President says combating inflation will be top priority

"My government is deeply concerned over the adverse impact of inflation on the aam aadmi and the threat it poses to the growth momentum", president Pratibha Patil said in her address to Parliament marking the beginning of the budget session

New Delhi: "Deeply concerned" over the impact of rising prices on aam aadmi (common man), president Pratibha Patil today said the government would accord top priority to fighting inflation, reports PTI.

The top priority of the government in 2011-12 "will be to combat inflation and, in particular to protect the common man from the impact of rising food prices," she said in her address to Parliament marking the beginning of the budget session.

"My government is deeply concerned over the adverse impact of inflation on the aam aadmi and the threat it poses to the growth momentum", the president said.

While the food inflation had touched 18.32% in December 2010 before moderating to over 11% this month, the overall inflation still stood above 8% against the comfort level of 5%-6%.

The long-term solution to deal with rising inflation lies in raising agricultural productivity, she said, pointing out that rate of price rise had remained a problem during the last year.

The government, she said, took a number of pro-active measures to counter rising prices of food items and combat inflation.

"The import regime has been liberalised to ease supply constraints of critical items. Exports of commodities like edible oils and pulses have been banned. Pulses are being supplied at subsidised prices through the public distribution system," the president said.

The public sector units, she said, were directed to open more retail outlets for selling vegetables to individual consumers. "These steps have shown results," Ms Patil added.

"In fact, inflation was declining until November last when unseasonal rains in some states, led to a spurt in vegetable prices. These prices have come down again following the arrival of the fresh crop," she said.

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SAIL chalks out plans for four overseas plants worth $12 billion

SAIL said that it will set up the facilities only if the local governments ensure that the requisite raw material and land is made available to the proposed plants

New Delhi: Steel Authority of India (SAIL) today said it plans to put up four 3 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) manufacturing facilities-one each in Indonesia, Mongolia, South Africa and Oman-at a cumulative investment of $12 billion, reports PTI.

"We have already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indonesian government and are in constant dialogue with the governments in Mongolia, South Africa and Oman for setting up the 3 mtpa steel plants," SAIL chairman CS Verma told reporters on the sidelines of an ICC-organised conference here.

"We are aiming to finalise all the plants in 2011-12. If all four plants are finalised, then the investment required would be at least $12 billion-$3 billion in each of them," he said.

The proposed investments are likely to be financed in an 80:20 debt-equity ratio and the state-owned firm might rope in strategic investor to part-finance the equity part.

Mr Verma said it would take three years for a plant to go on stream from the day of signing a definitive agreement. The plants would basically cater to the domestic requirement of steel in each respective country.

SAIL, however, will set up the facilities only if the local governments ensure that the requisite raw material and land is made available to the proposed plants. The sooner the identified countries can arrange and ensure the prerequisites, the faster and easier it would be for the Maharatna firm to start working on these projects.

Apart from expanding its operations beyond the country's borders, SAIL intends to solicit allocation of raw material assets in these countries in lieu of setting up the plants. It will use these assets to meet the demand of the proposed plants, as well as existing and future projects back home in India.

The Maharatna company has already embarked on a Rs70,000 crore capacity expansion to enhance its domestic production capacity to 23.46 mtpa by 2012-13 from 14.35 mtpa at present. Out of the total capex, Rs10,000 crore has been earmarked for mines development.

SAIL has plans to increase its steel-making capacity further to 60 mtpa by 2020.

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Railways plan to set up industrial park for rail components

The rail budget, to be announced on 25th February, will also include proposals for setting up a green toilet manufacturing unit at Nagpur and expansion of Diesel Loco Works at Varanasi

New Delhi: In a first-of-its-kind project, the Indian Railways will soon set up its own industrial park to manufacture various components for rail operation, reports PTI.

"Ancillary units will be set up at the Rail Industrial Park which would cater to the needs of the Railways," sources in the railway ministry said, adding, the proposal is likely to be announced in the rail budget for 2011-12.

Besides, proposals for setting up a green toilet manufacturing unit at Nagpur and expansion of Diesel Loco Works at Varanasi are also likely to find mention in the rail budget on 25th February.

The Railways is carrying out field trials for various types of green toilets, including controlled discharge toilet system, zero discharge toilet system and bio-toilet based on bio-digester technology, in about 90 passenger trains.

"The green toilet in trains, an environment-friendly step, is a priority for the Railways as the organisation is committed to providing cleaner environment," a senior official involved with the green toilet project said.

Facing financial crunch due to various reasons including the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations, hike in diesel price and shortfall in freight loadings, Railways will tread cautiously this time.

Besides the park, a diesel locomotive shed in Mariani in Assam may also be proposed in the Rail Budget. "The loco shed is being strategically planned keeping the increased rail movement in the north east in mind," the sources said.

Facing complaints about the quality of linen provided in trains, Railways is expected to propose mechanised laundries on "build, operate, own and transfer" mode at every zone.

The budget may also have a proposal for provision of 'Jan Ahaar' outlets at every station to provide good quality food at reasonable rates to passengers.

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