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Customers may not eat, if they do not want to pay service charges, say Restaurants




New Delhi, January 3: A strong disagreement has sprung between industry and government body after the Department of Consumer Affairs reiterated on Monday that paying service charge is optional for customers.

Meanwhile National Restaurant Association of India in reply has said the statement will affect around 8.5 million employees associated with the food service industry. Riyaaz Amlani, President of NRAI criticised the government’s move and said that customers who are not willing to pay service charges are free to not choose the service.

He said: If this kind of statement is made without application of mind it will be extremely detrimental to the employees. It is not just the owner but all the employees who are associated with a restaurant including the dishwasher, the caretaker, the toilet cleaner, all depend on service charge. How can you take away their livelihood without application.

Currently, restaurants and eatries 5- 20 % service charge over the bill from the customers. The DCA on Monday issued a statement saying that customers dissatisfied with service at any hotel or restaurant can opt for the service charge not being levied, as this is optional or discretionary.

Amlani in a relpy said, “It is a matter of policy for a restaurant to decide if service charge is to be levied or not.” He  further said information regarding service charge is clearly mentioned by restaurants on their menu cards so customers are well aware of this charge before availing the services and can use their discretion of not using the facility offered by the restaurant.

The decision was taken in lieu of complaints received from consumers that they were “forced to pay irrespective of the kind of service provided”, the department said.

“This decision is a double-edged sword. If the same becomes voluntary then the salaries will have to be renegotiated and the whole industry would go into a tizzy,” Shivam Bhaskar, owner of Number 31 said.

A clarification was sought from the Hotel Association of India which replied that the “service charge is completely discretionary and should a customer be dissatisfied with the dining experience they can have it waived off”, as per the department.

The department has asked the state governments to advise hotels and restaurants to disseminate information, such as through displays, that “the service charges are discretionary or voluntary” and to sensitise the companies, hotels and restaurants regarding provisions of the Act.

Wefornews Bureau


Global sell-off drags Indian equities to 5-month lows




Mumbai, March 24 : A global sell-off triggered by trade protectionist measures imposed by major world economies unleashed the bears in the Indian equity markets during the week, pushing the key indices — NSE Nifty50 and BSE Sensex — to their 5-month lows.

Apart from the prospects of escalating trade wars, the risk-taking appetite of investors was marred by rising crude oil prices, the ongoing turmoil in the domestic banking system as well as the uncertainty on the political situation in the country.

On a weekly basis, the barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE shed 579.46 points or 1.75 per cent to close at 32,596.54 points — its lowest closing level since October 23, 2017.

On the National Stock Exchange (NSE), the wider Nifty50 ended below the psychologically important 10,000-mark and closed trade at 9,998.05 points — down 197.1 points or 1.93 per cent from its previous week’s close — its lowest closing level since October 11, 2017.

“Benchmark indices Sensex and Nifty fell 1.75 per cent and 1.93 per cent respectively during the week, posting their longest stretch of weekly losses in 16 months as the domestic market joined a global sell-off triggered by prospects of a trade war,” Arpit Jain, Assistant Vice President at Arihant Capital Markets, told IANS.

According to D.K. Aggarwal, Chairman and Managing Director of SMC Investments and Advisors, the global stock market traded lower after US President Donald Trump announced sweeping tariffs on Chinese goods, a move that has heightened concerns that the global trade war will escalate.

“Back at home, dragged by escalating trade tensions among global economies, the Indian stock market too witnessed selling pressure amid other domestic factors. Since the beginning of the year domestic market witnessed some hiccups on the back of imposition of LTCG (long term capital gains) tax, liquidity issues, rising bond yields and volatile global markets,” Aggarwal told IANS.

“Also, a surge in crude oil prices impacted the market sentiment. The Indian rupee, too, witnessed a volatile move ahead of Fed rate-hike and global trade war concerns,” he added.

On the currency front, the rupee weakened by eight paise to close at 65.01 against the US dollar from its previous week’s close at 64.93.

“Sentiments were affected by rising crude oil prices, bond yields and a troubled domestic banking system. Uncertainty around the political situation in the country added to the woes, and collectively dragged the sentiment across the street,” Gaurav Jain, Director at Hem Securities, told IANS.

Provisional figures from the stock exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors purchased scrips worth Rs 2,524.13 crore and the domestic institutional investors (DIIs) scrips worth Rs 211.91 crore during the week.

Figures from the National Securities Depository (NSDL) revealed that foreign portfolio investors invested in equities worth Rs 2,060.04 crore, or $316.99 million, during March 19-23.

“The market breadth was negative in three out of the five trading sessions of the week. The top sectoral losers were realty, metal, Bank Nifty and pharma indices. There were no gainers,” said Deepak Jasani, Head – Retail Research, HDFC Securities.

The top weekly Sensex gainers were: NTPC (up 2.90 per cent at Rs 170.15); IndusInd Bank (up 1.36 per cent at Rs 1,750.20); Power Grid (up 1.04 per cent at Rs 194.25); Hindustan Unilever (up 0.05 per cent at Rs 1,299.75); and Larsen and Toubro (up 0.01 per cent at Rs 1,267.75).

The losers were: Yes Bank (down 8.37 per cent at Rs 286.70); ICICI Bank (down 7.48 per cent at Rs 275.80); State Bank India (down 7.13 per cent at Rs 234.60); Tata Steel (down 5.65 per cent at Rs 566.60); and Axis Bank (down 4.29 per cent at Rs 501).

(Porisma P. Gogoi can be contacted at [email protected])

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As projects pile up, Railways turn to DPRs for those worth over Rs 50 crore




New Delhi, March 24: Faced with massive cost-overruns and procedural wrangles over certain projects, Indian Railways has decided against approving any works above Rs 50 crore without a detailed project report (DPR).

All works costing above Rs 50 crore shall be approved only after preparation of DPRs that contain detailed estimates, except for new lines and gauge conversion, according to a directive issued by the Railway Board last week.

There are more than Rs 1 lakh crore worth of projects pending — some of them for years — across the country due to clearance hurdles and cost-escalations, adding to the financial burden of the cash-strapped Railways.

“Many projects have been pending for years without any substantial progress because these were taken up without any proper planning and detailed estimates,” said a senior Railway Ministry official.

Several projects are stuck with issues like forest clearances, land acquisition, coastal zone regulation and other local issues.

“All this has not only caused cost-escalations but has resulted in a heavy backlog and burden on the financial condition of the Railways,” he added.

As per norms, budgetary allocations have to be made for each of these projects every year. If the projects are dropped, then the money allotted for them can be diverted to profitable and viable projects. But these can’t be deleted by the Railways as they were part of the budget and passed in Parliament and withdrawal has to happen after approval of Parliament.

According to last week’s decision, all these issues would be taken into account in the DPR and the project would be sanctioned on the basis of the detailed estimate now.

If a DPR is prepared, only serious projects will come up and no frivolous or non-feasible ones will be taken up for consideration, the official said.

In order to strengthen its project execution and monitoring mechanism, the Railways has also launched a web-enabled remote eye monitoring system developed by Rail Vikash Nigam Ltd (RVNL).

The national transporter has asked the RVNL to monitor important projects with the use of drones and project management software.

RVNL, a special purpose vehicle created by the Railways for execution of engineering works, has also been asked to develop a special web-enabled project management software to monitor rail projects which can be integrated with monitoring of plans, remote eye monitoring system and images captured by drones.

(Arun Kumar Das is a senior Delhi-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at [email protected])


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Nifty50 closes below 10k mark, Sensex sheds over 400 points




Mumbai, March 23: Escalating fears of trade war leading to a sell-off in the global markets spooked domestic investors and pulled the Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) below the 10,000-level on Friday while the BSE Sensex provisionally closed over 400 points lower.

According to market observers, selling pressure was observed across all sectors led by banking, metals, automobile, capital goods and healthcare stocks.

The NSE Nifty50 provisionally closed lower by 116.70 points or 1.15 per cent at 9,998.05 points (at 3.30 p.m.).

The barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE, which opened at 32,650.89 points, closed at 32,596.54 points — down 409.73 points or 1.24 per cent from the previous session’s close.

The Sensex fell over 500 points to touch a low of 32,483.84 points during the intra-day trade.

The BSE market breadth was bearish with 2,093 declines and 603 advances.

Index heavyweights like Axis Bank, Yes Bank, ICICI Bank, State Bank of India and Bajaj Auto were amongst the top losers on the BSE.

On Thursday, negative cues on the back of global protectionist measures, higher interest rates in the US and a hike in crude oil prices, along with selling pressure in banking, auto and capital goods stocks depressed the key indices.

The Nifty50 fell by 40.50 points or 0.40 per cent to close at 10,114.75 points while the Sensex closed at 33,006.27 points — down 129.91 points or 0.39 per cent.


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