Mumbai: A group of ministers (GoM), tasked to draft an affidavit explaining the cultural significance of Adam’s Bridge (also known as Ram Sethu), met in New Delhi on Wednesday but failed to reach an agreement on the issue.
The bridge—an ancient coral walkway linking India and Sri Lanka—has been at the centre of controversy with some right-wing Hindu organizations saying the proposed Sethusamudram project would destroy the walkway, believed by them to have been built by Hindu god Ram. The Rs2,600 crore project envisages dredging the walkway to reduce sailing time for ships.
The GoM—comprising external affairs minister and the government’s chief negotiator Pranab Mukherjee, minister of culture Ambika Soni, and minister of shipping T.R. Baalu—was formed last week to resolve differences between two separate affidavits drafted by the ministries of culture and shipping. The affidavit has been sought by the Supreme Court.
Baalu, one of the staunchest supporters of the project, is in favour of taking a strong stand against the Hindu protesters. But his cabinet colleague Ambika Soni believes the move will further alienate Hindus in north India, and could cost the Congress party dear in five states where elections are due later this year.
The apex court has been awaiting this affidavit since 14 September, when the government withdrew its original statement and asked for three months to study the issue.
The Madras high court had originally asked the government to file an affidavit explaining the cultural significance of the Ram Sethu. The court had also asked if the government had conducted any archaeological study of the bridge. A three-judge bench of the court had upheld its order.
Litigant Subramanian Swamy says the government may refer this investigation to the National Heritage Commission, which would “put the project in cold storage for all practical purposes.” Calls to the ministry of culture and shipping went unreturned. Priyanka P. Narain
Emaar target price cut by EFG-Hermes Holding
Dubai: The largest publicly traded real estate developer in West Asia and Africa, Emaar Properties PJSC, had its target price cut by EFG-Hermes Holding SAE on flat earnings growth in 2008 and delayed mall and hotel projects.
The bank lowered its short-term recommendation to “accumulate” from “buy”, Egypt’s largest investment bank said in a note on Wednesday.
Emaar’s 2008 revenue and net profit growth is likely to remain flat because marketing and operating costs for new shopping malls and a hotel in Dubai will be a “drag” on earnings, EFG-Hermes said in the report, written by analyst Stefan Schurmann.
Emaar, in which the Dubai government is the largest shareholder, plans to expand in India through a $1.8 billion (Rs7,092 crore) share sale of Emaar MGF Land Ltd. Bloomberg
Afghan senate endorses scribe’s death sentence
Kabul: Afghanistan’s senate has endorsed a death sentence handed down by a court to a reporter and journalism student accused of blasphemy, the parliament media office said on Wednesday.
The senate, called the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), issued a statement on Tuesday backing last week’s decision by the Balkh province primary court and criticising international pressure over the case, an official said.
The court sentenced Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, to death for distributing articles downloaded from the Internet that were said to question the Quran and the role of women in Islam. AFP
TCS’ UK subsidiary wins £100 million BPO order
Mumbai: The UK-based subsidiary of India’s largest software services firm, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS), has secured a £100 million (Rs783 crore) order from Canada’s Sun Life Financial Inc.
Diligenta, will deliver business process outsourcing (BPO) services to Sun Life Financial (SLF). The services are expected to commence in May this year, and are estimated to be £100 million over the life of the contract, TCS said in a communique to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).
“The deal with SLF, underlines the strength of TCS Diligenta strategy, launched in 2006. Our vision was to establish a centre of excellence in the UK to capitalize on the growing BPO trend and to cultivate new opportunities in this sector,” TCS UK and Ireland vice-president and country head A.S. Lakshminarayanan said.
Shares of TCS gained 0.28% to close at Rs865.65 on the BSE. PTI
Kerala forms panel to probe HMT land sale
Thiruvananthapuram: The cabinet in Kerala on Wednesday constituted a high-level committee headed by state chief secretary P.J. Thomas to look into the sale of 70 acres of land by public sector HMT Ltd to Mumbai-based private company, Blue Star Realtors, to set up a Rs4,000 crore Cyber City at Kalamassery in Kochi.
The committee comprising secretaries in revenue, industry, IT, registration and law departments, has been asked to recommend further steps to be taken on the deal within a week, state chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan said during the cabinet briefing.
The government was committed to protect public lands and recover them from landgrabbers, he said. Irregularities, if any, in the HMT land deal and also in any previous land deals would be found out, Achuthanandan said. PTI
Sonia urges cadre to make NREGA a success
New Delhi: Following reports of serious lapses in the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Congress party chief and chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday, urged her party workers to help make a success of the scheme.
In a letter published in party publication, ‘Congress Sandesh’, Gandhi wrote, “Some reports suggest that the NREGA has not been systematically implemented...our party cadre must come forward and work with NGOs involved in the sector to weed out corruption and mismanagement.”
The scheme, which guarantees an adult from a rural household 100 days of employment at minimum wages annually, was launched two years ago in 200 districts. Ashish Sharma
Essar to raise $2 bn, ramp up unit by March
Mumbai: The country’s second largest private oil firm, Essar Oil Ltd, plans to raise up to $2 billion (Rs7,880 crore) to fund expansion and expects its expanded 210,000 barrels per day Vadinar refinery to be ramped up to full capacity by March.
It will use the proceeds for exploration and expansion of its refinery and marketing network as well as working capital needs, the company said in a statement.
Essar will seek shareholder approval to issue shares and/or convertible debentures in the domestic market or an issue of share and/or convertible bonds in the overseas market. Reuters
Bric countries to help VW set new sales record
Frankfurt: The biggest European car maker, Volkswagen AG (VW), is banking on emerging markets to help set a new sales record this year, a top executive said in an interview to appear on Thursday.
“In 2008 we expect a strong boost from Bric countries, that is Brazil, Russia, India and China,” distribution director Detlef Wittig told the specialized weekly ‘Auto Motor und Sport’.
VW was aiming “prudently for a growth figure at the top of our range,” of between 5% and 9%, Wittig said. AFP
Foreign law firms entry plea decision in Feb
New Delhi: The Bombay high court on Wednesday fixed 26 and 27 February for the final disposal of the petition that questions practice of foreign law firms in India. The petition was filed by Lawyers Collective, a legal service provider, in 1995, challenging a few foreign firms that were holding licences with the Reserve Bank of India that granted them permission to have liaison offices in India. Malathi Nayak
Rel Power to complete refund process by 1 Feb
Mumbai: Anil Ambani group’s Reliance Power Ltd, which saw demand worth about Rs7.5 trillion in India’s biggest initial public offer earlier this month, will refund close to Rs1 trillion to investors for unallotted shares.
The company is aiming to complete the refund process by 1 February, officials familiar with the development said. PTI
Wockhardt lowers IPO price band
Mumbai: Health care services firm, Wockhardt Hospitals Ltd, on Wednesday revised the price band for its initial public offering (IPO) of 25.08 million equity shares.
The IPO has now been priced between Rs225 and Rs260 per equity share, a company statement said. This is lower than the Rs280 to Rs310 price band announced earlier. Staff Writer