Jewellers call off 21-day strike after assurances from Sonia, Pranab

While a section of agitating jewellers have called off the strike, jewellers associations from Mumbai will take the decision in a day or two

New Delhi: Bullion traders and jewellers on Friday called off their 21-day nationwide strike after meeting united Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who assured them that their demand for rollback of excise duty on unbranded jewellery would be considered.

"We have notified all our members to call off the agitation with immediate effect," Dinesh Jain, Director of Governing Board, All-India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation, told PTI.

Most of the jewellery shops would open from Saturday, today being holiday on account of Good Friday.

Traders are estimated to have lost Rs20,000 crore due to the strike which began on 17th March after presentation of the Budget on the previous day.

Jewellers, however, threatened that strike would resume again if the proposal to levy excise duty of one per cent is not withdrawn in the Finance Bill, which is expected to come up before Parliament early next month.

"The strike has been suspended till 11th May, as the Finance Minister has assured us on a decision on rollback on excise duty and customs duty by first week of May," Mr Jain said.

Delhi-based All India Sarafa Association General Secretary Surendra Jain also said that their members have also agreed to suspend the strike.

Some of traders who met Mr Mukherjee, said the Finance Minister has assured them that their grievances with regard to levy of 1 per cent excise duty on unbranded jewellery would be addressed.

Before traders met Ms Gandhi, Congress General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said the party has asked the government to consider jewellers' demand sympathetically.

But, the Bombay Bullion Association President Prithviraj Kothari said, "We and other associations will meet tomorrow or day-after to decide whether to continue strike or open our shops."

Mumbai-based All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation also said that they would decide on the next course of action after consulting 153 affiliated associations.

Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) Chairman SK Goel said that Mr Mukherjee has assured traders that he would address their concerns at the time of consideration of the Finance Bill 2012 in Parliament and "associations have agreed to withdraw the strike".

"We will decide on calling off strike... industry lost nearly Rs20,000 crore due to this strike and the government lost nearly Rs1,200 crore (in revenue)," All-India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation Chairman Bachhraj Bamalwa said after meeting with the Finance Minister.

Meanwhile, Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) Chairman Rajiv Jain welcomed the assurance given by the Finance Minister and appealed to all jewellers in the country to resume their day to day business operations as early as possible

"The Finance Minister also assured that the import duty imbalance for jewellery imported under Free Trade Agreement from Thailand and other issues faced by the gems and jewellery exporters due to recent announcements in the budget will be looked into," the GJEPC said in a statement.

On 16th March, a day before jewellers began their strike, gold prices in the national capital were ruling at Rs28,140 per ten grams. In Mumbai, gold rates stood Rs27,760 per ten grams.

India, the world's largest gold consumer, imported 967 tonnes of precious metal in 2011. Gold is the second biggest commodity imported after crude oil.


Indian Navy planning to issue world’s largest helicopters tender

The Indian Navy is planning to procure these new multirole helicopters for carrying out anti-submarine warfare, Special Forces' operations and anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare

New Delhi: In one of the world's largest tenders for multirole helicopters, the Indian Navy is planning to procure more than 75 such choppers at an estimated cost of over $4 billion to meet the demand of its expanding area of operations, reports PTI.

The Navy had recently asked global helicopter vendors to provide details about naval multirole helicopters and is planning to issue a global Request for Proposal (RFP) in this regard very soon.

"The Indian Navy would require more than 75 of these Naval Multirole Helicopters (NMRH) and this would be world's largest tender for multirole helicopters," US defence major Lockheed Martin's Vice President for Ship and Aviation Systems George Barton told PTI in the capital.

The Navy is planning to procure these new NMRH for carrying out anti-submarine warfare, Special Forces' operations and anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.

Mr Barton said the US Navy operates a fleet of over 350 MH-60 variants. The Indian Navy is already holding a competition for procuring 16 multirole helicopters in which European NH-90 and American Sikorsky S-70 Bravo are in the race.

The Navy at present relies on its fleet of Sea King helicopters which were inducted in two different phases in the 80s.

The Navy would require these multirole choppers in view of its expanding fleet size and expansion in its area of responsibility with the government stating that country's strategic interest ranges from the Gulf of Aden to the Malacca Straits.

The Indian Army and the Air Force have also issued a tender for procuring 197 light utility helicopters but the worth of the choppers in the naval tender is expected to be much more than that as they would be equipped with complex machinery and weapon systems.


Goa Pollution Board issues show causes notices to 40 mining companies

The mining companies have been accused of extracting ore much beyond permissible limit

Panaji: The Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) has issued show-cause notices to 40 mining firms for allegedly extracting ore much beyond permissible limit, reports PTI.

These companies have been asked why appropriate action under relevant laws should not be initiated against them. They have been given three dates, 11th, 13th and 16th April to appear before the board with relevant documents and submit their replies, a GSPCB official said on Friday.

The mines found to be extracting ore in excess of their stipulated limit will have their consent under Water and Air Pollution Control Act revoked, the official said.

Several mines in the state have been under the scanner for allegedly extracting ore beyond permissible limit set under the Environment Clearance (EC) issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

Goa has 90 operational mining leases, which tapped 43 million tonnes of ore during the last financial year.


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