In the Rajya Sabha....

India's Internet Readiness Index

Of Bank Deposit Growth Rate....

Delhi Oberoi set for revamp

Mission Kakatiya

Media & Entertainment Biz to Double by 2020

The media and entertainment industry would almost double to Rs.2.26 lakh crore in next five years, mainly led by growth in advertising revenue which is expected to touch Rs.99,400 crore by 2020, says a report. The total advertising revenue of M&E sector was around Rs.47,500 crore in 2015 as against Rs.41,400 crore in 2014, a jump of 14.7%, the joint report by FICCI-KPMG said. The sector grew by 12.8% to Rs.1.15 lakh crore in 2015, it added.

Somewhere in Uttarakhand....

In a relief to the Centre, a division bench of the Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday effectively put on hold the controversial floor test scheduled for Thursday to test the Harish Rawat government's majority till April 7. A two-judge bench of the HC directed that Tuesday's order of a single bench allowing floor test of the dismissed Congress government despite imposition of central rule on March 27 “be kept in abeyan ce“ till April 7. Although the Centre had appealed against the single judge bench's order, counsel for former chief minister Harish Rawat also agreed that the floor test be kept in abeyance.
The case will be heard from April 6. The decision, announced with the consent of both sides involved in the writ challenging imposition of central rule, is a reprieve for the Centre as Congress had celebrated the order to hold floor test as a vindication of its stand that the dismissal of Harish Rawat government was politically motivated and illegal. Though the single judge bench had not stayed the presidential proclamation, it's decision had been challenged on the ground that a floor test cannot be ordered as long as the state is under central rule. During Wednesday's arguments, attorney general Mukul Rohtagi said the order had “created an innocuous position, in the sense that Article 356 has neither been quashed nor been stayed fully.“
The division bench order, passed by chief justice K M Joseph and Justice V K Bisht, also directed that the central government can file a counter affidavit by Monday, April 4, whereas Harish Rawat may file a rejoinder by Tuesday, April 5.
Clarifying the difference between a `stay' on the order and keeping it 'in abeyance', senior advocate Avtar Singh Rawat said that “Staying an order and keeping it in abeyance are two different things. Keeping an order `in abeyance' means the order may get implemented after examining its various aspects and that for now, it has been kept in a neutral state.“
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared in court on behalf of Rawat, said the double bench order had been passed with the consent of all the parties. “The matter could have dragged for a long time as there would have be an appeal after appeal against the previous order but now I hope it will not take more than a week or two in the whole matter.“
Earlier, in day long arguments that began around 12.15 pm and lasted for more than four hours, attorney Rohatgi, appearing on be half of the Union government, argued the order passed by the single bench had not gone through the material supplied to the Centre and the President of India.
In a related development, Indira Hridayesh, senior Congress leader and former parliamentary affairs minister, also filed a special appeal which requested the nine disqualified Congress MLAs should not be allowed to vote as they were no longer members of the state assembly.
On Tuesday, the single bench of Justice UC Dhyani, in an order that had surprised many, allowed Harish Rawat to take a floor test in the assembly on March 31 to prove his strength. All nine Congress rebels who had gone against the party during the budget session and had on Sunday been disqualified by speaker Govind Singh Kunjwa were also to be included in the floor test, the order had directed. The rebels had argued that since no vote was recorded in the House, action against them was illegal.

India leads the pack

India continues to remain the fastest growing major economy. Continued weak recovery in major industrial economies and softer growth prospects in China combine to slow growth across much of developing Asia.

Of synchronizing Polls countrywide....

The Narendra Modi government is keen on having simultaneous elections in the country , it is learnt. The prime minister himself mooted this proposal, which was raised by party veteran L K Advani earlier, to hold simultaneous elections with state assemblies and Parliament. Modi's idea includes holding panchayat and civic polls on the same schedule.
This was conveyed to BJP office-bearers at a meeting ahead of the party conclave earlier this month. Modi had made the suggestion at an all-party meeting in February, ahead of the budget session of Parliament and it had got a positive response from even the opposition, BJP sources said.
The PM told BJP office-bearers that in view of frequent elections, to Lok Sabha, assemblies and panchayats, party workers got involved in political work rather than social work. He also said the recurrent process of elections caused delay in welfare schemes reaching the people. Though sources said it was conveyed that there was political consensus on synchronising elections, the government is unsure of the opposition's reaction once a proposal is put on the table.
In the past, a similar recommendation was made by Advani, who had said being on perpetual election mode was “not good for governance or for the polity“.
In a blog in 2012, Advani had appealed to the President to take the initiative on poll reforms, including a fixed tenure for Lok Sabha and state assemblies and synchronising polls, as it was till 1967.
In 1971, the then PM Indira Gandhi had dissolved Lok Sabha ahead of schedule, changing the timing of the general polls. Similarly , assemblies also went to polls at different times because of governments dissolving them.

Somewhere in Delhi....

Of HNI outflows....

India saw the fourth-biggest outflow of high net worth individuals globally in 2015 with 4,000 millionaires shifting overseas. According to a report by New World Wealth, some 4,000 wealthy Indians changed their domicile in 2015, while France saw the maximum outflow of millionaires with as many as 10,000 leaving.
France was followed by China, with 9,000 leaving the country while Italy stood at third with 6,000 exits. The report said France is being heavily impacted by rising religious tension, especially in urban areas. “We expect that millionaire migration away from France will accelerate as these tensions escalate,“ it said. Many European countries such as Belgium, Germany , Sweden and the UK, are likely to witness millionaires moving out in the near future due to religious tension, according to a report by New World Wealth.
In terms of millionaire inflows, Australia topped the chart with 8,000 shifting base there, followed by the US (7,000) and Canada (5,000) in the second and third place respectively. Millionaires, otherwise known as “high networth individuals“ or “HNWIs“ refer to individuals with net assets of $1 million or more, excluding their primary residences. “The outflows from India and China are not particularly concerning as these countries are still producing far more new millionaires than they are losing,“ the report said. “Once the standard of living in these countries improves, we expect several wealthy people to move back,“ it added.

Bombay HC slams Maharashtra Government on temple entry

The Bombay high court slammed the Maharashtra government for not implementing its own law to stop those preventing the entry of women inside Hindu temples throughout the state. “You must be conscious of your responsibility of protecting women wherever they are trying to enter a temple,“ said a bench of Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice M S Sonak. It has asked the government to make a statement on Friday if it will issue a circular to the police and all district collectors to implement the Maharashtra Hindu Places of Public Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act, 1956.
The bench heard a public interest litigation filed last month by Vidya Bal (70) and Neelima Vartak (64), votaries of gender equality , highlighting the “discriminatory treatment“ against women in various temples of Maharashtra.
They gave the example of Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district. Vartak, a practising advocate, experienced discrimination there first hand. The judges said wherever women are not allowed inside temples, the police officer and collector will have to take their complaints. The state will have to file cases for contravention of Section 3 of the Act, which says no Hindu of whatsoever section or class shall in any manner be prevented from entering such place of public worship or from worshipping or offering prayers as any other Hindu. “He may be a trustee, pujari, ordinary person or a fanatic. You understand?“ asked Justice Waghela.
The petitioners' advocate Kalyani Tulankar explained that the Ahmednagar shrine is on an open platform and women were completely prohibited. She said the trustees have now disallowed men as an outwardly show. Tulankar informed on January 26 the activists of Kolhapur's Bhumata Brigade tried to storm the temple. The district collector, instead of implementing the Act, had clamped Section 144 (prohibition of assembly) of the Criminal Procedure Code, making it impossible to take darshan, she added.
They also said the offering of worship has to be made before the deity and not outside the temple. They added that if it is a private temple, it is another case. When Vagyani said women want to enter inner sanctum of Shani Shignapur, Justice Waghela said, “If men are allowed on the platform then women will also be allowed. If men are not allowed, women also will not be allowed.“ Justice Sonak added, “This is your own law.You are obliged to enforce it.“
The judges then enquired if the state will issue a circular to the authorities to implement the Act. “Women don't have to come to High Court for that,“ said Justice Waghela.
Posting the hearing on Friday , the judges declined Vagyani's request to give more time to take instructions from higher officials.“Everyday you are violating (the law). Higher officials will give you instructions dehors (without) the law?“ asked Justice Waghela.


Somewhere in the Arabian Sea....

Of Policy Impact on Lending Rates....

Of Credit Growth....

E-Comm Marketplaces Get 100% FDI

The government has clarified that 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) is allowed in online marketplaces, a move that will ostensibly come as a relief to e-commerce companies such as Flipkart, Amazon India and Snapdeal but the conditions imposed have been hailed as a victory by their brick-and-mortar rivals. Critically , a clause bars marketplaces from offering discounts on their own -these have to come from the vendors on the platforms -and the policy also seeks to end “predatory pricing“ by online companies.
Overseas investment will be automatically permitted subject to certain riders such as the above, the government said in a press note, clearly defining `marketplace'. This ends the uncertainty over the business model being used by India's biggest online retailers which has been challenged in court by brick-and-mortar stores.The FDI policy had previously left the term undefined. The government also appears to have taken a firm stance against deep online discounting to protect neighbourhood stores.
“We want to ensure that there is no predatory pricing by the e-commerce companies which will especially work to the detriment of the small retailers,“ an official said. “The government also feels that if any portal is providing discounts on goods it's holding, then it amounts to inventory-based model, which is in contradiction to the marketplace definition.“ Traditional retailers welcomed the clarification, arguing that this would put an end to what they said was an unfairness inherent in the current system.
“It's a huge step in bringing parity for retailers in the country. It changes everything,“ said Kishore Biyani, CEO of Future Group, the country's largest brick-and-mortar retailer. “They can't operate as a retailer and will just be technology providers. Thats' how they should have been in the first place.“
But the restrictions on discounting as well as the 25% cap on sale from a single vendor may not be welcomed by consumers, who have become accustomed to buying products at cheap rates from online sites. For their part, some e-commerce companies hailed the decision as being positive for them.
The point about marketplaces being unable to offer discounts directly was welcomed wholeheartedly by Biyani, who's often complained about being undercut by e-commerce sites.
To be sure, online discounts have been dwindling as e-commerce companies have been seeking to reduce cash burn and shore up their finances. Valuations could come under pressure ­ a Morgan Stanley mutual fund recently marked down the value of its Flipkart holding.
The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) said the marketplace-based model of e-commerce involves providing an information technology platform on a digital and electronic network and acting as a facilitator between buyer and seller. It clarified that FDI is not allowed in inventory based marketplaces or companies that sell goods and services directly to consumers.
It also said that e-commerce companies won't be allowed to influence the price of the goods and services directly or indirectly and not more than 25% of sales can come from a single vendor or its group companies.
Nasscom objected to this condition. “We Nasscom objected to this condition. “We believe that restricting sales of a vendor to only 25% of the sales in the marketplace may prove to be restrictive, more so if the vendor sells high value items,“ the lobby group said in a release.
Warranties and after-sales service will be provided by sellers and not the marketplace companies, the guidelines said.
The government wants to promote small and medium enterprises and increase their market share in the online space. In discussions held with DIPP , retailers had aired their concerns over retaining price control.
The final notification was drafted by DIPP after consultation with various stakeholders, including e-commerce companies such as Snapdeal, Amazon, Flipkart besides small and big offline retailers.
Marketplaces can, however, provide support services to sellers such as logistics, warehousing, order fulfillment, call centres, payment collection and other services. They can also engage in transactions with sellers registered on a B2B basis.

Somewhere in Pench....

In a big blow to tiger conservation, Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR), adjudged one of the best reserves in the country , has lost three tigers over the past two days. The postmortem reports suggest that a tigress and two of its four cubs died of poisoning, possibly after drinking from a poisoned water source or feeding on a poisoned carcass.
The deaths, which have taken the toll in Pench reserve to five this year, have exposed gross mismanagement by forest department, which allegedly did not take precautions while repairing a road in the prime tiger habitat.
On Monday evening, the famous Baghin nullah tigress, which would be frequently sighted on the Turia gate route of Madhya Pradesh Pench, was found lying dead by some tourists. The 11 to 12 year-old tigress was known to be the matriarch of PTR, having delivered four litters here. The last litter had four cubs, which are around eight months-old.
The bodies of two of these cubs, too, were found on Tuesday during a search operation. The carcass of a spotted deer was also found near the cubs.

Somewhere in Telangana....

The Telangana Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a bill that envisages over a 250% salary hike for legislators even as farmers in the state are facing one of the worst droughts in recent times.
With the Telangana Payment of Salaries and Pensions and Removal of Disqualifications (Amendment) Bill-2016 getting the assembly's nod, MLAs and MLCs' salary will now be Rs.2.75 lakh, inclusive of all allowances and perks. Until last month, their salary was Rs.1.25 lakh a month.“The decision to raise pay was taken in view of rising prices, cost of living and voters' ever-increasing expectation of voters from their constituencies,“ CM K Chandrasekhar Rao said.


Tatas increase stake in AirAsia India

Tata Sons will increase its stake in budget carrier AirAsia India to 49%, effectively making it the biggest shareholder in two local airlines and underlining the group's long-term ambitions in the country's fast-growing aviation industry . The move should also help the carrier get moving on delayed expansion plans.
The salt-to-software conglomerate will buy a 7.49% stake from the airline's smallest shareholder Telestra Tradeplace, owned by Arun Bhatia, it said. AirAsia India chairman S Ramadorai and director R Venkataramanan will together buy Bhatia's remaining 2% holding, giving the latter an exit from the airline. The Tony Fernandes-founded and Malaysia-based AirAsia Bhd will retain its 49% stake. Tata Sons owns 51% of Vistara, its joint venture with Singapore Airlines, which owns the rest. Tata Sons didn't say how much the additional stake in AirAsia India will cost. Additional equity has been a key requirement for the airline which­ has been struggling for cash and lagging rivals.The airline that started in 2014 has just six planes, half of what it had targeted in the first year itself. It controls about 2% of the domestic passenger market.
Mark Martin, founder of Martin Consulting LLC, called the investment a “win-win“ for buyer and seller and said it will initiate a period of rapid expansion for AirAsia India. It plans to increase weekly capacity to 280 flights a week from 168.
The move will see the departure of a shareholder whose relationship with his partners appeared to have soured. Bhatia had accused the Malaysian parent of controlling the carrier in contravention of the law. He also blamed the carrier's disappointing performance on poor management and third-party agreements with companies affiliated to Fernandes. At the time, he had said he may move court or approach the authorities. Tata Sons has rejected accusations that AirAsia India is not under the effective control of the Indian management. Bhatia is a Delhi-based businessman whose son married ArcelorMittal CEO LN Mittal's daughter in 2004.
The Tata Sons investment comes as the aviation business is looking up, thanks to lower fuel prices and growing demand.
There have also been departures at the top of AirAsia India. Earlier this month, the airline announced the exit of CEO Mittu Chandilya and said Amar Abrol, chief of Tune Insurance, would replace him. Since it began operations, AirAsia India has lost or replaced about 10 top executives. The list includes chief financial officer Vijay Gopalan and commercial director Gaurav Rathore, apart from the heads of flight operations, operations control, HR, cabin crew, security , group operations and corporate quality .

Of a devil quoting the scriptures....

Faced with Congress criticism of the Narendra Modi government over imposition of President's rule in Uttarakhand, BJP reeled out figures to charge the opposition party with dismissing 91 non-Congress governments when it was in power. “Congress and its supporters dismissed 91 non-congress governments, and are now crying foul. It's like devil quoting the scriptures. When you do it, you are a saviour of democracy and when we do it out of constitutional necessity, we are murderers of democracy ,“ Union minister Venkaiah Naidu said.
He pointed out President's rule was imposed “50 times during Indira Gandhi's regime, 11 times during P V Narasimha Rao's regime, 10 times during Manmohan Singh's regime and seven times during Jawaharlal Nehru's regime“.
BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said the party would file legal proceedings against unseated CM Harish Rawat for allegedly offering money to rebel Congress MLAs in order to save his government.

GVK sells 33% in BIAL

Airport operator GVK Power & Infrastructure, which owns the majority stake in the Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL), is selling most of it to Canadian investor Prem Watsa's Fairfax Group in a bid to reduce its huge debt. GVK will divest 33% of the total of 43% stake it holds for Rs.2,149 crore ($321 million) to two entities of Fairfax -Fairfax India Holdings Corp and Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.
This values the Bangalore airport at Rs.6,512 crore, or close to $1 billion. The deal will help GVK reduce its debt by about Rs.2,000 crore and save interest cost of about Rs.300 crore annually , the company said in a filing. This is an important and successful milestone of deleveraging our balance sheet and all the proceeds from the stake sell shall be used to bring down our debt obligation to our lenders. We chose Fairfax as our partner in BIAL as we have a long-standing relationship with its chairman Mr Prem Watsa,“ chairman and managing director GVK Reddy said. He did not disclose what the long-standing relationship is. But both Reddy and Watsa have strong roots in Hyderabad.
GVK Airports could also pursue a similar divestment move in Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) to pare down a total debt of Rs.23,000 crore sitting on its parent GVK Power's books. The standalone debt of GVK Airports is Rs.3,600 crore.
This is Watsa's first big deal in the Indian infrastructure space after buying a 74% stake in commodities storage and services firm National Collateral Management Service last year. The airport deal, expected to be completed by the middle of the year, has been structured as a partnership deal where GVK retains executive management titles. G V Sanjay Reddy will continue to be the managing director and G V K Reddy will be co-chairman of BIAL, Watsa said in a statement.
Watsa, however, will have a significant say in the affairs and Fairfax will pursue opportunities to raise its holding in BIAL but will have no right of first refusal on the remaining 10% stake that GVK still owns. After the deal, which was advised by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Fairfax will become the largest shareholder in the country's third busiest airport, with the rest held by Siemens (26%), Karnataka State Industrial Infrastructure Development (13%), Airports Authority of India (13%), and Zurich AG (5%).
GVK became the largest shareholder of BIAL in 2011, when it increased its holding to 43% from 29% in 2011, by buying 53.8 million equity shares from Siemens for Rs 613.82 crore. BIAL was then valued at Rs.4,378 crore, which means the valuation has risen by about 50% in a little under five years. BIAL had revenue of Rs.932.67 crore in 2014-15, up 38% from the year before, and net profit of Rs.75.31 crore, up 12% from the year before.
The Mumbai and Bangalore airports can handle 60 million passengers annually , making GVK one of the largest private sector operators in the country . The passenger traffic at the airports have risen 16% and 21%, respectively , in recent quarters.


India has decided to adopt '112' as the national emergency number, similar to `911' in the US and `999' in the UK, with the Telecom Commission giving the go ahead to the new measure.The rollout of 112 may see a gradual phasing out of existing emergency numbers like 100 (for police), 101 (fire), 102 (ambulance) and 108 (disaster management) though they will continue to be in operation for at least one year.


Aadhaar- Email-Mobile link

Somewhere in Kolkata....

Come 2019, Curzon Park at Esplanade will turn into Delhi's Rajiv Chowk with three Metro alignments criss-crossing each other, all connected with subways for a seamless interchange of trains. The state government and all other stakeholders have agreed to build an integrated terminal at Esplanade, from where the Metro traffic would be dispersed through underpasses.
“Unless Metro alignments are physically integrated, the seamless interface would not be possible. So there would be an integrated terminal structure, which will be in sync with the structural ethos of Esplanade. Howrah station complex, for instance, remains an architectural marvel for more than 100 years. We are also planning similar architectural designs for the Esplanade terminal,“ said a senior transport department officer.
A meeting has already been held by the officals of the state transport department, Metro Railway , Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation, RITES and Rail Vihar Nigam Ltd. While RITES will study the site for the terminal building and its integration with Metro alignments, there is a plan to rope in Delhi School of Architecture and Design for the architectural design of the building. Some cosmetic redesigning of the existing Metro gateways are also in the pipeline. “There will be a few more rounds of meeting among the stake-holders before the final blueprint is prepared,“ said a Metro official. As per preliminary discussions, there will be an underground walkway from the proposed terminal to the high court area. The proposal came keeping in mind the volume of footfalls the area witness on a daily basis. The walkway will be of immense help for regulars at the high court, Eden Gardens and the three football clubs -Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting. People who visit the Babughat bus terminus or take the ferry service will also benefit.
“The subways are often dismissed by town planners as they ultimately turn out to be devils' den.So, there are plans to cover the entire pathway with CCTV surveillance. It will be directly linked with the city police control room,“ said an officer.
The terminal is expected to change the face of Esplanade. With the colonial structure that is being planned for the terminal and the shifting of the bus termini to the outskirt will leave the heart of the city with a lot of breathing space. World Bank has already proposed for a land-use master plan of Esplanade. The route rationalization study by RITES is also being done keeping in mind the Metro expansion.
“For instance, buses and cabs along with para-transits like autos need to complement Metro and ferry services. This will not only decongest city roads but a lot of uncovered areas would come under connectivity ,“ said a RITES official.

Forex kitty at all-time high of $355.9 bn

India's foreign exchange reserves surged by $2.5 billion to touch an all-time high of $355.9 billion in the week ended March 18, on account of rise in foreign currency assets (FCAs), the Reserve Bank said on Friday . The reserves had touched a high of $355.5 billion in the week ended June 19 last year. In the previous week, the reserves had increased by $2.5 billion to $353.4 billion.
FCAs increased by $2.5 billion to $332.5 billion in the reporting week, the RBI said in a release. FCAs, expressed in dollar terms, include the effect of appreciation and depreciation of non-US currencies, such as the euro, pound and the yen, held in the reserves. 


MMRDA Budget: 2016-17

Of Emerging Market inflows

State of the Internet Report

UAE agrees to fund NIIF

The cabinet approved a pact that will pave the way for canalising a part of $75 billion that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had promised to invest in India’s infrastructure. The MoU approved by the cabinet provides for investment by UAE in the national investment and infrastructure fund (NIIF), set up earlier this year. The MoU is the second signed with an overseas investor for picking up a stake in NIIF. Russia-backed fund Rusnano had committed to jointly launch with NIIF, a private equity fund that would invest in high technology sectors in India.
UAE is likely to invest in NIIF through the Abu Dhabi investment authority. The country had agreed to pump in $75 billion for expansion of India’s infrastructure, especially railways and ports, in August last year during PM Narendra Modi’s UAE visit.
“The MoU will help establish a transparent and high-level framework and collaboration platform, under which both countries intend to explore ways to facilitate and expand the participation of UAE’s investment institutions in appropriate projects and institutions in India, including NIIF,” a cabinet statement said.
The setting up of NIIF was announced in the Union Budget for this financial year. The government has committed Rs.20,000 crore every year to the fund and said that it will keep its stake in it to below 49 per cent stake.
The rest of the equity would be held by overseas entities like sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and bilateral and multilateral lending agencies. Even domestic pension and insurance funds will be allowed to pick up a stake in NIIF. The initial corpus of NIIF will be Rs.40,000 crore and it will be able to leverage that equity base to raise more funds through debt leverage.

Maha can be split into 4 states: RSS

Former Maharashtra advocate general Srihari Aney is not alone in voicing support for the state's division. RSS ideologue M G Vaidya has said Maharashtra could be divided into four states for better administration. “A new state reorganisation commission should be formed that should be looking to fulfil two conditions. First, a state's population should not be more than 30 million and second, it should not be less than 5 million,“ Vaidya added. “If we consider the formula, four states can be carved out of Maharashtra.The present conditions are not suitable for administrative purposes. Even RSS has four `praant' (provinces) in Maharashtra, while it has six in Uttar Pradesh for administrative purposes,“ he added.
Vaidya said if Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis seeks his opinion, he will convey his views to him.


Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited

Pune Municipal Corporation has finalised the name for the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company for the smart city mission. The civic administration has settled on naming the body, Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited (PSCDCL). The registration procedure has reached its final stage under the Companies Act and will be completed on Wednesday.
PMC's deputy commissioner, Anil Pawar, said, “After discussions with all the party leaders, PMC has decided the SPV's name and it will be official on Wednesday. Following which, we will send a proposal to the state and central governments for funds under the smart city initiative.“
He added, “We are going to appoint the chief executive officer (CEO) for the company after the formation of SPV is complete and have requested the Centre to nominate other directors for it.“ The Centre has already declared that the selected cities will get funds after the initial process of formation is complete. PMC will get nearly Rs.194 crore from the Union government and Rs.98 crore from the state.
At present, PMC has decided to set up their office in the main building but, they are looking for space elsewhere. SPV -the executing agency of the projects under the smart cities mission -has come under the control of elected representatives due to their demand. Out of 15 members, eight will be incorporated in SPV. The 15 members comprise the mayor, two members of political parties other than the ruling and opposition parties according to their strength in the House, the PMC commissioner, standing committee chairman, opposition party leader, House leader, divisional commissioner, Pune police commissioner, Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited's (PMPML) chief executive officer and three members nominated by the Centre.

Unified Payments Interface

By AP HOTA MD, National Payments Commission of India

Unified Payments Interface (UPI), a new process in electronic funds transfer, will be inaugurated by Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan on April 11. Conceived and being implemented by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) under the guidance of former chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Nandan Nilekani, this mode of payment is likely to be as transformational as Aadhaar when it gets adopted by most banks.Initially, 29 banks are likely to adopt it, and certification is already in progress for 12 banks. Other banks will join soon.
The process will ride on the existing infrastructure of Immediate Payments Service (IMPS), which facilitates money transfer from any bankwallet account to any other bankwallet account as permitted by RBI “instantly“ 24x7. UPI enhances the user experience of IMPS with some additional processes. Firstly, UPI enables `instant collect', which was not possible under IMPS. It addresses the current problem of about 30% decline in e-commerce payment transactions due to a complicated transaction flow. With UPI, the friction gets minimised and e-commerce market players can pull money from shoppers easily .
Cash on delivery (COD) transactions can also be completed by the delivery staff by collecting money electronically while delivering the goods. A biller can collect bills from consumers by automating the collection process on the due date, supplementing thereby the already existing ECS (debit)NACH (debit) process. Clubs,schools can collect periodic fees. A daughter can now make a UPI request to her father's account and the father, recognising that the request has come from a valid source, can authorise the transaction or even reject it. The father can also “hold“ the transaction for verifying the transaction before authorising it with a one-time password (OTP) or static PIN. The landlord can pull the money from the tenant. There can be multiple usage of such nature for online face-to-face payments.
Secondly , UPI has a facility to identify a bank customer with an email-like virtual address. A customer can create a unique financial address in his/her bank linked with the bank account number at the backend. The customer will use only the virtual address while dealing with others without sharing the account details. For in stance, a customer at State Bank of India (SBI) can create an ad dress like shortname@ sbi or mobile number@sbi. Looking at the domain name sbi, NPCI will route the transaction to SBI and SBI will apply the credit/debit by resolving the virtual address to the account number. A customer can have multiple virtual addresses for multiple accounts in multiple banks.There is no account number mapper anywhere other than the customer's own bank to ensure privacy of customer data.The advantage of such an approach is the customer can freely share the financial address to others.
Thirdly , UPI will operate primarily on smartphones, leveraging their ever-increasing utilities. Though the current base of smartphones in India is about 300 million (December 2015), the number is likely to touch 400 million in two years.This will help customers to do a whole range of banking operations and shopping from the mobile itself. Smartphones will also enable banks and their certified merchants to integrate the library being supplied by NPCI so that the process of capturing the authentication information is secure and uniform across banks similar to customers providing authentication information on ATMs irrespective of bank ownership. As mobile phones get Aadhaar-ready, biometric authentication would also be possible through them.
Fourthly , UPI will enable single-click two-factor authentication with mobile itself as the first-factor using the unique hardware identification of the smartphone, and OTPstatic mobile PIN as the second. Banks will compete with each other to provide simple and user-friendly solutions without compromising on the regulatory guidelines on two-factor authentication.
A few banks are enhancing the security without compromising simplicity . For instance, the application can have a facility for the user to maintain a list of virtual addresses from which pull request would be permitted or to pre-register the beneficiaries. Banks can have applications with utilities to remind when bill payments are due. Customers can also generate various reports on transactions made. In summary , UPI promises to be truly transformational. Let us watch how it shapes the future of payment systems in the country .

Shaheedi Diwas

Plantation drive across 5 states to revive Ganga

Seeking to rejuvenate the Ganga through a massive plantation exercise in its riverscape, the Centre has released a detailed project report (DPR) on the sort of intervention it plans for the river which will see five states plant trees on 83,946 sq km of identified diverse forest areas over the next five years. Timing the release of the report with World Water Day , Union water resources minister Uma Bharti stressed on planting of Himalayan species of vegetation along the river that will produce `Brahmadrav', which she said, ensures clean river water.
The identified patches in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal had seen large scale deforestation in the past, leading to damage to the water retention capacity of the catchment area.
The project, is to be implemented during 2016-21 in its first phase with an estimated cost of over Rs. 2,293 crore will be funded by the Centre under its `Namami Gange' programme and will help in absorbing water and dealing with soil erosion. 40 types of plants with high water retention capacity , including several shrubs of medicinal value, have been identified for this purpose.
Releasing the DPR jointly with Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar, Bharti said, “I am sure such concerted efforts and initiatives of forestry interventions for Ganga will facilitate in accomplishing the Namami Gange's goals of `Nirmal Dhara' (clean flow) and `Aviral Dhara' (uninterrupted flow) and in restoring the glory of the river.“
She also mentioned how vegetations with medicinal values in the catchment areas had been useful in naturally cleaning the river and making it “Brahmdrav (divine element)“. “Ganga has an exclusive property called Brahmadrav, which ensures its water remains clean. Brahmadrav is not some myth or issue of faith alone.This Brahmadrav is made due to Himalayan native species of trees.,“ Bharti said.
Experts believe that plantation of trees, like walnut and oak, having high water retention capacity will increase the river's water level and enhance its flow in the long run.

Jaitapur's N-power project snippets

The much-delayed, nearly Rs.1,000-billion Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in Ratnagiri district moved a step closer to reality on Tuesday with the signing of an important agreement between the Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC) and EDF (Electricity Of France).
French ambassador to India Francois Richier and EDF senior executive vice-president (engineering and new nuclear projects) Xavier Ursat said that the agreement opens the way for further negotiations relating to technical, cost and financing aspects.
They explained that a new aspect of the agreement is that it now relates to all six 1,650 megawatt light water reactors called the evolutionised pressurised reactor. Philippe Montarnal, nuclear counsellor in the French embassy , New Delhi, said that the earlier agreements dealt with two of the six reactors, then four and the current one focuses on all six.“This is a very important step,“ he said.
When complete, the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project will generate about 10,000 MW of power, making it the largest nuclear power project in the world.
NPC director of projects, R Banerjee, said that the agreement will stipulate the scope of responsibility for India and France relating to the Jaitapur project.
The ambassador and Ursat said that issues relating to and, compensation to villagers and environment have been settled -a fact also confirmed by NPC officials--but declined to comment on the opposition by several anti-nuclear activists, political parties and environmentalists.
They said that discussions about nuclear liability are progressing satisfactorily . “This issue has made substantial progress and we are confident of an amicable settlement to he mutual satisfaction of both sides,“ Ursat said.
According to them, by the end of this year or the begin ning of 2017, the government will make a final `go or no go decision on implementing the project. They , however, expressed optimism that the project will turn into a reality . “The project is compliant with the will of India,“ ambassador Richier said.
Ursat said that once the programme gets the `go' it will ake a minimum of six-and-a half years to construct one reactor. Both the ambassador and Ursat, however, preferred not to stipulate a precise timeline for commissioning the project.
Ursat said that EPR was one of the safest nuclear reactors in the world and Finland and China have accepted it.
On other related issues, the ambassador said that the atomic energy commission of France is helping India with a new solar power storage technology and there was a technology demonstrator in a UP village. “We are also working on a project for providing solar power for Indian airports,'' he added.
The visit of the ambassador, Ursat and other French officials to Mumbai on Tuesday is a follow-up to the state visit to India of French President Francois Hollande from January 24-26, during which India and France drew up a co-operation roadmap for concluding techno-commercial negotiations for the Jaitapur project by the end of 2016.


Rajya Sabha: Power Equations

On the block

Current Account Deficit Falls

India's current account deficit, the excess of imports over exports, fell further to 1.3% of the gross domestic product due to benefits of lower commodity prices, but the fall in remittances from overseas Indians restricted the improvement in balance of payments (BoP).
Reserve Bank of India data showed current account deficit (CAD) at $7.1 billion in the quarter to December, lower than $8.7 billion, or 1.7% of GDP in the preceding quarter. CAD was $7.7 billion, or 1.5% of GDP, in the year ago period.
The fall in commodity prices helped lowering of trade deficit to $34 billion from $37.4 billion in the previous quarter, narrowing the current account gap. Net foreign direct investment, which picked up to $10.8 billion in the third quarter after moderating in the previous quarter, buoyed the country's BoP position.
Outflow in portfolio investment could also be arrested with improvement in India's macro economic sentiment. Net outflow for the third quarter was just about $0.2 billion compared with net outflow of $3.5 billion in the preceding quarter. Equity outflows in the period under review were almost offset by inflows into the debt segment as RBI liberalised overseas invesment in debts.
Remittances by Indians employed overseas fell to $15.8 billion, amid fears that Indians may lose employment opportunities in the Gulf as they tighten the purse strings due to collapse of oil prices. Non-resident Indian (NRI) deposits moderated too, with the US Federal Reserve raising short term rates, narrowing the interest rate differential between India and the US.
India's foreign exchange reserves, if changes in currency valuation are excluded, rose by $14.6 billion during April-December 2015 against a $31.3 billion rise in the year-ago period. However, foreign exchange reserves, including valuation effects, grew only $8.7 billion compared with $16.4 billion.


Non Filers Monitoring System

Productive Time in Parliament

International Day of Forests

India's Per Capita Income to Cross Rs.1 Lakh

Rs.1 lakh -that benchmark will be achieved in the next financial year when per-capita income crosses the six-figure mark for the first time. To be sure, it's the equivalent of just $1,500 but all the same a number that has some significance in a country of 1.2 billion where 12.4% in 2011-12 were living on less than $1 a day, according to the World Bank.
Per capita income at current prices was Rs.93,231 in FY16, up 7.3% from Rs.86,879 in the year before. It stood at Rs.71,050 and 79,412 in FY13 and FY14, respectively.
At that rate of acceleration, percapita income will exceed Rs.1 lakh in FY17. The Budget for next year, announced by finance minister Arun Jaitley on February 29, assumed a nominal GDP growth of 11%. That would mean a similar rise in net national income and, adjusted for an increase of 1.2% in population, should yield an expansion of more than 8% in per capita income.
Per capita income broadly measures quality of life in a geographical region -country, state or city. It's arrived at by dividing the country's total income by its population. It also needs to be adjusted for inflation to see whether incomes are rising.
If the average amount crosses six figures, it would have taken India almost seven years to double its per-person annual income from Rs.46,492 in FY10.
The increases in per capita income have been driven by urban growth.

IS and Taliban are anti-Islam: Sufi Forum

A declaration at the World Sufi Forum took a firm stand against terrorism on Sunday. It said extremist outfits such as Islamic State, Taliban and al Qaida were “anti Islam“ and urged Muslim youth to shun organizations that spread hatred and wrong interpretation of holy scriptures. At the same time, it also asked the government to address fears and concerns of Muslims.

Focus on Vikas: PM

Focusing on the government's development agenda in the midst of divisive debates on sedition and nationalism, PM Narendra Modi on Sunday asked BJP leaders to defeat the opposition's “conspiracy“ to entangle the government in “worthless issues“ and distract the public attention.
Addressing the BJP national executive, Modi said his experience as Gujarat CM had convinced him that ensuring the success of governance initiatives prevailed over other issues. “If you can bring a smile to the faces of farmers, of rural people, you will have succeeded. This is what shapes public opinion in the end,“ he said. He also had some advice for the party's controversial motormouths. “The reason why TV cameras seek you out is not because you are important. It is because what you say makes headlines,“ he said. To defeat negative forces, it is necessary to build intellectual capacity and content,“ he added.
There was no need for everyone to speak, Modi pointed out, referring to a wing of the party charged with this task.“Even if you do want to make a point, it might be useful to do your homework,“ the PM said. The BJP, he said, needed to move ahead with only one mantra, “vikas, vikas, vikas“. Stressing on an inclusive approach, he said, “The schemes for development and the benefit of common people should be taken to the last village and last person.“
While the PM has been criticized for not enforcing his fiat, he made his priorities clear. Though he did not refer to the JNU and `Bharat Mata ki Jai' controversies, he said, “BJP's nationalistic image is not a sudden development. Till now, all our programmes have been infused with patriotism and nationalism. These themes have been most important to us. India's unity and integrity is the basic identity of our programmes.“
The references to the need to expand the party's fold and bring some more intellectual rigour to political formula ions seemed to reflect the PM's assessment that passing political controversies will be subsumed by a more hard-headed accounting of he government's success in delivering on its promises.
“Our biggest challenge is to channelize our energies to constructive work. We should stick to our agenda and ensure the work the government is doing reaches the people,“ the PM said.


Kejriwal tweets

Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal criticised the BJP over the political developments in Uttarakhand, accusing it of “horse-trading“ and terming the party as “corrupt, anti-national and power hungry“.“Brazen horse trading-first Arunachal now Uttarakhand. BJP proving to be most corrupt, deshdrohi and power hungry party,“ he tweeted. 


Karnataka budget 2016


Govt slashes PPF, NSC rates

The government announced a steep cut in interest rates on small savings schemes such as Public Provident Fund (PPF), National Savings Certificate (NSC) and Kisan Vikas Patras --which will fetch up to 90 basis points lower returns during the April-June quarter.
In case of PPF, the most popular scheme for middle class savers, the reduction of 60 basis points (100 basis points equal a percentage point) is among the sharpest in nearly 15 years. Although the interest rates are to be reviewed every three months, if they remain unchanged during the next financial year, someone with Rs 5 lakh in his PPF account would face a hit of Rs 3,000 in 2016-17.
However, given that a two-three year fixed deposit with SBI fetches the highest rate of 7.5% a year, savings in PPF remain more attractive, especially with tax benefits thrown in.
But the announcement has upset the middle class, and social media is seeing protests with PPF trending on Twitter. Government sources, however, claimed that the changes were linked to the market rate, offering a parallel to global oil prices.
A reduction in rates on small savings is also bad news for those with large balance in fixed deposits, especially senior citizens, as banks are now expected to follow government action with similar cuts. For long, banks and RBI had urged the government to reduce small savings rates to ensure that banks cut deposit rates.This, in turn, will pave the way for lower lending rates and translate into lower EMIs in the coming months, should the banks decide to pass on the benefit.
Though pressure had been building for several months, the government opted for a change from April, which is the annual date for reset. The government provides an annual spread of a percentage point on Senior Citizen Savings Scheme, 75 basis points (bps) on Sukanya Samridhi Scheme and 25 bps on PPF , NSC, five-year post office deposit and Monthly Income Scheme. But post office savings deposits of one-three years, KVP and five-year Recurring Deposits will not longer get the benefit of a higher spread.
Das said the average yield on government bonds had come down from 8.5% in 2014-15 to 7.9% during the current financial year.


Of Inequality....

Airtel Set to Buy Videocon's 4G Waves

Bharti Airtel will buy Videocon Telecom's 4G spectrum in six circles for Rs.4,428 crore, as the country's ` No. 1 telecom operator gears up for a battle over data services with Reliance Jio Infocomm.
The deal to buy Videocon's 4G spectrum in the 1800 MHz frequency band will extend Bharti Airtel's 4G footprint across bands to 19 circles from 15, closing the gap with Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio, the only telco with pan-India holdings in all 22 circles.
In a notice to the stock exchanges on Thursday, Bharti Airtel said it has signed a “definitive agreement“ with Videocon to buy the “rights to use 2 x 5 MHz spectrum in the 1800 MHz band“ in Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, UP (East), UP (West) and Gujarat. Two people familiar with the matter said an additional 14.5% of the deal value -or over Rs.640 crore -will need to be paid by Bharti Airtel as service tax on the deal, as per the recent Budget proposals.
While Bharti Airtel didn't say how it plans to fund the buy, ratings agency Fitch Ratings said the telco will fund the spectrum deal from the sale of operations in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone to France's Orange. The people cited above said the two telcos had sent an intimation to the telecom department and expect the deal to go through in 45 days. “The closing of the transaction is subject to satisfaction of the standard conditions, including conditions stated in the Spectrum Trading Guidelines,“ Bharti Airtel said.
One of the people said Videocon Telecom's employees will be absorbed into the company's other businesses, including handsets, which it will enter into aggressively in the near term. “Customers will be asked to port out via MNP (mobile number portability).“
The airwaves that Bharti Airtel is buying from Videocon are valid up to December 18, 2032. In all those circles, barring MP, Bharti has airwaves in the same band which were not auctioned and are being used for 2G. Hence, the carrier would have been able to use them for 4G only upon paying a market-linked price. But all of Videocon's airwaves are auctioned and contiguous, which make them ready to use for 4G, leaving Airtel's legacy airwaves free for 2G use, at least for now.
Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel has been on a drive to acquire 4G spectrum. After buying Qualcomm's airwaves in four circles, Bharti Airtel purchased Augere Wireless, which owned 4G airwaves in the Chhattisgarh-MP circle. Both the deals netted Airtel airwaves in the 2300 MHz band and raised its holdings in that particular band to nine, including four of its own.
And including the 4G-ready airwaves in the 1800 MHz band it already holds, Airtel will have an overall 4G footprint in 19 service areas after the latest deal with Videocon. The deal becomes all the more crucial as Airtel's deal to buy Aircel's 2300 MHz 4G airwaves for eight circles had fallen through.

AP fibre grid snippets

Launching phase one of the AP Fibre Grid project, chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced that the three north coastal districts of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam would be provided fiber connectivity by April. At the same time, he announced that all the 13 districts would be connected with fiber network by the end of July this year.
Stating that information can do wonders, he said that AP is planning to provide broadband connectivity at the cheapest price in the world. Targeting 1.1 crore households in the state, he said AP is now providing the digital environment to the common man and the project can be replicated in other parts of the country too. The state government is aiming to provide telephone, cable connectivity and internet with 10-15 mbps at around Rs.150 per month, he said. Naidu said AP is also planning to register intellectual property rights for the project and the Centre has also constituted a committee to look into the project so as to replicate it across different parts of the country.
Earlier, the chief minister interacted with a household in Pedamushidivada, a zilla panchayat high school in Parawada and a primary health care centre in Sabbavaram demonstrating the benefits available to the common man from e-gov services, health and education. He said that people can directly connect with the government officials through video-conference via the broadband connections.
AP State FiberNet Limited (APSFL) managing director K Sambasiva Rao said, “ According to a World Bank study , a 10% enhancement in broadband will be lead to a 1.4% growth in GDP .“ He said that in the first phase 23000 kms of fiber lines will be laid and each household will get broadband connectivity of 10-15 mbps. “The project is just not about broadband, but last mile operators can provide value added services like cable TV , IP TV and telephone connections. We will be partnering with last mile operators to connect with around 1.1 crore households in a 5 km radius from 2449 PoPs (point of presence) in substations.“ He said about 9,000 km of aerial fiber network has already been laid in the state.
Pointing out that enrolment of last mile operators had already begun, he said that in the last three days around 500 local cable operators have already registered with APSFL. He said that APSFL will provide TIC (Telephone, Internet, Cable) boxes to integrate all three services and provide them to the doorstep of every household in the state. Hari K Prasad of Terra Software said, “The penetration of broadband in AP is about 2.5% with an average speed of around 512 kbps. By implementing this fiber project, we'll increase broadband penetration in rural areas and also start making profits in three years.“

Infibeam set for IPO

Pune has the dirtiest station

Surat, Rajkot and Bilaspur are among the cleanest train stations in the country, followed by Solapur, Mumbai Central and Chandigarh, according to a preliminary survey commissioned by the Railways.
The stations at Bhubanes war and Vadodara are next in the cleanliness ladder among the 75 A1-category stations which were surveyed.
Pune has the dirtiest station, followed by Mughalsarai, Guwahati, Nizamuddin (Delhi), Sealdah and Kanpur Central. Others found at the bottom of the ladder are Bhopal, Muzaffarpur, Thrisur, Raipur, Varanasi and Delhi.
Among the top 10 cleanest stations in `A' category (332 stations) are Beas (Punjab), Jamnagar, Gandhidham and Vasco-Da-Gama (Goa). Shahganj, Ballia and Janghai (Uttar Pradesh), Madhubani and Bakhtiyarpur (Bihar) and Raichur (Karnataka) are among the 10 least clean stations.
All 75 A-1and 332 A category stations across 16 zonal railways were surveyed based on passenger perception on cleanliness at the stations.
Releasing the preliminary report, railway minister Suresh Prabhu said, “The idea is to make the entire rail network clean. This is just the beginning of a process which will actually and eventually bring all stations on par with a particular standard.“
Prabhu said the move is aimed at improving cleanliness at 8,000 stations across the country and take forward the `Swachh Rail, Swachh Bharat' mission.

Maharashtra to grow by 8%

The projected growth of Maharashtra's economy according to the economic survey report is a healthy 8%, up from 5.8% in 2014-2015, but much of that will come from the industrial and service sectors. Projections for the agricultural sector are gloomy in the backdrop of drought and unseasonal rainfall. It is feared that the expected dip in agricultural production will lead to food inflation.
The report, presented in the state assembly, estimates a decline in the agricultural sector by 2.7%, but projects a 5.9% rise in the industrial sector and a 10.8% increase in services.
A deficient monsoon has had an adverse effect on the production of principal crops. It has led to a reduction in the kharif crop area by 6%. The rabi crop is estimated to decrease by 16% compared to the 2014-15 financial year.
The state has been reeling under severe drought for three years, with 2015-16 being exceptionally bad. Water stocks in all the dams have dipped. The production of food grains has declined by 24.9%, of cereals by 18.7%, and pulses by 47%. The production of fruits and vegetables has dropped by 15%.
Thus, the gross value added (GVA) growth rate of the agricultural sector is expected to be 16%. Food inflation in rural areas is up from 5.7% to 5.9% and in urban areas from 6.2%. to 7.3%.
The upswing in industry and services can be seen from the increase in the number of industrial establishments in the state by 45.3%. The number of people employed in non-agricultural sectors has gone up by 28.3%.
The state's rank is two when it comes to the number of factories, workers and fixed capital with a national share of 13% 12.6% and 13.8% respectively Functioning in the state are 2.44 lakh micro, small and medium enterprises, with an investment of Rs 56,552 crore and employment generation of 29.2 lakh Thanks to the Make in India event, the trend is expected to continue, as per the report.
The opposition has criticized the survey report, saying the growth rate projected in it would be difficult to achieve amid the global slowdown. But revenue minister Eknath Khadse said the Centre's policies would offset the slowdown's effects and the state's growth will be more than the national average.