DA bonanza for central govt staff, pensioners
Govt to trim flab at major ports
BSE offers offsiteoptions trading
MTNL cellularservice by year end

New Delhi, Sept 23: 
The Cabinet today approved the grant of another three per cent dearness allowances and dearness relief to central government employees and pensioners and hiked bonus for railway employees from 51 to 54 days.

The second installment of additional DA was due from July 1, 2000. DA for central government employees and pensioners will now be at 41 per cent, from the existing rate of 38 per cent. The increase would cost the exchequer Rs 1,195 crore in a full year and Rs 797 crore in the current financial year.

The additional financial implication on account of this increase of DA to employees is estimated to be Rs 889 crore per annum. The financial burden in the current fiscal, for the eight months July-December, would be Rs 593 crore.

The increase in DA for pensioners will result in an additional burden of Rs 306 crore for the full year and Rs 204 crore for the eight months in the current fiscal.

The increase in dearness allowance is calculated on the basis of a percentage increase in the 12-monthly average of the all-India consumer price index for industrial workers.

The government today also approved a modified formula for productivity-linked bonus for railway employees, increasing the number of bonus days to 54 from 51 days.

In addition to the modified formula, a 10 per cent increase in productivity and eight per cent rise in output have also contributed to the increase in the number of bonus days.

TCIL venture

The Cabinet also approved the proposal of the public sector telecom company Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) to invest $ 21.9 million in a telecom joint venture project. The joint venture will offer basic telephony in five of the eight telecom circles in Kenya for which the bids were opened recently.

The bids were floated by the Kenyan government in February in which TCIL had won five licences.

The investment will be used to hold 30 per cent equity in the proposed Kenyan joint venture Air Tel.

The licences issued by the Kenyan government would be for 15 years and could be extended by another 10 years.

ET&T shutdown

The government today also decided to wind up the loss-making public sector computer company Electronics Trade and Technology Development Corporation Ltd (ET&T). The company has a liability of Rs 44.35 crore and an interest burden of Rs 72.87 crore.

Parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan said the Cabinet has approved the proposal to provide a budgetary support of Rs 8.47 crore for offering voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) to the 288 employees of the company.    

Haldia, Sept 23: 
The Union ministry of surface transport is planning to retrench manpower by more than 40,000 in all the 11 major ports of the country.

At present, the ports employ about 110,000 people.

The downsizing will be brought about through a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) and by reducing the retirement age from its present level of 60 to 58.

“Indian ports are characterised by over-staffing and there is an immediate need to rationalise manpower,” said R. Vasudevan, secretary of shipping, union ministry of surface transport.

Addressing a press conference at Haldia on the occasion of the inauguration of the 4B berth at the Haldia Dock complex (HDC), Vasudevan said that the over-staffing in the docks is posing a formidable constraint for effective deployment of financial resources for the major ports. He pointed out that in the Mumbai docks, 30,000 people are employed to handle 30,000 million tonnes of cargo, whereas the optimal level has been estimated to be 14000.

A similar problem characterises Calcutta Port Trust (CPT), which along with the Haldia Dock, employs about 16,000 people to handle 31 million tonnes.

The Union ministry has also recommended that the CPT sell off its land assets to restructure its finances. The ministry has recommended that the CPT should go for an outright sale of 54 acres of unutilised land, of the total 3326 acres held by it.

It has also asked the CPT to recover 1016 acres from different allotees without any conditions and use them for commercial purposes to ease the financial crunch faced by the port. The CPT has also been asked to recover illegally held lands.

“The sale of land is a feasible option to create the pension fund which will require about Rs 1500 crore in order to sustain about 26000 pensioners,” said Vasudevan.

This has been necessitated more by the increase in the maintenance dredging requirements by CPT, following its shrinking contribution to the dredging budget in recent times. The maintenance dredging requirement of CPT has been estimated to be 22 million cubic metres, which is 25 per cent of the total maintenance dredging requirements of all major ports.

Till now, the Union government has been extending about a 100 per cent subsidy to the CPT. The central government has disbursed a significant amount of Rs 233.42 crore as subsidy in 1999-2000. “The dredging requirements are going up and causing tremendous pressure on the exchequer. The CPT now has to initiate measures to finance their requirements,” said Vasudevan.

Vasudevan has also alerted the CPT that since every cubic metre of materials dredged and disposed cost a significant amount, hence it is imperative that dredging should be done only in places where it is required and within permissible limits. He also brushed away apprehension of minor ports eroding the profitability of major ones.

“If we have to achieve the handling of cargo from the present level of 272 million tonnes to 424 million tonnes as envisaged by the Ninth Five Year Plan, then the minor ports will have to work hand-in-hand with the major ports. This is in tune with the changing economic ambience,” Vasudevan added.    

Calcutta, Sept 23: 
The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) has decided to offer limited trading membership (LTM) in the derivatives segment to attract regional stock exchanges to participate in derivative trading.

The membership will remain open till December 31 this year. At present members of BSE and National Stock Exchange (NSE) can participate in derivative trading. BSE has already introduced derivatives trading in index futures in June last. Addressing a press conference here today Manoj Vaish, CEO of the derivatives segment of the BSE, said that the exchange was planning to introduce derivatives trading in index options and covered warrants shortly. Trading in index options is expected to start from November.

Vaish said the local broking community has been receptive to derivatives trading, with 67 per cent of them using this platform and average volumes hovering around Rs 6 crore. BSE expects to receive 200 applications for LTM by December. LTM will be registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India as a trading member.

The financial requirement for becoming an LTM is a networth of Rs 50 lakh, minimum security deposit of Rs 15 lakh (25 per cent in cash, 25 per cent in cash equivalents, 50 per cent in cash/equivalents/approved securities), an annual charge of Rs 25,000 and a one-time charge of Rs 3 lakh, fo which Rs 2 lakh would go to the investor protection fund and Rs 1 lakh for the trade guarantee fund.    

New Delhi, Sept 23: 
Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) will launch its mobile cellular service before the year end while it strives to improve its market capitalisation.

The new chairman Narendra Sharma, who took over office today, said, “MTNL is undervalued. The current market capitalisation is lower than its network. We will strive to correct this. The market is bearish and this is one of the main reason for lower capitalisation of MTNL.”

Sharma said, “MTNL would work within the existing guidelines” and it is not necessary that MTNL would function more efficiently if government control is reduced.    


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