Loan relief lifeline for Haldia
George waves red rag at Vajpayee
TV rating-fixing plot thickens
Showbiz Navratnas to enlighten Sushma
Border barriers in cyber capital
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, Sept. 5: 
A back-breaking burden looked set to lift off Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd’s back with principal lenders agreeing in principle to reduce the interest rate on high-cost borrowings of the Rs 5,170-crore project.

The make-or-wreck decision came close on the heels of Indian Oil Corporation’s promise to play saviour and become a partner in the project that is being hard-sold as the beacon of Bengal’s industrial revival.

The lenders were waiting for a positive signal from a powerhouse like Indian Oil before committing themselves on the interest rate cut. The banks and financial institutions will now thrash out a debt restructuring package with Indian Oil as the fourth equity partner.

The breakthrough removes a big question mark on the viability of HPL, which is groaning under a debt burden of Rs 4,000 crore. The loan had been taken at 17.5 per cent interest but the West Bengal government, one of the partners in the project, had wanted it to be scaled down to 10-11 per cent.

However, the lenders have not yet announced the scale of the reduction. “The institutions and banks will ratify the proposal at their respective board meetings. It has not yet been decided by what percentage the interest rate will be reduced,” a source said.

“A debt restructuring plan will be drawn up with Indian Oil as an equity partner. However, no decision has been taken on how much equity Indian Oil will pick up. This will have to be worked out,” the source added.

Indian Oil is learnt to have shown interest to acquire 26 per cent stake in the company at a face-value of Rs 10 per share. A formal decision on Indian Oil’s participation will be taken in the middle of this month by the HPL board and communicated to the lenders.

Addressing a press conference following a meeting with the financial institutions and bankers, Bengal industry minister Nirupam Sen said: “We had positive talks with the banks and the institutions. They have assured us help in all possible ways to restructure our debt burden. We have to come to a solution very fast.”

The meeting was attended by Purnendu Chatterjee, another HPL partner, and several bankers. However, the Tatas, the third promoter of HPL, did not sent any representative to the meeting. Sen said Ratan Tata had expressed his inability to attend the meeting.

The minister said the state government has received the offer from Indian Oil for joining HPL as the fourth equity partner. He said none of the promoters has raised any objection to Indian Oil’s offer. Sen had yesterday met the Indian Oil chairman in New Delhi at Union petroleum minister Ram Naik’s office.


New Delhi, Sept. 5: 
Fresh from the assertive reconfiguration of the Cabinet, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is having to contend with a series of headaches touched off by his party as well as his allies.

If it was Jagmohan who had to be mollified on Monday, it was the turn of Delhi BJP veteran Vijay Kumar Malhotra today to sulk and threaten to quit all the official posts he holds.

The NDA convener and former defence minister, George Fernandes, posed another embarrassment for Vajpayee by sharing a dais with the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) this evening.

The manch’s meeting was convened to trash the recommendations of a government-appointed special task force on employment, headed by former finance secretary Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

While Fernandes is unlikely to do anything “drastic” to destabilise the government, the hobnobbing with the SJM—virtually a red rag for Vajpayee after its strident criticism of his economic policies — is being seen as a “gentle but firm” reminder that he would not wait for long to be reinstated as defence minister.

Fernandes used the forum to project his own achievements in Kashmir when he was minister-in-charge in 1989-90 and take potshots at the Bihar government.

But he was one with the swadeshi lobby in attacking the task force’s proposals and questioned Ahluwalia’s locus standi to head one. “World Bank acolytes have to look at the condition of destitutes in their homeland. The recommendations fly in the face of the NDA agenda and must be rejected out of hand,” Fernandes said.

Malhotra, who had trounced the Congress’ Manmohan Singh in the 1999 elections, is the chief whip of the BJP parliamentary party in the Lok Sabha and its spokesman when the House is in session. He is also the vice-chairman of the Indian Olympics Association and was recently appointed chairman of the ceremonial panel for the Afro-Asian Games.

As rumours of his impending resignation began to do the rounds, BJP sources said he has sought a meeting with Vajpayee to articulate his “grouses”.

Sources said Malhotra, a contemporary of Vajpayee in the RSS, was peeved with the “importance” given to the younger Vijay Goel, the Chandni Chowk MP who was “rewarded” with a ministerial berth in the PMO.

Malhotra, claimed sources, was given to believe that if Jagmohan was shifted out of urban development, he would get the job. But with Goel’s induction, the prospects of Malhotra evaporated.

Vajpayee sent the new urban development minister, Ananth Kumar, to Malhotra’s residence this evening. Kumar was earlier asked to turn Jagmohan around. BJP sources said Malhotra was consulting his Delhi peers in the party before making up his mind.


New Delhi, Sept 5: 
Advertisers and a section of broadcasters are pointing the needle of suspicion at a major television broadcasting company for sourcing and leaking the lists of households surveyed by two major rating agencies. Even so, the television advertising industry has come to terms with the inevitability of creating either a new rating system or a thorough overhaul of the existing one.

“We have learnt that the lists of TAM and INTAM households were delivered by an unknown person or persons to select journalists in Mumbai in big white envelopes and even e-mailed,” a senior executive with one of the rating agencies said in a conversation with The Telegraph.

TAM — Television Audience Measurement — and INTAM — Indian National Television Audience Measurement — are rating systems run by AC Nielsen-IMRB and ORG-Marg, respectively. Every week, TAM and INTAM come out with their Television Rating Points (TRPs), the index of popularity of television programmes. Advertisers decide most of their TV adspend — where to place which advertisement and at what cost — on the TRPs. The total television adspend is an estimated Rs 4,000 crore per annum.

TRP ratings are usually announced every Friday. Competition among cable channels has begun to intensify ahead of the festive season. This week’s TRP ratings would be the first that are expected to throw up indicative results of the response to Zee’s restructuring of its programming.

The executive claimed that the lists of TAM and INTAM households along with a 19-page analysis of recent TRP trends were doing the rounds selectively.

The analysis is reported to have shown how the TRPs have consistently been “manipulated” to show how a particular channel always had the most popular programmes. It has also been insinuated that the TRPs were consistently favouring one media production house producing teleserials.

However, advertisers and broadcasters have begun working on redrafting strategy to determine television ratings. “We are alarmed that this information (the lists of households surveyed every week by TAM and INTAM) should be in the public domain,” said Bhuvan Lall, executive director of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation.

The IBF has convened a meeting on September 14 to which it has invited representatives of the Advertising Agencies Association of India and TAM and INTAM. The broadcasters will push for an overhaul of the rating systems and also a single rating system.

A single rating system was an inevitability in any case. But now that the lid has been blown off the TAM and INTAM lists, the merger process will be hastened. Last month, the Dutch media house, VNU which owns ORG-Marg, took over AC Nielsen globally.


Guwahati, Sept. 5: 
In Venice, he did not mince words while revealing home-truths about Bollywood. When he returns, Naseeruddin Shah may have the chance to tell Sushma Swaraj what ails the film industry and ways to stem the rot.

Shah’s name figures on a shortlist of probables for a nine-member think-tank — “Navratna” — that would advise the Union minister for information and broadcasting on matters related to the film and television industries.

In his outspoken attack, the top actor had said Bollywood’s mass production line of films were ruined by bloated budgets and appalling scripts and could never match the quality of Hollywood movies.

Sources close to Sushma said some of the biggest names of the Indian entertainment world — Yash Chopra, Shabana Azmi, Kamalahasan, Shatrughan Sinha, Mani Ratnam and Bhupen Hazarika — are also being considered for the advisory panel. One surprise inclusion is the young Ekta Kapoor — daughter of film actor Jeetendra — who has made a name for herself as a producer of popular family “soaps” under the banner of Balaji Telefilms.

For Hazarika — who turns 75 on Saturday, it will be the “biggest” birthday present from Delhi. Sources close to the Dada Saheb Phalke award winner told The Telegraph that Sushma met the singer in Mumbai yesterday and offered him the job. Hazarika has produced and directed eight Assamese films and was instrumental in setting up the country’s first state-owned film studio, Jyoti Chitrabon, here. Attempts to reach the maestro over phone, however, proved futile as he was said to be busy with an “important meeting”.

Sushma, who left for Kerala today, will be back in Delhi tomorrow evening. Sources said she would consult her ministry’s officials before making an official announcement.

The panel would advise the ministry on the content of film and television programmes. Sushma, India’s culture “policewoman”, has been a vocal advocate of a regulatory body to check what she calls “the overdose of sex and violence” in films and TV programmes.

The promotion of Arunachal Pradesh as an alternative “destination” for film shoots is also high on Sushma’s scheme of things. Arunachal has already started attracting filmmakers after Rakesh Roshan’s Koyla was shot there.

Sushma also discussed Arunachal’s potential with Hazarika at yesterday’s meeting. According to the sources, the government is keen to utilise Hazarika’s “vast and rich knowledge” of films, music and other aspects of art and culture.

Hazarika, who is president of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, has been associated with the film world ever since he acted in India’s second film with a soundtrack, Indramalati (in Assamese), in 1939 at the age of 13.


Bangalore, Sept. 5: 
A globocop is yet to pound the mean streets of cyberspace. But the road to India’s Silicon Valley is patrolled by policemen who enforce the law in letter and spirit, especially if you are from Pakistan.

Azar Jaffri and Khasif-ul-Haq, chief executives of two rival Pakistani software companies — Iways and Corvit Systems — had reached Bangalore last week.

Their mission: to attend a workshop on information technology organised by the Asian Development Bank. Instead, they spent most of the business hours in a police station for what is known in police parlance as “reporting” by foreigners.

“It was very upsetting. They spent seven hours in the police station going through the formalities. Both of them missed the main sessions,” the Pakistan Software Export Board’s managing director, Mohammad Khalid Javed, told The Telegraph.

The export board functions under the ministry of science and technology in Pakistan.

The conference was attended by several experts and tech-savvy chief ministers S.M. Krishna and N. Chandrababu Naidu.

The police, however, said it was a routine reporting formality for foreign visitors.

“I am not blaming the police. The ADB, which had sponsored them, should have made arrangements before the visitors’ arrival. This harassment could have been avoided,” Javed said.

ADB director Yoshihiro Iwasaki was told of the “ordeal”, but it was too late. “I am taking it up with the ADB to prevent such unpleasantness in the future,” Javed said.

Only on the last day of their three-day stay here did Jaffri and Haq get a break from the police rigmarole. They managed to join the ADB delegation trip to Infosys, now a regular fixture on the foreign business traveller’s itinerary.

Pakistan has offered to host the next ADB meet in Islamabad. “We learn by experience. We will not allow such things to happen there,” Javed said.

Pakistan was a late starter in information technology development but is slowly catching up. In fact, Pakistan is attempting to replicate Bangalore’s success in Lahore, Javed said.

A majority of the 440 software companies in Pakistan are based in Lahore, which has a large number of educational institutions. The city accounts for the lion’s share of the country’s software exports. However, Javed did not quantify the export revenues.

Quite a few Pakistani infotech experts have returned from the US to set up shop back home, Javed said.




Maximum: 32.5°C (+1)
Minimum:26.1°C (0)


0.2 mm

Relative Humidity

Max: 98%
Min: 80%


Light to moderate rain, accompanied by thunder in some areas
Sunrise: 5.23 am
Sunset: 5.48 pm

Maintained by Web Development Company