Talks convened by labour commissioner fail to resolve Air India pilots' strike

Airline management refuse to discuss with representatives of pilots association, saying it has been derecognised; pilots insist on recognition of union and reinstatement of sacked colleagues

New Delhi: A fresh round of talks between agitating Air India pilots and the management convened by the chief labour commissioner failed today, the second day of the strike which led to the cancellation of about 60 flights across the country.

The airlines’ management also moved the Delhi High Court today, seeking contempt proceedings against the pilots for defying the order of the court to resume work. And the judge came down heavily on the agitating pilots for defying its order.

Air India also terminated the services of executive pilot Capt VK Bhalla, for expressing solidarity with the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA). Seven cockpit crew members have been sacked so far.

Chief labour commissioner NK Prasad initiated the second round of talks today, after the first exercise failed on Tuesday, and the number of pilots on strike increased to about 800 pilots.

At the meeting, the management remained firm that it would not talk to a derecognised association, while the pilots demanded restoration of recognition of their association and re-opening of their union offices and the reinstatement of those sacked or suspended. Yesterday, the management had derecognised the association for resorting to illegal protest action.

Air travellers bore the brunt of the disruption in flights due to the pilots’ protest, and many of them complained that they were not informed about the status of their flights in time and some of them came to know about the cancellations only after reaching the airport.

Labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge told journalists that conciliation proceedings were going on and “a solution could be reached only through conciliation”. Civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi said that he had briefed prime minister Manmohan Singh on the issue and that a committee had been set up to go into the issue. The government would take a view after receiving the committee’s report.

In Mumbai, Rishabh Kapur, general secretary of ICPA, reiterated the pilots’ demand for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the mismanagement of the airline which, he said, had led to the huge losses suffered by the company after the merger with Indian Airlines. He also demanded a change of management as it was responsible for the airline turning into a loss-making company. Mr Kapur is among the pilot who have been sacked.

This is the second time that a pilots' union has been derecognised by Air India. In 2003, the management withdrew recognition to the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), after pilots protested and refused to fly to southeast Asia during the SARS outbreak. IPG got back recognition in February 2009.


RBI to hold pre-policy consultations with finance ministry

Experts say the RBI would hike its key policy rates by at least 25 basis points on 3rd May to contain rising inflation. The central bank will also be required to take initiatives to promote growth

New Delhi: Amid concerns of rising inflation and slowdown of industrial growth, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will hold consultations tomorrow with the government in the run-up to its annual credit policy to be announced next week, reports PTI.

RBI governor D Subbarao is expected here in the capital tomorrow to hold pre-policy consultations with finance ministry officials.

"We will talk with the governor of the RBI before he announces the monetary policy. We will have a discussion. I think he is coming tomorrow," finance minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters here.

The RBI meeting on 3rd May, which will fix the policy for 2011-12, comes at a time when the industrial growth has started showing signs of lagging and inflationary pressure continues to pose a threat to the economy.

Experts say the RBI would hike its key policy rates by at least 25 basis points on 3rd May to contain rising inflation.

While trying to check prices, the RBI will also be required to take initiatives to promote growth.

The central bank has already increased the short-term lending (repo) and borrowing (reverse repo) rates eight times since March 2010 to suck out excess liquidity from the system and tame demand as a means of fighting inflation.

Headline inflation has remained above 8% since January 2010. It clocked 8.98% in March this year. At the same time, food inflation has also been running high and close to double-digits, despite government's projection of a record harvest of wheat and pulses.

To add on to troubles, core inflation, which does not factor in rise in food prices, have also started shooting up and stood at over 7% in March.

While inflation has been at a sustained level, manufacturing growth has slowed down in the recent months.

Factory output, as measured by the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) slowed to 3.6% in February 2011, compared to a 15.1% expansion in the year-ago period.

Industrial output growth during the April-February period of 2010-11 stood at 7.8% vis-à-vis the corresponding previous period. In contrast, industrial output had expanded by 10% year-on-year in April 2009-February 2010.

In the pre-budget Economic Survey released in February, the government said it expects gross domestic product (GDP) growth to be 9% this fiscal.

However, in recent weeks many global banking and brokerage majors have exuded scepticism about the number due to rising commodity prices and falling investments.

Earlier this month, the Asian Development Bank revised its India growth forecast for 2011-12 to 8.2% from the earlier estimate of 8.7%.

According to Citigroup, India's economic growth is likely to be only around 8%, while according to Goldman Sachs it would be 7.8%.

The International Monetary Fund said that India's real GDP, which factors in value of output economy adjusted for price changes as in inflation, is expected to grow by 8.25% in 2011 calendar year.


Exide Industries Q4 net up 22% at Rs164 crore

Exide Industries posted a 22% jump in its net profit to Rs164 crore in the fourth quarter ended 31 March 2011 compared to the same quarter previous fiscal

Battery maker Exide Industries today posted a 22% jump in its net profit to Rs164 crore in the fourth quarter ended 31 March 2011 compared to the same quarter previous fiscal.

During the period the company clocked net sales of Rs1,226 crore, a 19% increase over the corresponding quarter previous fiscal.

Besides, the firm declared a final dividend of 60 paisa per share in addition to the 90 paise per share announced earlier, taking the total dividend for the fiscal to Rs1.50 per share of face value Re1.

For the year ended 31 March 2011, Exide Industries’ net profit stood at Rs666 crore, a 24% increase from the year-ago period. During the period, the company's net sales increased by 20% to Rs4,554 crore.

“The buoyant demand in the automotive OE (Original Equipment) segment continued into the fourth quarter as well. Consequently, we had to divert some capacity from our after market business which again put pressures on our margins in the fourth quarter,” Exide Industries managing director and chief executive officer TV Ramanathan said.

The firm also announced the appointment of Nadeem Kazim as an additional director of the company to hold office till the ensuing annual general meeting.

On Thursday, Exide ended 7.06% up at Rs150.20 on the Bombay Stock Exchange, while the benchmark Sensex declined 0.81% to 19,292.02.


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