Construction of wider NHs up by 300% in 7 years

The pace of annual construction of four, six and eight lane national highways has increased by more than 300% during the past seven years -from merely 1,289 km in 2015-16 to 3,963 km during 2021-22, government data show.

This is set to increase further as the agencies under the road transport and highways ministry, particularly, NHAI, are now more focused on construction of economic corridors and expressways, officials said.

The lane-wise highway construction data shows that while the construction and widening of NHs to four-lane has been steady since 2017-18, the construction of six and eight lane highways has witnessed a quantum jump in the past two years. While in 2019-20, only 616 km NH stretches were developed as six and eight lane highways, this annual increase touched 1,165 km in 2021-22. An official said though building wider highways is the need of the hour, the government is equally focused to provide some NH connectivity to areas where traffic is lesser. “So, we are also widening single-lane highways to two lanes with paved shoulder and are also strengthening the existing stretches. In many areas, two lane highways also meet the local requirement and accelerate economic activities,” said a highway ministry official.

Another official said the achievement in four lane and above category will touch a record by 2026-27 when most of the 22 expressway and economic corridor projects with cumulative length of 5,600 km gets completed. Even the next phase of the government’s flagship highway development programme, Bharatmala-II comprising 8,500 km, will be mostly “Greenfield corridors”, meaning these will be of at least four lanes. The government is likely to approve this Rs 3.5 lakh crore NHAI officials said the focus on wider highways is primarily aimed at faster movement of goods and to reduce the cost of logistics.

Pune: Study of proposed Metro extensions in final stage

The ongoing study of various proposed Metro extensions in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad is in the advanced stage, and the MahaMetro is eyeing completion of a detailed project report by July.

There are six major routes under the assessment, besides a study to introduce Metro-neo services on high capacity mass transit route.

MahaMetro officials said their teams were working simultaneously on all the routes and the studies will get over in phases. The MahaMetro will either submit the reports to PMC in a phased manner or produce the entire document of all the routes through a single DPR in July.

“We are yet to decide whether to submit a single DPR with inclusion of dedicated chapters for each route or to go ahead with submission of details of each route separately. A decision will be finalised by mid-June,” said Hemant Sonawane, the general manager (PR) at MahaMetro.

Sonawane said various aspects are being considered in the ongoing studies, including the estimated increase in passenger volume, demands of the commuters, estimated growth of the areas and technical aspects such as availability of space, existing use of land, existing available mode of transportation and status of public transport.

“We have also sought feedback from people of different age groups, professions, students, entrepreneurs to get an idea of the commute on all the routes,” another official with the MahaMetro said.

The proposed extensions will cover over 80.5km. It has been observed that some stretches are common in the proposed Metro extensions being studied by the MahaMetro and PMRDA. The officials with the civic administration said it has been decided that both studies will be taken into consideration while finalising the execution plan. One such common stretch has been identified from Pulgate to Hadapsar.

“Since the extensions are proposed on various routes, possibility of common stretches cannot be denied. We are putting an effort to avoid confusions, while executing the projects and work out the best suitable option,” the official said.


Amit Shah outlines 3 steps to turn NE into ‘most developed’ area

The Centre has adopted a three-pronged approach to rid the northeast of interstate disputes, insurgency and illegal weapons, thereby laying the platform for the region to reclaim its sense of belonging and become the “most-developed” part of the country, Union home minister Amit Shah said in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tirap on Saturday.

“PM Modi started transforming northeast from 2014. Between then and 2022, he bridged the differences between the northeast and Delhi. Nobody used to care about the indigenous cultures and languages of the northeast, but he accorded importance to these,” Shah said at the golden jubilee celebration of Ramakrishna Mission School in Narottam Nagar.

“The whole country loves the northeast as much as they love their own states, and the northeast is also proudly saying today that, yes, we are part of a great India. . . We are India. ”

The Union home minister said prioritising the resolution of boundary issues within the region had resulted in Assam and Meghalaya settling disputes at 60% of the flashpoints. “I am optimistic that the boundary issue between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, too, will be resolved by the end of 2023. ”

On the Centre’s ongoing initiative to make the northeast insurgency-free, Shah said 9,000 militants had surrendered over the past eight years of the Modi government. ”The youths of the northeast no longer carry guns and petrol bombs. They are now carrying laptops and launching startups. This is the path to development that the Centre has envisaged for the region. ”

Centre slashes excise duty on petrol, diesel

The Centre slashed excise duty by Rs 8 on petrol and Rs 6 on diesel to bring down fuel prices and ease inflation by reducing transportation charges for the common man’s daily staples.

The government also announced a Rs 200 subsidy on each LPG cylinder for over 9 crore consumers who were given connection free of cost under the Ujjwala programme, one of the Modi government’s flagship social welfare schemes launched in 2016.

The Centre will forego Rs 1 lakh crore in tax revenue in this fiscal as a result of the excise duty cut. The subsidy for Ujjwala consumers will entail an expenditure of Rs 6,100 crore, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said while announcing the decisions.

This is the second duty cut by the Centre in a little more than six months.

The Centre announced a raft of duty cuts to cool down prices of iron and steel, coal and plastic. To
cushion the impact of the Ukraine war, it will provide an extra Rs 1.10 lakh crore in addition to the
existing fertiliser subsidy of Rs 1.05 lakh crore. Along with a reduction in import duty on iron and
steel, the Centre imposed import duty on a host of steel products. These will benefit user industries
and small-scale players that have been hit by a jump in prices. Measures are also afoot to improve
availability and price of cement.


Come Sept, Jet 2.0 to take off after 3 years

Grounded since April 2019, Jet Airways is all set to become the first Indian carrier to resume flying under the country’s bankruptcy law by this September. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation revalidated Jet’s air operator permit certificate after it successfully conducted two proving flights earlier this week and the winning Jalan-Kalrock consortia fulfilled all condition of the NCLT-approved resolution plan. The renewed AOC was handed to a Jet 1.0 veteran pilot, Captain P P Singh, who is now Jet 2.0’s accountable manager.

Jet 2.0 plans to resume operations in a hybrid mode (having features of both a budget and full-service carrier, or FSC) using brand new planes, say people in the know. The proving flight was conducted on a Boeing 737 that was used by Jet 1.0, then taken over by SpiceJet and is now back with the former. Jet was launched in 1993 as an FSC and later acquired Air Sahara in 2007 — a financial burden from which it never recovered and eventually collapsed over three years ago.

“Till a few months back, there was a long waiting period to get a new Airbus 320 Neo or Boeing 737 Max. After the Ukraine crisis, delivery slots for Russian carriers have been cancelled and also some Indian carriers have deferred their deliveries. Now new planes will be available for Jet 2.0 and which aircraft we choose will be announced shortly. Now that Jet 2.0 has an AOC, leasing aircraft becomes possible,” said sources.

The consortia has put together a team of seasoned aviation personnel in key positions for the re-launch. However, Jet 2.0’s revival rests on Jalan-Kalrock’s willingness and ability to infuse significant amount of funds regularly and bear losses for the first few years.

Consider this: India’s two newest big airlines — Tata Group’s AirAsia India that started operations in 2014 and Vistara that started flying a year later — are yet to see their first profitable year.

Murari Lal Jalan, lead member of the consortium, said, “We are now at the brink of creating history by bringing India’s most-loved airline back to the skies. We will not only live up to the great expectations from brand Jet Airways, but also exceed them in many ways for today’s discerning flyers. ” Jet 2. 0 CEO Sanjiv Kapoor said, “We will combine the best of what Jet Airways was known for 25 years, with exciting new ideas to set the bar even higher. ”

ULPIN project rollout likely in Maharashtra in end of June

The state is likely to roll out the Unique Land Parcel Identification Number project by the end of June. Commonly called the Aadhaar for land, an 11-digit number would be attributed to all the land parcels in urban and rural areas in the state. It would help in identifying every surveyed land parcel and preventing fraud related to land. The state has given an “in principle” approval to the project and the final clearance is awaited. “We are waiting for the technical fine-tuning of the software at the National Informatics Centre. The approval of the proposal is under consideration of the government,” said state settlement commissioner NK Sudhanshu on Friday.

Nearly 3.26 crore land parcels in the state would have this unique number, which would include 2.56 crore 7x12 extracts and 70 lakh city survey property cards.

Sarita Narke, the state coordinator of the Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme of the revenue department, said the department had generated the requisite numbers for both urban and rural land parcels. She said around 4,000 crore numbers were reserved for rural areas and another 6,000 crore for urban areas for transactions in future.

Narke said these numbers would be displayed on the right side of the document. They would also have QR codes comprising all details of land parcels.

The state initially wants to issue the unique numbers and then add the remaining details like the longitudinal and latitudinal data.

“The digits will be unique to an existing property. If the property changes either through subdivision or amalgamation, the ULPIN will change. The trail of the changes would be maintained,” Narke added. The state is taking into consideration all future usage of connecting government departments for information related to land. Citizen facilitation and ease of access was at the core of this concept development, said a source in the government.

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech mentioned ULPIN and encouraged all states to roll it out. Pilot projects were carried out in Maharashtra as well as in Haryana, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Sikkim, Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.


FDI inflows at record despite slower growth

After two years of double-digit rise, foreign direct investment grew 2% during the last financial year to a new high of $83.6 billion.

The latest numbers showed that Singapore had overtaken Mauritius to emerge as the top source of FDI into the county, with the US at the second spot and Mauritius, which topped the rankings last year, slipping to the third place, an official statement said. With around 27% of FDI into India, inflows from Singapore are estimated at about $22. 5 billion, compared to the US’s $15 billion and around $13 billion from Mauritius, an all-time favourite for global investors given the tax benefit that it enjoyed for years.

Among the sectors, manufacturing saw a 76% jump with inflows during 2021-22 estimated at $21. 3 billion, ‘Computer software and hardware’ was the most attractive sector cornering around a quarter of the pie, followed by services and automobiles (12% each).

The Modi government sought to claim credit for the rise. “The steps taken during the last eight years have borne fruit as is evident from the ever-increasing volumes of FDI inflow being received into the country, setting new records,” the commerce and industry ministry said.

Cannot relax, plan for next 25 yrs: PM to BJP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi exhorted BJP workers not to be complacent over recent electoral successes and suggested the party set its agenda for the next 25 years to retain its pre-eminence on India’s political landscape.

In his virtual address to BJP’s national office-bearers’ meeting in Jaipur, Modi said, “We should make a plan for the next 25 years during which we should live by the soaring expectations and aspirations of the people of the country. As the party has governments in 18 states, it has more than 400 MPs and 1,300 MLAs, one might tend to think it’s enough, let’s relax. . . we ought not to be complacent as our founding fathers have taught to continue working hard for people and their welfare. ”

In order to retain BJP’s pre-eminence for the next 25 years, Modi asked party workers to take a pledge to ensure that every citizen avails the benefits of the welfare schemes. The Prime Minister floated the slogan of “Har Ghar Bhajpa, Har Garib Ka Kalyan” and suggested that party workers should reach out to every household just as they do during the elections.

Modi asked BJP leaders not to “fall in the trap” of some political parties which have an “ecosystem” to divert the country's attention from main matters. “For own benefits, these political parties try to poison the society on issues. . .they try to instigate in the name of caste and religion. We should never fall in their trap,” he said.

Modi also used the occasion to speak indirectly about the recent controversies over language issues, saying, “Prioritising local languages in the new National Education Policy reflects our commitment to each regional language.


Hyderabad races to top in office space leasing

Low rents coupled with a steady influx of businesses has pushed Hyderabad’s office space market to the top of the charts. According to Anarock Research’s report, the city clocked maximum leasing activity —across seven metros in India — during 2021-22, with the net office absorption touching 7.85 million sft.

“To its advantage, Hyderabad offers the lowest office rentals in comparison to top markets in south India including Chennai and Bengaluru. The average rentals in the city, in 2021-22, stood at ₹58 per sft. It is the second lowest price among all top seven cities in the country,” said Anuj Puri, chairman of Anarock Group.

Apart from A grade offices, the demand for coworking too is witnessing a rise among corporates and businesses in Hyderabad, the report indicates. “Breaking all conventional norms, even big daddies of the corporate world are now scouting for more flexible and cost-effective workspaces. They prefer small teams on specific projects that are cost-effective and more viable in today’s uncertainties,” Puri added.

But while the city, driven by the current rate of absorption, also witnessed a slew of new launches — it has 11.8 million sft of new office space enter the market, second highest after Bengaluru —the rush has created more vacancies. From 12.8% in 2020-21 it jumped to 15.7% in 2021-22.

While one section of experts see this as no reason for concern, some others fear that the gap might widen further

Brics must live up to vows of territorial integrity: India

Addressing a virtual meeting of the Brics foreign ministers that was chaired by his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said the group had repeatedly affirmed respect for sovereign equality, territorial integrity and international law and that it must live up to these commitments. Even as the military standoff with China continues, Jaishankar participated in the Brics meeting that saw the leaders supporting talks between Russia and Ukraine and expressing concern at the energy and food security implications of the conflict.

The mention of sovereignty and territorial integrity is significant in the context of both China, with which India is locked in a standoff in eastern Ladakh, and Russia which is accused of undermining the same in Ukraine.

According to an Indian statement, the ministers also expressed strong condemnation of terrorism whenever, wherever, and by whom-so-ever and also expressed commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the “cross-border movement of terrorists”. Jaishankar also said that the grouping must display “zero tolerance for terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism”, without naming Pakistan. “The knockon effects of the Ukraine conflict have led to sharp increases in the costs of energy, food and commodities. This must be mitigated for the sake of the developing world,” Jaishankar said.

“Brics has repeatedly affirmed respect for sovereign equality, territorial integrity and international law. We must live up to these commitments,” he added.

“The Brics should unanimously and specifically support UNSC reform. Together, we should press for credible commitment of resources by developed nations for climate action and climate justice,” Jaishankar said.

Withdraw cash from ATMs with QR code

Account holders can soon withdraw money from ATMs without any card by using their mobile phones and scanning a QR code. The Reserve Bank of India has asked banks and ATM operators to provide an option of interoperable cardless withdrawal at ATMs.

In a circular, the RBI said that the National Payments Corporation of India will facilitate integration of the Unified Payments Interface platform with all banks and ATM networks. While the UPI would be the mode of customer authentication, the settlement would continue to be through the National Financial Switch, which forms the backbone of ATM networks.

Most of the other rules, including those pertaining to withdrawal limits on third-party ATMs, would be similar to regular card withdrawals on ATMs. Several banks are already providing a facility for cardless withdrawal to their customers using the bank’s mobile app. The new framework puts a common standard, allowing customers to withdraw from any bank.

The RBI does not see the cardless withdrawal facility doing away with the need for cards. RBI officials said this was an additional option and a security feature. There have been many phishing cases of fraudsters either cloning cards from data or placing devices over the card slot in the ATM to read the card information. UPI would eliminate such skimming frauds.

Another advantage would be the customers would not be inconvenienced even if their card issuance was delayed.

Currently, banks face some issues with card supply because of a global chip shortage. This QR code withdrawal would be helpful if there is some large-scale re-carding to be done in the case of a data breach, as it happened in the past with some banks.

The chief executive of an ATM company said that the rollout would not require any hardware changes and only a software upgrade would be needed. “It is not going to be like an app upgrade on a mobile phone, while the application can be pushed through remotely, there will have to be some testing on the client side,” he said.

According to ATM operators, while customers would not face any additional charges, the new facility would marginally increase the cost of ATM transactions for banks. “Earlier, when an account holder withdrew cash from his own bank’s ATM, the transaction happened within the bank’s network. Now, even for own-bank transactions, there will have to be one leg of the transaction which travels to the UPI platform,” he said. Bankers said that debit cards would remain relevant as they are used for more than just cash withdrawals. While QR code payments are picking up for in-store payments as well, there are many transactions for which cards are used. A senior banker said that as a security feature, they would allow QR code withdrawals from their banking app. This would boost usage of their digital platforms. The bulk of UPI transactions currently takes place through PhonePe, Google Pay, and Paytm.

Vaishnaw successfully tests 5G call on desi tech

Telecom and IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw visited the 5G testbed at IIT-Madras and successfully tested a 5G call on an indigenously-developed network. The test-bed had been inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.

“This is the first step towards making the solution feasible commercially. Over the next few months, ‘Made-in-India’ solution has the potential of going from local to global. It also meets India’s needs indigenously and securely,” the minister said. At a time when concerns around cyber security are at their peak, India has been developing its local 5G network solution that it promises will be more efficient in cost as well as productivity.

Vaishnaw has said that the government will be deploying the solution, once its ready for commercialisation, on the network of state-owned BSNL, and thereafter it will also be pitched to other private operators.

“We are confident that a more efficient solution which is also cost-effective will appeal to companies not only in India, but even those who are abroad. We feel that the India-made 5G stack will have a huge export potential. ”

For BSNL, the 4G and 5G stack is being developed by a consortium that has C-Dot working on the core, while the Tata Group comes in with TCS and Tejas. The government will deploy this solution for BSNL’s upgradation to 4G and thereafter to 5G.


Delhi: From May 22, city to get a unified corporation again

Starting May 22, the three civic bodies will cease to exist as south, north and east Delhi municipal corporations and will be merged and named Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The ministry of home affairs finally issued a notification for unification of the three civic bodies into a single entity on Wednesday. “In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (1) of Section 3 of Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022, the central government hereby appoints the 22nd day of May 2022 on which Municipal Corporation of Delhi shall be constituted,” stated the notification. Sources said the appointment of a special officer to discharge powers of the unified MCD until its first meeting was held would follow soon. An official said, “According to the DMC (Amendment) Act, 2022, the central government needs to appoint a special officer who will implement the task of unification of the civic bodies and supervise operations until the first meeting of MCD is held. The task will include preparing a fresh list of employees in each department, liabilities, assets, etc. ” The notification also did not mention issuing of a special/bailout package to clear the liabilities of the corporations. The three civic bodies currently have liabilities of around Rs 16,500 crore, including loans, pending payment of contractors, arrears, salaries, pension, etc.

“The annual income of SDMC is Rs 3,000 crore, Rs 2,400 crore for north corporation and Rs 800 crore for EDMC. Of this, a major part comprises salaries. Besides, loans, contractor payments and pensions stand in thousands of crores. The only solution to streamline their financial condition is the provision of a special package,” said the official.

Financial crisis and non-payment of salaries has resulted in frequent strikes by doctors, teachers and sanitation staff many times in the past five years. As of now, east corporation has not paid salaries for five months and north corporation for two months.

The last election for the trifurcated corporations occurred on April 23, 2017. On March 9, 2022, the central government had expressed its intention to unify the three corporations. The move had triggered a political blame-game with Aam Aadmi Party terming it a “tactic to delay the elections”.

India’s first test of anti-ship desi naval missile is successful

The Defence Research and Development Organisation and Indian Navy successfully conducted the maiden flight-test of indigenously-developed Naval anti-ship missile launched from a Naval helicopter from Integrated Test Range, Chandipur off the coast of Odisha, DRDO sources said.

The mission met all its objectives. It is the first indigenous air launched anti-ship missile system developed for the Navy, they said. The missile followed the desired sea skimming trajectory and reached the designated target with high degree of accuracy, validating the control, guidance and mission algorithms, they said.

75 years on, Pak woman reunited with Indian brothers

Seventy-five years after she was separated from her family during the violence at the time of the Partition, a woman born in a Sikh family who was adopted and raised by a Muslim couple met her brothers from India at Kartarpur in Pakistan's Punjab province, according to a media report on Wednesday.

At the time of the Partition, Mumtaz Bibi, who was born in a Sikh family, was an infant who was lying on the dead body of her mother killed by a violent mob, the Dawn newspaper reported. A couple named Muhammad Iqbal and Allah Rakhi adopted the baby girl and raised her as their own daughter, naming her Mumtaz Bibi. After the Partition, Iqbal settled at Varika Tian village in Sheikhupura district of Pakistan's Punjab province. Iqbal and his wife did not tell Mumtaz that she was not their daughter. Two years ago, Iqbal's health suddenly deteriorated and he told Mumtaz that she was not his real daughter and she belonged to a Sikh family.

After Iqbal's death, Mumtaz and her son Shahbaz started searching for her family through social media. They knew the name of Mumtaz's real father and the village (Sidrana) in Patiala district of Punjab (India) where they settled after being forced to leave their native home.

Both the families got connected through social media. Subsequently, Mumtaz's brothers Gurumeet Singh, Narendra Singh and Amrinder Singh, accompanied by other family members, reached Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur. Mumtaz along with her family members also reached there and met her lost brothers after 75 years, the report said.

The Kartarpur corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in India's Punjab state. The 4 km-long corridor provides visa free access to Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit the Darbar Sahib.

Adani targets health biz

After chalking out a foray into the cement sector through the acquisition of Holcim’s India assets, Gautam Adani, head of the eponymous Adani Group, is gearing up for a larger play in healthcare. Flagship entity Adani Enterprises has set up a100% subsidiary, Adani Health Ventures, to run medical and diagnostic laboratories, research centres and other healthcare related activities in the country.

The move pits Adani Group, India’s third-largest conglomerate in terms of market cap, against the Tata Group and Reliance Industries that have made significant investments in the healthcare space.

In 2020, Tata Group, India’s largest conglomerate in terms of mcap, had set up Tata Medical & Diagnostics. It had launched Covid test kits, introduced Tata Health (offers consultation service through a network of physicians) and had acquired online pharmacy 1MG. In the same year, Reliance Industries had acquired pharma distributor and online drug retailer Netmeds. To be sure, all the three conglomerates have a presence in healthcare through their foundations that run hospitals. In a regulatory filing, Adani Enterprises, which incubates new businesses for the group, said the May 17 incorporated healthcare entity will commence its business operations in due course. It has already taken baby steps in this area by acquiring a minority stake in an Israeli startup, Forsight Robotics, for $20 million, in April this year. Forsight is a platform designed for eyesurgeries.

Adani observers expect the Ahmedabad-based conglomerate to acquire diagnostic laboratories and pharmacy retail chains — a strategy it has followed to enter new areas — to propel its healthcare play. The group has made more than 30 acquisitions, valued at over $17 billion, in the past year.

India rolls out red carpet for foreign filmmakers

Foreign filmmakers who shoot in India or coproduce films with Indian partners will get incentives, Union information & broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur announced during his visit to the 75th Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday.

Thakur, who led the Indian delegation to the annual film gala where India is the Country of Honour, said for official co-productions, international film production companies can claim a reimbursement of up to 30% (up to Rs 2 crore) on qualifying expenditure in India.

Foreign films that are shot in India will also be permitted to claim an additional 5% bonus of up to Rs 50 lakh if they employ 15% or more manpower locally. The schemes, Thakur said, will incentivise global collaborations and attract foreign filmmakers to invest in India. Film projects that have been granted ‘coproduction’ status by the I&B ministry and the country signatory to the bilateral co-production treaties will be eligible for the incentives.

Making a pitch for India as the go-to film destination, Thakur said the government aims to make India a favourite among filmmakers. He highlighted that India has begun the world’s largest film restoration project under National Film Heritage Mission, where 2,200 films across Indian languages and genres will be digitally remastered.

“We have a strong intellectual property regime, and the digital medium now complements the other more established modes of consumption and dissemination such as theatres and movies. This has brought about a democratisation of consumer choice like never before, and our government is intent on preserving this via support to the creative industries,” Thakur said.

He also said Indian cinema is undergoing a paradigm shift with the streaming revolution taking the country by storm. “The popularity of digital and OTT platforms has changed how films are created, distributed and consumed. Consumers of global and Indian cinema have more choices than ever before. ”


Melting Tipra glacier triggers early blooming

Blossoming of alpine flowers in the Valley of Flowers is always a welcome sight but this year, flowers which usually bloom in June, when the UNESCO site is opened for tourists, have started appearing in May. The valley is already blanketed in lavender, pink and yellow. This is because the Tipra glacier, which usually starts to melt only in May and feeds the Pushpawati stream that replenishes groundwater table and causes the blooming, started melting as early as in March-end due to rising temperatures this year.

Experts are worried. They said the phenomenon could end in harsh consequences, from extinction of plants due to overheating and flourishing of weeds like polygonum and golden ferns, which are already ravaging the valley. India recorded the hottest March in 122 years this year and Uttarakhand saw exceptionally warm March and April.

The erratic weather, with intense heat waves and intermittent and sparse rainfall (in March and April, the hill state recorded a massive 75% rain deficit), led to humid conditions and warmed up the alpine zone. As a result, Himalayan plants that are dormant for much longer bloomed early. Dr SK Singh, head of northern regional centre of Botanical Survey of India, said, “In the alpine zone, plants remain in a dormant state until they get warm, temperate and humid conditions to flower. Due to excessive heat in March and April, the flowering of these plants must have ‘shifted’, so to say.

Detailed scientific studies are required to understand the long-term implications of climate change on the valley. ” The forest team currently patrolling the valley said they saw glaciers melting and rivers rapidly streaming down the valley well ahead of time. “Tipra glacier started melting by March-end this year. If anyone were to visit the valley now, they would be awestruck by the lavender beauty of primula denticulata (drumstick primrose) and the magical pink of morina longifolia (Himalayan whorl flower). But it’s a premature bloom and in the long run may lead to flowers dying from the heat and weeds growing in the valley,” said Brijmohan Bharti, range officer, Valley of Flowers. Other high-altitude plants also bloomed prematurely in the Himalayas this year. The flaming-red rododendron flowered in March instead of April while the white Brahma kamal, Uttarakhand’s state flower, which usually flowers in August, bloomed months earlier.

PM invites global filmmakers

Prime Minister Narendra Modion said India has many stories to be told and the country has the potential to become the “content hub of the world”. Expressing happiness over India’s participation as the ‘Country of Honour’ at the 75th Cannes Film Festival, the PM asked international filmmakers to benefit from the possibilities to make movies in the country.

In a message, the PM said he is happy the honour not only coincides with 75 years of Indian Independence, but also marks 75 years of diplomatic relations between India and France.

He said this edition of the Cannes Film Festival is special because several Indian start-ups will have the opportunity to showcase their strengths to the world of cinema. He expressed happiness over the screening of the digitally remastered Satyajit Ray film, ‘Pratidwandi’, in the Cannes Classic Section.

The PM positioned India as the largest film producing country in the world, and said Indian films are remarkable for mirroring society and for reflecting the rich heritage and cultural diversity of India. “We have a lot of stories to be explored. India truly possesses immense potential to become the content hub of the world,” Modi said.

He asserted the government’s commitment to enhancing the ‘ease of doing business’ in the film sector. “From facilitating international film co-productions, to ensuring a single window clearance mechanism for permissions for filming ac ross the country, India offers seamless possibilities to filmmakers of the world,” Modi said.

“Our spellbinding locations, technological prowess in film-making and talent of young men and women provide a perfect back drop for film makers,” he said.

5G can Help India’s Economy Grow by $450 Billion: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for a rapid rollout of 5G services and underlined the criticality of the collective roles of government and industry for this to happen. Speaking at the silver jubilee celebrations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Tuesday, Modi said that 5G technology would boost India’s economic fortunes by a whopping $450 billion in the next 15 years. He added that the country is poised to roll out futuristic 6G broadband services by the end of the decade. “…it (5G) won’t merely boost internet speeds, but also rapidly ring in economic progress and boost jobs creation,” he said. He added that the next generation technology will bring positive change in the governance of the country, ease of living and ease of doing business. It will also boost growth in agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, and logistics.

The PM’s comments come at a time when the government plans to auction 5G airwaves in June-July and is targeting the first 5G call by the August-September time frame.

Modi also sought the active participation of tech startups in the upcoming 5G blitz, saying the government would streamline policies around R&D infrastructure to develop a vibrant 5G ecosystem. He said “connectivity” would determine the pace of India’s progress, noting that “a task force had started work on rolling out 6G services by the end of the decade”. 6G tech is expected to bring in data speeds 50 times faster than 5G.

Over the years, he said, the government had won the confidence of the global investor community, after “it swiftly addressed big challenges faced by the telecom sector, such as the AGR (adjusted gross revenue) and the retrospective tax cases,” and even pushed through reforms to settle the latter.

The PM was alluding to a Bill that the Centre had introduced a few years ago to scrap the retrospective tax amendment that had been introduced back in 2012, a move that helped UK's Vodafone settle its protracted tax dispute.

Modi said the combination of “trust and confidence” had been reflected in a surge in foreign direct investments in the telecom sector in recent years. 

LIC Shares List at A Discount

Shares of Life Insurance Corporation listed at ₹865 on the BSE, an 8.62% discount to the initial public offer price of ₹949 per share. The stock hit a high of ₹920, before closing at ₹875. 45 on the BSE, which was around 7.8% lower than the price at which bids were accepted in the country’s largest ever IPO. Market participants said investors could buy LIC shares on further weakness.

At a market value of ₹5.53 lakh crore, LIC is India’s fifth most valuable company, after Reliance Industries, TCS, Infosys, and HDFC Bank.

Over 5.15 crore LIC shares were traded on Tuesday as against the free float of 16.24 crore shares, excluding shares allotted to anchor investors. Retail investors were allotted shares at ₹904 apiece, a discount of ₹45, or 4.7%, on the issue price.

Policyholders were given the shares at ₹889, a discount of ₹60, or 6.3%, on the issue price.

LIC's IPO was subscribed nearly 3 times led by strong demand from the insurer’s policyholders and employees.

Modi open to radical ideas, says Nilekani

Sometimes, those coming to power undertake cumbersome legislative action or inaction to suppress previous regimes’ policies and achievements. ‘To the victor belong the spoils,’ goes the saying. This, however, was not so after Nandan Nilekani, contesting on a Congress ticket, lost the 2014 parliamentary election from South Bengaluru to BJP’s Ananth Kumar.

The ‘Modi wave’ had delivered a monumental win for BJP, placing PM Narendra Modi at the helm of Indian politics. Nilekani was worried about speculations around the future of Aadhaar and its related schemes. He wanted to discuss the matter with Modi.

In his essay for the newly released book, Modi@20:Dreams Meet Delivery, Nandan Nilekani writes, ‘Towards the end of June 2014, I was in New Delhi wrapping up my home to return permanently to Bengaluru. I sought a meeting with the Prime Minister. To my utter astonishment, I got an appointment within 24 hours at a time convenient to me. I went with some trepidation, as I had such stood for elections on a rival party’s ticket. Modi was gracious and listened to me intently. This time, his questions were about issuing the cards to residents and not citizens and how India’s fiscal situation could benefit from direct transfers and its role in reducing corruption. He was well-informed on all issues, including the privacy case in Supreme Court’,” Nilekani writes and added, “What struck me was his openness to listen and to do what was right for the country. ”

Somewhere in Mumbai....


India plans own ‘Channel’ tunnel

The road and railway ministries, and BRO have come on board for construction of the country’s first underwater road-cum-rail tunnels across the Brahmaputra in Assam.

As per the plan, there will be three parallel tunnels—one for road, another for rail and the third for emergency use. The tunnels will be 9.8 km long each and this will be the first project where integrated tunnel construction will be undertaken. These tunnels will be inter-connected with cross passage for evacuation in case of any emergency.

The strategic multi-modal transportation system aims to integrate the rail and highway network through the Jamurihat-Silghat axis towards North Assam, Tawang and the rest of Arunachal Pradesh. This can be used for both civilian and strategic purposes.

According to the estimate, the government would spend around Rs 7,000 crore for these tunnels. Earlier NHIDCL, a company under the road transport ministry, had proposed twin tunnels only for vehicles and had estimated an expenditure of Rs 12,800 crore.

The tunnel will take off from about 9km upstream of the existing Kaliabomara (Tezpur) road bridge and it will connect with Jakhlabandha railway station on the south bank and at Dhaliabil railway station on the north bank of Brahmaputra.

At a recent meeting chaired by the CEO and chairman of the railway board, BRO submitted that these rail-cum-road tunnels are required from the strategic point of view. It also suggested that the project may be funded by the defence ministry. “After discussion on the issue, it was decided that since rail-cum-road under water tunnel alignment is an essential requirement of the ministry of defence, the same may be considered further by the Northeast Frontier Railway subject to technical suitability.

However, the cost estimate needs to be revisited by BRO and should be done carefully. The BRO/ MoRTH was also advised to confirm about funding of the project,” the minutes of the meeting said.

PM Narendra Modi has asked the road and railway ministries to plan and work together for laying the road and rail tunnels simultaneously to save cost. The underwater tunnel project will also be an engineering marvel and will benefit the country strategically by reducing travel time between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The proposed tunnels will be constructed using tunnel boring machines and completion may take around two to two-and-a-half years.

India gets its 52nd tiger reserve, in Rajasthan

The Ramgarh Vishdhari sanctuary in Bundi, covering the tiger habitat between Ranthambore in the northeast and Mukundra Hills on the southern side, in Rajasthan was on Monday notified as the country’s 52nd tiger reserve. The Ramgarh Vishdhari is the fourth tiger reserve of the state after Ranthambore, Sariska and Mukundra. The National Tiger Conservation Authority) had given in principle approval to make this sanctuary and adjoining areas as tiger reserves on July 5 last year.

“The 52nd Reserve of India will conserve biodiversity and bring in ecotourism and development to the area. . . The newly notified tiger reserve includes the tiger habitat between Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in the northeast and Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve on the southern side and facilitates dispersal of tigers from Ranthambore Tiger Reserve,” tweeted environment minister Bhupender Yadav.

He said, “The floristic diversity of this new tiger reserve makes it an important area for research and education. Historic and cultural sites like Bhimlat, Ramgarh palace would encourage eco-tourism and provide employment to local communities. ” 

Indo-Nepal ties ‘unshakeable like Himalayas’: PM Modi

India and Nepal’s “ever-strengthening” friendship and closeness will benefit the entire humanity amid the kind of global conditions that are emerging, PM Modi said in a special 20-minute address in Lumbini on the sidelines of the 2566th Buddha Jayanti celebrations. He added that ties between the two countries are unshakeable like the Himalayas.

Modi, who was in Lumbini on Buddha Purnima at the invitation of his counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba, made the remarks while addressing an international conference on Buddhism.

The PM’s visit also saw a bilateral meeting between the two leaders following which India and Nepal signed six agreements.

Forex kitty will cover 10 months’ imports: RBI

The Reserve Bank of India has said in its ‘State of the economy’ report that forex reserves of $596 billion, as on May 6 this year, were equivalent to about 10 months of projected imports for FY23. The central bank also released data showing it sold $20 billion of its reserves in March 2022.

The report, released by the RBI on Tuesday, said that the global growth outlook was grim as geopolitical tensions lingered, and commodity prices remained elevated, even as withdrawal of monetary accommodation gathers speed worldwide. “Emerging economies face risks of capital outflows and higher commodity prices feeding into inflation prints. Meanwhile, the pandemic impinges on nearterm economic prospects,” the RBI said in its report.

Since the RBI announced its policy in April, inflation risks have become more accentuated in recent months. The increase in international commodity prices also imparts net terms of trade shock that is widening the trade and current account deficits.

“To achieve a higher growth path on a sustainable basis, private investment needs to be encouraged through higher capital expenditure by government, which crowds in private investment,” the report said. It added that impro- ving infrastructure, ensuring low and stable inflation and maintaining macroeconomic stability is critical for reviving animal spirits and spurring growth.

The RBI, which had maintained a status quo position in its April policy, said that inflation pressures became increasingly generalised across commodity groups in the April print of the consumer price index, resulting in asharp spike in headline inflation to 7. 8% — well above the upper tolerance band. 


India win first-ever Thomas Cup crown

It's as big as it can get for Indian badminton as the men's team won their first-ever Thomas Cup title, beating 14-time champions Indonesia 3-0 in a heroic effort in the final of the prestigious team championship in Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday, May 15.

India had never reached the final of the Thomas and Uber Cup in the tournament's 73-year-long history, but the Indian men not only broke the drought but went a step ahead and became only the 6th nation after China, Indonesia, Japan, Denmark, and Malaysia to win the Thomas Cup title.

Chants of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" and the sound of Dhol were reverberating at the Impact Arena as the young Indian shuttlers came out all guns firing on the big day. The celebrations after the historic victory told how much it meant to the Indian badminton contingent as they flaunted the enviable team spirit that has been dominating headlines this week.

India did not need the second doubles match and the third singles match as Lakshya Sen, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty and Kidambi Srikanth made it 3-0 for the historic victory.

India were not the overwhelming favourites at the start of the team tournament but the young shuttlers from India had the firepower in them to take out the giants and they did exactly that over the last 7 days in Bangkok even as the women crashed out in the quarter-finals of the Uber Cup.

India won the gold medal while Indonesia finished with the silver. Denmark and Japan finished with the bronze at the prestigious team championship.

Adani to buy Holcim's Cement assets

The Adani Group led by billionaire Gautam Adani has entered into definitive agreements to take over Switzerland-based Holcim’s listed cement assets in India, ACC and Ambuja, for $10.5 billion to become the second-largest cement maker in the country in one shot — with a combined pan-India capacity of 70 million tonnes per annum in the highly competitive, fragmented and price sensitive market. The transaction is India’s largest M&A deal in the infrastructure and materials space.

Aditya Birla Group’s UltraTech is the largest cement company in India with a capacity of 117 mtpa. Adani has pipped Sajjan Jindal-led JSW Cement, believed to be the other serious contender.

The deal to acquire a 63.19% stake in Ambuja Cements will give the Indian conglomerate control over ACC, another listed cement company, a subsidiary of Ambuja Cements. Agencies reported that Adani's $10.5 billion acquisition would mean its purchase price is pegged at ₹385 per share for Ambuja Cements, a 7.2% premium to Friday’s closing price. The acquirer will pay ₹2,300 per share for ACC.

Adani will use a family-owned entity based in Dubai, as the principal vehicle for the transaction. This entity will float a special purpose vehicle where the Adani family, as promoters, will infuse $1.25- 1.5 billion as equity. A similar amount, likely in the form of structured equity, is expected from the Middle East investor group the Adani family is engaged with. Together, this vehicle will be capitalised to the tune of $3 billion. This approximately $3 billion in turn will become the equity of another dropdown SPV in which global banks, such Deutsche Bank, Barclays and Standard Chartered Bank, are expected to lead the funding of another $4.5 billion as acquisition financing. Adani is expected to provide letter of comfort to the banks as well if the need arises. Besides the three, other banks will join the financing consortium subsequently for share financing.

Adani is betting on India’s consumption increasing manifold in the coming years. China’s cement consumption is over 7x that of India. "When these factors are combined with the several adjacencies of our existing businesses that include the Adani Group's ports and logistics business, energy business, and real estate business, we believe that we will be able to build a uniquely integrated and differentiated business model and set ourselves up for significant capacity expansion," Adani said in a statement.

Adani is being financed by Deutsche Bank, Barclays and Standard Chartered Bank. Deutsche Bank is also
advising the Adani Group.

Highest-ever temp of 49.2°C in Delhi

An intense heatwave scorched parts of north India on Sunday, with the mercury at two weather stations in Delhi crossing 49°C—likely the highest ever recorded at any IMD station in the national capital.

Mungeshpur in northwest Delhi reported a scorching maximum of 49.2°C, nine notches above normal, while Najafgarh recorded 49.1°C (eight above normal). The reading at the two automatic weather stations were the highest recorded in the country this season, ahead of Sunday’s maximum of 49°C at Banda, UP.

Churu and Pilani in Rajasthan reported maximum temperatures of 47.9°C and 47.7°C, respectively, followed by Sri Ganganagar and Jhansi (47.6°C), Narnaul (47.5°C), Khajuraho and Nowgong (47.4°C) and Hissar (47.2°C), the IMD said.

The weather office said the maximum temperature was markedly above normal (5.1° or more) at several places in Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Bihar. The mercury was 3.1°C-5°C above normal in parts of western and eastern Uttar Pradesh and eastern Madhya Pradesh. 


Blackbuck poachers kill three cops in MP

Poachers have allegedly killed three police personnel in Madhya Pradesh’s Guna district, authorities said on Saturday.

According to the police, at around 2.45 am on Saturday six poachers on four bikes were trying to flee from the Aron area after poaching blackbucks and peacocks. The area falls under the Gwalior-Chambal region and shared a border with Rajasthan. Three police teams were sent to the area on specific inputs about the presence of the armed poachers.

“A tip of suspected poachers was received based on which three teams were deployed for the operation. Sensing that they were cordoned off by the police, the poachers opened fire. The poachers managed to flee, despite attempts by other police teams to nab them,” Superintendent of Police (Guna) Rajeev Mishra said.

Mishra said that a police service rifle was missing and the empty cartridges recovered from the spot suggest that country made firearms were used by the poachers.

“Remains of three to four poached blackbucks and peacocks in sacks have been recovered.” 

India Bans Wheat Exports

The government banned wheat exports late Friday citing food security risks for India and its neighbours and other vulnerable countries, even as it promised to meet already committed contracts.

Exports will be allowed to vulnerable countries for their food security needs through government-to government agreements. The government expects these steps to tame domestic wheat and atta prices that have risen sharply following demand for exports and likely lower output in the current year.

Export of all wheat, including high-protein durum and normal soft bread varieties, have been moved from “free” to the “prohibited” category with effect from May 13, the commerce department said in a notification late Friday.

“One primary goal is to put a check on inflation,” said commerce secretary, BVR Subrahmanyam. “During a global shortage or a perceived shortage there is a tendency to hoard. This will ensure that does not happen,” he said, adding that “the order is not for perpetuity” and the government will take a look at it sometime.

Wheat traders and exporters said move will help stabilise wheat prices. “There are traders and farmers who are holding onto their wheat stock and waiting for prices to go higher. This is to encourage them to release their stocks,” Siraj Chaudhry, MD & CEO, National Commodities Management Service Limited, a post-harvest service provider 

According to official data, the average price of wheat flour in retail markets was about ₹33 per kilogram on May 8, nearly 13% up from a year ago.

The move to ban wheat exports came after the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public
distribution raised concerns over prices and food grain availability for food security needs, sources
in the trade and industry said. The commerce ministry was of the view that India should export

New Delhi: 47°C breached

Buffeted by searing “loo” winds and a fiery sun, temperatures in the capital region breached the 47 degrees Celsius mark at two stations on Saturday, making it the hottest day of this summer that has already seen record heat since March. All city weather stations witnessed heat wave to severe heatwave conditions, with Mungeshpur in northwest Delhi recording 47.2 degrees Celsius and Najafgarh reporting 47 degrees. An “orange alert” is in place and Sunday could get even hotter while Monday may see some relief, the met office said.

The mercury rose sharply in the morning itself. “By 10.30am, most weather stations in Delhi had touched 40 degrees Celsius on Saturday. It remained above 40 degrees for many hours,” said R K Jenamani, senior scientist at IMD.

Safdarjung, the city’s base station, recorded 44.2 degrees Celsius, five degrees above normal, the highest of the season so far, even as three city stations — Mungeshpur, Najafgarh and Pitampura (46.4 degrees) — reporting severe heat wave conditions. Neighbouring Gurgaon was among the hottest spots in the region with the maximum climbing to 46.8 degrees C on Saturday.

At 48.8 degrees Celsius, Banda in Uttar Pradesh was the hottest station in the country.


Rajnath to ‘launch’ 2 indigenous stealth warships next week

Two indigenous frontline stealth warships, a destroyer and a frigate, will be “launched” into water at Mazagon Docks in Mumbai by defence minister Rajnath Singh on May 17.

The guided-missile destroyer will be named ‘INS Surat’ and the multi-purpose frigate ‘INS Udaygiri’ once they are commissioned three to four years down the line. Overall, the Navy has 41 warships on order, 39 being built in Indian shipyards and two in Russia.

The first of the four destroyers constructed under the overall Rs 35,000 crore Project-15B at MDL, the 7,400 tonne INS Visakhapatnam, was commissioned in November 2021.

The second, Mormugao, is slated for commissioning later this year, while Imphal and Surat will follow thereafter.

Udaygiri, in turn, is the third of the seven frigates being constructed under Project-17A, four in MDL and three at GRSE in Kolkata, at an overall cost of around Rs 45,000 crore.

The first two, Nilgiri and Himgiri, were launched in 2019 and 2020.

‘12,000-year-old’ rock art site discovered in Telangana

A rock art site said to be from the Mesolithic Age (also known as Middle Stone Age) has been discovered at Kasipur, Bommalaramaram in Telangana’s Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district. A group of history enthusiasts who came across the site also found a prehistoric iron melting point near the rockart shelter.

According to archaeologist E Sivanagi Reddy who examined the site, it is around 12,000 years old.

Of the 70 rock art sites found so far, 35 have been identified by the group, Kotta Telangana Charitra Brundam, after the formation of Telangana.

Sriramoju Haragopal, who led the group, climbed up on the 30-ft hillock, where he identified many red ochre paintings on the inner side of a rock shelter.

However, human intervention damaged some of the paintings in another cave. “At a nearby cave, villagers were worshipping the paintings, and it became a temple of Lord Venkateswara,” said Haragopal, adding: “As villagers had superimposed a lime coat, many rock paintings were lost. ”

“Pictures of four bison, two men, and an animal resembling a horse are visible at another place now. The figure of a man standing behind the four bison is drawn using the X pattern. The other human standing near the bison is similar to the petroglyph (rock carving) of a man with a weapon at a site in Regonda mandal of Jayashankar Bhupalpally district,” Haragopal said. The team also found microlith rock tools downstream.

Further, a cairn cyst and a menhir were also identified in the vicinity. The team identified evidence of pre-historic iron melting in the form of iron slag and iron pieces at a nearby cave.

The tools, rock art style, items and bison in the paintings indicate that the rock art site belongs to the microlithic age.

Maruti plans new Sonipat facility

Maruti Suzuki will spend Rs 11,000 crore to set up a new manufacturing facility in Haryana, its third in the state and spread over an 800-acre area, as the country’s largest carmaker looks to add a fresh 10 lakh units to its capacity from the location over the coming years.

The company, which currently has an annual installed capacity of 22.5 lakh units across its existing two plants in Haryana (Gurgaon and Manesar) and one in Gujarat (owned by parent Suzuki), will start with an initial capacity of 2.5 lakh units at the new location at IMT Kharkhoda in Sonipat district from 2025. This will thereafter be scaled up to 10 lakh units progressively, as the market expands.

“The first plant with a manufacturing capacity of 2.  lakh vehicles per annum is expected to be commissioned in 2025, subject to administrative approvals. In the first phase, the investment will be over Rs 11,000 crore. The site will have space for capacity expansion to include more manufacturing plants in the future,” the company said.

The company, controlled by Japanese Suzuki Motor Corp, said the area of 800 acres will be its biggest ever manufacturing location so far, and added that it has completed the process of allotment with Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited Maruti and parent Suzuki expect healthy growth in the Indian car market over the coming years, and the fresh investments factor in their bullishness on personal mobility. Rahul Bharti, director (corporate affairs), Maruti Suzuki, said the company hopes to provide direct employment to about 15,000 workers by the time it reaches peak production capacity of 10 lakh units at the new site.

Mumbai, Pune to be hotter by 5°C

The spate of alarming news related to climate change continues. The mean temperature in Mumbai and Pune will be 5°Celsius more than now and the maximum the mercury will hit will be 4.2°C higher is the last quarter of this century, said a study.

In some extreme years in the 2080-2099 period, the maximum temperature can go up to 45.4°C, revealed the latest analysis done by Greenpeace India in which heat wave projections have been assessed based on distinctive scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change AR6 report. According to it, inland cities are at a significantly higher risk of heat waves in the absence of regulation by oceans and a higher temperature range than coastal areas.

The projections for Mumbai and Pune are based on emissions of carbon dioxide doubling by 2050. “Coastal cities like Mumbai benefit from the regulating effect of the sea. However, the humidity from the sea will create muggy weather conditions. ” The study highlighted that Pune has a relatively different pattern despite being inland due to its topography. The coastal cities have an average temperature range less than 5 degrees, in comparison with the inland cities with a temperature range of 20 degrees, it added.

The hottest days for India have increased from 40 per year in the 1950s to 100 per year in the 2020s. “The heat waves are fatal for public health and the economy. It also puts ecosystems at risk. We have enough science to link such extreme weather events to climate change. Unfortunately, if we do not act now, the threat is only going to increase in frequency, duration and magnitude,” said Avinash Chanchal, campaign manager at Greenpeace India.

The study showed Delhi’s maximum temperature will be 4°C higher than average in the 2080-2099 period. Temperature rise is also expected to severely impact Lucknow, Patna, Jaipur and Kolkata.

The analysis highlighted that the vulnerable communities will face the crisis at its worst form. “The urban poor, outdoor workers, women, children, senior citizens, sexual minorities are at a significantly greater risk, as they lack adequate access to protective measures. Governments must fortify the resilience of such vulnerable populations,” it added.

The focus has to be on reducing emissions and maintaining adequate green cover. “Rooftop gardening, community nutritional gardens, parks, mini forests, roadside tree cover and water bodies are the need of the hour. Phasing out fossil fuels, particularly for energy and transportation systems, is the most practical and immediate solution to tackling climate change and protecting public health,” added Chanchal.


Somewhere in Madhya Pradesh....


Tata Sons Names SIA’s Campbell Wilson as Air India’s New CEO

Tata Sons said it has appointed Campbell Wilson, a veteran at its partner Singapore Airlines, as the new chief executive of Air India.

“The Air India board approved the appointment of Wilson subject to requisite regulatory approvals. Wilson, 50, has 26 years of aviation industry expertise across both full-service and low-cost airlines,” Tata Sons said in a statement.

“Air India is at the cusp of an exciting journey to become one of the best airlines in the world, offering world class products and services with a distinct customer experience that reflects Indian warmth and hospitality. I am excited to join Air India and Tata colleagues in the mission of realising that ambition,” said Wilson. Wilson is currently the CEO of Scoot, Singapore Airlines’ low-cost, medium-to-long haul subsidiary airline. Former Vistara chief Leslie Thng will replace Wilson at Scoot.

As the new chief of Air India, Wilson will helm the aviation-to-automobile conglomerate’s ambitious mission of turning around the beleaguered airline, implementing a much-needed rev up of its service standards and integrating operations with its AirAsia India and possibly Vistara, Tata’s jointly owned airline with SIA. Air India recently made AirAsia India its wholly owned subsidiary. It will likely be merged with its low-cost international unit Air India Express. Wilson started off as a management trainee with Singapore Airlines in New Zealand in 1996.

Kashmiri Pandit Shot Dead in Budgam

Unidentified gunmen on Thursday afternoon shot dead a government employee in his office premises in Chadoora area of Budgam in central Kashmir. The victim was identified as Rahul Bhat, a Kashmiri Pandit who worked at Tehsil office under the prime minister's employment package for the community.

Eyewitness accounts said two suspected militants entered the office premises, fired at Bhat and fled from the spot. Officials said that assailants used pistols to shoot Bhat. He was immediately rushed to sub-district hospital in the area and later referred to SMHS in Srinagar, where he died.

Bhat lived in a protected Pandit colony in Sheikhpora area of Budgam. Kashmiri Pandits living in colonies in Budgam, Baramullah and Anantnag districts took out protest marches condemning the killing and demanded justice.

They blocked the highway in Wessu area near Qazigund and raised slogans against the J&K administration and the BJP for ‘failing to protect’ minorities in the Valley.

“We are doing our jobs here and have nothing to do with politics. Why was our brother killed inside his office today? What was his offence? Where is the BJP govt and the J&K administration,” asked a Kashmiri Pandit protestor in Wessu. Political parties across the spectrum condemned the killing and lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha said that the perpetrators won’t be spared. “I strongly condemn the barbaric killing of Rahul Bhat by terrorists at Budgam. Those behind this despicable terror attack will not go unpunished. J&K government stands in solidarity with the bereaved family in this hour of grief,” Sinha tweeted.

Former CM J&K Omar Abdullah condemned the murderous attack saying that targeted killings continued in Kashmir unchecked. “Targeted killings continue, and a sense of fear grows unchecked. My heartfelt condolences to Rahul’s family. . . This young man had his entire life ahead of him and to know that his life was so cruelly extinguished today is tragic," said Abdullah.

“Despite deployment of security forces in every nook and corner of the Valley, even government offices aren't safe. Our thoughts, prayers are with the family in this hour of grief,” PDP said in a statement issued here.

India tests 450-km range BrahMos from Sukhoi jet

In a demonstration of deadly precision strike capability from long stand-off distances, India successfully tested the extended range BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet in the Bay of Bengal..

“This is the first time the new BrahMos missile with a strike range of over 450-km (original range 290-km) has been tested from the air. The Sukhoi, with a combat radius of almost 1,500-km without mid-air refuelling, combined with the 450-km range BrahMos missile is a formidable weapons package,” a senior defence official said.

Retail inflation at 8-year high of 7.8%

Retail inflation surged to a near eight-year high in April on the back of escalating food and fuel prices and the impact of disruption in global supply chains due to the war in Ukraine, heaping more pressure on authorities battling to revive growth and triggering the need for sharper interest rate hikes to tame inflationary pressures.

Inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, galloped to 7.8% in April—the highest since 8.3% in May 2014—from near 7% this March. At 8.4%, rural inflation growth outpaced urban inflation (7.1%). The food price index surged to 8.4% in April, higher than 7.7% in March, which experts say was largely because of higher wheat prices due to diversion of the commodity for exports.

Inflation prompted RBI to raise rates by 40 basis points in a surprising move this month. Experts expect the central bank to again raise rates aggressively in the months ahead, starting from June, to tame inflation and protect the economic recovery that’s underway. There is also an acknowledgment that some growth may have to be sacrificed in the fight against inflation.

Core inflation (minus food and fuel) surged to 7.4% during April, indicating the relentless price pressures. Hardening inflation triggered by higher food and fuel prices has emerged as a crucial policy challenge for policymakers around the globe, prompting central banks to raise interest rates.

 Inflation is expected to remain elevated in 2022-23 but mitigating actions taken by the government and the RBI may reduce its duration, a finance ministry report said on Thursday. It asserted that India is relatively better placed than other countries to weather the global economic upheaval and achieve steady growth during the current financial year.

The April monthly economic review by the finance ministry said through the channel of imports, elevated global crude and edible oil prices now have a significant impact on India’s inflation outlook. It added that despite government steps, the global geo-political situation and supply chain issues could influence India’s inflation trajectory.


Soon, a 5-year afforestation plan for Goa

Goa’s forest officials will soon have to draw up a five-year plan, detailing utilisation of funds for compensatory afforestation.

At a review held by the executive committee of the national authority for Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority, it was felt that ad-hoc and tentative plans for compensatory afforestation do not bring the desired improvement in quality of forest cover and enhancement of biodiversity.

The five-year plan will help achieve qualitative and quantitative improvement in forest and tree cover, in addition to enhancing biodiversity, as per the new directives. The plan is to be drawn for use of funds that are collected from user agencies, which require diversion of forest for different projects. These funds are utilised for investment in compensatory afforestation to make up for the loss in green cover.

“Levy of NPV (on user agencies) aims for compensating loss of ecological services and environmental values from diversion of forests and it should therefore be utilised systematically and judiciously in activities for restoring forest landscapes and to improve quality of forest cover, enhance biodiversity richness, strengthen and optimise hydrological and other ecosystem functions,” the executive committee of the national authority stated.

As per the latest directives, Goa will also have to submit to the national authority internal as well as third party monitoring reports on how CAMPA funds were put to use. The new orders on compensatory afforestation funds are to be ‘scrupulously’ followed, the national authority has said. The national authority has clarified that while planning for use of CAMPA funds, stress should be on afforestation, soil and water conservation measures, and improvement of wildlife habitat ‘on priority in areas adjacent to diverted forest lands for compensating the loss of forest cover and ecological services’.

“State forest department to complete demarcation and digitisation of forest boundaries for protection of forests and plantation activities within six months,” the executive committee of CAMPA has said.

Goa will also have to create a state CAMPA website. The state has been told that suitable budgetary support should be made to be able to monitor activities carried out under CAMPA . Forest officials have also been told to carry out ground inspection of compensatory afforestation carried out.

“For improvement of wildlife habitat, CAMPA funds should be utilised only for raising of fodder and fruit bearing trees, soil and moisture conservation, augmentation measures and invasive weed control,” Goa has been told.

SC tells govts to put sedition law, cases on hold

The Supreme Court virtually suspended operation of the much-misused 124-year-old sedition provision to stop police from invoking it against anyone from now on and stayed both probe and trial in existing sedition cases to allow the Centre to examine softening the rigour of Section 124A in the Indian Penal Code to sync it with the present social milieu.

Not content with the Centre’s offer that in future no sedition FIR would be registered without prior approval of the area superintendent of police until the re-examination of the controversial provision had been completed, a bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli in their unprecedented order said, “We expect that, till the re-examination of the provision is complete, it will be appropriate not to continue the usage of the aforesaid provision of law by the governments. ”

The apex court craftily couched its directions as its “expectations”, secure in the knowledge that these are seldom betrayed by the executive. While staying investigation, trial and appeal proceedings in existing sedition cases registered, the bench said, “If any fresh case is registered under Section 124A, the affected parties are at liberty to approach the concerned courts for appropriate relief. ”

It asked the courts to examine relief sought by arrested persons taking into account the SC order and the Centre’s unambiguous stand.

Droughts reduced India GDP by 2-5% over 20 years: UN

The number and duration of droughts has risen 29% globally since 2000 and the effect of severe droughts is estimated to have reduced India’s gross domestic product by 2-5% over the 20 years from 1998 to 2017, said a new report from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification released on Wednesday.

While calling for multiple actions including land restoration to reduce the risk, the report released on the sidelines of the ongoing 15th session of the UNCCD conference at Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, also flagged that the droughts represent 15% of natural disasters globally but took the largest human toll— approximately 650,000 deaths in 50 years (1970-2019). Globally, droughts caused economic losses of roughly $124 billion during that period.

Though severe drought affected Africa more than any other continent with over 300 events recorded in the past 100 years, accounting for 44% of the global total, the highest total number of humans affected by drought were in Asia. “We are at a crossroads when it comes to managing drought. We need to steer toward the solutions rather than continuing with destructive actions, believing that marginal change can heal systemic failure,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the UNCCD while calling for making a full global commitment to drought preparedness and resilience in all regions a top priority. He said, “One of the best, most comprehensive solutions is land restoration, which addresses many of the underlying factors of degraded water cycles and the loss of soil fertility.

“We must build and rebuild our landscapes better, mimicking nature wherever possible and creating functional ecological systems. ” The report on drought comes in the backdrop of the UNCCD’s earlier report on ‘global land outlook’ that flagged in April how up to 40% of all ice-free land is already degraded globally, with dire consequences for climate, biodiversity and livelihoods, affecting 50% of humanity. It also noted that the current scale of degradation threatens roughly half of global GDP (US$44 trillion).

The COP15 is being held to focus on restoration of 1 billion hectares of degraded land between now and 2030, and tackling escalating droughts, sand and dust storms, wildfires and other disaster risks.


Metro rail to chug out in six more UP cities in five years

The Uttar Pradesh government is focusing on expanding Metro rail services in Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Meerut, Bareilly, Jhansi and Prayagraj.

Currently, construction work for Metro services is ongoing in Agra as well as in Kanpur, which has been funded by European Investment Bank. The EIB has also shared interest in funding the Gorakhpur Metro Lite project.

According to official sources, the Gorakhpur Metro Lite project is waiting for Cabinet approval at the Centre.

The state cabinet and the Public Investment Board chaired by the secretary finance and expenditure in New Delhi had already approved the first phase of the project.

On Tuesday, CM Yogi Adityanath has again issued directives to kick-start the Gorakhpur project in next six months. The Rs 2,670 crore project will have 14 elevated stations on a 15.14 km stretch in the first phase, which covers Gorakhnath Mandir, Gorakhpur railway station, Gorakhpur University and the newly commissioned AIIMS. The 24% urban population of UP contributes 65% to the state’s GDP and the state government is keen to provide eco-friendly and viable commuting options for general masses of urban areas, officials said. The government has sought detailed project reports for Varanasi, Prayagraj, Jhansi and Meerut which are in their final stages.

The CM has also instructed officials to prepare DPRs for a Metro Neo project in Bareilly as well.

ISI’s K2 desk gets active again

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence has formed a new outfit, Lashkar-e-Khalsa -comprising Kashmiri and Khalistani terrorists -that will employ a deadly cocktail of Khalistani and Kashmiri terrorists to carry out strikes in the country.. An intelligence note accessed suggests that ISI has revived its K2 (Kashmir-Khalistan) plan that dates back to 2016 and is trying to recruit youths through social media. The ISI plan came to light after Indian agencies stumbled upon an ID, Amar Khalistani, that was running Facebook pages like “Azad Kashmir & Khalistan”. ISI is providing funds for targeted killings of right-wing leaders and opponents of terrorism by using gangsters in the hope of reviving militancy, the intel suggests. This project was started in 2016, with specific goals regarding recruitment and targets. Officials in the intelligence establishment said the initial players chosen to head on-ground operations were Pakistan-based Khalistan radicals Harmeet Singh, alias “PhD”, the Khalistan Liberation Force chief murdered in Pakistan in February last year, and Lakhbir Singh, alias Rode, the chief of KZF (Khalistan Zindabad Force)

Sea level drop spurred Lothal decline

Was it only the dry spell or changing weather patterns that brought about the decline of metropolises such as Lothal in the Harappan period? A recent study highlighted that a major receding of the sea level about 4,200 years ago which dried up the famed dockyard at Lothal could be one of the reasons for the decline of the port town. Lothal is believed to be the oldest surviving port in the world. It is also the site where a museum on maritime history of India is being constructed.

The paper titled ‘Evidence for seawater retreat with advent of Meghalayan era (~4200 years before present or BP) in a coastal Harappan settlement’ has been published online recently in the AGU journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems. The authors are Archana Das and others from Institute of Seismological Research and the researchers from Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences.

“The last 4,200 years are identified as the Meghalayan Age by geologists. At the start of the period, we see major climatic shifts that impacted contemporary human habitations,” said Siddharth Prizomwala of ISR. “The de-urbanization of the Harappan civilization coincides with the phase from 4,200 to 3,800 years before present. The age is known to have begun with recurring monsoonal droughts. ”

Prizomwala added: “Our study also indicates that it was the period marked by rapid drop in sea levels in coastal southwestern Gujarat. It could have had an adverse impact on Lothal. ” The study employed the analysis of sediments from a trench at Lothal in the ancient dockyard area. The researchers studied carbon and sulphur contents and their stable isotopes along with shells of foraminifera (a marine microorganism) and sand grains for radiocarbon and optical dating.

“The results indicated four distinct phases of the environment spanning 5,030 years to 2,070 years BP.It can be ascertained from sediment carbon and sulfur content,” said Rajesh Agnihotri of BSIP. “Coastal marine environment was present in the early phase. The second phase shows abrupt environmental change including receding sea. ”

Agnihotri added that the third phase also indicated dry conditions, whereas the fourth one is of the present day.

The early phase showed organisms thriving in marine environments. Later part shows brackish water organisms, indicating the presence of both seawater and freshwater at the site. From about 2,000 years ago, the place remained dry as it is observed today. “Our study clearly provides multi-proxy evidence for a relative sea level fall during the initial phase of the Meghalayan age (~4150 to ~3625 years BP). This relative sea level fall might have dried up the ancient Lothal site, the oldest Harappan dockyard,” the paper said.

Santoor Legend Pt Shiv Sharma, 83, Passes Away

Santoor virtuoso Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma, who took the stringed instrument to the global stage and successfully straddled the worlds of classical and film music, died on Tuesday following a heart attack. He was 83. Sharma, one of India's most well known classical musicians, died between 8 and 8. 0 am at his Pali Hill residence here, his secretary said.


Cyclone Asani first one of 2022, 19th in last 3 years

The severe cyclonic storm, Asani that lies centred over west-central and adjoining south Bay of Bengal about 920kms northwest of Car Nicobar island and 500kms southeast of Vishakhapatnam, is the first cyclone to form this year.

“Cyclone Asani is the first cyclonic storm over North Indian Ocean during this calendar year,” Rahul M, scientist, India meteorological department Panaji said.

The severe cyclonic storm moved nearly west-northwards touching speeds of 25km per hour on Monday after it intensified from a low pressure area a couple of days back.

It is likely to weaken gradually into a cyclonic storm during the next 48 hours. Since it is far away, over the Bay of Bengal, the impact on the the state’s weather will not be severe.

It is a relief for the people of the region as Cyclone Tauktae during the pre-monsoon period of May 2021 had wreaked havoc in the state.

It was one of the deadliest cyclones to hit the Gujarat coast and had a disastrous impact on Goa as it triggeredextremely heavy rainfall and unprecedented flooding in some parts of the state causing huge losses.

“This cyclone which had formed in Arabian Sea had speeded up the onset of monsoon over Kerala and itsfurther progress,” M R Ramesh Kumar, a reputed meteorologist and chief scientist (retired) national institute of oceanography, Dona Paula said.

River Galgibaga had even changed course due to erosion of a sand bar close to the beach that allowed the river to flow directly to the sea instead of a diversion.

The intensity and frequency of cyclones has increased during the last few years due to warming up of sea surface temperatures. In the past three years 18 cyclones have occurred, eight in 2019 and five each in 2020 and 2021.

Ghaziabad To Kanpur In 3 Hours?

A new road connecting the two industrial hubs of Ghaziabad and Kanpur has been approved by the Centre. Cutting through nine west UP districts, the 380km Greenfield Economic Corridor is expected to bring down travel time between the two cities to just three hours. A drive on the Yamuna Expressway between Ghaziabad and Kanpur now takes six hours.

“It was in September 2019 that Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari had announced an economic corridor linking Ghaziabad with Kanpur. The idea was to cut travel time between the two industrial cities. On Thursday last week, the ministry gave its approval for the corridor,” said a senior NHAI official.

The project is scheduled to be completed by 2025. “It will be a 380km-long highway, which will initially be four lanes wide. But there are plans to develop the corridor into eight lanes,” the official said.

According to the alignment, the corridor will pass through nine districts — Ghaziabad, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Kasganj, Farrukhabad, Kannauj, Unnao and Kanpur. “As of now, there are now routes connecting Kanpur and Ghaziabad. Commuters driving on the Yamuna Expressway take around six hours, while those travelling on NH-9 need at least eight hours. So, you see how the new corridor will be beneficial for commuters. It will cut down the travel time to just three hours,” the official said.

A survey is currently being conducted to identify land for the project. Work on the DPR has started too,sources in the NHAI said, and it is likely to be ready in about a year. “Land acquisition will start then and is expected to be completed by 2023. From there, it will take two years for the project to be ready,”the NHAI official added.

According to the plan, the four-lane corridor will initially be expanded to six at culverts and underpasses. Land will be set aside for it to be widened to eight lanes in the future.

The corridor will also prove to be a boon for industries by cutting down the time and cost of travel.

MP tops the chart in area under natural farming

Of the total 38 lakh hectares of natural farming across India, 17.31 lakh hectares is under cultivation in Madhya Pradesh alone, state’s farmer welfare and agriculture minister told a meeting chaired by Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar recently.

Agriculture ministers of other states were part of the meeting as well. Patel told the meeting that close to half of the total area under cultivation of natural farming is in Madhya Pradesh making it the the leader amongst other states. Madhya Pradesh has set a target of adding another one lakh hectare this year and chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has constituted a natural agriculture development board, Patel said.

Taking a cue from the Union budget proposal of encouraging chemical-free farming along the Ganga, the state government in February decided to carry out natural farming along the Narmada, which is considered as the lifeline of the state.

The decision was taken at a meeting of ministers and top bureaucrats chaired by the chief Minister. It was decided that a special campaign be launched to promote natural farming on a 5-km stretch on both sides of the Narmada.

On April 26, a decision was taken to constitute the ‘Madhya Pradesh Natural Agriculture Development Board’ as an independent organisation with the financial assistance of the state government to increase the spread of natural farming in Madhya Pradesh. The move also aimed at encouraging and guiding farmers to take up natural farming. An apex body headed by the chief minister and a task force under the chairmanship of the chief secretary will be constituted at the state level for monitoring and review of the Madhya Pradesh Natural Agriculture Development Board, the government decided in the meeting.