20.9.19

Foreign investors have sold $4.5 bn of stocks since June

The flailing Indian economy — repercussions of which have been witnessed for five quarters — is now showing signs of global repercussions. The aftermath has been building for the last six years, since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival to power, when $45 billion were poured into the stock market looking at the economic potential. Now, the situation circling the drain with the international money managers pulling out at a never-before-seen pace. According to a Bloomberg report, they have sold $4.5 billion of Indian shares since June — the “biggest quarterly exodus since at least 1999”.

At present, car sale and capital investments have nosedived. The unemployment rate is the highest almost 50 years and the banking sector is marred with bad loan ratio. These factors have invited scathing critiques from economists all over the world. For instance, Bloomberg recorded a statement from Salman Ahmed, a London-based chief investment strategist, which pointed at Modi’s “fading euphoria”.

Investors have been claiming that Modi has been slow to act on much needed reforms around labour laws and selling of state-owned companies. However, if the pace continues, growth plans for international firms might take a hit, directly affecting jobs. Furthermore, his decisions of demonetisation and introduction of goods and service tax have been criticised. The recent efforts in escalating the growth are focussed on short-term goals as the US-China trade war weighs on emerging markets globally.

However, this fiscal ammunition is hampered by budget deficits and indebted state-owned companies. This has caused his own advisors to issue cautionary and shift his focus on major reforms.

This, however, has not stopped from loyal supporters to issue generalised statements on how the government is harnessing every bit to promote economic growth. An example of this can be seen in Niti Aagoy CEO Amitabh Kant’s statement on September 18.

“If you look at the last five years, India’s growth on an average was of about 7.5 per cent. The growth story has dipped to five per cent in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2019-20. Both, the RBI and the government are active on this,” Kant said while delivering keynote address on Fostering a Culture of Innovation’ at an All India Management Association event.

Whereas RBI has brought down the repo rate by 110 basis points, the government took a series of measures and gave three economic boosters, he said, adding it will continue to do so.

“The government is active, the fundamentals of Indian economy are intact and we will continue to do whatever it required to take India back to high trajectory growth rate,” Kant said.

This has left room for investors, who want to see certain kinds of change. Their desires include privatisation of more state-run companies, easier hiring and firing of workers, loose restrictions on land purchases and so on. 

We’ve to hug every Kashmiri : PM

PM Modi called for the building of a “new Kashmir” even as he took a dig at NCP chief Sharad Pawar for his recent comments on Article 370 and Pakistan.

“So far Hindustanis would say ‘Kashmir hamara hai’ (Kashmir is ours). But from now on, every Indian will say, ‘Hame naya Kashmir banana hai, wahan phir se ek baar swarg banana hai, har Kashmiri ko gale lagana hain’ (We have to make a new Kashmir, we have to make it paradise again, we have to hug every Kashmiri),” Modi said.

Mazagon Docks gives Navy its second Scorpene submarine


India's second Scorpene-class submarine, INS Khanderi, built for superior stealth and launching crippling attacks on the enemy using precision-guided weapons, was delivered to the Navy. Made by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, it will be commissioned at Naval Dockyard by defence minister Rajnath Singh on September 28.

The submarine inherits its name from a predecessor that served in the Navy during 1968-89 and was christened after Chhatrapati Shivaji’s island fort of Khanderi. An inspiration is also the wide-snouted saw fish, a deadly predator of the Indian Ocean which bears the same name.

INS Khanderi is among MDL’s six such submarines. The first, INS Kalvari, was commissioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2017. “Scorpeneclass submarines can undertake multifarious tasks, including anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare,” a MDL spokesperson said.

A contract with French company Naval Group (earlier called DCNS) was signed in 2005 for the supply of six submarines. The French-designed subs are being built by MDL as part of Indian Navy’s Project-75, which has witnessed significant delays and cost escalation.

The third of the submarines, Karanj, was launched in January 2018 and is undergoing rigorous sea trials. The fourth, Vela, was launched in May this year and is being prepared for sea trials. The remaining two, Vagir and Vagsheer, are in various stages of outfitting.

On September 28, the defence minister will also launch INS Nilgiri, the first ship of the P17A frigates.

Mumbai gets state-of-the-art dry dock


The country’s first state-of-the-art dry dock, which was successfully tested yesterday with the warship INS Kolkata, will be commissioned on September 28.

Naval officers said the dock will be dedicated to the Indian naval command and has the capacity to dock the aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, for repair and maintenance, not to speak of nuclear submarines. With a length of 281 metres, width of 45 metres and depth of close to 17 metres—almost equivalent to a five-storey building—the dry dock is nothing short of a construction marvel.

“It will not only reduce vessel maintenance expenses that the Navy incurs at private shipyards, but will also enhance defense capability to load advanced arms and ammunition onto out premiere warships,” said an officer.

The dock, equipped with robotic machinery, can overhaul ships in quick succession. It has a facility to enable container trucks carrying ship spare parts to station themselves along repair bays, so that engineers don’t have to waste time procuring the parts from a distance.

The nine-year construction of the dock was preceded by a major operation to remove sunken ships and barges from the site, as well as the removal of bedrock to accommodate the massive structure, which comprises fit-out berths, caisson (a type of lock gate that is opened for a ship's entry into the dock) and a cofferdam.

Unlike the country’s other dry docks, the new one is built out into the sea and is surrounded with saline water on three sides. The other docks are landwards and only open into the sea.

19.9.19

Drone-based digital mapping of country begins with Karnataka, Maharashtra


An ambitious drone-based digital mapping project is under way to create a more accurate and realistic view of every nook and corner of the country.

Work on the project began in Karnataka, Haryana, Maharashtra and the Ganga basin a few months ago. The project is being undertaken by Survey of India, with the support of department of science and technology and inputs from several government agencies like Archaeological Survey of India and Forest Survey of India.

According to Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, DST, the map will have a higher resolution than that of Google Maps. Such a project is being executed on such a large scale for the first time after almost two centuries when British surveyors Colonel Sir George Everest and his predecessor William Lambton first scientifically mapped the country in 1767.

“Digital mapping has never been done. This comprehensive map will show the exact state, district and country boundaries,” Sharma told mediapersons at Indian Institute of Science.

He said five years ago, the gargantuan project would have cost the government Rs.10,000 crore but is now expected to be completed at Rs.1,000 crore with deployment of far more advanced technology.

“We have picked the states based on their enthusiasm for the project. For instance, Haryana will fund it completely and for the Ganga basin, Namami Gange agency will share the cost. Several agencies have come forward with contributions for the project,” Sharma explained.

The map will be available in the public forum with features highlighting hospitals, canals and other minute details. Survey of India has set reference points called Continuously Operated Reference Stations networks at intervals of 20 km across the country, which increase the accuracy by 10 times as well as provide instant online 3D positioning, Sharma said.

With several organisations involved in the mapping endeavour, extensive groundwork will be done to match the aerial findings of drones, he added.

“Citizens will be able to make informed choices while buying properties. The map will help them understand where the property is located and its accessibility, among several other key details,” he said.

Trump to join ‘Howdy, Modi’


The White House has formally confirmed that US President Donald Trump will participate in the ‘Howdy, Modi’ rally in Houston, Texas, on September 22 leading up to PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the US next week. The joint appearance at such a large rally will be unprecedented in the annals of US-India relations, and indeed in the chronicles of US ties with any country.

“The event, ‘Howdy, Modi! Shared Dreams, Bright Futures’, is expected to draw tens of thousands of people. It will be a great opportunity to emphasize the strong ties between the people of the United States and India, to reaffirm the strategic partnership between the world’s oldest and largest democracies, and to discuss ways to deepen their energy and trade relationship,” the White House said in an announcement affirming Trump’s decision to attend the event.

Modi has also expressed delight over Trump joining the event. “A special gesture by @POTUS, signifying the special friendship between India and USA! Delighted that President @realDonald-Tru- mp will join the community programme in Houston on the 22nd. Looking forward to joining the Indian origin community in welcoming him at the programme,” he tweeted on Monday. “The special gesture of President @realDonaldTrump to join us in Houston highlights the strength of the relationship and recognition of the contribution of the Indian community to American society and economy.”

The Houston rally, the third such event by PM Modi in the US after breakthrough public meetings in New York at the Madison Square Gardens in 2014 and in Silicon Valley in 2017, is expected to surpass anything hosted for or by a foreign leader on American soil. Texas India Forum that is hosting the event, said over 50,000 attendees have registered in three weeks for the sold-out event. In fact, it is hard to recall an instance of such a large political rally in US, not even for Trump or his predecessor Barack Obama at the peak of their popularity. Crowds of this size are only seen at major sporting events such as the Superbowl.

Beyond Trump’s fondness for crowds and spectacle, his decision to attend the rally also has three elements to it.

The primary purpose, as underscored by the White House, is to showcase the close ties between the two nations, a significant signal given tensions in the subcontinent. But there are also domestic reasons for Trump’s decision. Aside from being the fourth-largest US city, Houston is also its energy capital. And India is a large energy guzzler that is buying significant amounts of oil and gas from the US, a supply that is expected to go up given the disruption in the Gulf. A third reason for Trump’s decision to attend has to do with domestic politics. Texas could be up for grabs in 2020 and the over 2.5 lakh Indian-American votes would matter. Although it has been Republican since 1976, it is said to be turning purple, and Democrats are hoping for an upset.


Crazy!

Not just Uttar Pradesh, the state exchequer has been bearing the burden of income tax of serving chief ministers and their council of ministers in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh too for several years.

The UP treasury had been paying the I-T of all CMs and ministers since 1981, when the UP Ministers’ Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Act, 1981 was passed during the tenure of V P Singh on the grounds that the ministers were “poor” and “cannot pay income tax from their own meagre earnings”.

Hours after the TOI published the report, UP CM Yogi Adityanath announced that he would repeal the controversial provision in the Act. Of the five states where CMs and their ministers are exempt from paying I-T, the treasury has been bearing their tax burden in Haryana and HP since 1966, when the two states were carved out of Punjab.

In Punjab, the state treasury had been paying taxes on salaries, allowances and various perks of its CMs and ministers till March 18, 2018, when Captain Amarinder Singh stopped the practice by amending The East Punjab Ministers’ Salaries Act, 1947.

In Uttarakhand, the treasury has been bearing the tax burden of its CM, ministers, assembly speaker, deputy speaker and leader of the opposition ever since the Himalayan state was carved out of UP on November 9, 2000. Since then, the state has seen eight CMs and scores of others whose taxes were paid by the state exchequer. However, Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat indicated that he would follow his UP counterpart in repealing the controversial provision of the Act.

In MP, the state treasury started bearing the tax burden of ministers of all ranks as well as the parliamentary secretary with retrospective effect from April 1, 1994.

This was done during then CM Digvijaya Singh’s regime when The Madhya Pradesh Mantri (Vetan Tatha Bhatta) Adhiniyam, 1972 was amended in June 1997.

As per the amendment, “All allowances payable and furnished residence without payment of rent and other perquisites admissible to a minister, a minister of state, a deputy minister and a parliamentary secretary under this Act shall be exclusive of income tax which shall be payable by the state government at the maximum rate payable by a minister, a minister of state, a deputy minister or a parliamentary secretary, as the case may be.”

Desi diaspora stays world’s largest

At 17.5 million, India’s diaspora continues to be the largest in the world constituting 6.4% of the total world migrant population of 272 million in mid-2019. After India, the largest number of migrants are from Mexico (11.8 million), China (10.7 million), and Russia (10.5 million).

While India’s diaspora in absolute numbers has increased 10% from 15.9 million in 2015, as a share of total world migrant population, it’s remained largely static, according to the UN’s International Migrant Stock. And it trails the 12% rise in total migrant population, which was 243 million in 2015.

The UAE, the US and Saudi Arabia—with 3.4 million, 2.6 million and 2.4 million respectively—were the top three destinations for Indians. While the Gulf countries continue to have a high concentration of Indians, they have lost some of their drawing power, going by foreign ministry figures which show a decline in the flow to this region.

Another report also released by the Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development, a bloc of 36 advanced nations including the US, shows Indians moving up one position to No. 3 in 2017 with an inflow of 3.04 lakh—behind China and Romania.

The number of Indians who got US citizenship in 2017 rose 10% to more than 50,000 over the previous year.

UN figures pegging international migrants worldwide at 272 million reflects a rise of 23% over 2010 data, where the migrant population was 221 million. UN’s data set is based largely on collated census figures. UN defines international migrants as anyone who changes their country of usual residence, irrespective of their motive — be it for work or as a refugee.

“Although migration is global, most journeys are taking place within a set of countries, with the US, Germany, and Saudi Arabia making up the top three,” said a UN press release. The US hosted the largest number of international migrants (close to 51million), followed by Germany and Saudi Arabia, with nearly 13 million each.

The UN’s press release quoted John Wilmoth, director, UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs as saying: “The link between migration and development is very well established. As a general observation, the contribution of migrants both in host countries and countries of origin, includes sending valuable remittances back to countries of origin, and a major social contribution through transmission of ideas.”

Another report, released on Wednesday in Paris, by the Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development, shows that migration flows to OECD countries rose slightly by 2% in 2018, with around 5.3 million new ‘permanent’ migrants.

Country-wise data for the year 2017 shows that ‘total’ inflow of new migrants to OECD countries in 2017 was 6.8 million, a miniscule decline of 1% over the previous year’s figure.

The top three countries of origin of new immigrants were China, Romania and India.

With 3.04 lakh new immigrants from India, the country occupied third place and accounted for 4.5% of total inflows (as opposed to 3.8% in the previous year).

London beats Mumbai in ₹ trading


London has overtaken India’s financial capital Mumbai to become the top centre for trading the rupee. That’s adding to a sense of urgency among local authorities to deepen the onshore market.

Average daily volumes for rupee in the UK soared to $46.8 billion in April, a more than five-fold jump from $8.8 billion in 2016, according to the latest survey from the Bank for International Settlements released this week. That exceeded the $34.5 billion recorded in India.

Trading in dollar-rupee offshore non-deliverable forwards increased threefold over the three-year period, the BIS report showed. Alive to the growing size of the offshore rupee market, the government and the RBI have been looking at ways to improve access for overseas investors and offer them more products to ramp up volumes at home.

Rupee trading — including spot, outright forwards, foreign-exchange swaps, and other products — also jumped in Singapore, Hong Kong and the US over the three-year period, according to BIS.

A panel appointed by the RBI last month proposed extending onshore currency trading hours, allowing banks to offer pricing to non-residents at all times and allow trading of non-deliverable forwards in the rupee among steps to deepen trading onshore. Data released by the BIS “now makes an even more compelling case for policy makers to focus on increasing the wallet share of the onshore market”, said Arora. 

Invest Punjab





Air Force to Get SCALP, Meteor Missiles

The Indian Air Force is set to get the ‘game changer’ SCALP and Meteor missiles for its Rafale fighter jets next year, which will outrange all known weapon systems in the region and will give India a definitive combat edge.

The SCALP stand off missile, manufactured at the highly protected facility here, has a range of over 300 km and is designed to hit high value, strongly protected targets deep inside enemy territory. The Rafale jets—the first of which is likely to arrive in India in May 2020—can carry two of the missiles that will enable them to hit virtually any target within Pakistan. The first Rafale jets are set to be handed over to India on October 8 but will be flown in France for several months before being ferried to the home base at Ambala.

“The SCALP is highly combat proven. It can carry out high destruction against high value assets, bridges, railroads, power plants, airfields, buried bunkers and command and control centres. It can evade enemy air defence units with its ground hugging trajectory,” said a senior MBDA executive, which is the manufacturer of the system.While India already has the Brahmos cruise missile in service, air force officers say the SCALP is in a different category, given its pinpoint accuracy to take down targets in all weather conditions and ability to evade air defence systems.

While the SCALP gives India the ability to hit ground targets in virtually all parts, the S 400 anti air system being procured from Russia will give it the option to take down air borne targets over the entire Pakistani airspace, if the need be.

India will have Jurisdiction Over PoK One Day: Jaishankar


India made it clear that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is a part of the country and New Delhi would have “physical jurisdiction over it” one day. “Our position on PoK has always been and will always be very clear. PoK is a part of India and we expect one day that we will have physical jurisdiction over it,” external affairs minister S Jaishankar asserted while addressing a press meet on the occasion of 100 days of the Modi government.

New Delhi has maintained that henceforth talks with Pakistan would be only about PoK and not on Kashmir. Defence minister Rajnath Singh and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu have made statements in this regard in the recent past after Pakistan sought to internationalise the Kashmir issue.

The foreign minister made it clear that any meeting between Indian and Pakistani PMs on the sidelines of UNGA is not possible in the current climate.

This was Jaishankar’s maiden press meet after being appointed as the external affairs minister. In an obvious reference to Pakistan, Jaishankar said: “We have a unique challenge from one neighbour and that would remain a challenge until that neighbour becomes a normal neighbour and acts against cross-border terrorism.”

The minister claimed India’s narrative on issues like cross-border terror, Article 370 has been articulated to a global audience and India’s voice is now heard much more on the global stage. “Our ability, appetite to shape the foreign agenda today is much more than before.”

Alexa Can Say Namaste Now

Users in India can now speak to Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa in Hindi to carry out tasks like checking cricket scores, requesting for songs and even asking how she's doing. Launched in India in 2017, Alexa was able to understand and pronounce names of popular places, names and songs in regional languages but supported commands only in English. With the latest update, Alexa can now understand customers speaking to her completely in Hindi and Hinglish. Alexa, which competes with digital assistants is available across Amazon's Echo range of devices as well as products from brands like Bose, MyBox, iBall and Syska

Ayodhya Hearing may be Over by 18th October

The Supreme Court allowed mediation to continue in the Ayodhya title suit parallel to the court hearing.

Any settlement arrived at by a high level court-mandated committee headed by former judge FMI Kalifullah will be submitted to the top court for vetting. The Nirvani Akhara and a Waqf Board member had sought court nod to continue talking in-camera to arrive at a solution.

Meanwhile, the hearing in the case will continue, CJI Ranjan Gogoi said. Arguments will be wrapped up by October 18, brightening the possibility of a ruling by November 17, the day the CJI demits office. If need be, the court would devote extra time to the case, the CJI said.

Any further delay will imply a de novo hearing on the issue pending in the top court since 2010.

In the first hint of things to come, the CJI-led five-judge bench began exploring ways and means to mould relief in the case. “We also have to mould relief,” CJI Gogoi said.

Towards the end of the proceedings, Justice DY Chandrachud sought to know the distance between the Ram Chabutra and the dome of the now demolished Babri Masjid structure from the lead lawyer for the Waqf Board, Rajeev Dhavan.

Dhavan said it was about 150-120 feet, indicating the proximity at which the two communities prayed at the site.

Justice Chandrachud then wanted to know why Hindus still prayed at the railing which divides the dome area from the Ram Chabutra. “Is it because they are still offering prayers where the deity earlier stood?”

Dhavan contested Justice Chandrachud’s inference vehemently as pure “conjecture”. “Where is the contemporaneous evidence to back this?” He instead blamed it on “curiosity”. He also cited the backdrop, in which the area had been divided by a railing to separate the areas in which the Hindus and Muslims prayed.

Till 1855, both sides prayed inside the structure. But in the backdrop of a bitter fight over control over the area where a walled structure of a mosque already stood, the British put a railing which would ensure that the Hindus would pray outside the inner courtyard near the Ram Chabutra and the Muslims inside, he contended.

The Board has claimed that the Hindus have historically worshipped the Ram Chabutra as the birthplace of Lord Ram, a fact contested by the other side. It has conceded the ‘Hindu right’ to pray at the Chabutra provided the title of the land went to it.

India Stubs Out E-cigarettes

India has announced a complete ban on electronic cigarettes, joining Australia, Brazil and Singapore among others to take a decisive step against vaping that is blamed for multiple deaths, including in western countries.

The Cabinet cleared an ordinance to ban the production, import, export, distribution, sale, storage and advertisements of electronic nicotine delivery system, or e-cigarettes.

The ban is expected to benefit traditional cigarette companies such as ITC and Godfrey Phillips that were facing competition from e-cigarettes.

The government decision will adversely impact plans of vaping products companies such as Juul Labs and Philip Morris International that were looking to invest in India.

Those violating provisions of the law face imprisonment of up to three years, along with monetary penalty.

All e-cigarette devices and consumable stocks must be deposited with the police once the law comes into force.

The move comes just a week after US President Donald Trump proposed a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes.

On Tuesday, New York became the second US state after Michigan to ban flavoured e-cigarettes, following several vaping-linked deaths that have raised fears about a product long promoted as less harmful than smoking.

The Association of Vapers India, an organisation representing e-cigarette users, called the decision draconian and a black day for smokers.

IAF reopens remote airstrip

With an eye firmly on China, the IAF reopened the Vijaynagar ALG (advance landing ground) in Arunachal Pradesh for military aircraft, even as the Army wrapped up an operational alert exercise in Ladakh near the Line of Actual Control.

The IAF landed an AN-32 aircraft at the Vijaynagar ALG, which is not connected with any motorable road, to re-establish military transport aircraft connectivity at this easternmost hamlet of India. Apart from the three ALGs in Eastern Ladakh, IAF has activated six of them in Arunachal —Pasighat, Mechuka, Walong, Along, Ziro and Tuting — over the last few years for fast mobility of troops and supplies to remote border areas.

Officials said the resurfaced runway at Vijaynagar, which was jointly inaugurated by Eastern Air Command chief Air Marshal R D Mathur and Eastern Army Command chief Lt-General Anil Chauhan, will also assist in effective management of the border with Myanmar and facilitate launch of joint operations for “the defence of the Vijaynagar salient”. “The movement of large transport aircraft will also act as a catalyst for the development of the area,” said an official.

The “all-arms integrated” exercise near Chushul in eastern Ladakh was called “Changthang Prahar (assault)”. Changthang is a plateau in Tibet that extends into southeastern Ladakh.

The Army’s top officer in J&K Lt General Ranbir Singh expressed “full confidence” that the Northern Command, which looks after the LAC and Line of Control, “will continue its legacy of excelling in combat, should a conflict be forced upon the nation.”

SC attains full strength

President Ram Nath Kovind signed the warrants for appointment of Justices V Ramasubramanian, Krishna Murari, S Ravindra Bhat and Hrishikesh Roy as judges of the SC, which will attain its full strength of 34 judges when these judges take oath.

This is the second time in CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s tenure that the SC will function at full strength. Before Parliament increased the SC’s sanctioned strength from 31, the collegium had achieved the rare distinction in almost a decade to get the SC functioning at full strength. The increase of sanctioned strength to 34 materialised after CJI Gogoi wrote to PM Modi citing heavy workload due to increase in litigation.

Shortly after the sanctioned strength was increased to 34 judges, an SC collegium recommended appointment of Himachal Pradesh HC Chief Justice Ramasubramanian, Punjab and Haryana HC CJ Murari, Rajasthan HC CJ Bhat and Kerala HC CJ Roy as judges of the SC.

15.9.19

Maharashtra: BJP gets Shivaji’s descendant

Welcoming Chhatrapati Shivaji’s direct descendant, Udayan Raje Bhosale of Satara, into the BJP, BJP president Amit Shah said the Devendra Fadnavis government has worked for the state’s all-round development and “restored” its pride in its five-year rule. Shah said the BJP and its alliance would receive even bigger support in the assembly polls after it had decimated the Congress-NCP alliance in the Lok Sabha polls in May this year.

Prior to joining the BJP on Saturday, Bhosale resigned from the Lok Sabha to which he was elected from Satara. A by-election will have to be held for the Satara Lok Sabha constituency. Bhosale has been insisting that the by-election be held along with the assembly elections in October. However, the Shiv Sena may pose a hurdle before the BJP as the seat is with them.

Bhosale joined the BJP in New Delhi at an event organised at the residence of Union home minister Amit Shah, who is also BJP national president. Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and state BJP president Chandrakant Patil were the other senior leaders present at the function.

“I was not feeling comfortable in the NCP. I was highly impressed because of the Modi government’s decision on Jammu and Kashmir,” Udayan Raje told the media after the event. He was referring to the nullification on August 5 of Article 370 which had granted special status to Jammu & Kashmir.

Patil said that Bhosale’s entry would strengthen the BJP in Maharashtra. “Bhosale was always mentally with the BJP even though he was in the NCP,” Patil noted.

BJP working president J.P. Nadda and general secretary Bhupender Yadav, who is his party's in-charge for the state polls, were also present on the occasion.

Bhosale updated all the developments of the day through his social media accounts, including his departure for the national capital along with CM Fadnavis. Bhosale has appealed to all residents of Satara to welcome Fadnavis’s ‘Maha Janadesh yatra’ on Sunday. Udayan Raje is expected to accompany Fadnavis on his yatra in Satara district.

Speaking at an event in Ahmednagar later on Saturday evening, Fadnavis said all descendants of Shivaji Maharaj are now with their party. Udayan Raje and cousin Shivendra Raje Bhosale, who are political rivals, are now with the BJP. Shivendra Raje too switched from the NCP to BJP recently. Reacting to the development, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik alleged Udayan Raje had joined BJP in order to sell off the inherited “historical” lands of Shivaji Maharaj.

Meanwhile, former Satara district Congress president Anandrao Patil held a meeting of his supporters in Karad on Friday. He is expected to join the BJP in Karad during the CM’s yatra. Satyajit Deshmukh, son of senior Congress leader, the late Shivajirao Deshmukh, has also called a meeting of his supporters in Sangli on Sunday.

Uniform Civil Code not practical : Muslim bodies

A day after Supreme Court’s strong observations on the Uniform Civil Code, members of prominent Muslim minority organisations said that a Uniform Civil Code was “neither practical, nor possible to implement” in a country with so much diversity.

Cutting across organisations they questioned the idea of UCC citing different personal laws and diverse cultural backgrounds of communities even within one religion.

Prominent members of the Minority organisations like All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind also cited the Law Commission’s consultation paper on family laws released last year on August 31. AIMPLB had then welcomed the Law Commission’s assertion that a Uniform Civil Code is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage. The AIMPLB had reiterated its position that it was not open to changes in the personal law and reform as suggested by the commission will happen only through the “social framework”.

“Even the law Commission in its consultative paper concedes that the UCC is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage. I am of the view that enforcing a UCC in India is impractical,” AIMPLB general secretary Maulana Sayyid Wali Remhami said. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board had welcomed the Law Commission’s assertion on August 31 that a UCC is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage. The AIMPLB had reiterated its position that it was not open to changes in the personal law and reform as suggested by the commission will happen only through the “social framework”.

Over a year later, the debate on UCC is once again in the limelight. The SC on Friday frowned on the failure of governments to heed Article 44 of the Constitution to promulgate a UCC for the entire country despite the lag of 63 years since codification of Hindu law in 1956.

“We have so much diversity in personal laws. How can one UCC apply to all. If the government at some stage does manage to bring in a UCC using its majority power in Parliament it will open a Pandora’s box of troubles in terms of on-ground implementation,” member of the AIMPLB Kamal Faruqui added. Jamiat Ulama -i- Hind’s senior functionary Niaz Ahmed Farooqui too said that the UCC was impossible to implement.

Finance minister unveils Rs.10,000-crore window for affordable housing

The government announced a Rs.10,000 crore special window to provide last-mile funding for completion of ongoing housing projects which are not NPAs or facing bankruptcy proceedings under NCLT.

Announcing the measure, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will contribute Rs.10,000 crore for the special window and roughly the same amount is expected from outside investors.

This window will help in completion of affordable and middle income housing projects. The fund will be managed by professionals, the minister added.

Sitharaman also said the interest rate on housing building advance will be lowered and linked to the 10-year G-sec yields. “Government servants contribute to a major component of demand for houses. This will encourage more government servants to buy new houses,” she said.

External commercial borrowing guidelines will also be relaxed to help housing developers obtain overseas funds.ECB guidelines will be relaxed to facilitate financing of homebuyers who are eligible under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, in consultation with the central bank.

The fresh set of measures to boost the economy has come in the wake of sinking business sentiment across the industry.

With most engines of growth stuttering, the Reserve Bank of India recently lowered its GDP forecast and pegged it at 6.9 per cent in 2019-20. Several rating agencies and research firms expect the growth to be in the range of 6.5-7 per cent.

Besides domestic consumption slowdown, the external factors remain adverse threatening to pull down the economy. A lingering US-China trade war and fears of a global recession could make things worse.

14.9.19

MMR: Key metro projects in a nutshell

Mumbai Metro Line 1 (Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro Project)

Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor is 11.40 km elevated corridor.

It provided connectivity of Eastern and Western suburbs to Western and Central Railway.

Facilitates smooth and efficient interchange between suburban rail system and MRT System at Andheri and Ghatkopar Stations.

Reduced the Journey time from 71 minutes to 21 minutes, between Versova and Ghatkopar.

Provide rail based access to the MIDC, SEEPZ and commercial developments.

Mumbai Metro Line 2A (DAHISAR - D.N. NAGAR)

Metro Line 2A from Dahisar to D N Nagar is 18.589 km. long elevated corridor with 17 stations.

It shall provide inter-connectivity among the existing Western Express Highway, Western Railway, Metro Line 1 (Ghatkopar to Versova), the ongoing Metro Lines 2B (D N Nagar to Mandale) and 7 (Andheri (E) to Dahisar (E)) and the proposed Metro Line 6 (Swami Samarth Nagar to Vikhroli).

It shall facilitate smooth and efficient interchange with the suburban rail system and MRT system at Dahisar and D N Nagar.

It shall provide connectivity between the Western, Central Mumbai and the Northern suburban Mumbai.

It shall provide rail based access to the commercial and geographical landmarks in Mumbai.

Mumbai Metro Line 2B (D.N. NAGAR - MANDALE)

Metro Line 2B from D N Nagar to Mandale is 23.643 km. long elevated corridor with 22 stations.

It shall provide inter-connectivity among the existing Western Express Highway, Eastern Express Highway, Western Railway, Central Railway, Mono Rail, Metro Line 1 (Ghatkopar to Versova) and Metro Line 2A (Dahisar to D N Nagar), Metro Line 4 (Wadala to Kasarvadavali) and Metro Line 3 (Colaba to SEEPZ) under implementation.

It shall provide connectivity between the Eastern and Western Suburban Mumbai.

It shall provide rail based access to the commercial, Govt. bodies and geographical landmarks in Mumbai.

Dedicated Depot is planned at Mandale in up to an extent of 22 Ha. land area.

Mumbai Metro Line 4 (WADALA - KASARVADAVALI)

Metro Line 4 from Wadala to Kasarvadavali is 32.32 km. long elevated corridor with 32 stations.

It shall provide inter-connectivity among the existing Eastern Express Roadway, Central Railway, Mono Rail, the ongoing Metro Line 2B (D N Nagar to Mandale), and the proposed Metro Line 5 (Thane to Kalyan), Metro Line 6 (Swami Samarth Nagar to Vikhroli) and Metro Line 8 (Wadala to General Post Office).

It shall provide rail based access to the commercial, Govt. bodies and geographical landmarks in Mumbai.

Dedicated Depots are planned in Owale land in up to an extent of 20 Ha. and in Godrej Land in up to 15.50 Ha. Area.

Metro Line - 5 (Thane - Bhiwandi - Kalyan)

Considering the rapid growth in Thane - Bhiwandi - Kalyan area and to connect the unconnected Bhiwandi city to Kalyan and Thane city through appropriate efficient mass transport system, the consultant was appointed for preparation of DPR for said corridor. Consultant has submitted final Detailed Project Report to MMRDA.

Mumbai Metro Line 7 (ANDHERI EAST - DAHISAR EAST)

Metro Line 7 from Andheri (E) to Dahisar (E) is 16.475 km. long elevated corridor with 13 stations.

It shall provide inter-connectivity among the existing Western Express Highway, Western Railway, Metro Line 1 (Ghatkopar to Versova), the ongoing Metro Line 2A (Dahisar to D N Nagar) and the proposed Metro Line 6 (Swami Samarth Nagar to Vikhroli).

It shall facilitate smooth and efficient interchange with the suburban rail system and MRT system at Andheri, JVLR and Dahisar.

It shall provide connectivity between the Central Mumbai and the Northern suburban Mumbai.

It shall provide rail based access to the Mumbai International Airport, SEEPZ, National Park and other commercial and geographical landmarks.

Dedicated Depot is planned at Dahisar in an extent of 15 Ha.

Mumbai Metro Line 9 (Line 7 Extension)

Metro Line 9 is extension of Line 7 form Andheri to CSIA and Dahisar to Mira Bhayander and is 13.581 km long (11.386 km elevated and 2.195 km underground) with 11 stations.

It shall provide inter-connectivity among the existing Western Express Highway, Western Railway, ongoing Metro Line 2A (Dahisar to D N Nagar) and Metro Line 7(Andheri (E) to Dahisar (E)).

It shall provide rail based access to the commercial, Govt. bodies and geographical landmarks in Mumbai.

Maintenance Depot has been proposed at Mira-Bhayander (main depot for entire line-7). Total land area proposed for maintenance facilities is 20.0 Ha.

Mumbai Trans Harbor Link  — Metro Link

With the view to connect the mainland to Mumbai through rail based mass transport MMRDA has planned a metro corridor from Prabhadevi to Sewri and further to the Mainland through Navi Mumbai to a suitable Location on the Panvel-Pen section having interchange stations and facilities with the existing and proposed rail system. Following are the advantages of the proposed MTHL-Metro Link.

MTHL Metro Corridor will induce and accelerate the development on the main land.

MTHL Metro will encourage mass transport and cater to the future travel demand of main land area.

MTHL Metro will facilitate decongestion on other passenger time transport systems and fuel consumption saving.

Chennai: Techie run over by tanker after hoarding falls on her

A 23-year old woman techie riding a two-wheeler lost balance and fell down after an illegal hoarding put up by an All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam functionary crashed on her. She was then run over by a water tanker that came just behind her, police said.

The hoarding was put up without obtaining permission from corporation authorities by a local AIADMK functionary for his son’s wedding at a hall near Pallikaranai in Chennai.

“There is zero respect for lives in this country. It is a bureaucratic apathy. Sorry, we have lost faith in the government,” Justice Seshasayee was quoted as saying. The court added that it was tired of passing multiple orders against illegal flex boards, as it asked officials to report to it after lunch.

The ruling AIADMK and main opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, meanwhile, asked their respective party cadres to not erect hoardings inconveniencing the public.

When she was proceeding on the arterial Pallavaram Thoraipakkam radial road after completing her shift at a software firm at Kandanchavadi on Thursday, the woman identified later as R Subashri fell on the road after the hoarding put up on the median crashed on her.

A water tanker, which came behind the woman’s vehicle ran over her and she was pronounced brought dead at a local hospital. The tanker driver was arrested for rash and negligent driving and a case has been registered against him.

The young woman’s death has led to an outrage on illegal hoardings being put by political parties despite them causing inconvenience and posing a threat to people’s safety.

Following its complaint, police have filed an FIR against the AIADMK functionary and action will be taken as per law, the Chennai corporation said, adding the printing unit which printed the hoarding that fell on Subashri has been sealed.

According to the TN Urban Local Bodies (Permission for Erection of Digital Banners and Placards) Rules of 2011, the printer’s licence will be cancelled and unit sealed if permission was not taken for erecting hoardings or banners.

“The tanker driver was over speeding and he could not slow down and stop. No one should meet a fate similar to that of my daughter who was my only child,” her father told reporters. Subashri completed her B Tech last year and had a proposal to go to Canada next month and was working for a technology firm, he told reporters. 

August 2019: Trade deficit narrows to $13.45 b


India’s imports shrank by 36-month low of 13.4% on year in August, led by non-oil and non-gold sectors, indicating weak domestic demand in a slowing economy. Exports, too, declined for the second time in three months as global trade tensions and sluggish demand brought down shipments by 6.05%.

Exports slipped to $26.13 billion last month, pulled down by a decline in shipment of traditional, labour intensive sectors including cotton yarn, gems & jewellery, petroleum products, carpets, and handicrafts.

A sharper decline of imports to $39.58 helped the country lower the trade deficit to $13.45 billion in August from $17.92 billion a year ago. However, the trade gap widened marginally from $13.43 billion in July.

This was the worst decline in imports since August 2016 when imports fell 13.8% on year.

India’s economic growth had plunged to a 25-quarter low of 5% in the June quarter. Private consumption growth plunged to 3.1% in the quarter from 7.2% in the trailing quarter.

Non-oil and non-gold imports fell 9.33% to $27.3 billion in August. Oil imports declined 8.9% to $10.9 billion while gold imports fell 62.5% to $1.37 billion from the year earlier.

The increase in customs duty on gold and the recent spike in prices dampened imports.

Imports of electronics goods, a major import item, declined 4.12% in August.

According to official data, 22 out of the 30 export sectors registered a decline year on year in August.

Experts partly attributed the decline in exports to the US terminating preferential tariffs to India under the Generalised System of Preferences effective June 5.

US-China trade war, Brexit and developments in Iran further aggravated the problem of the world economy, the organisation said.

The World Trade Organisation had in April cut the global trade growth forecast for 2019 to 2.6% from 3% in 2018 on account of rising trade tensions and increased economic uncertainty.

In first five months of the fiscal, India’s exports fell 1.53% to $133.54 billion while imports declined 5.68% to $206.39 billion.

However, electronics exports increased 46% to $1.01 billion in August. FIEO said the uncertainty attached has also affected the flow of investment and added to currency volatility.

13.9.19

CM flags off test run of Navi Mumbai Metro


Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis flagged off the test run of Navi Mumbai Metro Line-1.

The first phase of the Metro project has an elevated corridor of over 11 km between Belapur and Pendhar with 11 stations, besides a depot-cum-workshop at Taloja-Pachnand. Fadnavis also released e-allotment letters of winners of Cidco’s mass housing scheme-2018 on its website. Cidco will construct 95,000 houses.

The e-allotment letters of a total of 9,475 winners were declared in the presence of Cidco authorities, state minister Ravindra Chavan, MLAs Prashant Thakur, Manda Mhatre, Mayors Jaywant Sutar and Dr Kavita Choutmal and other dignitaries.

Funding for Metro Rail Line-1 (Belapur to Pendhar), which costs around Rs.3,064 crore, is being incurred by Cidco through surplus internal accruals. The three-car Metro train with a stainless steel coach body has a capacity to ferry 1,125 passengers and will have 150 seats and 975 standing passengers. While, the maximum operating speed shall be 85 kmph, the scheduled speed is 32 kmph.

According to Cidco, the Navi Mumbai Metro will enhance the commercial potential of the region and bolster economic progress. The Metro Line-1 is expected to be operational by mid-2020.


Indian universities out of top 300 in global rankings


The new world university rankings came as a mixed bag for India with no university featuring in the top 300 for the first time since 2012, though the total number of entries from the country went up from 49 in 2018 to 56 this year.

The high point for India was Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar making it to the top 350 on debut in the list. It now is the joint Indian topper with Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. In total, there are six Indian universities in the top 500 in this year’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020 as against five in the 2019 rankings. Overall, University of Oxford continues to lead the pack for the fourth consecutive year.

With the increase in the number of Indian universities in the overall 1,300-university list from 92 countries, India is the fifth most-represented nation in the rankings, with 56 institutions. In all, 10 Indian universities which participated for the first time, made it to the global ranking list of 1,300 universities.

The fall of IISc from the 251-300 to 301-350 cohort this year is attributed to a significant dip in its citation impact score offsetting improvements in research environment, teaching environment and industry income. With IISc’s slide, it is for the first time India has failed to make the top 300 in the last seven years. However, the Bengaluru-based institute still ranks highest among all others in India and shares its position with IIT Ropar in the THE list.

THE rankings editor Ellie Bothwell said: “India has a huge amount of potential in global higher education, given its rapidly growing youth population and economy and use of English-language instruction. However, it is disappointing to see the country fall out of the top 300 of the rankings this year, with only a small number of institutions registering progress. The Indian government has strong ambitions to boost the global standing of its top universities and attract foreign students, academics and research collaboration. It now needs to back up these aspirations with high levels of investment or risk declining further amid increasing global competition, especially from other parts of Asia.”

According to THE, the best Indian institutions are generally characterised by relatively strong scores for teaching environment and industry income, but perform poorly when it comes to international outlook in comparison to both regional and international counterparts.

Globally, the United States once again has 60 universities in the top 200.

PMO gets new principal secy & principal adviser


The new Prime Minister’s Office hierarchy was formalised with P K Mishra, additional principal secretary to PM, appointed principal secretary in place of Nripendra Misra, who recently resigned from the post. Along with Mishra, former cabinet secretary P K Sinha was appointed principal adviser to PM.

The changes were expected since Misra’s resignation was made available and it was stated that he will continue for two weeks pending formalisation of arrangements. Misra’s resignation had come as a surprise as he had been recently re-appointed along with an elevation to minister of state rank.

Sinha’s designation is at variance to expectations that he will replace P K Mishra as additional principal secretary. Mishra has been overseeing senior appointments and is expected to continue to do so. Sinha could look after some of the policy briefs given his familiarity with Modi government’s initiatives as cabinet secretary.

P K Mishra has worked with Prime Minister Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. He has varied work experience in performance management relating to agriculture, disaster management, power sector, infrastructure financing and regulatory issues.

“He has an outstanding career profile comprising research, publications, policy formulations and project management,” said a backgrounder.

P K Mishra has been agriculture secretary and worked in the area of disaster management. He was actively involved in initiatives like national agriculture development programme and the national food security mission along with “innovative and transformative” changes in human resource management, particularly appointments to senior positions.

He has worked with Institute of Development Studies, UK, negotiation and execution of ADB and World Bank projects and the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics. In the previous Modi government, he paid particular attention to disaster response and preparedness. He is a PhD in economic-development studies from the University of Sussex, where he also did an MA. He also has an MA from the Delhi School of Economics.

IIP rebounds, retail inflation inches up


India's industrial output growth posted a muted rebound in July and retail inflation inched up marginally in August, prompting economists to say that the Reserve Bank of India will cut interest rates when it reviews monetary policy next month to revive growth which has slumped to a six-year low in the April-June quarter of the current financial year.

Industrial output rose to a two-month high of 4.3% in July, higher than downwardly revised 1.2% in June and lower than 6.5% in the same period last year. The latest data set comes against the backdrop of a slowdown in the economy and mounting criticism of the government’s handling of the situation. The Centre has unveiled a string of measures to counter the slowdown impact and more steps are in the pipeline to boost growth.

The data showed manufacturing sector grew a sluggish 4.2% compared to 7% in July 2018. The capital goods sector, which is a key gauge of industrial activity, contracted for the second consecutive month and declined by 7.1% in July compared to an expansion of 2.3% in the same month last year. The consumer durables sector contracted by 2.7% compared to a growth of 14.1%.

Economists urged caution about deriving any recovery trend from the July factory output data.

Separate data released by the NSO showed inflation as measured by the consumer price index rose to a 10-month high of 3.2% in August, nearly similar levels of 3.1% in the previous month led by a surge in food and vegetable prices. Food prices rose to a 14-month high in August, largely driven by vegetable prices, influenced by some disruption in supplies due to floods in some parts of the country. This was the 13 consecutive months when retail inflation remained below the RBI’s comfort zone.


August 2019: Retail Inflation @ 10-month High of 3.21%


India’s retail inflation climbed up to a 10-month high of 3.21% in August but stayed below the central bank’s 4% medium-term target, strengthening expectations of another rate cut next month.

Inflation based on the Consumer Price Index was 3.15% in July and 3.69% in August 2018. The previous high was 3.38% in October 2018.

Inflation in the food basket was 2.99%, up from 2.36% in July. However, retail inflation is within the Reserve Bank India’s target range of 4%, with deviation of 2% on either side. The RBI governor-led Monetary Policy Committee will take a call on interest rates on October 4.

Inflation mainly originated from meat and fish, vegetables, pulses and products, health, education, and personal care and effects.

Inflation in meat and fish basket was 8.51%, pulses and products 6.94% and vegetables 6.9%. Retail inflation in health was 7.84%, recreation and amusement 5.54 % and personal care and effects 6.38 %. Price rise in the ‘education’ segment was recorded at 6.1% in August.

Economists expect CPI to inch up going ahead but remain within the RBI’s target.

CARE Ratings expects policy rates to be cut by another 40 bps for the remainder of the financial year.

Welfare of Kashmiris in integration: Jamiat

Coming out strongly against Pakistan’s attempt to “use Indian Muslims” to orchestrate propaganda against India on international forums like United Nations, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind said welfare of Kashmiris lies in integration with India and added that J&K is an integral part of India.

At its meeting the Jamiat adopted a resolution stating that it can never support any separatist movement and that it considers such movements harmful for the country as a whole, and to the people of Kashmir.

Asked specifically, if support to the government on J&K meant Jamiat is supportive of abrogation of special status for the state under Article 370, JUH general secretary Maulana Mahmood Madani chose the “no comment” route but went on to say the organisation stood “shoulder to shoulder” with the government on J&K being an integral part of India.

“Despite our differences with the government on certain issues, we are today standing shoulder to shoulder with it as we are clear that Kashmir is an integral part of India and we will not allow Pakistan to use Indian Muslims to orchestrate a propaganda on international forums like United Nations in the name of human rights violations. Hence we will not comment on Article 370 as of now,” he said.

In a separate resolution, JUH welcomed the NRC.

Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet train fare to be ₹ 3000

National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd managing director Achal Khare told media that the one-way fare of the high speed rail (bullet train) between Ahmedabad and Mumbai is estimated to be Rs.3,000 at current rates. Khare gave the figure on the basis of a ‘willingness to pay survey’ carried out by the Indo-Japanese joint venture during feasibility report.

The train, with an average speed of 320 kmph, will cover the distance of 508 km in two hours seven minutes.

Answering a question about possible pricing of the much-awaited bullet train — with the project deadline set for December 2023, Khare said that a number of factors affect the pricing decision and it is difficult to ascertain a number for the future. “But the ‘willingness to pay survey’ carried out by us showed that passengers including those travelling by airlines and railways were ready to pay 1.5 times the fare of a first-class coach. In general terms, it comes to around Rs.3,000 at current rates,” he said.

NHSRCL officials unveiled the concept designs for upcoming stations at Sabarmati and Saraspur near Kalupur along with the plans for the multi-modal transport hub at Kalupur and Sabarmati. On the sidelines of the event, the officials said that at its peak, the bullet train project will have 70 trains — 35 up and 35 down — from Sabarmati in Ahmedabad and Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai.

Khare told reporters that about 50% of the land acquisition — 2,600-plus plots out of the required 5,400-plus privately-owned ones in Gujarat has been completed with consent agreement with payment done. “In quantity, it comes to about 360 hectare,” he said.

The high-speed rail authority has issued tenders for four major civil works on the route including construction of viaducts and an undersea tunnel in Maharashtra. The work is likely to start by March-April 2020.

12.9.19

Maharashtra: Congress, NCP lose 2 heavyweights to BJP

The exodus from the Congress and NCP to the BJP continues as former parliamentary affairs minister and senior Congress leader Harshvardhan Patil joined the saffron party on Wednesday. The same day Navi Mumbai strongman and former excise minister and senior NCP leader Ganesh Naik too joined the BJP.

Naik’s entry is particularly significant as he has brought with him 52 NCP corporators. It will help the BJP wrest control of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation from the NCP. Currently, BJP has only 6 corporators in NMMC.

Harshvardhan’s exit is a huge setback for the Congress in western Maharashtra as he controls several sugar cooperatives and other institutions in the region. An event organised by the BJP to welcome him into the party fold was attended by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and state BJP president Chandrakant Patil.

11.9.19

‘Ashamed about Jallianwala Bagh’: Archbishop of Canterbury


Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said that he was ashamed and sorry for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919.

The comments came as Welby concluded his India tour by a visit to the Jallianwala Bagh memorial in Amritsar.

While paying his respects at the memorial, he said, “I cannot speak for the British government. I am not an official of the British government but can speak on the name of Christ. It is a place for sin and redemption. Because you have remembered what they have done and their name will live, their memory will live.”

“I am so ashamed and sorry for the impact of this crime committed here. I can’t speak for the government. That is for the government to do. I am a religious leader, not a politician. As a religious leader, I mourn the tragedy I see here,” Welby said.

He also read out a prayer to seek forgiveness from god for the act.

He wrote in the visitor book, “It is deeply humbling and provoke feelings of profound shame to visit this place that witness such atrocities hundred years ago. My first response is to pray for healing of relatives, of descendants, of our relationships with India and its wonderful people. But, that prayer renews in me a desire to pray and act so that together we may learn from history, root out hatred, promote reconciliation and globally seek the common good.”

When asked if he would ask British government to seek an apology for the massacre, he said, “I think have been very clear what I feel and that will be broadcast in England.”

About his experience in India, Welby said, “It has been a pilgrimage. It has been for prayer. It has been for me a lesson of profound learning and privilege that I will never forget. I admire all the potential and hope that this country offers to the world.”

Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place on 13 April 1919.

India strongly rejects China-Pak statement on J&K

India strongly rejected the reference to J&K in the joint statement issued by China and Pakistan after the recent visit of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to Islamabad, and said J&K was an integral part of India.

In a statement, the government said India has consistently expressed concerns to both China and Pakistan on projects in the so-called China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which falls in Indian territory illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947.

“India is resolutely opposed to any actions by other countries to change the status quo in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. We call on the parties concerned to cease such actions,” MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar said. According to the joint statement, China had reaffirmed its support for Pakistan on Kashmir and said that it opposed any unilateral actions that could complicate the regional situation.

The statement was issued on Sunday after the conclusion of Wang Yi’s two-day visit to Pakistan where he held talks with Pakistani PM Imran Khan, his counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, President Arif Alvi, and army chief Qamar Bajwa.

Delhi-NCR is India's new startup capital region


Bangalore is India’s Silicon Valley, but here’s the surprise: Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida — collectively, Delhi-NCR — together are far ahead in the number of startups they are home to. Another reason to call the National Capital Region India’s startup capital region is that it is home to the highest number of unicorns — companies valued at over $1 billion — which underlines the economic might it possesses.

The numbers were revealed in a report launched by Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant in Delhi on Tuesday; at 7,039, Delhi-NCR is a runaway leader in the number of startups, followed by Bangalore (5,234), Mumbai (3,829), Hyderabad (1,940), Pune (1,593) and Chennai (1,520).

Delhi alone, with 4,491 startups, is well ahead of Mumbai while Gurgaon (1,544), the magnet around which Delhi-NCR’s corporate world revolves, has more startups than Chennai and is almost equal to Pune. Noida, where mobile payments firm Paytm is based, has over 1,000 startups and is catching up with the others fast. In terms of the total startup valuation in India, Delhi-NCR’s contribution is almost 50%. The report, titled ‘Turbocharging the Delhi-NCR Startup Ecosystem’, has been prepared by The India Entrepreneur network along with Zinnov, a Gurgaon-based management consulting firm.

Commenting on the findings, Rajan Anandan, MD of Sequoia Capital, India and TIE’s Delhi-NCR president, said the numbers had come as a surprise to them as well. “NCR is the strongest in consumer tech and services startups with real potential to make it to the top five globally in terms of the startup ecosystem and activity,” said Anandan. According to the report, NCR — home to the likes of Zomato, Oyo and Rivigo — has 10 unicorns, followed by Bangalore with nine. Mumbai has only two.

“The most interesting part is that beyond these 10 unicorns, NCR also has another 10 soon-to-be unicorns and once they touch the $1-billion mark, it will be very difficult for any other city to beat NCR in this area,” Kant said.

Delhi-NCR also has three of India’s four most valuable listed internet companies — Info Edge, MakeMyTrip and indiaMART. “It is quite motivating for budding entrepreneurs like me to know that Delhi has such a strong startup ecosystem. When you see so many companies touching the unicorn mark, you also get inspired and motivated to reach there,” said Meghna Saraogi, founder of Styledotme, a Gurgaon-based startup. But the success story of Delhi-NCR hasn’t quite led to organic growth in its support system where Bangalore is still the best-placed city.

Government to buy apples from J&K growers

Apples produced in Jammu & Kashmir this season will be procured directly from local farmers by government-run Nafed and payments will be made through direct benefit transfer.

Announcing the new apple procurement scheme for J&K, the government said Nafed would complete the procurement process through designated state government agencies by December 15. The scheme follows a meeting between home minister Amit Shah and representatives of fruit growers from J&K here last week. The representatives had expressed concern over the possibility of unsold and wasted produce, citing threats from terrorists not to sell it in the market in the wake of dilution of Article 370. Shah had reassured the apple growers that the government was in touch with agencies to resolve the issue, and noted that with dilution of Article 370, benefits of schemes like PM Fasal Bima Yojana would reach farmers of J&K.

Under the new apple procurement scheme, procurement will be made directly from genuine apple growers of J&K. The state will make direct payment in the bank account of the apple grower through DBT. All categories of apples will be procured from the apple-producing districts as well as designated mandis in Sopore, Shopian and Srinagar. Fair prices for various categories of apples will be fixed by the price committee that comprises a representative from the National Horticulture Board. The quality committee will grade the varieties.

Olives from Israeli desert thrive in Rajasthan’s Thar

On a drive from Bikaner city to Momasar village, perched in neat rows atop sandy soil, 14-feet-tall trees pruned like cups cover vast expanses of land. Olives — toast of the Mediterranean and an alien species here until just a few years ago— are now blooming in Rajasthan’s desert.

The seed for India’s tryst with olives were laid when former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje visited Israel in 2006. She was struck by lush olive trees in Negev desert, an arid landscape much like Rajasthan. Soon, the Mediterranean trees were imported and planted over 180 hectares of government land with help of Israeli technology.

In 2014, an extractor machine was imported from Italy and an olive oil refinery was set up in Bikaner. When the first trees started fruiting in 2014 and 2015, 1,300 tonnes of fruit was collected. But few trees bore fruits the following year and it became clear early on that dependence on olive oil alone was not enough to fetch good returns. New uses were needed for the fruitless olive trees.

Olive leaves then found their way into steaming tea cups; olive groves were turned into agroturismo attractions and wood from the tree delicately carved into statuettes. That’s how India became an unlikely innovation hub for olives. Today, about 150 farmers are growing it in over 700 hectares. Three factories have come up to prepare the tea.

“We needed to find some use for the tree in case they failed to produce fruits. We experimented with olive tea. The recipe was prepared after tests and feedback from overseas experts,” Yogesh Kumar Verma, COO of Rajasthan Olive Corporation Ltd said. When Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu called on President Ram Nath Kovind last year, he was welcomed with olive tea made in Bikaner.

Vardhan Jain Tijaria, who sells olive tea on e-commerce portals, said demand is slowly catching up. “The tea has antioxidant properties but not many are aware of it. With growing awareness, business is likely to grow.” Gopal Chandak has also been selling olive tea to customers in the UK. With a price tag of Rs.10,000 per kg, the returns are high.

That’s not all. ROCL is venturing into yet another ‘herbal’ concoction — olive wine. Research is being conducted at Vidhya Sagar University, West Bengal, Tripura University and Jiwaji University, Indore.

And if the wine doesn’t take off, the hospitality industry is always there. Amid vast expanses of sandy terrain of the desert land, some 30 km from Bikaner, Dr Rajendra Singh, a Haryana-based medical practitioner, has opened his 22-hectare olive plantation to tourists. “The resort is based on the theme of olive agro-tourism,” said Singh, adding that his 10-room resort often enjoys full occupancy.

Like Singh, others also want a slice of the Mediterranean in their garden. Olive tree landscaping is the latest fixation among the affluent. Dharmendra Singh, a Delhibased architect, said, “A tree imported from Spain costs between Rs . lakh and Rs.40 lakh. Most of the demand comes from farm houses, hotels, residential societies and high-end bungalows.”

Olives have now caught the fancy of other states. ROCL has distributed 4.5 lakh saplings to Punjab, Himachal, J&K, UP and NE states as India is eyeing to produce olive oil at home. In 2017-18, India imported 10,914.86 metric tonnes of olive oil.

Gujarat cuts Centre's traffic fines



Barely 10 days after the amended Motor Vehicles Act came into force, the Gujarat government on Tuesday notified the fines for some of the traffic offences which are 25 to 90 per cent less than those notified by the Centre.

The state government’s justification to reduce the penalties on “compassionate and humanitarian” ground is now likely to pave way for other states to notify the fines. The Gujarat government reiterated its commitment to ensure safety on roads by emulating Centre’s hefty fine policy for serious offences like rash and drunken driving, which remain unchanged. The new fines will come into force from September 16.

“Our priority is not collecting fines or filing cases against people. However, implementing law is not possible without punitive action. We have taken a compassionate and humanitarian approach and reduced fines. No concessions can be granted in cases where people lose their lives. There will be a sustained clampdown against serious traffic offences,” said chief minister Vijay Rupani.

The Gujarat government has largely tweaked the fines that fall under the “compoundable” offences category, which empowers the state governments to designate officers who can collect the fine on the spot and let the offender go. These include not wearing seat belt, helmet, triple-riding on two-wheelers, speeding, plying vehicles without pollution under control certificate and driving without licence and registration certificate.

As per the law, the states cannot change some of the penalties for offences such as juvenile driving, drunk driving and jumping traffic light. However, there is one exception where the state has reduced penalties for wrong side driving, which is non-compoundable. In such cases, the violator needs to visit court.

Another major dilution is to exempt pillion riders from wearing helmets. “We have taken a moderate stand in this regard as middle class families including wife and children travel on two-wheelers,” said Rupani.

The reduction in fines by the Gujarat government is being seen as a balancing act in the wake of widespread protests, especially in Rupani’s home turf, Rajkot, which has witnessed demonstrations against hefty fines.

The amended MVA provides for Rs.1,000-fine for driving without wearing helmet or seat belt, which Gujarat has reduced to Rs.500.

Obstructing a fire vehicle or ambulance attracts a heavy fine of Rs.10,000 in the Central act. The state government has reduced this to Rs.1,000.

Similarly, triple-riding fine has also been reduced from Rs.1,000 to Rs.100.




India & Nepal open South Asia’s first cross-border oil pipeline

India and Nepal opened South Asia’s first cross-border oil product pipeline, helping Kathmandu to cut fuel prices by Rs.2 per litre on account of reduced transportation cost.

PM Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart K P Sharma Oli inaugurated, through video-conference, the 69 km pipeline from state-run IndianOil’s terminal in north Bihar’s Motihari to Nepal Oil Corporation’s Amlekhgunj depot in Narayani zone.

“Motihari-Amlekhgunj pipeline will provide cleaner petroleum products at affordable costs to Nepal. I am glad India and Nepal cooperation is scaling new heights,” he tweeted.

Oli described the pipeline as the “best example of connectivity in the field of trade and transit...” and invited Modi to visit Nepal, which the PM accepted. The Rs.324-crore pipeline is part of New Delhi’s efforts to deepen engagement with Kathmandu as part of its “neighbourhood first” policy. It can transport two million tonnes of product annually.

10.9.19

Car Sales in August 2019 Fall the Most in 2 Decades


India’s passenger vehicle sales declined the most in two decades in August due to a continuing slump in demand amid slowing economic activity and an increase in vehicle ownership costs.

Data released by industry body SIAM showed passenger vehicle sales decreased for the tenth straight month in August by 31.57% to 196,524 units. This is the sharpest fall registered since SIAM started recording data in 1997-98.

Sales of commercial vehicles — a barometer of economic activity — dropped nearly 39% to 51,897 units. Two-wheeler sales declined 22.24% to 1,514,196 units. Vehicle sales across categories fell 23.55% to 1,821,490 units. Automakers in India report wholesale dispatches made from factories and not retail sales to customers.

Given sluggish demand, Ashok Leyland announced block closures across its facilities in September. Last week, the country’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki announced two no production days at its factories in Gurugram and Manesar on September 7 and September 9.

The production cuts across companies have already resulted in job losses to 350,000 workers in vehicle manufacturing, component making and vehicle distribution industries.

The automobile sector contributes as much as 49% to the manufacturing GDP and employs 37 million people, directly and indirectly.

Given the dismal demand situation, road transport minister Nitin Gadkari last week said he would request the finance minister to consider the automobile industry’s request to reduce GST rates on vehicles to trigger sales in the market.

Pune: PMC general body okays move to change HCMTR


Pune Municipal Corporation’s general body on Monday approved a proposal to change the alignment of the High Capacity Mass Transit Route. PMC’s commissioner had tabled the proposal in front of the body, asking for changes in alignment at 11 spots.

Opposition leaders initially opposed the move, stating that the way it was being brought to the body was against the norms and that the approval of a committee is needed. However, they eventually chose to support it. The proposal will now be open for suggestions and objections.

PMC members from the ruling party have been trying to get the HCMTR project off the ground before the Assembly polls. However, with the realignments proposed, the proposal had to be tabled in the general body meeting of PMC for approval.

According to the proposal, of 11 changes proposed, four are major changes while seven are minor. While there were two different routes proposed initially in the Balbharati and Paud Road stretch with Balbharati-Paud Road being one, and HCMTR being other, the two have now been merged with the alignment of HCMTR changed to Balbharati Paud road. The alignment at the Wanawadi SRPF section has also been changed since there was ammunition godown coming in the way. The alignment in Vishrantwadi section has also been changed. Initially, the route passed through a restricted zone under the Indian Air Force. That route passed through Dattawadi. It has now been realigned to Patwardhan Baug in Erandawane and will be connected to Sinhagad Road from there. Along with this, minor changes have been done citing protests, availability of land in areas where a heritage sites were being disturbed, like Gandhi lawns, Vadgaon Sheri, Dunkirk Lines and so on.

Justifying the need for the changes, Anniruddha Pawaskar, head of road department, PMC, said, “When we surveyed the alignment in detail. There were few defence establishments and government buildings in the way. At some places there were security concerns while in some, many houses were getting affected where rehabilitation would’ve been needed, increasing the project cost. When meetings were conducted with these people, the need to change the alignment was felt. Hence, we have tabled this.”

Opposition leaders, however, created ruckus, claiming that the way the proposal is tabled was illegal. The leaders stated that such proposals needed to be approved by the committees in PMC and hence, couldn’t be discussed on Monday. Since the city improvement committees meeting was to be held on Monday, they asked why it wasn’t tabled in the meeting and approved, if it was so important. Saying that the meeting was adjourned due to lack of quorum, they also criticised the BJP for not having control over its corporators.

However, leader of the house, Shrinath Bhimale, urged the body to approve the proposal on a priority basis. He said, “If we don’t decide today there would be a delay of 3 months due to code of conduct. Hence we approve it today.”

Congress leader Arvind Shinde said, “We had spoken about this earlier as well. There was city improvement meeting to be held today. But it wasn’t done. Why couldn’t they manage to do it if the topic was important? We need clarity on many aspects. Now that you’ve proposed the alignments, do we now consider that no one else will be affected? Will there be no rehabilitation done? Multiple projects are proposed on same stretch. For instance, on Sinhagad Road, a flyover is proposed and now HCMTR. Does this mean that the flyover is scrapped?”

Dilip Barate, leader of the opposition, said “Commissioner informed members of the ruling party but ignored opposition leaders. This isn’t the way to do it.”

However, later they came around to supporting the proposal.

Vikram lander tilted after a hard hit, but is unbroken: ISRO


The ‘Vikram’ lander stands tilted but unbroken on the lunar surface following a hard landing. Efforts to re-establish link with the probe were on, an ISRO official said.

Vikram, which encases rover ‘Pragyan’ went out of contact during its final descent, when it was just 2.1 km above the lunar surface, in the early hours of September 7. “The lander is there (on lunar surface) as a single piece, not broken into pieces. It’s in a tilted position,” an ISRO official associated with the mission claimed.

Though the lander hit the surface hard while landing, it was still very close to the scheduled touchdown site as per the images sent by the orbiter’s onboard camera, he said. “We are making all-out efforts to see whether communication can be re-established with the lander,” the official said.

ISRO chairman K Sivan had said that the space agency would try to restore link with the lander for 14 days, and reiterated the resolve on September 8 after the orbiter’s camera spotted it on the Lunar surface.

An ISRO official said chances of restoring link with the lander were bleak since its system functionality was a prerequisite to achieve that.

“Unless and until everything is intact (in lander), it’s very difficult (to re-establish contact). Chances are less. Only if it had soft-landing, and if all systems functioned, then only communication can be restored. Things are bleak as of now.”

9.9.19

Modi 2.0: The first 100 days

Home minister Amit Shah has emerged as the ‘new doer’ in the government with Prime Minister Modi allowing him to implement the party’s political agenda, which it had been pursuing since its inception. Meanwhile, the opposition is yet to find a unifying force which can rally the different parties together. Here are 11 big events the country witnessed in the past 100 days, after the new government took over:

On May 26, at the Congress Working Committee meeting, Congress president Rahul Gandhi offered to resign as party president and asked leaders to choose someone outside the Gandhi family. However, at a CWC meeting on August 10, Sonia Gandhi returned as the party’s interim president

On June 4, BSP chief Mayawati announced the end of its alliance with SP, which it entered into before the Lok Sabha elections. Both parties had buried years of acrimony and Akhilesh and Mayawati had addressed several public meetings together. BSP won 10 seats and SP five in the LS elections

The fall of the Congress-JDS government in Karnataka was another setback for the opposition. Around 18 MLAs withdrew support from the government and the ensuing political drama played out for more than two weeks. On July 26, BJP’s BS Yediyurappa became the chief minister for the fourth time

The biggest achievement of the BJP’s political agenda came on August 5, when home minister Amit Shah presented a bill to withdraw Article 370 from J&K and dividing the state into two UTs. It has been the BJP’s central principle that the nation should have one flag, one constitution and one leader

With Amit Shah becoming the home minister, the BJP selected another president to replace Shah keeping with the ‘one leader one post formula’ norm. On June 17, JP Nadda was appointed as working president and the party will get a new president by early next year when the organisational elections are completed. Right now, Shah remains the national president

In a major victory to the government, Parliament passed the Triple Talaq Bill on July 30, despite the opposition having a majority in the Rajya Sabha. The floor management of the government came to the fore which continued for other important bills

The Supreme Court began daily hearing of the Ram Temple case on August 6 after a court-appointed panel failed to find a solution through mediation. A five-judge bench, including CJI Ranjan Gogoi, is hearing the arguments

On August 13, the BJP became the main opposition party in Sikkim without winning a single seat in the assembly elections. Ten of the 13 MLAs of the Sikkim Democratic Front, a party which was in power for 25 years, joined the BJP. SDF leader Pawan Kumar Chamling was Sikkim’s longest serving chief minister and lost the election to Sikkim Krantikari Morcha this time. Chamling now is left with only three MLAs, including himself

On August 21, former finance minister P Chidambaram was arrested by the CBI in the INX media case from his residence in Delhi. He has been sent to judicial custody on September 5 and is in Tihar jail

On August 31, the Supreme Court-monitored publication of the National Register of Citizens in Assam threw up new challenges for the BJP with more Hindus excluded from the list than Muslims. The BJP’s Assam unit criticised the list. BJP president Amit Shah maintains that not a single illegal immigrant would be allowed to stay in India

In July, Congress lost two of its senior leaders –– former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and Jaipal Reddy. In August, BJP lost two of its prominent faces in Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley