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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chinese firms in India say situation is not 'too bad'

 INDIA TODAY

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh's outburst in Beijing notwithstanding, many Chinese companies operating in India do not feel the situation is too bad.
Dragon
Dragon on leash
With the exception of telecom equipment manufacturers such as Huawei, the ministry of home affairs has still not granted a hearing to the Chinese telecom equipment manufacturing companies waiting to clarify their stand. The Chinese ambassador is expected to meet the home secretary to seek a level playing field for these companies.
A Huawei official said the company had approached the ministry last week to seek an appointment but is still awaiting a response.
He said Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE have now gained a 15 per cent share in the Indian telecom market as their equipment is priced 30 to 40 per cent cheaper than their Western rivals Ericsson, Alcatel- Lucent and Nokia Siemens Networks.
Huawei sales have been growing rapidly in India and touched $ 1 billion in the last fiscal which is a 35 per cent jump over the 2008- 09, he added.
However, with the home ministry turning cautious due to security considerations, the Chinese companies are worried about losing their foothold in India.
The scare created by Chinese hackers targeting computer systems in India's security establishments has only added to the security concerns.
According to senior government officials, while Chinese companies are welcome to participate in Indian infrastructure projects, security issues in select areas cannot be ignored.
Chinese companies have a major presence in power, with Chinese firms bagging orders for setting up a third of the 60,000 MW of power capacity to be added in the 11th Five- Year Plan ( 2007- 12).
Leading Chinese companies such as Dongfang Electric and Shanghai Electric have been the major beneficiaries and have been allowed to compete openly with India's BHEL. The oil exploration and production sector is another field in which Chinese companies have been allowed to take up contracts.
But some restrictions have been placed in the eastern offshore region as the Indian Navy feels vital data pertaining to the sea could be misused by hostile submarines to creep into Indian waters. The Navy has a point as the Chinese have developed a strong military presence in Myanmar and this cannot be overlooked from the geo- political standpoint.
Restrictions have also been placed on Chinese companies operating in areas such as the North- East as Beijing claims these to be disputed areas. Officials claimed that there is no blanket ban.
According to Ravi Perti, GM marketing and communication, mobile division, Haier: "Generally, the Indian market is suspicious of Chinese products as they are considered of poor quality. And it is true to some extent. However as our quality is good, there is no issue. So far, we have established ourselves well and not faced any specific problem." However, Irfan Alam, council member, India China Economic and Cultural Council, feels Chinese companies do face some problems. " One of the biggest problems is visa. The visa process is not smooth for the Chinese companies". "On the policy level things should be smoother. People do not know when some Chinese product will be banned, so there is always an air of uncertainty about doing business," Alam said.
The same problem is faced by the Indian companies in China. So both governments should ease their policies if they want healthy economic ties, he said.
"Chinese companies certainly feel some bias. How can we be a threat to India as 80 percent of our workforce is Indian. This is like singling out Chinese company. If they are so particular about security why single out China?," a ZTE official said.

IAF rejects RTI application on questionable grounds

 THE HINDU

Four years after the Right to Information (RTI) Act was enacted to ensure easy access to information for citizens, officials are still rejecting applications on questionable grounds, which may make them liable for punishment.
The Indian Air Force headquarters rejected an RTI application saying that fee attached in the form of Indian postal order was drawn in favour of “Accounts Officer, Indian Air Force” and not “Air Force Public Fund Account, Air Headquarter, New Delhi” as per their internal rules.
The sub-section “RTI-regulation of Fee and Cost Rules, 2005” under the RTI Act section of Indian Air Force’s official web site clearly states that fee can be drawn in favour of Accounts Officer of the Public Authority, which in this case was the IAF.
When the concerned Central Public Information Officer, Wing Commander T. Sajan, was contacted, he said, “The information on the web site may be wrong. We don’t have any such head to accept the fee.”
The Department of Personnel and Training, nodal agency for the implementation of the Act, had in a circular dated December 5, 2008 to all ministries and departments of Government of India made it clear that RTI applications with fee drawn in favour of “Accounts Officer” should not be rejected.
“Refusal to accept an application on the ground that the demand draft/banker’s cheque/IPO submitted by the applicant has been drawn in the name of the Accounts Officer may amount to refusal to accept the application. It may result into imposition of penalty by the Central Information Commission on the concerned CPIO under section 20 of the Act,” it read.
When contacted, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said this was a clear case of violation of RTI Act and an immediate complaint should be filed with the CIC.
The Sports Ministry had last year rejected two applications seeking details of expenditure incurred on the preparation of Commonwealth Games.
“Your both applications along with postal orders are returned herewith as the information asked for is not readily existing and is not held by the public authority (Sports Ministry),” Pramod Agrawal, Director, International Sports Department of the Ministry, had said in his reply.
The cases are also seen by experts as an indication of poor training given to officials handling RTI requests.
Frequent change of postings too make it difficult to keep a tab on the regular updates which keep coming from Information Commissions and Department of Personnel and Training.
“Most of the officials have been trained but it is a difficult task. Frequent transfers also add to problem,” Mr. Habibullah said.

Globemaster will be flown to India for trials in June

 THE HINDU

The Indian Air Force's quest to acquire a tactical heavy lift transport aircraft from the United States will get under way with user trials scheduled for next month in India.
In the last week of April, the U.S. Department of Defense notified Congress of a letter of request from the Indian government for acquiring 10 of Boeing Globemaster III.
Briefing a group of correspondents at its facility here, company representatives said the aircraft, to be taken on lease from the U.S. Air Force, would be flown to India by June 21.
“Unlike many other countries that have brought these aircraft, the Government of India insists on trials, and we will be there in June,” Tommy Dunehew, vice-president, Business Development, Boeing, told The Hindu.
The trials would be one part of a possible $5.8-billion deal, negotiations for which will begin only after Congress approves the sale. The product Boeing offers is the latest Block 18 aircraft, and much will depend on the configuration the IAF will want.
It is for India to decide whether it wants to join the worldwide virtual fleet Boeing has set up with other countries — Australia, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, the UAE and the European Union consortium of 12 nations — that have bought these planes.
The IAF plans to base these tactical aircraft at Agra. They can carry 73,616 kg of payload and can be operated by a crew of just three (two in the cockpit and one loadmaster).
Delivery will begin 24 months after the contract is signed. At present, Boeing is producing one plane every three-and-a-half weeks, or up to 15 a year. Its current order book, including some 30-odd pieces for the U.S. Air Force, will run on till 2011. However, should India order these planes, the schedules will be negotiated, Mr. Dunehew said.
It is being deployed for disaster relief operations in various parts of the world. The U.S. Air Force has transported a brigade of men, tonnes of equipment and 400 vehicles over five nights, flying 17 shifts, he said, explaining the ability of the workhorse.
The plane can carry 188 passengers, has reverse thrust engines for short turnaround and equipped with missile warning system with flares to disengage the incoming missiles.