Infotech Bill gets Cabinet go-ahead
J Thomas plans tea auction on the Net
Telco drive to rev up Indica sales

New Delhi, May 13 
The Union Cabinet today approved the much-awaited information technology (IT) Bill to facilitate e-commerce, provide recognition to electronic contracts and prevent computer crimes.

The Bill was cleared in the light of the recommendations of Parliament�s standing committee to which the legislation had been referred, official sources said.

They said the Bill was likely to be taken up in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

The new legislation is consequential to United Nations resolution that all countries should favourably consider its law on electronic commerce framed in 1996.

The significant part of the Bill is that it provides for a regulatory regime to supervise digital signature system essential for carrying out financial transactions through the internet and other electronic modes.

Asked about the recommendations of the standing committee that had been approved in today�s Cabinet meeting for incorporation in the IT Bill, parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan told reporters that since Parliament was in session the details could not be divulged before circulating it among the members.

Mahajan said the Cabinet also approved a Bill on freedom of information and amendments to related acts and rules, which would be introduced on May 17, the last day of the budget session.

He said the Cabinet also approved certain amendments to the State Financial Corporation Act 1951 and repeal of Forfeiture Act 1859.

PFC, REC buyback

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved the buyback proposals of Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and Rural Electrification Corporation (REC). While PFC plans to buy back 21,30,000 shares having a face value of Rs 1000 at Rs 2710 per share, REC wants to buy back 17,00,000 shares (face value of Rs 1000) at Rs 1,150 per share.

It is expected that the buyback of shares would yield Rs 792.92 crore to the government.

It has been decided that both the companies will buy back 25 per cent of the paid up capital to jack up the earnings per share. This is a prerequisite for disinvestment in both the companies. After the buyback, the debt-equity ratio would be 2:1. However, these two companies would not be able to access the market for the next two years.

SSI credit guarantee

The CCEA has cleared the proposal to set up a corpus of Rs 125 crore for the financial year 2000-2001 to implement a credit guarantee fund scheme for small scale industries (SSIs). The government will contribute Rs 100 crore and the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) will chip in Rs 25 crore.

Mahajan said the scheme would guarantee loan up to Rs 10 lakh (term loan as well as working capital) extended by commercial banks and well-performing regional rural banks to SSI units without collaterals, including third party guarantee.

It would guarantee 75 per cent of the principal amount of the credit extended by the lender and the lender would pay a guarantee fee of 2.5 per cent of the loan upfront and an annual service fee of one per cent of the loan outstanding at the end of each year, Mahajan said.

The Cabinet committee also approved the extension of the transport subsidy scheme to Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshawdeep and Darjeeling for another seven years.

Power projects

The CCEA approved the proposed cost estimate of Rajasthan Atomic Power project (RAPP-3&4) at Rs 2,511 crore and a debt equity ratio of 1:1. It also cleared the revision of cost estimate of Kaiga Atomic power project (KAPP 1&2). The revised cost of of Kaiga 1&2 now stands at Rs 2,869 crore as against the sanctioned estimate of Rs 2,275 crore.

The revised cost estimate of Rs 1,578.31 crore Dhauliganga hydroelectric power project stage-I (4X70 MW) in Uttar Pradesh has also been cleared. This includes interest during construction and financial charges of Rs 146.87 crore by National Hydro Electric Power Corporation (NHPC). The CCEA also approved the creation of a new 400/220 kilo volt sub station at Siliguri .

Ravi crop marketing

The government has decided to advance the marketing year for Rabi crops from April-March to March-February for all the states.

The decision has been taken in view of the fact that farmers cultivating early varieties of rabi crops failed to receive the benefits of revised minimum support prices since these are marketed much earlier than April 1 when the new MSP for rabi marketing season becomes effective.

The CCEa also approved the proposal by the administration of Union Territory of Lakshwadeep (UTL) to acquire one passenger cum cargo vessel.    

Calcutta, May 13 
The gavel is finally about to fall on physical tea auctions. J Thomas & Co, the country�s largest auction house, has decided to start cyber auction of teas.

J. Thomas has made a formal presentation to the producer community on how the system will work so that the entire auction can be carried out smoothly over the Net. The company will take another three months to put the entire system in place.

J. Thomas is the biggest auctioneer in both north and south India. In 1999, it conducted auctions for more than 170 million kg of tea at Calcutta, Guwahati and Siliguri tea auctions. �It has also emerged as a major player in southern India,� a senior tea industry official said.

The presentation was made by P.K. Sen, chairman of J Thomas & Co, before the members of the Indian Tea Association. ITA sources said Sen tried to explain to the producers how tea could be auctioned over the Net at a much lower cost with the same safeguards and guarantees as in the traditional auction.

The presentation also tried to show how the bids would work on the Net, the active time of the bids, how the base reservation price would be determined and how the buyers would come to know the highest bid recorded.

The tea industry had been saying that several grey areas and problems relating to cyber auctions remain unanswered. The principal issues relate to assurances about credit facilities available from major auctioneers, assurance of quality from brokers, and the creation of a transparent payment mechanism.

Sources said all J Thomas addressed all these issues in its presentation.

J. Thomas has proposed that there should be a central warehouse where the tea will be stocked. This will ensure that the buyers get deliveries of tea that will match the samples that the sellers send them. The new system will also help ensure better spread of teas among potential buyers.

At present, about 55 per cent of the total production comes through the auction system and private sales account for about 45 per cent. However, under the Tea Marketing Control Order, around 75 per cent of production should be routed via the auctions.    

Calcutta, May 13 
Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company (Telco) has set an ambitious target of selling 90,000 Indica cars during the current financial year compared with 54,480 cars in 1999-2000.

Addressing a press conference here today, S.G. Saxena, regional manager (east), said the company had embarked on a strong marketing drive to prop up Indica sales both in the domestic and export markets. �We currently have a network of 57 dealers countrywide, which will be increased to at least 75 by this year end,� he said.

Saxena said the company would operate in full capacity in the current financial year in order to meet the market demand.

The company will launch its latest model, Indica 2000, in the city on May 15.    


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