Delhi-Meerut Expressway

Navy test-fires long-range missiles

The Indian Navy successfully completed the maiden test firing of its newly developed Long Range Surface to Air Missile onboard a warship on Thursday .
The test was conducted in Arabian Sea on the Western Seaboard by INS Kolkata, wherein the missile successfully intercepted an aerial target at extended ranges of approximately 100 km. Two missiles were fired on Wednesday on high speed targets, during naval exercises being undertaken in the Arabian Sea and the final test was undertaken on Thursday . The project has been a joint effort by the Israeli and Indian forces in recent years, and has become officially operational in both navies.
A source in the Indian Navy said the system was fitted prior commissioning of INS Kolkata. “The last sea trial of the warship was by Israel towards the end of November,“ said the official.

Coastal Road snippets

The central government has cleared the decks for the proposed coastal road connecting Nariman Point to Kandivli. A notification was issued allowing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to reclaim seafront and mangroves, thus clearing the last hurdle for the longstanding project.
Of the 34.56 km road, 1.61 km will be constructed on reclaimed land over 168.08 hectares. No toll will be charged initially on this road which aims to solve the city's traffic congestion woes.
With the notification being issued, the civic body can now invite tenders for the work and it can also begin work to reclaim land, said an official.
The road will be elevated at certain stretches and will run into tunnels at other points.Land will be reclaimed at nine points along the entire length of the coastal road, five of which will be in the island city. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had recently met central ministers in New Delhi to discuss the coastal road project, the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link and conservation of the Western Ghats.
The coastal road project had been lying in limbo since the tenure of the previous government. In a tweet, Fadnavis thanked the Centre: “Thank you Hon Modiji and Prakash Javdekar ji for issuing notification allowing construction of Mumbai Coastal Road. It's a dream come true for Mumbai kars.“
The civic body will be the executing agency of the project and the state urban development department will supervise it.
Sources said that the notification issued also insists on measures to avoid long-term damage to the environment.

Bhendi Bazaar Cluster redevelopment update

Construction for the first phase of the Bhendi Bazaar Redevelopment Project began on Wednesday , which was also the second death anniversary of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, the spiritual leader of the Bohra community who had envisioned the project.
For the first phase, two buildings each from two sub-clusters have been shortlisted and work on redeveloping them will begin. The project, which is being commissioned and executed by the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), is the city's largest cluster development.The trust expects to complete construction of the four buildings in three years and wants to resettle 650 families and 300 business in the new structures.
The trust has demolished more than 70 buildings and has shifted 1,700 families. A total of 400 businesses have been vacated from Bhendi Bazaar and have been shifted to transit accommodations that have been constructed specially for this project.
Abbas Master, CEO of SBUT, said, “We are trying to make a project that can be a role model for the country . Since it's a congested area, most of the pre-fabrication work will be done off the site to ensure least number of people are affected by the construction activity.“ The project, covering 16.5 acres, has more than 250 decrepit buildings, 3,200 families and 1,250 shops. The project has received a mention from the PM.


International pension funds and sovereign wealth funds from countries such as Russia, Singapore and the UAE have evinced interest in participating in India's Rs.40,000-crore National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), the government has said, in what could bode well for the country's infrastructure story.
The NIIF is meant to fund development of infrastructure projects, including reviving stalled ones. The government will invest Rs.20,000 crore into the NIIF from the Budget, with another Rs.20,000 crore expected to come from private investors.The government's share of the NIIF's corpus is envisaged to be under 50%.
Jaitley's deputy and Junior Finance Minister Jayant Sinha said the NIIF, whose creation is among the major initiatives of the Narendra Modi administration to fix India's infrastructure woes, would serve as an umbrella fund with several funds underneath it.
Market regulator Sebi has already approved the setting up of the NIIF, which was approved by the Cabinet last July, as a Category II Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) on December 28, 2015. The NIIF could provide equity support to stuck infrastructure projects, giving other foreign funds comfort to take them over.Large greenfield projects could also be taken up by the fund in various sectors.
Besides sponsoring funds, the NIIF could also invest directly in projects and Sinha noted that there was a full pipeline of greenfield, brownfield as well as stressed projects. A government official said some key transportation projects could be taken up initially by the NIIF for funding.
The government has identified revamp of country's creaky infrastructure as a key focus area and the NIIF seeks to address gaps in long-term funding for the sector. It will be overseen by a governing council headed by Jaitley and its other members include the secretaries of economic affairs and financial services, SBI Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya, former Infosys executive TV Mohandas Pai and Hemendra Kothari. The council, which on Tuesday discussed possible projects that may be taken up under the NIIF, is slated to meet again in March.

Mobile Users cross a Billion

India's cellphone subscriber base has peaked to more than one billion users (100 crore) for the first time, data released by telecom regulator Trai on Wednesday showed.India is the second country , after China, to achieve the milestone. The number of wireless subscribers rose to over a billion at the end of October from 996.7 million at September-end, the data showed. India has around 12 mobile carriers; the largest, Bharti Airtel, has over 200 million users. The biggest American carrier, Verizon Wireless, has around 137.5 million subscribers.

British aid to India to end

From January 1, India will no longer receive financial aid from the UK, a decision which was taken by the British government in 2012 after a domestic outcry about India's growing economic status.
The transition has taken three years during which the existing financial grant projects in India were completed and the unutilized funds moved into what are called “technical assistance“ projects.
The ministry of external affairs (MEA) informed Parliament last week that “it was agreed that the existing financial grant projects will be completed responsibly as planned and technical cooperation would continue by sharing skills and expertise or in investments in private sector projects“. In 2012, then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had famously said British aid was “a peanut“ in India's total development spend and that the country could very well do without it.This followed loud voices in the UK protesting against British aid to India, a country which, they said, has a robust space and defence programme. Aid activists, however, pointed to India's poor millions to make a case for retaining the programme.
The MEA said, “The new component Private Sector Development Initiative, introduced in 2011 to promote private sector investment in eight low income states of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, UP and Rajasthan, will continue.“
The government said UK had provided financial aid for government programmes between 2013-2015 (Rs.855.01 cr in 2013-14, Rs.601.77 cr in 2014-15 and Rs.190.06 cr in 2015-16).
At present, there are 26 government sector projects with DFID assistance at the Centre and in MP , Odisha, West Bengal and Bihar -primarily in health, education, governance and urban reforms. However, British media reported in early December that fresh Whitehall statistics showed that despite the UK promise to cut aid to India, there appeared to be a spike in development spending which rose to £279 million in 2014 from £268 million in the previous year.The only other country , the report said, which received more than India was Ethiopia, but that showed a dip of £8million from 2013.
The Indian government said in 2014-15 and 2015-16, five new agreements have been signed for technical assistance projects in the areas of agricultural reforms, urban infrastructure, energy access, etc.


Cutting LPG subsidy

Subsidised cooking gas will no longer be provided to buyers earning Rs.10 lakh or more a year, continuing a series of reforms including market-based diesel prices, direct transfer of LPG subsidy and revamped oilfield contracts that end bureaucratic meddling. The new system will begin in the new year and deny subsidy to such consumers even if the cooking gas connection is in the name of the spouse. The government move is somewhat similar to the practice of `means test' prevalent in some advanced economies like the US and UK, where an individual or a family is tested for its eligibility for government assistance and the ability to do without that, mainly for legal aid, welfare funds, students finance and medical aid.
In keeping with the approach of trusting the citizens, the rule will initially be implemented on self-declaration basis for cylinders booked from January 2016 onwards, it said. Currently, there are 16.35 crore cooking gas connections in the country. The government had earlier successfully implemented the PAHAL scheme, which transferred cooking gas subsidy directly to bank accounts of 14.78 crore customers to ensure that benefits go only to the target group.
The government had also given a call to well-to-do households for voluntarily giving up LPG subsidy. This encouraged 57.50 lakh consumers to opt out of LPG subsidy voluntarily.


Make In India Week

States battle for Investments

PAN Card becomes mandatory for....

Reliance launches Jio

Mukesh Ambani launched his 4G telecom services on Sunday evening restricting it only to Reliance employees for now, as the company gears up to shake up the telecom industry with a commercial launch around March next year.
For Ambani, this is the second calling in the telecom business after his first venture, Reliance Communications, went into the kitty of younger brother Anil as par of a family settlement between the siblings. On offer from Reliance Jio Infocomm wil be low-cost 4G devices (under `Lyf ' brand) costing Rs.4,000 and a host of services along with regular voice and data These will include a big collection of music (Jio Beats) around 200 television channels with back-up (Jio Play) and movies (Jio on-demand).
At the commercial launch, Ambani is expected to go for aggressive pricing for offerings which are expected to come bundled with a host of SIM cards (to make it a family offering) and large data-pack plans. The telecom entry is one of the group's most ambitious project till now (after retail) and it has pumped in around Rs.1 lakh crore to take on established telecom behemoths such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular.
The battle for customers in the competitive telecom business is expected to get in tense and market analysts feel that Reliance's entry will bring down mobile and data prices further in India which already boasts of giving the world's cheapest tariffs. The 90,000-odd employees of the group go live on the voiceover-LTE (4G) network from Monday, the 83rd birthday of Reliance group founder Dhirubhai Ambani.
“India and Indians cannot afford to be left behind in this new world. However, India is ranked around 150 in the internet and mobile broadband penetration out of 230 countries. Jio is conceived to change this,“ Ambani said as he unveiled the services Reliance Corporate Park in Navi Mumbai in the presence of mother Kokilaben, wife Nita and children Isha, Akash and Anant.


India could be the World's fastest-growing economy

Projected to grow at 7%, India has the potential to be the world's fastest-growing economy over the next decade till 2024, far outpacing China that could slow to 4.3%, says an influential study by Harvard's Centre for International Development (CID) on the basis of the latest available 2014 trade data. Helmed by Prof Ricardo Hausmann, who heads the CID and leads research for the Atlas of Economic Complexity, the study presents an optimistic picture for India based on increasing sophistication of its industry , ability to adapt to changing global demand and variety in exports.
“India has made important gains in productive capabilities, allowing it to diversify its exports into more complex products, including pharmaceuticals and even electronics,“ Prof Hausmann says in a press release. Hausmann notes that India's recent gains in complexity of its economy , along with an ability to continue improving, will drive higher incomes. “This will position India to lead global economic growth over the coming decade,“ he says. Arguing that gains in economic complexity have historically translated into higher incomes, Hausmann says China has already realized these benefits and has doubled per capita in come in less than a decade Along with growth projections, the CID released new country rankings in the 2014 economic complexity index which incorporates data stretching back to 1962, that places India at the 42nd spot but notes an improvement by five positions.
The rankings continue to see Japan, Germany and Switzerland leading the table while the UK, the US and France (10th, 13th and 16th have all slipped. Oil economies like Venezuela have slipped the fastest, supporting the notion that a surfeit of mineral wealth can be a curse as it makes governments lethargic and encourages rentierism.
Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have the top gainers clocking fast per capita growth. This includes China that has climbed an impressive 16 positions to 17th -even though its long term prospects are dimmer -and South Korea at 4th having gained 11 positions. The Harvard study recognizes that knowhow, which enriches a community's complexity , is often supplied by migrants.“Immigration policy must confront the fact that many of the firms that help diversify a country and drive its growth are started by immigrants and foreign firms,“ Hausmann says.
Researchers argue economic complexity is remarkably accurate in explaining differences in income levels and predicting growth trajectories.“Sustained growth is fundamentally human driven. The greater the diversity of productive knowhow in a place, the more complex products it can make, which underpins income gains,“ says Timothy Cheston, a CID team member.
The CID projections are bullish on east Africa, with Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya in the top 10, all predicted to grow at least 5.5% annually .The growth forecast is also favourable for south Asian countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam that could grow above global averages.The forecast for advanced economies is more muted with the US expected to grow at 2.8%.

Invest Karnataka 2016


In a Christmas surprise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a dramatic visit to Lahore to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif, boosting the recent turnaround in ties with Pakistan.
Modi stunned one and all with a tweet, hours before his departure from Kabul in the afternoon, that he was going to “drop by“ in Lahore for a meeting with Sharif. The Pakistani PM was in Lahore for his granddaughter's (Maryam Nawaz's daughter Mehrunisa's) wedding.
Birthday diplomacy is how many chose to describe Modi's yet another “impromptu“ meeting with Sharif -after Paris -as December 25 also marks the birth anniversaries of Pakistan's Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Sharif himself.
Modi is the first Indian PM to set foot in Pakistan since January 2004 when Vajpayee visited Islamabad for the 12th Saarc summit. That visit resulted in the first-ever commitment by Pakistan to prevent its territory from being used for terrorism. It is again Pakistan's assurances on terrorism, more specifically on the Mumbai trial, which has been cited by India to resume dialogue.
Modi was received at Lahore airport by Sharif. The two leaders hugged warmly before they walked hand in hand on the red carpet laid out for Modi. In a first, the two leaders took a Pakistani military chopper to Sharif 's Raiwind home on the outskirts of Lahore.
After his arrival in India, Modi tweeted that he was personally touched by Sharif 's gesture of receiving and seeing him off at the airport. He said he also found Sharif 's affection for Vajpayee touching.In another tweet, he said he had spent a warm evening at Sharif 's home and that Sharif 's birthday and his granddaughter's wedding had made it a double celebration.
Mehrunisa's mother Maryam is believed to be Sharif 's successor in politics. Modi gifted an Indian dress to Mehrunisa as he met Sharif 's family members, including his wife Kulsoom, before he sat down for a more formal hour-long meeting with the PM. Modi also gifted a shawl to Kulsoom.
Sharif 's palatial palace at Raiwind was decorated with lights of different shades and colours for the twin events of his birthday and granddaughter Mehrunnisa's wedding.
Pakistan described it as a goodwill visit while the foreign ministry spokesperson said Modi was “infusing a positive spirit in the neighbourhood“. While Modi was accompanied by NSA Ajit Doval, foreign secretary S Jaishankar and other officials, Sharif had his foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary by his side. Though there was not much of a discussion on any bilateral issue, Chaudhary said after the meeting that both leaders agreed that Jaishankar would travel to Islamabad to carry forward the dialogue process. Agency reports said the talks will be on January 16. The two sides decided to collectively work towards the common goal of fighting poverty and increase people to people contact in order to open new avenues for peace and mutual cooperation between the two neighbouring countries,” Chaudhary said. Leaders of Pakistan’s main opposition parties also welcomed Modi’s visit. Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party, said he had also invited the Indian PM to Pakistan during his recent visit to India. He said frequent meetings between the heads of the two states would have a positive impact on bilateral relations. “Improvement in Pakistan-India ties is inevitable for sustainable peace in the region,” Khan said. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, head of Pakistan Peoples Party, said the only solution to Pakistan-India issues was constant communication between the two countries. “We welcome PM Narendra Modi in Pakistan,” he said.


Of Crop Insurance....

Surface cleaning of Ganga to begin

The surface cleaning of Ganga, including removal of solid waste such as clothes and parts of dead bodies, will commence in 10 cities from next month.
Water resources minister Uma Bharati said the surface cleaning exercise would start in Haridwar, Garhmukteshwar, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Sahibganj, Kolkata, Nabadwip and Gangasagar under the `Namami Gange' programme.
In a consultative committee meeting on Tuesday , she said trial of surface cleaning had already started in Varanasi which has been assigned to Tata Projects Ltd under corporate social responsibility scheme. She said NTPC, ONGC and Petronet had also expressed willingness to fund the project.
Referring to the progress of sewage treatment under Namami Gange, the minister said that 29 projects have been completed at a cost of Rs.463.58 crore with the treatment capacity of 123 million litres per day (MLD) and sewer network of 666.69 km. A total of 93 projects have been sanctioned at the cost of Rs.1,502.66 crore.This will result in the creation of treatment capacity of 858 MLD and sewer network of 3,623.10 km.
Referring to the progress made in river front ghat development projects, Bharati told the parliamentary panel that development of four ghats out of 20 in Patna was completed last month.
She said work at Chandighat (Haridwar), Chhath Ghat (Delhi) and Sahibganj will begin next month.

Idea rolls out 4G in southern markets

Idea Cellular, the third largest telco by customer base, caught up with its larger rivals to enter the 4G space by announcing services in the five southern states, and also announced content tie-ups with digital companies to help increase the data usage under it.
The company launched services in the fourth-generation LTE technology covering 75 towns in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which encompass four telecom circles.Idea's rivals like Airtel and Vodafone have already launched 4G services in select circles.

India tops in remittances in 2015

Indians living abroad sent home an estimated $72 billion (Rs.4.75 lakh crore) this year, making it the largest remittance receiving country in the world, according to the World Bank's Migration and Remittances Factbook 2016.
China ($64 billion) and the Philippines ($30 billion) trail behind India at number two and three, respectively .Overall, international migrants, expected to surpass 250 million, will send $601 billion to their families in their home countries this year. Of this, a large chunk of $441 billion will be sent to families in developing countries. “These inflows constitute more than 10% of GDP in some 25 developing countries and lead to increased investments in health, education, and small businesses in various communities,“ said the report produced by the bank's Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD) initiative.
“At more than three times the size of development aid, international migrants' remittances provide a lifeline for millions of households in developing countries. In addition, migrants hold more than $500 billion in annual savings. Together, remittances and migrant savings offer a substantial source of financing for development projects that can improve lives and livelihoods in developing countries,“ said Dilip Ratha, co-author of the Factbook.
The top 10 migrant destination countries were the US, Saudi Arabia, Germany , Russia, UAE, the UK, France, Canada, Spain and Australia. The top 10 migrant source countries were India, Mexico, Russia, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and the UK.
In 2014, there were 14.4 million refugees (excluding 5.1 million Palestinian refugees), accounting for 6% of international migrants. About 86% of the refugees were hosted by developing countries, with Turkey , Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Chad, and Uganda the largest host countries.In contrast, the number of refugees in developed countries was 1.6 million.

China India Tourism Year 2016


CAD snapshot

Rajya Sabha Passes Juvenile Justice Bill

Against the backdrop of a raging debate triggered by the release of a juvenile convicted in the Nirbhaya gangrape case, the Rajya Sabha passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill that permits those between 16 and 18 years of age to be tried as adults for heinous offences and provides for adoption of a more child-friendly approach in adjudication and rehabilitation of children involved in crimes.
Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi moved the bill, which had already been passed by the Lok Sabha earlier, in the Upper House after a debate that lasted nearly five hours. The CPM, NCP and DMK demanded that the bill be referred to a select committee of the House -a demand that even the Congress was making earlier, but dropped the idea eventually.
Moments before the bill was put to vote, the CPM staged a walkout in protest against the Chair's decision not to send the bill to a select committee. The new Act will replace the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 that had increased the age of punishment from 16 to 18 years.
Under the new Act, those between 16 and 18 years will be tried as adults for heinous offences, like rape and murder, as adults. It further states that any 16-18 year old, who commits a lesser serious offence, may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years. Parents of Nirbhaya -who was brutally gangraped on the night of December 16, 2012, and succumbed to her injuries a few days later -were present in the visitors' gallery during the discussions on the bill.
Maneka Gandhi informed the House that the Juvenile Justice Board would from now on also include a psychologist. A better rehabilitation process would be adopted in the coming days and the government is working on it.The Juvenile Justice Board and Child Welfare Committee will be formed in each district of the country .
Reaching out to the main opposition, Maneka Gandhi reminded the Congress that the bill was theirs and not hers or the NDA government's.
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the government is showing haste in bringing this bill now as the juvenile convicted in the Nirbhaya case has been released three days back. He emphasised that opinion on reducing the age is divided and there is a debate on it the world over
CPM's Sitaram Yechury maintained though his party is in favour of a new Juvenile Law, various aspects of the issue should be looked into before passing it. “What if a child who is 15 years and 10 months old is found guilty of a heinous crime? ISIS is recruiting children between 14 and 15 years...“

HAL is 75

TRAI puts Free Basics on hold

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has asked Reliance Communications to stop the Free Basics service of Facebook, at least for some time.
Reliance Communications is Facebook's sole telecom partner in India to offer a set of basic internet services free to its subscribers. The service is called Free Basics.Earlier known as internet.org, Free Basics has been criticised by several experts as being against the spirit of net neutrality .
Trai is yet to form a view whether Free Basics conforms to net neutrality .
Net neutrality means internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites.
However, Reliance Communications is still to pull the Free Basics platform off its services. The Free Basics platform is available to subscribers of the telecom company when they log into the website, leaving a question mark over the compliance to the regulator's order.
Sources said that Reliance had received a communication from Trai around two weeks back over the issue.
Facebook has also been campaigning for the Free Basics platform very aggressively , especially as Trai has sought comments for working out recommendations on the differential pricing option. However, there is a stiff resistance building up against its campaigns as activists urge subscribers to oppose the measure while giving comments on Trai's consultation paper.
The Free Basics platform, which has been in place since last year, had been initiated by FB ostensibly as a philanthropic activity as the social media giant wanted to provide free basic internet connectivity to the unconnected across Asia, Africa and Latin America. FB has partnered more than a dozen mobile operators across 19 countries to provide the free platform. However, it has been criticized severely over the measure as net neutrality activists from various parts of the world said that the platform is “threatening freedom of expression“ and presented a “walled garden“ for first time users. They also argue that the platform will stifle the start-up culture and curb innovation.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has time and again defended the platform, saying that it aims to connect those who have not been able to get access to the internet.But faced with a barrage of criticism, the company in September this year decided to re-christen internet.org as Free Basics while allowing any application or developer on the platform, provided it “meets basic technical requirement“. This clause has also been criticized by activists who opposed the “conditional entry“ into Facebook platform against the “culture of freedom“ on the wider internet.


Chennaiyin FC wins ISL 2015

The Indian Super League (ISL) final appears addicted to late drama.
If Mohammad Rafique headed a last-minute winner in last year's final for Atletico de Kolkata, Stiven Mendoza rubbed salt on Goan wounds with two goals in added time as Chennaiyin FC stunned FC Goa 3-2 to emerge winners in the second edition in Fatorda on Sunday .
The capacity crowd at Fatorda had just begun celebrating Joffre Gonzalez's well-worked free-kick goal for FC Goa that gave the hosts a 2-1 advantage with just three minutes left on the clock. But joy soon turned into anguish as Goa conceded an own goal to tie the game in added time, and before anyone could realize what was unfolding on the field, Mendoza struck the winner. It was a shocking end to the match where Goa seemed to have done enough to steal the winner but Chennaiyin FC had the last laugh as Goa froze in the final moments of the match.
Not surprisingly, Chennaiyin FC celebrated their win in front of a near empty stadium, and those who had stayed behind were loud and clear in their assessment that the best team did not win.
You could put it down to the passion that drives FC Goa forward. Fans had jostled for tickets, bought plenty in black for extraordinary prices and in the end had to return home disappointed.


Finmin lowers FY16 GDP growth forecast

India is expected to grow by 7-7.5% in 2015-16, slower than the previous estimate of 8.1-8.5% as weak exports, sluggish farm sector and private investment weighed on faster expansion, the government's mid-year review showed on Friday .
In the Economic Survey of 2014-15, the finance ministry had forecast a growth of 8.1-8.5% for the current fiscal which ends in March. While RBI estimated growth to be about 7.4% this year, private economists and multilateral agencies said the Indian economy will expand close to 7.5%. The Indian economy , Asia's third largest, is seen as a bright spot against the backdrop of slowing growth across the world. Even with this growth rate, India will still be the fastest growing economy in the world.
The government vowed to meet the fiscal deficit target of 3.9% for the current financial year without resorting to any expenditure cuts but said the fiscal outlook for next year was challenging and called for a careful reassessment of both fiscal and monetary policies. Retail inflation is likely to be within RBI's target of about 6% in 2015-16.

Tharoor's gay bill rejected

Reflecting the dominance of conservative opinion in Parliament, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor's private member's bill seeking to decriminalize gay sex was defeated at the moment of introduction itself with BJP MPs--despite senior party leaders like Arun Jaitley and Ram Madhav having publically supported the move--leading the charge.
The bill's rejection by a vote of 71-24 marks a rare case where a private member's legislation was not even discussed. The bill, however, found the support of Trinamool and Biju Janata Dal MPs who voted in its favour.As the bill was rejected through division of votes, Tharoor tweeted that he would make another attempt to introduce the bill.

16 greenfield Expressways planned

The government has unveiled plans to build 16 greenfield expressways that will pass through relatively backward regions of the country , boosting connectivity and ensuring that economic benefits reach these areas.
Highways minister Nitin Gadkari told the Lok Sabha that the Vadodara-Mumbai, Jaipur-Ajmer-Ahmedabad and Amaravati-Hyderabad-Bengaluru stretches are part of the 16 projects. About 7 of these e-ways were announced during UPA -1 in 2005; NDA has added 9 more as it seeks to revive the highways sector and boost growth. It may take several years to build these e-ways as issues of land acquisition and tying up enormous amount of funds for the projects is expected to take time. State governments would have to be taken on board to fast-track the projects.
Gadkari said the seven stretches, covering 1,000 km at a cost of Rs.16,500 crore (cost of that year), were approved in January 2005 by the UPA-I and it was also decided to give top priority to Vadodara-Mumbai corridor since it had maximum traffic density .


Passenger Traffic of Indian Railways

States: Human Development Index

Excise Duty Hiked on Petro Products

The government has increased excise duty on petrol and diesel, taking advantage of a fall in global prices, to garner an additional Rs.2,500 crore in the rest of the financial year.
Basic excise duty on unbranded petrol has been increased by 30 paise to Rs.7.36 a litre and on unbranded diesel by Rs.1.17 to Rs.5.83 per litre.
The government is facing a likely shortfall in direct tax mobilisation and the additional revenue from the increase in excise duties on petro products will help make it up to an extent. Customers will end up paying more for auto fuels just a day after prices of petrol and diesel were lowered. After including additional and special excise duty, the total levy on unbranded petrol will now be Rs.19.36 per litre, while on unbranded or normal diesel, total excise duty after including special excise duty will be Rs.11.83 per litre.

SC on Diesel in Delhi

The Supreme Court banned the registration of diesel-powered private vehicles of two litres and more for three months in Delhi besides halting the entry of trucks made before 2005 into the city. As for goods vehicles made since then, the court strengthened barriers to their entry into the Capital as part of efforts aimed at reducing the level of airborne impurities in one of the world's most polluted cities. The court also wants all city taxis to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) from April 1 next year.
M&M, one of the automakers most affected by the order, dropped 5.4% on BSE.
On a conference call, the company said it's working toward re-engineering existing engines to conform to the two-litre limit and will push for more petrol engines. Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra tweeted: “Even if we believe the decision on diesel vehicles isn't optimal, we'll honour it and develop vehicles that comply with their stipulations. At the core of Mahindra's DNA is the unshakeable belief that `When the going gets tough, Mahindra gets going.' We thrive on challenges & rise above them.“
The ban on two-litre private diesel vehicles in the National Capital Region will run from January 1 to March 31, which is when cleaner diesel of Euro IV standard is expected to become available in NCR.While this implies that the ban may be temporary, the court reiterated its view on such vehicles.
The pollution issue in Delhi needs to be examined in a holistic manner, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) said in a release.
The manufacturers' lobby group also said cars were not a major polluter. The Supreme Court also doubled the environment compensatory cess (ECC) on loaded trucks to curb the entry of goods vehicles that use Delhi as a transit hub. The ECC is Rs.700 for vehicles of two axles and Rs.1,300 for those of three axles and above.
Trucks will be checked at the entry points of Kundli on National Highway-1 and Rajokri on NH-8 and diverted to alternate routes bypassing Delhi. These two border posts account for a large chunk of the trucks entering the city, estimated at around 30,000 daily .
The court clarification came amid complaints that trucks carrying supplies bound for other parts of the country were still entering the city after paying the ECC on the pretext that these were meant for Delhi.
The court also directed all taxis including aggregators such as Ola and Uber plying in the NCR to shift to CNG by March 31, 2016. The court also asked the authorities to ensure the use of curtains to prevent dust being spewed into the atmosphere from construction sites and masks for Delhi's traffic police, who're exposed to the city's pollution for prolonged periods everyday.
The court hinted at a one-time ECC on the registration of personal cars running on diesel engines below two litres.Roads in the city will need to be paved and vacuum cleaned to check dust levels by April 1, 2016, it said.
The court also asked civic authorities not to burn solid waste and to arrange for proper disposal in a scientific manner. The court will take the case up again on January 5, 2016, for further hearings to assess the impact of its orders passed with the consent of both the central and Delhi governments on the city's pollution levels.

Six Singapore satellites take off on Isro's PSLV

The Indian Space Research Organisation's (Isro's) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C29) put in orbit six Singapore satellites. A core-alone version of the PSLV (without solid strap-on motors) lifted off from the first launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, 100km north of Chennai, at 6 pm. A little more than 18 minutes later, the rocket ejected the 400 kg TeLEOS-1 into a 549 km circular orbit. The other five satellites (two micro satellites and one nano satellite) were put in orbit within another three minutes before the fourth stage of the rocket restarted to move away from the satellites launched before.
Soon after the last of the satellites was put in the orbit, Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar announced the mission a success.


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Exports Decline for 12th Straight Month

Exports declined for the 12th month in November, indicating that tepid global demand continues to be a drag on India's economic recovery . A sharper fall in imports, however, helped keep the country's trade deficit in check.
Exports fell more than 24% to $20 billion in November, compared with $26.4 billion a year earlier.
Imports declined over 30% to $29.7 billion from $42.7 billion a year ago, led by low crude oil prices and subdued imports of gold, coal and fertilisers. This helped shrank the trade deficit to $9.7 billion from $16.2 billion.
The drop in November exports was the steepest in the past couple of years, said SC Ralhan, president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations. At the current trend, India is expected to end the year with exports of between $260 billion and $270 billion, he said.
Aditi Nayar, senior economist at ratings firm ICRA, did not share the alarm. The standalone merchandise export data for November should be viewed with caution but not alarm, she added.
Sluggish global demand, an overvalued rupee, declining imports from China and devaluation of the Chinese currency have deterred India's exports from growing, despite the commerce department expanding export incentive schemes for various products and markets.
Merchandise exports in the first eight months of the fiscal year stood at $174.3 billion, compared with $213.7 billion in the corresponding period last year, a decline of 18.5%. In 2014-15, India's exports totalled $310.5 billion.Performance has imported in just seven of 30 product groups in November, compared with nine in October.
Non-oil imports fell 24.7% to $23.3 billion, while oil imports dropped nearly 45% to $6.4 billion. Nayar said the underlying weakness in non-oil exports, which have contracted 10% in the April-November 2015, remains a cause for concern. Gold imports in November fell 36.5% to $3.53 billion. Import of coal, coke and briquettes shrank over 50%t to $876.65 million.
On the export front, there was a sharp decline in the shipments of petroleum products (53.9%), engineering goods (28.6%), rice (37.1%), iron ore (14%) and gems and jewellery (21.5%).