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Billionaires in India

Congress ropes in Prashant Kishor for UP, Gujarat polls

The man who played an important role in Narendra Modi's journey from Gandhinagar to New Delhi, and was instrumental in taking the Nitish Kumar-led Mahagathbandhan to a stupendous win in Bihar, has joined hands with Congress for the UP and Gujarat polls.
Prashant Kishor, now an adviser to the Bihar CM, is also assisting the Congress in Punjab. The three states go to polls in 2017. He is said to have held a series of meetings with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul to finalise the “terms and conditions“, and sought the freedom to take decisions independently 


City comparison

Eco Survey pegs GDP at 7-7.75%

Pegging growth at 7-7.75 per cent for next fiscal, the pre-budget Economic Survey on Friday asked the government to press ahead with reforms, cut subsidies and introduce GST, while advocating a review of mid-term fiscal targets to create space for additional expenditure.
It called India “a haven of stability“ in a gloomy global landscape but warned of possible currency turmoil after China's recent devaluation.
Tabled in Parliament three days before Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presents his third Budget on Monday, the Survey put 2015-16 GDP growth at 7.6 per cent, below its earlier expectations of 8.1-8.5, adding that India will take a “couple of years“ to achieve the potential 8-10 per cent rate.
“With focus on reforms in key sectors coupled with stable macroeconomic conditions, the growth pros pect for the economy in the next year appears reasonable,“ the Survey said, adding that the headwinds may come from sluggish global demand.

Somewhere in Bengal....


Govt For Digi-Payments

The cabinet has approved introduction of steps for promotion of payments through cards and digital means, a move aimed at weeding out black money menace by changing the cash-dominated payment ecosystem. “The move aims at reducing cash transactions,“ an official statement said on Wednesday .
The cabinet approved several short term measures to be implemented within a year and medium term measures to be implemented within two years by government and departments.
The essential features of the proposals for promotion of payments through cards and digital means include steps for withdrawal of surcharge or service charge or convenience fee on card and digital payments currently imposed by various government departments and organisations.
The steps include rationalization of telecom service charges for digital transactions, promotion of mobile banking and creation of necessary assurance mechanism for quick resolution of fraudulent transactions.
“Promotion of payments through cards and digital means will be instrumental in reducing tax avoidance, migration of government payments and collections to cashless mode, discourage transactions in cash by providing access to financial payment services to the citizens to conduct transactions through card or digital means and shifting payment ecosystem from cash dominated to non-cash or less cash payments,“ it said.

Nifty 50 rejig

The National Stock Exchange (NSE) announced that it would add Eicher Motors and Aurobindo Pharma to the Nifty 50 index from April 1. This follows heightened trading volumes in these counters over the past few months as investors swarmed to buy these shares to capture the upbeat momentum in their profits amid slow economic growth.
The combined weight of healthy growth and high RoE segments -such as consumer products, pharmaceuticals,automobiles-in the Nifty has nearly doubled to 27.3% compared with 14.7% five years ago. After the inclusion of Eicher Motors, AurobindoPharma and Tata Motors' DVR, this will increase to nearly 30%. Adding the IT sector weight to it, the high growth and high RoE companies will form about half of the full Nifty weight.
Some experts believe inclusion of high-growth, high-RoE segments will prevent the index from being an accurate barometer of the broader economic health. The lower weight of cyclical stocks means the index will fail to capture the uptick in these stocks when global liquidity starts chasing beaten-down value stocks.Also, the index's ability to capture the stress in certain sectors, such as banking, is diminishing.
The latest inclusions are expected to improve the average RoE of the Nifty, which has been at the near decade-low level due to the falling pricing power of companies.

Of India's first multinational army drill....

India will next month conduct its first-ever major multinational exercise “Force18“ at Pune with 18 ASEAN Plus members, including China, the US, Russia, Japan and South Korea, in tune with the country's “Act East“ policy .
Officers said the aim behind the maiden multi-lateral ground forces exercise on Indian soil would be “to learn and share“ the best practices with the other Armies of the world and “display our commitment for peace and stability in the region“.
The theme of Force18, which will be held from March 2 to 8, is humanitarian mine action and peacekeeping operations. “It will build common understanding in execution of techniques required to meet UN peacekeeping guidelines and dealing with explosive remnants of war,“ one of the officers said.
“A unique feature has been embedded in the execution of Force18, which is to train foreign trainers for a week before the exercise begins. Over 25 foreign trainers, who will be trained by the Indian Army , have already reached Pune,“ he added.

E-tourist visa extended

Delivering on the commitment made by finance minister Arun Jaitley in his 2015-16 budget speech, the home ministry will extend e-tourist visa scheme to 37 more nations starting Friday , taking the number of beneficiary countries to 150.
The countries added in the latest round include Albania, Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Comoros, Cote D'Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Iceland, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Moldova, Namibia, Romania, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Swaziland, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Trinidad & Tobago, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Air India to connect Delhi-Vienna

TaMo renames the Zica

CCTV cameras for Mumbai's coastline

Maharashtra Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has approved the installation of CCTV cameras along landing points of Mumbai's coastline. He reviewed coastal security in the presence of legislative council chairman Ramraje Nimbalkar and decided that a slew of measures should be in place to secure the city's coastline. The coastline was targeted during 26/11 and loopholes were used by terrorists who attacked the city .
Besides installing cameras, fishermen will be sensitized to act as the eyes and ears of the police. The 720-km coastline is porous with only three police stations. 


Away from the trend....

Of Income Distribution....

State of the Farmers

Rupee snapshot

Bihar Sixth State to Join UDAY

Bihar has joined the Centre's power distribution sector revival scheme that targets operational and financial turnaround of state discoms, starting with restructuring of their debt.
Bihar on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding with the Central government under the Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY), becoming the sixth state --second with a non-BJP government after Uttar Pradesh -to do so. Other states that have become a part of the scheme are Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Gujarat.
Under the scheme, Bihar government would take over 75%, or Rs.2,332 crore, of the state discom's debt of Rs.3,110 crore as of September 2015. The balance Rs.778 crore outstanding will be re-priced or issued as state guaranteed discom bonds at coupon rates of around 3% less than the average existing interest rate.
The debt restructuring will lead to annual saving in interest cost to the tune of around Rs.117 crore.
The scheme is expected to help Bihar speedily provide power to around 1,152 villages and 160.60 lakh households that are still without electricity .
“Availability of 24x7 power to hitherto unconnected villages households, etc.would boost the economy , promote industries, thereby improving employment opportunities and see Bihar develop into one of the leading industrialised States in India,“ an official release said.
UDAY, launched in November, 2015, seeks to ensure a permanent solution to debt-ridden discoms to achieve financial stability and improve operational efficiencies, for sustained growth.
Demand side interventions in UDAY such as usage of energy-efficient LED bulbs, agricultural pumps, fans and air-conditioners and efficient industrial equipment through PAT (perform, achieve, trade) would help in reducing peak load, flatten load curve and thus help in reducing energy consumption in the State of Bihar. The gain is expected to be around Rs.720 crore.

INS Arihant snippets

India's first nuclear armed submarine is now ready for fullfledged operations, having passed several deep sea diving drills as well as weapons launch tests over the past five months and a formal induction into the naval fleet is only a political call away .
Multiple officials closely associated with the project to operationalize the INS Arihant nuclear missile submarine have confirmed that the indigenously-built boat is now fully-operational and over the past few months, several weapon tests have taken place in secrecy that have proven the capabilities of the vessel.
The Arihant, which is the first of five nuclear missile submarines or SSBNs planned for induction, has also undergone deep sea dives off Vishakhapatnam where it was build. A Russian diving support ship --the RFS Epron that arrived on October 1 -has been accompanying the Arihant on its deep sea dives and launch tests.
The Epron -a Prut class submarine rescue vessel -was also the Russian representation for the recently concluded International Fleet Review (IFR) in Vishakhapatnam. India does not currently possess a submarine rescue vessel of this class ­ a vital requirement during weapon firing tests where all possibilities need to be catered for.
The Arihant incidentally did not take part in the IFR even though it was ready due to security concerns.The presence of 24 foreign warships, equipped with sensors and equipment that could pick up vital electronic intelligence being the main deterrent.
The Navy has managed to keep under wraps several weapon launch tests from the Arihant over the past five months. The submarine is to be equipped with K 15 (or BO-5) short range missiles with a range of over 700 km and the K 4 ballistic missile with a range of 3,500 km.
“It has passed all tests and in many things has surpassed our expectations. Technically the submarine can now be commissioned at any time,“ a senior official said. Sources said that the commissioning date could be as early as next month if the Modi government desires. A communication facility to interact with the submarine has already been commissioned into the Navy.
At present, work is already in progress on two more Arihant class submarines at the Ship Building Center (SBC) in Vishakhapatnam which will be larger and more advanced than the first boat. The navy is also accelerating work on INS Varsha,­ a new strategic naval base with underground pens on the Eastern Coast near Kakinada ­ where the nuclear assets would be based.
The Navy's Submarine Design Bureau is also presently working on a new class of nuclear powered attack submarines (SSNs) that it hopes to induct within the next 15 years. The plan is to build at least six SSNs in India, with financial sanction given last year for the project that could cost upwards of Rs.90,000 crore. At present, the only nuclear powered platform in service is the INS Chakra, a Akula class SSN on lease from Russia.

El Nino set to dissipate

After two straight years of drought, there's finally reason to hope for a normal monsoon this year. Most international models indicate that El Nino, the scourge of the monsoon in India, would dissipate by summer, providing neutral conditions for the rainy season in the country.
Although it is early days yet for predictions about how the monsoon would fare in 2016, the outlook as of now appears far better than the previous two years, say experts.
“The El Nino that adversely affected last year's monsoon is weakening and is likely to become neutral by the middle of the monsoon. There's even an outside chance that La Nina conditions, which actively favour the monsoon, may develop by the end of the rainy season,“ said D Sivananda Pai, lead monsoon forecaster of India Meteorological Department.
El Nino is a periodic condition associated with abnor mal warming of waters in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, which leads to changes in wind patterns that affect weather across the globe. Most El Nino occurrences lead to below normal monsoons in India.
Monsoon rainfall was 14% below the long-term average in 2015, and 12% in the red the year before that. El Nino played a spoiler in both the years -although in 2014, temperatures in the Pacific stopped short of El Nino conditions and started cooling midway into the rainy season. By contrast, last year's El Nino developed into one of the warmest ever recorded and is still continuing.
According to IMD's forecast, the El Nino may persist till June and then turn neutral by July . US and Australian agencies have released similar predictions.

Somewhere in Kashmir....

A large swathe around the Pampore encounter site resounded with praise for mujahid' (holy warriors) via loudspeakers as Indian security forces fought terrorists holed up in a building for three days.
Mosques in Frestabal, Drangbal, Kadlabal and Sempora played recordings eulogizing the terrorists. Slogans like Jaago, jaago subah hui' besides pro-Pakistan (Jivey, jivey Pakistan!) and pro-Azadi (`Hum kya chahatey: azadi') blared from loudspeakers. Hundreds of youth assembled at the encounter site in the Entrepreneurship Development Institute building, to prevent a combat operation against the terrorists. Sempora is only 15 km away from Srinagar. Police and paramilitary forces tried to deter the crowd by firing tear gas shells from boats.
In return, angry youths pelted cops with stones, sources said. Intelligence agencies, sources said, were taken aback by loud speakers blaring encomium on the terrorists. But police couldn't enter the mosques to stop the recordings, likely supplied by Pakistan in recent months, said an IB source.
All of Pulwama district, including the separatist hotbed of Tral, saw a shutdown on Monday in “solidarity“ with the holed-up terrorists, said posters put up by the separatists.

Of Aadhaar for Kids....


Somewhere in Chhattisgarh....

India & Nepal

Signalling an upswing in ties, Nepal PM K P Sharma Oli declared misunderstandings of the past few months between India and Nepal no longer exist after his meeting with Indian PM Narendra Modi here on Saturday . The meeting, intended to restore normalcy in relations hit by Madhesi agitation against a new Constitution , saw the countries signing as many as nine agreements, one of which was for utilisation of $250 million grant by India for post-earthquake assistance.
Modi himself called for consensus and dialogue to resolve all issues related to Nepal's controversial Constitution which led to violent agitation by its Madhesi community lasting for months indicating the framework for engaging the Madhesi leaders. Without being prescriptive, India had repeatedly called on Nepal to make its Constitution more inclusive by addressing the grievances of the plains people.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, foreign secretary S Jaishankar said Modi had conveyed to Oli that India wanted Nepal to address these issues in a time-bound manner.
Modi said finalisation of Constitution by Nepal was a great achievement but added its success would depend on consensus and dialogue. He also said that India's security is linked to the long term stability of Nepal.
“I am confident on the basis of these principles and hrough political dialogue and by taking all sections together, you (Oli) will be able o resolve all issues relating o the Constitution satisfac orily and take Nepal forward towards the path of development and stability ,“ Modi said in his media statement. Oli said in his statement that he had come to clear all misunderstandings and had managed to do so.
Jaishankar said the “tone and tenor“ of the visit was forward-looking, adding if assurances given on addressing grievances within Nepal were not fulfilled, it would “detract“ the country from stability. “This was not a recriminatory visit. This was a forward-looking visit It was a visit in a cooperative sense,“ he said, when asked if India was satisfied with Ne pal's assurances.
On whether India was worried about Nepal getting closer to China, Jaishankar rejected such apprehensions saying the word China did not come up in the talks.
The agreements signed include those for improving of road infrastructure in Nepal's Terai area, cultural cooperation, transit between Nepal and Bagladesh through Kakarbitta-Banglabandh corridor, operationalisation of Vishakapatnam port and rail transport to and from Vishakapatnam.
The visit of Oli, who arrived here on Friday , is the firs bilateral visit by a Prime Minister from the Himalayan nation since 2011 when Baburam Bhattarai visited India.

Somewhere in Tamil Nadu....

Focusing on women empowerment on the eve of assembly elections, the Tamil Nadu assembly on Saturday passed two bills that guarantee 50% reservation for women in all local bodies in the state.
The bills were introduced to make necessary amendments to Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994 and various City Municipal Corporation Acts to increase reservation for women from the current 33%. The state is slated to have local body polls in October this year. Tamil Nadu, which has a relatively high sex ratio of 995 women for 1,000 men, is the 17th state to legislate 50% representation for women in local bodies. Some states have provided 50% reservation for women in rural local bodies, but not in urban bodies like municipalities and corporations. The Centre is considering an amendment to the Panchayati Raj Act to introduce 50% reservation for women in all local bodies across the country .
Rural development minister S P Velumani moved the bill in the assembly , and it was passed in no time. It now awaits the governor's assent to become an Act and operational.


Bright Spot in a Gloomy World

GAP in Mumbai

Of potential Pay Hikes....

Of Smart Cities in Maharashtra....

Mumbai and Navi Mumbai will self-finance their Smart City projects.The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), along with the City Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco), will cough up Rs.300 crore each to fund the first year of the Smart City projects in six other metros in the state, sources said. The Centre has earmarked Rs.48,000 crore for the development of 100 smart cities. Under the scheme, each metro will get Rs.100 crore annually for five years to put in place infrastructure to make it a smart city. The state government and local civic body have to contribute Rs.50 crore each, every year, to the scheme.
In the first list of 10 smart city projects announced last month, Pune and Solapur made the cut. They were among eight metros shortlisted by the state government. The other metros are Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, KalyanDombivli, Nashik, Amravati, Nagpur and Aurangabad.
While Pune and Solapur will get Rs.100 crore each for the first year from the Centre, Mumbai and Navi Mumbai are viewed as financially capable of taking care of their expenditure. The Shiv Sena, which controls the Brihanmum bai Municipal Corporation along with the BJP, had opposed the Smart City project, fearing that the civic body would lose its autonomy.
The NCP, in power in Navi Mumbai and Pune, had passed a resolution last December opposing the project. The MNS had opposed it for Nashik.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is, however, keen to kick start all the 10 projects in the state and will not wait for central funding.

Jat quota stir turns violent

The Army was called out in eight districts of Haryana on Friday as the ongoing agitation for job reservation for Jats under the OBC category turned violent, leaving one person dead and 15 others injured. Jat leaders rejected chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar's assurance after an all-party meeting that the government would introduce a legislation for quota for the community in the coming assembly session. Haryana DGP Y P Singhal said the army would patrol the streets of Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonipat, Panipat, Bhiwani, Jind, Hisar and Kaithal. Indefinite curfew has been imposed and shoot-at-sight orders issued in Rohtak and Bhiwani. More army personnel are being sent to Rohtak, the epicentre of the protests, where violent mobs vandalized and set afire houses owned by family of finance minister Captain Abhimanyu Singh, himself a Jat. Internet services on mobile phones have been blocked in areas affected by the Jat agitation, including Rohtak and Hisar. Despite state government accepting all the demands of Jats, mobs refused to relent, taking control of key highways and railway tracks connecting Haryana with Delhi.
Khattar's announcement about a legislation for Jat quota in the coming assembly session did not impress Jat leaders who insisted they would continue the agitation until an emergency session of the assembly was called and the new law was passed.


Net Foreign Fund Flows

Fuel prices tweaked

Petrol price has been reduced by 32 paise a litre, while that of diesel increased by 28 paise a litre.
PSUs oil cos review fuel prices on the 15th and the last day of every month to align local prices with international rates and adjust for foreign exchanges. But this time, the price review was delayed by two days. IOC, the nation's largest fuel retailer, did not offer any reason for the delay. The movement of prices in the international oil market and the exchange rate will continue to be monitored closely and developing trends of the market will be reflected in future price changes, the company said.

Made for India

Make in India week: MoUs

The six-day business expo Make in India Week has generated investment commitments worth Rs.15.2 lakh crore for the country, the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) said on Thursday at the event's closing ceremony. Around 30% of these are foreign investment commitments. Maharashtra generated more than half the total tally, inking MoUs worth nearly Rs.8 lakh crore, expected to generate 30 lakh jobs. Within the state, the Konkan division, which includes the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, cornered the largest share of MoUs, worth over Rs.3.25 lakh crore. The deprived regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada generated MoUs worth Rs.1.5 lakh crore. Deals for Western Maharashtra and Khandesh totalled Rs.50,000 crore and Rs.25,000 crore.
The big question is how many of these commitments will translate into actual projects. “We expect the conversion rate to be over 80% in the next three years. These are investment commitments, which means pre-clearance work has been done,“ said DIPP secretary Amitabh Kant. Besides manufacturing, it had also focussed on innovation and start-ups and created a platform where corporates, policymakers and political leaders could converge, he said.
Considered the largest multi-sector business fair in Asia, Make In India Week was aimed at showcasing India's manufacturing sector. It generated 8.9 lakh visitors across 102 countries, the DIPP said. It played host to 20 foreign dignitaries, including two prime ministers.Over 9,000 Indian companies and over 2,000 foreign companies participated.
The state plans to set up a taskforce for each sector to pursue the progress of the MoUs and will take a monthly review. “We expect a high rate of conversion because these MoUs have already been whetted,“ chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said. Asked if the bulk of these deals had in fact been struck prior to the expo, he said, “We have signed these MoU during the week, though we had started talking to these parties around two months ago.“
Fadnavis said the event had generated investment commitments across sectors in Maharashtra. “This includes agro-processing, real estate, textile, auto, retail and skill development.“
The Confederation of Indian Industry said it would recommend measures to the Union government to boost the conversion rate of MoUs.“We recommend the creation of a pool of “good banks“ to promote lending, ensure good land pooling with governments, and spread taxation across industry (including non-covered sectors) to bring down the burden of taxation without affecting government revenue,“ said CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee.

Somewhere in Madhya Pradesh....

Maharashtra Retail Trade Policy

Businessmen hailed Maharashtra's maiden retail policy , expecting it would pave the way for hassle-free trade.
The Maharashtra Retail Trade Policy would give significant relaxations to retailers under the Shops and Establishment Act. The draft policy entails that retail establishments would be allowed to operate 24x7 and conduct retail operations from 5 am to 11 pm. Logistics and supply chain operations could conducted from 11 pm to 5 am.
Maharashtra is the second state after Andhra Pradesh to have a retail policy . Retailers claimed that the policy might pave the way for the retail business to get an industry status, pending for some time.
The policy has special consideration for SME retailers.It gives smaller players the facility of online registration.Special emphasis has been laid on skill development for retail sector employees and simplification of labour laws.
The Retailers' Association of India (RAI) mentioned that while RAI had been wor king with the Government of Maharashtra to create a retail policy for the state, the government had promised they would soon develop operating guidelines.
The association said, with this, the government implied that they were viewing retail finally as an important sector.