Somewhere in Punjab....

April - June Fiscal Deficit

SC tells Modi govt to report on Kashmir

The Supreme Court has sought a status report from the Centre on availability of basic amenities, including health services, to Kashmir residents even as a PIL by Panthers Party sought imposition of governor's rule and dissolution of the assembly .
A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud asked solicitor general Ranjit Kumar to file the Centre's status report after Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh gauged the court's reluctance to entertain his petition for imposition of governor's rule and swiftly changed his plea for protecting the right to life of Kashmiris. “We will call for a status report from the Centre through the solicitor general to know what is the ground reality and the difficulties faced by people. The situation there changes every day . We can only take those matters concerning people including transportation of patients to hospital and the amenities available to them in hospitals,“ it said.
Normally , the SC asks a petitioner who brings up issues concerning a state to move the high court concerned on the ground that the HC would be in a better position to deal with the issue, being familiar with the ground situation. But the bench headed by Justice Thakur made an exception for Jammu and Kashmir.
The four prayers in the PIL were -impose governor's rule to secure safety and fundamental rights of citizens in J&K, dissolve the assembly as it has failed to discharge its duties and functions evident from the present situation, order resumption of Amarnath yatra and a direction to ensure safety and security of citizens in J&K. Given the bench's benevolence in entertaining the PIL despite disagreeing, Bhim Singh made a political speech.“Why should the citizens in Kashmir Valley suffer pellet injuries? Many have lost their eyesight. India has bought these pellet guns from Israel to turn it on our boys. Kashmir is Indian territory and India must treat it with compassion. No one should get shot in the eyes by pellet guns,“ Singh said, making it known to the bench that he had always supported the cause of Palestine, which has a running feud with Israel on demarcation of territory .
The bench did not take kindly to Singh's political speech. “Do not take political mileage of your PIL or the court proceedings. If we find you doing so, we will come down heavily on you,“ the bench warned. Hours after the hearing, the Panthers Party issued a press release saying Singh visited the pellet-hit Kashmiri boys admitted to AIIMS for treatment and assured them that he would fight for them.
In the eight-page petition, the Panthers Party devoted just one page on the difficulties faced by the people quoting newspaper reports. “Newspapers are shut. Mobile telephones services are shut. More than five million people are caged inside their houses in conditions worse than jails as there is acute shortage of food, water and medicines. This is total violation of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 which extends to J&K despite the special status granted to the state under Article 370 of the Constitution,“ he said. “Several Indian citizens have died of bullet injuries. There is hunger, starvation and panic. Educational institutions are shut for more than two weeks. There is no security to patients, women, children and handicapped. In short, there is total chaos in the entire valley ,“ the petitioner said.

15 banks to roll out unified payment interface

At least 15 banks, both from public and private sector, are ready to roll out the unified payments interface (UPI) starting July 31. The UPI system is a kind of e-payment which can be authenticated using mobile phones. Existing bank apps can be UPI-enabled or have UPI apps. Customers can have a single virtual identity for a bank account through which they can make and receive payments digitally .
At this moment, 17 banks are in advanced stage of rolling out the service: Union Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Federal Bank, Punjab National Bank, United Bank of India, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Bank of Maharashtra, Vijaya Bank, UCO Bank, Catholic Syrian Bank, Andhra Bank, TJSB Bank, DCB Bank, Canara Bank, Bhartiya Mahila Bank, YES Bank, and Axis Bank. Of them, NPCI officials expect 15 to be ready on Sunday when the process rolls out.
“Banks meeting the criteria of 1,000 pilot customers, 5,000 transactions and 90% success ratio will go operational on July 31, 2016. We expect the number to be around 15 banks,“ said A S Hota, NPCI chairman.


MF Folios Hit a High

Retail investors continue to use mutual funds as a preferred tool to invest in capital markets.Mutual funds added 12.61 lakh folios in the June quarter, up 2.65% from the January-March period, taking the tally to a high of 4.89 crore, according to the data issued by the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI).
SIP mobilisation per month for the industry has increased from Rs.1,100 crores a couple of years back to Rs.3,200 crore and the number of SIPs has touched 1.06 crore.
Data from Crisil suggest that retail folios -95% of total folios-grew for the seventh quarter on the trot. In the latest quarter, 11.42 lakh folios were added (against 17.05 lakh folios in the preceding quarter) to take the count to a six-year high of 4.65 crore. Retail investors continued to pour money in equity-oriented funds for the seventh consecutive quarter as markets rallied with the equity-oriented funds adding 5.81 lakh folios to reach 3.54 crore. Among other categories, balanced funds, with higher orientation towards equity , too saw good addition. The category added 1.09 lakh retail folios in the June quarter to push the total to 24.47 lakh.

Mahasweta Devi passes away

Mahasweta Devi emerged as a major writer not only in Bengali, in which of course she wrote all her works, but was also very popular in many Indian languages including Hindi. She became a voice of courage and gumption who spoke for the tribals and the under-privileged very forcefully. In fact she was one of the first major writers who brought the tribal life and its tragedies to the creative attention.
From writing about the Naxalites and their tragic end to the atrocities committed on Nandigram protestors, she was always courageous in speaking without bothering about the political consequences. She was a committed progressive, close to the CPM and yet when Nandigram happened she protested very strongly against the CPM government's role.
She also was the voice not only of courage and gumption but also of Indian women. I don't remember whether she claimed to be a feminist but like Hindi writer Krishna Sobti, she explored and asserted the Indian womanhood, its freedom and its struggles for equality.
Many years ago, unfortunately when she contested for the presidentship of the Sahitya Akademi, she lost to a mediocre writer in vote but that did not restrain her from carrying on nor did it diminish her stature in any way.
She was hugely respected in the world of letters and I remember she spoke very boldly and movingly at the inauguration of the Frankfurt book fair when India was the guest country.

Somewhere in Madhya Pradesh....

Monsoon tracker districtwise

An analysis of the Indian Meteorological Department's district-wise data reveals scanty or deficient rain in 178 districts across the country -more than a quarter of all districts -while 171 have seen excess rainfall.
The rest of the country has received normal rain (253 districts), with data on the remaining districts missing or not available.
Nearly halfway into the four-month rainy season, the district rain map reveals information that sub-divisional or state-wise data does not show. For instance, statewide data shows a deficit of 16% for Jharkhand, which puts it in the “normal“ category. But the situation in its districts is different.
Half of Jharkhand's 24 districts have received deficient rain (which at the district level is defined as rainfall that's below 80% of normal).
Likewise, Bihar has 13 districts with deficit rains, Odisha has 12, Haryana nine and UP 13, in addition to four districts where rain has been scanty (less than 40% of normal). In fact, a swathe in eastern India, including north Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, parts of Bihar and interior Odisha, are yet to receive good rains.
This is apart from Gujarat, west Rajasthan, many parts of northeast, Kerala and Himachal where the overall rainfall in the state puts them in the deficient category.
Gujarat is the worst hit of all states, with a huge 57% deficit in Saurashtra and Kutch, and 43% in Gujarat region. Yadav said the state is likely to receive much-needed showers after around three days.
There are, of course, many states where rains have been spectacularly good. Maharashtra, one of the ground-zeroes of farmer distress in recent years, has got excess rain in as many as 20 districts while showers have been normal in 13 others. Two districts, however, have reported a deficit.
Other states to receive bountiful and well-distributed showers include Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Uttarakhand. Taking an all-India view, July has been a good month with an overall monsoon surplus of nearly 8% so far.
That's almost exactly what the Indian Meteorological Department had forecast for the month (7%).The department has predicted a 4% surplus for August as well.
It is hoped that in the coming month, monsoon would be active in many of the areas left out so far.

RS clears afforestation funds bill

A much awaited bill to unlock an over Rs 42,000 crore fund for compensatory afforestation and wildlife protection has been passed by Parliament with the Rajya Sabha approving it on Thursday after the government's assurance that the rules to be framed would safeguard the interests of forest dwellers and tribals.
Lok Sabha had passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) bill during the budget session in May . The bill, once it gets assent from the President, will also create an institutional mechanism for use of fresh accrual of an estimated Rs 6,000 crore per annum (over the Rs 42,000 crore lying unspent till now) that would be collected for diversion of forest land for non-forest use in future. Environment minister Anil Dave assured opposition MPs in the Rajya Sabha that the government would take care of their concerns, and not compromise the rights of tribals, with their consent being taken for afforestation and related works under the existing law. “The provisions of the Panchayati Raj Act are also powerful enough to ensure that forest rights and the consent of gram panchayats are respected,“ said Dave, adding that deficiencies that could emerge would be addressed after the lapse of a year.
On Wednesday , Congress MP and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh had raised concerns on behalf of his party with the apprehension that the legislation would ignore the rights of forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act of 2006. But disputing this, BJP MP Bhupendra Yadav said on Thursday: “This government wants to ensure that the country's green cover grows and the rights of those living in forests are protected. This fund will be spent in a transparent manner.“ Among the states, Odisha will get the highest amount of Rs 5,996 crore from the Rs 42,000 crore fund, which means the state has seen maximum diversion of forest land for non-forest use.
Any user agency which diverts forest land for a non-forest purpose is, at present, required to deposit the prescribed amount to an ad-hoc central body . This amount is to be utilized to mitigate the impact of diversion of forest land. The ad-hoc body , the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), is the custodian of the accumulated amount of Rs 42,000 crore as of now. The legislation is also aimed at setting up the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund at Centre and the State Compensatory Afforestation Funds.

Arhar Modi

Playing on the 2014 Lok Sabha polls slogan `Har Har Modi', Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday concluded his speech in Lok Sabha with “Arhar Modi“, a jibe directed at the Prime Minister as he targeted the government over price rise. “Modiji, you keep making false promises, but please announce a date in the House by when prices will be controlled,“ Rahul said, hitting out at Modi for failing to control price rise, which was BJP's main poll promise in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Rahul reminded Modi of his speech in Himachal Pradesh during the Lok Sabha campaign in which he had said “bachcha raat-raat rota hain, aansoo peekar sota hai“. “It was a great emotional speech but what happened to the promise?“ Rahul asked.He said the government celebrated its second anniversary inviting Bollywood stars but there was no mention why prices were going through the roof even though the government boasted about its policies like `Make in India'.
Rahul added that the PM had in a public meeting in Varanasi desired to work like a “chowkidar“, but he had failed miserably as theft of pulses was happening under his nose. “During the UPA regime, the minimum sale price of tur was Rs 45 and market price was Rs 75 but the difference in MSP and market price has gone up to Rs 100 from Rs 30 now,“ Rahul claimed, adding that the Prime Minister should explain who the beneficiaries were.
Later, talking to reporters outside Parliament, Rahul said the government had failed to respond to a “critical question“ on the discrepancy in the MSP and the market price. “A farmer toils endlessly and gets a minimum support price of Rs 50. He then buys his own dal in the market for Rs 200 per kg,“ he said.He accused the government of deliberately not increasing the supply of pulses to match demand to “help a select few“.
“My question is that if you (government) want to rectify this, you can do it easily. You increase the supply and the price goes down. You are not doing this to help a select few. But finance minister Arun Jaitley did not reply to this question in his half-an-hour reply ,“ Rahul said. “You want to help big pulses traders, that's why you have not increased supply and prices have not softened,“ he said.


Aircraft Carrier status

Lokpal Act watered down

The Lok Sabha approved a key amendment to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act and exempted public servants — which include lawmakers, government employees and NGOs — from declaring their assets by July 31.
The amendment, which was passed without discussion in the House in a matter of minutes, is also been seen as a dilution of the original act that provides for an anti-corruption watchdog. After Dr Jitendra Singh, minister of state for personnel, introduced the amendment bill and moved a motion for its passage, CPI(M)’s Mohammed Salim objected to the bill being brought in without being allotted time and the government pressing for its passage without discussion. The amendment did not have a sense of the House, Salim said.
Singh said the bill needed to be cleared urgently because the legislation requires every public servant to file returns and declare assets and liabilities before July 31. The bill was brought in the supplementary list of business for the day.
Trinamool Congress’ Kalyan Banerjee also objected to the lack of discussion on the bill despite the impending deadline. “Parties had their own points to make,” he said. The Congress supported the bill but its leader in the House, Mallikarjun Kharge, cautioned the government ,“The message should not go out that all MPs have got together and diluted the bill. We want you to clarify that,” he said.
Reacting to objections raised in the House, Singh said the government’s “intention or design is not to dilute the Lokpal Act… there is no question of dilution of provisions. In fact, we will make it more stringent if such is a recommendation”.
A number of amendments proposed by the government and introduced as a bill in December 2014 are pending before a Standing Committee.
The government said the Standing Committee will give its recommendations before the next session of Parliament and till then the deadline for declaration of assets of public servants and NGOs could be deferred.
Under rules notified under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013, a public servant has to file a declaration, information and annual returns pertaining to assets and liabilities for self, spouse and dependent children on March 31 every year. The government has extended the deadline a number of times since the Act came into force in January 2014.
NGOs getting government grants of Rs.1 crore or foreign grants over Rs.10 lakh also fall under the definition of public servants.

Gujarat Fiber Grid Network Ltd

The Gujarat cabinet has approved the formation of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called `Gujarat Fiber Grid Network Ltd (GFGNL)' to connect all parts of the state with high-bandwidth internet. The project envisages a 35,000-km long optical fibre network to carry high-speed internet to all villages, and provide unlimited internet access at low costs to major cities and district towns.
The Union government will provide a fund of Rs.2,000 crore towards cost of the project, which includes maintenance costs for five years.
An official close to the development said, “The project will be wholly funded by the Union government under the National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) plan.The state government aims to complete the project within next 1.5 years. “Currently ,“ said the official, “the state government provides basic services through the e.gram network. But after the optical fibre network becomes operational, every village in the state will receive internet at 100 Mbps speed.“
A high-level committee headed by the chief secretary has been formed with representatives from the Union government and all state departments, said sources. In support of PM Modi's Digital India drive, the state government is going for complete digitalization of all the gram panchayats, and government and public offices including schools, colleges, and hospitals, and intends to provide free WiFi facilities in public places. “Collector offices in even major districts currently receive internet at only 34 Mbps, while taluka level offices get 10 Mbps speed. This can go up to an astounding 10 Gbps with dedicated optical fibre network,“ said the official.
“The state government is planning 24 optical fibre cable lines with 12 channels of broadband internet.From these, two will be dedicated for government use, while six will be auctioned to private agencies like mobile or cable service providers,“ the official added. In the first phase, 7,099 villages in 123 talukas will be brought under the network, and in the second phase another 6,916 villages in 124 talukas will be covered.
The state government will use 9,000 electricity poles across the state in the project and Gigabyte Passive Optical Network (GOPN) technology will be used for last-mile connectivity . GIS mapping for the network has been done, said sources.
Sources said private WiFi service providers will be permitted a business model built around advertisement revenues, while they will have to provide basic public internet access to all irrespective of economic status.
Two channels of the network will be reserved for sharing of bandwidth and another two will be kept open as backup in case of service failure in other channels to provide uninterrupted services.
The National Fiber Optic Network (NFON) plan had been initiated in 2011 by the Congress-led UPA government, but the state government failed to implement the state-wide network at the time.

Floating Solar panels planned in Koyna

Floating solar panels will be set up on a surface area of 891 sq km on Koyna dam to generate power.
The primary survey for the project has already been completed and the next stage of planning is currently under way . Various departments, such as water resources, renewable power generation and transmission, are involved in the project.
The solar panels will be set afloat on the water to generate power. They will be connected to each other to multiply power generation. The energy so generated will then be linked to the state power grid. The Koyna dam is the largest hydro-electric power plant in the country with a total capacity of 1,920MW .
Dnyandev Bagde, the dam's executive engineer, said, “The project will be a first-of-its kind in the state. It will be a 600MW project. Challenges such as decline in water levels and complete closure of the project during monsoon were also considered while planning the proejct. I am awaiting further instructions.“
The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) conceptualized the project and has completed the primary survey for its implementation. Balraj Joshi, NHPC's technical director, said, “We have been considering this concept for long. We will have to take permissions from other government departments to set up the panels and start power generation. Going by the huge size of the Koyna dam, we can easily set up 600MW power plant panels.“
Rajat Gupta, the NHPC's chief technical engineer, said the project cost would be around Rs 10 crore per MW . However, once it starts, power generation would continue with minimum maintenance costs.
The dam already generates 1,920MW from its four stages, where turbines run on water. Now, the surface of the dam water will be used for power generation. Though it is located in the Sahyadri mountain range, it also has good exposure to sunlight.
Once complete, the Maharashtra State Electricity Generation Company Ltd. will take over the project.
A sources close to the development said, “Generally , the dam water level starts going down and power generating stages also stop functioning from January . So, the Koyna dam's power generation capacity is not 100% used in the summer, when power requirement is higher.

Government launches final GST push

A day after a crucial meeting with states on the goods and services tax, the Modi government moved swiftly to incorporate the deliberations in the Constitution amendment bill, while addressing one of the three demands raised by the Congress.
But while accommodating the Congress by doing away with the plan for a 1% additional levy , the government held firm on two other issues by not capping rates in the proposed legislation and leaving dispute resolution to the GST council. The decisions seem intended to send a strong message that the central government will try to push the bill in the current session of Parliament.
The government is likely to hold formal talks with the Congress on GST amendments on Thursday , amid indications that informal parleys have been on the right track. Once the issues are settled with the principal opposition party, the government is expected to call an all-party meeting for an across-the-spectrum consultation on the vexed indirect reforms legislation.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who is meeting party leaders individually , hosted West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for lunch at his residence on Wednesday. Last week Jaitley had met Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who backed the Centre's formulation on keeping the tax rate outside the legislation.
On Wednesday , the Cabinet accepted the proposal to drop the additional levy of 1% by manufacturing states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu as a compensation for possible revenue loss. This was one of the three demands of the Congress. Reflecting the consensus at the meeting of state finance ministers on Tuesday , the government opted against capping the GST rate in the Constitution Bill as it would reduce flexibility to alter rates in the future, said a senior official. Similarly , it has not changed the dispute resolution mechanism, a power that will be vested with the GST Council that is to be the apex body comprising representatives from all states and the Centre.
Sources said government will also address the concern over dual control as some states such as West Bengal want that units with turnover of up to Rs.1.5 crore should not be burdened with onerous compliance norms. A solution is expected to be provided in the rules to the laws.
Accepting the decision of the empowered committee of the empowered committee of finance ministers on GST, the revised bill has a clearer language assuring full compensation to the states for five years for any revenue loss that may arise. GST will subsume all indirect taxes, including VAT.
The eagerness to move ahead with the bill comes amid suggestions from some Congress leaders that the government was itself not keen on implementing GST that has been discussed for a decade now.The issue was not on the Cabinet agenda that was circulated to ministers but was taken up later.
The amendment to the Constitution ­ which was cleared by the Lok Sabha in May ­ is the most crucial legislation, which will be backed by three other bills. Besides, the tax rate will only be decided once GST council decides and the panel can be set up only after the Constitution is amended.
In the new regime, there will be one Central GST and State GST. States levy sales tax or VAT on goods sold within their jurisdiction and get a Central Sales Tax (CST) on sales made outside their territories. CST will also go away in the new regime and 1% additional levy is proposed to compensate states.

China transgresses into Uttarakhand

Chinese People's Liberation Army troops crossed over into Indian territory in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district last week and were spotted camping in an area which both sides claim and have agreed to keep demilitarised. The Chinese returned to their side of the border after protests from officers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Uttarakhand government.
Sources at the Centre, however, sought to downplay the incident, calling it more a case of transgression than incursion. They also suggested that Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat's response to the presence of the Chinese troops may have been `alarmist'. Government sources said the “transgressing“ Chinese troops went back to their territory after some heated arguments during the incident when a team led by the Chamoli district magistrate and others, including officials from the ITBP, first spotted them during a survey of the Barahoti ground on July 22.
The incident has led the Narendra Modi government to review the security along the 350-km long stretch of the Line of Actual Control with Tibet in this area, sources said.
The Chinese soldiers were spotted by the district team inside a “shed built by them“ , adding that it was difficult to confirm “what had transpired between the Indian side and the Chinese troops when they were spotted“. Indian officials recently spotted 9-10 Chinese PLA soldiers in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district. The soldiers waved at the Indian party to return while claiming the area to be their land identified as `WuJe'. Sources said it was later found that a Chinese helicopter hovered over the ground on July 25 for nearly five minutes before returning to its own side. They expressed apprehension that it could have carried out aerial photography of the area during its reconnaissance mission.
Barahoti is one of three border posts in the `middle sector' comprising UP , Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand where ITBP jawans are not allowed to take their weapons as per the unilateral decision of the then government in June 2000. While the Uttarakhand CM termed the development as “something to worry about“ hoping that the Centre will pay heed to his request for increased vigil, union MoS for home Kiren Rijiju said ITBP had been asked to look into the matter .


The Digital Divide

Amazon goes Prime

Britain says no legal ground to return Kohinoor

As the government attempts to resuscitate India's claims over the Kohinoor diamond, Britain has declared yet again that there is no legal ground for restitution in the case of the famed jewel which continues to evoke passions in India.
The Modi government had told the Supreme Court in April this year that the diamond could not be described as stolen as it was gifted to the British by Duleep Singh, the son of legendary Sikh king Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Since then, the government has sought to review its position keeping in mind the outrage in the country over what was seen as an attempt to relinquish India's claims over Kohinoor.
“It is the UK government's view that there aren't any legal ground for restitution of the diamond,“ said Alok Sharma, Britain's new minister for Asia and the Pacific who is currently on a visit to India.

Sharmila to break 16-yr fast

Civil rights activist Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been on a fast for the past 16 years, demanding withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act [AFSPA], 1958, has announced that she will end her stir on August 9 and contest assembly polls in Manipur next year.
AFSPA, first introduced to fight the Naga rebellion in the 1950s, has been a major issue in J&K, Manipur as well as other parts of the northeast, mainly because of its alleged misuse by security forces. “I have decided to change my strategy against AFSPA,“ she said in Imphal. “I will contest next year's assembly election. My primary agenda will be the same: scrapping of the oppressive act. I want to see my wish fulfilled while I'm still alive.“ Known as the `Iron Lady of Manipur', Sharmila (44) said she would contest the election as an independent candidate. “I would like to get married and begin life anew,“ she told the media while being produced in a court here.
Sharmila said neither her fast was enough to end AFSPA nor did she receive support from politicians and other activists. “My 16 years of struggle did not produce results.That is why I want to fight my battle politically,“ she added.
As news of her decision to end her epic battle against AFSPA spread, politicians and civil rights activists came out in her support.
Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert (HRA), said Sharmila's decision would strengthen her mission. “Her decision to end her fast has come as a surprise. We will continue to support her if she stands firm against AFSPA and contests the polls for its withdrawal,“ he added.
Congress MLA N Biren Singh said, “Fighting politically for any cause is a good decision. I appreciate it.“
Sharmila began her fast on November 5, 2000, two days after Assam Rifles personnel shot dead 10 civilians, including a national child bravery award winner, at Malom village in Imphal West district. In a bid to end her agitation, police charged her with violating Section 309 of the IPC (attempt to commit suicide) which carries one year's imprisonment. Every year, she is released at the end of her term and then taken into custody immediately .
Every time she was sent to prison, Sharmila claimed she was not trying to commit suicide. She is now being kept in the security ward of the state run Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences where she is force-fed through the nose. The hospital is located close to her home at Kongpal Kongkham Leikai in Imphal.
In October 2006, Sharmila had shifted her protest to New Delhi to draw the Centre's attention. Delhi police had registered a case against her under Section 309, which is still pending in a metropolitan court there.

Navi Mumbai Airport connectivity snippets

The Maharashtra state government plans to merge the proposed Airport Metro and CST-Panvel hi-speed corridors beyond Mankhurd, to boost connectivity to the new Navi Mumbai airport. But while the new airport is scheduled to begin flight operations by 2019, the CSTPanvel hi-speed corridor and Airport Metro both have 2021 deadlines.
Navi Mumbai International Airport will be connected with the high-speed corridor through an 8.5 km loop line which would fork out from from Seawoods, in the direction of the proposed international airport.The decision to combine the two rail systems was taken as both will run on standard gauge. A Mumbai Metropolitan Development Authority (MMRDA) official said, “There will huge savings as separate corridors wouldn't have served any purpose beyond Mankhurd.“ MMRDA commissioner UPS Madan said, “There is a plan to connect both, the existing airport in Mumbai and the proposed one in Navi Mumbai, via the Metro corridor. Since the CST-Panvel corridor will have standard gauge, there is no need to build a separate line beyond Mankhurd to run Metro services to the airport.“
For road connectivity , the state government has proposed the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) from Sewri to Nhava. Its scheduled completion date is incidentally 2019, but the MMRDA is unlikely to meet this deadline as contractors for the project are yet to be finalized. The CST-Panvel hispeed corridor, to be implemented by the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) too hasn't made much progress and tenders are likely to be floated by August 15.
Some critics feel mer Some critics feel merging both rail corridors will impact punctuality . But Madan said, “Metro services will run at a frequency of 20 to 30 minutes and are unlikely to impact punctuality in a big way.“
Earlier, City Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) dropped the plan for a Metro corridor along Palm Beach Road because of the proposed CST-Panvel high speed corridor.


25 years of reforms

Mumbai's Metro network in the works

Manufacturing snapshot

QS University Rankings - BRICS 2016

Airlines Fly More Passengers

Domestic airline industry is flying high on the back of lower oil prices and higher capacity with the airlines in India ferrying 20.81% more passengers in June 2016 over the same month last year.
The data shows that airlines in India carried 7.97 million passengers during the month of June this year compared to 6.6 million during the same month last year.
While IndiGo continues to lead the pack in terms of market share by carrying 37.9% passengers in June, it seems to be struggling when it comes to filling its planes.
Indigo flew with only 77.9% of its seats full, one of the lowest in the industry during the month.The only airline that flew its planes with lesser seats full than IndiGo was JetLite that flew its planes with 75.2% seats occupancy.
SpiceJet continues to lead the pack in terms of load factors by flying its planes with 93% seats full. Vistara continued to lead the list in terms of on-time performance by operating 86.5% of its flights on time followed by IndiGo that flew 83.3% flights on time.
Air India came last in terms of on-time performance by operating 73.8% of its flights on time.

Myntra acquires fashion rival Jabong

Flipkart, announced that it had acquired Jabong, the country’s second largest online fashion retailer, for an undisclosed amount.
The acquisition was done through Myntra, the largest online fashion retailer that Flipkart bought two years ago.
With their vast market presence, Flipkart will now have access to 15 million active users from Myntra and Jabong together.
Jabong, promoted by Germany’s Rocket Internet group, a large global incubator of e-commerce firms, had been looking for a buyer. Two years ago, the company was said to be in talks with Amazon and then with Paytm, but they fell through on valuation.
Grapevine has it that Rocket wanted $400 million a couple of years ago. However, sources said the final deal was done at a much lower valuation. Specifics of the takeover have not been revealed yet.
Fashion is the second largest category in India, after electronics, at $16 billion annualised revenues. It makes for almost 30% of e-commerce transactions.
Over the years, Jabong built a loyal customer base and associated with brands not available on other online stores, many of these international brands. At present, it has more than 1,500 brands and 1,50,000 styles. These include high-street fashion, sports, kids wear and Indian ethnic wear. Some of the international labels available on Jabong include Dorothy Perkins, Topshop, Tom Tailor, G Star Raw, Bugatti Shoes, The North Face, Forever 21, Swarovski, Timberland and Lacoste.
A Rocket Internet investor presentation pegged Jabong’s net revenue of the first quarter in 2016 at 32.6 million euros, up 14% from 28.6 million euros in the year-ago period. For FY2015, its revenues were at 122.1 million euros.
According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, e-tailing has grown at 57% year-on-year, moving from Rs 24,046 crore to Rs 37,689 crore between the December 2014 and December 2015. This is further estimated to touch Rs 72,639 crore by end of 2016.

Sensex @28000

Reforms impact on the Indian diet

Of Digital Payments in India....

Deveshwar's journey @ITC


India expels 3 Chinese journalists

India has decided to expel three senior Chinese journalists employed with China's official Xinhua news agency following “concerns“ flagged by the intelligence agencies.
Wu Qiang, Xinhua bureau chief in Delhi, along with two of his Mumbai-based colleagues Lu Tang and She Yonggang, were asked last week to leave the country by July 31, sources said.This is probably the first time that India has asked Chinese journalists to leave the country in this manner.
Sources claimed the step was prompted by adverse reports from intelligence agencies about the three journalists who were suspected of impersonating other people and visiting restricted facilities under assumed names.
The reports led the authorities to cancel the visas of the three Xinhua staffers.
Significantly , Wu has been staying in India on extended visa for 6 years. His two colleagues had also been given visa extensions.
As the main mouthpiece of the government, Xinhua is the most influential news agency in the country . Its president is said to be a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
While Xinhua was said to have confirmed the development in Beijing, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) chose not to officially comment on the issue.
The decision to not renew the visas of Chinese journalists comes in the middle of a blow-up between the two nations over Beijing's fastidiousness in denying India membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group. India, a non NPT signatory , has singled out China for creating ``procedural hurdles'' to block its membership. Beijing has stood its ground saying that NPT, which India refuses to sign, remained the cornerstone for international nonproliferation regime.

Mehbooba hits out at Islamabad

In a sharp switch in stance, J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti described Pakistan as hypocritical and blamed it for instigating Kashmiri youth to pick-up weapons. Unlike her father Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, who throughout his political career never criticized Pakistan, Mehbooba for the first time went against the political line of the PDP. “Pakistan shouldn't tell our children that if you take up guns and die, we will salute you. I think this is hypocrisy .While Pakistan tortures those who take up guns in its own territory, it teaches some other lesson to our children. This is wrong,“ she told reporters.She also castigated Pakistan for infiltration and asked it stop this. “Everyday we get to know that infiltration is going on unabated along the borders,“ Mehbooba said, drawing the connection between increasing terrorism in the Valley with repeated intrusions from across the border. At the same time, the CM said confidence building measures with the neighbour must continue. She also said withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) “could be tried“ in certain areas. “Unfortunately , and not for the first time, there is such an atmosphere here. Many civilians and police personnel have died,“ she said.
Meanwhile, a constable Mudasir Ahmad, who was injured in a hand grenade attack in Kulgam on July 15, succumbed to his injuries, taking the death toll in the Valley to 47.

Rajnath Singh on Kashmir

Reaching out to the people in Kashmir, the Centre said it wanted to have “emotional“ ties with them and not a need-based relationship and expressed the willingness to talk to whosoever needed once peace and normalcy is restored in the Valley.
Winding up his two-day visit to Kashmir in the backdrop of widespread disturbances that has claimed 46 lives so far, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said security forces have been directed to refrain from using pellet guns against crowds as much as possible even as he awaits a report of a committee set up by him to look into the use of non-lethal weapons.
During his stay in the Valley, Rajnath met 30 delegations including a government team led by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and an opposition National Conference(NC) team headed by Omar Abdullah.
The Congress stayed away from deliberations with the Home Minister.
In a memorandum submitted to Singh, the NC asked the Centre to initiate a sustained dialogue with Pakistan as well as separatists groups in Jammu and Kashmir for evolving a consensus for a mutually acceptable solution to the political issue.
Sending a strong message to Pakistan at a press conference at the end of his visit to Srinagar and Anantnag, Rajnath warned the neighbouring country not to interfere in India's internal affairs and that it should change its attitude and approach towards Kashmir.“There is no need of any third force to improve situation in Kashmir. Pakistan's role is not “paak“ (pure) towards Kashmir.“
To a question on whether there will be any talks with separatists, Singh said, “Let normalcy and peace be restored first. We will talk to the chief minister here and we will work only after taking her into confidence.“ “Let us first ensure that normalcy returns.Then, we will talk to whoever we want.“


Sushma slams Nawaz's dream

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj castigated Pakistan for its association with UN-designated terrorists like Hafiz Saeed, accusing the nation of nursing a delusion and a dangerous dream that Kashmir, as Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared, will become Pakistan one day .
In a statement, Swaraj said this dream was behind Pakistan's “unabashed embrace and encouragement to terrorism“.“The whole of India would like to tell the Prime Minister of Pakistan that this dream won't be realized even at the end of eternity . The whole of Jammu and Kashmir belongs to India. You will never be able to make this heaven on earth a haven for terrorists,“ Swaraj said.
She was responding to Sharif 's comment at a rally in Muzaffarabad on Friday that the day was not far when J&K was going to become a part of Pakistan. Swaraj said the Pakistan PM had spoken about his good wishes to the Kashmiris but, sadly , not about its terrorism and weapons that Pakistan had exported to J&K. “Pakistan's dirty money , dangerous terrorists and duplicitous state institutions seek to destabilize the region. The statement of none other than the prime minister of Pakistan has betrayed this despicable design,“ she said.
While Sharif had described slain Hizbul commander Burhan Wani as a martyr, Swaraj reminded him Wani was carrying a Rs.10 lakh award for perpetrating heinous crimes, including the murder of elected local body representatives and security forces.
“Even more condemnable than these deplorable attempts from across our border to incite violence and glorify terrorists is that these attempts have been undertaken by Pakistan's state machinery in active partnership with UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed and other leading terrorists belonging to internationally proscribed organisations,“ she said.
“A country that has used fighter planes and artillery against millions of its own has no right to point a finger against our brave, professional and disciplined police and other security forces,“ said Swaraj.


Supreme Court Stays Adarsh Demolition

The Supreme Court stayed the demolition of the Adarsh Housing Society building in Mumbai and asked the defence authorities to take possession of the property while it decides whether the construction was carried out in violation of green laws and in connivance with politicians and bureaucrats.
The Bombay High Court had on April 29 directed that the 31-storey building be demolished for violating environmental norms. The society and residents challenged the ruling in the top court, which asked the government on Friday not to demolish the structure. Bureaucrats, politicians and their relatives are alleged to have been allotted flats in the building in exchange for facilitating approvals for the project. The building came up on land meant for housing heroes and widows of those who lost their lives in the 1999 Kargil war. The Central Bureau of Investigation is probing the involvement of officials and politicians in the matter, which led Ashok Chavan to resign as Maharashtra chief minister in 2010.
Charge sheets have been filed against some individuals, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told a bench comprising justices Jasti Chelameswar and Abhay Manohar Sapre at the hearing on Friday . He urged the court to hand over the land and the building to the defence authorities, who had first flagged security concerns over construction of the building near military installations. The Ministry of Environment and Forests later claimed that the building was constructed without the necessary green clearances.Occupancy certificates were cancelled and power and water supply to the building were cut off, prompting the residents to move out.
The SC bench issued notices to the Union government to explain why the high court judgment ordering the demolition of the building should stand. In the interim, the court directed the defence authorities to take over the land and the building. Chavan was also charge-sheeted, apart from other senior state bureaucrats. Allotments to several people, including minister Suresh Prabhu and IFS officer Devyani Khobragade, were also cancelled following a recommendation of a high level panel set up to look into the scam. The residents' case was argued in court by senior advocate Shekhar Naphade.Senior advocate Harish Salve is expected to defend the residents at the next hearing on August 5.
In his initial arguments, Naphade said the environment ministry's permission and other necessary sanctions were taken, but were later withdrawn. He also contested the ownership of the land, insisting that both the state and the Centre had claimed it and the court would have to deal with this matter, too.

Changing your Aadhaar details

Somewhere in Chennai....

Kohinoor buzz

The government is likely to approach Britain soon to get back the famed Kohinoor, one of the world's largest diamonds, which is currently set in a royal crown on display in the Tower of London.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting on Friday which was attended by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha among others, sources said, adding Britain may be approached on the issue next month. The meeting also discussed the possibility of signing a treaty with the UK wherein Britain may be assured that India would not claim any other artefacts that are lying in the museums in that country except the Kohinoor, they said.
The meeting, which lasted for over 45 minutes, was called on PM Narendra Modi's direction to take steps to bring back the 108-carat gem, they said.

Maharashtra remains state with highest debt

Maharashtra's debt burden stood at Rs.3.79 lakh crore as on March 31, 2016, the highest among all the Indian states. It is followed by Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, according to the data compiled by RBI on total outstanding liabilities of state governments.
The state first earned the dubious distinction in 2011 with a debt of Rs.2.30 lakh crore, dislodging Uttar Pradesh (Rs.2.29 lakh crore) that was leading the list of debt ridden states for a long time.The gap between the two has since steadily widened.
Commenting on the cost of establishment, a senior official said Maharashtra's salary burden increased from Rs.22,879 crore in 2007 to Rs.79,941 crore n 2016. The pension payments jumped from Rs.4,682 crore to Rs.24,730 crore in the same period. “Interest burden on loans taken by the state government increased from Rs.12,932 crore in 2007 to Rs.28,220 crore in 2016,“ he said.
Even as the debt burden rises, the cash-starved government will have to shell out another Rs.15,000-20,000 crore for implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations to 19 lakh odd employees. In 1999, when senior NCP leader Jayant Patil took the reins of the finance department, he had presented a comprehensive white paper on the economy. After blaming the erstwhile Sena-BJP government for the bad finances, Patil had listed a series of measures to reduce the burden. He had declared that stringent steps till be taken to reduce the cost of establishment from 73% to 49%, shut down all non-performing state-run enterprises and corporations, and take a critical review of all on going schemes. The Congress-NCP ruled for 15 years till 2014, but failed to improve the financial crisis.
Last year, finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, a senior BJP leader, too presented a white paper on the financial situation and promised stern measures to reduce the debt burden.
“Presenting a white paper is not the answer to tackle the financial situation. In my opinion, we lack the political will to reduce the cost of establishment and wind up loss-making state-run enterprises and corporations. It is high time we stop populist schemes or a day is not far off when we will have to secure loans to pay salaries,'' a senior bureaucrat said.
To begin with, cabinet members must prune their staff. “A cabinet member has a total staff of 15 persons, while a minister of state has 13. We will have to examine if a cabinet member really needs such a large number of employees,'' he said.