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REVENUE FALLS DUE TO TARIFF WAR AMONG TELECOM OPERATORS

NEW DELHI: The government has taken cognisance of the fall in revenue due to the tariff war among telecom operators triggered by free promotional offers doled out by a new service provider, telecom minister Manoj Sinha said on Wednesday.

Licence fees collected by the government fell to Rs 3,450.1 crore in the quarter ended December 31 from Rs 3,584.04 crore in July-September and Rs 3,975.7 crore in April-June, he told the Rajya Sabha in response to a question on the health of the sector.

Spectrum usage charges dropped to Rs 1,553.2 crore in October-December from Rs 1,820.03 crore in July-September and Rs 1,995.2 crore in April June, the minister said. Asked if promotional tariffs were governed by guidelines, Sinha said that “promotional offers and the benefits accruing to customers’ need to be restricted to 90 days as per the rules of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. He added that the regulator had floated a consultation paper on regulatory principles of tariff assessment on February 17.

“The regulator may decide to review the guidelines regulation of view the guidelines regulation of tariff assessment” after an analysis of the comments, Sinha said when asked if the government proposed to revisit the guidelines on promotional offers. The Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making body in the Department of Telecommunications, had pulled up the regulator in February over the deteriorating health of the sector, citing a ` . 800 crore dip in the revenue of telcos in the October-December period and the resultant fall in licence fees and spectrum usage charges paid to the government.

The commission asked Trai to restrict promotional offers to the mandated 90 days -referring to Reliance Jio Infocomm’s ongoing free offers, without identifying the company -and said that stretching such offers was a key reason for the government’s revenue loss. Reliance Jio started services in September, offering free voice and data to its customers until March end.

Separately, Sinha said there had been a reduction in call drops after telcos collectively added 3.25 lakh base stations between July 2015 and February 2017 to improve mobile phone coverage.

“Telecom service providers have reported having installed 1,09,000 base stations across the country between July 2015 and May 2016 and an additional 2,16,000 between June 2016 and February 2017,ì Sinha told the Lok Sabha during Question Hour on Wednesday.

78 COMPANIES VANISH AFTER RAISING FUNDS IN GUJRAT

New Delhi: As many as 78 companies are untraceable after raising Rs 356 crore from investors, with Gujarat having the maximum number of 17 such firms, Parliament was informed. These entities are from Andhra Pradesh Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, among others.

Vanishing companies are those that fail to file documents and balance sheets after raising funds through public issues and are untraceable. Cumulatively, these 78 vanishing companies have raised about Rs 356.68 crore. Gujarat, at 17, has the maximum number of such firms, followed by Andhra Pradesh (15).Besides, Tamil Nadu have 9 vanishing firms, Maharashtra (8), West Bengal and New Delhi (5 each), Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh (4 each), Karnataka (2), and Punjab and Odisha (1 each).

A total of 238 companies were initially identified by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs as vanishing companies, which raised money through public issues, Minister of State for Corporate Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha. Of these, 160 companies have been deleted from the list as they were subsequently traced. Presently, only 78 companies remain untraced, he added.

To a question on status about DCM Finance, Nova Pumech, Alps BPO Service, Birmingham Thermotech, Kolar Biotech, Mini Software, Padmini Technologies, Punsumi India, Sunstar Software, Vatsa Corporation, the minister said these companies were not identified as vanishing companies. In a separate query, Meghwal said a total of 11.58 lakh companies are active in the first 11 months of the current financial year, higher than 10.89 lakh firms in the preceding fiscal, indicating growth of Indian corporate sector.

Besides, number of such companies stood at 10.22 lakh and 9.52 lakh in 2014-16 and 2013-14, respectively. “The impact of corporate growth on employment scenario in the country has not been assessed,” Meghwal said.

AIRTEL ASKED TO PULL OFF MISLEADING ADS

NEW DELHI: Jio had approached advertisement sector watchdog, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), against Bharti Airtel, saying that the latter’s claim of being “officially the fastest network” is “misleading” and done in “mala fide manner in collusion with” broadband speed tester Ookla. The ACSI has asked now Airtel to either modify or withdraw the TVC by by 11th April 2017.

The Mukesh Ambani-led firm had alleged that Ookla, the owner of Speedtest app, charges money for giving such awards and the company has also approached Jio for the same for the very quarter it issued the certificate of fastest mobile network to Bharti Airtel. Jio had also alleged that the methodology used attributes speed result to the SIM used in the primary slot of mobile phones even if a Jio SIM delivering high speed has been used in the secondary slot

The ASCI ruled in Jio’s favour and its Fast Track Complaints Committee considered the representation to be misleading. TOI.in accessed the order and it says: “The FTCC referred to the TRAI web-site with respect to the coverage of Airtel vis a vis Reliance Jio and noticed that there is a significant gap between Geographical dispersion of Airtel and Jio 4G subscribers which could impact the comparison. Based on this data, the FTCC concluded that the claim was not adequately substantiated and the basis of comparison has been so chosen as to bestow artificial advantage to the advertiser.”

ECONOMIC REFORMS

New Delhi: Economic reforms will continue to gain momentum in coming years as the country looks to push growth and attract investment in the infrastructure sector, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said

“India stands out with one difference today. Our reform process in India is an ongoing process. It has picked up pace in last two years and I do anticipate in years to come, it will continue to gain pace,” he said after inaugurating permanent office of European Investment Bank here.

“Contrary to all the global noises we see in various parts of the world, there are no voices of protectionism in India and therefore, we have opened up in terms of our economy and today we are amongst the most open economies in the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, European Investment Bank (EIB) announced new commitment of 450 million euro for various projects in India that will support sustainable transport and renewal energy.

Pointing out that India is running one of the largest infrastructure creation programmes of the world, Jaitley said the country requires investment in various sectors including public transport, water management, sanitation, urban development, creation of highways, creation of rural infrastructure etc.

“I think in the next two decades, at least I see India’s hands full in trying to expand this infrastructure and get rid of deficit that existed in India,” he said.

For development of infra projects, he said, the country needs a lot of public investment, international investment in terms of FDI and funding from various agencies.

ELECTRIFICATION OF RAILWAY TRACK

New Delhi: The Railways has electrified 48 per cent of the country’s tracks and intends to double the same in the next five years. “Electrification has the highest pay-back. The amount of electrification that we have done so far, we will be doubling the same in the next five years as it will give us immense returns by way of cost reduction,” Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said.

Replying to questions, he said electrification of tracks should be for priority of Railways and this will help in pay-back and cost-saving for the public-sector behemoth as well as beneficial for it. “Electrification all over India is so far 48 per cent of the total route kilometres in the country. In case of Odisha because of concerted efforts, it is 71.4 per cent. Any new broad guage rail line project will be electrified,” he said.

In his written reply, Prabhu said, “Indian Railways have prepared an action plan to electrify 24,400 route kilometres in five years from 2016-17 to 2020-21”. During the last three years 2014-2017 and for 2017-18, he said a total number of 93 railway electrification projects consisting 16,815 route kms at an estimated cost of Rs 17,165 crore have been included in the Railway Budget.

The pace of electrification, he said, has been increased from the average of 1300 kms per annum to 2000 kms per annum which will further be increased to 4000 kms in 2017-18. “These efforts have been made to reduce the present traction bill on Indian Railways, thereby likely saving of about Rs 3,300 crore per annum is expected,” he said. Prabhu said the Railways has also tried to make rail transport greener by sourcing about 1200 MW of solar and wind power by 2020 and by fitting LED bulbs in railways, which will help in saving 1400 crore in traction bill of current year against that in 2014-15.

To another question on SPVs set up jointly with Odisha government, he said now the state would not have to pay 50 per cent required under the agreement. He said various ongoing projects for Odisha have been announced and these are not a package but are real projects.

GOVT. SLASHES INTEREST RATE ON SMALL SAVING SCHEMES

NEW DELHI: The government has lowered interest rates on small saving schemes like PPF, Kisan Vikas Patra and Sukanya Samriddhi scheme by 0.1 per cent for the April-June quarter, a move that would prompt banks to cut their deposit rates.

For April-June, these have been lowered by 0.1 per cent across the board compared to January-March. However, interest on savings deposits has been retained at 4 per cent annually. Since April last year, interest rates of all small saving schemes have been recalibrated on a quarterly basis. A finance ministry notification said investments in the public provident fund (PPF) scheme will fetch lower annual rate of 7.9 per cent, the same as 5-year National Savings Certificate. Theexisting rate for these two schemes is 8 per cent. Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) investments will yield 7.6 per cent and mature in 112 months.

The one for girl child savings, Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme, will offer 8.4 per cent annually, from 8.5 per cent at present, while it will be the same at 8.4 per cent for the 5-year Senior Citizens Savings Scheme. The interest rate on the senior citizens scheme is paid quarterly. Term deposits of 1-5 years will fetch a lower 6.9-7.7 per cent that will be paid quarterly while the 5-year recurring deposit has been pegged lower at 7.2 per cent.

“On the basis of the decision of the government, interest rates for small savings schemes are to be notified on a quarterly basis,” the ministry said while notifying the rates for the fourth quarter of 2016-17 starting from April 1, 2017.

CONSTITUTIONALLY BACKING TO BACKWARD CLASSES

NEW DELHI: A major social welfare initiative of the government will gather momentum next week, when the proposal to provide constitutional backing to the National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (NSEBC) is likely to be tabled in Parliament. The prime minister is personally involved in shepherding this proposal.

NSEBC will replace the existing National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) that was created in response to a Supreme Court ruling in 1992. NCBC is not constitutionally backed, and has advisory powers. NSEBC’s status will allow it to be a participative, decision-making body, rather than just playing an advisory role.

NSEBC’s status will require a constitutional amendment – two-thirds approval from both Houses of Parliament and approval from 50% of state assemblies. According to top government officials, who spoke on the condition they not be identified, work on the proposal was started two years back. Some associations of backward communities had approached the Centre with this request at that time.

The process of granting constitutional backing to NSEBC is driven by the logic that other backward classes (OBCs) need a body as empowered as that for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SC/ST).”SC/ST communities at least have a commission that has more powers. In the same way, this is to address grievances of OBCs through a more powerful and authoritative body. It was the prime minister’s initiative throughout,” a top government official said.

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