Fadnavis Sarkar: 3 Years

World Food India 2017

Zee @ 25

Of Premium Smartphone Rankings....

After rapidly losing ground to Xiaomi in the overall smartphone rankings, market leader Samsung has lost not just its top spot in the premium segment to Apple in the July-September period, but has been relegated -for the first time ever -to No. 3, behind OnePlus in a segment that is seeing competition like never before. The South Korean phone maker, however, disputed the findings of Counterpoint Research and said it continued to lead the segment by end-sales.

The fight for the top spot in the high-end segment -Rs.30,000 and above -is set to heat up further in November with players like Google, Xiaomi and Nokia in the fray, making life for Apple and Samsung -who have historically dominated this segment -far tougher. Sector watchers expect these brands to offer discounts or bundled offers in this segment to get buyers amid the heightened competition. Apple, for example, is believed to be tying up with Airtel to sell its super premium product on the telco's recently launched online store.

“Samsung's share dropped to 31% from 55% in the previous quarter as premium segment (above Rs.30,000) was driven more by Rs.30,000-40,000 band due to OnePlus and older iPhone models, due to which majority of the volume of the segment was skewed towards Rs.30,000-40,000 sub-segment where Samsung is not that strong,“ said Tarun Pathak, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research.

Apple led with 35% share in July-September, on the back of iPhone 8 launch, and price cuts on earlier models right after GST. OnePlus followed Apple with 32% backed by sales of OnePlus 5, as per data from the Hong-Kong based firm.

Some analysts said Samsung may cut prices or bring out some offers on the Note 8 to claw back share. Samsung disputed the agency data while saying the share of phones sold in the market was highest amongst competition. The company's market share by volume was 65.2% and 65.4% by value, in the above Rs.30,000 segment, Samsung India senior vice-president for mobile business Asim Warsi said, citing data from German research firm GfK, which tracks sales to end consumers.

Analysts added that volume of shipments in the premium segment is expected to be higher than usual for the current October-December quarter, while competition will be higher than ever before.

Retail sales of Apple's highest priced iPhone X -from Rs.89,000 to Rs.1lakh -begins on November 3, while Google's Pixel 2 series, priced between Rs.61,000 and Rs.82,000, begins selling from November 15.

The entry of Xiaomi, which sold over 4 million phones in a month, into the premium segment with Mi Mix 2 priced around Rs.36,000 and growing popularity of Nokia 8 launched in September at around Rs.37,000 will also add to the mix of options that consumers will have besides Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 and OnePlus that has OnePlus 5 priced around Rs.33,000, in the market since June.

Analysts add that while Xiaomi and Google can make a dent in the segment, as both have devices priced at lower than competition, Apple will want to keep its lead in the present quarter with the iPhone X, which has seen strong demand. Apple though is facing huge supply issues for the super-premium device.

SC Frowns On Bengal for Opposing Aadhaar

The Supreme Court frowned on the Bengal government's plea against the Central Aadhar Act, wondering what would happen if the Centre were to challenge state laws, and instead asked the chief minister to file a petition in person raising her grievances if any against the law.

“How can a state file such a plea? In a federal structure, how can a state government file a plea challenging Parliament's mandate?“ a bench comprising justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, observed.

“We know it is a matter which needs consideration. Tomorrow if the Centre starts challenging the laws passed by the state where will it lead to? Let Mamata Banerjee come and file a petition as an individual. We will entertain it,“ Justice Sikri told Bengal lawyer Kapil Sibal.

The Bengal government had challenged the law on the ground that linking it with social welfare benefits would deprive huge sections of the poor and the weak of their entitlements under a host of schemes such as MNREGA and PDS food rations.

Just a few days ago, the CM had openly declared that she would not link her mobile phone with Aadhar even if her connection were to be snapped. She had also slammed the unique identification scheme as authoritarian and intrusive.

Tracking the Murder Rate....

Realty investments up 100% in top 6 cities

With favourable changes in the legislative environment, India's six major cities -Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, New Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad -have recorded 100% increase in investments in real estate sector at $2.87 billion during July 2016-June 2017, according to a survey by Cushman and Wakefield.
Mumbai, with an investment of $1.75 billion from foreign as well as domestic private equity investors, has moved up to 81st position in the global survey on rankings of cities for attracting capital from 149th slot in 2016. Also, the financial capital has witnessed highest growth among the gateway cities of the world with 194% increase in investment from $594 million in the same period last year.

New York, with $51billion investment, continues to rule the rankings of cities on the basis of investments in real estate sector followed by Los Angeles ($39.1 billion), San Francisco ($32 billion) and London ($30 billion). Shanghai, which attracted $17.6 billion investment, is placed at 10th position.

The global property market witnessed 4% rise in volume to $1.5 trillion during July 2016-June 2017. Cross border real estate investments constitute 75% of total volumes.

Of the total real estate investment received by various cities in India, the largest share of over 55% came in from the North America, while domestic and regional sources saw a decline in share of capital invested in India, said the report. Funds from Europe, which were conspicuous by their absence during last year, were seen contributing approximately 14% of the total investment.

India's current economic position and stability in political scenario have been instrumental in creating an investment-friendly environment in the country, said the report.

A Birth & Death Anniversary

Bell tolls in Srinagar's oldest church

In a lesson on solidarity in the strife torn valley of Kashmir, representatives of different religions came together at Srinagar's oldest Catholic Church to inaugurate a bell, as the original was damaged in an arson attack in 1967.

The 120-year-old church established by the British in 1896, was silent for the last 50 years. But, on Monday, the new brass bell, weighing 105 kg, tolled resoundingly. Besides the parish priest, Fr Roy Mathews, Muslim cleric Haji Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Hindu priest Swami Amratdass Udasin and Sikh Granthi Gyani Saranjeet Singh were present on the occasion. All four are members of Inter-Religious Forum, an organisation meant to promote interfaith understanding.

Haji Malik said, “We decided to come together to participate in the bell ringing to clear misconceptions that Kashmiris are intolerant of other faiths.“

India, Italy ink pacts

Terrorism, trade and connectivity dominated talks between Narendra Modi and Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni, the first Italian PM to visit India since 2007, as both countries picked up the threads of a fractured relationship.

At the end of talks, India and Italy signed six pacts, including in the energy and trade sectors. Significantly, the two sides carefully stayed away from the Italian marines issue which has soured bilateral relationship for the past decade. Regional and multilateral political and security issues took up the bulk of the discussions. Addressing a joint media event, Modi said they discussed wide-ranging issues, including the challenges posed by terrorism and cyber crimes, while agreeing to enhance cooperation to counter them.

Addressing the issue of terrorism and Syria, Gentiloni said the international community should start talks with Bashar Assad to enable Syrian refugees from around Europe to return. He added that India should play a decisive role in fighting terrorism, though by the very fact of its stability India, he said, stands as an example.

5 judges to hear Aadhaar validity pleas

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra has referred a large number of petitions questioning the validity of Aadhaar to a five-judge Constitution bench, which will commence hearing in the last week of November.

Attorney General K K Venugopal said the deadline for linking Aadhaar with benefits to be received under central welfare schemes, including essential commodities under public distribution system, was extended to March 31 and no one would be deprived of benefits for want of Aadhaar till then.

Citizens are being helped to enrol for Aadhaar by then, he said. Aadhaar has been challenged on the ground that it violates a citizen's right to privacy. However, the Centre had raised objection that an eight-judge bench had ruled more than half a century ago that right to privacy was not a fundamental right and hence no writ petition could be filed to challenge Aadhaar on the ground of violation of a right. However, a nine-judge bench unanimously ruled that right to privacy was a fundamental right and formed an intrinsic part of right to life guaranteed under Article 21. At the same time, it recognised the need to ensure that benefits under social welfare schemes reaching the targeted population through an identification system.


Somewhere in Bengaluru....

The 55-acre Kowdenahalli Lake, which was once a deserted swamp, is now a vibrant waterbody frequented by birds. It's home to several species of fish and reptiles and medicinal plants and fruit-bearing trees dot its periphery.

Residents recalled how they would be scared to visit the lake 10 years ago as the water then couldn't be differentiated from muck. Today, under the United Way Bengaluru flagship initiative, Wake the Lake, the waterbody has been rejuvenated, thanks to community, government and corporate collaboration.

C Narayanappa, president of the KR Puram Lake and Environment Protection Trust, is taking the lead from the community's side. From urging the local MLA to release funds for lake development to driving concerted community efforts like cleanliness and plantation, he hopes the waterbody will be a model for citizen participation in lake rejuvenation.

“The community has registered itself as a trust and we have got Rs.1.2 crore sanctioned from the MLA's fund for developmental works. As of now, there is a gravel pathway lined up with LED streetlights, toilets, gazebos and benches. But soon there will be an open gym, yoga space and a children's park. We also allow contractual fishing as fish ensure cleanliness of the water and also draws birds to feed on them,“ he said.

Cheluraju, who has been staying in Ramamurthy Nagar for 40 years, says it is a matter of pride for the residents that despite having 15 lakes in neighbouring areas, people prefer to come to Kowdenahalli for their daily walk.

D Muralidhar Nair, a retired employee, said several people using the park play their part in contributing to the infrastructure, including installing the notice board and ensuring drinking water facilities.

Matheran toy train back on track

Matheran toy train services will resume today, 17 months after being suspended following two derailments in May 2016. It means those visiting the hill station don't have to walk or take a horse ride 3.5 km uphill from Aman Lodge to Matheran, but can enjoy the scenic ride again.

The toy train will initially run between Matheran and Aman Lodge, and will cover the full stretch up to Neral in a few days. The first train from Aman Lodge will leave at 9.25 am on Monday and will reach the hill station in 25 minutes--at 9.50 am.The fare for a second class journey will be Rs.45 for an adult and Rs.30 for a child, while for the first class, it will be Rs.300 for an adult, Rs.180 for a child. Sources said the second class fare has been hiked by around Rs.10.

On Sunday , the Central Railway successfully completed a trial run of the toy train between Neral and Matheran, after which it received the go-ahead from the commissioner of railway safety .

At present, visitors can drive up to Dasturi Naka which is close to Aman Lodge station, and then cover the remaining journey either on foot or horseback.

A senior railway official said that for passenger safety, the train's hand brakes have been replaced with air brakes --brake failure was said to be one of the reasons for the 2016 derailments.

Besides, the railways has re-laid the track surface, set up netted safety walls along the tracks and brought in changes in train coach design.

New Delhi agrees to 1st `quadrilateral' meet

After months of holding back, India has agreed to the first meeting of joint secretary level officials of the `quadrilateral' -with the US, Japan and Australia. Although dates are yet to be set, senior official sources said the meeting will be held “soon“.

The announcement was not made by the MEA but by the US state department. Acting assistant secretary Alice Wells said, “We're looking at a working-level quadrilateral meeting in the near term, but I think the idea is how do we bring together countries that share these same values to reinforce these in the global architecture.“ India wants a grouping like the quadrilateral to advance its own agenda.

Wells described it as “a natural stepping stone from the very productive trilateral conversations and exercises that we've seen between India, Japan, and the US“. “ As we explore ways to ... try to inculcate some of the values -freedom of navigation, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, transparency--obviously, Australia will be a natural partner in that effort too,“ she said.

India ships out wheat to Afghanistan via Iran

India sent the first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar port in Iran, a landmark moment in realising an alternative strategic transit route to land-locked Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani flagged off the the first shipment via video-conference on Sunday. The cargo left Kandla for Chabahar and will then be transported to Afghanistan.India, Iran and Afghanistan have now operationalised a strategic transit route to give land-locked Afghanistan an alternative to Pakistan.

The MEA added in a statement, “The shipment of wheat is a landmark moment as it will pave the way for operationalisation of the Chabahar port as an alternative, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan.“ This is an important day for Afghanistan and for regional connectivity initiatives, particularly as the world remains enamoured of China's grand OBOR project. Sunday's wheat shipment is also a logical conclusion to a process started soon after the Taliban was ousted from Kabul in 2001 and India lent its political and economic resources to help rebuild a shattered Afghanistan.

Even as early as 2002, Pakistan blocked India's efforts to send wheat to Afghanistan during a food-scarce year.

India donated 1 million tonnes of wheat to the World Food Program (the largest single donation in its history) in the form of high-energy fortified biscuits for WFP's school feeding programme, beginning a long assistance relationship with Afghanistan, despite hurdles by Pakistan.

In June, India and Afghanistan launched an air freight corridor between the two countries to boost trade as Pakistan continues to deny land transit access through its territory.

India's Where You Bet Your Money: Mukesh Ambani

Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani said he expects India to almost treble in size to a $7-trillion economy from $2.5 trillion and that the country represents the biggest investment opportunity in the world right now.

Giving his acceptance speech at the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence, Ambani, who won the `Business Leader of the Year' award, said Reliance took a contrarian bet to invest Rs.3.5 lakh crore in India and that has paid off handsomely. The significant portion of that investment was in Jio.

Reliance Jio Infocomm, which launched services in September last year, disrupted the market by introducing free voice for life for the first time and cheap data prices.

Ambani referred to the intense rivalry with the older telecom companies that was sparked by Jio's entry, suggesting that the relationship is still amicable. Jio's 140 million customers have made India the world's No 1 mobile data market. “I firmly believe with digital technology and exponential technology, the world will change (more) in the next 20 years than in the last 300 years,“ Mukesh Ambani said.


Migrants prefer Pune over Mumbai

More and more migrants are picking Pune over Mumbai. A report titled Migration and its Impact on Cities, by the World Economic Forum, reveals that Pune has now emerged as a counter magnet of Mumbai, which is considered overcrowded and expensive.

Pune, meanwhile, scores high in education, job opportunities, health care services, realty investments and overall quality of life. The report revealed that in the last 25 years, the influx of internal migrants to Pune has risen steeply, predominantly due to job opportunities created by the booming information technology (IT) industry .

“Pune encourages migrants to take advantage of employment opportunities to the same extent as it does the native population. According to the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, Pune has been the largest hub for German companies over the last 60 years, as over 200 of them have set up business there,“ the report said.


India and Bangladesh to restore rail lines in 12 places

Bangladesh Railway Minister Mujibul Haque said an initiative has been taken to reconnect railway lines with India in 12 places, which were snapped after partition of the country in 1947. “We want to restore all the railway lines which existed before the partition of India. Now the initiative is on to restore rail connectivity in twelve places between Bangladesh and India. Both the governments are cooperating with each other in this regard,” he said. Haque was in the capital to attend a conference of Rotary Clubs of both the countries. Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar inaugurated the conference. The Bangladesh minister said the second rail bridge on the Titas and the Bhoirab rivers in Brahmanbaria district of his country was completed with funding from India, and that it would be inaugurated soon. Apart from the ‘Moitree Express’ which runs between Dhaka and Kolkata, he said another train ‘Bandhan Express’ to run between Khulna in Bangladesh and Kolkata, was likely to be launched next month. “There is also a proposal from Bangladesh side to launch a train to connect Rajshahi in Bangladesh and Kolkata,” he said.

Haque noted that the progress of the 15-km long ongoing Agartala-Akhaura project was satisfactory and land acquisition for the purpose in Bangladesh side was complete. Land acquisition for the project in Indian side has also been completed, West Tripura District Magistrate and Collector, Milind Ramteke said. The central government has released Rs.97.63 crore to acquire the land, he said. The process of laying railway tracks to connect Agartala with Akhaura in Bangladesh would be completed next year, Haque said. Out of the 15-km track, five km would be on Indian side and the rest in Bangladesh. Ramteke stated that the Northeast Frontier Railway was the nodal agency for implementation of the project in Indian side.

Former railway minister Suresh Prabhu and Haque had jointly laid the foundation stone of the project here on July 31 last. A flyover of 3.7 km will be constructed on the Indian side to save cultivable lands and the entire project cost will be borne by the central government. New Delhi is keen to establish the rail link as it will connect West Bengal and Tripura through Bangladesh. The 1,700 km distance between Agartala and Kolkata, which goes through the chicken neck in Siliguri, would be reduced to 350 km if passengers could move through Bangladesh.

12 Bharatmala road corridors to be built in Maharashtra

The ambitious Bharatmala project, announced by the central government earlier this week, has a lot in store for Maharashtra. Of the 44 economic corridors to be built across the country, 12 of them or 27% will pass through the state, giving a major boost to interstate connectivity.

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted: “Great News! Maharashtra to gain a lot from Bharatmala project. Twelve of 44 corridors to pass through Maharashtra.”

The Union cabinet has passed the plan to construct 83,677 km of roads, highways, green-field expressways and bridges in phases. These will be built over the next five years at a cost of Rs.7 lakh crore to boost the economy and generate more jobs. Under the first phase, to be completed by 2022, 34,800 km of highways will be built.

The 12 corridors that will pass through the state account for 8,501-km-long stretches of highways and include Mumbai-Kolkata, Mumbai-Kanyakumari, Agra-Mumbai, Pune-Vijaywada, Surat-Nagpur, Solapur-Nagpur and Hyderabad-Aurangabad, among others.

Apart from this, Maharashtra will also benefit from three ring roads planned in Pune, Dhule and Nagpur, of the 28 ring roads planned across the country. A ring road is a road or a series of connected roads encircling a town or city.

The plan also includes interconnecting roads and feeder roads as well as enhancing port connectivity across 448 km in the state.

Besides these, logistics parks have also been planned in cities such as Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur. Logistics park are expected to improve efficiency and reduce logistics costs by supporting warehousing, freight movement and other services such as customs clearances.

Jammu and Kashmir Public Property (Prevention of Damage) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017

The Jammu and Kashmir government has promulgated an ordinance that says people calling for strikes and demonstrations — if they result in damage to public or private property — can be jailed for two to five years and fined a sum equivalent to the market value of the property damaged or destroyed.

Since the state legislature is not in session, Governor NN Vohra, on the recommendations of the Chief Minister, promulgated the Jammu and Kashmir Public Property (Prevention of Damage) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017. It has come into force with immediate effect.

Strife-torn Kashmir has witnessed a series of separatist-sponsored agitations in which property worth thousands of crores of rupees has been damaged and destroyed from 2008 to 2016. A total of 34 schools were burnt during the 2016 unrest.

The ordinance amends the existing law to more effectively discourage/prevent deleterious activities of individuals/organisations which result in damage to public and private property.

The amendment has been made to implement the directions given by the Supreme Court in a case titled “In Re-Destruction of Public and Private Properties vs State of A.P and others (2009)”.

The ordinance has been promulgated to make damage to public and private property due to direct action punishable, and to make any person calling for direct action liable for abetment of such an offence, the government said. Further, the scope of the existing law which was earlier restricted to public property has been enlarged to also include private property.  The CPM said the move will have a grave implication and will trample the legitimate democratic rights of people.

The committee submitted 24 points to preserve the deity, of which only eight were passed by the bench made up of Justices Arun Mishra and L Nageswara Rao.

Mamata challenges Aadhaar in apex court

Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of Bengal, has challenged the mandatory Aadhaar rules in the Supreme Court. The petition will be heard on Monday. Earlier, she had announced that she would rather have her phone disconnected than submit to the new rule requiring every citizen to link their Aadhaar card number to their mobile number. “I will not link Aadhaar with my phone, if they want to disconnect my phone, let them,“ Banerjee had said defiantly , addressing TMC's core committee meeting.

All phone users have to link their Aadhaar card numbers to their mobile phones to avoid disconnection, a government notice said in March. The Aaadhaar number is also essential for subscribers going for new SIMs.

IGI T2 gets glamorous new avatar

As it opens for domestic flights on Saturday evening, it could be a walk down memory lane for old-timers using IGI's Terminal 2. Opened in 1982 as an international terminal, this regular brick and mortar structure was as glamorous as any Indian international airport could be. But it was “mothballed“ in May 2010 when Terminal 3 became operational nearby. Seven years hence, people were struck by the openness of the place as the immigration desks that once divided the large hall for check-ins have disappeared. A little ahead of it are the security checks.Now that T2 is all domestic, its capacity has also gone up. As an international terminal, T2 could handle 90 lakh passengers every year. Now, as a domestic terminal, it can handle 1.2 crore passengers annually.


Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India: 70 years

It was on this day in 1947 that the Indian Army landed in Srinagar. Here is the story behind Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India:

When India attained Independence in August 1947, rulers of princely states had to decide whether to join India or Pakistan.

According to a BBC article by Victoria Schofield -- author of Kashmir in Conflict -- Jammu and Kashmir ruler Maharaja Hari Singh could not decide which country to join. “He was Hindu, his population was predominantly Muslim. He therefore did nothing,” Schofield writes.

A study published on Standford.edu says that on October 22, 1947, “an impatient Pakistan invaded Kashmir from the north with an army of soldiers and tribesmen armed with modern weapons... Kashmir, without an army, was under serious threat.”

“The intention of Pakistan had been to instill fear into the Kashmiris so they would surrender quickly.”

Concerned over the violence, Maharaja Hari Singh requested armed assistance from India.

“The then Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, believed the developing situation would be less explosive if the state were to accede to India...” writes Schofield.

The Jammu and Kashmir ruler sent his representative, Sheikh Abdullah, to Delhi to ask for India’s help and later signed the ‘Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir State’.

According to the terms of the document, the Indian jurisdiction would extend to external affairs, communications and defence.

“I hereby declare that I accede to the Dominion of India with the intent that the Governor General of India, the Dominion Legislature, the Federal Court and any other Dominion authority established for the purposes of the Dominion shall by virtue of this my Instrument of Accession but subject always to the terms thereof, and for the purposes only of the Dominion, exercise in relation to the State of Jammu & Kashmir (hereinafter referred to as “this State”) such functions as may be vested in them by or under the Government of India Act, 1935, as in force in the Dominion of India, on the 15th day of August 1947, (which Act as so in force is hereafter referred to as “the Act’),” the accession document read.

After the document was signed, Indian troops were airlifted into Jammu and Kashmir and fought alongside the Kashmiris.

A CIA document dated April 24 1964 and now declassified says Abdullah, who was close to Jawaharlal Nehru, was made prime minister of a largely autonomous Kashmir.

The BBC report, however, says there is confusion over when the document was signed. “Official Indian accounts state that in the early hours of the morning of 26 October, Hari Singh fled from Srinagar, arriving in Jammu later in the day, where he was met by VP Menon, representative of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and signed the Instrument of Accession.”

However, it says research showed Hari Singh did not reach Jammu until the evening of October 26. Menon, the report, says was unable to reach Jammu until early October 27 due to bad weather.

The report quotes Indian source as saying that “Hari Singh signed an Instrument of Accession before he left Srinagar but that it was not made public until later.”

The world’s second ­largest smartphone market

Cheap handsets and the proliferation of 4G services have helped India overtake the US to become the world’s second largest smartphone market, trailing only China, according to a new report by analyst firm Canalys.

After a wobble in the second quarter of 2017, India’s smartphone market recovered quickly with shipments growing 23% year on year in the third quarter to reach just over 40 million units, Canalys analysts said.

Despite posting excellent results, the market continues to concentrate, with the top five vendors (Samsung Electronics, Xiaomi Inc., Vivo Electronics Corp., Oppo Electronics Corp. and Lenovo Mobile Communication Technology Ltd) now accounting for 75% of total shipments in India.

Samsung and Xiaomi accounted for almost half of the total market as the top five vendors continued to post strong growth in Q3 2017. Samsung shipped 9.4 million smartphones, almost 30% more than in Q3 last year.

Second-placed Xiaomi increased shipments by over 290% to 9.2 million units.

Apple Inc. began local production in India earlier this year, and its iPhone shipments more than doubled to 900,000 units in Q3 2017 compared with the year-ago period, impressive in a market that is skewed toward low-end smartphones.

Indians bought property worth Rs.42,000 cr in Dubai

Indians purchased property worth Rs.42,000 crore in Dubai between January 2016 and June 2017, continuing to be the most prolific among foreign realty investors in the Emirates. According to the Dubai land department, Indians had invested Rs.30,000 crore in Dubai's real estate in 2014.

A study by Dubai Property Show has revealed that apartments are the most popular choice for desis, comprising 33% of the purchases. Villas (17%) came next, with commercial property (9%) and land (6%) being the other preferred investments. According to the study, most (88%) Indians look to invest between Rs.3.24 crore and Rs.6.5 crore.

India to Help Develop Colombo, Trincomalee Ports

India will help develop both Colombo and Trincomalee ports in Sri Lanka, foreign secretary S Jaishankar said, days after Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe named India as a top contender for developing the strategically located Trincomalee harbour in eastern part of the island nation.

The development potentially extends India's outreach in the Indian Ocean, where China is pursuing an expansionist policy. India is also helping build road and rail projects in Sri Lanka, Jaishankar said while addressing at a workshop titled `Connecting the Bay of Bengal India, Japan, and Regional Cooperation', organised by the India chapter of global think tank Carnegie India.

Wickremesinghe had said while participating in the 45th anniversary celebrations of the Kandy Sinhalese Traders' Association in Kandy earlier this week that discussions were on with both India and Singapore for developing the Trincomalee harbour. Japan will also play a role in building the Trincomalee port, said people aware of the matter.

Unlike the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, the current regime in Colombo since 2015 has sought to balance its policy between India and China, giving India a stake in Hambantota airport, Colombo port project and a key expressway, besides preventing Chinese submarines in Sri Lankan waters in the backdrop of loans from Beijing that have pushed Sri Lanka into debt trap. India, in collaboration with Japan, has sought to develop infrastructure and connectivity projects in the Bay of Bengal region including Andaman Islands amid China's outreach to South Asia through One Belt One Road initiative. Sri Lanka had indicated a few months ago that it would hand over to India running of the Chinese-built Hambantota airport near the deep-sea port.

Handing over the loss-making Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota to India would enable Sri Lanka to pay back dues to China's EXIM Bank, which had provided loans to build the airport. There are reports that India could invest $205 million in MRIA for a 70% share for 40 years. MRIA, located 250 km south from Colombo, was built at a cost of $209 million largely with Chinese assistance ($190 million). By the end of 2016 MRIA suffered a loss of nearly $113 million, according to Sri Lankan government.

Yogi @ the Taj Mahal

Nearly seven lakh foreign tourists visited the Taj Mahal last year. That's about half the foreign tourists who visited Agra. The figures for both the monument and the city topped the charts in Uttar Pradesh.
Sheer economic factors such as these may have prompted Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to visit the biggest tourist attraction in the state and seek to contain the damage in the wake of uncharitable remarks against the Mughal monument by his fellow partymen such as Sangeet Som and Vinay Katiyar.

With the tourist season coming up, the UP government does not want to send out a message that it nurses any animosity against the monument. Any such impression may trigger adverse advisories from foreign embassies.

Adityanath said in Agra on Thursday , “Agra is a huge centre for tourism and efforts are on to increase the number of visitors to two-three lakh per day .“ In 2016, according to data available with the UP government, 6.94 lakh of 13.62 foreign tourists who visited Agra went to see the Taj Mahal, 3.78 lakh went to Agra Fort and 1.46 lakh went to Fatehpur Sikri. Foreign tourists accounted for less than a seventh of more than one crore total tourists who visited the city .

The popularity of the Taj Mahal is one of the reasons the state government is pushing for an international airport in Greater Noida as it cuts travel time to the monument by an hour than from Delhi. Adityanath announced that the civil terminal in Agra is being upgraded to receive flights.

The attempt to distance the government from remarks of Som and Katiyar against the Taj Mahal notwithstanding, the Adityanath government has been focusing on promoting tourism in sites associated with Hinduism. It is developing the Krishna Circuit of Mathura, Vrindavan and Govardhan, and the Ramayana Circuit of Ayodhya and Chitrakoot to bring in tourists.


Of Powerful Passports....

28 ring roads to decongest big cities

Twenty eight ring roads around big cities, 45 bypasses, 34 projects of expanding lanes and flyovers will be taken up in the next one-and-a-half years to end traffic choke points in urban areas. The cities that will benefit from these projects include Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Varanasi, Lucknow, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Pune, Nagpur and Amaravati.

The government also announced starting of work on developing another 24 logistics parks, which will help reduce the congestion and pollution on city roads as heavy vehicles won't need to enter cities. Announcing these details of the Bharatmala programme, highways minister Nitin Gadkari said works on most of the projects will start by 2018-end. “The focus is to provide better connectivity to all regions and improve mobility. We will provide four-lane highway connectivity to 250 more districts. At present, 300 districts have such high speed connectivity ,“ Gadkari said.

He said a total of 50,000 km of highways will be developed and widened under Bharatmala programme. In phase-I, 34,800 km will be covered. Highways secretary Y S Malik said completion of the highway development programme is aimed at reducing travel time by 25% and reducing the logistics cost by about 4%. “Increasing the number of key uniform corridors from only six to 50 in the next five years will result in increasing the share of freight transport through highways from the present 40% to about 70-80%,“ he added.

Gadkari said logistics parks will change the entire mobility plan as big lorries of about 30 tonnes capacity would ply between production and consumption centres against the present practice of trucks having 10 tonnes capacity plying on these stretches.

Recapitalisation is a Monumental Step: Urjit Patel

The government's proposed recapitalisation programme will help address banking sector challenges with increasing opportunities for investment and job creation, said Reserve Bank of India governor Urjit Patel in a statement. “For the first time in last decade, we now have a real chance that all the policy pieces of the jigsaw puzzle will be in place for a comprehensive and coherent, rather than piecemeal, strategy to address the banking sector challenges,“ Patel said.

Underlining the importance of well-capitalised or healthy banks, the RBI governor said, “It is only healthy banks that lend to healthy firms and borrowers, creating a virtuous cycle of investment and job creation.“

The Union Cabinet has approved a Rs.2.11-lakh-crore recapitalisation plan for public sector banks over the next two years. Of the corpus, recapitalisation bonds will account for Rs.1.35 lakh crore, while Rs.76,000 crore will be available through budgetary support. “The Government of India's decisive package to restore the health of the Indian banking system is in the view of the RBI, a monumental step forward in safeguarding the country's economic future,“ Patel said.

The mega plan triggered a surge in shares of state-owned banks, with Punjab National Banks soaring nearly 50% on the Bombay Stock Exchange in intraday trade on Wednesday. The country's largest lender, the State Bank of India, gained about 29%.

The package combines several desirable features, said the RBI governor. “It will involve participation of private shareholders of public sector banks by requiring that parts of the capital needs be met by market funding,“ he said.

The recapitalisation bonds, which the government will issue to banks, may marginally add to fiscal deficit since the government has to fork out interest cost to lenders. “The recapitalisation bonds will be liquidity neutral for the government except for the interest expense that will contribute to the annual fiscal deficit numbers,“ Patel said in the statement.“By deploying recapitalisation bonds, it will front-load capital injections while staggering the attendant fiscal implications over a period of time.“

The benchmark bond yield rose three basis points to 6.81%, pulling prices down in noon trade as jittery traders pruned some of their sovereign holdings in expectation of additional supply .

The banks which will subscribe to those bonds may sell them in the secondary market, a move that will release money for them and help expand their loan books.

It (recapitalisation) will allow for a calibrated approach whereby banks that have better addressed their balance-sheet issues and are in a position to use fresh capital injection for immediate credit creation can be given priority while others shape up to be in a similar position, said Patel.


Third largest aviation market by 2025

India is set to become the third largest aviation market one year earlier than originally expected, the International Air Transport Association has said in a report.

Iata, which represents about 85% of the global airline traffic, projects India to overtake the UK to become the third largest passenger market by 2025. China will be the top market, followed by the US.
In a similar report last year, Iata had projected India to overtake the UK by 2026.

“The biggest driver of demand will be the Asia-Pacific region. The region will be the source of more than half the new passengers over the next two decades... the UK will fall to fifth place, surpassed by India in 2025, and Indonesia in 2030,” Iata said in the report.

The point at which China will displace the US as the world’s largest aviation market (defined as traffic to, from and within the country) has also moved two years closer since last year’s forecast.
“We now anticipate this will occur around 2022, through a combination of slightly faster Chinese growth and slightly reduced growth in the US,” Iata said.

By 2036, India will have about 478 million airline passenger traffic, which will be more than that of Japan (just under 225 million) and Germany (just over 200 million) combined. India’s current passenger traffic is about 141 million.

The most critical number will, however, be the doubling of overall passenger traffic globally from 4 billion to nearly 7.8 billion passengers in 2036 on a 3.6% compound annual growth rate.

Indian airlines have over 800 planes on order and in the next five years alone are set to add 350-400 aircraft. All Indian airlines put together have a fleet of around 500 aircraft currently.

India is likely to overtake Japan and Germany to become the third largest economy in the next 10 years, HSBC Holdings Plc said in a September report. According to HSBC’s estimates, India will be a $7 trillion economy in 2028, compared to less than $6 trillion and $5 trillion for Germany and Japan, respectively. Presently, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is around $2.3 trillion (fiscal 2016-17).

Government unveils Twin Propellers

The Centre announced a Rs.2.1-lakh-crore capital infusion plan for state-owned banks and an ambitious road development programme to boost the economy, which it said was “poised for takeoff “ after short-term disruption caused by structural reforms.

Banks burdened by bad loans will get Rs.1.35 lakh crore from bonds, Rs.18,000 crore from the Budget and raise the remaining Rs.58,000 crore through share sales. Fitch Ratings estimates India's banks will need nearly $65 billion in bank capital by March 2019. The capital infusion announced by the government amounts to about half that.

The capital infusion programme that seeks to clean up banks' books and get them to lend more, will run over the current fiscal and the next and will be bolstered with further reforms to make lenders more accountable. Credit growth at the end of September was 7% compared with 10% a year ago. Bolstering this is key to lifting private investment so as to revive growth.

The Rs.6.92-lakh-crore, five-year roads programme approved by the cabinet, which includes the Bharatmala project, seeks to generate 142 million mandays of work and addresses one of the biggest criticisms against the government -that not enough jobs are being created.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the measures evolved after detailed discussions within the government as well as with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India's economy is projected to slow to 6.7% in the current fiscal, according to the International Monetary Fund, after first-quarter growth dropped to a three-year low of 5.7%. He characterised the measures as a bold step by the cabinet to address economic growth.

The recapitalisation of state-owned banks would be followed by a series of reforms to make them more accountable, he said, without giving any details.

Details of the bonds will be announced later.

The government said the impact of the capitalisation on the fiscal deficit will depend on the nature of the bonds and who issues them, also signalling that this could be routed through quasi government institutions.

The government has pledged to stick to a fiscal deficit target of 3.2% of GDP for FY18, which some experts say could come under pressure.

Chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian said the spending would be “below the line“ as per IMF norms and not add to the fiscal deficit number.

Though the capital infusion will be spread over two years, the bonds are likely to be front-loaded and be completed over the next two quarters to get things moving quickly.

The government has set aside Rs.10,000 crore for banks this year, which is not likely to be increased, which means the remaining Rs.8,000 crore will come next fiscal.The government holding in banks can fall to as low as 52%, Jaitley said, adding that stake sales in state-owned banks will become attractive after recapitalisation. The government said capitalisation will help create more jobs, and spur growth and investments by creating bigger and stronger public sector banks. The government indicated that not all state-run banks will be equally supported.

The government said the focus will be on prudent and adequate credit and criticised indiscriminate lending under the previous United Progressive Alliance government that led to the bad loans problem.

Public sector banks have been plagued by the highest stressed asset ratio since 2000 that's eroded capital buffers and curtailed lenders' ability to offer credit.

Non-performing assets of banks have increased to Rs.7.33 lakh crore in June from Rs.2.75 lakh in March 2015. Jaitley said enhanced financing access will directly benefit micro, small and medium enterprises and give a boost to employment generation.

A trade receivables electronic discounting system for public sector units will be created in 90 days to ensure MSMEs get their receivables in time or are able to leverage this with banks.

Jaitley said there was need to increase public investment and Rs.7 lakh crore for road expansion will generate employment opportunities. Apart from Bharatmala, the government is also focussing on providing 20 million houses under the `housing for all' scheme. This will entail a total expenditure of Rs.14 lakh crore.

Gujarat nod for Rs.6,758 cr Metro Phase II

The government of Gujarat has given its stamp of approval for the Rs.6,758-crore Phase II of the Ahmedabad Metro Rail project connecting Mahatma Mandir, Sachivalaya, Gift City and PDPU.
Officials of the MetroLink Express for Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad said Phase-II will extend from Motera to Mahatma Mandir. The 34.6 km Phase-II will be completely elevated and will have 24 stations. A separate line from Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University to GIFT City will link Gift City to the main line.

Officials said the cost of the second phase is estimated to be is Rs.6,758 crore. Work on the second phase will begin as soon as the government of India sanctions it.

The Detailed Project Report of Phase-II, connecting Mahatma Mandir, Akshardham, GIFT City and GNLU was prepared by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.

According to Metro officials, “In order to achieve the maximum benefits from the project, the DPR made 2014 for Ahmedabad Metro Rail Project Phase-I projected that connectivity to Gandhinagar would be provided from the North-South corridor of Phase-I. Accordingly, the 2017 DPR has been prepared for Phase-II, which will connect Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.“

Officials in MEGA said the second phase will start from Motera and will connect PDPU, Raysan, Gujarat International Finance TecCity and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport. The metro will, in Gandhinagar, connect Akshardham, Sector 24 and Mahatma Mandir, which is also close to Gandhinagar railway station. The station is also being given a facelift.

Officials said the authorities plan to finish the first phase of the project, connecting Thaltej and Vastral and APMC to Motera by the end of 2019. Officials said metro services from Vastral to Apparel Park in Khokhra will go commercial by 2019. The state plans to have the first metro trial run soon after the elections. Commercial operations will need a final nod from the commissioner of metro rail safety, which takes some 18 months.

According to the new metro rail policy announced this August by the government of India, MEGA authorities have decided to extend the Metro 6 km into GIFT City . The six-km project will be taken up by GIFT city using the PPP model.

Officials said that one station outside GIFT City would be funded through the project cost, but the cost of the 6 km elevated corridor and three station inside GIFT city would be borne by GIFT.

The officials said the route was in the proposal sent to the government of Gujarat but as the Union government changed the policy, GIFT was included via PPP and a revised proposal was approved.

Economic fundamentals remain strong: Jaitley

The country's economic fundamentals remain strong and the “transitional effects of demonetisation and GST“ are over, FM Arun Jaitley said as the government mounted a strong defence of the health of the economy. “Our aim is to maintain India as a high growth economy,“ Jaitley told a news conference to unveil a mega bank recapitalisation package.

Economic affairs secretary Subhash Garg said several economic indicators such as index of industrial production, core sector, automobiles, consumer spending pointed to a strong growth pick-up and there were expectations of “very good growth from second quarter of the current financial year itself.“ He said the temporary economic slowdown was “bottoming out.“

An improving global economy is expected to help exports, which is reflected in strong growth of 25.6% in September 2017, with April-September averaging around 12%. Jaitley said he was hopeful of private investment rising on the back of the measures unveiled so far and spending on infrastructure.

Somewhere on the Agra Expressway....


Some of the most formidable fighters from the Indian Air Force fleet showed their manoeuvres before landing on the specially developed 3.3-km stretch of the Lucknow-Agra Expressway near Bangarmau of Unnao district.

People from villages along the expressway, apart from special guests, watched Sukhoi-30s, Mirage 2000s, Jaguars and the show-stopper C130J Super Herculeus carry out landing on the country's longest expressway. The 302-km-long ex pressway was closed from both ends since Monday for the exercise. Fifteen aircraft took part in the exercise.

The show started with the arrival of C130J Super Hercules, which dropped Garud commandos and their vehicle on the airstrip. The C130J is a US-origin military transport, aerial refuelling and loader aircraft, equipped with emergency backup resources. The aircraft needs a small stretch of runway to land or takeoff.

Once the Hercules took off for the Hindon air base in Ghaziabad, three Mirage 2000s, under the Tiger Squadron, flew past and re turned for a touch-and-go, before the final touchdown. Then a set of three more Mirage 2000 aircraft, known as the Crossbow Squadron, made a similar manoeuvre. The aircraft had taken off from the Gwalior air base.

Soon, two Sukhoi 30s, followed by another three, carried out a flypast and returned for a touchdown before flying back to Bareilly .

The final part of the show was three Jaguar aircraft.The `vic' formation called Arrow, took off from the Gorakhpur air base.

The show ended with the Hercules returning to pick Garud commandos.

This was the second time, since its inauguration in November last year, that the eway played host to fighter aircrafts. Air Marshal AS Butola said more such exercise would be carried out in the future.

Protests broke out by Samajwadi Party members, who alleged that the BJP-led Centre was trying to claim credit for the work done by Akhilesh Yadav. After the inauguration of the e-way last November, BSP chief Mayawati had accused the SP of trying to steal credit for what she claimed was her project.

NaMu Airport gets final nod

Eight months after Cidco, nodal authority for the Navi Mumbai airport project, closed the finance bid with GVK-led Mumbai International Airport Ltd, the state cabinet approved the award to the highest bidder, paving the way for formation of a special purpose vehicle to build the Rs.16,000 crore airport.
The cabinet endorsed the techno-economic approval given by the project management implementation committee, headed by chief Secretary, last week on October 18--a day before Diwali. Cidco senior PRO Mohan Ninawe said, “The cabinet was scheduled to meet October 31 (to discuss the issue), but it has the given final approval before that.“

MIAL offered a 12.6% share in annual gross revenue to Cidco against the 10.44% offered by its rival GMR Airports in the financial bid that was closed on February 13, 2017. As per Cidco consultants, the passenger count is expected in the first year of operation at 15 million, which will increase to 30 million in 2025 and to 40 million in 2030.The maximum count is pegged at 60 million in 2035.

The state cabinet nod, the last of the approvals required for the greenfield mega project, is the official sanction to the project to be undertaken in phases.The first phase involves an investment of around Rs.7,000 crore with the first flight take off scheduled for 2020.

The cabinet nod will be followed with Cidco forwarding the letter of award (appointment) to MIAL, said Cidco joint MD Prajakta Lavangare Verma. The next step will be formation of the SPV. The new company will be a joint venture of GVK-led MIAL having 74% and Cidco 24% of equity participation. Cidco will apportion a certain percentage of its earnings to the Airports Authority of India, said Ninawe.

Maharashtra Cabinet nod for Metro V and VI

The Maharashtra cabinet gave the green light for two Metro corridors--Metro V (Thane-Bhiwandi-Kalyan) and Metro VI (Swami Samarth Nagar (Andheri west)-Jogeshwari-Vikhroli). The cabinet has given in principle approval for Metro VI and has sought a detailed project report. The two elevated corridors will have interchanges with existing and under-construction Metro corridors and also with the suburban railway network in the city.

The 14.47-km Metro VI corridor, which will have 13 stations, is likely to be constructed by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. It will be an extension to Metro IIA (D N Nagar-Dahisar), resulting in a total 33 km network providing east-west connectivity. “This corridor will connect business hubs like Seepz, L&T and IIT-Powai areas. It is expected to be completed by 2021 and nearly 6.5 lakh commuters are likely to use it daily,“ said a Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority official, adding minimum fare will be Rs.10 and maximum be Rs.30. The car depot for the project has been planned at Kanjurmarg.

Of the estimated Rs.6,716 crore Metro VI project cost, MMRDA will fund Rs.3,195 crore, state Rs.1,820 crore, and the rest will be raised as loans.

The 24-km Metro V corridor (Thane-Bhiwandi-Kalyan) will link neighbouring cities to Mumbai and have 17 stations. The project cost has been pegged at around Rs.8,240 crore and is expected to be completed by 2021. Around 2.3 lakh daily commuters are expected to benefit from this corridor, which will be connected to two other proposed routes--Metro IV(Wadala-Thane-Kasarwadavli) and Metro XI (Taloja-Kalyan).

According to MMRDA officials, a total of 360 km-long Metro network will be constructed across the state, most of which will be in Mumbai and adjoining cities, in the next four to five years.


Biggest-ever highway plan

The government is set to approve the biggest ever highway plan to develop and expand approximately 83,000 km of roads at an investment of Rs.6.9 lakh crore by 2022. The proposal on the Cabinet's agenda is aimed at pushing economic activity and generating at least 32 crore mandays across the country in the next five years.

The announcement will include the new 28,400 km Bharatmala highway programme connecting border areas, improving international, port and coastal connectivity besides improving highway corridors connecting key economic and commercial hubs, besides at least 800 km of expressways. Sources said the focus of the entire plan is to improve speed of traffic flow on key corridors by providing uniform four-lane roads between two identified points. Most of these corridors will be shorter and access-controlled for faster movement of cargo vehicles.

Due to poor road conditions, narrow width and congestion points, a truck in India covers on an average 250-300 km daily in comparison to 700-800 km in developed countries.

This will perhaps be the biggest government announcement before the upcoming assembly elections. According to the ministry's estimates, construction of 10,000 km of highways annually has the potential of generating four crore mandays and the mega highway development programme can be used to counter the allegation that the government has failed to create employment opportunities.

Considering there is less appetite for private investment, sources said, more than 70% of the works will be through government funding. About one-third of the investment will come from fuel cess, over one-fourth from market borrowing and the rest from budgetary support, private investment and auctioning of completed highways.

Government looks to hike minimum internet speed

Days of low internet speed on mobile and broadband networks could soon be over. The government has kick-started the process of giving a boost to the minimum mandated internet speed from existing 512 kbps to at least 2 mbps and more.

Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said the government was mindful of slow internet speed experienced by internet users in many parts of the country. Internet speeds are nowhere close to the numbers promised by companies in 3G and 4G data packs and advertisements. And, the issue is critical as India prepares for rollout of 5G services as well as a host of other applications focused around internet-of-things (IoT).

The telecom secretary said India required faster speeds in the wake of gradual transformation of the country into a digital economy . These include initiatives such as smart cities, digital India programmes, efforts on digital payments, and 5G.

The issue of slower internet speed has been a painful experience for a majority of mobile customers, especially when download speeds for videos and other such services is nowhere near the satisfactory level. All this is happening at a time when telecom companies are rolling out faster 4G networks across the country, a move that has gained pace after the launch of services by Reliance Jio in September last year. Older telecom companies, however, have been averse to the idea of having a higher threshold when it comes to internet speed.

However, they are cold to criticism -levelled in many quarters -that investments in boosting mobile network infrastructure have been weak.

A recent global report based on over 63 million internet speed tests across the world ranked India at 119th position in a list of 189 countries where the tests were conducted. The report by Cable.co.uk said to download a 7.5 GB HD film, it will take only 18 minutes and 34 seconds in top-ranked Singapore and under 30 minutes in Sweden and Taiwan, but the same would take a little over 8 hours and 16 minutes in India.

Connectivity with South, Southeast Asia

India is considering a series of projects aimed at strengthening links with South Asia and between the region and Southeast Asia. This comes at a time when South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is losing steam amid Pakistan's intransigence over connectivity pacts and China is seeking to increase its influence in the region.

The proposals under consideration include mega cross-border air and land connectivity projects, along with power and energy initiatives. Some of these projects were part of the agenda when external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj met her Bangladeshi counterpart Mahmud Ali in Dhaka on Sunday.

These included proposals for Dhaka-Chennai-Colombo air connectivity, Chittagong-Kolkata-Colombo shipping connectivity , Bangladesh-North Bengal rail link, Bangladesh-Bhutan internet cables through India, trade route connecting Nakugaon Land Port in Bangladesh to Gayleyphung in Bhutan via India. Besides, efforts are on implement the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) motor vehicles agreement soon, while keeping a provision for Bhutan to join later. Bhutan had requested to join later since its upper house of parliament failed to ratify the pact.

Regional connectivity heads the agenda for the Narendra Modi government because China is expanding its footprint in South Asia and Southeast Asia through its One Belt One Road initiative.

The BBIN MVA will complement the proposed BIMSTEC MVA, which is expected to be the key outcome of the seven-nation summit to be held in Nepal early next year to celebrate 20 years of creation of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation. The BIMSTEC MVA will have all multimodal features connecting Sri Lanka, which has so far been connected to the six members of the grouping only through air or sea. The two agreements are a critical part of India's Act East policy, which is aimed at enabling strengthening of ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN in the periphery of China.

BIMSTEC is also mulling connectivity through cruise liners to promote tourism and coastal shipping between the member states.This will facilitate India's Bay of Bengal outreach, complementing its Indian Ocean Region strategy .

Kashmir Talks Begin

Dineshwar Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau chief has been appointed by the Narendra Modi government as its interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, home minister Rajnath Singh announced.
He said Sharma would have “complete freedom“ to talk to “all groups and individuals“and has been accorded a cabinet secretary rank.

After the announcement, Sharma went and met the home minister and discussed how to go about his assignment.

Explaining why the government had gone for the interlocutor, Rajnath Singh said there had been suggestions from across the political spectrum that the government should hold dialogue with all revelant parties.

Singh has visited J-K several times in the last three years -five times in the last year alone, and had recently talked about coming up with a permanent solution to the J-K problem.

He said the move was a follow-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day speech in August where he had stressed the need to reach out to people.

“As a representative of the government of India, Dineshwar Sharma will initiate a sustained interaction and dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of people in Jammu and Kashmir,“ the home minister said. He added that there was no bar on him to talk to one group and not another. “We want to understand aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir,“ the minister said.

Home ministry officials said the move was part of a three step process adopted by the centre to address the situation inthe valley.“We have strengthened our security. The implementation of the development package is going on well too so the only thing left was to start a dialogue which will happen,“ an official said. He added that Sharma was the first choice for the assignment and several meetings had been held to take the matter forward.

In the last few months the centre has beem focussing on cracking down on foreign funding for separatists and in Srinagar, police and army teams have taken out dozens of local commanders of terrorist groups active in the Kashmir Valley .

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the move. “Dialogue is a necessity of the hour and the only way to go forward,“ she said.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, however, said he would “keep an open mind and wait to see results of the dialogue process.“

Before this, Journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, NN Vora, academician Radha Kumar and former Information Commissioner MM Ansari were appointed as India's interlocutors to Kashmir.


What is Gujarat’s Ro-Ro ferry service?

The first phase of the Ro-Ro ferry service will reduce the distance between Gujarat’s Ghogha and Dahej towns from 310 km by road to 30 km

The ro-ro ferry will ply the Gulf of Khambhat between peninsular Saurashtra and South Gujarat. Ghogha situated in Bhavnagar district of Saurashtra lies 17 nautical miles (32 km), across the gulf from Dahej in Bharuch district.

A first of its kind in India, the ferry will be able to carry up to 100 vehicles (cars, buses and trucks) and 250 passengers between the two ports. The ro-ro ferry services are vessels made to carry wheeled cargo that are driven on and off the ferry on their own wheels or using a platform vehicle. The wheeled cargo includes, cars, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers, and railroad cars.

The term ro-ro is generally reserved for large ocean-going vessels. The vessels have either built-in or shore-based ramps that allow the cargo to be efficiently rolled on and off the vessel when in port. This is in opposite to the lift-on and lift-off (lo-lo) vessels, which use a crane to load and unload cargo.

This ferry service project cost stands at Rs.614 crore. The central government has allocated Rs.117 crore for dredging work at both Ghogha and Dahej under the Sagarmala initiative. The Gujarat government body in charge of marine and ports affairs along the state’s 1,600 km coastline, floated tenders for the project in 2011.

The service shall reduce the travel time between Ghogha in Saurashtra, and Dahej in South Gujarat, from about seven or eight hours, to just over an hour. The distance between the two places would be reduced to 31 km from the current distance of 360 km. When fully operationalised, it will also enable movement of vehicles. The ferry service is aimed at boosting the connectivity and infrastructure in Gujarat.

Earlier, an attempt was made by a private firm with the support from the state government to launch a modern passenger ferry service (the “Kutch-Sagar Setu”) between Okha in Devbhumi Dwarka district and Mandavi in Kutch district across the Gulf of Kutch in 2016. However, it had to be suspended after it faced technical and financial challenges.

The service will come particularly handy for those working in the diamond cutting and polishing hub of Surat in South Gujarat, as most of these workers belong to the Saurashtra region in the western part of the state.

The first phase to be inaugurated on Sunday would be a passenger-only service, Ajay Bhadoo, the chief executive officer of Gujarat Maritime Board that is executing the Ro-Ro project, said.

In the second phase, which would be ready in two months, cars, too, would be carried between the two towns.

In the final phase, ferries would be able to carry trucks as well.

The service was thought of in early 1960s but the foundation stone was laid in 2012 by Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.

Saffron Surge: October 2017

Air Passenger Numbers

Of Car Exports....


Pollution Kills

Dharavi Redevelopment: Another Attempt

After a failed attempt last year, the government has brought the Dharavi redevelopment project back to the table. Senior bureaucrats in the state secretariat have confirmed that the tenders for the project will be floated once again by November. From four, Dharavi would now be divided into 12 small clusters. Sector number five is already being redeveloped by MHADA.

In January 2016, the government had floated a tender for redevelopment. It was a global tender but even after several extensions, the government was unable to find any takers for redevelopment of the one of the biggest slums in the world.

The estimated cost of last year’s global tender was Rs.21,936 crore — it included rehabilitation of residents, providing amenities and maintenance of the buildings for the next five years. Once the tender was awarded, the project would have to be completed within seven years. Recently, the National Building Construction Company had also shown interest in the project.

“One problem that many developers faced was that there were just too many slums and the area was too expansive to clear encroachment,” says a government official.

“To make it easy, the clusters are further divided into 12 sections; slum density in each cluster will reduce because of this. We are hoping that this move will attract developers and by next month we will be able to float the tender.”

There were several other issues also - residents of sector one claimed they lived in proper homes, not shanties and hence be given larger homes. They had even protested against the tenders, which was cited as one of the reasons why some developers backed off.

Linking Bank Account with Aadhaar is Mandatory: RBI

The Reserve Bank of India clarified that linking one’s bank account with the Aadhaar number is mandatory under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, dismissing media reports suggesting that such linkage is not mandatory. “The Reserve Bank clarifies that, in applicable cases, linkage of Aadhaar number to bank account is mandatory under the Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules, 2017 published in the Official Gazette on June 1, 2017,” the RBI said. It added that the anti-money laundering rules, which were amended in June 2017, have statutory force and banks have to implement them without awaiting further instructions. The government had notified under the PML Act that every account should be linked to Aadhaar by December 31, failing which it’ll become inoperative.