Best Cities to live in India

The relatively low crime rate and pleasant weather in the `City of Pearls’ has helped it hold on to its top rank among Indian cities in the latest Mercer Quality of Living Rating 2018.

Hyderabad has been able to retain its position as the top Indian city for the fourth year in a row, but has had to share the numero uno slot with Pune, which has been jumping up the ranking chart over the last two years.

The two cities ranked at the 142nd spot, the highest among the seven Indian cities, including Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi, that featured in the survey.

New Delhi, on the other hand, ranked the lowest among the Indian cities for the third consecutive year thanks to the continuing challenges it faces in terms of traffic and air quality.

Other metros, including Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru, also ranked lower on the Quality of Living Index than the relatively newer technology hubs of Pune and Hyderabad. Both the IT cities have been rising in the rankings, with Pune jumping three spots this year.

“While Hyderabad and Pune have jumped in rankings this year, they have done so relative to other cities, while showing negligible change on factors evaluated,” the report said.

Environmental factors such as relatively lower crime and climate hold Hyderabad in relative good stead, while Pune attracts due to its averagely good housing facilities and good availability of consumer goods for international employees,” the report said. In fact, all Indian cities surveyed scored high on factors such as communication and access to food consumables.

Globally, Vienna retained its top position among the list of 450 cities, the ninth consecutive year at the top of the Index. This was followed by Zurich, which ranked second, while Auckland and Munich shared the third spot.

Vancouver was the fifth top city worldwide with the best quality of living in North America. Singapore, with a score of 25 on the scale, was the highest ranked city in Asia and Montevideo, with a ranking of 77, the highest in Latin America.

A separate ranking on city sanitation, which analysed a city’s waste removal and sewage infrastructure, levels of infectious disease, air pollution, water availability and quality — all important aspects of a city’s attractiveness for both talent and businesses, was also introduced this year.

Amongst Indian cities, Bengaluru ranked the highest on this count at 194, followed closely by Chennai at 199 and Pune at 206 rank. However, both New Delhi and Kolkata ranked among the bottom five cities worldwide in terms of city sanitation, closely following each other at 228 and 227 rank respectively. Hyderabad ranked at 209 in the city sanitation ranking.

“The results show that Indian cities are yet to make any marked leaps on the quality of living scale, from 2017. However, this is the 20th anniversary of our survey globally and, though few Indian cities have decreased in their ranking, over a 20-year period these cities have been continuously improving their living standards. A key driver has been the considerable investment in physical infrastructure including airports, public transport and communication facilities — among the many factors used to evaluate city living standards,” said Padma Ramanathan, India Practice Leader, Global Mobility, Mercer.

Government confirms 39 Indians killed in Iraq by IS

Close to four years after 39 Indian workers went missing in Iraq, the government announced that the men were dead after their bodies were recovered from a hillock near Badush, not far from Mosul, and DNA tests had confirmed their identities.

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj made the announcement in a statement in the Rajya Sabha, saying DNA tests carried out by Iraq’s Martyrs Foundation had confirmed the identities of those killed. The men were feared to have been kidnapped by the Islamic State soon after Mosul fell to the terror group in June 2014.

The announcement was anticipated as the government, not having heard from any of the victims for months despite the liberation of Mosul in July 2017, had, in October last year, started collecting DNA samples of family members of the missing workers.

A lone survivor, Harjit Masih, who claimed to have played dead, had said that he saw other members of the group being killed. However, the government pursued leads from sources who it said had informed that the Indians were still alive.


Chennai Metro snippets

When Chennai's northernmost suburb is connected to the IT hub in the south in Phase 2 of metro rail, commuters will have eight interchange stations where they can shift between corridors to reach their destinations, including Central and Egmore railway stations and the airport.

The eight stations will allow commuters to traverse more than 91 km across two corridors.

Chennai Metro Rail Ltd officials said Madhavaram, Sholinganallur, Kilpauk, Thousand Lights, Mylapore, CMBT, Alandur and St Thomas Mount will be interchange stations where the two lines of Phase 2 intersect. Commuters will be able to shift between the two corridors in Phase 2 and the two corridors of Phase 1 in these stations.

People from Madhavaram will be able to alight at CMBT and get to the bus terminus or shift from the Phase 2 to the Phase 1 corridor to take a train to Egmore or Central or board a direct train to the airport. Commuters from Sipcot in Siruseri in the south will be able to alight at Alandur and shift to the Phase 1 corridor to get to the airport, CMBT or Central.

CMRL will first take up two of Phase 2’s three corridors — Madhavaram to Sipcot (46.1 km) and Madhavaram to Sholinganallur (45.2 km). It will start on a fourth corridor only after a final decision on its extension.

The three corridors will connect at four stations: Madhavaram, Sholinganallur, CMBT and Thirumaiylai (Mylapore).

The fourth corridor, between CMBT and the lighthouse (17.1 km), is to extend up to Poonamallee. CMRL will soon have a detailed project report prepared. There are stations in five localities, Kilpauk, Thousand Lights, CMBT, Alandur and St Thomas Mount. In Phase 2, CMRL will build facilities at these stations for commuters to easily move between corridors of the two phases.

In Phase 1, Alandur serves as an elevated interchange station and Central as an underground hub that connects the two corridors.

Domestic Air Traffic Up 24% in February

Indian airlines registered a more than 24% increase in passenger traffic in February compared with a year earlier. Indian carriers flew 10.7 million passengers in the past month, up from 8.6 million in February 2017, as per the DGCA.

All key scheduled carriers flew their planes with more than 80% seats full. SpiceJet maintained its pole position in terms of load factor at 96.3%, followed by IndiGo at 91.8% despite problems with its Airbus 320neo aircraft.

Vistara was a surprise third, flying its planes with 91.2% seats full, the highest ever for the airline that flies its planes in a three-class configuration: economy, premium economy and business.

In terms of operating flights on time, Jet Airways remained the worst performer for the fifth consecutive month. While Jet Airways operated 62.2% of its flights on time, SpiceJet topped the list operating 78% of its services on time. IndiGo was second at 74.8%.

SpiceJet said the February performance was the best ever for the airline in terms of both on-time operations and passenger load factor.

IndiGo remained the market leader, flying 39.9% of the industry passenger traffic. Jet Airways came in next with 16.8%, followed by national carrier Air India with 13.2%.

Travel industry insiders said the growth trend in the aviation space was set to continue in the coming months too.


Current Account Deficit Widens

India’s current account deficit, the excess of imports of goods and services over their exports, widened to 2% of GDP in the third quarter as oil prices rose and inbound shipments of electronics surged, likely dealing a blow to an already weakening rupee.

The deficit touched $13.5 billion in the three months ended December from $8 billion, or 1.4% of GDP, a year earlier and $7.2 billion (1.1% of GDP) in the preceding quarter.

The data showed the CAD widened due to a higher trade deficit of $44.1 billion on account of an increase in merchandise imports, mainly crude oil and other petroleum products, which accounted for more than 40% of India’s overall merchandise import bill. Crude oil prices have risen by over $10 a barrel between December 2016 and December 2017. Of late, there has been a surge in electronics imports as well.

Net services receipts increased by 17.8% from a year earlier on the back of a rise in earnings from software services and travel receipts. Private transfer receipts, mainly representing remittances by Indians employed overseas, amounted to $17.6 billion, an increase of 16%.

In the capital account, while net foreign direct investments at $4.3 billion were lower than $9.7 billion a year earlier, portfolio investments recorded a net inflow of $5.3 billion as against an outflow of $11.3 billion in Q3 last year on account of net purchases in both the debt and equity markets.Net NRI deposits amounted to $3.1 billion as against net repayments of $18.5 billion a year ago.

The overall balance of payments, including the position in the current account and the capital account, ended in a surplus of $9.4 billion on account of a $22 billion surplus in the capital account.


The Telugu Desam Party broke away from the National Democratic Alliance and joined ranks with arch-rival YSR Congress to move a no-confidence motion against the Centre. The step poses no threat to the BJP-led government at the Centre as the party has a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha.

TDP, which had earlier pulled out its ministers from the union Cabinet, did not want to cede any space to the YSR Congress on the locally emotive issue of obtaining special category status for Andhra Pradesh. The Speaker did not take up the motion on technical grounds that the House was not in order.

YSR Congress MP YV Subba Reddy had written to the Lok Sabha secretary general on Thursday giving notice for moving a no-confidence motion against the council of ministers. The party had also asked TDP to support the move.

TDP, which has been feeling the heat from YSR Congress over the last few months, decided to make common cause with its rival. Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu announced that TDP was withdrawing from NDA due to the Centre’s apathy towards the state, saying PM Modi did not meet him even once during his 29 visits to New Delhi to discuss the issue.

As a result, TDP MP Thota Narasimham also gave notice for moving a no-confidence motion. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan announced in the House that she has received the notice but could not take up the matter because Opposition members were crowding the well over different issues. She said the Chair will take up the issue on March 19.

On the numbers front, BJP is secure with 274 members, which excludes the Lok Sabha Speaker. For a no-confidence motion to qualify, at least 50 Lok Sabha MPs have to sign the letter. TDP has 16 members while YSRCP has 9. Shiv Sena is yet to take a call but with Congress and NCP working on an alliance in Maharashtra, the hope in BJP is that Uddhav Thackeray may not go the distance.

Shiromani Akali Dal, LJP, RLSP, Apna Dal and JDU are part of the NDA and despite some nagging issues and differences, BJP insiders said, they would not want to topple the government.

YSRCP and TDP are in the middle of a pitched battle in Andhra Pradesh. The YSRCP’s sustained high decibel campaign against TDP for failing to influence the Centre to grant special status to Andhra Pradesh despite being part of the NDA resulted in Naidu re-evaluating his political situation.

BJP, for its part, is now beginning to look at the positives like increasing its own footprint in the state, knowing well that it’s favourably positioned to reopen conversation with any of the two parties post 2019.


Exports Growth Dips to 4.48% in February

India’s merchandise exports growth slowed to 4.48% in February from 9.06% the previous month, hit by a fall in shipments of engineering goods, ready-made garments and gems and jewellery.

However, the trade deficit narrowed to $12 billion, a five-month low, as imports growth too slowed at 10.4% compared with 26% in January. Imports of gold and transport equipment shrank last month.

Exports totalled $25.8 billion, while imports were $37.8 billion.

Exports in 18 out of 30 sectors grew. The major groups showing year-on-year expansion were petroleum products (27.44%), organic & inorganic chemicals (30.41%), drugs & pharmaceuticals (13.92%), rice (21.29%) and electronic goods (29.71%). Gold imports, meanwhile, declined 17%.

However, industry was disappointed by this meagre increase in exports. EEPC India chairman Ravi Sehgal said it was disconcerting to see Indian exports faltering when the global economy was on an uptick.

In comparison to India’s exports, China’s shipments rose a whopping 44.5% in February, the strongest in three years.

With a high 20.4% expansion in services exports outpacing the 17.1% growth in services imports, the services surplus rose to a 25-month high of $6.5 billion in January 2018.

With banks tightening the noose around the gems and jewellery sector following the Punjab National Bank scam, the industry is not very optimistic on gold imports and gems and jewellery exports.

Slow disbursement of Goods and Services Tax refunds and currency volatility could also weigh heavily on exports, experts said.

In the first 11months of this fiscal year, merchandise exports rose 11% to $273.7 billion from a year earlier, while imports rose 21% to $416.9 billion.