During the current financial year, so far, the Government (Department of Company Affairs) has issued two Notifications banning appointment of Sole Selling Agents under Section 294 of the Companies Act, 1956 in the category of bulk drugs, drugs and formulations as defined in the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995, not being any bonafide preparation included in the Ayurvedic (including Siddha ) or Unani (Tibb) systems of medicine, or any preparation included in the Homeopathic system of medicine. The ban on appointment of Sole Selling Agents, in this connection, has been imposed for a period of three years by a Notification issued with effect from April 27, 2000 under Sub Section 1 of Section 294 AA of the Companies Act.

    The Central Government is of the opinion that the demand for the category of goods specified in the impugned Notification is substantially in excess of the production and there is no need to appoint Sole Selling Agents to create a market for such goods.

    Similarly, by a Notification issued on September 18, 2000 appointment of Sole Selling Agents has been banned for a further period of two years in cement and paper as these two items are available substantially in excess of the production or supply of such goods. The services of the Sole Selling Agents are not necessary to create a market for such goods.

    Sole Selling Agents are appointed by the Government under the Companies Act, to create market for sales of goods under Section 294 of the Companies Act from time to time.





    Minister for Power, Shri Suresh Prabhu has urged the private sector to join hands with the Government to produce hydel power in the country. Shri Prabhu was speaking, here today, while inaugurating the two-day Conference on "Hydel Power India 2000". The Minister noted that so far the private sector has not been attracted towards setting up hydel projects because of the long gestation period. The Power Minister also asked financial institutions and multilateral funding agencies to advance loans at concessional rates. This would show that multilateral funding agencies are interested in environment protection as hydel power projects have least environmental impact amongst all types of power generation, the Minister observed.

    Shri Prabhu said the two-day Conference was being organised at an appropriate time when world oil prices are at one of their highest in many years and this factor would have impact on the cost of power in the thermal sector. The Minister hoped that the Conference would help refocus attention on the hydel power sector. He urged the participants to find ways to produce power at the cheapest possible rates and implement projects in the shortest possible time. Shri Prabhu asked participants not only to find ways to produce cheap power in comparison to other modes of power production but also in comparison with international rates. The Minister also said there was a need to concentrate on small and mini projects and that the Conference hopefully would begin the process of giving the right balance to installed capacities between hydel and thermal power which, at present, is very much in favour of thermal power at the ratio of 75:25. The Minister also said his Ministry has set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) under which a certain percentage of the project cost would be put into the SPV and these funds would be used to reduce the damage to environment and in rehabilitation packages in power projects.

    The Minister of State for Power, Smt. Jayawanti Mehta in her special address asked the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) to come up with project studies that would be bankable and which would be complete in survey and investigation. Smt. Mehta said such project studies would be useful and could be implemented when finances become available. The Minister of State said that the Government is committed to bring a balance between hydel and thermal power. She also said hydel power had an advantage in comparison to thermal power as it is better placed to make up power shortage in peak hours as also in providing stability in the grid. The Minister of State touched on the necessity for the renovation and modernisation of power plants already set up and the need to produce cheap power and to reduce the gestation period to 5 to 7 years.

    In his address, Secretary (Power), Shri A.K. Basu said there was an urgent need to reduce the distortion between hydel and thermal power which stood at 25:75. Shri Basu pointed out that hydel power has major benefits such as its ability to be peaked up. However, there were problems while setting up hydel power projects in the Himalayan region as the mountain range is geologically young and therefore fragile as a result many times unforeseen problems are faced in the construction phase, he said.The Secretary (Power) also urged financial institutions to come up with long term funding.

    The aim of Hydel Power Project 2000 is to put hydro power back into focus especially at a time when international oil prices are at their highest in many years. Currently about 25,000 Mega Watts of hydel power has been installed in the country.





    The Ministry of Steel has planned to formulate a National Steel Policy to draw up a road map to prepare the Indian Steel industry to face the challenges of the post liberalised era and rapid globalisation. The policy will include sector-specific ingredients such as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and problems in different regions of the domestic industry vis--vis global Steel industry. It will be finalised in consultation with all segments of the steel industry, said the Steel Minister Shri Braja Kishore Tripathy, addressing the Economic Editors’ Conference on Monday.

    The Minister also said that the Government would soon appeal to the WTO dispute settlement body against the imposition of anti-dumping duty by the US on the export of cut-to-length plates exported by Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL). A request for consultation has been sent to the US Ambassador and the WTO, he said. He hoped that with the current focus on modernisation and upgradation and state-of-the-art technology adopted by greenfield steel plants, combined with major thrust on downsizing, the Indian Iron and Steel Industry would emerge as a major player in the world.

    Shri Tripathy said the Government has taken several initiatives like reduction in the import duty on finished steel, removal of anomalies in the duty structure, the fixation of core prices etc. to put the industry back on the track. The industry also has taken steps to cut cost, improve quality, upgrade technology and changing the product mix. This has resulted in increased growth rate in 1999-2000. He said that during the first six months of the current financial year, the performance of the entire steel sector was encouraging. During April-September 2000, the production was higher by 11 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year and the exports has increased by 16 per cent.

    Shri Tripathy said, construction, infrastructure and rural industry sectors have been identified as thrust areas in boosting consumption of steel. Recently launched National Campaign for Promotion of Steel Use has identified areas like housing, infrastructure construction, bins for grains storage and truck bodies as potential areas for the increased use of steel. He said that the hot-rolled coil has emerged as one of the most important export products. India exports substantial quantities of pig iron and stainless steel apart from the traditional items like semis, non-flat rolled products and plants. The Ministry has constituted a ‘Steel Exporters Forum’ with representatives from the Government and the leading steel producers of the country to take up matters related to trade disputes and other WTO related issues.





    Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. C.P.Thakur has informed the Economic Editors' Conference here today that India has the potential of medical tourism which can boost the foreign exchange earning substantially. India can provide efficacious treatment to the foreign tourists at much cheaper rates than elsewhere in the world and this can be an added attraction to them. Tour Operators can be asked to include such treatment in their package tours.

    Addressing the Conference organised by Press Information Bureau, Dr. Thakur has said that the concepts and efficacy of therapies in the systems of Ayurved, Siddha, Yoga and Naturopath have been appreciated by the West. Proposals for seeking affiliations with Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar have been received from USA, Argentina, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Australia and Japan.

    Dr. Thakur has further said that the Department of ISM&H will make suitable packages for marketing Panch Karma Therapy by tour operators/ travel agents and hotels/resorts, for which the Department of Tourism prepares a brochure for publicity. Department of Culture has already initiated steps for promotion of ISM products. A park with Ayurved plants may be established in important places of tourism. A study tour for twelve Ayurved physicians of Sri Lanka has been planned for next month.

A National Medicinal Plant Board will be set up by the end of next month under the chairmanship of Union Health Minister. As per the Planning Commission's report the annual export earning of herbal products will go upto Rs.3000 crore by 2005and Rs.10,000 crore by 2010. Internal consumption is also increasing at the annual rate of 20 per cent. A one-day meeting of all State Health Ministers will be convened on 30th of this month to discuss issues pertaining to ISM sector, added Dr. Thakur.

Mini Health Melas are proposed in 102 backward districts during this financial year and 264 during next year under the RCH Programme. The Minister has said that despite the Centre's withdrawal of the ban on the sale of common salt, as many as 22 States and Union Territories are still having their State level ban on the same. Kerala is the only State to have left it to the people's choice in this regard. Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are allowing the ban in certain specified areas where iodine deficiency is prevalent. Rs. 80 lakh worth medicines have been supplied to West Bengal for the distribution among the flood affected people. Himachal Pradesh has been given Rs.5 lakh worth medicines.

Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Shri A.Raja, Secretaries of three Departments of Health, Family Welfare and ISM&H, Director General of Health Services and Principal Information Officer, PIB are among others who have addressed the Conference.





    The Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas, Shri Ram Naik, received a cheque of Rs. 23.17 crore, paid by the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL formerly MRL), to the Government for the Financial Year 1999-2000. The dividend cheque was presented to Petroleum Minister by Shri S. Rammohan, CMD, CPCL, here today. Shri Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Shri E. Ponnuswamy -- both Ministers of State for Petroleum & Natural Gas, Dr. S. Narayan, Secretary, (Petroleum & Natural Gas) and other senior officers of Petroleum Ministry and CPCL were also present.

    The dividend payment by CPCL amounts to 30 per cent of its paid up capital. Presently the Government holds an equity of Rs. 77.26 crore in CPCL which amounts to 52.16 per cent of the total paid up capital of Rs. 147.10 crore as on 31.3.2000. During the year 1999-2000, CPCL achieved a record turnover of Rs. 5521 crore. The turnover of the directly marketed products by CPCL was over Rs. 600 crore. The profit after tax was Rs. 143 crore whereas before tax profit was Rs. 191.68 crore. During the year, CPCL attained "Excellent" rating for its overall performance based on its Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.






    The Minister for Youth Affairs, Sports and Mines, Shri Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said that the draft National Youth Policy, 2000 clearly delineates the responsibilities as well as privileges of the youth. It identifies priority target groups like Youth with disabilities, rural youth etc. and also describes a mechanism for implementation of this policy. A National Youth Development Fund is also proposed to be created as a strategy for implementation, he added. He was addressing the Consultative Committee Meeting of the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, here today. The Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Shri P. Radhkrishnan and senior officials of the Ministry also attended the Meeting.

    The Draft National Youth Policy, 2000 has identified four major thrust areas. First is Youth Empowerment. The Policy advocates opening of avenues for nurturing the talents of our youth and for giving them a say in matters that concern them. The second is Gender Justice. The Policy intends to address the issues of gender related problems which hinder a balanced growth of the youth, particularly the adolescents. The Third is Inter – Sectoral Approach. The Policy calls for a better coordination among all related agencies like, Ministries and Departments of the Central Government, State Governments and Private Agencies for overall development of the Youth. The Fourth and the final thrust area is Information and Research Network.

    Youth Development efforts in India have been hampered by lack of adequate information and research base. The Policy, therefore, suggests the establishment of a well organised Information and Research Network with regard to various areas of concern to the Youth to facilitate the formulation of focussed youth development schemes and programmes.

    The Draft New National Youth Policy, 2000 also recognises the following key sectors of concern for the youth. They are : Education; Training and Employment; Health and Family Welfare; Preservation of the Environment, Ecology and Wild Life; Recreation and Sports; Arts and Culture; Science and Technology; and Civics and Citizenship. The Policy has attempted to go into each of these areas in as much detail as possible to bring forth an integrated approach for Youth Development process in the country.

    The Draft Policy has been formulated after consultations with various Central Government Ministries, State Governments, Youth Wings of Political parties, Universities, Religious Leaders and Reputed Non-Government Organisations. Some points that emerged in the National Youth Agenda, brought out in the Millennium Youth Parliament held in April, 2000, have also been included in the Draft National Youth Policy, 2000. The Minister said that the views and suggestions of the Members of the Committee will further enrich the Policy document and help finalise it at the earliest. The last National Youth Policy was drafted in 1988.

    The members made constructive suggestions regarding special efforts for creation of self employment opportunities for Youth, involving the Youth in Health Awareness Programmes, non-formal vocational training, creating a youth hostel movement etc. The Minister assured the members that efforts in these directions would be made in coordination with other Ministries; Departments and NGO`s.

    The following Lok Sabha members attended the meeting: Shri Ramdas Athawale; Shri Samik Lahiri and Prof.I.G. Sanadi.





    Education Consultants India Ltd. today presented a cheque of Rs. 31.25 lakh towards dividend for the year 1999-2000 to the Government. The cheque was handed over to the Human Resource Development Minister Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi here by the Chairman and Managing Director of Ed.CIL Shri Y. Medury. This is for the thirteenth consecutive year that Ed.CIL has declared a dividend of 25 percent.

    Ed.CIL an ISO 9002 company is a profit making Public Sector Enterprise of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and is engaged in the field of education and human resource development in India and abroad. The Company's international activities continued with the award of new projects by the countries like Bhutan, Bostwana, Rawanda, Syria, Tanzania and others. It has also executed several prestigious projects in India.






    The Government is working on a comprehensive auto policy to look at the issues concerning this industry and recommend measures for its continued growth.. The import of second hand cars will also not be allowed, subject to the cabinet decision, said the heavy industries and public enterprises minister, Shri Manohar Joshi. Announcing this in the Economic Editors’ Conference-2000, here today, he said that the Government is also in the process of bringing out new auto policy in the context of removal of quantitative restrictions (QRs) with effect from April, 2001 under WTO regime. The policy aims at continued growth of the sector, to ensure fair competition and bring value to the customers, he added. Shri T.S. Vijayraghavan, Secretary, Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises and Shri K.K. Jaswal, Addl. Secretary in the Ministry were also present on the occasion.

    Responding to a question on the status of public sector under the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Shri Joshi said that the Ministry is in the midst of preparing a white paper on PSEs under the Department of Heavy Industry, which will define the road map of these enterprises in the coming year. "Our main aim is to make these PSEs self-supporting in the long run", the Minister added.

    Elaborating on the Public Sector reforms Shri Joshi informed that the main elements of the government policy towards public sector is to restructure and revive potentially viable PSUs, close down PSUs which cannot be revived, bring down Government equity in all strategic PSUs to 26% or lower, if necessary, and fully protect the interests of workers. The Minister expressed satisfaction that the employees of Public Sector have responded well to the emerging industrial environment and have extended full cooperation in improving their performance and competitiveness for survival and growth on a long-term basis.

    On the new VRS policy announced earlier this year to make it more attractive for the employees, Shri Joshi said that the new VR scheme gives flexibility to the profit making companies to offer compensation upto 60 days of salary for each completed year of service rendered as against earlier norm of 45 days. "In case of marginally loss making and profit making enterprises Government has agreed for adoption of VRS modeled on the Gujarat pattern so as to take care of the interest of the employees in younger age group who are willing to take early retirement from such PSEs", Shri Joshi added. Many of the PSUs who are facing order booking constraints due to market competition, Shri Joshi said that the government has decided to continue the policy of purchase preference to CPSEs by another two years up to 31st March, 2002. The quantum of minimum value of purchases has also been reduced from Rs. 5 crores to Rs. 1 crore, he added.

    Emphasising the need for the PSEs to be restructured in the new economic environment, Shri Joshi said that revival plans have been sanctioned by BIFR and are under implementation in case of 12 PSEs involving fresh infusion of funds by the Government to the extent of Rs. 637 crores and financial restructuring of Rs. 2063 crores. Apart from providing support to the companies for implementation of revival plans sanctioned by BIFR, Government on its own during the last one year, has approved restructuring in case of HMT Ltd. Government have also sanctioned the setting up of a De-inking Plant in Hindustan Newsprint Ltd., Kottayam, Kerala, at a cost of Rs. 52.20 crore. This would improve the financial health of the company and its dependence on forest resources would considerably come down, Shri Joshi added.





    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a loan of US $ 250 million to the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) for inter state and inter regional transmission systems in India. ADB is financing 51% of the total project cost of US $ 491.5 million equivalent. The balance will be funded through commercial co-financing, domestic borrowing and PGCIL's internal resources.

    The loan is from ADB's Ordinary Capital Resources, repayable over 20 years, including a grace period of five years and interest will be at ADB's pool based variable lending rate for US $ loans.

    The project comprises many sub-projects and would be implemented over a five-year period. It would provide additional and more reliable power supply to all categories of consumers and allow interchange of power between electricity regions in a more flexible and economic manner, with less environmental impact. The project would also aid in the development of a regulatory framework for operating the national grid transmission system, thereby facilitating state-level power sector reforms. The project would benefit all classes of consumers who are currently affected by load restrictions and load shedding.





    The Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Shri Ramesh Bais, released here today, two books recently published by Publications Division of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The books are: "50 Years of Indian Republic" in English and "Upgraha Ke Bahar Bheetar: Bharat Ke Hastakshar" in Hindi

    Complimenting the DPD for bringing the books in the Golden Jubliee year of the Republic, Shri Bais said that the eminence of those who have contributed to the book "50 Year of Indian Republic" have made this book thought provoking. In this regard, he quoted the former Justice of India, Justice J.S. Verma’s observation that "the Constitution unlike an ordinary legislation, is a living organism meant to serve for all times for which it needs flexibility to permit adaptation to the needs of the changing society". Dr. L.M. Singhvi says at one place, "The theme of Fundamental Rights and the role of the Supreme Court and the High Courts as vigilant custodians of Fundamental Rights is at the heart of India’s constitutional democracy", Shri Bais quoted. This book will enable the reader to have an in-depth view of the working of our democratic system besides human rights and empowerment of women. Fifty years in a nation’s history is not a long period for stocktaking, nor is it too short to be ignored. Nations wedded to the future always learn from their past. It is time for us to look at our balance sheet, Shri Bais said. Shri Bais also commended the book on satellites for making a very informative reading on the advances made by the country in the space technology and an update of the subject. The book, "50 Years of Indian Republic" to mark the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Indian Republic, is a compilation of articles of India’s nation-building efforts since it became Republic in 1950. The contents cover various facets of development such as Indian economy, agriculture, science and technology, poverty alleviation, education and housing. There are also thought-provoking articles on the working of democracy, constitution and electoral system in the country besides human rights and empowerment of women. The Minister also inaugurated a book exhibition organised by the Publications Division. The exhibition will be open for public up to 23rd October, 2000.

    Among the 17 illustrious contributors to the book are Justice J.S. Verma, Dr. Subhash C. Kashyap, Dr. S.B. Singh, Shri J.N. Dixit, Dr. M.S. Gill, Justice Ranganath Misra, Dr. M.R. Srinivasan, Dr. B. Subhas Kashyap, Prof. Baidyanath Misra and Shri K.K. Khullar.

    The book on spacecrafts explains the difficult scientific terms and subjects in a very simple language. It also explains the latest developments in satellite and space technology and their uses for the benefit of human beings. The Director, Publications Division, Smt. Surinder Kaur gave details of the achievements of the Division and said the DPD earned a revenue of Rs. 30.21 crores last year as compared to Rs. 21.36 crores in previous year.





    Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare has asked the Finance Ministry to give exemptions from levying corporate tax from the earnings of the doctors for the treatment given to the foreign tourists visiting India as part of Package Tour. These earnings may be treated as export earnings. This was disclosed by Dr.C.P.Thakur, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, in an informal chat with the media persons today. His Ministry has already been on the job of identifying the Premier Medical Institutions, both the government and private, where the Super Specialty treatment facility is available with their expertise for certain specific diseases. Once the Medical Tourism becomes fully functional Package Tour Operators can utilize the services of certain reputed hospitals both Allopathic and Ayurvedic.

    Dr.Thakur has further said that all the Medical Collges in the country will be connected by online with the Central Medical Library, New Delhi very soon.





    A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between Smt. Vasundhara Raje, Minister of State for Small Scale Industries & Agro and Rural Industries and Mr. Enrico Letta, Italian Minister of Industry, Commerce and Handicraft for promotion of mutual Credit Guarantee Schemes and the Institutional Capacity Building for the development of SMEs in India. Through this MOU, both the Governments will encourage the development of cooperation between international organizations, Governments and private entities in both countries to achieve the objectives. There shall be exchange of information on SME financing systems, legislation and experience in the field of management of credit guarantee schemes. Assistance shall be provided for establishment and operation of mutual credit guarantee funds in India. Both the countries shall explore the possibilities of joint venture between financial institutions and credit funds to operate credit guarantee schemes in India. The MOU provides that the two countries shall facilitate efforts of capacity building for banks, financial institutions and industry associations for successful operation of such schemes in India. There shall also be exchange of professionals between the competent institutions/organizations of the two countries. For the implementation of the MOU representatives from the public and private sectors and of international organizations. The Working Group will promote initiatives for which financial coverage will be found either through Italian or Indian funds, or through international fund. To start with, MOU shall remain in force for three years.

    The promotion of mutual Credit Guarantee Schemes through this MOU will supplement Government of India’s Credit Guarantee Scheme recently launched for providing collateral loans to small and tiny units.






    The Government is in the process of launching a Technology Mission on Jute shortly. Stating this in the Economic Editors’Conference-2000, here today, Shri Kashiram Rana, Minister of Textiles has said that another important area requiring special attention is the availability of quality raw materials because they to a large extent determine the acceptability of the final product whether it is yarn, fabric or garment. For encouraging improvement in productivity, market infrastructure and availability of cotton- ‘which is the core fibre’ used by the industry, a Technology Mission on Cotton (TMC) is already under operation, Shri Kashiram Rana said. Shri V. Dhananjay Kumar, Minister of State for Textiles, Shri Anil Kumar, Secretary, Textiles, Shri P. Hota, Addl. Secretary and Shri Arun Guptra, Addl. Secretary and DC Handlooms were also present on the occasion.

    Expressing satisfaction over the positive trends in exports from almost all sectors of the industry like readymade garments, cotton textiles, handlooms, man-made fibres/textiles, silk textiles, woollen textiles, handicrafts or jute, the Minister said that during 1999-2000 the over all textile exports has registered a growth of 6.1% as compared to only 1.8% during the previous year. Between April-August, 2000 exports have shown a further increase of 9.8% in dollar terms and 13.1% in rupee terms as compared to the corresponding period, a year ago, he added.

    On the question of important issues relating to tariff bindings and alternate specific duty levels with European Union as well as the United States, Shri Kashiram Rana said that these have been successfully resolved and EU has already agreed to release the balance quantity of 450 tonnes of exceptional flexibility which may result in annual increase in exports of around 600 crores. The US has also now restored the GSP benefits for certain handloom products, the Minister further added. On the policy initiatives taken by the Ministry of Textiles, the Minister informed that for encouraging investment in stand-alone units for value addition in garments sector and integrated units, a national import/export policy guideline have been issued for the entire policy period. The Ministry continues to play pro-active role in addressing the problems of the exporters like space problem, cargo, DEPB or duty draw back, Shri Kashiram Rana said.

    The Minister further informed that a comprehensive scheme to benefit the handloom sector has been launched from April, 2000. The scheme called Deendayal Hathkargha Protsahan Yojna will provide necessary financial assistance to a gamut of activities relating to the handloom sector like basic inputs, product development, infrastructure, training, marketing support etc. Under the scheme implemented through the State Governments, financial assistance will be provided for funding a particular component or combination of components included as per the approved funding pattern.

    Informing about the progress of other on-going schemes, Shri Kashiram Rana said that the Urban Haats similar to the successful "Delhi Haat" and "India Mart Centre" have been introduced for providing access to foreign buyers. To encourage research and development activities, two UNDP projects for carpets as well as cane and bamboo have been approved along with an Indian Institute for Carpet Technology. A conference of the State Minister for Handlooms, handicrafts and sericulture of the North-East States and Sikkim was organised by the Ministry recently with a objective to make an appraisal of the region’s textile and textile-based activities and make recommendations for their growth.

    As regards NTC mills, Shri Kashiram Rana said that a policy to adopt a unit by unit approach along with protection of the workers interests with an objective to revive and restructure the maximum number of viable mills and at the same time make the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) package attractive enough for the workers.





   A major programme of Rural Roads is being launched to connect all habitations with the population of 500 and above by the year 2007. This was announced by the Rural Development Minister Shri Venkaiah Naidu while delivering the key note address at a function on the occasion of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty organised at the UN Information Centre here today. The programme called the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana would require an investment of about Rs. 60,000 crore. Shri Naidu said that the programme would go a long way in reducing poverty apart from improving the rural infrastructure. It is estimated that an investment of Rs. 10 lakh in rural roads would bring 165 people above the poverty line, he said. It would also lead to creation of employment opportunities and better economic conditions in the villages.

    The Minister observed that if world poverty has to be halved by the year 2015, India, being home to 27% of the world’s poor , would have an important role to play. He noted that poverty levels in the country were showing a downward trend but the country would still have about 270 million poor of whom about 200 million would be in rural areas. The Government is committed to eradicate poverty within the first decades of 21st century. He regretted that we had tended to give a secondary place to Rural Development and emphasised that the foremost strategy in eradication of poverty would have to be the development of rural areas.

    Emphasising the need for integrated rural development for poverty eradication, Shri Naidu called for development of communication network to bring the villages into the main stream and provide employment opportunities. It would end the isolation and improve productivity as well as access to markets and market information.

    Shri Naidu said there was a need of improving village habitat so that the basic requirements of hygiene and social infrastructure could be met. The current levels of investment are insufficient and there is scope for re-examination of the ongoing programmes and involvement of the local communities with the planning and execution process. He said two million houses would be constructed annually of whom 1.3 million would be in rural areas.

    Growth, particularly in the agriculture sector, is critical to poverty eradication, Shri Naidu said. He pointed out that increasing cost of cultivation and lack of sufficient credit besides the uncertain nature of rainfed crops had rendered the landed poor vulnerable. Increase in irrigation facilities, development of wastelands, assured availability of inputs and reliable extension methods, are some of the measures for reducing poverty levels significantly, he said.

    The Minister emphasised the need for local level planning. He noted that 73rd and 74th Constitution amendments had paved the way for decentralised planning. However, much more remain to be done. The regular conduct of the Gram Sabha increases the confidence of the rural poor and facilitates greater participation, he said.

    Shri Naidu suggested that non-governmental organisations should also be involved in rural development and poverty eradication programmes. He pointed out that it could not be the responsibility only of the Government machinery but should be collectively accomplished with all sections of the society including the financial and technical institutions. He suggested greater involvement of the corporate sector and said he would initiate interaction with CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM in this regard.





    Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr.C.P.Thakur has underlined the need for consistent efforts to keep the people alerted and awakened over the extra territorial loyalists. Inaugurating the Swadeshi mela at Punjabi Bagh, here today, the Minister has emphasised that ever vigilance and safeguarding the National Interest must be the cardinal principles of every citizen of this country to regain the supremacy in the world. He underlined the need for strengthening the knowledge base, so that India can keep pace with the global changes. The need of the hour is the revival of self respect by regaining the lost glory. There is no dearth of talent in the country and if ample opportunities were given to the youths, India will emerge as a super power in the International arena. Dr.Thakur complemented the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch for organising the Swadeshi Mela which arouses patriotism amongst the present day generation.

    Union Minister of State for Agriculture Shri.Shripad Naik and Shri.Sahib Singh Verma, M.P. were among others who addressed the inaugural function.







    Stressing the need to substantially increase foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows from Italy, Shri Murasoli Maran, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, has said that while India is taking forward steps to make the environment conducive to foreign investments, it is necessary that the Italian enterprises reassess their priorities and look at the many advantages of doing business with India. Addressing the Joint Meeting of the India-Italy Joint Commission and India-Italy Joint Business Council (JBC) attended by a large number of officials and businessmen from both the sides, here today, Shri Maran noted that although over 800 Indo-Italian collaborations covering diverse sectors such as transportation, food processing, textiles, metallurgical industries etc. had been approved, this constituted only 1.95 per cent of the total FDI approval of all countries, the net inflow from Italian investments into India was not commensurate with the potential. He said that FDI had been one of the defining features of India's reform policy since 1991 with the entire FDI process being made automatic in most sectors. He emphasised that investor confidence about India was on the rise, considering that in the first eight months of this year, there had been an inflow of US $ 3 billion and this was expected to go up to $ 5 billion for the full year. "We are also taking other steps to make the industrial climate more conducive to growth and development. We are writing a new Industries Act to make it more development-focussed", the Minister said.

    While Italy is India's fourth largest trading partner in Europe with a trade turnover of around US $ 2 billion annually, Shri Maran said there were certain specific problems such as those relating to export of marine and animal products to Italy and also sought the support of Italy in satisfactorily resolving the problems with regard to the European Union (EU) regime for rice imports, urging that the existing dispensation for rice should not be disturbed till the conclusion of the agriculture negotiations in the WTO. Outlining multilateral trade concerns, Shri Maran said "the developed world needs to appreciate and should be able to implement the broad understandings reached during the Uruguay Round Agreement not as a mere technical formality but as an economic reality. It is in this spirit we insist that the implementation issues expressed by the developing countries are urgently addressed upfront".

    In his address, Mr. Enrico Letta, Minister of Industry & Foreign Trade of Italy, who also called on Shri Maran later, said that Italian entrepreneurs were keen on the information technology sector in which cooperation prospects were immense and suggested setting up of a Working Group which could get down to formulating specific proposals for this sector. Tourism was another area offering great scope for closer cooperation, he said, while agreeing with Shri Maran's assessment that Indo-Italian trade in goods and services as well as investments were well below the potential despite having posted substantial growth. Noting India's concerns on anti-dumping measures and proposed changes in the EU rice regime, Mr. Letta assured that the Italian side would work to find solutions that did not involve imposition of duties ("in fact, we favour price undertakings"). Measures on rice, he informed, were still being studied and mentioned that the EU Commission was willing to look into a negotiated solution with the countries involved. In the multilateral context, Mr. Letta said that Italy advocated a new round of WTO negotiations which should "embrace the whole body of problems which directly or indirectly affect free trade" and hoped that "your country could offer the contribution of its experience to the launching and the carrying out of this round. In doing so, India should be aware of its rightful role in Asia and in the world". Among others who spoke on the occasion were Shri Nripendra Misra, Special Secretary, Department of Commerce; Mr. Mario Gerbino, Secretary of Commercial Policy in Italian Ministry of Foreign Trade; Shri C.R. Amin, Senior Vice-President FICCI & Co-chairman India-Italy JBC; Mr. Rosario Alessandrello, Delegate of Confindustria's President; Shri Vikram Kapur, former co-chairman of India-Italy JBC; and Shri Narinder Nayar, Chairman, Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce.







   India and Italy have decided to set up a Joint Working Group on Information Technology (IT), and also agreed upon signing of an MoU between India and Italy for cooperation in the small and medium enterprises and need for fresh negotiation of a double taxation avoidance agreement. This is indicated in the Agreed Minutes of the 14th Session of the India-Italy Joint Commission for Economic Cooperation which was signed here this evening by Shri Murasoli Maran, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry on behalf of Government of India and Mr. Enrico Letta, Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade, on behalf of Government of Italy. At the joint inaugural session of the Joint Commission and Joint Business Council earlier this morning the businessmen of the two countries participated.

    The Joint Commission addressed itself to ways and means of stepping up bilateral trade, industrial, economic, financial and development cooperation. In his opening address, Shri Maran requested the Italian side to step up their investment in India and sought the assistance of the Italian side in resolving market access issues in the EU. In his opening address, Mr. Letta requested for strengthening of the intellectual property rights regime in India.

Mr. Letta was leading a 25-member official and 40-member business delegation to India. During his visit to Mumbai on 16th October, Mr. Letta had meetings with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra; Governor, RBI and Chairman, SEBI.





    The Ministry for Information and Broadcasting today signed six more agreements with the Music Broadcasting Corporation Private Limited for setting up FM radio stations at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Lucknow, Nagpur and Patna. With this, agreements for nine FM stations have so far been signed. Earlier, the Music Broadcasting Private Limited deposited Rs. 41.37 crores as bank guarantee.






    Union Ministry for Tribal Affairs organised a Conference of Voluntary Organisations working for the welfare and development of 75 identified Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) here today. Union Minister for Tribal Affairs, Shri Jual Oram inaugurated a Conference where over 70 NGOs spread over the country and working in the interior pockets for the development of PTGs were present. They took take part in a day-long deliberations and interacted with the officials of the Ministry.

    As the PTGs represent the lowest level of economic development among the tribal communities, various Commissions and Committtees had recommended special attention for these communities for their overall development. The Government of India have identified 75 tribal communities as PTGs in 15 Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) States/Union Territories, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnatka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The Minister in his valedictory address to the assembled NGOs said that precarious situation of the PTGs are due to lack of proper socio-economic development coupled with denudation of forests, and destruction of natural eco-systems and encroachment by the more advanced communities for which they lead a life of stagnation. The Primitive Tribal Groups differ from each other in respect of their occupation. Some of them are still at the stage of food gatherers and hunters, some are shifting cultivators and a few of them have taken to cultivation. Some of them also work as agricultural labourers, Shri Oram said.

    The schemes implemented for the welfare and development of PTGs vary from State to State. Priority is accorded to the development of these groups with special emphasis on education, health, drinking water supply, agriculture and related activities. Since Fifth Five Year Plan Special Central Assistance (SCA) is being provided to States and UTs and a part of this assistance is also spent for the development of PTGs in the TSP areas. However, the Special Central Assistance (SCA) provided for this group has not created the desired impact for overall development of this segment of tribal population. The States/UT have been advised to quantify funds for this section of tribal population from state Sector Plans and funds provided under various Central and Centrally Sponsored Programmes. But even then the participation of PTGs in developmental activities is very low. Therefore, a separate Plan of Action was required to be drawn for their development, he categorically said. From the year 1998-99, a Special Central Sector Scheme has been introduced for their development. Under this scheme, funds are available for those items and activities which though very crucial for survival and protection are not specifically catered to by any existing scheme. There is a budget provision of Rs. 12.50 crores under the scheme during the current year, he expressed.

    Though the Government is making concerted efforts for the welfare and development of PTGs since Fifth Five Year Plan but a dent is yet to be made in the matter, he said. The main problems and difficulties faced in their development are their apathy towards education and development, inhabitation in isolated and difficult forested and hilly areas and rigidity of social and cultural values which are stronger than economic factors. He further stated that Government programmes have certain limitations in reaching out to this weakest section of tribal society. It is here that the NGO can play a crucial role, he expressed emphatically. He lauded the efforts of many NGOs for their good work among the PTGs.

    Shri Oram during his concluding remarks asked NGOs to suggest their opinion and recommendations to the Ministry to devise suitable programmes for improvement of the PTGs. The Minister listened to the presentations made by the NGOs very carefully. Shri S.K.Naik, Seceraty to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs who gave the key note address laid emphasis on bringing the PTGs to the National Mainstream of Population by sincere efforts and holistic approach to the whole programme of voluntary actions.