Need to Know | Ministries get last chance for changes in 11th plan draft

Need to Know | Ministries get last chance for changes in 11th plan draft

New Delhi: The Union cabinet in its Monday meeting gave another chance to all ministries to seek changes or additions to the recently finalized 11th Plan (2007-12).

“The draft Plan was placed before the cabinet and written submissions have been invited from ministries. It will be placed before cabinet for a detailed discussion," information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said.

With a total outlay of Rs36.44 trillion, of which the Union government spending stands at Rs14.21 trillion, the 11th Plan seeks to make growth inclusive. It sets elaborate targets in health, education, women and child development, infrastructure, environment, and income and poverty alleviation. The cabinet also approved setting up a subsidiary of the Kolkata-based public sector paper mill, Hindustan Paper Corp. Ltd (HPC) in Jagdishpur, Uttar Pradesh, which falls under Rahul Gandhi’s constituency. The cost of this project is estimated at Rs3,241 crore. It will have 51% equity holding by HPC, and a loan of Rs255 crore has been approved, to meet equity requirement.

In keeping with a promise made by the government in its common minimum programme, the cabinet also approved on Monday a scheme to revive the public sector Bharat Heavy Plate and Vessels Ltd, a Visakhapatnam-based company. Loans worth Rs414 crore and outstanding liabilities amounting to around Rs263 crore will be provided by the government, Dasmunsi said. Other changes in the ownership are also on the cards.

During the current session of Parliament, the government will also withdraw the University Grants Commission (Amendment) Bill, 1995, which has been pending in the Rajya Sabha. “A new, more comprehensive Bill that takes current realities in education into account will be introduced to replace it," Dasmunsi said.

The cabinet also approved a proposal for a new National Disaster Relief Fund, worth Rs100 crore, that will be merged with the existing National Calamities Contingency Fund, with effect from April 2010.

Chevron says evaluating options on Reliance

Mumbai:The No. 2 US oil firm Chevron Corp. said on Monday it was evaluating its options for its stake in Reliance Petroleum Ltd, in which majority owner Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) sold 4% last week.

Chevron owns 5% in Reliance Petroleum and has an option to raise its holding to 29%.

Analysts say the US oil firm may review its plans for the option after RIL sold 4% for $1 billion (Rs3,960 crore) last week, lowering its stake to 71%.

“Chevron continues to evaluate our options with our ownership in Reliance Petroleum. We will provide specific project updates when definitive decisions are made," a Chevron spokeswoman for its Asian operations said in an emailed response to ‘Reuters’.

Reliance Petroleum is setting up a 580,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery in Gujarat, adjacent to its parent RIL’s existing 660,000bpd refinery. REUTERS

Orchid Group plans Rs1,000 cr expansion

New Delhi: Hospitality chain Orchid Group of Hotels is planning to invest more than Rs1,000 crore in the next 18 months to set up seven 5-star accommodations across major towns of the country, as it mulls an international venture with properties in China and South Africa.

“The group has essentially been into management contract business with a few completely owned properties. Going forward, we are looking at adding nearly 2,000 completely owned rooms at seven locations across the country," Orchid Group’s chief executive, Pushpinder Kumar, said.

He said the company invests between Rs50 lakh and 1 crore in setting up each room.

In addition to the seven new completely owned hotels, the company has also entered into management contract for 10 new hotels, which would come up in various parts of the country over the next two years.

The company’s completely owned hotels would come up in tier-I cities including Bangalore, Chennai, Jaipur and Kolkata among others.

Kumar said the company would soon enter the international market and has acquired sites for two hotels in China and another in South Africa.PTI

India hopes to conclude Asean trade pact soon

New Delhi: India expects to conclude a free trade pact with the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) grouping within two months commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath said on Monday.

A free trade agreement between the two had stalled over agricultural tariffs. India is also negotiating a similar deal with the European Union.

Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a meeting of Asean that India hoped to conclude talks by March next year. Reuters

CII panel soon to study opening up legal sector

New Delhi: The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is planning to set up a national committee of law firms to study the viability of opening up the legal services to foreign competition. The decision follows a recommendation made at a round-table meeting organized by CII on 22 November.

Rahul Khullar, additional secretary in the ministry of commerce and industry, who was the chief guest at the meeting, “sought the help of the legal fraternity in assisting the government in drawing up a road map for the phased opening up of the sector after studying the impact in detail," a CII statement said. Top law firms and industry players had participated in the meeting.

‘Mint’ had earlier reported that the legal fraternity, including members of the Bar Council of India, were concerned that the government was approaching the issue in a unilateral manner. STAFF WRITER

Musharraf set to become civilian president on 29?Nov

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf will finally step down as the head of the military and be sworn in as a civilian president on Thursday, an army spokesman said.

“He is going to take oath as has been announced by the government on the 29th, most probably, so he is going to take off his uniform a day before that," spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said.

Civilian officials have repeatedly said Gen. Musharraf would step down imminently as the army chief, a key demand of domestic opponents threatening to boycott January parliamentary elections. But Arshad’s statement was the first from the military naming a date for him to restore direct civilian rule.

Meanwhile, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, fresh from a return from exile, registered on Monday as a candidate for Pakistan’s crucial elections. Sharif signed his nomination papers at a court in the eastern city of Lahore. Supporters packed into the courtroom chanted “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif!" Asked whether he would actually contest the seat in his hometown, Sharif was non-committal: “I have submitted my papers ... Let’s see where we end up."

Sharif’s surprise return to Pakistan on Sunday poses a major threat to Gen. Musharraf, the man who ousted him in a 1999 coup and became a key US ally against international terrorism. Sharif and other opposition leaders are threatening to boycott the parliamentary elections—a step that would wreck Gen. Musharraf’s plans for a controlled return to democracy. But even if they take part in the vote, Sharif’s harsh rhetoric suggests Gen. Musharraf faces a bumpy ride as he tries to prolong his eight-year rule.

Cabinet to review FDI policy on Thursday

New Delhi: The Union cabinet will review limits on foreign direct investment (FDI) in some sectors of the economy at its next meeting scheduled for Thursday, commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath said.

“We will go to the cabinet for FDI review on Thursday," Nath said, but he offered no details on what was being considered.

There have been reports recently that officials may alter restrictions relevant to oil refining, commodity exchanges, and aviation services such as chartering planes and helicopters and ground handling facilities.

Earlier this month, an oil ministry official said the government could allow foreign players to take stakes of up to 49% in new projects with state-run oil firms. Currently they are limited to 26%. Reuters

Hexaware to probe unauthorized deals

Mumbai: IT and process outsourcing services firm Hexaware Technologies Ltd has set up a special committee to probe its foreign exchange management practices.

“This action is due to certain actively concealed and potentially fraudulent foreign exchange option transactions conducted by one Hexaware official," the company said in an emailed statement on Monday.

The firm has made provision for $20-25 million (Rs79-99 crore) to cover any exposure from these deals.

The unauthorized forex deals may impact the company’s profit, its chief said. “Yes, I believe we would book some loss this quarter itself, but from an accounting angle even if we don’t book the loss, provisioning will still be there," chairman Atul Nishar said.

Hexaware shares fell 17% to close at Rs73.70 on the Bombay Stock Exchange. Bloomberg/Reuters

Beijing: World’s largest builder of nuclear reactors Areva SA won an

€8 billion (Rs46,080 crore) agreement from China to build nuclear reactors, a record for the French company, as the fastest growing major economy that diversifies energy supplies.

China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group Co. will order two nuclear reactors from Areva, chief executive Anne Lauvergeon said in Beijing on Monday during President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to the Chinese capital. Guangdong Nuclear also gains access to 35% of production from Areva uranium unit UraMin Inc., she said.

Areva and Toshiba Corp.’s US-based Westinghouse Electric Co. unit are competing to build as many as 26 reactors by 2020 as China turns to atomic energy to cut pollution and reliance on oil. bloomberg

New Delhi: India and Malaysia are considering a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement from January next year Union commerce and industries minister Kamal Nath said on Monday.

He was speaking at a seminar on business opportunities between the two countries in New Delhi.

The two countries had previously set up a joint study group, which recommended the agreement.

Malaysia is the second largest investor in India from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) region, with foreign direct investments of $142.98 million (Rs566 crore) from August 1991 to July 2007.

India’s exported $1.3 billion worth of goods and services and imported $5.3 billion in 2006-07.

Bilateral trade could increase to as much as $16 billion by 2012, the minister added. Rahul Chandran

Dr Reddy’s inks deal with German pharma co

Hyderabad: Officials from leading drug maker Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd on Monday said the drug maker has inked an arrangement with German specialty pharmaceutical company Sygnis Pharma AG to supply an active ingredient called AX200 for a biological molecule development by Sygnis for the treatment of strokes and other neurodegenerative disorders.

This is the first time that Dr Reddy’s is exclusively producing a biological molecule for a partner, said Dr Cartikeya Reddy, head of biologics at Dr Reddy’s, in a statement. Under the agreement, Dr Reddy’s will supply the active ingredient for 10 years. C.R. SUKUMAR

Gold rallies to all-time high of Rs10,695

Mumbai: Gold prices rallied to an all-time high of Rs10,695, on the bullion market here on Monday, on fresh stockists buying on the back of sharp rise in international markets.

Silver also shot up on sustained industrial demand.

Buying activity gathered momentum following reports of the gold surging in the international markets for the third day, as rise in the crude oil prices and speculation that the dollar might remain weak fuelled demand.

The dollar traded near a record low against the euro and crude oil prices in New York rose for a second day to above $98 (Rs3,880) a barrel.PTI

Harrier upgrade to be complete in ’08: Antony

New Delhi: Defence minister A.K. Antony on Tuesday said the upgrade of the Indian Navy’s Sea Harrier fleet would be completed by September 2008

The defence minister’s statement in Parliament came on the same day as a ‘Mint’ story on Page 1 that said 52% of the Harrier fleet had perished in crashes. As many as 16 aircraft out of the fleet size of 31 have been destroyed in crashes since 1988.

A ‘PTI’ report quoting naval sources said the proposed upgrade involved increasing the life of the fighters by about 15 years. The navy had concluded the contract for upgrade of Sea Harrier aircraft with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in 2005.

Under the “limited upgrade" programme, Harriers would be equipped with more advanced sensors, radars and missiles. Staff Writer

Govt sets up panel to review IIM structure

New Delhi: The government has set up a committee to review the curriculum, organizational structure and expansion plans of the six Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), D. Purandeswari, minister of state for higher education, informed the Rajya Sabha on Monday.

R.C. Bhargava, former managing director of Maruti Udyog Ltd (now Maruti Suzuki India Ltd), is heading the committee, which will also “review the present status of IIMs in fulfilment of their objectives as centres in management education and research".

It will also review faculty pay structures. The ministry of human resource development, headed by Arjun Singh, has repeatedly made statements denying that it is trying to increase its hold over the IIMs, all six of which have autonomy in fixing fee structures.

It denied a few months back that a bill curbing this autonomy was being drafted by the ministry. Aparna Kalra

Next round of talks with IAEA in 10 days

Mumbai:India will hold the second round of talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on country-specific safeguards in 10 days, sources in the department of atomic energy said.

The country recently completed the first round of talks with the the world atomic watchdog in Vienna to help implement the civil nuclear deal with the US. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chairman Anil Kakodkar had earlier said there was no fixed time frame for completion of the negotiations as it was a complex exercise but wished to complete it as soon as possible. PTI

Bajaj feud: lawyers say efforts on to secure deal

New Delhi: The lawyers for Bajaj Auto Ltd chairman Rahul Bajaj and his brother Shishir Bajaj who are involved in a dispute over group assets, have told the company law board (CLB) that they were still trying for an out-of-court settlement.

CLB had asked them to report to it on Monday the progress of these talks. This is the fourth such attempt to secure an agreement after the brothers first approached the quasi-judicial body four years ago.

CLB chairman S. Balasubramian said he would start hearing their arguments from 14 January, if they didn’t reach an agreement by that date. Ravi Krishnan

CAT for admissions to law courses from 2008

New Delhi: Seven law universities have agreed to conduct a Common Admission Test (CAT) for students seeking admissions to law courses from the 2008-2009 academic year.

The agreement was reached following meetings held under the aegis of Prof Mool Chand Sharma, vice-chairperson of the United Grants Commission (UGC).

The universities that have agreed to conduct CAT are: National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, Nalsar University of Law, Hyderabad, National Law Institute University, Bhopal, West Bengal National University of Judicial Sciences, Kolkata, National Law University, Jodhpur, Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur and Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar, a UGC statement said. Malathi Nayak

Essel Group to air Twenty20 tournament

New Delhi: Essel Group, promoters of the Indian Cricket League (ICL), will be airing its inaugural Twenty20 tournament beginning 30 November on its own broadcast network.

“Zee Network has come forward in support of its sister initiative, the ICL. We will air the first 30 minutes of the tournament across all our channels in the Zee network, excluding Zee Cinema. The subsequent matches will be aired on our sports channel, Zee Sports," said Ashish Kaul, executive vice-president, Zee Network.

The company didn’t disclose the name of advertisers for the tournament. “We are in the process of signing key clients and the names will be finalized in the next two days," said Satish Menon, president, Zee Sports Ltd. Priyanka Mehra