Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Fresh Enquiry about Courses
Student Resources Centre
(for PTzens only)
Purchase SRC login ID? Click here!

PT Franchisee

Today's Hot Stories - March 26, 2011

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Jat leaders seek written assurance from Hooda before ending stir
(2) Patients suffer as doctors strike work
(3) NATO to take command in Libya as early as Monday: Diplomat
(4) Tata reaches 1 lakh commercial vehicles milestone
(5) India 16th most risky place to invest
(6) Phone-based social network rolled out
(7) Kiwis stun SA to reach World Cup semis
(8) Villa sets mark as Spain beat Czechs
(9) Devvarman stuns Raonic in Miami
(10) Armed forces, police close ranks for World Cup final

5 Stories for Today

(1) CAG slams Services for golf 'habit'
(2) Thousands of Afghan Taliban laying down arms: US
(3) IT majors on hiring overdrive
(4) Yahoo! revamps web search
(5) Oil companies threat to stop fuel supply to AI

(1) CAG slams Services for golf 'habit'

Senior officers and golf often go together. But so do defence and land scams these days. From 97 "unauthorized" golf courses to "dismal" administration of leases, from shoddy record-keeping to large-scale encroachments, CAG has slammed the defence establishment for gross mismanagement of the vast land under its possession.

Recent land scams like Sukna, Adarsh and Kandivali-Malad represent just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Holding that the malaise runs much deeper, the audit watchdog has called for an independent Defence Land Management Authority (DLMA) since there is "complete lack of accountability" and "multiplicity of agencies" at present.

The Defence ministry (MoD), after all, is the country's largest landowner, with as much as 17.31 lakh acres under its control. "DLMA should function on the lines of an autonomous body and preferably be headed by the Defence Minister," said the CAG report, tabled in Parliament on Friday.

Virtually rejecting piecemeal corrective steps initiated by MoD in wake of recent scams, CAG said, "DGDE (directorate general of defence estates) should function under DLMA's control. All powers of local military authorities and defence estate offices to dispose of land, including issuing of no-objection certificates in any form or manner, should be withdrawn and vested in DLMA."

The CAG report lists many irregularities dogging defence land but let's return to golf courses, which has been a major bone of contention between CAG and military for several years now.

The report has, once again, pulled up the Army for running 97 golf courses, spread over at least 8,076 acres of prime defence land, despite golf "not being an authorized military activity in A-1 defence land", as per rules.

In 2004, the then Army chief Gen N C Vij had tried to get around this by declaring golf as "a sports activity" and not just "a recreational activity". The Army also renamed golf courses as "Army environmental parks and training areas".

But CAG remains thoroughly unconvinced. For one, Army's argument that the golf courses are "actually environmental parks meant for maintaining ecological balance" is completely specious.

For another, members of these golf courses, operated by a private registered society Army Zone Golf, include ex-servicemen, civilians and even diplomats, who are charged subscriptions and "green fee".

"Huge revenues are earned without any rent being paid for use of government assets. Revenue generated is not credited to government accounts and is presumably credited to regimental funds," said deputy CAG Rekha Gupta.

(2) Thousands of Afghan Taliban laying down arms: US

Nearly 5,000 Taliban insurgents have either laid down their weapons or are moving towards doing so, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, said on Wednesday. The Afghan government has launched a "reintegration" process, aimed at encouraging insurgents to abandon their weapons and return to their villages. Under the programme, fighters who wish to abandon the fight are vetted, disarmed and given jobs.

"There are some 700 or so individuals, former Talibans, who have officially gone through all the steps of the process of reintegration into society," Petraeus told the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based defence think-tank.

"There's another 2,000 or so that are in various stages of the process and we think there's another ... couple thousand that have literally gone to their homes and laid down their weapons," he said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Tuesday that seven areas would be included in the first phase of a gradual transition of security from NATO troops to Afghan forces in July, the first step in a process intended to end with the withdrawal of all foreign combat troops from Afghanistan by 2014.

Petraeus said that Karzai clearly wanted to reach out to Taliban leaders. "There have been various efforts to do that, various strands," he said.

He said that there had been contacts with high-ranking Taliban members, "but I don't want to overstate them and I obviously couldn't say with whom they've been, in recent months."

Karzai has held sporadic talks with current and former Taliban members, but with little apparent result. Taliban leaders have said that no peace talks can happen while foreign troops are in Afghanistan.

Petraeus said that he supported Afghan efforts to seek political reconciliation and he said that the Northern Ireland peace process was a useful model for addressing grievances.

"But this has to be Afghan-led, this cannot be ISAF (the NATO-led force in Afghanistan), it cannot be individual countries leading this," he said.

He said that the High Peace Council, set up by Afghanistan to seek a negotiated end to the violence, had been "quite active" in its travels. "They have met with various individuals in various locations outside Afghanistan," he said.

Petraeus said that the United States would go ahead with plans to start bringing home US troops in Afghanistan, who now number nearly 100,000, in July.

Petraeus said that he would give US President Barack Obama options and a recommendation on the drawdown and "we will implement (it)".

Only a small drawdown is expected following a year in which violence hit its highest level since the war began in 2001.

(3) IT majors on hiring overdrive

The hiring numbers of IT majors leave nothing to doubt about how far the companies have left behind the recession. From the quarter ended March 31, 2010 to the one ended December 31, 2010, the top 5 IT majors in India-Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Cognizant, Infosys, Wipro and HCL Technologies-together clocked a staggering figure of 1,14,038 net additions in terms of headcount. This stands in sharp contrast to the net addition figure of 47,462 in the corresponding period a year ago.Net addition subtracts the number of people leaving the company from the gross additions, and, therefore, is a better indicator of the actual increase in staff numbers.

"It reflects that the buoyancy in the market. 2009 numbers show the uncertainty and the low sentiments prevailing at that point. Companies are feeling a lot more confident now and can afford some redundancy in anticipation of big projects, which wasn't the case earlier," said E Balaji, MD and CEO, MaFoi Randstad, a HR consulting firm.

The numbers have shown a marked increase for each of the big IT companies. The net addition of TCS for the period from March quarter to the December quarter in 2010 was 37,260, which is almost double the figure of 19,311 clocked in the year ago.Cognizant's net addition numbers increased from 16,700 in 2009 to 25,557 in 2010. Much bigger increases were seen for the other 3 IT majors-Infosys, Wipro and HCL Technologies. The same numbers for Wipro for instance, increased from 3,977 in 2009 to 16,745 in 2010; for HCL Tech, the number rose from 670 to 16,579; and for Infosys, from 6,804 to 17,897.

"During recession, companies weren't recruiting freshers. So there was a deficit, especially at lower levels. So what is happening now is that companies are replenishing the stock, with freshers accounting for a big part of it. The higher attrition in the current buoyant mood in the market is also playing a role in increasing these hiring numbers," said Amitabh Das, CEO of Vati Consulting, a recruitment firm.

Not only are the companies compensating for the lull in hiring, they also anticipate bigger and more valuable projects in the coming times. They are building up bench strengths to handle the bigger size and variety of projects they expect to come their way. "Companies are bullish on future. Such an outlook is not totally off the mark, given the kind of growth we are seeing," said James Agrawal, consulting director and business head at BTI consultants India, an executive hiring firm.The current optimism has a lot to do with the increasing confidence in the western markets, which constitute the major markets for most Indian IT companies. "Tech is more of a support industry, an enabler. So if sectors like telecom, pharmacy, banking etc are booming or experiencing a slowdown, the same is reflected in the numbers of IT companies too. With the global outlook, much more positive, things are looking up in a big way for IT companies," said Sunil Goel, director at Golbal-Hunt, an executive search firm.

Picking up from the December 2009 quarter, the net addition numbers have remained strong in every quarter of 2010, signaling solid growth. Recruiters expect this trend to sustain in the coming years. "Globally, jobs might be shrinking but that's certainly not the case in India. In fact, increasing attrition today is itself an indicator of the fact that the overall number of jobs in the economy is increasing," said Goel. "I expect the strong hiring trend to sustain at least for next 2-3 years."

"We have begun 2011 in an economy that is considerably more stable than it was at this time in 2010. After recession, it's clear that our industry is again at an inflection point," said Shankar Srinivasan, chief people officer at Cognizant.

(4) Yahoo! revamps web search

Yahoo has revamped its internet search service to sense queries and showcase answers from movie listings to weather forecasts , even as users are typing in a word.

The upgrade comes as Yahoo tries to regain market share in web search and counter new features on Google's website."People are looking for answers; they're not looking for links," Yahoo executive Shashi Seth said in San Francisco, while demonstrating the new service on Wednesday.

The service, dubbed Search Direct, displays answers to queries in a pop-up box which change in real time as a user continues typing in a search term. Google Instant, launched last year, predicts a search term after only a few words are typed, and immediately serves up relevant results.

Yahoo chief product officer Blake Irving said that Search Direct reflects Yahoo's focus on improving the consumer search experience, after back-end web indexing chores were outsourced to Microsoft in a 10-year deal which the two companies struck in 2009.

Yahoo saved hundreds of millions of dollars in annual costs through the deal. But Yahoo, whose overall net revenue declined about 4% year- over-year to $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter, acknowledged in January that the revenue boost expected from the search partnership had yet to materialize.

Yahoo's share of the US search market has also slipped -- to 16.1% in February from about 20% in March 2009, according to analytics firm comScore.

Over the same period, Microsoft's share rose nearly 5 percentage points to 13.1%, while Google's grew to 65.4% from 63.7%, comScore data showed.

(5) Oil companies threat to stop fuel supply to AI

Keeping cash-strapped Air India airborne is now proving to be an uphill task for the government. Almost four months after putting it on cash-and-carry, oil marketing PSUs have warned that jet fuel supply to the Maharaja could soon be stopped unless their daily bill is cleared in full.According to sources, the Air India-Indian Airlines combine's daily aviation turbine fuel (ATF) bill has now shot up to Rs 18.5 crore due to successive hikes in crude prices and it has dues of about Rs 2,400 crore. Following mounting dues, AI's credit facility was withdrawn and it was put on cash-and-carry last December.With oil, PSUs say that they are under severe stress following recent spike in crude price and that AI must pay up. Cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar has called a high-level meeting of the aviation and petroleum ministries. The objective is to find a middle path that could prevent the national carrier from getting grounded and also protect the oil companies' interest."AI has been paying Rs 13.5 crore daily while oil companies have warned that their daily bill of Rs 18.5 crore must be cleared or else they will soon stop supply to AI. But the airline is in no position to pay more, as sometimes the daily fuel bill itself is more than the daily earning. We are unable to pay salaries on time. The situation is very serious and the cabinet secretary has called a meeting on this particular issue, as also the liquidity crisis in AI," said an official.

Aviation minister Vayalar Ravi has taken up this issue with his petroleum counterpart S Jaipal Reddy. But considering spiralling crude prices that have put oil PSUs under severe strain, the oil ministry is yet to relent for AI.

While the most serious threat that could lead to AI being grounded over non-payment of dues is coming from oil companies, there are a host of other vendors who have been asking for payment. These include spare parts and IT service suppliers. The privately run metro airports are paid from time to time to run operations from there. Controlled by the aviation ministry, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has been asked to keep quiet on its dues of over Rs 600 crore from AI.

With combined losses of over Rs 13,000 crore along with high cost debt of almost Rs 40,000 crore, AI's financials are proving to be too tough to be revived. The airline got Rs 2,000 crore as equity infusion last fiscal and may get a similar amount in 2011-12. Recently, the government admitted in Parliament that the airline earns Rs 36 crore a day and loses Rs 57 crore-a daily loss of Rs 21 crore

© Copyright. All Rights reserved. PT Education and Training Services (Pvt) Ltd. 2017-19 For PT staff : WebMail | DPR