PM Stresses Role Of All Parties In GST Rollout

In a bid to emphasise “consensual“ support to GST, PMO wrote to all chief ministers and leaders of national and recognised parties that the “gigantic task“ has been achieved with the cooperation of all states and political parties.

“The Union Cabinet which met on June 22, 2017, acknowledged their contribution and expressed its gratitude to the chief ministers of all states, the GST council, heads of national and state level recognised parties, all MPs and members of state legislatures,“ Modi has written to the CMs. The PMO letter comes around the time that opposition parties Congress, Trinamool and Left have decided against attending the midnight launch of the major tax reform on June 30. “This is a momentous occasion and marks the culmination of many years of preparation,“ it states. The letter notes that GST will not only create a unified national market but would also also prevent cascading of taxes, boost manufacturing activities and exports, generate more employment, and thus improve the overall investment climate in the country.

The PMO communication expresses the hope of more moderate taxes, saying “Moreover, the average tax burden would come down and this will benefit the common man.“

The recipients of the letter have been given a copy of the Cabinet resolution with the request that the Centre's appreciation be communicated to all ministers and legislators. A slightly briefer version of the letter has been sent to chief secretaries of states as well.

The Cabinet resolution states that “GST is a shining example of national integration and of fiscal federalism at its best. It has been made possible with the close cooperation between the central government and all state governments as well as parties.“

Somewhere in Gujarat....

Somewhere in Bengal....

Somewhere in Odisha....

GSAT-17 in space

India on Thursday put into space its third communication satellite in two months -GSAT-17 -adding to its existing fleet of 17 communication satellites.The 3,477 kg satellite was launched at 2.45 am by French rocket Ariane-5 from Kourou, French Guiana. The approximate cost of the mission is Rs.1,013 crore.

Indian Space Research Organization chairman AS Kiran Kumar said, “The objective is to continuously improve capacity with more communication satellites. We are seeking clearances for additional satellites.“

The satellite, which carried communication payloads in C-band, Extended C-band and S-band to provide various services to the country, has been inducted into the Indian National Satellite GSAT system.

It also carries equipment for meteorological data relay and satellite based search and rescue services.

Isro's Master Control Facility at Hassan in Karnataka took over the command and control of the GSAT-17 immediately after its separation from the launch vehicle. Preliminary health checks of the satellite revealed it was functioning normally .

Border face-off with China

The ongoing troop face-off between India and China on the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction has emerged as the biggest such confrontation in the region in decades, with both sides continuing to pump in reinforcements to the remote border region.

Even as Army chief General Bipin Rawat reviewed the ground situation by visiting the headquarters of the 17 Mountain Division in Gangtok and 27 Mountain Division in Kalimpong on Thursday , sources said the two rival armies had strengthened their positions at the tri-junction by deploying around 3,000 troops each in a virtually eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.

The Indian Army, on its part, refused to say anything. But sources said though there had been other troop standoffs at the tri-junction over the years, the latest one at the Doka La general area was clearly the most serious. “Both sides are as yet not willing to budge from their positions. Flag meetings and other talks between the rival commanders have not worked till now,“ a source said.

During his visit, General Rawat especially concentrated on the deployments of the 17 Division, which is responsible for the defence of eastern Sikkim with four brigades (each with over 3,000 soldiers) under its command.“All top officers, including the 33 Corps and 17 Division commanders, were present during the extensive discussions.The chief will return to New Delhi on Friday morning,“ the source said.

Undeterred by Beijing's aggressive posturing, India has made it clear that it will not allow China to construct a motorable road till the tri-junction through the Bhutanese territory of Doklam plateau.

Bhutan, too, has issued a demarche to China over the construction of the road towards its army camp at Zomplri in the Doklam plateau, asking Beijing to restore status quo by stopping work immediately
“China is trying to build a `Class-40 road' in the Doklam plateau that can take the weight of military vehicles weighing up to 40 tonnes, which include light battle tanks, artillery guns and the like,“ the source said.

Interestingly, the People's Liberation Army declared in Beijing on Thursday that it had conducted trials of a new 35-tonne tank in the plains of Tibet, though it added that “it was not targeted against any country“.

The Indian defence establishment is concerned at the “creeping territorial aggression“ by China, which aims to progressively swallow the 269 sq km Doklam plateau to add “strategic width“ to its adjoining but narrow Chumbi Valley, which juts in between Sikkim and Bhutan.

China has also been pushing Bhutan hard for the last two decades to go in for a “package deal“.

Under it, Beijing wants Thimphu to cede control over Doklam plateau, while it surrenders claims to the 495 sq km of territory in Jakurlung and Pasamlung valleys in northern Bhutan. But India is militarily “very sensitive“ about the Doklam plateau, especially the Zomplri Ridge area because it overlooks the strategically-vulnerable Siliguri corridor or the `Chicken's Neck' area.

India has progressively strengthened its defences in the Siliguri corridor, the narrow strip of land that connects the rest of India with its north-eastern states, to stem any Chinese ingress. “But it remains a geographical vulnerability. China has constructed several feeder roads from Tibet to the border with Bhutan, and is also trying to extend its railway line in the region,“ the source said.

Nobody can kill in the name of cow: PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose the ashram of the apostle of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, to issue a stern warning against killing in the name of cow protection and the growing culture of violence in society at large.

“Nobody can kill in the name of cow. Whether anybody is guilty or not, law will take its own course. No person is allowed to take the law in his hands,“ Modi said in his address at Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. “Indulging in violence in the name of `gau bhakti' is totally against the ideals of the father of the nation,“ he added. Modi's warning came in the wake of growing cases of mob violence in the name of `gau raksha'', as well as criticism of his government and the BJP for their alleged insensitivity and indifference towards victims. In fact, on Wednesday, nationwide protests were held after a social media campaign, “Not In My Name“, was launched condemning the lynching of Junaid Khan of Ballabhgarh in Haryana by a mob which accused him of being a “beef-eater“. However, even as he came down hard on cow vigilantes, PM Modi acknowledged and deferred to the special status the cow enjoys in India. He narrated an experience from his early days when he saw a neighbourhood cow give up food and water after it was overcome with grief for accidentally tramping upon a child, the only son of his parents, during a stampede. The animal died a few days later, Modi said. His voice choked with emotion and he fought back tears as he detailed the compassion of the cow, which he referred to as “gai maiya“.

Modi drew a distinction between cow vigilantes and “gau bhakts“ like Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave who, he said, had asked him to devote his life to “gai maiya“.“Nobody would have cared more for cow protection than Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave. We must walk the path shown by them, only in that lies our well-being. Vinobaji had dedicated his life to cow worship and protection. I had the opportunity to meet him once at Wardha where he told me to die for “gai maiya“.

“Today , I want to express my sadness and pain when I am here at Sabarmati Ashram. This is the country which has a tradition of giving food to ants, street dogs and fish. This is the country where Mahatma Gandhi taught us the lesson of non-violence. What has happened to us?“ he said.

This is the fourth time Modi has spoken against cow vigilantism since September 2016 after the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri in UP for allegedly slaughtering a cow. His interventions have failed to deter the vigilantes.


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Somewhere in Mumbai....

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Not In My Name

On a humid evening at Jantar Mantar, Delhi's public square of protest, hundreds of people gathered to say “Not In My Name“. The people were protesting against the lynchings and atrocities against Muslims and Dalits in the name of cow protection, the climate of fear across the country, and the strange silence of the government.

Filmmaker Saba Dewan, whose Facebook post set off this chain of peaceful protests in several cities in the country spoke about the need to simply express her sense of pain and empathy . “It is about time we citizens reclaim our Constitution,“ said documentary filmmaker Rahul Roy, one of the organisers of the event.

Students, lawyers, academics, journalists, activists, politicians, retired professionals, workers, common citizens--all came out to express solidarity with the victims.

The killing of 16-year-old Junaid Khan in Ballabhgarh, and the similar horror stories from Alwar, Jharkhand, Dadri, and other places have brought out even those not ordinarily used to protesting in public. “This event shows love for the nation, and is against the forces that divide us,“ said lawyer and columnist Dushyant.

There was poetry and music, from bhajans like Vaishnava Jana to Faiz's Hum Dekhenge, from Kabir's songs of sorrow to Rabbi Shergill's soothing Sufi music. Several times, organisers reminded those who raised slogans that the event was a `shok sabha', about grief and humanity rather than politics.

Politicians from many opposition parties were present, but said they came as citizens. It was a far bigger and more diverse crowd than usual. 

Air India privitisation gets Cabinet nod

In one of its boldest reform moves, the Modi government approved the privatisation of debt-ridden Air India and its five subsidiaries. After a Cabinet meeting, finance minister Arun Jaitley said “in-principle approval“ for AI's divestment had been secured and now a panel headed by him will decide on the modalities of the sale.

Jaitley told the media that Cabinet nod was given on the basis of a proposal presented by the civil aviation ministry. The decision comes after the Centre came around to the view that the financially bleeding airline could serve connectivity goals in private hands.

The airline has a debt of more than Rs.52,000 crore and is surviving on a Rs.30,000 crore bailout package extended by the UPA government in 2012.

A panel will decide whether to go for 100% stake sale in one go, or to remain present in the airline for some time and gradually divest ownership. The department of investment and public asset management has given options of 100%, 74% and 51% stake sale in AI.

The FM-headed “ AI-specific alternative mechanism“ will decide who can bid for the airline -whether foreign airlines in JV with Indian or foreign partners should be allowed to buy the Maharaja.

Current Indian rules allow Indian airlines to be owned fully by foreign entities but puts a cap of 49% on ownership by foreign carriers.

The Tata Group -founder of AI -is seen as a potential bidder for AI but it had, during the Vajpayee government, unsuccessfully bid along with Singapore Airlines. The current BJP administration will now examine if such a model can be allowed for AI.

The panel will also decide on the treatment of AI's unsustainable debt, hiving off certain assets to another company, demerger and strategic disinvestment of three profit-making subsidiaries.

The subsidiaries whose stake sale will be considered include four wholly-owned ones -AI Engineering Services, ground handling arm AI Transport Services, Alliance Air and the low-cost AI Express. The fifth subsidiary, Hotel Corporation of India, runs Centaur Hotels and is AI's 50:50 JV with SATS of Singapore.

The panel will also decide how to make AI -with its debt of Rs.52,000 crore -attractive enough for bidders. The airline has a working capital loan of Rs.30,000 crore and Rs.22,000 crore of aircraft purchase loan on its books. The process of evaluating AI's assets will start simultaneously .

AI has over 110 planes in its fleet, including 43 wide-body aircraft, and flies to 41 international and 72 domestic destinations. Its share in domestic and international air travel is 14% and 17%, respectively. The airline owns real estate across the world, including almost 32 acres in central Mumbai, apart from the iconic Nariman Point headquarters which is worth over Rs.1,600 crore.

While Niti Aayog has recommended complete privatisation, the aviation ministry favours selling AI's assets and subsidiaries to reduce its debt burden before privatising the airline. The ministry estimates about Rs.30,000 crore can be raised this way, which will take care of the working capital loan. The remaining amount of debt will then be aircraft-related. This way, the aviation ministry feels, may help get a better price for AI instead of an outright sale that may get the price of a distress sale.

The Congress-led UPA II had approved a Rs.30,231-crore equity infusion in the airline in 2012 over a decade and it has so far got Rs.23,993 crore of that. The Modi government feels that instead of pumping in thousands of crores into the airline, AI should be sold to professionals and the money saved thus be used in the social sector.

AI has about 12,000 employees and the subsidiaries have over 19,000 employees.While the only recognised pilots' union in AI (that of the erstwhile Indian Airlines) says it is not opposed to privatisation, other employee unions are opposing the divestment. The government says the future of the employees will be protected in the divestment process.


Fadnavis' War Room

In a 450 sq ft room ­ aptly called the War Room ­ on the seventh floor of a building in South Mumbai, a team of youngsters are furiously working on their laptops and phones. The room is buzzing with activity and is filled with screens and charts of various projects with their status reports.

This is isn't a corporate office though; it is Mantralaya, Maharashtra's headquarters, where an empowered team is working behind-the-scenes to push through some of the state's top projects such as Mumbai's 8-lane Coastal Road, the 5 metro rail projects, the Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway , and a slew of irrigation projects.

But to know why the War Room was created one must understand how some of the infrastructure projects have panned out in the past.

Sample this, the Mumbai Metro-1, Versova-Ghatkopar route, was planned in 1997 but was completed in 2014 . Similarly, the foundation stone for the 5.6-km Bandra-Worli Sea link was laid in 1999, which took another 10 years to complete.

The War Room was created in 2015 after Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who heads it, made it clear to his officers that they cannot take a `business as usual approach' to projects. The War Room was set up by additional chief secretary to the CM, Praveen Pardeshi, OSD Kaustubh Dhavse and strategy associate Zoravar Gill.

The War Room is made up of people from the corporate world for an 11-month stint. Pardeshi oversees the War Room while Gill handles operations. Once a project is assigned to a War Room, it is broken down into smaller milestones. For instance, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project was divided into smaller segments ­ getting clearances from the environment ministry, getting land from various departments, arranging funds, etc.

The team breaks every big project into smaller ones, works with various government departments for project clearances and speedier approvals. Senior officials vouch for their efficiency , and in just a 2-hour War Room meeting, 20 projects are reviewed, with the team highlighting the pain points.

For instance, the 29.2-km coastal road project connecting Kandivili to Marine Lines that was stalled since 2011, finally got environmental clearance, and the state will soon invite tenders for the project.

The SEEPZ-Cuffe Parade underground Metro was as good as dead some years back, but has now got all clearances, and work is on in full swing. The War Room played a huge part to get the project back on track. Men from the War Room chased files everywhere ­ Coast Guard office, revenue department, PMO ­ to clear the way for the project.

In two years, the War Room has managed to get all the clearances and the state is now poised to issue tenders.

For the line 2 of the Dahisar-Kandivili Metro, Pardeshi invited G Mohapatra, AAI chairman, to a War Room meeting where CM himself spoke to the latter explaining why the AAI land was important for the project. Within a week of this meeting, an MOU was signed between the AAI and MMRDA.

In many cases, heads of various government departments have been present in War Room meetings, which helped speed up decision-making.

One of the reasons why the War Room has been so effective is simply because Fadnavis himself heads the initiative, and bureaucrats are always on their toes, clearing stuck files.

Vivo Pays Rs.2,199 crore to Lift IPL Title Rights

Chinese handset manufacturer Vivo won the title sponsorship of the Indian Premier League for the next five years with a record-breaking bid of Rs.2,199 crore.

At Rs.440 crore per season, that's almost four times the base price of Rs.120 crore set by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, making Vivo's commitment the biggest sponsorship deal in the history of any sport in India, beating the previous record of Oppo's Rs.1,079-crore payout for Team India's jersey rights, which it bought earlier this year.

Oppo, which trumped Vivo in securing Indian cricket team's jersey rights earlier this year, was the second highest bidder at Rs.1,430 crore. Incidentally, Vivo and Oppo are owned by the same parent company, BBK Electronics, which also owns OnePlus.

Apart from IPL, Vivo has also picked up the Pro Kabaddi League's title sponsorship rights for five years for Rs.300 crore.

Beverage maker PepsiCo had won the 2013-17 rights for Rs.396.8 crore, about Rs.79.4 crore per year.

However, after paying Rs.206 crore for first three years, the beverage maker decided to end its association after IPL was caught up in the spot-fixing controversy.

Chinese handset manufacturer Vivo came on board for the remaining two years of the contract, paying Rs.190 crore to become the title sponsor.

DLF, the first IPL title sponsor, paid Rs.200 crore for 2008-12, or Rs.40 crore per year.

Yogi @ 100

A Big Opportunity in Oil and Gas

Attracting Cruise Liners....

Doing away with the archaic norm of charging cruise liners the port dues on the basis of tonnage, the shipping ministry has decided to collect the fee on per passenger basis. This is aimed at making the business easier for cruise operators and the charges will be same across all ports in the country.

In January 2010, world's fifth-largest cruise line operator Louis Cruise Lines had stopped its Cochin-Maldives service barely a month after starting the service citing expensive port charges.

Changes are being made to attract more cruise liners to Indian shores.The government estimates that in the next couple of years the number of cruise liners reaching India will cross 700 against the present figure of only 70-75 annually.

The government has started work to develop five cruise terminals -Mumbai, Chennai, New Mangalore, Goa and Kochi -which will have exclusive berths to handle the cruise liners.

After effects of the Washington Meet....

Both Beijing and Islamabad reacted sharply to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump explicitly and implicitly identifying Pakistan and China respectively as nettlesome adversaries.

While Pakistan was publicly called out for backing terrorist groups and received a drubbing both in the joint statement and a warning by way of designating Kashmiri extremist Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist, the US-India position on China was more nuanced. Without once mentioning China by name, Trump twitted Beijing for not being helpful in bringing North Korea to heel, while lavishing praise on India's little known contribution towards making sanctions against Pyongyang a success.

India's salience in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific region were referred to several times and the US also backed India's role in Afghanistan.

Trump also spoke about a joint naval exercise in the Indian Ocean that will involve Japanese, Indian and American warships, coming on the heels of his administration selling Guardian drones to India that will enable New Delhi to keep a check on Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean.

China's guidance to Pakistan and North Korea in the nuclear weapons and ballistic missile sphere has resulted in an axis of nuclear powers. The US-India bonhomie, coming on the heels of a rather more stiff meeting between Trump and China's President Xi Jinping last week, sent the Chinese media into a tizzy . “To assume a role as an outpost country in the US' strategy to contain China is not in line with India's interests. It could even lead to catastrophic results,“ fumed China's state-run newspaper Global Times, while maintaining that US was cozying up to India to ratchet up geopolitical pressure on Beijing.

“The designation of individuals supporting Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is completely unjustified,“ Pakistan's foreign office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said in a statement, even as Trump administration has signalled it may resume drone strikes and more punitive aid cuts because of Islamabad's recalcitrance in reining in terror groups.

However, it was not all hunky-dory for Modi and India despite positive optics. The US President made sure to remind the PM in public the trade imbalance, while declining to commit himself to visit India at his invitation.


Jab Modi met Trump

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the US President Donald Trump for the first time at White House in Washington DC. Both the leaders discussed a plethora of issues and promised to work together to strengthen India-US ties. After a personal meeting at the Oval office, delegation-level talks took place among the two sides at the Cabinet Room. After this, a joint press statement was issued subsequently, and then the two global leaders had a working dinner. From talking about trade ties to addressing terrorism issues, both Modi and Trump made the right kind of noises at the press briefing.

President Trump affirmed that the United States continues to remove barriers to energy development and investment in the United States and to U.S. energy exports so that more natural gas, clean coal, and renewable resources and technologies are available to fuel India’s economic growth and inclusive development.  Both leaders welcomed upcoming visits between India and the United States that will expand energy and innovation linkages across the energy sector and deepen cooperation, including on more efficient fossil fuel technologies, smart grids, and energy storage. They supported financing of energy projects, including clean coal projects, by Multilateral Development Banks to promote universal access to affordable and reliable energy.

Recognising that we are in an increasingly digital world, the leaders agreed to intensify the mutually beneficial partnership to fully harness their innovation capabilities to solve global developmental challenges. As global partners, the United States and India resolved to further strengthen their collaboration in health, space, oceans, and other areas of science and technology. The leaders also agreed to strengthen their cooperation to address the growing threats and challenges from malicious cyber activity and committed to work together to promote an open, inter-operable, secure, and reliable cyberspace environment that supports innovation, economic growth, and commerce.

Applauding the entrepreneurship and innovation of Indians and Indian-Americans that have directly benefited both nations, President Trump welcomed India’s formal entry into the International Expedited Traveler Initiative (Global Entry program) in order to facilitate closer business and educational ties between the citizens of India and the United States.

President Trump gladly accepted Prime Minister Modi’s invitation to visit India. They look forward to working together in a spirit of friendship in the years to come.

India will Become like US in your Lifetime: NaMo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the Indian diaspora in the United States that India would come to resemble the US within their lifetime and referred to his government's resolve of providing corruption-free governance to make this possible. “Your heart always asks when our country would become like this (the US)... I assure you that this will happen in your lifetime,“ Modi told about 700 people of Indian origin at an interaction in Washington on Sunday, a day ahead of his meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Crediting the US for the success of the Indian diaspora in the US, he said, “You are the same people but your success story has a simple reason; it's because you have got supportive environment here.“

Jaitley urges Mehbooba to roll out GST

The Centre made a last-ditch effort to get Jammu-Kashmir on board to launch goods and services tax from July1, with finance minister Arun Jaitley suggesting that the state government had elbow room to convey its concurrence to join the new regime. At the same time, he cautioned that a failure to launch GST will impact consumers and businesses in the state.

In a letter to J-K CM Mehbooba Mufti, the FM suggested that Article 370 of the Constitution gave the state government power to give its concurrence without getting an explicit approval from the assembly .

Sources said that in the past, the state had given its concurrence around 40 times. But, elected governments have resorted to the use of the provision sparingly .

Besides, with the PDP-BJP government introducing a bill in the legislature, it was tough for the Mehbooba administration to implement GST based on a recommendation by the cabinet, especially when the situation in the state remains fragile.

Sources said the state government expected to break the deadlock over the next few days and hoped to join the GST regime in the first few days of July. After all, as chairman of the empowered committee of state finance ministers, Abdul Rahim Rather, who was finance minister in the National Conference-Congress regime, had actively worked on implementing GST across the country , although he was now flagging concerns related to autonomy of the state.

In his letter to the J-K CM, Jaitley cautioned about the “adverse impact“ if the state did not join GST. One, it will result in a general increase in prices in the state of all goods being purchased from other states. Two, the FM said, there will be a rise in the price of all goods being sold from J-K to other states, which will hit local players.

GST is a destination based tax and to ensure this, an integrated GST will be levied on all supplies during the course of inter-state trade.Under GST, any dealer purchasing these supplies from another state pays IGST to the seller but is able to take credit only in subsequent sales. The FM mentioned that if the state of J-K does not join GST on July 1, 2017, for all purchases made by the state from other states, the dealer will not be able to take credit for IGST payments, which will be added to the price, resulting in cascading of tax and increase in price in the state.

Similarly , for goods or services sold from J-K, the buyer in purchasing state will not be able to take credit for local taxes paid to dealer making the sale, which shall increase his cost of purchase.

Upbeat tech CEOs huddle with PM

Heaping lavish praise on PM Modi and the prospects of the Indian market, global technology chiefs like Apple's Tim Cook, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Google's Sundar Pichai and Cisco's John Chambers stressed how much India had helped build their businesses, and the extent to which their companies had contributed to India. After meeting Modi in Washington on Sunday, several committed to increase their engagement with India.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said Indian app developers had created almost 1,00,000 apps for the app store in 2016, up 57% over the previous year. The number of people involved in building apps on the iOS platform had touched 740,000 in India. These numbers are being disclosed for the first time. Cook said the company had started assembling iPhones in India, the first of which hit the Bengaluru market last week. “Great to see you again @narendramodi. We're inspired by your vision for India and excited about what we can achieve,“ Cook tweeted on Monday .

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who has already committed over $5 billion in investment in India, tweeted soon after the meeting that he would continue to invest in the country. “Terrific meeting with Narendra Modi. Always impressed, energised by optimism and invention in India. Excited to keep investing and growing,“ he tweeted. Amazon's investments have helped it become one of the biggest e-commerce companies here. It also has a large R-D presence in India, and made significant investments last year to launch two data centres that offer cloud computing services to enterprises and startups.

Cisco chairman John Chambers described Modi as one of the world's great leaders, and said he was creating innovative outcomes for win-win partnerships between the US and India. Chambers, who is also chairman of the US-India Business Council, a business advocacy organisation, tweeted: “As chairman of the @USIBC, I believe India will move from slow follower to fast innovative leader. Tremendous in 3 yrs through Digital India.“

A combination of governmental programmes, including Digital India, Smart Cities, Startup India, and Make in India, have generated excitement among global technology players.

Many of the big technology companies, including IBM, Cisco, Accenture, and VMware, have been describing India as one of their fastest growing markets in quarterly financial results announcements in recent times. The CEOs of many technology companies have also been visiting India at increasing frequencies. On a visit in May , Oracle CEO Safra Catz described the India market as potentially the largest in the world.

Some 21 top CEOs were present at the Sunday meeting, including Google's Sundar Pichai, Adobe's Shantanu Narayen and Walmart's Doug McMillon. According to an IANS report, Pichai said Google was excited about investing in India and that US firms were looking forward to the rollout of GST.

US brands Hizb chief global terrorist

Hours before PM Modi met US President Donald Trump, the US state department formally designated Syed Salahuddin, chief of Hizbul Mujahideen, a global terrorist.
In an order, the department said, the designation, of “a specially designated global terrorist ...imposes sanctions on foreign persons who have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of US nationals or the national security , foreign policy, or economy of the US.As a consequence of this designation, US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with Salahuddin and all of Salahuddin's property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction are blocked.“

The designation, which has already been welcomed by India, is a direct hit against Pakistan. While HM itself was designated a terror group in 2004, Salahuddin was kept out. India banned Hizbul as a terror group in 2002. Salahuddin's “Kashmir“ origin and cadres have been used by Pakistan to push terror into Kashmir. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal, “Of the terrorist outfits currently operating in J-K, HM is one of the largest, with a cadre base drawn from indigenous and foreign sources. It is one of the most important terrorist outfits in terms of its effectiveness in perpetrating violence across the State at regular intervals.“

The US is now ranged with India regarding the source of instability in Kashmir being sponsored from across the border. Monday's designation is unlikely to have much effect on Pakistan's support to terrorism against India or to Salahuddin himself. Salahuddin lives and operates from Pakistan just like Hafiz Saeed of Lashkar-e-Taiba or Masood Azhar of Jaish-eMohammed or Dawood Ibrahim, all designated global terrorists by the US. But it is a political statement.

The US has used recent statements by Salahuddin to bolster their case. “In September 2016, Salahuddin vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Valley “into a graveyard for Indian forces“. The US move comes days after the Trump administration disbanded the special representative's office for Afghanistan and Pakistan, responsible for developing long-range strategy in the region. The move was seen as putting Pakistan policy within the regional context.


13 satellites 'to keep eye on enemies'

With the successful launch of “eye in the sky“ Cartosat-2-E satellite with surveillance capabilities, the total number of satellites being used for military purpose has gone up to 13. These satellites, which can be used for surveillance and mapping border areas, are primarily used for keeping an eye on enemies both on land and sea.

The recently launched 712-kg Cartosat-2 series spacecraft is an advanced remote sensing satellite capable of providing scene-specific spot imagery . The Cartosat-2 can accurately spot objects within a square of 0.6 metre by 0.6 metres. The 13 satellites used by the military for surveillance include Cartosat 1and 2 series and Risat-1and Risat-2. The Navy also uses Gsat-7 for real-time communication among its warships, submarines, aircraft and land systems.

India also has the capability to launch anti-satellite weapon, which is meant to destroy enemy satellites. Only the US, Russia, and China are known to have developed these weapons. However, Isro has no intention of engaging in such an anti-satellite weapon project. 


Of Business Environment....

Here are the leading nations on Business Environment, compiled by the World Economic Forum 2017.

Jewar Airport gets a green signal

The National Capital Region could get its second airport, in Jewar, in five years. “In principle clearance has been granted,“ civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said at a press conference, paving the way for acquiring 1,000 hectares (around 2,500 acres) for the first phase. The airport could be ready by 2022, minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha said. The Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority has notified 3,000 hectares in Jewar for the airport, with the first pha se estimated to cost around Rs.10,000 crore.

This will include one runway, a terminal and other infrastructure, with the airport to be connected by road, rail and through a Metro link, Sinha said, adding that connectivity with Meerut and other parts of the state will be upgraded. The plan is to add three more runways with the total cost estimated between Rs.15,000 crore and Rs.20,000 crore. The target is to have a capacity to handle 30-50 million passengers a year, compared with the 45 million passenger trips annually clocked at the current Mumbai airport and 25 million in Bengaluru.

UP government officials said the concessionaire for the airport project, which has been named as Noida International Airport, is likely to be finalised by 2019.

Of a stopover in Portugal....

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Portugal, the first bilateral visit by any Indian PM to the country, saw him and his counterpart, Antonio Costa, launching a unique startup portal called the India-Portugal International StartUp Hub in Lisbon.

The portal is expected to tap into the strong complementarities between India and Portugal in the startup sector. The meeting also saw the two leaders discussing a host of international issues, including terrorism, with Modi calling for intensifying efforts to defeat the scourge.

Costa, who is of Indian origin, sprang a surprise on Modi by hosting a special Gujarati lunch for him. IPISH is a platform initiated by Startup India and supported by the commerce and industry ministry and Startup Portugal to create a “mutually supportive entrepreneurial partnership“.

IPISH is expected to help in mutual capacity-building, and enable connections between startups, investors, and incubators from relevant sectors. It is also expected to establish a network of honorary ambassadors based in India and Portugal to guide startups from both countries.

Portugal has one of the highest rates of business creation in Europe and has emerged as one of the most vibrant European ecosystems for entrepreneurship. Lisbon has been hosting the Web Summit -a key annual international technology conference -since 2016. The last Web Summit had 700 participants from India, and the number is expected to go up this year. The governments of both India and Portugal are focusing on promoting startups.

Earlier in the day, Modi and Costa took a stroll around the Palacio das Necessidades, a historic building in the Largo do Rilvas, a public square in Lisbon. Costa had visited India in January, when he went to see his family members at his ancestral house in Goa.

Maharashtra's Farm Loan Waiver

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, at the helm of a cash-starved BJP-led government,  announced a Rs.34,022-crore loan waiver that would provide relief to 89 lakh farmers across Maharashtra.
Fadnavis said loans of up to Rs.1.5 lakh taken between April 1, 2012, and June 30, 2016, would be waived, benefitting 35 lakh farmers. For nine lakh cultivators with loans of more than Rs.1.5 lakh, the state would clinch a one-time settlement, and 45 lakh non-defaulter farmers would get a one-time special incentive of up to Rs.25,000, he added.

After the farmers' 11-day strike earlier this month, the CM had said loans up to Rs.1 lakh would be waived. But farmers rejected the offer and intensified their agitation, prompting the government to take a fresh review of the waiver scheme.

Fadnavis admitted it would be “difficult“ for the state -its total debt is over Rs.3.73 lakh crore--to raise Rs.34,000 crore, and that “we will have no option but to drastically cut expenditure on key projects“. However, he said, the state had still taken the bold decision in the interest of farmers

Fadnavis said his government had taken the decision on a complete waiver after consultations with NCP president Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetti and leaders of the agitating farmers.

He emphasized that under the waiver scheme, which has been named the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Krushi Sanman Yojana, cabinet members, former ministers, sitting as well as former legislators and MPs, other elected representatives, state and Central government employees and income-tax payers would not be eligible. But the state's Class IV employees had been exempted, he added.

In 2008, the CM said, the Central government had declared a Rs.7,871.68 crore waiver which had benefited 37.83 lakh farmers. Only those farmers who owned up to five acres of land were considered then for the waiver, but now all restrictions on land holdings had been removed.

During the budget session of the state legislature, the opposition Congress and NCP had demanded a complete loan waiver. As there was no response from the state, leaders of the two parties took out a statewide Sangharsh Yatra to press for the demand. This was followed by Raju Shetti's march from Pune to Mumbai and the farmers' strike.

The steering committee that had organized the farmers' strike, though, expressed its dissatisfaction with the new scheme as well and has called a meeting in Mumbai on Sunday to decide its next course of action.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Kisan Sabha leader Dr Ajit Navale said that the government had taken only crop loans into consideration and ignored other farm-linked loans such as those taken for irrigation.


Frenzy in Srinagar

A frenzied mob, raising pro-Pakistan and pro al-Qaida slogans, lynched a police officer outside Srinagar's Jamia Masjid on Shab-e-Qadr, the holiest night for Muslims during Ramzan. Deputy superintendent of police Mohammad Ayub Pandith, 57, was part of the security grid deployed for devotees attending Thursday's night-long prayers led by the mosque's custodian, Kashmiri separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Around midnight, as the Mirwaiz was delivering a sermon inside the mosque, a huge mob gathered outside, raising slogans.

Sources said, the DSP, on deputation in the security wing of J-K police, was in civvies, at Nowhatta on Thursday night. Around midnight, while the Mirwaiz was giving sermons inside the mosque, a huge mob gathered outside, raising slogans lauding Pakistan and al Qaeda operative Zakir Musa who recently threatened to behead separatists, including Mirwaiz, for calling Kashmir a “political issue“ and not Islamic jihad.

Eyewitnesses said as soon as the DSP began shooting a video of the sloganeering, the youth began shouting “noncircumcised“, “IB agent“ and “RAW agent“ while pointing at him. Suddenly , the irate mob pounced on the cop who tried to escape by firing some shots from his service pistol, leaving three people injured.Two of them were taken to hospital, sources said.

The infuriated mob overpowered the DSP, stripping him and hitting him with stones, sharp edged weapons and a wooden log until he died while the Mirwaiz was leading a prayer on forgiveness inside the mosque, an eyewitness said. Police were at first unable to identify the body of the officer late at night. In the morning, cops recovered his mutilated body from the mosque compound by bringing in a contingent of security forces and firing several rounds of tear gas shells to disperse the mob. Eyewitnesses said rioters went on a rampage targeting empty security pickets in the area.

Pandith's body was taken to police control room for identification and legal procedures. Police in a statement said, “Another police officer sacrificed his life in the line of duty.“

Pandith, 57, a resident of Khanyar area in Srinagar, is survived by his wife, son Danish and daughter Sania who studies medicine in Bangladesh. Danish fainted when he saw the mutilated body of his father, Pandith's cousin, Mohammad Abdullah, a lawyer said. Sania had come home to celebrate Eid with the family two days ago. Instead, she joined the funeral of her father, the cousin said. “The entire family is shattered,“ he said.

One of the nieces of the DSP was heard crying, “Yes, we are Indians, we are Indians. They killed an innocent man, our innocent uncle.“

Pandith had a Masters in Commerce and a degree in law before he joined the police in 1990 as a sub inspector. He was promoted as DSP in 2013. During his career, he served in different wings of the state security in different capacities. “He had received huge appreciation for his work and conduct,“ a police spokesperson said.

TN is top tourist spot

For the third straight year, Tamil Nadu topped the country in attracting tourists, both foreign and domestic, in 2016. The foreign tourist arrivals in the state last year was pegged at 4.72 million, the highest in the country. It was followed Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

The graph on the footfall of international tourists visiting Tamil Nadu has been witnessing a steady growth in the last three years with the state receiving about 4.68 million foreign tourists in 2015, an increase from 4.65 million in 2014.

Heritage monuments and temples are one of the major factors driving international tourists to Tamil Nadu. On the domestic front, the state received 343.81 million travellers last year, hitting a hat-trick in retaining the first position since 2014. While the state recorded 343.81 million domestic tourists in 2016, it was 333.45 million in 2015 and 327.55 million in 2014.

Somewhere in Punjab....

PSLV lifts off with 31 satellites

When India went to sleep on Friday night, Isro's rocket engines continued to circle the earth about 150 km from the satellite Cartosat-2s, it launched hours earlier. The fourth stage of PSLVC38, carrying two science instruments, was reignited thrice after it lobbed 31 satellites into orbit on Friday morning. The stage flew to 10 different orbits, after complex manoeuvre, for several hours as the instruments collected valuable atmospheric data that will guide Isro to launch future satellites into multiple orbits in a single flight.

The fourth stage was actively circling the earth till midnight, almost 12 hours after the rocket placed satellites in the orbit.

The rocket was launched from the first launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 9.29 am. It carried 712 kg weighing earth observation satellite Cartosat-2s and 30 other nano-satellites including 29 from 14 countries. About 16 minutes after takeoff, the rocket's fourth stage placed the satellites into orbit. Usually , the engine is deactivated after the successful ejection of satellites. But this time, the mission was far from over. The fourth stage, containing two liquid apogee motor engines, went to on perform a technique involving simple experiments through complex manoeuvring across 10 orbits.

The space agency had to limit its payload weight as the long duration experiment required resources from the rocket including its fuel.


The new Smart Cities List

Smart City Mission: Full list of 30 new smart cities

1 Thiruvanthapuram - Kerala
2 Naya Raipur - Chattisgarh
3 Rajkot - Gujarat
4 Amaravati - Andhra Pradesh
5 Patna - Bihar
6 Karimnagar - Telangana
7 Muzaffarpur - Bihar
8 Puducherry - Puducherry
9 Gandhinagar - Gujarat
10 Srinagar - Jammu & Kashmir
11 Sagar - Madhya Pradesh
12 Karnal - Haryana
13 Satna - MP
14 Bengaluru - Karnataka
15 Shimla - Himachal Pradesh
16 Dehradun - Uttarakhand
17 Tiruppur - Tamil Nadu
18 Pimpri  Chinchwad - Maharashtra
19 Bilaspur - Chattisgah
20 Pasighat - Arunachal Pradesh
21 Jammu - Jammu & Kashmir
22 Dahod - Gujarat
23 Tirunelveli - Tamil Nadu
24 Thootukkudi - Tamil Nadu
25 Tiruchirapalli  - Tamil Nadu
26 Jhansi - UP
27 Aizawl - Mizoram
28 Allahabad - UP
29 Aligarh - UP
30 Gangtok - Sikkim

The central government announced a new list of 30 cities to be developed into 'smart cities', with Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram topping the list. The latest list -including 12 state capitals -takes the number of cities chosen so far to 90 under the Smart City Mission. In the new list, the Kerala capital is followed by Chhattisgarh's new capital Naya Raipur. The winter and summer capitals of Jammu and Kashmir, Jammu and Srinagar respectively, also feature among the chosen ones.

The other state capitals are Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh), Patna (Bihar), Bengaluru (Karnataka), Shimla (Himachal Pradesh), Dehradun (Uttarakhand), Aizawl (Mizoram), Gangtok (Sikkim) and Gandhinagar (Gujarat).

The central government launched the Smart City Mission on June 25, 2015, to develop 100 smart cities in five years. Though the government was expecting to announce the names of 40 cities, non-participation of Bengal and failure of some city municipal bodies to score minimum required qualifying mark during evaluation brought the numbers down.

Naidu said these 30 cities identified entailed investment of Rs.57,393 crore, including Rs.46,879 crore for ensuring core infrastructure in areas identified by citizens, and Rs.10,514 crore for technology-based solutions, service delivery and utilisation of infrastructure.

With this, the total investment approved for 90 cities has gone up to Rs.1,91,155 crore, he said.

Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), Bihar Sharif (Bihar), Diu (Daman and Diu), Silvassa (Dadra and Nager Haveli), Kavaratti (Lakshadweep), Navi Mumbai, Greater Mumbai and Amaravati (Maharashtra), Imphal (Manipur), Shillong (Meghalaya), Dindigul and Erode (Tamil Nadu), Bidhannagar, Durgapur, and Haldia (West Bengal), Meerut, Bareilly , Ghaziabad, Sharanpur and Rampur (Uttar Pradesh) are the 20 cities that will fight to fill the remaining 10 slots.

Naidu said the remaining cities will submit their revised plans for the 10 slots.

The 30 smart cities named this time propose to build affordable housing projects benefiting the urban poor, and/or school/housing projects, and smart road widening prjects, besides enabling cycling and walking.

Prez Polls: Meira Challenges Ram

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar was chosen as the Opposition's presidential candidate against NDA's Ram Nath Kovind. Kumar is a four-time Congress Lok Sabha MP and daughter of Dalit leader Babu Jagjivan Ram. Worried about the fissures in the ranks, the Opposition zeroed in on Kumar's name but Nitish Kumar's JDU ruled out rethink on its support for Kovind.

At a meeting of 17 non-NDA parties in Parliament House Library , RJD chief Lalu Prasad is learnt to have proposed only one name -that of Bihar-born Meira Kumar. NCP, which was maintaining a curious silence so far, finally rallied behind Meira, even though NCP chief Sharad Pawar's first choice was former Maharashtra CM Sushil Kumar Shinde.

The Left parties were initially backing Mahatma Gandhi 's grandson Gopal Krishna Gandhi or BR Ambedkar's grandson Prakash Ambedkar, but finally agreed to go with Meira. BSP has also decided to back Meira.

Meira's choice was unanimous. Pawar was the first speaker at the meeting and he proposed three names -Shinde, educationist B Mungekar and Meira Kumar. Prasad strongly supported Meira's name. Following Prasad, all parties, including the Left, decided to back Meira.

It is also gathered that no further discussions were held on the strategy for the presidential elections, with numbers stacked up in favour of the NDA.

CPI's D Raja said that the contest was for the idea of India. “For us it is simply RSS versus the rest. It is about saving the ideals and idea of India and hence we support Meira Kumar's candidature,“ he said.

Pune Ring Road update

Maharashtra Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis cleared a proposal to fund the ring road project through town planning schemes. The Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority will undertake 12 9km the project in two phases, the first of which is expected to complete in three years. The entire project is estimated to take seven years for completion.

The town-planning schemes were floated as a means to fund the project, on the lines of the Gujarat model of land monetization. The CM approved the proposal at the third PMRDA general body meeting in Mumbai. More than 10,000 hectares will be acquired for the 20-plus townplanning schemes along the ring road, which is estimated to cost Rs.17,412 crore.

The detailed project report will be prepared by a consortium of three companies -Intelligent Information Conversions Technologies (Hyderabad), Monarch Surveyors and Engineering Consultants Private Limited (Pune), and India International Infrastructure Engineers Ltd (Bengaluru).

PMRDA chief Kiran Gitte has proposed for the Surat and Ahmedabad town planning models for setting up corporate and industrial hubs along the ring road, likely near the Chakan industrial belt and the proposed airport in Purandar.

Gitte further said that with over 2 lakh people needing affordable housing, they will look to attract as many builders as possible to the town planning schemes. With Pune saturated, these individual clusters can take on a lot of projects, he added.

Most of the clusters will come up on government land, while the PMRDA will also acquire and develop private land which will be sold back to the original owners. PMRDA was recently granted 7,800 hectares of government land for this purpose.But before proceeding with the schemes, the authorities will first clear the land of encroachments before fencing it off.


Somewhere in Maharashtra....

Now Karnataka does a Farm Loan Waiver

Joining the states that recently wrote off farm loans, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah announced a waiver of crop loans and short-term loans of up to Rs.50,000 availed from agricultural cooperative banks in the state. The governments of UP , Maharashtra and Punjab have already announced waivers to quell the growing demands of distressed farmers following a crash in prices of farm produce.
“While some farmers have got interest-free loans of Rs.25,000, others have availed up to Rs.3 lakh. We'll waive off loans up to Rs.50,000, irrespective of the total amount,“ Siddaramaiah said. “I want the Centre to waive off farmer loans availed from nationalised and commercial banks,“ Siddaramaiah said in the legislative assembly , putting the onus on the Centre to do its part for farmers. The CM said Karnataka was the first state in the country to transfer input subsidies directly to bank accounts of farmers.

The loan waiver will benefit 22,27,506 farmers who have taken loans worth Rs.10,736 crore from cooperative banks.This puts a burden on Rs.8,165 crore on the state exchequer.

The waiver, seen as a bonanza for farmers reeling under consecutive drought, is expected to win their goodwill towards the Congress government which is heading for elections in early 2018.

Moreover, Karnataka's move assumes significance as it comes in the backdrop of two political developments: One, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley's statement that the Centre will not fund any waiver of farm loans by states; Two, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi expressing his solidarity with the farming community by demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi waive farm loans.


SpiceJet Places Order for 50 Bombardier Q400 Planes

SpiceJet has announced an order to buy Bombardier Q400 aircraft valued at $1.7 billion. This order, which is split in half, is a firm order for 25 aircraft and an option to add 25 more, will make the airline the largest turboprop aircraft operator in India.

Notably , the aircraft order follows a 50 ATR aircraft order by IndiGo, which announced it would float a new regional subsidiary, recently . Singh said the aircraft would be used for regional connectivity as well as for providing connectivity to the neighbouring international destinations.

Besides the Regional Connectivity Scheme, there are small airports that are opening as a consequence of the RCS scheme.

The airline said the Letter of Intent includes 25 Q400 turboprops and purchase rights on an additional 25 aircraft. Based on the Q400 turboprop list price, an order could be valued at up to $1.7 billion. This would be the single biggest order for the Q400.

On Monday, SpiceJet ordered 40 Boeing 737-10 aircraft worth $5 billion, which should start joining the fleet most likely from 2020.

GST's Midnight Parliament Bash

The goods and services tax will be showcased as a unifying force at the midnight event that marks the rollout of India's biggest indirect tax reform. “The world will witness a transformation and how all the political parties of different ideologies united for the implementation of the GST,“ Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Lucknow, terming the rollout of the GST from July 1 as “historic“.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley set to rest any remaining doubt about the tax being implemented as scheduled. “The hour-long function will mirror the contribution made by different political parties and states to the revolutionary new tax regime,“ he said in New Delhi. The launch function will be held in the central hall of Parliament.

Jaitley reiterated that GST, over the medium to long term, will lead to a rise in central and state revenue as the size of the formal economy will grow. Being a more efficient system, GST will also result in better tax compliance, he said.

The new levy will subsume state and central levies and help create a common market, although some sticking points such as e-way bills remain to be resolved. These pertain to inter-state transactions.

Incredible India 2.0

India's spirituality and it's wellness traditions will be the highlights of Incredible India 2.0 campaign.
The revamped version of the government's marketing initiative to promote India as a preferred tourist destination for global audiences will be launched formally on World Tourism Day on September 27.

While the usual spiritual circuit-Varanasi, Mathura and Ajmer -will continue to receive a helpful hand from the government. Ayodhya, the birth place of Lord Ram, apart from far flung monastries in Lahaul Spiti to be promoted as tourist spots for a global audience.

In addition to the Buddhist circuit that attracts a large number of foreign tourists, the government has also decided to include the temple town of Goraknath, home to UP chief minister Aditya Nath Yogi's Gorakhnath Math.

Incredible India 2.0 campaign will focus on developing at least 10 cities where it will promote their spirituality quotient and also develop their medical and wellness potential.

Rishikesh, for instance, will not only offer `adhyatm' to the tourists it hosts, but also offer traditional wellness programmes that tourists can enrol for.

Kerala, likewise, will not only be promoted for its natural beauty , but also for it's ancient ayurvedic healing systems.

Hike, Yes Bank tie up for UPI payments

Hike will offer payment facilities to its 10 crore users through the Unified Payments Interface by partnering with Yes Bank. According to Hike CEO Kavin Bharti Mittal, the partnership will make Hike Messenger the largest UPI-based platform in India. “It will empower over 10 crore of our users to transact seamlessly on the revolutionary UPI platform, which was launched by National Payments Corporation of India to accelerate the adoption of digital payments in the country ,“ he said.

The partners have claimed that this is the first time in India that a large mobile chat platform has embedded a payments solution in its app. “This development will revolutionise the way P2P and P2M payments are done within the chat platform, including mobile top-ups, among others,“ a statement said.

Earlier, Swedish communication company Truecaller partnered ICICI Bank to offer UPI payments service. Facebook's WhatsApp too has shown interest in participating in the payments market in India.

Mumbai Metro III snippets

The first Tunnel Boring Machines to be used for the Metro-III corridor will reach Mumbai in July, from Guangzhou in China. Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation has set a deadline of September 2019 to complete the tunnelling work. The TBM will be procured from German major Herrenknecht AG, from its manufacturing facility in China. The machine will deployed for construction of the 6.08-km twin tunnels from Siddhivinayak to Dharavi through TBM launch shafts located at Naya Nagar in Mahim.

The machines will initially have to be assembled after they reach the city, which is a time-consuming process. The contractors on the seven civil packages of the entire Bandra-Colaba-Seepz alignment of Metro-III plan to deploy a total of 17 TBMs from leading manufacturers such as Robbins, Terratec, Herrenknecht and STEC. Of the 17 TBMs to be used, 10 will be new while seven machines will be refurbished.

A shaft 25 m deep into the ground is being built at Naya Nagar. Work on the project had earlier been held up due to the stay order on cutting of trees.

MMRC said it hopes to run the first train on the underground corridor by 2020 between Seepz and Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC). The remainder of the corridor will be opened within a year after that.


Ram Nath Kovind : NDA's choice for Prez

Known for springing many a surprise, the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo stunned everyone this time as well when the BJP announced the name of Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as the NDA's candidate for Presidential elections. Low-profile and non-controversial, Kovind, a lawyer from UP's Kanpur Dehat, may not be a popular face, but his selection for the country's top constitutional post is being dubbed as a political masterstroke by the BJP leadership because of his strong Dalit roots and sustained work for the downtrodden sections of the society, which will make him endear him to other political parties.

BJP chief Shah said the party's parliamentary board went through a long list of potential candidates before choosing Kovind, who was its MP in the Rajya Sabha for two terms and headed its Dalit Morcha.

Kovind has never been an RSS pracharak and came to be associated with the Sangh Parivar much later after joining the BJP in 1991. Many said that he only has nodding acquaintance with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.Yet, Kovind's candidature has been lauded by the RSS with the outfit's spokesman Prof Rakesh Sinha describing him as “a flawless person“ and “a man with a clear vision“.

Poised to be the country's 14th President, Kovind will be the only Dalit after KR Narayanan to occupy Rashtrapati Bhavan. With this move, the BJP, which has been seeking to widen its base beyond its traditional constituencies of upper castes and trading classes, will further consolidate its base amid the Dalits. Sources say that a Dalit Presidential candidate from UP will provide a “healing“ touch to the recent incidents of Thakur-Dalit clashes in Saharanpur,Meerut.

India-Afghan air freight corridor is operational

India and Afghanistan established a direct air freight corridor with the first flight from Kabul to Delhi received on Monday by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj. The flight, which carried 60 tonnes of cargo (mainly asafoetida) from Afghanistan, was flagged off in Kabul by President Ashraf Ghani. A similar cargo flight from Delhi to Kabul had earlier carried 100 tonnes of cargo (mainly pharmaceuticals, water purifiers, medical equipment) on June 18, 2017 from Delhi to Kabul.

The connectivity established through the air freight corridor will provide Afghanistan greater access to markets in India.

India wants to be a trade & transit hub

India became the 71st country to join the United Nations TIR Convention, the international customs transit system, to position itself as a regional trading and transit hub. The TIR system is the international customs transit system with the widest geographical coverage.

As other customs transit procedures, the TIR procedure enables goods to move under customs control across international borders without the payment of the duties and taxes.

TIR Convention is more than a transport agreement and has a strong foreign policy element. In a world where China's `One Belt One Road' is the dominating project straddling economics and geopolitics, India has no option but to play a better game if it wants to be counted as a serious rising power. Welcoming India into the global transport arrangement, Umberto de Pretto, the secretary general of IRU which manages the TIR Convention, said that India's accession would have a big impact on regional connectivity . “TIR can help implement the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement by addressing policy incompatibility among the BBIN group. For example, Bangladesh does not recognise insurance policies made in India, Nepal or Bhutan. With TIR, there would be no need for bilateral arrangements as guarantors are covered by the global guarantee chain.“

One of the persistent problems for India's connectivity projects has been the disconnect between transport and customs systems with different countries. Once the systems are integrated with global norms, India reckons it will become easier to service African and Asian markets when the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor comes online. It will breathe life into the International North-South Transport Corridor and the Chabahar project that India has been working on for some time.

China joined the TIR in 2016 when its giant inter-regional connectivity projects began to take off. As India ramps up its connectivity ambitions this is a necessary step. For instance, the BBIN motor vehicles agreement needs this convention to make it operational.

Joining the convention “would be a major economic boost to South Asia, eventually connecting the region to the rest of the world. It could become a key link between South and South-East Asia, particularly as China is already a TIR member, and connects transit routes east to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and beyond“. He added it can link India to maritime transport routes across the entire Asia-Pacific region.

A statement from International Roads Union said this was “part of India's multi-modal transport strategy that aims to integrate the economy with global and regional production networks“.

Departure Forms scrapped at Airports

Indian flyers headed for foreign destinations will not be required to fill up departure cards starting July 1, which means one formality less before boarding the aircraft. However, those travelling out of the country via rail, sea ports and land immigration check-posts will have to fill the embarkation card.

The departure card contains passenger details such as name, date of birth, passport number, address in India, flight number and date of boarding.

The requirement for Indians to fill up arrival cards upon their return from abroad was done away with in 2014.

These steps are among several taken of late to facilitate both international and domestic travel. Last year, the customs department did away with the need for Indian passengers to fill up a declaration form while coming to India if they were not carrying dutiable goods.However, those carrying prohibited and dutiable goods are still required to fill up an `Indian customs declaration form'.

The Central Industrial Security Force, mandated to secure airports in the country, has also started doing away with the practice of tagging and stamping of domestic passengers' hand baggage.

The practice has already been done away with at Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Ahmedabad.

Toll extended to fund projects in Maharashtra

The Maharashtra government has decided to extend toll collection at three posts in and around Mumbai by up to 29 years to fund new infrastructure projects. Increasing the burden on citizens, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link toll will now continue till 2068 to fund the Bandra-Versova sea link, the Vashi toll will run till 2038 to recover funds spent on widening the bridge over the creek, and the Pune Expressway toll will have to be paid till 2045 for a tunnel through the Lonavla-Khandala ghats. The state government's cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure, which is led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, recently allowed MSRDC to recover the additional toll. It also approved a six-lane expansion of the 30-km Mumbra bypass (Shilphata) to Kalyan up to the Nashik highway. For this, citizens will have to pay a toll -which was scrapped in 2016 following the decision to wind up around 60 toll posts across the state -till beyond 2040. The toll will start once 70% of the project is complete.

The cost of the 16-km tunnel expressway bypass is pegged at around Rs.4,800 crore, the 12-lane Vashi creek bridge expansion at about Rs.777 crore and the Bandra-Versova sea link at Rs.7,502 crore. The Bandra-Versova sea link project has received all the required approvals, including the crucial CRZ and environmental clearances. In the second bidding for the bridge, five firms, including China Harbor Engineering, Reliance Infra, HCC, Hyundai and L&T, with their respective partners have qualified in the technical round. The final bidding is expected in a month or two.

The initial toll period of the BWSL was till 2020, but already an extension has been granted till 2039 to recover the cost of the city's first sea link. If the initial date is taken into account, toll is being extended by a mind boggling 48 years.

On the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the collection of toll is already extended till 2030 to recover the cost of about Rs.2,500 crore. The existing collection contract with IRB ends in 2019. Thereafter, MSRDC may appoint another contractor or collect toll itself till the extended period of 2045.

Going by the toll, the per km cost of toll on the expressway stands at around Rs.2.40 now. Going by this rate, the toll on the proposed Mumbai-Nagpur super-expressway could be at least Rs.1,200-1,800 one way. Ahead of the CM's pet project, the state allowed expansion of the Shilphata-Kalyan road to improve connectivity to the Nagpur expressway .

The debt-ridden Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation, the infrastructure arm of the state government, has got a shot in the arm. Around 5.3 acres abutting the BWSL on which MSRDC's office is located is now officially owned by the company. Earlier, it was leased to MSRDC by the PWD.

Since the valuation of the land is worth around Rs.34,000 crore, the number of companies approaching MSRDC for various projects has gone up. That's because MSRDC, which is facing losses of over Rs.4,000 crore, can now show this land as its asset.

Maharashtra Farm Loan Waiver snippets

The debt waiver for farmers that the Maharashtra state government had announced will cover loans of up to Rs.1 lakh, provided they were taken prior to June 30, 2016. Conditions are the same as those announced in Uttar Pradesh for writing off farm loans.
The criteria for the waiver, which was announced by revenue minister Chandrakant Patil, drew criticism from farmer groups who accused the BJP-led regime of reneging on its original promise and threatened to revive their agitation.

Patil said under RBI guidelines a loan waiver can be provided only in case of a drought, and hence, the offer would be valid for loans taken between 2012 and June 30, 2016, when the state was reeling under a dry spell. State revenue minister Chandrakant Patil led a panel of cabinet ministers for a meeting with farmer groups to finalise the terms of an agri loan waiver.

While indicating that Rs.1 lakh would be outer limit for the amount that is written off, Patil clarified that extent of landholding would not be a criterion for eligibility of beneficiaries. However, he said other factors would count.

There are nearly 40 lakh farmers in the state, whose cumulative outstandings add up to Rs.30,000 crore till June 30, 2016.

Patil also said criterion set by government to provide a bank guarantee for a loan advance of Rs.10,000 to farmers ahead of the Kharif season will be revised after feedback from farmers representatives. In any case, farmers with four-wheelers will not qualify for it nor will members of panchayat samitis.

Mars Mission Completes 1,000 Earth Days in Orbit

India's low-cost Mars spacecraft completed 1,000 Earth days in its orbit yesterday, well beyond its designed mission life of six months or 180 days. “The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) completes 1,000 earth days in its orbit, today (June 19, 2017) well beyond its designed mission life of six months,“ the Indian Space Research Organisation said. It said 1,000 earth days correspond to 973.24 Mars Sols (Martian Solar day) and the MOM completed 388 orbits. The satellite is in good health and continues to work as expected, it said, adding that scientific analysis of the data received from the spacecraft is in progress.

India had on September 24, 2014 successfully placed the spacecraft in the orbit around the Mars in its very first attempt, joining an elite club of countries with expertise in space technology . ISRO had launched the spacecraft on its nine-month-long odyssey on a home-grown PSLV rocket from Sriharikota in AP on November 5, 2013.