SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

Price war
BSNL slashes cell tariffs by 60 pc
Spice bonanza for pre-paid segment; Hutch woos post-paid users
New Delhi/Chandigarh, August 27
In a move that could trigger off another round of tariff war among telecom operators, public sector behemoth Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited today slashed the inter-circle STD tariffs by 33 per cent and cellular tariffs by up to 60 per cent.

No hike in oil prices, this time
New Delhi, August 27
Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar today indicated that despite the sharp raise in international crude oil prices, the state-run oil companies will not hike the prices of petrol and diesel at the next revision due on August 31.

CII plan for economic resurgence
of Amritsar
Chandigarh, August 27
As Amritsar gears up to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Confederation of Indian Industry has suggested a three-point plan for the economic development of the holy city.

A 3-metre long and 2-metre wide rakhi, manufactured by one of the oldest rakhi manufacturers, is displayed in Amritsar on Friday

A 3-metre long and 2-metre wide rakhi, manufactured by one of the oldest rakhi manufacturers, is displayed in Amritsar on Friday. The rakhi symbolises peace between India and Pakistan. — PTI


Reigning Miss Earth Dania Prince from Honduras peers through palm trees as she poses on Friday in Manila
Reigning Miss Earth Dania Prince from Honduras peers through palm trees as she poses on Friday in Manila. She is to crown her successor following her year-long tour around the world as an Ambassador of Goodwill for the unique beauty contest whose role is to foster protection of Mother Earth. — AP/PTI

EARLIER STORIES

 

Insurance for mustard, gram crop
Chandigarh, August 27
After getting success at the initial level of the implementation of the National Agriculture Insurance Scheme, the nationalised banks in Haryana have decided to bring two more crops, mustard and gram, under their ambit from the forthcoming rabi season.

Make green buildings, save energy
Hyderabad, August 27
The potential for green buildings in India could open up a plethora of opportunities to the stakeholders such as the construction industry, architects and material and equipment manufacturers, according to Mr R. Parasu Raman, chairman, Indian Green Building Council.

Air Sahara direct flight to Kathmandu
New Delhi, August 27
Air Sahara today announced the launch of its direct service to Kathmandu from September 1, saying it was in talks with the concerned authorities in India and Bangladesh to start flights to Dhaka soon.

Sri Lanka eyes Indian tourists
New Delhi, August 27
Following Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, Sri Lanka too has joined the race for wooing the Indian tourists who are considered to be among the high-end spenders abroad.
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Price war
BSNL slashes cell tariffs by 60 pc
Spice bonanza for pre-paid segment; Hutch woos
post-paid users
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Chandigarh, August 27
In a move that could trigger off another round of tariff war among telecom operators, public sector behemoth Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) today slashed the inter-circle STD tariffs by 33 per cent and cellular tariffs by up to 60 per cent.

Under the new tariff structure, inter-circle (beyond 200 km) STD calls made from a land line to another land line will be charged at the rate of Rs 2.40 per minute (down from the existing Rs 3.60 per minute) carrying a pulse rate of 30 seconds while the intra-circle (between 100 and 200 km) STD calls will be charged at rate of 1.20 per minute (down from Rs 1.80 per minute) with a pulse rate of 60 seconds.

The proposed rates will come into effect from September 10.

For its mobile phone subscribers under CellOne, the tariffs have been reduced by about 60 per cent. For a pre-paid customer a call made to any cellular network will be charged at the rate of Rs 0.90 (intra-circle) and Rs 2 (inter-circle). A call made by a made by BSNL’s pre-paid mobile subscriber to any fixed line will be charged at the rate of Rs 1.20 per minute ( intra-circle) and Rs 2.40 per minute ( inter-circle).

Under the post-paid scheme calls will be charged at the rate of Rs 0.80 for intra-circle calls made to any cellular network will be charged at the rate of Rs 0.80 per minute and Rs 1.80 per minute for inter-circle calls.

For post-paid customers, calls made from BSNL mobile phones to fixed lines will be charged at the rate of Rs 1.20 per minute for intra circle calls. Inter-circles for distances up to 200 km will be charged at the rate of Rs 1.80 per minute, while for those beyond 200 km will be charged at the rate of Rs 2.40 per minute.

Spice

Spice Punjab, today announced special promotional rates in its prepaid segment which will bring down the outgoing call charges by as much as 60 per cent. These promotional rates will come into effect from September 1 and will be applicable to both new as well as existing Spice prepaid customers.

With the new rates, Spice to Spice local call charges will become as low as Rs 2 per minute and the STD call rate to any GSM mobile in India will be reduced to Rs 2 per minute.

A nominal optional plan enrolment fee of Rs 1.75 per day will be charged in the first month from existing Spice prepaid customers for migrating to the new plan.

A prepaid combo pack is also introduced, wherein at a daily subscription charge of only Re 0.75, the local out going call rate to any GSM mobile will be only Re 1 per minute.

Further discounted local Spice-to-Spice SMS rate at Re. 0.50 per message and night calling rates of local Spice to Spice at only Re. .050 per minute are also being offered. The administration charges on recharge of Rs. 324 and above have been revised upward from Rs. 125 to Rs. 155.

Hutch

Hutch today announced new post-paid tariffs and extended the simple ‘flat rate’ tariff structure to Hutch and Orange post-paid users. The new Hutch tariffs allow post-paid users on the Talk 150 plan to make local calls to any mobile phone at 99 paise/minute and STD calls to any phone in the country for Rs 2.25/minute. This was announced today by Harit Nagpal, Chief Marketing Officer, Hutch.

All Hutch post-paid users on the Talk 150 plan (with a monthly rental of Rs 150 per month) can subscribe to the new tariffs, at a monthly fee of Rs 25. Users not opting for this promotion will pay a lower rate of Rs 1.69 for all locals calls, compared to the existing rate of Rs 1.99.

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No hike in oil prices, this time
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 27
Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar today indicated that despite the sharp raise in international crude oil prices, the state-run oil companies will not hike the prices of petrol and diesel at the next revision due on August 31.

Talking to the reporters on the sidelines of Oil Industry Safety Awards function held here today, Mr Aiyar said, “At a time when inflation is creeping up to 8 per cent, a responsive government has to give priority to holding the price line.”

The oil industry has claimed that despite the government cutting duties this month to check the impact of rising crude prices on domestic market, global oil prices have gone up further necessitating a hike of Rs 0.30 per litre in petrol prices and about Re 1 per litre in diesel prices on the next fortnightly revision.

Mr Aiyar said the international oil prices were soaring despite sufficient quantities available to meet demand. “We need to keep a close watch on the movement of global oil prices and calibrate our response. Unless we are able to insulate domestic consumers against volatilities, our economy could be in danger.”

The Petroleum Minister said the price of the basket of crude India buys from international market had risen by more than $ 12 a barrel during the past seven months. This hike is almost equal to the surge in price of Indian basket of crude in seven years to December 2003, when the previous NDA government froze retail prices.

PSU merger

Referring to the reports of merger of state run oil companies, he said, the government was seriously considering the merger of public sector oil companies, besides exploring other options, to create a strong and efficient energy sector to meet the energy security of the country.

He said, “We want to check the destructive competition among public sector oil firms. The restructuring of the oil companies will be aimed at strengthening them to face competition from private and foreign companies.”

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CII plan for economic resurgence of Amritsar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
As Amritsar gears up to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has suggested a three-point plan for the economic development of the holy city.

Given the unique character of the city, the plan encompasses recommendations for three key sectors - tourism, agriculture and textiles, says Mr Manish Bagrodia, Chairman, Punjab State Council of the CII. The recommendations were presented to the Punjab Finance and Planning Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, at a recent interaction in Chandigarh, says the CII press note.

The CII sees a unique brand of city-centric tourism as a key to Amritsar’s development, even as Unesco considers declaring the Golden Temple a World Heritage Site. The action plan suggests measures to make visiting tourists stay longer, as well as inputs for infrastructure development.

The CII calls for an ‘awareness’ campaign to educate the tourists about various attractions in the city and its surrounding areas, including Indo-Pak International Border at Wagah, Jallianwala Bagh, Durgiana Temple, Ram Tirath, Beas, Harike wetlands etc.

A well-equipped, responsive tourist information centre, a convention-cum- exhibition centre, multiplexes and more international and domestic flights to and from Amritsar are some other suggestions to facilitate the growth of tourism. The commencement of the Singapore Airlines flight to and from Amritsar is expected to give a fillip to the economy of the region.

Within the city itself, the tourists would greatly benefit with the introduction of electric passenger vehicles to and from the Golden Temple and Jallianwala Bagh. The completion of the green buffer zone around the temple complex should be completed soon, says the CII. A single nodal agency will improve the coordination among different civic bodies, suggests the CII.

Calling for a master plan for Amritsar, the CII also recommends that the 4-laning-road project from Amritsar to Jalandhar be completed speedily. The help of NGOs and public-private partnerships will go a long way in setting up a clean and green Amritsar, the CII asserts.

Aiming for “resurgence” in agriculture, the CII plan looks at the promotion of the agro-based industry, and reviewing the tax system for this industry as one of the keys for achieving the goal.

The cultivation of basmati rice in the area, to leverage the strong marketing systems already in place in the city for this product, the establishment of an inland container depot at Amritsar, notification of the Amritsar airport for import/export, encouraging commodities and futures trading and establishing a cold chain are other suggestions in this regard.

The CII also seeks that the state government should develop Amritsar as a textile hub, both for employment generation and generating trade with neighbouring and central Asian countries, with a strong package to rehabilitate the existing units. The CII (NR) is setting up an office in Amritsar shortly.

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Insurance for mustard, gram crop
Tribune News Service

Mr DL Rawal, General Manager, PNB explains during State-Level Bankers Committee meet in Chandigarh on Thursday
Mr DL Rawal, General Manager, PNB explains during State-Level Bankers Committee meet in Chandigarh on Thursday. Smt Keshni Anand Arora,IAS,Director of IF and CC, Haryana is also seen in the photo. — A Tribune photograph.

Chandigarh, August 27
After getting success at the initial level of the implementation of the National Agriculture Insurance Scheme, the nationalised banks in Haryana have decided to bring two more crops, mustard and gram, under their ambit from the forthcoming rabi season. This was disclosed at the 89th meeting of the State-Level Bankers’ Committee, Haryana, organised by Punjab National Bank (PNB) here yesterday

The scheme, presently, offers the insurance cover for cotton, bajra, maize and arhar and is compulsory for farmers availing loans. Ever since it was introduced in the kharif season this year, nearly 1.5 lakh farmers have been covered under the scheme and the number is likely to exceed 2 lakh by the time the season ends on August 31.

It has also generated a premium of Rs 3.55 crore and all banks have been directed to undertake the implementation of the scheme in the right earnest. The focus will be on insuring pulses and edible oils, which are sensitive to the vagaries of nature, and this will benefit small and marginal farmers who get 50 per cent subsidy in premium payment.

Addressing the meeting, Mr D.S. Rawal, General manager of PNB, said banks in the state have shown growth in both deposits and advances. The total deposits of the banks in the state have increased from Rs 24714 crore as in June 2003 to Rs 27445 crore as in June 2004, showing growth of 11.1% as compared to the growth of 6.2% registered during the corresponding period last year.

Similarly, advances also increased by Rs 3087 crore from Rs 11237 crore to Rs 14324 crore during the review period, thus, showing a growth of 27.5% as compared to growth of 20.1% during the corresponding period last year.

Mr Rawal said the priority sector advances in the state increased by Rs 2,474 crore, while advances in the agriculture sector increased from Rs 3,301 crore to Rs4,410 crore.

As many as 51 new branches of commercial and regional rural banks were opened in the state from June 2003 to June 2004, taking the total number of branches from 1549 to 1600.

Advances to small scale industries in Haryana increased by 24.5% or Rs 461 crore during the review period i.e. from Rs 1881 crore as in June 2003 to Rs 2342 crore as in June 2004 as compared to the negative growth of (-)2.9% registered during the corresponding period last year.

In respect of national goals, the achievement of banks was quite satisfactory as ratio of priority sector to the total credit was 66% against the national goal of 40%. The credit to the Agriculture Sector constituted 31% of the total credit as against the national goal of 18%. The credit-deposit ratio has registered a substantial increase under all categories.

Earlier, Mr B.P. Chopra, General Manager, PNB (Northern Zone), informed the participants that the performance of the state under the Prime Minister Rozgar Yojna (PMRY) Scheme and Swaran Jayanti Shahri Rozgar Yojana scheme had improved.

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Make green buildings, save energy
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, August 27
The potential for green buildings in India could open up a plethora of opportunities to the stakeholders such as the construction industry, architects and material and equipment manufacturers, according to Mr R. Parasu Raman, chairman, Indian Green Building Council.

Delivering the theme address at the Green Building Congress 2004 which began here today, Mr Raman, who is also the vice-chairman of the World Green Business Council based in Washington, pointed out that the estimated potential for green building materials and equipment in the country was about $ 400 million by 2010.

The two-day conference, which attracted speakers from various countries, including Singapore, Taiwan, the USA and Brazil, was organised by the Indian Green Building Council, part of the CII-Godrej GBC, to promote the green building concept in the country.

The CII-Godrej GBC, set up in Hyderabad as a centre of excellence for energy, environment, green buildings and recycling activities in India, is the first green building in the world outside the USA to be awarded the prestigious platinum rating of the US Green Building Council.

Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who inaugurated the conference, said his government would work hand in hand with the Green Business Centre to encourage green features in the construction in the private and public sectors.

The focus of the conference is on constructing green buildings, which addresses environmentally sustainable issues in a holistic manner. The building sector is a major energy consumer and green buildings have the potential to save 30-40 per cent energy.

According to Ramesh Datla, chairman, CII-Andhra Pradesh, the green building movement has gained momentum in the country during the past around three years, which has resulted in a spurt in the demand for green materials and equipment. The CII-Godrej GBC has organized a four-day international exhibition on green buildings on the occasion to showcase green products and concepts for the construction industry.

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Air Sahara direct flight to Kathmandu

New Delhi, August 27
Air Sahara today announced the launch of its direct service to Kathmandu from September 1, saying it was in talks with the concerned authorities in India and Bangladesh to start flights to Dhaka soon.

The private carrier also announced attractive packages, priced between Rs 500 and Rs 1000 over the normal return fares, for a three-night, four-day stay in the Nepalese capital.

While the one-way Delhi-Kathmandu economy fare will be Rs 4265 plus taxes, the return fare package will cost Rs 8605 plus Rs 1100 taxes.

The airline’s newly-appointed CEO Rono J. Dutta said Air Sahara was strengthening its international network and Kathmandu was an important destination, which witnessed a 33 per cent increase in air travellers from India in 2003.

With the launch of this flight, Air Sahara becomes the first private airline to start three international flights, including two to Colombo, its Executive Vice President Alok Sharma said here.

He said the government’s decision to allow private airlines to operate to ASEAN nations was also awaited.

He welcomed the government decision to postpone the implementation of withholding tax (WHT) on leased aircraft till April next year and said the airline would “outline our induction plans” in the next 30 days.

Mr Sharma said the airline was negotiating with major global aircraft leasing and manufacturing companies on its induction plans. — PTI

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Sri Lanka eyes Indian tourists
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 27
Following Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, Sri Lanka too has joined the race for wooing the Indian tourists who are considered to be among the high-end spenders abroad.

While tourism is the fifth-largest foreign exchange earner for Sri Lanka, it is looking at increasing the tourist inflow from India and is offering special packages to achieve the goal.

In an effort to boost the tourist influx from India, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Industry, Tourism and Investment Promotion Anura Bandaranaike, along with his deputy Arjuna Ranatunga, also participated in the International Eco-Tourism Marketing Conference here.

Though one out of six tourists visiting the country is Indian but Sri Lanka is looking at increasing the number to one out of every three tourists, say Sri Lankan officials.

The introduction of open-skies policy which has encouraged several private airlines from India - Jet Air, Air Sahara, to make Colombo a high frequency destination, the Sri Lankan national carrier has also increased round-trip flights to several key Indian cities.

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BRIEFLY

Tie-up
Chandigarh, August 27
Canara Bank and Bajaj Auto Ltd today announced a tie-up to offer loans for two-wheeler customers. The tie-up entails ‘Preferred Financer Status’ to Canara Bank for extending finance to customers of Bajaj Auto in Punjab. The MoU was signed by Mr Dhiraj Mullick, Regional Manager of Bajaj Auto and Mr Y.L. Madan, General Manager of Canara Bank. “Easy availability of attractive and innovative finance schemes helps customers of older vehicles to upgrade and encourages first time buyers,” said Mr Mullick. — TNS

Airtel
Chandigarh, August 27
AirTel today announced the launch of ‘AirTel HP Infoline’. With this, a customer on calling 703 can get town-wise information on names and locations of retail outlets, industry associations, clubs and cultural associations, hotels, schools and colleges, manufacturers of various products etc. At Rs 3 per minute, the service would be available from 10 am to 6 pm daily. — TNS

SBI project
Chandigarh, August 27
The State Bank of India, Chandigarh Circle, today rolled out its Business Process Re-Engineerng Project (BPR) by launching a specialised central cell for speedier processing of loan proposals of small enterprises having an annual turnover of up to Rs 1 crore. Mr AD Chauhuri, Chief General Manager, said this was the first in the series of initiatives under the project. — TNS

LIC-HelpAge
New Delhi, August 27
The Life Insurance Corporation of India and HelpAge India yesterday signed an MoU to improve the lives of disadvantaged senior citizens across the country. A HelpAge has been appointed as a corporate agent by LIC and the commission earned through the venture will be ploughed into development projects for the elderly. — TNS

Music videos
Chandigarh, August 27
The Film Craft Company, in association with Magnasound, will come out with new-style videos of renowned stars like Daler Mehndi, Baba Sehgal, Alisaha, Adnan Sami etc. The company aims to provide a platform for the talented youth across the country to work in their video albums. — TNS

IA e-ticketing
Mumbai, August 27
Indian Airlines has launched its e-ticketing facility, Netravel, which allows booking of tickets and conduct of related transactions over the internet. The e-ticketing process would enable a passenger to book, buy or print a ticket record through the company’s website, www.indianairlines.com, an IA press release said here today. — PTI
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