Somewhere in New York....

Diwali greetings were beamed on to the facade of the UN building on Saturday night.
The United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York celebrated Diwali for the first time since the world body declared it as a non-meeting day in 2014. Diwali greetings were beamed on to the facade of the UN building on Saturday night as it turned purple, with the words ‘Happy Diwali’ prominently displayed below a diya. Tourists and New York City residents were seen snapping pictures of the building as it lit up for Diwali.

For increasing India's Forest Cover

All banking institutions in India may soon chip in to increase India's forest cover in a coordinated manner. If the environment ministry has its way , all banks will be asked to join the state and the central governments in their ongoing efforts of afforestation. The move will be part of one of the 10 ways, identified by the Centre, to reach India's key climate goal.
As part of the country's climate action plan to achieve its nationally determined contribution (NDC) target of creating additional carbon sink under the Paris Agreement, the ministry has come out with a proposal seeking all banks to allocate a minimum of 25% of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds for afforestation across the country. It takes note of clause 135 of the Companies Act, 2013 where the banks too are supposed to spend in every financial year at least 2% of their average net profit in three immediately preceding years on CSR initiatives. Such initiatives include “ensuring environmental sustainability“ as one of the activities.
A draft guideline of the ministry in this regard says that a bank may carry out afforestation from its earmarked fund either by itself or by pooling resources with other banks. Actual works of afforestation can be done through involvement of NGOs, resident welfare associations or other registered societies.
The draft, prepared by the ministry's National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board (NAEB), was discussed in a special session on the first day of a two-day conference of the forest bureaucracy. The session was dedicated to the country's strategies to achieve one of the NDC's targets through afforestation.
Under the target, India has promised to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by increasing forest and tree cover by 2030.The effort will also help the country reach its goal under the National Forest Policy , 1988 to increase India's forest and tree cover from existing 24% to 33% of the total geographical area.
Besides roles for banks, the ministry has identified nine other ways to increase its carbon sink under the NDC. It includes creating `city forest' ranging from 20 to 100 hectares (based on land availability), utilisation of CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) fund, carrying out national green highway mission, giving financial incentive to states for increasing protecting forest cover and involving multiple stakeholders -including private sector companies--for increasing green cover.
The draft on role of banking institutions gives details not only on how the banks would carry out afforestation but also on how these institutions will have to monitor the progress through plantation management committee. It says the afforestation projects of a particular bank would also be evaluated by an independent external agency .“The time-frame of all projects should be for a minimum of five to seven years...Since protection of trees is important in first five years, sizeable amount should be kept for protection, awareness generation, monitoring and innovative measures for conservation of forests and wildlife,“ says the draft.
It also emphasises that the species identified for planting under the initiative should be indigenous and as per the local requirement.

Maharashtra's conversion rate of MoUs signed

Maharashtra notched up MoUs worth nearly Rs.8 lakh crore during the Make in India Week. According to data from the state industries department, over the past 11 years, 42.6% of proposed mega project investments have materialized, which officials say is among the highest conversion rates in the country .
The state received applications for 432 mega projects worth Rs.2.7 lakh crore between June 2005 and May 2016. Of these, 248 units have already gone into production and they account for investments worth Rs.1.15 lakh crore.
Infrastructure, land availability, quality of labour and work culture are factors driving growth in the state's industrial base.
Apart from mega projects in production, 46 projects accounting for 12.8% of the applications are under construction and another 123 projects accounting for 39% of planned investments have “taken initial effective steps“ such as acquiring land. Only 15 projects worth 5.3% of investments under application are still in the process of taking preliminary steps and the bulk of these are in the Vidarbha region.

Most Business-Friendly States

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have tied for first place in the ease of doing business ranking, followed by Gujarat, which topped the chart last year. The process of verifying states' submissions was concluded by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) last week.
DIPP maintained real-time rankings of states through an online dashboard that saw stiff competition as the tally kept changing in the past few months. In its second edition, performance parameters were increased to 340 from 98. The criteria for next year's rankings are still to be finalised in consultation with the World Bank.
The government plans to introduce a feedback mechanism in line with the global report. The experiences of users will be taken into consideration along with proofs provided by the states themselves.
In the World Bank's latest doing business report, India improved by just one spot to 130.The ranking only took into account the business environment in Delhi and Mumbai, which the government feels do es not capture the reform agenda being pushed across states.
In the latest ranking, Haryana and Uttarakhand are new entrants in the top 10, at six and nine, respectively. Uttarakhand, which at one point had topped the charts, has managed to implement over 96% of reforms against 13% last year. Several states have shown significant improvement over last year's performance with Bihar completing over 75% of 340 reforms against only 16% last year, moving up five spots to 16.
Delhi has slipped from 15 to 19 this year and Karnataka from 9 to 13. The main areas of reform for states to act upon included environmental registration, commercial dispute resolution, labour regulation, online filing of tax returns and single window clearance.
In last year's assessment it was found that only 32% of the proposed reforms were implemented across the country. The government hopes competition among states will improve the business environment in the country and help India break into the top 100 in the World Bank's ease of doing business ranking.

Severe Drought Looming Over Kerala

A severe drought is looming large over Kerala as the state has received deficient rainfall during the south-west monsoon. There has been a sharp decrease of rainfall to the tune of 34% during the south-west monsoon. From June 1 this year to September 30, Kerala received 1,352.3 mm rains against the normal rainfall of 2039.7 mm, a deficiency of 34%.
There has been no rain in October and if this situation continues, there will be drought-like situation. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has also said that the state was heading for a `severe' drought as Kerala had received deficient rains in the south-west monsoon. Though the northeast monsoon was yet to set in, the state had not received pre-monsoon showers, he said. To tackle the situation, the government was also keen to encourage rain water harvesting, he said.There has been an average reduction of 22% water in the state's dams when compared to the water storage in September last year. The state was also gearing up to take measures to tackle scarcity of drinking water which is likely to be faced by the state due to deficient monsoon, according to water resources minister Mathew P Thomas.
The government also has plans to rejuvenate at least 10,000 private temple ponds of the total 40,000 in the state. The chief minister had convened a high-level meeting on October 13 to work out plans to meet the impending drought situation.
Kerala is now pinning all hopes on the north east monsoon, which is yet to set in.


Somewhere in Mumbai....

The Mumbai Port, one of the oldest in the country, will be investing Rs.225 crore to build a modern passenger ter minal that can cater to cruise ships.
Work on the terminal, which will resemble an airport and have the capacity to handle thousands of passengers disembarking from a single ship, will be over in next two years.
The port trust, which would welcome its first big cruise ship today, has dedicated a berth to such ships and expects to get 59 ships by next May.This will go up to 100 in the season after it and to 150 the year later. Every ship will bring at least 2,000 passengers, which will support the local economy, he said.
`Genting Dream', on her maiden voyage from Germany, will be calling on Mumbai port today. Bhatia also said that the port has reached an agreement with Costa Ships for a long term use of facilities.
Till the new terminal gets ready, the port will use the existing facilities, certain facilities have been upgraded.
The port is also giving a slew of incentives to cruise operators. These include doing away with hosting charges, concession in cruise charges and standard operating protocols for customs and immigration checks.
The port is also looking to tap the domestic opportunity. The port has appointed a global consultant to study domestic cruise tourism and ways to popularise it.

Somewhere in Kerala....

Haryana @50

Somewhere in Uttar Pradesh....


You account for just 2% of exports: China

Amid talks about boycott of Chinese goods in India, China warned India that such a boycott would not just affect Chinese investments in India but also bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
In a statement, the Chinese embassy said India's boycott of Chinese goods will not have much impact on China as India accounted for only 2% of all Chinese exports in 2015 which were worth $2,276.5 billion.
The Chinese statement was made in the context of media reports that local sellers in Sadar Bazaar, the largest wholesale market of household items in India, had complained about sale of Chinese goods dropping by 20%.It took note of the fact that the boycott would not be limited to Diwali related products. The statement recalled how bilateral trade had grown 24 times in 15 years, from $2.9 billion in 2000 to $71.6 billion in 2015. China has become India's largest trading partner, source of imports and fourth largest export market. India is also China's largest trading partner in South Asia and ninth largest export market in the world. Apex traders body Confederation of All India Traders recently said the sale of Chinese products may decline by 30% this Diwali.
According to the statement, the distinct features of China-India trade are mutual benefits and growing interdependence, which contributes to the full use of factors of production and maximization of the benefits to all the people. “In 2015, China has imported 2 billion dollars worth of cotton and more than 100 million dollars worth of black tea from India, bringing benefits to 1.2 million cotton growers and 50,000 tea farmers and sellers in India. “ Chinese products not only lowered India's inflation rate, but also fulfilled Indian ordinary people, especially the low-income people's daily needs, greatly improving their life quality,“ the statement said.


iPhone India Annual Sales Surge over 50%

Apple's iPhone sales in India surged more than 50% in the year ended September, among the few bright spots for the smartphone maker that reported its first annual sales and profit decline in 15 years. “Our iPhone sales in India were up over 50% in fiscal 2016 compared to the prior year and we believe we're just beginning to scratch the surface of this large and growing market opportunity,“ Apple CEO Tim Cook said during an earnings call. Cook said India could be as big a market as China and would be crucial for the smartphone maker.
Apple shipped a record 2.5 million iPhones in India from October 2015 to September 2016, up 56% on year, according to an estimate by Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Technology Market Research. Apple is poised to replace Samsung Electronics as No. 1 in the premium segment in the current quarter on strong demand for the new iPhone 7 following the South Korean company's Galaxy Note 7 debacle.
In the just-ended quarter, Apple's revenue from Greater China fell 30% on year and declined 7% in the Americas -among its biggest markets. For the year ended September, profit declined to $45.7 billion from $53.4 billion and net sales fell to $215.6 billion from $233.7 billion.
Cook cited India's population and expected demand for 4G devices with the rollout of networks offering faster data speeds as reasons for his optimism.
Cook, who made his maiden trip to India as Apple CEO in May, told analysts it was important to look at the size of the middle class over the next decade, besides the age of the population -almost 50% of which is under 25 -and not just per capita income. “There's going to be a lot of people in the middle class that will want a smartphone and I think we can compete well for some percentage of those.And given our starting point, even though we've been growing a lot, there is a lot of headroom there in our mind and so we are working very hard to realise that opportunity,“ he added.
Cook pointed to Apple's partnership with Reliance Jio Infocomm as an indicator that 4G proliferation holds huge promise for the company as global smartphone sales slow. Apple has acknowledged supply constraints, especially for its larger screen iPhone 7 Plus. Following the Galaxy Note 7 debacle for Samsung, Apple is expected to become the country's top smartphone maker in the premium segment -devices costing upwards of Rs.30,000 -in the quarter ending December, said analysts, yet another high for the company to the end the year with.
Apple is expected to command 60% of the market by volume during the quarter. Its share in the overall smartphone market may rebound to 3% by the year end from 1.4% in the September quarter.

Of Smart Phone connections....

India has become the second-biggest market globally in terms of smartphone connections, overtaking the US and trailing only China. More and more Indians are logging on the internet using their mobiles, aided by availability of low-priced smartphones -a significant number of them assembled locally and sold for as low as Rs.3,000 -and rapid expansion of 3G and 4G networks.
According to figures provided by global telecom body GSMA, smartphone connections in India at the end of the first half of this year (ending June 2016) stood at 275 million, higher than 259 million connections in the US. China, however, leads by a huge margin with overall smartphone connections at 910 million.
GSMA said mobile operators are investing heavily to improve network coverage, and this should see 3G being available to 90% of the population by 2020, while 4G to 70%, the latter registering a 14-fold increase from now.
Most of the mobile manufacturers have also read the trend as the majority of new device launches by them are only 3G and 4G compatible as 2G devices -which are mainly feature phones -are being discontinued. Total mobile users in India (some may carry multiple SIM cards) stood at 616 million at the end of June, GSMA said.
In its `India Mobile Economy' report, GSMA estimates that 330 million new mobile users will be added by 2020. This would push up the mobile phone penetration base across the population to 68% against 47% at the end of 2015.

20 Schools Burnt Down in Kashmir

Almost like Taliban's offensive against education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, terror groups in Kashmir are destroying schools and ensuring their continued shut down. Twenty schools have been wrecked in the last three months of unrest. The schools in Valley have remained shut since July 8.
Officials said that around two million Kashmiri students have been prevented from going to schools across the Kashmir Valley . The students of border areas like Gurez, Tangdhar, Uri in Kashmir and Jammu and Ladakh regions have been attending their schools without disruption though. Separatist influence is limited to the valley.
According to official figures, seventeen government schools and three private schools have been fully damaged in fire.
The closure of schools and colleges has also been enforced by the diktats issued by the separatist conglomerate Hurriyat and militant outfits. Pakistan based Lashkar-eTaiba on September 27 issued a warning to Jammu and Kashmir education minister Naeem Akhtar for trying to resume schools and colleges in the Valley.
Hundreds of parents have sent their wards to cities like Jammu and Delhi for studies after they lost three months of schooling.

Life Tables

Post-60 years life expectancy is highest in a state you would least expect-Jammu and Kashmir.People here who are 60 years old will live for another 21.1 years on an average. At the other extreme is Chhattisgarh where such life span is 15.6 years.On an average, in India, a man will live for another 17 years while a woman for 19 years after reaching 60 years age.
These facets of life and death across the states, and over the years, emerge from recently released `Life Tables' which give yearly mortality data collected from a sample of about 7.4 million people. This work is done by the Sample Registration System under the Census office. The most recent data is from 2010-2014.
“Life expectancy can be calculated at birth or at various points in life. Calculations average out death rates at all subsequent ages. This is usually said to be life expectancy of people in any country or state within a country ,“ explains demographer P .M.Kulkarni, formerly of JNU. In 1970-75, people's average life span was just 49.7 years. By 2010-14 it had increased to 67.9 years, a whopping increase of 18.2 years. Another change that has taken place is that women are now living longer than men. Four decades ago, men's average life span was 50.5 years compared to 49 years for women.
This reversed in the mid-eighties and currently women's life expectancy stands at 69.6, almost three years more than men. Women living longer than men is a global trend attributed to higher death rates in men, being more exposed to health risks.
In India, Kerala, with its low infant mortality , higher incomes, higher education levels and better health indicators, has the longest life span of 74.9 years. Closely following it are Delhi, Jammu-Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra & Punjab. Lowest life spans are in Assam, followed by UP, MP, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. Beyond the age of five years, J&K emerges as the state with longest life span for every five-year age group except the over 70 years group.
Reasons for this are not clear but experts think that not too bad poverty levels (15 per cent compared to India average of about 30 per cent), more equitable land ownership and the climate in the Kashmir valley less conducive for tropical diseases and pollution may have created conditions for this higher life span. Similar factors may explain why other mountain states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand too have higher life expectancy. But why is there a difference between J-K's average life expectancy at birth (72.6) and life expectancy at 60 years age (81.1years)? This is due to higher infant mortality rate, which is in turn highly dependent on how good are delivery and infant care health services. J-K's infant death rate was 37 per 1000 live births in 2013, the same as Jharkhand and only slightly below the national average of 40.


Of Gold in Forex Reserves....

Gold forms a sizeable proportion of total forex reserves in several countries. The yellow metal's share is the highest in Tajikistan (80%), followed by the US (76%) and Portugal (71%). Incidentally, the US Fed holds the largest amount of gold among central banks worldwide...

Maharashtra government approves Shivaji Memorial

The Shivaji Memorial in the Arabian Sea will be built at a cost of Rs.3,600 crore. The cash-strapped, debt-ridden government will provide funds for the project from its budget as well as seek financial assistance from the Centre. When first announced in 2009, the architect Team One had proposed a project cost of Rs.700 crore. Tenders were first floated in 2012, but never took off.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said tenders have been invited for the project.“We have received all clearances including environmental clearance. The first phase will be completed by 2019,“ he said.
The first phase will involve reclamation, construction of the boundary wall, statue, pedestal, public facilities, the Bhavani temple, jetty at the memorial and security arrangements. The pedestal will house a library , art gallery , museum and the memorial administrative office. In the second phase, an amphitheatre to seat 500-2,000 people will be constructed where they can view a 3D and 4D display of important events in the life of Shivaji.
The BJP-Shiv Sena government appointed a consultant, Egis, whose design will now be implemented. Around four committees have been set up to improve upon the design. At 190 feet, it will be the tallest statue in the world. The security will be underwater, on ground and from the air for the memorial.
The project is being opposed by fisherfolk as they fear it would affect their livelihood.They have filed a plea before the National Green Tribunal.

Bird flu in Kerala

The National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal has confirmed the presence of avian flu (H5 N8) in ducks in five places in Kuttanad. The H5N8 virus is not known to infect humans. Sources said the district administration has set up 20 rapid response teams (RRT) to monitor the affected birds. Each RRT comprises two veterinary surgeons, two livestock inspectors, two labourers, two attenders, ward member, two revenue officials and two policemen. This team will cull the infected ducks within four days.

Top States in Ease of Doing Business 2016

The Doing Business 2017 report

India moved up only one position in the International Finance Corporation's (IFC) ease of doing business rankings, triggering a strong reaction from the government which said the string of reform initiatives undertaken by it in the last one year had not been factored in by the World Bank arm.
The Doing Business 2017 report showed that India was placed 130th among 190 countries that had been surveyed for the annual rankings, with Russia, Bhutan, South Africa, China, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Brazil ranking higher. New Zealand replaced Singapore as the easiest place for doing business.
While the government's focus on improving India's ranking and an overhaul of the Companies Act came in for praise in the report, labour laws were flagged for creating economic distortions even as IFC took note of the plan to overhaul the regime. India's overall score improved marginally to 55.27 as it climbed up the rankings for a implementing slew of popular measures. India's overall score improved marginally to 55.27 as it climbed up the rankings for providing electricity connections, enforcing contracts through commercial divisions in Bombay and Delhi High Courts, easier rules for trading across borders and making Employee's Social Insurance Corporation's payments. Improving India's ranking in the ease of doing business survey has been identified as a key priority by the Modi government. The government is keen to improve attractiveness as an investment destination and has undertaken several measures to make it easier to do business in the country.
But it slipped on various other parameters and the government said that at least a dozen steps initiated by it were not recognised by IFC this year, prompting it to put in place a strategy to focus on several reform initiatives in the coming coming year. For instance, the enactment of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code was not factored in as the IFC team argued that the law had not been implemented, something that the government now intends to do by December-end. Similarly , it is hoping that GST implementation from April will boost India's ranking.
The government said the new process to get a name for incorporating a company took 1.86 days but the IFC's feedback showed that it took two-seven days, he said.


Cyrus Mystery

Ratan Tata, interim chairman of Tata Group, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, informing him about the decision of the Tata Sons Board to replace chairman Cyrus P Mistry.
This is an unprecedented move by the salt-to-software conglomerate. Tata wrote to PM Modi after assuring employees of the Tata Group.
“A new management structure is being put in place and a Selection Committee has been constituted to identify the next chairman of Tata Sons,” Ratan Tata informed PM Modi in the letter, adding, “The committee has been mandated to complete the process in four months.”
The sudden removal of Mistry from the top post of the Group has surprised experts. Some are even baffled as to why the chairman of a business group should write about a change in the management of the company to PM Modi. Incidentally, the letter was written even before the company had taken shareholders into confidence.
Earlier, Ratan Tata had written to employees of the company, telling them that he took up the role of interim chairman in the interest of stability and reassurance to the group. In a letter, Tata, 78, said the board of directors of Tata Sons in its meeting today replaced Cyrus P Mistry as Chairman, with immediate effect.
Tata, who became Chairman Emeritus of the group when he retired on December 29, 2012, further said: “The committee has been mandated to complete the process in four months. In the interim, the board has requested me to perform the role of Chairman and I have agreed to do so in the interest of stability of and reassurance to the Tata group.”
Tata had retired in 2012, leading the company for 21 years after being chosen the successor by his uncle, the iconic JRD Tata, in 1991.

Monsoon extends stay

The southwest monsoon is not done with India yet, overstaying well past its normal withdrawal date of October 15. The monsoon is now expected to withdraw in the first week of November --its most extended stay since 2007.
In the last 10 years, the most delayed monsoon withdrawal was in 2010, when the wind system pulled out of the country on October 29. The delay this year is due to a deep depression that has formed over the Bay of Bengal. It is expected to intensify into a cyclonic storm during the next 48 hours, according to India Meteorological Department. While the monsoon has withdrawn from most parts of the country, it still remains active over parts of the southern peninsula, the region where the northeast monsoon sets in. B Mukhopadhyay , IMD's additional director general of meteorology , said that the delay was not very unusual and such a phenomenon could happen once in 10 years. The conditions for withdrawal will become favourable after the dissipation of the cyclonic disturbance over the Bay of Bengal.

Mumbai on a cruise

With changes in berthing rules at Mumbai port, this cruising season from October to May will be a happening one for the city . Against 37 ships last year, 59 cruises have confirmed arrival this year. The high point will be when the 18-storey `Genting Dream' sails in on its maiden voyage on October 29. The ship, the largest civilian vessel to dock at Mumbai port, will sail onward to Colombo and Singapore. Around 3,000 passengers from Mumbai and across India are expected to board it.
In a move to convert a chunk of Mumbai Port Trust's (MbPT) operations towards cruise tourism, the port authorities recently removed the 24-hour limit on berthing of cruise ships at the Mumbai International Cruise Terminal. The “ousting“ priority or berthing charges have also been removed. Cargo operations are being shifted to two new berths from the main terminal to make way for the tourist vessels.
Azamara Journey , Voyager, Costa Luminosa, AidaBella, Silver Cloud, Norwegian Star, etc are some of the leading cruise ships that would be taking passengers from Mumbai on international voyages, added Bhatia.
The last major cruising season from Mumbai was in 2006-7 with the Superstar Libra.

Women to enter Haji Ali inner sanctum

After a gap of nearly five years, women will be permitted entry into the inner sanctum of Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai, albeit through a separate entry , the dargah trust informed the Supreme Court on Monday .
The dargah's decision is seen as an important marker for gender equality after a high court order led to a ban against women entering the sanctum sanctorum of Shani Shingnapur temple in Nashik being withdrawn. Protests have been lodged against restrictions at other religious places with regard to women on various grounds such as menstruation. “It will take two more weeks to make necessary structural changes for separate entry and enclosure near the inner sanctum for women,“ the trust's counsel, senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, said.
Quoting the holy Quran to explain its decision, the trust said in its affidavit, “Islam believes in equality among men and women.“
A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L N Rao recorded Subramaniam's submission and disposed of the appeal filed by the trust challenging Bombay High Court's August 26 order allowing women to enter the dargah's sanctum sanctorum which houses the tomb of Iranian saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari.
Though the trust acceded to the SC's request for taking a “progressive“ stand on the issue, submissions made by it could have a bearing on the petitions filed by Muslim women seeking equality for women and requesting the SC to ban unilateral divorce given by Muslim men through pronouncement of triple talaq. The women have questioned the claim that triple talaq has the sanction of religious law.


Au Revoir INS Viraat

INS Viraat, the world's oldest aircraft carrier, was accorded a grand send-off from Kochi,the port city on Sunday, after over five decades of its service to the Navy.
The ship, which underwent a decommissioning refit, is being towed back by three tugs to Mumbai for the decommissioning ceremony.
The final journey of the carrier began with Navy officials led by the Chief of Staff, Southern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Nadkarni bidding farewell to the carrier at Ernakulam Wharf of Cochin Port Trust this morning.
Viraat is expected to be decommissioned by end of this year, after 55 years of service, including 27 years with the Royal Navy (British Navy).
The Navy has agreed to hand over INS Viraat to Andhra Pradesh government after its decommissioning.
The AP government had shown a keen interest in getting INS Viraat, the oldest aircraft carrier operated by Indian Navy, to berth in Vizag for promotion of tourism after its decommissioning.

FPIs Pull Out Rs.7,500 cr from Market in October

Foreign investors have pulled out nearly Rs.7,500 crore from the Indian market this month so far, after pumping in a staggering amount in September. Most of the funds have been withdrawn from debt markets during the period under review.
On October 4, the Reserve Bank slashed policy rate by 0.25% to 6.25%, a 6-year low.
According to depositors' data, net withdrawal by FPIs stood at Rs.6,929 crore from the debt markets during October 3-21, while it pulled out a net sum of Rs.566 crore from the equities during the period under review, translating into total outflow of Rs.7,495 crore.
The outflow comes following a net inflow of Rs.20,232 crore in September.
The outflow in equities could be attributed to a below-forecast reading on Chinese data that fanned fresh concerns about its economy . What clouded sentiment further was US Fed chief Janet Yellen's commentary on the US economy , indicating the need for aggressive steps to reboot it.

Sovereign Gold Bonds: 6th tranche

The sixth tranche of the sovereign gold bond scheme will open from Monday and will remain open till November 2. With the festive season on, the government has decided to offer a discount of  Rs.50 per gram and the bonds will be offered at Rs.2,957 per gm, the lowest price this year.
Many Indians believe that buying the yellow metal is auspicious on Dhanteras, and this launch coincides with that. There are a couple of changes in these bonds, compared to the previous issuances.One, the yearly interest payable on these bonds is marginally down to 2.5% from 2.75% in the previous five tranches. Second, these bonds are being offered at a discount of Rs.50 per gram. Earlier, bond issuances were at the nominal closing value of pure gold.
The tenure will be the same for eight years, with an exit option from the fifth year to be exercised on the interest payment dates.
Financial planners believe gold should be part of one's portfolio as its price increases in response to global events that cause the value of paper investments, like stocks and bonds, to decline.
Indians love the yellow metal and they generally buy it for two reasons -either for consumption in the form of jewellery or for investment.
These bonds are issued in denomination of one-gram of gold and in multiples there of.Minimum investment in these bonds shall be one gram with a maximum buying limit of 500 grams per person per fiscal year (April-March). The gold bond gives you the benefit of gold price investment.
These bonds will be listed and traded on the stock exchange. The government mobilised close to Rs.1,900 crore from the last two tranches of gold bonds. With the festive season round the corner, a good monsoon, widespread distributions through stock exchange, nationalised banks, post offices and individual agents, financial planners expect the collection in this series to be far higher.


Press Freedom Index 2016

Somewhere in Kolkata....

Investment Conclaves

Andaman to get India's first solar storage power plant

The Andaman & Nicobar Islands, known for its legendary beaches and world class diving will soon have something else to boast of -the country's first city-scale battery storage solar power plants.
India's largest generation utility NTPC will set up two solar storage plants with a total capacity of 25 MW in the main island of Port Blair as part of the Centre's bid to rid the place of polluting diesel generators, its main source of power at present. The size of the storage solar power plants will open a new avenue for bringing 24x7 power supply to remote locations, a key promise made by the Narendra Modi government. At present, some remote villages in Ladakh and certain hill states have storage solar power plants but they are miniscule in comparison with capacities ranging between 11 kW (kilo watt) and 125 kW .
The Centre, through the ministry of new and renewable energy , will meet 40% of the cost through grant meant for special areas. The ministry has asked NTPC to set up a total of 50 mw solar storage capacity in phases.
The project is estimated to be completed by June 2018 or so, with a 15-month completion schedule.

Boycott Chinese Goods campaign gets into print

AI flies Delhi-SF nonstop over Pacific

Flying Delhi to San Francisco (SFO) over the Pacific Ocean instead of the Atlantic, as it had done till last week, has earned Air India the record of operating the world's longest nonstop flight.
The Pacific route is almost 1,400 km longer than the Atlantic one, and the flight covered 15,300 kilometres in 14.5 hours. Despite the route being longer, the flight took almost two hours less thanks to tailwinds -winds blowing in the same direction as an aircraft and thus making it go faster.
“The earth rotates from west to east, and winds flow in that direction too. Flying west means facing strong headwinds (that decreases an aircraft's actual ground speed) and flying east means getting strong tailwinds, which does the opposite,“ said a senior AI official.
“While taking the (western) Atlantic route to SFO, we usually face headwinds of 24 kmph. If our aircraft is doing 800 kmph, its actual ground speed is 776 kmph. Taking the (eastern) Pacific route will mean getting tailwinds of 138 kmph, which make the aircraft have an actual ground speed of 938 kmph,“ the official added. At 13,900 km, the Atlantic route of AI's Delhi-SFO nonstop made it the second longest flight of the world after Emirates' Dubai-Auckland (14,120 km). Now, AI's Pacific route will remain the world's longest nonstop for two year still Singapore Airlines launches the mother of all direct flights -Singapore-New York -which will cover 16,500 km in 19 hours. The four pilots, captains Rajneesh Sharma, Gautam Verma, MA Khan and SM Palekar, and the 10 cabin crew members who operated the first Delhi-SFO flight over the Pacific are ecstatic at setting this record.
The AI Delhi-SFO-Delhi flight now does a round trip of the world as it flies back to India over the Atlantic to get tailwinds on both the outbound and inbound flights.
The Boeing-777 200 long range used by AI on this route, on an average, burns 9,600 litres of fuel for each hour of flying. A shorter flying time to SFO from an hour (in summer) to up to three hours (in winter)would mean huge fuel savings for the airline.
In summer, flying time to SFO over Pacific will be 16 hours -an hour less than the Atlantic route. And in winter, the difference will be as high as up to three hours between the two routes.


Mumbai Among 15 Wealthiest Cities

According to a report by New World Wealth, a global wealth intelligence and market research company, Mumbai is one of the top 15 cities globally in terms of total wealth held. The term refers to private wealth held by all residents in the city. Mumbai is the economic hub of India and home to 45,000 millionaires and 28 billionaires. “Going forward, Mumbai is expected to be the fastest growing city (in terms of wealth growth over the next 10 years),“ the report added.

Somewhere in Vadodara....

Somewhere in Amethi....

Vakola-BKC elevated road planned

Motorists travelling to Bandra Kurla Complex from the Western Express Highway (WEH) will have one more access route as the MMRDA has decided to build an elevated corridor from Vakola Junction, over Mumbai University's land in Kalina. Commuters now have to travel 3.8 km, through Pipeline Road, parallel to WEH, and bypass the government colony to reach Bharat Diamond Bourse in BKC. Another option is to take a 5 km-long route via Kalanagar.
MMRDA will also construct a 400 m long and 30 m wide road near the University linking BKC to SCLR. In all, the University will hand over 34,715 sq m of land.
Madan said bids will be finalised for the project in three to four months and it will take at least two years to complete the project. Besides, MMRDA has also planned an Eastern Express Highway-BKC connector and Kalangar Junction improvement project that will feature a flyover linking the Bandra-Worli Sealink Road.


From January , the Centre will roll out its ambitious plan to introduce budget regional flying by connecting small towns by flights whose fares will be capped at Rs.2,500 per hour.
Termed “ude desh ka aam nagrik“ or Udan, this regional connectivity scheme will be funded by levying a fee on aircraft landing at bigger airports. Aviation secretary R N Choubey said the levy , “which will be a very nominal one“, will be announced by the month-end. It is estimated that if airlines pass on this levy to flyers, the increase in cost per ticket is unlikely to be more than Rs.60. Existing airlines are opposing the move to impose one more levy on flyers in the form of regional connectivity scheme (RCS) fee. They feel the government should have found some other way of funding the Udan scheme, instead of taxing passengers again.
Trying to allay their fears, junior aviation minister Jayant Sinha said, “We have taken three crucial steps to strike a balance between affordability for the common man and profitability for regional operators. Firstly, successful bidders will now have exclusive rights to operate a regional route for three years, up from the previous plan of one year. Secondly , an Udan flight operating from a small city to a metro like Delhi or Kolkata will have to pay no airport charges at the bigger airport. And finally , we have made it possible for entrepreneurs to lease planes in small numbers also to become regional operators. Earlier, it was not possible to do so.“
The minister said India had 16 under-served airports, which get less than seven flights a week. “These include places like Agra, Gwalior, Allahabad and Tezpur. Then there are 15 to 20 airports which are ready but don't get regular flights (like Jaisalmer). From January , 30 airports will be ready to receive regional flights under Udan scheme,“ Sinha said.


Wipro to buy US co Appirio

Wipro has agreed to buy a US-based company which helps organisations migrate software applications to the cloud, continuing a streak of acquisitions which has seen the seen it spend over $1.1 billion so far this year. Wipro said it is paying $500 million Rs.3,300 crore) to buy Appirio, which is based in Indianapolis and counts Sales force, General Atlantic Partners and Sequoia as investors. This is its second-biggest acquisition after data centre provider Infocrossing, for which it paid $600 million in 2007.
Wipro said the acquisition would give it one of the largest cloud transformation practices in the world. The deal also brings along TopCoder, a crowdsourcing marketplace connecting over a million designers, developers and data scientists with customers. Appirio, which was established in 2006, has 1,250 employees worldwide, including in Jaipur. The acquisition is expected to close at the end of the year.
By buying Appirio, Wipro hopes to be positioning itself to cash in better on the opportunities in the so-called cloud, where software services are delivered remotely from data centres using the internet. Enterprises are increasing adopting cloud technologies to cash in on the ease of deploying sophisticated solutions as well as cost advantages, and as they do so companies such as Appirio can help move applications to the cloud. Wipro will consolidate its existing cloud applications practices of CRM software from Salesforce and HR software from Workday under the Appirio brand and structure. Appirio CEO Chris Barbin will run the combined cloud services business.
In April, Appirio fended off rumours of a sale saying that it was working towards an IPO. Its clients include Starbucks, NYSE Euronext, Honeywell, AIG-Edison, Toyota and Facebook.
In a blog post on the Appirio site, Barbin said the acquisition made sense for his company because the combination could offer more technologies and put it in a better position to take on competition such as Accenture and Deloitte. Also helping was the fact that Wipro's offerings will now be under the Appirio brand.
Appirio does not disclose its revenue but the Indianapolis Business Journal said the company pulled in $200 million in revenue last year.It had raised about $111 million from investors.
Reuner added that having Barbin stay on as head of the business, and reverse-integrating Wipro's cloud offerings into Appirio was a sign of how important Wipro felt the deal was. Appirio is Wipro's fourth acquisition since April 2015.
In February 2016, Wipro had acquired Florida-based technology firm Healthplan Services for $460 million.
Before that Wipro bought Denmark-based Designit for 85 million euro and German IT consulting firm Cellent AG for 73.5 million euros. Its $130 million acquisition of Viteos Group was cancelled due to delays in closing the transaction.

Rita Bahuguna Joshi joins BJP

Veteran Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi, the party's Uttar Pradesh chief in the last assembly polls, on Thursday joined the BJP in the presence of Amit Shah.She accused Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi of running down the grand old party and gave it as the reason for her party switch.
Joshi told reporters at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday that she quit Congress earlier in the day and sent her resignation as MLA from the Lucknow Cantonment seat to the UP assembly Speaker. Though BJP played up her entry into the party , Joshi, a known Brahmin face and daughter of former UP CM Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, has little mass base outside her constituency .
“My decision to quit the Congress was not easy... I spent 24 of my 27 years in politics in the Congress. For a short period I was in the Samajwadi Party... I have been very dismayed with the recent conduct of the Congress,“ Bahuguna told reporters.She referred to the surgical strikes and the “khoon ki dalali“ remarks made by Rahul Gandhi against the BJP .
Bahuguna hailed the surgical strikes and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to give the Army the go-ahead to do it. “I was unhappy that a national political party like the Congress was making such statements about the surgical strikes. I had expressed my ire on this attitude on twitter and stated that we should celebrate it,“ she said.
The former Allahabad mayor was reportedly disappointed with the Congress brass after former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who was married into the prominent Brahmin family of Uma Shankar Dikshit, was made the CM candidate.She felt sidelined and was persuaded by her brother Vijay Bahuguna, who had jumped ship some months back, to join the BJP .
Rita Bahuguna took potshots at political strategist Prashant Kishor as well. Holding Kishor responsible for the recent decisions in the Congress, Bahuguna said he had become a “director“ which is not acceptable.

Debit Card Data Theft

The Government and the Reserve Bank of India swung into action as the country's biggest banks scrambled to reassure account holders that their money was safe after 3.2 million debit cards were found to be at risk from fraudsters who'd stolen vital data that could allow them to siphon off funds. Concerns are being raised as to why banks, which came to know of the problem six weeks ago, didn't alert the authorities or act with greater urgency.
RBI directed banks trying to plug India's biggest such data theft to submit a report on the magnitude of the security breach at their ATMs, pending a forensic report that's expected by the end of the month. The finance ministry has asked for a detailed report from RBI and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) about the debit card information breach.
NPCI is the nodal agency that connects the country's ATMs and runs the RuPay gateway .
While there's no estimate of how much money may have been stolen, banks were tipped off to the threat as much as six weeks ago when customer complaints first came in about unauthorised transactions overseas. Although the thefts may have been restricted to a few thousand cards, the security breach at a payment gateway believed to have been caused by a malware infection potentially exposed deposits amounting to hundreds of crores. Sources said banks that failed to act in time may face penalties. NPCI suggested however that the scale of the thefts that did occur was relatively minor.
The banks, NPCI, Visa and MasterCard all said their systems weren't breached.Some said information may have been compromised when customers used ATMs that didn't belong to the respective banks. RBI has had a “couple of conversations“ with YES Bank, which uses Hitachi Payment Services, where the breach is said to have originated from, people with knowledge of the matter said.YES Bank and Hitachi Payment Services however denied the malware infection took root in their systems.
Details of more than 3.2 million debit cards of State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, YES Bank, Axis Bank and others were compromised. NPCI and the banks admitted to the breach though the information the banks were willing to share was minimal.
The breach came to the notice of bankers in September when customers began calling service centres complaining about transactions in China, the US, Indonesia and Russia.

Avian flu scare grows in Delhi

Fears of bird flu spreading beyond the Delhi zoo grew, with the government confirming that at least nine birds were found dead in the city over the past 48 hours. These included five at the Deer park in south Delhi's Hauz Khas, which has been shut for visitors. Two more birds also died at the zoo, which has been shut since Tuesday following confirmation of three H5N1 or avian flu deaths. Samples of six-seven other birds that died earlier have been sent for testing.
Elsewhere, three crows were found dead in Sunder Nagar, less than 1 km from the zoo, and at least one bird death was reported from Asola Bhatti sanctuary in Tughlaqabad, a known nesting site for migratory birds.
Delhi development minister Gopal Rai said three ducks were found dead at the same spot in the deer park on Wednesday and two more migratory birds died on Thursday , raising suspicion that the deaths could've been caused by bird flu.“We've asked for the park to be closed indefinitely and find out if more deaths are taking place,“ he said.


Domestic Air Traffic Grows

Air traffic in India continued to grow with airlines carrying 72.7 million passengers from January to September, up 23% over last year. Traffic for the month of September grew 24% to 8.3 million.
India has been beating the world in terms of domestic traffic growth, pushed by a growing economy and the burgeoning middle class. In a passenger forecast issued on Tuesday, IATA said India will become the third-largest aviation market in the world by displacing the UK in 2026.
For the month of September, IndiGo remained the market leader, attaining a market share of 40%.

Mumbai Metro V, VI get nod

Work on Metro V and VI is expected to start in 2018, as Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has approved the projects.
The Thane-Bhiwandi-Kalyan Metro V and Lokhandwala-Jogeshwari-Vikhroli-Kanjurmarg Metro VI projects will now be placed before the state cabinet for approval following which, tenders will be invited for the same.
Fadnavis said that with the approval of these two new corridors, the state government has cleared close to 170 kilometres of Metro networks in the city in just two years. “The previous government took 8 years to approve 10 km of Metro network but now, with this, we have approved 13 times more network in just two years,“ said Fadnavis. He added that all the projects will be started by 2018 and completed within 4 years of starting.
The CM said that a Detailed Project Report (DPR) will be prepared to connect Dahisar to Mira Road via the Metro. The stretch between Mira Road and Virar has witnessed boom in population due to cheaper housing options.
However, this has led to overcrowded trains, which in turn, has increased the number of incidents of people falling down from over crowded compartments The 24-km long Thane-Bhiwandi-Kalyan Metro V corridor will have 17 stations while the 14.5-km long Lokhandwala-Jogeshwari-Vikhroli-Kanjurmarg Metro VI corridor will have 13 stations.
Sources said that Metro VI, a crucial East-West corridor, will help decongest JVLR, SV Road and Link road. Both Metro V and VI will also take load of suburban railway systems on CR as well as WR.
The Rs 259-crore project for widening the rail overbridge at Kopri, Thane (east) was also approved by MMRDA. He said, “The existing 2+2 lane bridge will give way to a new 4+4 lane bridge with service roads.
The Chief Minister also launched the logo conceptualized for Mumbai Metro Corridors.

MakeMyTrip - Ibibo merge

Two of India's biggest online-focused travel groups, MakeMyTrip and Ibibo Group, are merging in an all-stock deal. The alliance will create a mega entity that will control a fifth of the lucrative airline booking market and also have significant shares in the bus and hotel bookings, and ride-sharing spaces.
The merged entity will operate as MakeMyTrip. The deal size was not disclosed. But the companies said South Africa's Naspers and China's Tencent, the joint owners of Ibibo Group, will become the single largest shareholder in MakeMyTrip, owning a 40% stake. MakeMyTrip's share price on the Nasdaq, where it is listed, soared by 44% soon after the deal was announced. Analysts estimate that Ibibo was valued at about $400-700 million.
The merged entity will make the going tough for rivals Cleartrip and Yatra. MakeMyTrip has been the strongest player in the online airline ticketing space. Ibibo's core strength, too, is airline ticketing, but it has a particularly strong presence in online bus ticketing, following its acquisition of redBus in 2013. All the merged entity's brands together processed 34.1 million transactions in FY 2016.
Deep Kalra, who founded MakeMyTrip in 2000 with Ramesh Magow, said all the entities including MakeMyTrip, redBus and Goibibo -the Ibibo Group portal -will retain their individual identities and will play to their strengths. He said there is also scope for many synergies. “MakeMyTrip is strong in the air-ticketing and branded 5-4-3 star hotel-booking space, while Goibibo is strong in the budget accommodation space. One of the strategies that could play out is: A lot of bus travellers that redBus has would prefer accommodation offered by our recently launched brand Rightstay that includes villas, cottages, bungalows and apartments. You will see a lot of such interesting synergies unfolding going forward,“ he said.
Less than a year ago, it looked like MakeMyTrip and Ibibo were preparing for a big battle with each other. In January , the former had raised $180 million from Ctrip, one of China's largest online travel companies. A month later, Ibibo raised $250 million from Naspers and Tencent. But clearly , the two realized at some point that it was a battle that neither might win.

Aviation Forecast

In 10 years, the Indian aviation market will be the third largest in the world, overtaking that of the UK, according to an International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecast.But given the infrastructure constraints plaguing the Indian aviation industry , how much of this growth will materialise remains to be seen, aviation experts are saying.
IATA represents 265 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic. Globally, IATA expects 7.2 billion passengers to fly in 2035, which is almost double of the current 3.8 billion passenger traffic.Its 20-year forecast analysed fundamental drivers of travel demand to identify major air traffic trends for the next 20 years. Passenger demand was predicted by looking at factors like the emerging middle-class, diverging demographics and liberalisation of aviation markets.
But aviation experts reckon infrastructure constraint is a major hurdle as far as Indian aviation is concerned and it can play spoilsport. A prime example of this is the congested Mumbai airport. The sole airline passenger airport of the commercial capital of the country handled 41million passengers last fiscal. The airport's declared design capacity is 40 million passengers per year.
The IATA forecast, too, highlighted the role that in frastructure would play .
The biggest driver of demand will be the Asia-Pacific region. China will displace the US as the world's largest aviation market (defined by traffic to, from and within the country) around 2029.
India will displace the UK for third place in 2026, while Indonesia enters the top 10 at the expense of Italy. Over the past decade the developing world's share of total passenger traffic has risen from 24% to nearly 40%, and this trend is set to continue. Routes to, from and within Asia-Pacific will see an extra 1.8 billion annual passengers by 2035, for an overall market size of 3.1 billion. Its annual average growth rate of 4.7% will be the second-highest, behind West Asia.

Arihant set to complete India's nuclear triad

India is finally close to operationalising its long-awaited nuclear weapons triad--the capability to fire nukes from land, air and sea. Although the land-based Agni ballistic missiles as well as fighter bombers configured to deliver nuclear weapons have been available for long, the triad's missing third and most potent sea leg has been a big operational gap till now.
The country's first indigenously-constructed nuclear submarine INS Arihant (which means annihilator of enemies), propelled by an 83 MW pressurised light-water reactor at its core, was commissioned into service in August after extensive sea trials since December 2014.
INS Arihant's 750 km and 3,500 km missiles may be somewhat dwarfed by SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles) with ranges of well over 5,000 km with the US, Russia and China, but the completion of the nuclear triad is critical for a country like India with a clear declared policy of “no first-use“ of nuclear weapons.It makes its second strike capability much more credible.
A pre-emptive enemy strike can conceivably take out a rival's nuclear missiles and fighter bombers. That is why an SSBN, capable of prowling under water for months without being detected, is considered the most effective and deadly platform for a retaliatory nuclear strike.
The 6,000-tonne submarine is, however, “not yet fully ready“ to be deployed for “deterrent patrols“ with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles in its four silos. INS Arihant has undergone a whole host of surface and “dived“ sorties during its trials to prove its sea-worthiness. But the full weapons integration with the “K“ (named after former president APJ Abdul Kalam) series of SLBMs will take some more time. While the K-15 SLBM has a 750-km range, the K-4 can go up to 3,500-km.
INS Arihant is the first of three such SSBNs (nuclear-powered submarines with long range nuclear ballistic missiles) being constructed under the secretive ATV (advanced technology vessel) programme launched decades ago. The construction of the second one, INS Aridhaman, is also almost complete now, with its delivery slated for 2018.
Apart from both Pakistan and China having largely ambiguous nuclear weapons policies, the growing presence of Chinese nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean region has become a major source of concern for the Indian security establishment over the last couple of years. The criticality of SLBMs for deterrence can be gauged from the fact that even the US and Russia are ensuring that almost two-thirds of the strategic warheads they eventually retain under strategic arms reduction agreements are such missiles.
India does currently operate a nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra, acquired on a 10-year lease from Russia, while negotiations are underway to acquire another such vessel soon. These submarines do have conventional cruise missiles and other weapons but are not armed with nuclear missiles because of international treaties. Only INS Arihant can complete India's nuclear triad.