Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Press Conference on Air India’s new operational plan, Aviation Turbine Fuel and Service Tax on air travel

            Following is the text of the press statement of Shri Ajit Singh, Union Minister of Civil Aviation at the Press Conference held here today on Air India’s new operational plan, Aviation Turbine Fuel and Service Tax on air travel.
Air India’s New Operational Plan:

            “At the very outset, I would like to place on record my appreciation of the unstinted support and cooperation, we have received from all our employees, in particular executive pilots of Air India in maintaining the flight schedule and running Air India in this difficult time due to pilots’ strike. Though I am trying to convey my gratitude to all employees and executive pilots personally, I would like to take this opportunity through media and you all to convey my thanks to all of them for standing by the airline in the present crisis situation. I would also like to convey my thanks to Air India management for patiently and firmly dealing with the situation.
            “After an initial disturbance due to misunderstanding arising out of the strike, our domestic operations have rebounded to the pre-strike situation.  Domestic passenger carriage is now 26,000 passengers daily as it was in the first week of May when the strike began.  Air India plans to sustain this and make efforts to improve it.
            “Within a few days of the strike, Air India formulated a Restructured Schedule which entailed flights to all major destinations except Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul and Toronto.  Flights have been operating to New York, Chicago, Frankfurt, Paris, London and Singapore, though with combination, varied frequency and change of equipment.  With intensive use of our resources, Air India was able to restore Mumbai-London flight from 26th May. 
            “The Restructured Schedule has been stabilised and is now operating smoothly.  International passenger carriage on the Restructured Schedule has gradually increased to about 11000 passengers daily.
            “Air India now plans to use narrow-bodied aircraft optimally and connect Hong Kong with A-319 aircraft from the first week of July 2012.  This flight will extend its operations to Seoul and Osaka from 1st of August 2012 thus ensuring regular services to Hong Kong, Seoul and Osaka.
            “Regarding availability of pilots to restore international operations of Air India including Delhi-Toronto and Mumbai-Newark, Air India presently have 90 trainee pilots out of which 60 pilots are already having their training and will be available for regular flying in another period of 4-5 months. Air India plans to start training of balance 30 pilots also immediately. Besides Air India has also decided to recruit/hire pilots from domestic/ international markets. With this the entire original Air India network of 27 stations shall be not only fully restored but expanded also.
            “Air India plans to expand its network by undertaking a new flight between Delhi-Kuala Lumpur from 1st of August 2012.  This will also help to strengthen Air India’s hub at Delhi.
            “Air India will begin to receive the first of its B-787 aircraft shortly.  For the initial period of 6-8 weeks, the aircraft will be used predominantly on domestic routes to enable faster training.  The first long haul flight to be operated by B-787 aircraft will be Mumbai-London in August 2012.  Australia operations will commence soon thereafter in August-September 2012.
            “As envisaged in the turn-around plan, we have started bringing systemic reforms in Air India. The first in line is the implementation of Crew Management System (CRS) to ensure high levels of safety of operations, meet regulatory requirements, optimum crew utilisation, bringing objectivity in crew management and achieving crew satisfaction. You may be aware that presently crew management is done by a manual system. The first phase of CMS is already implemented and second phase would be completed by early July, 2012.
            “We are also bringing a new and objective examination system for in-service pilots in place of the existing system in which there will also be a provision of appeal.
Aviation Turbine Fuel (A.T.F.)
            “Cost of ATF constitutes approximately 40% – 50% of the operational expenses of airlines in India.

            “Average ATF price at major airports in India is significantly higher than prices in other hubs such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, London, Abu Dhabi

            “India’s airlines are extremely sensitive to the price of ATF as it adversely affects the viability of air transport operations in the country.

            “Expert agency commissioned by MoCA to study the ATF market attribute following reasons for high ATF prices:

§         High taxation regime particularly ad valorem VAT levied by States (ranges from 20% to 30% for most states)
§         Lack of effective competition in the ATF market in India- Oil Marketing PSUs maintain ownership of and control access to this infrastructure,

            “Expert report has recommended a slew of reforms to promote competition and bring in transparency and these include:
§         Bringing ATF under “Declared goods” category that attract uniform lower rate of VAT
§         Switch  to specific rate of duty instead of ad valorem taxation of ATF
§         Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to bring ATF under Petroleum &Natural Gas Regulatory Board’s regulatory scope by notifying the product so that PNGRB could take action to protect user/consumer interest.
§         All ATF related infrastructure outside airports viz: pipelines as well as connecting and intermediate storage infrastructure will have to be regulated by the PNGRB to enable open access to all ATF suppliers within the ATF market

Service Tax on Air Travel
            “India amongst few countries in the world that levy service tax on air tickets. Levying of this tax has hampered recovery of air traffic growth and profitability in Indian aviation industry.

            “Service tax during the financial year 2012-13 on transport of passenger by air has been increased 4 times and now the service tax is levied upon 40% of gross ticket value (earlier it used to be service tax on 10% of gross ticket value or Rs.100 per journey whichever is lower for domestic passengers travelling by any class and 10% of gross ticket value or Rs.500 per journey whichever is lower).

            “This changeover to ad-valorem rate of taxation without having any maximum cap is a retrograde step particularly at a time when we are advocating specific lower rate of duty for VAT on ATF by the States.

            “The above increase in the service tax would make the air travel costlier. A 10% rise in the price reduces the demand for domestic air traffic travel by about 12% as per the price elasticity of demand calculations. This would definitely spell more trouble for the airline companies which are already reeling under tremendous stress due to existing unviable operating environment.

            “I have requested Hon’ble Finance Minister to revert back to the earlier rate of service tax on domestic as well as international tickets”.

The European Central Bank says it will keep its benchmark interest rate at the current 1 percent, a record low.

The bank's policymakers decided to maintain the rate for a 6th straight month at a board meeting on Wednesday, at its headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.

The central bank is faced with growing calls for new steps to counter declines in stock prices and in the euro amid concerns over a new parliamentary election in Greece and the financial strength of Spanish banks.


Spain to ask for help from European institutions to shore up its financial system. The country has been trying to recapitalize its banks with limited public funds.Spanish Treasury Minister Cristobal Montoro said on Tuesday that it's difficult for the country to raise funds in the market with interest rates on its bonds now above 6 percent.

Montoro then hinted that Spain may seek help from the bailout funds set up by eurozone members.
He said the key to successful reform of Spain's banks lies in the hands of European institutions.
A flawed model of development
By Najeeb Jung


AS IT completes three years into its second term, the UPA government is facing a barrage of criticism. It is blamed for a series of corruption scandals and a virtual paralysis in decision making.
It is also said that having ridden a wave of economic growth in its first term, the government has frittered the opportunity to carry out second generation economic reforms that would have sustained the previous decades growth.
In so far as corruption is concerned, it is not as if the government has not reacted to it. Ministers and civil servants have been jailed, and a plethora of criminal cases and continued investigations into different scams are indicative of the intent to contain dishonesty. The flip side, however, is that government action to fight corruption is a blip on the numerous types of corruption that engulf Indian society.
Disparities
The purpose of this piece, however, is not to focus on corruption but to examine the issue of stalled economic reforms and question todays fashionable development paradigm. People of my generation have witnessed the growth of the 50s and 60s. We have also participated in implementing reforms following the liberalisation phase introduced by then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. We have heard praise of the post 90s progress and criticism of the Nehruvian period as a time that restricted and restrained growth.
Since the 90s we have also noted the sharp increase in liquidity in middle class India, the buying and selling of cars, white goods, houses etc. The very rich have never had it so good. Luxury hotels, private hospitals, private airlines, luxury foreign travel have become the norm of the day. The overarching impression among rich Indians and often among foreigners has been that India is marching ahead and may soon catch up with the Peoples Republic of China.
The problem is that the façade continues to hide the truth. As Amartya Sen has said, the world in which we live is both remarkably comfortable and thoroughly miserable. And so in India, on one side we see enormous wealth and its vulgar display, but on the other side, there is extreme poverty and the gulf between the rich and the poor seems only to be increasing. As rich India has progressed, the bulk of urban and rural India has seen distressing times. Along with the fashionable hotels, malls and residences, there is the face of the poor and the voiceless.
Their lives see the other side of existence with fast vanishing infrastructural support.
Government hospitals are run down, the doctors are hard pressed and harassed under the sheer weight of patient load and non- availability of basic wherewithal. Mohallas fight for electricity and drinking water. Sewage systems in overcrowded colonies are collapsing under pressure and the residents are faced with poor health, lack of employment opportunity and over- population.
Young girls, ill clad and ill fed, perform acrobatics on roads even as BMWs wait in queues to enter five star hotels.
Villages face the brunt of all that is wrong. The traditional revenue administration barely delivers, rural health systems are in a shambles, schools neither have satisfactory buildings nor good teachers. A posting in the muffassil is true punishment, a threat constantly held out to public servants.
Economy
Unfortunately the debate in the public domain, in fashionable drawing rooms, in the print and TV media largely focuses on the slackening of economic and financial reforms. The belief is that economic reforms and the deepening of financial markets are the elixir of life and the panacea for all our ills. We were given to believe that there would be a trickle down effect, and the benefits of economic growth would slowly but surely reach the poor. Where are the so- called benefits of the trickle down? How long do we wait for it to impact? Jawaharlal Nehru said that the forces in a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorest. This indeed is what we see now. Avarice and greed is the mantra, and the expression corporate social responsibility is nothing but fashionable words spoken disdainfully and rarely respected. We should carefully examine how big businesses have assiduously exploited India’s resources, often wasting and losing them, and despite this continue to successfully lay the blame on the Government and the public sector for all that is wrong.
Paradigm
Governments over the past five decades have introduced a plethora of schemes that focus on the rural poor. Despite complaints of corruption, these schemes do provide periods of employment. But permanent and sustainable assets are not created. The poor need better quality and sustainable infrastructure, not periodic employment with inferior and temporary assets to satisfy a political constituency.
They need heavy investments in health, food, roads, education and above all governments that realise that India lives in rural areas and the bulk of India is entitled to sensitivity and respect.
The collapse of Soviet Russia made economic liberalisation the Holy Grail for developing economies. Hopefully with the problems within the so called successful European economies coming to the fore, we may understand that the path ahead is not about an either/ or choice but perhaps a mix between laissez faire and a controlled economy. Therefore the debate must shift from quick and further liberalisation to a new structure that will be more inclusive and sensitive. The people of India have a great deal of patience, and it is indeed being tested to its fullest. Is it endless?
The writer is Vice Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia

French Open: Bhupathi, Mirza vs Paes, Vesnina in semifinal


In French Open Tennis, the Indian duo of Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza and the Indo-Russian pair of Leander Paes and Elena Vesnina will play their Mixed Doubles semifinal matches in Paris today.

For a place in the finals, seventh seeded Bhupathi and Sania are scheduled to take on Italy’s Danielle Bracialli and his partner from Kazakhstan Galina Voskoboeva, while fifth seeds Paes and Vesnina will clash with the Mexican-Polish pair of Santiago Gonzalez and Klaudia Jans-Ignacik.

Yesterday, Leander Paes and his Russian partner Elena Vesnina stormed into the Mixed Doubles semi-finals, beating the top seeded Belarusian-American combine of Mix Mirnyi and Liezel Huber, 4-6, 7-5, 10-5.

Earlier, the Indian duo of Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza had also made it to the Mixed Doubles last four, after defeating the American-Czech duo of Mike Bryan and Kveta Peschke, 6-2, 6-3.

In yesterday’s other results, Serbia’s World Number One Novak Djokovic and Swiss Roger Federer booked the Men’s Singles semi-final berths. Today, second seeded Spaniard Rafael Nadal and Briton Andy Murray will slug it out for the remaining two Men’s Singles semi-final slots.

In Women’s Singles, Australia’s Samantha Stosur and Sara Errani of Italy made it to the last four stage. Second seeded Russian Maria Sharapova and Czech Petra Kvitova are slated to play their Women’s Singles quarterfinal matches today.
Rare Transit of Venus unfolds in morning sky

A rare celestial spectacle, Transit of Venus, the last for this century, unfolded in the morning sky all across the country on Wednesday, enthralling the astro enthusiasts.

Scientists and amateur astronomers alike celebrated the arrival of the Transit of Venus, peering up to the skies to watch a dark black spot slide over the surface of the Sun.

The awesome spectacle was visible all over the country, including the national capital.

However, a cloudy sky restricted its visibility from Delhi and some other parts of northern India.

"This was the century's last Venus Transit," says N. Rathnasree, Director, Nehru Planetarium.

The event was visible at around 7 am. Large projectors, pin hole cameras and telescopes were set up to help people see the celestial event unfold at the Planetarium, where a large number of people had gathered to see the rare event.

"The next Venus transit will happen after 105.5 years in 2117, making this a lifetime's event," says C B Devgun, Director, Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE).

From the Earth, this phenomenon is seen when the Venus passes between the Sun and the Earth. It occurs in intervals of 8, 121, 8 and 105 years, Devgun said.

The last Transit of Venus occurred on June 8, 2004 and was visible across India.



External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna held a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Li Kaqiang on Wednesday and discussed bilateral relations with the leader, who is tipped to become the Prime Minister of China next year.

Welcoming Krishna at the Great Hall of People, Li said though Krishna's visit was intended to take part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organistion summit (SCO) being held in Beijing, it provided an opportunity to discuss bilateral ties.
This is an important opportunity to enhance the relations, he said after the meeting that lasted 45 minutes.
Reciprocating the sentiments, Krishna recalled the recent visit of President Hu Jintao to New Delhi to take part in the BRICS summit and the positive momentum it had helped maintain in bilateral ties.
Krishna is scheduled to meet Chinese Foreign Minister, Yang Jeichi on Thursday.
Earlier, Krishna met the two Indian traders, Shyam Sunder Agrawal and Deepak Raheja, who have been stranded in Yiwu after being caught in a business dispute.
This is his second meeting with them. Krishna earlier met them during his visit in February this year. The two said the minister assured all help to fight their legal case.
Court allows A. Raja to visit Tamil Nadu

Former Telecom Minister and key accused in the 2G scam case, A. Raja, was allowed by a Delhi court to visit his home state Tamil Nadu between 8th June  and 30th June.

Raja had moved the plea seeking permission to visit Tamil Nadu as the court, while granting him bail on 15th May, had imposed certain conditions, including that he would not visit his home state without its prior permission.

Special CBI Judge O P Saini allowed the plea in which the DMK MP had said that he had not visited Tamil Nadu for the last over one-and-a half year.

Raja had sought court's permission also on the ground that the trial proceedings would not be undertaken from 9th June to 30th June owing to summer vacation.

"A Raja is allowed to visit his home state Tamil Nadu from June 8 to June 30 subject to conditions as were imposed upon him in the bail order dated May 15," the judge said.

The DMK MP was granted bail by the court holding that his further detention would not serve any purpose as all the other 13 co-accused are already out on bail.

The court had imposed several conditions on Raja including a ban on his visit to Tamil Nadu as well as the Department of Telecom (DoT) which he presided over as minister for over three years.

The court had directed Raja not to make any inducement, threat or promise, either directly or indirectly, to any person acquainted with the case.

It also asked Raja to surrender his passport with it and said he should remain present before it during the hearing. The court while enlarging Raja on bail had directed him to furnish a personal bond of Rs 20 lakh with two sureties of the like amount.

The court had said that if Raja wants to remain absent during the hearing, he will have to take its prior permission and in case of "unavoidable circumstances", he shall immediately give intimation to the court and the CBI about it.

Arrested by the CBI on February 2 last year, 49-year-old Raja, the main accused in the Rs 30,000 crore 2G scam had moved his first bail application only after all the other co- accused were granted bail in the case.

Raja had sought bail, saying the Supreme Court, while granting bail to former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura, had not distinguished the case of public servant from others. He had submitted that he and Behura were facing similar charges of abatement, conspiracy and criminal breach of trust.

Raja and others have been charged with the offences of cheating, forgery, criminal conspiracy and corruption besides criminal breach of trust that entails a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

Air Force version of 'Akash' missile successfully test fired

India on Wednesday successfully test fired its indigenously developed surface-to-air 'Akash' missile of Air Force version from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur near Balasore, Odisha, the fifth trial of the anti-aircraft system in the last fortnight.

"The Air Force version of Akash missile was test-fired from the ITR. The trial was successful and met all the mission objectives," a senior defence official said.
The anti-aircraft missile, with a strike range of 25 km and capable of carrying warhead of 60 kg, was test fired from a mobile launcher at launch complex-III of the ITR.
The trial, which formed part of the country's routine air defence exercises, was conducted at 0757 hrs, an official of Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) associated with the Akash missile project said.
To re-validate the technology and operational efficacy of the missile, defence forces conducted the trial with logistic support provided by the ITR, the official said.
The Akash weapon system, which has its Army version too, was inducted into the armed forces in 2008.
Wednesday's test-fire came after similar trials conducted from the same test range on May 24, 26, 28 and June 1.
On June 1, two Air force version of Akash missiles had been test fired successfully in quick succession, the official said.
"During the trial, the sophisticated missile was aimed at intercepting floating object supported by a pilotless target aircraft at a definite altitude over the sea," defence sources said.

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INVITATION

 

EBTC Biotechnology Mission 2012

 

 

Dear Sir/Madam,

 
It is with great pleasure that we at the European Business and Technology Centre (EBTC) invite you to participate in an exciting two-part biotechnology mission - the EBTC Biotechnology Mission 2012. With a focus on various biotech subsectors, emerging trends, challenges and policy frameworks, the mission showcase interesting, relevant and ready-to-go opportunities in the Biotechnology sector in India, and encourage EU-India collaboration.
 
Part 1 - ‘EBTC Biotechnology Virtual Matchmaking’ (9th-13th July 2012)
Register online at http://www.b2match.com/biotechfm2012 and meet virtually with European counterparts from the sector. The virtual matchmaking will allow you to explore potential private and public opportunities without the need to invest major financial resources for first contacts.
 
The mission enables you to virtually interact with European businesses and researchers, and explore possible collaborations; joint ventures; technology development / transfer, and clinical trials covering research organizations, industries and public or private funding organizations – all in a virtual set up.
 
Part 2 – ‘EBTC Business & Research Delegation to India’ (5th-9th November 2012, Bengaluru)
With time to develop relationships and advance agreements virtually, part 2 of the mission ‘will allow you to meet your prospective European counterparts in person, and will be the perfect occasion to cement relationships.
 
This event is open to any Indian organization / individual interested in growing and flourishing in the biotech sector. Be it a small medium sized enterprise (SME’s) or research Institution, the event ensures a mix of interesting professionals from both the EU and India.
 
EBTC looks forward to your participation,
 
Yours Sincerely,
 
Your EBTC team
 
 


 
Register online:
 
Event updates:
 
Contacts for more information:

In Europe:
Ms. Micol Martinelli
EUROCHAMBRES - The Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry
E-mail: martinelli@eurochambres.eu
Tel: +32 2 282 08 63
 
Mr. Gianpaolo Sarolli
Milan Chamber of Commerce, Italy
E-mail: gianpaolo.sarolli@mi.camcom.it
Tel: +39 02 8515 5234
 
In India:
Dr. Geetha M Swamilingiah
European Business and Technology Centre, Bengaluru
E-mail: swamilingiah@ebtc.eu
Tel: +91 80 4090 9672
Mob: +91 99 4570 1419
 
 


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6 June 2012

Hong Kong Spotlight
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18-24 July 
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Hong Kong Business Mission to Istanbul (Turkey), Warsaw and L'odz (Poland)

25-28 Sept 
Hong Kong Silver Market Related Business Mission to Tokyo

13 Sept
Legal Services Forum, Guangzhou

2-6 Oct
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20-25 Sept
Style Hong Kong Pavilion at Western China International Fair, Chengdu

30 Oct-1 Nov
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