TRAI extends date for feedback on unsolicited calls

In view of the importance and sensitivity of the issue, the industry watchdog has decided to extend the last date for submission of written comments/counter comments by all stakeholders up to 30 July, 2010

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today extended the last date for receiving comments from stakeholders on regulations for unsolicited calls to 30th July, reports PTI.

TRAI had released a consultation paper on 'Review of Telecom Unsolicited Commercial Communications Regulations' on 11th May to discuss the issue with all stakeholders.

"Requests have been received from stakeholders for further extension of time for sending their comments. In view of the importance and sensitivity of the issue to the public, the authority has decided to extend the last date for submission of written comments/counter comments by all stakeholders up to 30 July, 2010," TRAI said in a statement.

The last date for receiving comments has already been extended once to 18th June, from an earlier set date of 10th June.

Unsolicited commercial calls and SMS are one of the major issues of concern for telecom subscribers and have resulted in large number of complaints.

To tackle the problem of such unsolicited calls, TRAI had initiated a consultation process in 2006. The recommendations were sent to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and based on these, the National Do-Not-Call (NDNC) Registry was established in 2007.

Telephone subscribers not willing to receive commercial communications can register their number with the NDNC.

As per the regulations, every operator has to set up a mechanism for registering request of mobile subscribers for not receiving unsolicited commercial calls and update it with NDNC Register, maintained centrally by the National Informatics Centre (NIC).


Confer industry status to retail sector: Assocham

The status would entail greater focus on retail development, fiscal incentives, availability of organised financing and establishment of insurance norms

Industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) today said it has urged the government to confer industry status to the retail sector at a time when the industry ministry has thrown open a debate for allowing foreign direct investment in the sector, reports PTI.

The chamber said it has submitted a note to ministries, including finance, commerce and industry and consumer affairs, urging them to confer industry status to the retail sector, which would lead to its further development.

The advantages of the status would encompass greater focus on retail development, fiscal incentives, availability of organised financing and establishment of insurance norms, it said.

"The status will increase focus on retail development and provide fiscal incentives to it. Also, ensure availability of organised financing and establishment of insurance norms," Assocham secretary general D S Rawat said.

It said, there is also a need to bring the retail sector at par with that of other countries.

"There is a need to study the fiscal and regulatory mechanism adopted by other countries in terms of development in the retail sector," Assocham said.

It said the status would also help in increasing the organised retail sector's share in the overall retail industry.

Currently, the organised retail's share is merely 4% in the $330 billion Indian retail industry, the chamber said.

It said the government should consider treating the retail sector as a thrust area, on the lines of food processing sector, as retail has both forward and backward linkages.

Further, the chamber said, there is a need of a comprehensive legislation in order to eliminate obtainment of multiple licensing.

Currently, retailers need to obtain multiple licences and permissions ranging from basic trading licences to product specific licences and pollution clearances for setting up retail outlets.

In June, the industry ministry sought the views of various stakeholders asking whether foreign direct investment (FDI) in the sector should be permitted. The ministry has sought stakeholders comments by 31st July.

At present, FDI in multi-brand retail is prohibited in India.

However, the government allows 51% FDI in single brand retailing and 100% in wholesale trade.


Ministry wants ban, immediate duty hike on iron ore exports

Steel minister Virbhadra Singh has advocated conservation of non-renewable minerals and export of value-added products rather than selling iron ore at throw away prices

Steel minister Virbhadra Singh today called for a complete ban on exports of iron ore and sought an immediate hike in the prevailing duty to 20% as an interim relief to the domestic industry, reports PTI.

"The steel ministry's considered view is a ban on iron ore exports than selling it at throw away prices. We should conserve the precious minerals and export value-added products," Mr Singh told newsmen in New Delhi.

As an immediate step towards restricting exports, a "flat 20%” duty should be levied on iron ore consignments shipped out of the country, Mr Singh said. At present, export duty on iron ore fines is 5% while it is 15% on lumps.

Last month, the ministry had written to the finance ministry seeking duty hike on iron ore exports, besides raising the issue with the prime minister to contain rising prices and ease input cost of steel makers. Iron ore prices are currently hovering around $120 a tonne, up more than 50% over the past year.

When pointed out that the mines ministry has a diametrically opposite view on exports, with minister BK Handique saying the country doesn't have the technology to consume fines, Mr Singh said, "well, it could be their view. We are in favour of a ban. A decision on this will be taken by the government."

Steel secretary Atul Chaturvedi, who was present on the occasion, said his ministry would raise the issue of banning iron ore exports at an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) meeting scheduled for 22nd July. A 10-member inter-ministerial panel headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to meet next week to debate on the proposed Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Bill.

Mr Chaturvedi further said there should be a deterrent on exports. "We want a deterrent, whether it be in the shape of complete ban on exports or increase in duty," he said.

Domestic production of iron ore stood at 230 million tonne last fiscal out of which 106 million tonne were shipped out. The 72-million-tonne domestic steel industry mainly consumes lumps, as it lacks the expensive finex technology required to refine the fines on the lines of China and others.

About 50% of the iron ore produced in the country is exported and fines constitute 85% of exports.


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