27 January 2014


  • Government to review restrictions imposed on gold imports by the end of this fiscal. 
  • EGoM approves spectrum usage charge of 5 per cent of annual gross revenue on all new airwaves acquired in auction.
  • Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands constitutes a high level Committee to review safety standards of all tourist vessels.
  • Talks between India and Sri Lanka on fishermen issue begin in Chennai.
  • Supreme Court issues notices to Odisha and Andhra Pradesh governments taking suo motu cognisance of media report about chopping off hands of two labourers by a contractor.
  • Syrian Government agrees for safe passage for women and children from the besieged city of Homs.
  • tracking falling global markets, Sensex drops over 300 points in afternoon trade; Rupee weakens by 11 paise to 62.77. 
The Government will review some of the restrictions imposed on gold imports by the end of this fiscal. Addressing a function on the occasion of International Customs Day in New Delhi today, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said, if the government had not imposed restrictions, it could not have managed the balance of payments or the current account deficit, CAD.
"It is these restrictions which have brought down Gold imports, which in the beginning of this year, April and May, had crossed 300 tonnes in 2 months. If we had not imposed those restrictions, there is now way in which we could have managed the Current Account Deficit. So while we have lost some, perhaps slightly more Gold smuggling, we have gained tremendously in terms of being able to contain the Current Account Deficit, and bringing about a large degree of stability in the currency."
Our correspondent reports, the government had revised upward the customs duty on gold, thrice last year to contain the rising gold imports. The levy currently stands at ten per cent. In value terms, gold and silver imports in April to December period, declined 30.3 per cent to 27.3 billion dollars from 39.2 billion dollars during the same period a year earlier.
The Empowered Group of Ministers, EGoM has approved a spectrum usage charge, SUC of 5 per cent of the annual gross revenue on all the new airwaves acquired in auction. Talking to reporters in New Delhi today, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said, existing telecom operators will have to pay the weighted average of their existing SUC, and 5 per cent if they acquire new spectrum.
"The issue before the EGoM was the SUC charges, and it was decided by the EGoM that for the 900 and 1,800 mega hertz band, the spectrum usage charges shall be at the rate of 5 per cent. But, what will be charged from the Telecom operators, other than BWA, would be the weighted average of the new spectrum that they buy and the use of the old spectrum. But in no case shall that charge be more than 5 per cent."
The Minister added there is no protection of revenue. He said that the decision will go to the Cabinet for final approval. The SUC for broadband wireless access, BWA spectrum will continue to remain at 1 per cent as the government has not amended the existing contractual obligation.
The Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar islands, Lt. Gen. AK Singh has constituted a high level Committee headed by the Commissioner-cum-Secretary of Shipping, to review the safety standards of all the tourist vessels that are currently being operated at different tourist spots. The vessels will be permitted to operate only after the clearance given by the Committee for their safety standards. He has also ordered a Magisterial inquiry into the boat tragedy that claimed 21 lives including 13 women yesterday. More from our correspondent:
"Lt. Governor AK Singh announced ex-gratia of Rs. one lakh each to the bereaved families of the deceased. The bodies of all the 21 victims have been identified. While 16 of them are from Kanchipuram District in Tamil Nadu, 3 from Maharashtra and one each from West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. One person from Tamil Nadu is still reported to be missing. Of the 29 persons rescued, 9 are still undergoing treatment at GB Pant Hospital at Port Blair here. The Commissioner-cum-Secretary for Disaster Management, Punya Salila Srivastav told AIR that the islands administration is in touch with the respective state governments.
The administration is in touch with the respective state governments to ensure that all the requisite arrangements are made. Helpline numbers in the District Control Room and government hospitals are functioning 24X7 to provide the required information to the public.
The much awaited meeting between fishermen of India and Sri Lanka, began at Chennai. The Indian side of the meet is represented by 13 fishermen from Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Ramanathapuram districts and Puducherry UT. Both sides are continuing their talks on issues affecting them, including free fishing rights in Palk Bay, preventing seizure and confiscation of boats and fishing equipment by the Lankan Navy. The Joint secretary of External Affairs, Suchitra Durai, Counsellor of Indian High Comission, SD Singh and Deputy Secretary of the High Commission in Sri Lanka, Mayank Joshi are among the 11 members of the official delegation. The State Fisheries Minister Jayapal is also present in the meeting. Ten fishermen and eight officials including the Director General of Department of Fisheries, Nimal Hettiarachchi and State Councillor of the office of the Attorney General of Sri Lanka, Nuwan Peiris  are representing the Sri Lankan side. A report from our correspondent:
"The representation from the Sri Lankan side has stressed upon the use of traditional methods rather than the  use of sophisticated nets which prove a threat to the ecological and livelihood resources in the Palk bay by the Indian fishermen. The Tamil fishermen on the other hand have underlined the need for allowing them to fish around  the Palk Bay for a period  of six months. The State Government did not want to discuss the Katchatheevu issue during the talks as  the matter was pending in the Supreme Court. However, the outcome of today's discussion would be implemented only after the State Government's approval. Joy, AIR NEWS, Chennai."
The Supreme Court today took suo motu cognisance of a horrific incident of chopping off the right hands of two migrant labourers from Odisha, by a contractor from Andhra Pradesh, in December last year. Taking cognisance of a media report on the incident, a bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi issued notice to Chief Secretaries of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. According to the report, the incident occurred near a jungle in Belpada village in Kalahandi district of Odisha when the two labourers were being taken back to their homes. The contractor did it to recover the money paid to them in advance when they were hired. They were being taken back as they had refused to work in a brick kiln in Raipur district of Chhattisgarh. The police have launched a manhunt for the contractor and his accomplice.The two labourers were part of a group of 12 hired for 14,000 rupees each by the contractor to work in a brick kiln in Andhra Pradesh. However, the contractor tried to forcibly take all of them to Raipur in Chhattisgarh, to work in a brick kiln there, to which the labourers refused and 10 of them managed to escape.
In Andhra Pradesh, members including Ministers from Telangana region, stalled the proceedings of the Assembly, protesting against Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy’s notice seeking rejection of the state Re-organisation Bill. Speaker N. Monohar adjourned the House twice amidst pandemonium as the members including ministers thronged his podium demanding to reject the Chief Minister’s notice. The House witnessed uproar as the members from Seemandhra also raised slogans and thronged the podium seeking that voting should be held on the re-organisation Bill. Members from all sides and parties were divided on the lines of the regions, as Deputy Chief Minister Rajanarasimha was himself seen encouraging the Ministers against the Chief Minister. Amidst uproar, the House was adjourned initially for half an hour and later, for an hour.The Chief Minister had issued notice to the Speaker, earlier, seeking rejection of the Bill that proposes bifurcation of the state.
Geneva talks between the Syrian Government and the opposition mediated by UN Special envoy have made a headway. The Syrian Government has agreed to a safe passage for the women and children from the besieged city of Homs. The opposition activists in besieged, rebel-held areas of Homs said that they want guarantees that authorities will not detain anyone evacuated as part of the safe passage deal announced in Geneva. More from our West Asia correspondent:
"After two days of negotiations in Geneva, Syrian Government has agreed on safe passage for women and children from the besieged city of Homs. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad confirmed the move and said the list of names of men to be released is needed. UN Special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi expressed happiness over the progress and said humanitarian aid for those trapped in Homs is a priority. He told that a humanitarian convoy from the UN and the Red Cross will be able to go to Homs today. The lack of food supplies, shelter and medicines along with a harsh winter have added to the concerns of relief agencies. Brahimi admitted that the progress is slow but steady and  hoped the same spirit will continue. Atul Tiwary, AIR News."
South Korea proposed today holding family reunions in mid-February, for those separated by the Korean War. Seoul came up with the dates after North Korea unexpectedly announced on Friday that it was willing to hold the event, the latest in a series of conciliatory gestures from Pyongyang. The South suggested the reunions take place at the North's Mount Kumgang resort from 17th to 21st next month. The reunion programme has been suspended since  North Korea's shelling of a South Korean border island in November 2010.
In Pakistan, a pipeline-carrying natural gas, was blown up in Balochistan's Dera Bugti district yesterday, disrupting the gas-supply to the Sui plant in Pir Koh gas field. An official said that unidentified miscreants planted an explosive device on the 16 inch-diameter pipeline. The device detonated with a huge bang caused extensive damage to the gas pipeline.
Tracking falling global markets, the Sensex at the Bombay Stock Exchange remained weak in afternoon trade, and had plunged 307 points, to 20,827, a short while ago. Earlier, in morning trade, the Sensex had tumbled 335 points, or 1.6 percent, to slip below the 21,000-level. Elsewhere in Asia, stock markets in Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and South Korea had posted big losses of between 0.9 percent and 2.5 percent, today, with investor sentiment hit by anxiety over continued tapering of its stimulus program by the the US Federal Reserve, or central bank, and concerns of a slowdown in China. The US Dow Jones Industrial Average had plummeted 2 per cent in Friday's trade.
The rupee trimmed initial losses against the American currency but was still quoted down by 11 paise to 62.77 per dollar on good demand for the greenback from banks and importers. It hovered in a range of 62.73 and 62.85 per dollar during the morning trade.
India has said, it will seek re-election to the UN's human rights body this year and would continue to strongly push for early reform of Security Council. On the occasion of India's 65th Republic Day yesterday, India's Ambassador to the UN, Asoke Kumar Mukerji said that India would actively participate in the work of the United Nations during the coming year based on its national objectives and priorities. He said, early reform of the UN Security Council will continue to be a priority for India, adding that maintenance of international peace and security is also a necessary external environment for India's developmental objectives.
The Supreme Court today deferred the opening of sealed envelope containing results of Rajasthan Cricket Association polls in which ex-IPL chief Lalit Modi is in the fray. The apex court postponed the hearing till March 4 after Board of Control for Cricket in India, BCCI, opposed the opening of the result. Both, BCCI President N. Srinivasan and Modi traded personal charges during the hearing.
The News Services Division of All India Radio in its weekly Live Phone-in programme, 'PUBLIC SPEAK', will bring you a discussion tonight on 'Dharans, demonstrations and Indian democracy'. This can be heard on FM Gold Channel and additional frequencies from 9.30 to 10.05 pm. Listeners can pose questions to the experts in our studio. The telephone number is: 011: 2331-4444. This programme is also available on Doordarshan DTH.

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