TN UMPP snippets

NTPC, Jindal Power and Adani Power are among eight companies to have responded to the proposed Rs.24,200 crore ultra mega power project at Cheyyur in Tamil Nadu, signaling a good investor response, the Power Finance Corp said.
Larsen & Toubro, GMR Energy, Sterlite Infraventures and JSW Energy have also submitted technical bids for the project based on imported coal, it said. CLP India is the only foreign company to be in fray for the project. Thursday was the last day to submit technical bids for the 4,000-MW project.
Power Finance Corp, bid coordinator for UMPPs, will later call price bids from the qualifying companies. Tata Power, which is operating an imported coal-based ultra mega power project at Mundra in Gujarat, did not bid. The PFC statement said the response highlights the high degree of comfort and confidence the investors perceive owing to the state of preparedness of the project.
“Environment clearance, forest clearance and water linkage for the project are in place and land for the project is expected to be in possession shortly,” it said.
The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission has reserved judgments on tariff hike pleas made by Tata Power and Adani Power for their imported coal based projects of 4,000-MW in Gujarat. The companies claim that rising costs of coal due to regulatory changes in Indonesia that meets 50% of India’s coal imports have made operating thermal power projects economically unviable.
Private power companies had earlier opposed the new bidding norms for ultra mega power projects that do not give companies ownership of land and coalmines. The companies had also opposed clauses related to sourcing made-in India equipment, cap on fuel charges and intrusive role of independent engineers.
On Monday, PFC received bids from nine companies for a domestic coal-based ultra mega power project at Bedhabahal in Odisha. PFC has offered the two ultra mega power projects to developers under the new bid guidelines.

Of Internet in Rural India....

Months ahead of the national elections, the government has doled out an internet bonanza for rural India as it cleared a proposal to provide three internet connections and one wi-fi hotspot in each of the 2.5 lakh gram panchayats spread across the country. The project, which is expected to be completed by March 2016, will ride on the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) being developed by the government and provide internet connectivity across the rural belt of the country, linking crores of villagers to the worldwide web.
The measure was mooted by the Department of Telecom (DoT) and received a go-ahead by the inter-ministerial Telecom Commission (TC) .
The total cost of the broadband project has been pegged at Rs.3,750 crore, a source said, adding that this will be funded by the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund. Operating expenses are estimated at Rs.1,860 crore. “An in-principle approval has been given to the proposal and the project will be spread over three phases, with final completion envisaged on March 31, 2016,” the source said.
A detailed project report (DPR) will now be prepared to work on the modalities of the rollout.
The government had cleared the Rs.20,000 crore NOFN project in October 2011 to provide connectivity to the gram panchayat level. At present, optical fibre cable connectivity is available in all state capitals, districts, HQs and up to the Block level. The idea of the NOFN project was to connect the blocks to the gram panchayats.
This will be done by utilizing existing fibres of PSUs (BSNL, Railtel and Power Grid) and laying incremental fibre to connect to Gram Panchayats, wherever necessary. Dark fibre network thus created will be lit by appropriate technology, thus creating sufficient bandwidth at the gram panchayats.

China objects to Pranab visiting Arunachal

India and China traded another round of diplomatic blows with Beijing officially taking up with New Delhi President Pranab Mukherjee’s Arunachal visit. While it made its reservation public earlier in the day, China decided to up the ante later by taking up the issue bilaterally with India, much to the chagrin of authorities here. According to sources, India reacted promptly by giving an appropriate response to Beijing. Indian officials reiterated what Mukherjee said in Itanagar, that Arunachal Pradesh was an integral part of India. Beijing is said to have conveyed to India that official visits to Arunachal were not in the interest of ties between the two countries. 

Of economic growth @ 4.8%....

Abundant monsoon rains and higher farm activity pushed up economic growth to 4.8% during the September quarter and reversed the trend of a sluggish pace of expansion. Gross Domestic Product had grown 4.4% during the first quarter of the current financial year, compared to 5.2% a year ago.
The bad news is that economic growth remained below 5% for the fourth quarter in a row, while it was estimated at 4.6% during the first half (April-September) of the current financial year.
While almost all sectors fared better in Q2 of the current financial year, agriculture—the usual laggard—emerged as the star, clocking a 4.6% rise against 1.7% a year ago, the Central Statistics Office data showed. Agriculture, forestry and fishing made up for the weakness in manufacturing, which grew by 1%, with construction (4.3%) and finance and realty (10%) ensuring the quarterly performance was better than what economists had predicted.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

MMRDA carried out a trial of the Metro from Versova to Ghatkopar at 5 am on Thursday.

Of Pune's BDP reservation....

The state town planning (TP) department will start hearing suggestions and objections on the Biodiversity Park (BDP) reservation in 23 villages merged in the Pune city limits on Saturday. The hearing will go on for nine days.
After their merger in 1997, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) took eight years to prepare a DP, which was sent to the state government on December 12, 2005. In December 2011, the state government approved the DP, but chief minister Prithviraj Chavan avoided a decision on the BDP.
The draft DP recommended that about 1,600 hectare in these fringe villages (mostly hilltops and slopes) be reserved for BDPs. This includes 978 hectare of privately owned land while the rest is government land. The civic body has to acquire the private land by paying its owners compensation.
With politicians across party lines demanding 4-10% construction in the BDPs and environmentalists opposing it, Chavan had appointed a sixmember committee headed by KB Jain, dean, faculty of doctoral studies, Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad. It recommended that the BDP reservation on the hills, forest and other green areas in these villages stay. It suggested that the PMC execute the BDP as ‘mission development’ since it will improve the quality of life in Pune city.
The state government accepted the Jain committee report in 2013 and issued a notification. The NCP, headed by Vandana Chavan, had then submitted suggestions supported by 14,000 citizens which recommended the BDP. During the first hearing of DP for 23 merged villages, citizens had filed about 86,000 suggestions and objections, of which over 82,000 had supported the BDP.
After hearing suggestions and objections the state TP department will submit its report to the state government, which will seal the fate of BDP.

Somewhere in Jaipur....

A test run of Jaipur Metro was carried out by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation on a 6.5 km track from Mansarovar to Civil Lines on Thursday. This was part of preparations for the visit of Research Designs & Standards Organisation team on December 20. Earlier, this trial was supposed to be conducted till Shyam Nagar only.


Progressive Punjab

After Vibrant Gujarat....Magnetic Maharashtra....here comes Progressive Punjab !!

4G stats

Shivaji Memorial update

The Maharashtra state government said that the bhoomipujan (foundation laying ceremony) for the 312 ft-tall Shivaj statue would be performed in April-May, and that it will approach the Centre for in-principle approval after the feasibility and impact studies are completed in the next four months.
Guardian minister of Mumbai and the head of the high-power committee for the statue Jayant Patil said the project was on track. “Nearly 16 surveys and studies need to be conducted at and around the site in the Arabian Sea off Marine Lines in south Mumbai. Experts from National Environmental Engineering Research Institute are conducting the surveys, which require eight months to complete as they have to be done in all three seasons. Once the studies are completed in the next four months, we will approach the central government for primary approval. The bhoomipujan for the project would be done by April-May next year,” he said.
The minister said he recently visited the Statue of Liberty in the United States for the project. “We had a long discussion with the people associated with the national monument of the US. We have also brought a few documents, which will help us in preparing the design of the Shivaji statue,” Patil said.
“The statue is not a political agenda for us. We are concentrating on ensuring it is an iconic project. Environmental permission for a statue in the sea is a herculean task, but we will be able to expedite the project after the studies are completed,” the guardian minister said.
Patil said they have invited expressions of interest from architects across the globe.

The statue was announced by the Congress-NCP combine in their manifesto ahead of the 2004 elections. The DF government has been facing flak as the project has hardly progressed in nine years.

Tata's opt out of Bank Licence Race

The Tata Group called off plans to set up a bank and withdrew its licence application, implying that the Reserve Bank of India’s conditions were restrictive and conforming with them would affect its other businesses besides having to ensure that more than 1,000 units were compliant with requirements.
This follows the finance arm of another big industrial group, Mahindra & Mahindra, having dropped its plans for a licence even before the application deadline. Of India’s biggest corporate houses, only the Aditya Birla Group and the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group now remain in the reckoning. The withdrawal by Tata Sons leaves 24 out of 26 applicants in the fray, with some of them displaying a lack of enthusiasm because of the stipulations. Value Industries of the Videocon Group is the other applicant to have withdrawn. RBI has indicated it will announce the shortlisted aspirants by January. “Tata Sons has reached a conclusion that the group’s current financial services operating model best supports the current needs of the Tata Group’s domestic and overseas strategy, and provides adequate operating flexibility to its companies, while securing the interests of the group’s diverse stakeholder base,” it said in a release.
The model suggested by RBI requires aspirants to move financial services to a holding company, one of the hurdles the Tatas cited. Bank

To be sure, a bank would have fit well with its current bouquet of financial services that include mutual funds, insurance, housing loans and automobile finance. Still, RBI’s move to make banking licensing an ongoing process rather one that operates to a deadline, gives entities the flexibility of being able to apply at a later stage if they want to, said a senior consultant who did not want to be named. Finance Minister P Chidambaram and RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan have indicated that they are looking to the new banks to drive financial inclusion across the country rather than focusing on the urban markets that are catered to by existing institutions. The move to issue differential licences may also have prompted the Tatas to pull out, said another consultant. This suggests those who want to cater to a niche area may not have to comply with all the rules.
The Tatas also cited the more than 1,000 companies in the group’s fold as yet another reason for the withdrawal. “It was impossible to complete a detailed assessment, seek the requisite approvals from various affected Tata companies prior (to) filing of our application,” the holding company said. “Some of these companies may have needed to make statutory filing with stock exchanges and call for formal board meetings to discuss this matter. For this reason, we explicitly stated in our application that any change in the legal shareholding structure will be subject to all regulatory and/or internal corporate approvals as required by the transferring company and the company whose shares are being transferred.”
One of the reasons for the withdrawal may have been the challenges in structuring the application, including finding a way to reduce the linkage between Tata Motors and Tata Capital, said a senior consultant who did not want to be named. “Tata Capital provides financing services for Tata Motors’ products, which may lead to concerns of ‘concentration risk’ on the balance sheet of Tata Capital.”
The Tatas had been keen on a bank licence ever since then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee announced the plan in his 2009 budget speech. The group appointed retired deputy governor and former CMD of Union Bank of India V Leeladhar as advisor. Subsequently, former CMD of Bank of Baroda MD Mallya was roped in as consultant.
Mahindra & Mahindra Finance had said it would reconsider its position if conditions changed.
“If the guidelines are amended to permit co-existence of NBFC (non-banking finance company) and bank in the same group or if concerns are addressed in some other manner, the company will be applying for the banking licence.”
Sundaram Finance, another keen aspirant, also refrained from applying on the same grounds.

Of the GoM's report on T....

After hectic marathon consultations, the Group of Ministers (GoM) more or less finalized its report on the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh after addressing the key issues of status of Hyderabad, sharing of assets and water as well as police strength.
“The report is ready. Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde has been authorised to give the final touches after which it will be approved by the GoM on Thursday,” said sources but added that the report will not figure in the Union cabinet meeting scheduled for Thursday as Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is away electioneering in Rajasthan. The report is likely to be submitted to the cabinet next week.
Earlier, Shinde told the media while leaving the meeting half-way that some discussions were still to be completed and that he was not sure when the report would be submitted to the cabinet. However, it emerged after the other GoM members finished their deliberations late in the night that most of the contentious issues were resolved. Shinde too confirmed to the media that the report will not figure in Thursday’s cabinet meeting.
The GoM meeting that took place at North Block on Wednesday afternoon was the culmination of hectic consultations with various groups by the ministers earlier in the day. It began with GoM member Jairam Ramesh holding consultations with Seemandhra Union ministers, which according to the sources, focused mainly on the status of Hyderabad including the demand for granting it Union Territory status.
After taking in the opinions of the Seemandhra leaders, top Congress leaders confabulated at the residence of defence minister A K Antony in which Jairam Ramesh, M Veerappa Moily, P Chidambaram, V Narayana Swamy and Digvijay Singh apart from Antony were present. “At this meeting, the major concerns of the Seemandhra leaders over the bifurcation as well as the stand of the various political parties on various issues arising out of the bifurcation were discussed,” said the sources. Later, Seemandhra Union ministers called on finance minister P Chidambaram and discussed the financial package for their region.
The GoM meeting began at 3.00 pm and lasted about four hours. Interestingly, apart from all the GOM members except Azad, AP chief secretary P K Mohanty, Union home ministry security advisor K Vijay Kumar and senior officials from power, personnel, home and water resources were present at the meeting.
According to sources, the as was being demanded by the Seemandhra Congress leaders. “The possibility of a council under the direct command of the Centre and having control over law and order and revenue is being worked out,” said the sources and added that the jurisdiction of the joint capital will most likely extend to the GHMC limits.

Japan's Emperor all set to visit India

Japan’s emperor Akihito and empress Michiko will land in India on Saturday on a six-day visit that could mark a watershed in relations between the two countries which are seeking to build a strategic partnership on a strong economic foundation. In a sign of the kind of importance New Delhi attaches to the visit, the government decided on Wednesday that foreign minister Salman Khurshid should be the minister-in-waiting for the emperor who will also visit Chennai.
Coming as the visit does at a time when both India and Japan believe they have been at the receiving end of Beijing’s high-handedness, diplomatic sources were hard pressed to convince media persons that there was no China angle in the emperor choosing to visit India. The fact is that such visits by the emperor, who has no administrative or government related power, are extremely rare and have in the past been used by Tokyo to signal or augment a shift in Japan’s foreign policy.
As sources revealed, it was the Japanese cabinet led by nationalist PM Shinzo Abe which advised the emperor to visit India. There was indeed an invitation from New Delhi but that had been pending for over 10 years. It was only after Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party assumed power after the December 2012 elections that there was a move to accept the invitation.
According to Japan, such visits by the emperor are held on the advice received by the cabinet. There’s already a parallel being drawn with emperor Akihito’s historic visit to China in 1992 which cemented ties between the two countries. The resultant bonhomie —which also included a sharp increase in aid to China — lasted until the recent conflict between the two countries over Senkaku islands. Japanese sources though described any comparison with the 1992 China visit as a “bit overstretched”. “The visit has nothing to do with China but we do hope it will be a blessing for the warm relations the two countries already have and that it will upgrade the status of India in the Japanese psyche,” said an official.
It is interesting that Abe’s cabinet advised the emperor to visit India as the Japanese PM in the past has often indicated how strongly he wants to build a strategic partnership with India. During his short tenure as PM in 2006, Abe declared that India-Japan ties had the potential to overtake even Japan-US relations. 

Cyclone Lehar loses steam

Cyclone Lehar, which threatened to pummel the coastal region on Thursday, not only lost steam on Wednesday, weakening into a severe cyclonic storm from a very severe cyclonic storm, but also changed direction.
The cyclone, which was initially slated to make landfall anywhere between Kalingapatnam in Srikakulam district and Machilipatnam in Krishna district, is expected to make landfall near Machilipatnam on Thursday. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has also scaled down the earlier maximum surface wind speed prediction for Lehar, from 200 kmph at landfall to 165 kmph. A special bulletin issued by the IMD on Wednesday stated that Lehar had also changed its path towards Machilipatnam following in the footsteps of Helen.
The Wednesday bulletin of the IMD also stated that the cyclone lay centred about 500 km east-southeast of Machilipatnam and 450 km southeast of Kakinada.
However, due to the change in direction of the cyclone, north coastal districts like Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam are likely to get some respite.

The Andhra Pradesh coast can heave a sigh of relief as the erstwhile very severe cyclone Lehar has weakened many times below cyclone status.
The erstwhile storm is now just a deep depression, the class below cyclone, even as it looks to weaken before crossing Machilipatnam this afternoon.
The precipitous fall from being a monster storm to a comparatively innocuous-looking deep depression was matched only by its frenetic intensification in the early stages.
An increasingly hostile immediate environment literally poured cold water on prospects of a further intensification after Lehar reached peak windspeeds of 140 to 150 km/hr a day ago.
Cooler waters near the coast effectively choked the supply of moisture, which essentially fuels the storm.
Moisture can be generated only from very warm waters of above 28 deg Celsius and the process of convection (cloud-building) that they promote. Additionally, it had to contend with increasing vertical wind shear.
The latter refers to the sudden change in wind strength and direction with height. Higher values of vertical wind shear lop the top off the storm tower that rises 10 to 12 km into the atmosphere.
The Met Department located the deep depression (remnant of Lehar) over west-central Bay of Bengal near latitude about 80 km east-southeast of Machillipatnam. It would move west-northwestwards, weaken further and cross the Andhra Pradesh coast near Machillipatnam.

Somewhere in Gujarat....

Amid slowdown, it’s raining money in this tiny hamlet, about 17 km from auto-town Sanand. A village with a population of 6,000, Khoraj will be richer by Rs.1,200 crore this week.
The Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) has acquired 1,355 hectares of land from about 450 families in this village — out of the total 1,500 hectares it bought to expand its industrial estate near Sanand. GIDC has paid market price of around Rs 1,100 a sq m.
Hundreds of families in Khoraj are expecting a windfall in lieu of their lands acquired for the expansion. Officer on special duty (OSD) of GIDC Ghanshyam Chavda said Rs 1,200 crore will be distributed to farmers in Khoraj, which has emerged the single largest beneficiary.
“Cheques worth Rs 200 crore were distributed about a fortnight ago while the rest will be given away in phases starting this week,” said Chavda.
While the farmers know well that the windfall earned needs to be invested for future financial security, they are also looking at splurging some of the money they received.
Village sarpanch Vilasben Jadav says most farmers have willingly sold land because of the good returns.

Ambedkar Memorial update

MMRDA has shortlisted 10 consultants from the 13 who had responded to the global invitation for expression of interest (EOI) to build the B R Ambedkar memorial at Indu Mills.
“We will now send request for proposal documents to the shortlisted consultants and expect them to submit the concept design for the memorial for which the Centre has decided to hand over 4.84 hectares of Indu Mills land to the state,” said an MMRDA release.
The EOIs of the 13 consultants evaluated by a committee of expert architects appointed by MMRDA. The authority will reward the best design from among the submitted master plans Rs 1crore.
The MMRDA, which is the special planning authority for the memorial, will play a crucial role in preparing detailed estimates, selecting the appropriate consultant and the construction.

Of a Third Corridor to Navi Mumbai....

A proposed elevated corridor to Navi Mumbai from the Eastern Express Highway near Ghatkopar took off from the drawing board with the MMRDA signing a deal with a foreign firm to work out the cost and concept.
The third bridge linking Navi Mumbai to Mumbai after those at Vashi and Airoli promises to shorten the journey to the far eastern suburbs where a new international airport seems set to take off finally.
The 6.48 km corridor will originate near Ghatkopar on the EEH and culminate on the Palm Beach Road extension near Koparkhairane. It will help shave about an hour off the time taken to travel to Navi Mumbai and beyond like Pune, Goa and Bangalore.
Now, motorists headed that way either take the Sion-Panvel Highway or Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road (GMLR) to cross the Thane creek by the Vashi toll bridge or take the Airoli bridge via Mulund.
“An MoU was signed with Belgium-based consultancy firm, Ney & Poulissen Engineer and Contractors, who have expertise in building bridges. The firm is expected to suggest the design, work out the cost and also prepare the bid documents for the project. We feel the consultant will be able to complete this task in 12 months,” said a senior MMRDA official. The consultancy will cost about one million euros, half of which is being borne by the Belgium government.
Of the 6.48 km corridor, about 2.33 km will be the bridge above the creek. The entire corridor will be on stilts as it will pass over mangroves. The consultant will decide if it will have four or six lanes.
“The project will help decongest the Sion-Trombay road and GMLR. It will help western suburbs residents too as they can reach the corridor fast by hitting Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link road or Andheri-Ghatkopar Link road,” said a senior official.
At the Navi Mumbai end, a short drive from the corridor will be the Thane-Belapur Road, which connects with the Pune and Goa highways. For Kalyan, one can take Shil Phata Road via Mahape. 


Jagan's Yatra : Snapshotz

Somewhere in Punjab....

Cyclone Lehar

The very severe cyclonic storm Lehar has been rapidly advancing towards the coastal belt of the southeast Bay of Bengal at a speed of nearly 20 km per hour (kmph), with a maximum sustained surface wind speed of 135-175 kmph recorded on Tuesday.
If India Meteorological Department (IMD)’s predictions are to be believed, the wind speed would further increase to 170-200 kmph on Wednesday and after landfall on Thursday, the system is likely to weaken over Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh on November 30.
“Generally, very severe cyclones like Lehar also have a minimum radius of 250 km and the eye of the cyclone alone spans 40-50 km. The maximum movement of a severe cyclone depends on various parameters, but generally it is around 15-20 kmph. Lehar moved nearly 16 kmph on Tuesday,” OSRU Bhanu Kumar, emeritus professor, Department of Meteorology, Andhra University said.
However, as per IMD’s observations of the cyclone on Tuesday, the system lay centred about 800 km east-southeast of Kakinada of East Godavari district, 750 km southeast of Kalingapatnam of Srikakulam district and 860 km east-southeast of Machilipatnam in Krishna district.
On Tuesday too the IMD reiterated that the cyclone would most likely cross the sea between Machilipatnam and Kalingapatnam near Kakinada on the noon of November 28.
Under its influence, moderate rainfall at many places would commence from Wednesday afternoon over the coastal districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari, apart from a couple of areas in Yanam and south coastal Odisha. “Most places in north coastal AP will receive extremely heavy rainfall (250 mm or above) from Wednesday night to Thursday night,” the IMD has cautioned.
Squally winds would also sweep across the coastal areas of these districts at a speed of 45-65 kmph from Wednesday evening. The wind speed would increase to 170-200 kmph along and off the coastal districts of Krishna, West and East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam and Vizianagaram from Wednesday night till the time of landfall, the weathermen said.
While the sea would be rough to very rough from Wednesday evening, it would become phenomenal on Thursday and a storm surge resulting in tidal waves as high as two to three metres would inundate low lying areas of coastal districts from Srikakulam to West Godavari at the time of landfall, the IMD has cautioned.
Extensive damage to thatched houses, power and communication lines as well as agricultural crops is expected and this time rail and road traffic too would face a threat of disruption due to the cyclone because of its intensity and wind speed. IMD has strongly mooted that the government totally suspend all fishing operations, evacuate people from coastal areas and judiciously regulate rail and road traffic.

BJP's manifesto for Delhi

A 30% reduction in power tariff, clampdown on food inflation within 30 days of coming to power, and massive reservation of seats for Delhi students in the capital’s colleges are among the highlights of BJP’s 16-page manifesto.
Out of power in Delhi for 15 years, the party has put together a please-all manifesto, with some new promises and a rehash of its rivals’ plans and policies. With its chief ministerial candidate, Harsh Vardhan, a practising doctor the party has focused on the health front, promising to implement his idea of an Essential Drug Policy under which the city’s residents will get 25 essential drugs for free.
The party wants to invest 30% of the health budget for preventive and promotive healthcare, and to create awareness about healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise. It has promised to set up trauma centres in all districts and provide health facilities to all with a universal health insurance scheme that has a daily premium of Rs 6.
The party promises to “reduce the power tariff by 30% by promoting competition among the distribution companies and bringing them under CAG audit and RTI”. To make Delhi a power-surplus state, Vardhan said, BJP will “promote solar power and make every house a powerhouse which was neglected during the 15 years of Sheila Dikshit government”.
To promote solar energy, BJP will give a tax holiday of 10 years to the manufacturers of solar energy equipment. In the water sector, it promises to provide safe drinking water, modernize the distribution system and focus on recycling.
For women’s safety, it proposes to set up 24-hour call centres and a dedicated Women Security Force under the direct supervision of the chief minister. A 24-hour helpline has also been proposed for students from the Northeast.
Domestic workers will be trained about their rights, the manifesto states, and the government’s training centre will look into their employment issues. Women entrepreneurs will be provided working capital from Delhi Finance Corporation.
For housing, Vardhan said, BJP will ensure in situ construction of multi-storey houses for jhuggi dwellers under its ‘Atal Bihari Vajpayee Jan Punarwas Yojna’. The party also promises regularization of all unauthorized colonies, and to develop these as DDA colonies the layout fund will be provided by the government.
On transport, the party has stuck to the present government’s line—monorail and new flyovers.

NaMo gets shortlisted

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is among 42 global leaders shortlisted by Time magazine for ‘Person of the Year’ title, becoming the only Indian political leader in the fray.
The magazine is scheduled to announce the winner next month.
The Gujarat chief minister has also emerged as an early favourite among the readers in an online poll. 

NaMu Airport update

Six of the eight villages which had opposed the compensation package for land to be acquired for an airport here have now agreed to the deal.
Another boost to the project came with the Centre agreeing to remove the land earmarked for resettlement of project-affected persons from the high-tide zone.
The decision was taken at a meeting with the Centre and senior state officials, including chief secretary Jayant Banthia, on Monday in Delhi.
The two villages still opposing the compensation package are expected to agree to it soon as local leaders are holding discussions with them, said senior Cidco officials familiar with the matter.
The airport project, stuck for years over compensation for the land to be acquired, recently saw a breakthrough with most villagers agreeing to a sweetened compensation deal offered by Cidco.
The compensation will now be valued around Rs 17 crore per hectare compared to the current market value of Rs 17 lakh per hectare, said Cidco officials.
The affected villagers will mostly be rehabilitated in a new township called Pushpak Nagar, and in Wadghar and Wahal villages around the project area.
About 80 hectares of land in Wadghar and Wahal, which had come under the high-tide zone under the 2011 coastal regulatory zone notification, has now been exempted from it, clearing the way for resettlement.
Cidco will soon send detailed proposals to the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the PMO on the airport project.
In all, some 1,240 hectares of land under the CZMP, worth about Rs.38,000 crore, had come under the notification. Cidco had said that it would hamper development in the city, which has several mega-projects coming, such as the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link.

Mumbai Monorail snippets

India’s first monorail is likely to be thrown open for public in the last week of December.
“We are trying to start the Wadala-Chembur corridor in December,” said UPS Madan, commissioner, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).
Sources at Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority said that it would not be possible to commission the corridor when the winter assembly session was in progress in Nagpur. Therefore, the likely dates of inauguration are either December 27 or 28.
For the past one month SMRT, a consultant and certifying agency, was monitoring trials and tests at the Wadala-Chembur monorail corridor and they have submitted a report on this to the development authority.
The report has recommended some technical modifications to the rail system. It is only after making those changes will MMRDA proceed towards opening the route.
Once the 8.8 km Chembur-Wadala route is ready, the focus will shift to the Wadala-Jacob Circle route (Phase-II), which is likely to be completed by the end of next year.
The initial deadline for completion of the first phase was December 2010. There have been nine revisions of this deadline so far.
On February 9, 2009, the bhoomipujan of monorail was performed at Chembur by then chief minister Ashok Chavan.

Blast near Kudankulam N-plant

Five people, including three children, were killed in a powerful bomb explosion on Tuesday night in a colony in the coastal village of Idinthakarai, which is close to the Kundankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), the police said.
Those killed include a woman and three children, all aged below five years, they said.
Two houses were razed under the impact of the blast, they said, adding that rescue teams rushed to the spot to clear the debris and extricate people trapped under it.
DIG of police Sumith Saran and superintendent of police Vijendra Bidari also rushed to the spot. The people of Idinthakarai, the hub of protests against KNPP, backed by the anti-nuclear power group People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, have been agitating for more than two years, demanding its closure.


26/11 : Five Years later....

Five years after 10 terrorists from Pakistan unleashed a wave of bloodbath in Mumbai, remembrances of the violence now flicker weakly....
Barring the symbolic memorial services and the ritualistic media coverage, there are barely any evident emotions that betray those 60 hours that traumatised the nation’s financial and entertainment capital. The final toll in that attack was 166 people, including 26 foreign nationals. The attack left 300 injured, besides huge damage to public and private properties. The toll on the nation’s socio-political psyche was even higher.
Five years ago, 10 Pakistani terrorists sneaked into Mumbai on November 26. Subsequent investigations revealed that three of them – Abdul Rehman, Abu Ali and Abu Soheb – went to the Leopold Cafe in Colaba and then Taj Mahal Palace Hotel; two others – Abdul Rehman Chota and Fahad Ullah – headed to the Trident-Oberoi Hotel. Nasir Abu Umar and Babar Imran alias Abu Aakasha targeted Nariman House and the final trio – Isamal Khan, Abu Ismail and Ajmal Amir Kasab – unleashed terror on the busy Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus  and later in Cama Hospital.
All the targeted locations fall within  the radius of congested south Mumbai. Nine terrorists were gunned down in security operations by Mumbai Police, Army and naval commandos and other paramilitary forces who battled them for 60 hours.

SEBI - Sahara Saga continues

Ambedkar Memorial update

The Union Cabinet cleared a bill to hand over physical possession of the now-defunct Indu Mills land to the state for a memorial to the Dalit icon Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar. But Dalit parties have demanded an immediate bhoomi poojan at the site.
The centre’s decision comes nearly a year after the government had announced its move to give a portion of the land to the state government to set up the memorial for Ambedkar.
Dalit groups, which have been fighting for the monument for past several years, had laid siege to the compound last year, forcing the government to agree to earmark the entire 12.5-acre plot for the purpose.
However, there had not been much progress despite the assurance.
The NCP, an ally of Congress, also criticised the Congress-led UPA for delaying the work.
Earlier, Republican Party of India chief Ramdas Athavale had threatened to launch an agitation on December 6, the death anniversary of Dr Ambedkar. On this day, lakhs of people congregate at Shivaji Park to pay homage to Dr Ambedkar.

Odisha UMPP snippets

Tata Power, Adani Power and NTPC are among nine power firms in the fray for the new Rs.25,000 crore ultra mega power project at Bedhabahal in Odisha, signaling a satisfactory response to the giant project after private companies expressed grave doubts about bidding norms, officials said.
The nine companies including Larsen & Toubro, Jindal Power, JSW Energy and Sterlite Energy have submitted technical bids for the project, an official in Power Finance Corporation said.
CLP India is the only foreign company in the race while state-run hydroelectricity company NHPC has sought to enter thermal power generation, the official said. Monday was the last day to submit technical bids for the 4,000-MW project.
Private power companies had objected to the new bidding norms for ultra mega power projects that do not give companies ownership of land and coalmines. The companies had opposed clauses related to sourcing made-in India equipment, cap on fuel charges and intrusive role of independent engineers. Some companies like Essar Power and Lanco Infratech have not participated in the bidding. State-run National Aluminium Company also did not submit its bid despite showing keen interest in the project.
Bid submission for another ultra mega power project which is coming up at Cheyyur in Tamil Nadu will close on November 28.
The Odisha project is proposed to be fired on domestic coal, while the Tamil Nadu plant will run on imported coal.
The government has so far awarded four ultra mega power projects

Eastern Industrial Corridor snippets

The industrial corridor from Amritsar that was originally planned up to Dankuni will now connect the Sagar port, shipping secretary Vidyapati Trivedi said. This industrial corridor is patterned on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and will use the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC) as a backbone. The industrial corridor from Amritsar will also leverage the inland waterway system being developed along National Waterway-I that extends from Allahabad to Haldia.
“The Amritsar-Delhi-Kolkata (now Sagar) Industrial Corridor will cover the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. This is one of the most densely populated regions in the world where nearly 40% of India’s population resides. This is also the region that needs a major push for industrialization and job creation. The Centre is expected to provide a support of Rs.5,749 crore over a period of 15 years for this corridor,” an official said.
“There is no alternative to the ports of Kolkata and Haldia. After all, these ports handle cargo for the entire eastern and northeastern region of the country. The draught situation at Haldia is a problem though. That is why, projects like Haldia Dock-II and Sagar have been planned. The industrial corridor from Amritsar will also connect to Sagar,” Trivedi said.
By mid-2014, the shipping ministry and Kolkata Port Trust will also finalize the agency that will build the deep-draughted port at Sagar, shipping minister G K Vasan said during the day. If this happens, the first phase of the port — the first deep-draughted one in West Bengal — is likely to become operational by the end of 2019, officials believe. This will solve a number of problems for the state and the Centre. While the port will boost much needed industrial growth in West Bengal, the Centre can also cut down on dredging subsidy that it needs to bear to maintain the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC). The annual dredging subsidy comes to around Rs 400 crore per annum. 

High Voter Turn out in MP, Mizoram

People in voting states of MP and Mizoram turned out with gusto with MP recording the highest-ever by notching over 70.55% on Monday, and Mizoram standing at 81%, marginally shy of its highest ever of 82.54% since its creation as a state in 1987.
MP’s Sheopur and Hoshangabad districts polled 83% and were the highest in the state where around 3.2 crore people stepped out to vote to decide the fate of over 2,500 candidates. The overall women voter turnout too was impressive at 68.91%, with male predictably higher at 72.5%. Although voting was overall peaceful, Bhind, Morena and Khargone witnessed some violence in which two people were killed.
The nephew of a Congress candidate, Bhura Kansana, was shot by BSF jawans in Sumaoli constituency of Morena. Kansana, 27, nephew of Aidal Singh Kansana, Congress candidate from Sumaoli, had threatened voters at a polling booth.

Elections to the 40-member House in Mizoram in comparison were peaceful with Mizoram People’s Forum (MPF), the church-sponsored election watchdog, keeping vigil in all 1,126 polling stations in the state. “Polling was peaceful. The constituencies of Tuivawl, Serlui and Chalfilh, which faced threat from of militants, recorded high turnout,” said Mizoram chief electoral officer Ashwani Kumar.
For the first time in Mizoram, the EC has introduced the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in 10 assembly constituencies of Aizawl city. Congress had swept the 2008 polls winning 32 out of total 40 seats.

Madhya Pradesh goes to the polls

Mumbai Metro One

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is now looking at a January 15 deadline to begin commercial operations of Metro services on the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar (VAG) corridor. MMRDA had earlier set a December deadline.
Metro One has missed numerous deadlines since work started in 2008. The delays were due to absence of right of way due to encroachments, difficulties in shifting utilities, holding up of coaches with the Customs and lack of a notification that makes the central government’s Metro Act applicable to the VAG corridor. The Union urban development ministry issued a notification to include the corridor in the Metro Act on November 18.
Jun 21, 2006 : Bhoomi pujan for Mumbai’s first metro, the 12-km Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar line, performed by prime minister Manmohan Singh Mar 2010 deadline
Feb 8, 2008 : Construction begins after two-year delay
May 1, 2013 : Trial run inaugurated by chief minister Prithiviraj Chavan
June 2 : Trial run till Airport Road
Nov 9 : End-to-end trial run
Nov 18:| VAG corridor included in Metro Act 


Of the World's most attractive investment destination....

After a spate of bad news on the Indian economy, there is finally something to cheer about. Global consultancy firm Ernst & Young (EY) has said that India is the most attractive investment destination, ahead of China and the US, after the government recently relaxed the policy on foreign investment.
The government had in August announced relaxation of foreign direct investment (FDI) norms in several sectors that such as multi-brand retail and telecom.
“With sharp currency depreciation and opening up of FDI in various sectors, India has become an attractive destination for foreign investors,” EY said in its report, Capital Confidence Barometer. This report is based on a survey of 1,600 senior executives in more than 70 countries.
The report highlighted automotive, technology, life sciences and consumer products as sectors in which deals are likely to be high. Due to the present macro-economic pressures and heavy debt pile, several Indian companies are looking to divest non-core businesses, it added.
“This has created a large opportunity for foreign players vying for a greater role in the Indian market,” it said. The top three investing countries into India are the US, France and Japan. FDI from these three countries from April 2000 to August 2013 amounted to Rs. 53,673 crore, Rs. 17,718 crore and Rs. 71,870 crore respectively.
The survey said 38% of the respondents felt merger and amalgamations volume in India would improve over the next twelve months, while 30% believe it would remain stable.
“After two years, European countries (Britain and Germany) have made a comeback on the potential investment destinations list for Indian companies,” the report said. Sentiments have improved, specifically on acquisitions and merger plans, it said, adding that these are at a two year high with credit and cash available.
“The investor outlook for India remains positive, despite challenges in the recent past. At the same time, the improved condition of the world economy has helped increase confidence amongst deal makers, prompting them to take a bolder stance toward transactions,” said Amit Khandelwal, a national leader at EY.

India ‘free’ of bird flu

India declared itself free from the highly contagious avian influenza on November 12, but city-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) will remain vigilant and continue virological and serological surveys for evidence of infection.
Also known as bird flu, a highly pathogenic version of an avian influenza virus (H5N1) began to emerge in a number of countries in Southeast Asia in 2003. The subsequent spread of this virus to nearly all parts of the world has raised concerns about a possible pandemic.
An official statement from the departmemt of animal husbandary, which functions under the agriculture ministry, declared that India is free from notifiable avian influenza (H5N1) and has notified it to World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
“Presently, there are no cases of avian influenza in the country. However, there is a need for virological survey of birds and animals, and constantly monitoring them,” said Dr Mandeep Chadha, deputy director, NIV.
In 2009, an outbreak of H1N1 swine flu pandemic in India killed at least 100 people. Subsequently, every year there are smaller outbreaks of the disease, and monitoring is important due to emerging influenza virus such as H7N9 strain of avian flu.
On August 5, an outbreak of bird flu was confirmed at Poultry Production Unit, College of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry at Anjora in Durg and Government Poultry Farm at Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh. However, it was brought under control when the Centre alerted states and union territories to take all possible measures to contain it from spreading.
Avian influenza is most often spread by contact between infected migratory birds and healthy local birds. It may also be spread indirectly through contact with contaminated equipment and materials. The avian influenza virus is found in secretions from the infected birds and is also excreted in their droppings.Humans can catch bird flu directly through close contact with live infected birds and those who work with infected chickens are most at risk

Naveen backs Jagan's anti-T stand

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik threw his weight behind YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy’s campaign against carving out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, saying that division of a state should be done through consensus and not for narrow political gains.
“Division of a state is a sensitive, political, social and emotional issue. In case of Andhra Pradesh, people of the state should have been consulted before any decision is taken,” Patnaik told reporters after Jagan met him here. “It should not be done for narrow political and electoral interests. A sensible political dialogue (on the creation of Telangana) is missing in the process,” he added.
The meeting, which lasted about 15 minutes, came a day after Jagan met President Pranab Mukherjee and sought his intervention to stop the bifurcation. Jagan said he sought Patnaik’s support for amendment of Article 3 (on the formation of states and alteration of areas) of the Constitution.

Lok Adalats set world record

At a time when 16,000-odd trial courts, 21 high courts and the Supreme Court are battling pendency of over three crore cases, a nationwide simultaneous holding of Lok Adalats created a world record by disposing of 35.1 lakh cases within eight hours. The Lok Adalats were opened on Saturday by Chief Justice P Sathasivam
“What is important is these cases will be settled and reach a finality without litigants going back home with a sense of rancour that drives them to file appeal in higher courts. Settlement of cases leaves both parties happy both in heart as well as in the pocket,” said Justice G S Singhvi, executive chairman of National Legal Services Authority.
The simultaneous functioning of Lok Adalats was televised live through web casting, a facility provided by the apex court’s e-committee headed by Justice Madan B Lokur. A whopping 39 lakh cases were put up for settlement in a friendly atmosphere of Lok Adalat without the overbearing presence of court staff or the incomprehensible legalese.
The litigants discussed among themselves and when they agreed for a settlement, in 35.1 lakh cases, it was recorded by a judicial officer bringing an end to disputes. Appeals are not against settlements recorded under Lok Adalats. How are Lok Adalats different from the courts? Answering the self-posed question, Justice A K Patnaik, who also heads the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, said an accident victim after moving at a snail’s pace through a clogged pathway in three-tier justice delivery system gets compensation years later.
But the Lok Adalats would provide immediate relief, which is more useful to a victim than the money he receives years later and realizes that inflation has significantly devalued the quantum of compensation, he said. CJI Sathasivam said the Lok Adalats, like courts, would strictly adhere to principles of natural justice. Justice Singhvi said, the record settlement will give a fillip to Lok Adalats as a people-driven concept. This should be popularized to make justice affordable.

Kempegowda International Airport

The Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) will be renamed as Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru, on December 14.
The Union cabinet had in July given its nod to renaming the airport after the founder of Bangalore. Besides sporting its new name since December 14, that day will also see inauguration of the new-look Terminal 1 (T1A), by chief minister Siddaramaiah and civil aviation minister Ajit Singh.
The expanded terminal—spanning over 1.5 lakh sq mt—will have more than twice the current floor area and is designed to accommodate burgeoning traffic.
GV Sanjay Reddy, managing director, Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), said: “The new name honours Kempegowda, founding father of Bangalore, and the renaming is being timed with the opening of the T1A, where the facilities, radiant interiors and exteriors mirror the rich culture of Karnataka and the vibrant colours of the Garden City. With T1A, we want our passengers to experience everything that’s unique about Bangalore of yesteryears when he/she enters the airport,and at the same time, enjoy the benefits of world-class facilities.
The new-look TIA includes a host of new facilities and services for passengers and partners. Additional immigration and emigration counters, check-in counters, CUSS and a Code-F contact stand are some features aimed at creating a new experience at the Bengaluru International Airport.


OECD forecast

The Battle for Rajasthan

Vadodara - Mumbai Expressway to be fast tracked

The central government has given top priority to the construction of Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway,Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways Tushar Chaudhary said on Friday. “The project will be awarded after meeting requirements, including clearance and guidelines suggested by the apex court,” he said.
The 400-km expressway will cost Rs.27,000 crore, of which Rs.10,000 crore will be spent on land acquisition. “In 2006, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had approved construction of 1,000 km of expressways on seven stretches spread over 10 states,” Chaudhary said.
The dedicated corridor between the country’s financial capital and one of Gujarat’s main cities was among the proposals, he said. “The corridor, on NH 8, has high density and thus will be given the top most priority,” he said.

Cyclone Helen

Cyclone Helen, the second major storm to hit the Andhra coast in four weeks since Phailin, made landfall on the coast south of Machilipatnam around 1.30 pm on Friday. It left an aftermath of death and devastation, killing 10 people and damaging standing crop over thousands of acres in Krishna, West and East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts.
 Torrential rains and gales up to speeds of 120 kmph knocked down electricity poles, orchards and hoardings in the four districts, with East and West Godavari bearing the brunt of Helen’s fury. Konaseema region in East Godavari was strewn with wreckage while roads in many villages were engulfed by surging waves and heavy rains.

Of Manufacturing Share in GDP....

Share of manufacturing in India’s gross domestic product (GDP) has declined to 15.1% this year, the lowest level in the past 10 years.
According to a survey conducted jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Boston Consulting Group, 83% executive directors of companies that participated in the survey feel that slowdown in domestic demand had the biggest impact on India’s manufacturing sector in the past 12 months. More than 75 executive directors of manufacturing companies in India participated in the survey. The report was released on the eve of CII’s 12th edition of manufacturing summit. 

Spectrum auction snippets

Two rounds of lukewarm response in spectrum auctions saw the government cutting the reserve price for airwaves used by telecom companies by 25-53%, paving the way for fresh sale starting January. The latest round of auction for spectrum to be used by GSM operators is expected to help the government mop up Rs. 30,000-40,000 crore for the cash strapped exchequer.
The foundation for the lower prices for auctions in the lucrative 900 MHz and the 1800 MHz bands was laid down by regulator Trai in September, when it recommended a reduction of up to 60% from the last round of auctions held in March 2013. Subsequently, the Telecom Commission, an inter-ministerial body, increased the base price by 18-25% over what was recommended by Trai. On Friday, the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) headed by finance minister P Chidambaram accepted the Telecom Commission’s recommendations, which the industry isn’t complaining about. For GSM, the new price for the pan-India 1800 MHz auction will be Rs 1,765 crore (per MHz). In 900 MHz, the per MHz price for Delhi will be Rs 360 crore, Mumbai Rs 328 crore and Kolkata Rs 125 crore. An operator will have to purchase a minimum of 5MHz.
 “We will hold the auctions in January and the entire process is likely to fetch around Rs 30,000-40,000 crore,” telecom minister Kapil Sibal said. The EGoM, however, did not decide on rationalizing the spectrum usage charges (SUC) that are paid by operators on their revenues. Trai had recommended a 3% flat SUC against the graded charges of 3-8% now, which rises based on the spectrum holdings of a mobile service provider. “We hope to take a decision on this matter before the auctions are held,” Sibal said.
The softer prices this time will come in as a relief to top telcos such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea, which will see their 900 MHz licences expire in key circles of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata from next year. Auctions in this band — which is considered to be most cost-effective — are expected to see stiff competition from incumbents as well as some of the new entrants.
While being generous on prices, the EGoM refused to entertain demand of the incumbents for having a reservation of the spectrum they vacate in the 900 MHz band. The ministerial body decided to stick to the recommendations of Trai and the Telecom Commission, which had asked for re-farming or a fresh sale.
Sibal also said that spectrum trading — which would allow operators to sell unused airwaves to another telco — has been given a go ahead. “We have approved it. The final guidelines will, however, be issued by Trai.” The EGoM, however, failed to discuss the much-awaited merger and acquisition policy. The move is widely awaited by the industry and experts say that it will lead to consolidation in the sector, which is highly debt-laden with many small operators struggling to stay afloat.

While GSM auctions look all set for a pulsating beginning, the EGoM could not do much on initiating airwave sale for CDMA operators. Trai has steadfastly refused to have a sale in the 800 MHz band used by CDMA players such as Sistema Shyam Teleservices. It has instead favoured carving out of an extended-GSM (eGSM) band from the frequency. Trai’s move has been shot down by the department of telecom (DoT) and the Telecom Commission which sought a pricing mechanism for CDMA sale. “The EGoM has requested Trai to give a pricing for 800 MHz,” Sibal said. However, it is now more or less certain that there will be no auction for CDMA players in January as Trai will go through a fresh consultation process on the matter before coming out with a new pricing. 

Cash - for - vote scandal update

A trial court has acquitted former SP leader Amar Singh and five others in the cash-for-votes scandal that rocked UPA-1. The court upheld the TV sting involving BJP MPs as an honest bid to expose a Congress-SP operation to bribe MPs ahead of a crucial trust vote.
Five years after three BJP MPs dramatically waved wads of cash in Lok Sabha following the Left Front’s withdrawal of support over the Indo-US nuclear deal, Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh was let off for lack of evidence, though his aide was charged for abetting corruption.
The BJP MPs had collaborated with a TV crew only with the intent of “…exposing leaders of Congress party and Samajwadi Party who were indulging in corrupt activity to lure vulnerable MPs of other parties”, the court said. The July 22, 2008, incident led to a highly-publicized investigation and a parliamentary committee probe and Friday’s verdict was not bereft of drama, with the court rejecting the police claim that BJP leaders were guilty of bribery.
Rapping the police for failing to trace the “actual offenders”, the court said the accused BJP MPs — party patriarch L K Advani’s former aide Sudheendra Kulkarni and a party worker — had “honest intentions” and their actions were an “enactment of a drama” to “expose corrupt practices of horse-trading”.
While it gave the three BJP MPs (two are still MPs) and Kulkarni a clean chit, special judge Narottam Kaushal let off Amar Singh even as he noted that circumstances suggested the former SP leader’s links with Sanjeev Saxena .
“Circumstances do raise a suspicion regarding nexus between accused Sanjeev Saxena and Amar Singh. Nonetheless, the suspicion, not being supported by any admissible evidence, does not go beyond the realm of suspicion, let alone grave suspicion,” the court said.
The allegation against Amar Singh was that Saxena acted upon his instructions and even used Singh’s car to deliver the bribe money. Though the real masterminds of the scandal remain unexposed, all the six accused expressed relief, saying justice had been done.
BJP worker Sohail Hindustani was seen distributing sweets as soon as the judge went to his chamber. Amar Singh, accompanied by a bunch of supporters, said, “I had complete faith in our judicial system.”
The turnaround in the case with regard to the BJP accused came as the court noted that the MPs readily agreed to cameras being installed on their persons in a bid to entrap those who were trying to bribe MPs ahead of the vote in Lok Sabha.
Besides Amar Singh and Kulkarni, those who got relief include BJP MPs Ashok Argal and Kulaste, former BJP MP Bhagora and Sohail Hindustani. 

Pune Airport snippets

District collector Vikas Deshmukh made it clear that the land for the proposed airport at Khed would be acquired only after hearing the grievances of the local farmers. He said that a meeting of the local farmers would be held by the divisional commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh soon and all the doubts and queries by the farmers would be clarified in this meeting.
Speaking to mediapersons Deshmukh said that some land from the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) promoted by Bharat Forge would be used for the airport. Some private land would also be acquired, he said. Around 750 hectares of land from the SEZ would be utilised for airport project.
He informed that there were doubts about change of purpose, but as per the Supreme Court judgement on this issue, the SEZ or any other land acquired for such purpose can be utilised for the project of larger public interest.
He informed that private land admeasuring around 425 hectares would be acquired for the proposed airport. The Maharashtra Airport Development Authority (MADC) was preparing maps for this, he said, adding that finer nuances about the land to be acquired have to be decided and MADC has just completed the feasibility aspect of the same.
Deshmukh made it clear that as far as the airport was concerned two sites were proposed, which were rejected by the MADC. This is the third site and that is the reason why there are doubts in the minds of the local villagers. The farmers who had given their land for the SEZ were duly compensated and even the tribals were provided with new houses as per the assurance during the land acquisition.
Anti-Khed SEZ Airport and Anti-Khed Developers Limited Save Farmers Action Committee has been protesting against giving the special economic zone (SEZ) land for the airport project. As many as 950 farmers from Nimgaon, Davadi, Kanersar, Gosasi and Kendur villages of Khed and Shirur talukas have given their land for SEZ. The committee has claimed that out of the 1,207 hectares acquired for SEZ, it was decided to return 15 per cent land to farmers. District collector Deshmukh however made it clear that unless all the doubts were cleared for the farmers, land would not be acquired and as far as farmers who have given land for SEZ all the doubts raised by them would be cleared at the meeting.


Open for Business

Mahindra launches Saboro fruits

Mahindra will tie up with retail players across the country for in-store display of its Saboro brand of fruits.
In the next three years it will invest about 40 crore for its fruit business, according to Ashok Sharma, chief executive officer, of its agri and allied businesses.
The group had announced its diversification into fruit segment. Beginning with Hyderabad, it will make its brand of fruits available in various cities. In Hyderabad, it had tied up with Heritage Foods for the in-store display.
“We will expand in partnership with many retail outlets. But we will not have our own retail network for Saboro,” he said adding that it together with other partners will invest in cold storage facilities and other support infrastructure in view of the perishable nature.
The fruit market in India is estimated at Rs 2 lakh crore and there is the contribution of the organised players in this market is negligible, he said on the opportunities available for branded fruits. More people taking their health seriously will spur the demand for fruits, he said.
Mahindra, which invested about Rs 20 crore in this, is working with about 1,000 farmers and covering about 900 hectare. This is likely to triple in three years even as it will work to increase the productivity in the present farms by 15 to 20 per cent , Sharma said adding that it will bring grape in the ensuing season. Banana and mango will follow later.
“We are hoping to be Rs 300 crore in revenues in three years with 50 per cent coming from the domestic market and the other half from the exports,“ Sharma said adding that the produce will be priced about 10 to 15 per cent higher than the non-branded domestic fruits and about 10 per cent less than the prices of the imported fruits.
The group, through its Mahindra Shubhlabh Services Limited, is already into grape exports. It is eyeing revenues of Rs 90 crore this year from Rs 65 crore last year, he said.

Chidu woos overseas Indians

Making a strong pitch to overseas Indians, finance minister P Chidambaram has said the country is a safe destination with a potential of 8% growth and ample investment opportunities. “The macroeconomic fundamentals and the microeconomic fundamentals make India an attractive and safe investment destination,” he said while addressing the second South Asian Diaspora convention in Singapore.
The government, Chidambaram said, has taken a number of measures to stabilise the economy and outlined multiple investment vehicles that the country offered. “India can offer to the investor a variety of investment opportunities. There are government securities and corporate bonds. There are mutual funds and infrastructure development funds. We can offer equity in our public sector enterprises that are under the disinvestment programme,” Chidambaram said.
The Indian equity market has given a compounded annual growth rate of 15.8% between 2003-2013 and government securities 7.92%, 8.52% and 8.36% in the last three years. “I believe that there are few markets in the world which give comparable returns,” he said.
He said there were a clutch of projects in the oil and gas sector that will welcome strategic investors and added that the government will shortly offer a public sector exchange-traded fund that will allow investors to buy units backed by underlying equity shares of quality public sector companies.
Chidambaram said India has a potential growth rate of 8% and above and during the 20-year period between 1991-2011, the average growth rate was 7%. Pointing out that the key to sustaining high growth rate is investment, the minister said the government will endeavour to contain fiscal deficit to below 3% of the GDP, safely finance the current account deficit (CAD) and keep inflation under 5%.
Referring to the recent volatility in exchange rate, Chidambaram said it was imperative for a government to insulate the currency from speculative attacks and excessive volatility. “We believe that the exchange rate of the rupee today is a better reflection of its true value and we are confident that both volatility and speculation have been largely contained,” he said, adding that the response to the rupee bond of International Finance Corporation indicated market confidence in the Indian rupee. The minister assured the investors that fiscal deficit in the current financial year will be contained at 4.8% of GDP and CAD at below $ 60 billion.
“For the current year, I have drawn a red line at the original target,” he said.

National Ambition unleashed !

Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav declared his prime ministerial ambitions at a rally in Bareilly on Thursday, while hitting out at Congress VP Rahul Gandhi and calling BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi a divisive force.
He predicted a Third Front government would be formed after the Lok Sabah polls, as neither BJP nor Congress would secure a majority. “West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and UP will decide the next government. UP is the biggest among them and will play the most important role. I am also contesting. Tell me whether you want to send a strong Mulayam or a weak Mulayam,” he said. “Some people speculate that I want 60 seats. No I want all 80 seats” he said while the crowd cheered. 

Holy Cow !!

Narendra Modi lambasted the troika of Congress, SP and BSP for indulging in “votebank politics”, moments after the state unit of his party felicitated two MLAs – Sangeet Singh Som and Suresh Rana – both of whom were accused of inciting the recent Muzaffaranagar riots that claimed 65 lives.
Som and Rana were garlanded and given the ceremonial headgear amid much fanfare by state leaders Kalraj Mishra and Lalji Tandon, MP from Lucknow, on the same dais. But strategically, they left before Modi took centrestage.
According to sources, the decision to felicitate the tainted MLAs had brought the state leadership in conflict with the central leaders who didn’t favour the idea as Modi has been invoking the Gujarat model of development across states to draw voters.
But party leaders from UP see the felicitation as part of a broader strategy to appease the influential Jat community in the western districts of the state where, they feel, the dynamics of electoral politics cannot run on the steam of Modi’s charisma alone.
The central leadership’s displeasure perhaps became one of the reasons why both Som and Rana left the rally venue immediately after being felicitated, sources said.
Kalraj said decision was solely of state BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpayi and it was in view of the “atrocities” faced by the two legislators under the SP regime in the wake of the communal violence. “It was in no way a votebank politics,” he said.
State BJP spokesperson Dr Chandramohan Singh explained away the early exit of the two MLAs, saying they had prior engagements in their constituencies.
Party sources said both Rajnath Singh and Modi had reservations against the felicitation plan. The Gujarat CM didn't want to be seen as the torch bearer of Hindutva and hence both skipped the function, they said.
Addressing the audience in the city of the Taj, Modi, probably wary of his goofups, desisted from delving into history and harped on the Gujarat model of development.
The SP government had slapped NSA on both Rana and Som for instigating the mob during the violence, however, the same was overruled by the National Securty Act Advisory Board paving way for the release of the two later on.

The Election Commission’s rap on BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi for his “khooni panja” remark comes days after the poll watchdog expressed displeasure over Rahul’s “communal” references during poll speeches in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where he accused BJP of stirring communal tension and instigating riots.
EC rejected Modi’s explanation that he had only criticized Congress’s policies and programmes and used the words “khooni panja” colloquially and not in reference to his rival’s “hand” symbol. 

Residex snippets

Housing prices increased in 12 cities by up to 5.3%, while it declined in 10 cities, including the national capital, by up to 7% during the second quarter ended September 30.
Housing prices in Delhi witnessed a decline of 4.5% during July-September period compared with the previous quarter. However, it jumped by 6.7% on annual basis, as per Residex released by National Housing Bank (NHB).
On annual basis, the prices in Delhi rose by 6.7%. Maximum price moderation was seen in Meerut by 6.9% while, highest appreciation in rate was witnessed in Kolkata by 5.3%. The movement in prices of residential properties for the July-September quarter has shown increasing trend in 12 cities ranging from 0.5% in Mumbai to 5.3% in Kolkata, and fall in 10 cities ranging from 0.9% in Bengaluru to 6.9% in Meerut, NHB said in a statement.
Index for 4 cities namely Pune, Kochi, Coimbatore and Dehradun has remained stagnant, it said. 

Another #Feku ?

Lush green fields stretch till the horizon, smooth black-top highways, a fancy tractor parked in a freshly-tilled farm — in the midst of it all a smiling Shivraj Singh Chouhan hard-sells a transformed MP to voters.
The advertisements looked perfect till Congress butted in with a scoop to claim that the swaying stretches of unending green in the pictures were located in Iran. The road featured was a West Bengal expressway and the tractor image a straight lift from the promos of a US farm equipment company.
“Shabas feku number 2”, the latest Congress advertisement screamed taking the war between the two parties to the next decibel level. A sheepish BJP didn’t know where to look.
Union minister Harish Rawat first called the bluff. Describing how the CM was trying to make fake development claims on the basis of pictures downloaded from the world-wide web, a triumphant Digvijay posted “Is MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan competing with Modi to be feku no. one?” He claimed he had more evidence of photographs from Spain and America being passed off as those from MP. He would make the links public soon. A later Congress advertisement was even scathing and tore into its rival’s campaign calling the CM as ‘fake’ as his campaign.
BJP media in charge Hitesh Vajpayee was quick to rise to Chouhan’s defence. Congress was trying to give an ugly turn to what essentially was the CM’s vision for a developed Madhya Pradesh., he said. “We may not have reached there but this is where Shivraj Singh Chouhan, given a third chance, can take the state. This is what the ad means,” he said.

Nationwide Lok Adalat

Call it the magic of information technology or fruits of concerted efforts of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam will open Lok Adalats in the Supreme Court on Saturday. He will simultaneously make functional Lok Adalats in high courts and lower courts across the country.
Around 19 lakh cases are listed for settlement in all the courts, from SC to lower courts, with the consent of litigants. NALSA hopes to bring a permanent end to disputes through mutually acceptable friendly and inexpensive reconciliation process. The inauguration of Lok Adalat at Supreme Court by
the CJI in the presence of NALSA executive chairman Justice G S Singhvi and SC Legal Services Committee chairman Justice A K Patnaik will be “viewed all over the country through video conferencing and web casting facilities by the SC’s e- committee,” NALSA said.
“Lakhs of cases have been identified and referred to the National Lok Adalat and a few lakh cases are expected to be finally disposed of. Once a case is disposed of through Lok Adalat, there will be no further appeal against the settlement,” it said. “The National Lok Adalat aims at reducing pendency in courts while at the same time drawing the attention of public to the efficacious alternative dispute resolution method of Lok Adalat,” NALSA said.
The cases listed for settlement on Saturday are mainly compoundable criminal offices, cheque bouncing and loan recovery cases, civil suits, motor accident claims and family disputes. The SC will take up 107 such cases on Saturday.


Somewhere in Uttar Pradesh....

The Uttar Pradesh (UP) government has kept the state advisory price (SAP) for sugar cane unchanged at Rs 280 a quintal for the 2013-2014 crushing season, but the sugar mills termed the price unviable.
The price is significantly higher than Rs 225 a quintal that the sugar mills had been asking for.
Industry body Indian Sugar Mills Association (Isma) said it was `unviable' to start the crushing season at the said price.
Faced with a cash crunch, more than 60 private sugar mills in the state, including Bajaj Hindusthan and Balrampur Chini, had on Tuesday refused to start crushing operations, demanding that the state sets a viable sugarcane price. The new crushing season began on October 1.
“With additional unpaid cane price arrears of Rs 2,400 crore from 201213 to be cleared next year and lower paying capacity, a similar cane price as last year will lead arrears to cross Rs 12,000-13,000 crore in March-April 2014,“ Isma said in a statement. The state government has, however, exempted the mills from paying a purchase tax of Rs 2 a quintal over and above the SAP
In New Delhi, a high level group of Union ministers met to discuss a relief package for the crisis ridden industry, but nothing materialised.
However, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said that a decision on the relief package would be taken within the next eight to 10 days. “The issue is that prices (of sugar) have dropped and that's why the industry is facing serious problems.Three-four alternatives were discussed,“ Pawar said.
“We have to study what would be the impact of the various alternatives. This information we will get in next 8-10 days. We will sit again and finalise it,“ he said, adding, “We want crushing to begin.“
The meeting was attended by finance minister P Chidambaram, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh and secretaries from the food and commerce ministries. The meeting was scheduled following the shutdown of crushing operations by 65 of around 100 private sugar UP mills amid lack of uncertainty over the SAP.
According to Ajit Singh, among the various options being weighed, one was to provide loans to the mills against excise duty payment with the centre bearing the interest burden through the sugar development fund.
Another option is to revise the duty drawback rate on sugar export upwards from 1.3 per cent. The third option is to reduce the period for re-export of imported sugar to three months from 18 months at present.
“The industry is in trouble, as are the sugarcane farmers. We have discussed these measures, but the cabinet has to take the final call,” Singh said.
While sugar price has remained subdued over the past few years, the SAP at which sugar cane is procured from cane farmers has risen steeply, which is hurting the mills.
In UP, the SAP stood at Rs 280 a quintal in 2012-13 sugar season against Rs 240 in 2011-12 and Rs 205 in 2010-11, according to Isma data.
In comparison, spot price for sugar M-grade (Muzaffarnagar) fell to Rs 28.80 a kg on Wednesday from Rs 40 a kg level at the end of 2009. Sugar prices are at the same level, as they were in 2010.
There have been concerns over surplus sugar production, which is keeping the prices under check.
The new sugar season started in October with an opening balance of around 88 lakh tonnes, 30 lakh tonnes more than the average opening balance for a season.
Higher production in Brazil, the largest cane producer, and cheaper imports due to low import duty are making matters worse.
As many as 14 of the 18 sugar companies that have announced September quarter results so far posted net losses, amounting to Rs 1,053.47 crore. Thirteen firms had also reported losses in the June quarter.
India has nearly 664 sugar factories with an average crushing capacity of roughly 3,800 tonnes crushed per day (TCD). Maharashtra, the country's largest sugar producer, produced 9 mt in 2011-12, followed by UP at 7.48 mt and Karnataka at 3.8 mt.