New CAT date to be announced in a fortnight

CAT 2009, the qualifying test for entry into India’s best B-Schools has left thousands of students unsatisfied with their performance. Some students say they may seek legal recourse if they fail to clear the test

Thousands of B-School aspirants who could not take the computer-based Common Admission Test (CAT) due to technical glitches will get a fresh chance to take the test, the date for which will be announced in a fortnight, reports PTI.

CAT 2009, conducted from 27th November to 8th December, was plagued by technical glitches and virus attacks from Day 1. While the first two days saw the most disruption, the problems persisted throughout the 11-day test schedule, due to which many registered candidates failed to take the test.

"There are still some candidates—numbering a few thousand—who could not take the test due to genuine reasons and the test has not been rescheduled for them as yet. A new test date will be announced in about a fortnight to provide an opportunity to all such candidates to write the test," IIM-Ahmedabad said in a press release, adding that it regretted the "inconvenience caused to the students".

A major problem reported by students was that it took too much time to download the test onto their computers, so they could not complete the test in the stipulated time. Many students reported that even though their test was rescheduled, Prometric Inc, the American company which administered the test, failed to communicate the new date to the test centres. Moreover, some students were expected to travel from one city to another in a matter of a few hours to retake the test, which was physically not possible. Students also complained that the commotion caused by technical glitches was distracting and affected their performance.

CAT 2009 was scheduled to be taken by 2.41 lakh students for admission into the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and a few other prominent B-Schools across the country. The test was subsequently rescheduled for around 20,000 candidates who were affected by technical problems or virus attacks.

"We have put in place a process to identify and assess the impact of various types of disruptions noticed and reported during the entire testing period; these are being addressed to ensure fairness in testing,” IIM-Ahmedabad said.

“Of the candidates who could not complete the test successfully in the first slot allotted to them, most have already been accommodated in another slot to take the test.”

While the IIMs and Prometric are finalising a fresh schedule for those who missed the test, what about the thousands of other students who gave the test but not to the best of their ability? Should they suffer for no fault of theirs? Many students said they were hesitant to speak out publicly but were seeking advice from their coaching class on how to cope with the current situation.

Gautam Puri, vice chairman of Career Launcher, which coaches MBA aspirants, said, “Those who didn’t get to give the test have had their exams rescheduled. But, what has definitely not been taken care of is that many students have not taken the test in the right environment. In a few centres, students weren’t allowed to use the Mark and Review buttons; if you don’t use these two buttons, you end up losing 20-25 minutes and the number of questions you attempt will be lower by 5-7 questions or around 15%, which is huge in this kind of exam. And these students are unlikely to get another chance.”

CAT 2009 was held at 361 labs in 104 locations spread across 32 cities. Each edition of the test involved the use of over 17,000 computers. "It was therefore a mammoth task being attempted for the first time. We regret the inconvenience caused to candidates due to disruptions experienced in the conduct of the test, particularly in the first three days of testing," the statement from the IIMs said.

But despite the apologies, explanations and the prospect of a re-test for some candidates, many students have reportedly communicated their frustration and grievances to the IIMs and Prometric. Many also said that they would seek legal recourse if they fail to clear the test.

The statement issued by IIM-Ahmedabad has assured that the outcome of the process on completion would be fair to all candidates. "We would also like to state that test papers have been designed by experts to ensure that no one gets an unfair advantage. Statistical methods are commonly used to equate difficulty levels across the test papers," it said.


India’s solar mission aims for the skies

The Indian government has chalked up big plans to create long-term sustainable energy solutions through solar power. However, certain modalities need to be ironed out to make the ambitious plan actionable and feasible

Even while the Copenhagen talks on climate change are going on in full swing, the Indian government is drawing up its own blueprint for creating long-term sustainable energy solutions for the country. Its ambitious Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission is a bold step in this direction. However, a robust and actionable plan for implementation is needed to ensure that the vision is transformed into reality.

The mission, which forms a part of India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, aims at contributing towards the country’s long-term energy security as well as ecological security. It envisages installed solar capacity addition of 20,000 MW by the end of the 13th Five Year Plan in 2022. An analysis done by Greenpeace, a non-profit organisation, shows that this initiative will ensure an annual reduction of 434 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions every year by 2050. Apart from combating climate change, this mission would also serve to alleviate poverty and create employment opportunities.

As a step towards this direction, the government has proposed capacity addition of 1,300 MW over the next three years. Based on the success of the first phase of implementation, the government will finalise the strategy for further action on this front. The Cabinet has already approved setting up of 1,100 MW of grid solar power and 200 MW capacity of off-grid solar applications utilising both solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies in the first phase of the mission. Additionally, the mission will focus on research and development (R&D) and human resources development (HRD) to develop and strengthen Indian skills and enhance indigenous content to make the mission sustainable.

The government will provide incentive of 20% capital expenditure during the first 10 years for the units in special economic zones (SEZs), and 25% of the capital expenditure in non-SEZ units. Any unit can claim incentives in the form of capital subsidy or equity participation.

The Indian government’s Special Incentive Package Scheme (SIPS) for its proposed photovoltaic (solar panels) and poly-silicon (a component used for integrated circuits and CPUs) project in Kutch district, Gujarat, has received 18 applications. The applicants include Titan Energy Systems, Tata BP Solar Power, and PV Technologies India, a subsidiary of Moser Baer, and the latest, Euro Multivision. However, none of the players have reported full financial closure. Other Indian companies involved in solar panels are Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), XL Telecom, Kaveri Telecom Products, Surana Telecom etc.

For now, the solar energy mission exists only on paper. While some of the steps already taken are commendable, the success of the plan would hinge on strong participation from the private sector, technological expertise and co-operation from foreign players and having a firm regulatory framework in place.


Sensex gains 64 points, closes at 17,189

RBI’s positive comments on capital inflows helped Indian markets gain momentum

The Sensex gained 64 points from the previous day’s close, ending the day at 17,189, while the Nifty closed at 5,135, up 23 points.

Telecom stocks surged after the central bank allowed telecom firms to access overseas markets to fund their bids for 3G spectrum allocation. Bharti Airtel rose 3% while Reliance Communications, Idea Cellular and Spice Communications rose 2%, 4% and 1% respectively.

Hindalco Industries is reportedly raising Rs4,500 crore ($966 million) in debt to fund a new alumina refinery. The refinery will have an annual capacity of 1.5 million tonnes, and will be located in Orissa. The facility is expected to start production in July 2011 and involves capital expenditure of around Rs6,500 crore. The stock was up 1%

Valecha Engineering, Era Infra Engineering and Gayatri Projects rose by 1% each on reports that the government had set a target of spending $20 billion a year on road construction.

Gammon India remained flat after the company’s overseas unit SAE Powerlines, Italy, secured a $31-million power transmission project in Tanzania.

Simplex Projects rose 3%, after the company bagged three contracts aggregating Rs407 crore.

Syndicate Bank gained 3% on reports that the bank is in active talks to buy a 20%-25% stake for around Rs300 crore in Bharti Axa Life Insurance.

KPIT Cummins Infosystems declined 2%, after a promoter group company, Proficient Trading & Investment, pledged 43 lakh shares representing 5.51% of the equity capital of the company. 

During the day, D Subbarao, governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), said that capital flows into India are in line with requirements and as of now there is no concern of the flows building asset price bubbles. If and when there are excess capital inflows, the apex bank will have to respond to that situation, he added.

After trading hours on Wednesday, RBI said that it would withdraw from 1 January 2010 some concessions on overseas borrowing for Indian firms introduced during the global credit crisis, although it also eased rules for the infrastructure and telecom sectors.

A facility for Indian companies to buy back their foreign currency convertible bonds under the automatic route and approval route would be discontinued from January 2010 due to the improvement in the equity market. The central bank said that it would allow non-banking financial companies which are focused on financing infrastructure projects to borrow from overseas markets under the approval route. It also extended by a year a rule which allowed firms involved in developing integrated townships to borrow overseas. The central bank also allowed telecom firms to access overseas markets to fund their bids for 3G spectrum, effective immediately. The government plans to auction 3G spectrum in January 2010.

The government announced that the food price index rose 19.05% in the year to 28 November 2009. The fuel price index rose 0.06% while primary article index jumped 13.9% in the year to 28 November 2009.

Shyamala Gopinath, deputy governor, RBI, said that the new overseas borrowing norms are part of India’s capital account management and they do not indicate capital control.

An economic adviser to the prime minister, C Rangarajan, has said that India could absorb inflows of up to $100 billion in the current fiscal year, well above projected levels of $57-$60 billion.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh said that the country needs to sharply increase public spending on agriculture, particularly on irrigation and technology, to raise farm output. The government is also considering rice imports to ensure that the country has adequate grain stocks.

Meanwhile, Barclays said that it was cooperating with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), after the Indian regulator barred the British bank from transacting new offshore derivative instruments. SEBI said in an order that Barclays had not correctly disclosed details of the derivatives that are used by foreign investors to buy Indian equities. The order will stand until Barclays shows that it has adequate systems and controls in place for disclosing transactions in offshore derivative instruments, SEBI said.

During the day, Asia’s key benchmark indices in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan were down between 0.19%-1.53% while indices in China, Indonesia and South Korea rose between 0.19%-1.14%.

Orders for Japanese machinery—a key indicator of business investment—declined 4.5% in October, following a rise of 10.5% in September.

On Wednesday, 9 December 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 51 points while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite gained four and 11 points respectively.

US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner extended the government’s $700 billion financial bailout fund to October 2010, saying that it was still needed for “significant challenges” in the economy. He also pledged to deploy no more than $550 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, allowing the remainder to reduce budget deficits.

In premarket trading, the Dow was trading 25 points higher.


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