TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY
January 14, 1999
Duty on imported sugar increased to 20 pc
The Government has hiked the basic customs duty on imported sugar from 5 per cent to 20 per cent. The decision comes after considerable lobbying by the sugar industry which had been seeking a minimum 40 per cent duty to thwart the threat of largescale imports at "dumped" prices. The Revenue Department will be issuing a notification to this effect tomorrow. The countervailing duty of ₹850 per tonne imposed along with the earlier 5 per cent basic customs duty has been retained, taking the total import duty to around 27 per cent.
Cabinet approval for revised EGA Bill
The Union Cabinet has approved a revised Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 1998 which seeks to tighten penal provisions against hoarders and blackmarketeers. Sources said that the revised Bill has kept intact most of the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, including the clause pertaining to the regular trial of offenders and the maximum imprisonment up to seven years. As against this, the original Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 1998 had proposed all offences to be tried in a summary manner by Special Courts that would have reduced the maximum imprisonment period to two years.
Nod for equity swap in oil cos
The Government has cleared the sale of ten per cent of its equity holding each in the state-owned oil companies — ONGC, IOC and GAIL — and five per cent each in VSNL and MTNL, either through the cross-holding method or through buyback of shares. The Cabinet approval for this method of divestment on Wednesday will enable the Government to raise well over Rs. 5,000 crores — the target set for disinvestment.