Delhi Metro's planned Loop corridor

The 3km-long underground ‘Metro loop corridor’, which will connect the upcoming Central Secretariat buildings as part of the Central Vista redevelopment project, is likely to have two-coach trains. The coaches are expected to be smaller than the ones in conventional metro trains meant for mass transit, sources said.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation will provide technical assistance for constructing the loop corridor and connecting it with the existing Central Secretariat Metro station at the concourse level. The underground project will be completely secured and access-controlled as it is primarily meant for the movement of thousands of government employees in the area.

Sources said as there will be a shuttle service connecting the area with the metro network, initially not more than two coaches will be required. Although the technology to be used is yet to be finalised, they added that the system is likely to be similar to the people mover at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Central Public Works Department and DMRC signed an MoU on February 28, according to which the latter will provide technical assistance and execute finishing and services works for the construction of the loop corridor.

The corridor will connect four Central Secretariat buildings with Central Secretariat station. The station is one of the major interchange hubs of the metro network, where the Yellow Line (Samaypur Badli-Huda City Centre) connects with the Violet Line (Kashmere Gate-Raja Nahar Singh, Ballabhgarh).

The corridor has been proposed to cater to office-goers who travel to the government offices using the metro. The planning is being done anticipating a peak hour demand of 20,000 passengers per hour during the morning and evening peak hours. Sources said the frequency of services will be the highest for those hours as the footfall during off-peak hours is expected to be low.

As per the MoU, DMRC will prepare the detailed project report for the corridor, apart from finalising the horizontal and vertical alignment of the tracks and tunnels, along with sizing of facilities like platforms, support services and maintenance facilities. DMRC had said it will also appoint the detailed design consultant for the project.

While CPWD will carry out the basic civil structure construction work, DMRC will execute the design and construction of control systems, signal systems, track work, rolling stock (train sets), electrical and maintenance works.

Sources said that the metro loop corridor will be constructed in sync with the Central Vista redevelopment project. The Central Secretariat metro station, which has been in operation for more than 15 years, is likely to see a revamp too.

The Central Vista redevelopment project has been envisaged by integrating the concept of transit oriented development, officials said. The connectivity of the loop corridor with NCR, thanks to the Central Secretariat metro station, is expected to significantly reduce the need to use private vehicles to reach offices in the area.

Apart from the Delhi Metro network, office-goers will also be able to use bus services available at the ground level, above the Central Secretariat metro station.

Nod for 1st indigenous combat copter

The PM-led Cabinet Committee on Security cleared the first-ever contract for 15 indigenously designed and manufactured light combat helicopters for the IAF and Army at a cost of Rs.3,887 crore, along with infrastructure sanctions worth Rs 377 crore. Ten of these weaponised twin-engine choppers in the weight class of 5-8 tonne are meant for the IAF, while the Army will get five. The overall requirement for such helicopters is pegged at 160 in the coming years.

Designed and developed by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics, two LCHs were even deployed in eastern Ladakh in 2020 to flight-evaluate them amidst the still-continuing military confrontation with China.

Even before the actual approval, HAL had launched the “limited series production” of the 15 LCHs at its Bengaluru facility in anticipation of the order. “The LSP choppers have 45% indigenous content by value, which will progressively increase to more than 55% for the next version,” a defence ministry official said.

With the contract to be inked on Thursday, as per the HAL. LCH is the only attack helicopter in its weight class in the world which can land and take-off at an altitude of 5,000-metre or 16,400-feet with a considerable load of weapons and fuel. Equipped with 70mm rockets, missiles and chin-mounted cannons, the MoD said the LCH has the requisite agility, manoeuvrability, extended range, stealth features, high-altitude performance and around-the-clock all-weather capabilities for several combat missions.

They range from destruction of enemy air defences, anti-tank operations and high- altitude bunker busting missions to counter-insurgency and search and rescue combat roles. “The LCH would be a potent platform to meet the operational requirements of IAF and Army, the official said.

The LCH also had the distinction of being the first attack helicopter to land at forward bases in the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region, 4,700 meters above sea level with a 500-kg load. Such LCHs also figured in the defence ministry first negative arms import list or “positive indigenisation list” announced in August 2020, under which acquisition of 101 weapon systems and platforms from abroad will be progressively banned in the 2020-25 timeframe to bolster the fledgling domestic defence production sector.

Maharashtra to launch criminals’ biometric database

A digital fingerprint and iris scanning system to aid police investigations with a database of 6.5 lakh people with crime records will be launched by Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday.

“Called automated multimodal biometric identification system, it is a different kind of data digitization. We have specific data on an estimated 6.5 lakh undertrials and convicts. The entire information has been validated by the bureau of fingerprint experts. It will help law enforcing agencies track criminals and that too at lightning speed,” a senior bureaucrat said.

He said five years ago, a Rs 53.6 crore proposal was approved for the AMBIS project. “We have secured fingerprint, palm print, face, and biometric data of the undertrials and convicts and the same has been incorporated in the system. As a result, it will be possible for law-enforcing agencies to quickly trace the history of a crime suspect.

The data will be made available to all police stations across the state as well as other agencies involved in the detection of crime. The task was entrusted to a private firm,” he said.

Administrative approval for the project was granted in November 2016 when Devendra Fadnavis was CM. In April 2017, a state-level committee was set up for drafting the project, and later that month a work order of Rs 53.6 crore was issued and the project’s contract was given to Smart Chip Private Ltd.

The bureaucrat said the scheme will be implemented through police stations, police units, training centres and fingerprint units and instructions have been given to IPS officers and unit heads. “We have set up high level coordination committees at the state level, commissionerates and districts for the implementation of the system. ”

As per guidelines prescribed by the state home department, a system requirement specification document has been prepared, which includes a conversion plan and system architecture design, system overview design, required definite and interface control documents.

The bureaucrat said the state has imparted training to 2,600 officers and employees on effective utilisation of the system. “We have drafted a masterplan for providing specific technology knowhow to all police stations, police units, training centres, all central prisons and fingerprint units. Data digitization has been done at four fingerprint units. The data has been validated at these units,” he said. The bureaucrat said after the high-powered committee grants a go-live certificate, the system will be put in operation.

Wolves in India: Only 3,100 left

The first scientific population estimate of Indian peninsular wolves (canis lupus pallipes), known to be more than a million years older than all other wolf species in the world, has revealed that only 3,100 members of the species are left in the country.

This makes them almost as endangered as tigers, whose estimated population in the country is around 2,967.

Both tigers and wolves are classified under “schedule I” of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 as endangered.

The study was conducted by Doon-based Wildlife Institute of India. The highest concentration of wolves is currently in Madhya Pradesh (772), followed by Rajasthan (532), Gujarat (494), Maharashtra (396) and Chhattisgarh (320). Being a million years older than others, Indian wolves hold a unique place in the wolfevolutionary history.

“This ancient wolf lineage is threatened by habitat loss due to development, hybridisation with dogs, fast traffic roads, diseases, and severe persecution. Their status is as precarious as that of the tiger but focused conservation efforts are still lacking,”said the study, authored by YV Jhala, dean, WII.

Study said India had “no conservation or action plan” but urgently needed one to save the wolves.

Axis Bank to acquire Citi’s consumer biz for $1.6bn

Citibank, the onetime leader in the cards business in India with a consumer book that was envied by all private banks, has agreed to sell its entire retail business —including credit cards, savings accounts and wealth management — to Axis Bank for $1.6 billion (Rs 12,235 crore). The deal, which takes place at amuch lower price than what was expected by analysts, requires Axis Bank to absorb 3,600 employees of Citi at existing or better terms.

Announcing the transaction, Axis Bank MD & CEO Amitabh Chaudhry said that he expected approvals to be in place in nine to 12 months when the payment will be made. The interim period would be used to look at the issues around integration.

“A deal like this comes once in a lifetime. This is perhaps one of the best consumer banking franchises in the country. The kind of customers they have, the kind of usage they have on their cards, the wealth franchises data is perhaps unmatched in terms of what they bring to the table,” said Chaudhry. He added that the deal would enable Axis Bank to close the gap with bigger rivals and bring it closer to number three rank. The bank would need to raise capital at some stage, but would announce its plans in future, Chaudhry said.

Besides the sale price, Rs 3,450-crore capital will be required for the loan book of over Rs 27,400 crore,which will get transferred, and also a payout of up to Rs 1,500 crore in integration cost. The cost will be paid by Axis to Citi for servicing the business till the merger gets complete.

After the deal, Axis Bank will have about 2.8 crore savings accounts, over 2.3 lakh Burgundy (Axis Bank’s wealth management service) customers and more than 1 crore credit cards. The challenge for the two banks will be to ensure that customers do not exit in the interim. On Monday, the Axis scrip closed 1.7% higher at Rs 750, ahead of the deal’s announcement.

“We look forward to collaborating with Citi’s experienced senior leadership team and diverse talent pool. Axis already has a network of Citi alumni across the hierarchy. Given the expertise that Citi employees bring to the table, we view them as a significant addition to our existing team,” said Chaudhry.

Citibank had started its consumer business in India in 1985. It had aggressively grown its retail business and had even launched a mass savings account scheme Suvidha with low balance requirements. The bank had also been a major player in auto loans and personal loans, which was scaled down after the global financial crisis.

Citi will continue to have a wholesale and corporate banking presence in India. It also has a large back-office across five cities. “We remain committed to contributing to India’s growth and development as we deepen our presence through our institutional businesses and our community initiatives. Citi will also continue to harness India’s rich talent pool,”  said Ashu Khullar, CEO of Citi India


Blaze at Sariska reserve claims 600- 700 hectares

Two helicopters of the Indian Air Force on Tuesday joined a fire-fighting operation going on at the Sariska Tiger Reserve since Sunday afternoon.

After Alwar district administration asked for assistance, the IAF deployed two Mi-17 V5 helicopters to carry out the Bambi Bucket operation. The helicopters filled water from Siliserh and sprayed it over the area to contain the fire.

Till 5pm, the two choppers conducted 20 sorties and sprayed about 60,000 litres of water, as per the forest department. Chief conservator of forests, STR, RN Meena said, “The operation is going on and the wildfire on the hills has been partially contained. . .

: “...Around 200 forest staff, including officials, nature guides and villagers, are working tirelessly in the fire-fighting operation.”

Initially, a wildfire started in a small area of the reserve’s Akbarbur range, while the forest staff managed to douse it. But it got reignited and gradually spread over a 5-sqkm area by late Monday evening. “High winds had fuelled the blaze for two days, spreading it in an unbridled manner. The fire can be controlled if there is a dip in the wind velocity. The hives were also destroyed in the fire and the forest department had to face a tough time during the operation due to bee attacks,” an official said.

As per the primary estimates, 600-700 hectares of the area has been destroyed. The fire also engulfed the
territory of a tigress, which has two cubs. The forest department, however, claimed that the big cat and cubs were safe a s they had moved to the plains.

While the forest staff and administration are struggling to douse the fire, experts claim that the lessons
from the past have not been learnt and the incident could have been averted, if precaution s were taken

Sunil Mehta, member, Rajasthan State Wildlife Board, said, “My letter dated February 15, 2022, to PCCF & CWLW Rajasthan had warned about forest fires in summer given the dry deciduous nature of the forest and the need to create fire lines and fire routes. If they had paid heed to what I had written, the forest fire  in Sariska raging for the past two days could have been well contained.”

Maharashtra regains top spot in sugar production

After a three-year gap, Maharashtra has surpassed Uttar Pradesh in sugar cane crushing and sugar production in the current 2021-22 season. Mills from across the state have so far crushed around 1,123 lakh tonnes of sugar cane and produced over 115 lakh tonne of sugar — around 35 lakh tonne more than what has been produced in UP. The record crushing of cane and sugar production in Maharashtra is attributed to more land coming under sugar cane production mainly due to farmers getting good and assured returns. As many as 197 cooperative and private sugar factories operated during this season.

Assam, Meghalaya ink pact to end 50- year row

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad K Sangma signed an agreement in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on Tuesday, settling six of the 12 areas of differences in the 50-year-old inter-state boundary dispute.

Shah described the accord that saw Assam making concessions it had refused so far as “another milestone in the fulfilment of PM Modi’s vision of a peaceful and prosperous northeast”. He praised Assam’s “large-heartedness” for facilitating the pact.

According to the settlement formula, both states will divide the disputed area of about 36 sq km, covering the six points of differences, in almost equal parts between them.

Shah said this agreement has ended the dispute in about 70% of the inter-state border area and the areas of differences in the remaining six places will be resolved soon. “Today is a historic day for the conflict-lessnortheast India,” he said.

The pact now paves the way for Survey of India to redraw the inter-state boundary between the two states at these six points. Assam also has border disputes with Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.

Adani Group completes financial closure of Navi Mumbai airport

The Adani Group has said that it has concluded the financing for the greenfield airport at Navi Mumbai.

“The State Bank of India has underwritten the entire debt requirement of Rs 12,770 crore for the Navi Mumbai International Airport project,” said a statement issued by the Adani Group on Tuesday. The group announced financial closure with the execution of financing documents with the SBI. The long-delayed second airport to serve the Mumbai Metropolitan Region is expected to be ready by 2024.

The Adani Group had taken over the Navi Mumbai Airport project last year July with the acquisition of Mumbai airport.

Jeet Adani, director, NMIAL said, “Given the central role the airports will play in the future, we intend to develop an economic ecosystem that has airports and airport users at its core. With this facility from the SBI, we have moved a step closer to providing Mumbai with another landmark utility. ”

“The financial closure signifies the commitment of the Adani Group to mobilise the required resources and complete, within the set timelines, the NMIA Project which was taken over pursuant to the acquisition of Mumbai International Airport Ltd by the Group through Adani Airport Holdings Ltd, in July 2021,” the Group said.

The company released a statement saying the SBI has underwritten the entire debt requirement of Rs 12,770 crores.


Telangana: Yadadri temple reopens

After six long years, doors to the renovated and reconstructed Yadadri temple were finally reopened to devotees on Monday. At 11. 55 am sharp.

The gold-plated doors of the sanctum sanctorum — abode of Lord Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy — were opened amid chants by a host of senior priests and rutvicks.

The renovated temple premises were inaugurated by chief minister, K Chandrasekhara Rao during the auspicious ‘mithuna lagna’. Several cabinet ministers, TRS leaders and officials were in attendance at the event even as there were no VVIPs — either from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh or the Centre.

As the nine hills of Yadagirigutta echoed with ‘Namo Narasimha’ mantras, thousands of people across the globe watched a live stream of the grand inauguration ceremony of the centuries-old Kakatiya-style temple. A festive fervour was palpable among locals as temple authorities permitted some devotees from Yadagirigutta village a darshan after 4 pm.

When the Sri Venkateswara Swami temple at Tirumala went to Andhra Pradesh after the creation of Telangana in 2014, KCR said that the new state too needed a spiritual hub. In 2015 he announced that the 1,000-year-old Yadadri temple would be developed as Telangana’s answer to Tirumala and started work on turning the temple into a grand complex.


India tests new missile jointly built with Israel

The Army version of the next-generation medium range surface-to-air missiles, developed jointly with Israel to destroy hostile aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and drones at a range of 70-km, was tested twice from the Chandipur integrated test range off the Odisha coast on Sunday.

The flight tests of the MRSAM, developed jointly by DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries, were conducted as part of the ‘live firing trials’ against high-speed aerial targets. “The first launch was to intercept a medium-altitude target at a long range and the second was to prove the capability against a low-altitude target at short range. The missiles intercepted the aerial targets and destroyed them completely, registering direct hits at both the ranges,” a DRDO official said.

Army’s MRSAM system includes multi-function radar, mobile launcher system and other vehicles. “The weapon system’s performance was validated through the flight data captured by range instruments like radars, electro-optical tracking systems and telemetry,” he said. While Navy and IAF have begun inducting their MRSAMs, the trials for the Army are underway.

PVR and Inox to merge

PVR and Inox, India’s top two multiplex chains, announced a surprise merger to create the country’s largest multi-screen player as they looked to emerge from the pandemic-induced slump and seek to tackle the onslaught from content streaming giants.

Ajay Bijli of PVR and Siddharth Jain of Inox Leisure said that the move would help the merged entity—to be called PVR Inox with over 1,500 screens—better compete with the new-age deep-pocketed rivals, and added that the benefits of the synergy may be passed on to consumers in terms of aggressive ticket prices.

“We will become an entity with much stronger balance sheet. There is a lot to be done, and India is still an under-screened country,” said Bijli, who will be the MD of the merged entity.


New highway to connect Pune & Bengaluru

Union highways minister Nitin Gadkari said that a new national highway connecting Pune and Bengaluru is on the cards, and this 699 km highway will be passing through the drought-prone areas of Satara and Sangli districts.

Gadkari said several sections of the existing 775 km Pune-Bengaluru national highway tend to get submerged during the monsoon. “The new highway has been designed in a way to ensure that no stretch is flooded at any time,” he said, while addressing a rally in Sangli.

The new highway — to be built at a cost of Rs 40,000 crore — will pass through drought-prone and underdeveloped regions of Khandala, Phaltan and Khatao in Satara district, and Khanapur, Tasgaon and Kavthe Mahankal region in Sangli district.

In Karnataka, it will pass through Belagavi, Bagalkot, Gadag, Koppal, Ballari, Davangere, Chitradurga, Tumkur and onwards till Bengaluru. This parallel highway already has good connectivity with the existing Pune-Bengaluru highway that passes through Satara, Kolhapur, Hubbali. The new route will also help reduce traffic load on the existing highway.

Gadkari inaugurated two national highway projects worth Rs 2,334 crore on Saturday in Sangli city. He inaugurated the stretch between Borgaon and Vatambare on the Nagpur-Ratnagiri national highway-166 (worth Rs 2,076. 63 crore) and the Sangola-Sonand-Jath stretch on national highway 965 (worth Rs 257. 38 crore).


Exports of smartphones soar 80%

Led by a strong push by Apple and Samsung to harness the benefits and commitments under the government’s production-linked incentive scheme, exports of smartphones are set to cross the $5 billionmark in 2021-22, the record number coming in as companies gradually pitch India as a core global manufacturing base on the lines of China and Vietnam. Total smartphone exports are likely to be upwards of Rs 42,000 crore (around $5. 6 billion) in the just-ending fiscal, as per estimates by the industry, a growth of over 80% against the near Rs 23,000 crore achieved in 2020-21. The growth has been meteoric if one considers that till just four years ago, smartphone exports were only at around Rs 1,300 crore (in 2017-18), which then moved up sharply to Rs 11,200 crore in 2018-19, and then to Rs 27,200 crore in 2019-20. The numbers were subdued in 2020-21 at Rs 23,000 crore due to production and supply disruptions because of the Covid outbreak.

The surge in exports is being seen as exemplary as it also came at a time when the broader electronics market was suffering from severe component shortages due to the semiconductor crunch, apart from the disruptions because of the lockdowns and restrictions. India’s stressed relations with China, a key supplier of critical components, had also resulted in certain parts being held up, or coming in slower than usual. “The impressive performance comes in the backdrop of three devastating Covid waves, loss of workforce, lockdowns and the worst-ever crisis on the supply chain,” Pankaj Mohindroo, chairman of industry body Indian Cellular and Electronics Association which worked on the data, said.


Somewhere in Punjab....


India’s trade deficit at $188bn

Even as India’s $400-billion exports topped its previous record of $330.1 billion in 2018-19, the country’s imports have jumped to a record high as well. Till March 21, it had imported goods worth $589 billion, as against $393.6 billion in FY21. As a result, up to March 21, the trade deficit was estimated at $188.2 billion.

This year’s surge in exports was aided partly by higher prices of oil and other commodities, which saw a sharp rebound as demand came back. Several products such as automobiles and rice also saw increased volumes despite prices not seeing a sharp rise.

Officials also said that there has been some shift in demand to India as buyers, particularly in Europe, sought to diversify their sourcing from China following the Covid outbreak two years ago.

The government was obviously cheering the export growth. “India set an ambitious target of $400 billion of goods exports & achieved this target for the first time ever. I congratulate our farmers, weavers, MSMEs, manufacturers, exporters for this success,” PM Narendra Modi tweeted on Wednesday morning. Last year, Modi had detailed consultations with businesses and Indian missions overseas, urging them to boost exports.

While the target for the next financial year is still being worked out, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal told a press conference that India is poised for significant growth in the coming years. “Despite the difficulties, it is a pure testimony to the sheer grit, determination and capability of our entrepreneurs, MSMEs, farmers, handicraft and dairy sectors,” he said.

The minister said that engineering exports had hit a record high of over $107 billion so far this year, while electronics exports jumped 41% to $15 billion and farm exports were around $40 billion for the first time.

Maharashtra: Stamp duty sop for resale of properties extended to 3 years

The state assembly passed a bill extending the set-off (adjustment) period for stamp duty payment from one year to three years for every new property resale. Accordingly, the stamp duty would be payable only on the price difference of a property instead of the entire amount for a period of three years.

Explaining how it works, advocate Vinod Sampat said, “Suppose an investor purchases an apartment for Rs 30,000 a square foot in 2022. In 2025, when the investor sells it for Rs 32,000 a sq ft, the stamp duty will be payable only on the difference of Rs 2,000. ”

Earlier, this benefit was given for flats sold within one year of purchase. The bill passed on Wednesday said there were negligible cases of flats resold within one year.

The state’s rationale is that due to a fast-changing global economy and the post-pandemic situation, it is necessary to encourage businesses.

If any concession to be earned is extended for up to three years, such benefit will be availed by a larger number of investors, stated the bill.

The decision will not only enhance the number of investments but also boost sale-purchase deals, benefiting the huge revenue that the state earns through stamp duty, it added. The bill further stated the move will encourage the construction business and eventually bring in more job opportunities for youths in the state.

Revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat said several representations made by the real estate industry indicated the losses they were making, especially in the post-Covid period. “The decision will encourage investors into boosting real estate deals and, in turn, help the state generate more revenue and employment,” he added.

Cooperatives expert Ramesh Prabhu said this move to extend the resale time for stamp duty concession from the earlier one year to now three years will help investors not only earn more appreciation on their properties but also save on income tax as properties sold after two years for buying a bigger one within a year’s time are bound to get I-T exemption.

Earlier the sop was for resale in a year.

80 new airports to be built in 3 years

The government has set a target of increasing the number of airports from 140 to 220 by 2025, civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia told the Lok Sabha, as he expected that the revival of the sector, scarred by the pandemic, may lead to a substantial jump in passenger traffic.

Replying to a discussion on the demands for grants for his ministry, which was passed by the House, Scindia said there were 74 airports till 2014 while 66 new ones were added in the past seven years. “We have nearly doubled the capacity (in seven years). Our resolve is now to take this number up to 220 by 2025,” he said, adding that his ministry has also set a target of increasing air traffic to 40 crore by 2023-24.

As per the Directorate General of Civil Aviation data, 8.38 crore people travelled on domestic flights in 2021, as compared to 6.3 crore in 2020 — the year of Covid outbreak and long lockdowns. The number of passengers increased from 6.7  crore in 2013-14 to 14.5 crore in 2018-19. Scindia said 3. 8 lakh passengers flew daily in the past seven days.


Land acquisition for KBIC progressing fast

Kerala Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the land acquisition process for the Kochi-Bengaluru industrial corridor was progressing at a fast pace. Around 87% of land acquisition for the project that require 2,242 acres of land was expected to be completed by May, the CM said.

“Around 298 acres are being acquired in Kannambra village in Palakkad, 653 acres in Puthussery central 1 village, 556 acres in Puthussery central village 2 and 375 acres in Puthussery village 3. For the setting up of GIFT City, 358 acres are acquired in Ayyampuzha,” said in a Facebook post.

“The project is being funded through Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board. The Kinfra, under the industries department, is the nodal agency of the state government for implementation of the Kochi-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor,” Vijayan said.

He said the state government has formed a separate company, the Kerala Industrial Corridor Development Corporation, the special purpose vehicle for the project, as the Union Ministry of Commerce had approved the extension of the Bangalore Industrial Corridor to Coimbatore and Kochi.

The central government would give financial assistance amounting to the price of the land acquired.

He said the progress of the project was being reviewed at the ministerial level and a system has also been set up to closely monitor the land acquisition and follow-up activities of the industrial corridor.

“The industrial corridor is expected to create 22,000 direct jobs and 80,000 indirect jobs in the next five years, making a significant contribution to the development of Kerala,” the CM said.

The industrial corridor proposes establishment of dedicated zones for manufacturing and promoting investments, with the intention to make the country a hub of manufacturing activity to cater to the vast domestic markets and international markets.

The industrial corridor could create 22,000 direct and 80,000 indirect jobs in the next five years, according to the chief minister.

119 waterbodies in Delhi’s villages being developed as ‘model ponds’

A total of 119 waterbodies situated in the villages of eight districts of Delhi are being developed as ‘model ponds’. These ponds will have to meet certain parameters like no foul smell, presence of aquatic life and dissolved oxygen levels of more than 3 micrograms per cubic metre to become a model pond, Wetland Authority of Delhi said.

On the occasion of World Water Day, officials said that the land-owning agencies were developing these ponds after the revenue department identified them.

The wetland authority has prepared and sent benchmarks to district magistrates for restoration or creation of model ponds.

A senior official of Wetland Authority of Delhi said, “As many as 119 waterbodies are being restored as model ponds at village levels. No foul smell, presence of aquatic life, including fish and introducing turtles, dissolved oxygen levels of more than 3 mg/l and good surface water quality are some of the indicators of a model pond. ”

For ensuring protection of model ponds, the concerned RWA or village panchayat will constitute a committee to look after the conditions of the ponds. The committee will ensure that appropriate regulations on sewage discharge, solid waste dumping and encroachment are adhered to. “For conservation of these waterbodies, certain restrictions have to be strictly enforced like elimination of garbage disposal and spread of aquatic invasives, such as water hyacinth, will be checked by periodic removal, and appropriate use of the removed biomass,” said another official of Wetland Authority of Delhi.

The official added, “We have told the agencies developing these waterbodies that ponds should not be filled using groundwater and recycled treated wastewater should be used. Wastewater inflow, if not diverted, should be treated through natural methods before flowing into waterbody. Rainwater inflow should not have been obstructed. ”

All the model ponds will have signage indicating dos and don’ts. “The concerned RWA or village panchayat will conduct awareness programmes amongst the citizens on water conservation and the value of ponds,” said the official.

Of the total 119 water bodies, the highest (68) are situated in South-west district of Delhi, while Central Delhi district has the lowest number of model pond (one). Most of the waterbodies selected for developing them as model ponds are located on the land of block development office and remaining are of Delhi Development Authority.


Kolkata: Green light for New Barrackpore link

The proposed Noapara-New Barrackpore Metro is finally seeing the light of the day, as Metro Railway initiates Phase 2 of Yellow Line, the 3.6km Noapara-New Barrackpore corridor via airport. Senbo Engineering and ITD Cementation, which is also executing East-West Metro, have emerged as the lowest bidders for the stretch.

Once the entire Yellow Line is operational, the southern point of Metro — New Garia or Kavi Subhas — will get connected to the northern end, Barasat. For now, it will go up to New Barrackpore.

During the last two years, Metro Railway has been busy with Yellow Line’s Phase 1, which covers 6.9km from Noapara to airport and is eyeing a 2023-commissioning. But even amidst hectic construction of the Phase 1, Metro Railway, the implementing agency of Line 4 which has now been christened the Yellow Line, floated tenders for Phase 2 — the 3.6km underground section from airport to New Barrackpore — in January this year.

The Yellow Line or the entire Noapara extension will actually cover 18.1km and eventually link Barasat in the north-east suburbia with mainstream Kolkata, via airport. But the plan is still at the drawing board. Tenders couldn’t be floated for Phase 3 or the New Barrackpore-Barasat stretch because nobody knows when the section will actually take off because of major encroachment along the route. “We are waiting for the state government to help us resolve the encroachment issue along the Barasat stretch. Meanwhile, we have started with Yellow Line’s Phase 2, so that New Barrackpore can be included in the Metro network in the near future,” a senior Metro Railway official said.

The Metro line to New Barrackpore via Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport will have two stations — Birati and New Barrackpore. The stretch involves very short tunnelling. So, construction will be in the cut-and-cover method and not through tunnel boring.

The tenders were floated for about 1.1km tunnelling work and another about 0.7km tunnel, construction of tracks, building Birati and New Barrackpore Metro stations and a subway connecting the airport. The subway will connect the terminal building of NSCBI Airport.

The other reason why Metro Railway went ahead with the section because the Noapara-Baranagar-Dakshineswar, or the 4km extension, of the North-South Metro was launched in February last year. The multiple water lines along BT Road, which had sealed the fate of the New Barrackpore extension, have now been removed.

Back in 2020, Metro Railway had invited bids to conduct surveys, geo-technical soil investigation and preparation of designs of the above work. But further progress on the project was stalled because of the pandemic.

₹ 33,000-cr Investment in J&K

The Jammu and Kashmir administration claims the Union Territory has attracted investments worth ₹33,000 crore in the industries and service sectors in the last year, which is double the investment of ₹15,000 crore made since 1947. The administration is expecting a possible investment of ₹75,000 crore by the end of calendar year 2022, which officials said is five times the investment which happened in the region in the last 75 years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is visiting J&K in April, will inaugurate projects worth Rs 33,000 crore which includes private hospitals and medical colleges with capacity of 4,500 beds and medical colleges with 1,100 seats. As part of the campaign to attract foreign investment, a high-profile delegation of 36 potential investors and businessmen from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries is currently in Srinagar to explore investment opportunities and deliberate with the J&K administration officials.

CommerceIQ turns unicorn

CommerceIQ, the retail online commerce management platform, has raised $115 million led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 that values the firm at over $1 billion — making it the 12th Indian startup to join the unicorn club this year.

The funding would be deployed to expand CommerceIQ’s business globally and accelerate the development of its unified retail ecommerce management platform that connects and automates data and decisions across the entire e-commerce stack.

The worldwide retail ecommerce growth is expected to reach $7 . 4 trillion in 2025 and unit economics through retail e-tail channels is an essential metric to watch out for. CommerceIQ counts Nestle, Colgate and Whirlpool as some of its key customers. The funding would also be deployed to hire talent across software development, data science & analytics, product operations, and customer support. The company employs over 150 people in its Bengaluru office and is expected to nearly double its headcount by this year-end.

CommerceIQ uses machine learning, analytics, and automation to aggregate data across sales, marketing, and supply chain operations, helping brands gain shoppers and retain customer loyalty. The technology behind CommerceIQ’s platform has been developed out of its Bengaluru office.


Suzuki’s ₹10k cr push for Maruti’s EV drive

After being a late mover in the green mobility space, India’s largest carmaker Maruti is set to unleash massive investments and new cars in the electric vehicles space with its Japanese parent Suzuki committing Rs 10,440 crore for zero-emission vehicles and batteries.

The investments will be made at Suzuki’s plant in Gujarat, which recently bagged benefits under the government’s production-linked incentive scheme, and is likely to see vehicles and batteries being produced for the requirements of Maruti Suzuki as well as Toyota, Suzuki’s alliance partner for the Indian market.

Maruti, which is at least two years away from launching its first mainline electric vehicle, is looking to take on Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra, as well as traditional rival Hyundai and its group company Kia.

Suzuki’s plans for electrics were announced as part of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s India visit with the company signing an MoU with election-bound Gujarat on Saturday.

The biggest chunk of the fresh funds will be spent towards the battery plant that will see Rs 7,300 crore being invested with a production target of 2026. EVs will see investments of Rs 3,100 crore with a production target of 2025. Maruti Suzuki Toyotsu, a joint venture between Suzuki and Toyota Tsusho for vehicle dismantling and scrapping, will also see Rs 45 crore investments for a plant.

Earlier, Maruti Suzuki MD & CEO Kenichi Ayukawa had said that the company will focus on driving in heavy indigenisation of green technology and components while developing EVs as it wants to mainstream the cars in terms of pricing and volumes.


Modi Announces Japan Will Invest ₹3.2L Cr in India

Japan will invest ₹3.2 lakh crore over the next five years in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced after a bilateral meeting with Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in which the two sides discussed various bilateral matters and agreed that secure, stable and predictable energy supplies are vital for economic growth.

"Japan will raise its investment target in India to an ambitious 5 trillion yen or ₹3.2 lakh crore ($42 billion) over the next five years," Modi announced after the 14th India-Japan annual summit. He added that cooperation with Japan on key projects like the dedicated freight corridor is highly appreciated and said the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high speed rail project is progressing well.

His Japanese counterpart Kishida spoke on the ‘serious invasion of Russia into Ukraine’ and said that in today’s world that has been shaken up due to many disturbances, it is important for India and Japan to have a close partnership.

“Both our countries should increase efforts for an open and free Indo-Pacific. Japan, along with India, will keep trying to end the war and keep providing support to Ukraine and its neighbouring countries,” the Japanese PM said.

Speaking on the close relations between the two nations, PM Modi said that the strongest aspect of the special and strategic partnership has been the robust economic ties. Referring to recent reforms and initiatives like Production Linked Incentive schemes, the PM said that a positive ecosystem is ready in India.

This is the first meeting of the two leaders since PM Kishida took charge last year. It is also the Japanese PM’s first ever visit abroad as the head of state. Japan will also hold the next Quad leaders summit expected to take place in the coming months.

Land valuation to be speeded up for Pune ring road project: Collector

Land valuation for all 86 villages for the proposed 173.7km Pune ring road would be speeded up in the next two to three months, Pune collector Rajesh Deshmukh said.

With weekly meetings being held, the project is on fast track, he said after the weekly ring road meeting.

The administration plans to start with valuation of villages in Maval and Mulshi on the western part, and then carry out the same on the eastern part, he said.

The Pune ring road is being developed in two parts -east and west of 68km and 105km length, respectively.

Valuation for some villages in Maval was completed last week and the remaining will be carried out at the earliest, land acquisition officers said. The ready reckoner rate and property transactions in the area are being considered for fixing land acquisition rate for private land for the project, stated officials

The state had allocated Rs.1,500 cr last week towards land acquisition for the project. In all, 1,900 hectares of land will be acquired for the entire ring road.

Pune collector said that the amount will be deposited soon to speed up valuation.

In the first phase, the ring road will pass through Maval, Mulshi, Haveli and Bhor talukas followed by Khed and Purandar talukas in the eastern part. A total of 86 villages have been marked for land acquisition for the proposed project that is slated to decongest the city areas of highway traffic.

Private land has been acquired from 83 villages, while land in the rest 3 villages is purely government land, stated MSRDC sources. The MSRDC has undertaken the ring road work to reduce traffic congestion in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad. The eastern ring road from Urse to Kelwade will pass through Maval, Khed, Haveli, Purandar, and Bhor talukas. 

The western ring road will start from Kelwade and will meet at Urse Toll Naka passing through Haveli, Mulshi, and Maval

Mumbai: Coastal Road Phase 1 to be ready by Nov 2023

The BMC said that it is racing to complete the over Rs 12,000 crore mega Coastal Road project by November next year. The completed Coastal Road works will add a 8.5km long and 20m wide sea promenade to the city, between Priyadarshini Park at Nepean Sea Road and the Worli side of the Bandra Worli Sea Link.

BMC said that this should be almost double the length of the existing 3.6 km Marine Drive promenade, a portion of which is being sacrificed for the mega project. Officials said that the sea promenade between Priyadarshani and Worli will be accompanied by a bicycle track, an open-air theatre, and an underground car park.

“The construction work of the coastal road project is going on as per schedule and it is expected to be completed by November 2023. The project will include the city's largest sea facing promenade which will be 20 meter wide and 8. 5 km long which will run right up to the Worli end of the Bandra Worli Sea Link. Along the promenade the BMC plans to plant native trees as part of its beautification drive. There will also be adequate seating arrangements,” said the official.

The BMC has so far completed over 50% of the Mumbai Coastal Road works which include reclamation and tunnelling as well. Reclamation works had been undertaken at various sites — near Girgaum chowpatty, Priydarshani Park at Nepean Sea Road, Bhulabhai Desai Road-Breach Candy area, Haji Ali and Worli sea face. The project estimates land reclamation of 111 hectares of which only a small portion remains to be reclaimed.

In the civic budget for 2022-23, the BMC allocated Rs 3,200 crore for the Coastal Road project while municipal commissioner IS Chahal said that they are determined to complete 90% of the project work by the end of financial year 2022-23.


India defends Russian oil deal

Citing India’s energy needs, the government continues to strongly defend its deal with Russia for the purchase of 3 million barrels of crude at a discounted price.

With disquiet running deep in the US and prominent European capitals over India’s decision, official sources speaking on condition of anonymity said, “Countries with oil self-sufficiency or those importing themselves from Russia cannot credibly advocate restrictive trading”.

The apparent dig at the US follows remarks by the White House cautioning India against placing itself on the wrong side of history by buying Russian crude.

While India doesn’t violate US sanctions with its Russian oil deal, the purchase is still seen as a setback for the US in its efforts to, as a senior US official said recently, close the gap with India on the Ukraine issue.

The development also comes ahead of the India-US 2+2 dialogue which, after several false starts, is finally expected to take place in the second week of April.

While the US is trying to convince India that the Russian action in Ukraine will embolden China to act more aggressively in the neighbourhood, official sources said geopolitical developments have posed significant challenges to India’s energy security and that “for obvious reasons”, India has had to stop sourcing from Iran and Venezuela despite alternative sources costing a lot more.

“Notably, recent Western sanctions on Russia have carve-outs to avoid impact on energy imports from Russia,” said a source, adding that Russian banks acting as main channels for European Union payments for Russian energy imports have not been excluded from SWIFT payment system.

“Russian oil or gas is being procured by various countries across the world, particularly Europe. 75% of Russia’s total natural gas ex- ports is to OECD Europe. European countries are also large importers of Russian crude oil,” said the source.

“India has to keep focusing on competitive energy sources. We welcome such offers from all producers. Indian traders, too, operate in global energy markets to explore best options,” he added.

What seems to have irked the central government is that Russia, unlike in the case of European countries, has been a very minor supplier of crude to India, accounting for less than 1% of its requirement, and that there is no government-to-government arrangement for oil import from Russia. Sources said most of the imports are from West Asia (Iraq 23%, Saudi Arabia 18%, UAE 11%). Imports from the US are expected to increase, taking its market share to 8%.

Maharashtra: MMR and Pune top stops for foreign investment

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region and Pune's industrial clusters continue to be the favoured destinations for foreign direct investment inflows to Maharashtra, industry minister Subhash Desai said.

In the last two years of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, of the 98 MoUs signed under Magnetic Maharashtra 2. 0 (June 2020 to December 2021), eight have been set aside for various reasons. Four have been set aside at the behest of the Union government (those that were signed with Chinese companies at the time of the Chinese incursion into Ladakh in 2020).

Desai said that around 50 companies have been allotted land so far and 15 have started construction. “The MMR and Pune continue to be favoured destinations for FDI (in the state) but investments are coming to Solapur, Nandurbar, Yavatmal, Nagpur and Dhule as well," he said. The Aurangabad Industrial City (Auric), part of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, he said, has even been appreciated by the Centre as being the best industrial city on the corridor.

According to the Economic Survey of Maharashtra, between June 2020 and December 2021, the state attracted investment proposals of Rs 1.9 lakh crore with expected employment generation of 3.3 lakh under the Magnetic Maharashtra campaign. There were 10,785 startups in the state at the end of October 2021.

However, FDI inflows into Maharashtra seem to have slowed down. According to the Economic Survey, in 2021-22 till September the state received only Rs 48,633 crore in inflows as against around Rs 1.2 lakh crore for the full year 2020-21. But this compares favourably with Gujarat that received only Rs 11,145 crore till September 2021, but unfavourably with Karnataka that received 1.02 lakh crore in the same period.

Desai said that at the Dubai World Expo conference 2020, the state signed 25 MoUs worth Rs 15,260 crore in sectors such as automobile and components, logistics, electric vehicles, textiles, data centres, pharmaceuticals, bio-fuels and energy, and the estimated employment is over 11,000.


Services Exports Likely to Hit $1T by 2027

 An expected rebound in inbound tourism and growing demand for India’s services in other sectors such as medicine, law and even gaming may help the country achieve its service exports touch $1 trillion in 2027, three years ahead of estimate, said a senior official at a trade promotion body. Experts however said the target is ambitious and would require boosts, enhanced trade agreements and incentives from the government across various services sectors. “We had a meeting with the commerce minister (Piyush Goyal) a few days back. At that meeting it was discussed that the way things are going, we may achieve this target by 2027,” said Karan Rathore, vice chairman of Services Export Promotion Council. The current target is 2030. Service exports contribute to 40% of total exports but have been growing at a faster clip than merchandise exports. India’s target for merchandise exports for FY22 is $400 billion while that for service exports is $240 billion. The target for service exports in FY23 in $325 billion. Merchandise exports are expected to reach the $1 trillion target in FY27, said Ajay Sahai, director general, Federation of Indian Export Organisations. Service exports contracted during the Covid-19 pandemic, but the fall was cushioned by increased digitisation and hybrid models of working. 

Services are exported under four modes: direct exports such as an IT executive servicing a client abroad; services, primarily hospitality, provided to foreigner tourists coming into India; an Indian educational, medical or financial organisation opening up outlets abroad; individuals travelling abroad to provide services, which is different from salaried jobs. “IT and ITES remain one of the top service exports from the country. Nearly 50% of the total services exports comprises IT exports. According to the RBI, software services exports went up by 2. 1% to $148. 3 billion in 2020-21. Exports include services of foreign units affiliated with Indian companies. IT exports dominate the industry and constitute the majority of the total revenue,” said Rathore. “However, apart from IT and ITES, there are several other sectors which are performing well and growing at a rapid pace. These include consultancy services, AVCG (audio visual and gaming), travel and tourism, logistic services, other business and financial services led by fintech,” he added. Rathore said a push on tourism will also help. For example, the Rajasthan state government’s investment on tourism quadrupled to ₹1,000 crore for FY22 compared to ₹400 crore. The one significant incentive to service exports is Service Exports from India Scheme, through which the government aims to promote export of services from India by providing duty scrip credit for eligible exports. But there need to be more, said Rathore.


BJP to retain CMs of 3 states

Of the four states BJP won in the recent assembly polls, the party is said to have decided to retain the incumbent chief ministers in Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Manipur even as the fate of Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami, who lost from Khatima, hangs in balance.

While there was no doubt about the continuation of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, party sources said the top brass has decided to continue with Pramod Sawant (Goa) and N Biren Singh (Manipur) although a few contenders had emerged in both states.

Sawant and Singh had reached the national capital a day earlier and called on the party brass on Wednesday, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah, party president JP Nadda and several other leaders. Dhami was also in Delhi on Tuesday and met with some of the leaders, including Shah and Nadda.

Although BJP has appointed observers for the four states with Shah and defence minister Rajnath Singh getting the responsibilities for Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand respectively, party sources said the government-formation exercise will be formally taken up after Holi, maybe from March 20 onwards.

Asked about the recent meetings of the party brass with state leaders, a senior party leader suggested that it was a feedback exercise about the BJP’s performance and also about the pro- file of the winning candidates. “We are in the process of screening the winners’ performance.

Discussion about probable ministers is yet to take place,” a party leader said. He said the results in all five states are being assessed from different angles like how many, youth, women, SC/ST, OBC and also their regions. “This exercise will help in picking the ministers,” the leader said.

BJP MPs from Uttarakhand on Wednesday also called on Shah and discussed with him the current political situation in the state. The MPs had recently met PM Modi also and had congratulated him for the party’s performance in the polls.

Maharashtra: Power demand hits record 27,000MW

In view of the severe heat wave lately, the state witnessed the highest peak electricity demand of a historic 27,212MW on March 15, said MSEDCL managing director Vijay Singhal. This included Mumbai’s peak power demand that crossed 3,600MW on the same day.

Apart from the heat being a key factor for the rise in power consumption, several industries, manufacturing units and commercial establishments now are 100% operational, after the end of the third Covid wave, officials said. In Mumbai, the increase in demand was an indicator of a higher use of air conditioners, fans and offices reopening. MSEDCL officials said they had to distribute 23,605MW across the state throughout Tuesday as per consumer demand. By comparison, on February 19, it had a peak demand of 23,286MW while on February 8, it was 23,075MW in MSEDCL supply areas.

The latest Hurun Rich List

Out of every 100 billionaires in the world, seven are either Indian or of Indian origin.

The latest Hurun rich list showed that of the 3,381 billionaires globally, 249 are either Indian or of Indian origin. Of these, 215 reside in India. The report also showed that Mukesh Ambani continued to be the richest Asian with a net worth of $103 billion and is the only Indian in the global top 10.

Gautam Adani added the most wealth over last one year at about $49 billion, at the rate of Rs 6,000 crore per week. With a total net worth at $81 billion, he’s the second richest Indian and 12th globally, according to the M3M Hurun report.

The report also said that after the listing of FSN E-Commerce Ventures that owns the Nykaa brand, its main promoter Falguni Nayar became the wealthiest new entrant into the rich list. She had a net worth of $7.6 billion.

The report also showed that Indians topped the global list in several sectors. Cyrus Poonawalla, the main promoter of world’s largest vaccine maker Serum Institute, is world’s richest healthcare billionaire with a net worth of $26 billion. Kumar Mangalam Birla, with a net worth of $18 billionaire in the world. The list also showed that Asian Paints’s Ashwin Dani and family, with a net worth of $9.7 billion is world’s richest paints billionaire. Rakesh Gangwal and Rahul Bhatia of InterGlobe Aviation, which runs the Indigo Airlines, are world’s richest aviation billionaires. While Gangwal’s net worth was $4.3 billion, Bhatia’s was $4.2 billion, the Hurun report pointed out.

Ambani is also the richest telecom entrepreneur in the world while Adani is the richest globally in the energy sector. Mumbai, the financial capital of the country, is also home to 72 billionaires while Delhi had 51 and Bengaluru 28.

Maharashtra: Registration department meets 100% fiscal target by mid-March

March is turning out to be a month of bounty for the registration department which has witnessed over 1 lakh property registrations by the middle of the month and also achieved 100% of its revenue target for financial year 2021-2022.

A registration official attributed the trend to property buyers’ rush to complete the formality before the announcement of the Ready Reckoner rates and implementation of the 1% Metro cess by the state government in April. The official said property registration offices would be kept open on Holi and during weekends, as requested by realtors, to tide over the buyers’ rush.

Statistics shared by the registration department revealed that over 1.2 lakh properties were registered between March 1 and March 15, generating a revenue of more than Rs 1,981 crore. While December 2021 witnessed 2.4 lakh property registrations, January 2022 saw 2.1 lakh and February 2.2 lakh. The official said the figures were likely to be cross the 2 lakh-mark in March, too.

High-value registrations helped the department meet its revenue targets with October 2021 (Rs 3,220 crore), December (Rs 3,790 crore) and February 2022 (Rs 3,176 crore) logging higher than the usual Rs 2,500-Rs 2,600 crore generated on a monthly basis. All this helped the registration department surpass its revenue target (Rs 29,000 crore) for 2021-2022 by the middle of March (Rs 29,097 crore) itself.


Of Central Delhi’s Fifth Interchange Station....

The rather quiet RK Ashram Marg metro station is all set to join the distinguished company of busy stations like Rajiv Chowk, Central Secretariat, New Delhi and Mandi House by becoming the fifth interchange station in the central Delhi metro network.

A spokesperson of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation disclosed that the existing metro station on the Blue Line (DwarkaVaishali/Noida Electronic City) was being converted into an interchange facility connected with the proposed underground RK Ashram Marg station of the extended Magenta Line (Janakpuri West- RK Ashram Marg).

The 29.3-km Janakpuri West-RK Ashram Marg corridor is an extension of the 38.2-km Magenta Line (Botanical Garden-Janakpuri West) and will have a total 22 stations. In December 2019, DMRC kicked off the construction work of its Phase IV project from this corridor.

“The new underground station will be constructed adjacent to the existing elevated station at a depth of 17 metres and will be 225 metres in length. An interconnection passage will connect the two stations,” the spokesperson said. “This will be a paid connectivity area equipped with elevators and escalators. ”

The spokesperson added that the contract has been awarded and the preparatory work has commenced. The construction of the underground metro station will have its fair share of engineering challenges. “From the perspective of civil engineering, this corridor will be among the toughest as it will pass be- low extremely congested areas such as Nabi Karim, Ghanta Ghar and Sadar Bazaar,” the official said. “However, DMRC will rely on its experience of carrying out underground work in old Delhi. ”

With RK Ashram Marg becoming central Delhi’s fifth interchange facility, both existing and new metro commuters will have access to a number of shorter alternative routes from central to north Delhi. “The interchange will provide a convenient mode of transit through Paharganj, Nabi Karim, Sadar Bazar, Ghanta Ghar, Pulbangash and several adjoining areas,” the official said.

Apart from RK Ashram Marg, the second and fourth stations on the corridor will also be interchange stations. After RK Ashram, the next station on the section is Nabi Karim, which will have interchange connectivity with the proposed Indraprastha-Inderlok corridor of Delhi Metro’s Phase IV extension. The next station after this is Sadar Bazar followed by Pulbangash, which again will be an interchange stat linking the corridor with the existing Red Line (Rithala-Shaheed Sthal New Bus Adda).

“This new connectivity will help residents of central Delhi reach Sadar Bazaar, Kamla Nagar Market and Ghanta Ghar, which, at present, do not have any metro connectivity. These areas will get direct connectivity to west and south Delhi areas besides Botanical Garden in Noida,” the spokesperson said. “This project will help in reducing traffic jams on busy roads such as Chitragupta Road, Sadar Thana Road and GT Karnal Road and other vehicular arteries. ”

Country’s first ‘steel slag road’ laid in Surat

The country’s first ‘steel slag road’ has come up in Surat, promising a huge potential to reduce the demand for aggregates in road construction. The successful implementation of the 1.2 km six-lane connectivity stretch of the Hazira Port will also pave the way for utilisation of huge mounds of steel slag lying as waste across the country. Aggregates are inert granular materials such as sand, gravel and crushed stone used in road construction.

This research project under the steel ministry was sponsored by ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel under the technical guidance of the Central Road Research Institute. This stretch has been built by substituting natural aggregates with 100% processed steel slag aggregates in all layers of bituminous pavement.

Considering its higher strength, the thickness of the road has also been reduced by 30%.

Three other major steel majors — Tata Steel, JSW Steel and Rashtriya Ispat — are participating as industrial partners to accomplish the steel slag utilisation in road construction.

“Around 1,000-1,200 heavy commercial vehicles are using the road per day for the last one year and still it is performing well on different serviceability parameters. Around one lakh tonnes of processed steel slag aggregates have been utilised in this project. We will soon come up with guidelines for usage of processed steel slag in road and highway construction,” said Satish Pandey, principal scientist at CSIR-CRRI.

Annually, nearly 18.5 million tonnes (MTs) of steel slag is generated from various integrated steel plants. Only in Vizag, around 60MT of steel slag is lying unused.

Utilisation of steel slag aggregates as a substitute of natural aggregate in road construction will reduce the unsustainable quarrying and mining of natural aggregates.

Highways projects in several states are now getting delayed due to shortage of aggregates and other raw materials.

Retail inflation at 8-month high

Retail inflation inched up marginally to an eight-month high in February on the back of rising food & beverage, clothing & footwear prices, while wholesale price inflation remained in double digits for the eleventh consecutive month, posing a policy challenge for authorities battling hardening price pressures against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, rose an annual 6.1% in February from 6% in January. Retail inflation was at 5% in February 2021. Inflation in rural areas was higher at 6.4% while in urban centres it was at 5.8%.

Food and beverages inflation rose to a 15-month high despite some moderation in eggs, vegetables, pulses and sugar.

Edible oil prices remained robust amid supply disruptions and rose by 16.4% and are likely to pose a challenge in the months ahead. Soaring crude oil prices are also expected to put pressure on prices. RBI governor Shaktikanta Das had last month said that there was no need for surprise or alarm over the 6% retail inflation number.

Separate data showed inflation, as measured by the Wholesale Price Index, rose an annual 13.1% in February from 13% in January on the back of higher prices of manufactured products, crude and natural gas and primary non-food articles.

Inflationary pressures around the world have soared due to the impact of the war in Ukraine as value chains have been disrupted. From crude oil to metals to fertilisers, prices have surged and are expected to rule higher depending on the extent of the war. “The next step would be from the RBI. Ideally a revision in the forecast of inflation as well as stance would be expected in the April policy,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist, Bank of Baroda.

An HDFC Bank note said, “We do not expect the RBI to change policy rate at its April meeting. It is likely to look through inflation prints and sway towards supporting growth. ”

RIL to buy assets of Lithium Werks

Reliance Industries has agreed to buy the assets of Netherlands-based Lithium Werks for $61 million (Rs 466 crore), marking its fifth M&A in the new energy and new mobility ecosystem.

The target company makes cobalt-free, lithium iron phosphate batteries which are used in electric vehicles, medical and energy storage applications. RIL, which will route the M&A through Reliance New Energy, will acquire the entire patent portfolio of Lithium Werks, its manufacturing facility in China, key business contracts and existing employees.

Reliance New Energy has previously acquired Ambri, REC Solar, Sterling & Wilson Solar and Faradion. The combination of Lithium Werks and Faradion, a player in sodiumion cell chemistry, will strengthen Reliance’s technology portfolio and help it to establish an end-to-end battery ecosystem in its transition to a fossilfree future.

RIL, which built its fortunes on fossil fuels, is racing to replace sales of road fuels like diesel and gasoline with greener options as it seeks to achieve net carbon zero target by 2035. LFP is fast gaining as one of the leading cell chemistries due to its cobalt and nickel free batteries, low cost and longer life compared to NMC (lithium manganese cobalt oxide) batteries.

“Along with Faradion, Lithium Werks will enable us to accelerate our vision of establishing India at the core of developments in global battery chemistries and help us provide a high-performance supply chain to the large and growing Indian EV and energy storage markets,” said RIL chemistries and help us provide a high-performance supply chain to the large and growing Indian EV and energy storage markets,” said RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani.


India Regrets Accidental Firing of Missile into Pakistan

India has said that a technical malfunction resulted in a missile being fired into Pakistan on Wednesday evening and a high-level court of inquiry has been ordered into the incident, which is being taken very seriously by the government. India said the incident was “deeply regrettable” and expressed relief that there had been no loss of life.

An official statement on the incident came a day after the Pakistani government lodged a strong protest over the violation of its airspace by a supersonic, flying object it said originated in Sirsa in Haryana and fell to the ground near Mian Chunni city, 124 kilometres across the border.

“In the course of a routine maintenance, a technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile. The government of India has taken a serious view and ordered a high-level court of enquiry,” the statement read.

While there has been no official word by India on the type of missile that landed across the border, reports on the trajectory and flight characteristics by the Pakistani military indicate that it could have been a BrahMos missile deployed on a regular training mission. The missile was not armed with an explosive warhead, leading to minimal damage on the ground when it impacted near civilian property. 

Budget for Pune Infrastructure

State finance minister Ajit Pawar announced an outlay of Rs1,500 crore in the state budget for acquiring 1,900 hectares of land for the proposed ring road project.

Rajesh Patil, the chief engineer of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation said, “The Pune ring road project is the need of the hour because it will be segregating the city and the highway traffic. It will help in reducing vehicular pollution significantly and avoid what Delhi had to face in terms of vehicular pollution as the work of planning/ constructing the ring road was delayed there. ”

The 173.7 km-long Pune ring road will be an eight-lane express highway with a designed vehicle speed of 120 km per hour.

Ajit Pawar, also the deputy chief minister, had earlier said in a meeting in the city that the state government would focus on this project and expedite its land acquisition process.

Patil said joint measurements of 56 villages out of a total of 83 had been completed. “The joint measurement has been completed of 973 hectares of the total 1,900 hectares,” he said.

“The state government has been reviewing the project’s status fortnightly and is keen on ensuring that its actual work starts at an early date,” he added.

The total project cost of the proposed ring road has been pegged at Rs.26,000 crores. MSRDC will execute it.

State finance minister Ajit Pawar in his budget speech said detailed project reports for new Metro routes in the city were being readied.

He mentioned about the Metro routes from Swargate to Katraj, Pimpri to Nigdi, Vanaz to Chandni Chowk, Ramwadi to Wagholi, Swargate to Hadapsar, Hadapsar to Kharadi and Khadakwasla to Swargate in the speech.

An official of MahaMetro said the DPR work for the 5.4 km Swargate-Katraj underground Metro stretch was at an advanced stage. The 4.4 km Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation to Nigdi Metro stretch would have elevated tracks. MahaMetro general manager Hemant Sonawane said the techno feasibility work for the remaining stretches was being carried out. 

A sprawling medicity offering all kinds of treatments at one place would come up in the district, state finance minister Ajit Pawar said on Friday.

The proposed Indrayani Medicity would be spread over 300 acres and have hospitals, medical research centres, pharmaceutical manufacturing units, wellness and physiotherapy clinics.

January 2022: Industrial growth sluggish at 1.3%

The country’s industrial output growth improved marginally in January but remained muted due to sluggish manufacturing & electricity sectors and contraction in the crucial capital goods and consumer durables segments.

The index of industrial production rose an annual 1. 3% in January, from an upwardly revised 0.7% in December. The sector had contracted by 0.6% in January 2020-21.

Output growth in the April to January period of the current fiscal year was at 13.7% compared with a contraction of 12% in the same year-earlier period.

The manufacturing sector grew by 1.1% in January compared with a contraction of 0.9%. The capital goods sector, which is seen as a key gauge of investment activity, contracted by 1.4% during the month compared with a 9% decline in January 2021. The consumer durables sector fell by 3.3% compared with a contraction of 0.1% during the year earlier month.

“Two things can be concluded. First the pent-up demand seen in the festival months has dried up and Omicron cannot be the factor as manufacturing was not touched by the restrictions. Second, investment is still down as companies are working with surplus capacity and do not find the need to invest in capital. However, the fall in auto production can be directed more due to supply constraints than demand,” said Madan Sabnavis chief economist at Bank of Baroda.

India’s forex kitty 5th highest globally

India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $394 million to $631.9 billion in the week ended March 4, according to data released by the RBI. India currently has the fifth largest holdings of international reserves in the world, RBI deputy governor Michael Patra said on Friday.

The increase in the reserves position comes at a time when the rupee is facing volatility on account of the war in Europe. In the previous week ended February 25, the reserves had declined by $1.4 billion to $631.5 billion. It touched a lifetime high of $642.4 billion in the week ended September 3, 2021. Only China, Japan, Switzerland and Russia have a higher level of reserves compared to India. Data on Russian reserves have not been updated since the ongoing conflict. India had last year overtaken Russia to rank fourth. A large chunk of Russian reserves have been frozen by US.

“India’s international assets cover three-fourths of the country’s external liabilities, including debt, equity and all other forms of contractual obligations. In addition, there are second lines of defence in the form of forward assets and swap lines,” said Patra. He was speaking at an event organised by the Indian Merchants’ Chamber.

According to Patra, the greatest strength of India’s external sector is the buffer provided by the holdings of forex reserves. “The level has risen from 16% of GDP at end-March 2013 to the current 20. 5%. The import cover provided by the reserves on a prospective basis has doubled,” said Patra.


Punjab: End of an Era

It was a public meeting in Bathinda, just about 40 kilometres from Lambi, the family borough of the Badals. In the run-up to the 2012 assembly election, Congress veteran Captain Amarinder Singh had threatened to make the Badals pay for their “corruption” and throw them in jail if voted to power.

Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal took the stage and challenged his bete-noire to arrest him. “You know I am a simpleton so I will survive my time in prison. But what about Maharaja sahab? It takes two people to make him wear his tang pyjama (fitting pants),” he said, mocking the Patiala royal.

Badal Senior regaled the crowd with anecdotes on how he was used to drinking water from the handpump but the maharaja needed his fine wine.

Since the reorganisation of states on linguistic lines and formation of Punjab, the politics of the border state has been a see-saw battle between the Badal family’s Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress. The electorate has given both sides a fair chance, alternating between the two sides, barring in 2012 when it preferred the incumbent SAD government over faction-ridden Congress.

Just like J Jayalalitha and K Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu, Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, Devi Lal and Bhajan Lal in Haryana, the personalised rivalry between Badal Senior and Captain Amarinder has dominated Punjab politics since 1990s.

The two regional satraps have tried to politically and financially destroy the other using court cases, defamation suits and vigilance raids. Singh had been inducted in Congress by his Doon School friend Rajiv Gandhi. However, he resigned as party’s MP in 1984 after Operation Blue Star and joined SAD. In 1992, he was denied a ticket by Badal senior, which is considered the genesis of the political rivalry spanning decades. Captain Amarinder Singh floated his own party SAD (Panthic), which suffered a humiliating defeat in the 1997 assembly election. He then merged his party with the Congress.

20 women HC judges’ appointment delayed: CJI

On International Day of Women Judges, CJI N V Ramana complained about chronic delay in judges’ appointment to constitutional courts and gave it an occasion-specific spin by saying that the Centre is sitting over recommendations for appointing 20 women as high court judges.

Confessing that his approach has been moulded by strong influences of his mother, wife and two daughters, he said, “We have marched to a stage where women are in a position to compete with men in every walk of life. All that they need is the right opportunity to showcase their skills. . . We are still far away from ensuring at least 50% representation of women in our judiciary. The legal profession still remains male dominated, with severe under-representation of women.”

Referring to efforts fructifying in appointment of three women as Supreme Court judges during his tenure as CJI, Justice Ramana said, “For the high courts, we (the SC Collegium) have recommended 192 candidates so far. Out of these, 37, that is 19%, were women. This is certainly an improvement over the percentage of incumbent women judges in high courts which stands at 11.8%. Unfortunately, so far, only 17 of the 37 women recommended to high courts were appointed. ”

Maharashtra: State economy shrugs off Covid blues

After a year of pandemic-induced restrictions which caused a -7. 6% contraction in the economic growth, the state’s economy has bounced back and is expected to grow by a steep 12.1% in 2021-22. This is the projection in the state’s economic survey which was tabled in the state legislature on Thursday.

The state’s growth rate is expected to be the highest in over a decade and surpass that of the Indian economy which is set to grow by 8.9% in 2021-22. The state’s per capita income, which had slid to Rs 1,93,121 in 2020, is also expected to rise to Rs 2,25,073 in 2021-22.

The state’s economic revival in 2021-22 is expected to be driven by the industrial and services sectors, which are pegged to see robust growth.

While the agricultural sector had performed well in the pandemic, its growth rate is slated to decline in 2021-22 due to the impact of unseasonal rains and natural calamities that have wrecked crops. Growth is set to slide from 17.9% in 2020-21 to only 4.4% in 2021-22.

The economic survey has forecast a 11.9% growth rate for the industrial sector for 2021-22 compared to -10% in 2020-21. Within this, the construction sector is set to grow by 17.4% as compared to -11% in 2020-21.

The manufacturing sector is set to grow by 9.5% as compared to -13.3% in 2020-21.

The survey has forecast the services sector will grow 13.5% in 2021-22 from -9% in the previous financial year. Within this, services related to trade, hotels and communication are set to grow at 17.9%, from -16.8% in 2020-21. The financial and professional services sector is set to grow by 13.4% compared to -6.7% in 2020-21.

In terms of state finances, the survey shows an increase in revenue receipts from Rs 2.9 lakh crore in 2020-21 to Rs 3.7 lakh crore in 2021-22 as the state improved tax collection after the worst of the pandemic. Revenue deficit declined from Rs 46,178 crore to Rs 10,226 crore in the same period. Capital expenditure, which goes into building assets, rose from Rs 43,828 crore to 58,748 crore.

As much as 55.5% of the revenue expenditure in 2021-22, though, is expected to be on the payment of salaries, pension and interest payments, the survey showed. While salary payments are expected to amount to Rs 1.2 lakh crore, interest payments will be Rs 42,998 crore. The survey projects a debt of Rs 6.15 lakh crore for 2021-22 but says this is 19.2% of GSDP and within fiscal limits.

Maharashtra has the highest number of approved industrial projects in the country, with its 21,216 projects accounting for 18% of the total by November 2021, the survey showed. However, when it comes to investments generated, Maharashtra is behind Gujarat and Karnataka. Maharashtra received 10.9% of the total industrial investment generated by the projects as compared to Gujarat that received 14.8% and Karnataka that got 11.3%.

The survey showed although FDI inflows into Maharashtra were the highest since 2000, it fell behind Gujarat in 2020-21. While Maharashtra received Rs.1.2 lakh crore worth of FDI in 2020-21, Gujarat received Rs 1 6 lakh crore. Also, in April-September 2021-22, Maharashtra fell below Karnataka. WhileMaharashtra received FDI inflows worth Rs 48,633 crore, Karnataka received Rs 1 lakh crore.

The survey also showed the total area under irrigation in the state in 2020-21 was 41.6 lakh hectares. The number of projects up to June 30, 2021, is 3,777 and the irrigation potential created is 54.2 lakh ha

A mandate to push tough reforms

Armed with the firepower from the poll victory in four states, the BJP government is well poised to push through crucial reforms in the penultimate financial year of its second term at the Centre.

While privatisation and asset monetisation are among key priorities in the coming months to boost revenues to finance welfare schemes, four crucial votes in the GST Council — from UP, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa — will help it navigate a revamp of the indirect tax system five years after rollout.

With the compensation to make good the losses during the first five years due to end in June, states have little choice but to agree to raising rates and doing away with exemptions for certain goods and services, issues which are being deliberated by a group of ministers that will submit its report shortly.

As part of the formula, the government had assured 14% growth in revenue, and to compensate states through cess on several products, to cover any shortfall.

Raising resources is crucial in the coming months as taxes, both central excise and VAT, will decline during the current financial year. Besides, the Ukraine crisis has pushed up commodity prices, necessitating government intervention for edible oil, petrol and diesel.

“The results of the state elections could provide a pivot for policy continuity and stability, a crucial harbinger of future growth prospects.

Coupled with this, it seems that the current geopolitical conflict could finally see light at the end of the tunnel with positive signs of thaws. . .It is now important to put on the policy pedal to accelerate the growth prospects further,” said Soumya Kanti Ghosh, group chief economic adviser at SBI.

BJP’s ‘Jeet Ka Chauka’

Hailing the BJP's “jeet ka chauka” (a boundary of wins) in distant states like Goa and Manipur, besides Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his victory speech at the party headquarters on Thursday, acknowledged the turnout of women voters in huge numbers as a key factor for the BJP’s performance and asserted that the Uttar Pradesh verdict has also determined the fate of 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

“After 2019 Lok Sabha polls, some gyanis (intellectuals) said that there was nothing special about it as it had been decided in 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls. I wish that these gyanis would once again show the courage to say publicly that the 2022 polls results have determined the fate of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls,” the PM said, reiterating that the results were a reflection of the country’s mood for the next 25 years.

Modi said that the country’s women have continuously reposed faith in BJP, as it is for the first time they have got the confidence that the government cares about their requirements. “Women's power has relentlessly supported the BJP. Results have shown that the places when women voted more than men, the BJP has won with bumper margins,” the Prime Minister said.

Besides lauding the higher participation of women voters, Modi also spoke about the role played by youth and first-time voters, even as he came down hard on opposition parties for making accusations against investigative agencies for targeting the corrupt, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to the ongoing action against Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik.

“People expect us to punish the corrupt and take strict action. Should I fulfil this expectation or not? But when independent institutions act against the corrupt, these people and their eco-system seek to attack these institutions. . . They do not have trust even in the judiciary,” the PM said.

Modi said UP opted for the development-oriented politics but there were pundits who still tried to develop a narrative that the state was divided on caste and communal lines.

“In UP, one of the reasons for our victory is that people have faced the brunt of this type of politics for years,” PM Modi said.

Amidst continued chants of “Modi-Modi”, the Prime Minister attributed the BJP’s success to the party workers, saying that they had promised him that Holi for them will commence on March 10 with BJP’s victory, and that they had lived up to the promise.

Modi said that vote share in states like Goa, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh had increased despite these having being incumbent governments and history has been written in Uttarakhand, where a government has been repeated for the first time.

Despite the loss in Punjab, Modi praised party cadres of Punjab. “In coming years, the BJP will emerge as a strong political force,” the PM said.

Without naming any outfit, the Prime Minister said that Punjab is a border state and it has to be saved from the politics of separatism. “For this, the BJP will continue to perform its duty in the state,” the PM said.

Referring to the victory in Uttar Pradesh, Modi said the state has given several Prime Ministers but this was the first example of a CM (Yogi Adityanath) being re-elected after a full term of five years and added, “In UP, after 37 years, a party has returned to power. ”

Saying that the elections took place at a time when the world was grappling with the biggest pandemic in 100 years and war has further increased the tension, Modi stated: “The entire supply chain has been destroyed. For two years, there has been a very adverse impact and the war has added to it. Coal, gas, fertiliser prices have increased globally at an unprecedented pace. Due to the war, inflation is rising. In the global context, when we look at the budget, it gives confidence that the country is moving on the path of self-reliance. ”

The Prime Minister lashed out at the opposition parties, saying that certain people are hell bent on denigrating the country’s politics and they have been misleading the people of the country.

“In Ukraine, when thousands of Indian students were stuck. . . these people sought to tie up Operation Ganga in regionalism. Every scheme, every work is given regional, caste and communal colour. This is a big concern for me,” Modi said, and once again expressed his concern about nepotism in politics, asserting that the trend will be discarded fully by the people one day.

Home minister Amit Shah, BJP chief J P Nadda, defence minister Rajnath Singh and road transport minister Gadkari felicitate PM Modi during the celebrations at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday


Kashmiris come together to protest blast in Srinagar

For the first time in over three decades, Kashmiris from all walks of life came together on Monday evening to protest the grenade attack in Srinagar’s bustling Amira Kadal-Hari Singh High Street market last week that claimed the lives of two civilians and injured 33 others. The candlelight protest, which continued for more than an hour, was one-of-a-kind in the Kashmir Valley, given the perpetual threat of terror attacks. Scores of citizens from various sections of society held a candlelight march at Lal Chowk on Monday evening and later staged a sit-in protest on the pavement near Ghanta Ghar (clocktower) in solidarity with the victims of the terror strike. The demonstrators raised slogans against terrorism and were seen holding placards that read “Akhar Kab Tak” (Till When Must We Endure) while chants of “Save Youth, Save Kashmir” rang in the air. Some carrying the Tricolour said they sought exemplary punishment for the culprits.

India to finally resume international flights from March 27

India will finally allow scheduled international flights to resume from March 27—two years after they were suspended following the Covid outbreak.

While expensive ‘air bubble’ arrangements ensured connectivity during this period, regular flight resumption was awaited for two reasons—more connectivity and choices, leading to lower fares as well. The Ukraine conflict will, however, cast its shadow on these expectations.

Top travel industry officials say regular flight fares will be much lower than exorbitant bubble charges, but they are unlikely to be close to their pre-pandemic levels as crude is now trading above $130-mark and rupee has weakened below 77-mark to the US dollar. Jet fuel prices globally are at a 14-year high.

Also, some foreign airlines are not overflying Russian airspace due to which they have to take longer routes. Some have dropped unviable routes like United suspending Delhi-San Francisco and Mumbai-Newark.

Air bubble pacts with 37 countries, including major destinations for desi travellers and diaspora like North America, UK, UAE and Germany, kept India connected with the world during Covid through expensive options with strict restrictions. Resumption of regular flights will mean people can again freely
choose the most affordable connection, like a one-stop via nearby hubs abroad as they used to do pre-Covid. The Gulf accounted for over a third of all travel to and from India due to high transit traffic on big airlines there. Or, they can opt for nonstops that charge more for the convenience they offer. “After deliberation with stakeholders and keeping in view a decline in Covid cases, we have decided to resume international travel from March 27 (start of summer schedule). Air Bubble arrangements will also be revoked thereafter,” aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia tweeted Tuesday. India suspended regular international flights on March 23, 2020. The plan to resume on December 25, 2021 was shelved due to Omicron.

Both Indian and foreign airlines have begun preparations to add flights. Lufthansa Group currently has 22 weekly flights on Swiss and LH between Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich, and Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. It will raise the number of weekly flights to 28 next month; 33 in May when Chennai will be
back on the network; 39 in June and 42 by October, said an official.


Delhi: Key Stretches Are Set For Makeover

The Public Works Department has planned elaborate horticulture measures for streetscaping sample roads in the city. These model stretches will have exotic plants and species like Erythrina indica (Indian coral tree), Washingtonia filifera(California palm) and Terminalia mantaly. The project for each road section has three aspects: horticulture work,civil work and engineering. To give road users an exquisite view, special cone and ball shaped Carmona shrubs will be used on segments in Lodhi Road. Others will get flowering plants under the streetscaping plan. On KN Katju Marg, plants like Murraya exotica, Strelitzia reginae (Bird of paradise) and Chorisia speciosa will be planted to beautify the road. All plants will be maintained by the contractor. Action on the instructions of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to transform some of the roads in the capital into those existing in Europe in terms of quality and appearance, PWD has identified nine sample stretches of roads. Keeping in mind each area’s different topography, the roads will have a different look while promoting pedestrian movement. For each of the stretches, special consultants have been hired by the public construction agency to come up with project estimates and road redesigning plans. On Ring Road, the 800-metre stretch between the Bhairon Marg T junction and Shantivan, which is being developed at the cost of more than Rs 12 crore, will be lined
with Cassia fistula, commonly known as golden shower trees for their yellow flowers, along with plants like Song of India. Each of the model stretches will have a set of three kiosks, tactile paver blocks and granite stone cobble flooring. For the comfort of the pedestrians, machine cut Red Agra stone benches will be placed at regular intervals along the roads.

Dustbins and movable water telling machines with a storage capacity between 250 and 300litres will also be placed on the segments. At these water units, normal and chilled water will be available. The road segments being redeveloped will also take green measures like use of rainwater. PWD has made specific mention of rainwater harvesting units being set up on the model stretches to collect and recharge the groundwater. Delhi government has plans to redesign 540 km of road length in the city and upgrade them to standards prevailing in Europe.

The agency has a budget of ₹11,000 crore to accomplish this ambitious task. However, for now PWD is just tackling pilot work on sample stretches. These will end up facilities such as bicycle lanes, green plantations, selfie points, parking lots and public art incorporated into the redesigning of the roads