CUTS IN MEDIA-February 2006

 

Budget should aim at simplified tax regime; adoption of VAT and strong consumer oriented policies
February 23, 2006, Western Times
Life-time offers: Consumer groups want fee refund
February 14, 2006, Sify.com
Consumer groups want fee refund, penalty on operator
February 14, 2006, The Hindu Business Line
To prevent Jet Airways' dominance in slots
Redistribute Air Sahara rights equitably: CUTS International

February 10, 2006, The Hindu Business Line
PCCF highlights farmers’ needs at agri conference
February 09, 2006, The Shillong Times
Farmers form the most neglected section : Nautiyal
February 09, 2006, The Meghalya Guardian

Archives


Budget should aim at simplified tax regime; adoption of VAT and strong consumer oriented policies

February 23, 2006, Western Times
Ahmedabad

Presenting its pre budget memorandum to Mrs. Vasundhara Raje, Chief Minister, Rajasthan, CUTS International has stressed on the need for simplified tax structures and strong consumer movement to enhance competitiveness of the economy.

“The Government should at one end facilitate business through rationalizing rules and regulations and remove difficulties being faced and at the same time, should focus on strengthening consumer movement in the State as an enabling force to enhance competitiveness and efficiencies of the economy,”. Mr. Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International said during the interaction.

Mr. Mehta said that the next major tax reform for the state Government is to adopt value Added Tax (VAT) regime which will go a long way in bringing in tax rationalization and revenue generation for the state. Given that most of the neighboring states have adopted VAT. Rajasthan cannot let its businesses in a disadvantageous position.

The forthcoming budget should also announce constitution of State Competition and Regulatory Agency (SCORA) as an autonomous agency to promote efficiency and effectiveness of services in the state. “Consumer abuses being rampant in services such as education, health, transport, entertainment, and given that unregulated markets do not provide adequate incentives to better service providers, timely enactment of SCORA is imperative to address these concerns. Mr. Mehta said.

CUTS International also called for setting up a Consumer Directorate under which all departments related to consumer welfare be brought in. A Consumer Welfare Fund, announced last year, should also be operationalised and a system be put in place to ensure its smooth operation in objective manner.

Commenting on the power sector reforms, CUTS International staged that aggregate technical and commercial losses of over 40% were causing adverse impact on the entire economy. Attainment of reduction in losses would require the government to invest heavily in electricity distribution and active involvement of consumers in the reforms process. Given this scenario, the government should further invest in the feeder renovation programme in rural areas so that not only the losses were reduced, but rural areas get 24 hr power supply. A separate fund should also be created for awareness generation and information dissemination across the state with active involvement of consumer groups. It is estimated that 5% conservation of electricity at consumer and would save as much as Rs. 400 crores for the state.

The state should implement Right to Information Act at all levels in the system. Whereas Rajasthan was the first state to bring in the Act, the implementation of the provisions has somehow not been very effective despite its potential to weed out corruption. Extensive training programme should be chalked out and launched to sensitize government t officials at all levels and civil society group0s in the state.

Life-time offers: Consumer groups want fee refund

February 14, 2006, Sify.com
New Delhi

Consumer groups want the telecom regulator to impose a penalty on mobile operators if they change the terms of lifetime pre-paid card offers or withdraw them midway.

While on the one hand mobile operators have maintained that the lifetime tariffs are viable, on the other hand they also say that the liability for any operator to keep a tariff package was for only six months, after which they can change or withdraw the package.

Mobile operators have also said that they may not sustain the lifetime plan if there is any change in the regulatory environment.

Responding to the consultation paper issued by the telecom regulator on the validity of lifetime plans on offer from mobile operators, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) said: "TRAI should not allow service providers to breach the contract they are getting into with consumers. Should this happen, the penalty should be strong enough to serve as deterrent to other service providers following the same path."

The Bangalore-based Consumer Care Society has said that while exit options must clearly be spelt out by service providers, there should be refund of full upfront amount within, say, 60 days for administrative processing.

Only one operator has backed the consumer groups' concerns. Tata Teleservices said that while operators should be allowed to change the terms and conditions of the contract in the event of any change in regulation, consumers must get a full refund of the entire money collected upfront if an operator unilaterally withdraws the lifetime benefit without any reason within the first year of service.

Most operators are offering the lifetime plan for an upfront fee of Rs 999. Tata Teleservices has also suggested that the TRAI could ask the operators to refund 50 per cent of the fee if the plan is terminated between the first and the second year of launching the package.

Cellular operators, by and large, have expressed reservations against any intervention by TRAI in this regard.

"There are many variables in the marketplace that require the operators to constantly tailor their tariff offerings to attract subscribers. Having prescribed forbearance for cellular tariffs, the authority should now not seek to withdraw this flexibility or indulge in micro management," said the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

This news can also be read at
URL: http://sify.com/finance/fullstory.php?id=14140045

Consumer groups want fee refund, penalty on operator

February 14, 2006, The Hindu Business Line
New Delhi

Thomas K. Thomas

CONSUMER groups want the telecom regulator to impose a penalty on mobile operators if they change the terms of lifetime pre-paid card offers or withdraw them midway.

While on the one hand mobile operators have maintained that the lifetime tariffs are viable, on the other hand they also say that the liability for any operator to keep a tariff package was for only six months, after which they can change or withdraw the package.

Mobile operators have also said that they may not sustain the lifetime plan if there is any change in the regulatory environment.

Responding to the consultation paper issued by the telecom regulator on the validity of lifetime plans on offer from mobile operators, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) said: "TRAI should not allow service providers to breach the contract they are getting into with consumers. Should this happen, the penalty should be strong enough to serve as deterrent to other service providers following the same path."

The Bangalore-based Consumer Care Society has said that while exit options must clearly be spelt out by service providers, there should be refund of full upfront amount within, say, 60 days for administrative processing.

Only one operator has backed the consumer groups' concerns. Tata Teleservices said that while operators should be allowed to change the terms and conditions of the contract in the event of any change in regulation, consumers must get a full refund of the entire money collected upfront if an operator unilaterally withdraws the lifetime benefit without any reason within the first year of service.

Most operators are offering the lifetime plan for an upfront fee of Rs 999. Tata Teleservices has also suggested that the TRAI could ask the operators to refund 50 per cent of the fee if the plan is terminated between the first and the second year of launching the package.

Cellular operators, by and large, have expressed reservations against any intervention by TRAI in this regard.

"There are many variables in the marketplace that require the operators to constantly tailor their tariff offerings to attract subscribers. Having prescribed forbearance for cellular tariffs, the authority should now not seek to withdraw this flexibility or indulge in micro management," said the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

This news can also be read at
URL: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2006/02/14/stories/2006021401510400.htm

To prevent Jet Airways' dominance in slots
Redistribute Air Sahara rights equitably: CUTS International

February 10, 2006, The Hindu Business Line
New Delhi

Our Bureau

The NGO has called for imposing conditions similar to what had been imposed by the European Commission while approving the alliance of British Airways and American Airlines; The Commission had mandated that the alliance give up some of their slots to competitors.

CUTS International has urged the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to redistribute Air Sahara's rights to all airlines to prevent Jet Airways from attaining a dominant position in slots, as this would restrain growth of competition.

"Air Sahara's aviation rights should not automatically accrue to Jet Airways and they should be required to re-apply for securing additional rights. The DGCA should re-distribute Air Sahara's rights to all airlines. Had Air Sahara continued and given the inevitability of its closure, its rights would have got released for distribution to others, and not to Jet Airways alone," the Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) has said in a statement.

In a representation to the DGCA, Cuts International has called for imposing conditions similar to what had been imposed by the European Commission while approving the alliance of British Airways and American Airlines. The European Commission had mandated that the alliance give up some of their slots to competitors. The NGO has also raised concerns that Jet Airways may be able to exert considerable market pressure to the detriment of consumer welfare if all the parking bays and landing slots, domestic and international flying routes, technical staff and other ground handling facilities of Air Sahara were provided to it.

On January 19, Jet Airways inked an agreement to purchase Air Sahara for a consideration of $500 million. The agreement would see Jet Airways acquire 27.6 crore equity shares (with a face value of Rs 10), five crore preferential shares and the Group loans.

The agreement is to see the entire aviation business of Air Sahara including some of aircraft leases, real estate like the lounges and assets such as auxiliary power units and engines, being taken up by Jet Airways.

However, some other investments with Air Sahara including helicopters, the personal BBJ, some advances and the contract with the Board of Control for Cricket in India are to be carved out and sold back before the transaction happens.

The buy-out, however, has to be cleared by the authorities before it becomes effective.

This news can also be read at
URL: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2006/02/10/stories/2006021001770700.htm

PCCF highlights farmers’ needs at agri conference

February 09, 2006, The Shillong Times
Shillong

By Our Reporter

Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Mr VK Nautiyal on Wednesday highlighted the need to eradicate certain subsidies by the developed countries in World Trade Organization and also allow the farmers to have an access to the different market so as to developed the country marginal or subsistent farming.

Delivering his inaugural address at the Capacity Building Workshop on Benefit Sharing and Informed Consent held at NEHU Campus, Mr Nautiyal said that the government has always neglected the marginal and subsistence farming as a result this type of farming continued to be in its primitive nature and farmers are totally depended on nature.

"In reality this type of farming cannot be neglected because still a large section of the people are still involved in this kind of farming, adding 70% of the country economy comes from the agricultural sector", Mr Nautiyal said.

He said that it is also important to protect our wild medicinal plants and especially the traditional bio diversity for the used of our future generation.

Further, he called upon people from all sections of the society and even the government to be provide some kind of assistance to the problems faced by the farmers as this is an important aspect in the coming years".

Mr AC Mahapatra from the Geography Department, NEHU said that it is important that farmers comes in the light and get themselves involved in the trading sector so as to developed the country subsistence and marginal farming to a certain extent.

Mr Mahapatra said, "The State Government should take the initiative to protect the rights of the farmers, adding that even the NGOs can facilitate to the problems face by the farmers by conducting a research to developed a traditional trading system to market their products".

Further, Mr Mahapatra said that in the future Constant Capacity Building is very important as it is related with the life and death of the farmers community and also in protection of the economy of the country.It may mentioned that the workshop is organised by Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS) in collaboration with the South Asian Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SWATEE), OXFAN Netherlands and the Ford Foundation.

This news can also be read at
URL: http://www.theshillongtimes.com/C-9-Feb.html

Farmers form the most neglected section : Nautiyal

February 09, 2006, The Meghalya Guardian
Shillong

GUARDIAN NEWS BUREAU

Though the farmers form a large proportion of the population but they are the most neglected section, said principal conservator of forest V.K. Nautiyal.

Inaugurating a day-long workshop on ‘farmers’ rights: benefit sharing and prior informed consent’ held at the guest house, NEHU conference hall, Nautiyal said that it is pity to say that farmers especially in the mountain region are subsistence farmers where crop is essential for day-to-day life and they have to depend their livelihood on agriculture.

The problem that the farmers from the mountain region like the North-east are facing is that they have to face difficulties like insecticides and also have to depend on climatic condition to improve their agriculture products.

Highlighting several issues that WTO agreements will affect the condition of farmers in the mountain region, he said that eradication of certain subsidies penetrated by the developed countries in the WTO, protection of farmers and property rights and access to the market are the main issues needed to dealt with as developing countries have got less access market comparing to developed countries in the WTO

Most of the farmers are illiterate and the stakeholders need to play an important role in disseminating on the issue of WTO where protection of the farmers’ rights is the foremost matter, but the government should think the future of the farmers for dealing with the WTO issues.

The workshop organized by Consumer Unity and Trust Society Calcutta Resource Centre in collaboration with Centre for Environmental Studies North Eastern Hill University and was attended by NGOs and professors of NEHU from geography department and other departments.

CONTACT US
Consumer Unity & Trust Society
Dľ217, Bhaskar Marg, Bani Park, 
Jaipur  302 016, India,
Ph: +91(0)141-2282821
Fax: 91.141.2282485
Email: cuts@cuts.org

Copyright 2005 Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), All rights reserved.
Dľ217, Bhaskar Marg, Bani Park, Jaipur 302 016, Rajasthan, India
Ph: 91.141.2282821, Fax: 91.141.2282485

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