Indian Railways plans to sell e-tickets via its portal

New Delhi: The Indian Railways is mulling sale of e-tickets through its portal which will end its subsidiary Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation's (IRCTC), monopoly in e-ticketing business and provide multiple booking avenues to rail passengers, reports PTI.

Highly placed sources in the Railway Ministry said the new facility will be one of the several passenger-friendly features planned to be rolled out before the Dussehra that falls towards the end of September.

The decision, if materialises, could be yet another setback for IRCTC, thanks to the new catering policy unveiled recently which stripped the Railway public sector unit (PSU) of its catering responsibility that formed its core business.

While the PSU made about Rs450-crore business from catering during the last financial year, it earned Rs122 crore from selling e-tickets. Currently, 30% of all rail bookings are done through IRCTC website.

CRIS, the IT arm of Railways, is understood to be already working on providing e-ticketing facility on the Indian Railways website www.indianrailways.gov.in.

The sources said apart from providing e-ticketing facility, the website will provide information about booking positions in waiting rooms, journey planners and others. The website itself will sport a new look before the Dussehra festival.

IRCTC, on its part, has decided to roll out several other tourism packages keeping the upcoming festival season in mind and to leverage on its position in the rapidly growing tourism industry.

This apart, it would embark on plans to expand the packaged drinking water business. During the last financial year, it earned approximately Rs50 crore from the 'rail neer' business.

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Rise in fuel product prices minimal, says Deora

New Delhi: Defending the increase in fuel product prices and their de-regulation, the Indian government on Tuesday said the rise in their cost was 'minimal' and such a decision was needed to improve the financial health of oil marketing companies, reports PTI.

"The price increases, particularly in respect of cooking gas, that is domestic LPG and PDS kerosene, have been quite minimal," petroleum and natural gas minister Murli Deora said in a statement in Lok Sabha, as opposition members trooped into the well shouting slogans to protest the hike.

Maintaining that pricing reforms were aimed at fiscal consolidation, he said the government has made it clear that "in case international oil prices display high volatility, the government will suitably intervene in the pricing of these products".

Mr Deora laid the statement in the House as members of Samajwadi Party (SP) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), led by their leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad, trooped into the well raising anti-government slogans and demanding an immediate debate on price rise issue.

Shifting the blame on state governments for high rates of taxation on fuel products, Mr Deora said he was 'constrained' to say that in some states, the sales tax on petrol and diesel 'is as high as 33% and 24.7%' while some states were levying sales tax on kerosene as high as 12.5%.

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RBI governor to be vice chief of joint market regulators’ body

New Delhi: The Indian government on Tuesday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha that provides for a joint mechanism headed by the finance minister to resolve differences among the financial regulators - Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), reports PTI.

The Bill - the Securities and Insurance Laws (Amendment) and Validation, Bill 2010 - addresses concerns by RBI over its autonomy, by including the central bank's governor as vice-chairman of the joint commission instead of making him just a member.

The Bill replaces the ordinance of 18th June, which had brought within jurisdiction of IRDA the power to regulate 'life insurance business' that may include hybrid insurance products like unit linked insurance policy (ULIPs).

The ordinance had treated RBI at par with other regulators leading its governor D Subbarao to express reservation saying this would dilute the authority of the central bank.

Stock market and insurance regulators SEBI and IRDA were at loggerheads over the jurisdiction of hybrid insurance products like ULIPs with both claiming their authority over these popular schemes.

Since ULIPs comprise insurance policy and also the mutual fund, SEBI had issued an order in April this year asserting its authority over the scheme. However, this was not acceptable to insurance regulator IRDA.

In the midst of deadlock, the government came out with an ordinance giving the jurisdiction to IRDA.

It had also proposed a joint commission comprising the finance minister as chairperson and RBI governor as vice chairman, secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs, secretary (financial services) and the heads of stock market, insurance, banking and pension fund regulators - SEBI, IRDA, RBI and PFRDA - as members.

Making another deviation from the ordinance, the Bill proposes that in case of any differences among the regulators, the reference shall be made to the joint commission only by the respective regulators and not by the government.

"As both Houses of Parliament were not in session and immediate action was required to be taken, the President promulgated the Securities and Insurance Laws (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance, 2010 on the 18 June 2010" to resolve differences between two regulators, SEBI and IRDA, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said while introducing the Bill.

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