price Index Number (Base 1982-100) for Industrial Workers (CPI-IW) for May has increased by four points to reach 509, according to Labour Bureau here today. — PTI

Cabinet nod
New Delhi, June 30
The government today approved a bill for introduction of a 8-digit classification code for Central Excise with a view to eliminate problems due to divergence of different classification and to facilitate electronic data processing. The government also gave its nod for repealing of five obsolete laws administered by the Finance Ministry. A decision to this effect was taken by the Union Cabinet which met here today with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Chair. The five enactments whose repealing was approved by the Cabinet include the Sugar (Special Excise Duty) Act, 1959 and the Mineral Products (Additional Duties of Excise and Customs) Acts, 1958, an official spokesperson said here after the meeting. — TNS

CNBC TV 18
New Delhi, June 30
CNBC TV 18, a business news channel, today announced to launch CNBC TV 18 mobile paid service that will enable mobile users throughout the country to receive business news and stock market information by sending SMS to 3636. — TNS

Laghu Udyog
New Delhi, June 30
Laghu Udyog Bharati, an industry association representing the small scale sector, has welcomed the government’s decision to introduce a Small Enterprises Development Bill - 2004, in the Budget session of Parliament. The national president of Laghu Udyog Bharati, Mr Balwant Rai Gupta, said this was a positive step on the part of the government. — TNS

Bullet in US
New Delhi, June 30
Royal Enfield has launched its international model “Bullet Sixty-5” in the Unites States, its second-biggest export market. The latest offering, sporting a retro classic styling, carries a 500cc, four-stroke single cylinder engine with 5-speed gearbox and electric start. — PTI

Nestle plants
Vevey (Switzerland), June 30
Nestle said today it was selling two cocoa bean processing plants to US commodities giant Cargill Inc. for an undisclosed sum. The sale of the plants in the British city of York and Hamburg, Germany, is in line with Nestle’s policy of concentrating on branded consumer products. — AP 
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