Tweak full-refund rule for cancelled tickets: Airlines

NEW DELHI: Indian airlines want the government to tweak its move to allow flyers to cancel tickets without any fee. The aviation ministry in May had proposed a full refund — without any cancellation charge — for flyers cancelling domestic air tickets within 24 hours of booking a flight that is at least four days away.

Airlines, however, want the flight to be at least a week away for not levying any charge on ticket cancellations within 24 hours of booking.

“The airline industry has told Directorate General of Civil Aviation that the lock-in fare facility should only be for flights that are over a week away. The final call on the number of days will be taken by the aviation ministry,” said a source.

Cancellation fees are a big hassle for passengers. At present, the charges are base fare plus fuel surcharge or Rs 3,000, whichever is less. An extended fare lock-in period —from four days to a week — could mean cutting “revenue losses” for airlines from this move, said a source.

All Indian airlines are deep in red due to spiraling operational costs and they blame below-cost fares for their losses. While airlines mostly keep fares relatively low, other charges like cancellation, excess baggage and seat selection have been consistently hiked in the recent past to generate revenue.

The aviation ministry had proposed the concept of lock-in fares in its draft passenger charter which contained several flyer-friendly moves, including compensation for deficiency in services. “Another change is if a person denied boarding is not given an alternate flight or the option given does not suit him, airlines will have to offer a full refund of airfare,” said a source. Almost all airlines opposed.

Government eases Aadhaar update, enrolment targets for banks

MUMBAI: The government has revised targets for banks in respect of the minimum number of Aadhaar enrolments and updates to be done by them. Under a July 2017 government notification, lenders were mandated to set up Aadhaar enrolment and update facilities inside bank premises at a minimum of one out of every 10 branches by August 30, 2017.
The ministry of electronics & IT said in a circular, “Though many banks have achieved the target, representations were received from some banks in this regard, pointing out the difficulties faced by them due to natural calamities in various parts of India, technical problems in rolling out enrolment facility, and migration from outsource model to in-house model.”

In terms of the revised timelines, banks will achieve eight enrolments/updates per branch by November 2018. By January 2019, they have promised to do 12 enrolments or updations, which will go up to 16 a day by April 2019.

The IT minister held a meeting through video-conference with bank chiefs on August 30, where the lenders agreed to provide Aadhaar enrolment/update service to their customers and to maximise the turnaround and to achieve the target by October 31, 2018. Bank unions have been opposing Aadhaar-related work for staff, stating that employees were already burdened.

Godrej Consumer sells UK business

MUMBAI: Godrej Consumer Products (GCPL) has divested its entire stake in its UK business, Godrej Consumer Products UK, to JZ International, a leading pan-European private investment business based in London.
The divestment of what was GCPL’s first global acquisition is on expected lines. Acquired in 2005, Godrej UK has over the years created a strong personal care business with leading brands such as Touch of Silver, Cuticura and Soft & Gentle. However, it did not fit with the company’s overarching global growth philosophy. GCPL could also not leverage brand Cuticura in India as it failed to get marketing rights to do so from its owner here, Cholayil.

GCPL executive chairperson Nisaba Godrej said, “We continue to make strong progress on our journey to be a leading FMCG player in emerging markets, guided by our 3-by-3 approach — focused on three categories (home care, hair care and personal care), in three geographies (Asia, Africa and Latin America).
As we build on our presence in these emerging markets and sharpen our strategic focus, we have decided to divest our UK business. This is in line with our long-term objective of continually optimising our portfolio and making the appropriate capital allocation choices to drive superior value creation.”

Godrej UK, which was the erstwhile Keyline Brands, had adopted a strategy to selectively bolt on brands that are strategic, financially accretive and provide significant synergies.

In a statement, JZ International senior partner Martin Wright said, “The company has an exciting portfolio of unique and dynamic brands focused in the personal care sector and well recognised in both UK and international markets… We look to continue growing the business, both organically in the UK and overseas and through acquisition.”

Punjab National Bank plans to offload 0.1% NSE stake

MUMBAI: Troubled PSU lender Punjab National Bank has invited bids for the 5.5 lakh shares of NSE that it holds, translating into a 0.11 per cent stake. PNB has set a price band of Rs 879 per share for the stake sale.
At this price, the bank is expected to get a little over Rs 48 crore by offloading its entire stake in the country’s largest stock exchange.

Two years ago, when NSE had filed for an IPO, merchant bankers had valued it at about Rs 45,000 crore. The current floor price set for the NSE stake by PNB is almost at the same price. The bank has mandated PNB Investor Services (PNBISL) to select the merchant banker that could help the bank sell the NSE shares.

“PNB intends to sell its entire equity shareholding (0.11 per cent) in NSE, that is 5,50,000 fully paid-up equity shares each of face value of Re 1 through a competitive bidding process,” a document published by PNB ISL said. The bank intends to complete the stake sale by September 30. Since Indian banks’ bad debt problem started growing and at one point seemed to have reached unmanageable proportions, the government and the regulator had been pressing banks to divest of their non-core businesses.
Earlier this week, SBI, the country’s largest lender, had said that it was on course to sell nearly 4per cent in NSE as part of its capital-raising plan.

Soon, father’s name may not be must for PAN

NEW DELHI: A draft notification proposing amendments in rule 114 of the income tax rules has proposed that furnishing father’s name will not be mandatory for those whose mother is the single parent.
Rule 114 of the Income Tax Rules, 1962 provides for the manner in which an application for allotment of a permanent account number (PAN) shall be made in form No 49A and form No 49AA.

The tax department had received several representations seeking relaxation in the rules regarding father’s name in the PAN application. Those with the mother as the single parent had faced difficulty in applying for PAN.

Current rules make it mandatory to provide the father’s name in allotment of PAN. It is also proposed to amend the I-T rules for specifying the time-line for making an application for allotment of PAN by certain persons and issue of PAN.

Comments and suggestions on the draft notification may be sent by September 17, 2018.

Canada, U.S. miss NAFTA deadline, talks to resume next week

Canada and the U.S. have missed a Friday deadline for NAFTA talks, but will resume negotiations next week.

“We’re continuing to work very hard and we’re making progress,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters Friday afternoon. “We’re not there yet.”

She said “this is a very complex agreement,” and they are continuing to work at it.

Freeland has said her job is to ensure that this deal is beneficial to Canadian workers, businesses and families, because she’s “paid in Canadian dollars.”

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U.S. President Donald Trump and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a bilateral U.S.-Mexico deal Monday morning, saying it was to replace the trilateral NAFTA.

A deadline was set for Canada to agree to the terms of the deal by Friday, to ensure Peña Nieto was able to sign the agreement before the end of his term, but experts say there is an opportunity for Canada to join the deal before it’s finalized at the end of September.

READ MORE: What will happen if there is no Canada-NAFTA deal Friday

While the negotiations were private, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Canada has made no concessions on the thorny issue of dairy supply management.

Another sticking point appeared to be Trump’s comments implying the U.S. was not negotiating in good faith, when he said the negotiation was “totally” on U.S. terms.

But Freeland declined to talk about specific issues holding up the deal Friday.

WATCH: On Friday morning, Freeland said they were ‘not there yet’ on NAFTA deal 

Trump notified Congress about his intent to sign a trade agreement with Mexico Friday afternoon, saying there was an opportunity for Canada to join “if it is willing.”

In his letter to Congress, Trump said the deal “sets high standards for free, fair, and reciprocal trade.”

READ MORE: Trump says Canada-NAFTA negotiations ‘totally on our terms’: report

“We have also been negotiating with Canada throughout this year-long process. This week those meetings continued at all levels. The talks were constructive, and we made progress. Our officials are continuing to work toward agreement. The USTR team will meet with Minister Freeland and her colleagues Wednesday of next week,” a separate statement from Lighthizer read.

A senior Trump administration official told Reuters the U.S.’s intention is to keep Canada part of a three-way trade pact with Mexico.

WATCH: So what are the deal-breakers for Canada in the NAFTA talks?

The Senate will examine the deal and make its own decision on whether the Trump administration’s notice complies with the Trade Promotion Authority requirements, the official said.

Sources said Canadian officials have made it clear they will not agree to any NAFTA deal without Chapter 19, the guideline for dispute resolution between the two countries.

It’s unclear whether Chapter 19 is included in the tentative deal, but Lighthizer reportedly wants to eliminate it.

WATCH: Trump addresses ‘off-the-record’ comments about trade talks with Canada

At a speech in North Carolina on Friday, Trump took another swipe at Canada. “I love Canada, but they’ve taken advantage of our country for many years,” he said.

*with files from Global’s Mercedes Stephenson and Reuters

India heads of IT giants may face criminal charges over fake news

NEW DELHI: The India heads of global internet and social media giants should face criminal proceedings in case their platforms are used to spread fake news and other ‘sinister’ campaigns that lead to lynching and riots, a top government committee is understood to have recommended.

The inter-ministerial committee, headed by home secretary Rajiv Gauba, has submitted its report to home minister Rajnath Singh, who heads a group of ministers (GoM) looking into cases of lynching across various states, and the role of fake news and internet platforms in the episodes.

According to sources close to the group, members were of the view that all possible steps need to be initiated to ensure that social media platforms do not become a means for spreading rumours and messages that lead to social disharmony.

“However, these are only recommendations at this point. A final view will be taken by the GoM, which will then submit its report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” a source said.

The committee, which held consultations with a cross-section of stakeholders before submitting its report, feels that social media companies and ubiquitous instant messengers such as WhatsApp need to take responsibility for not tracing, and thereafter blocking, malicious content that has the potential to lead to rumour-mongering and incidents of lynching and rioting.

The committee has also sought the appointment of the superintendent of police (SP) in each district as the nodal officer to deal with cases of lynching, while suggesting that criminal action be initiated collectively against the group/mob engaging in lynching.

Tech cos fail to walk the talk on fake news

The inter-ministerial committee’s recommendations on curbing fake news and preventing lynchings come just weeks after the Justice B N Srikrishna panel on data protection said in a draft bill that directors and managers of social media and internet companies may be “jailed for up to five years and face criminal proceedings” if they are found to have engaged — knowingly or ‘recklessly’ — in cases of data theft and illegal processing of ‘sensitive personal’ information.

Companies such as Facebook + , WhatsApp, Google and Twitter have time and again assured the government they would keep a vigil on such activities, but have not come out with any specific measures.

The tabling of the report comes just when the government has taken a stern view on WhatsApp’s refusal to trace the origins of the “sinister campaigns” that have led to incidents of lynching.
Law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is also part of the GoM on lynching, has already made it clear that there could be charges of “abetment” against WhatsApp if the company continues to say no to tracing the people who are behind the viral and fake messaging.

Read this story in Marathi

Russia had Trump ‘over a barrel’ prior to the election, lawyer reportedly told

WASHINGTON — A senior Justice Department lawyer says a former British spy told him at a breakfast meeting two years ago that Russian intelligence believed it had Donald Trump “over a barrel,” according to multiple people familiar with the encounter.

The lawyer, Bruce Ohr, also says he learned that a Trump campaign aide had met with higher-level Russian officials than the aide had acknowledged, the people said.

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READ MORE: Donald Trump’s disapproval rating hits 60%, poll finds

The previously unreported details of the July 30, 2016, breakfast with Christopher Steele, which Ohr described to lawmakers this week in a private interview, reveal an exchange of potentially explosive information about Trump between two men the president has relentlessly sought to discredit.

They add to the public understanding of those pivotal summer months as the FBI and intelligence community scrambled to untangle possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. And they reflect the concern of Steele, a longtime FBI informant whose Democratic-funded research into Trump ties to Russia was compiled into a dossier, that the Republican presidential candidate was possibly compromised and his urgent efforts to convey that anxiety to contacts at the FBI and Justice Department.

WATCH: Trump says ‘find some collusion’ in attack on Russia investigation

The people who discussed Ohr’s interview were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the closed session and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Among the things Ohr said he learned from Steele during the breakfast was that an unnamed former Russian intelligence official had said that Russian intelligence believed “they had Trump over a barrel,” according to people familiar with the meeting. It was not clear from Ohr’s interview whether Steele had been directly told that or had picked that up through his contacts, but the broader sentiment is echoed in Steele’s research dossier.

Steele and Ohr, at the time of the election a senior official in the deputy attorney general’s office, had first met a decade earlier and bonded over a shared interest in international organized crime. They met several times during the presidential campaign, a relationship that exposed both men and federal law enforcement more generally to partisan criticism, including from Trump.

Republicans contend the FBI relied excessively on the dossier during its investigation and to obtain a secret wiretap application on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. They also say Ohr went outside his job description and chain of command by meeting with Steele, including after his termination as a FBI source, and then relaying information to the FBI.

WATCH: Bolton presses Russia about meddling in U.S. election process

Trump this month proposed stripping Ohr, who until this year had been largely anonymous during his decades-long Justice Department career, of his security clearance and has asked “how the hell” he remains employed.

Trump has called the Russia investigation a “witch hunt” and has denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

Trump and some of his supporters in Congress have also accused the FBI of launching the entire Russia counterintelligence investigation based on the dossier. But memos authored by Republicans and Democrats and declassified this year show the probe was triggered by information the U.S. government received earlier about the Russian contacts of then-Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos.

READ MORE: Michael Cohen’s lawyer walks back claim Donald Trump had prior knowledge of Russia meeting

The FBI’s investigation was already under way by the time it received Steele’s dossier, and Ohr was not the original source of information from it.

One of the meetings described to House lawmakers Tuesday was a Washington breakfast attended by Steele, an associate of his and Ohr. Ohr’s wife, Nellie, who worked for the political research firm, Fusion GPS, that hired Steele, attended at least part of the breakfast.

Ohr also told Congress that Steele told him that Page, a Trump campaign aide who traveled to Moscow that same month and whose ties to Russia attracted FBI scrutiny, had met with more senior Russian officials than he had acknowledged meeting with.

WATCH: Trump says Don Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer was legal

That breakfast took place amid ongoing FBI concerns about Russian election interference and possible communication with Trump associates. By that point, Russian hackers had penetrated Democratic email accounts, including that of the Clinton campaign chairman, and Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign associate, was said to have revealed that Russians had “dirt” on Democrat Hillary Clinton in the form of emails, according to court papers. That revelation prompted the FBI to open the counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016, one day after the breakfast but based on entirely different information.

Ohr told lawmakers he could not vouch for the accuracy of Steele’s information but has said he considered him a reliable FBI informant who delivered credible and actionable intelligence, including his investigation into corruption at FIFA, soccer’s global governing body.

In the interview, Ohr acknowledged that he had not told superiors in his office, including Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, about his meetings with Steele because he considered the information inflammatory raw source material.

He also provided new details about the department’s move to reassign him once his Steele ties were brought to light.

Ohr said he met in late December 2017 with two senior Justice Department officials, Scott Schools and James Crowell, who told him they were unhappy he had not proactively disclosed his meetings with Steele. They said he was being stripped of his associate deputy attorney post as part of a planned internal reorganization, people familiar with Ohr’s account say.

READ MORE: As Donald Trump’s circle of lawyers, press aides continues to shrink, concern in White House mounts

He met again soon after with one of the officials, who told him Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did not believe he could continue in his current position as director of a drug grant-distribution program — known as the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Sessions and Rosenstein, Ohr was told, did not want him in the post because it entailed White House meetings and interactions, the people said.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores declined to comment.

Wipro healthcare head Jeffrey Heenan-Jalil steps down

BENGALURU: Wipro’s senior vice-president and global head of the healthcare business Jeffrey Heenan-Jalil has resigned after a decade with the company marking the second top-level exit in the healthcare division in less than three years. Jalil had succeeded Sangita Singh who moved to Infosys and more recently to IBM’s global business services (GBS) division.
Wipro said Mohd Ehteshamul Haque, SVP and vertical head for healthcare and services, has replaced Heenan-Jalil as interim head of the healthcare unit. Wipro, which counts Johnson& Johnson, Novartis and GE Healthcare as customers, has faced major challenges in its healthcare business following the acquisition of US company HealthPlan Services (HPS) for $460 million in 2016. HPS services those who enroll for ObamaCare, but the uncertainty around ObamaCare under president Donald Trump has severely impacted the business. Insurance companies lacked clarity on whether the US government would offer subsidies. This led to them withdrawing from the programme and Wipro lost customers. The healthcare division contributed 14% to Wipro’s overall revenue in 2017-18, compared to 15.6% in the year before. Hansa Iyengar, CEO of London-based Ovum Research, said the scrapping of ObamaCare by the Trump government hit Wipro hard as it had acquired HPS in anticipation of an increase in healthcare business once it was rolled out.
“Wipro has since restructured its healthcare business and has been winning contracts steadily over the last 12 months or so, and is slowly making up for the losses it suffered over the past couple of years. Wipro wasn’t the only one hit by this move, and other vendors also saw their healthcare business impacted negatively,” she said.
Heenan-Jalil previously held the position of global head of analytics service line, advanced technologies group. Prior to that he headed the telecom equipment vendor business. He joined Wipro in 2007 to head the manufacturing, pharmaceutical and healthcare division for Europe.

Diesel crosses Rs 70 per litre-mark for first time ever

NEW DELHI: Domestic cooking gas (LPG) price was on Friday hiked by Rs 1.49 per cylinder while diesel rates crossed Rs 70 a litre mark for the first time ever on drop in rupee value.

Subsidised LPG with effect from midnight tonight will cost Rs 499.51 per cylinder in Delhi as against Rs 498.02 currently, mainly due to the tax incidence on base price, a statement issued by Indian Oil Corp (IOC), the nation’s largest fuel retailer, said.

Diesel rates were hiked by 28 paisa a litre, the steepest increase since the daily revision in fuel rates was effected in mid-June last year.

A litre of diesel now costs Rs 70.21 in Delhi, where the rates are the cheapest in all metros and most state capitals due to lower sales tax or VAT.

Petrol price was increased to Rs 78.51 per litre from Rs 70.30.

All LPG consumers have to buy the fuel at market price. The government, however, subsidises 12 cylinders of 14.2-kg each per households in a year by providing the subsidy amount directly in bank accounts of users.

This subsidy amount varies from month to month depending on the changes in average international benchmark LPG rate and foreign exchange rate.

When international rates move up, the government provides a higher subsidy. But as per tax rules, GST on LPG has to be calculated at the market rate of the fuel. The government may choose to subsidise a part of the price but tax will have to be paid at market rates.

This has led to increase in price.

“While the price of non-subsidised LPG at Delhi will increase by Rs 30.50 per cylinder in September mainly due to change in international price and foreign exchange fluctuations, the actual impact on subsidised domestic LPG customers is only Rs 1.49 per cylinder, which is mainly due to GST,” the statement said.

The subsidy transfer in customers’ bank account has been increased to Rs 320.49 per cylinder in September 2018 as against Rs 291.48 per cylinder in August 2018.

“Thus the domestic subsidised LPG customer is protected against the increase in prices of LPG,” it said.

Rates were last revised upward by Rs 1.76 on August 1.

Oil firms revise LPG price on 1st of every month based on average benchmark rate and foreign exchange rate in the previous month.

As a result of higher global rates, the price of non-subsidised LPG in Delhi will increase by Rs 30.50 per cylinder to Rs 829. This increase comes on back of Rs 35.50 per cylinder hike in August and Rs 55.50 in July.

The balance Rs 29.01 (Rs 30.50 minus Rs 1.49) is being compensated to the customer by the increase in subsidy transfer to their bank account. Accordingly, the subsidy transfer in the customer’s bank account has been increased to Rs 320.49 from Rs 291.48 in August and Rs 257.74 per cylinder in July.