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Today's Hot Stories - March 15, 2011

10 Headlines for Today

(1) CBI questions Suresh Kalmadi
(2) Will bring back Mideast Indians: SM Krishna
(3) Gaddafi cranks up pressure, jets bomb rebels
(4) HDFC Bank hikes FD, lending rates
(5) Auto cos may face parts shortage
(6) GE to invest $200m in India unit
(7) Somdev knocks out Malisse, to meet Nadal in last 16
(8) Bangladesh beat Netherlands by 6 wickets
(9) Pak beat Zimbabwe to reach quarters
(10) Google features 80th anniversary of India's first talkie 'Alam Ara'

5 Stories for Today

(1) Naysayers call for shunning nuke energy
(2) Radioactive emissions could last months'
(3) Sebi for tighter leash on wealth managers
(4) Cognizant to give 200% bonus to top performers
(5) February inflation at 8.31% y-o-y: Gov

(1) Naysayers call for shunning nuke energy

The crisis in Japan's nuclear power plant has triggered a fresh debate over safety of India's nuclear safety, with naysayers claiming vindication of their stand that the country should shun the path of nuclear energy.

The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) on Monday demanded a complete moratorium on India's civilian nuclear activity and a safety audit of all nuclear facilities. CNDP's Praful Bidwai called for a transparent public safety audit of all nuclear facilities involving members of civil society and independent experts.

"India must radically review its nuclear power policy for appropriateness, safety, costs and public acceptance, based on a

holistic view of our energy needs and best ways of sustainably meeting them," said Bidwai, describing the nuclear meltdown as a wake-up call for India.

The statement came on a day when activists from Jaitapur on Maharashtra's Konkan coast – the proposed site of what will be the world's largest nuclear power complex – protested in Mumbai, demanding a total scrap of the project.

Bidwai readily supported the demand. "There should be a moratorium on all further civilian nuclear activity.

The ministry of environment and forests must revoke all conditional clearances granted to nuclear projects, including Jaitapur and other reactors," he added.

CNDP activists argued that the Fukushima reactor crisis had proved that despite the best preparations, all nuclear reactors are vulnerable to the risk of a catastrophic accident.

"India is planning the world's largest nuclear complex in Jaitapur and several other nuclear power parks along the coast and inland. However, India does not even have an independent nuclear regulatory authority that can evaluate and certify reactor designs and set its own safety regulations and standards. Under the circumstances, further nuclear expansion is deeply irrational," Bidwai said.

(2) 'Radioactive emissions could last months'

As the scale of Japan's nuclear crisis begins to come to light, experts in Japan and the US say that the country is now facing a cascade of accumulating problems that suggest that radioactive releases of steam from the crippled plants could go on for weeks or even months.

Reactor operators now have little choice but to periodically release radioactive steam as part of an emergency cooling process for the fuel of the stricken reactors that may continue for a year or more even after fission has stopped.

That suggests that the tens of thousands people evacuated may not be able to return to their homes for a considerable period, and that shifts in the wind could blow radioactive materials toward Japanese cities rather than out to sea.

Re-establishing normal cooling of the reactors would require restoring electric power - which was cut in the earthquake and tsunami - and now may require plant technicians working in areas that have become highly contaminated with radioactivity.

More steam releases also mean that the plume headed across the Pacific could continue to grow. The White House sought to tamp down concerns, saying that modeling done by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had concluded "Hawaii, Alaska, the US territories and the US West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity."

(3) Sebi for tighter leash on wealth managers

If Sebi has its way, wealth managers will have a tough time going forward as the capital markets watchdog is in the process of coming out with stern measures to regulate the relationship managers in particular and wealth management firms in general.Sebi has also flagged the need for concerted efforts and better coordination both at the operational as well as the surveillance level between the various regulators in order to protect the interests of investors in this increasingly complex world of financial products.

In fact, Sebi executive director KN Vaidhyanathan, who heads the investment management department that oversees foreign institutional investors and mutual funds at Sebi, was very vocal at a seminar over the weekend here, "We can't remain silent. We need to come together and address how to regulate the wealth management sector, which straddles across different jurisdictions."

"The markets are far too advanced now. The wealth managers of today straddle across products that cut through banking, capital markets and insurance regulatory frameworks. We need to integrate across regulators, not just at the policy level, but at the operating and surveillance levels too," he said.

The strong pitch for coordination and firmer control on these nascent areas of the financial system assume critical importance in the light of the recent Rs 350-crore wealth management fraud that took place at the Gurgaon branch of Citi. One of the relationship managers at Citi allegedly used fraudulent documents to lure high net-worth individuals and companies such as the privately held Hero Investments, an arm of the country's largest two-wheeler maker.

Vaidhyanathan said that the risk in the wealth management business lies with the relationship manager, as his remuneration is not completely aligned with the interest of the customer.

(4) Cognizant to give 200% bonus to top performers

It is time to celebrate for the employees of Cognizant. The tech major on Monday evening told its employees that its top performers would get 200% bonus payout for the year ended December 2010, while the average bonus payout would be 165% for the year.

"We received the intimation through the intranet. It has been really good that we have been rewarded for our performance, which is also in line with the performance of the company," an employee said.

The company's chief people officer Shankar Srinivasan confirmed the bonus payment announcement. "Yes, Cognizant has announced performance-linked bonus payout for all its associates, globally. Our industry leading revenue growth in calendar 2010 has enabled us to pay performance bonuses well above target, and at higher levels, as compared to the bonus payout in recent years. This payout is a reflection of our philosophy of rewarding our employees for their stellar contribution to our high levels of client satisfaction, and resultant industry leading growth," he said.

Cognizant, which had 1.04 lakh employees across the globe on its payrolls, has 75% of that strength in India.

In a regulatory filing few days back, the company-which topped analyst estimates -increased the base salaries of the company's top management. All the top five management members have been given a bonus of 189% for the year.

President and CEO Francisco D'Souza has received a bonus of $816,968, while CFO Gordon Coburn will take home a bonus of $735,286, R Chandrasekaran, president and managing director, global delivery, will be handed over a bonus of $255,350.

"Calendar 2010 was a special year for Cognizant. We emerged stronger from the recession and grew our revenues by 40%, added a net of 25,000 employees and crossed the 100,000 employee mark. Our industry leading growth enabled us to promote approximately 30% of our global workforce during our promotion cycle, which we believe, as a percentage of our workforce, was the highest in the industry," Srinivasan said.

(5) February inflation at 8.31% y-o-y: Govt

India's wholesale price index (WPI) rose an annual 8.31 per cent in February, on higher fuel and manufactured product prices, government data showed on Monday.

The figure was well above the median forecast for a 7.79-per cent rise in a Reuters poll and was higher than the annual rise of 8.23 per cent in January.

The annual reading for December was upwardly revised to 9.41 per cent from 8.43 per cent.

The WPI is more closely watched than the consumer price index (CPI) in India, as it covers a higher number of products.

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