Air Traffic Grows 12.4% in July

Indian carriers flew 12.4% more passengers during July, proving airline body International Airline Transport Association wrong that had predicted the Indian aviation market's double-digit growth to end in June.

During July , which is traditionally a lean month for airlines in India, Indian carriers together carried about 9.6 million passengers, registering about 12.4% growth over 8.5 million passengers carried during the same month last year. IATA had said that the slowdown in the country's aviation growth started post demonetisation and passenger growth will fall to single digit from July.

Among load factors, SpiceJet continued its dominant position for 28 months in a row by flying 94.4% of its flights full, followed by AirAsia India that flew planes with 88.4% of its seats full. These two lowfare carriers were followed by a full-service carrier Vistara that operates in three-class configurations and flew its planes with 84.6% seats full.

IndiGo maintained its lead in the market share and on the one-time performance front. The market leader, which carried 38.7% of the total passengers during the month, also flew the highest number 84.6% of its flights on time.

IndiGo was followed by GoAir that operated 78.2% of its flights on time followed by Vistara that operated 74.5% of its flight on time.

Like IndiGo, Jet Airways also maintained its position as the second largest carrier in terms of market share by carrying 18.2% of the total passengers followed by SpiceJet that carried 14.2% of the total passengers during July .

JD(U) decides to join NDA

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar dared rebel JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav to break the party and threatened him that his Rajya Sabha membership would be terminated in case he did not have enough numbers to split the party.

Without taking Yadav's name, Nitish said at the open session of the party's national council: “Do you have enough strength to break JD(U)? Do you have two-thirds of MPs and MLAs? If you can't break the party, remember, your membership (of Rajya Sabha) will be terminated.“ At a meeting of its national executive, which was attended by all JD(U) MLAs ­ including those from the Seemanchal region which Yadav loves to describe as his stronghold ­ the party decided to formally join the BJP-led NDA. Yadav represented Madhepura Lok Sabha seat in the Seemanchal region four times before becoming the JD(U) Rajya Sabha member in 2014.

Contrary to Yadav's claim that he had the support of 14 state units, all the 71 JD(U) MLAs and 30 MLCs in Bihar, two Lok Sabha members, seven Rajya Sabha members and a majority of national office bearers attended the national executive meeting which was chaired by Nitish. Nitish's warning to Yadav came on the day he organised his `jan adalat' programme in Patna against the JD(U)-BJP tie-up.

Modi cracks the whip

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cautioned his ministers against staying in five-star hotels and availing of any benefit from public sector undertakings attached to their ministries, including using their cars.

Shortly after a Cabinet meeting, Modi asked the ministers to stay back and then read the riot act to them. He made it clear to the ministers that they should stick to government accommodation while on official duty.

The cracking of the whip prompted many ministers to ask their staff to ensure no PSU cars were made available for personal use.


Somewhere in Rajasthan....

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Irom Sharmila weds in low-key ceremony

Iron Lady' Irom Chanu Sharmila got married to her partner Desmond Coutinho in a low-key ceremony in Kodaikanal, the southern hill station. While a happy Desmond was dressed in a kurta and pair of pants, a shawl draped around his neck along with a floral garland, Sharmila was in a traditional pink and black striped phanek and top, sans a garland, with her hair kept as always, hanging loose over her face. The two came walking holding hands to the sub-registrar's office, and it was found the groom had left his passport at home and went back for it. Registrar M Radhakrishnan registered the marriage.

Many locals had gathered outside the registrar's office along with a few human rights activists from Madurai and Dindigul.

US shale oil is cheaper than West Asian crude

When Saudi Arabia raised the price of crude shipments to Asia and the US on June 4, it unwittingly provided the spark for India's maiden drive towards the US for supplies and help it undercut Opec's sway over the world's third largest oil consumer.

The opportunity to change things came when PM Narendra Modi met Donald Trump in the White House on June 27. Modi said India had one of the world's fastest growing energy demands, in response to Trump's line about reviving American energy exports. Modi responded that India would consider if the price was right.

The price, as it has turned out, is more than just right even after the long shipping distance, as the first US ship sails with shale oil bound for Indian markets. Indian officials say that even after facto ring in the distance, US oil is working out to be cheaper than Middle East oil. India now wants to leverage its status as a major energy buyer to get a better price, but also more importantly , to make a political point to its suppliers.

Saudi Aramco raised July prices for its Arab Light crude by 60 cents per barrel for Asian and US buyers on rising demand but reduced prices of shipment for Europe to stave off competition from Russia.

India's largest state-run refiner-marketer IndianOil immediately put its bet on US Eagle Ford and Mars crudes, buying consignments from trading house Trafigura for $100 million.

The ship sailed from the US for the company's latest refinery at Paradip in oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan's home state, Odisha, where it will dock next month.

With the advent of US-origin crude into its oil mix, India is making three points -first, diversifying its sources of oil (India's top suppliers are Iraq and Saudi Arabia); second, compel them to offer better prices (IOC officials observed that soon after India had secured its first US buy, Iraq decided to lower its prices); most importantly, it would help reduce the trade surplus India holds with the US, a sore point for the Trump administration. Indian officials say this could become a longer term affair, giving India greater room for manoeuvre with other tougher partners like Iran.


2016-17 grain output at record 276 million tons

India's foodgrain production for the 2016-17 crop year is estimated at a record 275.7 million tons, a number which is expected to bring cheer to policymakers and bolster claim of efficient rollout of policies for the farm sector.

The government revised its previous figures upward by 2.3 million tons and the new figure is 4% higher than the previous record production achieved in 2013-14. The production in 2016-17 is significantly higher by 24.1 million tons (9.59%) than the output of 2015-16 which was a drought year.

India had recorded its previous best in the year 2013-14 when it produced 265.04 million tons of foodgrain, backed by good and well-distributed Monsoon rainfall. The ministry attributed the all-time record of foodgrain production in 2016-17 to good rainfall in 2016 and various policy initiatives taken by it. Record output has been achieved in all major crops of foodgrain basket like rice (110.15 MT), wheat (98.38 MT) and pulses (22.95 MT). The current crop year (2017-18) may , however, not be as good despite normal Monsoon in many parts of the country .

Road from Ennore to Mahabs gets Centre's nod

Chennai's long wait for the 133-km Peripheral Ring Road linking Mamallapuram with Ennore, entirely skirting the city, is finally over. The Centre has now cleared Tamil Nadu's proposal for external funding of the ambitious Rs.12,301 crore project.

The department of economic affairs under the union finance ministry has sent its concurrence on August 10 stating that the project has been included in Japan International Co-operation Agency's annual plan.

About 50% of the project cost has been earmarked for construction and maintenance of roads, and the entire project has been divided into five sections. In order to improve Ennore Port's connectivity and make freight movement easy, the first phase of construction has been planned along North Access Road (section-I) which connects the port to Thatchur on National Highway 5.

According to sources, of the five sections, traffic density is the highest along section III connecting the industrial corridor in Sriperumbudur and Singaperumalkoil, located 25 km from Tambaram. Results of the recent cost benefit analysis report suggest the Annual Average Daily Traffic on the 24.85-km stretch was 28,297.As per the revised detailed project report, North Access Road and the stretch linking Mamallapuram and Singaperumalkoil will have two lanes of traffic in each direction, while the remaining sections will be 6-lane thoroughways.

All the stretches would have two-way service roads on both sides besides 2-3 metre footpaths or utility corridors (with drains). The initial plan proposed 22-metre-wide medians throughout the link road, but width was reduced to 4 metres in the final stage. Government reports suggest traffic is expected to increase by 13% to 19% on these roads in the next 10 years and more than 4 lakh vehicles, mostly multi-axle trucks, could be using the stretch daily by 2027.

Considering this, the state highways department reserved 60m-100m of space on either side of the roads so that they can be expanded if the demand shot up as estimated.

The state had earlier sought aid from Japan International Cooperation Agency for the project which would facilitate container movement from southern districts to Ennore Port. The Tamil Nadu Road Infrastructure Development Corporation has begun construction along the stretch, said a senior official from the state highways and minor ports department. “They were assigned the task of widening the connecting road to six lanes and only patch works are pending,“ the official said.

New Metro rail policy

The new Metro rail policy has opened window for private investment in activities such as operation and maintenance, fare collection and other non-core functions. Under the current regime, the private sector is allowed under the public-private partnership framework for the entire project. The changes will enable private sector to manage rolling stock and signalling systems, as it would bring “managerial efficiency“.

The policy, approved by the Cabinet, also mandates states to ensure feeder transport facility for a 5 km area so that passengers don't struggle for last-mile connectivity. Ridership is largely linked to the issue of last-mile connectivity. The aim is to deepen Metro railway presence. Currently, 370 km of Metro is operational in eight cities and another 537 km is under construction in 13 cities.

The new guidelines also say Metro projects should be proposed only after assessing other mass transit solu tions such as BRT (bus rapid transport), LRT (light rail transit) and monorail to find which is most cost effective.

States can also take up Metro rail projects on their own and opt for central assistance of one-tenth of the project cost without worrying about the Centre's involvement. Considering the huge requirement of capital in such projects, the policy mandates private investments for accessing central assistance for new projects.

Sources said though Metro man E Sreedharan had suggested that Centre should stay away from PPP route, the government has given the go-ahead. The policy also focuses on the need to get revenue from alternative sources including property development and advertisements to make the projects financially viable. It makes its mandatory for states to incorporate some elements of transit oriented development, which focuses on development of office and residential complexes along Metro rail corridors.

States also need to adopt innovative mechanisms to mobilise resources by capturing a share of the increase in the value of the asset through a `betterment levy'.

States would also be required to enable low cost debt capital through issue of corporate bonds for Metro rail projects.

This means projects such as Delhi Metro phase-IV, which are still to get the go ahead, will now need to incorporate these provisions in their proposal.

However, sources said the policy hardly puts in place a framework for prioritising the sanctioning of projects. Without having an assessment system in place, it would have little impact.

US brands Hizb a foreign terror outfit

A day after US President Trump called PM Narendra Modi to greet him on Independence Day, the US designated Pakistan-based Hizbul-Mujahideen, responsible for attacks in J-K for the last three decades, as a “foreign terrorist organisation“.

The labelling of Hizb as an FTO means it will face financial sanctions. The Trump administration's previous decision to designate Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin a “global terrorist“ came just ahead of Modi's meeting with the US President in Washington in June.

The announcement is also read as a sign of US-India proximity on strategic issues at a time when Delhi is locked in a tense face-off with Beijing near the Sikkim-Bhutan-China tri-junction and is facing a daily dose of threatening statements from Beijing. The action also indicates that the US does not support China's efforts to protect terror groups sustained by Pakistan against international sanctions. The US designation of Hizbul-Mujahideen as a “foreign terrorist organisation“ seeks to deny it the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks, the State Department said in a media note announcing the move. Among other consequences, it said, all of HM's property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group.

The move comes ahead of a widely-awaited review of South Asia strategy -involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India -which Trump will preside over on Friday at Camp David with vice-president Mike Pence and the National Security team.

The US decision is seen as an act of solidarity with India in its fight against terrorism and jihadi outfits operating out of Pakistan with the support of the Pakistani army and ISI. The decision, as in the case of Salahuddin, acknowledges India's arguments that the Hizb and its leaders are terrorists rather than “freedom fighters“ as claimed by Pakistan and separatists in J-K.

Hizb is now in the same list as Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Boko Haram or other Pakistan-based anti-India terror outfits such as LeT and Jaish-e Mohammad.

India now has a strong chance to push its case for designating Syed Salahuddin and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen as `global terror outfits' in the United Nations Security Council.


Milestones in Independent India’s business history

70 markers that have led to an ecosystem in which India can vie for global economic leadership. At 70, India has come a long way from the country the British exited in 1947, and which they believed (and hoped) would not survive in its then form. India has since evolved into a vibrant constitutional democracy and made rapid strides in several domains (although there is a lot of work still to be done).

1947: The Industrial Disputes Act, governing organized industrial labour, is passed.

1949: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), previously a shareholders’ bank, is nationalized.

1950: The Planning Commission, a central planning body, is set up.

1951: First Five-Year Plan, based on the Harrod-Domar Model of economic growth and focusing on the primary sector, is presented.

1951: The first Indian Institute of Technology is set up in Kharagpur.

1953: Air India is nationalized.

1955:The Imperial Bank of India is nationalized to create the State Bank of India.

1956: Industrial Policy Resolution is passed by Parliament, marking the beginning of the Licence Raj.

1956: Second Five-Year Plan, based on the Feldman-Mahalanobis model and focusing on heavy industry, is presented.

1956:Life insurance is nationalized, and the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) established.

1956: India’s first atomic reactor, Apsara, goes critical at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

1957: The decimal system of coinage is introduced.

1958: Dhirubhai Ambani establishes the Reliance Group as a trading house called Reliance Commercial Corporation.

1958: The first Hindustan Ambassador car is produced.

1959: The Rourkela Steel Plant is commissioned.

1961: Indian Institutes of Management are set up in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Ahmedabad.

1963: The Bhakra Nangal Dam becomes operational.

1965: Green Revolution.

1966: The Indian rupee is devalued following the Public Law 480 food aid programme as part of the Aid India Consortium at the World Bank.

1967: The first commercials are aired on Vividh Bharati.

1968: The Foreign Investment Board is established.

1969: 14 leading banks are nationalized.

1969: The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act becomes law.

1970: The Industrial Licensing Policy comes into force, confining the role of large business to core, heavy and export-oriented sectors.

1971: The collapse of the Bretton Woods system sees the rupee pegged to the pound sterling. This causes real depreciation and exports to grow at 15% in nominal terms over the following decade.

1972: General insurance is nationalized.

1973: Coal mines and oil companies are nationalized.

1973: The Foreign Exchange Regulation Act is passed.

1973: The longest rail service in India, from Mangalore to Delhi, is inaugurated.

1974: Oil struck in the first well at Sagar Samrat, off Bombay High.

1975: Aryabhatta, the first Indian satellite, is launched from the Soviet cosmodrome.

1976: A bill abolishing bonded labour is passed.

1976: Economist Raj Krishna coins the term ‘Hindu rate of growth’, referring to India’s slower rate of economic growth compared to the rapidly growing east Asian economies.

1977: Reliance Industries launches its initial public offering (IPO).

1978: Housing Development Finance Corporation Ltd, or HDFC, the first specialized mortgage company in India, disburses its first home loan.

1978: First TV commercial is aired.

1980: India’s first credit card, Central Card, is introduced by the Central Bank of India.

1981: Infosys Ltd is incorporated by N.R. Narayana Murthy and six other co-founders.

1982: Mumbai textile mills strike led by controversial union leader Datta Samant and involving nearly 2,50,000 workers in 80 mills cripples the textile industry for over a year.

1982: Indian Oil Corporation commissions India’s first public sector petroleum refinery in Guwahati.

1983: First batch of Maruti cars rolls out, priced at about Rs.35,000 apiece.

1984: Bhopal gas tragedy, the world’s worst industrial disaster takes place following gas leak at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant. Over 10,000 people lose their lives over the next few weeks of the disaster.

1985: Significant tax reforms are kicked off by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi with V.P. Singh as finance minister.

1986: Demographer Ashish Bose coins the term BIMARU (Bihar-Madhya Pradesh-Rajasthan-Uttar Pradesh) referring to the poor socio-economic conditions in the four states.

1986: S&P BSE Sensex, India’s first equity index, is launched.

1987: India’s first debit card is introduced by Citi Bank, first ATM installed in Mumbai by HSBC.

1988: Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is established.

1991: Balance of payments crisis hits India.

1991: P.V. Narasimha Rao government’s budget ushers in the era of liberalization.

1992: National Stock Exchange launched as the first demutualized electronic exchange in the country.

1992: Reliance Group becomes the first Indian conglomerate to raise money in international markets.

1992: The Harshad Mehta scam roils markets but lays the path for tighter market regulation.

1993: Infosys launches IPO.

1993: HDFC becomes the first Indian company to receive in-principal approval for setting up a private sector bank.

1993: Hindustan Unilever (HUL) takes over its largest competitor, Tata Oil Mills Company.

1994: Rupee is made convertible on the current account.

1995: National Telecom Policy is formulated to open up Indian markets for foreign direct investment as well as domestic investment in the telecom sector. One of its main goals was to increase accessibility to telecom services.

1995: Cellular phone services are inaugurated as West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu makes the first call from Kolkata.

1999: Satyam Infoway’s Rs.499-crore buyout of Rajesh Jain’s IndiaWorld sets off dotcom boom in India.

2000: Privatization of insurance business with a 26% limit on FDI in the sector.

2002: Competition Act comes into force.

2006: India’s largest-ever rural jobs scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), is launched.

2006: Tata group pays $12.98 billion to acquire UK-based Corus in the largest ever cross-border acquisition by an Indian company.

2008: Tata Motors launches Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car.

2009: The Satyam scam erupts.

2011: 2G scam is exposed.

2013: Mars Orbiter Mission, the least expensive in the world, is successfully launched by Isro.

2016: The government announces demonetisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 currency notes.

2017: Passage of the Goods and Service Tax Bill ushers in a uniform tax structure throughout the country.

Smart Cities Take Shape

Two years after the Central government launched its flagship Smart City Mission, the cities have started smartening up. First off the blocks is Pune with its hi-tech command-and-control centre, which has been developed as the nerve centre for urban governance to centrally manage traffic, water and electricity supply and provide CCTV-based city surveillance.

The command-and-control centre is the first project being implemented across the smart cities. So far, all 20 cities, chosen in January 2016 after a meticulous all-India competition, have floated tenders for the centre. Pune has already rolled out six modules of this multi-crore command centre project. These include traffic management system, citizen feedback and emergency alert systems. Pune has planned the centre for not only effective city-level coordination but also as its citizen interface. At present, alerts are being sent on traffic to better manage the flow during peak office hours.

Pune and Nagpur would have fully functional command centres by the end of 2017. This would mean managing almost all municipal and city services centrally. The centre would manage CCTV based city surveillance, drone-based aerial surveillance, pan-city kiosks for municipal services including death and birth certificate registration, traffic signal violation system, automatic traffic management, parking lots, water and electricity supply. The command-and-control centres, which would cost the city between Rs.100 and Rs.500 crore, would have helplines to handhold citizens through all services.

Apart from Pune and Nagpur, three other cities which are in fairly advanced stages of command-and-control centre project rollout are Kakinada, Naya Raipur and Bhopal. All the command-and-control centres planned in the first batch of 20 cities would be functional by the end of the current financial year. The other smart cities, chosen in the subsequent rounds of challenge contests, are waiting for Bhopal to rollout its centre. “Bhopal's control centre would be the most expensive at Rs.500 crore.But the most unique aspect is that Bhopal is planning its centre in such a manner that it can be used by other cities as well. The investment is huge but the returns are expected to be immense.“

Private partnership is the key to effective implementation of Smart City Mission. As per ministry statistics, the private sector investments have been meeting the target in the first phase of implementation.

Centre clears Rs.32,000 cr plan to bolster Coast Guard

The government has approved a Rs.31,748 crore “definitive five-year action programme“ for the Coast Guard, which is the defence ministry's smallest armed force after the Army, IAF and Navy but whose role has become crucial ever since the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai in 2008.

The action plan to bolster the force-levels of Coast Guard in terms of offshore patrol vessels, boats, helicopters, aircraft and critical operational infrastructure was cleared at a meeting chaired by defence secretary Sanjay Mitra earlier this month.

The aim is to make the Coast Guard a 175-ship and 110-aircraft force by 2022 to plug operational gaps and strengthen its capabilities to safeguard coastal security, island territories, offshore assets and marine environment as well as undertake anti-piracy, anti-smuggling, oil-spill and pollution-control operations.

India has a 7,516 km coastline, with 1,382 islands and a sprawling Exclusive Economic Zone of 2.01 million sq km, which will go up to almost 3 million sq km after delimitation of the Continental Shelf.

But the Coast Guard cur rently has 130 “surface units'' in the shape of 60 ships (offshore patrol vessels, fast patrol vessels and pollution-control vessels), 18 hovercrafts, and 52 smaller interceptor boatscrafts.

The “air units“, in turn, are limited to 39 Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft, 19 Chetak choppers and four Dhruv advanced light helicopters.

The action plan intends to “consolidate the progress“ made by the Coast Guard, which is currently headed by Rajendra Singh as the director-general, after the 26/11 Mumbai strikes punched gaping holes in the country's coastal security architecture.

“The force already has 65 ships and interceptor crafts boats under construction. Moreover, the acquisition of 30 helicopters for over Rs.5,000 crore is also underway ,“ said a source. While 16 indigenous Dhruv choppers have already been ordered from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, the procurement of 14 twinengine EC-725 tactical choppers, which can carry up to 30 passengers, from Airbus is in the final stages of approval now.

With Coast Guard also looking for six more maritime multi-mission surveillance aircraft, the force will also get five more air stationsenclaves to add to the nine such establishments already present. “The existing 42 stations (20 were sanctioned after 26/11), under the five regional headquarters at Gandhinagar, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Port Blair, will also be fully-developed and made `smart' with better infrastructure,“ said the source.

“Coast Guard has taken a conscious decision to stabilize its geographic spread in order to also focus on development of critical operational infrastructure like jetties for ships and hangers for aircraft,“ he added.

With an existing man power of around 1,600 officers, 9,000 uniformed personnel and 1,200 civilians, the Coast Guard primarily has a non-military maritime security charter, except during war when it conjoins with the Navy for national defence operations.

The force, however, now also acts as the “lead intelligence agency for coastal and sea borders“. The 26/11 Mumbai carnage, after all, had exposed the lack of “critical connectivity'' between intelligence agencies and security agencies.

Since then, the Navy and Coast Guard have dramatically cranked up their maritime vigil. Several other measures, ranging from Phase-I of the coastal surveillance radar network to the naval NC3I (national command, control, communication and intelligence) network have been implemented. But much more needs to be done.

US & India announce `elevated' tie-up

With the threat of an economically and militarily assertive China looming before the US and India, American President Donald Trump chose India's Independence Day to signal that Washington has New Delhi's back by announcing that the two countries “will elevate their strategic consultations“.

The US president called PM Narendra Modi ostensibly to congratulate Indians on the country's I-Day celebration. But a White House readout on the call went far beyond the pleasantries, disclosing that “the leaders resolved to enhance peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region by establishing a new 2-by-2 ministerial dialogue that will elevate their strategic consultations“.

The readout did not elaborate on the principals or the subject of the 2-by-2 dialogue, but the two countries have a long overdue annual strategic dialogue mechanism instituted by previous administrations.

The dialogue typically involves high cabinet officials from both sides, including the secretary of state and commerce secretary from the US and their Indian counterparts.

Although the White House statement did not refer explicitly to China, much less the Doklam issue, the reference to enhancing peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region appears to be shot across Beijing's bow, and constitutes a continuation of the recognition by the Obama administration of India's stakes in the region.

The White House statement also came hours after Trump announced a review of China's trade prac tices, dialing down on his threat to initiate strong actions that could lead to a trade war in which both sides will suffer.

Notably, there was no Trump phone call to any Pakistani leader on the occasion of that country's IDay, confirming the impression that Washington has long de-hyphenated the two countries. Secretary Rex Tillerson recently engaged with Islamabad with prospects of some bilateral visits involving him and Pakistan's new foreign minister K M Asif.

Trump also sought to ramp up business ties with India specifically talking up the Global Entrepreneur Summit in Hyderabad, India, this coming November for which he has detailed his daughter Ivanka Trump to attend.

“As the leaders of two of the world's largest and fastest-growing major economies, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi looked forward to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India this November. President Trump has asked Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump to lead the United States summit delegation,“ the White House readout noted.

Indira Canteen

Neither gaali nor goli is way ahead in Kashmir: Modi

In the backdrop of heated and contentious debates on communal harmony, faith and identity politics, Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his Independence Day speech to make a strong pitch against violence in the name of faith that he said is harmful for the social fabric.

“Sometimes in the name of faith, some people due to lack of patience end up destroying the social fabric. The country is governed by peace, harmony and unity. The poison of casteism and communalism can never benefit the country,“ the PM said from the ram parts of the Red Fort.

“This is the land of Gandhi and Buddha, we have to move forward taking everyone along. This is part of our country's culture and tradition. We have to successfully carry it forward and that is why in the name of faith, violence cannot be allowed,“ he further said.

Though he did not elaborate, Modi's remarks can be seen in the context of his admonition to selfstyled `gau rakshaks' for indulging in violence against cattle transporters who have often been Muslims, something which has led opponents to question the sincerity of PM's “sabka saath, sabka vikas“ promise. By focusing on it again in his Red Fort speech, the PM has put the concern on a different pedestal. In his fourth Independence Day address as Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned violence in the name of communalism and casteism.

Unlike earlier references to “gau rakshaks“, Tuesday's remarks appeared to be directed against all kinds of zealots and extremists.

After more than a year of operations which seem to have given security forces an upper hand, the PM hinted at dialogue in Jammu - Kashmir, saying neither “gaali (abuse)“ nor “goli (bullet)“ is the way ahead.

“There are a lot of charges and counter-charges... everyone is busy abusing everyone else... My mind is clear on how to win this battle. Change will happen by embracing every Kashmiri. Such is the legacy of 125 crore Indians. And we are moving forward with this resolve,“ Modi added.

He also spoke about J-K's development and progress being the responsibility of the country as a whole, and not merely the state government's. He did, however, say there would be no slackening of security operations.

“There is no question of being soft on terrorism. We have been asking the extremists to join the mainstream. Democracy provides equal opportunity and rights to be heard by all. The process of engagement can take place only by their joining the mainstream,“ he said.

The emphasis was clear enough. Separatists -under investigation for their links with Pakistan and stonepelters -could become part of the dialogue process if they demonstrably distanced themselves from violence and considered joining the political mainstream.

Modi also called for a positive outlook to nation-building, saying it was time to give up an indifferent “chalta hai“ (business as usual) attitude and adopt a “can do“ or a “change is possible“ outlook to build a new India that celebrates togetherness and progress of all.

He quoted a sanskrit shlok to say that if action is not taken at the right time, the expected results are not obtained.

The speech, Modi's shortest Independence Day address so far, did not mention, even obliquely, the tensions with China over Doklam, and was marked by an absence of foreign policy references as he set out a domestic agenda in the five years to India's 75th anniversary .

He linked the issues of security to India's global stature, which he said was rising. “Be it hawala or any inputs on terrorism, the global community is supporting us with critical information,“ he said.

Modi also said the government would complete some 99 schemes, including several to improve agriculture, by 2019, when the Lok Sabha elections are due.

He highlighted initiatives against corruption such as demonetisation and GST, and dwelled on the need to create more self-employment rather than regular jobs.

DeMon revealed Rs 3L cr black cash: PM Modi

PM Narendra Modi hit out at critics of the demonetisation drive and promised to continue the fight against black money while citing independent data to argue that Rs.3 lakh crore of unaccounted for wealth had flown into the banking system due to the withdrawal of two high-denomination notes.

Modi said deposits of over Rs.1.75 lakh crore made in banks post demonetisation, and 18 lakh people with income suspected to be beyond their known sources, were under scrutiny.

Of the 18 lakh, 4.5 lakh people are now amending their “mistakes“, while one lakh “who had neither heard of income tax nor paid income tax have now been forced to do so“, the PM said. Modi added that demonetisation forced “black money which was hidden to be brought to mainstream. Our effort was to get money into banks and make it a part of formal economy and we have done it successfully“.

He suggested that compliance levels had improved, which was manifested in the surge in tax filers, pointing out that the number of additional I-T returns filed between April and August 5 had more than doubled to 56 lakh this year, compared to 22 lakh in the corresponding period last year. Besides, he pointed to other steps initiated by his government since it swept to power in 2014 to argue that the fight against black money was unrelenting. Modi said that over 3 lakh shell companies had been detected, of which around 1.75 lakh had been de-registered.

The demonetisation move, he said, had checked the generation of new black money . “We will continue our fight against black money and corruption. And slowly , by using technology and connecting (biometric identification) Aadhaar (with several items including bank accounts and income tax return filing), we have made successful efforts,“ he added.

The PM also said that in a short span of time, the authorities had confiscated more than Rs.800 crore of benami properties.

Bengaluru receives a month's rain in 5 hrs

Bengaluru received 184 cm rainfall on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday, the highest recorded in a 24-hour period in the last two decades. It began pouring around 11 pm on Monday and continued till about 4 am on Tuesday, which is nearly 88% of the total rain expected over the entire month, said the state disaster monitoring centre. While Tuesday was largely cloudy, there was heavy rain in the evening.

The overnight rain flooded several parts of the city, submerging parking lots and entire road stretches, and snapped power in vast swathes since the early hours of Tuesday. The swollen Yediyur lake breached a retaining wall while foam from the Bellandur lake flowed to neighbouring localities. At least 26 trees were uprooted. South Bengaluru, home to IT majors and startups, was the worst affected. The closure of schools and offices due to I-Day provided some respite to citizens from the traffic menace on flooded roads. Traffic movement was sluggish till noon at many places, but normalised towards evening, traffic police said.

While waterlogging complaints were being attended to till late at night, power situation was back to normal in most parts. Wednesday, a working day, may prove to be troublesome with thousands of commuters hitting the roads. The Met department has predicted heavy rainfall for at least another day, due to cyclonic conditions over south coastal Tamil Nadu.

Troops clash in Ladakh as India blocks China's incursion bids

Indian and Chinese soldiers pelted stones at each other at Ladakh in the western sector, in yet another incident along the Line of Actual Control even as the tense troop stand-off in Doklam area in the eastern sector continued.

The confrontation between the rival soldiers took place on the north bank of Pangong Tso (Tso means lake) in eastern Ladakh, two-thirds of which is controlled by China as it extends from Tibet to India, early on Tuesday morning.

But the Army refused to say anything once again. The PLA soldiers continue to needle Indian forces in all the three sectors of the 4,057-km LAC -western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh) -in the backdrop of both sides having militarily reinforced their positions due to the Doklam standoff near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction.

Late last month, 10-15 PLA soldiers had `transgressed' almost one km into a disputed pocket -a mutually agreed `demilitarized zone' -at Barahoti in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, twice in quick succession.

Eastern Ladakh, in particular, has emerged as a major flashpoint between the two armies, especially in the areas of Chumarr, Depsang and Pangong Tso, over the last several years.

Located at an altitude of 13,900-feet across the Changla Pass, Pangong Tso is a 134-km long brackish lake in which both armies have also deployed armed boats against each other. There are boat, motorised and foot-patrol transgressions on a regular basis in the area.

The region became an even bigger flashpoint when, during the 1999 Kargil conflict with Pakistan, China even constructed a `track' right up to the lake's southern bank.

On the eastern front, China remains adamant about Indian troops unilaterally withdrawing from the ongoing face-off in the Doklam area, which is actually Bhutanese territory but coveted by China.

The Doklam imbroglio, of course, is different from the usual transgressions across the LAC, since it is located in a third country (Bhutan), and India has reinforced its military posture near the tri-junction in the face of escalating rhetoric from China.


Export Growth at 8-Month Low

Rupee appreciation and GST regime related disruptions slowed India's export growth to an eight-month low in July. Exports grew 3.94% in July to $22.5 billion. Imports rose faster at 15.4% to $33.9 billion leaving a trade gap of $11.4 billion in July compared with $7.6 billion in the year ago period and $12.9 billion in May. Gold imports rose 95% in June to $2.1 billion.

Major commodity groups of export showing positive growth over the corresponding month of last year are engineering goods (15.16%), petroleum products (20.27%), organic & inorganic chemicals (20.67%), cotton yarn made-ups, handloom products (5.39%) and marine products (30.53%).

The widening of the merchandise trade deficit was primarily led by higher imports of gold, coal, electronic goods, iron & steel.

India's export numbers have come when China's exports and imports slowed down in July.

For the first week of July, exports worth millions of dollars were stuck in factories due to confusion over customs norms under GST.

Oil import was valued at $7.84 billion in July, an increase of 15% over the same month in 2016.

Cumulative export during April-July of 2017-18 rose by 8.91% to $94.75 billion while import increased by 28.3% to $146.25 billion, leaving a trade deficit of $51.5 billion. The pace of growth of non-oil, non-gold imports slowed to a five month low of 11.6%, indicating domestic demand losing strength.

Bids invited for Aamby Valley

The auction process of the beleaguered Sahara Group's Aamby Valley City began on Monday with the official liquidator inviting bids at a reserve price of Rs.37,392 crore.

The development comes three days after the Supreme Court declined to entertain the Sahara Group's plea to postpone the auction of the prime hill station property located in Pune district. The auction is part of the efforts to partly recover the pending dues of the Sahara Group to various lenders.

Bombay high court OL Vinod Sharma on Monday issued notices for the public auction of “sale/lease“ on an “as-is-where-is-whatever-there-is“ of the Aamby Valley City, located around 90 km from Pune. Sharma stated that with the huge quantum of properties to be disposed, the auction will be conducted in two phases spread over two days.

The notice said the property comprises an integrated hill-city township-Aamby Valley City Development. The notice said the Aamby Val ley township was the first-of its-kind “megalopolis“, spread over 6,761.64 acres. It also includes land measuring 1,409.87 acres surrounding this project and another 321.66 acres within adjoining Satara district.

The notice also clarifies that the properties being auctioned are being sold/leased along with all the subsisting licences, consents, permissions, registrations, approvals, grants and pending applications as per the SC order dated July 25, 2017. Meanwhile, the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority said that only after the auction was completed would it look into any permission sought by the new buyers. The Aamby valley comes under the PMRDA's jurisdiction.

“Our role will come in after the auction process is over. If the new buyers want to make any changes within the project (like constructions), we will look into their applications. As of now, it is a private auction and we will not interfere,“ PMRDA chief Kiran Gitte said. Recently, the Lavasa hill station had come under the PMRDA's jurisdiction and all work of checking for permissions came in its ambit. Gitte said both the district collector and the PMRDA would wait for the auction to be completed and the authority would check the records of the buyers only if the state government asked it to intervene. Officials from the district collectorate also said they would get into the issue only if they are asked to.


Eco Survey Lists Growth Pains

The Economic Survey made a strong case for monetary easing and fiscal adjustments, flagging multiple new risks and deflationary impulses that could hinder the country achieving the higher end of the projected growth band of 6.75% to 7.5% for this fiscal year. A structural reform push to growth will come from implementation of GST, privatising national carrier Air India and steps to address the twin balance-sheet problem.

Lead authored by chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian, the survey revives the disagreement between him and the central bank over monetary policy. The survey piled pressure on the Reserve Bank of India to cut interest rates, saying the key policy rate is still 25-75 basis points more than neutral. It said there is considerable scope for monetary easing and the sooner it is done, the quicker the economy can reach its full potential.

The survey also suggested that the government should be more flexible and allow fiscal adjustments during the year if required. It also called for farm sector reforms to counter deflationary tendencies weighing down the economy. The early presentation of the budget this year had forced the Economic Survey to be split in two parts. The first part, the analytical one, was presented during the budget process. The second part, containing more of a backward-looking review, was presented in Parliament this week.

The survey warned of “exuberance“ in the financial markets, pointing out that the price-earnings ratio of Indian stocks is “substantially greater than the long-run average of 18 and not far from the frothy level reached in 2007“.

The survey said there is “optimism about medium term and gathering anxiety about near-term deflationary impulses“.

Optimism has been rekindled on structural reforms and there is growing confidence that macroeconomic stability has become “entrenched,“ it said, attributing this to government and RBI actions and structural oil market change.

Farm loan waivers will disrupt state government finances, the survey said, estimating this at as Rs.2.7 lakh crore. The short-term costs of demonetisation, real exchange rate appreciation, stressed farm revenue because of low cereal prices, lower telecom and power sector profitability causing more stress to banks and transitional friction from implementation of GST are other possible hurdles for the economy .

On the positive side, there is some upside from GST and measures to address the twin balance sheet issue.

The survey said India may be entering a new era of low inflation, attributing it to the deep, technology driven shifts in international energy markets and improvements in domestic policy and agricultural markets. Good rainfall is expected to keep food inflation in check while GST is expected to reduce prices through the lower incidence of tax.

The survey expects inflation to be well below RBI's target of 4% by March 2018. Consumer inflation was 1.5% in June. The average inflation is seen at 3% in FY18. It said real policy interest rates are elevated and higher than in other emerging markets.

The survey said the fiscal outlook for the year is uncertain because of reduced revenue from slower-than-anticipated nominal growth, reduced GST collections, lower telecom spectrum receipts and increased expenditure of Rs.30,000 crore on account of the seventh pay commission awards.

IAF airbases in NE on high alert

India continues to pump in additional troops and weapon systems on the entire eastern front in face of continuing belligerence from China on the Doklam stand-off, even as diplomatic and military channels are being utilised in a bid to defuse the almost two month-old crisis.

A top-level flag meeting between major-general rank officers from India and China was held at the Nathu La border personnel meeting point in Sikkim for the first time on Friday , following the failure of a similar meet between brigade commanders on August 8 to break the deadlock.

But the latest meeting also proved “inconclusive“ with China remaining adamant that India should immediately withdraw troops from the Bhutanese territory of Doklam near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction. “The Indian side held China should first remove its road construction equipment from the site. Both sides will now report back to their headquarters,“ said a source.

The meeting between top military officers indicates a line of communication at the ground level and efforts to exchange perceptions and possibly explore means to contain the confrontation.

The Army has steadily but stealthily moved troops to their “operational alert areas“ on the borders with China in Sikkim and Arunachal, while also maintaining high operational readiness of its other formations and units all along the 4,057-km long LAC stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal.

India's troop mobilisation comes in response to muscle flexing by China, which has amassed troops, tanks and artillery in the Tibet Military District. “While the People's Liberation Army is showing its teeth in a bid to make us cower down, we have cranked up our caution levels,“ said a source.

But at the actual face-off site located at an altitude of over 11,000-feet in Doklam, which China is keen to grab from Bhutan to add strategic depth to its narrow Chumbi Valley, there are still only 300-350 soldiers ranged against each other. The PLA has deployed another 1,500 soldiers just beyond the standoff site as part of its aggressive posture.

In sharp contrast to China's belligerence and threats of military reprisals, through both its officials and state-controlled media, India has chosen to remain largely tight-lipped about the entire face-off from the beginning. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, in fact, had recently stressed the need for both sides to mutually withdraw their troops from Doklam simultaneously .

At least two flag meetings were also held earlier between the local commanders after Indian troops had proactively blocked the attempt by the PLA to construct a motorable road in Doklam on on June 18, but they had proved futile with both armies refusing to budge.


RBI Cuts Surplus Transfer to Govt

The Reserve Bank of India slashed the surplus it transfers to the government by more than half amid speculation that demonetisation imposed a cost on the regulator which also functions as a banker to the government. The unexpected shrinkage in the RBI's surplus transfer is likely to dent the government's fiscal deficit calculations, which may push up the borrowings for the fiscal year, said economists.

The RBI would transfer Rs.30,659 crore to the treasury, down from Rs.65,876 crore a year earlier, it said in a statement. Record low yields from investment overseas may also have reduced the returns for the RBI.

The central bank's annual transfer of surplus is a significant amount for the government. For many years, the RBI has been doing more than what the government factors in at the beginning of the fiscal year in the union budget.

The lower dividend this year will leave a big hole in the government budget in fiscal 2018, as it had budgeted Rs.74,901 crore as dividend from the RBI, nationalised banks and financial institutions. Last fiscal year, the government received Rs.76,172 crore as such dividends of which the RBI contributed Rs.65,876 crore, implying that amount raised could be much less than budgeted this year because of the lower dividend from the RBI.

The reduction could also be due to a number of factors, including higher cost of printing new currency notes and cost of managing excess liquidity generated from phasing out of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes, though it is difficult to identify the exact reasons at this stage.

The RBI, from 2014, transfers its entire profit to the government, following global best practices followed by central banks. An analysis of past profit statements of the RBI indicates that a bulk of the income for the central bank is interest income, of which nearly 60% is interest earned on domestic bond holdings.

Softbank buys 20% stake in Flipkart

SoftBank, the world's largest technology investment firm, has bought a fifth of India's most valuable startup -Flipkart -for a mammoth $2.5 billion, in a deal that marks the biggest private investment in the country's consumer technology sector. The Japanese investor -best known for backing China's Alibaba -is now the biggest investor in India's largest online retail company that is battling US' Amazon in one of the world's most competitive markets for ecommerce.

The investment -from SoftBank's $100-billion Vision Fund -is a mix of direct funding to the ecommerce company that is termed as primary investment, and also the purchase of shares from existing shareholders that is described as secondary investment. The deal will provide a partial exit to Tiger Global, the New York-based investment firm, which until now was the largest and most influential investor in Flipkart.

Tiger Global will own about 18% stake in the company now while South African media giant Naspers along with Chinese Internet conglomerate Tencent will hold another 20% stake.

This secondary transaction, which is estimated to have valued the company at $7-8 billion, will also provide partial exits to the two cofounders, employees as well as Flipkart's first investor -venture fund Accel Partners.

This deal will take SoftBank's total investment in India to over $6 billion. It recently pumped in $1.4 billion in digital payments and commerce firm Paytm at a valuation of over $7 billion and is the biggest shareholder in India's largest ride hailing application Ola.

With this investment, Flipkart's cash reserves cross $4 billion, allowing the Bengaluru-headquartered online retail giant to create a deeper moat, as it prepares to stave off stiff competition from Jeff Bezos' Amazon. The American company has pulled out all stops to grab pole position in India's discount-fuelled, highly-attritional ecommerce industry.

Bhutan counters China's fake claims

Bhutan forcefully countered reports in Chinese media that it has accepted Beijing's claim over Doklam, the scene of a tense military faceoff between Chinese and Indian forces, and asserted that there was no shift in its stance. Bhutan pushed back against Chinese propaganda with official sources in the Bhutan government telling that the area under the spotlight was very much Bhutanese territory.

Thimphu's reiteration comes even as Indian and Chinese troops continue to reinforce their positions not far from the Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan trijunction where China's attempt to build a road was stalled by India. The road would give China a tactical ad vantage and besides being an intrusion in Bhutanese territory also violated the India-China special representatives' agreement that there would be no unilateral attempts to alter status quo.

Bhutan had on June 29 issued a press release in which it clearly stated that construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory was a direct violation of agreements and affected the process of demarcating the boundary between the two countries.

Bhutan said the Chinese army started constructing a motorable road from Dokola in the Doklam area towards the Bhutan army camp at Zompelri on June 16. It further said the boundary talks between Bhutan and China were underway and the two countries had written agreements of 1988 and 1998 stating that they agree to maintain peace and tranquillity in their border areas pending a final settlement of the boundary question. The two countries have also agreed to maintain status quo on the boundary as before March 1959 and refrain from taking unilateral action, or use of force, to change the status quo.

A senior Chinese official, Wang Wenli, had claimed that Bhutan had conveyed to Beijing through diplomatic channels that the area of the standoff was not its territory.Wang, who is the deputy director general of the department of boundary and ocean affairs in China's foreign ministry, reportedly conveyed this information to a visiting Indian media delegation on Wednesday. She, however, did not provide any evidence to back her claim, and is seen as part of an intense media war unleashed by Beijing. This has now been strongly denied by Bhutan.

China is engaging in full spectrum psychological warfare to sow confusion in India and Bhutan. The Chinese diplomat, while acknowledging that Bhutan had initially protested Beijing's violation in the Doklam area, was quoted as saying, “After the incident, the Bhutanese made it very clear to us that the place where the trespassing happened is not Bhutan's territory .“

Somewhere near Bengaluru....

Sixty-five lakes in the parched districts of Bengaluru Rural and Chikkaballapura will be rejuvenated using treated water from Bengaluru city in the next 18 months. Chief minister Siddaramaiah will lay the foundation stone for the Rs.883.54-crore project in Devanahalli on Friday.

“Treated water from the Nagavara-Hebbal valley will start flowing into these tanks in 18 months.This water can be used for agriculture and cattle.This is the first time in the country that such a massive project has been taken up and it will also recharge the groundwater table,“ agriculture minister C Krishna Byregowda and law minister T B Jayachandra said on Thursday. Currently, the city generates 1,500 MLD of sewage water per day , of that 750 MLD is treated by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board. In 2015, the government proposed to send treated sewage water from Koramangala-Challaghatta valley and Nagavara-Hebbal valley to Kolar, Chikkaballapura and Bengaluru Rural districts. Tenders were finalized and pipe-laying work has commenced.

“In the first phase, 12 lakes in Bengaluru North, nine in Bengaluru Rural district and 44 in Chikkaballapura district will be filled with treated water. A total of 210 MLD of treated water will be flown into these lakes through the gravity-flow method,“ Byregowda said, adding that rejuvenation of 126 tanks in Kolar is under way.


Ericsson Mobility Report Q1 2017

Cummins to Set up its Biggest Technology Centre @ Pune

American diesel engine specialist Cummins is setting up the group's biggest technology centre in Pune at a cost of Rs.1,500 crore. The proposed Cummins Technical Centre in India will come up on a 16-acre campus at Kothrud on the outskirts of  Pune. It will develop electric and hybrid vehicle solutions, including affordable emission technologies, with the help of 2,500 engineers, according to Sandeep Sinha, chief operating officer of Cummins Group India. The expenditure on the proposed centre will be spread over three to five years.

Apart from delivering affordable emission solutions for the local market, the centre will also spearhead the company's global effort to improve emission technology, including for vehicles and hybrid solutions. The centre will work on exploring and providing technology insights that will offer a critical competitive advantage in engine, component and generator technology for its global operations.

75th Anniversary of Quit India movement: Karenge aur karke rahenge

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on the people of the country to ensure that the next five years are transformative in an address to members of Parliament on the 75th anniversary of the Quit India movement. Citizens should rise above the differences they have with each other and unite in a joint effort to establish an India that the country's freedom fighters had dreamt of in the next five years to 2022, the 75th anniversary of independence.

The Quit India Movement sought an end to British colonial rule and was launched by Mahatma Gandhi on August 8, 1942.

That year, conditions internationally became favourable for India's independence, the PM said. The prime minister noted that the conditions are once again conducive for the country, alluding to the fact that it's an island of economic stability amid global uncertainty. He said that from 1857 to 1942, the move toward freedom was incremental, but the years from 1942 to 1947 brought an upheaval and delivered on the objective of freedom.

Movements such as Quit India are a source of inspiration and it's incumbent on the current generation to pass on the legacy of such crusades to those who come after them. The prime minister recalled that even as senior leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi were jailed at the beginning of the Quit India movement, a new generation emerged to fill the vacuum and take the campaign forward.

The prime minister noted that the freedom struggle went through several phases, and recalled various leaders and movements that emerged at various points since 1857. He added that the Quit India movement that began in 1942 was a decisive campaign. Quoting Gandhiji, the prime minister said that all sections of people joined in, inspired his call of “karenge ya marenge (do or die)“. Once the entire country shared this common resolve, independence was achieved in five years.

Modi said the `karenge ya marenge' slogan should be adapted to `karenge aur karke rahenge' in pursuit of six key aims -the elimination of corruption, ensuring the poor get their rights, youth self-employment, an end to malnutrition, empowering women and ending illiteracy. These are challenges that India needs to overcome, he said.

He also mentioned the role played by women in the freedom struggle and said that they will bring immense strength in the effort to achieve common objectives.

“We are well aware of our rights, we cannot forget our duties, and these too, must become part of our way of life,“ the prime minister said.

Delhi : Asia's fastest growing city

Delhi will have the fastest growth of any city in Asia, with the economy of the city-state likely to become almost 50% larger in 2021 than it was at the end of last year.

Indian cities are set to expand the most across the Asian region, with growth speeding up from the past five years, according to a new study from Oxford Economics, which has ranked Asia's 30 largest cities.

With financial and business services projected to be the fastest growing sector in India, the capital's dominance in this industry will lead to higher growth and higher incomes.

“Limits on foreign ownership of Indian companies are gradually being reduced or eliminated,“ wrote Mark Britton, lead economist on the report. “In the short term, this is conducive to strong growth in Delhi's professional services sector, as overseas investors seek advice on possible deals, while in the long term, it should mean steady income streams for such businesses.“

Consumer companies such as Japan's Muji are also betting on such a change. Muji's parent company , Ryohin Keikaku Co, sees India becoming its second largest international market, after China. There is also Amazon.com Inc's Indian unit, which is seeking approval to invest in a food supply chain and take advantage of government moves to ease rules on foreign retailers.

China's expansion is likely to slow, although the largest five cities there will still be recording growth rates of 6% or more. There will be a slight slowdown across the region amid moderating import demand from China, with growth expected to average 4.2% per year over the next five years up to 2021, down from 4.5% in 2012-2016.

Even so, that growth is still much faster than in the developed economies and cities in the region -and that's a big opportunity for companies. Starbucks Corp plans to almost double the number of stores it has in mainland China by 2021, while McDonald's Corp plans to add 2,000 new restaurants over the same period.

Both companies recently announced they were buying out their partners in Mainland China and taking control of operations.

However, there are significant differences across the Asian region. Japanese cities are likely to remain at the bottom of the growth table amid a challenging demographic outlook, with Osaka last in the rankings as its working-age population falls by approximately 1% per year, the report said.

Tianjin is forecast to clock the fastest growth in China, given that it has a large manufacturing base and one of the nation's busiest ports. However, as the services sector expands, the manufacturing and shipping industries may prove to be less supportive in future.

Ho Chi Minh, the largest metro in Vietnam, was the only non-Indian city in the top five, reflecting the city's success in establishing itself as a manufacturing centre, as well as its strong services sector.

Marathas march into Mumbai

Holding aloft saffron flags, lakhs of Maratha community members filled the city's streets as they took their battle for reservation in government jobs and education to the Maharashtra capital, throwing traffic haywire and putting the overburdened suburban railway under severe strain.

The metropolis turned into a sea of saffron as members of the politically influential community from different parts of the state converged here to press for reservation in government jobs and education among other demands.The Marathas took out a silent march from Jijamata Udyan in Byculla to Azad Maidan in South Mumbai.

As the agitators assembled at Azad Maidan, Mumbai's protest hotpsot, a few kilometres away , in Vidhan Bhawan, CM Devendra Fadnavis announced his government would extend to the Maratha community the educational concessions currently given to OBCs. He also said the BJP-led government would form a cabinet sub committee to review the implementation of various welfare schemes meant for the Maratha community , but stopped short of announcing quotas for them in jobs.

The announcements were made after Fadnavis held a meeting with representatives of the Maratha community , whose demands have received support from almost the entire political spectrum in the state.

A delegation of 40 people, including women, met him at the Vidhan Bhawan this afternoon. The legislature is currently having its monsoon session. Earlier this morning, the Marathas took out their silent march from Jijamata Udyan amid tight security with participants wearing saffron caps and carrying saffron swallowtail flags. Police and traffic personnel were deployed in large numbers to manage the huge inflow of people and the movement of vehicles in Mumbai.

Mumbai's famed 'Dabbawalas' (lunchbox deliverymen), majority of whom hail from the Maratha community, also joined the march.

Maharashtra Govt tables bill to let shops and hotels stay open 24/7

The bill proposes major reforms for shops and establishments by allowing them to set their own opening and closing hours and stay open seven days a week. If the bill goes through, they can operate 24/7, if timing restrictions have not been set by the state or municipality in public interest.

At present, shops have to shut by 10 pm, commercial establishments by 9.30 pm and restaurants 12.30 am.

The reform aims to ease business and allow shops and establishments to compete with online businesses. It follows the Centre's Model Shops and Establishment (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2016.

The bill applies to shops, residential hotels, restaurants, theatres and places of public amusement to which provisions of the Factories Act do not apply. It applies to establishments, which includes businesses involved in banking, stocks, medical practice, architects, engineers, accountants, tax consultants and professional consultants.There are 38.5 lakh establishments in the state.

The Maharashtra Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2017 also allows women to work night shift from 9.30 pm to 7 am with their consent and with the establishment providing safety measures.

Workers will not work more than nine hours a day or 48 hours a week, the bill suggests. Overtime will be twice the wage rate. In establishments that work all seven days, workers will get a weekly holiday, the bill suggests. Workers are also entitled to paid leave, maternity leave and welfare provisions including a crèche and canteen. Employers who violate the law can be fined up to Rs.1 lakh. An employer whose violation leads to the accident or death of a worker can face 6 months imprisonment and a fine of Rs.2 lakh, the bill says.

However, none of the safeguards and welfare measures in the bill applies to shops and establishments with less than 10 employees for whom the bill has relaxed rules. “Establishments with less than 10 workers will still be covered by key laws like the Minimum Wages Act and the Maternity Benefits Act, so they do have safeguards,“ an official said.

Establishments with fewer than 10 workers are not required to register with the government. They merely need to intimate a state-appointed facilitator with self certified documents. To close down, they need to inform the facilitator in 30 days. Such establishments will not be inspected to see if they are violating the law. Officials say this will free kirana and paan shops as well as small shopkeepers from red tape and harassment.

The government says the reform will create jobs. “It will cut red tape and boost employment. Small shopkeepers were needlessly subjected to inspections. Now inspectors will be able to focus on large establishments,“ said an official. The state has 62,577 establishments with over 10 workers and 13 lakh establishments with less than 10 workers.

Labour unions say the reform will make workers more vulnerable, especially those in small establishments. Retailers, however, have welcomed it.


IMD forecasts a normal second half : Monsoon 2017

Bajaj Auto Joins Triumph for Global Ride

Bajaj Auto and UK-based premium motorcycle maker Triumph entered into a global alliance that could challenge Royal Enfield in the global mid-size motorcycle space. Eicher Motors-owned Royal Enfield has already declared its intent to be the No. 1 mid-size motorcycle brand in the world, a segment which is going to form the core of the Bajaj-Triumph partnership that the companies announced.

The two partners believed to have started work on a mid-size motorcycle for India among other global markets. It is expected to be a cruiser bike, which once executed will offer a new entry point for Triumph globally and a product to fill a critical gap in the line-up of the Indian company -managing director Rajiv Bajaj himself has acknowledged the absence of a cruiser bike in its portfolio.

Much like its tie-up with KTM, Bajaj and Triumph will jointly develop the product for emerging markets like India, Thailand and Brazil. It is likely to be manufactured at Bajaj's plant at Chakan in Pune, and exported to those markets. Bajaj is already India's largest exporter of two-wheelers.

The move allows Triumph to grow beyond its annual volume of 60,000-65,000 units and participate in a much larger global pie using Bajaj's distribution network, as in the case of KTM. Bajaj has helped the Austrian motorcycle company build its global volumes from 65,000 units to 2 lakh.

The objective of this non-equity partnership is to deliver a range of outstanding mid-capacity motorcycles benefiting from the collective strengths of both companies, Bajaj and Triumph said a joint statement.

Much like Bajaj Auto, Royal Enfield has decided to specialise and focus on the global mid-size motorcycle space (250-750 cc) to grow the brand. In the last four years, Royal Enfield has seen its annual sales grow five-fold -from 1.2 lakh units at the end of fiscal 2013 to 6.5 lakh units.

With incremental volume coming in from overseas markets, Royal Enfield is planning to produce 9 lakh units this fiscal year and it may cross the 1 million market next year.

Interestingly, Triumph almost a year back had pulled out of a planned Rs.850 crore investment in Karnataka for a manufacturing facility.With partnership talks taking a centre stage, it may utilize the facility of Bajaj to manufacture its smaller displacement bike for future.

1,000 Muslim clerics urge UN to act against Saeed

Over 1,000 Muslim clerics and imams have passed a resolution against 2611 mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, demanding that he be punished for his anti-India activities.
The resolution, passed at a gathering at Madrassa Darul Uloom Ali Hasan Ahle Sunnat in Mumbai, also denounces JuD, along with several other Pakistan-based terror outfits. It has been sent to Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta, chair of the UN Security Council's Counter Terrorism Committee at the Security Council, with a copy marked to the Prime Minister's Office.

“Hafiz Saeed and the terror outfits he heads are threats to global peace. He calls India enemy number one but he is the enemy of Islam and humanity ,“ said the chief of Mumbai-based NGO Islamic Defence Cyber Cell, Dr Abdur Rahman Anjaria, who introduced the resolution.

Anjaria had also initiated the world's biggest fatwa against the terror outfit Islamic State in 2015, getting it signed by over 1,000 Indian Muslim clerics and imams. The fresh resolution says that around 60 terror outfits operate from Pakistan, and urges the UN to initiate action against them.

Asked the reason behind passing the resolution, Maulana Mohammed Hashim Ashrafi, patron of Madrassa Darul Uloom Ali Hasan Ahle Sunnat, said Indian clerics were “morally bound to oppose those who kill or support the killing of innocents in the name of Islam“. “It has been proved beyond doubt that Hafiz Saeed instigates youths to violence. We must oppose him and the ideology he propagates,“ he said.

While Saeed's JuD remains banned in Pakistan, it launched a political party , `Milli Muslim League', on Monday to contest elections in Pakistan.

How is Saeed's party a threat to India, Muslims and the global community? The head of Mumbai's Saki Naka madrassa Abdul Manzar Khan Ashrafi explained, “Pakistan is a nuclear armed country and if people like Saeed are voted to power, he will be a bigger threat to not just India, but the world. He will try to influence Muslim opinion globally and radicalise more youths.“

Mufti Mohammed Manzar Hasan Khan issued a fatwa against suicide bombing at the same meeting.

The 13-page resolution also asserts that Kashmir is an internal issue of India and no third party should interfere in it. The MML chief had said on Monday: “Kashmiri Muslims are not only fighting their war, but a war to complete the unfinished agenda of Pakistan.“

Justice Dipak Misra appointed CJI

The President appointed the Supreme Court's most senior judge, Justice Dipak Misra, as the next Chief Justice of India. He will succeed incumbent Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar to become the 45th CJI and will have a tenure of a little over a year.

Justice Misra will take oath on August 27 and will retire on October 2 next year.The soft-spoken Justice Misra grew in stature by acceding to Mumbai serial blasts condemned prisoner Yakub Memon's last minute dash for life by listing in open court his plea for stay of his hanging. In the dead of the night on July 29, he agreed to head a bench to conduct an elaborate hearing before rejecting his plea. Memon was hanged on July 30.

Justice Misra-headed benches have upheld the constitutional validity of Sections 499 and 500 of IPC providing for criminal defamation proceedings as also the death penalty for convicts in the gruesome Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case.

As chairman of National Legal Services Authority, he has introduced several measures to provide legal aid to poor litigants. Recently, he had ordered introduction of video conferencing at state legal services authorities to connect poor prisoners languishing in jails with advocates who would free services.

Justice Misra becomes the third person from Odisha to become CJI. Earlier, his paternal uncle Justice Ranganath Misra (1990-91) and Justice G B Pattanaik (2002) had occupied the top post in judiciary.

Born on October 3, 1953, Justice Misra's judgments reflect the literary and poetic skills which he appears to have inherited from his grandfather and celebrated Odia personality Pandit Godabarish Misra. The literary figure had three sons -Raghunath Misra, Ranganath Misra and Loknath Misra, who was a renowned Congress leader and governor of Assam from 1991 to 1997. Justice Misra enrolled as an advocate on February 14, 1977, and rose to top post after 40 years. He had practised in constitutional, civil, criminal, revenue, service and sales tax matters in Orissa HC.

He was appointed additional judge of Orissa HC on January 17, 1996 and transferred to MP HC on March 3, 1997.

Babri: Shia board alters stance

Days before the Supreme Court is to begin a crucial hearing on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, the UP Shia Central Waqf Board, one of the parties in the litigation, has favoured shifting of the demolished mosque to bring about closure to the vexed dispute.

The Shia Board has said the mosque can be constructed away from the disputed land, a move that marks a dramatic shift in stand, and which it says can end the 70-year-old legal battle.The board also suggested a high-level panel, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, to settle the dispute.

It pleaded with the court to appoint the committee, which could include two retired Allahabad high court judges, the chief minister of UP and a nominee of the PM, besides the representatives of litigating parties. The board, in its affidavit filed in the SC, submitted that the mosque be relocated from the “most revered place of birth of Maryada Purushottam Sri Ram“ to a nearby Muslim-dominated area to conclude the dispute over the 2.77 acres of land which houses a makeshift temple of Ram Lalla.

The Shia stand is, however, likely to pit the board against the Sunni Waqf Board. While Sunnis comprise a majority of Muslims in India, the decision of a section of the community represented through the Shia Waqf board is significant. This is the first time that the religious board has favoured shifting the mosque. Taking potshots at the Sunni Waqf Board, the Shia Board said in its affidavit that the Sunni Central Waqf Board should not be involved in exploring peaceful settlement of the dispute as “it is under the dominant control of hardliners, fanatics and non-believers in peaceful coexistence, who have absolutely no stakes in the case“. The Shia Board said: “It is of the view that closeness of place of worships -Masjid and Mandir -of the two litigating denominations should be avoided in as much as both denominations using loudspeakers tend to disturb the religious performances of each other, often leading to conflicts, bringing acrimony between the two factions. The answering respondent is of the view that to bring quietus, Masjid can be located in a Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the most revered place of birth of Maryada Purushottam Sri Ram.“ The affidavit was filed by advocate M C Dhingra.

The Shia Waqf Board, along with the Sunni Waqf Board, has been fighting a legal battle since 1945 claiming ownership of Babri Masjid and the HC gave its verdict in favour of the Sunni Board when it divided the disputed plot three ways between the board, Ram Lalla and Nirmohi Akhara.

The Allahabad HC order came on September 30, 2010. The verdict was immediately challenged by different parties before the SC but no progress has been made in the case so far and it is pending since 2010. Agreeing to grant an early hearing, the SC has posted the case to August 11. The Shia Waqf Board said in its affidavit that out-of-court settlement should be explored to end the dispute.

MMRDA to complete ring route of Metro corridors

Extension of the Metro corridors from Dahisar to Thane is being planned to decongest the road corridor and suburban train corridors as this new connector will provide faster connectivity between the eastern and western suburbs.

Work on three Metro corridors is in progress: Metro III (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz), Metro VII (Dahisar-Andheri via Western Express Highway) and Metro IIB (DN Nagar-Dahisar).Work will soon begin on two more corridors: Metro II (DN Nagar-Bandra-Mankhurd) and Metro IV (Wadala-GhatkoparThane-Kasarvadavli).MMRDA is also planning extension of the Metro corridor in the western suburbs up to Bhayander.

Additional metropolitan commissioner Praveen Darade said they plan to link Dahisar to Gaimukh in Thane on Ghodbunder Road. Gaimukh is on the border of Thane Municipal Corporation limits on the west. MMRDA already has plans to extend Metro IV up to Gaimukh from Kasarvadavli.

Construction of this missing link between Dahisar-Gaimukh will ensure a ring of the Metro around Mumbai's neck.

Darade said, “The extension will cost around Rs 1,000-1,500 crore as we plan to use rolling stock of the under-construction Metro corridors. The route will have inter-operatability with other Metro corridors.“

A detailed project report will take at least eight months to prepare. MMRDA is proposing an elevated route via Ghodbunder Road. There are some hills but it will not be an impediment in constructing the corridor.

As of now, those who wish to travel from the eastern suburbs to the western suburbs have to travel to Dadar and then interchange trains from Western Railway to Central Railway and vice versa. The other option is to take the Metro from Andheri or Ghatkopar to travel to the CR or WR lines. The third option is via Ghodbunder Road or JVLR.

Gujarat RS seat cliffhanger

Ahmed Patel, Congress president Sonia Gandhi's political secretary, won a bitterly fought battle for a prestigious Rajya Sabha seat, defeating BJP in a high-stakes contest ahead of Gujarat polls scheduled later this year. The victory came after days of intense tussle between the two sides for each vote and on a day of dramatic developments which saw Election Commission rejecting the votes of two Congress MLAs who voted for BJP.

Although the Election Commission was yet to declare results, celebrations broke out in Ahmedabad once party managers declared that Patel had got 44 votes--just enough for him to save the battle from going into the second preference round where the saffron party would have had a clear advantage because of the sheer numbers it has in the electoral college.

Going by Congress's calculation, Patel could have pulled it off with the support of 43 party MLAs and Jayant Patel, one of the two NCP MLAs in the House.

Congress's claim of support from BJP rebel Nithinbhai Kathodia and lone JD(U) member Chhotubhai Vasava were disputed by BJP sources who did not rule out the possibility of NCP's Patel going along with Congress.

BJP's determination to snatch a seat which Congress, ordinarily speaking, was set to win and Congress's resolve to hold on to it turned it into perhaps the most suspenseful contest for a Rajya Sabha seat.

The relief for Congress marks a setback for BJP, particularly party chief Amit Shah who scripted the audacious run on Congress's vote bank, as well as the Congress rebel Shankersinh Vaghela who teamed up with the saffron party to put the contest on knife's edge. It was Vaghela's man Balwantsinh Rajput who was Patel's challenger.

Amit Shah and Union minister Smriti Irani scored easy victories.  A defeat for 'AP' as the Congress leader is known, would have been a morale shattering blow for the party ahead of assembly elections in Gujarat where BJP is widely seen as the front runner. It would have been a personal loss for Sonia Gandhi for whom Patel has been the most trusted aide.

In contrast, the narrow defeat should rankle BJP , considering that it raised the stakes high for itself in a battle which was for Congress to lose. It is the first setback for Shah who has been on a remarkable victory run, with a number of impressive wins in state polls under his belt. The rejection of two votes will train the spotlight on his “take-no-prisoners“ style, with Congress already accusing BJP of playing foul, using money and political power to subvert democracy .

Fortunes of the two parties fluctuated through the day . Congress had seemed confident till late afternoon, but optimism quickly gave way to pessimism because of fears of desertion and sabotage. The fear, however, turned out to be misplaced as Patel managed to secure 44 votes or just about enough to make it to Rajya Sabha for the fifth time on the strength of first preference votes.


Digital Desis

Thanks to India's 1.2 billion population, the country figures among the top two or three adapters of digital technologies and social media. From the number of mobile Internet users and smartphone users to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, India is right up there. Yet, these top rankings don't tell the whole story. A woefully inadequate public WiFi infrastructure ensures Internet is out of reach of millions. India has just around 31,600 hotspots, nowhere near global average of one hotspot for 150 people. And despite the cheapest data rates in the world, Internet access isn't as common as a fast-moving consumer product. The reasons range from expensive smartphones, lack of awareness about the Internet to the reluctance to spend more for data access.

It's well documented that high-speed broadband Internet use leads to faster economic growth. Now it's up to India to get there -at digital speed.