Human Development Index : Maharashtra

SC : Give fixed tenures to Bureaucrats

The Supreme Court has said bureaucrats should not act on verbal orders given by political bosses as it sought an end to frequent transfers and suggested a fixed tenure to insulate them from political interference.
Suggesting sweeping reforms in the functioning of bureaucracy, a bench headed by Justice K S Radhakrishnan said Parliament must enact a law to regulate postings, transfers and disciplinary action against bureaucrats.
Holding that much of the deterioration in bureaucracy is because of political interference, it said that civil servants should not act on verbal orders given by political executives and all actions must be taken by them on the basis of written communication.
The bench also comprising justice P C Ghose said giving a fixed minimum tenure to a civil servant will not only promote professionalism and efficiency, but also good governance.
It asked the Centre and all State governments along with Union Territories to issue directions within three months for providing fixed tenure to civil servants. The bench also said Civil Services Board be constituted at the Centre and State-levels.
The verdict, which is on the line of apex court's earlier order on police reforms for giving fixed tenure to senior police officers in Prakash Singh case, will go a long way in giving freedom and independence to the functioning of bureaucracy. The judgement comes close on the heels of controversies surrounding Ashok Khemka, IAS officer of Haryana cadre over DLF-Robert Vadra land deal, and Durga Sakhti Nagpal, UP cadre IAS officer, who was targeted by the state government for alleged misconduct.
The apex court passed the verdict on a PIL filed by 83 retired bureaucrats including former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian seeking its directions for insulating bureaucracy from political interference. The petitioners also include former Indian Ambassador to the US Abid Hussain, former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami, former Election Commissioner T S Krishna Murthy, former IPS officer Ved Prakash Marwah, and former CBI directors Joginder Singh and D R Kaarthikeyan.

29 years ago....

Statue of Unity

Speaking at the foundation-laying ceremony of the statue of India’s Iron Man on his 138th birth anniversary, Narendra Modi said, “I am thankful to the PM for calling Sardar a truly secular leader. His secularism did not stop him from rebuilding the Somnath temple.” At 182 metres, the ‘Statue of Unity’ will be the world’s tallest statue.
Modi asked Singh not to limit Patel’s identity to the narrow definition of a Congress leader. Calling Patel the tallest leader of India after Chanakya for uniting the country, Modi said that although the Statue of Unity was coming up in Gujarat, it was a matter of pride for the whole of India. Modi and Singh had faced off on October 29 during the inauguration of a Sardar Patel museum after the CM had obliquely attacked the Gandhi family. He had said that the country’s fortunes would have been entirely different had Sardar been India’s first PM. At Kevadia, Modi also asked Singh not to play politics over the Sardar Sarovar dam project and grant permission for raising its height. “We will do whatever he (the PM) says,” he said.
“I don’t want any credit. He can take it all, but please give the permissions. People of Gujarat and Rajasthan need water while Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra need power.” The dam’s height is 121.92 metres at present, with approvals needed to take it to its final height of 138.68 metres.

Bhubaneshwar & Imphal airports to go International

The Union cabinet has approved declaring Bhubaneswar and Imphal airports as international airports.
Declaration of these airports as international airports will offer improved connectivity, wider choice
of services at competitive cost to air travellers resulting in boosting international tourism and economic development of the region and the country.
The international airport status to Imphal airport holds significance because of Manipur’s proximity to neighbouring Myanmar. With India becoming more aggressive in its Look East policy and Myanmar opening up, Manipur could become a key regional hub for international flights to South East Asian countries.
Imphal Airport, which belongs to Airports Authority of India (AAI), is suitable for ‘C’ type (Airbus 320 or
321) of aircraft operations in all-weather conditions. It has facilities for night operations, 2,746 metre long runway, apron to park three A-320 and an ATR-72 at a time.
AAI had modified the terminal building, having an area of 6,592 sq m, to integrated terminal building.
It had put in navigational aids, 19 check-in-counters, custom counters, immigration and sufficient space for health services and animal and plant quarantine were being provided at the airport.

Biju Patnaik Airport at Bhubaneswar also belongs to AAI. It is suitable for operation of Code ‘D’ aircraft of type Boeing 767-400.

ATM density

India is an underpenetrated ATM market with only 98 ATMs for every 10 lakh of population. ATM density in China is 211; in the UK, it is 530; and in the USA, it is 1,390. White-label ATMs account for nearly 50% of ATMs in the US and 70% in Canada. Within India, Chandigarh has the highest ATM density with 400 machines for every 10 lakh people, while the density is 180 in Tamil Nadu, 141 in Maharashtra and 71 in West Bengal. Maharashtra, with 15,000 ATMs, has the highest number of ATMs; West Bengal ranks eighth with 6,500 ATMs.

INS Vikramaditya

INS Vikramaditya will set sail from Russian waters for India on November 30, fulfilling the Navy’s long-standing ambition of adding to its fleet of such vessels and extending the country’s maritime security capability. Defence Minister AK Antony will ‘accept’ the aircraft carrier on November 16 ahead of the sailing and it’s expected to reach India in January-February next year, officials said. The delay had become as a major irritant in ties between the two countries that have traditionally had close defence ties. Antony will attend the meeting of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IR-IGCMTC) held every year, alternately in the two nations, where future cooperation in defence issues is decided. He will discuss a number of deals including issues related to the ongoing Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft being developed by Russia jointly with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
The INS Vikramaditya will boost the Indian Navy’s ambition of projecting power in the Asia Pacific Region. It already has a carrier, the INS Viraat, which will make India the only country in Asia to have two such vessels. China launched its first aircraft carrier, Lioning, last year. Its hull was imported from Ukraine and refurbished in China. Beijing is reportedly building two more aircraft carriers but details aren’t available.

Sensex @ 21k

The Sensex rose to an all-time record marking a stock market turnaround that was as dramatic as its plunge in August, on the back of return of overseas investors, a stronger rupee and likely narrowing of current account deficit, all of which followed emergency measures aimed at shoring up the currency and the US Federal Reserve postponing a decision on ending its stimulus programme. The Sensex rose 0.5% to end at a new high of 21,033.97, up from its year’s low of 17,905 in August. Beaten-down stocks such as L&T, SAIL and Maruti Suzuki have outperformed glamorous rivals such as Hindustan Unilever, ITC and TCS in the past one month as foreign investors cherry-picked stocks trading at low valuations. The Nifty rose 0.5% to 6,251.70. Foreign investors, the biggest drivers of change in the Indian market, have bought Rs.13,991 crore of shares in October so far, taking their purchases in the Indian market in 2013 to Rs.85,837 crore.
Bharat Forge, Tata Communications, Dr Reddy’s Labs all hit 52-week highs while SBI, Sesa Sterlite and Axis Bank fell.
Some experts said the momentum is also being driven by investor confidence that BJP will do well in next year's general elections.

Indian stocks were battered by the storm that engulfed emerging markets in May after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hinted at cutting back the pace of bond buying. The rupee plunged and stocks were whipsawed by headwinds in the form of sliding economic growth and policy paralysis caused by the UPA government’s scandals and seeming inability to make policy changes work.
Stocks of capital goods, engineering and metal companies were hammered while consumer goods and information technology stocks rose as investors sought a safe haven. But Fed’s move to postpone a decision on winding up its bond purchases in September and measures announced by new Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan to stabilise the rupee soothed frayed nerves.
The resumption of buying by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) in September and October lifted stocks trading at cheap valuations, though poor earnings growth and subdued economic conditions have cast a question mark over the rally’s longevity. One stock fell for each that rose on the Sensex on Wednesday and some experts said the rally cannot be sustained.
The eventual withdrawal of its stimulus programme by Fed may not dent the rupee as measures have been put in place to help contain current account deficit, Rajan told analysts on Wednesday.
The companies comprising the Nifty index posted a 4.98% rise in net profit in 2012-13, the lowest in three years. This year’s numbers may be better but growth forecasts have been cut for the year and high interest costs may take a toll on earnings.
RBI raised repo rate by a quarter percentage point on Tuesday to rein in inflation and may do so again this year, economists said.
But the current stock market rally is more broadbased than the one in September, when the main beneficiaries were consumer goods and information technology stocks.

Pune Airport update

The Maharashtra state government has suggested a new location for the proposed Pune international airport to the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The site is located off Pune-Nashik highway and its technical inspections are underway.
Pune divisional commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh said, “The location of the airport has been tentatively decided. It is adjacent to the existing special economic zone (SEZ) of Bharat Forge and the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation. The state government will acquire some of this SEZ land and private land for the airport’s construction. A technical team has visited the site and another from the civil aviation ministry will soon inspect it.”
“We are waiting for the technical report of the civil aviation ministry, whose approval is needed for finalizing the location of the airport,” Deshmukh said.
A senior official said, “Earlier, the state government had suggested Chakan as the airport location, for which land admeasuring around 4,250 to 4,500 acres was required. But the local farmers opposed it as irrigated land was to be acquired for the project. So, the government has suggested a new location off Pune-Nashik highway. We want that the gaothan area of villages and irrigated agricultural land is excluded from acquisition so that there is less public opposition to the project.”
“The new location has 70% of the area of the original location and we will need around 20% more land for the project. The government is conducting negotiations with SEZ officials to get its land for the project. If it is successful in getting the SEZ land, it will require proportionately less private land to be acquired for the project,” he added.
“The AAI has appointed a private agency to prepare the technical feasibility report of this location. This agency may partially or fully approve the new location or may reject it. If the new location is approved by the agency, then the AAI will also approve it. It will then submit a proposal informing us about the total area that needs to be acquired for the project. The land acquisition process will start later,” the official said.

A Third Front encore ?

Fourteen non-Congress, non-BJP secular parties sought to present themselves as the bulwark against communalism ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The congregation is positioning itself as a claimant to political space that regional leaders feel is being vacated by a reduced Congress-led UPA and is clearly a bid to emerge as a decisive factor in the next elections.
The meeting was attended by Sharad Pawar’s NCP, which with nine MPs is the largest Congress partner in Parliament, along with Left parties and regional outfits like SP, BJD, AIADMK and JD (U). Others included Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), RSP, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh.
Calculating that BJP is not poised to fill the vacuum, and eyeing political gains at the expense of a weakened Congress, the parties that gathered at the Talkatora stadium here presented a strong showing in the cause against communalism.
Leaders of parties that can cobble up over 100 Lok Sabha seats dropped enough hints that the unity initiative should be extended further. But as of now, they said, talk of a third front will be immature. Kumar’s move makes BJP’s task all the more tougher
The dynamics at work were evident as Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh was a main constituent despite the Uttar Pradesh government being accused of ineptitude and deliberate politics in dealing with the Muzzaffarnagar riots.
The bonhomie was visible even though former CPI general secretary A B Bardhan bluntly told Mulayam Singh that if normalcy has to return to Muzaffarnagar, UP government should make efforts to send people living in camps to their homes.
Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa’s speech read out by AIADMK leader M Thambidurai also struck a different note. She said, “State is often seen to be acceding to pressure of minority demands at one time and majority demands at another time which has fuelled the activities of various people.” She said secularism also doesn’t mean appeasing one section of the society and suppressing the other.
Well aware of how previous initiatives have fell flat, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said, “You know while getting together one or the other leader gets lost. I am talking of whatever unity is possible, maximum possible.” Yet Kumar’s presence was significant in itself as he found himself in company he had abandoned for more than a decade and a half when JD(U) had been ally of the BJP. His rejoining likely third front constituents has made BJP’s task all that much tougher.


Somewhere in Gujarat....

Vodafone wants 100%

Vodafone Group said it has sought the government’s approval to invest Rs.10,141 crore to raise its stake in its India unit to 100%, becoming the first overseas telecom operator to take advantage of a relaxation in foreign investment rules in the sector.
UK-based Vodafone entered India in 2007 by buying Hutchison Whampoa’s local mobile phone business for around $11 billion. Its current direct stake in Vodafone India (VIL) stands at 64.38%, and indirect holding is at 84.5%. Piramal Enterprises holds about 11%, while the balance is owned by financial investors including Analjit Singh, Vodafone India’s non-executive chairman.
“We have always said we would like to increase our holding in the business and this further investment demonstrates Vodafone’s long-term commitment to India,” the world’s second-largest mobile phone company said in a statement on Tuesday. It added that once the current transaction is completed, the company would consider infusing more funds into its domestic unit by subscribing to shares of Vodafone India which has grown to become the country’s second-largest mobile phone operator by subscribers. “Looking ahead, Vodafone will continue to invest in India to bring the benefits of mobile communications and financial inclusion to more and more people across the country,” the company said.
Vodafone’s move has been widely anticipated since the government lifted the maximum foreign investment limit on the telecom sector from 74% earlier this year.
For Vodafone, India is a key market. The fastest-growing and second-largest telecom market in the world is also one of the British telecom major’s major revenue earning geographies. Moreover, Vodafone India needs cash ahead of spectrum auctions likely in January next year. While the company hasn’t confirmed its participation in future auctions, Vodafone India head Marten Pieters has said that operators do need bandwidth to deepen their services.
The India chief has also stated that rules permitting, Vodafone may also participate in consolidation in Indian telecom for which the company would need cash. The British company is flush with funds after its $130 billion deal with US' Verizon, and has said that it plans to increase its capital expenditures by $9 billion over the next three financial years, mainly to improve the quality of its network and focus on wireless broadband for subscribers in Europe and emerging markets such as India and South Africa.
Vodafone’s latest move will also be a shot in the arm for the Indian government struggling to revive an economy whose growth has slowed to its lowest in a decade, as it faces challenges of wide fiscal and current account deficits, and a weak rupee. New Delhi has been desperate for foreign funds to limit its current account gap this fiscal year ending March 2014 to less than 3.7% of GDP.
The company though has had a rough time since it entered India. The group booked a £2.3 billion impairment charge on its Indian operations in May 2010 due to stiff competition and a fierce price war. It is also embroiled in a long-standing dispute against the government over local authorities’ moves to tax and levy penalties worth Rs.20,000 crore over the UK company’s stake buy from Hutchison Whampoa. Both parties have agreed to settle it through arbitration. Vodafone has also moved court against a separate tax demand in an alleged transfer-pricing case.
Over time, Vodafone has also struggled with finding partners for its additional stake. It entered the company with its predecessor Hutchison's partners — the Essar Group. But at the end of a three-year period fraught with regulatory and some managerial disagreements, the two partners parted ways in 2010.

RBI hikes repo rate

RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan intensified his war on inflation by raising the repo rate a quarter percentage point while lowering the marginal standing facility by an equal amount to ease the availability of cash.
The repo rate, at which RBI lends to banks, was raised to 7.75% and MSF cut to 8.75%, restoring the gap between the two to 100 bps, in line with expectations.
The central bank may not be done with the tightening of policy.
The cash reserve ratio and statutory liquidity ratio were kept unchanged at 4% and 23%, respectively, in line with expectations.
In order to ease short-term liquidity positions, RBI increased the amounts that can be borrowed through the seven-day and 14-day term repo windows to 0.5% of total deposits from 0.25%. That will mean additional liquidity of Rs.20,000 crore through the term repo window.
Banks can borrow up to 0.5% of their net time and demand liabilities or Rs.40,000 crore through the repo
Inflation based on the wholesale price index (WPI) was 6.46% last month, above RBI’s comfort level of 5%. While a strong harvest resulting from the good monsoon will ease food inflation, that may not have a ripple effect on prices, RBI said.
RBI said retail inflation measured by the consumer price index has also risen sharply across food and non-food constituents, including services, keeping inflation expectations high. It expects retail inflation to remain around or even above 9% in the months ahead without policy action.

Navi Mumbai Airport update

In a major boost for the proposed Navi Mumbai airport, the Bombay high court gave its go ahead to Cidco’s request to be able to clear mangroves for the greenfield project.
Hearing an application filed by Cidco, a division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha approved the agency’s plans to also create mangrove plots in another area in lieu of the mangroves that will be destroyed for the airport.
With the HC nod in place, Cidco has managed to obtain the last of the environmental clearances for the project. Environmentalists, however, plan to challenge the approvals before the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal.
“The project will see the destruction of over 400 acres of mangroves and around 1,000 acres of mudflats,” said Debi Goenka, who was part of the PIL by the Bombay Environmental Action Group that resulted in the landmark HC order banning destruction of mangroves and dumping of debris on mangrove plots.
Advocate Rui Rodrigues, counsel for the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), told the high court that the project had received a conditional environmental and forest clearance. The project had also got clearance from the National Board of Wildlife.
The MoEF’s conditions for the project include rehabilitation of mangroves and a plan to mitigate the impact of the project on the avian fauna. MoEF had also said that no future proposal by Cidco for extension of the airport would be considered in the area between the present approved boundaries and the Karnala sanctuary, which is at a distance of 9.5 km from the proposed airport.
The airport is coming up on 1,405 hectares of land in Navi Mumbai. Cidco has received approval for diverting 250 hectares of forestland. Its plan includes regeneration of mangroves at 310 hectares of land at Kamothe and 60 hectares at Moha Creek, in addition to a mangrove park at Waghivali Island.
According to Goenka, the project would have a disastrous impact on the Matheran Ecosensitive Zone and Elephanta Caves, which fall in the airport’s landing and take-off alignment. “The Cidco proposal initially did not disclose that forest land would be affected and wrongly mentioned that Karnala sanctuary was 10 km away from the proposed airport. Giving wrong data alone should have been grounds enough for cancelling the permission,” said Goenka.


SC & Sahara

The Supreme Court said it could not trust the Sahara Group any more, and directed the company to submit title deeds of its properties worth Rs. 20,000 crore to market regulator Sebi within three weeks.
“Till the above direction is complied with to the satisfaction of Sebi, the alleged contemnors (respondents) shall not leave the country without the permission of this court,” a special bench of Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice JS Kehar said in its order. The company’s managing worker Subrata Roy is one of the contemnors in the case.
The court said Sebi will examine the title deeds of properties and make their response, which shall be considered by the court on November 20 at the next hearing.
The apex court had on August 31 last year directed the Sahara Group to refund Rs.24,000 crore to thousands of investors by November-end.
The deadline was extended by the Supreme Court, and the group was directed to deposit Rs.5,120 crore immediately in December, Rs.10,000 crore in the first week of January and the rest in the first week of February, 2013.
Sahara handed over a draft for Rs.5,120 crore on December 5, but has failed to pay the rest.
When Sebi expressed reservation over taking title deeds on the ground that it might lead to “other issues,” the bench said: “Everything would be done. You are underestimating the SC.”
“Examine the title deeds and find out its worth. You can also examine how safe it is,” the bench told Sebi counsel Arvind Datar.
Counsel for Sahara CA Sundaram requested the court not to give orders on Sebi’s contempt petitions, as this would bring disrepute to the company, but the court was unrelenting.

Of Gold imports....

Gold imports in value terms have dipped 65 per cent in the quarter ended September 30, after having risen 80.5 per cent in the April quarter.
The restrictions imposed by RBI and the subsequent confusion about the new norms brought down the imports during the second quarter of this financial year (FY14). In the second quarter, the country imported $3.9 billion worth gold, against $11.1 billion in the September quarter of last year.
According to the RBI data, 55 per cent of the dip was due to the decline in the quantum of gold imported.
The international prices too had softened in the quarter. On a sequential basis, import value fell 76 per cent from $16.5 billion in the April quarter to $3.9 billion in the September quarter.
In the April quarter of this year, the import value of gold had surged 80.5 per cent to $16.5 billion from $9.1 billion in the same quarter last year. This was mainly due to increased demand for the metal after prices crashed in April and remained subdued in May.
In July 22, RBI had brought in 80:20 formula, under which 20 per cent of every consignment of gold should be imported for reexport purposes.
The import came to a halt after RBI imposed new restrictions and in the first week of September the custom department issued a circular trying to clear the confusion with regard to the new norm. However, the shipments were not fully cleared even after the issue of clarification.


JNNURM statz

Blasts rock Modi's Hunkar rally

Six people were killed and more than 80 injured after a number of explosions hit Patna’s Gandhi Maidan on Sunday, shortly before a rally by BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Police officials in Patna said Indian Mujahideen, a banned terrorist group, was behind the attacks while New Delhi dispatched a team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to the eastern city. The police arrested one person and detained two others, agencies said.
Undeterred, Modi proceeded with the rally that was aimed at challenging Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s hold over the state. Modi used the occasion to make a pitch for the votes of Muslim and Yadav communities, which have traditionally voted against BJP.
Addressing the rally, the largest political mobilisation by BJP in the eastern state in recent years, Modi said that people should be fighting poverty rather than each other. “Poor Muslims should be fighting their poverty rather than poor Hindus, and vice versa,” he said, adding people should strive for peace and unity, and protect Bihar’s reputation. Modi, who spoke for over 40 minutes, questioned Kumar’s political credibility and Congress-led UPA government’s record on governance. He also promised to stop referring to Rahul Gandhi, the Congress vice-president, as ‘Shehzada’, provided Congress gave up its dynastic ways. Bihar sends as many as 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
The bombs exploded one after the other at the sprawling Gandhi Maidan, where tens of thousands of people had gathered to listen to Modi, triggering panic in the crowd, which initially mistook them for firecrackers. The explosions took place before Modi’s arrival, and the Gujarat chief minister made no reference to the blasts during his address. “Blasts in Patna are deeply saddening and unfortunate. Condolences with families of deceased and prayers with injured. I appeal for peace and calm,” Modi later tweeted.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who addressed the media in the evening, did not rule out the role of terror outfits in the attack. “We can’t rule out the involvement of terrorists. But it would be premature to say right now that a terrorist organisation was involved in the blasts,” Kumar told reporters. Kumar, the CM of Bihar since 2005, earlier this year ended an alliance with Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party after the Gujarat CM was named the head of BJP’s campaign committee at the party’s Goa conclave in June this year, a precursor to his naming as the party’s PM candidate in September. Kumar has repeatedly said that Modi is not acceptable as the BJP’s PM candidate because of the Gujarat leader’s insufficient commitment to secularism. Addressing the media on Sunday, Kumar said the police had arrested one person at Patna railway station, where the first of the seven serial blasts took place. “The police have recovered telephone numbers and vital documents from the arrested person. He has given vital clues,” Kumar said, adding the serial blasts were part of an attempt to vitiate the atmosphere. “Even at the BJP rally, its leaders appealed to people to maintain peace. We welcome this. Despite our political differences, we should unite to frustrate the designs of individuals who want to divide the people,” Kumar said.
According to Director-General of Police Abhayanand, some of the bombs had timer devices while others had improvised switches. “The laid-down security drill was followed,” he claimed. 

Indian Grand Prix 2013

Sebastian Vettel roared into the history books as Formula One’s youngest four-time champion and celebrated in outlandish style after a superlative win at the Indian Grand Prix.
The 26-year-old German became the youngest man to win four straight titles, with Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher the only other drivers to achieve the feat. Red Bull also sealed their fourth straight constructors’ title with three races to go.
With his fourth championship, achieved with 10 wins this season, Vettel levels French great Alain Prost on the alltime list with only Fangio (five) and Schumacher (seven) ahead of him. An emotional Vettel, who was hoisted onto the shoulders of Rosberg and Grosjean on the champagne-spattered victory podium, said it was the “best day of my life”. 


Fiscal Deficit statz

Mumbai's Business Hubs

Sensex snapshotz

ASSOCHAM's letter to the PM

The Gender Gap

FDI dips in August

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into India declined to 8-month low of USD 1.4 billion in August, down 38% year-on-year. FDI had touched a low of USD 1.10 billion in December last year.
In August 2012, the country had attracted foreign investment worth USD 2.26 billion. During the April-August period of 2013-14 fiscal, FDI has grown by a meagre 4% to USD 8.46 billion, from USD 8.16 billion in the first five months of 2012-13.
The sectors that helped in registering the hike during the five months include services (USD 1.19 billion), pharma (USD 1.07 billion), automobile (USD 661 million) and construction (USD 592 million). The maximum FDI during the period came from Singapore (USD 2.37 billion), followed by Mauritius (USD 2.13 billion), the Netherlands (USD 980 million), Germany (USD 529 million), and the US (USD 475 million).
The DIPP official said the recent steps announced by the government will help improve the investment climate in the country and push up FDI inflows.
It has already relaxed FDI policy in 12 sectors, including telecom, tea and petroleum & natural gas.  FDI inflows in 2012-13 aggregated USD 22.42 billion, a decline from USD 36.50 billion in 2011-12. India is projected to require around USD 1 trillion between 2012-13 and 2016-17, the 12th Five Year Plan period, to fund infrastructure growth covering sectors such as ports, airports and highways.
A decline in FDI would hurt the rupee, which had depreciated to a record low of 68.85 against the US dollar on August 28. It has strengthened since then to about 61 level. 

A 10 Crore Hunkar ?

Eleven special trains, 6,000 buses, 20,000 SUVs, a gizmo-laden stage with a 30-feet dynamic screen as background, scores of LED screens and an undefined amount of loose change — nothing is being spared to make Narendra Modi’s “Hunkar rally” a roaring Sunday show in Nitishland.
Although Bihar is not among the states going to the polls in November, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate is making a detour to prove a point or two, as it’s the first BJP rally since its divorce with the JD (U). The split was triggered by Modi’s elevation as head of the BJP election campaign committee.
But more than political niggling, the money being spent on the show — Rs10 crore, according to a state intelligence official — has raised quite a few eyebrows.

After a string of six minor explosions, a powerful blast rocked the venue of Narendra Modi’s ambitious Hunkar rally on Sunday. Sixteen persons have been injured in the blasts at the venue. Earlier in the day, a crude bomb exploded at the Patna Junction station, killing one person.
There was panic at the venue where a large crowd had gathered to hear the BJP prime ministerial nominee. Modi reached the venue around 1 pm.
The big explosion was reported from the middle of the venue while four explosions took place near Gandhi Maidan and two happened outside the venue.
People at the rally said crude bombs have been planted under the soil which burst as soon as people stepped on it.
This is the first time Modi is addressing a rally in Patna since an acrimonious split with Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) over the issue of Modi's elevation within the BJP.

Warriors terminated

The BCCI terminated Pune Warriors from the IPL after the Sahara-owned franchise defaulted on its payments and refused to furnish the bank guarantee for the next season.
The decision was taken at the cricket board’s working committee meeting.
The Pune Warriors India has been on collision course with the BCCI after the board encashed its bank guarantee due to nonpayment of franchise fee.
The BCCI wanted the team to furnish a bank guarantee of Rs 170.2 crore to remain a part of the league next year. After reportedly reminding Sahara about the payment several times, the cricket board decided to terminate it from the IPL.
Disappointed at being axed, the Sahara group expressed hope that it would not be the end of the road as far as its relationship with the BCCI was concerned. 


Chindia ties

Prime minister Manmohan Singh sought Chinese investments in manufacturing and infrastructure sectors in India and called for market access in China for Indian IT and pharmaceutical firms.
There are enormous opportunities for our two countries to work together.
China has developed enormous capability in its infrastructure, therefore helping India in developing infrastructure, Singh, who received a rousing reception at the Chinese Communist Party Central School here, said while responding to a question.
“China has enormous capacities in manufacturing. India has also developed enormous capacities in information technology.These can form another basis our two countries can work together,” he said at the interactive session presided over by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh said India is currently exploring opportunities to encourage Chinese investments in India in the manufacturing sector and exploring the possibility to establish Chinese industrial parks in India. “In the same way, I hope China will provide opportunity for Indian IT and pharmaceutical companies to find more hospitable environment to do business in China,” prime minister Manmohan Singh said.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh also called for bilateral cooperation in energy and food security areas.
“Both the countries need to get secure supplies of energy and more efficient use of energy. This is another area where India and China can work together to ensure energy security,” he said.
“Food security is yet another area where our two countries can work together to strengthen the capacity of each country to meet the challenge of food security,” he said.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh also noted that both the countries can work together to promote joint research in agriculture and related activities.
“We can once again work together on climate change to ensure that path of development we chose is the sustainable path,” prime minister Manmohan Singh said.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh was one of rare foreign dignitaries to speak and interact at the Party school, which produced almost all the top leaders of China in recent years.
The school was headed by president Xi Jinping till early this year before he took over power.
The delegates at the school were mostly the middle-rung officials of the party working in various capacities at the centre and provinces.
Welcoming prime minister Singh, executive vice president of Central Party School He Yiting described the Indian PM as a world leader and top economist and father of economic reforms in India leading to the success of India.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh also cautioned that border tensions and differences over transborder rivers could become impediments to better ties between India and China, which should strive for a future defined by cooperation and not by confrontation.
“The two countries should show sensitivity to each other’s interests and sovereignty and move quickly to resolve their boundary issue,” prime minister Singh said.
A day after the two countries signed a pact to prevent incursions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Singh said there were concerns on both sides, whether it is incidents in the border region, trans-border rivers or trade imbalances.

Rain fury in Andhra

Heavy rains continued to lash several parts of Andhra Pradesh for the fifth consecutive day on Friday throwing normal life out of gear, flooding low-lying areas, disrupting road and rail traffic, and killing 26 people. All the reservoirs in the state are full to the brim with the northeast monsoon bringing in copious amount of rainfall in the catchment areas of the Godavari, the Krishna, the Penna, the Nagavalli, the Vamsadhara, and numerous streams and rivulets.
The toll in the incessant heavy rains triggered by the depression in Bay of Bengal has increased to 26 with 12 more deaths reported from different districts on Friday. However, the state government has put the rain-related deaths at 20. Over 300 cattle were washed away in flash floods while crops in over 4.34 lakh hectares was submerged in coastal Andhra, Telangana and Rayalaseema.
About 4,700 houses were damaged and 67,419 people had been moved to safety as the India Meteorological Department forecast heavy to very heavy rains for two more days. About 1,000 kms of roads was damaged across the state. Heavy rains were reported in Nalgonda, Mahbubnagar, Prakasam, West Godavari, Srikakulam, and Visakhapatnam districts. Many low-lying areas in Visakhapatnam, Rajahmundry, Vijayawada, Guntur, Kurnool, Mahbubnagar, and Nalgonda were inundated with water entering residential colonies. In many districts, schools and colleges remained closed on Friday.
Vehicles were caught in swirling waters in Nalgonda, Guntur, Mahbubnagar, and Prakasam districts. Alert villagers rushed to the rescue of stranded passengers and shifted them to safety.
The unpreparedness of the administration was thoroughly exposed with the casualties crossing two dozen. Many areas recorded above 20 cm of rainfall in the last five days. Srisailam dam is expected to receive heavy inflows by Saturday morning. Water entered bus stations and hospitals, putting passengers and patients to hardship. Several villages went without power as water entered substations. 

TN Assembly passes a CHOGM Boycott resolution

The Tamil Nadu assembly has unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Union government to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, slated to be held in Colombo in November.
It comes days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh informed the DMK leadership that a decision on participation would be taken considering all “relevant factors” and the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu and the party.
Chief minister J Jayalalithaa moved the resolution, which said India should not send any representative for the meeting and also take steps to get Sri Lanka suspended from CHOGM until it ensures Tamils get rights on a par with the Sinhalese. The DMK, the DMDK, the Congress and the Left parties hailed the resolution. 

"I am disappointed"

In his sternest comments on Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed disappointment with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif for failing to keep his promise to stop ceasefire violations in Jammu and Kashmir.
“I am disappointed, because in the New York meeting (with Sharif) there was a general agreement on both sides that peace and tranquility should be maintained on the border, on the Line of Control as well as on the international border and this has not happened,” Singh said while returning from visits to Moscow and Beijing.
Responding to a question whether he felt let down that ceasefire violations have only increased since the meeting with Sharif, the PM said, “It has come to me as a big disappointment. We had agreed at that meeting that the ceasefire which was made effective in 2003, if it has held for 10 years, it could be made to hold ground later also.”
Not masking his annoyance, the PM added, “The fact that this (ceasefire) is not happening, is something which is really a matter of disappointment. I sincerely hope that at this late hour, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will recognize that this is a development which is not good for either of the two countries.”
The fairly lengthy and critical comments on Sharif ’s failure to deliver acquire significance, given that Singh has been a staunch votary of rapprochement with Pakistan and has even attracted criticism for his enthusiasm for reviving the engagement with the truculent neighbour.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s displeasure with Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif over failing to restore ceasefire in J&K followed a blunt message he delivered to Sharif in New York about a month ago when he said, “I have not become prime minister of India to redraw the boundary.”
The PM’s September 29 meeting with Sharif, which took place amid escalating firing on the Line of Control and the international border, began with Singh making no bones about his resolve to protect India’s territorial integrity.
In fact, Singh’s “Churchillian moment”, reminiscent of the British leader’s declaration in 1942 that he had not become the King’s first minister to “preside over the liquidation of the British Empire”, even surprised his senior aides as the PM brushed aside Sharif ’s arguments.
Singh responded to Sharif ’s attempt to raise India’s “role” in Baluchistan, saying the matter had been raised by previous Pakistani PMs as well without an iota of proof being offered.

FIPB clears Tata - SIA proposal

After two failed attempts over a decade back, Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines (SIA) will finally be together in the cockpit of a start-up airline in India by early next year. The foreign investment promotion board (FIPB) has cleared their $100-million initial investment proposal for a full service airline, in which Tatas will have 51% and SIA 49%. The proposal was submitted on September 19.
Economic affairs secretary Arvind Mayaram said the JV has been cleared with no riders. The airline will now need security clearance for its foreign directors, followed by a clearance from the aviation ministry, and then a scheduled operator permit from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Flyers can now expect to be spoilt for choice once again as the Delhi-based full service “Tata SIA Airlines Ltd” could fly in a few months, soon after Tata’s budget carrier with AirAsia takes off.
“All this process (at DGCA and security clearances) can take anywhere between one to four months. It all depends on how fast they complete the paperwork,” aviation minister Ajit Singh said.
The Tatas’ start-up JVs with AirAsia and SIA may also be eligible to have international flights soon after launch. Singh said the existing rule that an Indian carrier must be five years old and have at least 20 planes in its fleet to go overseas will be abolished. “There is no reason to subject Indian carriers to such a discriminatory provision. There is anyway a rule that a scheduled carrier must have five aircraft in its fleet within a year of launch. That will remain and there may be no need for any number
of years in service clause. I have asked DGCA to come up with suggestions,” the minister said.
Sources say UPA-II is keen that the proposed airline takes off in its remaining tenure. Tata-AirAsia applied for FIPB nod this February and the DGCA’s scheduled operator permit could be issued by December. The airline may fly in January or February, which means within a year of applying. While this is fast by Indian government standards, the Tata-SIA files are likely to move even quicker.

MTHL update

The Rs 10,000 crore Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL) will be constructed on a cash contract basis, said metropolitan commissioner U P S Madan. The Sewri-Nhava bridge is expected to be completed in five years.
The MMRDA wants the Centre to stand surety for currency security. “We have written to the state government seeking its nod to approach the Centre for raising a loan for the project,” Madan said.
Toll will be collected to recover the project cost. The government has linked MTHL viability to the much-delayed airport at Panvel. The MMRDA will seek a loan from the Japan International Co-operation Agency.
It is estimated that 60,000 vehicles will use the MTHL daily, making it viable. 

Mumbai Metro One update

The Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL) will soon undertake trials on the section between the airport road station and Ghatkopar as it has received approval for its electrical system from a central statutory authority.
Till now the trial runs of the rolling stock and other technical tests were conducted only from Versova to airport road.
EIG is a statutory authority appointed by the ministry of power to certify and approve electrical systems for a project.
The MMOP can now energize and test the overhead equipment on the entire VAG stretch.


Aviation : September 2013

Of Election Expenses....

Jet Airways hits an airpocket

MTS rolls out 3G+

Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL), which runs its telecom services under the MTS brand in India, on Wednesday rolled out its 3G-plus telecom network across all its circles in India.
The network is based on the evolution-data optimised rev B phase II technology and is useful for high-speed data services.
The services will be available in Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh (West) and West Bengal.
“The rollout is all set to make MTS India the first telecom operator to provide 3G-plus network coverage across all its nine circles of operations,” MTS India CEO Dmitry Shukov said.
Shukov said the company is planning to launch a slew of smartphones by the end of 2013.
The operator launched tariff plans between Rs.798 and Rs.1,498 for prepaid customers and between Rs. 700 and Rs.1,399 for postpaid users having a validity of one month.
MTS was recently granted permission by the government to use an additional third 1.25 MHz slot in the 800 MHz band that it has used to launch the new service.
MTS has also launched a new dongle named MBlaze Ultra, which is priced at Rs.1,299 for both prepaid and postpaid customers. According to the company, the dongle provides data speeds of up to 9.8 Mbps.

Of Important Prospective Business Destinations....

Although Chief Minister Narendra Modi is fervently hard-selling the “Gujarat model of development”, the Global Initiative for Restructuring Environment and Management (GIREM) ranks Ahmedabad, the state’s capital, only the eighth most important prospective business destination in India-behind even Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Bhubaneshwar (Odisha) and Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu).
In its latest report, GIREM, a not-for-profit industry body, and DTZ, the global leader in property services, analyzed 21 top business destinations across India. The report scored the cities across various economic, environmental and cultural parameters to rank the best options for businesses to invest with its strong government support in terms of policies as well as infrastructure development and good connectivity to major cities like the NCR and Mumbai.
Out of 160 points, Bangalore scored the highest points (129.56), followed by Chennai (127.84), Mumbai (123.64) and Pune (122.64) which emerged as the first four most preferred business destinations. Indore (121.04) and Bhubaneswar and Coimbatore (both 119.84) were the next three. They were followed by Ahmedabad (119.44), Nagpur (119.36) and Kochi (117.92).
Ahmedabad has “very good energy/power and water supply. Water supply, mobility services and health care services of the city were worth appreciating,” said Shyam Sundar S Pani, President, GIREM.
While popular destinations such as Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, and Pune continued to occupy top positions, the ranking revealed some unexpected contenders in the Top 10 league including Indore, Bhubaneshwar, Kochi, Coimbatore and Nagpur.
The ranking has been developed in association with leading real estate consultancy DTZ. It rates the cities based on factors such as human capital, energy, water, transport, housing, healthcare, climate, office space availability and city culture, amongst others. These constitute the basic eco-socio-economic factors critical in determining the growth of the city.

PM's visit to Russia

Mr Singh met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday as the two countries agreed to boost cooperation in defence, trade, security and energy sectors.
India was expected to sign a key deal on seeking Russia's help in setting up two nuclear plants in Kudankulam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
The deal did not go through but Delhi and Moscow agreed to iron out issues in the near future.
"In a bid to overcome legal hitches that have held up a deal on two new plants at the Kudankulam nuclear power complex over liability provisions, India and Russia pledged to 'resolve all outstanding issues' related to the project even as they decided to elevate their strategic ties to new levels in defence and other area," says a report published in The Economic Times.
India's liability law stipulates that nuclear firms aiming to set up plants in India will have to pay huge sums of money in case of an accident.
But the failure to sign the deal has not affected cordial ties between the two nations and their leaders.
The two also agreed to boost cooperation in fighting global terrorism.
"Both sides affirmed the need to join efforts of all states to defeat terrorism. They condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and agreed that there should be no tolerance for sheltering, arming, training or financing of terrorists," a joint Russia-India statement says.
Indian newspapers are also highlighting Mr Singh's statement in which he said "no country has had closer relations with India and no country inspires more admiration, trust and confidence among the people of India than Russia".

In a gesture marking their close friendship, Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday presented visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a lithograph painting of Russian monarch Nicholas II who had visited India in the 19th century, a map of India of that time as well as a Mughal coin.
The "very special gesture" of the Russian president "went beyond protocol" as no one had an inkling of it. The Russian president had personally got the items, said Indian Ambassador Ajai Malhotra to reporters here at a briefing.
Not only did Putin present Manmohan Singh with the gifts, he also explained the significance of the items, said the envoy.
Putin recalled the history of the early 1900s and the attempt by the tsar to open a Russian consulate in India.
The Russians had first applied to open a diplomatic mission in Bombay in 1857, but the British rulers were not helpful. Nicholas had visited 30 Indian cities during his trip.
The Mughal coin showed the close trade ties that India and Russia have shared for ages, said the envoy.
Putin's gifts were aimed to showcase how India-Russia ties were part of history, he added.

PM's visit to China

India and China have inked a comprehensive pact not to use military capability to attack each other, which is expected to defuse recurring border stand-offs. However, New Delhi refused to sign an agreement on a liberalised visa regime in protest against China’s stapled visa policy.
Under a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement signed after extensive talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in Beijing on Wednesday, the two agreed not to tail each other’s patrol along the Line of Actual Control, which has witnessed numerous incursions by Chinese troops at Depsang Valley in Ladakh. The BDCA facilitates the establishment of a hotline between the military headquarters of the two countries and meeting sites for border personnel in all sectors of the 4,000-km LAC. In another agreement aimed at allaying India’s concerns over new dams on the Brahmaputra, China will provide more flood data of Brahmaputra from May to October instead of June to October. Beijing also assured India that its dams were run of the river projects not designed to hold water. Xi assured Singh that it will take into account its concerns on issues on Brahmaputra and Sutlej. Agreements for cooperation in road transport and highways, power equipment service centres in India and for establishing sister city relationships between Delhi-Beijing and Bangalore-Chengdu and Kolkata- Kunming were also signed.

The Chinese side was very keen on a pact for a liberalised visa regime, but India was not in the wake of a controversy over stapled visas issued by the Chinese Embassy to two Indian archers from Arunachal Pradesh. During the talks, India objected to stapled visas issued by China to residents of some Indian states over whose parts Beijing has laid claim.
Later PM Manmohan Singh told the media that he had “conveyed to Premier Li our commitment to visa simplification to facilitate travel of Chinese nationals to India and expressed the hope that China will also facilitate such exchanges”. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh added the Chinese side had not given any commitment to discontinue the practice of issuing stapled visa.
China expert Srikanth Kondapalli said the visa agreement could be signed during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India in future. “India was relentless in its efforts to dissuade the Chinese to stop stapled visas for Kashmiris and Arunachalees. While Beijing subsequently stopped the practice for J&K around 2010-11, there are no signs yet for Arunachal.”

Border tense

A BSF head constable was killed and 7 other jawans were injured in in Jammu when Pakistani troops pounded 52 Indian posts throughout Tuesday night.
The shelling started in Arnia sector at 8.15 pm and in Ramgarh sector around 9.30 pm, locals said. Pakistan Rangers also fired at Indian posts in R S Pura sector, Abdullian, Korotana, Suchetgarh, Sangral and Mangral around 11 pm and continued till midnight. There was heavy exchange of fire in forward areas of Pargwal, Akhnoor and Kanachak sectors.
A defence spokesperson said Pakistani troops also targeted Indian posts along the Line of Control in Poonch district in fresh violation of ceasefire. “Pakistan troops fired at Hamirpur Battalion of Bhimber Gali Sector Tuesday night,” he said.
Faced with continued shelling from across, people from Jasso Chak and SM Pur villages in Ramgarh sector left their homes to take shelter at a community hall.
The BSF said Pakistani troops have been raining mortars on bordering villages which are “soft targets”. “Villages along IB are new targets of the Rangers to create fear among the residents with no threat of retaliation,” said Dharmendra Parikh, BSF deputy inspector general (Jammu).
“There is a complete change in the strategy of Pakistan. More ceasefire violations are taking place along the IB than the LoC which was the case weeks back,” he said. He said forces are on high alert to thwart infiltration attempts from across the border.

BJP names it's Delhi CM candidate

exploring the option of going to the polls in the capital as ‘Team BJP’ for months, the party has finally found a face in Dr Harsh Vardhan who was named its chief ministerial candidate. Vardhan, who has a “clean image”, is expected to contain the damage likely to be caused by Aam Aadmi Party which has made corruption its main electoral plank. The decision has come as a major setback for state president Vijay Goel who had set his heart on becoming the party’s chief ministerial nominee.
Dressed in a casual blue shirt, Vardhan, along with senior leaders – including L K Advani, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and other parliamentary board members, took center stage around 11:30 am at the party’s Ashoka Road office for the big announcement that was due after the parliamentary board meeting.
However, the announcement was put on hold for a few minutes as Singh decided to wait for Goel to join them on the dais. Goel turned up soon but there was no chair for him to sit on. Dr Harsh Vardhan promptly offered him his chair which Goel refused to occupy. While the two were making this friendly gesture to each other, an extra chair was placed on the dais and the two leaders were soon next to each other as party president Rajnath Singh announced the board’s unanimous decision of appointing Vardhan as the party’s face the in coming polls.
Soon after the announcement, party workers — including desperate ticket seekers — surrounded Vardhan to congratulate him. The workers also distributed sweets and burnt crackers at the party office.


GST update

Jammu and Kashmir finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather is the new chairman of the empowered committee of state finance ministers on goods and service tax (GST).
The National Conference leader’s election as the chairman of the panel assumes significance in more ways than one as this is a departure from earlier practice of having finance minister from an Opposition ruled states to head the group. Punjab or Gujarat finance ministers were earlier considered as possible candidates for chairmanship of the empowered group.
His election to the coveted post was unanimous even as Delhi chief minister and senior Congress leader Shiela Dixit proposed Rather’s candidature.
Rather has come after the deputy chief minister and finance minister of Bihar, Susheel Kumar Modi, resigned. Modi quit after ruling JD-U and BJP parted ways in Bihar and from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Monday’s election of Rather was done in the presence of finance minister P Chidambaram, minister of state for finance JD Seelam and other senior finance ministry officials.
Rather’s task is formidable in forging consensus amongst fractious states and centre on the crucial Constitutional Amendment Bill as a precursor to roll out of unified levy, Goods and Services Tax (GST) that subsumes customs, excise and services taxes.
But, the new chairman is confident there would be positive movement on GST rollout. “We can’t move ahead without the Constitution Amendment Bill. If there is a delay in GST’s implementation, it will be because the bill doesn’t get passed in Parliament,” Rather told reporters.
“After this, the work on the state and central GST law will start. Whatever decision will be taken, it will be on the basis of a consensus” Rather added.
Parliamentary standing committee on finance headed by former finance minister Yashwant Sinha had earlier made its recommendations on GST related constitutional amendment bill.
This bill was first introduced in Parliament in 2010.
Speaking to reporters immediately after Rather’s election, Chidambaram hinted at two options before the government. Once the law ministry vets the recommendations of Parliamentary panel, the government might introduce a fresh constitutional amendment bill or move amendments to the bill already under consideration in Parliament.
The bill, when passed and gets enacted, will empower both states and centre to levy the GST. Even Union territories with a legislature can levy GST on goods, services or both.
But, Chidambaram said, “Let the draft (constitutional amendment bill) be first approved, then the Parliamentary law must be approved. At least, we are moving forward.” As of now, GST can only be implemented either in 2014-15 or the next financial year given the lengthy process of getting it past the
state legislatures. The original deadline for introducing GST was 2010. Since then, the government has missed several deadlines to rollout the levy that would unify India into one single market.
Apart from the 14 per cent mean rate, centre has also agreed to fully compensate states in case the latter incurs revenue losses following introduction of GST. Structural issues on design of GST, phase out of CST and arrears have blocked the unified levy rollout.
Centre and the states have reportedly also made some progress on this front during the past few months.

Mission to Mars set for Nov 5th lift off

India’s prestigious mission to Mars will be launched on November 5 at 2:36 pm from Sriharikota.
Called Mars Orbiter Mission, an advance version of the highly-proven, four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, called the PSLV-XL, will be the rocket used for the Rs 450-crore mission. The decision to launch was taken at the second meeting of Isro’s launch authorization board, which met at Sriharikota on Tuesday. The launch window opens on October 28 and closes on November 19. 

Kudankulam #1 goes on stream

After years of delay due to technical glitches and protests, the Kudankulam nuclear power plant went on stream on Tuesday. At 2.45 am, unit-1 began transmitting 160 MW of electricity to the southern grid.
The plant, based in Tirunelveli, started supplying power more than a decade after construction began in 2001 and in the face of stiff opposition from residents who fear a repeat of Fukushima. Total cost on the two units has so far exceeded Rs.14,000 crore.
The synchronization process of feeding power to the grid took place even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wound up his visit to Moscow, where talks were held for the supply of two more Russian reactors of 1,000 MW each for the plant. When entirely commissioned, the Kudankulam complex will have the largest capacity of nuclear power in India.
The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board had approved generation of 500 MW. Once the reactor attains 50% of generation capacity, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd will have to submit a proposal to AERB to enhance the plant’s capacity.
1998 : India, Russia sign pact for nuclear plant
2001 : Construction work of plant commences
2011 : Protests begin after test run at plant
May 2013 : SC clears it, but lays down conditions
July 2013 : Unit-1 of project attains criticality
Oct 22, 2013 : Transmits 160MW to southern grid 


Yeddy wants to be part of NDA

Former chief minister of Karnataka BS Yeddyurappa put the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in a bind with a request that his Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) be made its ally.
In a brief letter to NDA chairman LK Advani, he said: “We request you to consider us as an alliance party of NDA and involve us in all its deliberations by inviting the KJP to its meetings.’’ Copies of the letter were sent to BJP’s top leaders Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Nitin Gadkari.
In the letter, Yeddyurappa said the KJP took the decision to support NDA and make Modi the PM at its executive committee meeting on September 19. To buttress his claim to be an ally, he said the KJP won six seats in the assembly elections, securing 10% of the total valid votes polled. The Election Commission had also recognized KJP as a regional party.
It’s learnt that National People’s Party president PS Sangma and Subramanian Swamy of BJP met Yeddyurappa and reportedly asked him to retain an identity of his own by keeping the KJP alive. The letter to Advani was drafted after Swamy’s meeting with Yeddyurappa on Saturday morning here. 

Of Infant Mortality Rate....

Setting a blistering pace, Tamil Nadu has halved its infant mortality rate (IMR) in the past decade while a bunch of other states – Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka – have shown significant decreases of around 40%. The overall IMR for the country has gone down by a third. This emerges from the latest vital statistics data for 2012 collected under the Sample Registration Scheme by the Census office.
The infant mortality rate is a count of deaths of infants under one year of age as a proportion of 1000 live births in the geographical unit in one year. It is considered a key indicator of health services, nutritional levels, poverty and educational level of the people. Reduction of IMR is one of the Millenium Development Goals.
The wide gap between rural and urban areas in infant death rates continues in India but has a declining trend. Rural IMR in 2012 was 46 infant deaths per 1000 live births while the urban rate was 28.
In fact the rural IMR declined slightly faster at 30 percent compared to the urban decline of 28 % since 2003.
But drilling down to the states, a varied story emerges that clearly links to the way public health is being tackled by governments. Tamil Nadu, with its extensive and relatively better run primary health services and nutrition programs has clearly emerged as a front runner in the reduction of infant mortality.
Manipur in the North-East and Goa on the west coast now lead the country with an IMR of just 10, surging past Kerala at 12. These IMRs are comparable to rich country standards. In Kerala, in the past ten years, IMR has marginally worsened, increasing by 9%.
Madhya Pradesh with an IMR of 56 in 2012 is at the bottom of the table among major states, with the worst rural IMR of 60 in the country. Its urban IMR is 37. Although Odisha and Rajasthan figure among the bottom five states in terms of IMR, both have shown a high rate of decline – about 35 percent - in the past decade. Like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, they too carry the legacy of past neglect.
Karnataka is the only big-population state where urban IMR has worsened, increasing by 4%, despite a 40% decline in rural areas. In Andhra Pradesh and Assam, there has been only a small decline in urban IMRs. Other states where urban IMRs are worsening are Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Uttarakhand.
The lack of a coherent national policy on urban health for a long time is a direct cause of this, even as urbanization is increasing all round.
In the North-East, Mizoram has seen a dramatic rise in infant mortality over the past decade. Its IMR has increased from an excellent 16 in 2003 to 35 in 2012.
Although one of the few states in the region not troubled with separatist bloodshed, its stagnating employment levels and poverty seem to be finding reflection in health indicators.

UP reverses F1 tax exemption

Just four days ahead of the third edition of India’s F1 race at Buddh International Circuit, the Uttar Pradesh government got the Supreme Court’s permission to withdraw its 2011 decision to grant entertainment tax exemption to Indian Grand Prix organizer Jaypee Sports International.
A bench headed by Justice R M Lodha told additional advocate general Ravi P Mehrotra that if the state wanted to withdraw its earlier decision, it was free to do so. However, it issued a notice to Jaypee Sports on UP’s application accusing it of not declaring income from the F1 race honestly.
In 2011, just before the first F1 race could take place, a writ petition was filed in the apex court challenging the state’s decision to exempt the event from entertainment tax.
On October 21, 2011, the court had directed Jaypee Sports International to “deposit in a no lien account the amount of entertainment tax without taking into consideration the exemption notification”.

Pak PM for US intervention in Kashmir

Ahead of his meeting with President Barack Obama, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has sought the US’s intervention in resolving the Kashmir issue.
“Though India did not want such (third party) intervention, but the world powers should get involved to resolve the (Kashmir) issue,” Sharif told reporters in London during a stopover on his way to the US where he will meet Obama on Wednesday.
India was quick to reject the proposal, asserting that Kashmir was an integral part of the country and it would be a “waste of time” for anybody to even try to question this. External affairs minister Salman Khurshid made it very clear that India would not accept any US intervention.
The government also got the backing of the BJP, with senior party leader Murli Manohar Joshi saying no third party has the right to interfere on the matter, and appealed to Obama to reject Sharif’s proposal.
Sharif said during his visit to the US in July 1999, during the Kargil conflict, he had clearly told then US President Bill Clinton that if the US intervened, the Kashmir issue could be resolved.


Regional parties of the northeast have decided to come together and float a political front ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. At the initiative of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), at least 11 regional parties have formed the North East Regional Political Front (NERPF) to press the Centre to solve the “common and vital issues” of the region.
This front will include all major regional parties — AGP, Nagaland People’s Front (NPF), Mizo National Front (MNF), Sikkim Democratic Front, Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) and several other parties from Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. The front has also left its doors open for other regional forces.
In a show of solidarity, Akali Dal leader and former CM of Punjab Surjit Singh Barnala attended the meeting of the NERPF on Sunday. On Monday, TDP chief Chandra Babu Naidu is also likely to arrive here to attend an AGP meeting. Recently, Prafulla Mahanta and Naidu had a meeting in New Delhi to explore ways to bring all regional parties of the country under one umbrella.
The timing of formation of the regional alliance is significant with the Lok Sabha election coming up in a few months, especially considering that the northeastern states together have a strength of 25 MPs in the lower house.
The alliance, however, refrained from terming itself a ‘third front’.

Domestic Air travel rises

After witnessing constant fall in the past three years, September 2013 saw 45.5 lakh domestic flyers — up 13.4% from last September’s figure of 40.2 lakh. This is the second consecutive month of growth after August 2013’s robust 20.4% increase over the same month last year.
Airlines had raised fares from September 2013 by 25-30%. But a substantial number of flyers who travelled last month had actually purchased their tickets earlier when fares were low.
While low-cost carrier (LCC) IndiGo remained the market leader with a 30.3% share in domestic travel in September, Air India saw the highest aircraft occupancy for the second month in a row.
Airlines, however, warn that the industry is not out of the woods yet despite the feelgood factor generated after a long time by good news like growth in domestic flyers, announcement of new airlines Tata-AirAsia and Tata-Singapore Airlines, and Jet Airways getting investment from Etihad.
Airlines say the government must see the recent positive developments as a sign that the Indian aviation industry has huge potential. 


Somewhere in Maharashtra....

The moratorium on mining in most parts of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts has been lifted by the Union environment ministry (MoEF). Now, it is limited only to the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg wildlife corridor.
The moratorium had been put in place in August 2010 (following a Bombay high court order on a PIL by Awaaz Foundation’s convenor Sumaira Abdulali, who sought the declaration of the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg corridor as an ecologically sensitive area, or ESA) and extended up to October 31 this year.
In an internal memo issued, the MoEF said it had in principle accepted the report of the Dr K Kasturirangan high-level working group (HLWG) on the demarcation of the Western Ghats. Citing the report, the MoEF said, “A substantial portion of Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts fall outside the definition of Western Ghats as identified by the HLWG. It has recommended the lifting of moratorium in these districts, subject to certain stipulations.” The MoEF said it was lifting the moratorium in the non-Western Ghats areas of the two districts, except the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg corridor. Thus, the moratorium will be applicable to Khed, Chiplun, Sangameshwar, Lanja and the Rajapur talukas of Ratnagiri, and Kankavli, Sawantwadi, Dodamarg, Deogad, Vaibhavwadi and Kudal talukas of Sindhudurg.
Abdulali said that while she was happy about Sawantwadi-Dodamarg, the acceptance of the Kasturirangan report was a dilution of ESAs. D Stalin, director of the NGO Vanshakti, said that were it not for the brave people of Sawantwadi-Dodamarg, the entire region would have been ravaged by the mining industry. 

Somewhere in Uttar Pradesh....

Rangarajan pegs growth at 5.5%

Brushing aside IMF and World Bank’s dismal projection of India’s GDP growth, PM's Economic Advisory Council chairman C Rangarajan expressed optimism that growth would touch 5%-5.5% this year.
“In the current year, the growth rate will be around 5%- 5.5%. I know that several international agencies have forecast numbers that are below this number. However, I continue to maintain that it will be 5.3%,” he said
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its latest World Economic Outlook, projected an average growth rate of about 3.8 percent in market prices for India in fiscal 2013, while the World Bank in its report pegged growth at 4.7% as against 6.1% projected in its April forecast.
Rangarajan pointed out that monsoon has been good this year leading to rise in agricultural production and pick up in rural demand. The good monsoon will also lead to improved exports figures, he explained.
While agri sector has got the necessary boost from a good monsoon this year, Rangarajan feels the manufacturing sector too will perform better in the second half of the financial year improving the overall economic growth scenario. “The government has taken a lot of measures in the past few months and it will have a positive impact on the manufacturing sector in the second half of the fiscal and there is also a constant effort to push the stalled infra projects. Hence I see the manufacturing sector doing better than what it has performed earlier,” he added.
On current account deficit (CAD) situation, he said, “The exports have been good and the CAD during the April-September period has turned out to be $10 billion lower than the last year. We at the economic advisory council have projected that the CAD will come down from $88 billion to $70 billion this year, hence it will be 3.8% of the GDP this year from the 4.8% of the GDP last year. Perhaps, it may even come down to 3% of the GDP.”