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Today's Hot Stories - January 18, 2013

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Cong cannot allow middle class to be alienated: Sonia
(2) SC directive on Cauvery, a victory for TN: Jayalalithaa
(3) World capitals brace for final toll in bloody Algeria siege
(4) Non-subsidised LPG rate hiked by Rs. 46.50 per cylinder
(5) Wipro will comply to SEBI norms, says Azim Premji
(6) Essar Ports Q3 net doubles
(7) Sri Lanka win after bowling out Oz for 74
(8) IOC: Armstrong admission sad day for sport
(9) Tennis: Djokovic struggles to reach fourth round
(10) World’s most complex 2D laser beam created

5 Stories for Today

(1) Things under control in LoC: Army chief
(2) Israel breaks up West Bank protest camp
(3) Govt imposes 2.5 per cent import duty on crude edible oil
(4) Diesel price hikes to add 120 bp to FY’14 inflation, says Merrill Lynch
(5) NCDEX in talks with States for mandi modernisation project

(1) Things under control in LoC: Army chief

Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh Friday visited the family of Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh, who was brutally killed by Pakistani troops in Jammu and Kashmir Jan 8, and assured them of financial help besides a job to a family member.

Regarding the situation in the Line of Control (Loc), he said “things are under control.”

“The family will get a sum of Rs.42 lakh and other facilities. I have also handed over to soldier’s father a letter of employment to any member in the family. They are part of our extended family and we will take care of them,” he said.

The army chief visited the soldier’s village in Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh along with senior army commanders.

He also appealed to media not to politicise the killing of Indian soldiers.

About situation on the Line of Control (LoC), Gen. Singh said: “Things are under control on LoC and Indian Army is very professional. We are handling it in a befitting manner.”

He denied answering a question on foreign level talks sought by Pakistan, saying it is being dealt at political level.

Gen. Singh Wednesday visited the house of Lance Naik Hemraj, who was decapitated by Pakistani troops.

He has called the killing of both soldiers a “gruesome and an unpardonable act”.

(2) Israel breaks up West Bank protest camp

Israel overnight broke up the Palestinian protest camp set up on a controversial piece of West Bank land between East Jerusalem and the Jewish settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Thursday the site “was cleared in accordance with a court decision order. At the moment the area is completely empty.” Israel’s Supreme Court earlier Wednesday accepted the Israeli state’s position that the camp would be “magnet for disturbances of public order” and cancelled a temporary injunction forbidding the outpost’s removal.

However, it added that it would continue to discuss the petition against removing the tents, since their removal was not an “irreversible step.” More than 100 Palestinians and foreign activists who had occupied the camp, which they called Bab al-Shams and said would become a new Palestinian village, had already been evicted from the site Sunday.

But the Israeli authorities could not touch the tents themselves until the court decision.

The camp was set up on Friday, in the so-called E-1 area, just east of Jerusalem, where Israel has announced controversial building plans despite massive international opposition.

Palestinians say construction plan, if implemented, would choke off East Jerusalem, which they want as their capital, and harm the contiguity of their future state.

Scuffles broke out on the site Tuesday, as around 60 activists tried to return to the site, only to be rebuffed by Israeli police and border police.

(3) Govt imposes 2.5 per cent import duty on crude edible oil

The government on Thursday, imposed 2.5 per cent import duty on crude edible oil to protect domestic farmers, but kept duties unchanged on refined cooking oil fearing a hike in retail prices.

The decision was taken at the meeting of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) held here, a source said.

At present, crude edible oil attracts no import duty but there is 7.5 per cent duty on refined edible oil.

India imports about half of total domestic requirement of cooking oil. In 2011-12 oil year (November-October), the total import of vegetables oils (edible and non-edible oil) was an all-time high of 10.19 million tonnes. In the first two months of the current oil year, imports are up by 5 per cent.

The Agriculture Ministry had proposed an increase in the duty on crude edible oil to protect the interest of palm growers, particularly from Andhra Pradesh.

Earlier this week, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Food Minister K.V.Thomas reviewed the edible oil imports and discussed the issue of raising the duty on edible oil.

Agriculture Ministry wanted to an import duty crude edible oil to be 7.5 per cent, 15 per cent on refined oil. But during the inter-ministerial meeting, the finance ministry felt such a sharp rise would lead to rise in inflation.

(4) Diesel price hikes to add 120 bp to FY’14 inflation, says Merrill Lynch

The government move to allow hike in diesel prices is likely to add 120 basis points to inflation, which is expected to be in the 7-7.5 per cent range in the March quarter, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report said.

“Inflation will follow an inverted U curve in FY’14,” BoA-ML India Economist Indranil Sen Gupta said in a report adding that “last evening’s diesel price hikes that will add 120 basis points (1.2 per cent) to FY’14 inflation.”

In bold reforms, the government on Thursday moved towards deregulating diesel rates when it raised prices by 50 paisa per litre and planned similar monthly hikes in future to cut record subsidies.

According to the report, inflation would persist around 7 per cent in the March quarter, then likely go back up to 7.5-8 per cent in the second half of 2013. It would then abate to 6.5-7 per cent by March 2014.

Against this backdrop, the Reserve Bank is likely to cut policy rates by 25 basis points on January 29, it said.

The report further noted that RBI is likely to cut rates by 75 basis points by June, pause in 2nd Half of 2013 as inflation picks up and cut 50 basis points again in the March 2014 quarter as inflation subsides.

Some of the major factors that can influence Inflation in India include Delhi’s political ability to hike diesel prices, oil prices and monsoons, it added.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding expectations of interest rate cut by RBI in its quarterly monetary policy on January 29, RBI Governor D Subbarao has said that “Inflation has come down, (but it is) still high”.

Although inflation based on movement in wholesale prices, touched 3-year low of 7.18 per cent in December, retail inflation continued to be in double digit at 10.56 per cent.

Although WPI-based inflation has witnessed a decline in the last few months but at 7.18 per cent it is still much above the central bank’s comfort level of 4-5 per cent.

The inflation has not declined to the expected levels despite tight monetary stance pursued by the RBI to check the rate of price rise.

(5) NCDEX in talks with States for mandi modernisation project

The National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) is in active consultation with various States, including Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, for replicating its mandi modernisation project.

The exchange is implementing a pilot project in Karnataka, covering 15 major mandis out of the 54 agricultural produce market committees and trading in eight commodities. The first phase of automating the mandis has been completed, and inter-linking them is in progress.

The second phase of the project, launched in 2010, involves standardisation of products, including quality assessment, and the third phase comprises development of technology and infrastructure for web-based mandis facilitating national trading. “It is a fairly large pilot aimed at switching an entire State into the model. We are confident of rolling out full-fledged services, primarily aimed at providing better prices to farmers, within a year,” NCDEX Executive Vice-President-South, Ramesh Chand H. C., said.

Attempts to replicate the model in Tamil Nadu were underway while delegations from Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh which inspected the pilot were appreciative of the model.

According to NCDEX Chief Business Officer Vijay Kumar, once mandis were inter-linked and web-based, it would allow traders to trade from any place, and increase competitiveness among farmers. The NCDEX team was here to announce the launch of “Gold 100 gram contract” on Thursday. The contract is based on gold bars of 100 gram with .999 fineness.

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