Banking disrupted as employees go on strike over proposed consolidation

Employees’ and officers’ bank unions went on a day’s strike on Wednesday, hampering cheque clearing processes and other operations

Bank branches across the country wore a deserted look on Wednesday as the strike call by the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and All India Bank Officers Association (AIBOA) was successfully carried out by a mix of public sector, private and foreign banks. The unions were protesting against a host of issues, foremost among them being the consolidation of the Indian banking sector and privatisation of public sector banks. Normal banking operations across the country were disrupted as a result.

“It was a tremendous response. The industry was at a virtual standstill,” said Vishwas Utagi, secretary, AIBEA, adding that cheque clearing processes were paralysed across the country.
It was a total bandh-like situation in West Bengal and Kerala. The response from north India and western regions was also “encouraging”, said Mr Utagi.

Operations of banks which weren’t part of the strike call were also affected as a result. The coordination committee of nine central unions also held a protest dharna in front of the Lok Sabha.

Gurudas Dasgupta, CPI MP, Vasudev Acharya, CPM MP, Dr Sanjeeva Reddy, Congress MP and Sushma Swaraj, BJP MP also lent support to the dharna programme, said Mr Utagi.

CH Venkatachalam, general secretary, AIBEA, said that there should be no consolidation in the public sector banks in the name of creating global-sized banks.
 

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CAT 2009 will not be scrapped, says CAT committee

A fresh test will be held in mid-January 2010 for registered students who could not take the test earlier due to technical glitches. The IIMs have decided to continue with computer-based testing in future.

This year's computerised Common Admission Test (CAT), which was marred by technical glitches, will not be scrapped, the exam committee announced on Wednesday, reports PTI.

The CAT committee, which comprised IIM-Ahmedabad director Professor Samir Baruah, IIM-Bangalore director Professor Pankaj Chandra and a few other professors, made this announcement after meeting with senior human resource development ministry officials in New Delhi.

"IIMs have decided to continue with computer-based test for 2009. We also look forward to continue the CAT through computer-based testing in future," Mr Baruah told reporters.

The computer-based test, administered by American firm Prometric Inc, has drawn flak from many quarters as a few thousand students failed to take the test owing to disruptions caused by virus attacks and other technical glitches.

A fresh test would be held around mid-January for those registered students who could not take the test earlier. The IIMs will put in place a system to identify all the students who could not take the test scheduled between 27th November and 8th December.

Asked whether the IIMs would review the contract with Prometric, Mr Baruah said “the focus of the IIMs is to complete the test in a fair manner. But the entire test will be reviewed to ensure that such problems do not occur in future.”

Professor Chandra said a verification process will be conducted to identify the genuine students who have failed to take the test.

Nearly 2.4 lakh students had registered for the test for admission into IIMs and a few other B-schools. Around 2.16 lakh students have completed the test so far, CAT convenor Professor Satish Deodhar said.

"It is indeed our regret that a number of candidates faced difficulties during this test window and the execution of the exam has not been flawless," he said.

About 24,000 students did not show up for the test at the first instance, he said. Another 2,000 candidates, who were rescheduled from the first testing window, remain to be tested, he said.
There were divergent of views within the IIMs about whether to scrap the computer-based system for this year.

Prometric presented detailed data to the IIM directors on Sunday, explaining the nature of the problems faced by students.

"After analysing the fresh data, we could know the nature and extent of the problem. We are convinced the test has been done in a fair manner," Mr Baruah said.

Based on data, feedback from students, site and audit reports, the CAT committee said the problems faced by the students included complaints of premature exit through the Exit/End button, slowness of computers while reviewing and refreshing questions, rebooting of computers and disruptions, missing graphics and data.
 

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Pepsi awaiting government nod to use stevia as sweetener

PepsiCo is seeking government permission to use alternative sweeteners following the steep rise in sugar prices due to scarcity of sugarcane

Soft drinks and snacks producer PepsiCo India on Wednesday said that it may use stevia as an alternative sweetener if the government permits it to do so.

"If the government gives an approval and allows us (PepsiCo India) to use an alternative sweetener, then we might use stevia as an alternative for sugar in soft drinks," PepsiCo India executive director Geetu Verma told PTI.

The company has recently sought governmental permission to use alternative sweeteners following the steep rise in sugar prices due to scarcity of sugarcane. However, Ms Verma said that getting the approval may take anywhere between six months to two years.

Asked whether the company would be increasing the prices of its sugar-based products, Ms Verma said that though there is a pressure on the company due to high input costs such as rising sugar prices, there are no such rate-hike plans as of now.

Stevia is a South American native sweetener plant of the sunflower family. It has been used for sweetening for centuries in Paraguay and has been in use since the past 400 years across the world.
 

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