The Week in Review for 12 March 2010

The Week in Review for 12 March 2010

The Rajya Sabha made history on Tuesday, when it finally passed the Women’s Reservation Bill. An overwhelming 186 MPs voted in favour of the bill and just one voted against it. But the vote was preceded by two days of uproar in the house, with MPs from the RJD and Samajwadi Party protesting the bill. The two parties are demanding sub-reservations for women from other backward classes and minorities. At present the bill provides 33% reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, but makes no distinctions between castes and religions.

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The RJD and the Samajwadi Party withdrew their support to the Congress-led UPA government over the Women’s Reservation Bill. The Congress now says it will table the bill in the Lok Sabha only after evolving a consensus.

Factory output has risen in double digits for the fourth consecutive month. Government figures show the Index of Industrial Production rose 16.7% in January of 2010. Speaking to Parliament on the subject, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said the figures indicated growth in the economy was not simply being driven by government stimulus measures.

Passengers may have to cough up less cash as airport fees in the near future. This week, the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority said the so-called single-till model of airport charges is best suited to India. It has already circulated a paper among both airlines and airport operators to get their feedback. The single-till model takes into account all activities at an airport. That means that if airport operators make money from activities like shops and restaurants, they charge airlines and passengers less. But operators support a double-till model that calculates charges based only on aeronautical services. Currently, airports in India simply charge airlines and passengers a levy for future facilities they’re building.

Fortis Healthcare could become India’s largest hospital company. It says it will buy a 23.9% stake in Parkway Holdings, one of the biggest healthcare firms in Asia. Fortis will pay $685.3 million to acquire the stake from investment firm TPG Capital. The deal will get Fortis four seats on Parkway’s board of directors and make Fortis’ current chairman, Malvinder Mohan Singh, the new chairman of Parkway’s board.

Tata Consultancy Services’ new Rs4,000 crore contract from the UK government has run into political trouble. The opposition Conservative party has criticized the UK government for awarding a major long-term contract just months before national elections in June. The party has also vowed to review the deal if it comes to power. The controversial contract puts TCS in charge of running a pension programme in the UK.

India’s 3G spectrum auctions are scheduled to be held next month. But actually allocating the spectrum could take longer than expected. That’s because of delays in setting up an optical fibre network that will compensate India’s military for giving up the spectrum. The military currently uses the spectrum that’s to be auctioned to 3-G operators. And while BSNL has the job of building the optical fibre network, it has struggled to find vendors who meet the stringent specifications. The deadline for allocating 3G spectrum is 30 September.

Ford unveiled its new global small car the Figo on Tuesday. The vehicle is the company’s first entrant into India’s market for compact cars. Petrol versions of the Figo will cost just Rs350,000.

ICICI Bank has stopped offering free credit cards. While customer who already have free cards will not be affected, ICICI will start charging new customers. Many of India’s banks have seen their non-performing assets in credit cards rise since 2008’s downturn.