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PNB Mutual Fund to launch liquid fund after 2-year gap

Aabhas Pandya

VATICAN CITY, Sept 1: While many may already think of Mother Teresa as a saint, any official canonisation will has to wait, under Vatican rules that require a five-year interval after a candidate's death.

With the first anniversary of her death at the age of 87 on September 5 last year, tributes to the diminutive yet media savvy nun who catered to Calcutta's needy have again brought this question to the forefront.

Even a person like Mother Teresa, whose selfless devotion to the downtrodden and oppressed helped win her the 1979 Nobel Peace prize, cannot justify speeding up the process, said a Vatican spokesman.

``All candidates for sanctification are equal before God,'' he said. The rules require a five-year wait before the path towards sainthood starts. After her death, many voices within the Roman Catholic church tried to push for an exception in Mother Teresa's case and urged for an immediate canonisation. Among them was her close friend Italian cardinal Pio Laghi, now 76, who argued that MotherTeresa had ``done what Jesus did 2,000 years ago''.

In Rome, however, members of Her Missionaries of Charity, a community of 2,500 nuns around the world who minister to the poor, sick and abandoned, uphold Vatican rules and have not pressed for any early start to the canonisation procedure.

Though Pope John Paul II simplified the process in 1983, the path towards sainthood is still a long one. It starts with the local bishop in the diocese where the candidate lived, who must conduct a full inquiry into the acts, writings, and possible martyrdom of an individual whose ``reputation for holiness'' has been brought to the attention of religious authorities.

In the case of Mother Teresa, this would fall to the Calcutta diocese to collect evidence of what the church refers to as the ``heroic virtue'' of the candidate, meaning their practice of the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity to an outstanding degree.

Should this initial inquiry prove worthy in the bishop's eyes, the file will be transferredto a special Vatican committee for a second look to see if it is deemed worthy enough to send on the Pope, who makes the final decision.

In his 20 years as pontiff, John Paul II has broken church records for pronouncing the most number of beatifications - a first formal step on the road to sainthood - and actual canonisations. As of August, he has beatified 803 people and canonised 279 saints.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. CHENNAI, Sept 1: Virtually every major political party in Tamil Nadu is busy shifting loyalties and schisms in political alliances dominate the scene as the game of numbers at the Centre casts a shadow on them.

Poll allies from 1996, the DMK and the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) continue to be part of the United Front (UF) but the DMK seems to be reaching out to the BJP in an effort to save its Government from the marauding influence of the AIADMK, while the TMC's G K Moopanar prefers a Congress-led Government at the Centre. The TMC's view is fortified by the Left parties' inclination to pave way for a Congress-led Government, which they consider is the lesser evil as compared to the BJP. However, with opinion divided in the UF, confusion pervades, with each constituent chalking out the best option for itself.

Despite different goals, the DMK and TMC continue to keep their alliance in Tamil Nadu afloat. However, a break will be inevitable if they have to choose between the BJP and the Congress as anational ally. It would require considerable sagacity to keep their alliance going in Tamil Nadu in the event of the two opting for different stable-mates at the Centre.

The picture on the other side is even more chaotic. The AIADMK's now-on now-off relationship with the BJP has even got her allies protesting. The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), the Marumalarchi DMK (MDMK) and the Tamizhaga Rajiv Congress (TRC) are willing to throw their lot with the BJP at the Centre but are reluctant to announce a break in ties with the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu.

These AIADMK allies have announced that they would continue to back the Vajpayee Government and that they wanted the AIADMK to continue backing it. The PMK and MDMK have even struck a note of rebellion by declaring that they would continue to back the BJP Government even if Jayalalitha withdrew her party's support. The TRC has also made it clear that it would not pull out of the Government.

However, they are willing to wound but afraid to strike, when it comes totheir relationship with the AIADMK. Obviously, for the TRC, it is difficult to give up a good portfolio like Petroleum. These allies, too, are in a dilemma to choose between the BJP and the AIADMK as their future poll partner, just as the UF partners have their own choices.

It is thus that the MDMK leader Vaiko and the PMK founder-leader Dr S Ramadoss soft-pedal their parties' stand regarding the AIADMK and do not take their relationship with the AIADMK to the point of no-return, even while making it clear to the BJP leadership that they stand by it.

The misgivings of the MDMK, PMK and the TRC regarding the AIADMK's repeated threats against the Vajpayee Government can be traced to the political formations at the Centre. These three parties do not find a place in AICC president Sonia Gandhi's long-term strategy to form a Congress-led Government.

The perceived softness of the MDMK and PMK for the LTTE, which has been identified by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) as responsible for the assassinationof Rajiv Gandhi, has come in the way of any understanding with the Congress. Sonia Gandhi is also upset over the way in which Vazhapadi K Ramamurthy, who launched a party (TRC) in the name of Rajiv Gandhi, has teamed up with the BJP and joined its Government. With the Congress doors not likely to open for these three parties, they prefer to be within the security provided by the BJP, especially when lucrative ministerships are at stake.

Consequently, the fluid political situation has thrown up the curious spectacle of these three parties trying to please the BJP on one hand, even if that means displeasure for the Poes Garden lady; and on the other hand, humouring Jayalalitha to keep the AIADMK-led combine going.

Jayalalitha, on her part, is a prominent BJP ally but is more busy these days trying to establish lines of communication with the AICC leaders and usher in an alternative Government. Her only ally in this venture is Subramanian Swamy.

The decisive moment when parties will have to stand up and becounted will come when the Congress makes its moves to form a Government at the Centre and the AIADMK supports the Congress. If and when that happens, the AIADMK could gain some at the Centre and lose some in Tamil Nadu.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. OSLO, Sept 1: Not only did they probably discover America, the Vikings may also have invented the precursor of the modern pizza more than 1,000 years ago, according to findings published by a Norwegian archaeologist.

Flat, round crusts with an array of tasty toppings and toasted on stone platters in large pizza-style ovens were being consumed by hungry Vikings as early as the 9th century AD, researcher Astri Riddervold said in Oslo's Vaart Land

newspaper yesterday.

Digs have unearthed the ovens and the stone platters, she said, adding that the toppings clearly ran the gamut of ``everything available at any given season'' of the year.

She said the evidence indicates that seafood pizzas were a particular favourite for some 400 years up until innovations in grinding procedures and yeast-production gave rise to bread baking in the 13th century, ushering in the demise of pizzas in Scandinavia until the 20th century.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. BANGALORE, Sept 1: Karnataka's Agriculture Minister C Byre Gowda on Tuesday blamed the ``stupidity'' of the BJP government at the Centre for the nation-wide shortfall in fertiliser imports and held Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, who also holds the Agriculture portfolio, directly responsible for this ``neglect of the agriculture sector''.

He was countering Karnataka BJP president B S Yediyurappa's charge, made on Monday, that the State Government was neglecting the interests of farmers by not taking measures to meet their fertiliser requirements.

Defending the shortfall in the State's requirement of the fertiliser, Muriate of Phosphate (MoP) -- for this kharif season -- he said the country's entire requirement was being met through imports which have always been the responsibility of the Union Government.

Gowda told media persons here, that it was for the first time that the country was witnessing this unprecedented shortfall of over 50 per cent in the supply of MoP, which is not indigenously produced. Ofa total requirement of 21,40,000 metric tonnes (mt) of MoP, only 10,00,000 mt had been supplied throughout the country this year.

With the prime minister having retained charge of the Agriculture portfolio for himself, and Som Pal being only a Minister of State, this amounts to a ``sheer neglect of the agriculture sector in the country'' by the BJP government, he added.

In all the years since farmers started using fertilisers, the Central government had taken care of the fertiliser needs of the entire country. India Potash Limited, a wholly-owned Government of India undertaking was vested with powers to authorise imports in this regard.

However, this year the Centre had not imported the required quantity of potash and because of the ``BJP government's stupidity the whole country has to face this shortage now,'' he added.

Gowda himself had written both to Som Pal and Union Fertiliser Minister S S Barnala, in June this year, urging them to take measures to meet the State's need. Moreover, as far back asMarch, during the zonal meeting of agriculture ministers, Karnataka had indicated its requirement for the season. However, the response from both ministers had not been positive.

Subsequently Chief Minister J H Patel too had written to both Union ministers, with little success. Last month, both Gowda and Patel had also tried to meet them, but they were busy tackling the political problems in their respective states.

``We have made all-out efforts to make available the required quantity of MoP in the State. But it is the responsibility of the Government of India to meet it,'' he added.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, SEPT 1: The State government has awarded the contract for setting up a 12 MW hydro power station at Bhandaradara in Ahmednagar district to an NRI firm D L International.

Joshi today announced this decision after the State Cabinet approved the same in its routine weekly meeting at Mantralaya. DLI, owned by an NRI originally from Maharashtra, V Rajadhyaksha, will be involved in setting up the 36 MW plant to be completed in 15 months.

Talking to reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting, Joshi said the power station on completion would be given to the company on a 30-year lease. The power produce would be purchased by the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) at an initial rate of Rs 2.13 and subsequently at Rs 2.38 per unit.

DLI would pay Rs 18 lakh per year to the Irrigation Department of the state government as royalty to use water for generating power.

The said project was a result of the Advantage Maharashtra exhibition held recently to attract NRIs to invest in key sectors ofdevelopment in Maharashtra.

PATALGANGA PROJECT

: The State Cabinet, in another decision, conferred the rights on the MSEB to alter the agreement between the State government and Reliance Industries Limited on the Rs 463.13-cr Patalganga project.

The government and representatives of the company had signed an agreement recently according to which the MSEB was to buy about 410 MW power generated at the proposed plant. The agreement had provided that the levelised capacity charge would be Rs 1.55 per unit. But, when the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) imposed certain conditions before sanctioning the project to reduce project costs by Rs 32.82 crore and to increase the generation capacity to 447 MW from the projected 410 MW, it resulted in reducing the levelised capacity charge to Rs 1.41 per unit.

The Cabinet today accepted the request from RI on raising the rate and empowered the MSEB to amend the earlier agreement. The new levelised capacity charge will be Rs 1.48 per unit instead of theearlier of Rs 1.55 per unit.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MYSORE, SEPT 1: The Mysore chapter of People For Animals (PFA) has decided to campaign against the practice of making elephants carry the 750-kg golden howdah during the Dussehra celebrations.

``This amounts to cruelty on animals. Why should an elephant be forced to carry the huge weight for more than 4 km during Vijayadashami procession apart from having to practise carrying it weeks before the celebrations?'' Geetha Manja, PFA convenor asked.

Geetha said the matter had been discussed with the national PFA chairperson Maneka Gandhi on Sunday. ``We will not impose our will on the organisers or the people but try to convince them not to subject the elephants to such ardous tasks.''

The howdah is used to carry the idol of goddess Chamundeshwari during the festival. Suggestions to use a chariot to carry the howdah have been doing the rounds since an elephant, Arjuna, damaged it when he threw a tantrum four years ago. The death of another elephant, Drona, who had carried the howdah for 16 years, hasbolstered the idea.

Meanwhile, speculation is rife that the scion of the Mysore royal family, Srikantadutta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, will not hand over the golden howdah to the State Government. Wadiyar had earlier gone on record saying he would hand it over as he did not want to be seen obstructing the celebrations. But with the President giving his assent to the take-over of the palace, Wadiyar is unlikely to stick to his words. The movables in the palace including the golden throne are listed as private collections of Wadiyar, with others are under joint management of the government and Wadiyar.

Culture Minister and Dussehra celebrations committee chairperson Leeladevi R Prasad is frantic to meet Wadiyar and have the matter sorted out as soon as possible at a ``time and place of his convenience''. But Wadiyar is out of town fighting legal battles to save his palaces.

Consequently, the minister left a letter with Dussehra special officer Bore Gowda to be handed over personally to Wadiyar when hereturns.

In the letter, the minister has sought total co-operation of the scion to organise the `Nada Habba' (a people's festival) without any hiccups.

However, she told The Indian Express

that she would resort to legal measures if necessary to secure the golden howdah. She said she has sought to prevail upon Wadiyar that the Government was not out to `insult' anybody.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sept 1: The Congress today finalised the list of executive members and office-bearers of its Karnataka unit after a long delay of about two years. It also filled the vacancies of chiefs of 12 district units in the State.

The process of finalisation went on till this afternoon. The KPCC chief, Dharam Singh, had extensive consultations over the last few weeks with the party high command represented by Tariq Anwar, general secretary in charge of the State.

The 152-member list has 18 vice-presidents, 25 general secretaries, 28 secretaries, 31 executive members, 42 permanent invitees, and 16 special invitees.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MOSCOW, Sept 1: Amidst the standoff between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Communists-dominated lower house of Parliament, acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin today proposed a list of ministers for approval even as chances of his own re-election appeared shaky.

The Communists have express their determination to reject again Chernomyrdin's candidature in the Duma.

According to the list put forth by Chernomyrdin to Yeltsin for approval, the ministers of Defence, Interior, Foreign Affairs and the all-powerful Federal Service looking after internal security, will retain their posts, news agency Itar-Tass said quoting government staff.

The development came even as the President and the Communist Party asserted their intention to stand by their positions.

While Yeltsin said he would insist on Chernomyrdin as his choice for prime ministership despite the resounding rejection of his nomination yesterday by the Duma, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said his faction would again reject theprime minister-designate's candidature in the second vote scheduled for next Monday.

``I insist that Chernomyrdin be confirmed as prime minister as soon as possible... He is my candidate and I will insist on it... I, of course, will fight so that, literally in the course of the week he will be confirmed as prime minister,'' said Yeltsin at a Moscow school to mark the start of Russia's new academic year.

Zyuganov, meanwhile, told reporters that ``our decision is firm -- we shall vote against the candidacy of Chernomyrdin.''

``He (Yeltsin) insisted on the appointment of Ilyushenko (former prosecutor general) and nominated his candidacy thrice, who later went straight to prison. He insisted on the nomination of (Sergei) Kiriyenko, who bankrupted the country. Now Yeltsin is again insisting on Chernomyrdin. This is molestation of the Duma, rape of Russia,'' Zyuganov said.

A motion to confirm Chernomyrdin's nomination was defeated by 253 votes against 94 yesterday but Yeltsin within hours renominated himfor a second vote.

Three rejections of Yeltsin's nominee by the Duma would lead to the Duma's dissolution and an early parliamentary election, an option Russia can ill afford at a time of deep economic crisis.

Asked about the prospect of an early dissolution of the Duma, Zyuganov said, ``What is at stake is not the dissolution of the Duma but the dissolution of the country.''

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, September 1: The `Silent Assasin' is at it, once again. Enjoying an amazing season with his off-spinners, Muthiah Muralitharan added another feather to his cap by snaring 16 English batsmen in the Oval Test to script Sri Lanka's historic maiden Test win in the land of the Old Blighty. Not only were his figures the fifth best ever in Test cricket, he also became the second off spinner, after the legendary West Indian Lance Gibbs, to reach the coveted figure of 200 Test wickets.

His success has not only been a personal victory, but is also a tribute to the faith the Sri Lankan Cricket Board reposed in him. Under tremendous pressure, after being called for `throwing' by the Australian umpire Darell Hair on Lanka's tour Down Under in '95-96, most bowlers would have broken down. Not Murali, and what's more his teammates, and most importantly the Lankan cricket board rallied behind him.

``No bossing around,'' went the Lankan board's signals to the ICC. ``We respect his contribution to Lankan cricketand will play him even if Murali cannot bowl his off spinners. Sure, he will bowl leg spin in the next Test,'' said the board, even as the Australian Cricket Board was pressurising ICC to ban him.

Subsequently, cleared by the ICC, Murali, as indeed the entire Lankan side, were a changed lot. ``That incident changed the entire perception of cricket for us. It brought all the members together and hardened them. Actually, it went a long way in urging the players to show the world our potential. The World Cup win, by and large, was a result of that,'' once confessed Ranjit Fernando, a former Lankan player turned administrator, who himself was instrumental in counselling Murali during the turbulent period.

And now, the `cricketing powers' are at it once again. England coach David Llyod's ``suspicions about Murali's bowling action'' in English press on the eve of the final day of the Test match were no more than a gimmick, meant to unsettle Murali before the crucial last day's play. But, Murali was unruffledand as the result showed, Lloyd would have been better advised to counsel his own batsmen on the art of playing spin bowling rather than finding faults elsewhere. But the English are always known for nursing a grudge or tow, be it the Calcutta smog or the Madras prawns.

Lloyd's comments may have actually fired Murali up to expose the brittle English batting. They paid dearly for the line of indecision in their minds. Caught between whether to play forward or go back, they could not fathom Murali's skills. Had Alec Stewart not been run out, who knows Murali may have emulated another off-spinner, Jim Laker's feat of taking all the ten wickets in a Test innings.

Navjot Sidhu, arguably one of the best batsman of off spin bowling in the world, feels that Murali is simply unplayable for batsmen playing from the crease. ``You have to use your feet while playing him. He is very accurate and with the amount of turn that he gets, you have to get on top of him otherwise you are doomed. In between, padding is thebest defence to him.''

One can trust Sidhu as he has been fairly successful against Murali. The clobbering that Murali received from in the Lucknow Test in '93-94 (Sidhu hit six sixes off Murali) or the last season's S A S Nagar Test confirm Sidhu's theory. ``Still you cannot belittle him. He is a champion bowler with a great heart,'' Sidhu adds.

In fact, the new and exciting Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh sees Murali as a role model for himself and feels that he would be very happy to get a few tips from him

Smoke without fire is difficult and Murali's action sometimes does hinge on the verge of suspicion (almost every off-spinner is like that). Luckily, he has the support of his board quite unlike our own Rajesh Chauhan, who himself may have lost count of the number of times he was put under suspicion and then cleared by the ICC. A pity that our board could not stand up for an international player's cause.

Murali, the only Tamil in the Lankan squad, has always been overshadowed by the likes ofShane Warne, Anil Kumble and Saqlain Mushtaq in international cricket. Not any more as he has carved out a place for his art. For this he has to thank his own board more than anybody else.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sep 1: Industry Ministry Sikander Bakht said today that an effective system of protection of intellectual property is necessary for the country's development. Hinting at the political objection to product patents, he said, ``There is some hesitation in political quarters about patent laws changes. But I am convinced that better laws will help Indian industry and scientists.''

He also announced that the Government was trying to have the National Patent Office declared as an International Search Authority and as International Preliminary Examination Authority under the terms of the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

Speaking on the occasion of the first AGM of the Institute of Intellectual Property Development (IIPD), here today, he said that India had to globalise to survive. ``We have to enter the global game and win it to protect the interest of India,'' he said.

The declaration of the National Patent office as examination and search centre will give great boost to the domestic scientific andinventor community. They will be able to access patent information at their doorstep without incurring high costs. ``It is absolutely necessary to ensure that accurate and authentic information is disseminated widely to the people,'' the minister said.

Bakht said that the Government decision to accede to the Paris Convention would help Indian inventors and encourage them to market their inventions across the world.

Dr Anji Reddy, head of IIPD said that he was keen to see tough patent protection laws so that the Indian companies which were innovating would be protected. ``I spent Rs 60 crore on developing new drug molecules. I do not want someone else to copy them and make profit without investing anything.'' He said that India needed process patent in the 1970s so that the local drug industry could prosper. ``But we can't keep asking for protection forever. We have to start coming up with fresh research on our own,'' he said.

The Director General of CSIR, Dr RA Mashelkar said that information was thekey to success in the global environment. Unless India learnt to protect and nurture knowledge creation, it would suffer, he said, adding ``Future wars will not be fought with bombs but with knowledge. India has grey gold in its grey cells which can help it be on top. For this we must protect intellectual property creation.''

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, September1: Talks between chemists and the civic authorities remained deadlocked today as pharmacies all over Mumbai shut shop on the first day of their indefinite strike to protest against the two per cent octroi duty on medical formulations.

Mayor Nandu Satam told the Joint Coordination Committee of Chemists that the levy would not be withdrawn, adding that the duty should have in fact been imposed 10 years ago. He asked them why the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) should exempt medicines from octroi when the levy is charged on other products.

Over-the-counter sale of drugs was completely stopped with the 6,800 drugstores in Mumbai, affiliated to various chemists' and distributors' associations, remaining shut. The agitation has also received ``unconditional support'' from their counterparts in Thane and Navi Mumbai, who will down shutters on September 4 if the June 22 decision to levy octroi on medicines is not revoked. Life-saving drugs, though, were made available by the five controlrooms opened by the coordination committee.

``It has been an extremely hectic day. Our staff manning the control rooms attended to over 4,000 calls from people requiring medicines. However, they were supplied only to persons who could produce a medical prescription. We also did not entertain people who wanted over-the-counter household drugs,'' Kishore Shah, president of the Retail and Dispensing Chemists' Association, told Express Newsline.

``There were two cases in South Mumbai which urgently required anti-cancer drugs costing about Rs 25,000 per ampoule. Our control room at Prarthna Samaj procured the drugs and delivered them at the callers' doorsteps,'' Shah says.

The strike will not immediately affect civic and state-run hospitals in Mumbai as they have been supplied with additional stocks. Dr L B Khotkar, superintendent of J J Hospital, says government hospitals ``do no merely depend on supply from chemists'' and will not run out of stocks for 10 days at least.

However, they refused to sellmedicines to outdoor patients. ``We have to be prepared for contingencies in the wake of a calamity or a disaster when we might have to use large stocks of medicines without notice. Selling medicines to outdoor patients under these circumstances is virtually impossible,'' says a doctor from KEM Hospital at Parel.

Bombay Hospital in South Mumbai had some difficulty controlling the crowd which clamoured for supplies. The authorities divided the people into two queues - ones requiring medicines for the hospital's indoor patients and the other comprising outsiders.

However, tempers ran high as indoor patients were given preferential treatment. ``All seven chemists around the hospital are not open and I have been waiting for two hours to get Amoxicillin capsules for my daughter,'' said Upendra Tripathi, a resident of Colaba. ``Is my daughter's life less important than those who are admitted to this hospital,'' he asked.

The hospital though says it is not duty-bound to cater to the general public. ``Witharound seven large chemists around the hospital, we generally never get requests for medicines from outside. Since they are shut today, we obliged those who produced prescriptions,'' the hospital's pharmacy manager Lalit P Kaushal, told Express Newsline.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. CHANDIGARH, Sept 1: About 25 per cent of the sorties by Pakistan military aircraft along the Indo-Pakistan International Border (IB) have violated international airspace norms.

Army and IAF agencies monitoring movement of Pakistan aircraft reveal that till date this year, there have been about 60 reported incidents of breach of the `Air Agreement' signed by the Indian and Pakistani government a couple of years ago.

As per the terms of the agreement, no military aircraft or unscheduled civilian flights are to approach the restricted airspace over the IB. This airspace, akin to no-man's land on the ground, extends atleast 1,000 metres on either side of the demarcated IB and is out of bounds for all aircraft except trans-border flights.

Military sources say that this year, about 264 Pakistani aircraft, both combat as well as non-combat types, were observed in close vicinity of the IB.

The number of violations show that on an average, there are eight reported intrusions into the prohibited air-zone. Theseflights are observed and reported by BSF personnel manning pickets along the IB or by Army troops where their deployment is imperative. The Amritsar Sector, having the highest reported number of sorties and breaches, was particularly ``hot'' when a lot of work was being done on bunds near Ranian during flood control measures. Bunds also form important defences.

The Dera Baba Nanak Sector along the Ravi, with its network of ditch-cum-bund defence system has also remained active.

As per procedure, details about the number and type of aircraft sighted, their flight configuration and time of flight are passed on to the nearest Army division headquarters, which in turn directly intimates Army Headquartes along with the Command Headquarters.

The Army Headquarters intimates the Ministry of Defence and a ``protest'' is lodged through the embassy of the concerned country by the Ministry of External Affairs. Though no `scramble' of interceptors by the IAF in such cases had been reported, sources say that anydecision by ground forces to shoot down hostile aircraft would have to be taken on the spur of the moment, after determining the threat it poses. There have been instances of hostile aircraft coming right over the IB.

The issue of airspace violation has also repeatedly been raised and discussed during operational conferences and tactical briefings at the highest level and concerned has also been voiced at their frequency.

The only known instance of a infiltrating Pakistan aircraft being shot down was in 1996, when a Remotely Piloted Vehicle was downed in Kutch. Military sources say that though the breach may be inadvertent at times, there is a possibility of such aircraft involved in mapping out local defences.

``Their purpose could be a visual, first hand appraisal of our defences by commanders, judging the strength and layout of border out-posts as well as getting the lay of the land,'' an intelligence officer commented. Carrying photographic and survey equipment by these aircraft, particularlychoppers and transport aircraft, is not ruled out.

Helicopters of the Pakistan Army Aviation Wing, headquartered at Dhanval near Rawalpindi with detatchements attached with all major airbases for liason and search and rescue roles are also known to fly in close viciinity of the IB.

Another reason for flying in close proximity to Indian positions is for new pilots getting themselves familiar with the topography of the area. Possible errors in navigation during training exercises are also cited as a reason.

Sources say that some concessions in airspace restrictions have been allowed by both sides in the Northern Sector on account of the mountainous terrain. ``But they are trying to take advantage of these concessions in other sectors too,'' an officer commented.

Pakistan does not possess any strategic reconnaissance capability, for which it depends on inputs from China and the US. Though the No 5 Squadron equipped with 13 Mirage-IIIRD carries out tactical reconnaissance sorties from its base atSargodha, experts say that for border observations it flies atleast two-three kilometers behind the IB, using its `sideways' looking camera for photography.

Though there have been no known instances of the Mirage infiltrating Indian airspace, there were unconfirmed reports sometime back of the more advanced F-16s carrying reconnaissance pods and electronic radar jamming equipment entering Indian airspace.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sep 1: The primary capital market continues to be in doldrums with the month of August, like July, witnessing only one public issue. This issue too like the July one was a debt issue from ICICI.

The current fiscal, in the first five months, has seen only 12 public issues raising a meagre Rs 1,402 crore, compared to 62 issues aggregating Rs 3,061 crore in full 1997-98 and 753 issues for Rs 11,648 crore in full 1996-97, according to a study done by Prithvi Haldea of Prime Database.

A significant, but worrying, feature, according to Prime, is the near-total absence of equity. Public issues of equity at Rs 182 crore have accounted for only 13 per cent of the five-month period's total mobilisation. These have successively been going down from a high 100 per cent (Rs 13,312 crore) in 1994-95.

The most adversely affected are the corporates. Only Rs 83 crore representing 6 per cent of the total funds raised in the five-month period of the current fiscal have been from the manufacturing sector, down froma high 83 per cent in 1994-95.

On the other hand, financial institutions and banks, as per Prime, have continued to dominate the market. Their offerings at Rs 1318 crore constitute 94 per cent of the five month period's total amount, up from a meagre 4 per cent in 1994-95. The government continues to monopolise the primary market, with a 93 per cent share in five month period's total mobilisation, up from 9 per cent in 1994-95.

According to Prime, it is now for the 14th month in succession that the primary market has witnessed an extremely low level of activity in public issues. Since July 1997, there have been only 38 public issues. While August 1998 had 1 public issue, the earlier monthly figures have also been equally dismal: July (1), June (5), May (3), April (2), March (2), February (0), January (4), December 1997 (6), November (4), October (4), September (1), August (3) and July (2).

Initial public offerings (IPOs), in specific, have been badly hit. IPOs, which are essentially first public issuesfrom unlisted companies, had already fallen from a high of 1,350 in 1995-96 to only 51 in 1997-98. These are now down to only 7 in the first five months of fiscal 1998-99 mobilising a meagre sum of Rs 124 crore.

Given the state of the market and economy, Haldea projects that the balance period of 1998-99 may also be dismal. One of the points is the number of public issue documents filed with SEBI for clearance. From an average of 87 documents per month in the January-December 1996 period, the figure fell to only 7 per month in the January-December 1997 period and is now down to only 3 per month in the January-August 1998 period.

It said rescue act, if any, may come only from some bank issues and from materialisation of the disinvestment programme. ``What we may continue to see is some amount of debt mobilisation,'' it said.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. CHENNAI, Sept 1: There is much at stake for Indian hockey at the next week's Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, admitted Indian Hockey Federation president KPS Gill at an impromptu press conference, here on Tuesday.

In the wake of the debacle at the World Cup in Utrecht, earlier this year, Gill felt that the results in Malaysia will count vis-a-vis revival of Indian hockey. ``We will be attaching a lot of importance to our performance in the Commonwealth Games, and if we play to our potential, then we will win the tournament,'' he said.

While expressing satisfaction at the fitness level of the players, Gill said he concurred with coach M K Kaushik's views that longer camps were needed to improve further. ``After we return from Malaysia, we will be giving a short break to the players who will reassemble in Bangalore for a long camp in our preparation for the Asian Games,'' the IHF chief said.

No tours:

Having learnt the futility of ill-advised foreign tours prior to a major tournament,Gill asserted that the Indian team for the Asiad will stay at home and probably play a few Test matches against visiting sides before the Bangkok Games in December.

However, the `developmental team' which suffered crushing defeats at Hamburg last month, might be engaged in a couple of tours, he said, but did not elaborate.

Indo-Pak series:

Gill confirmed that in 1999, India and Pakistan will be playing another series, like the one earlier this year. ``Since we have no major tournaments in 1999, a series against Pakistan will be of help,'' he said.

Payments to players:

Apparently, Gill believes in the adage, ``deserve and then desire''. He opined that money alone will not produce results. ``When you excel, the money will come, and not the other way round,'' he said.

Referring to the controversy over payment to players, earlier this year, Gill charged that it was a ``problem engineered by some ex-players''. He said it was absolutely ``disgraceful and reprehensible'' on part of the formerplayers who, by their action, had done a great ``disservice'' to the game.

In a hard-hitting statement, with obvious reference to former India captain Pargat Singh, Gill said: ``He wrote in his little magazine that my re-election had done harm to Indian hockey. But the same person wrote to me later that I was the right choice.''

Team physio:

Gill underlined the importance of a physiotherapist, more than a doctor, accompanying the Indian team. ``I had suggested to the Sports Authority of India that they must send a physio abroad for training and then attach him to the Indian team. I hope they accept my suggestion,'' he said.

No ill-effects:

On the thorny issue of former coach Vasudevan Baskaran's adverse remarks against certain players, Gill stated that the players had got over it. ``I was surprised that the report was made public. There is no way I can guarantee confidentiality because by the time I receive it, the newspapers have already published it.

Copyright © 1998 Indian ExpressNewspapers (Bombay) Ltd. September 1: For the first time this financial year, Indian exports started looking up registering a 7.71 per cent growth in dollar terms in July.

The latest trade data released today showed Indian exports during July was increased to $ 2.99 billion against $ 2.78 billion in July 1997.

However, exports during the first four months of the financial year registered a negative three per cent growth as shipments from the country from April to July slid to $ 10.62 billion against $ 11.03 billion during the corresponding period last year.

In rupee terms, exports were up by 10.82 per cent during the period and for July the growth was 28.12 per cent. Trade deficit during the period widened further to $ 3.30 billion against $ 1.83 billion during the same period last year.

The rise in trade balance was in tune with the fall in rupee value against the dollar during May and June this year as imports costs were up against lowered export value.

Imports during July registered a significant rise of 18.70 per centto $ 3.80 billion against $ 3.20 billion in July 1997 in view of the rupee fall.

During April-July, imports increased by 8.26 per cent at $ 14 billion against $ 13 billion during the same period last year. Oil imports during the period was valued at $ 1.8 billion, down 31.27 per cent against 2.65 billion dollars during April-July last year.

Non-oil imports during April-July were estimated at 12.1 billion dollars, up by 18.54 per cent against $ 10.2 billion during the same period last year. While exports during April-June had registered a 7.94 per cent fall and imports were up by 3.75 per cent during the period, compared to last year. Trade balance at the end of the first quarter was $ 2.4 billion.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MOSCOW, Sept 1: US President Bill Clinton today urged his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin to stop military cooperation with India and warned that nuclear rivalry in South Asia could lead to a ``direct war'' between the two nuclear super powers.

According to local radio ``Echo Moskvy'', Clinton's plea came during his 30-minute meeting with Yeltsin. Expressing American concern over arms race between India and Pakistan in the backdrop of nuclear rivalry in South Asia, close to the Russian borders, Clinton warned that it could lead to a ``direct war'' between the two nuclear super powers.

India remains the biggest customer of Russian arms in the world and Indian orders to the tune of two billion (US) dollars annually have a vital importance for the cash-strapped Russian economy.

According to the Russian Defence sources, Washington is greatly alarmed at the Delhi-Moscow negotiations for the development of an advanced Air-Defence system capable of protecting India from the ``punitive'' missile strikessimilar to the recent US attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan.

In the grip of political storm each in his own country, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and US President Bill Clinton today bear-hugged in the former's study to inaugurate, what promises to be, a summit of uncertain terms.

The first agreement to trickle out was a joint pledge to eliminate some stockpiles of plutonium taken from dismantled missile warheads.

With Russia reeling from a political and economic crisis, Yeltsin formally welcomed Clinton outside the Kremlin after wreath-laying at Moscow's tomb of the unknown soldier.

Republican senator Pete Domenici who flew here with Clinton, told a media person today that the two Presidents would sign tomorrow an agreement to get rid of about 50 metric tons of plutonium on each side and break down the weapons material so it cannot be used for military purposes.

A draft of the leaders' joint statement said the plutonium would be withdrawn in stages, with financing arrangements to be set by year'send.

The draft said: Measures to manage and reduce such stockpiles are an essential element of irreversible arms reduction efforts and necessary to ensure that these materials do not become a proliferation risk.

Earlier, Viktor Chernomyrdin, acting prime minister, met Clinton and his wife, Hillary, at the Moscow airport.

Hoping to get a boost from summiteering, and doing his bit as an ambassador of West's free market, Clinton pledged continued US support for Russia as long as its leaders ``stay on the path of reform'' and do not revert to the Communist ways of the past.

With a message of support but no financial help, the US President urged Russians to reject the ``failed policies of the past'' in coping with their current economic crisis.

``Given the facts before you, I have to tell you that I do not believe there are any painless solutions,'' Clinton told a new generation of Russian leaders at Moscow state university of international relations.

He repeatedly said that Russia must play by therules of international commerce.

With Russia's economic turmoil throwing the summit agenda into uncertainty, Clinton addressed the crisis with frankness, but offered no specific ideas on how the infant democracy could weather the tailspin of its currency.

Earlier, at the start of their meeting, Yeltsin presented Clinton with a loaf of salted bread, a traditional East European symbol of welcome. Clinton pushed at the bread with the heel of his hand, and it sprang back up. ``Amazing, kind of like you,'' Clinton told his embattled host.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sept 1: The Delhi High Court today pulled up the City Government for not placing on record the affidavit on unauthorised colonies despite the August 17 commitment to the effect by Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma.

A division bench, comprising Justices Y K Sabharwal and K S Gupta said, ``It is most unfortunate that on the one hand, considering the importance of the case, the Chief Minister thought it fit to appear in person (on August 17) and on the other, the affidavit in terms of the order passed by the court is still not filed.''

The CM had, on his voluntary appearance in court on August 17, submitted that a decision on regularisataion or demolition of 1,071 ``unauthorised'' colonies in the Capital would be taken within 45 days and an affidavit on the Government stand filed within 10 days.

The court had allowed Verma's plea for construction of roads and drainage systems in these colonies, stating that the provision would not come in the way of the Government taking a decision.

``It seemsthe Government is not interested in filing the affidavit and wishes to rely upon the affidavit to be filed by the Centre,'' the bench observed, while expressing anguish over the Government taking the court direction lightly.

The court gave two more weeks to the Government to file its affidavit and posted the matter for hearing on September 17.

The court reminded the Government to enforce strictly its decision of December last, banning further construction in the city till it (the Government) took a decision on the issue of regularisation of the ``unuathorised'' colonies.

The bench further directed the Government that water and electricity connections in unauthorised colonies would be provided after they were given on ``priority'' to the colonies built by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

This direction came after DDA counsel Surinder Sethi submitted that thousands of DDA flats were not being allotted to applicants due to the lack of water and power connections.

The court also directed theGovernment to submit a report on the boundries of each ``unauthorised'' colony to ensure that no further construction took place.

Sethi told the court that 392 of the 1,071 unauthorised colonies in the Capital were raised on DDA land and the rest were either on the land owned by the State Government or the local civic bodies.

The CM, on his personal appearance, had told the court that the Government has, in principle, decided to fix December 31, 1997 as the cut-off-date for regularisation of the colonies.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. September 1: With six Indian pairs competing in Societe Genarale World Open bridge pairs championships, three pairs are in with a good chance to make it to the finals.

The scratch partnership of Vinod Sharma and Alok Sadhu had a 59.9 per cent score. They added a 50.8 per cent score in the second session to end day one of the semifinals in position 28 with a healthy aggregate of 53.36 per cent.

JM Shah and Rajiv Khandelwal of Mumbai, and Prabhakar and Krishnan of Chennai are other two who show some promise of making the cut as well.

Shah and Khandelwal had poor 47.64 per cent (rank 115) in session one but recovered to position 92 with a 54.94 per cent in session two to aggregate 51.14 per cent.

Prabhakar and Krishnan made a good start with 53.36 per cent (rank 40) but dropped to rank 106, scoring a poor 45.95 per cent in session two. Their session average of 50.66 per cent.

Three other Indian pairs languish in the bottom half of the draw and will need huge scores in both sessions to make the cut. Atthe bottom of the Indian rankings are Tewari/Gupta of Delhi who had led the six Indian pairs into the semi-finals. Scoring 43.37 per cent and 45.97 per cent in two sessions, the Delhi pair find themselves in rank 207 at the end of day.

Ajay Khare and Vinay Desai of Mumbai improved from rank 190 45.3 per cent in session 1 to rank 165 in session 11 (50.04 per cent), but this rate of improvement will not be adequate to see them into the finals. Their cumulative scores are 47.66 per cent. Agarwal/Bandi from Indore are ranked 159 at the end of day 1, with 47.64 per cent in session 1 and 48.48 per cent in session 11 (48.07 per cent cumulative). Michael Rosenberg/Steve Weinstein from USA lead the field with 61.95 per cent. Followed by Poland's Pityr Gawrys/Marcin Lesniewski (59.62 per cent).

In the Louis Vuitton women's pairs where 119 pairs competed, the Indian challenge ended in the 1st elimination where the four Indian ladies' combinations finished in the bottom half of the draw.

Copyright © 1998 IndianExpress Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. PATNA, SEPT 1: Cooking oil including mustard oil and other grocery items worth over Rs 25 crore have been seized as raids on business establishments continue unabated after the Bihar Government enforced ban on sale of mustard oil following detection of dropsy cases.

Official sources said today that district officials assisted by food inspectors and police had during the last five days conducted raids on over 750 places across the State to seize the ``adulterated'' cooking mediums.

The sources said the samples of the seized edible oils were being collected to send them to different laboratories for test.

The district magistrate were supervising the operations in their respective districts.

The Chief Minister had on Friday ordered ban on sale of both packed and unpacked mustard oil till ``laboratory examination'' of samples of the oil being sold in open market was done.

In the State capital, district magistrate Rajbala Verma led the team to conduct raids on departmental stores and premises ofstock-holders to collect samples of edible oils for laboratory examinations.

The district administration had so far seized cooking oils and other grocery items worth over Rs 8 crore by conducting searches on around 45 business premises, they said.

In Marufganj business locality, a raiding team stumbled upon packets of poisonous chemicals. According to experts, ``if the chemicals are mixed with ordinary oil, it will look and smell like mustard oil''.

``The mix of the chemicals in small quantity cannot cause any harm but an inadvertent excess use of the chemicals may prove to be fatal,'' experts opine.

A Begusarai report quoting official sources said over ten oil tankers filled with over 50 lakh litre mustard oil value of which being estimated to be around one crore were impounded during the last two days and samples of the oil sent to laboratories.

Over 285 tins of edible oils were seized from business premises and factories at Hajipur township in Vaishali district since yesterday, the districtmagistrate R N Prasad said.

Reports of seizure of several tankers fully loaded with edible oils continue to pour in from different districts in the state.

According to State health department sources a few more fresh dropsy cases were identified at Madhepura and Bhagalpur as an intensive campaign continued to detect such cases and take preventive measure to check further spreads of the disease.

Over 200 people including traders and labourers have so far been arrested during the raids at different places in the state.

The State Government had also banned supplies of mustard oil from outside Bihar till samples of existing stocks of the cooking oils were tested in laboratories.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sept 1: India had witnessed more than 30 epidemics of dropsy over past hundred years due to the wild weed argemone mexicana (mexican poppy) and its non-edible oil getting mixed with mustard oil naturally or because of deliberate adulteration, according to Prof Gunavant Oza, emeritus fellow of the University Grant Commission.

Oza, a botanist from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, who had worked extensively on the plant for decades, said the only method of preventing further dropsy epidemics was to eradicate argemone mexicana from the country which, of course, was a herculian task.

The introduced mexican weed, naturalised throughout India and reaching the hilly regions upto 5000 feet, can tolerate almost any set of climatic conditions and bear flower and fruit most of the year.

The plant produces numerous seeds, roughly about 20,000-30,000, and since it resembles black mustard seeds (brassica nigra) there were enough chances of it getting mixed with mustard seeds, Oza said.

He saidthough `hakims' and `vaidyas' use argemone for its medicinal properties, it was high time for its eradication from the country.

Oza, in one of scientific papers, had said ``We can destroy the seedlings by pulling them out of the soil during the rainy season and repeat the operations several times during monsoon and not allow the plant to grow and shed the seeds''.

He pointed out that since argemone seeds were collected by certain local people in large quantities and sold in the market, there was a possibility of taking their help for identifying the plant and seedlings for its complete eradication.

Since the plant finds shelter in the cultivated fields quite often, chances of the seeds getting mixed with other grains were more, he said.

Oza said the mysterious disease of the swelling of legs in Mumbai in late 1960s, a disease of similar nature in late 1950s in Nadiad (Gujarat), West Bengal and Bihar and the epidemic of dropsy had all resulted due to consumption of edible oil contaminated with argemoneoil.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. DURBAN, Sept 1: Despite round-the-clock lobbying by Pakistani delegates, nations of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) meeting today refused to tow its line on having one comprehensive resolution on the US missile attack on Sudan and Afghanistan with majority of countries feeling that the Taliban regime was sponsoring terrorism the world over.

Pakistan received this major diplomatic set-back when the issue came up for discussions at the ministerial and official level meetings of the NAM. An overwhelming majority of member countries felt that Washington's attack on militant camps in Afghanistan cannot be equated with its strikes on Sudan.

While the NAM is yet to formulate its response on attacks on militant camps on Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden, it was already agreed to condemn the US action on a pharmaceutical company in Khartoum.

Pakistani representatives were working hard for the last few days to convince and persuade NAM members to accept its proposal for a common resolution on Afghanistan and Sudanbut there were not many takers for their theory. Pakistan was left with no option but to give up its efforts.

Interestingly senior officials of US government who arrived here to seek observer status for their country were overtly and covertly lobbying for toning down of the NAM resolution on its attacks.

The NAM in its resolution on the US attack on Sudan felt that the action was a ``serious violation of principles of international law and UN charter and contrary to the principles of peaceful settlement of disputes.''

The resolution stated that ``such acts are a serious threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sudan and to regional stability and international peace and security.

``The NAM condemns this act of aggression and continuing threats made by US against Sudan.'' it urged Washington to refrain from such unilateral acts.

NAM sources said that India had played a vital role in delinking of the grouping's approach on attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan. The Indian government alsobelieved that the Taliban was providing training in arms to mercenaries who operate in Jammu & Kashmir.

The Arab countries, which form a dominating group in the NAM, were eager to have a strongly worded resolution on Sudan but most of them were not keen to have an identical resolution on strikes in Afghanistan.

India also received a boost when its consistent efforts to mobilise international support for eradication of terrorism bore fruit.

The NAM accepted the Egyptian proposal which called for an international summit conference under the auspices of the United Nations to formulate a joint organised response of the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The Egyptian proposal is similar to India's position on combating the menace of terrorism. India has proposed an international action plan to fight and tackle terrorism.

A further boost to Indian diplomatic efforts came when the NAM expressed its serious concern on the role of mercenaries in acts of terrorism. Theconcern vindicates India's position that it is facing terrorism being exported and executed by mercenaries from across its border in Jammu & Kashmir.

While making its standpoint, the Indian representative said the country was a serious victim of cross-border terrorism and hence was keen that there should be a major initiative to fight terrorism which posed a serious challenge to the sovereignty of a number of countries.

The resolution said that the UN organs should take appropriate decisions, consistent with its charter, to fight and eradicate terrorism. It emphasised that international cooperation to combat this menace should be conducted in conformity with the principles of UN charter. It suggested strengthening of international legal regimes for combatting terrorism.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who arrived here last night, is expected to make a strong plea for coordinated action against terrorism.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. BANGALORE, Sept 1: Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda today ``unconditionally apologised'' to State unit Janata Dal president B L Shankar over his son's alleged misconduct with him.

Gowda's son, H D Kumaraswamy, a former MP, had allegedly threatened and abused Shankar last week over phone on party affairs.

His apology comes in the wake of reports which said Kumaraswamy had used foul language against Shankar over reported attempts to wean away Gowda's supporters to the Patel group and that the former prime minister was interfering in the appointment of chairmen to boards and corporations.

Gowda told reporters it was true that his son spoke in `an angry tone' but he had denied having abused Shankar.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sep 1: In a significant move today, the new telecom secretary Anil Kumar met with the chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Justice S S Sodhi at his 20th floor office housed in the STC building in the capital today. While there may be nothing unusual in the event itself, telecom observers have attached importance to this meeting as signifying a change in approach in the building up of dwindling investor confidence in the telecom sector.

TRAI Chairman Justice Sodhi said that the meeting today was too preliminary for any conclusions to be drawn and included just an exchange courtesies. The meeting has however assumed importance as despite directions from the former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramaniam last year insisting on a monthly informal interaction between officials on both sides, only one such meeting took place almost ten months ago.

The impasse between the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the TRAI has now become legendary in telecom circles with the TRAIhaving pushed into a corner ever since the recent High Court judgement in July curtailed the latter's powers by refusing to allow its jurisdiction to interfere in the licensing rights of the DoT. This has left the TRAI virtually with no powers to interfere in any disputes that pivate operators in the field of basic, cellular and paging services, and the DOT on encashment of bank guarantees for delayed licence fee payments.

Before this, in February, the TRAI had acted tough with the DoT staying its proceedings in announcing the new internet policy, encashing bank guarantees of operators defaulting on licence fee payments and going as far as cancelling the licence issued by the DoT to the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) for allowing it entry in the field of cellular services. This had forced the DoT to drag the TRAi to court to get the jurisdiction of the authority sorted out.

In the words of Sodhi himself, the TRAI has been reduced to being a "toothless wonder". He says, the government has to have itsobjectives clear in forming a regulatory authority - it has to be an independent forum, expeditious in settling disputes and inexpensive for disputing parties to approach. If these are the objectives of any regulator then this is how these bodies should be allowed to function.

Whether today's meeting will herald a new chapter in the TRAI-DoT relations, only time will tell, but for the moment industry hopes are high.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sept 1: The Mule track connecting the landslide-hit Malpa village and Dharchula, which was completely destroyed, was today recreated by the Army and it would be ready for vehicles by tomorrow.

Announcing this here, Army and Air Force officials who led the rescue and relief operations in the area said the joint operations carried out by defence forces, Indo-Tibetan border police, the State police and administration, under very trying circumstances could well be taken as an example for successful large-scale disaster management in future.

Air Commodore HPS Sidhu and Col Vikram Singh, who planned and got the operations implemented at the site, explained in detail the situation as it developed from the wee hours of August 18 when rocks, boulders and slush came rumbling down taking away with them the Malpa village and its inhabitants, including several Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrims.

They said at least 200 people would have been buried dead in the debris, but bodies of only about 45 could berecovered.

Elaborating how best man and machine were put to use to meet the massive devastation and trying to save those few who were still alive, they said Cheetah helicopters which could land at a maximum height of 10,000 feet were made to land at about 11,000 feet at another village of Gunji, which lay north of Malpa.

As part of the ``Operation Blue Angels'', braving foul weather 14 IAF choppers, including six MI-17s called from Western Command to Bareilly, carried out about 300 sorties, flew about 79,000 kgs of load and 572 passengers besides rescuing the injured, ferrying the dead and dropping rations and medicines.

Sidhu said it was difficult for the helicopter pilots who had to fly only on one side of the river Kali, dividing India and Nepal, and through the deep gorges. Even at Bareilly, which had an average rainfall of 200 mms in August, the rains last month totalled a whopping 710 mms, he said.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Mumbai, Sept 1: Kinetic Engineering of the Firodias and Japanese automobile giant Honda Motor Corporation have decided to part ways with Pune-based Kinetic Engineering buying the entire 51 per cent stake held by Honda in the joint venture company, Kinetic Honda Motor Ltd (KHML), with effect from Tuesday.

The Firodia takeover of the company is bound to trigger the SEBI's takeover code and the company will have to make an open offer to the shareholders of Kinetic Honda Motor. The SEBI has asked Nestle to make an offer to its shareholders as the Swiss firm had bought three per cent stake from one of the co-promoters, the Khaitans and did not make the offer to the small shareholders. The price of the acquisition was not made public by the Firodias in their statement though insiders say that the deal would be around Rs 32 crore.

With this, the equity stake of Kinetic Engineering in the company will go up to over 76 per cent in the listed company. The Kinetic Honda Motor scrip remained static at Rs 42 ascompared to yesterday's closing while Kinetic Engineering was marginally up at Rs 97.60 (Rs 95).

In a statement to the stock exchanges, both companies said with the departure of Honda, the Kinetic Honda Motor will become a KEL group company and subsequently change its name. Both companies have been working as co-promoters and partners since 1985 and producing premium segment scooters -- Kinetic Honda ZX and Marvel.

As per the agreement, Honda would continue to provide technical support to the venture and the company will continue to make the current scooter models. The company will also continue to export vehicles under the Honda's network under Honda's brand name.

Honda Motor Corp is having a presence in the Indian market through its other joint venture with the Munjals of New Delhi which is making motor cycles and with SIEL to make Honda City cars.

Among Honda's various joint ventures, Kinetic was the only company which was not doing well. Despite 15 years of operations, the company was unable tobreach the 10 per cent market share in the scooter segment. Due to its low pricing, Bajaj Auto and LML are presently having a virtual monopoly in the Indian scooter market.

The new arrangement between the two partners is subject to all necessary government approvals. KEL has already filed an application today with the RBI for its approval. KEL has said that with the departure of Honda, high overhead costs of the Japanese managers would be reduced along with communication costs and office locations in Tokyo, New Delhi, Indore and Pune. It said Honda will continue to provide technology for the current products so that they can met the year 2000 emission norms.

It said the takeover of the joint venture company by the Indian promoters will reduce overheads by cutting out duplication of efforts in areas such as IT, training, selling and top management time. Further, Honda will also help the Indian company by providing it own manufacturing facilities in Japan or its authorised vendors for the critical partswhich cannot be indigenised at present.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Sep 1: Chief Minister E K Nayanar has ruled out inquiry into the alleged lapses in the implementation of People's Planning programme.

He said this during the Cabinet briefing yesterday when his attention was drawn to the demand by Opposition UDF for an inquiry into the alleged irregularities in People's Planning.

Nayanar said that he himself had noted that there had been lapses in the implementation of the programme. But the Government had no plan to institute an inquiry into it, he said.

In yet another development, the memorandum of understanding signed with International Network on Small Hydel Power of China for setting up of 18 mini hydel projects in the State was approved by the Cabinet.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. GUWAHATI, Sept 1: The murder of three former militants by a Major of the 11 Jat regiment on the night of August 27 at Dibrugarh, has not only served a big blow to counter-insurgency operations in Assam, but has also painted a poor picture of the security force.

The Dibrugarh deputy commissioner, meanwhile, has instituted a magisterial probe into the incident, while the army has begun its own investigations, after finding prima facie evidence against Major Jamir Khan of the Jat Regiment.

The media, especially the vernacular press has come all out against the army in the state, more so after the army authorities tried to justify the detention of one Atanu Sarma, accusing him of being a pick-pocket, for nearly an hour after a major blast occured in the Guwahati Railway Station earlier last week.

The wives of the three former ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam) leaders who were gunned down by Major Khan on the other hand have filed a petition in the Guwahati High Court seeking a high-level probe intothe killings, as also praying for exemplary punishment to Major Khan and his accomplices.

The issue has shot into prominence because Major Khan did not kill the three youths, Rana Gogoi, Utpal Barua and Rajiv Phukan, as part of his counter-insurgency operations. The officer is stated to have gone to the house of one of the youths, took part in a drinking session, and then accused them of lodging a complaint against him with the higher-ups in the army, and then shot them dead.

There are at least a dozen witnesses to the gruesome murders, with some even from the regiment to which Major Khan belonged. Reports have said that Major Khan snatched an AK-47 rifle from one of his jawans to shoot down the three youths. Other witnesses include some Assam Police constables deployed as personal security officers to some of the former ULFA leaders, and also five or six other former ULFA cadres.

The former militants had apparently complained to the General Officer Commanding of 2 Mountain Division at Dinjan that MajorKhan had embezzled about Rs three crore, which was part of about Rs 4.4 crore which Khan's unit had recovered during a recent operation against the ULFA in a nearby village.

The killing has embarrassed the army and the various organisations have once again demanded withdrawal of the army from operations against militants in Assam.

Prominent organisations which have pleaded for withdrawal of the army and vesting of responsibility of tackling the situation on the state police, include the Assam Sahitya Sabha, the All Assam Students' Union, Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti and Asom Jatiyabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad.

Some groups have also accused the army of having a hand in the killing of several family members of top ULFA leaders like chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, commander-in-chief Paresh Barua and publicity secretary Mithinga Daimari.

Last week's triple murder is not the only instance of the armymen crossing limits. Armed with the Armed Forces (special powers) Act, the army had in 1994, killed five innocentyouths in Tinsukia district in a fake encounter, while in several other instances, the high court has pulled up the army for various crimes inflicted upon the common people. It was only a few weeks ago that two jawans of the army were found guilty of raping a married woman in Nalbari district, with an army court awarding both of them ten years rigorous imprisonment.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW YORK, Aug 31: Wimbledon runner-up Goran Ivanisevic avoided his usual US Open first-round jinx and Thomas Muster registered the first knock-out of a seed today as the last Grand Slam tournament of the year got under way at the National Tennis Centre.

Ivanisevic, a first-round loser at the US Open in three of the last four years, ripped past Australian doubles specialist Mark Woodforde 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 with the sun pouring down on Centre Court at Arthur Ashe stadium.

``The last time I won the first round I made the semis,'' said Ivanisevic, recalling his 1996 Open campaign that ended with a defeat against eventual champion Pete Sampras. ``Maybe this is a good sign.''

Ivanisevic, who also fell to Sampras in this summer's Wimbledon final, crashed 23 aces past Woodforde during the one hour, 27-minute match.

While the lanky, goateed Croat was dismissing Woodforde, former world number one Muster, of Austria, mustered his ground-stroking arsenal to oust 15th-seeded clay courter Alberto Berasategui of Spain,the 1994 French Open runner-up, 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 6-3.

Muster, three times a quarter-finalist at the Open, improved to 4-1 lifetime against the Spaniard as he avenged a defeat in the final of this year's clay event in Estoril.

World No 1 and top seed Pete Sampras was following the 14th-seeded Ivanisevic onto Centre Court, beginning his quest for a record-tying 12th Grand Slam title against Marc Goellner of Germany.

On the women's side, top-seeded Martina Hingis of Switzerland was due to follow Sampras and begin defence of her Open crown with a Centre Court test against Aleksandra Olsza of Poland.

Early women's winners included 11th-seeded Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, who beat Japan's Yuka Yoshida 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, Poland's Magdalena Grzybowska, Americans Kimberly Po and Laura Granville.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. World No 1 American Pete Sampras began his campaign in style, getting past German Mark Kevin Goellner in straight sets while the Wimbledon runner-up Goran Ivanisevic avoided his usual US Open first-round jinx and Thomas Muster registered the first knock-out of a seed today as the last Grand Slam tournament of the year got under way at the National Tennis Centre.

Sampras, who recently lost to the Indian ace Leander Paes in the Pilot Pen International tourney, was in total command in his 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win.

Ivanisevic, who also fell to Sampras in this summer's Wimbledon final, crashed 23 aces past Woodforde during the one hour, 27-minute match.

While the lanky, goateed Croat was dismissing Woodforde, former world number one Muster, of Austria, mustered his ground-stroking arsenal to oust 15th-seeded clay courter Alberto Berasategui of Spain, the 1994 French Open runner-up, 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 6-3.

On the women's side, top-seeded Martina Hingis of Switzerland was due to follow Sampras and begin defence of herOpen crown with a Centre Court test against Aleksandra Olsza of Poland.

Early women's winners included 11th-seeded Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, who beat Japan's Yuka Yoshida 7-6 (7-5) 7-5, Poland's Magdalena Grzybowska, Americans Kimberly Po and Laura Granville.

Results

Men's singles: (1st round) 1-Pete Sampras bt Marc Goellner 6-3, 6-2, 6-2; Thomas Muster bt 15-Alberto Berasategui 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 6-3; 14-Goran Ivanisevic bt Mark Woodforde 6-3 6-4 6-4; Gustavo Kuerten bt Noam Behr 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4; Davide Sanguinettei bt James Sekulov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2; Michael Tillstorm bt Andrew PArk 7-5, 6-3, 6-1; MArtin Damm bt Sjeng Schalken 6-3, 6-3, 7-5.

Women's singles: (Ist round) Magdalena Grzybowska bt Katarina Studenikova 6-0 6-1; Kimberly Po bt Kerry-Anne Guse 6-4 6-1; Laura Granville bt Paola Suarez 6-4 6-4; 11-Patty Schnyder bt Yuka Yoshida 7-6 (7-5) 7-5; Miho Saeki bt Jill Craybas 6-1, 2-6, 6-3; Sung-hee Park bt Lenka Nemeckova 1-6, 6-3, 6-4; Amelie Mauresmo bt Ludmila Richterova 6-2,6-1; Sandrine Testud bt Shi-ting Wang 6-0, 6-2; Evegenia Koulikovskaya bt Sandra Kleinova 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI: The Indian Olympic Association and the Union Sports Ministry's pressure tactics seem to have worked as the cricket Board is veering around to the fact that the ``best team'' should be sent to Commonwealth Games. The turnaround came after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Raj Singh Dungarpur met Union Sports Minister Uma Bharati who is said to have expressed concern that India could lose face if it sent a weak team to Kuala Lumpur.

The selectors have made it known that some players are automatic choices for the `Top 14'. If the `strongest' team is chosen for Toronto, the automatic choices would figure in that team. But with a compromise being worked out, it is learnt that the Board will ask the selectors to include some of the automatic choices in the side for Kuala Lumpur.

According to sources, the list could even include Sachin Tendulkar, who has apparently said that while he has no objection to playing on either side, he would not want to be made captain for KL. In sucha situation, Ajay Jadeja is likely to lead. Mohammed Azharuddin, who will lead the side to Toronto, is believed to have been informed of this. After some discussion Azhar is also said to have agreed to this compromise, even though the absence of Tendulkar would be a big blow for him.

Meanwhile, at least one selector is opposed to the idea of having two equally `strong' teams but the other selectors say that they can only select teams from the pool of players the Board has made available to them for a specific event. In this case, the Board will mark some of the ``automatic choices'' for Toronto and some for Kuala Lumpur. The selectors will then work out the remaining slots on either side in an attempt to find the right balance.

The controversy over the team has been raging for the past three weeks and both the IOA and the Government have been demanding that the Board send the strongest team to KL so that India could make a bid for a gold medal. At the same time, the Board has contractual obligations withInternational Management Group, the promoters of Sahara Cup. The Board stands to make upwards of a million dollars as its share from Sahara Cup, but there is no money guarantee for Commonwealth Games.

Some members of the Board feel that this compromise could mean India losing at both Toronto and KL. In Toronto, Pakistan is fielding its best 14 and in KL, Australia who are in India's group, have their best one-day side led by Steve Waugh. Since only team from each group goes to semis, India could well be out before the medal stage in Malaysia.

But the Board, which has known about this possible clash of dates for the last two years, would have satisfied both the IOA and the organisers of Sahara Cup. The coffers would be full alright, but at the same time it could mean India losing at both places. But then, that's what happens when you try to kill the `Goose that lays the Golden Eggs.'

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sept 1: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has called for a report from the Bihar Chief Secretary on the police firing on a demonstration of flood victims at Dumra in Sitamarhi district on August 11.

The Commission called for the report on a memorandum submitted by the Nagrik Sewa Morcha (NSM) demanding a probe into the unprovoked police firing on flood victims who were peacefully demonstrating for relief. Five persons died and 15 people sustained serious injuries in the firing. The report is to be submitted within six weeks.

The memorandum said the police did not resort to lathi charge, water cannons, tear gas, or firing in the air, but directly opened fire on the demonstrators. The police also arbitrarily arrested 52 people and seized 350 bicycles, nine tractors, 25 motorcycles, two tents and loudspeakers and microphones, the memorandum said.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sept 1: SHIV Sena chief Bal Thackeray today contended before the Election Commission that there was no justification for him being disqualifed from contesting or voting in elections for having appealed to the electorate on ground of religion during a Maharashtra assembly bye-election in 1987.

This was stated by Sena chief's counsel Raju Ramachandran during the hearing of a reference sent to the commission to decide the quantum of punishment after the Supreme Court dismissed in 1995 a special leave petition filed by Thackeray and former Maharashtra MLA Yashwant Prabhu against a 1991 Mumbai High Court verdict.

Thackeray was not present at the hearing and was represented through his counsel.

The apex court had found them guilty of electoral malpractice under section 8-A of the Representation of People Act for having appealed to the electorate on ground of religion while campaigning for a Vile Parle assembly bye-election in 1987. Prabhu was disqualified from contesting election for six yearsfollowing the Supreme Court order.

Former Maharashtra minister and defeated Congress candidate Prabhakar Kunte had filed the election petition against Thackeray and Prabhu in the high court soon after the bye-election.

Ramachandran told Chief Election Commissioner M S Gill and Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh that there was ``no justification'' for initiating action to disqualify Thackeray ``at this late stage''.

Besides, Ramachandran contended that no action to disqualify Thackeray was called for as the Sena chief, who has never contested polls, has declared that he would never enter any electoral fray in his life.

Though the hearing in the case concluded today, the Election Commission did not give any indication as to the time by which it would send its recommendation to the President in the matter.

Gill declined to comment on the proceedings as it was a judicial matter.

Besides Thackeray's counsel, senior Sena leader, Subhash Desai attended the hearing.

Under the Representation of PeopleAct, the commission could recommend that Thackeray be disqualified from contesting or voting in elections up to a period of six years.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sept 1: Rattled by the frontal attack on the government by one of its own organisations -- the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) -- the BJP today defended the government saying it was pro-swadeshi

. The party also ruled out acceding to the Manch's demand that the two economic advisory panels set up by the Prime Minister be reconstituted.

``The BJP and the government are not wholly in agreement with the criticism made (by the SJM). But we will consider any constructive suggestions,'' party spokesman K L Sharma said today. He said that the Budget and the policies of the government reflected its commitment to swadeshi

.

Yesterday, the SJM launched a scathing attack on the government accusing it of ``side-stepping'' the BJP manifesto which made swadeshi

the pivot of economic policies. It demanded that the government review the direction in which it was taking the economy. It also demanded that the government ``undo'' the recognition and promotion given to known anti-swadeshi

bureaucrats like Montek Singh Ahluwalia and N K Singh.

Top RSS leaders such as K S Sudarshan, Madan Das and Dattopant Thengdi and representatives of other Sangh Parivar frontal organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and ABVP were present at the meeting at which the resolution castigating the government was passed.

Sharma, however, insisted that the BJP-led government was working according to the National Agenda of Governance and that it believed that swadeshi

was important. ``What the SJM has said is their opinion. There can be two opinions,'' he said.

He remained silent when asked if the Maruti-Suzuki deal, giving the Nyveli extension project to an inexperienced Italian company and the government's decision to significantly reduce its stake in Air-India could be characterised as pro-swadeshi.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. September 1: India's leading automaker Maruti Udyog Ltd (MUL) has been ranked 24th among the global vehicle manufacturers by an international automobile magazine.

Another Indian automobile company, Telco has been ranked 28th by the `Automotive News, 1998 market data book' on the basis of production and sales in the year 1997.

Korean auto giant Hyundai Motor Company, which is about to launch its first vehicle `Santro' the small car in India later this year, stood 13th in the list of leading auto companies topped by the U S-based General Motors.

Quoting the magazine, Hyundai claimed in a statement here today that it topped the Korean auto market, edging out the nearest rival Daewoo Motor Company. Daewoo stood 18th in the list and second in Korea, according to the magazine's global list.

While MUL produced 3,49,230 vehicles and sold 3,46,159 during 1997, Telco, the only other Indian company to figure in the list, manufactured 1,83,982 vehicles and clocked a worldwide sales of 1,81,328 during thesame year.

The worldwide sales figures by the magazine for 1997 stood at 53,404,834 vehicles that included passenger cars, light, medium and heavy commercial vehicles. Three Japanese companies made it to the first ten in the group with Toyota Motor Corporation being ranked third and Nissan Motor Corporation seventh.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. September 1: The Bombay High Court today admitted a writ petition alleging involvement of Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde in a Rs 185-crore fraud in the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB).

The petition, filed by three consumers including Congress MLA Digvijay Khanvilkar, alleged that MSEB awarded the contract for retrofitting of 15 turbines and other machinery to Power Plant Performance Improvement Ltd. (PPIL) without considering other biddings of lower cost. The petition further said former MSEB chairman P L Gajralwar and three other board members were also involved in the fraud.

However, the division bench of Chief Justice M B Shah and Justice Y S Jahagirdar refused to grant stay on the contract awarded to PPIL who have been allowed to proceed with the retrofitting of turbines in seven units as work on them are scheduled to commence in the next two years.

As regards other units the court directed MSEB to advertise for fresh bids and consider tenders quoting lesser price withoutcompromising the condition of increasing power generation. The board has been directed to place the tenders before the court on November 10, 1998.

The petition alleged that at a meeting of the directors of the board on January 28, 1998, Gajralwar along with board members Sudam Mandlik, Ashok Sampat and Anil Rathod hurriedly decided to grant the contract to PPIL. ``The chairman pressurised other directors to award the contract to PPIL,'' the petition said adding that the technical and accounts members of the board were not in favour of awarding the contract to PPIL while another company LMZ had quoted lower rates.

The petition stated that the board meeting was held to decide on the work on one unit. However, the chairman and the three members decided to award PPIL with contracts for other units as well. ``This is illegal, arbitrary and against the interests of consumers because it would affect the performance of the MSEB,'' the petition said.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sep 1: The government has increased drawback rates on 219 items, lowered rates for 290 items and introduced six new items into the list.

Major items on which drawback rates have been increased are readymade garments, hand tools, bicycle and bicycle parts, brass artware, brass hardware, leather and leather products, made-ups including handloom made-ups, and certain machinery items. The new rates will come into effect from Wednesday.

Referring to the special additional duty levied in the budget, the finance ministry release says the levy of 4 per cent SAD has been taken into account alongwith 5 per cent SAD applicable on various imported inputs. This will provide export products the necessary leverage to compete with products of South East Asian Countries where prices have fallen steeply on account of the collapse of currencies,it says.

The release adds that the increased drawbacks take into account ``the increased incidence of duties introduced on different inputs used by exporters.'' It hasbeen the endeavor of the finance ministry to ensure that exports do not suffer on account of high custom and excise duties, it says.

Highlights of the changes are as follows (i) the six new products which have been included are surgical blades, heat resistance rubber, non-computing registers, dual type, electrical motors and tennis rackets (ii) 219 items on which rates have been increased are items where duties have increased or the total incidence of duties have increased due to rise in input prices (iii) rates in respect of 238 products are being continued at existing levels as there is no change in input duties and prices (iv) rates of 290 products have to be revised downwards in view of reduction in duties and prices of inputs used by manufacturers (v) on handloom products rates have been revised upwards and the description has been revised to include all varieties of made-up articles.

This will enable exporters to earn drawback on any article including new varieties which are in demand in theinternational market (vi) draw back rates have been re-introduced for garments exported from EOU/EPZ units which have inputs on which duty has been paid (vii) the major benefit extended to all export products on which government had decided to restrict the Modvat credit availed to 95 per cent is a new provision in the drawback table which compensates exporters for the 5 per cent Modvat credit which cannot be otherwise utilised. This removes the disability of 5 per cent which was making inputs costlier to exporters (viii) in the case of handloom products, handicrafts including handicrafts of brass artware, finished leather, grey fabrics and other export products which are unconditionally fully exempt from excise duty, it has been decided to dispense with the need to produce certificates regarding non-availment of Modvat facility as a measure to simplify export procedures and pay drawback more expeditiously to exporters (ix) in respect of certain other products a circular has been issued on guidelines to befollowed for verification of Modvat availed.

The range of exports which will now get higher duty drawback is wide. This is because the special additional customs duty is being levied -- on top of the 5 per cent special customs duty -- on a large variety of imports which go into exports. Among the beneficiaries of higher duty drawback are thrust items like textiles, drugs and pharmaceuticals and electronic hardware.

On the flip side, duty drawback rates have been lowered for 290 items. This seems to be an economy drive. Apparently, duty foregone in favour of exports is large -- a consequence of efficient computerised settlement of drawback claims -- and is more than 25 per cent of annual customs revenue.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: Tatas today announced their formal decision to pull out of their proposed Rs 1,475-crore airline project with the Ministry of Civil Aviation continuing to delay the project for one reason or another -- the project has been delayed by over 43 months already.

This makes it the second time in as many months that the Tatas have been forced to pull out of a major venture involving prestigious foreign investors because of the delay tactics of this very ministry -- in July, the Tatas pulled out of the Rs 1,200-crore Bangalore airport project after the ministry tried to change the terms of the project and later refused to honour commitments given by them to the Tatas at the time of the original bid.

The Tatas' decision to pull out of the airline project was communicated to Civil Aviation Secretary P V Jayakrishnan in a letter written by Tata Industries' director Sujit Gupta. Gupta also sent a separate letter withdrawing the group's application with the FIPB to its chairman T R Prasad. Copies ofthe letter were also sent to all FIPB members including Finance Secretary Vijay Kelkar, Commerce Secretary P P Prabhu, and A N Ram who is the economic secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs.

While no comments could be got from either the Civil Aviation Minister Anant Kumar or the Secretary, when contacted FIPB officials said the Tatas had in fact appreciated the positive role played by them and had said the main reason for the delays lay with the Aviation Ministry.

Briefing the press shortly after today's letters were shot off, Gupta said their decision to pull out of the project was not in any way a vote of no-confidence in the government but was really a vote against the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Today's decision was interpreted by observers as a smart one since the expert committee set up by the Aviation Ministry to examine their project after sitting on it for eight months was sure to reject their case. As a Tata spokesperson put it at today's briefing: ``The committee has been set up bythe same ministry which has been opposing the project.''

Indeed, all evidence seems to suggest that the ministry has played foul with the Tatas, with the aviation policy itself being changed, and several amendments added to it, to prevent the airline from taking off (see box). So, for example, while the earlier policy allowed foreign airline companies to have a 40 per cent stake in local carriers, this was changed when the Tatas roped in Singapore Airlines as their partner. This, despite the fact that the government allowed Jet Airways to carry on with a 40 per cent stake by foreign airlines. And, in December 1997, also allowed ModiLuft to sell 40 per cent of its equity to foreign investors -- the latter deal never worked out eventually, but for different reasons -- but never asked it to disclose who the investors would be.

Similarly, when Jet Airways was given six months to divest the stake of foreign airlines -- Kuwait Airways and Gulf Air -- it just gave a three-line letter to the ministry saying itwould comply. Nor were any questions asked about the details of the shareholders of its holding company, Tailwinds which is registered in the Isle of Mann.

The Tata proposal was, however, put off for several months with the ministry insisting on getting full details of who the investors would be -- the fact, however, is that with the proposal not even cleared, how could the Tatas get any investors in the project.

The key problem, as is evident to all including those in the government --the PMO, the Finance Ministry and the Industry Ministry have been strong supporters of the project -- is that the Tatas were checkmated by domestic vested interests, generally suspected to be competing airline companies. In fact, at one stage, even the state-owned Indian Airlines was brought into the act and put out a note saying that they would be hit badly by the proposed Tata Airline.

Most of the facts in this note, however, were incorrect -- the note, incidentally, formed the basis on which several MPs opposed theproject. The note, for example, talked of how IA's capacity utilisation (load factor, in jargon) had fallen in the last few years, when it had actually gone up. It also spoke of how there was plenty of excess capacity in the industry today, when in fact the civil aviation ministry itself had pointed out that there was a demand of 47 additional 120-seater aircraft in the next three years. Add to this the fact that, in the last two years, 17 aircraft of different airlines have gone out of use.

The Tata Airline which would involve foreign equity of Rs 278 crore was expected to generate direct employment to around 2,400 people by the fifth year of its operations, and to 10,000 people indirectly in terms of support staff at airports, baggage handlers, and so on.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sep 1: The strong builder lobby of the Vasai-Virar region is taking on the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) for the latter's incompetence to announce a development plan for the region. Even as the last date to submit the final plan is fast approaching, CIDCO officials are not showing any signs of action.

As per the provisions, the special planning authority has to submit the final plan to the State Government for its sanction on or before September 6. If CIDCO fails to do this then there will not be any development plan for the region which is legally valid. This will create a vacuum which means unauthorised construction and haphazard development, say builders.

In 1990, the state government had appointed CIDCO as a Special Planning Authority for this region replacing the Bombay Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA). CIDCO took almost two years to prepare and publish the interim development plan, which was full of anomalies. It was expected that the final plan wouldbe published after hearing suggestions and objections from the public.

However, it turned out other way round and this time the objections, suggestions were to the tune of about 6000. It is mandatory for any planning authority to finalise the plan within three years from the date of publication. It was felt by the builders that CIDCO's Vasai office may not be able to complete the legal formalities before the final date. But even after almost eight years, CIDCO could not finalise even a Development Plan about the implementation.

Recently in many building permission cases, CIDCO has refused to grant the development permission due to expectations of substantial modification in the published draft development plan. If major modifications are expected, the plan needs to be republished and once again the entire procedure of calling the objections/suggestions and conducting the hearing will have to be followed.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, September 1: In order to check the incidence of adulteration of edible oil, the Department of Sugar and Edible Oils of the Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs has intensified its quality control measures.

The department would hold surprise checks at units that manufacture vegetable oil products and solvent extracted products. Besides, the frequency of regular inspection has also been increased.

Last week, the Government had taken a decision to import edible oilseeds. In order to ensure the availability of unadulterated oil at reasonable prices, the Government has also strengthened the public distribution system in edible oils and has made arrangements for the supply of imported oil wherever needed.

All field officers have been instructed to draw samples from all manufacturing units in their zones for purity checks. These officers have also been directed to lift samples from the market.

The Ministry has also strengthened the Consumer Service Centre of the Directorate of Vanaspati,Vegetable Oils and Fats at Super Bazaar (Connaught Place) in the Capital in order to provide testing facilities to the consumer. A fee of Rs 10 is being levied per test, at present.

Besides, the industry has also been directed to check the purity of the raw materials and finished products. Operations are being suspended at manufacturing units that have found items to be adulterated till the time they set up adequate analytical facilities for checking their purity, to the satisfaction of the Government.

The department has already banned the use of mustard oil in the manufacture of vanaspati oil. Besides, the state governments and Union Territories have been asked not to sell mustard oil in loose form. The states have also been directed to monitor the quality of edible oils more stringently.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, September 1: Hectic consultations are taking place between banks, financial institutions (FIs) and the RBI to come up with a bailout package for the thousands of small/medium sized industries which are facing problems repaying their interest or capital, due to the industrial slowdown. Among the suggestions doing the rounds are that FIs/banks be more liberal in considering the request of companies in distress and grant a three-year moratorium on repayment of interest/principal in a larger number of cases.

The proposal has gathered steam in the last month, with major political parties putting pressure on banks/FIs to reschedule loans of various companies, especially those in the small and medium sector -- FIs are, in any case, rescheduling several loans of larger corporates these days. It is believed that the matter also figured during the last meeting of the standing committee on finance. In the last month, three sets of meetings have taken place on this between various banks, FIs and theRBI.

Interestingly, in this case, the banks/FIs are also keen on working out something, as their non-performing assets (NPAs) are increasing since their borrowers are not paying their interest or repaying the capital borrowed in the past. It is now being proposed that the RBI change the classification of NPAs to take care of the interests of the banks/FIs.

Under the present norms, if interest is not paid on a loan for two successive quarters, it is to be declared as an NPA. Under the proposed scheme, this will be increased to four quarters.

The proposal, which will be widely welcomed by both industry as well as banks/FIs has, however, sent chills down the spines of several top bankers as this will make banks more lax in their loan appraisals and is also prone to a lot of misuse. If it is generally known that banks will be a lot more amenable to granting a moratorium, then there would be increased pressure to grant this to favoured companies.

Among the other proposals being considered as part of thispackage are that, for new projects, loans be provided at a zero interest rate for the first three years, and to charge this from the companies by levying higher rates for the later years -- thus companies would not face a cash-flow problem in the early years.

Another proposal is to allow banks/FIs to reschedule loans of companies engaged in new projects without attracting the provisions of NPAs. So, if a company is setting up a new project but does not start production, the FI/bank can renegotiate the loan, and make it more attractive for the company. This will benefit several greenfield projects currently underway and which are facing severe problems in their cash flows.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. September 1: Defending champions Air-India swelled their WIFA Super Division League points kitty today after registering a convincing victory over Central Bank of India (CBI) here at the Cooperage.

In another Super Division match, substitute ME Satish's last minute strike a saw Bank of India (BoI) derail Central Railway (1-0).

With today's victory, Air-India are sitting pretty at the second spot havign logged 18 points from 9 matches. Bengal Mumbai Football Club (BMFC) head the standings with 22 from 10 matches.

Air-India who dominated the proceedings shot into an early lead, thanks to a bad collection by CBI goalkeeper Jerome Ghanekar. Mid-fielder Khambiton Singh's goal-ward bound aerial long-ranger found Ghanekar making a mess of it. Opportunistic striker Debdas Sen, who migrated from Eastern Railway this season, made full use of the chance at his feet to lob the ball into the net.

Anthony Fernandes sealed victory for A-I in the 50th minute when he outpaced the Bank defenders and thumped into thenet from close.

The Central Railway-BoI encounter was an evenly contested affair. Though Railway dominated the first quarter of the match, BoI settled down before creating openings.

The bankmen's endeavour paid dividends in the last minute when Satish shocked the railwaymen when he nodded in a Navin Kotian's cross. The opposition were found flatfooted as they waited for off-side trap.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sept 1: The Bombay High Court today allowed Revenue Minister Narayan Rane's plea requesting the deletion of his name from the list of respondents in a public interest petition filed by Nashik Municipal Corporation member Gajanan Shelar.

A division bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice M B Shah and Justice Y S Jahagirdar however admitted Shelar's petition challenging a state government order restoring land acquired for the Nashik-based Maharashtra Engineering Research Institute (MERI) to its original owners.

In his prayer, Shelar had urged the court to direct the Anti-Corruption Bureau to file a case against Rane under the Prevention of Corruption Act, contending that the order passed by the minister to restore the land was bad in law and with malafide intention.

In 1963, the state government had acquired 400 acres of land for MERI at Nashik. The farmers were compensated as per the provisions of law. In 1993, some of the farmers approached the district collector, asking that theunutilised land be returned to them.

The farmers submitted that as per the provisions of an order passed by the government, if the acquired land was not utilised within three years and if it was not required for any other public purpose, then the same should be returned to the original owners at a price, which should not be more than double the price of the original compensation.

The plea however was rejected by the Nashik Collector, following which the farmers filed an appeal before Rane. The minister ordered that in addition to the 176 acres of land on which some construction had already taken place, MERI should retain an additional 50 acres of land and that the remaining land be restored to the original owners.

Challenging Rane's order, Shelar alleged that it was passed with malafide intention and named Rane, along with the Revenue secretary and the Nashik Collector, as a respondent in his petition.

Appearing for the minister, counsel Dhananjay Chandrachud urged the court that Rane's name bedropped from the list of respondents since the order was a quasi judicial verdict in his capacity as a Revenue Minister and that it was passed after taking into consideration the facts brought before him by the farmers. The court accepted Chandrachud's plea and dropped Rane from the list of respondents.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MOSCOW, Sept 1: In the grips of political storm each in his own country, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and US President Bill Clinton today bear-hugged in the former's study to inaugurate, what promises to be, a summit of uncertain terms.

The first agreement to trickle out was a joint pledge to eliminate some stockpiles of plutonium taken from dismantled missile warheads.

``Clinton and I know one another well, and we are friends,'' Yeltsin said earlier at a Moscow school.

With Russia reeling from a political and economic crisis, Yeltsin formally welcomed Clinton outside the Kremlin after wreath-laying at Moscow's tomb of the unknown soldier.

Republican senator Pete Domenici who flew here with Clinton, told a media person today that the two Presidents would sign tomorrow an agreement to get rid of about 50 metric tons of plutonium on each side and break down the weapons material so it cannot be used for military purposes.

``We both have way more than we need,'' Domenici said.

A draft of theleaders' joint statement said the plutonium would be withdrawn in stages, with financing arrangements to be set by year's end.

The draft said: Measures to manage and reduce such stockpiles are an essential element of irreversible arms reduction efforts and necessary to ensure that these materials do not become a proliferation risk.

Earlier, Viktor Chernomyrdin, acting prime minister, met Clinton and his wife, Hillary, at the Moscow airport.

Hoping to get a boost from summiteering, and doing his bit as an ambassador of West's free market, Clinton pledged continued US support for Russia as long as its leaders ``stay on the path of reform'' and do not revert to the Communist ways of the past.

With a message of support but no financial help, the US President urged Russians to reject the ``failed policies of the past'' in coping with their current economic crisis.

``Given the facts before you, I have to tell you that I do not believe there are any painless solutions,'' Clinton told a new generation ofRussian leaders at Moscow state university of international relations.

He repeatedly said that Russia must play by the rules of international commerce.

With Russia's economic turmoil throwing the summit agenda into uncertainty, Clinton addressed the crisis with frankness, but offered no specific ideas on how the infant democracy could weather the tailspin of its currency.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sept 1: Former Prasar Bharati Board chief executive officer (CEO) S S Gill today filed a petition in the Delhi High Court challenging the ``constitutional validity'' of the Prasar Bharati ordinance which terminated his service by reducing his tenure as CEO.

The petition, which will come up for hearing tomorrow, termed the ordinance unconstitutional, saying a Bill of the same nature was awaiting the Rajya Sabha (RS) nod after being passed by the Lok Sabha on July 31.

The 72-year old Gill said the ordinance, which fixed the age limit of the CEO at 62 years, was ``politically motivated'' as the Bharatiya Janata Party Government, ever since its inception, had a one-point agenda to oust him from the post.

He alleged in his petition that the Government was inimical to his continuation as CEO as he did not operate as per their whims and fancies.

The way the ordinance was promulgated, he said, was a subversion of democratic and parliamentray norms, as one House of Parliament has passed the Bill andthe other is yet to discuss it. By bringing in this ordinance, the Government has bypassed the RS, Gill said.

The ordinance, restoring the original 1990 Act, was promulgated on Saturday night and the Government immediately appointed All India Radio Director General O P Kejriwal in Gill's place.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, September 1: Tata Industries has roped in ICICI Securities and Finance Company (I-Sec) managing director Kishor Chaukar as its new managing director. Chaukar, who has been associated with the investment-banking arm of ICICI since its inception, will put in his papers over the next few days.

"Tata Industries is appointing a mew managing director shortly. He is KA Chaukar, currently the managing director of I-Sec. Chaukar brings to Tata Industries considerable experience in project evaluation and project finance," a Tata Services press release said.

Tata Industries is the main promoter of the Tata group in new projects in the areas of information technology, telecommunications and other high technology areas.

"It happened very fast. It is not an opportunity in finance. I will be involved in setting up new projects for Tata Industries. It is a challenge I am looking forward to," he said.

The financial sector has not been surprised by the development, as Chaukar is believed to be not enjoying hisassignment in I-Sec for quite some time now. The massive loss posted by I-Sec in 1997-98 did not go down well with the ICICI management. More complications cropped up when overseas partner JP Morgan decided to call it a day early this year.

I-Sec has also lost the prime of place in the new scheme of things at ICICI, which is fast turning into a universal bank, following the recommendations of McKinsey & Co. A sizable number of I-Sec employees left the fold to join JP Morgan, few departments wound up and some of I-Sec executives were called back to ICICI.

Chaukar, however, was made ICICI executive director and sent on deputation to I-Sec as its managing director. Chaukar has been associated with ICICI over 14 years. Joining as an officer in 1984, he spent four years with the merchant-banking wing and another four years heading ICICI's Delhi operations. In 1995, he took over as CEO of I-Sec when NJ Zaveri called it a day.

A release issued by ICICI said that since Chaukar had decided to join TataIndustries, he would relinquish his position as director on the boards of ICICI, I-Sec and TDICI in October. "Related directorships would be relinquished simultaneously," said the release.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sept 1: The cold war between the alliance partners over the Rs 10,000 crore Shivshahi Punarvasan Prakalp scheme is still simmering if the drama at today's special cabinet meeting is any indication.

After BJP leader Kirit Somaiyya publicly criticised high-profile Housing Minister Sureshdada Jain over the housing scheme, it was Jain's turn to hit back and he did so by halting a proposal mooted by Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde.

Munde, who also holds the energy portfolio, had put forward the revised Power Purchase Agreement between the Reliance and Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) for the 410 MW Patalganga power project before the cabinet members at a special meeting on August 29.

Taking objection to it, Jain urged the Chief Minister to defer the proposal for the next cabinet meeting since he had not read the cabinet note drafted by the Energy Department. Joshi readily agreed to the proposal and accordingly, it was postponed and brought up again at today's cabinet meeting.

Butwhen Jain made the same plea at today's meeting, Munde virtually stalled the cabinet for a while, saying, that since he had not read any of the cabinet notes, all the items of the agenda should be taken up at the next meeting of the cabinet.

Not only BJP Ministers, but a section of the Shiv Sena cabinet members openly came out in support of Munde, saying, such a practice should not be encouraged. Secondly, they also urged the Chief Minister to circulate the cabinet note atleast one day in advance so as to allow Ministers to carefully study them.

Apparently sensing trouble and the possibility of BJP members boycotting the cabinet for a second time, the Chief Minister declined to take note of Jain's plea and took up the proposal moved by Munde.

Meanwhile, Jain looked completey disappointed over the progress of the slumdwellers scheme. ``So far we have met on three occasions, but we have not touched the basic objections raised by the BJP,'' Jain said.

Following objection taken by Somaiyya, Thackeray hadset up a committee comprising Chief Minister Manohar Joshi, Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde, Sureshdada Jain, Kirit Somaiyya and Housing Development Corporation Chief Deepak Parekh to review the project and examine the objections raised by BJP.

On the objection raised by the BJP over the tendering system, Jain said for more transparency in the entire process, he was prepared to appoint former Chief Secretary D M Sukthankar, Kirit Somaiyya, Congress leaders Chhagan Bhujbal and Madhukar Pichad on the committee.

When his attention was drawn to the objections raised by the State Planning Board headed by BJP leader Prakash Jawdekar, Jain said since the project has been approved by the Cabinet, the highest decision making body, he was not concerned about the views of the planning board.

Referring to the threats received by him and Housing Secretary V P Raja, Jain said it was brought to the notice of the Chief Minister, who has enhanced security for him with immediate effect. ``I do not know as to what isthe additional security provided to him. But I am told that the security has been enhanced,'' Jain added.

Munde confirmed that additional security has been provided to Jain following threats to his life. ``Like the security to former Ministers Ganesh Naik, Suresh Navale and Gulabrao Gawande, additional security has been provided to Jain and Raja,'' Munde pointed out.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI: Union civil aviation minister Ananth Kumar on Tuesday said the centre will allow 100 per cent participation by international consortiums with local partners in the construction of domestic airports.

Inaugurating the first electronic international exhibition and conference "Nepcon India '98" organised by the Confederation of India Industry (CII) and Electronic Components Industries Association (Elcina) here, Kumar said the centre had decided to allow consortiums to invest fully as against the earlier 74 per cent.

Kumar said his ministry will clear the international airport project at Devanahalli within a week if the Tata consortium approached them. During his recent meet with the Tata group chairman Ratan Tata, the latter had promised to come back to him after revaluating the project with the consortium partners--Raytheon and Singapore consortium, besides consulting Karnataka chief minister JH Patel.

Kumar said the review of the project was not put forth by his ministry but was suggested by Tatahimself during the meeting.

He said he had agreed to release the excess land held by the airport authorities near the Bangalore airport for construction of a four-way freeway to develop the whitefield IT Corridore. If the four-lane highway was completed, the proposed Pragati Maidan-like exhibition complex and international technology park, besides the airport, would stand to gain.

On the exhibition, Kumar said the centre was committed to make the country a global IT destination and urged the sector and the state government to integrate technology as it would be more relevent in the 21st century.

The four-day exhibition will have exhibits from Germany, Italy, Japan Switzerland, Taiwan and Singapore.

Electronic component is one of the fastest growing sector with the estimated demand-supply gap expected to increase from $1.14 billion in 1997-98 to $2.94 billion by 2001-2002. While 18 companies under the banner of Udyog Mitra are participating from Maharashtra, ten manufacturers from Andhra Pradesh haveput their products on display.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW YORK Sep 1: White for day, black for night. And on that fashion note, Pete Sampras and another pair of former champions got the US Open started on a run that could end in Grand Slam history.

Sampras, dressed all in white, but no country-club gentleman, starred on a sun-drenched Monday afternoon on the stadium court.

Monica Seles, wearing a black dress to mourn this spring's death of her father, outslugged Florencia Labat of Argentina 7-6 (7-0), 6-2.

And Andre Agassi, merely making another in a series of fashion statements, beat France's Sebastien Grosjean in the last match of opening day, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.

The afternoon crowd didn't see the best Sampras, the one who took Wimbledon for the fifth time and is trying to add a fifth US title and record-tying 12th Grand Slam singles crown.

It didn't have to be. Goellner, a 27-year-old German, last won a match more than two months ago. His game consists primarily of a first serve that reaches 115 mph if he's on, and against Sampras much more isneeded.

Sampras had eleven aces and dropped just 15 points on his serve, clocking one first-set ace at 131 mph. He didn't allow Goellner, ranked 109th in the world, a break point, and toyed with him from both baseline and net in winning in just 84 minutes.

``You just try to get through the early rounds,'' said Sampras, eliminated in the fourth round a year ago. ``It's nice to get that monkey off your back and get into the tournament. I tried to stay focused and I think I did.''

Six more wins over the next two weeks and Sampras joins Roy Emerson as the only players to win an even dozen Grand Slam singles tournaments, the milestone the tradition-minded Californian treasures above all others.

``What more can you do in the game? Win the French Open, maybe, or all four Slams in one year,'' Sampras said. The French Open, on clay, is the only Grand Slam tournament sampras has not won.

``I'm thinking of entering the ladies' tournament next year,'' he said. Maybe I can get lucky and win that.''

Adding asecond Grand Slam title for the year also would do plenty to clinch the No 1 ranking for the season, the sixth straight year that would end with Sampras on top, breaking the record he shares with Jimmy Connors.

``All those records are important to me,'' Sampras said. ``I'm not focused on this tournament any more than any US Open, but I hope to get some things done over the next two weeks.''

No fighting words there, nothing for defending champion Patrick Rafter, No 2 Marcelo Rios or any other challenger to hang on the refrigerator for inspiration.

Sampras is no trash-talker. But he has an edge, and the crowd that half-filled the 20,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium saw it a couple times against Goellner.

Meek Pete looked positively McEnroesque as he stared down a line judge he felt missed an ace. He smirked at the umpire, and tried to get the fans who remained in the third set back into the match, waving his arms like a cheerleader.

He even took a light shot at Emerson, the storied Aussie who won a largeshare of his slams while Rod Laver was on the sidelines in the dispute between amateur tennis and the emerging professionals.

``I am not trying to take anything away from Emerson and what he did, but the competition is probably tougher today than it was 30 years ago,'' he said. ``Laver could have had 15 or 20.''

That's not dissing anyone or stepping out of character, Sampras said. Just responding to the surroundings.

``This is the most hectic of the Grand Slams,'' he said. ``You walk out at Wimbledon and you feel the history. You walk out here and you feel the electricity.''

The player Sampras beat at Wimbledon, 14th-seeded Goran Ivanisevic, had 23 aces in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Australia's Mark Woodforde.

Agassi, who is seeded eighth and could meet Sampras in the quarterfinals, kept Grosjean pinned to the baseline with forehands and slicing backhands. After wasting a string of break points in the third set, the 1994 Open champ finally broke for a 5-4 lead and served out the match atlove.

``I like to be here,'' Agassi said of a tournament where he has played consistently well and a court he called super-fast.''

You have to prioritise tournaments, but this is certainly at the top of my list. This is a city where I've had some fantastic results.''

Defending women's champion Martina Hingis beat Aleksandra Olsza of Poland 6-2, 6-0. The Swiss teen-ager, who won the Australian Open in January has struggled recently and hopes the open will end that.

``I'm definitely not as confident as I was last year,'' Hingis said. ``This is the last Grand Slam of the year and you put all your energy into this tournament.''

Seles, a two-time open champion and a quarterfinalist a year ago, traded groundstrokes and errors with labat before blitzing through the tiebreak, then dominated the second set.

With her grunting subdued from her heyday and at times mixing with the squeals of a child in the stands Seles did not allow a point on her serve in the second set until she held triple match point.Labat tied it 40-all before Seles wrapped up the victory with a service winner and a lob that labat netted.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. DURBAN, Sept 1: A strong resolution condemning the US attack on Sudan will be passed by NAM during the two-day summit which starts here tomorrow.

For India, the bright side is that there will be no similar resolution on the US aggression on terrorist camps in Afghanistan, with which India is directly concerned. India has consistently sought to differentiate between America's actions in Sudan and Afghanistan.

The strongly worded draft resolution condemning the US for its ``unilateral and unwarranted action'' is despite the presence of US Assistant Secretary of State Princeton Leeman in Durban as an observer. The formal opening of the 12th Non-Aligned Movement meet tomorrow with representatives from 113 countries follows sessions between officials and foreign ministers over the last four days to finalise the draft resolutions.

The resolution against the US actions in Afghanistan could not be taken up since the Rabani government has not asked for a condemnation. Effectively, however, it is the Taliban andnot the official Rabani government which is in control of the country.

Apart from the resolution on terrorism being in tune with India's own perception, India also scored a victory in members' acceptance of Egypt's proposal that there should be an international conference under the aegis of the United Nations to discuss how to combat terrorism globally.

While India has got its way on the NAM resolutions relating to terrorism, it still is uncertain whether India and Pakistan will be indirectly rebuked by NAM for their recent nuclear tests.

Till this evening, there was no final decision on the wording of the resolution on disarmament. While India will not be named, the phrasing of the resolution will be significant.

Several countries, including reportedly the host country South Africa, have been pressing for a resolution which will call for halting nuclear weaponisation and tacitly support the existing nuclear power structure under NPT and CTBT.

India's stand, however, is that its nuclear tests cannotbe seen in isolation but in totality. India is pressing for non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament within a specified time frame.

While for India the focus this summit has been on the terrorism and nuclear issues, most African and Asian countries leaders felt that the summit's economic resolution is most important.

The draft of the NAM economic resolution stresses the need to set up a forum where developing countries can consider ways of re-structuring the international economy so that an economic crisis like that in South East Asia can be avoided.

At tomorrow's function, President Nelson Mandela will take over as chairman of NAM. This is seen as a significant point in NAM's history vindicating the movement's struggle against apartheid and other forms of discrimination over the past three-and-a-half decades.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MOSCOW, Sept 1: Acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin today proposed a list of ministers for the President's approval, even as his own nomination remained shaky in the wake of the Communists' determination to reject again his candidature in the Duma.

Observers say there is little chance that Chernomyrdin's nomination will be approved. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said they would again vote against Chernomyrdin.

President Boris Yeltsin had asked Chernomyrdin to submit the list of Cabinet members to him, Public Russian Television (PRT) reported.

Quoting unnamed Kremlin insiders, it said that according to the list put forth by Chernomyrdin, foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov, interior minister Sergei Stepashin, defence minister Igor Sergeyev, and federal security head Vladimir Putin would retain their posts in the new Cabinet.

Before going into summit talks with US President Bill Clinton in the Kremlin today, Yeltsin made it clear that he would stand by Chernomyrdin.

``I insist thatChernomyrdin be, as soon as possible, approved as Prime Minister because it's impossible to have a temporary person at such a post,'' he said, greeting students at a Moscow school on the occasion of the first day of the academic year in Russia.

``I insist on the speedier confirmation of the candidate, because he is my nominee,'' noted Yeltsin, calling on the defiant Duma to approve Chenomyrdin in the second vote, scheduled for Monday.

Under the Constitution, Yeltsin can submit the same nomination thrice and if the Duma refuses to confirm thrice in a row, he is entitled to dissolve the House and call for an early election.

Zyuganov, however, made it clear that the Communists would again vote against Chernomyrdin. ``I am not concerned about the dissolution of the Duma. I am concerned about the dissolution of the country,'' he said, expressing the mood of majority of the deputies.

``He (Yeltsin) insisted on the appointment of Ilyushenko, (former prosecutor-general) and nominated his candidacy thrice. ButIlyushenko went straight to prison. He also insisted on the nomination of (Sergei) Kiriyenko, who brought the country on the verge of bankruptcy. Now he is insisting on Chernomyrdin. This is the molestation of Duma, rape of Russia,'' he said.

Speaking to commercial NTV, recently-appointed Russia's Federal Security chief Vladimir Putin said Yeltsin was not considering use of force to solve the economic problem of the country as claimed by many lawmakers.

Putin said he had no instructions from either the Kremlin or the government to use force to deal with Yeltsin's Communist rivals.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. CALCUTTA: Formidable East Bengal defeated strong contender Mohammedan Sporting 2-0 in the first round of the Tata Tea-IFA Super League soccer at Salt Lake Stadium here today.

The match was organised just to complete the formality as both these clubs along with Mohun Bagan had already assured their places in the second round of the league which would be contested between five top finishers of the first round.

Dipendu put East Bengal in the lead in 34th minute converting a spot kick which was awarded when he was tripped inside the box by Mohammedan defender Soumen Sarkar. East Bengal kept up their pressure and buttressed the margin three minutes later. This time Dipendu collected the ball following nice through by medio Tushar Rakshit who beat a couple of defenders and scored.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sept 1: S Ramaswamy tamed the firepower of Nachiket Chawathe 17-21, 21-19, 21-15, 23-21, to win the men's singles title in the Clinic All-Clear sponsored Mumbai YMCA Major State Ranking Table Tennis tournament at the Sachivalaya Gymkhana here today.

Chandani Asher won the women's final, clawing back from a 1-2 deficit to defeat Deepali Zaveri 21-18, 10-21, 18-21, 21-15, 21-6. However, Chandani blew a 2-0 lead in the junior girls final that allowed Sherry Crawford to win a double (16-21, 16-21, 21-19, 15-21, 22-20). Sherry had won the sub-junior title earlier.

Eric Fernandes confirmed his status as the top-ranked junior in the absence of fancied Aditya Mahagaonkar to claim the boys title beating Kalpesh Mohite 21-15, 21-14, 18-21, 22-20.

Ramaswamy, who had to bear the brunt of Chawathe's attack in the first game, which resulted in a 17-21 loss.

However, Ramaswamy slowed down the game in the second, forcing Chawathe to jab and make errors. Then came his familiar rally. Down 16-19, Ramaswamy wonthe next five points to win the second game. After winning the third game, Ramaswamy faced a determined Chawathe in the fourth game.

Chawathe forced an 18-16 lead but Ramaswamy fought his way to take lead at 19-18. At 19-all, he hit a brilliant forehand topspin that gave him one match point. But Chawathe levelled the scores once again with a swift back-hand jab. After sharing two points each, Ramaswamy won the match on two errors to bring an end to a fine duel.

Chandani tried to defend too much after winning the first game and lost the second and third. When she play a bit more positive, it gave her results as she won the fourth game and then won 11 points consecutively in the decider as she moved from 6-4 to 17-4. Deepali's fight ended then and there.

Eric looked to have lost his concentration in the third game which he lost but he regained it on time to win the fourth game in extra points and claim his second title within a week. He had won the junior boys final in the state Ranking tournament atAnushakti Nagar on Saturday.

The girls final was exciting and it showed the spirit of Sherry Crawford. She fought back from the loss of the first two games to win the title. In the first two games, it as a battle of patience and it was won by Chandani. In her eagerness to attack, Sherry made several mistakes.

But a slight change in tactics turned the fortunes for her. Instead of attacking, she started pushing the ball and forced Chandani to attack paving way for more errors from the latter.

The decider was tight with the scores running close from 15 all onwards. Sherry had one match point but Chandani saved it only to lose the next two points for a 20-22 loss in the decider.

Yadav, Mamta triumph

Sagar Yadav of Mithibai and Mamta Prabhu of Mulund Commerce won the boys and girls singles titles in the Junior Collegiate Table Tennis championships at the University Pavilion here today.

Second seed Sagar defeated top seed Karan Kapoor 21-19, 21-11 while Mamta won 18-21, 21-19, 21-16 againstShriti Doshi of Podar. Shriti had knocked out top sed Janhavi Deshpande of Mulund Commerce in the semi-finals.

Vaze won the boys team championships beating KC 2-0 in the final while the strong Mulund Commerce trounced Mithibai by the same margin to claim the girls title.

RESULTS

Boys singles (final):

Sagar Yadav (Mithibai) bt Karan Kapoor (Jai Hind) 21-19, 21-11. Semis: Yadav bt V Srinivasan (A Energy) 21-12, 21-14; Kapoor bt Gunjan Wagle (Vaze) 21-16, 21-14.

Team championships (final):

Vaze bt KC College 2-0 (A Ganpatye bt A Khambatta 21-10, 24-22; G Wagle bt B Mistry 21-12, 29-27).

Girls singles (final:

Mamta Prabhu (Mulund Commerce) bt Shriti Doshi (Podar) 18-21, 21-19, 21-16. Semis:

Shriti bt Janhavi Deshpande (Mulund Commerce) 21-12, 21-12; Mamta bt Bindu Suvarna (Mithibai) 21-13, 21-13.

Team championships (final):

Mulund Commerce bt Mithibai 2-0 (J Deshpande bt B Suvarna 21-7, 21-9; M Prabhu bt S Shroff 21-6, 21-6).

Sujata, Nimkartop

Unseeded Niranjan Nimkar and second-seeded Sujata Hailinge won the men's and women's singles titles, repectively, in the first Dilip Babar-sponsored Thane District Ranking carrom tournament, organised by the Sainath Seva Mandal (Bhayander), today.

Sujata shocked top seed Shilpa Joshi, 25-12, 25-20 and Nimkar beat unseeded Shabbir Khan 25-8, 23-25, 25-3.

Other results:: Men's (semi-finals):

Niranjan Nimkar bt Sanjay Mande 25-1, 25-11; Shabbir Khan bt Priyang Vaidya 25-16, 25-17.

Women's (semi-finals):

Shilpa Joshi bt Minal Lele 11-25, 25-22, 25-24; Sujata Hailinge bt Sumedha Karkhanis 25-11, 24-25, 25-18.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI: Project 2000's Manisha Gawande was crowned the Best Athlete in the Freedom Road Race organised by Ryan International Sports Club at the St Lawrence High School yesterday. She was awarded the IC Colony Sports Club Trophy donated by former national long distance runner Dayanand Kumar.

More than 4000 athletes from 45 institutions took part in the competition co-sponsored by Corporation Bank and KV Pai, according to reports reaching here.

RESULTS

8 kms Men:

1 Vijay Kashte (LIC) 22.36 mins, 2 Mahesh Monde (VPM), Yogesh Satam (VPM)

Boys U-16:

Vivek Pratap Singh (Project 2000) 6:53, Deepak Thakur (Project 2000), 3 Dinesh Acharya (VPM)

U-14:

Rajul Paigaonkar (VPM) 9:16, Ashwin VK (United Athletes), Sameer Phople (VPM)

U-12:

Kailash Rao (VPM) 5:35:9, Khaiyam Malbari (VPM), Sumeet Roy (Holy Family, Andheri)

5 Kms Women:

V Satyabhama (WR) 12:47, Arti Malekar (Prabhodan), Sushma Chalke (WR)

Girls U-16:

Judy Verghese (Project 2000) 9:35, Sushma Amre (OmTrack), Manisha Tawade (Prabhodan Krida Bhavan)

U-14:

Manisha Gawande (Project 2000) 9:33, Shimona D'Costa (United Athletes), Smita Salvi (Om Track)

U-12:

Aditi Tawade (Om Track) 6:28, Ramya Rao (VPM), Nafisa Khan (St Anne's, Borivli)

Andrew's champs

ST Andrew's Junior College beat G N Khalsa 2-0 to lift the title in the Bombay Division hockey boys under-19 Junior Colleges final of the Multigames City and Suburb competition, organised by the District Sports Govt of Maharashtra, at the BHA today.

Outside-left Gilroy D'Mello scored both the goals in a match totally dominated by Andrew's. Khalsa's had just one look at the goal in the first-half.

In the sixth minute, Eldridge Saldanha, playing in the deep defence, moved well up to send a neat diagonal hit to find an unmarked Gilroy in the dee. Gilroy collected neatly and sent a rasping shot giving the Khalsa goalkeeper no chance to effect a save.

Though Andrew's dominated, they were unable to convert their chances. The culprits beingGalvin Alfonso, Marshall Nazareth and Roshan. Warren Carvalho, at centre half position, played on the heels of his forwards and distributed well.

In the 44th minute, Warren found Marshal who beat his left-half and sent in a cross. Gilroy, lying handy, collected the ball and scored with a reverse hit. Thereafter, the match was as good as won by Andrew's, though superior but goal shy.

Other results (all finals):

Boys under-17:

St Anne's, Orlem, 13 (Savio Nayak 5, A Sequeira 3, Snedden Pereira 3, Lawrence Soares, Adrian D'Souza) bt St Sebastian Goan 0.

Boys under-14:

St Andrew's, Bandra, 11 (Tyron Pereira 3, Dexter Manki 2, Farhan Khan 3, Jerry Almeida, Gavin Pereira, Naeem Jagani) bt St Sebastian Goan 0.

Girls under-19:

Khalsa 2 (Mamta Singh 2) bt St Andrew's College 0.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sept 1: Nina Pillai, widow of biscuit baron Rajan Pillai, today filed a petition of criminal contempt against the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for not complying with the court orders and investigate the alleged conspiracy behind her husband's death in July, 1995.

The petition -- the first ever case of contempt against the CBI -- charged director Trinath Mishra and SP D P Singh of ``abuse of the process of the court calculated to hamper the due course of a judicial proceeding and the orderly administration of justice.''

Filed in the court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Prem Kumar today, the petition said the CBI had failed to comply with two of the court's orders dated August 12 and August 20, respectively, both directing the CBI to register a case and probe the conspiracy angle in the death of Rajan Pillai in Tihar jail. Nemi Chand Jain, better known as tantrik Chandraswamy, is the main accused in the case of conspiracy.

However, Nina Pillai's counsel Anitha Shenoyalleged that ``it is abundantly clear from the pattern of litigation initiated by the CBI that they are not interested in investigating the case and have therefore have tried every method to delay the proceeding.'' The CBI had filed its third application making the same request of adjournment for 15 days.

``There does not seem to be an end to these applications. This is nothing but a mockery of the court,'' Nina Pillai charged in the petition, adding, ``the repeated applications by the CBI despite refusal amounts to a daring `raid' on the court and is calculated to obstruct the due course of judicial proceeding and administration of justice, and thus falling squarely within the ambit of criminal contempt.''

Giving the details of the CBI conduct, the petition stated that on May 24, 1997 CMM Prem Kumar said that the CBI was a competent authority to investigate Pillai's death. The CBI was asked to file a compliance report before September 30, 1997. But, the petition added that in order to delay thecompliance, the CBI filed an application for recall of the order which was dismissed on August 14, 1997.

The CBI then filed a revision application in the Delhi High Court saying that the lower court could not direct the agency to investigate a case. However, this too was dismissed by the High Court on August 7, 1998. The CBI, at the stage of passing the order by the High Court, requested for one month adjournment in order to file a Special Leave Petition (SLP) but this too was turned down.

In the meantime, CMM Prem Kumar too rejected the CBI application for adjournment on the plea of filing a SLP on August 12.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sept 1: Union Minister of State for Urban Affairs Bandaru Dattatreya said it would have been better if Secretary Kiran Aggarwal had been transferred rather then being divested of all her responsibilities (while still in the ministry). Otherwise, he said, the ministry's functioning and the officials' morale suffered.

While emphasising that he had the best of relations with Jethmalani and that he agreed with all his policy decisions, Dattatreya has said that the present crisis in his ministry should have been handled in a more smooth manner.

Yesterday, his senior, Urban Affairs Minister Ram Jethmalani, had divested Secretary Kiran Aggarwal of all her powers as a sequel to differences over the MRTS project and the decision to re-allot a complex to MS Shoes in the Capital.

``He (Jethmalani) is a dynamic minister and wants his decisions to be implemented quickly but the bureaucracy works within a set framework and system. This is what has led to delays or objections to some of his decisions, onthe matter of procedure,'' Dattatreya said.

``When a controversy becomes public, it is exploited by the Opposition to embarrass the government even though there may be no credibility in its attack,'' he said, referring to Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy's accusations.

He said he agreed with Jethmalani's views on the controversy regarding the award of general consultancy for the Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS). The credibility of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) had come under a cloud over the manner in which the bid was awarded. He added that it was not correct for DMRC to question the authority of the Urban Affairs ministry in making inquiries in this regard.

Aggarwal, a 1964 batch officer of the Haryana cadre, is an old hand with the ministry, having joined as Secretary in January last year. Sources said that Jethmalani had been asking for her transfer for quite sometime but his move was resisted by the Prime Minister's Office and Cabinet Secretary Prabhat Kumar.

Meanwhile,Jethmalani today defended his decision to remove all important matters from Aggarwal's charge. Speaking to The Indian Express

, he said that he had some suspicions about the goings-on in the ministry and that a re-allocation of work among officials was required to increase coordination and efficiency.

Jethmalani prepared to face CBI inquiry

Union Urban Affairs and Employment Minister Ram Jethmalani said that he is prepared to face any inquiry or raid following charges levelled by Janata Party national president Subramanium Swamy recently.

In a letter to director of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) T Mishra, Jethmalani has stated that he will cooperate with the CBI authorities to exercise their powers including search, seizure, and arrest at any time against him and waive from using any legal obstacles to protect the inquiry. He said he suspected that some disgruntled officers of his department were passing official papers to Swamy. This aspect of the matter should be investigated bythe CBI, he said. Jethmalani has requested the CBI chief to invite Swamy to file an FIR against him (Jethmalani) and alleged that if this turns out to be one of Swamy's fabricated falsehoods, he should be prosecuted.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: Investigating authorities today made simultaneous raids in three cities to put an end to what they believe is one of the biggest networks from which illegal international `call-back' phonecalls are made. According to the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) which participated in today's raids, the total value of such illegal `call-back' services is around Rs 800 crore per annum -- with today's network itself resulting in `call-backs' of around Rs 250 crore, it is clearly among the largest.

According to the raiding parties, from this evening itself, several of the flourishing illegal call-back services would have been disrupted. While there are hundreds of illegal call-back operators in the country -- the VSNL catches them from time to time, but they then change addresses -- all of them have to route their calls through a network, or a carrier. And this is what today's raid busted.

Today's raids were jointly conducted by VSNL, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the EnforcementDirectorate and the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. No arrests have been made so far as the owner of the operations is a US national and is untraceable. The company who's premises were raided and which conducted the call-back services is called Cyberfast Network Systems Corporation (CSNC).

Under a `call-back' service, users from India wishing to make a call to, say the US, call a local number which then connects them to the desired US number, and later bills them at a fraction of what one has to pay the VSNL. The way this is usually done is that a party which has a `dedicated' line to the US -- this facility is available from VSNL and is itself legal -- misuses this and allows outsiders to dial into this line and, then, connects them to the US. If calls have to be made to say, the UK, the user gets connected to the US, and then from there to the UK.

How lucrative this operation is can be judged from the fact that VSNL charges a mere Rs 15 lakh per year for providinga dedicated line, operators who misuse this can make crores. Dedicated lines are taken by several people such as computer companies or simply corporates who make a lot of telephone calls and want a secure and efficient telecommunication network. CSNC, for example, had a 512Kbps dedicated line from New Delhi to California.

Today's swoop showed that the three installations were completely unmanned, and had sophisticated equipment worth a few crores each, which actually routed the calls by using the dedicated VSNL line. Each of the installations had high-capacity modems which allowed most repairs/servicing of the network to be done through a telephone line. In all cases, some poorly-paid local help was hired to do some routine work. If, say 15 telephone lines went dead, then a message would be sent to the local help to have them repaired.

Interestingly, while VSNL says it has been writing to the DoT about the menace of call back services -- VSNL's international call traffic has been falling by around 5 percent per year due to diversion to such `call-back' service providers -- it has taken little concrete action so far. Indeed, while its agreement with users of such dedicated lines allows for a penalty of Rs 4.5 crore for such misuse, it does not ask for any bank guarantee for this amount. Nor has it built in any clause in the agreement which would allow it to monitor such illegal traffic and actually charge for it.

Today's swoop in fact, was based on the intelligence efforts of the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB) and not the VSNL. What the CEIB did was to get a list all users of dedicated lines from the VSNL, and then match this with the MTNL directory to see how many MTNL phones each one of these companies had. When it found that some of these companies had a huge number of MTNL lines -- CSNC had 70 in Delhi alone -- it asked MTNL to provide billing details. In CSNC's case, in Delhi alone 62 lakh local calls had been made in the last 18 months.

Clearly, something was wrong. Several visits toits office in Bhikaji Cama Place in New Delhi showed that there were no visitors to the small one-room office, incidentally always kept locked and guarded. And since there were no people in the office, this clearly couldn't be a small-time `call-back' service provider -- it was clearly something larger. Telecom experts were consulted, and pointed that this was probably one of the networks through which the `call backs larger. Telecom experts were consulted, and pointed that this was probably one.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. ST JOHN'S (ANTIGUA), Sept 1: Trinidadian fast bowler Ian Bishop, a stalwart of 43 Tests and 161 wickets, was named captain of a 15-member West Indies A team to tour India in November and December, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) announced today.

The 30-year-old Bishop, who lost form and his place during England's tour of the Caribbean earlier this year, is among five players on the team with test experience.

Leg-spinner Rawl Lewis, whose one Test cap was on the senior tour of Pakistan last winter, completes the quintet.

Right-handed batsmen Richard Smith, Keith Semple and 20-year-old wicket-keeper Wayne Phillip earn their first overseas assignments at this level.

The squad:

Ian Bishop (captain), Richard Smith (Trinidad Tobago); Sherwin Campbell, Floyd Reifer, Adrian Griffith, Courtney Browne, Pedro Collins (all Barbados); Wavel Hinds (Jamaica), Ramnaresh Sarwan, Neil McGarrell, Keith Semple, Reon King (all Guyana); Wayne Phillip, Rawl Lewis (both Windward Islands) and Carl Tuckett (LeewardIslands).

The schedule

November 18-20:

vs Board President's XI at Mumbai; Nov 23-25:

vs BCCI Youth Team at Pune; Nov 28-Dec 1:

1st Test at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai; Dec 4-7:

2nd Test at Chennai; Dec 9:

One-day practice match at Bangalore; Dec 11:

1st ODI at Bangalore; Dec 13:

2nd ODI at Hyderabad; Dec 15: 3rd ODI at Ahmedabad.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW YORK, Sept 1: Americas' famed economic might staggered from stunning blows that sent its Dow Jones industrial average plummeting by a record 512 points on Monday. More volatility was in the air as the index remained unsteady in the opening hours on Tuesday casting a pall over a nation where more than half the population has a finger in the stock market pie.

After an unsteady but unspectacular start on Monday morning, the Dow Jones index began a dipping run in the late afternoon that saw it lose 450 points in two hours, including 250 points in just half an hour before close. Millions of investors found themselves poorer in the evening than at lunch time as the fall cleaned out 6.37 per cent from the index.

Many wondered if this was the end of the American economic honeymoon, a journey that had carried the Dow to a record of 9337.97 on July 17 when the manna of the 10,000 mark seemed imminent.

Instead, in six weeks of sustained selling since then, the slide has left share prices 19 per cent belowtheir peak, vapourising more than $ 2.3 trillion in paper profits. In the last three trading sessions alone, the Dow has been shaved of a whopping 1100 points, wiping out allinvestor gains during the current year.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. No one would make the mistake of saying the Vajpayee government is steering the economy in any particular direction. The last six months have been marked by so much policy confusion that only the determinedly blind would find some kind of orientation. The RSS evidently thinks otherwise and has fired a warning shot across the BJP's bows: change course or else. That it means business is obvious from the fact that a number of saffron organisations have formed a steering committee, the Swadeshi Vichar Manch (SVM), passed resolutions, announced a plan of action and told the BJP to watch out when Assembly elections are held in a couple of months in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram. This spells trouble for policy-makers. The thinking in the SVM may be limited, its goals vague and its alternative prescriptions suspect. The charge of ``compromising the national interest'' may disguise a number of other realities such as business rivalries, disgruntled trade unions and gut-level hostility toward anyone whodoes not mouth swadeshi slogans. But who is to take this up with the RSS, now openly associated with the Swadeshi Jagran Manch's Pepsi-bashing notion of economics?

When the conscience-keeper of the BJP makes public its discontent in this fashion, the fear of a 1980s-style breach will be enough to pull the BJP up short. What are the government's options? It could decide that Indian manufactured foreign liquor is swadeshi whereas foreign liquor made by foreigners in India is abhorrent. That would be a relatively small price to pay for peace. But it will not be enough to divert the SVM from key issues on the reform agenda. It is hard to see how the cabinet, at no time oversupplied with pragmatists, is going to be able to prise the insurance sector open. The norms for foreign entry are already scarred by intra-BJP battles. With the RSS throwing its weight on the side of the nay-sayers, the ministerial committee might well find the issue more or less dead on the table. The more is the pity becauseinsurance reform did appear to be creeping forward inch by inch despite the efforts of hardliners.

It could be counted as progress if economic policy-makers were taking two steps forward and one step backwards. This is not the case. Torn in diametrically opposite directions, they are going nowhere. Any radical thrusts from the finance or commerce ministries, or the Disinvestment Commission, are neutralised by retrogressive political pressures. Citing the national interest is no substitute for rigorous economic analysis. The swadeshi corps do not offer facts and sound arguments, they prefer to look for foreigners or quasi-foreigners under every bed. The complaints about the composition of the Prime Minister's economic and business advisory councils are a giveaway. Perhaps there are no names on either council that the SVM can identify with. So the feeling may be that the Sangh Parivar has been left out in the cold. Vajpayee could do two things. One, point out that there are many more points of view inIndia than the Parivar contains. Two, improve communications between the BJP and the RSS and make the latter see reason.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. There may never be a dull moment in Russia, but the situation there is clearly now reaching a crescendo. For starters, as if symbolism was in short supply, is the spectacle of Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin the two emasculated leaders of the world's one present and one erstwhile superpower meeting to set Russia's colossal disaster to rights. It sums up, sadly but succinctly, how powerless either man is to halt Russia's nightmare and how each got himself into this mess with all the goodwill in the world. Boris Yeltsin today must be painfully conscious of chickens coming home to roost. As many difficulties as he faced in his dealings with Russia's notoriously recalcitrant parliament, Yeltsin has hardly done all he could to win its support. Monday gave the Duma its sweet revenge on a dictatorial president for the humiliation he heaped upon it only months ago by forcing it to rubber stamp his choice for prime minister: Sergei Kiriyenko, who later surprised his critics by his reformist conduct. At that time theDuma, which can reject the President's nomination for Prime Minister three times, was still intimidated by Yeltsin's power to dissolve it and call elections. The reason was simple. The President was more popular than the parliamentarians. The tables have since been spectacularly turned. Any threat of dissolving the Duma now must ring singularly hollow from a President who needs to be thankful for every day he spends in the Kremlin.Yet it would be unfair to the Duma to say that it is motivated entirely by vengeance. Chernomyrdin is hardly the man to lead Russia out of a crisis which was partly of his making. Yeltsin appointing him as acting Prime Minister was a shamefully self-serving act, and the Duma is right to reject it. Somehow it no longer seems realistic to expect Yeltsin to do any single thing right, and he is giving evidence by pressing Chernomyrdin's nomination a second time. The only wise course for him now is to accept the Duma's own suggestions for Prime Minister. For, even as Russia's politicsfalls apart alongside its economy, he should be trying to get the Duma behind him rather than opposite him. It could come to that, but meanwhile precious time is being squandered in a country which has no time to waste.

The West is desperately continuing to pin its hopes on Yeltsin, for it has no one else to pin them on. Witness Clinton's failure to call off his visit in spite of fears of comparison with Yeltsin, for that would only further damage Yeltsin. Yet Clinton is wrong. It is time the West realised that Yeltsin is no longer the man to push forward its agenda. It behoves it to stand aside and leave Russian politics to play itself out as it will. Of course there are huge risks in that for America and its allies, but they needed to have thought about that when they failed to give Russia unstinted support in its early days of reform. Yeltsin's replacement will more likely than not have communist or nationalist antecedents which so threaten the West. But it is helpless now. Russia will not even see aserious attempt to address its predicament till Yeltsin is gone. A firm leadership tackling Moscow's multifarious crises is in the world's interest as well as Russia's. It should not try to prop a President who has outlived his utility.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. US missile strikes on Khartoum and terrorist sites in and around Jalalabad have been seen as a new phenomenon in the international situation. There is cognition about their legitimacy and implications. Yet this operation was not unprecedented. The US has taken unilateral punitive military action in foreign territories as retaliation or a pre-emptive measure. Recent examples are Lebanon, Libya, Grenada, Panama and Haiti. The most large-scale action was in Iraq, though undertaken under Security Council resolutions. The military build-up to compel Iraq to accept continuous UN inspection of its military facilities in February was also in essence a unilateral US action.Memories are short, but India has been a target of such action. Nixon sent the aircraft carrier Enterprise to the region in 1971 to press India to stop its military operations against Pakistani forces in East Pakistan. Britain, France, Israel and Russia have also undertaken such intervention.

The only difference between the latest US strikes andthe other examples is that the latter were reactions to political events or crises, whereas the US has now retaliated against what it identified as terrorist groups led by Osama bin Laden. America's allies and a number of South American, African and Asian countries have welcomed the decisive action against international terrorism. The majority of Muslim countries and many developing and non-aligned countries have criticised it as a violation of international law and interference in sovereign states. A third reaction is that the US should have ensured legitimacy for the strikes from the Security Council. This was articulated in Boris Yeltsin's outrage at not being consulted.

India's reactions have been mixed. According to information available so far, about 70 Tomahawk missiles were fired from the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea, traversing 1000 to 1500 miles in each case. These missiles overflew the coastal waters and air space of countries other than those which were targeted. The governments of the targetedareas were given no advance information. Nor were the countries whose coastal seas and air space were involved. The only exception was perhaps the visit of the Vice-Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff General Ralston to Pakistan to clarify that the missiles overflying their territory were not fired by India but were missiles from a ``friendly'' US aimed at specific targets. Reports state that while the missiles fired on the Khartoum chemical factory achieved pre-designated damage, those fired into Afghanistan destroyed more than the specific target, one or two even falling inside Pakistani territory and causing civilian casualties. The US says it targeted a group which had carried out anti-US terrorist activities; which bombed the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya; which is likely to undertake further violent activities against US personnel and establishments; and that the US could take such action under the provisions of article 51 of the UN Charter.The first three reasons given are factualpredications rooted in the judgment of the US government. The provisions of Article 51 are worth recalling: ``Nothing in the present (UN) charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security''. The US has not formally mentioned article 51 as the umbrella for its action. It has just implied that this is justification. But can the terrorist bombing of American embassies in third countries be perceived as an armed attack on US territory? Nor has the US so farformally reported its action to the Security Council. In fact it has precluded, by implication, the necessity of the Security Council taking further action by categorically stating that the US will carry out further unilateral strikes against its terrorist enemies if necessary. The US may participate in Security Council proceedings on the complaint lodged by Sudan in the Council.

The political reality is that the UN has been given the go-by. In terms of normative requirements, America's actions can be considered illegal. It has violated the territorial jurisdiction of a number of countries. From one point of view it creates a dangerous and destabilising precedent. It is that if a state is powerful and immune from retaliatory action, it can indulge in unilateral and coercive military operations against other countries or sections of their people at will. Israel perhaps is the only other country which has undertaken similar anti-terrorist action, but it has never launched large-scale missile attacks on othercountries. Most of its operations have been commando operations. If the US considers a military or security posture of a country like India a threat to its security or to its stipulations on peace and stability in our region, it would feel free to undertake long-distance military strikes against Indian targets. Even if this is far-fetched, the fact remains that Tomahawk missiles can carry nuclear warheads. How does the international community cope with such a prospect? The Security Council and the General Assembly in its sessions between September and December should focus on this.

Indian reactions have been mixed. Atal Behari Vajpayee, without commenting directly, has stated that the American action provides the basis for unified efforts by the international community against terrorism. This presumably is the government reaction: unified support for the US action. America's action will certainly make it difficult for it to lecture us if we decided to take pre-emptive action against terrorist headquartersin Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. But George Fernandes has roundly criticised the Americans. So has the Communist Party, and Pranab Mukherjee of the Congress. Pakistan faces a contradictory predicament. If it supports the US, it risks strong domestic opposition and trouble from the Taliban and militant Afghan elements. If it opposes it, American pressure will debilitate it. It is also potentially vulnerable to India considering retaliatory strikes in PoK. India's primary stance should be to utilise this precedent for its security interests while remaining committed to broad stipulations of international law.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. The Supreme Court has become an arena of intra-judicial warfare on the issue of appointments. One bench of the court is handling the issue of whether a direction (writ of mandamus) should be issued to the Union Government to make the appointments to the high courts and the apex court of the persons recommended by Chief Justice of India, M.M. Punchhi. Another nine-judge bench is handling the reference made by the BJP-led government through the President for clarifying its doubts about the interpretation of the apex court's own judgment, Supreme Court Advocates on Record vs Union of India, about judicial appointments. The net result for the moment is that silently and implicitly the government has asserted its right to veto the recommendations of the Chief Justice of India. With the Attorney General himself presenting the reference to the apex court, the primacy given to the judiciary over the ruling politicians by the Supreme Court Advocates on Record judgment stands erased as of now.

This is more so afterthe August 25 order of the nine-judge reference bench directing the Union Government to submit to it the written consultations held between Chief Justice Punchhi and his two senior colleagues Justices G.N. Ray and S.C. Agrawal for making the Supreme Court appointments and also with the various chief justices of high courts for filling in the high court vacancies. The order ends the shadow boxing over a reference that made no mention about the recommendations of Chief Justice Punchhi by linking the reference to the record of such recommendations. For the first time the apex court has indicated that it will get to the bottom of a Presidential Ref-erence by going beyond and even behind it. Hence in sum and substance the nine-judge bench has positioned itself to judicially review the acts of a Chief Justice of India and his two senior most colleagues at the time of making the recommendations. This is to be done by applying the standards laid down in the Supreme Court Advocates on Record case. If this is not to bedone then there is little logic in calling for the confidential records of the recommendations made by Chief Justice Punchhi. But the irony is that the views of the nine-judge bench in the Reference are themselves recommendatory. It is upto the same ruling politicians who made the Reference to accept wholly or in part the views of the nine-judge bench finally expressed in the Reference. And if a different political party comes to power by the time the nine-judge bench answers the Reference then the fate of the answers really hangs in the political balance.

Hence from the making of the Reference to its end the political encirclement of the judiciary is complete. This encirclement remains even if the nine-judge Reference bench ultimately reiterates the Supreme Court Adv-ocates on Record Association judgment to ensure judicial primacy through the Chief Justice of India and two of his senior most colleagues. This is so because henceforth any set of ruling politicians can through the Attorney General appointedby them freeze a Chief Justice of India's recommendations for judicial appointments by simply making a reference without mentioning the recommendations. This innovative use of the constitutional provisions for a Presidential Reference is now a permanent weapon in the hands of ruling politicians to play with the Supreme Court.

The linking of Chief Justice Punchhi's recommendations with the Reference strikes at the ruling in the Supreme Court Advocates on Record case that such recommendations cannot be made part of a litigative debate through petitions challenging the appointments or the recommendations, except on the ground of absence of the written consultation between the chief justice of India, his two senior most colleagues and the high court Chief Justice. Without a stay order from the apex court and without mentioning Chief Justice Punchhi's recommendations in the Reference, the appointments stand stayed simply because the ruling politicians will neither openly challenge them by a regular petition norissue warrants of appointments on those recommendations. Little enlightenment can be expected from the politically appointed Advocates General of each state government to whom notices have been issued. There is today no equivalent of the late H.M. Seervai who could fearlessly address the judges with the sharpness derived from intellectual integrity.

The apex court can break this impasse by two steps. One, by realising that it is secrecy and lack of accountability of the Chief Justice of India in making appointments that has given rise to the problem. The documents of written consultation by the Chief Justice of India are kept secret from the public but are known to the ruling politicians who can then play with that information as it suits their political design. The political lawyer with a foot in the judicial door can make selective leaks. The moral test now is whether such documents are made public by the Reference bench. The second step is to realise that a national judiciary that determines the life ofIndians is being fashioned not for judges and lawyers alone. That calls for participation of NGOs and professional associations other than participation of NGOS and professional associations. Only then will the Reference bench hear the relevant national vocabulary and idiom. The strength of the court lies in its association with the honest, educated citizenry.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. DENVER, Sept 1: French researchers have isolated a new strain of the AIDS virus in West Africa that appears to have close genetic links to a version that infects non-human primates such as chimpanzees.

It's a reminder, they said, of how genetically flexible and cunning the human immunodeficiency virus can be.

The new strain so far has been found only in one patient, a 40-year-old woman in Cameroon who died of AIDS in 1995. In the past two years, new HIV strains also have been discovered in Thailand and India. However, they were more conventional variants that did not have close links to non-human primate viruses.

French and African officials have launched a public health investigation in Cameroon and neighbouring Gabon to determine if the new strain is being widely transmitted.

Infectious disease experts are publishing a report on the new strain in the September one issue of Nature Medicine. They said they do not expect it to become prevalent, but it could escape detection by current diagnosticmethods used in laboratory screening programmes.

``The present isolate is rather a rare bird,'' said Simon Wain-Hobson of the Institute Pasteur in Paris, who did not participate in the study.

HIV constantly evolves into new strains, even as researchers develop new combinations of therapies to control its proliferation.

On a global scale, there are two simultaneous epidemics, HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is the more widespread of the two viral groups HIV-2 is mainly in Asia and East Africa.

Most of the strains in HIV-1 belong to a group designated as M, for major strains. There is also an O group for minor, outlying strains that appear to be clustered in West Africa.

The new strain in Cameroon is HIV-1 but is neither an M or an O. Instead, the study's lead author, Francois Simon of the Hospital Bichat in Paris, said the new strain veers noticeably from both established groups and deserves the new label of N.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. URI, Sept 1: Incredible as much as it may sound, Uri region villagers are condemned to live with live unexploded bombs in their houses, roads and fields.

They have been living with the constant fear of death for more than a month now, since Pakistani artillery guns, mortars and multi-barreled rocket launchers rained an estimated 16,000 shells of 160 mm, 130mm, 105 mm and 84 mm on 55 villages in this LoC sector out of which about 250 shells in Uri region remain unexploded.

A boy and girl of Danisydena village were blown into pieces after they threw some stones on an unexploded shell, thus taking the death toll of people killed in Uri region by live shelling to 14.

In another incident, a security force jawan suffered serious leg injuries after a live artillery shell left at his post by villagers in order to defuse it, went off.

Villagers have evacuated their houses due to the Pakistan shellings. Among them is little Shugufta Bano's house in Dara village. She is at present staying at her uncle's housewith her brother, sister and parents. A Pakistani artillery shell tore through their kitchen roof and still lies unexploded next to the fireplace underneath the rubbles.

``I cannot stop Shugufta from frequenting the house during the day as she is very attached to it. The kids don't realise the dangers of the unexploded shell and my repeated warnings are of no avail,'' said a harassed-looking Saleema Begum, as she calls out to her son, Majid, to keep away from the bomb in the kitchen.

Villagers feel the Army and the police are indifferent to their plight. ``The SP, Baramulla, and Army officers visited the area and took note of the unexploded shells a month back. But they have not shown their faces after that,'' says Sain Khan, as he points to an unexploded shell buried deep in another villager, Matoli's maize field in Gutlian village.

Unexploded shells, as Khan expertly points out, are recognised by the presence of a huge crater at the point of impact with the ground. ``Matoli's crop was ripe but he wasforbidden from entering his field. He used to cut two-three stalks of the ripe maize and then run back to deposit them far away from the field. He would then again gather courage and venture to cut some more stalks,'' said Khan.

Police constable Sitar Mohammad's six-member household in Dara village is virtually sleeping next to the bomb. One shell exploded on his walnut tree, charring half the branches and knocking off the roof of his house situated a 100 yards away. Another shell lies unexploded less than 10 m away from his doorstep.

Sher Ali's eight children sleep in a neighbour's house in Gutlian because a shell is buried in the gallery of their own house. Three shells lie in his fields. Same is the case with Baroli's house in Dara village while Zaibuudin of Dwaran village lives with a live shell outside his bedroom.

An unexploded shell, suspected to be of the Bofors equivalent of 155 mm, has a gaping two feet wide and 10 feet deep hole on the side of Dwaran road. In the affluent Garkote village,native place of State Finance Minister Mohammad Shafi Uri, three unexploded shells have forced five households to stay in Srinagar and Baramulla.

``The Police has tried to restrict movement and educate the people to keep away from the points where the unexploded artillery shells lie as children bear a major risk of casualty,'' said SDPO, Uri, Rafiq. But there is no estimate to the number of unexploded shells that lie buried in the higher grasslands, which were targeted for the Indian Army's pickets, and are used by the people for grazing cattles during summer months.

The Army and the Police have managed to explode only 25 shells, mainly in the forward areas along the LoC. But villages like Dachi, Daragnathia, Basgaran, Madian, Gowalta, Novarunda, Kamalkote and Zambarpattan are still under threat from at least five unexploded shells each.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. TEHRAN, Aug 31: Iran is set to stage major military exercises on its tense border with Afghanistan beginning tomorrow, Iranian state television said today.

"The large-scale Ashoura-3 military exercises in the northeast will begin tomorrow morning with the use of 70,000 troops in the general area of Torbat-e-Jam," the television said.

The air and ground war games, covering an area of 600 square km, would test recently acquired modern weapons and equipment, it said. Torbat-e-Jam is about 60 km from the Afghan border.

The television did not say how many days the exercises would last but some newspapers said it would be three days.

Meanwhile, the stand-off between the ultra-Islamic group Taliban and Iran over Iranian hostages entered another phase with the Taliban saying that they will release Iranian hostages at an ``appropriate time''.

The official Iranian news agency IRNA, reporting from Dubai quoted Mullah Hassan Qalcheie, a close aide of Taliban leader Mulla Mohammad Omar Taliban as saying:``Taliban will show its good will for improvement of relations with Iran by setting free the Iranian hostages at an appropriate time.'' He declined to say when they would be freed.

Referring to the Iranian diplomats and IRNA reporter, he said that they are kept in a safe place near Qandahar, southern Afghanistan, and taken care of by senior Taliban commander Mulla Raketi. This was the first time that Taliban acknowledged the detainment of the eleven diplomats and IRNA correspondent Mahmud Saremi, who were taken hostage on august eight when the group captured the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

``The IRNA correspondent was ill and later underwent medical treatment by a physician dispatched by Taliban to the prison and is now in a good condition,'' Qalcheie told IRNA.

Earlier, Afghanistan's Taliban authorities invited the United Nations to mediate in the controversy over the Iranians, whom Teheran says were taken hostage after the Taliban captured the northern town ofMazar-e-Sharif.

Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) news agency quoted a Taliban spokesman, Mulla Wakil Ahmed, as saying that although the UN had failed in its responsibilities towards Afghanistan, the Taliban would still want it to play its role in resolving the dispute.

Meanwhile, US President Bill Clinton has used a conference on religion and peace to strike out at terrorists using Islam to justify their attacks. In a message to the Bucharest International ecumenical conference on "Men and Religions", Clinton said: "some have tried to justify terrorist attacks on American interests as part of jihad "But hundreds of millions of Muslims oppose terrorism and deplore the twisting of their religious trackings into justification of inhumane, indeed, ungodly, acts."

Bhutto fears US-like strikes by Iran

ISLAMABAD: In a related development Pakistan Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto called on the government to give Afghanistan's Taliban 48 hours to free missing Iranian diplomats,reports from Islamabad said.

Benazir Bhutto said Pakistan should sever relations with the Taliban if its leaders refused to release the 10 Iranians. ``Give the Taliban 48 hours and tell them that unless they produce the Iranian diplomats, we will break off ties with them," The News daily quoted Bhutto as saying during a speech here yesterday in the National Assembly. Iran had always stood by Pakistan and provided it with strategic depth, Benazir is reported to have said.

"Any attack on our friends is an attack on us," the former premier said. The paper quoted her as saying that the possibility of Iranians carrying out military retaliation similar to that launched by the US on Afghanistan cannot be ruled out.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Life has changed a lot for Mark Saunders in the past year. Last August, he was a puffa-jacketed royal paparazzo, cameras round his neck, permanently on Diana's chase. ``It could be a rainy Monday morning, and I'd be standing on a street in Knightsbridge. Then, by 6 p.m. I'd be on a plane to the West Indies,'' he says. ``It was a laugh.''

It was also a life. At least 90 per cent of Saunders's waking hours were occupied by Diana waiting for her, stalking her, chasing her and then, in paparazzi slang for taking photographs, ``whacking'' her, ``blitzing'' her, ``hosing her down''. He did this for years, and he enjoyed it.

He also earned a great deal of money. ``We were a bunch of lads. We had a sixth-form mentality and in lots of ways we couldn't believe our luck.'' Then Diana died, and immediately, Saunders's book, Dicing With Di, co-written with fellow snapper Glenn Harvey, was withdrawn from the shops by its publisher. Peppered with disrespectful references to ``That Woman'' and the ``loon'', andlurid detail about how Saunders and Harvey would track Diana ``like big game hunters'', it was too close to Charles Spencer's funeral oration for comfort. Saunders began to see that life was going to be tough. He was busy for a while, giving television interviews about what it was like to stake out Diana. As a teenager, inspired by All the President's Men, Saunders had wanted to be a political journalist. That was still his aim when he joined the Slough Express as a reporter straight out of school. Only somewhere along the way, he got lost. He decided last spring to go back to local journalism, ``to start again at the bottom''. It didn't work. ``You can't go from the front page of Newsweek to a local rag. I suppose I was trying to find my roots or something, but I should have known better.''

Since then, Saunders has drifted into what he calls photojournalism. What he really does is chase around America after celebrity gossip stories for the TV networks and magazines.

His beat isfilm-star haunts in Florida, LA, the West Indies. He's 34 and unmarried. He misses the Diana trail -- not so much the thrill of the chase as the closeness to other men, the friendship.

Doesn't he feel guilty, thinking back? He made her life hell, she told him so, many times. ``No, no,'' he says. ``You've got to understand. She used us as much as we used her. If there was a good picture of Camilla Parker-Bowles in the paper that day, then Di would be out early, ready to be photographed. Some days she smiled and talked, some days she argued. It depended on her mood.''

No one has emerged yet, in paparazzo terms, to take Diana's place, but Saunders reckons it's only a matter of time.

``The whole circus will start again with William. I got a great picture of him rowing on the Thames the other week and sold it all over the world. They were mad for it, but no editor in this country would touch it. That won't last. You wait until he gets his first girlfriend.''

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. CALCUTTA, Sept 1: A french girl, a car accident and a Jesus-embossed medal. Three tenuous links in a spiritual story, that could well seek its logical conclusion in the canonisation of Mother Teresa.

Archbishop of Calcutta Henry D'Souza, in a television interview last weekend, mentioned how the girl, whose bones were battered in a car accident, was cured after she was given a medal by Mother Teresa.

Ever since, the Missionaries of Charity headquarters here have been receiving lots of queries about the case.

If it is proved that the cure was ``organic'', the Saint of the Sewers, Mother Teresa, may well attain sainthood.

D'souza said the `miracle' had not yet been confirmed, but told The Indian Express that the documents relating to the case had been sent to experts for examination.

According to him, the French girl had met with the accident in the United States of America, but could not recollect the girl's name or the place of the accident. The Missionaries headquarters received a letterabout three months back, in which the case was mentioned.

According to the letter, the French girl had met Mother Teresa, who gave her one of the Jesus-embossed aluminium medals she used to bless visitors with. After the accident, the French girl was miraculously healed with the touch of the medal, claimed the letter.

But Sister Christie of the Missionaries, however, said that the case was not considered ``an organic miracle'' because it involved a ``gradual cure''.

In an interview with The Indian Express on August 17, Sister Nirmala, Mother Teresa's successor at the Missionaries, made no mention of the case.

She had, however, said that she was receiving letters from various parts of the world containing claims of Mother Teresa's `miracles'. Some of these were documented and sent to the Vatican for scrutiny.

Sister Nirmala had said that ``not all kinds of miracles'' were acceptable for canonisation. According to her, ``It had to be an organic miracle.''

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. The bollworms which invaded Marathwada's cotton fields about seven years ago have developed a frightening immunity that is threatening the crop. Over the years, they have burrowed deep into the State's cotton-growing heartland, while the cotton farmers, who till about 10 lakh hectares of cultivable land in Marathwada, drenched the fields with destructive chemicals.

Having lured the farmers into bathing their plants in pesticides, pesticide companies and dealers have pushed the crop to the point of diminishing returns.

But the Pundalik brothers couldn't care less. They gape in amazement at the lush green foliage which covers their seven-acre plot north-east of Aurangabad city. After completing the fifth round of spraying since sowing in early June, the Pundaliks are looking forward to the Rs 2,100-per-quintal offer by the State Government's cotton monopoly purchase scheme.

With cotton being a perennial crop peaking three times a year, the brothers are anticipating a veritable bounty in October/November.And at 50 quintals per harvest, they couldn't ask for more.

The `new art of cultivation' advocated by the friendly pesticide dealer, who has asked them to ``sincerely'' spray his pesticides at least 10 to 14 times, is ravaging soil fertility and helping the pests build resistance to the chemicals.

However, for the Pundaliks and thousands of others like them, the dealer is the first and last word on expert advice. They have no use for agricultural experts for unlike the dealer, the latter have nothing to offer. The dealer lends them money, sells them pesticides and fertilizers and after the harvest, why he may even agree to buy their cotton with ready cash.

Farmers, who have little capital to invest at the time of sowing, buy seeds, fertilizers and of course, pesticides, on credit. While most dealers in urban areas readily offer attractive discounts on the maximum retail price (MRP), they sell the pesticides to farmers at a price much higher than the MRP.

The farmers are told they can become richovernight by using pesticides and seeds of high-yielding varieties, says economist, H M Desarda, former member of the State Planning Commission. ``What we should be telling them instead is that though natural varieties of seeds are low on productivity they are high on stability for the agricultural sector,'' the economist says.

Cotton is extremely vulnerable to pests, especially bollworms which turn into moths, and it consumes nearly 55 per cent of pesticides manufactured the world over, says Dr N L Bhale, a cotton expert and former director of the Nagpur-based Central Cotton Research Institute.

Farmers have been induced by dealers to spray the plants at least 12-18 times per harvest against the recommended average six to seven times during the crop's 160-180-day cycle. In fact, they begin spraying the plants from the day the first leaves sprout.

But the consequences are devastating. For one, the pests develop a fierce immunity and once they cross the first two of their five-stage life cycle, there isno known chemical in the world potent enough to kill them, says Uttamrao Ingale, director of Extention Education at the Marathwada Agriculture University in Parbhani, who is doing extensive research on cotton, besides coordinating programmes to take the results of university research to the farmers.

Having thus survived to the last stage of development, the moths lay as many as 300 to 900 eggs at a time and wreak havoc on the crop.The prospect of a rich harvest also discourages cultivators from using traditional methods for farming like crop rotation, which naturally ensures soil fertility. The cotton craze drives many of them to cultivate cotton and only cotton, further eroding soil fertility. This also frustrates every attempt of scientists to break the moths' life cycle, explains Dr G V Pote, an entomologist with the National Agriculture Research Project, Aurangabad.

Besides, the plant's roots burrow deep into the soil, rapidly absorbing minerals. When a cotton crop is not followed by another whoseroots spread only on the surface, the soil loses its fertility permanently, experts say. This has led to a dreadful situation in the region and agricultural experts fear there is no way out. ``Our farmers have all but forgotten what rotation of crops means to the soil's fertility,'' Ingle observes.

The cotton monopoly purchase scheme makes it worse. Though the yield from the last two harvests (called `further' cotton) is especially poor, the government pays as much as Rs 900 per quintal against the Rs 500 it would fetch in the open market. Why would the tillers, always in dire need of ready cash, switch crops even though research and logic dictate otherwise?

Another fallout of the addicting lure of pesticides is that farmers pay scant attention to soil preparation. Experts have repeatedly asked them to plough their fields deep while the summer is still hot and nurture it with nitrogen-rich urea at least a fortnight before sowing. However, anxious to reap yet another harvest, they immediately proceed withthe next round of sowing, Pote says.

Modern methods like the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) too have not found favour with a majority of farmers. ``Farmers are careless about plant protection. They are even reluctant to stay in the fields at the time of spraying to ensure that the labourers they employ are using the right combination of chemicals,'' Ingle says.

Experts say the unhealthy trend has taken an ominous turn with farmers in districts like Beed, Latur and Osmanabad also opting for cotton cultivation. This despite the fact that soil conditions there are suitable for the crop.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. THANE, Sept 1: Bajrang Dal activists staged a dharna here late tonight and held up a Ganesh immersion procession in protest against ``police high-handedness.''

Traffic near the Holy Cross High School, close to the Ganesh immersion venue, was blocked for over three hours following the dharna by the activists, who led the Sriram Ganeshotsav Mandal procession.

According to Dr Sudhir Panade of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, when the procession was going past a place of worship, Senior Police Inspector Nishantdhar abused the activists, roughed them up and made derogatory remarks.

After walking some distance, the procession ground to a halt and the activists began shouting slogans against the police. To add to the tension, two police constables allegedly damaged a drum belonging to the processionists.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Shivaji Gosavi and the mayor tried their level best to quieten the crowd, in vain. The mob wanted an apology from the inspector and an undertaking that no cases will be filedagainst them.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NASHIK, Sept 1: A police inspector with the Chhavni police station in Malegaon has been transferred to Peth following repeated complaints and a `rasta roko' by Shiv Sena workers on Sunday.

Additional Superintendent of Police, Shantaram Waghmare, told The Indian Express there were too many complaints against Inspector V K More for his arrogant behaviour. On one occasion, a scribe, Nagesh More, even went on a hunger strike in protest and complained to Guardian Minister Babanrao Gholap.

On Sunday, More arrested Dattatrya Mistry, brother of former Sena corporator Rama Mistry, as a preventive measure. When local Sena leaders approached the police officer, he allegedly insulted them. The Sainiks then blocked traffic on Mosam bridge, demanding More's transfer.

Waghmare said the rasta roko and a complaint to Chief Minister Manohar Joshi, who was in Malegaon on Sunday, was the last straw in More's case. ``He was going to be transferred anyway,'' he added.

congress stir: THE city unit of the Congresswill stage an indefinite dharna in front of its Ganesh pandal from tomorrow, to protest against the removal of cartoons of Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders by the police on Monday. The party's city unit president and former member of Parliament, Murlidhar Mane, told The Indian Express that attempts are also being made to urge other Ganesh mandals in the city to join the protest.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

  • Ivanisevic snubs `old' Woodforde

    WIMBLEDON runner-up Goran Ivanisevic slammed 23 aces to beat Mark Woodforde yesterday, and then traded insults with the Australian veteran. The Croatian suggested the 32-year-old doubles star give up on singles. "The way his game is, it's very tough to watch. It's time for him to retire from singles," Ivanisevic said. "He looks very poor at the court. Too old. Can't move. With that (lousy) backhand, you can't beat anybody."

    Woodforde suggested Ivanisevic was a one-trick player with nothing beyond his blazing serve. "Goran has his serve and not much else. Ivanisevic said Woodforde hit him with a shot at one point and did not apologize. "He hates me," Ivanisevic said. "But then I hit an ace after that and that kills him. I see on his face. It's a poor thing."

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. CHERTHALA, Sept 1: Gopi, 21, died in October 1988 in police custody. He was cremated only yesterday.

    For 10 years, his father Thankappan kept the body in a concrete tank filled with formalin in the front yard of his house in Cherthala and waited for justice. He hoped that the police officers who he thought was responsible for his son's death would be brought to book.

    Governments came and went, visiting journalists wrote stories on the father's `bizarre' way of seeking justice, leaders and village elders asked Thankappan to end his fight. But he remained adamant -- till yesterday.

    Thankappan, in his late 70s, reduced to skin and bone by poverty and disease, has partially won his fight. The Kerala High Court has ordered a CBI inquiry into the incident and a departmental inquiry into Gopi's death in police custody and awarded a compensation of Rs 3 lakh. Thankappan finally decided to cremate the body on the advice of Father George Pulikuthi and his advocate Shaji Thomas, both associated with Jananeethi, ahuman rights organisation which helped him with the case. In the presence of an anxious local crowd, reporters, camera crews of various private TV channels and human rights activists including Justice T Chandrashekhara Menon, Gopi's last rites were performed.

    Gopi was summoned to the Cherthala police station on October 5 on suspicion that he was involved in a petty theft case. His father and a neighbour also went to the police station but were told to come back the next morning. The next day Thankappan received a telegram from the police saying his son had committed suicide by piercing his abdomen with a tubelight used as a ruler in the station.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Teachers' demand on arrears

    NEW DELHI: The striking college and university teachers today welcomed the government's offer to pay salary arrears in one installment as ``a big step forward'', but accused it of misleading them on many technical points regarding their demands.

    ``If the government is serious about giving 100 per cent arrears from January 1, 1996 in one installment, we will think about withdrawing our three-week strike,'' All India Federation of University and College Teachers' Organisations (AIFUCTO) president K K Theckedath told reporters here.

    Vittal is new CVC

    NEW DELHI: Chairman of Public Enterprises Selection Board, N Vittal was appointed the Chief Vigilance Commissioner on Tuesday.

    Thackeray vs EC

    NEW DELHI: Rejecting any moves to disqualify him on a charge of misusing religion in a state Assembly election campaign eleven years ago, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray today argued before the Election Commission that there was no justificationfor his disqualification from electoral activities ``at this late stage''.

    Gill moves HC

    NEW DELHI: Axed CEO Surrindar Singh Gill filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court on Tuesday, challenging the Prasar Bharati ordinance issued by the Government on Saturday. He has prayed for the quashing of the ordinance on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. No moratorium on loans

    NEW DELHI: The Reserve Bank on Tuesday clarified that it is not considering any proposal for granting a moratorium on repayment of loans or interest to financial institutions or banks by corporates.

    The RBI said it was also not considering any changes in the definition of non performing assets or a general reduction in debt-equity ratio. The clarification came in the wake of media reports that RBI in consultation with finance ministry was considering a three-year moratorium as part of a five-point package for the revival of the economy.

    Groundnut oil prices decline

    MUMBAI: Groundnut oil prices declined further steeply by Rs 10 per ten kg on the oilseeds market here Tuesday due to fresh arrival from producing centres like Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, traders said. On the other hand, prices of castor oil, castorseeds and castorseed December contract rallied sharply due to heavy industrial and export demand. In the edible section, groundnut oil declinedsteeply by Rs 10 to close at Rs 588 while groundnut bold was untraded. Imported palm oil eased to Rs 374 from Rs 375.

    Nocil prunes dividend to 10 pc

    MUMBAI: The net profit of National Organic Chemical Industries Ltd (Nocil) has dropped to Rs 37.63 crore during the year ended March 1998 from Rs 59.81 crore last year. The directors have pruned the dividend to 10 per cent against 25 per cent paid last year. The turnover of the company for the year was Rs 1,100 crore as compared to Rs 1,174 crore in 1996-97. The decline was mainly due to lower sales volumes of petrochemical and polymer divisions consequently to the planned maintenance shutdown undertaken in March 1997. The company has earned a lower gross profit of Rs 60.10 crore against Rs 94.19 crore. The provision for depreciation amounted to Rs 17.87 crore (Rs 15.78 crore and for taxation at Rs 4.60 crore (Rs 18.60 crore), according to a company press release issued here today.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sept 1: St Andrew's Junior College beat G N Khalsa 2-0 to lift the title in the Bombay Division hockey boys under-19 Junior Colleges final of the Multigames City and Suburb competition, organised by the District Sports Govt of Maharashtra, at the BHA today.

    Outside-left Gilroy D'Mello scored both the goals in a match totally dominated by Andrew's. Khalsa's had just one look at the goal in the first-half.

    In the sixth minute, Eldridge Saldanha, playing in the deep defence, moved well up to send a neat diagonal hit to find an unmarked Gilroy in the dee. Gilroy collected neatly and sent a rasping shot giving the Khalsa goalkeeper no chance to effect a save.

    In the 44th minute, Warren found Marshal who beat his left-half and sent in a cross. Gilroy, lying handy, collected the ball and scored with a reverse hit. Thereafter, the match was as good as won by Andrew's, though superior but goal shy.

    Other results (all finals)

    Boys under-17: St Anne's, Orlem, 13 (Savio Nayak 5, A Sequeira 3,Snedden Pereira 3, Lawrence Soares, Adrian D'Souza) bt St Sebastian Goan 0.Boys under-14: St Andrew's, Bandra, 11 (Tyron Pereira 3, Dexter Manki 2, Farhan Khan 3, Jerry Almeida, Gavin Pereira, Naeem Jagani) bt St Sebastian Goan 0.

    Girls under-19: Khalsa 2 (Mamta Singh 2) bt St Andrew's College 0.

    Manisha declared best

    Project 2000's Manisha Gawande was crowned the Best Athlete in the Freedom Road Race organised by Ryan International Sports Club at the St Lawrence High School yesterday. She was awarded the IC Colony Sports Club Trophy donated by former national long distance runner Dayanand Kumar.

    Results
    Men (8 kms):
    1 Vijay Kashte (LIC) 22.36 mins, 2 Mahesh Monde (VPM), Yogesh Satam (VPM). Boys U-16: Vivek Pratap Singh (Project 2000) 6:53, Deepak Thakur (Project 2000), 3 Dinesh Acharya (VPM). U-14: Rajul Paigaonkar (VPM) 9:16, Ashwin VK (United Athletes), Sameer Phople (VPM). U-12: Kailash Rao (VPM) 5:35:9, Khaiyam Malbari (VPM), Sumeet Roy (Holy Family, Andheri).

    Women(5 kms): V Satyabhama (WR) 12:47, Arti Malekar (Prabhodan), Sushma Chalke (WR). Girls U-16: Judy Verghese (Project 2000) 9:35, Sushma Amre (Om Track), Manisha Tawade (Prabhodan Krida Bhavan). U-14: Manisha Gawande (Project 2000) 9:33, Shimona D'Costa (United Athletes), Smita Salvi (Om Track). U-12: Aditi Tawade (Om Track) 6:28, Ramya Rao (VPM), Nafisa Khan (St Anne's, Borivli).

    Sujata, Nimkar top

    Unseeded Niranjan Nimkar and second-seeded Sujata Hailinge won the men's and women's singles titles, repectively, in the first Dilip Babar-sponsored Thane District Ranking carrom tournament, organised by the Sainath Seva Mandal (Bhayander), today. Sujata shocked top seed Shilpa Joshi, 25-12, 25-20 and Nimkar beat unseeded Shabbir Khan 25-8, 23-25, 25-3.

    Other results
    Men's (semi-finals):
    Niranjan Nimkar bt Sanjay Mande 25-1, 25-11; Shabbir Khan bt Priyang Vaidya 25-16, 25-17. Women's (semi-finals): Shilpa Joshi bt Minal Lele 11-25, 25-22, 25-24; Sujata Hailinge bt Sumedha Karkhanis25-11, 24-25, 25-18.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW YORK/MUMBAI, Sept 1: Stock prices nosedived on the world markets with Dow Industrials of the New York Stock Exchange losing 6.4 per cent on frantic sales by investors nervous over collapse of the Russian economy, the Asian meltodown and possible slowdown in the US economy. Sensex (BSE sensitive index) slumped by 71 points due to the selling pressure on Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

    Monday's loss at the Wall Street wiped out all this year's gains. The Nasdaq composite index, heavily weighted with technology stocks, saw its worst one-day loss, wiping 140.43 points or 8.57 per cent to touch 1,499.25 as "bluest of blue" chips took the beating.

    Asia-Pacific stock markets opened lower with Tokyo stock prices hitting a new 12-year low in early trading. The Nikkei average fell immediately after the market opened, dropping over 440 points at one point to hit an intra-day low of 13,664.74, the lowest since 1986. Last Friday, the Nikkei average fell below 14,000 for the first time since March 1986.Australianmarkets were down 2.5 per cent, New Zealand down 3.7 per cent, Hong Kong lower by 3.6 per cent, Singapore down by 2.2 per cent and Taiwan by 4.4 per cent.

    As the day ended, the market was still under pressure and analysts were trying to figure out whether it was a correction or bears had taken over from bulls. No one knew for certain and trend over next few days should clarify.

    The Standard and Poor 500 index on the US markets too fell 69.72 points, losing 6.8 per cent at 957.53 points yesterday. One of the major concern was said to be the fluid political situation in Russia and fears that the Communists might again take over with President Yeltsins's position becoming shaky. Morevoer President Clinton is not going for the Moscow summit with any bail-out proposal.

    In India, the BSE sensitive index (Sensex) started lower at 2862.24 but touched the day's high of 2882.88 and a low of 2850.30 before finishing at 2862.55 with a sizeable loss of 71.30 points as compared to its pervious close of 2933.85. TheBSE-100 index lost 29.49 points to 1281.11 from the previous level of 1310.60.

    Brokers said the trading sentiment was affected following the crash in the Dow Industrials on the New York Stock Exchange. The Asian markets followed suit as they dipped southwards during the day. ``The economic crisis in Russia, the problems in the Japanese economy and the dollar's decline against major currencies affected the sentiment in Indian markets also,'' said an analyst.

    Foriegn funds sold in major counters like MTNL, ITC, SBI, Infosys, Zee Telefilms and Satyam Computers which brought down the index heavily. Even domestic funds were sellers of MTNL, SBI, Asian Paints, Gujarat A Cement and Satyam for squaring up positions on the last day of the current settlement at the National Stock Exchange (NSE).

    In other markets, Taiwan is considering banning short selling to arrest fall in stock prices. The decline in the stock markets in the region is attributed to yesterday's fall in US markets. The panic started with reportsindicating that American banks might have lost millions of dollars in russian investments and the south asian crisis is affecting the profitability of international corporations.

    Wall Street loses $ 3 tn

    NEW YORK: Nearly $ three trillion, representing the equivalent of Germany's economy, have gone up in smoke on Wall Street in the last five weeks, estimates from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq said.The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) tumbled 512.61 points (6.36 per cent) to 7,539.07 last night, erasing gains for the year and falling to its lowest level since last November.

    For the 30 Dow stocks, the losses amounted to $ 2.24 trillion since July 17, when the index hit a record high of 9,337.97 points. On the Nasdaq, dominated by high-tech stocks, the losses amounted to $ 588 billion since its record high set on July 20. The Nasdaq composite, off 20 per cent since its record, suffered its worst point drop ever -- 140.43 points or 8.56 per cent -- bringing it to itslowest level since July last year.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Real Madrid thrash Villarreal

    MADRID: Real Madrid made an emphatic start to their Spanish League campaign yesterday, sweeping to 4-1 home victory over 10-man Villarreal. But the European Cup winners were given an early shock, as Romanian international Gheorghe Craioveanu put the visitors ahead after only four minutes. But they pulled back Pedrag Mijatovic, Savio Bertolini and Raul.

    Six month suspension for Italian rider

    MILAN: Italian rider Francesco Casagrande was handed a six month suspension by the Italian cycling federation here on Tuesday for returning two positive drugs tests this year. The 28-year-old, who recently won the San Sebastian Classic and is ranked fifth in the world standings, returned an illegal level of testosterone and epitestosterone in April's Tour of the Trentino.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Ginola in Angola for anti-mine campaign

    LUANDA: Exactly one year after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, French football star David Ginola arrived in Angola to carry on the Princess' work raising funds for victims of landmines. "I hope to sensitise everyone - through football, the media and the international Red Cross - to the problems of landmines," Ginola told journalists on his arrival in Luanda. The footballer, who plays for the english club tottenham Hotspur, will visit Huambo and Kuito, the two cities which suffered the greatest devastation during Angola's 20-year Civil War. Aside from watching mine clearers at work and visiting amputees, Ginola will lace up his football shoes for a friendly game with some mine victims.

    Oliver Bierhoff new captain of Germany

    ST. JULIANS (Malta): Oliver Bierhoff, the striker who shot to fame two years ago with the `golden goal' which won the European Nations Cup for Germany, has been named captain of the German football team, it was announcedhere today. Bierhoff, 30, who had played in obscurity for years before he scored the goal that earned him fame, will replace veteran striker Juergen Klinsmann, who ended his career for Germany after the World Cup. Bierhoff's appointment as captain was announced by German coach Berti Vogts here today.

    Mike Tyson's car accident leads to a near brawl

    WASHINGTON: Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson was treated and released from a Maryland Hospital last evening after a minor traffic accident nearly turned into a fist fight, local police officials said. Montgomery county police received calls from witnesses after Tyson's green Mercedes, driven by his wife, collided lightly with another vehicle in Gaithersburg, Maryland, police spokesman Derek Baliles said.

    The witnesses said Tyson "appeared as if he wanted to fight the driver of the other car" and had to be restrained by his wife and bodyguards travelling in a vehicle behind him. The other driver was identified only as an adultmale.

    Police arrived on the scene just after Tyson had left, but pulled him over a few minutes later.

    While they were talking with him, Tyson complained of chest pains and his wife took him to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, where he was evaluated and released, a hospital spokesman said adding Tyson suffered no serious injuries. Baliles said no charges were brought against either driver because police had not witnessed the incident. Either party could still bring charges, he added.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Chennai, Sept 1: The Indian cricket probables had a surprise caller on Tuesday in Kapil Dev, whose timing of the visit was not even known to the BCCI president Raj Singh Dungarpur, cricket manager Anshuman Gaekwad and consultant Bobby Simpson.

    Kapil was with the cricketers, chatting with them in the pavilion and watching the entire duration of the match played by the probables on Tuesday.Though he retired from the game four years ago, Kapil is a much sought after cricketer, going by the autograph hunters who besieged him when stepped on the turf after the match.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. LONDON, Sept 1: England coach David Lloyd was called to task by the England Cricket Board (ECB) today for his criticism of Sri Lankan off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan's bowling technique.

    Lloyd's questioning of Muralitharan's bowling action came as the prolific off-breaker snared 16 wickets for the match as Sri Lanka cruised to a 10-wicket victory over England in a one-off Test at The Oval.

    But today, in the wake of a humiliating defeat and as his Ashes touring party was announced, Lloyd was being called to face the repercussions of the comments he made on Sunday.

    ECB chief executive Tim Lamb said Lloyd's comments were ``inappropriate and insensitive'' and senior officials expected an explanation from him at ``the earliest opportunity.''Lloyd said he had certain ``opinions'' about the bent arm action of Muralitharan and promised to inform ``the proper authorities.''

    Lamb said Lloyd's remarks were his own and not in line with the ECB position, which is to abide by the International Cricket Council's(ICC) ruling on Muralitharan's action.

    ``We are disappointed with the way (Lloyd) handled the whole issue as there is a set procedure -- and we have made our views known to the ECB,'' he said.

    HICK AXED: Graeme Hick, the only batsman still playing first-class cricket to have scored 100 centuries, has been left out of England's party to tour Australia later this year

    The Team

    Alec Stewart (captain), Nasser Hussain (vice-captain), Michael Atherton, Mark Butcher, Dominic Cork, John Crawley, Robert Croft, Angus Fraser, Darren Gough, Dean Headley, Warren Hegg, Ben Hollioake, Alan Mullally, Mark Ramprakash, Peter Such, Graham Thorpe, Alex Tudor. Tour Manager: Graham Gooch. Coach: David Lloyd.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. 3 thieves remandedAdditional chief metropolitan magistrate Namdeorao Pokharkar today remanded Abdul Latif alias Babu alias Babli Abdul Rauf Sheikh (23), Man Bahadur Amar Tiruva alias Mujeeb (22) and Mohammed Afzal Mohammed Hayat Qureshi (22) to police custody till September 11. The three robbers were arrested on Monday afternoon by the detection of crime branch unit-4 when they had assembled at the Nair-Cyrus road junction at Agripada. On a tip off that the robbers are likely to visit the area, the police laid a trap. When the six robbers riding on three motor cycles arrived on the scene the police asked them to surrender.

    CM waives tax on papad

    Chief Minister Manohar Joshi today announced that the state government would completely waive the sales tax owed to it by the Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad, the largest co-operative society run by women. The CM said the co-operative society owed the government Rs 1.12 crore as sales tax which was 2 per cent since October 1, 1995. The period of taxwaiver would be from October 10, 1995 to March 31, 1999 and every year the burden of the state exchequer would be Rs 70 lakh, he added. Joshi, however, said that the government had not agreed with the request of the co-operative society to waive sales tax on detergent manufactured by it.

    Security to hsg minister, secy

    Chief Minister Manohar Joshi today said that adequate security cover was provided to Housing Minister Suresh Jain and Housing Secretary V P Raja after both complained of receiving threatening calls.

    ``After Jain told me about the calls, I had a talk with the police commissioner and the security being provided to him was increased. Though Raja did not complain to me that he was being threatened, the police would conduct an inquiry into it. We have provided police protection to him also,'' Joshi said.

    Jain and Raja have alleged that they were threatened by the city builders lobby over the much publicised Shivshahi Punarvasan Prakalp Ltd, the company set up by the government toprovide free houses to 40 lakh slum dwellers in Mumbai.

    Robber fires at police

    Police fired at a robber after he allegedly tried to assault a policeman at Khar on Tuesday evening.

    According to a police officer at Khar station, the police received a call of `trouble' at 14th road, Khar and rushed a police party, led by PSI Mohite, to the spot. On seeing the police, the accused Rahimtullah Subhan Shaikh alias Kaliya, who was armed with a chopper, reportedly advanced towards an officer despite repeated warnings. Mohite then fired three rounds at Kaliya, who received injuries on his leg. He was rushed to Bhabha Hospital at Bandra, where he is reported to be out of danger. Kaliya has several robbery cases registered against him.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Paes vs Sampras on ESPN

    MUMBAI: ESPN will telecast Leander Paes' victory over World No 1 Pete Sampras in the third round of the Pilot Pen tennis tournament recently.

    The match will be beamed at 2000 hrs on Wednesday.

    Paes had scored a sensational victory over the reigning Wimbledon champion 6-3, 6-4 at New Haven in the United States to pull off his biggest career win.

    Rohtas rules

    BANGALORE: Veteran Rohtas Singh of Delhi led his team to victory in the Wills Southern Open Pro Am, a prelude to the main tournament, at the Karnataka Golf Association Classic Golf course on Tuesday.

    On a water logged course, the event was curtailed to just nine select holes. Rohtas team comprising M Aiyappa, Indur Hirani and Ramesh Rao totalled 72 points, but the team handicap being six, the net score read 66.

    Top six in fray

    HYDERABAD: The top six team of the country will be seen in action in the 15-day long Blender's Pride Hyderabad Polo National which gets underway atthe lush green Bison Polo Ground from Wednesday.

    Cricket telecasts

    MUMBAI: Both Indian cricket teams, which are to be picked tomorrow at Chennai, will be seen in action on foreign sports television channels during the Sahara Cup Indo-Pak five-match series at Toronto and the Commonwealth one-day matches at Kuala Lumpur.

    All the Toronto internationals will be telecast live on ESPN from 1850 hrs on Sept 12,13,16,19 and 20. But t Games will be shown later (taped version) on Star. India will have only one match on the channel against Australia on Sept 16 at 1800 hrs.

    The recorded semi-finals on Sept 17 and 18 will be beamed at 1800 hrs while the final will be shown on Sept 21 at the same time.

    Jadeja XI win

    CHENNAI: Mohammed Azharuddin's heroics notwithstanding, the team, Azhar XI, crashed to a five-wicket defeat against Ajay Jadeja XI in the second of the practice matches the Indian probables played at MAC Stadium on Tuesday. Azhar's XI made 226 for 9 in 48.2 overs and inreply Jadeja XI scored 227 for 5 in 43.2 overs.

    Technical matters

    BANGALORE: The technical committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) today approved three recommendations of the ICC. The committee amended rule 25 deeming an additional run would be awarded even if runs were allowed of that ball besides an extra ball.

    Another suggestion accepted was that the umpires would mandatorily change the ball after completion of 100 overs in a match of three days or more. The third change was to reduce the condoning time for a fielder from 15 minutes to eight minutes.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW YORK, Sep 1: India's challenge in the men's singles event of the US Open tennis tournament came to an end when the country's No 1 ranked player, Leander Paes lost in the opening round to Alex O'Brien of the United States 5-7, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9) here today.

    Paes put up a brave fight in the third set which O'Brien won 9-7 on the tie-breaker. Paes now teams up with Mahesh Bhupathi to play in the men's doubles. The Indian pair have been seeded fourth.

    Earlier, Steffi Graf won a match at the US Open for the first time since 1996 when she beat American Corina Morariu 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 today to advance to the second round as the US Open began Day 2.

    After winning the year's final Grand Slam tournament in 1995 and '96, Graf missed last year's US Open because of knee surgery. Her victory today ran her consecutive match winning streak at the Open to 15.

    ``It's been two years. I don't look back on what happened before,'' Graf said. ``I look at now as a new start.''

    In another early match, Mark Philippoussis ofAustralia defeated Norway's Christian Ruud 7-5, 6-4, 6-3.

    The forehand that once ruled women's tennis made only occasional appearances against Morariu. But it was there every time Graf needed it.

    It was in the second set, when she made 15 of her 28 unforced errors on the day, that the eighth-seeded German appeared in danger of matching her 1992 US Open result.

    That was the only time she has failed to make it out of the opening round.Graf, making her debut in Arthur Ashe Stadium, grabbed a 3-0 lead in the opening set. She held her last two service games in the set at love and appeared headed for a straight-set victory.

    Morariu had other ideas. The Floridian, hitting as hard and as deep as her opponent, broke Graf at love in the sixth game and pulled even at one set apiece.

    Graf then tightened her game, setting up a second-round match against compatriot Marlene Weingartner.

    Last night, Andre Agassi, hoping to cap his rise from the satellite tour with his second US Open title, found the Ashe Stadiumcourt to his liking as he overpowered Sebastien Grosjean of France 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.

    ``The court is definitely quicker, no question bout it,'' he said.Also advancing into the second round yesterday were the two No 1 seeds, Pete Sampras and Martina Hingis.

    No 9 Karol Kucera and No 14 Goran Ivanisevic won in men's singles and No 6 Monica Seles, No 9 Irina Spirlea, No 11 Patty Schnyder, No 14 Dominique van Roost and No 16 Ai Sugiyama were winners among the women.

    The only seed ousted on the first day was No 15 Alberto Berasategui of Spain, who fell to Thomas Muster of Austria 7-6 (7-1), 6-2, 6-3.

    How the seeds fared

    Seedings in prefix
    Men's Singles (1st round): 8-Andre Agassi (US) bt Sebastien Grosjean (France) 6-4 6-1 6-4; 9-Karol Kucera (Slovakia) bt Steve Campbell (US) 6-4 6-2 6-4; 12-Jonas Bjorkman (Sweden) bt Cedric Pioline (France) 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 6-2
    Women's singles (1st round): 1-Martina Hingis (Switzerland) bt Aleksandra Olsza (Poland) 6-2 6-0; 6-MonicaSeles (US) bt Florencia Labat (Agrentina) 7-6 (7-0) 6-2; 9-Irina Spirlea (Romania) bt Elena Likhovtseva (Russia) 7-6 (7-0) 6-4; 14-Dominique van Roost (Belgium) bt Julie Halard-Decugis (France) 6-2 6-2; 16-Ai Sugiyama (Japan) bt Ruxandra Dragomir (Romania) 6-1 6-2.

    Other results

    Men's singles: Wayne Black (Zim) bt Justin Gimelstob (US) 3-6 7-5 2-3 (retired); Bob Bryan (US) bt Marcos Ondruska (SA) 3-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-1 6-4 6-4; Wayne Arthurs (Aus) bt Carlos Costa (Spa) 6-3 5-7 6-4 6-4; Slava Dosedel (Cze) bt Filip Dewulf (Bel) 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4; David Nainkin (SA) bt Mark Merklein (US) 6-7 (3-7) 6-0 6-4 6-4; Bohdan Ulihrach (Cze) bt Sargis Sargsian (Arm) 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-4; Paul Goldstein (US) bt Andrew Ilie (Aus) 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 3-0 (retired); Taylor Dent (US) bt Alex Radulescu (Ger) 4-6 7-5 2-1 (retired); Jonathan Stark (US) bt Koon Yong-Il (Kor) 6-2 6-4 6-4; Dominik Hrbaty (Slo) bt Marc Rosset (Swi) 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-3) 7-5; Adrian Voinea (Rom) bt Andrea Gaudenzi (Ita) 6-4 3-6 6-2 2-0(retired); Guillaume Raoux (Fra) bt Nicolas Escude (Fra) 6-3 3-6 6-3 1-6 7-6 (8-6); Jan Siemerink (Net) bt Dinu Pescariu (Rom) 6-4 6-3 6-0; Todd Martin (US) bt Jeff Tarango 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 7-5; Sebastien Lareau (Canada) bt Ramon Delgado (Paraguay) 7-5 7-6 (7-3) 6-3).

    Women's singles: Park Sung-Hee (Kor) bt Lenka Nemeckova (Cze) 1-6 6-3 6-4; Amelie Mauresmo (Fra) bt Ludmila Richterova (Cze) 6-2 6-1; Gala Leon Garcia (Spa) bt Janet Lee (Tai) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-4); Miho Saeki (Jpn) bt Jill Craybas (US) 6-1 2-6 6-3; Sandrine Testud (Fra) bt Shi-Ting Wang (Tai) 6-0 6-2; Serena Williams (US) bt Nicole Pratt (Aus) 6-3 3-6 6-4; Evgenia Koulikovskaya (Rus) bt Sandra Kleinova (Cze) 4-6 6-1 6-3; Annie Miller (US) bt Sandra Nacuk (Yug) 6-2 6-3; Iva Majoli (Cro) bt Anke Huber (Ger) 6-3 6-3; Nathalie Dechy (Fra) bt Barbara Paulus (Aut) 6-2 7-5; Pavlina Stoyanova (Bul) bt Tamarine Tanasugarn (Tha) 7-6 (7-3) 6-2; Miriam Schnitzer (Ger) bt Elena Tatarkova (Ukr) 0-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-3; Aubrie Rippner (US) bt Amy Frazier(US) 6-3 6-1; Amelie Cocheteux (Fra) bt Sandra Dopfer (Aut) 6-3 6-3; Kveta Hrdlickova (Cze) bt Barbara Schwartz (Aut) 6-2 6-3; Mary Joe Fernandez (US) bt Tina Krizan (Slovenia) 6-4 7-6 (7-4); Alexandra Fusai (Fra) bt Alexandra Stevenson (US) 6-4 6-4; Mirjana Lucic (Cro) bt Kristie Boogert (Net) 6-3 6-2; Marlene Weingartner (Ger) bt Meghann Shaughnessy (US) 6-4 1-6 6-2; Sylvia Plischke (Aut) bt Nana Miyagi (Jpn) 3-6 7-5 6-2; Naoko Sawamatsu (Jpn) bt Cristina Torrens Valero (Spa) 4-6 7-5 6-1Joannette Kruger (South Africa) bt Barbara Rittner (Germany) 6-1 6-3; Maria Alejandra Vento (Venezuela) bt Magui Serna (Spain) 6-7 (2-7) 7-5 6-4; Laura Golarsa (Italy) bt Emmanuelle Gagliardi (Switzerland) 6-3 7-6 (7-3); Radka Bobkova (Czech Rep) bt Jean Okada (US) 6-2 6-2; Lisa Raymond (US) bt Maria Antonia Sanchez Lorenzo (Spain 6-3 6-3); Lori McNeil (US) bt Samantha Reeves (US) 4-6 6-4 6-1.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, September 1: Over 2,000 college teachers from various parts of the state who converged at Azad Maidan on Monday decided on a unique form of protest against the central government's handling of the nation-wide teachers' strike.

    The teachers have decided to innundate the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) with a flurry of telegram messages from all over the country in order to press their point of view. The `high-handed attitude' of the central Human Resource Development ministry towards the strike, which was kicked off almost a month ago on August 11, was also flayed.

    A striking activist of Bombay University and College Teachers' Union (BUCTU), Professor C R Sadashivan, said: ``The HRD ministry had recently published an appeal to teachers asking them to go back to the classes. But why has the central government still not responded to our plea of keeping at least three promotions for the teachers in their career span? And there is also no hope so far of raising the retirement age to 62 years.''

    Some ofthe professors who had come to the city from places like Latur, Beed, Nanded and Konkan, said they are even prepared to start a jail bharo andolan like their colleagues in Delhi if the strike does not end soon. On the eve of Teacher's Day, teachers from various parts of the country will assemble in thousands at Shivaji Park in New Delhi.

    The teachers also distributed pamphlets detailing their charter of demands and a recent letter written to the Governor of Maharashtra, Dr P C Alexander, urging him to intervene in the matter and negotiate a settlement between the HRD ministry and the All India Federation of University and College Teachers' Organisations (AIFUCTO).

    ``In other states, for example in West Bengal, chief minister Jyoti Basu has written to HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi in an attempt to end the strike. But we can't say the same about Maharashtra,'' said Sadashivan.

    Another teacher pointed out that the recent University Grants Commission (UGC) recommendations clearly stated that it is noteasy to attract talent in the teaching field these days, therefore it was necessary to offer lecturers and professors attractive pay scales.

    In a signed press statement, General Secretary of BUCTU, Dr S M Paranjapes, stated: ``Frustrated by his inability to break the ranks of the striking teachers, the HRD minister has stooped to a very low level by calling a special meeting of hand-picked hard core party hacks to bully the teachers into accepting his `offer' of giving arrears in one lump sum, if they summarily withdraw their strike.''

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sept 1: It was a robbery carried out with great precision, and it initially left the police baffled. But the mystery was cracked within 24 hours, after the cops had got an `insider's' angle to it.

    Sanghvi Art Jewellers on Agripada's B J Road, owned by Mansuklal Sanghvi, was robbed in broad daylight between 4.30 and 7.30 pm on Monday, when it was closed. But the heist on the usually busy road came to light only after 7.30 pm, when three of the shop's workers opened the shop.

    The robber had opened the main door and the safe vault with duplicate keys before escaping with 5 kg of gold and other valuables worth Rs 33 lakh.But prima facie evidence suggested it could be the handiwork of some known person.

    Police, who had earlier wondered how the heist on a busy road could have been carried out with such exactitude, then interrogated all of Sanghvi's family members. There were discrepancies in Sanghvi's nephew Amit's statements, a police officer informed.

    Sustained interrogation revealed that Amit hadgained entry into the shop with duplicate keys after the shop's three employees had gone out for some work around 4.30 pm.

    Amit had worked in the shop three years ago, and it was during this stint that he managed to duplicate the keys so that he could carry out the robbery in future. ``The robbery was planned in advance, and Amit seized the opportunity yesterday,'' an officer said.

    Amit was arrested this afternoon, and the entire booty has been recovered from him, police confirmed. Amit told the police that he wanted a jewellery shop of his own, and he needed money for the purpose. Police are still questioning him to find out if he had any accomplice.

    In another case, a chain snatcher and two receivers of stolen goods have been convicted to imprisonment by a magistrate at Girgaum Court today.

    Mohammed Yakub Babu Azim Shah, a chain snatcher, who was named in 37 cases of chain snatching under the jurisdiction of Malabar Hill police station, has been convicted to rigorous imprisonment for 11 years. Tworeceivers of stolen goods, Ramesh Dhumal and Babulal Soni, have also been given three years in prison. The order was pronounced by a magistrate at Girgaum court today. Investigations were carried out by senior inspector D Bhonsale and police sub-inspector A Mane.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Debate on teachers' stir

  • The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad has organised a `Chattra Adalat' in Sydenham College on September 4 at 11 am. Representatives from the government, striking teachers' organisations, student representatives and media persons will air their views on this issue. Call office secretary ABVP Ashok Chavan on 4306321/4378866.

    Priyadarshini awards

  • The Priyadarshini Academy has announced the international award winners for the year 1998. Indonesia's Meghawati Sukarnoputri, member of house of representative, foreign and interparliamentary commission gets the Global award for International Understanding, while Japan's Toshitami Kaihara, gets the award for Humanitarian Services.

    The global award for outstanding contribution to corporate social responsibility goes to Hari N Harilela, chairperson of the Harilela group, Hongkong.At home, the academy will honour Dr Nitin Mandke for his contribution to medicine, Hafeez Contractor for contribution in the field ofarchitecture, Ashok Wadhwa for financial management, while the Smita Patil Memorial Award for best actress will be given to Tabu. The awards will be given on September 19.

    Watumull college festival

  • The Watumull Institute of Electronic Engineering and Computer Technology, a government-aided affiliate of the Mumbai University, is organising WATTS 98, a national level technical symposium on September 11 and 12. The technofest will involve a paper presentation contest, a graduate level project competition and a technical quiz.

    Frontier Mail's 70th anniversary

    The Frontier Mail, once known as the Pride of India, and now the Golden Temple express, celebrated its 70th anniversary on Monday with the general manager of the Western Railway V D Gupta flagging off the train from Mumbai Central.

    The train started its service on September 1, 1928 between Colaba station, which was subsequently dismantled in 1933, and Peshawar in the North Western Frontier Province in Pakistan. It was among thefastest trains run during British colonial rule, and continued to retain the position until the introduction of the Rajdhani Expresses. Starting off as a six coach train, the train today has 19 vestibular coaches transporting people from Mumbai Central to Amritsar. The steam engine used to power the train was replaced by a diesel engine in the late 1970s.

    Morcha to demand ATKT

    Engineering students from various city colleges held a morcha outside the University of Mumbai in Fort on Tuesday morning to demand for reintroduction of the old ATKT (allowed to keep terms) rule. The students also submitted a memorandum in this regard to authorities.

    Previously, the rules allowed engineering students to have more than four ATKTs and yet go into the next semester. However, as per the new rules introduced by the varsity, the students could not afford to have more than four ATKTs.

    SBI association officer retires

    The general secretary of the State Bank of India Officer's Association, Mumbai circle,R D Shendurnikar, retired on Monday, August 31, after serving the bank for 40 years and four months. Shendurnikar worked with the Officer's Association for the last 30 years and has worked on numerous social projects for the members. Some of these are Association's Guest Houses at Panchgani and Amboli, the employees' Credit Society and Educational Trust for Schools at Aurangabad and Nerul.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI,SEPT 1: A businessman who was served a bill for a telephone he didn't possess in the first place has been given a breather by the consumer courts. The Mumbai Suburban District Consumer Forum, in a recent judgement, has ruled that the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd can recover dues only from the actual subscriber.

    In 1991, B R Mistry purchased a flat in Vile Parle, which had a phone connection (6129200) left behind by the previous owner. Mistry was assured that the phone would be transferred soon, but as that did not happen, he got his own phone (6133290). In May 1993, Mistry was served a bill of Rs 39,717 on the previous owner's phone. MTNL said since it had been unable to trace the original owner, Mistry would have to pay the charges for the phone, which was in his custody. He said the phone had been dead during the period of billing. When he complained to MTNL, he was told that his connection would be cut if he didn't pay up. He was asked to pay in 10 installments.

    When Mistry failed to cough upthe first installment, his telephone was disconnected on March 24, 1995. He then paid the first installment of Rs 4,375 on March 30, and his connection was restored that very day. Mistry, with the help of consumer activist Kirit P Doshi, filed a complaint. The MTNL argued that Mistry had at some point used the owner's telephone, and said they had never threatened to disconnect his phone.

    The court ruled that ``for non-payment of a bill for a phone in the name of someone else, a phone standing in the name of the subscriber cannot be disconnected.'' The court also directed MTNL to pay back the installment amount of Rs 4,375 and also Rs 100 to meet the legal expenses incurred by the complainant. However, the court refused to grant Mistry damages as he owned up to using the phone to make local calls.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, September 1: The Mumbra police arrested three men in connection with the shootout at Kismat Colony, Mumbra, on Monday afternoon.

    Shaukat Khilji, Mohammed Arab and Abdul Tahir, all cable operators, were picked up from the Pydhonie area in south Mumbai. The trio had started a new cable business with Umar Bangdiwala by the name of Eagle Satellite. Before starting their business, Bangdiwala had raised a loan of Rs 20 lakh from the bank. In between there was some dispute between the four partners. Later, they separated and distributed the area cable network in Pydhonie area. The threesome got into frequent quarrels after Bangdiwala insisted that Rs 20 lakh he had given as loan be repaid by them. The police claimed that it was because of this fight that Bangdiwala and his companion Parvez Ansari were shot dead. The police claimed that the killing was executed by Arif Jafar alias Kaliya at the instance of the trio.

    While Arif Jafar is still at large, the police have no clue on the motive behind thekilling of Parvez Ansari.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, September 1: The Bombay High Court has, in an interim order, directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) or the state government to take over the management of Govandi's Dynansampada High School and hand it over to the association of teachers, after the Chhatrapati Shivaji Education Society, which manages the school, expressed its inability to run the school and pay salaries to its teachers due to financial difficulties.

    The next hearing of the case is scheduled for tomorrow. The trustees, in their plea, claimed they lacked funds to pay the teaching and non-teaching staff of the pre-primary and primary sections. The school's secondary section is funded by a state government grant. The Dynansampada school is situated in the Shivajinagar area of Govandi, and its students mostly comprise slum children. The trustees' petition has been clubbed with that of the teachers, which was filed in January. The teachers say they've been paid less than half the BMC scales and also forced to sign receiptsshowing they had received salaries in keeping with the scales. For at least five months in 1994, they were denied their salaries. In 1995-96, they received 75 per cent of the BMC scales; between June 1996 and January 1997, they got 50 per cent, and since then, they've received a mere 40 per cent of the scales. Ten of the 22 primary teaching and non-teaching staff refused to collect their salaries all through 1997 as a mark of protest.

    The trust had, in 1995, urged BMC to give it grants, but BMC refused, saying the school didn't meet its criteria. The school didn't have a Building Completion Certificate, essential to get a grant. In June this year, the trustees filed a plea challenging BMC's refusal and explaining the financial crunch the school faced as it couldn't even hike fees beyond a certain level because it catered to slum children. The teachers, on their part, had approached the Mumbai Khazgi Prathamik Shikshak Shikshaketar Karmachari Sangh in 1997. The union, representing primary school teachers inMumbai, advised them to seek legal intervention, said the union's vice-president, S R Khopkar. The teachers filed a case in HC in January 1998.

    In an interim order in February and another in April, the court ordered the management to pay teachers for the first four months of 1998, this time according to BMC's scales. But parents of students say the trust shouldn't have any difficulty in running the school, given the ``donations'' sought at the time of admission. A trustee, Shankar P Shedge, maintains that the school has never accepted donations. The school raised the fees for its primary section in June 1997 from Rs 60 to Rs 70, and in June 1998 to Rs 100. During the same period, the fee for the pre-primary section was raised from Rs 70 to Rs 150. In June 1998, the parents united under the banner of the Palak Kruti Samiti to protest the fee hike. The Samiti has, with the help of an NGO Apnalaya, since made representations to the state education department and the mayor, but their pleas have been ignored.Siraj Momin, an Apnalaya worker, said the trustees were quick to hike fees, but they haven't bothered to maintain the school premises. Shedge admitted the trust is in dire straits, and that teachers were paid only a percentage of their salaries. ``But if we don't hike fees, how will we meet the expenditure?'' he asked.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sept 1: Renu and Tikamdas Ahuja have been locked in battle over property at Ulhasnagar's barracks for 15 long years. Now the plot thickens, with the feisty lady also slapping a civil suit against the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC), charging the civic body in its erstwhile form as a municipal council with allowing a building to be constructed on land which is rightfully hers.

    In a special civil suit against the UMC, Renu has charged the corporation and a junior engineer in the erstwhile council with permitting a promoter Devandas Chugh to construct a building, Sai Kripa Apartments, on barrack No 190 at Camp 1, after demolishing rooms 1, 2, 3 and 4 without her permission. She has also claimed Rs 21 lakh as compensation.

    Renu alleges that V D Gosavi, then a junior engineer in the Town Planning Department, sanctioned the construction after her husband submitted an affidavit relinquishing ownership of all four rooms. Renu, however, points out that the title deeds of the property indicate thatrooms 1 and 2 stand in her name while her husband owned the other two.

    ``This was done in spite of the fact that my husband, with whom I have differences, owns only rooms 3 and 4,'' she told Express Newsline.

    She and her husband have long-standing differences, she says, explaining: ``I work as nurse with the Central Railway and my husband and I clashed over my decision not to quit my job despite being posted at the CR hospital in Byculla. Though we have reconciled, he has also been sent a legal notice besides the 12 other tenants in the building.''

    Despite their differences, the Ahujas share a flat in Sai Kripa Apartments, which was constructed in 1981-83 when the civic body was still a municipal council. Its status was upgraded to a corporation in October 1996.

    Questioning Gosavi's intentions, Renu points out: ``I had not given permission for the construction. Nor have I given my husband power of attorney. How then could a commencement certificate (dated March 30, 1981) have been issued forrooms 1 and 2?''

    In her suit, she also asks how a junior engineer could sanction permission for construction without consulting higher authorities.

    Located off a busy lane which approaches the Sadhu Bela School in Camp 1, the four-storey building is located on a plot admeasuring 427 sq mt. It comprises 12 flats and seven shops. Real estate agents peg the property's current market value at Rs 25 lakh, says Renu.

    But how has the UMC reacted to the litigation? Save for issuing Gosavi a show cause notice, it has precious little. Confirming that he has received the notice, Gosavi told Express Newsline, ``I acted on the basis of the affidavit provided by Tikamdas Ahuja,'' asking whether (Tikamdas) Ahuja would be willing to take responsibility for trying to ``mislead'' the civic body through a ``wrong affidavit''.

    He also alleges that the Ahujas are trying to ``make money out of a small error'' on his part, adding that the marital discord is a mere smokescreen. ``Otherwise, why would she have given up herquarters provided by the railways and choose to live with her husband,'' he asks.

    Tikamdas, however, maintains that he has differences with his wife. ``We have still not been able to reconcile on issues like this property matter,'' he says, refusing to explain why it took so long for the couple to initiate action against Gosavi. Adds Renu: ``We kept trying to get the administration and the councillors/corporators to do something but had to finally approach the court when everything else failed.''

    UMC Commissioner A D Kale says the law will take its own course, adding, ``I cannot make any remarks without apprising myself of the details of the case.''

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sept 1: No loudspeakers belching out discordant tunes, no blinding lights, no overenthusiastic crowds. Only a 106-year-old attempt to get as close as possible to Lokmanya Tilak's original aims.

    The Keshavji Naik Chawls at Girgaum, where the Sarvajanik Ganpati celebrations began in 1893, simply refuse to end their romance with tradition. At these chawls, unlike in other parts of the city, even youngsters shun the song and dance of shimmering Venuses and Adonises on the streets, and instead, embrace traditional modes of worship. ``The idol is brought to our chawls in a palkhi which was made in 1935,'' said mandal president, Vinay Rahatekar. ``The aagamana procession, during which all chawl residents walk barefoot, takes place to the tune of tasha and lezim.

    When the palkhi reaches the chawls' entrance, the Lord is welcomed by womenfolk dressed in traditional Marathi attire. Fifty women stand on either side of the entrance to perform the pancharati, and then the idol is installed andconsecrated.''

    The programmes organised by the mandal over the next ten days, too, keep it from becoming an accredited member of the modern festival marketplace. ``Religious pravachanas are held on the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Bhaktisutras. Then there are kirtans (religious songs) based on stories from Puranas, the mantrajagara, recitation of Vedic and religious verses, and the sahastravartanas, verses glorifying Lord Ganesh, on all ten days,'' informed Rahatekar.

    The mandal, though, doesn't just make for a calcified relic of a spiritual past, but also addresses itself to the problems of the day. ``For the last five years, a lecture series called Lokmanya Vyakhyanmala has been organised by us to discuss pressing issues,'' says a mandal member Vinod Satpute, adding, ``Debates are also held on local problems every year. This time, we have a special programme on Mumbai, Mumbai Mazhi Ladki, and an interview with Everest veer Surendra Chavan.''

    The immersion procession here is also unique. In addition tothe singing of bhajans, the pushpavrushti (showering of flowers) on the Lord seated in the palanquin takes place all the way through the narrow bylanes of Girgaum to the Chowpatty sands. Among those who have delivered lectures here and participated in the annual debates are Veer Savarkar, N C Kelkar, Barrister Jamnadas Mehta, Senapati Bapat, historian Setu Madhavrao Pagadi, and recently, Bal Thackeray, Murli Manohar Joshi and L K Advani. And stalwarts like Comrade S A Dange, Prabodhankar Thackeray and S M Joshi have at some point of time in their lives been residents of this cluster of six chawls.

    Concurred 22-year-old Mandar Kulkarni: ``This discipline and this way of organising things is the need of the hour. The other day, we organised a lecture in which the speaker initially entertained us with dollops of humour from the treasure-house of Acharya Atre. By the time he ended his speech, he had set us thinking on the state of the nation and the need for us youth to do something about it. Can a programme bemore relevant and apt?'' His 67-year-old father, Ramesh, who's lived here all his life, added; ``It's our tradition that sets us apart, and we're proud of it. Such a tradition undergoes the test of carrying high promise and uncertainty in roughly equal measure, but we'd always like to have a celebration commensurate with the wealth of our chawls' spirit.''

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Just beyond this stretch of road there ahead lies the station... from the station leaves the train leading to the city

    There, with the crowd will I merge
    And till dusk there's no fear
    No need to go in search of myself
    near the sea shore
    over the road...
    The crowds, the smell of sweat, the noise and dust of Mumbai are like oxygen for poet Saumitra. And his poems make that evident. He writes with simplicity about already-known facts -- but he is able to put words to things one can only feel. And with those same words, he changes his entire persona. Right before your eyes to become Kishore Kadam, the actor. Or Harilal in Gandhi Virrudh Gandhi. Or Ambedkar in Gandhi and Ambedkar.

    And after a while it is difficult to separate the actor from the poet. "Why let people know that the same man is doing badly in two fields?" grins Kadam. More simply, the fact is that he hates his name. "I wonder why my parents called me `Kishore'," he says. Instead he chose Saumitra, as hismother's name is Sumitra and "Sumitra's son is Saumitra". Writing for the last 15 years, his poems have been published in various magazines. Now his collection of poetry is due to be published by Granthali publication. And Kadam knows that he can't hide anymore.

    Born and brought up in Bandra, Kadam's first poem was inspired by an unknown singer who used to practise in a temple, close to his house. One day, the singer -- Kadam still knows nothing about him -- gave the young listener a metre and asked him to write a poem. Kadam penned a verse and the singer used that for his next riyaz. "I don't know what I used to write, what it meant, but the fact that people read my poems was unique in itself," says Kadam.

    Not any more. Today, he has written over a 100 poems, reflecting a range of experience. There are poems on Vincent Van Gogh's paintings which he penned after reading Lust For Life. On theatre -- which came to him while waiting in the wings. "Here I am looking at Seema Biswas's face (GandhiVirrudh Gandhi) going through the act while my mind is reciting a poem," says Kadam. And on cinema -- when he worked as an assistant director and actor, in films like Antarnad and Mammo with Shyam Benegal. Kadam has also worked with Amol Palekar in Bangarwadi and Sudhir Mishra in Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin.

    And then there's a series of poems on Mumbai, and the eternal search for one's identity. "If I am working for 15 days at a stretch, then on the one day off, I love going to the city. I spend hours on the pavement going through books, hours at the Jehangir Art Gallery staring at paintings, which I don't understand but I like looking. And then I like to watch a movie," he says. But what he loves most is getting into trains and walking on platforms. That is what also takes most of the space in his poetry.

    A lyricist for Marathi cinema, he recently released his first Marathi music album, Gaarwa, sung by Milind Ingle. Awaiting the release of his book (as yet untitled),Kadam still feels he is not taking his poetry seriously. "I don't think I am concentrating. If I concentrate then I might end up writing bad poems," he says.

    Kishore Kadam will read out his poetry at the Little Theatre, NCPA. On September 3, 1998. Time: 6.30 pm.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Reena Saini's works are thoughts strung over two galleries -- Pundole and Chemould which are jointly hosting her first solo show. Twenty-five now, she graduated two years ago from the J J School of Art and has been working on her own since. Reena, who has never designated dimensions to her art -- "didn't consciously decide to do 3D work after 2D" -- has added an intangible penumbra of contemplation to her mixed media constructions which comprise the show.

    Called Orchards of Homegrown Secrets, a name which evokes mystery, mazes and intrigue, this extra dimension to the show is because her works give shape to musings which run like a subterranean spring in the overt stream of urban living. Trickles of thought which are pushed to the back of the mind because they interfere with the business of living. And traitorous because they slip in through the staccato of city life to reveal just how transient the carnivorous consumerist culture is. So balloons reaching for the sky with house, car, planespainted inside them reoccur in her exhibited works.

    "Balloons are fragile so putting these aspirational things inside them is a way of putting across how ephemeral are the objects we most chase," she says. And a painting with a grabbing fist locked inside a narrow-mouthed bottle which contains colourful items -- jewels perhaps -- restates the idea. The central thought to her work though, is growth, as the title of the show reflects. And it is portrayed best by her construction titled `Joint Family', which is a large house built of acrylic, corrugated paper, metal and stone. Among the meanings it is imbued with, the house is an ironic statement on the much-hyped evolution of the global village at a time when joint families are splitting into nuclear ones and individuals are careening off their own paths like stray electrons. But the home is also a green house for her, a place of germination where life carries life and individual legacies and histories are written, only to be overwritten. The birth andgrowth is symbolised by a pair of copulating cement serpents on the house floor, the Hindu motif of fertility. And the huge leaves painted on the blue-green exterior, reminiscent of Jack's beanstalk, is the family tree climbing the walls of the family house. Each leaf is spiralling upwards, like ambitions and desires which push people out of the nest. But inside these leaves are painted objects of desires and figures. "Because usually, what we most want can be found inside ourselves," says Reena.

    The house also has a huge clockwork key on one side which denotes the sense of external control in our lives, "There is a feeling that things are programmed to work in a certain order. Even though that is the natural order, it is as if we are puppets of something," she says. But opposite to the key, is the keyhole in the transparent belly of the fiberglass fish whose insides contain a smaller fish. A repetition of life carrying life and how most answers we seek outside are sealed inside us.

    And juxtaposed tothe vague fear of external control is the realisation that life is after all a wild card which can turn out to be anything. One installation is a series of house of cards made from a deck of 26. The cards of each house, made from thick paper by Reena, have painted images of hands holding each other in various ways. "It is on how life is about building and collapsing and building again. And then of course, the cards signify that all of it just a gamble, after all," she laughs.

    The interconnectivity of themes in Reena's works is very apparent but it does not make them repetitive, only more fluid and lucid like completing a circle of thought. She says there is distance between her and her works in the sense that they are not autobiographical. "People ask me whether I have studied Hindu mythology. I have not. But living in India, of course I have picked up some symbols and some thoughts. Though my work talks about materialism I am just like any other person. I am not very materialistic but neither am I anascetic," she says.

    Gallery Chemould, (1st floor, Jehangir Art Gallery,) and at Pundole Art Gallery (D N Road). Till September 9, 1997. Time: 10.30 am to 6.30 pm.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. In the past year and a half, 16 plays have been read at Theatre Positive. That is, at 8.00 pm, on the first Monday of every month at Prithvi Theatre. And -- of the 16 (unpublished and unperformed) plays -- four plays have had full-fledged productions. These are: Premanand Gajvi's Gandhi-Ambedkar, G P Deshpande's Shevtacha Dees, Sayaji Shinde's Tumbara, and now Satyadev Dubey's Insha Allah.

    That's not all. A couple of plays (which have been read at Theatre Positive) are also scheduled to open in the near future.

    It all began... in April 1997. A month after a gruelling three-day play-reading festival of Indian English Plays during which four full-length and four one-acts were read. Since then, Sanjna Kapoor and Prithvi Theatre have been very keen that the theme should continue -- the playwright be placed under the spotlight and be provided a forum.

    What is Theatre Positive? The expression has been coined by a highly-rated academician and intellectual in Malayalam literarycircles, TMP Nedungadi (alias Nadir Shah). Once during an abysmal production of a Habib Tanvir play at Ravindra Natya Mandir, a few of us were whispering, sniggering and shifting our weight. Nedungadi silenced us. He ordered all of us, whose "blood group was not Theatre Positive to leave the auditorium".

    The idea with Theatre Positive... is to tap, a playwright for a script (preferably unperformed and unpublished, in any Indian language) and then hand it over to a director, who in turn has to organise a reading. These readings are open to the public and there is no entry fee. Post-reading, there is a discussion in which the audience interacts with the playwright, director and actors.

    But there will always be criticism .... Satyadev Dubey (who read his Inshallah in December) feels Theatre Positive is excessively rule-bound. It's a valid argument. Because we would like to read all the 30-plus scripts that have been sent to us. Also, ideally, one aspires that the selection of plays and their readingto be more free-wheeling and genuinely anarchic. But to achieve this Theatre Positive will require time.

    The achievement of Theatre Positive... To start with: it has survived a year. But the readings have fertilised into positive gains. For eg, there have been four productions. Also, of the 16 readings, we have witnessed two exceptional playscripts. These are: Sayaji Shinde's Tumbara, which was subsequently directed by Sunil Shanbag. And an excellent translation of Satish Alekar's Begum Barve into Gujarati by Chandrakant Shah. This translation (aptly titled Opera), magically recreated the entire Bangwadi tradition.

    Then, there is the living truth of the audience who have been trickling in. This audience has an unusual demographic mix which ranges from Juhu and Matunga to Thane and Nalasopara. They are well-informed and have high expectations from the reading.

    Is It Enough? This is a relevant question, which has developed on that bleak datum: Much ado about nothing. For one, readingshave existed in the past. If one looks back -- PEN (courtesy Nissim Ezekiel); and the formal readings organised by Vijay Tendulkar and Awishkar can take credit for sowing the early seeds. Even today, there is a definite trend towards play-reading.There is Nehru Centre's Samvaad (on the third Friday of the month). Then there is Chauraha at the NCPA, and Awishkar's readings (on the last Monday of the month) which is organised by Chetan Datar. However, today, the question is, what is the future. Because, as Girish Desai (who will be, shortly, organising readings of K M Munshi at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan) points out: "So far, these readings have excluded all those who don't belong."

    And this is worrying. It's a chastening experience to realise that one's ideas are not upto the real thing. That these ideas are limited since one sees very little of it in real performance with actors and productions. Play readings have to be made relevant. To achieve this, a network of readings will have to grow out of theBrahminical environment. They will have to be read at schools, colleges, building-terraces, drawing rooms, etc. It's the only way to beat the system. And the theatre of star-hierarchy and the box-office. Yes, there's a lot of work still to be done. But things should be easier if your blood group is Theatre Positive.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Wither India Inc?

    Returned to Mumbai last fortnight, to the sad news of the untimely death of two of the icons of my youth -- Protima Bedi and Persis Khambata. How many hours one had spent admiring their irreverent exploits, vicariously basking in their anti-establishment stances, lapping up their uproarious quotes, subconsciously taking from their public personas their glittery joie de vivre and making it a part of our own. They were the epitome of a culture in transition, children of a post-colonial India that lived in a subcontinent where it was hip to be western yet scorned for that very brashness. A cultural chaos that was masterfully exploited by the Nari Hiras of this world and gave rise to Shobha De-isms that in time has become the media-led society that we resentfully dwell in.

    Persis's bald pate and Protima's streak down the beach were the purity of action that has propelled those of us less idealistic to scavenger round their carcass of hope. How ironic that Sushma Swaraj chose this veryjuncture to announce a ban on the right of an individual to make a personal phone call to sex lines overseas. Her assertion that these phone sex lines were a cultural invasion of India Inc and that the STD phone bills were a drain on the exchequer are as laughable and despicable as this twisted sister's other general utterances. If the Government of India's employees are running up huge bills on these phone lines why can't this lady insist on an STD lock on these phones instead of interfering in our right as individuals to make a call overseas. Be warned, dear reader, this lady's actions are far more sinister than the sin she claims to be exorcising.

    Flower Child

    Not one to sit idle is Poonam Bhagat, friend, socialite, irreverent gossip, and now floral arrangement specialist. Eight times a year la Bhagat heads off to the West to seek masters in various skills to whet her latest passions. In the past, she has studied the art of paint finishes, art appreciation, furniture design, etc. This year,under the watchful eye of Ken Turner (not to be mistaken for Ted Turner) she has returned to create some of the most fabulous floral sculptures, seen this side of the Suez. These compliment her other skills and in her magnificent home at Pali Hill her craft vies for attention amongst the other works of collected art (Husains, Anjolie Ela Menons, Gujrals, Vaikunthams and a must for every home -- Badri Narayan). Turner, whose work is the toast of New York, London, and Tokyo found Poonam to possess a keen eye and deft touch. Reluctant to commercialise her artistic ability Poonam is none the less open to sharing her knowledge with like-minded Mumbaikars.

    Set it right

    News on the block is that Lilette Dubey is preparing the groundwork for her new play scheduled to open end of the year. The play has been commissioned by her team and is penned by the noted writer Mahesh Dattani of Bangalore. Dattani's work is always interesting and rivetting and he is one of the few Indian playwrights to tacklesubjects and characters that are three-dimensional. This new play deals with gender identity and sexual exploration, subjects that have finally gained mainstream societal acceptance. Also working on this production is Delhi-based production designer Sumant Jayakrishnan who is a fascinating talent. His sets and bold artistic design for Jaya (the rock version of Mahabharata) were the best input in an ambitious but shaky production. Winner of several awards and grants, Sumant's work has travelled to South Africa recently, and Paris, New York and London before. Sumant is also an installation artist and actor. He plans to bring all his skills together in the coming months as he contemplates several offers, including one from film-maker Govind Nihalani, whose next feature film project he might design the sets for. Sumant is also one of an evolving breed of artists who have no real geographical base but can be easily contacted in their virtual home on the internet via email: sumantjk@hotmail.com.

    Musical mavericks

    The MTV-organised `War of the DJs' contest was a phenomenal success and proved that the music business in India has come of age. DJs are artists who mix recorded music with additional sampled music and sound tracks to create an enhanced spatial feel. These artists have so far been undervalued in India and with the non-existent radio scene and lack of clubs where DJs can create their own brand of sound, it is encouraging to see that these musically-inclined mavericks have persevered with their interests. MTV has continued to break new ground in India and also souped-up its public profile, a large part of that due the energetic efforts of Rupali Wadhi who drives their communications department.

    Riyad Wadia is an avant garde film-maker

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New York, Sep 1: Nearly three trillion dollars, representing the equivalent of Germany's economy, have gone up in smoke on Wall Street in the last five weeks, estimates from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq said.

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) tumbled 512.61 points (6.36 per cent) to 7,539.07 last night, erasing gains for the year and falling to its lowest level since last November.

    For the 30 Dow stocks, the losses amounted to $2.24 trillion since July 17, when the index hit a record high of 9,337.97 points.

    On the Nasdaq, dominated by high-tech stocks, the losses amounted to $588 billion since its record high set on July 20.

    The Nasdaq composite, off 20 per cent since its record, suffered its worst point drop ever -- 140.43 points or 8.56 per cent -- bringing it to its lowest level since July last year.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Beijing, Sept 1: Chinese president Jiang Zemin on Tuesday called upon Japan to "do what it should" to help beleaguered Asia shake off its economic crisis, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

    Jiang told visiting former Japanese prime minister HidekiKaifu that China was doing its part for the region and urged Japan to do likewise, the agency said.

    "With an overall view towards stabilising the regional economy, China is firmly maintaining its policy of not devaluing the yuan," Jiang was quoted as saying.

    "We hope that Japan will do what it should to contribute to the resolution of the region's economic difficulties."

    Jiang told Kaifu China was confident it could overcome this summer's devastating floods and achieve its economic growth target of 8.0 per cent for this year.

    Kaifu, Japan's prime minister from 1989-91, expressed understanding for Jiang's decision to postpone this month's planned Japan visit to cope with the floods, Xinhua said.

    China has seldom missed an opportunity this year tourge Japan to get its economic house in order and keep the yen from weakening in order to help Asia recover from its economic crisis.

    A steep fall in the yen would make it difficult for China to maintain the stability of its currency, Chinese officials have warned.

    Beijing has touted its no-devaluation policy as a sign it is willing to play a leadership role in Asia by sacrificing the interests of its export sector for the sake of regional recovery and stability.

    Many economists say there is no significant link between the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan and argue that avoiding a devaluation is entirely in China's interest.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New York, Sept 1: The bedeviling array of credit card offerings and long-distance promotions promising points for free airline tickets is getting more complicated.

    Come Tuesday, Delta Air Lines and UAL Corp's United Airlines will link their frequent flier programmes, the latest partnership among the wave of alliances being formed by the nation's biggest airlines.

    While the airlines say the programmes are creating a new world of air travel, some consumer groups say they are creating confusion and believe passengers could have a harder time redeeming mileage points.

    ``The biggest problem is going to be many, many more people chasing limited inventory,'' said president Kevin Mitchell of Business Travel Coalition, a group representing small business travellers.

    Existing frequent flier programmes, which were pioneered in the early 1980s by AMR Corp's American Airlines, allow passengers opportunities to earn free tickets by racking up points for travel on a particular airline.

    The partnerships beingformed expand the programmes. The Delta-United partnership will allow Delta passengers to accrue points from flights they take on United, and vice-versa.

    American and US Airways, which have been phasing in their link-up since August 1, are letting passengers combine miles to redeem travel on either airline.

    Airlines say their new partnerships make it easier for passengers to earn points and increases the places where they can fly onward miles by giving them access to a partner's destinations.

    ``Our members actually have over 95 new paces to go to,'' said vice-president Martin White of marketing programmes and services at US Airways.

    He said American passengers will have a better chance of redeeming awards for travel in Florida and Europe, and US Airways passengers will have a shot at places American flies, such as Hawaii, Japan and South America.

    Not so fast, consumer groups contend.

    They say linked programmes could increase the number of people competing for choice destinations, such as Hawaii,and that the benefits of new destinations are not as generous as the airlines are promoting.

    ``Boise, Idaho, which is served by United, is not going to be that exciting for people in Delta's new programme,'' said publisher Randy Petersen of Inside Flyer Magazine.

    They also say there could be long-term pitfalls, including the possibility that airlines will raise the number of points required for free tickets as they try to manage a ballooning number passengers trying to redeem bonus travel.

    ``In reality the airlines control the usage of frequent flier miles, as anybody who's tried to get a ticket knows,'' said, an airline analyst Thomas Longman with Arnold S Bleichroeder.

    While the programmes could make it easier to earn frequent flier miles, Longman said, airlines could make the miles harder to use as more passengers try to redeem their miles under increasingly complicated rules.

    President Bruce Chemel of American Airlines' Advantage marketing division, said airlines have a financial incentive tomake the programmes accessible.

    He said American, whose 33 million frequent flier members give it the biggest award programme, has 2,500 partners who buy mileage points from American to use as marketing tools to attract customers in their own promotions.

    This doesn't even include the airline's biggest partners, such as long-distance phone and credit card companies.

    Although American Airlines declined to comment on how much it earns by selling points to third parties, Petersen estimates the airline earned as much as $500 million from selling mileage points to outside parties last year.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Shanghai, Sept 1: China's listed companies showed weak results in the first half of the year as 44 per cent of the more than 800 firms reported lower profits, or even losses, the Shanghai Securities News said on Monday.

    Winding up the corporate reporting period, six firms, including China Eastern Airlines Co and Shanghai Chlor Alkali Chemical Co showed their first net losses.

    Most of the companies listed on the Shanghai or Shenzhen stock exchanges blamed problems on the weak domestic economy which has so far showed growth of less than the targeted level of 8.0 per cent.

    The economy grew at a year-on-year 7.0 per cent during the first half though Beijing is spending heavily on infrastructure projects in the second half to help kick-start the economy.

    Weak exports to Southeast Asia and competition from regional export rivals, benefiting from sharply reduced currencies, were also among the factors accounting for the poorer results.

    Other currency-related problems, such as a reduced number of travellersfrom Asian countries, also affected some listed companies.

    The weak results also highlighted poor management of some listed companies which were unable to adapt to outside challenges, the newspaper said.

    China Eastern had a 360.365 million yuan loss in the first half compared with a net profit of 126.207 million yuan in the same period last year under domestic accounting rules.

    Its loss was 33.2 million yuan under international accounting practices, and depreciation was a key reason for the big difference, company officials said.

    Chlor Alkali, a company with hard currency B shares, had net losses of 71.669 million yuan in the first half against a net profit of 117.740 million yuan last year.

    Other major companies reporting sharp falls in net profits included Sichuan Changhong Electric Co, China's top colour television maker, as its earnings fell more than 30 per cent year-on-year.

    The weighted average earnings of listed firms on the two exchanges fell by a year-on-year 19.23 per cent, thenewspaper said.

    Listed companies posted weighted average earnings of 0.105 ($0.01268) per share for the first half against 0.130 yuan in the same period last year, the newspaper said.

    Seven companies posted net losses for two- and- a- half years and would be de-listed if they could not reverse losses in the second half of this year as called for under China's securities rules, the newspaper said.

    Among them were Shanghai-listed SAIC Multiple Trading Co, department store Northeast Hualian Co and Anshan No 1 Construction Machinery Co, the newspaper said. All have A shares for domestic investors.

    The others were Shenzhen-listed Chongqing Yugang Tioxide Co, Changsha Zhongyi Electrical Appliances Co, China Shenyang Goods & Materials Group Co and property firm Shenyang Fangtian Co, it said.

    The fastest growing firm was Shanghai-listed COSCO Development, a real estate firm, whose net profits surged to 67.23 million yuan in the first half from 890,000 yuan in the same period of last year, the newspapersaid.

    The next fastest rise was by Chengdu Engine Fittings Co listed in Shenzhen, whose net rose to 24.87 million yuan from 400,000 million yuan, it said.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Kuala Lumpur, Sept 1: Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the announcement of exchange controls today meant that the Malaysian currency would be worthless outside the country.

    Speaking on national television after the new controls were announced, Mahathir said the government had decided that there would be `` no value attached to the Malaysian ringgit outside of Malaysia.''

    Malaysia's central bank earlier today announced a raft of new foreign exchange controls to stabilise currency rates and ``insulate'' the domestic economy from adverse global developments.

    The announcement, made two hours ahead of a national television address by prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, followed the sudden resignations of the central bank governor and his deputy on Friday.

    ``The over-riding objective of the new measures is to regain monetary independence and insulate the Malaysian economy from the prospects of further deterioration in the world economy and financial environment,'' Bank Negara Malaysia said in a three-pagestatement.

    Bank Negara said the new foreign exchange controls took immediate effect and covered external accounts, authorised depository institutions, trade settlements and currency held by travellers.

    For external accounts, central bank approval will now be required for transfers between accounts and for transfers to resident accounts after September 30. Except for purchases of ringgit assets, approval is also required to withdraw ringgit from external accounts.

    Authorised depository institutions alone will be allowed to buy and sell ringgit financial assets and all settlements of exports and imports will have to be made in foreign currency, the central bank said.

    As for travellers, the amount of currency they bring into or take out of the country will be limited to 1,000 ringgit (244 dollars).

    Resident travellers will be allowed to take out 10,000 ringgit but non-resident travellers will only be allowed to take out the equivalent of what they brought into the country.

    Malaysia must be ``adequately prepared to minimise the impact of a possible global economic crisis and a breakdown in the international financial system,'' the central bank said justifying the controls.

    `` The experience of other countries has shown that those which instituted measures to insulate themselves from external developments were in a better position to meet the challenges of adverse global developments,'' it added.

    The bank said the controls were imposed to limit the contagion effects of external developments, preserve recent gains in policy measures and ensure currency and stability to revive investor and consumer confidence.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Beijing, Sept 1: China is negotiating a purchase of over 20 SU-30 multirole fighters from Russia and the two countries have decided to further military cooperation, a leading defence publication has reported.

    China and Russia have signed a memorandum of understanding to start formal negotiations on the proposed purchase of more than 20 SU-30 two seat multirole fighters and a contract is expected to be agreed by early next year, Jane's Defence Weekly reported here.

    However, with China repeatedly refusing to buy weapons without subsequent transfer of technology, Russia may also transfer the SU-30 production technology to it, it said.

    With this deal, ``the Russian-Chinese military-technical cooperation will get a new impetus,'' deputy chief of the general staff Valery Manilov said here after the recent visit of a Russian military delegation to China.

    The cooperation agreement also covers training of Chinese military personnel in Russian defence establishments, Manilov added.

    During the lastthree years, Russia has earned at least one billion US dollars annually from arms sales to China's People's Liberation Army (PLA).

    Combat aircraft and air defence systems account for over 70 per cent of Russia's total arms exports to China, making the preservation of the Chinese market vital to Russia's struggling defence industry.

    Following the purchase of 46 SU-27SK single-seat and four SU-27UBK fighters in early 1990s, China has a 15-year licence to manufacture 200 fighters within the country.

    However, the contract does not give china right to export the fighters to a third-party country.

    One of the main problems which could hamper further cooperation is Russia's export restrictions on weapons which have not yet entered the Russian service sector, the weekly said.

    At least 100 joint defence projects already exist between Russia and China, the most numerous being the programmes on adapting Russian systems to Chinese requirements.

    Beijing is keen to add to four to six s-300 PMU1 air defencemissile system delivered in 1995, and the 15 TOR-M1 air defence missile system purchased last year, the report said, adding China has expressed its interest in acquiring the Tunguska-M1 air defence gun-and-missile system.

    Under a current 500 million US dollar programme, China has become the first country to purchase the Russian project 636 submarine, with a second vessel due for delivery by the end of the year, the weekly reported.

    It will receive two class 956 destroyers, armed with Moskit anti-ship missile before 2001 in a 800 million US dollars deal.

    President Jiang Zemin was scheduled to visit Moscow early this month for an informal summit with Russian president Boris Yeltsin but the summit has been postponed due to the devastating floods that gripped the nation last month.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Tokyo, Sept 1: Warnings by Japanese monetary authorities that failure of the Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan (LTCB) could rack global financial markets by forcing it to default on massive positions in derivatives are unjustified, bankers said on Tuesday.

    LTCB president Katsunobu Ohnogi told a parliamentary banking panel on Monday that the notional amount of LTCB's derivatives trade was around 40 trillion yen ($287 billion).

    He echoed government warnings, saying that if the bank failed its impact on financial markets could be enormous.

    Bankers said, however, they saw little problem in settling LTCB's outstanding derivatives, let alone them causing global turmoil in financial markets.

    "It's disappointing to see that the government, even the Bank of Japan (BOJ), has to sell an unrealistic scenario to the public," a senior fund manager at a major Japanese bank said.

    The government has insisted LTCB be saved through a merger with Sumitomo Trust & Banking Co Ltd, facilitation of which would likely requiregovernment use of public funds, which is the part the government is having difficulty persuading many critics to accept.

    Finance minister Kiichi Miyazawa said on Thursday that if LTCB failed it could drive all Japanese banks out of the financial derivatives markets.

    On Tuesday, Miyazawa said LTCB's derivatives positions, unless handled correctly, could in the worst case trigger a global depression.

    BOJ governor Masaru Hayami said last week: "One could easily imagine that a sudden failure of a major bank such as LTCB would cause a very big shock, not only domestically but also overseas." He added that it would be better for a failing major bank to be merged or purchased in the market, rather than for a "bridge bank" to be used.

    The government has proposed a bridge bank system to wind up raised banks while keeping healthy borrowers afloat.

    The first step in the process would be the appointment of a financial administrator, whose initial tasks would include examining the failed bank's Financial assetsand liabilities, and halting its operations. This would mean defaulting on immediate international obligations.

    But bankers argued that even if LTCB went bankrupt and the bridge bank plan took effect, collateral usually demanded by counterparties in derivatives deals would still be legally effective and collectible.

    "Participants in derivatives usually set aside collateral if their positions are making book losses, and that collateral must be high on the list of assets collectible by counterparties of LTCB," said a fund manager at a major Japanese bank. Opposition Democrats have been saying that a default in derivative deals would not happen if a failed bank were nationalised, because it would remain as a corporate entity, which should ease any financial panic.

    Bill Seidman, a key player in resolving the US savings-and-loan crisis and an occasional adviser to the Japanese government, on Monday scoffed at assertions by the government and the BOJ that an LTCB failure would wreak global financialhavoc.

    In the US cases, "we performed on all the derivative contracts because we thought it was essential to the economy, and the cost was borne by the government," he said.

    A former ministry of finance official told Reuters on Tuesday: "I don't see any problem in settling LTCB's derivative positions. We could do that without causing much inconvenience to anybody."

    A European bank trader said: "We saw that some Japanese banks had agreed to cancel interest-rate swap deals with LTCB last week," which meant that the bank's outstanding derivatives were already declining.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Milton launches Puriguard: Milton has entered the Rs 750-crore water purifier segment with the launch of `Milton Puriguard'. The product is targeted at health conscious individuals, executives who travel extensively, school children and housewives. The product range consists of an in-built water purifying cartridge, which ensures that the water passes through a three-stage purifying process. In the first stage, the filter removes the prevailing suspended impurities. The second stage consists of absorbing bad odour, colour and taste, while in the third stage bacteria is killed by using the polyiodide technology. The cartridge lasts for a year and has a unique indicator window, which shows when to change the cartridge. The new range of products are manufactured using the latest polyurethane foam technology, which maintains the temperatures of its stored contents for a long time. Milton Puriguard products are available in a range of soothing colours with an international pearl finish. Produced from foodgrade virgin plastic, these products are non-toxic, odourless and durable. Prices range between Rs 121 and Rs 558.

    Mock Robbery at Shoppers' Stop: In keeping with its tradition of organising fun filled events, Shoppers' Stop brings its bi-annual event, The Great Store Robbery (GSR), which will give customers a chance to purchase goods from the store at rates that are a steal. Having a theme based on Robinhood: the prince of thieves, the GSR started on August 28 and will be on until September 7 and will give customers price-offs ranging from 15 per cent to 40 per cent. These discounts come in the form of Sapphire, Ruby or Emerald tags, each of which offers a particular discount. In addition, there are prizes in the form of gift vouchers for the greatest thief with maximum jewels.

    Narang Industries introduces spirits: Narang Industries has launched two products - Caribay Rum and Continental Whisky in eastern India. The company, which is one of the largest suppliers of rum and whisky to thedefence sector, has invested Rs 12 crore to expand capacities and enhance distribution network for the launch of the brands in the civilian market. The alcohol will be available in 750ml, 375ml and 180ml bottles. Continental is the only whisky which is available in a pint size carry-away PET packaging and is priced at Rs 150 for the 750ml bottle, Rs 75 for 375ml and Rs 40 for 180ml while Caribay Rum is priced at Rs 135, Rs 70 and Rs 35 respectively.

    MTV reaches 9.5 million households: MTV India is reaching 9.5 million households, a growth of 2.6 times over the NRS'97 quoted figure of 3.6 million households. The present reach is 60 per cent higher than MTV's June '97 penetration of six million households.

    Limousine from Parikh Coach Builders: Parikh Coach builders have received the Automotive Research Institute of India's (affiliated to the ministry of industry) approval for India's first 48" stretched Ambassador 1800ISZ limousine. It has also got the road worthiness certificate fromHindustan Motors Ltd, which is recognised by the transport authorities of all the states in the country.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Singapore, Sept 1: Singapore will launch a unique, smart card-based toll system on Tuesday in its latest effort to prevent the traffic jams that choke other Southeast Asian cities.

    Months of testing in every kind of tropical weather preceded the launch of the world's first Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system, at a cost of Singapore $200 million (US$112 million).

    The use of cars is discouraged in the tiny island state, where traffic jams would rapidly overwhelm the public facilities, and Singapore uses a system of tolls and permits to control the number of cars in its streets.

    ERP eliminates the need for motorists to buy a monthly pass to enter the central business district or cruise main highways. Instead, vehicles are fitted with a smart card installed in a device on the dashboard.

    Electronic devices, mounted on gantries above the road, deduct the appropriate charge as the cars pass under them.

    The old pass cost the ordinary motorist S$60 a month or S$2 to S$3 a day, depending on the destinationand timing of the journey. Motorists with no passes faced fines of up to S$70.

    The new system will cost between 10 Singapore cents and S$3 each time an ordinary car enters the business district or moves onto a highway.

    A consortium led by Philips Singapore, a unit of Philips Electronics NV, built the new system to the government's specification, with an accuracy of one error in 100,000 transactions.

    It went into action on two main highways early this month.

    There have been no reports of problems on those roads, but the government had to apologise last week after 1,500 motorists were charged when workers carrying out an overnight test forgot to switch off a gantry.

    For motorists, there's no escape from the ERP.

    Each gantry can read the unique number of every wind screen unit, thusidentifying car and owner, and whether it has a card in it or not. A missing card means a fine of up to S$70.

    The ERP seems likely to be accepted a lot more easily than the old system introduced in 1975. But there is some grumbling, nevertheless.

    One taxi driver pointed to the list of rates varying from 15 Singapore cents to S$1, Which the ERP will charge depending on destination and time of day.

    ``Who's going to be able to remember all that? Still, we'll be passing the charge on to the passenger, so I suppose it doesn't matter much,'' he said.

    Singaporeans have got used to the idea that owning a car is expensive. Besides paying for a car, they must also pay for the licence to own and use it, known as a certificate of entitlement (COE).

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. SKK takes over Notodden power trading: Norwegian local power companies Skiensfjordens Kommunale Kraftselskap (SKK) and Notodden Energi have signed a deal to join power trading operations, SKK said. It said in a statement that the agreement, effective as of August 31, would enable SKK to take control over Notodden's energy trading in the end-consumers market, as Notodden shut down its own trading unit. SKK said customers in Notodden's operation area would be offered the same conditions as SKK clients, meaning Notodden customers will see a cut in the power price of 3.69 oere per kilowatt hour (oere/kWh) to 23.92 oere/kWh. After the deal, SKK will sell around 1,650 gigawatt hours per year to 67,000 end consumers.

    SGIO positive on improved results: Insurer SGIO Insurance Ltd posted an expected net loss of A$11.8 million for 1997-98 on Tuesday, but said the outlook was positive for an improved overall result this year. The net loss, flagged by SGIO last month, included a A$25million pre-taxabnormal expense taken as an additional workers compensation provision in Western Australia. "The continuing outlook for improved overall results is positive due to premium increases and reduced exposure to workers' compensation in the year ahead," SGIO said.

    CDC to buy stake in Tuntex unit Tuntex (Thailand) Plc said it would sell 10 per cent of subsidiary Tuntex Petrochemicals (Thailand) Plc to Taiwan's China Development Corp (CDC) for 886.50 million baht ($21.10 million). In the statement to the Stock Exchange of Thailand, Tuntex said it would sell 49.25 million shares of Tuntex Petrochemicals (Thailand) to the Taiwan firm at 18 baht per share for which payment would be made between September 1-7. Tuntex Petrochemicals is a manufacturer of pureterephthalic acid (PTA) with 4.925 billion baht paid-up capital. After the sales, Tuntex (Thailand) will hold 210.76 million shares or 42.79 per cent of Tuntex Petrochemicals paid up capital, the statement said.

    $3 trillion goes up in smoke on WallStreet: Nearly three trillion dollars, representing the equivalent of Germany's economy, have gone up in smoke on Wall Street in the last five weeks, estimates from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq said. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) tumbled 512.61 points (6.36 per cent) to 7,539.07 last night, erasing gains for the year and falling to its lowest level since last November. For the 30 Dow stocks, the losses amounted to $2.24 trillion since July 17, when the index hit a record high of 9,337.97 points. On the Nasdaq, dominated by high-tech stocks, the losses amounted to $588 billion since its record high set on July 20. The Nasdaq composite, off 20 per cent since its record, suffered its worst point drop ever -- 140.43 points or 8.56 per cent -- bringing it to its lowest level since July last year.Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Kuala Lumpur, Sept 1: Malaysia slapped controls on currency trade on Tuesday to shield the battered ringgit against global instability and speculators, long blamed by prime minister Mahathir Mohamad for Asia's financial woes.

    The central bank, Bank Negara, said the controls would insulate Malaysia's recession-hit economy from the global financial "crisis", allowing cuts in interest rates without affecting the business of traders and investors.

    "The overriding objective of the new measures is to regain monetary independence and insulate the Malaysian economy from the prospects of further deterioration in the world economic and Financial environment," Bank Negara said in a statement.

    "In the process, the nation would be adequately prepared to minimise the impact of a possible global economic crisis and a breakdown in the international financial system."

    The range of measures threw the foreign exchange market into confusion but the ringgit strengthened dramatically, rising to about four per US dollar at0614 GMT from 4.18 late on Monday.

    Mahathir, who has repeatedly pointed a finger of blame at speculators for Asia's troubles, was set to take questions from a panel of three interviewers over nationwide television at 3 P.M. (0700 GMT).

    The central bank said the measures would affect some types of short-term capital flows but current account transactions and foreign direct investment would be unaffected.

    It said foreigners now needed the central bank's approval to convert ringgit into foreign exchange.

    The measures would limit speculators' ability to deal in the ringgit, which has lost nearly 40 per cent of its value against the US dollar since the outbreak of Asia's financial crisis in mid-1997.

    Dealers said the move would virtually put an end to speculative trade in the ringgit but also undermine Malaysia's reputation as having one of the most open economies among developing countries.

    "Overall, although the ringgit is likely to strengthen as a result of this as speculators are effectively wipedout from the market, Malaysia's efforts in financial liberalisation have experienced a considerable setback," markets consultancy I.D.E.A. said.

    The central bank said on Tuesday that Malaysia was still committed to the free market and the trend towards liberalisation, but there were limits to its commitment.

    "The benefits of the market can only be realised in an environment of stable and efficient global financial markets," it said, adding that it would withdraw the controls once there was a "discernible normalisation" of the financial markets.

    Malaysia's moves were the latest example of a government intervening to shield the economy and followed efforts by Hong Kong, Taiwan and Russia to protect their markets.

    Bank Negara chastised the international community for failing to tackle the risks linked to globalised markets.

    "While arguments have been put forward for emerging economies to undertake economic and financial reforms," the central bank said, "of greater urgency is the need to reform theinternational financial system to better cope with the changed international financial environment."

    Mahathir has repeatedly railed against currency speculators, accusing them of undermining the gains that Malaysia made during a decade of eight per cent or more annual economic growth.

    Malaysia's economy shrank 6.8 per cent between the second quarters of 1997 and 1998. Since it had also fallen 2.8 per cent during the year to the first quarter, the economy is now formally in its first recession in 13 years.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Rio de Janeiro, Sept 1: Brazil's smoke-clogged cities will have to wait at least until mid-1999 to see the first urban bus fleet run on a new pollution-busting fuel mix, industry sources say.

    Government and industry bodies first teamed up last August to find a mix which would be clean, commercially viable and have the side-benefits of stimulating flagging demand for alcohol and cutting Brazil's bill for diesel imports.

    They came up with an unusual combination -- diesel and alcohol distilled from sugarcane.

    In preliminary tests, an experimental mix using 10 per cent hydrous alcohol showed a minimum loss of engine pick-up and significant reductions in smoke, soot and particle emissions.

    According to Alfredo Szwarc, co-ordinator of the project, the results so far have been encouraging from both technical and environmental viewpoints.

    "Up to the moment, the results have been quite satisfactory. But we're still working on it and the final results should be in September," Szwarc said.

    "We still have togo through some more preliminary phases to check viability before entering the commercial part," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

    The first phase of the programme, under the auspices of the science and technology ministry, ends in September when recommendations should be made on technical merits. Sao Paulo's Technological Research Institute conducts the tests.

    The second phase ends in May and will comprise commercial tests on urban vehicle fleets. The state/private group has spent around $1 million on the tests so far and the funding is expected to continue for another year.

    Proposed mix to cut high air pollution in key cities

    Local governments across Brazil hope the alcohol/diesel mix will help reduce air pollution, a leading cause of sickness in major urban areas.

    Early tests showed a 22 per cent drop in carbon monoxide emissions against regular diesel. Particle emissions fell by 35 per cent, soot by 37 per cent and black smoke by 59 per cent.

    These advantages were offset byfalls of 3.5 per cent in fuel efficiency and five per cent in engine torque and power. But Szwarc said the cost-benefit ratio of the proposed mix was still favourable, especially in view of the health benefits.

    In the industrial capital Sao Paulo, for example, more than half the air pollution is caused by vehicles, the worst of which are buses using a low-grade diesel and spewing fumes into city streets daily.

    The death rate always rises in winter months due to respiratory problems, particularly among children and the elderly. Legislation is already in force which forbids one-fifth of drivers to use their cars on weekdays.

    City buses likely to be first vehicles to use new mix

    Industry sources said the first vehicles likely to use the mix would be city buses, probably in Sao Paulo state, as they could be more easily monitored than long-distance trucks.

    "I would say that our first market would be the urban bus...that's the first point of interest," Szwarc said.

    "The whole programme should endin May...if then the conclusion's been reached that the mixture is perfectly viable, we'll start with the urban bus fleets in Sao Paulo state," said Claudio Manesco of the Union of Sugar Cane Agro industry (Unica).

    Unica, the association of sugar and alcohol producers of the state of Sao Paulo, is sponsoring the project.

    "We're still verifying what the utilization would be. It depends, it's the mix's viability... but the advances are big already. It reduces pollution and the costs are not that high. It's still theory... but it has great support from everybody."

    New mix could cut diesel import costs, trim alcohol stocks

    Brazil's alcohol industry hopes the new fuel will help cut down diesel imports, which account for 16 per cent of total fuel imports, or roughly $900 million annually.

    It would also boost demand for alcohol, where excessive stocks have created a storage headache for producers.

    Brazil consumes an average 555,000 barrels of diesel daily, equivalent to 88.25 million litres. Ofthis amount, it imports around 15 per cent.

    The hefty imports make diesel the most widely consumed petroleum derivative in the country, where trucks and buses are the main form of freight and passenger transport.

    Although the final mix ratio is not yet decided, the potential extra demand for alcohol could be substantial.

    Based on a similar programme in Sweden, a mix of 85 per cent diesel and 15 per cent diesel could generate up to 4.5 billion litres of additional alcohol demand, analysts say. A 10 per cent alcohol mix could create a potential market for three billion litres.

    But some industry members are sceptical of the results of the recent experiments and at least three mills in Brazil's southeast have chosen to run their own field tests with trucks using fuel mixes with alcohol at between five and 10 per cent.

    "There have been a number of studies of what the effects would be of the diesel mix -- there have been mixed feelings about that," said an alcohol trader in Rio de Janeiro.

    "Some millsare doing experiments... but this will take at least until the end of the year to have the results, to see the advantages and disadvantages and to see if anything happened to the motors," he said.

    High sulphur content of Brazilian diesel could be problem

    One possible snag for the project, analysts say, is the sulphur content of Brazilian diesel which can reach up to 1.00 per cent. European equivalents have only 0.02 per cent sulphur.

    According to Christoph Berg of German sugar analysts FO Licht, Brazil's state oil concern Petrobras would have to invest 3.5 billion reais ($2.99 billion) to upgrade its diesel production lines to bring them up to European standards.

    "The problem is with the Brazilian diesel specifications," Berg said.

    "The main problem is that for Petrobras... to change the specifications they would have to set up a new refining line for diesel, bringing down the sulphur content in order to allow for a reasonable alcohol/diesel mix," he said.

    However, with the deregulation andliberalisation of the energy sector, foreign oil companies that do not operate refineries inside Brazil should soon be able to import derivatives such as diesel to retail on the domestic market.

    Last month, the energy sector watchdog National Petroleum Agency (ANP) said it could authorise imports of petroleum derivatives by foreign oil concerns as early as this year now that the domestic petroleum market was deregulated.

    Import licenses are expected to be issued by product, beginning with naphtha, diesel and jet fuel -- effectively breaking the Petrobras monopoly on the local retail market.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. No political party could have responded differently. Every response of every party to every proposal for a meaningful electoral reform is apt to be self-same. Its response will necessarily be predicated by its own view of self-interest. And a party's self-interest need not always be the same as broad national interest. What every party regards as good for India as a whole is whatever that may help it up to power and keep it going as long as possible. Any reform that may shorten its term in office even by six or seven weeks is therefore likely to be anathema. It is so regardless of the colour of the flag and the composition of the slogan. That explains the identically negative response to chief election commissioner MS Gill's suggestion that the ruling party abdicate office as soon as fresh elections are announced.

    Gill is not known as an election reformer who acts with an urge to be hailed as the ultimate source of wisdom and goodness. Nor is he credited with a tendency to berate every one of hispredecessors and successors. His proposal that no party may hold office when the election process is under way should be seen only as an extension of the package of measures initiated during TN Seshan's tenure to make polls a fair exercise. A party which holds office and would choose to stay on somehow or the other cannot be depended upon to thwart any foul strategem that may give it an unholy extension of power lease. There is nothing to suggest that any party has ever acted in a fit of self-denial when faced with a question of political morality. If it has shown probity, it has done only as a compulsion.

    It is normal for any ruling party to misuse and abuse office to perpetuate, at least prolong, its stint in power. Some may do it with finesse. Some others may do it without being inhibited by considerations of sophistication. Some may avoid doing things which are patently unlawful. Some others may bend or break a law in gay abandon. Any party in power is bound to try to woo voters by offering somedevelopment bribe to them just when they are to choose a new dispensation. Any official who may not work in a useful manner may be neutralised. Any facility for which others will have to pay on their own can be gainfully used by the party in power in the name of some non-existent public purpose or the other. Policemen, those in intelligence as well as those without it, are deployed, as a rule, for election assignments which are at once undeclared and unfair. Those who are not lucky to be so deployed volunteer to do any service in the hope of a more gainful assignment during the next term of the party of their adoption.

    There are several lines in the election statute which make such doings punishable. Statute is one thing, compliance another. Consider for instance the use of government vehicles for the benefit of a political party during elections. The ruling party alone has such privileges. No opposition leader, even when he is poised to sweep the polls in a few days, can commandeer a government aircraftwith the full knowledge and delight that he will not have to pay for it. Not one of those prime ministers who flew government planes for their own or their parties' campaign is known to have defrayed the expense incurred on them form their own funds. That is indeed listed as an act of misuse but not one for which action will be taken by anybody against anybody.

    Such stipulated missive some obvious advantages. First, politicians, particularly those who make it to power, can tom-tom about the high-mindedness that has gone into the election statute of the world's largest democracy. It is good to be known as a leader elected fairly rather than unfairly. Second, opposition parties will have a useful point for campaigning against the powers that be and, after elections, a ready explanation for their defeat. Third, newspapers will have good copy, debunking in the same old staim idiom every violation of the so-called code of electoral conduct. After all, statutes are made not only for compliance but for violationtoo.

    A political calamity that may befall India's great democracy if things are disposed as Gill proposes them is that ruling parties will be deprived of their fundamental right to use and misuse official machinery for their own benefit during election time, One good way to avert that calamity is the constitutional way. The constitution provides for a five-year term for an elected government and any rule that seeks to shorten that term will be unconstitutional.

    It is amusing to see politicians suddenly turning constitutionalists. It is even more amusing when their clamour is heard in the backdrop of their chronic inability in their full term. They even fall before they rise to power--through backdoors or sidedoors. the constitutional answer to them is that the constitutional provision can be amended suitably to limit the misuse of official machinery by ruling parties. Since every party hopes to grab a place in the sun now or later, every one is bound to oppose any measure that limits the scope for misuse.When the absurdity of electing to Rajya Sabha someone from Assam who has never visited that state was pointed out, they changed the law to legitimise that nonsense. When a deadline for issuing identity cards to voters was fixed, they cried hoarse in unison. When measures were proposed for non-compliance of the rules regarding election expenses, they were aghast. When autonomy of the election machinery was asserted, they became suspicious. They should have indeed lived up to their reputation for foiling any radical reform in the poll process by resisting Gill's proposal to have an apolitical administration when elections are on. The comforting thought is that things happen in spite of them. It is only a matter of time before they accept Gill's present suggestion.Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Geneva: Over 40 national and international non-governmental groups, who were at the Second Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva in May 1998, have joined in calling for an end to the investment talks at the Organisation for the Economic Cooperation and Development and have rejected proposals to move the talks to the WTO.

    The appeals, posted on electronic bulletin boards, is receiving more adherents.

    In the joint statement and letter, the NGOs, who have been active in the campaign against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, have noted that the MAI talks in the OECD have been `temporarily stalled' because of strong public protests in many OECD countries as well as objections from developing-country groups and governments.

    Objections from the public include that the MAI would grant new unprecedented rights to corporations (whilst removing the authority of states to place obligations or regulations on them), threaten national sovereignty and the viability of domestic firms andfarms, remove conditions for development in the South and magnify environmental and social problems.

    `Since there is no sign that OECD governments are willing to consider a basic change in the premises and framework of the MAI, we call for the termination of the negotiations and the treaty in the OECD,' the NGOs say.

    `We are very concerned,' they add, `by the moves of some OECD governments, including the European Union, to move the MAI process to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). some of them claim this will make it fairer for developing countries and, moreover, environmental and labour concerns will be taken care o in the WTO.

    `We reject these claims. Instead, shifting the investment issue to the WTO will place great pressure on developing countries to negotiate and eventually join an agreement that would have disastrous effects on their development prospects.

    `Moreover, promises to include environmental and social concerns are likely to be only an eyewash to co-opt the public to accept the basictenets of the MAI. The strong enforcement capability of the WTO through its dispute settlement system will also mean that all countries, especially developing countries, will be forced to comply.

    `Domestic laws and policies in a wide range of issues will have to be changed, even if these were to cause job losses, closure of local enterprises and farms, financial instability, balance of payments deficits and environmental deterioration.

    `We therefore call on all governments, OECD and non-OECD alike, to reject any proposal to negotiate an investment agreement in the WTO. The trade and investment working group in the WTO should be confined to only study the trade and investment relationships and should not be "upgraded" into a negotiation forum for an investment agreement.

    `The proposals by the EU and other major countries to start a "Millennium Round" or a "comprehensive future agenda" for the WTO should not be used as a device to sneak in an investment negotiation process in the WTO.

    `On principle, weare against the kind of assumptions and framework that the MAI represents. As public knowledge on the MAI increases, many more people are rejecting this approach. We call on governments, international agencies and NGOs not to accept the MAI or a similar investment approach as inevitable or a "given" but instead to choose a basically different approach in dealing with the investment issue.

    `Towards this alternative approach, we call for global and national guidelines, rules and regulations to place obligations on investors and corporations so that their activities and products serve the needs of people within a framework of internationally fair, socially just and environmentally sound development.'

    Third World Network Features.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Pune, Sept 1: Parametric Technology Corporation which took over Computervision (CV) globally early this year, has offered its Indian employees at the research & development centre in the city an employee stock option plan, company director in-charge R&D Prakash Desai said.

    The plan which in the country is a cashless operation, has been cleared by the Reserve Bank of India, which has also informed the company that such plans no longer need RBI clearances.

    Parametric Technology's plan will cover all its R&D employees, about 200 at present, who will get stocks in numbers comparable with their international counterparts. This will ensure that employees get a `substantailly, larger package, Desai said. Declining to give numbers since these were still under consideration, he said the decisive factors would be the level at which the employee was and would definitely be performance linked.

    The R&D centre at Pune, set up by Computervision, developed about 80 per cent of its products here. This is expected tocontinue under Parametric, with scope for growth. Company regional director South Asia Anurag Srivastav said Parametric will make additional investments here, in terms of upgrading hardware. The centre will develop localised products, he added.

    Desai said they were in need of greater bandwidth and were talking to the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) for greater satellite connectivity. Its present 128 kbps link will soon be upgraded to 512 kbps which could be increased to 1 Mb.

    Parametric, which is a leading CAD/CAM/CAE supplier of software tools and launched its Pro/engineer family of tools in 1998, has been widely accepted by automotive, heavy engineering, aerospace, domestic electronics, medical electronics and consumer goods manufacturers. Desai said they will now look to users of CV products to use Parametric ones. CV had fewer customers though more seats per customer while Parametric has more customers, providing opportunity for growth.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: The commerce ministry has sent a proposal to surface transport ministry suggesting use of natural rubber for road construction in the country to step up its consumption and shore up prices.

    "Commerce minister Ramakrishna Hegde has written to the ministry of surface transport, which has authorised a cost and techno-feasibility report for rubberisation of roads," said EK Bharat Bhusan, director in charge of plantations at the commerce ministry.

    The report is yet to be obtained by the surface transport ministry, which was expected to take a decision once it was ready, he said.

    The nitty-gritty of using rubber for road construction would be decided once the report is received.

    Rubber board chairman KJ Mathew said rubberisation of roads was one way to improve natural rubber use profitably for the nation.

    A study had revealed that rubberisation of roads would cost an additional 15 per cent but it would cut down repair costs by a similar amount, Mathew said.

    "Rubberisation of roadswould lead to better highways with longer life," and the concept would have to be accepted nation-wide for raising rubber consumption considerably in the country.

    Mathew said increased use of rubber goods such as gloves, condoms and footwear could improve natural rubber consumption in the country.

    "This would in turn improve public health in India," he said.

    On protests from rubber growers against increased use of polyurethane for foam production, the rubber board chairman said government had no move to ban polyurethane through legal mechanism.

    "The only way to compete against polyurethane is in terms of prices and quality. Rubber foam may still be a better quality material," he said.

    Mathew also welcomed removal of duty on coir and other natural fibre foams saying it was a good step to promote use of natural fibre.

    Rubber growers in general had demanded removal of 20 per cent duty on rubber foams, which they said discouraged use of rubber for producing foams.

    Rubber board had not made any moveto stop rubber imports through advance license, which is against exports of rubber goods.

    "But action has been taken to substitute advance license imports with rubber supply through the State Trading Corporation (STC)," he said.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Calcutta, Sep 1: As part of its ongoing cost saving exercise, Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), which suffered a loss of Rs 311 crore in the first quarter of the current fiscal, has taken up a `standardisation' drive which was expected to help the company to save about Rs 80 crore.

    SAIL sources here today said that various kinds of machinery and equipment at SAIL plants in Bhilai, Rourkela, Durgapur and Bokaro, built with Russian, German and British collaboration, had resulted in the usage of diverse material, higher cost per unit and longer time of procurement.

    Standardisation would reduce these effects to a large extent and save cost.

    The sources said that material like wire ropes for cranes were bulk purchase items and were required by all shopfloors in every steel plant. Now a limited number of sizes were selected instead of different sizes and types.

    Apart from purchase of material and equipment, standardisation was also extended to design, operation, maintenance, materials management,packaging and safety.

    Standardisation of lubricants like film bearing oil, antiwear hydraulic oil and multipurpose grease alone, the sources said, helped in average annual saving of Rs 2.65 crore for Bokaro steel plant and Rs 86.6 lakh for Durgapur steel plant.

    In addition to lubricants, efforts to standardise other items like electric motors, sinter plant pallets and carbon brushes for motors had yielded a benefit to the tune of Rs 5.8 crore.

    Stating that standards were also being set in the area of packaging of products like sheets, plates, HR/CR coils and wire rods besides merchant mill products.

    Attempts, the sources said, were being made to ensure that the products reach the customer in damage-free condition. Demurrage charges were being reduced to the minimum by designing a system for easy handling of products in shortest possible time.

    Recent formulation of two standards on high density polyethelene bags and sheets for coke oven by-products and finished flat products respectively, have thepotential of saving of about Rs 62 lakh.

    The sources said that the present annual cost of maintenance of SAIL plants was Rs 2,900 crore and a modest one per cent saving by streamlining the process would help the company to save Rs 29 crore.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: A high-level agriculture ministry committee has recommended not to allow bulk import of potato under open general licence (OGL) as India has suffered in the past due to such imports leading to spread of various pests and diseases.

    "If new diseases and pests are introduced in the country, the entire potato production programme will have to be started afresh and even the true potato seed (TPS) technology which is expected to serve small and marginal farmers may fail", the committee on potato improvement and breeder seed production said.

    The committee, which submitted its report to the minister of state for agriculture Sompal recently, said the present practice of importing potato germplasm and varieties for experimental purposes through the Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI) should continue.

    The report noted that there was tremendous pressure from private sector for bulk import of potato varieties for seed production in India and for processing purposes.

    The material importedfrom Europe and other temperate areas of the world were likely to carry viruses in "latent micro quantities", difficult to detect, the committee, headed by Mahboob Zahedi said.

    The committee said such imported material, when planted in Indian tropics/subtropics, results in rapid build up of viruses and other pathogens.

    It said these varieties had not been found superior to the existing Indian varieties. There was no reason for bulk import particularly when CPRI has developed the varieties suitable for processing.

    The committee suggested that farmers should be encouraged to grow these processing varieties which can be used by the industries within the country and can also be exported to the middle east for processing purposes.

    The report said several middle east countries had been approaching CPRI to provide bulk produce of potato suitable for processing on a regular basis.

    It noted that National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation Ltd (Nafed) and Agricultural and Processed Food Products'Export Development Authority (Apeda) have very limited activities in respect of potato marketing and export.

    CPRI has developed potato varieties which can be harvested in 60 days with remunerative yields. Using these varieties, as many as four potato crops can be taken in the north-western plains and three crops in the north-central and north-eastern plains.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: Edible oil prices in the country are unlikely to ease immediately despite government's decision last week to allow import of select oilseeds like split soyabean and sunflower under open general licence (OGL) industry experts said on Wednesday.

    "The imports will not have any effect on domestic edible oil prices as shipment into the country will not have parity, though it could be a good decision in the long term," Malaysian Palm Oil Promotion Council (MPOPC) country representative Ashima Raheja said.

    In an effort to rein in prices of edible oil and other essential commodities, government decided to allow import of oilseeds under OGL, which will facilitate shipments into the country without any restrictions by a license holder.

    So far, edible oil imports had been under the restricted list.

    Imports would not make any major impact as it was expected to be on a small scale. Oilmeal exporting units would also not be resorting to significant imports as the commodity' exports had been hitnow, Raheja said.

    Sources in the department of edible oil and sugar said though the decision might help in future, it was unlikely to benefit consumers immediately.

    Central Organisation for Oil Industry and Trade (COOIT) executive director KML Chhabra said any impact of government decision on domestic prices would depend on the method of allowing import and time-factor involved.

    He said the decision to allow oilseeds import was welcome but how these measures would benefit domestic consumers and industry was a big question as many points were yet to be clarified by government.

    Though the oilseeds imports have been allowed under split form and quarantine conditions, these have not been clearly specified by government, which is yet to come out with the relevant notification. Besides, import of rice bran has also been allowed.

    Vanaspati Manufacturers Association of India (VMA) executive director SK Chadha said the import would not have any impact on the domestic prices in the next sixmonths.

    Shifting of oilseeds from the restricted list to OGL had considerably enhanced the negotiating power of Indian traders in the international market and could work out to their advantage, Chhabra said.

    "If prices of a particular item, either palmolien or soyabean are high in the international market, then we will always have the option of choosing the one with lower quotation," he said.

    Traders would also be wary of the option of importing sunflower and soyabean due to the lack of parity but prices of most edible oils might remain bullish due to the recent ban on mustard oil sale.

    The reported decision to place the onus of creating facility to split oilseeds would negate any possibility of imports cushioning the prices.

    "We are closely examining the implications of such a decision," Chhabra said.

    Raheja said relocation of oilseed crushing units, which are currently operating in central India, was a must for imports to be viable.

    If India had to tap the long-term prospects of importingoilseeds, then the infrastructure would have to be got ready.

    But government decision was a little late and it could have been taken at least 3-4 months earlier, she said, adding the move to import oilseeds had come just ahead of the peak season.

    The decision to place oilseeds under OGL was expected to go a long way in raising the capacity utilisation of idle processing units and enhance exportable surplus of oilmeals, Chhabra said.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Many nationalised banks have not only burnt their fingers but even their hands because of their mutual fund schemes. They started many such schemes in the wake of an artificially booming capital market in the early 90s. At that time all stock market indices seemed to be heading towards the sky. So these nationalised banks also made tall promises to their investors like doubling or tripling their investment in a short span of time. No responsible authority including the government of India, finance ministry, department of banking, Reserve Bank of India bothered about checking these unhealthy trends. Nobody also bothered about how these nationalised banks would redeem their pledges if the capital markets crashed which was what happened subsequently.

    Canara Bank suffered for honouring its promise towards its mutual fund scheme Candouble. Indian Bank, which itself had incurred a huge loss, had to cough up money in order to fulfill its promise towards its Ind Jyoti scheme. Now it is the turn of Canara Bank againto face the music with regard to its scheme Cantriple Plus. Hoping that Canara Bank Asset Management Company would redeem the Cantriple plus units at Rs 30 per unit, many investors had bought the units in the secondary market in the last couple of weeks. But now uncertainty is ruling the roost and so there is a selling pressure in the counter. A few months back the units were traded at a discount to their NAVs. Like many such schemes, Cantriple Plus was also started in the midst of a booming capital market. Canara Bank is now taking a stand that the returns mentioned in the prospectus were only an indicative value and not a firm assurance.

    Even though the prospectus of Cantriple Plus clearly stated that there was no connection between the name of the scheme and its future prospects and returns, nevertheless, investors were misled to think that their returns would earn more than three times the investment value. In other words, Canara Bank simply played word jugglery. Off course marketing, advertising andsales tactics involve playing with words to attract the attention of prospective customers, but this can be self defeating for the customers if the perceived assurance is not carried out by the company question.

    If Canara Bank Asset Management Company ultimately washes its hands off the scheme and leaves investors in the lurch, it could face protracted legal battle in the courts. But there is a difference between Canstar and Cantriple Plus. Canstar had many retail investors and so any one of them could have gone to the courts and embarrassed Canara Bank Asset Management Company. But in Cantriple Plus scheme, there are many institutional investors and it is relatively easier than dealing with a retail investors for an asset management company operating in India. This is because of inter-connections between many institutions. But this does not mean that an institution will not drag an asset management company to the court. Indeed, Canara Bank itself had been sued by National Housing Bank in the early 90s inthe wake of the capital market scam which broke out during the boom.

    Retail investors plunged into the scheme of things only since the beginning of the year hoping that Canara Bank Asset Management Company would redeem the Cantriple Plus units at the indicative value of Rs 30 per unit at the time of redemption in June, 1999. If this were to happen, retail investors who had purchased the unit in the secondary market will be getting a return of more than 100 per cent per annum. On the other hand, if the asset management company washes its hands off, then retail investors who had bought the units will have to sell their units at a discount and suffer a loss. Moreover, equity markets are expected to fall further because of political instability, east Asian currency crisis, Japanese slump in economy, Russian catastrophe and a recession in the global economy. If this happens, investors' woes will be compounded further and the NAV of the scheme will fall further. The scheme has a unit capital of Rs 285 crore. Thefund has a 49 per cent investment in equity and 51 per cent investment in debt and other fixed return schemes.

    Even if the entire trend in the capital market is reversed in a short span of time and bulls start dominating the market, the scheme is unlikely to post a net asset value of Rs 30 because of its limited exposure to equities. Canstar scheme bled the balance sheet of Canara Bank as it had to pump in Rs 600 crore to redeem the Canstar units at Rs 23 per unit. If Canara Bank is again to pump money to redeem Cantriple Plus units at the indicative value, then it will have to shell out another Rs 400 crore. Canara Bank may very well do it as there are no shareholders to question its action as the government of India is the majority shareholder in the bank. But once privatisation takes place and the government disinvests a portion of its holdings, shareholders of the bank will question and grill the management in the AGM.

    What is more, Canara Bank has decided to bail out investors in Canstar scheme whomissed the bus by not opting for repurchase at Rs 23 under the offer announced in October, 1997. The management says that around 20,000 envelopes sent to unit holders were returned for want of clear address. This can be taken only with a pinch of salt. The high figure of returned envelopes clearly shows that either the bank management was acting deliberately in not mentioning correct addresses or else there was a rampant negligence in the despatch department in writing down the addresses. But, actually, asset management companies computerise all the records of the unit holders and it is the computer which prints the addresses of all the unit holders on the required form which is mailed to unitholders in a window envelope. Computer on its own will not write a wrong address. The data entry of inputs including addresses should have been wrongly keyed in at the time of entering into computers. This again shows sheer negligence of the management. Efficient data entry operators should have been deployed to do thejob in such matters so that data entry errors are reduced to the minimum if not eliminated altogether. By extending the redemption to those who missed the offer earlier, Canara Bank is going to incur a loss of Rs 30 crore. "Here is a bank that cares" is the message the bank is trying to send but markets may perceive the message "Here is a bank that does not care about its profits".Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Tocom precious metals end lower: Yen-based precious metal futures closed lower across the board on Tuesday, led by the dollar's retracement against the yen, but the downside was supported by firmer spot market prices, traders said. "The dollar's plunge below 139 yen spurred long liquidation on Tocom. But spot metal prices bounced back as operators took a weaker dollar as a buying incentive, which made Tocom participants wary of accelerate selling," one analyst said. Gold futures ranged from five to 15 yen per gram lower. Benchmark August ended down 14 yen at 1,233 yen. Spot gold was quoted at $277.70/278.20 an ounce at 0655GMT, up from Monday's New York close of $275.30/80.

    Gold, silver creep away from lows: Gold continued to move away from Friday's 19-year low fix building on overnight gains in New York. But was still vulnerable to another downside attack, traders and analysts said on Tuesday. Silver also inched up shadowing gold. Technically the market was seen as oversold and while sometraders talked of a fresh assault on prices up to $4.50 an ounce, others said this would be difficult to achieve.

    Floods hit metal firms: China's Yangtze River floods have caused losses to state-owned nonferrous metals firms equal to one percent of this year's output value in the sector, the Futures Herald said on Tuesday. Direct losses at enterprises under the State Bureau of Nonferrous Metal Industry were 181.11 million yuan ($21.82 million) and indirect losses surpassed 200 million yuan, the newspaper said. Flood losses at Jiangxi Copper Co Ltd reached 145 million yuan while Daye Nonferrous Metals Co in the central province of Hubei suffered 24 million yuan in losses, it said. Floods would affect the output of nonferrous metals this year only slightly because firms had huge stockpiles, it said. The floods have worsened the troubles of many nonferrous metal enterprises but rebuilding flooded areas could stimulate demand for metals, it said. The State Bureau of Nonferrous Metal Industry, formerlyknown as the China National Nonferrous Metals Corp (CNNC), made post-tax profits of 100 million yuan in 1997, far short of its original target of 1.0 billion yuan, state media have said. Industry officials blamed the drop in profits to low metal prices and rising costs for raw materials and transport.

    LME metals rise in Asia seen: Base metals could show a slight rise in London Metal Exchange trading on Tuesday if they continued trends seen in the Asia/Pacific region earlier on Tuesday, traders said. Copper recovered during Tuesday trading to US$1,605/$1,609 at tonne at about 0530 GMT (3.30 P.M.) After opening at less than $1,600. This was still down on the previous LME close on Friday of $1,617, which the market had now left long behind, traders said. The trend for aluminium also upward, to quotes of $1,357/$1,360, up by about $2 during the day, compared with the last LME close of $1,362. Zinc showed some strength on quotes of $1,026/$1,030, up by about $1 a tonne, compared with the metal's previousLME close of $1,029. Nickel showed buoyancy to rise to quotes of $4,140/$4,160, up by about $5. This metal's last LME close was $4,120. Lead was steady on $537/$540 a tonne. "So far so good," one trader said. "It's not a bad sign." Prices would have been kicking down on Tuesday if bearish scenarios were swaying the market, he said. But it was difficult to call the London market, he added.

    Singapore gas pipeline decision: Singapore's Economic Development Board chairman Philip Yeo said on Tuesday he hoped the results of a tender to construct a gas pipeline from Indonesia's Natuna field would be announced soon. Singapore and Indonesia in July sealed a $4.0 billion gas sales agreement, the first international pipeline sale from Indonesia's Natuna West Sea. Under the 22-year deal, Singapore's Sembawang Gas, a unit of Sembawang Corporation, would import 325 million standard cubic feet per day of natural gas through a 640-km (400-mile) pipeline from the gas field in the South China Sea to Singapore's Jurongisland. "We hope to award the tender as soon as possible. The sooner we award the tender the sooner we construct (the pipeline)," he told reporters after meeting president BJ Habibie. He said eight international consortia had tendered bids. "The pipeline is worth about $500 million. We must have the pipeline completed by the end of 2000 and the shipment by April 2001," Yeo said. "We hope to get many Indonesian engineering companies to do the work."

    Record production in TCC: The Travancore-Cochin Chemicals (TCC), limited, has created an all-time monthly production record by producing 5,576 mt of caustic soda during the month of august this year. A company press release here said production was 101.4 per cent of the monthly installed production capacity. Availability of power for full production was the reason for the achievement, the release added.

    Dutch sugar beet yield down: The third Dutch sugar beet forecast for 1998 showed a yield of 9.1 tonnes per hectare white value, down from 9.6tonnes at the same time in 1997, the Institute for Sugar Research (IRS) said on Tuesday. This compares to an average yield during 1988-1997 of 9.4tonnes per hectare, the IRS added. Beet weight per hectare was forecast at 55.9 tonnes versus 60.3 tonnes in 1997 and an average weight during 1988-1997 of 59.4 tonnes. This is the third of the computer-based forecasts to be issued this season. The next forecast is due on September 15, the IRS added.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. The recommendations of the Divestment Commission for scaling down government holding in Air India to 40 per cent, while being a step in the right direction may well turn out to be a case of too little, too late. More so, since the government and the management of the airline have for long been toying with piecemeal solutions, which have only ended up marginalising the role of the national carrier (even in the Asian market) to that of a regional player.

    While the commission has done well to address the immediate need for a fund infusion via the divestment, once again the government has stopped shy of completely curing the malaise that ails Air India. There is no denying the debt trap that the company has slid into, a fact highlighted by the carrier's precarious financial position. Total short-term borrowings of the national carrier stand at Rs 1,100 crore for 1997-98 and the financial plight of the company is further highlighted by a debt equity ratio of 4.99:1.

    The contentious issue regarding new sharesproviding a 40 per cent stake to a strategic partner still has a few grey areas. Interestingly the commission has recommended a 30 per cent foreign equity participation, within the strategic partnership from a consortium of airlines and investors. Yet recent policy has dictated that domestic air-taxi operators divest themselves of all foreign holding? Given this precedent would not the Tata's proposal for an airline have a strong case now?

    Furthermore, for Air India to regain its stature as a global player, rapid fleet expansions are a necessity. However, the acute shortage of funds and the lack of any basis to leverage immediate funding is a deterrent. More importantly with the divestment issue being extremely politically sensitive, it remains to be seen how it is pushed through in this political climate.Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: Modipon Fibres Company, a division of Modipon Limited with a turnover of Rs 250 crore, claims to have become the world's first company to manufacture differentially dyeable nylon-6 filament yarns.

    The three new yarns, which are code named Deep, LCD and RCD, can be used by innovative textile manufacturers to produce multicoloured fancy fabrics, chief executive Modipon Umesh Kansal said on Wednesday.

    With deep yarn, it will be possible to produce dark deep silk colours in synthetic fabrics.

    LCD and RCD, Kansal said, will be a fashion fabric with enormous designing possibilities. It will enable flexibility in using different combinations of yarn.

    The ISO 9001 company has also introduced a new polyester product, `Modi Dypex', a yarn which can be dyed at a much lower temperature with better shades.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Pune, Sept 1: Overcoming language barriers by using advanced computer technology will help the Saarc region come closer. Greater access to localised software will also help in solving the illiteracy problem, seen as the single most important factor for the region's poverty.

    This was said at the four-day Saarc conference, "Extending the use of Multi-lingual and Multi-media Information Technology'(EMMIT')," inaugurated here on Tuesday.

    The use of information technology will help the countries in the region overcome the problem of resource shortage in spreading primary education, department of science & technology (DST) secretary VS Ramamurthy said. He stressed the need to develop technology that will allow the user to access it in his own language. This will involve some localisation of software, making it specific to the needs of the region, he said.

    While the government has given several concessions to the IT field, the department of electronics secretary and member of the prime minister's IT Task ForceR Gupta pointed to the issues of affordability, for which it has provided tax waivers, and the technical issue. The latter will involve developing local content, to give people international connectivity without using English.

    A new satellite with new transponders has been put into orbit from Singapore recently which has 20 channels dedicated to education. Educatiuoin to Home (ETH) Labs chief executive officer Vijay Bhatkar declared that of these, six will be handed over to the six Saarc countries for school-level education.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. 91-day T-bills auction: The Reserve Bank on Tuesday announced the auction of the 91-day treasury bills for a notified amount of Rs 500 crore. Tenders should be submitted on September 4 and payment should be made on September 5.

    41-day T-bills auction: The Reserve Bank on Tuesday announced the auction of the 14-day treasury bills for a notified amount of Rs 500 crore. Tenders should be submitted in the prescribed form on September 4 and payment by bidders will be on September 5.

    Three-day fixed-rate repos today: The Reserve Bank on Tuesday announced three-day fixed-rate repos in Government of India dated securities on Wednesday for parties holding SGL and current accounts. The interest for the repos is pegged at 8 per cent.

    RBI advises income-tax assessees: The Reserve Bank has advised income-tax assessees to take advantage of paying advance tax at branches of designated banks. "For the convenience of income-tax assessees, arrangements have been made for receipt of advanceincome tax at specified branches of Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Dena bank, Indian Overseas Bank, State bank of India and United Bank of India," an RBI release stated. The designated branches of these banks have been authorised by the income-tax department to accept payment of income-tax dues.

    Fimmda elects seven directors: Fixed Income Money Markets and Derivatives Association of India held its first election recently to elect seven directors -- Vishnu Deuskar of ABN Amro bank, Arvind Sethi of Bank of America, C Chandrasekhar of Bank of India, Shailendra Bhandari of HDFC Bank, Suvalakshmi Chakraborty of ICICI, Prasanna of Punjab National Bank and Gopalkrishnan of SBI Gilts. About 40 banks and financial institutions are currently members of Fimmda.

    Union Bank revises rates: Union Bank of India has revised the domestic interest rates and NRE term deposit rates with effect from September 1. As per the new interest rate structure, on a maturity slab of 15-29 days, the bank will offer 5.50per cent, 6 per cent for 30-45 days, 7 per cent for 46-90 days, 7.50 per cent for 91-179 days, 9 per cent for 180 days-less than a year, 10.50 per cent for one year-less than two years, 11 per cent for two years-less than three years and 12 per cent for three years and above. For the NRE term deposit, the bank will offer 9 per cent for six months-less than a year, 10.50 per cent for one year-less than two years, 11 per cent for two years-less than three years and 12 per cent for three years and above.

    LIC insurance week: With a view to rendering better services to policy holders and spreading the message of life insurance, the Surat division of LIC is observing an insurance week from September 1.

    Crisil upgrades Chambal Fertilisers debentures: Crisil has upgraded the rating assigned to the Rs 424 crore partly convertible debenture issue of Chambal Fertilisers and Chemicals to A+ from A. It has also reaffirmed the company's fixed deposit programme. "The rating reflects the continuing strongcash flows from CFCL's existing operations and substantial progress in its expansion project resulting in partial mitigation of associated financial and implementation risks," a Crisil release stated. "It also factors in the company's ability to implement the ongoing expansion project without a significant alteration in the company's overall risk profile," it said.

    Crisil upgrades Balrampur Chinni rating: Crisil on Tuesday upgraded the rating assigned to the Rs 20 crore short-term debenture programme of Balrampur Chinni Mills to P1+ from P1. The revised rating reflects Balrampur's improving financial performance and liquidity position. "The rating also factors in the company's strong market position in the sugar industry and its comfortable operating efficiency which is reflected by its sustained high recoveries and consistent product quality," a Crisil release stated.

    Crisil assigns P1+ rating to Ipca Laboratories debt: Crisil has enhanced the commercial paper programme of Ipca Laboratoriesto Rs 30 crore from Rs 20 crore. It has assigned a P1+ rating to the programme. "The rating reflects Ipca's leadership position in the domestic anti-malarial formulations market, cost competitiveness in bulk drug manufacture and stable financial position," a Crisil release stated.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Mumbai, Sept 1: Exim Bank and South African Trade and Development Bank (PTA Bank) signed two agreements in Nairobi, Kenya, for a $4.51-million Exim Bank line of credit for financing Indian exports to member countries of PTA Bank in eastern and southern Africa.

    Both the institutions also signed an agreement for funding Indian consultants in these countries.

    A line of credit to PTA Bank will facilitate export of capital, engineering and industrial goods, consumer durables and related services required for projects financed by PTA Bank.

    Exim Bank has extended country-specific lines of credit aggregating $10 million to Industrial Bank of Kenya for financing Indian exports to Kenya.

    The new co-operation agreement will enable the two institutions to collaborate in promoting trade and investment flows between India and PTA Bank member countries.

    The agreement will enable PTA Bank to source Indian consultants for PTA Bank-funded projects in its member countries.

    Exim Bank will part-finance suchassignments by way of fees payable to Indian consultants. The agreement also envisages co-operation by way of exchange of information on trade and investment opportunities, training facilities and other promotional activities.

    During the last five years, Indian companies have participated in bids worth Rs 262 billion with Exim Bank's aid and secured contracts worth Rs 40 billion.

    Exim Bank has arrangements with International Finance Corporation to provide consultancy needed for private sector development in Africa. These arrangements are with African Project Development Facility, African Management Services Company and Enterprise Support Service for Africa.

    The agreements were signed by YB Desai, managing director at Exim Bank, and Martin Ogang, president at PTA bank.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Calcutta, Sept 1: Hindustan Motors Ltd, the carmaker from the CK Birla stable, has differed with its auditors on the treatment of deferred revenue expenditure in its accounting policy for the year ended March 31, 1998.

    Statutory auditor SR Batliboi & Co, while passing the accounts, has noted that it is unable to ascertain the impact of the deferred revenue expenditure, non-provisioning of leave liability and doubtful/ disputed debts, claims and advances.

    In the year to March 31, 1998, HM reported a profit after tax of Rs 39.36 crore, compared with Rs 39.32 crore registered in the previous year. Turnover stood at Rs 1,327.18 crore as against Rs 1,291.95 crore in 1996-97.

    However, the company slipped into the red during the first three months of the current accounting year. The company's performance in 1997-98 and the subsequent slide is likely to be the focus of the shareholders at the annual general meeting on September 3.

    At the AGM, the HM management is likely to highlight the business prospects ofthe rural transport vehicle (RTV) launched in August.

    According to the directors' report, overall production of vehicles declined to 26,684 in 1997-98 as against 29,039 in 1996-97. Production of Ambassador cars declined to 21,382 in 1997-98 from 24,294 in the previous year. The directors attributed this to the recession. However, production of Trekkers increased to 3,725 in 1997-98 from 2,574 in the previous year.

    The profit & loss account shows that the company's deferred revenue expenditure has increased to Rs 8.17 crore in 1997-98 as against Rs 5.10 crore in the previous year. The heads are technical know-how fees, service charges for major consultancy assistance, share/ debenture issue expenses, product development expenses, commitment charges and market development expenses.

    The accounting policy states that the technical know-how fees, service charges for major consultancy assistance, shares/ debenture issue expenses, market development expenses for products pertaining to new projects and productdevelopment expenses are considered as deferred revenue expenditure and will be written off in six equal annual instalments.

    The company also stated in Note 1(I)(d) that insurance and other claims to the extent considered recoverable have been accounted for in the year of claim. It also noted that claims and refunds, which include interest payment for delayed refunds from excise and tax whose recovery "cannot be ascertained with reasonable certainty, are accounted for on acceptance/ actual receipt basis".

    Export benefits against advance/ special licence scheme have been accounted for at the time of actual consumption of materials/ sale of entitlements, the notes to the accounts said.

    Batliboi has noted that the proposer books of account have been kept by the company -- "subject to Note Nos 1(I)(c) to (e) [deferred revenue, insurance claims, excise and income tax returns and export benefits against advance] and 1(IX)(b) Schedule 22 regarding non-accounting of certain expenses/ income on accrualbasis."

    The auditor also pointed out that the company has not made any provision for leave liability in respect of employees. The "indeterminate" amount has been accounted for on actual payment basis.

    Batliboi also noted that the disputed liability/ doubtful claims and advances amounting to Rs 6.92 crore have not been provided as the settlement has not been finalised.

    HM's contingent liability has ballooned to Rs 61.27 crore in 1997-98, compared with Rs 12.23 crore in 1996-97. The company's accounting policy does not acknowledge these claims, which include demands raised by the government.

    Out of this, the excise authorities have either raised demands or showcause notices which are together worth Rs 50.14 crore. This relates to the after sales service rendered by dealers and on other matters, which according to the company is "not tenable in view of the certain legal pronouncements in case of other companies as well as opinions obtained from legal experts".

    Contingent liability also includes bonuspayment for the period between 1963-64 and 1967-68 at the Hindmotor unit in West Bengal and for the years 1984-85 and 1989-90 at Hosur in Karnataka which has been contested by the company. According to the company, there is no liability under the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965.

    The accounting policy also noted that the company's property deals have run into legal hurdles. The two instances disclosed by the company on its real estate front are:

    * The demolition order by the Bangalore Municipal Corporation of the company's flats worth Rs 11.89 lakh purchased earlier. A stay on the BMC's order has been obtained;

    * On March 28, 1997, HM agreed to exchange one of its properties worth Rs 1.87 crore with another property valued at Rs 2.50 crore. Against the difference of Rs 63 lakh, the company made an advance of Rs 25 lakh. The Income-tax department on August 21, 1997, notified the company about their intention to make a pre-emptive purchase of the property against which the company has obtained an interim stayfrom the Chennai high court.

    New faces on board

    Shareholders of Hindustan Motors Ltd will be witness to an important change of guard at the company's 56th annual general meeting on September 3 -- Chandra Kant Birla will now be in the chair as his father, GP Birla, stepped down after the last AGM. Also, the nine-member board will have three new faces.

    Rahul Bajaj resigned from the board on August 25, 1997. In his place, Sanmar group chairman Narayanan Shankar was appointed to the board.

    SG Guhagarkar resigned from the board on April 13, 1998, and his place has been taken by K Sinha, Life Insurance Corp's manager for the central zone.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: The Union power ministry has decided to constitute an inter-ministerial committee which will work out a mechanism for providing a security cover to ensure timely tariff payments by the state electricity boards (SEBs) for the power purchased from the mega power projects.

    The move is aimed at expediting the setting up of the Power Trading Corporation (PTC). Disclosing this to The Financial Express, union power minister PR Kumaramangalam said that the committee will work in close co-ordination with the standing independent group (SIG) and work out an appropriate security cover to make the operations of the PTC viable.

    The SIG, headed by Justice PN Bhagwati, is currently looking into the setting up of mega power projects and is also formulating the norms for setting up the PTC.

    The proposed inter-ministerial committee will consist of top brass from leading financial institutions along with power experts and senior officials from the power ministry.

    "The power producers will sellpower to the PTC and will be isolated from the risks involved in supplying power to the states. However, the government still has to ensure timely payments to the PTC. Therefore, appropriate clauses relating to timely payments have to be incorporated in the power purchase agreements (PPAs) signed by the PTC with the power developers. The inter-ministerial committee will assist the SIG on the securitisation of these PPAs and make them bankable," the minister added.

    The mega power policy, according to the minister, will be announced once this security cover is worked out.

    The SIG had earlier worked out the concept of `power bonds' for ensuring timely payments to the project developers. However, following opposition from a host of states, the government is working out an alternative strategy in order to recover dues from the SEBs. Recovering dues from the state's annual plan assistance was one such alternative.

    The inter-ministerial group will, along with SIG, look into these possibilities and come outwith a viable model for the formation of the PTC, the minister said.

    The government has also identified a host of mega power projects, with capacities ranging from 1,000mw to 2,000mw. These projects, which will use imported coal and LNG, will come up at Cudallore, Tuticorin, Krishnapatnam, Pipavav, Jamnagar, Khelgaon and North Karanpura.

    Power from these mega power projects will be sold by the developers to the proposed PTC which, in turn, will sell the power to the various SEBs. The proposal for setting up a PTC will be shortly sent to the cabinet for its approval.

    The PTC will initially have equity contributions from the central power sector undertakings like Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL), National Thermal Power Corporation, Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) and financial institutions.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Two-speed economy

    While there has been much doom and gloom about the Indian economy, several facts give a completely different picture. Consumer demand, for instance, is far from being subdued. Demand for two-wheelers, refrigerators, television sets and housing has been robust, all indicators that the consumer has money to spare. Confirmation of that is also available from the burgeoning growth of bank deposits, while the resilience in demand is only to be expected given the fact that GDP growth has continued to be respectable. Logically, it should be only a matter of time before the ripple effects from increased demand for consumer durables begins to act positively on the overall industry. This is all the more so because lower margins have made it imperative to increase volumes in order to protect earnings. The problem seems to be excess capacities set up in the core industries, which will take time to be fully utilised, coupled with competition from imports. The buoyancy of consumer demand isillustrated by the industries given below:

    Two-wheelers: Take for example the improved performance of the two-wheeler segment in the first quarter of the current fiscal. Lending credence to this growth story, have been the performances turned in by all the three segments of the two-wheeler industry. However, the motorcycle segment has clearly led the two-wheeler surge with companies like Hero Honda, TVS Suzuki and Bajaj Auto emerging as the fore-runners. In fact, the growth story in the motorcycle segment has continued with sales improving a solid 18 per cent to 2.95 lakh units during the first quarter.

    Interestingly, all the three vehicular segments in the two wheeler industry have witnessed improved fortunes in the first quarter. Sales in the scooter segment which were the hardest hit last year, have jumped 12.65 per cent to 3.34 lakh units compared to 2.97 lakh units last year. Incidentally, this segment of the two wheeler industry had witnessed a negative growth story last year when salesactually dipped 8 per cent (the first time in the last decade), thanks largely to the marked shift in demand from scooter to motorcycles. Companies like LML and Bajaj Auto have done exceedingly well in this market, with interesting schemes to induce purchase. Besides, sales have also improved in the moped segment, unlike the 10 per cent dip in offtakes witnessed last year.

    Consumer durables: This is another segment which has managed to shirk off the sluggish demand trend, which is indicative of improved consumerism and increased disposable incomes. Over 15,46,250 refrigerators were sold in the market this summer, indicating a 25 per cent growth over the number of units sold between February and June, 1997. While the growth in conventional refrigerators was expected, the premium-end frost free segment has also witnessed a solid 16 per cent growth.

    The first quarter also witnessed huge buying activity in the room air-conditioner and split air-conditioner segments. With sales growing at a fast clip of25 per cent-30 per cent, it was companies like Carrier Aircon, Voltas and Amtrex Appliances which enjoyed strong revenue accruals. Analysts estimate that the buoyancy in this segment, was largely due to the availability of a whole new range of products, service packages and cheap and easy finance options for the consumer.

    Furthermore, sales in the colour television market have also finally bounced back after having gone through a rough patch during the last two years. This transition has been largely due, to the entry of a slew of multinationals that have changed the entire dynamics of marketing in the CTV segment and attractive exchange schemes. Companies like Akai with their no- frill products have managed to garner a market share of 10.9 per cent between January and November, 1997, against a 2.8 per cent share in the previous period. Indian companies like BPL and Videocon also together account for nearly 45 per cent of the market share.

    Given that demand in the highly price-sensitive televisionsegment, companies have managed to generate profitability through volumes albeit at a slight cost to their margins. Clearly reflecting this fact is growth in CTV sales from 1.95 million to 2.3 million units, which has been achieved against at the cost of black and white TV sales which dipped from 6 million units to 5.6 million units for the first time after 1991.

    Housing: With real estate prices having witnessed an unprecedented fall, the first-time house buyers are now finding it more affordable to buy a house. The pent-up demand for budget homes appears to be reaching a critical volume and the first signs of a price stabilisation are showing up in this segment. Cities like Hyderabad are already witnessing renewed interest and a firming of property prices.

    The real fall has been witnessed in Mumbai where property prices were pushed to unrealistic highs due to speculative buying. The demand from genuine first-time buyers has not waned and not all are postponing their decisions to buy hoping forprices to fall further. This is clearly evident from the growth in disbursements by HDFC which have increased progressively from Rs 1,684 crore in 1995-96 to 2,101 crore in 1996-97 and to Rs 2,754 crore in 1997-98. The growth rate of disbursements, which had fallen from 39 per cent in 1995-96 to 25 per cent in 1996-97, has risen to 31 per cent in 1997-98.

    Construction activity is, however, not picking up yet. Builders in the metros are stuck with projects that were targeted towards the super premium segment. This segment is very small and there is hardly any user demand. Till these premium houses are sold, which is unlikely to happen in a hurry, the builders will be unable to promote budget housing projects that are very much in demand.

    (With contributions from Percy Dubash and Sarad Saraf)

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sep 1: Air-India has kick-started its plans to divest stake in its wholly-owned subsidiary, Hotel Corporation of India (HCI). The airline is set to issue global tenders inviting bids from consultancy firms, investment bankers and financial institutions to serve as an advisor and examine divestment options for, or privatisation of, the arm. The bids are to be submitted by September 20.

    The airline had been pushing for a sale of stake in HCI as the resultant proceeds could service its working-capital requirements and help in stemming the bleeding of its balance sheet. Selling the wing was the perfect solution for Air India to meet its fund requirements as Hotel Corporation had staged an impressive turnaround in 1994-95 after a gap of 11 years, reporting a Rs 4.47-crore net profit. The net then soared to Rs 46.01 crore in 1995-96. But a slump in tourist inflow, however, saw the net drop to Rs 30.74 crore in 1996-97.

    The hotel chain, which has an authorised capital of about Rs 41 crore, had alreadypaid back most of its loans to banks and institutions. According to a presentation made by the hotel major to the Air India board last year, it owed only Rs 31.97 crore, which it planned to clear by 1998-99.

    The proposed divestment, however, was strongly opposed by the then Hotel Corporation's managing director Kamal Sharma. His contention was that the airline should retain the wing as it was the company's only profit-making entity. He had also claimed that the hotel major could easily raise Rs 1,000 crore by approaching the market as a separate entity. In fact, Sharma had also applied to the Public Sector Enterprises Board to term the Hotel Corporation a "miniratna" and treat it as a separate company.

    HCI has four hotels, two in Mumbai and one each in Delhi and Srinagar, with a total of 1,280 rooms and two loss-making flight kitchens at Mumbai and Delhi. Its turnover is pegged at Rs 125 crore. The hotel chain was planning to sell its Srinagar property to the Jammu and Kashmir government for Rs 152 crore,while the two flight kitchens were to be leased out on a management-contract basis. But with the proposed privatisation of HCI and the suspension of Sharma all the previous plans have been scrapped.

    Industry analysts are, however, concerned that the airline will not be able to get a very good price for divestment. This is because HCI's net has steadily declined in the past three years. Sources at Air India said that the net profit has dipped by more than 50 per cent this year to around Rs 18 crore in 1997-98. Therefore, industry experts are of the view that HCI will not be able to raise more than Rs 500 crore.

    For Air India, however, any recovery of funds is welcome. As a result, the airline is willing to sell of the wing right away rather than wait for it to become a more profitable company and then sell it at a better price.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. The proposed Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) is a clever idea to shore up the fisc. The budget continues to be badly haemorrhaged by burgeoning revenue expenditure (pay hikes to the bureaucracy and subsidy enlargement to special interest groups). Disinvestment is therefore proposed as a staunching exercise, and pending actual disinvestment borrowings. The government will own 49 per cent of SPV, and financial institutions, in the main, 51 per cent. The government will reduce its equity stake in 17 PSU ratnas (industrial and financial) to 49 per cent in favour of SPV, technically. Actually the ex-PSUs will sell or borrow against the equity offered for sale. The borrowing (at tax free interest) will be a multiple of the market value of the equity and will be used to pay the government for the divested equity. The ex-PSUs will carry the burden of debt servicing.

    But can a controlling interest in the private sector, for example, take the SPV route to pay itself and saddle the company under its control with debt topay for divestment? Is this permissible under the company law? If not, what is sauce for the goose must be sauce for the gander. This apart, the price at which the government will transfer equity to SPV (theoretically) will have to be low in order to ensure that the shares sell at a premium to the public. There is, however, no guarantee that the final price will be sizable enough to free ex-PSUs from trouble; their share of 21 per cent (after claw back by the government) in realisations from equity sale may fall short of the amount required for debt servicing. In any case, why should the debt servicing cost of divestment be foisted on the ex-PSUs?

    However clever the idea, SPV does not give the PSU ratnas a good deal. It is based on flawed assumptions. The disinvestment proposed will raise funds for the government, but not as much as claimed by proponents. This is because the controlling interest will remain with the government. Equity in excess of 49 per cent will be a trade sale--to widely dispersedinvestors. This will not fetch the mega premium associated with strategic sale where the controlling interest passes on to private hands. It is wrong to describe such disinvestment as privatisation. For the latter, a new controlling interest is a must, if the objective is to thus make ex-PSUs vibrant and dynamic. But the SPV objective is to raise money for the government; period. The government wants to raise mega funds in two years--forcing PSUs to resort to mega borrowings--and at the same time use the equity divested to SPV as collateral for guarantees for infrastructure projects. But can the government square a circle?Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sep 1: A dull-to-weak trend prevailed on the cotton market on increased offerings due to prospects of good crop.

    V-797 at Rs 15,500-15,800, Morbi wagad at Rs 15,100-15,200 and Kala ginned at Rs 14,500-14,600 as also Sanker at Rs 18,500-22,000 a candy spot were static.

    Hitherto firm Punjab zone also witnessed selling pressure turning the undercurrent easy. In the ready section, Bengal deshi saw-ginned ruled at Rs 1620-1640, J-34 saw-ginned good average at Rs 1800-1850 and cart-selected at Rs 1920-2040 a maund.

    In forward new crop Bengal deshi roller-ginned October Punjab were on offer at Rs 1370-1380, Haryana at Rs 1360-1370 and Rajasthan at Rs 1350-1365. November delivery Haryana were on offer at Rs 1310-1320 and Rajasthan at Rs 1320-1335.

    J-34 saw-ginned good average Haryana October were placed at Rs 1800-1850 and November at Rs 1750-1760. Cart selected J-34 saw-ginned Haryana had changed hands at Rs 1820-1825 for November.

    Sugar dips

    Sugar price registered sharp losses ex-octroicheckpost on heavy offerings.

    The market witnessed heavy selling pressure in the wake of poor demand, coupled with the previous day's distinctly bearish tender advices. The price slumped by Rs 15 a quintal as M-30 were down to Rs 1415-1425 while S-30 fell to Rs 1395-1405, thereby, slipping below Rs 1400 mark. Ex-godown, the price ruled static at Rs 1443-1515 and at Rs 1420-1445 respectively on some what better buying support.

    In tenders, the price ruled more or less unchanged after previous day's drop of Rs 10. M-30 were indicated at Rs 1375-1380 and S-30 at Rs 1355-1360 in Kolhapur line.

    Milling wheat drifts

    Milling wheat price fell sharply on the grains market. Rice Gujarat-17 ruled better. Elsewhere, a quietly steady trend prevailed.

    On slack demand, coupled with the prospects of imports have caused a dent of Rs 20 a quintal in the price of milling wheat which drifted down to Rs 660-661. Saurashtra Lokvan wheat at Rs 760-825, Sihori at Rs 850-950, SW at Rs 900-1100, north Gujarat at Rs725-775 and Ganganagar at Rs 775-825 were unchanged.

    Rice Gujarat-17 firmed up by Rs 100 at Rs 1500-1600 on reserved selling due to restricted supply. Permal FCI at Rs 850-950 and superior at Rs 1150-1250 were steady. Punjab Tericot rice were on offer at Rs 1700-1800 while Sarbati were traded in the range of Rs 2000-2200.

    Among pulses, Australian gram were placed at Rs 1300, green peas USA at Rs 1600-1650 and Canadian at Rs 1050-1085. Rajma chitra deshi ruled at Rs 3000 and red imported at Rs 1900.

    Yarn dull

    A dull condition continued on the yarn market following poor demand.

    Viscose filament yarn bright cones first quality Century Rayon, 150dn at Rs 224, 120dn at Rs 245, 100dn at Rs 258 and 75dn at Rs 269 a kg were unchanged. 120dn dull cones were placed at Rs 253.

    Nylon yarn Shreelon 15/1/0dn at Rs 20/1/0dn were quoted at Rs 265 and at Rs 231 respectively.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Bangalore, Sept 1: Union civil aviation minister Ananth Kumar on Tuesday said the centre will allow 100 per cent participation by international consortiums with local partners in the construction of domestic airports.

    Inaugurating the first electronic international exhibition and conference "Nepcon India '98" organised by the Confederation of India Industry (CII) and Elecronic Components Industries Association (Elcina) here, Kumar said the centre had decided to allow consortiums to invest fully as against the earlier 74 per cent.

    Kumar said his ministry will also clear the international airport project at Devanahalli within a week if the Tata consortium approached them. During his recent meeting with the Tata group chairman Ratan Tata, the latter had promised to come back to him after revaluating the project with the consortium partners--Raytheon and Singapore consortium, besides consulting Karnataka chief minister JH Patel.

    Kumar said the review of the project was not put forth by his ministry but wassuggested by Tata himself during the meeting.

    He said he had agreed to release the excess land held by the airport authorities near the Bangalore airport for construction of a four-way freeway to develop the whitefield IT Corridore. If the four-lane highway was completed, the proposed Pragati Maidan-like exhibition complex and international technology park, besides the airport, would stand to gain, he said.

    On the exhibition, Kumar said the centre was committed to make the country a global IT destination and urged the sector and the state government to integrate technology as it would be more relevant in the 21st century.

    The four-day exhibition will have exhibits from Germany, Italy, Japan Switzerland, Taiwan and Singapore.

    Electronic component is one of the fastest growing sector with the estimated demand-supply gap expected to increase from $1.14 billion in 1997-98 to $2.94 billion by 2001-2002.

    While 18 companies under the banner of Udyog Mitra are participating from Maharashtra, tenmanufacturers from Andhra Pradesh have put their products on display.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Colgate-Palmolive is one of the few multinational stocks which have failed to outperform the market in the recent past. In fact, the performance of this stock has been far from impressive over the past three years as well.

    While increasing popularity and the subsequent rising market share of Hindustan Lever's toothpaste brand, "Pespodent" is the main factor which has affected Colgate's market share in the dental care segment, Colgate's stock performance has been dismal on account of other factors as well.

    Huge equity dilution has been the prime reason. The equity share capital stood at Rs 15.72 crore in 1988. This had steadily grown to Rs 31.44 crore in 1991-92 and Rs 50.30 crore in 1992-93 respectively. This further jumped to Rs 135.99 crore in 1994-95.

    The market could have absorbed these equity dilutions had the company maintained its sales and profit growth. The performance of the stock was impressive till the beginning of 1994 simply because the impact of the dilution (around 8.56 crore shares)felt in later years.

    Sales growth had been impressive till 1995-96. Except the year 1994-95, sales growth had been in the range of 17 per cent-30 per cent. In fact, sales growth during 1997-98 has been the lowest in the last ten years. For the year ended March 31, 1998, sales recorded a meagre jump of 3.02 per cent.

    Not only has the growth slowed down during 1997-98, the company has also taken a hit on other fronts. The average credit period given to the customer has risen from 21 days to 25 days. Similarly, as compared a 3 per cent improvement in sales, inventories recorded a sharp jump by 22.6 per cent during the financial year 1997-98.

    Slowdown in offtake also had its impact on the operating margins which has taken a sharp beating. With a 10.08 per cent drop in operating profit, margins at the operating level have fallen from 17.01 per cent to 12.7 per cent during 1997-98.

    To keep pace with the increasing competition and since the company is fighting to retain its market share, expenditure onadvertising has risen sharply during 1997-98. The company has stepped up advertising support for important products like Colgate Claciguard, Colgate Fresh Stripe Gel, Colgate Double Protection, New Longer Lasting Colgate Total and Axion the surface cleaning product. In fact, a sharp jump in advertising is the only reason why the operating profit margins have fallen. At Rs 147 crore, the advertising costs accounted for 14.95 per cent of the sales as compared to 10.8 per cent in 1996-97, a sizeable increase.

    The decline in operating profit margins further accelerated during the first quarter of the current year; 1998-99. For the first quarter, while the sales recorded a negative growth of 7.3 per cent to Rs 217.76 crore, operating profit margin stood at 7.34 per cent, down from 15.41 per cent in the corresponding period in the previous year.

    After the announcement of these results, the stock has lost 25 per cent of its market price or Rs 63. With this fall, the stock has broken its major support level at Rs215. This is nothing but an indication of weakening position of the stock and hints at a fall as the next support level is far off from the current level.

    The fundamental position also favours this argument and the market logic. Colgate has been losing market share and it has failed to achieve any major penetration in the oral-care segment, despite product improvements. With stiff competition from Hindustan Lever's Pepsodent and Close Up brands in the dental care segment, the company will have no option but to continue spending huge amounts on sales promotion to try and take back the market share that it lost. While snatching back the lost market share would undoubtedly be a difficult task, even if the company did succeed, it would definitely be at the cost of its profit margins, which are already under pressure.Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Mumbai, Sept 1: The elephant wants to learn to dance. To the manic rhythm of deregulation. It has already been an eventful 18 months of soul-searching for Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, when it has gone looking for the missed steps with the help of Andersen Consulting. Will HPCL be able to limber up to face the challenge thrown by the deregulation of the petroleum sector? Will it be able to dance alone without support from the government? The corporation certainly believes it has already made a good start.

    The case in point is its decision to advance its restructuring timetable by more than 18 months. Rather than tip-toe with the creation of strategic business units for its four main businesses--the backbone of its restructuring plan--it has decided to go in for a full-blast twirl and get the strategic business unit rollout at all zonal levels in the next nine months. The other example is the predominance of human resource restructuring in its quest to ride the deregulation wave.

    Thechallenge

    No longer a beneficiary of a sheltered approach, it will be required to meet the challenges of the open market. For example, refineries will no longer get fixed margins, and profitability will be linked to international pricing. The market will have aggressive new private entrants, making pricing a strategic issue. Chairman and managing director HL Zutshi has admitted that the company needs to take critical commercial decisions.

    HPCL's problems also sprout from its PSU roots. As part of an oligopoly in the past, HP had a well-defined market, an Oil Coordination Committee-driven demand-and-supply target and no competition whatsoever. Says an analyst with Jardine Fleming, "There was hardly any information-sharing at HPCL, and it continues to be bureaucratic." In fact, Andersen's first summary report did question if HPCL appreciated the overall magnitude of and the urgency for a change.

    Says the Jardine Fleming analyst, "Real market opportunities of 2002 will depend on efficiency,international refining standards (optimising production), ability to price aggressively, and an effective network of dealers." For HPCL and Andersen, the key to getting all these tools in order and making them work for years has been found in human resource. Says Andersen Consulting managing partner Sid Khanna: "The big challenge for the firm was to shift focus to HRD rather than just go ahead with a marketing and operations overhaul." The firm has 30 people dedicated to the job round the clock for the past 18 months.

    The reason for HR becoming the focus of restructuring the nearly 12,000-strong corporation is simple. The undertaking of the Andersen-recommended business process reengineering is one which will require 75 per cent of the non-managerial staff to be retrained and redeployed. Some 70 per cent of the managerial staff would have to undergo a similar shift, while a 30 per cent redeployment was envisaged for the refineries. And there was a promise to be kept to the unions on retrenchment.

    That theshift has worked is evident from the advancing of the restructuring schedule. The corporation had initially planned to introduce the SBUs only at the headquarter-level and in the LPG business. It was then to wait for a year before it embarked on a full-fledged rollout covering other businesses at all levels. However, according to general manager (corporate planning & projects) Arun Balakrishnan, "The last 18 months of working with Andersen Consulting have made HPCL employees more comfortable with implementing changes, making it possible to gain a faster pace for the rollout."

    The HR revamp

    Andersen's diagnosis of human-resource management threw up an archaic performance appraisal and promotion system, frequent transfers of employees and a multiple-layer organisation structure. Says petroleum sector specialist A Bhattacharya, who is on deputation to ONGC as economic advisor, "There is just no synergy between the human resource and the objectives of the organisation... these have to match."

    SoAndersen went about improving the implementation of its HR policies by introducing modified schemes relating to staff, and HR management, moved towards transparency in appraisal, reduced frequency of transfers to encourage specialisation and development of skills. It also introduced broad banding of salary grades by incorporating seniority and qualification in promotions. Another input was that of developing communication between employees at all levels.

    The new system will be supported by a Rs 100-odd-crore worth enterprise resource planning package. The package will have an HRMS (HR management system) as well, which will now log on all manpower movement and track organisational structure and maintain a skill inventory of employees to help create a career and succession planning module for all levels. Says human resource director SK Kerr: "We are getting rid of long lead times in dealing with recruitments and appraisals to get good professionals."

    The new plan includes introduction of campus recruitmentsat all the top management institutes, a Rs 3.5-crore training budget and a fresh appraisal and promotion policy to attract talent from premium institutes. To be sure, the new input has already made HPCL an attractive option for premium institutes as it has already roped in nearly 100 young engineers from IITs and another 60-odd MBAs from campus placements this year.

    Ownership of the idea of change

    HPCL has also realised that no amount of marketing modules and infotech inputs, however, would work unless the idea of restructuring is owned by the employees. Balakrishnan cites an example of ownership at HPCL's pilot retail project at Aurangabad, where, after initial hesitation regarding the changes, the employees have started coming up with their suggestions, which have helped improve sales.

    Involving the lower and middle management in the change process has, therefore, become a key goal for Andersen. Its first step in doing so was to flatten the nine-level structure to a maximum of six levels andeven down to three levels in some sections. As a result, the procurement and modernisation decisions on outlets can now be taken by the regional managers.

    The many changes in staff policy have surprisingly not invited any protest from the HPCL unions. Analysts attribute this to the corporation not being over-staffed like other PSUs. Second, the management has involved the unions at every stage of change apart from guaranteeing them zero retrenchment.

    Linking HR to organisational objectives

    The company has gone in for a complete realignment of authority. Says Andersen's Uday Bhansali, who has been in charge of the HPCL project: "Specific delegation has helped tremendously in single-point ownership of performance." HPCL is also banking on its revamped HR initiatives to play a lead role in establishing independent profitability of each SBU. This means that specific job descriptions and key performance indicators for each management position in each SBU have now been defined.

    A question ofanswers

    Doubting Thomases still abound. Says a senior industry analyst, "HPCL has lost out on its lubes market share. Being a PSU, it can hardly provide any flexibility in discount schemes. Just how will they face real competition?" Balakrishnan agrees that turning around the mindset at HPCL is no mean task. However, what gives him hope is the pace at which the HPCL people are embracing the new system. He says that as the rollout of the SBU concept is happening and people are getting impacted, the way they look at their job has undergone a sea change. He cites the example of Bangalore, where HPCL saw a successful pilot project.

    Andersen's Bhansali, too, admits that as a public-sector unit, HPCL has a different set of pressures. It has to operate in a certain procedural framework. However, he confirms that the definition and scope of authority is being revised, through amendments of the Limits of Authority Manual, and this will make HPCL more flexible and independent. The trick, according to Andersen,is to do it gradually rather than attempt a sudden environment change. The firm is looking at a timeframe of two to three years for a complete transformation of HPCL's way of doing things.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Calcutta, Sept 1: Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) plans to save around Rs 80 crore through standardisation in 1998-99 as part of its current cost-cutting exercise.

    A senior SAIL official said the heterogenity of machinery and equipment at the Bhilai, Bokaro, Rourkela and Durgapur plants set up under Soviet, German and British collaborations had resulted in the use of diverse materials, high costs per unit and longer lead time of procurement. Standardisation will negate these effects to a great extent and reduce costs.

    SAIL's steel plants have formulated their own inhouse standards. Its collaborators are the Tata Iron & Steel Company, Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd and consultants Mecon and DasturCo who will also benefit from the standardisation.

    One of the most tangible benefits accruing from standardisation will be "variety reduction". This will help to reduce inventory and consequently capital investment in inventory and storage. For example, wire ropes for cranes are bulk purchase items required byshopfloors in every steel plant. A limited number of sizes and types are selected from a wide spectrum laid down according to Indian standards. Standardisation helps in inventory control and ensures bulk purchase at a competitive price by limiting the choice set.

    Standardisation is also extended to design, operation, maintenance, material management, packaging and safety. Standardisation of lubricants such as oil film bearing oil, antiwear hydraulic oil and multi-purpose grease has led to an annual average saving of Rs 2.65 crore at Bokaro and Rs 86.6 lakh at the Durgapur steel plant.

    Efforts to standardise other items such as electric motors, wire ropes, sinter plant pallets and carbon brushes for motors will help SAIL save Rs 5.8 crore a year. The benefits obtained by all the 250-and-odd subjects for which standards exist would add up to a minimum of Rs 80 crore, the official said.

    According to him, standards are also being set for packaging of products such as sheets, plates, coils and merchant millitems. Attempts are being made to ensure that the products reach the customer in absolutely damage-free condition.

    The freight capacities of rail wagons and trucks are being reduced to the minimum by designing the system in a manner that will ensure easy handling in the shortest possible time. The recent formulation of two standards on high density polyethylene (HDPE) bags and sheets used for coke oven by products and finished flat products respectively has the potential of saving around Rs 62 lakh per annum.

    SAIL's current maintenance cost is around Rs 2,900 crore per annum. Even a modest one per cent saving by streamlining practices in line with the existing standards would help to save Rs 29 crore.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Pune, Sept 1: The UK insurance company General Accident Insurance, which has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nusli Wadia group, may set up head office in Pune -- once the sector is thrown open. While it is still awaiting clear guidelines on equity participation by foreign companies, it is hopeful of at least a substantial minority holding in the proposed joint venture.

    General Accident Insurance has already held a few insurance agents' meets in Mumbai, where it has a liaison office, as a run-up to its entry into the market. It plans to hold the first such meeting outside Mumbai in Pune on September 5, the response to which will decide its plans to hold more such meets.

    The aim in holding agents' meets is to impart professional expertise to these agents who, incidentally, are existing agents of the nationalised undertakings. The meet will allow the company to explain the opportunities they can avail of once the sector is liberalised. The aim is to professionalise the industry, teach theagents how to sell insurance products and make the buying of such products easier. The opening up of the sector is expected to create more jobs and the effort appears to be in allaying fears in the minds of the public sector giants that jobs would not be lost once private companies enter the fray.

    General Accident, which in India will focus on the non-life segment, has entered overseas markets usually as a branch operation or as a wholly-owned subsidiary, though it has taken a "substantial" minority stake in some countries.

    The general insurance sector, which in India is estimated to be growing at about 6 per cent per annum, could grow faster once it is opened up.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Chennai, Sept 1: L&T Information Technology Ltd (LTITL), the wholly-owned subsidiary of engineering and construction giant Larsen & Toubro Ltd, hopes to grow its business volumes substantially in the coming years with the fostering of a close relationship with the Japanese conglomerate Hitachi.

    LTITL chief executive AS Godbole told reporters on Tuesday that the newly set up dedicated offshore development centre (DODC) in Chennai will have a team of 100 software professionals exclusively devoted to serving the multifarious requirements of Hitachi in networking management.

    Speaking at the inauguartion of the DODC, Godbole said the centre has been set up at an initial cost of Rs 3 crore. But business volumes with Hitachi are expected to grow substantially and investments too will be stepped up, he added.

    Godbole said, last year Hitachi accounted for 4 per cent of the sales revenue of Rs 91 crore. This year with revenues projected to rise to Rs 162 crore, Hitachi's contribution to the sales revenue willalso go up to over 7 per cent, he added.

    The DODC will be dedicated to developing network management software on an online hi-tech basis, he said. "More than business volumes we are looking to strengthen our relationship by sharing plans for future development, recruitment and training," he said.

    LTITL is executing networking management software development work on behalf of Hitachi especially of a technical nature for connecting a variety of computers and generally manage their hardware and software requirements.

    LTITL now employs 1,200 people and besides working on porting and development projects for Hitachi, has a strategic business focus covering several key areas including legacy systems maintenance, porting and reengineering, Y2K conversion, ERP solutions and Internet-related services.

    The company has an equity capital of Rs 15 crore. Godbole said various options like opening more offices abroad, (it has one office in the US), acquisition of one or two US-based infotech companies and anemployee stock option scheme are under consideration. He, however, ruled out any joint venture as that will dilute the Indian firm's profitability. Last year the company on a turnover of Rs 91 crore made a profit of around 20 per cent. The projection this year is that on a turnover of Rs 162 crore the profit will be in excess of 35 per cent.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Hyderabad, Sept 1: The Hyderabad-based telecom-equipment manufacturer, Goldstone Engineering Ltd plans to diversify into the software development industry owing to lower realisation in the telecom business. The company proposes to set up a Rs 7-crore 100 per cent export-oriented software development centre at Secunderabad.

    Of the Rs 7 crore, a sum of Rs 2 crore will come through internal accruals, while the remaining will be in the form of a rupee term loan from the Industrial Finance Corporation of India, company managing director LP Sashikumar said.

    The company had acquired a one-year-old software firm KLG Softech Ltd with a turnover of about Rs 45 lakh. The company's name has been changed to Goldstone Softech Ltd, and a proposal has been mooted to amalgamate it with Goldstone Engineering. After the amalgamation, a separate division will be set up for software development and training. This centre will be headed by CMC Ltd's former chairman and managing director KK Krishnan Kutty, a company officialsaid.

    As of now, Goldstone Engineering has invested about Rs 1.40 crore on the proposed software project. It has also entered into strategic alliances with Forte Software Inc, Microsoft, Sirius (a subsidiary of the Japan-based Mitsubishi Corporation and James Martin & Company.

    Goldstone Engineering is in the process of setting up a training and monitoring centre for Forte Software Inc to train software engineers and deploy them abroad for undertaking onsite consulting assignments. It also intends to promote a wholly-owned subsidiary in America for which the company has obtained approvals from Reserve Bank of India.

    For the year ended June 30, 1998, Goldstone Engineering has posted a gross income of Rs 22.22 crore and a gross profit of Rs 6.98 crore.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Hyderabad, Sept 1: The $3-million Microsoft India Development Centre, which commenced operations on Tuesday, will focus on developing the interoperability of the Windows NT network server operating system and its BackOffice products with non-Microsoft platforms like Unix and Lynex.

    As large enterprises move to Microsoft Windows NT from other environments, compatibility with other operating systems and platforms is becoming a key requirement, the development centre general manager Srini Koppolu said.

    The Hyderabad centre, which is the second such centre outside of Redmond, will initially have 20 engineers. However, the strength is expected to go up to 40 in an year's time. The centre is an extension of the product development teams in Redmond, where close to 20,000 employees work, Koppolu said.

    The Hyderabad centre will also be working on the Component Object model (COM+) technologies. These technologies, developed around COM+, will facilitate developers to easily create software components in anylanguage using any development tool.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Mumbai, Sept 1: The bullion market remained closed on Tuesday for festival of `Gouri Immersion'. Market will reopen for trading on Wednesday.

    Meanwhile in the kerb trading, gold prices recovered further on the back of festival buying coupled with firm overseas market. Prices of gold biscuit (116.50 gm.) were quoted Rs 300/400 higher at Rs 48,000/48,100 per piece in the kerb trading. Standard gold was quoted Rs 30 higher at Rs 4,100 per 10 gm. In the global market gold prices were placed from $275.50 to $278 per ounce.

    Silver prices in the kerb deal ruled weak at Rs 7225/7250 per kg. against previous official closing of Rs 7,275 as stock of unsold silver in the city market prompted selling pressure. Silver was up by Rs 115 per kg on Monday. In the global market the white metal eased to $4.74/4.75 per ounce.

    Groundnut oil extended losses on the oil, oilseeds market here today. Castorseed and its oil remained firm following continued covering by shippers coupled with acute shortage of ready stock at thefag end of the season.

    Groundnut oil closed Rs 10 lower at Rs 588 per 10 kg amidst sluggish buying interest while brisk supplies followed by weak upcountry advices prompted profit-taking among local stockists. In Rajkot prices dropped to Rs 530/535 per 10 kg and Rs 810/815 per 15 kg. it was learnt.

    Imported palm oil slid by a rupee to Rs 374 per 10 kg exclusive of tax amidst demand resistance while fresh inflow at Mumbai port prompted light profit-taking by importers. In the global market palm oil remained firm at $720 per tonne for spot delivery and $690/680 per tonne for forward delivery, it was learnt.

    Castor oil gained by Rs 10 at Rs 505/517 per 10 kg on fresh covering by shippers coupled with thin supplies. In Rotterdum market it was quoted firm at $1200 per tonne. Castorseed ready shot up by Rs 48 to Rs 2,322/2,328 per quintal.

    In the futures section castorseed December delivery climbed from Rs 1,860 to Rs 1,873 before concluding at Rs 1,868 per quintal on renewed bull support.

    In AhmedabadDecember delivery placed higher at Rs 1,927 per quintal. In the Gujarat region castorseed spot delivery quoted at Rs 445/450 per 20 kg. Castor oil climbed to Rs 492/493 per 10 kg.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: The broadcasting bill providing compulsory uplinking of satellite television in India would be introduced in the next session of parliament, information and broadcasting minister Sushma Sawaraj said today.

    The legislation, if approved by the parliament, would help the country save foreign exchange and monitor programme contents of these channels, she said while inaugurating the annual conference of state information ministers.

    Swaraj said a 14-member broadcasting council, comprising eminent persons, would be set up on the pattern of the Press Council of India to provide a forum for the people to register their complaints against the contents of the programmes telecast by Prasar Bharati.

    The government recently allowed Indian TV satellite companies with up to 20 per cent foreign equity participation to have the uplinking facility.

    But a number of foreign-based companies or those having more than 20 per cent foreign equity participation are at present not allowed thisfacility.

    Referring to the proposed freedom for information bill, Swaraj said the government's main concern was to find a "middle path" between the growing demand for free flow of information and protection of the country's culture from "unwanted and excessive" depiction of sex, violence and obscenity in the media.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Call Rates

    The call rates moved in a narrow range on Tuesday. The overnight rates opened at 9-9.50 per cent, unchanged from their previous close.

    Lower demand for funds saw the rates ease to 9.10 per cent by noon. At the close, the rates quoted at 9-9.25 per cent. "The inter-bank market is seen flush with liquidity over the next few days. An estimated Rs 9,000 crore is seen coming in with a maturing Rs 1,413 crore 11.25 per cent state government loan, Rs 66 crore from the 13.12 per cent 1999 and around Rs 7,000 crore via maturing repos," dealers said.

    The Reserve Bank of India mopped up Rs 2,400 crore through three-day 8 per cent fixed-rate repos. The National Stock Exchange's Mibid and Mibor quoted at 9.50 per cent and 9.08 per cent respectively.

    FORECAST: The call rates are seen in 9-10.50 per cent band on Wednesday.

    Gilts

    Short-dated gilt prices fell by 5-10 paise on Tuesday from their previous closing levels. The 11.55 per cent 2001 traded at Rs 100.12 (Rs100.14).

    "Outflows of Rs 2,401 crore through the three-day 8 per cent repos and reports of State Bank selling Rs 30 crore of short-dated gilts in the noon drove prices lower," dealers said. The 11.55 per cent 2001 quoted at Rs 100.03-100.05 at the close and the 11.78 per cent 2003 at Rs 100.03-100.05 (Rs 100.10). "Trading is dull. Expectations of another Reserve Bank of India auction of two- and 10-year papers are affecting the trading sentiment," dealers said. The National Stock Exchange's wholesale debt market witnessed trades worth Rs 177.02 crore. Trades worth Rs 45 crore were seen in the 11.55 per cent 2001 at a weighted yield of 11.47 per cent.

    FORECAST: Short-term gilt prices are seen at Tuesday's closing levels on Wednesday.

    Spot Dollar

    The forex market witnessed lacklustre trades on Tuesday owing to little corporate interest for the dollar.

    The rupee opened at 42.50/51 compared with its previous close of 42.49/50. The local currency weakened to an intra-day low of 42.54/55on late demand for dollars from corporates.

    Most players stayed away from the market. "There was little demand, excepting a late burst of demand from a corporate. Otherwise, the market was dull," a dealer from a private bank said. The Russian crisis had no effect on the rupee, treasury chiefs said. The Reserve Bank of India's directive to not use the RIB funds in the forex market continued to add to the sluggishness, dealers said. "The Reserve Bank's measures last Thursday have improved the mood. But there is a latent demand for dollars," a dealer said.

    FORECAST: The rupee is seen between 42.45 and 42.54 on Wednesday.

    Forward Premiums

    Forward premiums fell on Tuesday morning but rose marginally on talks that the State Bank of India was seen paying dollars for October maturities.

    September premiums finished at 39/41 paise (41/44 paise), October at 79/81 paise (81/85 paise) and November at 110/113 paise (115/119 paise). The annualised one-month cover came down considerably and quotedat 12.60 per cent (13.50 per cent), three months at 10.75 per cent (11.25 per cent), six months at 10.6 per cent (11 per cent) and one year also at 10.6 (11 per cent). "Premiums have gone marginally lower in the near terms largely because importers still find it stiff to cover at these levels... But dollar demand is intact," a dealer with a brokerage said.

    FORECAST: The six-month annualised cover is seen at 10.40 per cent on Wednesday.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Mumbai, Sept 1: Tata Industries has roped in ICICI Securities and Finance Company (I-Sec) managing director Kishor Chaukar as its new managing director. Chaukar, who has been associated with the investment-banking arm of ICICI since its inception, will put in his papers over the next few days.

    "Tata Industries is appointing a mew managing director shortly. He is KA Chaukar, currently the managing director of I-Sec. Chaukar brings to Tata Industries considerable experience in project evaluation and project finance," a Tata Services press release said.

    Tata Industries is the main promoter of the Tata group in new projects in the areas of information technology, telecommunications and other high technology areas.

    Speaking to The Financial Express, Chaukar said: "It happened very fast. It is not an opportunity in finance. I will be involved in setting up new projects for Tata Industries. It is a challenge I am looking forward to."

    The financial sector has not been surprised by the development, as Chaukaris believed to be not enjoying his assignment in I-Sec for quite some time now. The massive loss posted by I-Sec in 1997-98 did not go down well with the ICICI management. More complications cropped up when overseas partner JP Morgan decided to call it a day early this year.

    I-Sec has also lost the prime of place in the new scheme of things at ICICI, which is fast turning into a universal bank, following the recommendations of McKinsey & Co. A sizable number of I-Sec employees left the fold to join JP Morgan, few departments wound up and some of I-Sec executives were called back to ICICI.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Washington, Sept 1: The IMF should consider the "home-grown" reform package of Pakistan as a desire to change and must release its $3 billion aid without linking it to Islamabad signing the CTBT, says a senior Pak official.

    Linking the package to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty could prove counter-productive and instead of dictating terms the IMF must support Pakistan's home-grown package of reforms aimed at IMF-type objectives," said Hafiz Pasha, premier Nawaz Sharif's top economic adviser.

    Pakistan is in an advanced stage of negotiations with the Islamic Development Bank for as much as $1.5 billion and Islamabad is also seeking resumption of IMF aid apart from a $3 billion dollar package, he told Wall Street Journal.

    However, the official said he expected the loan size to be commensurate with Pakistan's desire to sign the CTBT.

    If Islamabad does not pledge to sign the CTBT as sought by the United States, an IMF package would still materialise but it would be considerably smaller and mightalso require tough policy changes, ranging from devaluation, cut in defence spending and hikes in utility tariffs.

    Even with an IMF bailout, Pakistan needs to overhaul its economy and government finances to prevent further crises, the official said while claiming that his appointment to the post too was a result of the growing realisation that it required experts to tackle the complex problems.

    "It is clear now that we need structural changes. We cannot rely on growth of external debt, which is unsustainable and unworthy," he said.

    Pasha's immediate task is to borrow yet more to cover most of the estimated $4.5 billion balance of payments shortfall for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1999.

    Pakistan's foreign currency reserves are just $772 million while its September debt service bill is higher -- at least $600 million to multilateral agencies and an equal amount to commercial creditors.

    In fact, the country's economic woes go far deeper than just debt. Recent hikes in petrol and power ratescoupled with a 30 per cent depreciation of the rupee since the may nuclear tests have revived double-digit inflation.

    Contrary to former finance minister Sartaz Aziz's view that Islamabad was only facing a cash crunch, Pasha maintains that without raising tax revenues and restructuring the highly inefficient public utilities and banks, Pakistan can never improve its credibility with foreign lenders.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Tokyo, Sept 1: Japan's economy is at its ``darkest stage'', the nation's chief economic planner said today as the stock market tumbled and the country slid towards deflation.

    "I see the state of the Japan economy at present as being at the darkest stage," Taichi Sakaiya, head of the economic planning agency told reporters.

    Stock markets across Asia were badly shaken today after Wall Street suffered its second worst day of losses in history.

    Tokyo's Nikkei Index fell hard in morning trade to hit a new 12-year low in early trade, falling to 13,664.74 points, its worst intra-day level since March 1, 1986.

    Japan is in the grip of recession and with industrial output and prices falling, deflation is now threatening to bring down the government's attempts to revive the economy.

    Sakaiya blamed the poor summer weather for pressuring spending. A powerful typhoon which has killed 16 and left thousands homeless in northern Japan is also expected to take its toll on the economy.

    "Although there was a sign ofrecovery in spending seen around June, poor weather pressured the spending and, because of this, corporate and consumer spending sentiment cooled," he said.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Mumbai, Sept 1: The advent of the euro could see the European Union's bargaining power improve significantly in the Indian context.

    The EU could pressurise Indian manufacturers to offer the best possible prices as the union would have a large export market for manufactured goods, especially the textiles segment, said a report by the Mumbai-based Khandwala Securities. This could see the already strained manufacturers further lose out in the future.

    India's reliance on dollars for trade purposes would decline considerably beyond year 2000 in favour of the euro. Besides, transaction costs for Indian companies would also diminish considerably, the report said.

    As EU is India's largest trading partner, the country could tilt in favour of the euro, the report said.

    The reactions from EU member nations to the nuclear tests are an indicator of India's close trade relationship with these nations. The ties would be further strengthened if the US-imposed sanctions on India are not removed by then.

    In such asscenario, a considerable shift in the domestic foreign currency reserves from the dollar towards the euro could be seen beyond year 2000.

    Capital goods are the key import item from Europe and exceed imports from the US as well, showing EU's strength in the sector.

    The move on the part of the Reserve Bank of India to shift a part of its reserves from the dollar to the euro may see a depreciation in the dollar vis-a-vis rupee. This may mean a slowdown in selling pressures from the foreign institutional investors arising out of concerns about the exchange rate. No other major direct impact is foreseen on the Indian capital markets once the euro arrives.

    The State Bank of India's recent Resurgent India Bonds issue, when viewed in this context, could mean that the high cost of funding as is being assumed now may not be high. The reason: If the euro gains stature of a competitor currency, the dollar may depreciate, thereby reducing the redemption costs of the issue.

    Although in the medium term, the eurowill take away some of the dollar's importance as the most preferred settlement currency, it would not be in position to replace the same entirely.

    The key revenue generating sectors from Europe are manufactured goods, readymade garments & textile yarn, made ups, agriculture & allied products and gems & jewellery.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Mumbai, Sept 1: The State Bank of India is planning to storm into the insurance sector by adopting the `bancassurance' model--popular in Europe and Latin America--to sell life-insurance products across the counter at its branches as and when the industry formally opens up.

    The bank will, by choosing `bancassurance', eliminate the tier of agents and put to use its and associate banks' 14,000-odd branches, delivering products cheaply.

    Four global investment bankers and consultancy firms made presentations before the State Bank brass last week, and a few more are expected to do so over the next few days. The chosen investment banker or consultancy firm's brief will be to identify an overseas partner with a state-of-the-art technology for the bank to tie up with. The bank may opt for separate tie-ups for life insurance- and general-insurance sectors.

    "Everything depends on the government. As things stand now, the centre may allow up to 20 per cent foreign stake in insurance ventures. The State Bank iswilling to offer the maximum stake allowed by the centre to its prospective overseas partners," sources close to the investment bankers said.

    Along with the parent bank, the seven associate banks may also pick up stakes in the insurance venture that will have an initial capital base of Rs 100 crore which will be raised to Rs 300 crore over the next three years. The State Bank is expected to get a premium on its insurance venture's shares from its prospective overseas partners, sources said.

    Bancassurance combines the branch network's strength and insurance-risk management skills. Credit Agricole is the largest `bancassurer' in the world, followed by Midland Bank.

    `Bancassurance'--a French term that signifies a new relationship between banks and insurance companies--evolved in Europe in the '80s. In Germany, it is known as Allfinanz and in the UK, `one-stop financial shopping'.

    In France, `bancassurance' accounts for 55 per cent of the total insurance industry. Its share is expected to go up to 60 percent by 2000. In Spain, the vehicle has a share of 32 per cent and in Italy, 20 per cent.

    Expounding on the `bancassurance's' benefits, investment-banking sources said the use of the vehicle creates a win-win situation for insurance companies, banks as also their clients. The insurance company enjoys the benefits of a wider reach, lower acquisition costs and higher premiums. It also offers a better cash flow as premiums are deducted from bank accounts. The bank, on its part, gets a higher fee-based income and puts into better use its branch network and manpower.

    For clients, the prices of products come down as there is no agent commission involved and bank branches turn out to be one-stop shops for financial products.

    Insight:

    Network will come handy

    One obvious way in which banks can put their branch network to good use is to utilise it more efficiently. This can be done by selling more financial products through the same network. One clear choice is insurance, although others toocan easily be thought of, such as housing loans or even share- broking services. Of course, major changes in rules and regulations need to be made before `bancassurance' becomes a reality. While the current thinking seems to be to have different subsidiaries for such products (many banks have housing subsidiaries), it scarcely makes sense to duplicate an extensive branch network.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. DURBAN, Sept 1: Cross-border terrorism, global disarmament and relevance of the non-aligned movement (NAM) in the era of economic globalisation and post-cold war scenario will dominate the discussions of leaders at the 12th NAM summit beginning here today.

    The two-day summit of the 113-member grouping, to be inaugurated by South African president Nelson Mandela, who will take over the NAM chairmanship for the next three years, will be attended by heads of state and governments of over 60 nations, including Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

    The issue of terrorism has assumed heightened importance in this NAM summit in the wake of the recent missile attacks by the US on Sudan and Afghanistan after the American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

    New Delhi feels Washington is following a policy of double standards by unilaterally targetting alleged terrorist bases but not sympathising with countries like India which is facing cross-border terrorism by Pakistan.

    The recent India-Pakistannuclear tests are also expected to figure in a big way with New Delhi expected to put up a strong case for immediate steps by the nuclear club for global disarmament and ask them not to practice discriminatory forms of nuclear proliferation.

    South African deputy president Thabo Mbeki told reporters that NAM foreign ministers were trying to reach a consensus on the issues of terrorism and nuclear disarmament before they present their recommendation to the heads of state for final approval.

    There was no difference among member countries on the need to eliminate terrorism and nuclear weapons, he said.

    Conference sources said that majority of members felt that Washington's attacks on militant camps in Afghanistan cannot be equated with the strikes on Sudan.

    Sudan has moved a proposal asking NAM to condemn the US missile attack on a pharmaceutical factory on August 20 saying that the action posed a serious threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and to regional stability andinternational peace and security.

    The proposal urged the US to refrain from such unilateral acts and sought NAM support for its demand for full compensation for economic and material losses resulting from the attack.

    On the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, Mbeki said South Africa wanted both the countries to dismantle their nuclear weapons and settle the Kashmir dispute through negotiations.

    He said South Africa had destroyed its own nuclear arsenal because it felt there was no need for weapons of mass destruction.

    Indian officials said the draft-summit declaration might contain references to terrorism being mentioned in a "very big way", but there are two views on it.

    One line of thinking, which includes the Indian position, is against the unilateral action of the type taken by the US and instead focus on collective action against the menace of terrorism while the other line was against any collective action.

    On the nuclear tests too, there are two views -- one which concentrates onnon-proliferation in any form and the other that would support a global disarmament approach advocated by new Delhi.

    South Africa does not appear to be very enthused by the Indian proposal, made during the closed-door discussions at the preparatory meetings, for a world convention on nuclear weapons which received the support of a number of countries.

    The hosts, instead, has submitted its own resolution on the campaign against proliferation of nuclear weapons, details of which were not known.

    On economic issues, India supports a growing feeling in the third world that developed nations spoke of a free-market economy but packed restrictive conditions in their laws to the detriment of the developing countries.

    Economic issues, which will be the "single important thing" that will draw NAM's attention, are also being discussed by the foreign ministers, Mbeki said.

    He said there was a need for NAM to agree on a perspective on restructuring the world economy so that it had an impact on the economy ofdeveloping countries to end problems like poverty.

    Mbeki said NAM had to work for evolving a proper interaction with developed countries and multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

    To a question, he said NAM was still "very relevant" but the point was how it functioned.

    Mbeki also spoke of NAM taking up the ongoing crisis in the democratic people's republic of Congo where foreign forces, including that of Namibia, are backing president Lauren Desire Kabila to which South Africa is opposed to.

    He, however, said there was no plan for NAM to make any mediation on the issue though leaders of the region would utilise their presence in durban to try find out a resolution.

    Mbeki said South Africa and Zimbabwe were for withdrawal of foreign forces from DRC and a political resolution of the dispute.

    India will have an opportunity to put forward its views on the issue following a "chance" encounter between prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Kabila inWindhoek yesterday.

    New Delhi is against interference by any country in the affairs of another and have said there should be a ceasefire between the government forces and the rebels in DRC so that a political settlement could be worked out.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Nocil to pay lower dividend of Rs 1 a share: The board of directors of National Organic Chemical Industries Ltd (Nocil) on Tuesday recommended a lower dividend of Rs 1 per share on a paid up equity capital of Rs 122.61 crore, against a dividend of Rs 2.50 per share in the previous year. Nocil posted a lower net profit to Rs 37.63 crore during the year 1997-98, as compared with Rs 59.81 crore last year. Net sales dropped to Rs 1,100.18 crore during the year from Rs 1,174.33 crore last year.

    Sunshield Chemicals net at Rs 2 crore: Sunshield Chemicals Ltd (SCL) has posted a net profit of Rs 1.79 crore for the 15-month period ended June 1998, against a loss of Rs 1.99 crore in the previous year. Earnings per share on an equity capital of Rs 368 crore stands at Rs 3.9 per share on an annualised basis. The company has recommended a dividend of Rs 1.50 per share, after a gap of two years. Turnover has risen 45 per cent to Rs 35.41 crore during the 12-month period of 1997-98 from Rs 19.56 crore lastyear.

    Voltas, Swedish firm forge pact: Voltas Ltd, the Tata group company, has entered into an arrangement with the BT Industries Group of Sweden to market the latter's complete range of warehouse trucks for internal materials handling. BT Industries is a leading manufacturer of warehouse trucks and have a global marketshare of 20 per cent.

    Trafalgar House gets a new name: Trafalgar House Construction Ltd has been renamed as Kvaerner Cementation India Ltd with effect from September 1, 1998. According to the company, the new name is a combination which identifies itself with its international parent company and takes it back to its root. The change in name follows the acquisition of Trafalgar House Plc by Kvaerner ASA of Norway in 1996.

    Ficci service package on the Net: The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) has urged its members to use its service package on the Internet, bisnetindia.com, for tapping business opportunities within the country too. In ademonstration of its services held in the city on Tuesday, the chamber said that in the next six months to eight months there will be a significant increase in the use of on the Internet for business in India too.

    BSES bags ISO-9002 certification: BSES, the Mumbai-based power utility, has been awarded ISO-9002 certificate for quality control in system. The company had adopted the IS-Quality System for streamlining and continuous improvement of customer service and internal operations in all divisions, including generation, transmission, distribution and electric projects and consumer services, including electricity billing. The certificate has been awarded by the Bureau Vertias Quality International of UK. The power company which distributes electricity in the city's suburban areas has more than 1.8 million consumers. It has a 500mw power plant in Maharashtra and plans to double the generation capacity in the state. It is also setting up power projects in other states as well.

    Netherlandsgovernment grant: The government of Netherlands has decided to grant survey vessels costing around Rs 5 crore each to the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), the Kandla Port Trust and the Vishakhapatnam Port Trust. MbPT will receive the vessel on September 4. The vessel possessing latest equipments will be used for surveying purposes including determining the depth of the water channels. Kandla and Vishakhapatnam ports will get their vessels during the course of the current fiscal.

    Birla AT&T registers highest subscriber usage: Birla AT&T has registered the highest average subscriber usage per month of 120 minutes per subscriber, during the first half of the year. The company has attracted nearly 5,000 new subscribers every month, which translates into a healthy 30 per cent growth rate on a month to month basis with average monthly revenue at around Rs 1,250 per subscriber. A key factor which has put Birla AT&T in a strong position has been its superior coverage, which is further enhanced by its alliancewith other operators of the world one consortium, a company spokesperson said.

    Dinesh Munot elected Acma president: ZF Steering Gear (India) Ltd managing director Dinesh Munot has been elected president of the Automotive Component Manufacturers' Association of India (Acma) for 1998-99. Munot was the association vice-president earlier and has been an Acma member for a number of years, a statement said.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: Indian Oil's foreign currency loans jumped by 24 per cent last year, coinciding with the roughly 20 per cent depreciation in the value of the rupee.

    The Rs 59,176-crore oil refining and marketing company's borrowings from overseas banks and financial institutions shot up to Rs 11,245.85 crore last year from Rs 9,033.98 crore in 1996-97. However, the jump in the long-term overseas borrowings was less dramatic in 1997-98 when compared to the 51 per cent increase in overseas borrowings in 1996-97.

    The borrowings are reflected in Indian Oil's debt-to-equity ratio, which changed to 0.43:1 last year from 0.33:1 in 1996-97 and 0.24:1 in 1995-96. The corporation's interest payments moved up by 4.6 per cent to Rs 1,126 crore, compared with Rs 1,076 crore in the previous year.

    The public sector enterprise, which was declared Asia's best sovereign borrower by `Euroweek' last year, raised $20 million from the National Bank of Oman, $45 million from ABN Amro Bank of the Netherlands, $10.58 millionfrom ANZ Grindlays Bank, $75 million from Sumitomo Bank of Japan and $5.3 million from the US Exim Bank. The ANZ Banking Group syndicated another $200 million of foreign currency borrowings for Indian Oil.

    Canara Bank, Bank of India and Bank of Baroda loaned the company another $475 million from their foreign currency non-resident (B) [FCNR(B)] accounts. Indian Oil has been allowed an external commercial borrowing (ECB) ceiling of $3.5 billion, of which nearly $2 billion fund crude oil and petroleum product imports every year.

    Last year, the canalising agency spent $2.008 billion to import crude oil, fuel products and lubricants, which was less than $2.043 billion spent for the same purpose in 1996-97. Industry sources say Indian Oil has, at present, barely exhausted half its external commercial borrowing limit.

    In the year to March 31, 1998, the canalising agency imported 30.97 million tonnes of crude oil, 19.61 million tonnes of fuel products and 26,000 tonnes of lubricants. In the previous year,Indian Oil had imported 31.48 million tonnes of crude, 19.82 million tonnes of fuel products and 45,000 tonnes of lubricants.

    The marginal drop in imports coincided with a massive slide in oil prices worldwide, which should have slashed Indian Oil's import bill, but for the more than 20 per cent depreciation of the Indian currency. Even so, the canalising agency's import bill did come down last year.

    Its crude imports alone were worth Rs 14,508.74 crore in foreign exchange, which was 15.68 per cent lower than Rs 17,207.04 crore spent in the previous year. The imports by the corporation include Rs 7,690.41 crore (in f.o.b value) of crude bought for other oil companies.

    In 1997 Indian Oil's foreign exchange outgo for crude canalised for other oil companies increased by 24 per cent to Rs 10,144.59 crore. The oil giant also imported crude oil worth Rs 1,521.35 crore under an agency agreement for Cochin Refineries, up 23 per cent from the previous year's figure.

    Petroleum product imports by the companystood at Rs 12,440.05 crore last year, compared with Rs 15,108.80 crore in 1996-97. Lubricant purchases abroad were worth Rs 65.05 crore, compared with Rs 119.17 crore in 1996-97.

    The dip in the import bill coincided with a drop in the foreign exchange earnings bill. Indian Oil earned Rs 1,307.84 crore in foreign exchange from 2.38 million tonnes of petroleum product exports last year. In 1996-97, the company had earned Rs 1,706.57 crore from 2.65 million tonnes of overseas product sales.

    The oil refining and marketing giant, which has 55 per cent of the home market tucked under its arm, witnessed a 6.8 per cent growth in turnover and a 21 per cent rise in profit after tax in 1997-98. Indian Oil's profit after tax went up to Rs 1,706 crore last year from Rs 1,408 crore in 1996-97.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Mumbai, Sept 1: Godrej Pillsbury has made a considerable dent in south India with its Pillsbury Chakki Fresh Atta cornering about 13 per cent market share in the branded-flour market.

    This has elevated the Pillsbury brand to the second slot displacing DCW's Captian Cook atta in the south. Hindustan Lever reigns supreme with its Annapurna brand. Earlier, DCW's Captain Cook brand had a good grip on the market with its position being second only to Annapurna.

    Both Lever's Annapurna and Pillsbury's Chakki Fresh Atta brand have gained market share since May this year in the southern market. These two brands have continuously gained market share since their launch.

    According to industry estimates, while Annapurna has upped its share to around 31 per cent in July from 28.8 per cent in May, the Pillsbury brand has appreciated its share to the current position from 9.5 per cent in May.

    The loser has been Captain Cook, whose market share has dropped to around 12 per cent in July from 14 per cent in May. CaptainCook's market share has dropped mainly because of a slowdown in DCW's promotional activity, said industry observers.

    The country's branded-flour market has been growing rapidly at around 40 per cent to 45 per cent per annum. The southern market contributes around 25 per cent of the all-India volumes of 1.5 lakh tonnes valued at around Rs 200 crore. Industry sources said that the market is seen growing at a faster pace in the south.

    According to Godrej Pillsbury chief executive officer Samir Behl, the company will soon roll out the atta brand nationally, after having tested the waters in the south first. It is learnt that the brand will soon be launched in Mumbai as part of Godrej Pillsbury's expansion drive. The company is in the midst of beefing up its national distribution network.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Mumbai, Sept 1: Sebi will pronounce its order on whether or not BV Raju can go ahead with his open offer for acquiring another 20 per cent in Shree Vishnu Cements by September 7. The offer is scheduled to open on September 23.

    Top sources, however, pointed out that the current open offer by Raju may be allowed to go through as it may not be legally tenable to debar an entity from making an open offer which by itself appears legally correct.

    Moreover, barring Raju from making the current offer without proving the allegations against him for an earlier transfer of 39.5 per cent stake of Raasi Cements in Shree Vishnu Cements to nine investment companies allegedly controlled by Raju, may not be legally tenable, feel sources.

    Sebi officials, however, declined to comment on the stand that the regulator would take. Interestingly, the nine investment companies failed to turn up at Tuesday's hearing. N Srinivasan of India Cements, who now controls Raasi Cements, was represented by his lawyers.

    Another criticalissue before the Sebi chairman is whether the investigations into the alleged 39.5 per cent share transfer is adjudicated by the civil court before which the matter is currently pending or by the securities watchdog.

    There are two issues before the Sebi chairman. One is to link the earlier share transfer with the current open offer, as contended by the complainant ie, Raasi Cements and an individual shareholder. If this is done then it would first need to be ascertained whether the share transfer was illegal or not. In the meantime, the open offer would need to be stalled. Later if it was found to be illegal, then the entire transaction would be revoked.

    The other issue, as presented by Raju, is to segregate the two events. In this case the offer could go through and Raju could pick up the 20 per cent stake. In the event of the earlier transaction being held invalid, Raju would end up having paid Rs 100 per share for this 20 per cent but would at the same time end up losing his earlier 39.5 per centstake. This, according to sources, is a good enough monetary penalty in itself on the acquirer if he is found guilty as this in effect would mean that he pays Rs 100 per share and still ends up having no controlling stake in the company. The company's shares were quoted at Rs 20 before the announcement for the open offer was made.

    The issue of shareholders of Shree Vishnu Cements suffering if the offer is called off considering that the share price of the company has zoomed after the announcement of the open offer, is also something that will weigh on the mind of the Sebi chairman when he issues the order.

    If the regulator is to view the two issues separately then the open offer would go through and investigations could be launched to determine whether or not the earlier transaction was illegal.

    If it is found to be illegal then there are several remedies in the takeover code which include a monetary penalty and even prosecution.

    The other reason why Sebi may not want to look into the open offer isbecause the complainant has only talked about violations in the earlier share transfer.

    This case is also before a city civil court where Raasi Cements has alleged that the entire transaction was in violation of the Companies Act, 1956, the Sick Industrial Companies Act (SICA) and the takeover code.

    The issue before Sebi now is whether to jump into the fray and look at this case as a violation of the takeover code or to leave the entire case to the court. It could, in any case, launch investigations on its own into the alleged illegal share transfer.

    Faced with a takeover threat from India Cements, BV Raju had transferred the company's stake in Sri Vishnu Cements to nine investment companies. As a result, when India Cements took over Raasi, it did not get a controlling stake in Sri Vishnu.

    Recently, Raju made an open offer for acquiring another 20 per cent in Sri Vishnu Cements. The current management of Raasi Cements and an individual investor have however contested the entire move saying that as thenine investment companies were persons acting in concert an open offer should have been made at that point itself. And as the earlier share transfer was in itself in violation of the laws the current open offer should also not be allowed to go through.

    Interestingly, at the hearing on Tuesday, Raasi Cements said that it had not complained to Sebi but had merely informed it about the alleged violations.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Mumbai, Sept 1: The Russian meltdown has affected the papers of emerging countries adversely. However, India is a notable exception. The negative trend in the spread of papers of major countries has not spread to Indian papers with the benchmark ICICI 2007 sliding marginally, the I-SEC debt markets update stated.

    The indicative spread over the 10-year treasury has shown that the spread has gone up marginally by 25 basis points between August 14 and August 31.

    The spread of China 7.75 per cent 2006 has lost about 150 basis points.

    On the domestic economic scenario, the update has said that despite the comfortable situation where the inflow is pegged at Rs 32,173 crore and outflow at Rs 28,355 crore, September is unlikely to see a sustained rally as normal borrowing would be supplemented by advance tax outflows and a possible SDL issue. The inflows on account of Resurgent India Bonds do provide some relief, but an auction of long maturity securities would result in yields tightening further at the longend, the report stated.

    The net borrowing programme has been completed to the extent of Rs 36,891 crore against a budgeted Rs 48,326 crore, the report stated.

    The yield curve in the money market had moved up sharply in the short to medium maturities after the Reserve Bank of India announcements on CRR and repo rate hike. However, with liquidity better than anticipated and call rates stabilising near 9 per cent, yields have eased back to the levels seen a fortnight ago.

    With repo rate at 8 per cent, near-term rates are unlikely to ease further. The curve is steep up to three year maturity and the maximum upside potential appears to be in the two to three year segment.

    Trading in the longer end has been sparse and any auction announcement in this segment is likely to result in tightening of yields, the report stated.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Durban, Sept 1: The NAM summit, now under way at Durban, will mark a turning point in the movement's approach to economic issues, especially in relationships with the developed world. The old Third World rhetoric is being toned down. Going out of fashion is the blind West-bashing of the past. Taking their place is a new "positivist" and "inclusivist" agenda that talks about engaging -- as opposed to confronting -- the developed countries in negotiations for a better deal on the basis of a common agenda. NAM's basic proposition to the developed world is simple: if the developing countries don't develop, it is not going to be only their problem. Ultimately, lack of development will affect the developed world as well.

    This view, articulated by South Africa's deputy president TM Mbeki at some of the early sessions of the NAM summit, found support among NAM foreign ministers at their meeting yesterday (Aug 31).

    Said Mbeki at Monday's ministerial meeting: "The very fact of globalisation, in all its forms, meansthat our own success as developing countries in terms of the upliftment of our people cannot be achieved in conditions of autarky or self-contained development within our national boundaries or regions. It cannot be achieved through opting out of the world economy and therefore extricating ourselves from the process of globalisation." Clearly, NAM is moving away from confrontation to engagement with the first world.

    The meeting, which will be followed up by others today, took the unique form of a round table discussion to formulate a NAM view on the challenges facing the developing world. The round table discussed the report of an ad hoc panel of economists headed by Gamani Corea, former secretary-general of the Unctad, which submitted a report last April on the subject.

    The round-table of ministers decided to take the Corea report on record and felt that there was need to clarify, prioritise and give definition to an agenda for developing countries so that a common negotiating position can be taken atWTO and other multilateral negotiations. The next meeting of WTO's negotiations for the year 2000 are scheduled for later this month in Geneva.

    The round-table recognised the fact that different developing countries may have varying emphasis on what constitutes the problem area in regard to free trade and globalisation. While some feel that immediate debt relief to the poorest countries should be given top priority, other felt that commodity prices cannot be left entirely to the market. Almost everyone, however, felt that something ought to be done about volatile foreign exchange flows that were destroying national economies almost at the drop of a hat.

    Among the important issues that will be discussed further is the need or desirability of some kind of tax on non-trade foreign currency transactions. There is a feeling that the transaction costs of moving foreign exchange across borders are practically nil with trillions of dollars being traded every day. NAM ministers feel that there is an acuteimbalance between portfolio flows (which tend to inherently unstable since they constitute money looking for best returns) and trade and direct investment-related flows, which are more long-term oriented.

    The final position of NAM on economic issues will be known only by tomorrow. But enough indication is available that final draft will be less anti-west than in the past.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Calcutta, Sept 1: The National Thermal Power Corp today announced it will "regulate" power supply to West Bengal from September 7 unless the state electricity board clears a reasonable part of its huge outstandings.

    The West Bengal State Electricity Board draws an average of 450-500mw -- or about a fourth of the state's requirement -- from the central power utility. The WBSEB also supplies some of the power to CESC, the private sector utility that supplies Calcutta and neighbouring areas.

    NTPC chairman and managing director Rajendra Singh told a press conference here after his meetings with power minister Sankar Sen, chief secretary Manish Gupta and power secretary S B Barma that other defaulting states had taken steps to clear at least some of their dues but West Bengal has said it has no money.

    The WBSEB owes NTPC Rs 657.76 crore as on July 31 this year, consisting of Rs 476.93 crore as the principal and Rs 180.83 crore as interest.

    In terms of months, WBSEB ranks third among the three SEBs in theeastern region with its dues equivalent to 11.8 months' supplies. The Bihar SEB tops the defaulters' list with dues of 15 months, followed by Orissa SEB with 12 months. Damodar Valley Corp, which is owned jointly by the Union government, Bihar and West Bengal, owes NTPC 11.3 months' dues.

    Singh said the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh SEBs have outstandings of nine months each. On the other hand, SEBs of western and southern regions have cleared more than 90 per cent of their dues.

    The NTPC chief said the WBSEB has been paying an average of 33 per cent of its monthly dues. NTPC got 26 per cent of its dues in 1994-95, 51 per cent in 1995-96, 45 per cent in 1996-97, 42 per cent in 1997-98 and 30 per cent till July, 1998-99.

    "No one can do business with such poor returns," Singh said.

    Asked whether he had got any assurance from the state's authorities or was expecting any solutions by September 7, Singh said: "So far I have not received any assurance from anybody. But I am optimistic that something positive willcome up."

    Asked about his meeting with power minister Sen, the NTPC chief said: "Sen has said that he knows the problem. But there is no money to pay."

    Singh declined to clarify what he meant exactly by saying that NTPC will "regulate" supplies to the state. "If nothing happens and no solution is found, the inevitable will happen."

    However, he added: "Stopping power supply to WBSEB will be a painful decision. No commercial entity would like to stop commercial activity. If we cut generation and supply only during peak hours, the cost of generation will be high and WBSEB will be the loser as it will have to pay the fixed cost of power whether it draws from us or not."

    "On the other hand, if we stop generation our losses will be less as we will not have to pay for coal and oil which accounts for about 65 per cent of our generation cost," he said.

    Speaking of Orissa, which owes NTPC around Rs 440 crore, Singh said the state has worked out a novel repayment method.

    "They have promised to convert Rs 200crore of their dues into bonds by September 30. The state government will guarantee the bonds, which will be tradeable on the market," Singh said. The Orissa government has also agreed to clear its current dues in full.

    Singh will take up the problems of Bihar soon.

    Singh denied that he is being pressurised by the World Bank to take a tough stand. "Commercial considerations have prompted us to take the tough stand. On the one hand, NTPC is owed nearly Rs 8000 crore by various SEBs. On the other, it needs loans from the Bank to fund the projected capacity addition of over 14,000mw. They will certainly see that their money is paying back," Singh said.

    When asked whether NTPC's pressure on the eastern states can be seen as a bias against governments not run by the Bharatiya Janata Party, Singh pointed out that NTPC had twice stopped supplies to Delhi and once in Uttar Pradesh, both run by the BJP.

    "We stopped supplies to Delhi, which is run BJP, to UP also run by BJP. So the question of harassing non-BJPgovernments in the eastern states does not arise," Singh said.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, September 1: The industry ministry is exploring possibilities to increase business opportunities for the information technology sector. With a view to this, it is drawing up a plan to integrate the domestic IT industry with the Global Information Network being set up by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo), Union industry minister Sikander Bakht announced at the first annual session of the Institute of Intellectual Property Development.

    A Wipo delegation was apprised with the IT industry's capabilities and strengths in India. ``The ministry is hopeful that the domestic IT industry will get opportunities to associate with intellectual property projects co-ordinated by WIPO,'' the minister said.

    Elaborating on the government's stance on intellectual property rights (IPRs), the minister said unless intellectual property was protected, flow of technology would be hindered. ``India has a vast scientific manpower which is engaged in valuable research. The fruit of their labour has tobe guarded by an efficient IPR administration,'' he said.

    With the view to provide an impetus to research within the country the government has decided to accede to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and Patent Cooperation Treaty, the minister said. ``It is our firm belief that with this step India would integrate itself with the world community in respect of IPRs and provide the necessary openings to its scientists, ''he said.

    In order to improve administration of IPRs in the country, the ministry has drawn out elaborate plans for setting up a world class patent office under the stewardship of R A Mashelkar, director general, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The ministry would like to have the patent office declared as an International Search Authority and set up an International Preliminary Examination Authority under the terms of the Paris Convention, he said.

    Speaking at the annual session, K Anji Reddy, chairman Reddy Laboratories, said in the 1970sit was important to produce cheap medicines for the poor in the country, hence there was a perfectly valid rationale for not providing process patents. Now conditions have changed, he said, adding, Indian companies are spending huge amounts on research. Reddy Laboratories has patented two new molecules which have given it the right to produce the formulations for the global market, he said. The two new drugs have earned the company $ 6.5 million in the last year, he said.

    ``It is necessary that companies which have invested huge amounts in research do not get cheated by duplicators. Hence protection of IPRs is a must for the growth the domestic drug industry, he underscored,'' he said.

    Other companies as Ranbaxy and Lupin are also investing huge amounts in basic research. To enable the drug industry to hold their own against international competition in the wake of liberalisation there must be a tough administration for IPRs in the country, he said. Without protection basic research cannot survive as thecost for developing a new formulation is about $ 450 million, which is the cost from laboratory to market, he said.

    In his address Mashelkar stressed on the need to develop India's intellectual capital on the strength that 50 per cent of its population is below the age of 30 years and that way it can take a lead in scientific and technological development which countries with a demographic profile of old people can not do, he said.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: Tata Industries on Tuesday withdrew its Rs 1,475-crore domestic airline proposal pending since December last year, stung as it seems to be by the civil aviation ministry's decision to set up an expert panel.

    "Given the absence of a credible time frame for a decision, Tatas have withdrawn their application and project. It is a very, very careful and considered decision. The proposal was delayed and deferred many a time. We are not ready to wait any longer," said Tata Industries director Sujit Gupta at a hurriedly convened press conference.

    However, civil aviation minister Ananth Kumar said in Bangalore that the government still has on open mind on the proposal. Denying the Tatas' charge that his ministry had delayed a decision, Kumar said foreign investment in domestic aviation is a very sensitive issue. The government is pursuing the matter with due care and diligence, he said.

    Putting the blame squarely on the civil aviation ministry, Gupta said: "The Tatas decision is not againstthe government. The problem has been with the civil aviation ministry." He denied to comment on the role of existing private airlines in scuttling the Tata project.

    Gupta said Tata Industries on Tuesday conveyed the decision to shelve the project to the civil aviation ministry as also the Foreign Investment Promotion Board.

    Gupta was non-committal on the possibility of reviving the airline project in the future. "What we will do in the future is up to the board of Tata Industries," he said.

    The withdrawal comes in the wake of a six-week deferment by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board last Saturday on the basis of a communique from the civil aviation ministry that an expert committee would be set up to look into the objections by members of parliament and trade unions. This was the fourth deferment by the board.

    Reacting strongly to the formation of an expert committee, Gupta said the ministry wanted to take more time to consider issues raised by third parties that have "no relevance to either thepolicy in place or to the Tata proposal".

    This is second project to be withdrawn by the Tatas in the aviation sector in the last few weeks, the first being the airport project near Bangalore which too was kept pending by the government for a long time.

    Gupta said that Tatas had first applied for the airline licence in 1995 in compliance with existing policy guidelines. "Despite this, the Tata proposal to provide the travelling public with a world-class airline remained on paper owing to the inability of four successive governments to implement their own policies," he said.

    Gupta said the latest proposal made in December 1997 was also fully in line with the guidelines.

    He said a large number of bureaucrats, politicians and ministries including the external affairs and industry ministers had supported the project and squarely blamed the civil aviation ministry for forcing the Tatas to shelve the proposal.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Mumbai, Sept 1: Contrary to popular belief, some politicians do play a good Samaritan's role in exposing unsavoury deals. Take the case of Erandol-based (Jalgaon) member of Parliament Annasaheb MK Patil who dashed off a letter to the chairman of the Central Board of Excise & Customs, exposing the unholy nexus between the excise department and RK Patel & Co, a tobacco-manufacturing unit located at Amalner near Nashik.

    Patil, in his letter a year back, had asked for the case to be re-opened and resurrection of the excise team which was disbanded by the excise department's top brass. The aggressive MP is contemplating, along with some other MPs, to demand a CBI enquiry against senior excise officials for obstructing the investigations. Patil's letter hints at a possibility that RK Patel & Co, which has evaded excise duty to the tune of Rs 5 crore, is merely the tip of an iceberg. The firm sells its jarda under the brandname ``Patel Jarda-Cow Brand.'' The chances are all jarda manufacturers located aroundNashik may have adopted a similar modus operandi.

    Jarda is an item that figures in the peak rate list of the excise tariff and the duty is levied at the rate of 50 per cent (40 per cent basic and 10 per cent additional). According to finance ministry sources, jarda is also among the top four items where excise evasion is the largest.

    The law requires that while clearing any consignments of branded jarda from the factory, manufacturers are required to print serial numbers on the cartons. While clearing these cartons from the factory premises, the manufacturers are required to raise invoice in which the serial numbers printed on the cartons are listed and excise duty is paid before the goods are despatched from the factory.

    According to sources, RK Patel & Co floated bogus firms and opened bank accounts at Amalner Urban Cooperative Bank Ltd. Incidentally, one of the close associates of the owners of the firm is also on the board of this bank, sources claims.

    This was the modus operandi adopted by RKPatel & Co. For instance, consignment A bearing serial no 1A to 100A was despatched from factory after excise paid invoice was raised on the bogus firms. The goods are then transported to dealers of the firm. While effecting delivery of the finished goods on the strength of excise paid invoice, the transporter is also handed over a single copy of a delivery challan which is raised by the bogus firm. This delivery challan is thereafter destroyed and payment is made in cash.

    Sources said that on delivery of the goods the delivery challan and the original excise paid invoice were both returned to RK Patel & Co which immediately destroyed the single copy of delivery challan. Finally, payment for the goods delivered was collected invariably in cash and the dealer in turn pays the amount in cash directly to the parent company.

    The second step. Consignment B was despatched but the serial number was same as that of consignment A -- 1A to 100A. This time the bogus firm prepares only the delivery challan and goodsdespatched. In case of an excise enquiry while the goods are being transported, it is claimed that the goods were excise-paid consignment which were now being traded by the bogus firm. In support, the previous excise paid invoice is presented which matches with the serial numbers mentioned in the invoice. This invoice is used for multiple clandestine clearances and in the final stage payment is made by cheque to the bogus firm as invoice is in its name.

    This method known as ``one-plus-one'' or ``one-plus-two'' was used in the operations. Effectively, the firm paid excise duty only on one consignment and clandestinely delivers multiple consignments without paying excise duties thus causing loss to the exchequer. Reportedly, scores of firms in the jarda business use a similar method to hoodwink the excise departments.

    The case was brought to the notice of the central excise department by the estranged brother of the firm. According to the complainant, who floated another firm, his business was affectedbecause the irregular clearance by RK Patel & Co made it possible for them to sell goods cheaper and capture the market.

    Several officers of the department turned a Nelson's eye when this illegal activity was brought to light. It is now clear that in last five years the firm had evaded duty to the tune of Rs 5 crore.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: The government has increased the drawback rates on 219 items, lowered rates on another 290 items and added six new items to the list.

    Major items on which drawback rates have been increased are readymade garments, hand tools, bicycle and bicycle parts, brass artware, brass hardware, leather and leather products, made-ups, including handloom made-ups and certain machinery items. The new rates will come into effect on September 2.

    Referring to the special additional duty (SAD) levied in the budget, the finance ministry release says the levy of 4 per cent SAD has been taken into account along with the 5 per cent SAD applicable on various imported inputs. This will provide export products the necessary leverage to compete with products of southeast Asian countries where prices have fallen steeply on account of a depreciation of their currencies, the release said.

    The release adds that the increased drawbacks take into account "the increased incidence of duties introduced on differentinputs used by exporters." It has been the endeavour of the finance ministry to ensure that exports do not suffer on account of high custom and excise duties, it said.

    Highlights of the changes are as follows:

  • The six new products which have been included are surgical blades, heat resistance rubber, non-computing registers, dual type, electrical motors and tennis rackets;

  • 219 items on which rates have been increased are items where duties have increased or the total incidence of duties has increased due to a rise in input prices;

  • rates in respect of 238 products are being continued at existing levels as there is no change in input duties and prices;

  • rates of 290 products have to be revised downwards in view of the reduction in duties and prices of inputs used by manufacturers;

  • rates have been revised upwards on handloom products and the description has been revised to include all varieties of made-up articles. This will enable exporters to earn drawback on any articleincluding new varieties which are in demand in the international market;

  • drawback rates have been reintroduced for garments exported from EOU/EPZ units which have inputs on which duty has been paid;

  • the major benefit on which the government had decided to restrict the modvat credit availed to 95 per cent is a new provision in the drawback table which compensates exporters for the 5 per cent modvat credit which cannot be otherwise utilised. This removes the disability of 5 per cent which made inputs costlier for exporters;

  • in the case of handloom products, handicrafts including handicrafts of brass artware, finished leather, grey fabrics and other export products which are unconditionally fully exempt from excise duty, it has been decided to dispense with the need to produce certificates regarding non-availment of modvat facility as a measure to simplify export procedures and pay drawback more expeditiously to exporters;

  • in respect of certain other products a circular has beenissued on guidelines to be followed for verification of modvat availed.

    Insight

    Broadbasing export range

    The range of exports which will now get higher duty drawback is wide. This is because the special additional customs duty is being levied -- on top of the 5 per cent special customs duty -- on a large variety of imports which go into exports. Among the beneficiaries of higher duty drawback are thrust items like textiles, drugs and pharmaceuticals and electronic hardware

    On the flip side, duty drawback rates have been lowered on 290 items. This seems to be an economy drive. Apparently, duty forgone in favour of exports is large -- a consequence of efficient computerised settlement of drawback claims -- and is more than 25 per cent of annual customs revenue.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Bangalore, Sept 1: BPL Sanyo Technologies Ltd has tied-up with the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) and the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI) to raise Rs 22 crore.

    The company will allot 15.5 per cent secured redeemable non-convertible debentures to IDBI on a private placement basis for raising Rs 12 crore, while it will be getting a term loan of about Rs 10 crore from ICICI.

    "The funds thus raised will be utilised to meet the normal capital expenditure and working capital requirements. Last fiscal BPL Sanyo Technologies invested Rs 6.63 crore on fixed assets by lifting Rs 11.75 crore from IDBI through the same route," a senior BPL group official said.

    BPL Sanyo will seek shareholders' approval at the forthcoming annual general meeting at Palakkad in Kerala on September 17.

    BPL Sanyo Technologies, which mainly manufactures and markets audio items, will also unveil region specific products in coming years.

    As per the strategy, which also involves expanding itsmarket reach, it will launch latest models with contemporary features aimed at the urban market this fiscal.

    BPL Sanyo also has plans to manufacture sturdy and inexpensive models with basic features for the semi-urban and rural market. A combination of CD and tape-based models with different sound options will also be introduced during the current year.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Vittal appointed chief vigilance commissioner: The chairman of the Public Enterprises Selection Board N Vittal was on Tuesday appointed as the chief vigilance commissioner. Vittal, who will have a four-year tenure, succeeds SV Giri. Vittal's appointment paves the way for the appointment or confirmation of appointment of the chiefs of the ED and CBI. Earlier in the year, the Supreme Court had laid down guidelines for appointing the ED and CBI chiefs, in which the chief vigilance commissioner would have a key role.

    Sudhir Jalan to be new Ficci president: The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry has designated its senior vice-president and chairman-cum-managing director of the Calcutta-based Bell Controls Sudhir Jalan as president-elect. He will take over as the chamber's president at the conclusion of its 71st annual session on October 24.

    Ordinance likely to check plantation firms: In another attempt to check errant plantation companies, the centre is consideringissuing an ordinance to enable stricter regulation of their mobilisations. The ordinance will seek to empower the regulator to freeze the assets of a plantation firm and have the nominees on its board to facilitate recovery of deposits if there is a default.

    Sebi verdict on Sri Vishnu Cement on Friday: Markets regulator Sebi will give its verdict on whether or not BV Raju can go ahead with his open offer for acquiring another 20 per cent in Shree Vishnu Cements by September 7. The offer is scheduled to open on September 23.

    HM, auditor differ on deferred revenue: Differences have arisen between Hindustan Motors and its auditor SR Batliboi & Co over the treatment of deferred revenue expenditure in the accounting policy for the year ended March 31, 1998, during which period, the company posted a PAT of Rs 39.36 crore. The auditor has noted that it is unable to ascertain the expenditure's impact.

    L&T Information sees volumes surge: Engineering and construction major L&T's wholly-ownedsubsidiary L&T Information Technology hopes to see a surge in its business volumes after the company's tie-up with the Japanese conglomerate Hitachi. Chief executive AS Godbole said in Chennai on Tuesday that the newly set up dedicated offshore development centre in the city will have a team of 100 software professionals serving Hitachi's networking-management needs.

    Air India's divestment in Hotel Corp: Air India is set to invite bids from consultancy firms, investment bankers and financial institutions for advise on its proposed divestment in the national carrier's wholly-owned subsidiary, the Hotel Corporation of India. The proceeds would help service the airline's working-capital needs and shore up its bleeding balance sheet.

    Godrej Pillsbury's Pillsbury Chakki Fresh Atta stands second: Godrej Pillsbury's wheat-flour brand, Pillsbury Chakki Fresh Atta, is now second only to Hidustan Lever's Annapurna in the south, having displaced DCW's Captain Cook with a 13 per cent market share.According to industry estimates, while Annapurna has increased its share to around 31 per cent in July from 28.8 per cent in May, the Pillsbury brand has risen to its current position from 9.5 per cent in May.

    Sensex fall 71 points: A massive overnight fall of 512 points in the Dow and the crisis-ridden global financial markets took their toll on the 30-share BSE Sensitive Index as it fell by 71 points, to finish its Tuesday innings at 2,862.52, against Monday's close of 2,933.85. On the NSE, the S&P CNX Nifty was down 18.25 points from its previous close of 852.80.

    SBI plans to opt for `bancassurance': State Bank plans to lauch itself in the insurance sector by adopting the `bancassurance' model to sell life-insurance products across the counter at its branches as and when the industry formally opens up. The model, popular in Europe and Latin America, will enable products' prices to come down for clients, as there is no agent commission involved and the branches turn out to be a one-stopshop for financial products.

    NTPC sets deadline for Bengal to clear dues: The National Thermal Power Corporation on Tuesday said it will "regulate" power supply to West Bengal from September 7, unless the state electricity board clears a reasonable part of its huge outstandings. The board owes NTPC Rs 657.76 crore as on July 31, 1998. In terms of months, it ranks third among the eastern region's three SEBs with its dues equalling 11.8 months' supplies.

    Panel to work out security cover for power dues: The union power ministry will constitute a inter-ministerial committee to work out a mechanism for providing security cover to ensure timely tariff payments by state electricity boards for power purchased from the mega power projects. The move is aimed at expediting the setting up of the Power Trading Corporation. The committee will comprise top brass from the leading financial institutions, power experts and senior power-ministry officials.

    Centre may recast appellate authority: Thecentre plans to recast the appellate authority in the finance ministry, which reviews appeals against Sebi's decisions. This follows the shifting of Montek Singh Ahluwalia--who was a member of the authority--to the Planning Commission.

    Pakistan's parliament debates CTBT: Pakistan's government on Monday sought parliament's advice on whether it should sign a global nuclear test-ban treaty. Deputy minister for foreign affairs Mohammad Siddique Khan Kanju told parliament's lower house, the national assembly, that the government would welcome members' opinions on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Pakistan, which voted in favour of the CTBT in the UN general assembly in 1996, later refused to sign it because India would not sign the document.

    `Broadcasting bill in next session': The broadcasting bill providing compulsory uplinking of satellite television in the country would be introduced in parliament's next session, I&B minister Sushma Sawaraj said in the capital on Tuesday. The legislation, ifapproved by parliament, would help the country save foreign exchange and monitor programme contents of these channels, she said.

    Gill files case against his ouster: Former chief executive officer of the Prasar Bharati board SS Gill on Tuesday filed a petition in the Delhi high court challenging his ouster from the post. He has termed the Prasar Bharati ordinance unconstitutional, which terminated his service by reducing his tenure.

    Centre mulls foreign stake in insurance ventures: The centre is considering a proposal to allow foreign equity participation of up to 26 per cent in joint-venture insurance companies, senior finance ministry officials said in the capital on Tuesday. The issue of foreign equity is being considered by a ministerial group headed by finance minister Yashwant Sinha, which will decide on it after working out the modalities of private-sector participation in insurance, people in the know of the matter said.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: The country's exports have registered a 7.71 per cent growth in dollar terms in July. This is the first time that exports have shown an uptrend in 1998-99.

    Latest trade data released on Tuesday showed that exports during July was $2.99 billion against $2.78 billion in July 1997.

    However, exports in the first four months of the financial year registered a negative 3 per cent growth as shipments from the country from April to July slid to $10.62 billion against $11.03 billion during the corresponding period last year.

    In rupee terms, exports were up by 10.82 per cent during the period, and for July the growth was 28.12 per cent.

    Trade deficit during the period widened further to $3.30 billion against $1.83 billion during the same period last year.

    The rise in trade balance was in tune with the fall in rupee value against the dollar during May and June this year as imports costs were up against lowered export value.

    Imports during July registered a significant rise of 18.70 percent to $3.8 billion against $3.20 billion in July 1997 in view of the rupee fall.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Chennai, Sept 1: Small and medium companies in the threshold of growth and expansion in the context of globalisation can look up to the Netherlands for assistance in solving managerial or technical problems. In a predicament where skills and expertise at their command is found to be unequal to the challenge and are unable to afford an experienced consultant, they can approach Netherlands Management Co-operation Programme (NMCP).

    NMCP is an independent organisation that assigns senior advisors, many of whom are retired or have taken early retirement, to companies and organisations in developing countries including India. These advisors share their knowledge and experience without receiving any financial reward.

    Now NMCP works in 80 countries and has about 3000 senior advisors on file. At least 1300 are assigned each year in Africa, Asia, Latin America and East and Central Europe.

    These advisors who had driven Netherlands to its present enviable position as chief executives of private enterprises aretrying to help managers in the developing countries who are facing the pangs of growth. Shortages of money, manpower and markets are universal problems for which individual solutions are to be found.

    It is found that personal and direct advice is more effective than theoretical answers. NMCP has senior advisors in almost all fields of agriculture, industry, trade, healthcare, management and social services. It operates through its country co-ordinators from Netherlands and local representatives.

    j. van. de Vijver has been the country co-ordinator for India. He is being replaced by G J W Mollink. S Raja, based in Bangalore, is the NMCP representative in India.

    Active in India since 1992, NMCP has conducted about 160 missions. Vijver and Raja declined to reveal the details about the beneficiaries of the missions as `` it is part of NMCP strategy''. However the mission ranges from a school for the blind in Bangalore to a community welfare programme in Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, they said.

    Of late there hadbeen 30-35 missions a year. Vijver said the plan is to do 75 missions annually by the turn of the century. They were making a presentation to the members of the Madras Management Association here on Monday.

    On receiving the fairly comprehensive application from a company which approaches NMCP for specific requirement, an appropriate expert to match that requirement is identified and his bio-data is sent to the applicant company. On acceptance and agreement on the duration of a mission, the expert's travel is arranged according to mutually agreed schedule. The applicant will have to provide decent accommodation, food, local transportation and office facilities to the advisor.

    If found necessary, NMCP will also arrange for a short fact-finding mission. It may even be followed by a longer mission. For selected representatives of Indian companies, on the recommendation of the advisor, NMCP will arrange for training programme in Netherlands.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Sydney, Sept 1: Australia's A$1.7 billion sugar industry, half-way through harvesting what should have been a record cane crop, has been devastated by near-cyclonic rain and wind in the state of Queensland, grower organisation CANEGROWERS said on Tuesday.

    The Queensland sugar industry had been headed for a record 39 million tonne sugarcane crop, general manager Ian Ballantyne said in a statement.

    He gave no figures on the size of the expected crop after the damage.

    The industry, which usually experiences fine and sunny weather at the present time of year, had been hit by torrential wet season type rain, he said.

    "The unseasonal deluge has caused severe damage to cane fields from Mackay North and could cost the sugar industry tens of millions of dollars in lost production and additional costs," he said.

    There was a strong likelihood that significant areas of cane would now be left unharvested, that total sugar production would be reduced, that some fields would need to be replanted and that millswould have to cope with increased extraneous matter in the cane being processed, he said.

    "Torrential wet season type rain has caused untold damage to the current crop at the peak of the harvesting period," he said.

    The gains of a few good crop years had been wiped out by the unseasonal downpour and many growers would take years to recover, he said.

    "Most of the remaining mature crop has been knocked to the ground by the heavy rain and gale-force winds and some recently planted fields have been washed out," he said.

    The most serious effect was that sugar content in cane (CCS), already at historically low levels in many districts, would fall even further, he said.

    Growers in the far North of the state would be hit hardest because CCS in districts such as Babinda, Innisfail and Cairns had already been at the margin of economic viability before the latest rain, he said.

    The rain would also reduce the productivity of next year's crop, he said.

    The setback came at a time when growers had already beenwarned to expect much lower returns from next year onwards, he said.

    The world sugar price was at a seven year low and crop returns for 1999 and beyond were uncertain even if the value of the Australian dollar remained low, he said.

    The Babinda area had recorded falls of up to 500 mm, or 20 inches, in the past 24 hours. In the Mackay-Proserpine region, some parts had recorded their highest August rainfall in more than 40 years with falls of more than 300 mm, or 12 inches, in 24 hours, he said.

    Harvesting in parts of the highly productive Burdekin may have been delayed by up to two weeks, especially in areas already affected by canegrubs, he said. Heavy rain in the Herbert district, based on Ingham, followed damaging floods in January this year. Lighter falls around Bundaberg, Childers and Maryborough had been welcomed by drought-stricken growers but the benefit to crops in that region was more than outweighed by extensive damage in the northern half of the state, he said.

    Widespread adoption of greencane harvesting and trash planting from Mackay North had prevented extensive soil erosion, he said.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sept 1: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the Finance Ministry to make its stand known on a petition alleging swindling of Rs 2200 to 10,000 crore of investors' money by dubious and fraudulent agro-forestry companies in connivance with the Sebi and its chairman D R Mehta.

    A division bench, comprising acting Chief Justice M Narain and Justice M Mudgal also asked the Ministry of Law and Company Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Delhi government, the RoC and AAPCI to place their affidavits within one week and adjourned the matter to September 10.

    Only Sebi had filed its reply till date on the petition moved by the investors seeking actions against erring officials of the Sebi and others. The court had on the last date of hearing directed the Sebi to take actions under Section 24 of the Sebi Act in cases it found necessary. The AAPCI was directed to place on record a report on the credit amount of each of the agro investment companies.

    The petitionfiled by president of Forum of Investors of Agro Forestry Companies of India S D Bhattacharya has raised questions of public importance regarding serious dereliction of duty, misconduct and fraudulent acts of omission and commission by Sebi and Mehta besides some other respondents in collusion with some of the fraudulent agro plantation companies and negligence on the part of some of the other respondents including Ministry of Finance and AAPCI.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. Mumbai, Sept 1: Crashlands always spark off the fundamental fight: is the pilot responsible or is the goof-up the control tower's? As the Tata aviation dream crashed on Tuesday, you hardly needed a black box to pin blames: the Tata group and bureaucrat-politician decision-makers both stood squarely exposed.

    Even as speculation had it that this was merely a bark, and not a bite from the Tata group at the government for its studied inaction on the project approval process, the two sides have, at least on paper, muddled their way through three years and four governments to finally put to rest proposals for a successful alternative to the national domestic air-carrier, Indian Airlines.

    As the Tatas announced their withdrawal from the project, investors looked at two sides of the coin.

    On one side, they saw a giant pedigreed group unable to force its way through government apathy, corruption and indecision, unable to fathom the political realities of the time it operates in. Even though the Tata groupchairman has recently been drafted on by the prime minister's office on a special advisory board, the group clearly lacks the lobby-lifelines that have pushed through proposals of a far more sensitive nature from private sector groups with ease in the past.

    And on the other, the investors saw (some with sighs of relief) the removal of the spectre of huge investment outgoes (the group had committed to pump in Rs 417 crore in straight promoter's equity, accounting for 60 per cent of the capital base of Tata Airlines Pvt Ltd) in an aviation project, when the group is already struggling to put its enormous steel, automobile, information technology and sundry other businesses divided into more than 10 dozen firms in order.

    The possibility could still not be discounted that the move was no more than a pressure tactic. The Tata group continues to `re-evaluate' the airport project in spite of an earlier official announcement that it was withdrawing from that project. It is possible that the withdrawal from theairline project will also be similarly qualified later.

    Institutional investors will also watch the fact that the Tata group's standing with the government stops short of being able to get a project cleared through as many as four changes of ministers and coalitions. In an economy where government say-so still looms larger than life, investors may treat the episode as a comment on the group's general political adjustment mechanism.

    What may filter through this impression is a sense of respect for a group that clearly does not wield its undoubted power to twist arms or grease palms where the Indian set-up requires these to be done. "No other industrial group in India would have failed to push this through, and you have to decide whether you criticise or respect the group for it," said a senior FI Tata-watcher.

    The main beneficiary of the Tata withdrawal is of course the national domestic carrier, Indian Airlines, and the entire IA employee-base that relentlessly campaigned against the project. Sincedomestic flyers hardly constitute a sizable political constituency, the sound-bytes from the IA unions and officers alike drowned the Tata group's supporters. For the bureaucracy and especially the civil aviation ministry, Indian Airlines represents a secure fiefdom against which no threats can be brooked. The other beneficiary is Jet Airways, the private sector carrier led by non-resident Indian Naresh Goyal which has grown into the sole viable private sector alternative and is happy to remain just that: the sole alternative.

    What the Tata action does, however, is that it forces the government to answer. The civil aviation ministry, and the Foreign Investment Promotion Board must answer, for future reference, why there was such unexplained if not inexplicable delay in project approval. The government and the entire project appraisal mechanism stands exposed as a result as being brutally insensitive to applications made through absolutely legal channels, and as being susceptible to lobbying from bothwithin and without.

    If the government feels that the strange Indian Airlines argument that the national aviation situation does not require more participants is correct, it should say so so that future prospective investors are not made to suffer through the horrible appraisal process. Whatever be the case, the Tata group has at least made its move, and left the government with the horrible appraisal process.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. MUMBAI, Sept 1: The government is considering issuing an ordinance to enable stricter enforcement of mobilisations by plantation companies. The ordinance will seek to empower the regulator to freeze the assets of a plantation company as well as have its nominees on the management of these companies to facilitate recovery of investor deposits in the event of a default by these companies.

    Although the government has asked the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to regulate these entities and frame guidelines to this effect, it is felt that these regulations would be with prospective effect. This would mean that Sebi would not be able to take any action against those plantation companies who have already defaulted.Sebi had recently asked all plantation companies to mobilise fresh deposits only after having their schemes credit rated. The issue is about the amount that have already been mobilised, which is in excess of Rs 20,000 crore, through about 4,000 companies of which 3,000 companies cannot betraced."There are only two ways in which dues can be recovered from an entity. Either by taking control of the money or by taking control of the management. Both these functions can concurrently not be done by Sebi. The government is considering issuing an ordinance which will enable the regulator to perform these functions from retrospective effect", said a top government source.

    Sebi officials said that the Dhanuka committee has made recommendations to this effect so that investors do not continue to suffer at the hands of several unregulated plantation companies. The government too has realised the gravity of the situation in the wake of a spate of cases that have been filed in various high courts of the country.

    There are several ambiguities in the regulation of these entities. While the government has directed Sebi to regulate these entities, the market watchdog has discovered that in several cases these plantation companies have in addition to issuing securities also raised deposits. This activityis akin to an NBFC which does not come under the purview of Sebi.

    Sebi has already urged the Department of Company Affairs (DCA) for clarifications on the issue. In the meantime, several case have reached the courts with investors and Sebi approaching the judiciary to recover dues of investors.

    Several plantation companies have refused to accept orders of Sebi on the grounds that they do not come under its jurisdiction and this has forced Sebi to seek judicial recourse.

    A Sebi appointed committee is currently drafting the regulations for collective investment schemes. The committee has proposed that these companies are structured through an asset management company format akin to mutual funds.

    Sources said that Sebi is currently only relying on investor complaints in taking action against such companies. "Wherever we are receiving complaints we are taking action. Apart from that there is little information about these companies. Even the credit rating agencies have met with little success in beingable to effectively rate these entities. All the entitiesd which have agreed to get themselves rated have been found to be below investment grade", said a top Sebi source.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. LONDON, Sept 1: European share markets slid across the board in morning trade on Tuesday after Wall Street suffered its second worst points fall ever. Shares in London, Europe's largest bourse, were down around 2.6 percent at 0830 GMT, while German shares were down 2.1 per cent and French shares were off around 2.9 per cent. ``At this point it is not a science, people are having to think about the impact of what is effectively an unexpected event,'' said one senior equity salesman. All three major European markets were off their worst levels however.

    Britain's FTSE 100-index dropped sharply at the start of business, returning after Monday's public holiday, to touch a low of 5,090.2, its lowest since January 13. Market talk focused on whether the sharp falls were a temporary dip or the start of a longer-lived bearish phase. ``We can't call this a correction any more, we are emphatically in a bear market,'' said Michael Derks, strategist at investment bank Nomura, in a Reuters Television interview.

    Marketlosses have raised speculation that central banks may try to restore stability by cutting interest rates, though few expected a cut in the immediate term. ``Markets need an indication on interest rates around the world, that's the great white hope here but you won't see that coming today,'' said one investment strategist. The global flight into safe haven bonds saw German bunds and British government gilts rise sharply, following an overnight jump in US treasuries.

    German analysts said they were bracing for a sharp drop in the Xetra DAX index over the day, but with S&P futures pointing to a possible rebound on Wall Street later, prices began to recover a little after the initial falls.

    It was a similar story in Asia where Tokyo's key Nikkei 225 average bounced back to close 1.86 per cent higher after losing more than 3 per cent at one point. Traders said the rebound was a technical one and some analysts forecast renewed selling would soon kick in once more. The 512 point plunge in the Dow Jones wiping6.37 per cent off the value of leading US stocks was mostly triggered by selling by big financial institutions. As selling accelerated in the final hour of trading, analysts said fear of being left behind outweighed fundamental concerns about instability in Russia and its spillover effects on Latin America.

    Some European analysts cautioned against predicting, too, heavy a decline in shares, with the futures contract on the US S&P 500 index already suggesting a possible Wall Street rebound later. In currencies, the dollar recovered some of its losses in European morning trade after it was driven down overnight to a nine-month low against the mark and a one-month low against the yen. The market had rushed to sell dollars after US shares slid, exacerbating fears the emerging markets turmoil would take a heavy toll on the United States. Traders noted dollar-buying in Europe, adding that the market had gone too far in dumping dollars overnight.

    ``There's a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to the overnight sell-offin the dollar. People in Europe are starting to think the dollar's oversold at this level,'' said Neal Kimberley, manager at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in London.

    The dollar's overnight low against the mark was at 1.7399. Traders said there was not much liquidity in early trade, with many loath to take up large positions in the dollar. The market was somewhat reassured by US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin's reminder overnight that the US economy was enjoying good health despite the turbulence hitting financial markets around the world.

    Rubin said the world was working its way through a difficult period but that US economic fundamentals were good, with strong prospects for growth, low inflation and low unemployment. But sentiment in the dollar was still shaky, and traders were keeping a close eye on European stocks. The dollar also fell against the Swiss franc to 1.4270 francs, the seven-month low it also reached on Monday. But it had rebounded to 1.4416 by Europe's morning.

    The Swiss franc made the mostof its safe-haven status and rose to a five-month high against the mark late on Monday, helped by the Russian parliament's decision to vote down Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister.

    Dow's losses wipe off $3 trillion

    About $ 3 trillion dollars, which is equivalent of Germany's economy, have gone up in smoke on Wall Street in the last five weeks, estimates from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq said. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) tumbled 512.61 points or 6.36 per cent to 7,539.07 on Monday, erasing gains for the year and falling to its lowest level since last November.

    For the 30 Dow stocks, the losses amounted to $ 2.24 trillion since July 17, when the index hit a record high of 9,337.97 points. On Nasdaq, dominated by high-tech stocks, the losses amounted to $ 588 billion since its record high set on July 20.

    The Nasdaq composite, off 20 per cent since its record, suffered its worst point drop ever -- 140.43 points or 8.56 per cent -- bringing it to its lowest levelsince July last year.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. New Delhi, Sept 1: Expressing dismay over the withdrawal, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) president L Lakshman called Tatas' decision as ``clear indication of a total sense of frustration on the part of the private entrepreneur.''

    However, the other two apex chambers -- Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) chose to keep mum on the issue and refused to comment.

    Interestingly, Tata Industries happens to be a member of CII and Ratan Tata a star member of CII's national committee.

    Taking a more cautious line of approach, a Ficci spokesperson said: ``We want to see things in the right perspective. Of course we against anything against happening the industry, but in this case, we will give a detailed view on the subject at a later time after studying all aspects.''

    Calling it thwarting of liberalisation by pressure tactics by the bureaucracy, trade unions and the competition, Lakshman said Tatas' entryinto such a capital intensive and high profile sector such as aviation would have sent very powerful signals to other sectors of the economy and have had a multiplier effect.

    ``Now the impact would be just the opposite. This will certainly send negative signals to foreign investors about the investment climate and liberalisation in India and create an impression that the country's liberalisation policy is discriminatory,'' he added.

    ``I can't think of a better opportunity for the prime minister to directly intervene and persuade the Tatas to go ahead with the proposal and take steps to ensure that the proposal is cleared in 24 hours,'' Lakshman said.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. NEW DELHI, Sept 1: PNB Mutual Fund is launching a new scheme after a gap of two years. The asset management company has submitted the offer document for an open-end debt scheme to the Securities and Exchange Board of India and expect to receive clearance from the regulatory authority in a week's time.

    ``Christened PNB Liquid Fund 1998, the scheme is likely to open for subscription by mid-October,'' said a senior official at the AMC. This will be the first open-end debt scheme from the PNB AMC. An equity-linked savings scheme, EGF '96 was the last fund from the AMC and garnered close to Rs 9 crore.

    PNB Liquid Fund is probably the first scheme to seek Sebi's approval for investment in derivatives. According to the draft offer document, the fund can invest upto 10 per cent in derivatives as a tool for risk management.

    Trading in derivatives is likely to take-off soon with the bill awaiting clearance from Parliament. The National Stock Exchange has prepared the ground for launching derivatives trading andenrolled brokers to impart training in various instruments.

    PNB AMC is faced with a shrinkage in corpus on account of repurchase in the existing schemes. Between 1995 and 1997, the corpus has dropped by Rs 88 crore from Rs 448 crore to Rs 361 crore. ``PNBMF plans to launch a slew of schemes to buoy the corpus. We intend to launch these funds by March, 1999 and include an open-end balanced fund and a short-term debt fund,'' the official added. The short-term debt fund (or quasi-MMMF) is likely to be targeted at high-netwroth individuals and corporates.

    The AMC also plans to launch an equity-linked savings scheme, depending on the prevailing scenario and investor appetite. The open-end debt fund will entail a minimum investment of Rs 5,000 and will open for fresh sale and repurchase of units from the 31st day from the date of allotment. The fund carries growth and regular dividend options and will offer systematic investmwnt and withdrawal plans.

    The scheme does not carry any entry or exit load during theinitial offer period and all issue expenses will be borne by the AMC. The recurring expenses are likely to be pegged at 2.25 per cent of the average weekly net assets (upto a corpus of Rs 100 crore) with an investment management fee of 1.25 per cent.

    The scheme can invest upto 100 per cent in debt instruments while upto 50 per cent of the corpus can be allocated to money market instruments. The Liquid fund is likely to scout for overseas securities with a maximum investment of 10 per cent of the corpus. The approval for investments in overseas markets by Indian mutual funds is awaited. Besides, it can invest upto 10 per cent in derivatives. Under normal circumstances, the portfolio turnover will not exceed 7-8 times, once the entire corpus is invested.

    The launch of open-end debt funds is beginning to catch up with public sector AMCs after Unit Trust of India launched its bond fund earlier this year. SBIMF also plans to launch its open-end income scheme by mid-september. So far, public sector AMCs havebeen concentraing on closed-end income funds, a number of which assure returns.

    ``Besides helping AMCs move away from assured returns, open-end income schemes continue to attract money on a regular basis. They also help curtail expenditure which otherwise, AMCs have to bear with the launch of a new closed-end fund,'' said an analyst. Currently, there are around 15 open-end income schemes with a combined corpus of over Rs 1000 crore.

    Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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