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After rough and tumble of politics, a new journey for Pranab

NEW DELHI, July 22: Pranab Mukherjee will embark on a new journey transcending political affiliations in the high Constitutional job with an ease none of his predecessors may have enjoyed because of...more

SC raps Govt for tardy enforcement of ban on tinted glasses

NEW DELHI, July 22: The Supreme Court has expressed its dissatisfaction over tardy implementation of its directions banning the use of tint on car windows, ....more

Delhi Police to send
team to Tehran in Israeli Embassy case

NEW DELHI, July 22: Delhi Police will soon be sending a team to Tehran to seek cooperation from their counterparts in its probe into the February 13 bombing of an Israeli embassy vehicle ....more

DRI seizes contraband worth Rs 35 crore

NEW DELHI, July 22: The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has claimed to have unearthed an international drug racket with the arrest of two businessmen and seizure of 352 kg of....more

India faces downgrading of its aviation security system: CAPA

NEW DELHI, July 22: India could face the possibility of downgrading of its aviation safety system by the US if it did not take urgent steps to strengthen institutions like DGCA to meet the challenges .....more

CBSE Bill likely to be
tabled in upcoming Parliament session

NEW DELHI, July 22: A bill seeking to make CBSE a statutory body is expected to be tabled in Monsoon Session of Parliament even as HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has started meeting Opposition ...more

CBI to seek Defence Ministry’s view on OSA violation

NEW DELHI, July 22: The CBI will tomorrow send a tranche of ‘confidential’ documents received from a US-based estranged business associate of arms dealer Abhishek Verma to the Defence Ministry to seek....more

Pak, US intel chiefs to meet on August 2

ISLAMABAD, July 22: ISI chief Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam will meet his American counterpart, CIA head Gen David Patraeus, in Washington on August 2, the first meeting between the spy chiefs ...more



Black money: India-Singapore to share info on tax evaders....

Planes to soon have onboard system to scare birds....

Need shift in people’s attitude to cut gold demand: RBI....

 

After rough and tumble of politics,
a new journey for Pranab

NEW DELHI, July 22: Pranab Mukherjee will embark on a new journey transcending political affiliations in the high Constitutional job with an ease none of his predecessors may have enjoyed because of his experience spanning 45 years in government and politics.

His election to the President’s office today comes as a fitting finale for the 76-year-old Congressman from West Bengal, till recently the troubleshooter of UPA, a task he has handled for last eight years.

Not an established lawyer by training but considered an expert in the working of the Constitution and governance, he was ever seen as the perennial ‘No 2’ in government.

Mukherjee was a utility man from the days of Indira Gandhi, when he was the powerful Minister of State for Revenue during the Emergency, and later as Finance Minister in the 80s.

His rise had been steady and such valuable was his contribution to government that his nomination as a Presidential candidate came after a huge dilemma for Congress party, which heads the UPA coalition that has moved from crisis to crisis in the last eight years.

The veteran leader, known for his photographic memory, had become a Rajya Sabha member for the first time in 1969.

Mukherjee was for a long time member of the Upper House before his first direct election to the Lok Sabha in 2004 from Jangipur in West Bengal. He repeated his victory in the 2009 elections but had expressed a desire not to contest elections again in view of his advancing age.

Mukherjee was a top ranking minister and presided over the Union Cabinet meetings in the absence of the Prime Minister during 1980-1985.

Of course, Mukherjee had his own bad days in Congress which he had to quit in the mid 80s after he had evinced interest in becoming the Prime Minister after the death of Indira Gandhi in 1984.

It took some time before he came back into the party but once he was in, there was no stopping his rise once again.

Mukherjee became Finance Minister again in 2008 after P Chidambaram was shifted to Home Ministry in the wake of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

Again his importance was seen when P V Narasimha Rao made him Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission as well as Minister of External Affairs. In between he had to quit because he ceased to be a member of Parliament and came back to the Cabinet after re-election.

Mukherjee started his public life in the 60s in Bangla Congress during the time of late Chief Minister Ajoy Mukherjee of the United Front government when Jyoti Basu was Deputy Chief Minister in West Bengal. He was general secretary of Bangla Congress.

A post-graduate in political science and history, he can recollect any event of historical importance or mundane political and other events, a matter of envy to many of his colleagues.

Son of a senior Congress leader Kinkar Mukherjee from West Bengal, Pranab had a brief stint as lawyer, teacher and journalist before he was embedded to his destiny of politics in 1969, when he became a member of Rajya Sabha.

Mukherjee was Leader of the Rajya Sabha from 1980-85 and later he became Leader of the Lok Sabha. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is Leader of the Rajya Sabha.

When Mukherjee was Finance Minister, Manmohan Singh was appointed RBI Governor in 1982.

In what could be described a case of chasing each other’s shadow, Singh became Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission from 1985 to 1987, a post Mukherjee later held from 1991 to 1996, when Singh became Finance Minister in P V Narasimha Rao government.

Mukherjee also had a brief stint as Chairman of the Economic Advisory Cell of AICC between 1987 and 1989. Interestingly, Manmohan Singh also held this post, when Congress was out of power between 1999 and 2004.

Mukherjee, who started his career as a college teacher, always carried the traits of a teacher, never hestitating to give a reprimand or two to juniors whether in his party or Opposition.

He was also jocularly called ‘GoM Mukherjee’ in political circles as he headed 33 Groups of Ministers on various key issues including the recent one on setting up of Lokpal.

Mukherjee has five books published to his credit on political and economic issues and under his editorial guidance, the history of Congress was published in which there was a candid admission of excesses during the Emergency.

He got the best Parliamentarian Award in 1997. Ten years later, he was awarded Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour.

In Congress Party, Mukherjee became AICC treasurer in 1978. Journalists and AICC media department officials still recall Mukherjee’s tenure as the Media Department Chairman of the party. Mukherjee was AICC General Secretary in 1998-99.

In 1984-1991, 1996 and 1998, Mukherjee was Chairman of the Campaign Committee of AICC, besides being a member of the Congress Working Committee and Congress Election Committee.Mukherjee held all the key portfolios including Defence from May 2004 to October 2006 and External Affairs from October 2006 to May 2009 besides the Finance portfolio, which he held again in 2009 after a gap of 27 years.

In the past, he also held portfolios like Commerce and Steel and Mines, Revenue and Banking (Independent Charge), Shipping and Transport, Industrial Development, Commerce and Supply besides presiding over a number of Parliamentary Committees.

Mukherjee got married to Suvra on July 13, 1957 and has two sons—Abhijit and Indrajit—and daughter Sharmistha. Abhijit is a Congress MLA in West Bengal. (PTI)

SC raps Govt for tardy enforcement of
ban on tinted glasses

NEW DELHI, July 22: The Supreme Court has expressed its dissatisfaction over tardy implementation of its directions banning the use of tint on car windows, beyond a permissible limit, in Delhi.

A bench of justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar pointed out that the roads of the national Capital still had numerous cars with heavily tinted windows and windscreens and that the users or owners of such vehicles, often involved in accidents, go scot-free.

The court also noted that most of these vehicles were being used by VIPs enjoying Z-category security.

"There is least implementation of the judgement. Nothing is being done even today. It is the middle class who suffers. The Z-class (VIPs with Z and Z plus category security) who commit the accidents, all have black films on them (cars)," the bench said.The court observed that the VIPs, who were permitted to use tinted film on their vehicles but only as per due procedure, were exploiting the relaxation granted to them.

The observations from the bench came while hearing a batch of petitions filed by sun film manufacturers association and others seeking clarification as well as modification of the apex court’s order banning the use of tinted glass on vehicle windowpanes.

Concerned over rising instances of criminals using black films on windscreens and side glasses of four wheelers, the apex court had directed the states and the Union territories to strictly enforce the ban on use of the tint beyond the limit permitted. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia had on April 27 said that manufacturers may produce vehicles with tinted glasses which provide for 70 per cent Visual Light Transmission (VLT) for safety glasses on front and rear windscreen and 40 per cent VLT for side glasses.

The directions had come into effect and were enforceable from May 4.

The apex court, however, at that time had given liberty to the police officers concerned to grant exemption to VVIPs like those enjoying "Z" and "Z plus" category security.

The court’s verdict had come on a PIL filed by one Avisekh Goenka seeking total ban on all forms of tinted glasses used in four wheelers.

It had agreed with the petitioner’s contention that maximum crimes are committed in such vehicles and there is a definite rise in the commission of heinous crimes, posing a threat to the security of both the individuals and the state.

The court had said another adverse aspect of the use of black films is that even if they reflect tolerable VLT during the day, it would clearly violate the prescribed VLT limits during the night and would result in poor visibility, which again would be impermissible.

The court, while granting the exemption to VVIPs and others facing threat perceptions, had said, "The cases of the persons who have been provided with Z and Z+ security category may be considered by a committee consisting of the director general of police/commissioner of police of the concerned state and the home secretary of that state/Centre.The bench had advised that "certificates should be provided only in relation to official cars of VIPs/VVIPs, depending upon the category of security that such person has been awarded by the competent authority." (PTI)

Delhi Police to send team to Tehran
in Israeli Embassy case

NEW DELHI, July 22: Delhi Police will soon be sending a team to Tehran to seek cooperation from their counterparts in its probe into the February 13 bombing of an Israeli embassy vehicle here in which a woman diplomat was seriously injured.

Official sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs said Tehran has conveyed its willingness to assist Delhi Police in its probe after the role of four Iranian nationals surfaced in the bombing that took place barely 500 metres away from the high-security residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Delhi Police has named Houshang Afshar as the main accused who had planted a bomb on the vehicle of Israeli diplomat Tal Yeshua on February 13 that left the diplomat injured.

The names of three more Iranian nationals—Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, Saeid Moradi and Mohammad Kharzei—have also surfaced during the investigations into the probe.

The sources said Iran has been requested through diplomatic channels for help in tracing Afshar besides other details of the three accused who are in the custody of Bangkok and Malaysia.

The Delhi police also wants to corroborate the statement of Syed Mohammed Ahmed Kazmi, an Urdu journalist, arrested for allegedly being a part of larger conspiracy in the bombing incident as the police claimed that he named some Iranian nationals as his handlers during the interrogation.

In a related development, Delhi Police has approached a local court here for issuance of Letters Rogatory to five nations, including Iran and Israel.

The sources said that besides these two countries, Letters Rogatory was being sent to Malaysia, Thailand and Georgia after the Union Home Ministry and Legals and Treaty Division of Ministry of External Affairs to be sent to these respective countries.

The phone book of Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, who was arrested by Malaysian police from Kuala Lumpur airport, led sleuths from external and internal security agencies to Kazmi after which the entire conspiracy started opening up.

Sources said the Malaysian government, which had been cooperative in this case, had, however, made it clear to Indian authorities that Sedaghatzadeh would not be extradited to India as Thai authorities had already made request for him.

This move prompted Indian authorities to send a formal request asking authorities in Kuala Lumpur to share all evidence, which could help in establishing role of Kazmi in the criminal conspiracy, the sources said.

A similar request was being sent to Thai authorities for sharing the interrogation reports of two Iranian nationals—Saeid Moradi and Mohammad Kharzei (both part of botched up plan in Bangkok) -- as one of them was a part of the Indian operations as well and had visited New Delhi last year, the sources said.

India has secured an Interpol Red Corner warrant against all the four. India will also be sending a Letters Rogatory to Georgia where Afshar had visited on June 25.

The mobile phone used by the accused was switched on in Georgian capital for 14 seconds after which the Indian number was not used. Sources in the probe agency believe that the phone had been switched on to change to a different SIM card.

The Letters Rogatory will furnish the unique International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number used by Afshar in India and would request the authorities in Tiblisi to check from the operators about the mobile SIM card used in the same mobile phone and the calls made thereafter.

The explosive used for the bombing here was TNT—Trinitrotoluene, the Central Forensic Sciences (CFSL) had said in its report two months after the incident in which an lady envoy was seriously injured.

According to the sources, evidence collected so far which includes a statement of Kazmi to Delhi Police, indicates that the spate of attacks planned in New Delhi, Bangkok and Georgia was to take revenge for attacks on Iranian scientists since 2009.

Four Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in attacks since 2009. (PTI)

DRI seizes contraband worth Rs 35 crore

NEW DELHI, July 22: The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has claimed to have unearthed an international drug racket with the arrest of two businessmen and seizure of 352 kg of party drug ‘Ketamine’ being smuggled to Malaysia.

The drug worth around Rs 35 crore in the international market was being smuggled to Malaysia from the Air Cargo complex at the Indira Gandhi International airport here.

The duo, Paramjeet Singh Gulati (Kingpin) and his associate, Atul Kumar Agarwal, have been arrested by DRI sleuths. Both of them have been sent to 14 days judicial custody by a Delhi court.

The officials have also seized about Rs 1.60 crore cash, said to be the sale proceedings of narcotics, and two luxury cars—Toyota Innova and Lancer—from the searches carried out at their premises.

Acting on a specific input, the Delhi Zonal Unit of the DRI in an operation conducted late night on July 18 at the Air Cargo Complex intercepted the consignment containing 151.980 Kg of Ketamine concealed in pouches, said to contain Mehndi (Henna) powder and other cosmetic items like bangle boxes, vanity box etc, an official said.

Following this further searches were carried out at various office, residential and godown premises of the accused, which resulted in further recovery of 200 Kgs of Ketamine concealed in solutions of rose water, liquid glucose, refined glycerin and ethyle acetate.

Ketamine is used as anaesthesia for treating animals. However, the drug is commonly abused in rave parties as sedatives.

DRI officials have also recovered different types of packing material like mehndi powder, glass bangle box, vanity box, ladies pouch purses among others used to conceal the contraband in the shipments.

Along with the contraband goods, various other incriminating documents, including record of voluminous hawala transactions, letter heads, forged Import Export Code (IEC) certificates and a number of rubber stamps were also recovered.

IEC is a unique 10 digit code issued by Director General of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce to Indian Companies. IEC is mandatory for import or export in India.

"The modus operandi adopted by the syndicate was to procure huge quantities of Ketamine and to export the same in the name of forged particulars of various exporters," he said.

The two vehicles used for ferrying the drugs-Toyota Innova and Lancer car were also seized by DRI, the official said.

DRI has also found papers related to previous shipments sent by the accused.

"It is a big seizure. We are investigating the case and trying to enquire about old consignments sent by them. We may also recommend the case to Enforcement Directorate (ED) to probe money laundering," the official added. (PTI)

India faces downgrading of its aviation
security system: CAPA

NEW DELHI, July 22: India could face the possibility of downgrading of its aviation safety system by the US if it did not take urgent steps to strengthen institutions like DGCA to meet the challenges of a fast-growing air traffic, an aviation consultancy group has said.

In 2009, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), concerned by what it considered to be gross under-staffing of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), had threatened to downgrade India to Category-II status.

However, swift steps on recruitment and promises for more time-bound measures led India to pass the FAA audit and retain its Category-I status that is on a par with developed nations.

"In the last two years alone domestic traffic has grown by 36 per cent and international by 19 per cent. However, there has been virtually no increase in resources at the DGCA so under-staffing is once again a major concern. FAA could once again threaten to downgrade India to Category-II," the Sydney-based aviation consultancy, Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), said in a study.

It pointed out that since 2009, there have been a number of changes in key positions in the Civil Aviation Ministry, including the DGCA, and "the momentum was lost".

The study came soon after E K Bharat Bhushan was removed abruptly as the aviation regulator and replaced by a Joint Secretary in the Ministry, Prashant Sukul.

CAPA also observed "it is disappointing to note that the focus on safety which emerged in the aftermath of the Mangalore accident in May 2010 has evaporated."

Terming the safety report card "dismal", it said the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council, set up to suggest steps to boost aviation safety, did not meet for a year, while incident and operational data analysis was "poor". Despite announcements, an independent accident investigation bureau or a safety board was yet to be established, the CAPA report said.

A concerted effort to restructure the DGCA "appears to be on hold pending establishment of a new independent regulator" in the form of a Civil Aviation Authority with more financial and functional autonomy, it said.

"As a result of these issues, regulatory oversight is weak which in a growing market increases near-term safety risks and CAPA believes that such concerns could lead to India once again being faced with the possibility of a downgrade by the FAA," the report said.

CAPA also recommended that long-term institutional strengthening of the DGCA organisation should be accorded the highest priority.

Though over 130 officers were in the process of being recruited, the major task would be to train them up to the required levels of expertise, it said.

"CAPA believes the weakness of the DGCA is one of the most critical issues for India’s industry in FY13. Safety is paramount and without an independent and capable regulator India will not be able to achieve the standards which it must aim for," the report said. (PTI)

CBSE Bill likely to be tabled in
upcoming Parliament session

NEW DELHI, July 22: A bill seeking to make CBSE a statutory body is expected to be tabled in Monsoon Session of Parliament even as HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has started meeting Opposition leaders over other pending legislations related to reforms in higher education.

The passage of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Bill will give the Board more administrative and financial autonomy and widen its functioning.

The statutory status will enable CBSE to take its own decisions through its Board of Governors. Besides, its orders will have stringent implications after it becomes a statutory body, officials said.

At present, CBSE is a registered as a society, conducting Board exams in its affiliated schools. It functions directly under the HRD Ministry and takes decision in consultation with the ministry on all important issues.

The move to introduce the Bill comes even as Sibal faces a big challenge for passage of over eight key legislations on higher education which are pending in Parliament.

Sources said he has already met senior BJP leaders like Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj as well as Arun Jaitley recently.

Some of the key bills including the Educational Tribunals Bill, the Higher Education and Research Bill, the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, the Foreign Education Bill, the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority Bill are among those to be passed.

The crucial Educational Tribunals Bill, 2010 has been passed by Lok Sabha but is pending in the Upper House for almost a year now.

This Bill along with the Prohibition of Unfair Practices Bill and the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority Bill are inter-twined with each other, each giving strength to the other.

Sibal, who has expressed concern over delay in enactment of the Bills on several occasions, had met leaders of UPA allies besides the Opposition camp ahead of the Budget Session to evolve a consensus on these legislations.

MPs, including those from ruling Congress, have raised doubts over certain provisions of the key Bills which have led to their deferment.

The Budget Session, though, proved to be an eventful one for the HRD Ministry as about six Bills were passed. The Universities for Research and Innovation Bill, 2012 was introduced during the fag end of the Budget Session. (PTI)

CBI to seek Defence Ministry’s view on OSA violation

NEW DELHI, July 22: The CBI will tomorrow send a tranche of ‘confidential’ documents received from a US-based estranged business associate of arms dealer Abhishek Verma to the Defence Ministry to seek its opinion whether it is a case of violation of the Official Secrets Act.

The agency has received number of documents related to several acquisition deals of defence forces from US-based attorney C Edmond Allen which he had sent to Defence Ministry, Enforcement Directorate and other investigative agencies of the country also.

CBI sources said if a case of violation of Official Secrets Act has to be filed, the complaint has to come from the Defence Ministry because only it can confirm whether the documents are of secret nature to attract charges.

They said most of these documents related to acquisition requirements are given to select defence supply firms and Verma being in alleged arms supply business, he could have got it but whether they constitute charges of OSA violation has to be decided by the departments concerned.

The two documents which the CBI is suspicious about are the Krishnamurthy report on the construction of new-generation submarines and relations of Verma’s alleged front company Ganton with a reputed helicopter manufacturer.

"Even on these two documents we cannot file any case, unless Defence Ministry or any of the authority concerned gives a complaint under the OSA," one of the sources said.

The CBI has booked Verma and his wife Ancea Neascu for allegedly taking USD 5.30 lakh from Swiss firm Rheinmetall Air Defence AG for using his influence to stall the blacklisting proceedings initiated by the Government against it after the Ordnance Factory Board scam had surfaced.

Verma had filed case against Allen accusing him of cheating him of Rs 55 crore and forging documents to defame him. A litigation between the two is going on in the US as well. (PTI)

Pak, US intel chiefs to meet on August 2

ISLAMABAD, July 22: ISI chief Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam will meet his American counterpart, CIA head Gen David Patraeus, in Washington on August 2, the first meeting between the spy chiefs of Pakistan and the US amidst persisting tensions between the two countries.

Islam had called off a visit to the US two months ago when bilateral relations plunged to an all-time low.

The ISI chief’s visit to the US will be a one-day affair, The News daily quoted its sources as saying.

The meeting between Islam and Petraeus would be a "make or break" affair since it could determine future relations between various organisations in Pakistan and the US, including the General Headquarters and the Pentagon, the daily quoted diplomatic sources as saying.

The spy chiefs will focus on several defence and security-related issues, including intelligence-sharing and Pakistan’s call for an end to US drone strikes in the lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

Islamabad has described the attacks by CIA-operated drones as counter-productive and a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

Islam is expected to ask the US to provide drone technology to Pakistan, the sources were quoted as saying.(PTI)

Black money: India-Singapore to share info on tax evaders

NEW DELHI, July 22: India and Singapore will share a list of suspected tax evaders and cases related to black money next week as part of bilateral financial enforcement cooperation between the two countries.

A top-level team of Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) will meet officials of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and Income Tax department to exchange data on a number of cases of black money that India suspects is routed from the banking and financial institutions of the Southeast Asian country.

The team, according to sources, had come with the official entourage of Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who visited India earlier this month.

The team of the IRAS is also expected to thrash out issues related to the number of official requests that Indian tax authorities had sent to them as part of the official exchange of classified information related to taxation.

Indian authorities will hand over the classified list of some specific cases that they are probing and would also obtain from Singaporean authorities progress made in other cases, sources said.

Singaporean authorities, it is expected, would discuss the new measures adopted by both the countries to strengthen financial enforcement and other related ties.(PTI)

Planes to soon have onboard system to scare birds

NEW DELHI, July 22: With bird strikes costing the aviation industry millions of dollars, plane manufacturers are now working on a system that will be installed in the aircraft to scare off the avians.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus is developing a system under its Bird Impact Repellent and Deterrent sYstem (BIRDY) programme that will scare away almost every species of birds.

"Challenge is to develop a system that is effective for large number of species of birds found across the globe," Nathalie Papin, an expert with Airbus Industrie, said here.

According to estimates, airlines in the US suffer loss of USD 68.3 million per year while worldwide the carriers have lost USD 1.3 billion in direct damage and associated costs in terms of aircraft down-time.

In India, airlines have lost about Rs 18 crore in 2011 due to bird-hits and incidents of runway incursions by stray animals.

According to an Airbus study, in the incident of a bird- hit, 41 per cent chances are that an aircraft’s engine or its nose, radome and windshield is damaged. While chances of fuselage or wings being damaged is just seven per cent, the same stands at three per cent for landing gears and one per cent for tail.

Under the BIRDY programme, an acoustic and visual system is being developed that would scare the birds when they come near an aircraft, Papin, who was here for a seminar organised by Aeronautical Society of India, said.

Currently, airports are using a system that emits electronic sounds, distress and alarm calls and predator attack cries to keep birds away from their vicinity, but it proves ineffective when aircraft gains height and moves away from airport.

Most of the bird-hits occur when the aircraft is either gaining altitude or descending for landing. According to a study, the majority of bird-strikes occur below 500 ft from the ground level.

Addressing the seminar, Airports Authority of India Chairman V P Agarwal said that "birds are now not afraid of aircraft."

"Earlier, aircraft used to be noisier. They used to scare away the birds but now with use of less noisy jet planes they are less fearful," he said, adding that there is a need for new technologies that are cost effective in containing the bird-hit menace. (PTI)

Need shift in people’s attitude to cut gold demand: RBI

MUMBAI, July 22: A big shift is needed in people’s social and cultural attitudes towards gold to cut its demand, which in turn will help ease the current account situation, Reserve Bank Deputy Governor K C Chakrabarty has said.

"Ninety per cent of the gold demand is jewellery or to offer to God. Both have to stop," Chakrabarty said, while speaking at an event here over the weekend.

Sounding sensitive to the fact that offerings at temples come under the realm of faith, Chakrabarty said, "Yes, if it is religious value, it is the faith, (then) why do you require ornaments of 22 carats gold? Why not 2 carat gold? Ultimately, ornament is ornament."

The societal obsession with gold is an archaic idea of the pre-historic times when India was a rich society of abundance, he said.

"Wearing gold as an ornament was a culture when you were a rich society, when you were contributing to 30 per cent of the GDP of the world. Today, we have become a poor country, we need to change our culture," he said, adding that "social and cultural revolution" was needed in attitude towards gold.

Chakrabarty said there is no "intrinsic value" in the "speculative" investment of gold.

He urged financial wizards like chartered accountants to popularise the non-productivity of investment in gold.

The precious metal can’t be used for anything productive and gains in value only because of a "mad rush" for the commodity among speculators and the day this will end, the price will fall sharply, he added.

More than the rich, it is investments by poor which is troublesome, and RBI has already flagged gold loans and sale of gold coins by banks, the Deputy Governor said.

"The problem is that it has become a culture where the poor people are purchasing and ultimately, they are borrowing on that gold at 30 per cent. See the tragedy—this is the thing and for that, unnecessarily our current account is (suffering)," he added.

Chakrabarty also called for need to reduce oil imports that add to the current account deficit, suggesting more use of bicycles.

The current account deficit for fiscal year 2011-12 was the highest in 30 years at 4.2 per cent of the GDP, primarily driven by expanding oil and gold imports.

Even during the economically troubled times of 1991, the CAD levels had stood at 3 per cent.

According to World Gold Council data, the country’s gold imports - it imports nearly its entire requirement - grew 44 per cent to 969 tonnes or USD 60 billion in FY’12.

Similarly, government data said oil imports stood at USD 155.6 billion of the total imports of USD 489 billion.

The deficit is expected to widen further given a string of factors like crude prices continuing to be elevated and the record depreciation in the rupee, if the country does not take immediate action on the front.

The government has been proactive and had announced a hike in customs duty on standard gold to 4 per cent from 2 per cent. The customs duty on non-standard gold was also hiked to 10 per cent from 5 per cent.

"Our problem of import is only two products—gold and oil. If we don’t import these two products, our problem is over," Chakrabarty said.

On the oil front, the Deputy Governor suggested increased the usage of a bicycle for commuting needs which will also help physical fitness levels, pollution and traffic conditions in a city like Mumbai, infamous for its jams. (PTI)



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