Morning briefing: Public sector banks strike today, SBI and private banks functioning

GN Bureau | January 8, 2016



Nearly 340,000 employees of public sector banks across the country are on strike today (Friday) to protest against the implementation of the new Career Progression Scheme (CPS). Some of the services, like cash handling at branch level and clearing of checks were affected in the banks where presence of All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) is strong. Private sector banks and country's largest lender SBI continues to function normally. As precautionary measures, most of the banks, including United Bank of India, had issued advisory to their customers saying they will take all necessary steps in terms of existing guidelines for smooth functioning of branches or offices on the day of strike, in the event it materialises on January 8.

The strike will have a great impact on the banking since January 9 will be a weekly holiday for banks. The trade unions said that the strike is in protest against the violation of the bilateral settlement by five associate banks of the State Bank of India (SBI), namely State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur and State Bank of Travancore.He said the five associate banks were bent on implementing the new CPS for their employees in violation of a bilateral agreement with their respective unions.

Billionaire Soros warns investors as global markets face crisis
Global markets are facing a crisis and investors need to be very cautious, billionaire George Soros told an economic forum in Sri Lanka on Thursday. China is struggling to find a new growth model and its currency devaluation is transferring problems to the rest of the world, Soros said in Colombo. A return to positive interest rates is a challenge for the developing world, he said, adding that the current environment has similarities to 2008. Global currency, stock and commodity markets are under fire in the first week of the new year, with a sinking yuan adding to concern about the strength of China's economy as it shifts away from investment and manufacturing toward consumption and services.

"China has a major adjustment problem," Soros has said. Almost $2.5 trillion was wiped from the value of global equities this year through Wednesday, and losses deepened in Asia on Thursday as a plunge in Chinese equities halted trade for the rest of the day. Measures of volatility are surging this year. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, known as the fear gauge or the VIX, is up 13%. The Nikkei Stock Average Volatility Index, which measures the cost of protection on Japanese shares, has climbed 43% in 2016 and a Merrill Lynch index of anticipated price swings in Treasury bonds rose 5.7%. China's Communist Party has pledged to increase the yuan's convertibility by 2020.

Hiring by manufacturing companies up in India
Top business school campuses are seeing a revival in hiring by manufacturing companies amid confidence that prospects are set to improve in 2016. Leading business schools including IIM Calcutta, IIM Trichy, MDI Gurgaon, IMI Delhi, IMT Ghaziabad and BIM Trichy have seen manufacturing companies hiring in large numbers after a lull of several years, reports Economic Times. Recruitment has risen by as much as 40%, both in the case of institutes that have completed final placements as well as others that are seeing a jump in the number of pre-placement offers (PPOs) besides laterals. Among companies that were first timers at campuses this year or are hiring after a gap of four-five years were the Hinduja Group, Honda Motor Co. of Japan, Hyundai Motor India, TVS Motor, the Murugappa Group, Sundaram Clayton, 3M, Bajaj Electricals, Saint Gobain and Welspun, according to placement cells. They joined regulars such as Tata Motors, Reliance, Tata Steel and Asian Paints.

Dense fog covers Delhi; 70 flights, over 130 trains delayed
Delhi woke up to a foggy Friday morning with visibility reduced to 50 metres by around 7 am. While surface traffic crawled at snail’s pace, the air and rail traffic took a major toll. The visibility at the Indira Gandhi International Airport Runways 27, 28, 29 was between 75-100 metres at 7 am, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Around 70 flights were delayed due to the heavy fog.  Not only flights, train services have been also affected badly as over 130 trains were running late and two trains were cancelled due to fog. “Entire city is enveloped with dense fog. Travel safe Delhi. Good Morning,” the Delhi Police tweeted “Due to poor visibility in #fog at #Delhi, departure delays are expected at Delhi airport. Pls check your flight status,” Jet Airways tweeted today. According to the India Meteorological Department, the weather forecast for Friday showed partly cloudy skies with moderate to dense fog likely to continue into the forenoon.

Indo-French military exercise 'Shakti-2016' begins in Rajasthan today
Indian and French troops will begin their eight-day counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency joint exercise in Rajasthan today. The French contingent comprising 56 personnel of 35th Infantry Regiment of 7th Armoured Brigade, which had taken part in the Afghan war, had arrived in Jodhpur on Wednesday to take part in 'Shakti-2016'. A French army contingent, led by Major Thibaut De Lacoste Lareymondie arrived on Thursday at the Mahajan Field Firing Ranges. The exercise is an important step for the armies to train together and gain from each other's rich operational experience, a statement by the Indian army said.

Rumblings over health warnings on tobacco packs
A parliamentary panel reviewing whether to put larger health warnings on cigarette packets has asked the health ministry for evidence to show that such a move would cut tobacco consumption. The panel, which has been criticised before by tobacco control activists for apparent conflict of interest as one of its members owns a tobacco business, sent a list of 32 questions to the health ministry. It asked the ministry to explain which ingredients in tobacco cause cancer and whether previous government surveys showed that graphic warnings led to a drop in tobacco usage, which is linked to as many as 900,000 deaths a year in India, the world's second-largest tobacco producer. Some questions cited concerns that larger warnings can hurt tobacco farmers and boost illicit trade. That surprised officials as they appeared to toe the industry line rather than focus on public health. One health official said they thought the questions were "almost identical to objections raised by the industry." "The panel is playing into the tobacco industry's ploy," said Shailesh Vaite, a member of the Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control, a group of more than 350 global organizations. Panel chairman Dilip Gandhi denied the panel had been influenced by the tobacco industry, and said it expects to have a report on its findings within 45 days. He declined to comment on the list of questions sent to the health ministry.

UGC seeks issues on safety & environment in syllabus
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked Universities to include provisions relating to safety and environment at work place in the syllabus of maximum courses in graduate and post graduate level. In a letter to Vice Chancellors of all Universities, UGC secretary Jaspal Singh Sandhu said the government is in the process of reviewing national policy on occupational safety, occupational health and the working environment. The aim of the policy is to prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of, linked with or occurring in the course of work by minimising as far as possible the causes inherent in the working environment, he said. The vice chancellors have been asked to include provisions of national policy on occupational safety, occupation health and working environment and create awareness of the same among affiliated colleges. They have been told to include issues on safety, health and environment at work place in technical, medical, professional and vocational courses and distance education programme. Universities have also been asked to integrate health and safety into vocational, professional and labour related programmes.

President signs ordinance amending enemy property act
President Pranab Mukherjee yesterday signed an ordinance amending the Enemy Property Act, 1968 to allow custodians to continue to hold sway over such properties. The ordinance is aimed at amending the provisions of the Act declaring that all enemy property vested in the 'custodian' of enemy property would continue to vest in the custodian irrespective of the death or extinction of the enemy. The main aim of the ordinance was to negate the effect of a Court judgment in this regard. The custodian of Enemy Property for India is an Indian government department that is empowered to appropriate property in India owned by Pakistani nationals. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was promulgated in 1968.The Modi government had long been wanting to amend the Act, a move mooted by its predecessor UPA regime. While the UPA government had promulgated the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance, the Bill introduced in Parliament could not be passed due to various issues, including differences within the government itself.

Industrialists want more FDI in multi-brand retail, e-commerce, education
The government should further ease Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms, especially in sectors such as multi-brand retail, education and e-commerce -- where its stance has been ambivalent till now, the country’s leading industry associations demanded. They also sought more liberalised norms for the insurance industry. In a pre-Budget meeting with the commerce and industry ministry on Thursday, industrialsits also raised concerns on the “adverse” impact of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) on local manufacturing and demanded support to boost manufacturing, exports and startups.

FTAs, they said, have led to import surges as a consequence of lower/nil duties. “We heard the industry’s perspectives on what the Centre and the State governments can do to boost investment, manufacturing, exports and startups,” Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmal Sitharaman told reporters after the meeting. “They raised concerns on FTAs. We will look into the surge in imports and take measures to raise the competitiveness of the local industry,” she said. On greater liberalisation of FDI in retail, FICCI said: “Taking into account the sensitivities regarding ‘protecting kiranas’, the government could consider allowing 100 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail in non-food segment such as electronics and apparel. In food space, there is scope to allow 100 per cent FDI in fresh food product retail.”

Ford Foundation allowed to operate under FEMA

The government-Ford Foundation dispute, which had taken many headline-grabbing turns, is over. Ford Foundation has been allowed an exception in its operating environment and the US-headquartered NGO has in turn climbed down from its earlier demand of maintaining the status quo whereby it worked in a legal limbo, with no specific regulation applying to it. Ford Foundation has been allowed by government to operate in India under Foreign Exchange Management Act (Fema), and therefore the ministerial watchdog will be finance ministry. Other NGOs operate under the ambit of the Foreign Contribution Registration Act (FCRA) and the ministerial watchdog is the home ministry. Ford Foundation will only need to inform home ministry in case it receives foreign donations.

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