Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav expelled his son and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav for six years for alleged anti-party activities, putting the state ruling party on the brink of a split ahead of assembly elections next year. Also expelled for six years on the same grounds is the patriarch's cousin Ram Gopal Yadav, a Rajya Sabha member.
The rift in the party with Mulayam and brother Shivpal Yadav on one side against the chief minister and Ram Gopal had come to the fore after separate election candidate lists were released by both camps. Mulayam's decision to expel his son and cousin, came within hours of Ram Gopal calling an emergency national convention, or Aapatkalin Rashtriya Pratinidhi Sammelan, of SP on January 1.

Pimpri Chinchwad in Smart Cities Mission

A pleasant surprise awaited Pimpri Chinchwad  when Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted “Good news for Maharashtra! Thank you Hon @narendramodi ji & @MVenkaiahNaidu ji for including Pimpri Chinchwad too under #smartcity Mission!“ Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad had been clubbed together in the proposal sent by the state government to the urban development ministry . Pune was among the ten cities selected in the Smart Cities Mission. The other cities were Navi Mumbai, Nashik, Thane, Greater Mumbai, Amravati, Solapur, Nagpur, Kalyan-Dombivali and Aurangabad. However, there was no mention of Pimpri Chinchwad.
After this exclusion, there were angry reactions from political leaders and activists. In September, the general body approved a resolution at a special meeting for inclusion of Pimpri Chinchwad in the Smart Cities Mission. The proposal was sent to the state government and later forwarded to the urban development ministry . District guardian minister Girish Bapat had said that the state government will consider a special package and additional funds for Pimpri Chinchwad.
In October, a delegation led by former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar along with mayor Shakuntala Dharade and elected office-bearers met Venkaiah Naidu for inclusion in the list.

2016's IPO kitty highest in 6 years

A combination of smart pricing, introduction of companies from newer sectors to stock market investors and the push by private equity investors to exit investments helped 27 companies together raise nearly Rs.26,500 crore through initial public offers in 2016. The total fund raised from IPOs during the past 12 months was nearly double the 2015's figure. Also, it was close to what was raised during the previous five years put together.

In addition to the nearly Rs.26,500 crore through IPOs on the main board of the stocks exchanges, 2016 also saw Rs.495 crore raised through the SME platform and another Rs.13,000 crore through offer for sales by listed entities.

In comparison, in 2015, Rs.13,614 crore was raised through IPOs, Rs.260 crore through SME platforms and Rs.35,566 crore through the OFS channel.

Merchant bankers pointed out that unlike in several IPOs in the past, the current breed of promoters is willing to leave something on the table for investors who are buying their shares in these offers.

Positive market sentiment and investors' bullishness about India's growth story also helped Exits by private equity investors also helped this strong surge in IPOs this year.

Merchant bankers said in 2017, based on the IPO pipeline, some of the companies that are expected to hit the markets include NSE, BSE, SBI Life, UTI Mutual Fund, SIS, Continental Warehousing and CDSL. Telecom major Vodafone is also contemplating to go public. In addition, a large number of SMEs and OFS are also expected to come to the market in the next 12 months.

Markets 2016

Sensex closed the year with 2% gain at 26,626 points with metals, basic materials and oil & gas stocks leading the charge, while telecom, pharma and IT stocks pulling down major indices. It was a slightly better year for nifty on NSE which closed 3% higher at 8,186.

The year started with the meltdown in China due to a series of negative economic news, which was followed by a sharp slide in the sensex on the Budget day . However, after that it saw a seven-month rally to a peak of 29,077. Then sensex was range-bound as volatility across global markets took its toll. 2016 will be remembered as one of those years when markets proved almost every expert wrong. It also witnessed several unprecedented events. First was Brexit, which was predicted by very few. As most analysts expected the markets to go down after Brexit, it did exactly the opposite and leading global indices picked up gains.

The next unprecedented event was the US presidential election win by Donald Trump at a time when every pollster and analyst had predicted a win by Hillary Clinton.
Again, analysts said markets will go south but it went north with Dow Jones index almost touching a never-seen before level of 20,000. Demonetisation was another which no one expected. This one, however, weighed on investor sentiment and market witnessed several volatile sessions as brokers, analysts and economists tried to fathom the impact of the government move on the economy and the market.

Compared to 2015, the year turned out to be a better year in terms of foreign fund flows into stocks but worse for the bond market. In 2016, FPIs (foreign portfolio investors) net bought stocks worth about Rs.20,600 crore, compared to Rs.17,800 crore the previous year.In the bond market, net selling was over Rs.43,600 crore compared to a net buying figure of Rs.45,600 crore in 2015.

The year witnessed retail investors continuing to demonstrate relative maturity with investments through the mutual fund route. Despite several phases of extreme volatility, retail investors didn't rush to redeem their investments in any major way . In addition, investments through the systematic investment plans (SIPs) rose steadily through months. Latest data from Sebi showed that till December 27, mutual funds had net pumped in over Rs.44,400 crore, compared to about Rs.72,200 crore in 2015 and Rs.24,000 crore in 2014.

In the bond market, helped by RBI's decision to cut rates as inflation cooled, and also helped by easy liquidity , the benchmark 10-year gilt yield fell sharply from 7.47% at the start of the year to 6.1% in early November. However, as RBI tightened liquidity as there was a deluge of bank deposits post demonetisation, the gilt prices rose sharply to close the year at 6.51%.

India, Singapore amend tax treaty

India and Singapore have amended a decade-old double tax avoidance agreement (DTAA) that will allow the tax department to impose capital gains (tax) on investments routed through the island nation and plug a possible misuse of benefits.
Earlier this year, the government managed to get Mauritius and Cyprus to amend tax treaties that allowed it to impose capital gains tax and check alleged round tripping of funds into the country some of which was said to be black money .
In recent years, Singapore had emerged as a key source for foreign investors from across the globe to route funds into the country and in some cases it was the top originator of investments. Between April 2000 and September 2016, Singapore accounted for 16% of inflows with Mauritius topping the list with 33% of flows.
The latest move by the government seeks to bring parity although there are agreements with countries such as the Netherlands, France and South Korea where some additional benefits are available.Tax experts, however, said with the general anti-avoidance treaty in place, misusing these treaties would be tough.
Under the amended treaty with Singapore, capital gains tax will be imposed at 50% for two years starting April 2017.
Switzerland will begin sharing with India from 2019 information on all investment or accounts maintained in its banks post-2018. 

China backs Terror Chief @ UN

India reacted sharply over China formally blocking its move to sanction Jaish-e-Mohammad chief and Pathankot terror attack mastermind Masood Azhar at the UN Security Council, calling it the “double standards“ of the world community's fight against terror. China used its veto to block India's proposal just a day before the expiry of Beijing's “technical hold“ on it.


Notebandhi to transform economy: Urjit Patel

Short-term disruptions in certain segments of the economy and public hardship notwithstanding, demonetisation will transform the economy and impart “far-reaching“ changes going forward, according to RBI governor Urjit Patel.
In a statement issued as part of the Financial Stability Report (FSR), Patel said that the withdrawal of Rs.500 and Rs.1,00 notes will result in greater intermediation, efficiency gains, accountability and transparency through increasing adoption of digital modes of payments.
The FSR is a half-yearly exercise carried out by central banks across the world to identify weak links in financial systems and see how they impact various players under stress test conditions.

According to the RBI's stress tests under the baseline scenario, the gross non-performing asset (GNPA) ratio may increase from 9.1% in September 2016 to 9.8% by March 2017 and further to 10.1% by March 2018.
While the report warns of a temporary loss of growth momentum (expected to slow down to 7.1% as against the 7.6% projected earlier), it expects the impact of demonetisation on cash-intensive sectors to be only transitory.

The RBI is sanguine about domestic risks, but it has raised concerns of trade slowdown and uncertainty in financial markets globally , notwithstanding resilience to outcomes of the Brexit referendum and the US election.


Coastal Road update

Replant mangroves that are damaged during construction, develop green belt and fit construction equipment with mufflers and exhaust silencers to minimise sound pollution. These are some of the conditions laid down by the state’s green authority while approving one phase of the coastal road in Mumbai.
After the ambitious Rs.12,000 crore coastal road project was split in two parts, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has given a go ahead to the southern stretch (Princess street flyover to Bandra) of the road, but not without laying down 12 conditions before recommending the southern stretch to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). Meanwhile, civic officials said all the conditions have already been met and approval from the MoEF is awaited.
Last month, instead of waiting for clearance for the entire 29.2-km-long stretch — Princess Street flyover to Kandivli — the civic body submitted two separate applications, one for the south and another for the north phase of the coastal road. While approving the road, the MCZMA laid down conditions such as re-plantation of mangroves, to ensure no fishing activity is hampered and that green belt development is implemented as mentioned in the environment management plan.
To further ensure that there is no noise and air pollution, the MCZMA has mandated that all the construction equipment must be fitted with mufflers and exhaust silencers and dust suppression measures must be taken during construction. The civic officials have termed these conditions as doable in comparison to those conditions and recommendations that were laid down in March when the entire proposal was submitted.
Earlier, the civic body was instructed by MCZMA to plant five times the destructed mangroves, to look at Tram service as an option to Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) and keep aside 2% of the project cost for mitigation measures.
While plantation of five times the mangroves destructed has been relaxed this time according to the Centre’s notification, there is no condition of Tram services. Also, mitigation funds have been retained.

Viral Acharya named RBI deputy governor

Viral Acharya, a 42 year-old professor at the Stern Business School of New York University, was named deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Acharya, a graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology-Mumbai who has a Ph.D from Stern School of Business, New York University, will oversee the important monetary policy department and research, the central bank said a statement. The monetary policy department at the RBI was headed by Urjit Patel until he became RBI governor in September.
The department is now under deputy governor R. Gandhi, who is also part of the monetary policy committee (MPC). Acharya will replace Gandhi in the recently formed MPC.
The position of the head of monetary policy has traditionally been occupied by an economist.

Hinjewadi metro route update

The Maharashtra government has approved the detailed project report (DPR) for the 27 km Hinjewadi to Shivajinagar metro route. Five days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had performed the bhoomi pujan of the first phase of the Pune metro which will run from PCMC to Swargate and Vanaz to Ramwadi.
Guardian minister Girish Bapat said chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had approved the DPR for the Hinjewadi-Shivajinagar route at a meeting of the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) in Mumbai. The route will benefit people working in the IT park in Hinjewadi.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation had drawn up the report which has details of allocation of the channel, location of stations and expenses. Over two lakh people work in the IT park in Hinjewadi and about 1.5 lakh vehicles travel every day to the IT park in addition to over 885 buses.

NSE files for IPO

National Stock Exchange (NSE), India's largest bourse in terms of trading turnover and volumes, has filed the long-awaited draft prospectus with the markets regulator to go public through an IPO that could be worth about Rs.10,000 crore. This will be the country's largest IPO in the last six years since Coal India's Rs.15,400-crore offer in November 2010, the largest ever in the country . A total of 11.14 crore shares, translating to about 22.5% of NSE's equity capital, will be sold. This will give it a valuation of about Rs.45,000 crore (a little over $6 billion).

A fine for holding old notes after December 30

The Union Cabinet cleared an ordinance on demonetisation of old Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes, making their possession, transfer and distribution a punishable offence after December 30. There will be specified fines ranging from Rs.5,000 to Rs.50,000 for continued possession of the demonetised notes. The fine will be a multiple of the number of notes found in possession beyond the permissible limit--10 for souvenirs and 25 for the purpose of numismatics.
The penalties have been set out to prevent exploitative distribution of old money as wages and payments to the poor.While seen as a measure for extreme situations, the government feels making possession of the currency an offence is necessary to prevent two types of notes of the same denomination (Rs.500) being in circulation at the same time. The ordinance, which has been sent to the President for assent before it is notified, has a provision for certain categories of people to deposit the old currency with specified branches of the RBI till March 31, 2017 with explanatory notes.The condition has been added to the earlier provision on depositing notes till March 31.
Sources said RBI was expected to issue a notification delineating categories of individuals who would be allowed to deposit old notes with its branches after December 31.

Any payment towards tax, surcharge, penalty and deposit under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) can be made in old bank notes of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 only up to December 30, the finance ministry said.The PMGKY, which commenced on December 17, is open for declarations up to March 31.

Privatisation is back!

In the second strategic sale approval in over 12 years, the Union Cabinet cleared the sale of India's first pharma company, Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Ltd (BCPL), as well as Hindustan Antibiotics Ltd (HAL) after selling off their surplus land. The Cabinet also approved the closure of Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Rajasthan Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
These will be the first privatisations since the sale of Jessop and Co under the NDA government headed by PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2003-04. BCPL and HAL are among the public sector units that Niti Aayog has identified for sale of government's majority stake to private companies. The government is targeting Rs.56,500 crore in disinvestment proceeds this fiscal.
Proceeds from sale of land, which would be done through open tender, will go towards meeting liabilities of the companies, including paying for VRS for employees, according to a government statement.
Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) will also be implemented in the four loss-making units.
Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Works Ltd, the previous avatar of BCPL, was set up in April 1901 by eminent scientist and entrepreneur Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray .
The government of India took over the management of the company in December 1977 and nationalised it in 1981, renaming it Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Ltd (BCPL).
From its factory at Panihati, near Kolkata, BCPL makes anti-malaria tablets Chloroquine and Paracetamol, among a host of other drugs and industrial chemicals.
HAL was the first drug manufacturing company to be set up in the public sector by Government of India with active cooperation of WHO and UNICEF.

Kraft: Made in India


Of Foreign Tourist arrivals....

A total of 8.91 lakh foreign tourists visited India in November this year, a growth of 9.3% over the same month last year, indicating that demonetisation move did not impact the tourists footfall adversely.
Foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) during November 2015 was 8.16 lakh, while it was 7.65 lakh in November 2014. Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEEs) from tourism during the month of November were Rs.14,474 crore as compared to Rs.12,649 crore in the same month last year, recording a growth of 14.4%. The US accounted for highest share of tourist arrivals followed by the UK and Bangladesh in November 2016. FTAs during January-November, 2016 were 78.53 lakh, recording a growth of 10.4% as compared to 71.14 lakh during the corresponding period last year.
FEEs from tourism in January-November were Rs.1,38,845 crore, witnessing an increase of 14.7% as compared to the Rs.1,21,041 crore during the corresponding period last year.

Magnetic Maharashtra

Gujarat's Biotech Policy

90% of scrapped notes back in system

Of the Rs.15.4 lakh crore worth of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes that were scrapped as a result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's November 8 declaration, as much as Rs.14 lakh crore has been deposited in banks.
The value of scrapped currency exceeded the government's expectation that as much as Rs.3 lakh crore will not be returned as this would be part of black money hoards. This also means that expectation that RBI will be able to give a substantial dividend to the government will be belied. While the value of deposits indicates that ways were found to deposit unaccounted money, the government expects to gain tax revenues from large deposits above the prescribed Rs.2.5 lakh per individual limit.
The government also sees gains from small savings that were kept in households being deposited in bank accounts that make these funds productive and safe. The government has announced a scheme that provides for a 50% penalty for voluntary disclosure of deposits in excess of allowed limits with 25% of the funds to be placed in a fund for welfare of the poor for four years.
The government expected that such disclosures will also add to revenues even as money become available for more productive use, eventually leading to cheaper funds.


Tax to GDP levels

Foreign Tourists to Get Sim Cards

The home ministry's new year gift to its foreign tourists from 161 countries will be a pre-loaded sim card at 12 major airports of the country after home minister Rajnath Singh formally launches the scheme this weekend.
The ready-to-call sim cards will be available to foreign tourists arriving at airports in Panjim, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Jaipur, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Lucknow, Delhi and Varanasi to start with. The move is aimed at projecting India as a global tourist destination among foreign travellers as well as addressing the security concerns by equipping the tourists with mobile phones to make calls in case of any distress.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh will launch the initiative planned in association with BSNL this weekend by distributing free pre-loaded Sim cards to foreign tourists arriving in India on e-Visa. 

Government tweaks Cruise Policy

As a part of the government's ambitious Rs.12 lakh crore Sagarmala project, the shipping ministry is busy identifying five cruise circuits each for international, domestic and river that can be developed immediately .
Some of the cruise circuits are likely to be India-Sri Lanka-Maldives-Seychelles, India-Dubai, India-Singapore and India-Maldives. Shipping minister Nitin Gadkari said he was confident that Mumbai alone will see the arrival of 100 cruises.Goa, Cochin and Mangalore could have 60 each and 11 more could be docking in Chennai in the next one year.
More than 100 cruise ships usually reach five major Indian ports every year. Though some global cruises had sailed from India in 2007 and 2009 making Indian ports their “home port“, their runs were short-lived. Inadequate infrastructure and no clear cruise policy were the major reasons for this.
The government in the past two years has made several changes for cruises docking in Mumbai such as providing certainty of berth, priority to cruise ships over cargo ships, 40% discount in port charges and new standard operating procedures for easing immigration, health, customs and security clearances.
Moreover, tourism ministry is also providing financial assistance to ports for cruise tourism infrastructure.

Ken-Betwa project gets green nod

The National Board for Wildlife has given its much-awaited clearance, paving the way for work to begin for linking Ken and Betwa rivers, which will benefit six districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in terms of meeting their irrigation, drinking water and electricity needs.
Since the project requires diversion of forest land of Panna Tiger Reserve, it was required to be formally cleared by the board.
The clearance has finally come with certain conditions which include integration of nearby sanctuaries including Rani Durgavati and Ranipur with the Panna Tiger Reserve to compensate for the loss of tiger habitat and complete ban of fresh mining lease in the area. The board also wants the National Tiger Conservation Authority to take care of the landscape plan for the area with the help of state forest department and Wildlife Institute of India.
Though the Rs.9,000 crore project had got the Union Cabinet's clearance in July 2014, work could not begin as the mandatory clearance from NBWL got stuck amid objections from environmentalists and wildlife conservationists.
The Ken-Betwa ILR project will transfer surplus water from the Ken river to the Betwa basin through a 221 km canal. The concrete canal will pass through Jhansi, Banda and Mahoba districts of UP and Chhatarpur, Panna and Tikamgarh districts of MP.
The Ken-Betwa link is one of the 30 inter-linking of river projects, conceived by the Centre. The project had got a green signal from the Supreme Court following the tripartite MoU involving UP, MP and the Centre.
Though nearly 8,650 hectares of forest land including part of Panna National Park in Madhya Pradesh will be submerged due to implementation of the Ken-Betwa project, the MoU had factored in the issues of larger benefit to the water-starved region of both states.

76% of Indians not on Internet

India may have the world's second largest internet user base, but connectivity remains out of reach for nearly 950 million citizens, said an Assocham-Deloitte joint study. India currently has about 350 million internet users, second only to China. Internet penetration is increasing in India and the access to affordable broadband, smart devices and monthly data packages are required to spread digital literacy to make their ends meet, the study said.
Existing government infrastructure assets should be further leveraged for provision of digital services at remote locations, it said. The study said digital literacy needs to be increased by providing institutional trainings in schools, colleges and universities. It pitched for accelerating partnerships with global technology leaders and using the workforce trained under `Skill India' to impart trainings.
An integrated approach between Digital India and Skill India needs to be constructed to design programmes and impart training, it said.The report called for incentivising private sector players for developing infrastructure, providing services and promoting digital literacy as part of the Digital India programme. Besides, integration of local language and technology is also required to drive digital literacy . The report said fear of cybercrime and breach of privacy have been deterrents in adoption of digital technologies in the country .


Agni V test fired successfully

Agni V, the nuclear capable ballistic missile was successfully test-launched today off Odisha coast! The missile, an Inter-continental ballistic missile is set to give a big and formidable boost to India’s strike capabilities. With a range of over 5,000 km, the indigenously-developed Agni 5 has the lethal power to strike China. The Agni-V missile is India’s most advanced and potent weapon and deterrent against enemies. Today’s trial is the fourth developmental trial and the second canisterised-based one of the long range missile.
The first test of this missile was conducted on April 19, 2012, the second test was carried out on September 15, 2013 and the third on January 31, 2015 from the same base. The surface-to-surface Agni 5 missile is about 17-metre long, 2-metre wide and has launch weight of around 50 tonnes. The missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne.
The first two test launches happened in an “open configuration”. The second canister-based trial assumes great significance since it would give the defence forces the ability to transport the missile on a truck and fire from wherever required. With Agni V’s induction in the coming years, India will become the sixth country in the world to have a missile with over 5,000 km range. The other countries are China, Russia, the US, France and US.
Unlike other missiles of Agni series, the latest one ‘Agni-V’ is the most advanced having some new technologies incorporated with it in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine. India has at present in its armoury of Agni series, Agni-I with 700 km range, Agni-II with 2,000 km range, Agni-III and Agni-IV with with 2,500 km to more than 3500 km range. After some few more trials, Agni-V will be inducted into the services.
Lot of new technologies developed indigenously were successfully tested in the first Agni-V trial. The redundant navigation systems, very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System and the most modern and accurate Micro Navigation System had ensured the Missile reach the target point within few metres of accuracy.
The high-speed on board computer and fault tolerant software along with robust and reliable bus guided the missile flawlessly.


PM in Mumbai

Apart from laying the foundation stone of mid-sea Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial, PM kickstarts a slew of infrastructure projects for Mumbai, giving his party a perfect launchpad to start its campaign
Masterfully appropriating a Shiv Sena icon in the presence of Uddhav Thackeray, snubbing the rival Cong-NCP by launching the Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial project, and flagging off a clutch of infrastructure initiatives for Mumbai, Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually launched BJP's campaign for the 2017 civic elections.
Addressing a mammoth rally at Bandra Kurla Complex, Modi said that despite the opposition to demonetization, his government's battle against counterfeit currency, corruption and black money would continue.
He said vested interested tried to mislead people by spreading rumours, but people stood by him despite difficulties. He said elections are often seen as the barometer of popular sentiment, and the BJP's win in the local body polls in Maharashtra sent out a message to the whole country that people were not disenchanted with the decision.
Prime Minister paid rich tributes to Chhatrapati Shivaji. He said the Maratha king was a multifaceted personality who was not just brave and fought valiantly against the Mughals, but laid down tenets of good governance and fair administration.
At the BKC rally, supporters of Shiv Sena and the BJP had a slogan shouting match, but it was quickly controlled before it could turn ugly.

Earlier, Modi along with Chhatrapati Shivaji's descendants Udayan Raje Bhosale, Sambhaji Raje, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray travelled in a Coast Guard hovercraft to the proposed site for the Shivaji Memorial in the Arabian Sea.
He immersed water and soil collected by BJP workers from rivers across Maharashtra into the sea at the site and performed a jal pujan. CM Fadnavis later said that Shivaji Maharaj had performed jal pujan to lay the foundation of the Sindhudurg fort 352 years ago on December 24.

Ever since BJP's stupendous performance in 2014 Lok Sabha as well as assembly elections, the saffron partners have constantly bickered over several issues in their game of one-upmanship. Both the parties have time and again suggested that they would go solo in the civic polls.

The Devendra Fadnavis government had invited Chhatrapati Shivaji's descendants Udayan Raje Bhosale, and Sambhaji Raje to share the dais with the PM. A special stage was also erected for members of royal families from Maharashtra. Descendants of Angre, Jadhav, Jedhe, Deshpandes, Pasurkar, Mohite, Potnis, Bhosale who were part of Raja Shivaji's army were present. They were very happy to be invited for the programme.

Modi began his visit to Mumbai by inaugurating the new campus of the National Institute of Securities Markets at Patalganga. He said his government will not shy away from taking difficult decisions in national interest. “This government will continue to follow sound and prudent economic policies, to ensure that we have a bright future in the long-run. We'll not take decisions for short-term political point-scoring. We'll not shy away from taking difficult decisions, if those decisions are in the interest of the country.“

PM in Pune

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Pune Metro project amid mobiles flashed by hundreds of people, while criticising the Congress government for delaying the initiative for 15 years even as Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar showed his displeasure for not being allowed to utter a word, although invited to share the stage with the governor, chief minister and other ministers and MPs.
Modi has given full credit to the “double engine“ (the BJP governments in the state and Centre) to start the Pune Metro project. In his speech at the College of Agriculture ground at Shivajinagar, Modi talked on the issues of urbanisation and demonetisation.
During the programme, Pawar was seen shaking hands with Modi, but he showed disappointment with his gesture for not being invited to speak to the thousands of people. After Modi's speech, he did not even stand up despite requests of Union cabinet minister Nitin Gadkari and Pune district guardian minister Girish Bapat.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis appealed to people to light up their mobile flashlights as a gesture to Modi for his approval of the project. The crowd gave a standing ovation and flashed their cellphone lights. Fadnavis said, “Now, we are working on the Shivajinagar and Hinjewadi Metro routes. We will complete all procedures for it by March and inaugurate this project by the PM in April 2017.“

Aadhaar Payment App

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is coming up with an `Aadhaar Payment App' that could silence digital payments critics as the new app would do away with plastic cards and the point of sale machines once believed to be essential for a less cash society.
The app, to be launched on December 25, would also eliminate the fee payments for service providers like card companies such as Mastercard, or Visa, which has been a stumbling block in merchants switching to digital payments making it affordable to even merchants in remote villages, said people familiar with the development. All that it needs is an Android phone with the merchant.
How does it work? Merchants need to download the Aadhaar cashless merchant app on their smartphones connected to a biometric reader, which is currently available for Rs.2,000. The customer will then feed his or her Aadhar number in the app, select the bank through which the transaction will take place, and the biometric scan will work as a password for the transaction to be authenticated.
“This app can be used by a person to make payments without any phone,'' said Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey. Almost 40 crore Aadhaar numbers already stand linked to bank accounts ­ that is half the adults in India.
The government, along with the regulator and payments companies, are working to ensure that the objective of making digital payments a reality across the country. IDFC Bank along with UIDAI and the National Payments Corporation of India developed this app which would be launched at the national level. The new technology was showcased on December 19 to finance minister Arun Jaitley and the information and technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Even though card payments made its way into Indian merchant establishments two decades ago, the acceptability has been poor due to the nearly 2-3% charges that merchants used to levy and the 2% charges the card companies like Mastercard or Visa used to levy. Furthermore, the lack of connectivity made it impossible for millions of merchants in the hinterland to adapt the card payment methods.
Meanwhile, almost 109 crore of the 120 crore Indians who are registered on the Aadhar platform are expected to benefit from the new app.

Somewhere in Uttarakhand....

Somewhere in Himachal Pradesh....


The Jung ends

Najeeb Jung has quit as Delhi's Lieutenant Governor, with nearly 18 months of his tenure left. One of the few gubernatorial appointees of the UPA retained by the Modi government, Jung in a statement released by his office said that he will return to his first love, academics.
According to sources close to the LG's office, Jung had been thinking of quitting for some time now. “It was a personal decision and he wants to go back to academics,“ a media spokesperson in the LG's office said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed his surprise over the resignation. The LG's spokesperson said that the resignation had nothing to do with the acrimonious relationship the LG's office shared with Kejriwal.The LG's office and Kejriwal have been at loggerheads over authority and governance of the capital, with the CM alleging that Jung used his veto to strike down several Delhi government decisions on the Centre's instructions. It accused Jung of being hand-in-glove the Centre and deliberately transferring officers from Delhi to derail AAP projects. The latest tussle was over the appointment of Chief Secretary MM Kutty. Jung also set up a special committee to scrutinise 400 files that included orders passed by the Delhi government. While the AAP Cabinet deemed the committee illegal, it submitted the report to the LG's office in November. Jung received vindication when the Delhi High Court, last August, upheld the primacy of the Lt Governor in administering the NCT government. It ruled that the LG would be the administrative head and that the elected government could issue notifications only after consulting him. Kejriwal challenged the order in the Supreme Court, which during a recent hearing mentioned that the Delhi government should have some powers. The final hearing is scheduled for January 16.
Incidentally, the Delhi high court on Thursday ruled against the LG's decision to hold back salaries of contract staff members of the Delhi Commission for Women claiming that the appointments were illegal and ordered the government to release salaries held for two months. 

Open Your Own Jan Aushadi Kendra

Of Connected aircrafts....

It's called the “connected aircraft“ and essentially it means an aircraft that allows internet access so passengers can check their mails, update their profile or do whatever it is that they do on ground, while in the air. By 2019, quite a number of Indian carriers would have taken delivery of connected aircraft, said a study by a travel IT solutions provider .
One of the long-term goals for the airline industry is ensuring that passengers can have a truly connected journey from departure to arrival. “The so called `connected aircraft' are starting to enter the global fleet and this will really pick up over the next 10-20 years as older aircraft are replaced with new generation ones,“ said the survey . “Our survey shows no airlines in India are yet operating connected aircraft. However, they recognise the potential for enhancing passenger services and by 2019, around half will have taken delivery of some connected aircraft, although still somewhat below the global level of 66% of airlines,“ said the SITA passenger IT trends survey . In India, the authorities have not yet granted permission to airlines to allow Wi-Fi connectivity onboard.
New generation aircraft open the door to providing passengers with a multitude of new connected services.

I-T turns up the heat

A CBDT press release said the I-T department had conducted its fifth cycle of data matching, which identified an additional 67.54 lakh people. The I-T department is cracking the whip on 68 lakh people who had carried out high-value transactions in 2014-15 but did not file I-T returns for the relevant assessment year, i.e. 2015-16. The department is in the process of sending notices to these non-filers to account for their transactions and pay taxes as applicable. Non-filers can access details of their transactions by logging on to the e-filing portal with their PAN, the CBDT said.The PAN holder will be able to respond electronically and retain a copy of the submitted response.


I-T raids top TN babu's home

In a huge embarrassment to the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu, Income Tax officials carried out raids at the residence of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao and 10 other locations, including Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh. The raid at Rao's home and that of his kin, at Annanagar and Thiruvanmiyur here, began at 6 am, with Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) protection.
Officials recovered Rs.30 lakh in new currency, 5kg of gold and several documents showing financial transactions between Rao and an industrialist. The search comes close on the heels of I-T department's seizure of Rs.130 crore cash and 171 kg gold from raids at the premises of industrialist J Sekhar Reddy and his associates just over a week ago. Documents recovered in these searches had allegedly pointed to close links between the industrialist and Rao's son.
A 1985 batch IAS officer, Rao was appointed the state's top bureaucrat in June this year.

Sixth largest in the world now....

For the first time in a century, the Indian economy has overtaken the United Kingdom's, and is now the world's sixth largest by GDP, after the United States, China, Japan, Germany, and France, reports Foreign Policy magazine.
India's fast economic growth and the UK's post-Brexit slump is are behind the change.
In February, India surpassed China as the world's fastest growing economy. And in October, the International Monetary Fund predicted India would retain that title for the foreseeable future; its GDP is projected to increase by 7.6 per cent through 2017.
The UK is projected to grow by only 1.8 per cent in 2016 and 1.1 per cent in 2017. Since it voted to leave the European Union in June, which could entail leaving the EU's lucrative common market, Britain's economy and currency has struggled. India's economy benefitted from a commodities price slump through large trade gains.

Somewhere in Uttar Pradesh....

The Purvanchal Expressway, the next dream project of chief minister Akhilesh Yadav after Agra-Lucknow Expressway, got a lion's share of the supplementary budget tabled in the Assembly on Wednesday. The government earmarked Rs.1,000 crore out of the total supplementary demand of Rs.1,683 for it.
The government has already sanctioned Rs.3,000 crore for the project in this year's state budget. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav will be laying the foundation for this expressway in Lucknow on Thursday.
The total tentative budget of the project is approximately Rs.20,000 crore, including Rs.7,000 crore for land acquisition. The final budget for the 356-km Lucknow-Ghazipur Expressway, however, would be approved by the cabinet on Thursday. The foundation-laying ceremony will take place near the statue of former chief minister late Chaudhary Charan Singh opposite Vidhan Bhawan on Thursday . “Nearly 2,500 hectare of the total 4,000 hectare land required has already been purchased from farmers on the model of the Agra-Lucknow Expressway and in the next few months remaining land would also be acquired,“ said Navneet Sehgal, chief executive officer of the UPEIDA.
“Purvanchal expressway will trigger economic activities in eastern region of UP as well as connect farmers and traders of the region to the national and international markets,“ the chief minister had said earlier. Like Agra-Lucknow expressway , the Poorvanchal Expressway will also have a special airstrip for landing fighter aircrafts in case of emergencies and war-like situations and world class traffic control systems and plantation with 3.6 lakh trees. Sehgal said tender process is in the final stage and bidders will be allotted work for the project which has been divided into eight stretches of an average 44 km each. The Lucknow-Ghazipur expressway , which would not be the country's longest expressway as the recently completed Agra-Lucknow expressway is only 302 km and is being developed on the EPC (engineering procurement and construction) mode and would be funded entirely by the state government .
The expressway will start from Chand Sarai village in Lucknow and culminate at Haidariya village in Ghazipur.It will also be linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency , Varanasi through a 13 km link road. The districts that would be covered by this expressway are Lucknow, Barabanki, Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Amethi, Sultanpur, Azamgarh, Mau and Ghazipur.
Apart from wayside amenities and toilet block in every package, eight major bridges, eight ROBs (railway overbridges), 117 minor bridges and 127 minor bridges on service road will be constructed.

Somewhere in Punjab....

IDS disclosures may come down to Rs.55,000 cr

The total disclosure of unaccounted income under the Income Disclosure Scheme (IDS) is likely to be revised downwards to around Rs.55,000 crore, with less than expected tax coming in as the first instalment­­ which was 25% of the total tax obligation ­­ and some declarations being found bogus. The government received a little over Rs.6,700 crore by November 30 under IDS, which was far less than expected as the total disclosure was in excess of Rs.67,000 crore, according to revised figures released by the government.
The four-month IDS window closed came to an end on September 30 and allowed tax evaders to disclose their unaccounted assets with a flat tax and penalty of 45%.
As per the original disclosures, the Centre was expecting to net more than Rs.30,000 crore in tax and penalty . But, after receipt of the first instalment, the Centre estimates that the total disclosures would come down substantially. A senior income tax official said some of those who paid the tax by November 30 had fulfilled their entire 100% tax obligation. As per the scheme, 25% tax and penalty was to be paid by November 30, the next 25% by March 31and the remaining 50% by September 2017.
One of the biggest disclosures of around Rs.10,000 crore made by a Hyderabad businessman turned out to be bogus, besides two other big disclosures which were invalidated by the I-T department.
In a few instances, the department found that business rivals had filed fake disclosures about each other. The I-T official said the total disclosures may come down to Rs.55,000 crore or even lower as the department was investigating some cases in which tax had not been deposited.
In more than 700 search and survey operations since November 8, the I-T department found unaccounted income of over Rs.3,300 crore, which included seizure of more than Rs.500 crore in cash and jewellery . At least Rs.92 crore was seized in new currency notes of Rs.2,000.
The I-T department has constituted a seven-member committee to formulate a standard assessment procedure through e-scrutiny so that common taxpayers are not inconvenienced and the department maintains transparency and accountability .

Nirbhay missile test fails

Another test of the much-touted `Nirbhay' land-attack cruise missile, designed to carry nuclear warheads to a strike range of 1,000 km, failed on Wednesday . This was the subsonic missile's fourth test since March 2013, all of which have more or less failed to achieve test parameters.
The missile had to be destroyed in mid-air after it deviated from its flight path along the coast in Bay of Bengal soon after launch from the Integrated Test Range at Balasore off the Odisha coast around noon on Wednesday.
While the missile's first test in March 2013 had completely failed, the second one was dubbed a “partial success“ in October 2014. But the third test in October 2015 and the one on Wednesday failed miserably . DRDO may have come a long way in developing ballistic missiles like the Agni series, but it continues to flounder in the field of cruise missiles.
The armed forces already have the supersonic BrahMos cruise missiles but they have been developed with the help of Russia, have a range of only 290 km as of now and carry only conventional warheads. The Nirbhay, a stealth missile in the making for almost a decade now, was meant to fulfil the armed forces' demand for nuclear-tipped land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs) versatile enough to be fired from land, air and sea. The missile was said to be a counter to Pakistan's `Babur' LACM.


4G footprint expands

India's top telecom service providers are fast-building their defences to ring-fence their customer base in the face of a no-holds-barred onslaught by Reliance Jio, which with free data offers and Pan-India presence are pulling in users by the millions.
Bharti Airtel, India's number one telecom operator, said it has completed its pan-India 4G footprint by launching high-speed broadband services in Assam, starting with Dibrugarh and Tinsukia, matching Reliance Jio in presence.
Vodafone, the country's number two telecom operator, launched its 4G services in Nagpur, with a promise to make it available in more towns and cities across Maharashtra by March.The launch expands Vodafone's 4G footprint to 12 circles spread across the country.
Airtel has rolled out its 4G services in Assam using TD LTE technology in the 2300 MHz band.The telco will also deploy FD LTE technology in 1800 MHz band in the coming weeks, the company said in a statement Tuesday.
Airtel also launched new plans for its pre-paid users, wherein a subscriber will get 10 GB 4G data at Rs.249 with any new 4G handset, effectively offering 1 GB data for as low a price as around Rs.25.

With the launch in Nagpur, the Maharashtra circle, Vodafone now has 4G presence in Kerala, Karnataka, Kolkata, Delhi & NCR, Mumbai, Haryana, UP East, Gujarat, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Assam and North East circles. The telco has planned 4G launches shortly in Goa, Punjab, UP West, Chennai and Tamil Nadu.
With the launch, the telco is offering free SIM upgrade to 4G with 2 GB data free with every 4G SIM upgrade. It is also offering a data pack starting at Rs.8 for 30 MB. It will also give existing users double data on buying greater than 1 GB packs and all 4G RED customers. The launch offer also gives free three-month access to Vodafone Play, Live TV channels and 4G Mi-Fi that supports Wi-Fi connectivity for up to 15 devices.
The telco will allow 4G international roaming across 25 countries including the UK, the Netherlands, Germany , Hungary and Spain. It will include more countries in the near future.
Last month, Vodafone India rolled out an aggressive 4G expansion plan, saying it will launch services across eight more circles by March, which will expand its presence to 17 service areas and narrow the gap with market leader Bharti Airtel and new entrant Reliance Jio Infocomm, as these circles will contribute over 90% of Vodafone India's data revenues.

Cashless Madhya Pradesh

Delhi Metro Phase IV

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation is already connecting the dots for its fourth phase of expansion in the capital. Phase IV , which has got in-principle approval of the Delhi government, will have six corridors, of which one will connect Phase III and Phase II lines.
Among them, the planned Janakpuri (West) to RK Ashram corridor will be a link between not only the two Phase III corridors, currently under completion, but also the Phase II Blue Line system.This 28.92-km-long corridor will have 25 stations and will connect the two existing corridors lying parallel to the Ring Road and Outer Ring Road: Janakpuri (West) to Botanical Garden and Majlis Park to Shiv Vihar. These are being constructed in the ongoing Phase III. In Phase IV , the Janakpuri (West) station will turn it into an interchange point. The line will go to the Majlis Park station. This will complete a ring comprising the two corridors.
Besides providing easier connectivity among the various corridors, this Phase IV line, with its nine interchange stations, will effectively link vast tracts of the city . Importantly, it will provide access to the Blue Line, which runs from Dwarka Sector 21 to Noida City Centre, with a branching off to Vaishali.
The Janakpuri (West)-RK Ashram line will have stations beyond Mukundpur Majlis Park, going to places like Azadpur, Ashok Vihar, Derawal Nagar, Rajpura, Pulbangash, Sadar Bazar, Motia Khan and RK Ashram Marg. Azadpur, Pulbangash and RK Ashram stations are already in the Delhi Metro network.While Azadpur is part of the Yellow Line (HUDA City Centre-Samaypur Badli), Pulbangash is a station on the Red Line (Rithala-Dilshad Garden). The RK Ashram station is on the Blue Line.
Delhi government officials said that the project had been granted in-principle approval.The state government, however, needs to give the project the final approval, following which the plans for Phase IV will be forwarded to the central government for clearance. Both the Centre and the Delhi governments are joint partners in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, which is constructing and running the metro system.Once approvals come in, the modalities for the funding will have to be determined too. Sources said that the initial plan is to start work on the project by 2018. 


Air Traffic Surges 22.5% in November

Continuing the growth trajectory, domestic air traffic surged 22.45% to 89.66 lakh passengers in November as low fares and introduction of new routes and services in the winter schedule of the local carriers helped them fly more passengers.All Indian airlines together had transported a total of 73.22 lakh passengers in November 2015.
However, seat factor, which is a measure of how much of an airline's passenger carrying capacity is used or average percentage of seats filled in an aircraft, in November almost remained flat compared to October 2016.
Budget carrier IndiGo continues its domination in the domestic market, having flown 37.73 lakh passengers during the month and cornered 42.1% market share in this period.As against this, Jet Airways together with its subsidiary JetLite clocked 17.3% market share by carrying 16.54 lakh passengers in the period.
Air India stood a third with a market share of 12.9%, having flown 11.57 lakh passengers while budget carrier SpiceJet cornered 12.8% of the total domestic passenger traffic in November, having flown 11.48 lakh passengers during the period. Another budget airline GoAir managed to get just 8% of the market pie as it ferried 7.20 lakh passengers in the previous month.
With a load factor of 95.5% , low cost carrier SpiceJet saw the maximum occupancy in its aircraft in the month. Rival IndiGo ranked fourth in terms of number of flight cancellations, after new entrant Air Carnival, regional carrier TrueJet and budget carrier GoAir, as it failed to operate as much as 1.46% of its total flights in November 2016.

Masood charged for Pathankot attack

The National Investigation Agency has filed a chargesheet against Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar and three others for the January 1 attack on Air The Force Station Pathankot, detailing the conspiracy hatched in Pakistan.
The NIA chargesheet says that the conspiracy was “not limited to Masood Azhar“, hinting at the hand of Pakistani authorities. It also named his brother and his deputy, Abdul Rauf Asghar, Shahid Latif of Gujranwala, Pakistan, and Kashif Jan, the main handler of the four killers. Training camps in Pakistan and POK were set up for recruitment and training of terrorists, who underwent extensive motivational, physical, military and tactical training regimen before they were radicalised and prepared for jihad,“ says the NIA chargesheet on the attack on the Pathankot airbase.
Seven security personnel, including Lt Col Niranjan EK, were killed, while 37 others were injured. All four attackers were killed. The chargesheet will be used by India to push its case for imposing UN sanctions against Azhar -released in 1999 in exchange of a hijacked Indian Airlines plane -that China has so far opposed.
The chargesheet, filed at a Panchkula court, says JeM terrorists in Pakistan were monitoring the attack, with Kashif Jan watching TV channels and receiving chats from different persons on its status. The attack was code-named `nikaah' (wedding) and attackers were called `baraati' (wedding guests). Azhar and the rest have been charged under relevant sections of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as well as IPC.
The NIA filed the chargesheet without any response from Pakistan despite repeated requests.

The Facebook chats of Kashif and his aides reveal chilling details of how they shared congratulatory messages after Indian soldiers were killed. Among Kashif 's chats that NIA accessed, there's one by one Iqbal gloating, “Kya kaifiyat hai, kya nazare hain; bahut hi umda (what circumstances, and what sights, beautiful... applause),“ he tells Kashif.
In another chat, Mohammed Zia asks about the situation in Pathankot to which Kashif replies, “Nazare khatam hue, baraati ghar gaye (the scenes are over, and the wedding guests are home).“
The NIA also charged that the terrorists wanted the Indian government to know that JeM was behind the attack. The terrorists brought along hand-written notes, one in English and another in Urdu, disclosing the purpose of the attack.
“Jaish-e-Mohammad Zindabad.Tanghdar se le kar Samba, Kathua, Rajbagh aur Delhi tak Afzal Guru Shaheed ke jaan-nesar...tum ko milte rahe.. Allah AGS 25-12-15,“ the note read, praising Guru as a `martyr' known from “Tanghdar to Delhi“.
The chargesheet seeks Azhar's prosecution along with his brother Rauf Asghar and others.
According to a witness, two of the terrorists who reached the airbase used codenames `Major' and `Alpha' while talking to their handlers on the phone.
The chargesheet also puts to rest speculation about number of terrorists involved in the attack as it talks about the presence of only four fidayeen.
The NIA chargesheet submitted in a Mohali court, revealed that even as terrorists hit the Pathankot airbase earlier this year, their handlers in Pakistan were on Facebook. They found social media to be a safe way to get minute-by-minute updates of the attack between January 2 and 5.

Going digital....