Fitch Cuts FY17 Growth Forecast to 6.9%

Fitch Ratings today lowered India's GDP growth forecast for the current fiscal to 6.9% from 7.4%, saying there will be “temporary disruptions“ to economic activity post demonetisation.It said economic activity will be hit in the October-December quarter because of the cash crunch created by withdrawal and replacement of 500 and 1000 rupee notes that accounted for 86% of the value of currency in circulation. The ratings agency al so revised GDP growth forecast for 2017-18 and 2018-19 lower to 7.7% from 8% earlier.
Regarding currency ban, it said consumers do not have the cash needed to complete purchases, and there have been reports of supply chains being disrupted and farmers unable to buy seeds and fertiliser for the sowing season. 

Pollution abatement of rivers Mula-Mutha in Pune

The Maharashtra state cabinet has approved the Rs.990.26 crore Mula-Mutha river restoration project. Called `Pollution abatement of rivers Mula-Mutha in Pune', it will be the biggest sewage treatment and river restoration project sanctioned under the National River Conservation Plan.
The project will receive 85% funding (Rs.841.72 crore) from the Union government, while the Pune Municipal Corporation will have to make a provision of Rs.148.54 crore.
While approving the project, the state made it clear that it will not shoulder responsibility of any additional expenditure which is not mentioned in the proposal and clarified that the civic body will have to bear the same.
The project was approved in 2015 during a meeting of officials from the Union government, PMC and the Japan international cooperation agency . The agency will give loan to the Union government which will then be transferred to the PMC as grant.
The project aims to treat city's sewage and restrict its direct release into the rivers.Major works under the project include 100% treatment of sewage, installation of sewage treatment plants, construction of toilets to stop open defecation, setting up a botanical garden and creating awareness among citizens to keep rivers free of pollution.The project is expected to be completed by January 2022.
The civic body will establish a dedicated cell for implementation of the project and conduct a third party audit of the works to be taken up under the project.
The project was recently discussed in PMC's general body meeting wherein the corporators of Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress expressed strong disappointment over the delay in release of funds for the project by the state government.
The Central Pollution Control Board has identified the two rivers among the 302 polluted rivers in the country.
The major components proposed under the project include construction of 11 sewage treatment plants, which will result in creation of an additional treatment capacity of 396 MLD over the existing treatment capacity of 477 MLD, laying of 113.6 km of sewerage lines and renovation of four existing intermediate pumping stations. Once the project is completed, the total STP capacity available in Pune will be 873 MLD, which will be sufficient to treat sewage generated in the city till 2027.

Bill to tax black money pushed through in LS

It took barely 20 minutes for the Lok Sabha to pass amendments to tax black money deposits at 50% and set up a special fund for welfare schemes as the opposition's demand that demonetisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes be discussed first were firmly overruled by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
The Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed by voice vote amid din as the opposition protested the government's refusal to accept an adjournment motion on demonetisation and the Speaker rejected their amendments and said the bill needed to be passed in view of its importance. “It is impossible to hold a debate due to the behaviour of opposition members,“ Mahajan said while putting the bill to vote.
Speaking on the bill, finance minister Arun Jaitley said, “Our government has tried to cleanse politics as well as the economy ... the amendment has been introduced to see that maximum black money is brought into the mainstream.“
Opposition MPs like Trinamool's Saugata Roy criticised the government for introducing the amendment bill “stealthily“ and said they had not been given sufficient time to study its provisions and discuss the legislation.Congress's Mallikarjun Kharge accused the government of using its majority to “bulldoze“ legislation through Lok Sabha. Trinamool's Sudip Bandopadhyay said demonetisation and tax amendments could not be taken up at the same time. Later, Congress deputy chief whip K C Venugopal, said, “Passing such an important bill amid opposition protests without hearing their grave concerns sets a wrong precedent and is a violation of constitutional values.“
The government, however, accorded high priority to the amendment bill which states that those disclosing black money to banks will have to pay 50% tax, including surcharge and penalty . Of the remaining 50% of the money , they will get back 25% immediately and the other 25% will be returned after four years without interest.The amendment is seen as a bid to tap black money that the government fears will be “recirculated“ all over again.As the scheme legalises disclosed money , the government expects people to opt for the choice rather than deal with a new stash of unaccounted cash.
The money received will be deposited in the `PM Garib Kalyan Kosh' provisioned in the bill for the welfare of the poor. The bill will go to Rajya Sabha, where the ruling alliance lacks a majority but being a “money bill“, it can be deemed a law after a fortnight if the upper House does not clear it. While opposition MPs shouted slogans, Jaitley explained the significance of the bill as he said the government came across examples of people trying to exchange demonetised currency illegally. Jaitley explained that after the proposed amendment comes into force, those caught converting money illegally will have to cough up 60% plus penalties, amounting to 85%. “It will give means to the government to run schemes like Garib Kalyan Kosh... I urge the House to accept the amendments,“ he said.


The much awaited NAINA (Navi Mumbai Airport Influence Notified Area) project has finally been cleared by the state urban development department (UDD), signalling commencement of its first phase of development in 23 villages of Panvel taluka, covering 37 sq km. Developers and property agents in Navi Mumbai and Mumbai welcomed the move as it will open up a huge quantum of land for development. Cidco, the planning agency , will spend nearly Rs.12,600 crore over 10 years on infrastructural development within NAINA.
Navi Mumbai builders had objected to steep development charges proposed for buildings in NAINA.“The development charges have been reduced, as land ready-reckoner rates will be referred to for building projects, which are on the lower side,'' said Cidco spokesperson Mohan Ninave.
Ninave added that an attractive FSI of 1.7 to 2 will be offered to developers. He said 40% area will be reserved for basic city infrastructural development, including roads, recreational spaces, community centres and public amenities.

Mumbai's Eastern Waterfront update

A consortium, which includes a firm that designed the Sabarmati riverfront, will prepare the master plan for revamp of the eastern waterfront into a hub of tourism, recreation and entertainment under a self-financing model, to be executed via commercial exploitation of land. The consortium comprises Ahmedabad-based HPC Design, Unity Consultancy and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
With this development, the eastern waterfront project has officially kicked off. It was the consortium's concept plan that helped it bag the project. The consortium's appointment was cleared by the board of trustees of the Mumbai Port Trust (MBPT), which is vying to become the special planning authority for the project.
MBPT chairman Sanjay Bhatia said, “The consultants will start work on the draft master plan for 550 hectares within six months. While 300 hectares of this area is available, a detailed master plan for 165 hectares will be ready in nine months.“He further said that tenders will be floated thereafter to select construction firms for executing the plan.
The Union shipping ministry had appointed former MBPT chairperson Rani Jadhav to prepare a report for the revamp. Bhatia said, “Consultants will pick some suggestions made in the report to prepare the master plan. Thereafter, the plan will be sent to the BMC for its approval.“
MPBT wants the consultants to a create a landmark site with plazas, shopping arcades and a pedestrian and a bicycle friendly environment.
Bhatia said, “The entire revamp will be carried out on land where non-port activities are undertaken--that is, north of the Ferry Wharf.“ He added, “Since it is being carried out under the self-financing model, we will have monetize the land so that another central business district can come up on the lines of the Bandra-Kurla Complex.“
Smart technology would be used for operation and maintenance of infrastructure and allied facilities, environment-friendly initiatives such as zero discharge, recycling of waste, energy-efficient technology and world-class transport and logistical facilities.
Besides revamp of the port land, MBPT has come up with a Rs.150 crore plan for a cruise terminal with retail, restaurants and entertainment facilities.
It will also soon firm up plans for makeover of one of the city's oldest landmarks--Sassoon Dock in Colaba. MBPT plans to open up its space here for eateries that can turn this neighbourhood into a recreation zone.


One Last Chance

The government is providing yet another opportunity for people with black money to come clean at a total cost of 50% and having a quarter of their unaccounted wealth locked up for four years, warning that they'll be slapped with a penal 85% charge if they don't take advantage of this and get caught subsequently.
Income-tax law amendments have been moved to enable the window, which will involve the establishment of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, 2016, and allowing declarants to keep the source of funds deposited in banks from November 10 a secret if they use the option.
PM Narendra Modi had announced the demonetisation of Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 notes on November 8 as part of a campaign against black money, counterfeiting, corruption and terror financing. Banks started accepting deposits in old notes from November 10.
“Tax department will not ask for the source of funds deposited in banks... if the entire income is declared and 50% taxes paid on it,“ Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said.
The 50% levy is broken up into 30% tax, a 33% surcharge or cess on that tax and a 10% penalty .The scheme, to be notified after the passage of the Bill in Parliament and Presidential assent, has features almost similar to the recent Income Disclosure Scheme that provided immunity from prosecution as also provided assurance to not reveal identity of depositors.
Under the scheme, undisclosed income in the form of both cash and bank deposits can be declared. The move was prompted by a surge in deposits and a perceived ambiguity about applicable taxes.
The 33% surcharge will be called the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Cess while the 25% deposit will go into the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana. The money will be used for programmes dealing with irrigation, housing, toilets, infrastructure, primary education, health and livelihood.
Section 115BBE that deals with taxation and penalty of unexplained credit, investment, cash and other assets is also being made tighter to penalise those who do not come clean.
Under the proposed regime, in such cases a flat 60% tax plus a surcharge of 25% on that amount will be levied -making for a total of 75%. But the assessing officer is empowered to add a 10% penalty over and above this in certain situations, taking the total to 85% in such instances.
Currently , this Section provides for a flat tax of 30% plus surcharge and cess. For those caught with unaccounted income or assets during search and seizure, existing penalty provisions under Section 271AAB of the income-tax law are proposed to be amended to make them more stringent.
In cases where tax evasion is admitted, 60% levy will be charged (30% tax plus 30% penalty). In every other case, the levy will be 90% (30% tax plus 60% penalty). Currently , under this Section, penalty ranges from 10% to 60%.
Tax experts said possible misuse of penalty provisions seems to have prompted the amendments.
The general penalty provisions prescribe taxes of 50% for under-reported income and 200% for misreported income.
However, the current general penalty provisions on under-reporting and misreporting will stay on the statute books as these will continue to apply in other situations.
The revenue secretary said deterrent provisions were necessary to persuade people to declare their black money. He said the proposed amendment cannot be termed retrospective as the financial year is still on and people have not filed returns.

Jio claims user base of over 5 crores

Reliance Jio has crossed 50 million subscriber base since its launch on September 1, claimed the company. Jio, which is offering free services till the year-end, also intensified its war against rival telcos Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular by filing a complaint against them before the Competition Commission of India (CCI). “We have crossed the 50million mark in a record 83 days. The current rate of growth translates into acquiring around 6 lakh customers on a daily basis,“ a company official said. This also makes Jio with the largest number of 4G subscribers, ahead of the rivals.
In its complaint to CCI, Reliance Jio accused Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular of acting as a cartel. The move to CCI is seen as Jio's attempt to push forward its argument that there were attempts to disrupt its launch.


Rupee Watch

Export statz

Of Domestic air passenger growth....

India’s domestic air passenger traffic grew 23.3% to 8.6 million in October. This is the 12th straight month where growth has exceeded 20%, analysts at Motilal Oswal Securities Ltd pointed out. IndiGo led with a 46% growth, followed by SpiceJet at 24.4%. Likewise, the industry’s load factor, or capacity utilization, has exceeded 80% in the past 13 months.

Gold prices tumble

Gold prices tumbled to nine-and-a-half month lows on Friday, and ended with a third consecutive weekly decline as investors sold on factors including expectations of a US interest rate rise. Spot gold closed at $1,183.9 an ounce, its lowest since 8 February, as funds took profits on short positions. The precious metal has fallen about 7% so far in November, leaving it on track for its largest monthly fall since June 2013.

Of FPI selling in equities....

Selling by foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) in November is set to be the highest in the past 15 months. So far this month, FPIs have been net sellers of equities worth Rs.14,896 crore, higher than the net sales of Rs.11,471 crore when the markets corrected in January this year. They have been net sellers in each of the trading sessions since the demonetisation announcement on 8 November.

Delhi dislodges Mumbai as India's economic capital

Delhi has knocked out Mumbai as the economic capital of India, taking the 30th spot among the top 50 metropolitan economic entities globally in 2015, as per the latest data put out by Oxford Economics. Mumbai is ranked 31st in the list.
Oxford Economics said the Delhi Extended Urban Agglomeration (EUA) consisting of Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Noida and Ghaziabad had a GDP of $370 billion, in terms of purchasing power parity .By comparison, the GDP of Mumbai EUA (Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Vasai-Virar, Bhiwandi and Panvel) was pegged at $368 billion.
What's more, Oxford Economics said Mumbai is unlikely to edge out Delhi as India's economic capital in the foreseeable future. The global advisory firm's forecast for 2030 shows both cities moving up the list of top metropolitan economies, with Delhi predicted to be at 11th spot and Mumbai holding the 14th position.
However, Mumbai EUA with a lower population still scores over Delhi EUA in per capita terms. An analysis of Oxford Economics figures puts Mumbai per capita GDP (PPP) at $16,881 while it's $15,745 for Delhi.
Oxford Economics' definition of Mumbai EUA makes it roughly but not exactly correspond to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), while the Delhi EUA is much smaller than the National Capital Region.
Maharashtra Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis rejected the notion that Delhi's GDP had gone ahead of Mumbai.

Towards a Cashless Society

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a staunch defence of his demonetisation drive, saying people have wholeheartedly accepted the anti-black money initiative and understood the “path of truth“ in the national interest despite initial difficulties and efforts to misguide them.
“Our dream is that there should be a cashless society. It is correct that 100% cashless society is never possible. But we can make a start with less-cash society, then cashless society will not be a far-off destination,“ Modi said in his monthly Mann Ki Baat address on Sunday, appealing to youths to help in nation-building by teaching 10 families daily how to conduct cashless transactions through mobile apps, mobile banking and debit/credit cards.
In a reference to the deaths on account of the move, Modi said sometimes “disturbing incidents“ have come to light. The prime minister had announced that Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes would cease to be legal tender on November 8 with some exemptions. The move was aimed at ending corruption, counterfeiting and terror financing.
“I knew that people would face new kinds of difficulties in their normal lives,“ he said. “The decision is so big that it would take 50 days for us to emerge out of its impact and move towards normalcy. The whole world is looking at the decision minutely and economists are analysing it. There may be a question mark in the world's mind but India has faith and confidence in its citizens that we will emerge glowing like gold from fire.“
Some economists have said the move will take a toll on the economy while Modi's predecessor Manmohan Singh said it would erode GDP by at least 2 percentage points.


Top 3 Economic Reforms: Ratan Tata

Industrial conglomerate Tata Sons interim chairman Ratan Tata said the government's demonetisation programme is among the “three most important economic reforms in India's history“ and needs the nation's support for implementation. “Demonetisation is amongst the three most important economic reforms in India's history , along with delicensing and GST (Goods and Services Tax),“ Tata tweeted.
“The Prime Minister's recent focus on mobile and digital payments will also greatly facilitate the transition from a cash-driven economy to cashless economy , which, in the long term, will enormously benefit the poor and the underprivileged,“ he added.
In its bid to curb black money economy , the Indian government on Nov 8 demonetised Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes. “The parallel black money economy in India has fueled tax evasion, money laundering and corruption. The Prime Minister has displayed enormous courage in waging war on the black market economy in the country through the implementation of a major demonetisation programme,“ Tata said. “The government's firm resolve to fight and eliminate black money needs the support and cooperation of all like-minded citizens of India who would like to see a more equitable distribution of the nation's resources in a new India of tomorrow, based on merit and equal opportunity,“ he added.
In one of his earlier tweets on November 24, Tata suggested the government to use special relief measures to ease the daily hardship faced by the poorer sections of society due to the demonetisation drive. According to Tata, the present note ban implementation is said to be causing great hardship to the common man.

Of Asia's first cycle highway....

Uttar Pradesh now has Asia's first cycle highway . The 207 km-long cycle highway runs between Etawah and Agra and was declared open on Saturday . A rally of 90 cyclists from India and five other countries followed the inauguration ceremony at the Lion Safari in Etawah.
Constructed by the UP public works department, the cycle highway runs parallel to the main highway . A divider in between ensures the safety of cyclists. Along the way from Etawah to Agra, it dots 92 villages.
Built at a cost of Rs.133.78 crore, the UP government views this as a major initiative to boost eco-tourism in the state.The CM had announced his `dream' project in December 2015. The two-metre-wide highway which ends at Taj's east gate passes by many waterbodies, canals, gardens and historical sites like Raja Bhoj ki Haveli, Bateshwar Shiva temples, Sauripur Jain temples, Jarar Chambal Safari and Nand Gaon.The track criss-crosses the natural beauty of the Chambal and Yamuna rivers.


MMRDA fast­tracks 2 Metro corridors, trans ­harbour link

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) appointed a consortium of Aecom Asia Co. Ltd, Dar Al-Handasah and T Y Lin International as the general consultants for the 22-km long Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) on Friday .
The MMRDA’s executive committee, headed by chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya, gave its administrative approval for the consultants to be appointed.
The consultants will help the MMRDA secure various clearances from government and semi-government agencies, examine the concept design and monitor construction of big ticket infrastructure project.
US-based Aecom — a multinational engineering firm — specialises in designs, consulting, construction solutions, and has been involved with several infrastructure projects in the US. San Francisco-based T Y Lin International specialises in the design of long-span bridges and specialty structures.
The executive committee also approved a provision of Rs.340 crore to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for the implementation of the two Metro rail corridors in the city.
MMRDA officials said the provision was approved for the commissioning of rolling stock, signalling and telecommunication work for the Dahisar to DN Nagar (Metro-2A) and Dahisar East to Andheri East (Metro-7) corridors.

Nalanda chancellor quits

Nalanda University chancellor George Yeo resigned on Friday, saying that the varsity's autonomy was being affected as he was “not even given notice“ of the change in the governing board that was announced on Monday. “The circumstances under which the leadership change in Nalanda University has been suddenly and summarily effected is disturbing and possibly harmful to the university's development,“ Yeo said in a statement to members of the earlier board of the university.
Yeo is a former foreign minister of Singapore and India might have to expend some diplomatic capital to smooth things with the city state, one of India's closest international partners.
The board was reconstituted by President Pranab Mukherjee as its visitor on November 21. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen's long association with Nalanda University, which he had helped set up, was ended when the board was reconstituted on November 21. “It is puzzling why I, as chancellor, was not even given notice of it. When I was invited to take over the responsibility from Amartya Sen last year, I was repeatedly assured that the university would have autonomy. This appears not to be the case now.Accordingly, and with deep sadness, I have submitted my letter of resignation as chancellor to the visitor,“ George Yeo said.
Yeo also clashed with the government on the reappointment of vice-chancellor Gopa Sabharwal. He had approved an extension to her tenure until a new V-C was found. The government overruled that.The new governing board, which was announced earlier this week, only has one member, N K Singh, from the previous Nalanda mentor group .
Yeo, along with other members of the governing board, wanted the Nalanda Act to be amended to broaden participation of other East Asian countries, apart from those which had contributed financially. “For reasons not entirely clear to me, the government of India has decided to form the new governing board with immediate effect before the act is amended,“ Yeo said. The amended act, he said, would have removed a “major flaw“ .

Aadhaar Helpline

National Milk Day


Rupee hits all-time low of 68.86

The rupee hit an all-time low of 68.86 against the US dollar which has been surging on the back of expectations that US President-elect Donald Trump may announce a fiscal stimulus to boost the US economy . Adding pressure to Indian forex markets was the realization that there would be short-term negative impact on growth due to demonetisation.Continuous selling by foreign funds in the Indian markets too weighed on the domestic currency , economists said.
The rupee, however, gained in the afternoon trade and closed at 68.75 to a dollar, weaker by 18 paise from its Wednesday close. The intra-day trend reversal was attributed to RBI's intervention that sold sold dollars.
Trump's victory has led to expectations that the US will follow a growth-oriented policy by boosting government spending. This has resulted in a surge in US treasury yields resulting in funds flowing out of emerging markets to US treasuries. The Malaysian ringgit on Thursday fell to levels last reached after the Asian Currency crisis in 1998. Among other currencies, the Indonesian Rupiah, the Korean Won and Chinese Yuan also weakened.The yuan saw its sharpest monthly drop since August 2015.
Deutsche Bank has said that the rupee could sink to the 70-level by end-December. HSBC lowered its forecast to 68 for December and a further fall to 69.5 in 2017, which is also the level DBS India has predicted. Until US Fed's rate hike meeting (on December 13-14), DBS India expected the rupee to remain under pressure.
According to Vaidya, demonetisation has not done any harm to the rupee and the weakness in the Indian currency is due to a stronger dollar. The surge in deposits with banks had made India more resilient than other countries for some time but when markets realized that growth would be hit in the short-term, there was a correction, Vaidya said.
Despite the weakening forex dealers are saying that the domestic currency is far more resilient compared to the days of “taper tantrums“ in 2013 when the rupee was last seen around current levels.

Manmohan dubs demonetisation as a Monumental management failure

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh slammed the demonetisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes as “monumental mismanagement“ that might dent GDP by 2%, prompting finance minister Arun Jaitley to hit back, saying that the maximum black money was generated during Singh's tenure as PM.
Singh made an unusual intervention in the Rajya Sabha, saying the deaths of people and distress among the poor, farmers and small traders had convinced him that demonetisation had led to “organised loot and legalised plunder“. “Every day the banking system comes up with new rules. It reflects very poorly on the PMO, the finance minister's office and RBI.“ The sharp attack saw Jaitley, who has usually avoided joining issue with Singh, reminding him of scams under the UPA.
“Those who did not consider the generation of so much black money and scams during their regime as a blunder are now finding the crusade against black money a blunder,“ he said and rejected the claim that GDP growth would drop by 2% and accused the opposition of avoiding a debate.
In the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley and Prime Minister Narendra Modi heard Singh's seven-minute intervention in which he urged the government to find practical ways to give relief to a majority of people who are suffering and pointed out that 60 to 65 people had already lost their lives due to the move.
Reminding the government that 90% of the workforce was in the informal sector and 55% of those in agriculture were in distress, Singh said, “These measures convince me that the way the scheme has been implemented, it is a monumental management failure and, in fact, it is a case of organised loot and legalised plunder of the common people.“
Singh, who has also been finance minister and RBI governor, said, “The national income, that is the GDP of the country, can decline by about two percentage points as a result of what has been done. This is an underestimate, not an overestimate.“
Noting that demonetisation could weaken and erode people's confidence in the currency and banking system, Singh quoted John Maynard Keynes to counter Modi's appeal to the people to bear with him for 50 days. “Those who say demonetisation is good in the long run should recall the quote: `In the long run we are all dead'.“


Post-demonetisation GDP growth forecasts cut

Deposit Growth

The sharp increase of Rs.4.8 lakh crore in aggregate deposits in September over the previous month is unusual -even after netting out all big one-time payouts: 7th Pay Commission award, spectrum auction and food & fertiliser subsidy. Here's a chart showing y-o-y deposit growth in the last 3 years...

Zee Buys Anil Ambani's Radio, TV Ops

After months of speculation and on-again, off-again talks, Zee Group has acquired the radio and TV businesses of Reliance Capital in a Rs.1,900 crore deal. The Anil Ambani company will use the proceeds to reduce its debt. As per the deal, Zee Media Corporation, which houses the Subhash Chandra-owned group's news channels, will acquire 49% stake in BIG FM, which has 45 operational licences and 14 new licences under phase III auctions.
Separately , Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL), which houses the group's national and regional entertainment TV channels, will buy 100% stake in Reliance's general entertainment business.
RBNL will transfer the FM licences to two special purpose vehicles (SPVs) along with assets and liabilities. Zee Media will acquire 49% in each of these SPVs and both the companies will have the option to acquire the remaining 51% after the lock-in provisions for the licences expire.


No more Swiss Secrets

India and Switzerland have signed an agreement for automatic exchange of information, marking another step in addressing the menace of black money stashed abroad. New Delhi, after September 2019, will be able to access transactions done by Indians in Swiss banks from 2018 onwards, allowing the government to know the identities of those hiding wealth in Switzerland. The information will be available for 2018 and subsequent years on an automatic basis. However, details of Swiss accounts held by Indians prior to 2018 will not be shared.
At the end of 2015, over Rs.8,000 crore of Indian money was parked in Swiss banks, down from over Rs.12,300 crore a year ago.
In a statement, finance ministry said it would now be possible for India to receive, September 2019 onwards, financial information of accounts held by Indian residents in Switzerland for 2018 and subsequent years on an automatic basis.
India has already enacted a tough foreign black money law that can penalise any undeclared foreign asset with imprisonment of up to 10 years and effective confiscation of the asset. It had offered a one-time chance to people to come clean under which Rs.4,147 crore was declared.
The India-Switzerland `Joint Declaration' signed here says that both the countries would start collecting data in accordance with global standards in 2018 and exchange it from 2019. India has promised to keep the data confidential.
Swiss Federal Department of Finance said the signing of the declaration with India confirmed Switzerland's international commitment to implementing the automatic exchange of Information (AEOI) standard.
Swiss banks have been synonymous with black money in India with their secrecy laws making it difficult to get information on any Indian money parked there. Switzerland has relented on the secrecy laws following a global campaign against illicit funds and tax havens.
The agreement does not talk about exchange of information based on stolen data or pending requests from India. India has a list of 628 names that had accounts in HSBC's Geneva branch. The list was provided to India in 2011 by the French government. Estimates of Indian money in Swiss banks is based on the estimates of their liability to Indian nationals. Not all the Indian money in Swiss banks is illegal as the RBI allows Indians to have foreign accounts.

Ratan Tata Tweets His Support

Ratan Tata, interim chairman of Tata Sons, voiced his support for the demonetisation efforts by the government. In his tweet, Tata said: “Demonetisation of old currency notes by the Modi government is a bold act that will wipe out black money and corruption. It deserves our support.“
This is the second time in the last few weeks that Tata has engaged with the public. The earlier one was on Saturday during the Global Citizen Festival where he pledged Rs.300 crore from Tata Trusts for water and sanitation in Maharashtra. Music band Coldplay performed in this festival as well. Tata Trusts owns festival as well. Tata Trusts ow two-thirds of Tata Sons and Ratan Tata continues to head it.
In the last one month Tata group has seen a rift between its former chairman Cyrus Mistry and the group which has led to one of the biggest battles seen in boardrooms of India Inc.


Longest e-way opens in UP

UP Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Monday inaugurated the Agra-Lucknow greenfield expressway , dedicating the project to his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, on the eve of the Samajwadi Party chief' 77th birthday .
The project has achieved many milestones -it is the longest greenfield expressway project in the country built in a record 23 months from inception. What added to the big achievement was three Sukhoi and three Mirage fighter jets of IAF landing on the expressway to mark its official launch.
Inaugurating the project, Mulayam congratulated officials for completing the 302 km six-lane expressway in less than two years and said he was hopeful all government projects were executed with the same alacrity and efficiency .
Akhilesh, who said roads had built America, not the other way around, added that the expressway would serve as a model for the entire country to emulate.
Addressing the crowds at Bangarmau, Akhilesh also attacked the move to demonetise Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes. Akhilesh said: “When the new currency notes reaches the market, neither corruption nor black money will stop. A government that makes people unhappy will be shown the door.“
The CM also said the ruling party was now focused on reaching its next milestone, the Purvanchal highway , connecting one end of the state to the other.

Kanpur derailment toll rises to 146

The death toll in Sunday's Indore-Patna Express derailment in UP's Kanpur Dehat district rose to 146 even as Railways called off rescue and evacuation operations on Monday .
Hundreds of railway workers used heavy-duty cranes to remove mangled sleeper coaches S1, S2, S3 and S4, besides the AC-III (B3) bogey of the Patna-bound train. It was these five coaches that collided against each other, accounting for most of the casualties. The UP government lodged an FIR on Monday against “unidentified“ railway employees in connection with the accident.
Authorities, meanwhile, are trying to find out what exactly led to the tragedy. Many accident survivors had complained that it appeared that railway officials had overlooked safety concerns.
Some survivors said a coach had been making a lot of noise and that its wheels sounded like they were not functioning smoothly .
Railway personnel, assisted by the Army , National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the state police, carried out search and rescue operations overnight.Most of the bodies were taken for post-mortem examinations to Mati, in Kanpur Dehat, and the mortuary in Kanpur. NDRF 11 commandant Alok Kumar Singh said nearly 400 NDRF men toiled through Sunday night.
Over 200 people were injured in Sunday morning's tragedy when 14 coaches of the train bound for Patna skidded off the tracks, leaving hundreds of people trapped for hours between Pukhrayan and Malasa stations in Kanpur Dehat. Train services on the route would resume partially by Tuesday morning, railways officials said. North Central Railway general manager Arun Srivastava, however, said train traffic on the Kanpur-Jhansi section would be opened in 12 to 15 hours.

Oshiwara railway station to open this Sunday

This Sunday , Western Railway (WR) will get its 37th station on the suburban network at Oshiwara. “The Oshiwara station will be inaugurated by railway minster Suresh Prabhu. All slow corridor trains will halt at the station for a few minutes after it is officially declared open,“ said WR's divisional railway manager Mukul Jain.
WR runs a 120-km-long suburban network between Churchgate and Dahanu. Another senior official said, “ Apart from catering to slow corridor services, the station will also be used by trains running on Harbour line, whose extension work up to Goregaon is expected to be completed by March 31 next year. This will help decongest Andheri and Jogeshwari station.“
Oshiwara station was proposed between Jogeshwari and Goregaon under phase-I of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project. The station was expected to be completed by 2008 but was stalled due to protests by locals, who demanded a Road Over Bridge (ROB) as an alternative to the level-crossing gate.
The ROB work began in 2009 but the delay in construction meant that the level-crossing gate could not be closed and the platform work for the station could not be completed for years. The gate on the busy track had been affecting punctuality of trains.
Meanwhile, political parties, especially members of the BJP and the Shiv Sena, have demanded that the station be named Ram Mandir as the nearby area is known as Ram Mandir.


Valley gets a breather

It was business as usual in Kashmir on Saturday after 133 days of protests and strikes following the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani in July, with the separatists announcing a relaxation for the weekend.
Post-paid internet and customary activities resumed early in the morning as people took advantage of the relaxation offered by the separatists, who'd been petitioned by transporters' associations to ease the situation that was resulting in hardships due to financial losses.
All schools and educational institutions opened after four months -a period that also witnessed burning of over 30 schools by rioting mobs across the valley . Shops and business establishments in major markets, including Lal Chowk and Residency Road, buzzed with customers. Traffic snarls affected various parts of Srinagar city . The day was peaceful, police said. A senior separatist said, “The joint resistance group decided to call off the shutdown for two days at the request of public transporters who desperately need to earn their livelihood.“
Public transport, withdrawn for the last four months, was back even as the traffic police had a tough job manning the sudden rush of vehicles.
SSP (traffic) Fayaz Ahmad said police had made announcements about different routes for light and heavy vehicles on Friday itself to avoid jams on Saturday and Sunday . Authorities had also removed security forces from all the areas of the valley, including central Srinagar.
The separatists' protest weekly calendar has called for a complete shut down on Monday and Tuesday again, although there will be relaxation from 4pm on Wednesday and Thursday . After Friday night's lifting of the four-month-long ban on mobile internet for postpaid subscribers, IGP (Kashmir range) Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gilani said, “With the passage of time, services will be restored on prepaid mobiles also.“ Attendance in schools and colleges, however, was thin.While authorities attributed it to the cold weather, parents feared stone-pelter attacks on school buses and students. Altaf Ahmad of Ganderbal said: “I did not allow my two children to go to school as I apprehended trouble.“

Maharashtra targets 50 crore saplings by 2019

Intending to fight against global warming, climate change issues and to save the environment, the Maharashtra state government has decided to plant trees on a large scale. The government has set a target of 50 crore saplings to be planted over the next three years--from 2017 up to 2019.
A circular issued by the state finance department stated that 50 crore trees will be planted in the next three years. The circular also appealed to all other departments to join the initiative and to take care of maintaining a survival rate between 80% and 90%. Last year's drive by the state forest department resulted in planting 2.82 crore saplings across the state. The circular stated that the same initiative should continue further without a break. Last year, about 16 departments had participated in tree plantation and the government now expects about 33 departments to participate this time.
As regards the expenditure, the circular says that all departments should manage their expenditure from their sanctioned fund or can seek funding by means of corporate social responsibility . In the case of a financial crunch, the forest department may distribute saplings free of cost.
“Rain in various regions arrives after June 15.So all departments and gram panchayants should start their plantation programme, as per convenience, between June 15 and July 7 to complete the target of 50 crore,“ said principal secretary (finance) V Giriraj.
A senior official from the department said that the state has 20% under forest cover which aimed to increase up to 33% in the next three years.

Of Mumbai's Eastern Waterfront....

Six consortiums will on Tuesday unveil their plans to Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) for transforming the Eastern Waterfront into a hotspot for tourism and recreation.
MBPT has decided to have a Master Plan to utilize the part of the port land for other than portrelated activities. An MBPT spokesperson said, “There are aspirations of the city to meet its needs for lung space, marina, sea front walkways, promenades, water sports and plazas so that it can become an international destination for recreation, tourism along with mixed land use having world-class smart infrastructure.“
MBPT had invited bids from internationally technical consultants for the project. It has shortlisted six world-renowned bidders,which submitted the concept design and financial bid on November 15.
The presentation of the concept design is scheduled for November 22 and the successful bidder will be finalized by December.


Mumbai-Nagpur e-way update

With an aim to call for tenders by February and award contracts by May, the Maharashtra government will start the formal land acquisition for chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ pet project — Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway — on Monday.
The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), the implementing agency for the project, will start the joint measurement of 8,520 hectare land required for the road. It plans to complete the task within an ambitious time frame of less than three months. The corporation is racing to meet the chief minister’s onerous 2019 deadline for the project, which will cut the time required to travel between Nagpur, Fadnavis’ home town, and the state capital to eight hours from the current 16.
RL Mopalwar, vice-chairman and managing director of MSRDC, said, “We have had discussions with landowners informally, but the rules for land pooling were recently notified by the state government after which we are starting the formal process for land acquisition with the joint measurement. Informally, we have consent from land owners of about 2,000 hectare.”
The government will give land owners the choice of either land acquisition through land pooling,. where owners will receive compensation as well as a portion of the developed land, so that they can avail benefits of price appreciation brought by the expressway, or through a one-time compensation as per the Land Acquisition Act.
The joint measurement will be carried out by officials from the district collector’s office, MSRDC and the land owners together. It is only after this exercise that the MSRDC will get an idea of how many land owners are willing to opt for land pooling. The corporation has divided 300 people into 30 teams across the 10 districts for the joint measurement, Mopalwar said.
The MSRDC plans to start construction only once it has acquired 60% of land required for the highway, he added. The corporation will call for tenders on an engineering procurement contract model in multiple packages of 50 to 100 kms each. The state is in talks with the Asian Development Bank for funds.

Demonetisation: Timeline

India’s solar capacity tops 10GW

India’s total installed solar capacity, including rooftop and off-grid projects, has crossed 10 gigawatts (GW), according to Bridge To India, a renewable energy-focused consultancy and research firm.
The country has a target of setting up 100GW of solar energy capacity by 2022.
India is expected to add new solar capacity of 5.1GW this year, a growth of 137% over last year, Bridge To India said. It expects annual capacity addition of about 8-10GW from next year.
“The pace of sector activity has picked up tremendously in the last two years because of strong government support and increasing price competitiveness of solar power. India is expected to become the third biggest solar market from next year onwards, after China and the US,” the consultancy said in a statement.
Tamil Nadu has the highest installed solar energy capacity, followed by Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.
These seven states collectively account for more than 80% of the total installed capacity as of mid-November.
SoftBank Group, ReNew Power Ventures Pvt. Ltd, First Solar Inc., Tata Power Co. Ltd, Adani Power Ltd, CLP India and Fortum Oyj are some of the major solar project developers in India.
India raised its 2022 solar energy target fivefold to 100GW from an earlier target of 20GW as part of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s efforts to reduce dependence on coal-fuelled electricity. Of the planned 100GW capacity, 40GW has to come from rooftop solar projects and 60GW from grid-connected solar projects. India crossed 1GW in total installed rooftop capacity last month.
The government’s solar park scheme has been instrumental in tackling the two major hurdles of land acquisition and power evacuation for project development in the sector, Bridge To India said.

Demonetization to impact GDP

The scrapping of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes, which comprised about 86% of all cash in circulation, will put a dent in India's growth.  The most pessimistic view would possibly see India slipping back behind China and losing its title of fastest growing major economy in the world.
Brace for a slowdown in the remaining five months of FY17 as demand dries up in response to the lack of liquidity, but expect an equally strong rebound in a few quarters when the expected benefits of the move kick in, was the predominant view among analysts.
Most put the revised number at around 7% against earlier estimates of near 8%, an optimism that had been bolstered by good monsoons and a pay commission-led consumption boost. The Indian economy expanded 7.6% in FY16. The International Monetary Fund had put FY17 growth at the same level.China is likely to grow at 6.6% in 2016 and is expected to slow to 6.2% in 2017.
HDFC Bank expects India's GDP to grow at 7.3% versus the earlier estimate of 7.8%. CARE Ratings slashed its projection for gross value added (GVA) to 7.1-7.3% from 7.6%. Services will get hit the most in the December quarter on account of losses in trade, hotels and transport due to the volume of cash transactions involved in these activities.
ICRA cut its growth forecast by 40 basis points. It had earlier forecast GDP and GVA to grow 7.9% and 7.7%, respectively.
Investment bank Ambit Capital took a far bleaker view. It cut GDP growth estimates for FY17 to 3.5% from 6.8% earlier and for FY18 to 5.8% from 7.3%, even penciling in the possibility of a contraction in the ongoing third quarter.
Ambit said the cash crunch will paralyse economic activity in the short term.
An economist at one of the large private Indian banks said GVA growth could be as low as 7.1% with discretionary consumption to suffer a major blow due to the cash crunch.
Credit ratings firm Crisil earlier projected GDP to grow 7.5% but now expects a downside risk emanating from demonetisation.
HSBC expects an impact of up to one percentage point on growth.
Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das said it was too early to assess the impact of demonetisation.
The deceleration will push the government's ambitions of achieving 8% growth further out of reach.
Sen Gupta said the economy can at best grow at the same pace as last year, though it is more likely it will grow somewhere around 7.4%, slower than the 7.6% registered in the fiscal year ended March 2016. The biggest blow will be borne by services sector as people conserve cash rather than spend on travel, consumption or leisure activities.

While the short-term view is negative, most experts have a bullish view a year down the line from the boost to taxes and potentially lower interest rates and inflation.Ambit expects a 25-50 basis point reduction in interest rates in the second half of the current fiscal.

Pakistan has 140 nukes: US report

Pakistan is expanding its nuclear arsenal and has developed an estimated stockpile of 130-140 warheads for delivery as well as converting some of its fighter jets (including F-16s) to deliver nukes, the US' Bulletin of Atomic Scientists said in its latest report. Authored by Hans M Kristensen and Robert S Norris, the report says analysis of a large number of satellite images of the Pakistan army's garrisons and air force bases shows what seem to be mobile launchers and underground facilities that might be related to nuclear forces.
“Pakistan continues to expand its nuclear arsenal with more warheads, more delivery systems, and a growing fissile materials production industry ,“ said the report, which was released last month. “We estimate that Pakistan now has a nuclear weapons stockpile of 130-140 warheads. This stockpile exceeds the projection made by the US Defense Intelligence Agency in 1999 that Pakistan by 2020 would have 60-80 warheads.“
According to the scientists, with several delivery systems in development, four plutonium production reactors and its uranium enrichment facilities expanding, Pakistan's stockpile will possibly increase further over the next 10 years.
“Speculation that Pakistan may become the world's third largest nuclear weapon state -with a stockpile of some 350 warheads a decade from now -are, we believe, exaggerated, not least because that would require a buildup two to three times faster than growth over the past two decades,“ it said.
According to the report, Pakistan probably assigns a nuclear strike mission to select F-16AB and Mirage IIIV fighter squadrons.

Indira Gandhi: 100th birth anniversary

Ford to sell made-in-India Eco Sport in US

Ford Motor Co has decided to import made-in-Chennai Eco Sport SUV to the US from 2018. This is the first instance of an American automaker using India as a sole sourcing base for an individual model.
Ford has been exporting the India-made Eco Sport compact off-roader to a variety of countries across the world, but exports to the highly-evolved American market is certainly one of the biggest compliments to the quality of manufacturing at the Chennai plant. Recently , Maruti had also started export of the India-made Baleno hatchback to Japan, the home market of its parent Suzuki.
The compact SUV market in the US is dominated by models such as Honda HR-V , Jeep Renegade and the Chevrolet Trax and this segment has been growing by leaps and bounds over the last few years. “The current size of this category is around 300,000-3,50,000 units annually , and we expect this to double by 2018.“
The shipments to the US are likely to begin from early 2018 and a variety of changes have been made through a facelift in line with the requirements of the market.
As the India unit will begin exports to the US, Ford will discontinue shipments to western Europe. Eco Sport was launched in 2003 in Brazil, and was primarily targeted at emerging markets. A new-generation version was launched in India in 2013. The length was kept under four metres to avail lower excise duty rates.
Since its global launch in 2003, the company has sold nearly 1.3 million units across the world.Apart from Chennai, the Eco Sport is also manufactured in Brazil, China, Romania, Russia (through a joint venture) and Venezuela (through completely-knocked down kits).

Deposits in Banks have crossed Rs.4 lakh cr

Total deposit mobilisation by banks crossed Rs.4 lakh crore on November 14, according to the Indian Banks' Association. The amount is expected to have since gone up as State Bank of India, the country's largest lender, has seen “demonetisation deposits“ grow from Rs.1.04 lakh crore on November 14 to Rs.1.34 lakh crore at 4pm on November 18.
According to SBI chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya, a large part of the deposits would be withdrawn as depositors get back to spending. But 10-15% of the money that citizens have been forced to deposit in banks should stay back, she said.

INS Chennai

A Kolkata-class destroyer ship, INS Chennai, will be commissioned into the Indian Navy's combat fleet on Monday .
The indigenously built warship is the largest-ever warship to be built in India.Defence minister Manohar Parrikar will be commissioning the warship at the naval dockyard in Mumbai. “The ship is equipped with a decoy that can divert a missile attack. Nearly 60% of the ship was built at Mazagon Dock, while weapons and sensors were brought from Israel and Russia. Destroyers are second only to aircraft carriers in projecting raw combat power,“ said an official.
“The ship is designed to carry and operate up to two multi-role combat helicopters,“ said vice-admiral Girish Luthra (chief of naval command western command). Induction of INS Chennai, the third and last of the Kolkata-class destroyers, was built at Mazagon Docks for over Rs.4,000 crore a piece.
The warship will be the 10th destroyer in India's combat fleet. The Navy plans to become a 200-warship force with around 600 aircraft and helicopters by 2027.


Chidu on demonetisation

Somewhere in Surat....

Hike Plans to Add Payments

Hike is looking at introducing payments to its messaging platform, as it aims to become the default choice of app for consumers using 4G data, upstaging market leader WhatsApp in India.
India's first homegrown messaging platform is banking on its changed timeline and in-built camera, popular features on rival chat apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp, to raise its user base and daily engagement levels, which are critical requirements before it begins monetising in its largest market.
“Over time, it's natural for us to have shopping, I would be lying in 2016 that we're not going to do it.
I can't promise when but it's (payments) going to happen sooner or later,“ said Kavin Bharti Mittal, founder and CEO of Hike Messenger."Payments will be an enabler for making purchases across micro apps... end of next year you will see us talking much more about this side of the vision,“ he added.
Hike plans to integrate payments into the app, and will look at making the messenger as a platform for making purchases from the app, a model which has a resemblance with WeChat.

Rapid Shift to Digital Payments: Bill Gates

The world will go cashless and India will move quite rapidly to a digital payments economy, said billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gates, who co-runs the world's largest private foundation, believes digital transactions will be a game changer, reducing inflation, interest rates and transaction fees.

“Digital world lets you track things,“ said Gates, pointing out that Nordic countries use very little cash and are now moving debit cards to cell phones. “Once digital payment banks are enabled in India, which should be any day, as there are eight applications from companies like Paytm and Airtel, combined with other things like direct benefit transfers, universal payments interface and Aadhaar, I think India will go digital quite rapidly. And I think it will be incredibly beneficial,“ he added. On the government's decision to discontinue Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 notes, Gates said he is favour of digitisation. “That's a good thing to do,“ Gates told a group of journalists in New Delhi. “I have no opinion on demonetisation.You know what it is far better than I do.“
Technology titan Gates believes digitisation will be good for every sector -be it finance or healthcare. 



Moody’s Investors Service reaffirmed the lowest investment grade rating—Baa3—for India with a positive outlook, holding that the reform efforts of the government were yet to accelerate private investment
The rating update comes days after S&P Global Ratings kept its sovereign credit rating for India unchanged at the lowest investment grade—BBB- with a stable outlook— and ruled out an upgrade till 2017-end.
India has long held that such ratings are inherently biased against emerging economies and has put in efforts to form a BRICS-level sovereign rating agency without success.
Moody’s said it continues to believe that economic and institutional reforms introduced by the government will ensure India’s growth outperforms its peers over the medium term and that further improvements in its macroeconomic and institutional profile will be achieved.
Moody’s upgraded India’s rating outlook to positive from stable in April 2015 to reflect continuous focus on reforms by the government.
Moody’s said it would consider an upgrade upon seeing evidence that institutional strengthening will elicit sustained macroeconomic stability, higher levels of investment, more favourable fiscal dynamics as well as additional policy measures.
Moody’s lauded the centre’s broad range of policy measures that are conducive to moderating inflation and limiting current account deficit.
However, Moody’s pointed out structural constraints to a rating upgrade such as lower per capita income of around $6,000 on a purchasing power parity basis, over-dependence on monsoon and high government debt.
Moody’s also pointed out that bad asset quality continues to pose sovereign credit risks. 

BBC to broadcast in 4 more Indian languages

BBC World Service said it plans to broadcast in four more Indian languages as part of what it describes as its biggest expansion since the 1940s. Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi and Telugu will add to the Hindi, Urdu, Tamil and Bengali language services already being used by the news broadcaster.
“This is a historic day for the BBC, as we announce the biggest expansion of the World Service since the 1940s,“ said BBC director general Tony Hall.
“The BBC World Service is a jewel in the crown -for the BBC and for Britain. As we move towards our centenary , my vision is of a confident, outward-looking BBC which brings the best of our independent, impartial journalism and world-class entertainment to half a billion people around the world. Today is a key step towards that aim,“ he said. The expansion is a result of a funding boost announced by the UK government last year.
The first new services are expected to launch by next year.


Seeking a suspension of currency ban

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to demonetise Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes has been opposed by a group of 150 eminent citizens who have urged the government to immediately take measures to ease the hardship of the people or else consider a roll-back or suspension of the move.
The signatories to the statement include economists Prabhat Patnaik and Jayati Ghosh, writer Nayantara Sahgal, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, artist Vivan Sundaram, and Justice (retd) Chandru Krishnaswami.
They have questioned the “efficacy“ of demonetisation in eliminating black money and counterfeits while plunging the entire co untry into “chaos“. The statement wonders how reissuing of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes and the introduction of Rs.2,000 notes will put the brakes on generation of black money .
According to I-T raids data, the statement says, only 5-6% black money is kept in hard cash with the rest converted to bullion, real estate or foreign currencies through the use of middlemen.

Petrol, Diesel get cheaper

The price of petrol was on Tuesday cut by Rs.1.46 a litre and diesel by Rs.1.53 per litre, reversing the rising trend of the past few weeks. The reduction in rates announced by Indian Oil Corporation is excluding the state levies and the actual cut will be higher after considering them.

Banks pledge Rs.17,500 cr aid for building Amaravati

Energy, infrastructure and CRDA principal secretary to Andhra government Ajay Jain has said that the World Bank, Hudco and Andhra Bank have, in principle, sanctioned an amount of around Rs.17,500 crore for construction of Amaravati.
In a teleconference on Tuesday , chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu took stock of the funding for development of infrastructure in Amaravati. “Perhaps, this is the first time in the country that a massive support came from financial institutions for construction of a capital city in a short span of time,“ Jain said.
After Ajay Jain informed him about World Bank, Hudco and Andhra bank coming forward to provide funds, the CM said special efforts should be made to approach international financial institutions to attract loans at low interest rates.

Trade deficit at 10-month high

A strong show by engineering, petroleum and gems & jewellery sectors pushed up exports for the second month in October by 9.6%, although the trade deficit too shot up to 10-month high of $10.2 billion on account of surge in gold imports. Exports of engineering products rose by 13.9%, gems and jewellery by 21.8%, petroleum by 7.2% and chemicals by 6.7% during the month compared to the same month last year.
Imports too increased by 8.1% to $33.7 billion. It entered positive zone after nearly two years. It grew by 26.8% in November 2014.
Jump in gold imports by 108.43 per cent to $3.5 billion in October, pushed the trade deficit to a 10-month high of $10.2 billion as against $9.69 billion in the same month last year.
It was in December 2015 when trade deficit saw a high of $11.7 billion.
During the April-October period of current fiscal, exports dipped by 0.2% to $154.9 billion. Imports too contracted by 10.9% to $208 billion, leaving a trade deficit of $53.2 billion.Oil imports in October grew by 3.9% to $7.1 billion. Non-oil imports rose by 9.3% to $26.5 billion. From December 2014 exports had fallen for 18 straight months till May 2016 due to weak global demand and slide in oil prices. Shipments witnessed growth only in June this year thereafter again entered into negative zone in July and August.

Prachanda dials Modi

Nepal Prime Minister Prachanda called his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Tuesday and sought an arrangement so that Nepalese holding a huge stock of banned high denomination Indian bank notes could swap them with legal currency in the country.
During his five-minute telephonic conversation with the Modi, Prachanda told him that Nepalese have quite a big stock of Indian bank notes of 500 and 1,000 denominations that have now been pulled out of circulation.The two countries share a long border and close cultural ties, and many Nepalis hold large amounts of cash in Indian rupees.

October 2016: Retail inflation cools to 14-month low

Retail inflation moderated for the third consecutive month in October on the back of cooling food prices, boosting the prospect of a cut in interest rates when the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) reviews monetary policy next month.
Inflation measured by the consumer price index (CPI) rose an annual 4.2% in October, slower than previous month's 4.4%. The food price index rose an annual 3.3%, lower than 3.9% in the previous month.
Separate data showed the annual rate of inflation, based on the wholesale price index (WPI), stood at 3.4% in October compared to 3.6% for the previous month and minus 3.7% during the corresponding month of the previous year.

Of Kadak Chai and Ulcers....

Hitting out strongly at the Centre over its “unplanned“ and “inhuman“ demonetisation move, Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh  said that the step would backfire on the Modi government. “People are dying, with your `kadak chai' (strong tea) giving them ulcers on empty stomachs,“ he said while taking an apparent dig at the popular `Chai pe charcha' programmes initiated by Modi during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He said that the demonetisation move would backfire on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government, if not reviewed immediately .

Zakir Naik's IRF banned for 5 years

The government has banned Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), the NGO of controversial televangelist Zakir Naik, as an `unlawful association' under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The decision to slap a five-year ban on IRF with immediate effect was approved at the meeting of the Union Cabinet on Tuesday .
The grounds for declaring IRF as “unlawful“ included Naik's “objectionable and subversive“ speeches, criminal cases filed against him and other members of the NGO in Mumbai, Sindhudurg and Kerala as well as his “dubious“ links with Peace TV that allegedly features “communal“ and “pro-jihad“ content.
An `unlawful' association is different from a `terrorist' organisation listed under UAPA. The law defines `unlawful association' as any organisation “which has for its object any activity that is punishable under Section 153A or 153B of IPC“ --provisions dealing with threat to social and communal harmony .
Declaration of IRF as `unlawful' under Section 3 of the UAPA will force closure of its offices and interests across the country . Sources in the government said law enforcement agencies would maintain a strict surveillance on the activities of all establishments linked to IRF . As per UAPA provisions, a screening committee will have to okay the ban after reviewing the material against it.
As per the Cabinet note proposing action against IRF , Naik has been promoting enmity between religious groups and inspiring Muslim youths in India and abroad to commit terrorist acts.
The ban on IRF comes days after the NGO was served a showcause notice asking why its registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010, should not be suspended in view of a home ministry inspection of its account finding several violations of the Act. It was earlier put on prior permission under FCRA, requiring all foreign contributions to it to be approved by the home ministry
Earlier this month, the home ministry put another NGO of Zakir Naik, the IRF Educational Trust, under `prior permission'.

Sensex spooked

Fearing that demonetisation may lead to a sharp fall in consumption in sectors like retail, FMCG, real estate, cement, steel and some others, Dalal Street sold off stocks on Tuesday .This pulled the sensex down by nearly 2%, or 514 points, to close at 26,305, a five-month closing low. Global sell-off in bonds also impacted market sentiment, dealers said.
The day's session witnessed 20 of the 30 sensex stocks closing low and investors left poorer by over Rs.3 lakh crore with BSE's market capitalisation now at Rs.104.1 lakh crore.
Selling during the day was led by foreign funds with net FPI selling for the session at Rs.2,354 crore. Domestic funds were also sellers with a net outflow of Rs.105 crore, BSE data showed.
In the bond market, the current rush of bank deposits saw 10-year bond yields fall to 6.53%, a 11-year low, raising hopes of lower interest rates.


Cash is King

The government’s demonetization move is likely to affect India’s growth in the short term as the informal sector, supported primarily through cash transactions, would slow down, cautioned a report by Deutsche Bank. India remains one of the most cash-intensive economies in the world, with currency/GDP at 12.2%, higher than Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, it said. The underlying growth momentum in manufacturing, trade, construction and transportation is already weak. These sectors constitute 73% of total informal employment in the economy and the demonetization move may see their growth slow further in the short term.

Khadi goes Digital

Neela Hauz lake: Environmental Regeneration

The Neela Hauz lake, a natural depression near Sanjay Van in south Delhi, once the source of drinking water for the locality , had turned into a dumping ground for malba and raw sewage from the surroundings. After its revival through entirely natural means, the lake is now the symbol of environmental regeneration at the Neela Hauz Biodiversity Park, Delhi Development Authority's latest addition to such green belts in the capital.
When local residents approached Delhi high court about the dismal condition of Neela Hauz, the area was handed over to DDA under its Delhi Biodiversity Foundation, and scientists and engineers started the revival process immediately . Within two years, the lake had been desilted to enable landscaping of the biodiversity park. Alongside, a wetland was constructed, which now treats close to a million litres of water every day through natural processes.
“No energy is being consumed for the process,“ said CR Babu, professor emeritus, Delhi University , and head of the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems. “We are only using tanks and aquatic plants with special properties to clean the water.“
According to Babu, the process to design the constructed wetland took around two years. Just before the water enters the lake, it flows past a series of alternating troughs and gravel beds with aquatic plants growing on them. The professor explained that microbes generated by the 20 different types of aquatic plants cleansed the water of biotoxins, while sludge and fine particulates were removed via a gradual process of passing the water through layers of pebbles of varying sizes. “No sewage treatment plant in Delhi has proved this efficient in improving water quality , and we have achieved this through an all-natural process,“ said Babu.
When the scientists discovered that the water flowing into the lake was extremely high in phosphates and nitrates, an aquatic species called lemna was introduced. They not only naturally absorbed these compounds, but, as Yasser Arafat, who worked on the water body purification, narrated, “We used these nitrate and phosphate-rich lemna as fertilisers after collecting them from the water.“ The lake's biological oxygen demand (BOD) levels, along with the level of phosphates and nitrates, fell sharply. According to Faiyaz Khudsar, scientist in charge at DDA 's Yamuna Biodiversity Park, the revived water body at Neela Hauz is already attracting avian and aquatic species. “A dual purpose is being served through the constructed wetland system,“ said Khudsar. “The biodiversity park is producing plants that can be used as fertiliser, and at the same we are seeing the arrival of ducks there.“ Since its revival, 70 bird species have been sighted at Neela Hauz.
The regeneration model has proved so successful that officials have submitted the concept to Delhi Jal Board for implementation in other water bodies across Delhi. “We have shown the plan to the DJB. The water supply agency felt this system could be used in over 69 water bodies without the costs being very high because no additional energy would be consumed,“ said Babu.