Udaipur Horror: Prominent Muslim Bodies Condemn ‘Barbaric’ Killing

A day after the brutal killing of a tailor in Udaipur, many prominent Muslim bodies condemned the ‘barbaric act’.

Even as states such as Uttar Pardesh remained on high alert, the Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal have called for a two-day protest against ‘Islamic terrorism’ in all states. Many cities have sounded alert after the killing.

In a statement, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid in New Delhi, said that the “heartbreaking, heinous murder committed in Udaipur has shaken the humanity”. “The inhumane incident of the murder of a man named Kanhaiya Lal by two persons named Riaz and Ghous and that too in the name of the Holy Prophet, is not only an act of cowardice but an act against Islam. ” Calling Islam a religion of peace and tranquillity, he said the life of the Prophet has numerous examples of compassion, tolerance, generosity and humanitarianism. “Had the persons who committed this barbaric act studied the life and character of the Holy Prophet and had they been well-versed with the spirit of Quran and Shariah, they would not have committed the heinous crime,” he said.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board said, “Taking law into your own hands is highly condemnable, regrettable and un-Islamic. ” Hazrat Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, general secretary of AIMPLB, said it was a grave crime to defame and slander any religious personality. “The derogatory words spoken by former BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, against Prophet Muhammad are very painful for the Muslim community. The inaction of the government against this crime is nothing but rubbing salts on our wounds. But in spite of this, nobody can be allowed to take the law into their hands. Declaring someone a criminal and then murdering them is a highly condemnable act. ”

“Neither the law nor the Islamic Sharia allows it,” the body said. Another prominent body Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind said such an act cannot be justified in any way and is against the religion of Islam.

100+ new unicorns within 4 years: Hurun

India will have 122 new unicorns (startups valued over $1 billion) in 2-4 years in 25 cities, according to ASK Private Wealth Hurun India Future Unicorn Index 2022.

India currently has about 100 unicorns, the exact number depending on whether one includes companies like Zoho and Zerodha, both of which are doing exceedingly well but have not raised external capital and hence have not gone through a valuation process.

Hurun Research said India’s future unicorns are currently worth $49 billion, an increase of 36% compared to last year. It said 17 gazelles and 7 cheetahs from last year’s index hit unicorn valuation this year. Gazelle is a term Hurun uses for startups most likely to become unicorns in the next two years, while cheetahs are those that could become unicorns in the next four years.

The cumulative valuation of gazelles featured in the index increased by more than 54% year-on-year to $31 billion. Combined, the 51 gazelles in the index have received $10 billion in funding. Logistics tech startup Shiprocket leads the gazelle pack. Hurun said online furniture store Pepperfry, a cheetah, might skip the gazelle stage and become a unicorn in some months.

Rajesh Saluja, CEO of ASK Wealth Advisors said, “India has emerged as the third-largest ecosystem for startups after US and China and saw a record 44 startups turning into unicorns in 2021. ”

Anas Rahman Junaid, MD and chief researcher in Hurun India, said, “In just one year, the number of unicorns has increased by 65%, the number of gazelles has increased by 59% to 51, and the number of cheetahs has increased by 31% to 71. Probably, the pandemic has accelerated the disruption of traditional businesses and fostered the emergence of startups. The ecosystem is gradually attaining the requisite maturity and resilience. ”

There are some global economic concerns, he said. Some Indian startups, he noted, are implementing layoffs and cost-cutting measures, fuelling speculation of an ecosystem downturn.

Maharashtra: Aurangabad and Osmanabad renamed in last MVA meeting

In its last cabinet meeting, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress cleared long-pending proposals to rename Aurangabad city as Sambhaji Nagar and Osmanabad city as Dharashiv. It also cleared the proposal to name the upcoming Navi Mumbai international airport after late farmer leader D B Patil.

The renaming, moved by the embattled Shiv Sena on Wednesday, came as a surprise as Congress and NCP have been against the move. Senior officials said the changes would have to be approved by the Centre to become official. When the cabinet meet was held, the Supreme Court was yet to allow the floor test, and officials said Sena’s decision to take these up despite the well-known opposition of Congress and NCP was perhaps a last-ditch effort to show it is committed to the cause of Hindutva and fulfilling its promises.

Congress ministers on Wednesday raised the demand of renaming Pune city as Jijaunagar, after Shivaji’s mother, and naming the Sewree-Nhava Sheva transharbour link after former CM, Barrister A R Antulay. It also backed D B Patil’s name for the Navi Mumbai airport. No decision was taken on the first two proposals. State planning agency Cidco had earlier proposed to name the airport after late Balasaheb Thackeray, which was opposed by locals leaders and villagers. In 1988, when Shiv Sena expanded beyond Mumbai, Thane and won the local body elections in Aurangabad, Bal Thackeray had announced that it would be renamed Sambhaji Nagar. “It is a historic day for us. CM Uddhav Thackeray has shown the power of Hindutva. Why should a city in Maharashtra be named after Aurangzeb who tortured Hindus?” said a former Sena MP from Aurangabad.

However, sitting AIMIM MP Imitiaz Jaleel criticised the decision. “When they realised their government is in danger, that is when they were reminded of Sambhaji Maharaj. What are they trying to prove by changing the name of the city, they cannot erase history with this. If he cared for the people of Aurangabad, he should have found a solution to the water crisis the city is facing. This is petty politics which does not bring any development,” said Jaleel, without naming Thackeray. The so-called secular Congress-NCP leaders should be boycotted, he added.

Apart from these proposals, the state also cleared a proposal to allot land to provide flats to residents of the government colony in Bandra. Also, the cabinet cleared the proposal to reconstitute the development boards of Vidarbha, Marathwada and rest of Maharashtra.

Shiv Sena CM Manohar Joshi had issued a notification seeking public suggestions and objections on changing Aurangabad’s name in the 90s. A Congress corporator challenged it in Bombay HC. The case went to the SC, which ordered status quo in 1996. The notification was withdrawn by the Congress-NCP government in 1999. When the MVA government was formed in 2019, Congress leaders asserted they would oppose any renaming proposal as it was not part of the Common Minimum Programme. Sena retorted Congress will make BJP happy by opposing it.

Congress said the CMP was formed for development work. On Wednesday, however, Congress did not oppose the proposal.

Maharashtra: Shinde’s revolt, steered by BJP, took MVA down

The seismic revolt within the Shiv Sena which pulled down the MVA government had more to do with longstanding resentments within the party than issues of governance. While BJP had been relentlessly working to topple the government, here it was helped by a coup which had been building independently within the Sena.

Indeed, this was acknowledged by chief minister Thackeray at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening. “He said I have been betrayed by my own people,” said NCP leader and water resources minister Jayant Patil.

That rebel leader Eknath Shinde’s resentment had been building for a long time was no secret. The issue he raised in public was that the Shiv Sena’s Hindutva agenda was being scuttled by its alliance with the Congress and NCP. However, the other MLAs who joined him were more candid. They found Uddhav Thackeray too inaccessible and felt that the NCP, which controlled the finance department, was trying to scuttle the Sena by denying funds to its MLAs. They also pointed fingers at Thackeray’s reliance on a coterie of partymen who were entrusted with decision making and wielded more power than the Sena’s mass leaders like Shinde. This was the same grouse that had been raised by leaders including Narayan Rane and Raj Thackeray when they left the party almost two decades ago. Clearly, little has changed in Thackeray’s leadership style since then.

However, it was the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis who managed to steer the rebellion towards an endgame for the MVA. The MLC polls, which were held a day before the revolt broke out, exposed the cross-voting within the alliance and Fadnavis warned of worse to come. “It is discontent within the MVA that has come out,” he had warned. Shinde and his group of rebel MLAs left for Surat within hours of the MLC polls results.

The revolt, which began with Shinde and a group of 20 Sena MLAs, ended up hijacking the Sena’s legislature party. The Sena blamed BJP for the conspiracy, pointing out that the ED and IT cases lodged against its leaders had made them vulnerable. However, the Shinde faction ended up capturing the Sena’s legislature party, with 39 of the party’s 55 MLAs.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar has been the trouble-shooter for the alliance and had played a key role in forming the coalition government. However, so deep was the rift within the Shiv Sena that it was too late to intervene. Even as it backed Thackeray, NCP maintained the revolt was an internal matter of the Shiv Sena.

“The chief minister managed to keep the coalition going but failed to address the resentment within his own party,” said political analyst Abhay Deshpande. Unlike the Sena-BJP government which had been formed when Bal Thackeray was the party chief, this time there was a Thackeray in the chair. “This made him even more inaccessible. In Bal Thackeray’s times, people were able to complain to him about the Shiv Sena’s own chief minister and he ended up changing him,” said Deshpande.


PM meets UAE Prez Sheikh Mohamed in Abu Dhabi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a brief stopover at Abu Dhabi on his way back from Germany and called on UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for what was the first in-person meeting between the two leaders since August 2019 when Modi last visited the UAE capital.

While the main purpose of the visit was to convey his personal condolences on the passing away of former president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the visit is significant as it came close on the heels of some serious resentment in the Arab world over the derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammad passed by BJP functionaries. India has stressed before the UAE and others that these comments in no way reflect the views of the Indian government.

The PM conveyed his heartfelt condolences to Al Nahyan as well as his family members and congratulated him on his election as the third president of the UAE and on becoming the ruler of Abu Dhabi, the government said in a statement. Modi thanked the UAE president for taking “great care” of the 3. 5-million Indian community in the UAE, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic and invited him to visit India at an early date. The two leaders expressed satisfaction that “India and the UAE continue to forge closer partnership” and are building close and friendly relations and “historical people-to-people connect”.

“Both leaders reviewed various aspects of India-UAE Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which they have carefully nurtured over the past few years. During their virtual summit on February 18, both countries signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which has since entered into force on May 1. CEPA is expected to further boost trade and investment between both countries. Bilateral trade in FY 2021-22 was about $72 billion. UAE is India’s third largest trade partner and second largest export destination. UAE FDI in India has continuously increased over the past few years and currently stands at over $12 billion,” said the government in its statement.

Pallonji Mistry Passes Away at 93

Reclusive billionaire Pallonji Mistry of the 150-yearold Shapoorji Pallonji Group has passed away on Tuesday in Mumbai.

He was 93 and is survived by his wife Patsy and children Laila Rustom Jehangir, Aloo Noel Tata, Shapoor Mistry and Cyrus Mistry. He had spent much of his time in recent years in Ireland as an Irish citizen. Pallonji Mistry was hugely appreciated for his simplicity and unpretentiousness, say SP Group old timers. "He was also a man of his word and no matter what would abide by it," said a group executive.

In 1947, at the age of 18 years, he joined the family business, Shapoorji Pallonji & Co, under the watchful eyes of his father, Shapoorji Pallonji Mistry. He learned the ropes of the business quickly and witnessed many ups and downs as the business culture of India evolved. He took over the reins of the company in 1975 as its chairman, when his father passed away.

Pallonji Mistry was an astute businessman and quick to spot new opportunities that India’s industrialisation and growing economy presented. In early 2012, he stepped down as chairman of Shapoorji Pallonji & Co, the operating and holding company of the SP Group, and handed over the chairmanship to elder son Shapoor Mistry.

Towards the end of the 1960s, Pallonji Mistry had the incredible foresight, confidence and determination to venture abroad. Construction in the Middle East, fuelled by petrodollars, was booming. Under Pallonji’s leadership, the company bid for, and won, a tender to build the palace of sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said in Muscat.

Founded in 1865, The SP Group operates in engineering and construction, infrastructure, real estate, water, energy and financial services in 50 countries. Pallonji Mistry has been credited with building a very credible brand image for the group beyond Indian shores.

The SP Group under him has constructed some of Mumbai’s landmark buildings, including the State Bank of India and the Reserve Bank of India buildings. The company grew substantially in the later decades of the last century. He acquired strategic stakes in companies and brought them within the fold of the SP Group. These include Sterling & Wilson, United Motors, Forbes Gokak and Afcons Infrastructure.

Pallonji Mistry’s holding of 18.4% made him the largest shareholder in Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group, outside the Tata Trusts.

The media shy Pallonji Mistry was called the ‘Phantom of the Bombay House’ in the group headquarters. The SP Group in 2016 had a bitter fallout with the Tata Group, over the ouster of Cyrus Mistry as the chairman of Tata Sons.

In 2016, Pallonji Mistry was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the country's third highest civilian award, for his contribution towards industry.

Junagadh nawab’s 19th-century tomb restored to former glory

For years, this architectural marvel in Junagadh —mausoleums of Nawab Mahabat Khan II and his Wazir Bahauddin Hussain Bhar — built in 1892 and 1896 respectively — was covered in dust, its windows shattered and several parts corroded.

But these iconic tombs have been restored to their original glory, with the same method that was used to build them 150 years ago. Kuldeep Paghdar, assistant engineer of the tourism department, said they used the traditional ‘otho dongo’ method in which, according to him, no cement is used, only natural material like limestone is used. In ancient times, mixing the binding material was done in a chakki, which was adopted in the current restoration process too.

Started two years ago, the restoration project is now on the verge of completion, at the cost of Rs 7 crore.

Civic bodies to decide penalty for plastic use

You may face a penalty for using certain identified single-use plastic items anywhere in the country from July 1 and the punitive actions, which include fines or jail terms, will be decided by the local authorities concerned. The Centre has sensitised states and Union Territories to enforce the ban on those items which not only pollute air, water and soil but also clog drains and damage the overall natural ecosystem.

Environment minister Bhupender Yadav, however, on Tuesday said the idea was not to harass the common people and the ban would be enforced with everyone’s “cooperation” with the focus on creating awareness and promoting use of alternatives.

The minister said the government had given enough time to the industry and people to prepare for the ban that would prohibit “manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use” of 19 identified single-use plastic items, which have low utility and high littering potential, all across the country with effect from July 1.

The list of banned SUP items includes earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration, plastic plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packaging films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron and stirrers.

Asked about punitive action, a senior official said, “Violation of the ban will be considered a violation of Environment Protection Act which is a criminal offence. ” He noted there are instances of fines of Rs 500 or Rs 1000 for repeat offenders, depending on byelaws.

Maharashtra signs ₹60Kcr power MOU with Adani Group

The Maharashtra state energy department signed a MoU for investments worth Rs 60,000 crore with Adani Group on Tuesday, which will bring 11,000 MW additional power to Maharashtra in five years. This will also generate 30,000 new jobs, said energy minister Nitin Raut.

“The state is already facing a power deficit, especially during summer,” a senior Mantralaya official said, adding that during last summer, the peak demand had shot over 28,000 MW in a few days and the state had to purchase additional power from the exchange for as high as Rs 11-12 per unit. The normal power purchase is for Rs 3.50 to Rs 4.50 per unit. Green energy is now available for rates lower than this and procuring additional electricity of 11,000 MW will ensure surplus power in near future, the official said.

This MoU will benefit 2.8 crore consumers, including lakhs of farmers.


Gujarat: Government proposes 1,630km coastal corridor

With the objective of giving an impetus to tourism and economic activities in the state, the Gujarat government has proposed a new 1,630km long coastal corridor from Umargam in south Gujarat to Narayan Sarovar in Kutch. To be completed under the PM Gati Shakti scheme, the government proposes to set aside a stipulated area along the highway for various industrial and allied activities.

The state government has already earmarked the first 300 kilometres of the project covering the districts of Valsad, Navsari, Surat and Bharuch in south Gujarat. A key source close to the development confirmed that the state government has proposed a new coastal corridor highway under the PM Gati Shakti project. “This will probably be the longest coastal highway in the country. Out of the total length of 1,630km, a stretch of 140km will be developed as greenfield coastal area while the remaining 1,490km will be brownfield road,” sources said.

Providing more information, sources said that the corridor will be minimum ten metres wide with three driving lanes, while at present, the existing roads are less than five metres wide. “A fixed area along the coastal corridor will be declared as a buffer area and will be reserved for future development. This will truly be a coastal highway corridor,” sources said. Sources said that the total estimated project cost will be around Rs 2,400 crore and is expected to be completed in three years. “For the first phase, 300km has been earmarked in four districts of south Gujarat for development of the project. The objective is boost coastal tourism, transport and other economic activities,” said informed sources.

Under the PM Gati Shakti project, a detailed plan has been prepared for first 300km stretch. Sources said that the entire corridor is being planned keeping in mind the CRZ (coastal regulation zone) restrictions, forest regulations and the like. “We have followed all guidelines to avoid delays in clearances. All highway points have been designed to be 500 metres from the HTL (high tide level) so that people can enjoy the beauty of the sea coast. The government aims to link all tourism attractions and industrial hubs to the coastal corridor. The tourism and other departments will also prepare their respective roadmaps to optimize the outcomes of this ambitious 1,630km long project,” said sources.

Somewhere in Hyderabad....


Seven years after Telangana government first kicked off start-up incubator T-Hub in 2015, one of the world’s largest innovation hubs, T-Hub 2.0 is all set to open its doors to start-ups in what is being touted as the world’s largest innovation campus in Happening Hyderabad’s IT hub of Madhapur on Tuesday.

The 18acre innovation campus, which will be unveiled on Tuesday evening by Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, will also house T-Works — India’s largest prototyping centre, and the IMAGE (Innovation in multimedia, animation, gaming & entertainment) Tower project. T-Hub, in its new avatar called T-Hub Phase-II, will be housed in an iconic 10-storeyed T-shaped building made of concrete, steel and glass spread over 3.75 lakh sq ft that has been designed by a South Korean architectural firm to resemble a spaceship.

“The new T-Hub building has been built at a cost of ₹400 crore with state government funds,” Telangana IT & industries principal secretary Jayesh Ranjan said on Monday. Ranjan said, T-Hub Phase II, which is five times bigger than the first phase of T-Hub, will have the capacity to house about 4,000 start-ups as well as other key elements of the innovation ecosystem, including venture capital funds,
trade offices of about 45 countries, centres of excellence and collaborative spaces. It will also house an Atal Innovation Mission Centre, which has been sanctioned by the Department of Science & Technology, a centre of the Startup India Mission, CII’s Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Centre of Excellence in Cybersecurity, among others.

Once the new T-Hub campus becomes operational from July 1, the 200-odd startups that are currently housed in T-Hub Phase I in IIIT-H campus, will move into the new building, he said. So far, T-Hub has helped incubate and support about 1,100 startups that have gone on to raise about ₹10,000 crore by way of funding, Ranjan added.

T-Hub CEO M Srinivas Rao said one entire floor in the new building will be dedicated to venture
capital funds, which have been a key missing piece of Hyderabad’s start-up ecosystem. “Telangana is the youngest state, but it has the most mature innovation ecosystem in the country. Hyderabad is all about pearl chains to blockchain and mangoverse to metaverse. From student entrepreneurs to soonicorns and unicorns, investors and trade commissioner offices, we want to have every stakeholder in this new T-Hub building,” said M Pannerselvam, vice-president and chief innovation officer, T-Hub.

The opening day will see the founders and top honchos of about 25 of India’s most celebrated
unicorns such as Bigbasket, Swiggy, Darwinbox, Urban Company, Meesho, Xpressbees, Dream11,
UpGrad, Zomato, Delhivery, RedBus, among others, as well as top guns of the funding ecosystem.

Mann-led AAP govt’s first Punjab budget

The Bhagwant Mann-led AAP government tabled its first budget on Monday for a “new Punjab”, headlining it with the prepoll sop of 300 free units of electricity to each household from July 1, no new taxes and increased allocation to health and education.

Another of AAP’s big promises — Rs 1,000 a month to every woman — didn’t make it to the Rs 1.5-lakh crore budget that FM Harpal Singh Cheema termed “a gamechanger”. Reading out the budget provisions from a tablet, Cheema said the free-electricity scheme would cost the exchequer Rs 1,800 crore, which the government was “prepared to finance by cutting wasteful expenditure and enhancing revenue”. The increased outlay for key sectors include a 16.2% hike in the amount earmarked for school and higher education, 48% more for technical education, 57% extra for medical education and an additional 23.8% for health care. Promising 16 new medical colleges over the next five years, Cheema announced Rs 200 crore for “Schools of Eminence” .


Centre renews hunt for Nizam treasure —world’s biggest gold coin

After an almost four-decade futile search for the missing “12kg gold coin”, touted as the world’s biggest coin ever minted, the Centre has renewed its hunt for the priceless artefact. It was last seen in the possession of the titular Nizam VIII of Hyderabad, Mukarram Jah, who purportedly tried to auction the coin at a Swiss bank, but India’s premier investigation agency, the CBI, failed to locate the coin that was passed on to Jah through his grandfather and last Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan.

The last Nizam had inherited the coin minted by emperor Jahangir. Eminent historian, Professor Salma Ahmed Farooqui of HK Sherwani Centre for Deccan Studies, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, who conducted research on the history and inheritance of the world’s biggest gold coin, said it is priceless and Hyderabad’s pride. Now, renewed efforts to locate the coin have begun after 35 years. “In 1987, when Indian officials in Europe alerted the central government about the world-famous auctioneer Habsburg Feldman SA auctioning the 11,935.8gm gold coin in Geneva at Hotel Moga on November 9, through Paris-based Indosuez Bank’s Geneva branch, the CBI came into the picture. Investigations started and much information was unearthed,” Professor Salma said. She said that CBI officials donned the role of historians, building up on the history of the gigantic coin. Many CBI officials, who were part of the investigations are not in office anymore, so the search remained inconclusive. Former joint director of CBI, Shantonu Sen, in his book said that CBI officials found that Jahangir had minted two such coins; while one was presented to Yadgar Ali, ambassador of the Shah of Iran, the other had become the property of the Nizams of Hyderabad. Salma said that the CBI special investigation unit XI headed by a superintendent rank officer in 1987 registered an FIR under the Antique and Art Treasures Act, 1972.

PM Modi : India impatient to fulfil dreams

In his address to the Indian diaspora in Munich, Germany, PM Narendra Modi underscored the country’s achievements in a short span of time and said India is impatient to fulfil its dreams. “India is now ready and impatient. India is impatient for progress, for development. India is also impatient for the fulfilment of its dreams,” he said.

Modi arrived in Munich on Sunday to attend the G7 summit where he will hold meetings with G7 and partner countries and will hold discussions on several issues, including environment, energy and counter-terrorism. The PM interacted with the Indian community at Audi Dome, Munich. “The way crores of Indians have achieved big goals together is unprecedented. Today, every village in India is open defecation-free,” he said. “Electricity has reached every village and almost every village is connected by road. Today, over 99% people in India have a gas connection for clean cooking,” he added.

Modi also highlighted India’s growth story and mentioned various initiatives undertaken by the government to further achieve the country’s development agenda. He also lauded the contribution of the diaspora in promoting India’s success story and acting as its brand ambassadors.

“Today, we can proudly say India is the mother of democracy. . . The diversity of culture, food, clothes, music makes our democracy vibrant. India has shown that democracy can deliver and has delivered,” he said. “There was a time when people said India will take 10-15 years to vaccinate its population against Covid. Today, 90% of adults have taken both doses and 95% of adults have taken at least one dose. ” PM Modi also said 21st century India is at the forefront of Industry 4.0 and asserted that the country is shining at every front whether it is in the field of information technology or digital technology. He said India has the third-largest startup ecosystem and it is the second-largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world.


Teledensity Snapshot

With remote working moving back to offices and schools and colleges going from laptops and mobile devices to classrooms, the need for additional mobile connections declined. As people reduced additional connections month after month since July, teledensity in Gujarat dropped from 100.17% in July 2021 to 95.01% in April 2021. According to the latest telecom subscription report from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the number of subscribers fell from 7.01 crore in July 2021 to 6.7 crore in April 2022.

Industry players say the decline is because of the consistent reduction in number of mobile connections needed. “Since the pandemic began, most people bought and kept multiple connections for consistent internet connectivity because of remote working and online education. Subscriber numbers thus rose sharply as did teledensity. When educational institutes and offices reopened, additional connections began to be surrendered,” said a telecom industry source. This phenomenon has been seen in all the states over these months. According to the latest data from TRAI, teledensity was 72.9% in rural Gujarat and 119.53% in urban areas as of December 31, 2021.

In July, Gujarat was among eight Indian states with teledensities above 100%. Even though the state continues to be among the ten states in terms of highest teledensity, its share of subscribers went down. Telecom operators also attribute the reduction to tariff revisions and network problems. “Recently, tariff revision was announced by one telco, and most of them have raised tariffs. This impelled customers to opt out of additional connections. Some connections which were not cancelled were automatically disconnected after being unused for more than three months,” said a source.

Bangladesh opens its longest bridge, bringing India closer

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the long-awaited Padma Bridge, the country’s biggest development project since its birth in 1971, that is expected to give the nation’s development index a big boost and connect India directly to Dhaka, through road,rail and ports. The nearly 6.2km road rail four-lane bridge over the mighty Padma river is expected to directly impact the lives of at least 30 million people of the country, according to the government’s estimates.

The inauguration of the Padma Bridge carries a lot of significance as the structure was built entirely with domestic financing, defying speculations by several financial analysts if Bangladesh could mobilise the fund depending on domestic resources. In 2012, the World Bank cancelled a $1.2 billion loan to build Bangladesh’s longest bridge citing corruption, which the government said was never proven.

Hasina expressed deep gratitude to the people involved with the construction of the bridge. “I have no complaints against anyone, but I reckon those who opposed the construction plan and called it a‘pipe dream’, lack self-confidence. I hope this bridge will boost their confidence,” she said. “This bridge is not just bricks, cement, iron, and concrete. This bridge is our pride, a symbol of our capacity, our strength and our dignity. ”

Extending greetings on the achievement, the Indian embassy said, “The completion of this much-awaited project testifies to the courageous decision and visionary leadership of PM Sheikh Hasina. This success proves the decision of the PM and we firmly believe in it, which we have unwaveringly supported when Bangladesh decided to take this project forward. ”

The distance of Dhaka from the Indian border at Benapole by road will now be reduced by 70km and travel time by 4.30 hours. It will also reduce the Kolkata-Dhaka train journey time by half.

The Padma Bridge, connecting India, Nepal, China, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand, will be a major link of the Trans Asian Highway Network. Of the TAHN’s 16 road routes, three run through Bangladesh. The rail link will connect another two routes.


Parameswaran Iyer replaces Kant as Niti CEO

Parameswaran Iyer, who played a key role in the rollout of the Swachh Bharat mission, has been appointed as the new CEO of the government’s policy think tank Niti Aayog. He will succeed Amitabh Kant, whose six-year tenure ends on June 30.

The appointments committee of the Union Cabinet approved the appointment of Iyer, a retired 1981-batch Indian Administrative Service officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre. His appointment as Niti CEO is for two years or until further orders and on the same terms and conditions as were applicable to Kant.

Kant — a Kerala-cadre officer and the man behind the ‘God’s Own Country’ campaign to promote tourism — took many initiatives to establish the fledgling Aayog as a test bed for the Narendra Modi government’s ideas and initiatives.

Iyer, who served as the secretary of the department of drinking water and sanitation, led from the front and in February 2017, he got inside a twin-pit toilet to empty it at a village in Telangana to help people overcome the taboo of cleaning toilets. PM Modi had termed his act as “remarkable” during one of his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programmes.

In July 2020, Iyer resigned as the drinking water and sanitation secretary, citing personal reasons.

Iyer had earlier taken voluntary retirement from the IAS in 2009 but made a lateral entry in 2016 to head the drinking water and sanitation department to help push the Swachh Bharat mission in rural areas. He has more than 25 years of experience in the water and sanitation areas, and is credited with implementing the Swajal programme.

A professor of management practice at IIM-Ahmedabad, he has written two widely acclaimed books — ‘The Swachh Bharat Revolution: Four pillars of India’s Behavioural Transformation’ and ‘Method in the Madness: Insights from my career as an insider-outsider-insider’.

Last year in June, the Centre had extended the tenure of Kant by one year till June 30, 2022. Kant has been the CEO of the Aayog since 2016. In 2019, his tenure was extended by two years by the Centre.

During his stint as CEO, Kant led several important initiatives, including the aspirational districts programme aimed at improving the state of the country’s most backward districts, which has won praise from global institutions such as the UNDP, and established Niti Aayog as the government’s leading think tank.

He also played a key role in several flagship programmes, such as Make in India, Startup India, the National Asset monetisation plan, which surpassed the target set for the first year, and the production-linked incentive scheme for 14 crucial sectors.

Zomato will acquire instant grocery co Blinkit

Food delivery giant Zomato’s board has approved the acquisition of instant grocery startup Blinkit, formerly known as Grofers, for Rs 4,447 crore in an all stock deal. The deal value, however, is nearly 40% lower than Blinkit’s $1-billion valuation last year, when it turned unicorn by raising $120 million from Zomato and Tiger Global. The transaction is expected to close by August.

“We are proposing to acquire Blinkit, a quick commerce business in India and where we first invested in August last year. This foray into the next big category is timely as our existing food business is steadily growing towards profitability,” said Deepinder Goyal, founder & CEO at Zomato.

Blinkit, founded by Albinder Dhindsa, was a rival to online grocery player BigBasket in the next-day delivery category before pivoting its business model in January to enter the 10-minute delivery space, currently dominated by brands such as Swiggy Instamart, Reliance-backed Dunzo, Zepto and Tata-owned BigBasket.

Zomato, which first held talks to acquire the startup two years ago, aims to keep the food and grocery delivery businesses separate with Dhindsa leading Blinkit. “Yes, we plan to keep the Blinkit app and brand separate from Zomato. As we mentioned earlier, we believe that ‘super brands’ will work better in India than ‘super apps’. Post the deal closure, we are going to start experimenting with various ideas that we have and see which all bear fruit, including having the Blinkit tab on the Zomato app,” said Goyal in a letter to shareholders.

After ditching two previous efforts, Blinkit is Zomato’s third foray into the online grocery space. The food delivery major aims to spend $400 million in cash in quick commerce in two years.

“Quick commerce will help us increase the customer wallet share spent on our platform and also drive higher frequency and engagement from our customers,” said Goyal.

Zomato has extended Rs 1,125 crore as debt to Blinkit of which Rs 575 crore is still available as cash. While the debt is being acquired by Zomato as part of the transaction, it means that Zomato will have an additional Rs 1,875 crore according to the plan for further potential investments in quick commerce.

2002 Riots: SC hands clean chit to Narendra Modi

Upholding the trial court and high court’s order to give clean chit to the then CM Narendra Modi in 2002 Gujarat riots, the Supreme Court said that there was no evidence to prove the allegations that the Godhra incident and the subsequent violence was pre-planned.

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar rejected the submission regarding build-up of communal mobilisations and stockpiling of weapons, arms and ammunitions even before the Godhra episode and said that it is devoid of merit as revealed by extensive and thorough investigation by the SIT. It said that the concerned officials were vigilant, “but the situation as evolved post Godhra incident, was unparalleled and had overrun the State administration. ”

“Suffice it to observe that there is no title of material, much less tangible material to support the plea of the appellant that the Godhra incident unfolded on February 27, 2002, and the events which followed, was a preplanned event owing to the criminal conspiracy hatched at the highest level in the State,” the bench said.

“. . . Inaction in the response or even in a given case of non-responsive administration, can be no basis to infer hatching of criminal conspiracy by the authorities of the state government in absence of any clear evidence about the meeting of minds; and that, failure to respond to the messages sent by SIB (State Intelligence Bureau) was a concerted and deliberate act of omission or commission on the part of the State and other functionaries, as alleged . . . . The magistrate, as well as, the high court committed no error whatsoever in accepting the final report presented by the SIT,” the Supreme Court said. Referring to the failure of the state administration in controlling the violence the bench said inaction or failure of some officials of one section of the state administration cannot be the basis to infer a preplanned criminal conspiracy or to term it as a state-sponsored crime (violence) against the minority community.

“The SIT had noted that inaction and negligence of the erring officials has been taken note of at the appropriate level including by initiating departmental action against them. Such inaction or negligence cannot pass the muster of hatching of a criminal conspiracy, for which the degree of participation in the planning of commission of an offence of this magnitude must come to the fore in some way,” the bench said.


President in the making: Murmu finds more support

Poised for her entry to the Rashtrapati Bhawan as 15th president of the country with what appears to be winning numbers on her side, NDA nominee Droupadi Murmu reached the national capital where she called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh and BJP president J P Nadda and expressed her gratitude to the top BJP brass for her nomination.

Murmu will be accompanied by PM Modi, other senior leaders of the NDA and parties supporting her while filing nomination papers on Friday around noon.

On her arrival at Delhi airport, she was received by Union ministers Arjun Munda, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Arjun Ram Meghwal and Delhi MPs of the BJP.

4000-year-old copper weapons found under a field in UP’s Mainpuri

They had big weapons, used large swords—some close to 4 feet long—and arms that had sharp, sophisticated shapes, like starfish. Our ancestors, nearly 4,000 years ago, fought brutally and hard, a chance discovery under the ground in Uttar Pradesh’s Mainpuri seems to suggest.

Archaeologists have called the findings “exciting”.

Earlier this month in Mainpuri’s Ganeshpur village, a farmer was levelling his two bigha field when he found a large number of copper swords and harpoons beneath the soil. He took all of them home as he thought these were precious objects made of gold or silver. However, some locals informed cops and the Archaeological Survey of India swung into action.

Among what was found were various swords, some that archaeologists are calling “antenna swords and harpoons'”, with a hook at the bottom.


IGI: India’s first airport to function entirely on hydro and solar power

Indira Gandhi International Airport, which is India’s busiest airport, has switched to renewable sources for its energy needs. It has been using only hydro and solar power for all its energy needs since June 1 this year.

In 2015, Cochin International Airport in Kerala had become the first airport in the country to run entirely on solar energy. According to DIAL, around 6% of the Delhi airport’s electricity requirement is met from the onsite solar power plants. The airport has adopted renewable energy use from the hydropower plant for its demand of the remaining 94%, thus ending its dependency on non-renewable power.

“This move will help the Delhi airport in the reduction of indirect energy emissions of up to 200,000 tonnes of CO2 every year. DIAL has signed a longterm power purchase agreement with a Himachal Pradesh-based hydropower producing company for the supply of hydroelectricity for the airport until 2036,” said DIAL. “DIAL has been working relentlessly towards environmental sustainability and has set its target to make the Delhi airport a net zero carbon emission airport by 2030, way ahead of the global target of 2050,” said DIAL CEO Videh Kumar Jaipuriar.

He added, “The Delhi airport has been using solar power for a long time and it is now fulfilling its major electricity needs from a hydropower plant. Running the airport completely on renewable sources of energy is indeed a major milestone achieved by DIAL. ”

As part of environmental sustainability initiatives, DIAL had introduced TaxiBots at IGI Airport in 2019, which helped in reducing the consumption of fuel by an aircraft during taxiing, and correspondingly reduction of carbon emissions. For the green transportation programme, DIAL has initiated the adoption of electric vehicles. It plans to add 62 electric vehicles in the next three to four months.

Gujarat: 22 lakh trees to be planted in Gandhinagar

Back in 2019, a Forest Survey of India report had warned that the state capital Gandhinagar had lost its moderate dense tree cover between 2017 and 2019. The report had explained that the moderate dense forest area in Gandhinagar, with 40-70% canopy density, had become an open forest area with just 10-40% tree density.

All fingers pointed to the development taking place within the city and on its outskirts. The state forest department is now planning to reverse this process, intending to plant 21 lakh trees within and around Gandhinagar city, through its ‘Hariyalu Gandhinagar’ mission.

In 2003, a social forestry department survey found that Gandhinagar had 416 trees for every 100 people. This was more than any other city in the country. In Ahmedabad, there were just 11 trees for every 100 people.

“The situation changed between 2005 and 2020, when drastic development works required large numbers of trees to be cut within Gandhinagar city limits. The Hariyalu Gandhinagar scheme is to make up for this loss,” says a senior forest department official.

Under the mission, some 428 hectares of land under GEER Foundation will see plantation efforts, areas around Punit Van, in the municipal corporation area and within the GIDC estate will see plantation on 75 hectares.

Block plantation in various sectors of the city and a few surrounding areas will see plantation on 748 hectares. “We have relied mostly on native varieties of trees under the mission,” said the senior forest official. The official added that apart from 22 lakh trees, the forest department will plant 4.6 lakh shrubs inside and around the city. The native trees that will be planted will include the neem, gulmohar, jacaranda, Cassia fistula or garmalo, and a few fruit trees

India’s CAD Narrows Sequentially in Q4

India’s current account deficit, or the gap between imports and exports, narrowed sequentially to 1.5% of the gross domestic product in the March quarter, while the full-year metric wasn’t as wide as initially estimated because of higher net services exports and private transfer receipts.

Software exports surged and outflow from dividend and interest payouts fell in the March quarter, allowing the deficit to narrow sequentially in the March quarter.

Full-year CAD at 1.2% of GDP was better than the market expectations of up to 1.5%, especially in the aftermath of a pronounced hardening in oil prices toward the latter half of FY22.

India’s CAD decreased to $13.4 billion (1.5% of GDP) in Q4, from $22.2 billion (2.6% of GDP) in Q3, preliminary estimates published Wednesday by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) showed. But it was higher than $8.1 billion (1% of GDP) in Q4 FY21.

The major component of ‘Invisibles’ reflecting services and investment income flows did better – both sequentially and on a year-on-year basis. Net services receipts increased on the back of a rise in net earnings from computer and business services, RBI said.

Private transfer receipts, mainly reflecting remittances by Indians employed overseas, increased to $23.7 billion, up 13.4% from a year ago.

Net outgo from the primary income account, largely reflecting net income payments on foreign investments, decreased both sequentially and on a y-o-y basis.

For the entire fiscal year, the current account balance recorded a deficit of 1.2% of GDP in FY22 as against a surplus of 0. 9% in FY21 as the trade deficit widened to $189.5 billion from $102.2 billion a year ago. But most market analysts had forecast higher CAD for the fiscal as crude and commodity prices surged during the year.

Net invisible receipts were higher in FY22 due to an increase in net exports of services and net private transfer receipts, even though net income outgo was higher than a year ago.

Overall balance of payments surplus in FY22 almost halved to $47.5 billion from $87.3 billion a year ago.


LeadSquared : 18th unicorn this year

Sales automation SaaS platform LeadSquared has raised $153 million from WestBridge Capital in a series-C funding round it said on Tuesday making it India’s 103rd unicorn and this year’s 18th unicorn.

Despite the ongoing funding winter for private enterprises, June has recorded three companies making it to the unicorn club including Purplle, PhysicsWallah and LeadSquared. It was founded by Nilesh Patel, Prashant Singh and Sudhakar Gorti in 2011.


16-year-old tigress ST-3 dies at Sarsika

ST-3, which was relocated from Ranthambore Tiger Reserve to repopulate Sariska Tiger Reserve, was found dead on Monday.

The carcass of the 16-year-old tigress was recovered from Bhagani in the core area. A senior official said, “The tigress died due to old age. After constituting a medical board, the autopsy was conducted, following which it was cremated. ” Experts recalled the tigress was approximately two-and-a-half years old when it was brought to STR in 2009. Dinesh Verma Durani, founder and general secretary of Sariska Tiger Foundation said, “The tigress was daughter of legendry tigress Machali. ST-3 was among three cubs in the fourth litter of Machali. Though, the tigress was brought to repopulate STR, it never gave birth to any cub at the reserve. ”

The tigress became famous across the country in 2016 when a wildlife enthusiast captured its pictures carrying a leopard carcass in its mouth in Sariska’s Kala Kuan area. Recalling an incident, a forest staff said ST-3 was climbing a tree to catch its prey. When the leopard fell from the tree, the big cat jumped on it and killed it within a few minutes.

After the death of the tigress, there are now 24 tigers in the reserve, including seven cubs. A month ago, another 16-year old male ST-6 died due to old age . A forest staff said the forest department should review the tiger reintroduction plan before it is too late. “Out of all the big cats, male tiger ST-13 is missing for approximately the past 3 months."

Reforms not pleasant now, will help later: PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that many decisions and reforms may seem unfair and unpleasant initially, but over time, the country will start to benefit from them. “The path of reforms will eventually take us to new milestones,” he said while addressing a rally in Bengaluru, referring to reforms in the IT sector, especially startups. The PM’s remarks come in the wake of widespread protests against Agnipath, Centre’s recently announced scheme for recruitment in the armed forces. However, the Prime Minister made no direct reference to Agnipath. The PM said that of late, there has been a lot of discussion about India’s startup ecosystem, of which Bengaluru is a major hub. “The path for startups and innovation isn’t easy, and to ensure the country moved in this direction wasn’t smooth in the past eight years. Several decisions and reforms could appear unpleasant in the short run, but their benefits will be experienced with time.

It is the path of reforms that leads us to newer goals. From space to defence, we’ve opened up all sectors that for decades were under government control,” he added. He had made similar remarks a day earlier too, as he hit out at the opposition after inaugurating the Pragati Maidan Integrated Transit Corridor in Delhi. “It is the country’s misfortune that many good things brought with good intentions get trapped in politics,” he said, without mentioning the Agnipath scheme. Noting that Bengaluru has shown what youth can achieve if the government gives facilities and interferes less in the life of citizens, Modi said Bengaluru is the city of dreams for the youth, and entrepreneurship. Innovation and right use of public and private sectors are the main reasons behind it.


Bengaluru: PM to launch suburban rail project today

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday set a 40-month deadline for the BJP’s ‘double engine’ governments (state and Centre) to decongest Bengaluru’s traffic by taking up key infrastructure projects.

After inaugurating and laying foundation stones for various projects worth Rs 27,000 crore here, PM Modi said both Centre and state government are working on every possible means to improve connectivity by undertaking Metro, rail, underpass, flyover and road projects to make Bengaluru free of traffic jams. He said these projects would help in realising ease of living and ease of doing business.

Centre tells states to cut debt

The Centre has urged chief secretaries of all states to keep a check on increasing debt burden and fiscal deficit as their performance will have a huge bearing on the country’s economy. Sources said the government has flagged that some of the states are as big as India’s neighbours such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which are facing economic crisis, and they need to take quick steps to address the growing concerns on their financial health.

The finance secretary made a detailed presentation before the first convention of chief secretaries held last week at Dharamsala. It showed which states have higher debt burden and the record of capital expenditure of each state. “Some of the chief secretaries assured the finance ministry officials that they would make detailed presentations before their respective state cabinet to apprise them about the issues,” said a source. Another official added the Centre has flagged concerns over how the situation may go out of hand if immediate steps are not taken.

In April, top bureaucrats at the Centre had flagged their concerns at a meeting chaired by PM Narendra Modi over populist schemes and freebies announced by political parties during elections. They had warned that some of these states could be heading the way of cash-starved Sri Lanka or Greece if the trend remained unchecked.

The PM had directed the top officials to analyse the long-term fiscal implications of the policy measures and share them with states. Officials said that the central government officials also highlighted the need to adopt best  practices of other states for crop diversification.

Sources said states have also been urged to focus on the quality of their teachers. The states have been asked to fill vacancies of teachers, train them and equip them with the latest technologies. “Based on these discussions, final recommendations will be made to the government, which will then be placed before the Governing Council of Niti Aayog for deliberation,” said an official.

Mumbai to get 1st electric AC double decker

Mumbai’s first electric AC double decker is expected to be launched in the first week of August to coincide with the BEST Foundation Day on August 7. With the daily ridership now of over 31 lakh and set to increase by around 1-2 lakh, the BEST will require more buses to meet the increasing demand from commuters. The double deckers will provide a carrying capacity of 78-90 people per bus. With 900 e-double decker contracts already approved recently, the first lot of 225 twin-deck buses are expected by the year end. When contacted, BEST general manager Lokesh Chandra said that the prototype design of the double decker has been finalised and now the body building will be done over the chassis by the contractor. “The bus will have two staircases instead of the single one in the existing double decker. This will ensure smooth movement of passengers while boarding or alighting from the bus,” he said. He further said that the buses will be noiseless, electric and airconditioned, which will not just augment the carrying capacity but will also provide for comfortable rides. At present, there are 48 non-AC double deckers ferrying passengers on 16 routes across Mumbai. It has a good ridership on busy routes from CSMT to Nariman Point, Colaba to Worli, Kurla to Santacruz, etc. One of the most popular routes is the one from CSMT to Backbay depot. Once the twin-deck fleet size increases, more double deckers will be deployed on CSMT-Nariman Point, Churchgate-Colaba/ Cuffe Parade/ Nariman Point and on routes along Western and Eastern Express highways, LBS Marg, S V Road and P D’mello Road, he said. While the first lot of 225 double-deckers are expected this year, the next batch of 225 buses will arrive by March 2023 and the remaining 450 by June 2023. This is a part of BEST’s initiative to save the  city’s iconic double deckers which witnessed a sharp decline by 60% in the past two years -from 120 buses in 2019 to 48 in 2021 as most buses had completed their life span.


5G to be rolled out by year-end: Telecom minister

Telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said 5G deployment will commence in 20-25 cities and towns by the year-end, and indicated that India, with its current data prices significantly lower than global average, will continue to set rate benchmarks as new services are rolled out. The 5G deployment will start from August-September, Vaishnaw said.

The minister said India is developing 4G and 5G stacks, and is set to bolster its position as a trusted source for the world, in digital networks. Speaking at ‘TV9 What India Thinks Today Global Summit’, Vaishnaw said that nations are keen to give preference to 4G and 5G products and technologies being developed by India.

To address the issue of unsolicited calls, an “important” regulation is also in the works, which will enable KYC identity name of a caller to be displayed, when someone calls, the minister informed.

On 5G services, he said: “I can say with confidence that 5G deployment will start in at least 20-25 cities and towns by year end. ” Asked about the pricing for 5G services, Vaishnaw observed that even today data rates in India are at about USD 2, against global average of USD 25. “We are already the lowest in the world, at least by a factor of 10X… 10X we are cheaper than the world, that same trend will be in other areas too,” he said. As India prepares to usher 5G services, it has also developed 4G and 5G technology stacks.

Outlining India’s resolve to match global strides in 4G and 5G, and to take technology lead in 6G, the minister said the world has taken note of the country’s progress, and shown serious interest in the indigenous technologies being developed. “The telecom network supporting mobile phones has to be a trusted network. India’s name is on the top of the list of trusted network providers. When India develops a technology, entire world is interested in it,” he said. 


J&K assembly polls possibly by this year-end: Rajnath Singh

In the first indication of a timeline for assembly polls in J&K since it was downgraded to a Union territory, defence minister Rajnath Singh said there is a possibility of holding the polls “by this yearend”.

Addressing a function here to celebrate the 200th year of the coronation of Maharaja Gulab Singh, the defence minister said the delimitation exercise has been completed following which the number of seats has gone up to 90 with Kashmir having 47 seats and Jammu 43. Rajnath Singh, who is on a two-day visit to the Union Territory, said, “By this year-end, there is a possibility of holding assembly elections in Jammu & Kashmir. ”

The indication of a timeline comes two days after the Election Commission initiated the re-vision of electoral rolls in the Union territory and prepare the draft rolls by August 31.

According to the officials, chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar and election commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey carried out a review and directed the Jammu &Kashmir chief electoral Officer to map the redrawn assembly constituencies.

During the revision exercise, citizens would be given opportunities to enrol, delete and change their particulars in the electoral rolls. Last month, the Central government issued a notification saying the orders of the Delimitation Commission which redrew electoral constituencies and provided six additional assembly seats to the Jammu division and one to Kashmir would come into effect from May 20. According to the orders of the Delimitation Commission, set up under the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019, the Union Territory will have 90 assembly constituencies — 43 in the Jammu division and 47 in Kashmir -— with nine of them being reserved for the Scheduled Tribes.

The erstwhile state had 87 seats —46 in Kashmir, 37 in Jammu and four in Ladakh. During its reorganisation, Ladakh was declared a separate union territory without a legislature.

Indira Gandhi International Airport: Best in India and South Asia

Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi has been adjudged the ‘best airport in India and South Asia’ in the 2022 Skytrax World Airport Awards. The airport has received the best airport accolade for the fourth consecutive year, said Delhi International Airport Ltd, the airport operator.

The airport has also improved its overall ranking, moving to the 37th place in 2022 from last year’s 45th position. It continues to be the only Indian airport to be in the league of the world’s top 50 airports. It has also been adjudged as the “cleanest airport in India and South Asia”.

Videh Jaipuriar, CEO-DIAL, said, “All the airport staff, stakeholders, and partners working at the airport have made Delhi Airport the best airport in India and South Asia with their constant resilience, focus, and customer centricity. This is a proud moment for all of us. Delhi Airport has always set a new benchmark in providing the best airport experience to all its passengers and will continue to do so. ” 

DIAL said the Skytrax World Airport Awards are the most prestigious accolades for the airport industry, voted by customers in the largest, annual global airport customer satisfaction survey. They are regarded as the quality benchmark for the world airport industry, assessing customer service and facilities across over 550 airports. 

Ahmedabad: Manipur-Godhavi set to get 200-acre Olympics village & training facilities

As part of the state government’s ambitious Rs 4,118 crore project to create sports facilities in and around Ahmedabad with an eye to hosting the 2036 Olympics, Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority has planned an Olympics village and training facilities on 200 acres of land at Manipur-Godhavi near Bopal.

Sources in AUDA said that as per earlier plans the government had planned a Games Village with apartments for sports persons in the periphery of Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium in Motera. However, as making changes in two TP schemes -TP 48 in Motera-Koteshwar and TP 21 in Sabarmati area -is taking time due to negotiations with plot owners, the authorities have decided to shift a major chunk of the planned games village to Manipur-Godhavi.

AUDA sources said that to obtain land without any additional cost, the authority has planned to collect deducted pockets of land as per the town planning norms from various TP schemes located in around 400 ha land in Manipur-Godhavi area.

This accumulated land will be around 200 acres on which the authority will build apartments,
gyms and training facilities for sportspersons. “We have stopped issuing development plans on this 400 ha land which includes TP scheme 429 and surrounding land to collect the necessary land parcels to set up these sports facilities,” an AUDA official said in terms of anonymity. The state government plans to sell these apartments to people after the Olympics are over and the estimated 12,500 guests from all around the world leave. In the games village, including the sports enclave, parking space has been planned to
accommodate 7,500 cars and 15,000 two-wheelers. A year ago, the state government had planned to set up a Special Purpose Vehicle for this 4,118 crore project. The SPV will be between the Sports Authority of India and the AUDA. Both these bodies will be the nodal authorities. As per earlier plans, around 3,000 apartments, with two to four bedrooms, were to be built for the athletes at the games village in Motera.
Sources said that most of these apartments are likely to be shifted in the 200 acre land being
accumulated at Manipur-Godhavi. The state government set up some apartments at Motera but
most will come up at the newly identified area.

Somewhere in Gujarat....


Centre, States Must Play as Team India: PM Modi

Each state must recognise its strength, set a target, and develop a roadmap to achieve it to help India to become a $5-trillion economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said. Addressing the first three-day national conference of chief secretaries that concluded on Friday in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, Modi said the Centre and states must work together as “team India” to make the country a global powerhouse with a $5-trillion economy by 2024-25.

He urged state governments to fill all vacancies across departments, an official statement said. “The prime minister said the states must identify such vacancies under each sector and fill them. ” He also called for strengthening of urban local bodies and innovative urban planning across states, saying urban areas will be key in future development of the country and employment generation.

PM Gati Shakti – a master plan for multi-modal connectivity across the country – should be appropriately implemented to attract investment in the country, he said. Modi also stressed the need for improving usage of technology in all government schemes and programmes, and for creating interoperability of data sets of the Centre and states.

All new ideas and actionable points must be taken forward, incubated and institutionalised, he said. The need of the hour is to perform, reform and transform, he said. Appreciating extensive sessions of the conference that started on June 15, the prime minister said the deliberations were useful in laying out a road- map for various sectors. Action points and fresh ideas discussed at the conference must be implemented without delay, he added. 

Emphasising on minimum government and maximum governance, Modi stressed the need to ensure greater ease of living in India. He also said decriminalisation of minor offences should be taken up in mission mode, the statement said. Modi said states must optimally utilise the GeM (government e-marketplace) portal for purchases made by their departments and local bodies, which would result in time and cost savings.

To achieve the goals of the National Education Policy, he said states must try to integrate Anganwadis with primary schools.

The prime minister also spoke on the usage of drones in the service industry, such as for the delivery of essential drugs or horticultural products especially in hilly areas, which would add more economic value to the farmers and service providers, the statement said. He appreciated the initiatives taken by the states to improve municipal finances and said states and union territories have shared unique experiences, and the ideas discussed at the conference must be incubated and institutionalised.

The prime minister recommended introduction of technology and innovative methods for increasing efficiency of tax collection and suggested that city and ward beautification competitions should be held by states.

Pune: MahaMetro to ready modified DPR for extension routes

The MahaMetro will ready a modified Detailed Project Report considering Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s DPR for extension of Metro line from Shivajinagar to Hadapsar-Lonikalbhor with spur line towards Saswad Road station. This was put forth in Pune Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority's meeting.

PMRDA’s DPR prepared by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation had proposed the extension of the elevated Metro line from the ongoing work of Hinjewadi to Shivajinagar Metro Line-3 further to Hadapsar-Lonikalbhor with Saswad Road and Racecourse-Swargate spur, which is proposed to be connected to MahaMetro’s lines of Khadakwasla to Swargate and SNDT to Warje as well, said officials with Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority.

According to the recommendation of the joint technical group of the PMRDA and MahaMetro, in the meeting held under the chairmanship of Pune divisional commissioner, Saurabh Rao it has been decided that the DPR be readied for Khadakwasla-Swargate-Race Course-Hadapsar-Lonikalbhor with spur line to Saswad Road station, with SNDT to Khadakwasla line connection be considered as a single project with an approximate length of 45km in total.

The meeting discussed the possibility of Kharadi to Hadapsar to be taken up by MahaMetro as a part of extension of the Wagholi line. While the DPR for PMRDA’s elevated Metro line readied by the DMRC is available for the elevated Metro from Shivajinagar to Hadapsar and Lonikalbhor, MahaMetro will have to ready a single DPR that will incorporate the PMRDA’s DPR of Shivajinagar-Hadapsar and the MahaMetro extensions.

Kerala embarks on big drive to push caravan tourism

Caravan tourism, the Kerala government’s pathbreaking initiative that aims to provide a novel experience to tourists and encourages active participation of local communities, has evoked an enthusiastic response. Following successful roadshows in Europe and the Middle East, and various partnership meets in four major metro cities in India, Kerala Tourism is aggressively promoting the project across the country. “The caravan policy marks a strategic shift to present the entire state before the global audience based on the concept of ‘exploring the unexplored’ round the year,” Kerala’s tourism minister P A Mohammed Riyas said, adding that the government has announced a comprehensive stakeholder-friendly policy to encourage this segment.

While caravans are specially-built vehicles for travel and leisure, caravan parks are designated areas to park the vehicles and facilitate the visitors to spend a night or a day or for an extended period to explore a destination. In its caravan policy announced in September last year, the Kerala government has ensured the concept is environment-friendly. For example, one of the norms set for vehicles being used as caravans is that they should comply with the BS-VI norms of emission.

While 10 caravans operated by six operators including the state-run Kerala Tourism Development Corporation have begun operations, as many as 500 caravans are waiting to hit the road soon. “The reason for a buoyant response is that, unlike in other states, instead of operating the caravans or caravan parks, the government is a facilitator and has created the right ecosystem for the project,” Kerala tourism director V R Krishna Teja said. 

Somewhere in Mumbai....

BEST announced that it had commenced work on creating green spaces on the rooftops of 350 bus stops across the island city and suburbs. This is being funded by the environment ministry, for which minister Aaditya Thackeray has taken the initiative to convert 6,000 bus stops with green spaces in eight months. After 350 stops, BEST will undertake 1,000  more stops on a public-private partnership model. A few stops near the racecourse have roofs with plants and flowers, such as Zebrina, Asparagus, Morning Glory and Jasmine, and other flowers which attract butterflies and other pollinating agents. Also, plants atop the ribbon grass will help purify air, officials said. 

Mawsynram: World’s wettest place, sees its rainiest day

Mawsynram, the wettest spot on earth, received 1003.6mm of rain in 24 hours, the highest single day downpour ever recorded at the station, while neighbouring Cherrapunjee logged its third highest 24-hour rainfall.

The amount of rain recorded at Mawsynram from 8.30am on Thursday to 8.30am Friday, is 16 times higher than the average weighted rainfall in India in June so far. In the 17 days of monsoon so far (June 1 to 17), India has received an average of 61.1mm of rain. Cherrapunjee, the second wettest place on earth, got 972mm, its third-highest single-day rainfall. Mawsynram and Cherrapunjee (locally known as Sohra) are in the southern fringes of Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district and overlook the plains of Bangladesh.

The typical shape of the catchment area, together with its orography (topographic relief of mountains), contributes to the enhancement of convergence of moisture coming from the Bay of Bengal, resulting in such extremely heavy rainfall in these two places.

The contributions from these two places have pushed the east and northeast regions to the top of the monsoon rainfall list. With a cumulative average rain- fall of 220.3 mm in the last 17 days, this is the only region getting excess rainfall. The rainfall deficit is 63% in the northwest region, 57% in central India and 24% in southern peninsula region. The SW monsoon hit the country in Kerala on May 29 and entered the northeastern region on June 2. According to the Guwahati regional weather forecasting centre, Cherrapunjee’s wettest day was recorded on June 16, 1995, when it received 1563.3mm of rainfall. As per the World Meteorological Organization, Cherrapunjee holds the world record for maximum two-day (48-hour) rainfall at any  station, with 2,493mm recorded on June 15-16m, 1995. Mawsynram’s previous highest 24-hour rainfall was 945.4mm on June 7, 1966. Based on the average annual rainfall it receives, Mawsynram (11,873mm) is known to be the wettest place in the world.

The flood situation in Assam turned critical on Friday with nine more people, including two kids, losing their lives, taking the toll in this year’s floods and landslides in the state to 55, a bulletin issued by Assam state disaster management authority said. The deaths were reported in Hojai, Nalbari, Bajali, Dhubri, Kamrup, Kokrajhar, and Sonitpur. Two people were reported missing in Hojai and Sonitpur. A total of 18.9 lakh people remained affected in the state, it said. 


Tamil Nadu: Government begins work to establish textile city near Ambattur

The handlooms and textiles department has commenced the process of identifying and acquiring a land parcel measuring between 50 acres and 100 acres in Chenna’s Ambattur area to establish a one-stop marketing facility encompassing the entire textile value chain. This textile city would come up along the Chennai Outer Ring Road to promote the sector.

The project, according to senior officials, would be implemented under public private partnership. The department held a couple of meetings with Chennai apparel association and other stakeholders regarding the project and received an overwhelming response. “At present, we are in the process of identifying suitable land along the outer ring road,” said a senior officer, seeking anonymity.

Handlooms and textiles minister R Gandhi said work on the textile city has begun. “We will soon implement the project to establish the textile park in Chennai,” he said. The department has allocated ₹1 crore for conducting feasibility study and preparation of DPR for the textile park. Once the department acquires suitable land, the department would prepare a master plan and invite investors to establish their facilities.

The project is aimed at creating marketing networks and networking infrastructure, both physical and virtual, by establishing robust IT and network initiatives and creation of large-scale marketplaces. “The upcoming textile city will have research and development facilities, wholesale-cum-export facilities, GST and customs tables to facilitate the investors for ease of doing business and enhance exports multifold. The upcoming facility will be superior in all ways than the existing textile valley in Karur, which has limited facilities,” the official added. At present, there is no proper marketing facility for the textile and clothing industry in the state, he said.

The department had a couple of informal meetings with Chennai Apparels Association and other  stakeholders and the response was overwhelming. “We will have formal meetings with the apparel and knitwear associations based in Chennai, Tirupur, Karur and other regions. As of now, we are receiving good response from them and they are keen on having such (one-stop marketing) facilities,” the official added.

After centuries, ‘dhwaja’ to be unfurled at Pavagadh temple

When the trustees of Pavagadh-based Mahakali temple announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unfurl a ‘dhwaja’ atop the shrine, many wondered why this took so many centuries to happen?

It was only after the trust put forward explanations that the matter turned clearer. “The ‘dhwaja’is unfurled on a mast on the ‘shikhar’ of the temple,” said trustee of the temple Ashok Pandya. However, the temple’s ‘shikhar’ was damaged when Pavagadh was conquered by Sultan Mohammed Begada in in 15th century, he said, adding that there was also a dargah over it making it unfit for unfurling a ‘dhwaja’. He further said that the dargah may have also come up around the same time. “It is called the Sadanshah Pir’s dargah. There are various stories, but I have no concrete information regarding it,” Pandya added. Ghanshyam Joshi, a retired college professor, who stays in Pavagadh and has keen interest in Champaner-Pavagadh history said that there were reasons to believe that the temple was damaged and the dargah came up after 1484, when Begada attacked Pavagadh.

Both Pandya and Joshi pointed out that the temple trust and the caretakers of the dargah had reached an understanding regarding the issue and the dargah was shifted to a location near the temple. “It is more visible now and more persons are visiting it,” said Joshi.

PM is scheduled to visit Pavagadh on Saturday morning. He will first visit the Bhairav temple before going to the Mahakali temple where he will perform prayers including worshipping the ‘dhwaja’ which will then be unfurled on the temple.

Modi is then scheduled to visit the Virasat Van developed by the forest department. State revenue minister Rajendra Trivedi called the event historic while addressing the media in Vadodara. He said that such an event will be held for the first time in 500 years.

Gujarat: Dahej gets ₹881cr desalination plant

Chief minister Bhupendra Patel inaugurated the 100 MLD (million litres per day) desalination plant at Dahej in Bharuch district, which was built by Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation  at a cost of Rs 881 crore.

The plant will purify salt water and make it usable by industry in the region. This plant for industrial use is the first of its kind and largest in the country, a state government statement said. Of the total four PCPIR (petroleum, chemicals and petrochemicals investment regions) in the country, Dahej PCPIR is the only functional one. Spread over 453 square kilometres, the region is growing fast, the release said.

M Thennarasan, vice chairman and managing director of GIDC, said at present 454 MLD of water is being sourced from the Narmada river and Narmada canal. About 200 MLD is currently being used by industrial units. “Due to the limited availability of water and salinity, especially from January to June, water scarcities are likely to affect production. The desalination plant has been built as an alternative source of water for industrial units to meet demand of the existing and upcoming units in the region,” he said.

Construction work was awarded to the joint venture company of Larsen & Toubro and Tecton. Total construction cost is Rs 881. 19 crore. A special purpose vehicle, Dahej Desal Foundation, has been constituted by GIDC and the beneficiary industrial units for operation and maintenance of the plant.