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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

CBI Mumbai organised a record 30 trap cases in 2009

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The performance of the Mumbai Zone of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) in 2009 has been exemplary as it managed to register a record number of 30 "trap" cases. It outdid all other zones and branches in the country as it brought to book a considerable number of top notch officials from various government departments. It overshot the overall annual target by over 25 percent in the year gone by registering 52 cases, disposing 67 from investigation and 38 from trial.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Rishi Raj Singh, CBI Joint Director (west zone), enlisted the various prominent cases of corruption and disproportionate assets against various civil servants. The most important one was the arrest of Sarobjit Singh aka Sweety Baba, son of Buta Singh, Chairman of National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on July 31, 2009. Sarobjit Singh was wanted for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs 1 crore from a Nashik-based contractor to close a case against him in the Commission. "It was an important trap case where we also recovered three unlicensed arms. The charge sheet will be filed in the next 5 days" remarked Singh.

Other important trap cases were those that included top officers of various government departments accepting bribes and amassing wealth. The list includes the likes of Income Tax officials Additional Commissioner Kesh Kamat, Assistant Commissioner Rajkumar Bhatia Liladhar Humney, Asst. Wireless Advisor, Regional Licensing Office, and officers of departments like Food Corporation of India (FCI), Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel who were charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The CBI trapped RPF personnel who were allegedly collecting money illegally in an organised manner by demanding Rs 100 per passenger, amounting to nearly 1.60 lakh Rupees per day, for seats in the general compartment of trains originating from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, Mumbai.

A charge-sheet was filed against the then Commissioner of Customs & Central Excise P.K. Ajwani, who was found to have amassed wealth amounting to 10.76 crores which was over 2095 per cent dis-proportionate to his income. The CBI seized around Rs 6.15 Crores in cash from his official residence. Another Dis-proportionate asset case was registered against Shri Ajay Kumar Singh, Commissioner of Income tax, who has been charge-sheeted recently.

The amount involved here was Rs 4 crore. The CBI also uncovered a housing scam involving the quarters allotted to central government employees. It conducted widespread surprise inspections of 9000 Central Public Works Department Quarters in Mumbai that led to revelation of Nexus between the touts and officials of Estate Department. Over 300 quarters were found illegally occupied.

This unearthing of wrong doings by the agency has helped save a lot of tax payer's money. The collection of The Employees Provident Fund showed a spurt of nearly Rs 1500 crores owing to the actions of CBI which registered cases of corruption Dis-proportionate assets and cheating against the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Mumbai, and an Assistant Provident Fund Commissioner.

Seeking active co-operation from the citizens Singh remarked, "Over 70 percent of the cases that we dealt with were based on information that we received from the general public. This year too we urge the public to bring to our notice any objectionable practices and assure them of effective action." The CBI intends to outdo its performance in the coming year and reach out to all 35 districts and union territories in the Maharashtra taking complaints in person.
Source:Central chronicle

PFRDA's low-cost pension plan to take off on April 1

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The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) will launch a low-cost pension scheme on April 1 to provide social security cover to economically weaker sections like rickshaw pullers, barbers and daily-wage labourers.

"We would launch a low-cost pension scheme from April 1, 2010. Individuals could join the scheme as part of a self-help group," a PFRDA official told PTI.

Under the new pension scheme, a subscriber will have to initially pay Rs 105 and after that Rs 70 every year for maintenance of account. For normal scheme, the joining and annual charges are Rs 470 and Rs 350, respectively.

"Besides the initial payment, the account holder under the new scheme will have to pay Rs 35 to obtain Permanent Retirement Account Number (PRAN)," the official added.

There would be no lower limit for contribution to the pension fund, the official said, adding the Self-Help Group (SHG) can play a major role in popularising the scheme and supplementing the efforts of the government to promote financial inclusion and provide social security to a large number of people.

Initially, the government launched the New Pension System for central government employees joining service from January 1, 2004, but from May 1 this year it was extended to all citizens.

The response to the all citizens' pension scheme has, however, been lukewarm in the first few months.

According to information available on the PFRDA website, only 2,818 subscribers have joined the scheme till December 5.

The official further said the investment in the low cost pension scheme should only be made as a group though the subscribers would be allowed to maintain their individual accounts.

"There would be no minimum limit paid by the subscriber for the corpus. So the investment made for the corpus should only be made as a group," the official said.

Under the present structure, a person has to deposit a minimum of Rs 6,000 each year into his account.

The withdrawal of money from the corpus would follow the same rules as the existing structure.

At present, only 20 per cent amount can be withdrawn as lump sum if a subscriber wants to withdraw his pension corpus before the age of 60.

The subscriber has to invest at least 80 per cent to purchase a life annuity from any IRDA-regulated life insurance company.

In case of death, options would be available to the nominee to receive 100 per cent of the NPS pension wealth in lump sum.

There are six fund managers for the citizens' scheme. These include IDFC Mutual Fund, Kotak Mahindra, SBI, UTI Asset Management, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance and Reliance MF.
Source:Busines Standard

Central trade unions to oppose taxing of withdrawals from savings schemes

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The central trade unions will press for shelving of a proposal, that wants to tax withdrawals from savings schemes, including provident funds, at the pre-Budget meeting with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on January 14. “(The) Finance Minister has invited trade unions for pre- budget consultations on January 14,” All India Trade Unions Congress Secretary D L Sachdev told media.

Although the central trade unions are meeting here next week to prepare their charter of demands, he said, “we would definitely raise the issue of Exempt, Exempt Tax (EET) mode for savings schemes”.

The draft Direct Taxes Code (DTC), on which the government has invited comments from public, proposed to tax all long-term savings schemes at the time of withdrawal by the subscribers.

Currently, there are no taxes on long-term savings and pension schemes. Besides EET issue, Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) Secretary A D Nagpal said, “We will also demand for higher income tax slabs to provide relief to the working class.”

As part of the budgetary exercise, the minister meets the representative of different interest groups like economists, industrialists, trade unions etc to get their views on the budget. The trade unions, Sachdev said, would also press for the creation of a National Security Fund for urorganised workers in the country.

In view of unionists the funds should have a corpus of a size equal to three per cent of Gross Domestic Product of the country for the welfare of these workers.

The other major issue which could rock the meeting, is imposing service tax on the contributions made to the Employees Provident Fund scheme being run by the country’s largest retirement fund manager Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).

The issue came to light when some months ago, the Central Board of Excise and Customs slapped EPFO with a notice for not paying service tax on the contributions to these scheme. The scheme has around 4.7 crore subscribers across the country.

Strike by Port & Dock workers averted

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Labour Unions of the employees / workers of Major Ports had threatened to go on strike from midnight of 4th January, 2010 in protest against non acceptance of some of their demands on wage revision of Class III & IV employees which is due from 1.1.2007. The dead lock on various issues between the management and the Trade Unions was resolved with the intervention of Hon’ble Minister of Shipping. Wage Settlement for a period of 5 years has been reached between the management and the major federations of Port and Dock Employees / Workers. The settlement will benefit about 60,000 Port employees and workers and will be effective from 1st January, 2007. The employees will get a fitment benefit of 23% and the arrear of hike in their pay and allowances will be paid w.e.f. 1st January, 2007. It will add an extra burden of about Rs.450 crores per year on the major Ports.

Major Federations of Port & Dock workers while welcoming the goodwill gesture of the management and Hon’ble Minister of Shipping for conclusion of the wage settlement to the satisfaction of Port Workers promised for better efficiency and productivity to off set the extra burden on the exchequer of Ports.



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