New Delhi: Under fire from all quarters over raging inflation and with an eye on the states going for elections later this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday reshuffled and expanded the council of ministers. Seven new ministers of state (MoS) took oath while six existing junior ministers resigned earlier in the day.
Among the inductees are the former chief election commissioner M. S. Gill, All India Congress Committee general secretary V. Narayanasamy, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) Raghunath Jha, Rajya Sabha member from the Congress party Santosh Bagrodia as well as Rameshwar Oraon, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada of the Congress. Gill is the only one who has been given an independent charge, that of sports and youth affairs.
The outgoing ministers are Suresh Pachouri (personnel, public grievances and pensions, and for parliamentary affairs), Dasari Narayan Rao (coal), T. Subbarami Reddy (mines), Akhilesh Das (steel), Manikrao Gavit (home) and M.V. Rajasekharan (planning). President Pratibha Patil accepted the resignations with immediate effect.
The portfolios are: Narayanasamy (parliamentary affairs and planning), Bagrodia (coal), Jha (heavy industries and public enterprises), Oraon (tribal affairs), Scindia (communications and IT) and Prasada (steel).
There has also been a reshuffle in the portfolios of some existing ministers. B.K. Handique, who was the MoS for chemicals and fertilizers, has also been given the ministry of mines. Prithviraj Chavan, the MoS in the Prime Minister’s Office, has been given additional charge of the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pension. Shakeel Ahmed will now be the MoS for home. Kanti Singh, MoS for heavy industries and public enterprises, will be the MoS of tourism and culture. Jairam Ramesh, the MoS for commerce and Industry, will also be the MoS for power. P.R. Dasmunsi sheds the parliamentary affairs portfolio, while Vayalar Ravi gets that charge in addition to the charge of a cabinet minister for overseas Indians affairs. Mani Shankar Aiyar, the cabinet minister for panchayati raj and development of the North-East, has been stripped of the sports and youth affairs portfolio.
-K.P. Narayana Kumar & Udit Misra
‘PTI’ contributed to this story.
G-8 ministers reaffirm commitment to Africa
Tokyo: The world’s richest nations agreed on Sunday that industrially advanced countries must increase development aid to Africa and other impoverished regions despite economic slumps at home. The agreement came on the close of two days of talks between the ministers of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations and emerging donor nations such as Brazil, China and India in Tokyo. “We confirmed the importance of economic growth in developing countries,” said Japan’s foreign minister Masahiko Komura. He said the ministers reaffirmed the need for G-8 countries to strengthen aid to needy areas, while striving to improve their own economies.
PSUs seek freedom to fix allowances, perks
New Delhi: Concerned over reactions from government employees to the quantum of hikes recommended by the Sixth Pay Commission, public sector undertakings (PSUs) on Sunday sought freedom to decide on allowances and incentives to attract talent from the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), which has eluded them for over five years now. “The pay packets are not enough even to pay back the loans taken for education in top business and technical institutions,” said S.M . Deewan, director general, Standing Conference of Public Enterprises (Scope)—the apex body of Central government-owned PSUs.
SAIL may redesignate Roongta, prune board
New Delhi: The top management of India’s biggest steel maker, Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), is expected to be overhauled with its chairman S.K. Roongta likely to be designated as chief executive officer, while the number of directors on its board pruned to 17. “We realize that SAIL needs to take quick decisions in view of its ongoing expansion and modernization programme... We believe that the management of the steel giant needs to be more vibrant and that is why there is a proposal to prune the number of directors on its board,” said a senior steel ministry official who did not want to be named.
Paswan wants fertilizer subsidy trebled
New Delhi: Union fertilizer and chemical minister Ram Vilas Paswan has sought trebling fertilizer subsidies to more than Rs90,000 crore, but the demand may be too much heavy baggage for a government coping with revenue loss on account of fiscal sops to cool prices. In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Paswan has sought enhancement of the present budgetary provision of Rs30,896 crore to help offset spiralling raw material prices and an expected increase in domestic consumption by 10%. He wanted the budgetary provision to be increased to Rs50,000 crore and following this the government should show its readiness to enhance it further to Rs90,000 crore through demand for supplementary grants.
REC plans to raise Rs16,000 cr in FY09
New Delhi: State-run Rural Electrification Corp. Ltd (REC) on Sunday said it aims to raise more than Rs16,000 crore in fiscal 2008-09, up about 38% from Rs10,000 crore mopped up in the previous year. The enterprise, which funds power projects in rural India, expects to disburse Rs40,500 crore in 2008-09, REC director (finance) H. D. Khunteta said. “As per our present commitments, we would require to borrow over Rs16,000 crore in 2008-09, against about Rs10,000 crore last fiscal,” he said.
OVL to acquire stake in Venezuelan field
New Delhi:ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), the overseas investment arm of Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd (ONGC), will sign an agreement on 8 April to take a 40% stake in the San Cristobal oilfield in Venezuela. OVL will sign the agreement with Petroleos de Venezuela SA, which will hold the remaining 60%, during the visit of Union petroleum minister Murli Deora to the Latin American country.
The two companies will develop the field from its current production level of 20,000 barrels per day to 40,000 barrels per day, OVL officials said here.
Wockhardt Hospitals to raise funds through PE
Mumbai: After aborting its initial public offering (IPO) in February, Wockhardt Hospitals Ltd on Sunday said it may raise funds through private equity (PE). “We are looking at raising funds through private equity. We are going through the process,” Wockhardt chief executive Vishal Bali said. Wockhardt Hospitals had planned to raise Rs800 crore through the IPO to repay debt and fund expansions. But the IPO received poor response and was withdrawn. It was the second IPO this calendar year to be withdrawn, the first one being that of Emaar MGF Land Ltd.
Ask Group plans PE fund with $100 million corpus
Mumbai: Portfolio manager and investment adviser, Ask Group, plans to launch a private equity (PE) fund with an initial corpus of $100 million (Rs400 crore), in addition to a real estate fund by June, a top official said. The group had recently sold its 40% stake in broking joint venture JM Financial Ask Securities to majority shareholder, JM Financial Ltd, for Rs81 crore. “We are in talks with potential investors and are waiting for the final regulatory approvals for the new ventures,” Ask Group chairman Asit Koticha said.
Paradip Port to double capacity in five years
Bhubaneswar: Notwithstanding several new ports coming up on Orissa coast, Paradip Port Trust (PPT) has ruled out threat to its business and announced an ambitious programme to double its capacity to 111 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) in five years with investment to the tune of Rs2,500 crore. “The present capacity of the port is 56mtpa with 14 berths. To meet the future demands, we are implementing several projects to double its capacity to 111mtpa in five years,” PPT chairman K. Raghuramaiah said. Dismissing suggestions that new ports at Dhamra and Gopalpur could pose threat to its business, he said: “Paradip Port will not lose anything even after new ones come up. The kind of cargo we are handling will remain with us.”
Tatanet wins order for pan-African project
Mumbai: Very small aperture terminal, or Vsat, service provider Tatanet on Sunday said it has secured an order from Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd to supply satcom equipment for pan-African project. “This project has many firsts and provides us the platform to showcase our skills in the field of system integration and satcom project,” said Kaushik Mandal, vice-president of Tatanet, a division of Tata group firm Nelco Ltd. The network would create a common platform for all African countries to provide Internet, telecommunication, tele-education, telemedicine, video conferencing, voice over Internet protocol services and support e-governance, e-commerce and meteorological services.
South Asia could raise trade to $20 bn: WB
Dhaka: South Asia could raise its annual trade volume more than six times to $20 billion (Rs80,000 crore) from only $3 billion at present if countries in the region cooperated more among themselves, a senior World Bank official said on Sunday.
“Potential for South Asia trade is between $15 billion and $20 billion if we look at the indicator of informal trade,” said Sadiq Ahmed, a World Bank director of regional cooperation for South Asia. India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the major countries in South Asia, carry out only 5% of their total trade among themselves, Sadiq said.
ABG to set up 3rd shipyard in Gujarat, raise $200 mn
Mumbai: Private sector shipbuilder ABG Shipyard Ltd will be setting up a third shipyard in Gujarat and is exploring options to raise $200 million (Rs800 crore) for capacity expansion.
“Our third shipyard will come in Gujarat. We are exploring various options, including private equity to raise $200 million,” ABG Shipyard chief financial officer Dhananjay Datar said, adding the amount would be raised in this financial year. He, however, said that no time-frame has been set for the third shipyard.
The new shipyard would be an integrated one that can make ships up to a maximum length of 350m. The firm is currently concentrating on capacity expansion as, according to Datar. “globally the demand for ship is good.” The proposed shipyard would be built over 200 acres, the biggest for ABG, he added.
The company’s other shipyards are in Surat and Dahej in Gujarat. In Surat, the shipyard is spread over 35 acres and would be extended by another 20 acres. Its Dahej yard is spread over 150 acres. ABG has an order book worth Rs8,277 crore. Its shares closed on Friday at Rs630 on BSE.