20.9.19

Foreign investors have sold $4.5 bn of stocks since June

The flailing Indian economy — repercussions of which have been witnessed for five quarters — is now showing signs of global repercussions. The aftermath has been building for the last six years, since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival to power, when $45 billion were poured into the stock market looking at the economic potential. Now, the situation circling the drain with the international money managers pulling out at a never-before-seen pace. According to a Bloomberg report, they have sold $4.5 billion of Indian shares since June — the “biggest quarterly exodus since at least 1999”.

At present, car sale and capital investments have nosedived. The unemployment rate is the highest almost 50 years and the banking sector is marred with bad loan ratio. These factors have invited scathing critiques from economists all over the world. For instance, Bloomberg recorded a statement from Salman Ahmed, a London-based chief investment strategist, which pointed at Modi’s “fading euphoria”.

Investors have been claiming that Modi has been slow to act on much needed reforms around labour laws and selling of state-owned companies. However, if the pace continues, growth plans for international firms might take a hit, directly affecting jobs. Furthermore, his decisions of demonetisation and introduction of goods and service tax have been criticised. The recent efforts in escalating the growth are focussed on short-term goals as the US-China trade war weighs on emerging markets globally.

However, this fiscal ammunition is hampered by budget deficits and indebted state-owned companies. This has caused his own advisors to issue cautionary and shift his focus on major reforms.

This, however, has not stopped from loyal supporters to issue generalised statements on how the government is harnessing every bit to promote economic growth. An example of this can be seen in Niti Aagoy CEO Amitabh Kant’s statement on September 18.

“If you look at the last five years, India’s growth on an average was of about 7.5 per cent. The growth story has dipped to five per cent in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2019-20. Both, the RBI and the government are active on this,” Kant said while delivering keynote address on Fostering a Culture of Innovation’ at an All India Management Association event.

Whereas RBI has brought down the repo rate by 110 basis points, the government took a series of measures and gave three economic boosters, he said, adding it will continue to do so.

“The government is active, the fundamentals of Indian economy are intact and we will continue to do whatever it required to take India back to high trajectory growth rate,” Kant said.

This has left room for investors, who want to see certain kinds of change. Their desires include privatisation of more state-run companies, easier hiring and firing of workers, loose restrictions on land purchases and so on. 

We’ve to hug every Kashmiri : PM

PM Modi called for the building of a “new Kashmir” even as he took a dig at NCP chief Sharad Pawar for his recent comments on Article 370 and Pakistan.

“So far Hindustanis would say ‘Kashmir hamara hai’ (Kashmir is ours). But from now on, every Indian will say, ‘Hame naya Kashmir banana hai, wahan phir se ek baar swarg banana hai, har Kashmiri ko gale lagana hain’ (We have to make a new Kashmir, we have to make it paradise again, we have to hug every Kashmiri),” Modi said.

Mazagon Docks gives Navy its second Scorpene submarine


India's second Scorpene-class submarine, INS Khanderi, built for superior stealth and launching crippling attacks on the enemy using precision-guided weapons, was delivered to the Navy. Made by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, it will be commissioned at Naval Dockyard by defence minister Rajnath Singh on September 28.

The submarine inherits its name from a predecessor that served in the Navy during 1968-89 and was christened after Chhatrapati Shivaji’s island fort of Khanderi. An inspiration is also the wide-snouted saw fish, a deadly predator of the Indian Ocean which bears the same name.

INS Khanderi is among MDL’s six such submarines. The first, INS Kalvari, was commissioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2017. “Scorpeneclass submarines can undertake multifarious tasks, including anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare,” a MDL spokesperson said.

A contract with French company Naval Group (earlier called DCNS) was signed in 2005 for the supply of six submarines. The French-designed subs are being built by MDL as part of Indian Navy’s Project-75, which has witnessed significant delays and cost escalation.

The third of the submarines, Karanj, was launched in January 2018 and is undergoing rigorous sea trials. The fourth, Vela, was launched in May this year and is being prepared for sea trials. The remaining two, Vagir and Vagsheer, are in various stages of outfitting.

On September 28, the defence minister will also launch INS Nilgiri, the first ship of the P17A frigates.

Mumbai gets state-of-the-art dry dock


The country’s first state-of-the-art dry dock, which was successfully tested yesterday with the warship INS Kolkata, will be commissioned on September 28.

Naval officers said the dock will be dedicated to the Indian naval command and has the capacity to dock the aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, for repair and maintenance, not to speak of nuclear submarines. With a length of 281 metres, width of 45 metres and depth of close to 17 metres—almost equivalent to a five-storey building—the dry dock is nothing short of a construction marvel.

“It will not only reduce vessel maintenance expenses that the Navy incurs at private shipyards, but will also enhance defense capability to load advanced arms and ammunition onto out premiere warships,” said an officer.

The dock, equipped with robotic machinery, can overhaul ships in quick succession. It has a facility to enable container trucks carrying ship spare parts to station themselves along repair bays, so that engineers don’t have to waste time procuring the parts from a distance.

The nine-year construction of the dock was preceded by a major operation to remove sunken ships and barges from the site, as well as the removal of bedrock to accommodate the massive structure, which comprises fit-out berths, caisson (a type of lock gate that is opened for a ship's entry into the dock) and a cofferdam.

Unlike the country’s other dry docks, the new one is built out into the sea and is surrounded with saline water on three sides. The other docks are landwards and only open into the sea.

19.9.19

Drone-based digital mapping of country begins with Karnataka, Maharashtra


An ambitious drone-based digital mapping project is under way to create a more accurate and realistic view of every nook and corner of the country.

Work on the project began in Karnataka, Haryana, Maharashtra and the Ganga basin a few months ago. The project is being undertaken by Survey of India, with the support of department of science and technology and inputs from several government agencies like Archaeological Survey of India and Forest Survey of India.

According to Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, DST, the map will have a higher resolution than that of Google Maps. Such a project is being executed on such a large scale for the first time after almost two centuries when British surveyors Colonel Sir George Everest and his predecessor William Lambton first scientifically mapped the country in 1767.

“Digital mapping has never been done. This comprehensive map will show the exact state, district and country boundaries,” Sharma told mediapersons at Indian Institute of Science.

He said five years ago, the gargantuan project would have cost the government Rs.10,000 crore but is now expected to be completed at Rs.1,000 crore with deployment of far more advanced technology.

“We have picked the states based on their enthusiasm for the project. For instance, Haryana will fund it completely and for the Ganga basin, Namami Gange agency will share the cost. Several agencies have come forward with contributions for the project,” Sharma explained.

The map will be available in the public forum with features highlighting hospitals, canals and other minute details. Survey of India has set reference points called Continuously Operated Reference Stations networks at intervals of 20 km across the country, which increase the accuracy by 10 times as well as provide instant online 3D positioning, Sharma said.

With several organisations involved in the mapping endeavour, extensive groundwork will be done to match the aerial findings of drones, he added.

“Citizens will be able to make informed choices while buying properties. The map will help them understand where the property is located and its accessibility, among several other key details,” he said.

Trump to join ‘Howdy, Modi’


The White House has formally confirmed that US President Donald Trump will participate in the ‘Howdy, Modi’ rally in Houston, Texas, on September 22 leading up to PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the US next week. The joint appearance at such a large rally will be unprecedented in the annals of US-India relations, and indeed in the chronicles of US ties with any country.

“The event, ‘Howdy, Modi! Shared Dreams, Bright Futures’, is expected to draw tens of thousands of people. It will be a great opportunity to emphasize the strong ties between the people of the United States and India, to reaffirm the strategic partnership between the world’s oldest and largest democracies, and to discuss ways to deepen their energy and trade relationship,” the White House said in an announcement affirming Trump’s decision to attend the event.

Modi has also expressed delight over Trump joining the event. “A special gesture by @POTUS, signifying the special friendship between India and USA! Delighted that President @realDonald-Tru- mp will join the community programme in Houston on the 22nd. Looking forward to joining the Indian origin community in welcoming him at the programme,” he tweeted on Monday. “The special gesture of President @realDonaldTrump to join us in Houston highlights the strength of the relationship and recognition of the contribution of the Indian community to American society and economy.”

The Houston rally, the third such event by PM Modi in the US after breakthrough public meetings in New York at the Madison Square Gardens in 2014 and in Silicon Valley in 2017, is expected to surpass anything hosted for or by a foreign leader on American soil. Texas India Forum that is hosting the event, said over 50,000 attendees have registered in three weeks for the sold-out event. In fact, it is hard to recall an instance of such a large political rally in US, not even for Trump or his predecessor Barack Obama at the peak of their popularity. Crowds of this size are only seen at major sporting events such as the Superbowl.

Beyond Trump’s fondness for crowds and spectacle, his decision to attend the rally also has three elements to it.

The primary purpose, as underscored by the White House, is to showcase the close ties between the two nations, a significant signal given tensions in the subcontinent. But there are also domestic reasons for Trump’s decision. Aside from being the fourth-largest US city, Houston is also its energy capital. And India is a large energy guzzler that is buying significant amounts of oil and gas from the US, a supply that is expected to go up given the disruption in the Gulf. A third reason for Trump’s decision to attend has to do with domestic politics. Texas could be up for grabs in 2020 and the over 2.5 lakh Indian-American votes would matter. Although it has been Republican since 1976, it is said to be turning purple, and Democrats are hoping for an upset.


Crazy!

Not just Uttar Pradesh, the state exchequer has been bearing the burden of income tax of serving chief ministers and their council of ministers in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh too for several years.

The UP treasury had been paying the I-T of all CMs and ministers since 1981, when the UP Ministers’ Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Act, 1981 was passed during the tenure of V P Singh on the grounds that the ministers were “poor” and “cannot pay income tax from their own meagre earnings”.

Hours after the TOI published the report, UP CM Yogi Adityanath announced that he would repeal the controversial provision in the Act. Of the five states where CMs and their ministers are exempt from paying I-T, the treasury has been bearing their tax burden in Haryana and HP since 1966, when the two states were carved out of Punjab.

In Punjab, the state treasury had been paying taxes on salaries, allowances and various perks of its CMs and ministers till March 18, 2018, when Captain Amarinder Singh stopped the practice by amending The East Punjab Ministers’ Salaries Act, 1947.

In Uttarakhand, the treasury has been bearing the tax burden of its CM, ministers, assembly speaker, deputy speaker and leader of the opposition ever since the Himalayan state was carved out of UP on November 9, 2000. Since then, the state has seen eight CMs and scores of others whose taxes were paid by the state exchequer. However, Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat indicated that he would follow his UP counterpart in repealing the controversial provision of the Act.

In MP, the state treasury started bearing the tax burden of ministers of all ranks as well as the parliamentary secretary with retrospective effect from April 1, 1994.

This was done during then CM Digvijaya Singh’s regime when The Madhya Pradesh Mantri (Vetan Tatha Bhatta) Adhiniyam, 1972 was amended in June 1997.

As per the amendment, “All allowances payable and furnished residence without payment of rent and other perquisites admissible to a minister, a minister of state, a deputy minister and a parliamentary secretary under this Act shall be exclusive of income tax which shall be payable by the state government at the maximum rate payable by a minister, a minister of state, a deputy minister or a parliamentary secretary, as the case may be.”