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Monday, February 28, 2011

Budget 2011 I-T limit raised to Rs 1.8 lakh,Advantage Senior Citizens

New Delhi: In some relief to general tax payers, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today enhanced the tax exemption limit by Rs 20,000 to Rs 1.80 lakh, gave additional benefits to senior citizens but excluded women from additional sops.

While proposing to raise the income tax limit to Rs 1.80 lakh for general tax payers and Rs 2.5 lakh for senior
citizens, the Minister in his budget proposals for 2011-12 has lowered the age for senior citizens to 60 years from 65 years

Besides, a new category of 'very senior' citizens of 80 years and above has been introduced with no tax on their
income upto Rs five lakh.

For general tax payers, the measure will result in 'a uniform tax relief of Rs 2,000', Mukherjee said.

Senior citizens will get tax exemption for income up to Rs 2.5 lakh, higher from Rs 2.4 lakh now.

Introducing a new tax slab for very senior citizens (80 years and above), Mukherjee said, they will not have to
pay any tax for annual income up to Rs 5 lakh. However, income of very senior citizens between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 8 lakh will attract a tax of 20 per cent and above Rs 8 lakh 30 per cent.

The general tax payers will have to pay 10 per cent tax on income between Rs 1.8 lakh and Rs 5 lakh; 20 per cent
between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 8 lakh; and 30 per cent on income above Rs 8 lakh.

The exemption limit for women tax payers will be Rs 1.9 lakh. They will have to pay 10 per cent tax on income between Rs 1.9 lakh and Rs 5 lakh; 20 per cent between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 8 lakh; and 30 per cent for income above Rs 8 lakh.

In case of senior citizens (between 60 and 80 years), the exemption limit has been raised to Rs 2.5 lakh from Rs
2.4 lakh. They will have to pay 10 per cent on income between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 5 lakh; 20 per cent between Rs 5 lakh and
Rs 8 lakh; and 30 per cent on income above Rs 8 lakh.

For very senior citizens (80 years and above), there will be no tax on income up to Rs 5 lakh. They will have to
pay 20 per cent on income between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 8 lakh and 30 per cent above Rs 8 lakh. PTI

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sensex and Nifty Hard Hit

FIIs were net sellers of Rs 2,702.22 crore while DIIs were net buyers of Rs 1,029.22 crore in equities today, February 24, as per provisional data available with NSE.

Indian equity benchmarks shattered on the back of a sharp spike in crude oil prices in international markets on Thursday, reacting to growing concerns in Libya, which could spread over to other oil-producing as well as exporting countries in the Middle East.

The 30-share BSE Sensex dropped 545.92 points or 3%, to close at 17,632.41 and the 50-share NSE Nifty fell 174.65 points or 3.21%, to end at 5262.70 on record volume.

All sectoral indices were butchered badly; the BSE Bank and Capital Goods indices were hit the hardest, which plunged 4% each. Auto, Realty, Metal, Healthcare, Oil & Gas, Power, FMCG and IT indices too were down 2-3.5%.

It was a record volume for the Indian markets, especially on expiry day. Total traded turnover was at Rs 2,99,194.72 crore, including Rs 2,77,277.49 crore from the F&O segment.

FIIs have net sold Rs 906 crore worth of shares in Indian equity markets in the month of February and sold Rs 6330 crore worth of shares in the month of January 2011.

30-member JPC formed to probe 2G scam, telecom policy

24 Feb 2011

New Delhi: Giving in to the opposition's relentless demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC), the government Thursday formed a 30-member panel to probe alleged irregularities in the 2G spectrum allocation and to also look into the telecom policy from 1998 to 2009.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee moved a motion in the Lok Sabha to set up a JPC that has been asked to submit its report by the end of the monsoon session this year.

It will have 30 members, including the chairman. The panel will comprise 20 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha, Mukherjee said.

It will 'examine policy prescriptions and their interpretation thereafter by successive governments, including decisions of the union cabinet and the consequences thereof, in the allocation and pricing of telecom licences and spectrum from 1998 to 2009', the finance minister said.

He said the panel would also examine 'irregularities and aberrations, if any, and the consequences thereof in the implementation of government decisions and policy prescriptions from 1998 to 2009'.

The panel has been tasked to make recommendations to ensure formulation of appropriate procedures for implementation of laid down policy in the allocation and pricing of telecom licences.

The formation of the JPC comes in the wake of opposition pressure that wanted a parliamentary panel to investigate how second generation telephony spectrum licences were sold to telecom firms allegedly at throwaway prices that according to the government auditor caused a loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer.

The Congress has eight Lok Sabha MPs in the panel. They are: P.C. Chacko, Manish Tewari, Jai Prakash Agarwal, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, V. Kishore Chandra Deo, Deependra Singh Hooda, Nirmal Khatri and Praban Singh Ghatowar.

From the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the panel members from the Lok Sabha are Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Harin Pathak and Gopinath Munde.

The other members are DMK's T.R. Baalu, Trinamool Congress' Kalyan Banerjee, Janata Dal-United's Sharad Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party's Dara Singh Chauhan, Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav, Communist Party of India's Gurudas Dasgupta, Biju Janata Dal's Arjun Charan Sethi and AIADMK's M. Thambi Durai.

Mukherjee asked Speaker Meira Kumar to nominate one of the members of the committee as its chairman.

However, sources said the Congress has 'more or less' made up its mind to have Chacko, an MP from Kerala, as the head of the 'sensitive' panel.

Chacko, a Congress old-timer, is considered 'loyal and reliable', the sources said.

The motion for the formation of JPC will now be referred to the Rajya Sabha for the approval and nomination of 10 members from the upper house.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This is victory of democracy: BJP on JPC

New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's announcement of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum scam as 'victory of democracy'.

'This is not the victory of ruling or opposition benches. This is the victory of democracy,' said Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha.

At the start of the budget session, the prime minister Tuesday announced that his government had agreed to a JPC probe into alleged irregularities in the allocation of 2G spectrum to telecom firms.

Manmohan Singh agrees to JPC on 2G spectrum scam

'It is the beauty of Indian democracy, that even in the difficult circumstances, we sit down and find the way. This time, it took some more time,' she said.

Besides the prime minister, Swaraj thanked the Lok Sabha Speaker, Meira Kumar, Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal for the decision.

'I would like to tell parliamentarians, let's drop the victory celebrations. We will start proceedings,' said Swaraj.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chavan meets Sonia, Pranab over Antrix-Devas agreement

16 Feb 2011
New Delhi: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan Tuesday met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and is said to have apprised them of the decisions taken by Space Commission in the controversial Antrix-Devas deal.

Congress sources said Chavan, who was earlier minister of state in the prime minister's office and a member of Space Commission, told the Congress leaders that there was no loss to the exchequer as no allocation of scarce S-band spectrum was made to the Devas Multimedia Limited as part of 2005 agreement with Antrix, the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The sources said Chavan told the two leaders that the Space Commission had recommended cancellation of the deal within hours of it being brought to its notice.

The agreement, which dealt with lease transponders on two satellites was referred to the Space Commission in July last year.

Chavan was made chief minister of Maharashtra in November last year after his predecessor Ashok Chavan steeped down over the Adarsh Society scam.

The opposition has been targeting the government on the Antrix-Devas deal with the Bharatiya Janata Party also posing questions to Chavan.

BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad told media persons in Mumbai Sunday that Devas' chairman has said he had written twice to Chavan, who was the minister of state in the PMO from 2005.

He said that Chavan should explain the steps he took during his tenure.

Himachal government takes control of Karmapa's land

15 Feb 2011
The Himachal Pradesh government on Tuesday transferred the ownership of the palatial residence of Tibetan religious leader Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to its name, but officials ruled out the possibility of taking physical possession of the property. A team of revenue officials comprising sub-district officer Naresh Sharma completed the formalities to transfer to the state the mutation of the land on which the Gyuto Tantric University and Monastery was built before 2000.

Sharma said that now the monastery land is owned by the government.

'Earlier, the title of the land was registered in the fake name of Dile Ram and Prem Singh,' he said, adding that 'the ownership process was completed with the consent of the Karmapa-backed Karmae Garchen Trust'.

Kangra Deputy Commissioner RS Gupta said it was a routine revenue exercise.

'The exercise to vest properties by the government declared by the Tibetan government-in-exile has been on since 2006. The Karmapa monastery is also one of them. It is a routine revenue formality.'

Revenue officials said so far mutation of more than 40 properties in and around Dharamsala owned by the government-in-exile has been transferred in the name of the state.

Gupta, however, said 'vesting the ownership doesn't mean immediate taking control of the property by the government'.

Officials in the revenue department said the government started vesting properties after the government-in-exile provided a list of 73 properties owned by it, seeking their regularisation. As part of exercise, the government has started taking mutation of properties in its name after verification of revenue records.

'After vesting the ownership, the government will further lease out the properties to the Tibetan administration on its request by charging 10 per cent of the property value as lease money,' said the officials.

Gupta said the process for transferring the properties on a long-term lease to the government-in-exile would start only after all the properties were vested by the government.

Interestingly, the Gyuto monastery was built before 2000 by the Tibetan administration but on revenue papers it was shown that its land was purchased in November 2002.

Under Himachal Pradesh land laws, only the state's permanent residents can buy land in the state. Others who want to purchase land for non-agricultural purposes have to seek relaxations under Section 118 of the Land Reforms and Tenancy Act from the state government.

The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, came into limelight following the recovery of nearly Rs.70 million worth of foreign and Indian currency from his monastery last month.

The raids on the monastery were conducted after police arrested two people at Mehatpur in Una district of Himachal Pradesh Jan 25 and recovered unaccounted Rs 1 crore from them.

During interrogation, they claimed that the seized money was a payment made by the Karmapa's trust to buy land near Dharamsala.

Police believe that the seized money was meant for some 'illegal' land deal with the involvement of Karmapa's aide Rubgi Chosang, also known as Shakti Lama, who is in police custody along with eight others.

Denying all allegations, the Karmapa has told the investigating agencies that the money seized during the raids on his monastery was given by his devotees and he was not managing the financial affairs.

The Karmapa fled Tibet and sought refuge in India in January 2000. Ever since, he has mostly lived in the monastery in Sidhbari near Dharamsala - the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Prime Minister inaugurates mega transhipment terminal in Kerala

Kochi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday dedicated to the nation the International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) in Kerala. It's the largest single-operator container terminal in the country.

Manmohan Singh, launching the Rs.3,250 crore first phase of the project in Vallarpadam off the Kochi coast, said it is a symbol of the government's commitment to Kerala's development.

'This is also a symbol of the how private public partnership can be a commitment to the public good. Also this is a symbol of cooperation with our West Asian neighbours,' said Singh.

He said it would will give a major boost to reducing the cost of exports and imports.

'Through this Kochi is all set become as an attractive investment area not only for Kerala but for the country and also this could well be the start of more investment from UAE where a large number of our diaspora work,' said Manmohan Singh.

The new terminal is expected to become a transhipment hub that and country will no longer have to rely on ports like Colombo, Dubai and Singapore. Thanks to the terminal, the cost of freight of a container is expected to come down by $300 and the transshipment time by almost 10 days.

The total number of containers handled in the first phase would be one million and would touch four million containers annually when fully operational.

The terminal has been developed on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis by the Dubai Port World (DPW), which won a global tender after quoting a gross revenue share of 33.3 percent to the Cochin Port Trust (CPT).

Rs.1,650 crore has come from the central government while the DPW invested Rs.1,600 crore. The BOT is for 30 years.
Manmohan Singh had laid the foundation stone for the project in February 2005.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan on Friday used his speech to demand more from the central government.

'The proposed Kochi Metro is awaiting clearance from the centre and during the previous UPA government we were given a coach factory which was to come up in Palakkad, but it has still not materialised. We have done what we have to do and we wish these projects are cleared,' said Achuthanandan.

Deputy Chairman of Dubai Executive Council Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum was also present on the occasion.

SC awards 1 year RI to Balakrishna Pillai in Edamalayar case

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today awarded one year rigorous imprisonment to former Kerala Power minister and Congress leader R Balakrishna Pillai and two others in the Idamalayar dam corruption case.

A bench of justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan convicted the former minister while reversing the acquittal
order passed by the Kerala High Court.

The apex court upheld the prosecution plea that the former minister has entered into a criminal conspiracy that caused a loss of over Rs 2 crore to the Kerala State Electricity Board by awarding contracts for construction of a power tunnel and surge shaft of the Idamalayar hydro electricity power project to contractor Paulose (now deceased) at extra ordinarily high rates.

The apex court, upholding the appeal filed by the then Leader of the Opposition and present Chief Minister V S
Achuthanandan, said the high court had committed a grave error by overlooking the clinching evidence marshalled by the
prosecution and the conviction rightly awarded by the special court in Kerala.

The apex court also expressed concern that cases of corruption relating to political personalities have been dragging endlessly in the country and pointed that in the present case, though the scandal took place in 1982, the prosecution was launched only in 1991.

The bench said there was clinching evidence to prove Pillai's involvement in the award of the contract despite the fact that the electricity board was an independent body and was not under the control of the government to warrant his
interference. PTI

Kalaignar TV denies link with 2G spectrum scam

11 Feb 2011

Chennai : The DMK's first family-owned Kalaignar TV today said it had no links with the 2G spectrum allocation scam in the wake of CBI's allegations that there was a connection between accused Shahid Usman Balwa-promoted Swan Telecom and the channel.

Balwa was allegedly favoured by former Telecom Minister A Raja in grant of UAS licence and scarce radio waves, according
to submission made by the CBI in a Delhi court while seeking further remand of Raja.

'There is no link between the 2G spectrum allocation done in 2007-08 and the loan transaction that took place between
Kalaignar TV and Cineyug Films private limited in 2009', the channel Managing Director Sharad Kumar said.

In a statement, he said the transactions with Cineyug Films were an 'open book' and took place 'with the knowledge
of Income Tax Department officials'.

Terming the transaction an 'advance for transaction of shares', he said the sum received from Cineyug Films for
purchase of shares was returned with interest when the two parties differed over the price evaluation of shares.

'When there was a difference in the evaluation of shares, Kalaignar TV returned the Rs 200 crore that it had received
from Cineyug Films till August 2009. It also returned (to Cineyug Films) an interest of Rs 31 crore for the sum received.

'All these transactions took place with the knowledge of the Income Tax Department officials and the relevant taxes
(with respect to the transactions) have also been paid. Since the whole process has been carried out within the confines of
the law, this process is an open book', Sharad Kumar said.

The CBI had told the court: 'It has also come to light that there was a transaction of Rs 214 crore from M/s Cineyug
Films private limited to Kalaignar TV in 2009.' Kalaignar TV belongs to Sharad Kumar and others closely associated with Raja.

'The funds were arranged by M/s Cineyug Films from DB Group companies wherein the family members of Balwa are the directors or shareholders', CBI said in its application. PTI

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Raja arrested by CBI in 2G scam

02 Feb 2011

New Delhi : Former Telecom Minister A Raja was today arrested along with his two former associates in connection with the 2G spectrum scam.

Raja arrived at the CBI headquarters this morning, a day after his brother A K Perumal was questioned by the CBI about
alleged funding of some front organisations owned by Telecom companies which had been allocated spectrum from October 2007 to January 2008, official sources said.

Raja, his former personal secretary R K Chandolia and former Telecom Secretary Siddartha Behura were arrested for allegedly abusing their official position and manipulating the tendering procedures to benefit certain telecom companies in
getting the spectrum.

The arrest of 47-year-old Raja, who has been questioned four times by the agency, comes over two months after he was forced to resign in the wake of the spectrum controversy.

Raja, who was questioned earlier on December 24 and 25 last year and January 31, was called to the CBI office this morning and quizzed before being arrested, the sources said.

The DMK MP had been confronted with some questions and documents recovered from the computers seized during searches conducted by the investigation agency earlier at his premises, the sources said.

He was also asked about his conversations with corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and the reasons for advancing the cut-off date of applying for license for spectrum allocation in 2007 by a week.

Raja was forced to resign on November 14 last year in the wake of the CAG report which held that the spectrum allocation at undervalued prices resulted in a notional loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the state exchequer.

He got the telecom portfolio on May 18, 2007 and was re-elected as a Member of the 15th Lok Sabha and continued as Telecom Minister from May 31, 2009, till November 14, 2010. The Supreme Court has asked CBI and Enforcement Directorate to submit status reports on their investigations into the 2G spectrum case to it by February 10 when the case will come up for further hearing.

In its FIR, CBI mentioned the loss in spectrum allocation as Rs 22,000 crore based on CVC findings which had referred the case to it.

CBI has also questioned former Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chief Pradip Baijal, a 1966 batch IAS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, and former Telecom Secretary D S Mathur in connection with the case. PTI

What the CBI did for five months in 2 G Case

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday arrested former telecoms minister Andimuthu Raja over an alleged telecoms scam linked to awarding mobile licences, in a move that could weaken the coalition government.

Raja's arrest comes months after the country’s apex court issued a notice on his alleged involvement in the 2G mobile spectrum scam and the opposition shut down parliament, demanding a joint inquiry into a government auditor's report that India potentially lost crores of rupees in revenue when ineligible firms were given lucrative telecoms licences cheaply in 2008.

A timeline of events leading up to the arrest of A Raja

September 13, 2010: Supreme Court issues notice to then Telecom Minister A Raja and the Centre on alleged irregularities in allocation of the 2G spectrum and asks for response on a petition seeking the court to monitor an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into irregularities in sale of licenses.

The bench also issues notices to the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax Department on the petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), an NGO, and others. The petitioners challenge the May 25 decision of the Delhi High Court dismissing its plea to monitor the CBI probe into the alleged role of the Union Communications Minister in the sale of 2G spectrum licences in 2008.

October 28, 2010: Raja refuses to resign from the Cabinet. Raja says he will not resign over the spectrum controversy as he followed his predecessors and decisions were taken in consultation with the Prime Minister and the approval of the Solicitor-General.

November 12, 2010: Opposition presses government to sack Raja. The Opposition parties, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, demand the resignation of Raja, and say the "scam" should be investigated by a joint parliamentary committee. Raja, who belongs to the DMK party, an ally of the governing Congress party, says there is "no question" of his resigning.

November 13, 2010: CNN-IBN exposes CAG report on 2G scam. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked Telecom Minister A Raja to auction the 2G spectrum but the minister chose to ignore his advice. Raja has been claiming that the Prime Minister gave the go ahead to him. But documents with CNN-IBN nail another of Raja's lies. Three letters all exchanged on November 2, 2007 between the Prime Minister and Telecom Minister show just how concerned Singh was with Raja's actions.

November 13, 2010: Raja says former Telecom Secretary D S Mathur was part and parcel of all decisions on 2G spectrum allocation over which he is facing the heat from the opposition demanding his resignation. Mathur has claimed that he had recommended to Raja that spectrum be given through auction so that there can be transparency. Raja says suggestions on likely availability of spectrum were also useful in arriving at the cut-off date of September 25, 2007 for allocation of the airwaves. He does not, however, specify who made the suggestions.

Opposition stalls Parliament asking for a JPC probe in 2G scam

November 14, 2010: A Raja resigns from the Union Cabinet. Facing Opposition onslaught and after days of defiance, Raja finally submits his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the 2G spectrum scandal. The 57-year-old lawyer-politician, who got the coveted portfolio after the exit of Dayanidhi Maran in 2007 and retained it after the May, 2009 elections, drove to Prime Minister's residence to hand in his resignation.

November 16, 2010: The CAG report on 2G spectrum scam tabled in Parliament even as the opposition continues to demand a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the accusations against former Telecom Minister A Raja. Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha is adjourned soon after the report is tabled. CAG report will be taken up by Public Accounts Committee headed by MM Joshi, which has members from other parties too.

December 2, 2010: Supreme Court comes down heavily on Raja for 'bypassing' and even 'overruling' Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's advice to defer the allocation of 2G spectrum by a few days. Apex court takes strong exception to the tone and tenor of Raja's letter to the prime minister, saying it amounted to showing 'disrespect' to the highest authority in the country.

December 7, 2010: CBI raids Raja and his aides. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) finds what it says were "incriminating documents" in raids on homes and offices of the former telecoms minister in connection with the country's biggest corruption scandal.

CBI agents search 14 locations across Delhi and Tamil Nadu. The Supreme Court criticises the CBI for not questioning Raja in its year-long investigation despite him being at the centre of the inquiry.

December 24, 25, 2010: CBI questions A Raja for eight hours at the CBI headquarters in Delhi in connection to the 2G spectrum scam. After the questioning was over, Raja said he cooperated fully with the CBI. The CBI is looking for the money trail of 2G funds and linking the evidence to companies owned by Raja and friends.

January 31, 2011: The CBI questions A Raja for the third time in connection with the funding and allegedly showing favours to some telecom companies in granting 2G spectrum between October 2007 and 2008. Raja is called to CBI office and quizzed for nearly nine hours.

The DMK MP is asked about his conversations with corporate lobbiyst Niira Radia and the reasons of advancing the cut-off date of allocation of the spectrum in 2007. Raja is confronted with some documents recovered by the agency.

February 2, 2011: CBI arrests Raja in 2G spectrum scam case. CBI also nabs his personal secretary RK Chandolia and former telecom secretary Siddharth Behuria. Raja is arrested under sections 120B, 13(2), 13(1D) of Prevention of Corruption Act on the charges of criminal misconduct, violation of policies and favouring some specific companies during the grant of 2G spectrum licences.