FM expresses concern over rising food inflation

"It is bad news that inflation has increased," finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said, adding: "As I have always maintained, weekly inflation figures are variant. We should make an assessment on the basis of a relatively longer period"

New Delhi: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today expressed concern over rising food inflation, saying it is perilously near double digits, reports PTI.

"It is bad news that inflation has increased. Weekly inflation from 6th to 13th August has gone up... I am more concerned about food inflation, which is perilously near double digits, from 9.03% to 9.80%," said finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The finance minister, however, maintained that the weekly inflation figures are variant and an assessment should be made on the basis of a relatively longer period.

"As I have always maintained, weekly inflation figures are variant. We should make an assessment on the basis of a relatively longer period," Mr Mukherjee said outside Parliament.

Mr Mukherjee said primary articles recorded 12.40% inflation for the week ended 13th August, up from 11.64% in the previous week.

Inflation in non-food articles, which include fibres, oil seeds and minerals, stood at 17.80% for the week ended 13th August, compared to 16.07% in the previous week.

Citing the reasons for the rise, Mr Mukherjee said this is mainly because of non-food primary articles. "It is mainly because of the rise in prices of flowers, raisins and series of rapeseeds like groundnut seed, mustard seed, and sun flower seed."

Meanwhile, fuel and power inflation stood stable at 13.13% for the week ended 13th August, the same as in the week ended 6th August.

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Couture camp: Get Anna chic

T-shirts and caps advertising the ‘India Against Corruption’ message have become the dress code of the independence season

At least in one respect, the pupil has beaten the teacher. For all the respect and popularity he generated, Mahatma Gandhi's dhoti never became a fashion statement. But Anna Hazare's movement has been instrumental in launching a new fashion rage.

Messages from Seventy MM-whose tagline is 'born filmy'-and Xtees are flooding inboxes, offering 'exclusive' Anna Hazare T-shirts in various attractive designs and slogans from the anti-corruption campaign.

There are round-neck and collared tees from Xtees, in the price range of Rs149 to Rs349, while one from Seventy MM with Anna's image along with the national flag is priced at only Rs199.

Take your pick from 'I am Anna', 'I Support Anna', or 'India against Corruption'. If you see an angry young man staring back at you from the mirror you might want to declare 'Mera Neta Chor Hai'. Just make sure your patriotic brother doesn't get hold of a Bharat Mata kurta saying he's got mommy.

If making your way to the market through the rain sounds like a chore, you can also place your order online.

The 'Gandhi' caps are everywhere. From Ramlila Maidan to the road traffic signal and even hawkers are thrusting it in your face on the wayside at Rs10. It's affordable and its effective, never mind that it's not made of Gandhi's khadi, which would have cost at least five times more. In fact, the call to join the 'second freedom movement' is so strong that cap salesmen are running out of stock.

Incidentally, these caps have a good sale only during elections, when the beloved netas go door to door, beaming at voters to solicit their support. Similar caps were also worn by coloured prisoners in South Africa, where the Mahatma practiced as a lawyer. When he was jailed, he was required to wear one too, and later, after his success in South Africa and India, the cap became synonymous with the freedom struggle.

Now, Lokpal enthusiasts are donning these to declare their solidarity with the veteran Gandhian who wears one fervently, along with his kurta and dhoti.

No, you don't have to feel left out if you are a foreigner visiting India. Wily vendors at traffic signals will offer you one for Rs100. Does the cap fit?

Bapu must be lamenting he wasn't part of the launch of independent India's first flagship clothesline. What a loss of royalty!

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Govt to relax equity dilution norms for insurance firms

The proposed order will help remove the ambiguity of Section 6AA of the Insurance Act. The ambiguity came to light when Reliance Life announced its plans to go for a public offer in 2009, but could not obtain regulatory approval as it had not completed 10 years of existence

New Delhi: The government is likely to soon relax the norms for dilution of stake by Indian promoters of insurance companies, a move that will pave the way for Reliance Life to sell a 26% stake to Nippon of Japan, reports PTI.

"We will soon issue a circular which will enable insurance firms to dilute promoters' stake though permissible means before 10 years of operations," official sources said.

The proposed order will help remove the ambiguity of Section 6AA of the Insurance Act. The ambiguity came to light when Reliance Life announced its plans to go for a public offer in 2009, but could not obtain regulatory approval as it had not completed 10 years of existence.

Section 6AA of the Insurance Act, 1938, stipulates that a promoter holding over 26% in an insurance company, including re-insurance, will be required to divest its stake and bring it below this threshold limit in a phased manner "after a period of 10 years from the date of the commencement of the said business by such Indian insurance company or as prescribed by the central government".

This provision does not apply to the foreign promoters of insurance firms, as per the explanation of the section.

Sources said even the law ministry is of the view that there are no regulatory hurdles if promoters of life and general companies and re-insurance firms dilute their stake before the 10-year period stipulated in the clause.

With the enabling provision, insurance firms can dilute their stake anytime, sources said.

ADAG-promoted Reliance Life came into existence with the acquisition of AMP Sanmar in 2005. AMP Sanmar started operations in January 2002, which implies Reliance Life would complete 10 years of operations in January next year.

In March this year, Japanese insurance firm Nippon Life Insurance Company agreed to acquire a 26% stake in Reliance Life Insurance for $680 million (about Rs3,060 core), subject to regulatory approval.

The transaction pegs the total valuation of Reliance Life Insurance at approximately Rs11,500 crore ($2.6 billion).

As per the current rules, a foreign entity can hold up to a 26% stake in an Indian insurance firm.

Nippon is the sixth largest life insurer in the world and the No 1 private life insurer in Asia and Japan.

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