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Congress opposes move to let corporates enter banking sector

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New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday opposed the proposal to allow corporates and business houses enter the banking sector, contending that this move will leave the depositors at their mercy as it happened in the case of Yes Bank and Laxmi Vilas Bank.

Addressing a press conference, former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said: “The Congress party condemns the proposal and demands that the government, unequivocally and forthwith, declare that it has no intention of pursuing the proposal.”

“We call upon all the people of India and all political parties and trade unions to join us in resolutely opposing the retrograde idea of allowing corporates and business houses to enter the banking sector and set up banks,” he added.

The Congress alleged that the proposal, ostensibly based on a report of an RBI Internal Working Group, has the fingerprints of the Modi government written all over it.

This proposal, along with some other recommendations, is part of a deeper game plan to control the banking industry, it said, claiming that the proposal, if implemented, will completely reverse the enormous gains made in the last 50 years of retrieving the banking sector from the clutches of business houses.

Noting that all over the world, especially in developed economies, three principles govern banking — broad-based shareholding reflecting shareholder democracy, strict separation of ownership and management with ownership with shareholders and management in professional hands, and prohibition of connected lending, Chidambaram said that all three will be thrown out of the window if corporates and business houses are allowed to set up banks.

“Bank funds belong to the depositors who are the people of this country. As a proportion of total deposits, the equity of a bank is minuscule. The total deposits in the banking industry is of the order of Rs 140 lakh crore… If business houses are allowed to own banks, they will, with a small equity investment, control very large amounts of the nation’s financial resources. This must not happen and the Congress will strive its utmost to ensure that this will not happen,” Chidambaram said.

He said that it “is shocking that such an idea should have been presented to the people as though it has the imprimatur of experts and the endorsement of the RBI”.

“Just as the RBI was the cat’s paw of the government in the saga of demonetisation, the RBI is being used by the government to push through its dangerous agenda,” he said.

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Petrol, diesel prices remain unchanged at record high levels

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Retail fuel prices were unchanged on Sunday across the four metros. On Saturday, petrol and diesel touched fresh all-time high levels.

In the national capital, petrol was priced at Rs 85.70 per litre. In Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, petrol was sold at Rs 92.28, Rs 88.29 and Rs 87.11 per litre, respectively.

Although the pump prices of fuels were unchanged on Sunday, they have been elevated for long and have been touching new highs of late.

Global oil prices are above $55 per barrel currently. Crude prices have remained firm for the last couple of weeks in the wake of unilateral production cuts announced by Saudi Arabia and a pick up in the consumption in all major economies globally.

The last time the retail price of auto fuels were closer to current levels was on October 4, 2018 when crude prices had shot up to $80 a barrel.The current price rise is largely on account of steep increase in central taxes of petrol and diesel and firm crude prices.

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Fuel dearer again: Petrol prices up by 22-25 p/l, diesel by 24-26

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 Petrol and diesel prices rose sharply again on Saturday reaching new all-time highs as oil marketing companies (OMCs) decided to break the pause in revision of auto fuel prices to bridge the widening under recovery.

Accordingly, the pump price of petrol increased between 22-25 paisa per litre across all major metros on the day while diesel prices increased in the range of 24-26 paisa per litre.

With this, petrol is now priced at Rs 85.70/litre in Delhi as against Rs 85.45 a litre previously. Similarly, in Mumbai petrol prices increased to Rs 92.28 a litre, a 24 paisa increase from Friday’s price of Rs 92.04 a litre. In Chennai and Kolkata, petrol is now priced at Rs 88.29 and 87.11 a litre respectively, an increase of 22 and 24 paisa per litre from the previous day’s.

Diesel on the other hand faced sharper increase, rising by 26 paisa a litre in Mumbai from Friday’s level of Rs 82.40 a litre to Saturday’s retail price of Rs 82.66 a litre. In Delhi, diesel rose 25 paisa per litre to Rs 75.88 a litre; in Chennai by 24 paisa per litre to Rs 81.14 a litre and in Kolkata by 25 paisa per litre to Rs 79.48 a litre.

The increase in retail price of auto fuel came on a day when global crude prices showed some signs of softening declining by less than 1 per cent to close to $55 a barrel. Crude price have remained firm for last couple of weeks in the wake of unilateral production cuts announced by Saudi Arabia and a pick up in consumption in all major economies globally.

The increase petrol and diesel prices is fourth such revision this week. The auto fuels had risen sharply by 25 paisa per litre each on Monday and Tuesday before OMCs decided to give relief to consumers from frequent price rise for last two days.

With Saturday’s revision, the pump price of petrol and diesel has now increased by Rs 1.99 and Rs 2.01 per litre, respectively in January so far with OMCs deciding to break an earlier longer period of pause increasing the retail prices first time this year on January 6. The price had been raised on six different days since then.

The last few increases in pump prices in petrol and diesel has taken its price to record levels across the country in all major metro cities and other towns. The last time the retail price of auto fuels were closer to current levels was on October 4, 2018 when crude prices had shot up to $80 a barrel.

The current price rise is largely on account of steep increase in central taxes of petrol and diesel and firm crude prices.

Petrol price was very close to breaching the all-time high level of Rs 84 a litre (reached on October 4, 2018) when it touched Rs 83.71 a litre on December 7, 2020. But the march had been halted ever since then with no price revision by the OMCs in the month. The price rise started again only on January 6.

Oil companies executives said that petrol and diesel prices may increase further in coming days as retail prices may have to be balanced in line with global developments to prevent OMCs from making loss on sale of auto fuels.

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IndiGo to start Agra-Bengaluru flight from March

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As part of its strategy to bolster its regional connectivity, IndiGo has announced Agra as its 64th domestic destination. The airline will connect Agra to Bengaluru and Bhopal through direct flights under the RCS scheme from March 28.

A weekly flight to Goa is also likely to start early February, sources said.The bookings are open with one-way fares starting at Rs 2,523 for Bhopal and Rs 3,789 for Bengaluru.

Sanjay Kumar, Chief Strategy and Revenue Officer, IndiGo said, “We are pleased to have the Golden Triangle cities mapped on the 6E network, with the addition of Agra as our 64th domestic destination.

This will not only enhance connectivity for domestic travellers, but also aid in expanding international air traffic once restrictions are lifted and travel opens up.

Additionally, these connections will help promote tourism, trade and commerce, with Agra being home to multiple UNESCO world heritage sites, one of the hubs for leather goods production and known for its food and delicacies.”

The Agra tourism industry is upbeat as it expects a big inflow of tourists, both domestic and foreign, in the coming days. The industry had long been demanding air connectivity from Agra to major destinations in India. A lone flight to Jaipur was also halted some months ago.

The last 10 months saw a major setback to tourism, with the footfall of foreign tourists falling to just one per cent. The Taj Mahal and other monuments remained closed due to Covid-19 for over six months.

With restrictions now removed, the flow of visitors has increased and the hospitality industry is hoping to make good in the coming months. The daily evening cultural show at the Kalakriti Auditorium – Mohabbat the Taj – has resumed, as weekend crowds have begun thronging Agra again.

The inter-state buses have also begun operations, particularly to Delhi, from Monday, bringing relief to thousands of commuters heading for Palwal, Faridabad, Gurugram and other neighbouring areas.

Welcoming the announcement by IndiGo to start daily flights from Agra to Bangalore, Bhopal and Lucknow, Sunil Gupta, chairman IATO, northern region said “Tourists were hesitant to visit Agra as there are no flights which are usually considered very safe during the pandemic. We are hoping the number of visitors will now increase. We have demanded international flights also from Agra.”

Vice president of the Tourism Guild, Rajiv Saxena said “the flights will be very helpful and boost tourism in Agra. For the tourists, it will be such a big help as travel time would be reduced.”

Before the pandemic, Agra was annually visited by more than seven million tourists. “With three World Heritage monuments, and a number of other tourist attractions, plus Mathura and Vrindavan close by, Agra badly needed air connectivity.

But due to pressure from the Delhi lobby of hoteliers and travel agents, all kinds of hurdles were being created, but now the Modi government has taken a huge initiative which should see a turnaround in the fortunes of the hospitality industry in Agra,” said founder president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association, Surendra Sharma.

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