Somewhere in Nepal....

Solar Parks

The World Towers

Of FDI inflow, FII investments & Remittance inflows....

Power Shift over the years

Dow Jones & the Sensex

Government Eases Curbs on Gold Imports

In a move that should cut premiums on gold, lower prices for buyers and cut smuggling, the government unexpectedly scrapped a rule imposed in August last year mandating that a fifth of all the precious metal imported should be re-exported. The Reserve Bank of India issued a notification withdrawing the norm imposed on August 14, 2013, to reduce the yawning current account deficit and relieve pressure on the rupee that had weakened sharply. At the time, emerging markets had come under pressure because of talk about the US Federal Reserve winding down its stimulus programme.“It has been decided by the government of India to withdraw the 20:80 scheme and restrictions placed on import of gold,“ the Reserve Bank said.
The rule, along with the high customs duty of 10% -raised in stages to that level last year -had led to a rise in smuggling, besides distorting imports. The government said the current account deficit is no longer a concern so there is no reason to keep the curb in place. Why continue with the emergency measure when the current account deficit is under control?“ said a government official, adding that it had become counter-productive, leading to distortions and illicit imports.
The current account deficit narrowed to 1.7% of GDP in FY 14 from 4.7% of GDP in the year before and is likely to stay at this level in the current fiscal year as well. The government was also concerned that the rule was encouraging importers to hoard gold, causing a distortion in trade.
Friday's decision to scrap the restriction took the bullion markets by surprise as they were anticipating a tightening of rules following a surge in gold imports in October to around 114-115 tonnes from less than 25 tonnes a year. Speculation had been rife over the past few weeks about such a move.
However, there is expectation in some quarters that the government may impose suitably non-distorting curbs if imports remain high.
Premiums on gold are collected by nominated agencies and other authorised importers such as star and premium trading houses that import the yellow metal on a consignment basis for supply in local markets.When supply is tight, premiums rise, and vice-versa. Bullion dealers in Mumbai said premiums had collapsed from $8-10 an ounce to virtually zero after news of the government decision was aired on the electronic media.
Last year, India imported 825 tonnes of gold. In the January-September period, gold imports stood at 525 tonnes.

Yamuna inter-link planned

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plan to inter-link rivers (ILRs) will have one more project, taking the total number to 31. The new link plans to bring surplus water from Sharda on the Indo-Nepal border to the parched Yamuna near Delhi via Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. Modi discussed the project's feasibility with his Nepalese counterpart Sushil Koirala during his Nepal visit in August, to which they have agreed to cooperate. Sources said that the 31st ILR, once implemented, would help the Yamuna to have `uninterrupted' flow of water between Delhi and Agra till the river Chambal joins it and gives it a normal flow.“The Uttarakhand government has agreed to the project as the link would pass through the state. The consent from the UP government is awaited“, said an official.
He said cleanliness of the Yamuna in Delhi would largely depend on the success of the proposed link as `uninterrupted' flow is a prerequisite to keep any river clean.


Gsat-16, equipped with 48 transponders -the most an Isro-developed communication satellite has carried so far -will be launched at 2.08 am (IST) on December 5 from ESA's spaceport of Kourou in French Guiana.Indian Space Reserach Organisation (Isro), said Ariane space's Ariane 5 will carry the 3,181 kg communication satellite to the geostationary transfer orbit. With a 12-year mission life, Gsat16 will be the 11th Indian communication satellite.
It has 12 Ku, 24C and 12 extended C-band transponders. Its primary role will be to strengthen satellite-based telecommunication services and support the civil aviation sector.

Somewhere in Assam....

TMC 2.0

With an eye on the 2016 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, breakaway Congress leader G K Vasan formally launched his own party Tamil Maanila Congress (Moopanar) in Trichy as an alternative to Congress. Braving an incessant drizzle, thousands of his supporters attended the rally, which marked a virtual revival of TMC founded by his father G K Moopanar in 1996 after the Congress high command then decided to ally with the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK for the assembly and Lok Sabha elections against his wishes.
MLAs John Jacob and N Rengarajan, former TNCC chief BS Gnanadesikan, Peter Alphonse, former MPs NSV Chitthan, Viswanathan, Udaiyappan, Ramasubbu, Paramalai, former MLAs Rajasekaran of Trichy, Rani of Salem, Kovai Thangam, S R Balasubramaniam and Maheswari of Coimbatore, former Mayor Sarubala Thondaimaan were among those who shared the stage with Vasan.
In his speech, Vasan recalled the merger of TMC with Congress in 2002 and said he deeply regretted his decision. “Even though Congress was not in power at the Centre and there was no sign that it would come to power in 2002, TMC was merged with the Congress in order to strengthen the party in Tamil Nadu.But none in Congress focussed on building the party resulting in a dip in traditional vote share in Tamil Nadu,“ he said.
He claimed that TMC (Moopanar) will work for the welfare of the Tamil people and making Tamil Nadu strong.Vasan said, “Our party will work for SCST, backward classes and downtrodden people. Unlike Congress, our party will be accessible to the cadres who can get their grievances addressed.“
Vasan vowed to thwart the attempts of the BJP government that is allegedly trying to cripple the MGNREGS. “BJP government is trying to cripple the MGNREGS which benefits a lot of poor people.Our party will never allow the centre to stop the scheme,“ Vasan stressed.

Sensex snapshot

Sliding crude oil prices and prospects of faster divestment of government stakes in PSU banks pushed up both the sensex and the nifty to record highs in Friday's session. The sensex closed 255 points higher at 28,694 while the nifty closed 94 points up at 8,588. The day's gains also took investors' wealth, measured by BSE's market capitalization, to Rs 100 lakh crore mark during the session although it closed a tad lower than the 15-digit mark, at Rs 99.83 lakh crore.
The day's session started with the sensex hitting a new all-time high at 28,822 within hours of opening and then remained steady as foreign investors continued their buying spree. The main trigger was the falling prices of crude oil, the biggest import item for India, which fell below the $70 per barrel mark, a level not seen since 2010.This happened in the face of demand for reducing supplies by some of the OPEC members, a decision that may have supported its price.
Investor sentiment on Dalal Street was further boosted after the government said it was planning to reduce its stakes in PSU banks to 52% through divestments and in turn raise about Rs 89,100 crore. 


Q2 GDP slows to 5.3%

Economic growth slowed in the July-September quarter, dragged down by a sluggish manufacturing sector and triggering calls from India Inc to cut interest rates and step up reforms to boost growth.
Growth slowed to 5.3%, slower than the 5.7% in April-June quarter but marginally better than 5.2% growth in the second quarter of 2013-14. Growth in the first half of the 2014-15 was at 5.5% compared to 4.9% in the same period in 2013-14.
Economists said they expect a slow and gradual recovery in the months ahead as investments are yet to pick up.The finance ministry said the second quarter growth numbers were “broadly on expected lines.“ The ministry said slower growth in the farm sector was expected due to the lower than-expected monsoon, while the slower expansion in the manufacturing sector was not surprising.
India Inc stepped up calls for cutting interest rates and accelerating reforms.
RBI governor Raghuram Rajan is expected to meet FM Arun Jaitley on December 1, a day ahead of the policy review. The FM is expected to renew calls for moderating interest rates to boost growth and revive investment.
Rajan is under pressure to cut rates against the backdrop of slowing inflation and some improvement in the government's fiscal situation due to easing of global crude prices.

Neeti Ayog

The Planning Commission will be replaced by a new institution called ‘Neeti Ayog’ (Policy Commission) with the Prime Minister as its ex-officio chairman and a vice-chairman. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to decide on the final shape and structure of the new body by year-end.
The new institution would have four important departments—Inter-State Councils, Office of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Programme Evaluation unit. Each of the departments would be headed by a secretary-level officer, said an official. “The name of the new vice-chairman of the proposed body will be announced soon,” the official added. Modi has called for a presentation on Monday for options and suggestions by experts and intellectuals on the shape of the new institution. Senior PMO officials and Planning Commission will be present at the meeting. The PM has called a meeting of chief ministers and chief secretaries on December 7 to take them on board while finalizing the structure and scope of the new entity. “The PM is expected to seek views of states on the proposed new body,” said an official. The interstate council in the proposed “Neeti Ayog” would be under direct control of PM, in line with Modi’s idea of cooperative federalism making states an equal partner in the growth process.
The composition of the new body would also reflect the priorities of the Modi administration as his key projects—UIDAI and DBT— would be part of it. During his Independence Day address, Modi had announced replacing the five-decade old Planning Commission with a new entity in tune with the changed economic reality.


Chhattisgarh's Meri Marzi Yojana

The unique `Meri Marzi Yojna' project, which is based on biometric techniques, makes the PDS foolproof by introducing ration card portability, a first in India. This was made possible by replacing the existing ration cards with biometric ones and networking all the fair price shops (FPS) by the help of information technology.
Chhattisgarh's civil supplies principal secretary Alok Shukla explained the working of the biometric PDS .The scheme, named “Meri Marzi Yojana“, empowers the ration card holder with a choice to buy ration items from any FPS in his area. As the biometric system is in place, the availing of ration by a beneficiary will automatically get recorded on the computerized system. “More importantly, if the service at a particular shop is not satisfactory or the ration served is not up to the mark or the attitude of the dealer is rude or there is a no stock board displayed, the ration card holder can decide to go to any other shop and buy the ration.Since the shop dealer's income depends on the number of people who draw the ration from his shop, he will stand to lose if one customer decides against going to his shop, “ said Shukla.
“Another aspect of the Chhattisgarh PDS model is that if the department receives a complaint from any area regarding non availability of ration, a mobile team will rush to the spot and take the dealer to task,“ the principal secretary added. The biometric PDS's concept and software development has been designed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), Chhattisgarh.

Of T's skyscrapers' plan....

With the Telangana government proposing to build skyscrapers around Hussainsagar, the Hyderabad district administration has identified 190 acres, including 90 acre litigation-free government land, around the lake. A special team led by the Secunderabad sub-divisional revenue officer, Khairatabad tehsildar and three surveyors conducted a survey and submitted a report to chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. “We developed a Google map of Hussainsagar and compared it with the original sketch of the lake. We also collected data of land availability from the district administration and developed 27 maps of government land in the surrounding areas of the lake. In the survey , we identified nearly 190 acres near Hussainsagar and other tourist destinations,“ sources in the Hyderabad collectorate said. “In the survey , we found 8.22 acre government land (open) between Ambedkar Nagar and MMTS station of Sanjeevaiah Park, three acres at PV Ghat, 39 acres at Patigadda government quarters, eight acres at Jalavihar, two acres (allotted to Deccan Infrastructure Limited-DIL) at Jalavihar, 1.5 acres near Prasads, two acres at traffic police station, 14 acres at Hyderabad Boats Club, Lumbini Park, one acre each at Raghava Sadan, Nursing College (beside Raj Bhavan), three acres at Dilkusha Guesthouse and four at Greenlands Guesthouse,“ he said. The team met the CM and submitted the maps along with a report.

AP inks several MoUs with Japanese Companies

The Andhra Pradesh government has signed four agreements, including one with Sumitomo Corporation, to develop the new capital into a world class city. Sumitomo Corporation, besides offering latest technologies needed for the capital, “will also try and assist to find and secure the necessary funds for such development from Japanese government, JICA and NEDO and JBIC as much as practically applicable.“
The MoUs were signed on the fourth day of AP chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu's visit to Japan. The other agreements are in the areas of energy , food processing and agriculture. As per the agreement which relates to power, Sumitomo will help AP develop a 4X1000 MW coal fired power station near Srikakulam. Another agreement aims to modernize agriculture in AP . For this, the government of AP and Sumitomo will form a joint study team to explore opportunities of collaboration. Development of food processing industries in the state was another MoU inked in Japan.
Naidu had another important meeting with Yuichi Kitao, director of Kabota Corporation. Kitao said Kabota, which manufactures farm and environment conservation and construction equipment, was keen to enter into an agreement with Andhra Pradesh. On his part, Naidu sought Kabota's cooperation for farm mechanization and urged the company to come out with an action plan by the next sowing season. “If your action plan is ready, you can start assembling in AP . Next, you can go for manufacturing. We will offer land and give speedy clearances,“ Naidu said.
Naidu and his delegation also visited Yokohama Port. Earlier, Naidu went to Isuzu Motors headquarters where he called on vice president Masanori Katayama. In the meeting, Katayama expressed his company's interest to set up a pickup truck unit in Sri City in Andhra Pradesh. He also said their new facility would be much more modern than the 44 units it has set up across the world. “The new production site will attract other units of accessories related to the automobile industry . Many suppliers will come,“ he said.
Later, the CM and his team visited Mayewaka Manufacturing Company which makes compressors and had a meeting with JBIC officials.


Paving the way for what is touted to be the most industry-friendly policy in the country, the Telangana assembly gave its seal of approval to the ambitious `Telangana State Industrial Project Approval and Self Certification System Bill' (TS-iPASS) that promises to make doing business in the state “as easy as shaking hands“ by conferring the `Right to Single Window Clearance' on potential investors and penalizing truant government officials.
The Bill states that “in a bid to enhance the `ease of doing business' quotient in the state, a Right to Single Window Clearance, on the lines of the Right to Information Act, will be bestowed on all applicants and penal action will be imposed on the officers who delay applications“.
Stating that the vision for industrialization of Telangana is `Research to Innovation: Innovation to Industry: Industry to Prosperity', the policy goes on to say that the industrial policy framework is driven by the slogan `In Telangana Innovate, Incubate, Incorporate'.
Laying emphasis on unleashing the state's manufacturing prowess, the policy talks about the state churning out high quality goods at the most competitive prices to put the `Made in Telangana, Made in India' brand on the global map. This it intends to do by setting up at least six dedicated industrial corridors in two phases, including a Hyderabad-Warangal Industrial Corridor, and establishing sector-specific clusters for 14 core sectors such as IT, life sciences, textiles, automobiles, FMCG, precision engineering (aerospace and defence), logistics & transportation, and gems & jewellery. Each of these sectors will also have its own dedicated sectoral policy and a structure of incentives.
The government also promises to provide uninterrupted power to industry by setting up a dedicated discom for industrial parks and reserving 10% of water in all irrigation projects for industrial purposes. Confident of its vision, the Telangana government pointed out that the new industrial policy would help the state achieve a growth rate of 4-5% higher than the national growth rate in the manufacturing sector.However, it did not specify any time frame for achieving this.
The government has also charted out plans to encourage SMEs, women and SC&ST entrepreneurs by making provisions for allocation of land parcels, creation of exclusive industrial parks, direct funding of programmes and implementing credit guarantee scheme for them.
The government will also be launching the Telangana State Program for Rapid Incubation of Dalit Entrepreneurs (TS-PRIDE), under which it will provide sops such as preferential allotment of plots in industrial parks and interest subsidy for service sector units (except transport sector) to encourage dalit entrepreneurs.
Reviving the handicrafts sector through the Telangana State Handicrafts and Artisans Revival with Technology (T-HART) is also high on the agenda and the policy promises to provide technology upgradation, setting up of design support centres, common facility centres, IP and GI registration support and marketing assistance to the sector.
Meanwhile, the government said it has estimated that about 20 lakh acres is unfit for cultivation in the state and based on a detailed survey of such land parcels, an industrial land bank will be developed. “Such land will be transferred to the Telangana State Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (TSIIC). Once the lands identified are transferred to TSIIC, it will determine the suitability of each land parcel for setting up core sector specific industrial parks,“ it added.
On the industrial corridor front, the government has mooted plans of developing three industrial corridors along roadways connecting Hyderabad to Warangal, Nagpur and Bengaluru in the first phase and from Hyderabad to Mancherial, Nalgonda and Khammam in the second phase.
“Subsequently, other corridors will also be identified on similar lines and detailed studies will be conducted to prepare the master plan for each corridor. Ultimately, each district headquarters of the state will be connected by high speed rail and road network,“ the policy said, adding that the intention is to create at least two core sector specific industrial parks for each sector.

Sons of the Soil....

Gujarat tops in government e-transactions

Motown musings

Of DBT & Aadhaar....

WTO's first Global Trade Deal

World Trade Organization members agreed to the first global trade deal in the agency's 20-year history by endorsing a move to roll out easier customs rules, while giving flexibility to developing countries such as India to pay minimum support price to their farmers, without fearing about breaching the prescribed ceiling. Indian government officials confirmed that the proposals have been cleared.“...we made it. This is a very important moment for the WTO. Now, let's make it count,“ WTO DG Roberto Azevedo said in a statement in Geneva.
In addition, WTO will prepare a work programme by July 2015 to provide a thrust to multilateral trade agreements that cover all 160 members and will make an attempt to reduce the proliferation of free trade agreements that are being pushed by countries such as the US. The West, which has been pursuing an aggressive FTA agenda, has blamed the lack of progress at WTO to look at other options.
The Trade Facilitation Agreement -to ensure easier movement of cargo through customs at ports and airports across the globe -is expected to restore some confidence in WTO, which has been pursuing the stalled Doha Development Agenda for over 13 years now. Some studies have estimated that the gains from the new agreement may be as high as $1 trillion, although a majority of the gains through higher exports are likely to accrue to the developed countries and large exporters such as China.
While the government will have to upgrade some of the infrastructure and rework the rules, it is unlikely to result in heavy investment or major changes in regulations.
The deal endorsed by the WTO General Council in Geneva on Thursday has been in the pipeline for a year but could not go through due to the BJP government's objection to the formula on piling up food stocks, which was agreed in Bali last December.But, now the member countries have agreed to decide on a new formula for calculating the level of food subsidies by next December but avoid any penal action at the WTO until the mechanism is tweaked to address the concerns of developing countries. According to government, current food subsidy formula flawed as the calculation is linked to 1986 prices.
Although India is still away from breaching the subsidy cap of 10% of value of production, the government fears that the rise in global prices of grains, especially rice, and higher procurement may result in higher support to farmers. As a result, it has been arguing for a safety valve against what it terms as a mistake from the Uruguay Round.

National Waterways

Western Railways completes 150 years

The opening of a train route to Grant Road from Ahmedabad 150 years ago marked the beginning of a glorious chapter in the development of Mumbai along with Western Railway . A year later, suburban services commenced between Grant Road and Bassein Road (now, Vasai Road), on November 1, 1865.Since then, WR has grown from strength to strength. On November 28, 1864, the Bombay , Baroda and Central India (BB&CI) line was opened from Utran to Grant Road. Three years later, the line was extended further south to Colaba. BB&CI was renamed as Western Railway in 1955.
WR chief public relations officer Sharat Chandrayan said, “This development heralded a new era of seamless and direct connectivity of Mumbai, then Bombay , with Gujarat and further northwards.“Few also know that initially only two suburban services with two coaches ran between Bassein Road to Grant Road.By 1867, they were extended to Marine Lines, then Backbay station. Chandrayan said, “ As demand picked up, the number of services increased from 10 in 1870 to 44 in 1920 with four coaches.“Of these, there were five trains to Virar, seven to Borivli, three to Andheri and 29 Bandra locals--each from the erstwhile Colaba terminus.
As population increased in the suburbs, authorities began to add stations and upgrade infrastructure. In 1931, WR decided to terminate services at the old Churchgate station. It was later pulled down, and a modern multi-storey building opened in its place on June 1957. It also boasted the first pedestrian subway in 1955.
In 1928, the first electric multiple unit (EMU) train ran between Colaba and Borivli but it took six more years for electrification of the route till Virar, thus heralding the end of steam engines.
By 1961, services, too, increased to 360 per day from 144 in 1928. The number of coaches increased to nine in 1961.
On the main line, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route is one of the busiest Indian Railways' sectors. When the first train ran between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, it took almost one and a half days to travel the distance of 493km. Since then, WR has come a long way , running around 60 trains between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Now, Mumbai-Ahmedabad Duronto Express covers the distance in just 6.15 hours.
WR has doubled its suburban jurisdiction in April 2013 after it decided to run trains from Churchgate to Dahanu --a distance of 120 km.
WR general manager Hemant Kumar said, “The 150-year journey is long and remarkable in the history of WR. It'll motivate us to strive hard to further improve standards.“

Nine armymen indicted for Budgam killings

The army said nine soldiers of 53 Rashtriya Rifles had been indicted for killing two youths in Budgam, J&K, on November 3 and would face court martial. Among those in the dock is a junior commissioned officer.
The army said the court of inquiry had found gross violation of rules of engagement on the part of the men. Also, there was “total failure of command“ by the officer in-charge.


Travelers from 43 countries--including the US, Japan, Australia, Israel, Germany , Singapore, Brazil and Mauritius--can now apply for a visa online and get it within 72 hours. The Centre has launched the electronic travel authorization which will be valid for 30 days and cost $62. The facility will be available at Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Goa, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Thiruvanathapuram airports.


Nippon Life to Raise Reliance MF Stake to 49%

Nippon Life Insurance, Japan's largest insurance company, will raise its stake in Reliance Mutual Fund to 49% from the existing 26% in two or more tranches. In the first tranche, the Japanese financial giant will buy a 9% stake in Reliance Mutual Fund for Rs.657 crore. This transaction will value India's largest asset management company Rs.7,300 crore “This transaction is expected to be completed within the current financial year, subject to receipt of regulatory approvals. Subsequently, Nippon Life Insurance will have an option to increase its stake further by an additional 14% to reach 49% in tranches,“ the two companies said in the joint statement.
Nippon acquired 26% stake in Reliance Mutual Fund in 2012 at an aggregate value of Rs.1,450 crore. Nippon Life manages over $500 billion (Rs 30 lakh crore) in assets, highest in the world for any life insurer, while Reliance Mutual Fund is part of Reliance Capital, the financial services arm of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group. Reliance Mutual Fund dealt in Rs.2,18,338 crore ($36 billion) assets as on September 30, 2014, across mutual funds, pension funds, managed accounts and offshore funds.
Nippon Life also holds a 26% stake in Reliance Life Insurance Company, which it had bought for Rs.3,062 crore. This deal was completed in October 2011 and it had valued the Indian insurer at over Rs.11,500 crore at that point in time.
The Indian government has now proposed to hike FDI cap in the insurance sector from 26% to 49%. The proposal has already been cleared by the Union Cabinet, but needs to be passed by Parliament.

Jack Ma in India

Alibaba's Jack Ma has given the clearest indication yet that the world's largest ecommerce group is ready for a bigger play in India's online retail industry, likely making the country one of the fiercest battlegrounds for global consumer Internet companies.
Ma, speaking at an event organised by business grouping Ficci, pledged to invest “more“ in India, and he said that he would be back again soon, signalling Alibaba's interest in di versifying its business here. “We will invest more in India and work with Indian entrepreneurs and technologists to improve the relationship of the two nations and to improve the lives of human beings,“ said an beings,“ said Ma, Alibaba's founder, who is China's wealthiest man with an estimated net worth of $30 billion. “I was a college teacher. The Internet changed me and it changed China. India is a great nation with so many young people, and the Internet will change India too,“ he said at a `business cooperation' conference involving his home province Zhejiang in eastern China.
Flipkart, founded by IIT-Delhi graduates Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, is the market leader in India, but it is dwarfed by Alibaba, which only sells to businesses here, as well as US-based Amazon, which is scaling up retail operations rapidly. In its latest round of funding, Flipkart was valued at $7 billion, compared with a market cap of $155 billion for Amazon and $282 billion for Alibaba.
In September, Alibaba listed on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $25 billion in the largest public market debut in history.
Just a day after Flipkart won $1 billion in funding in July , Amazon vowed to invest double that amount in India, illustrating the importance of a market where 300 million people are already online out of a population of 1.2 billion. Nomura estimates that India's ecommerce market will be worth $43 billion by 2019, of which online retail will account for $23 billion.
Ma said he is meeting several Indian entrepreneurs, but did not provide details. But Kunal Bahl, the founder of Snapdeal that competes against Amazon and Flipkart, is one of them, according to people aware of the specifics of Ma's visit. Japan's SoftBank is an investor in both Alibaba and Snapdeal. “Yes, I am meeting some businessmen, and will be back in India soon,“ Ma, 50, said.
India does not allow foreign investment in online retail, but Alibaba's model of not owning inventory but only providing a marketplace means it will face no policy roadblocks in India.
Alibaba.com India Ecommerce, the Indian unit of Alibaba, made a profit of around Rs.1 crore on sales of Rs.20 crore in the year ended March 2013, according to the latest financial numbers available with the Registrar of Companies. More than 1.3 million suppliers are listed on Alibaba's Indian website, second just to its home market China's 8.2 million.
“Sellers from India are ranked just behind Chinese traders. Our platform was never designed for them (Indian SMEs), but their capabilities in taking advantage of opportunities is fantastic, and we have to build platforms to ensure more of them use it,“ said Ma.About PM Narendra Modi, he said, “I have heard the prime minister's speech and it is very passionate and inspiring.“Over the next three years, one of the key strategies for Alibaba is to globalise,“ he said.

FAR hiked in Delhi

The urban development ministry has approved the proposal of Delhi Development Authority to increase floor area ratio (FAR) norms for residential plots in the capital. FAR is the ratio of a building's total floor area to the size of the piece of land up on which it is built.
FAR for plots between 750 to 1,000 square metres will now be allowed to expand from the current 150% limit to 200%.The ground coverage of plots in this size range will remain unchanged at 50%.
Owners of larger plots, of sizes more than 1,000 square metres, will benefit from Wednesday's order. Plots larger than 1,000 sq meters will be allowed additional ground coverage, increased from the current 40% to 50%. FAR for plots over 1000 sq metres and above has now been increased from 120% to 200%.
DDA had brought the proposal to the UD ministry after getting an approval from its board of directors and inviting objections and suggestions from the public.

Somewhere in Delhi....


Of Used Cars....

High Courts' statz

Market Pulse

Of Rajasthan's Local Bodies' Election Results

Somewhere in Delhi....

Phase-III of the Barapullah elevated road, which will connect east and south Delhi, finally received the go ahead from lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung. Work on the bridge, associated slip roads and loops will begin in 2015 and finish by the end of 2017. The 3.4km stretch will connect Mayur Vihar Phase-I with Sarai Kale Khan.Phase-I of the project was constructed in 2010 and connects Sarai Kale Khan with Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Meanwhile, work on Phase-II which connects JLN Stadium with INA Market is expected to start in December.“The road will provide an essential link between east and south Delhi. The existing links like Ring Road at Ashram and Bhairon Marg are extremely congested. Once the project is ready, it will take about 10 minutes to travel from Mayur Vihar to South Extension,“ said a PWD official. Jung has approved Rs.1,260.63 crore for the project.He has asked PWD to devise a traffic management plan to ensure there is no congestion at AIIMS and INA during the construction. “Now that the budget has been approved, tenders will be floated for the project and the work should be awarded before March 2015. It will then take two-and-a-half years to complete the work,“ said a source.
This will be the 16th bridge on the Yamuna in Delhi. Each carriageway will have four lanes and one dedicated lane for pedestrians and cyclists.The 550m-long bridge, which will be built on stilts and not on an embankment, will be an `extradosed' bridge with only six piers in the river and each span as long as 128m. The bridge will be a break from the conventional bridges that can be seen over the Yamuna and will have pylons above the bridge deck. High tensile cables will suspend the deck from the pylons. A promenade has also been planned on it for pedestrians to get an uninterrupted view of the river. The decks, proposed at each pier location, will have street furniture and greenery .
“To provide signal-free access to UP Link Road near Mayur Vihar, a flyover parallel to the existing single carriageway flyover will be built with loops and slip roads from Barapullah Road to Akshardham, and to Noida. Two clover leaves will also be built to provide signal-free entry and exit from Mayur Vihar,“ said an official.

Delhi-Chennai bullet train snippets

An Indian Railways team is in China to chalk out plans for conducting a study to build a 1,754 km-long Delhi-Chennai high-speed train corridor, the world’s second largest bullet train line.
The high-level team of officials from Rail Vikas Nigam Limited, led by Satish Agnihotri, arrived on Monday and is in talks with offiicals of China’s high speed rail corp to build the Delhi-Chennai corridor. China has agreed to conduct the study free of cost during President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in September, officials said. The proposed corridor could be the second largest in the world after China’s 2,298-km Beijing-Guangzhou line which was launched last year. Trains on the line, running at a speed of 300 km per hour, cover the distance in about eight hours. The Delhi-Chennai high speed line could cost around $32.6 billion, state-run China Daily quoted Chinese officials as saying.
India is currently considering two corridors for high speed trains. While Japan is conducting a feasibility study for a bullet train project along the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor, China will do the same for the Delhi-Chennai route which is expected to begin by early next year.
Under the agreement, China has agreed to provide training in heavy haul for 100 Indian Railways officials, redevelopment of existing railway stations and establishment and establishment of a railway university in India.
The training is expected to begin soon.
The two countries have also agreed to cooperate to identify the technical inputs required to increase speed on the existing railway line from Chennai to Mysuru via Bengaluru.
The Delhi-Chennai route is part of the proposed Diamond Quadrilateral project, which aims at building a high-speed train network between different cities, including Delhi-Mumbai, Mumbai-Chennai, Chennai-Kolkata, Kolkata-Delhi and Mumbai-Kolkata lines.
Currently, the Rajdhani Express train covers the distance between Delhi and Chennai in 28 hours and as per the plan, the proposed bullet trains, travelling at 300 km per hour, will reduce the travelling time to six hours.

Killing Fields

Airtel prices 4G packages below 3G

Data tariffs for mobile phones are set for a major fall with Bharti Airtel offering high-speed 4G packs below the prices of 3G plans. The development comes ahead of the launch of 4G services by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio and signals a high-pitched tariff war on the mobile data front, similar to what happened in voice tariffs, where prices in India are among the lowest in the world now.
“We have decided to offer 4G tariffs below the 3G rates for high consumption users,” Srini Gopalan, director for Airtel’s consumer business said. Also, the company will shift 3G customers to 4G at the same rates (provided they have a 4G compatible phone).
While the monthly tariff of a 10 GB data plan is Rs.1,499 on 3G network for an Airtel postpaid customer, the same will be Rs.999 on 4G. And, the data trans mission speed on 4G is over 30 mbps compared to an average of about 1-3 mbps on 3G.
Gopalan said rollout of 4G network across cities, coupled with availability of affordable devices, will boost growth of the high-speed network. Airtel currently offers 4G network in 15 cities after first rolling it out in Kolkata in April 2012. These are Amritsar, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Ludhiana, Mohali, Nagpur, Nasik, Panchkula, Patiala, Phagwara and Pune. To shift to the 4G network in these cities, a subscriber with a 4G compatible phone needs to change his SIM. Gopalan said the company may launch 4G services in Delhi and NCR very soon. “We are ready with our set-up and are awaiting an approval from the Department of Telecom (DoT).The moment we get that, we will roll out our services.”

RS okays key labour law bill

The Rajya Sabha approved a legislation aimed at simplifying archaic labour laws and laid the foundation for deeper changes in the country’s labour laws in the months ahead. The Upper House approved the bill exempting filing of returns and maintenance of records for units employing up to 40 workers. The definition of small establishments has also been proposed to be changed to firms hiring not less than 10 and up to 40 employees, against not less than 10 and up to 19 at present. The planned changes are expected to help small firms reduce paperwork, end harassment and encourage entrepreneurship and help create jobs.
The legislation, which amends the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1988, seeks to widen the ambit of the Act to more establishments and simplifies forms for various returns to be filed and the register to be maintained by employers under different labour laws.
Since assuming power in May, the Narendra Modi government has taken some steps to amend some labour laws to boost the country’s ranking in the ease of doing business index, give a boost to the manufacturing sector and create jobs.
Global and domestic investors have cited stringent labour laws as one of the key obstacles to higher growth and investment.

NaMo signs 10 pacts with Nepal

Flagging off the Delhi-Kathmandu bus service, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed more than 10 agreements with Nepal on Tuesday , showing that India is prepared to go the extra mile for its neighbours. But if Saarc fails to move to the next level, the responsibility will not be India's.
“We are moving with our neighbours on connectivity , power etc,“ said MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin. “The PM presided over a large number of agreements with Nepal, and we have concluded similar agreements with other neighbours. Our commitment to regional integration is for all to see.“ India wants similar agreements through Saarc, but problems with Pakistan may put paid to the efforts. On touching down in Nepal on Tuesday , the PM made it clear that India expected Nepal to draft an inclusive constitution. “I request all political stakeholders to draft the constitution by early next year as committed through consensus, which will reflect aspirations of all communities, including Madhesis, Pahadis and Maoists... failing to do so can cause difficulties to Nepal and your difficulty despite our expertise to help you in this field is a matter of sadness,“ Modi said.
A number of strategic issues, including defence and security , were discussed during the talks between Modi and Sushil Koirala over nearly 40 minutes.Talking about bilateral ties, Modi said, “When we trust each other, we can move forward very quickly .“

National Milk Day


State Elections' Phase I


Jammu,Kashmir and Ladakh

In the strongest electoral rebuff to separatists, Kashmiris and Jammu residents lined up in thousands outside polling booths, declaring support for democracy and posting the highest turnout in 15 seats that polled on Tuesday since the last delimitation in 1995. The turnout of 71.3% was much higher than in 2008 when the same seats had polled around 65%. J&K had registered 52.6% voting in the LS elections earlier this year. Some seats in the Valley recorded more votes than Jammu and Ladakh despite the boycott call. A heavy 75% turnout was recorded in three Bandipora constituencies in north Kashmir.
Describing the elections as “flawless“, deputy election commissioner Vinod Zutshi said there wasn't a single “vitiating“ incident save minor clashes.“There were a few incidents of bursting of fire crackers in Bandipora, nothing else,“ said Zutshi, attributing the high turnout to “the combined efforts of everyone, along w ith good security and voter awareness efforts of the EC“. Kashmiris and Jammu residents lined up in thousands outside polling booths, declaring support for democracy and posting the highest turnout of 71.3%, in the 15 seats that polled on Tuesday since the last delimitation in 1995.
Deputy election commissioner Vinod Zutshi described the elections as “flawless“. There were at least 43 chopper sorties to airlift personnel and security to remote areas, Zutshi said. Voter enthusiasm was best showcased when a 121-year-old lady voter, Noor Bin, voted in Ramban, the EC said.
Independent sources, however, said an explosive went off minutes after voting began at a polling station in Bandipora.Another blast was reported at Naidkhi in Sonawari, north Kashmir, with eyewitnesses saying it was a petrol bomb thrown by miscreants to scare away voters. But that did not deter them, they said.
The sense in some quarters that the Omar government would get washed away in the elections because of mishandling of September floods gained traction as the turnout rose through the day. Kashmiri separatists said the turnout was a result of large security presence but political analysts believed they were soft on the election boycott given BJP's presence, particularly in the Valley. Rejecting this, hardliner Syed Ali Geelani said, “The government conducted these elections on the strength of security forces,“ adding that the police had said they would crush anybody trying to disrupt polling and they proved it.
However, 88-year-old Sanaullah Dar of Theru village in Ganderbal said, “We consciously chose to remain with India in 1947. Voting is our right and I voted for my candidate and so did my family.“

India can grow at 9%: PwC

India has the potential to achieve 9 per cent growth rate and become a $10 trillion economy by 2034 on the back of concerted efforts by the corporate sector and a constructive role played by the government, a PwC report said. "India is on the cusp of major change ... For India to take the winning leap and grow its GDP by 9 per cent per annum to become a $10 trillion economy, a concerted effort from corporate India, supported by a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem and a constructive partnership with the government will play a critical role," said the PwC report, 'Future of India — The Winning Leap'.
Up to 40 per cent of India's $10 trillion economy of 2034 could be derived from new solutions, it said."The world economic picture is pretty challenging in the next 12-18 months. Having said that we are talking about all the opportunities that are here in India and they are significant," PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) International Ltd chairman Dennis Nally said after releasing the report. "I think with the right type of collaboration between government and private sector, the potential of this economy is much bigger than 5 per cent that is currently forecasting," he added.
The report said that each of the key areas — education, healthcare, agriculture, retail, power, manufacturing, financial services, urbanization and the enabling sectors such as India's digital and physical connectivity — face challenges and their resolution will need new and scalable solutions that are resource efficient and environmentally sustainable.
It emphasized upon the need to tap into the vast human resource capital available in the country and the Human Development Index (HDI) needs radical improvements over the next two decades.
"A young demographic, paired with a burgeoning middle class that is digitally enabled, is a once in a lifetime opportunity for India to develop economically and socially. India can only build shared prosperity for its 1.25 billion people by transforming the way the economy creates value," Nally said.
For the shorter term, Nally expects Indian economy to grow at about 5.5-6 per cent. However he added that 9 per cent is most definitely achievable if the things suggested by PWC report are put in place.
The report categorically suggests that anything less than $10 trillion would not secure India's future."The nation needs to create 10-12 million jobs every year in the coming decades to provide quality of life for its growing population ... The recent electoral mandate for development is a more immediate signal for Indians' desire for growth and for the benefits of growth to be extended to all members of the society," it said.
A 9 per cent GDP growth rate with a per capita income rising from $1,500 to just under $7,000 per year will boost quality of life for more than 1.25 billion citizen, it added.
About organisations, it said they should focus on serving informed and empowered customers, create flexible and adaptive operating models, draw on non-traditional resources and partnership as well as adapt a growth and innovation mindset.
They should also focus on accountability, integrity and sustainability to form basis of their capability building measures and investment, it added.
PwC chairman Deepak Kapoor said: "Corporations alone can't fuel growth and innovation needed to power India's winning leap. Hence, the entrepreneurial sector must also play a major role and they possess qualities critical for developing innovative solutions, the willingness to take risks and aptitude for fast decision-making, and bold leadership."

Congressman Murli Deora dies @ 77

Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Murli Deora passed away after prolonged illness.
He was 77 and is survived by his wife and two sons, including former MP Milind Deora. Murli bhai as he was known as died at around 3.25 a.m. He had been unwell and admitted to a hospital. He had come home two days back, family sources said.
Mr. Deora’s mortal remains would be kept at the Mumbai Congress office, where party workers would pay their last respects from 12 noon to 2 p.m. His last rites would be performed at Chandanwadi Crematorium later in the day, the family sources said.
Mr. Deora, who held several important portfolios during his decades-long career, first contested the civic elections in Mumbai in 1975.
An economics graduate, Mr. Deora was Mayor of Mumbai from 1977 to 1978 and was later elected to the Lok Sabha four times from Mumbai South, a seat later held by his son, Milind, who is also a former MP and ex Union minister. Currently, he was serving his third term as a Rajya Sabha MP.
He held the portfolio of Petroleum and Natural Gas during the UPA—1 regime. The Congress veteran had also served as the Mumbai Congress President for 22 years.
He joined the Union Cabinet in 2006, shortly before he turned 70 and led oil diplomacy in Myanmar, Algeria and Egypt, and held talks with ministers from Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia and Comoros.
Deora also hosted the first India—Africa Hydrocarbon Conference and Exhibition in November 2007. In July 2011, Deora became Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of Mr Deora and said his warm nature made him popular across party lines.“Just yesterday I had spoken to Shri Murli Deora’s family & asked about his health. Very sad to hear the unfortunate news today,” he said on Twitter. “My deepest condolences to the Deora family on Shri Murli Deora’s demise. May his soul rest in peace.Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said the country has lost a veteran Parliamentarian. “I am deeply saddened by the demise of Murli Deora. We have lost a veteran Parliamentarian and an experienced administrator,” the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said.

Adani Power Buys Avantha's Korba West

Adani Power, owned by billionaire Gautam Adani, said that it has purchased the Avantha Group's Korba West Power (KWPCL) for Rs. 4,200 crore. The wholly-owned subsidiary of Avantha Power owns a 600 MW coal-fired plant in Chhattisgarh.KWPCL is building an additional 600 MW of capacity. “This acquisition consolidates our pan-Indian presence and further re-affirms our belief in the reform processes underway in the power and coal mining sectors,“ Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani said. “The acquisition of KWPCL expands our footprint in India, particularly in the coal mining belt.“This is a time for consolidation in the Indian power sector and as a leading private power producer, Adani Power has taken the lead in acquiring power assets which are a strategic fit to the group's business and potentially at the lowest end of the cost curve,“ Adani said. “We are committed in contributing towards India's growth and confident of achieving our target of generating 20,000 MW by 2020,“ he added.
Adani Power is India's largest private sector power developer with an operational capacity of 9,240 MW, comprising 4,620 MW at Mundra in Gujarat, 3,300 MW at Tiroda in Maharashtra and 1,320 MW at Kawai in Rajasthan. The installed capacity of Adani Power will increase to 11,040 MW with the acquisition of the soon-to-be-completed 1,200 MW Udupi plant and KWPCL.
Cash-starved Avantha Group is set to exit from the power generation business. Avantha Group has been trying to reduce debt on its books by selling assets.

India-Nepal Bus service

The first ever bus service between India and Nepal will be flagged off from Ambedkar stadium bus terminal . Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari will inaugurate the luxury bus service from the Indian side, which will be run by Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC). DTC also runs the bus service between India and Pakistan from the same terminal.
This comes after the Cabinet on Monday approved the signing of bilateral agreement for regulation of passenger traffic between India and Nepal ahead of the Saarc summit in Kathmandu. The Cabinet has also authorized the road transport ministry to sign similar agreements and protocols with other Saarc member countries. It is likely to be a luxury Volvo bus on the Delhi-Kathmandu route and the tentative one-way fare is likely to be around Rs 2,300.

Somewhere in Bihar....

Monorail to link Noida, Agra

After two successful trials of the Gatiman Express, set to reduce travel time between Agra and Delhi to 105 minutes, railway authorities are bracing for a mono-rail project between Noida and Agra.
During the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Agra-Lucknow Expressway, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav spoke of the mono-rail project between Agra and Noida. Chief secretary Alok Ranjan said planning for the 200-km mono-rail link between Agra and Noida had been initiated. A railway department official said a meeting had been held in Lucknow on November 19 to discuss the project, to be executed by the Noida Metro Rail Corporation. The proposal is for the mono-rail line to connect Mahamaya Flyover in Noida, the Buddh International Circuit and Mathura with Agra. The initial plan is for the system to run along the Yamuna.
On November 19, the project was given a green signal in Lucknow. Government officials said the project will be built on the lines of the Sydney Monorail project. Ranjan said the UP government has directed the Noida Metro Rail Corporation to execute the project.
A detailed project report on how the project will be funded, however, is yet to be prepared. Sources in the government said a timeline for the execution of the project will also be there in the DPR.

Papa John's India + Pizza Corner

Atulya Mittal, a nephew of steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, has joined hands with Thai billionaire Fred Mouawad to piece together India’s third largest pizza chain —after Domino’s and Pizza Hut —under the brand Papa John’s. The partnership will see Mouawad’s Pizza Corner, India’s first pizza chain based in Bangalore, merge into Mittal’s Om Pizza & Eats, which holds the master franchise for USbased Papa John’s in India. Pizza Corner, India’s first pizza brand which operates close to 70 outlets, will cease to exist post the merger. The combined entity will have over 90 outlets mostly in western and southern India.
Mouawad, through his food and beverage retail arm Global Franchise Architects (GFA), will be the second largest shareholder in Om Pizza & Eats after the Mittal family. TVS Capital and the Jawad group of Bahrain will continue to hold a minority stake in merged entity.
The financial details of the transaction and shareholding structure of the combined entity could not be ascertained. GFA Global CEO Joseph Cherian will now head the merged entity and drive the growth of Papa John's in India. GFA India will continue to operate its other portfolio of fast food brands Donut Baker, Cream and Fudge, and Coffee World, which together have a 120 store footprint across the country .
The Mittal family, having sold their stake in Ispat Industries to JSW Steel in 2010, picked up controlling stake in Om Pizzas and Eats from TVS Capital last year.
Papa John’s immediately gets some scale in Chennai and Bangalore. All Pizza Corner stores will be re-branded by June next year. India’s organized fast food market is around $2.5 billion (Rs.15,500 crore) in size, of which the pizza segment accounts for Rs.2,300 crore, dishing out annual growth figures of 30%.

Of Andhra's new Capital....

In a grand plan that promises to give Washington's famed Capitol Hill a run for its money, the camp office-cum-residence of Andhra Pradesh chief minister is being proposed along the banks of river Krishna in Vijayawada.The secretariat, assembly, Raj Bhavan and high court would come up on the opposite side in Guntur district.
These are the salient features of the capital blueprint, which is at an advanced stage and slated to be finalized after a team of experts from Singapore visits the capital region in the first week of December.As per the blueprint, which reflects the vision of CM N Chandrababu Naidu, the capital city would be ultra modern, crisscrossed with six lane roads. Comprising several parks and fountains, it will be the one of the greenest cities in India, whose hallmark will be a beautiful garden spread across a 20-km stretch between the capital and Prakasam Barrage,. The AP assembly will be a grandiose granite-domed structure that is expected to attract visitors from all over the world. Sources said it was on Naidu's insistence that the blueprint has proposed a 44 storey secretariat complex.“Singapore engineers had conveyed to the CM that the sub-surface soil in the capital area region is sandy and not fit for skyscrapers. However, Naidu told them that when there is technology to create islands and tall structures in the middle of the sea, the sandy soil should not pose a problem for constructing skyscrapers. Accordingly , the 44storey skyscraper model for the secretariat complex stands,“ a source said. A team of engineers has visited the capital region and studied the quality of the soil. “Naidu wants to lay the foundations stone for the capital city on Ugadi day, 2015, the Telugu New Year Day , which falls on March 21. The idea is to mark that day as the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the Telugu people.,“ the source said.

The AP Transco has decided to set up an exclusive power generation plant to cater to the needs of the capital region. The 800 MW thermal power station, to be set up on the premises of the Vijayawada Thermal Power Station (VTPS), will supply its entire produce to the capital city. The idea is to provide uninterrupted power supply to the city that is likely to be spread over 80 kilometres.
“The VTPS in Vijayawada produces 1,760 MW of power daily, which is being used by the southern districts of AP. Now, the state government wants to have an exclusive thermal plant for the capital city, which will come up at an estimated cost of about Rs.4,000 crore,” said a senior official in the energy department.
To turn the uninterrupted power supply into a reality, the AP Transco has also proposed an underground network for electricity supply, which will cost another Rs.500 crore.
Since the plant is proposed in the land where VTPS is located, the project will face no troubles regarding environment and land acquisition. The project, which is touted to be completed within two years, would cater to the needs of about 15.75 lakh power consumers.

Bird flu outbreak in Kerala

The animal husbandry department has confirmed that thousands of ducks in Kuttanad and Ambalapuzha taluks had died due to bird flu in the past one week. The announcement came after serum samples of the birds sent by the department to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) in Bhopal tested positive. “It's 100% confirmed that it's avian influenza, but further tests will have to be conducted to identify whether it's high or low pathogenic variety,“ Dr D D Kulkarni, director of NIHSAD lab, said.“We're doing the tests and the results will be known in a day or two.“ The Alappuzha district administration has now decided to kill ducks within 1 km of five places -Nedumudi, Purackadu, Thakazhi, Champakkulam and Bhagavathy paddy field -where infected ducks were found. The district collector has also imposed a ban on the sale of the ducks in Kuttanad and Ambalappuzha taluks.
Casualties can be high if human beings are infected by the highly pathogenic varieties of viruses like H5N1. Dr Kulkarni said even though avian influenza was a zoonotic disease that could transmit from birds to humans, no casualties had been reported from India so far.He said 97 episodes of the disease outbreak were reported in India since 2006, when the disease containment protocol was put in place.

Avian influenza or bird flu, first detected in ducks in Alappuzha district, was confirmed in Aymanam in Kottayam and Peringad in Pathanamthitta on Tuesday . Bird flu was also confirmed in a broiler chicken farm near Kottayam, raising the specter of an epidemic. A high-level meeting convened by Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday decided to go for massive cull ing of approximately 2.5 lakh birds in the affected regions in three days, a remedy recommended universally to curb the disease from spreading.However, the culling will begin only on Thursday , a move that could put not just poultry and livestock but also human beings in proximity to them under increased risk.
It will take five more days to know the type of N antigen in the virus which is crucial in determining whether the virus can spread to human beings or not. But anxiety over the threat to humans was compounded as it became clear that the state faced a severe shortage of preventive drugs, notably Oseltamivir. At present the state has a stock of only 6,720 Oseltamivir tablets and it has been estimated that with the bird flu spreading to more areas there will be an immediate demand of 10,000 tablets and a short-term need of 50,000 to meet any eventuality .
As precaution, the meeting chaired by the CM decided to ban the sale of duck meat and eggs in a 10-km radius in places like Purakkad, Thalaviri and Kainakari in Alappuzha district and Aymanam in Kottayam. Animal Husbandry department will employ 304 squads to execute culling.

L&T to set up 6K CCTVs in Mumbai

After three successive failures in selecting a firm to carry out the ambitious 24X7 CCTV surveillance project across Mumbai, the Maharashtra state government has selected L&T Infotech to set up over 6,000 electronic eyes at more than 1,500 junctions. “After a scrutiny of bidders, we have found L&T's offer to build and operate the project technically and financially feasible. Though the cost has been pegged at Rs 950 crore, we have decided to negotiate further to bring down the burden on the state treasury ,“ state home department sources said.
“The project will be executed in 21 months. We will soon have a meeting of all departments involved and the selected bidder to decide on the final strategy to avoid technical and financial glitches during project implementation,“ they added. The system with high-power cameras has the capacity to catch speeding objects from over a kilometre's distance and will help police chase criminals.
L&T and Trimax had submitted the bids. On Monday , technical scrutiny and financial evaluation of the bids were completed by the committees involving chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya, state IT department officials, and IIT-B professors.
The company that has offered competitive pricing and best technology has won the deal. “This is through a cash contract. We hope that issues such as pre-payment of cash raised by the companies that were short-listed earlier do not arise,“ the official added.


Two saints mark Roman holy day for Kerala

Once again recognizing the vitality of Kerala's contemporary Christian community and its long and pedigreed history, the Vatican anointed two more saints from the Syro-Malabar Church. At a special mass at St Peter's Square at Vatican, Pope Francis declared Fr Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Sister Euphrasia Eluventhinkal as saints, worthy of worship at altars in all Catholic and sister churches across the world. The Vatican event was greeted with jubilation and spiritual fervour across Kerala, where church bells rang in unison as Pope Francis recited the Formula of Canonization in Latin.
A large contingent of lay persons and clergy from the state witnessed the simple yet elegant ceremony at the Vatican. Mother Sancta, Mother General of Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC), carried the relics of Sr Euphrasia to the holy altar, while the relics of Fr Chavara was taken to the altar by Fr James Madathikandathil during the rites.
Six saints were canonized on Sunday, the four others being Italians. In a touching moment that resonated with hundreds of thousands of devout Malayalis watching the ceremony live on television, Fr Davis Pattath, director of Jerusalem Retreat Centre in Thrissur, read out a short prayer in Malayalam.

Lucknow-Agra Expressway

The foundation stone for the Lucknow-Agra Expressway ­ billed to be the longest expressway in the country at 304 km ­ was unveiled on Sunday in Lucknow. The unveiling of the Rs.15,000-crore project was conducted by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in the presence of chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his Cabinet.
The 304-km-long expressway from Agra to Lucknow will pass through 10 districts and with overbridges on rivers, road overbridges, markets, kisan mandis and four smart cities coming up along the greenfield expressway , it is set to give a boost to the state's economy ,“ said Akhilesh Yadav . The expressway is likely to cut down the travel time from eight hours at present to four hours.
He claimed that Uttar Pradesh Expresways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) has acquired 85 per cent of land for the project. Three companies have been selected for a private-public-partnership for work to happen in five phases.

Of KCR's sky scraper plans....

Taking forward the decision of the Telangana state government to construct skyscrapers around Hussainsagar, chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao announced that the multi-storeyed buildings would be constructed on 40 locations spread over an area of 100 acres around the lake. The world's tallest building would come up at Sanjeevaiah park displacing the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is 828 metres tall. Other skyscrapers being planned are at Buddha Bhavan, Ranigunj bus depot, Lower Tank Bund, Kundanbagh, Patigadda, Sailing Club, Youth Hostel, Raghava Sadan, Nursing College, Dilkusha guest house, Greenlands, New MLA Quarters at Adarshnagar, Electricity Bhavan, Text Book Printing Press, Ritz Hotel, BRK Bhavan, Expotel Hotel and Snow World area in Lower Tank Bund. The minimum height of the buildings would be 75 floors.
KCR held a review meeting with officials on the skyscrapers project and cleaning of Hussainsagar on Saturday . He said the buildings would be constructed beyond the full tank level (FTL) of the lake and in compliance with the Supreme Court judgment and other environmental norms.
According to a press release, the CM asked the officials to prepare comprehensive plans for infrastructure facilities at the locations identified for the skyscrapers. The officials have been directed to prepare guidelines for the construction of the tall buildings around the lake as many international agencies are likely to come forward to take up the projects.
KCR said the state government would accord top priority for cleaning of the lake and directed the officials to call for tenders for diverting the storm water drains that are connected to the lake. He said Hussainsagar was being polluted due to in flows from various nalas and asked the officials to ensure that the underground drainage system is in place as sewage was being released into the nalas. KCR said Rs.100 crore would be released for cleaning of the lake. Since the lake is getting polluted due to immersion of Ganesha and Durga idols every year, Vinayaka Sagar would be developed in Indira Park where immersion would take place, it was decided at the meeting.
The CM also decided to hold a meeting with the members of the Ganesh Utsava Committee and elected representatives on the proposal of Vinayaka Sagar.For taking up desilting in the lake, KCR constituted a subcommittee under Chief Secretary Rajiv Sharma with special chief secretary Pradeep Chandra, principal secretaries SK Joshi, Raymond Peter and Nagi Reddy as members. Their mission is oversee the desilting works in the lake during the coming summer.
“Our government's intention is to build towers on par with international standards and at the same time, bring past glory to the lake and ensure that there is no harm to the environment in the vicinity of the lake,“ the chief minister said.

Chandrababu goes on a Biz Hunt

For many years after he lost office in 2004, Chandrababu Naidu would flinch when complimented on his industry-friendly approach as chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh. He seemed wary of owning up to his past, attributing his electoral loss to the pursuit of liberal economic policies that were seen to be focused around Hyderabad and ignored the rest of the state, particularly rural AP.
Back in the saddle this June, Naidu 2.0 is closer to his old avatar. His pincer raids on Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have raised hackles in both Bengaluru and Chennai, with Karnataka chief minister Siddara maiah complaining to PM Narendra Modi about the unfair tax breaks AP gets because of its `new state' status. No surprises for guessing that J Jayalalithaa had also shot off a similar missive to the PM.
That the CM of a state that's synonymous with IT and accounts for almost 40% of India's technology industry is worried about Naidu's charm offensive is a good indicator of how serious Karnataka is taking Naidu's threat.
Naidu wants to attract $2 billion in IT investments over the next 5 years to AP . He also wants to create 50 lakh tech jobs, take broadband connectivity (1,000 mbps or gigabit) to every village and make at least one person e-literate in every household. With AP chief minister Chandrababu Naidu going all out to attract investments to his state, the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments are panicking. Not only does Naidu want to attract $2 billion in IT investments in five years, to boost entrepreneurship he plans to create one-million sq ft of incubation space by 2019.
In early November, Naidu was in Bengaluru for the nth time, meeting industry captains and entrepreneurs. He made a pit stop at Cisco's campus where he addressed employees at an all-hands meeting, perhaps the first townhall hosted to welcome the head of a local state. He shared his vision on how technology would be the backbone of his state. He also met senior executives from firms like Flipkart, First American Corporation, ITC Infotech and ABB. Besides, Naidu inaugurated the Bengaluru facility of Nutanix, one of Silicon Valley's hottest start-ups, before sitting through a session on e-governance and financial inclusion at the start-up incubator founded by American-Indian billionaire Vinod Khosla.
He visited Khosla Labs and was keen to explore the possibility of using Aadhaar at MeeSeva (at your service in Telugu), a single portal for government-to-customer and government-to-business services.
Naidu’s forays to Bengaluru have a specific purpose: To lure investments into the backward Rayalaseema region of AP. Naidu, in his state, is being accused of being partial to the region around Vijayawada, leaving the drylands of Rayalaseema—where his rival Jagan Reddy is strong — out of his development agenda. In TN, Naidu’s focus is to get manufacturing investment to move across the border to Sri City, a special economic zone located in Tada, which is 55 km from Chennai.
Naidu is pushing Tada so that major investments that can leverage proximity to Chennai can be located here. Japanese auto giant Isuzu first zeroed in on Chennai for its India plant before opting for Sri City. Lack of industrial land and power in TN combined with access to a high-quality port at Krishnapatnam in Nellore is moving industrial projects across the border. This is naturally causing jitters in Chennai.
In fact, much to Karnataka's chagrin, Naidu got Hero MotorCorp to set up its first factory in in AP . Siddaramaiah had then said, “We offered maximum concessions to the company (tax holidays, excise duty exemption, concessions in entry tax, interest-free loan of central sales tax). But AP offered them free land. We cannot do that because other companies will also ask for it. We cannot compete with AP on this.'' Power is another plus for Naidu. With his government is promising uninterrupted power to factories, the AP-TN border area is turning attractive for industry .
In fact, what Naidu is doing to TN is exactly what that state did to Karnataka a couple of decades ago. Between 1978 and 1985, a flurry of investments meant for Bangalore stopped just inside the Tamil Nadu border.TVS Motor, Ashok Leyland, Titan and several others pumped in hundreds of crores into Hosur, 40 km from Bangalore.
Manufacturing investments, obviously , are big on Naidu's mind. End November will see Naidu in Japan where he will pitch for Japanese companies to set up shop in Tada, even while seeking investments for his new capital. This is reminiscent of what he did earlier. In December 1999, Naidu had flown to Bangalore and pleaded with members of the Confederation of Indian Industry to consider AP . He pitched proximity to the interstate border and assured investors of royal treatment.
Babu--as Naidu is referred to in AP--did not restrict himself to Bangalore. In the manner of a salesman, he travelled to the US and sat outside the office of Bill Gates for a few hours to meet him. The result: Microsoft set up a development centre in Hyderabad and kickstarted an IT enclave in the Nizam’s city. Many other tech firms followed although by the time they actually came up Naidu had lost polls. They included Infosys, Wipro, Facebook and Google.
Naidu also offered free land to the ISB and got it located in Hyderabad though its first choice was Maharashtra. Impressed by the upcoming Hyderabad, even US President Bill Clinton decided to drop by (as did his successor George Bush).
This time around Naidu’s mission is different. Although he claims that creation of a modern IT industry in AP is also his mission, insiders know that with a large coastline, export-oriented manufacturing near the ports offers a greater opportunity. Moreover, strapped for cash, Naidu requires a lot of investment for the new capital that he wants to build on the river Krishna across the city of Vijayawada. “I wanted to develop Visakhapatnam after Hyderabad, but by the time the turn came I had lost elections,” he says candidly.
Now Visakhapatnam — a port city with a Navy base, two ports and a significant cosmopolitan crowd — is sought to be promoted as the Mumbai of the East. This is a trifle ambitious considering the city is still reeling from a major cyclone and being on the east coast is vulnerable to more such storms in future.
Singapore is weighing Naidu’s plea to help prepare a blue print for AP’s capital. S M Krishna, when he was chief minister of Karnataka, went head-to-head with Naidu to attract IT investments and turn Bangalore into a Singapore. If Naidu has his way, perhaps it will be Vijayawada that will become India’s Singapore.

Literacy rate rises 10% in a decade

India has shown considerable improvement in literacy levels in 10 years, yet one in 10 households still doesn't have even a single literate member, shows Census 2011 data. On the other hand, more than one-third of the country's households have at least four literate members above seven.
Literacy data says India has 24.88 crore households out of which 9.56 crore (38.4%) have at least four members who know to read and write. But there are also 2.42 crore households (9.7%) which don't have even one literate member. Of India's 24.9 crore households, 38.4% have at least four literate members while 9.7% don't have even one, say Census 2011 figures. In comparison, as per the 2001 census, 35.3% of the households had at least four literate members and 14.4% had none.
India has an effective literacy rate (among people aged 7 years and above) of 74%, a marked improvement from 2001, when the literacy was just 64.84%. In rural areas, the rate is lower at about 68% while in urban areas it is 84%.A `household' is a group of persons who normally live together and take their meals from a common kitchen, unless the exigencies of work prevent any of them from doing so.