Maharashtra raises compensation for land buys

The Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government in Maharashtra has made significant tweaks to the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, which could make land acquisition easier for the state. The state government has decided to increase the compensation amount in rural areas four-fold -the highest given by any state in the country, as claimed by some government officials.
According to a notice issued by the Maharashtra government on May 26, people living in rural areas whose land is being acquired will be compensated four times, up from 2.2 times earlier.
The state has also raised ` the compensation for acquiring land in semi-urban areas; while earlier a land owner used to be paid 1.2 times higher than the RRR, now he would be paid 1.5 times more.
The Maharashtra government's decision is part of a range of measures taken by the Fadnavis government to work around the Land Acquisition Act of the UPA government without reducing the compensation given to land owners.
On May 12, the state had decided to allow officials to buy land directly from landowners for irrigation and government projects and offer them a compensation that was 25% more than land owners would get under the 2013 Act.

SpiceJet back in black

Under its new ownership, SpiceJet has flown back into the black after seven consecutive loss-making quarters.The low-cost carrier reported a profit of Rs.22.5 crore in January-March 2015 quarter as against a loss of Rs.321.5 crore is the same period last year.
The income from operations, however, fell by almost 40% to Rs.786.3 crore in Q4 as the airline had sharply cut flights and was on the verge of closure. It was saved as SpiceJet co-founder Ajay Singh bought the airline from Sun Group chief Kalanithi Maran in Q4. “These results indicate that a recovery is in progress... We still have a lot of work to do... I am delighted to see the airline that I helped create 10 years ago starting to get back on its feet in this manner,“ Singh said.


Akhilesh's land acquisition feat

Even as the debate over the land acquisition bill threatens to boil over across India, the Samajwadi Party-led government in Uttar Pradesh has acquired nearly 3,000 hectares of fertile, multi-cropped land for its sixlane Agra-Lucknow greenfield expressway project without a murmur of dissent.
At a time when farmer groups were registering their protests against the alleged dilution of the consent clause in the NDA government's land ordinance, 30,074 farmers in UP were giving up fertile tracts of the Indo-Gangetic plain, willingly , and, in many cases, in record time.
So how did this speedy acquisition for the Rs.15,000 crore project happen?
By keeping farmers happy, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said. When UP Expressway Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), the nodal agency for implementing the project, set out to acquire land for the developers of the expressway project, it decided to avoid the contentious “acquisition“ process almost entirely . “Instead of acquiring land as is usually done, it was decided to purchase land from farmers through a mutual agreement. To make the transaction more lucrative, land owners were offered four times the circle rates (CR) in rural areas, and twice the CR in urban parts, as purchase cost. Acquisition was only considered in cases where mutual agreement failed,“ said Navneet Sehgal, chief executive, UPEIDA. The government's flagship 302-km expressway is a six-lane (expandable to eight) access controlled greenfield project, the longest in the country till date. To build it by October 2016, as the chief minister has promised to do, the UP government needs a total of 3,368.60 hectares of land cutting across 232 revenue villages from Agra to Lucknow, and passing through the districts of Mainpuri, Etawah, Kannauj, Auraiyya and Unnao. In the 270 days between June 2014 and January this year, UPEIDA completed about 27,000 registries at the rate of about 10 a day, arguably the fastest yet, for a government-run expressway project of this magnitude.
To achieve this, UPEIDA paid, till May 15, 2015, Rs.2,844.55 crore to make an outright purchase of 2,824.16 hectares of land from individual land owners, and 303.29 hectares from government departments, almost 93% of the total land it needed. Assistant CEO UPEIDA, Ashutosh Dubey said, “The government set up rate fixation committees under the chairmanship of the district magistrate to arrive at a mutually agreeable rate. After the approval of the CEO, land owners were given four times, or twice the CR depending on the location of their land. Apart from their land holdings, owners were also compensated for permanent structures built on their land, and for unharvested crops.“
Not all land holders, however, were agreeable to selling their land to the government. In such cases, UP opted for the land acquisition process as prescribed under the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013, and acquired 160.28 hectares of land. Here, while the rate of compensation remained the same, beneficiaries were offered an extra payment at an interest rate prescribed within the state's rules.
The benefits of the dual model -acquisition plus purchase -were many . “This model allowed UP to facilitate land transfer to developers in record time,“ Dubey said. Since the state's purchase-acquisition process started in June last year, UPEIDA now has a land pool of 3,287.73 hectares of the 3,368.60 hectares it needed; that's 97.6% of the land it needed, organized in less than one year.
The success of the Agra-Lucknow “expressway“ model of acquiring land through mutual agreements and through the acquisition route has now been extended to other construction projects as well. “It is a smoother, faster process. More significantly, though, farmers and land holders get a much better deal for their land than they would if we went the acquisition way . That would have been also much more time-consuming,“ Dubey added.
Politically , too, the Lucknow-Agra expressway project is expected to yield big benefits for the Samajwadi Party .With chief minister Akhilesh Yadav FOCUSING on “doubling the speed to triple the economy“, the project not only reduces travel time between Delhi and Lucknow, but also promises to become a hub around which industrial activity can flourish. More significantly , at a time when the land acquisition legislation remains a controversial, hot button issue, UP has charted its own course with the expressway .

Tripura government withdraws AFSPA

The Tripura cabinet withdrew the AFSPA act in a meeting on Wednesday .
The present six-month term of the Act will expire this expire this month. The Tripura government had withdrawn the eighteen-year-old AFSPA from the state with immediate effect, said chief minister Manik Sarkar. “Insurgency has come down to near zero in the state.The demand for withdrawing AFSPA had been made at various levels. But we could not take the final decision as the security forces did not give the final go ahead,“ the CM added.
AFSPA was promulgated in the state on February 16, 1997, owing to the relentless violence and bloodshed during the period. Following the provisions of the Act, it was reviewed and extended every six months for the past 18 years.“Recently , when the proposal of further extension of AFSPA came up for discussion to the state government, we sought report from all concerned departmentsabout the law and order and the militant's movement and activities. Finally, the security agencies have agreed to the proposal of withdrawing the Act,“ the CM said.
Initially , AFSPA was imposed across two-thirds of the police station areas in the state but gradually its extent was reduced with improving situation. At present, AFSPA is operational fully in 26 police station areas and partially in four police station areas out of 74 police stations and 36 outposts of Tripura. “There has been a qualitative change in the law and order and the state is witnessing development. We reviewed and found out that AFSPA need not be extended further,“ he added.

Modi switches on DD Kisan

PM Narendra Modi stressed on increasing farm output with the use of technology and scientific advancements at the launch of India's first 24-hour agriculture channel -DD Kisan.
Evoking the memory of former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri who took India towards higher grain production and self-sustainability, Modi said there was need to make the sector vibrant and dynamic.
Pointing out that agriculture was a “neglected“ field and considered the last choice after job and business, the PM said it has to be made “vibrant“. “The cycle has turned anti-clockwise. I think it needs to be turned back once again,“ he said while lauding farmers for making India self reliant on foodgrains. Modi emphasized the need for innovative farming methods to increase productivity like growing trees instead of walls to separate individual farms.

The Search for Sarawati

Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat may work together to trace the passage of mythological Saraswati river, with Union government proposing a committee of representatives of these states.
Officials of Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will also be part of the committee.
It is believed that Saraswati traversed through Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat prior to joining the Arabian Sea.
Saraswati Nadi Shodh Sansthan president Prashant Bhardwaj, who was also present in the meeting chaired by the Union minister, said the CGWB has taken water samples from Mugalwali village of Yamunanagar where water was found during the digging work of possible path of Saraswati.
According to Bhardwaj, the samples will be sent to Mumbai's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) to test whether the water belongs to glaciers. On the probable route of Saraswati, water has already been found in Kalayat town of Haryana and Rajasthan's Jaisalmer.
It is believed that important towns like Haryana's Kurukshetra, Pehowa, Shatrana and Sirsa and Rajasthan's Kalibangan, Pilibangan and Suratgarh flourished on the banks of Saraswati river.
Devotees say after originating from Himalayas, this majestic river flowed in southwesterly direction and entered the plains at Adi Badri (a place in the foothills of Shivalik ranges situated 36 kms from Yamunanagar).

Swiss Lists

Swiss tax authorities have disclosed more names of Indians having accounts in their jurisdiction, marking a success for the government's efforts to persuade them to share information on at least those against whom the income tax department has collected credible evidence of non-reporting. A day after two names-Sneh Lata Sawhney and Sangita Sawhney , linked to the owners of Sawhney Tyres--were disclosed, more identities of Swiss account holders from India became public. These included industrialist Yash Birla, Sayed Mohamed Masood and Chand Kausar Mohamed Masood, Gurjeet Singh Kochar and Ritika Sharma.
The Mumbai-based Masoods are facing various investigations for their alleged involvement in what is known as the City Limousine scam. Kochar, an NRI, is the son-inlaw of the late `Ponty' Chadha, a real estate, sugar and liquor tycoon. Swiss tax authorities said that the names were disclosed because the individuals concerned had not provided valid addresses. They did not rule out putting out more Indian names.
A spokesperson of the Swiss Federal Tax Authority emphasized that account details of those whose names have been disclosed would be shared with the Indian government if the individuals did not respond. Switzerland has given 10 days to the account holders to appeal.
Politically, the disclosures could not have been timed better, coming on the first anniversary of the Modi government, which was under pressure for not redeeming its pledge to recover black money .
Jaitley acknowledged that the cooperation fructifying around the first anniversary of the Modi government made him even happier. The government also feels that the lifting of the veil will prompt those with undisclosed wealth overseas to take advantage of the soon-to-be launched compliance scheme to avoid up to 10 years in jail under the new black money law.
Sources pointed out that while the Sawhneys were among those on the list of account holders in HSBC's Geneva branch, the Swiss stonewalled India's repeated requests for information on them. They had argued that the HSBC list was based on “stolen“ data and Swiss law barred them from making it public.
It was after three rounds of discussions--including two at the level of the Indian finance minister--that they relented and agreed to act in cases where the government submitted evidence against individuals.
Sources said the official disclosure about the Sawhneys in the Swiss Federal Gazette followed submission of evidence gathered during I-T searches on their premises.
Considering that the income tax department has launched prosecution in 121 cases linked to the HSBC list, more disclosures are likely. “It is no longer a taboo area for the Swiss,“ said an officer.
The authorities have more reasons to cheer.The cases of the Masoods and Kochar show that Swiss cooperation has stretched beyond the HSBC list. Sources said these names were not on the HSBC list and the information on them was provided on the basis of investigation carried out by the I-T department. With more mechanisms for automatic exchange of information with countries regarding assets in their banks in the offing, the government feels tax havens will cease to be impregnable fortresses which evaders took advantage of to stash their illicit assets.


Heatwave scorches India

The scorching summer continued to claim lives in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, with as many as 165 more deaths reported on Sunday , even as the soaring mercury broke records in other parts of India.
The sunstroke toll in the two states has now touched 500. And, there is likely to be no early respite from the killer heat as India Meteorological Department extended the severe heat wave warning in AP and Telangana by three more days.
The region's highest temperature of 47 degrees Celsius was recorded at Machilipatnam and Tuni in AP.
Elsewhere, blazing temperatures across cities made Sunday the hottest day in UP in five years.In Odisha, nine cities recorded temperatures above 45 degrees. It was 40 degrees at Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh's highest spot at 1,100 metres above sea level, a staggering 10 degrees above normal. As the toll continued to mount by the day , the AP and Telangana governments issued a public warning directing people to drink lots of fluids and approach the nearest hospital in case of any symptoms of sunstroke. They have also issued instructions to administration in the districts to keep oral rehydration solutions and intra-venous fluids at all railway and bus stations to provide emergency medicare to passengers.
Ironically, the disaster management departments in both the states remained silent on the actual sunstroke toll.Officials said they are busy collecting data from the field level staff. Vernacular media, with a large network of stringers in villages, have put Sunday's toll in the two states at over 270.
Reports of vehicles catching fire due to intense heat have come in from a few places in Telangana. As UP recorded its hottest day in five years, capital Lucknow saw a maximum temperature of 44.7 degrees C, which is the highest ever recorded there in the month of May .
Allahabad continued to be the hottest place in the state with a maximum temperature of 47.7 degrees C, up from 47 on Saturday . Banda recorded 46.6 degrees and Sultanpur 46, while it was 45.5 degrees in Varanasi, Agra and Bareilly . The state Met department warned that heat wave conditions would continue on Monday and Tuesday .
In MP , Khajuraho sizzled as the day temperature touched 47 degrees C. For the past week, mercury has been hovering around 45 degrees here.


Amma returns

AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa was sworn in as Tamil Nadu chief minister at the centenary auditorium of University of Madras at 11.05 am with industry captains and film stars including Rajinikanth in attendance. But, what indicated her political resurgence was the presence of Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan and senior BJP leaders L Ganesan and H Raja on the occasion. The function lasted barely 25 minutes during which governor K Rosaiah administered the oath to Jayalalithaa and 28 ministers.
Jayalalithaa, 67, became the 29th CM of Tamil Nadu and equalled DMK boss M Karunanidhi's record of five terms as CM -although she assumed office twice after being forced to resign from the post following court verdicts that disqualified her.
The ministers, for the first time in the history of Tamil Nadu, took the oath of office en masse, in two batches of 14 each.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted a congratulatory message to Jayalalithaa and conveyed his best wishes.After the brief ceremony , Jayalalithaa left for her Poes Garden residence without making the customary visit to the secretariat.
The auditorium was packed with more than 3,500 special invitees. Seated in the first row, among senior AIADMK leaders and special invitees, was Sasikalaa who, like Jayalalithaa, was clad in green sari.
Superstar Rajinikanth sat next to actor and All-India Samathuva Makkal Katchi leader Sarath Kumar. Representing the industry were India Cements managing director N Srinivasan and A C Muthaiah of SPIC. The seven DMDK rebel MLAs sat along with AIADMK MLAs cheering Jayalalithaa.
Hundreds of partymen thronged the venue for a glimpse of Jayalalithaa, who is returning as CM after eight months. They waited outside her residence since early morning. When she came out at 10.30 am, women offered `aarti' and showered flower petals on her vehicle. Party functionaries bowed low in greeting and some prostrated on the road as her cavalcade passed.
Rajinikanth, who lives in the neighbourhood, had left for the venue ahead of Jayalalithaa. Thespian Sivaji Ganesan's sons Prabhu and Ramkumar were among the special invitees.
After the Karnataka high court acquitted the AIADMK chief in the disproportionate wealth case, party MLAs elected her as the leader of the legislature party on Friday .
Thereafter, stand-in chief minister O Panneerselvam submitted his resignation, paving the way for Jayalalithaa to take over the reins.

Of bribes paid by the aam admi....

An average urban household in India pays around Rs.4,400 annually as bribe, while rural families have to shell out Rs.2,900, a government-commissioned study on unaccounted wealth has revealed.
The survey conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) showed that individuals in Lucknow, Patna, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune as well as rural areas paid the maximum amount of bribe for general work, admission and to police personnel. In the cities, an average of nearly Rs.18,000 was paid for securing jobs and transfers, while payments to traffic police personnel was at around Rs.600 a year. The survey was conducted between September and December 2012. A series of surveys showed that black money is generated through bribes and pay-offs to bureaucrats and politicians for work ranging from award of contracts to leakages from development schemes, mining, sale of oil products and settlement of non-performing loans by banks.
The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) along with the National Institute of Public Finance & Policy and National Institute of Financial Management had been tasked by the government to provide estimates of black money, following an observation by the parliamentary standing committee on finance.
While the reports were submitted to the finance ministry in 2013 and 2014, it is only now that they have been circulated for comments from other departments.
Pointing out that bribe is rampant in rural areas, especially in schemes meant for the poor, the report has revealed how half the beneficiaries of government schemes, including rural job guarantee scheme (MNREGS), public distribution system, Indira Aawas Yojna, social security programmes and scholarships, had to offer money to get their entitlement.
This finding is based on a survey of 359 households in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. And, despite the claims made by the government, the report estimates that leakages are more common under MNREGS.
It also highlights the extent of corruption, which ultimately generates black money , so far as public sector investment is concerned. Based on interviews of retired government officials, the report suggested that public sector investment is an easy source of illegal funds for politicians and bureaucrats. The unaccounted money earned could be 2-10% of the project cost and it could cross 20% due to delays. The report estimated that 5-10% of the additional cost in siphoned off.
Based on a sample survey of private contractors in 15 states including Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, the report says on an average 9% of the project cost is paid as bribe.
About 80% of contractors interviewed have admitted of paying bribe for works. It is no different so far as manufacturing sector is concerned. According to the report, 91% of the respondents admitted to have paid bribe.
The report has also brought to light how on an average people running roadside vends and eateries pay approximately Rs.1,100 per month. These findings are based on a survey in Delhi, Noida, Lucknow, Patna and Hyderabad. The report says about 13% of the earnings are given as bribe.
The study , sponsored by Central Board of Direct Taxes, has come at a time when MPs across party lines have asked the government to come out with a policy to stop generation of black money within the country .
The lawmakers have highlighted how the black money generated here is either stashed abroad or invested in real estate, gold and jewellery and until this is stopped, the fight against unaccounted wealth will remain unfinished.

Blue Whale sightings off Maharashtra

The recent sightings of the blue whale--the largest creature on the planet -off the coast of Sindhudurg in the Konkan region, has led to ripples of excitement among naturalists and marine researchers. The sightings are said to be the first such in the last 100 years.
A team of researchers spotted the whales between March and May this year.
State chief conservator of forests (mangroves cell) N Vasudevan, who is also a marine scientist, said: “Normally , blue whales are seen in the Indian Ocean, near Sri Lanka. It is very rare and rather exciting to know that a team of researchers under the United Nations Development Programme has spotted and recorded its findings of blue whales n the Arabian Sea.“

Jaipur Metro inauguration

Jaipur Metro will finally be opened for public from June 3. Chief minister Vasundhara Raje will inaugurate phase 1-A from Mansarovar to Chandpole dedicating the Metro services to the city . After limping for months, the Metro will start its commercial operations though the starting point from where the train will be flagged-off is yet to be finalized.“It has been confirmed that CM would be present to flag off the service. We have not yet finalized the side from where it will start,“ said NC Goyal, CMD, Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation.
The event, however, is likely to be kept simple with Raje and her cabinet and senior government officials taking the maiden ride. JMRC has already started issuing tokens and smart cards that can be purchased at selected Lok Mitra centres.

75% bikes in India have no insurance!

If you get hit by a two wheeler, there is little chance you or your family members would get adequate compensation as 75% of two-wheelers in India do not have third-party insurance. The Supreme Court has asked the authorities to work out a framework to identify such vehicles after this was revealed to the court by Insurance Regulatory Development Authority .

Modi Sarkar: 1 year on....

Gadkari plays politics with figures

Contrary to road transport minister Nitin Gadkari's claim that highway construction fell to 2 km per day during last months of the UPA rule, the road ministry's data shows that it never went below 11 km per day during UPA-2.
Rather, construction by NHAI and other agencies was the highest at 16 km per day during 2012-13 and second highest during 2009-10 at 14 km. Now, with the government laying stress on building roads with increased budgetary allocation of Rs 42,000 crore, Gadkari has claimed that construction of roads during the Modi government will surpass the total length of highways built in previous years.
It was no different when it came to the UPA-2, which claimed that the NDA had built 2,650 km of roads during Vajpayee government while the UPA built 9,570 km during the same period. “ Every political party has played politics with highway construction to make tall claims, since it is the most visible asset which people can see within 2-3 years. They have always preferred comparing apples with oranges,“ said a former top executive of NHAI.
He added that during Vajpayee regime less stretches were taken up for construction since there was less fund availability and there were very few contractors to undertake works. “By the time the UPA-1 came, NH length increased, institutional mechanism was in place to execute projects. Then came private investors and hence highway development gained momentum. So, there should be no comparison,“ the retired official said.

The Delhi Jung

Throwing its weight behind Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung in his tussle with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Centre unambiguously declared that he was not obliged to heed the AAP government on bureaucratic postings and transfers.
By a notification issued just after midnight on Thursday , the Centre emphasized that in matters concerning central services-that is IAS, IPS, DANICS and DANIPS cadres--the LG's discretion is paramount, thus rebuffing CM Kejriwal's contention that lieutenant governor Jung could not act independently of the state government in matters concerning transfers and postings of central officers deputed to the Delhi government.
Significantly, the notification also made it clear that the jurisdiction of the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) police station of Delhi government was restricted only to the employees and officers of the state government and did not extend to “officers, employees and functionaries of the central government“.
The notification eliminated the room for any possible action by the Kejriwal backed department against anyone who is not part of the state government.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said the notification was meant to “remove“ all confusion regarding governance in the national Capital and help the AAP government run the city efficiently. Stating that the tussle over distribution of powers was not political but a constitutional one, Jaitley told a press conference that “the circular issued by the home ministry is a clarificatory one... we do not want that due to confusion, offices get locked“.
During the earlier 49-day tenure of AAP, ACB had raised many eyebrows when it lodged an FIR against the Union petroleum minister, senior officers of the petro leum ministry as well as Reliance Industries Limited for allegedly hurting consumers by rigging natural gas price. This is the second time that the Modi government has made it clear that ACB's powers are restricted to employees of Delhi government alone.
The first clarification came in July last year but was deemed inadequate because it did not specifically spell out that the jurisdiction will not extend to “employees, officers and functionaries“ of the Union government.


M-M to Buy 33% Stake in Mitsubishi Agri

Mahindra and Mahindra, the world's largest tractor maker by volumes on Thursday, signed a definitive agreement to acquire 33% stake in Mitsubishi Agricultural Machinery (MAM) for $25 million or Rs.160 crore. Mahindra and Mahindra will acquire a significant 33% voting stake in the subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries through fresh issue of common shares and Class A (non-voting) shares of Mitsubishi Agri Machinery .The deal will be closed by October 1, 2015 with funds infused by the Indian company , which will go into expanding the capital base of the Japanese company .
Mahindras have an old association with Mitsubishi Agricultural Machinery . The Japanese company has been supplying tractors to M&M's US subsidiary in addition to sharing technical licence for walk-behind rice transplanters and a tractor.
MAM had revenues of $408 million in 2014-15, and with M&M's equity infusion, it will mostly be debt free. MAM makes losses at the net level, but a higher capacity utilisation of the plant will help the company make it profitable. The Japanese firm has a roster base of 1,700 employees.
The acquisition of a sizeable stake will help Mahindras work closely with its Japanese partner to devise appropriate product portfolio strategy for the overseas markets. Apart from penetrating deeper in the US market, this strategic tie-up will help Mahindra reach out more effectively to markets of China, South East Asia and Eastern Europe. The tie-up will provide a platform for both companies to leverage technology and product development synergies. And both the partners will work towards common sourcing to bring down the cost.
Goenka said the company needs to get a better balance in terms of its volumes spread, with 90% of its business coming from India.The acquisition stake will help the company increase its presence in overseas markets Goenka says while the company is the largest selling tractor company in the world, in terms of revenues, it is at number five. In order to climb up the revenue ladder, the key is to push the farm machinery business globally . “Tractors only makes up for one-third of global farm machinery business, implements and machineries like riceplanters etc. make up for a big business,“ said Goenka.
Mahindra is also likely to launch a lighter tractor in India with the help of Mitsubishi next year, which will help the company cater to a 20,000 units per annum market for orchards.

eBiz Vision

Of Rivalry in Asia....

Japan unveiled a plan to provide $110 billion in aid for Asian infrastructure projects, as China prepares to launch a new institutional lender that is seen as encroaching on the regional financial clout of Tokyo and its ally Washington.
The amount of Japanese funds, to be invested over 5 years, tops the expected $100 billion capitalization of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Beijing-sponsored lender scheduled to begin operations next year. Japanese officials said the plan, announced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a symposium of Asian officials and experts, represents a 30% increase over Tokyo's past infrastructure funding.
Japan said it wants to focus on “high quality“ aid, for example, by helping recipients tap its expertise in reducing pollution while building roads and railways. That's an implicit contrast with the AIIB, whose projects Washington has said may not adequately safeguard the environment.“We intend to actively make use of such funds in order to spread high-quality and inno vative infrastructure throughout Asia, taking a long-term view,“ Abe said announcing the plan.
About half the funds will be extended by state affiliated agencies in charge of aid and loans and the rest in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).Japan hopes the aid will help draw private funds to help meet the vast demand for infrastructure in Asia.
The US and Japan were caught off guard when a total of 57 countries, including Group of Seven members Britain, Germany and France jumped on board the AIIB bandwagon by March.
The two allies have stayed out of the China-led institution, seen as a rival to the U.S. dominated World Bank and Japan-led Asian Development Bank, citing concerns about transparency and governance although Tokyo for one is keeping its options open.
Finance officials said Japan's aid plan had long been in the works as part of a Group of 20 pledge to meet global needs. But worried that Japan may look less pro-active than Beijing, Tokyo also wants to showcase its support for the region.
Japanese and Chinese finance officials will meet in Beijing on June 6 and may discuss the AIIB, but Tokyo looks unlikely to make a decision on joining any time soon. The US and Japan agreed that the World Bank and ADB should team up with the AIIB in syndicated loans to help the new lender set standards.

Mirage 2000 test-lands on Yamuna Expressway

In a first for military aviation in the country, Indian Air Force successfully test-landed a French Dassault Mirage-2000 on the Yamuna Expressway near Raya village, Mathura, at about 6.40 am.
The drill was part of more elaborate trials to see how many other highways can be used for emergency landing of defence aircraft.The next stretch on sight is three km of the Agra-Lucknow Greenfield Expressway .
Better known as `Vajra' or `Thunderbolt' in the IAF, the multi-role fighter landed on the six-lane expressway close to the venue of a scheduled rally on May 25 that will have PM Narendra Modi talking about his first year in office.
Later in the day , the IAF said in a statement that the Mirage-2000 took off from a base in central India and made a trial approach on the highway to explore the feasibility of using it in emergency. “It came down to a height of 100 meters before landing off the next approach.The operations were conducted with active support from the government of Uttar Pradesh, Yamuna Expressway Authority , toll authorities of JP Infratech and the Mathura police.“
There were several sorties by IAF helicopters before the jet, a single seater powered by a single engine that can attain a maximum speed of 2,495 kmhr (Mach 2.3), landed on a desolate patch that had been cleared for traffic.

The aim behind test-landing a Mirage-2000 fighter on the Yamuna Expressway was to use national highways during emergencies as well as conflict situations if required. Though several countries, ranging from China and Pakistan to Sweden and Germany , have such “road runways“, it was the first time that such a trial run was held in India. “If an airbase is under attack or bombed during a war, the IAF will need a proper surface from which it can continue to operate,“ said a senior officer.
Flown by Wing Commander Prashant Arora from the “Tigers“ squadron based at Gwalior, the French-origin Mirage-2000 first made “a practice approach“ 100-metre over the highway . Then, after tearing back into the sky , the supersonic jet returned to finally touch down on the road at about 6.40 am.
“It taxied for some distance before taking off again in a `roller' mode,“ the senior officer said. “The aim is to activate such road runways on different highways around the country , which we are in the process of identifying. Facilities such as a make-shift air traffic control, safety services, rescue vehicles, bird clearances parties and other requirements were set up by our personnel from the Agra Air Force Station for the mission on Thursday ,“ he added.
Incidentally , this came close after two Mirage-2000 fighters landed on an airstrip in Saifai village in Etawah on Saturday . The IAF had earlier held extensive meetings with the UP government to convert a 3-km stretch of the Yamuna Expressway into a road run way for fighters.
IAF's fleet of 50 multi-role Mirage-2000 fighters, which are also tasked with nuclear weapons delivery , are now being progressively upgraded with advanced avionics and long-range missiles.
While the first two Mirage-2000s were handed over to the IAF in March after being upgraded in France, the others will be progressively souped-up by HAL with technology transfer under the overall Rs.17,547 crore programme finalized in 2011-2012.

Soon, helicopters may land and take off from complexes that will come up along the national highways (NHs). The road transport ministry has approved a plan to develop such wayside amenities at every 50 km and most sites will have helipad facility for any emergency situation including a disaster.
Sources said wayside amenities along the Yamuna Expressway have provision for helipads, primarily for evacuation purpose in case of a mishap. They added only 25x25 sqm space is required for building a helipad. “The helipad must have space to write a big H and we need to put a windsock to help detect how the wind is blowing so that a pilot can prepare landing,“ said an executive who was associated with the Yamuna Expressway project. A road transport ministry official said though the plan is to develop 1,440 wayside amenities in two phases -one at every 100 km in case of divided highways and 50 km in case of undivided corridors -all of them may not get helipads. Minister Nitin Gadkari has announced that works will start soon to build such complexes, which can also be named as “highway village“ allowing locals to run them. “This facility can also be utilized for tourism purpose,“ said a ministry official. 

Country-specific FDI restrictions to go

While doing away with country-specific restrictions on foreign investment, in line with the overall FDI policy and `Make in India' thrust, the government wants a specific clause built into contracts with investors from countries such as China, restraining them from taking up any activity that is not in India's interests. “In case any activity prejudicial to public/national interest comes to the notice of the sectoral regulator or agencies, the contract clause can be invoked to rein in the foreign investor. The clause is meant to legally empower the government to take action, including cancellation of the contract, in extreme cases involving spying or sabotage,“ an MHA official said.
Among the other checks and balances likely to be put in place are post-investment monitoring, development of adequate testing facilities to screen the products in sensitive sectors for spyware/malware, and ensuring that the majority of staff employed are Indians. The proposed FDI norms are part of the home ministry's efforts to replace blanket, pre-investment restrictions with post-investment checks and scrutiny .
Though pre-investment scrutiny will insist on full disclosure of ownership pattern of the foreign investor coming in through the FIPB route, post-investment monitoring is proposed for both automatic and FIPB route. “The idea is to test products not only in a routine manner but also to subject them to random checks so that we can rule out any embedded software,“ a home ministry officer said.

Atal Pension Yojana

Modi sarkar weakening Mumbai?!

The Shiv Sena, which has already accused the Modi government for trying to weaken the state by shifting national offices to other states, alleged the Centre is planning to move the office of the Controller of General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks from Antop Hill to New Delhi and the National Marine Police Academy from Palghar to Dwarka in Gujarat.
At the end of the state cabinet meeting on Wednesday , Sena ministers, led by Subhash Desai, protested against the Modi government. Desai submitted a memorandum which alleged that the Modi government has again started “to put down Mumbai by trying to moving major offices from the state“.
The Centre had planned to set up a National Security Guard hub and a national marine police academy in the state and had demarcated 305 acres of land in Palghar. The government had also initiated the land ac quisition process. Desai urged the CM to stop the Centre's plan, said sources. But Fadnavis denied the allegations, sources added.
Congress supported Sena on this issue. “We will oppose if the BJP government is trying to put down Mumbai and Maharashtra by shifting important office to other states. It is a systematic move of the BJP to move offices one by one out of the state as they wanted to break Vidarbha from Maharashtra,“ claimed Amin Patel MLA and general secretary of Mumbai Congress. In November, Sena, through party mouthpiece Saamna, had opposed Modi government's move to shift WR headquarters and JNPT to Gujarat, and RBI and Air India offices to Delhi.

Airtel launches 4G in Mumbai


MTHL snippets

Chinese state-owned infrastructure companies have shown interest in building the Rs.11,000-crore Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, which is a sea link that will connect Mumbai with Navi Mumbai.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had just returned from his recent visit to China, said that Chinese companies are ready not just to construct, but also finance the project.
“Chinese companies are ready to build the bridge within 3 to 4 years,“ said Fadnavis.
The chief minister said that if a Chinese firm gets the contract to build the link, then it would even fund the project through the Chinese Concessional Fund. China would charge an interest of 2-6% for the project.
But the Maharashtra government would have to follow a bidding process and can't give the contract to a Chinese company without following this method.
While the Maharashtra government has managed most of its clearances related to the project, it is still struggling to arrange finances.
The state was relying on the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) for funding the MTHL project, but is yet to get a response from Japan in this regard. “The Japanese follow their own process that can take long. However, once the decisions are taken, they implement it quickly,“ Fadnavis said on Wednesday.
This suggests that Japan has still not decided if it would fund the MTHL or not. It's not just MTHL, but other projects such as the coastal road in Mumbai's western suburbs is also facing funding issues.

India & South Korea

South Korea offered to provide $10 billion for infrastructure projects in India, including smart cities and railways, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with President Park Geun-hye on Monday and the two countries decided to elevate their ties to a special strategic partnership.
Both sides agreed to increase their defence and security cooperation and also inked seven agreements, including on avoidance of double taxation and for cooperation between their National Security Councils.
Modi, who arrived in the morning from Ulan Bator, held talks with President Park after a ceremonial welcome at the Cheong Wae Dae, the presidential residence.
Modi, in his press statement said India considers South Korea “a crucial partner in India's economic modernization“ and it can be a leading partner in India's focus on infrastructure and developing a world class manufacturing sector. He said that both countries have agreed to hold their diplomatic and security dialogue in the “2 plus 2 format“ -between their foreign and defence secretaries.Japan is the other country with which India holds such a dialogue. “I welcome the decision to have regular cooperation between our National Security Councils. We have also agreed to expand coop eration between our armed forces,“ said Modi.
A lengthy joint statement said that South Korea is to offer $10 billion for mutual cooperation in infrastructure projects in India, including smart cities, railways, power generation and transmission. Both sides are to cooperate in the Asia-Pacific Region.President Park, in her remarks, said both leaders have found complementarities between India's “Act East“ and her country's Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI).
As part of the Special Strategic Partnership, both would hold annual summit meetings; hold annual joint commissions led by the their foreign ministers and boost cooperation between their defense education institutions.

IIITs in Pune, Nagpur

The Maharashtra state cabinet cleared the proposal to set up Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) in Pune and Nagpur. The new institutes will admit students and star functioning from academic year 2016-17.
The IIIT in Pune is expect ed to come up in the Chakan industrial belt. In January 2013, when the state government had invited expression of interest from industry partners for the project, the department of higher and technical education had asked the Pune district collector to identify land in and around Chakan.
Resident district collector Suresh Jadhav said that the collector's office had sent a proposal to the state government about six months ago, identifying Nanoli Tarf village near Chakan as the project site. “About 40 acre land was identified at Nanoli Tarf in consultation with the state director of technical education and a spot inspection of the site,“ Jadhav said.
The Pune and Nagpur projects are part of the 20 new IIITs being set up across the country in a phased manner between 2011-12 and 2019-20 by the ministry of human resources development in a not-for-profit public-private partnership mode.
The IIITs are the brainchild of Indian IT industry body , National Association of Software and Services Com pany (Nasscom), which, in 2008, first mooted the idea of dedicated research-based institutes catering to the human resources required by industries. Nasscom then submitted a project report to the HRD ministry and an expert panel under senior IT professional T V Mohandas Pai was assigned to recommend steps to implement the IIIT scheme.
According to the cabinet decision, the new institutes in the state will be funded by the central and the state governments and private industry partners in the ratio of 50:35:15, respectively , and each of the two IIITs will involve a capital cost of Rs.128 crore.
The not-for-profit public-private partnership mode provides for a tripartite agreement between the central, state and the identified industry partner for the project, in relation to the funding pattern and how to implement the project.
For the IIIT in Pune, the state has finalised two Mumbai-based companies and one company from Pune as industry partners. Rolta India Limited and Hubtown Limited are from Mumbai, while Quick Heal Technology Private Limited is located in Pune. For the project in Nagpur, the state has finalised ADCC, Nagpur, and Tata Consultancy Services Limited in Mumbai as industry partners.

Right to Good Roads

In a landmark interim order, the Bombay high court held that right to good roads is a fundamental right of citizens under right to life and held that it was the state's statutory obligation to provide good roads.
A bench of Justices Abhay Oka and C V Bhadang directed the civic administrations in Mumbai, Thane and three other municipalities in Thane district, as well as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) to maintain all roads under their control and keep them pothole-free.
“It is high time that all concerned clearly understand that a right to have properly maintained roads is a part of the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India and in the event any loss is caused due to its violation, the citizens have a right to seek compensation,'' said the bench, while noting that neither did BMC nor other agencies “attempt to suggest that road conditions are good“.

Times are changin'

“Seeking 25-40, Well Placed, Animal-Loving Vegetarian GROOM for my SON (36 5'11“) who works with an NGO. Caste No Bar (Though IYER preferred).“
Placed amid hundreds of other matrimonial ads in a Mumbai daily , the one above would not have stood out on an idle perusal. It's import, however, was not lost on the section's really intent readers, and the thousands of others who have posted and reposted it online since.
Thanks to the two words in capitals -GROOM and SON -this particular advertisement has made history as it is possibly the first gay matrimonial ad to have been published in a mainstream Indian newspaper.
The ad, which appeared in a tabloid earlier this week, was placed by the mother of prominent LGBT activist Harish Iyer. He has long called himself an `equal rights' activist, campaigning as vociferously for animal rights as he has for the LGBT community , a point his mother did not forget while writing up the matrimonial ad.
The ad was rejected by many publications, including The Times of India, for legal reasons, before it finally made it to Mid-Day . It is especially significant for India's LGBT movement as the country continues to criminalize homosexuality .
Iyer says his mom Padma placed the ad because, like all Indian mothers, she was worried that her son was still single at 36. The ad was the result of her desire to see him settle down.
In a Facebook post, she later clarified her reference to caste saying the “IYER PREF was meant to be a tease.Though I should admit that is typical that mothers wish their children should be married to families whose culture we know of “.

Remembering Rajiv

Advertisements paying tribute to former PM Rajiv Gandhi on his death anniversary were missing in Thursday's newspapers. In a sharp departure from the past, the Modi government did not issue any advertisements on the occasion of `anti-terrorism day' even as it spent almost Rs .1,000 crore this fiscal on its own publicity .
The only ads that appeared were from Congress party . Sources said this was in keeping with the government's decision not to issue advertisements on death anniversaries of political leaders. Others attributed it to confusion caused by the recent Supreme Court order directing the government not to publish any pictures except those of the PM, the President, the CJI and departed leaders like Mahatma Gandhi.
The day , which is observed as anti-terrorism day , saw PM Narendra Modi paying tributes to Rajiv Gandhi while Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley took the anti-terror pledge.
The Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DA VP) under the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry is tasked with ensuring publicity in print and electronic media for the government. Between 2008 and 2013, the DAVP issued several advertisements on May 21 commemorating the Congress leader's death, spending over Rs 10 crore.
The agency spent Rs 53 lakh in 2008-2009 followed by Rs 1.04 crore in 2009-2010.This doubled to Rs 3.05 crore in 2010-2011 and increased to Rs 3.27 crore the next year.The government spent about Rs 2.38 crore in 2012-2013.

Of Mongolia & Maharashtra....

The Shiv Sena criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement of a credit line of USD 1 billion to Mongolia and asked why he can't show the same eagerness to help the distressed farmers of Maharashtra reeling under debt.
The move, Sena said, will only aggravate the pain of the farmers' soul who have committed suicide in the recent past. "The PM has announced a USD 1 billion aid to Mongolia, so that relations between the two countries can be further cemented. The PM has taken moral responsibility for development of this small nation. But, this is not a small amount. This will only aggravate the pain of souls of farmers who have committed suicide," the Sena said in an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana.
The NDA government's ally at the Centre said Modi has announced credit to a foreign country at a time when hapless farmers, who are reeling under debt from banks and private moneylenders are waiting for financial aid from government. "We can call Mongolia more fortunate than Maharashtra to have received aid from India because our PM has shown them the financial soundness of the country by giving away such a huge amount," it said.
Sena also questioned the motive of the Prime Minister and asked why can't he show the same eagerness to help the distressed farmers of the state. "What was the need for such a huge amount for Mongolia at a time when Indian currency is falling against the US dollar? Why can't the PM now show the same eagerness to help farmers of Maharashtra and those being affected by his dream of starting a nuclear energy plant in Jaitapur?" it said.
During his recent visit to Mongolia, Modi had on Sunday announced that India will provide a Line of Credit of USD 1 billion to support expansion of Mongolia's economic capacity and infrastructure.  "I am pleased to announce that India will provide a Line of Credit of $1 billion to support expansion of Mongolia's economic capacity and infrastructure," Modi had said at a joint press interaction with counterpart, Chimed Saikhanbileg at the State Palace in Ulan Bator.
PM Modi visited Mongolia on the second leg of his three-nation tour last week.

Mamata proposes Rs 4500 cr highway

West Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced the construction of a new highway connecting Mourigram in Howrah to Murshidabad through Hooghly. “The state highway will be built at a cost of Rs.4,500 crore Once completed, it will lead to transport development and reduce pressure on the existing highways. The new road will also cut down on transportation cost of vegetables,“ said Mamata after an administrative meeting at the Hooghly Zilla Parishad Bhavan. Besides, Mamata announced that the state had signed an agreement with the Israeli government to set up a centre of excellence for vegetables in Chinsurah. “The centre will come up on a six-hectare plot at the Rice Research Centre in Chinsurah. Israel will provide the technology and the state has allocated Rs 12.5 crore for the first phase,“ Mamata said. “Vegetables will be grown at the centre on an experimental basis and farmers here will be trained in Israeli farming knowhow. It will help increase production and grow crops in seasons other than the regular ones.“
Mamata also declared that two food-processing plants would come up in Hooghly.“There is a problem over acquisition of land for one of them but we will solve it,“ she said.
The CM also promised the reopening of a closed spinning mill at Serampore.

New service tax rate of 14% from June 1

The new service tax rate of 14% will come into effect from June 1, top government sources on Tuesday said, in a move that will make eating out in restaurants, insurance and phone services expensive, among many other things.The service tax is currently levied at the rate 12.36%, including education cess.
In his budget speech, Jaitley had said that to facilitate a smooth transition to levy of tax on services by both the Centre and the states, “it is proposed to increase the present rate“ of service tax plus education cess from 12.36% to a consolidated rate of 14%.
Service tax is levied on all services, except a small negative list. Advertising, air travel, services of architect, certain type of constructions, credit card, even management, and tour operators are some of the important services which attract tax.

Nano gets an upgrade

Andal airport takes off

On its first day of commercial operations, 101 passengers flew into and out of Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport at Andal in three flights that operated on Monday . Most of them were VIPs -cinestars, ministers and bureaucrats.And all -except one Captain Anirudh Agarwal -of them were guests of the state government and airport developer Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Ltd (BAPL).
It was quite by chance that Agarwal, posted at the Panagarh airfield of Indian Air Force, became the first paying passenger to use the country's first private sector greenfield airport. He would surely have missed the distinction and the flight had it been on time. But as luck would have it (or lucky stars?), the flight's departure was delayed by 40 minutes, giving enough time for the airline to reopen bookings and make the transaction.
Agarwal had initially been turned away at the ticket counter as he had arrived at the Andal airport barely 15 minutes before the scheduled 6.05 pm departure of Alliance Air flight 9I 714. But with flight 9I 713 that arrived from Kolkata at 5.45 pm packed with VIPs from Kolkata, the departure was pushed back to allow a refreshment break at the terminal.
The IAF officer finally managed to purchase a ticket to Delhi from Andal via Kolkata for Rs.18,551 at 6.30 pm.When the 42-seater ATR 42320 aircraft finally took off for Kolkata from Andal 15 minutes later, the quiet man in seat no. 7C was barely noticed. But he didn't mind the obscurity and was more than happy that there were cinestars on board to grab the limelight.
But for officials of BAPL, the real VIP was the unexpected 37th passenger: Anirudh Agarwal. After reaching Kolkata, Agarwal took Air India's Delhi connection flight AI023 at 8.15pm. Apart from Alliance Air, Pinnacle Air also operated a flight to Andal from Kolkata that flew onward to Cooch Behar on the first day.
The airport authorities and the airlines hope it is a good omen for future. Till Monday evening, 18 passengers had booked on Tuesday's flight to Andal from Kolkata and 23 on the return flight the same evening.
As of now, the Alliance Air flight schedule has been structured in a manner which will enable easy connectivity to Delhi and Mumbai via Kolkata. Through check-in facility has been arranged for passengers travelling from Durgapur to the win metros.
Earlier, flagging off the star-studded flight at Kolkata airport, state finance minis er Amit Mitra said it was a proud day for Bengal to house he country's first private greenfield airport facility.“The airport's takeoff realizes Mamata Banerjee's dream of putting Durgapur on the country's aviation map,“ he said.
BAPL managing director Partha Ghosh said the company's dream was to address he latent need for flight connectivity to the Asansol-Durgapur region that has been he state's primary industrial belt for decades.“We challenged ourselves continuously to achieve this eat of being India's first private greenfield airport,“ he said.

Swach Hyderabad

Muhurat for AP capital city fixed

Heeding to the advice of astrologers, the Andhra Pradesh government has decided to hold the ground-breaking ceremony for the new capital at 8.49 am on June 6. Chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the function, but the PMO is yet to confirm his participation.
Work on the construction of the new capital can begin only after Singapore submits the three master plans. Of the three, it submitted the first one on March 30 this year, the second is scheduled to be given to the state on May 25 and the final one in the last week of June. However, without waiting for the same, Naidu has decided to hold the groundbreaking ceremony on June 6 as, according to the astrologers, there are no auspicious days for sometime after that day . The ceremony will be held at Tullur village, which is also mandal headquarters.
The actual groundwork for the construction of the capital coming up between Vijayawada and Guntur will commence during the Dasara festival that falls on October 22. The state has targeted to complete the groundwork and development of the land by the middle of next year. “We aim to complete phase one of the construction of the capital by 2018,“ an official said. The first phase would involve the completion of the core government buildings such as the assembly , secretariat, chief minister's camp office-cum-residence, Raj Bhavan and high court.
Preceding the groundbreaking ceremony on June 6 will be a series of events that will culminate on June 8, which marks the completion of one year in office of the TDP government. June 2, when united Andhra Pradesh was divided into Telangana and AP , is to be observed as `Navanirmana Deeksha' day .After the ground-breaking ceremony , the TDP is to hold a public meeting on June 8, the day Chandrababu Naidu assumed office. The venue for the meeting will most likely be the same place where Naidu was sworn in as CM, the ground close to Acharya Nagarjuna University in Guntur district.
In the run-up to the construction of the capital, the AP government first set up the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) which will act like regulatory body 

New Cold Chains sanctioned

Kerala Government's 5 years


Mumbai Airport handles record 851 flights

The busy Mumbai airport, which uses a single runway at a time for flight operations, handled a record total of 851 flight movements last Friday . Prior to this, in February , the airport handled 840 flights in a day.
The sudden increase in flight movements was caused by an increase in chartered aircraft operations.On an average, other than the passenger flights, the airport handles about 30-40 chartered flights a day . But on Friday, the number of such flights jumped. Apart from the scheduled flights, the airport handled 50 chartered flights and 24 freighter flights.
The Mumbai airport has been constantly working towards reducing Runway Occupancy Time (ROT) for aircraft so that more operations can be handled in an hour.


China Deals

Prime minister Narendra Modi got down to business on the final day of his trip to China on Saturday, saying his country was open for investment as firms signed deals worth more than $22 billion. “Let us work together in mutual interest and for progress and prosperity of our great countries,“ Modi told executives from 200 Chinese and Indian companies at a business forum in the Chinese commercial hub Shanghai. “Now India is ready for business.“ Modi was on the final day of a three-day trip to his fellow Asian giant as the two jockey for regional influence and India's trade deficit with China balloons.
China is India's biggest trading partner with two way commerce totalling $71 billion in 2014. But India's trade deficit with China has soared from just $1 billion in 2001-02 to more than $38 billion last year, Indian figures show. Indian embassy trade counsellor Namgya Khanpa said the 21 agreements signed at the Shanghai event were “worth over $22 billion“, with another five exchanged earlier. Many of the contracts were for Chinese banks to finance Indian firms, and also included deals in the telecom, steel, solar energy and film sectors, she said.
As many as 26 business agreements worth over $22 billion were signed between companies such as Adani group, Bharti Airtel and Welspun and their Chinese counterparts on Saturday. These MoUs span a wide range of industries, including renewable, energy, power infrastructure, steel and small & medium industries. Among major pacts is Bharti Airtel's tie-up for credit facility of $2.5 billion with China Development Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The Adani Group also inked an agreement with Golden Concord Holdings to establish an integrated photovoltaic industrial park in Mundra SEZ and to explore investments in gas power generation and natural gas sector.
In another pact, Adani Ports & SEZ and Guangzhou Port Authority agreed to establish “sister port relationship“ between Mundra Port and Guangzhou Port. Welspun Energy entered into a memorandum of understanding with Trina Solar of China to jointly set up a PV industry park for production of 500 MW of Photovoltaic (PV) cell and 500 MW of PV solar module in India. “(These) are a reflection of the strong interest of Chinese companies to invest in India and contribute towards `Make in India' initiative,“ an official statement said. It further said the agreements would also facilitate cooperation between Indian and Chinese companies in the film and entertainment industry.

Anna Hazare's SUV auctioned

The sports utility vehicle (SUV) used by social crusader Anna Hazare for the last eight years, was on Sunday auctioned for Rs 9.11 lakh at Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmednagar district.
The vehicle was purchased by Pravin Lokhande of Ahmednagar. Lokhande, who has been associated with Hazare's movements, is a farmer. Hazare's aide Datta Awari said about 115 people took part in the auction.About 200 people were present at the auction venue, keen to find out who would get Hazare's Mahindra Scorpio.

Telecom @ a Glance

964 million

India is the world's second-largest telecommunications market, with 964 million subscribers as of November 2014.

35 per cent

The Indian telecom sector has witnessed an average growth of close to 35 per cent a year.

700 million

India will be home to 700 million of the world's 4.7 billion global internet users by 2025.

9.5 billion

The mobile value added services (MVAS) industry is expected to reach 9.5 billion by the end of this year.


The $1bn club

Eight Indian companies are among the 107 global firms whose valuations are $1 billion or more.According to New York-based venture capital tracker CB Insights, the Indian companies in the elite league are Flipkart, Snapdeal, Ola, Paytm, Zomato, MuSigma, Quikr and InMobi.

E-visa for Chinese

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a new electronic visa scheme for Chinese nationals on Friday , putting an end to decades old complaint about cumbersome and delayed visa procedures of the Indian government. The announcement, made before a large gathering of cheering students at the premier Tsinghua University , made Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi so happy that he asked the assembled students to once again cheer and thank Modi for the “gift“.
“It's a big piece of news. Let's thank the Indian Prime Minister for the gift,“ Wang said, suggesting he was pleasantly surprised at hearing this after a day spent in hard bargaining over more than two dozen issues.The e-visa decision had not figured while 24 different agreements were being hammered out during delegation level talks.Sources said the Indian side wanted to make the announcement as a unilateral gesture by India for the Chinese people.Therefore, when foreign secretary S Jaishankar was asked about it after the agreements were signed, he said there had been no decision on it.
Seen from the viewpoint of negotiations, Modi has taken a major initiative going beyond the structured negotiations of officials from both sides to persuade Chinese leaders to accept at least one of his proposals.
The PM even spelled out what he wanted saying India and China would jointly establish an Asian century if Beijing supported India's expectations to join the Security Council and Nuclear Suppliers' Group. At the same time, he appreciated China's decision to open a second route for pilgrims to Mansarovar in Tibet.“China and India will advance with more solid steps,“ the Chinese foreign minister known for his measured style of talking said at the event, which was also attended by ambassadors Andrey J Denisov of Russia, M Fazlul Karim of Bangladesh, and Mohamed Faisal of the Maldives. “India's economic development is a source of opportunity for China,“ Wang said. Earlier, students in the function hall of Tsinghua University rose and gave the PM a tumultuous welcome as he walked in with Wang, Jaishankar, and ambas sador Ashok Kantha. His speech was interrupted at least six times by cheering students of masters and Ph.D programmes.
“Perhaps, the most significant change of this era is the re-emergence of China and India,“ Modi told students. “India is the next frontier of economic revolution. We have the demography for it. About 800 million people in India are below the age of 35. Their aspirations, energy , enterprise and skills will be the force for India's economic transformation. We now have the political mandate and the will to make it happen.“Asia's voice will be stronger and our nations' role more influential if India and China speak in one voice ­ for all of us and for each other,“ the PM said.

Mumbai Metro-III on fast track

The third phase of the Metro project--Colaba to Seepz via Bandra--has just inched a notch ahead. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation has finalized a general consultant to oversee the 33.5 km project, thereby fast-tracking its implementation. The general consultant will be responsible for a range of tasks which include supervising works and ensuring safety of the project besides evaluating quality and environmental aspects. The consultant will also be tasked with evaluation of bids for civil work of the Metro project, assistance in appointing contractors, reviewing and proof-checking of detailed designs and preparation of tender de sign and documents for procurement of track work, system components, supervision of supply besides other duties.
The third phase of the Metro corridor has been mired in controversy over the issue of rehabilitation of tenants, especially in Kalbadevi and Girgaum. Besides, citizen groups have protested against construction of a depot in Aarey colony .
The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) has appointed an international consortium led by AECOM Asia, Hong Kong (which is in a joint venture with JV with Padeco, Japan, LBG Inc, USA and Egis Rail, France) as general consultants for the Metro-3 corridor.
An official of MMRC said, “The consortium, selected from out of four international contenders, is expected to assist MMRC in all activities of implementation of the Metro-3 project.“
The appointment of the general consultants is in keeping with an agreement with Japan International Cooperation Agency at the time of appraisal of loan over the quality-and-cost-based selection.
Moreover, MMRC has received an encouraging response from national and international companies to construct the 33.5-km long Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro-3 corridor.
Also, MMRC last week invited applications to appoint a consultant to prepare a plan for rehabilitation of the for project-affected people of the Metro-III project in Kalbadevi and Girgaum.

2nd steep hike!

In the second steep hike this month, state-run fuel retailers raised petrol price by Rs.3.13 a litre and diesel by Rs.2.71 on the back of rising international crude rates and falling value of the rupee against the dollar. In Mumbai, petrol will now cost Rs.73.97 (up from Rs.70.84) and diesel will set you back by Rs.59.58, up from 56.87.
The increase in other states will vary depending on local taxes. After the latest revision, petrol costs Rs.66.29 a litre in Delhi and diesel Rs.52.28 from Saturday . This is the fourth increase in fuel prices this year and second in a row in the past 15 days. On March 1, petrol price rose by Rs.3.18 and diesel by Rs.3.09. Before that, petrol had become costlier by 82 paise and diesel by 61 paise in February. State-run fuel retailers revise petrol and diesel prices on 1st and 15th of every month on the basis of average imported cost and rupee-dollar exchange rate in the previous fortnight.
Petrol prices had been reduced by Rs.17.11 a litre between last August and this February .

Candid, Constructive & Friendly....

Prime Minister Narendra Modi did some straight talking about India's unease over aspects of China's foreign policy . He also pointed out that the source of terrorism for both India and China was the same, without naming any country . “I stressed the need for China to reconsider its approach on some of the issues that hold us back from realizing the full potential of our partnership. I suggested that China should take a strategic and long-term view of our relations,“ Modi said.
A visiting head of government laying down his country's interests in the Great Hall of the People is not an everyday occurrence. For many here, used to the gentle wording of international diplomacy , this came as a surprise. Modi took up the issue of terrorism while talking to students at the Tsinghua University in Beijing late in the afternoon. “We both face instability in “We both face instability in our shared neighbourhood that can threaten our security and slow down our economies,“ Modi said. “The spreading tide of extremism and terrorism is a threat we both face; for both, its source is in the same region,“ he added. At the joint press conference, Modi described his conversations with the Chinese leadership as “candid, constructive and friendly“.
“We covered all issues, including those that trouble smooth development of our relations,“ Modi said. The PM also indicated that bonding with India could be a better option for China instead of relying on the policies of countries that produce terrorism, sources said.
Chinese premier Li Keqiang was equally candid.“We do not deny there are some disagreements between us but there's a mechanism and sufficient political maturity to address these,“ he said.“We stand ready to work with India to bring China-India relations to new heights,“ he said. The two Himalayan neighbours need not even bother about Western countries trying to keep them apart, Li suggested without naming any country . “I suggested that China should take a strategic and long-term view of our relations. I found the Chinese leadership responsive,“ Modi said at the presser, well attended by Western and Russian media.He also expressed happiness about Chinese responses to India's concerns over the border issue.“I found sensitivity to our concerns on this issue; and, interest in further intensify ing confidence building measures. I also reiterated the importance of clarification of Line of Actual Control in this regard,“ he said.

The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited on Thursday, was inspired by ancient Nalanda. “To me it appears from the architectural study of Nalanda that monastery (No 1) was the library from where the famous Chinese traveller Xuanzang (Hsuan Tsang) had copied the books and carried them to China,“ said former superintending archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) (Patna Circle) Muhammad K K. “The Chinese traveller wanted to have the Wild Goose Pagoda modeled after Nalanda. It was this library that the invader Bakhtiyar Khilji had destroyed,“ Muhammad said. The Wild Goose Pagoda was built in 652 AD in recognition of monk Hsuan Tsang's 17-year journey to India and his efforts to popularize Buddhism in China.


Somewhere in Rajasthan....

SC verdict on Noida Extension

INS Vishal

India has finally set the ball rolling for the construction of its largest-ever warship, the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier INS Vishal.
Just before PM Narendra Modi left for China, the Manohar Parrikar led DAC cleared a flurry of long-pending projects for ultra-light howitzers, medium-transport aircraft, light utility helicopters worth over Rs.25,000 crore, out of which a minor amount of Rs.30 crore was sidelined for the indigenous aircraft carrier-II (IAC-II). But its potential is huge, and very significant for a country that is vying with China for the same strategic space in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
Carrier battle groups are the final word in raw power projection around the globe, capable of travelling 600 nautical miles a day with their supersonic fighters and missiles as well as accompanying destroyers, frigates and submarines. Officials said there were three main reasons for the DAC's green signal to the commencement of work for INS Vishal, which is likely to have nuclear propulsion for greater endurance as well as CATOBAR (catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery) configuration for launching fighters as well as heavier aircraft. All Indian carriers till now have had angled ski jumps for fighters to take off under their own power in STOBAR (short take-off but arrested recovery) operations, which limits operations to only fighters like MiG-29Ks.
The first obviously is the increasing presence of the Chinese Navy in the IOR, coupled with its assiduous at tempts to establish logistical bases in the region. “After inducting its first carrier Liaoning in 2012, China is building four carriers, two conventional and two nuclear-powered. The latter will be over 90,000-tonne super carriers like the American Nimitz class ones,“ said an officer.
Two, the 56-year-old INS Viraat will retire early next year, leaving India with only one operational aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. The 40,000-tonne IAC-I or INS Vikrant, being built at Cochin Shipyard, will be ready for induction only by 2018-2019. “It will take well over a decade to build INS Vishal. Its size, propulsion, its aircraft etc will have to be finalized before the construction can actually begin,“ he added.

Foxconn in Maharashtra?

In yet another achievement for the Make-in-Maharashtra campaign, Chinese electronics major Foxconn has expressed interest in investing in the state with plans to manufacture advanced electronic and digital gadgets.
Foxconn founder Terry Gou in his presentation before CM Devendra Fadnavis expressed the company's wish to come up with investments for solar-powered data server storage facilities, mobiles, tablets and television sets. Fadnavis also expressed his wish to adopt Henan province's airport-led development model for the state.
“Detailed plan on proposed investments in Maharashtra for 2015-17, too was presented by Foxconn. Had a discussion on it.Looking forward to collaborate,“ Fadnavis tweeted from China. “In a rare gesture, Foxconn put up banners to welcome Fadnavis,“ sources said.


SC restricts photos

The Supreme Court ruled that advertisements issued by the government to highlight its achievements could only carry the photos of three constitutional functionaries: the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India. But it refused to place any curbs on ad spending during election seasons.
The court issued the orders on two PILs that drew its attention to the alleged misuse of public funds to project individual functionaries of the government or a political party .The petitioners argued such ads, in the garb of communicating with the people, sought to confer undue political advantage, crediting specific individuals as being responsible for various government achievements and progressive plans. They had urged the court to curb excessive spending on such ads during election time.
The court had set up a three-member committee, headed by Madhava Menon, ex-director of the National Judicial Academy in Bhopal, to suggest ways to end this practice. The other members were ex-Lok Sabha Secretary General TK Viswanathan and senior advocate and now Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar.
The panel had suggested that such ads should not mention the party in power, attack the opposition, carry any party logo, try to influence public support to a party or have links to websites of politicians. It suggested limiting such spending on poll time and had said only photos of the President, PM, CMs or governors should be published.


AIIMS to get Rs.1,500 crore upgrade

The health ministry has drawn up a major plan for massive upgradation of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) by injecting nearly Rs.1500 crore over the next three years to expand and improve the infrastructure as well as services at the country's premier health institute.
The detailed plan, chalked out by the health ministry , include making all patient-related services online. Starting from the registration process to seeking appointments for consultation with doctors and even prescription and appointments for diagnostics will be made online.
Besides, the blueprint outlines major expansion of the institute's physical infrastructure. A new out patient department (OPD) is expected to be made functional by 2018-19, for which an outlay of Rs.573 crore has been earmarked. The ministry also plans to build a new private ward and a new hostel block at a cost of around Rs.92 crore and Rs.32 crore respectively. The expansion plan also includes augmentation of various departments such as mother and child care, AIIMS trauma centre, departments of rheumatology , emergency medicine and others. The idea is to manage the increasing footfall and demand for healthcare at AIIMS in a better way , an official said. “Everyone understands the importance of the institute in providing care to patients from across the country . While we have envisaged civil infrastructure and capacity expansion, we also want to address the time management at both the patient as well as doctor's end,“ he said. Government estimates show 30,000-40,000 patients visit AIIMS' OPD every day .
The three-year plan will be implemented in phases and a lot of work has already begun.
The institute has already started linking the Unique Health Identification number, which is assigned to patients during registration, with Aadhar and also giving appointments online. Within one year, the government plans to make the whole process, including doctor consultation and appointments for diagnostics, online. At a later stage, it also plans to make available all patient related records online.
Construction of the new OPD is expected to begin by end of this year.