SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

B U S I N E S S

SEZ policy to stay, says PM
New Delhi, March 23
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today made it clear that the special economic zone (SEZ) policy has come to stay in the country though efforts will be made to remove inadequacies, if any, in it.

Torrent in race for Merck
New Delhi, March 23
The bid for German drug major Merck KgaA's generic business, for which Ahmedabad-based Torrent Pharmaceuticals is still in the race, could be finalised by this weekend.

Inflation static at 6.46 per cent
New Delhi, March 23
Inflation remained unchanged at 6.46 per cent for the week ended March 10 as rise in prices of some items was neutralised by decline in others.



EARLIER STORIES

 
A model displays a creation by Swapan & Seema on the third day of the Wills India Fashion Week in New Delhi.
A model displays a creation by Swapan & Seema on the third day of the Wills India Fashion Week in New Delhi on Friday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

Posco rethinking India plans
New Delhi, March 23
Frustrated over delays in getting approvals for its Rs 52,000- crore steel project, South Korean steel giant Posco is reviewing its investment plans in India while looking at other options in south-east Asia.

RBI directive to banks on revenue, tax collections
Chandigarh, March 23
The RBI has asked all banks to ensure that payments, revenue and tax collections (direct and indirect) made on behalf of the government towards the end of March are accounted for in the current financial year as March 2007 residual transactions. The date of closure for these transactions is April 16.

Lease out unutilised land, Assocham to MoD
New Delhi, March 23
The defence ministry has been suggested to lease out 17 lakh acres of unutilised land spread over in 62 cantonments, that directorate-general of defence estate (DGDE) has it in its possession for 50 years, for development of retail outlets for defence-related products and bio-farming.

Imported liquor set to be cheaper
New Delhi, March 23
Imported liquor is all set to become cheaper with the government likely to bring in a bill in the Parliament next month to scrap additional customs duty on wines and spirits, a move that will also pacify the country's top trading partners - the US and EU.

Hooda urged not to up minimum wages
New Delhi, March 23
The Assocham has urged Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to drop the proposal to hike the rate of minimum wages for unskilled workers in the state by 42 per cent.

Demerger of RCoM’s tower biz okayed
Mumbai, March 23
Reliance Communications has said it had received approval from the Bombay High Court to demerge its cellular towers and related infrastructure to Reliance Telecom Infrastructure Ltd (RTIL).

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SEZ policy to stay, says PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today made it clear that the special economic zone (SEZ) policy has come to stay in the country though efforts will be made to remove inadequacies, if any, in it.

"SEZ as an instrument of economic policy has come to stay. These are decisions which are irreversible,” Dr Singh said pointing that if there are some flaws in the policy, “we can set in motion a mechanism to redress those gaps in our policy.”

The Prime Minister was replying to questions after his speech at the India Today Conclave here.

Hinting that the government was going slow on the SEZs due to inadequacies, he said “it is important that before we move, if there are any gaps in the performance, gaps in the design and gaps in the implementation, we should halt a little bit even though it takes time.”

His statement assumes great significance in the wake of criticism heaped at the government on the SEZ issue, especially after the recent incidents in Nandigram.

Asserting that the cost of delay was going to be much less than the cost that would arise if policies were bulldozed regardless of the human, social and economic concerns, the Prime Minister said “a humane and just policy on the resettlement of land oustees was being formulated by the government.”

"I do believe that we should address these concerns if we want the policy to succeed in the long run", he said.

The Prime Minister said India is a democracy and democracy sometime seems to be fickle-minded . But he believed that democracy was the strength of the country.

The Prime Minister also informed that a new blueprint on administrative reforms in the country would be evolved soon.

The administrative reforms commission was in the process of reviewing the administrative system and structure. Before long, we will have a new blueprint in action, he said.

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Torrent in race for Merck

New Delhi, March 23
The bid for German drug major Merck KgaA's generic business, for which Ahmedabad-based Torrent Pharmaceuticals is still in the race, could be finalised by this weekend.

According to industry sources, Torrent, which has the backing of a group of few private equity firms, including Greater Pacific for the bid, is considered to be a dark horse in the race.

Other Indian drug firm Ranbaxy had also put in a non-binding bid only to pull out later. Industry sources had said that like the Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Ranbaxy’s pull-out was on account of over - estimation.

Mylan Labs, Israel’s Teva and Actavis are currently speculated to be in the ruffle along with the consortium in which Torrent is also a part.

Merck sells unbranded drugs in more than 40 countries globally. — PTI 

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Inflation static at 6.46 per cent
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
Inflation remained unchanged at 6.46 per cent for the week ended March 10 as rise in prices of some items was neutralised by decline in others.

Even the unchanged inflation rate is much above the target level of 5 to 5.5 per cent set by the RBI. Significantly, inflation stood at just 3.80 per cent a year ago.

Among food products, prices of vegetables, fruits, eggs, mutton, fish-marine, bajara, condiments and spices moved up, while those of wheat, gram, urad and moong declined.

Even in manufactured category, some food products like oil cakes and khandsari became expensive, while others like gur were cheaper.

However, within the group prices of wheat fell by 2 per cent and gram, urad and moong declined by 1 per cent each.

Wholesale price index (base 1993-94), on which inflation data is based, rose by 0.05 per cent to 209.3 points during the week under review from 209.2 points in previous week.

The official data, released today, came amid a debate on overheating triggered by two key economic planners — planning commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia and chairman of Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council C Rangarajan.

However, the fears on overheating were downplayed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had said rise in inflation is a momentary phenomenon amid positive impulses in the economy.

Final inflation figure stood at a higher level of 6.15 per cent for the week ended January 13 as compared to 5.95 per cent estimated provisionally. This is based on revision in wholesale price index to 208.7 points as compared to 208.3 estimated earlier.

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Posco rethinking India plans

New Delhi, March 23
Frustrated over delays in getting approvals for its Rs 52,000- crore steel project, South Korean steel giant Posco is reviewing its investment plans in India while looking at other options in south-east Asia.

The company has told the Centre and the Orissa government that "if matters were not sorted out within the next two-three months, then it could re-consider its investment plans in the country", official sources said.

The Korean giant has sought categorical assurance from the government on various issues pertaining to its 12 million tonne project. Posco officials have asked the Navin Patnaik government to spell out its stand on its project "as it cannot afford to wait for an indefinite period," the sources said.

When contacted, Posco India officials declined comment.

Meanwhile, Posco's CEO Ku Taek Lee met commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath today, apparently to discuss the progress of its project.

Posco, which had signed an MoU with Orissa government in June 2005, is facing stiff resistance from locals at its project site in Jagatsinghpur district. The protesters allege the company wanted to acquire the land at a throwaway price.

The company was also actively toying with the idea of shifting to Vietnam, which has a huge potential market and an investment-friendly climate, a government official said.

"They have committed to the project, but are worried that nothing is happening on the ground," the official said. — PTI

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RBI directive to banks on revenue, tax collections
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
The RBI has asked all banks to ensure that payments, revenue and tax collections (direct and indirect) made on behalf of the government towards the end of March are accounted for in the current financial year as March 2007 residual transactions. The date of closure for these transactions is April 16.

This year, it has also been decided that the procedure followed for reporting and accounting of transactions of non-civil ministries —defence, posts, railways and telecommunications — will be similar to the procedure for reporting and accounting of departmentalised ministries.

The bank branches receiving direct tax, indirect tax collections and transactions of departmentalised and non-civil ministries have been asked to make ‘special messenger arrangements’ for passing on the challans/ scrolls to the nodal/ focal point branches by the end of this month.

Beginning March 16, the receiving branches, which are at some distance from the nodal branches, have also been asked to use courier service for passing the challans.

The nodal branches receiving these payments have been asked to prepare separate sets of scrolls —one, pertaining to March residual transactions and another for April transactions during the first 16 days of April. These nodal branches will also ensure that the accounts for all transactions (revenue/ tax collections/payments) are affected at the receiving branches up to March 31, in the accounts for the current financial year itself and not mixed with the transactions for the month of April.

However, if a cheque is tendered on or before March 31 and released after April 1, it will be treated as transaction for the next financial year.

The RBI has said the main scrolls to be prepared for March 2007 transactions, prepared from April 1 to 16, will have to be distinctly marked by allotting serial number. These scrolls, along with daily summary of receipts and payments prepared separately for March 2006 transactions, will have to be forwarded to zonal accounts officers, pay and accounts officers and designated officers and these would also have to be reported to the link cell of each bank at Nagpur through daily memos.

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Lease out unutilised land, Assocham to MoD
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
The defence ministry has been suggested to lease out 17 lakh acres of unutilised land spread over in 62 cantonments, that directorate-general of defence estate (DGDE) has it in its possession for 50 years, for development of retail outlets for defence-related products and bio-farming.

In a paper brought out by Assocham on outsourcing possibilities in defence sector: “Unlocking the true wealth” submitted to defence minister by Assocham president Venugopal N. Dhoot here today, it has been highlighted that of 17 lakh hectares of land, 9,000 acres is under encroachment, spread over in 17 states, including that of Delhi, which should be immediately claimed by the ministry of defence.

Dhoot also added that the ministry of defence (MoD) can do wonders with this land and drastically reduce its dependence on budgetary allocations by putting this land for retail chains either in private or joint sector as it would accrue it revenues in lakhs of crores and thus can become a part and parcel of inclusive growth.

Not only retail and other relevant economic activities could be brought in such landscape but also bio-fuel plants be grown in them to help defence forces extract diesel out of their seeds for its fleet of vehicles and reduce its dependence on state-owned oil companies for supplies of diesel and other fuels, he added.

The paper pointed out that with Indian majors like Bharti (slated to invest a magnanimous $ 2.5 billion in the India retail trade business in the next seven years with technological support from Wal-Mart) and Reliance, Essar taking up agro-farming and retailing in a major way and foreign players, too, eager to share the increasingly delectable Indian retail pie, the defence land can be utilised for better productivity, by possibly leasing out this land to these retail companies.

Punjab will become RIL’s agricultural hub as well as a mainstream centre for Reliance's other retail plans in north India. It has also picked up 2,000 acres of land across Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Amritsar and Sangrur. Essar is also the largest exporter in the country of floriculture products, leading to huge earnings of foreign exchange.

Moreover, there would be a multiplier effect of this simple exercise on the economy as well in terms of GDP growth, employment generation improving the economic status and welfare of farmers and above all contributing to the aim of ‘inclusive growth’, bringing the rural India within the ambit of development, it added.

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Imported liquor set to be cheaper

New Delhi, March 23
Imported liquor is all set to become cheaper with the government likely to bring in a bill in the Parliament next month to scrap additional customs duty on wines and spirits, a move that will also pacify the country's top trading partners - the US and EU.

“The Finance Ministry has agreed to the proposal which would be taken soon to the Cabinet for approval. The Bill is likely to come forward when the Parliament meets after a three-week recess,” highly placed official said.

At present, India imposes a basic customs duty of 100-150 per cent and additional customs duty (ACD) of 25-150 per cent on wines and spirits. The total incidence of tax is between 250-550 per cent depending on the import price of products.

The proposed legislation would retain the basic duty but abolish the ACD. — PTI

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Hooda urged not to up minimum wages
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
The Assocham has urged Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to drop the proposal to hike the rate of minimum wages for unskilled workers in the state by 42 per cent.

“It may be brought to your notice that in 2006, the minimum wages of unskilled worker has been increased twice, giving hike of Rs 124.74 in one year, raising the minimum wage to Rs 2,484.28.

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Demerger of RCoM’s tower biz okayed

Mumbai, March 23
Reliance Communications has said it had received approval from the Bombay High Court to demerge its cellular towers and related infrastructure to Reliance Telecom Infrastructure Ltd (RTIL).

The court approved the scheme of arrangement between RCoM, Reliance Telecom and RTIL. The passive infrastructure consisting of wireless towers and related infrastructure would be transferred from RCoM and RTL to RTIL. — TNS

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BRIEFLY

MRO facility
New Delhi, March 23
Public sector carrier Indian has tied up with a private firm to set up the first MRO facility for aircraft's airframe maintenance in India, with an estimated investment of Rs 300 crore. An MoU to set up a joint venture company to run the MRO was signed by Indian CMD Vishwapati Trivedi and Bangalore-based Jupiter Aviation's CEO Ravi Narayanan here. The facility would not only deal with the Airbus fleet of Indian, but would attract business from several airlines in the South Asian region using Airbus aircraft. — PTI

PNB loan rates
New Delhi, March 23
Punjab National Bank said today it has reduced education loan rates of its existing schemes by up to 1.25 per cent effective from April 1. The bank has reduced interest rates on education loan up to Rs 4 lakh under 'PNB Vidya Lakhshya Purti Schemes' by 1.25 per cent to 11.50 per cent while under 'PNB Sarvotam Sikhsha Scheme' by 0.5 per cent to 10.50 per cent, the bank said in a statement. Further, interest waiver of 1 per cent will be offered provided it is serviced regularly during the study period. — PTI

Jet Airways
New Delhi, March 23
Jet Airways will launch its long-planned maiden flight to the US via Belgium by July-August this year and make Ahmedabad the fourth Indian city in its network to have direct flights to London's Heathrow airport from April 3. The carrier had earlier decided to start the Mumbai-Brussels-Newark flight on August 15, but efforts are now being made to advance the launch date, highly-placed sources in the airline said. — PTI

Toyota institute
Bangalore, March 23
Toyota today announced setting up of Toyota Technical Training Institute (TTTI) near Bangalore for training students in manufacturing sector. The purpose of this institute is to offer an opportunity to acquire special skills of 'Monozukuri' (skilled manufacturing), for those students who have the talent but cannot go for higher education due to economic reasons, a company statement said. — PTI

GE plan
Tokyo, March 23
General Electric Co. said today it would launch a $1.14 billion takeover bid for leasing firm Sanyo Electric Credit Co., marking a potential windfall for top shareholder Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GE said it would pay 3,250 yen per share in a tender offer, a premium of nearly 62 per cent from Sanyo Credit's closing price of 2,010 yen in Tokyo on Friday. — Reuters

ONGC project
Agartala, March 23
ONGC will invest Rs 5,000 crore to set up a 740 MW gas-based power project at Palatana in south district here. The investment will be made during the next three years, Tripura project estate manager R.K. Maria said today. Tenders for setting up of the gas-based power project had been invited and a number of organisations had already shown their interest, he added. — UNI

Rs 20 note
New Delhi, March 23
The RBI today said it would soon introduce Rs 20 denomination bank notes with inset letter ‘R’ in both numbering panels in Mahatma Gandhi series with new security features. — PTI

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