AI Domestic shifts to Mumbai T2

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FDI hotspot

India has emerged on top of the foreign direct investment league table, overtaking China and the United States. A ranking of the top destinations for greenfield investment (measured by estimated capital expenditure) in the first half of 2015 shows India at number one, having attracted roughly $3 billion more than China and $4 billion more than the US, according to the Financial Times newspaper.
India has also moved up on the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index by 16 places to 55th position.
The two reports come as a shot in the arm for the Modi government which has taken several steps to attract foreign investment and has helped revive mood of investors since it came to power in May 2014.
The government has unveiled several initiatives like `Make in India' and `Digital India' to lure investors. It has moved to ensure that the country moves up on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business and states have also started their clean-up act.
But experts say there are several areas where the government needs to step up reforms. The areas where investors want more reforms include tax policy , labour laws, cutting red tape and issues linked to land acquisition.
Investors have started taking interest in the India growth story and the recent visit of Modi to Silicon Valley triggered enormous interest from software and technology czars.Growth is expected to be among the fastest in the world.
Experts say India is expected to benefit from the slowdown in China and the overall sluggishness in global commodity prices, include crude.

Masala Bonds

The RBI opened the rupee-denominated bond market to real estate in vestment trusts (REITs) and infrastructure investment trusts in addition to corporates. Under the automatic route, issuers can raise up to $750 million per annum, beyond which RBI's approval is required.
These issuers have been allowed to issue rupee-denominated bonds (described as masala bonds by investment bankers) to any investor from any jurisdiction as long as they are compliant with the international Financial Action Task Force guidelines. Banks headquartered in India can help sell these bonds but not invest in them.
The negative list for using proceeds of these bonds are: real estate other than integrated township or affordable housing projects, capital markets, or purchase of land. The rupee bond route cannot be used to bypass FDI restrictions.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the move would provide additional source of raising resources, which would be fully hedged as they are denominated in rupees.

Microsoft Launches 3 Local Cloud Data Centres

Microsoft has launched three local cloud data centres in India two months ahead of their December cut-off date. The hyper-scale data centres in Pune, Mumbai and Chennai will offer commercial cloud services as the US software giant looks to tap the growing demand for pay-per-use services in India.
They will serve Office 365, customer relationship management, analytics and other software-as-service offerings, besides Microsoft's Azure cloud computing. Azure services were launched on Tuesday, the commercial Office 365 services would be available from October and Dynamics CRM Online services will be made available from the first half of 2016.
The company said it has already seen “significant interest“ from over 125 customers in the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector, government departments, independent software vendors (ISVs), ecommerce companies and startups in an early preview programme that allowed customers to take a look at the services that will be offered by Microsoft.
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella had announced the plan to set up cloud centres in India exactly a year ago, pegging the cloud opportunity in the country at nearly $2 trillion.
Microsoft is the first multinational to put its data centers in India. IBM and Amazon have also said they would put data centers in the country by the end of next year.
Placing servers in the country expands the addressable market for cloud service providers. Several sectors were unable to use the public cloud services in the past because of rules that required that the data be hosted in the country.

RBI surprises with a bigger rate cut than anticipated

It was a throwaway line by the Reserve Bank of India governor at his press conference but it was spot on: “I'm Raghuram Rajan and I do what I do.“ It exemplified RBI's monetary policy action on Tuesday -a rate cut that was deeper than expected from a man who's made the war on inflation his main focus. That was accompanied by a number of measures aimed at bolstering the monetary policy framework, improving the efficiency of the banking system, broadening and deepening the financial markets, coping with stressed corporate and financial assets and widening access to financial services. In so doing, the bank went a long way toward setting India on the path of lower interest rates. “The Reserve Bank has front-loaded policy action“ because a lot of things are going India's way , except perhaps for the monsoon, Rajan said, indicating that the rate-reduction cycle hadn't necessarily come to an end. But he made the point that cuts need to be transmitted to the broader economy to have real effect.
“While the Reserve Bank's stance will continue to be accommodative, the focus of monetary action for the near term will shift to working with the government to ensure that impediments to banks passing on the bulk of the cumulative 125 basis points cut (since January) in the policy rate are removed,“ Rajan said. In a vote of confidence, stocks and bonds rose while the rupee strengthened, generally unusual behaviour for a currency in the context of a rate cut.
The government and industry welcomed the move and pledged support.
Banks responded by paring rates and the government said it would do what was needed to ensure fiscal discipline was maintained and prices were kept under check.
“The government is fully committed in meeting the fiscal deficit targets in order to consolidate the gains achieved by the contained inflation,“ Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said at a press conference. “There will be a need to have a constant vigilance now on the inflation front.“
Though prices have slowed dramatically in the recent past, RBI's focus won't waver.
“The Reserve Bank will continue to be vigilant for signs that monetary policy adjustments are needed to keep the economy on the target disinflationary path,“ he said. “Given our year ahead projections of inflation, this ensures one-year expected treasury bill real interest rates of about 1.5-2.0%, which are appropriate for this stage of the recovery.“

The poor investment climate and lack of demand led the central bank to lower its economic growth forecast by 20 basis points to 7.4% from 7.6%. The central bank cut the repo rate at which it lends to banks by 50 basis points, or half a percentage point, compared with the overwhelming expectation of 25 basis points, to 6.75%, the lowest in four-and-a-half years.
Apart from this, the governor said foreigners will be allowed to buy more government bonds, effectively pushing rates lower, and the regulator will work with the government to bring down interest rates on small savings. Banks have blamed this for keeping them from reducing lending rates.
The central bank kept aside fears of inflation rearing up again as it sees a weakening global economy as the bigger threat. It forecast inflation for January 2017 at 5%, in line with its target, which means policy rates could be cut by another 50 basis points in the next 12 months if the trajectory on prices is maintained. The sharper-than-expected cut will buoy sentiment.
“Investment is likely to respond more strongly if there is more certainty about the extent of monetary stimulus in the pipeline, even if transmission is slow,“ Rajan said.

Benchmark government bonds had one of their best days in recent times with yields tumbling 12 basis points to 7.61%. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions.The rupee gained 0.15% against the dollar to 65.95.
Rajan, who has waged a relentless battle against inflation, has for the first time in more than two years since taking over expressed confidence that the consumer price index could glide to the January 2017 estimate cited above and manage to reach the 4% medium-term target.
Rajan was in accord with US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen on developments in China having a deleterious effect on the global economy. He pointed out that the “Federal Reserve has postponed policy normalisation“, a move that may have played into his decision, as did lack of investment.


Mumbai Metro III

Mercedes to upgrade Chakan Factory

Mercedes Benz has decided to invest Rs.2,000 crore in upgrading its factory at Chakan in Pune, which the Maharashtra government says is an endorsement of its commitment to the ease of doing business in the state.Earlier the government was successful in luring Foxconn to set up manufacturing
The company is planning to invest Rs.2,000 crore over five years in the unit.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who met Roland Folger, managing director and CEO of Mercedes India on Monday said that the state will ensure speedy clearance for the company's new unit.
State government officials said that the additional investment came after the company was impressed with the work done by the state in granting clearances. 

Tea Trails



After launching earth-watching satellites of all kinds, India took a vantage position some  650 km from earth to gaze at some of the universe's deepest secrets, including black holes and star births.
A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C30) carried Astrosat, India's first space observatory , to orbit in another textbook launch on Monday morning. Riding piggyback on the `telescope in the sky' were six foreign satellites, including four from the US. Astronomers have been peering into space through telescopes on earth, but a telescope in space allows clearer observation, without scattering light and pollution in Earth's atmosphere.
Since the early 1970s, a few countries have set up observatories in space, the biggest of them being the Nasa-ESA joint venture Hubble telescope that continues to awe humankind with the galactic grandeur it has been capturing as photographs since 1990. At 1,513 kg, Astrosat may be a minion in comparison to the 11,110 kg Hubble, but nobody disputes that it could stumble upon something significant.
Astrosat will study high energy processes in binary star systems containing neutron stars and black holes, estimate magnetic fields of neutron stars and study star birth regions. Indian Space Research Organisation chairman A S Kiran Kumar said data gathered by Astrosat will be accessible to students and scientists alike.

CBI clean chit for Manmohan

Opposing the plea of former Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda to summon former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the CBI told a special court that there was no evidence which even prima facie suggests that Singh was part of any conspiracy in the allocation of a coal block to Naveen Jindal Group firms.


Tests on transport corridors linking neighbours soon

In a step to accelerate the plan to have regular passenger and cargo transport through the land route, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Thailand have agreed to start pilot runs latest by December 15.
Sources in the road transport ministry said while the pilot run between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) countries is scheduled in October-November, the first trial run of vehicles between India, Myanmar and Thailand would start by year-end.

IIP basket to be revamped

Mobile phones, which have almost become the first consumer electronic item of purchase for Indians, will find a prominent place in the official industrial production data, which is being revamped. Mobile phones and accessories will be pulled out as a separate category from telephone instruments as part of large-scale changes in consumer purchases of durables in a comprehensive revamp of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is expected to launch a new series of IIP with effect from April 2016. The revised IIP is expected to have a new category for LED and LCD television sets instead of the existing classification called colour TV sets, the official said. Laptops, notebooks and netbooks are also likely to be made into a separate category as against the present electronics category called `computers'.
“A lot of changes are happening in the electronics segment and we have made new categories besides removing obsolete items form the index,“ the official said. “We have added almost 100 new products in the IIP basket.“
The `ready to eat' category could also find a bigger representation in the index given the increasingly larger space they occupy in stores, the person said. The changes are part of the periodic rejig in the IIP basket as part of the base year revision exercise for the index. The current IIP has a base year of 200405, which does not capture the vast changes in usage and the corresponding changes in the industrial set up to deliver those goods.
Mobile phones call for a separate category in the industrial index given the booming demand. India is the world's fastest growing smartphone market and, as per research firm IDC, of the 59.4 million units shipped in the country in the quarter ended June, 26.5 million were smartphones. Though India doesn't produce electronics and mobile phones, the official said that if 60% of the product is made here, it is considered Indian manufactured. Apart from revising the base year, the ministry of statistics and programme implementation is rejigging the existing categories of commodities to make them relevant in today's context.

The panel in its report submitted last year called for an overhaul of the index to correct inaccuracies and suggested guidelines for 16 source agencies to improve data collection and reporting. It recommended the base year of IIP to be revised from 2004-05 to 2011-12. The existing series replaced their earlier indices, which had 1993-94 as base year, from July 2011 onwards. The exercise is expected to lead to lesser volatility and a spurt in growth in the IIP . The IIP suffers from volatility issues as the Chaudhuri report had said. In the first four months of the current financial year, for which data is available, it has shown growth ranging from 2.7% to 4.2%.

NaMo in Silicon Valley

Search giant Google and software maker Microsoft were among some of the largest technology giants that pledged their support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India initiative, announcing plans to improve internet penetration and entrepreneurship in the country .
“We are working on many connectivity projects, including bringing connectivity to railway stations in India,“ said Google CEO Sundar Pichai. The company plans to launch WiFi hot spots at 500 Indian railway stations.
Google will also make it possible for people to type in more than 10 Indic languages on the Android operating system, “including the Prime Minister's mother tongue Gujarati,“ Pichai said at the event attended by tech industry royalty.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that the company plans to join others to enable broadband internet using television white-space technology . “We have plans to partner with the government of India, state governments, telecommunications companies and local ISPs (internet service providers) to take this technology to 500,000 villages in India,“ said Nadella. Networking major Cisco's executive chairman John Chambers pledged support on behalf of the industry.
“The USIBC (US-India Business Council) and Silicon Valley will be there for you,“ he said. “I think the US and India will be very strong together.“ Chambers has just been elected USIBC chairman.
Chip maker Qualcomm announced a $150 million fund to invest in Indian startups.
The company , which has been funding startups in the country since 2007, will encourage product design from India, said executive chairman Paul E Jacobs. “We really want to see a local ecosystem for product design,“ he said.
Modi also met Apple chief executive Tim Cook to discuss the Make in India initiative, apart from Tesla's Elon Musk.
The Silicon Valley visit comes at a time when Modi's advent as prime minister has served to boost investor confidence.


Forbes India Rich List

Chabahar port snippets

India is looking to step on the pedal over its ambitious Chabahar port project in Iran by signing an international transit corridor agreement with Iran and Afghanistan.
One of the reasons why the port project is important for India is because it will facilitate access to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. Earlier this week, officials from the three countries met to finalize an agreement for a Chabahar transit corridor.
“We are looking at a trilateral transit corridor MoU,“ India's ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha said. While India and Iran are developing the Chabahar port jointly , Sinha said, Afghan businesses are investing in the attached free trade zone where Iran has allotted land for Afghan investors.
For India, Chabahar port is an important initiative involving three partners, and is a critical alternative trade route for Afghanistan. What came as a shot in the arm for India was that the port was welcomed by all regional partners of Afghanistan at the VI RECCA (Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan) conference held in Kabul on September 4.
The transit corridor will be significant for Afghanistan too with President Ashraf Ghani declaring that his country wants to revitalize the Silk Road and act as a regional hub for connecting South Asia with Central Asia.
Indian officials said though that the primary motivation for the port and transit corridor was not bypassing Pakistan. “We are hoping Pakistan too at some stage will join all trade and transit agreements being negotiated under Saarc by all other member nations,“ said an Indian official.

Exports dive 21% in August

Exports from India are still not out of the woods, with as many as 23 key sectors, including petroleum, engineering and leather, declining in August mainly due to a fall in global prices and a demand downturn.
In all, 23 out of 30 sectors closely monitored by the commerce ministry were in the negative zone last month, according to ministry data.
This has prompted exporters' body FIEO to seek immediate intervention of the government to arrest the decline.
India's exports declined 20.7% in August to $21.3 billion, pushing up the trade deficit to $12.5 billion. During the month, top two sectors -engineering and petroleum products -contracted 29% and 47.9%, respectively .

Shoulder to Shoulder

Just as planned, Lucknow's 168-year-old Sibtainabad Imambara played host to an unprecedented joint Shia-Sunni namaz on Eid-ulAdha on Friday to send out a message of sectarian unity .
The prayers at the Shia monument were held as part of a citizen-driven initiative, `Shoulder to Shoulder'. According to mutual agreement, a Sunni imam, Maulana Shehzad, led the namaz and devotees followed as per their individual manner. Shia and Sunni prayers on Eid are usually held separately in Lucknow.
Endorsement for the joint namaz had already been obtained from top religious authorities, including Maulana Al-Sayyid Ali Al-Sistani of Iran. Moreover, clerics from both sects in the city had welcomed the initiative.
Mohammad Haider, a key organizer, said they wanted to promote brotherhood, “the very soul of Islam“. “All members of the community want to co-exist peacefully and progress, instead of suffering because of conflict created by people who have vested interests and self serving motives,“ said Atif Hanif, who is also part of the core group behind “Shoulder-to-Shoulder“.
The organisers said that clashes between the two sects had given the community and the entire city a bad name. Their aim was to give a message of unity .
The initiative had begun as a WhatsApp group in Lucknow. A Facebook event that was subsequently created went viral soon. “We know each other since our childhood,“ the Shoulder-to-Shoulder FB page said, inviting people to the event.
“We shared the same classrooms, same dreams, same fears, ate from the same lunch box. We even share the same memories. But we never stood shoulder to shoulder for Eid prayers. It's time for a change.“


Renault drives in Kwid

Renault announced an aggressive pricing for its entry car Kwid at Rs.2.6 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) as the French auto major looks to take on the formidable Maruti Alto and Hyundai's Eon in the big-volume category .
The 800 cc car is Renault's most ambitious bid at the Indian car market after it launched the Duster mini SUV in 2012.
The entry variant of the Kwid, which carries 98% local content, does not have power windows, power steering and air-conditioning, though these are available on the higher-up variants.
There are six variants of the model and the top-end comes for Rs.3.5 lakh. Renault has worked for nearly three years to manage the costing of the Kwid, considering that the car will compete with the Alto and Eon. It was developed using engineering centres in India, France and Japan.

IMD's Monsoon Forecast is spot on

In April this year, the India Meteorological Department had stuck its neck out and warned the country of a second straight drought this year. It was IMD's bleakest monsoon forecast, the first time it had predicted a rain shortfall of more than 10%. As it turned out, IMD was spot on.
As on September 24, the monsoon deficit for the season was 13%, as against the department's forecast of 12%. With less than a week to go for the end of the monsoon season (September 30), officials do not expect the deficit to change much.
IMD calls a countrywide monsoon shortfall of 10% or more as `deficient monsoon'.Popularly , it is known as a drought year -a term previously used by the department but later discontinued because, as an official put it, the entire country never faces a drought.
Although last year too, IMD had pared down its forecast in phases to eventually reflect the drought, this IMD prediction was a first in more than one way . It was the first time that IMD issued a forecast of deficient monsoon in April itself, and flowing from that, the first time that it accurately predicted a drought.
Officials say , coming as it did in the shadow of last year's drought, it wasn't easy for the department to go along with the scientific findings and issue a forecast warning of a second straight drought in the country .


Hospitality numbers

Modi visits Ireland

“From India to Ireland ..strengthening ties and deepening cooperation,“ Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on landing in Dublin on Wednesday .
Seeking Ireland's support for India's membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, he reaffirmed New Delhi's commitment to “non-proliferation“.
Addressing the media after his talks with Enda Kenny , Modi said India and Ireland share much in common, a shared colonial history and an important Constitutional bond in the form of Directive Principles, which the Indian Constitution-framers borrowed from the Irish constitution.“Our economic partnership can have a strong technology focus ­ IT, biotechnology & pharma, agricultural and clean energy ,“ the PM said in a tweet.
“In the 30th anniversary year of the Kanishka tragedy , we thank you once again for the memorial that honours them,“ he said, adding that his conversations with Kenny focused on terrorism, radicalization and the sit uation in Europe and Asia.
After a working lunch with the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny , PM gave Kenny two specially selected gifts, honouring Irish officials who played a signature role in India's history . These were reproductions of manuscripts from the National Archives. The PM tweeted “The selection is connected with Irish officials, Mr. Thomas Oldham & Sir George Abraham Grierson, recognising their contribution to India Thomas Oldham was appointed geo logical surveyor in 1850. His joining day in 1851 is marked as foundation day of Geological Survey of India Mr. Oldham conducted 1st systemic coal mapping of India & later initiated mapping of other minerals. He wrote a lot about fossils in India. Sir George A Grierson conducted the 1st linguistic survey of India, which was published over several years between 1903 to 1928.“
Relations between India and Ireland date back to before independence with one of the more famous interactions between Rabindranath Tagore and W B Yeats.
The PM made a pitch to revive the flagging talks on the India-EU FTA by saying, “Greater sensitivity of the European Union to India's commercial interests and challenges will help us resume discussions on India-EU Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement ... I also hope that Ireland's visa policy will be sensitive to the requirements of India's Information Technology firms. I also conveyed our interest in concluding a social security agreement, which will be of great help to both countries.“

Uninor is Telenor

Telenor India, earlier called Uninor, is holding talks with peers for trading in airwaves, which will help the Indian arm of the Norwegian carrier offer high speed data services in a market that is swiftly embracing 3G and even making initial moves towards 4G. “We know we have to move to the next stage of services, for which we need spectrum. However, there is still demand on 2G,“ chief executive Vivek Sood said.
Sood's comments came on a day Telenor India Communications became the new legal entity from erstwhile Telewings India, which operated under the Uninor brand. The new brand name is now Telenor India, and the company said it will spend around Rs.100 crore to communicate its new brand to its markets.When asked whether Telenor India was in discussions with players, including Videocon and Aircel, Sood said: “We are in the initial stage of discussions with all operators on spectrum trading.“
The Cabinet has cleared sharing and trading in airwaves, which could be important for the telco that currently has just 2G airwaves, which isn't widely considered good enough for high-speed data services typically being offered by its larger rivals through 3G technology.
Videocon Telecom CEO Arvind Bali recently said the company is likely to finalise airwave sharing and trading pacts shortly with at least two mobile operators, including a leading European carrier, widely believed to be Telenor. The potential pact with the leading European incumbent is planned in Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat to offer a combination of 4G and 2G voice services, Bali has said.
Uninor operates in the six circles of UP (West), UP (East), Bihar (including Jharkhand), Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, and claims to be at No. 4 by revenue. It serves 47.55 million customers at present, much lower than market leader Bharti Airtel, which has over 230 million customers in the country. It plans to launch services in Assam early 2016.

New Wealth Builders

Nod for Rs. 8,000 crores IAF radar system

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), apart from the $3 billion purchase of Apache and Chinook helicopters from the US, also cleared an almost Rs.8,000 crore project for extension of the IAF's fully-automated air surveillance and defence network to the entire country .
The IAF has already established five nodes of the IACCS (integrated air command and control system) in the western sector facing Pakistan at Barnala (Punjab), Wadsar (Gujarat), Aya Nagar (Delhi), Jodhpur (Rajasthan) and Ambala (Haryana).
Now, four new major nodes and 10 sub-nodes will come up under Phase-II of the IACCS. By progressive integration of all airborne and ground-based civilian and military radars around the country , the aim is to ensure any intrusion by a hostile aircraft, helicopter, drone or micro-light can be detected and tackled as soon as it takes place.

Twit statz


Competition among our States!


Infy bags GST IT platform

Infosys has secured the high-profile contract to develop and operate the technology platform for the proposed goods and services tax (GST), beating the biggest names in Indian IT and US tech giant Microsoft. “Infosys has bagged the contract...The company will develop the system and operate it for five years,“ Navin Kumar, chairman of the Goods and Services Tax Network said.
The GST IT system will provide a standard interface for the taxpayer including registration, filing of returns and payment of tax and a common and shared IT infrastructure between the Centre, the states and other bodies such as the Reserve Bank of India.
Bigger rival Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro and Tech Mahindra were also said to be in the race for the prestigious contract, which entails designing, developing and maintaining the GST system. Infosys bagged the Rs.1,380 crore contract.  GSTN was incorporated in March 2013 as a not-for-profit, non-government, private limited company. The central govern ment holds 24.5% equity in the company and all states, including Delhi and Puducherry, and the Empowered Committee of state finance ministers together hold another 24.5%. The remaining 51% equity is with non-government financial institutions. GST, hailed as a comprehensive reform of indirect taxes that could lift country's GDP by 1-2%, is stuck with the main opposition Congress stalling the Constitutional amendment bill in the upper house of Parliament, where the ruling NDA doesn't enjoy a majority. The proposed GST would replace a plethora of indirect taxes at the central and state levels with a single levy and create a unified national market in the country from April 1, 2016, a deadline that may be missed if the Congress continues to oppose the bill.
Tax experts said the award of this contract displays the government's intent to push the new tax.
He said the award of the contract in the face of the delayed passage of the bill shows the government is serious about implementing the new tax as early as possible.
“With ongoing work on drafting of GST law, this further gives assurance to the industry that GST is not far away. One would hope that the GST network would be ready for testing in time,“ he said.
All states will use common IT processes under the GST and most are revamping their systems. Registrations on the portal are expected to begin from January.

ADB lowers FY16 growth rate to 7.4%

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) lowered growth projections for India for the current fiscal to 7.4%, from the 7.8% earlier, citing weak monsoon, poor external demand and inability of the government to push economic reforms in Parliament.
Though ADB, in its update on Asian Development Outlook (ADO), retained the consumer inflation forecast for India at 4% (plus minus 0.2%), it cautioned that a possible increase in prices of crude oil in the international market could have adverse implications for prices.
In March, ADB had forecast a growth rate of 7.8% for 2015-16 and 8.2% for 2016-17.

Mangalyaan update

India's flagship space project Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), which completes a year in the Martian orbit on Thursday , “will survive for a longer period than estimated“, Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar has confirmed.
On September 24, 2014, India became the first country to insert a spacecraft into the Martian orbit in the first attempt. The feat drew accolades from world space agencies such as Nasa and European Space Agency . Even Pakistani nuclear scientist A Q Khan praised it.
MOM's initial mission span after entering the orbit was six months (till March 24, 2015), which was extended by another six months. It had 37kg of fuel left then. “A year later,“ the Isro chairman said, “it has 35kg of fuel on-board.“
Kiran Kumar said that initially , “the spacecraft's operation will be extended by a year (till September 24, 2016), but we are confident it will survive for a longer period. In fact, we are expecting it to survive for several more years as it has not faced any serious problem“.
“We will be getting in touch with Nasa's deep space network regarding extending the operations,“ he said. Nasa's communication facilities at Goldstone in California, Canberra in Australia and Madrid have been supporting MOM.
“To mark the first anniversary , a Martian atlas containing images taken by the colour camera, will be released,“ Kiran Kumar said. The camera has taken more than 400 images till date.
He said that on November 5, 2015, on the second anniversary of MOM's launch, a book named “From A Fishing Village To Mars“, will be released.


Of India's first National Investment Manufacturing Zone....

Andhra Pradesh is set to house India's first national investment and manufacturing zone after the state assured the Centre of availability of 10 sq km of land in one place in Prakasham district.
The imminent final approval for the NIMZ, which is expected to give a fillip to Prime Min ister Narendra Modi's Make in India campaign, comes four years after the concept was mooted to boost manufacturing in the country and two years after the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion gave an in-principle nod to Andhra Pradesh in this regard. “NIMZ could not take off because states did not have the required land available. But we want to make the best of what we have, hence we are going ahead with the approval for Andhra Pradesh,“ said a senior government official.
DIPP has relaxed the requirement of land for setting up an NIMZ, from 50 sq km to 10 sq km.
The state will have to acquire the remaining land in the next four-five years.
The NIMZ will comprise a special purpose vehicle and a developer, along with the state and the central governments as stakeholders.
DIPP has in the past four years given in-principle approval to 12 NIMZs in Nagpur in Maharashtra; Tumkur, Kolar, Gulbarga and Bidar in Karnataka; Medak in Telangana; Chittor in Rajasthan and Kalinganagar in Odisha, among others. However, none of the states other than Andhra Pradesh has been able to make any headway yet.The manufacturing policy puts the onus on the central government to provide external physical infrastructure linkages to the NIMZs including rail, road, ports, airports and telecom, in a time-bound manner and also provide viability gap funding wherever required. As per the original plan Andhra Pradesh has estimated that the manufacturing zone will create opportunities for 20,500 direct and 29,200 indirect jobs and attract an investment of over Rs.43,500 crore.
The Centre will assist the state in negotiating non-sovereign multilateral loans and the developers in raising extra commercial borrowings to develop internal infrastructure. Andhra Pradesh ranked second among Indian states in the World Bank's recent ease of doing business rankings, second only to Gujarat.
The state has set up a system for random allocation of inspectors and computerised risk assessment based inspections under various labour laws. It also started a single window system using an IT-enabled platform to provide all clearances to set up an industrial operation within 21 days.


Rajan backs Aadhaar

Batting strongly for Aadhaar cards, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan sought greater clarity on the Supreme Court ruling on the matter, saying its usage can help a deserving person get credit, avoid over-borrowing by individuals and plug leakages. “We need greater clarity on the matter, especially after the recent Supreme Court ruling which says having Aadhaar card is not mandatory for availing of benefits,“ Rajan said, stressing that the apex court is not intending to stand in the way of voluntary usage of the cards.
Citing the experience in the US, Rajan said “we need to learn from experiences like the usage of the social security number, which is continuing to be used without raising any concerns on privacy“.

Small Bank licences

The Reserve Bank granted small bank licences to 10 applicants, most of which are engaged in microfinance, in a move seen as one of the most far-reaching initiatives on financial inclusion since bank nationalisation in the late 1960s.
Among those that bagged licences are Au Financiers backed by private equity firm Warburg Pincus, Ujjivan Financial, Utkarsh Micro Finance and Janalakshmi Financial, run by a former Citibank derivatives trader.
Those that didn't make the cut include leading microfinance company SKS Microfinance, Vaya Fin serv backed by Vikram Akula, once the poster boy of Indian micro lending, Dewan Housing Finance Ltd and brokerage IIFL Holdings, in which Indian-born Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa plans to raise his stake.
The banks will further the agenda of financial inclusion by offering credit to small businesses and marginal farmers besides units in the unorganised sector. They will also provide avenues for savings and will be high-tech but low-cost institutions, as envisaged by the central bank. “This is a big milestone for us and also for the entire microfinance industry -as many as eight MFIs (microfinance institutions) made the cut,“ said Govind Singh, MD & CEO, Utkarsh Micro Finance. “The challenge for almost every MFI going forward would be to raise domestic equity since, as non-banks, we had relatively easy access to foreign equity and therefore had gone for it.“
Microfinance companies are governed by separate laws and some of the licence winners may need to lower overseas holdings under Banking Regulations.
The 10 were chosen from 72 applicants following detailed scrutiny of financial viability, business plans and other checks by three independent committees, said the regulator. Others that have got the licences include Capital Local Area Bank Ltd from Jalandhar and Disha Microfin Ltd based in Ahmedabad. “An important factor was proposed reach into unbanked areas and underserved sections of the population,“ said RBI. “The detailed scrutiny involved assessment of financial soundness, proposed business plan, fit and proper status based on due diligence reports received from regulators, investigative agencies, banks, etc.“

Small banks can take deposits and lend just like full-fledged banks. They can also trade in forex and sell financial products such as mutual funds and insurance. But at least half their loans should be less than Rs.25 lakh so that the targeted small borrowers benefit. It can't lend more than 10% to a single borrower and for the group it is capped at 15%.
With this, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has made substantial progress on his promise of differentiated banking licences, part of the agenda he unveiled on taking office in September 2013. While two full-fledged bank licences were given last year -to IDFC and Bandhan Bank -permits for payment banks were announced last month. Other items on Rajan's to-do list include full-fledged investment banks and the subsidiarisation of foreign banks or the establishment of wholly owned local units. Bandhan Bank began operations last month and IDFC Bank is expected to start in October.
Small banks will have equity capital of at will have equity capital of at Rs.100 crore with a quarter of their branches in villages that have a population of less than 10,000, RBI's norms stipulate. In the first five years, they will need central bank approval for new branches and should have a capital adequacy of 15% of risk-weighted assets.
Along with payment banks, this new set of lenders could pose a threat to established commercial banks, especially the state run ones that have a dominant presence in smaller towns and villages. To be sure, some of these entities may take a while to start operations such as accepting deposits as they have to raise capital and restructure holdings to meet regulatory norms.

Of 50 years and 50 months....

Prime Minister Narendra Modi mocked the opposition for raising questions against his ambitious Jan Dhan Yojana and asked, “Those who kept poor away from banking facilities even after four decades of nationalization of banks are seeking account of such a scheme which has brought Rs.30,000 crore cash in rotation in a record time.“
“What these people could not do in 50 years, I will do in 50 months,“ Modi retorted at a function for rickshaw distribution in his parliamentary constituency on Friday .“The programme would not just change the lives of a few people, but herald a new beginning that would change the future of `Kashi' and its poor,“ the PM said, amid cheers. “Things will start moving fast and the town will get a new identity and the common man's lives will improve,“ he told the hundreds of people who had gathered to listen to him.
The PM, on his first trip to his Lok Sabha constituency in over eight months, claimed poverty alleviation measures of the past lacked a proper direction. “We have been hearing about `garibi hatao' for the last 40-50 years. In elections too, we hear about poverty alleviation programmes for the poor. It has become a tradition in politics to talk about the poor and their welfare. There is need to come out of this tradition,“ he said.
Stating that experiments for poverty elimination had failed to give desired results so far, Modi said, “I don't want to blame any government or party , but we must make a new beginning for the welfare of the poor.“ He also appealed to the poor to send their children to school as education was the best option to fight poverty .

Thirsty Marathwada gets rain

The rain gods finally smiled on rain-starved Marathwada with a heavy down pour lashing the region over Thursday and Friday . Each of the eight districts in the region got an average 42 mm rain in a 24-hour span over the two days. Nine dams in Aurangabad district, including medium and major reservoirs were overflowing.
The water levels in the Jayakwadi dam, which is the lifeline of Aurangabad city swelled by 8 cubic metres due to the good rains. Irrigation department officials said the fresh quota by itself would cat er to the drinking water needs of the city for a good two-and a-half months. The usual run off from Friday's rains will further boost the dam levels they pointed out.
Other cities in tMaharashtra also received heavy rainfall. In Nashik, sadhus who had as sembled for the Shahi Snan on Friday were treated to a second bath when a downpour flooded the Sadhugram. With 43 mm, Nashik's was the highest rainfall in central Maharashtra on the day . Following Nashik was Pune, which received 40.1 mm rainfall. The catchment areas of the Khadakwasla, Panshet, Varasgaon and Temghar dams around Pune, which were dry for the last 40 days, received good rain. India Meteorological Department (IMD) officials attributed the rainfall activity to a depression over Vidarbha and the neighbourhood close to Akola, as well as to a low pressure area that has formed over the north Andaman Sea and adjoining east central Bay of Bengal. “Intermittent spells of rain and light rainfall would occur in some areas on Saturday and Sunday too,“ an IMD official said.
While Kolhapur did not receive any rain, it poured in Buldhana, Mahabaleshwar and parts of Vidarbha. In Chandrapur, the rains took a break on Friday but the incessant downpour over the previous three days forced authorities to open five gates of the Irai dam by a metre to release water from the reservoir.
The administration declared an alert in the lowlying areas along the Irai river following the water discharge.
The water levels have been steadily rising in nearly all reservoirs in the district. Five irrigation projects -Chargaon, Chandai, Pakdiguddam, Dongargaon and Labhansarad -are full to the brim.

Mumbai Metro III

The proposed Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro-III corridor will have stations at Sahar Road, Santacruz and Terminal 2 to provide easy access to the airports.
A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) and the Mumbai International airport Limited (MIAL) for participation and contribution of Rs.777 crore by the latter towards construction and operation of stations at Sahar Road, and domestic and international airports along the Metro-III corridor.
“Metro-III will provide connectivity to major hotspots of the city, including the international airport, and will pass through Sahar Ro ad, the domestic airport and T2,“ said an MMRDA spokesperson. MIAL will also provide land required for the construction to MMRC and co-ordinate activities during the construction and operation of the stations. The Metro-III corridor may be extended up to Kanjurmarg as the depot at Aarey Colony is being opposed due to environmental concerns.

Godavari meets Krishna

With the launch of the Pattiseema lift irrigation scheme in Andhra Pradesh, the Godavari was formally connected with the Krishna, and the country took a large step towards its ambitious but long-pending goal to interlink major rivers to eventually form a national water grid.
The 174-km Pattiseema project is not part of the original nationwide inter-state river-linking scheme -the first instance of the national project is the Ken-Betwa connection which will be launched in December this year. However, its significance lies in the fact that it addresses water scarcity in Rayalaseema region and is the first major intra-state river-linking plan.
The Pattiseema project lifts flood water from the Godavari and pumps it into the Polavaram right canal that empties into the river Krishna in Vijayawada. The interlinking of Godavari-Krishna has been on the anvil for almost five decades. Thousands of farmers in Krishna, Guntur, Prakasam, Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapur and Chittoor districts will gain from the Godavari-Krishna linkage. About 17 lakh acres including 13 lakh acres in the Krishna delta will get assured irrigation water for two crops round the year. Thousands of villages en route will get drinking water supplies.
The next in the pipeline under the national project is the interlinking of Ken (Madhya Pradesh) and Betwa (Uttar Pradesh) rivers. Though Ken-Betwa was touted to be the first river interlink project, under the revised national scheme, AP chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu hurried through the scheme and completed it in record eight months.
The national river interlink project was first conceived about two centuries ago by British engineer Sir Arthur Cotton, who designed the anicuts across the Godavari at Dhowlaiswaram and the Krishna in Vijayawada.The idea was revived by eminent engineer-politician Dr KL Rao about five decades ago.The Polavaram-Vijayawada link was proposed by Dr Rao. Later, TDP founder-president and former chief minister NT Rama Rao and former chief minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy too played a key role on the Andhra project.
At the national level, the river interlinking project will benefit millions of farmers in north India and down the Vindhyas. The Centre has proposed to create 3,000 storage tanks. A whopping 174 billion cubic metres (BCM) of water will be distributed through canals that run for 14,900 km across the county.
The Centre has also appointed a high-powered task force on the interlinking of the rivers, which once completed will bring an additional 35 million hectares under irrigation. The task force has been given a deadline of 2016 to submit its report.

FM auctions net Rs 1,064 crore

The first round auctions for phase-3 of FM radio licences closed with the government raising Rs.1,064 crore for 91 frequencies in 54 cities. In addition, seven frequencies have reportedly been auctioned but details were not available because of a Madras high court stay on them. As many as 38 frequencies, mostly in smaller towns like Tirupati and Vijayawada, remained unsold.
The big bidders in this round of auctions were Entertainment Network India Ltd (which owns the Mirchi brand) with Rs.339.2 crore for 17 channels; HT Media Ltd, which bid Rs.339.8 crore for 10 channels; Digital Radio Broadcasting Ltd (Sun TV Group) with Rs.134.9 crore for three channels; and Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd, with Rs.116.9 crore for 14 channels. In terms of number of winning bids, DB Corp and Rajasthan Patrika equalled Reliance's 14, but their total outlay was much smaller because they stuck to smaller towns like Karnal, Dhule, Jalgaon and Jhansi.
If the successful bids by the Sun TV group entities covered by the HC stay were to be taken into account, its total outlay would be in the region of Rs.245 crore--that's if its bids are allowed to go through.
The city that fetched the highest bid was Delhi at Rs.169.2 crore, about five-and-a-half times the reserve price of Rs.31.4 crore, a clear indicator of a `scarcity premium' driving bids up, since there was just one frequency up for grabs in the Capital. Similarly, the bid for Bangalore touched Rs.109.3 crore, over five times the reserve price, and for Mumbai Rs.122.8 crore, three-and-a-half times the base price (which was relatively lower because two frequencies were on offer). The auction rules, which allowed the system to be `gamed', particularly by non-serious bidders, also played a role in sending prices through the roof.
Some smaller cities like Guwahati, Sholapur, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur and Varanasi saw the winning bidders shelling out even higher multiples to the reserve prices, with the bid in Guwahati being nearly 11 times the base price.
The results of the auctions, along with some acquisitions, means that the Mirchi brand will expand from the current 32 cities to 43. In some cities, it will now have more than one channel--for instance, in Bangalore, two, and Hyderabad, three.


Sri Lankan PM comes calling

India and Sri Lanka vowed to intensify cooperation in combating terrorism, and work together for security and stability in their maritime neighbourhood following a meeting between PM Narendra Modi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Modi said both countries recognized their closely aligned security interests and the need to remain sensitive to each other's concerns. “We both reaffirmed our commitment to deepen our defence and security cooperation,“ he added. “Sri Lanka is our largest partner in defence training programme and we will continue to expand our cooperation in this area,“ he added.
Thanking Wickremesinghe for choosing India for his first overseas trip after becoming PM for the fourth term, Modi hoped that the country will achieve “genuine reconciliation“ and development so that all people, including the Tamil community , can live a “life of equality, justice, peace and dignity in a united Sri Lanka“.
On the fishermen issue, Modi said it was agreed that fishermen's associations on both sides should continue their efforts to find a solution. “I conveyed to him that this should be seen as a humanitarian issue that affects livelihoods,“ he added.
Calling his discussions with Wickremesinghe “excellent“, Modi said India would like to see the bilateral trade grow and become more balanced for Sri Lanka.

World Wealth Report 2015

India has become home to 11th largest population of millionaires with 1.98 lakh such high net worth individuals (HNIs), as falling oil prices and “constructive“ election results helped the country post the biggest gains in terms of their number and total wealth during 2014. India recorded the largest gains -for the region and globally -for HNIs population 26.3%) and wealth (28.2%). “The election of a popular reform-minded Prime Minister helped to boost investor confidence and contributed to strong performance in the stock market, with a 21.9% increase in the MSCI Index. Lower oil prices helped reduce country's budget deficit and retail inflation fell considerably . All these events helped India moved up to third place for HNIs' wealth across Asia-Pacific, displacing Australia, which suffered from a significant 7.6% decline in equity markets,“ it added. According to the World Wealth Report 2015, released by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management, there were 1,98,000 HNIs in India in 2014, while in 2013 the figure stood at 1,56,000.
India has been raked 11th in the list of countries with highest number of HNI population. The US topped the chart with 43,51,000 millionaires, followed by Japan at 24,52,000, Germany (11,41,000) and China (8,90,000).
The top four countries account for 60.3%t of the total worldwide HNI population. Globally in 2014, strong economic and equity market performance helped to create 920,000 new millionaires. The number of HNIs grew to 14.6 million, while their collective wealth surged to $56.4 trillion.
Since 2006, Asia-Pacific dominated HNI growth and of the $7.4 trillion of HNI wealth added in Asia Pacific since 2006, India and China accounted for an impressive 43%.“Continued growth is expected to result in India and China holding over 10% of all global HNI wealth by 2017,“ the report said.


Best of the BRICS

Three years ago when India was struggling with slowing growth, a deteriorating macro-economic situation, record high current account deficit and fiscal deficit had triggered a flight of capital. The situation was so gloomy that some analysts even talked of Indonesia replacing India as the `I' in BRICS. Cut to now: Brazil has been downgraded to `junk' and China is battling a growth slowdown. Russia has been the worst-affected by the commodities slump and South Africa's economy is flirting with contraction. India, on the other hand, is expected to emerge as the world's fastest growing major economy

Somewhere in Delhi....

IndiGo's IPO gets Sebi nod

Low-cost airline IndiGo's parent firm InterGlobe Aviation has received approval from market regulator Sebi for its Rs.2,500-crore IPO.
Under the offer, the company plans to issue fresh shares worth Rs.1,272 crore. An equivalent amount can be raised through sale of up to 3 crore shares by its existing shareholders.
Sebi has cleared the proposed initial share sale and gave its final observations on the IPO on September 11. The papers for the IPO were filed with Sebi in June.

Gujarat tops

Gujarat has topped the list of states in rapidly implementing business reforms, a study conducted by the World Bank and the government's Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has shown.
Key states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been slow in making progress and even lag less-developed states such as Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
The first-ever such study which covers the country in an in-depth manner, `Assessment of State Implementation of Business Reforms', took stock of reforms implemented by the states from the beginning of January this year to the end of June. It worked out its findings on the progress made on a 98 point action plan that had been agreed upon between various states, Union Territories and the DIPP towards the end of last year. The report provides deep insights into regulatory practices across states and highlights how states are implementing reforms.“On an average, only 32% of the proposed reforms have been implemented across the country . The implementation of reforms regarding inspection and enforcement of contracts, which necessitate medium term actions, stands at less than 20%,“ the report said. Other partners in the study, which saw states faring poorly in areas such as setting up electronic courts, included KPMG and industry chambers CII and FICCI.
The study comes in at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is attempting to attract investment and create jobs through initiatives such as Make in India. The PM has often referred to the need to make significant progress on various parameters of the ease of doing business. India ranks 142 among 189 nations in the World Bank's Doing Business report and investors complain about the slow pace of decision making and red tape on approvals. “Thus the need of the day is reform, and the reforms must be led by the government both at the central and state levels,“ said Onno Ruhl, World Bank's Country Director in India.
Seven out of the top 10 states have the BJP in office (supporting the TDP as an ally in Andhra Pradesh). The non-BJP states that cracked the top 10 category included Odisha (ruled by the BJD, ranked 7), Karnataka (Congress, ranked 9) and Uttar Pradesh (Samajwadi Party , ranked 10).
The study assessed the states on various key parameters such as ease of setting up business; allotment of land and obtaining construction permit; complying with environment procedures; complying with labour regulations; obtaining infra-related utilities; registe ring and complying with tax procedures; carrying out inspections and enforcing contracts. The assessment shows that none of the states could achieve distinction or cross the 75% mark (dubbed as `leaders category' in the survey) in the overall assessment on business reforms.The top seven states emerged in the `aspiring leaders' category and these were Gujarat (71%), AP (70%), Jharkhand (63%), Chhattisgarh (62%), MP (62%), Rajasthan (61%) and Odisha (52%). “What this report does very well is to provide a roadmap for states serious about improving their business environment and creating jobs,“ Ruhl said. “But it's also important that the civil servants facilitate business, and make it easy for businesses. This requires a change in mindset.“ The report found that except for the top seven states, all the other regions need to speed up reforms. Nine states, including Delhi, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and West Bengal, were placed in the category where acceleration is required in reforms implementation. A total of 16 states were placed in the bottom category which need to “jump start“ reforms implementation and these included Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Nagaland and Andaman and Nicobar. “Improving India's regulatory framework for business is a key pre-requisite for increasing investment in India and thereby creating jobs,“ the report said.
Listing the areas where progress has been made, the report said the states have generally made good progress in terms of tax reforms, which includes mandating e-registration for VAT and central sales tax (CST); allowing online payment and returns filing of various state taxes; providing e-filing support through service centers and helplines; and risk-based tax compliance inspections.

Historic and Path-breaking

India's goal of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council took a significant step forward on Monday with the UN General Assembly agreeing to adopt a negotiating text for UNSC reforms amid protests from China, Russia and Pakistan.
In a statement, India welcomed the decision, saying, “We look forward to early commencement of text-based negotiations with a view to securing concrete outcomes during the 70th session of the UNGA...“
Describing it as “historic and path-breaking“, India's UN ambassador Asoke Mukerji told the General Assembly that Monday's decision was significant on three counts -this was the first time in the history of the Inter-Governmental Negotiation (IGN) process that a decision on UNSC reform was adopted through an official document. Secondly , this decision sets the IGN process formally on an irreversible text-based negotiations path, and thirdly , the document is the one circulated on July 31, which would be negotiated on. In other words, there is a recognized text that has been adopted by the entire assembly , so there is no confusion on which would be the negotiating text. Moreover, the work done in the 69th session will now be carried over into the 70th session, so that will not be lost.
China dismissed the move as “not fair, not transparent“, as did Russia and Pakistan, but none of them could muster the support to oppose adoption of the text.
Welcoming the decision, India's former ambassador to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri said it was “a game-changing decision made possible by excellent diplomacy by India including, in particular, in the final days leading to the adoption of the text“.
What this means is that over the next year, the negotiations on the text will continue under the leadership of Jamaican ambassador Courtenay Rattray to work towards building a global consensus on what the UN Security Council should be.
The opposition has not gone away-the big powers opposing the negotiations on the UNSC reform may yet resort to a block later on or in the UN Security Council. But for the foreseeable future, Monday's decision is a historic one, and could change the future of the UN decisively. With the adoption, the General Assembly decided to “immediately continue Inter-Governmental Negotiation on Security Council reform in informal plenary of the General Assembly at its 70th session, building on the informal meetings held during its 69th session, as well as the positions and proposals made by member states, reflected in the text and its annex circulated by the president of the General Assembly in his letter dated July 31, 2015“.
UN General Assembly president Sam Kutesa had informed member states about the draft in a letter dated September 10. In a letter to all UN members in July , he had circulated the text containing the positions of countries on Security Council reform and how the UN body should be expanded in its permanent and non-permanent categories.


Of Western Ghats' Eco-Sensitive Zones....

The Centre, through a September 4 order, has notified 56,825 sq km spread over six states --Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu-as ecologically sensitive area (ESA). Karnataka has the largest share with 20, 668 sq km under this zone.
The notification comes nearly four years after the Madhav Gadgil-led Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel recommended that the entire Western Ghats be declared as ESA since it is a bio-diversity hotspot. Thereafter, the union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) constituted the K Kasturirangan High Level Working Group (HLWG) to take a relook at the entire issue. The HLWG recommended that 37% of the Western Ghats, which constitute 60,000 sq km, be declared as ESA. But only 56,825 sq km has been declared.
The onus of monitoring and enforcing restriction in the ESAs has been placed on the respective states, though the MoEF will set up a monitoring centre for the Western Ghats.
In Maharashtra, the ESA includes 2,177 villages in nine districts of Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Raigad, Thane, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Pune, Satara and Kolhapur. The notification has banned all new red category industries, mining, quarrying and sand mining in the ESAs. All existing mines will be phased out in five years of the final notification or on the expiry of mining lease. It has also banned new thermal projects and expansion of existing ones in the ESAs.
No new building or construction projects and expansion of existing ones above 20,000 sq m are to be allowed. Similarly area development projects or townships above 50 hectares have been prohibited. Activists, however, point out that the notification restricts the builtup area permitted for each project but there is no restriction on the number of projects permitted in an ESA.

Motown Newbies

Vizag Metro snippets

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) will execute the Visakhapatnam metro rail project at an estimated cost of Rs.13,488 crore. It is expected to be completed in a period of four years.
The Centre's decision to entrust the project to DMRC was announced by union minister for urban development M Venkaiah Naidu in the midst of submission of a detailed project (DPR) to chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu at a press conference. The CM said that the DPR would be placed before the cabinet shortly for approval.
The DPR has proposed to fix fare at Rs.10 for a distance from 0 km to 5 km, Rs.20 from 5-10 km and Rs.30 beyond 10 km. As per the DPR, it is executed in four corridors -NDA Junction to Kommadi Junction (Madhurawada) for a distance of 22.8 km, Gurudwara to Old Post Office (5.26 km), Thatichetlapalem to China Waltair (East Point Colony) (6.91 km) and NDA Junction to Gajuwaka (8.1 km), a total distance of 42.55 km.
Initially, it was proposed to build the rail project in three corridors. The corridor between NAD Junction to Gajuwaka Junction was recently added following a request from the locals.Venkaiah Naidu said private players did not show interest to take up the project under build-operate-transfer (BOT) system in view of low FIRR (financial internal rate of returns) in the order of 2.08 and 2.059 per cent, forcing the government to ask the DMRC to take it up.
The public-private partnerships (PPP) or BOT modes would succeed only when the returns would be not less than 16 per cent, he explained.Therefore, it will be implemented as a government initiative jointly by the state government and the Centre on the lines of Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi metros.
Venkaiah Naidu expressed hope that Vizag could meet the norms given its population growth of 2.5 lakh every year. The total population of Vizag is registered at 17.30 lakh as per the latest census.
The Union minister said that the Centre has approached Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for financial assistance for the project. The proposed funding pattern under SPV model is as follows according to the DPR: equity by central government 1,504 crore (14.17 per cent), state government 1,504 crore (14.17 per cent), JICA loan (1.4 per cent) and another 8.5 per cent of funds to be raised in the form of market borrowings (tax free bonds on roll over basis).

A Big Buddha statue planned @ Dev Ni Mori

The Gujarat government is going ahead with a 108-meter tall Buddha statue at Dev ni Mori near Shamlaji, 150 kms north of Ahmedabad. It'll be the second tallest Budhha statue in the world after the Spring Temple in China (153 meters) -and the tallest of a sitting Buddha, beating a 92-meter statue in Thailand.
A detailed report of the Rs.700-crore project, built around the statue, was presented at Bodh Gaya on September 5 at the International Buddhist Conference where 400 delegates from 26 nations participated. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present as officials of the Gujarat Pavitra Yatradham Vikas Board (GPYVB) laid out the plan for a 100-acre development near the historic site, complete with a stupa, parks, monasteries set up by Buddhist countries from across the world, exhibits, and a library . This was said to be one of Modi's cherished projects while he was chief minister of Gujarat.
The statue will have Buddha covered by a seven-hooded Mucalinda, the mythological serpent who provided shelter when Buddha was in meditation.
Dev ni Mori was excavated by the state archaeology department in 1953. Dating back to 3rd century AD, the site had a monastery and a stupa. The most important discovery from the site however was a 1,700 year old casket which has bodily relics of Buddha. Kept at MS University at present, a replica of the casket was presented to visiting Chinese president Xi Jinping during his Ahmedabad visit last year.
The expansion plan includes formation of an educational institute on the line of an ancient monastery . Japan and Sri Lanka have shown interest in partnering in the project.
Anil Patel, secretary of GPYVB, said that while the budget is still to be worked out, an architect firm has been finalized and the development is likely to begin in a year's time. The project is expected to take five years to complete. The GPYVB has signed an MoU with the International Buddhist Confederation for project development.


Somewhere in Lucknow....

Kerala can

Wagon R gets spruced up

National highways to grow by 50,000 km

The road transport and highways ministry will add nearly 50,000 km of roads to the National Highways (NH) network in the country in the next six months. This addition within two years of the Narendra Modi government will be more than twice the length NDA-I had added in its six years and over three times of what UPA added in its 10-year rule.
Sources said in the past 15 months, the new government has added about 7,000 km of roads to the NH length and at present it's little more than one lakh km. Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari has announced to take it to 1.5 lakh km by this year end.
Between 1998 and 2004 when NDA was in power, about 23,814 km was added to the NH network and during the 10-year rule of the UPA government, a total of around 18,000 km were designated as NH.
On how the ministry is now going about including more stretches as NH, an official said, “While process of notification to include about 15,000 km under Bharat Mala and joining backward areas in the NH network is under way , we are carrying out feasibility study for large chunk of stretches that states have forwarded for upgrading them as NHs. This would be about 20,000 km.“
Sources said adding length is crucial to maintain the pace of award, which has been increased to about 30 km a day . Putting its focus to accelerate highway construction as growth multiplier, the Modi government plans to continue this high target of award of works for 3-4 years. “Moreover, ideally most of the major roads connecting districts, upcoming business hubs and even religious and tourist places should be connected with at least two-and-half lane roads,“ an official said.
However, there is also a flip side to it. Converting more stretches of state highways or major district roads to NHs will increase burden on the Central budget as states will stop spending on maintenance of these stretches as soon as the corridors are notified as NHs.Some of the officials said the situation won't get out of government control as most of the stretches being expanded now are on a model named “EPC contracts“. Under this, the contractor has to maintain the road for one year and is also responsible for any defect for four years.

Rajasthan is ready

CAD falls to 1.2%

A drop in crude oil prices and improved exports in services helped reduce the first quarter current account deficit (CAD) to $6.2 billion, or 1.2% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), from $7.8 bn (1.6%) in Q1FY15.
However, on a quarter-on quarter basis, the CAD was higher when compared to $1.3 billion (0.2%) in Q4 of 2014-15 Data released by the Reserve Bank of India showed that the value of petroleum, oil and lubricant (POL) basked dropped sharply from $40 billion to $24 billion. A large component of this is crude and the fall in value of imports is due to the crash in crude prices globally .
A reduction in the CAD is positive for the exchange rate as it points to a lower demand for the dollar. Dealers, however, do not expect an immediate strengthening of the rupee and say in the short term, the exchange rate movement will be determined by interest rate actions of the US Fed.
In the first quarter, remittances by overseas Indians dropped marginally . This is reflected by the lower number under the head private transfer receipts, which stood at $16.2 billion. However, non-resident Indian (NRI) deposits received by commercial banks during the quarter at $5.9 billion were more than double the net inflows into these accounts in Q1of last year.
Net loans availed by banks witnessed an inflow of $5.4 billion, mainly on account of a fall in foreign currency assets held abroad by banks.